She’s at the Hollingsworth house hanging out with Frankie and Shay and goes downstairs for a glass of water.
When she does, she notices Miles sitting in the living room with a laptop. She wants to slap herself for being startled by this. Of course he's here! He lives here. Duh, what was she expecting?
“Hey,” he says, eyes a little bit wide when he notices her.
…Not for him to talk to her. That wasn’t expected. She remembers the last time they talked, the hug and you were my hope. It had been an end, but…maybe it doesn’t have to be.
Lola gives a shy smile. “Hey. How, um…” She clears her throat. “How’s Tristan?”
“Good,” he says, nodding. “You know, considering. On the way to recovery.” He hesitates. “And you? How are you?”
And the thing is, this is painful. But not for the obvious reasons. It’s like, before anything happened, they were friends first. And Lola misses her friend. She’s still a little bit in love with him, but there are lots of cute boys out there and she’ll move on eventually. This uncomfortable conversation is ridiculous, and she hates it, so she tries to do something about it.
She widens her eyes theatrically and adds, “Considering.”
Unexpectedly, he laughs. She has missed the sound.
“Yeah, this is awkward.”
“I know!” A relieved grin has made its way to her face. She deepens her voice, teases, “How are you?”
“I was just trying to make conversation,” he defends.
“You’re terrible at it,” she informs him, smiling wide like the sun. “Absolutely terrible. Good thing we’re not on speaking terms anymore, huh.”
It’s said lightly, casually, but it wipes the grin off his face. She shrugs.
“Yeah, good thing,” Miles says after the silence has stretches too long. He clears his throat. “Wouldn’t want to torture you with awkwardness. Perish the thought.”
He doesn’t say it casually at all, is not even smiling anymore, but it’s an attempt. It’s something. It’s enough.
“Well, if you’re ever in a vindictive mood and feel like some friendly torturing,” she says. “You have my number.”
That’s the thing with endings. You can always start something new.
They start texting again slowly, hesitantly. The next thing to return are the funny Oomfchats they send to each other. Before she knows it, everything is as it once was—except they’re both in a happier place and not kissing each other anymore.
It’s nice to have her friend back.
They're walking through the hallway of school while Lola talks.
“So me and Yael are doing a bake sale, and—“
“You and Yael, huh.”
Lola chuckles, unsure why he interrupted her. “Yeah, that’s what I said.”
“You’ve been spending a lot of time together lately.”
“Okay, I don’t know what you’re suggesting here, but she’s my friend and your brother’s girlfriend.” The last part is said very pointedly.
Miles holds up his hands. “Not suggesting anything, just making an observation.”
“Well maybe you can observe baked goods with me instead.” She shrugs. “Baking is more fun when it’s together.” She amends, “Unless it’s stress baking. That’s something you have to do alone.”
He looks like he’s about to laugh. “You stress bake?”
She gives him a stern look. “Tell anyone and you’re a dead man.”
Now he does laugh. “Got it. Are you sure you want my help, though? Frankie and I are notoriously bad at baking. So’s our mom. I’d call it the Hollingsworth curse but Hunter actually can do it, he just chooses not to.”
She giggles. “I just pictured your emo brother with an apron. But yeah, I’ll risk it.”
“How bad can it be?”
Bad. Very, very bad.
“What,” she says, filled with awe, “did we do?”
They’re standing in front of Lola’s stove, looking at the fruit of their labor. It’s black. It’s slightly smoking. What it is not, is several muffins.
Lola wants to poke it, just to make sure it isn’t alive.
“How did we not set the fire alarm off?” Miles wonders.
“I have no idea,” she says. “We followed the recipe, didn’t we?”
“Yeah," he says, bewildered.
They end up calling for reinforcements.
Zoe purses her lips. “This better be important. Who’s dead?”
“No one’s dead,” Lola says.
“Well, someone might die soon,” Miles says.
