You Were Supposed To Return
Her heart hurt.
During the day, around other people, she smiled innocently and acted grateful for every moment that she was alive. The funny thing was, in her slightly cynical opinion, it didn't feel like a farce anymore. This façade wasn't just her way to escape the pestering questions, it was her. Slipping on her cheerful mask was like slipping on a favorite pair of worn-in slippers.
Nobody asked her if she was okay anymore and for that she was eternally thankful. In the beginning, while it was still fresh, people she wasn't especially close to would peer into her face and pretend they cared. But she knew they didn't. She knew because she used to be one of those people, forever prying into business that wasn't hers.
To an outsider, it looked like she didn't care, but in reality she had a running stop watch in her mind, timing the hours, minutes, seconds, that she was alone. It was her own fault, she knew that, but it didn't take the edge off the blade. If anything that thought made it even harder to bear.
Thirteen days, eleven hours, and fifteen minutes.
Her head slumped forward slightly, resting on her palm. This position always left her wrist aching dully, but she didn't care. Not anymore. As usual, at least these days, her eyes stared emptily ahead. No longer were they full of life. Yet the only one who would notice at this point was long gone.
When it had happened, nearly two weeks previous, she had thought it was for the best. It was obvious the relationship was one-sided. She couldn't distinguish now, though, which hurt more. Losing her love or having a love that didn't love her back. Running parallel to the time of separation was another clock, its ticking long since ceased.
One hundred and eleven days, two hours, and three minutes.
In her mind she knew these numbers to be irrelevant. The minutes couldn't possibly be right. It was just a rough guess. She couldn't possibly know if the break up occurred exactly one hundred and eleven days, two hours, and three minutes after their initial kiss. It felt like a good number to her.
Numbers were all she had lately. She had seen her love kiss her best friend three times in the past four days. She had felt sixteen tears easing down her cheeks. She had smelled her love's perfume on three blouses in her closet. And in eight minutes, the bell would ring, releasing her from school.
Miley glanced towards the clock again. She had looked only a minute previously, but she felt sure that the next time she looked up expectantly she'd see that there were scant but two seconds before she could go home. Her foot tapped the side of her desk impatiently.
"Miley?" A hesitant voice drew her attention away from the clock.
"What?" She blinked slowly and turned slightly in her seat. Her mask slid firmly into place; she grinned happily.
"Are you doing anything after school?" Oliver chewed on the end of his pencil. The rest of his writing utensil was already covered in small teeth marks.
"Yeah, sorry." Miley nodded once to her friend and turned back to the clock. She wasn't doing anything after school and Oliver knew that.
"It's just… Well, Lilly and I were going to go hang at the beach. We wanted you to come with us."
Miley held back a small shudder that passed through her body, "I'm busy, sorry."
Oliver shook her head, "Please, Miles, I don't know what's up between you and Lilly, but I miss you."
The clock ticked on mercilessly slow. Miley's foot stopped kicking the leg of her desk, "I really have stuff to do. My dad wants us to have family game night tonight."
Lying was so easy these days. It was easier to lie than to face the truth. Seeing Lilly again, for all they hard parted on amicable terms, would be like going through a living hell. Especially when Lilly would be holding Oliver's hand, kissing Oliver's lips, hugging Oliver's arm as they walked.
Her eyes slid shut, willing the images away.
"You're always welcome, you know that." Oliver tried again. He leaned back in his seat, pencil wedged between his lips.
Not for the first time, Miley wished Oliver knew. Oliver wouldn't be so eager to kiss Lilly if he knew that just previously, Lilly had been kissing Miley. But he was clueless – it had been Lilly's decision to keep the relationship a secret. It was always Lilly's decision when it came to subterfuge and deception while they were dating.
After the bell finally rang, Miley headed to her locker, heart clenching sharply as she saw Lilly practically pounce on Oliver and nuzzle his cheek. Determined to stay strong, Miley spun her locker combination. She could just barely hear their conversation over the roar of the hallway.
"I asked her to come."
Lilly sighed – Miley could tell it was Lilly because Lilly had a very distinct sigh. It was loud and flamboyant; it begged to be noticed. "You should stop pushing her."
"I just want to know what happened."
Miley scoffed quietly, "Yeah, right. Nothing. That's all it was. A whopping three months of nothing."
