She brightened his day between chemistry and geometry, just like always. Her world cultures class was in the hallway just past his locker, where he always stopped between science and math to switch out textbooks.
“Good morning, Ty!” Lucy sang out, her skipping coming to a halt beside his locker as she leaned against the one directly to his right. “Isn’t it pretty outside?”
Tyler instantly smiled, a natural reflex around his best friend. It was impossible to upset around Lucy. One look into those big green eyes and a stretch of that wide smile and his mood was guaranteed to be lifted. Lucy’s constantly positive outlook on life was extremely contagious.
“Hey, Luce,” Tyler laughed softly, his worries about not doing so well on the pop quiz they’d just had vanishing. “I haven’t actually been outside yet. At least, not in the daylight.”
“Right,” she nodded, clutching her blue history binder close to her chest. “I always forget that you rise before the sun.”
Tyler had been swimming competitively for five years now, which in the grand scope of things, wasn’t very long, but early morning practices had become a routine he was now used to. Of course, being up when it was still dark out was never particularly enjoyable, but his body woke automatically now days and he shrugged off the people who didn’t understand how he could possibly do that six times a week.
Besides, now that he was in the running to be the new team captain, he needed to be on his A game, which meant he was getting to practice early to get extra laps in before the team arrived. His parents, although supportive of his ambition, despised the early hour and had therefore bought him his own car so they wouldn’t have to be up at what they deemed an ungodly hour.
“It’s quite nice,” he grinned widely, shoving his geometry textbook into his backpack and zipping it up. “You should try it some time.”
“I’ll pass,” Lucy replied. She was bright eyed at all times of the day, but that didn’t mean she particularly liked having to be up that early. She only did it when it was necessary, and to support Tyler, of course. “How was practice?”
“Pretty good,” Tyler nodded, closing his locker and hiking the strap of his backpack up on his shoulder. “I shaved a second of the time for my hundred meter freestyle.”
“That’s great!” Lucy grinned as they began to walk towards the hallway where their classrooms were. “And you were so worried it would never happen.”
As always, Tyler had confided in Lucy his worries that his current times weren’t going to be enough to get him into the Olympic training pool, and, as always, Lucy had assured him that he had nothing to worry about. He had always been ambitious and driven and if he wanted something, he didn’t stop until he got it, so it wasn’t particularly surprising that he’d been able to swim that distance faster.
“I’m just glad I got there,” he shrugged, coming to a stop outside Lucy’s history classroom and leaning against the wall next to the bulletin board announcing the next meeting of the Filmmaker’s Society. “Now I can relax a bit.”
“And focus on more important things,” Lucy nodded, clutching her binder closer to her chest as her classmates filed past into the room. “Like Pete Keller’s party on Saturday. You’re gonna go, right?”
Their entire class had been invited because their school was small enough that everyone knew each other anyway. Plus, Pete Keller’s house was gigantic and had a pool and his parents’ supply of alcohol was always fully stocked. The parental figures had said he could have a few friends over while they few across the country to visit his grandparents, and of course he’d taken this to mean that a class wide rager was in order.
Tyler crinkled his nose and sighed. “I don’t know…I think Lindsay might be there and I don’t think she’d really want to see me.”
Lindsay had been his first girlfriend. He’d kissed other girls and been on dates with other girls, but Lindsay was the first girl he’d ever had an exclusive relationship with. She was cool; funny and witty and sweet, and he had liked her a lot, which was why he asked her to be his girlfriend in the first place. He figured that just meant he’d get to hold her hand and make out with her whenever he wanted. What he hadn’t factored in was the whole meeting the parents thing. He’d completely freaked out when she asked if he would come to her house for dinner and told her the next day that he wasn’t sure he had been ready to be in a relationship when he had first asked.
It was a pretty jerk move on his part, he knew, but perhaps he was too young to be getting into anything serious anyway. Still, Lindsay hadn’t been too pleased with his break up, so he doubted running into her at a house party would be pleasant for either one of them.
“She’s gonna be out of town this weekend,” Lucy shook her head. “Visiting her sick grandpa. I talked to her in English class.”
