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i've read with every broken heart, we should become more adventurous. - "more adventurous," rilo kiley

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4th of july, 2013

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Bing ends up throwing a 4th of July party because the weather is beautiful and Netherfield has an incredible pool and Bing’s the nicest guy in the world. Lydia spends the entire morning helping Jane string up red, white, and blue streamers and put out red, white, and blue candles, and frost red, white, and blue cupcakes. By the time everybody shows up, Lydia’s basically red, white, and done. She folds red, white, and blue napkins and wonders how long it’ll be before they fire up the margarita machine at the bar.

Darcy’s staying at Netherfield with his sister, but they went out this morning with Lizzie to get burgers and brats and beer (organic burgers; vegetarian brats; microbrew organic ale—seriously, Lydia rolls her eyes harder and harder with every bag she helps unload from the back of Darcy’s car). Lizzie and Darcy keep getting grosser and grosser with their obvious smittenness. It makes Lydia’s eyes roll back into her head even more than the seventy-five bushels of kale that seem to have found their way from Whole Foods and onto Bing’s kitchen counter. It’s not that Lizzie and Darcy are all over each other or anything (Lydia may not know Darcy that well, despite everything, but it doesn’t take a genius to deduce that he’s physically allergic to public displays of affection) but they keep doing this thing where they look at each other over a bag of groceries and Lydia can practically see Lizzie’s stomach flip and Darcy’s heart skip a beat. It’s pretty gross.

(One time, Lydia’s watching Lizzie and Darcy make googly eyes at each other while they pour potato chips into bowls to take outside, and she hears Gigi snicker. When she looks over, Gigi’s smirking into the vegetable tray she’s arranging. Lydia’s not sure why, but she feels her hackles go up by half.)

Lydia considers her domestic duties more than completed for the day and heads out to the pool (the margarita machine is actually amazing) where she can get some sun and internally mock all the lovely couples. Bing’s manning the grill and Jane’s flitting in and out like she’s already the world’s best hostess. Lizzie and Darcy are sitting in the corner where Lizzie can keep an eye on their Mom and Dad. Fitz and his boyfriend are in the pool throwing a squishy football back and forth. (Caroline’s spending the 4th in the Caribbean, which seems ironically unpatriotic, but whatever.)

It’s so normal and textbook Americana. It’s not that Lydia doesn’t like to see everybody getting along and her sisters happy and their mother practically beside herself with the joy of potentially impending nuptials, but. Lydia keeps to her chaise and flips the pages of her US Weekly and drinks her margarita maybe a little bit too quickly.

Eventually, Gigi wanders over to where Lydia’s lying out, a margarita in each hand. “Thought you could use a fresh one,” she says. She sets the drink on the table next to Lydia’s old watery glass and then sits down right on the lounger, her shoulder pressed against Lydia’s knees.

“Thanks,” Lydia says, pushing her sunglasses up onto her head. She closes her magazine and smiles awkwardly, because this is the third time she and Gigi have met and they’ve never said more than a few words to each other.

Gigi takes a sip of her drink and tucks her hair behind her ear. “It looks like Uncle Sam threw up all over the backyard,” she says, waving a hand at the red, white, and blue everything.

“Jane loves a good theme,” Lydia says, eyeing Gigi. Her cover-up’s white, but Lydia can just see the hint of a green bikini underneath. Lydia adjusts the strings of her pink suit and takes a drink of her new margarita. “So your brother’s fucking my sister,” Lydia says. She’s trying to be more direct these days, less beating around the bush and purposeful misdirection. Or maybe she just wants to see how Gigi will react.

To her credit, Gigi just smirks into her drink and says, “Finally. Thought maybe I’d have to trap them in the same room to get that taken care of, too.”

Lydia laughs, but it catches weirdly in her throat. She’d caught up on all of Lizzie’s videos from Pemberley while all that stuff with George and the tape was still going on, so Lydia’s memory of Gigi’s matchmaking shenanigans is wrapped up in a light layer of bitterness and self-loathing. It hadn’t been easy to see Gigi and Lizzie bonding and laughing and getting along. It hadn’t been easy to see them laughing in the kitchen earlier today either, to see them band together to tease Darcy about whether he’d color-coordinate his bowtie to match his swim trunks for the party. Lydia’s gotten to know herself well enough this year that she understands all her resentment is misdirected, but it still takes her a second to get her hands around the feeling that springs up into her chest. She finally shoves it back down under the tequila and the sound of Lizzie laughing from the edge of the pool.

If Gigi notices the way that Lydia freezes up for a second, she doesn’t say anything. Lydia works her face back into most of a smile and says, “So, are you going to swim today or what?”

When Lydia asks, Gigi’s shoulders pull back awkwardly and her mouth settles into this tight line, and Lydia immediately feels like the world’s biggest asshole. Gigi’s matchmaking wasn’t the only thing Lydia had seen when she’d watched the Pemberley videos, she should know better than to ask about Gigi and swimming. But Lydia doesn’t doubleback and doesn’t correct herself—she does Gigi the same favor Gigi just did her and keeps her mouth shut and gives the other girl time to get her head back on straight.

It only takes Gigi a second to relax her shoulders and her face, but she doesn’t smile sweetly and act like nothing happened like Lydia thought she would. She stands up and bites her lip and says, “Swimming, huh? Okay.” She tugs her cover-up over her head and throws it on the edge of Lydia’s chair, kicks her sandals off and drops her sunglasses on the table. “Hey Will,” she calls over to where he’s standing next to Lizzie at the edge of the pool, “where’s your phone?”

Darcy doesn’t even turn around to answer her. “On the table over there. Do you need it?”

Gigi winks at Lydia. “Nope.” She turns around and in three quick steps, she’s got her arms around her brother’s waist and the both of them are over the edge and into the water, and Lizzie’s eyes are saucers and Fitz is yelling out, “Oh shit, GGD!”

When they resurface, Darcy looks mad for exactly two seconds, but Gigi’s got mascara running down just at the corners of her eyes and her laughter is louder than the indie rock that’s been playing on the speakers since noon. Lydia feels her hackles smooth all the way back down and she’s laughing as she jumps into the pool after them.

