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.
Hey guys! Thanks for the reviews about the story so far…
And for patiently waiting for this next chapter…
Nae10, Kyxia & AliasThorne... Thanks for the PM.
PART ONE: "Mutantur Omnia Nos Et Mutamur In Illis"
~ All things change, and we change with them. ~
Emily finished writing on the board the list of booths for the upcoming fair before turning around to face the members of the social committee.
"Next week, the thirty booths listed here will be part of this year's Feb fair." Emily began as she pointed behind her, looking around the room to make sure everyone was listening. "And unlike the other activities we've held the past few months, this one we get to actually enjoy and participate in." She added, making everyone seated inside the room break into whistles and applause. "Okay settle down." Emily ordered, raising her voice to be heard above the excited chatter of the members of the committee.
When the chatter died down, Emily continued. "Now as we've discussed, since this event will be week-long and we need to make sure that we're still doing our part as members of this committee, I've finalized our shifts for each day so that each of us can make rounds, make sure everything is going smoothly. It's just a couple of hours and we'll be doing the rounds in threes. Do the math, it's just ten booths each so for the most part of the fair, we get to spend it enjoying what each booth has to offer, and for others who belong to other clubs and organizations, they can spend their time manning their club's booth." She explained as she handed out several copies of the schedule she made for each of the members. "Now this is probably the only activity we get to actually enjoy. Other than prom and homecoming of course. So I'm making it as a rule. Killjoys are not allowed in the fairgrounds. Once we step inside those grounds, we get to enjoy what each booth has to offer. I don't want to hear excuses about you being in social committee duty just so you could get out of participating."
Paige watched as the members each got a copy of the schedule, starting to squirm as she forced her hands to remain at her sides. She felt her face flush when she noticed that everyone was looking at her once again. She sighed and pulled down the hem of the dress she was wearing which rode up her thighs if she so much as breathes. She cleared her throat, trying to get Emily's attention. The two of them were standing in front of the classroom. Somewhere she never imagined she'd find herself standing in unless she's delivering an oral presentation. And the fact that she's doing that while wearing what they kept on insisting is a dress was enough to put her in a foul mood.
Emily glanced to her left and bit back a smile when she saw how uncomfortable Paige is with the white tight-fitting dress she was wearing along with the fake angel wings on her back, the improvised halo on her head which was connected to the headband the girl was currently wearing, and the makeshift bow and arrow Paige held in her hand. She knew the girl was dying to get it over with so she decided to continue.
"Okay. On to our last topic of discussion." Emily began. "Just to recap, last month the issue regarding whether or not our committee should have a booth for the fair was raised. And after much discussion, we finally agreed that since we need to be up and about doing rounds and because most of us have responsibilities in our other clubs and or orgs, we will hardly have the time to manage our own booth. Not a functioning one anyway. So just to clarify, we do have a booth but it will merely serve as our base of operations so to speak." She explained, pausing to make sure that she still had the attention of her members.
"Now when I asked what we should do instead, Daryl suggested the idea of one of us playing Cupid this year. This person will have to go around the fairgrounds to spread love in everyone's hearts for the entirety of the event. Several candidates have been nominated and eliminated. And now, by unanimous decision, I present to you our official Cupid for this year's fair, Paige McCullers." She declared, glancing at the girl who looked like all her blood suddenly rushed to her face. She clapped with the rest of the group, laughing when the members of the committee began cheering and whistling as they appreciated Paige's outfit.
"But." Emily interrupted. "But." She repeated, a little louder this time. "We still need to settle the small matter of her costume. Who here thinks she wears it well as it is?" Emily asked, raising her right hand to cast her vote.
The show of hands made Paige groan inwardly in frustration. She wondered how the UPenn admissions office would take it if they somehow found out that she played Cupid in the annual fair. Nope. They can't find out about this. They might revoke my application if they do. She was distracted from her thoughts when a hand shot up at the back.
"Do you have a question Daryl?" Emily asked a girl with auburn hair who was waving her hand eagerly.
"Yeah." Daryl said as she lowered her hand. "I have no problem with Paige wearing it. I think she wears it really well. But... she wears that dress too long. If I were her, I'd wear it a bit higher." She suggested as she let her eyes wander from Paige's legs, stopping just below the girl's neck.
Paige felt her nose flare up in annoyance. She was practically wearing next to nothing. The hem of the piece of cloth they kept calling a dress barely reached her mid-thigh. She was about to open her mouth to give the girl a piece of her mind when Emily interjected.
"We'll take that into consideration." Emily said hurriedly, used to Paige's facial expressions by now. "Thanks. If there are no questions meeting's adjourned." She declared, facing the board to erase her writing.
Paige waited until everyone was out of the room before she came up to Emily. Her progress was slow because of the snugness of the white cloth and she felt stupid, walking around with a makeshift bow and arrow, a pair of fake wings and an improvised halo. She immediately removed the headband and ran a hand through her hair before moving to remove the pair of wings on her back.
"You make a really cranky Cupid, Paige." Emily commented without looking at the girl. "You need to start practicing how to smile." She added, facing the girl who was sporting a scowl. "You're going to be spreading love next week. Not animosity."
"This isn't what I signed up for." Paige protested, pulling down the hem of the white fitted strapless dress she was wearing. "Argh!" She exclaimed when she saw that pulling the dress down exposed her cleavage more and she moved to pull it up, making the hem ride up her thigh once again. She impatiently placed the bow and arrow on top of the desk along with the halo and the wings. "And for the record, I can spread love without pretending to be Cupid thank you very much."
"It looks good on you." Emily insisted as she began fixing her things.
"I don't wear dresses!" Paige exclaimed. "And even if I do, which is a big, fat if, this thing doesn't qualify as a dress. It's like a bandage. And I can't breathe!" She complained.
Emily ignored Paige's ranting, used to it by now. "It was a unanimous decision." She reminded the girl. "And please spread love next week using your makeshift bow and arrows not your lips. I don't want people to come down with mono."
"Hey!" Paige protested. "I spread love. Not disease!" She said indignantly. "I'd rather be one of the mascots from McDonald's than walk around pretending to be a cherub! Why can't someone else do it?" She complained.
"Someone could but everyone voted for you to wear it." Emily explained patiently.
Paige crossed her arms in front of her chest, feeling cold. "I feel as if they're undressing me the whole time I was standing in front." She admitted, looking around for her varsity jacket.
Emily grinned. "That shouldn't make you feel uncomfortable. You're used to it." She pointed out as she spotted the girl's jacket near her things and handed it to Paige.
"I'm used to getting girls' numbers. Not feeding their fantasies." Paige corrected as she took her jacket from Emily and hurriedly wore it. "Can't someone else do it instead?" She asked again.
"I could." Emily began, managing to hide her grin as she waited for Paige's reaction. After the night of the trick or treat, Paige has been overly protective of her because of Jai. At first she kept telling the girl to give it a rest, but Paige refused to budge that eventually she found the girl's antics silly instead.
"No way!" Paige exclaimed quickly, just like Emily predicted. "I mean, what would Jai think?" She added. She'd rather wear the costume than see Emily walk around for days wearing it.
"Jai wouldn't think anything of it because Jai doesn't get jealous." Emily reminded the girl. "That's one of the things I love about her. I don't have to constantly reassure her. Jai knows I only love her just like I know she only loves me so I don't get jealous either."
Paige frowned. "That seriously doesn't bother you? I know you two are secure about your relationship and everything but it doesn't hurt to get jealous sometimes." She said as she got her things and they began walking out of the room.
Emily shrugged. "Not if it meant fighting all the time it isn't. I don't want drama in my relationship." She admitted.
Paige drew the jacket closer to her body, zipping it up. The air was cold and her getup wasn't exactly made for the cold weather. "Fine. You're both absurdly secure about your relationship. Now that we've had our daily dose of you and Jai, can we please go back to my problem?" She implored. "Is there any way for me to get out of playing Cupid?" She asked again. "One that doesn't involve you playing Cupid in my place." She added emphatically. "I'd rather neither of us wore this flimsy excuse of a dress." Paige said as she tugged uncomfortably on the hem again.
Emily narrowed her eyes as she looked at Paige. "There is a way." She began. "You could do something else but I don't think you're up for it." She added, knowing how Paige was going to react.
"I'm up for it." Paige stated. "Believe me. I am. I'm up for anything. Anything but Cupid. Please." She pleaded.
"Fine." Emily finally said, making Paige pump her right fist in jubilation. "I'll ask someone else to wear that costume. But don't say I didn't warn you." She said mysteriously. "Follow me."
Emily briskly walked ahead of Paige as she led the way to the room where she knew the Public Relations, one of her other clubs, was currently holding a meeting. She knocked on the door twice before entering.
"Sorry to interrupt." Paige heard Emily say to someone inside the room. "I just stopped by to tell you I found the solution to our problem." Paige felt a sense of foreboding when she heard those words. She hurriedly stood behind Emily to see who the girl is speaking to. When she saw Hanna Marin standing in front of the room, she immediately knew that this year's fair was one she wasn't going to forget. They were in the Public Relations club. And if she remembered correctly, this particular club's contribution to the upcoming fair was the infamous kissing booth.
