Sunlight poured into Lola’s room through the circular window above her bed. She rubbed at her sleepy eyes with loose fists, a yawn escaping her chapped lips. She arched her back, stretching all of the sleep from her spine. Sitting up on her bed and pushing her duvet off of her body to turn to check the time on her phone, she blinked the blurriness out of her eyes. 8:02AM. Fuck!
She grabbed the hem of her shirt and yanked it off over her head, her tousled hair falling in front of her eyes. Stumbling over to her dresser, she pulled the drawer open and grabbed a black t-shirt and cargo pants. With her clothes under her arm, she made her way to the washroom and started brushing her teeth as quickly as she could as she put her clothes on. Multitasking had never been her forte, but she’d been late to work for her past two shifts and she didn’t want to have to deal with her boss’s wrath again. Work started at 8:30, so she decided she’d skip breakfast and just eat later.
She made her way out the door and to her apartment complex’s elevators and jabbed the button for the ground floor with her thumb. Tapping her foot, she took her phone out of her pocket to see if she had any notifications. Sure enough, right at the top of her screen were two texts from her mum. She smiled a little. Although she’d been living on her own for almost eight months now, and as much as she wouldn’t admit it, a part of her did miss seeing her every day. As she stepped into the elevator, she opened the texts.
Hi sweetheart - I just found your high school yearbooks in the shed and I was wondering if you had forgotten them or if you wanted to leave them here? Let me know xo
Look at your yearbook photo from grade nine!
Lola cringed at the attached image. Beaming back at her was her fourteen year old self, short bleached hair falling over her face. She was wearing a mustard coloured sweater and had a glint in her eyes that could only be described as dumbfounded freshman wonder. She couldn’t help but smile. Oh, freshman Lola. I have so much to warn you of. She texted back as she stepped out of the elevator.
jesus mum why did u let me look like that
and yeah i do want those ill come by to pick em up
You looked adorable!!!
i looked way cooler in grade 11 why didnt u send that one
You look high in your grade eleven photo
i probably was
Lola suppressed a laugh as she exited the building and started walking to work. The spring sun kissed her skin as she walked down Bloor St. past people walking their dogs, mothers with young children and teenagers laughing and chatting. She loved Chicago, the constant hustle bustle of the city everywhere even if you weren’t right in its heart. Pigeons and sparrows pecked at crumbs on the sidewalk, scattering into flight as Lola walked hurriedly past them.
She glanced down at her watch. 8:16AM. Not bad considering I woke up like, 15 minutes ago. The café she worked at was still another 5 minute walk away. Her phone buzzed inside her pocket and she pulled it out, glancing up occasionally to make sure she wouldn’t run into anything. It was her mum again.
Do you want to come by and pick them up today?
i have work but yes i’ll come after ok
Ok it’ll be nice to see you honey :) Are you on your way to work now?
i woke up like 15 minutes ago but im so good
How are you functioning living by yourself
honestly still figuring that one out
She shoved her phone into her pocket and kept walking for another couple minutes until she’d arrived. She turned into the alleyway beside the building to enter through the staff door.
Slumped back on a chair with his phone in his hand was Andreas, Lola’s coworker, waiting for his shift to start. He was a senior at a high school close to where Lola lived. He looked up from his phone and dropped it in his lap out of feigned shock. “Lola? On time? Holy shit. Jaclyn is gonna piss herself.”
She grinned at him, flipping him off as she closed the door. “Fuck off.”
“No, this is crazy. Too insane to be true. She might go into cardiac arrest.”
She walked towards him, her hand extended to give him dap and he obliged, his hand clapping against hers with a crisp impact. “Andreas, this is so random, but has anyone ever told you you have really soft hands?”
His face turned beet red. “My mom says that. Ty too.” he said.
Lola laughed as she turned to grab her apron off her hook. “She’s right, you know. It’s nice. Girls like it.”
“Yeah, well Ty says it’s gay.” he muttered under his breath.
Lola turned around, a did you just say what I think you did smile on her face. “Ty says what now?
“He says it’s gay.” Andreas said.
“God, you fucking high school boys are so ridiculous. How would a man taking good care of his hands make him gay?” He shrugged. “You already know Ty’s hands are crusty as hell if he’s saying shit like that. Insecure fragile masculinity little bitch boy.” That made Andreas laugh.
