July 4, 2019, 12:00 P.M.

If she were being honest with herself, she'd imagined this situation before. She and Maya had joked about it, believing that it would never happen to them. Now, Riley thought that they should have known better. They should have known that fate was always listening.

She shifted uncomfortably on the balls of her feet, hoping that no one would look at her purchases too closely. She wasn't sure what she would do if someone were to ask or if it somehow got back to her parents.

She pulled her wallet out of her back pocket and watched as the cashier scanned the random assortment of items that Riley had picked out in her effort to disguise her real reason for being there. A packet of gum made its way into a bag, followed with a bottle of sunscreen, and a pair of sunglasses.

"Is that it?" the cashier dropped Riley's final item into the bag, as though it were a completely ordinary purchase for a seventeen-year-old. Maybe it was around here.

"That's it," Riley handed over the cash, her hands shaking as he dropped the change into her outstretched palm.

There were three copper pennies heads up in her hand and she hoped that, maybe, a little of their luck would rub off on her.

She tried counting her steps on the walk back to the beach house, looking for any kind of distraction, any way to get out of her own head. She'd been excited to go with the Minkus's for the fourth of July weekend. Their Hamptons house was beautiful and she couldn't imagine a better way to spend her summer, than spending time with her friends and family on the beach. She wishes that she could go back to that feeling.

"Riles, where have you been?" Maya called, as she made her way up the drive.

"In town, I told you I was going," Riley reminded her and Maya's smile dropped from her face.

"I told you, you didn't have to do that," Maya's voice went hard and their friends glanced between the two of them with concerned looks on their faces.

"Is everything okay?" Lucas questioned and Riley forced a smile.

"It's fine, I just need to borrow Maya for a minute," Riley replied, gesturing towards the house.

Maya followed her silently into the house and they both ignored the stares that trailed after them.

"Bedroom?" Riley suggested and Maya gave a nod, following Riley up the back staircase.

"I don't want to know, Riley," Maya said, as soon as Riley had closed the door to the bedroom that the girls were sharing.

"But you need to know," Riley argued, dumping the contents of her purchases on the bed, "You can't just keep pretending that everything is fine."

"Can't I just have one more day of normalcy? Let me have until the party tonight," Maya pleaded.

"Maya," Riley sighed.

"It's probably nothing," Maya pointed out.

November 20, 2020, 4:00 P.M.

"Stop looking at me like that," Riley said, wiping down the last table.

"Like what?" Lucas questioned, from where he was mopping the floor of Topanga's.

"We promised Farkle that we would be there," she reminded him.

"But you don't want to go any more than I do," he pointed out, "And I'm leaving next week."

"I thought we weren't going to talk about you leaving," she sighed, leaning against the counter.

It was easy to forget when he was with her. He'd spent the entire night helping her run the bakery and she couldn't remember the last time she'd laughed as hard as she had. Being with him was easy, it was everything else that was hard.

"Sorry," he whispered, his hand brushing against her back.

"You did the right thing, Luke," Riley pulled away, taking the mop and bucket from him, to put away in the back.

She wished she could believe the words, or at least feel less invested in the friendship that that were trying to force back together piece by piece. It felt like they had missed a step and were trying to find some sort of equilibrium, but as hard as they tried, she still couldn't find the right footing.

"So, then why doesn't it feel right?" he asked, the volume of his voice suggesting he wasn't sure whether he wanted her to hear the words or not.

It would be easier if he didn't have doubts or if they didn't feel one step away from plummeting back into exactly what they had been before.

She treated the question as rhetorical, shoving the cleaning supplies into the back closet and turning off the light to the kitchen. She'd spent plenty of nights closing Topanga's since she'd started working there and the routine was almost thoughtless.

"Ready?" she asked, grabbing her coat off the hook, along with her set of keys.

"You're kidding, right?" he snorted, his hand wrapping around her back as they headed for the door.


"This is not poetry," Lucas offered, as Riley sunk further down in her seat in an effort not to be recognized.

Farkle was making a jerking motion up on the stage that looked part seizure, part Harlem Shake, as he recited a steady stream of rhyming words that might have been more profound if the audience was drinking something stronger then coffee.

"It's not," Riley paused as she searched for the right word, "The worst thing that I've ever heard."

