One in a Million

Best Friends Forever

Being woken up by her phone beeping, announcing the arrival of a text, Lucy had stayed in bed for a while, via text message making plans to meet one of her closest friends in town later in the day and then rather reluctantly proceeded to throw off the blankets and drag her butt downstairs to have breakfast.

Returning upstairs a while later, she went straight into the en-suite bathroom that was decorated with shiny white and ruby red mosaic tiles on the walls and off-white, almost cream-colored, pebble tiles on the floor.

All the fixtures were brushed steel or white ceramic, all square and simple, matching the rest of the house and the built-in shower had glass doors that sported a frosted, erratic stripe design in the middle for privacy. The lights around the mirror above the sink were just soft enough to be perfect for applying makeup, but not all that hot when watching yourself brush your teeth.

Leaning against the white painted doorframe she looked around the bedroom that still looked pretty much exactly the same as it had when she graduated high school eight years earlier.

Two of the walls were made out of nothing but glass, one overlooking mostly the woods on the side of the house and the other leading out onto the balcony that was large enough to be called a roof-terrace and overlooked the bay. The railing around the balcony consisted of more glass panels and a thin metal overlay to make the most of the view up there, the floor was the same teak as the deck downstairs and two more Adirondack chairs, these ones black, stood off to the side, probably having been moved there during the past winter.

The other two walls in the room were painted a pale blue that occasionally matched the sky outside perfectly and like the rest of the upstairs, the floor was covered in wide oak planks.

A queen-sized bed with a beige, padded headboard stood out from the wall she was leaning against, facing the outer wall of the house and it was flanked by two small tables made out of oak, each with an elaborately designed lamp on it.

Along the length of the wall, about two, two and a half feet from the ceiling, a plain white shelf was mounted and it was covered in the ribbons and medals and trophies she’d gotten throughout school and competitions during the years. From cheerleading to softball to everything in between that she’d tried or attempted.

If she wasn’t mistaken, it even held some of the trinkets she’d brought back from her months in France, as well as from other places they’d visited on vacation.

On the wall to her left, the only other solid wall in the room, stood two white closets with an antique vanity in-between them. The vanity had doubles as a desk back in high school and above it hung a large mirror with slightly curved edges, perfect for holding photos and pictures. There were pictures from France, her days as a cheerleader, different competitions and even a fair few from the many hockey tournaments she’d been dragged to during the years.

The two closets were filled with all the things she hadn't taken with her when she moved to Chicago and since the previous night they also held most of the clothes she’d brought back with her.

Standing there it was almost eerie how little had actually changed since she had last properly lived there. She returned every now and then, but she had never really stayed long enough to properly change anything, or to remove the remnants of her childhood.

Turning on her heel and stepping back into the bathroom, she turned on the water in the shower before rinsing and placing the toothbrush back in the glass mounted on the wall above the sink.

Removing all her jewelry barring the key-pendant necklace she’d gotten when she was ten, she slipped off her panties and the large t-shirt she’d slept in and dropped them both on the floor before stepping into the shower.

Pulling her still damp hair into a messy ponytail, Lucy shed her towel and dropped it in the hamper in the bathroom before slipping on a loose maxi-dress with a mixed pattern, tying the strings behind her neck. Putting on some flat sandals, she quickly fastened the buckles around her ankles and grabbed her leather hobo bag from the padded crème-colored Marie Antoinette-style chair by the vanity. Snatching up her black Wayfarer’s from the vanity she slid them onto her head before pulling the white painted door with three large frosted glass squares in it open and walking out of the room.

Replying to the text she’d just gotten from her friend, she walked down the designed, one-of-a-kind spiral staircase and out of the house, locking the heavy doors behind her as no one else was home at the moment.

Sliding in behind the wheel of the car she’d bought just earlier that year, she made quick work of turning the large vehicle around and driving up the long driveway back to the main road.

Despite not actually having lived there for a number of years, she had no trouble finding her way towards the part of the town where she’d agreed to meet with her friend. In all honesty, it was a rather large city, but things still had a tendency to change slowly, especially in the outer parts. Really, the only place where changed occurred quickly was in downtown as it seemed to change constantly. All in all it meant that the roads she was currently driving on – as she usually avoided downtown like the plague – hadn't change much at all in the past couple of years, a few new layers of asphalt and paint, maybe, but that was it.

Pulling in to the parking lot about twenty five minutes after leaving the house, she parked next to a black Volvo SUV and climbed out, dropping the keys into her bag after activating the alarm. Walking the length of the car as she pushed the bag onto her bare shoulder, she didn’t notice the woman approaching her.

“Long time no see.”

Pulling her sunglasses from where they were resting on her nose as her head snapped up, Lucy froze for a fraction of a second before breaking out in massive grin as she immediately recognized the strawberry-blonde woman.

“Tessa!” she exclaimed as she hurried over and threw her arms around the woman whom she’d known since they entered kindergarten together many years prior. She was one of the few friends she’d had when she was younger whom she had actually attempted to keep in touch with. “It’s so great to see you again.”

