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Magic, Madness (Heaven, Sin)

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It should be illegal to be that cute, Hope thinks. Part of her feels angry -- maybe it’s not anger as much as jealousy, but anger is the feeling that makes the most sense so that’s where she’s at right now -- when she watches Amy fail at something so completely and disastrously.

Just look at her. It’s cringe-worthy (really, Hope just visibly cringed) watching Amy trying to flirt with Ryan. Not as sharp as your chin? What the fuck does that even mean? She feels embarrassed on Amy’s behalf, but like, she can’t turn away.

It’s like watching a car crash. She’s horrified and she can’t look away.

And she can’t stop looking because it’s Amy. If it were anyone else, Hope would have absolutely no interest whatsoever. As it is, she’s staring, but it doesn’t matter, because nobody notices. It doesn’t matter because Amy never notices.

Amy, with her cute collared shirts and her dorky smile and her perfect fucking GPA. Yeah, it should be illegal to be that cute, Hope thinks. And it should be illegal that she cares.

Because she doesn’t care. Not about this place. Not about these people. They’re placeholders, temporary people in a life where she’s just passing time until she can see the world. She’s always hated this school. Always hated LA. Ever since she moved here when she was fourteen, a result of her parents divorce. Even at that age she could see the truth about this place, and the truth was that it sucked.

It was just fake. Everything here was fake. Fake smiles, fake tans, fake personalities. Fake confidence.

Hope frowns as she watches Amy beeline back to Molly and their loser table on the outskirts of the quad. Even Molly is fake. Acting like she’s better than the rest of them, as if they all can’t see her giant, pathetic crush on Nick.

Hope doesn’t know how Amy puts up with her, really. But Amy isn’t like the rest, and maybe that’s why Hope cares. Amy isn’t fake. Amy is unabashedly awkward, unashamedly dorky, unrelentingly nice, even when everyone else is mean. They make fun of her and she shrugs it off. She stands up for what she believes in, even if it takes a bit of pushing. Like in 10th grade when she heard a freshman was being bullied for being gay so she came out. Like Junior year when those bathroom bills were the talk of the news, so she petitioned the student council for that gender-neutral bathroom.

Hope respects that, thinks Amy could really be something -- someone -- if she put herself out there, grew a bit of a backbone. Amy would be unstoppable.

Maybe nobody else notices that, but Hope does.

The only problem is that for as much as Hope notices Amy, Amy never notices her.

//

It’s not a crush, exactly. It’s more like a passive interest.

She knows it’s never gonna happen. When (and why) would it? They’ve never hung outside of school and any attempts she’s made at flirting have gone completely over Amy’s head.

So Hope watches and she admires and she thirsts, just a little, because Amy is so fucking cute and Hope isn’t immune to it.

It’s thrilling, really. The idea of being with Amy in that way. Imagine being the object of Amy’s affections, her intense passion. It’s appealing, if only because Hope would love to show her off, would love to see the surprise on everyone’s faces if they ever saw them together. It’s like a secret fantasy, one she’d never tell anyone, the idea of slinging her arm over Amy’s shoulders, of trapping Amy between her body and a wall, Amy’s cute, little, dorky, perfect smile turned in her direction.

It’s just a thought, though, a fantasy to pass the time until they all leave this place for their new lives and fancy colleges.

Hope’s never cared about any of that. She always just wanted to see the world.

//

The party’s boring. Same boring drinking games, same idiotic people. There’s only so much of Theo and Tanner’s moronic bullshit she can take, and by this time in the year, she’s pretty tapped out.

She knows it’s a cliche, the whole smoke-a-cigarette-in-the-bathroom-and-have-an-existential-crisis-about-how-it’s-all-a-bunch-of-fake-BS thing, but it’s kind of her brand and what else is she gonna do? Sing karaoke? Yeah fucking right.

The door opens and Hope watches as Amy nearly stumbles in, slamming the door behind her. She’s soaking wet and crying, breathing sharp and quick as she clutches at the counter.

Huh. Well this is a new development, she thinks.

Suddenly things just got a lot more interesting.

//

“Why are you so cruel?”

It’s a good question, Hope thinks. “I just don’t like meek people.” It’s why she likes Amy. Amy isn’t meek, but Molly makes her shrink herself and that’s the part Hope doesn’t like. Push Amy to the edge and Amy is a cannon, a goddamn force of nature. And it’s oh so tempting to see just how far Hope can push. “You’re like Molly’s little sidekick bitch.”

“Well, you’re just a basic hot girl who’s gonna peak in high school.”

It’s so satisfying, Amy’s face in that moment. Hope expected it, for Amy to push back. What she didn’t expect was Amy surging up on her tiptoes and pressing their lips together.

Whoa. It’s all she can think as she pulls back, her hand pressing more firmly against the wall in surprise. She can feel the ghost of a laugh in her throat as Amy stares at her, intense and wanting.

Then Amy’s kissing her again and she can’t breathe. She has to crane her neck lower, but it’s worth it, the little exhale of breath against her lips when she deepens the kiss. Amy’s fingers come out to grip at her jacket and Hope feels a thrill of anticipation and pleasure behind her ribcage.

She likes how when she pushes, Amy pushes back.

//

It’s almost painfully obvious that Amy hasn’t done this before. From their awkward migration to the floor and Amy’s shaky fingers as she takes off Hope’s shirt to the way her eyes bulge as they stare at Hope’s boobs.

But God, if that doesn’t make it better, the surge of bravery on Amy’s face as she goes for it anyway. Hope desperately wants to pull Amy closer, to grab her firmly by the neck and show Amy what they could really be like, but she holds herself back.

If Amy wants to be in control, if she has something to prove, then Hope doesn’t mind.

“Um.” Amy leans back, pulling air into her lungs.

“You okay?”

“Yeah,” Amy exhales. “Sorry, I just got a little dizzy there.”

Hope searches Amy’s eyes. “We can stop if you want.”

“No,” Amy rushes out, her gaze flicking from Hope’s eyes to her boobs. “We are not stopping.”

Hope has to laugh. At how cute Amy is. At her eagerness. “Okay.” She leans back on the floor, waiting for Amy to take charge again, and unbuttons her jeans. Amy tugs at her shoelaces, pulling off Hope’s shoes in a hurry. Hope watches, fascinated.

This isn’t the passive Amy that follows Molly around like a loyal puppy. This Amy is a go-getter, someone who won’t let anything stand in the way of what she wants. And for some reason what she wants right now is Hope, so Hope is content to sit back and let Amy power through.

Amy finally gets her shoes off and tugs at her jeans, but they’re tight against her skin and when she finally manages to pull them off, her tiny body goes flying backward.

Hope snorts out a laugh. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah!” Amy crawls back over, a girl on a mission.

It should be illegal, how cute Amy is. Hope bites her lip as Amy’s fingers grip her underwear and slide down her legs. Amy stares at her for the briefest of seconds, then looks upward to the sky, like she’s wondering if this moment is really happening.

Hope knows the feeling, but she can’t take her eyes off Amy’s face. She’s drunk, from alcohol, yeah, but also from the millions of emotions that flit across Amy’s face in the span of three seconds. Hope can’t drink them in quick enough.

“I… should probably take off mine, too,” Amy says, as if she was going down a checklist of things she’s supposed to do when you have a half-naked girl in front of you. Hope wouldn’t be surprised if she actually had one of those and the thought makes her grin.

“Yeah,” she teases.

Then it’s like her fantasy come to life, Amy tugging her own underwear off and flinging them behind her on the bathroom floor. She pulls at her sparkly blue dress, one Hope’s never seen her wear. Hope likes Amy’s style, thinks it’s adorable in that dorky-gay-girl way, but she likes the dress, too. It makes Amy’s eyes pop.

“That’s a nice dress,” she says, and she means it, perhaps the first sincere compliment she’s ever given to Amy.

Amy’s muffled voice comes from beneath the fabric as she pulls it over her head. “It’s all she had.” Hope pauses, her eyebrows furrowing. What? Who is she? Molly? Amy finally gets the dress over her head and smirks down at her. “Ms. Fine.”

It’s like a thousand fireworks in her stomach, this kind of flirting. Amy’s smug expression. Hope almost can’t take it. She laughs, leaning back on the floor and closing her eyes or the briefest second. “Oh my God. Of course.”

Amy grins and leans over her, coming closer. Hope softens as Amy’s eyes meet hers, nervous and eager. She brings her hand up as Amy kisses her and rests it on Amy’s shoulder. Amy’s skin is warm. She smells like Chlorine and alcohol and strawberries. They kiss for a moment, drunk and sloppy and inexperienced, before Amy pulls back again. Hope gets swept away in it, the way Amy looks at her.

People have always looked at her in a certain way. Like she’s a bitch. Like she’s hot. Like they want her, but just to say they had her.

Amy looks at her like she’s a difficult Calc problem, one she desperately wants to solve. It makes her stomach flip, the way this moment feels simultaneously serious but fun. Amy’s hands trail down her stomach and Hope represses a shiver as goosebumps prickle over her skin.

She takes a deep breath as Amy slides through her. Hope imagined this, once or twice before, but never like this, and never with the thought that it might actually happen. And when she did imagine it, it was always her pressing against Amy in a dark room. She was the one who would show Amy how it really felt to let go, she was the one making Amy speechless.

But now look at her. She had pushed and Amy had pushed back, and now Hope’s a helpless fool on the floor, weak and breathless as Amy touches her, slides between her, pushes inside --

Hope involuntarily grimaces.

“How… is that for you?”

This night really is getting interesting, isn’t it? She has no idea what to say in this situation, doesn’t want to to freak Amy out because after all this, she doesn’t want Amy to leave. But…

“Um. It’s okay.”

“Is there like… another way that you prefer or…?”

If the situation were any different, Hope would have turned to mush. How can Amy still be this cute? As it is, though, Hope doesn’t know what to do. “Um.” Amy’s staring at her so intensely, so expectantly, and Hope can’t bear it. She brings her hand up to Amy’s cheek, wanting to ease the next words out of her mouth but not knowing how. “I…” God. “I don’t think that’s the hole you think it is.”

Amy’s eyes widen and she slips out of Hope immediately. “Oh my God.”

“No, it’s okay!” Hope rushes out. Fuck fuck fuck.

“I’m so sorry!”

“It’s okay!” Hope repeats as Amy sits up, horrified. “It’s okay!”

Amy shakes her hands in the air, clenching her eyes shut. “I’m sorry! I’m not used to approaching it from that angle and my… my geometry was off.”

Hope goes impossibly soft. Fucking nerd. “It’s okay, seriously. Don’t worry about it.”

