Evie finally finished sewing. The number of requests had her occupied all afternoon, so she hadn't left the dorm room. Mal was at the Tourney Field with Jay and Carlos. Jay convinced Carlos to workout with him and Mal went along with them. She claimed she enjoyed doing it once in a while but Evie knew she wanted to make sure Evie could be completely focused on her work, which Evie found endearing. But she was finally done with work and some fresh air would be so welcoming. So, she hopped from her seat and rushed to find the most important people in her life.
"C'mon Carlos almost there!" Mal yelled.
"You're doing amazing!" Jay cheered.
Carlos was doing a set of push-ups with Dude sitting on his back and when he finally reached the goal he got a hug from Mal and a kiss from his handsome boyfriend Jay.
"Phew, that last one was exhausting! Dude you could really lose some weight!" Carlos whined.
Dude growled at him, clearly not happy with Carlos' remark which only made them laugh. They were all sweaty and tired but blissfully happy. They laid down on the grass near the bleachers where the sun couldn't reach, as they were really hot from working out in the sun, and stared at the clear sky.
"Can you believe? This feels like old times, except for the fact that we're actually in a good place in our lives right now." Carlos commented.
"Yeah. Remember how we used to fight all the time?" Jay asked, more to Mal than to Carlos as he was always a lover, not a fighter.
"Oh yeah. We did it for the sake of self-defense but I got to say the adrenaline kick was always my favorite thing." They all closed their eyes for a few seconds, remembering how intense the fights would always get.
"We would always end up laughing on the floor." Jay chuckled.
"We used to fight our way in. When Evie joined, we started to need less and less of it, thankfully. She's a natural flirt, it annoyed the hell out of me." Mal groaned.
"You were in love with her then? Shocking!" Carlos teased, hitting Mal's arm lightly.
"Shut up Speedy! I honestly can't remember a time where I wasn't in love with her." Mal confessed with a stupid smile on her face. Both Jay and Carlos raised their heads and Mal gave them a confused look.
"You called him Speedy!" Jay explained with a grin.
"Oh." Mal grinned wildly.
"Jeez, feels like so long ago!" Carlos had a nostalgic tone to his voice. They closed their eyes again and left them closed.
"Because it was. We were kids still." Jay added.
"And we called you that because no one sneaked or ran faster than you." Mal giggled poking Carlos who tilted his head laughing.
"And we called you Superman because you could pull anything off, from back flips to petty theft. And your fighting skills of course." Carlos added making Jay laugh.
"And we called you Lady Boss, for obvious reasons." Jay said back and Mal snorted.
"I wear that nickname with pride. I quite liked bossing you around."
The three of them laughed.
"Remember when we called ourselves the Triple Threat?" Carlos giggled.
"Oh my god! We actually thought that was cool." Mal laughed.
"It was better than our initial plan to call ourselves the Trouble Trio. It was so lame." Jay snorted.
"So lame." Mal and Carlos repeated with smiles on their faces.
"Oh, what about The Three Amigos??" Jay recalled snorting even louder.
"Stop, I'm so embarrassed of my 13-year-old self!" Mal giggled and the boys joined in, laughing for dear life.
"Still, good times. We really bonded over these silly nicknames." Carlos pointed out.
"You're right." Both Mal and Jay agreed.
Carlos really was right. It might've been silly but it was one of the few memories from the Isle that all of them treasured dearly.
They opened their eyes and kept laughing at the conversation they just had, unaware that Evie had been listening to them behind the bleachers and was now long gone.
Mal finally found herself back in her dorm room, her clothes filled with grass and sweat, her hair messy and her body quite exhausted. Evie was sitting in her desk, apparently doing homework. Mal touched Evie's shoulder and laid a kiss on her cheek.
"Hey beautiful." Mal greeted.
"Hey." Evie said, without taking her eyes off her books. Mal raised an eyebrow.
Evie forced herself to look at Mal. She was dirty and sweaty and was giving Evie a worried look, yet Evie thought Mal was so beautiful. And there was a sparkle in her pretty green eyes. Of course, there was.
"Yeah. Just really busy and really tired." Evie lied.
