A scrunched up little face gazed at the new student, the new girl with her knees all bandaged up and her red hair flying every which way from fighting with the boys. The scrunched face was thinking hard on something. Curious how someone so young could be so tall. And curiosity always got the best of Waverly Earp.
“How’d you get so tall?” She had to lean her head back to peer into the big brown eyes, near covered by tangles of auburn locks.
The tall, lanky girl had to look down. She shrugged her shoulders. “Don’t know. Daddy said I got my grampa’s legs.”
Waverly hadn't the damnedest idea what that meant, but heard adults say things like that all the time. She looked the girl up and down. She sure was tall. “Gus I told me I got momma’s eyes. What’s your name?”
“‘Cole. Who’s Gus?”
“She’s my aunt. I live with her. And Curtis. I’m Waverly,” she stuck a little hand out for shaking, “isn’t Cole a boy’s name?”
“It’s NIcole. But mommy and daddy always call me Cole. Never even heard of the name Waverly,” Nicole responded challengingly. Because Waverly was definitely a weirder name than Cole.
Waverly cocked her head, gave the redhead one last look over before offering, “you want some goldfish?”
Nicole smiled, a big, broad grin with even bigger dimples. She sure did.
“Best friends,” they told each other.
“Darlin, you look beautiful…” Gus got teary eyed as she looked her niece over, clad in a lovely dress, the lightest shade of pink. It wasn’t too tight, but not too loose either. Fit just perfectly over Waverly’s petite frame.
The occasion? Prom.
The date? Nicole Haught.
Well, kind of.
The girls decided to ditch going with guys, and go with each other. They’d rather hang out with their best friend than worry about finding guys, no, boys that neither of them particularly liked to spend an evening with. Nicole never wanted to go with a guy in the first place, but she hadn’t told Waverly that. Maybe because she couldn't quite put her finger on why that was.
“Thanks, Gus.” Waverly wrapped her aunt in a hug before she heard the doorbell ring. She pulled back, “will you get that? I’ll be right down.” Shoes…
Gus left Waverly to let Nicole in, though, she wasn’t sure why she rung the doorbell. She hadn’t done that since the first week she’d met Waverly. From then on, neither of the girls bothered knocking on the other’s door. They were family.
Nicole only had to wait a moment. She heard a voice. That voice. The voice that Waverly used when she was just a little shy and nervous. And Nicole wasn’t sure what it was about that voice, but when she heard it, her heart beat just a little bit faster.
“Hey.” Waverly came into view.
Long, perfectly curled hair fell over her shoulders. The dress … her dress. The softest pink fell over every curve and stopped just above her knees, a thin white belt around her waist to accentuate her figure. And black heels that only added to … everything.
Nicole’s brows knit in confusion. What’s happening...? This shouldn’t be happening. Her stomach bottomed out and filled to the brim with butterflies, heart beat harder than it ever had in her life. And for the first time in all of her years of friendship with Waverly, she felt nervous.
Nervous as hell.
Luckily for Nicole, Waverly was distracted by how completely different Nicole looked. A long, black dress hugged her tall, slim figure, the top was lacy and elegant and sleeveless. And wow, how did she not notice how beautiful Nicole was before this? She thought back to other times they’d dressed up. Huh, she did look nice… Well holy shit, my best friend is a babe!
They both came to about the same moment, fortunately. Neither was caught staring. Though Gus stood in the kitchen, arms folded in amusement, watching the entire scene.
Nicole finally remembered to speak. “So uh, you ready?”
“Yes! OH wait! No!” Waverly rushed to the kitchen, opened the fridge, returned. Two corsages. They grinned bigger than usual as they put the other’s on.
“Okay. Now I’m ready.” Waverly smiled up at Nicole as she linked their arms.
“What about him? He’s nice!” Waverly pointed to a particularly tall boy who played on the football team. The entire night she’d been trying to find someone, or even just a possible someone, for Nicole.
It was true, the boy was nice. Surprisingly, for a jock. But every time Waverly’s eyes moved to scan the room, Nicole’s moved to take in Waverly.
Shit… this can’t be happening…
“Oh, he’s good. Look, really cute-”
“Wave,” Nicole finally interrupted Waverly’s project. “Let’s just hang out, ‘kay?”
Waverly gave her a faux-disgusted look. “Ew. Gross.” Nicole chuckled and lightly smacked her arm.
