A/N: Hi everyone! First of all, thank you for continuing to read this story! :) I actually finished this almost a week ago but haven't had access to the Internet until now because I'm out of the country right now and have been traveling a ton. I began writing this right after I wrote the first chapter, but I worked on it in bits and pieces instead of sitting down for a long writing session. I also took a different approach with this chapter and haven't really gotten a chance to go over grammars/spellchecks, but I hope you'll all be forgiving when it comes to that and enjoy the update anyway. So have a wonderful day ahead! :) Oh, and thank you so much for everyone that reviewed the last chapter! I really appreciate all the kind and encouraging words!
Gathering up my notebook and book bag, I quickly stood up from the desk I had occupied for the past hour in my new homeroom for this sophomore year. The hour had been filled with loud noises and everyone chattering on about how they had spent their summer, causing me to shake my head several times when I overheard how ridiculous some stories were. It was hard to believe that it was in this same classroom where chaos once ensued last school year when we were all just freshmen. I let out a sigh of relief, gladly knowing that the period was over and I could finally get out of this earthy place. For some reason, it just wasn't the same without Paige or any of the other girls here with me.
As soon as I stepped out into the hallway, I was immediately greeted with a pair of brown eyes I've grown to known so well. The corner of my lips curved upwards when Paige smiled at me and then she reached out her arm, gesturing to the textbook in my hand so that she can take it. I simply shook my head at her and smiled but Paige took it out of my hand, and I duck my head bashfully as we walked the rest of the way to our biology class with her holding my book.
"So, I was thinking about asking the girls to come over for a sleepover this weekend. You in?" Paige asked from beside me as we reached the end of the hallway. I looked up in amusement but Paige must've misread my reaction because she started explaining why.
"I mean, it's the end of the first week of school, and what better way to relax than a sleepover and a nice swim in my backyard, right?" Paige asked hopefully and I couldn't help but giggle at her panicked expression.
"Yeah, I'm in." I smiled her way before I looked straight ahead as we made our way through the bustling crowd in the hallway. I suddenly felt a hand on my right forearm and I looked over to see Paige wearing a stern look on her face as she took the lead and led us through the mass of students filling up the hallway. Oh Paige, always the knight in shining armor between the two of us. I wonder when she'd ever realize that I wanted to be her protector too, simply because she was worth protecting in my book.
Soon enough we arrived in front of our biology class without a scratch and Paige held the door open as she gestured for me to go in first. I thanked her and walked in before I felt her following right behind me. I walked to one of the lab tables for pairs at the back of the classroom and sat down as I saw a stool pulled out beside me. I didn't have to look up and see to guess that it was Paige. We always sat next to each other whenever we shared a class together. It was pretty much a given by now. We both knew that and so did the girls. Sometimes, it was hard to decide when the five of us shared the same class, but Hanna, Aria, and I never had to sit alone or with another student. Spencer and Paige were always the ones to brave that out, and when Paige's friend, Pru, shared the same class with the five of us as well, Paige would go sit with her. Sometimes, it made me feel uneasy inside to see the close friendship they have, but I knew it was silly to even think that because they've been friends since they were kids, just like Spencer, Hanna, Aria, and me. Deep within, I knew the real reason why I felt the way I did, but even if I was aware of the truth, it still wasn't right.
Class began as soon as our biology teacher came in and took attendance, and I chanced a few brief glances to my right, smiling to myself every now and then when I caught Paige yawning in-between the teacher's introduction and lecture. I was taking down notes about the last part of the scientific method when I saw a folded piece of paper placed in front of me. I looked over to Paige and saw her gesturing with her eyes for me to open it, and I playfully narrowed my eyes at her before putting my pen down and unfolded the piece of paper that had been folded into fourths.
Who take notes on the scientific method?
I rolled my eyes at Paige's writing before I quickly wrote down a response.
Not you obviously.
