It was a wet, rainy, November day. The winds were unbearable, the rain angrily smashing against the buildings. People on the streets of Destiny Square ran for cover into the nearest shops, under their shopping bags, pathetically attempting to stay dry using makeshift umbrellas.
While everyone was racing to get out of the rain, one young woman walked slowly through the icy sheets, her inky hair plastered to her face. She stuffed her hands deep into the small pockets of her leather jacket, strange violet eyes watching the floor.
It had been three weeks since Claire McCabe had last seen her best friend. Her best friend that she had come to really, really, really like.
He was always there for her during the toughest times, making her laugh, making her smile, holding her when she felt upset, with a tissue when she cried.
When her biological father terrorized her as a child, he was there for her, helping to save her.
When she had gotten lost that one Halloween, he helped her find her way back.
When her father had tried to contact her, recently, he was there for her, too.
And so, naturally, when he decided to discover his father, and his father's background, she was there for her best friend.
But what they had uncovered was a rather unsettling history. What had started out as an innocent search had turned into an adventure worthy of a supernatural novel. And then an ancient relative of hers had shown up, too. And when everything seemed as if it would all end there, her best friend had figured out a way to fix everything.
And then disappeared.
The tears starting once more, soon to be nineteen year old Claire McCabe ran out of the rain and into The Petite Cafe, sobs caught in her throat.
Claire's best friend, Duncan Taylor, was gone, disappeared.
She missed him. But more importantly, she thought that she might just be in love with him.
Wiping the tears off her face, she let the warmth of the cafe engulf her. The happy memories she had of Duncan driving her here after school, he with his coffee and she with her hot chocolate, as they bitched about their days and made fun of each other over doughnuts made her smile. It's why for the past three weeks every day, she had come to the cafe at the same time. She ordered her hot chocolate and that coffee for Duncan, hoping every day that he would appear and take the seat across from her, and ask about her day.
The barista was new, and already knew Claire. She wondered about this girl and her red rimmed violet eyes, always sad. At the same time every day, Claire would already have her money out and the young barista would already have her order ready. The warm hot chocolate and the coffee that went untouched.
Grabbing the drinks, Claire made her way to the seat she and Duncan had always shared. It was right by the window; when they got bored the two of them would people watch and pretend to know what everyone was thinking.
Today, Claire looked out the window, at the rain lashing the front, leaving the view blotchy and unclear. It was different today, because for the first time in three weeks she sat at their spot, realizing that she loved him, with all her heart. Watching the rain mindlessly, she thought back to this morning, when her confused sadness had finally begun to make sense.
She had woken up that morning to a dreary grey sky, the rain lashing at her room windows. All week, she had been awfully confused with how she was feeling. When the confusion started, she had wandered down the hall to her cousin's room.
Well, what used to be her cousin's room. It had been empty for almost four years, after Dannica had gotten married. She had asked her Aunt and Uncle if they'd move upstairs now, though in their age they declined. They preferred the main floor bedroom and were growing weary of the steep stairs, avoiding them at all costs.
Now, like Claire's room was before she had come to live with them, Dannica's room had become the spare room. And every morning all week, she entered the room and cuddled on the old bed, hugging pillows, wishing her cousin was there to talk.
This morning, that was where her Aunt had found her, curled up on Dannica's old bed and crying softly. Her motherly instincts kicking in, her Aunt had ran to the bed and gathered Claire in a hug, the raven haired girl sobbing pathetically into her shoulder.
"Whatever has you in such a mood, Claire? This is the saddest you've been in the past three weeks!"
Concerned for her adoptive daughter, Elaine hugged her niece tightly, as her sobs subsided.
"Oh, Aunt Elaine. I feel so lonely." Her body shuddering, she turned her watery violet eyes to her aunt's vivid blue ones, and began to speak.
"I mean, I'm not lonely at school, I have my friends there, but I miss Duncan so, so much and I wish Dannica was here and everything just feels so empty!"
