6 Times We Almost Kissed (And One Time We Did)
6 Times We Almost Kissed (And One Time We Did) by Tess Sharpe
Penny gets a text from her mom, Lottie, alerting her to a Family Meeting at 6:00 that night, followed by another asking her to pick up Tate from the pool because Anna, Tate's mom, wasn't feeling well and already went home with Lottie. This can’t be a good thing, so Penny's anxiety spikes. Anna and Lottie are best friends, they’re closer than any sisters could be, they're ride or die. Will her Gran, Marion, be there too? Did her mom find out about her kayaking? No, it would be end-of-the-world stuff if that was the case. Does Tate need an intervention? No, she’s perfect. Could Anna’s cancer be worse? There’s nothing for it, she needs to collect Tate and get home.
On the drive, Penny stresses about the meeting and asks Tate where her truck is since she needs a lift and Tate confesses that she sold her truck to help pay for her mom’s medical bills. Tate then needles Penny to distraction about her Sharpie obsession, bullet journals and craft projects. At least it takes Penny’s mind off the Family Meeting until they get inside but the moms don’t want to talk until after dinner.
Penny pushes and pushes so Lottie reveals that she is going to be a living donor for Anna and will give her part of her liver. They are going to have to stay in Sacramento while they recover, and so they’ll be combining households to help save money. The surgery is soon, so they'll be heading to Sacramento in a few days. Tate is ridiculously happy because her mom is going to get better! Penny can’t process it thinking she might lose her mom again. Tate tells Penny she needs to be happy for their moms, not stress them out and help with the move. Tate is infuriating Penny and when this happens she’s sure the only way to shut her up is to kiss her. Gah! Penny runs off.
Two and a half years ago, Tate was almost drunk at a party. Her best friend Remi kept handing her a beer then water, telling her she could get drunk but you gotta keep hydrated! Tate spotted Penny running off upset and followed her into a hay shed. Penny had a fight with her boyfriend Jayden. She’s supposed to love him, he’s part of the High School phase of her 35-point life plan. As Tate tried to calm her down, she accidentally outed herself by talking about breasts in a very interesting manner and Tate admits she Bi. As they talked, they moved closer, Penny called Tate pretty and they moved closer still. Tate wasn’t sure if she’s urging her on or pushing her away. They almost kissed, but they were interrupted by Penny's best friend Meghan.
Back to now, Anna checks that Penny is okay. Yes, she is. Is Tate okay? Yes, she is. Tate will never tell her mom any of her worries, she wants her mom healthy and to have nothing stressing her at this key moment. Tate starts packing their apartment but needs help from someone organized, and there's only one person who comes to mind: Penny. After a snippy exchange, Penny heads over and brings Meghan and Tate accuses her of bringing a chaperone. Remi has boxes for Tate so Penny and Tate head over while Meghan stays to pack. Good, they need to talk.
Tate wants them to have a truce which Penny agrees to and grabs her bullet journal. It takes 20 minutes but they lay everything out:
- No fighting in front of the moms (or Gran)
- No snitching.
- No using all the hot water.
- Cut the forest in the bathroom down a little.
- We'll share the commute.
- Your mom, your business. My mom, my business.
- We'll work together to empty the apartment and move.
- We'll split any extra chores/errands so the moms don't have to do them.
- No stress for the moms. As far as they're concerned, our lives are perfect.
- If there's a life-or-death problem, we go to each other, we don't go to the moms.
- Tate will teach Penny how to make Anna's brownies if Penny teaches Tate how to make Marion's lemon cake.
- No talking about Yreka.
Meanwhile, Meghan and Remi are texting about what they are going to do about Penny and Tate… there is an energy between them. Remi wants to drop it, Meghan declares it’s not over.
Working together, Tate and Penny manage to get all of Anna’s bedroom furniture moved. At Penny’s house, Tate notices there are no pictures of George, Penny’s dad, in the downstairs where Lottie’s bedroom is in contrast to the upstairs which is where Penny’s room is. When Penny spots her looking at the photos, she admits her mom tried to burn all the pictures and paintings of her father. Later, over dinner, it’s obvious to Tate how Lottie is pushing her daughter out. As they discuss the upcoming surgery and recovery, Penny’s lists help keep them organized. Penny is able to prove her mom doesn’t know anything and her lists are important since she doesn’t know how much the property tax is, when it’s due, what is needed to heat the house. Lottie flees to her art studio. Tate, also concerned about money, will take a job at the brewery her mom works at instead of Penny taking a second job.
That night as Tate is trying to get to sleep she hears a noise. Penny is sneaking out! Following her in Marion’s car, Tate sees Penny take the exit to the lake. No way! What the hell?! From the dock, Tate spots Penny in the water in a kayak then suddenly Penny flips under the water. Tate dives in to save her.