I smirked before folding the piece of paper and tossing it back over to Paige. I flip my notebook over to begin a new section for the notes on the organization of life, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw that Paige had forgotten about taking note altogether as she focused on writing a response back to me. It wasn't long before I saw the folded piece of paper land on my notebook, and I gently brushed it aside for a bit as I continued to take notes even though it was taking all of my patience to not read what she's written. I needed to focus in class and not appear too eager to be passing notes with Paige, or my grade will start dropping and there was the possibility that Paige will figure me out. After a few minutes had gone by, I finally reached for the note and opened it. After I read the single line she wrote, I shook my head in fun as I glanced over at Paige and caught her twinkling eyes. Twinkling eyes? God, I am so way over my head. I quickly looked back to the note thoughtfully and brought the end of the pen to my lips as I chewed on it.
Cheeky. What's gotten into you today, Fields?
Thinking about you. I wanted to write, but I knew that I shouldn't. Couldn't if I were to be more exact. I sighed inaudibly as I thought of a simple answer to give her. I found my hand writing for me as I thought of the consequences of telling her my darkest secret and deepest fear.
Ben's taking me on a surprise date tonight.
I passed the note over to her without a second thought. Ben had asked me out at the end of our freshmen year. I'd seen him around at the school's natatorium because he was on the boys' swim team but never gave him a second thought. I didn't even know he noticed had the slightest interest in me, but one day after swim practice, he came over and told me how great I was in the waters. We sort-of hit it off from there and he asked me out a few weeks after. He was exactly like any of the other guys I knew who'd put their girlfriends in security, but at least he meant it when he tells his guy friends he treats me as an equal. I appreciated that and he wasn't so bad. I had needed a distraction back then, seeing that if I continued to stay glued to Paige's side for any longer, I'd have done something I would regret. Like coming out to her.
I thought bitterly about it as I remembered how Alison treated me when she found out that I like girls. Well, when I liked her. She always secretly threatened to tell the whole school yet she'd never told a soul, but it was because she often used it against me to get whatever she wanted. I didn't care and allowed Alison to step all over me because I was head over heels in love with her. I knew that she didn't love me back, but at times when she'd lead me on, kissing me, and then flirting with me in front of people without the other girls knowing what was going on between us, I couldn't help but give into whatever she wanted due to the special treatment. I was young and naïve. I guess I still am, but I've learned better. Just because you felt a certain way about someone didn't mean that you should act on those feelings. A part of me knew that I was swimming on the deep ends of denial, but it couldn't really be helped. Who would accept me if I came out? Who would still love me then? After being rejected by Ali and then having been used by her, it was hard to trust that anyone could ever really love me for who I am. Or really love me for who I love. As for Paige, I really couldn't tell if she'd be okay with it. With my love for the same sex. With my feelings for girls. With the perfect image I'd pretended to put up. With me. Or with the fact that if she'd ever be okay finding out that I had feelings for her.
I was suddenly snapped out of my little train of thoughts when I saw a piece of paper fly in front of me. The teacher must've seen it too because he looked our way but I was quicker and had hid it underneath the table with one hand as I began writing in my notebook with the other. I gave Paige a sharp look before she shrugged and mouthed an apology to me while grinning sheepishly. I could only shake my head at her as I put the pen down and reached under the table to unfold the piece of paper. When I glanced at our biology teacher and saw that we'd gotten off his radar, I allowed myself to read the paper note Paige had passed back to me.
Hot date with Shark boy again? Don't you ever grow tired of him? ;)
I smiled slightly at her questions and I really wish how I could be completely honest with her about how I felt. Ben was nice, but he was a bit too clingy at times. All the time. I sighed again as I thought over her questions. Ben was nice. Yeah, that and he was particularly attentive when it came to me. He was nice.
Ben's a nice guy.
It was a simple response, but I felt like that was really all I could say about him. I quickly passed over the note when our biology teacher wasn't looking, and before I could pick up my pen, I heard a light chuckle beside me. I looked over and saw Paige looking at me funny.