Mal didn't quite buy it, but she was dying to get herself out of those clothes, so she gave Evie a gentle kiss on the top of her head and hit the shower. When she came back wearing a sweater and purple jeans, Evie was still looking at her books. Mal's phone ringed and Carlos' name showed on the screen.
"Hey Speedy! Yes, why not? I made that up, let me use it! Yeah? That's so cool! Yeah, of course. Ok. Bye!" Mal hung up.
"Hey gorgeous, that was Carlos. He said Ben came to them saying there's going to be a firework show tonight. Jay and Carlos are going. Shall we join them?"
".... Actually Mal, I really need to wrap this up, but you go." Evie answered, again not facing Mal.
"E, you love fireworks." Mal pointed out. Something was definitely wrong.
"I do, but this comes first. Go Mal, it's not like you'll be in bad company. You have Jay and Carlos. Mal, Jay and Carlos." Evie answered.
Mal was slightly confused.
"Ok yeah. But I really want to be with my girlfriend. They want you there. I want you there."
Evie was still looking at the piece of paper in front of her and was fighting away her tears. Mal noticed the pen in Evie's hand. It was shaking.
"E?" Mal took a step closer but Evie got up before Mal could reach her and sat on her bed. Mal saw how silent tears started to roll down Evie's face and, in a heartbeat, Mal was kneeling in front of Evie.
"E, why are you crying? What's wrong?"
Evie finally looked at Mal's concerned eyes. God, she loved her so much.
"I... I went to find you at the Tourney Field. And I kind of heard your conversation." Evie sniffled lowering her head again.
Mal didn't need more than a second to put two and two together.
A sob escaped Evie's mouth as her insecurities creeped in.
"I saw how happy you three were. You looked like little kids eating their favorite candy. I’ve never seen you act like that when I’m around. I joined you really late, less than a year before we came here, it’s really not a long time. You have inside jokes and you always have to explain them to me, you have so many memories to share, so many moments, you even had stupid nicknames apparently. You are a real family. You are the most important people in my life yet I will never truly be a part of the family, I will never have any of those things. Sometimes I wonder if you’d be better off without me." Evie buried her face in her hands and more sobs escaped her mouth after her wounded heart spoke for her.
Mal's heart broke on the spot. Evie really was sitting there and telling her that she didn't see herself as part of the family and that she always felt like they didn't love her just as much. The worst part was her truly believing they’d be better off without her. Mal felt absolutely terrible. She tried to get Evie's attention by gently letting her hands rest on Evie’s knees.
"You're right, we are a real family. But we’re only a real family with you E. You’re Jay and Carlos’ big sister who’d do anything for them and they’d go to the end of the world for you. We started off with the wrong foot but you became my ally, my friend, my best friend, my sister and now you're more than family to me. You're my partner in crime. My gorgeous girlfriend. Remember?"
Evie didn't give Mal an answer.
“E, please look at me.” Mal’s voice cracked. She wanted to take Evie’s pain away, she wanted to destroy every single one of Evie’s insecurities. It was heart wrenching to see that Evie felt unloved and left out.
Evie refused. She didn’t want Mal to see her like that. Suddenly, Mal’s hands were no longer on Evie’s knees. She heard the door open and close. Evie looked up. Mal was no longer in the room. She probably went to see those fireworks with the boys. Evie didn’t blame her. Better to be with them enjoying the show than to endure this mess that she was. Her makeup was all over her face but she didn’t care. She crashed on the bed in her clothes, messy makeup and all and let herself drift off, wanting nothing more than to that day to end.
Going to bed at 5pm was never a good idea. Evie felt herself waking up and she just knew it was the middle of the night. She didn't want to open her eyes but a light snore changed her mind. Mal was sitting on the floor right next to Evie's bed, one arm on the bed and her head was resting on it, purple strands of hair all over her face. Evie then noticed Jay leaning on Mal's bed with his head tilted back touching the mattress and Carlos cuddled into Jay's protective embrace, his head resting on his boyfriend's chest. They were all fast asleep with their classic leather clothing still on. That's when Evie actually stood straight on the bed and looked around. What were the boys doing here? Why were all of them sleeping on the floor? Evie asked herself. The floor between the girls' beds was full of objects and when Evie realized what they were, her hand had to travel to her mouth to stop her from gasping and waking them up.