“‘Insecure fragile masculinity little bitch boy’,” Andreas repeated. “That’s a mouthful. I’ll tell him that.”
“Girls really like soft hands?”
“Of course they do! Why would any self-respecting girl let dirty-ass hands anywhere near her —“
The door leading to the café swung open revealing their boss, Jaclyn, and Lola shut her mouth. She looked at Andreas with a pursed smile and raised eyebrows and he laughed. “Near her what?” Andreas said.
Shut the fuck up, Lola mouthed to him.
“Andreas, Lola, I need you both out there. It’s 8:29.” Jaclyn said, her voice firm.
“Jaclyn, Lola’s on time! Can you believe it? I think we needa give her a medal or something for this.” Andreas exclaimed.
Jaclyn turned to Lola, her blue eyes shining with contempt. “Lola. Thank you so, so very much for meeting literally the most basic expectation in the workplace. For once. Now can you both get out there and do your job?”
“Yeah, of course. Thank you Jaclyn.” said Lola, fighting back the urge to stand up for herself. Condescending people were arguably her worst pet peeve. But she really needed this job. Her apartment wouldn’t pay for itself.
She walked past Jaclyn and to the door leading out to the rest of the café where there was a man waiting at the front. “Hi, sir, what can I get you?”
“I’ll get a medium hot chocolate with soy milk and a bagel.”
“And would you like whipped cream on that?”
“Yeah, do you have dairy free whipped cream?”
“Uh, no, sorry about that.”
He scoffed. “Never mind. I’ll just get the bagel then.”
“No cream cheese on that?”
“No, I want cream cheese.”
“It’ll have dairy in it, that’s okay?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
God, I hate this job.
Two long hours meandered by. Time always felt like it went twice as slow at this place, although Lola constantly checking the time definitely didn’t help that. She watched as Andreas made a peppermint latte for a customer, her eyes focused on the way the milk dispersed as he poured it into the dark liquid into the paper cup. He finished, handed it off to the customer, and went to take the next person’s order. “Hey, how are you today?” he asked as he cleared the cash register’s screen.
“I’m great, and yourself?” The female customer’s voice made Lola look away from her mind numbingly bored stare at the register and to the customer Andreas was helping. She had a giant head of bouncy ginger curls, and Lola recognized her right away. It was Noelle. They went to high school together in the same year.
“Not too bad. What’ll it be today?”
“I think I’ll —“
“Noelle!” Lola said, not really thinking before the name left her mouth. Noelle turned towards her voice, and stared for a second before a flicker of recognition appeared in her dark eyes. “Oh my god, Lola!” she said, beaming. “Hi! God, I haven’t seen you since grad! Your hair is so short!” Lola bounced over to take Andreas’ place, reaching over and hugging Noelle over the counter.
“Yeah, how are you?”
“I’m great! I’m studying English at Arizona right now and I’m just in the city for my sister’s birthday. How are you?”
“Good! I’ve been studying psychology at Ryers—“
“Lola, can we not monologue about ourself and focus on taking our customer’s order?” Jaclyn’s voice cut through their giddy reunion. Noelle looked from Lola to Jaclyn and back again.
“Sorry, I just haven’t seen her since high school.” Lola said, her face flushed.
“Yeah, I really don’t mind. I just asked her how she was doing. It’s no problem at all.” said Noelle.
“Lola, just save socializing for when you’re not working, okay?” said Jaclyn.
“Yeah, sorry. What can I get you, Noelle?” Lola said, turning back to her.
“Um, I was just gonna get a passionfruit iced tea.” said Noelle.
“For sure.” Lola went and grabbed a plastic cup, filling it with ice and then mixing all of the ingredients into it. With the Sharpie in her apron’s pocket, she wrote Noelle’s name, followed by a note. SHIFT ENDS IN 20, LET’S CATCH UP! TEXT ME. She wrote her phone number underneath and walked back to the counter where Noelle was waiting.
“Here you go.” she said, handing her the drink.
“How much?” asked Noelle.
“On me. Friend discount.” said Lola, smiling.
“You’re a gem.” Noelle smiled at her and then read the writing she’d left on the side of the cup. She looked up with a grin, nodding. “I’ll text you!” she whispered.
“Have a great day!” Lola said.
“You too,” Noelle said as she turned and left.
