DISCLAIMER: Pretty Little Liars and all its characters is the intellectual property of others. Some characters used in the writing of this fic belong to PLL. Events that transpire, will transpire and have transpired in this story are entirely of my own creation.
PART ONE: "Mutantur Omnia Nos Et Mutamur In Illis"
~ All things change, and we change with them. ~
Emily Fields lived for Saturday mornings. For as long as she could remember, whenever Fridays came to an end, she found herself looking forward to waking up the next day knowing Saturday mornings were reserved for breakfasts at the Hayes household. It has always been like that. Since her freshman year in high school, after her girlfriend of almost three years walked up to her after a grueling first day and introduced herself, instantly making her day a hundred times better, Emily spent Saturday mornings having breakfast with her girlfriend's family and she wouldn't have it any other way.
As she looked around the table, Emily felt a sense of happiness and contentment. It was rare that for someone as young as them, she and Jai Hayes are in a mature relationship and had their entire future planned out. While all around them couples tend to fight about the simplest and silliest of things, their relationship was one of support and stability. They were secure about their importance in each other's lives and Emily loved that. She also loved the fact that her girlfriend is probably the most attentive girlfriend ever to walk the face of the earth, smiling when Jai took one look at her empty coffee mug and immediately stood up to refill it, making Emily's coffee the way she preferred it, two scoops of cream and one scoop of sugar.
For a while, Emily shifted her attention from the morning chatter to study her girlfriend as Jai walked back from the kitchen counter towards the dining table, moving effortlessly as if she wasn't holding a mug with a steaming beverage. At 5'10", Jai was easily a good two inches taller than her, the girl's slender build, clear skin, sleek shoulder-length layered black hair and attractive facial features making her a strong contender to be a runway model if she wanted to. But Jai isn't destined to be a model. She is much too smart for that. Jasmine Hayes was destined for far greater things in life and everyone around her knew that. The girl could be an engineer, an architect, a lawyer, a scientist, a doctor, maybe even someone who could discover a cure for some unknown illness. Whatever she decides to be people just knew she would excel at it. That was one of the reasons why Emily felt she was the luckiest girl on the planet when Jai asked her to officially be her girlfriend after just a few weeks of dating. Jai both had beauty and brains. Add to that a heart of gold and it doesn't really come as a surprise that the people of Rosewood eventually saw them as a match made in heaven. It was a label Emily had no problem living with because they really were. People didn't need to tell her that. She knew in her heart that she and Jai are perfect for each other.
As she returned to her seat beside Emily, Jai placed the steaming mug near her girlfriend's plate, careful not to spill any of it on the table.
Emily smiled, leaning her head on her hand to glance at Jai. "Thanks love." She said as she held the mug by its handle.
"Careful. It's hot." Jai warned as she watched Emily take a small sip before focusing her attention back to her breakfast.
"Thanks but I don't think I can finish another one, Logan." Emily said, gracefully declining the heaping plate of French toast Jai's father offered her.
"Oh come on. This is our Saturday tradition. Breakfast ala Hayes." Logan said jovially, setting the plate down beside him to offer Emily a plate of bacon and scrambled eggs instead. He was pleased when the girl accepted the plate of food and took a few pieces of the bacon before setting it down in front of her.
"Dad, leave my girlfriend alone." Jai said, shaking her head in amusement at her father's attempt to make Emily eat more. It was starting to get old. And the best part was just about to come…
"You're too skinny." Logan said, studying his daughter's girlfriend closely. "Is everything okay at home?"
And there it is. Jai thought, covering her mouth with the back of her hand to keep from laughing out loud. She was about to defend her girlfriend when her sister did it for her instead.
"Dad, you're doing it again." Kayla said, rolling her eyes. "Emily isn't a patient of yours. Stop asking about her nonexistent family problems." She said before taking a bite of her French toast.
Logan raised his hands defensively. "I was just curious. Is Wayne coming home soon?" He asked as he took a sip of his coffee.
Emily nodded. "Yeah. He's coming home by the end of September. My mom could barely wait. Me too of course." She added, smiling excitedly.
"Well when he gets home maybe we could have one of those family dinners. We haven't had those in quite a while." Logan suggested.
"My parents would love that. I'll tell them." Emily promised before starting to eat the rest of her breakfast.
"I just hope Jai is still here when your dad comes home. When do you expect that letter from London?" Logan asked as he shifted his attention to his daughter.
"Next week." Jai answered confidently.
"Well give me a heads up so I can steer clear of the house when you throw a party." Logan said, smiling at his daughter proudly.
"Dad." Jai protested, embarrassed.
"What? I just know you got in." Logan said as he brought his hands together in front of him to rest his chin on it.
"Me too." Emily said, taking Jai's hand and squeezing it lightly. "You're way too good for them to say no to you."
Jai smiled at her girlfriend. "Thanks love."
"King's College." Logan began. "If you get in you will be the youngest research intern admitted into their program. I couldn't be more proud." He continued, looking at Jai fondly. "It wasn't too long ago that we sat at this very table and I told you about that school. And then you had this look and I just knew that it was going to be a part of your dreams."
"Oh my god, dad, now is not the time to take a trip down memory lane." Kayla exclaimed. "Emily's here." She added in a low whisper that everyone still heard. "Wipe your tears. You're embarrassing us." She said teasingly, making everyone seated around the table laugh.
"I'll get that." Logan volunteered after their laughter died down, standing up when they heard the doorbell ring. "You girls best finish eating your breakfast." He called behind him as he disappeared towards the direction of the front door.
Once she was sure that her dad wasn't in the room anymore, Jai faced Emily and scooted to her girlfriend closer, giving her a quick kiss. "Good morning." She said before kissing the girl again. "I wasn't able to greet you properly this morning. What with my dad interrupting us and everything."
Emily grinned. "Better late than never." She said quietly, leaning forward to kiss Jai again.
"Oh, you two please not in front of breakfast." Kayla protested the second she looked up from the paper she was reading and saw the two girls kissing, making good use of the time they had the room to themselves before Logan came back.
"Go back to reading that paper Kayla." Jai said, not taking her eyes off Emily. She was about to lean in to kiss her girlfriend again when a familiar voice from the dining room entrance stopped her.
"Well, well. What do we have here? Aside from a way too early make out session." A brown-haired girl of about Emily's height and Jai's build dressed in running attire asked as she casually sauntered inside the room, taking off her earphones as she did so. She looked at the three people inside the room and the food on the table and grinned. "I guess I made it just in time. Like always."
Emily rolled her eyes in annoyance. True. She looked forward to Saturday mornings. That is, until Jai's best friend since middle school comes crashing through the front door and disturbs their perfectly good morning. For as long as she could remember, Paige McCullers has always invited herself to these breakfasts, interrupting their peaceful meal. And today was no exception.
"Paige!" Kayla exclaimed, instantly folding the paper she was reading and smiling at the girl. "I was wondering when you were gonna show up."
Paige gave Kayla a grin before returning her attention to the two girls. "You do realize that you two aren't alone in the room, right? She's way too young to see you two in action." She said, pointedly directing her statement to her best friend.
"Please. I've seen lots of couples make out on TV. Boys and girls. And not necessarily with each other." Kayla added, seemingly proud of herself.
Paige's jaw dropped as she pretended to be appalled. "Kids these days. You need to put parental lock on your channels." She reminded Jai.
"Hey, I'm sixteen!" Kayla protested, pouting at Paige.
Paige scratched her head in confusion. "Really? I could've sworn you were twelve." She said teasingly. "I was just here last week."
"You suck!" Kayla complained.
Paige laughed before finally deciding to acknowledge the third person in the room. "I didn't realize you have an uninvited guest." She said, staring at Emily.
"Well you should've thought of that before walking in here." Emily retorted, steeling herself for another round of bickering with Jai's best friend.
Emily never really understood what Jai saw in the girl. Why they ended up becoming best friends. They were as different as night and day. Unlike Jai who seemed comfortable being around people and exuded confidence without coming off as arrogant, Paige struck her as someone who's aloof and indifferent. It made her feel as if Paige thought she was better than the rest of them and because of that, she never really felt comfortable around the girl. She always thought Paige was arrogant.
