“Harper’s a lesbian, Abby’s her girlfriend.” Sloane blurts out and there is a deafening silence as all eyes fall on Harper. She glances around and her gaze moves to her parents before she scoffs out “she’s lying! I am not a lesbian!”
From behind Sloane, Harper can see Abby’s face drop and she is backing away slowly, making her way out the front door. Abby feels the brisk cold air engulf her face and it sends a shiver down her spine as she saunters away from the Caldwell Mansion. Feeling a piece of her heart fall at every step she takes further away from that house and the person she thought was the love of her life. She only makes it as far as one of the parked cars tucked away in the extra-large driveway before her tears were running down her face and she lets out a gut-wrenching sob.
It is not long before she hears footsteps approaching her she fails miserably to hide the tears. The voice spoke but it was not one that she was expecting, “so that was a complete shit show back there huh?” Riley’s voice laced with sarcasm with a hint of concern. She wiped away the tears that have been freely falling and finally looked over at Riley, who was holding out a jacket. Abby didn’t realize she was visibly shaking until the warmth of the jacket wrapped around her shoulders.
They both stood in comfortable silence until Abby was ready to talk, “she was my person, or I thought she was. She told me that coming home with her this Christmas was going to make me love it again. For the first time, since my parents passed, I almost believed her. I was excited that I was going to meet all the people who made my favorite person in this whole world. I thought that it would be this perfect fairytale Christmas. How can she claim to love me, as much as she says she does, when all she does is hide the life we built together?” Riley listens intently, empathizing with Abby, as she knows all too well the feelings of being on the opposing side of Harper’s lies. “I'm sorry, this can't be fun for you to hear, considering all` the bullshit that you already went through with Harper.”
Riley finally speaks up, “I don’t want to be cliché bitter ex and say ‘I know what you are going through” blah blah blah because no one wants to hear that nonsense. You are right though. I do know that feeling better than most. I know what it’s like to be Harpers dirty little secret. But honestly, I have had a long time and plenty of therapy to get over it. However, I will tell you one huge lesson I did learn. Harper not coming out to her family and her friends, that has absolutely nothing to do with you. She just needs to-”
She was cut off by a familiar voice approaching, “stranger lady here is right, it has nothing to do with you. Sorry, I didn’t want to eavesdrop anymore got kinda lonely. Abby, I still remember when you told me your coming out story. It’s amazing, how supportive your parents were, and I wish that every story had an ending like that. Everyone has their own version of this story, and some are more devastating than others. You should know all too well, that key moment, right before you say those words, the ones that you can’t take back, that is a scary moment, and it takes every ounce of courage in your body to say it. Just because Harper is afraid to say those words right now, doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you and it doesn’t mean she will never say them out loud.”
All three sets of eyes are now brimming with tears, as John’s words flow effortlessly out of his mouth. Each word truer than the last. It takes a moment for them to compose themselves when Abby finally breaks the silence, “I hear what you're saying, I do, I guess I just want to be with someone who IS ready. Not someone who has hid me, lied to me and omits crucial details of her life from me. I feel like I don’t even know who she is anymore. I surely don’t recognize the person I have seen the last few days”
John nods, “and that is completely okay. We all want things on a different spectrum and maybe right now, you and Harper aren't on the same one. After that whole debacle and you running out, I managed to grab your things, figured you didn’t really want to go back into the hours of horrors after all that. One of the sisters helped me. Not the mean one, the really perky one.”
John turns to Riley with his hand extended for a shake, “hi, I'm John, the best friend. Who might you be?”
Riley chuckles, and goes to shake John’s hand, “Hi, I’m Riley, Harper’s high school ex and current Ally of this whole situation.”
John raises his brow, “ahh you are THAT Riley, Abby told me some stories, sorry about that. We don’t really keep secrets.”
Abby clears her throat, “anyways, Riley, thank you for coming to check on me but I think it’s time that John and I get out of here before secrets start spilling.” she goes in to shake Riley's hand but ended up giving her an awkward handshake half hug thing. John just chuckles at their awkward interaction.
“well, safe driving. You have my number. If you happen to contract any weirder illness’s or just need an ear to listen, call me. John, nice to meet you.” she nods politely at him.
“pleasures all mine Blazers.” John retorted back.
With that being said, Riley retreated towards the house, before reaching the door, she turns her head back to watch the other two slowly disappear into the night.
The car ride back to Pittsburg was mainly silent with the occasional muffled sniffles coming from Abby. John was sympathetic and would sometimes reach over and tap his hand on her leg for comfort. The closer that they got to the apartment, the harder it got for Abby to breathe. She realized that she uprooted and moved into Harper’s place and now that the two are on the out’s, she has nowhere to go and nothing to really call her own. While she was dealing with her inner turmoil her best friend spoke up.
“you can just stay with me until you get things figured out. I can hear your brain gears turning from all the way over here. I will just save you the trouble of denying and say that you don’t really have a choice in the matter.”
“thank you. You know. For driving out all that way and saving me from that family. For putting me up and just for being a good friend. I honestly don’t know how I could have gotten through any of this without you.”
“I mean I AM pretty great. Although, it seems like I might not be the only one in you corner though. What about that lady friend you were talking to? Riley is it? What's the story there, because there is definitely a story. She followed you out that house faster than I could blink.”
Abby cracks a hidden smile at the mention of the dark-haired doctor, “there is absolutely no story there except that she happened to be the only normal person I had met over the past few days. Something about her makes me open up and it was a nice distraction while Harper was off doing god knows what." Abby's voice cracked at the mention of her girlfriends(ex?) name.
It was late by the time they had made it back to the city, John just opted to take her back to his place and they would deal with the rest of the world tomorrow. Neither of them spoke much when they got to his apartment, only a few words of how she could just take the spare bedroom and a joke about how she shouldn’t be alarmed if he sleepwalks in the nude. Sleep didn’t come easy to the blonde, her phone had strings of missed calls and texts from Harper, that she just couldn’t bear to open yet. One text that she did happen to read and contemplated answering was from Riley.
Riley: Keep your head up Holland. Here if you need a friend. Hope you made it back safely.
Abby: thank you. Home safe.
The text showed read barely a minute after she sent it. There were those dreaded three dots that showed that the dark-haired girl was responding. But they quickly disappeared without a reply. Without thinking Abby sent another message.
Abby: still up Bennett? You know I can see you reading my messages and typing...
Riley: didn't think you would reply to be honest. Just wanted to check in is all. Is that weird? Are we those type of friends? Are we even friends? What’s the rules on this? I only skimmed through the lesbian handbook.
Without missing a beat, Abby smiled again about something pertaining to Riley for the second time that night.
Abby: aren't you supposed to be the doc? I mean, reading, studying and even the occasional teaching should be in your blood. Good thing you have a FRIEND like me to give you cheat sheets on Lesbianism 101
Riley: well look at that, turns out we CAN be friends. Teach me your ways professor Holland. Why are you still up?
Abby: I could ask you the same thing. I have way too much going on in this brain to even think about sleep. What’s your excuse?
There wasn’t an instant reply, instead, Riley’s name flashed across her phone screen and she cleared her throat before answering, “He-Hello?”
“to answer your question, I couldn’t sleep because I was worried about my FRIEND. Plus, the hospital had me on call for a lot of night shifts before the holidays so it’s kind of hard to readjust.”
Abby stuttered for a moment, caught off guard that the doctor had called instead of opting for text, who even calls anymore? “uh yep yah, I can only imagine how difficult that must be to deal with. But you know I'm not some fragile little china doll, you don’t have to worry that I will break at any given moment. You don’t have to constantly check on me” Abby mentally smacks herself, that came out super rude.
“sorry, maybe it's just the doctor in me, always worried about something.” Riley laughs and that did something to Abby’s stomach. A feeling that she quickly put to rest.
“all good here. Yep. Just your typical run of the mill heartbreak. Nothing that thousands of people don’t encounter every day. I will probably start self-medicating with booze within the coming weeks.”
There was silence on the other end, maybe the other girl had hung up? Fallen asleep? Got bored to death? The blonde was about to say something when Riley finally spoke, “you don’t have to do that you know? At least not with me. You don’t have to belittle your own feelings. What you went through, it sucks. No one understands that better than I do. Just know that your feelings, they’re valid. You can feel upset, sad, mad, everything in between. I know it isn't a good time of year for you, considering everything you told me about your parents and how Christmas makes you feel. This is a safe space. But by all means, if you feel that self medicating with booze will help, I will not be the one to get in the way of that.”
