Before you start reading:

You know those ideas that come to you and won't leave you alone? October of last year, I was doing clinical rotations at a hospital to get certified as a nursing assistant. It required that I get up ridiculously early in the morning and I like to be early, so I was showing up long before the sun came up and it was usually just me and my clinical instructor for an awkward amount of time. One day, I picked up a magazine that was sitting on the table next to me and started flipping through it. It was clearly targeted for a much younger age demographic then I'm in and isn't something that I would normally get into, but I stumbled upon an article that was an interview for a Youtuber and they talked about how they have millions of followers, but they spend a lot of the time feeling alone. And, then, proceeded to give tips on how to develop your own Youtube channel and following. And, it hit me, that, not only do we live in an age where everyone is basing their worth off of the number of likes they can get on a photo, but everyone wants to document their lives in a very public way. And, how much happiness does that actually bring? It planted the seed for this story, which has grown and been something that I've been working off-and-on for months.

I went through a period in my teens, where I was completely obsessed with Princess Diana. She had died at that point, but I was captivated with her story and the conspiracy theories surrounding her death, which is something that I've really pulled from for this story. It's darker then anything else that I've written on this site, though it will not be going beyond it's PG-13 rating.

My original intent was to complete Heat Stroke and Laws of Timing before I posted this and then I thought that maybe I could trim this story into a one-shot, but there was no way that it was going to fit into Between the Raindrops because it covers a lot more then just Riley and Lucas. And, when it comes down to it, to tell the story that I'm interested in telling, it's going to require that I flesh out the plot and develop the characters.

THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART: I've set up this story like a television series, so each chapter is an episode. I'm going to release the first chapter, now, to see what interest there is in the story before I continue to devote a ton of my time to it because it's not my only project that's in the works. So, if it's something that you'd like to see continued, please let me know, otherwise, I'm going to move onto something else.



the state of being well known for some bad quality or deed.

"a day that will live in infamy"

Perfume hung like fog over the coat room and Riley felt like she just might suffocate, as she was helped out of her silk wrap. Her body hummed with nerves and she knew that she was fidgeting more than normal, but she couldn't escape the fear inside of her and the overwhelming sense that something was off.

"You look stunning," he whispered, gently, into her ear and Riley forced a smile that didn't quite make it to her eyes.

"I'm going to stop at the bathroom for a minute, I'll meet you out there," Riley replied, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the ballroom that appeared to be cluttered with people in similar attire.

"Alright," he agreed, pressing a kiss to the side of her mouth, before he moved along, his security detail maintaining a reasonable distance behind him.

"You've got my file," Riley questioned the bodyguard that was assigned to her and Tessa pulled it out of her suit jacket, handing it along to Riley.

"Are you sure about this?" Tessa questioned, following Riley along the hallway, which became darker the farther they drifted from the party.

"Not at all," Riley replied, pressing a hand to her fluttering stomach, as they paused in front of the office she had been looking for. A light peaked out from under the door and Riley's hand shook as she reached up to knock.

"I thought you might have gotten cold feet," a voice greeted her, pulling open the door and ushering both Riley and Tessa into the office.

"I was going to back out," Riley admitted, sinking into one of the office chairs, "But then I heard about the movie that's in production. Just when you think that things might have finally died down, they just drag it back up again."

"You should know that Maya isn't going to be the center of this story. I want to talk about you; your friendship with Maya Hart, your time in politics, your relationship with your ex-husband. Maya's story has been told a million times in a dozen different ways, but you've lived such a public life and no one really knows who you are, beyond your saint-like image," Kendall leaned against the edge of the desk, crossing her high heeled feet at the ankles.

"Maya told me once that it didn't matter how much you tried to atone for your mistakes, the world would always remember you by your sins," Riley stared intently at the tiled floor, "But whatever mistakes I've made, people have always just explained them away. I want to set the record straight about Maya, but I, also, want to be remembered as a whole, as someone who made mistakes, but also did good, as someone who was human."

"We're going to make enemies. This could completely ruin your ex-husband's presidential campaign, not to mention how your fiancé and his family are going to take this," Kendall warned her.

"I'll handle the fallout, but I have to do this, for Maya. I owe her that much," Riley sighed, looking up, "I brought some pictures."

Riley opened the file, pausing as she caught a picture of herself, leaning carelessly against a balcony. Her hair was whipping around in the wind and her mascara was smudged under her eyes, but her smile was genuine. It had been taken by her first husband and he'd captured her so completely that she'd kept it tucked away in her jewelry box for years after. At first, as a reminder that he found her beautiful however she looked, and later, as a reminder of who they'd once been.

"I'll want to do interviews, going back to the beginning," Kendall mused, her eyes looking hungrily at Riley's private photos, and for a second Riley wished she could snatch them away and return them back to where they'd come from.

"I'm very carefully monitored, as I'm sure you can imagine," Riley replied, sending a smile at Tessa, who was watching in silence from the corner.

"Of course, but I'm hopeful that we can work something out," Kendall pressed on and Riley gave a nod.

The sound of Tessa's phone ringing interrupted the conversation and Riley watched as the blonde bodyguard pulled out the device and answered. She listened to something on the other end for a moment and Riley knew the woman well enough to know that something was wrong.

"We're going to have to cut this short," Tessa ended the call, shoving the phone back into her pocket.

"Is something wrong?" Kendall questioned, her eyes flickering between Riley and Tessa in confusion.

