A Show down
After the movie we headed to the same pizza place that Gerard and I had been to. Frankie and I sat together again. We held hands throughout the meal. No one commented directly to us, but Mikey gave us a few questioning looks. I grinned at him. Gerard was quiet during dinner. I wasn’t sure if he noticed, but after dinner when we were walking back to the car, he patted Frank on the shoulder and said, “You two will be great together.”
I don’t know why but hearing him say that brought tears to my eyes, not happy tears. Tears of loss and pain as though he’d just told me he was dying. It was silly of course. I’d see him in the morning for breakfast and we’d hang out like we had the past few days. Nothing had really changed. Or had it? Well, Frank and I were together. Weren’t we? Gerard was never really interested in me. Was he? I felt so terribly confused all of a sudden.
I was totally silent on the way home. Frank kept my hand in his, squeezing it occasionally. I’d smile at him. It wasn’t his fault, but words escaped me. I felt like I’d done something wrong.
Back at the school Ray and Gerard separated from us and headed towards their dorms. Mikey, Frank, and I headed back to King House. We didn’t speak the whole way. At the elevator, Mikey went one way and Frank walked me to my door. I unlocked it and was about to slip inside when Frank grabbed my hand. “Sammie, wait.” I hesitated a second but turned to face him. “Yeah, Frank?” He gently cupped my face in his hands. “We don’t have to do this, you know. We can both walk away right now, forget this night ever happened.” His hands slid to my shoulders. “I wouldn’t blame you if you did. We’d still be friends.” His thumb slid over the tender skin of my neck and I shivered.
“I don’t want to walk away. I don’t want to forget.” I kissed him softly on the cheek.
“Do you, Sammie?” He asked so softly I almost missed it.
“I said I did.” I pulled away from him a bit. “Why do you doubt me?”
“I saw you two in town the other night. you and Gerard. You two looked pretty cozy.”
“That was...he was just being a good friend. There’s a lot I don’t know. Things you can’t learn in books and he was helping me but sometimes it just gets too overwhelming.”
He nodded. “I can understand that.”
He kissed my hand and left. I slid through the door and locked it behind me. My heart was racing. I felt like the heroine of a horror movie, shut in a room with a horde of zombies outside the door. Safe. But for how long?
There was nothing left to do but go to bed and let sleep wash away the bad feelings churning in my stomach. I lay down in bed, but sleep refused to come. I tossed and turned. I dozed off and woke minutes later, terrified but not knowing why. Finally my alarm went off and I had an excuse to stop torturing myself. I dragged through getting ready, making myself late. I missed breakfast. I don’t know how I got through all my classes but I managed somehow. I guess a mind like mine keeps working no matter what. It wasn’t until last class when Mikey slid into the seat next to me that I realized how bad off I was.
“What the fuck’s your problem, Sam?” he barked at me.
“Huh? Problem?” I asked bleary eyed.
“You look like shit. You missed breakfast. You skipped lunch. Do you even know what time it is?”
Out of habit I looked up at the clock but it was incomprehensible to me. “We’ve all called your phone multiple times. You haven’t answered.”
“I think I forgot it on the desk.” I mumbled. “Didn’t sleep last night.”
“Nightmares?” It wasn’t Mikey that spoke. I was totally confused for a second. I turned around and saw Frank sitting behind me.
“Yeah, horror movies do that to me.” I felt like I was lying. I yawned and put my head on my desk. Too tired to keep it up any longer. Frank leaned forward in his seat and rubbed my back. The soft caress of his fingers quieted my brain and I remained in a stupor for the rest of class. The bell rang and I jumped in my seat.
Slowly I stood, gathering my things. I was headed for the door when Mikey and Frank stepped in front of me.
“Go back to the dorm and get some sleep.” He poked his finger into my shoulder. “I’ll be by in a few hours to wake you up so you can do your homework and get something to eat.” I wanted to object but couldn’t form the words. “Frank take your girlfriend to her room and tuck her in. She’s a walking zombie.” He saluted Mikey which made me giggle and Mikey scowl. “Just get some fucking sleep. I’ll be by to check on you.”