And that really shouldn't bother her. Paige can be arrogant if she wanted to. That is, if she had something to be arrogant about. But in the three years that she has known the girl, it was obvious that Paige doesn't even compare to Jai. And her girlfriend had the decency to be modest despite being close to perfect. Because while Jai is the type of girl who had everything figured out and knew what she wanted out of life, Paige seemed to be struggling. Like the girl was all over the place. Paige did things on a whim, barely considering the consequences of her actions, unlike Jai who always had a plan and had a cool head on her shoulders. Plus she never really understood why the girl hated her ever since Jai introduced them to each other. She tried to be nice but to this day Paige still treated her horribly. Finally, she gave up trying to be friends with the girl and instead got into a bickering and mocking contest with Jai's best friend whenever they were in the same room. She wasn't going to let Paige intimidate her. Emily knew it bothered Jai but her girlfriend knows that she isn't the problem. Paige is.
"Guys, it's early." Jai pleaded. "Paige will you please just grab a plate?"
Paige shrugged and headed to the counter to grab a clean plate before sitting down opposite of Emily and beside Kayla.
"Where's my dad?" Jai asked as she glanced behind her towards the dining room entrance.
"He was signing for a package when I arrived. He just told me to go in. The door was open so I did." Paige explained as she poured herself a glass of juice.
"Like a stray cat." Emily stated, staring as Paige helped herself to a French toast and transferred some eggs and several pieces of bacon to her plate.
"Meow." Paige purred sarcastically before she began to eat. She suddenly waved a hand when she saw Jai's father enter behind her best friend and Emily. "Hey Logan! I hope you didn't mind. I'm famished from all that running I just did."
"Of course. Help yourself." Logan said as he resumed his position at the table. "These girls said they're full so there's plenty of food left for you." He said reassuringly. "I'm just glad one of you still eats like a normal person."
Paige grinned gratefully and continued to eat her breakfast while Jai and Kayla rolled their eyes in exasperation.
"So what was the package you had delivered?" Kayla asked curiously.
"It was the new therapy chair I ordered. It was supposed to be delivered to the hospital but my new assistant wrote down this address by mistake." Logan answered. "I'm gonna have to talk to her later."
As Kayla continued to talk with her father, Emily moved to take the last piece of bacon on the plate in front of her but before she could, Paige took it and waved it at her mockingly.
Emily glared at the girl, knowing Paige did it just to get a rise out of her when she noticed that the girl still had a piece of bacon on her plate. Jai saw the exchange and shook her head at her best friend disapprovingly before transferring the last bacon on her plate to Emily's. Emily smiled at Jai and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before looking at Paige, challenging her.
"I think I just vomited in my mouth." Paige said under her breath, just loud enough for Emily to hear.
Emily scrunched up her face in disgust. "You're repulsive you know that?" She asked the girl rhetorically.
Paige's attempt to respond was interrupted by Logan. "I'm headed out." He said as he stood up. "I need to get to the hospital early to set up that chair and traffic is horrible going to the city. Hopefully I'll get to see you four again next Saturday." Logan said before finishing his coffee and checking his phone to see if there are any messages from the hospital. "And I hope next time Paige and Emily will actually behave." He said as he looked up to smile at the girls.
"Don't hold your breath." Kayla said as she looked at the two girls who were still glaring at each other.
Logan smiled as he walked over to his daughters and kissed them on the head goodbye. As soon as Logan was out of the door, Paige stood up as well.
"Wait, where are you going?!" Jai asked in surprise when she saw Paige drink her glass of orange juice in one gulp. "Are you seriously doing a dine and dash on me? Dude!"
Paige looked at her best friend apologetically. "I need to get home before my dad leaves. I swear I'll make it up to you. Sorry!" She said in a rush, waving goodbye before bolting out of the house.
"She really is a stray cat." Emily said as she stood up to help Jai clear the dishes.
It was a cold Wednesday afternoon in August when the doorbell rang and Emily immediately bounded the steps two at a time from her room to the living room, excited to get to the door. "I got it mom!" She called out as she passed by a mirror and checked her reflection before opening the door to her girlfriend. "Hey." Emily said, smiling at the gorgeous girl standing on her front doorstep.
"Hey yourself." Jai said in greeting, running a hand through her hair before taking a step forward and giving her girlfriend a quick kiss on the cheek. "Good afternoon Pam." She said, smiling warmly when she looked past her girlfriend and saw Emily's mom appear by the kitchen entrance.
"Jasmine." Pam said in greeting, smiling at her daughter's girlfriend affectionately. "Don't just stand there. It's cold out. Come in! Can I get you anything?" She asked as Jai stepped inside the house.
"No thank you. I don't think I can hold anything down in my nervousness." Jai admitted as she placed a hand over her stomach.
Pam's smile immediately changed to one of knowing. "I take it the mail came today." She said, the hint of excitement in her voice unmistakable.
Jai nodded before shifting her attention back to Emily. "I got it." She revealed before producing the letter and waving it in front of her girlfriend.
"What did it say?" Emily asked eagerly.
"I was kinda hoping we'd open it together." Jai said, grinning at her girlfriend's enthusiasm.
"I'll be in the kitchen if either of you girls needs anything." Pam said before excusing herself to go back to what she was doing.
"Want to open it in your room?" Jai asked, raising an eyebrow suggestively.
Emily nodded before letting Jai lead the way upstairs. Once they reached the privacy of her room, Emily closed the door behind them and joined Jai on the edge of her bed.
"Ready?" Jai asked nervously.
Emily nodded, her eyes never leaving the envelope in Jai's hand.
"On the count of three then." Jai said as she began to open the envelope. "One, two..."
"Three." A voice from Emily's bedroom window made the two look up in surprise then annoyance.
"Why is she here?!" Emily asked as she glared at the uninvited girl who was already halfway inside her room. "And there's this thing called a door. It's rectangular in shape, made of wood and you knock on its surface, wait for the people on the other side of it to let you in before you open it. That way you would know you're wanted." She explained, exasperated at Paige's intrusion. "I mean, you do know how to knock, right? Because if you don't I can teach you." Emily offered sarcastically.
"You are hilarious." Paige shot back sarcastically as she struggled to balance herself. "You should seriously consider a career in stand-up comedy in case your dream of becoming an advertising exec doesn't pan out. Same difference. One-liners instead of catchy slogans."
"Yeah I forgot to tell you she drove me here." Jai revealed sheepishly, hoping this wouldn't start another round of bickering.
"What?" Paige asked, looking at Emily and Jai before looking at Emily's face again. "Aww don't tell me you're not glad to see me." She said, pretending to be offended as her feet finally landed on the floor of Emily's room. "I didn't want to bother your mom so I took a shortcut." Paige explained before staring at Jai. "You my friend left me outside. I'm not your driver you know."
"Yeah sorry about that." Jai said, smiling faintly. "I was just excited to see Emily."
Paige shrugged. "It's fine. So what did I miss?" She asked as she stood in front of the two girls, crossing her arms in front of her chest as she looked at them expectantly.
"I was just about to open the letter when you barged in." Jai explained.
"Well get on with it." Paige said encouragingly.
"Please go away." Emily said. "This moment is kinda between us." She said, glancing at Jai for support.
"Paige?" Jai said apologetically.
Paige stared at her best friend in disbelief. "Oh my g… Jai you are so whipped it's not even funny. I don't get what the big deal is." She said, refusing to leave.
"This moment is part of our future. Our future. It doesn't involve you." Emily explained, still annoyed.
Paige rolled her eyes, seemingly used to these conversations. "Please. Don't say it again. I've committed it to memory I feel as if it's becoming my plan. Let's see if I remember this correctly." She said before clearing her throat. "Get an apartment outside of campus and move in together, Jai gets a car, she drives Sniffles..."
"Hey!" Emily exclaimed, indignant.
Paige refused to correct herself. "Sniffles to her classes, eat home cooked meals and stay in or spend a night out of town, fancy dinners and what not. It's all very..." She trailed off, pretending to look for the right word.
"Romantic?" Emily supplied.
"No. The word I was actually looking for is domesticated." Paige corrected.
"I don't expect you to understand Paige. I don't know what's pumping blood in your veins. I don't even know if you have blood." Emily retorted.
"Ooh… careful Sniffles. You're getting soft with the comebacks. It doesn't even sting this time." Paige fired back.
"I have other things on my mind right now. Like our future." Emily repeated as she took Jai's hand in hers.
"Then by all means, please continue your letter opening ceremony." Paige said, gesturing her hand towards the letter Jai still held in her hand.
"Get out of here Paige." Emily ordered.
"Paige." Jai pleaded, knowing how important the moment was for her and Emily.