It had been a pretty awkward conversation. Of course Lucy knew the reason Tyler and Lindsay had broken up because Tyler told her everything, but their school was small enough that Lucy was bound to have to talk to Lindsay eventually and didn’t have it in her to actively avoid the girl the way Tyler did, so they had made small talk when they’d ended up sitting next to each other in class. They had completely avoided the topic of a certain swimmer and instead talked about their plans for the weekend.
“Was that weird?” Tyler grimaced apologetically. He knew Lucy wasn’t capable of blatantly ignoring someone, so she would have been completely civil and probably even friendly to Lindsay, no matter the circumstances.
“Uncomfortable, but not bad,” Lucy shrugged. “I should probably get used to it anyway. I reckon Lindsay’s not the last of your ex-girlfriends that I’ll have to be friendly towards after the fact.”
“Hey!” Tyler furrowed his eyebrows in mock annoyance, though she knew he was probably right. He liked flirtation far too much for his own good.
Lucy rolled her eyes and laughed, glancing at the clock inside the classroom and noting that they needed to wrap up their conversation if Tyler was going to get to geometry on time. “Just think about going, alright?”
Tyler nodded and sighed. “Fine, I’ll think about it.”
“You’re the best,” she grinned, quickly wrapping one arm around his middle and squeezing tightly before entering the classroom and shooting him another grateful smile as she slid into her usual seat in the second row.
Shaking his head, he laughed as he turned to go find his own classroom. It wasn’t until after he was seated at his desk that he realized he should have asked why she was so interested in going to this party. Lucy was as personable as they came and would often go with him to parties for moral support, but it wasn’t an environment that she would willingly put herself in unless it was absolutely necessary. But she had been excited about the thought of this particular party, which meant she had some sort of ulterior motive.
“Hey, Tyler,” a deep voice whispered from his right about ten minutes after class began.
Lifting his eyebrows in surprise, Tyler turned his head to bring the corners of his lips upwards into a smile at Jensen Maloney, goalkeeper on the soccer team. They were acquaintances who knew each other because of class and because all the school’s athletes seemed to be aware of each other’s presences, but they hadn’t ever had more than three or four conversations.
“What’s up, man?” Tyler asked, keeping his voice low as well as not alert his teacher that he wasn’t paying any attention.
Jensen glanced up at the teacher to ensure she hadn’t noticed their side conversation before continuing. “I know you’re good friends with Lucy Saxton and I was wondering if I could ask you something.”
It wasn’t the first time he’d ever heard that statement. Lucy was pretty and bubbly and fun to be around, so of course a lot of guys were interested in her. And it was widely known that she and Tyler were best friends, so he had been on the receiving end of many pleas asking what suitors should possibly say to her.
“Sure thing,” Tyler replied, trying not to laugh. Fiercely loyal as she was, Lucy was also pretty easy to win over; just don’t be a complete douche and she’d like you.
“Well, not ask a question really,” Jensen continued. “I just wanted to make sure you were cool with me taking her to Pete’s party this weekend.”
That wasn’t at all what Tyler was expecting.
Firstly, because he was completely unused to guys asking for his blessing in regards to Lucy. Despite everyone knowing they were such good friends, most guys who talked to Tyler about Lucy just wanted to know what to say to her or how to act, not whether or not he was cool with it. Not that his feelings really made a difference. He rejected the idea that he couldn’t love her in a completely platonic way, because although he did consider Lucy to be his soulmate and enjoyed the way his flirting made her blush, he had absolutely no romantic interest in her. That being said, he would absolutely protect her from anybody who would possibly harm her emotionally. He was often afraid that her wide eyed optimism and ability to easily trust people, although both traits he adored about her, would one day lead to a broken heart. And the last thing he ever wanted was for Lucy to have her heart broken. The world always seemed a little bit darker when Lucy Saxton wasn’t happy.
Secondly, it suddenly made sense why Lucy was so excited to go to the party. It wasn’t because she was in desperate need of some boozing and dancing, it was because she had a date, a fact she had yet to mention to Tyler, but he would be sure to give her hell for it later.
