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You never understood why summer jobs were such an important thing to experience (excluding the money part.) You had been hearing about them your entire high school career, Riley had been “volunteering” the the local ice cream shop since you guys were freshmen (by volunteering you meant she ate enough ice cream throughout the three months that it probably evened out any money she would have gotten.)

Then there was Farkle, he’d been on your side at first, backing you up whenever Riley pressured you to get a job. But then his dad was done with him laying around the house, screaming about killing zombies, and recommended him to the Space Camp they held at the New York City Center for Space Science Education. He had first tried to talk Farkle into going to Houston to go to the actual NASA Space Station for the summer, but Farkle didn’t want to leave his friends for so long. You’d told him he was dumb for turning down such an amazing opportunity, but he said that even though he wanted to see Mars eventually , he was fine with his normal life here on Earth with you guys (you huffed and puffed, but then he brought you liquor from his father’s secret stash and you shut up about it.)

This year, you were done with being poked and prodded by your friends rubbing it in your face, and having no one to hang out with for almost the entire summer, so you just decided that checking a few things out couldn’t be that bad. Eventually you’d decided on an open spot at your local pool.

It’d been the only one that sounded even slightly appealing, and it was the position of a lifeguard. You had all the credentials, you were a great swimmer, you had passed CPR training during your health course that year, and you liked helping people. And you got the added bonus of seeing people in swimsuits at anytime you really want (you were willing to take the risk that at least someone was hot.)


 

At the test, you thought you did well (your rating scale was that if you weren’t drowning or dying, you were doing pretty damn good), and the impressed looks you were getting from the lady who was running the whole thing only boosted your confidence.

Plus, when the entire thing was over, you were changed and ready to head home when one of the important looking ladies walked up to you. She said that you did really well, and then a split second later wondered why you wanted to work there (“I mean, you won’t get as much money as you could elsewhere, and the YMCA is just down the street.”).

You were confused for a second, not understanding why she was practically telling you to go work somewhere else, but then you just replied with, “Well, ma'am, I mean money is always nice, since I’m just kid trying to survive summer, but I’m really looking for things to do and people to meet and if needed, someone to save. This is really just for experience, if I’m being honest. This is my first attempt at a summer job, and I just want it to go well for me.” The smile that she was trying to hold back made you feel a lot less embarrassed by your very honest answer (you blamed her for having that motherly guidance thingy where you just want to tell them everything about your life.)

She looked at you a moment, seemed to be contemplating if you were being honest with her, and you guess she decided that when she told you, “Well, people always say three times a charm, but you got lucky today.” She then shoved the swimsuit that you were holding out for her back into your hands, and then gave you a piece of paper with a schedule printed on it into your other. “See you in a week and a half. Monday. Wear a normal suit and be ready to clean and install and paint for three days straight. And don’t call me ma’am, call me Mrs. Friar.” Was the last thing she said before walking backwards out of the door.

(All in all, you thought that the entire thing went pretty well.)


 

A week and a half later, you’re at the pool again, carrying a bag of cookies that Riley forced you to bring (“It’s an easy way into anyone’s heart, Maya!”). And you were incapable of disagreeing with her, so now you had thirteen chocolate chip cookies (would’ve been fifteen, but you had gotten hungry). When you walk in, you are greeted by a boy who looks about your age reading a book about Malcolm X.

You’re trying to see the title of the book, and realize a second too late that you probably look pretty weird. You’re almost sideways, tilting and tilting and tilting your head, but once he realizes you’re there, he sets the book down. “Whatcha doing there, sugar?” He asks, his eyes looking at you strangely, but there is still a smirk on his lips.

“Just, um, tilting my head,” you stutter out, and then try to cover it up with, “I’m Maya. Maya Hart.”

“Zay Babineaux. Single, bilingual, and,” he starts, but is cut off by a tall (and attractive and green-eyed and soft smiling) guy when he walks up the front desk.

The tall (and attractive and green-eyed and soft smiling) guy slaps Zay on the back, and says, “Are you attacking our newest trainee already, Zay?” For a second you can’t stop staring at him, but then he looks at you and you shake your head, sticking your hand out to introduce yourself.   

(You learn his name is Lucas, and you think it fits.)


 

Throughout three days of installing new toilets in the bathrooms, painting the snack bar, and fixing the broken chairs, you meet the entire team. There’s Zoey, who has bright red hair and a nose piercing (you like her. A lot .)

Then there is Gabe and Tyler, best friends since they were tiny and aren’t afraid to show it. They have about two million inside jokes, but they both treat you like a sister from the moment they meet you. They also call you “blondie”, and even though they couldn’t look anymore different, sometimes you can’t tell them apart.

Also, there’s Smackle, who works at the snack bar (her actual name is Isadora, but you don’t argue when she tells you not to call her that.) She has the cutest glasses and reminds you of Farkle because she loves telling you facts (you even ask her about Belgium 1831, and she tells you all about it. You decide to rub it in Farkle’s face that now you have a friend that legitimately knows everything .)

Lastly, there is Lucas and Zay. They’ve been friends since they were friends back in Texas, and they both unfortunately had to move all the way up to New York. You learn that Zay does ballet and his real name is Isaiah and you come up with a handshake in a matter of minutes of hanging out for the first time. As for Lucas, all you hear is that he is supposedly the biggest Moral Compass you’ll ever meet, and that he is a total babe (all the girls are very open to tell you about it).

