The Truths and Lies of Happily Ever Afters

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Chapter Three

There are few things in the world more awkward than waking up spooning your best friend. The only way to make it worse is if you’re a guy because we all wake up with an unavoidable hard-on. I hastily jerk my hips back away from Ray’s ass but the abrupt movement makes my head spin and I groan, fighting down a timid wave of nausea.

Right, minor correction. The only thing worse than waking up with a boner while spooning your best friend is doing all of that while hung-over.

Rolling onto my back - I can’t go any further because my arm is trapped under Ray - I push my glasses back into place and squint at the clock. Eleven a.m. I marvel that I haven’t been shouted at by the Slug yet before prodding Ray in the back where I know she’s ticklish. “Ray Ray, wake up,” I grumble, a bit hoarsely. The inside of my mouth feels dry and furry, like I licked a Persian cat.

The mound of blue and violet curled up on top of my arm lets out a string of unintelligible sounds that I assume are meant to be words.

“Okay, you don’t have to wake up, just get off my arm,” I reason. I figure it is best to get out of the room before she notices how tight my jeans have gotten; it’ll either end with her mocking me to death or us both just being extremely awkward. Probably the first, but neither outcome sounds good for me in the end.

“Fine. Morning person,” she growls at me like it’s some vicious insult. She rolls onto her stomach and I manage to squeeze my arm out from beneath her. It immediately begins to tingle as the blood rushes back into it.

“It’s after eleven, hardly morning anymore,” I point out, shoving her again as soon as I’ve gotten the feeling back in my fingers. Ray moans and curls into a tighter ball, dragging the throw blanket up over her head.

Laughing, I heave myself up off the bed and stumble over to the desk. I press the power button on my ancient computer and as it whirs into life I head out of the bedroom. It’s foggy and humid outside, making it even colder than it really is. I take a moment to enjoy the weather and let it cool my flushed skin - among other things - before jogging down the stairs.

Doug is sitting at the kitchen table, watching the morning news and munching away at what smells like cheese and hot sauce. Probably old Mexican take-out. He glances at me over the rim of his coffee mug as I walk into the room. “You know I don’t allow sleepovers in this house,” he says. That’s a lie, of course, since his boys have had girls over before. Still, I feign innocence. “Your little hippie friend. Don’t tell me she’s not here, that hideous peace-mobile is out front.”

“Oh, she just got here like an hour ago,” I say. “She brought breakfast and then we’re going to study. I just came in to get some coffee.” I walk around to the coffeemaker and am glad to see the pot already mostly full. Pulling two mugs down from the cupboard, I pour out the coffee and reach for the powdered creamer.

“You need to do the bathrooms today,” he says, turning his attention back to the television. “And don’t drink all my coffee.”

I hum, mixing the creamer into the coffee, and then head out of the house before Doug can find something else to harass me about. It’s only thanks to a fair bit of practice that I manage to get up into the bedroom again without spilling the coffee on myself. I look up and can’t quite stifle the laugh that explodes out of me.

Ray is sitting up on the bed, her hair a tangled and almost-spherical mess around her head. She yawns, her tongue curling up at the end like a cat’s, and then fixes her narrowed eyes on me. Her expression immediately brightens when she notices the coffee in my hands. “Oh, you are a god,” she says eagerly, climbing gingerly up off the bed and taking the mug I offer out to her.

“Now that’s something I’ve never been called before,” I say in amusement, sipping the coffee and then cringing as it burns my tongue.

“Well you are,” Ray says as she settles herself back down on the bed. “You’re the mighty Jake, god of the early morning and the hangover.”

I laugh and sit at the desk, setting down my still-too-hot coffee. “A bit wordy, you think?” I supply. I jiggle the mouse to wake up my computer screen and open my inbox.

“Probably but that just makes you sound more epic,” she answers. There’s a pause and then, “So, checking for more love letters?”

“If by love letters you mean comments on my blog, then yes,” I say.

“You know what I mean,” she says and there’s a heavy significance laid onto her words. “I mean comments from your secret admirer. Has the princess posted anything new yet?”

“Quit being so dramatic,” I say, shaking my head. “It’s not that big a deal.”

The thing is, it is that big a deal. About a year ago I’d gotten disheartened by the lack of response to my blog. I wrote a final post and then fully intended to give up on blogging forever. And then out of the blue I got a comment, twice as long as the actual post had been, begging me not to give up and telling me what an inspiration I’ve been to her. She apologized for never having commented before and promised me that if I continued to write then she would comment on every post that followed.

I’ve posted at least once a week since that day and she has yet to break her promise.

