Finding Faith

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Chapter 16

How exactly did I get myself into this again?

Lucy looked terrible when I opened the door for her.

“Hey,” She whispered, her voice scratchy as though she had been shouting for hours on end.

Her usual ponytail was a tangled mess, her cheeks were red from the cold, and under her puffy eyes...were those tear stains?

I hated to see her like this so much so when I held my arms out, it felt like the most natural thing to do. She fell into them at once, and I held her close as she took shaky breaths. I patted her back as gently as I could, trying to calm her down. For a second I forgot about how touching Lucy was usually enough to send my heart pumping clean out of my chest, and just focused on soothing her. I didn’t have time to worry about myself when she was obviously in a bad state right now.

When I finally pulled back, she smiled at me tearily. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” I heard myself say distantly.

I closed and locked the door behind her, before I realized that I had willingly just invited Lucy into my house. Oh, thank God, my parents weren’t home. That would be sure to raise some questions I didn’t want to answer. The past few months had been a lot easier between all of us, but there was still unresolved tension that no one wanted to initiate solving first.

It was just too confusing.

“Uh, here. I can take your jacket.” She handed it to me with a quiet “Thanks.”

“No problem.” I bundled it carefully in my arms, setting it on the bench beside the shoes right inside the door. “You can leave your boots anywhere.” I gestured vaguely at the shoe space on top of the mats, and she set her blue winter boots neatly beside my own.

I was more worried about why she had called me, what had went so wrong. At a guess, I would say it had something to do with Noah, since Lucy had called from her house. Not that I expected Noah to cause trouble, since he seemed like a friendly person who genuinely cared about his sister, but his being here was obviously affecting Lucy, maybe more than I had assumed.

“So this is your house, huh?” Lucy tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear, looking around the hallway. “It’s nice. I think I’ve only been here a couple times before.”

I nodded. There was a reason she had not been invited back after elementary, and I knew I had to be careful with what she might see around here.

My room was probably the best bet, but what if I had any traces of her left--

I shook my head firmly. It didn’t matter. Lucy didn’t just look bedraggled, she looked tired as well. The weather was starting to get stormy outside in typical early February fashion, and she had already walked all the way here. The house itself was warm and I was cozy myself in red flannel and jeans, but Lucy’s clothes looked a bit damp. Plus my room had my amazing bed, automatically making it the most comfortable place I could think of at the moment.

But first--

“Can I get you anything?” I asked, acting on instinct. “Something to eat?” Call it an ingrained rule, but I had been taught to always be polite to guests above all else.

Lucy opened her mouth like she was about to refuse, but then dropped her eyes to the floor. “Actually, yeah.” She mumbled. “That would be nice, thank you.”

OK, I was really worried now. This was such a far cry from the usual, happy, wisecracking Lucy I was so used to.

“OK, then. Follow me.” I lead her into the kitchen, and began rummaging through the shelves. “Anything in particular?”

I twisted to face her as she sat at the kitchen-island silently. She shrugged, looking clueless for once. “Maybe...food?”

I snorted a little. “Today’s your lucky day, then.” I thought for a moment. We had some pretty decent ingredients in the fridge...how willing was I to try to impress her?

This isn’t about you, Lin! Just make something quick and tasty!

OK, then...sandwich it was.

Lucy sat impassively at the island as I scrambled around, placing ingredients on top of the counter. Ham, lettuce, tomato, swiss cheese...mustard--no, wait. She didn’t like mustard in her food. She was more of a relish girl, as weird as that was. So put the mustard back, bring the relish out. Gotcha. I set a plate down and got busy chopping up the tomato and lettuce on a small cutting board, making sure to shred them into nice, even pieces. Alright, fine, maybe I was trying to show off a little, but it wasn’t everyday that I got to make something for Lucy, and besides, I wanted to make her feel better, right? So putting in a little more effort didn’t exactly hurt.

After I was satisfied with my vegetables, I arranged it all in layers on the thick pieces of whole-grain, topping it all off with a thin spreading of relish. I grabbed a glass, filled it with water, and set it and the plate down in front of her (with maybe more of a flair than I had intended). “There you go.”

