Oh my lover, my lover, my love
We can never go back
We can only do our best to recreate
Don't turn over, turn over the page
We should rip it straight out
Then let's try our very best to fake it

- "Fake It," Bastille.


A montage of memories fluttered through her mind as she leaned her forehead against the glass of the passenger seat's window. There were a lifetimes worth of moments to flicker through; a million flashes of Maya's smile and laughter, two little girls who used to play pretend in a magical window seat and two teenagers who shared each other's secrets and learned life's lessons together.

So much of the person that she had become started with Maya. Phrases that would come out of her mouth as naturally as if they were her own words, songs that she would hear on the radio and remember dancing to during a sleepover or belting out loudly during a car trip, or movies that they had watched together. She couldn't look at a piece of art without wondering what it would look like through Maya's eyes.

She reached up to touch her necklace, tracing the outline of the safety deposit key through the black silk of her Brandon Maxwell Cape-Sleeved dress. There were too many unanswered questions and she wondered if they would ever really understand where everything had gone so horribly wrong.

In her periphery she could see the tears running soundlessly down Farkle's face.


Riley tried both of her sides, before settling on her back. She'd already flipped her pillow to the cool side, hoping to get some relief from the discomfort that had plagued her from almost the moment that she had gotten into bed. She kicked at the covers around her legs, tugging them out of their hospital corners, before flipping back onto her side.

"Are you asleep?" Riley kept her voice at a whisper, relieved when Lucas let out a low chuckle.

It was strange to be back in her childhood room, especially sharing it with her high school boyfriend, even if he had become her husband. She still half expected Cory to come running into the room to kick Lucas out through the window, as he'd done a number of times throughout her teenage years. To be there, now, with both of her parent's knowledge was a strange moment of adulthood that Riley had never expected.

"No," he turned onto his back and Riley settled onto his chest, her hand smoothing out the creases in his t-shirt as his hand settled on her exposed stretch of back between her matching Christmas pajama shirt and pants. Any other night, it might have been enough to distract her, but the thoughts running through her mind were already drowning out the intimacy of the moment.

"I don't like him," Riley bit her lower lip, as though the action could mitigate the guilt that came along with the statement.

"Why not?" Lucas maintained objectivity and Riley let out a long exhale as she thought through her response.

The Pro-Hockey player was exactly Maya's type, being almost six years older than her and attractive enough to score valued wall-space in teenage girls' bedrooms everywhere. He came from the home of a single mother, made enough money to allow Maya the lifestyle she was quickly adopting through her modeling, and had avoided any high-profile scandals that might have raised flags for Riley. (And you can bet that she had googled him as soon as she'd learned his name at dinner.)

However, Maya had known Mike for less than three months and Riley had felt blindsided by their engagement announcement that came before they'd even gotten their basket of rolls.

Riley thought her feelings were, in part, the snub of not having met him before Maya had already accepted his proposal. Riley had debated endlessly with Maya over her own engagement to Lucas and that had been after both of them had known him for over a decade. She didn't understand how Maya could be so certain of such a life-changing decision after so little time.

"It feels fast," Riley decided.

"She seems happy," Lucas countered, and Riley conjured up an image of Maya from dinner, trying to decide if the smile on Maya's face had been genuine or an attempt to convince Riley that this was what she really wanted.

Despite all of their best efforts, her marriage to Lucas had created both physical and emotional distance. Entire days would go by in which they didn't talk, which would have been unthinkable even a year ago. It was hard to pick the lies from the truths when she was not studying Maya's face every day.

"I just always thought if Maya was going to marry anyone, it would be Josh," Riley sighed, and Lucas's thumb brushed gently along her spinal column.

"We can't all end up with our first loves."

"I don't want her to impulsively do something without thinking through all of the consequences," Riley tilted her head up, trying to get a read on Lucas's face in the dark.

"I don't think you're going to talk her out of it," Lucas warned her, and a frown pulled at Riley's lips.

"Maya never told Savvy's father that she was pregnant."

"I was under the impression that she wouldn't know how to even contact him," Lucas's voice took on an exasperated tone and Riley could tell that they were reaching the point when he was going to be done with the entire topic.

