In Five Years' Time

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chapter four

studying psychology? that’s so cool

yup

who’s the stalker now

i found your instagram dummy you have it in your bio

k yr off the hook for now

how are u finding it

really stressful but its smt im actually interested in soo i cant complain

cooll i look forward to hearing more about it

i look forward to hearing about howard! idk if i ever acc congratulated 4 that thats so good marley im rly proud of u u used to talk about howard all the time im so glad its where u ended up

thank u :))) i have lots of stories to share

i can’t wait

She was lying in bed, texting Marley and eating instant noodles. She found my Instagram. Lola began to wonder if Marley’s Instagram was the same handle as it was in high school. She navigated to Instagram on her phone, and typed marley.elise into the search bar. Sure enough, her account popped up. Public. 2472 followers. Lola smiled. Of course Marley’s an Instagram baddie. She’s gorgeous.

Her bio read “marley elise. 19 yrs old, howard university” followed by the sunflower emoji. Lola scrolled down her feed, looking at all the pictures she’d posted.

Marley Elise was beautiful. Always had been. She had both boys and girls chasing after her all throughout high school (Lola included). She had curly, reddish brown hair that complimented her smooth caramel skin. Her lips were plump, and she’d always carried lip balm with her so they’d be soft and moisturized. She had a nose ring, and she stood at about 5’2”. Cute height. Whenever she’d wrapped her arms around her, Marley’s head would rest right against Lola’s shoulder. She felt her heart flutter at the memory.

can i call you?

She hadn’t really thought before sending that message, but she calmed her racing thoughts. Marley had drunk dialled her the night before, not to mention the two used to spend hours upon hours on the phone together, talking about anything and everything.

yes

Lola’s hands were already shaking. God, why am I such an anxious mess all the time? She shook her head. No. She was fine. She took a deep breath, navigating to Marley’s contact in her phone. She pressed the call button. Riiing. Riiing.

“Hi.” Marley said, picking up the phone. Lola could hear from her voice that she was smiling.

Lola grinned. “Hey, Marley.”
“Hi, Lola.”

Wait. Shit. Lola didn’t have a reason to be calling her. “Um, how are you?” she asked, stumbling over her words a bit. Marley laughed.

“I’m good. How are you? You call for something?”

“No. I mean like, not really. I just…”

“Just wanted to hear my voiiice?” Marley teased. She laughed again. “That’s what you always used to say when you called me out of the blue.”
Lola blushed a little. “Did I?”

“Mhmm.” said Marley, her smile leaking into her words. “It was cute.” Lola’s cheeks were burning.

“Well, yeah, that may have been why I called.” Lola admitted.

“I knew it.” said Marley.

“Shut up. Are you excited to come back to Chicago for a bit?” asked Lola, twirling a stray piece of hair with her index finger.

“Yeah. I miss my mom and dad. Elijah too.” she said. “And I’m excited to see what you’re gonna do for our date.” she added.

“What I’m gonna do?” Lola repeated.

“Yeah, silly.” Marley said with a giggle. “You said so. Well, 15 year old Lola did.”

“What’d I say?”

“You told me you’d take me someplace nice. I remember.” she purred.

“Oh wow. I really wasn’t foreshadowing the financial perils of being a broke university student.” Marley laughed. “But yeah. I can do that if you’d like.”

“I would. I mean, don’t spend too much, obviously. Just a fun little nostalgia thing.” she said.

Lola felt a little pang in her chest. She didn’t know why. It was true. Nothing serious, just for nostalgia. “Don’t you worry about that. I’ll take care of it.”

The two girls talked for a while longer. Hearing Marley laugh through the phone, hearing her voice, listening to her stories about Howard, they all made Lola’s heart ache in a way she hadn’t felt in a long time. It wasn’t an ache of pain. It was an ache of longing. Longing to hear her voice in person, to take her in her arms and hold her.

“I miss you.” she blurted out when there was a lull in conversation. Why’d I say that?

But Marley didn’t seem to mind. “Miss me?” she echoed, smiling.

“Yeah. I don’t know, talking to you. I guess it’s just been a while. It’s just nice to hear your voice again.”

“I missed talking to you too.” said Marley.

God.

“Yeah?” said Lola, smiling.

“Mhm.”

Her warm skin feels like heaven pressed against mine as she lies on top of me, her soft breaths against my ear. I can see in my peripheral vision that her eyes are closed. I rub her bare back with my free hand, her fingers intertwined with my other one.

“You sleeping?” I whisper.

“Mm-mm.” she mutters, and she lifts her head to press a soft kiss on my cheek before returning her head to its place on my shoulder.

“I love you.” I say, rubbing the hand that I’m holding with my thumb.

“I love you so much.” she mutters. She’s so sleepy.

“I feel really at home with you, y’know.” I say. “I don’t feel at home anywhere else. But something about you just feels so comfortable.”
“Me too.” she says. “You’re the only person I’ve ever opened up to.” My heart soars.

“Really?”

“Really.” she says. She kisses my neck without moving her head. “I never open up to people.”

I exhale air through my nose, smiling. “I noticed that.” I’d never met anyone as carefully guarded, as scared to be vulnerable, as Marley Elise.

She laughs and digs her nails into my hand for a second and I fake-yelp. “Shut up. Actually.” she says. “I really feel like myself around you. That never happens.”

“With anyone? What about April? Or Noelle?” I say.

“Nope.” She kisses my neck again. “Well, my mom. But other than that, just you.”

A ball of warmth appears in my chest. I feel so honoured.

“I hate talking to people about my problems. Or like, insecurities. Anything that’d make me vulnerable.” she says. “But I’m not scared of that with you. And I’m so grateful to have someone I feel like I can talk to about anything. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

I nudge my shoulder against Marley’s head, making her lift it and look at me. I let go of her hand and move mine to the back of her head. I push her head towards mine, connecting our lips gently.

After a minute or so, I whisper against her lips. “I love you so much.”

“I love you more.”
“I’m so glad you feel like you can talk about stuff with me.”

She kisses me for a long time.

“And I’m so glad that I’m home for you.”

Lola heard a door open on the phone. “Oh. I should go.” said Marley suddenly.

“Oh, okay.” Lola said, trying to mask the disappointment in her voice. “Yeah. Me too.”

“Sienna just got back, and —“ She heard a door slam and a girl talking loudly in the background. She couldn’t make out what the girl was saying, the only word she could make out was Marley. She heard Marley say ‘you’re a fucking alcoholic’, and then raucous laughter from both girls on the other end. Marley returned to the phone still laughing. “Yeah. My roommate just got home from this party and she’s —“ Marley laughed again and Lola heard ‘fuck off!’ from the other girl, presumably Sienna.

“No worries. Talk to you later.” said Lola, smiling.

Marley and Sienna exchanged a few more incoherent words on the phone, and Marley was laughing at whatever they’d said when she replied to Lola. “Have a good night, Lollypop.” She hung up.

Lola smiled as she put her phone down. Lollypop. She hadn’t been referred to as that in a while. Her mom always used to call her that, and there’d been a time where Marley was over at her house and heard Lola’s mom call her Lollypop. It just stuck from there.

She rolled over in bed, pulling a pillow towards her chest and hugging it close. As sleep began to pull on her eyelids, she couldn’t help but imagine Marley in her pillow’s place. Holding her petite body snug against her own. They had fit together perfectly. She smiled into the pillow, imagining Marley’s curly hair against her face instead.

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