"They're looking for you," Tessa informed Riley and Riley was out of her seat without consciously having made the decision to stand up.

"I'll be in touch," Riley promised, reluctantly handing over the file of pictures.

"I'll be looking forward to it," Kendall returned, as Tessa guided Riley out of the office and out into the main hallway.

"What's going on?" Riley demanded, as soon as they were a good distance from the office.

"The media has just picked up on a report that concerns you," Tessa replied, leaving Riley with more questions than answers.

They were back in the main hallway and Riley saw her fiancé coming out of the ballroom and rushing towards her.

"Does she know?" he turned his attention to Tessa and Tessa gave a quick shake of her head.

"Did something happen?" Riley questioned him, her eyes noticing the somber looks on the faces of everyone that was surrounding her.

"I'll tell you in the car," her fiancé decided, latching onto her arm and leading her in the direction of the main doors.

Riley was vaguely aware of Tessa pausing to collect Riley's wrap and her fiancé's security detail, closing ranks around the couple, as they descended the red carpeted steps, but her mind was already playing through a million different scenarios of what could have caused them to leave the gala early.

Lights flashed in her face, as the press snapped photos, eager at the new development. However, Riley was sure that most of them would be obscured by the people in suits that surrounded them and ushered them into the black SUV that waited for them at the curb.

They were already pulling out into traffic before Riley had collected herself enough to press for answers, "You're worrying me."

"I'm just not sure how to tell you this," he admitted, his thumb running along her knuckles.

"Is it something with your family? Has there been a threat?" Riley pressed, her heart beating wildly in her chest.

"No, this doesn't have anything to do with me," he admitted, his gaze fixated on the passing buildings outside of the car windows.

"My family?" Riley questioned, numbly, leaning back in her seat.

"I don't have anything concrete, but some American magazines are claiming that Maya Hart was rushed to the hospital a few hours ago," he said, quietly, and Riley's world ceased spinning.

It all starts with a plane crash; one of those off the coast, crashes where they find most of the wreckage and none of the bodies. It's a private plane, the list of people on board doesn't amount to more than seven, but it gets picked up by worldwide news agencies and spoken about for weeks after. Probably because of the people who happen to be on board.

Overnight, Farkle Minkus becomes the heir to a multiple billion-dollar company and inherits all of his parent's assets. The money that he spent so many years hating and the responsibility that he'd spent so many years avoiding, finally all belong to him, and he's not at all prepared.

"What is this?" Riley demanded, shoving her way through the thick crowd of photographers and into the back alley that led to Farkle's penthouse.

"A billionaire and his stunningly beautiful wife just died, not to mention the other passenger's on the plane, who we don't even know about, yet. Everyone wants to know what happened," Maya reminded her, linking her arm through Riley's as a security guard let them through the side door.

"It's like they don't even care that people died, that Farkle's grieving," Riley pointed out, trying to shake off the restless energy that had been pulsing through the crowd.

"For them, it's just another rich guy, who died on his private plane. Give it a couple of weeks and they'll lose interest," Maya assured her, guiding her towards the elevator.

"Oh good, you're here," Zay greeted them as the golden doors slid open.

"It's a zoo out there," Maya complained, sliding into the elevator next to him. His eyes lingered on Maya for a half a second too long and Riley found herself wishing that she wasn't the third wheel in the awkward space.

"I should warn you that he's not holding up too well," Zay explained, wrapping his arms around himself and leaning back, "Lucas sent me down to look for the two of you. There's some concern that the crowd is going to get out of control and Minkus International just asked Farkle if he would be willing to make a statement."

"You're kidding," Riley's voice came out flat.

"Their stock started plummeting as soon as the stock market opened," Zay informed them.

"Just what Farkle needs, more pressure," Maya snorted, her gaze fixated on her shoes.

Riley watched the numbers shift on the elevator and wished that it would go faster. The room around her was charged with emotions and she felt as if she was channeling them, sampling the despair and heartbreak and guilt. It was almost nauseating on top of her own worry.

Just when it had reached a point that it was unbearable, the door opened and Riley instantly hurried out of it and into the hall. Her shoes clicked against the tile of the entryway and she forced herself not to stop and look at the family picture that hung on the main hallway, letting anyone who entered know who lived there.

"Lucas is in the bedroom with him, he hasn't wanted anyone else to go in," Zay explained, leading them through the penthouse.

"Riles?" Maya asked, uncertainly, when they reached just outside of the door.

Riley could easily read into what Maya was actually asking: which one of them should go in?

"It's always been the three of us," Riley sighed and Maya gave a meek nod, before Riley knocked once and opened the door.

"I'll just wait here," Zay shrugged, uncomfortably, leaning up against the outside wall. There was a part of Riley that wanted to reach out to him, to include him because she knew that he was feeling on the outside of things now, but she, also, knew the competition that had existed between Zay and Farkle since he'd come to New York. Zay and Lucas shared a closeness that came from years of growing up with someone and it had strained the bond of Lucas and Farkle's relationship, leaving Farkle on the outside of things. And today had to be about Farkle.

Farkle's bedroom was pitch-black and Riley had to grab onto Maya's arm to keep herself from tripping over something that was on the floor. She could make out the unmistakable sound of crunching glass and Riley blinked several times to try and get her eyes to adjust to the light in the room.

"Farkle?" Riley questioned, pausing in her movements.

