Girl Meets World

by Sarah

Homeroom bell rang and the junior high students rush into the school with everyday similar to the last; at least that's what it seemed like to Riley. She walked beside Maya, neither spoke, and Riley played with her hair so her waves fell over her shoulder; Maya could always read Riley's facial expressions. With arms linked the two girl walked toward Cory's classroom to begin the school day. However feet from her father's classroom Riley stopped then unlinked from Maya.

"Come on Riles don't want to keep them waiting for us." Maya said.

Riley picks at her nails. "I'll be right there Maya."

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I will be."

Maya smiled and tapped Riley on the shoulder.

"Sure. I'll tell Mr. Matthews something."

"Thanks. See you soon."

Maya went on ahead into the classroom while Riley went to her locker with several pictures that lined the inside. The photo of her and Maya in a side hug bothered Riley the most. She pulled off the photo and then hid it inside her textbook. Riley then found an aspirin bottle on the top shelf and closed her locker door. She walked down hallway toward the other side of the school where the swimming pool was. She knew no one would be there, giving her time to herself.

Riley slumped against the wall and used her book bag as a pillow. Riley rested her cheek on her knees with her eyes shut tight. Everything hurt her now; energy and essence drained away She kept the pills in her lap and let small amounts of exhaustion takeover and infect her heart. Her drained body gave her a headache; it made her want slip into a catnap, a second sleep. Logic refused to let Riley release her feelings. Instead she let the words twist her emotions until she didn't feel anymore.

Lucas deserves to be happy... Maya can feel what she wants… Daddy can think he has a perfect daughter. They don't need to know a thing. Riley swallowed a deep breath like she would cry and with that breath exhaled, her stomach tightened, her burden lightened when she exhaled in that same breath. The demons in her mind argued against logic. Your happiness is a lie. It's your job to piece everyone else together, not yourself.

She brought her knees to her chest and pressed her cheek harder against her knee.

It still hurt. Everything hurt.

"I shouldn't feel this."


Her phone buzzed interrupting the silence. It was Maya who asked what took Riley so long to get to class, "If you're going to skip you could've take me with you." Riley answered that she would be in class soon. She then opened the aspirin bottle then swallowed some pills to get through the day. Riley pushed away the exhaustion pushed, got to her feet, and brushed off dirt from her skirt. She dropped the bottle into her book bag and began to walk to homeroom.

"Class time."

In the classroom Cory Matthews remained teaching, on the board behind him read: the Holocaust. Between casualties Riley walked in the room. At her desk she wondered if anyone noticed her messy concealer as well as a twitch that replaced her smile. Cory stopped by his daughter and asked where she was. Riley looked up at him and hoped he couldn't read her emotions.

"The nurse's office, dad. Girl problems," She said.


Cory continued the lesson behind his desk then passed out Anne Frank: A Diary of a Young Girl around the room to each student. A note landed on her book when Riley received her copy of the diary. The paper read her name with dotted hearts on the 'i' definitely from Maya. She turned her head and saw her best friend smile at her. Riley didn't bother to read or respond to Maya, all she did was shove the note into her book. Her father told the class to split up into pairs for the class activity. Desked screeched around the class and from the side of her eye she saw Maya move toward Riley.

"Hey honey." Maya said.

Nothing from Riley.

"Did you read my note?"

Riley pulled out the note and Maya smiled. Instead of reading it Riley ripped it in pieces, walked over to throw it in the trashcan. Back at her desk she saw Maya frown.

Maybe now Maya will leave me alone.

Her father told the class to read a passage from the diary, that it didn't matter what part, and discuss it among the pairs. Riley skimmed through the diary. The voices turned into rushing water in her ears, her friend's voice into non-words. Finally a passage grabbed her attention, it read:

"I wander from room to room, climb up and down the stairs and feel like a songbird whose wings have been ripped off and who keeps hurling itself against the bars of its dark cage. 'Let me out, where there's fresh air and laughter!' a voice within me cries. I don't even bother to reply anymore, but lie down on the divan. Sleep makes the silence and the terrible fear go by more quickly, helps pass the time, since it's impossible to kill it." (p. 106)

"What are you reading?"

This girl is me. How can she know how I feel when she's not here? Riley thought. "It's a book Maya."

"Okay, I like change but since when are you the mouthy one?"

"I shouldn't have to tell you anything Maya."

"You don't have to but—"

Cory walked back over to Maya and Riley. "Ladies is everything alright?"

"I don't know, ask her."

He looks at Riley.

"Everything's fine dad," she said. Maya shook her head when he looked at her.

