The rest of our night together was very quiet. Gerard walked me to my room. We lingered outside my door neither of wanting or knowing how to say goodnight. I surprised both of us by kissing him on the cheek before slipping into my room and locking the door behind me. I leaned back against the door and giggled. Something seemed so right in my life. Like the missing piece of a a jigsaw puzzle suddenly found and dropped into place. I grinned all through putting my clothes away and getting ready to bed. I drifted off to sleep with a happy sigh.
Classes started first thing in the morning. I left my room armed with a new messenger bag crammed with the expensive tech I’d been given and the map of the school. I checked my schedule. Science classes filled my entire morning, everything else was after lunch. I made it my first class with seconds to spare. I slid into the only open seat next to a slumped over figure. It was hard to tell if the mass of sweatshirt next to me was male or female, but they were obviously asleep.
The teacher began discussing the basic syllabus for the class. I tried to listen to her, but the person seated next to me let out intermittent snores. I tried very hard to not giggle. It seemed so silly to me to be sleeping on the first day of classes. Again and again I refocused my attention just to have it interrupted. Finally, I reached over and poked at the sweatshirt next to me. The person jumped up.
“I wasn’t sleeping.” He yelled.
“Mr. Iero. Kindly keep such outbursts to your private time.”
The boy blushed and sat back down.
“Sorry.” I whispered. “You were snoring.”
He mumbled something incoherent and fell back to sleep. I tried to tune out his snores and listen to the teacher but all I managed to catch was that our lab partners were assigned based on who we’d sat with today.
“Great. I end up with the sleeping wonder.” I grumbled.
“Better than the poking bitch.”
I glared at him. How dare he. He was the one slacking off.
“Feel free to ask for a new partner. The last thing I need is to do your work as well as mine.”
“Nah, too much trouble to bother.”
I don’t think I’d ever met a more lazy person.
“I don’t usually sleep during class. Just so you know. I went to a concert in town last night. I stayed up way later than I should have. I’m wiped.”
“Oh.” That was all I could say. I wasn’t sure if he was making excuses, explaining himself, or trying to have a friendly conversation.
“It was epic. Band called Ray Gun Jones. It’s a bunch of art majors from school.”
“Oh so that’s why I’ve never heard of them.”
“Well they are internationally famous. They used to go to this school. They’ve all graduated now.”
My cheeks burned. “Oh. I’m kinda new to the whole music thing.”
“You’re a little weird. You know that?” My cheeks burned even hotter. “But I like you.”
“Thanks. I ummh well I’m not totally sure I like you. I don’t know how to take you.”
“With a grain of salt, about half of what I say is random crap, totally not serious. I’m Frank by the way.”
“I’m always serious.” I said without thinking. Class had ended and everyone was filing out into the hallway. “My name’s Samara, call me Sam.”
He put his arm around my shoulders as we walked. “We’re just going to have to fix that. Now aren’t we?” We laughed and headed to our next class, his arm still around my shoulders. He peppered our walk with witty critiques of people’s clothing and finishing random bits of other people’s conversations we heard as we passed. Frank kept me so distracted that I didn’t notice his arm around my shoulders or how close he was to me. It seemed natural for us to be like this.
Soon it was lunch time and we headed across the grounds towards the cafeteria. I was so involved in joking around with Frank that I didn’t hear Mikey call my name until he was standing next to me.
“SAM! Earth to Sam,” I jumped.
“Sorry Mikey. This is my lab partner, Frank. Frank this is my friend Mikey.” The boys nodded at each other.
“Gerard and I wanted to know if you wanted to have lunch with us. He called your name but you walked right by.”
“I didn’t hear him.” I looked around for Gerard. “Where is he?”
Mikey looked around and shrugged. “Don’t know. He was right behind me. I guess he wandered off. I’ll text him and have him meet us in the cafeteria. That is were you two ‘lab partners’ were headed right?”