“No, man,” Tyler grinned, his eyes crinkling as he smiled. “Have fun.”
“Thanks,” Jensen replied, letting out a sigh of relief. “I’ll see you there too?”
“Definitely,” Tyler nodded, turning his attention back to the teacher and making a mental note that his best friend was in need of some serious teasing.
He pulled Lucy aside after school, just as she was heading towards the newspaper room to edit the pictures she’d taken of the girls’ soccer team winning their championship game over the weekend, many of which had been of Caroline because Lucy had felt like a proud little sister as she’d watched Jack’s daughter lead the team to victory.
“What’s going on?” Lucy asked in confusion, wondering why Tyler was still around. Since his extracurricular activities took place before their classes even started, it wasn’t often that he made a point of hanging around at school when it wasn’t necessary.
“How come you didn’t tell me you were going to the party with Jensen Maloney?” he smirked, crossing his arms over his chest and staring Lucy down.
Lucy’s green eyes widened in surprise as she lifted her eyebrows and reached up to tuck a strand of straight hair behind her ear. “How do you know that?”
“Because he told me,” Tyler’s smirk widened. “I sit next to him in geometry. What’s with the secrets?”
“It’s not a secret, really,” she shrugged. “I just didn’t know it was a big deal. He asked me if I wanted to go and I said sure.”
“Alright…,” Tyler replied slowly, accepting the response because she seemed genuine. “But if it’s a date, why do you want me to go so bad?”
Her lips parted and she thought about her response for about five seconds before responding. “Because I haven’t made up my mind how I feel about him yet, so it would be cool to know someone else there, just to make things less awkward.”
“Makes sense,” he nodded, dropping his arms and shoving his fingers into the pockets of his uniform pants.
Her lips stretched into a smile and her eyes lit with excitement. “Does that mean you’ll come?”
Tyler sighed in mock annoyance but ended up grinning. “Yeah, I’ll come.”
Now that he knew Lindsay wouldn’t be there, he didn’t really have an excuse not to go. Plus, he would always help Lucy when she needed him.
“Thank you!” she squealed, throwing her arms around his middle and smiling against his chest. “Have I told you lately that you’re awesome?”
Tyler couldn’t help but grin as he held her close and rocked her gently back and forth. “It’s always nice to hear.”
Saturday evening, Ethan found himself pacing the length of his younger daughter’s room as she carefully applied black mascara to her eyelashes in the bathroom mirror.
“Hey, Dad, could you stop doing that? It’s freaking me out.”
Ethan glanced up to see Lucy’s reflection staring at him, her eyes wide to keep the black liquid from leaving little marks at the top of her cheeks before it dried.
“Sorry,” he muttered, taking a seat on the long side of her bed, bringing his left ankle to his right knee and lacing his fingers together on top of his thigh.
He knew this day would come eventually, but he had hoped he would have a little longer to prepare. He’d been just as wary when Kira started dating, but he’d soon discovered that she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. Kira could see through people’s bullshit, which meant she was extremely careful about who she opened herself up to emotionally.
Lucy was a different story. She was sweet and innocent and optimistic and she saw the good in everybody and everything, which, while a beautiful perspective to have on life, also meant that she was more vulnerable to having her heart broken.
“Hey, Luce…,” he paused, not entirely sure how to continue as she stepped out of her bathroom to dig through her closet for her favorite zebra printed wedges, which would perfectly offset the strapless navy blue dress she’d picked out to wear.
“Yeah?” Lucy raised her eyebrows, pulling the back straps of her shoes over her heel.
Ethan had never been particularly good with words. Writing lyrics came naturally because reflecting on a situation or feelings after it occurred always seemed easier than knowing what to say in the moment. And right now, he wasn’t entirely sure how to express what he felt. He wished Kira was home, because she would have the right words. She would tell Lucy to be fierce and take no bullshit and Ethan knew he should say that too, but the protective father side of him just wanted to tell her that she wasn’t allowed to do anything with this boy.