All the tears that Abby had held in, broke like a dam at the floodgates settled. She let out a gut-wrenching sob that tore through the silence of the small room like a tornado. She clutched her chest as though if she didn’t hold on tight enough her heart would break right out. She cried for what seemed like an eternity and when she exhausted herself and the tears dried on her face, she looked at the phone to see that the other girl was still on the line. She called out in a raspy voice, “Riley?
The other girl spoke quietly, “I’m right here.”
“I'm sorry about all that. I guess I held in more than I was willing to admit to myself. Why ARE you still here? Not that I’m not thankful but, we’ve barely known each other for a few days. Yet here you are comforting me as if I've known you a lifetime.”
She hears a sigh on the other side, “you needed someone and something in my gut just told me to step up. When Harper denied herself in front of her whole family and all her friends, that part hurts. I saw the same look on your face, that same look I'm sure was plastered on my face when she did the same thing to me all those years ago. At that time, I had NO ONE. I mean no one. All my friends were her friends, and they all took her side. How badly I wanted someone, just ANYONE that I could share my feelings with. I would have been fine if I had someone to just tell me that everything was going to be okay. Maybe I would have healed sooner.”
“thank you” was all Abby could think of to say back. Exhaustion crashed over her and before she knew it, she had begun to drift off to sleep. All she heard was a soft “Merry Christmas Holland” before her body succumbed to her slumber.
A loud ringing jolted the sleeping girl awake. Her headache immediately kicked in, a hangover from her crying. With her eyes still closed, she reached around for her ringing phone. When she finally found it, she looked at the phone through squinted eyes Harper. She clicks the decline button, not wanting to talk to her just yet. Instead, she goes to write a new message, ‘Merry Christmas Bennett. Thankful for you in times like these.’ before locking her phone and letting herself drift back off to sleep.
With a box in her arms, Abby turns and takes one last look at the small apartment that she shared with Harper. All that history packed away in little boxes she and John had been carrying out. Given it wasn’t a lot of things, since she got rid of a lot when she moved in. It’s Christmas day and John had spent hours helping her pack up her things, wanting it to get sorted out before Harper gets back. Her phone has been ringing off the hook, but she hasn’t found the energy nor courage to talk to her ex. At this point, even if the taller girl was standing in front of her, she wouldn’t know what to say. There really isn’t anything to say.
They spent the rest of the day back at John’s apartment. Their traditions every year was to order bad take out and watch trashy television. This year seemed to prove no different.
“so are we just going to ignore that scream cry thing you had going on last night or should we like digest that information.” John asks skeptically not really making eye contact with his friend.
“crap. Sorry. Forgot you could hear me. I was just on the phone with Riley and she said some things that triggered a set of emotions that I suppressed and it just all surfaced at once.”
John adjusts his body, intrigued, “Riley you say? I think we should circle back to that. But how are you doing now? I know we didn’t do much talking today and I know that it couldn’t have been easy packing up your life considering you were going to ask that girl to marry you despite my veiled disapproval on the whole ordeal.”
She shakes her head, “no but I think I'll be okay in time. I will try to find a place soon and be out of your hair. Thanks again for letting me crash.”
John just waves his hand around, “of course. What am I going to do? Make my best friend sleep on the street? We have way too much class for that nonsense. Anyway, circling back, Riley? Wasn’t it, I don’t know, the middle of the night? You just happen to call up your ex's ex for a good night's cry? Is that a new form of lesbian foreplay?”
“oh my god John- no! She was just checking on me. Being a good friend or whatever, I don’t know. It was a nice gesture. She just mentioned a conversation her and I had about my parents and it just made me miss them and just shattered me along with the realization that I lost Harper too. She was my person. Riley just listened and only occasionally chimed in with her wisdom considering we went through similar things. It was just perspective.”
“alright whatever you say. Just as long as you don’t have a lady boner for her. Because that, honey, is 50 shades of complicated.”
Before she could reply, her phone chimes, and to her surprise it wasn’t Harper this time. It was a message from Riley, it was a picture of her in a Santa hat, hair down, making a face and rocking a weird handmade green Christmas sweater. The message attached said ‘my parents started taking Christmas crafting lessons. Safe to say they should probably get their money back’ this elicits a small chuckle out of the blonde girl. At this point, it had John curious so naturally he looked at her phone to see what’s got his best friend so giddy suddenly. He doesn’t comment on it, seeing as though it was making her happy for the time being.
Abby replies with a selfie of her and John, sat on his couch, Togo boxes engulfing the two. Her message reply “fulfilling our Christmas traditions.” that was the last that she touched her phone. She sank into the couch and watched bad TV with her friend until he started to doze off, wine glass in hand. She nudged him awake and sent him off to bed while she cleaned up their mess. It was when she climbed into bed that she started to feel alone again, and she quickly shook that thought. She was scrolling on her phone, searching for places to rent when an incoming message chimed.
Riley: So... Harper called me. She was curious if you were with me since I did kinda run after you. Says you haven’t been returning her calls. And something weird about how she can't track you or John anymore and that he taught her how to do that? I don’t even want to know.
Abby: sorry that must have been awkward. And yah, John apparently can hack like the NSA and he turned it off so that she wouldn’t know where to find us, not that it would be that hard. I am just not ready to deal with everything right now. I just wanted to be moved out before she got back.
Riley: you moved out? On Christmas. Oh, that’s cold Holland.
Abby: Christmas is just another day. I just wanted to get out. As for not returning her calls. I didn’t want to hear any more excuses. It's exhausting
Riley: I hear ya. No judgement here.
Before she knew what, she was doing, her finger clicked the call button and the other girl answered, “everything okay?”
Abby heavily inhaled at the sound of the other girls voice, “yep. All good. Just wanted to call. I don’t know, didn’t feel like texting anymore. Figured we might be past that considering you were there for my intense scream crying therapy last night. Sorry about that by the way, I usually don’t really show too much emotion. I honestly don’t even know why it comes so easy with you. Sorry I'm rambling, I guess I do that when I am nervous or whatever.”
Riley chimes in, “breathe. It's fine, really. You totally need to snap out of that habit of apologizing. Especially when it’s about things that are clearly out of your control. If I didn’t want to be there for you, I wouldn’t have hinted at you to reach out.
“okay, sorry, fuck! Nope, take it back. Not sorry”
Riley just chuckles at the blonde's slip up, while Abby can’t help but thinks to herself how much she enjoys the sound of the doctor’s laugh.
“you really are something else, aren't you Holland?”
Before Abby could respond, there was loud knocking. “what the hell? Someone's banging on the door.”
“you guys expecting company?” Riley questioned skeptically
“uhm well considering John’s been asleep for the better part of the last hour and I’m in bed talking to you, I don’t think so. I hope John didn’t sleep booty call one of his late-night companions, that would be awkward.” Abby chuckles.
“why awkward? Sex is natural. Let him life his best life” they both break out in laughter. It’s short lived though, while the knocking continues. With Riley on the phone, Abby wobbles to the front door. When she comes face to face with their unexpected guest, all the air gets sucked out of her body. “Ha-Harper, what the hell?” was all that Abby could croak out.
At the other end of the line, she can hear Riley whisper, “oh shit”
Harper stands awkwardly at the door, hands picking at the hem of her long peacoat, eyes puffy and red from the obvious crying. In a soft voice she whispers, “well, at least now I know your phones not broken”
Abby is caught off guard, temporarily forgetting that she is still on the phone she mutters a quick, “Riley, I'm sorry, I’ll call you back.” she hangs up the phone before the other girl had a chance to respond.
“Riley? As in MY Riley? Seriously Abby? You can’t answer my calls or texts but you’re having late night conversations with her? What the hell!”
“What NO! This has absolutely nothing to do with her! And keep your voice down, John’s asleep in the other room. What do you mean YOUR Riley, it’s not like you have some weird wolfie claim over her.”
Harper plows through Abby and comes inside, her emotions obviously heightened, “do you know how it feels to rush home, to our home, only to find all your stuff gone? To see everything we have built together just ripped away. Not even a note Abby. You just creeped in and completely erased yourself from our home!” by this time Harper’s silent tears just trickled down her cheeks and her breathing is ragged.
Abby trying hard to keep herself composed, “I would imagine it feels as bad as watching the person you love, completely denying themselves in front of their family and friends. To be lied to by that same person, repeatedly, when you think you know them. To have your heart shattered in front of a bunch of strangers at a party that the same person dragged you to. So yeah, I guess I know how it feels.”