Paige shook her head. "No way! I'm not staying downstairs after I risked climbing a tree to get in here. I don't know how to talk to Sniffles' mom." She explained.
"How about not calling her Sniffles' mom? That's a good place to start." Jai said. "Or maybe you could stay outside. In your car. Turn on the heater. I'll be down in a few." She promised.
Paige looked at them for a second longer before giving up. "Whatever." She said, turning her back to leave, this time using the door. She would have to explain to Pam Fields how she got inside if the woman saw her.
"Thanks." Jai called after her best friend. "Where were we?" She asked Emily as she focused her attention to her girlfriend once again.
"You were about to open that letter." Emily said, smiling softly.
Jai smiled and handed it to her girlfriend. "Open it." She said.
Emily took the letter. "Are you sure?" She asked.
Jai nodded. "I'm sure. I want you to be the first to know." She said, slightly nervous.
"Okay." Emily said as she tore open the envelope and took the letter out. She quickly scanned the contents before breaking into a grin. "You got in." She said, looking at her girlfriend. "Oh my god Jai you got in!"
"I did?" Jai asked in disbelief.
Emily gave her girlfriend a quick kiss. "I knew you'd get in." She whispered softly. "Congratulations, love."
"I need to call UPenn. Tell them I'm deferring for a year." Jai said, her mind starting to plan the next step. "Then I need to call King's College in London to tell them to expect me the first week of September." Jai looked at her girlfriend. "I really got in?" She asked incredulously.
Emily nodded. "You did. Just like you planned. It's all falling into place." She said as she stared past Jai to look at the vision board they made together their freshmen year.
Jai stood up and walked towards it, studying the 20x30 illustration board they hung up on Emily's wall which held their dreams before grabbing a marker from Emily's study table and putting a huge check on the picture of King's College.
"That's one vision down and lots more to go." Jai said, looking at her girlfriend. "I'm sorry I can't be here the rest of your senior year." She said apologetically.
Emily shook her head. "I don't mind. I guess that's just one of the disadvantages of dating a bright not to mention gorgeous girl. You graduated ahead the rest of us. You've been preparing for this moment since we were freshmen. Now that it's finally come true don't be sorry. You're reaching your dreams." She said proudly.
"I know. I just wish I didn't have to leave so early. I wanted to see you get accustomed to being a senior. And I wanted to celebrate your birthday with you." Jai said ruefully.
"Jai it's fine. It's just one birthday. When you get back we get to celebrate my birthdays for years to come." Emily said reassuringly. "But the rest of my year as a senior though. I wanted you to see me."
"I know. I could just imagine the freshmen dropping their jaws and their eyes bulging every time you enter those doors. You are so gonna rule high school." Jai said, grabbing Emily by the waist swiftly.
"You think so?" Emily asked, pretending to be concerned before smiling as she wrapped her arms around her girlfriend's neck.
"I know so." Jai said, moving close to kiss Emily. "You are gonna be so hot. Being a senior and all."
"You're not worried though are you?" Emily asked teasingly. "With all the attention I'll be getting?"
"Should I be?" Jai asked, pretending to be worried.
Emily shook her head as her eyes traveled to Jai's lips. "I love you Jasmine Hayes. Now until forever." She said softly.
"I love you too Emily Fields. Now until forever." Jai uttered before Emily pulled her close for a kiss.
Paige drummed her fingers impatiently on the steering wheel of her dad's car, checking the time on the clock mounted on the dashboard for the third time. She shouldn't have agreed to drive Jai to her girlfriend's house knowing she wasn't welcome there. But because she owed Jai for the dine and dash move she did at breakfast last week, she didn't have a choice. She didn't want to leave the warmth of the Fields' house but she and Pam really didn't have anything to talk about so she decided to sit here than endure sitting in the living room in silence. She sat up straight when she finally saw her best friend emerge from inside the house, jogging the rest of the way as she hurriedly headed towards the parked car.
"Wow. Setting a new record." Paige said once Jai shut the door. "It actually took you thirty minutes before you decided to join me." She said, pretending to be impressed.
"Sorry." Jai said as she fastened her seatbelt.
"So?" Paige asked impatiently. "Are you going to tell me what the letter said or am I gonna have to guess? Because I'm pretty sure you got in." She said as she fastened her own seatbelt and locked the doors.
"I got in." Jai confirmed.
Paige shook her head. "Why am I not surprised? Watch out world. The King's College today, Nobel Peace Prize tomorrow. Slow down Jazz. You're making the rest of us look bad." She said jokingly.
Jai smiled faintly. "I gotta do this." She explained.
"So you're really doing this internship thing in London." Paige said, trying to wrap her mind around the fact that her best friend is leaving. When Jai nodded determinedly, she continued. "You all set there? I mean, where you'll be staying and everything?"
"Yeah. I got it all figured out." Jai said reassuringly. "Like I said, I gotta do this."
"For you and Sniffles' future. Yeah, yeah." Paige said, starting the car.
"Will you please start calling my girlfriend by her name? It's been more than two years, Paige." Jai said, starting to get annoyed again.
"Why should I? Are you guys together for good? If you two break up at least I can proudly say I didn't waste my time trying to get to know her." Paige explained as she drove towards Jai's house.
"We're together for good." Jai said seriously. "I'm gonna marry her after college Paige."
"So why are you going away for almost a year?" Paige asked, confused.
"Our relationship can survive it." Jai said firmly.
"I'm not saying it can't. Or won't. You've been planning to go to London ever since your dad told us it was the best place to get a research internship in Psychiatry. That was in middle school. When we were still attending Girard. Before we transferred to Rosewood High. Before you and Sniffles got together. Don't you think you should've factored in her opinion before you decided to apply there after you graduated last summer?" Paige asked.
"It wasn't up for discussion. It's always been a part of my plan. Three years in high school. Graduate ahead of the class, internship in London before UPenn for college. Emily knows that. It's not like I kept it a secret. When we got together she knew that and we somehow managed to find a way around it to make room for our relationship." Jai explained. "Just because I met someone doesn't mean I'm going to deviate from my plans. She knows how important those plans are to me. Just like I know how important her plans are to her."
"I don't know. To me it should have been the other way around. You work your plans around the girl. Not factor in the girl to your plans. The girl always comes first." Paige argued.
"Are you actually speaking in behalf of my girlfriend?!" Jai asked, surprised.
Paige scoffed. "No. I was talking in general. If it were me, I would've made new plans when I meet the girl I wanted to marry. They're just plans. They're not supposed to be set in stone. You have to learn to adapt when things don't go your way. Or if something better comes along."
"Well obviously you haven't been in a real relationship to actually be an expert on the subject matter." Jai said. "Emily and I have a common goal. Where we envision ourselves ten years from now. How we get there and who we are when we get there depends on what we accomplish today. She has her dreams and I encourage her to reach for those. She knows she has my full support. In return she does the same for me. Because ten years from now the people we're going to be, how we became those people, is because we learned to support each other this early on."
"What you two are doing isn't entirely supporting each other. It's called making your own dreams come true and expecting the other one to just go along with it. You applying for that internship and her not saying anything about it is not being supportive Jai. It's being scared to ask you not to go so far away and consider taking an internship somewhere near. I mean, did you even consider that? Taking an internship within the country now that you have a serious girlfriend?" Paige asked. "Someone you insist you're going to marry down the road?"
"The one in London is the best. Just like the Psychiatry program in UPenn is the best in the country. It would look good in my CV and Emily knows that, that's why she didn't ask me to find an internship somewhere closer." Jai explained. "Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in your relationship to make your dreams a reality."
"Sacrificing your relationship to reach those dreams isn't worth it." Paige argued.
"What's this really about?" Jai asked, staring at her best friend. "Why are you suddenly so against me leaving?"
"I'm not." Paige said, glancing at her friend briefly. "I swear Jazz I'm not. I'm just making sure this is what you want."
"It's what I need." Jai corrected. "Of course I don't want to be away from Emily for so long. But I gotta do this. You and I both know that."
"Not really." Paige said. "Come on. Find an internship somewhere closer. That way we can hang out after school." She said, trying to change her friend's mind.
"It's too good an opportunity to miss." Jai hedged.
"What are you talking about? It's just part of a future you planned. There are other ways to reach your dream." Paige argued.
"Maybe so but this path is the best." Jai argued back.