"That's not a good thing, Riles," Lucas sighed and she smacked his arm with the back of her hand, wincing as her hand stung from the impact.

"Well, we'd better think of something to say for when Farkle asks," Riley pointed out.

"I thought he'd given up the performing arts, what brought this on?"

"He needed a Fine Arts credit," Riley shrugged.

"And this was the best thing he could come up with? What are you taking?"

"Underwater basket weaving," Riley replied and she smacked him again as Lucas let out a snort.

"That is not a class," he insisted, when he'd managed to recover from her revelation.

"It is, too."

"And you what? Weave baskets underwater?" he pressed.

"Are you making fun of me?" she questioned, folding her arms across her chest.

"No," his smile widened and she would swear that his eyes almost seemed to sparkle, "I would never."

She glanced up as everyone started snapping and was relieved when Farkle hopped down off the stage, taking his bongos with him. He easily found them in the crowd and made his way to their table, pausing as classmates patted him on the back and offered congratulations.

"Well, what did you think?" Farkle asked, sliding into the booth across from them.

"I appreciated the metaphors," Riley offered, looking to Lucas for his answer.

"I've never heard anything like it," Lucas returned and Riley rolled her eyes.

"I appreciate you guys coming," Farkle thanked them, "It's good to see you, Lucas."

"It's good to be home," he smiled.

They'd spent an appropriate amount of time catching up, before Lucas had offered to walk her back to her dorm. She had most of her extended family coming into town for Thanksgiving, along with Maya and her family, so she'd offered to give up her room and spend the holidays in the semi-deserted building.

"Penny for your thoughts," Lucas offered, when they'd made it several blocks in complete silence.

"My thoughts are worth a lot more than that, Friar," she insisted, trying to ignore the pinpricks of electricity she felt every time their swinging hands brushed each other.

"I see that not even thoughts are free from inflation," he joked and she smiled, her eyes filling with tears.

"I miss you," she sighed, attempting to blink them away.

"Riles," his hand reached up to cup her face, gently tilting her head up towards him, "I'm right here, even when I'm not."

"You broke up with me," she reminded him, as his thumb brushed over her cheekbone, catching a tear that she hadn't managed to stop.

"I don't want you to put your life on hold for me, I want you to live," he admitted.

"It doesn't feel like living, not without you."

July 4, 2019 9:30 P.M.

Riley settled under Lucas's arm, as they leaned back on the blanket that had been spread across the sand. The sky was lit with streaks of color and the sound of fireworks exploding drowned out the waves that were pelting the sand in front of them, though she found that she was more interested in the electricity being created by the hand that was running up and down her shoulder.

"Is there something going on with you and Maya?" Lucas questioned, his voice low and close to her ear.

"Yes," Riley replied, "But I don't think that I'm allowed to talk about it."

"Is there anything that I can do?" he pressed and she smiled, turning her head to face him.

One of their big struggles in the beginning of their official relationship had been the balancing act between Riley's relationship with Lucas and her friendship with Maya. Both had been forced to change and reshape themselves, until they'd achieved some kind of balance. There was still a good-natured rivalry between Maya and Lucas, when it came to claiming Riley's attention, but, for the most part, they all managed to make it work.

"I love you," she whispered and his forehead descended to land against hers.

"I love you, too," his voice was confused, but the words were confidant.

They watched in silence as the blue and red lights danced across the sky before fading into nothingness. She should be able to enjoy this moment with Lucas. It was their last summer before they started college and Riley knew that this time next year her entire life could look different, but she couldn't stop thinking about Maya.

The fireworks finally stopped and the sky was left empty. Riley usually liked trying to pick out whatever stars she could make out, but they seemed dim after the light show that they had just experienced.

"Did you want to go on a walk?" Lucas asked, as Smackle and Farkle took off down the beach hand in hand. Riley could see that Zay had already made his way inside and Maya was still sitting in the sand, her shoulders tense.

"Yes, but I think I'd better handle things with, Maya. Can I get a rain check?" Riley asked.

"Always," he agreed, placing a kiss on her forehead, before letting his arm drop from around her.

Despite the heat of the summer night, Riley found herself instantly feeling cold.

"You ready?" Riley asked, pausing next to Maya.

Maya looked up at her, the night obscuring the look on Maya's face, although not quite able to hide the fear in the blonde's eyes.