It makes you mad that he has this whole Mr. Perfect complex going, so you call him nicknames and say ‘hahurr’ where you think it fits (sometimes you do it because he smells really good and his hair is so perfectly not perfect that it makes you angry). The worst part is that it doesn’t annoy him, but you push harder and harder, just hoping that he’ll break at some point.

(You have a feeling he won’t, but you do it anyways.)


 

Your first day of actual work passes way too quickly. You’re walking back and forth by the poolside, opposite of Zoey, and you keep getting distracted by her hair. It matches her swimsuit, and you’re smiling because she keeps doing stupid faces at you from where she is pacing. Then Lucas is working the slide, so he’s at the top of it, yelling at you that you look like an ant amd you’re just saying things that would probably offend every Texan everywhere, but he’s just laughing. (Later, when you’re playing cards with Gabe, Zay, and Lucas, he’s still laughing.)

“BULLSHIT!” You yell, making sure there were no kids around when you did.

“Maya, you’ve said that every time, what’s the strategy here?” Zay says looking at you curiously.

“Well, if I say it every time, I’m bound to be right at least once,” you shrug, picking up the card to see that you’re actually correct and follow it up by sticking your tongue out at him. “Suck it!”

“Damn, you’re good.” He tells you before picking up the seven cards lying on the table, and then tucking them away with the rest of his.

“What do you mean, Zay? She has ninety percent of the pile,” Lucas points out, putting down his last card and leaning back in his chair, looking smug.

“Not all of us can be cheating cowboys, now can we?” You ask, rolling your eyes at him sarcastically before getting up to get something to eat. You walk over to the snack bar, and after begging Smackle to feed the poor and hungry, she finally agrees to get you nachos.

You barely have anytime to revel in your victory before you see two tan arms pinning you into the counter. Already knowing who it is, you turn, a light feeling in your stomach.

“Are you just going to call me nicknames? Zay lived in Texas too, ya know?” He tries to say it like he’s amused, but he has a crease in his brow, and you can tell he’s serious. He seems to subconsciously lean closer towards you, and his breath is just fanning over your face (basically, if he doesn’t back up a little you think you’re going to combust, internally and externally.)

“Well, Zay isn’t a Huckleberry, you on the other hand,” your statement tapers off as you reach for the plate Smackle is handing you. He instantly grabs the food, holding it over his head.

“Me on the other hand?” He still looks complacent, and you narrow your eyes at him.

“I should knee you in the balls right now. This ,” you say, gesturing to what he’s doing, “is the ultimate dick move to short people, but since I am a very well behaved women, I’m just going to walk away. You owe me three bucks, by the way.” You pat his chest as you pass him, and feel him huff in annoyance at your less than reaction.

(His hand stays in the air, and when he’s not looking, you jump on him, but no one asks about it, so you pretend like the tall (and attractive and green-eyed and soft smiling) guy on the ground isn’t your fault as you munch on your nachos.)


 

He tells you he fights after a whole month of knowing each other. You’re in the small lifeguard room, restocking the bandages, and he’s sitting on the small cot you guys have since he’s bored and on his break. It was midnight swim, and you had pointed out the Little Dipper from the small window in the room. He’d gone on to tell you all about the stars in Texas, and you were thanking all of the gods that your back was turned away from him (all you could think about was kissing him under the moon, and you were absolutely sure you would’ve if you were facing him.)

He had stopped talking for a second, and then took a deep breath and told you about it. “I fight sometimes, not like MMA or UFC type stuff, but it’s still pretty serious. That’s why I’m late sometimes, either the people I fight in the ring come back for scrappy seconds or I’m too busy making sure my hands are wrapped up.” The comment comes out of nowhere, and causes you to look back at him. He must have been staring at you, because he blinks and looks away quickly when he catches your eyes.

“Well, do you win?” Is the only thing that rolls off your tongue, and all he can do is smile.

You have about twenty more questions for him, but at least now you know why you guys were rapidly running out of bandages.

(After realizing it, you make him restock the rest of the shelf.)


 

Lucas comes to your window one night. Riley had just left, having been going over to Farkle’s house to help him find space puns for his next day at camp, when there were three solid knocks on the glass pane. It had made you jump about three feet in the air, and also mess up the line you were drawing in your sketchpad. When you looked up to see your potential murderer, you were met with a dork that was laughing at you.

“You should’ve seen your face!” Is the first thing he says after you open the window.

“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up Ranger Rick, but just remember, you screamed last time I said ‘boo!’ to you.” You remind him, sitting back down on the floor and continuing the sketch of Zay an Smackle. You’d been using a picture you’d taken of the two a few days before as inspiration. They’d been laughing at something that Tyler was doing, and you thought they looked too cute to pass up.

“I didn’t know you could draw! Can you paint too?” Came an excited voice from behind you, leaning over your shoulder.

You limply pointed a hand in your closet’s direction, and heard his footsteps eagerly walk over to it. When you look back, he’s gaping at the stack of canvases probably as tall as you that lay in there. “Damn, Maya, you’re really, really good.” He gushes, picking up one after the other.