Harper tries to comfort Abby, but she just pulls away, “I asked for time. We have gone around in circles this whole week, and you said I wouldn’t lose you. All I wanted was time for me to figure this all out, so I can finally tell them after the holidays. Time you selfishly couldn’t give me.”
Abby started to raise her voice slightly, “you are calling me selfish? Me? Wow, that’s rich coming from you. Are you kidding me right now? This whole week was about you and what you needed! I held my tongue when everyone tip toed around me for being the weird orphan girl that you brought home. You didn’t even defend me when I was accused of theft. None of your friends bothered to get to know me. I even stood by when your parents, very obviously I might add, tried to set you back up with that perfect ex-boyfriend of yours. Pardon me for being so selfish all those times!”
“that’s not fair. I have no control over how everyone else acts!”
“yah but you can sure as hell control your own actions Harper. What was that flirting with Connor? The subtle touches and shit. You could have controlled those actions, but you chose not to.”
“I was trying to make you jealous! It was stupid, and childish I know. I saw you in town earlier that day with Riley. After we had our fight and I asked for space. I didn’t ask for that. I didn’t ask for you to go running to Riley! I didn’t even know you guys were friends!”
“Here we go, back to Riley again. What is UP with you and that girl. Why are you so threatened by her? Yes, I was with Riley so what? She was the ONLY person in this town aside from Jane who showed any interest in spending time with me. Yes, that also included you. That night when I was accused of stealing and I was rudely uninvited to the dinner, I ran in to Riley. She was nice to me and kept me company in a town where I knew absolutely no one. When you demanded space, after accusing me of smothering you, I went to the only friend I had in town which happened to be Riley. She understood what I was going through and frankly I don’t even know why it even matters at this point. At least she’s honest with me” Abby speaks back down to a soft tone.
“you don’t even know her, and we just have a weird history and I-” Harper stutters.
“wha? You’re afraid of what she would have told me? The truth about what happened between you guys? Yeah, I know about that too. That’s another one of our issues. The fact that you never told me the full story”
“I didn’t mention the past relationship information because I didn’t feel it was relevant. Why are you so caught up in the past? We should be fixing our problems right now. I know I messed up, a lot. But I want us to work through it. I will tell them, as soon as we hear back. This endorsement is huge for my family, you know that. Please, I am asking you, just give me more time. I will tell them soon. Come home, be with me. I love you.”
“I'm-I can’t. It’s inevitable that there will always be a conflict that arises, especially with the stress of an election. You really think that the campaign will go smoothly if the candidate for Mayor’s daughter comes out as gay? They are going to spin that web and tangle everyone in it. I can’t keep going through that. I refuse to put myself in that situation. There's always going to be a ‘later’ with you.”
“So that’s it? You just throw in the towel when it gets a little hard? Without so much as a fighting chance for us?” Harper chokes back a sob.
Abby hates seeing the taller girl cry, so she makes her way over and gently pulls her in for a comforting hug. “I know this situation is shitty. We have both displayed our own side of the argument and I think for now you need to be single and learn to love yourself before you can truly love someone else. As much as it pains me to say it, I think this relationship was only a steppingstone for you to truly find yourself. You should really self-evaluate and prioritize what’s important to you. I can help you do that, in time, but only as friends. I’m sorry but that’s as much as I can give to you right now.”
“for now, I will take as much as you can give me, but I will win you over Abby Holland. You’re my person.”
Abby chose to ignore the pang in her chest when Harper spoke those word, knowing that just a mere week ago she was saying those same words when she picked up the ring. She immediately changes the subject before she began crying again, “It’s late. You shouldn't head back to the apartment by yourself. Just take the bed in the spare room. It's where I’ve been staying. I will just stay on the couch. Please don’t start an argument, I’m tired and you probably are too. Let's just call it a night.”
With that said, Harper just retreated into the bedroom without another sound. Abby attempted to make the couch into a cozy bed before climbing into it. As soon as her head hit the cushion, she immediately thought about how she hastily hung up on Riley. She pulled out her phone and opened her thread of messages between them and started typing...
Abby: Sorry about just hanging up. Harper showed up, as you heard I’m sure. Long story short, there was a lot of words and anger exchanged. We aired it all out. Hard to tell what will happen from here but I guess we will see what tomorrow holds. I didn’t feel comfortable sending her out in the cold back to the apartment alone, so she is currently crashing here with me.
Riley anxiously opened the message having spent however long worrying about the blonde and what had happened when Harper showed up. But after reading the conversation, seeing that Harper is staying with Abby, a pang of disappointment washed over here. She couldn’t explain the feeling, so she just locked her phone and began tossing in her bed until exhaustion eventually took over.
Abby woke up to someone shaking her vigorously, “Abby ABBY ! Why in the world is Harper here, and sleeping in your bed? Did you guys... you know... just make sure you wash the sheets.” John wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
“what? No! Would I be sleeping on the couch if it did? Nothing happened. We had an intense talk. There was lots of crying involved.” Abby says as she sits up from the couch. Stretching her limbs. The couch isn't the most comfortable place to sleep.
“I always sleep through the good stuff! So? Is it a kiss and make up type of scenario? Do we relocate and change our names? I know a guy.”
Abby chuckles, “I just told her that maybe she needs to be alone for a while. To re-discover herself. Sounds ridiculous but all my thoughts just poured out; it was late.” She quickly buries her face in her hands.
“That may be the smartest thing you could say to her at this point. Who knows, maybe down the road once she is a lot more comfortable in her own skin you guys will find your way back to one another. I mean, if that is what you want. Th is is why I avoid the whole relationship thing; it is exhausting. I don’t know how people do it. I would lose my damn mind. Anyways, will you be okay? I just got a call from a couple of my authors and they need to meet, apparently the holiday season got their creativity rolling. I must put in some work hours.”
“yeah, no, I will be fine. I will try to do some apartment hunting today and catch up on a couple of my courses. I will talk to Harper eventually when she gets up, just don’t think there is much more for us to discuss though. Don’t worry about me, go go go . ”
After John left, Abby went to her thread of messages with Riley to see if the doctor had responded. She could see that the message was left on read and for some reason that left her disappointed. Without a thought she typed up a new message.
Abby: ‘last night was exhausting. Distract me. What’s going on in your world?’
She waited a couple moments, but the other girl never responded. Abby was used to a quick response from the other end of the line, but the silence is killing her a bit.
Instead of waiting around, she decided to hop in the shower. While she was in there, she could hear Harper getting up in the other room. When she got out and headed towards the bedroom, Harper was sat on the wooden floors holding in her hand a little box that Abby had picked up prior to all this madness.
Harper looked up with tear filled eyes, “I swear I wasn’t snooping. I tripped over your bag as I was getting out of the unfamiliar bed and this fell out.”
Abby just walked over and took the box from Harper’s hands and tucked it back into her bag, “it doesn’t matter anymore. I honestly don’t want to talk about it. Would just make the situation harder than it already is.”
“You were going to propose! That is a HUGE deal! How can you just brush it off?”
Abby just stood up, “it just wasn’t the right time for us, that’s all. We talked about this. You should head home. I have a lot to do today. I'm sorry.” then she walks out of the bedroom without another word. Harper throws on her jacket and follows Abby out into the living room. She tries to pull the shorter girl into her arms but fails. She just mumbles a quick bye and leaves, tears threatening to fall from her eyes as she goes. Abby takes a couple deep breathes to calm her nerves. She never expected Harper to find the ring.
Instead of allowing herself to sit and wallow, she picks herself up and keeps herself busy the rest of the day. The first thing on her list was to take the ring back. She then goes to submit some of her assignments for her class and lastly, she made a handful of appointments to check out some apartments in the area. The places didn’t seem too promising but at least she wouldn’t feel like she was burdening her friend when she gets her own place.
John called her when she was out to check in and she filled him in on Harper finding the ring but didn’t say much of anything else. He triple check to make sure Abby was alright before telling her that he had a date and would most likely not be home. Abby was happy for her friend; she didn’t want everyone else's life to stop just because hers isn't going right at the moment.
Her phone chimed as she stepped into the apartment
Riley: been busy with family events.
She couldn’t help but notice the cold tone in the text. Maybe she was reading too much into it? The doctor did go home to spend time with her family.
Abby: sorry. I will leave you to it.
She got a reply almost instantly
Riley: what did I say about apologizing for things you had no control over Holland?
The blonde read the message, but it felt like it needed no answer, so she just locked her phone and decided to make herself some dinner.
