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AMANDA

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The thing about Amanda is that she doesn’t take shit from anyone.

She knows exactly what she’s there for, whether it’s on the ice or off, as far as Hilary can tell; she does what she wants, when she wants, and she’ll smile and grin and act perfectly friendly, but Hilary’s been conned into helping with more than enough pranks to know that saying no when Amanda is the one asking is just – it’s not going to happen.

The girl knows how to get what she wants.

The problem is, it takes less than a week at training camp for Hilary’s heart to drop out of her throat, for her to realize that this girl – Amanda, beautiful and bright and so fucking good at their game, somebody who’s going to put asses in all those empty seats just by stealing the puck and running with it – can’t be her Amanda.

She figures it out after too many awkward half-started conversations, too many sneaking glances at Amanda’s wrist in the locker room before practice, after they skate so hard that even laughing hurts afterward, and the hot water in the showers runs out too quickly to help with how sore their muscles are.

Amanda is the kind of girl who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go for it. Hilary can see it in the way she moves, the way she laughs and excitedly jumps into conversation with every girl on the team. Hilary’s wrist says Amanda in big, blocky blue letters, but it can’t be Hilary under that stupid old tie-dyed wrist guard Amanda always wears.

If it was, Amanda would have said so the minute they met.

Instead, all she’d done was grin and ask what the protocol on pranking was, and if Hilary wanted to help sneak some Gatorade powder into their goalie’s mask. Hilary, who’d known Amanda was going to be there, was on the training camp roster, just stood there with her heart going crazy in her chest, and said, “I—yeah, sure. We’ll team up.”

It wasn’t her.

It wasn’t.

 

Hilary was fourteen when the last a filled in on her wrist. Amanda’s name was big and blocky, written in blue ink and all in capitals, like it was a statement. Hilary loved it. Sometimes she wondered what her name must look like on Amanda’s wrist: maybe green, because that was her favorite color, and probably cursive because all of her teachers have been insisting that’s all she use for years, like it’s easier to read or something. (It’s really, really not; they just enjoy torturing her.)

She writes her name out sometimes, on blank pieces of paper, just to see – but then she has to put her head in her arms and try to remember that it doesn’t matter if her handwriting sucks or not, Amanda’s basically required to like her, wherever she is.

Thinking about that doesn’t work as well on the ice; not when she spends hours skating from board to board, stick in hand, and feels like collapsing on the ice then and there. Her little brothers always give up ages before her, and her teammates too, but Hilary feels like – like she doesn’t have a choice. It’s not just about how much she loves the game; the way the cold air feels against her skin and the way her chest hurts when she breathes it in, or how her muscles will burn afterward, an ache so good that she wants to keep it there all the time. It isn’t even about the way it feels when she gets the puck in net, when she scores and her team scores and they win their games, or when her coaches and her parents tell her if she sticks with it, she could be good – she could play in college, maybe, or go professional even.

There’s not much opportunity for girls who play sports, let alone hockey. Sometimes she wishes she could have picked softball, or basketball; something with a bigger audience. But she fell in love with the ice and she wouldn’t change that even if she could.

But that’s still not why she plays so hard, or why she practices until she can’t do more than eat a late dinner and fall into bed, exhausted, and wake up the next day ready to go again. It’s because there’s something else, something special, sometimes, about the ice. It isn’t when she scores a goal, or when she’s in a game, and isn’t all the time, but –

She’ll get this little thrill, up the back of her spine, and it feels like she’s playing with Amanda, like if she passes right then, the puck will hit the tape on Amanda’s stick and fly into the net.

It sounds crazy, and her mom laughs when she explains it at dinner one night, stuffing spaghetti on her plate because she’s starving after four hours on the ice.

“You’re just imagining it,” her dad says, chuckling. “Most kids do that around your age. Impatient, the lot of you. Just because the name’s finally all filled in doesn’t mean you’re going to meet her anytime soon. It could be years from now, Hils.”