“You too, Luce,” Theresa Lloyd replied happily as she squeezed her friend just as tightly. “It’s certainly been a while,” she added as they parted.

“I know, and I'm sorry,” Lucy apologized sincerely, knowing that no words would be able to erase the years she’d spent all but ruining their friendship by refusing to come back.

“You're here now, that’s all that matters,” Tessa pointed out with a wide smile, wrapping her arm around her friend’s and steering her away from the car park. “And we have so much to catch up on.”

“Yeah, we do,” Lucy agreed with a smile as she looked over at her friend who – in the good sense – hadn't change a bit in the past couple of years.

The two of them walking through the familiar streets where they’d been getting into so much trouble when they were teenagers, they reconnected just as quickly as they always did when they had gone longer periods of time without seeing each other. They shared the basics and moved on to more interesting topics as they reached one of the older café’s in town. Ordering coffee and slices of the famous apple-pie, they sat down at a table in the small outdoor seating area right next to the sidewalk.

“So how does it really feel to be back here again?” Tessa asked conversationally as she leaned back in her seat, watching her friend’s face closely for any signs of discomfort.

“Honestly?” Lucy asked, to which her friend nodded once. “It’s weird,” she admitted simply. “I mean, driving into town yesterday, driving in here today…something about it just feels off. It’s like I don’t belong here anymore.”

“This is your home,” Tessa stated frankly in a no-nonsense kind of tone. “You will always belong here.”

“That’s the thing though, just feeling like this makes me so mad at myself,” Lucy sighed annoyed. “If what happened to Carly taught me anything, it’s that we don’t have forever,” she pointed out, taking a sip of her coffee. “And still I'm running from something that…” she trailed off, licking her lips slightly. “It’s just…”

“It’s still hard?” Tessa supplied with a slight raise of her eyebrow.

“Yeah,” Lucy nodded once, “it’s still hard,” she confirmed before taking a big bite out of her apple-pie.

“Well, look at the bright side,” Tessa stated, causing the other woman to look up and back over at her. “It didn’t work out so hot for him either,” she pointed out, only rolling her eyes at her friend’s arched eyebrows. “His marriage ended up falling apart, their divorce was just finalized.”

“Oh, my God,” Lucy drawled with a disbelieving smile across her lips as she closed her eyes for a second. “Seriously?” she questioned with tilt of her head. “A divorce is a good thing?”

“Obviously not,” Tessa blanched, looking slightly offended at the implied assumption. “They got a kid together, divorce is never a good thing when children are involved,” she pointed out like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “I'm just saying that not everything worked out for him either.”

“I'm not even going to reply to that,” Lucy stated simply. “Besides, from what I know, Tanya is nice, she’s a total sweetheart and she doesn’t deserve to know what a divorce is like.” Deep down she hated the fact that the woman the man she thought she would spend forever with, had moved on to was such a likable person. It made it so much harder to hate her.

“Sometimes you're too compassionate for your own good,” Tessa said frankly as she watched her friend closely. She could see the tightness in her lips as she smiled, the way her eyes lacked a certain sparkle that had always been there when they were younger, revealing that she wasn’t quite as okay with being back as she wanted to make people think.

“Maybe,” Lucy nodded slowly.

“It’s been ten years, though,” Tessa pointed out softly, not wanting to upset her friend any further.

“I know,” Lucy barely refrained from glaring at her friend across the table.

Unlike most people in town who’d only heard the rumors in the aftermath of everything all those years ago, Tessa was one of the few people who knew what had happened, whom Lucy had talked to about it, and even she didn’t know exactly everything that had happened. What it truly was that had driven the older Kristiansen sister from town and the proceeded to keep her away.

“I cannot even being to comprehend what you felt back then, how you felt, but I do know that the only one who is getting punished for what happened, is you,” Tessa stated softly. “You're the one still suffering from something he did all those years ago.”

“You don’t think I know that?” Lucy asked rhetorically, a sad smile across her lips. “I know that I should have moved on from all this by now. I know that,” she insisted. “I mean, he did,” she pointed out frankly. “He found someone else, he got married, he had a baby…” she trailed off, biting slightly on her lower lip. “It just hasn’t been that easy for me, I guess.”

“Promise me one thing,” Tessa stated seriously. “Because if you don’t start dealing with this and soon, you are going to end up bitter and miserable.”

“What?” Lucy looked at her friend.

“Promise that no matter what happens this summer, you won’t run,” Tessa bargained with her.

“I promise,” Lucy smiled softly, both of them knowing that she rarely promised things, not wanting to let people down when if she couldn’t deliver on said promise. So when she did promise, she meant it.

“So how long has it been since you saw any of his brothers?” Tessa wondered after a moment of silence between them, during which they simply enjoyed the sun shining down on them and the apple-pie they were eating. It really was one of the best pies in town.