"We're in the bathroom," Lucas called out and Riley shared a hesitant look with Maya, despite the fact that neither of them could pick out the details of each other's faces.

It was Maya that found the courage to pull them on, moving slow enough that they couldn't injure themselves on the furniture that they bumped into or the books that Farkle seemed to have stacked across the floor.

The bathroom door swung open and Riley was relieved to see that light flickered from the nightlight that had been plugged into the wall, giving them a target to direct them.

"You could have turned on a light," Lucas pointed out in amusement, his voice low, as they hesitated at the doorway.

"It seemed wrong, somehow," Riley admitted, biting on her lip.

"We've tackled anger and denial, I think you've got depression," Lucas offered, gesturing to where Farkle was collapsed on the bathroom floor, staring blankly at the wall in front of him. His hair was a mess around his face and his knuckles had been bandaged in gauze.

"What?" Maya started, but cut off instantly, as she seemed to realize, as Riley had, that something had to be responsible for the glass that had crunched under their feet.

"I'll give you three a minute," Lucas offered, pausing to squeeze Riley's elbow in comfort, as he easily maneuvered his way out of the room and she instantly wished him back.

"Hey," Maya offered, as they entered the bathroom. Farkle didn't respond, but Riley thought she might have seen his eyes flicker to them for a second before returning to the wall.

"We would have been here sooner, but my parents were concerned about all the reporters," Riley admitted, sinking down easily next to him, as Maya moved over to sit on his other side.

"The parasites, you mean," Farkle offered, his voice monotone.

"I heard that your aunt was here, handling things," Riley said, leaning her head back against the wood of the vanity.

"They all expect me just to rise up and lead, to pull it together and be strong," Farkle snorted and Riley swore that she could see the sheen of tears in his eyes through the darkness, "I'm eighteen years old, I can't even drink, yet, but they want me to be the face of my father's company. They want to give me billions of dollars and pretend like I have any idea what to do with any of it. I didn't want any of this."

"I know," Riley said, reaching out and twining her fingers with his.

"I'm not ready," he whispered, his eyes pleading with Riley to understand, as he turned to face her.

"You don't have to be, not today," Riley assured him, as he buried himself into the shoulder of her sweater. She could feel his tears landing on her neck and Maya curled into his side, resting her head on his other shoulder.

It was the three of them, it always would be.

A cool breeze drifted in off the veranda, blowing the white curtains as though they were ghosts dancing in the fading daylight. The house was quiet, except for the sea glass that could be heard rocking into each other from the strings that hung outside of the house.

Riley had always known that Maya would do well for herself, but the beachside residence was far beyond any of Riley's expectations. Original art pieces hung from the white walls, painted with bright colors that drew the eye and warmed the light blue and gray color scheme that most of Maya's furniture was in. It was clear that this was Maya's sanctuary and Riley felt a little strange intruding into Maya's personal space, although they had always shared everything in the past.

"It's too quiet," Savannah commented, sprawling out onto the couch and knocking a sky-blue afghan to the floor in the process.

"It is, isn't it?" Riley sighed, thinking of the last time she had been in the house. Maya had loved to blast music and there had been family filling the rooms with laughter. It had been years ago, and the thought of how much time Riley had let pass, left her feeling empty.

Riley's attention brushed passed the kitchen and the custom-built dining room table, that Maya had had commissioned out of driftwood, as she moved further through the house. She'd come on a mission, but hadn't expected to be so caught up in the essence of Maya that lingered everywhere around her. Maya's city apartment had been filled with framed pictures of Maya from her modeling career and artwork that Maya had bought on a whim. It had been decorated by a professional and Riley had known that it was more of a showpiece then an actual home for the blonde.

She slowly made her way up the stairs, clutching tightly to the railing, as she tried to delay the task at hand. Things were moving too quickly and she would give anything to slow everything down, if only for a moment.

"You don't have to act so old," Savannah complained, sprinting passed her on the staircase, as she bolted to the second story. The problem, of course, was that Riley felt a hundred years old. She felt as though she was trying to move through Jell-O and every movement required an enormous amount of effort.

Riley increased her pace and found Savannah waiting just outside the door to Maya's bedroom. Her hand hesitated reaching for the doorknob and Riley could easily read the conflicted look on the teenager's face. She'd been putting up a brave front since Riley's flight had gotten in, but she knew that the emotions would eventually catch up to her. Maya had always been good at concealing her emotions, but Savannah wore everything on her face, something Maya had always attributed to Savannah's father.

"You could wait downstairs," Riley suggested, wrapping her arms around herself as she suddenly felt a chill that ran straight through her shirt to her skin.

"No, I asked to come," Savannah reminded her, closing her eyes, before she deliberately turned the doorknob and let the door swing open.

Every bedroom that Maya had ever had was always a cluttered mess and this room was no different. Makeup and hair products were scattered across Maya's vanity and clothes formed a layer over the carpet on the floor. Riley automatically found herself reaching for them and folding dresses and shirts over her arm on her way towards the hastily made bed. There was a half-painted canvas positioned in front of the window and a stack of brushes were soaking in water that had turned red, as though Maya had planned to return to it soon.

Riley had found that there were plenty of things that Maya had planned to return to.

Riley's attention was inevitably drawn to the dresser, where Maya kept a collection of jewelry boxes and the cedar chest that was a sister to Riley's own. Carved into the top was the phrase, "Well behaved women seldom make history," which had been something of a joke between the two girls in their adult lives.

