"Help me out, man. I need an idea." Lucas begged his friend as he drove them home from basketball practice. Riley's birthday was only a few days away and Lucas wanted to get her the perfect gift. He just didn't know what that was.
"Dude, you still haven't gotten her anything?" Zay asked.
"Nothing seems right." Lucas tried to defend.
"Just get her some flowers." Zay suggested.
"That's too impersonal." Lucas said, rejecting the idea.
"So, get her jewelry." Zay offered.
"That's too personal...I mean, it's not like we're dating." Lucas explained.
"Yeah, and why is that exactly?" Zay asked, eagerly awaiting an answer. After all of the eighth grade drama, Lucas and Riley and Maya all stayed friends, but over the last four years, the gang could tell that Riley and Lucas were still very much into each other and figured it was only a matter of time before they gave in and became a couple.
"I told you. It's not what Riley wants." He shrugged.
"Okay, let's pretend for a second that I actually believe that that's true...what about what you want?" Zay inquired, knowing his friend has been pining after Riley for years.
Lucas paused, opened his mouth and closed it as he took a moment to gather his thoughts. "What I want is to get her the perfect present. Period." Lucas said finally.
"Fine. I digress." Zay gave up...for now.
"Digress?" Lucas asked, surprised by his friend's use of the word.
"I've been doing SAT test prep with Farkle." Zay shrugged.
"Ah," Lucas said, thinking the world was suddenly making sense again.
The car grew quiet as the listened to the radio drone on.
"Remember, if you call in at the top of the hour, you have a chance to win tickets to this Friday's basketball game and watch the Knicks take on the Heat." The radio announcer ranted on.
Lucas suddenly found himself grinning from ear to ear. "That's it." He said more to himself than to Zay as he recalled a fond memory of him and Riley.
"You know anything about sports?" Lucas asked Riley as they sat at Topanga's, hanging out as friends again now that things were back to normal.
"No..." Riley trailed off.
"No?" Lucas asked, not totally convinced of her answer. Something in her tone made him think maybe she did know a thing or two. "Any sports? Like...what about basketball? You know anything about basketball?"
"Yeah..." She said, casually admitting the truth.
"Yeah?" He questioned for clarification.
"Yeah." She said again, this time sounding more confident.
"Yeah?" He couldn't help but say again. "Maybe?"
"Well, we're in New York, so obviously my favorite team is the Knicks...and, you know, this might not be our best year, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter because we've have 'Melo, we have Phil Jackson, and that's all that counts. We shouldn't have traded J.R. Smith, and at the end of the day, it's not our best season. We have a terrible record. We're the worst in the NBA. I am at Madison Square Garden, and I see all these fake fans jumping onto bandwagons like the Heat or something like that, and you know what? That s not what a true fan is. If you are gonna be in the Garden, you better represent the Knicks!" Riley finished, pointing a finger at Lucas for emphasis.
Suddenly embarrassed by her little outburst, she feigned coolness and leaned her head against her palm. "I don't know that much, obviously..." She added nervously, willing away the blush on her cheeks.
Lucas just stared at her in awe. He never heard a girl talk about sports like that. It was amazing and sent a funny feeling swirling around in his stomach.
"I really like you, Riley." Lucas found himself saying before he could stop himself.
Riley just giggled in response, her blush growing deeper.
"What are you on about?" Zay queried, so consumed by his phone, he didn't hear the radio.
"I know what I'm gonna get Riley for her birthday." Lucas said, then launched into a quick explanation.
"That's a great idea and all, but what if you don't win?" Zay inquired.
"Have a little faith, buddy." Lucas told his pessimistic friend.
"You do realize its two minutes until the top of the hour right?" Zay said.
Lucas quickly checked the clock and saw his friend was right. He had two minutes until it was time to make the call and was still driving, blocks away from his destination. The digital clock flashed and changed digits. Make that one minute.
Lucas made a left and as he made his way down the street a car was just pulling away from a meter. He quickly stole the spot and parked. As he did so, the radio man's voice came through, "It's power hour! We're looking for caller number nine!"
Lucas whipped his phone out of his pocket and called in. He got a busy signal. After cursing under his breath, he tried again.
"Hello, caller, you are today's winner! Tell us your name." Radio man said.
"Lucas Friar." Lucas said, beaming with pride.
Zay just shook his head "Unbelievable." He said incredulously.
"Well, congratulations, Lucas! You won two tickets to this Friday's game!"
