Ten Questions and a Kiss

May 15, 2017
By Pinyonjay BRONZE, Avondale, Arizona
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Pinyonjay BRONZE, Avondale, Arizona
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Author's note:

I wrote it when I was going through a tough time with two guys I was caught in between. They fought constantly and one was my best friend. He liked another girl and wanted my (now) ex to leave him alone and stop thinking that he liked me while I finally realized that I did like him and things with the girl he liked fell apart.

Whatever this was, it couldn't be truth. This bizarre turn of events was too overwhelming; so Trina found herself mentally shutting down as Reid and Drew continued to land punches. Anger coursed through her body as she balled her hands into fists and clenched her teeth. Sweat poured down her forehead, ran down her face, and dripped off of her chin as she found her voice.

"Stop it! Stop! Stop it!" She screamed as Drew fell to the ground. Fear gripped her heart as he got back up to continue the brawl.

"Listen to me!" She pleaded. They didn't seem to be able to hear her as the crowd around her continued to chant, "Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!"

The glare of all the phones' screens nearly blinded Trina as she desperately searched for someone-anyone-to help. Seeing no one, she launched herself in between the two boys as they each delivered a fatal blow; each using all the strength he could muster. She fell with a scream, then, as being struck mute, a look of calm shadowed her face as she fell. As the crowd fell silent, the boys ceased their fight, looked at each other and reached for her simultaneously as if finally concluding to a temporary truce in silent agreement. Drew reached her first. "Trina! Trina! Catrina!"

"Can you hear us?!" came Reid's panicked voice. As Trina tried to nod, she sank into a muddle of darkness too far for them to reach or understand.

The rain brushed against the window in simple brushstrokes. Catrina blew on the window and giggled as her breath left fog. The drops continued to fall slanting sideways like shooting stars. Trina smiled, warmth filling her up from the inside out. A flash of movement caught her eye as she withdrew from the window. Her smile widened as she ran out through the front door and out into the yard. She rammed into her friend. They fell onto the grass giggling as the rain poured down harder. Her smile widened as she spread out and began making grass angels. The wet grass stuck to her t-shirt and her friend let out a booming laugh. He took her hand and they made angels together.

"Aren't you gonna get in trouble for being out here with me?"

"It's worth it," she giggled. He answered her with a smile. His arm draped across her face and she smiled again, wishing that things could stay this way forever and ever within the comfort of her only friend. Things were better. Things were easier, and that's exactly how she wanted it to be.

The rain began to fall even harder until the two kids were drenched.

"Catrina! Who gave you permission to be outside?"

Trina groaned and rolled over, ignoring her mom. She shot up when she noticed Drew hastily standing up and brushing off his cargo pants. She slowly turned around to find her mother scowling at her angrily.

"Inside." She demanded with a no-nonsense attitude. Trina frowned as Drew began backing away.

"Gosh mom you're so bossy. I wish you would go away!" Her mom ignored her as Trina grabbed Drew's hand and pulled him inside with her.

"Maybe if you actually thought for once, you'd realize that things can't always go your way, much as you would like them to." Her mom grouched. "Things change Catrina, and I might not even be here forever."

Catrina turned around mid-step. "What do you mean?"

"That things are about to change and you may not like what is about to happen."

Three Years Later...

When her mom left, Catrina felt that she had no one. Her heart was a black hole, no happiness or way towards it. The only ray of sunlight in her life was her friends and her dad. Her heavy sigh seemed to solidify and fill the vast room with meaning. Leaning against the chair, she put her hand face down on the table as her father, Michael, put a plate in front of her.

"Eat up," he said, not looking at her. He had rarely looked directly at her since her mom had left, as if it hurt him how much his only daughter resembled his ex-wife. They both had even, large hazel eyes and dark brown hair that fell to their waists. They were both petite and had small feet. They were also very pale and had very large personalities.

"Thanks," she said woodenly. She wished they would talk more, but they barely managed to be in the same room and have somewhat normal conversations. As soon as she finished her breakfast, she got up and slung her backpack over one shoulder.

"See you." She mumbled, running downstairs and out the door before he could respond. It had been this way for so long, she felt like it was almost normal. She pretended it was. Catrina walked absentmindedly past Drew's house as he came barreling out to greet her.

"Hey you!" He called out. She froze and meekly turned around. "Yeah, I'm talking to you," he said with a grin. She let her muscles relax.

"Isn't that a bit of a cliché?" She teased. Drew just shrugged. They talked for a bit as they walked to school, covering everything from their love of country music to who they had their eye on for potential dates.

"You know that new girl, what's her name...Bethany? She's hot," Drew said.

"If you say so, I'm not one to judge."
"You like anyone?"

Myself, she thought with a silent giggle before responding.

"Nah, the last guy I dated was rude and the one before was a player. I haven't thought about anyone recently."

"But your last relationship ended eight months ago," Drew pointed out.

"And your point is...?"

"You should find someone. I know a guy that's interested."

She considered for a moment, "No."


"If I find a guy, I want to know what he's like before any dates and may I mention that every guy you've tried hooking me up with has turned out to be totally rude."

Drew grinned again. She decided to ignore him. As they walked into class, she noticed a group of kids swarming something or someone in the front of the class. All she saw was blond hair as a boy turned around and faced her. Heat rushed to her face as she took in his features. She fumbled to catch her backpack as he looked directly at her and she dropped her things. His eyes, she thought, are unnerving. They were green. His hair was blond and he had a crew cut. She heard Drew laugh beside her as he grabbed her things before she could drop anything else.

"You ok there, Trina? Whatcha lookin' at?" Drew teased. Catrina slid into her seat as the teacher began taking role. She snuck peeks at the new guy as Drew tried to gauge her attention.

"-And I think that Bethany might actually be willing to go out with me. Did I tell you that she invited me to a party at her church?"

"Uh-huh. Keep talking, you know I'm not listening."

"Well, if you stopped staring at Reid for a few seconds, maybe you-"

"That's his name? How did you meet him and why don't you tell me these things?" She hissed. He laughed at her fierce expression.

"You look absolutely ridiculous. We met yesterday at the park. He moved here from Cali after his dad got a job transfer and get this. He's single."

She took in Drew's c***y grin and was immediately suspicious.

"And how exactly would this come up in casual conversation?"

"Well you see-"

"Well you see, Mr. Peterson, you and Miss Reyes had better stop talking unless you want double detention," Mrs. Gold said, sauntering over to them with a clipboard in hand.

