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comeback to me, baby (i’ll come back to you).

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The first time Amy saw Hope, it was the first day of first grade. Half the kids were crying, a few parents were panicking because their kid was dumb enough to already eat their recess snack, and Hope was just sitting next to her backpack, observing.

Amy wanted to go over and say hi. That morning, over her daily toast and eggs, her mom had told her to be nice to everybody, listen to the teacher, share her snacks at recess with kids who didn’t have any, and talk to the kids who didn't know anybody. Her first grade self wasn’t awesome at reading situations yet, but she figured Hope was one of those kids.

“Should we say hi to her?” she’d asked.

Molly had furrowed her eyebrows slightly. “What?”

“That girl,” Amy had replied. She pointed, then remembered pointing is rude, and slowly lowered her arm. “She’s alone. It’s not her fault she didn’t go to kindergarten with anybody here.”

“She’s probably waiting for someone,” Molly had said with a shrug. “Now, come on, I heard you get to pick your stars for roll call if you meet the teacher early.”

And that had been the end of it.

Hope did not end up being in her class, and they staggered each class’ recess and lunch, so Amy didn't really see her again until second grade. Once in a while, she would see Hope sitting alone before school started, and she’d feel bad about not greeting her that first day, but Molly would just tug her away to line up, and say, “We’re not even in her class anyway.”

They didn't actually speak words to each other until the first day of second grade, when they were sat together as table partners. The teacher had greeted her at the door with a high five, instructions for where to leave her backpack, and then told her to go find the folder with her name on it. Amy had spotted it right away, of course, but shuffled her feet awkwardly to delay actually having to sit down. 

“I don’t bite,” Hope had said. 

Amy blushed. “I know.” 

Hope nodded. “I’m Hope.”

“I’m Amy.”

Hope pointed to her folder. “I know.” 

They didn’t talk much. Nothing more than briefly sharing work during pair-share sessions. Until, one day, during their free reading time, Hope started to eye the book Amy had spread open on the table. She used one finger to track the word she’d been reading, but paused, when she started to get the feeling someone was watching her. She looked up. Sure enough, Hope was staring, switching between Amy’s face and the book cover. 

“Harry Potter,” Hope said. It wasn't a question, it was just a statement, nothing more. 

Amy nodded. “It’s good.”

“It’s advanced,” Hope said, but she didn't sound jealous, just impressed. 

“You wanna read it after me?” Amy asked. 

Hope just gave her a shy smile and tilted the cover of her own book over. It was also Harry Potter. “What chapter are you on?”

“Twelve,” Amy said. “I’m a fast reader, though.”

“I’m on thirteen,” Hope said. Amy laughed. “Do you want to come over after school and read some more?”

Amy nodded. Then smiled. Then nodded some more. “I’ll ask my mom.”

That’s how it started. They’d go to Amy’s house or Hope’s house after school and read together every day, except for Friday, when Amy and Molly had their weekly sleepover. Most of the time, they'd read. Other times, they'd "bake" which meant their parents baked, and they sort of helped. Other times, they'd go on walks, which was only allowed because they promised to stay together, and Amy had finally learned how to memorize her address and phone number.

Most of the time, they read books. Molly liked school, but she was more into science and that kind of thing. Hope really liked to read the same way Amy did, and understood the way books stay with you. She let Amy talk about them as long as she wanted to, and, even if she had nothing to say in return, she'd listen, offering encouraging smiles here and there so Amy knew she was really paying attention.

Over the years, the books got harder, the conversations got better, and, eventually, they started talking about other stuff. In particular, in fifth grade, they started talking about boys.

“Molly said she likes Nick.”

“What?” Hope asked. 

Amy snapped her book shut and grumbled, “She like likes him.”

Hope had wrinkled her nose. “Ew.”

“I know,” Amy had said. “Like, ew, a boy?”

“Totally. Although, my mom said I’ll like boys someday,” Hope said thoughtfully. 

Amy remembered how she’d felt when Hope had said that. Betrayed? She wasn’t sure why. But she’d just nodded and said, “Oh.”

A week later, in the middle of another reading session, Hope snapped her book shut. "By the way, I talked to my mom, and she said I don't have to like boys. I can like girls, too."

Amy smiled. "Oh?" She hesitated, then, closing her book quietly, said, "I like girls. I mean, I like you."

"Yeah, but not like that," Hope had said, waving her off. "It's like, when you really like spending time with someone, and you think they're pretty or something, and you want to hold their hand."

Amy didn't say that that's exactly how she felt about Hope.

For Hope's eleventh birthday, she invited Amy to the dinner she had every year. When her dad brought out the cake and a camera for pictures, he'd commented, "We asked her if she wanted to invite anyone else, but she said you're her only friend."

