The three teens sat in silence, each lost in their own thoughts as the world celebrated the New Year far below. Lucas glanced at Riley again from the corner of his eye, careful not to move his head this time. She looked so miserable, huddled into herself, shivering slightly. Maya had instinctively taken up the same position, though they couldn’t see each other with him in the middle. He paused at that observation, rolling it over in his mind.
It was true, figuratively and literally, he realized. Despite his best efforts to stay neutral to the girls’ spats and disagreements (even when he had actually agreed with one side or the other), he had learned that Riley and Maya needed each other far more than they needed him. It was a hard lesson, driven home especially after their friendship had nearly briefly ended because of Riley agreeing with him instead of Maya for once. After all of her poking and teasing and name-calling of the past three years, he hadn’t thought that Maya would take a little bit of fun (so he thought) retaliation so personally. And she hadn’t – she had been more upset that Riley hadn’t immediately jumped to her defense. In the blonde’s eyes, that meant that Riley had implicitly agreed –and sided with – Lucas instead of her.
They were Riley and Maya, Maya and Riley. And even if Lucas had maybe privately briefly wished for the day where it was ‘Lucas and Riley – and Maya’ or ‘Lucas and Maya – and Riley’, he knew that was still a long way off. Maybe not as far off as he had assumed, given the revelations of the night, but nothing was changing tonight, even though everything else already had.
His mind made up, he stood and deliberately walked a few paces away before turning to face the girls, his expression deliberately unreadable. Just as he had suspected would happen, Riley and Maya instinctively scooted closer to each other, seeking the other girl’s warmth and body heat in the absence of his own. Now they sat side by side, shoulders touching, and equally woeful expressions on their faces as they looked up at him. Part of him couldn’t help but admire the picture they made, such a study in contrasts; light and dark, blonde and brunette, tall and slim and petite and curvy. Yet like sun and shadows, there couldn’t be one without the other.
“For two people who have been doing a lot of talking lately, you two apparently haven’t really heard anything the other has said.” He said sternly. “Friends talk, and real friends listen. Remember, Riley? Well, now it’s my turn. Here’s what’s going to happen. You two are going back to the Matthews’ apartment, and you’re going to talk. Which means no more lies.” He turned his gaze on Riley, who bit her lip and looked away guiltily. “And no more secrets.” He added pointedly as he turned to glare at Maya, who met his gaze defiantly for a moment before also looking away. He had to take a minute to collect his thoughts – and his anger, which was increasing by the minute. “And of the many, many topics you’re going to cover, make sure you start with this one: where exactly do I fit in your lives? Because for as long as I’ve known you, it’s been a duet. Riley and Maya, Maya and Riley. I told you already that I refused to come between you two, so don’t you dare put me there. Either you figure this out and make a decision, or I will.” He warned. “And since it’s a night of ultimatums, you two have until four o’clock tomorrow afternoon to get everything out and settled between you. And then I want to talk to each of you.”