"Busted," Kelsi, muttered to Catrina. Trina ignored her best friend as Mrs. Gold gave them a death glare and went back to her desk.

"You're talking about that new kid huh?" Kelsi said to Trina.

"Yeah, what do you know about him?"

"So far, only that he keeps staring at you but you're too busy bickering with Drew to notice. Look-he's doing it now," She giggled as Trina swiveled her head and found Reid staring at her. Red crept up into her face as he grinned at her and she felt herself melting as if he'd cast some kind of spell over her that she couldn't control. Her breaths became quick and sharp as he turned away.

"I think we're going to have to do something about this," Drew joked to Kelsi. You have no idea, Trina thought.

When she got home that night, she went into the living room to find her father reading his newspaper.

"Hey, dad? I need to tell you something."

He looked up warily. "What?"

"I met a guy today."

"Oh god no." He put his newspaper down and stared at her.

"I think..."

"Ok, listen to me Catrina. If you like a guy, just don't make any decisions you're going to regret because-"

"Dad. I just wanted to ask you what to do if you like someone. What the-"

"That's what you say now, but that about later."

Trina rolled her eyes at him and sighed. Nevermind dad, I'm going to bed," She groaned as she started walking away.

"Trina wait."

She looked back.

"Just promise me you won't do something that you regret, even if you're not dating now, but....for later...because, that's what your mom did."

Trina blinked back tears as the memory of her mother's decision came to mind.

"Ok dad. I'll try."

"I'm sorry, but I don't like him. You should break up with him," Monique suggested hopefully. Trina scowled.

"I don't see why nobody likes him-"

"Because he hurts you." Monique said with a wave, cutting her off. "Because he pretends to be sweet, then tears you down."

"That's not true," Trina muttered. "He's just honest. He wants what's best for me."

"Girl, if he wanted what was best for you; don't you think he would've done it by now?"

"What do you mean?"

"Don't you think he would've let you go by now to let you be happy?"

Trina bit her lip, blinking back tears. She had not wanted to consider that possibility. She was not miserable-exactly-but she was not happy either. Her heart hurt just thinking about it.

"But if he lets me go, then I have to let him go and...I'll have to watch him fall in love with someone else from afar."

Monique rolled her eyes, but not at Trina. She was glaring hormonally over Trina's shoulder. She looked back at Trina.

"He's hurting you. In doing so, he's going to get what he deserves," she said angrily as Reid walked up. As he opened his mouth to speak, Monique glared at him, turned away with her arms crossed, and her lips pursed.

"Hey, Monique," Reid said pulling Trina close. Monique glowered at h "I'll see you later, Trina," Monique said as she stalked away.

Reid wrinkled his nose at Trina. "Did I do something wrong?"

"You know she doesn't like you," she replied.

"It's kind of hard to forget," Reid muttered as she laced her fingers through his. She released a long sigh thinking the exact same thing. None of her friends really liked Reid. Ever since they had started dating, everyone suddenly had a reason to hate the new guy. Trina had had to put up with arguments, snide comments, and ridicule for a solid month. Even her best friend, Kelsi, hated him.

"I just don't want you getting hurt again. I mean, I'm sure he's a good person, but ever since Ricky broke your heart...I think....just...what I'm saying is that you need to protect your heart is all," she had told Trina.

Trina winced as other recent memories came into her mind. Her cousins Jake and Janine had an intense argument. Bethany had advised her against it, Kayla had laughed it off, Jasmine had been asking her questions nonstop, and Melanie had been shooting her furtive glances every time they were in the same room. Trina thought that she wouldn't be able to take much more of this. Reid had just let it all bounce off of him with a laugh...that is...until-

"TRINA!" A voice shattered into her thoughts.

"Could you be any louder?" Trina hissed at Kelsi.

"No. Definitely not. I'm pretty sure, but anyways, I need to talk to you."

"About what?"

Kelsi's eyes went downcast. She began to fidget nervously and threw a cautious look over her shoulder.

"Just...problems...can we meet up after school later?"

"Yeah," Trina trailed off. Kelsi gave her a quick hug then ran off. Reid glanced at Trina, apparently unaware that she had wandered a few feet away from him whilst she had been thinking about Drew.

"Hey, Trina, could you come here?"

"He only notices me when I'm gone," she griped under her breath.

"What was that?"

"Nothing." Her thoughts drifted back to Drew and Reid.

"Hey Reid," she began tentatively, hoping to get this cleared up.

"What's up?"

"I wanted to ask you something and I want you to be honest."

Reid gave her his undivided attention. He finally set his phone down. He eyed her warily and Trina could sense distrust lingering in his expression.

"Did something happen between you and Drew?" Reid froze. Aha, Trina thought happily, but immediately felt a sinking feeling in her stomach.

"Why do you ask," Reid stated while watching her intently.

"Because ever since you and I started dating, you guys don't seem to talk as much."

He looked away and nervously began tugging at his collar. His eyes darted back and forth people in the already thinning crowd.

"Trina, let me tell you something. I don't want you to think that I'm jealous because I'm not. The only thing that I can say about that situation is that Drew is lying to me about something and I prefer if you don't get involved until it's absolutely necessary."

"Who said anything about being jealous?" Trina smirked. "I just asked if you guys were friends anymore because you've been acting weird lately, even more than usual and that's really saying something."

"Hey, it's nothing major. Drew and I-we're good friends. I don't want you looking into this when there's nothing to worry about. We just...have very different views on you and our friendships and I think that's why we don't get along sometimes."


"OK, as long as that's it," Trina said, but felt the same sinking feeling as before.

"You don't get to choose!" Trina thundered. She shook her fist as Reid and Drew ran away laughing at her expression.

"I'm serious!" Trina shrilled as she ran after them.

"Ooh, she's serious Reid, we'd better listen then." Drew said with a grin.

"That's so not funny or fair!" Trina howled. The guys bumped fists as they continued accelerating.

"I hate you both," she muttered as she conceded to defeat. She stopped running to unstick the strand of hair that had-unbeknownst to her-had been slicked onto to her forehead due to the amount of sweat she'd lost whilst running. She stretched one arm up into the air and crossed the other one over to grab the bottom of it. Her water bottle fell over and she grimaced as water gushed everywhere, leaving her standing in a pool. She let her arms fall back to her sides as she grabbed the bottle and turned around. The parking lot was nearly empty now from what Trina could see. She jogged over to her bag to find her cousins waiting for her.