Hope had just shrugged. "It's true. I don't need any others."

"I don't have many friends, either," Amy told Hope's dad, ignoring the elephant in the room, which was the fact that Amy's other friend was Molly.

Molly, by the way, hated Hope. Somehow, early on, they managed to figure out a way for Amy to hang out with both of them, and, somehow, they learned to be respectful of the fact that Amy was friends with the other.  Still, it was abundantly clear that they wanted no part of each other, when Hope would pointedly invite just Amy to go to the beach with her family, or when Molly would bring up her and Amy’s Friday night sleepovers at lunch time. Amy would find a way to diffuse the situation, but all the little things meant it didn’t really surprise her when everything ended the way it did.

The last day of summer before seventh grade, Molly was still on vacation, so Amy and Hope had a sleepover. The one bed was getting kind of cramped at that point, since Hope just wouldn’t stop growing, but it was fun to read and talk and eat snacks and practice braiding the others’ hair, and, eventually, they laid in bed, and realized it was better when it was small and they had to squish together. 

“We’re going to be middle schoolers,” Hope said. 

“We’re so old,” Amy had laughed. “Only six grades until college. Where do you want to go?”

“To college?” Hope had asked incredulously. “Amy, I’m eleven. I don’t know.”

“Well,” Amy said matter-of-factly, I want to go to Columbia.”

“Good,” Hope had said. Amy hadn’t been sure what she meant, but the nightlight’s soft glow allowed her to see a gentle smile on Hope’s lips. “I’m excited to be at your graduation from Columbia. I’ve always wanted to go to New York.”

“I don’t know if I’ll get in,” Amy said. 

“You will,” Hope had answered. “You’re the smartest person I know.” She smirked. “Aside from myself.” 

Then they dissolved into giggles, Amy’s mom knocked on the door to remind them to go to sleep, and Amy drifted off tucked under Hope’s arm.

Amy didn’t know it at the time, but that would be the last time they ever hung out like that. When middle school started, all of a sudden their classes were changing every hour, there were extracurriculars and sports, it became so much more of an effort to see friends.

They tried. They really did. They had planned to take a creative writing class together, but then it filled up before Amy could get into it, and then Molly had them both doing speech and debate, and Amy decided to take up swimming, which, of course, practiced all the days that Hope's sport, running, didn't, and at lunch Molly always dragged her to clubs, and there was so much homework, and then all of a sudden they just didn’t hang out anymore. 

Amy would still wave and say, “Hi, Hope!” or “Good morning!” or “Have a good day!” At first, Hope allowed this interaction, and would greet her back, telling her hello or wishing her good luck on a test. Slowly, Hope fell into just waving, then a nod, then just eye contact, and, eventually, she ignored her altogether. 

Every time Amy would say hi, and Hope wouldn’t respond, it hurt her in a way she’d never hurt before. She didn’t know how to explain it. It was like she couldn’t breathe, but her lungs felt full. Like her heart was being squeezed, even though she knew it was pumping beautifully. When she asked Molly about it, Molly had just said, “That’s Hope for you.”

Amy knew that wasn’t true. It wasn’t her Hope.

Maybe that was who she was to everybody else, but with her, Hope was the girl that pretended she’d already read the new Harry Potter so Amy could borrow hers immediately. Hope was the girl that gave her the Gushers from her lunch box every single day. Hope was the girl who hugged Amy hello before every play date, let her have the majority of the covers at sleepovers, and made her a handwritten card every Christmas and birthday.

Still, she just shrugged, and said, “Yeah, maybe.” And for the first time, she went home and cried over another person.

By eighth grade, Amy stopped greeting Hope. She still looked up, hoping for some eye contact, searching for a spark of recognition, but Hope would always just turn her head away and keep walking. They didn’t speak once the entire year. Well, not until the last day. Not until graduation.

Dressed in clothing fancier than the majority of them had ever worn, they sat in chairs, pretended to be mature, and got their middle school diploma like it actually mattered. Amy was taking a picture with her parents, and then Molly’s parents, and then wandering around looking for Molly herself, when she felt a tap on her shoulder. Turning around, she found herself finally finding the eyes she’d been searching for all year. “Hope.”

“Hi, Amy,” Hope said. Her voice had matured quite a bit since the year before, she was almost a foot taller, and there was something about her that Amy couldn’t describe.

“Hope,” she said again, and she realized she was nervous. She’d never been nervous around her before.

Hope just smirked. “Yeah. I wanted to say congratulations on graduating.”