A couple minutes later, Lola felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. Looking to make sure Jaclyn wasn’t nearby, she carefully tilted it inside her pocket to see the screen. Noelle had texted her.
Ur boss is a bitch lol
I’m so glad i ran into u lolaaaa i acc miss u sm
Lola smiled, putting her phone back into her pocket. She didn’t want to risk texting back at work, but her shift finished in 15 minutes so she decided to just stick it through and text back once she was done.
As soon as 11:00 hit, she went directly back into the staff room to hang up her apron and leave. She pulled her phone out and started texting Noelle back.
“What’s got you in such a rush to leave?” Andreas said from behind her.
Lola looked behind her. “Just gonna catch up with that girl from my high school.”
“Is it like…” Andreas elbowed Lola’s arm. “…Like… A thing?”
“What? Oh my god, no, we’re just friends and if memory serves, that girl is like the straightest person you’ll ever meet.” Lola said.
“You should set her up with me then.” joked Andreas.
“Shut up, you’re literally twelve.”
Andreas threw his hands up in the air. “I’m literally seventeen! We’ve been over this!” Lola laughed and flicked him in the forehead.
“I’ll see you later.” she said, and walked out with her phone in her hand to text Noelle back.
ya she is i just got off work where r u bbygrrrrl
im so glad u came bruh ilysm
I love u more i’m in the library like a block away from ur cafe
Lola started to walk towards the library on the corner of her block. For a moment she thought about her mum’s texts to her earlier about her yearbooks. I should really get those back, she thought. Maybe her and Noelle could reminisce over them.
She turned into the library, where she found Noelle reading on a red armchair with her legs over one of the arms, leaning her back on the other one.
“Hey,” Lola said as she walked up to her.
Noelle looked up from her book and saw Lola’s face. “Hi!!” she said gleefully, and put her book down to get up and hug Lola once more. “Proper hug this time.” she said, smiling and wrapping her arms around the taller girl. Lola hugged her back, smiling into Noelle’s hair.
Noelle had always been a ray of sunshine. The two had never been more than casual friends, but Noelle was peppered throughout Lola’s memories of high school, always with a big smile on her face and love to spread to everyone she befriended. Her energy hadn’t changed.
As they separated, Lola looked at the chair where Noelle had put down her book. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. “Oh, hey, I’ve read that book! It’s amazing, right?”
Noelle blew air through her pursed lips. “It’s so good, but Jesus Christ, it’s so confusing! Does it all get explained?”
“Yeah, it does. Don’t worry, it’s meant to be confusing for a bit.”
Noelle shook her head. “Fuck,” she said. “Anyway, oh my God catch-up time! Where do you want to go, Lola?”
“Actually, I was meaning on dropping by my mum’s place to pick up some old yearbooks. It’d be kinda fun to look at them together, maybe?”
Noelle clapped her hands together and jumped up and down, her curls bouncing. “Yes yes yes! Let’s go!”
“It’s kinda far, so I’ll just call an Uber for the two of us, okay?”
The two girls walked out of the library, Lola’s phone in her hand and open to the Uber app. “3 minutes.” she said.
After picking up the books, Lola and Noelle were sitting on Lola’s floor, a bowl of popcorn in front of them and the stack of yearbooks in between them. “Your place is so cute.” Noelle said, grabbing a fistful of popcorn from the bowl.
“Ha, that’s a nice way of putting it,” Lola laughed. “It’s tiny. My bathroom is like the size of a closet.”
“Hey, Chicago real estate is a bitch.” said Noelle through a mouthful of popcorn. “It’s just admirable that you’re living on your own at what, twenty? Couldn’t be me, not in Chicago.” she said, shaking her head. “How’d you even pull that off?”
“I’ve just been saving for a stupidly long time.” Lola explained. “Like, since I was fifteen or something like that.”
Noelle’s eyes widened. “Wow! That’s so cool. Fuck yeah.” she said, nodding.
“Do you have your own place?”
Noelle shrugged as she reached for more popcorn. “No. I live on campus at Arizona. I want to move in with my boyfriend, though.”
“Wow, that’s a really big move. How long have you guys been together?”
“Almost three years. I love him so much.” she said, smiling. “You wanna see a picture of us?” Lola nodded. Noelle showed Lola her phone’s lockscreen, which had a picture of her kissing the cheek of a man with wavy black hair falling in front of his face.