"Yo," Jack said with a peace sign, never surrendering his gaze from his phone. Janine glared at Trina accusingly as her newborn brother, Luis squirmed in her arms uncomfortably; a pacifier nearly dangling from his mouth.

"Why do you always go running with your boyfriend and Drew?" Janine demanded.

"Did you come all this way just to ask me that?" Trina said splashing what little water was left in her bottle over her head.

"No. I came out here to tell you that your dad said that you have half an hour left to get home in time for dinner and I needed to talk to you."

Choosing to ignore the bit about her dad, Trina slung a towel around her neck and started walking away waving for her cousins to follow her.

"So walk with me," she said without looking over her shoulder. She heard something drop and knew without looking over her shoulder that it was Luis's pacifier.

"Pick it up!" Janine ordered. Jack began to mutter and within seconds they were following Trina.

"So, I wanted to talk to you about your oh-so-famous boyfriend," Janine began, balancing Luis on one hip.

"This again," Jack muttered, rolling his eyes. Janine shot him a death glare and he returned to his phone.

"What about him?" Trina asked while combing her fingers through her hair.

"Besides the fact that I don't like him one bit-I wanted to ask a few things." Janine said ignoring Jack.

"Ask away."

"Ok, so, Trina, if you're so sure of yourself, how do you actually feel about him?"

"I really like him." Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jack trip.

"What do you like about him?" Trina actually had to think about this one.

"I think...it's his personality and the way he is. I love how he has a good sense of humor. He's smart, kind, and gentle, but I also love his faults...so it's not easy to narrow it down to one specific thing."

Luis began wailing until Jack stuck a pacifier in his mouth. Trina wiped the sweat from her brow as Janine made a tsk sound.

"Trina, let me be honest."

"Why wouldn't you be?"

"Ha ha ha, I'm serious though. Reid and you...might not last much longer. I know the signs and you deserve better. Hear me out," she said pointedly as Trina opened her mouth to protest.

"I'm not going to lie, you guys are cute together. Do I enjoy the sight of you two together? No, I do not. Yet, part of me is happy that you found Reid. Even though it's only been eight months since you started dating, I think there's a few things you have to realize. One, you guys aren't going to last. I'll tell you why in a second. Two, you guys are damaging your relationship by forcing it. Finally three-people leave, just like your mom, and there's nothing you can do about it."

Trina dropped her towel and her mouth fell open. She began to shake. Sweat poured off her chin and she glared at Janine.

"Can you-please-keep my mom out of this? She made her choice. She's not coming back and I think I prefer it that way. Maybe I'm not making the best choice by being in a relationship right now, but at least it's a distraction from the fact that my mom left me and that she doesn't love me anymore." She lashed out.

Janine paled. "I-I'm sorry, Trina-"

Trina angrily stomped away as Luis began crying. "Now you've done it," she heard Jack say. Trina jogged back to her bag to find Reid and Drew waiting for her.

"Where'd you go? We were looking for you." Reid said. She noticed Drew smirking.

"I went for a walk," she said, never taking her eyes off Andrew. His smirk widened.

"I mean, that's why we went for a run you know," Reid said. Trina decided to ignore that. She shoved past him, picked up her bag, slung it over her shoulder and started to walk away.

"Yo, Trina, we're heading back now, 'kay?" Drew called out. Trina waved one hand over her shoulder without looking back. She huffed as she walked up her driveway five minutes later. Strolling through the door, she threw her bag on couch and went into the kitchen. Her angry father met her by the counter.

"You're late," he glowered.

"So sue me," she said popping a cookie into her mouth from the cookie jar.

"I would ground you right now, but we have bigger things to worry about."

She glanced at him worriedly, "Yeah?" The cookie hung from in between her teeth.

"We're moving, Trina."

The cookie fell from her mouth.

The next day...

"Reid, please! You know that I love you!" Trina pleaded.

"Do you?" Reid fired back. "Then why do you spend so much time with Drew?"

"He's my best friend!"

"Is he? I've seen the way that he looks at you Trina. You can't deny that your 'supposed' best friend doesn't like you.

She furiously burst into tears. "Well, I guess you won't have to worry about it anymore."

"Why? Are you breaking up with me for him?"

"NO, I'm moving."

Reid turned away from her. "And this means?"

"Do you want to stay together?"

"No." His gaze hardened as he turned to her again. "I think we'd be better off if we broke up. I've been thinking about this for a while now..."


"Trina, do I have to spell it out for you? I'm breaking up with you," he said walking away; leaving her crying under a tree.

"You should know," she hesitated two weeks later, questioning herself on how to best address the situation before making up her mind.

"You should know that once I get a kiss from someone who isn't you-that's it. I'm gone, and you're not getting me back."

"What do you mean?" Reid asked, fearing the worst.

"That this is your last chance to patch things up with me before I'm gone for good."

It was his turn to hesitate, but looking at her, he knew that he couldn't do it. He couldn't take away her chance of happiness, even if it was with Drew. Reid might find someone too, even if took a while and even if Trina didn't know. His heart ached as he looked at her, resigned.

"I'm not in love with you anymore. I can't pretend I am and I know you're in love with someone else."

She looked crestfallen and he immediately wished he'd phrased it differently.

"Guess this is goodbye then, huh? For real this time?" she asked her voice small. He shrugged, pretending to be indifferent.

"Don't get me wrong. You'll always be important to me and you'll always have a place in my heart, but you always belonged to someone else, not me."

"Don't talk to me like I'm someone's property! No one 'belongs' to anyone," she shot back, irritated. He just looked at her, exasperated.

"Trina, do you remember what I told you about Drew? That first day? How I asked you why you were friends with him?"

"You were jealous."

"Maybe, but that's not the point. The point is that Drew claimed you as 'his' long before I even came into the picture. It's not a question of 'belonging' but of wanting and deserving. You guys deserve each other and it was wrong of me to interfere with that."

"So what are you saying?"

"That I'm sorry. It was a mistake on my part to chase after you when you were intended for someone else-your best friend."

She blinked back tears and something caught in her throat. "Thank you for saying that what happened between us was a mistake because for me it was the worst mistake of my life." He paused to think about this.