Riley slowly lifted the lid and found it stuffed with pictures and magazine articles. It had been this box that had drawn Riley to The Hamptons, despite the chaos that was occurring among her family in the city. Things would be packed up, auctioned off, and tucked away in the coming weeks and Riley wanted to make sure that she got what she needed while it was all still intact.

"Can I see?" Savannah questioned, watching with interest, from where she sat on the edge of the bed.

"Sure," Riley agreed, sinking down next to her and pulling her legs up onto the bed, so that she could set the box in front of them.

The picture taped to the lid was from high school, one of her group of friends sitting on a set of steps, their arms wrapped around each other. Riley couldn't help running her hand over Maya's smiling face, as she laughed at something that Zay had said, and he looked at her with such adoration that Riley almost felt like she was intruding just to look at it.

"Who's that?" Savannah pointed to the girl sitting next to Maya.

"That is Isadora Smackle, Farkle's high school girlfriend," Riley replied, trying to keep the chill out of her voice.

"When did it end?" Savannah questioned, looking up in surprise.

"A long time ago," Riley replied, unwilling to dive completely into the memory.

"And that's you?" Savannah continued, her eyes pausing on the arm that Lucas had wrapped around her. Both Riley and Lucas were looking at the camera, but she had her head resting on his shoulder and it was clear that they were more than just friends.

"That's me," Riley agreed, dragging her eyes away from the photo.

Savannah seemed to sense that Riley wasn't ready to explain any further and she turned her attention to digging through the more recent articles, in search of the ones at the bottom. The teenager pulled out a photo of Riley and Maya as children, sitting together in The Bay Window and Riley gently took the picture from Savannah's hands.

"She's always been stunningly beautiful, hasn't she?" Savannah sighed.

"You look a lot like her," Riley informed her, comparing the blonde hair and blue eyes that were a trademark of both mother and daughter.

Riley's cellphone started to ring and Riley pulled it from her pocket, checking the number before she answered.

"I'm on a secure line," Farkle greeted her, the sound of traffic humming in the background of his call.

"I took Savannah to The Hamptons house," Riley informed him, aware that the teenager was listening intently, as she continued to flip through the contents of the cedar box.

"I don't think that you're going to want to bring her back to the city tonight. The press is having a field day with this and you can't escape the media coverage," Farkle said, his irritation evident.

"How bad is it?"

"Someone leaked the autopsy results and they've been digging up all of Maya's old party photos and her DUI. It's not flattering," Farkle admitted, "Katy says that the press has been hounding her for a statement all day."

"I have security with me, but the funeral is in two days," Riley groaned.

"We'll have Secret Service agents running security," Farkle offered, a note of hesitance in his voice.

"So, he's coming then," Riley sighed, closing her eyes, as she tried to ignore the twinge that went through her heart.

"You knew that he would, Riles," Farkle said gently.

"James isn't going to make it, I told him not to come," Riley confessed, wondering if she had made a mistake.

A long silence stretched across the phone, leaving only the background noise of the city to echo across the line. It was a sign of what a delicate situation they were in that he didn't say anything to her statement.

"I'm at Katy and Shawn's apartment, I'll call you back," Farkle said and Riley nodded, although he couldn't see her.

"Hey, Farkle, I love you," Riley felt the need to say, all too aware of how fleeting mortality really was.

"I love you, too," he assured her, before ending the call.

"What's going on?" Savannah questioned and Riley forced a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes.

"We're going to spend the night here," Riley replied, setting aside her cell phone.

"You're trying to protect me from what the newspapers are saying, aren't you?" Savannah accused, her eyes narrowing.

"They're just bringing up things that are better left in the past," Riley replied, returning the picture to the box.

"I know that everyone's trying to protect me from all of my mother's mistakes, but I've seen the articles from before," Savannah informed her, "I know about the drugs and the divorces and the arrest."

"And you know that they twist things to make it sound more exciting," Riley pointed out.

"Then tell me the truth, tell me what really happened," Savannah demanded, her eyes blazing, "I want to know who my father really is and who my mother was because the mother that I remember doesn't match up to any of the articles that I've read."

"There are things that we'd all rather forget, Sav," Riley sighed, running a hand through her hair, "Your mother was a good person, but she wasn't perfect."

The past tense sent a jolt through Riley and she suddenly felt a physical pain that stabbed through her chest and caused her to double over. Tears rose to the front of her eyes, but they seemed so inadequate to convey the emotions that she was feeling. She had been ripped in half, part of herself, recklessly, torn away from her, leaving her incomplete. Her one constant was gone and life had ceased to have meaning, to have reason.

"Aunt Riley?" Savannah's hand rested on Riley's shoulder blade and it instantly pulled Riley out of her grief. The knowledge that Maya's daughter, the thing in the world that Maya had loved above all else, needed her to hold it together, had been the only thing keeping her from dissolving and that knowledge was enough for Riley to shove her own pain aside and look up.

"There are things that your mother didn't want you to know," Riley felt the need to admit, "She wanted to protect you."

"Well, she didn't protect me from this, did she?" Savannah bit out sharply, rising from the bed and kicking carelessly at her mother's clothes, "She left me here, she left you here, to clean up this horrible mess."

"We don't know that," Riley insisted, needing to believe something other than the horrible stories that Riley hadn't been able to ignore.