“I’m sorry,” Amy repeats. Her freckly face is unimaginably pink as she reaches for the nearest cup. Hope tries to tell her not to drink it because she put her cigarette out in it when they started making out, but she’s not quick enough and Amy downs the liquid inside.

Hope grimaces again, watching in horror as Amy freezes, disgust taking over her face. She pulls the cigarette butt from her mouth, gagging.

Hope has a bad feeling about this… “Are you… are you good?”

That’s when Amy throws up on her.

//

When the night first started, she had no idea it was going to go the way it did, but as she stands in the shower, hot water rushing over her, she has to laugh.

The immediate disgust and horror passed almost as soon as Amy ran from the bathroom, Hope shrieking at her to leave because what the fuck what the fuck!! Now, she just feels bewilderment.

She turns off the shower and steps back onto the bathroom tiles, searching for her clothes. She pulls them back on and goes to leave the bathroom, but she hesitates, seeing Amy’s underwear on the floor.

God.

She picks up the fabric, a soft and dark blue, and lets out an exasperated laugh.

What the fuck even is this night?

She shoves it into the pocket of her coat and steps out into the hallway. When she hears the sirens, she freezes, her eyes widening.

A group of people run down the hallway and she stares as Jared jogs past her, breathing heavily. “Shit shit shit. Gigi!”

“Jared, what the fuck is going on?”

“It’s Amy!” Jared calls over his shoulder. “She caused a diversion so we could get away! She’s a fucking hero!”

Hope’s brain short-circuits. What the fuck is he talking about?

She follows the crowd to the backyard yard and peaks over the fence where everyone is crowded. Her mouth drops as she watches two police officers put Amy in handcuffs.

“The prison system in this country is just legal slavery, you know!” Amy shouts as they tighten the cuffs. “Prisoners are people and they deserve the same rights as everyone else!”

“Oh my God, shut the fuck up. What is wrong with you…” Hope whispers to herself, but an impressed smile is pulling at her lips and she can’t stop it.

Hope watches in amazement as they lead Amy to the cop car, Amy yelling statistics at them the entire time, almost begging for the situation to get worse.

“SHOTGUN!” She calls, then laughs. “Just kidding. I don’t have one.”

Then she’s being pushed into the backseat of the car and Hope can’t believe it. She can’t fucking believe it. Who would’ve thought?

But Hope knew… she knew along, didn’t she?

Push Amy… and Amy pushes back.

//

Okay, so she knows she said that it should be illegal to be that cute, but she didn’t mean Amy should get arrested.

Like, Jesus, fuck.

Still, she thinks as the cops drive away to roaring applause from their classmates, she guesses Amy has always been an over-achiever.

//

She doesn’t expect Amy to show up to graduation after that, and when it’s apparent Molly isn’t coming either, Hope rolls her eyes. Those two really can’t do anything without each other, can they?

And now they have to suffer through Jared reading Molly’s speech. Hope would rather cut her ears off. She tunes out and pulls out her phone, but then there’s a crash from behind them.

She spins around in her seat, among the sea of heads turning to look, as Jared’s car busts through the chain-link fence and onto the field. It spins out on the track and Hope looks on in amazement at Molly and Amy through the windshield.

What the fuck?

Molly climbs out of the car and runs to the stage, but Hope can’t look away from Amy as she stumbles from the driver’s seat and follows Molly down the aisle of students.

“I’m gonna take my seat,” she hisses to Molly, but Molly drags her up on stage.

“Look who made it!” Molly yells, thrusting Amy’s hand in the air.

The entire senior class screams, shouts of “YEAH AMY!” and “QUEEN!!!!” heard over the applause. Amy smiles, her tiny, dorky, perfect smile, and Hope can’t help the laugh that bubbles up her throat. She drops her phone in her lap and claps along with everyone else as Amy fistbumps the air, letting out a loud “WOOO!” She thinks of Amy’s freckly blush, of her fingers on Hope’s skin. Of her underwear, in Hope’s room still hidden away in her jacket pocket.

It’s then that Hope realizes, with a rush of giddiness, but also sadness, because she knows Amy is leaving for Africa this week.

She would date the fuck out of that nerd.

What if she’s too late?

//

She’s not sure if she should go over there, but ultimately decides she can’t hold Amy’s underwear hostage forever. She gets Amy’s address from Jared and drives over, her knuckles white on the wheel the whole time. She’s not good at this stuff, and she desperately doesn’t want to be a bitch.

Amy’s dad answers the door, and he’s even dorkier than Amy, which somehow makes Hope less nervous. She leans against the side of the house while he goes to get her, fingers hooked around the handles of the plastic bag with Amy’s underwear.

The folded up piece of paper burns a hole in her pocket the whole time.

Finally Amy comes to the door, cautiously stepping out. She’s wearing her perfect smile and socks with Birkenstocks and it’s so fucking dorky Hope almost can’t take it, but her stomach swoops anyway. So that’s where she’s at right now.

“Hey,” Amy laughs quietly.

“Hey.” Hope holds the bag out and Amy grabs it. “I figured I’d bring back your clothes.”

“Oh,” Amy says, looking into the bag. “Thanks so much. Uh. I don’t… usually leave my underwear in places that… uh… aren’t… aren’t my room.”

It should be illegal -- okay, well, let’s just say it’s not fair, how cute Amy is. “Yeah. I figured.”

Amy nods, looking at her seriously. “Uh, so how… how are… are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Hope shrugs. She can handle a little vomit. She quirks her eyebrows in Amy’s direction, smirking. “Are you okay?”

Amy nods, putting on an air of fake casualness. “Uh, yeah. You know, prison kinda changes you, but…”

“Mmm,” Hope teases, laughing at Amy’s playful smile.

“But I’m fine.” Amy shakes her head with a grin. “Sorry… I just don’t really know what I’m doing with all that stuff yet.”

“Well,” Hope hesitates, wanting to word it right, wanting to show Amy she’s into her. But Hope’s not an idiot. She’s been a bitch and Amy’s leaving. She knows it’s a long shot. “For someone who has no idea what you’re doing… you kinda know what you’re doing.” She quirks her eyebrows, giving Amy a flirty smile.

Amy laughs, her face opening in surprise. “Uh… ah.” Amy looks away, overwhelmed. “That’s… cool. So…” Hope gets swept up in it. In Amy’s shy smile, her awkward blush as she searches for something to say. “How is… how’s your summer going?” Idiot… “I mean.. What are you doing for the summertime?”

She wants to tease Amy, but decides to spare her. For the sake of the conversation. “I think I’m gonna backpack around for a bit.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Where?”

Hope shakes her head, shrugging. “Honestly, anywhere I can find a couch to crash on. I just wanna see some stuff before college.”

She feels, for the first time, that Amy actually sees her in that moment, and it makes her stomach flip. Amy’s giving her this look, this invigorating, understanding look. “That’s really cool. Me too. That’s why I’m taking a gap year.”

“Yeah?” Hope wants to leave it like that. Doesn’t want to change the way Amy’s looking at her. She takes the piece of paper out her pocket and holds it between them. “Well, have fun nerd.”

Amy stares at the paper, confused, and hope quirks her eyebrows, giving her wrist a little flick. Amy takes it, looking at it in shock. Hope grins and gives her a last smile before walking away.

“Well,” Amy’s voice comes from behind her, rushed and breathless. “If you’re ever in Botswana, you have a couch to crash on.”

Hope looks back, surprised by such a smooth line making it out of Amy’s mouth without something lame ruining it. “Okay,” she laughs, feeling soft.

“Well, technically it won’t be my couch because I’ll be staying with a family, but I’m sure they’ll be cool with it!”

Yep, there it is.

//

213-555-6902

In case you want to try again as much as I do.

Chapter Text

                Unknown number: Hey it’s Amy. I’m gonna have this weird satellite phone thing in Botswana but I should have internet so I could still text you. I’d like that.

                Hope: Cool. Me too.

                Amy: Yeah?

                Hope: Yeah. That’s why i gave you my number nerd.

                Amy: Right yeah obviously. Just checking.

//

Hope empties her entire savings that her parents set up for her as a baby and adds it to all the money she got from graduation (a lot, thanks to her rich relatives), so her plans for the summer are pretty epic.

Triple A was accepted into some summer jumpstart program at Yale, so Hope hitches a ride with her to Connecticut.

“Now who needs roadside assistance,” Annabelle smirks at her, half hanging from the open car window when she firsts picks Hope up.

Hope just quirks an eyebrow at her. “I mean, if you’re offering, you know I’m down.”

She likes Annabelle enough. If Hope had “best friends”, then Annabelle would probably be one of them. They don’t gossip or have sleepovers that are more than a typical drunken overnight couch crash or anything, but sometimes they bitch to each other about how dumb all the dudes in their grade are.

Hope’s pretty sure she’s the only one who can call Annabelle Triple A to her face without it meaning anything other than teasing friendship, because it’s always been clear between them that they don’t give a fuck what the other does. She’s never judged Hope for being a bitch and vice versa. What Annabelle does in the back of a car is her business.

She throws her giant travel backpack (bought specifically for this summer) and her ukelele into the backseat of Annabelle’s car and slides in the front.

They haven’t been on the highway for five minutes before Annabelle’s popping her gum and grinning slyly at her across the middle console.

“Heard you hooked up at Nick’s party.”

“Did you?” Hope just lifts an eyebrow from behind her sunglasses.

“Yeah. Heard she threw up on you. Didn’t think you’d be that awful in bed, but I guess with a face like that you have to have some kind of flaw.”

Despite herself, Hope has to bite back a smile. “Ha ha.” She turns to look at Annabelle. “Heard you gave Molly Davidson a ride home.”

Annabelle rolls her eyes. “She was walking all pathetically right next to the fucking road. What was I gonna do? Leave her there to be the next victim for the Valley Strangler? I’m not a complete monster.”

“It’s cute that you have a heart.”

“It’s cute that Amy finally noticed you after all this time. Sucks about the vomit, though.”

Hope laughs. “Fuck off.”

Annabelle grins. “So you gonna stay in touch?”

“Dunno.” Hope looks out the window. “Africa’s pretty far.”

“It’s not far from Spain and you’re going there, right?”

“Botswana is like, completely on the opposite side of Africa, dude. Didn’t you take AP Geography or whatever.”

Annabelle rolls her eyes again. “That was AP Human Geography and that was Freshman year. Don’t be an ass. Get on a plane and see her.”

“Maybe.”

“Kay. Asshole.”

“Bitch.”

They both look at each other for a second, then burst out laughing. Hope sinks further into the seat, pushing her sunglasses up higher on her nose as Annabelle turns the music up.

Maybe they were never best friends and they never really will be, but Hope can’t say she won’t miss Annabelle.

They kinda just get each other.