"Catrina, stop being melodramatic, I'm telling you that he can make you feel loved in a way I can't-and never could. You were my first girlfriend and you gave me so much more happiness than I thought possible. We kidded ourselves thinking we could make it last and making false promises that tore us apart more than it brought us together. He's the one for you-not me."

"Who says?" She shot back, unwilling to believe.

"There is no 'entity' that 'says', there's just truth."

"'Truth' isn't decided based off of 'friendship' or who belongs with who, it's based off of how someone perceives a situation and the conclusions they draw from it as the puzzle pieces snap together."

He ran his hands through his hair in frustration.

"Ok, yes, you have a point, but that doesn't change this situation. I get it. When you get a kiss, you're gone." He swallowed, shoving the words out painfully. "And I'll never get you back."

"Are you willing to take that risk?"

Unable to stop himself, he leaned over and kissed her cheek.

"For you, anything if it will make you smile, but just know, I am not in love with you anymore."

With that, he left her standing all alone feeling like he'd finally done something right and not knowing he had just shattered what was left of her heart.

Trina put her head down on her new kitchen table and sighed. She hated this new house. She resented her father for moving her away from her friends. She was still going to the same school, but she was so far from her friends that she could only see them on the weekends. She heard the door slam and her father's footsteps stop at the edge of the table.

"I brought you something."

She turned her cheek to face him. He plopped a take-out bag on the table.

"Fried chicken and steamed rice." He held his hand out in a forgiveness gesture. He knew it was her favorite. Trina took one look at it, sighed, and turned away from him again.

"Trina, I'm trying," he pleaded. Trina blew a loose strand of hair out of her face. She sat there motionless for a few minutes and he sighed heavily. "I just want you to be happy, just like your mother wanted." She waited a few more minutes and heard his footsteps move and die away. Then, she got up and dragged her feet over to find a decent piece of chicken.

The next day at school, Trina dragged her feet from class to class. It had been six months since Reid had broken up with her and with each passing day, it wasn't getting any easier. Her heart hammered as she entered her third hour, the only class that she had with Reid. Every time she saw his face, her heart broke all over again. Entering the classroom, Drew nearly knocked her over with a huge bear hug.

"Trina, I need to talk to you!"

"About Bethany?" Trina assumed since it was usually the only subject he'd wanted to talk about recently.

"No, but now that you mention it, she did get a boyfriend two weeks ago."

"Oh, that's too bad."

"It's fine; at least she's happy, right?"

Trina shrugged and craned her neck to find Janine and Eric, her crush, talking animatedly. She hid a smile because she knew how hard it was for Janine to talk to him. She focused her attention back on Drew to find that Michael, a close friend of Drew's was coming over to talk to them. She gave Drew a look as Michael grinned, "Hey bro. Last night was fun." He nudged him.

"Yeah, it was. Wanna do it again sometime?" Drew asked, nudging Michael.

"Aaand, I'm leaving now, before this conversation goes places." Trina turned away. She stopped dead in her tracks though, when she caught a glimpse of Reid laughing with his new friend, Chloe. Her heart hurt. Drew caught the flash of hurt on her face.

"Let's do it again later, bro." He told Michael. Michael shrugged and walked away. "I should leave too," Trina moved away, but Drew caught her arm. She felt butterflies fluttering in her stomach.

"Actually, Trina, I wanted to talk to you..." He walked her to class and as he talked, Trina refused to believe her ears. She just shook her head as Drew talked. Finally, he finished.

"So, at what point will you realize that I'm in love with you?"

"Never," she retorted. "Because you're not. You just want something new to believe in. You're not in love with me; you're in love with the idea of love."

"Nope. I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you."

Trina pushed him away, thoroughly disgusted. He leaned in closer to her again.

"Trina, what are you afraid of?"

That I might love you back, her heart whispered. That I might have been all along, but I can't be because then that proves that Reid was right about you, she thought.

"Nothing. I'm just not over Reid."


"No-really, it's true. I really miss him and anyway, Drew, I don't want to mess up our friendship. You mean too much for me to just...y'know...anyway, you miss Bethany. I know you do so don't try to twist the story around and tell me that you don't."

Drew shifted his feet around uncomfortably. "I do miss her," he admitted. "And I know you miss Reid, but maybe....we can get over them together."

"And we can do it as friends."

"Or," he took her hand and she felt heat suffuse her face. "We can do it as more than friends."

Trina's words died away in her throat. Drew took in the look on her face and looked away. "I just want you to be happy."

"I already am. You're my best friend and I care about you. You're amazing and-"

"But maybe I want to be more than just your 'best friend'." He said, cutting her off. Her heart started pounding. "Why?" She whispered.

"Because I love you, Trina. I'm serious."

Maybe that's why she didn't protest when he leaned in for a kiss. When he pulled back, she smiled as he walked to class, grinning at her. Before she went into class, she noticed Reid staring right at her as he walked past. He had a look of anger, hurt and betrayal on his face.

Reid found her afterschool. "So, you're dating Drew now?"

"I guess so."

"I told you that would happen."

She glared at him. "What?" His smug expression faded away. "Look, Trina, you should break up with him. He's going to hurt you."

"Like you did?" She shot back. He was taken aback. "Well, Trina...listen, I was wrong, ok? I'm still holding on to us-"

"But that's not a valid reason for me to dump Drew. He hasn't done anything. Besides, even if he does hurt me, he'll never abandon me like you did."

"Trina, I'm sorry, I-"

"And I don't want to hear it. You saw that kiss, right? I told you, one kiss and I'm gone. You missed your chance Reid." She turned to squint for her dad's truck in the parking lot.


"Look, my ride's here. I gotta go."


She got in the truck and as she did, she looked back at him sadly. "I did wait, I waited for six months. You never came back." With that, she got in and told her dad to step on it.

Over the next two months, she enjoyed bliss with Drew and hung out with him and Michael. Michael didn't like Trina at first, but soon they grew to be friends. The three of them went out, laughed and played pranks on each other. Michael sometimes even brought along his girlfriend on double dates with them. Trina and Drew grew closer because there weren't any insecurities and they trusted one another. It was the type of relationship she hadn't been able to experience with Reid because he was so insecure and always jealous. Drew only cared about whether Trina was happy and held her when she cried about her mom. He even tried to look for Trina's mom, but was unsuccessful. Trina loved him for that. Their parents approved of their relationship and Trina found herself happier than she had been ever since her mom had left her and her father for another job, then vanishing off the face of the planet. The only person who didn't like Drew and Trina's relationship was Reid. He glowered every time he saw them holding hands and refused to acknowledge them. He spread rumors about them and even tried to get Drew kicked off the football team inadvertently. It hadn't worked. Finally, one day he'd had enough. He sought out Drew after school.