On the floor next to the boys, lied a black and white leather jacket that belonged to Carlos and an old red beanie that belonged to Jay. Evie recognized the pieces of clothing, because she was the one who somehow was able to put them together and gave them to the boys on their respective birthdays. Those were the first gifts Evie ever gave them. Carlos’ was older, since they knew each other longer. Eventually they grew out of the clothes so, they stopped using them.
“They kept these...” Evie whispered to herself, the tiniest of smiles on her lips.
Evie then saw a metallic box. She knew exactly what it was but that didn’t stop her from opening it, trying to be as silent as possible.
She gave that box to Mal on a very specific day. The day they became real friends. The day some pirate from Uma’s crew tried to make a move on her and Mal showed up and left that pirate a complete wreck. Evie only asked her why and Mal’s answer was ‘You’re my friend E’ and a shrug. Evie was able to find some chalk pieces, gathered some of her crayons and markers, making sure the colors purple, green and blue were included, and stole an old box from some shop to put them all inside. She knew how much Mal liked to draw but she always struggled to find stuff to draw with, or to draw in. Then she left the box for Mal to find with a note inside that said ‘You’re my friend too M. Thank you’ written with a blue marker.
Evie was now looking at the inside of the box. Every piece of chalk, every marker and every single crayon were still there. And so was her note which now had a little purple crown doodled in a corner. Evie smiled widely. She was sure all of these things were left on the Isle. She glanced at Mal and only then noticed the book that was resting on her lap. The cover wasn’t damaged so it’s not from the Isle, Evie thought. And it wasn’t Mal’s sketch book, or her journal. Evie carefully took the book into her own hands and opened it. The first page had only one word. Drawn by Mal. Ohana.
Evie didn’t know what the word meant, or if she did, she couldn’t remember it at the time. And it was the only page that was from the actual book. All of the following were old, some were stained and were definitely ripped from somewhere else and put there probably with the help of Mal’s spell book. Evie recognized Mal’s neat handwriting, Carlos’ messy yet rounded calligraphy and Jay’s scruffy scribbles, all in different pages. She stopped at a page written by Carlos and started reading.
Something new happened today. I finally made a friend. Or at least I think I made a friend. She has pretty blue hair and a genuine smile. You don’t see much of that around here. At last someone was actually nice to me and I am happy like I haven’t been in years. She also has a pretty name. Evie.’
Evie couldn’t believe her own eyes that were already starting to water. She knew Mal had a journal, but she didn’t know the boys had them too, or that they’d write about her at such a young age. She flipped the page. Jay’s handwriting was next.
‘So today I got a new beanie to replace the old one that is full of little holes. And I didn’t have to steal it, not from anyone in the streets, not from my father, which is what I have to do whenever I need new clothes. Evie gave it to me. I don’t know how in the world she got the material but this isn’t stolen. She made it. I never care for the day I was born, but this year I do. I got a gift out of pure kindness. I like kindness and I like my friend Evie. Jay is happy today. I’m keeping this forever.’
Evie kept reading. This time it was a page written by Mal and it was really old. Her handwriting was still neat, but very messy and rudimental. Mal was a child back then.
‘I can’t sleep. Today I wasn’t invited for a birthday party and everyone else got to go. I’m jealous. I really wanted to go. Evie is pretty and I like her. Why didn’t she invite me? Did I do something wrong? Why doesn’t she like me? My mother made me go with her and scare Evie’s mommy and now they’re leaving. I just wanted to be her friend. Why can’t I have nice things?’
There was a stain in the middle of the page that Evie recognized as a dry tear. Evie blinked her own tears away. Mal never really talked about this part of their relationship, because she was ashamed of how she acted after this, for so many years. Evie always thought Mal’s not so nice attitude and actions came from her mother pushing her and anger. Now she knew they really came from a place of sadness and humiliation. 6-year-old Mal didn’t understand why she wasn’t wanted there and her mother twisted it to make sure Mal grew up being bad. Evie kept reading the pages, written by the three people still sleeping.
