Alex doesn’t hate English class. Not really. Mr. Smith is nice enough, and he never lectures her when she reads ahead of her peers like Ms. Grimsby had in fourth grade. It wasn’t enough for the old bat to give her a stern talking to in front of the entire class. She just had to send a letter home to her parents.
Mr. Smith however, doesn’t seem to care if she slips a worn copy of The Time Machine in between textbook pages, if he even notices. It’s not like she isn’t able to answer questions if called on. She figured out long ago that if she raised her hand every so often to comment on the readings, she could get away with just about anything.
And honestly, it’s not that she doesn’t want to be there. It’s usually a really productive fifty minutes. It’s just that Mr. Smith is…well...basically a dinosaur. So very kind but also... So very monotone. He just drones on and on and on, volume never wavering. It reminds her of that teacher from the Peanuts Halloween special her dad loves so much. The one they used to watch every year after he would take her trick or treating. She’s too old for all of that now, she’s an adult after all - she just had her bat mitzvah and everything. But they still turn it on every year without fail and she still laughs at her dad’s version of the Snoopy dance while they hand out candy.
She has always thought it was weird when her friends would complain about their parents. Yeah hers can be embarrassing sometimes, but they can also be pretty cool. Her dad knows just about every constellation and star system there is. Even the alien ones. He has even met Superman.
And Alex has never fallen asleep in class before, but it’s December and per school regulations, the heaters must be turned on, even if they’re in Southern California and it’s currently 70°F outside. So, it’s warm, her new sweater is super soft, and maybe no one will notice if she just rests her head on her desk for a bit.
She glances up at the clock, the second hand inching its way towards her freedom. Ten more minutes. She only has to last ten more minutes and then she can rush home and enjoy a lovely third night of Hanukkah with her family. Her parents haven’t been particularly discrete about holiday shopping this year and she’s about 99.9% sure that she’s getting a new telescope.
Alex sighs as the second hand on the wall clock seems to slow down under her scrutiny. She makes a note to ask her dad about time dilation and special relativity. There has to be some explanation for why the last few weeks of school before a break last twice as long as any other week...
The sound of Mr. Smith’s voice - much closer than it had been - snaps Alex back to reality only to find him standing over her desk, holding out a piece of paper.
“I hope you take this assignment more seriously than you’ve taken my lecture, Miss Danvers.”
A few students in the back of the class snicker and Alex feels heat rise to the tips of her ears as she takes the handout, staring down at her desk to avoid meeting Mr. Smith’s gaze. She knows she’s not in trouble. She’s one of the only ones who actually contributes to discussion on a regular basis. But still, she can feel the embarrassment bubbling up in her chest. She digs her fingernails into her palms, exhaling a shaky breath, fully awake now.
Mr. Smith continues to drone on as he winds his way through the classroom. “What I’ve handed out to you is your writing project for the rest of the year. The name on your paper is one of the students from our sister school in Nebraska. This is to encourage you to actually read and write instead of spending all day staring at screens.” He raises an eyebrow pointedly at Justin, who slowly places his Gameboy back into his pocket, grinning easily as if Mr. Smith hadn’t just caught him.
Alex snorts, and looks down at the assignment.
A name was listed - Margarita - along with some instructions. Write a letter, something interesting about yourself, no profanity… That’ll be a tough one for Justin for sure, Alex thinks, but she’ll have no trouble. Should only take her an hour or so. Her pen pal is a girl at least, which is good. All of the boys in her class are a little immature and she can’t imagine they’re any different in Nebraska.
“Please turn in one letter to me tomorrow in an unsealed envelope. I will be checking to make sure you did the assignment—” her teacher is cut off by the ringing of the school bell, the rest of his instructions drowned out by her classmates packing up their backpacks. Alex gathers up her pens and places the assignment sheet in her notebook, taking one last glance at the name before waving goodbye to her friends and heading home for the day.
Later that night, after a rousing game of Scrabble with her parents - which she won, thank you very much - Alex climbs the stairs up to her bedroom. She usually does her homework in the kitchen, but the lingering odor of the night’s fried latkes was enough to convince her that she might like a change of scenery. She opens the large bay window to let in some fresh air and sits on the window bench.
She has always loved living so close to the ocean. Not only could she take her surfboard out to catch some waves in the morning and still make it to school on time, she could enjoy the salty sea breeze from the comfort of her bedroom. And really, the weather couldn’t be beat. After all, she could get away with wearing just gym shorts and her dad’s old Caltech sweatshirt in the dead of winter. Some of the boys at her school didn’t even own pants.
Satisfied with her writing environment, Alex grabs the remote for her CD changer and settles in with a notebook and her favorite pen. She had begged for a quill for a solid year after reading Harry Potter, but her mom bought her a nice fountain pen instead. She was a little disappointed, but in retrospect it was much more practical. She couldn’t really take a pot of ink to the beach to write. Self-inking quills didn’t exist in the muggle world much to her chagrin.
Alex taps the end of her pen against her paper absentmindedly. How was she supposed to start this? Did the Nebraskan version of Mr. Smith tell their class what to expect? Her pen pal got lucky. They didn’t have to start a letter. Or worry about making a good impression.
She figures it’s best just to rip off the Band-Aid.
My name is Alex. Well it’s actually Alexandra, but only my mom calls me that. It’s just Alex.
She grimaces, ripping the page out of her notebook and tossing it in the direction of the trash can by the door. It bounces off of the rim and falls to the floor. Maybe she’s trying too hard. She smooths out the next page and takes a deep breath.
My name is Alex. I live with my parents in Midvale, California. It’s pretty small, but it’s by the beach. I spend a lot of time there with my dad. We go surfing together on the weekends sometimes, which is awesome.
I don’t really know what to write here. Our teacher is making us do this for class.
But I guess you’re doing the same thing, huh?
I looked up Nebraska on Wikipedia. It sounds pretty nice. No beaches, but you guys probably get lots of snow. It’s never snowed here. My dad says we can go to the mountains to go snowboarding though next year. My mom has already been looking at cabins and everything so I can take lessons during the day and then go back and drink hot chocolate. And it would be the whole week!
I’m supposed to list a few things I like to do, other than surfing I guess. I like science class. Last week we got to dissect a frog which was pretty cool. Except when Rick tossed his across the room and Jessica started crying. I can’t wait until I can take advanced biology next year.
My parents are both doctors. Not the hospital kind, but the laboratory kind. I think I want to do that too someday. I guess I’m kind of a nerd.
Anyway. That’s me. I’m also supposed to ask you three questions. Soooooo…
What’s it like in Nebraska? What’s your family like? Do you play any sports?
Alex returns from winter break feeling refreshed and the rest of the school seems to agree. Her classmates buzz into English class chattering about what they had gotten for Christmas or how their parents had taken them to Disneyland instead of to their grandparents’ house this year, smiles wide. Even Mr. Smith has a bit of a spring in his step as he goes around the room, distributing envelopes to the class.
Alex settles in to her normal seat in the second row and wipes the sweat from her palms onto her jeans. Some of the other students are already opening their letters and John, show-off that he is, is already reading his aloud in dramatic fashion.
She really hopes Margarita isn’t also a hockey player missing multiple teeth. That’s a great fit for John, but she’s not really sure she could stomach a whole semester of pretending to care about her pen pal’s theoretical dental injuries.
She turns her letter over in her hands. It’s fairly plain, just a basic white envelope with her name scrawled across the front. It’s nice handwriting at least. Not incredibly loopy script like most of the girls in her class, but neat printing.
A sharp poke in her back catches her attention and she looks over her shoulder to see her best friend Vicky twirling a pen between her fingers.
She’s got a sly look on her face. Alex recognizes it as the same one she gets when she asks Alex to cover for her with her mom while she spends the night at a boy’s house. Vicky gives her a little wave, “Hey Alex! Lemme see yours!”
Alex hesitates, her fingers tightening around the envelope. Normally she and Vicky share everything. Vicky even told her all about how she made out with Steve over winter break. Apparently, he was so dreamy. Alex finds that a little hard to believe since Steve is the same guy who broke his tibia last year trying do parkour off of a dumpster in the mall parking lot. Gross.
Clearly, she has taken too long to respond because Vicky is jabbing her with her pen again, “C’mon Alex! My pen pal lives on a farm. That’s so lame, I want to see what yours says!”
“I’m not going to open it right now, ok?” Alex pleads.
Vicky just scoffs and rolls her eyes and Alex can almost feel her friend glaring daggers at the back of her head when she turns back around in her seat. The patented Vicky Donahue silent treatment it is then, Alex supposes. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.
Last month they hadn’t talked for three days after Alex refused to let her copy her history homework for the fourth week in a row. Luckily Alex has the entire class period to brace herself for the cold shoulder she’s sure she’ll be subjected to the rest of the day. It just means she will end up eating lunch in the library instead of their usual table. But by the time the bell rings to signal the end of English, Vicky has seemingly forgotten about it, instead waving her over to make vague weekend plans.
She ends up waiting until after dinner to open her letter from Margarita. When she does, trying extra hard not to tear the envelope, a handful of pine needles spills out onto her desk, along with a small pine scented air freshener. She flips it over in her hand, marveling at the small shiny stickers decorating each side. A mini-Christmas tree, just for her. Alex smiles despite the mess, holding the air freshener up to her nose and inhaling deeply. She takes the letter and flops down onto her bed to read.
You can actually call me Maggie. Only my parents call me Margarita.
Alex snorts remembering her discarded first draft. She couldn’t really blame her pen pal though. Alexandra was bad enough. But Margarita? Ouch.
This is an assignment for our English class too, obviously. But is it weird that I kind of liked reading your letter?
I think it is really cool that you can surf! I have always wanted to try that. Maybe if I ever come to California you could teach me? I’ve never even seen the ocean. You looked up Nebraska though so you’re probably not surprised by that. We’ve just got corn. And cows. And more corn. Corn and cows as far as the eye can see.
Wikipedia probably hasn’t updated this yet, but we’re ranked #1 in the country in cow tipping.
We do get snow though. I wanted to include some in this letter for you, but apparently “that’s not practical Maggie.” But just know that it’s cold and wet and it really sucks when you underestimate the size of a snow pile and it gets all in your boots. Especially right at the beginning of your walk home.
Alex smiles. This girl is ridiculous. She likes her already.
I haven’t snowboarded either. Nebraska is pretty flat and all. It probably sounds pretty lame, huh? Everyone is mostly just into football here. That’s kind of what you do I guess. Go to football games. It’s okay, but I prefer softball. I play shortstop, but that doesn’t start until spring.
As for your questions… I live with my mom and dad. My dad is a police officer. So, I totally get you wanting to be like yours when you grow up. I want to be a detective so I can solve crimes and help people and stuff. I really want to volunteer at the station, but I’m not allowed to until I’m in high school.
And if liking science makes you a nerd, then so am I.
Anyway, I’m supposed to ask you a bunch of things too. Like favorite movie or whatever. I like horror movies. The scarier the better.
I really can’t think of anything else… So maybe we could like, skip all of the awkward stuff and just be friends?
Talk to you soon!
PS: I hope you liked the little bit of Nebraska winter I sent you. I read somewhere that pine needle tea is great for curing scurvy, so yeah. The more you know?
By the time she reaches the end of the letter, Alex is grinning. And even though she hasn’t received her next assignment for class, she pulls out her pen to respond.
Margarita Rodas was never really that popular.
It’s hard growing up in a small rural town of a little over 300 people. It’s even harder when you’re one of the only non-white families inhabiting said town. Her parents used to live in Omaha, but they moved to Blue Springs before she was born. They all go back to Omaha to visit a few times a year though, for birthdays and Christmas. That means having to sit through midnight mass with her entire family, which she absolutely hates. Her mom always makes her wear one of the starchy dresses that reside in the very back of her closet, but her grandmother’s cooking makes the long hours in church worth it. Plus, her grandfather always has a new detective novel for her to read, even though her mother says she’s too young for stuff like that. And even though her little cousins drive her crazy, she likes being surrounded by people who look like her. It makes her feel a little less alone.
She had one friend in Blue Springs, Eliza Wilkey. They’d spend hours in her basement smoking cigarettes they’d stolen from Eliza’s older brother and watching whatever old slasher flicks were available to rent at the local video store. With Eliza, she never felt like she was different. Well, she did, but to Eliza and her blue streaked hair and heavy eyeliner, being different was a badge of honor. Then Eliza’s dad got a job in Chicago over the summer and despite promises to keep in touch, they haven’t really spoken since.
She had called Eliza once, a few weeks after school started, but she wasn’t home. She was out with her new cheerleading friends, according to her mom.
Maggie didn’t call again.
Maggie walks a mile and a half to the combination Junior High/High School in Wymore every morning. She could take the bus like most of her peers, but she likes the way the crisp winter air burns her cheeks and the way the snow crunches beneath her boots. And frankly, the less time she spends with the other kids, the better.
No one is outwardly mean to her. They don’t dare to say anything to her face; her dad is the sheriff after all. Plus, she’s the best hitter on the school softball team. But she hears the whispers in the hall and the insensitive jokes in the lunchroom.
Her dad always tells her not to let it bother her. He’s heard the comments too. All his life, he’d told her one night after every other girl on her team got an invitation to Kathy’s birthday party except for her. He tells her it will get better. He had worked hard, got ahead, and made a name for himself as a cop and she would too.
So,she keeps to herself. She focuses on her studies and tries to blend in.
It’s just easier that way.
It’s a week before Christmas break when Maggie receives a letter during third period English.
Her teacher delivers them at the end of class, dressed in a Santa hat with an attached beard and Maggie rolls her eyes so far back in her head that it almost hurts. She has learned to be skeptical of any of Mr. Brown’s assignments. They usually involve a little too much glue for the eighth grade, but pen pals couldn’t be much worse than making paper mache masks of Lady Macbeth. She’s still not sure what that was about.
She waits until lunch to open it so that she can be alone. Well, alone with the exception of the librarian: an exceptionally sweet old woman who always has candy and a new mystery novel at the circulation desk for her. Last week it was Agatha Christie. Raymond Chandler the week before.
She tosses her backpack to the floor and settles herself in her usual lunch spot right up against the far wall between 570 Life Sciences and 580 Botanical Sciences. She unfolds the letter from its envelope with one hand, the other busy with a squished PB&J, and smooths it out on her lap.
Her pen pal is a girl from Midvale, California. Alex. She traces the name with her thumb.
Alex who surfs and likes science. She’s clearly brilliant and such a nerd and Maggie likes her instantly.
She really wants Alex to like her too. Eliza never understood why she always asked for books for Christmas or why she always jumped at the chance to participate in the science fair every year, but maybe Alex would. And she could really use a friend. One who didn’t care about what she looked like or where her family was from.
She stops at the Dollar General on her way home to find something to make her response extra special, even though she hates the way the cashier’s eyes follow her around as she shops. She decides that it’s worth it if it will make the other girl smile.
She doesn’t expect to get a response back right away. She knows that their letters have to go through their English teachers, but she feels anxious anyway. Maybe the air freshener idea was dumb. Maybe Alex would laugh at her. And not for any of the reasons that she wants Alex to laugh. Or even worse, what if she asks for a different pen pal? She was a little eager...
She tries not to think about it.
She’s mostly successful.
Her English teacher finally gives them another letter the last week of January.
Apparently, he’d had them sitting in his desk for a week and a half. The jerk.
Several of her classmates’ envelopes have stickers affixed to the outside. Some are weirdly lumpy. Others have crudely drawn stick figures. Hers is covered in stars. Not just the kind of gold stickers that you get in elementary school for being able to stand in line quietly for more than two seconds, actual constellations mapped out in silver gel pen. There’s even scientific names scrawled across the front. What a nerd, she thinks fondly, eagerly opening the envelope.
Happy New Year! At least, I think you’ll be getting this after the New Year. I’m not really sure when Mr. Smith will be sending these. I got yours pretty quickly but your winter break might be different? Anyway...
I hope you had a really good holiday! I had a great Hanukkah. My mom and I made Sufganiyot (my favorite). They’re jelly donuts basically. Really messy, but 100% worth it. And my dad let me light the Hanukkiah this year because apparently turning 13 means you aren’t going to burn the house down anymore (just so you know that was ONE TIME).
I got books mostly. The rest of the Wrinkle in Time series and a copy of Grey’s Anatomy (thanks mom). And a really nice telescope, which is going to be awesome for the next meteor shower.
By the way, do you like to read?
I can’t believe you’ve never seen the ocean! Well, I mean I can believe it, but we should definitely fix that. I’ve never taught anyone else to surf before, so you can be my first student. I promise I won’t let you drown.
I think it’s amazing that you want to be a detective. I bet you’ll be really great at getting information from suspects. Do you want to stay in Nebraska and work with your dad?
I love horror movies too! My best friend Vicky and I had a sleepover last weekend and we watched Poltergeist, which yeah kind of old, but still great. What’s your favorite?
And just so you know, I loved the “Christmas tree”. It’s my first one. I didn’t know that about pine needles, but it looks like if I’m ever serving as a doctor on a pirate ship I’ll be able to prescribe the right tree-tment.
You’ll have to get used to my terrible puns. Now that we’re friends you’re going to hear a lot more of them!
Maggie reads and re-reads the letter three times before carefully folding it back up. As she stuffs it back in its envelope, it catches on something inside that she hadn’t seen when she first pulled out the letter. A quick inspection reveals three small photographs.
A two-story house near the beach that Maggie assumes must be where Alex lives.
A beautiful shot of the ocean at dawn.
Maggie feels her stomach flip.
A photo of what she can only assume is Alex herself, holding a surfboard and beaming at the camera. Her hair is wet, she’s got a smattering of freckles across her slightly tanned face, and she’s the prettiest girl Maggie has ever seen.
At the beginning of the school year, Maggie and the rest of her peers had to sit through a fifty minute presentation from their principal about making the most of their teenage years. Maggie remembers very little of the presentation (she’s pretty sure she nodded off a few times), but she does remember one thing:
Being a teenager is all about deciding what to do in your future.
She’s pretty sure Principal Miller was talking about like choosing a career path or something, but it stuck with Maggie all the same.
Besides, she’d made that decision years ago as an eight-year-old, sitting next to her father in his police cruiser, junior officer badge stuck to her t-shirt. But she’s never quite been able to figure out where she belonged.
She’s keenly aware that she isn’t like the other girls in her school. She looks different. She knows that. She’s reminded of it every time she looks at her softball team photo. It’s like the easiest Where’s Waldo she’s ever seen.
But it’s not just that. Once they got to middle school, it’s like a switch was flipped in all of her peers overnight. Where once they were pretending to be horses on the playground, suddenly they were swapping makeup tips and gossiping about which boy they hoped would ask them for a date.
And Maggie could not be less interested if she tried.
It’s not that she doesn’t like the idea of going to the movies and holding hands and sharing popcorn and all that mushy stuff. It’s just that she doesn’t particularly find the idea of doing all of that with a boy very appealing. She’d always kind of chalked it up to being more focused on school and sports.
