She walked into the cafeteria, her eyes gravitating instantly towards Emily. She smiled at the sight of her in the midst of chatting animatedly with Hanna and Aria at the lunch table. She wasn't even doing anything; just talking, smiling, but Paige still felt her breath catching in her throat.
She made her way towards them, Hanna shifting sideways so that she could sit beside Emily. Emily's hand immediately covered her knee under the table as she sat down, both of them turning to grin at each other, Paige facing forwards to see Aria raising her eyebrows, a surprised smile on her face.
Paige laughed, dipping her head as her fingers curled around Emily's on her knee. "We worked out some stuff," she sighed happily. "We're back together."
Aria's smile grew. "That's great, guys."
"Wait a second," Hanna started, looking confused. "You knew?" She looked at all of them incredulously before her gaze pinpointed on Paige. Paige gave a slight shrug as she smiled, Hanna rolling her eyes in exasperation. "I can't believe you told Aria and didn't mention it to me."
"I've only known for a week or so," Aria explained. Her eyes flicked back and forth between Paige and Emily, seeming to be reveling in their happiness. "So, what exactly happened? What 'stuff' did you have to work out?" Paige felt Emily's hand squeeze her knee gently. Paige took a breath, ready to tell the story but was cut off by Spencer sitting down violently next to Aria.
"Oh my god, I had to get out of there before I strangled Mona," she snarled, having just come from another prom committee meeting. "She's driving me nuts." Paige turned to glance at Emily, seeing a smirk on her lips, both of them knowing that Spencer would have been driving other people 'nuts' as well. Spencer seemed to realise that she'd just interrupted their conversation, taking note of the silence that now occupied the table. She frowned. "What? What did I miss?"
"This should be good," Hanna mumbled, looking eager to see what was about to happen.
"Do you want to tell her or should I?" Emily asked, smiling at Paige.
There were nervous butterflies in her stomach as she turned to focus on Spencer, who was appearing more and more confused with every passing second. She wasn't sure how break the news. She pursed her lips; without overthinking it, Paige gripped Emily's hand, pulling it up from her knee, their fingers interlocking as she displayed their hands on the table in front of them for all to see.
The rush she felt from the action was almost overwhelming, her leg bouncing up and down with the energy it gave her. Her eyes roamed around the surrounding area, surprisingly feeling disappointed that no one seemed to notice this monumental moment.
She looked back to Spencer, seeing her eyes fixed on their hands, a wrinkle on her forehead. Paige heard Emily laughing under her breath, running her thumb over the back of her hand. Spencer glanced up at them before staring back at their hands until a look of realisation passed over her face.
"What? You two…?" She wagged a finger between them, sitting up straighter in her seat, a smile tugging at her lips. "No way… seriously?"
"Seriously," Emily confirmed, Paige catching the soft look she threw her way. She sighed, knowing she would never tire of seeing that look.
Spencer beamed. "I can't believe it; I knew something must have been up with you guys since it was obvious you were in some sort of fight- I didn't want to say anything in case it made things more awkward - but I would never have guessed…" She shook her head, still smiling, faltering after a moment. "But what about Maya and Troy?" she asked unsurely.
Paige tensed, averting her eyes; even though she and Emily had cleared the air on that subject last night, she would never be comfortable with the events that had transpired. "Sorry," she heard Spencer mutter, obviously grasping that it was a tender subject.
"It's fine," Paige said, glossing over the awkward silence. "So, you literally had no idea?" she asked, changing the subject, glad that she could finally find out what Spencer had been thinking that day she'd thought she'd caught onto them. "There was one time during that week I was staying with Em that I thought you might have figured it out?" Paige knew right away that Spencer had no idea what she was talking about, a confused expression washing over her face.
"Nope- honestly had no idea."
Paige turned to look at Emily, nudging her slightly with her shoulder. "Guess you were right; I was just being paranoid." Emily tightened her lips in a small smile, releasing her hand to rub over her back comfortingly.
Paige turned back to face the rest of the table, finding that they were all looking between one another, grinning. "What?" Paige asked hesitantly.
"Quit being so adorable," Hanna laughed, Emily giving a playful roll of her eyes while Paige blushed.
Spencer leaned forward on her elbows. "I can't believe this has been going on for so long. I mean, since you were staying with Em? I need details; spill."
"Yeah," Aria chimed in. "I'm curious to hear the story too."
Both Paige and Emily sighed simultaneously, Paige taking Emily's hand again, looking at her with a smirk. "Well, it all started with Noel Kahn's party…"
Paige spotted Hanna in the hallway as she headed to Biology. "Hanna! Wait up!" Hanna stopped in her tracks, smiling as she approached her. "Hey, I'm glad I caught you. I've been meaning to say something."
Hanna frowned slightly as they started to walk again. "What?"
Paige wrung her hands, taking in a breath. "I just wanted to say that I'm sorry; for the way I treated you, for all the crap you've had to put up with recently, just everything. You were always there for me, even when I pushed you away, and just," she sighed. "Thank you. I would probably still be curled up in a ball somewhere feeling sorry for myself if it weren't for you." She felt some of the guilt she'd been holding onto leave her, feeling emotionally lighter.
Hanna smiled, giving her arm a squeeze. "What are friends for?" Paige grinned, happy that Hanna didn't seem to harbour any resentment. Everything was starting to work out for her, finally. "Hey," Hanna said, pointing at the wall where a prom poster was hanging. "What are you doing for prom? You're definitely going now, right?"
In all honesty, Paige had completely forgotten about it. "Oh yeah. Uh, I guess."
"Don't sound so excited," Hanna sighed. "Come on, it'll be great. You can't miss it. We can go shopping this weekend if you like; I'll help you pick out a dress. Have you seen Emily's? It's gorgeous; she'll knock you off your feet." Paige smiled at the thought of Emily, knowing that she could wear a potato sack and still look amazing. "Paige?" Hanna waved a hand in front of her face.
"Sorry." She shook her head to clear it. "Yeah, okay. We can go shopping this weekend."
"Great," Hanna said, excitement emanating from her at the thought of a shopping opportunity. Paige sighed internally, wishing she felt the same enthusiasm.
Paige didn't think she had ever performed better at a swim practice before, completely at ease in the water, feeling both mentally and physically renovated.
"Great work today, Paige," Coach Fulton told her on her way by to the locker room. "Keep swimming like that and we'll have the championship in the bag."
She grinned, feeling a hand running over her shoulder, sensing Emily behind her as they walked. "You were on fire today," she whispered, goosebumps spreading all over Paige's body as Emily's lips brushed against her ear ever so slightly.
She turned her head, seeing water droplets running down Emily's face, her wet hair cascading over one shoulder; Paige swallowed, instantly turned on. "You weren't so bad yourself," she smirked, trying not to dwell on thoughts of last night, or thoughts of taking Emily right here up against a locker. She cleared her throat. "So," she started as they made their way to the showers, "Want to do something tonight? We could grab dinner, go a drive…" she trailed off, raising her eyebrows suggestively.
Emily laughed, running her hands through her hair as she stepped under the shower, tipping her head up into the stream of water. Paige stood under the adjacent shower, completely entranced by the sight, blushing but not looking away when Emily caught her staring. "I've got to work tonight," Emily sighed, pouting.
Paige's heart sank. "Damn. When do you get off?" She kept forgetting that Emily had a job now.
"Not until ten; I'm doing the close. It's a crappy shift- the place is practically dead after nine anyway." Her face lit up. "Hey, why don't you come by then? You can eat cake and I can pretend to work."
Paige smiled. "Sounds good."
It wasn't even half seven when Paige walked through the door of The Brew, Emily smiling in surprise. Her eyes had been flicking to the clock on the wall every few minutes since she'd started her shift, desperate for Paige to arrive.
She leaned forward on the counter as Paige approached. "You're early," she grinned, extremely glad that she was.
"Yeah," Paige said, gesturing to the bag that was slung over her shoulder. "I have some studying to do, and I couldn't wait 'til nine to see you, so I figured I'd just come and do it here." She smiled. "That okay?"