"What do you want?" Drew asked.

"I want you to leave Trina alone."

"Isn't that my line? You're the one who hurt her."

"What do you mean, I hurt her?" Reid fired back. "She never cried in front of me. She was happy."

"She cried in front of me. Every time she was hurt by you, she came to me."

"You were just trying to get close to her to get in between us."

"You're a jerk with illusions of grandeur."

"And you're a player, a cheater, a liar-"

"Are you done?"

"Get away from me."

"You came looking for me."

As Drew started to walk away, Reid grabbed his arm.

"Stay away from her."

"You don't control me."

"I'm warning you-"

"Go away."

Reid forcefully pulled him to him and Drew pushed him away.

"Don't touch me," Drew growled.

"Or what?" Reid asked, pushing him back. That's when the fists started flying and they lost control of all reason. Everything turned to red rage and they barely heard the voice of the girl they both loved as the crowd formed. A scream occurred as fists made contact with another person.


Catrina groaned as light drifted through the curtains. The blurriness was overwhelming. She grunted in frustration as everything started to sharpen and come into view.

"Catrina?" A face came to her; a woman at her bedside. Trina pushed herself back and hunched up against the headboard while clutching at her blanket and eyeing the woman warily.

"What do you want?"

"Do...you recognize me?" The woman asked. Trina squinted. "Should I?"

The woman inclined her head. She got up. "Maybe it's the hair. Or maybe the outfit. Or maybe the fact that you haven't seen me in years."

Trina squinted again and hair fell in her face. She moved it and bunched up tighter. "Ah!" A needle stabbed her. Her face scrunched up in pain. "What? What? Why-AHH!" The needle stabbed her again.

"You shouldn't be bunched up like that child, I think-!"

"I don't even know you. Why are you telling me what to do?" Trina shot back.

"I'm just trying to help. Here." The woman handed her a package. Trina tentatively extended out her legs and took it. "What?"

"Just open it."

Trina tore off the wrapping to find a scrapbook. She opened it. "And this?" She began flipping through the pages. "I don't know what you're trying to-"

She stopped at one page and compared it to the woman in front of her. The woman in the photo had blond hair. The woman in front of her had black. The woman in the photo was sad, and the lines around her mouth were stern. The woman in front of her was happy and she had smile wrinkles on her face.

"This is the part where I realize you're my mom, right?" Trina stated in a monotone. The woman nodded. Trina slammed the scrapbook shut.

"Well, I don't know what you want after all these years, but I can't give it to you."

"I came to ask for forgiveness."

Trina flipped through more pages of the scrapbook. "Look, you're my mom. I get that. I can't hate you. Nevertheless, you still left me. You left dad. I only wish-no, I want an explanation."

"And you deserve one."

"You left. You came back. There is an in between, so what is it?"

Her mom looked down. "Yes. Yes there is. You didn't know this, but before I had you, I was in the middle of a nasty divorce. I was more than happy to leave my ex-husband. He was too, but we had one problem. Our daughters. Catalina and Carina. We called them Lina and Rina. We had clung onto an unhappy marriage for their sakes but it made everything worse. Carina always heard us fighting and finally she'd seemingly had enough. We hadn't known it before, but she was depressed. She was an amazing actress-she hid everything behind simple smile and always made everyone happy. She was the top student in her class and a prodigy. Everyone loved her. No one saw it coming. At fifteen-years-old, she committed suicide.

"Do you know what it's like... for a parent to find that the child that they've raised...my little girl killed herself? It's a feeling that I can't quite explain, but could multiply to the maximum of pain. After the funeral, my ex and I separated for good. Carina was seven. A few years ago, my ex called me to tell me that Carina had run away. We didn't want a repeat of what had happened to Catalina. That's why I told you I might leave. I talked it over with your father and I left. The first few months I neither heard nor saw her. I started going all over the place. I visited the police station regularly. I got into fights with her father all the time as to how he could let such a thing happen. All the signs pointed to her running away. She'd gone in the middle of the night. Her things were gone. All her money too. The farthest I got to locating her was that there was a record of her purchasing a ticket to Oregon, where her sister was buried. I looked all over and she wasn't anywhere. I visited the graveyard everyday hoping to find her. I had so many questions. Why would anyone let a little girl travel alone? No one in their right mind.

"Someone had to be travelling with her. During this time, I had less and less contact with your father. He had to get two jobs to sustain you two. About a month ago, they found Carina. The police found her body abandoned in a ditch in Oregon. I won't go into details as to what happened, but I knew it was time to come home. After her funeral, I decided to come back only to find that you were caught in a love triangle and your father was under so much stress that he didn't have time for me. So naturally, I concluded that he must not have had time for you as well. I truly apologize for that. I left you with a lot of pain and anguish that will never happen again. Your father and I decided not to tell you about this and your sisters until you were ready. You didn't need any unnecessary pain."

"UNNECESSARY PAIN?" Trina slowly got up, clutching the bed rails. What do you consider to be unnecessary pain? Leaving and not telling me why? Mom, I get it now. I would have understood..."

Her mom hung her head. "I'm not so sure you would have. Your father didn't. He tried coming after me. He didn't understand until I explained it to him. The unnecessary pain I caused him made him act so distant towards you. He thought that by working harder it would bring me back."

Trina clenched her fists on the rails until her knuckles turned white. She let the tears spill over. "Dad loves you. He kept telling me that you'd be back one day and that you'd never leave us-just like that."

Her mom's shoulder's started to shake uncontrollably. "Catrina, that's why I decided to come back, I loved your sisters. I love you. I love your father; it's just that...nevermind. I came to ask for forgiveness I know I don't deserve. I should have been here for you and maybe this wouldn't have happened. I'll have to make up for it for the rest of my life."

Trina slipped and the needle was yanked violently from her arm as she fell.

"Trina!" A familiar voice called. Someone caught her. She looked up, her arm bloody. "Drew?"

Reid stood behind him holding flowers. "Hey Trina," he said, averting his eyes and turning red. Trina looked back at her mom only to find her frowning.

"These are the boys that caused you so much heartache?" She asked. Trina opened her mouth to respond, but her mom held up one hand to stop her. "Well," she put her hands together. "Thank you for coming boys, but I think that as of tomorrow Trina will be placed in another hospital closer to my job."

