When Abby gave Riley her phone number, it was quick and easy and there was no pomp and circumstance around it. Normally, giving a girl her number in a bar would involve a little more thought, a little more care.
Under other circumstances, Abby would have been nervous. Riley was undeniably attractive and had a great sense of humor, all dry wit and biting quips. But Abby was with Harper and that was that. She was just giving Riley her number because she was going to be around for Christmas, and it might be nice to have someone to text with, someone to meet up with in case things got too overwhelming at the Caldwell’s.
So if she stumbled a little bit, it was just from the beer, “Hey, um, could I give you my number? Just in case?”
And if Riley had noticed the stutter, she didn’t comment, “Yeah, of course. I’m around until the day after Christmas, so text whenever you want.”
As Abby left the bar heading to meet up with Harper and her friends, she had the sinking feeling she was making a mistake by leaving Riley alone in the wooden booth. She almost turned around, even glanced back over her shoulder, but Riley was out of view at that point, so she took it as her sign and left the bar.
Thirty seconds at Fratty’s and she knew without a doubt that she had made a mistake leaving the safe haven of the Oxwood for the sterile sports bar. Harper’s bland, boring, (straight), high school friends were there and after one shot, Abby was done. She didn’t even like shots. Harper knew that.
She had said good night to Harper, secretly hoping that she would call it a night and head home too. But no, Abby stepped outside the bar alone and pulled out her phone to request her Lyft. She paused and hovered over the green text icon. What the hell, might as well.
A: Hey, are you still at the bar?
R: Damn. Just left.
A: Oh, no big deal. Sorry to bother you.
R: Hey, you’re not a bother.
Abby watched as the “...” of Riley typing started and then stopped. Started again. Stopped again. Abby was sliding her phone back in her pocket when she felt it buzz again.
R: Let’s hang out tomorrow, if you’re not busy with Caldwell Christmas festivities. I’ll take you to get a White Elephant gift.
Abby could feel the corner of her mouth raise involuntarily in a half-grin.
A: Sounds like a plan. I’ll call you tomorrow.
Christmas came and went and despite all of the drama, Abby and Harper drove back to Pittsburgh and attempted to get back into the swing of things, post-holidays.
Abby tried to put Christmas behind them, but the further they got from Christmas, the further apart she and Harper seemed to grow. She thought being back in their space, being back in their routine, would help cement things and turn them back into who they had been before Christmas. But really, Abby was no longer really sure what they had been before Christmas. She had been ready to propose, but after doing some heavy soul searching, she’s realized she might have been rushing things a little.
Riley was the second person to find out that Harper and Abby had broken up. Abby had called John first, of course. They had worked out the logistics of a rental van and when Harper would be out of the apartment. After calling John, she had shot off a quick text to Riley. She wasn’t even sure why she had done it - maybe the commiseration of a shared now ex-girlfriend.
Even though it was a mutual break up for all the right reasons, Abby’s heart still hurt. She was still mourning a loss. She didn’t hate Harper, not really. She did, however, strongly dislike the person who Harper had become (had always been?).
Abby didn’t cry. She knew that would come later, but right now she was focused on standing, breathing, keeping one foot in front of the other. The practical things like who bought what, (she had bought the set of expensive, heavy-bottomed whiskey tumblers, but were they really worth fighting over?); getting her name off the electric bill; avoiding slipping up and calling Harper baby when they were on the phone.
Spring comes as it always does. Abby teaches intro classes, mostly freshmen and sophomores, so by the middle of April, they are done. Abby can’t blame them, and struggles through lecture planning and endless office hours. The days get longer and the sun gets warmer and time spent inside feels like a waste, so she spends a lot of time grading papers on the campus lawn, or hanging out drinking beer on John’s balcony.
When she’s not grading papers, drinking beer or arguing with John, she’s texting Riley.
Depending on how many White Claws he’s had, John will either ignore the phone in her hand or give her shit for it. One night, he baits Abby with a complaint that he’s been demoted to second-best friend.
Abby raises an eyebrow “You’re still my best friend. Riley is…”
Abby trails off as she watches John lean in.
“Yeah, Abby, tell me… what is Riley?”
“She’s just my friend. That’s it.”
“Your hot doctor friend that lives in your phone.”
“We’re just talking.”
“Is that what the kids are calling it these days?”
“We’re friends. We text,” Abby can feel the pit growing in her stomach. She doesn’t have an answer for John, and it’s taking up too much mental real estate on a good day, let alone on a three beer night.
“Fine. I’ll drop it. But you and I both know that’s not true.”
John does drop it, for all of five minutes. He gets up to go to the kitchen, grabs another White Claw, and on his way back casually leans over the couch and grabs Abby’s iPhone out of her hand.