"Awesome!" He cheered.
"So, who are you gonna take with you to the game?" The announcer asked.
"A friend." Lucas answered vaguely. "It is gonna be her birthday present."
"Wow! That's great!" The announcer enthused. "I'll tell you what, Lucas, I will give you a special birthday treat for your friend. "If you answer this Knicks trivia question correctly, then I will upgrade your tickets to courtside floor seats. What do you think of that? You in?"
"Yeah, I'm in." Lucas answered excitedly.
"Okay, here's the question..." The radio man continued. "What is the team name "Knicks" short for?"
"Knickerbockers." Lucas said certainly. What an easy question.
"That is correct! You just won courtside Knicks tickets! Wish that friend of yours a Happy Birthday for me!"
"Thank you, and I will." Lucas promised. The announcer then switched him over to an office line and Lucas gave his information to an older woman who was to send him the passes in the mail.
After Lucas ended the call he looked at Zay who was still shaking his head.
"You are one lucky dude." He told his friend, meaning every word.
"Yeah, I am." He agreed with a nod, giving his friend a smile. As he put the car into drive and pulled out into the road his smile faded. He was lucky today, but who knows what Friday would bring. Hopefully, his luck wouldn't rub off by then, and he could give Riley the best birthday ever.
Friday morning, Riley found Lucas waiting for her at her locker.
"Hey." She smiled.
"Hey." He smiled back. "Happy Birthday, Your highness." He added with a little bow, referencing the sparkly purple birthday girl crown that she wore on her head.
"Thank you." She bowed back, then giggled.
"So, any special plans for tonight?" He asked, knowing full well she didn't. He had talked to Topanga and Cory the night he won the tickets and had them make sure her schedule would be free for Friday.
"Just a birthday dinner at home with the fam." Riley answered, opening her locker. "I wanted to go out for dinner, but Mom has to be up early tomorrow to take stock at Topanga's or something, so we can't. Maya will probably stay the night though, so that'll be fun.
"Cool." Lucas nodded.
"I guess. I mean, it's not quite how I planned spending my 18th birthday, but I'm not complaining." Riley explained.
"Well, maybe this will cheer you up." Lucas said, pulling a small gift box, purple with a gold bow, from his satchel.
"A present? Yay!" Riley squealed with delight, her eyes sparkling with excitement as she took the box in both hands and removed the top. Riley's eyes widened and her jaw dropped as she picked up one of the tickets that lay inside the box. "Holy Knicks!"
Lucas chuckled before responding, "So, you like it?"
"Try love it! But how did you--"
"I have my ways." Lucas bragged.
"I also have a good memory." He cut her off.
Riley gave him a curious look. she didn't remember ever talking sports with Lucas. Maybe she mentioned something in passing one day.
"So, what do you say? Tonight? You, me, and the Knicks?" Lucas asked.
"I'd say that sounds perfect. Thank you so much, Lucas!" She said gratefully as she wrapped her arms around him. Lucas hugged her back relishing the feel of her in his arms and how perfectly she fit there.
Riley took a big whiff of his yummy cologne and sighed happily. She was so content in Lucas's arms; it felt so natural. Suddenly, they both snapped out of it and pulled apart quickly, smiling sheepishly.
"So, uh, the game starts at 7:00, so I'll just pick you up around six?" Lucas questioned as he rubbed the back of his neck apprehensively.
"Sounds good." Riley nodded as she twirled a lock of her dark brown hair around her index finger.
"And don't forget to dress appropriately.... you better represent the Knicks!" He finished with a wink, repeating the words she once said to him.
With that, it all came rushing back to Riley, being a Topanga's with Lucas, going off on her rant. She acted like a loon. No wonder he remembers that moment.
"Right." Riley replied, pretending her cheeks weren't bright pink from embarrassment. "I'll do that."
Just then, the bell rang, and they waved their goodbyes. Riley watched him walk away before closing her locker door and leaning against it. She bit her lip and smiled. It had barely started and yet Riley could already tell it was going to be a great birthday.
Lucas didn't have any Knicks gear, being from Austin, Texas he was more of a Spurs fan. So, after school, he found a street vendor selling apparel for different New York sports teams and got himself a blue Knicks hoodie. He paired it with a white tee-shirt, jeans, and Timberlands.
After he got dressed for the game, he put a little product in his hair and tried to style it. Once he got it how he wanted it, he looked at himself in the mirror, shook his head, and ran his fingers through his hair rapidly, returning it to its usual state.