“Aww,” Lola gushed. “That’s so cute. You guys look really good together.” Noelle put her free hand to her cheek, smiling.
“Thank you so much!” she said. “What about you? Any gals in your life?” she asked.
Lola shrugged. “I haven’t really been thinking that much about dating, really.” she said flatly. “Studying psych is taking up so much of my time that I’m just kinda letting it ride.”
Noelle smiled. “Some girl’s gonna fall for you hard, Lola. Once you’re done being a nerd.” Lola laughed. “Now, are we gonna look through these cursed, cursed yearbooks, or what?”
“Yes. Of course.” Lola said, reaching for the one from her freshman year and opening it to the page of the grade nines.
Noelle shrieked. “Oh my fucking God!” she said, pointing at her photo. Lola looked at it and couldn’t suppress her laughter.
Noelle’s hair was tied into a tight ponytail, and she had a huge smile on her face, braces bared proudly. “I forgot you had braces!” she said. Noelle was covering her face.
“I don’t want to look at her!! I feel like she’s mocking me.” she said.
“She’s mocking you?”
“She fully is.”
“It’s not that bad. Look at mine.” Lola pointed at her grade nine photo, the one her mom had sent her earlier. Noelle peeked through her fingers and then took her hands away with a laugh.
“Oh, wow. You’re right. That’s rough.” she said.
They continued on the same page for a while, pointing out various people they knew and laughing. When Lola turned the page, the girls’ eyes went straight to a photo of a girl near the bottom of the page with a big red heart drawn around it. Marley.
Noelle pointed at it. “That,” she said, “is really fucking cute.”
Marley and Lola had dated for all of eight months in high school. Their relationship had started at the beginning of the summer after grade nine, and lasted until the winter of grade ten. Not bad for high school.
“We were cute.” Lola said, smiling nostalgically.
“Why did you guys break up? I remember from the outside you two were the cutest couple at Northern.”
“Marley never told you?” Noelle and Marley were best friends when Lola dated her, and that surprised her.
“No, I never pushed it. She was just sad. Didn’t wanna talk about it. As usual. But I did always wonder.” Noelle said, reminiscing.
“We had a really beautiful connection,” Lola admitted. “But, I was going through a lot of shit when she and I dated, and I was also just a stupid teenager, and a bunch of factors just kind of came together and made it not work.”
Noelle stuck out her bottom lip. “Aw.” she said. “That’s a shame. You know, not a lot of people can look back on their high school relationships and call it a ‘beautiful connection’,” she said.
“No, Marley and I’s connection was definitely like, love. No doubt about that.” Lola said.
Noelle scrunched up her lips. “That’s great. I love Marley so much.”
“It’s weird to look at this picture of her.” said Lola.
“Just ’cause her hair’s long in it.” Lola pointed to fourteen year-old Marley’s hair in the picture, long, tight reddish brown curls slipping out of her hair elastic and framing her face. In grade ten Marley buzzed her whole head, and that was the image Lola carried of Marley in her memories.
Noelle grinned. “You haven’t seen Marley in a while, have you?” Lola shook her head. “Her hair. She’s growing it out again.”
“Yeah, it’s like —“ Noelle motioned to just below her jaw. “—’bout this long. Since last I saw her.”
“You see her much?”
“Not really. But I FaceTimed her like, a week ago to catch up and ask if she’d be in Chicago for when I visit. She wasn’t gonna be, but it was fun catching up.”
“Where did that girl end up?” Lola asked, curiosity suddenly bubbling up after not thinking of Marley in ages.
“Marley’s at Howard. In Washington.” Noelle answered.
“Howard,” said Lola, smiling. I knew she’d do it. Marley had always talked to Lola about wanting to go to Howard, and finding out that she’d ended up there made Lola feel a pang of pride in her chest. “Good for her. That’s amazing. She like it there?”
“Loves it. Couldn’t be happier.”
“That’s great. She deserves it.”
Noelle smiled and nodded. “I miss Marley.”
Lola started to zone out, thinking of Marley’s smile. How soft her hands were, fingers intertwined with Lola’s. Her dark eyes that shone with a honey coloured tinge in direct sun. Her mouth against hers, soft and sweet…
She shook her head just a little. “Yeah, me too.” Her far-off gaze met Noelle’s quizzical look, and she realized her response was about ten seconds too late. “Sorry. So much nostalgia.”
