Unexpected Ties

Secrets Unveiled

She knew that man.

She didn't know how or why or when or where, but she knew him from somewhere. That much was clear. But that was the only thing that was clear.

He'd been down in Texas for the entire time Lucas had lived in New York. So that ruled out seeing him around the city. Had Lucas showed her a picture? It couldn't be that- he hardly ever even talked about his family, let alone showed her pictures.

Maybe you're just overreacting over nothing, she tried to reason with herself as she left the apartment building. I just know that something's wrong. Something's very wrong about all of this.

She sighed. I just don't know what.

The late afternoon sun shone brightly through the dark clouds, and Riley had to squint to see if their were any cars coming before she crossed the street. She didn't quite know where she was going- home, Topanga's Bakery, maybe the subway station, just somewhere in that direction. She just needed to clear her mind.

I hope Lucas is okay. Maybe I shouldn't have left. But I don't want to intrude on anything. Especially something so personal- "Ugh!" she cried out loud. "Why is life so complicated?!"

She kicked a rock on the side of the road, letting some of her frustration out. "This is supposed to be my world now! Why can't I fix this!?"

She was well aware of the people passing by her, giving her quizzing looks and probably thinking she was crazy. Quite frankly, she didn't really care.

After a bit of walking, she found herself in front of her own apartment. She sighed and went up, not really sure if she even wanted to go home. But it was getting dark, so it was better for her to get home as soon as possible.

"I'm home!" she announced as she walked through the door. Her family was sitting on the couch, watching TV.

"Hey, Riley," Topanga smiled warmly at her daughter. "How was your day?"

Riley hesitated, her eyes wide. What do I say? I can't tell them about the whole thing with Lucas. That much I do know...

"It was great!" she put on a surprisingly real-looking smile. "I have a lot of homework, so I'm gonna go to my room now!" she forced a little too much cheerfulness into her voice. "Love you!"

Topanga eyed her suspiciously. "...Love you, too, honey." she called after her, waiting for a reply.

But she never got one. Riley was already in her room, the door clicking shut behind her.

Maya slowly crept into her mother's room, the note Katy had left on the cable fresh in her mind. I'm taking the late shift at the diner tonight, she had written. Won't be home until midnight.Midnight. I've got plenty of time, the blonde thought, smiling determinedly. She knew exactly what she was doing.There it was. On the highest shelf of her mother's closet, several feet above her head: the wooden box. It was so close, yet so far... but she had to get to it. She had to know what was inside. Her mom had told her a million times not to get the box, but she had to know that wouldn't work. She pulled a chair in from the dining room, climbed up on it, and reached.Maya's heart pounded as she grabbed the box, as if she could sense that whatever was inside was powerful. Her fingers trembled as she pulled it down. Finally, she thought, a smile flickering across her pale face. I got it.

Perimeter equals two pi times r... P=2 pi times r...

She lay on her stomach with her math book open in front of her. Her head ached as she made the effort to study for the quiz next week. She sighed and slammed the book shut, done with studying for the night.

She rolled herself off of the bed, standing up and walking to the window. Darkness had fallen over the city, the storm clouds from earlier in the day gone, leaving the stars visible in the clear night sky.

She loved living in this part of the city. You could actually see the stars at night. They were beautiful, in her opinion. The fifteen year old sat there for a while, just looking at the sky. It calmed her frayed nerves. She almost forgot about Lucas's father.

A familiar face appeared in the window, startling her for a moment. She smiled, recognizing Maya's grin.

"Hey, Maya," a cold wind gushed through the opened window. Maya, frost laced in her hair and her fingertips turning slightly blue, slid into the room. She clutched something close to her chest, but what it was, Riley couldn't tell.

"Hey, Riles," Maya shivered and shut the window. Her teeth chattered, and she pressed the box closer to her chest. Riley tilted her head to the side, and pointed to it.

"What's that?" she asked, leaning forward to examine it. Maya grinned and shook her head firmly, moving it out of her reach.

"Uh-uh-uh," Maya tsked.

When something piqued Riley's interest, however, there was almost no way to keep her from figuring out what she wanted to. She frowned. Aw, come on!

"Why?" she pouted.

Maya's eyes twinkled. "So, you know how I don't listen?" she asked.

What does that have to do with anything? Riley wondered. She nodded instead of voicing her thoughts. "Yeah. Why?"