Riley saw that her message was read but there was no reply. Part of her wanted to call but she stopped herself. She didn’t know what was going on between Abby and Harper and didn’t want to get in the middle of that. All she knows is that she has been enjoying the conversations she has been having with the green-eyed girl. More so than she would like to admit. Riley really wasn’t lying when she said she was busy with family. She spent the morning with her parents and flew home in the afternoon. She was now back in her own apartment, finding herself missing a certain someone. Her train of thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of her phone, Harper
Riley clears her throat before answering, mentally preparing herself for whatever conversation is about to take place, “Harper hey what’s up?”
“are you busy? Am I catching you at a bad time?”
“nope, shifts don’t start until after the new year so just been relaxing, what’s going on?” Riley tries to sound as casual as possible.
Harper takes a deep breath, “I know this is long overdue, but I sincerely just want to apologize for everything that went down with us. I feel so shitty putting you in that position. I didn’t realize how hurt you must have been until I saw the pain in Abby’s face when I did almost the exact same thing to her. I should have acknowledged this a long time ago, but it seems I still have a lot of growing up to do. I just hope that you can find it within yourself to forgive me.” This all caught Riley by surprise.
“Honestly Harper, I forgave you a long time ago. It took me a while, but it helped push me to grow. Did it absolutely suck? Hell yeah, at the time. I didn’t just lose the person I thought I loved but I also lost a friend. My best friend. Someone I grew up with. That was the hardest part of it all. It caused me to close myself off to everyone and trust never came easy to me after that. The fear of rejection just consumed me. As I grew older and life continued to pass me by, I can see why you did what you did. Your family is really intense, and I can’t even begin to imagine the pressure that you were under. I won’t excuse what you did because it was still shitty, but I do forgive you Harper.”
Sniffles come from the other side of the phone, “I’m really sorry Riley, I truly am. If I could take it all back I would.”
“don’t say that. Our actions define the road that lies ahead. We learn from it and move on.”
Harper slightly raises her voice, “that’s the problem though! I never did learn! You witnessed me doing the exact same thing to Abby. I wish I was stronger. I hurt the love of my life and there’s absolutely nothing I can do at this point to fix it.”
This peaked Riley’s interest, as much as she would hate to admit it out loud. Instead of replying she just listened to what Harper had to say next.
“I know you were on the phone with Abby last night, so you know I showed up. We had a long intense talk but ultimately, she doesn’t want to be with me. At least not right now. She told me that I need to be alone for a while and to figure out what it is that I want. After our talk, it got late, and she just offered to let me stay. She crashed on the couch. Much to my dismay. This morning I tripped over her bag and found a ring. She didn’t even want to talk about it. She just shoved it in her bag and practically kicked me out of the apartment. I'm sorry, this is a lot to dump on you I just have no one to talk to about all this.”
Riley really tried to absorb in all the new information that was just presented before she spoke, “Damn, that is a lot of emotion to go through in 24 hours. She did tell me that she planned to propose Christmas morning. Then everything kinda unfolded, you know, you were there. I don’t really know what I can tell you that you haven’t already heard. This isn’t a path I can guide you down, you must navigate it on your own. In time, I truly believe that you will get to where you are meant to go”
“thank you, Riley, for everything. I guess I'll see you around. Don’t be a stranger.”
“take care of yourself Harper.” with that said, they both hung up the phone. Riley plopped herself down on her couch face first and let out a muffled scream of frustration. This is the middle of a shit storm that she didn’t want to allow herself to get caught up in. Are these feelings that she has for Abby worth it?
It’s been a couple days since Riley’s conversation with Harper. She still struggled to find it within herself to reach out to the blonde who she had grown to miss. Against every fiber of her being she bit the bullet and sent a text.
Abby: look who’s alive. I was about to send a search party.
Riley: just getting settled back in Baltimore. Have a bit of time to relax before I dive back into work. Sorry I just dropped off. Heard Harper found the ring.
Instead of texting back, on impulse Abby clicked the call button, “how did you even find out about the ring?”
“Harper called a few days ago. Part of me really thought it was because she was suspicious of me hanging around you. But she called to apologize for all the things in the past. Then she happened to mention what happened between you two. Sounds like a rollercoaster. Which is why I've been removing myself from the whole situation. I wasn’t sure what was going on between the two of you, when you said she was crashing with you. I didn’t want to be the cause of any arguments.”
“honestly after everything that happened and Harper finding the ring, the person I wanted to talk to most was you.”
This caused Riley to crack a smile that she had seem to have lost the last few days, “me? Why me?” she asked sarcastically
“I have no idea. Beats the hell out of me. I didn’t reach out after your short reply about being busy with family. I didn’t want to come off as clingy.”
Riley was quick to respond, “I wish that you did. I stayed away for the exact same reason. I really thought that you and Harper might have aired everything out and was giving it another shot. That’s why I gave you space. Didn’t want you to feel like I was overbearing and suffocating you.”
“suffocating would be the last word I would use to describe you. Comfortable is more like. Being around you, talking to you, it’s like I have known you all my life.”
“I’m just awesome” Riley jokes
Abby laughs at the doctor, thinking to herself how she missed this, even though she doesn’t even know what it is that she was missing. “ha ha very funny. Someone is full of themselves. But in all seriousness, uh what are you doing for New Year's Eve?”
“uhm probably going to be where I am right now. But with more alcohol. Why?”
“well, it turns out I am going to be in Baltimore on the 31st. One of the professors that I had last semester, she is hosting her first pop up exhibit and invited me to come. There are a couple people that she wanted to introduce to me who can help with a job once I graduate.”
“I never asked, what ARE you in school for? We discussed so much about past relationships and shit that I barely bothered to get to know you has an individual”
Abby chuckles nervously, “it’s alright. Partially my fault since I can be pretty closed off at times. And as for school, I am getting my PhD in Art History. My parents were professors where I am attending school and part of me wanted to keep a piece of them close to my heart you know?”
“that’s lovely. Well, if you are in town, it would be my pleasure to show you around. Do you have any idea where you’re staying yet? I can plan to meet you somewhere or pick you up if you give me an address. We can figure something out.”
“uhm I have to check with my professor. She was going to forward me details of the hotel she would be staying at and I was going to just book a room at the same place for convenience.”
Riley’s mouth spoke the words before her brain had a chance to catch up, “I have a guest bedroom. You are more than welcome to crash here.”
Abby had a flashback to being stuck in a basement at the Caldwell Mansion just a week prior but agreed nonetheless, “If it’s not a bother, then I will totally take you up on it. Hotels kinda freak me out.”
As though brunette could read the blondes mind, she said, “I promise the guest bedroom isn't in a basement with no lock. You will have a normal room with a proper lock.” this caused both of the girls to laugh hysterically. That was how the rest of the night went with them. A lot of back-and-forth banter, childhood stories and just enjoyed getting to know each other.
It was now the night before Abby had to fly out. Part of her was nervous to see Riley again, but she couldn’t really wrap her head around why. They spent the last few days talking nonstop. If one of them was out and about, they would exchange texts. At night they would spend hours on the phone until one of them was bound to fall asleep. This was new territory for the both of them. Neither could remember when they have ever spent this much time on their phones. Abby was engrossed in packing when her phone chimed. She knew right away who it was because since her and Riley text so often she set a notification tone customized for the doctor.
Riley: you fly in tomorrow morning yeah?
Abby: touchdown in Baltimore at 8:55am.
Riley: don’t hate me...
This caused Abby’s heart to sink a little. She hopes that she doesn’t get cancelled on.
Abby: I don’t think I could ever. Why though...? Are you cancelling on me...?
Riley: no! There’s just a chance that I will be like an hour late picking you up. I have to be at the hospital for a staff meeting to get my rotation assignments for after the new year. I just hate being late to things and I feel bad having you wait around for me.
Abby: Chill out Bennett. It's totally fine. I’m sure there is a café or something at the airport I can chill at until you’re done. Really, it’s not a big deal. Don’t sweat it too much. Plus, you are already doing me a huge favor anyways. Picking me up and letting me crash. Saves me money on Lyft and hotels.”
Riley: that’s ice-cold Holland. Using me for my things. I should charge you
Abby: I will gladly pay you in beers
Riley: now that’s what I’m talking about! Speaking my kinda language!
Abby: I will text you when I land tomorrow, and you just get there when you can. Seriously, no rush. I'm gonna try and go hang out with John a bit after I finish packing. I haven’t seen much of him around the apartment. I feel bad.