Even her best friend, her partner-in-crime, had changed. A few weeks before she moved, Maggie had been lying on her back on her friend’s bed while Eliza hung a Backstreet Boys poster on the wall. She’d assumed Eliza was just being ironic when she had bought the CD, but apparently not, which was weird because they didn’t even make good music. They’d spent the rest of that lazy summer day watching reruns of Buffy and Eliza had swooned about who was better for Buffy, Spike or Angel. In Maggie’s humble opinion, both were wrong. If Buffy didn’t have her best friend Willow, there’s no way she’d even still be alive , Maggie is sure of it.
But despite all of these clues, Maggie never really connected the dots. She was never able to put a name to that feeling. That is, until she finds herself holding a photograph of her Californian pen pal and the realization hits her like a truck.
Alex is beautiful. And so smart. And Maggie absolutely would not mind sharing her popcorn with her. She wouldn’t even care if Alex wanted to drown it in butter.
And all of those things lead her to one conclusion.
She likes Alex.
Like. Likes her likes her.
In a gay way. Which really should concern her more than it does. But it just feels weirdly right. Like all of the pieces of herself have finally slotted into place.
And she’s never met another gay person in Nebraska but she’s seen them on tv. And oh. Willow makes so much more sense now.
She is so, so very gay.
And she is so, so very screwed.
She’s been struggling to write a response for days, which is endlessly frustrating because the past few letters have been so easy. Ask basic questions, tell an interesting fact about yourself, small talk about the weather. It’s not like they were writing the next great American novel. And honestly she could really write anything. Mr. Brown barely even reads their responses when they hand them in. He just looks them over to make sure they haven’t drawn any dicks or whatever before handing them back to be placed in individual envelopes. He’s more concerned with the aesthetics of their envelopes. He even gives them an entire class period and all the glitter they could ever need.
But still, she’s stuck.
Maggie groans in frustration and drops her notebook down on top of her face. She’s lying on her back on the floor, legs still propped up on her bed. Not the most comfortable writing position, but she has never been able to sit still while her brain is whirring. She has gone through probably fifteen sheets of paper, balled up in the corner of the room, taunting her with her inability to string a sentence together because she can’t stop thinking about a pretty girl. She’s absolutely haunted by Alex and her stupidly gorgeous brown eyes.
And that is decidedly not good. Because how is she supposed to talk to her now? Is Alex going to be able to tell that she’s Maggie’s Incredibly Sudden and Poorly Timed Gay Awakening?
She can’t even get the greeting down. The easiest part.
Dear Alex ?
Fine before, but what if Alex thinks that she’s trying to say that she’s dear to her?
Way too flirty. She needs to just dial it back a bit.
How’s it hangin?
Now that’s just stupid.
She rips yet another page of indiscriminate scribbles out of her notebook and briefly fantasizes about throwing the entire thing across the room. Instead she rolls over onto her stomach and reaches under her bed for the shoebox she uses to store the things she doesn’t want her parents to find. At the bottom of the box, carefully tucked under some slightly wrinkled comic books and a few stray Pokemon cards, are Alex’s letters.
She’s read the most recent one an embarrassing amount of times. She basically has it memorized at this point. When she’s sitting in class she even allows herself to daydream about sitting with Alex on the beach, talking about books and stars and crappy movies and anything and everything.
She’s a lot more smooth in her imagination.
Dear Alex, it will have to be.
Happy New Year to you as well!
Ah ha, Maggie thinks. There we go. Playing it cool.
Hanukkah sounds pretty awesome! I don’t know anyone around here that celebrates. I had to look up your fancy donuts. They look soooo good. I have to hear about your pyromaniac tendencies now though. You can’t just bring that up and not tell me!
I love reading too. We have a pretty small library here though, so I’ve pretty much gone through everything interesting. My grandpa got me a really nice collection of Sherlock Holmes stories though for Christmas. It used to be his so it’s kinda old. Which is good because it has that smell to it. You know the one.
I don’t know if I want to stay in Nebraska. My dad says I should just go to the police academy in Omaha after I get out of high school but I really want to go to college. I want to see what else is out there, you know? I’m pretty good at softball so maybe I can get a scholarship. Maybe I could go somewhere in California and you could show me around? You could teach me how to surf and I’ll even laugh at all of your terrible jokes.
Do you want to stay in California? I think I would.
Your friend Vicky sounds cool. I loved Poltergeist! It’s scary, but not scary you know? I dunno if I could pick a favorite… All the Halloween ones are pretty good. You’ve seen Alien, right? That’s one of my favorite movies ever!
Maggie is drawn back to thoughts about what it would be like to watch movies with Alex, like she used to with Eliza, curled up on the couch in the dark, bathed in the blue light flickering from the old television set in the living room. Would Alex grab at her arm after each jump scare?
Maggie frowns. Vicky would know. Vicky probably knows everything about Alex. They probably stay up all night talking at sleepovers. Alex probably has a lot of friends, she thinks, not just Vicky. After all, she’s smart and funny and really pretty.
And yet, Alex called them friends. Maggie had suggested it, yeah, sure. But it was Alex who confirmed it. Sweet, brilliant, beautiful Alex, who had painstakingly copied the night sky onto an envelope just so she could share her love of the stars with a girl miles away, wanted to be her friend. And that both thrills and scares her.
Maggie sighs and sits up on the floor, her back cracking in protest. She digs through her backpack, avoiding crinkled assignment sheets and the plastic wrap from yesterday’s sandwich that she should probably throw away, and pulls out an old polaroid camera and a small stack of photos.
The camera had been her father’s. She’d found it tucked in an old cardboard box in the back of the hall closet that she had stumbled upon while trying to wrestle her winter coat off of its hanger. She rarely uses it since the film is expensive and hard to come by. In fact, the only place that sells it is a small vintage store in Omaha she likes to visit when she needs to escape a family reunion. But Alex had sent her pictures of Midvale and she didn’t want to be rude and not send her something back. Besides, she can’t really think of a better use of the film than for Alex.
Although, now that she is looking at the pictures she’d taken earlier in the day, she’s starting to second guess herself. Blue Springs isn’t an especially attractive place to live (she’d purposefully avoided documenting some of the more dilapidated buildings around town). Her family’s house was nice enough though. She’d made sure to take one with her father’s cruiser parked out front. Compared to Alex’s family’s house though… Hopefully Alex isn’t kind of girl who cares about that sort of thing.
The last picture in the stack is the one she’s most nervous about. She’d agonized for hours over what to wear, eventually settling on her favorite blue flannel shirt.
Maggie lets out a frustrated sigh as she looks at the photo, her own face grinning back up at her.
She’s not unattractive. She knows this. Her mom is always telling her how pretty she is when she smiles. But as far as Maggie is concerned, that’s a highly biased assessment. And it doesn’t hold as much weight when it’s followed by a, “But you’d look so much more beautiful in a dress Margarita.”
There’s no helping it though. She has to send a picture. She can’t not. Not sending one in return would be worse than taking the chance that Alex will take one look at her and decide that maybe she’d rather keep her distance. Because then Alex would think she didn’t care. And Maggie does care. She cares more than she should after only a few months of sporadic correspondence via mail.
Maggie picks up her notebook, the unfinished letter to her pen pal staring up at her.
Here goes nothing.
I like that you sent pictures of your house. It’s really awesome to be able to picture it when you write about Midvale. Do you live on the beach? It’s beautiful.
And so are you, she thinks, biting her lip.
I took a few pictures for you too. Nothing really all that great to look at. But I did get a picture of some cows for you! Told you there were a lot of them. You have no idea what I went through to get this, okay. The minute the flash went off, they all came after me.
Anyway, Alex… I’m really glad we’re friends. I don’t have a lot of those.
So. Hope to hear from you soon.
She signs her name with a flourish, just like she has practiced, and looks once more at the letter, reading and re-reading. It’s missing something.
Maggie picks up her pen once more, taking a deep breath.
PS: I’m glad you sent a picture of yourself too. You look really nice.
She nods resolutely to herself as she carefully folds up the paper, tucking it and the polaroids into her backpack. She’s not entirely sure what to draw on the envelope yet, but she has a whole class period tomorrow to figure something out. She just really hopes she didn’t sound too desperate at the end of her letter. She said Alex looked nice though. Not cute, or beautiful, or drop-dead gorgeous or any of the other things that Maggie has thought about her in the past few days. Nice is safe. Girls tell each other they look nice all the time.
And okay. Maybe she shouldn’t have admitted that she’s basically a friendless loser. But it would have come out eventually, right? Alex would end up asking her about her other friends and she’d either have to lie or own up to it. She feels a pit forming in her stomach at the thought of lying to Alex.
No. Better to be upfront. Life is short. She has to be who she is. And if Alex doesn’t like who she is…?
She’ll cross that bridge when she comes to it.
The wait is agonizing.
Each English class, Maggie sits in the back corner hoping, praying , that Mr. Brown will hand her another letter. But with each day that passes, her worries grow.
Finally on Friday, three weeks after she sent her last letter to Alex, she receives a response. Alex has used nice blue stationary this time, Maggie notes as she opens the envelope with shaky fingers. She takes a deep breath as she unfolds the letter.
The customary Dear Maggie is absent.
Instead in its place is a sentence that makes Maggie’s heart soar.
Maggie, you didn’t tell me you had dimples!
She hides her smile behind her hand as she looks down at the rest of the letter.
You’re so cute! I can totally picture you reading Sherlock Holmes, trying to solve the cases before he does.
Okay, I’ll tell you the story about the fire, but you have to PROMISE to tell me something embarrassing too, okay? It’s not even that big of a deal. I was just working on a science fair project and I maybe set the tablecloth on fire. I put it out right away but my parents won’t let me forget it.
I definitely want to stay in California for college. UCSF and Stanford both have really good medical schools. And I don’t want to be too far away from my family. I can’t imagine not being able to go surfing with my dad, you know? But you should definitely think about coming out here! There’s lots of good criminal justice programs. And if you went to college here we could actually hang out!
Vicky is… Vicky. We were supposed to work on this history project this weekend. It’s this whole thing. But she bailed on me to go hang out with her new boyfriend.
I usually end up doing most of the work anyway, but at least she would be there. We had a fight. I don’t know. She’s always talking about kissing him and she says I’m jealous because I’ve never kissed anyone. But that just sounds gross. And I’m not jealous.
Anyway… Sorry if that’s weird to talk about.
I really loved looking at all your pictures. You weren’t kidding about the cows. How very brave of you, risking your life like that! My hero.
What are your weekend plans? Tell me something about you?
Maggie sat back in her chair, a permanent grin affixed to her face.
Alex thought she was cute.
She had prepared herself for every terrible scenario that her mind came up with, but she never imagined such a wonderful outcome.
And she knows it’s stupid, but she’s pretty sure she has never felt this good. Not when she made the softball team and her dad told her he was proud of her. Not when she finally beat her cousin Tony in Mario Kart. And not even when she won the science fair.
Maggie tucks the letter in her backpack, safe between the pages of a book.
By the time she gets home, her cheeks ache.
Alex turns fourteen on a sunny Saturday in April.
She gets up early, much earlier than normal. Earlier than either of her parents. They’re both home this weekend for the first time in what seems like months. Well, her mom has been home, but she hasn’t been particularly available . She has a firm ‘No Distractions’ policy while she’s writing her dissertation, which is a shame since Alex thinks her research is actually really fascinating. She even spent last summer interning at her mom’s lab.
Her dad has been traveling almost every weekend though. He had a really important paper published recently and has been invited to speak all around the country. Alex is thrilled that her dad is getting the recognition he deserves – he’s the smartest person she knows – but she can’t remember the last time they went surfing together or had family game night. But her mom promised she wouldn’t touch her laptop and her dad even turned down Yale to spend her birthday with her, so she’s on top of the world.
She almost ducks into their room to drag her father down to the water with her, but decides against it. He got in late last night and they both deserve the sleep. Instead she zips up her wetsuit, creeps out of the house with her surfboard, and heads down to the beach alone while the sun is just barely peeking out over the horizon. It’s cold, what with it still being April, but it’s invigorating. She never feels more alive than she does when she first hits the water.
It’s quiet, save for the ever-present squawking of the gulls. The only other souls on the beach are a lone runner and his dog. Alex bobs along on her board, letting the chilly sea air fill her lungs, as the sunrise paints the sky in yellows and oranges and reds. She’ll be joined by some of the regulars shortly, but for now it’s just her and the waves.
She stays out until her muscles ache and she’s no longer able to ignore her stomach growling. It must be almost nine now. She left her watch on her nightstand, but she can always kind of judge the time based on the number of tourists on the beach. They’d started to arrive about fifteen minutes ago, lugging their coolers and beach blankets, trying to scout out the best spot. Midvale has one warm Spring weekend and suddenly they’re everywhere. She’s pretty sure her parents should be up by now too. They’ve always been pretty early risers.
She wrings the excess water from her hair onto the sand before pulling it up into a messy ponytail, cursing her past self for forgetting a towel, and starts the short trek back through the dunes to the house. It’s tradition on her birthday for her dad to make waffles and she hopes there will be a plate or two waiting. Unfortunately, her mom is alone in the kitchen when she returns. Her mom looks up from the journal she’s reading and gives Alex a look. “Sweetie, you’re dripping all over the floor. We talked about this-“
Alex opens the fridge and pours herself a glass of orange juice, waving off her mother’s concern. “I know, I know, no wetsuits in the house! I’m sorry, I forgot.”
Her mom just shakes her head and sighs good naturedly. “Just mop it up once you’ve changed. Your dad should be back from the supermarket soon.”
Alex takes the stairs up to her room two at a time. A morning supermarket trip boded well for her birthday breakfast. That could mean fresh fruit compote on her waffles. Or even sausages. She can almost taste it.
She squeezes out the remaining water from her wetsuit into the bathtub and hangs it up to dry. It’s getting a little small and she kind of hopes that maybe she’ll get a new one as one of her birthday gifts. She’ll keep this one though. Just on the off chance that Maggie visits sometime and takes her up on the offer of surf lessons.
By the time she has taken a quick shower and changed, her dad has returned. The smell of breakfast is wafting through the air and it takes every bit of self-restraint she has not to run down the stairs. She doesn’t need to slip and fall and end up in the emergency room on her birthday.
Before she enters the kitchen, she steels herself. It’s inevitable that her parents will start up their usual off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday” the minute she shows her face and she likes to be fully prepared. She’s never been a huge fan. In fact, she usually tries to slowly slide under the table whenever waiters sing to her at restaurants, but it makes her parents happy. Today though, instead of the vocal stylings of Jeremiah and Eliza Danvers, she’s greeted by the sight of Clark Kent and a strange blonde girl sitting at the kitchen table. It isn’t that out of the ordinary for Clark to be there in general, especially on her birthday. She’s known him since she was little after all, and although she hasn’t seen him in a few years, he tries to keep in contact. Her parents are both only children and he’s the closest thing to a cousin she has. The kid is unexpected though. Did Lois and Clark suddenly have a teenage daughter that they never mentioned? That can’t be right. They’re much too young to have a kid that old.
There’s a strange tension in the room. Something she can’t quite place. But she takes a seat at the table and greets Clark with a wave. Her dad brings over a plate of waffles and sausage and sets it down in front of her, giving her a hug and a quick, “Happy birthday, Alex.” The mystery girl is already poking at a piece of fruit on her own plate. Alex rolls her eyes and spoons some strawberries onto her own plate. It’s like the girl hasn’t seen food before. Weirdo.
Once they’re all seated at the table, her dad clears his throat and turns to her. “So Alex, do you remember when Clark first came to visit us with the Kents?”
She nods, chewing slowly on a bite of her waffle. “Yeah, cause you wrote that paper on exobiology. The Nature one? You made him the glasses.”
“Right, exactly. He needed help adjusting to Earth and your mother and I were able to provide assistance.”
Alex looks curiously over at their mystery guest. Her parents aren’t usually so open about their work. So much of her dad’s work is super-classified. And she’s been told repeatedly not to mention Clark’s powers, so there’s definitely something up. She frowns. “So is that girl from another planet too? Are you going to help her like you helped Clark?”
“We are. Kara is actually Clark’s cousin.”
Alex’s eyes dart across the table to Clark in disbelief. He beams and pushes the frames up on his nose. “She just landed here a few days ago, but I can’t raise her. I just started at the Daily Planet… But your parents were kind enough to step in.”
Alex is baffled. “So what does that mean?” She has an inkling. A sickly feeling in the pit of her stomach. But maybe they’re just going to make her some lead-lined glasses and send her on her way to the Kents like Clark. That would be the best-case scenario.
Her father smiles at her. “She’s going to be living with us, Alex. She’ll be your new little sister.”
Alex is in disbelief. A new sister? Her parents are adopting another kid? Why hadn’t they talked to her about this?
“We all thought that she would adjust better to life on Earth if she had someone around her own age to help her,” her father explains, standing up from his chair.
Shoot. She didn’t realize she’d said that out loud.
She feels short of breath. Out of control. She likes her life. She likes that it’s just her and her mom and dad.
“But Clark adjusted just fine…”
Her dad sighs. “Clark came to Earth when he was a baby. He didn’t know any other life.”
Her fingernails cut into her palms as she clenches her fists, trying to keep her breath steady. “But… My birthday? We’re going to the movies…”
He looks tired. More tired than she has ever seen him. Even when he and her mom stay down in their lab until really late at night. He also looks more disappointed in her than he’s ever been. The shame burns, heavy in her chest.
He squeezes her shoulder as he passes by to collect plates. “We’re going to have to postpone the festivities for a few days… I realize this is a lot to ask of you, Alex, but I know you’re going to be the best big sister.”
She manages a small smile. This means a lot to her dad clearly. And if it means a lot to him… Well, then it means a lot to her as well. And she doesn’t want to let him down.
Her mom, who has been talking softly to Kara, looks over in her direction. “Alex, why don’t you take Kara upstairs and show her your room? She’s going to be sharing with you. Your father and I need to talk to Clark about what she’ll need.”
Alex stands stiffly from her chair and motions for Kara to follow her up the stairs. She ushers Kara into her room. “Well. Here it is.”
Kara wanders around like a wide-eyed baby deer, examining Alex’s bookshelf and the surfing trophies on display. Alex quickly shoves the clothes on the floor under her bed and busies herself with straightening her CDs. She’s not really concerned about what Kara thinks of her room, she just doesn’t really want to make conversation.
“You have a lot of books.” Kara’s voice is soft. Tentative. Sad. She runs her fingers along each spine.
Alex shrugs. “I like to read.”
Kara stops in front of Alex’s desk, peering at a half-finished letter. “You write too.”
Alex grunts in response. This girl really can’t take a hint. She’s asked about almost everything in her room. Even her stereo. Did they not have music on Krypton or something?
“Is this Maggie? You write to her a lot.”
Alex whips around. The other girl has taken the picture of Maggie off of her bulletin board and is studying it. Alex rips it out of Kara’s hands. “Don’t touch those!”
Kara flinches, covering her ears with her hands. “I’m sorry…”
“I just. I can’t – I can’t deal with this right now.” Alex grabs her notebook and pen off of her desk and rushes downstairs and out the front door, past her father and Clark, who yell after her.
She ends up back at the beach.
There’s a small cove about a mile from her house. The shore is pretty rocky there, so it doesn’t get too crowded. She goes there sometimes to listen to music or read when she’s had a frustrating day at school.
Today she’s there because she’s having the worst birthday of her life. Her parents promised they’d spend the day with her. Her mom had said they could do anything she wanted – a big party, a beach bonfire, even Disneyland , but all she wanted was to spend time with them. It’s just not fair.
