Actions Speak Volumes

Sometimes words aren't needed, and all you need to feel complete is a smile. But piano lessons and free-throw shots are good, too. (Jason Cross/Kelsi Nielson)

At the Wildcat after party, it seemed to Kelsi Nielson that the entire city of Albuquerque was in attendance – and it was likely, too, since the after party was being held at Rob Green's house, one of the richest kids at East High right behind Ryan and Sharpay. East High students crowded the hallways and the backyard. The hippest music was being danced to anywhere there was space, and Kelsi had to duck, dodge, and slip her way through the crowd to try and find a safe spot where no one was. Kelsi caught her breath as she found herself in a small room with a piano in the corner.

I hadn't moved that much since I played dodge ball in elementary school, Kelsi thought. She sat down on the piano stool, feeling the hardness of plastic underneath her. Staring straight ahead, she saw that one of the walls had a rather large window that looked out into a different hallway. She cringed as she saw a couple grinding against each other and ramming their tongues down each other's throats.

Deciding to take her mind off of it, she carefully slid open the door that beheld the ivory keys she knew so well. Closing her eyes - not only to take her eyes off the disgustingly affectionate couple before her, but to concentrate on the music – she played a song she knew by heart.

Positioning her hands over the keys, she started to play the song that was played at her uncle's wedding. He knew how talented she was and how much she loved the piano, and he had specially requested that she play the song as his and his new wife's wedding song. Kelsi had been pleased and honored, and she studied for months, making sure she got it right, even if it meant putting off her schoolwork.

At the wedding reception, with no hat on per her mother's request, she had made her way over to the grand piano in the corner with butterflies in her stomach flying at over 100 miles per hour. But as soon as she had struck the first few chords, she grew more confident as the song played on while her cousin, Jessica, sang the song. As the final notes had died out, the reception hall filled with applause, and her uncle and new aunt made their way over to them, kissing them on the cheeks and giving them hugs. Her uncle whispered in her ear, "Good job, kiddo." And that was the moment when Kelsi knew this was what she was meant to do for the rest of her life.

As the last remnants of her flashback died out, the song went with it. Kelsi smiled softly to herself before glancing up at the window. Long gone was the couple, but a light reflected in the window, which Kelsi knew couldn't be coming from the hallway in front of her, so she turned and her breath hitched. Jason Cross was leaning against the doorframe, with Troy and Gabriella in the background, smiling at her.

Gabriella was the first to speak.

"That was beautiful, Kelsi," Gabriella praised. Kelsi felt herself flush under the harsh light in the small room. And Jason's gaze wasn't helping her cause, either.

"Yeah, my cousin used to love that song. That's all he would sing for weeks," Troy added.

Kelsi smiled. "Thanks, Gabriella. You too, Troy."

"Okay, well, we better get going. I'm not sure everyone had the chance to congratulate you, Troy," directing the latter half of that statement to Troy. She smiled at Kelsi one last time before dragging off Troy to the center of the party.

This left her alone with Jason, awkwardly playing with the felt strip that had covered the keys. She could feel Jason's unwavering gaze and wished for him to say something – anything – to get her out of this awkward situation.

She started to cover the piano keys with the sliding door but was shocked to hear his voice.

"Gabriella was right, you know," he said, which caused her to jump in surprise, and let the door fall on her fingers.

She let out a shriek before carefully prying the door open, big enough for her to slide her fingers out. Jason crossed the room towards her.

"Oh my God, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to startle you," Jason began apologizing, the words coming out of his mouth a thousand miles a minute. Kelsi began shaking her fingers, as if the pain would magically fall out of her hand if she continued to do so. Jason took her hand in his, covering her tiny hands that matched her petite body with his own larger ones.

"We should get you some ice," he said. Kelsi only nodded for fear that if she let out any words, it would come out as stutters. She had done that way too many times in her life to count. She didn't want to risk ruining this moment. With her hand still in his, he half-dragged, half-led her into the kitchen, where ice was store in a bucket. Grabbing a few ice cubes with a towel, he covered her hands with the towel.

"Does it feel better?" he asked after standing there in silence for a few minutes.

Gathering up the courage to speak, Kelsi nodded. "I can't really feel it anymore."

Cautiously lifting up the towel, she caught a glimpse of her slightly pink fingertips, and saw that the indentation the door had left was slowly beginning to fade. Nodding, he walked past her, and Kelsi immediately felt her heart plummet into the ground. He was about ten feet past her when he turned back around, noticing she wasn't following.

"Are you coming?" he asked, giving a small, hesitant smile. Smiling, she followed as he retraced his steps back to the quiet piano room. He took a seat on the small couch located by the wall, and Kelsi was caught in between taking a seat next to him and her seat on the piano stool.

She decided that a seat with an armrest was the way to go, so she sat at the far end of the couch. Jason chuckled.

"I don't bite, you know," he remarked.

Kelsi blushed. "I know, I wasn't implying that you were. It's just that I thought that, maybe you wanted your space? Especially after the game and whatnot," Kelsi stammered.

He smiled at her stammering. Deciding to take matters into his own hands, he scooted closer to her – not so much that he was on top of her, but enough so that there was a comfortable amount of space between them.

