Author's Note: Hello all! Thank you SO MUCH for the new favorites, follows, reviews, and PMs. You folks are so sweet and amazing! As I've said in the previous chapter, it was an interesting section of BIF to write. I hope that this chapter doesn't disappoint either.
Also, I've been getting a lot of requests for personal contacts outside of this fanfic site. I recently updated my profile and I have added my personal email address for any of you that want to directly contact me outside of this fanfic world. :)
Thank you for sticking it out with me on this wonderful journey. Cheers!
BokononCradle: And…you're right! hahaha It's so awesome how that scene towards the end played out, didn't it? I was waiting for the right moment to add that in, and it worked out well. :) Thank you for coming back to read and review. Hope you enjoy this one! Have a wonderful day!
MindFullofStories: I find it so interesting that people are talking to my characters rather than to me in the reviews section. Like…"Am I allow to respond for my characters? Would that be rude?" hahahaha I will try to pass on the message to Emily for you. ;) Thank you for coming back to read and review, Lil. I hope that you enjoy this chapter as well. Please have a nice day!
Del: It's definitely okay to ask questions. I will eventually respond to them, and I hope to provide you with adequate answers. :) The last line of the previous chapter wasn't linked to the flashback, so I'm hoping Paige really said that. lol You're probably wondering, "Hoping?" and all I have to say is that you need to read to find out what I mean. I think the reason why Emily's part comes out so well is because I feel more connected to Emily's character than Paige's. I'm trying not to let that be a hindrance to this story. Sorry if it is though. What do you mean you would never expect a new writing style from me? Has my writing change? Thank you for coming back to read and review, Delphine. I hope you enjoy this chapter too. Please have a wonderful day!
Rushi: What about the "dream sequence"? Did you like it? ;) I love it when I introduce new characters, and people are always trying to get me to kick them out of the story. hahahaha Thank you for coming back to read and review, Aarushi. You are awesome! :) Please enjoy this chapter and have a very good day!
Jamscottroc54: You know, if you weren't always plotting against my characters, I would totally tell you that you're a great assassin, Jamillah. Oh man, that irritated facial expression is showing up again. hahahahaha I've missed that. ;) "That Should Be Me" by Justin Bieber? hehe Can you imagine how many hearts will be breaking and aching if that song actually played in the background? Crazy. I didn't know if writing two intimate scenes in one chapter was too much…but I guess you could never get too much of Emily. ;) Just when you thought it's over as she falls off the bed…ROUND TWO. bahahahahahaha I like that last scene too. I thought it was very touching. Well, hope you enjoy this one, my little wild child. ;)
Bamary: Hello! Haven't seen you around before, WELCOME! :) Your reaction to the previous chapter was hilarious. So things might actually work out, you ask? Um… Well, we'll see. ;) I thought the roommate assignment was kind-of obvious from the moment I revealed that they were all going to U Penn. together. ;) Anyway, thank you for reading and reviewing. I hope you enjoy this chapter too and have a wonderful day ahead! :)
Cici: Don't sweat it. I'm really not sure what kind of vibe I am getting from you when I read your review. Do you like it? Do you not like it? Do you hate it? lol I love your analyses of this story. It gives me broader insights of what my readers are thinking as they read this. You're probably one of the few people who actually pays attention to every detail, understanding that I don't just add things in just for the hell of it, but it's actually there for a reason. :) Thank you for coming back to read and review, Cici. Please enjoy this chapter and have a very good day, okay? :)
Emsy: I laughed out loud as I wrote the part of Emily waking up from her dream too. I was sitting there wondering how it should've played out, and I had an "Aha!" moment before I wrote Emily falling off the bed. I think you're one of the few people who actually laughed at that scene. Thank you for promising me with words that you'll stick with this story until the end. It truly means a lot. ;) Please enjoy this story and have a wonderful day!
Jes Angell: Did you get back into serious mode after cracking up about Emily falling off the bed? ;) Nothing but teases coming from me. hahaha It's really fun writing scenes like that and trying to focus in on the right mood. You're not alone wanting Paige to cave in and go with her heart. Thank you for reading and reviewing. :) I hope you enjoy this chapter and have a beautiful day ahead.
Hipnos7777: Thank you for loving the previous chapter, Anna! :) I wasn't sure if you were going to like it. I was hoping you would, and I'm glad that you did. I thought it was really interesting reading Emily's POV in the previous chapter. Things are really starting to kick in and intensifying by the second. All the buildup tension is finally getting to her. Thank you for coming back to read and review this story. I hope you're having a wonderful day. Enjoy!
cmart91cm: Hey Crystal, it's nice hearing from you again. :) It's definitely heart wrenching to watch that scene play out. It was really hard writing it as well, because I just felt so overwhelmed trying to fit into her shoes while writing that scene. You are right. I like to keep people on their toes. :) Thank you for loving the story and reviewing! Hope to hear from you after this chapter. :) Please have a wonderful day!
