Catra huffed loudly as she finished putting down the last box in the new room of her new apartment. She began unpacking the boxes, taking one item out after the other organizing them into separate piles. She stumbled on a photo stuck between two of her books she hastily packed away into this box. It's an old photo of the last day of middle school, graduation gowns, and all. Catra was with Adora smiling goofily as she fixed the cap of her then best friend. Adora looked helpless as she never seemed to have anything going right, but Catra was always there to help her. Not anymore, Catra thought, those days of pillow fights, silly games, and countless sleepovers were over. No one in her life now could have ever replaced what Adora meant to her, but she couldn’t linger on those thoughts for long, it hurt too much. She hasn’t even seen Adora since the last day of high school, which marked two years since they spoke a word to each other. Well, that's not entirely true but that's another thought Catra wants to keep hidden in her locked chest of painful memories.
Catra looked for her every day, from afar she made sure Adora was okay. She felt those self-deprecating creeping back up. How pathetic was it that she continued to think about Adora even when they weren’t speaking, and they would probably never speak to each other again.
Catra was quickly taken away from her thoughts when she heard Scorpia’s voice. “Need any help, wildcat?” Scorpia called out from the doorway. Catra smiled slightly to herself at the nickname Scorpia always called her but quickly wiped it off her face feigning a neutral emotion.
“I’m fine, I’m almost done anyway.” Catra shoved the photo back into the box and threw it under her bed. It’s better if she just kept it out of sight.
Entrapta yelled from her bedroom, “Scorpia! Catra! This room is the best! I have so much space to put all my tech stuff!” Loud banging followed as Scorpia and Catra just giggled at their friend. Catra’s smile soon faded because she couldn't stop thinking about the picture she just saw and how many memories she’s kept to the back of her mind for so long, all resurfacing at the same time.
“Hey, I’m gonna go check on Entrapta and make sure she isn’t breaking anything new.” With that Catra was alone in her room once again.
She felt a heaviness in her chest that probably wouldn’t be relieved unless she did something about it, somewhere to channel all these emotions she can’t bear to process right now. She did what she always did, instead of lashing out as she used to do, she picked up the book off her nightstand that she had been reading and decided to escape back into that world. Hopefully, that world and her mind could become one, and all thoughts of her wasted away back to that chest locked away in her heart.
Scorpia, Catra, and Entrapta were all sitting on the floor of their severely unfurnished living room as they talked and ate dinner discussing what the first week of college would entail. Catra was not sharing as many words as her roommates and Scorpia noticed. She scooted closer to Catra and gently nudged her on the shoulder. “Hey, you nervous about the first week?” Catra snapped out of her thoughts and just mumbled a “Yeah, a little” to Scorpia. Catra couldn’t say what was actually on her mind. How she couldn’t stop wondering what Adora was doing right now, where she was, if she was still doing art. She spent most of her summer like this, spending days trying to distract herself from her thoughts picking up book after book, even taking up writing in her spare time.
Scorpia noticed her friend's discomfort and did what she thought would cheer her up. “Does Catra need a Super Pal Trio hug?” Catra exaggeratedly groaned as she shifted away from them, “Ugh no please do not include me in this.”
“Nope, It’s too late” Scorpia swiftly took both Entrapta and Catra into a hug that Entrapta was not paying too much attention to as she was too busy setting up her fancy new computer. Catra stayed still as she let Scorpia do all the hugging. Deep down Catra needed this and subconsciously thanked Scorpia for doing her best to cheer her up. Friends like those two are what kept her going through the years.
Classes for the day were over now and it had only been three days into the semester and Catra was already feeling tired. It was chillier this morning, but that wasn’t stopping her from wanting an iced coffee. Coffee was one part but Catra didn’t mind exploring the nearby bustling city of Etheria. She stumbled on an interesting looking coffee shop called the Whispering Woods. The inside of the shop had this whole earthy vibe with faux vines lining the walls and ceilings with wood themed decor and tiny animal figurines. Catra approached the counter slightly distracted by all the scenery. She immediately stopped in her tracks as she spotted a familiar blonde behind the counter frantically nodding her head as someone instructed her how to operate the espresso machine.
Catra couldn’t move an inch from her spot, it was as if her body was made of stone and any small movements would crack her skin. Inside she screamed and wanted to bolt out the door far from this place but something made her stay in this one spot. An all-encompassing force weighing her down keeping her here--frozen. All these thoughts bombarded her all at once, images of the past, a familiarity, nostalgia, guilt. There Adora was right in front of her 2 years older in a random coffee shop in a city just a few miles away from their hometown.
