Kelly could still remember how it felt when her first true love had a soundtrack. How it seemed like every sappy song on the radio and MTV made her think about Mark and overflow with mushy feelings. How it seemed like she had been admitted into this special club of people that "got it".
It seemed so magical then. But re-experiencing it as an adult over a man she was trying to convince herself she had no future with was simply frustrating. And what it caused her to do was infuriating.
"Thanks, Pete. Any problems?"
Kelly was reminded that her repeated assertion about her assistant being worth his weight in gold was not an exaggeration when he handed her the stolen iPod with a straight face, and answered in a voice devoid of teasing or anything else that would have embarrassed or otherwise caused a reaction in her, "None at all. It was where you said it would be."
They went over the notes from his meeting in Jersey, and the matter was not mentioned again. But as soon as he left the room, the iPod was in her hand. She hated herself for the sentimental feeling that hit her when her finger all but caressed a familiar dent in the casing, a dent she herself was responsible for causing when it fell out of her pocket and dropped onto the pavement. Months ago now - where had the time gone?
She powered it on and typed in the password from memory before docking it.
The process was a simple matter of drag-and-drop. She'd been working on this project for the past two weeks, and the only step left was a quick upload. With Christmas still 10 days away, she had plenty of time to wrap it up and send it back.
House would appreciate the fact that she had staged a break-and-enter, if nothing else.
As she scrolled through his playlists while the upload continued in the background, she congratulated herself on her restraint, though it really had taken everything in her not to give Pete the third degree about what he had seen. Not that she assumed House had been lying to her, but it would have been reassuring to hear that his place showed no signs of female intrusion.
When the upload was complete, she added the final touch: a picture of the two of them became his background image. It was a photo that had been found on her mom's camera not long ago, one she hadn't been aware had been taken. The scene was innocuous enough - House and Kelly were in the kitchen unloading the dishwasher. Well, Kelly was. House was sitting on the counter, watching her.
And it was the watching that made the photo so compelling. It was the reason that same photo was framed and on her desk. It was the reason that her mother had called her only minutes after discovering it, ordering her to check her email immediately because there was something she'd definitely want to see. It was the reason that she'd had to try to convince the girls time and time again that no, he wasn't in love with her.
It was the reason she'd be inspired to do what she'd just done, the gravity and the accompanying self-loathing finally hitting her for the first time:
"Oh, good Lord," she uttered aloud. "I made him a mix tape."