“Yeah. You seem annoyed. Is something wrong?” I was confused why he seemed to sarcastic.
“Listen, Sam, I’ll meet you inside.” Frank wandered off by himself.
“Yeah, I’m annoyed. You totally blew us off back there.”
“I’m sorry, Mikey. I really didn’t hear you guys. I wasn’t ignoring you guys on purpose.”
Mikey sighed. “I know that. I don’t think Gerard did though.”
“I’ll call him. Can you tell Frank I’ll be there in a few minutes?” Mikey scowled. “Come on he’s a nice guy.”
“What do you know about guys?”
I laughed. “I’m smart enough to keep you around aren’t I?”
“Fine, fine. But you owe me.” He walked off and I rummaged through my bag for my phone.
It rang twice and went to voice mail. “Odd.” I dialed his number again. It rang three times and went to voice mail. “Well it rang one more time that time.” I dialed his number again.
“Don’t you know what it means to be bitch buttoned?” Gerard snapped.
“No, I ummh don’t. I just wanted to ummh tell you that I didn’t hear you call out to me. Sorry. And ummh if you still want to have lunch I’ll ummh be in the cafeteria.”
“Whatever.” And he hung up. I stared at my phone in disbelief. What had just happened?
I found Mikey and Frank at a table in the back corner of the cafeteria, Ray had joined them and they were all laughing at something Frank had said.
“I know, right.” Frank stopped laughing. “Sam, what’s wrong?”
“What does it mean to be bitch buttoned?” I asked, taking a seat next to Ray.
“Why?” Mikey asked looking concerned.
“Just answer the question.”
Ray answered, “It’s when someone hits the ignore button when you call them. It sends you directly to voice mail. It means they don’t want to talk to you. Why?
“Gerard bitch buttoned me.” I realized I’d just said bitch twice and blushed. “Twice, the third time I called him he answered and yelled at me.”
“Who’s Gerard?” Frankie asked.
“My best friend.”
“My peer model.” We all spoke at the same time.
“He sounds like a real asshole. No offense. But where the hell does he get off yelling at Sammie.”
“None taken.” We all answered.
“I think I know what this is all about.” Mikey grimaced. “It’s a little quicker than he usually moves, but I think he likes Sam.”
“I like him too.” The boys stared at me like I had two heads. “I mean he’s been a really good friend to me.” They kept staring. “What?”
“He means like in the love sense dummy.” Frank whispered. “Or at least the sexual sense.”
“Don’t call me dummy, Frank.” I blushed again, “He doesn’t like me like that. Don’t be stupid. I’m younger than him, and we fight a lot, and, and we just met.”
“Wow for someone supposedly so smart, you’re pretty slow.” Frank laughed.
“Don’t laugh at me.” It came out in a whisper.
“Easy, Sam.” Frank reached across the table and took my hand in his. “I’m not trying to be mean.”
“I just-” A shadow crossed the table and I turned in my seat. Gerard stood behind me.
“This seat taken or can anyone join you.” He sounded cheerful but he looked kind of angry.
“Have a seat.” Frank said, kicking the chair across from him so it shot out from under the table.
Gerard glared at him but sat down next to me.
“So what’d I miss?” He asked casually.
“Nothing.” We all snapped.
“Doesn’t look like nothing.” He nodded at where mine and Frank’s hands were still joined on the table top. I eased my hand out of Frank’s.
“Gerard, this is my lab partner, Frank. Frank this is my peer model Gerard.” They glared at each other.
For several seconds no one spoke. We looked around the table awkwardly. The tension was palpable.
“So ummh, Ray, how were your classes today?” I asked randomly. I chose badly. Ray had just taken a bite of his sandwich. “Sorry,” I mumbled. Sitting here was getting to be really uncomfortable.
“So, what are you guys doing with your free hours today?” Mikey asked.
I had forgotten that we were supposed to take two hours a day for ourselves.
I shrugged, as did Ray and Gerard.
