"You know, take a few steps to the left and stand right behind that tree, and I might hate you a little less," Lily smiled at Jay, hoping that the sarcasm traveled, regardless of her sweet voice. "And that pretty face of yours could use a broken nose and a few bruises, don't you think?"
"Let's just try to get along with each other for this field trip, Lily," Jay sighed, picking up a beer glass with her tan, gloved hand. Oh, how dainty you are, Miss Grayland! Picking up that glass with the most slender, gentle fingers! May you lift your pinky as you work, princess? "I understand that you don't like me - and I'll apologize again if I've done anything to offend you - but let's put bitterness aside so we can just clean the park without bickering."
Such a pacifist. "Have you ever spoken up for yourself before?" Lily scoffed, grabbing a wet wad of paper from the grass with the claw that the park patrol gave them before they headed off into the park. "It pisses me off, how you're so agreeable with what other people say. Are you not allowed to fight back when people keep pushing you down?"
Jay didn't respond, and simply smiled as she continued to pick up bits and pieces of trash. Ignoring me just makes me angrier. Communication is the key to you saying something to make me hate you even more, Jaymie Grayland.
Lily's hair was tied up in a messy bun, and the chestnut baby hairs that weren't long enough to be held back by a hair tie were starting to stick to her forehead like bugs in a spider's web. Her light caramel skin was starting to glimmer from the sweat accumulating on her face, arms, and legs. Even when summer was handing the reigns to fall, the heat was still clinging to the sun's golden rays, and, sunscreen be damned, Lily was starting to feel disgusting.
"You seem exhausted," Jay said, breaking the silence with a soft, kind voice. "I have some water in my bag, would you like some?" Even when she was asking Lily if she wanted to take a break, Jay continued to work, the same gentle smile on her face from earlier. Burgundy curls framed her face, and she lifted up one hand to push it behind her ear -
"Your hands are dirty, at least take the gloves off before touching your face," Lily quickly interjected, a look of disgust painting her features. "Or are you going to stoop as low as dirtying your face with the disgusting germs from the trash that has probably been laying around this place for months? And here I thought a princess like you would have standards, even for garbage."
At that, Jay laughed. "You've got to be quite imaginative to come up with insults such as these, Lily. I should start following in your footsteps if I ever dream to stick up for myself." Before Lily could retort with a witty comeback - which she usually thinks of quite quickly, mind - the taller girl stood to her full height, stretching her arms and shoulders. "Tell me, Lily, if you hate me as much as you say you do, then why take my invitation to help clean up the park?"
"Because," Lily began almost immediately, "I may hate you, Jaymie Grayland, but I hate people who litter even more."
"Is that so? You must hate a lot of the population, then," Jay hummed, taking off her disposable gloves and dropping them into her trash bag. "I'd just hope that your hatred for me holds a special place out of all the people you hate, Lily."
"You are a work of art," Lily breathed out, incredulous. "You are the complete opposite of special -"
"And yet here we are," Jay interrupted. "Anyway, let's take a quick break. Coach should be around here, somewhere. Or we can just find a gazebo and take a break there, whichever you prefer. We'll have to turn in these trash bags, regardless, so might as well do that now. Unless you disagree?"
"I couldn't care less," Lily responded simply, shrugging. As they walked back to the rendezvous point to find the teacher that was chaperoning their field trip today, the brunette glared at the back of Jay's head. I hate how responsible you are, and how you're so tall to the point where you practically tower over me, but even then, your height doesn't scare me at all. I hate how you're so kind, and how you get manipulated and hurt because you have so much trouble saying no. I hate how, when the sunlight hits you just right, your body glows in a seemingly otherworldly light, and it makes you look like a goddess. I hate how you let me push you around without even trying to fight back, because you and I both know that I don't really hate you as much as I say I do, but I look at you and a part of me burns because there's so much you could do if you just stuck up for yourself. I hate how much you care about the environment, and how you cried when you learned that there are islands of waste in the ocean because there are no other places to dump the trash that people are throwing away. I hate how much you care, period.
You work hard to please others, and yet that never fills the hole in your heart. You try to climb the ladder of your own expectations that you hold for yourself, and yet you can never reach those impossibly high standards. People think that you were born perfect, but they don't know how hard you work behind the scenes to keep everything stitched and sewn neatly together. Your hands are calloused from how much you've worked nonstop to help others who don't nearly appreciate the work you do as much as they should.
"How did you feel when I caught you crying in the bathroom that one day, Jaymie?" Lily asked, her arms crossed. "Were you terrified that someone saw you with your walls down? Scared that I would start rumors of seeing the Jaymie Grayland crying pathetically in a bathroom stall at school?"
There was a pause in Jay's step, a hitch in her breath at the suddenness of the question. Then, she continued walking, continued breathing, as if nothing were ever asked. "I wasn't terrified or scared. If anything, I was relieved that it was you, Lily."
At that, it was the brunette's turn to pause. "Relieved?" A scoff. "Jay, I don't know if you've noticed, but I loathe your guts -"
"I know. But you hate people who spread rumors and talk bad behind people's backs more than you loathe me. Not once have I ever heard you speak ill of me, nor have I heard rumors of you doing anything of the sort. So, when you found me that night, I was glad that someone I could trust found me. Because," Jay turned to Lily, a soft smile on her face that drowned the brunette in the underlying ocean of sadness that hid in those sunlit gray eyes that glimmered like gold, "if there's one thing I like about you, Lily Harthollow, it's that you're not one to kick someone when they're down."
“Jay, what happened?” Lily asked, and the girl in question tensed before looking up, tearstains glimmering in the fluorescent lights like rivers caught in the glow of the moon. “Talk to me, even if you just want to take your anger out on me. Do you need anything? Water? A hug? Space?”
“Your presence is enough to make me feel better, Lily,” Jay responded quietly, her voice sandpaper rough from bawling her eyes out, heaving into the toilet bowl next to her. “Sit here with me. If I can muster the courage, I’ll tell you what happened.”
“I never told you about what happened that night, did I?” They could see the gazebo where some of the other students were standing at. When Lily shook her head, Jay breathed out a laugh. “It’s kind of embarrassing. I - well, I realized that the girl I liked hated my guts, and so I ran away. I guess you could say that it was heartbreak that caused me to finally crumble apart.”
Lily rolled her eyes. “That’s stupid of you -”
“Isn’t it? Because that very night, I learned that she didn’t hate me at all, but it was quite the opposite.” Jay then let a lighter, more genuine laugh escape, as she turned to Lily with a smile that competed against the sun’s bright rays on that summer-fall day.
“You’re quite the peculiar girl, Jaymie Grayland,” Lily said, still trying to form words as the breath was seemingly stolen out of her lungs in that very instant.