A/N: So when I was planning to write this chapter, I had imagined snapshots of events that would eventually lead to one particular moment, which by the way is the last scene of this chapter. I hope I'd written this chapter well to express that idea, because I kept it in mind while writing. It may or may not seem a little bit fuzzy to you when you read it the first time through, but I think if you pay closer attention to the details, you'll see how I tried to weave it all together and hopefully you'll enjoy it. Or if you're just skimming through to simply read a story, well, I hope you're able to enjoy this lengthy chapter as well. Not one of my best works I think, but it'll do for now. I like it as it is and I don't know. *shrugs* I can only hope that you do as well. Tell me what you think or what you believe is going on in Paige's mind. I'd really like to know what kind of reaction I get out of you guys when you read this chapter. So there you go, enjoy! :)
"Hey Em, what's wrong?" Spencer's voice suddenly snapped me out of my daze, and I looked over to find her eyes filled with worry and concern.
"Oh, it's nothing." I said while waving my hand to clear the air about it.
"Is this about Maya again? I swear, if she stepped anywhere near you – "
"I'm fine, Spencer. Just zoned out a bit, that's all." I tried to convince her but she and the girls were still looking at me quite skeptically.
We were having another early morning at The Brew, and Paige was so adamant about staying in bed when I tried to wake her up, so I had left her at home in my warm bed. If I were to be honest, I'd only given into her wishes because of the romantic evening she made happened for us last night. It was unimaginably perfect, and I really couldn't seem to take my mind off of the memories we had made the night before. God, I wish I were still in bed with her right now.
"Honestly, I don't even understand why she bothers. Can't she see how happy Emily is with Paige? It's literally written all over her face." Aria sighed as she took another sip from her coffee.
"I heard that lesbians needs to be broken up with more than once, and Emily and Maya…they've never actually broken up, you know?" Spencer added as the other girls nodded in agreement.
"Wait, how do you know this?" Aria asked as she put her cup of coffee down and looked curiously at Spencer. I did the same as well when we briefly caught each other's eyes.
"Ar, she knows everything." Hanna rolled her eyes as she texted Caleb. Aria and I slowly nodded and looked at each other before we both shrugged.
"But she left me. Why would I need to re-break up with her?" I questioned.
"I heard lesbians were territorial too." Spencer added nonchalantly as she sipped her coffee. We all looked at her and then stared at one another before we burst out laughing.
"What? They are. Do you not remember when you got referred to as a 'peroxide piece of trash' when you were spying on Paige at that gay bar back in high school?" Spencer spoke to Hanna, whose face immediately contorted into that of disgust.
"Ugh, don't get me started. Okay. Fine. You're right, Spence. Lesbians are, like, totally animals." Hanna nodded before she met my irritated look. "I mean, not you and Paige obviously, but you know, other lesbians." Hanna attempted to correct herself. I crossed my arms and stared at her expectantly, clearly waiting for an apology. "Okay! I'm sorry! Lesbians are 'territorial.'" Hanna finally re-corrected herself with air quotes around the word 'territorial'. Spencer and Aria laughed at the both of us before I broke into a smile and leaned back into my seat.
"Can we not make this about lesbians? Clearly, it's not about being a lesbian. If it were, my head would be in-between her legs right now." I said nonchalantly as I watch the shock expression on each of the girls' faces.
"Emily! You dog!" Hanna was the first to cry out as she bent over and slapped my arm.
"Okay, you seriously should not give Hanna any ideas." Spencer spoke as she shook her head.
"Yeah… Oh God, I can't get the damn picture out of my mind." Aria said as she blushed and covered her face with both her hands. I chuckled as I watched all of my friends get worked up over a silly thing I said.
"I'm kidding, guys. The point is…it's not about her being a lesbian, and I don't think she's going to try anything. As brave of a front that she can put up, Maya's actually pretty…cowardice if you asked me." I shrugged and went back to my coffee as the girls rethink my words.
"Are you sure? She totally stalked us yesterday." Hanna point out.
"Han, how can she stalk us if we bumped into her here twice?" I mention the detail she apparently missed.
"Exactly! She's probably camping out right across the street or something and watching us." Hanna said as she made it a point to look out the window and search for Maya.
"Doubt it." I said while I lifted up my cup of coffee.
"Yeah… I wouldn't if I were you." Aria said as she nodded towards the entrance to The Brew.
"Three times a charm." Spencer added bitterly before she set her coffee down onto the table and watched Maya like a hawk as she went to the coffee counter and ordered something.
"Shit. See? What did I tell you, Em? Bitch is camping right outside this coffee shop just at the moment as we speak." Hanna said while I heard her chair scooting closer to Spence. I turned around in my seat and decided to ignore her, and watched as Hanna and Spencer watch Maya with wariness before I turned to my left to see Aria looking at me and then shrugging.
"For some reason, I'm not as bothered by seeing her around any more." I said to Aria as she slightly perked up at my words.
"Really? Does this have to do with something with Paige last night?" Aria wiggled her eyebrows funnily.
"You were in on it?" I asked.
"Well, no, not really. She just told us to keep you busy while she got some things set up. So? Tell me already." Aria said excitedly as she placed both hands on my forearm and shakes it. I rolled my eyes at her and smiled at her childish antics before I decided to tell her.
"Let's just say we spent the rest of the evening by the pool, watching the sunset while red rose petals and tea lights floated around us." I smiled as Aria gasped and brought both hands up to cover her mouth.
"That's so romantic!" Aria gushed as I shook my head and smiled brightly her way.
"It was perfect." I then pursed my lips to hide how highly charged just thinking about it at the moment.
"What's perfect?" Hanna interrupted us as we turned to look at her.
