If There Is Another Time
Something was off. Topanga knew it, and Cory knew it, and it just had to be something wrong. But what it was was beyond the two of them. The world was much different from when Cory had first met it- he had figured out that the very day he'd become a father.
He knew that the universe wasn't perfect. He'd grown up with Shawn Hunter for Pete's sake! That boy had everything bad that could possibly happen happen to him. And Maya was so much like him, it was kind of scary.
Cory wanted the world to be perfect for his daughter and her friends, but there were some things even he and Topanga couldn't make happen. That was made clear when Maya walked through the door the morning before her birthday.
The almost-sixteen-year-old girl came in with a bright smile on her face, but her eyes showed emotions that were quite the opposite. Stormy, almost angry-looking blue, surrounded by dark circles illuminated by her pale skin.
"Sup, goofballs?" She greeted in her usual sarcastic way, but Cory could tell that her positive attitude was somewhat forced. He didn't say anything about it, just gave her a suspicious look that he wasn't sure if she caught or not.
"Hey, Maya," he greeted her from the table, taking a sip of his coffee.
Maya smiled at him, dropping her bag near the door and making her way to the table. She sat down in her usual spot, next to Riley's chair. She frowned, probably realizing that Riley wasn't there. "Where's Riley?"
Cory opened his mouth to reply, when a new voice interrupted him. "Right here!"
Riley stood in the doorway, leaning against the wall with a concerned look on her face as she looked at Maya.
"Hey!" she called, her cheerful voice sounding somewhat strained.
Maya gave her a weak smile. "Hey, Riles!" A frown tugged at the corners of her mouth, and Cory felt an overwhelming concern for both girls. Riley was his first born, his only daughter, and as far as Cory was concerned, Maya was just as much his as she was.
He just couldn't help but notice the connection between them as they made eye contact, the way Riley's frown deepened, the pain in Maya's deep blue eyes. Something was wrong.
On instinct, he turned to his wife, who knew the girls just as well as he did; probably even better. They locked eyes; she nodded, and the little seeds of worry that had been planted inside of him began to spout.
"Maya, oatmeal," Topanga ordered sternly, and Cory sat back in his seat, eager to see where this would go.
The blonde smiled sheepishly. "No thanks, Mrs. Matthews," she declined politely. Wait, Maya being polite? "I ate at home."
Topanga raised one eyebrow, scanning the girl's small frame disbelievingly. "I wasn't asking," she told her firmly, pushing the already-made bowl towards her. "Eat it."
There was no getting around this one, and Cory could see the uncertainty in Maya's eyes as she sat down, the way she reluctantly choked down the soggy stuff. Worry tugged at his heart, and he couldn't shake the feeling something was going on between Riley and Maya, something bad.
Maybe it wasn't just the two of them. Lucas was surely acting strange, so was Farkle... well, more strange than usual. Whatever was going on, it was affecting them as well.
"Is everything alright?" the words tumbled from Cory's mouth before he could think to stop them. Topanga's eyes widened in alarm, but she didn't say a thing.
Maya gave him a suspicious, if not worried look, peering across the table at him through narrowed steel blue eyes. "Yeah, at the moment...?"
"Why wouldn't it be?" Riley added, taking her place at the table.
Cory tried not to freak- he didn't really have an answer to that, did he? Luckily, Topanga sensed this.
"We know you two too well. All of this schoolwork you've been getting lately has been kind of stressful," she saved him.
Cory gave her a grateful glance before turning back to the girls. "You know you can always ask us for help, if you need it. We know from experience- we''ve been in your place before."
Riley and Maya gave each other sideways glances, and Cory could have swore he knew what they were thinking; You sure about that?
The problem was, he wasn't quite sure he knew from expirience with whatever they were really going through. Though, growing up with Shawn Hunter, you could never really know, could you?
"Yeah," Maya said. "It must just be the schoolwork."
He just couldn't shake that cold, hard feeling of dread that made its way to his heart. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. His girls were in danger, and he didn't know how to protect them.
The end of the day was coming up fast- tomorrow would be the day. Riley's fear continued to grow, and as the harsh reality that Daniel might hurt the two of them crashed down on her, she began to regret her decision to let Maya meet him.
But still this was important to Maya, meeting her since-absent father, and despite the dangers, Riley intended to support her. Starting now.
As she walked through the hallways, dodging the older kids who liked to trample her and trying to find her friends, a blonde head caught her attention. Weaving through the students who were milling around as if the bell weren't about to ring, she stared in disbelief at what she found.
Her head was leaning on the locker, and she seemed to be sleeping on her feet. Riley shook her gently, then slightly rougher, staring at her best friend with eyes as wide as saucers.
"Mm..?" clouded blue eyes met her as the blonde snapped out of her slumber. "Is it seventh period yet?"
Riley shook her head sadly, the corners of her mouth turning down into a frown. Maya, she wanted to say, just relax. Everything is going to be okay.