Catra wasn’t sure if she was ready for this. She had wanted this to happen for so long but now that Adora was finally in front of her all she wanted to do was run away.
Catra's indecision consumed her senses that she didn’t even notice her call, “Next customer please.” from behind the counter. Guess Adora already made that decision for her.
“Adora I can’t believe you still haven't unpacked yet, are you ever going to get to it?!” Glimmer questioned from her side of the room. Her and Bow were watching some clips from her newest film project both of them huddled close behind the laptop. It was already three days into the first week and Adora still hadn't unpacked all of her belongings.
“I will, I’ve just been busy looking for a job. I’ll get to it eventually but now I think I just lost my ID card.” Adora haphazardly moves throughout their dorm room trying to sift through her things. It dawned on her that the important piece of plastic is missing from her jean pocket.
“I really can't be late. I still have to go pick up my apron at the Whispering Woods before class starts.” Adora continues lifting the flaps of half-empty boxes swishing around her items hoping to see the tiny edge of her new college ID card “God, where did I put this thing.” She mutters mostly to herself.
In her scrambling Adora accidentally pulled out a tricolored string bracelet with a heart at its center. It was slightly beaten up from wear and tear but the metal heart in the middle still had some shine to it. She forgot she even packed this with her. It was the one Catra made her when they were in middle school. Catra. Adora’s chest suddenly felt like someone had twisted her insides. She stared mindlessly at the bracelet for a long time wondering, where Catra was right now and how she would be the one here with her if things had gone better. Anger mixed with sadness bubbled in Adora’s heart, she couldn’t distinguish between the two right now. The anger towards Catra faded long ago, the only anger left now was towards herself. If only she could have fixed things. She wondered how everything got so messed up.
“Found it!” Bow exclaimed, proud to have uncovered the missing card. “It was right under your shoe.” He said as he passed it to Adora. Adora snapped herself back to reality and thanked her friend before shoving the bracelet into the pocket of her jacket. Adora hurriedly gets her belongings together and her sneakers on.
“I’ll see you when I get back.”
“Good luck on your first day!” Glimmer adds before Adora closes the door.
Hiking up the steps with a fast pace Adora makes her way to her art class, holding a brand new apron and name tag for her shift later. Adora didn’t have a scholarship to this school and money was tight, she needed a job immediately to keep her spot here. Being a barista sounded like a good idea to Adora, how hard could making some lattes be?
Adora found her classroom and settled into a random seat next to someone with long platinum hair with a flower crown on. The professor commands the attention of the class.
“Good morning everyone, today I will introduce your first assignment. You must find someone to reference as the center of four different pieces using four different mediums. Think of them as your muse. The mediums are up to you and the project is not due until the end of the semester. You can ask someone in this class even!”
Students began muttering among themselves asking the people around them if they could be the model for the project.
“The theme is also up to you guys, just come back with something creative!” The professor adds.
Adora felt like she had everything handled thinking Glimmer or Bow would gladly be in some of her art as they have been dying to do since junior year of high school. Adora got into art ever since she was young but didn’t take it seriously until high school. Joining the visual arts club was where she was able to hone in her skills and think of art as a career. Meeting Glimmer and Bow were a plus too since she was glad she could call them her best friends after only a few years. Or as Bow likes to call them the “Best Friends Squad.”
Adora felt a light tap on her shoulder, “Did you drop this?” The person next to her is holding the bracelet, Catra’s bracelet. Immediately Adora’s eyes go wide and her cheeks get hot. She doesn’t know why she’s embarrassed right now but forgot she had that with her. Adora made a mental note that she needed to get that back to her room.
“Yeah, that’s mine. Thanks.” She grabs the bracelet quickly and securely places it in her bag.
“Hey, you're a freshman right?” The person next to her questioned.
“Yeah, I am.”
“There’s a party this weekend and all the art major people are going to be there, you should come!! I’m Perfuma by the way.” They said excitedly.
“Adora, and I’m not too sure-” Adora replied, her words laced with uncertainty.
“I’ll give you the address anyways.” Perfuma scribbled an address on a piece of paper, ripped it, and handed it to Adora. “In case you change your mind.”
Adora takes the address hesitantly and tucks it away into her bag. A college party could be fun, but Adora was not all that enthused since she never was a party person in high school too busy with getting her art portfolio together.
The professor commanded the classes’ attention. “Alright guys, remember you will have until the end of the semester to submit your project so there is plenty of time to find someone.” The professor continued with the class lecturing on color theory.
Adora didn’t expect to get hired so quickly as the owner had been desperately looking for someone to hire regardless of experience. Adora didn’t feel too secure since she had next to no clue what she was doing but decided to push through and hoped today wouldn’t be the worst first day of her life.
