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The first time Riley sees her it kind of feels like she’s been punched in the stomach.

The girl is walking out of the on campus coffee shop, looking like a dream in a long sleeve fishnet shirt with a long tee over it, so completely not Riley’s type and yet, she feels like her legs have turned to jelly.

The girl’s mid laugh, clearly pre occupied with whoever she’s talking to on her cell phone, making Riley’s frozen figure hardly cross her radar as she walks past, coffee in hand.

Riley lets out a breath the second fishnet girl passes, squeezing her eyes shut because God, is she fucked.

***

Riley sees fishnet girl three days later when she’s walking out of her photography class. She blinks a few times, totally not expecting a coincidental run in with possibly one of the most attractive girls she’s ever seen, ever.

She picks up her pace to a quick jog to catch up and when she gets near enough, she smiles and utters a quick, “Hey! Hi!”

Fishnet girl looks startled for a second, pulling a headphone out of her ear, to look at Riley with a spot of confusion before returning her smile, “Hi.” When Riley doesn’t do anything but stand and stare, (because God, her eyes are so blue,) fishnet girl’s expression morphs into one of confusion.

“I’m sorry do we-“

“Know each other?” Riley fills in. “No I’m Riley.”

The girl sticks her hand out, eyebrows still furrowed like she’s trying to assess the situation, “Maya.”

Riley beams, “Maya,” she echoes, “Nice to meet you Maya.”

Fishnet girl, Maya, sort of side eyes her and looks a little confused. “Likewise.” She says hesitantly, “Look, if this is about signing up for the blood drive the guy at the booth already gave me the speech and I’m not interested. Needles aren’t my thing.”

Riley giggles at that, her one nervous habit she can’t seem to kick, “Um- no, actually I was wondering if you’d want to get coffee with me some time?”

When she doesn’t respond for a few seconds, Riley bumps up her grin a few notches, “I’ve seen you around a couple times and I don’t know, you just seem like the type of person I’d like to get coffee with.” Riley means it as a statement but her nerves make it come out more like a question.

The girl clears her throat, eyeing Riley up and down before, “I don’t really like coffee, but thanks for the offer.”

And okay, what? It takes Riley a few seconds to comprehend her response and by the time she does the girl’s already walking away, one of her headphones placed back in her ear.

If there’s one thing she is, Riley Matthews is persistent, so she grits her teeth and taps her on the shoulder once more, “Tea then?”

The girl looks at her like she can’t believe she’s come back for more, “Not a tea person either, it was nice to meet you though!”

And with that, she’s off, barely sparing Riley a second glance.

***

Funnily enough the next time Riley sees her she’s standing in line at the very coffee shop, Maya had distinctly claimed to dislike.

Sure, Riley’s been turned down before, but never so blatantly disliked. In true Matthews fashion, she’s made it her goal to do everything she can to change Maya’s opinion.

After ordering her latte she makes her way over to where Maya is pouring creamer in to what is clearly a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

“So I see you changed your mind about the whole coffee thing?” Riley gives her a teasing smile, that isn’t returned when Maya looks up to meet her eyes.

“Oh. It’s you.”

Riley deflates a little at that but tries not to let it show, her ever-present optimism the perfect cover up.

“I like your shirt!”

In truth, the shirt definitely isn’t Riley’s style, a concert tee scattered with holes completely contrasting with her vast collection of bright tops and sundresses, but she likes it on Maya well enough.

Maya gives a weak smile that doesn’t meet her eyes, “Thanks sunshine.” Her voice is deadpan and clearly sarcastic, but Riley takes it in stride, “I’d love to stay and chat but I’m kind of in a rush.”

She places a cap on her to go cup and musters up a lack luster finger wave before walking out the door.

***

Riley falls back on to her bed, “Oh my God, Farkle she’s so gorgeous and she totally hates me and I have no idea why.”

Farkle’s sat across from her in her dorm room, spinning around in a desk chair.

“Believe it or not Riles, not every person you meet is gonna like you.”

Riley rolls her eyes at that, “I know that, of course I know that, it just doesn’t make sense!” She’s whining, she knows she is, but she’s not used to this and as her best friend, Farkle is kind of obligated to listen.

“She probably has some scary boyfriend who’s in a rock band or a super hot girlfriend who colors her hair and wears leather jackets.”

Farkle snorts, “Why do you care so much? If she’s straight anyways it doesn’t really matter right?”