“Thanks,” Amy said. “You, too.” She paused, fiddling with a hair tie looped around her wrist, and shifted her weight from foot to foot. She felt like a clock was ticking down, like if she didn’t say something a bomb would explode. Alternatively, Hope would get bored and walk away. “Do you wanna, maybe, walk to the graduation party together?”

“I’m not going,” Hope said.

And then, all of a sudden, Amy’s nerves were replaced by anger. “Right. Of course.”

Hope’s eyebrows furrowed, almost impressed, mostly confused. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing,” Amy muttered. 

“No, what?” Hope demanded. 

“It’s just, of course you’d turn down an opportunity to hang out. The only opportunity the entire year,” Amy said. 

“Yeah,” Hope had scoffed. “And whose fault is that?”

“Excuse me?” Looking into Hope’s eyes, Amy realized it was the first time she’d ever been on the receiving end of one of those glares. One of those biting remarks. One of those insults that are kind of a joke, but too true to be funny. 

“I’m just saying, Amy,” Hope said, almost spitting her name out, “you ditched me and then expect me to hang out on your terms? No, thanks.”

“How did I ditch you?” Amy protested. “It’s not my fault I couldn’t get into creative writing!”

“Yeah, but you could have not done a club literally every single lunch of the week,” Hope said. “I always knew you liked Molly more than me, but I thought we were friends.”

“We are!” Amy said. And then her heart dropped, and she felt like throwing up, because even before Hope spoke, she knew what she was going to say.

“No,” Hope said. Her expression was blank, something she did very well, but Amy saw her swallow harshly, and her breath shook just a little bit when she inhaled. “I don’t think so.”

The conversation had been a long time coming, but Amy still was somehow surprised. Did she like Molly more than Hope? No, of course not. But at the same time, she didn’t like Hope more than Molly, it was just... different. It was different.

Molly was her rock, but she always did that thing where she acted like she knew better than Amy, even when she didn't. With Hope it was always just relaxed, never judgmental. At least, then it wasn't judgmental. It was easy with Molly, too, of course, but some things she just couldn't bring herself to talk about. Sometimes, even when she didn't even mean to, she could feel herself trying just a little bit too hard to be herself, something that should have been effortless.

On the first day of high school, Amy searched for Hope’s face in the hallway, even though she knew better, desperately wishing that maybe Hope would offer a smile or a nod, and hating herself for even considering it when Hope just walked by without sparing her a glance.

“It’s not your fault,” Molly said, already knowing why Amy hadn’t said a word all lunch. 

“It kind of is,” Amy said. She shrugged. “I should have been a better friend.”

“You’re the best friend,” Molly said. “You can’t blame yourself for her feelings.”

“I guess,” Amy had said, passively agreeing with Molly even though all she wanted to do was slam her lunch down and say, You don’t get it!

Molly had opened her mouth to say something else, but before she could, an entire human being flew through the air and landed on their table.

“Fuck!” the human being had said. “Fuck!” Then the human sat up, pointed over to their group of friends, and yelled, “That was fuckin’ awesome!”

Was it? Amy thought. Still wondering what had even happened, she looked down, spotted the skateboard, and put two and two together. 

“Oh, shit,” the human said, now identifying herself as the girl from Amy’s World History class. “Sorry about that.” 

“It’s okay,” Amy said, blushing, even though she didn’t know why. “I’m Amy.”

“Yeah, we have history together,” the girl said. “I’m Ryan.” 

“It’s nice to...” she trailed off as Ryan kicked her board over and drifted over to her friends collect high fives. 

And then Molly started talking about her math teacher and how she’s so funny and so smart and is going to teach her so much and how it’s so nice that she said Molly can sit in the front row every single day, and Amy tried so hard to listen, but her eyes wanted to watch Ryan, and her ears started to tune out.

Ryan Was cool. For one thing, her name was Ryan, which for a girl was on the same level as being named Sam or Dylan. It was just cool. Second, she knew how to skateboard, which is was the non-nerdy person version of riding a scooter. Amy decided she really wanted to be her friend. That ended up being an understatement, but before her mind could even begin to go there, her ears tuned back in. 

“Amy. Amy. Amy. Amy—“

“What?” she said. 

Molly frowned. “Are you even listening to me?”

“Yes,” Amy replied immediately. She paused. “No. Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Molly said, in that tone of voice that meant it’s fine, but you’re going to make it up to me. “Why are you staring at Ryan?”

“Um, well, you know,” Amy said dumbly. Molly was looking at her like she definitely did not know. “She seems really studious. A good study partner for class.”

“That’s smart,” Molly nodded. “We need to find friends who are just as committed to school as us.” 

“Right,” Amy said, “so we can get into good colleges.”

“Like Colombia,” Molly reminded her. 