"You played me!" Paige exclaimed accusingly as she followed Emily out of the room a few minutes later.
"No I didn't!" Emily protested. "You said you can spread love without playing a cherub." She reminded the scowling girl. "Well here's your chance. And you're the one who said you're up for anything except playing Cupid, remember?"
"Yeah. But I was thinking along the lines of maybe selling cotton candy or something." Paige explained. "Something that doesn't involve showing skin or pimping my lips for a week!"
"Pimping your lips?" Emily repeated, laughing.
"Well how else would you put what you're making me do into words?" Paige challenged. "You're power tripping! Being the head of the social committee and all. How is paying one dollar for a kiss from me different from walking around in a tight dress?! You're pimping me!" She exclaimed, annoyed.
"Okay first of? I'm not someone who abuses her position, okay?" Emily began. "I just thought you'd like the kissing booth much better. I didn't think you'd have anything against it actually. Stop complaining." She demanded. "And second? You still owe me."
"It was a one-time thing!" Paige protested, knowing what Emily was referring to. "And I repaid you for that favor several times."
"Those weren't enough. With this one we're even." Emily reassured the indignant girl. "Besides, this is good practice for you." She said offhandedly as they headed for the exit.
Paige's eyes widened. "I don't need practice. I've had plenty of practice." She insisted.
Emily grinned. "Not from what I heard." She said teasingly as she pushed open the door and exited the school building, followed close behind by Paige.
"Well you heard wrong. Who told you this?" Paige demanded as she caught up to Emily.
"Why do you want to know?" Emily inquired.
"Because I will teach this girl a lesson she will never forget." Paige said mock ominously.
"Are you going to kill her?" Emily asked, going along with Paige's threat.
Paige nodded. "Yeah. Because I'm going to kiss her to death." She whispered conspiratorially.
Emily laughed. "Oh my god that is the worst way to die!" She exclaimed as they stopped by Paige's bike.
Paige crouched to unlock her bike, looking up at Emily. "How would you know? You've never kissed me before!" She exclaimed, offended.
"And I never will. Because I have a girlfriend." Emily reminded the girl who was now busy unlocking her bike.
Paige imitated a buzzer's sound. "Wrong answer." She declared, standing up.
"What? It's the right answer!" Emily protested.
Paige let out a short laugh. "No it isn't! Because your answer means that if you didn't have a girlfriend you'd consider kissing me. That's what your answer meant!" She explained.
Emily scrunched up her face in disgust. "Eew no. I didn't even consider that when I said I have a girlfriend that's why I would never kiss you. But if you want me to say it bluntly then I will." She offered.
"Nah. You don't need to. I pretty much know you're immune to my charms." Paige managed to say offhandedly despite the hurt she felt at Emily's words.
"Charms? What charms?" Emily asked, confused.
"Again. Consider a career in stand-up comedy." Paige suggested as she stood beside her bike, suddenly realizing that she can't ride it in her current getup. She didn't have the time to change out of the dress earlier since Emily dragged her to another meeting.
"Come on Paige. It's either you play Cupid or you help in the kissing booth with Connor, Greg and Hanna. Connor's got the girls covered, Hanna the boys. You and Greg get to kiss all the girls and boys you want." Emily explained.
"But I'm not even in the Public Relations club!" Paige reminded the girl.
"Neither is Greg." Emily pointed out. "But we managed to convince him to participate. We need you to do the same. Unless of course you want me to do it." She added.
Paige rolled her eyes. "You keep saying that because you know I'm not going to let you do it." She said, annoyed. "Why won't you just come right out and say that you don't want to do it?"
Emily slowly smiled. "I guess that's a yes?" She said, ignoring Paige's question. When the girl didn't say anything, she continued. "Don't forget to use lip gloss. Makes your lips kissable."
"Hey I don't need to use that. I have kissable lips." Paige protested. "Stop insulting me!" She exclaimed.
Emily laughed. "Just use one." She insisted before giving Paige an encouraging pat on the back and walking away to find her friends.
"But I'm not going to kiss them on the lips!" Paige called out after the girl but Emily just kept walking. She sighed as her eyes followed Emily's retreating back, already dreading the fair next week.
"Why can't you shop next Saturday instead?" Aria asked her friend as she, Hanna and Emily sat on the floor with Spencer at their friend's living room that night.
They were currently taking a break from the group report they were doing for their Economics class which was due tomorrow. Having just finished the written report a few minutes ago, Spencer suggested that they have dinner first before preparing for the oral report so they could rest for a bit and while waiting for dinner to arrive, the conversation eventually drifted to Emily's plan this coming Saturday to shop for a prom dress.
"I'm going to be busy with other stuff. This Saturday's the only weekend I can shop for one." Emily explained from beside Spencer.
"But isn't it too early?" Spencer asked the girl next to her.
"No it isn't. I read somewhere that January and February are the perfect months to look for a prom dress." Emily revealed to her friends.
In front of Emily, Hanna suddenly sat up straight. "Where did you read that?!" She asked urgently.
"On the internet. Come on. Help me find a dress." Emily pleaded, facing the girl seated beside Hanna.
"Don't look at me. My mom needs me in the house this weekend. She decided to have a general cleaning and I can't get out of it." Aria said apologetically.
"Spence?" Emily uttered, turning to the girl seated beside her.
Spencer smiled faintly. "Sorry. You know I would love to come with you if I can but my dad set up this dinner with a friend of his and he was adamant that I join them. I think it has something to do with my application to UPenn." She admitted.
"What are you talking about? You're a shoe in." Emily stated.
"Don't jinx it!" Spencer exclaimed. "But I'm not talking about that. I meant the organization his friend is an alumnus of. My dad wants me to join it. Or something. I'm still trying to figure it all out."
"And like I said, my dad's flying in from Portland and he wants to spend time with me. I'm not gonna pass that. Sorry." Hanna said when Emily turned to face her.
Emily sighed. "Ugh. I really want to start looking for a dress this weekend." She said, running a hand through her hair. She furrowed her brows in concentration, trying to think of a solution to her problem when she suddenly grinned.
"Em, I don't like that look on your face. Don't even think about it." Spencer warned her friend, looking at Aria and Hanna for support.
"Think about what?" Emily asked innocently.
"Asking Paige to come with you! She doesn't know what a dress looks like." Hanna stated.
"Yes she does. She wore that dress for the Cupid costume." Emily reminded her friend.
Hanna scoffed. "Barely. She was so uncomfortable with it that she ended up chickening out." She pointed out.
Emily shrugged. "I think it's better. For our booth I mean. I didn't want to do the whole kissing booth thing." She admitted.
"Although you have to admit girls would line up if it meant getting to kiss you." Aria said wryly.
"But I won't hear the end of it from Paige if I did it. Remember what happened during Christmas?" Emily asked her friends.
Spencer laughed. "Who wouldn't? It was like Paige was on a personal mission to take down all the mistletoe in Rosewood. She kept saying something about how people need to go through her first before she lets them kiss you. It was so annoying and hilarious at the same time." She admitted.
"What I don't get though is why there's always a mistletoe even if she took them down already. It's crazy." Emily said thoughtfully. When she saw the looks her friends exchanged, she narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Is there something I should know?"
Hanna finally caved. "Like we said. It was hilarious." She began. "And consider it one of our paybacks for all the years she tortured, bullied and made fun of you. Just because you two are sort of getting along now doesn't mean we forget that easily."
"You three hung all those mistletoes?!" Emily exclaimed in disbelief.
"Not only that. We were selling them." Spencer said proudly. "We made it so girls can walk around town wearing it and when they bump into you, bam! Instant mistletoe!" She exclaimed, clapping her hands together.
Emily shook her head. "Yeah well it didn't work. Paige was seriously like a hawk during the holiday season. I actually pitied her. It was like she was losing sleep because she was so paranoid that I'm going to kiss someone." She said wryly.
"That girl has serious trust issues, Em. She's not the one in a relationship but she's the one acting all possessive. No wonder she won't commit." Hanna observed.
"This actually works in our favor because if she does the whole kissing booth thing we know no one's going to get jealous." Emily reminded her friend. "Yeah. I think Paige is going to fare well next week. She's used to charming girls." She said confidently.
"I'm starting to think you should ask Paige to pay for every girl she gets to kiss instead of asking the girls to pay for it. She's just going to enjoy the whole thing." Aria pointed out.
"As long as Paige smiles while she kisses those girls I'm fine with it. She makes a really cranky Cupid." Emily revealed.
"So who's going to be Cupid then?" Spencer asked.
"I was thinking Daryl could pull it off. She insisted on wearing the dress shorter anyway." Emily explained. "Besides, with the way she was practically undressing Paige this afternoon? I think she'd be more than happy to take over for her if it meant seeing Paige behind the kissing booth."
Hanna suddenly squealed. "Sorry." She said when she saw the look her friends gave her. "I'm just so excited for next week. Especially the concert on Saturday to officially end the fair. I still can't believe you got all those bands to play." She admitted, beaming at Emily.
Emily smiled. "I know. It helped that we sent out the sponsorship letters as early as summer." She said, her thoughts immediately drifting to her girlfriend.