Riley sits up at that jutting her lip out, “Still, she seems cool, even if she didn’t want to date me I’d still wanna be her friend but every time I talk she looks at me like I’m not speaking English.”

Smackle speaks up at that from her place on the floor, eyes focused on her textbook, “What’s her name again?”

Rliey sighs dreamily, “Maya, she’s really intimidating and wears a lot of fishnet.”

Smackle snaps her fingers, “Blonde hair, blue eyes, permanent frown on her face?”

Riley blanches, “Do you know her?”

Isadora shrugs looking completely disinterested, “I think I’ve seen her around before. She’s friends with that guy Zay from my chemistry class and she’s definitely not straight. I’ve heard them talking about their mutual interest in girls multiple times.”

Riley squeals in to her pillow, “Are you kidding me? This is so great.”

Farkle sighs, used to Riley’s blind optimism, “Just don’t get your hopes up, okay?”

But Riley’s barely listening, mind too caught up in what she’ll say the next time they see each other.

***

Next time, happens to be in the crowded hallway of the art department, Riley almost knocking the short girl over in her rush to get to photography.

She’s about to apologize until she see’s who it is, and once she does her smile is instant, “Maya! Hi!” She tries to follow Farkle’s advice, compose herself, but the enthusiasm dripping off every single syllable is doing nothing to hide Riley’s interest.

Maya looks incredulous, “Riley? Jesus Christ are you everywhere?”

Riley’s giggling, though Maya’s tone did nothing to make it come off as a joke, “So now that you like coffee we should go get some!”

Maya sighs, hiking her bag further up her shoulder, “I have to get to Art.”

Riley frowns, “You just came out of Art.”

Maya starts walking towards the double doors and despite how late she’s going to be to photography Riley follows beside her.

When Maya does nothing to hide her distaste Riley stops in her tracks, hands on her hips, “Okay did I say something in a past life that offended you or what? Because I’ve been nothing but nice to you and I clearly want to get to know you but no matter what I say you act like I’m inconveniencing you just by breathing!”

Riley’s not one for public arguments, or any arguments at all really, but she’s had enough.

Maya snorts, “You finished sunshine?” And as per usual, the sarcasm dripping from her tone is ever present.

Riley huffs, “Yes.”

“Look Riley, you seem nice enough but I know you.”

And okay, Riley’s fairly certain she’s never known Maya before. She would totally remember a face like hers, “What do you mean you know me? Have we met before?”

Maya keeps walking out in to the courtyard, “Sure I don’t know you know you but I know girls like you.”

Riley scoffs at that, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re all rainbows and butterflies with perfect grades and perfect parents. You’re probably in a sorority. You’re nice to old ladies and no one ever turns you down for a date because with one bright sunshiny Riley smile you have people eating out of the palm of your hand.”

She pauses, “Am I close?”

Riley wishes more than anything that she wasn’t but Maya pretty much hit the nail on the head. Was she really that transparent?

Riley clears her throat, “What’s so bad about that?”

Maya laughs under her breath, “I’ve dated girls like you before okay? You’d find me interesting for two seconds before moving on to someone more cheery and adaptable to your all happy all the time lifestyle.”

“How do you know unless you give me a chance?”

“See you later Riley.”

***

Riley has no idea what has her so hung up on Maya. She’s clearly not interested and yet, Riley can’t get her out of her mind.

She feels like a pathetic lovesick puppy, but that fact does nothing to cease her determination.

Deciding to try one last time she chooses to skip out on her Art History class and wait for Maya outside the door she’d bumped into her at just a week ago.

To her credit, Maya seems only slightly surprised to see Riley waiting for her. She shakes her head to herself and makes her way through the throngs of people switching classes.

“Maya, wait!” Riley calls after her, practically losing her breath over how nice she looks in a cozy white sweater and black ripped jeans, perfect for the fall weather in New York.

Maya turns her head, making a piece of blonde hair fall into her line of sight, “Does your face ever hurt from smiling like that all the time?”

Riley loosely takes hold of her arm, moving her out of the flow of students and off to the side, “Look, I know you don’t really like me but I would really love to have coffee with you sometime. Or anything really, after that if you still hate me I promise to leave you alone.”

Maya bites her lip, eyebrows furrowing as if she’s having an internal argument with herself, “Look, if it’ll get you off my case, I’ll do it. But set your expectations low, I promise you I’m not that interesting.”

