Greg Laswell song for this Chapter title. Take-everything-and-more: You like Laswell a bit, huh?
Emily went back up to her bedroom. She found Paige, cuddled in her floor bed, fast asleep. She thought about making the night last longer, but it was 5AM. As she changed for bed, she tried to find any clue about what was going on in Paige's head- why she was being such a weirdo with Maya. Well, that was obvious, Emily thought. Just because Emily couldn't read it, doesn't mean Paige's face isn't an open book of emotions- A tightly wound ball of inappropriate reactions. Emily got into bed, determined to talk to Paige tomorrow- to adjust the lens appropriately- be the person Paige needs, not take too much.
As Emily closed her eyes, she realized that she would never be sorry for kissing Paige. But, if it didn't work out the way she wanted, she'd still be fine. She felt chemistry with Paige, she knew it existed in the world- she'd find it again. Anyone who says otherwise is just... evil.
Emily woke up groggy, around noon. By the time she got out of bed, Paige was gone. Emily picked the obligatory note off her bedside table.
Going for coffee and to track down some books and bike parts. Don't worry, I'll walk it back ; )
Also, Pru is coming through town- might hitch a ride back to campus with her. I'll let you know!
She most certainly will not 'hitch a ride,' Emily thought, angry. She picked up her phone; she was going to scream into Paige's ear. How dare that girl duck out on the massive amount of processing Emily wanted to do that morning? Just as she picked up her phone, she saw a missed call from Spencer. Emily felt a pang of guilt, she had plans with her friends, plans for which she was currently very late. She would get Paige. She would make her talk. But right now, Emily had to get ready quickly and she'd have to make an extra effort.
She'd gotten so used to the sports culture of college, where she could go from sweats for practice to jeans for class. But, in high school, she always dressed to make an impression- you were either poised or prey.
Once she was put together, she left for lunch at the Rear Window Cafe- a half hour later than planned. Spencer, Aria and Hannah were already in an intense conversation. As soon as Emily reached the table, Spencer looked up at her, startled.
"Em. You're, um, late," of course, Spencer could keep it together.
"Yep, had a late night," Emily smiled at the girls.
"Oh, thats all? We thought you were dead," Hannah threw out, just to be shushed by a manic Spencer.
"Nope. Murder-Free Since 2011... isn't that Rosewood's catch-phrase?"
"Ha. ha." Spencer dug a fork into her salad.
"We're just glad you're alright," Aria relaxed into her seat and Emily sat next to her. Emily was about ready to ignore all the awkwardness and move on to talking about school and races, boyfriends, tryouts, etc. But, Spencer kept brutally mauling her salad, stabbing croutons like they were the enemy. She wanted to say something and, Emily figured that this was her way to not to be the one to bring it up.
"Spencer, what's the problem?" Emily tried to keep the edge out of her voice, glancing at the menu to order. There was a period of shocked silence.
"I think she's just worried. We all tend to be protective. Especially of you, Em," Aria chimed in, not cautiously enough.
This really got to Emily. She hated being the one they looked after. Especially by Aria. When's the last time she called? What has she ever endured to make her less fragile? Emily was a reed in the wind, she could withstand more than all these girls.
"We are worried that you haven't thought through your current... decisions," Spencer explained.
"You are not my parents, you don't have to worry about me," Emily replied, edgy.
"We always worry, especially since all the shit we went through in high school. It's, like, our evolved state," explained Hannah with a shrug.
Emily realized that she wasn't at lunch with her friends. She was in a committee. A Liar's meeting. They were plotting and meddling, just like in high school- except now the enemy was false. It was a phantom "A" that they just couldn't get over. She tried to think of times when they weren't arming themselves for battle. What did they talk about before Ali died? Oh, we talked about Ali, Emily remembered.
"Well, we need to devolve," Emily stated, sternly, "Because I'm not in danger. And i can take care of myself. Even if I'm gay."
"Its not about being gay, Em!" Spencer objected, a little embarrassed, "its about the whole Paige situation."
"Paige is not a 'situation,'' Emily defended.
"No, but she's mean as hell," Spencer stated.
"She was going through some crap. She isn't actually..."
"And there's something fishy about her. And that whole Maya story. And how she showed up to your house looking like she'd been in a fight."
"Her injuries were consistent with falling off a bike, prosecutor," Emily snapped back, sarcastically. She noticed the other girls had fallen into an awkward silence. "Hannah, tell them. Tell them that Paige is not a 'situation.'"
Hannah, was quiet for a second, "Em, um," she took a breath, "I like Paige. You know I like Paige. But you've got to admit that this is going to be... challenging..."
"Okay. Thanks, great seeing you all- it was a delight," Emily stared at Hannah for a second and then began to stand.
"Em, come on-" Aria started, shooting Spencer a 'do something' look. She wasn't going to be able to see these girls for months after they all went back to school.