"And the worst part is that I feel like an absolute dummy for crying about being alone!" Her sobs began anew and she hugged her elderly aunt, her tears soaking the sleeve of Elaine's dress.
"You aren't a dummy, Claire dear; it's only natural to feel this way when you miss those you love."
That had stopped Claire and she looked at her aunt questioningly, tear tracks marring her pale face. "L-love?" she sniffled.
"Of course. You love your cousin, and it has been a while since you've seen her. And Duncan is your best friend. You have always been quite sensitive as well. A lot has happened to you, Claire, and sometimes you just have to cry every once and a while. Remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder."
Tightening her hands around the hot chocolate, the warmth melting her ice cold fingers, Claire reflected on the conversation. She had sat being hugged by her aunt for a little while longer, the words of wisdom washing over her.
The rain had let up after breakfast and Aunt Elaine had told Claire to grab an umbrella and go visit her cousin. Happily, Claire obliged, speed walking to the bus stop and arriving at Dannica's house near Destiny Square as fast as possible, just beating the rain.
Deeming her hot chocolate drinkable, she sipped it as she remembered her visit with her cousin. The rain had started once more, and just standing outside for several seconds had almost soaked her. Her cousin had opened the door, one hand on her finally visible stomach. The largest of smiles lit her face when she saw her little cousin on the doorstep.
"Claire! It's been so long since I've seen you!" her large smile turned into a frown as she realized her cousin was soaked.
"Oh my goodness, you are soaked to the bone! Come inside, I'm so sorry, I took a while to get to the door..."
Dannica ushered her in, closing the door and grabbing a towel from the closet. Warmth filling her round face, she passed the towel to her cousin. Claire had looked at the towel and then at her cousins smiling blue eyes, and once more began to cry, hugging her cousin-but being wary of her future niece or nephew.
"Someone needs tea and cookies, I think," Dannica had said, hugging Claire and leading her slowly to the kitchen. Drying herself with the towel, Claire quickly made Dannica sit down, much to the brunette's protesting.
"No, no, no, no, no. You sit. Lady with a baby, remember? I know your kitchen well enough. I'll make the tea."
Claire had put the kettle on and grabbed the cups, listening as Dannica directed her to the cookies. Finally she sat down, stirring her tea slowly, her almost constant melancholy mood returning as fast as it had disappeared.
"What seems to be on your mind, lovely?"
And like that, Claire told Dannica all about her adventure with Duncan, and how sad she had been since his disappearance. Dannica listened carefully, nodding and gasping at all the appropriate times.
"I know it sounds crazy, Ica. And probably unbelievable."
"But Claire, you haven't ever given me a reason to not believe you. As farfetched as your tale is, I don't doubt it for a second. But I think that's just the beginning of your problem today..."
She sipped the hot chocolate, the warm liquid scorching her throat and reminding her of the tea she had sipped earlier with her cousin. She had told Dannica that morning all about her lonely three weeks, and her conversation with Aunt Elaine.
"I just miss him so much. I don't know what to do anymore. I need to get out of this whole 'lonely' funk."
"Claire, I think you love him!"
She looked up, dumbstruck.
"I-I think you're right..."
Claire stared out the window, a sad, sad smile upon her thin face. She didn't know when this whole 'love thing had happened, but happened it had. And she should've realized it sooner, because just moments before, Duncan had turned to her and kissed her, saying that he'd be back.
But it had been three weeks, and he wasn't back. And here she was, all alone, in a coffee shop longing for her best friend.
That's when the doubts started in. What if he doesn't like me back? What if he isn't even real? What if he won't be coming back?
Claire was acting just like some of the pathetic girls in her school she could not stand. She would give anything, anything, to hear the tinkle of the bell and see Duncan walk through the door; rolling his shockingly strong shoulders clad in his tight leather jacket, and turn towards her, smiling that cheeky smile.
She kept looking out the window, her hot chocolate cooling, until it was finished. And the coffee sat untouched.
She looked at the coffee cup.
