It was their first winter break since they had all started college and the 2019 class of Abigail Adams High had decided they were due for a reunion. They hadn't all ended up going to the same colleges like they had once dreamed of doing. They were a little older now, a little wiser and they knew that their friendship would still endure despite the distance of college.
Lucas had ended up at Cornell University and enrolled in one of the nation's finest veterinary programs. Riley stayed in New York to attend NYU, still unsure of what she wanted for her future. Maya had decided to continue pursuing art and though she loved Riley and New York, she needed a slight change of scenery and opted to go to the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Farkle, being the genius that he was, pretty much had his choice of colleges and had opted for MIT. Zay had also stayed in New York, attending NYU alongside Riley and Smackle had left for Harvard to pursue law.
The group had decided that for this holiday season, they would return to the Mount Sun ski lodge. Somehow word had spread, likely by Zay, that the gang was reuniting at the lodge and suddenly their quiet trip had become a whole winter class reunion.
So here she was, Maya Hart, confined to the bay window of the ski lodge's lounge, when she had been committed there only 5 hours into their trip. With her left leg propped up on a throw pillow, Maya watched as the snow fell outside softly, settling with ease on the pines. They were in the heart of a winter wonderland, just two days before the New Year, and she was down for the count thanks to a sprained ankle that she earned not from skiing but slipping on the wet floor of the lodge's lobby only hours after their arrival. The doctor had wrapped her ankle and given her crutches, telling her to stay off of it for a few days. Just her luck she thought with a heavy sigh as she turned back to the sketchbook in her lap. She looked up every so often, observing the crowd in the lounge before gazing back to the two-dimensional world in front of her, attempting to capture the same soft fire-lit glow of the café on paper.
The voice of her best friend eventually distracted her from her thoughts.
"Here you go, Peaches," Riley said, handing her a mug of hot cocoa filled to the brim with marshmallows.
"Thanks Riles," she said with a warm smile, her eyes lighting up at the sight of the hot chocolate.
The brunette plopped down on the ledge of the bay window beside her blonde partner in crime with a distressed look on her face.
"It's a real bummer that you hurt your leg, and so early in the trip too," she said with a frown, "all because of a soppy, soggy no-good floor."
"Riley, it's ok, I'm fine," Maya reassured her. No hope, No disappointments she thought to herself.
"Besides," she added, "I'm not coordinated for skis anyway. I'm sure I would have ended up grounded at this bay window one way or another. Plus, look on the bright side—this whole ordeal has earned us free hot chocolates for the rest of our stay, a cabin upgrade, and the lodge is even letting me come back free of charge when I'm all healed up."
Riley smiled widely at her best friend. "Aww peaches, look at you finding the silver lining!"
Maya smiled at her and just shook her head, "Well I learned from the best didn't I, Sunshine?"
"Well not to worry!" Riley said animatedly, "As long as your leg has to stay propped up, I will be by your side! 24/7!"
Maya raised her eyebrows and grinned at the brunette. She loved Riley, she really did but 24/7 of Riley would lead them to conversations she didn't want to have. Conversations about certain boys, past, present, and future all of which Maya preferred not to speak of. In all honesty, she didn't mind the quiet moments of solitude the day sometimes offered. It was during these times that she often came up with her best pieces of art.
"Don't be ridiculous, Riles! I'm fine. Go crazy, kid!"
"Nonsense, Maya! I am your best friend and this is what best friends do. I know you'd do the same for me so there is nothing you can say or do to change my mind about it."
As if it was a sign from above, the door to the lodge opened ushering in a gust of cold air and none other than their favorite ranger followed by a trail of snow bunnies. Maya watched her friend with curiosity. She watched distress play out on her face, torn between loyalty to her best friend and love for the hopeless saga that was Riley & Lucas. Maya then turned her gaze over to the Texan surrounded by girls, all vying for his attention. He looked up at them, smiled and gave a wave.
It didn't bother her, all those girls. Not for her sake at least. She and Huckleberry determined they were definitely better suited as friends back in 9th grade. Riley, however, was still as in love with him now as she was that first day on the subway. And she was pretty sure Lucas was still just as smitten by his little ray of Rileyshine. The two had dated throughout high school but as Lucas prepared to leave for college 4 hours away from Riley, the two had decided to put their relationship on hold. Which put them in this awkward predicament of not knowing what they were to one another. All it took was one look at her best friend's face to know that Riley was worried that she could lose Lucas to the swarm of girls surrounding him. There was just something about the cozy lodge, the soft glow of the fireplace, and snow gently falling outside that made people just want to cuddle up together. Nature! She heard Mr. Matthews voice resound in her head from all those years ago.