And it’s not like she can even talk to anyone about this. She and Vicky aren’t on speaking terms right now and normally she would go to her dad, but… Well. That isn’t an option, judging by the way he’d called after her as she left the house.
She wishes Maggie lived closer. She takes the picture of her friend out of her notebook and smooths out the crinkle in the corner from where she had grabbed it from Kara. Maggie would listen. She’d look at her with her kind eyes and her sweet dimpled smile and she’d tell her it’s going to be okay. That she’s not being replaced.
They’d been writing more frequently since they exchanged home addresses. Alex had grown impatient waiting for their teachers and asked Maggie if she wouldn’t mind bypassing them entirely so that they could keep up their correspondence even after the school year ended. She’d been a little nervous about it. In the back of her mind, she always worried that maybe Maggie was only still writing to her out of obligation. This was an English project after all. But to her great relief, Maggie had responded immediately with a letter sent to her parents’ house.
She opens her notebook to a fresh page and starts to write.
I’m not really sure how to start this. It’s been kind of a really weird day. I have a sister now I guess. That’s probably not at all what you expected to hear from me. I know I just sent you a letter a couple days ago but hopefully you won’t mind another? I just need someone to talk to…
Anyway… This girl – she’s the cousin of a family friend.. Her parents died in a really bad accident and she can’t stay with him so my parents are adopting her. But she’s so weird. She asks questions about everything and touches all of my stuff. It’s like she’s from a different planet. She just showed up during breakfast this morning.
Oh I forgot if I mentioned before.... It’s my birthday today. So, happy birthday to me.
Alex stops writing briefly to wipe the tears from her eyes with the sleeve of her sweater. She doesn’t need to be crying onto Maggie’s letter. What would she think of that?
I know I’m probably just being dramatic and overreacting but it just sucks. We were supposed to go see 2001: A Space Odyssey. They’re doing a special showing at the movie theatre. With like commentary about the science and everything. And I haven’t seen them in a while because my dad travels a lot. I’ve just really been looking forward to it. Even if it’s not even a big thing.
I just. I wish you were here.
I don’t know what else to say.
I just. Needed to say something.
She gets a reply a few days later.
It’s the quickest turn-around they’ve had.
The envelope is colorfully decorated with balloons and a picture of a cake. Maggie isn’t really an artist, but Alex loves her doodles anyway. The letter too has a multicolored border with the words HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALEX scrawled across the top in Maggie’s now-familiar handwriting.
I’m so sorry that your birthday plans didn’t work out! I wish I could have been there because you deserve to have the best day ever. And because I really want to give you a hug. It must be really hard to suddenly have a sister when you’ve been an only child your whole life. I don’t have any siblings either and I think you’re handling it a lot better than I would.
That really sucks that you didn’t get to see the movie. That sounds right up your alley.
Listen, I had kind of a silly idea. I thought maybe like. I could tell you what I’d take you to do on your birthday if I could be there. I did a lot of research about Midvale and everything.
So uh. Okay. First we’d go get birthday ice cream, even though I can’t really eat ice cream because I’m lactose intolerant. But I remember you saying how mint chip was your favorite and it’s your birthday, so we’d go anyway. And then we would go rent a really terrible b-movie and make a cool pillow fort to watch it in. And of course we’d talk through the whole movie about how inaccurate it is.
And then we’d go to the beach and have a picnic. I’d cook for you and everything. And my parents say I’m a really great cook, so you know it’d be delicious. You’ll have to tell me what your favorite food is so I can practice!
So yeah. Maybe someday we can actually do that. Like. Next year maybe?
I did get you a little birthday gift. It’s nothing special, just something I saw that I thought you might like.
Happy birthday, Alex.
Tucked behind the letter is a woven bracelet, the different shades of blue coming together to form a wave. She’s not sure what she did to deserve a friend like Maggie. The other girl continuously surprises her with her thoughtfulness. And when Alex feels tears prick at her eyes, it isn’t out of frustration or loneliness or because she feels replaced.
It’s because her heart feels full.
Yeah so wow this took longer than I thought. Anyway I just want to thank all of you that have been reading and enjoying this. Your comments inspire me to continue writing and improving!
We're getting there. Ever so slowly. Turns out this is going to be way longer than 7 chapters. Oops. Hope you all enjoy!
Thanks to JustJessHere for being an absolutely lovely beta and second set of eyes.
Maggie frets about the letter for days after sending it.
The minute she slipped the envelope in the rusty old mailbox on her way home from school, she began second guessing herself. She even briefly entertained waiting around for the mail carrier to come so she could maybe get the letter back. Now, three days later, she’s drowning in self doubt. Her pen pal had written to her to talk about her feelings and she responded by basically asking the girl out on a date. A fictional date that will never ever happen, but a date nonetheless. How stupid could she be?
Her brain has really been working overtime lately. Since her Big Gay Realization, it has been constantly recontextualizing and reanalyzing every single move she has ever made.
Like how she has always thought that she has never had a crush before. That’s so incredibly wrong. She sat through three consecutive showings of Miss Congeniality one weekend when her parents were both working and it certainly wasn’t just for the plot.
And just the other day she was watching Alias when it hit her that she was only really watching it because of how hot Sydney Bristow looks when she’s punching someone. Which, great. That’s a fine thought to have. Totally natural.
But the problem isn’t about the fact that she’s gay. God, it would be so much easier if it were just about her newly discovered lesbianism. No. The problem is that she has actual feelings for Alex. Real, genuine feelings.
So now instead of her just realizing that she’s attracted to women, her brain is going the extra mile and making her think about how Alex would make a pretty cute CIA agent too - running around the world with all kinds of super cool gadgets, kicking butt and taking names. And the only picture she has seen of Alex is the one where Alex is holding her surfboard, but Maggie really thinks she’d look even better in a dress with a thigh holster . Wow.
Maggie shakes her head as if it were an etch-a-sketch and the motion would wash away any inappropriate thoughts of her best friend. Alex absolutely cannot know. She can’t find out this way. When Maggie tells her - if she tells her - she wants it to be special. And hopefully… Someday… Face to face.
And Maggie hates that she’s so worried, because she knows Alex. She knows that Alex won’t think her letter is lame or that she’s overstepping, because she’s Alex. Kind, perfect Alex. Alex who deserves the world and Maggie wants to give it to her.
But the longer it takes for her to get a response, the more her brain starts to go back over each and every word she wrote. What if she was too obvious about her feelings? What if her initial worries were right and Alex really does think Maggie was asking her out on a date? Because she wasn’t. Well. Okay, Maggie has to admit that maybe she would have liked it to be a date if they were actually in the same physical place, but since they aren’t, it totally wasn’t.
But no. Maggie can’t start thinking like that again. Alex is her best friend. She’ll see the bracelet as a simple birthday gift from her best friend. Not jewelry from a girl that’s head over heels for someone she’s never met.
She’s thought about asking Alex if she wants to exchange e-mail addresses dozens of times. Then they’d be able to talk more frequently. But she doesn’t know if Alex even has one. She’s pretty sure Alex’s parents probably have computers at home, they’re scientists after all. But maybe they’re super strict and don’t want her talking to strangers online… And anyway, it’s not like she herself has that much access to a computer at home. Her family has one sure, but it’s kind of old. Like. It’s 2003 and they still have DSL old. It’s ridiculous.
Plus her dad locks it in the spare room that he uses as his office and only lets her use it for school work. And he usually likes to hover around while she’s working. So. Kind of not ideal. There’s always the library, but… If she’s being honest, she kind of prefers actually sending physical letters. There’s something special about it.
It actually takes work and thought. And… Well… It’s infinitely more romantic.
Luckily for Maggie, she only has to wait about a week to get a response from Alex. And that’s not so bad, even though it felt more like six.
The letter is waiting in the mailbox for her when she gets home from school, her name and address on the front in Alex’s nice, bold handwriting.
She’s not embarrassed at how gleefully she runs with the letter upstairs.
She flops down on her bed and kicks her shoes off, getting herself comfortable amongst her pillows. She carefully tears open the envelope and pulls out the letter inside.
Her eye is immediately drawn to the bottom of the page, where Alex has drawn a small doodle of what looks like herself and Maggie enjoying slices of birthday cake. Maggie can tell it’s her because Alex has even detailed her dimples.
Can you just hop on a plane right now? Because that sounds like the most perfect birthday ever.
Thank you so much for the bracelet. I’m wearing it right now. I like having it because I guess it’s like, a reminder that even when things suck here, I always have you.
You’re my best friend, Maggie. I feel more comfortable talking to you than anyone else. I know that sounds pretty weird but it’s true.
And I’m really glad we don’t have to stop writing to each other this summer. I’m going to have absolutely nothing to do so expect to hear from me pretty much all the time.
Remember how I was telling you about our summer road trip in my last letter? We were finally going to go to Yosemite? Well. That’s not happening. Kara can’t sit in a car for more than like 20 minutes so my parents decided just to cancel the whole thing.
I know we haven’t talked about this but… well… I asked them if I could go see you instead. But. They said no. I’m supposed to spend this summer helping Kara get ready to go to school next year. She was home schooled before this and all.
And well, I’m sorry if that wasn’t okay. I just figured that well… maybe you’d want to see me too? I guess it doesn’t matter since it’s never gonna happen anytime soon.
Anyway I just wanted to thank you again for being so amazing.
Maggie sighs contentedly. She really has to do something about this butterfly problem. She’s thrilled that Alex is just as excited to talk to her as she is to talk to Alex. And she loved the bracelet! Maggie is barely 5’3” and she frequently has to ask her father to reach things off of shelves but right at this moment she feels ten feet tall.
And Alex wants to spend the summer with her! Maggie knows it isn’t going to happen, Alex said so herself, but she can’t help but daydream. If she’s being honest, Alex has starred in most of her daydreams since she received her picture. And now that she’s come to terms with the fact that she is most definitely gay, they’ve only gotten more frequent.
Last week when she was sitting in math class trying to understand what her teacher was saying, she drifted off into a twenty minute fantasy about Alex offering to be her lab partner, only to be snapped back into reality by the kid behind her throwing a wad of rolled up paper at her head. They’d both gotten detention. Tommy for throwing things, and Maggie for not paying attention (she’d spent that detention period thinking about Alex too).
And Maggie has definitely thought about what it would be like to spend a romantic, lazy summer day at the beach with her best friend.
Usually her daydreams start out with Maggie lounging on a blanket, sunbathing, or sitting in a beach chair, a cold drink by her side and a book in her hand. Sometimes Dream Alex is lying with her on the blanket, one arm curled around her and her lips against her collarbone. Other times Alex is out on the water, cutting through waves with expert skill. Maggie doesn’t know too much about surfing, but she always imagines Alex doing the kind of stuff she saw in Blue Crush.
Today, Dream Alex has stepped out of the ocean, her board under one arm. She’s waving at Maggie with the other, the bracelet Maggie gave her wrapped around her wrist. Dream Alex shakes out her hair slowly, like they do in those shampoo commercials, and walks towards Maggie along the beach. She’s tall and so, so incredibly beautiful, with her sun-kissed skin gleaming. Maggie exhales deeply, sinking deeper into her fantasy of running her hands along Alex’s toned abs and leaning in for a kiss and-
No. Nope. Noooo. She cannot be thinking those thoughts right now.
She smacks herself in the face lightly. Pull yourself together, Rodas, honestly. This is absolutely not the time or place for that. Alex is having a rough time and she needs to be figuring out a way to cheer her up, not fantasizing about her like some kind of creepy, hormonal teenage boy.
She sits up on her bed, gathering her hair up into a messy bun with the hair tie around her wrist. She chews on her pen, re-reading Alex’s letter. The last few weeks Alex has just seemed so sad. Usually her letters have stories of her weekend adventures or a fun science fact she learned or recommendations for books she’s read. But none of that lately. Judging by how resigned Alex was about their vacation being cancelled, Maggie suspects that being disappointed is becoming the norm.
She just wants Alex to know how much she means to her. She wants Alex to know that she’s special. Because Maggie knows that she isn’t hearing that as much as she should be at home. And the very thought of that makes Maggie’s heart ache.
Are you kidding? I totally want to actually hang out with you! We’re best friends. That means you’re basically stuck with me. Which means someday soon we’re definitely doing to have the best summer together.
But maybe not in Blue Springs? I mean, yeah I know I painted a pretty impressive picture. All those cows and corn and all that. But there’s not really that much to do here during the summer. We’ve got a summer fair which is okay if you’re into fried butter and rigged carnival games, but that’s about it.
How about someplace more adventurous? Like… Barcelona!
I’ve never been, but I had to do a project on Spain a couple of years ago and it looks beautiful. Definitely on my list of places I’d love to go someday.
What about you? Let’s say, we get a whole summer to travel and do whatever. No little sisters or strict parents or anything. Just you and me. I mean obviously we’d have to make up your Yosemite trip. But is there anywhere else you’ve wanted to go?
I’m really sorry things are so weird around your house right now. But Kara is pretty lucky to have a big sister like you.
And well, um… Okay I know this is pretty sappy but I just want you to know… You never have to thank me, okay? I’m always here to talk. Because Alex, you deserve to be happy. You deserve to live a full, happy life.
Anyway, I’m really glad we exchanged addresses too. I have to go visit my grandparents for two weeks in July for my birthday and I’m going to be bored out of my mind. So don’t be surprised if you get like five letters in a row!
Your best friend,
She finishes her signature with a flair before tearing the page out of her notebook and folding it carefully. She stuffs it into one of the blue envelopes she’d bought after Alex had admitted blue was her favorite color and neatly prints Alex’s name on the envelope, followed by her address, copied from where Maggie had written it on the inside cover of her notebook.
She licks the envelope and sticks it in her backpack. She’ll pick up some stamps on her way to school in the morning and send it off.
Summer had really crept up on her. Usually Maggie dreads the last half of the school year. It’s always packed with assignments and she’s never been very good at planning ahead, so she’s usually stuck with a bunch of all-nighters the last few weeks.
This year though, she’d mentioned off-hand to Alex that she felt a little overwhelmed by all of the essays and finals her teachers had assigned and the other girl had thrown herself into creating a study schedule for her. It had been color coded and she had even included blocks of time for “Reading for Pleasure” and “Writing to Your Best Friend”. Then the week before finals, Alex had sent her a small package labeled “Maggie’s Finals Survival Kit” which included a selection of her favorite snacks. She had mentioned off-hand that she really loved peanut butter filled pretzels once in a letter a few months ago, but she can’t believe that Alex actually remembered and even found her favorite brand. Maggie hates to admit it, but she might have swooned.
She’s just lucky she always grabs her mail quickly out of the mailbox before either of her parents are home from work. She hates when they ask her about her personal life. They’re always so nosy.
She feels kind of bad, but she’s almost not looking forward to going to Omaha next week. It’s not that she doesn’t want to be there. She really does. She loves her family. She loves the way her Grandfather’s hugs smell of spice and tobacco and she loves beating her cousins at old N64 games in the living room while stuffing themselves with freshly baked cookies. She even loves her Uncle Marco’s terrible dad jokes.
They can just be a lot sometimes. Especially because it’s right around her birthday. So even though she’s going to get early birthday gifts, she’ll also be the center of attention. While that’s perfectly fine for a few days, two weeks of it is kind of intense.
And she knows she’s being a little bit pathetic, but two weeks is also long time to be without a letter from Alex. She probably shouldn’t have mentioned that to the other girl in the last letter she sent but… Oh well. Too late now.
Other than the overhanging dread about her family vacation though, she’s feeling pretty great.
She’d just gotten out of her last class of the semester and thanks to Alex’s study tips, she’d gotten an A on all but one of her finals, and even a B+ is nothing to scoff at. She usually gets pretty good grades, she’s incredibly smart after all, but she usually has to spend hours and hours studying by re-reading her books and her notes. She’d initially laughed at Alex’s methods of rhymes and flashcards, but she really owes her an apology— and a hug.
Her parents aren’t home when she finally gets back to Blue Springs after a long, sweaty walk. But they never are, so she really isn’t surprised. Her dad always works late at the station and lately her mom has had to pick up a few extra shifts. They haven’t said anything to her, but she hears her parents arguing in the kitchen sometimes when they think she’s asleep, and she knows they worry about money.
She checks the mailbox, as has become habit, and to her great pleasure, she finds a lumpy manilla bubble mailer. She throws the rest of the mail - mostly bills - onto the kitchen table and rummages through the freezer, her package tucked under her arm. It’s sweltering in their small house and she’s pretty sure she stashed a juice pouch in there last week... And ah ha! There it is, tucked in the back behind a slightly beaten up box of waffles.
She loves her father. She really does. But he’s an absolute control freak about the air conditioning. She’s not allowed to turn it on until mid July, so she’ll have to make do with the ceiling fans and her frozen treats.
She sits at the kitchen table and slices off the top of the juice pouch, digging into it with a spoon. In between bites, she eagerly tears open the package. Inside is one folded piece of paper and a stack of smaller envelopes of varying size. Curious. On each of the envelopes, Alex has written a number, one through fourteen.
She unfolds the larger paper to reveal a letter.
I really hope you’re reading this before opening the smaller envelopes. If not, shame on you!!!
I’m just kidding. It’s totally fine if you did, but it kind of defeats the purpose of the package right?
Okay, so! First of all, I’m sorry this took a little longer to send than usual. It took a lot of prep work and I had to study for exams and stuff… But you knew that already! I’m not sure if you’ll get this before or after your science test but if not, just remember:
Do like an otter, add acid to water!
And: King Philip Came Over For Good Soup = Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genis, Species!
But seriously, Maggie, you’ve got this. You’re gonna do great. I believe in you.
Second of all. I totally envy you not having any siblings. Kara has been driving me up the wall. She doesn’t even have anywhere to go, like she’s not in school yet. But she always manages to get to the bathroom before me and takes FOREVER. Then I’m stuck with no hot water for my showers and sometimes I don’t even have time to blow dry my hair. Ugh!
Plus I got invited to this beginning of summer bonfire and my parents are only letting me go if I take Kara along. I guess it’s selfish of me but like... I just feel like I never have anything that’s mine anymore.
Anyway. By now you’re probably really curious about the package, huh? The suspense!
Well, I know you said you were going to miss me while you’re in Omaha and it seemed like you really liked the study package so… This is your Family Vacation Survival Kit!
No snacks this time, but from what you’ve told me about your grandparents you’ll be pretty well fed. If they end up trying to make you eat more than you can handle, please feel free to stick the leftovers in a box and ship them to me.
So since you’re going to be gone for two weeks I’ve included two weeks worth of letters for you to open. That way, it’ll almost be like we’re spending summer break together, right?
I really hope that’s not like. Overstepping or anything.
Anyway, I really hope to hear from your before you leave, but if not... That’s okay too. I’d totally understand. I hope you have a really great time and I want to hear all about it when you get back.
Your best friend,
PS: I’ll miss you too.
Maggie doesn’t realize she’s crying until a tear falls onto the page. She quickly wipes at her eyes with a trembling hand. She often wishes she could give Alex a hug, but today she really wants to just hold her and never let go, because this is the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for her. She’s not quite sure how she got so lucky as to have been randomly assigned the most perfect girl as her penpal.
