A/N: Next chapter! I hope you like it. I think you'll like the next one the most, actually. No spoilers, though! I'll have it up soon. Thank God for getting rid of writer's block. Enjoy. xx
I couldn't stop twitching. Fidgeting. Cracking my knuckles.
I glanced at the huge clock above me; two more minutes. I looked up at the Arrivals screen—her plane had landed.
Carefully, I put my purse down beside me on the bench and smoothed out the wrinkles in my strapless Stella McCartney dress (another gift from Claudia). Actually, everything I was wearing, except my Victoria's Secret bra and underwear, had been a gift from Claudia. Everything from the stunning white Stella McCartney summer dress, which hugged my body perfectly, to the Hermes scarf that I had braided through my hair to make a bohemian-chic headband, to the crimson Christian Louboutin heels that made me feel twenty-feet tall. I heard my phone ping! a moment later with a text from deep inside my Michael Kors bag and dove in to retrieve it. I opened the text and smiled.
I see you.
I swung my bag onto my arm and stood up quickly. My eyes traveled over the faces of every stranger before finally settling on the one that I'd been waiting for half an hour to see. She strolled towards me in chic leather pumps - Manolo Blahniks, no doubt; she swore by them—a large black handbag and the cutest yellow sundress. She wore a big straw hat and dark-tinted Jackie-O's framed her delicate face. When she smiled and waved at me, I felt the sudden urge to cry.
I wiped tears from my cheeks as she ignored the flashing bulbs around her and came rushing towards me.
"Faith!" she cried and we dove into each other's arms. Four beefy bodyguards surrounded us immediately and before we could even untangle ourselves from our tight hug, they were pushing us towards the exit and into a large Bentley.
"Oh, but I brought my car," I protested when the driver began to pull away from screaming fans and flashing cameras.
"I told you not to!" Claudia grinned, smacking my arm playfully, "Give me your keys."
I obliged and handed her my Disneyland keychain. She opened the window of the car and handed the keys to one of her bodyguards.
"Bring her car to the hotel. Dark green Focus. ARRJ 765." she instructed before smiling for a picture and signing an autograph for a shrieking, sobbing young girl, not much older than Claudia had been during her first photo-shoot. When she was finished the driver rolled up the window and Claudia smiled, "The Hilton, James," she instructed, grasping my hand tightly. I'm dazed by how quickly we had moved in those few minutes; this was her life now, fast-paced, a blur… so unlike the mundane life I led here as a student.
Everything is quiet in the car except for the gentle humming of the engine, and the wind blowing outside. The air conditioning is blowing and I feel the sweat on the back of my neck drying, cool and quick.
We stared at each other for an immeasurable moment before speaking. It's not an exaggeration when I say that I was simply in awe sitting across from her; her star somehow glows brighter than it did the last time I saw her.
"I can't believe I'm actually looking at your face!" she smiled, removing her glasses and hat. Her hair, pin-straight and just as gorgeous as it had always been, fell to the small of her back and her fringe bangs made her look unbelievable; like a modern day, slightly exotic Bettie Page
"I know, it feels like a dream," I grabbed her hand, "You're real!"
"You're real!" we laughed, "And looking so gorgeous! I love the Costellos!"
I laughed again as she flicked the right lens of my glasses, "Yeah, they're just as chic as your designer shades."
"Oh, Burberry," she said, taking them off. She placed them on my lap, "You can have them."
I blushed, "Aw, no, Claud, I can't. They're yours-"
"I have loads," she said, dismissing my meek protests with a wave of her hand, "Burberry sends me tons after a photo-shoot or commercial shooting. As a thank you."
"Lucky you," I quipped good-naturedly and we stared at each other again; she looked so refreshing, so calm and... so high-fashion. Ever since stepping onto her first international catwalk in Milan (for Vivienne Westwood, at that), Claudia has earned herself a reputation as the 'most stunning figure of high-fashion' to grace the runway, a model that could have terrified the likes of Dorian Leigh, Gia, and even Jean Shrimpton. And I understood why; with her long jet-black hair and fringe bangs, and her thick, arched brows, she was the poster child for exotic beauty. Never mind that she was the only daughter of Charlotte Miuccia d'Itri- fashion powerhouse— or that her idol and mentor was the ever-glamorous Ines de la Fressange. Claudia had made an immense name for herself, one that caused riots and screaming fans and a million flashing bulbs, wherever she went. But she'd always handled the fame well, and had never let it change her personality or heart.