"I guess," Maya sighed, accepting Riley's outstretched hand, and using it to pull herself to her feet. Maya shook out the sand from the blanket that she had been sitting on, before pulling it over her shoulders.

November 27, 2020, 3:00 P.M.

The bedspread hadn't changed in the almost seven years that she had known Lucas Friar. It was a dark, royal blue that had faded from the sunlight that streamed through the window above the headboard.

There was a picture of the two of them that Riley had gotten for him on their two-year anniversary sitting on his desk and a picture of their friend group hung on the wall, just within the range of her sight.

Riley sat on the edge of Lucas's bed, as he shoved clothing into a duffel bag that was resting beside her.

It wasn't the first time that she had watched him pack, but it was the first time that she couldn't shake off the feeling of dread that had settled low in her stomach and somehow seemed to stretch all the way to her heart.

"Open your hand," Lucas told her, pausing in his packing.

Riley looked up at him curiously, as she complied, stretching her hand out in front of her with the palm up. Lucas's hand reached into the pocket of his jeans and he pulled out something that he gently set into her hand.

"This is the buffalo head nickel that your Pappy Joe gave you," Riley commented, as she ran her thumb over the surface.

"You said your thoughts were worth more than a penny," he reminded her, "And this is the most valuable coin that I own."

"I wasn't serious," Riley informed him, eyes widening I shock.

"I know it's a lot to ask, but will you write me? I want to know your thoughts and what you're doing," he explained, shoving the duffel bag aside, so that he could sit next to her.

They'd tried to keep in contact when he'd started basic training, but his letters had come few and far between and Riley had been so overwhelmed with college that they had quickly lost touch.

"Will you write me back?" Riley questioned, still staring at the coin in her hand.

"Yeah, but my thoughts aren't worth near as much as yours are," he informed her.

"Promise me you'll come back," Riley commanded, looking at him, as she struggled to contain the tears that were building up in the corners of her eyes.

"You know there are very few things that could keep me away from you," he reached over to close her fingers over the coin.

July 5, 2019: 12:30 A.M.

Riley's eyes scanned over the instructions on the box, as Maya sat on the closed lid of the toilet with her head in her hands.

"I wasn't planned, you know?" Maya informed Riley, not bothering to look up.

"Neither was I," Riley returned, setting down the box, "But your mother and my parents figured out a way to make it work."

"How am I going to explain this to them?" Maya asked, "How am I going to explain this to anyone?"

"You made a choice, Maya, and choices have consequences," Riley pointed out, handing the box over to her.

"You haven't asked about the father," Maya pointed out, twisting the box in her hands.

"Because I'm not sure if I want to know," Riley admitted.

"Well, I'll just take this test and I guess we'll go from there," Maya abruptly changed the subject, opening the end of the pregnancy test.

Riley left the bathroom, leaving the door cracked in case Maya needed her and sinking down on the edge of the bed. This moment had the ability to change everything and Riley can't help the rush of anxiety that threatens to overwhelm her.

"We have to wait three minutes," Maya informed Riley, leaving the bathroom and sitting down next to Riley on the bed.

"Whatever happens, it's going to be okay, Maya."

"But whatever happens, I'm never going to be the same again," Maya sighed, her hand gripping the test more tightly.

December 20, 2020, 4:30 P.M.

The heat from the oven left beads of sweat on Riley's face and she wiped them off with her apron, before returning to her crouched position in front of it.

"Isn't there a saying about watching your food cook?" Maya questioned, settling on the counter, as Riley shot her a glare, "A watched pan, doesn't boil, or something like that."

"If any of the water gets into the mold, it will ruin the entire thing," Riley informed her, sinking down onto the floor, as her calves started to protest her current position.

"So, you're going to glare at the water, so it behaves?"

"I know you didn't travel all the way across town to mock me," Riley offered, folding her arms, as she waited for Maya to get to the point.

"I brought you a present," Maya held up a plastic bag and Riley let out a groan.

"I told you that it's probably nothing," Riley reminded her.

"But this way, we can know that it's nothing," Maya insisted.

"I've been really stressed out," Riley informed her, "We both just got through finals week."

"I'm pretty sure I gave a long list of excuses to you, too, and that didn't stop you from making me take a pregnancy test," Maya snorted, dropping the bag into Riley's lap, "You need to know."

