“The least you could do is smile,” Anya said after catching yet another glimpse of Lexa’s soured expression.
“The least you could have done was not to lie to me in the first place,” Lexa shot back before downing the last of her whiskey in one gulp and motioning to the bartender for another.
“You haven’t been out of the house in over a month,” Anya pointed out as she lowered the tone of her voice just slightly.
“So what?” Lexa all but grunted, taking her freshly poured whiskey shot and draining the cup of it immediately.
“I’ve been worried about you,” Anya replied as she placed a gentle hand on top of Lexa’s forearm resting against the bar top. The touch earned her a sideways glance and a small shrug of indifference but neither action stopped Anya from continuing. “You can’t let the anniversary of her death throw you into a dark spiral of self-destruction for the rest of your life. It’s not what she’d want for you, and you know it.”
Lexa’s nostrils flared of their own accord as she clamped her jaw tightly and willed away the tears she could feel pricking against the backs of her eyes. It had been five years since the death of her first love, and the anniversary of it always managed to throw her back into the dark hole she’d dug for herself to hide away from the world when it had first happened.
Each year seemed to progressively shorten her detachment period from the world and everyone in it, and that fact alone aggravated Lexa more. It was a cruel game of tug-of-war her head and heart were playing, and unfortunately it was the young law school student and those closest around her who had to endure the brunt of it. Thankfully her family was stronger than the moods Lexa would often find herself a slave to at any given moment and for any given reason.
“I also didn’t intend for you to drink yourself halfway through a bottle of Wild Turkey before the girls get here,” Anya said as she tipped her head down towards the third drink Lexa had just been poured.
“Why did you even agree to this?” Lexa suddenly asked, her head whipping around to look the older girl straight in the eyes. “I don’t want to be set up with anyone, let alone someone who can’t be bothered with showing up on time.”
“Oh, believe me,” Anya started dramatically, “I have no intention of setting you up with anyone while you’re pissed at the world. I just thought that a night out with friends might do you some good.”
“When has a night out with friends ever done me any good?” Lexa asked incredulously.
“Think about that,” Anya said, leveling a glare at the younger woman.
It was a tone and a look that Anya didn’t use often but always had up her sleeve for when she needed to put Lexa in her place, something that she was certain only she could do on a regular basis. The girl was like a firestorm when she ignited and usually wound up burning everyone and everything that came into her path whether she chose to do so intentionally or not. Growing up together Anya often saw Lexa’s innate stubbornness, but it wasn’t until Costia died that it turned into more of a pained isolation than anything else.
“Remember she is Raven’s best friend, so try not to fuck it up,” Anya tacked on as she lifted her beer bottle to her lips and took a small sip.
Lexa offered nothing in response, only taking the time to catch the bartender’s eye and signaling for another drink just as the bell on the front door jingled to signal the arrival of a new patron. Anya turned her head and smiled as she saw a familiar face. She slipped off her stool and walked quickly over to where her girlfriend was tapping her snow-covered boots against the thick entry rug.
“Hey, you,” Anya cooed as she wrapped her arms around Raven’s waist and tugged her close.
“Hi,” Raven replied through a blinding smile, draping her arms around Anya’s neck and pressing their lips together.
A small hum of approval rose from the back of Raven’s throat as they continued to kiss, their bodies slowly molding into one another as their lips danced together for far longer than what should be deemed as an appropriate greeting peck. It wasn’t until a polite throat clearing that they finally returned from their haze and looked over at the blonde standing somewhat uncomfortably beside them.
“Sorry, Clarke,” Raven apologized before letting her hands trail down the length of Anya’s arms before making quick work of the buttons and belt holding her winter coat together.
“How’s it going?” Anya asked Clarke as she took Raven’s coat from her.
“Good, sorry we’re late,” Clarke replied quickly. “It’s totally my fault. My mom got pulled into an emergency surgery, so I had to take care of a few things for her before I could get here.”
“No worries,” Anya told her with a polite smile before nodding her head towards the brunette sitting at the bar. “It gave us a chance to talk, not that it helped any.”
“What do you mean?” Raven asked curiously as she peered towards Lexa who still had her back to them.
“Come on,” Anya said as she stepped aside (physically and figuratively), “I’ll buy you both a drink.”
“What a gentlewoman,” Raven told her with a smirk on her lips.
Clarke just smiled as she caught her best friend’s gaze and followed the group over to where Lexa was sitting. She took a few seconds to study the girl’s posture, not quite being able to figure it out. She was clearly engaged in some sort of staring contest with the glass of whiskey resting on the bar top in front of her, and to anyone who glanced her way it would appear as though the brunette was sitting with a posture any DAR* member or young debutante trainee would envy.