But if he had learned anything from how amazing his older daughter turned out to be, it was that it was best not to hold on too tight. Lucy would always be his baby girl, but he wanted to give her the space to make her own mistakes and to live her own life and to do what she wanted to do. And if she got hurt in the process, he hoped it would just make her stronger. Regardless, he would always be there to help her heal.
So he wasn’t going to tell her not to kiss him or hold his hand or even have sex with him, because at the end of the day, it was her life and she would do what she wanted to do. But he could make sure that she went into it with her eyes open.
“Don’t do anything you don’t want to do,” he finally said, wishing it sounded more eloquent.
Those words weren’t particularly specific either, but she understood what he meant and she nodded as stepped towards him, leaning down to press a lip glossed kiss to his cheek. “I won’t. Thanks, Dad.”
Ethan sighed as she turned towards her dresser to pick out pieces of jewelry, wondering how it had been two decades since he became a parent and he still had no idea what he was doing.
Two streets away, Justin was in the midst of scouring the fridge for post dinner snack when Tyler came into the kitchen to announce that he was leaving, dressed in a variation of his usual going out outfit which included red jeans tucked into black desert boots, one of his father’s old Green Day t-shirts under a black canvas jacket, and a black snapback worn backwards over his thick curls.
“Where are you going?” Justin asked, pulling out a cup of key lime pie flavored yogurt and closing the fridge, thinking he really needed to start paying more attention to the conversations he had with his son. He vaguely remembered Tyler mentioning having plans on Saturday night over dinner during the week, but the bassist couldn’t recall the specifics.
“Pete Keller’s party,” Tyler replied. There was no point in lying about his whereabouts, especially because his parents were actually pretty cool about these things. They were way more upset if they found out he had lied about what he was doing than if he was just upfront about everything from the beginning. Plus, because he so often had to be up early on weekends for meets or practices, he wasn’t in the habit of getting ridiculously drunk at parties.
“Oh, cool,” Justin nodded, opening a drawer to retrieve a spoon for his snack. “Is Luce going too?”
Ethan and Justin pretty much assumed that if Tyler was doing something social, Lucy was probably going along for the ride and vice versa. They were best friends, after all.
“Yep,” Tyler nodded, shoving his fingers into the pockets of his jeans and rocking back on his heels.
“Awesome,” Justin replied, pulling back the foil cover of his yogurt container. “Well, if you’re heading to the Saxton’s, tell Ethan I say hi.”
“I’m not,” Tyler shook his head, causing his father’s eyebrows to lift in surprise. “I’m just gonna see Lucy there. She’s going to the party with Jensen Maloney.”
Justin’s eyebrows returned to their normal position for a split second before furrowing deeply as he tried to recall if he’d heard that name before. It didn’t sound familiar and surely Ethan would have told him if Lucy had a boyfriend. They loved gossiping about their kids’ love lives. It kept them young.
“Do we like Jensen Maloney?” Justin asked, sticking his spoon into his yogurt.
Tyler shrugged. The truth was that he didn’t know much about the soccer player, but thus far he hadn’t heard anything about him that made him dislike the boy. “He seems cool, I guess. Plays soccer.”
That should have immediately put him in Justin’s good books, but the bassist was much too protective of Lucy, as he was with all of his nieces and nephews, to approve so quickly. He knew his next words didn’t really need to be said because Tyler had always felt a sense of responsibility when it came to Lucy, but Justin wanted to make sure everything was out in the open. “Well, you keep an eye on her, alright?”
“Will do,” Tyler nodded, pulling his fingers from his jeans to dig out his car keys from the pocket of his jacket and turning to leave. “See ya later, Dad.”
“And be home by midnight!” Justin called out as an afterthought to his son’s retreating back.
The party was in full swing by the time Tyler arrived, just before nine. He felt strange, coming by himself, so he made his first mission to find his best friend and ensure her date was going well. Shoving his keys back into the pocket of his jacket, he stretched his lips into a friendly smile to greet the people he recognized, his gaze all the while searching for a familiar brunette.
He found her leaning up against the granite counter top in the kitchen, her eyes bright as always as she kept Jensen completely enthralled. Lucy’s eyes flicked to Tyler when he entered the room, but he didn’t want to interrupt the conversation, so he winked, mouthing ‘text me later’ as he exited the kitchen through the other door.