"Well what if somewhere along the way one of you realizes to become the person you wanted to be years from now you have to give up the girl, what are you two going to do?" Paige asked, glancing at her friend briefly. "Who's going to give up her dreams for the other? Are you telling me you're still both not willing to change your plans?"
"Are you telling me you're going to give up your plans for the girl?" Jai threw the question back at her friend. "Are you actually going to sacrifice the entire future you've planned for the girl?"
"Yeah. Because when I find her my future lies with her." Paige answered quickly. "I have no qualms about giving up my plans for her."
"It's not all or nothing Paige." Jai said wryly. "You can't lose who you are when you enter a relationship. You have to learn to keep a little of yourself. Support her dreams but pursue yours as well."
"To me it is." Paige said quietly. "All or nothing. I know who I am. I would gladly give up my plans and make new plans if it meant I get to keep the girl."
"You're such a hopeless romantic." Jai said, shaking her head.
"Then answer me this. Answer me this and I will never ever bring it up again." Paige promised. "What if somewhere along the way you realized that the person you envisioned yourself to be years from now isn't the same person you thought you wanted to be? You have built these versions of yourselves with no room for change. What if life throws you for a loop and you realize it's not the future you wanted for yourself? Are you telling me you won't be willing to change your plans if it meant still being with the girl in the end?"
"I don't get it." Jai admitted.
Paige rolled her eyes. "You want to be a world-renowned Psychiatrist. Sniffles wants to have her own advertising company. If one day one of you realizes you don't want to be those people anymore, you think your relationship will be able to survive that? You made all these plans. Ten years from now you're this and she's that. If one of you fails to reach her dreams at that point in your lives, will you still be with the girl or will one of you feel as if they fell short to what the other expected of them?" Paige explained. "You wanted to be with the girl who is supposed to be this big shot advertising executive. If she doesn't live up to that, will you still be with her or will you find someone else? Someone that's supposed to be good enough for the version of you, you saw today?"
"Of course I'd still be with Emily. Whatever she decides to become I still choose to be with her." Jai answered. "I love her Paige. Not who she does or doesn't become."
Paige smiled faintly. "Okay. Consider this conversation dropped."
"Thank you." Jai said. "And for future references, stay out of my relationship Miss-Can't-Commit."
"Not allowed to commit. There's a big difference." Paige corrected. "You think I like being detached and aloof? Making girls feel I have commitment issues?"
Jai gave her best friend an apologetic smile. "Of course not. Sorry." A moment of silence passed between them before she spoke up again. "What about you? Still plan on going to USC?"
Paige nodded. "It's my dream school and I love California's weather." She said, smiling.
"Your dad still on board with that plan of yours?" Jai asked, concerned.
"Yeah. I've been doing better so he has no reason to worry." Paige explained.
"I was thinking. Maybe you could write about your struggle in your personal essay. Impress the Dean of the College or something." Jai suggested.
"I don't know." Paige began, biting her lip nervously. "It's not really something I want people to know."
"It could help with your college application. Trust me, colleges and universities like reading about triumphs over adversities." Jai explained.
"I'll think about it." Paige said, knowing her friend won't let the matter rest until she said yes.
"I can help if you want." Jai offered. "E-mail me a draft or something and I can help you from London."
Paige shook her head. "Jasmine we're not kids anymore. I don't need help with my homework. If I get in, good for me. If not, there are other colleges out there." She said, shrugging.
"I know. I just want to make sure that you get into your dream school." Jai said absentmindedly as she stared outside the window.
"Will you please stop worrying about me?" Paige pleaded, laughing lightly.
"I can't help it. You're my best friend." Jai said, looking at Paige.
"Fine. I'll send you a draft." Paige finally said, knowing how worried her friend is. "But please concentrate on your internship when you get to London. Stop focusing on what's going on here while you're there."
"I'll try." Jai said, smiling faintly after a lull in their conversation. "Hey Paige? I won't even pretend I know how it feels. Having to distance yourself emotionally. I just wish I could do something now to help you."
Paige shrugged. "It's fine. I'm kinda getting used to it actually. And I'm not in a hurry to fall in love because when I meet that someone, whatever my dad tells me I will commit." She said firmly.
"What do you mean?" Jai asked cautiously.
"I mean when I meet that girl I will commit. Whatever my dad asks me to do I won't do it. Even if it meant breaking the promise I made to him. Because I know that girl will stick around." Paige said simply.
"Paige…" Jai began.
"Congratulations by the way." Paige said, abruptly changing the subject as she glanced at her friend.
Jai smiled tightly. "Thanks." She said, looking out the window, her mind lingering on the words her best friend just said.
Emily stared at the vision board and studied the checks on the cutouts she and Jai compiled a few months into their relationship. She smiled, remembering one of the reasons why she loves Jai so much. The girl has everything planned out. She's moving so fast. Accomplishing things left and right. Taking steps closer to her dreams. She looked at the cutouts that didn't have check marks yet and realized most of it was hers. I have to start making some of these come true. Emily thought determinedly. This year I will accomplish as many as I can. Jai's ambitious nature and drive fueled hers. It inspired her to strive harder and she couldn't imagine anyone else making her feel that way. It's just a year away from each other. Probably less. She thought, reassuring herself that things will all work out in the end. She needs your support. You can't falter now by asking her to stay. She's doing this for us. With that thought in mind, she focused on the image of a happy, old couple sitting on the porch swing of a house with white picket fences. That's going to be us years from now. Emily said to herself, the thought bringing a huge smile to her lips. I can't wait.
Paige hurriedly navigated the hallways of Rosewood High, running fast while dodging the students loitered around the corridors. The first day of their senior year is officially over and she couldn't wait to get to the lounge to meet her best friend.
"Move! Coming through! Excuse me! Sorry!" Paige said to no one in particular as she bumped into every student she came into contact with. It was imperative that she get there first. She felt a surge of excitement when she saw the lounge was finally within sight. Ha! Not today Sniffles! Today I get there first! Today...
"What took you so long?" Paige stopped in her tracks when she heard the smugness in Emily's voice, slowing down to a walk when she realized the girl and Jai were already seated on one of the couches.
"Where did you come from?!" Paige asked incredulously as she stared at Emily's smug face. Foiled again.
Emily shrugged nonchalantly. "Took a shortcut." She answered.
"Through what a wormhole?!" Paige exclaimed in disbelief. "Last time I checked I run faster than you." She said as she plopped down unceremoniously on the couch opposite the one Emily and Jai occupied.
"Yeah but I text faster than you can run." Emily said haughtily.
Paige furrowed her brows in puzzlement. "What?" She asked, confused. "How is that even relevant?"
"Why race to get to Jai if I can get Jai to come to me?" Emily explained.
Paige opened her mouth, aghast. "That is just wrong on so many levels. You cheated! She cheated!" Paige argued, pointing at Emily accusingly as she stared at her best friend.
Jai creased her brows, pretending to be offended. "I'm more concerned with the fact that I feel used. Is it right to feel used?" She asked, looking at Paige and then at her girlfriend.
"Aww love I didn't mean it to sound like that. You know I wanted to see you." Emily said, placing her arm around Jai's shoulder before giving her girlfriend a quick kiss on the lips.
"Oh barf." Paige said, rolling her eyes in disgust at the couple's PDA.
"Jealous much?" Emily asked sarcastically.
"Please. There should be new rules about this sort of thing. You have an unfair advantage 'coz you're dating my best friend. You can't use your relationship to move the base." Paige argued.
"I can do whatever I want. Jai isn't a post. She can move whenever she wants." Emily argued back.
"Then what's the point of having a race?!" Paige challenged.
Jai cradled her head on her hands. "Oh god here we go again." She mumbled as the two girls began to bicker.
"Jai tell her I'm right. You race to get to the finish line. Not get the finish line to come to you!" Paige said, not taking her eyes off Emily.
"Oh come on you two. Not again." Jai said pleadingly.
"Jai isn't the finish line. This couch is the finish line! I just asked her to meet me so we can get here at the same time. How is that cheating?!" Emily said defensively.
Paige scoffed. "You think I race here to get to this couch? If Jai isn't here I wouldn't go here in the first place. Just admit Jai's the base." She coaxed.
"No she's not." Emily said stubbornly.
"Yes she is!" Paige snapped.
From across the room, Hanna Marin, Spencer Hastings and Aria Montgomery watched as their friend and Paige McCullers continued to fight, seemingly oblivious to the distressed girl who sat near them.
"Do we dare to head over there?" Aria asked uncertainly.
