Love is forever, but life is decided by Fate.


1. One


      Friday; busiest time of the week. We get stragglers here and there any time during the day, but come night, the bars are packed full. Especially this time of year. It’s December; Christmas was near. Work hours get longer, traffic gets worse, and stress levels skyrocket. My hours get longer, too. I wasn’t even scheduled to work today, but when duty calls… And believe me, it does. Especially when I’m the first person they call. Always; it’s because I’m good at my job. Friendly, and loyal.

      A bartender.

      A waitress.

      I spend many late nights on my feet. But, it paid well, which was good. I’ve been saving for years. You’ve got college, rent for an apartment, or my personal favorite, a ticket for a one way trip to anywhere as long as it wasn’t here. I guess you could say that my childhood was happy enough, and my friends were here, but the town itself held nothing but empty promises. I want to get out, see the world. Experience new things, have a sense of adventure. I’m nineteen; I don’t want to be stuck in the same place forever. So, what holds me back?


      Just then, I hear the distant chime of bells, signaling the start of rush hour. I can feel it already, the beginning of the long night ahead. The air is electric, as if it was alive. The hall is buzzing with chit-chat, and tables will soon be filled up by the dozen. “Well, Taylor. Guess it’s time to get to work,” I sigh to myself, tying my platinum blonde hair back with my uniform black ribbon.


      “You got that right, Missy.”


      I jump at the voice that has snuck up behind me. It was the voice of my boss, a pretty woman in her late forties, but with her short, small figure and honey blonde hair, she could easily pass for a close Thirty.


       “Jumpy,” she observes, shaking her head at me.


       “I know, Deb. Sorry, it’s just that-” I shake my head, stopping myself from rambling on and making excuses. This was my job. “Leave your personal life at the door,” that was the motto. A part of the job was to listen to the customers’ complaints, not make your own. “Sorry,” I mumble again, attempting to shoot passed her. But ducking under her arm only gave her leverage to box me in.


       “Hold on a second here. Something’s bothering you.” It wasn’t a question, and something told me she wasn't going to give me a choice over talking about it. Better to get it out now, before my shift started and things got too busy around here. I sigh, giving into her stare and mother-like compassion. I lean against the counter, the way she currently was, and take another breath, trying to figure out how to tell her that my job was ruining my life.


       “It’s Friday; I wasn't supposed to be in today, and I know that I’m out of high school now, but I miss having time in-between working so hard.”


       “Time to be with your friends, you mean.”


       Shocked, I could only stare at her for a moment, my mouth wide open. ‘How does she do that?’ I ask myself for probably the hundredth time. It never ceases to amaze me, how she seems to just know everything that’s going on, whether you come out and say it, or not. Man, would I hate for her to actually be my mother.Not that yours is around that often anymore, let alone has she ever paid that close attention to you.’


       “It’s been ages since I’ve had a night out with him. We used to wind down every Friday, after a hard week of school, kick back, and watch movies. Tonight was supposed to be our first movie night in---.” Well, a while. The weight of that hit me so hard, I couldn’t even voice it. It’s been at least a year, maybe even two. There was a time when I'd thought he'd cared more about his studies, than he cared for me. I had other friends I could hang out with, sure. But, a night in wasn’t exactly what they’d have in mind. I didn’t have any money, I felt terrible asking Dad, and Mom had just started being absent. Then, she was gone more and more… I felt like I didn’t have anybody, and I wasn't doing a single thing for myself. I would only sit and wallow. Finally, enough was enough, and I’d taken a job at the diner. Things haven't exactly panned out there, but then I started working here. At sixteen, a job at the local diner was as good as it gets, but at eighteen, you find that you have more leeway. I can't directly serve or dispense of any alcohol, but I could prepare and serve food and nonalcoholic beverages. Not that many people come into a bar for some cocoa, but nachos and bacon cheese sliders? You bet your ass; those were our specialty.


       Anyways, despite his efforts with his grades, Taylor's plans didn't exactly pan out, either. It's not because nobody wanted him -believe me, there were plenty of offers - but in the end, he’d gave it up so he could stay with his mother a bit longer. Sure, he’d tell you “he just didn't feel ready,” but we all knew that was bull. We also knew how much he loved his mother. Everything he did, he did for her, ever since his father walked out on them six years ago. He was fourteen, and even then, more responsible than the average teenager. He put so much into account, as long as it was for others. Never doing anything for himself; that was my selfishly unselfish name sharer. Everyone always thought it was such a coincidence for two people to be such great friends, the perfect friends, and have the same name, but we called it fate. Taylor Times Two, the Perfect Duo. Once upon a time, we would have thought nothing could stand in our way, but now, we were what was in the way.


       “But, it's alright,” I add, so everything I said wasn't all whines and complaints, “he takes classes at community, so he has homework, and I told him I’d stop by tonight after work, stay over, and we could spend the day together, before work.”


       'Always work,’ I sigh in my head.