Riley has to bite her tongue so as to not let an actual squeal sound, “Really? That’s great!”

Riley thinks she actually sees an amused smile form at that, “Look, how about I meet you at the place by the Humanities building tomorrow around 10?”

Of course Riley agrees and with that Maya walks out of her line of sight a dull, “Later Sunshine,” her only parting words.

***

The next morning Riley scours her closet to find the only black article of clothing she seems to own, (an oversized sweater her grandma had gotten her for Christmas one year,) because as much as she’s not in to changing herself for a girl, she figures appealing to Maya’s fashion sense just this once can’t hurt.

***

“You actually came!” Riley’s two steps inside the café when she notices Maya already sat at one of the back tables, cup in hand.

“Did you think I wouldn’t?”

Riley does her best to fight off a blush, “Maybe a little.”

Riley excuses herself to go order a drink, trying to ignore the fact that her plan to woo Maya by paying for their “date”, if it could even be considered one, is foiled due to Maya coming early and paying for herself.

By the time she makes it back to her, Maya already looks slightly bored, tapping her chipped black painted nails against the surface of the table.

In order to break the silence Riley utters the first thing to pop into her brain, “you look really pretty,” and God it’s not even a line, she genuinely does; her blonde hair up in a ponytail doing everything to pull focus to the blue in her eyes.

Maya snorts, “Good one.”

Riley sighs, brushing off her response but before she can interject Maya speaks up again, “So, why NYU?” She does nothing to hide the clear boredom in her tone as she asks it.

“I don’t know, I grew up here, I’ve kind of always wanted to go here since I was little, it seemed like the clear choice when I was applying.”

Maya nods, taking a sip of her drink to avoid eye contact.

“So what are you studying?” For the first time since she’s sat down Riley sees a genuine look of interest cross Maya’s face. She smiles as she answers, “Art, trying to at least.”

Riley beams, “That’s so cool! I’d love to see something you’ve done one of these days.”

Maya grimaces, “Don’t count on it. What about you?”

Riley sighs, “Photography, maybe Art History, I’ve always liked acting too, so maybe that. There’s so many things to choose from!”

“Spoken like a true entitled optimist,” Maya says, but there’s no real heat behind it. Riley swears she even sees a flash of friendly teasing in her eyes.

“You know you should really be more open minded, what if the love of your life is an optimist, what would you do then?”

Maya rolls her eyes, “I doubt that Sunshine.”

Riley practically melts at the now frequent nickname, “Maybe though.”

Maya bites her lip and Riley does everything in her power not to notice, “She’s not, I’m fairly certain.”

Riley’s almost fighting back a giggle at Maya’s insistence, “Whatever you say.”

For a few seconds, Riley simply looks at her, Maya’s pale skin doing nothing to conceal a small blush when she notices.

“You know Riley, most people consider staring to be rude.”

Now it’s Riley’s turn to blush, “Sorry. You’re not like most people I’ve met before, figured you wouldn’t mind.”

Maya quips back with a slight chuckle, “Ooh that’s a good line! How long did it take you to come up with that one?”

As much as Maya’s feigning distain, Riley can’t help but see it as at least a little bit of flirting, she’ll take what she can get.

A mere 15 minutes later, Maya’s cell phone at the end of the table begins to buzz, the screen flashing, ‘Mom’ and before she has a chance to shield it, Riley quickly eyes the photo on the screen; Maya’s sticking her tongue out at a blonde woman who looks exactly like her, the woman mid laugh. Riley smiles at that as Maya speaks up, “I need to take this.”

Riley simply nods, eyeing Maya’s choice of outfit as she stands and walks away, (a simple black tee shirt dress complete with fishnet tights and combat boots.)

After a few minutes of conversation Maya makes her way back to the table, annoyed look set on her face.

“Everything okay?” Riley asks her, eyebrows furrowed in concern.

“Yeah, fine. My mom’s just complaining about how I never visit her.” The statement clearly bothers her but she lets out a chuckle at the end of her words, trying to pass it off lightly.

“Anyways,” Maya continues, “I should get going.”

Riley sucks in a breath, “You sure? You’ve barely finished your drink.”

Maya shrugs, “Art mid terms don’t finish themselves.”

“Oh,” Riley doesn’t even try to conceal her sadness. “Well, are you busy tomorrow? If you gave me your number we could set something up again, I had a really great time.”

Maya slightly smiles, “Haven’t had enough yet?” She stands and grabs her bag, “I’ll see you around.”