“I think I’m going to head into town and catch a movie.” Frank. “You want to come with me, Sam?”
I could feel Gerard tense. I wanted to go, but I didn’t want to upset Gerard either.
“That’d be great. Why don’t we all go?”
Gerard glared at me, while Mikey and Ray agreed quickly. "You don't have to come if you're busy.”
Gerard didn’t answer. “So what’s playing?” I asked Frank.
“There’s a horror movie feature. They’re showing three of the goriest movies ever, back to back.”
“I love horror movies!” I’d forgotten I was trying to sound casual. “They terrify me. I used to sneak out of bed at night to watch them after everyone was asleep. They gave me nightmares and my father figured out what I was doing and I had to stop.”
“Well feel free to hide in my pocket.” Frankie joked.
“I’m coming.” Gerard said firmly but quietly. The guys stared at him. “Sam’s not well adjusted, socially. I have to look out for her. It’s my job.” Mikey and Ray gaped at him. Frank looked like he was about to say something rude.
“Thanks, Gerard. Glad to know you always do your chores.” I pushed back from the table and left the cafeteria.
I walked as fast as I could towards my next class. I’d never been so furious in my life. My phone rang several times, but I didn’t feel like answering it. I waited outside my English class, and it continued to ring, flaring my anger to new heights. I wrenched the phone from my pocket and checked the ID. It was Gerard, with out thinking, I hit the ignore button. Seconds later it rang again, Gerard again. I hit ignore again and sent him a text. ‘How’s it feel to be the one being bitch buttoned?’ I sent the text and turned my phone off. I slid it back into my pocket feeling deliciously rebellious. English class was interesting enough to be distracting. I’d almost forgotten my anger until Mikey slid into a seat next me in my History class.
“He feels bad.” He whispered while the last stragglers found their seats.
“So do I, Mikey.”
“You’ve got to understand. He’s just intense. It’s always been that way with him.”
“I don’t have to understand anything, but I will tell you what I do get.” I paused as the teacher neared us. He dropped a text book on my desk and continued down the row. “Being around him is like what I imagine being on a roller coaster is like. It’s up really high, then plummet back down. I don’t think that’s how I want to live my life no matter how many butterflies I get in my stomach when I’m around him.”
The teacher was back at the head of the class now and began lecturing on his expectations for the class.
“Butterflies?” Mikey snickered.
“Shut up. Besides he betrayed me. Why should I forgive him for that?” The teacher cleared his throat and I turned my attention back to him. I made it a point not to look at Mikey for the rest of class. I practically ran from the room when the bell rang. But fate was against me. Mikey slid into the seat next to me in my math class.
“I don’t think he meant to tell everyone you’re socially awkward. I think he needed an excuse and just said whatever popped into his head.”
“That doesn’t make it right. You may as well have said, they’re going to find out anyways. They just have to spend enough time with you.” The teacher called the class to order and I again refused to look in Mikey’s direction. That was when I noticed Frank a few seats over sleeping across the top of his desk. It made me smile. Frank was, well, weird. But there was something I liked about him. He had all the energy of a slug today but had jumped to my defense like a knight in shining armor.
The final bell rang and I pelted from the class room. I had Track and Field try outs before I could think of anything else. I had just enough time to run to my room, change and make it to the field.
“Sam! Hey Sam, wait up!”
I stopped mid stride. Gerard caught up to me.
“What?” I snapped.
“I wanted to apologize.”
“I literally don’t have time to talk to you right now. Track try outs and I have to change.” I sprinted away. I refused to look back.
I changed quickly and sprinted out the door, across the ground. I made it to the track just as the coach was blowing his whistle, calling everyone in for warm ups. Running cleared my mind. I tried out for the high jump and shot put with razor sharp focus. My last event was the 300 meter hurdles. The whistle blew and I quickly shot into the lead. I made it to the last hurdle, still far in the lead when I heard cheering from the stands.