//

It takes them a week to get across the country. They make stops along the way, using their fake IDs to get into a club in Vegas and a dispensary in Denver. They eat deep dish pizza in Chicago and cheesesteaks in Philly. They cross the desert and the mountains and the Mississippi River.

They visit the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio, both of them geeking out about music.

They have fun, just the two of them. Hope kinda wishes they’d been better friends in high school because they actually get along, in a biting, teasing kind of way.

They go a little out of their way to see Niagara Falls and it’s that night in the hotel that Hope really realizes maybe she should’ve tried this close friendship thing a while ago.

They’re both just chilling in the dark on their phones, already curled into bed, when Hope opens up her Snapchats for the day.

There’s a few stories -- Annabelle’s features them on the Maid of the Mist getting soaked under Niagara Falls, Nick’s is a bunch of Theo taking hits from his gravity bong, and George’s goes on about some dumb theatre shit from his Shakespeare in the Parking Lot or whatever that Hope doesn’t care about.

And then there’s Amy’s, not in a story but sent directly to her. The first one is a video, zooming in on a plate of pancakes and then on Molly’s face at some diner. The second one, a selfie at the airport, Amy flashing an awkward peace sign for the camera, the caption peace out Cali stamped across the middle.

And the last one, strangely soft, bizarrely smooth. It must’ve been sent from the plane’s WiFi, the picture of LA from the air among a bunch of clouds, taken through the tiny plane window.

Pretty, the caption says. But not as pretty as you.

It’s cheesy and it’s lame and it should not make Hope as weak as it does, especially considering Amy could never pull off any similar kind of flirting in person, but Hope can feel herself smiling into the pillow.

“Amy just sext you or something?”

Hope flinches, embarrassed at being caught. She locks her phone so the light’s not on her face and she can disappear into the darkness. “Saw a funny meme.”

“Sure, Jan.” Annabelle snorts. “I see you melting like some girl in a rom-com.”

“Fuck off, Trip.”

“Do not shorten that nickname to Trip, Jesus Fuck.” Annabelle’s scowl is visible even by the pale blue light of her phone. “And you know what, I think it’s cool. She may be a total loser and you might be a complete bitch, but I think it’s nice.”

Hope furrows her eyebrows, frowning. “You do?” She asks after a second.

“Yeah, it’s cute.”

“Ew,” Hope grimaces.

Annabelle laughs. “Please. Like you don’t think Amy is the cutest little nerd on the planet.”

“Yeah,” Hope drawls. “I mean, like in a dorky, annoying way. But we’re not cute. We’re not even a thing.”

“Yeah, but you want to be.”

There’s a biting response on the tip of her tongue and she swallows it back because, well, Annabelle’s being cool about it, and it’s not like it matters what people think anymore. Not that it ever did, but now especially. Hope sighs into the darkness. “I guess.”

Annabelle’s phone light clicks off too and then they’re really in the dark. It’s quiet, just the hum of the AC going in the background.

“Do you think she likes you?” Annabelle asks eventually.

Hope shrugs. “Not sure. I mean, up until a few days ago, I’m pretty sure she didn’t even notice anyone other than Molly and Ryan so.”

“But you guys hooked up.”

“Kinda.” Hope could go into all the embarrassing details, but… nah. “I mean, I gave her my number, and we’ve flirted a little bit, but like. Who knows if she’s actually into me or she’s just into the idea of a girl finally noticing her.”

Annabelle hums thoughtfully. “Well, if that’s true, then she’s an idiot. Like, I know she’s smart and all, but girl is fucking dumb. She really didn’t notice Ryan and Nick flirting like this whole year?”

Hope chuckles. “I mean, you see what you wanna see, I guess.”

“Really? Because I didn’t want to see you staring at the back of her head in Ms. Fine’s the past year, and I saw that.”

“I hate you so much right now.”

Annabelle laughs mercilessly. “Remember when she gave that report on Wuthering Heights? I’ve never seen you so interested. Oh, except that time Ms. Fine wore that dark green flannel? Wow, you’re so fucking gay, babe.”

“Okay, you know what.” Hope takes the spare pillow off her bed and flings it onto Annabelle’s. She feels the pinch of satisfaction when Annabelle squeaks as it hits her in the face. Annabelle grunts and then the pillow smacks back into Hope’s stomach.

They both giggle into the darkness, tired from their trip and giddy from the rush of the summer.

“You know,” Annabelle says. “It’s totally lame and stupid, but I’m kinda gonna miss you next year when you’re at USC.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Hope smiles into her pillow. “I’ll miss you, too.” She pauses, then -- “Even if you’re a bitch.”

“Asshole.”

//

Hope’s always wanted to travel. To read and take pictures and make music in places she doesn’t call home. The idea of blindly going about her life and doing what she’s supposed to do, of following some kind of path that’s set out for every person their age, had never appealed to her, and now that it’s time to start walking it, she hates it even more.

She’s supposed to be going to USC in the fall, but the thought makes her stomach churn uneasily.

College. It’s what everyone hasn’t stopped talking about for the past two years. To be honest, Hope was never too interested in it. She knows it’s what you’re supposed to do, that you have to go to college to get a job to grow up and settle down and etc, etc.

But God if it doesn’t sound horrible. More classes with fake people, talking about fake bullshit ideas. All talk and no action.

It just… eats away at her.

She thought if she could travel, if she could see some stuff before being trapped somewhere for another four years, then she’d feel better. But she’s already a week into the trip and she just feels more anxiety about it.

She still has a whole summer abroad to feel more secure in the idea, but as her trip progresses, she’s starting to rethink that whole college business more and more.

//

She helps Annabelle move into her dorm and then hops on a bus to New York. She’s got a cousin there who lets her crash for a few days before she leaves town.

Hope falls in love with the city. Ironically, because it smells disgusting, New York is like a breath of fresh air. It’s fast and it’s big and nobody looks twice at her as she strides down the street, her giant backpack and her ukelele strapped over her back.

She tags along with her cousin and her cousin’s friends to a few bars. She sees a show at a tiny venue in the Village, some no-name indie guy whose voice kinda sucks but whose lyrics slither beneath Hope’s ribcage and leave her feeling some kind of way she can’t place.

She thinks of Annabelle at Yale and her classmates back home and herself, a tumbleweed rolling through the city.

Mostly, she thinks of Amy, and feels some kind of sense of longing to know just what Amy’s up to, if she made it to Botswana, if she’s liking it.

She pulls out her phone, Mr. No-Name crooning in the background while her fingers tap over the screen.

                 Hope: Hey. Just wanted to make sure you made it to Africa in one piece. I’ve seen lion snacks bigger than you, so just be careful out there.

She stares at her phone for a minute, willing Amy’s read notification to pop up, waiting for the three response dots to appear, but nothing happens.

She stuffs her phone back in her pocket and takes a sip of her beer, trying not to sulk. Amy has bad service, Hope reminds herself. She can only text if she’s got internet.

She doesn’t want to be like this, eager for Amy’s affection and attention. They’re not a thing and their disaster of a bathroom hookup wasn’t exactly mind-blowing.

But something about the way Amy looked at her under those shitty bathroom lights, the way she stared at Hope when Hope was returning her underwear...

People just don’t look at her like that, they never have, and Hope let it crawl under her skin, let it made her want things she probably can’t have, with a person who probably doesn’t really want her back.

It’s stupid, Hope thinks. This crush business. It always leaves you listening to shitty indie music and thinking about stuff you’d be better off leaving alone.

Still, Hope thinks and she remembers and she pines and she can’t stop.

After all these years, Amy finally noticed her, even if it was just for one moment, and now, Hope hates to admit it but it’s true, she just wants Amy’s attention more than ever.

//

Hope’s sitting in her concourse and waiting to board her plane when Amy finally texts back.

                Amy: Hi! From Botswana!!! Yes, I’m here and safe. It’s been so crazy. Turns out the internet connection is sporadic where I am, but so are the lions. How are you?

Hope lays her book face down on her lap and starts typing back immediately.

                Hope: I’m good. I’ve been with Annabelle lol. We drove from LA to New Haven.

                Amy: I saw your snaps. Chicago looked awesome. Where are you now???

                Hope: I’m in NYC, but I’m at JFK. I’m about to fly to Moscow.

                Amy: Moscow as in Russia?

                Hope: Yeah.

                Amy: Wow. That’s… wow. Be careful.

                Hope:    Aw. You nervous for me?

                Amy: They’re not exactly fans of the LGBTQ+ community…

                Amy: I mean… not to just assume you’re gay. Sorry. That was so forward of me? I don’t know how you identify.

                Amy: NOT that you have to tell me, either!! Sorry.

Hope snorts down at her phone, rolling her eyes. She goes to type back, but looks up from her phone when the ticket agent calls her group for boarding. Shit.

                Hope: … you’re wild. Anyway I’m glad you’re all good, but I have to go, we’re boarding. My dad’s paying for international service, so I’ll check back in when I get there.

                Amy: Travel safe!!

                Hope: Thanks. Bye.

                Hope: And I’m a lesbian, by the way. So don’t die of whatever anxiety you just spiraled into

//

She only stays in Moscow for two days. She crashes at a hostel, but she’s rarely there. She spends all her time exploring the banks of the Moskva and at the Red Square. She knows it’s touristy, not the type of culture she wants to experience as much, but she doesn’t know any words in Russian and she only has a little bit of time.

It’s enough. Even though the area is crawling with tourists and everything is overpriced, Hope gets swept up in it. The weather stays mild and warm and sunny, and if she’s not inside looking around, she sits on the banks of the river and plays her ukelele in the sun.

She spends her time admiring the architecture of the city and eating and drinking way too much.

For the first time since she moved to LA, she feels truly herself, a lighthearted, no-restrictions kind of freedom and she can’t stop smiling. She gets a stranger to take her picture in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral, the swirling spires in the background. The look on her face is almost foreign to her, but she likes it.

She sends the picture to Annabelle and Amy when she gets back to the hostel.

                 Annabelle: wtf is that thing on your face… oh wait… is that a smile? Damn who knew your mouth could even do that

                 Annabelle: real talk though that looks hella. Better than my summer so far anyway.

She attaches a picture of her reading some giant Poli-Sci book and Hope laughs.

Amy’s response is shorter, but it makes Hope’s stomach flip.

                 Amy: Wow. Gorgeous.

                 Hope: me or the building?

                 Amy: Both... but I meant you

//

From Moscow, she takes a train to St. Petersburg. From St. Petersburg, she moves on to Finland.

To Sweden, to Copenhagen. To Berlin to Prague to Vienna.

She goes to museum after museum, cathedral after cathedral. She bar hops and sits in city squares and parks. She people watches, plays her ukelele, takes pictures of absolutely everything.