But oh Alex.
It’s subtle, but it’s there. That self-doubt bleeding out from between the lines. That feeling of not being good enough. Maggie knows that it’s hypocritical, because she too always worries she’s overstepping— that one day Alex will realize that writing to her isn’t worth her time— but it breaks her heart to hear that from her friend.
Alex really doesn’t know how much she matters. That she isn’t an afterthought. That of course Maggie will write to her before she leaves. Of course. She feels white hot anger surging through her at whoever made Alex feel like she doesn’t mean anything.
Because to Maggie, even though they’ve only known each other for a short time, she’s everything, and she’ll write to her every day if that’s what it takes.
It’s about a two hour drive from Blue Springs to Omaha, but her dad still insists on leaving before the crack of dawn. He says it’s because there will be traffic, but Maggie’s pretty sure it’s just because he’s got something against a good night’s rest.
Maggie isn’t really one of those people that hates mornings in general - usually she loves being up early to get a few hours to herself - but it ended up being a really late night and now she’s feeling a bit like an extra from Night of the Living Dead .
Perhaps it had been ill advised, but she really wanted to send Alex a care package in return which meant waiting until her parents were asleep so that she could slip out of her window to drop it off in the mailbox without them noticing. Then she’d spent so much time working on that project that she had completely neglected to pack for her trip, so she had to scramble at the last minute. So, needless to say, she’s a little bit out of it. She’d even almost nearly forgotten to pack her notebook.
She doesn’t get a moment to herself until after dinner.
The minute she walks in the door of her grandparents’ house she is swept up into hug after hug after hug, interspersed with some cheek pinching and a dash of “Look how much you’ve grown!” By the time 9 o’clock rolls around and they’re all sitting around the long dining room table telling stories, she’s about ready to keel over from exhaustion.
Luckily her dad takes pity on her and sends her up to one of the guest rooms to unpack her stuff and turn in. Most of her family lives in Omaha, so she and her parents are the only ones officially staying over - although the chances of finding a few of her cousins sleeping on the couch in the morning is highly likely.
She’s just putting all of her clothes in the dresser when she hears a soft knock on the door frame. She hides the package of Alex’s letters along with her notebook underneath her jeans and whirls around only to find -
“The one and only, kid!”
Maggie launches herself into the open arms of her favorite aunt and allows herself to be spun around.
“I didn’t think you’d be here,” she mumbles into the other woman’s shoulder.
“Of course I’m here. You didn’t think I’d miss seeing my favorite niece, did you?” Her aunt ruffles her hair and then claps both hands on her shoulders to get a better look at her, “You’re getting so old! Geez, someday you might even be able to reach the top shelf.”
Maggie wrinkles her nose up. “Ugh I take it back, I don’t want to see you after all.”
Her aunt laughs, bright and cheerful, moving around Maggie to drop her bag onto the floor.
Maggie really has missed her. Her mom’s youngest sister lived in Blue Springs up until she went to college at the University of Nebraska, Omaha - the first in their family - a few years ago. She wasn’t that much older than Maggie. There was less than ten years between them, so she had always been Maggie’s favorite babysitter. She was the only one who let her stay up late to watch tv when her parents both had late nights at work.
She hops up onto the bed, shuffling around until her back is up against the wall. “Mom said after you graduated you’d probably go live with your boyfriend and he’s in St. Louis, right? That’s what she said last time you called.”
Her aunt rolls her eyes and motions for Maggie to move over so she can join her. “First of all, Scott and I broke up. So that’s whatever. Second of all, family comes first.”
Maggie leans her head down onto her aunts shoulder. “I’m sorry, that really sucks.”
Her aunt throws an arm around her shoulder and squeezes it. “It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Maggie is silent for a moment. “How did you know?”
“How did I know what?”
“That it wasn’t meant to be. How did you know?”
Her aunt turns to look at her, cocking her head to the side. “I dunno it just didn’t feel right. Is everything ok, Mags?”
She shrugs. “Yeah. Yeah no I was just... I was just curious is all.”
Her aunt just stares at her for a long while. Maggie averts her eyes, instead choosing to study the patterns on the quilt below. She looks back up when she feels her aunt pat her on the knee.
“Okay. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. Just know I’m always here for you, okay kid?”
Maggie nods. “Thanks, Maria.”
“Of course. So what do you say we sneak downstairs, raid the fridge, and I teach you how to play poker?”
Maggie barks out a laugh. “Sounds great to me.”
That night, when she’s sure that her aunt is fast asleep, Maggie flips her comforter up over her head and pulls out a flashlight and the first letter from Alex’s care package. She feels a bit like a child again, trying to avoid getting caught reading Harry Potter after her bedtime.
The envelope is thin and plain, the only distinguishing mark on the outside being the number one. She carefully opens it, trying not to make too much noise. Inside the envelope is a small note that reads:
Good job following directions! - Alex
Maggie smiles. Of course. So very Alex. She sets the note aside and pulls out the other item tucked inside - a small wallet sized photo of a grinning Alex holding up a sign that says ‘ Wish you were here!’
She tucks the photo into her notebook and slides it back into its hiding place.
She lays down, arms propped up behind her head, and sighs contentedly.
Alex? Alex feels right.
Aaaand we're back. This took a little bit longer than I'd hoped, but it's here. A special shoutout to TaFuilLiom for listening to my frustrated ramblings about this chapter.
Alex frowns at the black fiberglass cast covering her left arm. She knew taking Kara to the bonfire was a bad idea. It wouldn’t have been so bad if she had just listened to Alex and sat down and just looked at birds or whatever weird thing she was into. But no. Of course there had to be a car accident. And of course Kara had to go and try to save the day like her cousin. And of course Alex got hurt as a result. Because life really isn’t fair.
Her mother comes back into the kitchen with a bottle of Tylenol and hands her two pills and a glass of water. “Your father talked to Kara about hiding her powers again.”
Alex takes a large gulp of water to swallow the pain reliever and continues to stare down at the table. What is she supposed to say? I told you so? Because that would go over really well. Then not only would she not be allowed to go out without bringing Kara along, she wouldn’t be allowed to go at all.
She picks at a dried maple syrup droplet on the table from the morning’s pancake breakfast and tries to ignore her mother’s expectant stare.
Her mother sighs loudly and Alex tries not to roll her eyes. “Alexandra, we talked about this.”
“Yeah, I know. I don’t need the lecture again,” she mumbles.
“You clearly don’t know Alexandra.” Her mother sits down at the table across from her and tries to meet her gaze. “If you did, you would have kept an eye on your sister like I asked you to.”
A white hot rage courses through her. She had been watching Kara. But she doesn’t have super speed. She couldn’t have stopped Kara if she tried. And it's not like she could have expected the car to explode, sending shrapnel hurtling her way. Honestly, what did her mom really expect her to do?
But instead of trying to pick that fight she takes a deep breath.
She counts down from ten, just like Maggie suggested, opening her clenched fists and imagining the anger flowing out of her fingertips.
“May I be excused? I have summer reading.”
Her mother purses her lips and relents. “Yes. We’ll talk about this more when your father gets back from the lab.”
Alex nods tersely and gathers her bag, trudging up the stairs to the room she now shares with her new sister. Much to her chagrin, Kara is already up there, lounging on her stomach on her bed.
Alex tosses her things on the floor by her own bed. “How much did you hear?”
The silence is deafening. Kara doesn’t even look up at her.
Alex rolls her eyes. “I know you were listening. You just love to eavesdrop don’t you.”
“I can’t help the fact that I’m super,” Kara says snidely, flipping the page in whatever magazine she’s reading. Some article about her stupid hero cousin probably. It’s not enough that she’s got Superman posters hung up all over their bedroom.
“You really don’t care what happens to us do you?” Alex sneers, “Everyone saw you jump up onto that car! Human kids can't just rip off car doors! You're going to get us all in trouble.”
She taps her foot expectantly, even though she knows she won't be getting anything out of the Kryptonian. And indeed, Kara doesn’t say a word, just rolls her eyes in exasperation.
“You only care about yourself.” Alex grabs her notebook and the last letter from Maggie’s summer care package and leaves, slamming the door behind her.
Her first thought is to head down to the beach, but who knows if any of the kids from school are still there. She looks down at her fractured arm. She doesn’t want their pity.
Instead, she hoists herself up onto the roof from the upstairs patio as best she can with one arm and some assistance from the deck furniture. If she falls, it’ll just be another cast to add to her growing collection. And maybe then it would be serious enough for her parents to care.
She carefully pries open the envelope, unfolds the letter inside, and feels a wave of comfort wash over her, just from seeing Maggie’s now-familiar scrawl.
It’s short but sweet, telling Alex that she hoped she enjoyed the care package. And even though Maggie didn’t write much, it certainly does the trick of brightening her day. Besides, she had also started to run out of interesting stories when she was writing the letters for Maggie’s own summer care package, so she can excuse the brevity.
She taps her pen onto a blank page of her notebook, testing the ink flow, and begins to craft her response.
Thank you so much for the care package. It really has made the last few weeks so much better. And trust me, I really needed the pick-me-up today.
I broke my arm. Well… Kara broke it. Sort of. It’s a really long story. She’s just. So inconsiderate. Like she doesn’t think before she acts and it gets people hurt and it’s just so FRUSTRATING, you know? So I’ve got a cast on and everything. I wish you could sign it or something.
My mom even gave me this whole lecture like… “You should have been watching your sister, Alex!” But it’s like, I was watching her. I didn’t even want to bring her to the beach anyway, but my parents said I couldn’t go unless I took Kara. And Kara didn’t even want to go!
So basically I can’t win.
I can’t wait until school starts back up so that maybe she can make some friends and stop following me around.
Anyway. I hope you’re having a good time in Omaha. I want to hear all about it when you get back.
PS: I know you said Nebraska is boring but I’d rather be watching grass grow with you than be here right now.
Her parents spend the two weeks before the first day of school fussing over Kara. They had to make sure that she had comfortable clothing and a new backpack and all of her books. After all, she’d be starting the seventh grade and that’s a big deal. Apparently ninth grade isn’t. Or at least that’s what it feels like. It’s not like she got a whole new wardrobe or anything.
Her father pulls her aside that morning, before they get on the bus. “Hey kiddo, can I talk to you for a minute?”
Alex nods. He pulls a small wrapped package from behind his back and hands it to her. “I know you’re feeling a little left out and I wanted to get you something a little special.”
Her fingers shake as she carefully tears the brown paper covering what she assumes to be some kind of book. She traces her name across the leather cover, clearly handmade. Alex Danvers - not Alexandra. He always remembered. She flips through the lined pages, blank and full of promise, before closing it and holding it tightly to her chest.
“Dad…” Her words are watery. “Thank you.”
He holds out his arms and she launches herself into his embrace, letting the smell of his cologne envelop her.
“I’m proud of you Alex.” He pulls away and lifts her chin, wiping the silent tears from her cheeks. “I know we’ve asked a lot of you lately, but you’ve handled it so well.”
Alex shrugs. That’s really an understatement. Her entire life has been flipped upside-down and she’s just been trying to stay afloat. And truthfully she doesn’t blame her parents. Not really. She gets it. She remembers getting new toys for Hanukkah when she was a kid. The old ones would sit on her shelf, gathering dust, only taken down and used once in a blue moon.
She holds the journal tightly to her chest as she watches her father make sure Kara’s glasses are still fitting properly and just hopes she won’t be forgotten.
Kara is even more insufferable at school than she is at home.
She’s two years behind Alex, but her parents were able to convince the school administrators that she should be placed in Alex’s advanced science and math courses. So not only does Alex have to share a bathroom with an alien, she has to deal with Kara’s constant showing off in class as well. The teachers may be impressed by the fact that Kara can do multivariate calculus in the seventh grade, but the rest of the students aren’t as as charmed.
Alex certainly isn’t.
Particularly not in their Math class where she was unable to answer a question and was met with Kara’s signature spiteful All Humans Are Idiots look that she was becoming incredibly familiar with.
She did however get a great deal of satisfaction out of Jason shooting a spitball at the back of Kara’s head.
Despite Kara showing her up in class, she still tells Kara that she can sit with her and her friends during lunch. She promised her dad she’d look out for her after all.
So instead of trying to ditch the young Kryptonian, she directs Kara to their table where Vicky is already examining her sandwich with disdain. Vicky greets her with a quick hug over the table and Alex quickly introduces her new sister. Thankfully Vicky missed the summer bonfire and isn’t in her advanced classes so she hasn’t been there to witness Alex’s humiliation first hand. Maybe she’ll get lucky and Kara will be normal during lunch and won’t alienate her from her peers even more than she already has.
“So you’ve clearly had an eventful summer.” Vicky picks at her fries on her lunch tray and eyes Alex’s cast.
She’s been so hopeful the cast would be gone by the time school started, but no such luck. She’s stuck with it for another two weeks and she’s already had to repeat the story a thousand times today. Not the real one of course, but the slightly altered one she’d gone over ten times with her parents.
She’s about to launch into the story yet again when she’s interrupted by Kara.
“Alex?” She says, holding up a package of Gushers, “What does this consist of?”
Kara doesn’t need to eat as a general rule - apparently Kryptonians don’t require it since they get their energy from the sun - but food was one of the few things on Earth she had taken an immediate liking to. Unfortunately for Alex, she also insists on knowing everything about whatever she’s eating, making mealtimes a bit of a chore.
She cringes, making a quick note to go over everything she packs in their lunches with Kara before they leave for school. How was she supposed to explain to her friends why her new sister had no concept of what gummy snacks were? “It’s… Like. A fruit flavored… Thing.”
Kara frowns at the package, but pops a few Gushers in her mouth anyway, smiling happily at the sweet taste.
The entire time, Vicky is staring at the two of them like they’d both grown two heads. “Where did you say she was from?”
“Uh, she was homeschooled before this.” Alex fiddles with the wrapper of a granola bar. “One of those like. Really traditional places.”
"What like... The Amish?"
Vicky doesn't seem convinced and Alex shoots Kara a look, begging her to play along.
“My people are incredibly advanced.” Kara scoffs at the cover story, ignoring Alex’s glare. “Even the higher Mathematics courses here are easy.”
Alex seethes, shoving her half-eaten lunch back into the bag. Kara eyes it greedily, her own lunch long devoured, and Alex pushes it over to her. “Here. Take it. I’m not hungry anymore.” She stands from the lunch table, shouldering her backpack. “I’m going to the library. I’ll see you after class, Kara. You’re in Room 106 after lunch.”
Kara nods distractedly, crumbs from Alex’s abandoned PB&J falling from her lips.
Vicky is hot on her heels, leaving her lunch tray on the table. “Ugh, how do you deal with that at home? She’s so weird.”
Alex ignores her, pushing open the heavy doors of the lunchroom, not even waiting for her friend to go through.
“No seriously,” Vicky prods, “She’s so annoying. It’s like. No one cares that you can do math. Nerd.” She flips her hair over her shoulder, taking Alex’s silence as an invitation to continue. “And what’s up with her clothes? Honestly I don’t know why you let her follow you around. I’d have ditched her the minute I got to school.”
“Vicky...“ Alex warns.
“What? It’s true.” Vicky rolls her eyes. “What happened to her real parents anyway? Did they realize she’s such a nerd and abandon her?”
Alex stops abruptly. She may find Kara incredibly annoying, but the girl did lose her entire planet. She has some amount of sympathy. She’s not heartless. “Look, just leave it alone, Vicky, I’m serious.”
“Geez I’m kidding.” Vicky holds up her hands in surrender. “You’re no fun anymore.”
Alex just rolls her eyes and turns back towards the library. She’s not sure why her friend’s teasing bothers her so much. She complains about Kara all the time and none of what Vicky is saying is anything she hasn’t thought to herself. But for some reason, when it’s coming out of her friend’s mouth she feels indignant.
She sits at her usual table in the library and tries not to feel annoyed when Vicky joins her at the table, slamming her backpack down. The librarian fixes them with a glare and shooshes loudly.
“Crazy old bat, she couldn’t even hear that,” Vicky huffs, crossing her arms in front of her, “I’m sorry okay, Alex? I didn’t know you cared so much.”
Alex just shrugs and pulls out her new notebook. Hopefully Vicky would get the hint that she’s not interested in talking to her right now. Somehow she doubts it. Their friendship never worked like that. When Vicky wanted to talk, they talked. When she didn’t, Alex would be left in the dark until Vicky changed her mind and then she’d have to come running back.
She thumbs through her journal, where she has been drafting a response to Maggie’s last letter.
“Is that your diary or what?”
Alex looks up to find Vicky still sitting at her table, noisily chewing gum with a bored look on her face. She rolls her eyes, turning back to her letter without a word. Vicky huffs audibly in an attempt to catch Alex’s attention, but Alex ignores it. She’s done playing these games today.
Suddenly Vicky pulls the notebook away, and Alex’s heart drops into her stomach. The other girl smirks as she pulls Maggie’s last letter out from between the pages.
“Oh my god is this your stupid pen pal from last year?” Vicky’s eyes gleam with mischief as they dart over the page. “I can’t believe you’re still doing that.”
Vicky had made her opinions about their pen pal assignment quite clear last year, referring to her pen pal as a “country hick” at every opportunity.
“Give it back,” Alex threatens, reaching for the book in Vicky’s hands. Her fingers brush the cover as Vicky quickly lifts it up, away from her grasp.
“I’m so glad we’re friends Alex, writing to you this summer made it so much more bearable. Oh my god, how lame!” Vicky is laughing now as she reads dramatically from the letter.
“Please, Vicky, come on! You can’t read that!” Alex’s protests fall on deaf ears as Vicky continues to read out loud. The half dozen other students in the library are now turned towards the ruckus and Alex’s palms start to sweat.
“Why can’t I? What is it a love letter?” Vicky challenges, “That’s so weird, Alex.”
Something in Alex breaks then and she surges forward, snatching the letter and her journal back from Vicky. Her fingers tremble as she tucks the letter back into the book, safe and sound. All she can think about is getting out of there as fast as she can, away from the judgement and the snickering. Away from the place where she used to feel so safe.
She shoves the rest of her things quickly into her bag and storms off, trying to avoid Vicky’s gaze.
Alex is still smarting from her friend’s teasing by the time gym class rolls around. They play dodgeball and Alex is chastised more than once for throwing the ball with what their gym teacher calls “unnecessary force”. After she pegs Steve in the leg hard enough to leave a bruise, she’s sent to the locker room to cool off.
She’s still there, hiding behind one of the locker bays when she hears the other girls walk in, chattering loudly. Normally she’d ignore them and slip out, but a familiar voice over the din makes her pause.
“It was just so weird, you guys. You don’t even know. Like I know she’s always been super weird but this was like… Next level.”
Alex freezes. Vicky. She clutches her backpack to her chest and tightens her jaw. Was that… Were they talking about her?
“Maybe she’s a lesbian or something?”
Another voice. Stacy O’Neil maybe.
“Oh my god she totally is, that’s probably why she’s so obsessed with you.”
Vicky’s characteristic giggle echoes around the locker room. “Ugh you’re so right Tiffany. Ew and we used to have sleepovers all the time!”