But Clarke saw something else too.
It looked like the weight of the world on petite shoulders was making her slouch just ever so slightly under it, and Clarke was surprisingly interested in investigating the cause. That was, of course, until she actually spoke to the girl. Kind of.
“Raven, you know Lexa,” Anya said as she sidled up to the bar and inconspicuously pinched Lexa on the shoulder. “Clarke, this is Lexa. Lexa, Clarke.”
They all noticed the way Lexa grimaced lightly at the pestering touch before halfheartedly swiveling her barstool towards them, all the while keeping the fingers of her right hand cradling the curve of her drink’s glass. Blue eyes tried to make contact with green ones but failed, so Clarke extended her hand in greeting instead.
“Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise,” Lexa replied as she offered the briefest of eye contact to Clarke before turning back towards her drink and taking a hearty sip of it.
The tension in the room instantly peaked as Clarke stood staring at the brunette with her hand still hovering in the space between them. Her eyes widened just a fraction before she let her arm fall to her side, pursing her lips together in distaste. It wasn’t often that Clarke met someone so rude, but she was immediately positive that she'd just met the rudest.
“What can I get you ladies to drink?” Anya asked, trying her best to skip right over the awkward moment.
“I’ll take a beer,” Raven said and pointed down at Anya’s bottle. “Whatever you’re having is fine.”
“Clarke?” Anya questioned as she noticed the woman stealing another glance at Lexa.
“I’ll have a rum and diet,” Clarke answered coolly. She could have sworn she saw rude girl’s eyes jump just an inch in her direction, but she couldn’t be certain.
“Another whiskey, please,” Lexa told the bartender as she pushed her empty glass towards him.
Anya cleared her throat quite obviously, which didn’t seem to deter Lexa from whatever it was Anya was trying to deter her from, and silently downed her fresh drink in one giant swig. Her lips pulled slightly to the side as the burn of the alcohol pooled in her belly, and Lexa gracefully abandoned her stool before regarding the group.
“Excuse me,” was all she said before disappearing into the crowd.
Anya watched as she rounded the corner at the back of the bar where she knew the restrooms were and just sighed. Raven shifted uncomfortably on her feet while Clarke just stared after the girl, wondering how on Earth one person could be so incredibly annoying within the mere span of a minute of knowing her.
“So,” Anya said as she turned her attention back to Raven and Clarke, “how were your days?”
“So I do have a daughter! I was starting to think you were just a figment of my imagination.”
“Yeah, sorry about that,” Clarke said into her phone as she released a deep sigh. “I started a new commission last month and totally forgot about the piece I was working on for Grandma’s birthday present.”
“It’s fine, sweetie. Raven always lets me know when you’re in a zone.”
Clarke had officially coined the term during her first year of University the one time she effectively cut herself off from the outside world while she spent three straight days holed up in her dingy dorm room working on a painting to submit for her midterm final. Her only mistake was not telling her mother what she would be doing before she had shut off her cell phone and lost herself in her art for the following 72 hours.
By the time she had come back out of her zone, Abby had all but called the SWAT team to break down her door after being unable to contact her daughter for the first time ever. It was also hardly worth mentioning that Clarke happened to be on the other side of the country and in her first year away from home which helped with nothing but making Abby panic even more. They set up a few ground rules after that incident, and the family referred to Clarke’s ‘non-existence in the world while she is painting’ times as being in her zone.
“Shit, I totally forgot to ask you about that big surgery conference thing you went to last week,” Clarke said as she continued walking down the familiar sidewalks leading towards her apartment.
“First of all, language. Secondly, it went extremely well. My speech was flawless which Marcus made sure to congratulate me on thoroughly–”
“Ugh, Mom,” Clarke interrupted as her face contorted with disgust, “gross.”
“What? We’re newlyweds, what do you expect?”
“I expect my mother not to tell me that she and my new step-dad made sweet love while away at a business conference together,” Clarke said over Abby’s laughter on the other end of the phone. “Seriously, Mom, you’re paying for my therapy if you keep telling me stuff like that.”
Had Marcus Kane showed up in their lives at any earlier point, Clarke probably would have hated him with every fiber of her being right from the start. It wasn’t until nearly eight years after her father’s death that Clarke could have even entertained the thought of having another father figure in her life, so when Marcus started working at the same hospital as Abby not a month after the eighth anniversary of Jake’s death it wasn’t a day too soon.