Nice? she mouthed and I just quirked an eyebrow in question. Paige looked down at the note while she continued to shake her head and began scrawling something out at the same time. It wasn't long before I saw the note in front of me again.
He loves you.
It was one thing to know that but hearing the same thing from someone else was a little bit disconcerting. Hearing it from someone close to me like Paige was unsettling. I looked over at Paige to see her playing with the pencil she held in her hand as she looked forward at the front of the classroom, and I wonder how long she's known of his deep feelings for me. Even I hadn't liked to admit it to myself when I saw the look in his eyes whenever he stares at me. For a good reason, I knew the way he looked at me too well, because I'd seen that look on myself back when I was in love with Alison. Paige always seemed impassive whenever I talked about him or when Ben was around. I never understood why but I saw that she was trying to like him for my benefit. Ben didn't get along with the girls like Paige did, and because of that we never sat together at lunch. I only ever saw him through passing periods and sometimes after school if I was free at the end of swim practice. All that aside, we didn't see much of each other. I actually spend more time with Paige than him as well, although I've convinced myself in my mind that I've divided my time in half for each of them. I could tell that he was upset whenever I chose to spend time with Paige over being with him, but he always lacked the courage to tell me how he felt. It was one of the qualities I didn't like about him. I wanted someone to pull me up on stage and get me to sing, because I'd never do that all by myself. Yet sometimes, I felt like I wanted to care less about the way he felt, but I knew that a part of me has grown to care for him over the last few months. He was one of the other few people I've let into my life beside my girl friends. He cared for me. Ben was nice.
I know… I think I love him too.
I felt myself wincing a bit when I wrote the word 'love' but I finished the rest of the sentence with very little effort. I passed the note back to Paige and saw her reading it from the corner of my eye, and right when she looked back over to me, I faced the front of the classroom and pretended to pay attention to what our teacher was saying. Less than ten seconds later, the bell surprisingly rang, announcing the end of the period and everyone began to gather their things and standing up to walk out of the classroom. I looked over to Paige who was apparently still staring at the note and I wondered what about it that had captivated her attention.
"Paige?" I asked. She looked up from the note with a blank look before she shook her head and blinked a few times. Paige looked around the classroom and noticed that most of our classmates have already exited the room, and she looked back at me with a worry expression.
"The bell rung?" she asked me. I nodded in response and began gathering my stuff together too before I stuck them in my book bag. I saw Paige collecting her things as well as our note before she stood up at the same time with me, and we both pushed in our chairs before heading towards the door. As always, Paige held the door open for me and I walked past thanking her before I felt her walking side by side with me.
"So…are you excited for tonight?" Paige suddenly asked me. I turned my head to stare at her and saw that she was trying her best to be the good friend she's always been to me.
"Maybe a little." I smiled a bit before I saw Spencer, Hanna, and Aria hanging by my locker.
"Hey guys," I said before I began to put in the locker combination and then opened my locker. I stuffed the compartment with books and notebooks I didn't need, and took out the notebooks for my next classes.
"So we're totally in for this weekend," I heard Hanna speak for everyone from behind me. I think she's talking about the sleepover at Paige's.
"Yeah, do you want us to bring anything over?" Aria asked. I closed my locker shut before turning around and leaning against it. Paige just shook her head and smiled Aria's way.
"Just yourselves should be fine." Paige said before she went over and stood next to Spencer as they spoke about something sport related. I turned to Aria and Hanna and saw that they were engrossed in a conversation as well. Sighing to myself at being left out of their different conversations going on, I looked around the hallway and surprisingly found a pair of dark brown eyes staring my way. The girl had a darker complexion than me and long hair just past her shoulders. She smirked as she caught my eyes and then nodded my way. I simply nodded back in response and turned my head away from her and in the direction of my friends. Who was she? I don't recall ever seeing her around before.
