"Stop lying. You're not fine. I know you're not."
Riley woke to a rainy day. Her new window overlooked a busy street in London where people walked by with umbrellas of every color she could imagine.
It wasn't a school day, so she didn't feel compelled to get up, exactly, but she knew that her parents would worry if she didn't show at breakfast.
Her father, Cory Matthews was making scrambled eggs, while her mother, Topanga Matthews typed away on her laptop at the table. Her brother Auggie texted Ava on his tablet while the sound of rain echoed in the kitchen. The tapping mimicked the pattering of raindrops.
As the principal of the high school down the street, Riley's father wore his new title proudly. And, as head of the London office for her law firm, her mother was always busy doing extra work, even on weekends.
Riley poured a glass of orange juice and checked her phone. No new messages. It had been a few days since she heard from Maya, who was focused on her studies and had hinted that she was trying to be nicer to Lucas. Her video chat with Farkle the other night was mostly a conversation about Smackle and the new science fair that the school would hold in a few weeks. Lucas emailed occasionally, asking about Riley's new school and whether she was happy.
They all asked if she was happy, all the time.
"Riley, are you alright?" Her father asked.
Riley looked up from her phone.
"Yeah, dad. I'm fine."
"Well I made the McScrambleface special," her father said, "but the price is a smile."
Riley took a deep breath. She knew what face she would use. It was almost second nature."
"There it is!" Her father said, "That's my girl." He set down the plate in front of her.
"Don't forget the toast," Topanga said. She passed a plate to Riley, "And the special jam from the tea shop down the street. You'll love it."
Riley nodded, chose a slice of bread and sighed.
"Would you stop smiling?" -
"I'm not smiling, Maya. This is my upset face."
As she finished breakfast, her phone rang.
"I'll be back," she said, barely glancing at her parents.
She rushed back to the phone, and found Farkle's number, not Maya's on the screen.
"Hey Farkle," Riley said, "Is everything okay?"
"I'm fine," Farkle said, "What about you?"
Riley paused. There was a weird tone in Farkle's voice, one she hadn't heard in a while. He sounded... angry.
"Of course I'm fine, Farkle" Riley said, "I told you that last night."
"I saw your face, remember?" Farkle said.
"Yeah, that's why it's a video chat," Riley said, trying to lighten the mood.
Riley took a deep breath.
"Stop lying. You're not fine. I know you're not."
His words were knives. Each word dug deeper in her heart. Each word revealed the painful truth that she didn't want to face. The reality she tried to run from.
"Okay, Farkle," Riley said.
"How do you really feel?" Farkle asked.
"What?" Riley asked as a tear rolled down her face.
"Tell the truth," Farkle said.
The sound of the rain got louder as Riley closed her eyes, letting all the emotions she pushed back fall like rain drops from her eye lashes.
She knew Farkle was waiting for an answer.
"Farkle," she said, "It's your birthday today. Maya and I were going to call you, together to chat like old times. I don't want you seeing me like this, hearing my voice shake."
He stayed silent.
Riley walked toward her window, watching the tops of umbrellas move across the road, the people barely visible beneath them. One red umbrella caught her eye. It moved slower than the rest, and it went back and forth, as if the owner was pacing.
"Okay," Riley said, "I'm not okay, Farkle. I haven't been okay since we got here. I mean London isn't all bad, but it's not all good either. It's not the same without my friends. Without you."
The umbrella stopped. One black umbrella nearly ran into it. The red one moved slowly out of the way of the people on the sidewalk, and it stopped next to a tree out of the walkway.
Farkle remained silent. He knew her well. He knew she had more to say.
"I know I'm supposed to start over, and that my parents wanted to take this opportunity. I know I need to support their decision, whatever they decide, but I can't pretend this was what I wanted. It's selfish, I know it is. It's also irresponsible, and lazy. I mean I have tried to make friends, and I've tried to be the happy Riley that everyone wants, but it's more difficult now than it's ever been before. I can't help feeling like it was the wrong decision."
"Why?" Farkle asked, softly.
"Because, Uncle Eric told us that day to listen to the heart. I'm not sure we did," Riley told him.
"What does your heart say?" Farkle asked.
"My heart is sad Farkle, very sad. Very lonely. So lonely that my mind can't distract it. I don't feel like I belong here at all."
As soon as the words escaped her, Riley knew she would never be able to take them back. She wouldn't be able to deny it anymore.
"I know you're sad, Riley," Farkle said, "Can you do me a favor?"
"Of course!" Riley said, "It's your birthday."
"Go outside, in front of your flat."
"But it's raining," Riley said.
"I know," Farkle said.
The phone clicked and Riley looked at the screen.
Farkle had hung up.
She looked at the red umbrella, still stagnant, next to the tree.
She wiped her eyes, grabbed her jacket and walked out of her room.
"Where are you going?" Topanga asked.
"Just a walk," Riley said.
"Okay honey, just take an umbrella."
Riley nodded and walked to the coat hangar and umbrella box near the door.
She grabbed the black one, closest to the doorway. The rain was falling harder now, as she opened the door. She didn't even know what she was looking for, a sign from the universe maybe? Possibly a letter in the mail. What she didn't expect, was Farkle Minkus, standing under a red umbrella, waiting underneath a tree.
She looked left and right, then ran. He stood, waiting as she rushed toward him.
"Farkle!" She shouted.
He turned toward her, and she saw tears in his eyes.
"Farkle? What's wrong?"
Riley dropped the black umbrella on the ground next to them. Her hand slowly cupped his cheek. A tear trailed across her fingertips.
"Riley," Farkle said.
His blue eyes focused on her, and she felt his pain.
More tears fell, and Riley found her own running down her cheek.
Farkle wiped a tear away with his thumb. And Riley stood still, shocked at the tenderness of his touch.
