the day before their high school graduation, lucas and maya are laying in the bed of lucas’ pick-up truck. they’ve driven miles out of the city to find a hilltop where they can see everything in the sky. farkle and smackle had already left for early admissions to princeton, riley was closing at topanga’s that night, and zay was busy packing for his last summer in texas. maya was supposed to be finishing her portfolio so she could send it to the royal academy of arts for finalization. lucas was supposed to be at one of his last baseball practices so he could polish up his stats before he played in ball on a scholarship in college.
everyone was doing exactly as wanted, but everything felt broken. so, when lucas called maya and asked her to skip town for the night with him, she couldn’t resist. they had unfinished business, anyway. as they lay under the dark night sky, lucas was looking at maya more than he was the sky. “if i could paint like you could, i’d paint a picture of us in this exact moment. i’d freeze everything and stay here until i could perfect it. so i would never forget it.”
maya lifted her head to look at him, but she didn’t drop her head back down. she kept her eyes on the boy. “do you know my favorite thing about you? the absolute best thing about you?” she didn’t wait for him to respond, but she sat up completely. she shifted her weight, shuffling with one leg under her so she was sitting on her own calf. “you’ve never been able to hurt me. we’re sitting here and it’s our last night together for a really long time. i mean, we’ll have the summer, but we’ll never have anything like high school again. but, even though you know i’m leaving you in a few months, you’re still sitting here telling me how good i am at things. i can never replace you. no one in europe is going to put up with me like you do, or keep me as close as you do.”
lucas pulled his long legs close to his chest, wrapping his legs around his knees. “if i could go back in time, i would’ve stopped you from saying who my choice was when you were all covered in paint. because you didn’t know. i finally knew, but i still didn’t get a choice. i’ve wanted to be with you since freshmen year, maya. you’re leaving, but my feelings for you aren’t going with you. we have approximately 84 days until you leave, but my feelings are gonna stay right here in new york.”
maya suddenly felt like she couldn’t breathe. she everything came crashing down at once and it all hurt. “can you take me home? we have to be up early to rehearse for graduation anyway.”
lucas scrunched his face up, a bad taste in his mouth. “maya, wh–” but she cut him off before he could get another thought out by jumping out of the bed of the truck and getting into the passenger seat. they sat in silence the whole way home.
graduation went on as planned, then the whole group hung out all summer long. maya made sure she was never alone with lucas and lucas picked up on it quickly.
lucas was moving into his dorm before maya left for europe, but when the group was helping him move into his room, she was nowhere to be found. after he was moved in and everyone had gone home, lucas decided to lay down for a while. he was stalking all of maya’s social media, but he knew she wouldn’t post anything. she was never on her phone. she always said it wasn’t as good as the real connection you could make. just as he’d locked his phone screen, he heard a knock at his door. when he opened it, maya appeared with her hair in space buns and with a canvas behind her back.
she stepped in before he could stop her–not that he would have. he was just surprised to see her at all. “hi, i’m maya. you’re really cute. we should’ve hung out more. you make me happy.” she paused, swallowing hard. “i didn’t pay enough attention to you. it’s me, not you.” she grasped his hand, rubbing her thumb over his palm. “we can still be friends.” stepping forward, she stood on her tip toes, leaning towards his face. “not really.” maya kissed lucas gently on the lips, dropping his hand to grasp at the back of his neck. once she backed down, she finally stopped talking so fast and let him get a word out.
“i thought you weren’t coming, to be honest.” he muttered, licking his lips. he looked behind the girl for a moment, seeing the empty side of his room where zay hadn’t moved in yet.
“i was up all night. i got inspired to create something. i fell asleep around eight in the morning and i overslept since my phone was on silent. but i think i can make up for it.” maya scrunched her face up a little, her nose crinkling for a moment. she flipped the painting she had in her hands around, handing it off to lucas. what he saw was a painting of the night sky with lucas’s truck down on the bottom right corner. in the bed of the truck, lucas and maya were laying next to each other and maya was pointing towards the sky above exactly as she was doing before everything went to shit the night he said how he felt. in the constellations, there was an outline of maya grasping at lucas’s shirt like she’d done years before. each time, lucas had hoped maya would just break the tension and kiss him, but she never did. “i remember that night you said you would paint a picture of that exact moment if you could, then i realized that i could. i want you to keep that photo and remember me with it. i have an exact duplicate of it and i’m going to keep it in my dorm room. whenever you see that painting, you can think of me. and whenever you see the moon, know i’m five hours ahead thinking about the next time i get to see my muse again.”
lucas’s face broke into a smile and he wrapped his arms around her tiny waist. “i’m going to miss you constantly, cluckerbucket. you’re always going to be the one i chose. even if you didn’t let me choose you until now. we can make this work. i’m all in.”
maya nodded her head as he put her back down. her face felt hot, but she didn’t want to run away anymore. “i’m all in, lucas. i’ll still be all in when i’m 3,000 miles from you.”