Now that he knew Lucy was alright, he was free to enjoy the party as he pleased with minimal level of worrying. His first course of action was to grab a can of Pepsi from a nearby table and press open the top because he wasn’t particularly in the mood for alcohol, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy the drunken escapades of his classmates.
He sat on the overstuffed leather couch for a good thirty minutes, sipping his soda and watching people awkwardly dance or much too comfortably make out before his observational session came to an end when Sasha Jacobsen stepped in front of him and blocked his view of the lounge room.
“You’re an ass, you know that?”
He was almost certain the statement was true because he made mistakes on a fairly regular basis, but the completely unexplained delivery still caught him off guard, so he raised his eyebrows in surprise as he responded. “What are you talking about?”
“You break my best friend’s heart and you have the nerve to come out and party like nothing happened?” she replied, crossing her arms over her chest.
It was slowly starting to make sense. Seeing as Sasha and Lindsay were so close, it made sense that she would protect her best friend. But Tyler hardly thought he had broken Lindsay’s heart. She may have been hurt, but they had only dated for about a month before he’d figured out that a relationship wasn’t really something he was ready for. And it had now been six weeks since their breakup, so Lindsay might be a little bruised by the sudden dumping, but he highly doubted she was completely devastated. He was avoiding her regardless.
“I don’t know what you want me to say,” Tyler sighed, setting his half empty soda can down on a side table and standing up so the conversation wasn’t as awkward. “I’m sorry. I committed to something I wasn’t really ready for and Lindsay turned out to be the collateral damage. I never meant to hurt her.”
Sasha blinked, apparently not expecting such a genuine response. “Oh.”
“Yeah,” Tyler continued since he already had momentum. “I should probably say this to her myself, but next time you see her, just make sure she knows that it was never anything that she did. I’m just not ready for that kind of relationship and she deserves someone who’s willing to commit to her completely.”
There was a moment of silence with just the pulsing bass of the hip hop track playing in the background acting as a soundtrack before she let out a small laugh and shook her head. “You’re good with your words, aren’t you, Copeland?”
“I can when I want to be,” he smirked in response, the smile he used when he wanted to charm someone. He knew it was completely inappropriate to use said gesture on his ex-girlfriend’s best friend, but he couldn’t help himself. Flirting was in his DNA.
What he didn’t expect was for her to flirt back. Eyes twinkling, she stepped towards him, tilting her chin upwards so their gazes could meet and chewing on her bottom lip as though deciding whether or not to actually speak her next words before mentally saying ‘fuck it’ and spitting them out. “I bet you’re pretty good at other things too.”
He tilted his head to the side, studying her expression with fascination as he made a mental list of the pros and cons to leaning in and kissing her. He hadn’t been drinking, so chalking it up to alcohol later on wouldn’t be an option and he knew that if Lindsay found out, she’d have a legitimate reason to hate him, but all he could think about were Sasha’s red stained lips and that devilish twinkle in her eyes, so he lifted his hands to cup her cheeks and pressed his lips to hers before he could talk himself out of it.
It was precisely eleven twenty-seven when he wandered back into Pete Keller’s lounge room, looking for Lucy to see if she wanted a ride home. He found her sitting on the couch he had been occupying a few hours before, scrolling through her Facebook newsfeed on her phone.
“Luce?” he furrowed his brow on confusion, glancing around the room, which was significantly emptier than it had been when he’d been here earlier. “What are you doing? Where’s Jensen?”
Lucy lifted her head to look at her best friend, blinking once. “He left.”
“Did the date not go well?” Tyler asked, squatting down in front of where Lucy was sitting, wondering if he would end up needing to have a serious chat with Jensen.
“It was great, actually!” Lucy grinned, her cheeks tinting a little pinker and her eyes lighting with delight. “We talked and he made me laugh the whole time and we made out a little towards the end and it was all kind of perfect.”
“I’m glad,” he smiled, genuinely happy for her. “How come he didn’t take you home, then?”