She stuffed a binder and a few books into her backpack. She didn't really mind homework all that much anymore. It gave her an excuse to sit silently up her room, buried in her own thoughts. After zipping up her backpack, she turned, briefly making eye contact with Lilly as she hurried through the crowded hall and out the main doors of the school.
Breezing through her house, she muttered a small hello to her father before heading upstairs. She knew he was worried. He watched her carefully when they were together. While he said nothing, his eyes betrayed the fear he held in his heart. Although he was a professional song writer, words did not come easily to him when it involved his own child suffering. It hurt her even more to know that she was making his life tougher.
She shut her door behind her, throwing her backpack to the floor. Before doing anything else, she walked calmly to her closet, threw the doors open and headed to Hannah's closet. Once inside, she shut the doors and let out a large gush of air. Tears prickled at the back of her eyes but with each new breath she took, they became easier to suppress.
After several moments, she pivoted on her heel and reached tentatively for the shirt closest to the door. Burying her nose into it, she inhaled deeply, wishing that Lilly's scent wasn't fading. It was nearly gone and Miley didn't know what she was going to do when it completely disappeared.
She fingered the fabric and roughly dragged the back of her hand across her eyes. Replacing the garment next to the door, Miley took one last glance at her hidden closet and left the room.
Halfway through her English homework, someone knocked on her door. She set The Great Gatsby down and glared at the door, hoping that if she just ignored the interruption, it would just go away. The knock resounded once more.
"I'm not hungry, Dad." She tried loudly.
"Miley… can I come in?"
Miley flinched slightly, "No."
Lilly leaned on the other side of the door, "We really have to talk."
"No, we don't." Miley capped her highlighter – a bright yellow colored object: her book began to look like a yield sign on every page as she marked up the text.
"And so am I." Miley could feel that Lilly was about to open the door. Not willing to face the other girl, she rolled off her bed and scampered underneath. Childish, yes, but safe. No sooner had she done so when the door swung open.
"Miley?" Lilly glanced around. Her first thought was the Hannah closet, but she dismissed it quickly. It would have taken Miley time to cross the room and get inside, time that Miley didn't have. That left one option.
Miley recoiled as Lilly's face appeared at the edge of her bed. "Go away."
"No." Lilly insisted. She stared at Miley, "I've been worried. And Oliver wants you to be happy again."
Miley reluctantly scooted from her haven and joined Lilly on top. It hurt to see Lilly so close yet untouchable. She sat down a considerable distance away from her friend and watched Lilly with eagle-like intensity.
"You were worried." Miley repeated, wondering what exactly that entailed.
"You haven't been yourself lately." Lilly responded.
Miley raised an eyebrow, "And?"
"I hate seeing you this down."
An ugly, poison-filled retort flew to Miley's lips, but she bit down on her tongue, restraining herself. "I'm fine."
"I know you better than that. Saying you're fine may work on other people, but I know you're hurting." Lilly reached out only to have her hand pushed away.
"Don't do that. I can't…"
Miley shook her head, "You can't be close to me ever again."
"Miley, can I remind you that you're the one who dumped me?" Lilly reminded Miley quietly.
"For good reason," Miley returned.
"Like what? You were never really clear on why." Lilly narrowed her eyes, "Was I not good enough for perfect little Miley Stewart slash Hannah Montana?"
"Don't put this on me!" Miley glared back, "You're the one who didn't love me."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Don't put words in my mouth!" Lilly was practically yelling. She was off the bed, standing stock still in front of Miley.
"You think I didn't notice? I saw the looks you kept giving Oliver. Don't lie. I know you were interested in him even while you were with me."
"I did not!" Lilly insisted, her eyes widening. Miley could tell that Lilly was filtering through memories, trying to understand what gave Miley that impression.
"And y'know what? The fact that you started dating him less than two weeks after we broke up just proves there was something there."
Lilly swallowed awkwardly, a blush staining to her cheeks, "That was so not my fault."
"So you're saying Oliver was a mistake? Is a mistake?" Miley shot back, temper riled.
"No." Lilly refused to put her boyfriend down, "He's nice, funny, and totally into me. And besides, I've been best friends with him since kindergarten. It's not like I haven't had time to think about dating him."
"Oh, so you've liked him for a while now." Miley turned away, "Dating me was just a way to get your mind off of him."