"Oh, you know, just the usual getting wet with Paige in the pool surrounded by red rose petals and tea-candles while watching the sunset perfect." Aria said coolly as she shrugged her shoulders for the needed effect.
"What! No way!" Hanna cried out as she bounced excitedly in her seat.
"Han, calm down. People are looking at us." Spencer scolded her as she reached over and pushed Hanna back down into her seat, and then Hanna put her fingers between her lips and started biting onto them.
"Are you okay?" I chuckled as Hanna nodded quickly and stared at me with excitement.
"I think I…over-excited her with those details." Aria said confusedly as she slowly picked up her cup of coffee. Hanna nodded quickly again and gestured for me to go on.
"I think you're right." I agreed as I watched Hanna trying to contain her eagerness to know more. Hanna then nodded quickly again and Spencer rolled her eyes as she put her coffee down.
"I said to calm down, not stop talking Hanna." Spencer chuckled and the rest of us joined in.
"Oh. My. God. Tell me everything!" Hanna exclaimed excitedly as I smiled at her.
"Me. Paige. Pool. Rose petals. Candlelight. Sunset. Sex…" I said and looked away.
"All night?" Hanna asked unashamedly as I turned and shook my head at her.
"Hanna!" both Spencer and Aria jumped in and yelled at her.
"What? I just wanted to – "
"Hi Emily." I heard a voice behind me. I knew whom it belonged to and I didn't want to turn around. I saw Hanna and Spencer's eyes turned into slits, which furthermore confirmed my guess. I breathed out a slow steady breath, and finally willed myself to stand up and turn around after a few seconds, noticing the scratching of chairs moving too, indicating that the girls were following my lead.
"What do you want from me?" I asked sternly as I looked her in the eyes. The kindness in her brown eyes disappeared immediately and they hardened as she stared at me now.
"What do I want from you? I'm just trying to get to know you again, Emily. Why won't you give me the chance to?" Maya's face twisted into that of hurt.
"Why should I? You left me." I said flatly as her eyes diverted for a second before coming back to mine.
"Look, I'm sorry. I was just a teenager and I didn't know any better or what I really wanted back then." Maya tried to explain.
"And what? That justifies your reason for leaving without a word? Did you know how many weeks I spent driving around town looking for you? God, I had to find out from your lover from True North that you had skipped town again when your parents won't even open their doors to me. 'Back to her usual habit', was what I recall them telling me over the phone before hanging up after they picked up just one of the many times I've called. What? You make it a habit to leave girlfriends behind? How does being a teenager justify your actions at all? Even a decent human being understands the concept of breaking up with someone before you leave them behind." I ranted and saw the shock expression on her face.
"Emily, I – " Maya started but I didn't want to let her finish.
"No, just save it for someone who cares." I cut in as I crossed my arms across my chest. "Look, I've forgiven you. Really, I have. I just don't think I could ever trust you again and honestly, I really don't want you in my life right now. You upset the balance in my life, and I don't like or appreciate that. And I love Paige." I finally said it. "She's been very supportive of me and has been comforting me, and I understand now why I love her more today than I did yesterday. Or how I'll love her more tomorrow than I do today. She makes me happy. Paige makes me feel loved and appreciated, and she's proved to me that she wouldn't run away from my side. I don't want or need anyone else."
"I'm sorry." Maya muttered again as she stared at me with sad eyes. I nodded to acknowledge her apology, and Maya began to step away from me. "I'm really, really sorry." she spoke one last time while looking me in the eyes before slowly turning away. I watched as she walked away and exited the coffee shop and disappeared out of sight.
"I hope that's the last we'll see of her." Spencer scoffed from behind me, and I turned around to see all the girls standing in front of their seats. I let out a heavy sigh and then sat down, at which the girls followed suit and did so too.
"So much drama." Hanna said as she shook her head back and forth while rubbing both her temples.
"Tell me about it." Aria added in before she lifted her coffee to her lips again.
"Jenga anyone?" Spencer said as she sat up straighter and reached over for the box underneath our glass table.
"Oh! Me first!" Hanna immediately raised her hands as she took the box away from Spencer, making her roll her eyes at the girl.
"It's always you first." Aria muttered and I chuckled at the shorter girl.
I wish you were here, Paige.
"Hey," I whispered into Paige's right ear as she lay on her stomach sleeping. I stood up straight from my bent over posture and put both hands on my hips, wondering how on Earth this girl could sleep through the entire morning. It was almost noon!
"Emily?" I suddenly heard Mom's voice from behind me. I turned around and saw her standing by the door in her grey pantsuit and hair up in a neat bun. I walked over to her and opened the door wider for her to come in, and she hesitantly walked in before she saw Paige lying in bed sleeping.
"Why is she still sleeping? I was hoping to take you girls out for lunch." Mom said before I laughed and pointed at the sleeping girl in my bed.
"Can you wake her up for me? She won't listen when I do it." I barely pouted before mom smiled at me and walked over to sit at the edge of the bed. I leaned against the doorframe and watched as she brushed a few of Paige's stray hair aside before petting her head fondly as though Paige was her own child.
"Paige honey, it's time to wake up." I heard Mom say before we both waited in silence for Paige's response. She only murmured some incoherent words before cuddling closer to my mom, and the both of us chuckled while she scooted towards the edge of the bed. Were it not for Mom, she'd have fallen off of the bed by now.
"Don't you make me go get a bucket of water, young lady." Mom said jokingly before Paige's eyes shot wide open and looked around frantically before relaxing when she found my eyes. I saw her tense shoulders slack and I laughed out loud when she finally realized it was not me who she was cuddling into. Paige slowly inched away from my mom and looked back and forth at us confusingly before getting off the bed and trying to run her fingers through her hair to sort out the mess there.