++

labor day, 2013

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It’s not that she and Gigi are friends, exactly—they live three hours away from each other and Lydia’s taking summer classes and doesn’t have time to visit Lizzie in San Francisco all the time. But they’re not not friends, either. Gigi texts her pictures of Lizzie and Darcy being especially gross together, holding hands while they walk down the street, all that gag-worthy coupley bullshit.

Darcy takes Lizzie and Gigi and Jane and Bing to their place in Lake Tahoe for Labor Day weekend. He’d asked Lydia to come too, sent her an email with full sentences and perfect punctuation and his “William Darcy, CEO Pemberley Digital” email signature at the bottom, but Lydia already has ten tons of homework and the semester hasn’t even really started yet, so she’s stuck in Fresno with her parents.

Gigi sends her a picture of the two of them, Lizzie and Darcy cuddled together in a chair next to the firepit: they didn’t notice me taking pics, Gigi’s text says. they probs wouldn’t notice a house fire either.

Lydia finds herself smiling, not even almost gagging at the sight of her sister happy and in love, but there’s a little part of her, a part that’s still red-raw and not quite scarred over yet, that feels sad and jealous and left behind. Lydia looks at Lizzie and Darcy and thinks about Jane and Bing up there too, probably just as stupidly wrapped around each other. She ignores the pang in her chest that says, they’re never coming home, you know.

Lydia taps out a quick reply to Gigi (i hope their robot children are cuter than they are) and goes back to studying.

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thanksgiving, 2013

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Even though the Darcys have a ridiculously nice kitchen at their place in San Francisco (Lydia’s assuming, she’s never actually been there, but the Darcys have a really nice everything so it’s probably legit), all of them pile into the Bennet’s split-level for Thanksgiving. Well, Jane and Bing are with his family but everyone else is in the Bennet’s kitchen trying to navigate what is definitely not enough space for six people. Eventually, their dad drags Darcy away to talk trains; it’s a testament to how much he must love Lizzie, Lydia thinks, that every time she looks over into the living room, Darcy’s not totally spaced out in a puddle on the floor. She can’t listen to her dad talk about “the aesthetic appeal of miniaturization” for more than thirty seconds without her face going numb.

Lizzie’s helping their mom do something involving what Lydia’s pretty sure is the turkey’s disembodied neck, and if she has to hear the word “innards” one more time, she’s probably going to hurl. Judging by the look on Gigi’s face, she’s not really enjoying it either.

Lydia sits down at the table next to Gigi, who’s peeling carrots into a metal bowl. “Sorry that you got roped into helping,” she says, “I can finish up.”

Gigi grins. “It’s fine. I’ve steered clear of everything that used to be alive, so.”

Lydia takes a pinch of peelings out of the bowl and nudges them around the table with her finger. “Yeah, mom was elbow-deep in the turkey this morning. It was probs the grossest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Gigi laughs and then they don’t say anything for awhile, just listen to the swish-swish of the peeler. Lydia makes a very abstract design out of the peelings, and just as she’s about to ask Gigi to guess what her very lame art attempt is supposed to be (it’s a cat, but only kind of), Gigi says, “My mom loved to cook. Before she died, I used to help her in the kitchen all the time. It was kind of—” Gigi’s hands move a little bit slower as she talks. “It was kind of our thing.”

Lydia feels herself tense up. They’ve talked about Lizzie and Darcy a bunch, about the lame things their siblings do and stuff like that, but they’ve never talked about anything real. They’ve never talked about—about anything, really. Lydia pokes at what’s supposed to be a whisker. Gigi keeps peeling carrots.

Lydia’s tried to get better at putting words to the things she’s feeling, at dropping all the adorbs and actually saying stuff sometimes, but it’s so big, what Gigi’s telling her, and Lydia doesn’t want to screw it up with, “Sorry that your mom’s dead.” It would be different, maybe, if Gigi was just Darcy’s sister or just a friend of Lizzie’s, but she’s not, not exactly. She’s Lydia’s friend too now, like really, and so Lydia rearranges the whiskers into nothing and tries to think of something to say.

“If you want to—” Lydia starts, but there’s banging from the kitchen where Lizzie’s dropped the lid of one of the dishes, and so she has to start over. Lydia’s heart is beating strangely in her chest. They’re both staring at the table again, at Lydia’s pile of carrot scraps. “If you ever want to talk about—about anything,” Lydia says. She kind of moves her hand around, tries to say you can talk to me or I’m here if you need or I think maybe we should be friends, but her hand flops down awkwardly onto her mom’s tablecloth and she’s not quite sure it came out right.

Gigi goes back to peeling carrots, but she leans over a minute later and knocks her shoulder against Lydia’s. “Ditto,” she says. “If you want.”

Lydia smiles. She goes back to arranging the carrot peels into the shape of a duck. It takes Gigi twelves guesses to get it right.

++

lydia’s birthday, 2013

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A package shows up in the mail on Lydia’s birthday and when she opens it, there’s a blue scarf inside, embroidered with silver thread. Lydia turns it over and over in her hands; it feels like air.

There’s a card in the box, thick paper covered in loopy letters on one side: To Lydia, Happy birthday! Can’t wait to see everyone at Christmas. Say hi to your folks. Love, Gigi

Lydia loops the scarf around her neck. The color is perfect against her hair. She wears it every day for a week.

++

christmas eve, 2013

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Unlike Thanksgiving where there wasn’t enough room for everyone because the Bennets’ kitchen is shaped like a normal kitchen, they spend Christmas at the Darcys’ apartment in San Francisco, which has enough room for the Darcys and the Bennets and the vast majority of Lydia’s high school class. (Lydia was right—the kitchen is ridiculously nice.)

They’re all spending the night to have Christmas morning together—Mom and Dad in one guest room and Lizzie and Lydia in the other. The Darcys have a place outside the city too, Lydia’s heard Darcy mention it, but Lizzie had wanted to stay at the apartment. Mom had made several comments in the car on the drive up about Lizzie “sleeping wherever she usually would” while they’re here. Lydia hears her mention it to Lizzie after they arrive, while she’s helping Lizzie get dinner together, and Lizzie goes the same shade of red as the pepper she’s slicing and assures their mother that it’s fine, she’ll sleep with Lydia, please stop insinuation things about her sex life. (Lydia gives it ten minutes before their mother says something else horrifying. Having the sex talk directed at Lizzie now gives Lydia a certain kind of joy, but it’s a lot less bitter than it would’ve been before.)