"Hey Riles?" Maya called out.
"Hmm?" Riley replied, not breaking her eyes away from Lucas and his entourage.
"Yeah, remember that girl Lauren your parents talked about? The one your dad met at the ski lodge when he was like 16? The one he spent all night talking to?"
This caught her attention and Riley turned to face her best friend again, her doe eyes filled with fear.
"Well kid, don't let the blonde Betty over there become the Lauren to you and Lucas."
Riley turned back once more to look at the blonde draping herself over Lucas' arm. "But…"
"But nothing!" Maya shouted, "Get over there! Get over there right now! Ring Power!"
Riley looked at Maya and smiled gratefully. There was no denying ring power and she knew it. "Thanks, Maya!"
Maya watched as Riley approached Lucas, his eyes brightening at the sight of her. Maya shook her head with a smile as the door to the lodge opened once more revealing a snow-sprinkled Farkle, accompanied by Isadora Smackle and her tag-along Ivy League stick-in-the-mud friend, Mitsi McMarkle. Maya rolled her eyes. It was just her luck that Zay's big mouth had announced to entire former class of Abigail Adams High that they would be up here this weekend. It wasn't that Maya disliked Smackle but she supposed that if she were being truly honest with herself it was that throughout most of high school Smackle had something Maya had wanted, though she'd never admit it out loud. She looked to Smackle's left, catching Farkle's eye who winked at her from across the room. She gave him a small smile and turned back to her drawing.
Ever since Farkle ditched the turtlenecks in favor of some hoodies and his bowl cut in favor of an edgier chop, it stirred something inside her that she longed to ignore. It didn't help that over the years he had also grown a little taller and had filled out with a little more muscle by playing basketball with Zay and Lucas on the weekends. By no means was he athletically built like Lucas but it was just enough to still be Farkle. He was still the lovable, loyal, goofy, and eccentric Farkle but with a dash of whoa that left Maya a little unsure of herself around him at times. They had grown even closer lately with both of them attending schools in Massachusetts. They were just a short ride away from one another, him on the north side in Cambridge, and her south in Boston. And of course, it was just her luck that Smackle was just down the street from him at Harvard.
She watched the group a little longer from the corner of her eye. Puberty had been good to Smackle. She was a late bloomer but boy had she bloomed. The girl definitely turned a few heads nowadays.
With yet another sigh, Maya returned to her drawing, her oil pastel breaking at the pressure she applied to the surface. She cursed under her breath, reminding herself to be more careful with the new set that Shawn had just given her for her as an early birthday present. Placing all her energy back into her drawing, she tuned out the world, ignoring everything and everyone around her. She had become so entranced that she hadn't even noticed most of the crowd slowly filtering out of the lounge.
So when she heard him whisper, "Pretty blonde lady!" in her ear, she nearly fell out of the bay window, her pastels flying in the air.
"Damn it, Farkle!" she yelled, her hand splayed across her heart, "You scared the crap out of me!"
"Sorry," he replied with a sheepish grin as he picked up her orange pastel from the floor and handed it to her. Maya tried to ignore the current that passed between them as his hand grazed hers.
"What are you doing here Farkle?" she asked as he pulled up a chair and sat beside her at the window. He held her gaze. It bothered her that he could. That he never looked away first. That she was always the one shifting her eyes. Why was he able to do that to her?
Maya turned back to her drawing, focusing entirely too much on the sketchpad in front of her.
"Aren't your FarkleNation groupies going to have me lynched just for talking to you?" she added with a hint of bitterness when he hadn't answered her first question.
"Eh, Farkle Friends come before Farkle Groupies," he replied good-naturedly and he leaned in closer to her.
She lifted her eyes to meet his deep dark blue ones. She could get lost in them.
"Well what about Smackle?" she asked, clearing her throat, "you sure she doesn't mind?"
"Of course not, she and I are just friends."
Maya raised her eyebrows and snorted, "Are you sure she knows that?"
Farkle followed Maya's gaze over to Smackle standing in the corner of the café with Mitsi, giving Maya the stink eye. He shrugged and shifted his gaze back to Maya. Maya knew that Smackle and Farkle had broken up at around this time last year but she wasn't sure Smackle ever got the memo.