"And now you're missing Jai again." Spencer said knowingly.
"Sorry. It's just that, she helped me write that letter." Emily revealed, smiling sheepishly.
"So have you talked to her recently?" Aria asked gently.
Emily shook her head. "Not since New Year's Eve, no." She answered, trying to put on a brave face.
Spencer touched her friend's arm consolingly. "Well hang in there. Just a month to go and you're going to see her again." She reminded her friend, the three of them giving Emily an encouraging smile.
Emily nodded. "Which is why Paige is the perfect company for shopping for the dress. Well I mean, not perfect. Just... right. Why didn't I think of that sooner?" She thought out loud.
"What do you mean?" Aria asked cautiously.
"They're best friends. She knows what Jai would like to see me wear." Emily explained.
"Uh, Em I really think that's a bad idea." Spencer said, shaking her head along with Aria and Hanna. She waited for Emily to say something but their friend just smiled at them.
Paige checked the time on her watch for the umpteenth time as she tried to lock her bike again, struggling with the mechanism while cursing under her breath. Her hands refused to cooperate with her brain, making the mere task of locking her bike seem like such an arduous chore. She took a deep breath, wriggling her hands to try to stop them from trembling as she tried to lock her bike again. She stole a quick glance out of the corner of her eye and finally managed to lock her bike, securing the rear wheel and the frame.
"Paige!" Emily's excited tone beside her made Paige turn around and look up at the beaming girl in surprise.
"You really should've let me buy you that bike lock for Christmas. It takes you, what, fifteen minutes? Just to lock your bike every morning." Emily pointed out as she rested her hands on her knees and leaned forward to study Paige's bike closely.
"Thirty." Paige corrected as she stood up and grabbed her bag, slinging it on her shoulder.
"Why does it take you so long to lock your bike?" Emily asked as they began making their way inside the school. "When's your birthday? I'm going to buy you a new bike lock."
Paige shook her head as she followed Emily inside after the girl opened the door for them. "Don't bother. I love that lock. That lock has sentimental value to me." She insisted. "Forget my bike. Is there a reason you came up to me back there? Usually you and your friends just walk past me."
"Yeah I told them to go ahead. I wanted to ask you something." Emily admitted as they approached her locker.
"What?" Paige asked as she leaned her shoulder against the locker beside Emily's, waiting for the girl to explain.
"Do you have plans tomorrow?" Emily inquired, not meeting Paige's eyes as she busied herself with dialing her locker combination.
Paige narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Why?" She asked.
"Can you go shopping for a prom dress with me?" Emily asked in one breath as she risked a glance at the girl who stood in open-mouthed surprise beside her.
Paige let out a short laugh. "I'm sorry. I thought I just heard you ask me to go shopping for a prom dress with you tomorrow." She said as she started laughing but stopped when she saw Emily's expression. "You're serious." She said in disbelief.
Emily nodded. "I wanted to go shopping for a prom dress tomorrow and I was hoping you could come with me." She explained.
"Why me?" Paige asked, confused.
"Because you're Jai's best friend." Emily answered. "You know her taste."
"In coffee and donuts probably. But clothes?" Paige said incredulously before shaking her head.
"Come on." Emily pleaded.
Paige moved when they heard the bell ring, signaling it was time for class. "Look, I'm sorry. I just don't want to go shopping with you for a prom dress. Ask one of your friends to come with you instead. I'm sure they could offer a better opinion than me." She said before walking past Emily to head to her class.
Emily searched the cafeteria, her eyes quickly scanning the crowd as she searched for a particular individual during lunch time. She really needed to buy her prom dress tomorrow and she was determined to convince Paige to accompany her. When she finally spotted the girl at her usual table, two tables away from the one she and her friends were occupying, she hurriedly stood up much to her friends' surprise.
"What's wrong?" Aria asked, following Emily's gaze.
"Nothing." Emily answered, glancing at her friends. "I just need to talk to Paige for a few minutes. I'll be right back."
"So I take it she said no this morning?" Spencer asked before Emily could leave the table.
"Yeah. But I'm still working on trying to convince her to come with me. I'll be right back." Emily repeated, this time moving before her friends could stop her.
Emily slowly made her way towards Paige who was currently engrossed in reading a book she was holding at eye-level. When she was close enough to be heard above the din of students around them having lunch, she opened her mouth to speak.
"Wow you are one slow reader." Emily teased when she saw the page the girl was at once she sat beside Paige. "You've been in the same page, no pun intended, since last week." She reminded the girl, smiling. "Why won't you go someplace else so you could read in peace? You're not getting any reading done with the noise level in here."
Paige shrugged. "I don't mind the noise." She answered; closing the book she was pretending to read amidst the chatter around her before turning to face Emily. "And my answer's still no by the way." She added, making the smile on Emily's lips disappear.
"But I haven't said anything yet." Emily protested.
"You didn't have to. It was written all over your face." Paige said wryly. "You need a favor. That's the only reason you're sitting here beside me. Otherwise you'd be over there, with your friends." She said, nodding her head towards the direction of the table Emily's friends sat around, trying hard to pretend they weren't watching them.
"Why won't you join us anyway? They're not going to bite you." Emily said lightly.
"Yeah but I might bite them." Paige corrected, making Emily roll her eyes. "Now go back to your friends. If you have the time to bother me to try to convince me to say yes, then surely you have the time to make one of them say yes to you instead." She said dismissively, opening the book she was reading to indicate that their conversation is over.
Emily reluctantly got up from beside Paige. "Fine. You win." She said dejectedly, pretending to give up. "I won't bother you about it again." She added before heading back to her friends.
Paige walked around her bike, her eyes scanning the surface for any scratch marks. Satisfied that there aren't any, she then crouched to check if the tires need air. School was over for the day and she was eager to head home so she could start training again. She caught sight of something from the corner of her eye and stood up, brushing her jeans for imaginary dirt as she walked around her bike once again.
"You really love that bike don't you?" Emily asked as she sauntered towards Paige, giving the girl a smile. "You're so obsessed with that thing that you're always inspecting it before leaving after school."
"I'm not obsessed I just… treasure it." Paige said for lack of a better word.
"You're obsessed." Emily repeated. "You inspect that thing for scratches every afternoon." She pointed out.
"I just want to make sure it's in good condition." Paige insisted. "No." She said when she saw Emily open her mouth to speak.
Emily laughed. "I haven't said anything yet!" She protested.
"You didn't fool me back at the cafeteria. You gave up way too easily considering you're more stubborn than me." Paige reminded the smiling girl.
"No I'm not!" Emily interjected but Paige ignored her.
"My point is, I know what you're going to say and the answer is still no. I know I promised Jai I'm going to keep you company. But dress shopping?! That is an entirely different matter! I don't wear dresses ergo I don't shop for one." She explained.
"Come on. It's going to be fun." Emily insisted.
"I highly doubt that." Paige said as she briefly crouched to unlock her bike without any trouble.
"Think of all the opportunities I'm giving you to make fun of me while I try on dresses." Emily offered. "Each time I get out of the fitting room you can tell me how awful I look. Come on. I know you're dying to make fun of me."
"No. I'm not." Paige said as she rode her bike before taking a deep breath. "In case you haven't noticed, it's been a while since I've made fun of you. I don't want to watch you try on prom dresses Emily." She said, looking away. "Just ask one of your friends or your mom to go with you. I'm not going to change my mind." She said firmly before pedaling away leaving Emily confused.
"So I take it you're excited." Kayla said as she sank another pool ball, walking around the billiard table slowly to study her next shot. "You and your coaches have been preparing for this event for months, right?"
It was a Saturday afternoon and after breakfast earlier that day with Kayla, Logan and Emily, Paige went back to the Hayes household to spend time with Kayla like she promised that morning once she freshened up. She had been up since four in the morning, training for the upcoming Junior Elite Cups and though she was tired, she couldn't say no when Kayla asked if they could hang out.
Paige nodded. "We have. And I am more than excited. I'm stoked. Finally I'm getting a chance to compete in a draft-legal triathlon. If I perform well in this one, I get to qualify for the Junior Elite National Championship." She said eagerly as she gripped the cue stick with both hands and balanced it in front of her.
"When is it?" Kayla asked, sighing when she missed the next shot she took. "The Junior Elite Cups." She clarified.
"April. It's in Virginia." Paige added as she moved to begin her turn.
"So who's coming with you?" Kayla inquired, taking a step back to let Paige pass in front of her.
"Just me." Paige answered. "Kayla it's just a competition. I'll be fine on my own." She reassured the girl when she noticed Kayla's worried look.
"Paige if you place in the top twenty you get to qualify in the National Championships, right?" Kayla asked. When Paige nodded, she continued. "And that's the one with the competitions all over the world." She added eagerly. She knew how much Paige wanted to be able to compete on that level.
Paige nodded again. "Yeah. I want to be able to do that so badly." She admitted.
"Then I'm going to go to Virginia with you. For moral support among other things." Kayla insisted. "Besides, once Jai gets home you know she'd want to come with you too. We could have a road trip." She suggested excitedly.