Penny remembers the day of her dad’s death. They were rafting and it was a perfect day until it wasn’t. She doesn’t know what caused things to change, but she remembers desperately paddling to shore, the sound of the crack as her dad hit his head, the rope wrapped around her hands and arms ripping and pulling, popping her joints as she held onto her dad as the water pulled at him. She remembers her dad wasn’t scared as he untied himself, releasing himself so he could save her.
Penny went to therapy, and it was helpful. She couldn’t talk about the day on the river, but she could talk about everything else: her injuries, her recovery, her gran, her mom. When Lottie attended one of the sessions, the worst thing happened. Her mom didn’t listen to the therapist, exploded at her for wanting to turn Penny into a zombie because she suggested medication, and withdrew Penny from treatment. Even without professional help, Penny still tries to practice the techniques she discussed with her therapist and, with Meghan’s help, she starts going back into the water. The water helps her, it’s her outlet.
As Penny is purposely underwater, something pulls at her waist. On the dock, Penny and Tate look at each and want to know what the hell the other is doing. Penny explains that Meghan has been bringing her out to the river for ages and being in the water again is helping her. Penny calls upon the Truce Agreement so Tate can’t snitch to the moms. Penny admits that she and Meghan are planning to buy back her dad’s kayaking business from his business partner using the life insurance she’ll get when she turns 18 and Meghan’s inheritance from her parents. Tate agrees not to say anything.
On the day of the kayak accident, Remi picked Tate up from the pool, not her mom. Tate instantly knew something was wrong. Remi explained a torn up raft was found and his mom was leading the search party. Tate was convinced she knew where Penny and her dad would have been: the Wishbone. This is not where Remi’s mom was looking, so Tate insists they go. After making their way through rough forests, Tate and Remi found Penny on the bank, looking destroyed and her hands ruined. Tate comforted Penny and they almost kissed as they waited for Remi to get help.
Back to now, Penny and Tate, both soaked through and looking disheveled, find Anna sitting on the sofa, waiting for them to get home. Anna asks if they’ve been skinny dipping. She has a gleam in her eyes and isn’t convinced by any reason they give. Tate and Anna have a great relationship filled with trust and communication, but Tate still lies, covering for Penny. Anna looks disappointed, does she know her daughter lied or is it something else? Now, about other secrets, Anna pulls up her credit card statement and asks about a payment, so Tate has to confess to selling her truck.
Penny thinks about the days after the accident. Her mom wasn’t there, but her Gran was. Penny didn’t see her mom until the day of the funeral. Lottie had arranged to bury George, but that’s not what he wanted. He wanted his ashes spread on the water. Penny confronted her mom about the arrangements, but Lottie refused to give the river any more of her husband and called Penny crazy. Penny told her mom she wouldn’t forgive her if she went through with the burial, but Lottie spat back that it’s not her who needs forgiveness. Marion slapped Lottie.
The next morning, Tate is leaving early to train at the pool and pack more of their old apartment. Penny is waiting for her and will help until her shift starts at noon. As Penny is cleaning out the apartment, Anna comes by and checks how Penny is doing. Penny both loves Anna and resents her for having the attention she craves from her mother. Worse, Anna asks if Penny and Tate are being safe because queer Sex Ed isn’t great, but it’s still important! Oh shit. Penny texts Meghan who thinks this is hilarious and is shocked Penny didn’t set the record straight. Meghan texts Remi immediately with the gossip. She also suggests they have a fundraiser to help Lottie and Anna in their recovery.
Penny, Tate, Lottie, Anna and Marion have reached the hotel in Sacramento. In typical rom-com style, their booking has been messed up and Penny and Tate have to share a bed. Oh shit. They don’t have a good hotel history! Penny helps her Gran to her room and they have a heart-to-heart. They acknowledge it’s been very difficult because Lottie hasn’t been there, but Marion tells Penny her dad would be so proud of Lottie for doing this. Penny wonders about that. Because Lottie and Anna aren’t allowed to eat anything before their surgery the next day and threatening a Rom-Com marathon, Marion offers to take Penny and Tate out for dinner.
After saying goodnight to the moms, Tate goes for a swim, and back in their room, Penny concentrates on her bullet journal until she decides to stop by the moms’ room. Outside she can overhear them talking about her and Tate and how they’re dating. Oh no. She needs to stop this but doesn’t do anything because she can’t risk her mom finding out about her going out kayaking.