"Lucas and I are broken up," Riley snapped, "He broke up with me and told me not to wait for him and then he joined the Navy, Maya. He's on a ship somewhere and I'm stuck here and, so, I most definitely, cannot be having his baby."

"You made a choice, Riley," Maya struggled to keep a straight face, "And choices have consequences."

"I hate you," Riley complained, as she stood up from the floor, grabbing the bag.

Riley closed the bathroom door behind her, locking it and pausing to stare at herself in the mirror. She was in her first year of college and Lucas was halfway around the world, a baby was not something that would work for either of them.

But, the problem was, that her mind could list out all of the logical reasons why a baby was a bad idea, but her heart was hoping that the test in her hand was going to develop two lines. She knew that she was young, broke, and nowhere near done with school, but she, also, knew that she would do whatever it took to take care of this baby.

Her hand dropped to her stomach and, though, logically, she knew she couldn't feel anything, she swore that she felt something flutter.

July 5, 2019, 12:42 A.M.

"What does one line mean?" Maya turned to Riley, staring at the test with a mixture of horror and uncertainty.

"I don't know," Riley replied, "Didn't you read the directions?"

"I thought that you did," Maya pointed out, standing up and entering the bathroom. Riley followed her as Maya dug through the trash for the box.

"I didn't memorize them," Riley argued, as Maya finally grasped the box and turned it over to read the back.

"One line, not pregnant!" Maya announced, tossing the box to Riley, as a smile spread across her face.

Riley read through the directions to confirm Maya's diagnosis and nodded once before sinking onto the bathroom floor in exhaustion. She settled with her back against the counter and Maya sunk down next to her, the pregnancy test still grasped in her hand.

"You had me worried," Riley informed her, as Maya rested her head on Riley's shoulder.

"I'm sorry," Maya apologized.

"Was it Josh?" Riley questioned, her mind struggling to process the events of the evening.

"What do you think?"

December 20, 2020, 4:45 P.M.

"Well?" Maya asked, as Riley left the bathroom.

"I need to check on the pastries," Riley said, moving back over to her spot by the oven.

"Riles," Maya sighed, watching her with a frown on her face.

"I don't want to talk about this right now, Maya," Riley informed her.

"Just promise me that you'll go to a doctor," Maya insisted, folding her arms across her chest.

"I'm going to do the responsible thing," Riley assured her.

"Alright," Maya dropped it.

December 20, 2020, 7:00 P.M.

Dear Lucas,

I'm sorry that it's been awhile since I've written, but I've been pretty busy with school. Everything's fine with the bakery, although water got into the mold with some of the pastries that I was making today and they were completely destroyed. I blame Maya for distracting me.

Anyway, things have been good. I passed all of my classes from this semester and we're spending Christmas in Philly this year with the entire family. Josh and Maya are pretending that they're not dating, but I'm pretty sure that everyone's figured it out by now.

By the way, I thought I might be pregnant, but I'm not.

Merry Christmas,

Riley

Riley re-read the letter before enclosing it in the envelope. She knew that Lucas would receive an email faster, but this felt like the kind of thing that required a more personal touch. It probably deserved a phone call, but she wasn't sure that she could get through one without bursting into tears.

It was going to sound harsh any way that she said it.

Riley added the necessary postage and placed in the pile with her Christmas cards that she needed to mail.

January 1, 2021

Dear Riley,

I tried calling you several times on Christmas, but I kept going straight to voicemail. I can only assume that you lost your phone and forgot your email password. I hope you're able to get that straightened out soon.

I feel like I probably need some context for that last sentence in your letter. Things like: Did you think the baby was mine? What do you mean, by you're not pregnant? How long did you think you were pregnant?

I miss you, Riles. I hope that whatever you're doing, you're happy.

Hoping to hear from you soon,

Lucas

January 20, 2021

Dear Riley,

I know that you're busy with school and that the postal service isn't entirely reliable. I'm guessing you still haven't figured things out with your email, so I'm trying again.

My days are pretty boring. I do the same things and go to the same places. I think we're all starting to drive each other crazy with the amount of time we're stuck in such close quarters. I'm looking forward to coming home.