"I don't know. I personally don't want to venture into a war zone but Jai seems to need backup again." Hanna said as she observed Emily's girlfriend look back and forth between the two girls.
Spencer shook her head. "Unbelievable. It's like this is the highlight of their day." She stated.
"And Jai's worst nightmare come to life. Come on. Let's run interference." Hanna said, leading the way towards the three girls. "Hey guys." She greeted cautiously.
"Oh please save me." Jai begged, looking up in relief at the three girls who joined them.
"That bad, huh?" Aria said sympathetically as they sat on the remaining unoccupied couches.
Paige ignored Emily's friends and focused on her best friend once again. "Okay. How would you feel if I texted you and asked that you meet me after swim practice, love?" She asked, looking at Jai expectantly.
Jai cringed. "First of all, never call me that again. You're giving me goosebumps. To answer your question though, I would probably go running in the opposite direction." She admitted.
Paige smirked. "See? Unfair right there. You never take my side." She said, exasperated.
Emily grinned. "I guess I win this round. Again." She emphasized, looking at Paige pointedly.
Paige rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Sniffles."
"Take that back!" Emily exclaimed.
"Sniffles. Sniffles. Sniffles." Paige said the word slowly, enjoying getting a rise out of Emily.
"Jai make her stop." Emily said, looking at Jai pleadingly.
"Jai make her stop." Paige repeated, mimicking Emily.
"Paige." Jai said warningly.
"Whipped." Paige said, rolling her eyes at her best friend.
Jai sighed in relief, grateful that their bickering finally stopped. "Thank you. Why did you two want to get to me so fast anyway?" She asked, cursing inwardly the instant those words left her lips knowing she just dug her own grave. Why do I keep doing this to myself?!
Just like that Paige and Emily started to bicker once again. Jai mouthed a silent apology to Emily's friends when she caught their looks of disbelief.
"Your girlfriend is slacking off in swimming. We almost lost today." Paige said, not wasting time complaining about Emily.
"Almost! I still finished first!" Emily said defensively.
Paige scoffed. "Barely. No more late nights for you kids. Tuck her to bed early, Jai. And then leave. Don't tuck yourself in with her." She added.
"What's the big deal?! It's not an actual competition. Cut me some slack Paige. The school year just started. It's just practice." Emily reminded the indignant girl.
"Yeah. And you sucked at it. My grandma can swim faster than you." Paige said, refusing to let Emily off the hook.
"And you suck being a team captain. That's no way to talk to a member of your team." Emily chided.
"Oh I'm reserving this attitude just for you. You're just so special that way." Paige said sarcastically.
Jai looked around to see the other students staring at them, wondering what the commotion was all about. She sighed. "Move along. Nothing to see here. Just. My girlfriend and best friend fighting over swimming." She said before looking at Emily's friends. "Is it wrong for me to badly want them to fight about me rather than swimming? They do this all the time." Jai complained.
Hanna smiled consolingly. "Makes you wonder why you still haven't gotten used to it."
Jai shrugged. "I don't know. I guess I'm still holding out hope that they'll get along someday." She admitted.
"Never." Paige and Emily said empathically at the same time.
"Oh come on. I'm leaving for London this weekend. I need you two to behave while I'm gone." Jai pleaded.
"You got in?" Spencer asked, impressed. Jai is easily the smartest girl in their class. Not to mention the most driven and gifted. If the girl graduating ahead of them isn't proof enough, Emily's girlfriend managed to get a research internship at King's College in London in preparation for her dream of becoming a Psychiatrist.
Jai nodded, grinning. "I got in." She said. "You haven't told them yet?" Jai asked Emily.
Emily shook her head. "I wanted you to tell them." She explained.
"Oh my god congratulations!" Hanna exclaimed.
Aria smiled. "Yeah Jai. That's really great news." She said, happy for the couple.
"So you're deferring your admission to UPenn then?" Spencer asked. When Jai nodded, she added. "How long will you be gone?"
"Rest of the school year. But I'll be back in time for prom." Jai promised, looking at Emily reassuringly. "I wouldn't miss that for the world."
"Then we need to throw a congratulations and going away party." Hanna declared.
"I was just thinking that. My house. Friday night." Jai said gamely. "Spread the word."
"Oh trust me, I will." Hanna promised.
"Kayla gonna be there?" Paige asked her best friend casually.
"Off limits, Paige." Jai reminded her friend.
Paige raised her hands defensively. "What? I'm just asking if your little sister's coming home from Girard. Between Sniffles' friends and you and Sniffles disappearing on me, I kinda need someone to keep me company." She explained.
"Emphasis on the little, Paige. Yeah she's coming home. But no funny business." Jai warned.
Paige nodded. "I swear I will not try to cop a feel on that sister of yours. She's not my type." She said reassuringly.
Emily scoffed. "That's funny. I didn't think you needed to have a type to hook up with a girl. I just figured the first girl who so much as winks at you is enough to land her on your bed." She mocked.
Paige shook her head in disbelief. "Where do you hear these sort of things about me?! I am not that girl." She argued.
"Really?" Emily asked, obviously not convinced.
"Yeah. And I am not gonna waste my time sitting here defending myself to you." Paige snapped impatiently. She checked the time on her watch and stood up. "I'm outta here." She said, looking at Jai meaningfully.
Jai nodded. "Keep safe." She said in farewell.
"I will." Paige said as she slung her duffel bag on one shoulder and gave her best friend a wave before heading out of the school lounge.
"She's always in a hurry to leave after school ever since we were freshmen. Where is she going?" Emily wondered as she followed Paige's retreating back.
"Do you really want to know?" Jai asked warily.
"Why, are you gonna tell me?" Emily said, studying her girlfriend closely.
Jai shook her head. "It's not really my place." She answered truthfully, her eyes drifting towards the direction she last saw her best friend before Paige disappeared seconds ago.
True to her word, Hanna made sure that everyone (not just those attending Rosewood High but the people living in Rosewood as well) knew of the party at Jai's house. And when Friday night came, the Hayes household was busting at the seams. But not everyone in attendance was in a festive mood. The party was already in full swing downstairs but Jai and Emily can't seem to enjoy the celebration knowing that once the night is over, Jai would be leaving for London tomorrow morning.
"I wish you didn't have to go." Emily finally admitted as she and Jai sat facing each other on the latter's bed. She felt guilty for saying those words out loud but she couldn't help it. She thought she was okay with it but now that her girlfriend is leaving in the morning, she realized they were going to be separated for almost a year and she didn't know if she could take it. Emily started fidgeting with the sheet of the pillow she was hugging, not quite meeting Jai's eyes.
"I know love. Me too." Jai admitted, making Emily look up in surprise. "I really don't want to leave. But I have to." She said, the reluctance evident in her voice. The talk she had with Paige last week made her start to think about her plans and for a moment she even thought about calling the admissions office at King's College to tell them not to expect her. But her time spent with her best friend also made her realize she needed to do it. She just hoped she had Emily's support because she can't stand being away from her girlfriend for so long.
"Yeah but it still sucks that it's my senior year and I don't get to spend it with you. Not to mention you're leaving me behind with your best friend who I swear has had it in for me since day one." Emily said, pointing out the obvious.
"I'll tell Paige to behave herself if it helps." Jai offered.
"I doubt she'll listen to you." Emily said wryly.
"It doesn't hurt to try." Jai said, reaching out to remove the pillow Emily was using to put a distance between them and taking her girlfriend's hands in hers.
"Jai. Can you just not go? I don't want to be away from you." Emily said quietly as she stared at their hands, feeling a tinge of sadness at the thought that she won't be this close to Jai for months.
"Em, nothing is going to change between us. We'll talk to each other on the phone all the time. Or at least every day. And you have your friends. They'll keep you company." Jai said softly, trying to put on a brave face for the both of them. She had to be strong. One of them has to.
"It's not exactly the same." Emily pointed out.
"Em it's just a few months. I'll be back before you know it. Maybe way before prom." Jai said, trying to shed some light into the otherwise sad mood between them.
"Promise?" Emily asked hopefully.
Jai nodded. "Promise." She said, her mind already trying to figure out a way to finish her internship earlier so she could get back to Emily sooner.
Emily finally smiled before removing her hand from Jai's to get something from the back pocket of her jeans. "I got you something." She began as she produced a small black pouch. "It's my grandmother's St. Christopher necklace."
"Patron saint of travelers." Jai supplied.