Marmoreck: Thank you so much for your kind words, Juliette! Writing that "hot" scene was pretty fun and interesting. I was pretty much writing that scene in a Starbucks café, and these men would walk by trying to glance over my shoulder to see what I was writing. I mean, HELLO, I was already trying to be discrete about writing an erotic Sapphic scene, but these people just wouldn't get the message. hahahaahaha It was hilarious. Thank you for coming back to read and review. I hope you enjoy this chapter and to hear from you soon! :) Have a nice day!
Paily lover J: So I take it from what I read of your review that you enjoy those two intimate scenes I wrote for the last chapter? ;) I think it's so funny how frustrated you are with Paige. I like you're theory of Emily daydreaming Paige's words to her. Well, you'll have to read and find out. Thank you for coming back to read and review, Jamie. I hope you enjoy this chapter as well. Please take care!
JessRawrs: I think it's so amusing how you're one-liners really sums up how people feel about each chapter. Well, HELLO! Thank you hopping onto this Paily ship and reviewing. You are right, there are too many "feels". I feel pretty overwhelmed writing this story too. hahaha I hope you enjoy this chapter as well. Have a wonderful day! :)
Sazar: I…don't know how old you are, but I'm presuming that you're younger than me. To me, having love and lost is better than not having ever known love at all. I don't know if many people share those sentiments like I do, but it's an eye opening experience. I'm glad this story speaks volumes about that pain and that I am able to express even a little of that pain and have you understand that feeling as well. I'm glad you enjoyed the previous chapter and I hope that you enjoy this one as well. Please have a wonderful day ahead! :)
Gigabyte1: It's so nice to hear from you! And I felt so incredibly happy reading your review of this chapter. I'm glad you enjoy it as much as you do, and still be able to find it in yourself to love this story. I love how you pointed out that the jacket Paige gave Emily triggered her erotic dream. hahaha I thought it was so sweet that Paige lent Emily her jacket when she thought that Emily was cold. It was such a nice gesture, don't you think? Well, thank you so much for coming back to read and review. I hope you enjoy this chapter too, and please, have a very good day Arantxa! :)
Pokiepup: How was the previous chapter different? Is it a bad thing? I really hope it's not. When I write, I just usually…well…write. hahahaha It also depends on the mood that I'm in. Maybe you're starting to feel the shift of the time jump and how things are escalating towards "that moment" for Paily. I don't know. Just a random guess. Thank you so much for the three "wow". hahahaha The chapter must've swept you off your two feet. ;) Thank you for coming back to read and review. It's always so nice to hear from you again. Please enjoy this chapter and have a fantastic day, Michelle! :)
Shokoshik: Thank you so much for personally telling me that you love the story. It really means so much coming from you, and I'm glad that you're enjoying the story as much as I enjoy writing it. Also, thank you so much for your words of wisdom. I will keep them in mind whenever I'm writing now. :) Please enjoy this chapter and have a very wonderful day, Chen! :)
Nae10: Awe, you actually tear up in the last chapter? How is that possible? You are spot on when you mentioned that it is so hard to be friends with someone you're so madly in love with. From personal experience, I can tell you that even I couldn't do it. Thank you so much for you kind words and for encouraging me to continue writing, Nae. Thank you again for coming back to read and review. Please enjoy this chapter and have a very beautiful day! :)
Disclaimers: I do not own Pretty Little Liars.
"Oh right, I almost forgot," Spencer said after she quickly gulped her coffee and put the cup down. "There's this small…uh…get together thing for the debate team, so I don't think I could make it to the movies this Friday. Sorry..." Spencer slightly cowered in her seat as she said this.
I watched her carefully and my brows knotted together at her choice of words, and looked over at Emily to see that she was wearing the same expression like mine on her face. Why was Spencer lying? It was a bit unsettling for me. Was everything alright with her? As I turned over to Sammie, I saw that she seemed almost oblivious to the scene, but her eyes were smiling over the cup of coffee in her hand. Something's definitely going on.
"It's okay. Me and Paily here will enjoy the movies all on our own." Sammie said excitedly as she set her cup down.