Lola nods firmly. “Very soon. And horribly.”
Zoe lifts an eyebrow, unimpressed. “Horribly,” she deadpans.
“Blood and stuff,” Miles says helpfully. The creative writer, ladies and gentlemen.
“Our blood,” Lola says. “Because Yael will kill me if I ruin this event,” she turns to Miles, “and then I’ll kill you.”
He side-eyes her. “Someone’s worried what Yael thinks of her.”
Lola glares at him. It’s about as effective as a growly puppy, she knows, but puts her hands on her hips anyway. “Someone values her friend. Just a friend.”
“Okay,” Zoe interjects, though she looks interested at the bit about Yael, which is ridiculous. “How about you show me what you’re so threatened by.”
They show her.
“I,” she starts, then stops. And repeats this for about five minutes.
“We've broken her,” Miles whispers conspiratorially. Lola, meanwhile, is trying to keep her giggles quiet.
“I don’t—” Zoe turns to give both Miles and Lola a horrified look. “What were you even going for, here?”
“Muffins,” Miles says, admirably straight-faced.
“Can you help?” Lola asks desperately.
“Help?” she repeats with disbelief, but something in Lola’s expression convinces her to grudgingly say, “I’ll try.”
Later, there is a tray of perfectly normal muffins on Lola's kitchen counter.
“It’s a miracle,” Lola breathes. Zoe looks smug. “Thank you for counteracting the Hollingsworth curse.”
“Hey,” Miles says without any heat.
“I just followed the recipe,” Zoe says haughtily.
“So did we,” he defends.
“Whatever you say,” she sings.
Lola grabs one of the muffins and holds it reverentially.
Casually, Zoe asks, “So are you two hooking up again?”
Lola’s lips part. Next to her, it sounds like Miles choked on his spit.
“No,” they say simultaneously.
“We’re better off as friends,” Lola adds.
“Right,” Zoe says, sounding unconvinced. “But do you mean the kind of friends like Miles and I or the kind of friends like you and Yael.” She drags the name out teasingly.
Lola’s eyes widen and her mouth falls open at the betrayal. Miles laughs.
“A writing program in London. That’s such an amazing opportunity, I’m so happy for you!”
“Thanks, Lola.” His smile is genuine, but there’s something bothering him, she can tell.
Miles hesitates, before saying, “Did Frankie ever tell you about…our dad?”
“Yeah, your parents separated for a while because he cheated, right?”
“Yes,” he says, not looking at her. “Nevermind.”
“Nevermind what?” She gives what she hopes is a reassuring smile. “You know you can tell me anything, right? Nothing’s changed. I still won’t do any pity voice.”
He looks at her, clearly considering it.
“We could make it official, even,” she entices. “You wanna pinky swear?”
That gets a laugh out of him, at least. She smiles victoriously and holds out her pinky. He laughs again before lifting an eyebrow and linking his pinky with hers.
“Okay,” she says as their fingers untangle. “Now shoot.”
Miles sighs. “He wasn’t just a cheater. He was…abusive. Towards me.”
It’s like a jolt of electricity goes through her. She bites her lip. “Was?”
“Was,” he says. Relief floods her. “My parents split so I was okay, but then she took him back six months later and I felt…” He chuckles humorlessly. “Well, I got addicted to drugs to deal, so that about sums it up.”
Context clicks into place. She’s sitting on his bed and leans against the wall.
“Yeah, I remember when you were all messed up on those.” She adds, “Frankie was worried.”
“Yeah,” he says, looking like he feels guilty. “Anyway. I took those drugs because I was scared. I couldn’t be around him. And today, I disregarded his wishes for my future.”
“Did you feel scared again?”
“That’s the thing. I didn’t. I’m still uncomfortable around him, I don’t know if that’ll ever stop, but…”
“Isn’t that a good thing?” she asks tentatively. “That you weren’t scared?”
“Yeah,” he says, blowing out a breath. “It is.”