"Emily!" Hanna's voice snapped me out of my little daze. I looked over to the blonde and saw her smiling mischievously along with the other girls.
"What?" I asked.
"I've been calling you for, like, ten minutes. Daydreaming about Ben again?" Hanna teased me as she winked my way. I ducked my head in embarrassment as everyone seemed to get a laugh out of it, and I threw a quick glance in the direction of the girl who had been staring at me earlier only to find that she was no longer there. I sighed and lifted my head when I heard the warning bell ring, and the girls and I begin to head separate ways for our classes again. I saw Paige and girls going in the opposite direction and I waved at her, and Paige waved back at me before turning around and walking side by side with Spencer. I turned right at the corner of the hallway and headed to my Algebra 2 class in good time. More than half of the class was filled up and the only seats available were mostly in the front and along the side against the windows of the classroom. I kept my eyes on a seat furthest in the back next to the window while dodging the stares I often get wherever I went without my friends. Once I was seat, I took out a pencil and my notebook and then settled in before I stared out the window to my right. The weather wasn't too bad today. I could hear birds chirping outside and the sun rising to the highest point in the sky. It was nice outside.
"Hey," I heard a raspy voice sounded beside me. I turned to my left and was surprised that it was the girl who I had caught staring at me from across the hallway earlier. Her eyes looked so much prettier up close, a deep brown color that seemed to look right through me.
"Hi," I said amusedly while I felt my lips curling up into a smile on their own. The girl tilted her head a little to the left as she appeared to be studying me, her eyes swiftly giving me a once over before I saw her biting the bottom of her lips.
"I'm Maya." she introduced herself as she reached out a hand. I took my gaze off her eyes for a moment to stare at her hand before I found myself reaching for it. We shook hands as my eyes went back to hers and she smiled a nice comforting smile at me.
"Emily." I said as I retracted my hand, not quite sure why she was so friendly. People usually didn't approach me around here. Not even classmates.
"Emily." Maya let my name roll off the tip of her tongue. Her smile widened even more once she did that, and she began studying me with her eyes again before she gave me an odd look and turned around in her seat when the teacher walked in and introduced himself as our math teacher. I spent the whole hour trying not to look at Maya as I took down notes for the beginning of our math lesson. There was something about her that drew me in and made me wonder what was underneath all of that cool and collected exterior. Maya hadn't said much to me but I could already tell what a confident girl she was by the way that she carried herself. It was really interesting to see how relaxed she seems when listening to the teacher lecture. Everyone was scribbling down notes throughout the entire lesson whereas she just simply wrote down parts that appeared important to her. Before I knew it, the bell had rung again, signaling that it was time for lunch. The teacher concluded his speech about homework and the lesson, and everyone began to gather their things as they stood up from their seats and exited the classroom. I hadn't realized how slow I was packing or how rushed everyone was until I saw that there were only a few students left in the classroom, Maya being one of them.
"See you around?" Maya asked as she swung the strap of the bag over her shoulder.
"Yeah," I barely breathed before she gave me a warm smile and then walked away. I watched as she strode down the aisle with ease, gliding fluidly between the desks and then take those last few steps out of the classroom. It was a sight to behold. I shook my head and smile to myself at what just happened.
It was already a third way into the new school year. Time flew by faster than the wind it seems. I'd never imagine for my life to turn around the way it did.
Ben and I had broken up a month ago after a little traumatic incident in the locker room. He'd been pushing for our relationship to get physical, and I wasn't quite ready for it yet. I'd told him time and time again whenever he tried to pressure me, but it seemed like the message evaded him, because he forcibly pressed himself onto me in the girls' locker room after I got out of swim practice. It was one of the most repulsive things I've ever experienced in my life. It also made me repel any guys that approached me afterwards for a while as well. Ben got a black-and-blue eye the day after when Paige had learned of what had happened. She kept blaming herself for leaving early for the dentist appointment she had that day, but I had to constantly remind her that it wasn't her fault she wasn't there. It took about two more weeks for Paige to get over it, but it was rather funny how often she'd been thanking Toby for saving the day during those two weeks. They've gotten rather close and Toby Cavanaugh has been hanging out with our group a lot ever since the incident. A part of me welcomed his presence, but another part of me fear that I'd lose Paige to him.