"Well, a couple months ago, I noticed this box on the top shelf of my mom's closet, right? Well I never got the chance to ask her about it, and I finally did the other day. She told me to leave it alone, so I did."

"Let me guess," Riley said. "That's the box?"

"Yep!" Maya said, popping the 'P.' "Mom took a late shift at the diner tonight. So I snuck in and got it!"

Riley leaned forward, her brown eyes wide, sparkling with curiosity. "Have you opened it yet!? Why'd you bring it here?"

Maya's grin stretched further across her face. "That's what I wanted to talk about. I want you to open it with me," her cheeks turned pink. "I mean, if you want to..."

Riley nodded enthusiastically. "Sure! I mean, um, of course I'll open it with you!"

Maya laughed, and held out the box. Riley lifted it from her friend's hands, holding it close. She got her first good look at it.

It was beautiful.

It was medium sized, made of fine wood. Intricate designs were carved into the sides, and as she ran her fingers over it, she could tell that there was not one mistake in it. The box was heavier than she had expected it to be, probably filled to the brim with stuff. Perhaps the most important and beautiful part was the writing in the top.

Maya, my baby girl

The girls gasped in unison as they read the writing. Riley could see tears welling up in Maya's eyes. She tried to open her mouth, tried to say something, but no words came out. Riley smiled.

"Maya," she breathed. Maya gently took the box from her hands. Her hands shaking uncontrollably, she lifted the lid.

Riley peered inside. A small photo album sat inside, a bag with a few baby teeth next to it. Another bag, a few strands of golden blonde hair inside, labeled 'first haircut' sat next to that. Maya clamped her hands over her mouth, a few tears streaming down her face.

"Maya..." Riley's voice trailed off. She smiled at her friend.

"I can't believe she... she actually kept all of this stuff!" Maya clutched her locket tightly. "She kept them in this box, all these years..."

She removed the album, revealing a small stack of papers under it. She lifted them out and grinned, showing the old crayon drawings to Riley.

"Look at these!" Maya gave an un-Maya-like squeal. "My old drawings!"

Riley smiled. She absolutely loved seeing Maya this happy. The past few weeks, Maya had been a little distracted. Riley knew it must have had something to do with her mother. But now, it was almost as if she had adopted Riley's personality.

As happy as she was, Riley's eyes widened. There was something taped to the bottom of the box. Maya was flipping through the photo album, oblivious to whatever-it-was's existence. Wordlessly, Riley pulled the thing out.

It was an older photograph. She turned it over and gasped, her eyes so wide it wouldn't have been surprising if they popped out of her head. Her breath caught in her throat.

The picture depicted a pretty young woman with blonde hair and brown eyes, smiling at the camera. She was easily recognizable as Katy Hart. Maya's mother. But that wasn't even close to the reason why Riley was surprised.

It was the handsome young man with his arms around Katy, the man with the charming smile and striking resemblance to someone else she knew, with his dirty blonde, almost brown hair. His eyes were different, but also familiar. A sparkling ocean blue.

She'd seen him before. Granted, he was quite a bit younger and thinner in this picture, but he was definitely the same person.

"Is something wrong?" Maya looked up from the photo album.

Riley didn't answer. She flipped the photograph over. On the back, scrawled in messy handwriting, was a few words. The words that confirmed her suspicions.

July 15th, 2000. Two months pregnant. Katy Hart and Daniel Clutterbucket.

"I-it's nothing," Riley told her softly, and as soon as Maya's attention was back in the album, she slipped the photo into her purse, trying to recover her breath.

"No," Lucas said firmly. "I'll never live with you."

His father's face fell. "No?!" he cried, his expression changing from hurt to furious in just a matter of seconds. The man stood up from the couch and took a step towards his son and ex-wife.

Here it comes, Lucas thought as he gulped, fear dominating any other emotions. But he didn't show it. He couldn't. Showing fear would only make it worse.

"No," he repeated, his heart rate escalating by the second. "I don't want to move back to Texas. I've made friends here," an image of Riley, and Farkle, and Maya flashed through his mind. "I can't leave them. Not to go with you."

Daniel advanced on the fifteen year old boy, and his arm swung back, his fists clenched. Lucas gulped and closed his eyes, bracing himself as his father's arm came down.

Pain exploded in his jaw, and he felt himself collapse to the ground. His head banged against the cold, hard floor. And that was the last thing he remembered.

To Be Continued
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