Minnie turned her knapsack upside down over the bench in the double-decker bus’s tiny staff room. She saved her keys from falling to the floor with a reflexive swipe, already riffling with her other hand through the rest of the contents. Wallet, notebook, phone, earbuds, novel….
“No, no, no!” Minnie, let her irritation permeate her tone. The bus gave a lurch, and she moved quickly to keep all her things from toppling away. She cursed almost silently despite being alone. She’d started helping out with her mother’s tour business just after she turned 14. Now five years later, she couldn’t shake how severely her mom had impressed upon her that she must never use foul language while working a tour.
She scoured her memory for any detail that might help her solve her current dilemma. She’d taken her jar of Crazi-Blaze hair dye into the bus’s bathroom on the lower level after she’d noticed a wispy section of her bangs she wanted to touch up. Even now, that section of hair sat next to her temple, clipped up into a small swirl. She’d fashioned a few other sections next to it in the same manner to create a style that would keep it out of her face until she could rinse it out at the hotel later tonight.
She knew she’d left the bathroom with her knapsack when she finished and immediately been called to the front of the bus to answer a question. After that, she’d gone back to check on the boxed lunches. She hadn’t realized until about an hour later that she couldn’t find the brightly colored Crazi-Blaze jar among her things. She’d returned to the bathroom immediately, but found no sign of it. She searched in her knapsack and decided to come in here to completely empty it out. Had she gone anywhere else between those times? If she had indeed left it in the bathroom, would any of the Chinese tourists on their bus have touched it?
She shuddered to think of the jar being opened or broken. Her mother had sunk most of her life savings into this tour bus. Minnie didn’t want to imagine her mom’s wrath if the dye got on the seats or the draperies.
She took a deep breath and opened the door leading back to the top-level seating. Looking over her shoulder to be sure she wasn’t leaving anything behind, she nearly bumped into a petite teenager standing just outside.
“Oh, excuse me, I’m so sorry,” she began, stopping abruptly when she realized who it was.
“I’m sorry,” the girl Luli said, her voice soft and enthralling. While a second ago, Minnie had felt nothing but frustration, now a tingling excitement brimmed in her chest. Throughout the trip, she’d locked eyes with the lovely Luli as often as she dared and smiled at the teen who appeared to be about the same age. She’d also slipped special treats to her (an extra chocolate or a bright red leaf she’d found on one of their outings) several times.
“I think this is yours?” Luli held out the Crazi-Blaze jar, and Minnie blinked taking a second to recognize the thing that only moments ago had filled her mind entirely.
“Oh, yes. Oh my gosh! Thank you so much!” Forgetting herself, she threw her arms around Luli. In a few flashing seconds, she remembered her professional decorum and moved to release her. To her surprise, Luli held onto her tightly. Wildly, Minnie glanced around the seating, but so far, no one was taking notice of their moment.
“Come in here with me?” she whispered. They appraised the other oblivious, members of the tour group and stole backward into the staff room. Minnie quickly closed the door behind them. Luli looked into Minnie’s eyes. Minnie felt frozen in the enthralled stare, watching as Luli took a step to stand as close to her as she had a moment ago.
Luli’s face come closer and closer, and their lips met, tentatively at first. Minnie parted her own. It seemed all the invitation Luli needed. They kissed deeply, the soft tip of Luli’s tongue circling just inside Minnie’s lips.
Minnie let her hands find the small of Luli’s back and the fingers of her right hand play up and down Luli’s spine through the girl’s thin t-shirt. This moment… OH THIS MOMENT! She wanted to record everything about it. That this might be the only time she’d ever kiss Luli banged inside her brain from behind a mental door she forced shut.
When the girls let their lips fall gently away from one another, Luli looked into Minnie’s eyes again. “You’re so beautiful,” she said. Minnie’s mind reeled. Drop-dead gorgeous Luli thought she… SHE, Minnie, was beautiful?!
“I haven’t been able to stop staring at you since you got on,” Minnie admitted.
Luli laughed, a quiet twinkly sound that Minnie swore she could almost see sparkling between them. “Yes, I noticed,” she said. Her face fell a little. “Of course I can’t do anything about it. My family….” Minnie heard Luli’s voice darken. “They don’t approve of… this type of relationship.”
Minnie had no idea what to say.
“But I’m coming back to America for college in the fall,” said Luli. “This is my email address.” She handed Minnie a slip of paper. “Don’t lose it,” she said, and all that had weighed down her voice a moment before lifted.
“I won’t,” Minnie promised.
“I have to get back,” Luli said. “My family can’t know anything.”
Minnie nodded. So many cautionary thoughts tried to wiggle their way into the front of her mind. She shut them out for now.
“But first, I’m going to kiss you again.” Luli said. Before Minnie could even digest the words, Luli’s lips met hers once more. Minnie’s heart swelled and her head swirled.
Later, she would never remember how long it lasted, because in this moment of thought and sensation toppling over one another, she compelled her mind to quiet, to try to live eternally inside these few precious seconds of Luli’s kiss.