She dips her toes in the Baltic Sea, drags her fingers along the Berlin Wall. She boats the canal in Copenhagen, drinks in the spires of Prague.

It’s perfect, every bit of it. Days spent taking in as much as possible, nights spent at clubs or catching up on sleep because she burnt herself out. Some nights she books a room at a hostel, but other times she meets people, friendly people and other travelers, and they offer her a couch for the night.

In Berlin, she goes to an open mic night and it’s there she meets a girl, probably twenty. They sit next to each other in a crammed booth after Hope gets off the stage, and she tells Hope, in Greek-accented English, that she sings like a bird. Hope thinks that’s funny, and weird, but she’s strangely into it. Hope isn’t going to Greece during her travels, but maybe this is close enough. They kiss against the exposed brick of the bar, the night the perfect blend of chill and warm.

She takes Hope back to her place, a nice condo she rents from an older German man, and they drink wine on her living room floor. When she slides her fingers over Hope’s cheek, down her neck, her arm, Hope shivers, and she thinks of the last time this happened to her.

The girl’s lips find purchase on her stomach as they undress, and Hope thinks of Amy.

She thinks of Amy’s fumbling fingers, not like the grace of this girl’s touch on her skin.

She thinks of Amy’s nerves, not like the confidence sweeping over this encounter from all sides.

She thinks of Amy’s perfect smile. Her tiny, dorky, adorable smile. She knows she shouldn’t. Knows it’s bad from any way you look at it, to imagine a different person when you’re with someone else, to think of someone who’s too far away and who probably doesn’t even think of you at all, but Hope can’t help it.

She’s living her dream with a strange and beautiful girl across the world from home, but she’s also not. She’s also back at Nick’s house, Amy’s fingers trembling as they slide through her, Amy’s ragged breath in her mouth.

Hope closes her eyes and the reality disappears. It’s just her and Amy in the bathroom, laughing as Amy struggles to undress her.

Hope shivers, a tongue licking through her, and wishes it was Amy’s, her perfect smile kissing Hope’s inner thighs. She comes thinking of Amy’s eyes, the way they looked at her the moment before they first kissed, intense and deep and challenging.

It’s perfect, and then she opens her eyes and it’s someone else. A stranger she’ll never see again. A stranger whose smile is gorgeous but thin, whose eyes are the blue of a shallow swimming pool.

Hope reciprocates in the only way she can -- quick and biting. The girl laughs and it’s deep and sexy and sends Hope spiraling.

She thinks of Amy’s clumsy flirting, her painful inexperience, her beautiful blush.

She’s 6,000 miles from home and 5,000 miles from Amy and still Amy hovers, ever-present in Hope’s imagination.

Afterward, the girl sleepily wanders off to her bed, extending an offer to Hope to join her, but Hope just shrugs. She makes a bed up on the couch and spends a restless night staring at the ceiling. Eventually she creeps out and hails a taxi. By the time the sun’s fully up, she’s already on a train to Prague, sound asleep as the scenery passes her by.

//

                Amy: Where are you now?

                Hope: On a train somewhere in Austria. Omw to Venice.

                Amy: I’m so jealous of everywhere you’ve been. It’s crazy how much you’re seeing.

                Hope: Lol I’ve saved up for years for this trip

                Amy: Is it weird traveling to all those places alone? I feel like I’d be too scared to do it by myself.

                Hope: No. I’ve always done stuff on my own. And the Amy who got arrested the night before graduation wouldn’t be too scared.

                Amy: Haha sometimes I think the Amy from that night is a stranger

                Hope: Really? Because I think that’s exactly the kind of person you are.

                Amy: A person who gets arrested? Wow thanks so much

                Hope: No. You’re the kind of person who pushes back.

                Amy: I think… being with you made me brave.

                Amy: You know what. I’m really sorry I said you were just a basic hot girl who was gonna peak in high school. You’re not basic.

                Hope: I was a bitch. I deserved it. I’m sorry I said you’re meek.

                Amy: You didn’t say I was meek. You just said you didn’t like meek people.

                Hope: Yeah. You’re not meek

                Hope: I think that’s why I like you

//

Italy is everything Hope dreamed it would be. She spends two weeks there, making her way down from Venice to Florence to Rome to Naples. She sees as much history and art as she can. Eats more food than she can bear. Drinks more wine than is healthy.

It’s the best two weeks of her life. There’s almost too much to do and Hope leaves the country heartbroken because she couldn’t see it all.

It reminds her of Amy, Italy. Cute and classic and smart. She gets a brief taste but then she has to leave, and all she can think of as she does is how much she wants more.

//

                 Hope: Do you miss home?

                 Amy: I miss certain people, but I don’t miss home. Do you?

                 Hope: No

                 Amy: Do you miss any certain people?

                 Hope: Lol. Are you fishing for me to say you

                 Amy: That would be extremely presumptuous considering we spent a total of like, one hour one on one

                 Hope: No I don’t miss anyone. And yeah, but it was an interesting hour

                 Amy: Interesting is definitely one word for it.

                 Hope: How is Botswana? Any hot girls there?

                 Amy: The women here are really strong and incredible, I can’t even begin to describe it. Some days are hard because it’s a lot different from the States, but most days are really good.

                 Hope: Tell me about it

                 Amy: Okay what do you want to know?

                 Hope: Everything

//

Some days she wakes up with her phone in her hand, having fallen asleep texting Amy. They text a little bit everyday if they can, and they’re always sending Snaps back and forth. Amy only doesn’t text her if she takes trips out of the city for her volunteer work, which she does a few days a week.

Back home, Hope would’ve hated how soft Amy makes her. She’s always smiling down at their messages, melting at Amy’s pictures. Here though, far from home and when Hope’s feeling as good as she’s ever felt, she doesn’t mind. She’s happy. She’s having the best summer of her entire life.

She may be a bit of a bitch, but that doesn’t mean she’s adverse to happiness. She’s not. And the more she talks to Amy, the happier she gets. The longer she spends away from California, the more alive she feels.

But her trip and the summer are over halfway done, and soon Hope will go back. She’ll be back in school, busy with class, and she and Amy will be in much different time zones, and the time and distance between them will grow.

The thought makes a thin dejection sizzle in her chest whenever she thinks about it.

And the more she thinks about it, the more she doesn’t want it.

//

From Naples she catches a flight back across to London.

London reminds her of New York. New York has a grittier energy to it, faster and diriter, but the big-city rush is the same. She becomes familiar with the Underground the way she did the subway. She sees the West End and Buckingham Palace, Parliament and Tower Bridge and the Thames.

She walks around Hyde Park, sits in the shade. She tries real English tea and hates it. She visits the British Museum and can’t see everything it has to offer because there’s not enough time.

London is a utopia for her lit-nerd heart. She walks across Millennium Bridge and sees a show at the Globe. She does a walking tour of the houses of famous English writers. She visits and has a drink at a pub Charles Dickens used to frequent.

It’s perfect and she drains her phone and camera batteries, taking picture after picture. She uploads them to her Insta, sends them to Amy and Annabelle.

On her last night, she’s packing up her bag and doing laundry at the hostel, when Amy texts her.

                Amy: Hi. Um, what are you up to?

                Hope: nothing just packing for Paris… what are you up to?

Two seconds later her phone rings, the caller ID registering some weird, long ass number. She stares at it, then blindly picks it up.

“Hello?”

“Hope?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s Amy.”

Hope blinks. She pulls the phone away from her face and gapes at it. Then she holds it back up to her ear. “You’re… calling me?”

“Yeah…? Is that okay? I mean, you gave me your number, so I thought… but I could hang up if this is a bad time…”

“No!” Hope rushes out, embarrassingly overeager. She takes a huge breath. “Sorry. I was just really surprised. I didn’t think you’d call. Or that you even could.”

Amy laughs, quiet and unassuming. “I’m on my weird satellite phone. It costs like four dollars a minute to use so I can’t really talk for that long.”

“Oh shit. Dude you don’t have to call me if you wanna save your money or call like, I dunno, your parents or your wife or something.”

“Oh my God, she’s not my wife.”

“Uh huh.”

Amy hesitates, then -- “I actually… I’ve been saving my prepaid minutes to call you.”

Hope’s heart does something weird in her chest. She sits down on her bed, kicking her backpack toward the wall so she has room. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

There’s a second of awkward silence that gives Hope the slightest anxiety because she doesn’t want to waste any of the aforementioned expensive minutes saying nothing. Finally, Amy laughs.

“This is kinda weird, right?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, like, we’ve never even talked on the phone before. We’ve hardly even talked at all.”

Hope grins. “Well, the first time we tried talking you threw up on me, and the second time we tried talking you could barely put a sentence together.”

“Okay, well.” Amy huffs into the phone. “Your face is extremely distracting, so like, the first time, yeah okay, that’s fair, but the second time… I’m valid.”

“Mhmm…”

“It’s just… ah…” Amy mumbles something incoherent. “I feel like you’re completely out of my league, so when you gave me your number, and the… the bathroom incident thing… they were just really surprising.”

Hope frowns. “I’m not out of your league, Ames. I think you got it backward.”

“I…” Amy stutters something. “What? No way.”

“Yeah, way. You’re like, so smart and driven and kind of badass.”

Amy gives a disbelieving laugh. “Getting arrested one time for underage drinking doesn’t make someone badass, Hope.”

“I didn’t even mean that. I meant like, going to Botswana on your own and standing up to all those people who called Annabelle Triple A. And coming out your sophomore year. That’s brave as hell.”

Amy pauses. “You think?”

“Yeah.” Hope lies back on her pillow, staring up at the ceiling. She shrugs, even though Amy can’t see her. “I, umm…” She takes lets out an anxious exhale. “I think I’m just lucky to have your attention at all.”

“Wow. That’s… Yeah. Umm.” She can almost imagine Amy’s cute smile. “Okay… So like… the Globe. What’s it like?”

Hope grins. “Is that really why you called me?”

“Tell me about Henry IV. I just need to know if they butchered Falstaff or what.”

They talk about Hope’s trip and Amy’s volunteer work and Botswana and books. Amy teases her about being a lit snob and Hope calls her a know-it-all. It’s almost like they’ve been friends for a long time, not the weird in-between they’ve been doing since Nick’s party.

When Hope finally looks at the time, they’ve been talking for thirty minutes and she flinches. “Hey, not to totally end this conversation, but like, I think you just spent over a hundred dollars on this call.”

“Oh. Fuck.” Amy laughs. “Well. I guess I just won’t call my mom for another week.”

“Do you have Venmo? I’ll send you half.”

“No!” Amy rushes out. “It’s cool. I got it.”