"I think she chose not to because she was scared, but I think he would be here if he knew," Riley expressed the thought that had been running through her mind more and more frequently.

"If you contact Savvy's father and Maya finds out she will never forgive you," Lucas warned her, "This isn't something that you should meddle in."

"I think it is. I think he deserves to know, and he deserves a chance to be here," Riley countered, feeling the truth of the words in her chest.

"And what if he makes things worse? What if he tries to take Savvy away from Maya? You can't possibly predict the behavior of some guy that Maya hooked up with in Italy."

"Lucas, he wasn't just some guy," Riley felt the weight of her words as she voiced her suspicion for the first time aloud.


Multi-million-dollar homes drifted passed them as Farkle searched the radio for a station worth listening to. She'd always looked at adult Farkle as a pillar of calm, but, now, she could see the restlessness that was just under the surface in the way he flipped through the radio stations and tapped his thumbs against the steering wheel.

"Is your headache any better?" he questioned, and she looked away from the window, taking in the way the sunset highlighted his profile and cast his face in shadows.

"I think the headache will be the only thing that I remember about this day," Riley pressed a finger to her temple and rubbed slowly in an effort to alleviate the pounding, "It doesn't feel final enough."

"My parents' deaths didn't start to feel real until I started hitting milestones and they weren't there. The first Thanksgiving, Christmas, anniversary of their deaths, the day I realized that I had a daughter. You start to realize all the things you never thought to ask them and all the things that you will never get the chance to."

"I've put off so many things because I needed to be here and, now, the funeral's over and life has to start moving again," Riley dropped her hands to her lap, smoothing out her skirt.

"You've never asked me what happened," Farkle's voice was low and she had to strain to pick it up over the classical music he had finally settled on, "Between Maya and me."

"I think I know what happened."


Lucas's anger was the last reaction that she expected from him, though she knew how deeply his morals were grounded into him. Every physical act between them had carried weight and he'd never taken the physical aspects of their relationship lightly, from holding her hand to kissing her.

So, it shouldn't have surprised her that he found Farkle's behavior both inexcusable and unforgivable, if it was even true, and he was quick to point out just how thin her evidence was.

It didn't change that something in her gut knew that she was right.

Lucas hadn't been there when they'd been a trio, playing long hours in her parents living room and watching each other grow. She'd seen Farkle through every awkward haircut, sweater vest, and perfectly ironed pair of khakis. She knew who he had always been at his core.

And, his last two postcards had come from the same place with the same return address. It was still a longshot, but it felt like everything was lining up in front of her.

She waited until Topanga's had cleared out for the night, choosing a booth that wasn't directly visible from the front door. Auggie was going through the end of the day routine with a new worker that Riley had been introduced to, but whose name she couldn't remember. They barely seemed to notice she was there.

Riley wrote out her letter with careful consideration of the wording, not explicitly coming out and stating things, but instead dropping hints left and right. She figured that someone of Farkle's intelligence level would easily be able to read between the lines and pick up on what she was trying to say. She ended it with an expression of how much she missed him and urged him to come home, before she folded the paper into thirds and slid it into a pre-addressed envelope.

He might not get it, but it brought her peace to think of Savvy getting a chance to know both of her parents. Outside of her family, they're the first people that Riley learned to love.


"When I left, it was the first time in my life where I actually felt free. There was no one in the entire world that I had to be accountable too. I started with alcohol and then it turned into Heroin and Hallucinogens. I could have anything that I wanted, anything that money could buy. I, once, lost over 500,000 dollars in a poker game in Rio and it didn't even make a dent. There are people dying of starvation and I spent money like it was nothing," the self-loathing is evident in his voice and Riley can't help thinking of the carefree Farkle of her childhood.

They'd all been so innocent once and they'd all fallen so far.

"Did you get addicted?" Riley kept her voice low, though there was no one to hear them.

"Not to the drugs, but the risk. I started wondering how far I could go before someone would pull me back from the edge. How much money could I spend before I got a call from the bank? How long until I was arrested? How long until someone came after me? And, then, I ran into Maya in Italy."