Waverly and Nicole looked up from their heated discussion about affairs between teachers to see the captain of the football team. Jonathon Reese. Blonde hair and blue eyes, and an actual working IQ (as Waverly so delicately put it), she couldn’t help but stare.
“Uh. Uh yeah. Yeah that’s me. Hi! You-you’re Jonathon! Or do prefer Jon?” Nicole rested her hand on Waverly’s arm. A secret message. You’re rambling…
Jonathon Reese laughed. “Jon’s good. I was wondering, would you like to dance?” It was an upbeat number, one she especially liked. She turned to Nicole to release a desperately excited face, turned back to Jon composed, held out her hand.
“I’d love to.”
“I am not wearing that dress! I told you, I'm a cowboy!”
A defiant, 9-year-old redhead glared at a tiny little brunette, two dresses tucked under her arms. A bright white Stetson rested atop the auburn hair, a tiara tucked in the brunette’s.
“C’mon, Cole! We always play cowboys! Let's play princess, just once!” Waverly had a pout to rival all pouts. And she knew it. She stuck that bottom lip out and lowered her brows deep as she could.
Nicole rolled her eyes at the antics. “I ain't gunna be a princess, Waverly! You can be a princess, I'll be a cowboy. I'll rescue you!”
“Hey! Who says I need rescuin’?!” The pout disappeared, she planted her hands firmly on her hips. Waverly Earp was tiny, but she handled herself just fine.
“It's for the game! I know you don't need rescuin’! Sheesh.”
Waverly pondered for a moment. “How ‘bout we look for buried treasure? I can be a princess, you can be a cowboy! Nobody needs rescuin’!”
Nicole tapped her chin, let a big dimpled grin spread across her face. “Deal.”
Nicole tried not to watch. But something was pulling. Something.
What the hell… What the hell is going on?
New song. Slow song.
Something told her she had to. Something told her she needed to do this, even though it might confirm a terrible fear. Nicole rose from her seat, tapped Jon on the shoulder.
“Hey, hi Wave. Can I cut in?” Jon smiled politely, bowed cheesily, and let Nicole have the dance. “Sorry, just wanted to get one in, we did come here together, right?” The two stood like planks until finally Nicole took Waverly in her arms. She’d hugged this girl a thousand times and then some. Why was this any different? Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was in her head. But the shortness of her breath and the pounding of her heart told her otherwise.
Each step of the dance both broke her heart and made her want to hold her friend closer. This feeling… This was leaving “best friend” territory, roaming new unexplored lands. Lands that terrified Nicole. Especially because the girl standing in front of her, the girl in her arms, meant more to her than anything else in the entire world.
Why. Why her. Why now?
Waverly had wrapped her arms around Nicole’s neck, laid her head on the taller girl’s chest. This felt good. Too good. Too good for friends, even best friends. She rested her hands on Waverly’s waist, slowly backed away from the embrace.
Waverly had always been able to read Nicole, tell what she was thinking, just by those ever expressive eyes. But now, pulling away from this comfortable embrace, this soft dance, something new rested in them. A new kind of fear was etched all over Nicole’s face, one Waverly had never seen.
“Hey, are you okay?” She reached to take Nicole’s hands in her own. Something they’d done before. Always done. But Nicole withdrew, her eyes darted to the floor, around the room, anywhere but the begging eyes in front of her.
“Yeah. Yeah, just uh… Gunna go sit.”
She found an empty closet. The janitor’s closet. In that beautiful black dress, Nicole fell to the floor, heavy sobs spilling from her lungs. She knew. She knew undeniably what was happening. What had happened. And she had never been more scared in her entire life.
Gus parked her old pickup in front of the high school, waiting for Waverly. She wasn’t quite sure why Nicole had called her, voice breaking, nose sniffling, asking if she could come pick her niece up, that she couldn’t drive her home. But she had a slight inkling.
Anger was written all over that face as Waverly stormed towards the truck, barefoot, heels in hand.
“What the hell happened?? Where’s Cole?!” Waverly only ever called her Cole anymore when emotions were running high, whatever those emotions were.
“Git in the truck, hon. She called. I don’t know what happened, darlin’. It’s somethin’ you’re gunna have to ask her yourself.” But boy, she hoped to high hell this niece of her’s would cool down before she did…
Nicole opened to door to the Earp homestead, casually waved hello to Gus and Curtis, made her way upstairs.