Hope smirks. “Wow. Expensive first date.”

Amy murmurs something, clearly floundering on the other side of the call. “I… Well. Date? I mean.”

“Chill. Kidding.”

“Right.” Amy chuckles. “You’re… kidding. I mean, obviously.”

“When we go on a date, you’ll know it.”

She can hear Amy exhale into the phone. “You wanna go on a date with me?”

Hope closes her eyes, her heart beating fast. “Yeah,” she says quietly. “You know, if you don’t get eaten by lions in Botswana or steal some girl’s heart while you’re there or whatever.”

“Me?” Amy scoffs. “You’re gonna be in some European city and some rich guy is gonna discover you as a model or something and you’ll never want to associate with a pleb like me again.”

“I don’t think I’m approachable enough for that.”

Amy hums thoughtfully. “Maybe. I mean your looks are pretty intimidating and you’re like twelve feet tall, so.”

Hope rolls her eyes. “I meant my resting bitch face, but thanks.”

“Where else are you going before you go home?”

“France, Spain, Morocco, and Egypt.”

Amy gasps. “You’re gonna be in Africa?”

“Northern Africa, yeah.”

There’s a long pause. “You should go to Cape Town. Everyone here who’s been says it’s gorgeous.”

Hope bites back her smile. “Right. And it has nothing to do with the fact that South Africa borders Botswana?”

“Ohhhhh does it? Wow, I had no idea.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Hope laughs.

“I’m just saying. The couch invitation is still open. My host family is super cool.”

An unfamiliar sensation of nervousness swoops into her stomach. “Do you… want me to come?”

“I mean, if you want to, yeah. Like. If it’s on the way. Well I guess it wouldn’t be on the way? But you know, if you uh… happened to come this way and thought, like, Botswana sounds cool, then…”

Hope snorts. “Mhmm…”

“Then that would be… nice.”

“Right.”

“Yeah.”

Hope twists her lips, brain going a hundred miles an hour. “I’ll think about it. I already booked my flight back home from Egypt, but maybe…”

“Maybe?”

“Yeah… maybe I can make it… make it happen.”

“Wow. Okay.”

She tries to slow her heart down, taking a deep breath. “I’ll let you know.”

“Okay. Great.” Amy chuckles quietly. “Then, I’ll talk to you soon.”

“Yeah, okay.”

“Goodnight, Hope.”

“Goodnight, Amy.”

They hang up and Hope rolls over on her stomach, tapping away at her phone.

                Hope: how lame would it be to completely change my trip and fly to fucking Botswana to see a girl who threw up on me when we were hooking up just because she asked me to?

                Annabelle: um lame AF and excessively gay

                Hope: i know… fml

               Annabelle: but you’re gonna do it

               Hope: yeah… i’m gonna do it

               Annabelle: go get the girl, asshole

               Hope: thanks bitch i will

//

She calls the airline while she’s on the Eurostar. They’re able to change her flight around for a small transfer fee and then she books one to Botswana from Egypt.

She texts Amy from the train station, right before she steps out into the Parisian sunlight.

                Hope: im coming to Botswana

                Amy: you’re coming to Botswana?!

                Hope: yeah… still okay?

                Amy: yes!!! When?

                Hope: week from tomorrow

                Amy: wow…

                Amy: you know i never really expected you to be a big gestures kind of girl

                Hope: for you? I can be any type of girl

                Amy: omg stop

                Hope: nah

                Amy: Hope

                Hope: yeah?

                Amy: I think… I like you more than I originally planned

                Hope: understatement of the century babe

//

Maybe it’s because she’s turning soft or because Paris is the so-called City of Love or just because Amy, but Hope’s swept up in an intoxicating rush of happiness.

She does all the touristy things, sees the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe. She goes to the Louvre and listens to the Lorde song and feels caught up in some kind of romance she could never even dream of imagining. She thinks about her life and comes to some conclusions she’s been avoiding, a certain kind of certainty that leaves her breathless.

She feels simultaneously so much unlike and like herself that she fears she’s a pendulum, swaying back and forth until she gets dizzy. Or maybe that’s just a side effect of all the pastries and wine she’s been drinking.

Or maybe it’s Amy on her mind.

Or maybe it’s just her, finally realizing who she is and what she wants and the kind of person she’s meant to be.

//

She makes her way down through France and into Spain. George got her into contact with his friends in Barcelona and she crashes on their couch for two nights. It’s another city to fall in love with, unimaginably gorgeous and full of art and music.

One night, she goes with George’s friends to a gay nightclub. They drink and dance and Hope is swept up in the freedom and the music. She laughs to the pulse of the flashing lights until she can’t breathe.

She slumps at a table by herself for a breather and pulls out her phone.

                Hope: omg I’m at a gay club with George’s friends in Barcelona

                Annabelle: you get unimaginably gayer every time i talk to you babe i swear to god

She sends a video of a rainbow flag to Amy, the disco lights flashing through the thin fabric.

                Wish you were here, she captions it, and doesn’t even care how lame she sounds.

//

From Barcelona she hits up Madrid. She splurges on some new clothes, vintage jackets and jeans that steal her heart, but she’s been to a million places this summer and has no souvenirs so she doesn’t even care.

She takes a train to the coast and a ferry into Morocco, effectively ending her European adventure.

Rabat is nothing like the European cities she visited and she loves it all the more for that. She spends her time there on the beach, relaxing and reading in the sun. The weather is dry and hot and she sweats through her clothes, but she doesn’t mind.

From Morocco she travels straight through Northern Africa. She’s pretty burnt out, exhausted in a way she’s never known, and she sleeps the whole trip. When she wakes up, she’s in Alexandria, Egypt, and it’s there that she falls in love.

//

                Hope: I’m sorry Ames, I can’t come to Botswana

                Amy: ??? what happened, are you okay?

                Hope: yeah, it’s just I’m at the Library of Alexandria and I’ve decided to never leave this place

                Amy: Lol… now who’s a nerd

                Hope: i’m in love!!!!!!!!

//

From Alexandria she goes to Cairo and Giza. She travels over the desert, visits the pyramids. She’s only there for one night and then she’s on a plane, nerves jangling in her chest as Gaborone comes into view out the window.

The plane lands with a jolt. Taxis to the gate. Hope deboards in a daze. She’s sweating, from the heat and from anticipation, as she moves through the airport.

And then --

Then her entire body nearly shuts down, because there’s Amy, standing with her hands in her pockets and scanning the crowd. She’s wearing a soft, white cotton t-shirt, cargo shorts, and her Birkenstocks, sans socks. Her hair is in a ponytail, her face especially red and freckly.

She bites her lip as Hope comes into view, offering her a shy smile and wave.

Hope nods her head as she walks up, breath shallow in her throat. “Hey,” she says.

“Hey.” Amy looks at her in disbelief, as if she thought Hope might not show. “You’re… you’re here.”

“I’m here.”

They stare at each other for a long moment. She doesn’t know what Amy’s thinking, but Hope’s thinking Amy might have somehow gotten cuter since they were last face to face.

Finally, Amy glances away, her cheeks red. “You seem different.”

“I grew.”

Amy laughs. “I don’t think I would notice if that were true. You’re already so much taller than me.”

Hope grins at that. “Think you got frecklier.”

“Yeah.” Amy smiles, her perfect, tiny, dorky smile. Hope’s heart flutters. “It’s the sun.”

“Mhmm…”

They smile at each other and Hope lives for the awkwardness, the way it flusters Amy. Finally Amy blows a strand of hair out of her face, shifting on her feet. Then she leans up on her tiptoes and Hope freezes, thinking Amy’s going to kiss her, right in the middle of this airport.

But then Amy’s arms wrap around her shoulders, squeezing tight. Hope’s breath stutters over itself and then she lets her own arms fall around Amy’s waist. She chuckles, briefly lifting Amy off her toes. Amy squeaks and Hope sets her down.

Amy beams at her when she pulls back, flirty and cute. “You ready to go then?”

Hope nods and Amy starts to walk away. Hope just stares, not sure if this experience is really happening. Then Amy looks back at her, raising her eyebrow teasingly.

She holds out her hand and Hope hesitantly takes it, amazed at Amy’s boldness, her bravery.

When Amy scrunches her nose in a smile, giving her hand a careful squeeze, Hope can barely breathe.

Chapter Text

Amy’s Host-Dad gives them a ride from the airport. After they get introduced, he asks Hope about her trip, so Hope spends the entire drive talking about the places she’s been.

She can feel Amy staring at her while she talks and when she quirks an eyebrow, a silent question in Amy’s direction, Amy doesn’t look away, just smiles her cute, toothy smile.

It’s different, Hope thinks, from their last encounters. Amy is still shy, still dorky and awkward, but there’s a new air of confidence layered between it all. It’s surprising and she can feel it turning back on her, turning her into the one getting flustered.

She looks away before she stumbles over her words.

Gaborone is no New York or London. It’s smaller, not quite as lavish and sleek, but it’s still a city. The last stop on Hope’s epic summer adventure and Amy’s home for the next almost-year. Hope watches it roll by as they drive, trying to take it all in.

Finally they get to their destination, a smaller home on the edge of the city. A young dark-skinned boy, maybe seven years old, is in the front, kicking at a soccerball. He lets out a yell as they pull up and kicks the ball at Amy when she gets out of the car. It hits Amy in the leg and goes rolling.

Amy’s Host-Dad says something to him in another language and he pouts back before turning to Amy. His eyes land on Hope and widen, his mouth falling open.

“Morongwa,” he whispers.

Amy snorts. “Fen. No.”

“Well, are you sure?

“I’m sure.” Hope looks between them in confusion. Amy rolls her eyes good-naturedly. “Hope, this is Fen, my Host-Brother. And Fen, this is Hope .”

Hope nods her head. “Uh. Hey.”

Fen squints his eyes at her. Then he looks back at Amy. “You can’t know for sure.”

“Yes, I can,” Amy says seriously. “Trust me.”

Fen gives Hope another last look. Then he shrugs and runs inside.

Amy sighs, shaking her head. She gives Hope an apologetic look. “He thinks every girl he sees is an angel. The girl down the street. His teacher. And he didn’t stop calling me that for like two weeks when I first got here.”

“Oh.” Hope bites back her smirk. “I mean, that’s understandable.”

Amy looks away, but Hope sees her smile anyway. “Um.”

“So you gonna show me inside or are we just gonna sweat out here?”

“Right! No, yeah. Of course.” Amy grabs Hope’s giant bag from the car, slinging it over her shoulders. It dwarfs her and Hope almost laughs, but Amy narrows her eyes, so she thinks better of it.

Amy gives her a tour of the small home, babbling on about random things and how her Host-Mom is a really good cook.