“But I don’t have your-“

“I’m sure we’ll bump in to each other, you have a way of running in to me.” She chuckles and Riley simply stands there, completely stuck. How is this girl real?

***

After the coffee date and a few classes complete with a mountain of homework Riley feels the instant need to recharge. Within seconds she’s changed out of her day outfit and into a large NYU sweatshirt, throwing her hair up on top of her head.

All it takes is one text to her family group chat, “ill be home for dinner tonight ☺” And with that she’s riding the subway all the way to Topanga’s, hoping to catch her mother in a lull at the café.

Much to her luck, when she arrives the place is fairly empty, a few usual’s scattered around on the couches.

She makes her way behind the counter kissing her mother on the cheek as she’s in the midst of conversation with one of the employees.

“Well, that was fast.” Her mom notices, “Did you just come home so I would do your laundry for you?” She’s teasing in the easy way she usually does and in in instant it’s as if all the tension Riley’s built up bleeds out of her.

The woman next to her smiles at their interaction and it’s then that her mother decides to introduce them, “Oh Riles! This is Katy, she started here a while back.”

The woman gives her a bright smile and a, “So you’re the Riley your mom’s always gushing over.” For a split second Riley feels as if she recognizes her but chalks it up to her just having one of those faces.

“You go to NYU right? My daughter just started there. She should actually be coming in soon.”

Riley smiles, genuinely interested, “Really? That’s awesome. It would be cool to meet her.”

“Actually,” Topanaga interjects, “I’ve been trying to get Katy to go on her break for the past hour, would you mind filling in hon?”

Riley nods, grabbing a spare apron from the back and making her way over to the crowd of people that have seemed to enter as they were speaking.

“Hi, welcome to Topanga’s what can I get you?” Riley’s eyes are completely focused on her notepad when the person speaks up.

“Ok, now I know you’re stalking me.”

Riley freezes, slowly bringing her head up, “Maya?”

“You work here?” She’s looking at Riley with wary uncertain eyes, clearly not amused.

“Uh- no. I mean kind of? My mom owns this place. She’s Topanga. You- how long have you been coming here?”

Maya shrugs, “Not often, my mom works here.”

She nods her head in the direction of the blonde woman Riley had just spoken with. So that’s why she looked so familiar.

“Um- what can I get you?”

Maya looks as if she’s trying to hold in a laugh, “Nothing thanks. I just came to wait for my mom to get off work.”

As if on cue, Katy walks up behind them, “So I see you two have met!”

Riley practically jumps out of her skin, Maya putting on a completely insincere smile, “We’re practically best friends mom!”

Katy sighs, clearly used to her daughters sarcastic nature, “Just ignore her Riley, you get used to it eventually.”

Maya turns her focus to Riley playfully rolling her eyes in a way that makes Riley’s heart soar.

Riley clears her throat, breaking eye contact, “I should get back to work.”

As she walks away she hears Katy whisper a not so discreet, “Maya she’s cute.”

Accompanied by a, “God Mom let the whole place hear why don’t you?” from Maya.

Riley tries not to let it show how much their comments affected her but if she happened to walk with a little more pep in her step for the rest of the day, sue her.

***

“Quick! Act like I just said something really funny.”

“In what world would that ever happen?”

“Farkle just laugh!”

Just as Maya happens to walk past their table in the library Farkle lets out a bark of a laugh, completely unconvincing but doing the trick no less.

Maya’s head turns at the sound, “Sunshine, of course.”

Farkle mumbles, “Sunshine?” under his breath with a laugh before Riley kicks his leg under the table.

“Geez Matthews,” he extends his hand out to Maya who takes it warily, “I’m Sunshine’s best friend Farkle. And you must be the girl she never stops talking about.”

Farkle’s words cause Riley to send another kick to his leg, throwing her hands over her face in embarrassment, “I have no idea what he’s talking about.”

Maya actually manages a real laugh at that, “For some reason I don’t believe you.”

Maya takes a breath, nodding her head in the direction of the guy standing a few steps behind her, someone Riley had just managed to notice, “This is my friend Zay.”

The boy, Zay, extends his hand to the pair, “Nice to meet you guys!” He’s clearly enthusiastic, such a polar opposite of the blonde girl that it makes a smile form on Riley’s face.

“Do you want to sit with us?” Riley speaks up softly just as Farkle rushes out, “I was actually just leaving, have fun though!” And God Riley wants to kill him.