"Honey, why don't you step outside for a minute? Take a breath."

"I'm fine dad. I don't need to."

Cory shook his head and continued to walk around the class. The two girls tried to complete the activity while Maya write a note (on her friend's open notebook) asking Riley what was bothering her. With a raised hand Riley called over her father.

"Yes Riley?"

"Dad can I finish this by myself?"

"If you want to but this assignment—"

Riley gathered her things and headed to the back of the classroom. She saw her friends looking at each other than at Riley. Logically, Riley knew that I was over concern for her anxiety took over though.

They feel sorry for me. She thought. It's just so that Lucas and Maya can kiss and flirt behind my back.

So Riley distracted herself with the next diary pages.

Her father called the classes attention to continue the next part of his lesson. Cory began with a question on the primary causes of World War II. Farkle answered that World War I and Germany's economic and political problems helped cause the next war.

Lost in the book, Riley didn't hear the lesson continue; another line had jumped out at her. "…my stomach churned, and my heart beat wildly - and all because I was afraid." (p 108)

Another raised hand and Riley said, "Dad, what happened to this girl?"

"She was killed."

"Why would anyone want to kill her?"

"Hatred and ignorance killed her. She lived in a time of intolerance just like we all do today."

The aspirin had worn off, with her dad's back turned Riley snuck a few more pills of aspirin to take. Maya saw her though. She walked over to Riley and snatched the bottle out of Riley's hands.

"Give it back Maya. I have a headache."

"No. You're going to tell me why you're taking these."

"It's not like they're drugs."

"You've never had headaches before. So why now?"

"Shut up Maya!" Riley said. "Just because you have the most problems you're not the only one with them. So you can stop being selfish."

"When was I selfish?"

"Ever since Texas. Ever since New Years."

"I told you that nothing happened."

"You still never told me yourself."

Riley got her books, supplies, and walked out the classroom not caring that Maya still had the aspirin.

For the next three class periods Riley dreaded lunch time, she knew that her friends would try to discover what was going on with her. It didn't help that her father had lunch duty today and "girl issues" wouldn't distract him a second time. Maybe she could try another lie, that upcoming exams were too stressful for her to deal with at the moment.

Dad already knows my grade dropped in history. He could believe that.

That's how Riley spent her time before lunch, worrying about how she would avoid confrontation.

When the lunch bell rang Riley made sure she was one of her class to leave for the cafeteria. Once in the line Riley grabbed her food—an unidentifiable mush of colors—she went to sit down at a far table in the back. Combat boots followed Riley from behind until the girl who wore them was beside Riley. It was Maya who hip bumped her friend.

"Bestie. Wanna help me eat…whatever this is?" Maya said as she gestured to the tray of food.

Riley continued to the back table without a word and once she sat down she played with her food, chasing the glob with her fork. Maya sat beside her friend and from the corner of her eye Riley saw her signal the boys over to their table.

"Huckleberry. Farkle. Zay. Get over here."

Riley never took her eyes off her food but finally spoke.

"I don't want them here Maya."

Maya's smile lessened. "Why not?"

"I just want to have a good lunch."

"They're our friends. Who says we can't have a good lunch with them here?"

"It doesn't matter. Hey can come over it if they want to."

The boys arrived at Riley and Maya's table confused at the silence between the two of them. Even three teenaged boys realized that things were still tense between the girls. Still, they dared to sit across from them. While they got in their places Maya passed the aspirin bottle underneath the table to Riley. Riley turned to face her best friend and saw Maya mouth, "Sorry," Riley only nodded.

"Hey Riley." Lucas said.

For a split second Riley looked him in the eye.


"Is everything alright?"

"I'm fine. Just not hungry."

The boys turned to Maya like Cory had done before, all she could do was shrug.

"Talk to each other. I'll see you in class."

Riley left her friends, dumped her untouched food in the trashcan, and left the cafeteria. She thought she heard one of them say, "That's not Riley."

This is who I am now, she thought.

While the sun shone Riley sat in front of the bay window. Her eyes were galaxies away focused on the sun. Maybe that bright star would share the warmth with me. The days where she'd were gone away and that girl a stranger now. Time kept passing by, as did life, and Riley only moved just to stretch her legs, to get a glass of water (occasionally), or to whisper a word hardly heard.


"Honey. Let me in." Topanga said.

Riley stood up and opened her door.

"Would you mind telling me why you walked out of your father's class?"

"It's a girl thing mom."

Topanga entered her daughter's bedroom and circled around her. "That worked with your dad. It's not going to work with me."

"I just want to be alone mom." Riley said.