Through our correspondence in my blog’s comment section and eventually through email we drew up something of a friendship. We discovered that we’re both from Washington - on a post I’d written about my love/hate relationship with the rain - and we both love writing, although she’s a journalist instead of a fiction writer. Our birthdays are even a mere ten days apart. She’s witty and charming and a little self-deprecating but she’s also clever and shares my love of classic literature and can talk analytically about the books we’ve read in a way I can’t talk to most other people.

Truth be told, I have a crush on her. It’s such a tragically romantic idea I just can’t get it out of my head. Star-crossed lovers meeting through a lucky happenstance and generating a purely intellectual bond without ever having met. It’s the stuff of fairy tales and the cheesy chick-flicks Ray drags me to see.

I scroll down through my emails, through the handful of ‘likes’ notifications and the new follower, before I finally find it. There, third from the bottom, is the new comment notification. I click on it and when I see the familiar name in the upper corner my heart leaps.


Leaving Ray to continue moaning almost indecently over her coffee, I open the message and begin to read.

Oh I know exactly how you feel! It’s amazing, it’s like you took everything I’ve been feeling for the last few years and just put it out in words. You just have such an incredible way with words and it’s like you can read my soul and put it on paper! Everyone seems to know what they want to do with their lives, and I guess I have an idea, it’s just going to be so difficult and I can’t help but wonder if I’m good enough. It doesn’t help I get next to no support from my family and friends, they all think I’m completely crazy for wanting to be a journalist.

As always, I love what you’ve written and I can’t wait to hear from you again!

Maybe Someday :)

“Yep, someone definitely heard from the princess,” Ray says drolly. I can actually hear her rolling her eyes. “You’ve got that dopey grin on your face again.”

“Shut up,” I say, hastily trying to clear my face before I turn around and glare at her. However I can’t completely get the blush off my cheeks. The signature at the bottom of the email never fails to make me smile. We sign all of our emails that way. Early when we started talking regularly and realized how well we got along, I had asked if we might ever meet. She replied “maybe someday” and it stuck. It became our thing.

“Defensive, much?” Ray asks sarcastically. She flops back on the bed and waves a dismissive hand. “Go on and answer her then, I know you’re going to be distracted and useless until you do.”

“Thanks, you’re so generous,” I say dryly. I turn back to my computer with a shake of my head and, instead of answering on the comments page, I open a new email to her. I can’t help but grimace at my cheesy username, Raisins_of_Wrath, that appears in the From box. I’d picked it my freshman year, back when I was on a Steinbeck kick, and never bothered to change it. As stupid as it is, I’ve grown a bit fond of it.

It takes me a few minutes to type up a reply because I keep getting side-tracked by Ray muttering to herself in the background. “You finished yet?” she moans.

“I would be if you’d quit distracting me,” I answer. “Can’t you just quietly entertain yourself for like five minutes? Then I’m all yours again.”

Ray huffs and I hear her get up and start wandering around the room, but she’s stopped talking so I can finally focus. I finish up the message and then re-read it quickly.

Thank you so much, I’m really glad that you liked it. Sorry to hear you’re going through the same thing though, it’s not fun. I don’t know what you’re worried about, I read those editorials you sent me and they were brilliant. You’re going to make an amazing journalist! Screw anyone who says otherwise. On the other hand I’m freaking out. There’s only 7 weeks left of school and I still haven’t heard back from any of the colleges I applied to. Here’s hoping!

Maybe Someday.

I sigh. It’s completely dorky and inane but it’s the best I’m going to manage with Ray lurking behind me. I click the send button and then spin the chair around. For a moment my heart leaps into my throat but I manage to swallow it back down into place. Ray is sitting on the bed, a wooden box open on the mattress in front of her with half the contents strewn around her. “Oh,” I say in surprise. That box has been hidden away in the top of my closet for over a year.

Ray looks up and her eyes widen. “I’m sorry, Jake, I should’ve asked,” she says quickly. “I just saw it and I-”

“It’s okay,” I cut across her rambling. I walk over and climb up onto the bed beside her, my eyes falling on the picture frame she’s holding. With a soft smile I take the picture and let my eyes trace the familiar image. The short brown hair and wide amber eyes; the soft moonbeam smile and the nimble artist’s hands. My mom.

“I miss her,” Ray says, leaning against my shoulder.

“Me too,” I say, setting the frame down and rummaging in the box. It’s full of trinkets and odds and ends that I’ve gathered, all of them reminding me of the same person. There’s a stack of birthday and Christmas cards, faded photographs of us both, tiny toys and a pebble shaped like a duck. “It’s been seven years last month.”