Emily walked around the counter, hugging Paige tightly, placing a subtle kiss to the side of her head. She wasn't exactly sure what Paige was comfortable with yet, PDA-wise. She'd taken her by surprise by holding her hand above the lunch table today; she certainly hadn't been expecting Paige to do that so quickly, even though she'd come out to her parents; Emily thought it would take longer for them to adjust. She wasn't complaining though; the feeling it had given her was indescribable, making her want to hold Paige's hand and never let go.
She pulled back. "It's better than okay." They eyed each other for a moment before someone arrived at the counter waiting to be served. Emily sighed, pointing towards the couch near the back of the room. "You can go sit over there; it's nice. Secluded and comfy."
Paige smiled, gripping her forearm. "Okay, thanks." Emily watched Paige go, forcing her eyes away from her when an impatient customer cleared their throat.
After serving a few people, Emily walked over towards Paige, seeing that she had set out books all over the table in front of her. She looked up as Emily approached, grinning. "Miss me already?"
Emily rolled her eyes with a smile. "I forgot to ask what you want. Tea? Coffee?"
"Hmm, let's go with coffee, I'm going to need help to stay awake looking at this." She nodded toward the books. "But not too strong- I kinda want to sleep tonight." She reached into her bag, pulling out her purse, but Emily stopped her.
"It's on me." Paige looked like she was about to argue, but Emily didn't give her the chance, walking back to the counter, throwing a smile in Paige's direction once she got there.
She made Paige a latte, attempting to make a heart shape in the foam. She wasn't great at coffee art yet so it turned out slightly wonky, but at least it was still distinguishable as a heart. She cut a slice from the coconut cake on the shelf, placing it on the tray beside the coffee and taking it over to Paige, whose face shined at the sight, Emily's heart fluttering in her chest.
"Em…" Paige looked up at her, looking lost for words. She didn't need to say anything though. Emily knew; she could see it in her eyes.
She smiled. "That should keep you going. I'll be back when it's quiet."
Paige bit her lip. "Okay."
The grin was still on her face long after Emily had gone back to the counter. Not only had she given her a slice of her favourite cake, but she'd also drawn a heart in her coffee. It was so cute that she subtly took a picture of it with her phone, needing a physical memory of the moment.
She tried to focus as much as she could on the work in front of her, but she kept getting distracted by Emily every time she walked by to serve another table. Sometimes their eyes would catch, sharing a lingering gaze across the room that sent Paige's heart racing, yet also made her feel intensely calm at the same time.
It was just after nine when Emily came to sit down on the couch beside her. "I'll close up once the couple beside the window leaves," she explained, flopping backwards, looking worn out. Paige leaned back beside her, taking Emily's hand in her own.
"How are you finding time to study in between training, school and work?" Paige asked, thinking that having a job on top of everything else they had to deal with was too much.
"A lot of late nights," Emily sighed, looking lost in thought. "It sucks that finals are coming up soon; we're going to be so busy. I just wish we could like, pause time or something- crawl into bed and spend a whole week there." She smiled wistfully, Paige squeezing her hand, thinking that sounded like the best wish ever.
"Why did you get this job, anyway? Because of your mom or because of me?" There was no point in pretending that Emily had purely got the job for the money.
Emily hesitated momentarily. "Both," she said, Paige nodding in acknowledgement.
"Sorry," she mumbled. Emily sat up, shuffling closer to her.
"You don't need to apologise, especially for things that weren't your fault. How about we make a deal? We stop saying sorry for everything that happened, and we just move forward? How about that?"
Paige didn't have to think too hard. "Okay, agreed." Emily smiled softly, sitting back again, this time her arm flush against Paige's, their hands resting on Paige's thigh. They sat like that for a while, Paige enjoying having Emily close to her again. She actually felt her eyelids starting to get heavy, almost dozing off, but then the couple left and Emily had to get up to close the shop.
"Want a hand to tidy?" Paige asked as she stood up, looking around and seeing that a few tables needed to be cleared.
"Oh no, you don't have to do that," Emily said as she flipped the sign on the door to 'closed'.
"You need to stay 'til ten, right? Well, the faster we tidy, the faster we can spend time, you know, not cleaning." A slow smile spread across Emily's face.
They managed to make the place look perfect within ten minutes, meaning they had around twenty to kill before Emily's shift finished. They made their way back to the couch, Paige packing up all her books before leaning back, Emily edging closer towards her.
Paige cupped Emily's face as their lips met softly, both of them sighing into the kiss, Emily's hand moving to rest on her knee. They kissed slowly and lazily, Paige allowing contentment to wash over her, eventually smiling against Emily's mouth, feeling Emily smile in turn.
Paige's hand ran down Emily's arm, moving to grip her hip, pulling her in closer. Emily's other hand curled around the back of her neck, kissing her deeply, her mouth trailing down her chin and along her jaw as the hand on Paige's knee began to creep upwards.
Someone cleared their throat.
They sprung apart, seeing a surprised-looking guy standing there, Paige figuring it must be Emily's boss. She felt heat creeping up her neck, glancing at Emily to see a mortified expression gracing her face. "Uh, Zack, hi. I d-didn't think you'd be in tonight," she stammered, shifting awkwardly on the couch.
Nervous laughter almost bubbled out of Paige, having to press her mouth against the palm of her hand as she leaned on her knee.
"I didn't plan to be," Zack replied, staring at the floor in obvious embarrassment. "I just needed to grab something from the back." There was an uncomfortable silence, Zack shifting on his feet. "Um, can I have a word with you, Emily?" Paige saw Emily nod quickly out of the corner of her eye, hurriedly following Zack into the back room, Paige starting to worry that Emily was about to get fired.
She entered the back room, Zack turning to face her, raising his eyebrows.
"I'm so sorry," she stressed, feeling like she was going to die from the awkwardness. She supposed that she should be grateful that he hadn't walked in a moment later, Emily thinking about the direction that her hand had been heading in. "I finished cleaning early, and- I know that's not a reasonable excuse, you can dock my wage-"
"Emily," Zack said, cutting her off. "It's fine; just don't let it happen again, okay?" Emily took a moment to realise he was letting her off with it, finally smiling in thanks. Zack looked at his watch. "It's almost ten; you can just go now. I'll see you tomorrow."
Emily didn't need to be told twice. She untied the apron from around her waist, grabbing her jacket and bag from the coat rack. "Thanks, see you tomorrow," she said, heading back through to see Paige sitting anxiously on the couch.
"You didn't get fired, did you?"
Emily shook her head, trying not to laugh. "No, come on." She nodded in the direction of the door, Paige standing up quickly.
Once they were outside, they both burst into laughter, clinging onto each other to stay standing. Emily took in a heaving breath, trying to regain some composure.
"Oh my god," Paige said. "I can't believe that just happened. Mega-awkward."
"At least you don't need to work there tomorrow," Emily said, slapping her arm playfully. "Thank god Zack's a pretty cool guy." They made their way to Emily's car, Emily only just noticing how calm Paige was about someone seeing them kissing. She smiled to herself as she slid into the car; this was how it was going to be from now on; no panic; no paranoia; just them.
She pulled up at Paige's house, turning to smile at her. "So, want to go a run in the morning? Training without you has been so boring."
"I know the feeling," Paige said, running a hand over her thigh. "Meet you outside your house?" Emily nodded, elated that they were getting back to their normal routine.
Paige leaned over, giving her a lingering kiss. "Night. Love you." She gave her a final peck before opening the door.
"Love you too," Emily said, Paige closing the door and giving her a dorky wave through the window that made her giggle, her heart swelling.
It was Saturday, and Paige was dragging her feet at the mall as Hanna paraded around from store to store, each prom dress she was suggesting more hideous than the previous.
Hanna eventually lost her patience, gritting her teeth and massaging her temples. "Paige, you're just saying no to everything; you're not even looking properly!" Hanna picked a dress off the rack, holding it up against her. "I mean, this would look great on you. Can you at least go try it on?"
Paige huffed, taking it from her and going to the dressing room reluctantly. She quickly took off her clothes, stepping into the dress and pulling it up, zipping it at the back as best she could. She stared at herself in the mirror, seeing the deep purple material clinging to her body in all of the right places, thinking that although it looked pretty good on, it just didn't feel right.
