Kissing The Hero - Christina Benjamin


Cold air smacked Rose Parson in the face as she swung open the door to the blissfully air-conditioned Emerson Performing Arts Center. Blinking a few times, she let the door click shut behind her as she waited for her eyes to adjust to the dim lighting of the foyer, the sticky humidity drying on her skin.

New York in August was no place to be.

But Rose had driven hours to get here and today, this auditorium was the only place to be.

Rose had watched all of her upperclassmen friends rehearse for this scholarship competition, just waiting for her time to come—waiting for the day when she was finally a high school senior.

Well, almost. School would start up in a few weeks, and then it would be official. The countdown to graduation would begin.

Taking a deep breath, Rose took another step into the crowded foyer. Voices echoed off the tiles as seniors from all over the Northeast mingled and talked.

Rose scanned the crowd for someone she knew. There were a few familiar faces here and there, but none she felt comfortable going up to.

She shifted, trying to casually lift her black leather skirt from where it stuck to her thighs. Leather was definitely the wrong choice for a hot August afternoon. But in her defense, she was rocking purple hair these days and black leather was just too perfect to pass up.

Besides, she wasn’t here to be comfortable. She was here to make an impression. And that was exactly what she meant to do. Rose tossed her hair back over her shoulder, untangling some strands that clung to her neck as she did, wondering if her new look had what it took to stand out in this crowd.

“If you’ll all take your seats . . . ” An older woman with a clipboard and rigid smile gestured to the open doors of the auditorium. Rose headed toward her along with the others who were forming a quasi-line to get in and take their seats. She’d almost reached the open double doors when she heard her name.

“Rose!” Lola called out. “Over here!”

Layne smiled as her best friend waved wildly to Rose, who would have stuck out in any crowd with that bright purple hair. They shuffled forward along with the rest of the students until they’d reached her side.

From the hug Lola gave Rose, you’d think they’d been best friends since birth.

They hadn’t.

Layne Hall, Lola Rey, and Rose Parson had just competed in enough regional performances that they were friendly acquaintances. And right now, Layne was glad to see a familiar face amidst the sea of competition.

So many people vying for the same scholarship money.

“Hey Layne, good to see you again,” Rose said over her shoulder before stepping up to the organizer by the door and snagging one of the leaflets the woman was handing out to every student.

Layne said ‘hi’ back but it was so quiet, no one seemed to hear her.

That was fine. Lola was the one who liked the spotlight. Layne was totally content living in her best friend’s shadow. She actually preferred it that way, which yes, made it ironic that she was there to sign up for a competition. But she never passed up a chance to compete when there was a scholarship involved, no matter how nerve wracking it was.

Once they were all through the check-in process, they entered the auditorium, which was buzzing with gossip and laughter. Half the seats were already filled.

“Let’s grab those seats over there,” Rose said. She was already leading the way, a tall purple beacon in the crowd.

“Which category are you competing in?” Lola asked.

“Acting,” Rose said. “You?”


Layne held back a laugh as her two friends noticeably relaxed. It was one thing to be friendly with the competition, but it would be another matter entirely if they were rivals for the same scholarship.

No one asked Layne what she was competing for, but she assumed it was understood. Songwriting was her one and only talent. Unlike every other senior in this room, she had no desire to be a star.

“Check it out,” Rose said, her voice a murmur as she shifted toward Lola. “The Fenley twins. Do you think they’re competing against each other?”

“I don’t know,” Lola said with a shake of her head. “All I know is, I wouldn’t want to share a bedroom with my arch rival.”

“There’s Louisa from that show you did last summer,” Layne pointed out.

The three of them passed the time trying to spot their friends and suss