Riley: no sweat. I should probably try to get some normal sleep tonight anyways. Need to reset my doctor clock. Safe travels and I will see you tomorrow. Tell John hello for me. Goodnight Holland.”
Abby sent a quick goodnight text back to Riley. She couldn’t help the small smile that crept on her face when she thought about how she will get to see her tomorrow. John spoke up from open bedroom door, “looks like someone is in a good mood.”
This startled Abby, “goodness! I should put a bell on you. How do you move so stealthy?”
“it takes years of practice. I often sneak out of my gentleman companions' places. I feel that if I stick around or wake the beast, I will have to do the whole morning thing with them and I am just not ready for that kind of commitment.”
“well, you must be getting lucky because I haven’t seen much of you around these past few days. Anyone special? Gonna meet the parents?” Abby wiggles her eyebrows suggestively.
“ew no. Why would you say the P word? Don’t you know this is my safe zone? But if you must know I haven’t been out with anyone in that way. I have actually been meeting up with Harper’s sister Jane.”
“what? How do you even know her? Have you guys been like... out?” Abby questions.
“it’s like you don’t even know me at all. First off, gross. Second, I am about as straight as a circle. Shame on you for insinuating that. I met Jane when she was helping me gather your belongings on Christmas. She is nearly done with her novel and as you know, I represent a lot of different authors. I offered to help her get started.”
“that’s really nice. I’m glad she has you.”
John just waves his hand around in the air, “don’t be changing the subject to me though. Why you in such a good mood? You would think that you’re packing for a beach trip in Hawaii instead of a stuffy art exhibit. This doesn’t happen to be related to a certain dark-haired doctor does it?”
Abby blushed slightly, “what... no. Maybe? I don’t know. I just know that I look forward to seeing her again. Does that make me a bad person?”
“no. Not at all. It seems you and Harper cleared the air and things seem to be tame. If Riley makes you happy then so be it. Nobody else’s opinion should be a factor in that.”
“I guess you’re right. You always seem to know what to say.”
“I know a lot of writers. Words just come effortless to me. I'm flawless”
Abby retorted, “you are the best. But flawless? I don’t think so. Should we circle back to the fish debacle?”
“Oh, my goodness. We discussed this. Fish belong in the sea. Who knew that if I didn’t feed them one morning that they would just go belly up.” John huffed, crossing his arms across his chest.
“yeah, you’re probably right. Do you have plans with Jane tonight? Do you want to hang out? We could stay in or go out?”
“I won’t see Jane again until middle of January. Let’s just stay in. I don’t want to tempt my inner sex goddess by going out. Food, face masks, and films? We are a little overdue for a ladies night”
So, they went and did exactly that. Two best friends hanging out. No fights, no drama. Just chats about what comes next in their chapter and how they will continue to fit into each other's lives. Both thinking to themselves how lucky they are to have found friendship in each other. Platonic soulmates.
Abby’s flight landed half an hour later than it was supposed to. The snow caused a tremendous amount of turbulence. She was always just a little afraid of flying, for this exact reason. Once she was able to, she flicked off the airplane mode of her phone and sent a quick text to Riley.
Abby: Just landed. Turbulence was insane.
Riley didn’t answer. So naturally Abby just assumed she was still caught up. She tucked her phone in her pocket and made her way off the plane. The airport seemed a lot more busy than normal. Abby watched as families reunite, kisses and hugs being shared. Airports always told a lot of stories and it was just nice for Abby to be able to see them unfold. She was busy people watching and almost missed Riley at the gates of arrivals, with a sign that says, PROFESSOR HOLLAND. It looked like it was written with a sharpie on the back of an old Togo menu of some sort.
Abby was still a good distance away from Riley. This gave her a chance to really look at the doctor. She was wearing some tan booties, dark pants, black shirt and an army green pea coat. Wow she looks good Abby thought to herself. She smiled and willed her legs to walk faster, yet not wanting to seem eager. Riley on the other hand was smirking as she checked out the blonde discreetly. Who steps off a plane looking that adorable Riley thought to herself? Abby wore some black sneakers. A ripped pair of blue jeans, a collegiate red hoodie underneath a black jacket. Her mess of blonde hair tucked inside a black beanie.
When their eyes met it was like the rest of the airport just disappeared and time was moving in slow motion. For every step that Abby took closer to Riley, the bigger her smile would get. Until finally they were face to face.
Abby was the one who broke the silence first, “I think you might be jumping the gun there. Not a professor yet”
Riley looks down at her makeshift sign, “the words don’t lie Professor Holland”
They stood in silence for a little while, both not initiating the first contact because they don’t know if they should shake hands? Hug? Or fist bump at this point.
Riley spoke up, “you hungry?”
“alright let’s go. I am parked nearby.”
The awkwardness from earlier soon disappeared and they found themselves back in the rhythm of conversation. Riley drove for a about 20 minutes and they ended up at what looked like an apartment complex.
“I figured you would want to get settled and stuff before you started your day.” Riley said as they were getting out of the car. Abby followed her into the building, and they took the elevator up. They didn’t quite reach the top floor, but it was close. Before unlocking the door, Riley turned to Abby, “okay so I didn’t really have to be at the hospital this morning. I knew I wanted to cook and was afraid I wouldn't have had enough time so I might have told a little white lie.” when Riley finally opened the door, Abby could see the food spread laid out on the kitchen island. She was in awe of how big the apartment was. The living room had a modern open floor plan. Straight through was the kitchen. The ceiling was high and there seemed to be a wraparound terrace. She stepped inside, allowing Riley to close the door behind her. When they walked closer to the kitchen, she could see all the different kinds of food to choose from. Waffles, bacon, eggs, sausages, French toast, hash browns, oatmeal.
Riley just leaned against the kitchen counter, picking up a piece of bacon and popping it in her mouth. “I remember you saying something about how breakfast is a key meal that sets the tone for the whole day.”
“this is literally the nicest thing anyone has ever done. Like way too sweet. You really shouldn’t have. You are already doing so much. I am just so thankful.” Abby says sincerely.
“well, you can thank me by eating. This gives me an excuse to use the kitchen. I eat out more often than I could care to admit.”
“hold on I want to document this before we eat all of it!” Abby pulls out her phone from her pocket. Instead of moving out of the way, Riley stands on the opposite side of the island, mouth open, as if she is going to just swallow all the food at once. Abby snapped a couple pics before she retired her phone back in her pants pocket. Safe to say that they both ate themselves into a mini food coma.
Once they both ate Riley gave Abby a quick tour of the apartment so that she would feel more comfortable and get a feel of where everything was. There was two bedrooms, and each room had its own bathroom. Down a long hallway there was a little office. In the living room, there was a door that led to the terrace overlooking the Baltimore waterfront. Abby was in awe at the view from this high up. She could clearly see the Baltimore skyline.
With her hand on the railing, as Abby was taking it all in, she says, “with a view like this. How do you find it in yourself to ever leave? It's just absolutely beautiful.
Without taking her eyes off the blonde, Riley responds, “so beautiful” she then turns to face the waterfront, “it is really hard some days but what can you do. Gotta go to work and pay the bills in order to keep this view.” Riley laughs and nudges Abby’s shoulder with her own.
“well, the event isn’t until 5 so, are you going to show me your city? I mean I am pretty content staying right here with this view, but I was promised a tour.”
“let’s go then! I like to keep my promises. Do you need to shower or whatever first?”
“no, I can do that when we get back and get ready. I mean if that’s cool with you”
“whatever you need. If you are ready, we can head out. I thought we might just walk along the promenade at the waterfront. They have a bunch of activities going on considering its New Year's Eve”
“that sounds fun”
Down by the water, close to Riley’s apartment building there was a coffee cart. They each grabbed a hot chocolate and walked. Along the way Riley would spew off history of certain buildings and sculptures they would pass. As an art history student, this fascinated Abby to no end. She did correct Riley on items that she did happen to know from her studies, and this just caused the doctor to shoot of some sarcastic answer instead of admitting that she was wrong.
They walked around for a little while, Abby taking it all in. She thought to herself that maybe this is a place she could see herself living one day. She was so enthralled by the sights she didn’t even realize Riley wasn’t walking next to her. When she looked back, she could see Riley standing several feet back with her camera taking a picture. Abby just shakes her head and poses for more photos, all whilst laughing the faces Riley would be making behind the camera phone. They attempted to take a couple photos together but all they got was a bunch of photos of them laughing at each other and making silly faces. They didn’t manage to walk much further before they turned around so they could get ready for the event.