"She told me once that it felt like fate."


Riley had chosen a dark purple off-the-rack cocktail dress that paired nicely with the darker tones of her skin. She'd spent plenty of time in the sun lately, both helping with the upkeep of the Friar's ranch and trying to avoid the way the house was starting to feel overcrowded.

Riley had always longed for a sister, but her sister through marriage didn't seem to share the sentiment, instead looking at Riley as someone who had stolen the attention of her big brother. She had an uncanny ability of sensing exactly when Riley and Lucas most wanted to be alone and finding some way to intrude.

The return to New York to help Maya pull together the last pieces of her wedding had been a welcome break from life in Texas that Riley intended to appreciate.

Lucas's hands were loose on her waist, as they swayed to a jazz song that was being played by a live band. They'd rented out the entire rooftop bar and the slight chill of the night air had raised goosebumps on Riley's arms.

"Come to the bathroom with me," Maya left no room for Riley to protest as she dragged Riley from the dancefloor, her hand digging into the flesh of Riley's arm.

Riley gave Lucas an apologetic shrug, but followed Maya, struggling to keep up without tripping over her dress or heels.

"Farkle is here," Maya's voice was filled with panic and Riley thought back to the letter that she had sent nearly six months earlier. She had never received a reply and had thought, after a while, that he either hadn't received it or had changed so significantly that he didn't care.

"I didn't see him," Riley kept her voice deliberately neutral, hoping that Maya couldn't read the guilt that had to be spelled out across her face.

"I never wanted anyone to know. I thought that he would never come back here, but of course he would. It's six days before my wedding, Riley. I didn't think I would see him again after Italy. So many weeks went by and he never bothered to get in contact, and I thought he didn't care. We were both so drunk."

"Farkle is Savannah's father," Riley couldn't quite work up the level of surprise the announcement deserved, but in her panic, it seemed to go directly over Maya's head.

"There were these moments after the plane crash," Maya leaned back against the counter, pushing herself until she was sitting with her back against the mirror, "Moments where we were together and there was an energy that had never been there before. Farkle's hardly what you think of when you start naming people you find attractive, but he'd always been safe and there. I couldn't make myself love Zay, but I already loved Farkle. And, then, we ran into each other in Italy and it felt like fate. He was one familiar thing in a completely foreign country and there was nothing to tell us to stop. I woke up the morning after horrified over what had happened and I left."

"And you never tried to tell him about the pregnancy?" Riley stared intently at the floor.

"I didn't ever want to talk about what happened again, let alone that there were consequences. Riley, I watched him snort Crack off of the counter in a hotel bathroom. That isn't the Farkle that we grew up with."


"I wanted it to be real," Farkle confessed, "I think about Smackle and what we had together was stable. Sometimes, I wonder if my parents hadn't died would I have stayed with her. It would have been easy to stay and have what we did, but I, also, wonder if there was a part of me that had started looking for a way out long before everything happened. I had never thought about Maya through that lens until after the funeral and then when she showed up in Italy it felt like a dare. How close could we get to the line without crossing it. Our relationship wasn't sustainable, but-."

"I always wondered how you could pretend, pull your relationship back to what it was, after seeing each other that way," Riley admitted.

"In Buddhism you're supposed to give up all your worldly attachments. You let go of anything that might cause you pain and you accept the people in your life completely as they are and as whoever they may become. I accepted the evolution of our relationship."

"That sounds painful," Riley searched his face, picking out the pieces that were familiar from the stranger that she had glimpsed throughout the trip.


"Does Maya know," Lucas's voice held a coldness that he rarely directed towards Riley.

"Know what?" Riley played dumb, sitting on the edge of the bed to undue the straps of her shoes.

"You expect me to believe that Farkle just showed up after all this time because he missed the city and not because Maya's about to get married?"

"I did what I believed to be right," Riley reached behind her, yanking the zipper of her dress down as far as it would go.

"Even though it hurt your best friend? Even though it ruined her engagement party? It's been almost five years, Riley. You have no idea who he even is, anymore."

