Putting the Pieces Together
I couldn't help but act like a heartbroken teenage girl for the past few weeks. Maya was my dream girl, the girl I pined over for years and it turns out she never liked me but her hotter best friend. I love Lucas, he's a great friend, but girls always like him not me. It's even the same with my girlfriend.
Riley followed me home and she was cooing over me like a mother. "I'm not leaving your side until you feel better," she comforts me.
"It's just that . . . I thought Maya really liked me, maybe even love, but she always liked Lucas and I was just her little rebound," I blubber.
"She's a real jerk," Riley sighs. She was fighting with Maya, too. Lucas was her boyfriend after all.
"Our life is like a soap opera right now," I mutter, "a really bad one written by an overdramatic teen."
"I wish Lucas was here," Riley says wistfully. "Everything started because of me."
"Why?" I ask. If you ask me, it was all Maya's fault.
Riley chokes back a tear. "I learned something about Lucas that I wasn't supposed to and then he got mad at me. I know why was he was in that car in the first place."
"You do, how?" I ask.
"Charlotte told me," Riley sighs. "He called her right after our fight, saying he was going to see her. He was driving to Smithville. I gave him the idea in the first place." Riley covered her mouth and started to cry.
"It's not your fault," I say, our roles reversing. Now she's the one who's crying and I'm the mother. "You were just trying to help."
"I want to say something to Maya and the boys, but," Riley pauses for a second. "They'll probably blame me or Charlotte. Maya already hates her for leaving Lucas."
"Well, I don't blame her," I reply. "What reason did she have to leave?"
Riley started sobbing.
"Riley, you know something we don't," I urge her. "We need to solve this mystery together so you need to tell us what you know."
"You're right," she says. "You're absolutely right."
"I am?" I say. I'm better at emotional situations than I think I am.
"I know just the place," Riley says, her voice gradually cheering up. "I'm calling Zay who'll call Brandon who'll call Maya."
"Wait, what are you doing?" I ask. Was this another Riley moment?
"Get a helmet," Riley said with a mischievous smile.
I didn't know where I was. I was floating within a black space, without walls or a ceiling. It was like the vacuum of space but no stars or planets.
"He should've chosen me from the start," a voice says. Is that Maya?
Suddenly, a memory floated before me. It was me and Maya, but different. She wore her hair in a French braid and had on a dress and sandals. I wore a baseball cap on backwards and was around four feet tall, before my growth spurt. Maya and I were nine years old. We sat on a park bench, eating popsicles.
"Dad will come back with Mom any day now," nine-year-old me said optimistically.
"I don't know, Lucas," nine-year-old Maya responded. "It's been two weeks."
"But she said it was going to be me and her," little me said. "She promised. I know my mom and she always keeps her promises."
"Sometimes promises were made to be broken," little Maya said bitterly. "My dad never came back for Mom."
"But my mom isn't like your dad," little me whined. "She's different."
"Not all nice people stay, Lucas," Maya practically shouts.
All went silent for a moment.
Little Lucas replied, "She hates me, doesn't she?"
"That what it felt like for me and my mom," little Maya said. "It was like we were unlovable."
"Well," little Lucas grabbed little Maya's hand and said, "We can be unlovable together."
Little Maya smiled and squeezed her friend's hand, and not in a friendly way, in a romantic way. Nine-year-old me couldn't see it before but sixteen-year-old Lucas can: Maya liked me more than just a friend.
Another voice echoed in the darkness. It was more than one voice. The memory of me and Maya disappeared and was replaced with an unfamiliar one. Riley and Maya (present ones) were standing in a hospital hallway.
"What do you want me to do?" Riley yells at Maya. "I can't be like everyone. I forgive Charlotte because she still loves Lucas after all those years. It's the truth."
"If Lucas could hear us right now, he would take my side," Maya growls.
"Maybe he would," Riley retorts. "But you need to hear Charlotte's side of the story first."
"Whatever you say won't convince me," Maya mumbles. "People never change."
"That's a bit hypocritical," Riley seethes. "You changed completely after you abandoned Missy."
"Don't bring Missy into this," Maya yells. "You don't even know anything. You don't even know Lucas like you think you do."
"I know more than you do!" Riley yells back.
"I can't believe he chose you," Maya hisses. "You never understand anything. You're so spoiled and self-righteous and all you do is pretend the past is the past when we know that the past never goes away. Lucas should have chosen me from the start."
It flashes forward to Farkle crying and running out of the hospital with Riley following him. Maya was left behind sobbing. When did this happen to me?
Another memory replaces this one. It was that day again, the day when I was locked in the attic when I was five.
"I promise we will get away from him," my mom sobs. "We can start over, just you and me, and we will forget about all the scars he left on us."
Then another flash shows me lying in a car wreck, the steering wheel slumped against my bloody chest. My head was bleeding as well, and I must've had a concussion. Glass was everywhere and it was raining hard. I could actually feel the pain. A crumpled letter was in my pocket.
My mother, I was going to see my mother. I took Riley's advice and went to see her but my plans were stopped by a muddy ditch and a crazy truck driver. And now Riley, Maya, Farkle, and everyone else I love are left all alone. I wanted out. I wanted out of this place so I can make things right.
Only . . . how do you escape impending death?