The next day is surgery day. Tate and Anna are playing cards as Lottie’s surgery is first. Anna tells Tate the story of how she and Lottie became friends. When they were teenagers, a group of boys were assaulting women and they came after her. On her walk home one night, the boys cornered her. The only thing that saved her from the situation getting worse was Lottie who was in a tree waiting for them with a bag full of rocks. The ring leader took one to the head and got knocked straight out and the others scattered. Just then, the nurse comes in alerting them that it’s time for Anna’s surgery.
The wait is long until the surgeon comes in with the news that Lottie is out of surgery and in the ICU recovering. Anna will be in for a lot longer. It’s after midnight when the surgeon delivers the good news, stoic Tate acknowledges it and walks away back to the hotel and the pool, which is where Penny finds her. Penny realizes Tate is having a flood of emotion and gets in the pool with her to help her. They almost kiss, but then a hotel security guard kicks them out.
Later, Tate sees Penny in their bed, but she’s not asleep, she’s faking it. Soon, they get a text from Marion that confirms all is okay at the hospital. In the group chat, Tate and Marion see that Penny has found out a creepy level of detail about the nurses. At the hospital later, Anna is drugged up and Tate thinks her mom is looking better already. Her room is festooned with gifts from wellwishers, from flowers, mini trees and a giant leg of ham. In another recovery room, between drug-induced naps, Lottie keeps asking for Anna. After their visit, Tate and Penny head home while Marion stays in Sacramento to look after Anna and Lottie. Instead of heading to the house, though, they go to the apartment to continue packing. Meghan and Remi are heading over to help where they tell Tate and Penny about the fundraiser they are organizing to help their moms.
At the pool, Penny’s ex Laurel is there with others of the swim team. She never comes to the pool in the morning which is why Tate goes then. The team is happy that Tate’s mom is doing well, but Laurel is her usual bitchy self. A couple of days later, the last day they have the apartment, Penny tells Tate about her business plan. She wants to expand the kayak business to the whole river - three weeks to San Francisco. As they work, they take the trash out and the creepy asshole landlord, Ronny, keeps watching them. When he starts to try something with Tate, Penny comes in with the power of Perkiness and Organization and puts him in his place. Screw that jerk.
Back in time a little, Tate found out that Lottie stopped Penny from going to therapy, and clearly she would benefit from talking to a professional given everything she has gone through. Tate also found out that after the argument, Lottie sold George’s kayak business because she didn’t want Penny going back on the water. Marion came in and took charge of the situation because Lottie was not thinking clearly and was acting erratically. At her Gran’s insistence, Penny left, but instead of going to her room, she went to Damnation Peak. Tate received a text from Meghan asking for her to get Penny from Damnation Peak as she thought she was drunk after a fight with her mom. Meghan would ask Laurel, but Laurel would make the situation worse. Penny had a huge bottle of cheap vodka which Tate emptied. Tate was able to calm Penny and reassured her that no one can take her dad from her, especially her mom. They almost kissed again.
In the present day, Tate and Penny have fallen into a routine while the moms are recovering in Sacramento. One day after Tate finished her shift at the Brewery and Penny picks her up, they find Meghan, Remi and a giant 6 foot carved bear in the drive. It’s the big prize for the fundraiser. The next day Penny and Tate cut the giant fallen pine in the meadow behind the house into firewood trying to save every dollar and cent. As they work, Tate tells Penny her after high school plan. She wants out of their town, to get a swimming scholarship, to get her degree and to get a job.
Soon enough, it’s the day of the fundraiser. Tate FaceTimes her mom to show the set up, and Anna is impressed. Unfortunately she has to hang up as Lottie and Marion can be heard arguing in the background, again. The day is going really well, Tate even gets Meghan and Remi to confess they like-like each other which gives Meghan the opportunity to point out that it’s obvious that Tate and Penny love each other and she needs to do something about it.
As Tate and Penny try to negotiate Berry the Bear, Laurel, Penny’s bitch-ex, confronts them and accuses them of being together saying Anna confirmed it when she called to send flowers. Ha, she was right all along! *raises cocky eyebrow* Tate however is very confused. After Laurel strides off, Penny has to confess that the moms think they’re together and she never corrected Anna. Tate is horrified. Penny shouts that it shouldn’t come as a surprise when there is a thing between them. They almost kiss, but Tate pulls away and walks off.
Tate flees to Remi’s and doesn't respond to Penny’s messages despite her begging and pleading. Eventually though, Tate sends a photo of the Truce Agreement with the last edict, don’t talk about Yreka, underlined.