"Aria, sorry, but I can't just can't-
"Paige is a selfish person!" Spencer interjected, "can't you see how she's-"
Emily put on a stinky cheese smile as she made her way to the door. "Hannah, see you at school, thanks for sticking up for me."
Spencer sat sulking and mumbling the rest of her points, "Do you want to be sneaking around with her through your college career? With this senate race coming up?"
That stopped Emily, "What?"
"Her dad. He won the nomination. She can't come out and date you, Emily. She's going to become an even bigger pain than she already is." Spencer looked up at Emily, suddenly she was sorry for being blunt, "Em, you should really read the news..."
Paige stood antsy outside the bookstore in the middle of Rosewood. She'd gone back to Emily's place to retrieve her belongings, at least eighty percent ready to change her mind about leaving. But, Emily was nowhere to be found. Paige figured she'd annoyed the girl enough for one vacation. They'd be seeing each other soon regardless.
Now, her bag was at her feet and Pru had GPS-ed a detour into the Pennsylvania town. Now she was approaching her best friend, looking all rested and confident in big sunglasses. Pru had a way of strutting after a ten hour drive that simply can't be matched.
"So I made you a thing," Pru said after their hugs. She looked at Paige a little nervous.
"What thing?" Paige was wracking her brain for a holiday she must have missed, already feeling preemptive guilt. Pru was notorious for thoughtful gifts.
"Just a thing. Before that interview, I was a nervous wreck. So, instead of online shopping, I crafted." Pru paused, "Its not the most fashionable, but I think its time..." Pru held out a friendship bracelet. A goofy, adorable, rainbow, friendship bracelet. Paige loved it instantly, although the idea of wearing a statement made her feel simultaneously terrified and silly.
"That is an awesome thing," Paige smiled, "But I don't know... um, what to wear it with..." Pru laughed. Hard.
"Paige, you're already wearing the 'world's weakest lumberjack' shirt and converse. You wear this at all times." Pru was already tying on the bracelet and smiling at her handiwork. "Thus, a gay!" she exclaimed. Paige rubbed the back of her neck, looking down at the baller gesture. "Paige, I can't wait to help you get dressed from now on to forever. You're going to be so alt-queer, lesbians will flock." Paige chuckled. She wasn't looking for attention, certainly not a flock. But she also knew nothing short of an army could stop a fashion-psyched Pru.
"Pru, you heard about dad, right? I'm not going to be able to... do... the things I wanted next term..."
"Like coming out?"
"Yeah, like that. And dating. Getting the person I... want- its just not fair to her," Paige explained.
"Or you. Its not fair to either of you," Pru sighed.
Paige slumped down, thumbing her bracelet, "But, I'm going to wear this."
"Because, its really really cool." Paige smiled, "They can speculate and fuck 'em."
"Yess! Fuck. Them," Pru beamed at her friend, "Um, who are they again?" She asked, looking concerned, but smiling inside. She knew it was going to be rough and that this game was dangerous and destructive force. There's a reason the good guys don't go into politics anymore.
"They're the assholes," Paige stated. Pru wasn't sure if they were talking about the press, or Paige's dad. Either way, she had never been more proud of her best friend.
"So I guess 'alt-queer' is out of the question?" Pru asked.
Paige nodded, "I think I'll just... dress how I dress? Fly under the radar?"
"If things get really bad, you'll have to start dressing like me," Pru teased.
"Oh, please God no," Paige teased back, "How long does it take you to get ready in the morning? An hour? Two? And that's before the make-up!"
"Very funny, jerkface," Pru kicked Paige under the table, "I've got it down to twenty-five minutes, and I look amazing every second of every day- it's a natural beauty thing, you wouldn't understand..."
"Let's drink more champagne next term. I actually liked how that tasted."
"You're not going to like the stuff we can afford, champ," Pru giggled.
They continued taking jabs and jokes for the few hours it took to drive to school. Every once in awhile, Paige would drop a detail about her night, about Maya and angry Spencer, but she couldn't bring herself to tell Pru about the kiss. Pru knew they were dancing around something, but also knew that it was best to let Paige move at her own pace. They got back to Penn State just after dusk.
They stood awkwardly outside Brumbaugh. Even though the campus was already coming to life, Paige dreading going in. Pru realized that Paige hadn't really changed much from that snotty kid she used to be. "You want to stay with me until Emily comes back?" She asked.
Paige shook her head. "It's just... it's going to hard. Things changed. I feel so close to her and I know she won't want this... roommate misstep."
Pru desperately wanted to make a joke. Something like: 'Roomcest Misstep should be the title of your lesbian romance horror novel.' But it was more important that Paige felt better. Pru was watching her friend finally become honest with herself, and now she had to hide it away from the world. It wasn't fair, it just wasn't. So Pru just smiled, nodded, and gave Paige a hug. "It's going to be okay, I'm sure of it. Emily seems like she cares a lot about you. That matters."
Paige nodded and they parted ways to unpack.