She smiles. Progress is hard to acknowledge somtimes. She gets it. “I’m happy for you. For that, and the opportunity in London.”
Miles nods before smiling. “You’re really awesome, you know that, Lola?”
“You’ve told me once or twice,” she teases. “Hey, do you think Frankie knows I’m in your room right now?”
“I think she’s been too busy with…whatever is going on between her and Zig and Esme.”
He looks sour at mentioning those two, not on the best of terms with either.
“Tell me about it,” Lola scoffs. “There’s no way that combination is ending well. Trust me, I know combinations.” She presses her lips together. “Can I tell you something? I mean, you told me about your dad, and I…”
She trails off, but he nods. “Yeah, of course. Tell me.”
“My mom abandoned me,” she says bluntly. “And I’ve always been feeling… I don’t know, like it was my fault. And I tried to tell myself I was better off without her, but then… Then my boyfriend dumped me, because he’d rather date my best friend. And I just felt like… Why do people keep leaving me?”
He holds her hand and squeazes, silently encouraging her to continue. So she does.
“After that, you and I happened. And I just couln’t stop thinking… Hey, maybe if my mom had been around, I wouldn’t have been taking my pills wrong. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to know what it feels like to have an embryo sucked out of me.”
Her eyes are burning. He grips her hand tighter.
“I’m so sorry, Lola.”
“We don’t have to do this again, you already apologized—“
“It’s not just that,” he says. “You know, you were right when you told yourself you were better off without her. Anyone who’d leave you is an idiot.”
She can’t help but smile at that, but still points out, “You left me.”
“I’m also an idiot, we both know this.”
She laughs. His head is on her shoulder and she cards her fingers through his hair. Before, this would have tugged at her romantic feelings for him, but it doesn’t now. She’s moved on, but…
Her hands abrubtly stop their motions.
“I always thought meeting a cute boy would help me move on from you,” she says, eyes wide. “But it was a cute girl instead.”
He chuckles. “Look who finally realized it.”
“Shut up!” She lightly hits him. “What do I do? She’s dating someone else! She’s dating your brother!”
“Make her fall for you,” he suggests, still grinning.
“Aren’t you supposed to be on your brother’s side?”
“Eh, heartbreak’s a part of life. He’ll get over it. So here’s what you should do…”
Normally, with any news on someone Lola likes, she would send the text to Frankie or Shay or both. But Shay is super focused on her athletic career right now and Lola can’t blame her for not wanting distractions. As for Frankie, she seems too busy with her new besties slash relationship that will likely crash and burn soon.
But she needs to tell someone about helping Yael realize who they really are, and about what happened before it. Luckily, Shay and Frankie aren’t her only friends.
[lola]: I HAVE NEWS
[miles]: if this is about frankie’s current extracurricular activities i don’t want to know
[lola]: I HAVE BEEN KISSED
[lola]: more like i have been #blessed
[lola]: guess by who ;)
[miles]: no way are you that fast
[lola]: guess i’m better at seducing than you boo
[lola]: yael kissed me!!!
[lola]: also one of my favorite vloggers helped yael realize something
[lola]: but a vlogger helped me realize somethign too
[miles]: and what’s that?
[lola]: i realized i’m pansexual
[lola]: pan is v similar to being bi so we can be buddies!!
lola changed kilometers ’ contact name to bi/pan solidarity
[lola]: i changed your contact name, we’re bi/pan solidarity now
[miles]: i know what it’s like to realize that about yourself and how scary it can be to tell other people about it
[miles]: i’m proud of you
[lola]: awww that’s so sweet
[lola]: wait what’s my contact name in your phone
[lola]: i’m smiling like an idiot right now i hate you
[lola]: also your brother wasn’t the nicest to yael
[miles]: …what did he do
[lola]: well yael realized they’re nonbinary
[lola]: it’s like when you don’t feel all girl or all boy so it’s inbetween
[lola]: hunter didn’t really understand or accept that
[lola]: and it really hurt yael’s feelings when he broke up with them
[miles]: i’ll talk to him
[miles]: i think he’s just scared of change
[lola]: yeah i get it change can be scary but there’s no need to be an asshole about it
[miles]: look on the bright side
[miles]: your crush is single now
“Ooh, you’re laughing at a text, who’s it from?”