Hilary scowls and stabs her spaghetti with her fork as she sits down at the table.

“Watch the plate!” her mom says, before Jamie yells, “Mom, Rem is trying to steal my bread!” and she has to go break up the ensuing struggle over garlic bread that ends up in too many crumbs all over the carpet.

Hilary sticks her tongue out at William, who has more spaghetti on his face than he actually managed to eat, even though he’s finally old enough to eat on his own. He laughs excitedly and tries to stick his out back at her, but just ends up blowing a bubble instead.

She knows what her parents are saying, really – no matter what Hollywood tells you, nobody is telepathic, or whatever. That whole ‘sixth sense’ thing is a total myth you’d only ever see in movies, it’s just that, well. It feels like, sometimes, out on the ice – it feels like Amanda could be with her, skating with her, pushing just as hard.

Hilary can’t help but hope that maybe, somewhere, Amanda is skating too.

 

By the time she’s sixteen, she’s playing on two teams at once, spending more time on the ice than ever. She gets scratched for a month because of a sprained wrist, but there’s a scout at her front door a week after she’s back on the ice, asking about her college plans. Hilary spends her whole junior year in high school with her heart in her throat, and her skates on her feet, as her parents sit down with her and go over every possible contract, every scholarship and requirement and when they finally settle on the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she has a full ride waiting for her, which should be a relief, but it does nothing to calm her nerves.

She’s beyond excited to move out and be on her own, to go to college and play with a good team, with a good coach, for an actual university. UW-Madison’s games are even broadcast on television sometimes; it’s a big deal. She’s excited and anxious about it her whole last season with the Bears, and it doesn’t affect her performance on the ice, luckily, but she’ll lie awake some nights, unable to get to sleep.

Sometimes she thinks that maybe Amanda is at UW-Madison.

Hockey is plenty reason to be nervous, plus the whole college experience, but she doesn’t know how many people meet their soulmates at college, just that it’s a crazy huge number.

She moves into her new dorm earlier than she needs to, and meets her roommate – Sharon – who stays approximately long enough to make the room smell like weed and ditch this adorable little hedgehog that she leaves in a cage on the floor for Hilary to find after coming back from hockey practice one evening.

Against her better judgment, maybe, Hilary ends up keeping him. She spends hours doing research on how to properly take care of him – go figure, his cage wasn’t anywhere near big enough, and Hilary ends up spending like an entire month’s allowance on a new one that takes up half the room, and and immediately turns the heat up when she reads the article on false hibernations in cold temperatures.

Her family comes to a visit a month into the season. Quinton – she’d almost named him Mandy before realizing he was, uh, a he – is soft and sweet and only draws blood if you scare him, or, as it turns out, have the name Remington. Nobody can figure out why he hates Rem so much, but it doesn’t stop them from laughing, and it’s after posting the third picture of Quinton to twitter that Hilary realizes all the nerves she’d gotten used to the last year of high school are just – gone.

She’s #23 on her team, and she falls in love with that number – with her uniform, with her coach, with her team, with winning. She spends the majority of her time on the ice, with what little she has left over spent playing with Quinton and studying like mad so that she can keep her grades above a three point zero even if she doesn’t particularly care about most of them.

Hockey’s what’s important, and by the end of the season they lose in a bitter-sweet game, taking second overall in the NCAA championships. She feels like it’s stupid to be disappointed, because second is – second is fucking on ball, it’s great, but it doesn’t matter because she’s crushed anyway, after coming so close.

But a year later, her team is screaming and cheering and tackling each other on the ice, because they’re the champions, they fucking won.

And then she gets the call, and she’s taking a year off of school to go to training camp for the Olympics, and it’s all she’s ever wanted; to play hockey on such a huge stage and prove she’s good, that’s she’s the best. She doesn’t know anyone who could possibly want anything else.

Jamie laughs at her when she calls home, and then says, “Hey, can you get your girlfriend to get me her brother’s autograph?”