"Hi Mrs. Fields," Paige spoke shyly as she lowered her eyes to the floor while nervously kicking the carpet. "Um, sorry, I thought you were – "
"It's fine, dear. Now get ready and we'll grab some lunch together before I have to head back to the office in an hour. Okay?" Mom said as she got up and placed a kiss on my forehead on the way out. Paige crossed her arms against her chest and stared at me in displeasure.
"What? I tried and you didn't want to wake up!" I laughed as I walked over to make the bed. I heard Paige sigh and rummaged around for a change of clothes before she quickly left for the bathroom. I heard the shower go on and I shook my head and smile as I finally finished with the bed. Standing back, I looked around the room and saw that it was still neat and tidy, so I went over to my study desk to organize a few things instead. Once everything was in order, I finally went back over to the bed and plopped down to lay down on my back. Looking up at the ceiling, I listened to the shower running and closed my eyes as I got lost in the sound of water falling.
Rainfall was another form of comforting music that I've come to known of. It was the sound of the rain that drew me in and kept me lost in its melodious tune. Time stopped but moments still passed. It was the perfect remedy after the long day that I had gone through. The silvery sounds immediately fell out of range and was pushed to the background of noises as sudden knocks against the front door echoed throughout the house. My head lifted up a little and my ears quirked to perceive the sound more clearly.
There goes the knocking again. Who could it be?
Walking down the stairs carefully and watching the shadows passing now and then into the dark room did not help to ease my curiosity and anxiety. When I finally had my hand on the doorknob and twisted it open, I had prepared myself for whoever it was behind the door. Yet when I had finally opened it, I really couldn't believe my eyes.
She was entirely drenched from head to toes, probably from the rain, and she was holding herself as she looked down at the ground. Lightning appeared and disappeared in the backdrop, and I could only feel more confused with how dramatic the scene was before my eyes. Or rather, how sad she looked in the midst of the pouring rain as she stood on my front porch.
"Paige? Are you okay?" I asked anyway even with my confusion. Paige slowly took her eyes off the floor and I was met with a pair of the same confused brown orbs.
"No." Paige said as she slightly shook her head, arms still loosely wrapped around herself. She looks scared.
"What happened?" I questioned but she just let out a heavy breath at that.
"You have every reason to hate me." Paige said and it sounds like she's been crying. "I don't even know why I'm here." she gestured with her hands even with them crossed across her chest.
"I don't hate you." I stepped forward towards her while saying it to make myself clear. I looked her in the eye and tried to convey my honest feelings towards her, hoping she'd understand that I didn't bear that much of hard feelings against her.
"I would." Paige said as her eyes remained the same, filled with self-loathing emotion it seemed. "I do." she spoke her emotion out loud.
"Don't say that." I said with concern as I shook my head lightly, hoping she sees that I really disagreed with what she had just said. Paige's breaths quivered as she took in a deep breath, and I finally saw that she was crying as she spoke to me. I wanted to reach out and take her into my arms to comfort her, but I didn't know if I could. If I should.
"I'm sorry, Emily." Paige's voice trembled as she pursed her lips, almost like she was holding in from breaking down completely in front of me. She took another deep shaky breath and spoke again, "I just wanted you to know that." Paige began to back away from me after she said that and walked down the front porch steps, and I felt I had to call out to her.
"Wait, Paige – " I barely got to say as she ran towards her bike, picked it up, and then pedaled away in the pouring rain. The thunders roared and lightning barely lit up her silhouette in the far distance, but I could still see her in the mad rain.
I stood there at the door, standing in the midst of the pouring rain on my front porch alone wondering why.
Why what? She had come here and apologized to me. Paige McCullers hadn't asked for forgiveness for herself but for her behavior. Anyone could see that she was eaten by the words she had said earlier to me. She had looked entirely apologetic and was really sincere about it.
A feeling started and stopped inside of me, but I couldn't understand it.
It felt so weird., and I had felt it in my bones. What was it trying to tell me?
"Emily!" Paige's voice woke me up and I opened my eyes immediately. I was instantly greeted with the sight of Paige in denim shorts and a magenta and blue plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up almost to her elbows. I slowly sat up and rubbed my eyes to wake up a bit more, and I heard Paige chuckle from somewhere near.
"Come on, your mom's waiting downstairs." Paige said as I felt her take my hand and help me off the bed.
"But I haven't changed yet." I whined as I looked down at my outfit from earlier this morning.
"You look fine. Let's go!" Paige insisted as she pulled me along. We walked down the stairs a bit faster than usual and my mother was standing near the door to hold it open for the both of us.
"Wow, that took exactly ten minutes." mom said after looking up from her watch. She must've timed it.
"Sorry, I tried to shower as fast as I can." Paige apologized as she ran a hand across the back of her neck and smiled awkwardly.
"That's completely fine, dear. So how about we meet up at The Grille?" she asked. Great, that means I'm driving.
"Sure, mom." I said as I was the one to pull Paige along to my car now. We both got into my car and I started the engine while putting on my seatbelt, and I looked over to see Paige smiling at me.
"What?" I said as I changed the gear to begin driving towards The Grille.
"Nothing." Paige simply smiled as she looked forward at the road ahead of us.
"No, tell me." I pouted as I reached over to take her hand. I felt her entwined our fingers together and I slowly stepped on the break as we reached a stop sign.
"You were talking in your sleep." Paige smiled again as I looked her way.
"What did I say?" I asked as I begin to continue forward to the restaurant. We were very close since it was only about five minutes away from the house.
"You called out my name." Paige chuckled awkwardly and by the sound of it, I think she meant it in a sexual way.
