Rachael’s previous update; Lewis’ previous update; Zilla’s previous update/next update
Lewis Traver (20 years), Rachael Darling (20 years), Zilla McCarthy (20 years), Perla Martinez (21 years), Caleb and Riley Gray (18 years), Jill Popper (18 years)
They fell into an easy rhythm. Them, alone, doing their own thing? That was the definition of simplicity.
Rachael had always felt a sense of ownership toward Lewis. He was hers, he always had been. They had both lost a parent, and they’d grown up playing on their front lawns together just outside of their townhouse as children. She’d never thought that he could be swept off by someone else, and now that he was there with her, it felt right.
But they couldn’t stay in a bubble. There was Thomas to consider, her aunt, and previously best friend, Caitlyn in the mix too. That didn’t even include her ex-Elias, and the drama that his family had brought to the dorm. The McCarthy’s were just temporary hiccups, Lewis would remind her when she was especially worked up. But it didn’t feel like a blip, it felt big and suffocating.
They fought, and bickered, then fought some more. Rachael knew that she wasn’t helping anything by retaliating, but it had grown into a tangible hatred. She loathed Zilla, and her brother Julius. Elias had left the dorm, he hadn’t caused any drama or strife, but his siblings refused to follow his lead.
Julius didn’t even attend EU, but he was always there. He hung out mostly with his girlfriend Perla, but would always be on high alert when his sister, Zilla called attention to herself. Perla insisted that Zilla should turn Rachael and Lewis in for bullying, while Julius had darker plans on his mind.
Rachael couldn’t tolerate Zilla’s act of being a victim. She had been the one to instigate the entire thing at the start. While Rachael knew she had broken up with Elias, he had accepted it, and moved on maturely. Zilla and Julius were another matter.
Rachael overheard a conversation that Zilla had made to the dean’s office. Zilla had played up her victim role, and smeared Rachael’s name. She wished that people could just follow logic with the whole scenario, that while the breakup with Elias had not been the best thing in the world, it hadn’t included Zilla at all. Yet somehow, Elias had moved on, and Zilla was still going to battle with Rachael over it.
Her education was a scholarship, one that included her dance, and Zilla was putting it all at risk. She tried to keep her spirits upbeat and positive, but she couldn’t feel anything but desperation. Even the new student, Riley believed Zilla’s allegations.
At the homecoming bonfire, she found herself jealous when Riley Gray danced with Lewis. It was just a silly university tradition for the homecoming event, but logic couldn’t calm Rachael’s insecurities and anxieties.
She didn’t just feel jealousy though, she shamefully acted upon it, and called Riley horrid names that weren’t true.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the fire, and gave Rachael a wide berth. She felt like she was losing herself with everything, and unable to solve a single problem.
When Lewis pulled her in to his arms, she felt momentarily completed, but he was a temporary relief, not a solution. There was a whole world of people that were in both of their lives, and though they loved each other, it wasn’t that simple.
She was a junior, lead of the university’s ballet dancers. She’d always been a leader, from the head cheerleader, to ballet, to the ice skating team. But now she lacked the needed patience for mess-ups, and partners that didn’t make quick studies. She’d never gotten on anyone for not performing perfectly in the past, not unless they were slacking on practice, but now she couldn’t tolerate the slightest bit of learning curve.
She had always been able to lose herself into the rhythm and motions of dance. But with the new students, she felt a stress in her back, and it ruined the story being told by the routine. Each time she was able to fall into the story, someone would screw up.
Everything felt tainted. Guilt gnawed at her soul and ruined everything else around her. As much as she cared for Lewis, he had chosen Caitlyn first. She worried that he didn’t love her the same way she felt for him, that she was second-best. Or if she had just asked him out first, if they could have avoided all the drama in between. The world of ‘what-ifs’ felt like a slippery territory, but in her extreme distress, she found herself focused on it more frequently.
Originally, she had tried to apologize to Caitlyn, she’d reaching out to her again when her Mom had passed away. But Caitlyn had always screened her calls, and never answered her front door. Rachael reached the low point, she considered if she should just break up with Lewis, but it didn’t feel like that would solve anything ether. No matter what scenario she played out, the end result was always hopeless.
While Rachael fell into gloomy spirits, Caitlyn had been experiencing the same loss over their friendship. She was seriously considering Elias’ recent offer to be exclusive, and she found herself requiring closure first.