Maya makes eye contact with Zay, a weary expression painted on her face, “Actually, we were about to leave too. We have a group project to work on.”

From the way Zay’s face contorts in confusion, Riley’s finding it hard to believe her.

“Oh yeah, course.”

Riley stands at that, accepting defeat.

“Well, if everyone’s leaving I think I’ll just head back to my dorm. It was nice seeing you guys!” She tries to muster a smile, avoiding Maya’s eyes and scooping up her things.

“Actually Maya,” Zay starts, “I finished it last night remember? So you’re totally free to hang out.” He nudges her with his arm, a clear conversation going on between the pair using just their eyes.

Maya clears her throat, “Oh- I- I forgot, that’s right.”

Zay nods, “I’m gonna go check what Lucas is up to, I’ll catch up with you in a bit ok?”

Maya grits her teeth while Riley keeps her eyes glued to the floor, “Sure.”

As he walks away the two girls finally make eye contact, Riley being the first to speak.

“It’s fine if you- I mean you don’t have to hang out with me, I get it.”

Maya furrows her eyebrows, “Get what?”

“It’s not really a secret that you don’t like me Maya. “ Riley lets out a sad chuckle, “So I’ll leave you alone.”

Riley barely waits for a response, quickly moving past her before anything else can be said.

Before she has time to think about what she’s doing Maya’s arm shoots out, grabbing Riley by the elbow.

Her words come out in one fast breath, “That’s not true, I mean not entirely. I don’t dislike you, I just don’t know what to do with you. Normally people give up at this point, I’m not used to,” She pauses gesturing with her free arm, “this. You’re so persistent, it’s just weird for me.”

“It doesn’t have to be weird, you don’t even have to like me in that way, I just- I wanna be your friend, you seem really cool. I’m sorry if I made it seem like- if I trapped you or something.”

Maya bites her lip, sucking in a breath, “Can we just like, start over?”

Riley beams at that, “That sounds like a good idea.” She sticks her hand out in one swift motion, “I’m Riley.”
***

“So you’re telling me you single handedly started an actual real life food fight in your cafeteria? There’s no way.”

Maya giggles at the shock on Riley’s face, “It’s true! It was sophomore year and there was this Senior Megan who was a raging bitch with a vendetta against me for some reason. She poured milk on top of my head, which by the way is such a fuckin’ cliché, I mean really Megan? Anyways, I retaliated with an entire plate of day old spaghetti, and the rest is history.”

It has been a few hours since their encounter in their library and after the promise of a clean slate the girls made their way to Maya’s dorm, spending the next few hours swapping stories.

It’s as if a smile has been glued on Riley’s face from the second they sat down on her bed. The entire place was just so, Maya. Art messily taped on every surface of the walls, an incredible record collection off to the side, and, to Riley’s surprise the entire Harry Potter series lining her bookshelf.

Once the pressure of a relationship had been boiled down to a friendship, they seemed to click immediately, spilling in to fits of laughter as if they’d been friends for years.

Riley has to catch her breath from giggling so much, she feels like a little kid. “Speaking of day old spaghetti, are you hungry? I kind of want to order a pizza.”

“I think that’s the best thing you’ve said all day.”

***

“Why are you smiling like that?”

Smackle had always been pretty straight up, when she wanted to know something, she asked. This time, the question was directed towards Riley, who has been glued to her phone for the past half an hour.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Riley tries and fails to keep her face straight, completely blowing any type of cover she hoped to keep.

“Is it Maya?” Farkle teases, drawing out the syllables in her name for emphasis.

“We’re just texting, we’re just friends! Don’t say it like that.” Riley had been replaying ‘We’re just friends’ over and over in her mind, thinking that if she said it enough it would sit better with her.

Farkle snorts at that, “Sure, you’re friends who are in love with each other, don’t feel bad it’s a classic situation, bound to happen.”

“We’re not talking about that. I don’t even know if she likes me like that, I’m just glad she likes me in general now, I’m not about to mess that up.” Riley slumps against her bed, completely over having to acknowledge that as a fact.

“You guys have been hanging out for a while now Riley, I think you’re in a good place to bring it back up.”

“I agree, “ Smackle speaks up from her side of the room, “Failing to acknowledge your feelings will only lead you into self destruction.”

Riley takes that as her cue to leave, “Wow thanks for the advice guys but I’ve really got to get going.”

“Got a date with Maya?”