I've begun confiding in Maya the things I felt ever since she came out to me as a bisexual during our third conversation. I mean, it was really nice to find out that there was someone like me; someone who was a girl and liked the same sex. It made me feel less afraid. I didn't immediately tell her about my feelings for Paige or girls in general, but somehow she knew. It didn't take that many more conversations before Maya asked me how long I've been in love with my best friend. It had shocked me to the core when she was asking me about it so straightforwardly, and I had looked away in embarrassment and shame of my feelings, but Maya didn't let me. Ever since that conversation, I've been growing more and more confident in who I am as a person and feel less afraid about the way that I feel for another girl. Maya was now my confidante and good friend, but she didn't hang out with the rest of us. I usually spent time with Maya outside of school in my own time. It was often just the two of us then.
Lately, I've been feeling anxious about Paige. It didn't make me feel any better knowing that my savior was sitting right across from me and talking animatedly with the best friend that I was secretly in love with. I've told Maya about my concerns, but all she ever does lately is give me a smug look, telling me to tell Paige about the way I felt. Of course, Maya has been receiving glares in return at which she laughs at and then we'd carry on with another story. Sometimes when we're walking down the hallway, Maya would immediately perk up whenever she sees Paige within our line of vision and starts talking animatedly with me. I questioned why she did it after the third time, and Maya said that it was for my benefit. I didn't understand her but I let it slide since Paige always seemed so immersed in conversations with Spencer and Toby in the hallways these days.
Maybe we have been drifting apart, but I knew that Paige still cared a lot about me through her actions. Paige always stayed behind and waited for me to get dressed in the locker room after swim practice now. She also stared down any guy who even makes the smallest remark about me after the private incident, whether they're compliments or insults. Paige was my protector again. Well, she's more protective of me now than she used to be, that much was evident. I think she enjoyed it a little too much sometimes and I often poke fun at her for it, and she'd blush this beautiful shade of red.
I've come to accept my feelings for Paige, but I knew I'd never act on them unless I plan on suffering the consequences of losing my best friend. There is one thing on my mind lately, and it was what Maya had been encouraging me to do. It was about my coming out. I've sat on that thought for the past three or so months. Maya said to do it whenever I felt ready, telling me that it felt freeing after I had done it. I didn't understand what she meant by that, but I understood the part about being ready. Dad was away and Mom has been the best mother I could ever ask for lately. I didn't know how to break the news to Mom alone. I wanted to wait until Dad was back to tell them, and he was coming home for the Christmas holiday this year. It would only be a few more weeks before I get to see him again, and Mom had been so happy lately prepping the house super early for his arrival. She's also put up a lot of Christmas decorations, making our house homier than ever. Sometimes, I'd come home from practice with the house filled with the aromatic smell of cookies Mom was baking in the kitchen. It made me happy and sad at the same time, because I didn't know if I'd spoil her mood when I decided to sit my parents down for the talk about my sexuality. I knew that it was important I get it out, because I needed it. I needed to take a step forward and be true to myself. I knew I got over the hardest part, which was accepting who I am. The second hardest part was about to come, and I could only hope that their love for me surpasses their opinions and beliefs about gays and lesbians.
"Emily?" I heard Paige's voice from beside me. I turned and found myself looking into a pair of concerned brown eyes, and I smiled when I realized that it was just Paige.
"Yeah?" I asked when I started to pick at my food again.
"Are you okay?" Paige asked hesitantly when her gaze dropped down to my lunch tray, which I now noticed was barely touched.
"I'm fine." I told her and looked away to focus on the girls' conversation.
