Two Boys and Their Girl

"A Tale of Two Cities?"

He looked up from the book.

His golden eyes were slightly glazed over, evidence of his having read for the past couple of hours. But then he blinked upon seeing her, and the haze gave way to his eyes' normal brilliance.

He smiled. "Yup. I'm about three quarters of the way through."

Blanca took the seat across from his, a seat that was miraculously still empty despite the overly crowded school café. It appeared that no one dared to touch Sydney Dresden's property, even if it didn't explicitly belong to him.

"You're such a nerd," she commented. "How many times have you read that book?"

He pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Seven? Maybe eight?"

"Why are you still reading it?" Blanca rolled her eyes then, when an answer came to her. "It's because you like seeing your name on the pages, right? God, you're vain."

Sydney laughed and closed the book with a snap. Blanca noticed that he hadn't even bothered to bookmark the page he was on, but she was pretty certain he had memorized the entire book already.

He pushed the novel aside and leaned forward. The coffee mug on the table shook gently from his movement. "So what can I do for you, Ms. Greenwell? You never talk to me unless you're requesting a favor."

"Now that's not true," she said, although her defense was half-hearted. "Sometimes I talk to you for the hell of it."

"Perhaps," he acknowledged, "but that's not the case this time. Now tell me before I lose my patience and leave you in the dust."

Blanca clucked her tongue, giving her head one brisk shake. Her light blonde hair tumbled around her shoulders in waves. "You could never do that to me. Michael would beat you up if you did."

"My dear, your precious boyfriend may be President, but I'm the VP. And he's my best friend. Why would he beat me up for you?"

She managed a scornful look. "Don't fool yourself. We all know the VP does nothing. You're only here as backup in case something happened to Michael."

He winced dramatically. "Oh ouch. Please tear me apart some more."

"You'll get over it." Blanca rested a hand on his forearm, giving it a little squeeze to show that despite what she had said, she held no ill will towards him. "Now let's get to business. I came here for two reasons. One, could you please work on your portion of the paper instead of reading your book for the hundredth time? Our paper is due in two days."

Sydney sighed and flicked his fingers impatiently. "Trust me, it'll be done. Stop stressing. Next?"

"The apocalypse is coming."

"Yes it is. Next?"

Blanca narrowed her eyes. "I'm serious, Sydney." Her voice lowered then. "The police filed more reports on the incident. They're not playing it off this time. The death threat? Yeah, they're taking it seriously."

Sydney leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms, an expression of bored discontent crossing his face. "As they should. Why am I supposed to be concerned?"

She reached out and grabbed his shirt collar, forcibly yanking him forward till their faces were scant inches apart. "Because you know damn well Michael was on campus that morning," she hissed. "If this doesn't get cleared up they're going to pull him in for questioning."

He removed her hand from his clothing, although not unkindly. "He didn't do it, everyone knows that. You have no reason to worry. The police aren't idiots."

"No, but they're desperate," she retorted. "This is the third school that's been terrorized in this district. Who else has access to all the facilities before and after hours, if not Michael?"

"Uh, me?"

Blanca rolled her eyes impatiently. "You have no incentive to hate on the poor. You are poor, Sydney. But Michael? With all the money his family makes, he wouldn't have to work a day in his life and still have enough to pass onto his children. Didn't you see the words on the wall? The culprit preys on the impoverished."

He looked at her for a moment, as if trying to determine just how worried she was. "And what do you want me to do about it?"

That question seemed to suddenly drain her of all her energy. As quickly as her demands came, they left in a heartbeat. Her shoulders slumped.

"I don't know," she admitted. "I was hoping you'd be able to come up with something."

Sydney ran a hand through his dark hair. "Well in that case, let's just go with my idea and do nothing for now. We'll see what the police does next."

Blanca stared at him. Could she honestly put that much trust in a guy who had once been so lazy he had gone an entire day without food just because no one had been there to cook it for him? And yet there was something about him that had her nodding her consent to his proposal.

They would await further action from the police.

Because if anything, no matter how sarcastic or indolent Sydney perpetually was, he had always, without fail, put his head on the chopping block for his friends. And that was something Blanca had always and would continue to rely on.

The message was spray-painted on the white walls, its color red as blood. Blanca stared at the paint dripping ominously down the end of every letter, and barely stifled a cry when she got to the end of the sentence.

Her ears picked up muted whispers of horror, interspersed with snickers from the more arrogant students.