"I know who he is," Riley disagreed, stepping out of her dress and leaving it crumpled on the floor, "Whatever he's done, he's still Farkle and he still showed up to try and make things right."

"We're not in high school, anymore. You can't manipulate other people's lives because you think it's for the best and you can't hang onto people with blind loyalty, anymore," Lucas's tie hung loose around his neck as he turned to look at her from where he was standing in front of the mirror that hung just inside her closet.

"Blind loyalty would be letting Maya keep this from him and never giving Savannah a chance to know her father. I know what I did, and I know that it was the right thing, even if you disagree with me."

"Are you going to tell her?" Lucas turned back to the mirror, sliding his tie off of his neck.

"No, I'm not."


"I haven't figured that part out yet," Farkle confessed, drawing her from her memories, "How to completely let go of the pain."

"Me neither," Riley agreed.

"Maya once asked me what brought me back to New York," he kept his voice light, but she could read the layers of subtext. Over the years, they'd made an art of talking about things without ever coming out and actually saying what they meant.

"What did you tell her?"

"The pizza," he snorted, and Riley can't help the laughter that bubbled up in her throat. It was awful and, yet, there was something funny in the tragedy that enshrouded both of their lives. In the way that they had ruined so many things, made so many mistakes, and missed out on so many chances.

It's not until she felt the tears streaming down her face that she realized her laughter had turned to sobs. She hadn't really cried since the first day with Savannah.

Farkle's hand stretched across the console to grasp hers, their fingers twining together on her knee. How many times had he comforted her exactly like this?

The only sound in the car was her chocked gasps for air as she tried to regain control.


"I wanted to tell you before the story got picked up," Maya's voice sounded distant, like, maybe, she was talking to Riley on speakerphone from her car.

Riley had stepped out onto the front deck to take the call, leaving Lucas and his family cleaning up dinner inside. Through the screen she can hear laughter and muted voices.

They were almost finished with construction on their new house and Riley was surprised to find that there were things she would miss about sharing a house with Lucas, his mother, and his sister.

"Are you pregnant?" Maya had been married to Mike for close to a year and Riley had wondered if an announcement was coming. The last time she had seen them together they'd looked like a family and it was clear that Mike adored them both. He'd talked about having a son to teach Hockey and Savvy had talked about wanting a little sister to play with.

"No," there was a note of weariness in Maya's voice, "I'm getting divorced, Riley."

Riley felt as if she'd missed a step on the stairs and was suddenly falling, "Maya."

"We barely knew each other when we got engaged and our schedules are so busy. I felt like I was tearing myself in too many directions."

"None of those reasons sound like justification for a divorce," Riley tried to keep the judgement out of her voice, but the shock kept her from being able to temper her reaction.

"I don't love him," her voice took on a kind of desperation, "I can't give him what he needs from me, what he deserves."

"I don't understand," Riley sighed, sinking down on the top step of the porch and bracing her hands on her knees as she cradled the phone between her ear and her shoulder, "I thought you were happy."

"I thought I was, too."


"You were right about Katy giving the eulogy," Farkle offered when her sobs had quieted into occasional hiccups.

"I don't think I even heard it."

"It was the typical, Maya never did any wrong BS that people feel the need to say when someone dies. I'm sure someone will have picked out all the lies by tomorrow."

"What would you have said?" Riley's voice was quiet, and she realized that at some point he had turned the music down until they could barely hear it.

She can't help feeling that she will remember this car ride most clearly when she thinks back on this day. These last precious moments when they'd been able to say goodbye to their friend, just the two of them. It feels more significant then all of the elaborate tradition of the funeral.

"Maya was a good friend, a loving mother, she was a great artist who was never truly recognized and a great beauty who was often never looked at more than superficially. She promoted body positivity, at the same time as struggling with her own self-image. She was neither the hero, nor the villain, though people often had polarizing feelings about her. But, in the end, she was human with every imperfection, insecurity, and fear that came along with it. I don't believe that she ever really knew her own heart, but she forged a permanent place in each of ours. Maya was my first love and my last love, and I hope wherever she is, now, she's finally found the peace she never stopped looking for in life."