Amy was about to open her mouth to reply, when she heard a scoff come from behind. She turned and caught the last bit of an eye roll from Hope.

“What an asshole,” Molly muttered. Hope just flipped her off and kept walking.

“Molly...”

“Look, I know you guys used to be friends, and that’s fine, but look at who she is now. Is that conducive to our plan?” Molly said. “I’m just trying to look out for you, Amy.”

“I know,” Amy had said.

Did she become friends with Ryan? Not really. But she said hi every time she walked into class, and Ryan always said hi back, so she figured that was a good place to start. The year passed, and, just because of Amy’s stellar luck, Ryan ended up in her sophomore year U.S. Government class. Not only that, but Ryan was late the first day, and was forced to sit next to Amy in the front row.

“I hope you like what you chose, because those are your seats for the rest of the year,” the teacher announced.

Amy had peeked over nervously, and Ryan had shot her a smile. “Hey, Amy.” 

“Hi, Ryan,” Amy said. She rubbed her fingers nervously along her jeans, and then nodded towards Ryan’s feet. “Do you bring that everywhere?”

“Yep,” Ryan said. A small penny board was sat under her desk, and her feet rested on it, mindlessly pushing it back and forth. “I bought it with my own money. Can't lose it.”

“Smart,” Amy said. “Yeah, um, if you wanna switch seats, I won’t tell.”

“What?” Ryan said. “Nah, dude, you’re cool.”

Unfortunately, Amy wasn’t cool enough for her to actually consistently talk to her. Ryan would greet her back every day before class, but then spin around and start talking to some other kid in the class. In Ryan’s defense, Amy never actually started any conversations, but sometimes she stared quite purposefully. 

And then Molly dropped the bomb on her. 

“I think I have a crush. For real,” she had said. 

“Oh?” Amy had said. “Who?”

“You don’t know him,” Molly said. “He’s in my Chemistry class.”

“What do you like about him?” Amy had asked. 

Molly just stared at her. “What do you mean?”

“Like, why do you like him?” she asked. 

“I mean, we don’t really talk,” Molly said. “That’s why it’s a crush.”

“What?” Amy said. “How can you like someone without even knowing them? That’s why I don’t have any crushes on boys; I don’t talk to any. My closest boy friend is Tanner, and, well, he’s Tanner.”

“I just like him,” Molly said with a shrug. “I think he’s cute. He has nice hair. And he seems so happy with his friends, and sometimes he’s funny.”

“Well, that’s how I feel about Ryan,” Amy said dismissively, “and I don’t... I mean. Well, I don’t have a crush on her. We’re just friends. Actually, we’re not friends. Yet. I just really want to be her friend.”

“Okay...” Molly said. “Well, what if you did have a crush?”

“On Ryan?” Amy asked incredulously. “No! She’s...”

“She’s what?” Molly asked. “If you like Ryan, I think that’s cool.”

“Really?” Amy asked. “I mean, hypothetically.”

“Right, hypothetically,” Molly said. “Hypothetically, I would be happy for you, and I’d tease you about it just the right amount, but also be supportive and hope that she likes you back.”

“Well,” Amy said slowly. “Hypothetically, I think maybe that would be okay.”

“Okay,” Molly said. 

“Okay,” Amy said.

She had to give her credit; for all the times Molly talked just a little bit too much or made things about her or made her do stuff she just didn’t really want to do, Molly was there for her when she needed it, and she always knew what to say. In fact, they were so close and knew each other so well, that w hen Amy came out to her parents, the first thing her mom said was, “Are you and Molly dating?”

“What?” Amy said. She felt her face heating up, which did nothing to add to her credibility. “No!” 

“We’ll support you,” her dad said. 

“We’re not!” Amy said. They examined her face for a moment. She huffed and rolled her eyes. “I suck at lying, you know that. If I was lying, I’d be making up some ridiculously unnecessary story.”

“That’s true,” her mom said, nodding. “Alright, well, do you want pasta or tacos for dinner tonight?”

“Tacos,” she said immediately. “Duh.”

And then she posted about it on Facebook. Some sappy, long drawn out caption that was totally unnecessary because the only friends she had on Facebook were Molly, her parents, and people from school that needed to contact her for homework purposes. Still, she felt her heart skip a beat when she got the notification that Hope heart reacted the post. She doesn't know how, since they're not even Facebook friends, but then sees that a couple people had shared the post.

The following school day, she's sitting in the front, waiting for her mom to come pick her up, when she hears footsteps coming closer, then stopping, then shuffling. She looks up. "Oh."