"Or not. She and Emily have a lot of catching up to do once she gets home next month. I don't think going with me to Virginia after she's been back less than a month is at the top of the list. Corner pocket." Paige said, calling the shot as she sank the pool ball.
"Fine it's just the two of us then. I'll be your sidekick. Or your errand girl. Just give me something to do. I'd like to be able to say one day when you're on the news that I was your sidekick." Kayla said proudly.
Paige laughed. "Just as long as the news reports that I placed, not that I was injured during the race." She said as she rubbed chalk on the tip of her cue stick. "And don't call yourself a sidekick or an errand girl. Say that we've known each other for years and that you're the closest thing I have to a little sister. We're family."
Kayla's smile faltered for a moment, reminded that although she promised herself that she will always be what Paige needed her to be, it still hurt hearing the girl tell her that she's merely the younger sibling Paige never had.
"So does that mean I can come to Virginia with you?" Kayla asked, managing to give Paige a grin.
"I'm tempted to say yes. But your dad is going to flip when he finds out you've been missing school." Paige reminded her as she sank another pool ball.
Kayla shrugged. "That's because I'm not living up to his expectations. Not because he cares." She said offhandedly.
"Kayla." Paige said gently.
"It's true. The only time he cares is if he's reminded that I'm not doing as well as Jai. You and I both know that. But I'm used to it." Kayla said hurriedly. "It's better that he barely pays attention to me. At least I don't have to live up to his expectations. Jai set the bar so high it's not worth the trouble because it will never be enough."
"Your dad loves you and Jai." Paige reminded Kayla. "And don't sell yourself short. You have a good head on your shoulders."
Kayla smiled faintly. "I know he loves me, Paige. He just loves Jai more." She said quietly. "And I'm okay with it. I'm not mad at him or at Jai. I just wish he'd stop comparing us."
Paige moved to give Kayla a comforting hug but stopped short when she felt her phone vibrate from the back pocket of her jeans. When she saw who was calling, she looked at the girl apologetically. "I have to take this. I'll be quick." She promised as she handed to Kayla the cue stick she was holding.
"What?" Paige said into the phone once she was outside the game room.
"Sorry." Emily's upset tone came from the other end of the line. "Did I catch you at a bad time?" She asked cautiously.
"No. No." Paige repeated, running a hand through her hair. "What's wrong?" She asked when she heard the distress in Emily's voice. "Is everything okay?"
"Yeah." Emily said faintly.
"No it isn't. What's wrong?" Paige repeated worriedly.
"I'm really sorry. I wouldn't have called but my friends weren't answering my call. I have somewhere I need to be in thirty minutes but my mom's car broke down and I need a lift. Can you get me?" Emily asked urgently.
"Yeah. Sure. Where are you?" Paige asked as she went inside the game room again. "Okay. Okay. I'm here at the Hayes' so I can be there in ten." She promised as she listened to Emily. "No. Just stay put. Okay. Bye." She said before ending the call. "That was Emily." Paige explained when she saw Kayla's curious look. "I have to go. She ran into a bit of car trouble and I have to go help her."
Kayla shook her head, smiling in amusement. "I still can't believe you're calling Em by her name now." She admitted.
"I'll be back later." Paige promised, ignoring Kayla's comment as she picked up her jacket and put it on before heading for the door.
"Paige?" Kayla called out after the girl anxiously. "I know. About Em. And how much it hurts. Please be careful." She said, smiling faintly.
Paige nodded wordlessly before opening the door to leave.
"I don't get why you're so mad." Emily said as she quickened her pace to follow Paige.
Because I ended up getting worried for no reason! "Where to begin?" Paige snapped as she turned abruptly to face Emily, surprising the girl. "You made it sound like you were in serious trouble. I get to you and not only are you not having car trouble, you don't have a car at all! All of this just to get me to go to the mall with you. Shopping for a prom dress is hardly a matter of life and death Emily. I left Kayla by herself because I thought you were in trouble."
"I don't get what the big deal is. Kayla's sixteen. She's hardly a kid. She can take care of herself." Emily pointed out.
"Remember that the next time Jai tells you to look after me. Kayla's sixteen, I'm seventeen. Older." Paige said, pointing to herself.
"Immature." Emily added. "Kayla's responsible. She's like a mini Jai in the making." She reminded the scowling girl.
"She's not. She's Kayla. Not mini Jai, not Jai in the making." Paige said quietly, making Emily furrow her brows in confusion. "You don't have any idea what goes on in the Hayes household when you're not around." She explained.
"I'm really sorry." Emily said sincerely. "It's just that I'm really excited about Jai coming home and I wanted to buy a prom dress first before she gets back."
"It's not for a wedding Emily. It's just a prom dress. It's not bad luck if Jai saw you wearing it." Paige said, annoyed.
"I know. But I don't want Jai to see me buy it. I want it to be a surprise." Emily explained as she headed towards a store.
"Well don't you have friends for this?" Paige asked as she followed Emily inside.
"I do. That's why you're here." Emily stated although she knew Paige still refused to admit they're friends.
"I am not your shopping buddy. Why am I even here?!" Paige exclaimed as they went past a rack of formal dresses.
"Because you owe me." Emily answered.
"You and Jai scare me. You two are so alike it's creepy." Paige said as they stopped in front of a rack and Emily began to check out some dresses.
"How are we alike?" Emily asked, distracted.
"You owe me? You two like to say that a lot don't you? Especially to me." Paige added.
"Well it's true. You do owe me." Emily pointed out as she removed a dress from the rack to look at it.
"Again. It was a one-time thing! Which you said I repaid by participating in the kissing booth." Paige reminded Emily as she watched the girl return the dress.
"This is for the other favor." Emily supplied, walking past Paige to look for more dresses.
"Which was a one-time thing too!" Paige called out after Emily.
"And I went out of my way to do it." Emily said when Paige caught up to her. "Come on. Help me pick out a dress. You know Jai's taste." She said, glancing at Paige briefly.
"So do you." Paige reminded her. "You just want to torture me because you know how much I hate shopping. Why can't Hanna come with you?"
"Because her dad is visiting from Portland and he wants to spend time with her. Spencer is having dinner with her dad and a friend of his to talk about UPenn and Aria is helping her mom with the general cleaning of their house. You're it." Emily explained.
"Oh now I feel so much better. I was your last pick!" Paige exclaimed. "Now I get why you kept asking me the whole day yesterday. They already said no to you."
"Hey you asked." Emily said defensively. "Come on. You're here already. I'll treat you to a pretzel later." She offered.
"Wow. Now it's down to bribing. I can see why you and Jai hit it off. Really." Paige commented, shaking her head.
"Why are you so reluctant to come with me? It's not like you're swamped." Emily said as she stopped in front of another rack and rummaged it for a dress.
"I just don't like shopping for clothes. Especially dresses. And I don't want to spend the rest of my day telling you to turn. Turn again. Turn again. Oh that looks good on you. Oh that looks better... Oh wait..." Paige mocked.
"Fine I get it." Emily said, laughing. "Look. You haven't gone shopping with me before. I'm not like other girls, okay? I can make up my mind fast." She insisted.
Paige scoffed. "Yeah right." She said sarcastically.
"Ask Jai." Emily challenged.
"Jai is in love with you. That's why she's so patient. I, on the other hand, am not." Paige pointed out.
"In love with me?" Emily asked, confused.
"What?" Paige asked, her voice hoarse.
"Which are you not? In love with me or patient?" Emily asked innocently.
Paige felt her pulse race, terrified that Emily figured her out. That is, until the girl started laughing.
"Kidding. God Paige. You should've seen your face. You look so horrified. I was kidding. I know you're not in love with me. You can barely stand me." Emily pointed out, trying to control her laughter.
"Just start trying on dresses will you?" Paige snapped impatiently, walking past Emily to try to hide her flushed cheeks.
"So. What do you want to do next?" Emily asked Paige enthusiastically as she exited the fifth store they went inside with a paper bag in hand this time.
After walking around the mall for hours, Emily finally found the dress she wanted to wear for prom with the help of a reluctant Paige who grew more and more uncomfortable with every dress Emily tried on. Paige tried her best to be helpful but everytime Emily stepped out of the fitting room, she ended up saying nothing, unable to put into words what she thought about every dress Emily wore. She knew Emily probably now regretted trying to convince her several times to say yes because she was unable to contribute anything at all. Unless of course she counted that one time she tried to help Emily by zipping up the dress and in her nervousness it took her all of five minutes to do it, almost ruining the zipper in the process.
"I wanna go home." Paige said faintly, glancing at the paper bag Emily held in her hand as she forced herself to forget how the girl looked in the royal blue Grecian dress she bought.
Emily stared at Paige. "What? Come on. I'm serious about paying you back for helping me buy a dress." She insisted.
"Helping? You twisted my arm. Actually, you pretended your mom's car broke down and you needed a ride. Then you ambushed me into coming with you." Paige corrected.
Emily shrugged. "Seems like a waste of opportunity since you drove me to the mall already." She said nonchalantly. "Come on. Do you want to have a late lunch? Early dinner?" She suggested as she led the way towards the food court.
"I'd rather go home." Paige said stubbornly, refusing to spend more time with Emily today.