“John! What the fuck?! Give it back to me!” Abby begins to panic as she watches John tap on the device and put it up to his ear.
“It’s ringing,” he smirks.
“Hi, Riley!” John speaks into the phone as Abby’s face goes pale.
“Do not embarrass me!” she hisses at him.
John sticks his tongue out at Abby and listens intently to the voice on the other side of the phone.
“She knows about me!” He turns to Abby, “Aw, you do love me.”
“I just wanted to check in and make sure you exist.”
John and Riley go back and forth for another few minutes, making small talk, John actually laughing out loud at whatever Riley is saying on the other end of the phone call. Abby stays on edge for the entire phone call, watching John carefully.
“What the hell was that, John?”
“You never had an overprotective big brother so I thought I’d play the part. Somebody’s gotta watch out for you, especially after the Harper fiasco.”
“Oh,” Abby says as she collapses onto the couch next to John, laying her head on his shoulder, “Thanks.”
The next day John and Riley begin texting. Not frequently, but enough that a few weeks later Abby remarks, “Okay, now it’s my turn to complain that I’ve been demoted to second best friend for both of you.”
Harper and John never really got along, were more acquaintances than actual friends, civil for Abby’s sake. She likes the thought of Riley and John texting, enjoys these two parts of her life becoming one.
John looks up from the manuscript he’s been reading and studies Abby for a moment, “She’s funny. I like her.”
“I thought you would.”
“I think she could be good for you.”
Abby narrows her eyes suspiciously, “What have you said?”
“I haven’t said anything. I swear, you know I wouldn’t,” John says calmly and Abby knows he’s telling the truth, “But Abby, the way she talks about you… I wish someone would care about me even half as much.”
Abby swallows hard and looks away as John continues, “Anyway, I think Riley is a good one. I’m just saying.”
Abby was laying upside down on her bed, feet against the wall like a teenager instead of a thirty-something with a BA, MA, and soon-to-be PhD. She was grinning at her phone, fingers flying, beer resting precariously between her thighs.
She sat up to take a drink just as her phone vibrated and a new text came in. She was a little too buzzed to play it cool and wait, so she opened the text immediately and promptly choked on her beer.
Riley had sent a selfie, laying back on her black leather couch, hair messy, tongue slightly stuck out, grinning at the camera.
R: I’m working on my thirst traps. What do you think?
Abby’s brow furrowed as she Googled ‘what is a thirst trap?’ Oh. Yeah. That’s about right. She is a little unsettled by the feeling that is rising in her chest (is that jealousy? ) of Riley using that photo to provoke interest in anyone. She tries to swallow the feeling before texting back.
A: I’d swipe right. (I think I'm using that phrase correctly...)
R: You flatter me. Anyway, just kidding. I’d rather be single for the rest of my life than go on a single dating app.
Abby released the breath she didn’t know she was holding.
A: John keeps showing me photos on dating apps. I think I’m with you, being single sounds like a much better option. I just had to Google what a thirst trap even is.
R: Now you know. I sent you mine, now show me yours.
Abby pulled one sleeve of her white tank top down off her shoulder, pouted, and raised an eyebrow like all of the girls in the photos John would show her. She snapped the selfie and studied the photo, noting her smudged eyeliner and dirty laundry in the background. Ugh. So not cute.
She pulled her tank top strap back up, repositioned herself so there was no dirty laundry, rolled her eyes, bit her lip, and snapped the photo. There. That one actually looked like her. Tired, a little bit angsty, a little bit amused… and yeah, a little bit thirsty too.
Riley’s next text took a while to come in. So long, in fact, that Abby was staring at her photo wondering what she had done wrong.
R: Damn, Holland. I had to get up and get another beer. Give the rest of us a chance, you don’t need all the girls.
A: Yeah right. I’d be happy with just one at this point.
R: What are you doing home on a Friday night talking to me for anyway?
A: Hate to break it to you, but I’m old. I’ve been grading midterms all day and I’m exhausted. Plus, I’ve never been into meeting girls at bars.
R: So no apps, no bars. Women just throwing themselves at your feet then?
A: Honestly, most of the time I just wait for a girl to tell me we are dating or start making out with me. It seems to have worked okay so far.
R: Ah, yes. It’s a wonder queer women ever get their act together.
Abby hesitated on what to type next.
A: What happened with the girl your coworker set you up with?
R: Nothing. Total bust. She didn’t get my humor, so it was a no-go from the first text. Not even sure why Kelly thought it would be a good match.
A: Bummer. You’re hysterical, you need someone who knows that.
R: Well, thanks. I think so. She didn’t appreciate my Donner party joke.
A: If cannibalism isn’t a good ice breaker, I don’t know what is.
