Unexpected Ties

Nobody Tells Me Anything!

Nobody ever told Farkle anything.

Okay, not always, but pretty darn often. And at school the next day, it was safe to say there was something going on between his friends. They were all acting... well, not like his friends. Riley's smiles seemed incredibly forced. It was obvious that despite whatever was going one, she was trying to stay upbeat. But Farkle knew her like the back of his hand. There was something off about her. He didn't like it.

Maya didn't seem to have the heart to be her normal teasing self. Farkle didn't think he heard her call Lucas "Ranger Rick" all morning. She was stressed-looking, very quiet and moody. Farkle wondered if it had something to do with whatever had happened when they were in art, but in fear of her snapping at him, he refrained from asking. If anything, it was probably a certain time of the month.

Lucas seemed the worst, and was who Farkle was the most worried about. Any time Riley wasn't around him, he seemed like he couldn't relax. He was jumpy and quiet, and all around not Lucas. Farkle wondered if it had something to do with "baseball practice," whatever that actually meant.

Whatever it was, whatever was going on between the three of them, it made Farkle sick with worry. But they wouldn't tell him anything.

"Are you sure you're alright, Lucas?" he asked his best friend for what felt like the millionth time that day. The two boys were sitting in their usual spot near Mr. Matthews's old classroom in the seventh grade hallway, waiting for the girls so that they could walk to Svorski's together. "You don't seem like it."

"I told you, Farkle, I'm fine," Lucas sighed in exasperation.

He sighed and turned away, staring off into space. Farkle couldn't help but notice the bruises on his face. Why won't he tell me what's wrong? He's not fine.

"Farkle, Lucas!" Riley's voice pierced through his thoughts. He looked up, and there it was- the fake smile, the forced pep in her step as she dragged Maya by her wrist.

Despite her obviously forced happiness, the sight of Riley seemed to instantly calm Lucas. He smiled at her, and Farkle knew her well enough to know that she was melting inside.

"Ladies," Farkle tried to flirt, but his heart just wasn't in it. Maya, one of the loves of his life, still didn't seem right.

"Farkle," they said in unison, Maya considerably less enthusiastic than her smiling best friend. She seemed to be watching Lucas like a hawk waiting to scoop up its prey.

"Are you ready to go to Svorski's?" Riley asked.

Everyone nodded silently.

"Then let's go!"

As the four friends walked down the hallway side by side, Farkle studied each of their faces, especially Maya's. He longed for her to look at him, to show him the same affection he'd shown her all these years. But she was watching someone else.

... Lucas?! Farkle blinked. It couldn't be! She hated his guts. Not once had Farkle seen her look at him with anything but annoyance in her eyes.

Until now, at least.

She'd never fall for Lucas, though, Farkle thought. Even if she did, she'd stop. She'd never hurt Riley. But why is she looking at him like that?

Something clicked in his mind. He'd seen Maya when she liked someone, embarrassingly fawning over Riley's Uncle Josh. That wasn't how she looked at Lucas now. It was something like affection, bit not quite... almost the way Riley looked at Auggie.

Strange.

She didn't know why, but ever since the night before, every time she looked at him, she felt the need to watch him like a hawk, make sure he was okay.

It was strange, really. If she tried to describe the feeling to somebody (which she hadn't and probably never would) she couldn't find the words. And as they payed for their food at Svorski's and prepared to go their separate ways, she found herself reluctant to let him out of her sight.

What had gotten into her?

"Maya...? Maya!?" Riley waved her hand in front of Maya's face. "You zoned out!"

The blonde had been staring off into space, lost in thought as her friends talked with each other outside of the bakery.

"Wha-?" she blinked, confused. Her face turned slightly red as she saw everyone staring at her. "Sorry," she mumbled, embarrassed. "Guess I kinda zoned out, huh?"

"Yeah," Lucas was the first one to acknowledge her. There was a worried gleam in his family green eyes as he looked at her, and Maya was sure there was one in her own eyes, too. "Are you okay, Maya?"

"Of course I'm okay, Ranger Rick," she scoffed in what she hoped was a believable way. "I'm always okay."

Somehow, it didn't make her feel better, using her old nickname for him. It felt almost wrong, especially considering that she knew his home situation. And that, in a week, she and Riley might be in the same position, too.

"I have to go," Lucas sighed, she shaking his head sadly. "See y'all tomorrow."

He was gone before either of them could even say goodbye. Maya didn't want to let him go. There was no reason her little brother should have to face Daniel alone.

Little brother.

The phrase felt strange and foreign to her. Lucas was her little brother. Why was the world so confusing?

"I have to get home too," Farkle said, sounding kind of sad, reluctant to leave the two girls alone. "I'll see you tonight," he winked flirtatiously, or, at least as flirtatiously as he could bare to be at the moment. Nobody seemed to be themselves lately.

The first genuine smile she'd smiled all day graced the young blonde's features. "Yeah," she sniffed, rolling her eyes. "In your dreams, Farkle."

As the boy walked away, looking slightly hurt, Maya felt worse than she already had. She hated not telling him everything that was going on. She would never admit it out loud, but she wanted Farkle with her through this time more than anything in the world.

"Let's go, Maya," Riley's gentle voice dragged her out of her thoughts. "Wanna come over?"

"Is that even a question?" Maya raised an eyebrow. "Of course!"

"YeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaAAY!"

Maya tried to avert Riley's gaze, but couldn't. There was something on her mind, something that she had to get off of her chest.

She knew what she was going to do about her (and Lucas's) father.


To Be Continued...


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