She had never liked wearing dresses for as far back as she could remember. She had a prominent memory of her mom forcing her to wear one to a wedding when she was around nine years old; she'd kicked and screamed, but she'd been made to wear it anyway. It was 'the proper way to dress', apparently.
But the decision was hers now; no one was going to make her wear something that she didn't want to.
"Paige? How does it look? Can I see?"
Paige sighed, pulling back the curtain, seeing Hanna smile. "You look amazing; see, I told you it would look great on." She stepped forward, pinning a bit of the dress up at the shoulder with her fingers. "We can get this taken in a bit, also get it taken up at the bottom- it's too long…" She seemed to notice Paige's lack of enthusiasm. "What? You don't like it?" Her face fell.
"No, I do," Paige started slowly, turning back to look at herself in the mirror, giving the garment one last look. "It's just- I don't think it's me, you know?" Hanna frowned, not understanding. "I don't want to wear a dress, Hanna," Paige clarified.
"Oh." After a second, Hanna's face lit up. "Okay, get changed, I know just the place."
They left the mall, Hanna taking her down a street to a small store, Paige looking in the window to see suits and tuxedos on display. "Better?" Hanna asked. Paige nodded, smiling nervously. "Good, but I wish you had said something sooner; maybe I could have avoided getting this headache." Paige rolled her eyes as Hanna smirked.
They entered the store, completely empty apart from the elderly tailor at the counter. "Hanna!" the woman exclaimed, looking pleased to see her.
"Is everything okay? Does Caleb need another alteration to his tux?"
"Oh no, his tux is great," Hanna smiled. "Actually, I was wondering if you could help out my friend here?" She stepped aside so Betty could see Paige clearly, Paige suddenly feeling awkward and out of place.
If Betty was surprised to see a girl standing there, she didn't let on. "Of course; what are you looking for, dear? Suit? Tux?"
Paige looked around the store, shrugging, feeling out of her depth. "I'm not really sure, to be honest."
The woman came around the counter, taking a measuring tape from the top of it. "No worries, let's get your size and then we'll find something." Paige looked at Hanna, who nodded her head encouragingly in the direction of Betty heading into the back of the store.
Paige felt infinitely more relaxed, smiling. "Thanks, Hanna."
She ended up picking out a tuxedo with a black vest and tie, leaving it at the store so that Betty could alter it to fit her perfectly. She managed to get it at a good price, but it still cost more than what her parents had given her to get a dress meaning she had to put some of her savings towards it. It would be worth it though, she mused. She didn't know what her parents would say when they saw what she'd bought, but she would worry about that later.
Right now, she wondered what Emily would think; she was pretty sure she would like it, although she couldn't be certain. Butterflies fluttered apprehensively in her stomach. "Hanna? Can we keep this from Emily? I want to surprise her."
Hanna smiled. "Sure." Paige gave a single nod, shoving her hands into her jacket pockets. "She's gonna love it," Hanna added, sensing her nerves. "I mean, I would even think about doing you in that tux."
Paige laughed, blushing. "Hanna!" But it did the trick; Paige calmed.
"What?" Hanna smirked, Paige nudging her as they walked. "Seriously though, you and Em are going to look great together." Paige smiled, now feeling much more excited about the prospect of prom.
When she finished work at eight, Paige was there waiting for her outside The Brew, ready to head back to her house for a movie date. It had been such a nice day that Emily hadn't bothered with the car, meaning they had a ten minute walk ahead of them. It was still March, but she could sense summer getting closer in the mild evening air, feeling giddy at the thought of getting to spend it with Paige; they could go on day trips, spend the day in Paige's pool, maybe even go away for a couple of days together. Spencer could lend them her family cabin like she had to Hanna and Caleb in the past.
"How was work? Still awkward?" Paige asked. Yesterday had been slightly uncomfortable for her, both she and Zack trying to pretend the whole incident hadn't happened, but thankfully today had been better.
"Not too bad actually, I think we're both getting over it." Paige grinned, obviously thinking back to that night. "How did dress shopping go? Did Hanna drive you mad?" Emily was sad that she couldn't have gone with them.
"No, I think I actually drove Hanna mad," Paige answered, bowing her head with a smile. Emily wasn't exactly surprised; she knew that shopping wasn't Paige's favourite activity and that she could be extremely fussy and stubborn when it came to picking clothes. And now that she thought about it, she couldn't remember the last time she'd seen Paige in a dress.
"What did you get then? What colour? Did Hanna make sure it won't clash with mine?" Paige hadn't seen her dress yet, so she wouldn't have known what would go and what wouldn't.
Paige laughed, her fingers trailing down Emily's forearm, resting on the inside of her wrist as they walked. "I got something, yeah; but that's all I'm saying. And we won't clash, don't worry."
Emily looked at Paige curiously. "Why is that all you're saying?" She wondered if she had ended up picking out some bizarre dress and didn't want to freak her out.
Paige shrugged. "Just- you'll see." Emily sighed, choosing not to push the matter for now, but the glint in Paige's eyes told her that she was happy with whatever she'd bought, which was good enough for Emily.
As they walked, Emily became aware of Paige's fingers slipping lower and lower, until eventually they were holding hands; they were holding hands as they walked down the street. Emily looked down, seeing Paige's fingers lacing with her own, grinning wider than she thought was possible. This was actually happening.
"This feels amazing," Paige sighed happily.
Emily looked back up at her, seeing Paige was also fixated on the sight of their hands. "I know what you mean." They proceeded like that all the way to Emily's; there was hardly anyone around to see them, but that didn't make it any less thrilling, adrenaline pumping through Emily's veins.
They entered the house, both of them unwilling to let go of each other, even when her mom came through from the kitchen. "Hey," Emily said, noticing her eyes flick down to their joined hands.
"Hi." Her gaze moved to Paige, Emily feeling her hand clenching slightly. "Hi, Paige. It's nice to see you're doing better." Paige's hand relaxed again.
"Thanks, Mrs Fields," she smiled.
"Uh, we're just going to go to my room and watch a movie, is that okay?" Emily asked hesitantly, hoping that her mom wouldn't make them stay downstairs under constant parental supervision. For one horrible second she thought she was going to do just that, but then she gave a slight smile, nodding her head.
They started to make their way upstairs, her mom suddenly calling her back down. She looked to Paige, frowning slightly. "I'll be up in a sec." She reluctantly released Paige's hand, walking back down to her mom, who was heading into the kitchen again.
"What is it?"
Her mom reached up to pull a bag of ready-made popcorn out of the cupboard, handing it to her along with a bowl. Emily grinned. "Thanks."
"Oh, and please leave your door open."
Emily rolled her eyes, but was still smiling. "Fine."
She hurried up to her room, seeing Paige had already settled on top of the bed. She shut the door automatically, walking towards her before having to spin on her heels to go back, opening the door a sliver; her mom hadn't specified how open the door had to be.
Paige looked at her curiously, Emily shaking her head, simply saying, "My mom." She kicked off her shoes and pulled off her jacket, crawling onto the bed beside Paige.
Paige took the popcorn from her, opening the bag and emptying it into the bowl. Emily took her laptop from her bedside table, firing it up. "So, what are we watching?" Paige asked. Emily shrugged, biting her lip eagerly, leaning forward to kiss Paige softly.
"What do you want to watch?" Emily murmured against her lips, feeling Paige smiling.
"Oh, I don't know; maybe we could just do this instead." Emily laughed, having to pull back before they got carried away.
"If only, but I wouldn't put it past my mom not to make a surprise visit up here." Paige flopped back into the pillows with a groan.
"Fine, but that just means the movie is going to have to be amazing; I need something to distract me from you." Emily laughed again, getting off of the bed to look through her DVDs.
"Let's see… " She smirked. "Oh, I know. How about 'Rudy'?"
She had to dodge the bit of popcorn that Paige threw across the room.
Monday morning walking into school, Paige took Emily's hand again, feeling more and more confident and comfortable in her own skin with every passing day. She noticed a few people looking at them as they walked by, but it wasn't a bad look, just general curiosity that she realised didn't bother her in the slightest. They could look and talk all they liked; she had Emily and she was happy; she didn't care what anyone else thought.
And seeing the look on Emily's face right now; she did that. She was making her this happy. It was a powerful feeling.