She watched as her mom got caught up in a whirlwind romance with the second best person made for her (of course her father, Jake, was the first), and a year later they were married on the sandy beach of an island paradise. The fact that Marcus had also lost a spouse made him that much more sensitive to the situation, and it was exactly the dynamic Clarke needed in order to find comfort in their decision to remarry.
“Anyways, what did you call me for in the first place?” Clarke asked, snapping their conversation train back onto the rails. “Aside from filling your ‘gross Clarke out’ quota, of course.”
“I talked to Grandma this morning, and she told me about this new place she wants to go for her birthday lunch.”
“Oh, yeah?” Clarke questioned, slightly surprised that her grandmother had chosen somewhere different than where they all normally went out to lunch when they were together.
“It’s called Polis Café, and apparently they have a crème brûlée that is to die for.”
“Is that on your side of town?” Clarke asked as she racked her brain to think of where she’d heard the name before.
It wasn’t often that she went out for meals, opting more usually to order in or make something herself, so knowing all the new places that popped up what seemed every month in their big city was too hard for Clarke to keep track of.
“Yeah, it’s maybe ten minutes away from the house. I can either swing by early to pick you up, or I’ll give you money for a cab to get over this way.”
“I’ll probably have to take a cab,” Clarke told her as she rounded the corner of a building to head down the street her apartment was on. “The gallery scheduled me to present my latest painting in the morning, so I’m sure I’ll be stuck there for a few hours before I can skip out to make our lunch plans.”
“Alright, just don’t be late. You know how much your grandmother hates that.”
“My grandmother or you?” Clarke teased through a smirk as she pulled the door of her apartment building open and stepping through.
“That’s what I thought,” Clarke said, walking slowly towards the elevator. “Listen, Mom, I’m just about to get into the elevator so I’ll let you go.”
“Alright, sounds good. See you tomorrow. I love you, sweetie.”
“Love you too, Mom,” Clarke replied and hit the end call button promptly before taking her place in the waiting elevator.
It was only a few step journey from the elevator to her apartment door, and Clarke found herself standing in front of it within a matter of seconds. She slid her slightly worn key into the lock and clicked it over, opening the door quickly and immediately catching sight of someone she’d prefer to only see on a yearly basis if she had her way about it. Lexa was looking straight at her, keeping her upper back lightly connected with the front of the refrigerator she was leaning against, and was dressed in comfortable workout clothes as if she was on her way to the gym.
“Hey,” the brunette said with a surprisingly gentle voice.
“Hey,” Clarke replied in kind after quickly clearing her throat and before closing the front door behind her.
They glanced at each other once again before Lexa turned her attention back to the cell phone in her hand while Clarke moved past her and into the kitchen to set her grocery bags on the counter. As the thin plastic of the bags rustled into the pained silence of the room, Lexa lifted her gaze towards the countertop and scoffed out a tiny laugh that was then followed up with a slight roll of her eyes. Clarke looked over her shoulder at the sound and narrowed her eyes at the girl who was back to swiping at the screen of her phone.
“Is there something you’d like to say?” Clarke asked, a faint tone of annoyance lacing her words.
“Just noticing your choice of bags,” Lexa replied without so much as lifting her head an inch. “I should have figured you to have no concern for the environment.”
“Is it, like, your life goal to pick a fight with me every time we’re in the same room or something?” Clarke asked as she began unpacking her grocery items.
She was met with silence which only made her roll her eyes.
“Because I’m just saying you’re really good at it.”
“Compliments so early in the day, Clarke?” Lexa chimed in, still looking down at her phone. “You must have had an extra scoop of sugar in your coffee this morning.”
“Not that I don’t love your unscheduled pop-ins,” Clarke began as she continued emptying her shopping bags, “but what are you doing here?”
At that Lexa sighed and slipped her phone into the pocket of her track jacket before looking up at Clarke with a rather bored expression on her face.
“I’m picking Anya up,” Lexa said.
“Why couldn’t she have taken a cab or something?” Clarke asked and immediately regretted it.
She liked Anya, she really did, but it was pointless to think that any conversation between Lexa and herself about anyone or anything would result in something other than annoyed, clipped, or snarky remarks. It had been over a year since Clarke and Lexa had first met at the bar, and their relationship had only made one change. They seemed to get along even less. Clarke managed to push past her small blunder and turned towards the fridge with an arm full of produce. She chanced a glance at Lexa who was looking at her with an eyebrow raised as if she was gearing up to fire back at her.
“I wasn’t aware I needed to tell you my entire life story to qualify picking up my roommate at her girlfriend’s apartment,” Lexa quipped with lightning speed and accuracy.