Darcy, for his part, is making more of an effort at acting human than Lydia’s ever seen before. He’s gotten better at it since he and Lizzie started dating; nine times out of ten now, when he opens his mouth he doesn’t even sound like an asshole. Lydia hasn’t told him, but she kind of likes him more than Bing. (And not because she feels like she has to. He’d made himself abundantly clear when he started dating Lizzie, in what was one of the strangest conversations Lydia’s ever had: they’d been out at Carter’s and Darcy had told her that she shouldn’t feel obligated to like him just because of all the Wickham drama, that he wanted her to judge him as her sister’s boyfriend, as a friend of her own. His voice had gotten all weird on “boyfriend,” which was when Lydia had figured out that he was still super ridicu-crazy in love with Lizzie and also that he was pretty drunk. She’d still decided to take him at his word.) He’s showing their parents around the apartment like he’s not about to break out in hives, and when Lydia overhears her mother say something about the view being the perfect background for engagement photos, Darcy doesn’t even miss a beat. Even from the other side of the apartment, Lydia’s impressed.

The nice thing about the Darcys’ place being so massive is that once her mother really starts laying on the wedding talk to the two of her daughters who can successfully managing actual relationships with actual men, there’s some place for Lydia to sneak away to. She not-so-surreptitiously makes off with one of the bottles of wine from the dining room table (it’s a screwtop, she double checks); Gigi catches her eye from the other side of the room, raises an eyebrow at the bottle of white in Lydia’s hand, and then makes a beeline straight for her. They giggle themselves through the hallways, Gigi leading the way.

They stop outside a closed door and Gigi says, in a dramatic voice, “The bedchamber of one William Darcy.”

Lydia actually feels pretty weird about stepping inside, like, they’re just going to hang out in Darcy’s room now and what, jump on his bed? But Gigi’s on the move, already through a door on the other side of the room, and Lydia follows her into what turns out to be a pristine and totally ridiculous master bathroom.

Lydia sets the wine bottle down on the counter and narrows her eyes at all the stuff laid out there, the lotion and cologne and bunches of hair ties. Lydia picks up a bottle of Lizzie’s brand of perfume and holds it up for Gigi to see. “Your brother’s into the floral scents now?”

Gigi rolls her eyes and goes back to rooting around in the drawers. “Yeah, they’re basically living together, they aren’t fooling anyone.”

Lydia sets the bottle back down on the counter. Every time she asks Lizzie how things are going with Darcy, her sister says they’re “just taking it slow for now,” but the two toothbrushes in the holder say otherwise. Lydia’s chest feels a little tight because Lizzie hasn’t said anything to her about practically living with Darcy, but it makes more sense now that Lizzie had wanted to spend the holiday in the city instead of at the mansion in Belvedere. Something funny shifts in Lydia’s chest when she realizes that Lizzie spends enough time here to think of this place as home, but she hops up onto the counter and tries not to think about that.

“What are you looking for?” she asks Gigi, who’s still opening and closing the drawers of the vanity.

“Aha!” Gigi says, straightening up with two bottles of pink nail polish clutched in her hand. “Totally William’s color, don’t you think?”

Lydia laughs. “Totes.”

Gigi kicks off her shoes and says, “Lizzie was doing her nails the other day, so I knew she had to have something here.”

Lydia kicks her feet back and forth. “Why didn’t we just go to your bathroom?”

Gigi gives Lydia a look that says she expected more deviousness from the youngest Bennet sister. “Because they’ll look there, duh. Plus, this is bound to irritate William and I’ve been really nice to him lately, I don’t want him getting too used to it, you know?” She slides down the wall and kicks her feet out in front of her. “Give me your foot.”

Lydia wonders sometimes if the reason that Gigi’s so nice to her is that she didn’t have a sister growing up, but then she thinks that if all she wanted was a sister, she’s got Lizzie here for that. Lydia likes that Gigi wants to be friends with her anyway, even though Lizzie’s here all the time (practically living here, apparently) and she’s still tucked away with Lydia in a bathroom painting their toenails and drinking wine straight from the bottle.

They both get situated on the floor (the heated floor, Darcy’s bathroom has a heated floor) and spend the next five minutes taking bets on how long it’ll take everyone to find them..

“You think they’ve even noticed we’re gone?” Lydia asks.

Gigi snorts. “William definitely has. He’s got a sixth sense for when I’m doing something I don’t want him to know about.”

Lydia hums in the back of her throat because Lizzie has that same older-sibling superpower. “I thought you guys did a ski thing for Christmas,” Lydia says, trying not to make a mess of Gigi’s toenails.

Gigi shrugs her shoulder up and down. “We usually do but I thought it might be nice to make some new traditions.” Lydia feels Gigi’s calf flex against hers. “It was nice up there when it was just the two of us but it’s not just the two of us anymore.” Gigi’s voice is a little quieter than Lydia’s used to, but she can tell that Gigi’s happy about that from the way her mouth tugs up at the corners, that she’s happy to have their home and their holiday filled up with the Bennets. Even if their mom spent the first twenty minutes talking in Lizzie’s ear about what a hard apartment it’ll be to baby-proof someday.

Gigi screws the cap back on the nail polish and reaches for the bottle of wine. “Done,” she says. “It almost doesn’t look like a five-year-old did it.”

Lydia snorts while she finishes up the toes on Gigi’s left foot. She’s concentrating hard on her baby toe when Gigi says, “Have you heard from him since—since everything?”

Lydia takes a very deep breath and keeps her eyes fixed on Gigi’s knees. The first three times Lydia met Gigi Darcy, she spent the whole time waiting for her to ask about George Wickham. After the 4th of July, after they sort of become friends, it felt like every conversation they had was about but not about George Wickham. (To be fair, it sometimes feels like every conversation Lydia’s had with anyone this year had been about but not about George Wickham.) So it’s not that Lydia’s not ready for Gigi to ask, not that she hasn’t thought about what she’ll say when they finally talk about him—because of course they’ll talk about him—it’s just that she’s not expecting it, not when her feet are in Gigi’s lap and their legs are tangled together and far away she can hear Jane’s nervous laughter.