"Yeah." Hope stands in front of her, looking probably how Amy would want to look if she had more style and more bravery. One high topped converse is completely untied, the other loose and hanging, which is actually just a safety hazard, but looks effortlessly cool anyway. Her fringed jacket is absolutely ridiculous, but, pulled over a plain t-shirt that's half tucked into a pair of light skinny jeans, it works. 

"How are you?" Amy says, wondering if this is the time she's supposed to apologize or beg Hope to be her friend again.

"Good," Hope says. She shrugs, hoisting her backpack over her shoulder higher, and then says, "I think it's really cool of you to come out."

"Oh," Amy says again. "Thanks."

Hope looks like she might say something else, but, before she can, a car pulls up behind her and the horn honks a couple times. She turns, then turns back to Amy, then gives her a slight wave, then walks over to her ride. Amy's feeling just ever so slightly hopeful about their future as friends, but Hope opens the door, the driver asks "Was that a friend?" and her heart sinks with the unmistakable feeling of being let down, despite knowing better, when Hope says, "No. Just someone for a class project."

Throughout the rest of sophomore, then junior, and almost all of senior year, even though Hope also heart reacted the post where Amy announced her admission to Colombia, Amy was just one of the other kids at school. Hope wouldn’t even acknowledge her unless it was to make a rude comment or scoff and roll her eyes when Amy would raise her hand for the seventh time in seven minutes during English class. It didn’t help that Amy sat right in front of her. Sometimes she felt like Hope was watching her, but whenever she turned back, Hope was just staring at her own book.

The first time Hope says her name since their eighth grade graduation, almost four years prior, it’s the last day of senior year. Amy sits down in her front row seat, right next to Molly, and is trying to decide between a black or a blue pen when she hears it. 

“Hey, Amy.” 

She turns. Hope is staring directly at her, and all she can do is replay the sound of Hope saying her name over and over again, probably to distract herself from the thought, Hope got hot. She mentally shakes her head, tries to play it cool, and says. “Yeah?”

“Did you just score your teacher's phone number?” Hope asks. 

“Yeah,” Amy says, smiling lightly and nodding. She tries not to look as desperate as feels. She doesn’t think she succeeds. 

“Nice,” Hope says, nodding slowly and then sitting back. If it weren’t for the scoff and the slight roll of her eyes that follows, she almost had sounded impressed or playful. 

Amy’s smile fades, and she turns back around. She wants to scoff and roll her eyes at herself, too. Six years since they stopped being friends for the most part, four since they stopped being friends officially, and Amy is still desperate for approval.

She thinks that’s the end of it. She thinks she’s going to graduate, and Hope’s going to graduate, and they’re just never going to speak to each other again. And that’s probably what would have happened, but then Molly drags her to a stupid party. T he party isn’t stupid at first; she talks to Ryan, she sings karaoke, and she starts to think that maybe Ryan might like her back, until her underwater self sees Ryan’s underwater self sucking face with Nick. Nick, who Molly is convinced wants to date her

Amy knows she should just tell Molly what’s going on, but seeing Hope has kind of made her a little upset that she didn’t catch Molly’s bullshit beforehand, like, six years ago, and fixed her and Hope’s friendship.  Instead, she just got caught up in all the clubs and the fun and she believed Hope when she lied and said she didn't care. It had been so obvious, but Amy knew it was easier to pretend like she was clueless. That had been even worse, she thinks, because Hope knew she wasn’t that stupid, and knew that meant that Amy didn’t want to put in the effort. Didn’t want to, or was scared to. Either way. 

Amy regrets every single thing she says to Molly during the big fight, because even though she knows it’s true, she also knows that they’re Molly’s biggest insecurities, and if she’s going to talk to her about it for real, she can’t say it like.. that. But she just can’t stop herself. And neither can Molly. 

“No one asked you to do this!” Amy yells. “Just like nobody asked you to come to this fucking party. Nobody invited you! Nobody wants you here!”

“Fuck. You,” Molly says, eyes widening the way they always do when she’s trying not to cry. 

Amy feels her heart break, but it’s too late. It’s too late. Eventually, she just steps back, bites her lip, rubs her hand along her face as if she could just brush off what just happened, and feels her world start to cave in. 

She tries to find solace in an empty bathroom, which she finds by stumbling blindly around as tears blur her vision, and pushing each door open until she finds an abandoned room. Well, looks abandoned. She’s leaning over the sink and trying her best to breathe in just half the amount of air she wants to when she hears, “What the fuck? I locked that.”

Hope. 

She slams her palms against the counter once, then twice, willing the cool tile to calm her. She’s mad at Molly, and now she’s mad at Hope, mostly because she knows the person she should be most mad at is herself. “Well,” she spits out, “I guess you didn’t.”

