Olivia is on her doorstep, a basket of her favorite chocolate-raspberry muffins on her arm, and Layla could dance for how much it feels like old times. She hugs her, trying not to be offended when Olivia stiffens in her arms. They are still in a delicate stage, she can’t keep forgetting that.
“So you heard about my dad’s new girlfriend huh? Let’s go to my room, she spends all her time in the pool.”
Olivia winces, following her, “Sorry.”
“She’s not actually that bad,” Layla admits. “I just… I thought I finally had a weekend for me and my dad and…” Layla shakes the thoughts away, closing the door behind them.
“Is she like moving in?” Olivia asks.
“No thankfully. I couldn’t deal with her trying to- that.” They sit on the floor, leaning against her bed, eating the muffins. Crumbs are probably getting everywhere, and Layla couldn’t care less. Her life has felt so unattached lately. Maybe it’s overly sentimental, but beside Olivia, there’s finally a calm in her.
Layla lightly bumps their shoulders together. “Thanks for this, I’ve really missed you.”
Olivia’s face flashes guiltily, and Layla grabs her hand.
“I didn’t mean- it’s on me too. I should have been there for you more, I should have realized how bad it was getting. I just…”
Olivia swallows, “Just what?”
Layla tries to smile, probably grimacing. “I thought you’d snap back. I thought it was like the week you drank all the tequila or started knitting.”
Olivia laughs, and Layla grins, keeps talking. “You get really intense about stuff in spurts y’know? I thought it was like that.”
She doesn’t add that the few times she tried to talk to Olivia about it, Olivia turned cruel. Or how she finally gave up, talking to her dad and then Layla was in rehab the next day. If Olivia doesn’t remember, Layla isn’t going to remind her.
“I’m really glad you’re better.”
“There’s something I need to tell you,” Olivia says, won’t meet her eyes. “I um, I did something really bad when I was high last year.”
Olivia’s hand is shaking in hers, and she pats it. “I know.”
Her eyes go wide, “You know?”
“I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t matter. You’re my best friend, and whatever you did that makes you feel like you need to stay away- you don’t.”
Olivia wipes at her face, “I swear, I don’t remember doing it. I just woke up in Asher’s bed and we were naked. The party was still going on and god I’m so sorry Layla.”
Memories piece themselves together anew. It was the last Asher party that was really a bash, decadent beyond belief and a two day affair. There had been a few hours Layla went out to get more ice with Jordan, a ridiculous adventure of them pretending to be sober and getting a flat tire neither of them knew how to fix. Her phone had died, and Jordan’s was out of juice, and they walked all the way to the nearest gas station. All the while, Asher had been-
“I’ll go, I really am sorry,” Olivia murmurs.
“It’s okay,” Layla says, Olivia freezing, and the words surprising them both. Even more surprising is that she means it.
“He shouldn’t have done it. Any girl, any person, on that many pills can’t consent. It’s not your fault.”
She sniffs, “I don’t know the details of what happened. I don’t think… I don’t think it was like that though.”
Layla forces herself to ask, knowing the answer won’t help. (All she wants is to keep Olivia at her side, she can’t do another year without her best friend, all alone.) “Why not?”
Olivia looks down again, gnawing on her lip. “I wanted- there was this one brief moment I remember before. We were walking to his room, and he said we’d play poker until you, um, joined us.”
Blood pounds in her ears, and Layla doesn’t know how to feel. Anger and envy, loss and betrayal- they all swirl about her, wetness prickling her eyes. It shouldn’t hurt more, but it does.
She laughs, bitter and brittle. How very different that night could have gone if she hadn’t insisted on crushed ice for daiquiris.
Laughter still crackling, she says, “I need a moment. I need- just go.”
Olivia does without another word, leaving the muffins. Face in her hands, Layla cries.
Olivia and Asher had sex.
The sentence keeps bouncing around her head, hasn’t gotten any more digestible. She understands why Olivia kept it from her. She was gone for so long, and then when she returned Asher was still with her and she didn’t want to ruin that. Layla gets that. Might have even done the same thing in her shoes. Olivia even tried staying away, but she wouldn’t have it, wanted her friend back.
But Asher never came clean.
It could have been a drunken mistake. A joke about how they got tired of waiting. An apology for breaking her trust, and they could have been fine after a few months.
But instead it feels huge. It feels like all Asher has done lately is smile and lie to her. From the money to the party to how he’s really doing- it doesn’t feel like a partnership anymore. And once she realizes that, there isn’t much left to think about.
Olivia didn’t warn him, an almost vicious thrill at the thought. Asher joins her at the small park, in his post workout clothes. It’s a quaint little park, mostly for little kids with the sandbox, and out of the way enough that she has no reason to ever return. It’s perfect.
Asher kisses her briefly, sitting beside her. “What’s up?”
His jaw twitches, “Is she okay? Did something happen?”
Layla hates that she doesn’t even know if he means it, doesn’t trust him. “Last year, at your party.”
The smile drops off his face, “Baby I wanted to tell you.”
“But you didn’t.”
“She wasn’t even into me!” he exclaims.
A chill settles into her gut, “Are you saying she didn’t want-”
“No, no!” He interrupts loudly, dragging a hand through his hair. “I mean like, we were talking about you, I wasn’t the main attraction.”
Layla exhales a laugh, can’t imagine that sat well on his ego.
Asher settles, calmer now. “We thought you’d be back in fifteen, so we were playing cards and drinking. And I dunno, we never realized how much time it was taking and we drank too much and… I should have told you, I’m so sorry Layla.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“I didn’t- I don’t want to lose you. I love you.”
Layla stands up, almost disappointed. There had been some stupid voice in the back of her head insisting on hearing him out, just in case he had a different story or reasoning. “You should have told me.”
She leaves him, ignoring his pleas, not looking back once.
Layla avoids both of them for a while. Asher gives up after the first week, and Layla tries not to wonder if they had both been holding onto something just to not be alone in big houses. Olivia goes back to the background as if she could ever blend in, and Layla tries not to consider why she’s so quick to forgive her. (Layla can’t stop thinking about Asher’s comments, about Olivia’s cut off I wanted.)
She misses her. She’s missed Olivia ever since she went away to rehab, no before that- ever since she tried to stop being herself, dissociating away with pills.
She misses her, and there’s an easy way to fix that.
The next day at lunch she sits with Olivia. “I’m done with- I’m good with my moment.”
It takes her a minute to figure out what she means, a brilliant smile appearing. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. How’s being a stage hand going?”
And it’s not smooth or whatever, but Olivia answers, and her chest doesn’t feel so tight anymore.