"You guys, I'm so excited! We're going to have a new English teacher!" Hanna bounced in her seat as we all stared at her. From the corner of my eye, I saw Toby standing up and waving goodbye before he left. We all turned to Paige just as she was bringing a spoonful of Greek yogurt to her lips.
"What?" she asked before she popped the spoon into her mouth and lick the remnants of it on the plastic spoon. God help me, how can someone turn an act so innocent and make it look that sensual?
"Why'd Toby leave?" Hanna asked as she propped up an elbow onto the table.
"Woodshop stuff." Paige answered before she stuffed herself with another spoonful of yogurt. I looked away and stared at Hanna when the conversation started again.
"Anyway, I hope our new teacher's a hottie." Hanna flipped her blond hair back as she smiled devilishly. "Mrs. Johnson was so boring. I'm so glad she's finally on maternity leave." Hanna rolled her eyes.
"Han, teacher and student relationships aren't permitted under the school's regulation. Plus, it's totally inappropriate." Aria said as her face scrunched up with a bit of uneasiness.
"How can you conclude that it's a male teacher due to their last name being Fitz? I mean, come on, Hanna. Have you not heard their first name? Ezra Fitz." Spencer said as she rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, Ezra is totally a girl's name." Paige remarked.
"Hey, it can be a guy's name too. I met an Ezra over the weekend." Aria added while we all stare at her.
"You met an Ezra?" Hanna quirked her eyebrow in question, and Aria nodded and pursed her lips a bit in response.
"Over the weekend?" Paige asked and Aria only sheepishly nodded again.
"Well then." Spencer pursed her lips too and scrutinized the petite girl for a second before simply shrugging and looking over to Paige to start another conversation.
"Okay, I've got my money on Ezra being a boy." Hanna proclaimed loudly, stopping Spencer and Paige's conversation before it could even start.
"Ha, I bet Ezra's a girl!" Paige chuckled as she high fived Spencer who nodded in agreement.
"What about you, Em? Boy or girl?" Aria turned and asked me. I contemplated the name for a few seconds before I decided.
"Boy." I said confidently, watching Spencer and Paige's winning expressions fall a bit.
"What!" Spencer said in surprise, although it almost came out as a whine.
"Em!" Paige gave me a little shove to the shoulder as I laughed at the two of them.
"What? I think it's a guy." I smiled before I looked over to Aria.
"You haven't guessed yet. What's your take on it?" I asked her.
"I think it's a guy too." Aria shrugged her shoulders before Hanna dug into her purse and then took out a five-dollar bill.
"Put your money in the pool guys. Five dollars a piece, and winners split the prize later." Hanna said as she gestured with her hands for us to give her money. I rolled my eyes, as did the others, before we all started reaching into our bags and took out our money and handing it over to her. Thirty-five dollars. Hanna has really been into this gambling business lately, but the good thing is winner always treats everyone else to dinner so it was all fun and games in the end.
"Ready to lose?" Spencer said and smirked at Hanna as she stood up from the table and gathered her stuff. The bell had rung shortly after we handed over our money, and we were all now beginning to pack our stuff before we headed to our English class.
"Pfft, as if!" Hanna scoffed as she lifted up her lunch tray and went to dump it in the trash at the corner of the courtyard. I was about to get mine too before a pair of hands slid in front of me and grabbed it.
"I got it." Paige smiled at me as she stacked my tray on hers and went to dump our food.