"What exactly did I say?" I questioned as I parked the car and we both got out. I locked the car and made my way over to her before we walked hand in hand to the restaurant across the street.
"Well…you said, 'Wait, Paige – ' I think I can go ahead and assume that it was a rendezvous gone bad?" Paige chuckled again.
"Oh." I realized why she thought it was funny. "No, no, it wasn't like that at all." I waved my hand in the air to gesture that it wasn't. "I just started…remembering that day when you came by with your bike in the pouring rain, that's all. Then I somehow must've fallen asleep and dreamt about it." I explained to her as she looked at me curiously.
"Well, thank god I woke you up then." Paige laughed as she brought my hand up to her lips and placed a sweet kiss on the inside of my palm.
"No…I wish I'd slept longer." I found myself saying, and I was just as surprised by the words as Paige was. "I was trying to figure out the feeling I had felt back then after you left. I couldn't understand it. I don't know. It was just…I felt…something." I tried to explain but obviously I wasn't making any sense.
We had arrived at the entrance of The Grille and walked in together when we saw my mom sitting at a table and was already waiting for us. She waved us over and we both sat across from her before we took a look at the menu. Well, Paige took a look at the menu while mom and I already knew what we had wanted. After one of the waitrons came by and took our orders and left, mom had excused herself to go use the restroom.
"So, what was it that you were telling me?" Paige returned to our previous conversation. I just simply shrugged and looked around before I saw that the place was getting pretty crowded for the lunch hour rush.
"Well, was it a bad feeling? Or was it a good feeling?" Paige's teasing tone made me look at her suspiciously before I decided to answer.
"Honestly, I think it was a bit in-between. I… Well, I knew that I cared for you. I don't know why I did after you said all those mean things to me, but I did. And when you apologized while standing there looking like a wet dog, I don't know, I guess…I…liked you better?" I made it sound more as a question than a statement. Paige tilted her head to the side and smiled at me before she took my hand into her lap and kept it there.
"I like how you mentioned me 'looking like a wet dog' of all details that you can remember from your dream." Paige teased me as I rolled my eyes at her.
"You were quite wet, baby. From head to toes. Oh, and half of your bangs were clinging to your forehead." I smirked as I saw her grin falling.
"Right. Back when I had that haircut." Paige brought a hand up to cover her face and shook her head. I laughed as she grumbled about me bringing that up, and mom finally got back and sat down right across from us.
"So, what are you girls talking about?" she smiled as Paige untangled her hand from mine and brought it up to her face to use it for covering as well. I patted her thigh lightly and rubbed it comfortingly before I saw her look up from her hands, thinking she finally escaped from the conversation that was about to ensue. Not so fast, girlfriend.
"Oh, just Paige and her short auburn haircut from junior year. You remember that don't you, Mom?" I passed it off coolly as Mom started to chuckle from her seat. I felt Paige's glare at the side of my head and I took advantage as I began to trace circles on her bare thigh since she was wearing shorts today. I heard Paige's small sigh beside me and knew right away that I'd gotten off the hook.
"You're lucky you're an amazing swimmer, or else I'd…" Paige trailed off as my mom and I looked at her in amusement.
"You do remember that my mom works at the Rosewood Police Department, right?" I said jokingly as Mom laughed at the both of us.
"Yes, but I'm like her second daughter now, so..." Paige went on as she crossed her arms and stared at me expectantly.
"Is that so?" I asked as I mimicked Paige's posture and faced her. Paige's expression immediately softens after less than a minute and I smiled triumphantly when she leaned in to briefly kiss me before I heard someone cleared their throat nearby.
"Hi, I have two beets salads…and a Tuscan chicken sandwich." our waitron said as he placed them down on the table for each of us before he stepped back. "Is there anything else that you need?" the man asked politely and we all said no and thanked him. The waitron left our table and we were immediately absorbed into another conversation about what we had been doing at college and how swimming went along this school year.
Every time Paige spoke to my mom, her eyes would light up as she got to the exciting parts of the events she was telling Mom. Paige's eyes smiled as she spoke about the things she was passionate about, and she listened and looked my mother in the eyes whenever Mom would talk about her current scrapbook in the works. It was such an endearing moment to witness, and I felt my eyes watered a bit as I thought about how long and hard they both worked to get here. Then out of nowhere, I felt that sudden strange feeling at the pit of my stomach again. It wasn't anywhere near the feeling I had felt in the dream, but still, it was close enough.
What was it?
I felt the feeling wanting to escape, and I held onto it as tight as I could. Why was it playing hide and seek with me now? It boggled my mind to even think of the feeling doing such a thing, but it was. I could sense it. I feel it tingling inside me again, and I looked back up at Paige to see if she had felt it too. She was still very much engrossed in the conversation with my mom, and my eyes suddenly travelled to the small hidden scar right above her left eyebrow.
And then it hit me.
I somehow knew I would love her right before I had even fallen in love with her.
Well, I didn't…
But my heart did.
"Wow," Paige let out a breath as we all lay out by the tree in Spencer's backyard, watching the shirtless young man mow the Hastings' lawn.
"Wow is an understatement, McCullers." Spencer said as she lowered down the book from her face and tilted her head to the side and gaze at the sweaty guy working the mowing machine.
"Oh yeah, you should've seen the other guys back in high school, Paige." I added as she now completely turned her head in my lap to stare up at me curiously.
"Where did your parents find this one, Spence?" Hanna said as she wet her lips and checked out the eye-candy shamelessly.
"Don't know. Don't care." Spencer shrugged as she put the book down and leaned back on her hands to stare at him curiously with her full attention now.
"How young is he?" Aria asked and Paige turned slightly to watch Aria staring as well.