       “Oh, to be young, and not have anything but a few cancelled plans to worry about. Just you wait, missy. This,” she gestures to the four walls around us, “this is what will be in your future, if you’re not careful. Nothing but these four walls, day and night. Consider yourself lucky to be an employee, not the owner. You think you see enough of this place now? Honey, I live, sleep, and breathe this place.”


       Suddenly, all I could feel was guilt. Guilt, not for “cancelling” my plans, but for complaining about it. She was right; missing one date at nineteen was not the end of the world. There will be many more dates that get cancelled. Plans are always changing, I knew that quite well. Imagine being her age. Not married. No children. Just her, listening to customers’ and employees’ complaints, while she’s been well passed “been there, done that.” But along with the guilt, I was also feeling fear. If that was what the future had in store for me, I’d better start fighting.


        Sliding to my side, she gives me a side hug. “Taylor, you’re a good worker- one of my best!” I could feel a but coming on, and taking a break to smile at me, she rushes to continue. “But, don't think that means you get time off! How do you think this place would function without you? You can't even have a day off without being called in.” Shaking her head with a laugh and squeezing my shoulder in another hug, she sighs. “If only more people were as responsible as you.- Speaking of which, we’ve got alcoholics to feed!” She slaps my butt, “move it, move it!” Rolling my eyes, I follow her behind the counter, pausing at the doc to clock in.


        See? Working here isn't so bad, it's the occasionally rude, suggestive customers, and never getting a break. Like, ever! But I know Taylor; he’ll get over it. Like nothing ever happened. He never complained, but encouraged you by telling you, “he's got homework to do, anyways,” and, if he gets it out of the way now, he'll have more time to spend with his “Taylor-tot.”


        Oh, how I hate when he calls me that. He's so stupid,’ I tell myself with an outward chuckle. Okay, no more thoughts of Taylor, and no more fooling around! If there's one thing he's right about, it's getting down to work, so you could get some play in later. Oh, but how I could use some Taylor Carver Cuddles right now. 'Just six hours, Taylor. You can do this.’


        Once again, the bell on the door pings, not once, not twice, but never ending. I stand at full attention as the booths and stools begin to fill up. “What can I get you?” I ask with my most cheery of voices, a friendly smile across my face. 'Just six hours,’ I remind myself. 'Six hours, then you'll be falling into Taylor's arms.’


        Six to ten. That is what I was asked to work. It's twelve forty-five when I finally clock out. I practically run to my car. During these stressful months, some workers quit their jobs. Others are desperate for a second, or even third job. I don't mind helping out when we're short staffed, but  when you're scheduled at midnight, you better be there, on time, to relieve whoever is there, whether they were scheduled too, or a helpful fill in.


        It's already one AM when I slip the spare key out from the rose bushes and let myself into the Carver household. I keep quiet, because Ms. Carver is sleeping, and easily startled. I remember this one time, Taylor and I were sneaking back in, well after an early teen’s curfew. She never even knew that we were gone- it took a lot of convincing to get him to leave. He's such a Momma's boy. I didn't understand it back then, having only one parent. I did now. It was different for us, the defiance I had and the duty he felt. Different, because his dad never came back; mine chose to come and go, and never gave us a reason. His dad was a drunk, and very abusive. They're better off without him, and she knew that. Which is why, when we were sneaking back in, and we accidentally knocked a glass off the table, and it broke, she ran down, hysterical. Even called the cops, thinking her ex husband had returned, maybe wanting to kill them. It was all in her head, but who could blame her? One could only imagine the things she's gone through over the years, maybe even before Taylor was born.


        Taylor was the only one who I'd told about my parents’ separation. I didn't want pity from our friends, but I knew Taylor could relate to the arguing and pretending like nothing was happening, when really, everything was falling apart. It might seem strange, but the tragedy with my family only made our friendship stronger. He’d always been there for me, but never as much as he had been after I told him. Suddenly, his never wanting to leave home, and my want to be everywhere but, made the world of sense.


        He has always been my best friend, but then it was clear. That boy was my second half. Probably, the better half.


        Skipping the second to last step at the top of the stairs, because it creaks, I slinking into his bedroom. I find him with his face on his book, pencil still gripped in his hand. You can tell that he tried to stay awake for me, occupying himself with his school work. It only resulted in him falling asleep. So cute, I think with the shake of my head. Walking over to the side of the bed, I slip the pencil gently from his hand, then lift his head to slide the book out. He stirs l, mumbling a “mmmm. Huh?” Looking around, he spots me. His face softens, and he flashes me a radiant, sleepy smile. Rubbing his eyes, he stifles a yawn. “Hey, T.”


        He starts to get up. I put a hand on his arm. “Go back to sleep,” I instruct, sitting the school supplies on his dresser then climbing into bed beside him. Curling up against him, I lay my head on his chest, listening to the heartbeat I knew like a favorite song from when you were a child. You haven't heard it in awhile, but when it plays, you still remember all of the lyrics. His heartbeat was a song to me. My favorite song. One I hope I get to hear for a very long time and never get tired of playing. I listen, until my eyes grow heavy. I listen, until the hand that drew circles on my back grew still and a head fell against my own, and I fell asleep comfortable, happy, and at home.


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