"Thanks," I smiled back before I lifted up my messenger bag and swung it over my shoulder. I waited for her and the girls, and when they were finished cleaning up, we began heading into the school's hallway and walking to the classroom for our English class. Hanna, Spencer, and Aria led the way while Paige and I stuck together in the back as we followed them. It wasn't an easy feat to walk side by side with Paige like this as we accidentally bump shoulders every once in a while. I enjoyed it a lot if I were to be honest, but sometimes it was hard just walking side by side with Paige and not wonder what it was like to hold her hand or to hold her close to me. I didn't dare to chance any glance Paige's way, but when our hands accidentally touched for the first time since we walked from the courtyard, I felt a shiver run through me slightly and the chill ran down my spine. I pulled away a bit and tried to keep my composure while we walked to the classroom, and just as we got to the front of the entrance and was about to walk in, Aria abruptly stopped, causing Spencer and Hanna to stop too and for Paige and I to walk into them. I was not standing on steady feet by that point and was staggering a bit, but luckily Paige grabbed my arm in time and pulled me back into her. Paige was too busy looking ahead to see what was going on while I stared at her in awe. It was as if time was at a standstill and all I could see was her pretty face.
"Aria!" Hanna's complaint startled me and caused me to look forward too, wondering what exactly was going on. The girls started moving again and Paige was now leading the way for me to follow. We all decided to sit towards the back of the classroom, and just as I passed Aria to sit beside her, I saw the shocked expression on her face as she stared open-mouthed towards the front. I took a seat and put by bag down before looking to the front and saw a clean cut dressing man in his early to mid twenties staring our direction and his expression seemed to reflect that of Aria.
"Hell yeah! We won, Aria!" Hanna whispered from Aria's right and then Hanna leaned forward and waved the small wad of five-dollar bills at me as an act of triumph. She then turned around in her seat to face Spencer and Paige who were only staring at each other frowning, seeing that they've lost the bet, not their five-dollar bills. I looked at Aria and was somehow piecing the puzzle in my mind before the light bulb went off.
"Oh my God," I said as I was now the one staring open-mouthed at our new English teacher. Aria jerked her head my way and stared back at me, her features crumbling to a fallen expression.
"I can't believe it." she breathed before she looked back to the front.
"Please tell me nothing happened." I spoke lowly to Aria. She shook her head as she began to blindly grab for the notebook in her bag.
"Something sure did happened alright," she muttered as she tugged harder on the notebook inside her book bag.
"Oh no," I whispered as the other girls began paying attention to the two of us.
"What? What happened?" Spencer asked panic-stricken.
"Yeah, what's going on?" I heard Paige's concerned voice from behind me.
"So are you two going to sit there and look like fish, or are you going to finally say something?" Hanna said as she twirled a strand of blond hair in-between her fingers.
"That's the Ezra I met over the weekend." Aria whispered as the class began to settle down due to the new teacher's request.
"Hello everyone, I'm Mr. Fitz and I'll be stepping in to be your English teacher for the rest of this sophomore year." he spoke while looking around the classroom and then settling his eyes on Aria.
"Great. This is just great." Aria muttered sarcastically as she opened her notebook to a new blank page.
The next hour was spent on introductions and going over the new novel we were going to be reading for the following month. Time passed by quite slowly and everyone did their introductions after Mr. Fitz introduced himself. He had barely graduated from Hollis and had always aspired to teach. Mr. Fitz didn't go on much about himself, and when it came to Aria's turn, he was staring at her quite intently, which didn't escape anyone's attention in the classroom that there was some sort of tension between the two of them. The bell suddenly rang, announcing an end to the class period and everyone began to stand up and pack their stuff.
"Hey, you want to tell us what's going on?" Spencer asked as she looked to the front where Mr. Fitz was gathering some papers together and organizing the teacher's desk.
"Later." Aria answered curtly as she grabbed the last of her stuff. We all were about to walk out of the classroom together before Mr. Fitz called for Aria to stay back so that he can have a talk with her. Spencer, Hanna, Paige, and I all looked at each other before we stared at the two of them over our shoulders and we walked out of the classroom leaving them alone.
"Wow, something's definitely going on between them." Hanna commented as we all went to our individual lockers that happened to be in the same hallway this year.
"No kidding," Paige breathed as she took out a textbook and put it in her backpack.
"I think we should wait until Aria tells us what happened." I said before I refocused my attention on grabbing the textbooks and notebooks I needed to bring home later after swim practice.