I've been given word that I'm going to be back sometime in June and you're going to be my first stop. I hope you're doing okay. I miss you.

Love,

Lucas

March 5, 2021, 9:00 A.M.

"This is for you," the delivery man informed Riley, as soon as she'd opened the door.

"I haven't ordered anything," Riley protested, looking at the box that looked big enough to hold a standard sized book.

"You're Riley Mathews?" he checked, glancing at a clipboard.

"Yes," Riley replied, wincing under the weight, as he placed the box in her hands.

"Have a nice day," he offered, already halfway down the hall, as Riley hurried to set the box down on the nearest available surface, which happened to be her roommates bed.

Riley snagged the scissors from her top dresser drawer and carefully slit the tape on the top. Pulling the flaps, until the box opened. Inside, was a jar full of pennies and a note that read, "Since, apparently, inflation has increased."

March 6, 2021, 11:00 A.M.

Dear Lucas,

Remember when we had a plan. We were both going to go to Columbia, eventually, you'd transfer to Cornell for their veterinary program and I was going to take over the bakery.

Then, we graduated and you informed me that you'd changed your mind. So, I went to Columbia by myself and you went to basic training. And, when I came to see you, you broke up with me.

Talking to you is my favorite thing in the entire world, but you're not here to talk to, anymore. So, I can't keep doing this. I can't find any peace when I'm constantly worrying about what you're doing. You chose this, Lucas, and you decided to take on the world on your own.

So, let me go.

Riley

Riley stared over the words that she had angrily scrawled on the paper, slowly blurring together as her tears fell onto the paper. She missed him every second of every day and the only time when she got any kind of peace, was when she thought that she might be carrying a piece of him with her.

She tore the paper into strips and tossed the remains into the garbage by her bed.

One hand reached out to hold the very first coin he had given her. It was a piece of history, first his, and, then, theirs and it was tangible in a way that nothing in her life felt like anymore.

May 10, 2021, 11:45 A.M.

"It's weird being back here, isn't it?" Maya asked, as she unpacked her clothes from her suitcase.

"Because the last time that you were here, we thought you were pregnant?" Riley questioned, from where she was sprawled out across the bed.

They were spending the summer at the Minkus's beach house after all of them had successfully made it through their first year of college.

"You know we're almost on our third strike. The next pregnancy test we buy is going to come out positive," Maya informed her, hanging a sundress in the closet.

"I don't think that's how those work," Riley snorted, turning onto her back.

"Third times the charm," Maya insisted.

"Well you're buying your own next time," Riley insisted.

"How do you know that it's going to be me?"

"Because it's your turn and you're the only one of us in a relationship," Riley argued.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Maya brushed her off, deliberately turning away from Riley, as she hung up a shirt.

"Of course, you don't," Riley rolled her eyes, "We all know about it, Maya."

"No, you don't," Maya protested.

"You're engaged by Christmas," Riley predicted and Maya paused in her movements.

"Did he say something?" Maya questioned, looking at Riley for any signs of evasion.

"About the relationship that you both vehemently deny that you're in?" Riley clarified.

"I'm too young to get married," Maya informed her.

"But you love him and when you love someone, you don't let them slip away," Riley offered, wistfully.

"Are you and Huckleberry still fighting?" Maya changed the subject.

"No," Riley trailed off, her tone clearly conveying that Maya's line of enquiry was a dead end.

"Do you think you'll ever forgive him?" Maya had never been one for shying away from a subject and the resolve in her voice told Riley that she wasn't about to start now.

"I don't know."

May 10, 2021, 8:00 P.M.

Her hands hovered over the keyboard searching for the words that explained the feelings that weighed heavy in her chest.

Dear Lucas,

This last semester was hard. My teachers buried me in work, but it was easier to lose myself in that, then, to think about what another reality might have looked like. One where, maybe, you were here to face all of this with me.

I think I forgot somewhere along the way how to be on my own. Sometimes, the loneliness eats away at me, but other times, I discover a piece of myself that I didn't realize existed and I know myself a little more then I did before.

I wonder sometimes if that's why you left. If you needed to figure out how to stand on your own after so long of having someone to lean on.

I haven't stopped missing you.

Riley

June 5, 2021, 10:45 A.M.

