Bonus Scene: Radiant and Reunited, A Bonus Scene for Changes and Chocolates
Congratulations on hitting 500 reviews for Changes and Chocolates all of you! And in honor of Stephanie Heinritz’s birthday, I saved this bonus scene just for her. Jake coming back from Germany was a great moment for Coop and Frankie (Jake too) reuniting the three of them once more. It’s not a long scene, but it is a fun one.
Summer heat rose in radiant waves from the sidewalk and black-topped roads before it was even ten in the morning. We’d barely gotten our bags unzipped and the new beds set up so Louisa and Becca could get their naps in before I’d asked Mom if I could take my bike over to Frankie’s and Coop’s apartments.
“You should probably wait another couple of hours,” she told me and I stared at her. “They’re still at school.”
Thankfully, I didn’t spit that last word out. They still had another week of school before summer break here. “I forgot.”
“I know, help me unpack the stuff for the kitchen and as soon as school is out, you can ride right over there.”
“Oh, and Jake?” She motioned to the fridge. “Remember I need to go shopping, tomorrow we’re going to the junior high. They said you can try out for the football tea—”
I crashed into Mom and hugged her. I half-picked her up. “Thank you!” She’d promised she’d reach out to them to see if there was a chance for me to try out for the junior high team even though it was late into the spring and they’d begin practices over the summer.
Her laughter was a sweet sound, one we didn’t get to hear that often anymore. She kissed me on the top of the head and I hustled into the kitchen. A lot of our gear and stuff had been left in storage when we’d gone overseas, so Mom had it delivered the day we came in.
It took me almost the whole two hours to get the full kitchen unpacked. Fortunately, I remembered exactly where Mom liked everything. One thing I could thank the military for, I could pack and unpack in nothing flat. I was already changing my shirt when Mom said school was out. They had to take a bus home so I would have time to make it the mile and a half to their places on my bike.
“You sure you don’t want me to drive you?”
“I’m good,” I told her. “You don’t want to drag the girls out anyway.” I kissed her cheek. “Is it cool if I stay there for dinner?”
“As long as you don’t invite yourself.”
New keys in my pocket, I was out and on my bike before she could change her mind. It was weird how familiar everything was. We’d been gone almost three years. Almost. But I knew exactly where to go and I picked up speed as I raced along the sidewalks, crossed streets, and then along a back way to where they lived.
I didn’t even question that they were still there. They had to be. Frankie was probably going to punch me in the nose and Coop was going to make fun of me. I caught sight of the yellow bus ahead and kicked up the pace.
Cutting across the grocery store parking lot, I found the little alley that cut right through their back fence into the apartments’ parking lot and I skidded to a halt right in front of the back stairs that led up to Frankie’s apartment. Ahead of me, at the top of the drive, I caught sight of golden blonde hair as she bounced off the bus.
Coop was right behind her. She pivoted without missing a beat, walking backwards and from the way her hands were moving—she was giving him hell. I dropped the bike and started up the hill. They were about fifteen steps away when Coop’s head jerked up, he stared right at me.
Spinning around, Frankie stopped almost as abruptly as Coop did. I grinned at them. How mad was she going to—
I barely had time to finish the thought before she slammed into me at speed. The hug actually knocked me back a step. Man, she’d gotten taller. So had Coop. All arms and legs, Frankie squeezed me. Then she pulled back and wow—the blow caught me right in the cheek and my eyes watered.
“You asshole,” she said.
“Yep,” I said with a wince. “That’s me.”
“I missed you.”
“Nope, I can pretty much tell you that you didn’t.” I rubbed my face but she hugged me again and all was forgiven.
“So,” Coop said as Frankie checked my face then pulled away again. “We were just arguing about pizza and movies since her mom is working late and my mom is gonna be late cause Trina has scouts tonight.”
“Yep,” Frankie said, then grimaced. “Sorry about the punch.”
“Nah, I deserved it.”
I really did. I hadn’t written them. Not once. I was an asshole.
“You did, but I am still sorry.”
I hooked an arm around her shoulders and dragged her to me. “Pizza and movies?”
She bounced against me and Coop laughed.
“Welcome home,” she told me, then gave me a quick kiss to the cheek. “I’m gonna go feed the cats and change. Meet you guys at Coop’s!”
Then she was gone, running like we were chasing her. I stared after her for a minute, a stupid grin on my face.
“She’s still my girl.” Coop informed me.
“I’ll get her back,” I promised.
He laughed, then punched me in the arm. “Good. She’s missed you.”
I’d missed them too.