During an exceptionally poor rehearsal, Rachael caught sight of Caitlyn sneaking into the studio. Though her aunt’s expression was somber, Rachael couldn’t contain her glee. No one accidentally bumped into Rachael at the studio, none of her friends even had classes on this side of campus. This was a deliberate visit, and just seeing Caitlyn’s face brightened her mood.
Immediately, Rachael jumped into apologizing, not only for her own behavior but for the loss of her Mother. The latter seemed the most pressing feeling to convey.
Caitlyn immediately put a stop to any Lewis talk. She needed Rachael, but she still could not stomach any talk of Rachael with Lewis, not yet anyway.
Those were terms that Rachael could easily accept.
They got lunch in the cafeteria, while Caitlyn confessed that her grades were slipping. She was losing her stride, and wondered why she hadn’t gone home already. Thomas was the only thing getting her out of bed, but she had stopped making the effort to attend her classes this semester. Arranging for a new nanny had led to nothing but strike-outs, and she had quit the search.
Without thought, Rachael immediately volunteered herself and Lewis to go back to helping with Thomas. They had both helped in the beginning, before the break-up. Recently, he had started visiting Lewis again, but it had been infrequently. They had both thought that Caitlyn had it all under control, she had never let her facade of strength slip.
Caitlyn pounced on the offer. It was a simple solution that hadn’t been available previously, not with the strife and heartache. But if Caitlyn were going to graduate, she had to make it to her classes. Some parts of their friendship seemed to naturally realign, and both girls breathed a contented sigh at the familiarity.
Caitlyn’s only request was that they watch after Thomas separately. It felt too soon to have them in her home together, snuggling up on her sofa, or kissing in front of Thomas. She might have said it was for Thomas’ benefit that they keep that separate for now, but it was just as much for Caitlyn’s sake as well.
Rachael didn’t even blink at the terms, it seemed like the least she could do. Lewis arrived after the rehearsal, and found Rachael giddy with relief. When told of the new arrangement, he couldn’t help but feel apprehensive. He had just blown up on Elias in the park the previous week, and now they were all to forget the past and raise Thomas as a group. It seemed nearly impossible, given the strong emotions that had been running rampant.
He hadn’t technically cared for Thomas since was an infant, that had been simple. Thomas had just slept, ate, or went into his swing for the most part. Toddlers were a calamity waiting to happen.
Lewis kept his doubts to himself though, he enjoyed seeing Rachael smiling again, and didn’t want to dampen the mood. He knew that he would need some backup though, as seeing that Caitlyn had smashed any possibility of Rachael helping him learn toddler-care, he was going to need to reach out to his estranged family.
Keeping the relationship hidden from Thomas could not be a long term stipulation. He didn’t know how long he could honor that stipulation. He also knew that Caitlyn had brought Elias to be around the boy as well, and hadn’t seemed to be intent on hiding anything there. But for Rachael’s sake, he wouldn’t make waves over it, not yet.
Caitlyn had known that Lewis wouldn’t have the skills to watch Thomas. She requested that he come over in the mornings before her class so that she could help him with any questions. She worked on her paper, while able to keep an eye on Lewis and direct him when he came into unfamiliar territory.
Lewis had expected many things about his first morning on Dad-duty, but the familiarity of it was unexpected. Their second semester of their freshman year, he had been helping Caitlyn with Thomas regularly. He’d feed him a bottle while she did her classwork, and this was the same, except for the passage of time.
He had always been welcome to share this life with them, live in this home, and walk the halls in his pajamas. Parts of this life might have been easy to slip into, and he wondered if he should have out of a sense of duty. Perhaps if they’d been older, and the university life hadn’t been so intoxicating, maybe then he might have tried to work on their relationship harder, or maybe it would have all ended the same, just years later and with more bitter-hearts.
She requested he watch Thomas while she help plan her Dad’s wedding. He had known Cynthia in high school, before she’d broken up with Ethan, he hadn’t realized they had reconciled and were getting married. Cynthia didn’t have much time for Lewis, but he didn’t mind. He was glad on some level that Caitlyn would have a step-Mom. For all that he could tell, it appeared that Caitlyn was happy about the upcoming wedding.
When Caitlyn finally trusted him to watch Thomas on his own, he requested his sister Vivienne give him a hand. Lewis knew it would open a can of worms, but he hoped the gesture would not go unnoticed with his family. After all, the girls hadn’t seen Thomas since Morgan’s Dad had passed away, and he was only ten months then.