“Jesus,” Hilary says under her breath, and then, “Fuck you, no, hand the phone to Mom.”

She’s sitting on the couch in the hotel room, knees pulled up and cuddling Quinton into her chest as he sleeps. He’s a little ball of warmth, but she’s starting to think she should have had her parents take him during the couple months of training camp. It’s just – intense, already even, and her roommate isn’t crazy about keeping the temperature up so high.

It’s why she’s calling, really, plus –

“Girlfriend?” is the first word out of her mom’s mouth when she gets on the phone, and Hilary sighs.

“No. Jamie’s being a jerk, as always.”

Her roommate sits up in bed, pulling off her face-mask and saying, “If you’re going to talk on the phone, can you do it in the hallway? I’m just exhausted from practice today.”

She sounds it too, so Hilary bites back a rude comment and gets up, keeping Quinton to her chest, and says, “Yeah, sorry,” before slipping out the door, absently making sure she has the keycard in her pocket.

“Sorry,” she says into the phone once she’s pacing the hallway, “roommate’s trying to sleep.”

“It’s alright. What about this girl though?”

“Mom, it’s not even a thing.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, Amanda’s – I mean, she’s cute, but she’s not –” Hilary breaks off with a frustrated noise in her throat. She doesn’t know. She’s something, but she doesn’t seem to have any particular interest in Hilary, and it’s – soulmates are a two-way street.

“If you say so. I’ll be here if you change that down the road.”

Hilary rolls her eyes, “Yeah, okay.” She asks her mom about taking Quinton until camp is over, and then hangs up when she gets an affirmative. They’re coming down to visit in a week, so they’ll take him then. Hilary runs a hand over his spines, careful not to surprise him, and heads down to the little corner nook where all the ice and vending machines are, thinking she’ll eat a bag of those peanut butter cups she’d seen earlier.

She almost runs into Amanda, literally, as she’s coming around the corner. Amanda’s bag of m&m’s spills all over the floor and Quinton squeaks angrily, tensing up and pushing out his spines so suddenly that Hilary nearly drops him trying to avoid them.

“Shit, sorry!” Amanda says, jumping and straightening her shoulders.

“It’s okay,” Hilary says back, but she’s trying to calm Quinton down and doesn’t move until he settles back down a minute later, spines still ready for a fight.

“It’s so cute,” Amanda says, looking carefully over. “It’s a hedgehog?”

“Yeah,” Hilary grins. “His name’s Quinton. I’d let you hold him, but he can get you good if he’s not completely comfortable, and we just scared the shit out of him, so next time.”

“Awesome,” Amanda says, smiling brightly, showing off her teeth. “I spilled my m&m’s,” she says a minute later, and her smile drops into a frown.

“I’ll buy you a new bag?” Hilary says, and it’s because it was her fault, not because she wants to keep Amanda from heading back to her room just yet. She winces when she remembers that Amanda’s not even out of high school yet, and isn’t even –

“Thanks! I’ll pay you back, but my wallet’s in my room, which is way down on the second floor, you know...” she trails off.

Hilary pulls out the quarters from her pocket and hands them over, and Amanda buys Hilary her peanut butter cups after Hilary mentions that she wants them, plus her m&m’s.

“So, uh, I’ll see you on the ice tomorrow, rookie,” Hilary says, biting her tongue on the baby girl that wants to come out. She’s just – projecting, like always. If Amanda had so much as glanced at Hilary’s wrist guard, maybe she’d – but she hasn’t, as far as Hilary’s been able to tell, and that in itself is reason enough not to go asking the underage rookie prospect what name she has underneath her ridiculous tie-dye wrist guard.

Even if not knowing for certain is going to drive Hilary crazy before training camp ends.

 

Hilary’s excuse when she knocks on Amanda’s hotel room door a few days later is that Meghan – Amanda’s roommate, and a fellow badger – might want to join in on Hilary’s morning run. It’s their only day off for a week, and they’re supposed to be making sure they’re rested up, but a quick run before the sun gets too high isn’t going to hurt anybody.