"What? Mom, you can't come back and act as if you control my li-"

Trina passed out in Drew's arms.

"She's lost a lot of blood! Hurry!" He placed her on the bed as Reid slammed the nurse button with his fist.

"This is why you have to stay away from my daughter."

"Ma'am, who are yo-" Comprehension dawned on Reid's face, "Oh, her mom."

"Trina's mom? What are you talking about? Why can't we see her anymore?" Drew demanded.

"Andrew Peterson. I expected more of you. You grew up with my daughter, but you never cause this much trouble or messed with her emotions like this."

"What are you talking about?" Drew demanded as the nurse rushed in.

"I talked to her father. I know all about your supposed 'love triangle' and let me tell you both one thing," she jabbed a finger in their faces. "Stay away from her. And Drew? It's over between you two no matter what she says. I'll make sure that you never hurt her like that again."

She followed Trina's bed to the emergency room. Reid and Drew stared at each other as the door was slammed with a resounding thud, the flowers forgotten at the bedside.

Trina awoke again in a different hospital room. She noticed her mom and her eyes dimmed. "We've got to stop meeting like this."

Her mom nodded. "Trina, I've been thinking...since those boys hurt you, they shouldn't come visit you until you're out of the hospital. I told Drew that it's over between you two-"

"Mother," Trina's face darkened. "I would appreciate it if you would stop. You come back just to try to take over my life. I have to go through my own stuff and solve my own problems. I got into this mess, now I need to clean it up."

"I know. I'm just trying to help you," her mom said, wringing her hands. Trina groaned. "And..."

She looked pleadingly at her mom. "Did Drew believe that?"

Her mom averted her eyes. Trina sighed, "Oh, I see."

"Trust me, Catrina; you guys are better off as friends."


Drew knew he should feel immensely guilty, but he didn't really feel anything. He had his arm around Alice and a half-grimace on his face. He'd just seen Reid pass by with his new girlfriend, Kayla. Drew groaned. How easily they'd moved on from Trina. He fell asleep every night thinking about her and wishing he could talk to her. Her mother wouldn't let him or Reid visit. She had told them to move on and stop causing problems for her daughter. A week later, Reid was dating Kayla and Drew decided to ask out Alice. He wasn't too psyched about it, but he knew he had to try to move on. It wasn't working. How do you just forget your best friend? He missed her.


Reid muttered under his breath as he passed Drew.

"What?" Kayla asked. Reid didn't answer. "Are you ok? What happened? Tell me."

Reid just looked down at his feet. "It's nothing."

Kayla shrugged. "Don't lie. You're a horrible liar. You miss Trina."

It wasn't a question. Reid wouldn't look at her. Truth was he did miss Trina. He knew that he should be trying harder to see her, but he couldn't do anything while her mom and Drew were around. Besides, he had Kayla now. Kayla and her boyfriend had broken up and Reid used to be their third wheel. He'd known that it had made Trina uncomfortable before, and yet he'd still done it. Now he was dating Kayla. He was happy...or so he thought.


"Yes, I miss her," he muttered under his breath even though it wasn't a question.


Two weeks later, Drew walked into a café with Jasmine-his new girlfriend. The first person he saw was Janine, Trina's cousin. He took Jasmine by the hand and took a seat at a table by the window. He noticed Janine slam down a glass on the counter and two figures emerge from the kitchen, Kelsi and Michael. Drew waved Michael over. Kelsi glared at him as Monique came by and took Michael by one arm. Kelsi took the other and they dragged him away. "Back to work," he heard Monique say. He was so caught up in what was happening that he didn't notice Janine again until she slammed a menu down in front of him.

"What do you want?" She growled.

"Coffee?" He said, shrinking back. He heard the door behind him open and the tinkling of bells but didn't dare turn around.

"I think I want a muffin," Jasmine said without looking up, "Blueberry."

"Great," Janine said sarcastically, writing it all down, "Anything else?" Drew opened his mouth to speak, but Janine stopped him, "How about an order of heartbreak to go? Or abandonment? Or-"

"How about you stop talking now," Reid said from behind her. Drew noticed him holding hands with Melanie.

"And you," Janine's eyes shot daggers at him. "Moving through girls pretty fast, aren't you? Do you even care about them? I think not." Kelsi walked by balancing two trays, "Agreed."

Monique shot them a death glare from across the room, which despite her uniform made her look terrifying. She pushed Michael back in the kitchen. Jasmine drummed her fingers on the table. "I have a feeling that these girls don't really like you."

Drew shot her a look. "What? Not sensitive enough for you? Ok, well I'm leaving then," she said getting up. He grabbed her arm. "C'mon, don't go." She yanked her arm away. "Not to be mean, but I could do with a little less drama in my life, Drew." She walked away and as she left, Kelsi walked by with the trays again. "Can I have one?" Kelsi nodded and Jasmine took a muffin and left. Janine and Drew looked at each other. She closed her notepad with a sharp snap and shot him a withering glare.

"I'll get your coffee."

"I didn't even tell you how I want it!" Drew protested.

"Don't care," she said over her shoulder. Drew muttered something under his breath about women.

"Good to know," Janine said as she walked back with his coffee.

"Actually, can I get-"

"No. I'm sick of this. Tell the boss I'm taking my lunch break," she hollered at Michael and Kelsi as she grabbed ahold of Reid and Drew's arms.

"I'll bring your 'boyfriend' back in a minute," she told Melanie who shrugged and pulled out her phone. Janine dragged the two boys out to the storefront.

"Hey!" Drew protested. "Shh, let's get a few things straight," Janine began. "One, Trina's out of the hospital." She held up one finger. "Two, her mother allows visitors now," she held up two fingers. "Three, if you're really over her, you won't bother coming, but if either of you still have feelings for her, now's your chance. Your only chance. After this, you don't get another chance." She held up three fingers. "And lastly, Trina's parents are having some issues right now. If you're really Trina's friends, then you'll be there for her even if you don't like each other and don't like her like that anymore," she bit her lip and looked away, closing her eyes for dramatic effect. "And you have to know that you guys were friends first. Remember that because no matter how many girls come your way, you can't let it destroy your friendship." She glared at them. "Now make nice," she commanded. They looked at her, confused. She rolled her eyes. "Shake hands."