Clarke said nothing in response as she reached for the refrigerator door handle that was directly behind where Lexa was still leaning. Her forearm pressed purposefully against the slightly taller girl’s waist and nudged until Lexa took the hint and stepped to the side of the large appliance. She took what could best be described as a relaxed military stance just a few feet from Clarke and let her eyes wander into the living room while Clarke continued to load her groceries into the fridge.
“Hey, oh,” Anya said as her face fell the moment she noticed Clarke in the kitchen, “sorry that took a while.”
“It’s fine,” Lexa replied quickly but calmly. “Ready?”
“Yeah,” Anya answered as she made her way through the living room and towards the front door carrying two bags of what Clarke could only guess were clothes.
Lexa took one and hung it from her shoulder before quickly opening the apartment door and walking out into the hallway. Anya shot Clarke an apologetic look, as she always did when fate left Lexa and Clarke alone and to their own devices, before she turned back around to say goodbye to Raven who had been following behind her.
“Bye, baby,” Anya told her as they met in a warm embrace.
“I love you,” Raven said as she craned her neck back to place a gentle kiss on her girlfriends lips.
“Mmm, love you too,” Anya hummed in agreement before kissing the shorter brunette one last time and heading out of the apartment.
The second the door closed, Clarke spun around and crouched over the kitchen sink to make gagging noises loud and dramatic enough for Raven to easily catch the drift of her joke. By the time she had turned back around, Raven was walking away and waving a single finger in the air at which Clarke just laughed.
The morning brought with it the promise of a sunny day evident by the lack of even a speck of clouds in the clear blue sky. Her presentation at the gallery Clarke would often sell her art from had gone well, without a hitch really, and she even collected the numbers of a few prospective buyers who assured her they were interested in commissioning from her at least one painting each.
The best part about having a gallery (or being able to showcase work at one as Clarke did) was the exposure that came with it. She met people from all walks of life, all of whom appreciated the fine arts, and in turn had the opportunity to get her own artwork out into the world, in people’s homes, in corporate office buildings, anywhere it was appreciated. She was making a name for herself, slowly but surely, and one day Clarke was positive she’d be able to open her own gallery.
When she had enough money.
As dreams of her future art gallery danced around in her head, Clarke sat comfortably in the back of a rather nice taxi cab. She assumed the drive would take about thirty minutes, so she pulled out her phone to check her messages and play around on it for a while to help pass the time. The small canvas she had painted for her grandmother’s birthday gift was lying beside her on the seat, hidden by a beautiful floral patterned giftwrap and light pink ribbon tied around it. Clarke was positive her grandmother would love the gift, and she was excited to see her reaction to it.
“Thirty-eight fifty,” the taxi driver stated as he came to a stop in front of the restaurant.
“Thanks,” Clarke replied as she handed him a few bills, “keep the change.”
She was surprised when she stepped out of the cab to see her mom and grandmother making their way from the parking lot, figuring they would already have been there and waiting, and she stood off to the side of the pathway to wait for them to reach her. Abby caught her daughter’s eye almost immediately and waved, which Clarke acknowledged with her own wave, and the smile that broke out over the eldest woman’s face when she saw her granddaughter made Clarke giggle.
“Hey, Grandma,” Clarke greeted and offered another small wave as they all came together.
“Clarke, honey,” Lillian replied, immediately holding her arms out to wrap her granddaughter in a tight hug. They stood there for a moment before the older woman backed away and swept her gaze over Clarke from head to toe. “You look thin.”
“You’re the only one to ever tell me that, Gran,” Clarke said through a chuckle.
She was by no means overweight, but Clarke never considered herself thin. She had curves, curves that she loved, and was proud of her body. She had enough muscle definition to keep her healthy and was soft in all the right places. ‘As a woman ought to be,’ her mother always told Clarke during the years she was still growing and not altogether comfortable with her figure.
“Nonsense,” Lillian said with a click of her tongue. “The only other person thinner than you is your mother, and how Marcus hasn’t already snapped her like a twig is a mystery to me.”
Abby and Clarke both shared a look best described as a mixture of shock and faint disgust, but neither of them had the chance to respond before Lillian was motioning for to them to follow her. They did so rather awkwardly at first but quickly fell back into their usual flow by the time they had been seated at a cozy table on the patio outside. It was the perfect day to dine outdoors, and the quaint setup of tables and umbrellas atop the rustic cobblestone court only added to the picturesqueness of it all.
“Lunch is on me, so get what you want,” Abby instructed as she peered over the top of her menu.