"She was a contradiction," Riley agreed, "But I don't think she knew what she felt. I just think she loved too easily, too many people. She was in love with the idea of being in love and never could differentiate what she felt for someone at any given time. She was forever standing in her own way when it came to being happy."

They let the words settle between them. Riley could pick out the familiar landmarks that signaled they were coming close to Maya's beach house. The water stretched out endlessly just off the coast and there was a tang to the air that Riley had only ever found here. It reminded her of summer, laughter, and hope.

She wondered if she would ever smell the ocean again without thinking of the car ride back from the cemetery.

Farkle's phone started buzzing as the gate came into view and Riley braced herself against the door as he pulled off to the side of the road and retrieved his cell phone from his pocket, "Farkle Minkus."

She could pick out the faint buzzing of another voice but couldn't differentiate between the words as Farkle held a short, tense conversation with whoever was on the other line.

"Thank you. We really appreciate you taking the time to look into it," Farkle ended the call, setting the phone into the cup holder seated between them and turning his attention to Riley. He took a deep breath to steady himself and she could tell that whatever he was about to say was going to bring them back to the present, back to reality.

"That was Charlie Gardner. He got the results back from Maya's blood test."


She nearly hung up, terrified of what awaited her on the other end. She'd been gone for a little over four months and in that time, she hadn't had any contact with the outside world. She had no idea what the headlines were saying, except when she had caught a glimpse of her beaten, bruised face on the cover of Zay's magazine as they had boarded a private plane to France.

"Hello?" Maya's voice was tentative, but upbeat and the heavy beat of a pop song could be heard in the background.

"Maya, it's me," Riley felt the nerves buzzing through her veins and searched around for something to do with her hands, despite the fact that Maya was an ocean away and unable to see her.

"Riley," the relief in her voice was palpable, "Where are you? We've been looking everywhere."

The volume of the music faded, and Riley could hear Maya making excuses to someone before the sound of a door closing muted everything else out.

"I had to get away," Riley pressed a hand to her forehead, sinking down on the edge of her bed and trying to remember all of the things that she had planned to say, but which had fled her mind the minute she'd heard her best friend's voice.

"I knew things were rough, but you never told me how bad things had gotten. I've been so worried and your parents, Riley, they hired a private investigator. They thought someone was holding you for ransom if Lucas didn't pull out of the presidential race."

"I'm fine. I left of my own free will," Riley assured her, suddenly feeling exhausted, "Did Lucas pull out?"

"Not officially, but he's not doing interviews. Smackle tried to cover the first couple of engagements, but when it became apparent that she didn't have the same draw as him they cancelled most of them. Farkle said that he showed up at his apartment the other day and completely ransacked it looking for you."

"I can't come home, Maya," Riley forced herself to return to script, trying to let news of Lucas roll off of her. She'd known that the separation was going to be hard. That didn't make it any less necessary.

"I know," Maya agreed, "I could come to you."

"I can't risk people finding out where I am. I need some time to figure everything out."

"And what about us?" Maya's voice was cold.

"It's not forever, Maya. It's just until things settle down," Riley fought through the piercing homesickness that had hit her the minute she had heard Maya's voice, "Will you please tell my parents that I'm okay and that I love them?"

"I think you should tell them yourself."

The phone went dead and Riley let it drop to her lap, running her fingers over the plastic case. All things considered, she should have expected Maya's anger, but she hadn't braced herself for it.

She wasn't sure what she had expected when she left, but life beyond landing in Africa hadn't been a part of her plans. She'd spent plenty of time thinking of the consequences that would come from abandoning her marriage, but she'd blindly assumed that she could pick things up with Maya exactly where she had left them.

James would sit down every morning and go through multiple news outlets, including ones that Riley would spend most of her breakfast guessing languages for. He rarely spoke of current events with any kind of opinion and she wondered if his interest was more habit, than any real passion.

He never read the ones that she was avoiding in front of her, although he'd mentioned once that when she was ready, he had set them aside in the study for her.