They did. "Good, now I'm hungry so I'm going to eat. Who's buying me lunch?" She asked smiling deviously. They pointed at each other. "Both of you? Great, let's go."

"No, wait. Can we see Trina first?" Reid asked. Janine looked over her shoulder, "Definitely not. At least, not until my shift ends." She said as their faces fell. They went back into the café and immediately, a girl accidentally slammed into Reid. "Ohmygosh, I'm so sorry!" She began wiping the spilled coffee from the floor.

"Chloe, umm, nevermind-I'll let it slide," Janine glanced at Drew, "She's new here, it's her first day."

"Chloe?" Reid knelt down to help her clean up the mess. Drew suddenly remembered Chloe from school and how Reid had begun talking to her when he had broken up with Trina.

"Reid?" Her eyes lit up as she looked up at him.

"I didn't know you worked here," he said, helping her up. She hurriedly wiped her hands on her soiled cloth and stuffed it into the front pocket of her uniform dress.

"Are you here with your girlfriend?" She gestured to Melanie. Melanie heard, looked up, and popped a bubble from her chewing gum.

"Yeah," Reid said. "I'll be your waitress," Chloe suggested-quite hopefully (Drew thought) as Reid nodded his consent. Drew and Janine shot each other a look.

"I'm going back to work. We'll talk later, you owe me a lunch," Janine muttered. Drew nodded as she left and Michael sauntered over to him. "What's up, bro?"

"Not much," Drew responded. Monique glared at him and so did Kelsi as she swept up a mess by the counter. Drew glanced over at Melanie who rolled her eyes at Reid and Chloe who were laughing together. She got up, slung her purse over her shoulder, put her phone up to her ear, and walked out. Drew finally felt like something was going right for once. The door opened and Eric (Janine's crush) walked in. Janine saw him and turned bright red as she furiously scrubbed at the-already-spotless counter.

"Time to make other things go right," Drew grinned at Michael, who looked confused, albeit with an unsure smile plastered to his face. He followed Drew over to Eric. They began talking about sports for a few minutes and TV shows until Drew leaned in and seemingly whispered something in Eric's ear that caused him to glance at Janine. Michael's face changed from seemingly confused to having an "aha!" moment as he realized what Drew was up to. "Got it?" Michael said loudly to Eric, looking directly at Janine. His voice carried loud enough that Janine heard and turned to look at them, still pink in the face. Eric grinned at her and started walking over as Drew and Michael smirked at each other then walked away.

Trina opened the cookie jar she was hunched over, her hair falling in her face. She reached in with extreme difficulty as the jar had a small opening and extracted the last cookie.

"You can't just come back after all these years and reorganize my house!" Trina's dad complained. Here it comes, Trina thought miserably.

"Jacob, be reasonable, the house is a mess," Trina's mom responded as stuffed trash in a garbage bag. Trina started to put her hands over her ears to block the argument. Her parents had been like this since her mom returned and Trina feared a separation.

"How can I be reasonable, Carla? You rearranged my books and papers! I can't even find my car keys or my boat in a bottle or my marshmallows or the TV rem-"

Trina broke the cookie in half and thrust one-half at him. He was taken aback. "Here," she said with forced determination she didn't really feel. "Have a cookie." He took it and she ran up and did the same. "Cookie," she muttered to her mom, her emotions still raw from everything that had happened. She felt a distinctive stiffness towards her mother since she had never told her about her sisters. They even made plans to visit their gravesites over the summer. Trina didn't know how to feel about that, but she still wanted her parents to be happy. They stared at the cookie halves in each of their hands and then at their daughter in disbelief. The doorbell rang. Trina ignored it. "Can you guys please talk it out? Or try to-at least, for me?" Trina begged as the doorbell rang again. She chose to heed its call and ran to it. She opened it without checking to see who it was first. Drew, Reid, Janine, Kelsi, Monique, Eric, Luis, Chloe, Michael, and Jake greeted her. All the people she didn't necessarily want to see-even if they were her friends-were standing in her doorway. She did the only thing she could think of and slammed the door in their faces. They rang the bell again. Trina opened the door, "Fine. Come in." She said with a sigh while letting them pass by her.

"We'll go talk to your parents about something, it's important," Kelsi said, taking Michael by the hand. Realizing she was holding his hand, she blushed and quickly let go. She took Monique's arm instead and gestured for Chloe to follow. Reid watched her go sadly, as if he wished he could follow. Jake handed baby Luis to Janine. She glowered at Drew, Reid, and Trina. "Work it out," she said walking away with Luis, Jake and Eric upstairs to Trina's room. "Traitor," Trina grumbled.

"Trina?" Drew began tentatively. She turned to face them, anger etched into every line of her face. "I really have nothing to say to you," she said, folding her arms and leaning up against the stair rails as if she would leave at any moment.

"Then listen," Drew pleaded. She jerked her head away from them, but stayed put. "I'm not in the mood for clichés," was all she said. Reid took this opportunity to roll his eyes. "Trina, can we talk? Can we actually have a normal conversation for once?" Trina inched away from him. At that precise moment, Jake decided to come downstairs, but stopped climbing the stairs midway when he took in the scene with a grin.

"Yo, you got any cookies?" He asked with a sideways smirk. Trina shook her head. He rolled his eyes and leaned against the stair rail with a half-amused sigh and chuckle. "You haven't picked one yet? You have to choose between them."

"I don't have to do anything," Trina growled, hating boys at that moment.

"Hey, who said anything about choosing?" Reid fired back.

"Whatever," Jake shrugged, pulling out his phone. "I just came for food-which you obviously don't have-so figure it out." He turned and went back upstairs to answer his sister's angry and muffled yells mixed with a baby's squeals and Eric's laughter.

"Ok, fine, I'll listen-if only to save our friends from the discomfort of a broken friendship for years to come." Trina said with a frown. She moved to the couch and sat with her arms tightly folded against her chest.

"Can I be the first to say that I'm sorry?" Reid asked. "I have a few things to say." Trina shrugged in response.

"I have a lot of apologizing to do. I'm sorry for coming in between you two. Obviously, I should have handled things differently. I shouldn't have left Trina if I couldn't let her go. It was on me-and no Drew you can't repeat this to anyone-but I was acting like a complete idiot and that was pretty stupid of me."

Drew sighed. "I'm not going for clichés," he looked at Trina. "I'm going for forgiveness. Friendship isn't a competition, but we made it one. If I'm honest, Trina, the both of us don't deserve to be with you. We were jerks and took it too far. I'm sorry."