"He looks seventeen." I guessed as I look at his young adolescent face.
"His body says otherwise." Aria muttered, and Paige and I chuckled as we both caught each other's eyes after she said that.
"Did you guys make it a hobby to watch boys mow Spencer's lawn back in high school?" Paige suddenly asked as she went back to staring at the good-looking, hard-bodied boy.
"Oh yeah, it was quite fun." Aria answered as she mimicked all of our posture, except for Paige who was lying down on the picnic blanket with her head in my lap, and Aria leaned back onto her hands while sitting.
"You didn't find this…fun, did you Em?" Paige asked hesitantly as she looked up at me. I rolled my eyes and stare down at her smiling before I leaned down to kiss her lips. I sat back up, still locking eyes with her as I gave her my most playful look.
"What do you think?" I asked teasingly as her eyes furrowed.
"I mean, I guess that it's okay." Paige sighed before I started giggling. "Well, I dated Sean, so…we all went through that, right? Thinking we like boys and all. Or at least trying to convince ourselves that we like boys when we knew somewhere deep within that we don't?" Paige rolled her eyes at me when I just simply smiled down at her in response.
"Not all of us went through that." Aria added before she laughed.
"Yeah, speak for yourself, Paige." Hanna smirked and I saw Paige roll her eyes again.
"I fell for a girl once before." Spencer's voice surprised the rest of us as we all turned our glances towards her. "Or at least I thought I did." she shrugged. Paige and I caught each other's eyes, and I could guess that she now knew that I know. She smiled apologetically at me, and I just shook my head slightly and leaned down to kiss her on the tip of her nose to assure her that everything was okay between all of us.
"What! When? Where? How? Oh my god, who!" Hanna let out a stream of words almost all at once. Paige and I chuckled as Aria and Hanna both looked at us in question, wondering if we had already known before they did.
"Don't ask, I won't tell." Spencer lifted a finger to warn the both of them, and Paige and I could only smile at her way of keeping things under wraps. "I just… It was overwhelming. It's no different than liking guys to be honest. It's just the gender is different. There are things about boys that I like that I also find attractive in girls." Spencer said as we all tried to listen to her over the roaring sound of the lawn mower from not too far away.
"Wait, so you're into girls now?" Hanna asked almost immediately, and Spencer let out a chuckle.
"Well, I don't know that. I just…got tired of trying to label myself I guess. Although I'm pretty sure it only happened because of the person she was that made me develop feelings for her." Spencer explained as I saw her eyes quickly flicker over to Paige before going back to meet Hanna's.
"Wow." Aria said with a surprised face, but otherwise she didn't seem to be as thrown off as Hanna was.
"Yeah, maybe I'll never fall for another girl again, but I won't rule out that possibility." Spencer shrugged as she moved around a bit to get comfortable while leaning back on her hands. "Plus, Charley and I… Well, I like him a lot." Spencer's voice suddenly softens at the mention of his name.
"And you two already knew about this, didn't you?" Aria said while glancing at us, and we both nodded before we heard Hanna whine out loud.
"Spence, that's not fair! Why didn't I get the deets on this too?" Hanna pouted as she pulled up a handful of grass and threw it at Spencer.
"Hanna!" Spencer scowled as she brushed the greens off of her.
"You totally deserved that." Hanna said nonchalantly before she turned her head back in the direction of the lawn-mowing guy. Spencer rolled her eyes at Hanna and looked over at me smiling weakly before I returned a brighter smile her way. I looked down to see that Paige was now smiling at me as well, and I lifted up one of my hands to her face and brushed her hair aside.
"You're so beautiful, you know that?" I barely heard Paige say over the lawn mower before I leaned down and kissed her lips.
"Oh my God, he's totally staring at Em and Paige right now." Hanna pointed out excitedly before I sat up and we both looked up to find him staring at the both of us with his mouth agape. I lifted up a hand and waved at him, and it took him several seconds before he raised a hand and waved back a little awkwardly.
"Emily, let the guy do his job and mow my lawn." Spencer jokingly admonished me before she chuckled.
"I wouldn't mind him mowing my lawn." Hanna smirked as we all looked at her with a weird expression. "What?" she said before her eyes caught on with our thoughts. "Ew, no, not in that way! I meant – "
"Sure, Hanna." Spencer cut in with the snide comment. We all laughed as Hanna grumbled and said something along the lines of Spencer being mean before we all perked up at the sound of the lawn mower being turned off.
"Oh, look! He's coming over!" Hanna said excitedly as we watched the boy, covered in sweat and a little bit of grass here and there, makes his way over to us. He was probably aware that he had a really nice upper body since he strode over with more confidence than I had seen earlier, and I broke out into a smile as I felt Paige lightly jabbed me in the stomach with her fingers.
"Eyes on me, Fields." I heard her say before I looked down to find a mischievous expression over her features.
"What?" I asked innocently as she began to sit up and we faced each other, trying to stare the other one down.
"I hope in the back of your mind there's only me. Emily better not be playing the fields." Paige teased and chuckled before turning to stare at our arriving guest.
"Hi," the boy said coolly as his eyes skittered over all of us before catching mine.
"What's up, hot stuff?" I heard Hanna say and he looked at her in surprise. We all tried not to laugh as we watched them, and Hanna had this look in her eyes that just simply spelled trouble.
"I noticed…you were all watching me…mow the lawn. Thought I'd come over and say hi or something." the boy said courageously as we all turned to look at each other in amusement.
"How old are you?" Hanna asked a second question, completely disregarding his comment.
"Seventeen." he said proudly.
"Awe, he's a puppy!" Aria gushed as the rest of us laugh, and the young fellow reached a hand behind the back of his neck in embarrassments.