"Never." Lilly's voice dropped to a whisper, "What we had was special."
"I thought it was." Miley clenched her fist gently, "But you seemed to think otherwise."
Lilly reached up and rubbed her throat self-consciously, "I don't know what you mean."
"You didn't even want people to know about us. We had to hide every moment we shared together. My dad still doesn't even know. And Oliver. How do you think he'd feel if he knew you and I had been together?"
"I…" Not quite sure how to respond to that attack, Lilly fell silent, brooding. Miley was still turned away from her, but Lilly could tell that Miley was on the verge of tears.
"So I don't know why you even bothered coming." Miley spat out, voice wavering.
"Miley, I loved you. I still do." Lilly reached out, her hand coming to rest on Miley's shoulder. Her shoulders relaxed slightly as Miley let the hand remain.
"And yet you're with him."
"Miley, you dumped me." Lilly murmured, "What was I supposed to do when he asked me out? Tell him no, sorry, I'm still mooning over Miley?"
"I don't know." Miley sniffed.
"Look, you hurt me when you dumped me." Lilly stared intently at the ceiling as she spoke. A trail of goose bumps traveled down her arms. "And I kept waiting for you to call and say you were sorry and that it was all just a big mistake."
"Lilly…" Miley relented. It was impossible to stay angry with Lilly. She shifted so that she was facing the shorter girl once more. "I thought… well, I thought you'd be happier with Oliver."
"I am." Lilly grew defensive. "He's a great guy and I love him."
Miley visibly flinched. "See, I was right to let you go."
Lilly, "If you're so damn right all the time, why are you still so torn up about me."
"You were supposed to return…" Miley's voice was just barely audible. "You were supposed to return."
Lilly's features softened, "What?"
Miley nodded forlornly. "I let you go, but I always hoped that you'd come back to me. Tell me what a huge mistake I made and ask that we pick up where we left off."
A bout of silence blanketed the room as Lilly processed. She stared at Miley blankly for a few minutes before frowning and shaking her head.
"That's… Miles, you hurt me. Do you know how much time I spent crying my heart out over you?" Lilly pulled back, "And you expected me to come crawling back to you?"
"That's not what I meant!" Miley desperately tried to fix her error of speech.
"Look, Miley, it's sweet that you're still into me, but I have Oliver now. I suggest you get over me because I'm not leaving him any time soon." Lilly stated. As much as her heart yearned for Miley again, she loved Oliver with all her heart as well. Her logical mind strongly supported the fact that Miley had had her chance and wasted it. She couldn't hurt Oliver.
Miley nodded, "I know. Just tell Oliver that it's my time of the month or something. He won't ask any more questions about my mood…"
Lilly got to her feet, "I'm sorry, Miley. I really am."
Miley chuckled humorlessly. "I know."
And then she was alone again. It took six seconds before she burst into tears.
Down on the beach, Lilly approached Oliver, her face contorted slightly in sadness. Oliver was plopped in a lawn chair, sunglasses firmly affixed to his face. Lilly sat in the sand next to him and leaned on his arm. He jumped at the contact and yanked his glasses off. As soon as he saw it was Lilly beside him, he smiled at her.
"So where's Miley?"
"She's not feeling well, that's all."
Oliver dusted the sand off his shirt and shook his head, "I don't buy it. She's been bummed for a while now. She's not sick."
Lilly didn't bother responding. She hated lying to Oliver; he was like her brother. Her eyes widened softly. It wasn't possible, she thought bitterly, that what she felt for Oliver was nothing more than a family bond.
"Lilly, I want you to tell me the truth." Oliver placed his hand over hers and stared intently into her eyes.
Crumbling, Lilly nodded. "Well… it's kinda hard to say…"
Oliver waited patiently. "Go on."
"Miley and I… um… we had a…" Lilly trailed off, "a thing."
"What kind of thing?" Oliver questioned. His mind had already leapt to the conclusion that it was a romantic 'thing', but he wanted to give Lilly the benefit of the doubt.
"We… dated… for three months." Lilly hung her head. "I'm sorry we never told you… That was my fault, not Miley's. She wanted to be open, and I wanted to hide it. I didn't know how you'd respond. I mean…"
Oliver withdrew his hand and sighed. "I had a feeling… so why is Miley so down about it all of the sudden?"