Lydia makes her fingers move again, paints a final swipe of color onto Gigi’s toe and then screws the nail polish shut. Gigi doesn’t pull away, doesn’t untangle her legs from Lydia’s, she just stays very still and very quiet and waits for Lydia to speak.

“He sent me an email,” Lydia finally says. Her voice sounds nothing like her voice. “I didn’t tell Lizzie. I didn’t tell anybody.” Lydia read that email every day for a week, for two weeks, for the better part of a month, until one day she’d just deleted it, clicked a button and then it was gone. It wasn’t an important day. It wasn’t some first step on the road to becoming herself again. She’d just had enough, after everything. She just hadn’t wanted it anymore.

Gigi snakes a hand around Lydia’s ankle, her thumb against the hard jut of bone. “Did he act like nothing had happened?” Gigi’s voice doesn’t sound anything like her voice, either. “He does that sometimes. Acts like everything’s exactly the way it was before.”

Lydia drops her eyes because he hadn’t acted like that at all. She still remembers most of what the email had said, even if she can’t remember the actual words. He’d apologized over and over again for what had happened, said a lot of things that all meant the same thing: he was sorry, could she forgive him, would she take him back. She hadn’t ever responded because she hadn’t ever trusted herself not to say yes to all of it, and she still feels it flare up now, white-hot and searing into her chest: maybe he’d liked her better, loved her more than Gigi, maybe it’d all been real, maybe—

But the feeling in her chest just makes her tired. Every part of her is tired. There are pinpricks behind her eyes and a lump in her throat, and she’s tired of all of that, too.

Gigi runs two fingers against the arch of Lydia’s foot and Lydia jerks back, incredibly ticklish ever since she was little. Gigi’s looking at her like she knows every thought in Lydia’s head, every ounce of want that’s started to coil itself back into Lydia’s belly. Maybe she does.

“He said a lot of things,” Lydia says. She gives Gigi as much of a smile as she can muster. The lump in her throat starts to fade. “He didn’t say anything.”

Gigi nods. “Yeah,” she says. Her fingers wrap back around Lydia’s ankle. “Yeah.”

++

new year’s eve, 2013 | new year’s day, 2014

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It’s two minutes to midnight and they’re all piling out onto the balcony, Lydia and Gigi and a bunch of people Lydia didn’t know before tonight but Gigi seems to love. They’ve been drinking straight out of champagne bottles for the last hour and Lydia feels young and reckless and happy. Gigi had asked her to stay through New Year’s around the same time that they’d heard footsteps in the hallway and Darcy calling their names. Lydia had said yes before she had time to think about it but tonight’s been basically the most fun Lydia’s had all year. They played drinking games earlier and then danced on the coffee table to Kesha, and nobody here looks at her like she’s Lizzie and Jane’s little sister with the sextape. Gigi keeps throwing her arm around Lydia’s shoulders and introducing her to new people with, “Have you met Lydia? She’s basically my new sister.”

The air outside is crisp and fresh and everybody’s counting down to midnight. “Ten! Nine! Eight!” Gigi’s got one hand around Lydia’s wrist and one hand around the railing, leaning over to wave at all the other people on all the other balconies, and everybody’s counting down at the same time, counting themselves out of this trainwreck of a year, and all their voices go up together when the clock hits midnight. She spent last New Year’s in Vegas but it feels farther away now than it ever has before and Lydia lets out a yell that climbs up from the tips of her toes, past the places in her chest she’s spent most of this past year putting back together, and the sound that finally leaves her mouth is joyful.

Gigi pulls her closer and presses a sloppy kiss half on Lydia’s cheek, half on the corner of her mouth, and Lydia can taste her lip gloss, strawberries and vanilla and shine. Gigi’s mouth is warm on hers and her hands are cold where she’s grabbed onto Lydia’s elbows. Lydia’s heart’s beating too fast in her chest. Gigi pulls back and smiles at her and Lydia doesn’t feel like they’re sisters, she doesn’t feel like they’re sisters at all. Gigi wraps her arms around Lydia’s neck and whispers in her ear, soft and warm and just for them, “This year’s going to be so much better.”

Lydia shuts her eyes and pulls Gigi closer and hopes and hopes and hopes she’s right.

++

valentine’s day, 2014

++

She gets a text from Gigi that says, bing and william went ring shopping TELL NO ONE, while she’s in the middle of class and she squeals so loudly that everybody around her gives her an incredibly dirty look. (Like they were paying attention anyway—the Second Continental Congress is so boring.)

She calls Gigi as soon as she gets out of class, her phone wedged between her ear and her shoulder, and says, “Oh my god, tell me everything, who was ring shopping and who was wingmanning and which sister is getting engaged and when and how many strippers are we getting for the bachelorette party?” It comes out all as one sentence, all as one breath, and Lydia can already hear Gigi laughing at her.

“Bing was doing the shopping,” she says. “William was offering moral support.”

“How do you know this? Did your brother tell you?”

“No, I had to get it out of Fitz,” Gigi says, but her voice sounds kind of strange and far away.

Lydia laughs as she tries to avoid a bunch of frat guys walking in front of her who are taking up the whole sidewalk. “Remind me never to tell Fitz anything. That guy cannot keep a secret from you, like, at all.”

“You shouldn’t be keeping secrets from me anyway.”

Lydia’s insides do this weird thing they’ve been doing ever since New Year’s, ever since their weird half-kiss at midnight. She’s been telling herself that it was nothing, it was friends kissing friends, girls can totally do that now, it’s the 21st century, whatever, but there’s this dumb persistent voice in the back of her head that remembers the taste of Gigi’s lip gloss and the feel of Gigi’s hands on her back and the horrible, amazing feeling in the pit of her stomach like she’d just passed a cop on the freeway doing ninety. Lydia shakes her head and maneuvers around the frat guys and says, “Okay, so Bing’s going to propose. Tell me everything you know.”