"Cute." Spence said as her eyes ran up and down his body appreciatively. Paige and I looked at each other at the same moment and we tried to keep straight faces as the three girls teased the hell out of him.
"Thanks." he said as he rubbed his neck again.
"I meant the puppy comment, not you, kid." Spencer's flat tone totally threw him off as his eyes widened in surprise.
"I'm sorry, I thought – "
"Well, you thought wrong." Spencer's sharp tone silenced him. We all looked back and forth between the both of them before the boy apologized, saying he had to get back to work before cowering away.
"Awe, Spence!" Aria said as she looked after the retreating form of the teenager.
"Aria, he's a child." Spencer said before she grabbed her book and turned to the page she had marked earlier.
"But he's like…a man child." Hanna remarked as she returned her gaze to the boy.
"Wow." Paige uttered before the both of us chuckled at the three girls' interaction.
"Yup." I said before I leaned my head onto Paige's shoulder and felt her wrap her arm around me.
"And here I thought she was done with scaring away high school boys by now." Paige commented.
"Oh, never." Spencer joined in before the rest of us laughed.
Paige and I spent the rest of daylight with the girls, and by dinnertime we had returned back to my home to have dinner with my mom.
It made me feel happy inside knowing that the best days were yet to come.
I love summertime happiness.
"You know, I've never seen anyone have a glass of rosé with a Popsicle dipped in it to keep the wine cool." Spencer remarked as we all sat around the table staring at Paige's glass of wine. A rectangular-looking red Popsicle stick, supposedly cherry fruit flavor, was bathing in the light pink wine, and one could see that the red color was slowly dispersing into the liquid, turning the wine a bit pinker than it was barely two minutes ago. It was very interesting looking, and we all stared at Paige as she lifted the Popsicle out for a bit while she took a sip of the wine and then put it back in.
It was midday, and we were all lounging around at the country club's restaurant, just simply sitting out on the patio with the view overlooking the tennis courts. People were lobbying the tennis balls back and forth as they made friendly conversations, and all around us were some of the more affluent residents having lunch as well. Spencer used to take us here with her back in high school, and we'd do the same thing as we do now minus the alcohol, lounging around and fitting in with the rest of the people around us. I never knew Paige's family were members of this country club as well until now because she hadn't taken me here while we were dating back then. It made sense. Paige wasn't the type to flaunt her family's assets. Well, I'm not saying that Spencer's did either, but Paige was really good at drawing a curtain and veiled those kinds of things better than Spence did. I was quite surprised when I'd actually gone to Paige's house the first time, not even half-aware that her family was that wealthy before that.
"Want a taste?" Paige said as she slid the wineglass on the table towards me. I shook my head and went back to watching the people playing tennis on the lower grounds instead, wondering what their lives were like and how different they were from the common citizens of Rosewood. Helping the private non-profit organization that assisted the lower class citizens often did that to me, causing me to think about the welfare of others when I saw the wealthy enjoyed such a luxurious life. I heard the girls chatting faintly in the background about the wine and having taste it when Paige offered it to them, but the noise only buzzed in my ears as I felt myself being lifted out of my body and into a calm state of being half-conscious of my surroundings while my thoughts wander.
There was something really special about coming home after being gone for so long. The familiarity of everything does more than help one settle back into an old setting. Going back to places we used to frequent or just simply passing by our old high school, they really do bring back old memories. Swimming in Paige's pool again… I smiled to myself as I let my thoughts wander back to a few days before when we had a romantic night by her pool. It was an uncanny resemblance to that night back in high school when I had come over and spoken to her. I remember it well, for it marked the first time we had ever made love, and what happened afterwards had really stuck with me for a long time.
I trailed after Paige as she led me by the hand to her bathroom for the both of us to clean up. Once we had climbed the stairs and reached the top of the steps, Paige made a left turn and pull me by the hand into her room and we walked the short distance to the built-in bathroom. My eyes wander over the space once Paige flicked the lights on, taking in the grey color of the area and seeing a stand-up shower taking up the entire quarter in the back of the room. I could only see half of the shower behind the glass door since the other half of it was somewhere behind a concrete wall, and attached to that wall was the white bathroom countertop that ran a long way until the large shelf that stood by the door with toiletries and towels.
"Wow. This is…nice." I found myself saying as my eyes wander back over to her. Paige was staring me with a loving smile, and I slowly leaned in and captured her lips between mine before I pulled her further into the room and closed the bathroom door shut. Paige breathed a small moan against my lips while I ran my hand up her towel-clad body and then I untied the knot at the top as my hand undid my own. Both our towels fell to the floor in one smooth motion, and I pulled back to take an appreciative look at her naked form. Paige blushed beneath my gaze and I could only smile as my eyes wander over several bare body parts about her that I liked. I heard her let out a shaky breath and my eyes found hers as I saw the various emotions swimming behind them.
"Can we just…shower?" Paige asked the simple question. I smiled and lifted both hands up to hold her face in-between my eyes, leaning in and kissing her briefly.
"Of course." I found myself saying.