"You poor fools will not live to see another day?"

Blanca looked up to see Sydney appear on her right. His head was angled slightly, as if he were casually observing the writing.

"Well," he said, after a pause. "That doesn't sound pleasant."

Her lip quivered. "Why would someone continue doing this?"

He shrugged, although he didn't look as blasé as he had a moment ago. "Someone who hates the destitute people, apparently." He blinked at her with exaggeratedly wide eyes. "Should I be worried for my life now?"

Blanca couldn't even muster a smile. She was craning her neck in an attempt to look over everyone's heads, but even so, she couldn't find the one person she was looking for.

"He's probably in the office already," Sydney said, answering her unspoken question.

She looked up at him. "How do you know?"

"Because Walker is coming towards us right now."

And sure enough, the principal was walking towards them, his expression grim. Still, he managed a smile and ushered them away and out of the crowd.

Blanca followed anxiously, unable to fully control the tremor in her hands. It was a bad habit, one that was a dead giveaway of her nervousness. Still, she couldn't help but shoot Sydney a glance. While she generally only exchanged playful banter with him, he had always been a steady source of support for her, and the need for his presence grew stronger as the situation grew direr.

As if sensing this, he shot her a crooked smile. "Stop looking as if you're walking to your death sentence. We've got this, all right?"

The office was empty when they walked in. The drastic change in temperature from the freezing outside to the toasty indoor made Blanca sweat, although she was half certain the majority of her sweat came from anxiety.

They were directed into one of the longer hallways where she knew the principal's office was located, and wasn't at all surprised to see Michael already occupying one of the numerous plushy seats in front of the large desk. His head was bowed and his hands were clasped tightly together.

He didn't look up when they entered.

Walker gestured them towards the seats next to Michael's and then settled down behind his desk. His eyes were hard behind his glasses.

Silence hung in the air.

Blanca wrung her hands and tried to keep her face a blank mask, though she knew she was failing when she saw Walker's eyes resting on her.

"Ms. Greenwell, Mr. Dresden, I'm sure you're not unfamiliar with the current situation," he finally said, clasping his hands together. "As the two of you are close friends with Mr. Spree, I thought to bring you here to see if you could offer me any insight as to how that message got on our wall this morning."

Sydney tipped his head back. "What do you want to know?"

Walker smiled. "The truth, of course."

"I'm not sure what truth you're referring to, Mr. Walker. As president, Michael is responsible for overseeing all the updates on the bulletin boards in the school. It's perfectly reasonable for him to be on campus early in the morning."

"Of course. But there have also been… rumors, shall we say, of Mr. Spree's connection with this act of defamation. I don't like to doubt my students, but as we do have security cameras in school, we must unfortunately say that Mr. Spree was the only person to have been on campus outside of school hours."

Michael twitched slightly when he heard this, and Blanca reflexively placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Well perhaps it's time to replace the cameras then. Looks like they're getting a bit faulty with age."

"Mr. Dresden." Walker sounded annoyed.

Sydney spread his hands. "I'm not sure what you want us to say, sir. The truth is the truth."

Walker ran a hand through his hair, accidentally knocking his glasses crooked. It took a moment for him to readjust them, but when he did, he turned his gaze to Blanca, who had remained silent thus far. She stiffened when she saw his calculating gaze and mentally prepared herself for questioning.

Questioning, however, didn't come.

Instead, Michael was the one who spoke, his voice sharp and cutting. It was in direct contrast with his defeated posture. It appeared as if he finally had enough. "Look, do whatever you'd like with me but leave my friends out of this. They have nothing to do with what's been happening."

Walker opened his mouth, but Sydney's loud scoff cut him off. "And yet you have something to do with this? Please."

Michael glared at him. "Shut the fuck up. Stop talking for me."

Sydney's golden eyes were molten. "Then speak up for yourself, Spree. Stop being a coward."

"Guys," Blanca said.

"All three of you, be quiet," Walker snapped. He was pinching the bridge of his nose. "I was hoping to bring the three of you here and discuss this matter quietly because I didn't want to blow things out of proportion and take this to court. But it looks like there's nothing I can do to help you anymore. The district is already too involved."

Michael's lips were thin. "What are you saying?"

"Unfortunately, it looks like you'll have to appear in court."

Michael swallowed, but it looked like he had been expecting this conclusion all along. So without saying anything, he stood and walked out of the room, not sparing a glance to Sydney or Blanca as he passed.