“Thanks, it’s always important to have a Huckleberry’s critique when creating a piece of art,” you mumble weakly, attempting to get Smackle’s glasses right.

“Hardy har har,” he fake laughs, setting the painting in his hand down, before flopping right in front of you, “pay attention to me, Maya May.” He says to you after you don’t even spare him a glance.

“I’m good, actuall- Hey!” He rips your sketchbook away and gently tosses it across the room. He then forcefully pushes his head into your lap and looks up at you expectantly. “You are the equivalent to a child.” You tell him, trying to sound exasperated (and by trying you mean you said it with the cheesiest grin on your face), but then you end up just combing your fingers through his hair. It makes you think of a few days ago, when he came into work looking absolutely dead, and he had told you that he couldn’t fall asleep, so you’d done the same thing to try and help (it did more than help, given the fact that he was out for over six hours and completely slept through his entire shift.)

“I know, but you love it.” He mumbles sleepily. He continues to yawn and then he’s out like a light. You like to pretend you don’t, but he’s asleep, so you’re allowed to check out the scars and cuts and bruises on his hands and face and look at him like he hung the moon.

(You think it’s only fair.)


 

One day, Lucas doesn’t show up for work. At first you don’t realise he isn’t there, sometimes he’s late so it isn’t abnormal for him to not be there when you arrive. (It doesn’t even register until halfway through your shift.) Usually, he’s in the high chair when you’re on your break, but he wasn’t anywhere to be found.

At first you’re confused, so you glance around to where everyone else is, and don’t see him filling in for anyone. Then, you start to worry, because he’s never missed work before, he says that his mom would “put him in the shed” (whatever that meant.)

You question Zay about his whereabouts, but he seems just as unknowing as you do. Immediately you’re suggesting search parties and police and everything that would blow this way out of proportion, but he’s telling you that Lucas is probably fine. Maybe he just got caught up, is all.

“But what if he isn’t Zay! You know just as well as I do that he fights, what if he got seriously injured this time?” You can’t help it when your voice cracks at the end, and if he notices, he doesn’t point it out.

Sighing, he sets down the novel he has in his hand, “Maya, I’ve been working at this pool for three years now. Lucas doesn’t show up sometimes, it’s just happens, okay? You can go over to his house after your shift, and see for yourself.” He pats your shoulder before picking his book back up, leaving you to your own thoughts.

After huffing dramatically, you go back to pacing by the poolside (and if you go see Lucas after work, it’s your business.)


 

The first time you ever kiss Lucas Friar is on his birthday. It’s June 29th, and you’re at a surprise party for the boy that begged everyone to not throw him one. (If he asked, you could just say that you were there because there was free booze.)

Lucas doesn’t even show up until half past ten, and you’re probably drunker than you should be. You all do the cliche ‘hiding behind things and yell surprise! when they walk through the door’ thing, and he looks like he almost pissed his pants (and you make sure he knows it.)

By midnight, you’re practically sober, which, in your opinion, everything is going backwards, but Lucas is intoxicated, so much that he finally looks like he’s enjoying his time. You run into him making out with some girl, and although your heart feels like it’s at your feet, you walk by as quickly as possible. For the next half hour, you sit on the couch and watch them, trying not to look as creepy as you feel.

“This is pitiful, did you know that?” Zay says before plopping himself on your lap and shaking his head at you.

“Okay, but did I ask?” You grumble, leaning all the way back on the couch you were sitting on. You cross your arms over your chest, and set your head back on the top of the seat.

“No, but you definitely look like you need some help,” he says before turning his head to where Lucas is, and then giving you a pitiful glance.

“Help me,” you say pleadingly, shoving him off your lap and into the spot next to you.

“Well first, she’s gotta go.” He tells you, pointing at the girl Lucas is kissing.

“It’s his birthday, though, he should be able to kiss a girl without his friends ruining it for him.”

“You are correct, it is his birthday, and he should be kissing the girl he actually wants to.” He says simply before approaching the couple. He says something you can’t make out, and the girl shrugs and walks away with him just like that. You can’t help that you are openly gaping at how easy that seemed to be, but then you’re forced to shut it when Lucas starts to walk towards you.

“Did you just see that? Zay literally just walked over and offered her five bucks to dance with him… I’m amazed, honestly. Am I that bad of a kisser?” He’s looking off to where Zay and the girl are standing, laughing over something he probably said. But you, you’re just looking at Lucas like you usually do when he’s not paying attention.

“I don’t know, Huckleberry, maybe she just wanted that five dollars more than she wanted you.” You shrug, but he still isn’t looking. As he says something else, your eyes are centered in on his mouth and the way he’s forming the words. (He licks his bottom lip, and you know you’re a goner.)

“Maya! Earth to Maya…” He says in a sing-song voice, waving his hand in front of your face.

“What?”

“I asked if you got me anything for my birthday,” he states, bumping fists with a guy who was passing.

You didn’t, not because you didn’t want to, but because you just didn’t have the time or the money to get him something you really wanted him to have. You had tried to draw something, since he’s always commenting about your art, but you literally found out three days before, and that was too much pressure to create something nice for him.

“Um, yeah, come here,” you don’t know where the confidence to say it comes from (really, you don’t think you actually say it until he’s following you), and you lead him into the closest bedroom you can find.