The other girls laugh at that and Alex’s heart drops into her stomach. Is that what she really thought? Her betrayal quickly turns to rage. She’s not obsessed with Vicky Donahue. In fact, she was pretty sure she never wanted to see Vicky ever again. As far as she was concerned, they were no longer friends.
She slams her locker closed and the other girls instantly grow quiet. As she storms past them towards the door, she shoots Vicky a death glare, hoping it’s able to convey every bit of contempt she feels towards her former friend.
She can’t go home. She still has one more period in school and her parents would give her hell if she arrived without Kara, so instead she crosses the football field and climbs underneath the bleachers. She brings her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms tightly around them, and it’s only then, when she’s sure that she’s alone that she lets herself cry.
She’s never been the most popular girl in school, but she has always had friends. Always had Vicky at least. Not anymore though. Now Vicky is probably sitting in 7th period English, telling their peers about how she likes to look at her in her bikini. Alex chokes back another sob. Vicky never cares if the rumors she spreads have any ounce of truth. She knows this. She’s even been a part of the gossip mill before. She could go back and deny them, but it wouldn’t matter. She’d have to start dating someone and the idea of doing that fills her with dread. She never wants to have to dumb herself down to do that.
She sniffles and stretches her legs out, letting her head fall back against the cool metal of the bleachers. The bell for 7th period rings and the softball team starts up their practice. The sound of cleats, heavy against the dirt track, fills the air and Alex’s mind drifts to Maggie, wondering if she’ll have softball practice today too.
She still has one friend at least.
One friend that would never criticize or spread rumors about her. One friend she can trust.
She unzips her backpack, pulls out her notebook, and begins to write.
Today is the worst day of my life and it’s only the first day back at school...
Maggie knows how Alex feels. The high school rumor mill is constantly churning and she knows what it feels like to have all of the other kids whispering about her behind her back. She hates that Alex has to deal with that. She knows the kind of names that are flung around— has been on the receiving end herself more than once— and while she hopes that kids in Midvale are a little more progressive than their Nebraskan counterparts, she still worries.
Worrying about Alex makes it easier to bear the brunt of her own bullies honestly. Now that she’s in the ninth grade, the fact that she’s never been on a date is more of a thing than it ever was, and it gives her peers more ammunition than just the mere fact that her surname is Rodas instead of Smith or Williams. Alex’s letters are a safe place. She can be herself on paper. She doesn’t have to pretend to be anything that she isn’t.
Alex’s last few letters have broken her heart though. All summer she has had to watch as the handwriting she’s grown accustomed to gets smaller and smaller, the letters impressed harder onto the page. The one she got last week described how Alex had been writing outside by the ocean when it started to drizzle, but Maggie knows teardrops when she sees them. She knows that it really hurt when her dad didn’t have as much time to surf with her in the summer.
This week’s letter though…
She’d read it multiple times and every time it hurt more than the last.
She settles onto her bed, notebook in one hand, Alex’s letter in the other. She takes it out of the envelope, carefully unfolding the pages once again.
Today is the worst day of my life and it’s only the first day back at school.
Honestly I don’t even know where to begin.
Kara started school with me this year. She’s in a bunch of my classes and she’s not even in my grade which is so frustrating because she’s such a show-off. And I feel kind of bad about it because I know she can’t help it. It’s her first time in school and she’s just. Not used to it. So I’m really trying. I even let her sit with me and Vicky at lunch.
I won’t be sitting with Vicky anymore though. Not after today. She’s been spreading these rumors about me... She keeps saying that I’m in love with her or something because I hated her boyfriend but it’s just. Not true. At all. I hated her boyfriend because he’s a jerk. And I’d never want to date Vicky in a million years. Especially not after the things she said about Kara and about you.
So we’re not friends anymore. It’s been kind of building up for a while but this was just the last straw, you know? I want nothing to do with her. It just sucks because like, now it feels like everyone is whispering about me. I mean, I know they are. I could hear them in gym class. But yeah. Anyway. I don't really want to talk about it right now...
I hope your first week is better than mine. You’ll have to tell me what science classes you’re in. Maybe we can find some way to study together. Or maybe we’ll be reading the same books in English class this year! That would be fun. Like a long distance book club.
Talk to you soon,
Maggie takes a deep breath inward, then exhales slowly, falling back onto her bed, wishing she could do more for Alex. And... she knows she shouldn’t feel this way, but she just can’t help feeling a little bit hopeful. Alex wasn’t bothered by the nature of the accusations, she was bothered by Vicky’s betrayal. And that made Maggie’s head spin with theories about what that could mean .
Unfortunately for Maggie’s curiosity, Alex doesn’t mention the rumors again. Instead they talk about anything and everything else. In September, Alex’s science fair project wins first place and Maggie’s wins second, causing Alex to gloat for weeks about being the superior science geek. In October, Maggie makes her own Sherlock Holmes costume, complete with a deerstalker cap she crafted from an old flannel shirt, and Alex responds with a photo of her own outfit— a vampire complete with face paint, fake fangs, and heavy eye makeup. Maggie’s heart flutters when she sees it and she keeps the photo pasted in her notebook, right next to the letter. In December, they send each other small gifts and Maggie saves up her allowance for a month to buy her a stuffed otter, which Alex names Gertrude.
But in February, everything changes.
Maggie has never cared much for Valentine’s Day. She hasn’t gotten a card from anyone other than her parents since she was in elementary school and the teachers stopped requiring kids to give one to every student in the class. She doesn’t miss the candy. She always felt like Sweethearts resembled chalk a little too much for her liking and if she really wanted chocolate, she’d buy her own favorite kind at the store on the fifteenth.
This year is different though. This year, she doesn’t roll her eyes as the student council buzzes about the halls plastering the walls with posters advertising the school dance. This year she has someone she likes. Someone she is interested in, in more than a friendly way. This year she has Alex.
She’d waffled over the decision for weeks, pouring over all of their letters, trying to find a hint that Alex might like her back. She’d hazarded a few compliments in some of her replies, she even admitted to Alex that she thought she looked beautiful in her school picture. Alex hadn’t reacted badly at all, she even chastised Maggie for making her blush! That was definitely flirty. The evidence for Alex liking her definitely outweighs the opposite. Particularly because Alex never refuted the rumors Vicky had circulated back in the fall. That has to mean something. It has to.
She walks to the convenience store after class, even though it’s snowing and she should really get home before it gets dark. She just knows that if she doesn’t go out and buy the card now, she will lose her nerve. It’s only a few days until Valentine’s Day and she has to get the card out if she wants Alex to get it by the 14th.
Nothing jumps out at her though. First of all, all of the cards are super cheesy. Maggie knows that Alex loves terrible puns, but some of them are horrendous. She opens one up and a pop up of a bumblebee springs out, making her grimace. Won’t you BEE mine? That’s beyond horrendous even. She sighs, setting the card and its matching envelope back in the display.
She ends up looking through every single card on the display before leaving empty-handed, much to the chagrin of the shopkeeper. The snowfall picks up about ten minutes into her walk and she shivers, stuffing her hands deeper into the pockets of her worn coat. The sun has started to dip low over the horizon and the world has grown quiet save for a few brave cars still out and about. She shouldn’t have lingered for so long at the shop. It’ll be late by the time she gets home and her mom will be waiting with a lecture.
A pair of headlights flash behind her, the low rumbling of an engine growing closer. She stops, hand held up over her eyes like a visor, and grins when she sees the familiar alternating red and blue lights of her father’s police cruiser.
The car slows to a stop, idling beside her, and the window rolls down.
“Margarita!” her father says. “What are you doing out so late? You should be home!”
“I had to meet with Ms Greenwald, my science teacher, after class.” She kicks up a bit of snow. She hates lying to her father, but it’s the only way she won’t be grounded for being out so late.
She opens the passenger door of the cruiser and slides onto the worn leather seat, bringing back memories of all of the ride-alongs she’d had when she was younger.
“Well, we won’t tell your mother,” he leans over the console and winks conspiratorially. “As far as she’s concerned, you came right to the station after school to keep me company, right?”
Maggie winks back, a huge grin on her face as they speed off towards home.
After dinner, she asks to be excused to her room to finish her homework. She doesn’t really have any homework truthfully, she normally finishes it all in class, but this way they’d leave her in peace for a few hours to write to Alex.
She takes a spare bit of computer paper and a few colored pens and sets to work. She tries out a few different science puns before settling on one she thinks will make Alex smile: “You must be made of copper and terillium because you are CuTe!” It’s endlessly corny, but Maggie has been writing to Alex for over a year now and she’s well-versed in her particular brand of corny humor. Alex will love it. Now she’s just got to write the actual message.
She wipes her sweaty palms on her pajama pants.
She starts with Dear Alex,
I’ve really enjoyed being your pen pal. I think that’s probably pretty obvious. I like talking to you. I like hearing about your life, even the really boring days. I like cheering you on from afar when I know you have a surf competition and I like comforting you when you’re upset because of something Kara has done. I like you, Alex.
I like you more than just as a friend and I think that maybe you might like me too. So, will you be my Valentine? I know I can’t really take you to my school dance or anything, since you’re in California and everything but. Maybe we could just like. Both wear dresses and listen to the same music and maybe you could call me? I know we haven’t done that before but I just thought maybe that would be a nice date. If you want to be my Valentine’s date that is. I hope you do because like I said, I really like you, Alex. I think you’re so smart and so funny and you’re really, really pretty.
So. If you want to, call me at 555-456-2134.
She signs her name with a flourish, her heart beating like a drum in her chest. It’s the first time she’s given Alex her number. It would be a big leap, going from words on a page to hearing Alex’s voice, but she wants it so badly. She re-reads the card over and over again. She’s tempted to crumple it up and start again or even just abandon the thought entirely, but no. She can’t. It’s good. Her feelings are out there and Alex will see them and whatever happens, happens. She’ll go out tomorrow morning to buy stamps and envelopes and then she’ll send it off.
That night she dreams of Alex’s smile.
She wakes up to the smell of coffee and eggs sizzling in the kitchen— a telltale sign that her father has Saturday morning off of work.
She quickly pulls on some jeans and a sweater and heads downstairs, joining her dad at the kitchen table. He greets her with a smile and hands her the comics section from the newspaper in front of him. Her mom serves her a plate of eggs and a cup of coffee, kissing her on the cheek as she sets the food down. She scrunches up her face as her parents both chuckle.
“Margarita, I need you to go pick up some more groceries for me this morning,” her mother says, sitting down with her own plate. “I’ll give you some money.”
Maggie frowns, both at the use of her full name and at the mention of errands. “I have more homework to do, do I have to?”
Her father raises an eyebrow at her over his paper. “More homework?”
“Yeah, uh, Ms Greenwald gave me some extra reading for fun,” she backtracks.
“Well if it’s just for fun then, you can help your mother out, Margarita,” he chastises. “Family comes first.”
She huffs, but agrees, quickly eating the rest of her breakfast and finishing off her coffee in several large gulps. She’ll have to go out to mail Alex’s card later in the day.
When she returns from the grocery store, her dad is standing in the kitchen. He’s clenching his jaw, like he does when he gets an emergency call from the precinct, but he’s not wearing his uniform. Her mom is sitting at the kitchen table now, but she won’t meet Maggie’s eye.
“Sit down, Margarita.”
His voice is low and firm, with an edge. The last time she saw him like this, her grandfather fell ill and she had to miss a week of school to see him in the hospital. What could it be this time? They were just in Omaha for Christmas and everyone seemed fine…
She nods nervously, placing the grocery bags on the counter before taking a seat across from her mom. “What’s wrong?”
“I found something in your room, Margarita.”
Her dad pulls an object from behind his back and throws it down onto the table. It’s her notebook. But that doesn’t make any sense. She’d left it out on her desk, but it’s not like it was clutter. Her room was fairly clean, so he couldn’t be mad about that. Is he upset that she lied about having homework?
“How long have you been writing to this girl?”
“I... since last year?” Maggie’s gaze shifts back to her father, confused. “Alex is my penpal…”
“And this?” He holds up the valentine she had made for Alex. It’s slightly crumpled and her heart falls. “What is the meaning of this?”
“It’s… I like her and I just thought—”
She is stunned silent.
“You’ve shamed your family.”
She can’t speak. She can’t breathe. Her entire world is crashing down around her. She looks to her mother for support, but finds her looking away. The tears start to prick at her eyes and she can feel her lip tremble.
Her father hands her a suitcase she hadn’t seen when she first entered the kitchen.
“You have thirty minutes. Pack your things.”
He grabs her by the arm and yanks her up away from the table. He pulls her up the stairs and practically throws her into her room, tossing the suitcase at her.
“Pack. Your. Things.”
Her room is ransacked. Clothes are all over the floor, pulled from drawers still left open. The small box of keepsakes she normally stores under her bed has been turned over, the letters and photos inside ripped to shreds, much like her heart.
Under her father’s watchful eye, she shoves everything she can manage into her suitcase, including the ripped up photo of Alex with her surfboard. Maybe she could piece it back together…
“You’re done, let’s go,” her dad’s voice is gruff, leaving no room for argument and she follows without a word.
On their way out the door, she goes to grab her notebook, but her father beats her to it, stalking over towards the fireplace and throwing it into the flames.
She watches as all of her dreams burn.
She doesn’t know where they’re going. Her father shoves her into his cruiser, into the backseat like a criminal, and doesn’t say a word. He just turns on the radio to his favorite oldies station and keeps his gaze out onto the road. He doesn’t even look back at her in the rear-view mirror.
Two hours in, she starts to recognize some landmarks. Her favorite antique store. The diner where she and her aunt sometimes escape to during family gatherings to grab a milkshake. They’re in Omaha then.
The car finally comes to a stop in front of an apartment complex. Her father opens the door for her and orders her out, then marches her up the stairs to an apartment on the third floor. He knocks, the sound of his fist banging on the door making her flinch and her upper arm throbs with pain.
The door opens and for the first time all day she feels just a shred of relief, because standing in the apartment in too-big pajama pants and a worried expression, is her aunt. She steps out of the apartment, immediately placing herself in between Maggie and her father, and immediately lays into him. She thinks she must have zoned out, because before she knows it, her aunt is carefully guiding her into the apartment with her suitcase, slamming the door behind them.
“Huh?” She snaps out of her daze.
“I asked if you were hungry?” Her aunt is looking at her kindly. “We could order a pizza and then we could talk?”
Maggie shrugs. She doesn’t know how much her aunt knows. One of her parents must have phoned her because she didn’t look surprised to see them, but…
Her aunt seems to know what she’s thinking because she sits down next to her on the couch and throws an arm around her shoulder.
“You haven’t done anything wrong, Maggie.”
“But… he said… he said I’m… because I’m gay…”
It’s the first time she’s said it out loud. She expected it to feel better. For her to feel free. Instead she just feels shame.
Her aunt has a spare room, but it’s not cleaned out yet. Maggie doesn’t mind the couch though. It’s comfortable enough and at least she’s not sleeping on the street. Her dad didn’t have to drive her to her aunt’s place after all. He could have kicked her to the curb with nothing. And yeah it was probably to save his reputation— a cop can’t be seen throwing his only daughter out, no matter how homophobic Blue Springs might be— but she’s still grateful for that.
They do end up getting pizza, Maggie's favorite, but she isn’t very hungry. Everything tastes stale. She manages a few bites anyway though, just to please her aunt, who hasn’t stopped fretting over her in between outbursts of anger at her father.
Eventually her aunt loses steam and they just sit, an old rerun of “Law & Order” playing softly in the background, as they both nibble on their crusts.
Now that she’s a little calmer, she takes the time to look around the small apartment. Her aunt doesn’t have much in the way of clutter. She’s got a couple small plants, a framed photo of her recent graduation on a bookshelf teeming with books, and some decorative pillows, but the walls are devoid of any of the religious paraphernalia that she’s used to from her parents’ house.
Her aunt catches her taking in her surroundings and places a comforting hand on her knee. “It’s not much, I know. Scott was the decorator. You’ll have to help me out.”
“You’re really going to let me stay here?”
“Of course!” Her aunt looks offended that she even asked. “We’ll go out and get some furniture and stuff for your new room tomorrow ok? And next week we can see about enrolling you in school.”
Maggie leans her head up against her aunt’s shoulder. “Thanks, Aunt Maria.”
“Of course, kid.” She gives Maggie a side hug. “And like I said, we can talk about it if you want, or not. It’s totally up to you.”
“I- I want to talk about it.” Maggie looks down at her shoes. “I just…”
“It’s okay, take your time.”
“It’s just. There’s this girl…”
Her aunt’s eyes soften. “The one you were scribbling to all of last summer?”
“I… yeah…” Maggie grows quiet at the thought of Alex and her notebook with Alex’s letters now reduced to ashes. “I wanted to tell her how I feel…”
“Oh Maggie, that’s so sweet.”
“My dad ripped up the letter.” Maggie shrugs one shoulder. “She’ll never know now.”
“Why not? You can just write another one. Tell her what happened.”
“I can’t. Her address… my notebook…”
“You don’t have it? Oh Maggie… maybe I can go get it—”
“It’s fine," Maggie interrupts softly. "It’s. She doesn’t feel the same way anyway.”
Maggie wraps her arms around herself. She can feel the tears bubbling back up and she fights to keep them at bay. She’s cried enough today. But it’s no use. The minute her aunt holds her close, she falls apart.
Just want to thank (and also apologize to) TaFuilLiom. You're the best and I'm so, so sorry lol.
The harassment at school doesn’t get better.
She’d thought that maybe the talk would die down after a few weeks and she could go back to living her life, but it doesn’t and she can’t. Instead the whispers continue to follow her around the halls. A few of the older theatre kids shoot her sympathetic looks over their lunches, but no one ever seems to say anything in her defense out loud.
She fights back once with a well-timed fist to the face of one of the basketball players in her history class, but it doesn’t help any. She just ends up with bruised knuckles, a week of detention, and a stern lecture when she gets home.
She finally talks to her father about it over winter break.
Kara is visiting Lois and Clark in Metropolis for the week and her mom is away at a scientific meeting, so it’s just her and her dad. After a night of pizza and old episodes of The Twilight Zone, they head out to the deck, where her telescope is set up. As her father peers through, looking for Cetus in the night sky, Alex pulls her sweater tighter around herself. The outdoor firepit gives off some heat, but it’s still the dead of winter, and even though they live in Southern California, she feels the chill deep within her bones.
“One sec, let me just…” Her dad fiddles with a few knobs on the side of the telescope, then steps back, nodding in satisfaction. He pulls over two of the deck chairs and sits down, motioning for Alex to take the other. “Alright, what’s up kiddo?”
She sits across from her dad and takes a deep breath in, letting the crisp, cold air fill her lungs. She shivers and scoots her chair closer to the fire. Her dad throws another log into the pit and the flames crackle. She watches as small embers float off into the night sky.
“What do you do when people are saying things about you that aren’t true?”
Her dad sets down the fire poker and turns to look at her. To really look at her. He doesn't say anything, but she feels like he can see right through her, and she’s not sure why that scares her so much.
She tilts her head back and gazes up into the night sky, as if somewhere up in the cosmos, there was an answer. They’re far enough away from the city that she can see the stars twinkling and she feels so, so small.
“I just. Vicky is spreading lies and I just… She’s saying I’m… That I’m…”
She can’t say it. The words are at the tip of her tongue. She hears them almost everyday in the corridors and in the locker room. But she can’t say it.
