Sorry for the big delay with this one, guys! I’m hoping it won’t happen again, but as my wedding gets closer, things start getting busier! I’m gonna try my best to keep up with my five-day schedule until June (when I will likely end up on a month-ish hiatus… more on that later!) but some weeks it might be a full week or so between chapters instead of five days.
Just know that, despite any delays or hiatuses, I’m never gonna vanish forever and just abandon this story. Even if I die, my ghost will probably stick around to write it… After three and a half years, I can’t stop now! 😛
Thank you all for your patience! (And for reading! ❤ )
Emberlynn failed to suppress a yawn as she took a seat in front of her laptop, already longing for sleep. Most nights, staying up past midnight would have been easy, but with how busy and stressful the past few days had been, Emberlynn was exhausted (especially since she was due at the theater by ten o’clock the next morning).
But no matter how tired she was, Emberlynn knew she couldn’t bail on Xander. Not again. And besides, with how crappy things had been lately, she knew she really needed to see him, even if she ended up dozing off in the middle of their conversation (which she’d already done on several occasions during the years they’d known each other).
She logged into Skype, and her ears were soon full with the familiar tones that indicated she had an incoming call. The moment Xander’s face came into view on the screen, Emberlynn knew she’d made the right decision. She felt a rush of warmth wash over her instantly at the sight of her friend.
“Hey, stranger.” She smiled sweetly as she spoke.
“She’s alive!” Xander cried out in mock surprise. “I was worried you’d been chatting with me from beyond the grave or something. Guess Charlotte really DIDN’T murder you though, huh?”
Emberlynn laughed softly. “She didn’t. I was shocked!”
“Might wanna make sure you set an alarm or something from now on though… You might not always get so lucky!” Xander teased.
“Oh trust me, I know… I literally have five alarms set for every morning now.” And she wasn’t exaggerating either. Better safe than sorry, right?
Xander nodded approvingly. “Smart move… So, besides not getting murdered, how did the first round of previews go? Knock everybody’s socks off?”
Another laugh passed Emberlynn’s lips. That wasn’t an expression she was entirely familiar with, but she got the gist. “Yeah, it was great! Everybody did an awesome job… Or, that’s what they say.” She added. “It’s pretty hard to see from backstage.”
Xander smiled at her. “I’m sure they did… But what about YOU? Your costumes?”
“Oh!” She felt slightly embarrassed at not realizing what he’d meant. “It was amazing. Having MY designs up on the stage, in front of an audience… It was crazy.”
“I bet!” Xander seemed to hesitate for a moment. “That, uh, probably helped cheer you up after the other night, huh?”
Emberlynn’s face fell instantly at his words. All she’d told him the other night was that she was too tired to talk, and then about being late for previews the next morning… but not that there had been anything wrong.
“How did you know?” She asked at last, not even bothering to pretend.
Xander shrugged. “Because I know you.” He replied simply. “So… you wanna talk about it?”
It was Emberlynn’s turn to shrug. “There isn’t a lot to talk about, really. It started with all the usual shit with my parents. And then…” She paused. She hadn’t told anyone about Mason yet. Not even Zelda. “I got a call from my friend Mason. He proposed to his girlfriend. And I’m really happy for him, but it’s also kinda… weird.” Emberlynn finished lamely, not sure how else to explain it.
To her relief, Xander nodded in understanding. “I remember Mason… You guys used to be a thing, right?”
“Kind of… But it was over a long time ago. I shouldn’t have let it bother me.”
“Hey, I get it.” He assured her. “I’d probably feel a little weird about it too.”
“Even if it was Connie?” Emberlynn asked with a small smile.
Xander burst into laughter at her question. “Okay, anybody but her. God, in THAT case, I’d probably send flowers and a sympathy card to the poor bastard she tricked into proposing.” It was a few moments before his laughter finally died away.
“Anyway, now you know why I was being a shitty friend the other night…” Emberlynn continued apologetically. “Congratulations, by the way!” She cried out, her face lighting up with excitement. “I’m very flattered that such a big YouTube celebrity is still willing to talk to lowly peasants like me.”
The warm sound of his laughter filled her ears once more. “Okay, first-off, you’re not a shitty friend. Second, thanks! And third, this is probably a good time to let you know it’s fifty bucks per Skype session now. Gotta pay up if you wanna rub elbows with the stars.”
“Sorry, no dollars, just euros. Guess I can’t pay!” She teased.
“Damn… I’ll have to let it slide this time. But only for you.”
“I’m honored, thank you.” Emberlynn replied sarcastically before bringing the conversation back to Xander’s milestone. “Did everything go alright with the livestream? And the giveaway?”