"How was Milan?" I asked, suddenly nervous to be in the presence of this fashion icon; this modern day Audrey Hepburn, "I mean I know you said you loved it, but-"
"Oh it was great," she smiled at me, her teeth flashing from behind ruby lips, "I was mostly inside doing photo-shoots or sleeping," She rolled her eyes, "But Mama came to visit, and we went out a few times. It was complete mayhem, though. By the end of the week we were eating our lunches and dinners in each other's hotel rooms."
"Your mother didn't stay at any of the houses this time?" I thought about all the pictures I'd seen of the d'Itri family's various flats and mansions in Cortona, Lucca, San Gimignano, and Siena.
"She was supposed to stay at our house on the Amalfi Coast, but plans changed when she had to be in Rome for a board meeting, so she decided to stay with me." Claudia opened her big bag and rummaged through until she found a chic headband. With absolutely no effort or mirror, she swept it up over her bangs and sat back against the door so she could face me as we spoke.
"I didn't know that house was finished already," I commented, recalling Claudia's many stories about the new house that was being built.
"It's not entirely done yet," Claudia winked, "End of the summer, most probably. But from the pictures that I've seen of it, courtesy of Mama, it's going to be the most beautiful, by far. You have to come with me the next time I go to Italia, Faith! You would love it so much."
I almost laughed when I thought about how I would ask my mother; it was a bit embarrassing really; here I was, a twenty-year old, seemingly independent female that still lived with her parents and siblings, and still had to have a Parent's Consent form signed whenever she wanted to stay out longer than her curfew allowed.
"You would have to ask my mother," I smiled and Claudia smiled back sympathetically, which made me feel like crap. It always stung when Claudia felt sympathetic for me, even though I couldn't admit to myself why.
"How is the family, anyway?" She asked, resting her cheek in the palm of her right hand which was propped against the seat. She looked utterly beautiful, "You say so little in your letters to me, I feel as though I don't know the Stevens' at all anymore… or Oliver and Preston."
I smiled, "I tell you all there is to tell," I replied and tucked my legs under me so I was seated in a more comfortable position, "But everyone is doing well. Darcee just celebrated her ninth birthday last month. My parents have been well. They're taking some big road-trip to Connecticut next year, so that's exciting for me. I'll be away from them for a month." I made a face.
Claudia laughed at my expression. "Well that's good to hear. Maybe you can escape to Europe with me, then," she winked and I laughed.
"I really hope you can," she said earnestly, taking my hand in her soft, tapered fingers. They were warmer then I'd remembered, "I hated not being around; it killed me every day," I stared into her violet eyes and nodded solemnly.
"I know exactly what you mean," I said, "Just the other day Tante Janine came over and asked me all these questions about when we'd be hanging out again and I was… what's the word… mortified when I couldn't answer them all!"
"Aww," Claudia smiled sympathetically and tightened her grip on my fingers, "But now we have an entire summer to make new memories and learn even more things about each other!"
My phone buzzed and I fished it out of my bag with my free hand. My heart hammered in my chest when I opened the text from Paul.
I forced a smile at Claud's words. Every little thing…
"Yeah," I feigned excitement and we grinned at each other, "Can't wait!"
"So why aren't you going to your parents' house?" I asked as the car sped down the highway. Claudia ran a hand through her hair and shrugged casually.
"I spend most if not all of my time in hotel rooms. It's just become more comfortable to live in a hotel."
"Expensive, though," I replied and she waved her hand, dismissing my remark casually.
"But more comfortable for me, so who cares?" she said and I frowned slightly. That was easy for her to say. I thought about my life, about how I was twenty and not allowed to move out until my mother found me a nice boy to marry, and even then I could only move out when I was married to him. I thought about the damn Consent Form that I had to have signed whenever I wanted to stay out late and even the fact that I wasn't even allowed to have a job—even though I'd gotten one secretly— because my mother thought it would give me too much freedom. I would love a life like Claudia's, sure, but I never begrudged her the freedom and privilege she was born into. It was my best friend's life and I was happy for her but something about her comment irked me. I glanced down at my hands, at my plain, natural nails and then at hers—long ruby red nails attached to flawless fingers. I suppressed a sigh. Claudia had always hated nail-polish, the smell, the artificial look, even the smell. But I suppose as a model she had to get used to it. I shook my head and offered her a smile.