She’s kind of nervously hoping Amanda might be up for a morning run too. And maybe if she is, they can even stop somewhere and get breakfast, talk about something other than hockey for the first time in a week.

She knows it’s not – that Amanda Kessel is unlikely to be the same Amanda whose name is written on Hilary’s wrist, but passing to her on the ice the other day, that familiar tingle stretched up her spine, messing with her head even as Amanda scored a goal off a sweet pass Hilary had barely meant to give her.

Christ, but Amanda could play; she was an aggressive player, rushing the ice and stealing the puck and not afraid to get a little close to her opponents when the occasion calls for it, and she’s fast. It was almost hard to keep up with her, with all that speed and talent and passion for the ice.

Amanda opens the door, barefoot and in shorts that shouldn’t be so, well, obscenely short. It’s too early for Hilary to not stare at how good Amanda’s thighs look. Her legs are all lean muscle, made for playing hockey.

Amanda runs a hand through her messy hair before saying, “Hey, what’s up?” with a little smile, and Hilary catches herself staring, jerking her eyes up and desperately hoping Amanda didn’t realize what she’d been doing just then.

Embarrassed, she just says, “Hey, Kessel,” and pushes her way through the door and past Amanda.

She grabs a pillow off of what must be Amanda’s bed and throws it at the lump hiding under the blankets of the other one. Then she raises her voice and says, “Meg, what the hell are you doing still asleep? Get up, somebody needs to go running with me, come on.”

She hears a curse, and sees a hand poke up but get thwarted by the blankets, and then hears a, “Fuck you, Hilary, no,” followed by a groan. Amanda comes up behind her, too close for Hilary not to twitch, and says, “Yeah, she came back at like, two. In the morning.”

They hear a, “Shut up,” come from under the blankets, and Hilary almost cracks up but instead manages a, “Jesus, you better be ready for the game tomorrow.”

Amanda says, as Hilary is turning around, “I’d be up for a run.”

Hilary’s stomach does this fluttery thing, because thank God. That’s the whole reason Hilary had even dropped by – even if she had thought Meghan would be with them. But this is probably an even better chance to – well, just a better chance to get to know Amanda, like, as a person.

Or as a rookie hockey player, trying her hardest to make the Olympic team.

“Yeah?” she prompts, after a minute, and Amanda grins.

“Yeah! Totally. Let me get my shoes on.”

“I’d put some pants on too, it’s kind of cold out still,” Hilary advises as Amanda ducks into the bathroom. She’d been wearing a big sweater for the Golden Gophers – ugh – but at least she won’t freeze in it. The short shorts, not so much.

“Did it snow last night?” Amanda asks, calling out from the bathroom where it sounds like she’d stuck a tooth brush in her mouth. The water faucet is running, so Hilary would bet that’s what she’s doing. Apparently ‘let me get my shoes’ is code for the whole morning routine.

“Nope.”

Amanda comes back out and grabs at the desert camo duffle bag at the end of her bed, pulling out what looks like a pair of sweats and pulling them on over her shorts. Hilary leans back against the wall and says, “It’s just us. None of the others were up for it.”

“Cool,” Amanda says, distracted, as she hunts for her shoes. “Just means we can set the pace.”

“So you’re saying I shouldn’t slow down for you?” Hilary asks, after a minute.

“Who says you’ll be in front?” Amanda finds her shoes with an, “Aha!” and starts pulling them on without even untying the laces where they’re already done up.

“Yeah,” Hilary scoffs, “you think you can even keep up?” She pushes off the wall and reaches up to tighten her ponytail. It feels a little loose and she hates when it comes out during a run or a work out, and it looks like they might end up in a race – she doesn’t need loose strands of hair getting in her face if that’s the case.

“Ha, ha,” Amanda says, tugging her heel over the back of her shoe. She kicks her toe against the floor and stretches her arms out across her chest, one by one. Hilary rolls her ankles, waiting.