‘I always say I hate her, but who am I kidding. I like her. I mean, I really like her. She sees right through me. I love it and I hate it at the same time.’
‘Evie gave me a jacket today and it’s the coolest thing someone has ever given me. And it has no fur, unlike all the ones my mother gets me, even though she knows I hate it. She really knows me and I’m forever grateful. I wish I could repay her kindness.’
‘Evie told me she admired how fierce I was. That was the nicest thing someone’s ever told me. Jay is happy.’
‘Evie needed help today. And I helped. I don’t remember being this angry ever. Because someone was being mean to her. And they were trying to kiss her. But I want to kiss her. I like her. But she could never like me back. Not after all I’ve done. Not ever. Because I don’t deserve it. But I think we’re friends now. She gave me a box full of stuff for me to draw. My heart swell like a balloon. I think I have a problem. What is she doing to me?’
The pages carried on with every single memory Mal, Jay and Carlos held of her, written from the day they first met, to all the little gestures she was sure they couldn’t possibly remember. She was reading their thoughts even before they officially met or became friends. She read how Mal never really hated her and her rambling on how she thought she looked like a princess. She read how Carlos had never seen her around that much but always liked her blue hair. He thought it was cool. She read how Jay always thought she was too good to be living on the Isle. Evie remembered trying so hard for them to like her, especially Mal, always thinking it wasn’t good enough, yet every time she did something nice for them, because they were her first real friends after all, they remembered. They appreciated it. She even got to read fairly newer pages with memories from their brief time in Auradon. The book had missing pages, like they were ripped off. Except for the last page that contained a quote.
‘Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.’
Evie finally let her tears fall. Now she knew why Mal left before. Now she knew why they were all asleep in there with her. They searched for objects with sentimental value that Evie didn’t know they kept. They went to look for their journals, their most prized possessions, and they ripped the pages to put them all together in this book, that was clearly meant for her.
Evie felt so silly. For actually thinking those people didn’t appreciate or loved her. Mal, who would destroy the whole planet if it meant protecting Evie. Mal, her amazing girlfriend. Carlos who would become the most terrifying opponent if anyone ever messed with Evie. Carlos, her first friend ever, her little brother. Jay who would steal the moon if that made Evie happy. Jay, her protective big brother.
Evie looked over at all of them, tears in her eyes still. Weren’t them looking so peaceful, she would hug them for dear life and never let them go.
Mal woke up to a stiff neck from the position she let herself fall asleep in. She groaned over the light creeping in through the curtains, still closed. It was morning already. It was morning. She let herself fall asleep and as she tried to get up without fully opening her eyes, she hit the bedside table.
“Damn it!” Mal grumbled, rubbing her elbow.
Only then Mal realized the blue haired beauty right next to her was still sleeping ever so peacefully while spooning the book they were working on just a few hours ago. Mal smiled widely and got up, moving towards the boys.
“Guys…. Guys!” Mal called in a loud whisper while lightly kicking them both on their legs. Carlos immediately woke up and Mal’s hand travelled swiftly to his mouth to keep him from shouting, or speaking too loudly. Jay groaned and lazily opened his eyes. Mal used her free hand to press a finger to her lips, warning them to be quiet. After making sure they weren’t going to ruin the moment her hand left Carlos’ mouth only to be replaced by Jay’s lips, giving his boyfriend a good morning kiss. Carlos hummed happily into Jay’s mouth.
Their attention was on Mal again.
“Look.” She whispered, pointing to Evie.
Their faces lit up and the three of them had stupid smiles plastered all over their faces.
Evie felt the sunlight in her face and even though her eyes were still closed, she felt like they were burning. She wasn’t fully awake yet, but a gentle hand going through her hair did the job. She slowly opened her eyes, finding Mal, still siting beside her bed, gently running her hand through Evie’s hair and looking at her lovingly.
“Morning princess.” Mal smiled softly at her.