"Yeah, you're right. What does money matter if you're happy?" Christ, saying that sounded so wrong for some reason. Maybe it was because I didn't have much money to my name.
"Hmm," she said, as her phone rang. She glanced down at it and grinned, "Oh, it's Pia!" She held one finger up and proceeded to text her in front of me. As she giggled to herself and texted away, I reached up and pulled my hair over my shoulder. I thought about Preston and wondered what he was doing right now. I dug around in my bag for my phone and checked the time. Ah, he was probably at home by now, studying for his History of Ancient Greece final. As Claudia set her phone down, I cleared my throat and set my own Blackberry in my lap. Claudia sighed happily and leaned back against her door, tossing her bag and hat to the floor. Even in her casualness, she was graceful and I shook my head with a smile. I hoisted my legs up and tucked them under my bum and rested the palm of my left hand against my head.
"So, give me another reason why you don't want to stay at home. You'd be minutes away from me," she reached back and collected her thick dark hair in one hand as I spoke, "I mean, the hotel's fabulous, but don't you want to relax in your childhood home? Sorry if I'm nagging."
Claudia moved her hair over one shoulder and smiled at me. She reached up and scratched her right eyebrow. "No, it's okay. I guess I'm so used to staying in hotels it's almost like home to me. Besides, with my mother being in Italy, it's just my father and I don't want to hang out with him," she rolled her eyes and we laughed. I could understand her hesitation. Ben had never really gotten over the fact that his daughter had chosen a career in modeling instead of business. He was proud of her success, of course, but he'd always thought that with her intelligence, she would have chosen a field more "impressive", his exact word, than modeling. Claudia always says that nowadays, Ben brags more about Steven and his humanitarian work than the millions Claudia makes.
"Anyway!" she said suddenly, clapping her hands and I started slightly, the loud clap startling me, "Enough talk about my housing situation. Tell me something exciting! What's happening this weekend? Do you want to go dancing?"
I winced noticeably and she gave me a confused smile, "What? You love dancing."
"No, it's not that…" I said and cleared my throat, blushing slightly, "I can't do anything on Saturday."
"Oh. Well we'll go for brunch on Sunday, then," she paused, and narrowed her eyes slightly, "Out of curiosity, what are your plans for this Saturday? Last I checked, your parents didn't let you go anywhere on the weekends."
"Um…" Christ, it was suddenly really hot in the car, "Well you know Zak?"
"Yeah, Preston's brother. How is he?" she asked and I started to chew on my thumbnail, a habit from when I was younger that apparently, I hadn't really kicked.
"He's getting married on Saturday. I'm sorry I didn't tell you."
"Wait, he's engaged?"
Surprised probably wouldn't be an appropriate word for what I was when she asked me that question. I dropped my hand and stared at her, my brow furrowing. I thought back to the dozens of letters I'd sent her which had included Jude; me telling her about something funny Jude had done, a place Jude had taken me and many other things that to someone else might seem random, but that I'd always assumed would be important information passed between best friends.
"What? Yes, he's engaged. I've told you. He's marrying Jude?"
"Jude?" Claudia looked utterly confused and I frowned.
"Claudia, I've told you about her a thousand times in my letters," I replied and she thought for a moment before shrugging.
"I guess I forgot," she laughed and I forced myself to smile at her, even though the back of my neck was suddenly blazing hot.
Forgot? How could she forget? We never, ever forgot anything in each other's letters. It was something I was really proud of, knowing that no matter what we wrote to each other, we would always remember. Hell, I've memorized every single one of the letters Claudia has ever written me, including her birthday cards and notes and here she was, sitting across from me, telling me that she guesses she forgot about a woman I talked about constantly? It was one big-ass horse-pill to swallow.
"Well… yea, anyway. They're getting married on Saturday. I'm sorry I didn't tell you…"
She hesitated, looking at me seriously for an immeasurable length of time before parting her ruby lips and asking, "Why didn't you? Did they not want me to attend?"