“What’s wrong with you?” Hope asks, leaning against the wall and wiggling her joint. “Fight with your wife?” 

That hurts. Hope knows it, too. Amy bites her lip and refuses to turn around. “Can you please just leave me alone?”

“Why are you even at a party?” Hope continues, ignoring her. “Shouldn’t you be, like, marching in some meaningless protest somewhere... or, I don’t know, in your bed doing homework?”

Amy shakes her head. “You don’t even know me.”

Hope takes in a breath, just quiet enough that most people wouldn’t have even caught it. Her voice roughens and she looks down when she says, “Pretty sure I do.”

“No, you’re just one of those people who claims they’re honest,” Amy says, finally turning her neck, “or calling people on their shit, when you're really just mean.”

“Wow,” Hope said. She slides out from against the wall and leans forward against her knees. Then, she stands up, and, in two strides, crosses the room. “You are a badass.” She leans over Amy, showing just how goddamn much she’s grown, and continues, “Who takes no prisoners, and cries in the bathroom at parties.”

Then she turns and walks away, leaning against the wall. Amy steps forward. “Why are you so cruel?” She really wants to say, Why are you so cruel to me specifically, but she manages to refrain. 

Hope shrugs, and all Amy can think about is how her signature smirk hasn’t changed at all. “I just don’t like meek people,” Hope says. Then she looks Amy up and down, and answers the question Amy didn’t ask. “And you? You’re like Molly’s little sidekick bitch.”

“Well you’re just a basic hot girl who’s going to peak in high school!” Amy retorts. Fuck fuck fuck don’t fucking call the girl you’re fighting with hot. It sounded a lot more badass in her head, but it catches Hope off guard just enough.

And then she kisses her. 

Why? Amy’s not sure. She figures that’s what makes it possible for her to even do it in the first place. Any more thinking and she’d be running out of the room. Hope’s lips are soft, and she tastes just faintly if smoke, when she pulls away abruptly. Amy just stares at her, and then Hope smirks. 

That goddamn smirk. 

Amy’s lost in the sight of those lips and the memories of what she thought was going to be one of the strongest friendships of her life, when Hope kisses her back. She just has time to think, I can’t believe my first kiss with a girl is with her, and then she shuts her mind off and lets go. Before she knows it, her body is on fire, her knees are on the cool tile of the bathroom floor, and Hope is sitting back on her elbows in front of her. Her hands travel to Hope’s, running down them all the way to her hands, where she aids in tearing off Hope’s shirt.

It’s going well, really. She says “woah” when she takes a look at Hope’s bare chest for the first time, but Hope just smirks, and she blushes, brushing it off. All things considered, it’s going well. 

Until it’s not. 

Somehow, Amy finds herself on top of Hope, not the other way around, and this puts her in a situation in which she does probably the worst thing she could ever think of. Then she does the second worst thing she could ever think of. Hope starts yelling at her to leave, and Amy’s trying, and eventually she just ditches her shoes and underwear. Then she gets arrested. 

She just has time to remark on how incredible it is that, in one night, she managed to make Molly, her best friend hate her, she lied to her parents for the first time ever, her crush ditched her in the middle of swimming to go nasty up the pool water, and she ruined things with Hope even worse than they already were. Considering they hadn’t spoken for pretty much four years straight, she really didn’t think there was any lower to go.

Still, Amy is nothing if not determined, so she finds a way to fix things first with Molly, then the law, and then lie again to her parents to sort of undo the first lie. It doesn't work, but they forgive her anyway, and she's just wishing that she could talk to Hope one last time before running off to Africa for a year, when luck finally turns in her favor, and she shows up on her doorstep.

“What? Why is she here?” Molly demands, staring out the window. “Amy. Why is she here?”

Hope is leaning against the wall outside her home, looking as cool as ever, and wearing the same stupid jacket she'd worn that day during their sophomore year. Amy still can't believe Hope manages to make cowboy fringe attractive, but she walks out as confidently as she can, and closes the door for some resemblance of privacy, even though she knows Molly and her parents are probably listening through the windows anyway.

“Hey,” Amy mutters, smiling just enough that it won’t be too awkward if she needs to stop if Hope starts insulting her. 

“Hey,” Hope says. She’s smiling. Gently. Not a smirk. She smiling the way she used to. She holds out a plastic bag. “I figured I’d bring back your clothes.”

“Oh. Thanks so much,” Amy says, taking the bag gingerly. “I don’t... I don’t usually leave my underwear places that aren’t my bedroom.” 

It’s a joke. A bad one, but Hope smiles wider. “Yeah, I figured,” she says, but it’s not mean, like it could be.

“So, um... how... are you okay?” she stammers. 