The manager showed her around the counter pointing to different machines and explaining how each of them works.
“Here is the espresso machine, this one really took me a while to get used to but once you get the hang of it it's easy.” Adora did her best to understand everything but all of her words started blurring together and Adora couldn't remember which machine steamed the milk or where the coffee was. The manager must have noticed Adora’s confusion since she gave her a pitying smile.
“Why don’t you just take orders for today and we will have you make drinks another time?” Adora agreed and was grateful she didn’t have to remember all that information right away.
Determined to get her new task right she turned to the register, ready to assist the first person that approaches the counter. Adora’s stomach immediately dropped, her heartbeat ringing loudly in her ears. She couldn’t believe who she was seeing. It was Catra. Her hair now shorter but still curly, those same blue and yellow eyes wide open in shock. They both weren’t expecting each other here. Adora was confused, she thought she left and went somewhere new like they always planned to do together. Catra was right there directly in front of her waiting...oh I’m at work I should be working that's what I'm doing. Adora, as calmly as she could, said, “Next customer, please.”
Catra internally panics not realizing how long she had just been standing there. She walked up to the counter slowly. Play this cool, she thought to herself.
“I didn’t think someone like you would be making lattes.” A joke, maybe this could land. Adora smiled a little, “Gotta do what I can to pay for school.” She shrugs. “I like the hair,” As much as Catra wanted to play this cool, this felt so awkward but somewhat familiar.
“Thanks, I guess I just needed a change.”
“Can I just get a black iced coffee?” Catra stated as Adora was already preparing a cup with Catra written on its side. “Yeah, I got you, I remember.” Catra was caught off guard it was such a small gesture but she remembered her drink. This conversation was gonna end too soon, and honestly, she didn’t want it to. As she was about to head over to the other side to pick up her drink Catra blurted out, “If you ever wanted to get lunch or something, I’m around.”
Around? That was so dumb who says something like that- Adora interrupts Catra’s silent freak out.
“ I can do lunch.”
“Nice. I’m just gonna go get my drink then.”
That could not have gone any worse Catra thinks to herself. For once in her life, Catra was devoid of snarky remarks and passive aggressive jokes. She doesn’t even know why she asked about lunch, maybe she wouldn’t be able to handle this. Seeing Adora again so casually just felt so foreign to Catra but she didn't want to miss this opportunity.
Adora anxiously wiped her palms on her jeans waiting for Catra in the quad for lunch. She had questioned whether or not she had the same number and Bow thought Adora would ruin her eyesight from staring at her phone screen waiting for a response. Thankfully soon enough Catra replied, soothing Adora’s nervousness and bringing a smile to her face that her friends haven’t seen in a while.
Before long Adora spotted Catra walking towards the table wearing black ripped jeans, a maroon top with a leather jacket. She looked good. Adora could get used to seeing Catra with the short hair, she thought it suited her.
“Hey, Adora.” Catra replies somewhat shyly feeling Adora’s intense stare.
“You already got the food, you didn’t have to do that.”
Adora shook her head slightly before sitting down. “No worries, it's my treat.” Catra sat down on the bench across from her. There was a silence lingering in the air around them so many unsaid words floating around the table.
Adora spoke up first, “So what are you studying?”
“Business Management. It's okay so far I guess, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I always liked running things so this seemed like the best option.” Catra replied honestly.
“Yeah, that’s cool, I remember when you got the chance you were always good at that,” Adora responded somewhat cringing at her choice of the word remember. Seems like all she was doing with her is bringing up memories. This was her chance at a fresh start, a different Catra, in front of a different Adora.
“Thanks, so are you still doing art?” Catra asks earnestly.
“Yeah! That’s my major. I'm enjoying it. Haven’t really done any new pieces in a while though.” Adora knows why, she’s been in a funk creatively for a while now. Every time she picked up a pencil, a paintbrush she couldn’t get one specific memory out of her mind. Nothing she drew felt right always as if something was slightly off.
“That’s good. I, uh, saw that one piece you did for your senior project. It looked beautiful, I liked it.” Adora was a little taken aback because she didn’t expect Catra to be checking her socials not to mention that piece.
“Oh, so you have been checking my Instagram, I guess you do like me,” Adora replied smugly.
Catra scoffed, “I do not! I was just scrolling and I found it…” Catra trailed off as Adora laughed honestly at Catra’s reaction. She smiled at her happy to see she still can make her laugh.
“The real question is why do you take so many pictures with horses? I guess you really are such a horse girl.” Catra said to deflect from being stunned by her comment.