The second the door closes, your lips are on his and you’re dizzy and he is completely still. You lean back, thinking that you just completely embarrassed yourself, but then he’s picking you up and you're wrapping your legs around his waist and everything seems to be going in slow motion. But you’re kissing the boy that you might be falling in love with, and you’ve never been happier so you just kiss him over and over and over and over until you feel like your lips are going to fall off.

(And then you kiss him some more.)


 

You’ve formed a habit of drawing on Lucas.

When you’re both on break, you’d lay on the cot in the lifeguard or first aid room, and draw stars and constellations on his wrists. Or you’d connect the dots of the freckles on his shoulder to make something more elaborate.

When you were baking some sort of dessert in his kitchen, you’d use face paint that was probably twelve years too old that you guys found in his basement. You’d tell him you were making him some vicious creature like a lion, but you’d really be painting him into a ladybug (he only let you do that a few times.)

And when you were lying on your bedroom floor at six in the morning, you’d use the rising sun as your light as you painted silhouettes and sceneries on his back. You loved drawing the New York skyline on him, you didn’t even know why, you just thought it looked right.

But putting your art wherever you could wasn’t the most surprising thing, it was that he let you. You couldn’t count the number of shirts you’d probably ruined with your acrylic paints, or the amount of times you’d seen him try and get the remnants of the sharpie off of his skin. Plus, that one time you made him a kitten, Zay had walked in and had taken pictures and wouldn’t let him live it down for over a week and a half, so it was even hurting his masculinity.

You had asked him why he let you, and his response had been a simple seventeen words, “Because it's something you love to do, and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

(Seventeen words that you couldn’t get out of your head.)


 

On the 4th of July, the pool is so packed that you can barely walk back and forth while on duty like you usually do. So, instead, you sit next to Mrs. Kervanky, an elderly lady who lived probably the most exciting life you’ve ever heard of (and she loves to talk about it), and watch from your perch in the beach chair. At random times, you’d put a quick finger up and then blow your whistle, yelling at the kid that was doing the stupid thing, then instantly be entrapped by her life all over again.

When it’s almost time for you to rotate and go to the other side of the pool, she asks you a question that catches you off guard, “So are you and that nice little boy Lucas dating, or what?” After staring at her incredulously for a second, she giggles like a little girl and states, “Oh come on, I know my life was jampacked with drama and excitement, but I love the small sappy stuff.”

You open and close your mouth a few times before saying, “We’re not dating,” and she gives you a look that says she doesn’t believe you in the slightest, and you decide to elaborate, “I mean, we’re not dating , like we aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend, but we’re… hanging out?” You don’t know how to explain it to her, but she looks like she understands completely.

“Is “hanging out” what you guys call it these days?”

Your eyebrows spring together, and then what she says settles in and you about choke. “No! No, that is not what I meant!” You exclaim, but she’s waving a dismissive hand in your direction as if to say ‘I understand’. You realize after a second that there isn’t any reason to argue some more, she already has her heart set on whatever she thinks is going on between you and Lucas, so you walk over to the other side of the pool, where the man of the hour is talking to some girl. An uneasy feeling settles in your stomach, but you wave it away without jumping to conclusions. You don’t know who she is, maybe they’re related or something.

(They aren’t.)


 

Later that night, when fireworks are exploding and Zay is sneaking beer from Mrs. Kervanky’s table, you’re told that the brunette Lucas was with was definitely not his cousin. So, for two hours, you are subdued to watching him with another girl (again.) But, you don’t want to be that girl that insists on not actually dating and then act like his clingy girlfriend the second he shows interest in someone else (but really, when have you not been that girl?)

And you know that he likes her, or something like that. He has that stupid smile that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside, even from the other side of the room, and he’s leaning against the wall, attempting to get closer to her. Honestly, the girl was beautiful, and you’d probably tell her that if she wasn’t flirting with the guy you were hopelessly in love with.

“ZAY!” You yell after the thought crosses your mind, even though he’s lying right next to you on the beach towel.

“Jesu- Maya! You don’t go yelling in people’s ears like that. I don’t like it. Impolite.” He mutters, rubbing his ear dramatically.

“Well you do when you fucking realise that you’re in love with someone, bucko.” You state, running a hand through your hair and breathing deeply.

“Okay, still not acceptable, and even if I was poisoned and half dead, I would still know you were in love with him, I mean have you seen yourself lately? A real big mess, Hart.” He’s kidding, but you’re still freaking out, and can’t even focus on what he’s saying.

“I’ve never been in love Zay, I mean maybe when I was like five, but that’s not this. Not this feeling that is literally tugging my heart out of my fucking chest, and throwing it on the ground the second I see that,” you say, gesturing to where Lucas and the girl are, closer than you remember.

“Well you wanna know what I see? I see a cowboy that keeps looking over here to see if you’re paying attention. If I didn’t know better, then I’d say he was trying to make you jealous…” He drags out the word, practically singing, and you can’t help yourself when you glance back over to where the other two are. You catch Lucas’s eye, and for a second you think it was just in your mind, but then he gives you a challenging smirk and looks away.