They stay on the phone until Lydia’s next class. The dumb persistent voice in Lydia’s head won’t shut up for the rest of the day.

++

spring break, 2014

++

Lydia ends up spending spring break in San Francisco with Lizzie and Darcy and Gigi because her friends are going to Mexico and Lydia just—doesn’t want to. She thinks about going down to LA to stay with Jane and Bing, but they’re both so busy. And not that Lizzie and Darcy aren’t busy too, but at least Gigi’s there to hang out with. Lydia shoves her bag into the back of her piece of shit car and prays the engine holds out for the 200 miles until she gets there.

It’s weird living under a roof with William Darcy—he always puts his dishes in the dishwasher as soon as he’s done eating, and he checks the expiration date on every single thing before he eats it, and he’s always awake at the very earliest asscrack of dawn. Gigi and Lizzie act like it’s not weird at all, so there must be an immunity that builds up, but Lydia’s pretty sure she won’t get there before it’s time to go back home.

Living with Lizzie again is actually a lot different than Lydia had thought it would be. It’s weird to see her sister actually being an adult, doing the grocery shopping and making dinner and paying her bills. And it’s not like Lizzie wasn’t an adult before when she was living at home and finishing school, but. Now Lizzie goes to bed at a totally reasonable hour and gets up and puts on coffee and she and Darcy head off to the office, like they already have this routine that could spin out for the rest of their lives. It makes Lydia feel weird, sitting at the counter in her pajamas while Lizzie and Darcy make toast and remind each other about conference calls and meetings. It makes her feel ridiculously, stupidly young.

“So they’re, like, irritatingly happy together?” Lydia asks Gigi on her fifth night in San Francisco. Lizzie’s taking the next two days off work so they can visit and see the city (Lydia had asked her why she needed to ration her vacation time when she was sleeping with the boss, but this got Lydia an unsurprisingly earnest lecture from Lizzie on the importance of separating personal and professional relationships), but so far most of Lydia’s days have been spent with a Gigi Darcy armed with her very own platinum card. They’ve kept it reasonable, for the most part. Well, lunch yesterday was sort of a feast, but good maki is well worth the triple-figure bill they ended up with.

“Basically, yes,” Gigi says, burrowing down into her comforter. Lydia has her own room—there are like twelve guest rooms, okay, four, but still—but she’s spent most every night in Gigi’s bed watching bad 90s Disney channel movies until they fall asleep.

She’s every girl’s dream, she’ll capture your heart, Tyra sings, until Gigi grabs the remote and mutes the tv. “I have to tell you something,” she says, turning to face Lydia so their knees are pressed together beneath the sheets. “I lied to you.”

Lydia stays on her back with her eyes fixes perfectly on Gigi’s ceiling. Her stomach flips over and her lungs compress and her hands ball into fists at her sides. She’s very aware of the fact that the dumb persistent voice following her around back home has become a dumb persistent loudspeaker now that she’s in San Francisco, sharing Gigi’s pillow which smells like Gigi’s conditioner and waking up to Gigi’s nose pressed against her shoulder. She’d spent the whole drive up here convincing herself that by the time spring break was over, she’d have course corrected from whatever thing her brain was trying to convince her of, but so far all that’s happened is a strange array of symptoms have been added to Lydia’s repertoire of confusing physical reactions: her palms started sweating the other day when Gigi tugged her through the mall; she feels like she hasn’t stopped smiling in five days. Lydia very carefully turns over to face Gigi and says, “What do you mean?”

Gigi bites her lip (Lydia’s chest contracts a little, that’s also been happening a lot lately) and says, “When you asked about William and going ring shopping.”

The muscles in Lydia’s chest freeze completely and a whole other part of her brain starts flashing red. “Gigi, did Darcy go ring shopping?”

“No,” Gigi says, shaking her head, “that’s not what I—” The tv’s still on and it’s throwing strange colors all over the room. Gigi’s hair shines blue, and then pink, and then green. She takes a deep breath. “You asked me the other day how I knew that Bing was the one going ring shopping and I said it was because Fitz told me.”

“Because Fitz is a pansy when it comes to withstanding your interrogation, I’m well aware.” Lydia’s cracking jokes but her whole spine is ramrod straight, like somehow this is worse than before when she found out about Jane, now this is—this is both of them. Lydia keeps her face really even while she waits for Gigi to speak.

“William doesn’t need to go shopping,” Gigi says, and her voice is really quiet, almost a whisper. “He has our mother’s ring.”

Lydia breathes in and out a few times. “Okay. And?”

“I saw him with it a few weeks ago,” Gigi says. Lydia can feel her shift beneath the covers, feel the bones of her knees slide down against Lydia’s shins. “He must’ve gotten it out of the safe, because I came home—Lizzie was visiting Charlotte—and he was sitting in the living room and just. Staring at it.”

Lydia turns over onto her back and stares up at Gigi’s ceiling. Bing hasn’t proposed yet, but it has to be coming any day now, and Darcy got his mom’s ring out of the safe weeks ago. “Is he going to ask her?”

Lydia feels Gigi scoot a little closer, and the heat that spreads through her stomach presses up against the tightness in her chest at the thought of both her sisters getting married, and Lydia closes her eyes really tightly and tries to remember to breathe. She can practically feel Gigi’s breath on her cheek when she talks. “He asked me whether I minded if he had the ring, or did I want it. He didn’t—he didn’t say anything about Lizzie, but.”

Behind her eyelids, Lydia can see Darcy taking the toast from Lizzie’s hand at breakfast yesterday morning, leaning over her shoulder to read something off her iPad. She can see his face every time their mom made a comment at Christmas about weddings and engagements and babies. He hadn’t reacted at all, but maybe it wasn’t because he’d built up a tolerance to their mother’s incessant hounding. Maybe he had reacted. Maybe he’d gotten the ring out the next day. Maybe he’d decided back in December. Lydia squeezes her eyes even tighter and thinks about Darcy’s face in Lizzie’s videos, all that time ago. Maybe he’d decided a long time before December.

By the time Lydia opens her eyes again, Gigi has her knees pressed up against Lydia’s hip and her head’s practically on Lydia’s shoulder. Something white-hot flares up in Lydia’s chest but whether it’s lust or panic, she doesn’t know.