And when it all hit home once again, the tears trailing down her cheeks, she put her head down on her table and silently cried. The ivory haired girl thought she had been all cried out but apparently, that wasn't the case. Loosing track of time, she sat numb in her seat, lacking comfort, lacking a friend.
Claire had hit her lowest point, and could almost feel Duncan's arms round her, his wet leather jacket cooling down her skin, his breath in her ear. A comforting hand rubbing her back, his smooth, baritone voice murmuring, "Shush, Claire, It's alright. I'm back. Don't cry anymore."
Wait...she realized, that she wasn't imagining things. He was right there, and he was hugging her and warming her up and he was reassuring her in his leather jacket and his hand was rubbing her back.
"D-Duncan?" She said, disbelieving."
"Yes, Claire, look up. Let me see your pretty purple eyes. I'm right here."
Sure enough, when Claire looked up, there he was, smiling his cheeky smile, a little worn, but nonetheless there.
"You were gone. For three weeks. Three weeks, Duncan." She didn't know how to feel. She was so happy she could kiss him, so sad she could hug him, and so-angry?-she just wanted to punch him.
"I know. I left without an explanation. I'm sorry."
"For three weeks, I wondered if you were going to come back. I waited, alone, dealt with school, put on a happy face, and you never came."
His face fell.
"Claire, let me explain -"
"No, Duncan. No. I don't want explanations!" she said, getting up and grabbing her jacket, shoving aside the dark haired boy, his ocean blue eyes shocked, and hurt. She almost felt guilty, almost.
"Claire, wait, don't go! Please!"
Not listening, she made her way to the door.
Duncan watched as she left, her black hair swaying. No, I can't let her leave! He ran, faster than one would assume to be normal, and grabbed her in a hug.
"Duncan what are you-?!"
He cut her off, pressing his lips against hers. She was rigid in his arms, muffled protests turning into nice sighs. She leaned into him, hugging him, and smiled against him. Then she realized what she was doing and pulled back, leaving Duncan staring at her, shocked duck face intact.
"What are you doing?"
"Trying to keep you from leaving, Claire. I know, I was gone for three weeks, and I told you nothing. I'm sorry. While I was gone, the only thing I could think of was you. I couldn't focus, I felt so bad, and I didn't know if Eleanor had brought you home safe or not. While getting the last of my uncle's mess, I realized that I felt something deeper for you. And after talking to my father, I realized...Claire, I love you."
She stood there, shocked.
"Well? Say something Claire, please!"
"I-I dunno Duncan. I'm so happy, but I'm also angry, and mad, and I really want to punch you. I-I just- I can't-" and with that, she burst into tears and ran off.
He watched as Claire ran out into the square, disappearing into the downpour.
His blue eyes filled with pain-he had just lost his one and only love.
The next day, at the same time as usual, the barista watched as Claire entered the cafe. She gave Claire the hot chocolate, and looked at the black coffee, questioningly. With a nod from the girl, she gave her the coffee, and Claire walked over to the usual table.
She sat for a bit, waiting. The bell above the door rang, and Claire watched, grasping her hot chocolate tightly in her hands as Duncan walked towards the table and sat down, drinking his coffee. He stared at her for a bit, as she gazed sadly into her cup. Finally after some time, Claire spoke.
"I missed you, a lot. And for three weeks I hoped and hoped that you'd walk in here and sit with me, like before."
"I'm so sorry, Claire Bear."
"I know. But I'm sorry too." She finally looked up, her violet eyes not as red as before. "Duncan, while you were gone, I was out of my mind. I cried and cried, I focused on my work, put on a happy face for Trena, Ellie, Evan and Aran, avoided Ariana and Amber's questions, made it seem like everything was normal...but the whole time, I was, as dumb as it sounds, dying on the inside. Duncan, I love you, too."
Shocked, he looked at Claire. Smiling, he reached over the table and hugged her.
"Claire...I'm still so, so sorry. I missed you so much. And I'm so happy I didn't totally make a fool of myself yesterday."
Finally, for the first time in over a month Claire smiled a genuine smile.
"No, you didn't."
She leaned over and kissed him, and they smiled.