"Paily?" I questioned and raised my eyebrow. Paige and Em – Oh. "Wait a minute, you did not just do that." I sat up straight and waved a finger at her. She dodged immediately as I try to swat at her, and suddenly I heard Emily giggling to my left. I turned to her and saw that she was biting down on her lip to hold back that perfect smile of hers and I felt my heart melted at the sight. I was instantly overwhelmed by the embarrassment of my reaction to how Sammie had addressed the both of us and sat back down. I let out a sigh before I slumped back in my seat, wondering how I was ever going to get past all of this adorableness radiating from the beautiful brunette sitting next to me. How one moment I was caught up in my act, and the next I was completely self-conscious and smitten around her.
"I like that. Paily. It sounds…" she trailed off. Perfect. I thought as I gazed at her while she smiled Sammie's way. It was great that they were getting along. It was amazing that we were all getting along in addition to my different relations with each of them. I shook my head back and forth in amazement. If only they knew how much they all meant to me.
We've been at Lovers & Madmen for a little over two hours now. Sammie and I were able to finish one case analysis and we're about halfway through our second one now. Spencer has been working on her essay for the past two hours, and Emily was studying for her psychology exam. The four of us would make small conversations here and there, but most of it was about schoolwork and our extracurricular activities. Otherwise, it would just be Sammie and I exchanging our ideas and viewpoints of the cases we were working on.
Spence had gone back to writing her essay, and Sammie was typing up the homework from written notes that we have been discussing for the past two hours. Slowly, I turned my head to the left and sneak a glance at Emily, only to see her staring right back at me. She quickly looked away and I watched as her face reddened while she bit down on her lip again. My eyes followed the blush that ran down her neck until it stopped at the top of her grey V-neck. Her chest rose and fell slowly, and the shirt she wore had covered just enough skin to reveal the top of chest. I pursed my lips as my eyes travelled down further and longingly stared at her tight abdominal muscles that were flexing every time she moved. God, she's so sexy…
"Who's so sexy?" I heard Sammie asked and my eyes shot up immediately. Shit. I said that out loud?
"Uh…" Shit, Paige. Say something! "Well…uh…um…I was…uh…thanking…thinking about…girls…?" I stuttered as I suddenly found the wall behind Sammie's head more interesting to look at. Fuck. The girls broke out into fits of laughter as my face flushed from embarrassment.
"Wow McCullers, what kinds of thoughts were going on in that head of yours?" Spencer teased as she bit down on lip and gave me a flirty wink. I felt my face blushed even more as I realized what Spencer was getting at. She wasn't that far from the truth though.
"Yeah Paige, mind sharing your thoughts with the rest of us? I'm sure Emily, in particular, would like to know." Sammie added. I glared at her from across the table, but it had only made her fall back into her fits of giggles. Jesus. Why does this always happen to me?
"She's right. I am curious now," Emily joined in. I slowly glanced over at her and felt the heat beginning to travel down the rest of my body. She had this look on her face that was considerably more humorless in comparison to the other girls. I gulped and felt a little bit of panic as I found myself reading the poker face she had on. Shit. Say something! Anything!
"Don't laugh…" I began and watched as they all intently stared at me waiting for what's to come next. I pretended to look around before my voice dropped to a whisper, "I was imagining Melanie in a bunny suit and strutting around in heels." Laughter erupted and filled the entire room. I looked over to the barista and gave her a wink and thumbs up to make it look more convincing, and she winked back at me to my surprise.
"Oh my god, you did not just do that Paige! Stop it! You're embarrassing us!" Sammie teased. Both Spencer and Emily still had a smile on their faces but they looked even more confused than they had earlier. I leaned back in my seat and cross my arms across my chest, acting as nonchalant as I can.
"What?" I asked the both of them. They looked at each other and shrugged.
"Nothing…but…" Emily started.
"But you sure have a strange fetish." Spencer added before she blew out a whistle and went back to her essay. I chuckled and looked back at Sammie to see her shaking her head back and forth while staring at me with knowing eyes. I knew you were my best friend for a reason. I communicated the words to her with my eyes. She continues to shake her head and smiling as she looked down at her notes again. When I looked back at Emily, she seemed to be focus on her work too.
Close call. I sat up straight as I let out a sigh of relief. Now, back to work.
As I was toweling off my wet hair right by my locker, a pair of soft hands came up to my eyes and covered them out of the blue.
"Guess who?" I heard the voice whisper into my ear and all at once, my whole body tensed. I felt the hair on the back of my neck rise up from the soft breath that was blowing into my ears, and I shivered slightly at the sensation. I couldn't recognize whose voice it was. I thought hard to recall all the voices I knew and assessed each of them to compare to the voice that I had just heard, but I couldn't seem to match any with it. I slumped my shoulders in defeat and finally released my breath.