“Did you just see that? Son of a… I’m going over there. Wait, should I go over there?” The indecision in your voice is prominent, and you know you sound pretty vulnerable, but it’s Zay and the worst he could probably do is say something sarcastically.

“I don’t know, if you do it could go two ways, if you don’t, well we both know what way it’s going in.” He shrugs lightly before stepping away, probably to flirt his way to another beer. You don’t know how much longer you sit there, attempting not to stare at them too intently. And you don’t know how long it takes you to walk the opposite direction, enroute to any place else.

But the plot twist is that you take a sharp turn and head right back over to where they are, using a drink Zay shoved into your hand to spill on Lucas. You’re profusely apologizing, and pulling him away to get it “cleaned up”, and he has a look in his eyes that says he’s won.

(And, even to your dismay, you know he has.)


 

You don’t know why, but you’re always taking Lucas’s clothes.

It isn’t that they are more comfortable than your own (though that’s arguable), and it isn’t like you miss him or anything. He’s always by you now, so you really don’t have the chance to.

But, you like the way they always smell like him, and how at home you feel when you wear them. And you like that they’re always way too big for you, but they somehow seem to fit just right. And it isn’t like you really mean to take them, it just kind of happens, and you don’t even realize it until you’re doing laundry three days later and you’ve accumulated six shirts that are definitely not yours.  

Or on nights where it’s so hot in your room, but you refuse to go anywhere, so clothes are flying off and he doesn’t realize he’s not wearing them when you’re practically shoving him out of your window in the morning (you don’t know how, really, because he walks to your apartment.)

Or when you go over to his house, it’s always below freezing, so you have about four of his sweatshirts, and you really don’t know if he has anymore.

The clothing you’ve collected really doesn’t seem like a lot until he shows up at your room one day, begging you to give him a clean shirt for a dinner with his sister. You say that he should just do laundry like any normal, responsible teen would do in said crisis, but he glares and gives you the silent treatment for twenty minutes, and you finally agree. You keep all of his clothes in a drawer in case he stays the night and doesn’t have time to change before work, and when you open it, it automatically feels like more than before it was.

“Holy shit, Shortstack. Did you ransack my closet when I wasn’t looking or something?” His eyes are bulging at the amount of clothes you have, but he doesn’t make a move to grab anything.

“Okay, all of this is your fault, for your information.” You tell him before throwing one of his nice flannels at him (you don’t even remember seeing him wear it in the first place, if you were being honest.)

“Okay, whatever you say. Well, I gotta run, and I’ll be back for you later.” He says, whispering to the drawer as he passes you and leaves a chaste kiss on your mouth before practically sprinting out of the window.

It amazes you that he hasn’t sprained an ankle climbing out of your room, and it leaves you speechless on how that one second kiss can take your breath away.

(All of his cologne in such a small space must be getting to your head.)


 

Two weeks later, and you can feel summer slowly coming to a close. You try your best not to focus on it, but when you’re sitting by yourself on your bed, it’s all you can think about. You and Riley and Farkle all go to Abigail Adams High school, but everyone at the pool lives mostly on the other side of town, and go to your rival school. You know you’ll see them at football games and other things, and it probably won’t be that hard to hang out over the weekends, but it’s difficult to grasp.

The fact that you won’t be with these people for the rest of the year, that they’re not going to be with you everyday like they are now just seems insane. You don’t really like to admit it, but you’ve made a routine with them, and even on your guy’s off days, you still hang out. You just genuinely love spending time with each and everyone of them, and they’re your second family now.

You know you will always have Riley and Farkle, but they’re dating, and that means you’re now the unspoken third wheel every time you hang out. Here, at the pool with everyone, you just feel at home. It all seems cheesy and a little too tacky for you, but even that doesn’t stop you from feeling this way.

(You wonder if there was ever anything that could.)


 

By the time August rolls around, you’re already done with seeing back to school commercials. And school supplies. And your school whenever you walk within a mile of your house. (When you’d gone shopping with Lucas to get some candy, you’d seen a binder and had actually needed to sit down for a moment.)

You knew you were ready to go back to school, having it be your final year at Abigail Adams and all, but that didn’t mean that you had to be happy about it. You and everyone else had avoided most talk about it, except they sometimes trash talked teachers. You didn’t like how it always made you feel left out, being the only one who went to a different school kind of set you apart.

Plus, a dreadful feeling was continuously settled on your chest, knowing that your whatever thing with Lucas had an unidentified expiration date. The more you thought about it, the more you kind of wanted to throw yourself over the side of the nearest cliff (but it honestly felt like you already had.)

You still tried to focus on the happy, on the fact that you still had two and a half weeks to be with them.

(It usually doesn’t work.)


 

Although all of you were in your later years of high school, you were children. It didn’t really show when you had to pretend to be adults for six or so hours, making sure that everyone could enjoy their time without getting hurt. But once everyone had left, it was like walking into a little kid's birthday party.

Like one time you had seen some water guns that were left on a table, and you didn’t even think about putting them into the lost and found before soaking anyone in sight (and it may have been Lucas, maybe not, though.) It started an entire fight and you guys didn’t even finish cleaning until eleven rolled around, and Mrs. Friar was practically begging you all to leave.

