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Bonus Scene: Rhyme and Reasons, a bonus scene for Graduation and Gifts

As promised, your bonus scene for Graduation and Gifts.


When Dad retired to private practice and a civilian life, I’d actually been looking forward to getting away from living on bases while also soaking up stability of maintaining the same address as well as school for more than two years at a shot.

With his degree and specialities, Dad had often pulled overseas duty assignments. I’d enjoyed seeing the world, but I missed the normalcy of America. Hamburgers. Coke that tasted like coke. The right ratio of onions to burger and the vital ingredient to all of life’s pleasures—ketchup

Right, I was a simple guy and I liked simple things. We’d only finished our move the week before once we’d gotten back to the States, done the house-hunting, then pulled everything out of storage in San Antonio. The new place was located in a much smaller town, but I kind of liked it. The open roads. The huge fields. The lakes.

And tons of places to go hiking or fishing when the air wasn’t so hot it could cook you in place. Add to that they’d gotten a pool with the house and I was in heaven. Still, enrolling at the junior high so late meant I’d missed out on the pick of the classes and had to stick with whatever was left. I didn’t care, honestly, I was kind of looking forward to that “all-American” experience even if it meant homework.

First period was language arts and I found the classroom right before the bell. There was only one desk open. Second row right behind a gorgeous blonde. I’d only gotten a quick look at her as I passed by. She had a book open on her desk and her whole attention seemed focused on it.

I ignored the glances tossed in my direction. Being an unknown wasn’t a new experience for me. I’d learned to shrug those glances off a long time ago. Still, I kind of wished she’d glanced up or at least around at me so I could get a better look at her.

The guy on her left reached over to grip it and she smacked his hand without looking up. It was hard not to laugh. The class flew by. Actual textbooks were assigned along with our first visit to the library to get authorized to check out books from there. Independent reading lists and the syllabus for the first six weeks of assignments were also handed out.

Before I realized it, she’d vanished in the library and there just wasn’t time to track her down before the bell rang and I had to hurry. My next class was a PE training class. Weights, since all the tryouts for the various teams had happened over the summer, was clear on the other side of the school. I had gym clothes in my bag, but the teacher waved us in without having us get changed. There was a note on the door for the same thing.

“Let’s go, I want to go over all the safety rules and expectations before you guys even touch the weights…”

Right, I knew how to use all the visible equipment and had been training with Dad pretty regularly for the last three years. Still, I focused on what he was saying right up until I caught sight of a familiar face. Locking gazes with Jake Benton had me grinning stupidly.

Of all the people to be in one of my classes was someone I actually knew from going to school with him before. Only then, we’d been in Germany and not the U.S. Our parents had also been friends, our dads at least, which meant Jake and I had hung out quite a bit before he’d returned stateside with his mom.

We didn’t get much of a chance to talk before the end of class when the teacher—coach—finished going over everything from safety protocols to dress code to expectations. This would be a weight lifting class, we would have reading and tests on major muscle groups as well as understanding how to train them. We would be working out on different muscle groups daily and we had to partner or triple up

Jake and I were in lockstep almost immediately. When we were told to get to know each other and work out our goal sheets, I headed straight for him and dumped my bag to the side. “Man, it’s good to see you.”

“Same,” Jake said, shaking my hand. “Mom told me she’d heard from your dad and that you guys were planning to move here, but I didn’t know you’d already made it.”

“Barely. We got in like five days ago, and it’s been all running to get everything set up. Mom already has shifts at the hospital and Dad will be starting at his job this week or next.”

“This is so cool that you’re here,” Jake said with a grin. “You gotta try out for football.”

“Didn’t I already miss the tryouts? And the summer practices?”

“Kinda but, I know a guy.” He shoulder checked me. “C’mon.”

Our weights teacher, the coach, turned out to be the coach for the junior high’s football squad. He gave me a once over and then told me to show up after school to run some drills. No guarantees, but maybe I could get some time to fill in until he saw whether I was a good fit or not.

“Catch me at lunch,” Jake said when we separated for classes. The gorgeous blonde was in my third period math class but she was up front and the only seat left for me was in the back. Damn, she vanished as soon as the bell rang. I swore she could move.

But this time I had a name.

I’d ask Jake about her. When the lunch bell rang, my brain already ached from the sheer number of “introduction” and “first of the year” speeches I’d received. It was nice that Jake was waiting for me right outside the lunchroom.

“Hold up,” he told me when I would have gone on inside. “Waiting on some friends.”

“Sure.” I’d just leaned back against the wall next to him when I spotted the blonde again. She was strolling in our direction, talking animatedly to a tall, lanky guy next to her. His response made her laugh and I swore it was like being dropped inside of a bell as a gong sounded.

The vibration went straight through me. She was still smiling, laughter in her eyes, when our gazes locked. The lyrics to Savage Garden’s “I Knew I Loved You,” made absolute sense to me.

“Bubba, this is Frankie and Coop,” Jake said and it was like all the sound rushed back in at once. “Guys, this is Bubba. Friend of mine from Germany. He’s new.”

“Wait,” Coop said with smirk. “You have friends outside of us?” He wrapped his arm around Frankie’s shoulder and I had the sudden desire to break it. “Well, what do you know?”

“Fuck you,” Jake said, laughing as he dragged the door open. Frankie elbowed Coop, then stuck her hand out to me.

“Welcome,” she greeted me as she shook my hand, but the eye contact didn’t last anywhere near as long as I would have liked. Instead, she glanced past me to Jake. “You’re really growing in your old age. Developing new people skills. Welcoming friends to our circle. I’m so proud.”

She mimed wiping away a tear and I cracked up as Jake made a face at her and then shook his head. “Bubba doesn’t count as new. So he’s in. Deal with it.”

I was? Fine by me. I hadn’t realized how hard I was staring or how obvious it was as she and Jake led the way toward the line picking on each other or how Jake pretty much body blocked anyone from running into her.

“She has that effect on people,” Coop said as he bumped my shoulder with his. At my glance, he touched the corner of his mouth. “You have a little drool right here..”

The flash of teasing in his eyes helped and I shook my head before giving him a little shove away. “Shut up.”

He was still laughing when we caught up and she glanced back at us, a question in her eyes.

“Bubba just had something on his face,” Coop said without an ounce of apology. “Don’t worry, I fixed it.”

At her raised brow inquiry in my direction, I found myself thanking Coop mentally. “I don’t see anything,” she murmured. “All good now.”

Yeah. Yeah it was.

Seeing her had captured my attention. Hearing her laugh had snared my heart. But the fact she smiled at me and then talked to me.

All I could think of was soulmate. What a stupid fucking word it was, but at the same time it fit. Clearly, I kept those thoughts to myself. But I ate lunch with them every single day and it wasn’t long before I had her number and we were hanging out.

Maybe all the last minute rushing and not being able to pick classes was worth it. Sure, I sat on the bench for half the year in football, but I got my times to shine. I found an old friend and new friends all on the same day.

Even better, I met Frankie.

I had no idea why all of that went through my head as we sat on the bus heading for graduation, but it did. Six, almost seven years ago, I couldn’t have imagined how this worked out. Hell, at the beginning of the school year I’d thought we’d doomed it before it could really start.

Yet here we were, beyond rhyme and reason. 

All because I met Frankie and she was the best damn thing to ever happen to me. 

© Heather Long 2021

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