Riley rolls her eyes, “More like a family dinner.”

(So what if Maya was tagging along? What they didn’t know couldn’t hurt them.)

***

 

“Should I be nervous?” Maya is clenching her fists at her sides, never one to ace first impressions, something Riley could certainly attest to.

Riley turns her head to face her, eyebrows furrowed in concern, “Maya, you know this is just dinner right? Not some friendship test. No one’s grading you.”

Riley lightly knocks their shoulders together, trying to lighten the clearly tense atmosphere surrounding them.

“I know that obviously, but-I still want them to like me.”

Riley gives one last reassuring smile in Maya’s direction, lifting her arm to knock on the door.

The second it opens, three familiar faces make their way into their view, Topanga taking the lead.

“You must be Maya! From the way your mom talks about you at the café and Riley at home, I feel like I know you already, I’m Topanga!”

She shuffles Maya into a tight hug while Riley quietly groans, this was going to be quite a night.

***

As soon as introductions have been made and the food has been served the group falls in to a comfortable rhythm. Cory, Topanga, and Auggie bringing up embarrassing childhood stories accompanied by protests from Riley and laughter from Maya.

“Thanks so much for dinner Mr. and Mrs. Matthews, it was great.”

“Don’t leave so soon. We’ve still got dessert! Riley, why don’t you give Maya the grand tour while I finish it up?”

Riley nods, locking Maya’s arm with hers and walking out of earshot.

“So, that was really embarrassing, I’m surprised either of us survived.”

Maya laughs, “Shut up Sunshine, they’re great. I don’t know what I was so nervous about.”

Riley rolls her eyes, “So, as far as a tour goes there’s not much to see. My parents room, Auggies, and mine. You already saw the rest.”

“Woah, don’t even try to skip past that. I gotta see where little Riley grew up.”
Riley sighs, slowly opening the door.

Within seconds, Maya’s eyes focus on the focal point of the room. “No fuckin’ way Riles, you have a bay window?”

“Riles? That’s a new development.” Riley teases, knocking their shoulders together.

Maya quickly turns away, but not before Riley notices the slight blush on her cheeks, “Did you take these?”

Maya is of course referring to all the photography framed on Riley’s walls, years of photos. Everything from Farkle’s 10th birthday to the day Riley graduated from Abigail Adams. Highlights captured from her point of view.

“Uh- yeah.”

Maya smiles, picking up a photo of Riley and Topanga from Riley’s kindergarten days, “You’re really good and cute too, what a bonus.”

Never one to love compliments Riley shrugs, “Whatever.”

Maya walks over to the bay window, sitting down and patting the spot next to her.

“I feel like we need to have a talk about how great you are at photography, I know how much you love to talk about yourself.”

Riley sits down, groaning at Maya’s sarcasm, “Well, if we’re talking about that then we have to talk about you’re art. You’re like incredible.”

“Ok, conversation obviously over then.”

Riley laughs, “On a real note, tonight was really fun. Believe it or not I think you’re pretty cool.”

Maya feigns shock, “I actually had no idea, it’s not as if you stalked me for like a month.”

Riley puts her head in her hands, “Lets not talk about that, it was practically six months ago, I’m totally over it.”

“Totally?” Maya leans closer to her, and the closer she gets, the harder it is for Riley to take a breath.

Just as their eyes meet, Maya pulls back, bursting in to laughter.

“I’m just messing with you sunshine.”

Riley’s laugh is shaky and forced, her heart beating out of her chest. Just as she’s about to speak, Cory’s voice rings from the other room, “Girls! Desserts ready!”

***

Right as Riley is walking out of her last class for the week she hears a voice behind her, “Hey Riles!”

Riley jumps out of her skin, “Shit, Maya, warn me next time.”

The more time passed the closer the girls had gotten, and the more comfortable Maya had become with casual run ins like these.

Riley hooks their arms together as Maya speaks, “So, I kind of have something to ask you. I was gonna ask Zay, but he said I should ask you instead so I-“

“Spit it out!”

“Ok so, for our next art project we have to do a portrait of someone and I was wondering-“

Once again, Riley interrupts Maya before she can finish, “Yes! Oh my God, 100%.”

Maya rolls her eyes, “You don’t even know what I’m gonna ask.”

Riley nods, “Continue.”

“Riley Matthews can I paint you for my portrait assignment?”

Riley holds back yet another squeal, “Refer to my earlier response.”