We walk to the stand-up shower and Paige opened the glass door for the both of us to step in, and I looked over to the space that had been covered with a wall only to discover that it was a double-head shower. The area was very spacious and the three walls that surrounded the place had another showerhead attached to the top of the wall as well. I immediately pull Paige towards that hidden area instead, and she smiled when she saw that I preferred the space covered with three grey concrete walls to the other side of the shower. Paige turned on the water and slowly the shower began to heat up, steams floating in the air around us while we both took turns washing ourselves. When we were both done, I pulled her closer to me and stared into her eyes, seeing if she was really okay with what we had done tonight. Paige seemed to look right through me, her eyes filled with love and adoration, and she brought up a hand to push a strand of wet hair behind my ear. The water fell around us and I somehow felt the slow and steady beat of my heart beneath my chest. Water trickled over my eyes and washed over my face, the smell of Paige still fresh in the air as the steam hovered above us. Her skin was just as wet as mine, and the drops of water fell from her shoulders trailing paths down her arms and escaping at the tips of her fingers. I leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to her lips, and I rested the side of my face on her shoulder as I reached behind to press my hands against her shoulder blades and pull her into me. She rested her chin on my shoulder and I felt Paige reached up one hand to rest it against the wall behind me, and one of her arms encircled my waist while we stayed together that way. The only sounds that filled my ear were the ones of water pouring over us as we stood under the showerhead, and I could feel the sound of water drops pattered onto the ground beneath us. I don't know how long we stood there like that, but I've never felt anything more intimate than this.
We were together. We were finally together in this way.
"Paige, are you okay?" I finally broke through the comfortable silence between us,
"Yes." Paige answered before she placed a kiss on my shoulder. I closed my eyes as I felt her arm tightened around me, and the water continued to fall down on the both of us, soaking Paige and me in the most beautiful way.
"I love you, Emily." she spoke softly and in that moment, I simply knew.
She was the one.
"Emily?" Paige's voice brought me back to the country club's patio. I turned to look at her and felt the warmest feeling rush through me. I could still feel her arm around me. I smiled as I reached over and squeezed her hand, reassuring her that I was okay as soon as I saw the worry in her eyes. Paige smiled slightly and went back to talking with the girls, and I could only sit there and stare at her, reveling in the feelings I had felt for her in the past and today. There wasn't a moment where I couldn't recall that I didn't love her. I tugged gently on her hand and Paige turned away from the conversation she was having with the girls, and they all stopped to look at me then.
"I love you." I found myself saying as I looked right into her eyes.
"I love you too, Emily." Paige smiled as she leaned in and briefly kissed my lips.
"Okay you two, go get a room." Hanna joked as I turned and saw her about to pop two pieces of French fries into her mouth, but Aria was much quicker as she reached over and snatched the fries out of her hand and immediately bit into them.
"Hey!" Hanna scowled at Aria as the shorter girl laughed while chewing and got a high-five from Spencer.
"Here, you can have mine." Paige said as she pushed her plate towards the blonde. Hanna smiled flirtatiously at Paige and then just as she reached down to grab the oven-baked zucchini chips, Spencer moved the plate away from her.
"What is your problem?" Hanna said angrily as she gestured with her hands, almost as if she was trying to squish someone's head in-between them.
"You're the one that told us to stop you from eating." Aria pointed out as she pushed the plate even further away from Hanna and back to Paige again.
"Ugh! I hate dieting!" Hanna fussed as she crossed her arms and glared at Paige's fried zucchinis.
"You could always try exercising." Paige added in before the girls and I all shook our heads.
"Hanna barely lifts a finger to carry her shopping bags. What makes you think she'll try exercising?" Spencer rolled her eyes as she lifted the glass of white wine to her lips.
"Hm, I hadn't thought of that." Paige mused as she put on her cute thinking expression.
"We all have." I chuckled as Paige jokingly glared at me.
"Oh, that's real clever, Captain Obvious." Paige teased me as the girls laughed at our playful banter.
We spent the rest of lunch chatting happily and sharing stories of when we were kids with Paige. She smiled when we got talking about me, and I found her smile widening more and more as they brought up all my water baby stories. It was then that I realized how close she was to my friends now. The girls and their families were pretty much my second family, and it felt really good to know that they like the girl that I'm so in love with. It was wonderful, really.
She's family now. I found myself smiling at the thought as I watched her listening intently to the stories being told.
God, I love her.
"Paige?" my voice pierced through the silence of the night as we sat on the porch swing at the front of her house. The night was quiet and the stars were out, filling every square inch of the sky with brilliant glittering light.
"Hm?" Paige barely said in response as she squeezed my shoulder and pulled me closer to her. I cuddled in intimately against her side, burying my face closer to her neck as I let out a small sigh. The summer air was chilly at night but it was barely cool enough to keep us both warm outside.
"Do you think we'll get married someday?" I finally decided to ask her after thinking about it the entire past hour. I felt Paige shifted a little in her spot, and I felt the nerves getting to me immediately when I didn't hear a response from her after a minute. I sat up straight and pulled away slowly, looking up to find her eyes staring into mine in the night.
"You know what? Forget I said that." I shook my head slightly as I felt my voice wavering a little.
"Wait." Paige put her a hand to rest against my cheek, and I instantly closed my eyes at the warmth it brought me. I let out a slow steady breath, calming myself down from possibly hyperventilating if I over-thought it any more.
"Emily." Paige then whispered into the space between us, and I felt her breath brushing lightly against my lips. "I can't imagine spending the rest of my life with anyone but you. I just… We already have that, don't we?" I opened my eyes then and looked at her in confusion, not quite understanding her words. Paige smiled when she met my confused look and she leaned in to press a light kiss against the corner of my lips, and then pulled back to look me in the eyes while turning her body slightly to face me. Paige reached for both my hands and caressed them lovingly in hers as we stared into each other's eyes then.
"I feel like…we've already started a life together. I mean, getting married is a whole other level of commitment, but do you think we can postpone this conversation until a later time?" Paige asked me with patient eyes.
"No." I found myself quickly answering without a thought as I retracted my hands away from her.
"No?" Paige asked almost hurtfully. I could barely look into her eyes as I felt mine glistening with tears. I stood up abruptly and left Paige on the swing as I walked to the porch post, my back facing her as I steadied myself with a hand on the standing post.