Five months ago in Yreka, Tate was at a swim meet. She was in her hotel room watching Murder She Wrote while her roommate snuck out with a bottle of vodka. Just as she was settling down to sleep, someone banged on the room door. It was Penny and she looked like a mess. Penny caught Laurel naked with another girl, but before Tate could get more information, Laurel knocked on the door and demanded to see Penny. Tate told Laurel to walk with her to the parking lot. Tate was calm, but Laurel was angry. Laurel was talking shit and acting like a hateful bitch, blaming Penny and Tate for her cheating - she was convinced they had a thing she couldn’t compete with. Whatever, Tate shut Laurel down and went back to her room to find Penny hiding under a blanket. Eventually she emerged and Penny’s floodgates opened and they almost kissed. She was convinced she’s unlovable and not in a melodramatic way, but because Lottie abandoned her. In the dark, Tate held Penny until she fell asleep, and told her she’s not hard to love because she loves her. Penny wasn’t asleep.
The next day, Tate still hasn’t come home and doesn’t respond to Penny’s messages so she doesn’t come on the trip to pick up Lottie. Marion is exhausted and pointedly looks at Lottie. Penny realizes how relaxed she’s been not having her mother at home the past couple of weeks, but her anxiety is now ratcheting up. The journey is not awkward at all… no, it is painful and awful.
When Penny and Lottie get home, Tate is there and she refuses to talk to Penny about their fight. Luckily, Lottie’s demands for Penny to fetch her sketchbook from the studio help Tate dodge the conversation. In the studio, Penny finds the glass work her mom has been working on to sell, abstract works of the accident and her dad’s death - she’s made art out of Penny’s trauma. When Tate sees them, she looks at the pieces in horror. This is fucked.
Penny goes into the house and confronts her mom, but Lottie is confused by Penny’s anger. Tate, behind Penny, supports her, telling Lottie they are fucked up. Penny realizes that her mom is wounded by what-ifs too, but her mom never asked what happened and never talked to her about how her dad did everything he could to save her. Penny’s dad let go of her hand in the river to save her life. Penny’s mom let go of her to let her drown alone in the trauma.
Penny walks out but Tate can’t follow leaving Lottie alone, so she recruits Meghan. Penny heads to Damnation Peak and she starts thinking how her Gran put her first after the accident, loved her and helped her heal and kept her alive when it was becoming too much, even while she battled her own grief for the loss of her son. Eventually Tate pulls up, she’s brought her own bullet-point plan to help Penny: 1. Call Marion, 2. Get Penny's ex-therapist's number, 3. Issue ultimatum to Lottie, 4. Make emergency appointment with therapist. Tate admits she can’t help her with her mom who is being dumb, selfish and is lost in a grief pit, but she can help her get professional help and make Lottie deal with it. Before Tate leaves, she calls Marion who will make Lottie give up her studio if she doesn’t let Penny get professional help, after all, the house and the garage are Marion’s, she can do what she wants with them. Penny makes the calls and is soon in her first session back with her therapist. It’s all word and emotion vomit as she tells the therapist everything. Well, not everything, nothing about Tate, but it’s exactly what she needs.
A few days later, Anna and Marion are expected home any minute. Tate heads out to the studio to bring Lottie inside and finds Penny’s mom standing in front of the glass pieces showing her interpretation of the accident. Lottie is meant to be packing them up for the auction house, but instead Lottie flings her water bottle and smashes the middle piece. Marion and Anna find Tate holding a crying Lottie surrounded by broken glass. Lottie realizes she fucked up.
Over dinner, Penny and Lottie talk a little. Though Penny realizes that growing apart might be the healthier option for her and her mom, she at least still has her. Penny tells Lottie she needs to get help, and though at the moment that doesn’t seem likely, Penny hopes one day in the future her mom will.
Tate and Penny need to deliver Berry the Bear to the raffle winner. The six foot bear-hemoth tree carving is strapped in the truck bed but it is an ordeal, and they get lost, and they hit a ditch twisting the axle. Shit. Resigned that they have no phone signal, they can’t fix the axle, and it’s getting dark, they check the truck for supplies. Thankfully it’s Marion’s truck so it has all the necessities so they get comfortable knowing help is not possible until the morning. After a few rounds of cards, Penny wants to talk.
Again Penny apologizes for the lies and mistakes and being so dependent on her. When Penny raises the topic of Yreka, Tate refuses, but then Penny tells her she heard Tate in the hotel room, she wasn’t asleep. Obviously, they start arguing but squabbling about Greek mythology and the Titanic doesn’t stop them from closing the space between them and there is nothing and no one to stop them from kissing this time. Well, Berry the Bear and the car sliding down the bank tries to, but they ignore it.
Finally, Penny and Tate renegotiate their truce agreement:
- We don't tell the moms our real anniversary date. Easier than explaining the whole thing.
- I will have your back.
- You'll have mine.
- I'll love you.
- You'll love me.
- It might be hard sometimes.
- But we'll be happy most times.