"Snap out of it, Lucas!" He told himself. "It's Riley. She's just a friend." What he had said was true. So, why did he have butterflies in his stomach?
Thinking of Riley made his eyes travel to the picture frame on his nightstand and he couldn't help but walk over and pick it up. It was a five by seven of the two of them, a selfie she had randomly taken that turned out completely perfect with her smiling brightly at the camera and him looking at her from the corner of his eye. Not only did she take the picture, but she decorated the frame too. It was his favorite gift that he had received for his birthday last month It was the first thing he looked at in the morning and the last thing he looked at before going to bed at night. It was truly special just like the girl who gave it to him.
Lucas's head snapped up and looked around upon hearing a loud beeping sound. Realizing, it was his phone, he pulled it from his pocket and silenced it. It was the alarm he had set to tell him it was time to go pick up Riley. Returning his cell phone back to his pocket, he took one last glance at the photo in his hands and smiled softly before putting it back in place on his nightstand.
He grabbed his thick coat, after all it was December, and threw it on as he made his way out of the apartment. With each step he took toward the subway, he could feel the butterflies multiply and pick up speed, and he liked it. He really really liked it.
Tonight was going to be a good night. He could feel it in the cold, icy air.
When Riley opened the door for Lucas and they exchanged their hellos, the smile she wore faded and her brow furrowed. He had a weird look on his face as he just stood there staring at her. It completely puzzled her.
"What's wrong?" Riley asked. "Don't I look okay?" She added as she scanned her outfit for marks or stains of any kind.
"No, you look gor-eat." Lucas fumbled over his words. "You look great." He repeated more clearly as his cheeks grew pinkish red in embarrassment. He nearly told Riley she looked gorgeous. That would have been a mistake. I mean, guy friends don't call their girl friends that unless they want their girl friend to be their girlfriend, and that wasn't what Lucas wanted...or was it? "You are definitely representing the Knicks." Lucas said with a smirk as he gave her a onceover.
Riley wore a white Carmelo Anthony Jersey with a hem that fell mid-thigh over top a pair of skinny jeans. She accessorized with matching bracelets and a choker, sparkly blue high-tops, and a long-sleeved orange shirt underneath the jersey. Her hair was straightened and pulled into a ponytail high atop her head. She was a basketball beauty.
"Thanks." She smiled sweetly, then grabbed her orange pea coat from the arm of the living room couch that sat a few feet behind her.
When she turned back toward Lucas, he stepped forward and said, "Here... allow me." then took the coat from her and held it up. Riley turned and slid her arms inside, then turned back around to button it up. Grabbing her small, brown purse, she slung the long strap over her head and let it hang across her body.
"Ready?" Lucas asked, holding out his elbow.
"Ready." She confirmed with a single nod of the head before taking his arm.
Then, together, they headed for the nearby subway station, walking arm in arm the whole way there.
Riley was like a kid in candy store as they made their way to their seats. Her eyes twinkled with wonder as she watched the Knicks warm-up. The players were so close, she could touch them, and she swore she would try if they weren't already glistening with sweat.
The two of them had a blast as they watched the game. They hooted and hollered and laughed, completely enjoying themselves. To be honest, Lucas watched Riley more than the actual game. He loved how into it she would get, yelling at the ref and cheering on her team. She even did a little dance with the team mascot. She was clearly loving every minute of the game...and so was he.
It was late in the third quarter when they got hungry, so Lucas went on a concession stand run for nachos and Pepsi. As he made his way back to his seat, he handed Riley the drinks. She set the unopened bottles between the chairs, while Lucas took his seat, the nachos resting on his lap. She nibbled on a chip as she watched the large screen hanging from the ceiling flicker with graphics. It read: "Pucker Up!" and flashed kissy lips everywhere before launching into the Kiss Cam feed.
"Look!" Riley called to Lucas as she pointed at the screen. He turned in the direction of her gesture and watched along with Riley as the different couples lit up the screen. First was an elderly couple giving each other a sweet peck on the lips. Next, was a college-aged couple making out exaggeratedly for the camera. Then, several others flashed on the screen, demonstrating their own special kisses.
They were still captivated by the screen when it changed once more and made both their eyes widen. They couldn't believe what they saw...them. The two of them were plastered across the TV screen, wide eyed and red-cheeked. The crowd cheered and egged them on, trying to get them to kiss.