"You've been alone for a month, you don't talk about your friends or want to see them.

Now you leave class. What is going on with you?"


"Sit down Riley." Topanga said. She led her to sit down on the window nook. "I'm a lawyer. I'm your mom. Even if you don't tell me I will find out. So either you tell me what's going on or deal with the consequences."

Riley stared at her mother. "I can't tell you because you can't fix this. I have to."

"Watch how you talk to me. And how can you fix your problem when you won't even face it? You can't keep shutting down like this."

"I'm not. Can I just be alone right now?"

"Fine." Topanga stepped back, left her daughter's room and shut the door behind her.

Riley became lost in her thoughts again once her mother left. Deep down she knew her mother was right, parents often are, but she wanted to fix these issues herself, maybe even climb out of the hole she was in.

She tried to figure out where in her life she started to spiral down. Texas started the tension between her and her friends but it the time in Texas did not cause the spiral. Dating Charlie could have begun this but that was more of a reaction to her feelings. Maybe it was New Year's Eve at her party. Maya and Lucas never left each other's side. And Farkle just blurted everything out. Everything would've been fine if he didn't tell them that I love Lucas. It couldn't have been that night, Riley thought. Finally she discovered that thought it wasn't the cause, the day she found Lucas and Maya kissing, began Riley's decline.

Riley got ready to leave the school. Out of her book bag rang her cell phone. Maya let her know that gym class was let out late but that she'd meet Riley at their lockers in a few minutes. Instead of waiting though Riley decided to go to the gym and surprise her friend there. Riley placed her phone into her bag and slowly headed toward the gym. She sung a random rhyme along the way and stayed on her high cloud of happiness. Soon they would laugh about everything from boys to movies over ice cream and smoothies. If only Riley knew she would be wrong.

At the gym she peered into the window. There was nothing left in the gym and the coach had probably gone home by now. Through the window she saw Maya storm away from Lucas. If Riley could read lips she would've known the boy told the blonde girl to "wait" and the girl say, "Leave me alone Huckleberry." Maya stared down Lucas and to Riley it looked like they were yelling at each other.

Riley pushed on the gym door to enter the room. She could meet up with her friends then all of them could leave the school together and hangout. Inside Riley heard the last half of her friends' conversation.

"You think I couldn't? That I didn't consider this? Riley's my best friend and—"

Lucas grabbed Maya by the shoulders. Like in Texas he leaned forward and almost kissed her; Maya gripped his forearms. This was one of the few times Riley ever heard Maya shut up, become this quiet. By now Riley was in the middle of the doorway frozen by the play her friends were performing.

Riley felt every second pass; it was tangible and she tasted time in the air around her. She saw her crush move closer to Maya, maybe her eyes were showing her a dream. She was now silent as Maya was. They were now even closer and Riley felt her heart beat faster, both in her throat and stomach. She saw Lucas hold Maya's face firsthand this time.

Nothing's going to happen. Nothing will happen.

Riley was almost through the doorway now but the worst still happened. Lucas and Maya still kissed. The metal door clanged behind Riley with the sound pulling her two friends apart.

"Riley." Lucas and Maya said.

Riley ran from the scene, away from the gym and her friends. She heard combat boots running after her and Maya calling out her name. Riley knew that her best friend felt something for Lucas she just didn't know that a moment like this could hurt so much. Riley's thoughts inside her mind began to enter autopilot mode. Keep it all inside. Keep going. Don't feel. Friends and broken people shouldn't be trusted.

"Riley!" Maya said.

The brunette was almost out of the building now.


Don't trust Maya, she doesn't care about you. Don't trust Lucas, princes don't exist. Don't trust Farkle or Zay. They break promises and think they know everything. Keep it together. Mom and dad don't need to know this at all, her mind's demons kept telling Riley this.

"Riley! Wait!" She was gone though.

Later into the afternoon Maya knocked on the glass window which got Riley out of her head and back in the present. She knocked on the window again.

"Ring power." Maya said.

It took a few moments before Riley unlocked her window to let Maya in. Maya then lift up the window to sit by Riley. Riley forced herself to smile but it didn't reach her eyes.

"Peaches. So how does it feel to be dating Lucas?"

Maya's smile disappears.

"Don't shut me out. We don't keep secrets from each other."

A Riley of pure anger stood up and fired words at Maya, words that Maya never expected from this girl.

"All we do is keep secrets Maya. You couldn't tell me about you and Lucas yourself."

Maya stood up now. "That kiss meant nothing. What happened in Texas and on the roof meant nothing."

"Obviously it did or you would've told be in person."