They saw Spencer and Aria smiling at them as they made their way down the hall towards their lockers. "Hey, look at you guys," Aria said as they approached, aware how huge this was for them now that she knew their whole story.
Paige just pursed her lips in a smile, gazing at Emily who had the most adorable blush on her face. "I need to grab a book from my locker," she said, moving over to the other side of the hall. Spencer leaned in closer to Paige.
"So, we heard about your tux," she grinned. "I can already imagine it; you'll look awesome." Aria nodded in agreement, Paige's eyes flitting over to Emily. "It's okay," Spencer observed. "We know you want to surprise Emily."
Paige smiled nervously, changing the subject quickly as Emily came back over. "So, did you finish that essay for English?" There was no need for the subject change however, since Emily was frowning slightly at her phone.
"What is it?" Paige queried.
"My mom just text me- the mail came, I have a letter from UConn." She looked confused.
"Em! That's great," Spencer exclaimed. "They must have made you an offer."
Paige figured the UConn scout must have seen how well Emily had performed at the meet that she had screwed up at. She forced a smile onto her face, trying to be happy that they were interested in Emily, but at the same time she had a sinking feeling in her stomach.
She'd had it in her head that she would be attending Pittsburgh, and that Emily would somehow end up there too, but she was now realising that that was an unrealistic and almost childish idea to have; she knew that it was unlikely Pittsburgh would offer two students from the same high school full scholarships- they probably didn't allow for that in their budget.
But now, having to face the prospect that Emily might not even be in the same state as her… she couldn't bear the thought.
Her stomach twisted anxiously.
She felt Emily take her hand, obviously sensing her train of thought. "I'd rather hear from Penn State or Pittsburgh; I'm not sure how I feel about going out of state."
"Well it depends on what they're offering you; sure, it's much more expensive to go out of state, but they could be offering you full tuition," Spencer said, nudging Emily's shoulder excitedly. "And UConn's got an awesome swimming programme, right?" Emily nodded, giving an uneasy smile. Paige gave her hand a light squeeze before letting go, moving up the hall to her own locker, trying to remain calm. This was Emily's first offer. It wouldn't be her only one.
Well, she hoped that it wouldn't be her only one.
Emily followed her, watching as Paige shoved books into her bag. "Well, this is unexpected."
"Yeah," Paige muttered distractedly. She knew things had been going too well for them; too good to be true. They had finally got one thing out of the way only to be replaced by another. Emily ran a hand over her back, bringing her back to the current moment. Paige shook her head, only just realising what Emily had said. "Well, it's not that unexpected; you were awesome at that meet." She gave a small smile, but Emily didn't look convinced by it.
"Hey, we don't need to worry just yet. We're hardly into March. I could get other offers- hell, I don't even know what the UConn letter says yet." Paige tried to let Emily's words sink in, attempting to push the swelling worry aside for now. She turned, seeing that Emily also appeared concerned, looking like she didn't believe what she'd just said.
Paige gave a brief nod, leaning forward to kiss her lightly, not even thinking about where they were. She just needed to kiss Emily right now.
She only realised what she'd done when she pulled back to see a shocked expression on Emily's face. Paige didn't even bother looking around for other people's reactions; all that mattered was Emily. "Was that okay?" It hadn't escaped her notice that Emily seemed to be letting her set the pace on how fast they progressed publicly, but she wanted to make sure that Emily was feeling comfortable as well.
A slow smile spread across Emily's face, telling Paige all she needed to. Emily leaned in to kiss her again, and for a few blissful moments, Paige was able to forget the feeling of impending doom that arose at the thought of college and the future.
Paige accompanied Emily back to her house during lunch, Emily unable to wait until after swim practice to read the letter. Emily's mom wasn't home, leaving the pair of them standing alone in the quiet of Emily's living room.
"Here it is," Emily said anxiously, lifting the letter from the coffee table. She sat down on the couch, Paige following, watching intently as Emily opened it and began to read.
"Well?" Paige asked, unable to suppress the hint of impatience in her voice.
Emily gave a slight smile. "I got in. They're offering me a partial scholarship- three quarters of the fees."
Paige pulled Emily into a hug. "Well done, you deserve it." She meant what she said, but that didn't stop the sadness spreading through her body, feeling Emily sigh against her neck.
"Paige, you know I'm not going, right? Not unless it's my only option. I don't want to be that far away from you." Paige held her tighter.
"I've been deluding myself into thinking that we'd be going to the same college," Paige murmured into her hair. "But the fact is, the chances of that happening are probably slim at best. And it sucks; we just got back together and it already feels like time is running out." She felt like she could already hear the ticking of a clock in her head.
"Paige…" Emily whispered sadly, pulling back to kiss her. "We can't think like that- we don't know what's going to happen yet."
Paige rested their foreheads together. "Em, come on, I've already been offered a full scholarship for Pittsburgh. You remember what Coach said? She said that colleges almost never offer two people from the same high school scholarships, especially in the same field."
"Well, I doubt Pittsburgh will be the only school to offer you a place. And I might get offered a partial scholarship for Pittsburgh, who knows."
"And what if you get a full one, at Penn State for example?" Paige said. "There's no point getting yourself into debt when you don't have to. Besides, your parents wouldn't let you; same goes for me. We'll be made to go with the best offer, as long as their swimming programme is good."
Emily huffed. "Paige, can you at least try to think positively?"
"I'm being realistic," she replied, brushing her lips against Emily's, sighing in defeat. "I think the best scenario we can hope for is that you get a scholarship to Penn State, or at least a school in Pennsylvania, and I take my place at Pittsburgh. I mean, we'll still be like a three-hour drive apart if you're at Penn State, but at least it's better than you being in a different state."
They sat in silence for a few minutes, Emily toying with the hair at the back of her neck. "I don't care where we are or where we go; we'll be fine. I know it. We'll speak on the phone every day; we can visit each other on weekends…" Paige didn't want to point out the fact that it would need to be Emily doing all the visiting since she didn't even have a car. "It'll be fine; we'll make it work. After everything we've been through, I refuse to believe otherwise."
Paige pulled back, smiling slightly. "You're very convincing, you know."
"Good," Emily said, pecking her lips and standing up, holding out her hand. Paige took it, wishing that everything would be as simple as Emily made it seem, because right now it seemed like it was going to be a complicated mess.
It was a couple of weeks later and there was still no sign of a letter from either Penn State or Pittsburgh. Emily was starting to worry. She didn't want to be over eight hours away from Paige. She didn't want to be any number of hours away from her. She knew she should be grateful that any school wanted her and were helping to pay some of the fees, but it was hard when all she could think about was Paige.
Her mom and dad had been ecstatic that she'd gotten a partial scholarship, but it had been a challenge to pretend that she was excited too. Her mom had picked up on her lack of interest after she'd finished speaking to her dad over the phone, asking what was wrong.
"Is it because it's not a full scholarship, honey? Because don't worry, your dad and I have some money set aside, and you can get a student loan if need be."
"No, it's not that," Emily had replied. "It's just, Paige is most likely going to Pittsburgh, and I won't even get to see her every weekend if I'm in Connecticut."
Her mom had then irritated her with her patronising tone. "Emily, not many high school couples survive college, you know that, right? Even if you and Paige attended the same one, there's no guarantee that you'd stay together. I know it's hard, but you need to put your own future first. And who knows, you and Paige could end up finding each other again after college."
Emily had sighed, shaking her head. Why was she acting like it was as simple as that? Why was she acting like she and Paige should just call it quits now? Paige wasn't some insignificant high school romance that Emily would soon forget about. "You don't get it," was all she'd said.
She hadn't expressed her worries to her mom again, deciding to try and ignore the problem until the last possible moment, praying that things would work themselves out.
They were all currently sitting in Spencer's living room, Spencer telling them about the long admissions essay she'd had to write for UPenn, but Emily was only half listening; she was practically sitting on Paige's lap, Paige's fingers creeping up the back of her shirt, tracing over her bare back in soothing motions.
They were now both completely comfortable with being themselves around other people, especially the other girls. Pretty much everyone at school now knew they were together, Emily trying to let the happiness from that mask the anxiety over college.