"I don't know. Reveal yourself, mystery person." I declared. Whoever it was released their hands and I turned around to find myself standing in front of someone I hadn't expected to be the perpetrator behind me from a few seconds ago.
"Hi, I'm – "
"Lena. I know." I finished for her.
"Wow, you – "
"Know your name? Yeah, you're in my – "
"History class." Lena smiled as she said this.
"I'm sorry, do you need something?" I decided to ask.
It was odd. We were already finishing off each other's sentences. I've never really spoken to her before. As far as I knew, she was a sophomore, we swam on the same swim team, and I had noticed that she was in my Western World History class after seeing her smile my way a few times.
I blinked a couple of times after I realized that she was standing before me in just a black lacey bra with matching panties. Great. Look away, you damn perv.
"Oh, I was just wondering if maybe you wanted to get together and review for that history exam we have on Thursday afternoon. We could meet two hours right before class starts?" she ran a hand through her slick brown hair and licked her lips after she said this. I stood there in bewilderment, wondering if this girl knew what she was doing to me. Just breathe, Paige. Breathe slow steady breaths.
"Hm?" I managed to say as my eyes wander over her half naked body on their own accord.
"Is that a yes?" she asked. I tried to remove my eyes from her body, but they just wouldn't budge.
"Hm…" I uttered again.
"Great! I'll see you at one o'clock at the school's café in the cafeteria!" she said. Wait. What?
Before I could say anything, she spun around and walked away. My jaw unhinged and slightly hung open for a moment as she swayed her hips back and forth down the walkway between the lockers. Man, she's got nice buns. I let out a low whistle before I went back to drying my hair. One o'clock at the cafeteria on Thursday. You got it, girl.
I'd gotten to the natatorium two hours early for the swim meet against Dartmouth and sat on the bench alone as I watch the sunlight reflect upon the surface of the water. From the angle I was sitting at, I had the perfect view of the light dancing across the water like twinkling stars.
Suddenly, my mind began racing back to the days when I would sit by the lake in the meadow, leaning back on my two hands and getting lost in that magical world. The universe of me and Em.
I had loved the way she fitted into my world so perfectly. How everything she had touched in my life suddenly carried a trace of beauty. There were moments when she had touched my hand, and I didn't ever wanted to let go, because if I did, I'd let go of the most beautiful thing that's ever happened to me.
Every time I had loosen my hold on her, I felt everything slipping away even further. It didn't ever feel right to let go, and that's exactly the way I feel right now as I sit here thinking about that feeling.
Suddenly, I heard the entrance to the natatorium open and looked over to see some of the girls on the swim team walking in. They all at me and said hi, and I returned the gesture. I looked back to the water and tried to shake off all the feelings I had felt from earlier. This was our first meet and I really couldn't afford to screw up.
"Hey," I heard a voice say from my right. I glanced over and saw that it was her again.
"Hi," I breathed out. She made herself comfortable and sat down next to me.
"Are you nervous?" Lena asked me. I shook my head no and I dropped my gaze down to my hands in my lap.
"So…why me?" I decided to ask her. I looked up when I didn't hear a response and saw her stare at me in confusion. I chuckled before I asked again, "Why did you decide to ask me to study with you? Why not some other classmate?" She smiled and looked at me with an interesting expression with her eyes looking all glazed over.
"Because you're hot." she simply responded and then let her fingers trail down my upper arm. What? I laughed nervously before I could find my voice to speak again.
"What?" I questioned.
"You're hot." she said again as her fingers glided back up my arm and making me slightly uneasy. I blinked quickly for a few seconds before I felt heat rising up to my face.
"And why…does me being hot has anything to do with you asking me to study together for our history exam?" I daringly asked. She gave me a contemplative look before I saw her smirked.
"Paige," she said as she scooted closer to me and then let her voice drop to a whisper, "don't you see where I want this to go?" Suddenly I felt a light kiss right beneath my ear and my body froze. What the – I felt another light kiss down my neck and I quickly turned and pushed her shoulders back. I glanced around to make sure nobody's witnessed what happened, and I let out a sigh of relief when I saw that no one had noticed us.
"N-no, you can't just – " I barely got to say before she jumped in.
"Come on, Paige. Shannon's already graduated and – "
"Okay, are you done? Because I am." I said sharply before I walked off down the stairs of the bleachers. I was fuming at her arrogance and how she even had the nerve to bring up my past. She didn't have any right too. She knew nothing. I walked over to the edge of the pool and had my arms across my chest, holding myself as I tried to regain some self-control. As I let my gaze go back to the water, I notice small ripples overlapping each other and I looked up to find out where it was coming from.