“You ready then, baby girl?” Hilary asks, smiling cheekily. She laughs at the face Amanda makes, like someone spit in her cereal.

“Fuck you, baby girl,” Amanda says, and starts a count. “3, 2, 1 – you ready? – go!”

Hilary grins for a minute as they start off, the hotel door shutting behind them with a “Thank God,” getting cut off with a click. They’d have to stop moving to take the elevators, so they tackle the back stairwell instead; Hilary lets Amanda go in front of her, keeping a steady pace instead of jumping two at a time, like Hilary would’ve expected.

She supposes Amanda knows the difference between a marathon and a sprint though, or else she wouldn’t have been invited to training camp for the Olympics in the first place.

They’re out the lobby doors and jogging down the sidewalk in no time, Amanda a few steps ahead of Hilary, blonde ponytail bouncing against her back. They keep a mostly steady pace for a while – Hilary only tries to pass Amanda once, and Amanda breaks into a chase that Hilary eventually lets her win, because – well, because the view is nicer behind her anyway.

She doesn’t even feel guilty about it.

Mostly.

Amanda turns on her heel at one point and keeps jogging backwards at the same time, grinning at Hilary and raising her arms up high. She says, “I thought you said it was cold!” before laughing. Her sweater is almost falling off her shoulder; Hilary wonders if she got it from one of her teammates, or if she bought it too big on purpose.

The sun is stretching up behind a few tall buildings in the distance, but it isn’t quite there yet, and the grass is white with frost that showed up overnight, but Amanda’s right: it isn’t very cold. Hilary can already feel sweat around her hairline and on her neck, even with the cool breeze hitting her as they run.

“Better safe than sorry,” Hilary says loudly, after a minute, so that Amanda can hear her.

Amanda shrugs and turns around again, doing a little spin in her sneakers, and says, “Not my philosophy. Hey, race you to that Starbucks over there.”

The Starbucks she points at is at the end of the road – maybe a quarter of a mile down. Hilary says, “Try to keep up,” and puts on a burst of speed, jumping around Amanda and hastily yelling out an apology to a guy in a peacoat who she almost manages to knock down. She hears Amanda yelling out a, “Sorry!” right behind her and laughs before ducking around a fire hydrant.

She slams her palm against the front of the Starbucks building, red brick with the bright green logo above the doors, and then leans down to catch her breath with her palms on her knees. Amanda does the same a second later, when she catches up, but when she comes up for breath, says, “Holy shit, you’re fast.”

“You were on my tail the whole time,” Hilary manages.

“Couldn’t catch you though,” Amanda says, with a heavy sigh, and then points at the entrance to the Starbucks. “Mind if I grab something?”

Hilary shrugs, and even mostly manages not to judge when Amanda orders some peppermint latte thing with more whipped cream than could ever, possibly, be healthy. She does say, “Really?” with one eyebrow raised as they walk back out of the building though, getting a huff from Amanda in response.

“Hell yeah, these things are delicious,” she says, and licks whipped cream off her top lip.

There’s really not much Hilary can say to that.

 

They have a few minutes before the scrimmage game starts. Hilary is sitting on the bench in her stall, breathing easy and flexing her hands in her fingers before she tugs on her gloves. Her helmet is next to her; she’ll put it on in a minute. She just needs to be in game mode first. The rest of the girls are doing the same thing, or at least whatever they always do before a game. Some of the girls have some weird superstitions, and even if this isn’t a real game, it might determine who goes to Vancouver as a player, and who goes as a fan.

It’s a big deal.

She sees Amanda’s shadow before the hand bumps her shoulder, just hard enough to feel through all the padding. Hilary looks up. Amanda’s all ready to go, same as her, just waiting to put on the gloves and helmet. Julie’s already fully suited up, ready to get out on the ice.