Frank led me stumbling across the grounds and right to my door. “Dream sweet.” He whispered in my ear as he hugged me. He left me standing at the door.
I went into the room and stared at the desk across from the door. I could get my homework done before taking my nap. I sat down at the desk and got to work. The pages blurred before my eyes but my hand, seemingly disconnected from my brain wrote furiously. I leaned back in my chair trying to remember what chapters we were supposed to read for our English assignment. Thinking was so hard. My eyes closed once. I snapped them open. I was so close to finishing. My eyes closed again. It was harder to open them this time. But I needed to finish. They closed a third time and stayed that way. The book slid from my fingers and landed softly on the carpeting.
“Sam.” The voice sounded so far off. “Sam. Hey, Sam, wake up!”
Wake up? But I wasn’t asleep. I was trying to remember...something. Something about school I think. Someone was shaking my shoulder. “Samara, WAKE UP.”
Slowly I opened my eyes. “Yeah?”
“Sam, it’s Gerard. Time to wake up now.”
“Gerard? Not Mikey?”
He laughed. “No not Mikey. He had too much school work. He sent me to make sure you ate and did your work.”
“Did it already. ‘Cept English. Can’t remember what chapters I was supposed to read.” I yawned so hard I thought my jaw was going to dislocate.
“You were supposed to go to sleep first.” He looked grumpy.
“It didn’t take me long.” I yawned again. “I must have fallen asleep in the chair.”
He grabbed my arms and tugged me into a standing position. My muscles objected and I fell heavily against him. “Sorry.” I murmured.
“Don’t worry about it.” he led me to the couch and sat me down. Then he picked up my book off the floor and handed it to me. “Start reading, I’ll handle everything else.”
I opened the book but couldn’t concentrate on the words. I could hear him moving around my room. He talked briefly on the phone. When I heard water splashing in the bathroom, I blushed and forced myself to concentrate on my book. I read the first three chapters before I heard a knock on the door. I started to stand to answer the door, but Gerard appeared and motioned me to sit down. I continued reading, absorbed in the book while he continued moving around the room doing things. It wasn’t until I got to the end of chapter six that it occurred to me to wonder just what he was doing. I stood slowly, muscles protesting every step. I put the book down on the desk and crossed the room. “Gerard?” I asked.
He stood next to the bathtub in the bathroom. He jumped a little when I called to him.
“You done?” he asked. I nodded. “Good. I left your MP3 player on the edge of the tub. Don’t fall asleep.” He left and closed the door behind him. The tub was full of steaming water. I undressed and slid in, gratefully. I popped my headphones in and picked up where I’d left off in my music exploration. The music and the hot water relaxed me completely, soon I was dozing again but I remembered Gerard’s warning and decided to get out of the tub before I fell asleep and drowned. I dried off and put on my favorite pajamas. My legs felt like jelly as I padded across the floor to the living room.
“I think I’m just going to head to bed.” I said by way of greeting.
“Not till you’ve eaten first.” He took my hand and led me to the couch. Laid out on the coffee table was more food than I usually ate in a day.
“How’d you manage this?”
“Second years and up can order room service. They want first years to socialize in the cafeteria, but since you’re with me, we get delivery.” he grinned.
“What would I do with out you?”
“You’ve got Frank now. You don’t really need me.”
I didn’t know what to say to that.
“Look, I’m sorry, Sam. I shouldn’t have said that. I didn’t mean it like it sounded.Let’s just eat so you can go to bed.”
I nodded and sat down on the couch. “So what is all this?”
“This is a feast fit for a king. All of my most favorite foods. To give you more of an idea of what you like and what you don’t.”
“Thanks.” I reached over and squeezed his arm. He quickly but gently pulled away from me. I blushed. I must have done something wrong but I wasn’t sure what. I tried the first thing in front of me.
“That’s pasta bolognese. My mom’s is the best, but this is pretty good too.” he said helping himself to some too.
I took a bite. It was heaven.
Gerard picked up the remote. “You mind?”
“Go ahead. I don’t watch tv so whatever you want to put on is fine.” He flipped through the channels until he found what he wanted.