Riley went over and sat on the foot of her bed with Maya doing the same.

"This isn't you Riley. I miss you." Maya said.

"Drop it."

"No! Tell me what's going on."

Riley got up once again and stared down Maya. Her voice turned to venom. "The only problem I have is you Maya."

Maya's face fell; her arms limp at her sides.


"Look, I'm Maya the broken bird. I act out to hide who I am."

Maya tensed up for the next blow. Riley's heart hadn't beaten this fast since she caught Maya and Lucas together, it hadn't hurt this much before. She felt every nerve and emotion. The war between mind and heart split Riley in two. Her heart filled her rage at herself, at Maya as well as conflicted with the desire to breakdown. Riley wanted to hug her best friend who she'd hurt yet Riley's mind fought to control these feelings behind reason.

"Okay, take it out on me." Maya said. "Do what you need to, just tell me what I can do."

Maya never looked up from the floor though. Riley's head still lost the war with her heart.

"You can leave."

Maya stood up, for once being shorter than Riley was a disadvantage. This brunette girl had clenched fists along with a furrowed brow, who knew what to expect from a bittersweet girl.

"I'm not gonna leave, Riles. I love you, you're my best friend."

"Maybe that needs to change."

"What do you mean?"

Riley crossed her arms and paced across her room with her mind determined to beat the heart in the war. Her heart still won and Riley stopped.

"We shouldn't be friends Maya and I don't want to be yours."

These words hurt Maya, even Riley could see that and for a small moment Riley showed a saddened face.

"You can't end our friendship like this." Maya said.


"Because I can't do any of this without you. I can't lose you."

Riley walked back to Maya. "It's all about you Maya. This is your world and I'm just your nice friend."

"I never said that."

"You didn't have to."

"Fine! Tell me what I did and I'll apologize."

"Sorry won't make up for this."

"We won't know until you tell me. What did I do?"

"You're there and I don't want you to be."

Maya and Riley glared at the other, neither backing down.

"What's wrong with you?"

Riley said nothing and ignored the war in her head. Maya tilted her head back.

"Mr and Mrs Matthews!" Maya said.

Both girls heard footsteps coming closer. Riley began to sweat and kept looking back between the door and Maya.

Riley had to leave.

The window's open, she thought. She hurried to the window and started to climb through. If Maya can do this than so can I.

"Riley!" Maya said.

Riley ignored her friend now she was through the window about to climb down the fire escape.


She didn't care what Maya would go through because of her own actions, all Riley want was to get away.

On the ground Riley stuffed her hands into her jacket and let the world around her go to black in her mind. The world moved on without her when she went by the neighboring houses. A few times Riley glanced back to her home with widened eyes. Just like at school her heart shut down and numbed emotions in her body. She combed her fingers through her hair and dug at her scalp; her headache returned.

"What's wrong with me?"

She reached the park, children played on the grass and swings and Riley felt her face burn. Too much happiness.

In her mind Riley saw a younger version of her and Maya on the swings, pushing each other high enough to reach the sky. "I'll touch reach the clouds first." "No I will." Come on Maya!"

At age nine both Maya and Riley were inseparable like they used to be at fourteen, today wasn't any different. That entire summer the two of went to the park every day, the only time they didn't go was on rainy days. Today they played tag and hide-n-go-seek, now they swung on the swing set and jumped off when they reached the highest peak.

"Come on I'll be the sky princess Maya." Riley said.

"I'll be the dragon."

They shared giggles and pretended that they were princesses and dragons until midafternoon.

Still on the swings Maya said, "I can jump further than you."

"I can."

"Prove it." Maya said before she giggled and jumped off the swing. She landed about five feet away.

Riley copied Maya but landed a foot short of Maya's distance. Maya saw her friend was disappointed and offered Riley a hug. She said that they should jump again. Pop Goes the Weasel played in the background with an ice cream truck in sight. Instead of swinging Maya and Riley ran towards the truck to buy an ice cream. For a dollar fifty each Riley bought a nutty chocolate covered ice cream cone; Maya bought an orange sherbet Popsicle. Riley thanked the ice cream man and the girls walked away to finish their snack.

As they walked through the park they noticed other kids running around them. Neither of them payed noticed the kids, at least not until Missy Bradford walked up to Maya and Riley.

"Gimmie the ice cream." Missy said.

Riley backed away.


Maya got annoyed and dug her sneakers into the mud under her.

"Leave Riley alone."

Missy began to whine. "What are you gonna do?"

She grabbed Riley's cone and pushed Riley to the ground. Covered in mud Riley cried.