Lucas, clutching the nachos tightly, could feel the butterflies full-force as he looked to Riley and stammered, "W-We dont--"
He was about to give Riley an out, for the last thing he wanted to do was force himself on her and make things awkward, but apparently she didn't need one. Before he could finish his statement, she smiled and leaned forward, grabbing his face between her hands and kissed him. It was sweet yet firm and lasted for a good two seconds. It was perfect.
During the kiss, fireworks went off in Lucas's head, and, judging by the look on Riley's face after they pulled apart, she felt them too.
Nachos still in hand, Lucas just sat there with a goofy smile on his face, staring at the amazing girl next to him who simply smirked and then returned her focus to the game. His eyes stayed on her until, a sudden scream broke him out of his daze.
"Come on, Williams! Look alive!" Riley shouted.
Lucas jumped a little at the sudden outburst, chuckled, then watched the rest of the game as he ate his nachos, sharing some with Riley from time to time as they relished the "accidental" hand touches that would occur as they did so.
"That. Was. Incredible!" Riley enthused as they got on the subway car. "Seriously, Lucas, that was the best present ever. Thank you so much!"
"Well, I'm glad you liked it." Lucas smiled.
"Liked? Try loved!" She squealed. "Do you know how close I was to Carmelo Anthony? Do you?" Riley paused a second before answering her own question. "This close, Lucas. I was this close!" She finished, holding up her thumb and index finger in front of his face so there was only about a centimeter of space between her fingers.
Lucas just smirked in response and Riley couldn't help but mimic his expression. They just stood there a moment, staring at each other in silence until Riley decided to break it.
"So..." She said as the subway car began to move along to the next destination.
"So..." He repeated. "about what happened earlier, you know, when we kissed... what did that mean exactly?" Lucas couldn't resist asking.
"I, um..." Riley sputtered. "It was just something that happened. It doesn't have to mean anything." She added, suddenly embarrassed and worried that she crossed a line. After all these years, she still had feelings for Lucas, but was also still afraid of risking their friendship.
"What if I want it to mean something?" Lucas nearly whispered, afraid of what Riley might say in response.
"Lucas, I..." She didn't know how to finish her statement. She wanted so badly to tell him that she wanted to be more than friends but didn't know if it was worth it. What if it ended badly? Then, again... what if it didn't? "I need a sign." Riley thought to herself. "Lord, tell me what to do."
All of a sudden, the subway car stopped, lurching forward as it did so. Distracted by the conversation, neither bothered onto hold to the metal bar too tightly, so when the car rocked forward, they did too. Riley fell into Lucas who fell backward into the empty seat behind him.
Riley suddenly found herself sitting in Lucas's lap, wrapped in Lucas's arms, and looking into Lucas's dazzling green-blue eyes. She was immediately taken back to the first time they met...and to the first time they kissed. If this wasn't sign, she didn't know what was.
"Hi." She said sweetly.
"Hi." He replied, mouth curving into a smile.
"Lucas," Riley began.
"Yeah?" He questioned.
"That first kiss meant something. It meant a lot." She continued.
"First kiss?" Lucas queried, a bit confused by the comment.
"Yeah, and this..." Riley paused, placed a soft kiss on his lips then smiled. "that meant something too. It means that I really like you, Lucas, and I want to try be more. I want to be an us...if you're willing."
"Really?" Lucas was awe-struck, his heart beating a mile a minute.
Riley bit her lip and nodded, then continued.
"But here's the thing... if we do this, you have to promise me that no matter what happens, I won't lose you...ever."
"I--" He started.
"Promise me, Lucas!" She said worriedly.
"Riley--" He tried again.
"Promise me!" She cut him off once more, her worry getting the better of her.
Lucas stayed quiet and instead placed his palms on the sides of her face and brought her forward, silencing her with a kiss. This one was longer but just as sweet and amazing as the last two.
He pulled back so their faces were mere inches apart and looked her right in the eyes before he finally responded, "I promise, Riley, I promise."
Riley just smiled and kissed him again and again as a voice flowed out of the speaker box above them apologizing for the delay, followed by the sound of the subway car roaring back to life.
Riley sat on Lucas's lap for the rest of the ride, her head resting against his chest, his head resting atop hers. As they melded together as one on the cold, plastic seat, they smiled contentedly, knowing that not only was the subway car moving forward but so was their relationship, and both were headed in the right direction.