These days, Chapter ‘Ground Zero’ – ‘This day…’

[This is the original un-edited one-shot in it’s entirety, and what ultimately jump-started this project. Please enjoy.]

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                “You what?!”

                Lilly stares at her friend for what begins to stretch into an eternity, at least for the both of them. In a second Lilly is suddenly aware of everything around her, the hair standing straight at the back of her neck, the light as it scatters amid the auburn trees above them, the occasional car in the distance and footsteps of people as they walk past the teenaged pair’s secret spot in the park, the park they always went to since they were just kids (in fact it’s where they first met, both stumbling upon this place simultaneously). It’s autumn, and Lilly notices every leaf that begins its gentle descent from its recently abandoned branch to the ground around them. The burnt red and orange leaves begin to pile up, forming the illusion of mosaics. She especially is aware of her friend in front of her, her face as red as her shoulder-length ponytail, swaying against the breeze that lightly affected the leaves as well. Rea’s eyes can’t seem to maintain on one place to focus, and as such keeps shifting between staring at her feet to the other leaves that slowly fall around the two, as if to find an end to the awkward silence that she just created. Rea lifts her head to scan her silent partner’s face, Rea is a head shorter after all. For a fraction of a second her eyes meet Lilly’s, and her face heats up again with more ferocity and she retreats into herself, her eyes returning to her feet. This quick exchange surprises Lilly, as if she wasn’t surprised enough by what just occurred. She finds herself twirling her long blonde hair in a half-hearted attempt to diffuse the situation. However her heightened awareness just landed focus on both their faces. It’s only autumn, it shouldn’t be this hot right now! It still hasn’t quite sunk in for her, not yet quite understanding the weight of the situation, the weight of Rea’s words that Lilly now has to respond to. She’s still shocked. Never even realizing she’s been blushing almost as hard as Rea this whole time, but this eternity of silence has only been packed into a handful of minutes, the more it stretches out the more difficult it becomes to say anything. Also Rea has never been one to describe herself as patient.

                “…W-well?”

                Lilly blinks. She has always been the “slower” of the two, her head that much higher in the clouds, whereas Rea would be able to make even strangers multiply in energy after a few minutes of learning each other’s names. More than content to sit in the back of the classroom and be absorbed in her books, Lilly was. Not that she didn’t like Rea’s hijinks of daily adventure, or she wouldn’t be standing in front of Rea right now. Oh wait. I’m still standing here! She blinks again. Her fiery friend, pouting yet gaze still fixated on the ground, musters up her remaining strength and opens to speak.

                “Don’t be an asshole, a-aren’t you gonna say something?!”

                A word, a damn word would at least been enough, enough to ease Rea and allow the shaken blonde some time to think. How do you react to this? How do “I” react to this? Her mind starts to race exponentially as it tries to wrap around this situation. She what?! For how long? Since when? Why? Honestly she couldn’t say she ever looked at Rea that way, but on the other hand she wouldn’t have been opposed or surprised at the thought of doing so one day. After all they are both girls, and the world wasn’t quite as accepting as it had claimed to be. Yet everything about her seems different now, she couldn’t help it. Despite her smaller stature and build, Rea’s burning energy always made her seem like the biggest person in the room. A perfect mirror to the more refined, yet shy Lilly. Always running around, always dragging her much more lax and chilled companion to the next big adventure to tackle, always with that infectious and smug grin, like there was more to the adventure than she lets on. All to make it feel bigger.

                But now, with her chin on her chest, as if to hide in her pink scarf, her face blushing red and eyes shut painfully tight, a glimmer of tears begin to formulate on the edges of them. Shoulders down and body limp, yet somehow also tense and shivering, Rea has never looked so small. Yet now Lilly can’t help but feel more drawn to her friend than ever. All those years of Rea pushing Lilly around in their games and happenings, she can’t help but feel almost this longing to protect her best friend as she just exposed herself at her most vulnerable. The light that was scattering from the trees above them begin to dim. It’s almost sunset. Rea glows in this light. Now. W-what is this? This sudden rush of emotion flood Lilly, her previous awareness instantly blinded until all she can see is the small yet burning redhead in front. I want to protect her. I want to be with her. … I want her. This unexpected impulse frightens Lilly into a brash gasp. She puts up her hands to cover her mouth. It’s the most she’s moved in ten minutes. But it’s too late. Rea steps back, speechless as she tries to piece together Lilly’s surprise in her own head, drawing her own conclusions.

                “I knew it! You h-hate me, don’t you?! Of course, how could I have been so fucking stupid?!”

                The tears begin the race across her cheeks.

                “There’s no way you’d get it! I should have just kept my mouth shut! Just forget what I said okay! I – ?!”

                Lilly moves lower to meet Rea’s face. Rea stumbles back, but then steps up on her toes. It shuts them up for a bit. Enough for them to both understand what they’re feeling, and also a lingering uneasiness as to what will happen next, after they share this quiet moment. All those years spent together, cultivating a bond that would have most certainly lasted as they grew up together, but neither of them ever imagining that it would evolve to what they seem to share in this moment of serenity. The wind picks up ever so slightly, the leaves now dancing around them, the sunlight making its last tight embrace of farewell as it submits to the cold night. But they’re still warm. They still feel the ten years of warmth that built the foundation of what’s to potentially come, if they decide to continue to build from here. From this place. Their secret spot. Lilly and Rea. Ten years ago this very day. The day Lilly felt the unexplainable desire to visit a park she never even thought of looking at the day before. The day she met someone whom she’d share the rest of her childhood with. The day she met someone who would take her to adventures and journeys she would’ve never explored on her own. The day Lilly met someone. On this day ten years ago. She was just as unsure then as she was now. She got her that day, and on this day she gets her again.

                “Happy birthday Lilly…”

Ends

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