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Olivia walked through the school, attempting to avoid the many students that flowed through the hallways. Another new school. However, this time, she had returned to her hometown. The town that she had not stepped in through for the past five years. Olivia stared down at her feet, as the helplessness and pain settled in. Why did her father torment her so? In her agony, Olivia took no notice to where she was walking and slammed into a fellow student. She fell onto the ground with a thud.
“Oof,” she grunted as pain shot up her body. She looked up through her now disheveled hair to see a boy with a sheepish smile on his lips. He offered a hand.
“Sorry,” he muttered. “I guess I should’ve been looking where I was going.”
Without a word, Olivia took his hand and felt the warmth clear the helplessness from her chest. For the first time in a very long time, she could finally breathe without the obstruction in her throat. And surprisingly, she could feel her heart beat strongly and without a struggle. He hauled her easily to her feet and released her hand. Yet, she could still breathe naturally, like she had never done in so long. She stared at him silently, at a loss. What was it about this boy that had released her from her vulnerability? And had done so unconsciously?
She blinked once, her face at once unreadable. She had seen his face before, although she was unsure where. There was something familiar in his brown eyes. No, they were warm honey eyes…
Slowly, his smile faded and then his face suddenly took on a distressed expression. “I’m sorry, did I hurt you?”
He sounded so distraught that she could not help a chuckle escape her lips.
“No, no,” she assured him. “I’m fine.” She brushed aside the short brown strands from her face.
She could see the relief spread through him. The smile returned.
“I’m glad. You were so quiet that I thought you had been hurt—” He stopped abruptly and stared at her intently. He could see her face clearly now that her hair was swept from her thin face. He saw the wide, pale green eyes, eyes like a cat, he had teased. Her straight nose that turned slightly at the end. The freckled-filled face. It was her.
“Livy,” he had whispered. A smile lit his face. Before she could react, he stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her. He pressed her tightly to his chest. She froze as her heart raced as it had never done before.
Olivia could now place where she had seen his face. She felt her head split as the memories rushed with a ferocity so great, she allowed his arms to support her weight.
“Riles,” she said softly and she felt his arms tighten further. This was the boy that had practically lived at her house when they were younger. This was the boy who had constantly played tricks on her when she was a little girl. This was the boy who had been her best friend. This was Riley. Riles.
She, in turn, wrapped her arms around his waist. He was so much taller than her now. She felt safe in his warm arms. A smile curved at her lips. A smile? She buried her face in his chest. Of course there was a smile. Riley was in front of her. For the first time in five years, she felt truly at home.
He pulled away and held her at an arm’s distance. His eyes greedily absorbed every feature of her face, as hers did. She could still see the familiar warm honey eyes and the dark, curly hair, however his face had changed slightly. There were still the freckles on the bridge of his nose, of course, and the high cheekbones. His square chin and straight nose, needless to say, were also there. Yet his features had matured. While he had been fairly cute when they had been younger, his appearance had now emerged on the handsome side. She blinked as she realized that Riley had become an attractive boy.
His eyes still roaming her face, Riley smiled widely. “You’re here.”
She shrugged around his hands as she felt a grin spread on her face. “I’m here.”
He, once again, pulled her into his chest and hugged her firmly, as if he was afraid she would disappear again. “I’ve missed you…” he whispered in her ear. “…so, so much.”
She hugged him just as tightly. “Me too, Riles.” They stood silently as they both allowed their memories to take full control of their minds. His playful tricks, her revengeful pranks, their many adventures, their fights and arguments… it came back with a clarity that surprised her.
Their embrace was interrupted by the minute bell. Riley groaned and he pulled back.
“Damn it,” he muttered and looked at the clock with a vengeance. “I have to get going. I have a Calc test that I cannot miss. But—” he looked at Olivia with a frown. Clearly troubled, Riley fiercely ran his hand through his short curls. He glanced at the clock and groaned once more. “Okay, promise you’ll meet me here after school. Please, please, please?”
She laughed. “Of course.”
Without another word, Riley sprinted down the hall and turned a left, his backpack jumping up and down. Olivia felt herself laughing yet again, shaking her head. Oh, Riley. She had missed him so dearly. How had she not recognized him?
As the final bell rang, Olivia realized that she was late for her next class. Damn. How could she have forgotten that she had a class as well?
Thus, Olivia ran in the opposite direction, all the while cursing loudly in her head. She did not want to endure the stares again.
Riley sat at his desk, the test opposite him and a pencil in hand. Yet, nonetheless, he had not made a single mark on the sheet. His head was a loud clatter of thoughts and memories clashing at full volume that had made it completely impossible to concentrate. She was back. She was here. He could not believe it. He cringed as another memory was brought to the front of his mind. It was the day that he had discovered that she was gone without a single farewell. He saw his younger self standing in her empty room, his fists deep in his pockets, shaking with rage.
Riley messaged his temples. He had tried to forget the day. Had tried to put it in the back of his mind. Yet, every now and again, it came back with an intensity that caused him to wince in pain. Now that she was back, he feared that she was going to disappear and leave him again.
He shook his head and focused on the calculus problem in front of him. However, the sheet was a hopeless series of numbers and marks that he could not recall the meaning of. Jesus H. Christ. He had to pass this test. But how in the world could he solve derivatives now?
He lowered his head onto the desk with defeat and sighed. It was useless. He could not get her out of his head. That damn Livy. He had decided to forget. He had decided to leave her behind. Then why did his heart jump when he thought of those green eyes? Damn you. He thought again of the face he had just seen and he thumped his forehead softly into the desk. Why couldn’t she have stayed away?
But, of course, the anger was hollow. He could not deny the absolute joy that was strumming in every beat of his heart. Nor could he deny the smile that constantly threatened to break out. His best friend was back.
The bell rang loudly in his ears. He released a loud sigh. Ah, darn. He stood and followed the hoard of students hurrying out the class that had made them sit through an hour of torture. He handed his blank page to Ms. Harney and she gave a questioning look. He shrugged uncomfortably and quickly walked out the classroom. She was surely going to give him hell the next day.
He headed to his next class. Yet, when he exited to the hallway, his eyes could not stay still, as they flicked back and forth in search of her. They were always searching for her. Always, always…