R: Resident’s schedules aren’t really conducive to dating anyway. For some reason, girls don’t like it when your only available dating hours are before noon on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
A: How’d you wind up free on a Friday night anyway?
R: Pure luck. It won’t happen again for the next three months, I’m sure.
A: You’re wasting your one free Friday night talking to me?
R: Also drinking really good beer.
R: But I hardly consider talking to you a waste of time.
Abby isn’t really a big flower person, so she calls John for advice, (having moved out of his apartment a month ago, thank god), “What kind of flowers do you bring when you’re meeting someone at the airport?”
“Is this about the good doctor?”
“It depends on what message you’re trying to get across.”
And that was the problem. Abby wasn’t really sure what message she wanted to send. She knew without a doubt that she was completely, totally, falling for the doctor, but honestly, she had no idea if the feelings were returned. She knew they were friends. Best friends, in fact. Abby had known immediately that there was some kind of connection between the two of them, but she still wasn’t quite sure what that connection was.
“What if I’m not sure what kind of message I’m trying to get across?”
“I’m not sure what kind of flower is appropriate for ‘I’ve been in love with you for months but I’m a dumb lesbian so I don’t know how to speak up’,” John pauses and thinks, “Actually, I think the official flower of dumb lesbians is the lily.”
“I’m not getting lilies. Riley hates lilies. She likes daisies.”
“If you know her favorite flower, why are we having this conversation?”
“Okay, clueless wonder. Here’s a tip - if you know her well enough to know her favorite flower, you get the favorite flower. Who cares about symbolism?”
“I guess you’re right.”
“You know I’m right. I kick men out of my apartment without breakfast and even I know you go with their favorite flower. It shows you pay attention and you care.”
“I’m not sure why I’m taking romantic advice from you, but you’re right. I’ll get the daisies.”
John nods, “Plus, I’m pretty sure daisies are symbolic of new beginnings. Sounds perfect to me.”
A week later, Abby is waiting for Riley at Pittsburgh International Airport, daisies in hand.
Riley comes through the sliding doors of the arrival gate and Abby’s heart begins to pound so hard that her fight or flight instinct kicks in and she glances around for an escape route. But before she can make a break for it, Riley is there in front of her with a wide grin and arms open.
And then Abby is in Riley’s (holy shit, super toned, strong) arms, the gay panic is receding and Abby is wondering how she could have ever even considered running from this feeling.
She focuses on trying not to crush the flowers ( People never have this problem in movies, what the hell?) while staying fully present for the hug. “Hey. It’s so good to finally see you again,” Abby mumbles into Riley’s hair.
“Likewise. I didn’t know I could know someone for basically three days and manage to miss them so much,” Riley says as she pulled back from the hug, but not back from Abby, “Let me look at you.”
“There’s not much to look at,” Abby laughs, but the look Riley gives her says she vehemently disagrees, and Abby can feel the heat rising in her face and… elsewhere. “Oh, shit, these are for you,” Abby says as she hands over the slightly crumpled bouquet of yellow and white flowers.
“You got me daisies?”
Abby watches Riley’s face carefully, “They’re your favorite, right? You went on that ten-minute diatribe against lilies and roses back on Valentine’s Day.”
“I didn’t know you were actually paying attention. I was wound up that day.”
“Hey, rude. I always listen when you talk,” Abby says, and she means it. She couldn’t tell you what she had for dinner yesterday, but she could recite Riley’s schedule from memory.
“C’mere,” Riley grabs Abby’s hand and pulls her back into another hug. (Abby notes that Riley doesn’t seem to be struggling with not crushing the flowers.)
And then, in an unexpected move, Riley’s lips were against her own, quick and chaste, over before she knew what was happening.
“Thanks for the daisies. Thanks for paying attention.”
Abby hardly knows how to respond, so she gives Riley a soft smile and with a sudden surge of confidence, grabs Riley’s hand and threads their fingers together. I’ll have to tell John he was right on the daisies.
“Let’s get out of here.”
They’ve been in Abby’s car for barely thirty seconds when Riley nervously blurts out, “I’m sorry I kissed you before. It was inappropriate and I should have asked first.”
“Riley, stop,” Abby puts the car back into park.
“No, seriously, I shouldn’t have assumed anything and I -”
Abby breaks in, “Riley.”
Abby decides Riley has put herself out there enough already with the kiss, chaste as it was, and figures she should just go for it, “I liked it.”
“I brought you flowers,” Abby gestures to the daisies sitting on Riley’s lap. Riley had thrown her duffle bag into the trunk of Abby’s car, but the daisies had made it into the front seat with Riley.
“You brought my favorite flowers,” Riley notes.
“Yeah. I did.”
“You know my favorite flower.”
“I know a few other things too.”