It felt like opening Pandora's box to make her way down the stairs and through the heavy oak door that James only closed when taking phone calls. Bookshelves lined three of the four walls and the fourth was a set of windows that looked out over the gardens and pool.

She could see James standing shirtless at the waters edge, wiping himself off with a towel as water ran in droplets from his hair. It was starting to grow out, curling around his ears in a way that made him look younger.

He had the kind of body that came from obsessive exercise and she'd witnessed some of his almost compulsive behavior during their time together. She knew it wasn't uncommon to replace one addiction with another.

He'd stacked up the news articles on the corner of the desk and Riley braced herself before diving in.

Despite their agreement Riley couldn't help feeling that Zay was much kinder than he should have been. He used her accident as more of a public service announcement, punctuating each of her missteps with reminders of the good that she had done. Other news outlets that had picked up on the accident had been far less courteous.

"My parents used to tell me that all news was biased," James offered, sinking down into the chair across from her. He'd changed his clothes, but his hair was still damp, and she could smell the faintest hint of Chlorine.

"All of these are sympathetic towards Lucas," Riley gestured to a pile that she had already flipped through, "There's no reason why he shouldn't be pressing forward with his campaign."

"Loss often throws into sharp relief the things we truly value. Rarely are they the same things we've been outwardly pursuing," James picked up one of the papers that showed a shot of Riley and Lucas walking up to The White House arm in arm.

She was wearing a dark green, off-shoulder Alexander McQueen dress that had been one of her favorites and matched the lining of Lucas's suit, which was just visible along the collar and the cuffs of his sleeves. It had the added benefit of bringing out the green of Lucas's eyes in every photograph that had been taken. They looked every bit the political royalty that they were meant to be.

"I left so that he could have this," Riley leaned back, pulling her legs up until her knees were touching her chest, "I don't want him to throw everything away for me."

"Then, maybe, you need to find a way to tell him to stop waiting."


Riley felt as though she was underwater as she entered the house, taking in the spread of food that Savannah was helping Josh lay out along the kitchen table. They had passed several vans full of security, both Secret Service and Riley's own team on the way in and she made a mental note to make sure that some of the food was sent out to their cars.

They couldn't possibly eat everything that Lucas had picked up for them.

They had pulled Maya's French doors open and the long, white curtains were blowing gently from the breeze that was coming in. Somewhere, Riley could smell a fire going, probably from the firepit at the edge of the patio.

Dusk had already fallen, and they had turned on the Chandelier light above the kitchen table, casting everyone with a yellow sheen. It set off the gold in Savannah's hair and Riley was struck, not for the first, time of the similarities between mother and daughter.

There had been moments when Riley had wondered if Maya was doing the right thing in keeping Savannah. They were both so young and they had no real idea of what they were doing, but in that moment, Riley was relieved that there was a piece of her that would live on and help to fill in the missing pieces of their little group.

"You must have taken the long way," Savvy commented, biting into a breadstick. She'd changed out of her black clothes and was wearing a brightly colored sundress that had splashes of yellow and orange. It hung just loose enough that it had to have belonged to Maya.

"Lucas is starting a fire out back under the careful supervision of the Secret Service," Josh informed them, contained laughter in his voice, "It would be quite the national incident if he managed to set himself on fire."

"I need to talk to you," Riley kept her voice low, though she could see the interest flash through Savvy's eyes, which suggested she hadn't been quite as quiet as she had hoped to be.

Farkle looked shell-shocked from the doorway and she could almost see the thoughts fluttering so quickly across his face they weren't being completely registered in his consciousness.

"After dinner," Josh decided, his eyes darting between the two of them, "The food's already getting cold."

"And you haven't eaten anything today," Savvy reminded her.

Riley grabbed a chilled, unopened water bottle off the counter and glanced out the back door. Lucas's familiar profile was black against the brightness of the fire. Lucas had apparently managed to talk his security into giving them some space because he was alone, crouched at edge of the pit, hunched forward as though he was throwing something into the flames.

She found herself instantly sucked back into the memory of another night and she had to brace one hand against the doorway in order to hold herself up.