“Thanks.” She said dully, and began to dig in. I waited nervously on the other side of the island, hoping she wouldn’t hate it. What if she didn’t like her vegetables cut up like that? What if she didn’t like whole-grain bread? I mean, I didn’t particularly care for it myself, so what if she hated it? What if she did actually like mustard and I had gotten this mixed up with someone else?

Oh, no.

What if she didn’t like sandwiches?

My fears were unwarranted however, when she let out a pleased sigh and took an even bigger bite. “Mm. This is so good.”

Oh, thank God.

“Thanks.” I chuckled as she began eating more fervently, and I was slightly afraid she was going to choke if she didn’t take a moment to swallow. At least she appeared to be distracted for the moment from what had been bothering her.

“Y’know,” She began through a mouthful of food. I inwardly and outwardly cringed. “Don’t talk with your mouth full, weirdo!”

“Oops, shorry.” She said thickly, and swallowed. “You know,” She continued, much more clearly this time. “You have a lot of pictures around here.”

She took a gulp of water and finished off her sandwich in a last chomp that had me wondering worriedly if she had eaten at all today.

“So?” The subject was a little random, but if she wasn’t ready to talk about why she was really here, then so be it.

“So,” She leaned forwards, an only overly-familiar smirk on her face. “There are pictures I may have never seen before.” She tilted her head, putting heavy emphasis on her next words. “Maybe even pictures of a, shall we say, much younger Faith.”

It took me a moment to register what she was implying, and by then it was far too late.

Luc had already pushed back from the island and bolted into the hallway with a whoop of anticipation. “No, what--I--get back here!” I yelled, already feeling the heat of embarrassment as I chased after her. Too, too late.

By the time I caught up--curse her long legs--Lucy was already gawking up at the framed collection of old photographs on top of the cabinet in the living room.

Aww,” She crooned, eyes roving over a 3 year-old me waving at the top of a play structure. 5 year-old me proudly held up a scribbled drawing that won in a children’s magazine contest. There was 6 year-old me blowing out birthday candles, 8 year-old me with a ridiculous Mickey Mouse ear crown on my head. In any other case I would have been wistful looking over these, reminding me of older, happier times, but with my crush here?

I wanted to die so badly, it was sad.

“Oh, man.” She snorted, laughter bubbling in her throat as she pointed. “Faith, you were a chubby baby.”

Oh, no. I lunged forwards, dramatically shoving Lucy towards the stairs, and far, far away from the additional photos strung up on the walls of the room.

Wait,” Lucy whined, twisting and turning in my grasp to try and get a better look at some of them. “Are you wearing a mouse suit in that one?”

“It’s an elephant,” I snapped, giving her one last shove (“Yeah, like that’s any better.”). “It was for Halloween.” “You were so cuuute,” She cooed, and I slapped a hand over my face with a groan. “Stop talking. Like your house doesn’t have little gap-toothed you all over the walls?”

She gasped, looking deeply offended, a hand to her chest. “How dare you? I was adorable.”

She really had been in her photos, with pastel-colored dresses, pale blonde curls, and an infectious smile, but I wasn’t about to tell her that.

“Debatable.” I retorted. “You certainly never learned how to keep your mouth shut.”

She crossed her arms, pouting. “Man, now I wish I knew you when you were younger.” She spun back with a sudden gasp of sinister excitement. “I bet Alex would know some stories! And have more pictures!”

“Uh, no.” I pointed at her threateningly. “You do not talk to my best friend about our childhood. You do not contact her in any way unless you want me to deny having any relationship with either of you for the rest of time.”

“But you wouldn’t do that.” Lucy said, with an irritating certainty as I lead her up the stairs.

“And why’s that?”

“Because you liiiike us.” She said, her voice a taunting sing-song.

I scowled. “Definitely not.”

“Don’t be like that!” She giggled. “I can see right through you.”

“Keep telling yourself that, goldie.”