"Farkle," she said, "Please tell me, what's wrong?"
"Don't you know, Riley?" Farkle asked.
Riley waited, her thumb stroking a tear from his cheek.
"You're gone! You left," Farkle said, "I never wanted you to leave."
"I never wanted to leave, Farkle. But I had to go with my family. It was my mother's choice, not mine."
"But you're not okay!" Farkle said, "And I'm not okay! I wish I had never learned about Belgium 1831."
Riley stepped forward and her hand slipped from his cheek. She wrapped her arms around him.
"I'm here Farkle. I'm here, and I'll always be here for you. No matter where I am."
As the rain fell, pattering on the red umbrella, Farkle slowly wrapped his arms around her, and the umbrella was pressed between them.
"Riley, I don't want you to stay here. You deserve to be happy."
"You deserve happiness too, Farkle," Riley said, "aren't you excited about the science project that you've been working on, with Smackle?"
The silence that followed was strange.
Riley moved to look at him, but Farkle held her tightly.
"Farkle?" She asked.
"I'm not with Smackle anymore," Farkle said.
"I'm so sorry, Farkle," Riley told him, she rubbed his back.
Farkle pulled away from her, his eyes searching hers.
"Do you mean that?" he asked her.
"Yes. You were trying to understand love," Riley said, "And I pushed you. I know I did. I'm sorry Farkle. I just wanted you to be happy."
"I know you did, Riley," Farkle said, "That's what I learned. That's what brought me here."
"What do you mean?" Riley asked him.
"You know what I mean," Farkle said.
"But I'm here, in London. And I could have a boyfriend you don't know about," Riley said, looking away.
"Do you?" Farkle asked, "answer honestly."
Riley slowly looked up at him.
"No," Riley said, "I don't,"
"That's good to hear," Farkle said. She felt his sigh of relief as he pulled her toward him.
"Farkle," Riley said, "What do you want for your birthday?"
"I want you to be happy," Farkle said.
Riley pulled away from him.
"I'll be happy, when you're happy," she said.
"Okay," Farkle told her, "Then, may I kiss you?"
Riley sucked in a breath. That was not the answer she expected.
She thought of the last kiss she had shared with Farkle, all chin.
Her first kiss, according to Maya. Was it? She certainly remembered that moment more than the quick peck she gave Lucas on the subway. It was a feeling she denied for fear that her feelings were not returned. That Farkle would only ever see her as the sun to Maya's night. Always loving her and Maya the same, equally.
"Riley?" Farkle's eyes pleaded for an answer. She blushed.
"Yes, Farkle," she said, "but I'm sorry that I'm a mess."
She hadn't put on makeup, not expecting to go anywhere or do anything but chat on the phone. Riley dreaded to think what she looked like, but if Farkle wanted a kiss, and if that would make him happy.
He stared at her still, as the thoughts ran through her head.
"Do you mean that?" Farkle asked.
"That I'm a mess?" Riley said with a nervous laugh, "Yes, I mean that."
"No. You're not a mess Riley. Do you mean that I can kiss you?" Farkle asked.
"Of course Farkle," Riley said, tilting her head at him, "Why would I lie to you?"
The red umbrella fell to the ground, and the rain fell all around them.
Farkle stepped forward and Riley closed her eyes. His lips were warm, while the cold rain fell in droplets that hit the top of her head, her cheek and her hands. Her arms moved as her hands grasped Farkle's shoulders.
They moved together, and Riley forgot where she was, and what was going on around them. The emotions bloomed in her chest. The kiss was a message. In it, Riley understood just how much Farkle had missed her.
The kiss was gentle at first, and then it grew more passionate. Farkle needed her. She felt that, and she was amazed to discover that she needed him too. She kissed back, locking her arms around his neck. She held on, otherwise she risked falling into the whirlpool of emotion they both created.
When Farkle pulled away, they were both breathing hard, overwhelmed by the moment.
Farkle pressed her to his chest, and she let the tears fall freely, her body shook with sobs.
"Riley, I love you. I want you to be happy," Farkle said, "That's what love is. That's the bigger picture that I missed. I've always loved you Riley."
"I love you too, Farkle," Riley said, "I miss you. It scares me how much I miss you. It's not the same, any of it. It just feels so wrong, Farkle. Being here, hiding how I feel. But this."
Riley hugged him tightly.
"This feels right. It's always felt right, Farkle."
"Riley, we'll figure this out," Farkle said. "But you're coming to visit this summer in the mean time."
"Okay," Riley said, "Hey, now that you're here, what do you want to do for your birthday?"
"I want to spend time with you," Farkle said.
"You have me all day," she said, "And I bet my parents will let you sleep over, in the living room."
"Um, about that," Farkle said, "I called your dad last week, and Maya. So, they already know."
"You really are a genius," she said.
She took his hand and laced his fingers with hers.
"Well, then," Riley said, "I think you'll love the museum here, and we have to go downtown and see the sights."
"Okay," Farkle said, "I'm here for the weekend. We have until Monday."
"Even better," Riley said, "I can't wait to show you Big Ben, and the Eye and we have to go to a phone booth."
"Before we do any of that," Farkle said, "Can I have one more kiss?"
Without hesitation, Riley put her arms around him and kissed him gently, the rain was still falling, and they were soaked to the shoulders, but neither of them cared.
"Thank you," Farkle said.
"Anything else, Farkle?" Riley asked.
He kissed her again, and she giggled when they pulled away.
"I missed that laugh," Farkle said.
"I missed something too," Riley said.
"Yeah?" Farkle asked.
"Here?" Farkle asked.
"Okay, but only for you," he said.
He took a deep breath, and then looked at her.
"HAAAAH" he said.
Her grin was all the answer he needed.