The girls silently returned to Riley’s bedroom after Lucas’ impassioned lecture and instructions. The rest of the apartment was dark, indicating that the rest of the Matthews’ family had retired to their beds. The silence continued as they moved around each other in the moonlight, finding their pajamas and taking care of other personal needs before pulling the blankets off of the bed to sit facing each other in the window seat. Lucas was right – this conversation was too important to have anywhere else.
Riley looked at her best friend, her expression woebegone and guilty. Maya returned the look stoically for a moment, before huffing exasperatedly as the words came tumbling out.
“Riles, why? Why would you lie to me like that?”
“Because you’re the best person I know, and so is he, and I want the best for you–and him.”
Maya lost her breath at the calm and final note in Riley’s voice and her unhesitating answer.
“There are so many things that I want to address with that answer, but we’re going to have to come back to that.” She finally said tightly. “If you have anything else to say to elaborate on that particular train of reasoning before I completely derail it, now would be a good time to speak or forever hold your peace.”
Riley’s eyes widened at the underlying anger in the blonde’s voice, and she shook her head frantically.
“Okay.” Maya took a deep breath, composing her thoughts–and her temper. “Riley, I love you. You are my sister, my best friend, and my other half, and that will never change. However. You need to stop. Stop putting everyone else’s happiness–even mine–in front of your own! You can’t go around arbitrarily making decisions that involve and affect those around you. Like blurting out that I liked Lucas, and then nearly in the same breath lying to his face and telling him that you loved him like a brother!” She really wanted to get up and pace, but refrained, barely.
“But Maya, if I hadn’t then there would’ve always been that possibility of ‘what if’ between you two.” Riley protested. “You can’t deny that there’s a spark. Our class saw it. I saw it too, in Texas and tonight when you two were talking on the roof. And you stepped back–”
“Stop!” Maya interrupted fiercely. “Just stop right there.”
Riley shut her mouth with a snap.
“Listen to me very closely, because I’m going to say this once, and that’s going to be the end of it.” Maya leaned forward to pull Riley close until they were eye to eye, even in the darkness.
“I like Lucas. He’s a good guy. But that first day on the subway? I didn’t step back from him. You can’t step back from someone who was never interested in the first place, Riley.” She paused, waiting for her friend to get it. “He was sneaking glances at you the whole time, not me.”
“No he wasn’t.” Riley denied automatically. She could still remember that day, bright in her mind. Chattering happily away about becoming a rebel ‘chick’ for riding on the subway without her parents, proudly slicking her lips for the first time with kiwi flavored tinted lip gloss, feeling a bit more grown up next to her impossibly cool best friend. She had noticed that Maya’s gaze had slid behind her a few times, bright with interest and mischief, and was about to ask what was so interesting when the blonde pointed out the cute guy sitting in the corner. Riley had turned around to see him already looking back, as if waiting for her specifically to look around. His eyes – blue-green, like sea glass – crinkled at the corners as he smiled at her. She had immediately whirled around, convinced that it was mere coincidence and he was really looking at Maya, but her heart still fluttered with her wishful thinking. Maya had sauntered over to talk to him, and Riley had settled back with a sigh to watch her friend work, but she had returned almost immediately, and sent Riley flying straight into his arms instead.
“Honey, even when I went over there, I could tell he wasn’t interested in me. I was the crazy New York chick, going up and flirting with random strange guys. You were the incredibly adorable little brunette that fell into his lap, twice.”
“Riles. Think about it. If he wasn’t interested, then he would’ve caught you and sat you in the seat next to him, not held you on his lap. Or he would’ve given up his seat and moved over–or used the opportunity to come over and talk to me instead.” Maya pointed out quietly. “And that was only the first meeting. There have been plenty of moments where he could’ve just walked away. Like with Missy Bradford. The most notoriously popular girl in the school hits on him his first month here, and he turns her down to hang out with you. Not me and Farkle.”
She was wavering; Maya could see it. But she shook her head, lips compressed in a stubborn line. “But you like him.”
It wasn’t a question.
Maya sighed, resigned. “Of course I like him, Riles.”
“And he likes you. He called you beautiful. He wants you to be happy. And something happened between you in Texas.” Riley stated stubbornly.
