That weekend, I had to say goodbye to Billie. I went with her and her family to the airport to see her off. And then I cried like a baby. She promised to call every day, and even though I knew she was going off to do wonderful things, it still hurt to know she was leaving.

The following week, my dad and Crystal drove to my new school with me. We'd already been a couple of times just to tour and get the hang of it. They helped me get settled into my dorm room and unpacked. My roommate wasn't there yet, but I gathered that her name was Bethany, and that's pretty much it. The room was small but big enough that we could separate our areas. I hoped that we'd get along, at the very least. I wasn't going to hope for too much by hoping we'd be friends.

After we finished moving everything in, my dad got us pizza, and we crammed into the small room for one last dinner "party." That's when Bethany finally showed up with her family. So we invited them to share the pizza with us and got to know each other. She seemed nice and friendly, but it was hard to tell since our parents were still there.

My dad didn't seem to want to leave. And in truth, I didn't want him to go either. I'd lived with him all my life. I was scared and alone for the very first time. Crystal and I had gotten closer. Close enough that I felt comfortable calling her "Mom" to her face. But my dad had been my best friend for as long as I could remember. I didn't know how to say goodbye.

When they were gone, Bethany was still saying goodbye to her parents. So I headed down to the lobby to call Quinn from the payphone. I knew neither of us could afford the call, but I needed someone to talk to. I needed family.

"Hey, brat. Are you all settled in?" he asked when I finally reached him. I wiped away some of the lingering tears and tried to smile. I didn't want him to know I was being such a big baby about leaving home for the first time.

"Yeah, I still have some unpacking to do. But I'm mostly settled in, and my roommate seems nice," I told him. He paused for a moment.

"Are you okay?" Damn.

"I'm just—overwhelmed. A lot of feelings."

"Good things? Bad things?"

"Both? I mean—I'm doing exciting things but, I also just feel kind of alone."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm just a little too far from home to make the trip to see Mom and Dad whenever I want. You guys are in LA. Billie's in Oklahoma. I just—don't really have anyone else."

"Is this about Felix?" I sniffed and slapped my hand on my thigh in a big dramatic shrug.

"Not everything is about Felix."

"It's a little bit about Felix, though, isn't it?" I dropped my head back and almost whined. There were still people coming in and out, getting settled, finding their dorms, saying goodbye to their families. I didn't want to give anyone a bad first impression.

"I don't know—I just—I miss him, okay? That's part of it. I would have called him today and told him everything, and I can't, and it just feels—awful."

"You broke up with him."

"I know! I'm an idiot! I know this!"

"Ruby—if you want to ask about him, you know you can. He asks about you all the time." I sat down on the bench.

"He does? What does he say?" He laughed. I must have sounded desperate and pathetic.

"He just misses you too. Wants to make sure you're doing okay. Wants to know if you're happy."

"Why doesn't he just call me?"

"Why don't you call him?"

"It hurts too much."

"Yeah, it goes both ways." I sighed heavily.

"I can't talk to him. I think it's better if we don't."

"I agree. But he told me to tell you something the next time I talked to you."

"What's that?"

"He said you owe him one. I asked him what he meant, but he said you'd know." I leaned back on the wall. My heart ached, but it felt nice to hear it anyway. I took a deep, shaky breath.

"Tell him he owes me one too."

"You could just tell him yourself. He's in the other room."

"No. I don't want to talk to him right now. I'll—I just need time."

"I get it. Call Billie, though. She uh—she's probably better at this kind of thing."

"You're just trying to get rid of me, aren't you?"

"I would never do such a thing. I'm just very poor, Ruby. And this call is becoming very expensive." I laughed.

"Fine. I love you, dork."

"You too, fuckhead. Wait. Give me a second before you hang up."

"Okay?"

The phone shuffled, and then I heard a very familiar voice say, "Uh, hello?" in a confused tone. My heart shattered, and I almost hung up. But I couldn't. He'd know, and it would hurt his feelings.

"Hey," I said instead. Felix was silent a moment as if he was debating the same thing.

"Hey. It's good to hear your voice." I pinched my eyes shut.

"Yours too."

"You moved into your dorm today, didn't you? How are you doing?" I took a deep breath.

"I miss you," I admitted.

"I miss you too. But listen—you're gonna do amazing things. And I'll be right here, watching it all happen."

"Do I still owe you one?" He laughed softly. But even though he was being friendly, I could detect the sadness in his voice. It hurt him as much as it hurt me.

"Yeah, you do. So you know what that means."

"When we see each other again?"

"Yes."

"Promise?" I took another deep breath and let it go.

"I love you," I whispered. He sighed as if it hurt to hear me say it.

"I love you too," he replied. "I think I always will."


This is technically the end of part 1. I'll probably start posting part two as a separate story. It's ready to go so I should have it up next weekend. Thanks so much for reading!