"That sounds like a nightmare," Paige said, her voice sounding loud beside Emily's ear. "I'm glad I didn't have to write an essay, especially with a ridiculous word limit." Emily nodded in agreement.
"Yeah, well, it sucks," Hanna chimed in, having had to write one to get into a fashion design course in New York. Emily was sad that Hanna was leaving; sad that everything was going to change after the summer, but Hanna had reassured her that their friendship wouldn't slip.
Aria was the only one planning on staying in Rosewood; she was going to be taking an art and photography course at Hollis. Emily had just recently found out about Aria's involvement with Mr Fitz; she was still slightly in shock over the whole thing. She wondered if that was part of the reason why Aria wanted to stay in Rosewood, to be close to him. Emily could definitely understand that feeling.
Aria looked at the pair of them. "Still no word from anywhere else?"
Emily shook her head, Paige saying, "Nope."
"If I get into Penn State you'll be hearing me shouting it from my rooftop," Emily joked, feeling Paige place a kiss on her shoulder. She was no longer entertaining the idea that she might go to Pittsburgh; the disappointment would be too painful when it didn't happen.
"You should be hearing something soon," Spencer said encouragingly. "I mean, most colleges need you to respond to their offers by May 1st, right? They'll need to give you time to consider your options."
Emily nodded along to her words, but suddenly sighed in doubt. "We keep speaking like it's a sure thing I'm even going to get another letter, when it's really not."
"Em," Paige started. "We've been through this; remember the scouts at that meet? They were excited to see you, right? There's no way that both of them would pass on you; no way." Emily turned her head, seeing resolve in Paige's eyes.
This was how it had been the past couple of weeks; every time one of them became doubtful, the other would switch into reassurance-mode. Emily gave a small smile in thanks. She dipped her head, signalling to Paige that she wanted a kiss, which she happily obliged.
She turned back to see Hanna rolling her eyes happily at them. "Honestly, whatever happens, you two are going to fine. I mean, look at you."
Emily sighed, falling back into Paige, hoping Hanna was right.
It was three days later when Emily got another text at school from her mom, telling her another letter had arrived.
From Penn State.
She was in the middle of class, but she didn't care. She had to know. She told her teacher that she wasn't feeling well, asking to be excused.
She made her way home quickly, practically running from the car into the living room where her mom chastised her for skipping class, but stopped when Emily began to open the envelope with trembling fingers.
Please please please.
Her eyes scanned over the words quickly, focusing in on the phrases 'pleased to offer' and 'full scholarship'. She clapped a hand over her mouth, glancing at her mom who looked concerned. "Full scholarship," was all she said, her mom shrieking in joy, pulling her into a hug. Emily felt light-headed, slumping in relief.
I don't need to leave the state. I'll be able to see Paige every weekend.
"Well done, sweetie; I'm so proud of you," her mom gushed, pulling back, cupping Emily's cheek as she beamed with pride. "We need to tell your dad." She hurried off to get the phone, Emily sitting down on the couch, grinning at the letter still in her hand.
Everything is going to be fine.
She rushed back to school, desperate to tell Paige the news. She text her telling her to meet her in the bathroom, but after around a five minute wait, she got impatient, making her way to Paige's math class.
She peered into the room via the window on the door, seeing Paige with her head resting in her hand, looking like she was about to fall asleep, obviously having not received Emily's text. Emily made sure that the teacher's back was turned, waving her hand at the window to try and attract Paige's attention.
Some guy she didn't know ended up seeing her first. She pointed at Paige; he seemed to understand what she wanted, turning in his seat to whisper something in Paige's direction; Paige looked towards him in confusion before she looked up to see Emily.
Emily grinned, nodding her head sideways, indicating to Paige to come out into the hall. Paige frowned slightly, but there was a hesitant smile on her face. Emily stepped back from the door, hearing Paige asking if she could be excused to use the bathroom.
Paige stepped out of the door, closing it behind her as she looked at Emily curiously. "What's up?"
Emily grabbed her hand, pulling her flush against her, kissing her intensely. Paige seemed stunned at first, but after a moment she began to respond enthusiastically, her arms wrapping around Emily's body, both of them staggering slightly as the lost their balance.
Paige laughed quietly. "Not that this isn't a great reason to leave class- the best actually- but what's going on?"
Emily cupped Paige's face, running her thumb over the soft skin of her cheek. "I got into Penn State, Paige. Full scholarship- I don't need to leave the state."
Paige's eyes widened, letting out a sharp breath. "Seriously?" Emily nodded, Paige kissing her again, smiling. "Thank god," she murmured, burying her face into Emily's neck in relief.
"I know," Emily sighed, her hand running up and down Paige's back. It still wasn't ideal, going to a different school, but she figured this was the best they were going to get.
They broke apart quickly, seeing Coach Fulton walking down the hall towards them. "Why aren't you in class?" She didn't look angry, thankfully, just curious; Emily was sure that if it had been any other teacher that had caught them, they'd instantly be receiving a detention slip.
"Sorry, Coach, but I had to tell Paige the news; I got into Penn State."
Coach Fulton's face lit up. "Emily! That's great news!" She gave her a quick hug, pulling back and looking at them with a smile. "I'm so proud of the pair of you; by far two of the best swimmers that have ever been on the team. I'm going to miss coaching you. Well done, girls. You deserve it."
Emily grinned at Paige, who was looking softly back at her. "Now, I know this is exciting, but you have finals to pass first; back to class." Both of them nodded, Coach Fulton heading off down the hall.
Emily waited until she had disappeared around the corner to kiss Paige goodbye, feeling much more relaxed now that their future was looking slightly clearer.
It was Sunday afternoon; they were both lying naked in Paige's bed, making the most of her parents being out of the house. She spooned Emily as her heart rate returned to normal, placing a kiss to her shoulder, their arms outstretched in front of them, Paige playing with Emily's fingers.
"I'm going to miss this," she said sadly. The happiness of the past few days was starting to dissipate, the reality beginning to sink in that they were going to be separated come September. They'd only just entered April, but Paige had a feeling that the remaining months would fly by; they'd be at college before they knew it.
Emily turned to face her, her hand smoothing over her thigh. "We still have all summer; we can spend every day together." Paige smiled, but thought that still wouldn't be enough. "Besides, we'll still get to do this." She kissed her lightly. "Just maybe more rushed; and we'll have to hope that we have nice roommates who'll give us the room…" Emily sighed, frowning. "Ugh; you're right, it's going to suck. But it could be worse."
"I know, I know," Paige replied, kissing Emily again. I'm grateful that Emily is staying in Pennsylvania. I'm grateful that Emily is staying in Pennsylvania, she chanted. She should be appreciative of that fact. "Let's just hope that time moves really slowly up until we have to leave."
A suggestive smile appeared on Emily's face. "Oh really?" She trailed her hand deliberately up Paige's side. "How slowly?"
Paige grinned, rolling on top of her, pinning her hands above her head. "Very slowly." She lowered her head, her lips brushing lightly down Emily's neck, latching onto her pulse point, before trailing gently back up, nipping at her earlobe.
Her plan to tease Emily was cut short however, both of them bolting off of the bed at the sound of the front door opening downstairs. Paige's heart was pounding as she tried to locate all of her clothes as quickly as possible, bumping into Emily several times in their panic.
Finally dressed, she tried to make the bed appear as if they hadn't just spent the better part of an hour rolling around in it, moving to crack a window open, letting in some fresh air. She noticed Emily getting tangled in her t-shirt, having to help her tug it down, trying not to laugh.
They breathed a sigh of relief once they were both in order, Paige hearing her parents moving around downstairs, glad that they hadn't come up to see her. She still hadn't told them she was dating Emily, and didn't think the best way for them to find out would be walking in on them in Paige's room.
"Damn," Emily sighed wistfully, smirking. "That was bad timing." Paige laughed, pulling her close for one last kiss.
They made their way downstairs, her mom smiling when she saw them. "Oh, hi, Emily. I didn't realise you were over; Paige mentioned you got a full scholarship into Penn State, congratulations."
"Thanks, Mrs McCullers," Emily grinned.
"Does that mean you and Paige could be competing against each other at some point?" Paige knew her mom was only trying to make conversation, but the thought bothered her. She didn't want to compete against Emily; they worked much better together; had always worked better together.