Once they got back into the apartment, they separated to get ready. Abby wore some black oxford style shoes. A pair a very skinny black pants, a white button up in which she buttoned all the way to the top, and a fitted blazer. She knew that she could meet her potential bosses there, so she opted for a more conservative but professional look. She could hear music still blaring from Riley’s room so naturally she just assumes that the brunette is still getting ready.
She makes her way to the living room and sits at the kitchen table going through her phone. She opened up the photo she had taken of Riley earlier today with all the food and she immediately found herself smiling. Not thinking too much about it, she goes to upload the photo to her Instagram story. She captioned it ‘I think she might be trying to overfeed me’ and tagged Riley. She scrolled aimlesslessly on her phone until she heard footsteps appearing and in walked Riley. She wore her hair down, a black V neck shirt that accented her breast, a long open tan jacket. Her black leather pants were so tight that you can see all her natural curves.
Abby didn’t realize she was staring until Riley spoke up “why don’t you take a picture; it might last longer.”
The blonde thinks about it for a moment and almost snaps a photo but she catches herself before she does, “I have a photographic memory. All good.” Abby jokes as she taps one finger on her head.
“sorry it took so long for me to finish up. Hope you weren't waiting for me long.”
“no worries. I only just finished myself. Your shower pressure was fantastic, I almost didn’t want to get out” Abby chuckles.
Riley snickered, “that is not surprising at all. You aren’t the first person to mention that” for some reason the thought of Riley having other girls here, made Abby’s stomach drop a little bit. As if she is able to read her mind, Riley spoke up again, “whenever my parents visit, they always make the same comment. Come to think of it, aside from my family you are the only guest I have ever hosted in here.”
The blonde eased up a bit with this new bit of information, “well I am honored. This place is amazing.”
“shall we go?’ Riley asks as she extends her arm for Abby to take. With that they make their way out the door.
The exhibit was already in full swing by the time the two girls arrived. Abby was a little stiff at first sight. She gets easily overwhelmed by large gatherings. Riley took one look at her and without thinking, just grabbed Abby’s hand and gave it a tight squeeze. Silently letting her know that she was right there with her. When she realized how intimate the gesture was, she immediately let go and shot the blonde a soft smile. Not long after they entered, a well-dressed woman roughly their mothers age approached them. She wore a black camisole under a colt blue blazer, white skinny pants and a pair of what looks like black pointed Louboutin's.
“if it isn't my sharpest student. Thank you so much for coming out all this way. So, what do you think?”
“everything looks so amazing. Honestly. Your work has always been amazing, and I didn’t expect anything less. Congrats.” Abby responded.
“you have always been so kind. I appreciate it more than you know. Where is Harper? You usually drag her to all these events.” the woman asked innocently, not noticing Riley.
Abby shifted awkwardly before speaking softly, “uhh Harper and I... we...” instead of words she just shook her head.
“I'm sorry I asked.”
“anyways, uhm this is my friend Riley, she lives here in town, Riley, this is my former professor, Athena Palmer.” Abby introduces the two.
Riley was the first to extender her hand for a shake, “nice you meet you. Thank you for letting me crash your event.” she jokes.
“the pleasure is all mine. The more the merrier. Any friend of Abby’s is more than welcome.” Athena shakes the doctor’s hand firmly. She then turns her attention back to Abby, “I should get back to the other guests and mingle. Thank you again for coming. Enjoy yourself alright? Riley, it was wonderful meeting you.” she then walked away to mix with the other guest. Leaving the two girls alone again.
“wow, she was your professor? How in the world did you ever pay any attention in lectures? She is a literal goddess.” Riley says.
Abby just shakes her head, “I mean I guess that’s why she was named after a Greek goddess. Sorta makes sense.”
“See, that totally went over my head. I had no idea. History and I do not mix. That is why I am a woman of science” Riley jokes.
“we are opposites for sure. Science always got away from me. I almost always failed those courses in school. We would have made awesome study partners in school. You with the science and me with the history.”
Riley smiles at the thought of having Abby as a study partner in school. “oh man I bet high school you was an absolute nerd. High five me too!” she puts her hand up to wait for Abby to high five her but Abby leaves her hanging.
“hey man, just because I like history that doesn’t make me a nerd. Matter of fact I was prom queen,” Abby speaks convincingly.
“what really?” the doctor asked unbelieving.
“psh no. I was a total nerd” Abby laughs. This made the doctor laugh as well.
“oh my god I actually believed you for a moment there.”
“me? Prom queen? Please. You see how I am around people. I’m awkward as hell. Who would even vote for me?” Abby asks
Riley just smiles and answers quickly, “I would have”
This just made Abby blush. “well thank you. Should we get drinks? Nothing spiced I promise”
They did just that. They went to grab some wine, as the bar didn’t serve beer. The two of them just walked around the small venue, admiring the sculptures and paintings that Athena had crafted. Abby having been in all of the professor's courses, was able to give Riley a thorough background to certain pieces. Some of them Abby hadn't seen before, so she admired it a little bit too long. To her surprise, Riley didn’t seem to mind it one bit. She listened to the blonde with her undivided attention despite not understanding a single word.
It became rather hard for Riley to keep denying her growing crush. At a rather young age, Riley had stacked up her walls pretty high. She stopped letting people in after the whole Harper incident. She had convinced herself that if she just doesn't let anyone in, then no one can hurt her. She focused all her energy into finishing school and starting her residency so she could get out of the small town she was stuck in. She never let herself get sidetracked from her goals. All if it was going according to plan until she met Abby. She felt comfortable around the blonde enough to lower her walls.
Riley snapped out of her thoughts when she felt someone nudge her. “you alright you been staring off into space for like 5 minutes. Is my art nerd talk that boring?” Abby half jokes.
She shakes her head, “no absolutely not. Just taking it all in. I actually enjoy it when you get lost in the art and ramble. Its endearing”
“thank you. Sometimes I just lose myself in the art. It’s as if they jump out and speak to me. I mean, not like actually, cuz I’m not a complete psycho.” she laughs shyly.
“I totally get it. I see the way your eyes light up when you talk about it. It’s as if you are speaking in your own language. You keep it interesting enough to where your audience is captivated.”
“yeah, captivated enough to where I had you zoning out” Abby verbally pokes at the doctor.
Riley is quick to answer as to not offend the blonde, “you said this piece gives off a sense of stillness amongst the rushed. Kinda like how everything and everyone has the urgency to get to an unknown destination. To you the stillness represents time. No matter how quickly and impatiently we try to go somewhere, time is a constant that remains at the same speed. We can choose to miss the opportunities that pass us or we can embrace it when it presents itself. Not everyone will have the same countdown but the speed at which time is calculated will always remain the same. No matter how fast or how slow we decide to take it.”
This caught Abby completely off guard, “uhm wow. I honestly didn’t even realize I said all that. I can’t believe you actually paid attention. Sorry I even doubted you. Usually, John would just make some sarcastic comment about this stuff when I go on and on. ”
“I like the sound of your voice” Riley blurted out, before her brain could register the words. “I mean like how you articulate things to where they make sense to people.” she corrected.
Abby didn’t say anything she just smiled at the blabbering doctor. She was honestly overwhelmed that Riley had been paying so much attention. It sent a flutter to her stomach that she quickly tried to squash. She doesn’t want to ruin the only other real friendship she has by developing some sort of attraction that might drive the brunette away. Her thoughts were quickly interrupted by Athena, who wants to pull her away to introduce her to some people. The real reason she was actually at this event tonight.
She quickly excused herself, “Riles hey sorry. I hate to leave you alone in a place where you don’t know anyone, but I have to go mingle for a bit. Are you gonna be alright on your own?” totally ignoring the nickname that she had just given the older girl.
“totally! I knew you would. Now go wow them. I’ll be by the bar” Riley winks and shoo’s her away.
From the bar Riley could see Abby just animatedly talking to some elder folks. No doubt they are the ones with the job offers for the younger girl. She doesn’t have a doubt in her mind that the other girl would have any trouble securing the positions. She let her mind wander as to what might happen if Abby did get the job and live in Baltimore full time. Would it be appropriate to make a move after a little more time has passed? She shakes her head of those thoughts. Surely the blonde doesn’t feel that way for her. Plus, she just got out of a long-term relationship. Riley knows that right now all she can be is a good friend.