Emily stopped walking and faced Paige. "Are you still mad at me? You barely said anything the entire time I was trying on dresses. I was actually waiting for you to make fun of me." She admitted. "I'm really sorry for tricking you into coming with me today. It's just that this is the only weekend I'm free to shop for a prom dress and my friends were all busy."
Paige sighed. "It's fine. Can we just go home now?" She pleaded.
Emily looked past Paige and her eyes suddenly lit up. "I know! Let's watch a movie!" She said eagerly when she saw a movie poster behind Paige.
"What? No. Are you even listening to me?" Paige asked, annoyed.
"Come on. My treat. Movie, food and drinks!" Emily offered as she headed towards the direction of the cinemas this time.
"Emily." Paige protested, grudgingly following the girl. She stopped when Emily faced her again.
"Stay right here. I'll buy the tickets. They're showing this film I know you're going to love!" Emily exclaimed, taking Paige's hand to give her the paper bag with the prom dress inside before jogging towards the ticket booth.
Paige stared after Emily then at the paper bag she held in her hand, speechless as her mind tried to process what just happened.
Two and a half hours later, Paige exited the theatre with the rest of the moviegoers. But unlike the rest of the crowd who couldn't stop talking about the movie they just saw, she was in a daze, unable to put into words the thoughts going through her mind about the film she just forced herself to sit through.
"That was so cool." Emily said from behind Paige.
Paige turned around to face Emily, the look of incredulity on her face making the other girl stop in her tracks. "You're kidding. Right?" She asked, placing her hands inside her jacket's pockets.
Emily shook her head. "Nope. I loved it. Didn't you?" She inquired as she moved past Paige to start walking.
"I loved the previews." Paige offered.
"What? That film was awesome!" Emily protested.
Paige scoffed. "That was hardly a film. Are you done punishing me?" She asked, glancing at the girl walking next to her.
"It's not a punishment. I was under the impression you'd enjoy it!" Emily explained.
"What on earth gave you that impression?!" Paige retorted.
"Jai loves it." Emily revealed.
Paige gave out a short laugh. "That is so presumptuous of you. Thinking that just because my best friend loves historical documentaries I would love them too." She added.
"I just thought since you and Jai are best friends your preferences are the same." Emily admitted sheepishly.
Paige shook her head. "Not in film it isn't. And what kind of logic is that? Even siblings have different preferences." She pointed out.
"Yeah but siblings are forced to get along because they're family. Friends become friends because they share same interests." Emily argued.
"Yeah but not entirely the same. Otherwise it's just like looking in a mirror. And even twins have differing interests. Being too similar is just boring. In any relationship it's better if you complement each other than agree with each other all the time. I mean, look at you and your friends." Paige said as she weaved her way around the crowd.
"I know that. I just meant you two are friends but you're so different I thought your film preferences may be the one thing you two have in common." Emily explained.
"Well that's not it." Paige said vaguely.
"So why didn't you say anything?" Emily asked. "If you hated it so much we could've just left the theatre and went to get coffee instead."
"Or we could've just gone home like I was telling you two and a half hours ago." Paige reminded her.
"So why didn't you say anything?" Emily asked again.
"I was about to. But when I turned to face you I saw that you were enjoying it. And you paid for everything. So I decided to rest my eyes for a bit instead." Paige confessed. "So can we leave this place now? I promised Kayla I'll come back."
"Yeah okay." Emily said as she followed Paige towards the direction of the parking lot. "So how did you two become friends in the first place?" She asked without looking at Paige.
"I don't know exactly. Jai just left me with her one day and we started talking, realized we get along well, and now we're friends." Paige answered.
"I meant you and Jai. How did you and Jai become friends?" Emily clarified.
"You mean because Jai is just so perfect and I'm such a mess?" Paige said, choosing to pick a fight than answer the question.
Emily shook her head. "No. Just that Jai is so serious about everything. She has all these plans to reach her dreams and you..."
"Don't?" Paige interjected.
"I just haven't heard you talk about your future as much as she does. Like you're not looking forward to it." Emily admitted.
"It's not like anybody will listen. And just because I don't talk about it doesn't mean I don't dream. I just don't plan too far out. I don't have the luxury of that. I wake up every morning and my plan is to just find a way to make it through the day." Paige explained as they exited the mall.
"How come?" Emily asked, hurrying to catch up to Paige as the girl headed for her dad's car.
Paige shrugged. "That's just the way it has to be. I've been doing that since I was ten and it's been working so far." She said distractedly.
"Is that enough?" Emily inquired, stopping when they reached the Buick Encore.
Paige took out the keys to her dad's car and walked to the driver's side as she unlocked the doors. "Yeah. I don't have this special someone in my life so I don't have to plan for our future. It's just me and I am fine with that." She said as she got inside and buckled her seatbelt.
"So you're saying if you meet someone you might start thinking about your future years from now." Emily stated as she got inside the car and closed the door behind her, buckling her seatbelt as well.
Paige locked the doors and inserted the key into the ignition. "I'm saying if I meet someone and I decide to commit I might change my entire future for her." She revealed before starting the car and shifting the gear into drive.
Emily woke up on the morning of Valentine's Day, her eyes immediately setting its sights on a bouquet of what looked like two dozen long-stemmed red roses, a medium-sized rectangular box and a teddy bear in a Cupid's costume. Jai. She said to herself, her thoughts immediately drifting to her girlfriend when she saw the presents and she got up and quickly made her way to the windowseat. She touched the soft petals of one of the roses before taking the card and reading it, stealing a glance at the medium-sized rectangular box and smiling when she saw that it was a box full of chocolate-covered strawberries. She leaned forward and gently took the teddy bear, studying the stuffed toy donning a Cupid's costume as she turned it over and over in her hands. She let out a delighted laugh when she accidentally pressed its belly and the bear made a sound.
"I wuv you beary much." Jai's voice suddenly filled the room, making Emily hug the bear close to her.
"I see you've found the gifts Jai sent you." Pam said in greeting behind her.
Emily turned around, smiling at her mom. "She sent these from London?" She asked, hugging the bear closer to her.
Pam nodded. "It was delivered early this morning. I wanted you to see them when you woke up so I placed them there." She explained.
"Thanks." Emily said, turning around briefly to place the stuffed toy back on the windowseat. "She didn't call?" She asked her mom, disappointed.
"She did." Pam revealed. "But you were asleep." She added hurriedly when Emily was about to complain. "And she didn't want me to wake you up. She said she's going to call you later instead."
"Oh." Emily said, sitting down on the edge of her bed. "I wish you just woke me up."
"Sweetie I know how much you miss her. And I can tell just from her voice how much she misses you too. She's going to call you again." Pam reassured her daughter.
"She's been so busy lately mom. She might be too swamped to call me again." Emily said quietly.
"She promised she was going to call you." Pam repeated. "I'm sure she'll find a way." When Emily didn't say anything, Pam walked over to the windowseat and picked up the bouquet. "I'm going to put these in a vase." She said, gesturing to the roses. "You have a busy day ahead of you. I made some French toast and there's some bacon and eggs. Coffee too. We better head downstairs. You don't want to be late for school."
Emily nodded. "I'll be right there." She promised. When she was finally alone, she got up and walked towards the windowseat again, taking the bear in her hands and pressing its belly repeatedly.
I wuv you beary much. I wuv you beary much. I wuv you beary much.
Please call again. Emily thought sadly.
"Paige! Hey Paige! Want to give it a try?" A cute girl with wavy, shoulder-length black hair and a dimpled smile asked just as Paige walked past a booth.
Paige stopped in her tracks and glanced at the sign above the booth before shaking her head at the girl. "I don't think so." She said, walking closer to the girl.
It was just past three in the afternoon and Paige was on her scheduled break from her so-called duties at the kissing booth. She decided to take a stroll around the fairgrounds, check out some of the booths the other clubs and organizations decided to set up at this year's fair when she came across this particular booth. The booth couples keep making a beeline for once they enter the fairgrounds. The marriage booth.
"Not your cup of tea?" The girl asked, smiling flirtatiously.
"Not really, no." Paige answered. "I'm manning the kissing booth with Connor, Hanna and Greg. That's more my cup of tea."
"Me too." The girl admitted. "I've been meaning to check out that booth of yours actually but I'm busy fake-marrying couples here."
Out of the corner of her eye, Paige noticed a guy wearing a black shirt with a design on the front weaving his way around the crowd in panic while looking behind him once a while. When the guy was nearing her, Paige stepped forward to move out of the guy's path, shaking her head in amusement. A few seconds later, two students from the debate club dressed in police uniforms went past her, in pursuit of the guy in the black shirt.
"Who are they locking up now?" Paige asked the girl.
"You mean the jail booth? Guys in black shirts with abstract designs." The girl answered.
"I don't get why they run though. They can post bail, right? Once they get caught and they're brought to the makeshift precinct they can just pay the bail and they're free to go." Paige explained, her eyes trying to see where the guy and the two students pursuing him went. "Saves you the trouble of getting tired trying to lose them."
