twelve

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"Should we just start?"

The group, aside from Lucas and Isadora were sat in Riley's living room.

"Smackle told me that she won't be able to make it." Farkle said, his back against the foot of the sofa where Riley and Maya were slouched on.

"Lucas too," Zay sat next to Farkle with a bowl of popcorn. He grabbed a handful and shoved the snack into his mouth.

Riley sighed, her lips turned down. "Okay," she voiced unethusiastically before pressing play on the remote control. "Drinks anyone?"

"Apple juice," said Zay.

"Water's fine," Farkle added.

Maya hopped up from the couch and followed Riley to the kitchen. "You got any gummy worms?"

"Why didn't Lucas come?" Riley closed the refrigerator door. She crossed her arms and leaned her back on it.

"He probably just wants to be alone right now, you know?" Maya's eyes lit up when she found the bag of candy, ripping it open.

"Shouldn't he be surrounding himself with friends? He knows we're all here for him."

Maya tugged one side of a worm with her teeth, taking a bite. "Everyone grieves differently. When Gammy passed away, I didn't exactly want to be with people either. I wanted to be by myself."

Riley fixed her gaze on Maya. "He seems to be fine talking to you."

"Probably because I know what he's going through since I have experienced it firsthand." Maya shrugged, her eyes drifting to the screen where an action movie was starting, Zay's pick.

"I just thought..." Riley wrung her hands together. "I thought he would want to come to me for comfort."

Maya glanced at her. "It's not about you. Lucas lost his father."

"Yeah, I know." Riley said, staring back doe-eyed.

"Let's just watch the movie," Maya mumbled before returning to the living room.

.

.

.

"Spectacular job showcasing your art today, Maya." Mrs. Chapman flashed her dazzling smile, her white teeth contrasting her tan caramel complexion. She lowered her voice. "Between you and me, I think you should have won first place. But runner-up on your first competition? Very impressive. Well deserved."

"Thank you, Mrs. Chapman. I wouldn't have entered if you hadn't encouraged me." Maya grinned, fidgeting with the silver trophy in her hands.

"Okay. I think my husband is here to pick me up. Congratulations, once again." Mrs. Chapman threw a wink at her before walking out of the spacious gymnasium.

Faculty members were disassembling the tables and putting away the chairs. Maya was the only student left there. She took down her collection one by one, smiling proudly to herself.

"Need help?"

Maya jumped, startled by the voice. Her eyes expanded in size when she saw who it was. "L - Lucas?"

"How does it feel to be runner-up?" Lucas grinned, picking up her trophy.

"What are you doing here? I didn't know you were planning to show up."

Lucas took a step towards her. His grin seemed to grow bigger. Maya had to tilt her head up so they were looking each other in the eye. "I had to come to congratulate you, of course."

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