char·i·ot /ˈCHerēət/ noun

  1. a two-wheeled horse-drawn vehicle used in ancient warfare and racing.

This is a love story.

The girl sits alone in her room. She's supposed to be working from home, but it's been one of those days. The kind where she feels hopeless and lost, unmotivated and out of ideas. She got up to go to the bathroom and ended up scrolling through 30 second videos for an hour, and then only pushed herself up out of that daze to download an app advertised to her after the 200th video she watched (give or take).

Her partner works in another space in the apartment, his desk customized to his very specific interests and much better than the desk he'd had back at the office. Much more his style. He's been focused, diligent — okay, yes, he's taken a break here or there, but he's been looking forward to their plans for the evening: grocery shopping together, then cooking together, then cuddling onto the sofa together. Together. They've been apart all day, and he looks forward to when that no longer has to be the case.

Except. He's noticed the girl throughout the day. She'd asked him for space, for no distractions so she could focus. He realizes belatedly that while she consciously meant he shouldn't distract her, she would have greatly benefited from a removal of other kinds of distractions as well. He's peeked in occasionally throughout the day, and holds off from asking, but inside he is worried. Worried about her, about their plans together.

It's come to the point where all the work she hasn't done is piled high in her brain space, only being kept from toppling by the giant wall of avoidance she's built up. But it's not going to last.

He comes in, sits on the bed. Asks her how he can help. She draws out her response, not wanting to face the demons of the day. Not wanting to face the demons that are chronic.

He's patient. He asks open-ended questions. He repeats back what she's told him, making sure he understands. He reminds her what she's capable of, all she's accomplished to reach this point. They make a plan together. He'll get the groceries and she'll have accomplished three very specific tasks they decide together. Things that will lighten her load.

She gets through it with him.

This is a love story.

The girl's best friend is on the way to the biggest interview of her career. And the girl is driving her to the airport, to the first leg of the journey to get to where her best friend has been striving for all her life, ever since she decided what she wanted to be, way back in fourth grade. Everyone else the girl knows and has known and will know has been on a winding path, but not her best friend. She's had a mission, a purpose. And it's coming to fruition.

The girl takes the on ramp and speeds up to meet the flow of traffic. She glances over at her best friend, and to the girl's surprise, she is terrified.

The girl casually asks what's up, to which her best friend replies that she doesn't think she can do this.

You are lying to yourself, the girl says, but I am telling the truth, because I say you can.

This is what her best friend does. Psychs herself out instead of looking forward. It doesn't always happen. But when it does, it's debilitating. Her best friend asks to turn the car around. She doesn't want the job.

The girl keeps driving forward, and pushes, finally understanding that her best friend isn't afraid of the role. She's afraid of what the rest of it means: Moving across the country, away from her family, her community.

The girl smiles to herself, calmly asks her friend to swipe out of the GPS app glowing steadily on the screen. She tells her friend to open the travel folder, click on the airline app. Her best friend's eyes widen, lighting up with amusement, confusion.

What's this? she asks the girl.

Those are my tickets to visit you over the Fourth of July weekend, the girl replies with warmth, because they're going to love you, and you're not getting rid of me that easily.

This is a love story.

The best friend sits at a trendy coffee shop. She sips from a steaming, handleless glass mug. She waits for her cousin, who is, once again, late.

A whirlwind charges through the cafe door, bringing the blistering outside cold in with her. The best friend takes note of her cousin's haggard appearance. The dark circles under her cousin's eyes are more prominent than when they last met up six months ago.

It's been challenging, to say the least, to follow through with their “quarterly cousin coffee date” plans. Living in the same city as adults had seemed the opportune time to rekindle their close friendship from childhood. Except neither of them is that same, wide-eyed child of the past. They've both grown — but as the best friend suspects, their paths diverged in very different ways.

Rumors swirl through the extended family group chat constantly. The group chat that the cousin has been conveniently left off of.

The best friend stands to hug her cousin. Her cousin is shaky, jittery.

They sit. I have something for you, the best friend says nonchalantly.

Her cousin eyes her dubiously. The best friend pulls a key out of her bag and places it on the table between them. It's freshly cut and depicts a cheerful cartoon character they both loved as kids.

This is a key to my apartment, the best friend encourages. Day or night, I am here for you.

Her cousin's eyes begin to well with tears, but she quickly gathers herself and blinks rapidly. She wordlessly picks the key up from the table and puts it in her coat pocket.

Now, the best friend continues. How about a coffee? My treat.

“Chariot” – Mega