But then she leaned in close, breath warm on my cheek. I gulped.

“I know you do.” She gave me the most infuriatingly crooked grin right then and there, and I had to resist the overwhelming urge to push her down the stairs. Or kiss her. Or both.

Damn it, Lin! Get it together.

“Yeah, well, I bet I could ask Noah about more of your embarrassing stories.” I answered quickly, trying to recover. I remembered too late about my suspicions earlier, and watched in horror as Lucy visibly flinched at the sound of her brother’s name. “Shit. I--I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to--” “No, it’s--fine.” She tried to pull a smile, but it was uncomfortable, and I cursed myself silently. She sighed. “I do owe you a reason for why I’m here, anyway.”

My chest tightened as her face fell back into its previous sadness. I looked up at the dark second floor.

“Let’s go to my room.”


My room was marginally different from Lucy’s in the way that it was a lot bigger, but probably less homely. There were no shiny sports trophies or cute blue drawers, or giant teddy bears stuffed into corners, surrounded by band and space posters. While Lucy’s room had so clearly reflected her personality, a little cluttered but fairly tidy and welcoming, mine was more like an organized mess: sketches and movie prints posted up on the walls, shoeboxes and canvases peeking out from underneath my bed.

There was a mirror on top of my clothes cabinet, and I wished I had made my closet a little more presentable. Lucy’s call had caught me off-guard, so I had basically shoved everything--heels, boots, jeans, sweaters, and jackets--as deep as I could into the back corner, and slid the door closed over it, effectively hiding evidence of the mess inside.

Lucy took it all in with one sweeping glance, whistling slightly as she saw my bed. “No wonder you look so tired.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, relieved to hear her sound a little less apathetic. “Your bed is gigantic. You must never want to leave it.”

I shrugged. I supposed she had a point. My bed was wider than most other people’s, which was good news for me, since I had a tendency to end up in different positions than when I first fell asleep. I swore I slept like the dead on a normal basis, and yet often I would wake up and find myself completely horizontal to where my pillows were.

Go figure.

“Uh, you can sit down if you want.” I invited. “I don’t mind.”

“Really?” I didn’t expect her to look so surprised by that. Was I really that bad at sharing or something?

“Why not?”

Lucy sat down on the edge of the mattress gingerly, before flopping backwards, arms thrown straight out. “Ahh, this is so comfy.” She stretched out luxuriously, arms coming back over her head. “Also, you lied to me. I thought you slept in a coffin.”

I rolled my eyes. “And I told you that that was a joke. Your understanding knows no bounds.”

The hem of her shirt hiked up over her stomach as she rolled her shoulders back slowly. It should have been illegal to somehow still look so flattering in a position that was anything but. I could see faint freckles dotted along fair skin just above her trim waistline--

I swallowed hard and tore my eyes away, sitting down beside her before she could notice. My heart was beating faster now, and I blamed it on my surroundings, just because Lucy was in my bed, that was all.

Wait--definitely not in my bed--on it. Yeah, it wasn’t like she was even there in a non-platonic sense, after all, right? It was just comfy, and that was all she was getting at. Yes. Right.

Jesus, Faith. Get a grip.

Then Layla’s text popped up in my mind unexpectedly, before I could stop it.

Sorry, sweetie. You might just have to accept that she’s found someone else.

After considering for a while, I was pretty sure now she had been talking about me, but I wasn’t certain. I had even asked the sender herself before final exams (which had been hell, by the way, who came up with those to begin with?), but no luck there.

Layla (the snobby princess she fully knew she was), didn’t see fit to grant me a truthful answer, waving it off with a careless laugh. “Oh, that? That was just a little bet we had going on. It had nothing to do with anything that’s any of your business.”

“It sounded like more than that,” I said carefully. “She seemed kind of upset when I asked her about it. Any idea why?”

She pursed her glossed lips, then shook her head quickly. “No, not really. She was probably just unwilling to believe something, that’s all.”

She was lying.

“Don’t give me that bull. Lucy would tell me if something was bothering her.”