Also, since the end of June, you all had been having a mini prank war thing that involved shoving each other into the pool when the person wasn’t paying attention. At one point you’d been the only one who hadn’t been pushed, but then Zay had very kindly pointed that out, and Lucas immediately picked you up and tossed you in. (Smackle had once “accidentally” knocked Tyler in while he was on duty, and he’d screamed so loud that Gabe had dived in, thinking it was someone drowning.)

And there was the ongoing game of hide and seek that started the second the last person walked through the gates. It usually started with a nose goes, and then everyone just ran. (You’d tried to make it hide an go seek tag, but Zoey had just about given herself three concussions, so it was a group decision to ensure her safety.)

And then there was your favorite, truth or dare. When Smackle had first suggested it, she’d backed it up with facts upon facts, but you just thought it was a game that you either played at high school parties or when you were fourteen. But then Zay dared Lucas to jump off the roof of the deck into the pool, and you were intrigued. You guys never did anything that would intentionally harm someone (you say this because Tyler had just about cut his finger off when you dared him to make you a peanut butter sandwich one night), but there was plenty of embarrassing stories that you had against everyone now.  

It surprised you how you could be such civilized humans in the daytime (well, mostly), and then do a complete one eighty in a matter of seconds. Mrs. Friar knew you guys were always messing around after hours, but even she didn’t want to be a part of it, knowing that if she got in the middle of the crossfire, you all weren't going to spare her. So she left you alone, reminding you guys to lock up when you were done, and then she was on her way (and the water guns came out.)

You had never had a summer like this, usually they were just spent with your two best friends. You and Farkle and Riley mostly went on vacations all around the United States with the Minkus’s, and you couldn’t even remember the last time you didn’t go somewhere, summer jobs be damned. But this year was different, you all changed your routine, and for some reason you didn’t even know, you didn’t hate it. Sure, you miss going to Hilton Head or to see the Golden Gate Bridge, but not enough for you to actually want to leave.

You felt at home with all of them, even Ranger Rick (especially Ranger Rick.)


 

That summer you only see Lucas cry once (and you swear it’s one of the worst things you’ve ever experienced.)

You two had talked about your home lives, but not in depth. Not because you guys couldn’t share things like that, but just because it never seemed necessary. You both knew the basics, he knew that your father had left and you knew that his mother had uprooted him and moved him to New York, but that was kind of where it stopped.

He didn’t tell you about how the scars on his mother’s arms and legs weren’t from her own doing, and you didn’t tell him about the bags under your mother’s eyes, and your occasional nightmares of being alone for the rest of your life.

Plus, you guys liked to have fun, and self deprecation wasn’t fun, especially when it’s on both ends of the conversation.

But one night he let his guard down.

He and his mother had taken off work for three days, and you didn’t really think anything of it until he stopped answering your texts one night. Sure, you could have passed it off as he fell asleep early, or just turned his phone off, but you knew he had a pretty bad case of insomnia, and he always kept his phone on in case someone needed him (which you couldn’t help but think was endearing.) And you also could have just shoved it aside and said he was spending quality time with his mom or his aunt that had recently moved into their apartment, but you just had a bad feeling. It sounded pretty dumb, but it was three in the morning and you didn’t really care about sounding stupid (the dark always did something to you.)

You realized that walking in the absolute dead of night (or morning) in your pretty sketchy neighborhood wasn’t your best decision, but your common sense was pretty much lying somewhere at the bottom of the world’s deepest pit at that point.

When you’d finally made it to Lucas’s window, you were shivering (summer nights were always weird), and already regretting your choices. It wasn’t that you were nervous, this was your damn Huckleberry that you’d come to know (and love), but you didn’t want to wake him up if he’d finally gotten to sleep or something.

But all of your irrational fear immediately dissipated when you saw his light on. His window was cracked open, and you didn’t know if it was because he was expecting you or because his house was literally the equivalent to Greenland.

You’re just about to pry it open wide enough for you to get in, when you hear a sniffle. For a second you think you imagined it, but then he turns slightly, still not noticing you, and you see the red in his eyes. “Lucas?” You say it as softly as you can, gently opening the window as if he was a wild animal ready to run or something.

He didn’t say anything for a second, nor did he jump when you called out his name. It seemed that he had actually been waiting for you this entire time, and you wondered why he hadn’t just asked you to come over in the first place. “My dad came home for the first part of this week. Didn’t really go as planned…” He laughed without sounding amused at all, and then said, “Well, I don’t really know how any of us thought this was really going to go.”

“Come here,” you sigh in displeasure at the look on his face, and pull him into you after sitting on his bed. You set his head on your chest and curl your fingers into his hair, silently telling him to explain everything to you. And he does, telling you all about how his father had seemed so different , but really just turned out to be exactly like he was before, except he could control his anger for about five more seconds that he used to be able to. He told you about how he had said he hated him and his mom, and that he was never welcome back into his old home, that even Pappy Joe didn’t want to see him. Some heavy weight was sitting at the back of your throat when you heard his voice crack, but you made sure he didn’t see you cry at all.

(It was his turn to talk about his family life, and maybe someday the roles would be reversed. But, for now, you’d be right there by his side and listen to everything he had to say until he was done or he just fainted from talking for so long.)

