I climbed slowly up the stairs, dreading my destination. Why did doing the right thing always feel so wrong?
Okay, so I felt terrible about telling the entire world Freddie's never kissed a girl. But at the time, it felt like he totally deserved it, ya know? Handcuffing me to Gibby was the biggest mistake of that dork's life.
But after he stayed home from school for a week… I heard this annoying little voice in the back of my head. I thought my midnight snacks were finally catching up with me-- you'd be amazed what three pounds of ham can do to a girl-- but Carly called it my conscience. The voice kept telling me how terrible I was for ruining Fredward's life. I told the voice to shut up, but after a while, I just couldn't ignore it anymore. I hadn't felt that rotten since my dad left.
I've ruined my own life by telling the world I've never kissed anyone either. Jonah will never let it go- he's the one person in the school I just can't scare. I'll be taking crap from him until I'm as old and bitter as Freddie's mom. Of course everyone else will be laughing their stupid heads off too- just not to my face. The first person to even crack a smile tomorrow in my direction will become intimately familiar with the bottom of a dump truck.
So now I'm clutching a bowl of slightly stale meatballs, climbing the concrete steps one by one. I wish more than anything that Freddie won't be in the fire escape- that he'd be over his little panic attack and just went home like a good little nerd. His mom will have tucked him in and promised him that he'd meet a good girl when he's ready, a sweet little thing who wears pigtails and skirts and eats like a bird. Basically, my opposite.
I hear music floating down the hallway, and soon, Freddie comes into sight. He's sitting in a folding chair, just staring out into the night. His eyes concentrate on the hazy stars; I wonder what he's thinking about; probably something about Carly, or kissing, or the two put together.
For some reason, that thought makes me want to punch something, but Gibby's not cuffed to me anymore, so I keep it together.
I wrapped my arm cautiously around the glass sliding door, rapping on the smooth surface with my knuckles. Freddie turned, eying me warily. But he didn't look afraid.
I smiled halfheartedly, unsure of what to do. What happened to all the tragic speeches I thought up while I was climbing the stairs? All of my plans fled my mind as soon as his eyes met mine.
Freddie returned my half-smile, and motioned for me to come closer. Taking a deep breath, I swung my legs over the windowsill.
"What's up?" I asked tentatively, mentally groaning. 'What's up'? Whadda ya think is up, Sam? You just ruined this boy's life by announcing his nerdiest secret to the wide world of iCarly viewers!
But Freddie, who for some reason keeps his head, replied, "Nothin'." His calm attitude is maddening; with a pang, I realize just how much he's changed in the past few months.
His infatuation with Carly is barely more than a slight crush; maybe he's gotten over that, too. Though he seems frightened of me, it's nowhere near as bad as it used to be. Bad for him, I mean; I love freaking Freddie out. It's my calling. Birds have to fly, fish have to swim, and Sam Puckett just has to make Freddie Benson miserable.
He stood, stepping quietly toward the exit. I panic; what if he gave me the cold shoulder for the rest of my life?
I glanced desperately around, spying the big bowl of meatballs I took from the iCarly set. I thrust my had inside, grabbing the nearest ball of meat.
"Meatball?" I suggested, holding out a slightly shaking hand to him. My eyes looked bored, I hope; I don't want him thinking I want him around.
He looked at me funny, like I've got horns growing out of my hair. His hand still rested on his PearPod… Oh. He was just turning off the music. CRAP.
"No thanks?" he said, and his confusion almost makes the words a question. I shrugged, not sure what to do with the meatball in my hand. Usually I would pop it in my mouth just to gross Freddie out, but I toss it over the side of the fire escape. Hopefully some hobo will get a little extra dinner tonight. Poor dudes; do you know hobos can't afford cable?
After a slightly mystified moment, Freddie's lips twisted into a reluctant smile. I wait for him to speak, not fully understanding the kind look in his eyes.
"That was really brave. What you said," Freddie commented. I think my surprise showed on my face; he had seen iCarly? Oh, crap! Though it was good news that I didn't have to explain everything to him- really good news- it was still embarrassing that he had seen the show. I mean, I had said all that stuff about being so, sooo sorry for embarrassing Freddie… I had planned to eliminate that part when I explain it all to him.
"You heard?" I stuttered. He smiled, turning to grab his laptop. Freddie grinned at my bewildered expression.
"You didn't think I'd miss iCarly?" he asked, shaking the laptop slightly. He sat next to me on the windowsill, and I marveled at how calm he seemed around me. Freddie hadn't come this close to me in years… usually he'd be too worried I'd attack him or something. Which I probably would've, but tonight I had a job to do.
I took a deep breath, balling my fingers into a fist, and got the worst part over quick. "I'm sorry," I said loudly, making sure he heard. "About telling everyone you've never kissed anyone."
He looked pleased, but I didn't feel better. The stupid voice was shouting at me, and I figured the only way to get it to shut up was to keep going. I winced mentally; this was going to be painful.
I rolled my eyes, and added, "And about putting blue cheese dressing in your shampoo bottle."
Freddie's grin became more pronounced; for some reason, Freddie smiling made me feel a lot better. So I continued.