Emily nodded. "It's supposed to keep you out of harm's way. I want you to have it." She said, handing the pouch to her girlfriend.
Jai stared at the object Emily was handing to her and shook her head. "Em I can't. Not when I know how close you were to your grandmother." She said, looking at her girlfriend reluctantly.
"Then give it back to me when you return. Please? It'll help me sleep at night. Knowing you're safe." Emily said, pushing the pouch further towards Jai.
Jai finally took the pouch knowing how much it meant to Emily. "Okay. I promise to give it back to you." She said, placing the pouch inside the drawer of her bedside table before facing Emily once again. "Now come on. Let's join the party downstairs." She said, extending a hand for Emily to take.
"Why? We can have our own private party right here." Emily said suggestively as she took Jai's hand and used it to pull the girl closer to her.
Jai smiled. "Why Miss Fields are you trying to seduce me?" She asked, matching her girlfriend's mischievous look.
"Depends. Is it working?" Emily asked, moving to position herself in the middle of Jai's bed.
"Definitely." Jai answered before she gently pushed Emily backwards and eagerly met her girlfriend's lips with hers.
Paige looked around her, slightly overwhelmed by the huge turnout of people celebrating her best friend's acceptance into King's College. Either that or they're celebrating her departure tomorrow and she doubted these people were rejoicing that Jai is going away for a few months. She didn't want to admit it but her best friend practically walked on water around Rosewood. If she didn't know better it seemed like the residents of Rosewood are thisclose to declaring a national holiday for the day Jasmine Hayes was born. And she had no problem with that. But when she becomes the stand-in host while her best friend was off somewhere else playing tonsil hockey and god knows what else with her girlfriend, she can't help but wish Jai wasn't so popular.
A slight movement from the corner of her eye had Paige making a beeline for the wooden arched door leading to the wine cellar which held the most expensive wines Logan Hayes kept. A guy and a girl were trying to sneak in and she can't let them have drunken sex in there, sure that bottles containing thousands of dollars' worth of wine will be broken before, during and probably after the act and she doesn't exactly have a goose that laid golden eggs to pay for it.
"Uh this area is off limits. Sorry." Paige said as she blocked the door with her body. "Try one of the bedrooms upstairs." She suggested, pointing vaguely behind the couple towards the direction of the stairs. When the couple started to make their way towards it, she prayed they were too wasted to find their way around the sprawling house because Jai will probably strangle her once her best friend finds out what she just did.
Paige was about to go back to the kitchen to start refilling bowls of chips, resigned to the fact that she won't be getting any action tonight when she felt someone tap her on the shoulder from behind.
"Hey stranger." Kayla said in greeting.
Paige felt herself grin before turning around. "Kayla." She said as she enveloped the girl in a warm hug before standing back to look at the long-legged beauty.
At sixteen, Paige was sure Kayla was about to start breaking hearts. Like her older sister, Michaela Hayes could give those runway models a run for their money. At 5'7", the girl standing in front of Paige has almond-shaped blue-grey eyes, prominent cheekbones, thin red lips and seemingly mile-long legs. Truthfully, Paige found Kayla prettier than her sister but that's probably because Jai was a lot more boyish compared to her younger sister when she moved. And Paige had to admit she preferred girls who moved gracefully.
"You couldn't have come at a better time. The host and her girlfriend are off somewhere and her friends are not exactly mine. I don't even know half of these people and now I've become the host." Paige complained.
Kayla laughed. "Aww, poor Paige. You don't look the part though. You look good. For someone who's stuck on host duties." She observed, letting her gaze wander from head to toe as she took in Paige's outfit for the evening. "I take it you hoped to get some action tonight?" Kayla asked understandingly.
"I did. But duty calls so…" Paige shrugged. "You don't look bad yourself. How are things at Girard?" She asked as they started to make their way towards the kitchen.
"Okay." Kayla managed to say above the loud music.
"Got a girlfriend yet?" Paige asked as she placed a hand on Kayla's shoulder to move closer to the girl so they can talk.
"No. The girls in that school are so plain." Kayla complained, rolling her eyes.
"Really? From my experience they weren't." Paige said, chuckling.
"That was a long time ago Paige. Times have changed." Kayla reminded the girl, breathing a huge sigh of relief once they reached the kitchen.
"That they have." Paige agreed as she got two cans of soda from the fridge and handed one to Kayla.
"There's this senior though." Kayla began hesitantly, laughing when Paige's eyebrow rose in curiosity.
"Ah. An upperclassman. I knew you had a thing for older girls." Paige said as she opened her can of soda and took a sip.
"What?! She's just a year older than me. And may I remind you that you and my sister are seniors as well?" Kayla argued as she took a chip and dipped it on some guacamole before taking a bite. "I mean technically Jai should've been a senior. If she didn't graduate ahead of you guys."
Paige waved her hand dismissively. "The point is this girl is still older." She said, studying Kayla closely. "What, she likes you or something?" She asked, feeling she had to act like the older sister since Jai wasn't around.
Kayla shook her head. "No. It's the other way around. I like her. But she doesn't know." She said, blushing.
"Well why don't you tell her? I doubt she'll turn you down. What's her name?" Paige asked, making a mental note to visit Girard one of these days to see the girl Kayla seemed smitten with.
"Not important. I just thought I'd tell you so you'll stop pestering me about my love life whenever you and I talk." Kayla said, wishing Paige would end their discussion about her crush.
"Not gonna happen because now I am intrigued. I'm going to pester you for details this time." Paige declared.
"Awesome." Kayla said sarcastically. "Hey before I forgot. I have something for you. This might cheer you up. Or blow your mind. I don't know. You choose." She said before she placed on top of the kitchen counter the small, plain blue paper bag she's been trying to hide the entire time they were talking. "I made a new friend last week. Well technically I purposely befriended her when I learned who she is related to. Because guess who I just found out has a niece attending Girard all this time?" Kayla asked excitedly.
Paige tried to grab the paper bag from Kayla but the girl refused to let it go. "Guess." Kayla insisted.
"I don't know. Stan Lee?" Paige tried, knowing how much Kayla loved those comic book superheroes.
Kayla scoffed. "Seriously? What this paper bag contains is something I got for you. Why in hell would I be excited to give you something from someone related to Stan Lee?" She fired back.
"I don't know. I'm not really in the mood to think about surprises right now." Paige said, looking around to make sure that the party wasn't starting to get out of hand.
Kayla sighed and finally took out what was inside the paper bag. "You're excited to give me the singlet I let you borrow?" Paige asked, staring incredulously at the sleeveless shirt she once wore when she joined a fun run.
"Look closer." Kayla insisted, pushing the piece of clothing towards Paige.
Paige took the shirt and studied every inch of it, wondering why Kayla was so excited to return it to her. "No way!" She exclaimed when she finally saw the reason. "You are seriously the most awesome person in this room right now." Paige declared, her eyes never leaving the shirt.
"Thanks. I think." Kayla said, glad to see that she was able to improve Paige's mood tonight somehow.
"Sarah Haskins signed my shirt." Paige stated, grinning from ear to ear as she continued to stare at the words she has come to know by heart because they were the athlete's own motto. 'Hard work and goal setting will lead you to the outcomes you want. - Sarah'. "This is really great." She said, finally looking at the girl standing proudly in front of her.
"I know how much you admire those female tri-athletes. You want to be one yourself. You've been talking nonstop about all these famous women and I remembered you mentioned Sarah Haskins once or twice." Kayla explained.
Paige nodded. "Yeah. Most of them are Brits or Aussies though. Sarah Haskins is one of the few from around here that's why I'm hoping I get to meet her someday." She admitted.
"Knew it would cheer you up. You're welcome by the way." Kayla said as she began scanning the crowd. "Now where's my sister? I've got something for her too." She said, looking at Paige expectantly.
Paige shrugged. "Probably up in her room with Sniffles." She said dismissively, returning the shirt inside the paper bag. Kayla noticed that the girl's good mood changed as soon as she was reminded of Jai and Emily.
Kayla sighed. "Paige, when are you going to start calling her Emily?" She asked cautiously.
"Probably never." Paige answered quickly.
"Why are you so stubborn to say her name?" Kayla asked, confused.
"No reason." Paige said, not quite meeting the girl's eyes.
"Just try it. Come on. Say it with me." Kayla coaxed. "Emily. E-mi-ly." She said, enunciating.
"Sniffles." Paige said stubbornly.