With that Maya growled at Missy and handed Riley her Popsicle. Maya shoved Missy down and threw punches at Missy with Riley looking on. Missy didn't dare fight back, she wasn't a match for Maya Hart. Riley tried pulling Maya off of Missy when she got back on her feet, still Maya didn't stop until the park officials nearby pulled all three girls apart.

At the end of the fight Maya's fists were covered in Missy's blood and was proud that she caused a bloody nose, several bruises, and a black eye. Maya only had a few scratches on her face. The officials asked if the other girl was okay and told Riley and Maya to head home, that they'd be calling their parents to report the incident.

Disappointed, in Riley's case, and smug, with Maya, both of them walked home toward the Mathews' apartment.

"Sorry your ice cream fell, Riles."

" S'kay." Riley said. "Here's your popsicle."

Maya started to lick the rest of her popsicle before she broke it in half and shared it with Riley.

"Thanks Maya."

All Maya did was smile.

Maya. Even her name hurt Riley. She winced whenever her friend's face popped into her head. She had to leave the park, too many memories. She made her way to the subway terminal. For once Riley didn't think just like Maya rarely did and headed down the steps to ride the train. The first train she chose headed uptown and while riding alone, Riley finally allowed herself to cry.

I'm horrible. She thought. How could I treat my best friend like that? 'Look, I'm Maya, the broken bird. I act like a rebel to hide who I am. My problems excuse that the fact that I don't trusts anyone.' … 'I don't need you as my friend.'… 'Nobody likes how selfish you are.' Her mind in battle with her thoughts again, agreeing and combatting with her logic and heart at the same time. You did this. You failed. Stop feeling everything, emotions got in your way. Her tears kept falling, her thoughts kept drowning, her anger kept rising. It's time for you to pay. This way of living and declining breaks you.

For several hours Riley rode throughout the town and throughout the time she played with her skirt and stared into the black outside the window. Every once in a while a man would walk over to the place Riley sat then ask if everything was alright. He'd add, "Its late aren't kids supposed to be home now?" Riley just said that her home was on the other side of town and for a time the man wouldn't ask any more questions.

Despite playing with her skirt Riley also checked her phone repeatedly which now read 9:00 pm. Her phone showed missed calls from her family and friends Riley doubted their concern over her. Riley wanted to go home though, back to the apartment and be with everyone she loved but her inner devils fought against her.

It's too late to go home now. Besides, is it really a home when your heart's stopped caring? Could any one of those people forgive you now?

"I want to be there though," she said.

They won't forgive you, not a liar like you.

At this point her tears had dried up but she felt no relief from crying.

The train came to a stop, the doors opened and let in the city terminal smell. The man who came aboard was Shawn Hunter.


Riley looked up from her lap and saw her uncle move toward her.

"Uncle Shawn?"

He ran over to her seat and wrapped her in a hug.

"Kid we were so worried about you."

Numb, Riley's arms fell at her sides and stared ahead at an old poster. She waited for Shawn to let go of her and sit down beside her. He asked her why she ran away from home but she wouldn't answer.

"Why did you runaway?"


Shawn shifted Riley to face him. Just look blank. Don't show anything, she thought.

"Riley tell me why now! What's going on?"

"Nothing is going on. Nothing is ever going on. Why can't people just get that?"

They let the space between them turn time into seconds, then minutes before anything is said again. Riley just looked at the ground, eyebrows scrunched, and fingers dug into her knees under her skirt. She let her rage float in the air and her sadness unleash, her tears given permission for free reign.

"Why do I have to be that happy girl? Why can't I just I be the broken one? Everyone expects Maya to break, to be sad and everything and I have to be happy."

"What do you mean?"

Riley shrugged her shoulders.

"'You're my brother, Lucas'… 'Feel whatever you want Maya.'…'you have until midnight, Riley to tell them how you really feel.'… 'Be happy.'…'You're in Riley town. Keep it inside.

"Why haven't you told anyone this?"

"I don't know."

Riley played with her skirt. By now her tears began to dry but it wasn't enough, not yet.

"Dad's making us read the Diary of Anne Frank. And there was this part where she says she's a bird trying to leave. Uncle Shawn, did you ever feel like that? Like you couldn't leave, that you're stuck and everyone sees it."

Shawn wrapped an arm around his niece's shoulder. "It feels like part of you is missing, doesn't it?"

"Yes. Uncle Shawn is this how you felt when Angela left?"


"Do you regret it?"

"One of us deserved to be happy."

Riley hugged her uncle with arms wrapped around him and head buried in his chest. "That's what I did. Do we deserve to be happy?"

"I don't know kid."