"No!" I exclaimed, shaking my head and throwing up my hands, "It's nothing like that. They told me I could invite you if I wanted to—"
"But you didn't want to."
"Claud, it's just… this isn't going to be some fancy celebrity wedding. It's going to small, intimate… I just didn't think you'd… I thought you'd be bored."
"Faith, among my friends and family, I could never be bored," she said, staring at me with her wide, doe-like eyes. I instantly felt like complete shit.
"I'm so sorry… It made sense to me when I thought about it. But now I feel like an idiot…"
"No, don't," she reached out and took my hand in hers. As she squeezed my fingers, she smiled at me, "Seriously. If our roles had been reversed I'm sure I would have done the same. It's fine, really."
"Are you sure?" I mumbled, amazed by how fabulous she was. She should have been furious with me, but instead she proved that she was the bigger person—I was floored.
"Of course," she winked at me, "It's good, anyway. I have to call Julian and set up some things. I can do it all on Saturday now, thank God." We smiled at each other and she released my hand. I felt a huge weight just lift off my shoulders and ran a hand through my long hair.
"I'm so glad you're not angry," I exhaled with relief, "Maybe on Sunday you can come by during my shift. It's been a while since you've had a good pastry, I bet!"
She glanced at me, one eyebrow arched, "Your shift for what?"
Once again, I was floored. I could feel irritation bubbling up in the pit of my stomach and shook my head slightly.
"Claud, I know I only mentioned it once but there's no way you forgot."
She stared at me blankly and I felt my eyes prickle. "I have a job."
"Where?" she asked with a frown and I tried to swallow down the lump in my throat. What in the world was happening here? How could she have forgotten this? How could she forget that last year Sofia had given me a job at her café, how could she forget how happy I'd been? Even Jude, who hasn't known me as long as Claudia, had been thrilled, getting together with Preston to throw me a Congratulations (You're Almost Free From Your Parents' Clutches) party. I could feel my face heating up when I thought back to the letter I received from Claudia after I'd shared my happy news with her. Come to think of it, she never did congratulate me, but then I hadn't been angry. I was understanding of her hectic life and I remember thinking, "Well, I'm sure she's happy for me. She just forgot to write it down."
"At Sofia's. I work at her café."
"Oh, that's nice," she said nonchalantly, examining her nails and it was suddenly hard to breathe. She was uninterested and why wouldn't she be? I wasn't Pia—I wasn't some fancy model jetting here and there. I was a waitress and student, living a dull and meaningless life even though the tiny bit of freedom I did have made me blessedly happy. "Do you like it?" She looked up at me and I hoped to God that she didn't notice the moisture in my eyes.
"Yeah. I love it." She smiled and nodded.
"That's good." She dropped her hands and cocked her head to the side.
"So what do you want to do? Go out to dinner?"
"Um…" I hesitated and found myself suddenly overwhelmed by my desire to see Preston. I glanced out the window, at the highway speeding by and noticed that our exit was coming up. "I actually have to study for my last final." I glanced back in time to see Claudia's face fall and couldn't help but feel guilty.
I loved her, obviously, she was my best friend. But something felt off with me and I needed to talk to Preston. Something about his presence, his voice always soothed me when my mind went rampant and I needed to hear him say that I was overreacting about Claudia forgetting details about my life.
"You're no fun!" she exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear, "You're cheating on me with school."
I grinned back with ease, feeling the dynamic in our relationship shifting to what it used to be; comfortable, easy, "Oh, please. You're my only love."
She threw the back of her hand against her forehead and pretended to be heartbroken, "You're only saying that because you know it's what I want to hear! Oh, you unfaithful whore!"
She dropped her hand and stared at me for a moment before we both burst into uncontrollable giggles. It was a random thing to laugh at, but this type of randomness was what we were about. It defined us as best friends, a dynamic duo—it's what I loved most about our relationship. When the giggles subsided, she shifted in her seat and inched closer to me. I smiled gently when she linked her fingers in mine and rested her head on my shoulder. I leaned my head down on hers and stroked her cool hand with my thumb. We were quiet for a long time, just sitting next to each other, bathing in each other's company. But as I stroked her hand, I felt a rough patch beneath my fingertips. I glanced down at a rash just in between her left thumb and index finger and frowned.