She purses her lips and looks down at her socks. The dinosaurs on her feet stare right back up at her.
“Have you thought about why it bothers you?” her dad presses softly, “The things they’re saying?”
She has, but it’s like the answer is located somewhere behind a door in her mind and she’s unable to see past it. She knows she doesn’t have a problem with people who are… that way . Kara had recently become enamored with movie musicals and they’ve seen RENT more times than she can count. And while she liked Oz, she can absolutely see how Tara is a much better fit for Willow. It’s just that… She’s not like that.
An uncomfortable weight settles in her chest as she tries to wrap her head around why she’s feeling this way. The door is locked— bolted shut— and she doesn’t have the key. She curls up in her chair, pulling her knees up to her chest.
“I- I don’t know,” she murmurs.
Her dad tilts his head to the side, considering her. “Alex, you know you can tell me anything, right?”
They’re at a stalemate. Her dad seems to be waiting for her to say something, but she’s not sure what he expects to hear.
Her father leans forward to squeeze her shoulder, then stands. “Why don’t we get some hot cocoa?”
Her shoulders sag, relieved that he’d given her an out.
She’s had enough introspection for one night.
Now that she’s a loner at school, Maggie’s letters are really her only source of comfort.
Their responses get longer and longer, more personal. They trade stories about their childhoods and Alex learns about how Maggie lost her first tooth and how after she got chicken pox and had to miss the class field trip to the Zoo and Aquarium, her father took her for a special trip. They talk about their favorite books, hidden talents, and their dreams for the future. Her parents have even started to ask about how Maggie is doing.
Apparently she talks about Maggie a lot.
But in February, the letters abruptly stop coming.
At first, Alex thinks Maggie is just busy. Maybe she had a family emergency in Omaha and had to quickly rush over there. It wouldn’t be unheard of, her grandfather was very ill a few months ago, but after two weeks of radio silence, Alex begins to panic. Maybe there was something in her last letter that offended Maggie. Or maybe she was complaining too much and Maggie decided she was finally tired of her.
After three weeks, she decides to send another letter.
It’s a little late for a Valentine’s card, considering it’s now March, but Alex sends one anyway. She’d bought it for Maggie when they first started showing up in the store because she knows Maggie has a soft spot for dogs and the card with the german shepherd had jumped out at her. Kara had raised an eyebrow, but her mom had bought it for her with a soft smile after she’d explained who it was for.
Friends send each other valentine’s gifts all the time, it isn’t a big deal.
Hopefully Maggie would understand it being late. Her letters had never gotten lost before, but the weather channel had been talking about how much snow the midwest was getting and so it’s possible there were mail delays. Or it just got misplaced and never reached its destination.
She goes about her business, content in her rationalization that the postal service was responsible.
But a little over a week later, a familiar envelope shows up in the Danvers’s mailbox.
It’s the same light pink envelope she’d just sent to Maggie. She recognizes her own careful penmanship on the address. But there’s something written there that she doesn’t remember adding. Right across the front in large block letters is the phrase: Return to Sender.
Had she slipped up and written down Maggie’s address on the envelope incorrectly? She’s pretty sure she’d memorized it, but she checks it against the last letter she received from Maggie, just in case, and yep— it matches.
Did Maggie move and just not remember to update her? Or maybe she was tired of talking to Alex this whole time but was too afraid to say anything. Did she not want to be friends anymore? Tears prick at her eyes as she considers the possibility.
But no. Maggie would never. They were best friends. Maggie’s letters were always long and funny and so incredibly sweet. If she was tired of her, she wouldn’t continue to ask her about her life. She wouldn’t want to hear about Alex’s latest science project or about her family’s holiday traditions.
That meant there was something terribly wrong.
She sits at the dinner table and stews, picking at her food.
Her mom made her favorite, but she’s so sick with worry she can’t eat.
Her mind just keeps coming up with worse and worse scenarios of what could have happened to Maggie.
Maggie’s father was a police officer. What if a criminal he put away got out of prison and tried to seek revenge on his family? Maggie could be six feet under and no one would ever have thought to alert her.
Alex chastises herself. She clearly was watching too many crime shows. But maybe Maggie was sick…? Or in the hospital…?
She swallows the lump in her throat and sets down her fork.
“May I be excused?”
“You didn’t even eat anything.” Her mom frowns and exchanges a concerned glance with her dad.
“I’m just not feeling well.”
It’s not entirely a lie. She feels sick to her stomach, but not because of any illness.
Her father nods his assent and she climbs the stairs up to the room she shares with Kara, feeling their eyes follow her all the way up.
She sits on her bed, all of Maggie’s letters strewn out in front of her on the bedspread.
She pores through the most recent ones, trying to find some clue that would give her some insight into Maggie’s disappearance. Something she’d said that would have hinted that she wasn’t interested in talking to Alex anymore or that there was something more sinister going on. But there’s nothing.
Maggie’s last letter is sweet and complimentary. They had chatted about their favorite winter activities and Maggie had written about how she wanted to teach Alex how to ice skate properly. Because apparently skating in a rink isn’t the same as a pond. Alex flushes as she re-reads the words, imagining Maggie taking her by the hand and pulling her across the ice, their giggles filling the air.
A few tears fall onto the paper and Alex sniffles, rubbing at her eyes.
“Alex?” Kara calls cautiously from the doorway.
Alex looks up abruptly. Kara’s presence is less jarring than it used to be. They’ve fallen into something akin to friendship. Alex still finds herself annoyed by the younger girl— how she uses her super speed to get to the bathroom first to use all of the hot water and how her parents give Kara more slack than her— but Kara has also stood by her, steadfast. They’ve stared into the storm of teenage drama together and are stronger for it. That’s sisterhood, Alex supposes.
She’s no longer ashamed to have Kara see her cry.
“Are you okay?” she questions, wringing her hands together.
Alex shrugs. She’s really not, but it’s hard to admit that.
Kara carefully clears the letters from the bed and sets them on Alex’s bedside table. She clambers up onto the bed and sits, cross-legged, across from Alex.
“We’re sisters right? And uh, sisters talk?”
“Do you… Do you remember when I freaked out about the popcorn machine?” Kara wrinkles up her forehead, pushing her glasses up on her nose. “You climbed under the table with me. Explained it all. Made me feel safe…“
Alex raises an eyebrow. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“I just. You talking to me helped when I was scared so. Maybe I could help you.”
Alex feels a pang of affection for her sister. She sighs, picking at the pilled fabric on her duvet. “I don’t think anything can help right now, Kara.”
“It’s about Maggie, isn’t it?”
At the mention of her name, Alex’s fingers still. A lump forms in her throat.
Kara reaches out, covering Alex’s hand with her own. “You can tell me, it’s okay.”
Alex can’t help it. Her sister’s acceptance spurs on a deluge of emotion— all of the feelings she’s had bottled up for weeks come spilling out. She tells Kara about becoming friends with Maggie and how they talked about everything. How she was gonna ask if Maggie could come spend next summer with her in Midvale so that she could teach her to surf and take her to her favorite burger place. She talks for almost an hour, her voice growing hoarse, and by the time she gets to the part in her story where she hasn’t heard from Maggie in weeks, she feels exhausted.
“We could go...” Kara trails off.
“I can fly, Alex. We could go to Blue Springs. I could take you!” Kara’s eyes light up at the possibility. “You could talk to her! Find out what’s really going on.”
Alex shakes her head. “We can’t do that. You know what mom and dad have said about your powers.”
“But what if something really is wrong?”
Alex knows she shouldn’t, but she finds herself agreeing. If there’s any chance Maggie is in trouble, she needs to know. She needs to help. No matter what the consequences are.
Her heart is in her stomach during the flight. They’re high above the clouds and if Alex were less worried she might revel in the feeling, but the only thing on her mind is Maggie.
Maggie’s house looks just like the photographs she sent all those months ago, complete with the police cruiser in the driveway. Her palms sweat. Kara nudges her forward. It’s eight pm, not too late. The light in the window indicates someone is home.
She knocks and waits.
There’s muffled speaking from inside and then the door opens and she’s face to face with a man she assumes is Maggie’s father. He cuts an imposing figure in the doorway, still dressed in his police uniform, probably freshly arrived from his shift. The resemblance is there, but he lacks the kindness of Maggie’s eyes.
Trying to remember her manners, she straightens, putting on a brave smile. “Hello sir, is Maggie home?”
His eyes narrow suspiciously. “Who is asking?”
“Alex Danvers, sir. I’m… A friend.”
His eyes flash with recognition as she introduces herself, but they instantly turn cold and hard and Alex feels herself taking a step back.
“You’re that girl ,” he spits out, “the one who corrupted my daughter.”
“I know we haven’t met, but… Maggie is my best friend and I-”
“You’re disgusting,” he cuts her off, voice dripping with venom, “the both of you. Your parents should be ashamed.”
Alex is in shock. Whatever she was expecting when she landed in Blue Springs, Nebraska, this certainly wasn’t it.
“She doesn’t live here anymore.” Maggie’s father has the last word as he turns on his heel, slamming the door in her face.
The flight back to Midvale is quiet.
Kara tries to comfort her, but her words fall on deaf ears.
She just feels empty.
They’re halfway up the stairs when they’re stopped by their parents.
Kara is sent up to their room, but she’s pulled aside for a lecture. It’s the same stuff she’s heard before about keeping Kara safe. Honestly she could lecture herself by now. It would give her mom a break.
It’s less cutting than it used to be. Just noise. Her mom spouts phrases like “hiding her powers” and “you should know better, Alexandra”, but all she can hear is “corrupted” and “disgusting.”
A sharp knock on their door interrupts her mom, who casts a worried glance at her dad. He glances through the peephole in the door and sends her upstairs as well.
Kara is crouched by the top of the stairs in the hallway. Alex stoops next to her. She can’t quite see the door, so Kara dips her glasses low on her nose and focuses through the wall.
“It’s two men in suits,” she whispers.
Alex feels a chill run through her. “What do you think they’re here for?”
“I don’t know. They’re in the living room, hold on.” Kara squints, trying to focus her hearing. “They’re saying something about… About me!” She wraps her arms around herself, panic written over her face. “Alex, what if they want to take me away?”
“Mom and dad won’t let that happen.”
The suited men leave shortly after.
When her dad comes to bid them goodnight, he reassures them both that everything is okay. But the next morning, he leaves for his new job as an agent of the Department of Extranormal Operations.
She sees her father even less now.
Sure he traveled a lot for work before, but at least then he would call every night. He’s always on assignment it seems now. One week Egypt, the next Beijing. Sometimes he can’t even tell them where he’s going.
The shelf in her room fills with souvenirs, but no gift can fill the ever widening hole in her heart.
Instead she fills it with anger at herself for getting attached to someone she convinces herself she barely knows. She fills it with resentment towards Kara for letting her father take her place at the DEO, even though she knows Kara is just a kid.
Like Icarus, she’d flown too high— daring to chase after the bit of happiness she’d had— and it had all come crashing down.
She takes all of Maggie’s letters, all of the pictures and gifts, even the copy of Peril at End House she’d picked up at a used bookstore, and boxes them up, shoving them into her closet.
Out of sight, out of mind.
But then one stormy night in May, her father doesn’t come home as planned. They were used to him being off the grid for days at a time, but never for so long, and so they had planned a small celebration for the night of his return. Her mother had even taken the day off of work to clean the house and prepare his favorite dinner.
But the hours tick by and his plate grows cold.
Her mother tries not to worry them, but Alex hears her speaking in hushed, frantic tones on the phone after she sends them to bed.
Two more agents in suits turn up at the door a few days later.
The words killed in action leave the taller agent’s lips and she’s sure her mother gasps, but she can’t hear it because her ears are ringing and it’s all her fault .
Before he leaves, the taller agent gives her a business card. The name Hank Henshaw is embossed across the front in thick black lettering. There’s no logo, just the name and a phone number.
He tells her to call if she needs anything and she nods robotically.
She throws the card in the trash. She doesn’t want his pity.
There’s no body to bury.
Instead she sprinkles a handful of dirt onto an empty casket as Kara whispers a Kryptonian burial prayer.
Kara blames herself, but Alex knows the truth.
Neither of them cry.
Her mother is despondent, so she takes responsibility for making sure they’re all fed until Lois and Clark arrive. She curses him silently for not arriving sooner. He could fly. He could have been there hours after she placed the call, but they weren’t family enough for him apparently.
Lois takes her aside and offers an ear if she wants to talk. Alex gives her a thin-lipped smile and a whispered thanks, but doesn’t take her up on it.
There’s only one person she wishes she could talk to, and she’s gone too.
She wonders what Maggie would say to her— what she would do if she were there.
She imagines Maggie wrapping her arms around her, telling her everything will be okay. She knows it won’t. Nothing will ever be the same. But somehow imagining it coming from Maggie, she can pretend for a little while.
She takes her notebook out of the box in her closet and holds it close to her chest as she walks down to the beach. The house feels so much bigger now, and yet so oppressive, with the mirrors shrouded and the silence weighing heavy in the air. She needs the fresh air. Someplace she can think.
The Dear Maggie comes automatically and she pours all of her sadness and frustration onto the page.
She knows she won’t get a response to this letter. She’s not even going to try to send it. But writing to Maggie always helped before, and it’s all she knows how to do now.
Just want to thank (and also apologize to) TaFuilLiom. You're the best and I'm so, so sorry.
The rest of high school is a blur.
Her senior year, she enrolls in five Advanced Placement classes. She doesn’t need the extra bump in her GPA, she knows she can get into almost any college she wants with her grades, but she wants her mother to see that she’s making an effort. That she’s doing her best.
It never seems to matter though. Her mother has been distant since her father died and instead of the attention she craves, all Alex ends up with is sleepless nights trying to remember complex chemical structures and mathematical formulas. Her mother doesn’t notice that she’s still at the kitchen table in the morning surrounded by energy drinks, but she does notice the “C” she receives on her progress report in Calculus.
She has to bite back her shame and ask Kara for help.
To her credit, Kara no longer treats her like a being of inferior intelligence. They’re bonded now as sisters, for better or worse, and Alex is glad, but as the years go by and Kara adjusts to being an Earth teenager, she gets less awkward. Less gangly. Popular . And suddenly Alex is spending more time in her room alone with her thoughts while Kara flourishes.
In March, Alex is asked to prom by a boy in her AP Biology class. He’s nice enough, handsome she supposes, but she turns him down. She doesn’t want to hold his hand or slow dance to “Truly, Madly, Deeply” in his arms. And she definitely doesn’t want to have to kiss him at the end of the night.
He goes to prom with Kara instead.
In May, she is chosen to give the valedictorian speech at her graduation. All of her hard work and all of the hours she spent after class doing extra credit projects with her biology teacher finally pay off. But as she stands up on that stage with her cap and gown and her notecards with her speech, she doesn’t feel accomplished. She feels empty.
When she looks out into the crowd, her father’s smiling face is absent. He’ll never know about her near perfect GPA, or the multiple acceptance letters to prestigious universities all across the country. He’ll never see her wearing the brand new Stanford University sweatshirt that is sitting on her bed at home.
She doesn’t go to any of the post-graduation parties. She’s invited— the whole class is— but she doesn’t want to go and pretend that she’s going to miss any one of her peers.
Instead, she and Kara climb up onto the roof of the house to eat burgers and watch the stars. It’s something they’ve done many times before, but it feels bittersweet now, knowing it might be a long time before they’ll sit like this again.
They haven’t talked about it yet— Alex leaving. It’s the elephant in the room. The Danvers Sisters have been there for each other for years, and that fact will never change, but Alex craves some freedom. Craves the opportunity to strike out on her own and prove to her mother and to herself, that she can succeed. She knows that she and Kara will keep in touch, and if she really needs her sister, Alex knows that she just needs to say the word and Kara will be there faster than a speeding bullet.
Still, she spends her last few weeks in Midvale doing all of Kara’s favorite activities. She tells her that it’s in exchange for Kara’s super speed in helping her pack, but they both know the truth.
She gives Kara her stereo, but she holds firm on the fuzzy grey sweater she knows her sister has been coveting. She needs it more, it’s much colder up north, and she’s learned to remain unswayed by Kara’s puppy dog eyes.
She’s packing away a box of books when Kara turns down the music and clears her throat to get her attention.
“I already told you, you can’t have my—” She turns to face her sister, a stern look on her face, but falters when she spots the stack of paper in Kara’s hands. “Where did you get that?”
“They were under your bed, I didn’t mean to pry…” Kara looks apologetic, her eyebrows knitted together. “Alex are these… are these all letters to Maggie?”
Alex can’t speak. Her throat is stuck and all she can do is nod dumbly. She’s been writing to Maggie for years, and the stack of letters that Kara is holding is only a small portion of them, but she’s not sure how to explain them to Kara. She knows it’s stupid, continuing to write to a girl that, for all intents and purposes, no longer exists, but she can’t help it. Maggie has become a safe haven that she has been loathe to give up. Even though she doesn’t hear from Maggie anymore, Alex imagines what she’d say. What she’d think.
The thought of her is still comforting.
“You really miss her still, huh?” Kara thumbs through the letters, her finger tracing the place where the postage would rest. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
Alex just shrugs. She’d considered telling her sister about how much she still missed her best friend, but every time she thought about it, something stopped her. She still couldn’t figure out why she missed Maggie so much and having to confront that feeling terrifies her.
“Okay, well…” Kara bites the inside of her cheek, the way she does when she has something she wants to say, but doesn’t know if she should. Alex has known Kara long enough to recognize it, and she hopes Kara just lets it go. Thankfully, she does. “Do you want me to pack them?”
“Yeah. Um. In the box with my books.” She reaches out to take the letters from Kara, then tucks them away in the box in front of her. “Thanks.”
Alex moves to the other side of the room, facing away from Kara, and busies herself with folding some of her shirts. She can’t look at her sister. She doesn’t want to see the concern on her face.
Kara doesn’t mention the letters again.
She doesn’t write to Maggie again until a few weeks after the start of the semester. She’s been busy, what with unpacking and meeting her roommate and trying to figure out where all of her classes are on the sprawling campus.
By the time she finds a spare minute to herself, her brain is overflowing and she’s relieved when she can take the time to get some of her thoughts out on paper. Her roommate is out, probably with her on again-off again boyfriend, and she can relax. She likes the girl well enough, but she’s looking forward to getting an off campus apartment next year already.
She stretches out on her bed, notebook propped up on her legs, and eases into the familiar practice of writing.
It’s been a while since I’ve written. Not that you’ll get these anyway, but that’s not really the point I guess. Anyway, I wanted to tell you I got into Stanford. My mom was less than excited. I think she wanted me to go to school a bit closer to Midvale, but I needed to get out of there. Midvale just had too many memories, you know? I couldn’t even go out to the beach anymore without thinking of my dad.
Kara drove up the coast with me to help move me into my dorm. It was nice, except she insisted on playing a CD she burned for me. “So I wouldn’t forget her,” or something like that. It was basically just the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync. I do miss her though. She was the only one I could really talk to, other than you. And I’m not really talking to you, am I?