After awhile, his voice grew sleepy, and his eyes started to droop. Right before he’d practically passed out, he’d said, “You know, Maya May, I sleep a lot better when you’re with me. Well, I actually sleep when you’re with me.” It wasn’t a passionate speech about his feelings, but it had touched you in a way that “I love you” could probably never amount to.

Once you finally realized that there was no way you were getting out of his koala bear hold anytime soon, you laid your head back and practically fell asleep instantly. Lucas’s voice always had a way of lulling you to sleep.

And when Mama Friar woke up early the next morning, cooking breakfast before heading over to Lucas’s room, ready to talk about whatever had happened the night before over her famous pancakes, she sees you. She could’ve woken you up or told you to leave so she could have a heart to heart with her son, but instead she smiled warmly for the first time in a few days, and turned around, heading back into the kitchen to make three more pancakes (that she knew you’d devour in minutes.)


 

Your last week before school starts is filled with excitement, joy, and undeniable tension (and not the good kind.)

The pool would be open until the beginning of September, but the adult staff was calling in college students that had volunteered to help out since you all would be too busy at school to work most of the time. Mama Friar had told you all about their plans in a meeting that everyone attended, and you felt a sinking weight in your gut. You knew everyone felt it to, the looks on their faces were evidence enough, but you all avoided the topic like the plague.

(You thought it was a pretty spot on analogy since both of them would probably cause you undeniable pain, and possibly death.)    


 

Five days before both schools start up, Zay knocks on your door. Everyone had been given the day off to let the new employees try out their positions, and you’d spend most of it lying around your apartment. You probably would’ve been with Lucas except he had said he was having “bro time” with a few of his baseball teammates (whatever that meant.)

You had been sketching the buildings that you could see out of your window when you heard a loud knock. For a second you were confused, then you were scared because people had to buzz in to get to your apartment. You stood up slowly, hearing another knock, and grabbed the biggest kitchen knife you could find. You crept to the door, and then took a look through the peephole.

It was covered.

In your mind you were telling yourself to walk the other way, but you just ripped the door open and yelled. Zay stood on the other side of the door, eating a sandwich and looking at you with wide eyes.

“Jesus fucking- Zay! How the hell did you get up to my apartment?” You sounded breathless, and you placed a hand over your rapidly beating heart.

“Well, don’t act so glad to see me?” He says, before breezing past you.

“Okay, well really I don’t want to know how because I feel like it involves something terrible, but why are you here?”

“Well I heard that Cowboy Number One is busy, so I’m bored, and I know you’re bored, and here I am.” He smiles before throwing himself on your couch, snuggling into one of your pillows.

“I could’ve been with Farkle and Riley, it isn’t like he’s my only friend.” You said defensively, grabbing the pillow from his hold.

“Them two have been boning since before summer started, if you was with em’, I would be scared for your eyesight.” He tells you before muttering about how indecent you were being to your guests.

“There is a possibility that you’re right, but I’m not going to say it. Now what do you want to do?” You ask, sitting on his stomach, feeling delighted when he lets out a groan of pain.

“Why’re you so heavy? You’re like the size of a small penguin.” He shoves you off of him and you land on the ground, almost hitting your head on your coffee table.

Isaiah Babineaux !” You yell, knowing he hates it when people say his full name.

“Whatever, Penelope. ” He mutters, and your head whips in his direction, “What? Riley told me, she had had a lot of alcohol, and I didn’t have to beg very hard to get something on the untouchable Maya Hart…HEY! No hitting!”

(“Or biting you sick animal.”)


 

The next day, you walk to the pool like you’d done so many times throughout the past three months. Sighing, you set your stuff on the front desk, waiting for Zay to pop up like he always does. When no one appears after a few moments, you furrow your eyebrows, and lean over the counter (since you’re so small, even your feet are off ground).

As soon as your eyes pass the countertop, a person stands up, almost smashing into your forehead. “Maya May!” Lucas yells, kissing you once recognition set in.

“Wow, Huckleberry. A little excited are we?” You tease, picking your bag back up before walking, Lucas following closely behind you. You feel two arms wrap around your waist, pulling you into his chest, and something in your stomach flutters.

“I am very excited, Miss Hart,” he states before turning you around and leaning you against the front desk, kissing your entire face. You’re laughing by the time his lips meet your nose, and you hear a choked noise from behind him.

Both of you turn in the sound’s direction, and are met with Zay and Smackle fake puking, patting each other on the back.

“Ha ha, very cute you two,” is all you manage over the sounds that they’re making.

“Please, I deal with enough ‘Did you see how cute Maya is today?’ and ‘Why have I never noticed that Maya has freckles on her shoulders?’ and ‘Maya blah Maya blah blah blah blah’! I don’t need you two bringing it into the workplace.” Zay says.

“Okay, dad, thanks for the lecture, but you should really be getting back to work now, those two kids just walked in and they haven’t paid.” You point at two teens that had just walked in behind him, and give him a smug grin.

(Lucas may or may not have kissed you the second Zay turned around, but he didn’t ask and you didn’t see a reason to tell him.)


On the last day before summer was officially over, everyone was called into work. They were closing early and you all were supposed to have some kind of goodbye party, but none of it really sounded appetizing to you. You weren’t exactly ready for the official ending to your perfect-but-not-so-perfect summer at all.