The smoke from the fire pit was burning her eyes, but she couldn't bring herself to blink as she stared mindlessly into the flames. Her palms rested open on her knees, still waiting for the answers to come, though she was old enough to know better.

"Is he the reason that you left?" Maya's voice was steady, but the accusation was clearly buried somewhere in the words.

She hadn't exactly been welcoming when Riley had turned up at her door, but she hadn't turned her away and it gave Riley hope that maybe things could still be repaired between the two of them.

Riley's head dropped and she saw the torn pieces of magazine that had managed to escape the inferno. There was a piece of her hand clutching the dark metal of a railing and a piece of James's face looked at her with adoration and something else that she was terrified to name.

Is that why she did it? A desperate need to be loved, to feel a little less alone. That was how it started, wasn't it?

"No, he found me after I'd left," Riley can't bring herself to raise her head. The heat of the fire was uncomfortable against her skin and she knew that she would be washing ash out of her hair later that night.

"I understand feeling trapped, Riles. I understand feeling so stuck that it's like you can never get a full breath of air in your lungs. What I don't understand is how you could leave me?"

"I thought that I deserved to be alone. I thought that I was so far gone that I deserved misery, pain, and suffering. I wanted to punish myself," Riley gripped her knees, steeling herself against a wave of tears.

She'd done her fair share of crying and she was surprised that there were even tears left. Surely, she had to be coming close to capacity.

"I needed you," Maya's voice wavered, and Riley finally looked up.

"I'm sorry."

The silence stretched between them, almost painful in the precise way that it highlighted the distance that had grown between them. She could look back at a million moments with Maya. She knew all of Maya's mannerisms, quirks, and sometimes the very thoughts that ran through her head, but it still hadn't stopped the inevitable wedge that adulthood and separate paths has placed between them.

It wasn't supposed to be like this and, yet, she knew that there was never any going back. She'd walked away and, then, demolished every bridge leading home.


"How's your headache?" Josh pulled her from the memory, and she turned to look at him with tears in her eyes. She quickly blinked them away, trying to ground herself in the present.

"Better," she doesn't bother to take inventory, unsure if she wants to know if she'd learned to tolerate it or if it had actually receded in intensity.

"You're probably dehydrated and Savvy's right, you should eat something," Josh steered her away from the door, stopping just short of dishing up food and feeding her himself.

Lucas had gotten Italian from a local restaurant that had been their favorite in summers past. They would order takeout for the Minkus's driver to pick up and have picnics on the beach. They always finished with imported cartons of gelato that had, more often than not, started with one person and ended in the hands of another who decided they liked it better.

The thought of eating anything, now, made Riley nauseas. But she obediently took half a slice of lasagna, a scoop of salad, and one of the breadsticks, completely avoiding the fish altogether. She walked through the doorway and out onto the back porch, knowing that hiding away in the kitchen was a cowardly move and that there was a good chance Savannah might ask Lucas something she would rather explain herself.

She's not sure how it had never occurred her how uncomfortable it would be to sit across from her ex-husband and eat a meal. Especially, when she had come to believe that they would never sit across from each other again.


"If he chooses not to contest, then there's no reason why the two of you should have to be in a room together ever again," her lawyer assured her, sliding the papers across the conference table for her to look over.

She had gone with the same lawyer that Maya used, counting on the quick and discreet way Maya's divorces had been handled in the past.

"Can I have a minute?" Riley was unable to bring herself to even pick up the pen. She could feel the emotions threatening to overwhelm her and she wanted to be clinical about this decision.

In her head, she tried to list all of the reasons why this was necessary, again, but only succeeded in making herself feel sick.

"Let me grab you a bottled water," her lawyer stood up and smoothed the wrinkles from her skirt before leaving the room.

Her fingers traced over the words, written in the same legal language that she'd once found beautiful and, now found incredibly cold.

She'd waited the full year, unsure if Lucas would be willing to call their six-month separation mutual. She wanted to make it easy, though it in no way feels simple. He would keep all of their property, all of their belongings, and she would take the freedom that she'd been desperate for from the minute they'd started living life in a fishbowl. There were no children to arrange custody for and all together it could be tied up with a perfect little bow.