"Claudia," I said quietly and she hmm'ed in response, "How are your treatments going?"
I felt her stiffen slightly but she shrugged and let out a small sigh, "They're irritating. Every now and then I get the flares and my skin just burns like hell but it's not often. When it does happen I just have to try not to scratch at my body. If I rub my eyes the tissue around them tears so it's a pain in the ass…" she lifted the hand I was rubbing and we stared at her rash, "Survival rates for Lupus are really high, though. I'm not scared." The tone of her voice made it obvious that she was smiling and I suddenly felt as though I could drown in her strength, "I'm not going to let this thing beat me, you know. I'm going strong."
"I never had a doubt," I said as the driver grabbed our exit. Claudia reached up and pressed a button on the roof. When it beeped she said, "68 Seagrove Circle first, George. Then the Hilton."
"Why'd you bring a driver if you knew I was coming to get you?" I asked suddenly and Claudia giggled.
"Faith, I said to meet me at the airport, not bring your car with you. But I suppose it works out since you had to go home anyway."
I smiled gently and inhaled deeply, savoring the familiar smell of my best friend; she smelled as she did years ago, clover and strawberries. It was and would always remain the most familiar smell in my world.
"I missed you, Faith," she mumbled gently and I squeezed her fingers with my own.
"I missed you, too."
Zara was sitting on the front steps of my house when Claudia dropped me off at home. As the driver opened the door and I stepped outside, whoever it was that was in my car drove up and parked it at the edge of the curb.
My dark green Ford Focus, a gift from Grandmother Noa, sat there, shiny and adorable and I smiled, thinking of how happy I'd been when Grandmother had given it to me two years ago. Mother had been furious.
"She spoils her!" She'd ranted to Paul while I sat in the kitchen, eavesdropping and rolling my eyes. Please, I was the farthest thing from spoiled.
Claudia poked her head out the door and smiled at me.
"Can we meet up tomorrow?" she asked and I smiled back.
"I have class from four-thirty to eight. We can meet up before then? You know my parents…"
Claudia rolled her eyes and laughed, "More than I'd care to. But sure, we'll have lunch. You can show me around your campus!" she gasped, looking excited and I laughed, thinking about Janine and how she would react.
"You know what, that would be perfect," I felt deliciously evil at the thought and Claudia blew a kiss at me. I rolled my eyes and leaned down so I could kiss her forehead.
"Have a good night," I said and she smiled up at me, "Welcome home."
"Home," Claudia whispered, closing her eyes briefly. When I stepped back she waved at Zara and yelled, "Hey, Z!"
My gorgeous little sister, twelve and perfect, looked up from her DS and grinned, waving back furiously, "Hi Claudia, hi!"
"We'll all hang out soon," I said, laughing, "If you take her away from her Pokemon she'll kill you."
Claudia laughed and nodded, leaning back so the driver could shut the door. She rolled down her window and folded her arms along the edge. She set her chin down on her arms and I couldn't help but think of how, despite the makeup and maturity, she suddenly looked like she did when we were in high-school.
"Okay, well," she tore me from my reverie, "Call me. I'll just be in my hotel room. Missing you terribly."
I smiled and dismissed her comment with a casual wave of my hand, "Oh, shut up, I'll see you in less than twenty-four hours. Go get some sleep. I'll call you tomorrow."
"Okay. Bye. I love you."
"Love you," I replied as my car's driver handed me my keys and got into Claudia's car. I waved and watched as the car turned around and sped down the street. When it disappeared from view I turned to Zara and called out, "Tell Mom and Paul I'm studying at school."
She flashed me a thumbs up and I smiled, stepping into my car. Z could always be counted on to have my back when it came to my parents. Even at the tender age of twelve she understood how suffocating it was for me to live there. I shut my car door and adjusted my mirror, inhaling the familiar smell of rosewood and pine. I made a mental note to call Grandmother Noa during my class break and started the car. It purred to life and I kicked it into drive. The thought of seeing Preston made me more excited than I probably should have been but I really didn't care. I just wanted to see him.
When I rang Preston's doorbell, Tessa answered, her short cap of wavy brown hair wet from the shower. She threw the door open, revealing her tiny pixie-frame, dressed in cut-offs and a tye-dye t-shirt.
