Megan had to admit that she hadn’t been paying very close attention to her surroundings, so when the pair pulled up to a grand gate, with a very grand house behind it, Megan’s mouth dropped open slightly in shock. She managed to close it before Graham turned back from entering the code, but apparently, the surprise was still evident on her face.
Graham snickered as she took it in. “Something wrong?” She smirked even as raised her eyebrows with a hint of challenge.
“Well, I—I wasn’t expecting this if I’m honest,” Megan tried to regain her composure, “but apparently, I should be calling you princess, Graham.”
Graham rolled her eyes slightly as she pulled her car through the open gate and along the driveway that stretched along, seemingly blind to the beautiful landscaping. Megan supposed it was because Graham had seen it all a thousand times before, but she didn’t let her friend’s lack of interest dissuade her from turning towards the window and taking in the view.
The grass was green, greener than it should be really, and the trees were aflame with seasonal attire. Megan wasn’t used to seeing trees actually change color and absently wondered how much money had been spent on trees, of all things. There were flowers everywhere and honest to god hedges shaped like animals. Megan didn’t want to even think about how much water a garden like this needed.
“Did your parents just google ‘fancy rich house’ and go from there?” Megan turned back towards Graham as they pulled up to a ridiculously massive garage and felt her face flush instantly when she realized she was being stared at. Graham ducked her head and cleared her throat, obviously pretending that Megan hadn’t just caught the soft little smile pointed her way.
“My stepmom probably still has the tab open and everything,” Graham said as she pulled into the last slot in the garage at the very end. If Megan knew anything about cars, she’s sure the array would be incredibly impressive. The others made Graham’s truck look dinky in comparison, but Megan found she would always choose to be in this passenger seat.
Graham’s voice barely contained her anger when she spoke, “I’m lucky they even let me park it in here.”
“If they were so opposed, why would they let you get it at all?” Megan asked as climbed out of the car and followed Graham’s lead toward the exit.
“They said I could have any car I wanted, and this is what I chose. It’s also an excellent thing to take away from me when I’ve misbehaved, apparently,” Graham complained as she held open the door for her to pass through. This made Megan blush for some reason (which she was entirely unwilling to unpack, thank you very much), and she ducked her head as she walked the path to the house. She only hoped it would hide her flushed face well enough.
“Well, I’m glad they let you pick!” Megan said in a perky voice, trying to lighten Graham’s suddenly dark mood. She was learning that talk of Graham’s father and stepmother could ruin even The Best Car Ride (Taylor’s Version). “I much prefer your truck. She’s not as stuck up as the others seem.”
“She?” Graham said as she fell in step beside Megan, head tilting to the side to look at her. Megan was glad she’d managed to get her blush under control.
“Are you going to look me in the eyes and tell me you’d ride anything but a girl?”
Graham’s mouth fell open in shock. “ Megan !” She playfully admonished her with a stunned laugh.
Instantly, Megan’s face turned red, brighter than before and radiating heat. “ No ! I just meant—I meant that, like, you don’t seem to have any guy friends, and so I thought you wouldn’t want your car to be a girl? I didn’t mean—I mean—”
“Okay, sure, if I had chosen to gender my car, I’d’ve probably picked she/her pronouns for it too,” Graham finally cut in, thankfully. Megan probably would have kept rambling nervously until her heart gave out and she had to walk into the hydrangeas to lay down and die.
“Ooooh, what if we used she/they?” Megan couldn’t help but show off the fact that she’d been doing some research as of late. What? Couldn’t a gal want her new pal to be proud of her?
Graham beamed over at Megan and nudged her slightly to show that it hadn’t gone unnoticed before responding with a laugh, “We’re not using any pronouns other than ‘it’ for her.” Megan cackled and pumped her fist. “...Shit.”
Megan leaned in close to Graham to boast to her fullest capability. “I win! They’re probably even going to get a name and everything by the end of the day.”
“What makes you think you have the power to name my truck, princess?” Graham said as she rolled her eyes dramatically and turned her head to face the girl who had attached herself to Graham’s side. She seemed to notice too late how close together this put their faces. Megan paused, taking in each freckle, each eyelash, even the shape of Graham’s lips. Everything was so near, and her eyes couldn’t help but feast on it all.
Graham cleared her throat and delicately removed herself from Megan’s personal space. God, what was even happening to her? She wasn’t dumb, but with each passing moment, she felt less and less self-aware. How could the people around her see this coming so clearly so far ahead of her?