Just as Clarke was about to joke about ordering the most expensive champagne and lunch item on the menu, something out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. She flicked her gaze towards the far end of the patio where a portable serving station was positioned and saw two servers animatedly talking to each other as quietly as they could so as not to draw any attention to themselves. When green eyes landed on her, Clarke froze until she saw the owner of them quickly dart her head to the left to hide behind the other person she was speaking to.
A wry grin began to crawl across Clarke’s face as she continued to watch the exchange, deducing easily that Lexa was trying to get the other server to wait on the table Clarke was occupying. An apologetic shrug of the other girl’s shoulders and a disappointed expression on Lexa’s face later, Clarke began formulating a plan in her head for how to irritate the irritating brunette even more than she normally was able to. She let her eyes fall back down onto her menu as Lexa straightened the front of her uniform shirt and tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear before making her way over.
“Good afternoon, ladies,” Lexa announced as she began filling each of their glasses with ice water. “How are you all doing today?”
“Great,” Clarke spoke up immediately, a shit-eating smirk already plastered on her face. “We’re doing great, so great.”
Abby frowned at her daughter’s strange reaction to the question and didn’t see the glare Clarke received from Lexa before Abby turned her head back towards the brunette she only knew as a stranger and spoke.
“We’re doing well,” Abby reassured in a more level tone, “how are you?”
“Well, thank you,” Lexa answered in her most professional voice. “My name is Lexa, and I will be your server today. Can I get anyone started off with something other than water?”
“I’d like a glass of champagne, please,” Abby said with a smile, at which Lexa simply nodded.
“Bloody Mary for me,” Lillian told her before adding with a wink, “extra spicy.”
“Hmmm,” Clarke hummed as she looked down at her menu and tapped a finger against it as she pretended to think.
It wasn’t until an inordinate amount of silence lingered that Abby and Lillian both looked over at the blonde, who was sighing and acting as if she were making the toughest decision of her life. Lexa was gritting her teeth subtly as she tried hard not to hurry her customer along, but she was nearing the end of her rope when Clarke mumbled an ‘I don’t know’ for the fourth time while tapping her finger against her chin. Another few seconds passed, and Lexa finally broke.
“Clarke,” she snapped at the blonde, much to the surprise of Abby and Lillian.
“What?” Clarke barked back as she raised her glare to meet Lexa’s. The two shared an intense look but before Clarke could speak, Lillian beat her to it.
“Oh, so you’re friends?”
“No,” both girls blurted out at the same time.
“I’ll have an iced tea,” Clarke quickly added, wanting nothing more than for Lexa to go away before her grandmother asked any more questions.
Lexa retreated with a polite nod, and Clarke sighed in relief.
“You were awfully rude to someone who apparently knows you,” Abby scolded her daughter as soon as the three of them were alone again.
“If anyone is rude, it’s her,” Clarke replied as she reached for her glass of water. “She’s practically the queen of rudeness.”
“She seemed perfectly pleasant to me,” Lillian pointed out, her eyebrows high in judgment of her granddaughter’s claim.
“Well, trust me, she’s not,” Clarke told her before taking a sip of her ice water.
“Clarke Abigail Griffin,” Lillian began sternly, “if this girl who is apparently the queen of rudeness can act as polite as she was, then you are more than capable of doing the same.”
“She’s right, Clarke,” Abby interrupted her daughter, “be an adult and be nice.”
Clarke’s mouth dropped open at her mother’s words and was ready to break into a tirade about how much she absolutely cannot stand the ‘perfectly pleasant non-rude’ girl but was silenced by a strong throat clearing from the opposite side of the table. Instead Clarke pursed her lips together and began bouncing her leg under the table, doing everything in her power to keep her mouth shut at her grandmother’s demand. She crossed her arms against her chest, and they all went back to reading their menus so they could put in their order by the time their drinks had been delivered.
“May I take everyone’s order?” Lexa asked as she placed the last drink from her tray onto the table.
They each took a turn ordering what they wanted, a salad for Lillian, lobster bisque for Abby, and a grilled chicken sandwich for Clarke, and Lexa quickly excused herself to deliver the ticket to the kitchen. A few minutes passed as they chatted until the subject of Lillian’s birthday came up, prompting Clarke to hand over the gift she had prepared as a proud smile began to form on her face.
“Clarke, you didn’t have to buy me anything,” Lillian chastised her granddaughter as she accepted the gift being presented to her. “I’m too old to get presents.”
“You’re not that old,” Clarke told her, “and I didn’t buy it for you.”