That was where you excelled, though, being able to push problems away until the literally only option you had was to face them. You thought it should’ve been an Olympic sport, given the amount of physical and emotional effort it usually took.

You hated to admit it, but you were almost in tears by your last shift, having it be at the top of the slide, where you could take in the entire pool and everyone at it (but then you dumped a whole bucket of water on Lucas, who was under the slide, and you felt better suddenly.)

By the time the day was over and you were all cleaning and closing up, Mama Friar was the only one who remained. She waited until the trash was taken out, until all the chairs were stacked on the tables, and until you were standing in front of her, where she was prepared to give a speech.

“Hey guys,” she starts, still smiling even though you can all tell that she isn’t happy at all. “I just want to say thank you, for all your hard work and for everything you guys have done for the pool. And especially for each other, so have a great school year, and please, please make it through. I know some of us,” she pauses to take a non discreet glance at Gabe, and you all giggle a little bit as he waves enthusiastically at her, “don’t take our studies completely serious, but for a lot of you, it’s senior year. I know, I know, this is the year where you all party , but don’t. College is right around the corner, not to scare you guys, but it is, and I want you guys in the best shape for next summer, all right?” She doesn’t wait for an answer, instead she picks all her things up from the front desk and heads out, throwing a hand up as a goodbye.

“I’m just gonna go that way, and pretend like I’m not crying right now,” Zay states weakly, walking over to the radio that was connected to the speakers. You gently smile at his retreating figure, awaiting for him to pick a song.

(It’s I Gotta Go My Own Way, and the second it starts, there’s seven people singing it obnoxiously.)


The school year starts, and it isn’t much different than it’s been in the past four years, except you’re rushing to get college applications started. Plus, you’re all studying a lot harder in the first part of the year. And everyone looks much more sleep deprived than they did a few months ago.

You keep in contact with almost everyone, but it isn’t as often as you wanted it to be (but Zay makes sure he texts you everyday, no matter what time, no matter what place.) You see them all at sport games, and you guys meet up a few times, but you’re all so focused on school or sports or college or dating that, at some point, everything gets kind of jumbled up.

You and Lucas had made a pact the night before school started that you wouldn’t date someone unless you thought you were falling in love with them (you knew you weren’t dating anyone anytime soon after that was made. Your heart was somewhere else.) But that doesn’t mean that you two didn’t go out with other people. You saw pictures of him with plenty of girls on Instagram and other sites, and you couldn’t help but feel jealous every time.

You two didn’t actually see each other until you were unveiling your letters from the numerous universities that you all applied to. Everyone had gotten together to read them, even Riley and Farkle had joined you guys.

It was no surprise that Farkle and Smackle had both gotten into Stanford and a bunch of other amazing colleges (but that didn’t mean you guys didn’t start screaming the second their faces lit up with smiles), and Riley’s acceptance from Berkeley wasn’t all that shocking (even though she was sitting on the ground, crying, for a few minutes as if she really wasn’t expecting it.) And Zay,of course, had read his letters beforehand, so his reaction to Texas A&M accepting him wasn’t great acting (but he still smiled like a big dork.)

Zoey had decided to take a gap year, but she still came to celebrate with you all. Gabe and Tyler had applied to the same universities, and had both gotten into Ohio State (and just about killed each other chest bumping after they read them simultaneously.)

Lucas and you were the last ones to open yours, and you were starting to feel sick just thinking about the importance of these three pieces of paper. You guys hadn’t really talked much since you’d arrived (or since summer ended, really), but you met eyes when everyone turned and looked at you expectantly. Sighing, you picked up your three letters from the table and opened them as casually as possible, although your hands were shaking.

The first one was from Duke, and you already knew the answer. Sure, your grades were better, but they would never be enough to be accepted into the other 10.4% (and the big fat WE’RE SORRY TO INFORM YOU that was printed on the first line confirmed it for you.) Then you’d gotten one from NYU and Michigan University. Your first choice had always been NYU, just because moving across the country or even a state over never sounded like fun to you.

You’d been accepted by Michigan, and when you finally had enough guts to open the NYU one, you practically backflipped off of the kitchen table. Your first reaction was to hug Riley as tightly as possible, while listening to everyone cheer in excitement. After she finally let you go, you turned to see Lucas with wide eyes. He had been reading a letter from Columbia, and was absolutely speechless. He had been opening and closing his mouth, trying to get the words out, but nothing was happening.

“I got in.” He whispered, sounding awestruck.

Without even thinking about it, you lunged at him, wrapping your arms and legs around him. He caught you with a grunt, moving his arms around your waist and hugging you firmly to his body. Your head had been buried in his neck, but you moved it back until you were nose to nose. A second went by, and everyone’s cheering seemed quiet in your ears now. You didn’t let yourself think about it for more than a couple moments before you slammed your lips onto his.

He smiled into the kiss, and when you broke away, he let you slowly slide back down his body and onto your feet. “You got four years of me, Cowboy.” You stated, grinning at him.

“Sounds horrifying.” He kissed your forehead as he said it, and then you were both surrounded by the mass of people standing in his kitchen. You were quickly enveloped by a warm feeling that settled in your chest for all them.

(And now you finally understand why summer jobs were such an important thing to experience.)