"Faith!" she exclaimed, her large blue eyes shining, "Hey!" She reached out and hugged me tightly when I stepped inside.
"Hey, Tess," I replied with a laugh. Tessa was always happy to see me. I suppose it had something to do with her being the only young female in the house, she got a little lonely sometimes and it was understandable. She really didn't need to feel all that alone, though—I was over at Preston's house so often it was starting to seem like my own home. Katherine walked out into the front hall just as Tess was letting me go and she gave me the warmest smile. And like I always did when I came to the Hawke household, I wished that my mother would smile at me the same way.
"Faith, what a lovely surprise! You look fantastic!" Kate came forward and kissed my forehead. I'm tall for my age, but Kate towers a good three inches above me, an Amazon of a woman. Even though her face was now lined with grief, she was still immensely beautiful, with Preston's dark hair and green eyes. It was lovely to see so much of his mother in Preston, and vice versa.
"Is Preston busy?" I asked and Kate ran a hand through her wavy shoulder-length hair.
"He's in the study, getting ready for his finals. Go on in." she said and Tessa winked at me. I rolled my eyes and punched her good-naturedly. Whenever Tess saw Preston and I together she teased me, either because I was obvious with my love and she could see it from a mile away, or she just thought it a funny idea. Regardless, her wink made me blush lightly and to hide it, I pulled my hair over my right shoulder and glanced at my feet.
"I'll just pop in and say real quick," I said, kicking off my heels. Kate and Tessa walked into the living room as I made my way down the hall and opened the door that led to Preston's study.
The study had been his father's and after he'd died, Kate had given it to Preston, knowing all-too-well how much Preston admired the space. The quietness of the room was perfect for Preston, who like seclusion when he needed to think or study. I made my way down the stairs carefully and when I hit the landing, I opened my mouth to call out his name but clamped it back shut when I saw him.
Preston was sitting at his desk, poring over three textbooks at once. With his left hand he was marking his place in the passages and with his right he was jotting down notes in a notebook, scribbling furiously, his eyebrows set low, lips tightened in concentration. I quietly sat down on the second last step and observed him, amazed at the effort he put into studying. Even I didn't focus that hard. I crossed my arms over my knees and cocked my head to the side, admiring him. As creep as it may seem, he looked so completely beautiful in the soft glow of his desk lamp. It was almost inconceivable that someone so amazing existed in my world. I couldn't tell you how long I sat there watching him, nor could I tell you that I got tired of watching him; I could sit in silence and watch him live his life for hours and hours, and I would be gloriously content. A long lock of my hair escaped from the heavy load and fell over my face, tickling my nose. I reached up to tuck it back behind my ear and Preston suddenly jerked his head up. His eyes were slightly glazed over but he blinked and frowned as he registered my presence.
"Faith?" he spoke up, his voice a little hoarse. I blushed lightly and stood up.
"Hey," I replied, walking over to him. I grabbed an extra chair and sat down next to him. He removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes before smiling at me.
"How long were you sitting there?" he asked sheepishly and I shrugged.
"I don't know. I kind of lost track of time."
"Damn, sorry," he replied, sounding genuinely apologetic, "I tend to block out the world when I study."
"I know," I laughed, "It's okay. I like watching your geeky self at work."
He smiled and gave me a quick once over. His eyes widened and he adjusted his glasses. "You look amazing. Are you going somewhere?" he asked and I shook my head.
"Claudia's back." I replied and he raised his eyebrows.
"Is she here?"
I glanced at my hands, folded loosely in my lap and shook my head, "No, she's at her hotel. I came here when she left."
I heard Preston set his pen down and glanced up when he turned his body towards me. He reached out and entwined his fingers with mine, the warmth undeniably welcoming.
"What happened?" he asked quietly, searching my face with his beautiful eyes, "Seriously."
I bit my bottom lip and glanced at our hands, then back up at him, "She forgot things."
Preston was quiet, silently urging me to go on.
"She… she forgot things that I wrote. How could she forget? She asked me about this weekend and I told her Zak was getting married and her response was 'he's engaged?'! I mean, what is that? Then she asks me who Jude is, like I've never spoken about her, ever. I write about Jude more than I write about myself. Claudia even forgot that I got my own job. I don't want to whine but how could my best friend forget about something so important in my life? It was a huge milestone—one I reached way too late, but I still reached it, didn't I?"