Gigi pokes at Lydia’s arm beneath the blankets. “You okay?”

Lydia takes a deep breath and nods her head. “Yeah,” she says. “I’m—I’m really happy for them.”

She’s not sure if Gigi believes her, but after a few minutes she reaches over and unmutes the tv just in time for the movie’s happy ending. They put on another movie after that but Lydia’s not paying attention. She stares at the ceiling until Gigi’s breathing goes soft and even, until the credits roll past and the DVD menu starts playing on a loop. It takes her a long, long time to fall asleep.

The next morning, Lizzie sits down at the counter next to her, both of them still in their pajamas. They watch Darcy make his breakfast and Lizzie steals a piece of toast from his plate. When he heads off to work, he kisses Lizzie goodbye and Lydia stares and stares and tries to figure out if the lump in her throat is happiness or envy or something else entirely.

++

gigi’s birthday, 2014

++

Lydia can’t come up to San Francisco for Gigi’s birthday party—she has a test the Monday after that she absolutely has to ace, and Civil War battlegrounds and casualty statistics don’t memorize themselves. She spends the weekend before the party wandering through the mall, going into and out of all the stores she usually shops at to try to find something to send up to Gigi. Nothing seems right.

Bing finally asked Jane to marry him on some random Saturday, made her breakfast in bed and popped the question. Their mom’s been pretty much uncontrollable ever since. It’s April, which means the engagement party isn’t for six weeks and the wedding for eight months, but already the dining room has become planning central. It looks like fabric swatches ate the table whole. They’d all come home to Fresno to go dress shopping last weekend, Jane and Caroline up from LA, Jane and Charlotte and Gigi down from San Francisco, Lydia and Mary coming from home. Every dress had looked perfect on Jane, obviously.

Caroline kept commenting on Jane’s ring, how beautiful it was, how wonderfully it caught the light. She’d looked a little too pointedly at Lizzie’s empty ring finger, just enough so that her bitchiness filled the room up for everyone except Jane and their mom to see. Lizzie had folded her hands in her lap and smiled sweetly, but Lydia couldn’t help but notice the strange pull at the corners of Lizzie’s eyes, at the edges of her mouth. She’d looked a little—sad, maybe. Anxious. It’d made Lydia furious, all of it, Caroline’s condescension and Lizzie’s uncertain smile, and she’d been just about let loose the wave of fury rising up in her throat when Gigi had sat down beside her and laced their fingers together to stop Lydia from picking at the edges of a satin, beaded headband Jane had been trying on. She’d swept her thumb over the back of Lydia’s hand and leaned over to clink their champagne glasses together and caught Lydia’s eyes in the reflection of the full-length mirror and winked.

Lydia’s stopped trying to figure out exactly what her insides do whenever Gigi does stuff like that. Obsessing over it doesn’t make the feeling go away; she doesn’t know if she wants it to go away. She doesn’t really know—anything.

On her way out of the mall, Lydia sees a locket in the window of one of the stores that’s usually above her price range. It’s silver, with a long chain and little green stones laid into the pendant. Lydia doesn’t stop to think much before she walks in and buys it, spends most of the babysitting money she’s saved in one fell swoop. She takes it home and wraps the box in green paper and makes a card with Lizzie’s old art supplies. She spends a long time trying to figure out what to write inside. In the end, she just draws a heart and fills it in with pink and silver glitter. “For Gigi,” she writes above it. “Happy Birthday!”

The next weekend, Lizzie tweets a picture from Gigi’s party, the two of them on either side of Darcy. Lizzie’s got her hand wrapped around the end of Darcy’s tie (because he wore a tie to his sister’s birthday party, of course he did) and Gigi’s waving at the camera with a warm, wide smile on her face. The necklace Lydia sent hangs from around her neck—just over her heart, Lydia thinks, cringing at how incredibly lame her inner voice has gotten over the past few months.

Lydia spends the rest of the night surrounded by textbooks and every study break she stares at the photo on Lizzie’s instagram, feeling like Gigi’s smile is just for her.

++

memorial day, 2014

++

The Darcys’ place in San Francisco is pretty much the nicest apartment Lydia’s ever been inside. She hasn’t been to the mansion in Belvedere (she feels comfortable assuming it’s a mansion—is there anything but mansions in Belvedere?) but judging by how nice the place in Tahoe is, it’s probably drool-worthy, because the place in Tahoe is a goddamn dream. She knows she should feel intimidated by all the wealth and how expensive-looking everything is, and she does, for the first five minutes or so. But then she catches sight of the pool and the dock that leads down to the lake and Lydia doesn’t have time to feel uncomfortable because she needs to see everything.

She spends the long weekend stretched out on the dock next to Gigi, and slicing lemons at the kitchen island and making fun of Bing and Darcy with Gigi, and wrapped in a blanket around the firepit with Gigi. She gives Lydia this look sometimes, this serious, steady look that makes Lydia’s insides squeeze together, almost like she’s considering Lydia. It’s worse than Simon Jeffries in the tenth grade, and worse than Jake Sanders in the twelfth. (It’s not that it’s worse than George, necessarily, it’s just—different. It spreads through her chest a little differently, settles into her cheeks and the tips of her fingers. It doesn’t make her feel tired; it makes her feel light and easy. Whole. Happy. Even with all the uncertainty and the things she’s not sure of, it makes her feel happier than she’s felt in a long time.)

Their last night there, Gigi lays her head down on Lydia’s shoulder, the blanket pulled up beneath their chins. The backs of their hands and the backs of their fingers are smashed up between their bodies, and Lydia thinks, Maybe. Maybe.

++

the lee/bennet engagement party, 2014

++

It turns out Lydia doesn’t like to be the center of every party that she’s at. For once, she’s more than happy with Jane being the center of attention, she and Bing the focus of the whole entire room. Jane’s wearing a silver party dress, flared out at her knees. Bing can’t take his eyes off of her and Lydia watches him from across the room, the way his eyes track Jane whenever they’re not standing together. Lydia smiles into her champagne flute and pushes down on the aching feeling in her chest.

“Lizzie’s not wearing her ring,” Gigi says, sliding up to the table at Lydia’s elbow.