My eyes found Emily, and I watched as she sat by the edge of the pool on the other side with her eyes closed. She was already in the one-piece swimsuit and was wearing a white t-shirt over it. She looked so carefree just sitting there with her feet faintly splashing in the water as she rocked to and fro to the music she was listening to.
I hesitated for a moment before I decided to walk over. With each step, I've gotten closer to her until there were no more than two feet between us. She didn't notice me with her eyes closed. She probably didn't even hear me coming with her headphones on. I watched as she continued to be unaware of the world around her. She looked so peaceful. So put together. So entirely blind to how beautiful she was just sitting here by the pool like there wasn't a care in the world. I smiled at her posture. Legs bent at the knee and feet dangling in the water. Body arching back with hands settled on the ground to support her weight. Long dark tresses that look tousled and hung freely down her back.
I felt my breath caught in my throat when she sighed all of a sudden and lightly shook her head. I wonder what was going on behind those beautiful brown eyes. I wanted to know all her thoughts. I felt a need to reach out and touch her. To fathom what it's like to have her within grasp again. I stared at her for a little longer, capturing the moment to keep it safe in my memories. Then, I finally extended my hand and briefly touch her shoulder.
Emily immediately opened her eyes and looked up at me. She started to take her earphones out and I smiled before I decided to sit down next to her. Since I had on athletic shorts, I let my feet slip into the water beside hers. It felt nice. It was warm. Neither of us said anything. I basked in being able to just sit here like this with her. I closed my eyes and relished this moment. We've been having a lot of these lately. Comfortable silences. I breathed in deeply and relaxed as the smell of chlorine overwhelmed all of my senses. When I finally felt at ease again, I opened my eyes to see Emily briefly staring over at the bleachers. I watched her in curiosity, wondering what had caught her eyes. She abruptly turned back to look at me, and our eyes locked together as we got lost in our own little universe.
I remember those same brown eyes that rescued me from myself. The kind of eyes that were so magical, they could heal every soul they looked into. That day, she had somehow found mine. She had touched my life and showed me how love can mend all things.
"What's wrong?" she asked as she sat up straight and turned towards me.
Even when she was concerned, she was so beautiful. Worry lines were drawn on her face so delicately, and her eyes appear with so much emotion that I couldn't exactly make sense of. Why was every little thing about her making me fall more in love? It felt untrue to say that we weren't meant to be. Because if we weren't, we wouldn't be sitting here right now. I wouldn't be sitting here right now with her. We wouldn't mean this much to each other after being apart for so long.
I tried searching for an answer to her question. What was wrong? This was. All of this. Us being friends. How I was sitting so close to her, but I've placed about a thousand miles between us. Why had I done that? Why did I ever think that by keeping her away, it would make things better for the both of us?
The harder I was trying to conceal my inner turmoil, the more I felt like it was threatening to show. How much longer can I put up this act? This so-called selfless act I considered so valorous.
"Nothing, really. Just remembering that day when you taught me how to swim for myself." I started. I continued to look into her eyes, searching for any sign of sadness, but I couldn't find any. Instead, I found a feeling I couldn't forget. The feeling of…falling in love.
"I'll never forget that." I was saying more to myself than to her, but I smiled as she went on to watch me carefully. She seemed content with my answer and our eyes remain locked in a hypnotic state.
That moment was committed to my memory forever. I was sitting by the edge of the pool, thinking…that was it. That it was finally over for me. Swimming. My future. Life. Everything.
Then by some kind of miracle, she suddenly appeared and asked me the most life-changing question. "When's the last time you swam for fun?"
"I wouldn't be here without you. I would've given up. I might've just…wiped out." I let slipped as my eyes dragged themselves back to the water. I was so broken back then. So confused. So given up on life itself. If she hadn't come around at that exact moment, I maybe wouldn't be here. No, I was absolutely certain I wouldn't be here if it weren't for her.
Unexpectedly, I felt her hand grasp mine and I immediately turned over to look at her.
"You're here now, and that's all that matters. The now." I heard her say. I don't know what it was. The emotions rapidly swirling around inside of me. The words she had just said. Or maybe the entire situation that I was confronted with right now. But I felt tears welling up in my eyes and I couldn't find my voice to tell her that I know now.
I was instantly wrapped up in her embrace, and my hands trembled as I finally brought them up to enclose her in my arms when she whispered to me, "I'm here for you. Always." I felt myself nodding into her shoulder, and I buried my face deeper into the nook of her neck and tightened my hold on her. How did she know the right things to say when I was feeling so vulnerable inside? What did I ever do to deserve this? When will I ever stop feeling this way? Why was she so perfect?