“What else do you know?” Riley raised an eyebrow.
“When I’m talking to you, I don’t know how to be cool. I tell dumb stories and I can’t think of anything except how to make you laugh,” At that, Riley lets out a soft, small chuckle and Abby’s eyes grow wide. “Yeah, just like that.”
“I like that you can make me laugh. Not much makes me laugh out loud, but you always do.”
Abby let out a long breath. Okay. Here we go. “I know I really like you, but I don’t want to seem too eager.”
“Eager is okay. Eager is great, actually. Being cool is entirely overrated. Fuck that,” Riley gives her a full grin that reaches her eyes.
“I know I want you to kiss me again.”
“Yeah. Kiss me for real.”
Riley’s eyes are flitting back and forth from Abby’s eyes to her mouth when Abby has had enough and surges forward, pressing her lips against Riley’s over the gear shift. Riley stills for a moment and then is right there with her, one hand in Abby’s hair, another grabbing her shirt, pulling her in closer despite the center console.
Abby is overwhelmed with how good this feels, how their lips fit together, how their bodies seem to match, the smell of Riley, the closeness, the feeling of getting what she wants after months of not knowing.
Riley is positively smiling into the kiss and Abby thinks she’s never felt anything quite like that before, didn’t even know that was a possibility, smiling and kissing at the same time - but now it’s her most favorite thing in the world.
Abby has a queen size bed in her apartment, and they barely make it there.
Abby had managed to get the two of them home from the airport, had given her a brief tour of the small space, offered Riley water or coffee, and then before she knew what was happening, Riley had her backed up against the kitchen counter, small, sweet kisses turning quickly into something different. Riley’s right hand rubbing circles on Abby’s stomach and hip bone, fingers slipping down under the waistband of her pants, thumbing at the soft skin there.
Abby’s hands were wandering too, sneaking up Riley’s shirt, fingers tracing the cup of Riley’s silk bra, getting bolder with each passing second, getting bolder with each swipe of Riley’s tongue against her own.
Riley’s hand dips a little too low and Abby groans into the doctor’s mouth, wonders if she should be embarrassed, but immediately feels Riley grinning into the kiss, dissuading any discomfort. The moment allows Abby to come to her senses for a second, and she tries to pull away, Riley right there chasing her mouth.
“Wait, stop, one second,” Abby breathes deep and Riley goes still, “Shit, no, I didn’t mean actually stop. I meant, bedroom. Let’s go there before I lose all control here in the kitchen.”
Twenty minutes later and they’ve made it to Abby’s bed, clothes off, battling for position.
Riley is moaning into Abby’s shoulder, teeth clamped shut tight, and then mouthing, teeth nipping, watching Abby’s eyes shut at the sensation, watching her nod her head, then biting gently, then hard enough to leave a mark. Abby likes it a little bit rough, never got that with Harper, revels in the feeling of teeth against skin.
Riley is grinding firmly against Abby’s bare thigh, and the wet heat is almost too much for Abby to bear, knows she needs to be touching Riley immediately, fingers trailing a path down Riley’s soft stomach, teasing, before finding their target and slipping into the wetness there.
Abby promises herself she will take her time with the second round, but right now, her only focus is releasing the tension between the two of them and making Riley scream her name as quickly as possible.
Abby watches as Riley’s eyes roll backward, she bites her lip instead of Abby’s shoulder, and Abby is convinced this is what heaven looks like. Riley Bennett coming undone, losing every shred of self-control, and all because Abby knows exactly what to do with her fingers, when to push, when to pull back, when to curl her index finger and just like that, Riley is moaning her name and fuckfuckfuck. And then the world explodes for both of them; Riley with her head thrown back, body on fire, and Abby, watching the scene unfold, knowing she was the one who caused it.
Five minutes later and Riley is still coming down, looking positively destroyed.
“Shit, Abby. I think you’ve ruined me for anyone else.”
“That was my plan.”
Riley raises an eyebrow and Abby braces for the snark, but instead, Riley’s face softens and she brings her hand to Abby’s face, thumb tracing her jawline and pulling her in for the softest kiss Abby has ever experienced. Riley pulls back and holds her face in her hands, skin barely touching skin, as if Abby is the most fragile thing Riley has ever touched. Abby’s breath catches in her throat, suddenly overwhelmed with the gentleness of Riley. So at odds with the person she portrays to the world, all hard edges and sarcasm. At odds with how Riley is laid out naked and spread wide open for her, trusting, when Abby knows for certain that earning Riley’s trust is a close to impossible task. Knows she had it almost immediately, still isn’t entirely sure why. But as Riley opens one eye, stares sleepily up at her, grins and whispers, “C’mere, babe”, she thinks she might know why.
This could be it. This could be everything.