Lydia presses the aching feeling down even farther. “She didn’t want to steal Jane’s thunder. They’ll tell everybody next week.”

“I feel like everybody should already know. Look at them.” Gigi gestures as where Lizzie and Darcy are dancing in the center of the room, mixed in with their parents’ friends and Bing’s med school classmates. Caroline’s wrapped herself around the hottest guy in the room, who’s probably also—totally coincidentally—the richest. Darcy and Lizzie doesn’t even notice. “They’re practically glowing, the both of them.”

Lydia shakes her head. “It’s so gross.”

“Totally gross,” Gigi says, but she got this fond smile on her face that makes Lydia’s chest seize up.

After the cake is served and the dancing begins in earnest, she and Gigi kick off their shoes and cha-cha slide like no one’s business, until their updos are coming loose and there’s a fine sheen of sweat on the back of Lydia’s neck. When a slow song finally plays and all the couples file onto the dancefloor, Gigi drags Lydia to the bathroom to freshen up and cool off. They tuck themselves into the bathroom on the second floor. Lydia can still hear the music from downstairs, something stringy and slow. She reapplies her lip gloss and sways her hips back and forth.

Gigi’s leaned up against the counter, her arms crossed in front of her chest. “Why didn’t you bring anybody tonight?”

Lydia tucks her lip gloss back into her clutch, a gold bag Jane gave her for her birthday last year. “Like a date?” Lydia swallows around the strange catch in her throat. “I don’t know. What about you?”

Gigi shrugs her shoulders up and down and drops her hands to her sides. “I haven’t really dated anybody since—since George.” Gigi’s got her head bowed, her hair hanging down into her face. Earlier, they’d been dancing to Beyonce and Gigi had thrown her head back, her hair sticking to the sweat on her forehead, her eyes closed and her hands in the air. Lydia hadn’t been able to look away.

They still don’t really talk about George, about the sextape or the check that Darcy wrote or about anything, really. Every time Lydia thinks about it, her heart picks up speed in her chest and a dull buzzing takes up underneath her fingernails. It makes her mad, to think of George’s hands on Gigi’s back and George’s mouth on Gigi’s neck and—Lydia leans forward and kisses her then, totters unevenly on her heels and presses them up against the vanity, the bones of their hips knocking together. Lydia’s got one hand on the marble countertop and the other flexing useless in midair half an inch from Gigi’s waist. One of them makes a noise in the back of her throat, high and needy and helpless, and Lydia’s not even sure who it was but she presses forward, licks into Gigi’s mouth when she feels Gigi’s nails digging into the small of her back. She can taste Gigi’s lipstick and the champagne they’ve been drinking for the past hour and a half and it’s messy and heady and rushed. Gigi’s so much smaller than anybody she’s ever kissed before, Lydia thinks, just as Gigi pulls away.

Lydia’s thought over and over again for most of the past five months about exactly the way this would happen, if it ever did, but all of her imaginings have been vague colors and indistinct edges, blurry visions of clasped hands and timid smiles. It hits her like a wave, the sharp line of Gigi’s cheekbones, the bold red of her lips. It isn’t anything like Lydia thought it would be, and it’s better and it’s worse and it’s terrifying. Lydia can’t stop her hands from shaking. Gigi’s eyes are wide and shocked and the bluest thing that Lydia’s ever seen and she’s got Lydia’s lip gloss smeared beneath her lower lip, jutted out in a shocked, gasping O. Lydia can’t hear the music from downstairs anymore because the blood in her ears is so loud.

There’s a knock at the door behind them which makes both of them jump nearly a foot, and Charlotte’s voice calls in from the hallway, “Anybody in there?”

Gigi runs her thumb underneath her bottom lip and wipes away Lydia’s lip gloss and then takes a deep breath. “Yeah,” she says, “just a second.” Her voice is shaking.

When Lydia finally turns to open the door, Charlotte narrows her eyes at the both of them. Lydia can’t even imagine what they look like, slack-jawed and blushing and shell-shocked. Charlotte doesn’t say anything as they both push past her, and Gigi and Lydia don’t say anything while they walk down the stairs back to the party.

++

the darcy/bennet engagement party, 2014

++

It’s been a month since Jane and Bing’s party and a month since Lizzie and Darcy announced they were getting married too. Mom had insisted on an event, even though Lydia can tell that Darcy and Lizzie would rather skip the trappings altogether and just get the whole thing over with. But Mom’s smile had been really bright and happy and Jane had said, “Come on, Lizzie, it’s your only chance to have an engagement party,” and Lizzie, unsurprisingly, had relented. She’s kept it simple, kept it small, just their family and close friends at her and Darcy’s favorite restaurant in the city. (Lydia finally meets Darcy’s Aunt Catherine and, well, she’s basically exactly how Lizzie described her. The most accurate costume theater to date, Lydia thinks, watching Catherine meticulously straighten her silverware across the table.)

In the past month, Lydia hasn’t talked to Gigi at all. She’s written what seems like a hundred emails and a hundred texts and she’s deleted every one. There’s an anxious feeling in her stomach every time her phone buzzes, but it’s always her Mom, or Lizzie or Jane with wedding questions, or Mary helping her with homework. Lydia’s gone to bed every night for a month thinking about the past year, about things that are better and things that are worse and things that are exactly the same. There isn’t much that hasn’t changed for all of them, in big, important ways, and Lydia picks through all of it in the dark of her bedroom and decides, in what’s definitely her most mature (or irrational) decision to date, not to freak out about it.

It’s their thing, she’d decided, about a week after Jane and Bing’s party. It’s what Lydia and Gigi have done for the past year, pushed each other not too hard and just hard enough. They’ve spent twelve months giving each other the space to reorganize the parts of themselves that Wickham had bulldozed and maybe this is no different. If Lydia’s learned anything in the past year—and she likes to think she’s learned more than that, that she’s learned how to be a better sister and a better friend and learned how to finally be herself—it’s that these things take their own time. It never happens just like she thinks it will, Lydia knows. And that’s okay. (Sometimes, she thinks, her eyes wandering to Lizzie and Darcy at the head of the table, it’s better.)