Finally, she hesitates outside a door in the hallway. “So…” She gives Hope an uneasy smile. “I know this is super awkward, but my Host-Dad says guests aren’t allowed to sleep on the couch. So you can sleep in my room and I’m gonna sleep out there.”

Hope smiles teasingly. “Aren’t you a guest, too?”

“No, I’m family. Apparently.”

Hope softens at that. “That’s sweet.”

“I know.” Amy laughs quietly. “They’re really great.” She clears her throat. “Anyway. So this is my room.”

She opens the door and Hope follows her inside. It’s small, just a bed and a small dresser occupying the space, but Amy’s made it her own. Hope looks around, taking in the pictures Amy’s pinned to the wall, her worn Converse chucked into the corner, her Mac on the floor near an outlet.

The tiny rainbow flag in a jar on the dresser.

Amy sets Hope’s backpack down and stuffs her hands in her pockets, looking around self-consciously.  “Um, so, yeah. I know it’s small, but it’s mine for the next year, and I’m not really here all the time, so.”

“I think it’s great,” Hope says. “It’s perfect.”

Amy’s face opens in surprise and she smiles. “You think so?”

“Yeah.” Hope shrugs “It fits you.”

They stare at each other, Amy’s eyes searching over Hope’s face. Hope feels that charge between them and she can’t help it. She looks at Amy’s lips and steps closer.

“Uhh-uh,” Amy stutters. She tilts her head back, looking up at Hope.

Anticipation grows in Hope’s chest and she leans forward, hunching down the slightest amount. Her eyes flutter closed, and she can feel Amy’s breath against her lips, and --

“AMY!”

Amy jumps backward, flinching, as Fen bursts into her room. Her face burns a pretty pink and Hope has to laugh. “Yeah, uhhhhhh, hey……………. dude.”

Fen grabs Amy’s hand, clearly avoiding meeting Hope’s eyes. “It’s time to eat.”

“Okay, cool, yeah, that’s great,” Amy mumbles out. She looks at Hope, flustered and embarrassed. “How about we knock next time, though, okay?”

“Okay,” Fen says. He tugs on Amy’s hand, finally looking at Hope. “You can come, too.”

“Are you sure?” Hope teases.

Amy gives her an exasperated look, but Fen nods. “Yeah.”

“Wow, thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

Hope laughs at Amy’s expression as Fen pulls her out of the room. She looks at Hope over her shoulder, face still burning, and Hope’s swept up in it.

She follows them out of the room, a certain kind of softness building in her chest.

//

Amy’s host family is as nice as Amy said. They spend dinner teasing Fen about random things and in conversation about her Host-Dad’s work.

Amy participates, vibrant and lively, but Hope mostly watches and listens. It’s nice, she thinks, that Amy has this so far from home.

After dinner, they’re excused to go catch up in Amy’s room. They change into pajamas and Hope falls onto Amy’s bed, exhausted and spent from her trip, both that day and the entire summer. She thinks she could sleep for a year.

Amy looks at her for a long moment, expression unreadable. “That shirt…”

Hope looks down at her shirt, one she bought at the Globe, basically her only souvenir. “Macbeth,” Hope says sleepily. “Something wicked this way comes.”

“Yeah,” Amy frowns. “I know. I just… think it’s so funny you got that. Because… well, it’s you.” Then Hope yawns and Amy laughs. “You wanna watch a movie?”

“Okay,” Hope agrees. Amy grabs her Mac from the floor, then hesitates. Hope scoots over in the bed, patting the space next to her. “Come on, then. It doesn’t have to mean anything. We can sit in a bed together.”

“Right, yeah.” Amy rolls her eyes at herself before tentatively settling next to Hope. Their elbows bump and Amy flinches. She takes a deep breath, avoiding Hope’s eyes. “Stop looking at me like that, you’re making me nervous.”

Hope chuckles. “Am I?”

“Yeah, you know what you’re doing, don’t pretend you don’t.”

Hope hums and tears her eyes away from Amy’s face and to the laptop. “So what are we watching?”

“Well, I brought exactly three DVDs with me, so your options, although fantastic, are unfortunately limited.”

“Mmm…” Hope teases. “And what are these fantastic options?”

Pride and Prejudice ,” Amy lists. “ Mulan . And Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Hope nods thoughtfully, putting on an air of seriously considering the movies. “Hmmm. Well those are all pretty good.”

“I know.”

“I’m gonna have to go with Pride and Prejudice .”

Amy blinks, turning to look at her more head-on. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Hope chuckles. “Why do you sound so surprised? It’s one of my favorite books.”

“I dunno.” Amy tucks her hair behind her ear as she pulls the movie up on the screen. “I just… it’s a little romantic. Doesn’t go with your whole…” She waves her hand in the air. “Persona.”

Hope raises her eyebrows. “Rude, Ames. I’m very romantic. I flew all the way here to see you, you know. And you’re the one who jumped me in a bathroom, if you remember. It was very lacking in romance.”

Amy nudges her with her shoulder. “Okay, must you always bring that up?”

“Uh, yeah? Always.”

Amy snorts. “Kay, well. Sorry. I just didn’t expect it, I guess.” She gives Hope a soft look. “Thanks for coming, by the way. It’s nice… to see a familiar face.”

“Yeah,” Hope says, her voice coming out quieter than she means it to. “Anytime.”

They smile at each other until Amy blushes and looks away. Reluctantly, Hope focuses her attention on the screen as the movie starts.

They’re a few minutes into it when she can feel Amy start to relax, sinking into the pillows and into Hope’s side. Feeling brave, Hope shifts, wriggling her arm from between them and wrapping it around Amy.

Amy’s whole body goes slack for the briefest of moments and Hope worries she was too bold, too assuming…

Then Amy exhales, her body slumping comfortably against Hope’s, her temple pressing into Hope’s shoulder. She reaches out, her fingers tangling with Hope’s other hand, and Hope feels a warmth spread through her whole body, a sleepy contentedness that she hasn’t ever felt.

She rubs circles into Amy’s arm and tries to watch the movie, but she’s feeling so happy and warm and tired that it’s all she can do to keep her eyes open.

Mr. Darcy hasn’t even made his first proposal by the time her chin presses to the top of Amy’s head, her nose in Amy’s hair and eyes fluttering shut. Two minutes later, she’s asleep.

//

A careful jostling coaxes Hope awake. Sleepily, she squints one of her eyes open.

It’s dark and the blankets of the bed have been wrapped around her, her face pressed into Amy’s pillow. She can barely make out Amy in the room, tentatively putting away her laptop. She tiptoes toward the door and Hope smiles.

“You’re not gonna say goodnight?” She rasps, her voice scratchy from sleep and much too soft in the darkness.

Amy audibly squeaks, her body jumping in the air. “Shit you scared me.”

Hope chuckles, slumping further into the bed. She’s already halfway back to unconsciousness, her eyes fluttering shut again. “Sorry.”

The floor creaks as Amy moves back toward the bed. “Um. Goodnight.”

“Night.”

Even with her eyes closed, she can feel Amy hovering. “Hope,” Amy whispers.

“Hmm?”

“I… Um. Ah.” Then lips carefully press to hers, there and then gone almost immediately. “Okay, goodnight.”

Hope slowly opens her eyes, but Amy’s already slipping out of the room, the door shutting quietly behind her.

//

Amy’s Host-Mom is making breakfast when Hope slouches into the kitchen the next morning. Amy and Fen are sitting at the table talking, but Amy freezes when Hope walks in.

“Morning,” Hope says, loving the immediate blush that spreads across Amy’s cheeks.

“Uh. Yeah. Morning. It’s morning. Good morning.” Amy winces at herself and Hope holds back a laugh.

Amy’s Host-Mom frowns at her. “Sweetie, are you ill?”

“Ill?” Amy chuckles nervously. “No, no, I’m fine.”

“You’re looking very red.” She squints. “Did you get a sunburn? This won’t do. I have something for you. Come.”

Amy turns an impossible shade redder. She looks between Hope and her Host-Mom helplessly, apparently decides it’s not worth the explanation, and follows her Host-Mom down the hall.

Hope plops next to Fen at the table, immediately getting persuaded into roleplaying car-race-explosion with him. When Amy finally comes back, she’s a shade paler, but when she sees Hope crash a toy car into the table, an explosion sound escaping her lips, her face flames again.

Hope thinks it may just be the most endearing thing she’s ever seen.

//

Amy spends the next few days showing Hope Gaborone. They drive a few hours out to the Game Reserve and explore a museum in the city. Amy gets her to try the local food and Hope shamelessly flirts with her, until Amy can’t take it and goes to the bathroom before she turns into a stuttering mess.

At night, they watch Amy’s DVDs or sit in companionable silence reading. Hope didn’t think that would be something they’d have in common. She knew Amy was a nerd, and Hope had always been comfortable reading by herself while the world passed her by, but she’d thought Amy would feel too awkward, especially since they haven’t spent that much time together. It’s nice, though, just sitting with Amy while she reads.

“What’s your actual favorite book?” Amy asks her on her second to last night there.

“Hmm?” Hope manages to tear her eyes from the page in front of her to see Amy looking at her curiously, her own book facedown on the bed in front of her.

“You said Pride and Prejudice was one of your favorite books. But what’s your actual favorite book?”

Hope hums in recognition. “Oh. Frankenstein . What’s yours?”

The Little Prince .”

Hope smirks. “I lowkey so thought you were gonna say Harry Potter .”

Amy scrunches her nose unhappily. “What’s wrong with Harry Potter ?”

“Nothing,” Hope shrugs. “Then we just would’ve gotten into a House debate and I would’ve had to explain for the thousandth time that I’m a Ravenclaw. People always just assume I’m in Slytherin.”

Amy’s mouth falls open. “People… always assume I’m a Hufflepuff.”

“You’re not?”

“No.” Amy glances away, giving a self-conscious shrug. “Pottermore put me in Gryffindor.”

“That checks out on my end, to be honest.” Hope leans her chin in her hand, admiring Amy’s profile. “You’ve got some nerve to you.”

Amy looks back at her and their eyes meet. Hope remembers the challenge in them the night of the party. The tension between them.

“Tell me about Frankenstein .”

Hope blinks, tearing herself out of the memory. “Uh. What about it? Didn’t you read it in AP?”

“Yeah. I mean.” Amy rolls her eyes at herself. “Why is it your favorite?”

“Oh.” Hope hums, thinking. “I just like that it’s relatable, I guess. I think we’re all kind of… forced to be something we’re not, whether that’s figuratively or literally in the Monster’s case. Maybe we all just want acceptance and when we find that people and the world aren’t what we hoped they would be, that makes us mad. Or at least it makes me mad, you know?”