Riley grabbed one of the pastries from the display with a pair of tongues and carefully set it into the cardboard box before wrapping it and handing it over to the customer at the register. She wished them a good day, before removing the gloves from her hands and grabbing a rag to wipe up the tables that had just been used.

She was supposed to have help during the morning and later in the afternoon when they received their heaviest rush of customers, but her coworker had called in sick and left Riley with twice the work to do.

She wiped down several of the abandoned tables, pausing to stare at the couch where she had once sat with her friends in high school. It felt like a lifetime ago and she found herself wishing that she had appreciated what they had just a little bit more when it was something so easy to take for granted.

The bell at the door rang as Riley leaned further over a table to straighten up a pile of napkins.

"I'll be right there," she offered without turning around.

"Riles," his voice was deep and his tone affectionate and she felt her heart grind to a halt within her chest.

"Lucas," she turned around slowly, afraid that any quick movements would lead to him disappearing.

"I told you that I was going to be back in June," he reminded her, and she bit her lip, suddenly at a loss of how to act around him.

"It's good to see you."

For a moment, all of the history sat between them like electricity in the air and then, his arms were around her and all Riley could do was breathe him in.

"I'm so sorry," his voice was a whisper in her hair and Riley closed her eyes, burying her head in his shoulder.

June 5, 2021, 3:00 P.M.

She'd forgotten what he smelled like and wondered if there was a way to bottle it up when he headed back to sea, so that she could take it out on the lonely days and remember how it felt to lay in his arms and feel home.

"Penny for your thoughts," his breath ruffled her hair, and she craned her neck to look up at him.

"Do you even have any change left?" she asked, and he let out a low laugh that vibrated through both of them.

"What about a trade?" he questioned, and Riley pretended to think on it for a moment.

"A trade for what?"

"I've been thinking," he paused for dramatic effect, "I don't think this breakup is really working out."

"No, I don't think so, either."

"I know it's a lot to ask, but will you wait for me?" his hand drew circles on her back.

"Isn't that what I've been doing?"

December 20, 2023, 11:00 A.M.

It was the warmest December that Riley had ever experienced, and she couldn't help missing the snow. The sky was blue and clear, and she could feel the heat radiating under the dock at her feet, as she waited for the ship in the distance to make its way into port.

Her sundress bounced with every sway of her anxious body and she had a feeling that the curls were falling out of her hair. A little girl with sandy hair tugged at her hand and Riley swept her up into her arms.

"Daddy's on that boat right there," Riley informed the little girl, gesturing towards the boat in the distance.

"Boat," the little girl returned solemnly, a tiny hand stretched out in the same direction as her mothers.

An eternity later, Riley watched as men in uniform embarked from the vessel and a smile pulled at her lips as she easily picked out the one that was hers.

"Dadada," the little girl giggled, and Riley nodded, unable to tear her eyes away from his face.

"I told you that you didn't have to meet me here," Lucas informed her, pulling her into an embrace that squashed their daughter between the two of them.

"She didn't want to wait," Riley blamed their daughter and Lucas took her in one arm, pulling Riley into his side with the others.

"She's gotten so big," Lucas commented, as they started towards the parking lot.

"I know she's growing like a weed," Riley agreed.

They made it to the parking lot and Riley led him towards the car, stopping when their daughter suddenly started twisting wildly in an attempt to get down.

"Hey, what is it?" Lucas set her down and watched as she scooped a copper penny off the ground and held it up proudly.

"That's lucky," Riley told her, as her daughter held it out for her mother to take.

"Maybe, we should give Daddy a turn," Riley suggested, and the dark hair toddler turned to hold it out to Lucas.

"That's alright. I've got all the luck I need."


I started this story in 2017 and have been playing around with it in my free time for awhile. That is why there's no mention of how crazy this year has turned out to be. Maybe, I'll tackle what life is like for these characters in this crazy time at some point, but for now I need something that exists outside of our reality.

I wanted to have a chapter of Laws of Timing done in time for Christmas. Unfortunately, I ended up having to pick up a bunch of extra shifts this week because of how overwhelmed my hospital currently is. We've been asked to go from a unit of thirty beds to a unit of fifty beds and we couldn't staff the thirty to begin with. My hope is that I'll be able to have a new chapter pulled together and posted in the next few weeks. Hopefully, this one-shot helps to make up for it a little. Happy holidays!