Kelsi's heart hammered in her chest, but she decided that it was a good thing. She smiled shyly at him, which he returned. He nodded towards the piano.

"How long have you been playing?" he asked.

"Since I was five. It was the first thing I knew how to do after walking, talking, and reading," Kelsi replied, fondly remembering that December day. It had been too cold for Kelsi to go out, so she had seated herself on the piano stool, and her father had come and sat her on his lap and taught her to play "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star." She'd been hooked ever since.

Jason nodded in understanding. "Your hand up for teaching me to play?"

Kelsi's eyes lit up. Surprised, she choked out a response. "Really?"

Jason quirked an eyebrow. "Not up for the challenge?"

"Oh, I'm up for it. But the question is – are you, Mr. 23, prepared for the challenge," Kelsi shot back. Jason smiled and made his way over to the piano stool, and Kelsi soon followed.

The small stool didn't allow much room for them to have space between them, so Kelsi was both on the very edge of the bench and close enough to Jason so she could not only hear him breathe, but she could feel him breathe, too.

Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, she taught him the order of the keys and what the black keys did. She explained the pedals to him, when he had wondered what was poking his shoe when he had tried – unsuccessfully – to stretch out his legs. Once she had finished her lesson and explaining the things that she deemed worthy, she started to teach him a different song she knew well.

"We're playing 'Jingle Bells'?" Jason asked, confused. "Christmas was three weeks ago, Kelsi."

"Yes we are. It's an easy song, Jason. Don't worry about it," Kelsi replied.

"Okay, put your hand here," Kelsi instructed, feeling more confident as the lesson went on, grabbing his hand and placing his fingers on the correct keys, "And your right hand here," she continued, slightly stretching over his body to place his right hand on the correct keys.

"And this is how it's supposed to go," she said, placing her hands on his, and played the chorus of "Jingle Bells" slowly while gently pressing down on his own fingers, trying her best to ignore the heat she felt underneath her piano-playing hands.

And so the lesson went on, with Kelsi telling him when to press down what key at what time, both of them laughing at his mistakes when the music sounded so horribly off-key. By the end of the lesson, Jason had improved and could play the chorus well enough to warrant Kelsi's praise. Albeit, it was played at about 5 times slower than the song originally intends, but Kelsi was willing to overlook that fact.

"So how is it supposed to sound at original tempo?" Jason asked, removing his hands from the piano keys.

Kelsi quickly put her hands on the keys, and soon, the melodic and upbeat "Jingle Bells" echoed through the room.

"That was great. And a thousand times better than my version," Jason added as an afterthought. Kelsi flushed under his praise.

"Thanks. And don't worry about it so much. I had much more practice than you," Kelsi said, locking eyes with Jason, smiling.

The moment was ruined by a ringing of a cell phone. Recognizing it as her own, knowing Jason would never have Mozart as his ring tone, she scrambled off the piano stool and found it, quickly silencing it with a "Hello?"

"Hi, Mom." Kelsi paused, listening for the response, noticing that Jason had busied himself with the closing of the piano. "Yeah, I'll be home soon." Kelsi paused again. "Yeah, I know. I'll find someone, don't worry okay? Bye." And with that, Kelsi closed her phone.

"Uh, my mom's getting worried. I should be getting home now," Kelsi said.

"How are you getting home?" Jason asked, and if Kelsi had analyzed it enough, she would have found a bit of concern interlaced in his tone.

"Uh, I was going to find Marie. She's my next door neighbor," Kelsi replied. Moving to leave, she was stopped by Jason's voice.

"What are you doing tomorrow?" Jason asked, hopeful.

"Nothing much. I was just planning to revise some songs for Twinkle Towne. You know how Ms. Darbus gets," Kelsi responded. At the prospect of having to spend the day indoors, she frowned slightly. "When she wants something done, she wants something done right then."

"Oh," was Jason's response.

Backtracking, Kelsi asked, "What'd you have planned?"

"Uh, I was thinking that I'd maybe show you how to play basketball. To repay you for the piano lesson. And your hand," he added. "But, uh, you have plans, and well, Ms. Darbus is a little loose in the head sometimes."

"No! It's fine, I can do that on Sunday. It's not a problem," Kelsi said, her words spewing out of her mouth. Jason smiled.

"So I'll see you tomorrow?" Jason asked.

"I'll see you," Kelsi confirmed. Turning to leave once again, she was stopped by Jason's voice once more.

"What I meant to say earlier is that that song you played earlier? It was beautiful, just like Gabriella said," Jason added. Kelsi smiled.

"Thanks," Kelsi said, and with a wave of her hand, she was off to find Marie. She needed a ride and she needed someone to talk to, especially after what just happened.

Through her entire search, she kept the smile perfectly plastered on her face. Suddenly, tomorrow was a bright prospect.

Author's Note: Hi! Due to the lack of (or even, nonexistent) Jason and Kelsi fan fiction, I decided to jump in the pool and come up with one of my own. This is meant to be a two-chapter story, the next chapter will be out by the next 2 weeks, hopefully. I have no life, so it might come out even sooner than that. I know this story is a monster, coming up at 2,055 words, and it's bound to come up higher than that. Anyways, feedback is much appreciated, and constructive criticism will be well recepted.