Emily laughed, but Paige knew it was more out of politeness than anything else. "Yeah, I guess so." She looked to Paige, her smile turning sad. After a beat, she said, "Well, I better get going. I told my mom I'd help with dinner."
"It was nice seeing you," her mom replied. "Oh, and good luck for Friday." Friday was the day of the swimming championship, which Paige hadn't been thinking about too much; she'd been too distracted.
Paige walked Emily to the door, hearing her mom heading into the living room. Emily stepped onto the porch, Paige leaning outwards using the door frame. Emily smiled, realising she wanted a kiss. "See you early tomorrow," she said quietly, brushing her lips against Paige's.
Paige swooned forward slightly as Emily stepped away. "Bye." She watched her walking down the path, finally managing to tear herself away from the door when Emily gave her a final wave. She grinned, turning back into the house to find her mom standing there, looking uncomfortable.
"Uh, how much of that did you just see?" She hadn't wanted to tell them about Emily until they had properly digested the fact that she was gay, but she shouldn't be surprised that her plan had just deviated off course; that was the way things seemed to happen in her life.
"All of it," her mom stated. She didn't look mad, exactly, but she definitely wasn't pleased either.
"Sorry, Mom, I wanted to tell you; I did. I just didn't want to pile too many things on at once." Her mom just stared down at the floor, Paige feeling increasingly awkward. Then her dad wandered out of the kitchen.
"What did I miss?" he asked, obviously sensing the atmosphere.
Paige cleared her throat, her mom staying silent. "Okay, well guess I should just tell you," Paige muttered under her breath. "Um, Emily's more than my friend. She's my girlfriend." She was astounded at the confidence in her tone; astounded by how confident she felt.
He frowned. "Emily? Emily Fields?" Paige nodded, thinking it was pretty obvious she was talking about that Emily. Her dad looked lost for words, eventually just saying, "Oh."
Paige didn't know what to do with that; what did that even mean? Was he okay with it? Against it? She had no idea, but she decided she wasn't going to agonize over it.
She gave them a brief smile, heading back upstairs, exhaling. Well, at least that was everything out in the open now.
The day before the championship, Paige got another letter in the mail. Her heart leapt into her throat, seeing it was from Penn State. Could it be-?
She ripped the envelope open, accidentally tearing part of the letter in her haste. She smoothed it out in front of her, reading with eager eyes.
The disappointment was crippling. They had offered her a place, but were only offering to pay half her fees.
Tears sprung to her eyes; in the time between seeing the letter and opening it, a whole future at Penn State with Emily had flashed into her head; meeting Emily for breakfast; going to practice together; kissing each other goodnight.
A tear rolled down her cheek. She wiped it away angrily, not only feeling sad again about not going to the same college as Emily, but also guilty; she had been offered a place at Pittsburgh, free of charge. She knew she was being ungrateful sitting here crying about it, and was thankful that her parents weren't home to see it.
She threw the letter onto the coffee table, going up to her room.
She lay down on the bed, pulling her phone out of her pocket and calling Emily, who answered after a few rings.
"You're never going to guess what just happened," she said, her tone even. "I got a letter from Penn State offering me a place but only half the tuition." Emily was silent on the other end of the line. "Talk about kicking us when we're down, huh?"
"Paige…" Emily sounded dejected. Another tear leaked from Paige's eye, rolling back into her hair.
Paige swallowed. "Maybe I should just take out a loan?" It would be worth getting to be with Emily.
"And get into debt when you have a full scholarship to another school? No, that's just stupid, Paige, and you told me the same thing when I suggested it before; I won't let you do it."
"Well, it's not really up to you," she snapped, having to close her eyes to calm herself. She didn't mean to take out her stress on Emily.
Emily sighed. "What I mean is, I don't want you to do that. As much as I want to go to the same school as you, we just need to accept that it's not going to happen." She heard Emily's voice cracking. Great, now she was crying too.
Paige sniffed, wishing that she hadn't even bothered telling Emily. What good had it done? "Okay," she said quietly after a minute. "I'm sorry. Let's pretend the letter doesn't exist then; it's easier that way."
"It'll be fine, Paige. We have to believe that, okay?" Although the words themselves sounded confident, Emily's tone didn't. She was asking for reassurance from Paige, and she didn't have the ability to deny Emily what she wanted.
"Okay; it'll be fine."
Later that evening, her dad came into her room, waving the letter around in the air. "Why was this just sitting on the coffee table?" Paige shrugged at her desk, turning back to her work. "Paige? Why didn't you show me?"
"Because they only offered me a partial scholarship; it doesn't change anything. I'm still going to Pittsburgh." She sighed.
Much to her surprise, her dad came further into the room, sitting on her bed. "And why don't you sound excited about that? I thought you were happy to be going there?"
Paige spun around in her chair to face him. "I was- I mean I am. It's just, if it were up to me, I would choose Penn State, that's all. But Pittsburgh is great too; it'll be great." She forced a smile, willing herself to believe that.
He just looked at her for a moment, finally sighing. "Does this have anything to do with Emily?"
The question caught Paige off-guard; had he actually just acknowledged that she was dating Emily for the first time since she'd told him four days ago? Paige was amazed. She swallowed. "Yeah, it does."
"You know your future, and your future alone, needs to come before any… relationship, right? You'll be full of regret when you're older, otherwise." Paige considered his words carefully, deciding that wouldn't be the case. Objectively, the Pittsburgh and Penn State swimming programmes were essentially as good as each other. The only think making Penn State more appealing was Emily.
"Both of their swimming programmes are great though; I wouldn't be sacrificing anything if I went to Penn State."
He sighed. "You're forgetting one thing; Emily is Penn State's first choice; you're their second. Would you not want to go to a school that put you first?"
Paige had already thought about that. "Dad, you know that I can beat Emily in a race. And sometimes she beats me; it's always been that way. I wouldn't worry that Emily would 'overshadow' me, if that's what you mean." He studied her as she talked. "Besides, we're big fish in a small pond right now; there's going to be much more competition out there, I'm going to feel out of my depth wherever I go." Going to the same school as Emily would be beneficial even purely on a swimming level, she realised; they had always been there for each other, pushing each other to do their best. It would be weird not having Emily there to support her.
But that was all part of growing up, she guessed. Dealing with change was part of life. "Anyway," she sighed. "There's no point talking about this. I'm going to Pittsburgh; Emily's going to Penn. That's all there is to it."
Her dad gave her a sympathetic smile, standing up. "Make sure and get a good sleep tonight; tomorrow's a big day." He placed the letter on her desk, kissing her on the forehead.
"Night. Good luck for tomorrow if I don't see you in the morning. Your mom and I will be in the stands." He smiled, leaving the room, Paige unable to believe how much her dad had changed over the past month. Never did she think she would feel so relaxed around him the night before a major swim meet.
She smiled, turning back to her desk, her eyes landing on the letter. She wistfully looked over it one last time before throwing it into the waste paper basket beside her.
She pulled up outside Paige's house early that morning, Paige already waiting for her beside the curb. Paige placed her duffel bag into the back before climbing into the passenger seat, leaning over to kiss her good morning. She kissed her slightly longer than normal, which Emily was sure had something to do with the phone conversation they'd had the night before.
Paige pulled back, smiling slightly. Emily took her hand, kissing her knuckles lightly. Listening to Paige on the phone had broken her heart; she wished that she'd never received the letter in the first place because Paige was right; if anything, it just felt like a kick when they were down.
"So, you ready for today?" Paige asked, her hand smoothing over Emily's thigh, her hand resting on the inside of her knee as Emily began to drive.
Emily smiled. "Of course; Oakwood's going down." They were a few points behind on the current leader board, but Emily wasn't worried. The team had been performing great recently, and as long as everyone maintained that standard, they could still win. Emily was feeling confident, especially since it was being held at Rosewood High and most of the crowd would be rooting for them.
She glanced over at Paige, seeing her biting her lip, looking pensive. She reached down to take her hand. "You okay?"