Sydney stood and stretched with a massive yawn. "Well, that was fun. Have a good day, Mr. Walker." He sketched a brief and mocking bow before holding out a hand to Blanca. "Let's go, my lady. We have places to be."

Blanca slowly stood as if she were a puppet. Her eyes were trained on the principal the entire time, but his face remained stoic. She let out a shaky breath and took Sydney's hand, letting him lead her out of the room. She didn't know how she was supposed to feel, but she knew for a fact that this wasn't the way things were supposed to go.

Once they were back out in the cold, she saw that the students who had clustered around the message on the wall had disappeared. Janitors had set up long orange posts with bright yellow caution tape, guarding the area from further student invasion. There were even a couple still patrolling the perimeter, shooing curious students away as they paused to look.

Sydney barely spared a glance at the message. "I need to talk to Michael. I'll see you later."

He walked away without another word, leaving Blanca with her thoughts.

Three days later, the news was out. The trial was going to be held on Friday, November 5.

Michael had stopped attending classes.

Blanca snapped her phone shut and mentally tallied up the number of calls she had made to Michael over the past three days.

Thirty-two. All had gone unanswered.

Annoyed and hopelessly worried, she finally gathered up the courage and drove to his house. There was a familiar car parked outside and she knew that Sydney had to be here. It made sense… where else would he be?

Blanca took in a deep breath and was just about to open her door when she saw two figures storming out of the house. Or rather, one was storming while the other was being violently shoved.

"You're not doing any good by being here," Michael snapped. He sounded enraged. "Go home."

"Giving up already?" Sydney smoothed out his shirt. "Always thought you were made of tougher stuff than this."

"Well you thought wrong then."

Sydney smiled and tipped his head back, nonchalantly enough to irritate anyone who had the honor of witnessing the action. "Haven't you learned, Spree? I'm never wrong."

Michael looked pissed. "What?"

"Who got a hundred percent on his last physics test? Who won the annual Mock Trial? Who beat out his AP English teacher in analyzing Crime and Punishment?"

Blanca had to roll her eyes. Trust Sydney to turn any situation into an ego-fest, even one as dire as this. Michael seemed to have been thinking along similar lines.

"Can it, Dresden. Just because you're shoo-in for valedictorian doesn't mean you can stick your nose in my business."

"My point," Sydney said, ignoring Michael's previous comment, "is that you won't win in an argument against me. I want to help you, and I will help you. Accept that."

Michael shook his head fervently. They were standing in the Sprees' driveway, but since neither of Michael's parents was home yet, he had the entire length of concrete to pace. He made two full circles around the driveway before he suddenly stopped and whirled on Sydney.

"I don't want you getting caught up in this, don't you understand? You don't have to do this."

"Oh, but I do."

"Why?" Michael was anguished now.

Sydney's smile was matter-of-fact. "Because you put your head on the chopping block for me. You stood up for me when all the other bratty rich kids shoved me into trashcans and super-glued my locker shut. You may have forgotten it, but I never will. It took guts to do what you did, especially since you were only ten."

Michael shrugged, but a corner of his lips had lifted upon reminiscing the memory. "You were pathetic. I felt bad for you."

"Well, for whatever reason, the end result is the same. I owe you."

"You don't want to meddle in this, Sydney." Michael had placed his hands on Sydney's shoulders and gave him a firm shake. "This is not your battle to fight. Why are you even putting yourself in this position?"

"Just standing by you like a good friend should." He shifted slightly then, and his eyes strayed to the side, almost as if he couldn't really bear to look at his friend. "And because there's someone else out there who wants to save you."

Michael frowned. "Blanca?"


"I don't want her in this mess either." He sounded resigned now. "Can you make sure she doesn't know more than she needs to? I know the girl. She's going to worry herself sick."

"I'll see what I can do," Sydney said.

Blanca turned away from the conversation then, and slowly slipped back into her car. She knew when her presence was unwanted.

She found him sitting on the bleachers overlooking the empty soccer field. Just as she had expected, he had A Tale of Two Cities in his hands, but he wasn't reading the book. His gaze was trained on the field, and though it was a chilly November afternoon, he seemed impermeable to the biting autumn wind.

She approached slowly and dropped down next to him, briefly shuddering when her jean-clad butt hit the freezing metal seats.