But how could she tell her that when she didn't even know herself?
That strange instinct she got in these situations decided to kick in, that twisted need to fix things that she could scarcely control. Things weren't right.
Her friends needed her, and she didn't know if she could pull through for them.
"Hey Riley, hey Maya!" Farkle's voice cut across her thoughts, and a strange affection for the boy swelled in her chest. Despite the way everything was playing out, no matter how bad everything got, Farkle just stayed... well, Farkle.
He didn't even ask questions. He just kept a silent vow, supporting his friends through whatever they were going through, not even knowing what it was he was supporting them through.
Regret flashed through her- that was just the thing. Farkle didn't know. They had agreed it was best that way, but she still felt bad.
But this wasn't the time to dwell on that. Her parents were already on to her, she didn't want anyone else suspecting something. So she sucked it up and put on a smile.
"Hey, Farkle," she greeted the boy, trying not to meet his eager blue eyes. "One more class, and then freedom for the weekend!"
"Yeah," Farkle said, smiling weakly at them. Riley felt sort of uneasy under his gaze, as if he were reading her thoughts, knowing that she was faking her chipper attitude. She wasn't exactly the best actress, and she knew that.
Glancing around awkwardly, she noticed the groups of students breaking up as they headed to class. She needed to leave if she didn't want to be tardy. Thankfully, Maya noticed this, too.
"The bell's about to right," she pointed out, something that before the last few weeks, she wouldn't have cared less about, let alone pointed out. "We should probably go."
She looked at Farkle with a pained look in her eyes- this was killing her, not telling him. Riley suppressed a sigh.
"Uh, okay!" the boy's smile was obviously forced. "See you after school, okay?"
"Yeah," Maya said, her voice soft. "Sure."
This might tear our friendship with Farkle apart, Riley noted sadly as he walked off. I don't want that to happen.
As if reading her mind, Maya tried to reassure her. "This... this won't tear us apart," she whispered. "I won't let it."
But even Maya, the coolest, most confident person she knew, didn't sound sure of herself, and that's what worried Riley the most.
Farkle watched the clock.
He usually never wanted class to end- he loved school, had never missed a day in his life, his perfect attendance record only ever broken once- when he skipped History in 7th grade.
But now, with his English teacher droning on and on about the message in The Giver- why were they even reading that? This was high school, The Giver was like, a fifth grade level book- class was getting kind of boring.
And then there was the thing with Maya and Riley and Lucas. Until now, Farkle had been aware that they were going through something. He didn't know what it was, but he had been willing to support them through it.
But whatever it was, it was hurting them, and as much as Farkle wanted to deny it, their friendship might have been at stake.
Until now, he had chocked it up to the schoolwork that was being thrown at them, but then why would it be affecting Maya? She hardly did her schoolwork anyways.
He wanted to cheer her up. He wanted to help all of his friends, yeah, but Maya especially. And he knew for a fact that the next day was her birthday... her sixteenth birthday, to be exact.
The bell finally rang, and for once, Farkle was the first out of the classroom. He searched for Riley and Maya, dodging and weaving through the sea of students until he found them, standing around by the lockers.
"You ready for tomorrow?" Riley was asking her as he approached.
"Yeah, I think so," Maya said, pausing as she noticed him. Her eyes widened in slight fear, then reverted back to their normal, cool, collected look.
"Ladies," he flipped his hair in his usual flirtatious greeting.
"Farkle," they replied in unison.
Farkle flashed them a toothy grin. Here's your chance, Farkle, he told himself, boosting his confidence. Topanga's for Maya's birthday. Not a date, but close enough.
"Do you guys want to hang out at Topanga's tomorrow?" he asked, crossing his fingers. "You know, for your birthday?"
The girls exchanged panicked glances. It was Maya who spoke.
"That sounds great, Farkle, it really does, but-" she wouldn't meet his eyes. She looked as if, despite her blunt delivery of them, her next words hurt to say. "We already have plans."
Riley was much more gentle. "We're sorry, Farkle," she said softly, smiling sadly. "It's just that you asked us too late, that's all."
Farkle wasn't hurt. Not at all. At least that's what he tried to convince himself of. "Oh..." he said, trying to keep his smile, no matter how ridiculously forced it looked. "That's okay, really, it is!"
Well, that plan didn't work...
Maya finally looked him in the eye, her blue eyes reflecting her sadness. Farkle couldn't stay mad at them. It was almost her birthday, of course they had plans. He didn't think anything of it.
"Maybe another time?" he asked, unable to keep the hopefulness out of his voice. The girls shared a look, then nodded.
"Sure," Maya said, biting her lip. The pained look in her blue eyes killed him. "Another time."
A few minutes of casual chatting passed before they went their separate ways, and as Farkle walked away, he heard Maya whisper something under her breath that made him curious.
"If there is another time."
To Be Continued...