Amy nods. “Yeah,” she murmurs, studying Hope thoughtfully.

“When I read it, I dunno, I was just going through stuff. And there’s this quote in it, I won’t ever forget. It’s like, ‘there’s something at work in my soul which I don’t understand’. I think that just… spoke to me in some way. Both in and out of the context of the book. I think I just like this idea of transformation and the complexities of understanding the self, both the innate self and the society-constructed self.”

Amy’s still staring at her and Hope shuts her mouth. For the first time in Amy’s presence, she feels a little self-conscious.

“Sorry,” she says. “That was like, totally pretentious, wasn’t it?”

Amy gives her a small smile. “Um, yeah, but I liked it. I haven’t really heard you talk that much. You’re kind of… complicated.”

Hope frowns. “Complicated?”

“Yeah. Not in a bad way, I mean. Just.” Amy shrugs. “I think… it’s exactly what you said. People are going to see and treat us in some way different than what we want. And maybe everyone just sees you as this… This basic hot bitch…” She blushes and Hope chuckles. “But maybe that’s because that’s what they wanted to see. Or maybe their attitude warped everything until you became that.”

“Or maybe I am just a basic hot bitch,” Hope teases.

“No, I don’t think so,” Amy says, a smile in her voice. “Okay, well, I don’t think that anymore, anyway, so don’t look at me like that.”

Hope laughs. “Maybe we can be more than one thing. Maybe I can be a basic hot bitch and a pretentious asshole at the same time.”

Amy scoffs, scrunching her nose. “No, I don’t think you’re either of those. I think you’re thoughtful. And nice. Maybe not always, but you are to me, so.”

“That’s because I like you.”

Amy freezes, her cheeks immediately splotching a dark red. She covers her face, laughing. “Ah. You. And… God. Hhhh.... You can’t just say things like that.”

Hope grins, laughter building in her chest. “Why not?”

“Because,” Amy whines. “It makes me want to kiss you.”

They both freeze, Amy’s eyes widening at herself. Hope’s throat turns dry.

“So kiss me, then,” she says. “What’s stopping you?”

Amy hesitates, her eyebrows furrowing in confusion. “I really don’t know.” Then she leans over and presses her lips against Hope’s.

It’s not the challenging, intense kiss from the bathroom, or the soft, embarrassed peck Amy gave her the other night. It’s somewhere in between, a little questioning, a little happy, a little curious. Tingles spread to Hope’s core, settling in her bones. She leans back as Amy moves more solidly on top of her, her tongue slipping between Hope’s lips.

Her hands come up to wrap around Amy’s neck, her thumb rubbing circles behind Amy’s ear. It’s invigorating, Amy’s trembly exhale, her shaky fingers crawling under Hope’s tank top.

At the party there had been an urgency, a desire to go quick and to not stop. But now Amy settles on top of her, presses their chests together, kisses her for a long time, until Hope has to pull away and open her eyes, dizziness swirling her around.

“Hope,” Amy murmurs, her smile pressing into Hope cheek.

“Yeah?” Hope almost can’t breathe, caught up in the way Amy says her name, the warmth of Amy’s body draped over hers. She exhales shakily when Amy meets her gaze head-on.

“Remember when you gave me your number?”

Hope nods. “Yeah. You asked me how my summer was going before summer had even started.”

Amy gives her a look. “Okay, well not that part.” Hope laughs and Amy continues. “You said… it was in case I wanted to try again as much as you do.”

“Oh.”

“Did you mean that?”

Hope’s whole body feels warm under Amy’s soft stare. She tucks a strand of Amy’s hair behind her ear. “Yeah. Of course I did.”

Amy smiles, just barely, and Hope feels it pang inside her chest. “Do you still want to try again?”

Hope hesitates. “You know that’s not the reason I came here, right? There’s no… expectations or anything. I just came here to see you.”

“I know.” Amy leans in. Presses a kiss to Hope’s chin. “I’m asking anyway. If you still want to.”

“I… yeah.” She shivers when Amy smiles, cute and perfect and so, so happy. “Yeah, I do.”

“Okay, me too.” Amy leans in again, an inch away. “I’ll uh, do better this time, I swear. I mean, I can’t do much worse, can I?” She laughs against Hope’s lips before kissing her again.

Hope can’t speak as Amy’s fingers trail over her, a careful exploration that leaves her breathless. Amy kisses her slowly, almost achingly so, and Hope couldn’t have imagined this in any of her fantasies, both pre and post-bathroom disaster.

She couldn’t have imagined Amy’s newfound confidence, the way her eyes rove over Hope’s naked body, drinking her in. She couldn’t have imagined Amy’s soft touch on her skin, her fingers reverent as they slide through her, building her up, coaxing her to a certain kind of agony.  She couldn’t have imagined how it feels when Amy’s finally inside her, touching her in all the right places.

Mostly, she couldn’t have imagined Amy’s face when Hope returns the favor, Amy shaking below her, her cheeks pink from exertion and kissing and warmth. Amy’s eyes stare into hers, trusting and soft, and Hope feels some kind of transformation within her -- something at work in her soul which she doesn’t understand. But she’s not afraid of it, and when Amy smiles at her, she smiles back, and she means it.

It’s not perfect, not smooth or lacking in its awkward moments. They still don’t know how the other moves, what the other likes. They’re still learning.

But there’s no vomit, so Hope guesses that’s all she can really ask for.

//

They spend Hope’s last day there just lounging around and doing nothing. Hope’s exhaustion from the summer has completely caught up to her and she’s too tired to do much but lay in Amy’s bed and read or think. Sometimes they makeout, but mostly they spend the time close together, wrapped up in each other and their own things. It’s nice, Hope thinks. Amy stole her Macbeth shirt and Hope likes the way she looks in it, absentmindedly smiling as she messes with something on her laptop.

At one point, Hope finds herself completely out of it, half-dozing and half-thinking. Amy had asked if she could play Hope’s ukelele and Hope had agreed, slumping back on Amy’s pillow and zoning out. She’s thinking of how later that night she’ll be on a plane back to California, back to reality. Except she thinks this summer has been her new reality, and the rest is just the fake BS she can’t stand.

She doesn’t want to go back. She keeps thinking of all the emotions she felt on this trip. Awe, surprise, happiness. None of it forced, none of it for show, for anybody’s benefit but her own.

She thinks California will swallow that up like a black hole, and she’s dreading it more than anything.

“Not to interrupt because you have a murderous look on your face, but I’m going to interrupt because you have a murderous look on your face…”

Hope chuckles at Amy’s impromptu song and Amy stops strumming, smiling over at her.

“Sorry,” Hope says. She lolls her head to the side, sighing. “I was just thinking about going home.”

Amy frowns in sympathy. “Not looking forward to it?”

Hope shrugs. “Not really.”

“Nervous for college?”

“Not exactly.”

Amy looks at her curiously. “I just realized I have absolutely no idea where you’re going.”

“I’m not.” It’s the first time she’s told anyone and it feels like someone poked a hole in the balloon in her chest, the one that had been growing so full of pressure all summer she thought it might burst. She feels a relief break over her as the balloon deflates.

Amy turns toward her more, giving Hope her full attention. “You’re not?”

“I mean,” Hope continues. “I was going to USC, but…”

“That’s a good school.” Amy gives her a curious look.

“Yeah,” Hope agrees. “I just don’t want to go.” Amy stares at her for a long moment, waiting, and Hope sighs. “I think the idea of college just feels fake to me. Like, I get that it’s not, and for some people, it’s an awesome thing. But I just... the thought of going makes my chest feel tight.”

Amy hums and Hope expects her to chime in with the usual stuff people say, about how it’s just nerves and once she goes, she’ll enjoy it and that college is the experience of a lifetime. But she doesn’t say any of that. “I think if you don’t want to go, then you shouldn’t go.”

Hope stares at her, trying not to gape. “You do?”

“Yeah.” Amy gives her a small smile. “I mean, I feel like college has kind of just become this ‘thing to do’,” she makes air-quotes, “but it’s definitely not for everyone. Even beyond the point of school not being for everyone because they’re not good at it. You can be good at school and still not feel like it’s the best place for you.”

“Is that why you took this gap year?” Hope asks.

“Maybe a little.” Amy tucks her hair behind her ear thoughtfully. “I think I just wanted to see what more there was. I think college is for me, but that doesn’t mean it had to be for me right away, I guess.”

Hope thinks about that. Decides maybe Amy kind of gets her. “Wow.”

Amy laughs quietly. She grabs Hope’s hand, tangling their fingers together. “So what are you gonna do instead?”

“I think…” Hope hesitates, then shrugs. “I’m gonna stay with my cousin in New York and try to figure it out. He offered me his couch for awhile and I don’t know what I really want, so. I guess I just want to travel and keep trying to find, ummm…” She chuckles at herself. “My most authentic self.”

“Now that was really pretentious.”

“Yeah.” Hope squeezes Amy’s hand. “So what are you gonna do with your life then? You have a ten-year plan, I’m sure of it.”

Amy shakes her head, grinning. “I actually don’t. Molly does, but it turns out my decision to come here threw a wrench in that, so. I messed it all up.”

“That’s the hottest thing you’ve ever said,” Hope teases.

“Shut up,” Amy laughs. “No, I just… I want to do something that makes a difference. See different parts of the world. Maybe I’ll look into one of those U.N. positions where you have to move every five years or something. That sounds kind of nice.”

“That sounds perfect to me,” Hope says.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Amy gives her a long look. “I know I already said this, but thanks for coming here. I’m really glad you came.”

Hope smiles. “Me too.”

“We should… probably talk about this, huh?”

Hope feels herself pout. “We could kiss instead.”

“Wow.” Amy shakes her head, lips ticking up in a smile. She presses her thumb to Hope’s lower lip. “It’s unfair for you to look that hot and make that face at the same time.”

Hope grins. She flops on her back, pulling Amy with her. They breathe into the room for a minute, thinking. Finally, Amy sighs.

The sound makes Hope chuckle. “Big sigh. Guess it’s pretty obvious what that means.” Amy doesn’t say anything, just turns her nose into Hope’s neck. “It’s okay,” Hope says at last. “Don’t freak.”

“I know long-distance relationships are like, a total staple of gay life. But…”

Hope hums. “No. You came here for a reason. You shouldn’t have anything from back home holding you back.”

“It’s not that I think you would hold me back,” Amy starts and Hope nods.

“No, I know. I get it. I think I feel the same.”

Amy pulls away, looking up at her. “You do?”

“Yeah,” Hope shrugs. “I think we both need to figure things out. It doesn’t matter how much I like you.”

