Crossroads

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Chapter 45

Chapter 45: Mia

“And it just shows again: Family is everything.”

PRESENT

The past few days have been exciting, exhausting, and absolutely confusing at the same time.

I did a lot for my studies; I transcribed that interview with Dr. Avian, and I did a ton of soul-searching after I gave her another call to thank her for the interview again. She really is inspiring as hell, and I’m considering switching specialties, although that is another talk for future-Mia.

Present-Mia asked my family to give me a few days to come to terms with everything. I had another therapy session and my therapist helped me sift through the actual emotions, to figure out how to go forward now.

And it helped... I know what I have to do; I know how I have to act, what I have to say… But I absolutely could not have gone that far without Link. He was a total rock, the whole time. I insisted he went to work, and he didn’t fight me on that, luckily, but in the time he spent at my apartment every night he did his best to console me, to calm my rage when it flared up again.

He just showed again how much he can love, how much he can give and offer, if he just lets himself. And it’s incredible to watch, really. How understanding he is, how he just knows what I need every second of every day.

My phone chimes, announcing a new text message from Lincoln, who should be off his shift soon. “Take out?”

I can’t help but laugh, thinking that he somehow read my mind again, even from afar. “You know it. Chinese?”

“Veggie Ramen?” And again his response makes me laugh, because I was just thinking that I haven’t had proper ramen in a while.

“You’re perfect. Love you.”

His response is a heart and a sun emoji, I learned that it’s his way of saying I love you via text. I have a fair idea why, but Lincoln being Lincoln, he’s mysterious as always with his nicknames and metaphors.

But I can’t deny that I love it, every single moment of it. As much as these past events had me feeling scattered and even insecure at times, it wasn’t half as bad, because Lincoln just makes me happy. I never realized how much can change when you actually rely on someone else.

Don’t get me wrong, I learned the hard way that my parents will always be there for me. Both of them have been my rock after Pops died, as they were with everything I went through in my past. But I’m not someone that easily admits to the fact that they need help, never have been. Both my therapist and the fact that Link proves day after day just how much he has changed, made me realize that I need someone outside of all of this, someone who sees me as the woman I am, not as the daughter, granddaughter or sister I usually am.

“Hey, sola.” His voice behind me startles me, but before I can even think of jumping out of my skin, he has his arms wrapped around me from behind, the all too familiar scent of disinfectant and his aftershave invading my senses.

“Evening, handsome… How was work?” I turn to press a kiss on his lips.

“I missed you,” he whispers into the kiss and as always he deepens it immediately, letting me know just how much he means those words.

I smile when I lean back, placing his hand on my cheek when he just studies me, the love in his eyes immediately catching me off guard again. “You’re here now.”

He nods his head. “I am. How was your day?”

“I’m hungry,” I answer, and he just laughs, pressing another kiss on my nose before he gets up and brings me the food, including a spoon from the kitchen.

No, I have no idea how to operate chopsticks, and I don’t have the desire to learn. Link on the other hand flips them around like he invented them, always showing off his skills. He still insists that he has to teach me, but I think it’s more for teasing reasons that I don’t want to learn. He always cringes when I slaughter my meals, and it’s funny to watch.

“Now you have your food, love. So tell me. How was your day?” he asks when he sits on the floor opposite to me. I don’t know why, but something about the simplistic interior of Link’s apartment makes me want to sit on a pillow on the floor - it makes it all more comfortable somehow.

“Well, it was good.” I stir my soup, feeling Link’s eyes on me until I continue, “I was thinking of calling everyone in for a family meeting.”

I know I have to call the trio first, considering they live the farthest away and have the tightest schedule out of all of us. Getting Max and Finn shouldn’t be much of an issue. Same with my parents.

“That’s a good idea, I think,” Link says with a smile. A genuine one at that.

“Really?” I know he has had issues with forgiving Max for everything, I know he’s still outraged by the way everyone handled things around me. And honestly, that just makes me love him even more. Knowing he understands what I feel, that he respects my feelings, that he sees them as valid and real… It’s everything to me.

“Of course; You miss them. They’re your family, after all... If you feel like you’re okay with dealing with this, then you should do just that. It’s in your control.”

And I can only look at him, study his trusting light blue eyes that hold so much love for me… Because I’m speechless. I’m speechless because he just knows what I need to hear, knows about my fears and struggles… I don’t have to fear that he can’t take it all - he already showed that he can. He proved himself again and again, and it seems like he’s on a mission to continue doing so.

“I love you, you know that, right?” I say, still holding our gaze.

That beautiful smile breaks out on his face, and he places his hand on my cheek when he nods his head. “I do. I really do.”

“Are you sure you want to do this now?” Link asks, looking up at the apartment building.

I nod my head, knowing that I need to get this over with before we have our family meeting next week. “Yeah. I need to sort this out.”

He shoots me a warm smile, reaching over the center console to interlace our fingers. “I’ll wait in the car, but I’m just a call away, okay?”

“I know.” I press a kiss on his lips, letting them linger for a second longer before I pull back, taking one more deep breath before I step out of the car and walk toward the building.

Pressing the bell of the name I’ve called and talked to so often in my past, I feel this heavy boulder of grief in my heart. Because as much as I know I need to do this, I can’t deny that it hurts…

“Hello?” Her voice echoes through the intercom, and I take a deep breath, regaining control of my composure when I answer, “Hi, Riley. It’s Mia. Can I come up?”

“What? Yeah, of course, please.”

Split seconds later the door buzzes and I make my way up the stairs, seeing her stand between the doorframe of her apartment on the third floor.