“You care about her that much, do you?” Layla’s piercing stare was unusual, discomfiting.

“Uh, yeah. She’s one of my best friends.” I replied truthfully. I didn’t specify that if anything was out to hurt Lucy in any way, I would rip it into shreds and burn the pieces, but Layla didn’t need to know that.

“Well, then.” She raised her hands. “I don’t have much else to say.”

“OK, then. Thanks for nothing.” I turned away.

“Is Kitty one of your closest friends now too?” Layla’s call made me turn back.

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Oh, chill.” She put her hands on her hips. “No need to get so defensive. I just wondered.”

I huffed, crossing my arms. “I haven’t known her that long. But she’s cool, and fun to hang out with. I don’t know about being close friends, but we’re friends for sure. Satisfied?”

“For now.” She said, lifting her chin with a pompous air. God, how was she Lucy’s best friend? They were practically total opposites. Well...I supposed they were both drama queens, so that was one thing they undeniably had in common.

“Then I’m leaving. Have fun with your physics exam.” I made to leave again, before Layla called once more. “You know, you’re not the only one who cares about her.”

“I know.” I said simply, facing her.

“Then just know, if you lead her on or hurt her in any way, I promise I’ll see your dark emo ass down in Hell.”

She stared me down with cold brown eyes, as if daring me to make a comeback. To be honest, I was a little impressed by the threat, and hadn’t anticipated her pulling it off as well as she did.

“Fair enough.” I nodded, and walked away, throwing back one last comment over my shoulder. “Your death threats are getting better, beauty queen.”

“It’s a specialty of mine. And don’t call me that, goth girl!”

I just laughed once, and waved without looking back.


While the brief conversation hadn’t really shed any light on the situation, or what the text really meant, I had a faint hunch that it had something to do with me, and maybe something to do with Kitty. Layla probably wouldn’t have asked me about her otherwise, not randomly like that.

Why was everyone so obsessed with me and Kitty anyway? Was it because we had become friends so fast? Was it really that surprising to people?

Maybe. Maybe they just didn’t believe it.

But then, why had Lucy been told to accept that I might have ‘found’ someone else?

These thoughts raced around me until I realized how quiet Lucy was. I guessed the distractions had run their course.

“So are you ready to talk about it?” I said at last. Lucy’s fingers curled around my blankets. She didn’t respond, her face turned away from me. “Lucy. Why are you not OK?” I persisted.

Still nothing. Maybe this was a lost cause. Maybe I should wait until she wanted to start.

Then-- “Noah’s engaged.”

That had been one of the last things I was expecting. “What?”

“I’m serious.” She said. “Noah’s engaged.”

“I believe you.” I said truthfully. “When did you find out?”

Her eyes were fixed on the opposite wall, but it looked as though her thoughts were a thousand miles away when she spoke next. “About an hour and a half ago.”

“Wow.” I shook my head. To me, this sounded like good news, but then why would she be here right now if it was? “And this isn’t good.”

It wasn’t a question, not really.

“Not exactly.” She replied hesitantly. “It’s--it’s more complicated than that.”

“Why?”

She rolled over to face me, her eyes roaming over my face, clearly trying to decide whether or not to specify further. Whether or not I could be trusted.

“Because he’s marrying the girl he left the province for.”

“I don’t understand.” This didn’t make as much sense as I was hoping it would. “What do you mean, he ‘left’ the province for her?”

Lucy thought for a second before answering. “It’s a long story, and only Layla really knows about it, but...you know how he goes to the University of Alberta?”

“Yeah?” I leaned towards her.

She shut her eyes, as if reliving the memory. “Well, that wasn’t his first choice.”

“Really?”

“Really,” She confirmed. “It wasn’t like he was dead set on not going there, but there was a closer option to home, with just as good an engineering program. He was pretty much all ready to go, and everything.” She bounced a little, kicking out her legs. “It might have made things so much easier.”

“What stopped him?” I shifted closer.

She ceased her kicking all at once, letting her legs drop dejectedly. “He fell in love.”