To distract herself. She pulls out her phone. She scrolls through the massive amounts of photos she had taken earlier today of the blonde during their stroll. She sighs and quickly tucks it away. Knowing that her feelings will get out of hand if she keeps staring. Instead, she makes her away around the exhibit again. This time she just allows herself to really look. She can clearly still hear Abby’s descriptions in her head, all the little details that she went on and on about. This made her smile. She took her time at each piece, not completely understanding what she was seeing but she tried anyway.
The vibration of her phone snapped her out of the trance she was in. Abby’s name flashed across her screen; “hey” she answers.
“looked for you by the bar but couldn't find you. Thought maybe you might have taken off.” Abby says softly.
“I wouldn’t leave without you. NO TROLL LEFT BEHIND!” Riley whisper yells the last part. Quoting the movie Trolls.
This caused Abby to chuckle on the other end of the line, “not sure if I should feel appreciated or if I should be offended that you just called me a troll.”
“hmm I would go with the latter. You sorta look like Branch” Riley jokes.
The other girl just goes with it, “you are probably right. But where did you disappear to?”
“I did another lap of the room. Wanted to see if I could recall the information you so kindly presented earlier. I feel like I failed as a student because I only confused myself further.”
“if you ever want clarification, you know where to find me. For now, are you ready to get out of here? I think my social meter is at an all-time low.”
“whatever you want. I will meet you out front.” she hangs up the phone after exchanging casual goodbyes.
It was about 9pm when they left the event. The streets were getting crowded, people were packing in for New Year's Eve festivities. Party hats and poppers littered the streets. Instead of braving the wild of the public, Riley insisted they just watch the fireworks from her apartment. Not because she had ulterior motives but because she knows that the blonde wasn’t entirely too fond of large crowds.
When they made it back to the apartment Riley offered the other girl a beer. Since they didn’t get any earlier in the night. She cracked a joke about lesbians and their obsession with the beverage. The two ended up changing into comfier clothes, bundled up and sat on the terrace creating fake scenarios with the people that were passing by on the streets below them. At one point Abby recorded Riley doing a hilarious impression of a young couple’s first New Year's Eve together and posted it on her Instagram story. You couldn’t hear much of what the doctor would say because it was drowned out by the sound of Abby’s laughter.
John facetimed immediately after watching the video on her story to insist that he get a tour of the doctor's deluxe apartment. To which the doctor happily obliged. She exaggerated the tour as if she was on an episode of MTV Cribs' which totally amused both John and Abby. He, of course, had to make snarky comments about how certain pieces of furniture should be placed but complimented the Docs taste regardless. John revised his thoughts about how this whole ex’s ex situation could be messy, he can’t deny that it is a relief to finally see his best friend happy again. He sees the chemistry between the two on the facetime call but instead of commenting on it, he figured it would be best to let them figure it out on their own. He muttered a quick goodbye as he had a guest coming over.
The noise level on the streets below the terrace grew, the closer it got to the new year's countdown. Both girls sat comfortably, talking animatedly about some of their favorite new year's memories growing up. Not realizing the time, Riley excused herself to go use the bathroom. In her absence, Abby contemplates whether it would be appropriate to kiss the older girl at the end of the countdown. She tries hard to convince herself that she hasn’t misread the signals. Naturally time isn’t on her side after all that inner turmoil, considering Riley is still gone and everyone has begun counting down. She hears the synchronizing count down from the crowds below. She is stood against the terrace railing overlooking the streets slightly disappointed that Riley isn’t right next to her. “5...4...3...2...1! HAPPY NEW YEAR!” the crowd roars. Fireworks immediately go off. Abby just mutters a defeated, “Happy new year” to herself.
When she turns around, she almost knocks Riley down. The doctor’s face was a mere inch away from Abby’s and this caught the blonde off guard as her breath hitched in her throat. It felt like they stood frozen for an eternity when in reality it was just a few seconds. Remaining in that same position, Riley was the first to break the silence, “I’m sorry I missed the count down. When I heard all the noise I tried to rush as quickly as possible but failed. Anyways, Happy New year Holland.” Riley moves closer, holding softly onto Abby’s sides, “I’m going to kiss you, just tell me if I have misread things, and I will stop...” Riley says softly, as she gets even closer. Before she could close the gap, she just hears a soft, “wait...”
Riley immediately tries to pull away, afraid she did indeed misread things and made the situation awkward. Abby didn’t let her pull away though. Instead, she pulled the doctor in closer and finished her thought, “you’re not wrong. I only said wait because I know that as soon as we do this, things are going to change. I wanted to be 100% certain that you want this too, and you aren’t just kissing me because it’s new year's and we have been drinking a bit. This means so much more than some random one-time thing and I can't handle it if this was any less significant for you considering the time frame.” by this time their foreheads are touching and every word Abby says, resonates with the brunette.
Instead of verbally answering, Riley finally closed the gap between them. The fireworks they felt, completely put the real ones on display to shame. Both girls smiled into the kiss, neither wanting to pull away. Eventually they did pull away and it was Riley’s turn to speak, but only as a whisper “I have been waiting to do that all day.” They both smile as she continues her thoughts, “I don’t know what tomorrow holds or how we are going to make this work but I just know that I want this. I want us. Whatever that means.”
Abby just pulls the doctor in for another kiss, clumsily they bonk heads before their lips meet. This time neither of them pull apart. Instead, Abby tries to guide Riley inside, lips still connected as they stumble into walls as they maneuver their way inside from the terrace. They make it to the couch and the back of Riley’s leg hits the piece of furniture first before she’s completely laid down, pulling Abby down on top of her. The blonde find’s Riley’s side and tries to slip her hand under her shirt but Riley stopped her and they separated, both breathing heavily.
The doctor just reached up and brushed Abby’s hair out of her face, “Babe I want to do this. Trust me. But I want to take you out on a proper date first. Call me sappy or old fashioned if you want but I think you deserve so much more than a quickie on my couch.”
Abby is grinning from ear to ear, the way that Riley so effortlessly called her ‘babe’ made the butterflies in her stomach flutter like crazy. She just leaned in and kissed her softly before speaking up, “So... you are withholding sex because you want to take me out... Don’t people just go on dates so they can end up exactly where we are right now?” Abby jokes, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.
This made the doctor laugh, “dude, we literally talk every single day, how did I not realize you are a horny teenage boy trapped in a hot girls body?” she says as she reaches behind Abby and taps on her butt.
Abby replied, half chuckling, “says the one who just felt me up. Can’t we just agree that we are both horny teenage boys and get on with the kissing and stuff?”
Riley just shakes her head, “of course we can. But AFTER I take you out on a real date.”
Abby groans, “Baby you’re killing me here. Why can't we just call our entire day a date. I mean it practically was anyways. Breakfast, the stroll by the water, the art show. In my head I considered it a date.” She looks away shyly, not sure what the other girls' reaction would be.
Riley pulled her gaze back, “hey don’t shy away from me. I agree, in my head it was like a day full of date activities. Unintentionally of course, not like it was planned. I don’t know if you knew this but, busy doctor lifestyle, I don’t cook for just anyone, rarely even myself. I did it because I care about you. I want the courting, I want the dates, I want the laugh til we cry, to continue the banter we find ourselves in, the sarcasm, the kisses and yes, eventually the sex. I never told you this, but I never got all that. I jumped from high school, to college and eventually to medical school. I didn’t stop to have the long-term relationships that everyone is supposed to have along the way. I did the casual hookups and more one-night stands that I could count. Once things got too serious, I pulled away without looking back. That's why I am so persistent on this matter. You aren't just some girl to me Abby, you are THE girl. I will be damned if I mess this up.”
This left Abby speechless. Tears brimming in her eyes. Riley reaches up to brush the stray tears away. Abby just holds her hand by her face and kisses it softly before replying, “god, how did I get so lucky? You are literally perfect yet somehow you chose me. This mess of a human. What if I’m not worth it?”
“you are worth it, and so much more. Trust me, I’m a doctor.” Riley says, trying to lighten the mood.
“well, DOCTOR, seeing as though this will be our first official date and your first real date, I will be in charge of planning it. Don’t fight me on this.”
Defeated, Riley just pouts and nods her head, “fine. But under one condition.”
Abby quirks her eyebrow, “I wasn’t aware that this was a negotiation but fine, what’s your proposal Bennett?”
Riley smiles, “you have to sleep in my bed tonight.”
The blonde perks up, “you don’t have to ask me twice dude. RACE YOU!” she says as she kisses Riley and jumps up. As she begins to run, she trips over her own two feet. The brunette just smiles, shakes her head and followed the other girl.