Frankie waggles her eyebrows for good measure. Ever since Frankie ended the threeway relationship she’s been spending more time with her friends again.
Lola puts her phone back in her pocket while dismising, “Just Miles.”
Frankie blinks. Lola frowns when the silence stretches, wondering if she’s forgotten something.
“Since when do you two even talk? Why would you talk?”
Oh, right, Frankie doesn’t know that Lola and Miles are friends. See, Lola could answer with the truth, but the last time she did that Frankie laughed and waved it off.
“Oh, you know. We just do, it’s no big deal.”
But Frankie is not dumb, and the truth is dawning on her. “Wait. Back when you said who took your virginity…”
An unholy shriek echoes through the school halls.
“I thought it was a joke!”
“Your bad?” Lola tries.
“Lola!” Frankie’s face is going on an interesting journey. “What… When was this? Was it in my house?” She grabs Lola’s shoulders with urgency. “Was I in the house?”
“It was a while ago, and yes, in your house,” Lola lists, before hesitating.
“Was I in the house?!”
She scrunches up her face, unsure how to break it to her.
Frankie takes her hands off Lola’s shoulders.
“It was at that sleepover!” she defends, pointedly adding, “The one where you and Shay ditched me for your boyfriends?”
Frankie’s expression of disgust lessens a little, but is still very much there. Things get worse when now of all times Miles approaches them, saying, “Hey, Frankie, could you—“
“Ugh,” Frankie makes both disgusted and offended expressions and sounds in his face.
“Hello to you, too,” Miles says slowly.
“Ugh!” Now she does the disgusted slash offended thing at Lola.
Frankie looks wildly between Lola and Miles, probably imagining it and not wanting to imagine it, before walking away with a despairing, “I need new pictures in my head!”
Sounding highly uncertain of his sister’s sanity, Miles tentatively asks, “Is she okay?”
Lola leans in a little and explains, “I told her we had sex.”
His eyebrows shoot up the exact way Frankie’s had earlier. It’s a nice family resemblance. “Oh.”
Lola smiles. “So what did you want to ask her?”
He snorts, inspiring her curiosity.
“What?” she asks, smile widening
“Well,” he says, “I was going to ask her if she could look at a new short story of mine. You know…” He lifts a suggestive eyebrow. “Proofread.”
Lola remembers what happened when she proofread for him and bursts out laughing. He starts laughing, too, and before she knows it they’re both losing it.
When they settle down, she says, “I could do it for you.”
“If you can keep it in your pants this time, sure!” She beams at him before walking away to her next class.
[lola]: are you mad
[lola]: you can’t ignore me forever
[lola]: how could you ignore this?
lola sent image: goat.jpeg
[frankie]: sending a cute goat pic won’t make me forget that you slept with my brother!!
[lola]: are you mad?
[frankie]: no. just disgusted
[frankie]: WHY him
[lola]: well why were you fooling around with zig and esme of all people??
[frankie]: don’t turn this around on me
[lola]: let’s just agree that we both find each other’s taste questionable
[frankie]: …okay, agreed
[frankie]: only agreeing because of the goat bribery tbh
[lola]: in that case have another
lola sent image: goat2.jpeg
“I think she’s cool with it,” Lola says, putting her phone down with satisfaction.
Miles gives a wry look from across the table.
“Would she still be cool if she knew you were with me right now?”
“Totally.” Lola scrolls down on his laptop, reading the the story he wrote. “This is really good.”
He ducks his head to try and hide his smile. “Thanks.”