"You're hopeless." Kayla said, rolling her eyes before walking past Paige to lead the way upstairs.
"Jai." Emily whispered when she felt Jai's hands moving near the hem of her top. "Jai." She said again as her girlfriend continued to try to put her hands inside Emily's top. "Stop." Emily said, a hint of panic in her voice. "Jai, stop it." She said, finally grabbing Jai's hands as she tried to calm her breathing.
"Sorry." Emily said when Jai finally seemed to register what almost happened.
Jai released a frustrated breath before she took one look at her girlfriend's terrified face and reached out to touch Emily's arm reassuringly. "It's okay." She said softly. "Em. Hey. It's fine. I heard you." Jai said, rubbing her girlfriend's arm soothingly.
"I'm sorry. I just can't." Emily said, frustrated at herself for still not being able to let Jai get to second base with her when they've been seeing each other for more than two years.
"It's okay." Jai said, kissing Emily's forehead reassuringly. "I'm gonna go to the bathroom for a bit then let's just head downstairs. Okay?"
"Okay." Emily said as she fixed her top and watched as her girlfriend headed for the bathroom.
An urgent knock on the bedroom door made her and Jai look towards it. "We're coming in so please make sure you two are doing strictly PG-13 stuff." Kayla's voice from behind the door made Emily sit up straight.
Quickly running a hand through her hair, Emily tried to fix the bed sheet just as Kayla opened the door, followed close behind by Paige.
"Nothing to see here Kayla." Jai said, trying to make her sister leave.
"Oh thank god! I thought I was going to be scarred for life!" Kayla exclaimed before moving to make room for Paige as they stood by the door.
Emily noticed that Paige was studying the room carefully before looking at the two of them in amusement and she suddenly felt exposed.
"What's going on here?" Paige asked, trying to hide her smile.
Jai chose to ignore her best friend's question and instead looked at her sister. "You couldn't wait downstairs?" She asked, annoyed. She really needed to use the bathroom.
"What? I was excited to see you." Kayla explained. "Hey Em." She said, giving her sister's girlfriend a wave.
"Hey." Emily said in greeting, praying the dim lighting in the room hid the tinge of blush on her cheeks.
"Come on. There's a party downstairs and you two are cooped up here like a boring, old married couple." Kayla said, seemingly oblivious to what just happened moments before she and Paige barged in. "And Jai, this is your party. It's about time you played the part of the host so Paige here can get some action." She said, inclining her head towards the girl who was still intently studying the two girls inside the room.
"We'll be there in a sec." Jai promised.
Paige's lips suddenly broke into a smirk when she heard the frustration in Jai's voice and noticed where her friend was headed, the hastily made up bed and the flustered girl sitting on the edge of it. "Kayla, I'm sure Jai's excited too. So much so that she just needs to use the bathroom, right Jazz?" She asked, winking at her best friend suggestively. "Sorry we interrupted things. Just say the word. We can leave if you want." Paige offered.
Emily felt her cheeks redden in embarrassment and stood up. "You're such a jerk you know that?!" She said to Paige, pushing the girl hard as she walked past her and Kayla.
"Em!" Jai called out, her desire to use the bathroom instantly forgotten at the sight of her upset girlfriend bolting out of the room. "What the hell is the matter with you?! Paige, that was way out of line. You owe her an apology." Jai ordered, incensed as she rushed past her best friend on the way out.
Kayla shook her head in disappointment before following her sister.
Paige looked after them in confusion. "What? What did I say?!" She called out as she hurried after them.
Emily slammed open the screen door leading to the garden, walking a good distance away from the loud music and the party before turning around. "How you and Kayla can be friends with someone like that is completely beyond me!" She exclaimed.
"She's not that awful." Jai said as she slowly approached Emily, trying to calm her down.
"You're right. Because she's worse! I don't know what I ever did to her but ever since you introduced us Paige has always hated me. Why are you taking her side?!" Emily asked, crossing her arms in front of her chest and glaring at Jai accusingly.
"I am not taking her side. I agree she owes you an apology." Jai began. "Paige doesn't hate you. You two just happened to get off on the wrong foot. Trust me. She's really great. Except for that crap she pulled just now. I'm so sorry for that." She said, finally closing the distance between them.
Emily sighed. "Jai. Do you two talk about us?" She asked, embarrassed.
"What do you mean?" Jai asked, puzzled.
"About you know. Us. Where we are in that department." Emily explained.
Jai's eyes widened in surprise and she shook her head. "No. Of course not. Em I didn't tell her anything. That's between us." She said adamantly.
"Then how come she knows?" Emily asked, upset.
"She doesn't know anything." Jai said reassuringly.
"Yes she does." Emily argued, refusing to let the matter drop.
"She's just messing with your head. Don't make it easy for her." Jai said, trying to make her girlfriend feel better. When that didn't work, she decided to tell the truth. "Okay. Look. As much as I hate to admit it, Paige is very observant. She probably took one look at my room and at us and she knew what happened. Or didn't. Don't let her get a rise out of you."
"I wish you weren't going." Emily said again, realizing that now more than ever she didn't want Jai to leave.
"Everything's going to be fine." Jai said, hugging Emily tight before kissing the girl's head softly. When they finally pulled away, Jai sighed. It's now or never. "Listen. I know this is the worst timing in the world and it's a lot to ask considering what she just pulled back there but... I need you to look after Paige while I'm away." She said, cringing when she saw the look of disbelief in Emily's face.
"What?! Jai I can't stand her!" Emily protested.
"I know. I know it's asking a lot. And I can't tell you why but I really need you to look after her. Please?" Jai begged.
"Why can't Kayla do it?" Emily asked, trying to worm her way out of the favor.
"Because... Kayla goes to Girard. She can only go home during the weekends so Paige is going to be alone most of the time. I don't want her to be alone." Jai explained.
"What about me? Who's going to look after me while you're gone?" Emily asked, starting to feel lonely.
"You have your friends." Jai reminded her girlfriend.
"Doesn't Paige have friends?" Emily inquired despite knowing the answer.
Jai chuckled. "Yeah. You're looking at her."
"Jai." Emily protested.
"Please? I promise to make it up to you when I return." Jai said, begging her girlfriend to say yes as she placed her hands together in front of her as if in prayer.
Emily sighed. "Fine. But just know that I am doing this against my will. And because I love you. A lot." She emphasized, finally giving her girlfriend a small smile.
"Thank you. And I love you too. A lot." Jai said, kissing Emily quickly before hugging her once again.
"I come in peace." Paige said as she approached her best friend and handed her a bottle of wine cooler. When her friend ignored it, she sat in front of Jai and placed the bottle on the table between them. "Aww come on, Jai. I'm sorry for what I pulled earlier." She said sincerely.
"Have you apologized to Emily yet?" Jai asked, finally meeting her best friend's eyes.
"No. Can't seem to find her." Paige said, looking around the crowded room.
"She's right there." Jai said, pointing towards the far end of the room where Emily was talking to her friends.
"Where?" Paige asked, looking everywhere but towards the direction Jai was pointing.
Jai sighed, frustrated. "Paige, seriously?"
"I promise I'll apologize later." Paige said, wanting to make amends with her best friend first.
"You better. What you did back there was a jackass move." Jai said, not bothering to hide her annoyance.
"I know I was way out of line. Sorry." Paige began. "Although in my defense I wasn't making fun of her at all. I was making fun of you. You two are just so guilty as hell your defenses shot up the second I threw that comment." She added.
"You find this amusing? Are you even sorry at all?" Jai asked, standing up to leave.
"I am. Come on." Paige pleaded, begging for her friend to stay.
Jai stared at her best friend for a second before sitting down once again. "Just make things right with her. She felt like you were making fun of her back there so just apologize okay?" She asked, frustrated that she can't seem to fix this particular problem.
"Okay." Paige said earnestly.
Jai studied Paige for a moment before asking what was really bothering her. "Paige, we both know you're better than this. So why are you going out of your way to make her hate you?" She asked, puzzled.
"No I'm not." Paige said dismissively.
"Fine. Why are you going out of your way to hate her?" Jai asked, trying to figure out why her friend seemed to hate Emily so much.
"I'm not doing that either." Paige replied.
"Then what are you trying to do? Emily and I have been together for more than two years and it's not going to change anytime soon." Jai said, stating the obvious.
"I know that." Paige said, rolling her eyes.
