Charlie Gardner-Chapter 3

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Charlie Gardner had a habit of visiting Topanga's at least once a week.

He'd sometimes order himself a cup of hot coffee, other days he'd simply sit across the counter while scrolling through his laptop; it seemed he was always around to make sure the girls were doing alright.

Riley and Maya had first noticed it towards the middle of senior year, when Charlie had first moved back to New York City after having left to Florida in the eighth grade. He'd changed, no longer being the Riley lover boy he'd once been, and now walking around with shorter dark hair and a calmer demeanor to him. They had been stunned when they had first seen him (seeing as he'd grown undoubtedly attractive with slightly cheekbones and a more built body, and every girl wanted him because of it), and they were even more surprised when he walked into Topanga's one casual day. It wasn't until they talked to him for what felt like hours, did the two girls realize just how great of a guy he really was.

It seemed that besides Maya, Charlie was the other person who Riley found herself having deep talks with. Charlie didn't seem to mind, as he often lasted there until they were closing, and would often walk each of them home afterwards.

Maya had once gone as far as to say he was their new Farkle, to which Riley ended up rapidly dismissing; Because unlike their old friend, Charlie had left and still managed to find his way back to them.

''So, how's work? Rough day?'' The nineteen year old asked, watching as she wiped down the counter.

It was around six in the afternoon, and so far, the day hadn't been as heavy as others. That particular October day was colder, to which the restaurant found itself less populated, and only the light chatter of a few customers could be heard.

Riley sent him a small smile, shrugging her shoulders. ''Not really, it's actually been pretty slow''

''Really?'' Charlie raised an eyebrow, lifting his lips up into a side grin. ''Any chance you can close down, and we can all go get some dinner? My treat''

She chuckled, brushing her hair away from her face and taking a deep breath. ''You know I'd love to, but I need to take care of these customers''

''Aw, come on, it'll be fun'' That's when Maya passed by, holding an empty muffin basket. ''Hey, Hart, want to go out and get some dinner?''

''Would I?'' the blonde smirked, lazily draping her arm around Riley. ''Where are we going out to eat?''

''In-N-out, I'm paying''

They both looked at Riley, pulling out those pleading eyes that they knew she could never say no to. Riley huffed, placing her hands on her hips, and looking at the clock on the wall. ''Come on, guys, we have to work''

''Dinner'' Charlie said, leaning closer to her.

''Think of that nice, juicy burger,'' Maya sang, almost mockingly. ''You know you love burgers, Riles''

Riley threw her head back in defeat. ''Well, I do love In-N-Out-''

To that, Charlie and Maya both shared a high five.

''-But you'll have to give me ten minutes so that the customers can leave and I can close down, got it?''

Both her friends nodded their heads, before Maya left to go put away the basket and Charlie went back to drinking out of his mug.

Riley then turned to look at Charlie, playfully glaring at him. ''And, don't worry, I'll pay for myself''

''We'll just have to see who'll get to the cashier first then,'' he winked, to which he she let out a low chuckle.

Walking towards the door and switching the sign to Closed, she almost fell back as the door opened. A startled looking Farkle stood there, with clear concern in his eyes as he helped her regain her balance. Riley was about to pull his hand away, when he did so on his own.

''Wow, sorry about that''

''What are you doing here?'' she asked.

Just then, the little customers that had been there began making their way out, leaving only the three friends and Farkle there.

He looked down for a second, running his fingers through his hair. ''Sorry, I just- I didn't think you were closing so early''

''We decided to get dinner,'' Riley said, bitterly as she turned to look at Charlie.

Farkle followed her sight, his face rapidly twisting into confusion and gloom as Charlie waved to him almost indifferently. He did the same, turning back to look at Riley. ''Oh, Charlie's back''

''Yeah, I moved back during senior year,'' Charlie said, rising on his feet and walking towards them with his hands in his pockets. They were both about the same size, and Riley couldn't have felt smaller in that moment. ''I heard you moved too while I was gone. How was it over there?''

''Lonely,'' Farkle replied, looking down at her. ''depressing and lonely''

''That sucks, man'' Charlie said, with a sincere frown on his lips. Riley could feel Farkle's gaze burning through her, but she didn't dare look back. ''How so?''

''Riley, I got our purses-'' Maya's voice shouted, as she walked out of the back room. Her face fell once she saw who was there, and within seconds she had stomped her way to her best friend's side. ''Well, if it isn't Farkle Minkus! What are you doing here? Are you going to beg for our forgiveness and then leave again?''

''Maya,'' Farkle spoke, a small grin playing on his face. ''Wow, you've grown even more beautiful. You and Riley both have''

''Yeah, just save it'' Maya wrapped an arm around Riley, as Charlie did the same. ''Well, if you don't mind, we're on our way to go get ourselves some burgers. I'd get out of the way if I were you, Minkus''

''Guys, I really am sorry. I came here to apologize because I realized I've been a huge jerk to you-''

''Did you know that Lucas and Zay didn't want to be friends with us anymore?'' Riley asked, staring up at him for the first time since he'd arrived.

Her eyes were growing watery far too quick, much to her dismay and Farkle's guilt. ''Did you know they were going to abandon us?''

''Of course not! You know I would've found a way to stop them!'' he cried out, staring at her even more intently. She simply tilted her head the other way. ''I was going through a hard time too. I- I just want to make it up to both of you for being such an awful person!''

''That's enough, Farkle'' Charlie said softly, sighing. ''It's clear that they don't want to have you around right now. I think it's best if you just left''

Farkle didn't say anything, staring angrily at Charlie and then at both Maya and Riley sadly, before beginning to walk towards the door. ''Fine, I'll go, but I will make it up to you.''

He paused. ''I really am sorry''

And with that he was gone.

''You two okay?'' asked Charlie, examining them each.

Maya nodded while Riley could only managed to grin gradually. ''yeah, we are. Let's go''

Except Riley knew Maya wasn't, and she knew the same could be said about herself.

Because no matter how much they wanted to deny it, no matter how much they craved for it to be untrue, the fact was always there; they'd both missed Farkle Minkus too much to be okay.

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