She rolls her eyes at his modesty, even if she finds it endearing. She takes a sip from her hot cocoa. This cafe is the best.
“Did you talk to Hunter?” At his nod, she prods, “How did that go?”
He grimaces. Lola laughs. She’s glad she doesn’t have any siblings she’d need to be big sister for after her mom left. It sounds exhausting. Not that Miles’ dad isn’t there, but from what she’s heard, he’s still not really there.
“I hope he’ll come around eventually,” she says. “Not because I want him and Yael to be together. But because I want them to be happy. Them as in Yael, not Yael and Hunter.” He’s staring at her, eyes unreadable. She resists the urge to squirm. “What?”
“You should say that to Yael,” Miles says quietly. “Trust me.”
She smiles and thinks she definitely will, but decides to deflect by teasing.
“Trust the guy who nearly set my kitchen on fire?”
“…Trust the guy who once did a decent waiter job in your restaurant?” he offers.
She pretends to think it over, before allowing it. “Fair enough.”
To: bi/pan solidarity
[lola]: i said it to them
[miles]: well don’t keep me in suspense
[miles]: what happened?
[lola]: tell your brother to get a gazillion tubs of ice cream
[lola]: let’s leave it at that
[miles]: you gain a relationship i lose one
[lola]: wait what?
[miles]: yeah tristan broke up with me
[lola]: oh no
She immediately calls him. He answers after the first ring.
“He wants to focus on his health, his recovery. And…” He blows out a breath. “He said I was giving up my future for him, and he didn’t want me to do that.”
She gasps. “You were gonna pass up the writing program for him?”
“But that’s your dream!” she exclaims, distraught.
Miles lets out a chuckle. “Yeah, that’s why he ended it.”
“I’m sorry. Breakups suck.” Lola frowns with sympathy. “Maybe we should get you that ice cream.”
“I think I’m good. I’m just gonna skip prom and—“
“Excuse me?!” she cuts in, offended.
“You can’t skip prom!” Why is her friend an idiot? “It’s prom.”
“I don’t even have a date. I just don’t feel like it.”
“You could go with me,” she offers. “I’ll be there.”
“Right, you’re volunteering,” he says. “Isn’t Yael going to be there, too? Congratulations on that, by the way.”
She beams. “Thank you. And yeah, they’re volunteering, too.”
“I’m not gonna third wheel. And I just don’t want to go.”
She scrunches up her face. “Okay, but just think about it. I hope you change your mind.”
To: bi/pan solidarity
[lola]: didn’t see you at prom :(
[miles]: i actually did go for a little bit
[miles]: but then i left to go be with tristan
[lola]: while you guys were broken up?
[lola]: did it…go well…?
[miles]: yeah it was good
[lola]: i’m glad
[miles]: how was volunteering?
[lola]: other than the bomb threat i had a great time
[miles]: happy for you
[miles]: my dad’s going to help fund the writing program
[lola]: that’s great!!
[miles]: he said he’s proud of me
[miles]: i feel like i’ve stepped into some sort of alternate universe
[lola]: well this is all very real
[lola]: i’ll pinch you next time we see each other if that helps
[miles]: that won’t be necessary but thank you
“You better still text me after this summer when you’re in London,” she threatens, jabbing a finger at him.
“Duh.” Miles grimaces when he realizes what he said. “I’ve been spending too much time with you. Nevermind, no texting—“
“No!” she laughs, lightly hitting his chest before he pulls her into a hug.
She loves hugging him. She’s short and he’s tall and they just fit.
“Oh my god, what if you’ll pick up the accent? Can you imagine?”
She giggles. He lets out a laugh, too.
It dies down, and she remembers the time they hugged and it felt like a goodbye. Like an end.
“Am I still your hope?”
“Good,” she says, satisfied. She breathes in the slight, faint smell of cologne from his shirt.
They pull away. Lola smiles.