The only indication of his acknowledgement of her presence was a slight shift of his posture in her direction to suggest that he was open to any conversation she wanted to have. Yet ironically enough, she wasn't sure she had anything to say at all.

But finally, she said, "It's tomorrow, isn't it?"

Sydney spared a glance at her. "The trial? Yeah, it is."

There was a pause as they silently brooded over the situation. They were both well aware that the outlook wasn't good. Given the general negativity of the broadcasts, Blanca was relatively certain that very few, if any, of the jurors, would be willing to vouch for his innocence.

"Do you know why my parents named me Sydney?"

Blanca was startled out of her thoughts. "No, why?"

He smiled and lifted the book. "My mom was a little crazy about this story at the time. She was very much in love with Sydney Carton actually. Wanted me to grow up to be just like him."

"In that case, I wish I had read the book just so I know how badly you're failing her expectations," she joked.

"Yeah." He gazed pensively at the novel. The cover depicted a crowd of people looking over a man who was being pushed towards the guillotine. Blanca frowned and instinctively turned away from the image. It hit a little too close to home for her liking.

Instead, she opted for a different topic, one that she had always wanted to know but had never bothered to ask. "Were you ever angry that your parents gave you a unisex name? I think I can remember a couple of incidences where people thought you were a girl."

"I bet you purposefully remembered those moments just to torture me."

She snorted. "Of course I did. It's payback for all the times you've tormented me."

Sydney rolled his eyes and then scratched his head thoughtfully. "I wasn't ever really angry, although I'm not too fond of living up to this guy's potential. I don't think I could ever be that great of a person."

"Oh?" This piqued her interest. "And how great are we talking?"

"Greater than I could ever hope to be or want to be."

Blanca scoffed and punched his shoulder lightly. "That means nothing. You're one of the laziest people I know."

His lips quirked. "Yeah, maybe."

They fell into silence again. Blanca realized that this lull was probably her cue to leave, seeing as Sydney looked like he had retreated into one of the far corners of his mind again. But she couldn't stand to be alone right at that moment, especially given what tomorrow was going to bring.

And so she searched for another topic of interest, and found her eyes on the book once more.

"Sydney? Tell me about your counterpart."

He lifted a brow. "Since when did you care about literature?"

"Since never, but it beats sitting here in silence."

It was a half-assed answer and it would've been insulting if this had been any other person and any other day. But Sydney had always understood her at a level that even Michael sometimes couldn't get, and so he obliged with no further protestations.

"Sydney Carton's a lawyer. A decently smart guy, but a pretty damn lazy one. He doesn't really take credit for his work and lives his life thinking he's wasted it."

Blanca couldn't help but chuckle. "Actually that sounds a bit like you, minus the wasting your life away part."

"But then he meets a girl… and falls deeply in love with her." Sydney glanced at her, his golden eyes bright in the fading light. "Suddenly his life has meaning again. He has something to live for, and for the first time in a long while, he's happy."

Her breath hitched. "But then?"

"But then he realizes that this girl has fallen in love with his friend. And although he's upset, he vows that he would do anything for her or for anyone that she loves."

Sydney smiled then, but it was weak, as if his heart wasn't really in it. He seemed to be miles away, somewhere off in the distance where she couldn't really connect with him.

"What happens to him in the end?"

Sydney clucked his tongue. "Ah, now that's cheating. You'll just have to read the book if you want to know."

Blanca glared at him, feeling strangely duped. "You know I'm not a fan of literature."

"Your loss, Greenwell." He stood up, dusting off his pants as he moved. The light had faded, so now all she could see of him was a dark silhouette. "It's getting dark. We had better go."

She stood up reluctantly and was startled when a heavy material dropped on her shoulders. She blinked when she saw that Sydney had given her his jacket, but when she moved to return it, he shook his head.

"Keep it. You're shivering right now. I don't want you to catch a cold on my account."

Blanca assessed him for a moment, but when she saw that he was serious, she gratefully wrapped the jacket tighter around herself. It wasn't really the wind that was biting into her now… it was a coldness deep within her that rose from the dread of what was coming the following day.

"Are you going to the trial tomorrow?" she asked.

"Are you?" he countered.

"I don't think so. I already know the outcome. I don't think I could bear to see…"

"I know," Sydney said, cutting her off. "I know. It's okay, you don't have to be there. I'm sure everything will be fine in the end."

Her eyes were wide in the gloom. "How can you say that? You've heard the rumors."

He shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe someone will do something nice for once." Sydney began walking down the bleachers, but abruptly stopped on the third step. He turned around and hiked back up to where she still stood, removing something from his pocket as he went.

Blanca stared at the book he was proffering her. "What?" she asked stupidly.

He smiled. "You wanted to know the ending right? Take this."

"But… it's your favorite book."

"Doesn't matter. I can always get another copy."


"Read it, please. For me? It's about more than what I told you. Believe me, it'll be worth your time."

Blanca took it hesitantly, her fingers shaking. The book felt oddly warm in her hands, as if she were holding something precious. "Okay, I will. Thank you, Sydney."

"You're welcome."

She shifted awkwardly. "Um… I'll see you tomorrow?"

He smiled. "Of course."

Blanca stood outside the courthouse, watching people pour in. Given that it was such a small town, practically everyone came to see the trial. There were some who looked like they were on the verge of tears (those who knew Michael well and knew he would never do such a thing), and those who were grim but firm (those who thought they were making the right decision by condemning him).

And yet despite all this, Blanca couldn't bring herself to walk in.

This was her boyfriend, the one person whom she had always counted on for anything and everything. This was his moment of condemnation, and she had been unable to save him.

She was a coward. A useless coward.

People settled down, the doors slammed shut, and the voice of the judge drowned out the din.

Blanca swallowed and crept forward to one of the huge windows that filtered light into the courthouse. She was grateful that the windows were situated towards the back end of the court so she could observe without being noticed.

She saw Michael sitting in the defendant's chair, looking tense and worried. And then her eyes shifted to the first few rows where she saw Sydney seated at the end of the aisle, looking oddly calm. He had his arms crossed and one leg thrown over the other as if this were any other day and he had been sitting in a classroom instead of the courthouse.

The judge droned on, the lawyers stepped forward to give their spiel, and Blanca watched in trepidation as the jurors absorbed it all in. She saw Michael's shoulders slump as the trial progressed, and she knew that to him, all hope was lost.

There was a general flurry of activity as the trial was called to a halt to allow the jurors to convene in a separate room. Blanca leaned her forehead against the glass, feeling hopelessly lost. Based on the evidence that had been presented to the court, all signs were pointing towards Michael as the perpetrator. He would be carted off for secure confinement, effectively ruining any future dreams he might've had.

No one would want to work with a criminal.

There was a loud clang as the doors to the main courtroom opened, and the jurors filed back in. The head juror stood, a piece of paper in his hand. The general consensus was undoubtedly tallied on that sheet. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he could get in a word, a figure stood up in the crowd.

Everyone watched, gob-smacked, as Sydney walked to the front and positioned himself in front of Michael, almost protectively. There was silence as everyone tried to take this all in… and then the crowd surged forward in an uproar.

"What are you doing?" someone shouted. "You can't be there!"

"Move away you lousy kid! This is court!"

It was as if Sydney was deaf to all protestations. There was a smile on his face, a pale shadow of the patented smirk that usually made Blanca want to wrap her hands around his neck and squeeze. She shook her head. Leave it to him to stir up a storm without saying a single word.

The judge was furiously banging his gravel. "Order!" he shouted. When the din finally died down, he said, "Please state your purpose, sir."

"I did it," Sydney said.

The judge blinked. "Excuse me?"

"I did it," Sydney said again. He shrugged, further cementing his image as a nonchalant rebellious youth. "I originally wanted to see how long I could let this farce continue, but I didn't count on the police being so pea-brained. At the end of the day, I couldn't let an innocent man take my place."

The judge was looking highly perplexed, the prosecutor was hurling obscenities at Sydney, and the crowd was outraged. The courthouse had turned into a gigantic circus, and Blanca stood on the outskirts, unable to process what she had just witnessed. Had Sydney really done it? But that was impossible. If anything, he was much too lazy to even plan a scheme, much less execute it.

And yet there he stood in front of the judge and jury, arms crossed confidently as if he had nothing to fear in the world.

The defense lawyer looked like he was about to wet his pants from his excitement. "Mr. Dresden, do you mean to say that you were the perpetrator all this time?"

Sydney smiled. "Yes. My apologies for having caused you all this trouble. I was just curious as to how long it would take the police to track me down, but it looks like I shouldn't have had such high expectations."

The judge frowned. "If you would clarify, Mr. Dresden?"