Lillian’s face brightened as she realized that what was hidden under the beautiful floral giftwrap was likely a painting, and she wasted no time in untying the ribbon and tearing the paper away to reveal a beautiful scene of a young girl sitting beneath a giant flowering cherry tree. Crystal blue eyes began to water as the older woman brushed the soft pads of her fingers along the canvas as waves of memories began swimming around in her head.
“I had the image in my mind for so long,” Clarke finally broke the silence. “I hope you like it.”
“I love it,” Lillian said immediately as she swallowed the lump in her throat. “It’s one of your most beautiful pieces, I think.”
Abby was blotting at a few tears that had pooled in the corners of her eyes that Clarke didn’t even notice as her mother leaned over and kissed her cheek affectionately. She smiled as her mother pulled away and rounded the table quickly when she saw her grandmother stand to give her a hug. By the time Clarke was sitting back down in her seat, her heart was racing with joy and felt relief that her painting was well-received.
“This could really be either of us, you know,” Lillian told Clarke as she pointed at the young girl under the tree.
All that could be seen was a mop of curly blonde hair and a light blue dress as the girl’s back was turned towards the eye of the beholder. It was no secret after comparing a few pictures of Clarke and her grandmother at the same age that their appearance was so alike they could have been mistaken for twins. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin were about all the physical similarities they shared now, but it was still obvious to most that they were related.
“I know,” Clarke replied with a smile, “that’s why I painted it that way.”
Before another word could be uttered, their food was being delivered. Clarke could only wonder for a second whether Lexa had sneakily sabotaged her meal in some way before pushing it out of her mind just a second before Lillian was speaking.
“My granddaughter painted this for me,” she told Lexa proudly as she held it up for her to see.
A huge knot twisted in Clarke’s stomach as she watched Lexa’s gaze fall onto her painting. She felt something similar to irritation that her grandmother had allowed Lexa to view her work without her permission. Had her grandmother shown it to anyone else in the world, Clarke wouldn’t have been upset. But the fact that it was Lexa who was seeing her painting, eyeing it up, probably critiquing it, made her blood start to boil. What she didn’t expect to ever hear were the very words that tumbled from Lexa’s mouth a few seconds later.
Clarke blinked a few times as she steadied her gaze on the brunette and was nearly rendered speechless by the look of truth written across Lexa’s face, even if it did last for only a moment. Their eye contact was broken swiftly as the last plate was deposited on the table, and Clarke took the opportunity to sip a bit of her iced tea in an attempt to quench the sudden dryness of her throat. She didn’t notice how her grandmother was watching the entire subtle exchange with a keen eye.
“Is there anything else I can get for anyone?” Lexa asked as she pulled a small glass bottle of barbeque sauce from her apron pocket and set it beside Clarke’s plate.
“I’ll take another glass of champagne whenever you have the chance,” Abby said through a smile, earning a reciprocating smile and nod from Lexa before she left.
Lillian watched in silence as Clarke stared down at the bottle, her eyebrows scrunching together and concentrating so hard on it that she thought it might shatter under the weight of her gaze.
‘Did I order barbeque sauce? Why did she give this to me?’ Clarke silently questioned herself. ‘How the hell does she know I prefer barbeque sauce over ketchup?’
“Is something wrong, sweetie?” Abby asked when she finally noticed Clarke’s staring contest with the bottle beside her plate.
“What?” Clarke asked confusedly, finally lifting her head up to look at her mother. “No, I–”
Just as she was about to continue, Lexa appeared at their table again with a fresh glass of champagne for Abby, and Clarke physically could not stop herself from addressing the presumptuous server.
“Hey,” Clarke said as she looked up at Lexa and pointed a finger at the barbeque sauce bottle, “what is this?”
“It’s barbeque sauce," Lexa deadpanned.
“I know it’s barbeque sauce,” Clarke replied. “Why did you bring it to me?”
“Why did I?” Lexa replied in question, her eyebrows raising just a fraction of an inch.
“Yes, why did you bring me barbeque sauce instead of ketchup?” Clarke asked. “Ninety-nine percent of the people in America eat fries with ketchup. I have fries, but you brought me barbeque sauce. Why did you do that?”
Abby and Lillian sat in stunned silence as they listened to Clarke ramble. She wasn’t angry, that was apparent by her tone, but the persistence in her voice made her slightly frantic questioning somewhat comical... at least to the innocent bystander.
“Would you like me to bring you a bottle of ketchup?” Lexa asked slowly as if she was speaking to a young child.
“I don’t want ketchup,” Clarke answered as she stared up at Lexa with her eyes blown wide. “I don’t like ketchup.”
“Look, Clarke, do you want the barbeque sauce or not?” Lexa finally asked in a small huff of annoyance.