It didn’t take long for his Dad to call. Dinner was not being requested, but demanded of him. It seemed that Zeke had been waiting for any form of contact to pounce with his agenda.
Lewis had tried to put up a fight over it, but the battle was lost before it’d begun. There were few times that Lewis’ stubbornness could beat his Father.
They met at Chopstick, and Rachael’s presence had been requested. They had met her before naturally, but these were different times. She fidgeted while they waited his Dad and step-Mom’s arrival. She didn’t want to be there, had hoped that something dire would pop up and she could gracefully decline the request.
While Lewis felt relief to have her by his side. His Dad was a strong force, and he’d long forgotten how to get along with Morgan. The entire confrontation was going to be out in the public, a million times better than in the privacy of his Dad’s house.
Morgan didn’t waste time, and immediately let them know that this visit was not for pleasure. There was business to discuss, and this was their obligation to him, as his parents. He wanted to be snide that she wasn’t his real parent, but more than that, he wanted the evening to be over so he kept quiet.
At the table, his Dad couldn’t hide his anger. Lewis tried to ignore it, and stared extra hard at the menu without seeing any of the words.
They started with Rachael, Morgan called her honey, and spoke in her soft voice that she used with terminal patients. Without saying it outright, they basically suggested that Rachael dump him, that she should focus on her self, scholarship, and dance. The phrases, ‘too young’ and ‘the rest of your life ahead of you’ were used repetitively, and Lewis couldn’t tell if their persuasive argument was taking hold.
Rachael didn’t speak much, she nodded along, and revealed nothing of her inner thoughts. His Dad was good, Lewis could give him that, though he didn’t want to acknowledge anything of the sort. Rachael did have a career ahead of her, she could travel for recitals; she had her choice between ballet and ice skating. Everything lay ahead of her, and his Dad was speaking with logic.
Morgan jumped in that she wasn’t trying to talk Rachael into dumping him, though he was certain that was their exact agenda. She just didn’t want to see another young girl lose herself into motherhood too early in life. Basically insinuated that Lewis was in a mess that he had made, and Rachael was too good to be sucked into it all.
Lewis couldn’t keep quiet longer. Told them that he was an adult, and then his Dad unleashed his anger. Suddenly, Rachael could have been in the bathroom for all they acknowledged her at the table.
Zeke was not a man to feel abashed, the fact that they were in a restaurant, with fellow students in the booths around them, was not something that Zeke cared about.
He shamed Lewis for bringing Rachael into the entire mess, for hurting Rachael and Caitlyn with his infidelity, and wounding their family relationship. There was demand that he visit the family on a semi-regular basis, including holidays, and that he bring Thomas around so he could know his Grandparents.
Then he mentioned his Grandma Kenzie, and Lewis felt his stomach drop. She had been hurt by his absence, and rightfully so. She had practically raised Lewis after his Mom had died, and had always been there for him. He had been too ashamed of his actions, and dumping of Caitlyn to see her. She had suspected his feelings for Rachael, and he had denied it all, though it had been true.
They were the last customers to leave the restaurant that evening, and they were all exhausted as they walked numbly toward the parking lot. Lewis promised he would do as his Dad asked including reconcile with his Grandma, and Rachael agreed to think over the relationship.
Lewis hoped that she wouldn’t really think about it too hard, or that if she did, she still picked to be with him. But they were both too mentally exhausted to even discuss the quality of food, let alone all the heavy things they’d discussed, so they just walked home silently, hands clasped, and mind full of pondering.
Notes: These were the girls wants:
So it was time for them to reconcile. Rachael had the want before Caitlyn, (back when she was a sophomore), so I was waiting for Caitlyn to have these sort of wants too. With the three of them working as a team, and Caitlyn accepting Elias’ offer to date exclusively, she has a very big team of support at Eastborough.
Reminds me of Kenzie when she had gone to university with baby Zeke, and her twin sister, Delaney and future husband, Jared helped raise him while she attended class. Which is ironic, seeing they are both interested in social services.
Rachael – 3.5
Lewis – 3.6
Zilla – 3.4
Perla – 3.0
Caleb – 1.7 (academic probation)
Riley – 1.8 (academic probation)
Jill – 3.0
Thanks for reading!