“Oh.” I didn’t know how to respond to that.

“I know,” She agreed. “He had been dating for a while, and he was smitten, but he wanted more.”

“What was their name?” I thought for a moment. “Wait, were they a bad influence or something? Your parents didn’t approve?”

“Oh, no.” Lucy chuckled, but it was more bitter than cheerful. “No, that wasn’t it at all. They thought she was amazing. And she was--is. Allana Rose Williams, 17 year-old honor roll student and head of student council at the time, smart, beautiful, friendly. It was hard for my brother not to have fallen for her. They became close friends in Grade 9, and started going out a year later. She used to come by our house all the time. They were pretty much Laken March’s star couple.”

“So what went wrong?”

“They wanted to take the next step.” Lucy pointed a finger at the ceiling before letting it fall. “One night, he came home after prom, and he was more excited than I’d ever seen him.”

If I thought hard enough, I could picture a younger Noah, just barely older than us, probably wearing a suit and tie and buzzing with happiness.

“He went straight to our parents and said he wanted to marry Allana.”

There was a moment of silence as I took this in. This was not at all what I was expecting. Getting married right after high school? I mean, to each their own, but for someone just a year older than the both of us? It seemed like such a daunting prospect to think about, let alone tell to parents, and I begrudgingly had to admire Noah’s pure boldness at that time.

“That’s...really…” I struggled to find the right words. “...daring.”

Lucy snorted. “That’s one way to say it.” Her eyes grew cold again. “This lead to one of the biggest fights I’ve ever seen my brother get into.”

“Your parents thought it was too fast?”

“That’s a total understatement. The only other time I’ve seen my brother get so angry is when I accidentally broke his hockey stick and blamed it on our first cat, Violet.”

“Well, that was a solid idea.” I couldn’t resist commenting.

“I know, right?” Lucy was too caught up in the retelling to notice my sarcasm. “So my parents were shouting about how important this decision was, and how irresponsibly he was reacting to their advice. They didn’t think he could handle it, and they were probably right. Noah was just too…” She squeezed her eyes tight. “...Too full of adrenaline to think. He had been out all night, partying with a bunch of other people his age, probably accepting stupid dares with his friends--and he couldn’t take any of it rationally. He said he and Allana were meant to be. He said that he would run away with her if he had to. He said he wanted to marry her right away.”

“And then?”

“It got ugly.” She rubbed her face with the back of her hand.

“This lead to a whole other bunch of things being brought up, like his decision to go into engineering instead of getting a doctorate because his grades slipped from hockey, if his friends were skipping class and drinking underage, stuff like that. It just got worse and worse. He brought up my dad losing his scholarship after second year, and my mom’s constant pretentious nagging about who he could be friends with, like everyone was beneath her, or something. He said she had no right to judge when she was barely there to begin with, or that Dad just sat back all the time and let shit happen without ever stepping in.”

Jesus.” I shook my head in disbelief. This all sounded enormously personal, and I couldn’t quite piece the laid-back, charming young man I had met with this teenager digging out the worst aspects of his parents and throwing it into their faces without a second thought.

Lucy nodded solemnly, but continued with a relentless pace, as if her words were coming from a broken dam. “I don’t remember exactly when it ended, but all I know is that Noah screamed, “Fine! I don’t need you telling me not to choose what I already know I want.” He stormed off, and I heard him slam his door. It was…” Her voice broke a little, and my heart clenched in response. “It was the first time I’ve ever seen my mom cry.”

Now if there was one thing I couldn’t picture at all, it would be Lucy’s mother crying at anything. She seemed like such a confident woman, it was like nothing could sway her. It seemed a small stretch to think some cruel words could break that.

But people could be cruel, I knew that for a fact. Often, it was the people we were closest to that hurt us the most, did the most damage. And they never even realized it.

You would know all about that, wouldn’t you?