Crazy enough they both fell into a comfortable routine getting ready for bed. The two shared Riley’s sink in the master bathroom, jokingly bumping each other's elbows as they brushed their teeth. Once they got into bed, Riley immediately wrapped herself around the blonde, kissing the top of her head. Abby just sank into the embrace and closed her eyes, enjoying the feeling of being held. Their legs tangled in a mess under the covers, no words exchanged as both girls drifted off.
Riley woke up and for a brief moment she almost forgot last nights festivities. That thought was long gone when she rolled to her side and caught the scent of Abby on her pillows. She smiled and reached out for the blonde but was met with an empty bed. This caused a frown on her face and had her thinking again that maybe last night really was a dream. She let out a load groan and covered her face with a pillow, as she was about to scream into it, Abby’s voice chimed in, “uh baby… what are you doing there?”
Riley smiled into the pillow at the term of endearment. Her face was still buried into the pillow when she heard footsteps approaching the bed. She peeked and saw Abby struggling with a tray in her hands wearing her John’s Hopkin’s hoodie and very short shorts. She slowly lifted the pillow fully away from her face and sat up. Abby sat on the edge of the bed with a tray in her lap nervously.
Riley just smiled at the blonde and finally answered her earlier question, “when I woke up I reached out for you but you weren’t there. Part of me thought that maybe I drank too much and dreamt everything that happened.”
Abby set the tray full of breakfast food down on the large bedside table and climbed on top of the doctors lap. Planting a swift kiss on her lips. She did not take it any further because, gross, morning breath. With her arms still wrapped around Riley’s neck and the doctor’s arms wrapped around her waist she spoke up, “does that feel real enough for you?”
Riley responded, eyes still closed, “I think you best do it again. Just to be sure.” And the blonde did just that. Both smiling into the kiss. They went about their morning in bed. Abby had gotten up early to cook for Riley. Although it wasn’t much cooking, more like reheating all the food that they had not been able to finish from yesterday’s breakfast feast. The two found themselves tangled in each others embrace shortly after breakfast. Abby was the one to a initiate the hard conversation they were about to have. “so…”
Riley answers, “so.. what?”
“so.. you go back to work tomorrow. And I fly out the day after that. We are barely going to see each other the next 48 hours and then who knows when I will get to see you next. This whole morning I have been dreading this conversation. Unsure how I would even approach it. We know the vacation version of each other, not the late night work schedule and early morning cram sessions. What if you realize that you don’t like that version of us?”
Riley pulled Abby to sit up but still managing to hold onto her, “you’re right. I might not like that other version of us, because I KNOW I am going to LOVE that version of us. That is the version that is real. I am not going to sugar coat it and say that it will be easy. It will be hard. So fucking hard at times but I know in my gut that it will be so worth it, as long as we end up right back here, together. I promise that we will talk, when the time in our schedules allow us to do so. I will be patient while you are finishing up your degree, as long as you are patient with me and the terrible work schedule I know for a fact I am going to be diving into. I will annoy you with stupid jokes and you will laugh even though they aren’t funny. I will randomly send you flowers just because and you will claim that you hate them even though deep down you enjoy it. We can take turns visiting when time allows. Finally, down the road sometime, we will end up right here, me holding onto you and never letting go again. Well, unless you ask me to of course, I wouldn’t like hold you against your will or anything.” Riley finishes, giggling at her own monologue finish.
Abby just stares for a moment, almost speechless then spoke up, “hell of a speech Dr. Bennett. I cannot top that. Honestly, I guess I am just creating my own ‘worst case scenario’ in my head. I am terrified that you will leave, just like everyone else. I don’t want you to wake up one day and I am not by your side so you change your mind about us. I don’t think I will ever recover if that was ever the case.”
Riley reaches out to brush away the stray tear that trickled down Abby’s cheek and kissing the spot softly. She then spoke up in a soft convincing tone, “I am going to say this and I really want you to listen carefully to it okay? I will NEVER change my mind about you. Matter of fact you are the only thing in my life aside from my crazy family that I am 100% certain about. A lot of the time the heart knows exactly what it wants it just has to wait for the brain to catch up.”
“I am sure about you too. If you are on my side, I feel like I can conquer anything thrown our way.”
As if the universe can hear them, a loud ringing of Riley’s phone made the two girls jump. Harper’s name illuminates the screen. Abby silently tried to get up as if giving Riley some privacy to answer the phone but Riley just pulled the blonde closer and put the call on speaker, “Hey Harper. What’s up?”
“Hey Riley! Uh, I was just uh wondering what you were up to?” Harper asks, curiosity laced in her tone.
“Just lounging around before I eventually have to go back into work soon. Did you want to talk about something in particular? Because this is weird. You and I don’t have random ‘just called to see what’s up’ type calls.” Riley just mouths an ‘I’m sorry’ to Abby. Who is just as confused as she is?
There was silence on the other end for a moment before Harper spoke up, “oh uh I just wanted to check in and see if maybe you have seen Abby.” She sounded as if she had the answer already.
It clicked in both Riley and Abby’s head that maybe Harper had seen the post on Abby’s Instagram story. Not that either of them has anything to hide. Riley answered honestly, “Yep. She came here for an event and I offered up my place for her to crash.”
“oh, that was extremely nice of you. Yeah, super cool. I didn’t know that you guys are on that level.”
Riley just rolled her eyes, “so, was that all you wanted to know? Because if so, I am just going to hang up now…”
“Uh I was hoping that you can maybe help me out.” Harper asks shyly
The two girls just looked at each other as Riley spoke up, “me? Help you? With what exactly?”
“well, I know this is super weird to ask, considering our history but I was hoping that maybe since you are hanging out my Abby that maybe you can slip in a few good words for me? I know I messed up over Christmas but I hope that eventually when she has time to cool down, she will give me another chance.”
This made Riley and Abby shift uncomfortably. Abby quickly muted the microphone so that Harper couldn’t hear them talk, “Baby I am so sorry. We can tell her. I don’t care if she knows about us. This isn’t fair to you. Or us. We have nothing to hide.” She leans in and kisses Riley. The doctor spoke up, “personally I don’t think it is any of her business but if you want to tell her we certainly can. There is no obligation either way”
Harper’s voice rings on the other end of the call, “uh Riley, did you hear what I said? Did I lose you?”
The brunette unmuted her phone still unsure of how to respond to that, “no you didn’t lose me. I am still here”
“oh good. I totally know that what I am asking is super inappropriate but at this point I am desperate. I just know that you two had some sort of instantaneous connection and with your help maybe I can get my Abby back. You wouldn’t mind doing an old friend a solid right?”
Riley was about to respond when Abby spoke up first, “actually I think that maybe Riley would certainly mind.”
This caught Harper off guard, “Ab- Abby?” she managed to sputter out.
“yeah, it’s me”
“uh how long have you been there and how much of that did you hear?”
“I have been here the whole time. I heard all of it. Listen I think-”
Harper cuts her off, “well, then I think you would know that I am serious. Baby I want you back and I will literally do anything. I think we should just talk when you get back and-”
This time it was Riley’s turn to cut Harper off, “enough Harper! Just stop. It’s over and I think it’s time that you accept that.”
Harper raises her voice with a slightly annoyed tone, “Riley this has nothing to do with you, I was talking to my girlfriend. Stay out of it.”
This drove Riley over the edge, “Actually, you called ME remember? You called to asked ME for a favor. So, whether you like it or not this definitely has something to do with me. Plus, she isn’t yours anymore. Just drop it Harper.”
“wow I thought you were supposed to be my friend Riley. I ask you for one thing, one small thing and you couldn’t even do that! Why do you have to be such a bitch all the time?”
It was Abby’s turn to speak up, “Whoa Harper that is WAY out of line! What the fuck? You don’t get to call her that when you are the only one who has been acting like an asshole.”
“seriously? Are you really defending her? Abby come on, you and I have been through so much. I love you. Just come back to me. I will spend the rest of our lives making it up to you” This made Riley’s face drop.
“No, Harper. I have moved on and I really sincerely think you should too. For both our sake. This isn’t fair to me or Riley.”
“fair to Riley? Why the fuck would it need to be fair to Riley?” Harper all but screams into the phone.
“I’m with Riley now.” Abby says proudly.
This doesn’t quite register with Harper, “No shit. I know you are with Riley. That is why I called her. I saw your posts and knew you were in Baltimore. That is why I called her for help. I still don’t see why she has anything to do with you and me getting back together.”
“No Harper you don’t get it. I am WITH Riley.” Abby says looking at the doctor with a smile on her face.
This time Harper did scream into the phone, “WHAT!?”