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she says, shrugging, her tone returning to the time she’s used towards Amy a lot more recently. Then her eyes soften, and though she doesn’t smile, she’s gentle again when she asks, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Amy says, trying to figure out what to do with her face. She tries for another joke. “Prison kind of changes you, but I’m fine.” She allows herself a laugh when Hope gives her a smile and a nod. She shakes her head. “Sorry. I just don’t really know what I’m doing with all that stuff yet.” 

Hope gives her a look, somewhere in between the soft adoration she reserves seemingly just for Amy, and the hard, sly smirk she gives everyone else. “Well, for someone who has no idea what they’re doing... you kind of know what you’re doing.”

Amy blushes. “That’s...” she makes an incoherent noise, and suddenly feels like she’s seven years old again, trying to impress the girl who sits next to her in second grade. “So how is your summer going?” Hope’s eyebrows furrow, probably because they just graduated literally yesterday. “I mean, what are you doing for the summertime?”

Hope smiles. “Think I’m gonna backpack around a bit.”

“Really?” Amy says, genuinely surprised. “Where?”

“I don’t know,” Hope says. She shrugs. “Honestly, anywhere I can find a couch to crash on. I just... I wanna see some stuff before college.”

“That’s really cool,” Amy says. “Me, too. That’s why I’m taking a gap year.”

“Yeah?” Hope asks. She looks like she already knows, but she doesn’t say anything. 

“Yeah,” Amy breathes. “Yeah.”

“Alright, well, have fun, nerd,” Hope says, but this time, there’s no bite to her words, just gentle teasing. Her lips are smiling, but her eyes betray just a hint of nervousness as she extends a hand with a piece of paper tucked in between. 

Amy takes it gently, and then watches her turn to leave. She wants to say something else, but she’s not sure what, so she just catches Hope with a ramble about Africa, until there’s nothing left to say, and she walks away with one last smile and a wave.

Amy unfolds the paper. 810.555.4695. A smile spreads across her lips, and she can’t help but hiss, “Yes!”

The number burns a hole in her pocket throughout that day, the next day, the drive to the airport, pancakes with Molly, the flight, the layover, the second flight, the drive to her host home, and all through the night. Eventually, she decides she’s going to wait for Hope to text first, which, after two weeks of sulking about it, she realizes was a horrible idea.

From: Amy
To: Hope
Hey, it’s Amy. Fuck, I’m sorry, I was going to text, but then I was waiting for you to do it first.

From: Hope
To: Amy
you know i don’t have your number, right? which is why i gave you mine?

From: Amy
To: Hope
Yes, I realize that now. Sorry.

No word for an hour. Amy paces the room and bites her nails and stares at the stupid text she sent for an entire sixty minutes, until her phone buzzes.

From: Hope
To: Amy 
all good. how’s africa?

The more they talk, the more Amy realizes that they don’t know how to be friends any other way; it’s either total commitment or not at all. And right now? Total commitment.

Texts go back and forth nearly every day, ranging from arguments about the current political climate, stupid puns, or just describing their days. Amy being in Africa and Hope being God knows where at any given moment makes for never ending texting fuel. 

Africa is not at all what Amy thought it would be, which she tells both Hope and Molly many many times. Molly tells her to suck it up and look on the bright side, while Hope allows her to live vicariously through all her backpacking adventures. She decides to stop complaining to Molly about things, and saves her rants about wanting to go home for Hope. Hope sends her pictures pretty much every day, but never of her, just the places she's been.

Amy tries to respond as interestingly as she can, but she's never actually been the the majority of places Hope is going, so all she can do is say, Wow, looks super cool! for the millionth time that week. Sometimes, Hope takes pity and finds a way to start a conversation, something Amy has always sucked at, but, sometimes, she just like reacts Amy's message, and they leave it at that until the next one.

The first time they call, Amy’s nervous. Her fingers shake as they type in the numbers, and then her thumb hovers over the call button. After watching the clock for three minutes, she texts Hope. 

From: Amy
To: Hope
Can you call me? For some reason my phone isn’t working. I think maybe it’s the Africa. As in, I’m in it. I don’t know. Can you try calling me?

It’s a horrible lie. Amy sucks at lying, she’s wishing she never even pressed send, and she’s wondering if she can take it back, when her phone screen gets covered by an incoming call. She answers it. “Oh, hey, it works," she says lamely.

“Phone is broken, huh?” Hope says. Amy nodded, even though she knows Hope can’t see her, but it’s like Hope knows anyway. “Okay, nerd.” 

If she didn’t know better, she’d think it was an insult. Instead, she can hear just the hint of a smile behind the word, and she says, “Yeah. It’s good to hear your voice. I mean, hear from you. Like, on the phone. Not that I could hear your voice any other way.”