"Do you know how much I love you? Do you know that these past few days all I've been able to think about was how much I really love you? I don't understand these…feelings that I've been having at all, and I thought I never would. But every time that I look into your eyes, I could see the answers to every single one of my questions. I thought maybe…I was just love-struck and…possibly still in the 'honeymoon phase' of our relationship. But I realized recently that…it's more than that, Paige." I turned around to finally look at her as I leaned my back against rail of the newel posts and crossed my arms before I lowered my gaze to the ground. "I know deep inside…that you are the only one I'll ever feel this way about…because I don't think anyone can feel this kind of love twice. And every time that I…touch you or…kiss you, I could only think about how much I really love you. Sometimes…I find myself even wondering if I…love you more. Or if it'll always be this way where I'll want you more than you'll ever want me. I feel so…vulnerable…confused, and…hurt just thinking about it. I don't want to feel this way anymore Paige, to feel so insecure in my own feelings for you, because of you." I tried to wipe away the tears that had streamed down my face. I felt weak for not being able to hold it together, but finally, I had spoken my fears from these last few months out loud. I felt Paige's hand behind my neck as she pulled me into her and her other arm wrapped around my middle as she held my weeping form in her arms. I don't know how long I've cried for, but when I did stop, I noticed the silence between us again.
"I love you, Emily." Paige whispered into my hair as I felt her resting her chin atop my head before squeezing me tight. "I'm sorry." I heard her voice trembled as she apologized. "I really love you too. I can't…imagine loving anyone else the way that I love you. I never thought that…you'd feel this way; that I made you feel this way. But I understand it. Once upon a time, Paige McCullers had craved for Emily Fields' love more than she could ever give too." I heard her chuckle lightly right above me as I slowly pulled away but stayed in her arms when I met her brown eyes.
"It's been a while…and I thought maybe I still feel the same. I guess I don't have to stand around questioning any more that you love me in the same way that I want you to." Paige smiled and brought her hands up to wipe away my tears with her two thumbs.
"Are you serious?" I finally spoke as she chuckled and nodded.
"There's no one else for me either, Em. You are my One too." Paige said with conviction.
"Paige…" I could only utter as she leaned in and captured my lips, kissing me with a passion I've grown so accustomed to over the last few months.
"Love is love. You can never measure the extent of how much someone can love you, Emily. Don't ever for a second, from here on out, let that pretty little head of yours believe that I don't love you just as much as you love me. Because I did, I do, and I will…for as long as I am alive in your memories." Paige said to me when she pulled away from my lips.
"We'll talk marriage later then." I hesitantly said after a few minutes as I looked into her eyes. Paige nodded and I moved in and wrapped my arms around her as I rested my head against her shoulder, and she wrapped her arms around me too.
"Thank you." Paige whispered into my ear as I felt her place a kiss against my temple.
Paige was back at her house and unpacking for the last few days, and we hadn't seen much of each other after the conversation that night. I felt my heart dying a little knowing that she was pulling away from me again. I had done it. I finally did it, and I hated that this was the result of it. Had I been wrong to ask her? Was I overwhelming her from all the emotions that I felt about us? But she had told me that she felt the same way. Did she mean any of those words she said? If she had, then why was I sitting here alone at our old high school's swimming pool and thinking about where our relationship was going?
I swung my feet back and forth lightly in the pool, and the water on the surface rippled in effect. It was so peaceful being here and not having to worry about being disturbed by anyone. My phone had gone off ringing so many times earlier this evening that I finally put it on silent and set it to the side. I just wanted to be alone with my thoughts. I needed to rethink the words I've said and the ones I've heard from her.
I looked around the small natatorium, noticing that the walls have been repainted and the bleachers still looking a bit rusty from being used over the years. The diving blocks didn't seem to have changed much either, and the pool looked as blue as it's ever been. Funny how things around me have barely changed, yet I feel like a whole different person walking into here and remembering events like they had just happened yesterday. Paige and I spent so much time here in the midst of our teens. Practices, meets, and after school workouts took place in this very pool. Every other day, we'd arrive extra early with coffees in our hands and sitting by the bleachers, freely talking about what was on our minds and how classes were going along.
In that moment, I suddenly realized that Paige would always be a part of me. Everywhere I go and anything I see reminds me of her in this town, or any other place for that matter.
That scares me a little. Or maybe a lot.
I poured my heart into this…into her, and I've loved and lost her once before. Going back and doing this all over again with Paige, I just wanted to know that everything will be the same and that we can go back to how we used to be in the past. So in love and carefree. But that's just my wishful thinking from what I can see so far. I'm here, and she's somewhere out there in town. Something was quickly changing between us, and it happened because I brought up a big topic she probably hadn't even thought of until I spoke it out loud. I woke up today and when I turned onto my side, all I saw was an empty space where I used to watch her sleep and breathe. I was afraid, and today proved why I was. Today when I woke up and needed somebody the most, she wasn't there.
The wavering light at the bottom of the pool shined faintly at me, almost like it was trying to give me strength to stay strong even when I'm feeling afraid. I haven't completely lost faith in everything, but I can still make sense of what was quickly happening between Paige and I. That everything I believed in for the both of us had quickly turned into doubts, and things were about to change. I can feel it in my heart at this moment, and my feet trembles in the water as I try to regain a sense of security from being here, a place where I once belonged.
"It'll never be the same." I uttered to myself in disbelief. Closing my eyes, I rocked back and forth in place as I sat there with my feet dangling in the water, inhaling and exhaling deeply at the revelation.
"It's okay…to be afraid." the words somehow escaped my lips, and I trembled in the newfound strength of the moment.
Disclaimers: I do not own Pretty Little Liars.