Maya closed her eyes, not answering right away. They were talking in circles, and she was starting to realize that there was nothing she could say that would change Riley’s mind about pushing her and Lucas together. And, if she was being perfectly honest with herself, safe in the darkness, a small part of her was okay with that. There had been a spark of -something- between them, in that moment by the campfire, under the stars. Riley had been shoving them together since they had returned from Texas. What was the harm in going along with it, just for a little bit? Just to see what would happen.
“You’re right. Something did happen.” She admitted neutrally.
They fell silent, sitting less than a foot across from each other but feeling miles away. When Maya spoke again, it was a mere whisper in the darkness.
“So what happens now?”
Maya sighed, scooting closer and pulling the younger girl into a hug before resting her head on her favorite spot on Riley’s shoulder. “I guess we go and have a conversation with Lucas tomorrow.”
Both girls slept fitfully that night. Cory and Topanga exchanged a look at the two rumbled, grumpily quiet girls that stomped into the kitchen for breakfast, but mercifully didn’t ask questions. That look was the one of parents the world over, asking without words whether they should poke the sleeping teenagers or let teenage drama lie.
“New Year’s Day. National holiday. I’m on vacation. I am not imparting any lessons today. It will keep until we go back to school on Monday.” Cory hissed to his wife.
Topanga rolled her eyes but nodded agreement, and kept the silence – and peace – for the moment. She had a couple of other ideas in mind, but that meant a few phone calls first.
Maya escaped soon after breakfast, giving off the excuse that there was no one home with her grandma, and Riley disappeared back into her room immediately after. Unbeknownst to her, Maya did indeed go home briefly, but only long enough to shower and change her clothes before picking up her phone.
“What’s up, kiddo?”
Maya’s heart leapt at the familiar greeting and rumble of Shawn’s voice, tinny and static though it was over the phone.
“Shawn? Where are you?”
“Stuck in traffic, but on my way to pop in and surprise everyone before I have to really leave.” He replied distractedly. She could hear car horns and the sounds of faint cursing and yelling in the background.
“You’ve got awesome timing then, because I have a bit of a problem that needs your…unique perspective.”
On the other end, Shawn’s focus sharpened at the pensive tone in the girl’s voice. He and Maya had had a quite a few conversations that had covered a plethora of topics. Recently though, she had been very interested in his adventures as a teen, especially those that involved Cory and Topanga (which admittedly, were most of them). He had enjoyed sharing them with her, figuring that she could both learn from his mishaps and enjoy the possibility of future material to tease Cory with.
“I’ll be in the neighborhood in twenty minutes.” He said. “Do I need to pick up bail money? Cuz I still haven’t recovered from our shopping spree.”
She laughed, the sound light and carefree and making him smile in response.
“No, no bail money. No schemes. I just…need you to listen.”
“Anytime I can.” he replied warmly. “Go grab us a table at Topanga’s.”
“Thanks, Shawn.” She said quietly, and hung up.
No fool, Shawn had immediately called Topanga to get the inside scoop.
“Forewarned is forearmed, especially when it comes to teenage girls. I may not be a dad, but I’m not stupid,” he scoffed when she had teased him. “And I’ve got about ten minutes until I actually see her, so spill.”
Topanga sighed, growing serious. “The short version? It’s you, me, and Cory all over again. The best friend and the potential boyfriend, and how to balance the three. And the confused teenage feelings between the best friend and the boyfriend before they figure out where they fit in her life.” She paused. “I’m glad Maya called you, actually; she beat me to the punch. I was about to divide and conquer – send you to Maya, while I have a little talk with Lucas. I have a feeling that we could provide some unique clarity to the situation. Which would be fantastic – I’m choking on all the teen angst right now. Were we really this dramatic in junior high and high school?”
“They could’ve created a television show around our lives, with all the drama we created. Especially around the love triangle that wasn’t a triangle.” Shawn grinned. “Despite all the rumors that went around in high school and college.”
“High school? They started in junior high. You weren’t considered a stud just because of the flippy hair and smoldering looks, you know.” She snorted. “You still haven’t ever told Cory that you were my first kiss, have you?”
“Heck no! He’d go all Cory Matthews and make us go on another date.” Shawn mock shuddered. “That kiss, by the way, is still the worse of my career. Blech.”
“Glad to know I hold such a special place in your heart and life.” Topanga replied dryly. “Love you, Shawnie.”
“Love you too, ‘Panga.”
He laughed and hung up, turning his attention to the conversation ahead.