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forever is the sweetest con

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Emily wasn’t a stranger to lies. She’s told some, had some told to her - really, it was something she was well-acquainted with.

When she was five, her mother had told her that Santa Claus was dropping by on Christmas Eve, so she ought to leave out some biscuits and milk for him. She had waited until her parents had gone to bed and snuck out to the living room, clambering up onto the couch and patiently listening for the sound of Santa Claus sliding down their chimney. Just as her eyelids were drooping at around 3am, she had heard someone moving, so she squished herself into the couch to make herself as inconspicuous as she could. To her surprise, it was her father sneaking out to the Christmas tree to take a bite of the biscuits and drink a little milk from the glass she had excitedly filled to the brim. Emily knew that he wasn’t just having a snack. She had been lied to. Santa Claus wasn’t real.

That was the first time.

The second time was when she was eight. Her best friend Brooke had bailed on their lunch outing, telling Emily that she needed to go for a doctor’s appointment. Later, when Emily’s mother was driving past the mall on her way home, she saw Brooke hanging out with the Mean Girls from their grade, laughing and talking in the ice-cream parlour. She had stormed up to her room as soon as they had made it home and locked herself inside, angry tears pricking her eyes. The next day, she had her first friend-breakup.

The third time was one of the worst. She remembered only snippets of it, mostly filled with her anguished cries begging for her grandmother to come back. Nana, she had sobbed, leaning over the casket, but her grandmother didn’t respond. Her father had said that Nana was in a better place now, where she was happy. Eleven year-old Emily didn’t see how Nana could be happy, buried in that mahogany casket six feet underground, so she concluded that her father must be lying to her again. She buried her face into her arms and sobbed some more.

So, by the time Emily had made it to Barden, she was pretty sure that she had more than enough experience with lies. She was going to be the nicest person on campus, bringing cheer to everybody with her bubbly personality.

Joining the Barden Bellas had been one of the best decisions she had ever made. Ever since she was young, she had been regaled with stories of the glory days her mother had had back when she was a Bella. Being a Bella had always been at the top of all her dream boards, and she was ecstatic to finally become one. The Bellas were her sisters, and she loved them with her whole heart. She slowly made friends with all of them, but the hardest to get through to had been Beca. The tiny senior was the most distant and closed-off person she had ever met, so Emily resolved that she would do her best to break through Beca’s mile-high walls and get to know her.

Beca had initially been resistant to her attempts at becoming closer, shrugging her off with some excuse or the other. But Emily was nothing if not persistent, and slowly, but surely, she wormed her way into Beca’s life. Whether it was having breakfast in the morning together on the Bellas’ kitchen counter, or coffee breaks after intense studying marathons in the library, they had become really good friends. Best friends even, if Emily deigned to flatter herself. They gradually became inseparable, and the Bellas often joked about how “Bechloe” had been usurped by the superior ship, “Bemily”. Beca had just chuckled, pulling Emily aside later to promise her that they’d be together forever, right?. Emily had beamed and wrapped her arms around Beca for a tight hug, burying her face into Beca’s hair.

However, once the Bellas had planted the seed of the idea in her mind, Emily just couldn’t stop thinking about it. She couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like if she and Beca were really dating. And as oblivious as Emily was about most things, it wasn’t long before she realised why almost all of her musings involved Beca in some way or the other. Emily, being Emily, had cried for two days after the realisation, and when Beca had stopped by to bring her some tissues and a packet of Sour Patch candy (Emily’s favourite), she had cried even harder, prompting the worried senior to climb onto her bed with her and engulf her in an embrace. Afterwards, Emily would often wrap her blanket around her shoulders whenever she felt lonely, the memory of Beca’s arms around her causing her heart to ache with longing.

Of course, Emily couldn’t just give up on being best friends with Beca once she had realised her feelings, so she swallowed them down instead, continuing to spend almost all of her free time with Beca. And if she leaned into Beca a little bit more during Bellas movie night? No one would be the wiser.

Then Beca went and got together with Chloe after their emotional blowout at the Lodge of the Fallen Leaves, secrets spilling out along with the tears. Emily had tried her best to clap and cheer with the Bellas, choking on the lump in her throat whenever she had tried to speak. It took everything in her not to bolt at that very moment; to run away, as far as she could. Later, when a glowing Beca had directed the most blinding smile she had ever seen on her face towards Emily, she couldn’t do anything but smile back, something in her chest twisting painfully as she realised that Chloe made Beca happier than Emily ever could. It was really just too much, and after lights out, Emily had carefully climbed over all the Bellas and out of the tent, head down as she followed wherever her feet took her.

They led her to the lake where they had had their water activities just a few hours before, where Emily had offered her hand to pull Beca out of the water, but had instead been pulled back inside by a giggling Beca. Sitting on the bench beside the water, the moonlight shimmering on the surface, Emily finally allowed herself to break down, heaving choking sobs as she fisted her shirt against her eyes streaming with tears.

She was surprised to hear someone come up to her on the bench, and when she had wiped her face, she looked up to see Stacie beside her. Stacie placed a comforting hand on Emily’s shoulder, and the gaping hole in Emily’s chest threatened to swallow her up from the inside. She buried her face into Stacie’s chest, this time not bothering to cry silently anymore, bawling into Stacie’s shirt. All the pent-up emotion from when she had realised she was in love with Beca (and probably from before that when she hadn’t even realised) burst out, like she’d been holding her breath since she had realised that Beca was the one. Stacie sat there quietly, allowing Emily to whimper into her shirt while soothingly stroking Emily’s hair. When Emily was exhausted from all the crying and couldn’t any longer, Stacie had gently laid Emily’s head in her lap, continuing to stroke her hair. Emily looked up at Stacie, hoping to convey her immense gratitude for her presence.

She had promised me forever.

Stacie smiled sadly down at her.

I know.

And in that moment Emily knew that Stacie had gone through the same thing. She had become more reserved once they’d arrived at the Lodge, and Emily was only now realising why.

Aubrey.

Stacie could see the realisation in Emily’s eyes and she shrugged, a bittersweet expression spreading across her features.

You know what they say, Emily.

Forever is the sweetest con.