“I went to Martinique with Jordan and Marc in February,” Lucy revealed, trying to recall if she’d remember to send her friend a postcard.

“Right, the Olympics,” Tessa nodded understanding. She, just like every other Canadian, had followed the tournament closely.

“But I haven't seen Jared since the funeral last summer,” Lucy said softly, still finding it hard to think back to that day. Loosing someone, burying that someone, who was a friend, someone who’d always been there and who was only a year or two older than yourself, was something you honestly never quite came to terms with. “Though I did see Linda and Hank when I stopped by for Lily’s birthday.”

“It’s a good think you finally came back then,” Tessa noted softly. “Wouldn’t want you to get even further away from them.”

“No, we don’t,” Lucy agreed softly. That family had become her second family growing up and no matter what had happened between her and the oldest of the four brothers, she wasn’t about to give that up. “Besides, I don’t think my mother would ever have forgiven me if I deprived her one more party,” she pointed out with a smile.

“She would have tired disowning you,” Tessa replied with a laugh. Whilst the matriarch of the Kristiansen family was a dedicated and very talented architect by day, she loved moonlighting as a party planner and she never missed an opportunity to plan a get-together or a party. Something her three children had learned the hard way, their birthday parties always having themes and guest lists.

“Oh I don’t doubt it,” Lucy agreed smiling as she finished off her pie and pushed the plate away from her, picking up her tall, ceramic mug and sipping her coffee.

Lapsing right back into the easy conversation, the two of them slowly worked on finishing their drinks, not wanting to leave the calm café quite yet.

However, hearing a much too familiar voice calling out her name, both of them looked up and Tessa didn’t miss the way her friend froze, her whole body going stiff as a board for only a moment before she forced herself to turn in the direction the voice was coming from.

“Look at what the cat dragged in,” the tall blonde announced happily as he walked across the sidewalk and stopped next to where the two women were sitting.

“Jordan!” Lucy broke out n a wide grin as she practically jumped up to greet the tall man with a hug.

“Hi, Tigger,” he smiled softly against the side of her head as he returned the hug.

“Oh, my God,” she laughed happily as she sat back down. “You haven't called me that in years.”

“Suddenly felt like it again,” he replied innocently, slipping his hands into the pockets of his cargo shorts as she consciously ignored the dig at her voluntary absence from the town they had hall been born in.

“You remember Tessa, right?” she said, motioning towards her friend as her manners finally kicked back in.

“I sure do,” Jordan confirmed with a wide grin as he looked over at the other woman sitting at the small café table. “You pushed me into my birthday cake when I was eleven,” he remembered simply.

“Hi, Jordan,” Tessa smiled sheepishly as she looked up at the tall hockey player, a slight blush tinting her cheeks.

“Still haven't quite forgiven you for that, you know,” he joked as he looked back at the woman who’d been around for years when he was growing up. “So when did you get back?”

“Yesterday,” Lucy told him, still smiling as her friend obviously fought the blush in her cheeks. “I caught up with mom and dad and then hung out with Lily for a while.”

“Small doses, eh?” he arched his brow knowingly.

“Something like that, yeah,” she agreed with a slightly nod.

“I’d love to stay but I'm late meeting a couple of the guys,” he excused himself as he checked the time on his phone. “But it’s great seeing you back here again,” he smiled at her, leaning over and pressing a short kiss to her cheeks.

“Right back at you,” she smiled up at him.

“You know what,” he stopped before fully turning away and looked between the two of them. “A few of us are going out on the lake tomorrow,” he threw out there, “just the usual, drink some beer, swim, hang out. You want to come?”

“Tessa?” Lucy deliberately stalled, looking over at her friend.

“Can’t,” Tessa replied simply. “I'm going up north to visit my Grandparents tomorrow.”


“I'm not sure…” Lucy hesitated slightly, despite the hopeful spark in Jordan’s blue eyes.

“He’s not in town right now,” he stated simply, not mentioning the embarrassed blush that spread across her cheeks. “And Lily will most likely be there.”

“Right,” Lucy nodded slowly. “You know what,” she quickly made up her mind, “it sounds like a good time, count me in.”

“Great,” he broke out in that patented wide grin that he shared with his older brother and had Lucy biting down on her lip, as to not acknowledge the pang that appeared in the middle of her chest at the sight of it, suspiciously close to where her heart was located. “I’ll text you the details.”

“Do that,” Lucy nodded as he said goodbye and hurried back across the street, continuing to wherever it was that he’d been going.

“Boating with the Staal’s?” Tessa arched her brow questioningly. “Really?”

“At least I'm not running,” Lucy quickly pointed out as she leaned further back in her chair, feeling surprisingly good about her new plans for the following day.

She’d been back before, quite a number of times during the years, for everything from birthdays to weddings to funerals. But she never planned on sticking around; she usually left the following morning, or even the same evening.

This time thought, she was staying.

Thunder Bay was her home, it always had been, and it always would be.
She was done letting Eric Staal keep that from her any longer.
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