Ray’s fingers thread through mine and I smile, squeezing her hand in appreciation. “She’d be proud of you,” she says. Then she chuckles and adds, “Too bad she had terrible taste in men.”

I laugh and shove her with my shoulder. “Thanks,” I say sarcastically.

Ray giggles and pats me on top of the head. “Okay, that’s enough emotional stuff for one day,” she says. “I have to write an English paper and I need your help.”

It’s dinnertime before we finish the first draft of Ray’s paper on The Scarlet Letter and shortly after that she has to go home to get ready for play rehearsal. I shove all of my books back into my backpack and then go back to my computer. To my surprise there’s a new email waiting for me and I open it without hesitation.

PulitzerPrincess: You’re too kind! But thank you, it makes me feel good to know you liked my editorials. The stupid school paper didn’t agree though, they only ran one of them and they hid it away in the back of the paper. The others were “too controversial.” Isn’t that supposed to be the point of journalism? To get people thinking and talking? Oh well, it’s just a dumb school paper. I value your opinion more anyway, you’re a much better writer than any of them.

I’ve got 7 weeks left for me too (51 days!) and news hasn’t been stellar on the college front. I got waitlisted! You know how many people from the waitlist actually make it into school?? Like .01%! I’m kind of freaking out a little bit because it’s my dream school and I didn’t even get accepted at the school my dad made me apply to.

Maybe Someday

I pause and glance at the calendar tacked up above my desk. There are little red numbers written in the bottom corners of the daily boxes, counting down the days until graduation. I find today and squint at the number. 51. Weird.

Shaking my head, I grin and hit the reply button.

Raisins_of_Wrath: How could they not run your editorials! That’s a crime! What’s the point of newspapers then? I mean I get that you’re supposed to report facts, but they’re just numbers unless people notice and talk about it. Don’t worry about it, once you get out of school the real papers will see how good you are. Screw your stupid school paper.

Oh wow, I’ve got exactly 51 days left too. What’re the odds?

Waitlisted? Ouch! That’s harsh. Your dad made you apply to colleges? My family doesn’t care where I end up so long as it’s out of this house. Honestly, that’s all I really care about at this point too.

Maybe Someday

It only takes about a minute before a new reply appears in my inbox.

PulitzerPrincess: Screw the school paper, I like that mentality! And thank you :)

Seriously! That’s crazy.

And I don’t blame you for wanting to get away from home. It sounds awful there. The stories you’ve told me about your family makes my family look almost functional.

Raisins_of_Wrath: You’re welcome.

Well I wouldn’t exactly envy you your family either. My stepdad may be a total ass but at least he pretty much leaves me to do my own thing. I couldn’t handle your crazy micromanaging parents.

Course I don’t need the parents, I’ve got a best friend who does that. Like she just bullied me into going to this dance at our school next weekend. I’m not really into dances but she’s all upset because I haven’t been to a dance yet and this is our last chance before graduation.

PulitzerPrincess: Ok this is getting freaky. My school is having a dance next weekend too! What are the odds we go to the same school and just never realized it??

Raisins_of_Wrath: Getting higher every second...

PulitzerPrincess: I know we’ve been doing the whole mystery anonymous thing, but is it ok to ask? Because I just wanna know. You’re from Seattle, right??

Raisins_of_Wrath: No I’m from this little town on the coast of North Bay

PulitzerPrincess: Tickuma?? Cuz that’s where I’m from

I lean back in my chair, staring at the screen in awe. It can’t be. This can’t possible be. Has my mystery princess really lived in my town all this time, in the whole year we’ve been writing each other, and I just never knew it? There’s no way.

And yet here we are.

It has to mean something. It’s surprising enough that we’re both from Washington, but to be from the same little town? The odds are infinitesimal. It has to be some sort of sign or fate or something. The girl I’ve been slowly falling in love with over the last year somehow attends the same school as me. This means something.

So I lean forward and type out a quick reply.

Raisins_of_Wrath: Yeah. So... maybe someday is sooner than we thought.

Her response comes almost immediately.

PulitzerPrincess: You mean you wanna meet?? But the mystery is sexy... ;)

Raisins_of_Wrath: We can hold onto it a little longer. That dance is a masquerade ball.....

PulitzerPrincess: Are you asking me...?

I swallow hard and take the leap.

Raisins_of_Wrath: Yes

I wait, the seconds dragging by like glaciers as I watch my inbox for the new indication. When the computer finally dings, I practically leap forward onto my desk in my eagerness.

PulitzerPrincess: The punch bowl at 8 ;) Can’t wait to meet you

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