“Noah stayed in his room for nearly a week, not talking to anyone, even when I asked. Then one day, I went to go check on him, and his room was empty. He had made the final decision to go to Alberta, and he was gone. He came home a few times over the years, but never for very long. He didn’t bring up Allana again, and I assumed they had broken up. It was like...a part of this family was cut off.” She finished, pulling my blanket up to hide her face.

“And now here he is, announcing his engagement to her.” I was beginning to understand. In fact, so many things were beginning to make sense. This was why Lucy had been unable to relax since Noah had come home. This was why every time I had brought him up, she had gotten that look in her eyes. Only now I knew what that look meant.

It was longing for something she knew she couldn’t repair.

She nodded her confirmation. “I don’t know...I--I want to be happy for him, of course I do, but I don’t understand why…” She trailed off, looking miserable, and I finished for her. “...Why he didn’t just come out and tell you before?”

“Yeah.” She said. “And now I just...I don’t know what to think. About him. And her.”

“Is Allana that bad now?”

“What?” She shot me a surprised look. “No, she’s just as sweet as ever. Why?”

“Just trust me.” I requested patiently. “And is Noah alright?”

“Yeah, he’s his normal self, I guess. He’s glad to be home, and he’s happy to be talking to our parents again.” She paused for a moment. “They’re getting along really well, actually.”

“Do they seem good together?” I pressed on. “Do they enjoy each other’s company?”

“Uh, yes. They…” She sighed, a little wistfully. “They’re even more lovesick than they were in high school. They can’t take their eyes off of each other.”

I smiled, encouraged. “Then the only question I have left is this: do you not want him to get married to Allana?”

That got Lucy’s attention. “What? Why would you even ask me that?”

“So you do want them to get married.” I concluded, my lips tugging upwards.

“No. Wait. Yes! Of course I do!” She groaned frustratedly, then slapped her own face with both her palms. What gave her the right to be so obnoxiously cute? “It’s just, ugh.”

“Complicated?” I guessed again, unable to keep from smirking.

“Yes! Exactly.” She took her hands off her face to point at me triumphantly. “But…”

“But what?”

“But...I’m still confused over what to feel.” She admitted.

“Look, it doesn’t have to be complicated.” I reasoned slowly. “You don’t seem to have a problem with either one of them, and they seem to be good together. Maybe that’s all there is to it.”

“You really think so?” She propped herself up on her elbows, peering at me curiously.

“I do.” I said, and I meant it. “As long as they’re happy.”

“Then what do I do now?” Lucy began stressing. “I ran out on him--literally. I don’t know if I can even go back and face him like this. And things are...weird between us right now.”

“OK.” I began. “I don’t know what you’re feeling exactly, or how Noah feels either, but I’ve met him, and he obviously wants to be close to you, liked before. Maybe…” I hesitated. “...Maybe it’s time to let that happen.”

More silence, only longer than before. As per usual, my thoughts began racing into a panic again, convincing me that I had read this wrong, that Lucy was going to hate my advice, that she thought I wasn’t taking her feelings seriously enough.

“I think you’re right.”

“What?” I hoped I heard her correctly.

She sighed loudly, and ran a hand through her tangled hair. I held back the urge to take her hand in mine. “You’re right, Faith. I think...I think maybe I just need to start trusting him again.”

“That’s a good start.” I remarked.

“I know it might take some time, but…” Her lips curled. “...I really miss him too.” She turned to look at me.

“Thanks.” She said softly. “I don’t know what I would’ve done if you hadn’t helped me out.”

“Of course.” I replied immediately.

Our emotional confiding now done, she drew the covers back up to her chin and shivered. “It’s so cold outside. I nearly froze on the way over.”

“Do your parents not know you’re here?” I chuckled.

There was no answer.

I raised my eyebrows at her. She looked guilty now. “Uh...no?”

“You mean they have no idea where you are?” I sighed and crossed my arms. “Seriously?”

“I didn’t really have time…” She mumbled.

“Really?” I asked sarcastically.

“I told you I ran out! Things escalated!” She threw her hands in the air, looking so comically distraught, I cracked up. It didn’t take her long to join in, and we giggled as the wind pounded on the windows outside.