Noelle smiled sympathetically. “You thinking about when you two dated?”
“A little bit. But not —“ Lola waved her hands. “Not in, like, a longing way. It was high school. Long time ago. Just in a reminiscent way.”
Noelle smiled knowingly. “Never said you were thinking of her like that, Lo.” She flipped through to the signatures section of their yearbook. “And it wasn’t that long ago.” She started looking through what our classmates had written on my signature page. “Hey. Here’s what she wrote.” She pointed at something written in black ink, turning the page towards Lola.
ego quoque circa te
heri sexus somnium ;)
“What does that say? What language is that?” asked Noelle.
Lola laughed. “Oh, my God. I forgot about this.”
“What’s it say?!” Noelle demanded.
“Okay, backstory, she wrote this at the end of grade nine right before she and I started dating and stuff was all flirty and mysterious, and she wrote, in Latin —“
Noelle burst out laughing, her phone open to Google Translate already. “Of course she wrote that.”
“Yeah. Marley was really that bitch.”
“God, you have no idea how frustrating it was to be like, desperately in love with this girl when you aren’t sure if she’s just flirty and trying to hookup or has feelings for you. It was so confusing.”
“At least it worked out, right?” said Noelle, prodding Lola’s shoulder.
“Yeah. I mean, ’till it didn’t.” said Lola.
Noelle shrugged. “What can you do, right?” She grabbed the next year’s yearbook and they kept flipping through. When Noelle reached the signature section, she asked Lola, “Did she write anything in your grade ten one? Or were things still tense?”
“I honestly don’t really remember.” said Lola. “Check.” Sure enough, Noelle found a note from Marley.
STILL WAITIN’ ON
THAT FIVE YEARS
HAVE A GOOD SUMMER
“Five years?” Noelle said, pointing at the words. “What does that mean?”
“Oh, my God.” Lola said, memories flooding back to her.
Standing on my porch. Marley’s cheeks wet with tears, her hands in mine. “I don’t want to cry on my way home,” she says, her voice wobbling.
“Get it all out right now, angel.” I say, and press my lips against hers, feeling that electric touch. “It’s okay.” I hug her.
“This is the worst.” she says into my shoulder. I’m crying too. She steps back and looks up at me, her big brown eyes looking at me with a soft gaze. “I love you so much.”
“I love you more than anything in this world.” I squeeze her hands. “I wish we could be together. But we can’t. Not right now. Not in the state we’re both in.”
“I hope so.”
“We have to go on a date in five years.” I laugh a little, and she does too, a little giggle breaking through her tears like a ray of sunshine breaking through storm clouds.
“Five years?” I say.
“Five years. Maybe things will be different then.” she says.
“Yeah. Let’s do it.”
“I’m serious.” she says.
“Five years it is, then?”
I kiss her, and I don’t stop for a good minute or two, knowing it will be the last time. And we have our last moments as a couple there, standing on my porch with my arms around her waist and hers around my neck. When we come apart, we just look at each other for a moment. Taking in the other person’s face. I look at her dark eyes, smouldering with intensity. I look at her wide, soft lips, her smooth, brown skin, every part of her face that I have come to know so well.
And then I say goodbye. And she does too. And Marley Elise walks off of my porch and up the sidewalk, and out of sight.
“Lola, Oh my God what?” Noelle repeated, touching her shoulder.
“I just —“ Lola touched the tips of her fingers to her forehead. “God. A deal I made with her just came back to me.”
Lola waved her hand. “A naïve, teenage heartbreak type deal. When we broke up, we said that we’d go on a date in five years, when things are different.”
Noelle fanned her face. “Oh my God, you have to text her!” she exclaims. “Lola, that’s so cute, you have to!”
Lola shrugged. “I don’t know. It was high school. Also, she doesn’t even live in Chicago anymore.”
“Still, though! You should text her and tell her about it, Lola! You were what, fifteen when this happened? Are you twenty yet?” She nodded. “So, five years! You have to!” Lola opened her mouth to speak, but Noelle covered her mouth with a finger. “Ah-ah. Just let me give you her number, at least.”
Lola sighed. “Okay.” Noelle pulled her phone and a receipt out of her pocket, and scribbled down Marley’s phone number, handing it to Lola.