“Yes,” Clarke told her.
“Fine,” Lexa replied before offering the table an awkward look and leaving.
“What is the matter with you?” Abby asked in a hushed tone.
“What is the matter with her!” Clarke came back with. “She brought me barbeque sauce instead of ketchup for my fries without me even ordering it! I mean, who does that?”
“Maybe you ordered it and just forgot you ordered it, dear,” Lillian offered, rolling her silverware free from her napkin.
“I didn’t!” Clarke nearly shrieked.
“Can we get over it, please?” Abby asked her daughter. “I’d like to enjoy my meal without hearing the word barbeque sauce a hundred more times.”
Lillian just chuckled as she took a small bite of her salad and kept her mouth shut as Clarke let out a long sigh before stubbornly plopping a small amount of the sauce that was not to be named onto her plate. They ate in silence for a while until a new topic was brought up, and the three of them fell into an easy conversation as the finished their meals and shared a sweet dessert of crème brûlée. It wasn’t until Lexa had tried to deliver the bill as quickly as possible that Lillian made the move she’d been waiting to make since the beginning of the meal.
“So, Lexa,” Lillian said loudly enough to give Lexa pause, “how long have you and my granddaughter known each other?”
“A while,” Lexa offered vaguely, actively avoiding eye contact with Clarke.
“Clarke?” Lillian asked as a way of demanding a more accurate answer.
“Over a year, I guess,” Clarke finally answered after doing a bit of quick math in her head.
“Feels more like ten,” Lexa quietly slipped in as she eyed the blonde.
“Or a hundred,” Clarke shot back defiantly, at which Lexa simply rolled her eyes.
“Are you married, dear?” Lillian asked, much to Clarke’s mortification, and Lexa stared back at the older woman in shock.
Abby cleared her throat loudly and repeatedly in an effort to stop her mother from embarrassing her daughter too much, but Lillian simply waved a dismissive hand and continued to wait for an answer.
“I’m not married, but I am very busy,” Lexa replied smoothly as she motioned to the patio now at full capacity, “so if you don’t mind...”
“Oh, of course,” Lillian quickly told her. “Please, as you were.”
The second Lexa had turned and practically ran away, Clarke was leaning over the table to catch her grandmother’s attention.
“Grandma, what the hell?”
“Clarke!” Abby immediately scolded her daughter for her foul language.
“What, can’t I ask a simple question?” Lillian asked, feigning slight innocence. “Have my countless years on this Earth not granted me that yet?”
It was only with a groan that Clarke replied before Abby placed a hundred dollar bill in the ticket sleeve, and the three of them left the restaurant, Clarke not even daring a single look back as she left.
“Non-Surgical Alternatives to Full Hip Replacements?” Raven read aloud as she peeked over Clarke’s shoulder from behind the couch. “I know you sometimes complain about aches and pains, Clarke, but isn’t this a bit dramatic?”
“It’s not for me, smartass,” Clarke replied with a roll of her eyes. “My grandma broke the news at her birthday lunch last week that she’s getting her hip replaced, so I’m just doing a little research to make sure it’s the best option for her.”
“Aww, you’re the best granddaughter ever,” Raven said as she batted her eyelashes and plopped down onto the other end of the couch. “Damn, she’s going to have more metal in her body than I do at the rate she’s going.”
Clarke chuckled, glancing over towards Raven and watching as she began unbuckling her leg brace. It was about the time every evening Raven would take it off and ask for a massage, though most of the time Clarke would just wordlessly start before even being asked. Thanks to their friendship spanning back through their childhood, they had always been close but it was after the accident that they bonded in a way neither of them ever thought they would.
Raven started as a Freshman in University during Clarke’s senior year in High School, and the aspiring engineer was elated when her best friend's father had offered her a part-time internship working with him at his engineering company. A routine day of tinkering on their most recent project turned into a nightmare when a small electrical fire broke out, putting into motion a series of events that lead to Jake using his body as a shield to save Raven from being killed in a violent explosion only for him to end up losing his own life while doing it. That day sealed Clarke and Raven’s bond for eternity, and they remained nearly inseparable for the next five years or so following the accident.
“How many fake bones does she actually have now?” Raven asked as she shimmied herself into the cushions and draped her leg across Clarke’s lap.
“She’s had both of her knees replaced, a wrist joint replacement, and there’s some kind of metal rod in her shoulder,” Clarke said with a slight shake of her head, “but I still swear she gets healthier after each surgery.”
“She’s a tough one,” Raven sighed as she let her head fall back onto the couch and relax into Clarke’s carefully practiced ministrations.
