I walk through the door, arm extended to present the flowers that I spent $12 on and my well thought out, heartfelt speech on the tip of my tongue but it doesn't make it past my lips because when I walk into the studio I can immediately feel that something is off.
Carly is there, I knew that when I watched her walk into her house through the my peep hole in a totally non stalkerish way but Sam must've come over sometime between then and when I scurried across the hall.
That's not the strange part though because Sam is a notorious free loader and usually I wouldn't let the promise of the blonde's sneering, sarcastic remarks deter me from my goal of asking Carly to the dance this weekend but like I said, something is off.
Not off like they're dressed up as vegetables and sword fighting or anything but off in the sense that it feels like I've just walked in on something super important.
The first thing I notice is that they're standing close to each other, like close, and it shouldn't be weird because Sam and Carly have always been practically attached at the hip but there's something different in the way they're standing, the way Sam's pink, checkered sneaker is between both of Carly's fancy heels.
I also notice that Carly's fingers are in Sam's hair and its not the way that Carly sometimes plays with Sam's hair, wrapping a curl around her index finger over and over with complete focus no matter how much I try to get her attention, no this time her hands are buried in Sam's hair, tight and grasping like she's trying to keep her from moving and I'm still taking this all in when Carly glances at me and I have to wonder exactly how stupid I look right now.
"Freddie." Carly says my name, like maybe for the first time ever it would've been nice if I waited for an invitation to come over instead of just dropping in unannounced while Sam doesn't even spare me a glance, just rubs the back of her hand against her eyes and this time it doesn't feel like she's ignoring me just to be the rude Sam we all know and presumably love.
"Hey, guys." I greet awkwardly, dropping my flower wielding arm down by my side and my voice must be enough to break whatever moment I just walked in on because Sam takes a self conscious step back from Carly like she just realized that they were practically on top of one another.
I notice the way Carly reaches for Sam when she leans away and I frown at the look on her face.
"Hey. I,uh, just wanted to..." I'm kinda glad that Sam interrupts me because my words aren't coming out as smooth as they did when I was practicing in the bathroom mirror but I'm confused by the fact that it only takes Sam moving further from Carly, moving to grab her jacket where its slung over the back of the Chair of Wonder, for her to have Carly's full attention again.
"Sam. Don't leave." The way Carly blurts her name is weird too, not amused or disappointed or even confused like it sometimes is, it sounds pleading sort of like when Sam proposes a bet that Carly knows won't end well for me but it sounds more urgent and scared.
Sam ignores her, shrugging on her jacket and flipping her hair out of her collar quickly and I wonder what Sam did to make Carly like this, what she stole or set on fire or assaulted to make Carly like this.
"I got stuff to do." Sam murmurs, her eyes darting towards the elevator like its an escape route and I can't help but observe that Sam's either been crying or dangerously close to it because her normally blue eyes are red rimmed and glassy and then I'm looking at Sam, really looking at her, and her cheeks are pink and her hair is a little mussed and the area around her mouth is a bit red and splotchy and I can't help but wonder what the hell is going on.
I turn to Carly with every intent to ask her that very question, but she's staring at Sam helplessly and I note that Carly's just as disheveled as Sam, if not more.
"Move it, Fredward." Sam mutters, shouldering past me as she heads for the elevator, totally ignoring Carly calling her name again and I watch her disappear behind the lift doors before looking back at Carly who is staring at the elevator like she's just waiting for Sam to reappear any moment.
"Uh, Carls?" I whisper, snagging her attention back and she blinks at me like she forgot I was here and I try not to let it dent my ego. "What's going on?"
"Nothing." She answers quickly in that totally suspicious way she does when she's blatantly lying, fixing her hair and swiping her hand over her mouth quickly. "Nothing."
"That," I say gesturing to the elevator with my bouquet of flowers, "Didn't seem like nothing." and Carly's eyes linger in that direction like any second she might rush after Sam but instead she swallows and finally, thankfully, refocuses on me.
"It's nothing." She affirms with a nod, running her fingers through her hair slightly tangled hair and she blinks at me tiredly. "And not to be rude but why're you here?" She asks, frowning at the flowers I'm holding .
It's my chance. My opening.
I shrug off the residual tension in the room and raise my flower holding hand confidently.
Show time, Fredward.
"Carly, I know that I've asked you out like a million times and every single time you've turned me down but I think that if you give me a chance, just one date, and you'll see that we're good together. I really really like you Carly and…You're crying." I say abruptly and Carly is in fact crying and I'm at a complete loss because the idea of going out with me can't be that bad, can it?
"I'm sorry it's not you Freddie." She whispers apologetically, wiping at her free flowing tears with the heel of her hand.
"Then what is it?" I ask, dropping my flowers again. "I mean, despite the fact that I'm in love with you, we're still friends."
"It's fine." She inhales, using the sleeve of her shirt to dry her eyes and I even think she's cute when she's crying...that's not weird, right.