Lilly nibbled on her lower lip. "Well… we only broke up two weeks ago."
Oliver did some mental math. "Right before I asked you out."
She nodded, "And… I said yes because I do care about you Oliver."
"And you wanted Miley to see what she was missing." Oliver assumed that Miley had done the dumping. "Whether you thought of it that way or not, you wanted Miley jealous."
Lilly nudged some sand with her fingers, "Ollie, I love you. That hasn't changed. Maybe my motives weren't exactly pure at the beginning, but it's true."
Oliver kissed her softly. She leaned into his touch and let her eyes slide shut. All the while, though, she couldn't help but think that this kiss meant nothing. He pulled back and shook his head.
"It's not there." He declared.
"The spark. Look, Lils, I'm looking for the love of my life. And if we don't have the spark, then nothing's going on." Oliver stated. He was hoping Lilly would take the exit he was providing. He and Miley thought a lot alike – it was obvious to him now that Lilly was pining for Miley.
Lilly looked mortified, "What do you mean?"
"Lilly, I know you still love her, too. I'm not going to ignore the fact that you two had something and will probably have something again someday. And Lils, having you as a girlfriend was great. But I love you just as much as a best friend."
Dropping her head, Lilly remained sitting. She didn't want to leave Oliver, not like this, "Oliver… you come first. Miley will get over it. I did."
"No," Oliver corrected her, "You haven't."
He squeezed her hand gently and gave her a little shove. She smiled sadly at him and he returned the same expression.
"Ollie… I hope you find someone really great. You deserve someone much better than me." Lilly stared at him miserably. "I know you'll find her. The girl that'll be exactly what you need and want. I'm really sorry it's not me."
"I'll find her." Oliver resumed his sunbathing. "Now go get your girl."
Lilly pecked his cheek before high-tailing it back to the Stewart residence. She paused a moment outside the front door and apologized once more to Oliver, albeit silently. Gathering her courage, she knocked.
Miley stared at the words on the page in front of her and sighed. Gatsby was such a fool. He pined for the same girl his entire life and ended up dying for her. And she never even gave him a second glance. What sort of message was that? She shut the book and threw her highlighter to the ground. The book, though, she set beside her pillow. Perhaps she was doomed to end up like Jay Gatsby, alone with her money.
She lay down, eyes shut tightly.
Lilly pushed the door open and slipped into the room. Miley was knocked out on her bed, and Lilly tiptoed over, not wanting to wake the other girl. She didn't notice Miley's eyelids flickering slightly as Miley noticed the intrusion.
"Miley… Oliver and I are over." Lilly started. "I did some thinking. It was quick thinking, but it doesn't make it any less meaningless. I… I still love you."
"You broke up?" Miley didn't bother opening her eyes.
"Oh! You're awake." Lilly shrank back. "I told him about us and he told me that I should get back together with you…"
"He did?" Miley sat up in a heart beat. "And… you agree?"
"Before you get all excited, we have to get something clear here." Lilly folded her arms across her chest. "First of all, never assume I have eyes for someone else. You have a question, you ask me."
Miley nodded, "Okay."
"And same thing goes with any other problem you have. We need to communicate, Miles. We can work through anything, I know we can." Lilly continued. "I want us to last more than a few months."
Miley nodded hesitantly, "Can we… tell people this time?"
Instead of answering, Lilly pressed her lips onto Miley's. There was no sisterly-love. All she felt was pure ecstasy. Oliver was right – she was still pining for Miley. Miley wrapped her arms around Lilly's neck and drew the smaller girl onto the bed with her.
"Miley, dinner's ready." Robby Ray pushed Miley's door open and stepped into the dimly lit room. His eyes widened slightly before he grinned. "Miley?"
Miley drew out of the kiss and flushed upon seeing her dad, "Yeah?"
"Dinner's ready. Is Lilly staying?"
Miley beamed wildly, "I think so."
Lilly confirmed with a wide smile of her own, "Definitely."
"So everything's okay?" Robby voiced his concern for the first time.
"Yeah, Dad. Everything's perfect now."
Okay- I know I'm a bad child, but I'm putting the disclaimer at the end. I own naught but the idea. The top line in bold is a lyric from the song Return by OK Go (you should buy their cds).
I'm still working on other fictions -- this was just a side idea that wouldn't leave me alone.