"Smackle is great and all but she's not it for me."
"Right…Because beauty and brains, what's not to like," Maya replied sarcastically, giving Farkle a pointed look.
He chuckled easily.
"Well yes, she is those things but she's not the only one with beauty and brains out there, you know," he returned with a meaningful look in his eyes.
Maya could feel the blood flooding her face. She was thankful for the proximity of the fireplace and hoped it was concealing any trace of the crimson shade that colored her face. She looked back to Smackle. She felt bad for the girl. If a girl like her couldn't even win Farkle's heart, who could?
"But you guys are so similar" she said with a bit of sadness in her voice that she couldn't place. Maybe it was in solidarity with the girl in corner and in knowing the feeling of an unrequited love.
"Too similar, I think" he said.
"Well, we used to think the same thing about Riley and Lucas but they still seem to work?" she offered, though she didn't know why. It was like she was trying to convince him to be with Smackle. This was masochistic.
"Things aren't black and white when it comes to love, Maya. What is true for them isn't necessarily true for me, or for you, or anyone else," he reasoned. Farkle moved over to sit at the bay window beside her. He lifted her injured leg, taking a seat before setting her leg back down on his lap.
"Smackle is a great intellectual mind and being with her would be easy. Arguments with her would be rational and factual. But they'd feel like a trial or a debate every time. They'd be dull but they'd be easy. Would you want a relationship that's easy or one that challenges you? I think there needs to be a balance between the rational analytical minds and the passionate artistic minds. Don't you think? Remember Harper's lesson on Sense and Sensibility?" he asked shifting his eyes up to hers.
Maya swallowed, her throat dry, unsure how to answer as all she could focus on was the fluttering sensation in the pit of her stomach as his fingers traced small circles on her ankle.
"What?" she asked in a daze, after a long silent pause.
Farkle gave her a soft smile, shaking his head. For a moment, Maya had thought Farkle was talking about him and her but she shook that thought away. Farkle wanted a challenge, he needed a brainiac and she was nowhere near that. Hell, he still helped her with her core math classes, even in college.
"Ok," he said, looking around to see that the café was near empty, "Well, were you planning on going to the get together over at Dave's cabin later?"
"I think I'd prefer to stay away from Do-Good Dave's parties," she replied, her eyes flicking to his. He furrowed his brows and frowned for a moment as he nodded in understanding.
"Well then what do you say we turn this into a movie night?" he said shaking away the thoughts that had been occupying his mind, "Me, you, popcorn, peanut M&Ms?"
"That sounds nice Farkle, but you don't need to babysit me. I'll be fine. Besides everyone is going to that party tonight, I'm sure that would be much more exciting than watching my leg heal."
"You're not going so not everyone is going," he countered.
"Well, you should enjoy the trip. Catch up with people," she offered.
"Yeah? Are you sure?" he asked.
"Yeah," she said trying her best to sound convincing.
"Ok," he said standing and nodding as Maya's heart sank a little. "Great! Well since you want me to enjoy the trip, the first thing I want to go do is watch a movie with you, pretty lady! Let's go!" he reached out his hand to help her up.
"Farkle—" Maya tried to argue but he interrupted.
"Maya, do you or do you not want me to enjoy this trip?"
"But nothing. Look, I'd much rather hang out watching a movie with you than sit around and make small talk with people I haven't seen in 6 months."
Maya gave him a soft smile, and took his hand as he helped her up, holding her waist to steady her as she gained her footing. They stood there for a moment, her eyes moving from his lips to his eyes, a move that did not go unnoticed by Farkle as he moved in, closing the gap between them ever so slightly.
"Maya—I—" Farkle began to speak when they heard a voice that immediately broke them apart.
"Ooohwee….Farkle and Maya…sitting in a tree! Look at you two looking all cozy by that fireplace. Hey Farkle, looks like Maya's getting all flustered on your behalf," Zay Babineaux shouted as he left the lodge, door slamming behind him.
"An eye for an eye, Babineaux!" Maya threatened before turning back to Farkle, an awkward silence falling between them.
Farkle gave her a tight smile, "Ready?"
He picked up the crutches leaning against the fireplace and handed it to her as she followed him out of the lodge and over to cabin 8, where Farkle, Lucas and Zay were staying. They walked in silence, both mortified from their encounter with Zay, hoping to forget the whole thing ever happened. But Maya couldn't forget and she had a feeling Farkle couldn't either.