Preston nodded slightly and squeezed my fingers, "It hurt you that she forgot."
"It hurt like hell," I confirmed, "But it also pissed me off. When I was in the car with her… I was pissed. One, because she forgot, and two, because she didn't care that she forgot. She's my best friend but what the fuck, Preston. You would never forget anything about my life."
Preston was quiet, gently stroking my hands with his thumbs and I bit down hard on my bottom lip, feeling like a whining child.
"What do I do?" I asked hoarsely, suddenly terrified of the thought of losing Claudia as a friend.
"What do you mean?" I glanced up at him. He wore a confused expression and ran a hand through his dark hair.
"I mean, what do we do… Do we like… stop—"
"Stop what? Being friends?" he interrupted and his eyes were blazing into mine, holding on with a ferocity that made my face flush, "That's ridiculous. You've drifted. That's all it is."
"You're right…" I muttered and he nodded.
"But that doesn't mean you can't be friends, or even go back to the way things were. These things happen, Faith. To the closest of friends. Hell, it might even happen to Oliver and I. But Faith… you're growing up. People change, you know. If Claudia seems like she's changing, it's because she is. And I can bet you everything I have that right this very moment, she's sitting there thinking about how much you've changed."
He reached up and tucked my hair behind my ear, "But you know what? A friendship like yours? It stands the test of time. It survives and it will thrive."
"But what if it can't?" I asked him and he rested his hand on my knee.
"Listen to me," he said firmly and I stared at him, hanging onto his every word, "These. Things. Happen. Friends grow up and they change; sometimes they can't be the same kinds of friends they once were, but people like you and Claudia, who are connected in ways few people can understand, your friendship will thrive. But Faith, you have to do your part, too, you know. Don't just sit there and cry over a friendship that isn't even lost yet. You have to make sure you don't let life get in the way. She's got her fashion and her modelling and she travels the world, yea—she makes glamorous friends and sees things you and I will probably never get to see, but at the end of the day, she calls you her best friend. You will always have that. No amount of drifting can really ever change that.
So she forgot a few things. It's unfortunate and not like her, I agree, but it isn't the end of the world. You just need to give each other more things to remember now. Okay, she forgot that you got a job, she forgot about Jude—it sucks, but it doesn't make her a bad person or a bad friend. I promise you, Faith. It doesn't. Hell, Oliver forgot my birthday last year and we're still best friends. Nothing has changed."
I couldn't help but smile at him, "I didn't know Oliver forgot your birthday," I giggled and he grinned lopsidedly at me.
"Yeah, well…We both knew he was a dick."
Preston and I laughed and before I could chicken out, I pulled my hands out of his grasp and leaned into hug him tightly.
"Thanks, Preston," I whispered into his neck, "I really needed that."
His hands snaked around my back and he hugged me tightly. "Anytime, Faith. You know I'm always ready to call you out on your pointless worrying."
"Always," I laughed, pulling away. Preston leaned back in his chair and ruffled his hair again. I tucked my hair behind my ear and laughed.
"Want to hear something funny?" I asked and Preston grinned crookedly.
"I'm bringing Claudia to the campus tomorrow to see Oliver and meet Janine."
Preston barked out a loud laugh and slapped his thigh, "You, Faith Noa Stevens are one diabolical German woman.
I giggled, feeling a familiar rush of affection surge through me. I glanced up at Preston through my eyelashes, swallowing up the way he chuckled and pushed his glasses back up his nose, falling further in love with his addicting, casual elegance. In the back of my mind I wondered if I could ever get past this crush, if I could go back to simply being his good friend. Two voices battled each other in my head, one telling me to keep things to myself before I ruined the single best thing to exist in my world, the other telling me to suck it up and tell him how I feel before I lose him to someone else. I pondered silently as Preston picked up his pen and tapped the lower right hand corner of his textbook gently, reading over his notes. I leaned back in my chair and gently fingered the hem of my dress, mulling over this dilemma in my head.
Which voice was I going to listen to?
Whew, this was longer than the others. I hope you liked it. I want to hug Preston and never let him go! Review, please? It would mean the world. And as always, I'm sorry if I've overlooked any spelling or grammar errors.