"Emily's right, we shouldn't jump to conclusions." Spencer said.
"Ready, Em?" Paige asked as she walked over to me while I was about to close my locker. I nodded and we waved goodbye to Hanna and Spencer before we began heading to the natatorium together for our swim practice in half hour.
Paige and I walked in silence as the crowd in the hallway thinned, most students making their way out of the school to go home. It was one of those barely bearable silent moments before one of us bursts open a conversation.
"So, how was your day?" Paige asked me. I smiled as we continued to walk and I could only revel in the level of comfort between the both of us.
"It was okay." I answered as I looked down at the ground. "How was yours?"
"Quite nice actually. Had a ton of fun with Tobes in woodshop." I listened and heard the smile in her tone.
"You and Toby have been getting real close." I commented offhandedly, not wanting to show any signs of my attraction to her.
"Yeah, we have. He's a nice guy." I glanced over to see Paige nodding to herself as she was speaking about him. I felt a little twinge of envy that she thought of him in that way, and I sighed in despair at the thought of them together.
"Do you like him?" I asked tentatively. I wasn't sure if I wanted to know the answer to the question, but a pretty big part of me was really curious about it.
"What? Toby? No, he's like a brother to me." I chuckled at the expression of repulsion painted all over her face.
"Really?" I pressed on even though she's given me a satisfactory answer. Paige rolled her eyes at me as she shook her head and she turned her head to look forward.
"Yeah… I don't think I'm supposed to tell anyone this, but Toby has this really big thing for Spencer." Paige laughed while I stared at her open-mouthed.
"No way." I said as I continued to stare at her in disbelief. Paige nodded quickly as she continued to laugh while we made our way through the girls' locker room.
"Oh yeah, he totally does. I mean, Toby hasn't said anything to me yet but I've noticed the side-glances and lingering stares, or how he immediately perks up when she speaks to him. He's very subtle when he does it though, so you might not notice." Paige explained to me.
"Wow, that's huge." I stared at Paige as she went to open her locker that's just right at the end of the line of gym lockers. Paige shrugged and smiled before she pulled her duffel bag out and shoved her backpack to the deep end of the compartment.
"To be honest, I think Spencer likes him too." Paige giggled as my eyes widened again in shock. "But you cannot tell anyone about this." Paige's face suddenly turned serious for several seconds before she cracked a smile.
"My lips are sealed." I gestured with my hand to zip my lips. Paige's smile widened before she turned to her locker and took out her swimsuit, and then I turned to my own locker and opened it before pulling out my things as well.
"Spencer and Toby. Never would've pictured them together." I shook my head as I heard Paige chuckled down the aisle.
"I'm not surprised. They're more alike than you think." Paige's unconcerned tone made me look over, only to see her halfway getting undress. I turned away and looked forward into my locker immediately, hoping my face wasn't flushed from being this shy and bashful around her.
"Maybe you're right. Toby's a nice guy." I managed to choke out before I went on with my business of undressing and changing into my swimsuit.
"Okay, you've got to stop saying that. The last time you said it, the guy was a total douche and – " I froze at her words before I suddenly felt a hand on my left arm. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable." Paige's soft spoken words put me at ease again as I relaxed under her touch.
"It's okay." I said before I turned over to look at her now all dressed in her one-piece. Paige suddenly pulled me into a hug and she wrapped her arms around my waist, her hands moving up and down to rub my back to comfort me. My arms immediately went around her shoulders as I held her to me, and I closed my eyes as I allowed myself to appreciate the blissful moment of being in her arms.
"I wish there were guys like you, then I would stop looking." I whispered as I feel Paige chuckle in my arms.
"Yeah, well, I'm a girl." Paige said through the quiet laughter as we stayed lock in an embrace for a few more minutes.
Yeah, well, apparently I like girls.
Disclaimers: I do not own Pretty Little Liars.