It was kind of like birds flocking, the way the soccer team moved as one big mass when they ran. They turned together, sped up and slowed down together – Abby kicked it up a notch to take the lead. That was like birds, too, one of the few things she remembered from the freshman science class she’d taken to get the credit out of the way. They took turns leading, taking the brunt of the wind.
Abby led them across the quad and then down toward the soccer fields. The fastest way meant crossing the archery fields, which would have been fine if they were empty, but they weren’t.
She swore, and then angled hard to the left, hoping none of the archers were paying attention. She didn’t want Babs to see her and think – well, think anything, not that she was stalking her, not that she still cared.
Someone yelled her name, and she dug in, ran harder. She was leaving the rest of the team behind, but when it came to love, it was every bird for herself.
“I thought it was you.”
Abby looked up, blinked. She’d been half asleep over her bagel, and her glasses had slipped down her nose. She shoved them back into place, and could see again. There was a redhead standing in front of her, a bottle of soda in one hand.
She grinned, and her nose scrunched up under her glasses.
Abby smiled a little, baffled. She’d been dreaming about cute girls, but in her thoughts, they always morphed into Babs before the end. This one – didn’t.
“You don’t remember me, do you?”
“No, sorry.” But she looked harder, and then she got it. “Wait. Mallory? Pike?”
“Yeah.” She shrugged and then pulled out a chair. "Mind if I sit?”
“Go ahead.” Abby pulled off her glasses, rubbed her eyes, and then put them back on. “What are you doing here?”
She laughed, and opened the bottle of soda. Diet Coke. Nasty stuff, diet soda. “I’m a freshman here.”
“Oh.” Abby bit into her bagel, and chewed. That didn’t make sense. “Freshman don’t move in until next week.”
“Unless they’re on a sports team.”
“Wait. You? Playing sports?” Abby laughed, and choked a little. “Since when?”
“Nice to know I was so memorable in middle school.” She rolled her shoulders and twisted her neck. Abby heard it pop.
“What do you mean? Sorry I didn’t recognize you at first, but you look a lot different.”
“I guess.” Mallory took another drink. “Not what I meant. I started doing archery back in sixth grade. It was the one athletic thing I was good at. I guess it wasn’t my thing, though. You had soccer and Kristy had softball. I was supposed to be the writer, not the archer.”
“Oh, yeah.” Now she vaguely remembered going to a meet or something once. “Sorry.”
She shrugged. “Whatever. They got it, at boarding school. I could be more than one thing at a time.”
“Yeah. Sometimes Kris and them were kind of…”
“Stuck in their ways.” Abby finished her bagel. “One dimensional.”
“Did it get better in high school?”
Abby hedged. She didn’t want to talk bad about her old friends. She hadn’t thought of them in awhile. High school felt like a long time ago. “Sort of.”
“Hi Mal.” A voice cut in, bubbly, happy. “Abby.”
She froze. Oh crap. Of course archery meant Mallory knew Babs. Of course it did.
Babs sat down next to Mal and smiled brightly at her. Abby knew that look. It meant she was pissed, and that she wanted information. The happier she looked on the surface, the angrier she actually was. It was one of the freakiest things Abby had ever seen.
“When did you two meet?”
“Oh, we go way back,” Mallory said, and Abby winced. That was not the right way to deal with a bubbly Babs. She’d learn.
“Really?” Babs raised her eyebrows. “You never told me you knew any other archers, Abby.”
“We met back in middle school,” Mal said. She capped her soda, and spun the bottle slightly. “Didn’t know each other long before I went off to boarding school. She probably forgot all about me. It’s no big deal.”
“Okay,” Babs said. It was obvious to Abby it was far from okay, but she just wanted out of the conversation.
“Yeah. Well, gotta get to class. Nice to see you again, Mal.” She fled, unable to look at Babs as she left. Once she got done talking to Mal, Abby would never hear from either of them again. That’s how Babs worked.
Abby stretched out on the lawn in front of her dorm. The sun was setting, but the air was still hot. The grass was cool beneath her, and she relaxed into it. Her legs ached, and shook a little. Practice had been brutal, but excellent.
She squinted up, and then shaded her eyes with one hand. Mallory stood over her, grinning down at her. She was wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt. She still had a black wrist guard on her arm, and her hair was pulled back off her face in a ponytail.
Abby shrugged, and closed her eyes again as Mallory sat next to her. They were both silent for awhile; she could hear Mallory breathe, a little unsteady. Abby tore up a handful of grass, and let it scatter.
“So, where did Anna go to school?”
She opened her eyes. Mallory was watching her, and smiling. She looked truly interested. “Berklee,” she said. “For her music.”
“What’s her focus?”
“Performance, I think,” Abby said. “She’s been thinking about composition or film scoring, but I don’t think she’s actually decided to change.”
“Is it weird? Not going to the same school?” Mallory stretched out next to her. Their arms were practically touching. “Adam, Byron, and Jordan are looking at schools for next year, and Byron doesn’t want to go to the same places they do. I’m glad I’m not living at home this year and going to the local school. It’s going to be interesting.”
“Yeah.” Abby gave it some thought. “I miss her. It is weird, going to school with people who won’t know I’m a twin unless I tell them. They can’t just see us together, they don’t just already know.”
“Are you happy here?”
“Sometimes.” It was more honest an answer than she’d meant to give, but Mallory just nodded.
“Want to get some dinner? I’m starving, they run practice really hard here. I think my arms might fall off.”
Abby looked at her for a long moment, and then nodded and bounced to her feet. Mallory moved slower, took her time, and wiped the loose grass from her shorts. Abby realized she was staring at her long, pale legs, and forced herself to look away.
In middle school, Abby hadn’t thought much about Mallory. She was younger, and one of the pairs of best friends. That was about all she’d known. Either she had missed a lot, or Mallory had really changed since then.
“There’s an Elvis marathon on tonight,” Abby said at breakfast. They met almost every morning. It wasn’t exactly on purpose, they never planned it, but somehow Abby found herself sitting with Mallory. She liked it. “If you want to watch a couple movies with me.”
Mal rubbed the back of her neck. She was sunburnt, but it was fading into a tan. It disguised her freckles some, and made her eyes look brighter.
She bumped Abby’s leg with her foot. “I’ve never seen any of his movies.”
“You’ve missed out. They are a lot of fun,” she promised.
“I don’t know…,” Mallory trailed off, and then nodded. “Sure. For you, I’ll give him a try.”
They were halfway through Blue Hawaii when Mallory took Abby’s hand. She looked down to where their fingers were entwined, and then over at her. She was blushing, and it looked a little silly with her red hair, but she was smiling too, and it was really cute.
She bit her lower lip, and glanced sideways at her. Abby smiled back, and squeezed her hand. Moonlight in the window, and Elvis on her tv, and a cute girl holding her hand. There were worse ways to spend the night.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Ann M. Martin.
Dedication: Written for leithal for the Abby round of short_takes.
Dedication: Written for leithal for the Abby round of short_takes.