Xander nodded eagerly. “Yeah, once you tell people you’re giving away free shit, they’re interested. It was probably my most-watched stream ever, all for a few cover requests and a chance to win some free DLC.”
“Well, you’re obviously giving people what they want! Don’t question it!” She smiled at him. “Were your parents excited when they found out?”
Xander seemed to ponder her question for a moment. “Sort of. Mom ‘gets it’ a lot more than Dad, obviously. They were both happy though. But not as happy as they were about my other news… Clearly they don’t have their priorities straight.”
“Oh! That’s right!” Emberlynn had almost forgotten. “What was it you were gonna tell me about?” She tried her best to ignore the anxious twisting sensation in her stomach as she waited for his reply.
Her friend took a deep breath. “Okay, so… I got an A in French last semester.” Xander announced excitedly.
Emberlynn stared at him blankly for a moment. “Wait, seriously? THAT’S your ‘big news’?” The anxiety that had been building inside of her vanished in an instant, replaced by a mixture of confusion and amusement.
“You didn’t let me finish! I got an A in French… Which is good news, since I’ll be using it a hell of a lot pretty soon.”
She furrowed her brow as she started to make sense of what he might be implying. “Wait…”
“I’m studying abroad this year. In Paris!”
“What?! No way!” Emberlynn practically jumped out of her seat in excitement. Xander had always been open about his wish to travel and see the world — this would be an incredible opportunity for him to finally do so. “That’s amazing!”
“Thanks!” Xander beamed at her. “I can’t wait. This program is so amazing… Composition and guitar classes at ENMP, workshops at IRCAM… Not to mention, y’know, being in fucking Paris!” His smile widened even more.
Emberlynn had no idea what those acronyms stood for, but her heart leapt in excitement for him. “How long are you gonna be there?”
“Eight months.” He replied happily. “October to June.”
“Oh, wow!” That wasn’t the answer she’d been expecting. “So… Next month?!”
Xander nodded. “I knew I got accepted back in July, but we’ve been working on money and my visa and stuff, so I didn’t wanna say anything, in case it all went to shit or something. But now it’s official!”
Emberlynn’s cheeks almost hurt with how much she was smiling, and her smile grew even wider as another thought suddenly crossed her mind. “So… in between all those music classes and meeting all those French girls, how would you feel about meeting your biggest fan in person?” She asked. “As long as she pays the meet-and-greet fee, of course.”
“Hmm… I might be able to pencil her in…” Xander tapped his finger to his freckled chin for a moment as he pretended to consider her request. “Seriously though… I was kinda hoping you’d ask that.” He confessed. “I looked it up — Flights really aren’t so bad, and they’re only like an hour and a half. Or there’s always the train too… That’s gonna be longer, obviously, but probably not awful, right?”
“I’m sure it beats an eight-hour flight! Good luck with that, by the way — I still remember basically dying of boredom on a flight to the US back when I was a kid… Hopefully it’s a little more bearable as an adult though.” Emberlynn said with a small laugh.
“Well, even if it isn’t, it’ll be worth it.” Xander assured her.
“It will!” Emberlynn agreed happily, then paused for a moment, marveling at how she’d been so worried and anxious for nothing. “Wow… so we’re really gonna meet in person? After all these years?” It felt surreal even to say the words out loud.
“Right?! I told you this was big!”
“I know… And it’s way better news than what I thought it was gonna be. I mean, after what happened with Mason, I was almost expecting you to tell me you’d ran off and gotten married or something.” Emberlynn explained with a laugh.
Xander eyed her thoughtfully for a moment before replying. “Hmm… And would that’ve been ‘weird’ too?”
“Maybe.” She confessed. “This is way better.”
“Yeah, you say that now. Just wait til you meet me in person and see what an awkward mess I am!” Xander laughed.
“You think YOU’RE bad?! Oh man… You have no idea.” Emberlynn shook her head in amusement as she launched into a very animated retelling of the time she’d embarrassed herself in front of Charlotte on her first day of her internship.
Xander laughed at all the right times, asked questions, and waited until she’d finished before finally confessing that he’d already heard the story twice before.
“It’s okay, I love that one.” He assured her. “And I’ve probably told you this one already too, but oh man, it was so bad…”
He quickly launched into his own hilarious story of awkwardness and embarrassment (which, as he’d correctly predicted, Emberlynn had already heard too).
As she so often did, Emberlynn stayed up for hours talking with Xander — Sharing more stories, laughing together, and discussing his plans for his time in Europe.
It was nearly four AM when she finally climbed into bed, exhausted, excited, and incredibly grateful for the many alarms she’d remembered to set for the next morning.