“The Princess Bride. You’ll love it.”
I watched the movie while tasting my way through Chicken Marsala, cheese fries, onion rings, fried chicken, nachos, and bacon wrapped meatloaf.
“Why can’t he see that she was just doing the best that she could with what little she had?” I asked suddenly.
“She betrayed him. How can you make it sound like she’s the victim?”
“Are we watching the same movie? She thought he was dead. She was desolate, but she kept on living. She had to marry the prince.” I argued.
“She should have known he’d come back to her. He promised he would.” he looked totally indignant now.
“So, you’re saying that if you left, went wondering around the world, and I was told that you died, you’d be pissed if you came back and I’d moved on with my life?”
“Of course. If I said I’d come back, I’d come back.”
“You can’t control things like that Gerard.”
“It’s a matter of mind over matter. He loved her so much he would have gone through anything to get back to her.”
“Sometimes mind over matter isn’t enough. Things happen, things change. You can’t control them. Think about it, if you could change one thing in your life right now, what would it be?”
Gerard paled. “You don’t have to tell me what it is, but there is something. Right?”
He nodded. “If it was all a case of mind over matter, you would have, whatever it is that you want to change. Things would be going your way.”
“Sam, that’s not quite how it works. Sometimes, sometimes you need to step back. Let things happen on their own. You can’t just go around forcing things. It’s not always about what I want or what you want it’s about what’s right. Westley and Buttercup, they were right. They both knew it back when she was still calling him Farm Boy. They were made for each other. She turned her back on that. She should have known in her heart that he was still alive, but she listened to her brain instead.” He sighed, and leaned back against the couch. I wasn’t exactly sure what we were really talking about anymore.
“I don’t get it. You said sometimes we all have to step back and let things run their course. Of course she listened to her brain after a time. The heart is... inconsistent. It makes bad choices. She did what was logical. I don’t get why this is such an issue with you.” He took my hand in both of his.
“I don’t think you can understand, Sam. You’re young and terribly inexperienced. But there are certain times when the heart knows best. The message is strong and clear if we’d just listen to it. Logic isn’t always the answer. Love is.”
“I’m just saying that when you find something precious you know it. Or at least you should.” He looked so sad, I wanted to hug him, but something stopped me. A part of me wondered how much of what he was saying had to do with the movie and how much had to do with Frank and I.
If what Mikey had said was true, well I just didn’t know what to say to him. This was so far beyond my abilities, I almost felt like I was drowning.
“So do you step back? Or do you go for it? How do you decide?” I asked.
“It all depends on the situation, I guess.”
“So what are you going to do?” I had to take the chance. I needed to ask even though my stomach was churning with anxiety.
“I shouldn’t be here. I never should have come. I thought...” he drifted off.
“You thought what?” I felt like crying though I wasn’t sure why. “You said you were my friend. You said it was the two of us against the world. Were those lies?”
“No, Sam. I’d never lie to you like that. I’ll always be here for you in whatever way you want me to be but things are different now.”
“Why, Gerard, why does it have to be different?” I needed to hear all that he was willing to tell me. It may have been asking too much but I craved answers.
“Because,” he paused. He seemed to be deciding something. Then he sighed. “Because when we met, I felt an instant connection with you. I guess I fell in love, but you don’t feel that way. That’s very hard to deal with. You want me to be your friend, to watch you be happy with another guy when I want your for myself. I don’t know if I can do that. You don’t feel for me what I feel for you. It’s as simple as that.” He looked drained when he finished.
“It’s not as simple as that, not even close.” I whispered.
“Don’t, Sam.” he whispered. He pulled away from me and stood.
“Don’t give me hope.”
“All I can give you is the truth. If that gives you hope or not, I don’t control that.”
He paced the rug in front of the coffee table.
“You can walk out the door right now. I’ll give you that chance. You can walk away and decide on your own what you can handle of our relationship. Or you can sit down and listen to what I have to say. The choice is yours.”
He paced a bit longer, obviously torn. Finally, slowly he sat back down.