Maya snorts at that, “Nerd.”

***

“Ok so just, sit and read. Oh, and tilt your head a bit so the sun hits it.”

Riley sighs, getting in her usual reading position on her bed, “Why do you wanna paint me like this? It’s so boring, I’m just doing what I always do.”

“That’s kind of the point dummy. It’s realism.”

Riley sticks her tongue out at that, “Is this the part where I ask you to paint me like one of your French girls?”

Maya scoffs, “You wish Matthews. Now be quiet and get back in place, I gotta ace this.”

***

“Can I see it? Can I see it? Can I see it?”

“Riley I already told you, no matter how many times you ask me that, you’re gonna have to wait till the art show.”

Riley pouts, “But Maya-“

“Sunshine, you know it’s tonight. You waited this long, I think you can wait a few more hours.”

“So how nice do we have to dress for this thing? Farkle’s trying to convince me he can wear a t-shirt but me and Smackle have been saying he at least needs to wear a dress shirt.”

Maya giggles, “It’s not that serious, they don’t even need to come if they don’t want to.”

“Shut up, you know they are. We’re totally gonna make ‘Go Maya’ signs and carry them around the room.”

“Jesus Christ, don’t even joke about that. My mom would so take you seriously and you know it.”

“Can I meet you back here before it starts so we can walk over together?”

“I don’t know why you’re even asking me that when we both know you’re gonna show up either way.”

***

Two hours, and three outfit changes later, Riley makes her way back to Maya’s dorm.

“Excuse me, does world renowned artist Maya Penelope Hart live here?”

Maya opens the door within seconds, rolling her eyes as a greeting.

Riley barely registers it though, way too focused on Maya’s entire look.

“What? Does the dress look bad? I know I don’t usually wear stuff like this but my mom said it looked good with the earrings.”

“You look gorgeous. Seriously, you’re gonna blow all the other artists out of the water the second you walk in.”

“You’re not too bad yourself Riles. We’re kind of a dream team.”

***

Riley is practically running into the art exhibit, dragging Maya behind with their hands clasped.

“Ok so not fair! You know I can’t run in heels, you clearly have an advantage.”

Riley ignores her comment, weaving her way through the crowd till she sees Maya’s name, taking in a breath before looking up at the painting.

It’s titled, ‘Gold at 5:30’ and features Riley, sitting crisscross on her bed, book in her hand, while reaching to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear, the sunlight hitting her perfectly, casting a golden light on her skin.

The second Riley takes it all in she begins to tear up.

“You know you’re like my favorite person.”

Despite her best efforts, Maya finds herself tearing up as well, mumbling a half hearted, “Shut up.” And bringing Riley in for a tight, extended hug.

The girls barely acknowledge the friends and family who have formed around them during the exchange, knowing looks on each of their faces.

***

“Do you ever think about how different your life would be if one thing was off? Like, what if you decided to go to Columbia instead of NYU, or you hadn’t grown up with Farkle or something.”

Riley chuckles at that, “What’s with the deep questions tonight Hart?”

“Y’know I get deep when I’m drunk.”

It’s 1 AM on a Thursday and the girls have spent the night sipping on vodka cranberries in Maya’s dorm room.

“Yeah, I guess I think about that sometimes. Like, what if you never decided to try being friends with me? What would I be doing right now?”

Maya shrugs, “Probably making out with Addison.”

Riley scoffs, “Addison from my History class? I’ve barely said two words to her all year.”

Maya hums, “Well, she’s definitely in to you, every time she sees you she practically melts. You’re just too oblivious to notice.”

“I am not! She doesn’t like me. Besides, even if she did, you know I only have eyes for you.”

Riley says it sarcastically but as soon as the words come out of her mouth, Maya’s hand is on her arm, unreadable expression on her face.

“You mean it Riles?”

Riley gives a nervous chuckle, not sure where this going and definitely not drunk enough for this, “Sure, you’re my best friend.”

Maya’s eyes are hazy, clearly on the road to plastered, “You know why I never told you I liked coffee that first time?”

“Maya, maybe we should talk about this when you’ve sobered up.”

Barely registering her comment, Maya continues, “I thought you were too good for me. You’re so pretty, and nice, and radiate goodness. So obviously the opposite of me, I still don’t know if I deserve it, but it’s getting harder not to kiss you every time I look at you.”

Suddenly, Maya’s leaning in and Riley can’t breathe, shuts her eyes, and then-

“Maya, I’m not doing this while you’re drunk. It’s not fair to either of us.”