Hilary says, “It’s about time, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Amanda says, and her voice wobbles a little, like maybe she’s nervous. “Would you, uh, help me out real quick? It’s this thing I do, I need somebody to draw an arrow on my hand before the game, so…” She’s holding her hand out, the one that she usually keeps covered with that ridiculous tie-dye wrist guard. That one’s been replaced by the standard black one they all have to wear for tournaments, completely covering up her soulmate’s name.

Hilary takes the permanent black marker that Amanda hands her and says, “No problem, Kessel.”

Hilary swallows, and can’t help but think of how hot it feels in the room, even though the chill of the arena has been making its way into the locker room all morning. She takes Amanda’s hand, and it’s kind of an accident, really, when she slides her fingers over Amanda’s wrist, the rough fabric of her wrist guard scraping against Hilary’s fingernails.

She should let go; it’s not – appropriate, really, to touch somebody like that.

She doesn’t let go.

She uses her mouth to get the lid off the marker, and spits it off to the side of the bench before pressing the thick tip to Amanda’s palm, slowly and carefully drawing the outline of an arrow, pointed away from Amanda and toward whatever it is she’s looking at. At the opposing team, at the goal; at Hilary, maybe.

When she looks up, Amanda’s eyes are big and her face is red. Her other hand is twitching, like she wants to grab something. Her hair is spilling over her shoulders, blocking one of the USA logos from sight.

Hilary presses her fingers harder into Amanda’s wrist guard, and Amanda jerks but doesn’t pull her hand away. Sort of muted, Hilary can hear the girls standing up around them, getting up and lining up towards the door, can hear them yelling out encouragement for the game that’s about to start.

Nobody’s spots are reserved: if she wants to make the team, she has to go out there and play.

But she has to ask.

“Amanda,” she says, and her voice is just as unsteady, now, but she keeps going anyway, swallowing past the nerves, “does it – does it say Hilary under here?” She taps at the wrist guard she can still feel under her hand, and Amanda just stares at her for a long moment, before she says, kind of breathless, “I – yeah. Yeah. Is it – is it Amanda under yours?”

And Hilary wants to say yes; just tug Amanda down and kiss her hard, lick into her mouth and bite at her bottom lip until they can’t breathe, either of them. She wants to get her hands in Amanda’s hair and on her skin and –

– and Julie’s yelling at them both to get their asses up and out on the ice. Amanda’s being yanked back and pushed out the locker room door, helmet shoved into her hands, and Julie’s yelling, “Knight, come on, come on, let’s go!” and Amanda jumps up, fumbling with her helmet and pushing her mask into place before tugging on her gloves and following the rest of the girls out and onto the ice.

Right, Hilary thinks, because Amanda will still be here after the game, and right now – right now it’s time to play hockey.

 

Amanda can’t concentrate. Hilary’s on the bench, watching the game unfold after her last shift, and there’ve been some good chances, but Amanda – Hilary cringes when Amanda tries to deke around an opposing forward and loses the puck, has it snatched away before she can try and save it. Amanda isn’t looking at her, which would be fine because they’re in the middle of a game, but Hilary thinks Amanda needs to.

God, when the shift is finally over, Hilary wants to get up and go – pat Amanda on the shoulder, hit her in the arm, anything to snap her out of it. Except Coach gets there first, talking to Amanda in low, quiet words, and Hilary can’t do a thing except watch Amanda crash and burn on the ice.

Amanda doesn’t come back for the second period, or the third – fuck.

Hilary doesn’t even care about how she played, or the fact that they won the game; she takes the fastest shower she can and shoves on her jeans and boots, wishing she’d just worn sweats today to make it easier, faster. She ties her hair up without bothering to brush it first, and is out the arena doors before any of the girls can catch her.

She knocks on Amanda’s hotel room door too loudly, maybe, too much.

Amanda pulls it open, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt still, but barefoot and with her hair falling all over her shoulders like always. Her face is set, and she won’t meet Hilary’s eyes, looking at the wall past Hilary’s shoulder, at the floor, at the door.