“I felt something that day too.” he looked shocked. “ I don’t know exactly what it was but it was something. It grew stronger the more time we spent together.” A faint smile appeared on his face. “But, with you, it’s like being on a awful roller coaster. I never know when you’re going to get mad at me for reasons I don’t understand. You make me feel so special and loved sometimes and others, you make me feel awful about everything. I can’t deal with that, not now, maybe not ever. With Frank it’s different. He makes me feel cared for and happy. That’s why I was up all night last night. I wasn’t having nightmares. I was so conflicted. I felt like I’d done something awful, to both of you.”
Gerard nodded looking sad again. “What I want most is for you to be happy.”
He stood up again and headed towards the door. “I have to go now, Sam, but I’ll see you at breakfast.”
He left so quickly that I didn’t even have a chance to stand up from the couch. I leaned back against the cushions feeling completely confused. Were things better now? Had we reached an understanding? Had I made things worse?
A soft knock on my door had me sprinting towards the door. I skidded to a halt, hand out stretched towards the knob. Should I answer it? Could I take another emotional bludgeoning tonight? I was beyond exhausted but I felt like I still owed him a chance to say whatever it was that he had to say. Slowly I opened the door. I was surprised to see Frank standing outside.
“H-hey.” I stuttered.
“I just came to see if you were feeling better.”
“I am.” I forced myself to smile at him. In all of this Frank was blameless. He didn’t need to feel the way I did right now.
“Mind if I come in?”
“Sorry, of course come in. I was just watching a movie.”
We sat down on the couch, both of us staring at the screen. Neither of us knowing what to say.
“So, did Mikey come by and wake you up.”
I froze for a second. Do I tell him the truth? Do I lie?
“No. He had too much homework. He sent his brother.” I chewed on my lip, nervously waiting for his reaction.
“So, Gerard was here.” It wasn’t a question really. But he seemed to want an answer.
“Yeah. He left just before you got here. When you knocked, I thought he’d forgotten something and came back.”
He frowned at me. “Sorry to disappoint.”
I cupped his cheek, stroking the soft skin covered in the barest hint of adolescent peach fuzz.
“Frankie, I’m not disappointed. I’m happy you came. Talking with Gerard was hard. I almost didn’t answer the door.”
I took his hand and led him to the couch. We sat down and I cuddled against his side. We sat for a while with Frank stroking my hair and neither of us speaking.
“Can I ask?” He looked down at me. “Can I ask what you guys talked about?”
I looked up at him. “Do you really want to know?” He frowned but nodded. “Alright then. We were watching a movie, The Princess Bride. We started talking, I think about the movie but then it changed. It took me a while to understand that the real topic had shifted. He told me that he felt a connection to me the very first day he met me. That he thinks he loves me.”
Frank shifted beside me. “What did you say to that?”
I sat up needing to look him in the eye. “I told him that I felt something too but that you were what I wanted.”
“You chose me?”
“Of course I did. You make me happy. I don’t know-” He leaned forward and kissed me suddenly, silencing me.
He pressed heavily against me, his mouth demanding against mine. A sudden jolt of fear and something else shot through my stomach and I gentle pushed him away.
“Sorry. I got carried away. I’m just so happy.” He grinned at me and chest went all warm
“You seem surprised.”
“I was worried. I’ve been watching you since the very first day on the bus. I was just so afraid to talk to you. Then when you sat next to me, it was like fate. But Gerard was always there, even when he wasn’t. I just didn’t think I had a chance.”
“The most important thing I’ve learned is that anything can happen.”
“You’re proof of that.” He pulled me against his side again. We spent the rest of the night together cuddled on the couch watching movies until we both fell asleep.
Our relationship blossomed after that night. Our group of friends became closer too once the tension waned between Frank, Gerard, and I. We were like a family. Gerard and Ray the older brothers always giving advice, nagging about school work, and being there when we needed to talk. Frank, Mikey and I were like the three musketeers, inseparable. It lasted one incredibly beautiful year. I wish it could have been longer, but the summer came and with it a dynamic change. Academy student’s don’t go home for the summer. Instead we go to camps run by the academy. It’s a place to really relax, but also a time to do some real work. I wish I’d spent the summer with my family instead.