"But I do know," Savannah's voice cracked and Riley pulled the teenager into her arms, as Savannah sobbed helplessly into Riley's shoulder, "What are we going to do? What are we supposed to do?"

Savannah fell asleep shortly after crying herself out and Riley didn't have the heart to move her, though she also didn't think she could stand another minute in Maya's room. Riley gently lowered the teenager onto the bed and grabbed the cedar box, leaving the door open as she headed out into the hall.

It was strange to think that she was by herself and she found herself searching for the last time that it had happened. She'd had her entire security detail with her on the flight, surrounding her and keeping her from feeling like she could let her guard down.

Then, she'd landed in Virginia, where Savannah had been attending a boarding school, and she'd gone immediately to find her niece. Farkle had been handling everything in the city and Riley knew that with Maya's estrangement from her mother, it wasn't likely that Katy would be allowed through the heavy security to get to Savannah. It had been her complete focus, the one thing that she could do about the situation that they had found themselves in.

And, now, she was left alone with her thoughts. It was a dangerous thing for someone who had plenty of things she would rather not think about.

She found herself sitting down on the stairs and removing the hospital band from Savannah's birth that had once fit around Savannah's tiny ankle, and Riley couldn't help the smile that came unbidden to her face. It had been just her and Maya that day at the hospital and Riley had worried that she was about to lose her best friend. She'd taken one look into Savannah's big blue eyes and it hadn't mattered that she would have to share Maya, anymore, because Savannah was a part of Maya and a part of her by extension.

Riley let the band fall to the floor next to her and found herself retrieving a picture of herself from her wedding. She'd wanted to get rid of all of the pictures when she'd left her husband and she'd set a fire on the very beach behind this house to do it. It didn't surprise her that Maya had somehow managed to save some of the photographs.

The first one was her getting ready in one of the vacant rooms of the church. Her hair was in curlers and she was laughing at something Maya had said, as her mother and Maya intently did her makeup.

There were other wedding photographs, but Riley set them next to the bracelet, unable to bring herself to indulge in the once joyful memories that had been tinged in regret and sadness.

She pulled out the newspaper article that announced the plane crash of Farkle's father and was surprised to find that Maya had kept the article that featured them at the funeral. They had never recovered the bodies, but they'd held a memorial service in Philadelphia and the picture captured them entering the memorial service.

Maya was holding onto Farkle's arm on one side, while Riley held onto the other, both just trying to keep him upright and she found herself pulled back into memories.

"We should let some of the press in," Devan Carter, one of the board members of Minkus International, suggested, as they sat in the mostly empty conference room.

"Farkle?" his aunt had turned to him for direction, looking overwhelmed and completely in over her head.

"I don't care," he returned, leaning back in his seat and fidgeting with the tie around his neck.

"It's their memorial service," his aunt had reminded him, looking at him shock.

"It's a show we're putting on to try and show the world that Stewart Minkus may be gone, but his company will live on," Farkle snorted, "Maybe you should get advertising on that, it might make a good song lyric."

"I greatly respected your father," Devan sighed, "But you know how hard he worked for this company, how important it was to him."

"It was his whole life," Farkle returned, "So, let's let the press in, maybe we can find a celebrity to sing, and I'll try to look appropriately sad."

Maya gave Riley a look and Riley picked up on exactly what she wanted, "Farkle, if you don't want this, we can go."

"Go where, Riles? Where exactly could we go to escape from all of this?" Farkle demanded, standing up and moving towards the windows that took up an entire wall of the conference room.

"I'm sorry," Farkle's aunt offered, looking at Devan in embarrassment, "It's been a trying time for our family."

"I understand, maybe we should take a break," Devan offered, closing his notebook and standing up from the seat.

Riley waited until the conference room door had closed to stand up and approach Farkle at the window. He was looking out over the city with the same blank expression that never seemed to leave his eyes.

"They're going to ask me to speak," Farkle said, quietly.

"You don't have to," Riley assured him.

"I do, my father would never forgive me if I didn't. He'd never forgive me for just giving up and letting everything that he built collapse," Farkle sighed, "And the entire world's going to remember exactly what I say, exactly how I handle all of this."

"But I won't," Maya offered, having approached them without Riley noticing, "I'll probably sleep through the entire thing."

The ghost of a smile played across Farkle's lips and Riley gave her a nod of approval.

The day of the funeral is cold, though Riley can't decide if it's because of the emotions or the wind that promises a storm is about to blow in. She dresses warm, in the clothes that were bought specifically for the occasion and that she planned on discarding at the next available opportunity.

"How are you holding up?" Lucas questioned, slipping into her room.

They were staying at Riley's grandparent's house and Lucas had shared a bedroom with Auggie the night before. Riley had woken up to find Maya gone and she's not sure what had happened to the blonde, but she knows that they're all struggling to cope, struggling to be what Farkle needs and to say all of the right things.

"One of the board members asked me to keep Farkle in line, today, said that Farkle listens to me," Riley complained, struggling to fasten the string of pearls around her neck.

"He does," Lucas offered, quietly, moving over to help her.

"But they should have asked Smackle," Riley leaned back into him and his hands moved down from her shoulders to rest around her waist and she leaned back into him, "She loves him, Lucas, and he loves her. She should be the one standing by him."

"But he didn't ask for her," Lucas reminded her and the words felt like a weight settling onto her shoulders.

