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Sweet Rivals

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In middle school, it was a fight for the hangout rights of the nearest Starbucks coffee shop. Having the two hang out in the same place day in and day out would be a tension fest, even with their friends as buffers. There was no chance the Starbucks could survive, nor could their rivaling friends' groups, who were all secretly crushing on the members of the opposing group… except for Noah and Lexi, of course. Or so they claimed when relentlessly badgered about it.

“Ew,” was Lexi’s response almost every time. Sometimes she’d change it up and say, “yuck.”

“No way, bro,” Noah always snipped. “Do you think I’m suicidal or something?”

The two would race to the store after school every day, and in the morning on weekends, to claim their place. Whoever arrived first, was allowed to stay for however long they chose, and the other was not allowed to step foot inside.

Lexi won the overall rights to Starbucks by sitting out front for an entire afternoon in the rain, ordering coffee after coffee so she could stay awake overnight and be the first there in the morning, so Noah would be forced to leave if he showed up. She was forced home by her parents, who had been worried sick. They unzipped her sleeping bag and told her -rather aggressively- that it was extremely dangerous to do things like this and if she tried anything so ridiculous again, she would be grounded.

The sheer dedication of his rival led Noah to forfeit, and he awarded Lexi and the girls the Starbucks hangout. Enemies or not, there are times a man knows he has lost, and it is always better to accept defeat with dignity. The boys claimed a cafe called Benjamin’s around the corner. As a prize for her victory, Noah sent a lackey to order a coffee on Lexi’s behalf. She was sat with her friends, chatting away, when the barista called out, “Lincoln?”

No coffee had ever tasted sweeter. “It’s the victory, I think,” Lexi had joked. The girls relaxed for the first time in weeks, and made themselves comfortable in their new place.

With years came age, and with age came more Lexi-Noah battles, though -ironically- none more adult than the sandpit incident. It became a habit for the pair to wriggle their way under each other’s skin, on the daily. They had made more of their own friends over the years -continuing to build their personal armies- and by the time High School slapped them in the face, the social, physical, and academic war had been waged.

Noah and Lexi thrived and slumped at the hand of each other’s competition. It simultaneously brought out the best in them and the worst.

As the competition grew colder, so did its participants, but only with each other. With every “bite me” and “screw you” determination was amplified.

Determination was always one of Lexi’s strongest traits. If she started something, she finished it. If she hated what she’d started, she finished it… just complained a lot throughout.

This mindset left little room for failure though, and she often caught herself in a loop of self-loathing. Mild, but sometimes it couldn’t be tamed.

For her eleventh birthday, Lexi’s mother had given her a beautiful leather journal. It had a string to wrap it closed. It had an engraving that spelled her name, and it had a message inside that read, “happy birthday, princess. The world is yours. Take it by storm.”

This book became a bible.

All of Lexi’s thoughts, ideas, opinions, reports on the world; it all went into its pages in cursive, block or smudge form. She wrote short stories, anecdotes, jokes, observations about the world. Having someplace to express thoughts that otherwise would have been stuck in her head, gave Lexi a sense of freedom. She loved to write. When she wrote, she could be as ruthless as she wanted. She could be angry without being told to relax. She could have opinions without being told to be quiet. She had total freedom in these pages.

One day she had written a report on Elementary School politics, something about the lunch lady to teacher hierarchy. It made her mum and dad laugh so hard, they each let out a snort.

“You should be a journalist, Lex, or write for a magazine,” her dad had said, and she’d never really stopped thinking about it.

Lexi shone in areas like English and media, subjects with a bit of wriggle room, and rule-bending; some creative background that allowed free will. Science and Maths were never her friends, and she felt sick trying to multiply even the smallest of numbers. This was one of the many ways she and Noah differed. They were polar-opposites. When it came to academic war, they struggled to find even ground. This caused mounds of stress but also a strange understanding between them. While everything was a war, not everything had to be a war.

Noah would slide past between classes to whisper “98 on the psychic test, Lincoln. Like to see you meet 50% of that.”

She’d scoff and retort something back, both knowing there was a good chance she wouldn’t meet 50%. Just because there was no real competition, didn’t mean that bickering had to stop. Once you gain a habit, it is near impossible to break it.

There is comfort in rivalry, a reliance. They’re always going to be there to challenge you. There will always be a push to your shove. When on took a day off, the other almost… missed them.

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