Lydia hated long days at the office.

She hated that she had to dress business casual, and she hated that everything was so formal. Couldn't work be fun?

Climbing into her car, she shut the door and sat there for a minute, taking a deep breath and closing her eyes.

Adulthood was hard, and she wished that had been stressed to her more as a kid. Back in high school, she had let life pass her by, wishing everyday to be out of that hellhole and in the real world.

Now she'd give everything to go back.

Reaching down, she pulled her heels off and massaged her feet, a slightly awkward task with the steering wheel in the way.

Maybe "going back" wasn't the right phrase; she certainly didn't want to go back to her high school self. She had been an awkward loner, often spending her lunch hour in the computer lab, working on the school paper. Being the editor was her one defining tribute to the school, and she was sure no one even remembered she'd done it.

High school Lydia hadn't had many friends. In fact, Lydia was struggling to think of one. No one had connected with the redhead who listened to Mozart and watched Turner Classic Movies on the weekend. During class presentations, she was often ridiculed as "pretentious" and a "teacher's pet."

But that's how she'd been raised. That was all she knew how to do.

College had been different.

She'd joined the literary club and signed up to report for the school newspaper. Sitting with classmates, she'd quickly realized that she hadn't been weird in high school, just different. Misunderstood.

And she'd grown.

Sighing, she looked up at her office building. The sun was just setting, casting a shadow that highlighted the handful of office windows that still had lights on.

Turning on the car, she adjusted the radio to a different channel and then slowly turned out of the parking lot.

She'd promised her friends that she'd go out with them; it was Friday after all.

Knowing she wouldn't have time to run home, she looked down at her outfit and scrunched her nose in contemplation.

The outfit wasn't bad. A nice green sweater and a black pencil skirt. Sure, it wasn't sexy by any means, but it wasn't stuffy either.

Besides, she thought to herself as she parked and began walking to the small pub just outside of the city, she was just having a girls' night anyway. There were no plans to talk to men, and maybe her outfit would keep any hopefuls away.

Just how she wanted it after a stressful day.

"You made it!" one of the girls at the table towards the front cried when Lydia walked over, pulling off her coat while she walked. "We thought we'd get a text saying you were going home."

"And miss a night with you guys?" she asked, scowling sarcastically. "Never!"

"Good," the blonde on the other side of the table said, not removing the drink straw from her mouth. "Did you see the poster out front? The guy singing tonight is a dish."

"Meg you think every guy is a dish," the first girl said with a roll of her eyes. "I've literally never heard you say a guy was ugly."

Meg frowned before looking over her friend's shoulder and smiling.

"Whatever Trish," she brushed off with a wave of her hand. "Look at him!"

Lydia and the Trish turned, looking at the guy currently setting things up on stage.

He had a mop of brown curls, trailing down his jawline to end in a scruffy attempt at a beard. He was wearing a grey t-shirt with a blue plaid button-down open over it. Lydia was pretty sure this was the unspoken uniform for musicians.

His face was strong, with an angled jawline and a nose that may have been broken before. He looked familiar, but Lydia couldn't quite place him.

And then he looked up and they locked eyes. His hands slowed where he was untwisting cords as his eyes stayed glued to her.

Lydia blushed, breaking the eye contact first and looking down at the empty table in front of her.

"Do you want a drink hun?" Trish asked but Meg cut her off.

"He's coming over, he's coming over, he's coming over… shit," she mumbled quickly before acting busy with her drink.

Hey," a masculine voice said slowly, pulling all their attention up to look at him.

Realizing he was looking straight at her, Lydia smiled awkwardly.

"Hey…" she responding, unsure where this situation was going. She tried to stay focused on him, because she knew she'd lose it if she looked at either of her friends.

"I just had to come over here," he said, reaching up to scratch the back of his neck nervously. "Are you Lydia Bryant?"

Meg's jaw dropped and both girls looked back and forth between the man and Lydia expectantly.

Now she knew his familiarity wasn't just random. They definitely had met before, and she felt like a bitch for not remembering him.

"Yeah, I am…" she said, trying to think of how she could pull herself out of this awkwardness.

He seemed to catch on and chuckled, dropping his hands down to stuff in his pockets.

"You probably don't remember me," he started, using the line that meant he was bummed she didn't recognize him immediately. "I'm Johnny Rhodes. We had the same study hall-"

"At TJ," Lydia finished, naming the high school they had both gone to. It suddenly came back and she nodded with a wide smile. "Hey! It's so good seeing you."

Knowing it was the polite thing to do, she stood up and hugged him, surprised at how firm his body felt. Firm and warm.

Meg and Trish were grinning like idiots, so Lydia made the executive decision not to introduce them. Johnny didn't need that kind of embarrassment.

"So, you're a musician now," she said, nodding to the guitar. Johnny looked at it behind him before turning back to her with a smile.

"I always was," he reminded her and she nodded, closing her eyes briefly as she remembered.

"Right, in study hall," she said, pointing at him. "Mr. Gervis always threatened to take the guitar away when you played too loud."

He nodded, seeming pleased that she remembered.

"And you were always reading some fancy novel," he teased and she blushed. She hadn't realized anyone ever noticed her in study hall, let alone what she was reading.

A man in black ran up suddenly, telling Johnny he had to get to his sound check.

"Break a leg," Lydia said, taking a step back to sit down.

