They’re little things.
That’s how it starts off, at least.
A simple game of baseball, a partner for an English project, walking her home after school.
And Riley excuses all of them. Really, she does. They’re no big deal. Just a simple brush of the shoulder. ‘Cause well, Maya has one hell of a swing and she’s a fast runner. And a killer writer, believe it or not. And she happens to live in the sketchy part of town, while Riley knows her abode is entirely in the opposite direction of the line of dingy apartments.
These are all justified, she decides. She can’t be mad about anything. Or sad. Or jealous.
Because they’re her two best friends and they get along—well, really well. She should be grateful. (because there are some friends who hate their girl friend’s boyfriend, and there are some boyfriends who treat their girlfriend’s friend like shit, and so many different, unfortunate scenarios)
There is a disc in a clear, compact case. It’s written in sharpie along the holographic face. In black says, “For Maya.” And it’s simple, and it’s nothing. It’s just a disc addressed to her best friend in the world, from neat print that is recognizably her dreamboy’s handwriting. It’s on the desk beside hers in their biology class—the class she shares with and only Maya, and said blonde is running late, as per usual.
And she takes it. She’s not supposed to. She’s not supposed to steal, not supposed to feel this way, be this way. But it’s in her bag, and before she gets cold feet and grasps for it with slow fingers in her backpack compartment, Maya slides into the seat with a sunshine smile and a quick, “What’s crackin’?”
And that’s that.
She listens to it. Hears his voice, hears his guitar, hears his dedication. And he sings to her. And it’s not supposed to be anything romantic. It’s not a declaration of love or a hidden gesture. There are no secret rendezvous or confessions or in clandestine agendas. It’s a stupid song, really. It’s mocking how he’s a cowboy and how city girls like the Hart should be exposed to the beauty of country music. It reeks of jokes and teasing and bonding that she isn’t a part of, and as soon as she finishes the tune, she feels that her hands aren’t the only dirty part of her.
The next day, she places it on Maya’s desk while she’s not there.
The following weeks, the trend continues, and sometimes, there are discs addressed to him. This goes on.
(but Riley doesn’t dare take anymore. it’s not in her place, never was. it’s just two friends making each other mixtapes and connecting by music)
(or connecting in more ways than one—but no one dares say anything about that)
And this is what knocks her into the brick wall of realization:
It all happens to be a strike of kismet.
It’s a sad, bitter, and terrible feeling to walk in on something so personal.
Just my luck, Riley thinks to herself.
Lucas tells Maya about his mother. He speaks of cigarettes, of broken lungs, of treatment. His voice is laced in something Riley has never heard before, and it cracks. His words become hazy, and she’s not sure if it’s because he’s crying or because she’s crying behind the doorway, listening in and feeling her clean hands drench and drown.
Then she hears Maya with the same consoling tone that has comforted Riley year after year at the very same windowsill, breathing words of hopeful reassurance. And he trusts her with this, he knows she will understand. He knows the Hart is the one to tell when there’s something dark, broken, and serious going on.
And Riley walks away before she hears anything else because she may be his girlfriend, but she knows she’d always been second place.