"I love you, Emily. I always have." I confessed.
"I know." I heard her spoke softly as she tenderly ran a hand through my hair. I loosen my tight grip on her but kept my hands where they were on her back. I felt her smile into my hair and I sank even further into her. She continued to idly run her hand through my hair, and I couldn't imagine being anywhere else but here in her arms. It felt like such a beautiful dream.
"Next up is the 500 freestyle. In Lane 1 is Shelby Fortin of U Penn. Lane 2 – Kylie Leigh of U Penn. Lane 3 – Taylor Sneed of Dartmouth. Lane 4 – Paige McCullers of U Penn. Lane 5 – Sydney Stinner of Dartmouth. Lane 6 – Annie McCotter of Dartmouth. And in Lane 7 is Lauren Church of Dartmouth." the monotone voice said over the speakers.
A whistle went off and I stepped up onto the block, bending over and lightly gripping onto the edge. Cheers erupted from behind me and I tried to block out the shouts and roars to detect the signal to dive in. My mind focused in on my dive from the starting block until I heard the horn go off. I dove in without any irresolution and began swimming as fast as I can. One hundred. Four more to go. My torpedo form glided through the water with less resistance as I propelled through the water with my form. As soon as I closed in on the wall for the third time, I executed a flip turn and catapulted in the opposite direction back to the starting block. My arms continue to move through the water but with a little bit of struggle now as I began my third hundred lengths. All I could hear was my heart pounding and pulsing loudly through my ears. I was struggling for breath now and as I lifted my head up to the side for air, I felt the rush of adrenaline shoot through me like a cannonball. Halfway, Paige. Come on! Push! Keep going. You got this! I swam with all of the energy that I was worth until I reached the end of my fourth hundred lengths. One more. I picked up my cadence and launched into a high-speed pace. My arms, legs, core, and lungs were burning so wildly and I pushed off the wall and made a good turn back home. Bring it home, Paige. I couldn't tell if I was ahead or behind because I was shoulder to shoulder with the girl in the next lane. Almost there. As soon as I thought this, I felt my hand palmed the wall. I surfaced out of the water and looked up just in time to hear screams and shouts.
"In first place, setting U Penn's new record for 500 Freestyle at 4:43.27 – Paige McCullers! Second place goes to Sydney Stinner of Dartmouth with the time of 4:47.02. Third place - Kylie Leigh of U Penn with the time of 4:55.13."
"Oh my gosh!" I yelled and began beaming like never before at the results. I pulled myself out of the water and was immediately engulfed by my teammates. I couldn't believe it. Me? Set a new U Penn. record? Is this real?
"Next up is the 500 Fly. In Lane 1…" I heard the monotonous voice go off again.
I looked around and found Emily's eyes just in good time. She smiled my way and I began walking quickly towards her until I couldn't hold back and started to jump into a sprint. I wrapped her in my arms as soon as I got to her and picked her up and spun her around in circles. Hearing her melodious laugh, I quickly broke into another smile of my own.
I felt her repeatedly tap down on both of my shoulders with her hands to indicate that she wanted to be put down, and I slowly came to a stop while looking up into her eyes. She wrapped her arms around my neck and then I steadily let her down. It was slow and gratifying as I felt her body slide down against mine while my hands glided up until her shoulder blades. When both of her feet were finally planted on the ground, my hands dropped a little and kept still around her middle. We stared into each other's eyes, getting so caught up in the moment that I'd forgotten all about my victory.
She looked at me wondrously and I felt my heartbeat begin to pick up quickly again. I unconsciously gulped as I felt my mouth become dry. My breaths quiver as I exhaled and I felt myself melting beneath her gaze. I licked my lips and let my eyes drop down to hers slightly. As my stare linger for a little longer than I'd intended, I saw the edges of her mouth lifted up and a grin suddenly formed upon her lips. I found myself smiling again before I looked back up into her eyes. She tilted her head a little to the right and looked at me hesitantly. I began to slowly lean in and I saw her eyes soften as she moved in too. I held firmly onto her lower midsection to bring her closer and she pulled me in a little further with her hands that were now on my neck. I craned forward as my eyes shifted back and forth between her eyes and her lips. When our lips were about an inch apart, I closed my eyes and readied myself for what was about to happen next.
"Next up is the 800 Free Relay…" I heard the announcer say over the speakers before his voice droned on. I laughed and opened my eyes, and found Emily staring at me inquisitively.