"I was automatically ruled out because of my background." Sydney spread his hands. "Just because I'm poor doesn't mean I can't hate on the poor."

Michael, who had been stunned into silence until now, reached forward and grabbed Sydney's arm, forcefully pulling him around. "Stop it," he snapped. "What are you doing?"

Sydney extracted himself from Michael's grip easily and turned to face the judge again. "It's all very simple. I am unfortunately a very inquisitive person. I wanted to see how this dimwitted population would react to a little threat." He tipped his head slightly, the corner of his lips lifting. "But from the looks of it, I don't think you have much to say for yourselves."

A woman stood up then, and Blanca recognized her as Dean McFlaggen's mother. Her eyes were wide and watery. "Sydney… how could you do this?"

Dean was famous in school for his aptitude towards any and all subject matters, which was why he and Sydney got along exceedingly well and often hung out after school together. He was also a scholarship student.

Sydney turned to face Mrs. McFlaggen. Blanca thought she caught a brief flicker of remorse on his face, but it was gone the next second and was replaced with a steadfast nonchalance.

"I'm sorry, Mrs. McFlaggen. It was just an experiment gone horribly wrong. I never intended to do anyone harm."

One of the jurors stood up, his face twisted in a harsh scowl. "You're a fool, young man. This is not a situation that should be taken lightly. I proclaim you guilty."

That appeared to be the cue that opened up the floodgates. Cries of "Guilty! Guilty!" filtered through the crowd. Within the span of a few short seconds, everyone had turned accusatory fingers on Sydney. It was clear that no one spared a second thought to the situation; no one even entertained the possibility that Sydney was lying.

But Blanca saw the expression on Sydney's face when he spoke. There was a level of steadiness that only he could master, but she knew him. She knew the kind of person he was, the morals he believed in, the rulebook he lived by. He would never, on his life, threaten anyone else's. And now, if she was guessing correctly, he was putting his life on the line for someone else.

Michael had gone pale. He was gripping the back of his chair tightly, his knuckles white from the tension. The attorneys on both sides had been stunned into silence long ago and couldn't seem to find it in themselves to say anything that could alleviate the situation.

The judge was visibly sweating bullets. "You confess to this misdemeanor then, Mr. Dresden?"

"Yes, I do. I don't know how I could possibly make myself clearer."

The judge opened his mouth to speak, but it was Michael's voice that filtered through, powerful and enraged.

"You're a liar," he spat. He was so angry he was shaking. "Stop doing this! Stop sticking up for me. I don't need your goddamn pity. Let the jury decide what they will. Do not interfere!"

Now Sydney's smile looked a bit sad. "Don't you see, Michael? They've already decided."

He was right.

In a small town like this, rumors spread like wildfire. There was a high chance that the jury had already gone into the trial biased. Sydney had known this. Michael had known this. There was no escaping the blame the moment the court took over. As unbiased as they had attempted to make the jury, these were neighbors of mothers of children whose lives had been threatened by the menacing messages on the walls.

They wanted blood, and now that Sydney had willingly admitted to the crime, there was no escaping anymore.

Blanca felt like she was watching in slow motion as the judge's gravel came down. One word permeated the air. Guilty. One word, but Blanca felt the world shatter beneath her feet. As if everything was playing out in slow motion, she saw the town police take Sydney away to the back of the courthouse, where he would be moved to a detention facility to await further instructions.

Michael was screaming and fighting his way through the guards, but Blanca's eyes were on Sydney. And as she watched him passively lift his arms to allow the police to cuff him, she was hit with the glaring realization that he had meant to do this all along.

That night on the bleachers when they had talked, when he had given her his book, he had already known that this was to be the outcome of the trial. What was it that he had asked her to do then?

Read the book.

And so she did.

She waited until the trial was over and everyone had gone home; until Michael had finally passed out from consuming the contents of his dad's entire liquor cabinet; until she was certain she'd hear word about Sydney the following Monday… and then she read.

She read, and she laughed. Because finally… finally she understood what Sydney had been trying to say all along, why he had said he was afraid he wouldn't be able to live up to his counterpart's example.

But he had. And he had done so beautifully.

For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. … When you see your own bright beauty springing up anew at your feet, think now and then that there is a man who would give his life to keep a life you love beside you.

And so Blanca wept… for everything she had gained and for everything Sydney had lost.

Author's Note: This story was inspired by one of my favorite novels of all time. Three guesses as to what it is. :) Let me know your thoughts!