“Okay,” Hope says, still smiling. “It’s good to hear your voice, too.” 

“Where are you?” Amy asks. 

“I just got back from Germany,” Hope says. “I’m in California right now, just waiting to see where I want to go.”

“Go to Disneyland,” Amy says immediately. Hope laughs. “I’m serious. Please. Eat some Dole Whip or a churro for me and send pictures.”

“That’s what does it for you, huh?” Hope chuckles.

“Oh,” Amy says. Her face starts heating up, and she’s even more glad that they can’t see each other. “Well, in terms of appetite, and, you know, culinary preferences, yeah. That’s what you meant, right? I mean, you know.”

“Alright, nerd, take a deep breath,” Hope says. “Okay, I’ll go to Disneyland.”

“Wish I could go,” Amy says. 

“Africa not doing it for you?” Hope asks. 

Amy bites her lip. “It’s fun. I just didn’t think I’d be homesick.” 

“You don’t have to go for a full year,” Hope says.

Amy nods again, then catches herself and says, “I know. I just... I committed, right?” 

“It’s volunteering, not a job,” Hope laughs. “Just don’t ditch them randomly, and I know they’ll be fine with it.”

“Maybe,” Amy says. 

“You don’t have to decide now,” Hope reminds her. “But, if you did come back early, I’d love to take you to Disneyland.”

“Oh,” Amy says. Then a pause. Then the pause is too long, and now she’s wondering if she should wait for Hope to say something else, or just keep talking and pretend the pause didn’t happen, or to just hang up and try and convince Hope that the call was dropped. 

“You okay there?” Hope asks.

“Uh-huh,” Amy says. She manages to get out, “That sounds fun.”

“Alright, well, I gotta find a place to sleep tonight, but let’s talk again,” Hope says. “On the phone, I mean. It’s better.”

“Yeah, my thumbs get tired,” Amy says.

Hope laughs. “Don’t stress too much. See you.”

Amy wants to say, Really? Will I really see you? But it’s a stupid joke and she’s glad she didn’t say it, and she’s relieved when Hope takes the initiative to hang up. She doesn’t feel relieved when she realizes that Hope hadn’t been kidding when she said she’d “see” her. It’s a week and a few sparse texts later when she receives a notification for an incoming FaceTime call. 

“Fuck fuck fuck fuck,” she mutters, finger hovering over the buttons. In her mind, she can just hear Molly saying ‘Amy, answer the phone,’ so she presses accept and tries to decide what facial expression is appropriate. All that goes out the window, of course, when she sees Hope’s face. “Wow.”

“That sounds familiar,” Hope says. She’s leaning against a tree, and a breeze plays lightly with her hair. Of course she happens to look like she’s in the middle of commercial, while Amy is in her pajamas and in bed, half propped up by a smushed pillow. Of course. 

“I just...” Amy trails off. “You look so old.”

“It’s been awhile,” Hope agrees. “A while since we’ve really talked face to face, anyway.” Her smile fades just ever so slightly. 

“Six years,” Amy says. Hope nods, and opens her mouth to say something else, but before she can, Amy blurts out, “I’m sorry.”

“Hm?” 

“I’m sorry,” she repeats. “I was a bad friend.” 

“You mean when we were eleven?” Hope asks. She doesn’t wait for a reply. “It’s fine.”

“It’s not,” Amy says. “I really did want to be your friend.”

“I know,” Hope says quietly. She takes a deep breath, then exhales slowly. “For what it’s worth, it wasn’t entirely your fault.”

“No?” Amy says. 

“It was Molly’s,” Hope says seriously. A pause. Then her face cracks into a chuckle. “Just kidding. Kind of.”

“It was all of our faults,” Amy decides. “But mostly the fact that we were kids and immature.” 

“Mostly that,” Hope says. 

“I’m glad we’re friends again,” Amy says.

Hope’s face takes on an expression Amy can’t quite place, but she says, “Yeah, me too.” Then, in perfect Hope fashion, she smirks and says, “Even if you did have to throw up on me for it to happen.”

“I’m sorry about that, too,” Amy cringes. Then she blushes. She feels like she does a lot of that around her. “And I’m sorry for the... other thing.”

Hope shrugs. “Don’t worry about it. 

Amy wants to say, Well, I’m worrying about it anyway, but she just nods and smiles. “How’s Oregon?”

“So pretty,” Hope gushes, which is something Amy didn’t even know Hope could do. “There’s green everywhere, I’ve been on so many hikes, and I’d literally rather walk than Uber or find a bus.”

“Wish I was there,” Amy says quietly.

Hope smiles at her. “You could be.”