“Mia…” She dashes forward and pulls me into a hug, and for just a moment I reciprocate it. For just a moment, I let myself feel this friendship again.

“Hey, Riley. Can we talk inside?”

She nods her head, releasing the hug before letting me inside. “Yeah, of course. Come in.”

I follow her notion with a smile, walking inside and taking a seat on the all too familiar couch in the open kitchen. It’s weird to be here now. The last time I was here we had so much fun on this couch, playing charade with Jer and his sister. And now… Now it’s this.

“Listen, Mia, I need to apologize again… I know I did already but I just… I’m so sorry, really, for everything.” She takes a seat next to me, and I instinctively move further away from her, the desperate need for distance overcoming me.

“I know you are. I’ve heard a hell of a lot of apologies, lately. I know all of them were sincere.”

“It is, really. I meant what I said… I can’t exactly apologize for what I did, but I…”

“And yet you do,” I interrupt, making her look at me with wide eyes.

“What?”

I smile when I lean back on the couch, crossing my legs before I answer, “You say you can’t apologize for what you did, and yet all you do is just that. Apologize.”

She blinks a few times, obviously trying to gauge my reaction when she answers, “Well, I don’t… I don’t know what else to do.”

“You do. You know how the human brain works. You’ve reflected enough on your actions to know they’re inexcusable, and yet you expect me to forgive you, just like that.”

“That’s not true…”

“Riley.” I smile, “We both know it is.”

Her eyes widen and suddenly she gets up, crossing her arms in front of her chest when she glares at me. “You don’t need to act like you know it all!”

That statement alone makes me laugh, and I get up from the couch to mirror her stance, leaning against the wall a few feet away from her when I answer, “We both know I’m the last person who knows it all, Riley.”

“You certainly act like you do.”

“Are you really going to berate me now? Really?” I scoff, unable to believe her behavior now. I know she’s trying to defend herself, but still. It’s ridiculous.

“No, I don’t mean…” She reels back, but I can only shake my head, running a hand through my hair as I watch her trying to come up with the next thing to say. “I just mean, life is cruel to me sometimes, you know. I don’t know how to deal with it and I lash out and I don’t… I don’t know.”

Riley sits back on the couch, running her palms over her face as she takes a deep breath. I just watch her, study her when she looks back up at me, waiting for me to say something. But I don’t know what to say, honestly. She keeps digging her own grave, and I keep getting more and more furious with every little thing she says.

“You really need to stop thinking that cruel things only happen to you. We all go through some shit, but that doesn’t give you the right to do stuff like that. It doesn’t excuse it, no matter how much you try to convince me you were desperate and confused.”

“But I…”

“No,” I interrupt her, suddenly feeling so outraged that I feel like I might burst if I don’t get it out of my system. “You act like you’re all innocent in this matter. You act like you didn’t knowingly manipulate Jer, me, and my brother, to get what you want. My goddamn brother, Riley! You acted like a fucking friend to me while you lied to me for years!

“I came clean, though! I told you about it all! Max didn’t do that.”

“Are you really trying to turn my brother on me now?! What the hell?! Are you actually dumb enough to think I’d fall for that?”

“No, I…” she reels back again, “That’s not what I meant, I just meant I told you about everything, that should count for something, right?”

I shake my head, trying to get this raging storm inside my chest to calm down, suddenly feeling like I’m about to burst. “God, that you act like telling me about the shit you pulled on my family turns you into some saint… That just shows how twisted you are, really. You had multiple chances to talk to me about this, you could’ve just told me about all of it. But you decided against it.”

“You didn’t tell me about Lincoln, either, when it happened...” she mutters, and that’s just when I lose my shit.

“Oh my god, how on earth is that the same thing?! You slept with my brother! You manipulated him to the point where he actually lost his mind, where he not only lost his sister but the rest of his family, too. You should’ve known that the secrets you asked him to keep would end up haunting him. You said it yourself; we all know how impulsive he is. Yet you think I’m buying that you didn’t know he would lash out from what you said to him the day our grandfather died?! How naïve do you think I am?!”

My outburst surprises her, apparently, because she just looks at me with wide eyes while I open and close my fists, trying to calm myself as I study her, wait for her reaction.

“I just wanted my friend back…”

“And you thought you were the one who could determine our friendship is more important than my relationship to my brother. That’s what gets me, Riley. I know we called each other sisters, but nothing gave you the right to interfere like that. He’s my brother, he is my blood for fuck’s sake. Of course he’ll always come first.”

“That’s just it, isn’t it? I never stood a chance against him…”

I shake my head, realizing that this talk was over the second it started. She just doesn’t see it. She just doesn’t understand. “The fact that you thought you could ever take his place shows me you never really understood how I work, Riley. I’m done here. We’re done.”

Clenching my fists I dash toward the door, needing to get the hell out of here and back to Lincoln before I do something I might regret later on.

“It’s sad that you can just throw our friendship away like that…” I just reach the door when she says the words, and I turn around, my hand on the door handle when I watch how she shakes her head, her arms crossed in front of her chest.

“Well, that should tell you something about our friendship, shouldn’t it?” I don’t even dare to look at her again when I open the door before letting it slam right behind me, a deep breath escaping my throat while I stare blankly ahead, my gaze entirely out of focus as I suddenly realize, this is it. This really happened.

I just lost my best friend.

But for some reason it doesn’t feel like the end of the world. Our friendship was strained for a while now, and I won’t be able to get over the fact that she played my brother like that. Making me hate him when he was the one who was dealt the worst hand out of all of us…

It infuriates me.

And it just shows again: Family is everything.

It also shows that I need to take control, and I intend to do just that.

Step one is done, now on to step two…

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