“Because I told him I wanted to wait for you,” she replied simply.
“And he was cool with that?” Tyler lifted his eyebrows in surprise. It was a pretty unusual request. But then again, anyone who knew anything about Lucy knew how seriously she took her friendships and everyone also knew that she and Tyler were as thick as thieves.
“Yeah,” her smile widened, the look in her eyes softening. “He’s pretty cool in general. Like, honestly, there was a point earlier today when I thought that if things got hot and heavy, I’d let it take its course, but in the moment, I realized I wasn’t ready and he completely understood.”
“Good,” Tyler nodded, “Because if he hadn’t…”
“I know,” Lucy laughed. “He would have you to answer to.”
Widening his smile as he chuckled, he pushed himself back into a standing position as he nodded towards the front door. “Do you want a ride home?”
“That would be great,” she grinned, lifting herself from the couch and dropping her phone back into her purse. They stayed silent as they left the house and found Tyler’s car, parked a little ways down the street because he had arrived late and it wasn’t until they had pulled out onto the road that she spoke again. “Hey, I forgot to ask you, how’d your night go?”
Apart from the initial interaction in the kitchen, they hadn’t seen each other at all during the party, so it made sense that Lucy was curious. He wondered if he should remain vague, but he decided against it. His relationship with Lucy had always been built on complete honesty and he wasn’t about to mess that up because he had done something he probably shouldn’t have.
“I had sex with Sasha Jacobsen.”
He never imagined kissing her would lead to that, but the entire thing had been kind of a blur. Once making out in the living room had become too uncomfortable due to the large quantities of couples who were trying to do the same thing, they had set of on a mission to find somewhere more private to acquaint their lips and had ended up in Pete’s older brother’s bedroom, which was currently unoccupied because the older Keller boy was away at college. They had been lying on their sides, their legs entangled, their hands roaming each other’s bodies as they pushed their lips together when Sasha had pulled away and asked him if he had a condom. As though the moment had been prearranged, it just so happened that he had one in his wallet that Brody had given him a few weeks prior just in case. The next thing he knew, his fingers were intertwined with hers on either side of her head as they moved their bodies together.
“Tyler!” Lucy gasped, her eyes wide as she stared at him from the passenger seat. “Isn’t she Lindsay’s best friend?”
He appreciated the fact that she wasn’t judging him for the sex part but more for who it had happened with, which he understood because sleeping with his ex-girlfriend’s best friend was all kinds of horrible.
“I know,” he crinkled his nose ruefully. “It wasn’t like we planned it. It just kind of happened. Do you think I should tell Lindsay?”
“No!” she said automatically. “No good would come of that. Either the two of you pretend it never happened or Sasha should tell her. But she’s definitely not going to react well if it comes from you.”
Nodding silently, he kept his eyes focused on the road as he turned on to Saxton’s street.
“So…you’re not a virgin anymore, huh?”
He raised one eyebrow and shot her a sideways glance. “What makes you think that was my first time?”
“Oh please,” Lucy rolled her eyes as he parked in front of her house. “You so would have told me if you’d done it earlier.”
That was probably true. He shrugged, not really knowing what to say about it. It wasn’t as though he and Sasha had cuddled afterwards and made plans for the future. They’d stared at the ceiling until they could catch their breath and then Sasha had awkwardly thanked him and mumbled something about having to get up early the next morning before getting dressed at a record pace and disappearing. “I haven’t really processed it.”
“Fair enough,” she grinned, unfastening her seatbelt and clutching her purse in her hand to dig out her house key, despite knowing full well that her father was probably awake and waiting for her. “It’s been quite a night, huh?”
“Yeah,” he laughed softly, undoing his own seatbelt so he could lean across the center console to give her a hug, glad, as always, that Lucy always had his back. “It’s been one for the books. Goodnight, Luce.”
“Night,” she smiled, squeezing him tight before turning to push open the door and climbing out of the car. “I’ll see you at family dinner tomorrow.”
He waved to her after she shut the door, watching until she disappeared inside the house and smiling to himself as he began the short journey back home. Quite a night, indeed.