This Feels Wrong
Riley didn't get much sleep that night.
She had refused to tell Maya what she had seen in the photo. She didn't want her to get hurt. Her to know that there was a chance she could get to know her father, and have him turn out to be terrible.
She had tossed and turned in bed, her mind racing too much for her to get to sleep.
Maybe it's just a coincidence, she tried to reason with herself. Maybe they just look alike. They say everybody has a twin, right?
Use your head, Riley. There's no way around it.
She never did call or text Lucas that night. She was too busy figuring out what to do. The secret was tearing her apart on the inside, trying to force its way out. But she vowed not to tell anyone, not yet. Maybe not ever. What Maya didn't know wouldn't hurt her.
"Mom, Dad?" she had asked at the dinner table. "What if you found out a secret about someone that they didn't know? Would you tell them, even if you knew it would hurt them?"
"That would depend," Cory had raised an eyebrow. "What kind of secret are we talking about?"
Riley had looked at the ground. "Never mind. It's not important. Just for this... book I'm reading. Thanks anyway..."
She had to protect her father for her, so that she could keep loving the parent who stayed. She would always wish to know her father- it was only natural- but Riley felt like it was her job to make sure that it didn't happen.
What she didn't know was that keeping the secret was only going to make things worse- for herself, and her friends.
There were a lot of things in this world that just didn't make sense to him. Farkle's genius, Maya's views of country life, and how Riley could be so utterly adorable, to name just a few. But nothing confounded him more than his father's logic.
He was extremely good at sports. It was his incredible baseball skills that had earned him many scholarships and offers to go professional, even at his young age,(Well, he'd be sixteen in a few weeks, but even then he was still technically a minor) but he had declined. Having a normal life was something important to him. He'd thought that his parents would be happy with what he'd chosen.
He was only one half correct. His mom was fine with it. She was proud of him. Dad, on the other hand... Not so much.
That's why he had come all of that way. Because of an offer. Lucas would become a professional baseball player, and make a lot of money. But he wouldn't see a dime. It would go to his "college fund," as Daniel had explained.
Lucas may not have been as smart as Farkle, but he wasn't stupid. "College fund" was a metaphor for Daniel's wallet.
He asked if Lucas would like to move back to Texas with him, and when he refused, he wound up with a bruised jaw, a black eye, and a pounding headache. Because abusing your son is the quickest way to get him to live with you, right?
Wrong. It was so wrong it made him feel sick. He leaned against the wall with a sigh, not even bothering to close his locker. He closed his eyes and held his books close to his chest.
"Hey Lucas, are you oka- what the...? What happened!?" Farkle's grin left his face as he shut his friend's locker for him, his blue eyes wide. He stared up at his friend, looking quite worried.
"It's nothing," Lucas tried to brush it off. He knew Farkle wouldn't leave it alone that easily.
"Come on, Lucas, I'm a genius. I know it's not nothing," he persisted. "You know you can tell me anything, right?"
Lucas turned away, taking in a few deep breaths. What do I say to him? I can't tell him about Dad, that's for sure. It's too much for the little guy to handle.
But you told Riley, a little voice in the back of his mind reminded him. He frowned. Yeah, well... She's different.
He sighed. Is she?
"It's not important," he told him, each word hurting more and more. He was supposed to be the moral compass of the group, and here he was, about to lie to his best friend. "Billy accidentally pitched the ball too high at practice yesterday, and it hit me in the eye. I fell and hit my jaw on the base. It's no big deal."
Farkle eyed him suspiciously. "...Okay," he said after a long pause. Lucas knew he wasn't fully convinced.
Because he hadn't had baseball practice yesterday. Farkle knew that, and he knew that. But it was the only thing he could think of.
How could I have been so stupid? He wondered, mentally face-palming. He had just dug himself a deep hole. How he was going to get himself out, he didn't know.
Farkle had been feeling off all day. He couldn't get the image of Lucas and his injuries out of his head. He couldn't even concentrate in any of his classes. Which was definitely unlike Farkle.
The bell signaling lunchtime rang, and he made his way to the cafeteria, weaving and dodging through the crowd of students. He'd yet to hit a growth spurt in a while, so he was considerably smaller than everyone else. He usually hated it, but on some occasions, like now, his height worked in his favor.
He needed to speak to Riley and Maya.
High school had its perks. Higher level classes, more people to meet. But the downside? He only saw his friends at lunch and in history. And so as he stood by the table, waiting patiently for them to arrive, he could feel his excitement growing by the second.
"Lady," he used his usual, flirtatious greeting as he saw Maya approach, although it was considerably less flirty than usual.
"Farkle," she sighed, taking her seat at the table. She seemed a little on edge today, and it almost scared him. Farkle blinked- Riley was no where to be found.
"Riley?" she snapped, finishing his question for him. "I don't know! She's been acting strange since last night, even more since Ranger Rick showed up with a black eye this morning!" she huffed. "She won't tell me anything, and we've never kept secrets from each other-" her voice cracked- "I just don't get it!"
Farkle took a step back, taking in everything Maya had just said. Was she... Confiding in him?
He sat down. "... Lucas has been acting the same," he told her. "I asked him about the eye and he told me that it had happened at baseball practice yesterday."
"Baseball practice?" Maya furrowed her brow. "He didn't have practice yesterday, it was cancelled because of the weather..." her eyes widened. "So he lied to you!"
Farkle nodded wordlessly.
"But Cowboy never lies! He's gotta have a good reason!"
"Reason for what?"
Riley's voice nearly scared Farkle right out of his chair. He opened his mouth to reply, but realized he didn't know what to say.
"A reason for not being here yet!" Maya saved the day. "You guys are taking forever! It's not that long of a walk from the science room, is it?" she gave a fake but almost convincing smile. Riley seemed to take that for an answer, taking a seat next to Maya.
"Have you seen Lucas?" she asked, sounding worried. "I haven't seen him all morning. It's like he's trying to avoid me."
Maya and Farkle locked eyes. He tried not to gulp, panic rising inside of him. If she hadn't seen Lucas, she didn't know about the "baseball practice."
"Um, Riley? Lucas has a black eye and a bruise on his jaw..." Farkle's voice trailed off. He hated seeing the way Riley's face fell.
He sighed. "He told me it happened at baseball practice yesterday.
"But he didn't have practice yesterday," Maya added. "He was at the bakery with us, and then he left and went home... You followed him, didn't you?"
Riley's eyes went so wide that Farkle was almost afraid they would pop out of her head. She whimpered, putting her head into her hands, mumbling something that might have been 'what did he do to him' or 'ut did 'e do-tor-im.'
"I-I have to go," she whispered softly, standing up. Farkle opened his mouth to ask why, but she was already gone, leaving her plate full of food sitting on the table and her friends watching her, worried sick.
Farkle and Maya slowly locked eyes. His heart pounded against his chest, thumping so loudly he thought it might burst out of his chest. But it didn't.
"Maya," he breathed a shaky breath. "Something's wrong. Something's very wrong."
To Be Continued