"Sorry...I'm up next…and so are you," I said as I gestured my head over to the pool where the meet was still ongoing. It was the last event of the meet. She smiled at me and as I let her go, I felt her hands keeping still around my neck. I let my hands fall to her sides and allowed them to settle there. She held my gaze while letting her hands come around and push the strands of wet hair back behind my ears. She gently held the back of my head in her hands before she leaned over and placed a soft kiss on my right cheek.
"We'll talk later." she said while holding my gaze before completely letting go. I nodded and I let go of her entirely too. We walked together over to the starting block where the team was gathered, and everybody was looking at us like they had witnessed the most unimaginable thing that happened right before their eyes.
"Leigh, you're up first. Fields, you're second leg. Fortin, you're third. And McCullers, you're our anchor. Now girls, I want you to swim your best out there, alright? This is the last event. Despite our talents, we need to keep in mind that victory is not guaranteed. It's been a tough race going shoulder-to-shoulder with the Dartmouth girls, but we need to step it up a bit, understood?" he asked the four of us. We all nodded and he smiled before giving Shelby Fortin the go-ahead to call it. We all stretched out our hands towards the center before she started counting.
"Quakers on three! One, two, three!" she yelled.
"Quakers!" we all shouted at the top of our lungs.
The group dispersed and Kylie went up first to the starting block. Reaching for the goggled atop her head, she pulled it over her eyes and set it in place. The four girls from the Dartmouth lined up in the lane next to us, and their starter went up to the block a few seconds after when the whistle went off. I watched as Kylie dived in and glided underwater until she surfaced about halfway across the pool. She was about an arm's length ahead of the other girl in the left lane who had barely surfaced from underwater too. They both swam vigorously and completed their flip turns as they made their way back towards us. The other girl was now catching up and they were now racing shoulder to shoulder. I knew Kylie was setting a steady pace so that she can use the last of her energy to blast through the last hundredth length. They kicked off the wall again and began swimming to the other side. The Dartmouth girl was gaining an inch ahead of Kylie by now, but as they reached the other side of the wall, she had made a slow turn and Kylie shot off the wall with amazing speed and was now a body length ahead of her competitor.
Emily was already on the starting block and she dove in over Kylie as she touched her hand to the wall. Emily quickly surfaced after her underwater dolphin kicks and she swam at bullet speed in the water, gliding so effortlessly through the water as though there weren't any resistance. The other team was already half a pool length behind when Emily carried out a flip turn and propel through the water at such an incredible speed. She had won first place in the 200 Freestyle event earlier with her top time at 1:47.27. Second leg in the relay was always the second fastest. I was surprised that Coach Blair hadn't put her down as anchor for this relay. If he was hesitant about her abilities before, I'm pretty certain he isn't any more. Emily was now executing her third flip turn and making her way back to us.
I was so captivated by Emily's swimming that I hadn't even noticed that Shelby had already gotten onto the block. As soon as Emily's hand touched the wall, Shelby dove in over her head and swam fervently to keep the lead. I bent down to help Emily out of the water and she took off her goggles and swim cap, releasing her beautiful dark long tresses. She was breathing heavily and her face broke out into a triumphant smile as she turned back to the water. I return my attention back to the pool as well. The other team was catching up but was still about a yard behind.
I got up onto the starting block as I watched Shelby push off the wall on the other side. I slipped my swim goggles over my eyes, bending over and gripping onto the edge of the block as I looked out at the water and watch Shelby making her way towards me. I made sure Shelby had her palm flat against the wall before I dived in, just to be sure that I didn't make a false start and mess up the entire relay for us. Holding in my deep breath, I executed many underwater dolphin kicks and propelled my body forward through the water. As soon as I felt that I couldn't hold my breath any longer, I surfaced and lifted my head up to the side for air.
About three strokes in, I flipped and pushed off the wall with a powerful kick. I swam vigorously and speedily picked up the pace. As I neared the wall at the starting block, I pulled my legs up to my best and rolled up into a ball before flipping forward. Once my feet were planted onto the wall, I pushed with all the force that I can muster to propel myself forward in the other direction. I gave everything I had and swam like never before.
I felt time slow even though I was moving at full tilt in the water. It was such an incredible feeling. The rush. The anticipation. The moment that awaited me at the other end of the pool as I completed my last flip turn. I exerted all the energy I could muster into my strokes and kicks, and I fought against the struggle I felt deep inside me to slow down. I was exhausted. I was growing weak. I was incredibly sore. My muscles were aching. My body was threatening to give up. But my heart was still burning with passion. I saw the finish line. It was almost within reach. I swam fervently towards it. After six strokes, my hand was planted firmly against the wall and I surfaced out of the water to catch my breath.
