Unexpected Ties

Not A Pretty Picture

She told him.

She told her father.

She promised she wouldn't tell anyone.

He tried not to get angry. It wouldn't help anything. He just didn't know how to react to the conversation he'd just had.

Riley was waiting outside the classroom, just as she had said she would be. She looked up at him with wide brown eyes, her head tilted to the side curiously.

"Lucas?" she asked, studying his face quizzically. "What did he want to talk about? What did he say?"

"You told him?" Lucas's voice came out harsher than he meant it to, and he almost felt bad about it.

Lifting her chin, Riley blinked up at him, confusion clouding her doe brown eyes. "Told him what?"

"You know what!" Lucas growled. Riley backed away, her eyes so wide, Lucas was almost afraid they might pop out of the girl's head.

"No... I don't..." Riley's eyes filled with tears. "Lucas? Why are you mad at me? I-I didn't do anything...?"

Way to go, Lucas, he thought bitterly, his gaze softening. She was genuinely confused. He should have known that she wouldn't betray him like that. Their friendship was too strong for that. Riley wasn't that type of person. She never had been and she never would be.

Lucas closed his eyes and sighed before reopening them and staring into Riley's gaze."I'm... I'm sorry, Riley," he said softly. "I didn't think. Your father was just concerned about my face, that's all. I'm sorry-"

Riley flung her arms around him, then quickly pulled away, as if she were scared he didn't want to hug her. He laughed, pulling her closer to him. She let out a contented sigh, leaning her head into his chest.

When they pulled away, Riley didn't seem as happy as she had been. Lucas didn't like it- the way she looked so stressed out, the distracted look in her chocolate brown eyes, like she was thinking about a million different things at once.

"Riley?" he asked softly, looking into her eyes as they walked to class. Mr. Matthews hadn't written him a pass, but he didn't care about being late. His friend- girlfriend? What exactly were they, anyway?- needed him with her, not playing baseball in gym class. "Is everything okay?"

"Y-yeah," Riley stammered. "Why?"

"I don't know," Lucas shrugged. How were you supposed to explain something like that? "You just seem really.. not like yourself, lately."

"Oh," she looked down shyly. "Lucas, I have to tell you something. It's really important, and I haven't even told Maya yet. I don't know how to."

"But you tell Maya everything," Lucas narrowed his eyes, confused. "Why wouldn't you tell her this?"

"Because it's about he-"

A classroom door they were walking past burst open, and an angry looking teacher peeked out. "EXCUSE ME?" she interrupted. "WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING OUT HERE? GET TO CLASS!"

The door slammed shut.

"... She seems nice," Riley commented. "But she's right. We have to get to class. What do you have next?"

"Gym," Lucas said. "But what were you about to tell me? It's about Maya?"

Riley shook her head. "No-no. I-I'll have to tell you later. I have science next and I'm stuck with Missy as my lab partner and she'll probably kill me for being late! Come to my house tonight!"

And then she broke away from him, taking off down the hall without a second thought.

"But-" Lucas tried to stop her. But she was already gone, around the corner and out of his sight, the sound of her footsteps dying by the second. A door creaked open, then closed, and he knew he was too late.

Something was up. It had to do with Maya, and Riley knew what it was. Maybe it explained how happy and excited the blonde had been when she returned from the office- she and Riley had been whispering to each other, but their words had been inaudible to him. And then Riley had left to see her father...

Stop it, you're giving yourself a headache, Lucas scolded himself, trying not to think about all of this. But as he walked through the hallways on his way to the gym, he couldn't help but let his mind wander.

Why was Maya even called to the office anyways? Why did she seem so shaken up, so happy, so... not Maya? As much as they argued, as much as they pretended to hate each other, Lucas still genuinely cared for the rebellious blonde, and he knew she felt the same way.

She was one of his best friends- almost like a sister to him. If something was wrong, if she was going to be hurt somehow... Lucas didn't even want to think about it.

"Has Riley been acting strange to you, Topi?" Cory asked as he set his briefcase down on the counter. His wife looked up from her paperwork with a concerned look on her face.

"I was going to ask you the same thing," she said, worry glimmering in her eyes.

"Riley's a girl, Mommy," Auggie piped up from his spot at the table, where he was doing his homework- how Topanga had gotten him to do that was one of the greatest mysteries of the world, Cory supposed. "All girls are strange."

Topanga raised an eyebrow. "Even- ugh- Ava?"

The boy nodded, his brown curls bouncing with the movement.

Cory sighed. "Topanga, can I talk to you for a minute?"

"You already are, Daddy!" Auggie pointed out. "Silly!"

"I meant alone, Aug."

"Anything you have to say you can say it around me!" Auggie said firmly. Cory had to give in.

"Fine. So Riley-"

"I don't care!"

And with that, Auggie jumped from his seat with his school things in hand, practically flying into his bedroom.

Cory sighed and sat down on the couch. Topanga sat next to him, and began massaging his shoulders. He calmed down, then began to speak.

"Riley came to me today with an interesting question that she said was for English class. I talked to her teacher today and apparently they're reading The Giver, so it doesn't make sense."

Topanga looked worried. "What exactly did she ask you?"

Cory sighed and took a deep breath. "She asked me what I would do if someone I knew might be... be being abused at home..." he took another deep breath, looking down as to not meet Topanga's gaze. "A-and if I knew others might be in danger."

His wife's face fell, and he felt her stiffen beside him. "What?" she asked, her eyes wide.

"And then, in fifth period today, Lucas was the last one into the classroom," Cory continued. "He... he had a black eye and a nasty bruise on his jawline..." he allowed himself to look into his wife's eyes.

"Cory, this is bad," she said gravely. "This is really, really bad."

Riley sat cross legged on the window seat. Her heart hammered in her chest, a cold sweat dripping down her forehead. She squirmed with anticipation.

The time on her phone switched to 8:39. He still wasn't there yet, and she was starting to get restless with worry. Where was he?

To Be Continued...

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