“Horses are cute and they deserved to be posted! I take ‘horse girl’ as a compliment thank you very much. They are majestic animals!” Adora said, defending herself.
“Alright, fine whatever you say.” Catra laughed with her hands up in surrender.
“But really Catra thanks for liking my art.” Adora dropped her voice quieter like it was only for her to hear. Catra stopped her laughter slowly and gazed into Adora’s eyes. Just a simple compliment had Adora over the moon. For a moment they stayed like neither one wanting to make any sudden moves.
Adora tore her eyes away first feeling embarrassed by the way Catra was looking at her.
“I mean considering what happened sophomore year it was a miracle that I was able to get a mentor to help me give a worthy senior project. ”Adora added to distract from whatever was going on and did her best to dance around the topic, but quickly realized her mistake. She immediately noticed Catra retreating, a glassy look in her eye as if she drifted off somewhere else.
“Wait, Catra, I didn’t mean it like that, I just thought-”
“Save it,” Catra said dismissively. Catra felt it again that godforsaken guilt that had riddled her for all this time. She got quieter and wanted to be anywhere else but at this table in front of Adora. Behind Adora, she saw Scorpia waving excitedly at her walking towards their table.
“Catra! What’s up?” She turned and noticed Adora sitting there too. “Oh hi! I’m Scorpia, Catra’s friend.”
“Hi, I’m Adora.” She responded calmly, still berating herself for ruining their comfortable moment she hadn’t felt in a while.
“I got some food, think I could join you guys?”
“Whatever,” Catra mumbled. Still looking down at the table not really interested in looking at anyone.
Scorpia took that as a ‘yes’ and sat down next to Catra happily opening her food, just as Adora noticed Bow and Glimmer making their way to this table as well. Suddenly this had turned into a party.
“Adora! We were looking for you. Why didn’t you-” Glimmer exclaimed before seeing Catra seated next to someone she didn't know.
“Catra.” She said bitter and clipped. She looked between them both realizing what was going on.
“Adora, why don’t we join you for this lunch.” Glimmer said as she sat right next to Adora directly across from Catra shooting glares in her direction.
“Come on Bow sit down.”
“I don't think that-” Bow responded, unsure about bombarding this already crowded table.
“Sit down.” Glimmer insisted as she patted the space right next to her pushing Adora down to the far end of the bench.
Adora was getting more and more overwhelmed by this situation as she tried to meet Catra’s eyes but she looks away just as fast.
“Scorpia we should get out of here, it seems like there are enough people,” Catra said, dragging Scorpia’s arm. Confused, Scorpia follows as Catra starts to leave from the table.
Staring at Catra’s back walking away from her again Adora couldn’t take it anymore. She didn’t want to lose her again, not when she could restart. This was new, different, she could fix things now. All these thoughts spiraled at once as she yelled out “Catra wait!”
Catra turned around and stopped in her tracks. Adora finally caught up to her and realized she had no clue what to say. She just wanted her back so badly for so long she didn’t think she would get another chance like this. Maybe having Catra back would make things better, life better, her art better. That was it.
“Would you be my muse”?
Catra’s eyes widened in confusion. “You’re what”?
Adora immediately realized exactly what she just said now growing more embarrassed. “Uh, Well I worded that wrong, it's just that I need a model for this new project for class and I need someone to draw, and well you are someone and now I’m rambling, What I mean is, could you help me?”
Adora’s rambling was kind of cute and Catra could feel the sincerity in Adora’s perfectly blue eyes gazing between each of Catra’s searching for her answer. She looked honest, eager like she would fall if Catra refused. She wanted to say yes, she wanted Adora back in her life so much that it hurt. But, not again. Even though it's just a project it's just too much. Adora deserves someone else, someone better.
“Um, I'm not sure, I’m so busy and-” Lie. Catra thought to herself. All she wanted was to say yes and be the object of Adora’s affection again, her world. But her words betrayed her denying her what she really wants.
“No, it's fine, of course,” Adora responded somewhat defeated. She looked like she had no more fight left in her, which made Catra feel like someone just punched her in the chest.
“I’m just, I’m gonna go then.” Adora retreated back to her friends, both of them watching the interaction failing to pretend they weren’t.
This felt so fresh to Catra. She didn’t know why, but her heart felt like it'd been ripped out again a new wound. Tears welled up in her eyes she forcibly blinked them away as she returned to Scorpia’s side, walking back to their apartment. She wondered why with Adora it was never easy. Several reasons swirled around her head, but she decided that maybe, sometimes people aren’t meant to stay together.