“Go, Sam, Go!” They shouted. My concentration broke and my foot struck the last hurdle. I was thrown to the ground. Angry but determined. I ran the last few feet to the finish. The coach came up to me. “Go job, Winters. Go see the team doctor and get that leg seen too.”
That was when I felt the foot long abrasion that ran down my leg and was oozing blood into my shoe.
“Thanks Coach.” I mumbled as I limped to the bench. The team doctor started cleaning my leg as the guys came over to see me.
“Sorry, Sam.” Mikey said. “You were awesome though.”
“No worries. You just startled me is all. I wasn’t expecting anyone to be in the stands.”
Something cold that stung was sprayed on my leg and I yelped.
“Sorry, first aid spray. It’ll heal quickly now.” The doctor and he left.
“You should have told us you were trying out today. Then you would have known we’d be here.” Ray chided.
“I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
“Everyone needs a cheering section.” it was the soft soothing big brother voice again.
“You told them, Gerard.”
“Yeah, I figured after what happened at lunch it was the least I could do.”
“He still owes you though.” Frank put in. “We decided he was a total asshole and doesn’t deserve for you to be his friend. But the rest of us will let it slide unless you decide you want us to beat him up for you.”
“Thanks but if I want anyone beaten I’ll do it myself.” I laughed. “We all still going to the movie tonight. I don’t have any homework or anything to study, so I was thinking we could leave early and have a late dinner after the show.”
Everyone agreed. We decided to meet up in the parking lot. Mikey, Frank and I headed back to King House to shower and change.
I showered quickly and as I was drying I noticed that the scrape on my leg was just about gone. “It must not have been as bad as it looked.” I shrugged it off and got dressed.
I pushed open the front door and stepped into the late afternoon sun.
“Hey Sam, wait up!” Frank called from behind me. “I’ve been following you since you left your room. You’re too fast for me.”
“I thought I’d be the last one there. I took longer in the shower than I usually do, and I need to organize my drawers. I just kind of threw stuff in there and I can’t find anything.”
“I fell asleep. Then I had to rush to change clothes. I didn’t have time to shower.”
“You can sit by yourself then Frank.” I laughed.
“Nope, I’m sitting right next to you. You smell good enough for the both of us.”
“That’s, well, pretty weird Frank.”
We met up with the others in the parking lot, they were already in the school car waiting for us. I slid in first next to Gerard, then Frank hopped in next to me. I was glad the ride into town was fairly short. Being sandwiched between Gerard and Frankie made me feel really uncomfortable. They seemed to have settled their differences and they chatted amicably enough, but it still felt really weird.
When we arrived, Ray instructed the driver of our plans. We waited in line to get our tickets, and then snacks. The boys laughed and joked as we filed into the theater. I was so anxious about my first time in a theater that we were seated and the lights dimmed before I realized that I was again sandwiched between Frank and Gerard. I ignored the weird feelings during the previews. The first movie started and with in minutes I was totally entranced. The movie started fairly slowly a few tense but it was nothing scenes, and then came the blood. I winced at first but at the movie got gorier, I hid more and more of my face. I was squished up in my seat, hands over my face, peaking between my fingers at the screen. A warm arm slid over my shoulders, pulling me close. My hands were gently pried off my face and my fingers softly threaded my fingers through theirs. A flash of a knife blade on the screen and my face was buried in their shoulder. I was literally whimpering by the end, cowering but loving every minute of it. I relaxed through the credits, never taking my head off of his shoulder. In his arms I felt totally safe. His energy calmed me, not the pseudo fear from the movie, but the deep turmoil that permeated my soul. I screamed and hid through the next two movies. The credits ran for the final time. I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t want to be the one to break the sweet spell wrapped around us. His hands cupped my cheeks and soft lips were pressed against mine in a kiss so sweet I wanted to cry.
The lights came up in the theater and I was staring into the most beautiful hazel-green eyes. Frank took my hand and led me from the theater.