Fiona woke up to the doorbell ringing. She snatched her phone off the bedside table to check the time, wondering if maybe Charlie had come by. She couldn't decide if she wanted that to be true or not. Or whether she should get up at all. But the phone, which she'd turned to vibrate before going to bed, informed her she'd missed three calls from Holly J.
Fiona got out of bed and hurried for the door, not bothering with a robe. Her assumption was right: her best friend was pacing the hallway outside of Fiona's door. "Holly J?" she asked quietly.
Holly J looked up. Her hair was tousled, her eyes red-rimmed with bags underneath. "Hi," she said weakly.
"Why didn't you just come in? You have the fob and the key and everything."
"I didn't want... you know, with Charlie here..." Holly J shrugged uselessly in the direction of Fiona's apartment.
Fiona sighed. "I must have forgotten to tell you."
"Tell me what?"
"She's... Charlie's at her grandmother's. For a visit." It was a blatant lie, and not a very good one, but Fiona had just never quite gotten around to telling Holly J about Charlie moving out. Holly J would worry. She would ask a lot of questions. She would be a good best friend, and Fiona was firmly of the belief that Holly J needed to focus on nothing but herself for now. She stepped aside, opening the door all the way. "Come on in, sit down. Do you want some tea?"
"No, no, I'm okay." Holly J perched on the edge of the couch like she was afraid she'd break it. Or like she was seconds from running away.
"Right," said Fiona, sitting down close. "Because you look okay."
Holly J gave her a smile, one that was clearly reflexive and very strained. "I'm sorry I'm here."
"Don't be sorry. Just tell me what's wrong."
"I couldn't sleep. This whole thing with Dawn is just... I haven't even told my parents yet. What do I even say? I'm going to Yale on a scholarship. We live in a tiny apartment. We don't have a spare twenty thousand dollars."
"You said you're on the list, right?"
"Yeah, but it's going to be a year probably before I make it to the top. If I make it." Holly J swallowed hard. "What if... the doctor said it was rapid deterioration, Fi, what if something happens?"
Fiona's heart ached for Holly J. Literally. Her entire body felt tight with sorrow. She clutched at Holly J's hands. "Nothing's going to happen, Holly J. Nothing. I'll give you the money."
"No, Fi. I can't ask you to do that."
"Who's asking? I'm telling you, it's yours."
"But your mother..."
"Mom will understand. She loves you. You're family. And I don't know if you've noticed, but we Coynes do everything for our family."
Holly J sniffled, looking like she was on the verge of breaking. "I can't."
"It's only money."
"That's easy for you to say, you have it. And don't I already owe you a thousand dollars?"
Fiona shrugged it off. "You paid that back. And you can pay this back the same way. Twenty thousand dollars' worth of friendship. Which, incidentally, can't be paid if your kidneys quit working. So you," she poked Holly J's chest with a manicured fingernail, "have to suck it up and let me help you."
Holly J's lip trembled and her already red-rimmed eyes threatened to spill over with tears. It was possibly the most vulnerable Fiona had ever seen her. "Fi..."
"You don't have to say anything," Fiona swore.
Holly J threw her arms around Fiona anyway. "Thank you," she breathed into Fiona's ear.
"Holly J, I would do anything for you. You know that. I'd have given you my own kidney if I'd been a match."
"I never would've taken it," Holly J said into Fiona's shoulder.
"Then I would've knocked you unconscious myself and made the doctor perform the surgery."
Holly J laughed, shaking in Fiona's arms, but Fiona was glad for it. "I'm pretty sure that's illegal."
"It'd be worth it. I love you, Holly J."
"I love you, too."
Fiona had to will herself not to freeze at Holly J's words. She knew Holly J meant it absolutely, but in a best friend way, in a sister way. Fiona had been omitting one word from her sentence that changed its meaning utterly: still.
She hadn't meant for this to happen. Fiona honestly thought she'd been moving on with Charlie, even though it hadn't worked out. She hadn't quite realized how much Holly J still meant to her until there'd been a risk of losing her. How could she ever give this girl up? "I'm here for you, no matter what," she promised. "Always."
"Fiona Celestine Arabella Coyne, you are one of the most amazing people I've ever met," Holly J said, pulling back so she could look into Fiona's eyes. A grin crept onto her face, "Even if you have a slightly ridiculous name." Fiona didn't mind the slight, not if Holly J kept smiling.
"I'll add a million more middle names if it makes you laugh."
Holly J's smile was gone, though. "Maybe I deserve this."
"Kidney failure? Are you kidding? Why would you deserve this?"
"I've been... not a nice person," she said, sinking back into the plush armrest. "Okay, I've been a bitch. I've done terrible things to people that didn't deserve it. Is this my payback?"
"No! Haven't you ever heard of bad things happening to good people? Look at all the fundraisers you've organized."
"So they'd look good on a college application."
"one or two looks good on a college application, Holly J. You pretty much single-handedly ran the charitable side of Degrassi for three years. Don't sell yourself short. Everyone does terrible things sometimes. You're talking to the reigning queen of doing terrible things. But you wouldn't have done all that if you weren't a good person at the core."
"I could say the same for you. Are you sure, Fiona? It's not a small amount of money."
Fiona waved off Holly J's concerns with an arrogant hand. "Money is money is money. Mom and the family lawyer will like this much better than me buying a Vespa, or worse, another pig. Hey, maybe it's even a tax write-off."
That earned her a laugh. "You're the best, Fiona. You really are."
Fiona impulsively leaned forward and pressed her lips to Holly J's wet cheek. "Only because you make me want to be better," she said. She didn't know if she'd ever again have the opportunity or courage to tell Holly J that she still loved her. This was as close as she'd ever get, maybe. But she meant it, meant it with everything she had.
"I should get going," said Holly J with a tired smile, getting to her feet and going to the door, so she couldn't distract herself with how comfortable the couch was. "I feel bad for showing up in the middle of the night like this."
"Don't be silly. You can stay, if you want. We can have a sleepover."
"I can't, sorry. Well, I mean, I shouldn't. Mom doesn't know I'm gone. I probably shouldn't be running away in the night when I'm already causing so much drama for them."
Fiona gave her another hug. She knew what this felt like, the slow downward spiral where everything seemed impossible. "Don't even worry about that. It's going to be okay," she said.
"I swear it," Fiona said. She crossed her arms over her chest, watching as Holly J crossed the hall. She didn't close her own door until she watched the elevator doors close on Holly J. Her skin felt like it was humming with the anxiety that Holly J had transferred. But she didn't mind. If it made Holly J feel better, then it was worth it. Everything was going to be okay. Fiona knew she'd do anything and everything in her power to keep that promise.