It’s been four years since your last letter. As mad as I was at you, you’re still the best friend I’ve ever had, other than Kara. I’m sorry for thinking it, but I used to hope that something did happen to you. Not because I wanted something bad to happen, but because that would mean that it wasn’t something that I did or said to make you hate me. But now I just hope you’re doing okay. Wherever you are. I hope you made it out of Nebraska. You deserve better than that.
The door to her dorm room swings open and her roommate rushes in like a whirlwind, tears streaming down her face. She flops down on her bed across from Alex’s own, and groans dramatically.
Sometimes her roommate reminds her so much of Kara. They have the same blonde hair and the same seemingly limitless optimism. Except when she’s on the outs with her fellow theatre major boyfriend. Then it’s like the world has ended.
Alex rolls her eyes and turns back to her letter.
Anyway, my roommate just came back and she’s crying. Again. Which means her boyfriend probably broke up with her again. So I’m going to go put on a movie for a girls’ night.
Goodnight, Maggie. I still miss you.
She folds up the letter and tucks it into her notebook. She’ll file it away once her roommate goes to the bathroom or something.
Her roommate’s sobs have subsided, giving way to sniffles and Alex knows that means she wants to talk.
Early on, they formed a tentative friendship over shared pints of ice cream, and Alex always makes sure to have some stocked in their small fridge/freezer for times like this.
That night, as they pass the pint of chocolate chip cookie dough back and forth, her roommate looks at her with red-rimmed eyes and laments the fact that she isn’t gay because, “Alex, you’d make the best boyfriend.” Alex laughs it off, but hours later, as she lies in her dorm bed, unable to sleep, there’s a niggling feeling at the back of her mind that she can’t shake.
She graduates early from Stanford, thanks to the college credits she earned in high school, and applies to National City University for graduate school. She chooses an MD/PhD program, not necessarily because she wants to, but because it’s what she should do. Her mother seems happy with her decision at least, and so is Kara, if only because they’ll be at the same college.
She briefly dates a guy she meets in one of her classes. He writes her poetry and she ignores his calls in favor of later and later nights in the lab. When she goes to his apartment to apologize for another missed date, she finds him in bed with another woman. He chases her out of the apartment to explain, but his explanations turn quickly to accusations— she’s frigid, emotionless, and he can’t remember the last time they had sex.
Alex does remember. It was two months ago, lasted a maximum of twelve minutes, and it was awful .
She tells him it’s over, but she doesn’t feel free, because the other woman is standing in the doorway, watching her with pity. Her professor. Her mentor. The woman she admired the most.
That betrayal hurts more than her ex-boyfriend’s cheating ever could.
She goes home to her apartment, pours herself a couple shots, and picks up a pen.
I’m such an idiot.
Remember when I told you that I started going out with that guy in my anatomy class? The one that wrote me that awful poem? Well, he’s an asshole. All men are assholes.
He’s been cheating on me for months and it’s apparently my fault because I wouldn’t have sex with him because I’m a frigid bitch.
I don’t even really feel bad about it honestly because… I never loved him. I don’t think I even liked him. But he liked me and I just thought...
Fuck. I don’t know what I thought. I just don’t know why I can’t make any relationship work.
What’s wrong with me?
She scratches out the last few lines furiously before crumpling the entire letter and throwing it into the garbage. She pulls on her jacket, heads to the bar and gets trashed.
She doesn’t remember how she gets home and everything spirals from there.
She’s on academic probation.
She’s not sure how it got to this point honestly. Somewhere along the road she stopped studying and started staying out later, going to bars and dancing with faceless people in darkened clubs under strobing lights. When she was drunk, with the bass pounding in her ears, she could forget for just a moment that she wasn’t good enough. That the fact that she’s in medical school should be enough for her mother to be proud of her. But no. It isn’t.
Eliza Danvers visits her daughters in National City and spends an entire two hour dinner praising Kara for her college newspaper article and commenting on how tired Alex looks.
She knows she shouldn’t have gone out for more drinks after dinner. She should have gone home, slept off the stress, taken initiative to turn her life around. But she doesn’t. Instead she slumps onto a barstool at the bar near campus and drinks until the bartender cuts her off.
Her head is swimming and she doesn’t even intend to drive, she just wants to sleep it off in her car, but when she hears the siren and a police officer steps out of her cruiser, she knows it doesn’t matter why the keys are in her hand.
The officer gives her some water and a sympathetic look before locking her in the drunk tank.
She’s not sure how long she sits there, but she’s stone cold sober by the time a tall man in a suit approaches her cell and introduces himself as Hank Henshaw. She recognizes him from so many years before and she marvels at how he hasn’t seemed to age since that night he gave a much younger Alex his business card.
He offers her a second chance and this time she takes it.
The DEO provides a space for her to flourish, to learn about who she is and what she’s capable of. It’s hard work, certainly— she has to train for an entire year before she is even allowed to go out into the field— but she finally feels like she’s doing something for herself. She excels in weapons practice and outperforms her fellow trainees in fitness drills, impressing her instructors, and the scientific opportunities are vast. Agent Henshaw even gives her an entire lab of her very own to work in.
But it’s Agent Finley— the intelligent, skilled, very female Agent Finley— who truly shows her what it is to be herself.
It starts in target practice.
Alex finds her pulse quickening as the other agent slips behind her to help her adjust her grip and when Finley’s hand lingers on her bicep, the area tingles. Finley corners her in the corridor afterwards and asks her to dinner, armed with nothing more than a confident smile and a bit of swagger and Alex can’t find it in herself to say no. She doesn’t even think of it as a date until Finley kisses her outside her apartment. She spends the night staring up at her ceiling, her head spinning.
The morning after she sleeps with a woman for the first time, she feels like a light has been switched on in her brain. Somehow everything seems clearer, and she thinks that while Vicky Donahue was so wrong about so many things, she may have been right about this. Alex Danvers is definitely a lesbian.
They date for a few months, and it’s better than any relationship she’s ever had with a man, but Alex still finds herself earning the ire of her partner. While all DEO agents spend a lot of time at headquarters, Alex finds herself the most frequent fixture in the labs and the training rooms, and eventually Agent Finley grows tired of Alex cancelling plans in favor of just one more experiment, babe . She breaks up with Alex over text message and Alex spends the night at her sister’s apartment, sobbing over pizza and potstickers about how even though she’s finally able to be herself, there’s still something missing.
Kara is sweet and accepting, but Alex doesn’t feel much better when she gets home.
She dates around a little after the breakup. There’s the graduate student at National City University that attended her guest lecture on xenobiology and the barista at her favorite coffee shop. Both women are fun to be around, and it certainly feels much more natural with them than her college boyfriend, but the nature of her job makes it difficult to hold honest conversations. The nurse she sees for two months even accuses her of hiding things after she sees the bruises left over from training. She can’t go to any of them when she has a rough day. Can’t share the burden of the horrors she’s seen.
Instead, Maggie becomes her confidant once again.
I honestly thought I’d figured it out, this whole… relationship thing. I mean, I actually like the women I date. That’s a nice change. But it’s just hard when I end up having to leave halfway through dinner to attend to a DEO emergency. If I were a doctor, I could easily tell them I had to perform life saving surgery and most women would totally understand that. But even though I have a cover story, “Sorry babe, I have important FBI business I can’t talk about,” gets old.
The only one I can really talk to is you.
It’s funny, I work with the NCPD sometimes and I think about you. I wonder if you ever became a cop, like you wanted. It’s weird to think about the idea that one day we might cross paths and I’d never even know it’s you. I’ve thought about using DEO resources to find you. It’d be easy enough to just look for a Margarita born in Blue Springs, Nebraska. But… I don’t know. It didn’t seem right. It’s not that I don’t want to see you, it’s just that it’s been so long, Maggie. You’ve probably forgotten all about your penpal Alex.
I’ve long ago accepted that I might never know what happened to you, but I hope you’re doing okay.
Her hands are shaking.
She’d downed a glass of scotch at Kara’s apartment when she was finally released from the scene (her FBI credentials had been incredibly helpful in that respect), but she was still on edge.
When she was on that plane, before she looked out the window to see her sister flying by, she had been sure that she was about to die. She’d had close calls on the job before, but nothing quite like this.
She remembers it all in vivid, technicolor detail: the pit that had formed in her stomach as the engines lost power, the cabin lights flickering on and off, the man next to her hyperventilating, sobbing into the phone to his wife. She remembers thinking about her mom back in Midvale. Was she watching the news? Did Alex even remember to call and tell her that she would be in Geneva? She remembers worrying about what Kara would do without her. Who would her sister go to for fashion advice before a date if she were gone? Who would look after her? She remembers wondering if she would be buried next to her father.
Alex collapses down onto the couch in her apartment, head in her hands. Tomorrow is going to be a shitshow. She knows it. She can already hear the lecture from her mother. How could you let your sister expose herself like that? It wouldn’t matter that she was on the plane. It would still somehow be her fault. Not to mention the inevitable scrambling they would need to do at the DEO to ensure that no one on that plane was able to identify their savior as a mild-mannered CatCo assistant.
Director Henshaw had arrived at the scene with a small team to interview her fellow passengers and survey the wreckage. Alex had been ordered home to rest, but she knows she won’t be getting much sleep tonight. Her mind is on overdrive.
Not only did she have to worry about the fact that the DEO was fairly certain that she was the intended target of the attack, she was grappling with the fact that her last thoughts before she thought she was about to die weren’t about her sister or her mom or even her dad.
They were about Maggie. The girl— well, woman now— that she still considered to be her best friend.
That had to mean something.
It does have to mean something, doesn’t it Maggie?
Her writing is hurried. Frantic. Her heart is pounding with the realization that she’s on the precipice of discovery. She doesn’t even address the letter, foregoing the customary Dear Maggie in favor of a complete emotional dump onto one of the pages in her notebook.
Why do I always think about you? Why are you always in my thoughts? Why can I never even walk past a police precinct without wondering if you’re in there?
I think… fuck. I think I might be in love with you, Maggie. I think I always have been. It’s why I can’t manage to make a relationship work. You made me feel special, listened to, happy. No woman could ever compare to that.
When I was on that plane tonight, one of my only regrets was never finding you. Never finding out what happened to you. Where you were. Who you became.
You weren’t just my best friend, you were my first love and I’ve just never been able to let you go. It’s why I can’t stop writing to you. I love you and you’ll never know.
And it feels almost freeing to say that, honestly, because I feel like... now that I’ve said it, maybe I can start to move on.
I don’t know.
Alex exhales a shaky breath. She isn’t sure when she started crying, but her cheeks are wet and her chest is heaving and all she wants is to have another drink and sleep until tomorrow afternoon.
She folds up the unfinished letter, presses a shaky kiss to it, and heads toward her bedroom, stopping only to deposit it in the box under her bed.
Detective Maggie Sawyer is the most gorgeous woman Alex has ever seen.
When she stands up to her on that runway, hands on her hips with her head cocked to the side, Alex is intrigued, but it’s when she sees the dimples that she nearly swoons.
She’s confident and beautiful and Alex isn’t quite sure if she wants to punch her or kiss her.
It seems that she has made just as good an impression on the detective, because she calls her up a few hours later with an address and an offer of a free drink, and when she gets there, Maggie seems just as giddy as she feels.
Normally Alex would feel on edge surrounded by so many off-worlders, but with Maggie, she feels safe. It’s ironic, she thinks, that she seems to be so drawn to women named Maggie. But she doesn’t have time to unpack that particular issue. Not when there’s still a possible Kryptonian on the loose.
A Roltikkon waitress— Maggie’s ex , her brain helpfully supplies— takes their orders and stalks back to the bar in a huff.
“You know, I don’t strictly date aliens. For the record.” Maggie relaxes a bit now that the waitress is out of view and focuses her attention back on Alex. “I do like them more than most humans though.”
Truthfully, Alex has to agree. Although she can’t really admit to this detective that her sister is an alien. Instead she asks, “Why?”
Maggie’s eyes get this faraway look— a look Alex recognizes from all of those late nights spent on the roof with Kara, listening to stories of her homeworld— but in an instant, she’s back, her mouth quirking up into a wry grin. “I can relate to them I guess. Growing up a non-white, non-straight girl in Blue Springs, Nebraska, I might as well have been from Mars.”
Alex nearly chokes on her drink.
Blue Springs, Nebraska.
She’s only known one other person from that town. A town she’s researched thoroughly. She knows how many people live there. Knows the odds.
She hadn’t wanted to get her hopes up when she first saw Maggie on the tarmac. It could have been a coincidence, seeing a dimpled cop named Maggie. Sure there was a resemblance to the faded photograph she still kept in her wallet, but she had been able to rationalize it as her brain wanting to see Maggie everywhere since her revelation. That’s all it was.
But this was too much to be a coincidence. This has to be her. Her Maggie.
The detective’s smile twists into a small frown. “I guess I read you wrong, Danvers. I didn’t take you for a homophobe.”
“No!” Alex hurries to reassure her. “You didn’t read me wrong. I’m also gay. I just—” She pauses, searching for an excuse. She couldn’t very well tell Maggie that she knew her. She wasn’t ready to face the truth of why they lost contact yet. “I never thought about it like that. Um. Having that in common. With aliens.”
Thankfully Maggie seems to accept that, as her eyes soften again and she leans in closer. “Well, welcome to the club then.”
Their partnership feels natural, which is a big deal to Alex, since she’s never really been one for partners that aren’t her super-powered sister. From what she’s heard from the other cops at Maggie’s precinct, it seems to be the same for the detective as well.
They work together seamlessly, and when the job is done, they meet up afterwards at the alien bar to shoot pool and share stories over drinks. Each night, Alex learns more and more about Detective Maggie Sawyer and each night, she becomes more and more convinced that she and her penpal are indeed the same person.
And despite the fact that she knows she should be cautious, she falls for Maggie all over again.
“A donut? You never eat sugar in the middle of the day. What’s wrong?”
Alex leans up against the hallway of Kara’s apartment building, a pink box of donuts balanced on one arm.
“I’m confused about something,” she mumbles around a bite of chocolate glaze.
Kara unlocks the door and waves her sister over to the couch. Alex sets the box on the coffee table and finishes the last bite of her donut, offering the rest to Kara. Kara accepts a jelly filled donut gratefully and flops down next to Alex.
“Okay, so what’s up?”
“I just. I wanted to talk to you about something.” Alex focuses on the open box on the table. She counts the sprinkles, trying to figure out where to begin.
Kara sets a hand gently on her knee. “Alex, you can tell me. Whatever it is, you know I’ve got your back.”
“Okay, um. You know Detective Sawyer?”
“Oh yeah! Your cop friend.” Kara’s eyes turn stormy. “Is she giving you trouble? Does Supergirl need to rough her up?”
“No, no. We’re fine.” Alex pulls her legs up onto the couch, fidgeting a little to get comfortable. She needs to go about this another way. “Her uh. Her name is Maggie.”
“Okay.” Kara stretches out the last syllable, unsure where her sister is going.
“No, Kara. Her name is Maggie .” Alex stresses. “She’s from Nebraska. Blue Springs, Nebraska”
“Oh.” Realization dawns on Kara as her eyes widen. “ Oh .”
“Yeah, oh .”
“Wait, so you mean… Detective Sawyer is…?”
“I mean, I think?” Alex shrugs helplessly. “I’m pretty sure.”
“Oh my god, Alex!” Kara whacks Alex’s knee repeatedly with her hand. “Alex! You found her! That’s awesome!”
“Why aren’t you excited?”
“It’s complicated.” Alex shrugs. “It’s… There’s something else. Something, about me.”
Kara rolls her eyes. “Are you going to come out to me again? Because that’s what this sounds like.”
“It’s not that.” She pulls one of the throw pillows into her arms and hugs it tight. “You know I… wrote to her. All these years.”
Kara nods and Alex knows she’s thinking of that night they packed up Alex’s room before she left Midvale.
“I didn’t know why, for so long, but now I…” Alex bites her lip. “I know I had— well, have— feelings for her.”
“Yeah. Those feelings.”
“Oh, Alex.” Kara’s voice is dripping with pity. “Do you know if she likes you too?”
“I don’t know. We’ve been flirting but…” She swallows thickly. She knows that Maggie might like her now— the Alex that she has become— but it’s obvious that she doesn’t remember her from before. Doesn’t remember all the secrets they shared.
“Does she know that it’s you?” Kara asks softly. “Are you going to tell her?”
“I don’t know, Kara.” Alex tightens her hold on the pillow, trying to hold in her emotions. “How would I even tell her that? ‘Hey Maggie, do you remember the girl you wrote to when you were younger? That was me and also I’ve been in love with you since then.’” She scoffs. “Yeah, that doesn’t sound pathetic.”
“Aw Alex, no! It’s not pathetic. It’s romantic !”
Alex tries not to roll her eyes at that. Of course Kara would see it that way. She’s been obsessed with romantic comedies since she first learned about them.
“I just don’t know what to do. She’s just so smart, and tough, and beautiful.” Her eyes well up with tears. “She’s just so beautiful. Even more so now.”
“Okay, here’s what you’re going to do.” Kara places both her hands on Alex’s shoulders. “You are going to call her up right now and meet her in the bar and then you’re going to tell her how you feel. You can do this.”
“I can.” Alex chuckles wetly. “And I don’t even need you to fly me there this time.”
Grinning, Kara pulls Alex into a near-bone-breaking hug. “Go get your girl.”
Maggie is already at the bar when Alex arrives.
She’s wearing a white button down shirt and she’s leaning over the pool table and Alex’s mouth is suddenly very dry.
All she has to do is go up to Maggie and tell her who she is. If can face down an alien three times her size without blinking, she can do this.
Kara has been sending her encouraging text messages all day, reassuring her that there must have been a good reason for Maggie to have stopped writing. Alex knows Kara is probably right, but she can’t help those tiny tendrils of fear that creep into her brain.
Maggie looks up from the pool table and her face breaks into a wide smile when she sees Alex, a fact that makes her heart swell.
She can do this.
“Danvers, hey! I was wondering when you’d show up.”
Maggie leans up against the pool table as Alex approaches and her casual demeanor is making it so hard for Alex to concentrate on the task at hand. She’s thankful for the dim lighting in the bar, masking the flush that she can feel creeping up her face at Maggie’s attention.
“Yeah, sorry I got a bit waylaid by my sister.”
“No problem. I think I’m early anyway.” Maggie waves it off. “I believe you won last time, right?”
“I’ve won the last four times,” Alex teases, enjoying the way Maggie’s nose crinkles when she laughs. “Which means drinks are on you. You’re not as good as you think you are.”
“I think you’ll find that I’m plenty good when I want to be.”
“If you wanted to buy me a drink, you could have just done so.”
Maggie is close enough that Alex can smell her perfume and it’s absolutely intoxicating. They’ve been flirting back and forth for a few weeks, but it hasn’t gone further than that, even though all Alex can think about is what it would feel like to kiss Maggie. The tension is simmering, nearly at a boiling point, and if Alex doesn’t do something about it tonight, she’s not sure she’ll survive. She just needs to be honest with Maggie first.
It’s just so hard to think when Maggie keeps looking at her like that.
“Well then, Danvers. What are you having tonight?”
Maggie turns to make for the bar, but Alex’s hand shoots out, catching her by the arm. Alex’s body moves quicker than her brain because before she knows it, her hands are framing Maggie’s face and they’re kissing and oh . This is what it should feel like .