"Then can you please make an effort to be nice to her? She won't believe me when I tell her you're a great person once she gets to know you." Jai begged.
"I don't need her to like me. Or know me for that matter." Paige argued.
"Well I do. Okay? I need you two to get along. That won't happen if you keep hiding your true self from Emily and if you keep going out of your way to be a jerk to her every chance you get." Jai said, frustrated. "Paige, I'm leaving tomorrow." She said, leaning forward to make Paige listen to her.
"Yeah but you're coming back." Paige reasoned out.
"By the end of the school year. And I don't want to have to keep worrying about you while I'm gone." Jai admitted.
"Then don't. I'm fine." Paige said reassuringly.
"You can't be alone." Jai stated.
"Jai I'll be fine. And I can so be alone. But thanks for your concern and vote of confidence." Paige said sarcastically.
"Kayla won't be able to watch over you." Jai said, worried.
"She doesn't need to. Jai I will be fine on my own." Paige protested.
"You're still taking your meds right?" Jai asked as she lowered her voice.
"Yes mom. It's not like I can just stop taking it. And I'm keeping myself busy with school and sports just like what the doctor recommended." Paige added.
"And you're not losing sleep?" Jai checked.
"Nope. I'm sleeping fine." Paige said, nodding her head. "God, Jai. You're starting to sound like your dad."
"Sorry. I just want to make sure you're doing well before I leave. And don't freak out but I just asked Emily to look after you." Jai finally revealed.
"What?!" Paige exclaimed, indignant.
"Don't worry, I didn't tell her anything." Jai said reassuringly.
"That's not the reason I'm annoyed. I'm not a kid Jai. When I tell you I'm fine I mean it." Paige argued.
"I know. But just in case." Jai explained. "And I need you to look after Emily too." She added.
"She has her friends to look after her. She doesn't need me." Paige said, refusing to spend time with the girl while Jai was away.
"I need you to do this for me. I trust you and she's the most important person in my life." Jai admitted.
"Gee, tell me something I didn't know." Paige retorted. "I thought I was the most important person in your life?" She asked, pretending to be offended.
"You are. Next to her." Jai clarified.
"Thanks for the demotion." Paige said, seemingly hurt.
"I'm serious. I need you to look after her." Jai said urgently.
"You're asking me to be your proxy." Paige stated.
"No. I'm asking you to be her friend." Jai corrected.
"She has friends! Three annoying friends." Paige argued.
"Then her other friend outside of her friends. Please? You still owe me for that crap you pulled earlier." Jai said, desperate to make Paige say yes.
"Wow. Guilt tripping me into taking care of your girlfriend. Smooth." Paige said, leaning back on the chair she occupied.
"Paige." Jai pleaded.
"Fine. I'll look after her. But just know that I am doing this against my will." Paige said, raising a finger warningly.
"Funny you should say that. She said that too." Jai said, starting to smile.
"Would you look at that? We do have something in common!" Paige said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Call me when you get there." Emily said as Jai held her close amidst the crowded airport, closing her eyes as she tried to memorize the feel of her girlfriend's body against hers.
"I promise. And when you get the time we'll do a video chat." Jai whispered, kissing Emily's head softly.
After the party last night finally came to an end, Emily called her mom at the last minute and said she was going to spend the night at Jai's house, promising she and her girlfriend were not going to do anything except sleep beside each other. But they didn't. Because for the rest of the night, she and Jai laid down on the latter's bed, just talking and laughing in hushed tones and holding hands. But when the talking and laughing died down, Emily found herself curled up next to Jai, struggling not to cry but Jai knew her so well that she turned to face her girlfriend and held her until they fell asleep. Now, as they stood in the middle of the bustling airport saying their final goodbyes, they were both lacking hours of sleep but it didn't matter. Because the few hours they spent last night didn't seem enough.
"Do I get a video chat with you too?" Paige asked, bouncing on her heels like a giddy kid, looking at Jai with doe eyes to try and break the otherwise depressing mood between the two lovebirds.
"Paige." Jai said warningly.
"Fine." Paige said, getting serious. "Call me too. But unlike your needy girlfriend here call me like once a week or every other week. Once a month works for me too." She stated, not exactly looking forward to her best friend calling her every chance she gets.
Unfortunately, her best friend was having none of it. "I'll call you every day." Jai said, making Paige groan inwardly.
"Jai I am kinda getting tired of telling you that I am fine. If you want to call me every day you are free to do so but I will only answer your calls once a week." Paige warned.
"Oh I am not gonna call to check up on you. I'm gonna call to check up on Emily." Jai said jokingly.
"Then I will never answer your calls. Call her not me if you want to check up on her." Paige said as she nodded her head towards the direction of the girl Jai still held in her arms.
"Please tell me when I get back you're both still breathing." Jai said as she looked from Paige to Emily.
"Paige will be alive long enough to take her last breath when she sees you." Emily said, ready to start a bickering contest once again when she noticed the brief flash of fear in Jai's eyes as her girlfriend looked at Paige intently.
"I promise I'll be around when you get back." Paige said seriously. "Don't worry about it."
Emily felt like there was something the two weren't telling her but she didn't dare ask what it was.
"Thank you." Jai said, relieved. "Now promise me you'll look after each other."
"Jai a toddler could look after me better than your so-called best friend here." Emily protested, still trying to get out of spending time with Paige.
"Oh please. Like I'm looking forward to hanging out with you!" Paige retorted. "Jai, nothing would please me more than to look after a toddler than Sniffles here."
Jai broke into a faint smile. "I guess I'll see you guys in a few months." She turned to Paige to give her friend a hug and then faced Emily. "I love you." She said emotionally.
"I love you too." Emily said, smiling sadly.
"Group hug?" Paige interjected, trying to lift the mood once again.
"Will you give us a moment please?" Emily asked, glaring at Paige.
"Fine. I'll be standing right over there." Paige said, pointing towards the magazine stands a few steps away to give the two some privacy.
"Keep safe love." Emily said when they were finally alone.
"You too. I'll see you before prom." Jai promised before kissing Emily deeply.
With a final hug, Emily watched sadly as Jai made her way towards the other boarding passengers, falling in line behind an old woman. Jai took one last look at her and waved before going inside. Emily crossed her arms in front of her chest as she let the tears fall, starting to miss Jai already. She jumped back in surprise when she heard Paige's voice beside her.
"Gum?" Paige asked, offering the girl a stick from the pack she bought while standing near the magazine rack a few minutes ago. When the girl just shook her head, Paige moved to stand in front of Emily. "That's it; give me Logan's car keys." She ordered, extending her hand when she saw that the girl was crying.
"What? Why?" Emily asked as she wiped the tears from her eyes, staring at Paige.
"Your vision is blurry Sniffles. I can't risk getting into an accident with you when Jai's plane hasn't even left. I want to be alive when she returns so I could tell her how much of a pain in the ass you are!" Paige explained.
Emily rolled her eyes, annoyed. "I can drive us home fine. I want to be alive too when she comes back so I can tell her that I was right all along. You're a world-class jerk and a burden!" She retorted.
"Hand me the car keys Sniffles!" Paige exclaimed as she lunged at Emily, slightly offended by the words Emily spoke to her that she unintentionally grabbed Emily's hand tighter than she intended.
"Geez ease up Paige." Emily said as she finally released her grip on the keys and flexed her hand, surprised by the firmness of Paige's grip on her. "No wonder you've never had a girlfriend your entire life. You're heartless."
"I'm heartless? You're crying because Jai left. If anything I'm understanding and concerned. Excuse me for caring!" Paige said defensively.
"Paige is this how it's going to be between us while Jai's gone?" Emily asked, suddenly tired. "Coz if the answer's yes I'd rather we stay away from each other until she returns." She said, sighing.
"Believe me. I'd like nothing more than to do just that but I made a promise to my best friend last night and I intend to keep it. I'm looking after you. End of discussion." Paige stated firmly.
"Well dial down your enthusiasm. Don't do it because you're obligated." Emily said quietly.
"Why? You're looking after me for the same reason right? If you had the choice you would love nothing more than to be rid of me. So quit whining." Paige said stonily before turning her back on the girl and heading for the parking lot.
Emily stood there for a moment, confused. She wasn't sure but she could have sworn she saw a flash of hurt cross Paige's eyes just now. Her words hit a nerve and she couldn't shake the feeling that Paige was in a lot of pain. I don't want her to be alone. Jai's words reverberated in her mind. What aren't they telling me?