"What? Oh yeah, I'm fine." She didn't sound fine. She sounded sad. "Just thinking- this is going to be our last meet together; on the same team, anyway." Emily would be lying if she said that thought hadn't been playing on her mind all of last night, but she was trying not to dwell on it. There wasn't anything she could say to make Paige feel better; all she could do was hold her hand tighter.
"Come on!" Emily yelled, the whole swim team edging forwards to the side of the pool, encouraging Paige, the crowd cheering. It was the last leg of the relay; if they won this, they won the championship.
"Come on, Paige," Emily whispered, her gaze fixed on her. She was neck and neck with Oakwood, but her flip turn was more accurate; perfect, even. She grinned, watching as Paige began to pull ahead.
Emily held her breath as they got closer and closer to the side of the pool, Paige just maintaining the lead. "Come on, Paige!"
Paige hit the wall of the pool first, the noise erupting around them so loud that Emily winced through her own cheering. Paige lifted herself out of the water, pulling off her goggles and swim cap as the whole team surged forward, trying to pull her into a hug simultaneously.
Emily laughed, catching flashes of Paige's grin through the mass, seeing her eyes searching for her. Paige finally spotted her, raising her eyebrows, Emily smiling proudly.
Paige finally managed to make her way towards her, immediately placing a hand on the side of her neck, the other on her hip, pulling her in for a powerful kiss that made the world stop, the noise fading away into the background, every fibre of Emily's being surrounded by Paige.
Paige pulled back, running her thumb over Emily's bottom lip and looking at her with shining eyes, a smirk on face; Emily grinned.
Suddenly the team was all around them again, the noise soaring back into Emily's ears as the celebration began.
The next few weeks saw them being thrown into finals, almost all of their free time being taken up by revision much to Paige's dismay. She wished that she could at least study with Emily, but that never seemed to work out for them; both times they had tried it had resulted in lengthy make-out sessions and little to no studying.
She was pouring over her chemistry book when she heard her dad shouting from the hall, asking her to come downstairs. She sighed, stretching as she went, having been sitting in the same position for hours. She walked into the living room. "Yeah?"
Her dad nodded to the sofa. "We wanted to talk to you about something." Paige frowned hesitantly, but took a seat. Her parents shared a look between them, Paige growing concerned that they were about to tell her that someone had died. But then her dad turned back to her, a slight smile on his face.
"We've been talking about what to get you for your graduation present."
"Oh," Paige smiled, relaxing, wondering why they were acting all serious over a present.
"We were thinking of getting you a car-" Paige's jaw dropped. A car! She hadn't been expecting that at all, her mind reeling with possibilities instantly, the first one being that she could drive to visit Emily at Penn State as well as Emily driving to visit her at Pittsburgh. She didn't want Emily to feel like she was doing all the work in regards to making sure they saw one another. She suddenly realised her dad's mouth was still moving, tuning back in to listen to what he was saying. "But the choice is all yours. You're old enough now to decide what you want."
Paige shook her head, blushing slightly. "Sorry, Dad, I got distracted by the idea of a car and didn't hear the rest of what you said." Her mom smiled, rolling her eyes.
"Paige, we're asking whether you want a car, or would you rather your mom and I pay the other half of your tuition so you can go to Penn State- if that's really where you want to go, and I get the impression that it is."
Paige's heart stopped, her smile disappearing, trying to figure out if she had just hallucinated or if her parents had really just offered her a way into Penn State. "What?" she whispered, not trusting that her mind wasn't playing some cruel trick on her.
"Okay, I know you heard me that time," her dad said, smirking. "And your face is telling me the answer."
Paige could only sit there in shock, her eyes moving slowly over to her mom, seeing her give the most genuine smile she had given her in weeks. "I don't understand," she said quietly. "You know why I would rather go to Penn State, right? It's because of Emily." She wasn't sure what she was trying to accomplish by pointing that out, but she felt like she had to. They had not once mentioned Emily since the day of the championship, Paige thinking that seeing her kissing Emily in front of everyone might have been too much for them to handle.
"Yes, Paige, we're aware of that," her mom sighed. "And we're also aware that Penn State is a great school, and if you'll be happier there then we can comfortably afford to pay the rest of the fees to make that happen. You've worked so hard over the years; we want you to be able to go to the school of your choice. You deserve it."
Paige gasped, what her parents were saying finally hitting her; she could go to Penn State. I can be with Emily. And if this wasn't her parents giving her their blessing to be with Emily, then she didn't know what was. "Yes," she managed to choke out, a smile of disbelief on her face. "Yes, I want to go to Penn State."
"Well that's that, then," her dad said, clapping his hands onto his knees and standing up. "You can respond to their letter; let them know you accept." Paige grinned, relieved that she'd listened to the advice from Coach telling them not to accept any offer until the last minute in case a better one cropped up. She also realised she was going to have to dig the letter out of the waste paper basket in her room.
Paige leapt up, hugging her parents tightly in turn. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," she stressed. "This is the best present ever." They smiled. "Is it okay if I go to Emily's?" Paige didn't think she had ever looked forward to telling her something this much; she couldn't wait to see her reaction.
"Okay," her mom said. "Just don't be back too late."
Paige nodded quickly, darting towards the front door, grabbing her bike from the side of the house and pedalling furiously to Emily's house, smiling, feeling like she was flying.
She heard a frantic banging on the door downstairs, listening intently as her mom answered it. She was surprised to hear Paige, frowning at the urgency in her voice. She stood up, making her way to her door but Paige got there first, throwing it open.
Before she knew what was happening, Paige had picked her up off the floor, spinning her around in circles; she ended up losing her balance, both of them tumbling onto the bed, Emily giggling as Paige landed on top of her. Well, at least whatever it was must be good; Paige had the biggest grin on her face, leaning down to kiss her. "Guess who's coming to Penn State with you?" she said, pulling back.
Emily studied Paige's face; she was glowing. "What do you mean?" Emily swallowed, not understanding.
"Em, we're going to the same college; we can be together." Paige kissed her again, Emily's mind trying to catch up with what was happening. She pushed lightly on Paige's shoulders, gripping onto the material of her t-shirt tightly.
"Wait, what? What are you talking about?" Suddenly it hit her. "Paige, please tell me you didn't take out a loan? I told you not to."
Paige laughed quietly. "I didn't; relax, okay? My parents were talking to me about my graduation present; they asked if I wanted a car, or if I wanted to go to Penn State and they would pay the rest of the fees. The choice was obvious; I chose us."
Emily's chest constricted, unable to believe what she was hearing. "Paige, see if you're messing with me right now…" But she knew that she wasn't; Emily didn't think she'd ever seen Paige look so happy.
Paige laughed, Emily pulling her down for another kiss, smiling against her mouth as the news began to sink in, suddenly feeling like she could burst with joy. They were going to college together; they could see each other every day.
"This is it, Em," Paige murmured. "This is our break; this is our chance to be happy."
Paige was right; they had just leaped over their final obstacle. There was nothing standing in their way now. This was their time.
After that, everything seemed easy; life no longer felt like a ticking clock; she and Paige had all the time in the world. Their finals were over and Emily had never felt at more at ease. Now she could look forward to graduation; summer; college with Paige.
It was finally the night of their senior prom and Emily couldn't wait to see what Paige was wearing. She still hadn't given anything away and Emily was extremely curious, especially since Spencer had told her to make sure the corsage she bought for Paige had a pin.
After she had finished applying her make-up and styled her hair with the help of her mom (half of it pinned up, the rest cascading in waves over her shoulders), she stepped into her dress, observing herself in the mirror. The royal blue material hugged her body flawlessly, the colour the perfect complement to her skin tone; she loved the dress, and she hoped that Paige would love her in it.
She called her mom back upstairs to help her zip it up, seeing her getting teary eyed. "I can't believe how grown up you look. Time has passed so quickly." Emily smiled at her in the mirror, feeling slightly emotional herself. "You look beautiful, honey."
"Thanks, Mom," she smiled.
"Let's get a look at my little girl, then." Emily turned, seeing her dad standing in the doorway. He'd managed to get some time off so that he could be home for her graduation, which Emily was thankful for. She had missed him so much.
She stepped away from the mirror so that he could see her properly. "Wow." Emily grinned, letting him pull her into a hug. "Wait 'til Paige gets a look at you." Emily laughed. "When is she due over anyway?"