All of her nerve endings are on fire, crackling with energy. No kiss has ever felt like this. She pulls back briefly for air, and is about to kiss Maggie again when she feels a hand on her chest.
Alex jerks back and all the hope and joy that filled her body only seconds ago is replaced with fear.
“I’m. I’m sorry.” She stumbles over her words and her feet as she hastily makes her way towards the exit of the bar. She’s dimly aware of Maggie calling after her, but she can’t make out the words over the ringing in her ears.
She hops on her motorcycle and through some miracle, manages to reign in the tears until she reaches Kara’s apartment. Kara ushers her inside and holds her as she breaks.
She was an idiot to have ever thought that the flirting actually meant something. Of course it didn’t. Maggie doesn’t want her.
She didn’t want her when they were fourteen, so why would she want her now?
And finally this is complete. Thank you to everyone who read and commented. Your support means so much and I really hope you all enjoy the ending.
(Also, a very special thanks to the world's best writing buddy, TaFuilLiom.)
It’s like lightning.
Maggie recognizes the agent stalking across the tarmac instantly.
She’s older and her hair is much shorter, but those eyes have haunted Maggie for more than ten years. She would know them anywhere. The woman standing before her is Alex— her Alex— and she suddenly feels like that fourteen year old girl again, seeing that picture of her pen pal for the very first time.
The agent fits her hands on her hips, twisting her mouth into a scowl, but Maggie is anything but intimidated. She’s never seen this expression on Alex’s face in person, but she’s drawn it up in her mind so many times while reading accounts of absent parents and annoying little sisters that it seems familiar.
They trade barbs over charred carpet and crispy limousine debris and if Alex recognizes her, she doesn’t show it. She doesn’t even hesitate to shove her own identification in Maggie’s face.
Agent Danvers. Secret Service.
Maggie glances from the badge to her face, still fixed with a frown. The freckles that dotted the bridge of her nose in those early pictures are faded, and Maggie wonders if she ever makes the time to surf anymore.
Maggie never would have guessed her former pen pal would someday end up a Secret Service Agent. Alex had always talked about her love of science, and so she always used to imagine Alex in a hospital doing life-saving surgery or in a lab somewhere curing cancer; but here she is, trying to claim jurisdiction of Maggie’s crime scene.
Completely unexpected, but so incredibly intriguing.
She heads to the precinct after she’s confident the forensics unit has the scene under control. She’s made a few calls to some of her contacts, but so far she hasn’t had any leads, so she takes advantage of the downtime to do some investigating of her own.
A cursory search of “ Alexandra Danvers” brings up far less information than she anticipated. It’s almost as if the search results have been scrubbed. There’s a few scientific articles, many of which focus on biomedical engineering, and a few programs from international scientific conferences from years past; but her researcher bios listed there are also frustratingly vague. All she can glean from them is that Alex Danvers is a brilliant scientist with multiple PhDs and an expertise in alien physiology. She supposes the academic achievements aren’t unheard of for a Secret Service agent, but the subject matter doesn’t seem to match the career path.
Maggie taps her fingers idly on her desk, then alters the search to “Alex Danvers” and scrolls through the results until she finds a Facebook profile that is mostly bare, save for a few photographs Alex has been tagged in by a blonde woman with a bright smile. Kara Danvers. The sister. She’s glad to see they seem to have grown closer over the years.
She can’t help wondering about the timing of all of this. She’s lived in National City for a year now, yet she and Alex have only just crossed paths. True, it’s a much bigger city than Blue Springs, or even Omaha, but they seemed to run in the same circles— literally, judging by the link Alex had posted to a marathon that Maggie herself had run a few months back.
Her phone buzzes with a tip about an abandoned warehouse in the Arts District. Rekindling her friendship with Alex will have to wait, she has a case to work.
Alex Danvers is DEO.
Maggie has heard whispers about the black ops group since she joined the Science Division, but she’s never gotten confirmation of their existence— that is, until she finds herself face to face with Alex again while tracking down the alien responsible for the attack at the airport. This time, she isn’t wearing the power suit, instead kitted out in all black tactical gear and toting a gun larger than anything the NCPD has in their weapons cache. She looks confident and a little bit dangerous and Maggie finds that she enjoys each version of Alex more than the next.
Maggie convinces herself that it’s professional courtesy that leads her to invite Alex to the alien bar. They’re looking for leads on their rogue Kryptonian, that’s all. But even so, when Alex pulls up on her sleek Ducati, the funny feeling in the pit of her stomach that she always associated with her pen pal makes a sudden, unfortunately timed resurgence.
Once they find a table and Darla leaves them alone, Maggie feels herself relax more than she has in anyone’s company in ages. Again, she has to remind herself that they’re here on recon, not on a first date, but it’s comfortable with Alex and she can’t help flirting just a little.
She has tried so hard for years to forget Alex, but now that they’re sitting at the same sticky bar table, the embers of her childhood crush simmer, only to come roaring back to life once Alex reveals that she’s also a lesbian.
Maggie doesn’t want to get her hopes up, but she thinks maybe, just maybe she isn’t imagining the spark of interest that she sees reflected in Alex’s eyes.
Now that the adrenaline of the day has subsided, Maggie is left feeling raw.
She groans, sinking down onto her couch, a bottle of beer in hand. She may have only sustained a bruised collarbone and some first degree burns, but she’s still exhausted. Maybe she should have taken Alex up on her offer to stay and get some rest at the DEO. The agent had looked disappointed that Maggie turned it down, but her explanation of wanting to be in her own bed seemed to assuage that.
The television flickers on and she surfs through the channels aimlessly. Most of the news is centered on coverage of the Alien Amnesty Act, so she settles in to watch the talking heads argue about the job market and public safety concerns. Her phone lights up with a text and she curses as she looks at the time. She’s completely forgotten about the date she had scheduled.
She knows she should probably apologize and beg to reschedule later on in the week, particularly because this is the third date she’s missed in two weeks, but she doesn’t really want to. Laura is nice and fun to be around, but Maggie never really thought it would last. She’s been around the block enough times to know that typically women aren’t interested in the darker parts of her job. When she’s called out to a crime scene in the middle of the night, she’s not dedicated or hardworking, she’s insensitive and obsessed with her job. So Maggie isn’t surprised when she opens the message to reveal a scathing breakup text. She’s more upset about being called a sociopath than anything else.
Her phone lights up once more and she steels herself for a continuation of Laura’s tirade, but it isn’t her ex— it’s Alex asking if she got home alright. The way her chest tightens when she sees Alex’s name on the screen tells her everything. It’s good that Laura broke up with her because it wouldn’t be fair to continue seeing her when she clearly still has feelings for Alex.
She has to deal with that sooner rather than later. The longer she waits, the worse it will be. Then not only will Alex be angry with her for essentially ghosting her all those years ago, she’ll be angry with her for hiding it now. Maggie turns back to her phone, tapping a quick message to Alex to confirm that she’s home and resting, and sighs.
It was so much easier to talk to Alex when she was far away. As close as they were, there was always that barrier of distance that made it easier to open up. She needs that now.
Before she even realizes what she’s doing, there’s a half used legal pad on her lap with the words Dear Alex appearing at the top of the page. She hasn’t done this in years, but it comes back to her so naturally.
It’s been so long since I’ve written to you and I’m so sorry for that. I wish I could say that my letters got lost in the mail, but the reality is that I was scared to write to you.
You see, when I was fourteen, I fell in love with a girl. She was smart, funny, and beautiful. So beautiful. Her name was Alex and she lived in Midvale, California and we would write to each other constantly. She was my best friend, but I wanted her to be more.
On Valentine’s Day, I finally got up the courage to tell her how I felt. I had it all planned out: the perfect card, a cheesy long distance date, everything. But then my dad found the card I’d written and tossed me out. He disowned me because I was gay and then I spent the next four years living with my aunt in Omaha.
I should have told you all of this then. I shouldn’t have just run like I did, but I was scared, Alex. I didn’t know what you would think of me if I admitted that I liked you so much more than as a best friend. So instead I tried my best to forget you, because the alternative hurt so badly.
Then… I saw you at the airport. I knew it was you the minute we met and just like that it was like no time had passed. Being with you is so much better than I ever imagined it being.
But now I’m stuck, Alex. If I tell you who I am, I run the risk of ruining this relationship that we’re building now. But I can’t not tell you because then I’m just lying to you. And someday you’ll figure it out. You’ll put the pieces together, if you haven’t already. You probably already have. I’ve been hinting at it and you’re so clever.
It’s just so much easier to tell you all of this on paper. It’s easier to treat you like my pen pal, rather than the woman I’m falling for again.
Maggie scratches the last part out. They’d only just met again and she can’t allow herself to feel like that so quickly. Not when there’s a very real chance that when she comes clean, Alex may never want to speak to her again.
It’s times like this when she really misses her aunt. Maria always knows the right thing to say, even if it sometimes takes her a while to say it.
She leaves the letter unfinished on her coffee table and reaches for her phone instead, dialing the number she’s had memorized since she was fourteen.
“Maggie Sawyer, do you know what time it is?” Her aunt’s voice is tinny through the phone. “You haven’t called in weeks.”
“I’m sorry, Aunt Maria, I know it’s late.” Maggie can’t help but smile, even as her aunt prepares to launch into a lecture.
“Is everything alright? You aren’t hurt, are you?”
“No, no I’m not hurt.” It’s not a lie. Not really. The wounds are superficial, nothing to worry her aunt about. “I just… need your advice.”
She can hear her aunt shifting on the other side of the line, probably going to fix herself a cup of tea like she always would when Maggie had a rough day at school.
“Alright kid, tell me everything.”
Maggie glances back at the half-finished letter taunting her from the coffee table and takes a deep breath. “Do you remember Alex?”
Working with Alex— being around Alex— is better than she could have ever imagined. Their friendship had always come easy, but part of her had worried that maybe that connection they’d had as teenagers wouldn’t translate to the real world. She’s never been so glad to be wrong. They make an amazing team and even the other officers at the station have started to take notice, teasing her about her fed.
Maggie knows the feeling is mutual when Alex shows up to the warehouse where the alien fight club is being held and proceeds to stumble over her words at the sight of her in formal wear. She can’t say she isn’t equally stunned by Alex, but she’s at least able to better hide her flushed skin.
Together— well, with the help of Supergirl— they bring down the fight club and arrest Roulette, but the exhilaration of a case closed doesn’t last long. The problem with trying to get an influential person like Roulette off the streets is that they’ve got contacts in high places, including in law enforcement.
Against her better judgement, she accepts an invite from Alex to go out for drinks. It’s not that she doesn’t want to spend time with Alex, in fact her company more than makes up for the professional sleight of Roulette getting off scot free. It’s just that the more time she spends with Alex, growing closer to the other woman, the more her guilt builds.
During their call, her aunt had urged her to tell Alex, to let go of the fear of rejection her parents had instilled in her, and to let herself be happy. Maggie had every intention of telling Alex the next time she saw her, but then they were working the Roulette case and it just didn’t feel like the right time. She knows deep down that there never will be a right time, and the longer she waits the worse a possible negative reaction will be.
Maggie watches as Alex grins at her from across the pool table. The blue lights of the bar give her an ethereal glow and she looks beautiful. So beautiful.
The next time they meet up for pool, Maggie will tell her. She has to.
Alex Danvers is kissing her.
When she was younger, she’d imagined this moment. She remembers writing to Alex in her childhood bedroom and thinking about what it would be like to see Alex in person. To be able to count the freckles on her cheeks, to see how her eyes sparkle when she smiles, and to hold her hand. The idea of kissing Alex made her 14-year-old self’s heart pound.
In those teenage fantasies they’d be walking on the beach hand-in-hand or sitting in a meadow on a picnic basket, surrounded by fireflies— someplace romantic. She would brush Alex’s long hair behind her ear and gently cup her cheeks. She’d tell Alex how beautiful she was, and then she’d lean in and press their lips together.
Now that it’s actually happening, everything seems so surreal. She knows it’s cliche, but it’s as if time stops and it’s just her and Alex in that moment. All she wants is to lose herself in the kiss and in Alex, but she can’t. She knows she can’t.
“Alex, wait…” She places a hand on Alex’s chest. She’s been hiding the truth from Alex for too long and she needs to explain before things go any further. She just hopes that Alex will understand why she waited. She’s just been so afraid of rejection. She needed to be sure that Alex felt the same way...
Alex jerks back, her eyes widening as she looks down to where Maggie’s fingers rest gently against her breastbone. “I’m. I’m sorry.”
She backs away from Maggie, stumbling as she makes her way towards the exit. Maggie tries to call after her, but it’s no use. She doesn’t even turn her head. Alex is gone. She’s gone and she doesn’t know how Maggie feels about her— about their shared history or how much she means to her.
Suddenly Maggie is fourteen years old again, staring into the fireplace as her notebook crackles and burns.
This time though, she refuses to let history repeat itself.
She sends Alex multiple text messages.
Alex, I’m sorry, it’s not what you think.
Alex, I really like you, I just need to tell you something.
Alex, please respond.
She knows Alex is receiving them— she can see the receipts— but she doesn’t get a response.
Back at home she paces.
Alex thinks she didn’t want to kiss her. She thinks Maggie was rejecting her, but the reality is so far from that. She was right before, when she wrote that she was falling for Alex again. She’s in so deep that she feels like she’s drowning and she needs Alex to know the depth of her feelings.
She takes the legal pad, still resting on the coffee table and resumes writing.
It’s just so much easier to tell you all of this on paper. It’s easier to treat you like my pen pal, rather than the woman
I’m falling for again. I’ve fallen for again.
Kissing you was everything I’d dreamed of, but I couldn’t let things go further until you knew. That’s why I’m writing you this letter finally.
I should have told you that night at the alien bar, but part of me knew that you would be angry, and rightfully so.
I understand if you never want to talk to me again after this. I’ll respect that. I’ll disappear. But you’re so important to me Alex, and I don’t want to lose you again. I don’t want to imagine my life without you in it.
Maggie lets out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. Before she can lose her nerve, she carefully tears the letter from the legal pad. She doesn’t have an envelope, so instead she uses a bit of tape to fold it into thirds and writes Alex’s name on the blank surface.
Alex’s apartment is across town, but she gets there in record time. Each footfall echoes in the hallway, her anxiety growing with each step closer to Alex’s door. She’d thought about knocking on the drive over, but she doesn’t want to force Alex into talking to her if she really doesn’t want to. Kneeling down, she slips the letter under the door.
That will have to do. At the very least, Maggie feels like she’s finally honest with Alex about everything, and if Alex wants nothing to do with her, she’ll be alright with that. It will hurt, but she’s been through it before. She’ll survive. It’s what she does.
Still, Maggie hopes that this time, things will be different.
It’s half past nine when Maggie hears a knock on her door.
It’s probably Mrs. Johnson from down the hall, bringing her some leftover casserole. Ever since Maggie helped the old woman with her groceries a few weeks back, she has been repaying the kindness in food. Maggie can’t really complain, particularly when she doesn’t have to cook after a long night pouring over case files.
When she opens the door though, it isn’t Mrs. Johnson, with her cat-eye glasses and fuzzy slippers, it’s Alex. Maggie’s letter is opened in her hands, the paper slightly crinkled, as if it had been held too tightly. Her eyes are wide and she looks as breathless as Maggie feels. Had she run up the stairs?
“Hey.” Alex’s voice is steady, but she looks like she’s about to leap out of her boots.
“Do you uh,” Maggie pauses, unsure, “Do you want to come in?”
Alex nods and Maggie ushers her through the doorway, turning to the kitchen to grab them both a drink. Standing with Alex in her small kitchen, both of them with a beer in hand, feels surreal. The letter— the elephant in the room— is still held tightly in Alex’s hand.
“So,” Maggie says, “You know then.”
“I’ve known for a while.” Alex won’t meet her eyes. “Since that first time at the bar.”
“You didn’t say anything.”
“Neither did you.”
“I know,” Maggie concedes, “and I’m sorry for that.”
“It’s okay. I’m not angry. Well, not anymore...” Alex trails off, looking up at the ceiling. “I was angry for a while when I first realized it was you. But after reading your letter…”
Alex sets her drink down and unfolds the letter. Maggie watches as her eyes dart across the page once more and it’s almost if she can see the wheels in Alex’s head still turning.
“When you stopped writing I was devastated,” she says. “I thought I’d done something wrong. That you’d just… grown tired of me.”
“Alex, I could never.”
“No, I… I know that now.” Alex finally meets her gaze. “I just. This got me thinking. We’ve missed so much time and um… I don’t want to lose any more. Life is too short and we should kiss the girls we want to kiss. So... can I?”
Maggie is nodding before Alex even finishes her sentence. She brushes Alex’s hair behind her ear, frames her face with her hands, and finally kisses her pen pal the way she’d always dreamed.
“Hey babe, I’m home!” Maggie calls as she shrugs off her uniform jacket by the front door. She hangs it on the coat rack, making a mental note to take it to the cleaners before she had to wear it again.
Her wife is busy chopping vegetables in the kitchen while their daughter sits at the island working on her homework. Maggie pads into the room quietly, just taking a moment to bask in the domestic bliss of being with her two favorite people.
Jamie’s face scrunches up. “Mom, I don’t understand this problem, can you help?”
Alex sets down her knife and wipes her hands on her jeans before leaning over Jamie to take a look at the page. Maggie watches as Alex patiently explains the concept, Jamie nodding, hanging on to her mother’s every word.
Even after years of being married to Alex Danvers and having a kid with her, Maggie still finds herself blown away by how lucky she is. The fourteen year old girl that had been thrown out by her parents could have never imagined that one day she would be so happy.
Alex looks up from Jamie’s homework and softens as she catches sight of Maggie. “Hey you. How was your meeting?”
“Long. Boring.” Maggie kneels down to give Jamie a hug, then straightens up to kiss Alex. As soon as she touches her wife, the last bits of stress from her day slowly recede, replaced by warmth and love. “Sometimes I regret taking this promotion. There’s so much bureaucracy.”
Alex drapes her arms over Maggie’s shoulders, her fingers rubbing small circles into the back of Maggie’s neck. “If it’ll make you feel better, we can go to the DEO range this weekend after Jamie’s softball game?”
Maggie grins, tightening her hold around Alex’s waist and kissing her once more. “Why Mrs. Danvers, are you trying to seduce me?”
“Would you like that, Mrs. Danvers?” Alex teases, a flirtatious glint in her eyes.
Maggie makes a mental note to ask Kara if she’d be willing to take Jamie for a few hours after her softball game. It’s been too long since she and Alex have gotten some time alone.
“Ugh moms you’re so embarrassing!” Jamie groans, making both Maggie and Alex laugh.
Maggie pulls away from Alex, letting her get back to making dinner, and takes a seat next to Jamie at the table,
“So, what did you do at school today?” she asks.
Jamie taps her pencil thoughtfully against her nose. “Learned about the Alien Amnesty Act in Social Studies. Then had a math quiz. And then… Oh!” Jamie’s face lights up instantly. “I have a pen pal!”
Maggie’s heart clenches at the memory those words trigger. She meets Alex’s gaze from across the room and knows that they’re both thinking the exact same thing. She turns back to her daughter, tilting her head, and smiles.
“You do? Tell me all about it.”