"If you don't want to do this, then you don't have to," Maya insisted, kneeling in front of Farkle, as she tried to get through to him. Riley had one hand rested on his shoulder in comfort, as Maya took her turn to be the strong one, "We can sneak you out the back and make a run for it."

"I just need a minute," Farkle promised, breathing in deeply, as he struggled to get ahold of himself. He was pale and Riley found herself wondering if he was going to be sick.

"If you want to get out of there, at any time, or for any reason, we'll get you out," Maya promised and he nodded once, before bracing himself and standing up.

Riley's hand dropped from his shoulder and Maya stepped back to stand by Riley's side as Farkle arranged his hair in the bathroom mirror and straightened the tie of his suit.

"Showtime," he snorted, turning back to look at them.

"We'll stay close," Riley promised, falling into step behind him as they left the men's restroom.

"Are you ready, Dearest?" Smackle questioned, looking incredibly uncomfortable from where she had been waiting for them out in the hall. Riley knew that Smackle was struggling with all of the emotions that came along with the death of Farkle's parents, though it was clear that she was trying.

Riley gave her an encouraging smile and looked away as Farkle brushed a strand of hair behind Smackle's.

"I'm good," he promised, forcing a smile that looked painful, "I'll meet you in there."

Smackle nodded once, though Riley could see the war that was waging inside of her. Watching Smackle struggle with how to support Farkle and stand by him for the last week had been hard to watch. She'd found herself worrying that Smackle's hesitance in the situation would drive a wedge between the two of them.

"I know we haven't talked about this, but will the both of you sit with me?" Farkle questioned when Smackle had entered the room, looking back once before the door had closed between them.

"Of course," Maya promised and a look of relief spread across his face.

Riley grabbed Farkle's hand and Maya easily claimed the other one, as they prepared themselves for what would come next.

Farkle had fought tooth and nail that they didn't hold the service in a church, but it had felt just as inappropriate that they hold it any of the other venues that had been suggested, so in the end he had given in. Pictures of both of his parents were propped up at the front of the room and flowers were scattered everywhere.

Riley wasn't sure that she would ever be able to smell a rose again and not think of this moment.

Riley's eyes automatically found their way to Lucas and she was relieved to see that he was seated with her parents, talking quietly with Smackle. He looked up the minute that her eyes landed on his face and she knew that he was remembering her concerns from earlier that morning.

She would have rather sat next to him, but she knew that Farkle needed her, so she obediently followed him to the row of pews that were reserved for family and kept a hold of Farkle's hand through the beginning of the service.

Devan was the first speaker and he spent a lot of time going over Stewart's professional accomplishments with the occasional funny story thrown in. She could barely process most of it and soon it was over and Farkle's aunt was talking about her sister, talking about the great romance of between Farkle's parents and how she was glad that they had the opportunity to go together.

From what Riley had heard from Farkle, she wasn't sure that any of it was actually true, but it made for a pretty story and she could tell that the journalists and photographers were eating it up.

Riley felt Farkle start shaking, as his turn quickly approached and she squeezed his hand, hoping that it would help ground him before he had to continue. He gave her a grateful glance and then was standing up and marching to the podium, every sign of his nerves instantly vanishing.

"I'd like to thank all of you for coming on behalf of my family. It means a great deal to know that we have so much support," Farkle started, years of debate allowing him to fall into a steady and confidant rhythm, "My father was an incredibly hard working man, he built Minkus International from nothing, into something amazing."

Riley's mind slowly drifted away as Farkle continued, switching from his father's accomplishments to the charities that his mother had helped with. His voice never wavered and despite being a little dispassionate, Riley couldn't help thinking that he was doing a much better job then what she had expected.

Her eyes shuffled from Farkle, over her shoulder to sneak a glance at Smackle. The dark-haired girl was chewing on her lip and staring intently at the ground and Riley felt a wave of sympathy that compressed her heart from within her chest.

"They're going to be fine, Riles," Maya assured her in a low voice, already knowing what Riley was worrying about.

"Nothing feels fine, Maya," Riley argued, "None of this even feels real."

"We just have to get through tonight," Maya promised, linking her arm through Riley's, "Just a few more hours."

"You look awful," Farkle didn't sugarcoat anything, as Riley let him into the house. He looked slightly ruffled from having to deal with the security detail that she'd been forced to bring along with her, but he was otherwise just as she remembered him.

He had the same lean build and the height that towered over her, despite the fact that Riley would never be called short. It was clear that he was overdue from a haircut, by the way his hair hung stubbornly in his eyes, but he was familiar, and Riley couldn't help feeling like she was finally home.

"I had a twelve-hour flight before this and I've been running ever since," Riley argued, although she was already pulling him into a hug and burrowing herself into his chest. His hoodie was warm and she was relieved to find that he still smelled exactly how she remembered him smelling; like coffee and the cologne that he'd been wearing since middle school.

"We're not going to talk about it, are we?" Farkle questioned, his voice going serious.

"If I let myself breakdown, I'm not sure that I'll ever be able to pull myself together again," Riley admitted, folding her arms across her chest, as she stepped back.

"I think Maya's got some alcohol around here, somewhere," Farkle suggested, his tone going lighter.

"I didn't think that Buddhists drank?" Riley asked, blankly, watching as he started going through Maya's cabinets.

"We don't," Farkle replied, pulling out a bottle of clear liquid and pouring it into a ceramic kitten mug, "You want some?"

"I'm not drinking," Riley admitted.