"I guess it's the challenge and the rush you feel when you know you've managed to evade the 'law'." The girl said as she used air quotes. "I don't mind breaking the rules once a while."
"Oh yeah? So why are you waiting for your break?" Paige asked, moving closer. "Let's just go back to the kissing booth now so I can give you that dollar kiss you've been hoping to get."
The girl blushed. "I'm actually on break right now but my friend asked me to take over for a bit while she made a call. I don't know when she'll be back though." She said ruefully. "But I happen to have a dollar with me right now." She added as she pulled out a bill from her pocket.
"That's a twenty." Paige said, glancing at the bill the girl was holding. "And I don't have a change with me."
The girl shrugged. "Twenty kisses on the cheek then?" She suggested.
"I could do that. But is that really what you want... Valerie?" Paige asked as she glanced at the girl's nametag. "Ten kisses on each cheek could easily get old and I want you to be able to get your money's worth."
"Then how much is a kiss on the lips worth?" Valerie asked boldly, starting to lean forward.
Paige gave the girl a flirtatious smile. "For you?" She asked, moving her hand towards the girl's. "I don't know. Why don't we find out somewhere private?"
"What's going on here?" Emily's seemingly innocent tone beside her made Paige groan in frustration.
"Nothing much. Valerie and I were just talking about the pros and cons of a marriage booth and a kissing booth. I think we were actually making some progress." Paige explained as she turned to face Emily, jerking her head inconspicuously to try to make Emily leave but the girl ignored her subtle gesture.
"Oh. I'm more of a marriage booth myself." Emily said nonchalantly as she leaned against one of the posts supporting the booth. "Jai and I always go here."
"Yes. Thank you. For that fond trip down memory lane." Paige said sarcastically. "But the rest of us are fine with the kissing booth at this point in our lives. Now I'm sure as social chair you have lots of booths left to visit before your shift ends. Wouldn't want to hold you back. Go on now." She said, making a shooing motion.
Emily checked the time on her watch. "I have time." She said, smiling at Paige. "So. How's Dominique?"
"Dominique?" Valerie asked, looking at Paige and Emily alternately.
Paige shook her head at the confused girl. "She's no one." She said offhandedly.
"If by no one you mean the girl you've loved for years then yeah, she's definitely no one." Emily said, ignoring Paige's scathing glare.
"I'm confused. Word around school is you weren't seeing anyone." Valerie told Paige accusingly.
"I'm not!" Paige exclaimed. "I swear I'm not." She insisted before turning to face Emily. "Stop trying to bring up Dominique. She doesn't care what I do."
"Okay I'm gonna go now." Valerie said as she looked past the two girls who were about to start fighting. "My friend's here so I'm gonna take a break." She added before stepping away from the booth.
"I'll keep you company." Paige called after the girl but before she could move she felt Emily's hand on her arm. "Will you let me go?" She exclaimed, annoyed.
"No. Instead of trying to forget about Dominique why don't you actually tell her how you feel?" Emily asked, her grip tightening on Paige's arm.
"Because that isn't an option Emily. Telling her how I feel wouldn't accomplish anything. She doesn't want to be with me. She made that perfectly clear. So no. I'm not going to tell her. Especially when things are complicated." Paige said impatiently. "I'm going to go find Valerie and enjoy the rest of my break before I have to head back to the kissing booth and start getting paid a dollar for a kiss again. And you, you'll go back to making the rounds, make sure everything is going smoothly." She instructed, about to raise her right hand to point behind Emily when she felt something cold around her wrist. "What the...?"
"Hey guys." An eager voice from behind the marriage booth greeted them, making Paige turn her attention from the handcuff on her wrist to the girl standing in front of them instead.
"Chloe. What's the meaning of this?" Emily asked, raising her left arm and dragging Paige's right as she pointed to the metal cuff on her wrist.
"I'm so glad you two decided to support our booth." Chloe said, beaming at them.
"Support your... No. No. There's been a mistake. We're not here to get married." Paige clarified.
"But you're already fighting like one." Chloe pointed out.
Paige took a deep breath, trying to control her temper. "Uncuff us right now or I swear..."
"What Paige meant to say was please uncuff us right now Chloe." Emily interjected, giving Paige a disapproving glare. "I have to make the rounds before my shift ends and Paige has to return to the kissing booth in a few minutes." She explained patiently.
Chloe shook her head. "No can do. You can do those things handcuffed to each other." She suggested.
"No. We can't." Paige corrected.
"No killjoys remember? Everyone has to participate. That's what you said." Chloe said, looking at Emily.
Paige turned to stare at Emily as well. "You just had to say those words at the meeting didn't you?" She said sarcastically.
"I had no idea this was going to happen." Emily told Paige uneasily.
Paige sighed. "How long do we have to stay like this?" She asked Chloe.
"An hour. Then you can come back here and I can uncuff you." Chloe explained.
"You better be here when we get back or I swear..." Paige said, taking a small step forward but Emily held her back.
"We'll see you in an hour." Emily said to Chloe hurriedly before moving away from the marriage booth, followed close behind by Paige. "Ow!" She exclaimed when she felt the metal cuff dig on her skin.
"Sorry but I was going to go this way." Paige said, pointing to her left.
"Yeah well I'm going this way." Emily said, pointing to her right.
"My break's almost over!" Paige blurted out.
"Well I just need to make a few more rounds then I'm done." Emily argued.
"I can't be late. Hanna is going to kill me." Paige pointed out.
"I'll explain it to her." Emily reassured Paige. "Come on. Go with me first then I'll accompany you to the kissing booth." She offered.
Paige rolled her eyes. "Like you have a choice." She shot back as she reluctantly fell into step beside Emily to do the rounds. "Just do me a favor."
"What?" Emily asked as she headed for the ring toss booth.
"Remember that it was you who tricked me into doing this kissing booth thing. So whatever you see while handcuffed to me, keep your mouth shut. Don't ever mention Dominique." Paige warned the girl.
"Okay." Emily promised. "Just as long as you don't enjoy the attention too much."
"What I do with my time is none of your business. Dominique and I will never be together and I'm trying to move on. So what if I enjoy the attention? I'm not with anyone." Paige reminded Emily.
"Because you're too scared to tell her how you feel." Emily stated.
Paige shook her head. "I'm not scared. I just choose not to do anything about it." She corrected.
Emily stole a glance at the scowling girl walking next to her and a mental image of Paige at their meeting last week made her laugh.
"What now?" Paige asked, annoyed.
Emily shook her head. "Sorry. I just... Just think. If you agreed to be Cupid I'd be walking around with a girl in a tight short dress, a halo, a pair of wings and a bow and arrow. I'm going to be handcuffed to a cranky Cupid." She said, laughing again.
Paige frowned. "I really don't see the humor in that." She said wryly.
An hour later, Paige tapped impatiently on the top surface of the marriage booth, trying to get the attention of the girl who was currently on all fours, rummaging through some things at the back of the booth.
"Chloe. We're here. Just like you told us. One hour. Can we get divorced now?" Paige asked anxiously.
Chloe looked at them and hastily got up. "Sure." She said as she approached the two girls, seemingly nervous. "Let me just find the key for that handcuff and you two will be on your way." She added as she looked around her. "While we're all here, I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you. For participating in our booth."
"Yeah well it's not like we had a choice. You caught us off guard." Paige pointed out.
Chloe nodded. "Still. Thanks for being such a good sport. Really. Thank you. Are you sure you two can't spend a few more hours together? Check out the fairgrounds handcuffed to each other?" She suggested.
Paige narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Chloe." She uttered quietly. "Where's the key?"
"I can't find it." Chloe confessed, looking at Emily for help.
"What do you mean you can't find it?" Emily asked, starting to get anxious.
"I mean I lost the key." Chloe clarified.
"What do you mean you lost the key?!" Paige asked incredulously.
"I mean I lost it." Chloe repeated apologetically.
"Chloe!" Paige snapped, irritated.
"Sorry!" Chloe said hurriedly.
"Ugh! Find a saw or something!" Paige ordered the terrified girl.
"Hey I'm not losing my hand!" Emily hastily told Paige. "Find the spare." She instructed Chloe gently.
"I'm so sorry! I know I have it here somewhere. I just can't find it." Chloe insisted.
"Well start looking instead of making small talk! I need to get home!" Paige snapped.
"Paige!" Emily exclaimed, trying to control the situation. "Chloe it's fine. No harm done. Just keep looking for the key." She told the girl who looked like she was about to cry.
"I'm really sorry. I promise I'm gonna keep looking for it." Chloe said before going down on all fours again to go back to searching for the key.
Emily dragged an annoyed Paige away from the marriage booth and faced the girl once they were out of earshot. "What the hell was that?" She asked Paige in a low voice.
"I need to get home. I have training." Paige explained, not meeting Emily's eyes.
"Well say it nicely. You don't have to bite her head off. It's not like she intentionally lost it." Emily pointed out. "Come on. Try to see the light side of things." She urged, trying to improve Paige's mood.
"I need to get home and I need to pee. Unless you can solve those two things I refuse to see the light side of things. In fact, I'm currently seeing red right now!" Paige exclaimed.
Emily sighed. "Look. I know Chloe isn't the brightest of people but at least she's trying. You should take some lessons from her." She said lightly.