“OK, first things first.” I started, getting back to business. “You’re going to let your parents know you’re here. Text them, call them, I don’t care, as long as you get the word out.”

“But--”

“No ‘buts’!” I held up a hand. She closed her mouth, and pouted. “Fine.”

“Second, you’re going to tell Layla that you’re not dead.”

“Why would she--”

“Because she’s been on the group chat like crazy, trying to look out for you.” I held up my phone as proof. I had turned it off earlier, not wanting unanswered messages getting in the way, and now the lock screen was filled with new notifications.

“She’s even texting me now, and that is not a position I want to be in.”

“Oh, c’mon. I’m sure she’s not that bad--” Lucy began.

“Oh, no?” I unlocked my phone and went to my texts.

I cleared my throat before beginning: “Just wanted to make sure Lucy’s fine, and she’s not lying in a ditch somewhere. That would be really shitty.” I swiped down. “Faith, just tell me if Lucy’s with you, and I’m sure she is, since you guys are never far apart, and if she’s fine.” I swiped down even further, Lucy’s face becoming increasingly discomforted. “Oh, she starts getting more concerned here. Shall I read it?”

“Uh, no, that’s probably alright--” Lucy started hastily.

Listen here, you little emo,” I read loudly. “I don’t care if I have to get my hands dirty, but if you’ve done anything at all to my BFF, I will hunt you down and tear you apart piece by piece until you talk, or--”

“OK, OK!” Lucy held up her hands desperately. “I get it. I’ll let her know. She can be a little overprotective.”

I raised my eyebrows at her again.

“OK, a lot.” She confessed. “But ever since the party, she’s been constantly keeping tabs on me, making sure I don’t go anywhere without telling anyone first.” She shrugged, a little sadly. “I think she feels really guilty about that.”

I could sympathize with that. “Then make her feel better by telling her you’re OK. It’ll calm her down, for at least a while.” I shook my head exasperatingly. “That girl has no chill whatsoever.”

“Oh, and she’s the only one?” Lucy teased.

“Shut up.”

“Or what?”

“Or I’ll make you get off my bed.”

“You wouldn’t.”

I yanked on the covers hard, and she lost her balance, yelping as she fell onto her back.

“Lucy!” But we were both laughing. “Get off my bed!”

“No! You can’t separate us!” She hugged one of my pillows to her chest as I tried to pull her away to no avail.

“Get off!”

“OK, I didn’t want to have to do this, but I think I’m in love. How many pillows could one bedspread hold?”

“...Did you seriously just parody The Little Mermaid about my bed?”

“You can’t fake pure genius!”

“Yeah, which is why I’m wondering how you managed it.”

“...I resent that!

“Would you get off my bed already?” I tried latching onto her legs and tugging her like that, but she was surprisingly heavy for someone not much taller than myself.

I face-palmed as she snuggled deeper into my blankets in response. “Fine. I’m going downstairs. It’s almost dinnertime.”

“It’s like, 4:00.” She mumbled into the bedsheets.

“Whatever. If you don’t get up, I’m gonna lock you in here.”

“Go ahead.” She said defiantly. “Maybe I’ll just take a nap.”

“Suit yourself.” I sighed, pushing up from the frame.

“Hey, Faith?” Her voice was a little muted from the thick blankets.

“Yeah?” I looked down at her.

She pushed herself up, rolling over to look me straight in the eye. “Thank you.”

Her green eyes shone with a new light, a small but genuine smile spreading across her face.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

I wanted to kiss her more badly than I ever had in that moment, and it took every inch of willpower I had not to follow through with it. But now was not the right time. She was still vulnerable right now, and I would never take advantage of that.

I settled on smiling back at her instead, even though in my head and in my heart I wished for more. I want you. I need you. I would take away all your problems if I could.

“Anytime, Lucy.”

I wish I could tell you the real reason I came to Laken March. I wish I could tell you so much more.

Lucy beamed at me, and my poor heart ached inside my chest; desperate, hurting.

Melancholy.

Anytime.”

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