Emily turned to look at the clock. "She should be here in about fifteen minutes." Emily's stomach flipped excitedly.
"And Nick and Karen are coming too?" her mom asked, Emily nodding. Never did she imagine that both of their parents would want to see them off to prom. It was better than a dream.
They all moved downstairs, Emily listening intently for the sound of a car pulling up outside, finally hearing it after what felt like forever. She heard a knock at the door, her dad moving to answer it.
Emily took in a deep breath, smiling nervously. She got up from the couch, her breath catching in her throat as she saw Paige walk through the door. She was wearing a tuxedo. Paige is wearing a tuxedo. Emily felt her smile spreading, taking in every inch of Paige; from her hair that was pinned back into a bun, to her black bow tie, to the heels that she could just see poking out from under the bottom of her pants.
She looked at Paige's face, seeing that her eyes were similarly roaming all over her, taking her in. Emily blushed under her gaze. Their eyes finally connected, both of them grinning stupidly. Emily walked towards her, taking her hand and leading her up the stairs to her room, their parents too busy in conversation to notice.
They turned to face each other, Emily's eyes once again fixated on what Paige was wearing. "Well?" Paige said, sounding slightly anxious. "What do you think? It's not too much? I wasn't sure if-"
Emily looked back into Paige's eyes, cupping her cheek. "It's amazing; you're amazing. I love it." She ran her finger along the collar of Paige's shirt. "In fact, I think I love it a little too much." She was seriously contemplating throwing Paige onto the bed, prom be damned.
Paige laughed, taking her hand and intertwining their fingers. "Thank god, I was so nervous."
Emily smiled at her affectionately, leaning forward to kiss her. "You had no reason to be."
Paige smiled, taking a step back to look down at her dress. She shook her head slightly. "You look so beautiful, Em," she sighed, looking back up at her with dark eyes that caused Emily's heart to race. "Stunning." Paige captured her lips in a sensual kiss, Emily stepping closer to her, her arms wrapping around Paige's neck as they kissed deeply.
They broke apart reluctantly at the sound of her dad's voice. "Yeah?"
"We're waiting to take photos, come on!"
Emily huffed, though smiled at the same time, taking Paige's hand again to lead her back downstairs. "Wait," Paige said, tugging on her hand and letting it go. Emily turned to see her fiddling with a box that she hadn't realised she'd been holding.
Paige pulled out the corsage, discarding the box onto Emily's bed and gesturing for her to hold out her arm. Emily smiled as Paige slid it over her wrist with a steady hand, stroking the skin of her forearm as she admired it. "Perfect," she grinned.
Emily walked over to her desk, lifting up the corsage she had bought for Paige and moving back towards her. She slipped a hand inside Paige's jacket, pulling it outwards slightly so she could slip the pin into the material, glad that she had listened to Spencer's advice.
She smoothed her hands over Paige's front, Paige trailing her hands over her bare shoulders. "Ready?"
She smiled. "Ready."
When her parents had first seen the tux a week ago after she'd brought it home from the tailor's, she could tell that they were surprised to say the least, her mom's disappointment evident that she wouldn't get to see her in a dress; but thankfully they'd gotten over it. By the time Paige was actually wearing it, they were ready with the camera to take her picture.
And then they had asked to take a photo of her and Emily together and she'd almost cried because she had never imagined this level of acceptance from them and it was hard to process. She didn't think she would ever be over them offering to pay for Penn State either. It still felt like it had all been a figment of her imagination.
But it wasn't, she had to remind herself. This was real; oh, so very real.
She grinned as she stepped out of the long, sleek black limo that they'd all rode in to the venue. Everyone had met up at Hanna's house after getting photos done by their parents.
Paige turned, holding her hand out for Emily to help her out of the car. Emily's hand curled around her arm as they began to walk inside, following after Spencer and Toby, followed by Hanna and Caleb, and then Aria and Holden, a family friend of Aria's. Aria had assured them not to feel bad for her; although she couldn't go with Ezra, she claimed she wasn't going to let that ruin her night. Paige knew that she was just putting on a brave face though, knew it must be killing her inside.
She would never take her relationship with Emily for granted. Although it had taken a lot to get here, the main point was that they were here, and that fact would always be a miracle to her.
They entered the hall, Paige looking all around the spacious room that was decorated in purple and silver. "Wow, it looks great, Spence," Emily gasped, Paige nodding in agreement.
"Thanks," Spencer smiled proudly. "Come on, we're seated over here." They followed Spencer and Toby further into the hall, Paige noticing that her attire was turning a few heads. She glanced sideways at Emily, seeing that she was already looking at her, a gentle smile on her lips, and just like that, everyone else was forgotten.
After they'd finished their meal, music started to blast from the speakers, everyone getting to their feet. Emily jumped up in excitement, tugging on Paige's hand. "Come on!" Paige smiled at Emily's enthusiasm, rising slowly. Dancing had never been her strong point, but that didn't mean she didn't enjoy it, and the look on Emily's face was the only encouragement she needed.
Emily led her onto the dance floor where all the students were gathering; they arranged themselves into a small circle with their friends, everyone smiling at each other as they began to dance. Paige moved awkwardly at first, but then she felt Emily's hand firmly in her own and began to find the rhythm of the song, happiness coursing through her body.
It felt like they had been dancing for hours; Paige had gotten so warm that she'd had to ditch her jacket, leaving her in her black vest. She'd caught Emily's eyes several times throughout the night wandering all over her, her hands brushing her back, her sides, all concealed within dance moves. Paige's stomach dipped, thinking that she was in for a good time after prom finished if they could find somewhere to be alone.
Eventually the time came when the music slowed down, everyone pairing off. Paige turned to face Emily, their eyes connecting, gazes unwavering as they stepped closer to one another, Emily's arms going around her neck as she pulled Emily in by the waist.
Their noses brushed as they began to sway slowly, Paige smiling slightly, Emily's eyes fluttering closed as she rested their foreheads together. She was slow dancing with Emily at their senior prom, and they had all the time in the world. It couldn't be more perfect. "Did you ever imagine things would play out this way?"
"What?" Emily smirked, pulling back a fraction. "Did I ever imagine we would be at prom together? Or did I ever imagine we would be going to college together?" She laughed. "Or did I ever imagine that there was the slightest chance you would even return any of the feelings I had for you?"
Paige grinned. "All of the above?" They both laughed quietly, Paige contemplating just how much everything had changed over the past nine months. It was difficult to remember what her life had been like before- dating Sean, only being Emily's friend, totally oblivious to Emily's crush on her. "It's like a fairy tale." That was the only way to describe it.
"Paige," Emily smiled. "You are my fairy tale." Paige felt warmth spreading through her body, settling in the centre of her chest, a lump forming in her throat.
She leaned in, kissing Emily tenderly. "I love you; more than I could ever possibly say."
"I love you too, and I'm going to tell you that every single day from now on."
Paige smiled, kissing her again. "Even the days where I piss you off?"
"Even then," Emily laughed, kissing the tip of her nose. "We're in this forever." Emily's eyes locked with hers, so full of certainty, so full of love.
Paige kissed her lightly, pulling back with a grin. This was the end of high school, but it was the beginning of something much bigger. It was the beginning of her life with Emily. "Forever and always."
A/N: So, I can't believe I'm finally saying this, but THE END.
There were some points throughout the story where I felt like I was never going to get here, and I'm so elated that I have. I never knew I had it in me to stick with something this long.
And really, it's because of you guys. Without your support I would probably have given up a while ago, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for joining me on this journey and giving an amateur writer a chance.
A few people have been asking if I'm going to write another story, and honestly, I don't know. I will probably write a few one shots here and there, but will mostly just be taking it easy for now. Who knew writing could be so draining? :P
I'll be going back and doing a proper edit of this story, fixing all the typos, fixing a few regional errors that have been pointed out to me etc. Just to polish it off. Once I've done that, I'll probably post a PDF of the file on my tumblr in case people want a copy.
I think that's all I have to say, so thank you once again, thanks for all the follows, faves, and an extra-special thank you to those who left a review or a PM along the way :)
PLL is back soon, let's pray S4 is good to us!
ETA: Edit now complete.