“Ugh.” Amy huffs, slumping back onto Hope’s chest. “It’s not fair, though? Like I finally have enough game to make the world’s most beautiful and interesting girl like me, and this is what happens? What the fuck?”

Hope shakes her head in amusement. “Trust me, if I like you, it’s because you don’t have game.”

“Okay, well, it comes to the same thing,” Amy grumbles.

Hope smiles, pressing her lips to the top of Amy’s head. “Well, maybe this doesn’t have to be it, though.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, it’s nine months. A lot can change, but it’s also not that long.” Hope shrugs. “We can see where we’re at when you come back. If it works out, it works out. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t.”

Amy hums thoughtfully. “Yeah,” she says after a moment. “That sounds… mature.”

Hope chuckles. “Sure.”

“For the record, I’d like it if it works out.”

“Me too,” Hope agrees. “But you know. You should live your life fully here. Don’t wait for that time to pass. It’s okay if you meet someone or change or things just don’t align when you come home.”

Amy shifts so they’re nose to nose and she can look Hope in the eye. “Hope?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m sorry I ever thought you were mean.”

Hope raises her eyebrows in disbelief. “But I was mean.”

“Right, yeah.” Amy frowns. “Maybe I’m just sorry I never gave you a chance to be something else. Maybe we could’ve done this sooner.”

“I think you were too into Ryan to notice me anyway. I never got what it was about her.”

“I dunno,” Amy murmurs. “I guess I just thought she’d be a fun person to lie around and have sleep…” Amy trails off suddenly, staring at Hope with her mouth hanging open.

Hope blinks. “What?”

“Nothing I just… Realized something.” Amy goes quiet, her thoughtful eyes never leaving Hope’s face.

Hope tucks Amy’s hair behind her ear, smiling. “Maybe I should’ve just asked you out instead of liking you from afar. Maybe it’s more my fault.”

Amy stares at her. “You liked me from afar? Like… before that night at the party.”

For once, Hope can feel heat in her cheeks. “I… thought about it. Before that, yeah.”

“Ugh,” Amy groans. “You mean I could’ve had a girlfriend this whole fucking time? The universe hates me.”

“Don’t be so dramatic, babe.”

Amy grumbles again and she looks so fucking cute that Hope wants to kiss her.

So she does, and she doesn’t stop until she has to leave for her flight back home, to California, to her fake-life, her fake-self, to life without Amy.

//

“Okay, so. Travel safe.”

Hope rolls her eyes. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Let me know when you get back so I know you made it.”

“Okay.”

“And let me know when you move to New York, so I know you’re safe there, too.”

Hope snorts. “Should I just text you everyday to remind you how safe I am.”

Amy nods seriously. “Actually, yeah, that sounds really good.”

“Mmm,” Hope teases, narrowing her eyes at Amy’s innocent smile.

“So,” Amy says, shifting on her feet. “I guess this is goodbye.”

“Yep. Guess so.”

Amy looks so forlorn about it that Hope almost laughs. She shakes her head instead, and pulls Amy into a hug. Amy stiffens, her nose at Hope’s collarbone, before she lets out a deep breath and squeezes Hope back.

“I’m awkward at goodbyes,” Amy murmurs into her chest.

Hope snorts. “You’re awkward at most things.”

“Yeah. True.”

Hope pulls away, tucks a strand of hair behind Amy’s ear. “We’ve said goodbye before.”

“Yeah, but…” Amy hesitates. “I think if you’re gone, I’ll be… Hope-less .” Hope blinks at Amy’s exaggeratedly straight-face until Amy breaks, giggles spilling from her mouth.

“That was bad, I’m so leaving now.”

“For real though,” Amy says, still giggling. “Stay in touch.”

Hope rolls her eyes and finally offers Amy a smile. “Yeah, I will. You, too. Bye, Ames.”

Amy surges up on her toes and plants a brief kiss on Hope’s cheek. “Bye, Hope.”

Hope goes after that, heading off toward her gate. She doesn’t look back, wants to leave with the picture of Amy smiling softly after her in her head.

Instead, she thinks of the note she hid under Amy’s pillow with the shirt she got at the Globe, the one Amy had loved and stolen.

In case it works out, you can give it back.

And with that, she boards her plane, her epic adventure over and done. As she flies away from Africa back toward home, though, she can’t help but notice the warm feeling of hope that’s made a home in her chest.

Chapter Text

Hope isn’t nervous, but she’s not not nervous either.

She scans the group of people that’s just flooded out of the terminal, but doesn’t see the face she’s looking for. She shifts impatiently. It’s been nine months since she’s seen Amy, and she doesn’t know what to expect. She’s on edge.

“I still don’t get why you’re here.”

Okay, but to be fair, that might be for a different reason. “I’m here for the same reason you are. To see Amy.”

Molly squints at her. “I respect Amy’s feelings about you, but you should know that you haven’t won me over.”

Hope rolls her eyes. “I wasn’t trying to.”

“Well, maybe you should. I don’t like how rude you are.”

“Well I don’t like how you shrink Amy when you’re together, so I guess we’re at an impasse.”

Molly stares at her. “You know, that’s fair. I’m working on it.”

“And I’m working on not being rude.” As if to back it up, she gives Molly a smile. Molly looks at her like she’s grown another head, but says nothing.

Another group of people pushes through the terminal exit and Molly’s hand involuntarily grips her forearm. “There!”

Hope’s too caught up in noticing Amy to shake Molly off.

Her first thought is that Amy looks good. Really good. She’s in jeans and a white cotton shirt, similar to the one she wore when she picked up Hope in Botswana. Maybe the same one, if Hope remembers correctly. Her cheeks are tan and freckly, her hair lighter.

When she sees Molly, she beams so wide that it knocks the wind out of Hope. She’s beautiful, Hope thinks, especially when she smiles like that.

Her second thought is just, calm . Molly releases her forearm and screeches as Amy rushes into her arms. Hope hangs back, just watching, letting them have their moment. She knows, and secretly feels a little smug about it, that she’s seen Amy more recently than Molly has.

“JAW-DROPPING. WHO SAID YOU COULD LOOK THIS GORGEOUS.”

“YOU ARE ETHEREAL. AN ANGEL SENT FROM ABOVE.”

Molly gasps. “YOU. Are a literal goddess.”

Amy shakes her head in amazement. “You’re stunning, the actual embodiment of perfection.”

They both laugh and hug each other. “I MISSED YOU.” Molly screams.

“I MISSED YOU, DUDE!”

Hope rolls her eyes, but she finds the whole thing a little endearing. Not that she’d ever tell Molly that.

Finally, Molly pulls back, holding Amy at arms-length. “Amy.”

“Molly.”

“In my efforts to be less controlling and selfish,” Hope snorts at that, “I should acknowledge that this reunion isn’t about me, and that I’ve been hogging you.”

Molly tilts her head toward Hope, and Amy glances over her shoulder. When she sees Hope, her cheeks flush and she laughs, lips pulling up in the bashful smile Hope likes so much.

It’s been nine months since she’s seen that smile for real. They’ve texted and talked on the phone, sent each other Snapchats, but it wasn’t the same as seeing Amy right there in front of her.

It was weird, the last nine months. Hope struggled at first in New York, not sure how to move forward with her life. She got a job waiting tables, tried to figure out what she wanted. It took her awhile, but she decided maybe college looked bad because she hadn’t known what she liked, where she wanted to be. So in the winter, she applied to NYU. She’d been accepted and declared an English major. She doesn’t know yet if she’ll like it, but she’s going to try, and she plans to study abroad, so she thinks maybe it won’t be so bad.

Plus, she thinks, Amy will be close, too.

She hadn’t waited, not on purpose, but anytime she came close to being with someone else, her attraction fizzled. She just wasn’t interested. There was always Amy, hovering in the background and occupying her thoughts.

Now, they’re face-to-face, and she’s occupying Hope’s entire physical existence with her smile.

It’s a little overwhelming.

“Molly,” Amy says, turning back to her friend.

“Yes, Amy.”

“Hold this please.” She hands Molly her suitcase and her backpack. Hope doesn’t know what to expect when Amy walks toward her, and her heart flutters wildly against her ribcage. She sticks her hands in her back pockets so Amy won’t see them fidgeting.

“Hey,” she says when Amy gets closer.

“Hey,” Amy says back, and it feels so much like that time on her porch that Hope softens. But Amy is different, and so is Hope, and even if it feels the same, it feels different, too. “You’re here.”

“I’m here.” Hope shrugs because, well, of course she’s here. Where else would she be?

Amy hums thoughtfully. “I thought I might have overexaggerated how tall you were in my memory, but I think I underexaggerated it actually.”

Hope rolls her eyes. “Well, you’re just as cute as I remember.”

“I… ah. Ugh.” Amy glances toward the sky, blushing.

“And totally as smooth,” Hope continues.

“Stop.”

“Nah.”

Amy shakes her head in amusement, looking back at Hope. “Hope.”

“Yeah?”

“You wanna try this thing? Me and you?”

Hope has to laugh. “That’s why I’m here, nerd.”

“Oh,” Amy lifts a teasing eyebrow. “Right. Thought you came as Molly’s date.”

“Mmm, did you?”

Amy laughs. “You’d make an adorable couple.”

“Mmm,” Hope nods. “Right, should I go off with her then, or?” She gestures in Molly’s direction, but Amy grabs her hand from the air.

“Let’s go out,” Amy says, bold and brave. It makes Hope weak. “Be my girlfriend.”

“Yeah, okay.” It’s all she can say.

Amy beams, cute and happy. She takes Hope’s hand and starts to lead her toward Molly. “Cool. Um, I have your shirt by the way.”

“Keep it,” Hope murmurs, letting herself be dragged wherever.

“Okay,” Amy says easily, almost as if she’d been expecting that. Hope narrows her eyes and Amy grins at her.

They get back to Molly and Amy drops her hand to grab her suitcase. Hope drapes Amy’s backpack over her shoulder and pulls her phone out as Molly and Amy start babbling on about something.

               Hope: amy and i are dating ????? lol

               Annabelle: jesus fuck dude it’s been 84 years. anyway i already knew that would happen. molly’s been so annoying the past few days going on about it

               Hope: i still can’t believe you guys are like semi-best friends now

               Annabelle: yeah well. the world works in weird ways

“Hope?”

Hope looks up from her phone to see Amy and Molly staring at her. “Yeah? Sorry.”

“You ready to go?”

Hope nods and stuffs her phone back in her pocket. Amy holds her hand out and Hope takes it, tangling their fingers together, not caring that Molly’s dubiously eyeing their clasped hands.

When Amy smiles at her, her perfect, tiny, dorky, cute smile, Hope finally fully sinks into herself, into the person that she is and the person she wants to be.