Disclaimer: Still not my universe.
Julia blinks. Soon, she's in the airport, in front of the security checkpoint, handing over her ticket and I.D. Glancing over her lack of carry-on luggage, the security guard casually starts, "Michigan? What do you plan to do there?"
"I'm visiting my parents." Julia answers timidly, wringing her hands. And again, eying her unsettled behavior, the woman sets down her pen and looks Julia in the eye. "Miss, are you sure you're alright to fly?"
Embarrassed, Julia smiles crookedly and brushes away the few tears threatening to fall. "Yes, I'm fine. I, um… I turned down a marriage proposal today." She explains, her voice cracking slightly. "Oh man, I'm so sorry…" Taking back her boarding pass, Julia smiles genuinely. "Thanks. It's been a hell of a day."
"I can imagine… Have a good flight." The woman responds earnestly. Julia nods her thanks and passes through security without a problem. Then, grabbing a cup of shitty McDonalds coffee and a pile of trashy magazines, Julia settles down in an almost empty gate. It's only then that she realizes she has an hour and a half until her flight.
Well, it's now or never, she thinks, pulling out her phone. She cringes. 17 text messages – 11 from Darren, 3 from Jaime, 2 from Lauren and 1 from Dylan. 6 voicemails, all from Darren.
Ignoring her inbox, Julia types in that familiar number and mentally prepares herself. "Hello?" Exhaling, Julia can't stop the hiccup that escapes her now trembling throat. "Mom?"
"Julia? What's wrong? I thought you had a show today?"
"We did. It, um, it went really well." She murmurs.
"Oh! Well that's great Hon! What's up?" Mrs. Albain asks, perking up. "Mom, I'm coming home to visit!" Julia throws out, sounding more miserable than excited. And the line is quiet for a moment.
"Really?" Her mother responds brightly. "Well when should I pick you up at the airport? Your father has a dinner tonight with his boss so we can have a girls night if you want! And you know the guest room is always ready for you. And maybe I have some of your sister's clothes laying around in the closet if you need them."
Julia laughs hoarsely, before countering, "Mom, it'll be past midnight so you don't have to do that. And besides, after 2 months on a bus, I'm just happy to sleep in a real bed tonight." She jokes.
"OK Hon, if you're sure… Just give me a call once you've landed and I'll be right there!"
"Alright, thanks mom."
"You're welcome Jules! Love you!"
"Love you too. See you soon." And ending the call, Julia burrows into her chair and shuts her eyes, worn out.
"Is this seat taken?"
Julia jolts slightly. She regards the woman from the security checkpoint with a smile and shakes her head. "Oh good. I was hoping to spend my break in good company."
Chuckling, Julia retorts, "I'm not so sure I'm the best of company at this point." Both women can't help giggling, the atmosphere suddenly lighter. "Eh, who cares? You looked like you needed a friend, and if there's anything I've learned after living in NYC for 4 years, it's that sometimes, just having a friend can change even the shittiest of times. And I'm Steph by the way." She advises, offering Julia a hand.
Shaking it, Julia can't help but smile. "I'm Julia."
"Oh I know! Trust me, dude, A Very Potter Musical was my shit during junior year of college! I especially loved Crabbe." She quips, winking, which sends Julia into another fit of giggles. "So, you know, if it's too personal – what happened today – it's totally cool. Totally awesome, even." Steph says slyly.
"It's okay. I think I'd like to talk about it…"
And so they talk, joke, laugh until they cry, all the things two good friends would do and when the PA system announces boarding for Julia's flight, they both are surprised. Glancing at her watch, it suddenly dawns on Julia, "Oh my god! We completely forgot! What about your break?! Will you get in trouble for this?" Steph merely smiles.
"Actually, I'm done for the day. I just wanted to make sure you were OK and, of course, I couldn't pass up such quality conversation." Steph boasts, tugging on her jacket and pulling out her badge. "Boarding Zones 1 through 3, Zones 1 through 3."
And realizing that includes her, Julia is overwhelmed with a sudden sense of loss. "Me too… Thank you so much…for everything."
"Don't worry about it, Jules, my pleasure. Just remember what I said – everything'll work out in the end. Let yourself be sad, happy, angry, whatever it is you need to get out of your system, and let people help. I'm sure if your mom is anything like mine, she'll go way overboard, but it'll be great! And remember to call me!" Steph counsels, pointing to the scrap of paper in Julia's hand.
"I will, I promise!" Julia calls, watching and giggling as Steph literally waltzes away. Julia revels in the lightness in her chest for a moment before walking towards the boarding line. Finally, she feels calm.
- July 5th, Three Weeks Later -
"I'm telling you! He tried to hit on me in the supermarket of all places! Who the fuck does that!?" Juia cries, wiping a stream of laughter-induced tears, cradling the phone between her head and shoulder as she holds up two different dresses in the mirror.
"Well, you've gotta give him props. It takes guts to ask out an older woman, and in a public place too! That's pretty commendable." Steph argues, struggling to get her own laughter under control.
"Yeah, but he's 17 for god's sake! Why would he even think of doing something like that? All he'll ever be is a little brother to me…" Julia reasons, tossing the two dresses on her bed.
"True, but sometimes it's better to have dared and been rejected, than to have never asked at all…" Steph offers, and suddenly they're not talking about next-door neighbors anymore. "All I'm saying, Jules, is that you should talk to him… You know, directly. You can't use Lauren and Joey as messengers for the rest of your lives."
"I know that! But I'm… I'm just not ready yet." She mumbles, sunking to the floor against her closet. "I'm not trying to force you into anything Jules, but he was your best friend. Forget Lauren and Jaime and I," Steph jokes, "He was your anchor, and while I'm totally all for strong, independent, kick-ass Julia, you can't phase him out of your life completely. That's not you."
A silence settles between them.
"I want to move to New York."