"And she finishes helping to set another record for U Penn's 800 Free Relay at 7:22.79!" I heard the announcer call out over the speakers. "Congratulations U Penn!" were the last words I was able to hear before the shrieks and cries overwhelmed my ears. I rested my back against the wall and closed my eyes as I tried to regain my breathing. We did it.
The natatorium was empty now. The Dartmouth swim team had left and the girls had showered and left to go celebrate too. The sun was beginning to set and the light was shining through the three tall windows before me. It felt so serene and peaceful now. The surface of the water reflected the sunlight up into the high ceilings of the natatorium and I watched as the light flicker decoratively in this empty chamber. I heard the entrance to the natatorium open and I didn't need to turn around to know who it was. My ears perked up to listen to the footsteps that were slowly making its way towards me. When the footsteps finally stopped beside me, I didn't turn around to glance at her.
"Are you okay?" she tentatively asked. I slightly nodded and felt all my fragile strength beginning to disappear. I tapped the space next to me on my right, gesturing for her to sit down beside me. She sat down at a leisurely pace and let her feet slip into the water next to mine. We sat in silence for a few moments before she reached out for my hand and placed something in it. I looked down to see what it was and saw that it was an earphone. She had one in her ear as well and she gestured for me to put it on. When I did, light music began to fill my right ear. I turned back to the water and listened.
When you try your best, but you don't succeed…
When you get what you want, but not what you need…
When you feel so tired, but you can't sleep…
Stuck in reverse…
And the tears come streaming down your face…
When you lose something you can't replace…
When you love someone, but it goes to waste…
Could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home,
And ignite your bones,
And I will try to fix you.
And high up above or down below…
When you're too in love to let it go…
But if you never try you'll never know…
Just what you're worth…
Lights will guide you home,
And ignite your bones,
And I will try to fix you.
Tears stream down your face…
When you lose something you cannot replace…
Tears stream down your face…
Tears stream down your face…
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes…
Tears stream down your face…
Lights will guide you home,
And ignite your bones,
And I will try to fix you…
I turn to look at her and found her staring at me. In the moment, I felt like all I could breathe was her life. What did I do to deserve this? Why was she so intent on fixing me when everything between us was meant to be broken?
"I…" I started but my eyes began welling up with tears, as I couldn't find the words to describe how I felt.
"I don't want you to say it. I don't want you to mean it. I want you to listen," she said. How did she know what I wanted to say? Can she read minds now?
Emily took out both of our earphones and set them down on the ground beside us. She turned back to me and took both of my hands in hers. Catching my gaze, I felt like she was looking right through me.
"This is killing me…and I need to know that it's killing you too. Every time that I look you in the eye, it's so hard to hold myself back from telling you how I really feel. Maybe we're made to be broken…but we're not meant to be this broken, Paige. God damn it… Just let me love you, Paige. " I began to see tears fill to the brim of her eyes as she struggled to contain herself.
I looked down at our intertwined hands and wonder how everything that has happened had brought me back to her. Running my thumb over the back of her hand, I slowly lifted up my gaze and found her staring at me longingly. I brought my other hand up to her face and caressed the soft skin there. She closed her eyes and leaned further into my touch as a tear fell down her face, and I slowly moved in to place a soft kiss on the corner of her lips where the tear had stopped. I pulled back a little and watch as her eyes slowly started to open again, glistening with so much hope and filled with an incredible unconditional love. She brought her hand to the back of my neck before we both began to slowly lean in, and my eyes flutter closed right before our lips met.
Home. That's what it felt like kissing Emily. '…Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.' For some reason, Sir Oliver Wendell Holmes' words echoed so much rationality for this irrational fear that I felt inside my heart. Home. I am finally home. I felt like my heart wanted to cry out.
I let go of her hand and brought it up to caress the other side of her face, and she desperately pulled me further into the kiss with her grasp on my neck as her other hand began to intimately caress my right upper arm. Our lips parted and met again, then parted and came together once more. We slowed down the kiss, and my emotions stirred as my chest heaved because I wanted everything that her kiss would allow me to have. With eyes closed, I suddenly saw the stars in black and white. The image of our future flashing before my eyes. A love that goes on even after the stars have died. Stars shining in black and white. I gently pressed my lips against hers one last time before I completely pulled back to catch my breath.
Opening my eyes, I saw that hers were still closed, and her chest rose and then fell a little bit faster than normal. I heard her uneven breathing beginning to steady and I swallowed hard as she finally opened her eyes to look at me. Her eyes sparkled unrealistically, and the butterflies in my stomach caused my insides to churn intensely. All of a sudden, a realization hit home as the words someone once said to me came rushing back like waves over the shore.
Butterflies are God's proof that there's a second chance at life.