"Sam and I just got into an argument." she exhales and I wonder what the heck they could've been fighting about that ends with Carly crying and Sam storming out of the studio. It had to be more serious than the cookie vs. hamster debate they had 2 days earlier on the web show.
"About what?" I ask and Carly bites her lip for a moment before shrugging thoughtfully.
"Something stupid." She sighs before taking a deep, cleansing breath and smiles at me. "So what were you saying before?" she asks with a tearful laugh and I smile at her and raise the flowers one last time and this time she notices and smiles.
"I got these for you." I say and try not to blush as she takes them with a smile. "And I came here to ask you to that dance this Friday. Now before you say no..." Carly cuts my sentence off and all of the subsequent reasoning and convincing with one simple word.
I blink at her stupidly for a second because this has never happened before, I mean Carly's been known to play with my emotions on occasion but this time she seems serious.
"What?" I croak, my stomach doing the tango in my belly.
"I said okay." She laughs and I blink at her again.
"What?" I exhale again and she just shakes her head at me and man, I was right. Today was different than all the others
I look up from the rack of moderately priced jeans I'm searching through and at Sam, who couldn't look more nonchalant leaning against the other side of the rack unless she were actually asleep.
"What're you doing in a place as cool as the mall without parental guidance?"
I frown at her over the clothes and she twirls the stick of the lollipop in her mouth absently.
"I'm cool enough to be here, especially in lieu of recent events and my mom is next door buying me lotion with Shea butter for your information." I brag and Sam just raises her eyebrows at me slowly in that slightly infuriating way I think she created just for me.
"In lieu of what events?" she practically yawns like I'm boring her.
"The event of me taking Carly to the dance this Friday." I boast and I plan on saying more, really rubbing her face in it, mostly because nowadays I don't know if I'm trying to make Sam angry or if I'm trying to make her jealous which is a problem for another time because right now Sam's face is doing something weird and not weird like when she flips her eyelids inside out.
And one thing about Sam is that her face is super expressive, the curl of her lips and her blue eyes easily giving away what she's feeling but right now, with her eyebrows lowered and the small crease between them, she's in a weird place between confused and either hurt or hungry.
"With my Carly? Carly Shay?" she questions, pulling the candy from her lips and I note her funny choice of words but I'm to busy trying to make her head explode.
"Well after this weekend she'll probably be my Carly." I say with a laugh and I'm already trying to think of ways to effectively deflect the scathing, sarcastic remark I expect her to say but there's nothing to deflect because instead of staying anything really she just sorta frowns, eyes focused on her shoes for a moment before she takes a deep breath lifting her head.
"Hey, there's your mom." Sam says gesturing widely towards the entrance and really I should know better than to turn my back on Sam because I do and of course my mom isn't there and I realize my mistake just as her candy drops right into my hair. "Later Fredward."
You're not having fun." I sigh, dropping down beside Carly on the curb and she gives me a guilty smile, pressing a few buttons on her phone where she's clutching it in her hand and catch a glimpse of Sam's name and the word 'Please' before Carly tucks her phone in her jacket pocket.
"I'm just not in a dancing mood." She shrugs and under the brackish, dirty streetlight she's beautiful. More beautiful than any mere mortal has the right to be sitting on a curb late in the cold night in a beautiful dress. "I'm sorry, I knew you were looking forward to this dance." She sighs, looking over her shoulder at the school filled with people and throbbing with music.
"Nope." I shrug, "I was looking forward to hanging out with you, not this jank dance." I admit and the way she looks at me makes me feel like I swallowed a salmon or trout as my stomach flips and flops.
"Freddie, I have to tell you something." Carly whispers, her breath condensing in icy burst. I wonder what she's going to say.
Maybe she'll tell me that she's thinks I'm cute, that she wants to kiss me, that she's in love with me and even imagining what she might say makes my heart pound in my chest.
"I like someone else." My heart just stopped and flopped to my feet.
"I, uh...someone else?" I choke, looking at her and she looks scared and apologetic and I'm use to Carly sort of politely blowing me off in a completely friendly way but she's never said this before. By telling me that she likes someone else she's also telling me that I don't have a chance.
"Yeah. A lot." She murmurs, pushing her hair out of her face slowly and if I wasn't so big and manly I'd consider crying because sometimes it hurts that Carly doesn't feel for me what I feel for her.
"So who is it?" I ask stupidly because I'm a glutton for pain, I mean obviously since I consider Sam, in all of her abusive glory, one of my closest friends.
"Just...someone." She whispers vaguely and I'm smart enough to know when leave well enough alone.
"Does this person like you?" I wonder, hoping that maybe whoever the guy she's crushing on is, is an idiot and doesn't like her back because then I'd stand a chance.
"Yeah, they do but its…complicated. Very, very complicated." She sighs, pressing her lips together thoughtfully. "But I just wish I could stop thinking about the situation."
"So, come back into the dance and at least try to have fun. I'm sure it'll take your mind off of it for at least a little while." I try and she gives me a warm smile.
"You're right." She grins, pushing herself up and turning to grab my hand and pull me back towards the party and I may be down but I'm not out.