“Does Anya do this for you?” Clarke questioned after a few beats of silence.
“Yeah, no need to get jealous though,” Raven teased, closing her eyes and smiling. “No one does it like you, Griffin.”
“I don’t know whether to take that as a compliment or an insult,” Clarke joked back. “I was more making sure that she’s taking care of you.”
“She does,” Raven answered seriously at first before breaking into a more suggestive tone. “She takes good care of me.”
“Ugh, gross,” Clarke said as she scrunched her face in disgust.
“No need to get snippy just because you’re not getting laid,” Raven pointed out.
Before Clarke could even answer there was a knock at their front door, so she slipped from the couch to see who it was.
“Gran?” Clarke questioned curiously as she opened the door to reveal the older woman. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
“Of course I’m okay, Clarke,” Lillian quickly quelled her granddaughter’s concern.
“Grandma Dub!” Raven called excitedly from her position on the couch. “Hola, preciosa!”
“Hola, Señorita Raven,” Lillian replied without missing a beat. “I just came by to drop something off.”
“Do you want to stay a while?” Clarke asked as she ushered the woman inside and closed the door behind her. “Let me get you something to drink.”
“That’s fine, dear,” Lillian cut in quickly. “I should be getting back before dark, but I wanted to make sure you got this.”
“What is it?” Clarke asked as she took the large yellow envelope from her grandmother’s hand and looked down at it confusedly.
“Every time I schedule a new surgery, I sit down with my financial planner and go over some things,” Lillian explained, “most of which I’m sure would bore you to death.”
“Okay,” Clarke said slowly, unsure of what the older woman was going to tell her.
“That’s an updated copy of my will,” Lillian finally said into a room so silent that a dropped pin would sound like a clap of thunder.
“Are you going to die?” Raven so ineloquently asked, her eyes just as wide as Clarke’s as they stared at the older woman in shock.
“Relax, girls,” Lillian assured them dismissively before turning her attention solely on Clarke. “I update that old thing at least once a year, I just don’t normally give you a copy. Although I have a feeling you’re going to want to read through this one.”
“Because you’re in it,” Lillian stated matter-of-factly. “Technically you’ve always been in it, but I added something new that I think may peak your interest. Read it when you want and call me with any questions.”
Lillian was gone quicker than she arrived, and Clarke was left standing alone with the envelope still in her hand. She made her way back towards the couch, and Raven snatched the document from Clarke to shake it like a Christmas present.
“Dude, this thing is heavy!” Raven commented dramatically. “How much money is she leaving you?”
“I don’t know,” Clarke muttered as she snatched the envelope back and put it on the coffee table.
“Aren’t you going to open it?”
“Maybe later,” Clarke said sheepishly. “It’s private, right?”
“Fine,” Raven replied with a small shrug, “but as long as you’re sitting there, will you massage my leg?”
A few hours later, Clarke found herself hovering over her grandmother’s will that she’d spread out atop the quilt on her bed. There was so much legal jargon sprawled across every square inch of the document that it practically made Clarke’s eyes cross as she read it, and she quickly resorted to skimming the pages for her name to read only the bits that pertained to her. She nearly choked on her own breath when she saw the amount of the lump sum of money she would be inheriting upon her grandmother’s death but tried not to think about it, knowing she would only be benefiting from it if her grandmother was gone.
Towards the end of one of the sections notated as being amended, Clarke noticed her name again and took extra care in reading what it said. The first few lines were packed with information, and Clarke felt her heartbeat speed up as she began to piece together what was being outlined. The pre-death condition detailed a hefty allowance of money to be used in the purchase of an art gallery space, something Clarke had only ever dreamed of having, but the instructions proceeding it were what gave Clarke pause. When her eyes scanned over an unfamiliar name for the third time, she finally realized what the condition was stating.
Lillian Abigail Walters, in death or life, hereby bequeaths the aforementioned sum to beneficiary Clarke Abigail Griffin (granddaughter) to be paid upon her engagement and subsequent marriage to one Miss Alexandria Abigail Woods and existing within the following parameters as set forth below.
‘She’s going to give me money to buy a gallery once I get married?’ Clarke thought as her eyebrows scrunched together tightly.
Another quick swipe of the text below seemed to register a few points in Clarke’s hazy mind, but she was unknowingly distracted by the name she had read now for the fourth time. There were so many mentions of the familial name ‘Abigail’ in the will that she was having trouble distinguishing one from the other through her confusion, and she let out a small sigh before speaking quietly out loud in her bedroom.
“Who the hell is...”
ALexandria Abigail Woods.