It felt like it should be messier, like, maybe, they should be figuring out who gets to keep which memories and how they're supposed to forge forward into separate lives when they'd been joined for longer then they'd been separate.

She hadn't worn her rings since the day that she left, but that morning she had put them on wanting to remember the last time she'd really be Riley Friar. She spun them on her finger, now, noting how they fit on her hand. She should probably give them back, but she wanted to hang onto one last symbol of what their life had once been.

She was glad they didn't have to meet together, knowing that if she had to stare at him across this table, she would never be able to sign the papers. But as it is, she reminded herself of all the reasons why she had to do this one more time and, then, picked up the pen and signed on the designated line.


Riley wandered away at the first chance she got, leaving her partially eaten food on the chair behind her. They'd discussed memories for awhile sharing stories that Savvy had never heard about her mother. They were the ones worth hearing about childhood exploits and adventures.

Riley forced down half of the second water bottle that had been handed to her almost as soon as she'd finished the first and her headache had finally started to fade into a buzzing in the back of her head. She'd waited for the silences to start stretching out, before she had gotten up and wandered towards the ocean. She'd forgotten just how loud it could be and there was a part of her that wanted to walk into the waves and disappear under the surface.

"I wanted to apologize for earlier," Lucas's voice startled her, and she turned to see that he'd followed her down to the water's edge, "You were right, Maya's funeral wasn't the right time to air out all of our laundry. I just wasn't sure that I was ever going to get you alone again."

"My security detail highly recommends against it," Riley informed him, folding her arms across her chest against the chill.

"I've thought a lot about what I would say to you if I ever got one last conversation," he paused and she could hear her heart pounding loudly in her ears, "I guess there's just one question left."


She leaned further against the banister that lined the balcony and his hands found their way around her waist from behind. It was easy to settle into him; to settle against his strength. It had been a long time since she had felt like she had someone she could lean on so completely. She'd had that, once, with Lucas, but in the end her feelings had felt more like a weakness that was being used against her, then anything to draw strength from.

She didn't feel weak, now and it's the closest to peace that she'd come in a long time.

"I don't expect you to stop loving him, you know?" his voice is a whisper in her ear and her eyes never left the rolling green hills that spread out before them. There was a purple tone to the sky as they waited for the stars to appear, but, for the moment, the world was silent.

Where they were, there were no crickets and the air was colder than what she'd associate with a Texas night. She'd had plenty of those planning a future with Lucas on the front steps of their porch as they had gazed up at the stars. But this is different.

The pain was still there; a heavy ache in her chest, but it's not threatening to consume her anymore. It was the kind of wound that would leave an unmistakable scar on her heart but would one day cease to dominate her life. Like, maybe, she would someday look back on the memories of her other life and smile, instead of grieving all that had been left behind.

"I don't know if I can," Riley admitted, twining her fingers through his at her waist, "He's so much of who I am. And two decades doesn't just disappear because you sign a legal document. I loved him, until it destroyed me. And I'm not sure that I can do that again."

"I'm not asking you for a passionate, all-consuming love. I'm happy with this, whatever this is. You bring a balance into my life that I've never found anywhere else. I just don't want you to feel guilty because you think that I expect more than what you're capable of giving."

"I don't feel halfway about you," she still can't manage to get the words he deserved to hear out of her mouth, "Yes, I love him and sometimes I miss him so much that I find it hard to get out of bed in the morning. But you're the reason I get up and that counts for something."

"You're the reason I get up, too," she could hear the smile in his voice and his lips graze her cheek before he withdrew back into the country house.

In the distance, the North Star blinked in the night and a photographer checked over the pictures he'd just taken.


"Were you with him before our divorce was finalized?" Lucas questioned.


Thanks for reading! I know it's been awhile since I've updated, but there's nothing like finals week to bring a bucket load of inspiration. If you've stuck with me from the beginning, thank you and if you're new, welcome. I hope everyone's safe and well during these crazy times and I would love it if you left me some of your thoughts in a review.