"I forgot," Farkle stared intently at the mug, as silence stretched between them. Whatever comradery they'd had between them was sucked out of the room, as the years of distance and mistakes sat between them.

"You probably want to know," Riley started, but he cut her off before she could continue.

"I don't, Riles. At least, not tonight."

He swallowed everything in the mug in a single gulp, coughing, before he poured himself another glass.

"I'm going to tell Savannah the truth, the whole story," Riley informed him, crossing the room to sink down in a barstool.

"About her father?" Farkle guessed, his voice coming out rough, as his face twisted into a sour expression, as he finished off another glass. He'd never been a drinker, even before his religious enlightenment, but, then again, neither had she, once.

"Before all of this, I agreed to do a book, telling everything," Riley confessed, "I just wanted people to see Maya the way she really was, to see all of us the way we are."

"She wouldn't have wanted that," Farkle sighed, "She was done with trying to set the record straight, she just wanted to be left alone. What right does anyone have to know about us? To know about Maya, Savannah, you and Lucas? Our lives don't need to be splattered across the front page."

"But they are, Maya's everywhere, Farkle, and Lucas and me. The stories are going to be out there, whether we want them to be or not, but this way, at least, we know it's the truth. We'll all be gone someday and we've been put in the unfortunate position that the world is going to remember us. I'd like to write the way history remembers us, not some tabloid."

"History is written by the victors. Can't you see that we've already lost?" Farkle spat, dumping the mug in the sink and leaving the room.

Riley let her head fall into her hands, as the house descended into complete silence.

The loneliness is an old friend and Riley can't help feeling that it might be all that she'll have left in the end. Her heels clicked against the tiles of the morgue and her open Burberry trench coat floated behind her, painting a distorted silhouette of shadows against the brick walls.

"I have to warn you, she doesn't look the best," the man leading her, informed her, his hands stuffed deeply into a white lab coat, "The mortician will do a better job of making her appear more-."

"Lifelike," Riley suggested, after he'd trailed off, raising a brow.

"I'm sorry," he apologized.

"You listed the cause of death as an overdose?" Riley questioned, biting her lip, as he paused in front of a heavy, metal, door.

"I can't say if it was intentional, but the cause of death was a lethal cocktail of antidepressants and alcohol," he explained, quietly, looking uncomfortable.

"It wasn't," Riley paused, in an effort to keep her voice from cracking, "Intentional. Maya has a daughter and she never would have deliberately done this."

"Of course, not," he agreed quickly.

"You can open the door," Riley suggested, squaring her shoulders.

He nodded slowly before pulling it open and assaulting her face with cold air. She stepped over the threshold into the room and he carefully checked the numbers on the closed metal slabs, to the ones on the checkboard, before he pulled one open. A single white sheet concealed Maya's body from Riley's view and she found herself unconsciously stepping forward.

"Are you sure you want to do this now? We're transporting her in a couple of hours and she'll look a lot better, once the mortician has been able to take care of her," he suggested, looking at Riley for her answer.

"She'll still be dead," Riley pointed out, wiping at a tear that had managed to escape through her resolve, "And I need to know that this is real."

Wind whipped through Maya's hair, as she rose from the reclined wicker chair. Her skin was bronze from the time they'd spent in the sun and her swimsuit clung to her body like a second skin. The ocean stretched for miles in every direction and beat against the sides of the yacht that they'd been vacationing on. Altogether, forming a dazzling picture.

"Why is it that I can spend four hours a day in the gym and never look like you?" Riley questioned, sipping at her drink, as Maya reapplied sunscreen to her skin.

"What are you talking about, Riles? You're gorgeous," Maya insisted, rubbing the lotion into her legs.

"The National Enquirer claimed that I've gained fifteen pounds," Riley pointed out.

"Didn't they, also, claim that you were pregnant?" Maya offered, sinking back down onto the edge of the chair, "You're not pregnant, are you? This engagement happened awfully fast."

"No, I'm not pregnant," Riley snorted, a hand unconsciously going to her stomach. She glanced at the diamond that was eight-carrots and currently weighing down her finger, before she tucked the hand away, unable to look at it any longer.

"But you're not happy, either," Maya said, intuitively.

"We're good together," Riley argued, taking to the defensive, "And who are you to talk? You've been married three times."

"So, I know something about wedded misery. Why are you doing this, Riles?"

"The last time, almost destroyed me, Maya. I can't ever let myself feel that kind of pain again," Riley admitted, "But I need to be doing something,"

"You're marrying a project," Maya snorted, leaning back in her seat and stretching her legs out in front of her.

"I'm catching up with you. Speaking of which, I heard you went to see Josh," Riley changed the subject.

"I'm his muse for his latest collection," Maya admitted, "All he did was take some photographs."

"That's not what people will be saying when his pictures come out," Riley snorted, turning onto her stomach, "And they won't be that far off the mark."

"Savannah loves Josh and I can't put her in a situation where it could ruin that if things go badly."

"How do you know that things will go badly? You've loved him since we were kids and you have to see that he loves you, too," Riley pointed out, watching as a shadow descended across the blonde's face.

"It's not like things were with you and Lucas. Josh has always been this fantasy that was just a little bit out of reach and I've had so many fantasies destroyed these last couple of years, Riles. If things don't work out with Josh, then it means that I really am meant to be alone," Maya mused, refusing to look at Riley as she spoke.