Paige glared at Emily. "I'll pretend I didn't hear you compare me to Chloe just now." She said, offended.
"I didn't. I just said she's trying." Emily clarified.
"Something you think I need to be doing as well. Duly noted. Still doesn't change the fact that she lost the key and now I'm stuck in this fair when I could be doing something somewhere. Why aren't you frustrated?!" Paige asked, puzzled.
"I am. I'm frustrated too. You think you're the only one who needs to be somewhere?" Emily asked rhetorically. "But standing around ranting about it won't get me anywhere. And I know Chloe didn't mean to lose that key. So I'm choosing to look at the light side of things." She explained gently.
"Which is what?" Paige asked reluctantly.
"That's it. You're not done punishing me at all." Paige declared as she and Emily stood in front of a colorful tent set up in the middle of the fairgrounds, regretting asking Emily earlier to show her the light side of being handcuffed to each other.
"I am not punishing you." Emily said reassuringly as she stood beside Paige.
Paige groaned. "Yes you are. This isn't the light side of things at all. This is ridiculous." She said, pointing to the tent in front of them as she looked at Emily.
"No it's not." Emily insisted.
"You seriously want me to go inside with you?" Paige asked reluctantly.
"Well unless you magically produce the key to this handcuff, you have no choice." Emily reasoned out.
"Emily." Paige pleaded.
"Come on. What's the harm in getting your fortune told? You're not scared are you?" Emily teased.
"Of a fake psychic? Please. I just don't understand why you want yours told." Paige said, scratching her head in confusion.
"I'm just curious." Emily admitted.
"Is this about you and Jai? Are you starting to have doubts?" Paige asked cautiously.
"No." Emily answered, not meeting Paige's eyes.
Paige laughed. "Liar." She said, making Emily's cheeks flush in embarrassment.
"I'm not going to ask the psychic about my love life, okay? I'm going to ask her about my life in general." Emily clarified. "And Madame Clarissa isn't a fake psychic. She's the real deal."
Paige scoffed, refusing to believe that the woman inside can predict the future. "Come on. You know these fake psychics know that people, especially girls, love hearing about what the cards hold about their love life. She's going to tell you exactly what you want to hear. And like a girl in love you're going to start swooning about the fact that you and Jai are meant to be." She mocked.
"I don't swoon!" Emily said, hitting Paige on the arm indignantly.
"Ow!" Paige exclaimed. "Is what I would say if it hurt but you hit like a girl!" She said while rubbing her arm.
"I am a girl!" Emily protested.
Paige shrugged. "Could've fooled me." She shot back.
"Come on. We'll go do something you like after." Emily bargained.
Paige shook her head. "No way. This is a waste of time!" She pointed out.
"Let me get my fortune told or I'm telling Jai you got Kayla drunk." Emily threatened, trying to keep a straight face.
Paige looked at the girl in open-mouthed shock. "Hey that was you! And if Jai was here she wouldn't be caught dead within fifty feet of this place." She stated.
"Yes she would. Because she loves me." Emily reminded the girl.
"Because she's whipped." Paige shot back.
"Because she loves me." Emily repeated.
"Ugh!" Paige exclaimed, frustrated.
"Come on!" Emily goaded.
Paige studied the girl who was trying hard to hide her excitement and caved. "You're paying for mine." She said after a beat.
Emily's lips broke into an eager smile. "Done." She said as she hastily led the way inside the tent, dragging a reluctant Paige with her.
"You have already met your one true love." Madame Clarissa said solemnly when she turned over another tarot card Emily picked from the deck earlier.
At that, Paige rolled her eyes when she noticed Emily's reaction at the psychic's words. The girl was starting to swoon. Just like she predicted. Maybe she and this Madame Clarissa person can start a business of their own.
"But the road to happiness is not easy. Things have been set into motion and a great change is about to come your way. You must be willing to accept this change and open your heart and mind to new possibilities for your love to endure it. Do this and you and this person will find that happiness." Madame Clarissa continued.
Paige tried her best not to laugh out loud. This psychic was the worst she has ever seen. She was about to say something when she felt Emily kick her shin and she bit her lip to keep from cursing. The girl could actually make the pain count if she wanted to.
When Emily looked at her, Paige shook her head. "No thanks. I think I'll pass with the whole fortunetelling." She said, not wanting to make Emily pay for hers when she would probably fall asleep while being told that she has met her one true love as well.
Emily shrugged and stood up. "Thank you." She said to the fortuneteller. "And I would have to apologize for my friend here."
Madame Clarissa smiled understandingly at Paige. "Not everyone wants to hear what their future holds for them." She said to the girl who was vehemently shaking her head on Emily's comment about them being friends.
Before Paige could open her mouth to respond to the fortuneteller's words, Emily paid the woman and dragged Paige outside with her.
"I want to go on that dunk tank thing." Paige said, looking around her to see where she spotted the gigantic transparent tank earlier tonight.
Emily bit back a grin. "Yeah I'd like to try my hand on that one too." She admitted.
Paige glanced at Emily. "I know that tone. We're not going to be in that makeshift diving board. Not when we're handcuffed." She clarified. "Besides, it's freezing. Jai's going to kill me if you catch a cold. I meant I want to hit a target. Dunk someone." She added.
"Fine. I did say we'll do something you like after." Emily reminded her.
"Just don't throw like a girl." Paige warned Emily.
"Hey I have good aim!" Emily protested.
Paige smirked. "Let's see about that." She said challengingly.
"I think it's this way." Emily said, leading the way. "Ow!" She exclaimed when Paige stopped walking abruptly behind her, making the metal cuff dig on her skin once again. "What?" She asked, looking behind her.
"Did you hear that?" Paige asked nervously.
"Hear what?" Emily inquired, confused.
"Jail booth." Paige said urgently.
"What about it?" Emily asked impatiently, eager to start heading for the dunk tank booth.
"They just announced they're locking up people in handcuffs." Paige revealed. "Oh no." She muttered when she looked past Emily.
"What?" Emily asked, turning around to see why Paige suddenly seemed pale.
"Run." Paige ordered.
"Run?" Emily repeated.
"Run!" Paige shouted, grabbing Emily's hand and breaking into a run as students from the debate club wearing police clothes spotted them and began to pursue them.
Ten minutes later, Emily stole a quick look behind her to see if they were still being pursued before facing forward again, this time trying to slow down her pace.
"I think they gave up." Emily told Paige breathlessly.
"Are you sure?" Paige asked, not willing to risk a glance behind them in case she might trip on something.
"I am. Just in time. I think I'm about to pass out." Emily admitted as she slowed down to a jog then to a walk. "I need a drink." She said as she led the way back towards the direction they came.
"Okay. Let's get some at the Home Ec's booth." Paige agreed as she subtly released her hold on Emily's hand.
"And some food. I'm starving." Emily added as they walked leisurely around the fairgrounds, navigating the crowd which has thickened when night came.
"Where can you get a decent food here? They only sell junk foods." Paige stated, nodding her head towards the row of stalls they're nearing.
"Then eat one corn dog." Emily suggested as she studied each stall.
"What? No. I'm not eating corn dog." Paige said adamantly.
Emily laughed. "Well you have to eat something coz I just heard your stomach grumble." She pointed out.
"I'm fine with drinking water." Paige said distractedly.
"What's wrong with eating one corn dog?" Emily asked, stopping in front of a stall selling corn dogs.
"I'm in training." Paige reminded the girl.
"You're always in training." Emily shot back.
"This is different. I'm not eating corn dog." Paige insisted as they resumed walking.
"Funnel cake?" Emily suggested. She laughed when she saw Paige cringe at the idea of eating one. Her eyes suddenly lit up when she saw the food at the next stall. "Pizza. I'm getting you pizza." She declared, leading the way.
Paige reluctantly followed before the metal cuff could dig on her skin. "If it's greasy I'm not touching it." She said under her breath.
"Paige your stomach is growling. I can hear it from this distance. Eat your pizza." Emily urged before taking a sip from her bottled water.
Paige stared at the slice of Hawaiian pizza Emily bought for her and she shook her head. "No thanks." She said as she watched Emily remove the pineapples from the pizza she was eating. "What are you doing?" She asked, her brows furrowed in confusion.
"Removing the pineapples." Emily answered, stating the obvious.
"Yeah. I can see that. Why?" Paige inquired, puzzled.
"I don't like it." Emily admitted.
Paige let out a short laugh. "So why did you get a Hawaiian pizza?" She asked, staring at Emily in confusion.
Emily shrugged. "I like the sweetness of the pineapple but not the pineapple itself." She explained as she continued to remove the pineapples.
"You're weird." Paige stated, shaking her head.
Emily quickly looked at Paige. "I'm not!" She said indignantly. "I just don't like pineapples in pizzas so I make Jai eat them since she loves them so much. But she isn't here so I have to throw them away." She explained.
"And from the look on your face I'm guessing you don't like the idea of doing that." Paige observed.
Emily nodded. "There are less fortunate people out there who are starving and I feel like I'm wasting food." She admitted.