It was, however, reassuring to see a hint of color on Graham’s face, try as she might to be cool and unflappable.
Graham opened the doors to her home with a flourish, clearly being more over the top to cut through the tension that had formed so rapidly. “Welcome! Come on in! Just be sure not to breathe too much; you might disturb the very expensive art.”
“I get that you were trying to be all angsty, but that wasn’t your best snarky comment,” Megan said with a smile. She tried to hide her nerves as she waded into the uncharted waters, knowing with complete certainty that here be dragons.
“Well, they can’t all be winners can they?” Graham grumbled as she slammed the doors behind them and ran her hands through her hair.
“Graham? Is that you? Come here this instant!” A shrill voice echoed through the foyer.
Megan barely had time to take in the grand staircase and beautiful flowers and dazzling chandelier before Graham muttered “kill me now” under her breath and grabbed Megan’s hand, dragging her towards the voice.
Megan’s nerves rose further, but she had had time to prepare for this since Graham’s request earlier that day. She swallowed and dragged her free hand down her skirt to wipe off any sweat. Her hand shook as she then reached up to straighten her cross. Graham noticed despite her quick pace and slowed, turning to her and offering a soothing “You’re going to be wonderful.” Megan smiled tightly and followed Graham into a sitting room.
A blonde woman draped across a couch angled the phone she was speaking into from her mouth and said to Graham, “Be quiet. Stay there. I’ll only be a moment.” She turned her attention back to her phone immediately, completely missing Megan where she stood silently slightly behind Graham. “Yes, darling, she just got home. Yes, I’ll let her know that this kind of behavior is completely unacceptable. And you should’ve heard her walking in! Slamming the doors without a care in the world! Yes! Alright. I love you too, darling. See you tonight.” She made a kissy noise into the phone then hung up, blank-faced.
“Considering that I probably heard most of the speech, I think I’ll just…” Graham turned as if to walk away.
“Don’t you dare. ” The woman shrieked. Graham looked back at her reluctantly and slid over to lean on the doorframe with her hands in her pockets. “Don’t think you’ll be able to drive your disgusting little truck for a while after the stunt you pulled today! You’re lucky that—” The woman cut herself off the second she noticed Megan standing there, nervously fiddling with some of her perfectly neat hair. Her tone of voice immediately changed. “Oh, hello, dear! I’m so sorry about that; you’ve really caught me at a terrible time!” She stood gracefully.
“I’m so sorry to intrude, ma’am,” Megan demurred, knowing her role by heart.
“No, no, I simply love visitors. Even if they’re Graham’s friends. Kidding, kidding!” The woman’s laugh sounded fake to Megan’s ears, but then, she was, perhaps, biased. “I’m Mrs. Eaton. It’s wonderful to meet you, dear. However did our little Graham convince such a nice young lady to come back with her?”
Megan mentally stumbled over the fact that Graham’s stepmom hadn’t asked for her name in return but quickly recovered. “We have a project together.”
“Well, it is such a blessing to have you here. I love love love that necklace! It’s so nice to see a friend of Graham’s wear the cross the right way ‘round for once!” She laughed loudly at her own joke. “I think that gothy friend of hers is a witch, honest to god! Anyway, make yourself at home! Do you need something to drink? I can go fix drinks?” Mrs. Eaton barely paused for breath. “Graham, you’ll drive her home later, right? The darling thing shouldn’t have to worry about finding a ride or any such nonsense.”
Graham rolled her eyes and said, “Duh.”
Megan cut in. “Thank you so much, Mrs. Eaton. And thank you for the offer of drinks, but I’m really not thirsty. I appreciate it, though.”
“Oh, very polite. Graham could stand to learn a thing or two from you.” She laughed like it was a joke, even though she clearly meant it. “Well, I suppose you girls have a lot of schoolwork to do. I’ll let you go on upstairs.” Graham turned to leave. “Oh, and Graham? Your father will have a word with you when he gets home.”
Graham paused but then continued with her retreat, “Come on, Megan. Let’s go.”
Megan looked at Graham storming away before glancing back at the stepmother and shooting her a quick, “It was nice to meet you, ma’am!” Then, she hurried after Graham immediately.
She managed to hear Mrs. Eaton mutter “fucking kids” as she scurried away.