She found Waverly crumbled up on her bed, still in her pajamas, Kleenex littered the floor. She sat down beside her on the edge of the bed.
“Hey,” she offered softly, knowing there wasn't too much she could say right now to make her best friend feel better.
Waverly sniffled extra loud, sat up and leaned into Nicole. “He said I was bat-shit, just like Wynonna, cuz I didn't sleep with him.” She peered up into Nicole's eyes. “Why are people like this?” The genuine confusion written on Waverly's face spoke volumes. Such a good person, a truly good one, so fed up and confused by the shitty people in this world.
Nicole held her tighter. “I don't know, Wave. Some people just can't see anyone other than themselves.” Her heart broke thinking about someone talking to Waverly like that. Her fists clenched. She'd be having words with Champ Hardy. “But you just gotta focus on the ones that can.”
Waverly let out a deep sigh. Somehow, Nicole always knew what to say. They sat in silence a few more minutes, until Waverly was ready to face the day, put actual clothes on.
Waverly looked back from her closet. “Yeah?”
“You're not bat-shit. And neither is Wynonna.”
Always. Just the right words.
A harsh knock on Nicole’s bedroom door woke her the next morning. She winced when her eyes shot open, too much crying left them puffy and red.
“COLE. Open the door. What happened? Why did you leave me last night?” Waverly tried to remain calm. But she basically got ditched on prom night, by her best friend, with no explanation.
Nicole opened the door and stepped aside as Waverly stomped in, pacing started. Waverly paced when she was mad, or frustrated, or just searching for words. Nicole always waited for the emotions to settle, words to come, feet to still. She knew Waverly like the back of her hand and nothing ever stopped her pacing once she started. Just had to wait it out.
So she sat down on the bed, awaited the onslaught. Unable to contain herself, she dropped her head, burying her face in her hands, tears spilling forth once more.
True to form, Waverly continued her back and forth, even though Nicole's room wasn't too big. Muttering under her breath to herself, swinging her hands about, Waverly didn’t notice until she turned to address Nicole. Everything, all the anger, just faded away when she saw her best friend weeping.
“Oh, no. Nicole. Come’ere.” Waverly sat beside her, wrapped her arms around Nicole. “What’s wrong?”
Nicole raised tearful eyes to gaze into Waverly’s. She couldn’t tell her what was wrong. Could she? She really didn’t have to… Graduation was soon, Waverly was leaving for college. Maybe this would just go away. Right?
“I don’t know. I don’t know what’s happening, Wave. But I don’t think … I don’t think I can tell you…” She stumbled and stuttered over the words until they finally got out, out in the open.
Waverly leaned back, hurt by the lack of information. They always told each other.
And now she couldn’t?
“But you - you always tell me. You’ve always told me.” Her eyes brimmed with tears, breaking Nicole’s heart even more.
“No, no don’t cry Wave, please. I would tell you, I really would. I just can’t … I don’t … I can’t tell you something that I don’t know for myself yet. When I figure out, I-I’ll tell you. I’ll try.” She wanted more than anything to say “I promise”, but she’d never broken a promise to Waverly, and she never would. So she wasn’t going to take the chance by promising to tell her something she might never be ready to tell her.
More hurt entered Waverly’s eyes at this. What was so difficult that she couldn’t ask her for help? They’d always fixed their problems together. They were a team.
She sniffled a little. “Okay.”
Before leaving, she gave Nicole a hug, like she always did.
But today, butterflies.
“I’m gunna live here one day, when I’m big.”
Waverly looked the too-tall redhead up and down. “You are big, Cole.”
“I mean bigger, like adults who get houses.” Nicole folded her arms across her chest and stuck her tongue at the Earp.
“It’s real messy.” Waverly looked at that long forsake house, dilapidated and lonesome, right on the edge of town.
“So I’ll fix it! You can help. And you can live with me!”
Waverly scrunched her face up, like she did when she thought real hard. “Only if I get to pick the colors. And bring my toys.”
“I ain’t gunna paint it!” Nicole had a vision in her mind already. Something like a log cabin. No paint necessary.
Nicole looked over at her best friend, big ol’ box of goldfish tucked under her arm. “You can paint the mailbox.”
Waverly looked back, her big grin taking over her face. “Really? Promise?”
Nicole returned a grin, her big dimpled one, held out a pinky. “Promise.”