Paige sighed. "Put them in mine." She said after a beat, extending her plate of pizza so Emily can transfer the pineapples in it.
"Really?" Emily asked, surprised.
"Yeah. But I'm still not going to eat it now." Paige insisted as she watched Emily transfer the pineapples to her plate using a fork.
"Why?" Emily inquired.
"Because I don't want to ruin dinner with my dad and if I eat this by the time I get home I'm going to be full. I don't want my dad to eat dinner by himself." Paige explained.
"Suit yourself." Emily said as she finished transferring all the pineapple from her pizza to Paige's. "So what does she look like?" She suddenly asked.
"What does who look like?" Paige asked as she lowered the plate of pizza between them once again.
"Dominique." Emily clarified, taking a bite of her own pizza.
Paige sighed. "Again?" She said wryly.
"I'm just curious." Emily admitted. When Paige didn't say anything, she decided to start the ball rolling. "Is she pretty?"
"That's an understatement." Paige said, looking away. "She's gorgeous. Brown eyes, long eyelashes, black hair that flows like silk. Perfect smile." She said quietly.
Emily nodded. Dominique does sound very pretty. "What's she like?" She inquired, chewing her pizza slowly.
Paige took a deep breath. "Graceful. Fun. Sweet. Down-to-earth. Really smart." She rambled on, not meeting Emily's eyes.
They sat for a moment in silence as Emily ate her pizza and Paige swung her legs to and fro, using the wall of the ledge they were sitting on to push her feet forward.
"So we almost got caught back there." Paige finally said, trying to make conversation.
Emily nodded. "I'm just thankful they gave up trying to pursue us. We're handcuffed to each other and you're already cranky. I hate to imagine what you'd be like if they caught us and put us in a cage for an hour." She admitted, smiling.
Paige smiled. "I'm going to go crazy." She supplied.
"I know. Good thing I was fast." Emily said, wiping her mouth with a tissue as she finished eating her dinner.
Paige scoffed. "Fast? I was practically dragging you." She reminded the girl, her thoughts involuntarily returning to the moment she held Emily's hand in hers. "I was fast. You were okay." She corrected.
"Hey I was fast." Emily insisted. "You were just... faster." She added reluctantly.
"Whatever. You still almost had us captured and I wasn't able to do that dunk tank." Paige complained. "You blackmailed me into entering that psychic's tent but I never got to do my dunk tank." She said, pouting.
Emily laughed. "I didn't blackmail you! And I'm sorry we never got to do the dunk tank. But it's not fun anyway." She said dismissively.
"What? It's totally fun!" Paige insisted.
"Not if you're the one doing the dunking it's not. I think it's more exciting if you're sitting on that diving board, waiting for someone to hit the bull's-eye. I've always wanted to try that actually. But Jai won't let me." Emily admitted.
"Seriously?" Paige asked, surprised.
"Yeah. Like you said, the water's cold and she doesn't want me getting sick." Emily explained.
Paige shrugged. "Well I've tried it several times. The water's fine. We're swimmers. Our bodies can take it. At least mine could." She clarified.
"Then you must have thick skin." Emily teased. "Like a crocodile's or an alligator's." She added, making Paige glare at her indignantly.
"Hey I have soft skin!" Paige protested.
"Did someone tell you that or that's merely your opinion?" Emily asked, trying to hide her laughter.
"A little bit of both." Paige answered, making Emily laugh.
"What?" Emily suddenly asked when she saw Paige looking at her curiously.
Paige shook her head. "You just look happy. Considering it's Valentine's Day and Jai's not here." She explained.
"I am happy. We're getting along. At least I think we are. I had a good time today. Didn't you?" Emily asked timidly.
"A little bit. Yeah." Paige admitted.
Emily grinned. "See? And even if Jai isn't here, I got a surprise from her this morning and it put me in a really good mood. Once I got past the whole missing-her-terribly feeling. Because even if she's super busy, she never forgets." She said softly.
"She sent another gift from London?" Paige asked, smiling faintly.
Emily nodded. "But I missed her call this morning and she told my mom she's going to call again so I'm hoping she doesn't forget that." She said anxiously.
Paige was about to reassure Emily that Jai will never forget to call her when the girl took out her phone and Emily's face lit up like it was Christmas morning. "Jai?" She asked despite knowing the answer to her question.
Emily nodded before answering her phone. "Hey." She said, breaking into a huge smile.
Paige turned her body a little to the side, turning her back to Emily to try to give the girl some privacy despite being handcuffed to each other.
"Hey." Jai's exhausted voice came on the other end of the line. "Did I catch you at a bad time?" She asked her girlfriend.
"Not at all. I've been waiting for you to call me all day actually. Sorry I missed your call this morning." Emily said ruefully.
"Don't be. Pam said you've been coming home late because of the planning for the fair so I told her not to wake you up." Jai explained.
"I'm glad you called again." Emily admitted quietly.
"Of course. I'm not going to let Valentine's Day go by without talking to you." Jai said reassuringly.
Emily smiled. "I got the roses. And the strawberries. And the bear. I especially love the bear. Thanks." She said, feeling herself tear up. She really missed Jai.
"Glad you loved them." Jai said softly.
"Does he have a name?" Emily asked timidly.
"Nope. I thought I'd leave the naming to you. So have you named him yet?" Jai asked.
"I'll tell you when you get back." Emily promised.
"Then I guess I'm going to find out in two weeks." Jai revealed slowly.
Emily suddenly sat up straight, unable to believe the words she just heard. "Two weeks?" She repeated. "Jai. Please tell me you're not playing a prank." She said breathlessly.
"I'm not." Jai reassured her girlfriend. "Turns out I can finish my internship at the end of this month. I'm coming home Em."
"You're serious!" Emily exclaimed, still trying to wrap her mind around the good news.
"I am. I can't wait to see you." Jai said eagerly.
Emily laughed excitedly. "I can't wait to see you too. I take it back; this is the best Valentine's gift you gave me. Sorry I didn't get you anything." She added.
"Hearing your voice? How excited and happy you are right now? That's all I could ever ask for. You don't need to get me anything." Jai said reassuringly.
"Are you on break now?" Emily asked, not wanting to end their conversation just yet despite knowing how busy Jai is.
"I am. I was planning to go outside to get some dinner but I thought I'd try to call you first again." Jai admitted.
"I'm glad you did." Emily said, smiling softly.
"Me too. So how's fair going?" Jai asked.
"Good. It's going really good. We have a huge turnout of visitors this year. I think most of them came from outside of Rosewood." Emily revealed.
"That's great. You're an awesome social chair." Jai said proudly. "So what are you up to now?"
"Waiting for Chloe to find the key to the handcuff." Emily answered, rotating her wrist to get some circulation going.
"Who are you handcuffed to?" Jai asked curiously.
"Paige." Emily said, glancing at the girl whose back was turned to her.
"You two went to the marriage booth?" Jai asked, amused.
Emily rolled her eyes. "Not together, no. I was making the rounds, making sure everything was going well. Paige was flirting with the girl manning the marriage booth. I came over, next thing we knew Chloe handcuffed us." She explained.
Jai laughed. "And she lost the key. Typical Chloe." She added.
"I know." Emily smiled wryly.
"My best friend isn't giving you a hard time, is she?" Jai asked anxiously. "I know how much she hates being handcuffed to anyone during fair."
"No. She's being typical Paige. Stubborn. Cranky. Whiny." Emily enumerated, hoping to get a rise out of Paige but the girl refused to say anything. "So can we talk some more or do you have to go?"
Jai sighed. "I have to go." She said reluctantly. "But in two weeks you can tell me everything. Tell me what I missed. I am all yours." She promised.
Emily smiled. "I like the sound of that." She said in a low voice.
"I'll call you again before I leave here. Tell Paige the good news. I love you." Jai said earnestly.
"I love you too." Emily said. She waited until the line went dead before moving the phone away from her ear and returning it inside her jacket's pocket. "She's coming home." She told Paige eagerly. She waited for Paige to turn around and face her but the girl's attention was focused on someone else.
"There you are! I've been looking everywhere for you two! I found it! I found the key!" Chloe exclaimed as she jogged towards them, waving the key excitedly.
"It's about time. Give it to me." Paige said, taking the key from the girl once Chloe was standing in front of them. She hurriedly unlocked the handcuff, rubbed her right wrist and gave the key back to the breathless girl. She stared at the pizza Emily bought her and picked it up. "Here." She said, handing the food to Chloe. "Sorry for earlier." She said after Chloe took her peace offering.
"Paige. Did you hear me?" Emily asked as she removed the handcuff and gave it to Chloe who was bouncing on her heels, eager to get back to the marriage booth. "Jai's coming home in two weeks. Do you know what that means?"
"Yeah. It means playtime's over." Paige answered quietly, standing up. "I'm happy for the two of you." She added sincerely, placing her hands inside her jacket's pockets and following Chloe as the girl left, walking away without a single glance at Emily.
Emily watched Paige's retreating back, confused at the girl's sudden foul mood. She shrugged and decided to set aside Paige's behavior just now. Because right now all she could think about is Jai. Her girlfriend is finally coming home. And she couldn't wait to hold Jai in her arms again.