"Maya, it's because things between you and Josh aren't like things with Lucas and I, that you should take a chance on this," Riley argued.

"Someday, but there's still plenty of time, Riles. Now, this conversation has been completely depressing and I only get you to myself for one week out of the year, so, Princess, I insist we do something fun."

"Fine," Riley agreed, shaking off the tense mood and following Maya into the cabin.

Riley blinked away the memory from the last time that she had seen Maya and watched as she sheet was peeled back to reveal an image that would stamp itself into Riley's mind for the rest of her life.

Maya's hair was fanned out around her and her eyes closed, though they were rimmed in dark, purple bruises. The copper skin was replaced with skin that was devoid of color, except for a bluish cast that was several shades lighter than the blue in Maya's lips. She was as familiar as Riley's own face reflected in the mirror, but this person stretched out before her was so alien, that she had to be a stranger.

"She would have had a ring, when she was brought in," Riley turned to the man.

"I can get you her personal belongings. Did you want a minute?" he asked, looking at her with compassion in his eyes.

All Riley could manage was a nod, but she did hold the tears at bay until he was out of the room. They ran trails down her cheeks, as she closed the remaining distance and slowly reached out to touch Maya's hair.

"What have you done?" she asked, her body hunching over into sobs so filled with grief that the sounds bouncing off the walls, barely sounded human.

"How did it go?" Farkle asked, as Riley let herself into the apartment. They'd made the tense and silent drive back earlier that morning and Riley had left Savannah in Farkle's care, while she visited Maya in the morgue. She can't help thinking that she preferred the beach house to the apartment.

A giant picture of Maya dressed in a designer gown and hundreds of thousands of dollars of diamonds, took up most of the entryway and Riley couldn't help stopping to stare at the unearthly beauty that had been Maya Hart.

"It's really her," Riley replied, her thumb moving to the place on her finger that now held a ring she'd given to Maya with no intention of ever getting it back. They were supposed to die together, years from now.

"Oh," Farkle's eyes fell to the ground, though, not before she could see the endless grief that echoed through them.

"Where's Savannah?" Riley questioned, glancing around the room, although she already knew that the teenager wasn't there.

"She's in her bedroom," Farkle replied, sinking back down onto the couch, "I've been thinking about what you said."

"Which part?"

"I don't agree with what you're doing. She thinks Josh is her father, Riles," Farkle informed her, lowering his voice.

"How do you know that?" Riley demanded, taking a step forward.

"She told me a while ago and I didn't know what to say. It's a nice story and sometimes that's better than the truth," Farkle sighed, rubbing the space between his eyes with his thumb.

"Josh was the love of her life," Riley offered, closing the remaining distance between the two of them and sinking down next to him.

"Did you know she was depressed?" Farkle questioned, turning to look at her.

"She's struggled with depression for a long time. It started after she had Savannah. She would go into these black moods and nothing that anyone did was enough to get her out. I don't know when she started taking the medication, but she controlled it by throwing herself into her art for a while."

"You'll never know how sorry I am that I wasn't there," Farkle admitted and Riley reached over to take his hand.

Riley and Maya were best friends, the sky was blue, and Farkle and Smackle were going to Princeton together. They were irrefutable facts of life and Riley's not prepared for the moment when all of it comes crashing down.

"What are you doing?" Riley demanded, slamming Farkle's front door behind her as she entered the home that had been such a big part of her teenage years.

Boxes lined the walls and Riley could see that most of the art had been taken down. It was a house in transition and it was a fair metaphor for how Riley felt herself, in these last few weeks before they were all off to start new adventures.

"I think that's pretty obvious," Farkle pointed out, dropping a box in the center of the foyer, as he came into her view.

"Smackle just told me that you've turned down your acceptance to Princeton," Riley informed him, crossing her arms across her chest.

"She was correct," he replied, turning back the way he had come and leaving Riley to try and follow him through the maze of boxes.


"Because it's not what I want anymore, Riley. My parents are gone and all this place," he paused to gesture around him, "Has become a mausoleum. I have more money than I could spend in multiple lifetimes and I'm brilliant. I could have anything that I want in this world, except for my family back. And I don't want Princeton, anymore. I don't want the house or the money and I don't want to be stuck in this city."

"Then what do you want?" Riley asked, her voice becoming quiet in her uncertainty and confusion.

"I don't know. That's what I have to figure out," Farkle replied, "I need some time to try and put myself back together again and I can't do that at Princeton or here."

"What about Smackle?" Riley pointed out, "What about us, your friends? You're choosing to face all of this alone, when you don't have to."

"You're my best friend, Riley. You and Maya, will always be my best friends, but this isn't something that we can face together. This is something that I have to figure out for myself," he sighed, reaching out to squeeze her shoulder, "And I need you to support me in that."

"Promise me you'll come back," Riley said, looking at him intently.

"Of course, I'll come back, Riles," he assured her.

"There wasn't anything that you could have done," she assured him, leaning back into the cushions. Heaven knows Riley had tried everything that she could to help Maya and always come up short.

"Are we going to talk about it?" he repeated his enquiry from the night before.

The question sat between them, as Riley thought it through.

Were they going to talk about whether Maya had killed herself or if it was some horrible accident? Or Riley's divorce, which had been bitter and angry? Or her marriage, which had hollowed her out and left her an empty shell? What topic was going to help bridge the distance that had somehow crept between them over the years?

"I'm an alcoholic."