“Mal?” Evie’s voice sounded a little husky from being asleep. Then, last night’s events hit her, as she looked over at Mal’s bed to find Carlos on his laptop and Jay wrapping him up, also looking at the screen. They looked over to find Evie awake and stood up, soft smiles on their faces.
Mal also stood up but almost lost balance when Evie jumped off the bed and threw her arms around Mal and tried to reach for the boys. They made her life easier by coming closer and hugging her themselves. Evie giggled, being hugged tight by all three of them.
“I love you guys. So much.” Evie said.
They pulled away and ended up sitting on the floor. Carlos in between Jay’s legs, leaning on his chest and Mal let Evie do the same with her because she saw how much Evie just wanted to be there and hold her. Evie was holding Mal gently but very protectively, both her hands resting on Mal’s stomach.
“So, I guess I owe you an apology.” Evie started.
“Don’t be silly E, you have nothing to apologize for.” Jay answered.
“But I do. For doubting you guys. For doubting my girlfriend.” Evie sounded really ashamed. Mal could tell, as Evie’s grip tightened, like she was afraid the smaller girl might run away.
“We never told you about those nicknames, because we didn’t want to hurt your feelings. We were trying to protect you.” Carlos confessed. Evie realized where they came from. They knew Evie so well, they knew it would hit her insecurities hard.
“But we got carried away and we ended up hurting you anyway.” Mal quietly added. Evie embrace became even more protective, as she detected Mal’s guilt.
“So, we wanted to make it up to you.” Jay added, pointing to the journal and vaguely to their belongings, still on the floor.
“I found the box and worked on that first page for two hours straight while Jay and Carlos went for the clothes. Then it was reading everything we ever wrote and select the ones we wrote about you. But we ended up falling asleep on the job. So, we didn’t even get that right.” Mal hid her face in the crook of Evie’s neck.
Evie smiled and kissed Mal’s forehead. She recalled the things she read, and rested her chin on the top of Mal’s head.
“But I loved it. I had no idea you kept the jacket, the beanie, the box or how much you wrote about me.”
Mal felt a tear on her hair and immediately reached for Evie’s face to wipe it away.
“No, don’t worry. It’s just-I’m so happy. I’m so happy to have you guys. I’m so happy to have the best family in the world.” Evie smiled sweetly and everyone smiled back at her.
“You are part of this little family. It wouldn’t make sense without you.” Carlos pointed out. Jay kissed Carlos' forehead and Carlos leaned in even more, feeling safe in his boyfriend's protective embrace.
“And we love you Eves. We will always love you, no matter what.” Jay added very seriously.
“And E, of course we kept those things. You gave them to us. Out of love. Love wasn’t a thing on the Isle but you always made us feel loved.” Mal kissed Evie’s jaw.
“Not always...” Evie replied, her eyes burning for a whole different reason now. Mal felt her tensing up, knowing exactly why and shifted so she could look Evie in the eye.
“That isn't there to make you feel bad E. It wasn't your fault. It's there because I felt that you deserved to know. You deserved to know I never truly held anything against you. I let my mother take advantage of my sadness and I let her cloud my judgment. I was a horrible human being for years and I have no excuse for that but I wanted you to know. I never hated you. I was 6, and simply didn't understand why. I'm sorry.” Mal confessed. Jay and Carlos watched their little exchange carefully. Evie leaned in and kissed Mal's lips, a soft lingering kiss.
“You're not a horrible human being. And I love you. And I forgave you.” Evie assured her. Mal gave her a soft relieved smile and went back to her initial position. Evie seemed satisfied that she could hold Mal protectively again and Mal just wanted to be in Evie's arms.
Then something came to Evie's mind.
“What about last night's fireworks?” Evie asked.
“Oh that? We ditched it!” Jay chuckled, like it was so obvious.
“C'mon E, this is Auradon, there's fireworks almost every month.” Carlos added.
“Fireworks are to be seen as a family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten. And we were down a member, so we sat this one out.” Mal concluded, leaning more into Evie. Evie couldn't stop smiling.
“You guys really are the best. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.”
Jay and Carlos joined the girls and they all leaned on each other.
And they stayed there lazily for the rest of the day. As a family. Stronger than ever. Together.