"Thanks. It was good seeing you," Johnny told her with a smile. He turned and almost ran into the same guy in black. "Hey, wanna get her a drink?" he asked, pointing in Lydia's direction. "On me."

"Oh no, you don't-" she started but the man had come over, waiting for her order. "Vodka cranberry," she said with a sigh and the guy disappeared.

Immediately Meg's hand flew out as she slapped Lydia lightly on the arm.

"Ow!" Lydia shouted loudly than needed, glaring at her friend.

"What was that?" Meg hissed, looking back at Johnny, who was sitting on a stool and quietly tuning his guitar.

"We went to high school together," Lydia said with a shrug, wishing she had a drink to turn her attention on.

"And were you two close?" Meg asked before rolling her eyes. "He keeps looking over here."

"What?" Lydia wailed, feeling so awkward.

"They obviously weren't close or else she would have recognized him," Trish replied with a frustrated shake of her head.

"So…?" Meg asked, ignoring her other friend and turning to Lydia. "What's the story with you two?" she clarified when she realized Lydia didn't understand the question.

"Nothing!" Lydia shot back defensively. "Seriously. He sat a few rows behind me in study hall. I honestly don't think we ever had a conversation. He was a year ahead of me I think. I don't really remember him..."

"Well he obviously remembers you," Trish shot in and Lydia groaned.

"We honestly never talked.," she said. "I don't know, maybe he remembers my name from the school paper? But he was part of the popular crowd and I don't think any of them read it…" She frowned, trying to remember anything about him. "And then suddenly after Christmas break, he showed up with a guitar instead of a skateboard and stopped hanging with that group as much. I'd forgotten he'd always play in study hall."

"Did you have a crush on him?" Meg winked and Trish sighed.

"If she had a crush on him, don't you think she would have remembered him?" she asked before standing up to head to the bar and get another drink.

"I couldn't remember all my high school crushes if I tried," Meg defended but Lydia tuned her out, looking over at Johnny as she thought back to high school.

She'd forgotten all about him until now, but thinking back more, she remembered being slightly intrigued by him. Not that she'd ever admit it to her friends.

Sure, he'd been part of the popular crowd, but he'd never quite been a dick like the rest of them. They always picked on everyone else. Stereotypical, steal-your-lunch and shove-you-into-a-locker-type stuff. He didn't exactly jump in to stop them, but he always sat quietly and squirmed just enough to make it obvious he didn't want to be a part of it.

His crowd had gone on being jerks and picking on everyone the rest of their senior year, but he had drifted away, becoming almost as much of a loner as she had. He'd sit there during study hall, softly strumming his fingers on the strings as he mouthed words to himself.

"Good evening everybody," he voice echoed through the microphone, drawing her from her daze. "My name's Johnny Rhodes and I just wanted to thank everyone for coming out tonight."

He stopped to pick a water bottle off the floor and take a big gulp. While he put the cap back on, Trish hurried over, taking her seat before he started talking again.

"Uh, this first song I don't usually play first...or at all," he chuckled uncomfortably, as if he couldn't believe what he was saying. "But tonight it feels like a good choice. It's uh, it's called 'Back to you.' It's actually the first song I wrote after I graduated high school and uh…" he paused, and Lydia swore he gave her a quick glance before turning back to the microphone. "Well, it still means a lot to me."

"Maybe he'll sing about people you know," Meg whispered and Trish shushed her.

Settling his fingers on the strings, Johnny took an obvious breath before beginning to strum. His fingers hit the melody perfectly, the rich tone reverberating through the microphone and filling Lydia's ears.

The tune was beautiful, and she couldn't help but smile as she watched him.

Looking back now, I wish it had been different
But I guess that's how life goes

So I stand here, thinking back
And I realize where it got off track

Cause football game kisses
Well they're just old wishes

And if you took all my wishes and stacked them up high
The ones about you would reach the sky

if I could, I sure would
Come running back to you

Yeah if I could, I sure would
Come running back to you

My biggest regret is not saying I cared
Or running my fingers through your red hair

Every day I wished I'd said more
And now I realize life's closed that door

And if you took all my wishes and stacked them up high
The ones about you would reach the sky

if I could, I sure would
Come running back to you

Yeah if I could, I sure would
Come running back to you

You sit there quietly, a book in your hand
I sit there thinking how to make you understand

High school was hard, my ego was high
I wish we could go back and give us a try

But you were quiet and I was loud
And we'd both hung with a different crowd

And although I hate admitting it
At the time our social circles fit

You wouldn't have belonged and neither would I
There's no use wasting time to wonder why

But standing now in our old classroom
I know it was more than chemistry with you

And if I could, I sure would
Come running back to you

Yeah if I could, I sure would
Come running back to you

The music ended but Lydia didn't notice.

His words repeated themselves in her mind as she mulled over what it all meant. It wasn't a coincidence that he stared at her through most of the song, but she couldn't quite believe what she was thinking was true.

Her two friends were looking at her, mouths agape and tons of questions on their lips, but Lydia had to answer her own first.

And then Johnny looked at her, a lingering look that said so much more than the song had. He was trying to read her, to see what she thought of the song; perhaps to see if she'd even realized what the lyrics meant.

They looked at each other, each trying to figure the other out.

After a minute, Johnny tentatively smiled.

And she felt herself smile back.


Hey guys... so it's been a while, yeah?

I wrote this about a year ago, and after sitting on it for a while... I decided to post it. So... let me know what you think!