Trina didn't move for a moment. Then she unfolded her arms with an exasperated sigh. "I'm not going to choose between you two because; well-for one-you're not objects or prizes to obtain. You guys are ultimately in charge of your own lives. This nonsense about a 'love triangle' got me thinking. I was upset when things ended with Reid and surprised when Drew asked me out, but I never imagined this outcome. With my mom back, things are going to change-I hope you guys know that-but I want our friendship to stay intact-if possible. Many things happened that I'm not proud of, but without clichés or making this cheesy, (I hope) I'm telling you I really want this to work. You guys were-or are, I think-friends and I came in between you two. At least, I feel like I did. Things got to the point where jealousy hurt us and Drew-wasn't it you who said that if we hurt each other...it wouldn't be too hard to work it out? Well, I want to work it out. I can't promise that everything will go back to normal right away, but I can say that we'll try to get there eventually."

Drew nodded and Reid looked away. "I want you guys to be happy," Trina finished.

"We want you to be happy too, Trina," Drew said solemnly.

"Ok, great," Trina's face lit up. She clasped her hands together. "Now, where did everybody go?" She got up off the couch and walked towards the kitchen. Peering around the corner, she found her parents and friends eavesdropping. She flushed.

"You guys!" She protested. Her dad hugged her. "You're getting old," he joked. "You should run for president with all that speech-making you do."

She pushed him away, rolled her eyes, and grinned. "It's called maturing," she shot him a pointed look. "Try it."

He tapped his chin. "You know what? I think I will. I have a few things I need to own up to."

"Oh, really? Do tell," Trina's mom nudged him. He grinned slyly. Trina's grin widened. How could she ever have thought that her parents would split up? They loved each other. She saw that now. She accepted it. In fact...at that moment, she even forgave her mom. She wanted to so bad, but in that moment, is when she felt like she finally could. She nearly flattened her mom with a hug, not caring who was watching. "Thanks for coming back," she whispered, tears rolling down her cheeks as she thought of sisters that she never met and would never get the chance to. Her mom buried her face in her hair to hide her own tears. Kelsi raised her hand and Trina gestured to her, unwilling to let go of her mom.

"Well, since we're admitting stuff, I'd like to say..." Kelsi turned to Michael. "I totally don't like you, jerk." She stuck her tongue out at him and turned bright red. "I totally don't like you back," Michael said with a grin, sticking his tongue out at her too and blushing as well, but trying to hide it. Jake gagged as he looked up from his phone and saw them. Luis squealed in his arms. He dropped his pacifier. Janine glanced at Eric and blushed. He took her by the hand.

"Avocado," Jake snarled at him, taking everyone by surprise.

"My last name is not Avocado. It's Alvarado." Eric said calmly and pointedly. "And I'm hoping that Janine and I can get to know each other a bit better and maybe one day be more than friends." He looked at Janine who nodded, still blushing pink. Jake and Monique shot each other a look.

"Ten bucks that Trina will end up with Drew," Jake muttered to Monique, holding Luis away from himself as the baby drooled.

"Fifteen that Chloe and Reid will end up together," she muttered back. They shook on it as Chloe entered the room.

"It's getting late," Chloe said shyly. She picked up her coat. "I need to get home." She shook her head in apology and started to leave-"Wait," Reid said opening the door for her. "Let me come with you. It's the least I can do."

Monique shot Jake a look as Luis squealed again. Jake shot her one back as Drew took Trina's hand. Trina smacked it away. "Let's take it a little bit at a time," she suggested, eyeing her mom warily. "Ok," Drew said, taking her hand again. She rolled her eyes but didn't let go. Her mom shot Drew a death glare and he let go. Trina threw her head back and laughed. "I seriously love you guys. Now, who wants to bake cookies with me?"

"Everything finally worked out for the best, huh?" Drew asked a few months later, taking Trina's hand.

"Yeah, I guess...Reid and I...we'd been clinging onto something that wasn't meant to be all this time. Somewhere down the line, I think we realized that no matter how hard we tried to be together, it would never work. It took a lot to get us to that point. I'm glad though, that he was able to find someone that could love him in a way I never could. It makes me happy to think that we were able to put our differences aside and be friends again." Trina looked down at her feet, embarrassed.

"Hey," Drew put two fingers under her chin to tilt it up to meet his gaze. "That wasn't the only thing. Your mom came back."

Trina moved his hand away. "That too, I'm just glad that it all worked out." She smiled. They strolled up the walkway to her house hand-in-hand with identical grins. The door swung open and Trina's dad came out glowering.

"She's taken over my house!" he complained. Trina stifled a laugh as Drew led her in, followed by her dad.

"Whoa," Drew put up one hand over his eyes to shield them. The whole room was bathed in a golden glow and sparkled with an overwhelming amount of glitter.

"Mom?" Trina giggled. Her mom's disheveled head popped out from behind the couch with a sheepish grin. "Sorry, I thought we could use a change."

"She's taken over," Trina's dad whimpered. Trina rolled her eyes as she turned to Drew. "I think these two need some time alone." Drew smirked as he led her out by the hand out of the house. Going outside, they could still hear Trina's parents teasing each other. As Trina took in her surroundings, Drew nudged her. Walking towards them was Reid and Chloe. "Yo," Reid said shooting them a peace sign.

"You ready to go?" Trina asked Chloe.

"This is going to be so much fun," Chloe gushed. Trina smiled.

"Come on," Reid gestured them to follow him and Chloe.

"Double date, huh? Am I invited?" Drew asked, grinning down at Trina. She shoved him with her elbow playfully. "Who did you think was my date?"

"Michael," Drew joked. She punched his arm. "Yours maybe."

"You're absolutely right," he squeezed her hand.

"Hey, can I tell you a secret?" she whispered into his ear.

"Sure, why not."

"I love you."

"I love you, too."

She stood on her tiptoes to kiss him, vaguely aware that her friends were watching.

"Hey! You guys can do that later!" Chloe hollered running off.

"We have a movie to catch," Reid added. Trina let go of Drew and shot them a look. Drew laughed and took her hand again to run to catch up to them. As they ran, Trina felt that something had finally gone right. The burden had been lifted off her shoulders and her heart felt lighter than it had felt in a long time. For that, she was glad. All was said and done. All had been forgiven and it could not get much better than that.

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