She lets Hilary in though, and slowly follows her. When Hilary turns around, hands twisting into fists, angry for her, because – because it wasn’t fair, Amanda’s one of the best goddamn skaters she’s ever played with, and –

“It wasn’t you,” Amanda says, looking around, anywhere but at Hilary. “Well, maybe a little. But it’s more that if I can’t perform under pressure, or with distractions,” she licks her lips, pausing before finishing out the sentence in a fast breath, “I’m just not at this level yet.”

It’s not what Hilary wants to hear. Amanda looks lost, like she got kicked when she was down and isn’t sure what to do now, or where to go. Hilary hates that look on her, and she steps forward, getting into Amanda’s space where she’d already been leaning against the wall, pressing her back up into it. Hilary’s knee ends up pushed between Amanda’s open thighs, and she lifts a hand to press against the wall and another to slide between the wall and the back of Amanda’s head, fingers running through her hair, before pressing in and kissing her.

Amanda is still for a second, like a deer caught in headlights, before Hilary can feel her shoulders relax and fall limp, and she starts kissing back, pushing up to meet Hilary ounce for ounce.

They pull apart after a minute, and Hilary feels hot everywhere, like she’s burning up, but Amanda’s still kind of hanging on for life, blinking her eyes slowly, mouth open like she’s not sure what to do with it. Hilary laughs a little, low in her throat, and pushes back in to kiss her again, mostly catching her bottom lip, soft and wet and all puffy, a glaring banner that says Hilary was here.

Amanda swallows visibly when they part again, and her eyes are maybe a little more focused as she stares up at Hilary’s face. “You –“ she starts, and then shakes her head and makes this ridiculous face, and Hilary has to laugh for real, pulling away enough that Amanda can step away from the wall.

Amanda uses the space to tug at her wrist guard, the tie-dye fabric falling to the carpet with a soft thunk. Hilary’s the one swallowing out of nerves now, and when Amanda says, “This is you?” holding her wrist up for Hilary to see, all she can do is stare.

Hilary, in bright green cursive, with a wobbly i and a too-big y finishing it out, the stupid way Hilary’s been writing since she was a kid.

“Yeah,” she says, finally, when Amanda starts to fidget. “Yeah, it’s—fuck, it’s mine, I’m—it’s you and me.” She can’t get her own wrist guard off fast enough, pulling at the stupid velcro hastily until Amanda reaches up and does it for her, somehow catching it at the exact right spot.

She pulls it away and the big, blocky blue letters are up for view, along with a sun tan line that’s never looked quite as ridiculous as it does now that Amanda’s staring at it. She runs her finger over the letters, and breathes out, before looking up at Hilary again, this – this huge smile on her face, bright and happy.

“Well, fuck,” Amanda says after a second, smile fading into a grin.

“What?”

“I just signed the paperwork to go to college in Minnesota.”

Hilary laughs and falls backward on the bed, but she leans up on her elbows after a minute and says, “We’ll figure it out, come on.” She cocks her head and Amanda follows her up on the bed, climbing into her lap with one leg on either side of Hilary’s.

Amanda slowly settles her hands flat against Hilary’s stomach, the fingers fluttering like she’s nervous.

Hilary says, “Hey. Just kiss me some more, eh?”

“You’re not Canadian,” Amanda says, laughing but leaning down, all warm pressure where her body is touching Hilary’s.

Hilary grins. “Good thing too, or I wouldn’t have met you.”

“So cheesy!” Amanda yells, and then laughs so hard that she ends up snorting, and Hilary has to flip them over before she settles down enough to let Hilary press her mouth against her throat, trailing her lips over her skin, and finally kiss her again, for as long as they can until – until Amanda has to go back to Shattuck to finish out her senior year of high school, until whenever they make time to see each other again.

Hilary doesn’t think about it: Amanda’s underneath her right then, making desperate little noises in her throat and sliding her leg up the bed to encircle Hilary’s waist, and it just… doesn’t matter.

Amanda Kessel is her Amanda.