Lex and Lu

By: J. Santiago

For my brother Stephen, who has always believed in me. For Xander, Nico, and Lucas.





PART 1





1





“That is one beautiful man,” Sky said with a sigh as Lu took the seat on the barstool next to her.

Lu smiled indulgently at her friend. “Who this time?” she asked setting her cell phone on the bar so that she could see any activity.

Sky moved her head slightly, nodding toward one of the dozens of flat screens surrounding them. Lu looked up with little interest.

Sky laughed, but didn’t take her eyes from the screen. “You know how much fun I have looking.”

“Soccer this time, huh?” Lu teased. “You didn’t drag me out so that you could ogle men on TV, did you?”

Sky ripped her eyes from the screen. “Of course not. I made you come out so that you could be a normal, twenty-six-year-old, single woman.”

“Normal? So all I have to do to be normal is come to a bar and watch TV?”

“No, Louisa May Knight. We have to order drinks, maybe do a couple of shots too, and flirt with actual real-life men. You do know what men are, right? ’Cause I’m not quite sure I’ve ever actually seen you take an interest in one.”

“Don’t start. My mother and sister have this conversation down to a science.” Lu tried to control her frustration. “I don’t need you on my case too.”

Sky, as usual, bulldozed over Lu’s annoyance, raised her hand to signal the bartender, and had two shots of Patron sitting in front of them before Lu could protest. “You do know how to do a shot of tequila, right?”

“Ugh, Sky, what is with you tonight? Why are you suddenly so hell-bent on pushing me? I feel like you’ve channeled Willa.”

Sky threw back her head and laughed, which drew attention because Sky had one of those throaty, sexy laughs that men can’t resist. “Willa would love that. Now, drink your damn shot.”

Rolling her eyes, Lu imitated Sky, without looking directly at her. After licking her hand, she took the saltshaker from Sky, shook it, licked again, threw back her shot, and shoved a lemon wedge into her mouth. Wincing, she directed her gaze at Sky.

“That was horrible,” she said. “Why do you feel that it’s necessary for me to go out? I’m in the middle of my comps. What is the point of all of this?” Lu asked.

“You never have any fun.”

“How do you know? I have a great time with Nina. So it might not be normal, irresponsible fun, but I’ve never been that person. Ask Will.”

Sky rolled her eyes this time. “Do you not think Willa and I haven’t talked this subject to death? Why do you think I made you come out with me tonight? You’re too young to be this serious.”

Lu chuckled. “Will didn’t tell you that I’ve always been this serious? My mom started calling me an old soul when I was two. I tried irresponsibility when I was a teenager and it got me more responsibility. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”

“Oh, woe is me. Just shut up and relax tonight. That’s all I’m asking.” Sky winked at her. “How ’bout a drink?”

“Fine. What are we drinking?”

“I’m thinking we should stick to tequila. Margarita?”

Resigned to her fate, Lu agreed. There was little reason for her to try to fight the tornado that was Sky. The irony was not lost on Lu. In an attempt to escape her fun-loving sister, Lu became best friends with Willa incarnate. Right now, she wasn’t sure who was worse—Willa or Sky. But whoever penned the phrase “Opposites attract” pegged every meaningful relationship Lu had ever had—even the one she had spent the last eight years attempting to forget. Margaritas delivered, Sky lifted her glass for a “cheers!” moment.

With the clink of their glasses, Lu and Sky surveyed the bar. “Not many options here tonight,” Sky muttered, disappointed.

“Well, if there are any good options, I’m sure you’ll find them,” Lu said with a laugh. She had a difficult time keeping track of the revolving door that was Sky’s love life. “And bad options too,” Lu said, winking at her friend.

“Very funny. An eight on the joke scale,” Sky replied. “And if you check your phone one more time, I’m going to take it from you.”

Lu shrugged guiltily. “Sorry. No more, I promise.”

“Look, it’s 11:00. If you haven’t heard anything by now, you won’t. Right?”

“Absolutely. I’m done.”

Sky’s gaze shifted back to the TV. “Hey, isn’t that the guy you grew up with?” she asked, pointing at the screen.

Lu closed her eyes briefly and took a deep breath, steeling herself for what she was about to see. She turned slightly and watched the action on the TV. The cameraman chose that moment to get a close-up of him, and Lu’s stomach dropped. “Yup,” she said, “that’s Lex.”

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