In an instant Maya’s eyes are welling up with tears, “But-“

“Look, lets just get you to bed okay? You’re gonna have a killer headache in the morning.”

***

The next morning, Riley’s words are entirely proven. Maya’s head is killing her, something Riley had prepared for, a glass of water and two asprin sat on her side table.

Maya awakes with a groan, instantly throwing her pillow over her face to block out the sunlight.

Riley feigns cheeriness, “Morning Sunshine! Welcome to Friday.”

Another groan is the only response she receives, until Maya decides to speak 10 minutes later.

“I say we skip classes today and veg out on netflix.”

Riley smiles, “sounds perfect.”

***
Half way through their day of relaxation Riley decides to bring up the topic she’s been dreading the most; their ‘moment’ last night; never one to hold on to tension for too long, she thought it best to clear the air.

“Um- Maya?”

Riley reaches over to pause their movie, bringing confusion to Maya’s features.

“Hm?”

Riley continues once she’s received acknowledgment, “Look, so this is kind of uncomfortable, but last night you said some stuff and I just wanted to check in, see how you feel, I don’t know-“

Maya squeezes her eyes shut, “I was 100% hoping that was a dream.”

Now that both girls are aware of the situation, the room grows silent; both waiting for the other to speak.

Maya is first a deep sigh and then, “Look, I’m not expecting anything. I don’t even know why I fuckin’ told you. Drunk me has no filter and I was thinking about it so I said it I guess. In no way did I ever want to make you uncomfortable, you’re my best friend, it’s not like I’ve just been waiting around to pull the moves on you, I just- I don’t know. I was just tired of pretending I guess.”

Riley takes in a shaky breath, “Jesus Christ.” A pause and then, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“I was so adamant about not taking us there when we first met. Every time you’d try to get close to me I’d shut you down. Now that we’re where we are now with our friendship, I didn’t want to risk it.”

Riley scoots closer to her, resting her hand on her arm and squeezing it in reassurance. “Maya, you know how I feel, nothings changed.”

Maya squeezes her eyes shut, “You don’t have to- I’m fine if we stay how we are. Perfectly fine.”

The hand that’s resting on Maya’s arm makes its way down, Riley lacing their fingers together.

With her eyes still shut Maya quietly continues, “I’m scared.”

“Hey, me too. But it’s just us, you know? We don’t have to have any expectations. Nothing has to change except, maybe we kiss each other a lot instead of just thinking about it a lot.”

Riley knocks their shoulders together, trying to lighten up the tension.

Maya opens her eyes, a smirk now set on her face, “You think about kissing me a lot Matthews?”

Riley giggles, a blush instantly coating her cheeks, “Don’t get cocky.”

“I mean how can I deprive you if it’s all you think about? That would just be cruel.”

Riley shoves her playfully; her heart beating faster the closer Maya’s face comes to hers.

Maya is inches from her lips now, still teasing, “I mean I am pretty irresistible, I can’t blame you for-“

With that, Riley takes her face in her hands, mumbling a, “Jesus, shut up,” against her lips before bringing them together.

Kissing Maya felt like touching a live wire, as if every cell in her body is bursting like a supernova. Yet, after a while, she can’t even feel the kiss; her mind is blank, so far into a state of oversensitivity from the overwhelming feeling of kissing Maya, finally, after waiting so long.

Maya is the first to pull back, going in for a few pecks afterwards, as if it took self-control to pull away completely.

Riley’s heart is beating out of her chest, adrenaline pumping through her veins in the best way possible.

She moves her hands from Maya’s face to her lap, looking down and playing with her fingers.

When she looks up, Maya’s biting her lip, looking concentrated before bursting in to a fit of giggles.

Riley’s heart melts at the sight of Maya covering up her laughs with her hand. “Was it that bad you had to laugh at me?” Riley lightly shoves Maya on to her back.

Mid giggle Maya spurts, “this is crazy.”

Riley bites her lip, “good crazy though, yeah?”

Maya sits up, taking Riley’s face in her hands, “the best kind of crazy.”

Within seconds they’re back to kissing, the only stopping point being Riley’s need to take a breath. Fuck oxygen.

“I wanna do that all the time.” Riley mumbles under her breath, her close proximity to Maya doing nothing to hide the words.

“going to need a lot of chapstick then, sunshine.”

“I think I can manage that.”