Gigi and Fitz show up to the dinner half an hour late, burst in with wide, apologetic smiles on their faces. Lydia fights off every butterfly in her stomach and every voice in her head telling her to drain her whole glass of wine in one long swallow. She keeps very still and listens to Jane’s stories about her new job and laughs in what she hopes are all the right places.

It’s ten minutes before Gigi finally makes her way over, ten minutes that Lydia tries not to track her every movement across the room. (She fails. Spectacularly.) Gigi moves from Lizzie and Darcy (maybe she’ll finally have to start calling him William since he’s going to be her brother-in-law) to Catherine de Bourgh, from Lydia’s parents to a group of Pemberley bigwigs Lydia doesn’t know.

(There’s this one moment where Gigi catches her eye from across the room. Gigi’s talking to Fitz, their heads bowed low and their lips moving in quick, quiet whispers, and Gigi looks up and looks right at her, and Lydia’s sure everyone can hear how loud her heartbeat is, how frantic and relentless the pounding in her chest has gotten.)

When Gigi finally comes over, she puts one hand on the back of Lydia’s chair and says, “Hi.”

Lydia feels her cheeks go suddenly warm. “Hi,” she says. She’s looking at Gigi out of the corner of her eye, not quite turned toward her. Her palms are sweating and she rubs then over the fabric of her dress at her thighs.

Gigi waves a hand at the empty chair beside Lydia. “Can I—”

“Sure,” Lydia says, because she’s only been waiting for this conversation since she had her hands around Gigi’s waist in Bing Lee’s upstairs bathroom a month ago. Her throat’s incredibly dry.

When Gigi sits down, the first thing Lydia notices is her necklace, the silver locket Lydia got her for her birthday. She notices it, sees Gigi notice her noticing it, and then Gigi lifts a hand to run the pendant back and forth on its chain, like it’s habit, like it’s something she can’t quite help. Gigi’s mouth pulls up into the smallest grin. “Hi,” she says. It’s almost a whisper.

There’s a part of Lydia, a part that used to be red-raw but that’s smoothed over now, that flares up bright and warm and hopeful. Her lips pull themselves into a smile all on their own and Gigi smiles back like she couldn’t help it if she tried. Gigi nods her head, just a little bit, just once, and scoots closer.

Lydia takes a deep breath and turns back to listen to the rest of Jane’s story. Somewhere in the middle of Jane telling everybody about buttons and trenchcoats, she feels Gigi reach over and take her hand beneath the table, lace their fingers together and hold on tight.

Lydia doesn’t turn to look at Gigi, but she swipes her thumb over the back of Gigi’s hand and doesn’t let go.

++

4th of july, 2014

++

Bing and Jane end up throwing a 4th of July party because Lydia texts Jane every day for the last week of June to ask if they’ll throw one as long as the weather holds out. (The weather is 85 and sunny, because Lydia is magic. And probably also because it’s central California in July, but mostly: magic.) Gigi and Lydia spend the morning decorating the pool in the same red, white, and blue decorations as last year, but there are also hot pink beach balls in the pool and green drinks that Gigi claims are “better for you because they look like nature.” Lydia doesn’t totally understand, but there’s tequila and triple sec and something that fizzes up to the roof of her mouth, so she doesn’t argue.

By the time everybody shows up, Lydia’s already got a happy, buzzed feeling in the tips of her fingers. Charlotte brings homemade guacamole. Mary brings her boyfriend. Her Mom brings a stack of bridal magazines.

“Not today, Mom!” Lydia’s got her eyes closed but she can hear Lizzie from the other side of the patio. Lizzie’s more good-natured about Mom’s crazy now, now that there’s an actual wedding to plan. It’s made their mom more zen, actually. She uses the meditation room for honest-to-god meditation. It’s nice.

Lydia feels a shadow pass over her face. “You’re in my light,” she says, cracking open one eye. Gigi’s got a beach ball balanced on her hip and her hair’s wet, plastered back out of her face and down her neck. It’s grown out now, almost to her shoulders. She keeps saying she’s going to chop it all, come back with a pixie cut, but Lydia will believe that when she sees it.

“Come get in the pool,” Gigi says, nudging Lydia’s lounger with her foot. “The guys want to play chicken.”

“That sounds competitive,” Lydia says. “Who’s playing?”

“Me and Fitz versus you and William.”

Lydia laughs. It’s not that her and Darcy—William, whatever—are exactly friends now, but they’re getting there. After the engagement party, after she and Gigi had snuck away to the corner to talk about, well, everything, she’d even given him a hug, wrapped her arms around his waist and propped her chin up on his shoulder.

It’d taken him a second to respond, but he’d slowly pressed a hand to the small of her back.

“Thanks, Darce,” she’d said. She’d meant it.

He’d run his hand a little haltingly up her back. “For what?”

She’d pulled away and lifted a hand to his bowtie. “For stuff.”

“Stuff?”

She’d meant for everything with Wickham and the video and the big stuff like that, but she’d also meant for making Lizzie happy and giving Gigi what she needed to be whole again. For everything. She could do this adult thing, maybe, in her own way. She was trying, at least. “Yeah.” She’d turned his bowtie crooked and smiled. So, definitely in her own way. “For stuff.”

Gigi shoves the lounger with her foot again and Lydia reaches out a hand to wrap her fingers around Gigi’s ankle. “I can be pretty competitive,” Lydia says. “You sure you want to go there?”

Gigi throws the beach ball toward the pool and leans over Lydia and shakes her hair out, drops of water going everywhere.

“Fine!” Lydia whines, “I’m coming!”

They make their way to the edge of the pool. On the other side of the patio, Lizzie’s got her feet propped on the edge of their mom’s chair, talking to Charlotte about something nerdy, probably. Jane’s helping Bing at the grill. Fitz and Darcy—William, whatever—are already in the pool, hitting a beach ball back and forth.

Gigi reaches out her hand for Lydia’s. They haven’t told anybody else yet. Lydia thinks Lizzie and Darcy know, and Jane maybe has some idea. (Bing is perpetually, adorably clueless.) There’s no rush, Lydia thinks. She takes Gigi’s hand and jumps. These things take their own time.