"And about sending your cell phone to Cambodia," I said thoughtfully, reminiscing while I apologized. There were so many things I needed to get off my back… It would take a month to fully apologize for everything I've done to Fredward.
"Everything," I finished. Freddie looked hopeful.
"So this means you're not going to mess with me anymore?" he asked, and I saw the ghost of the naïve little kid I used to terrorize every day. When had he changed? When had his voice become so deep? When had his skin darkened like that? When had he stopped gaping at me in horror and started talking to me like a normal person, like I wasn't the stupid school bully from a broken family with awful grades and a talent with sarcasm?
I was lost in my own bewilderment for a moment, but then I remember Freddie's question. A dumb one, at that.
"No, I'm still gonna mess with you," I promised, "I'm just gonna apologize every few years so I can start fresh again."
"Good," he said unexpectedly; all the fun of messing with him left me.
"Good?" I repeated, staring at him.
"Yeah! It'd be too weird if you didn't make my life miserable all the time," he explained, his expression… different. Like he was in control of the conversation. Holy fat cakes, we were having a normal conversation! Freddie and me!
His expression became childish again, and he stuttered, "But maybe you could pull back just a little bit--,"
"Yeah, I don't think so," I said quickly, glad to be back in control.
"Yeah, I didn't either," he mumbled at once, and his face fell so comically I can hardly keep from laughing in his face. But I didn't.
I exhaled rolling my eyes. "It's so dumb," I sighed, mostly to myself.
"Whadda ya mean?" Freddie asked, his expression so full of concern it throws me off track.
"Y'know, how people get all freaked out over their first kiss," I explained. His eyes fall.
"Stupid," I muttered, finishing my thought.
"So you weren't lying? You've really never kissed anyone?" Freddie asked, his eyes burning into mine. I couldn't lie. It just wasn't possible. What was wrong with me?
"Nope," I said, my voice cracking slightly. I could almost see the wheels turning inside Freddie's geeky brain. What the heck was he thinking?
"Sometimes I wish I could just get it out of the way," I stuttered, amazed by how easily we were conversing. It was like talking to Carly, but different. Almost… better.
No, not better. Nothing was better than talking with Carls, maybe sitting in her bean bag chairs, playing with our laptops. But Freddie understood more; he wasn't too thrilled with his life either, it seemed, not with his psycho mom and no dad. We weren't that different.
Um, yeah, we were! A part of me shouted. He's a dork, you're a… what are you, anyway?
"I know, me too," Freddie whispered. My mind jolted back to the conversation.
"Right?" I agreed. "Just so I could stop worrying about it!" And maybe so I could rub it in Jonah's ugly face.
"Yeah," Freddie murmured, smiling his half smile I'd become to accustomed to. He smiled absently, then gave a small laugh.
"What?" I asked, and the mean girl side of me shone through for a moment. But Freddie disregarded my tone.
"Nothing, it's…" he muttered, trailing off.
"Tell me!" I demanded.
"Naw, it's dumb," he said, but he smiled and I knew I had almost won. As usual.
"Okay!" he relented. "I was just gonna say…"
A crazy, terrifying and insane thought came into my head. No. No way. He could NOT be thinking that. Heck, I couldn't even be thinking that! It was too weird. Too disgusting. Too…intriguing…
"That we should kiss?" I finished his thought, emphasizing my disbelief with a voice dripping with sarcasm.
Freddie's eyes widened, and I thought with a stab of panic that maybe Freddie hadn't been thinking that at all, and that Sam Puckett, his worst nightmare since preschool, had just suggested that us two kissed. Oh god, my life was over. My life was OVER.
"You're gonna break my arm now, right?" he gulped, and the new Freddie, my almost-fried-Freddie, disappeared. There sat the scared little boy I had terrorized for so long. And I didn't like it. I wanted the new Freddie back.
Though breaking his arm was a tempting idea, I couldn't let Freddie go back to being so scared of me again. I.. dare I say it… really liked talking to the new Freddie. And if I was going to be stuck with my loser life, I needed someone to talk to. If kissing the dork was the price of at least another talk… I'd take it.
I shook my head, mulling it all over. "No."
He gulped again, discreetly. "Well… should we? Just so both of us could get it over with?"
No. Yes. No. Yes. I couldn't make up my mind. Half of me wanted to throw FredWeird over the side of the fire escape for even suggesting such a thing (even though technically it was me who actually suggested it) but the other half kind of actually wanted to kiss him, wanted to find out what it would be like.
To kiss, of course. It's not that I really wanted to kiss Freddie. No, of course not.
"Hmm." I made my decision. "Just to get it over with," I said firmly.
"Just to get it over with," he chirped.
"And you swear we'll go right back to hating each other as soon as it's over," I told him. It wasn't a question it was a demand.
"Totally! And we never tell anyone," he agreed enthusiastically.
"Never," I said reluctantly. Never tell anyone? Not even Carly? What was the point of kissing if you never told anyone? Everyone would think that you still haven't kissed anyone, and I'd've kissed Freddie for nothing.
He just sat there, staring at me with his dark, scared eyes. His mouth moved slightly, but he remained stationary.
"Well, lean," I demanded. He did obediently. For some reason, I wished I hadn't said a thing; it didn't feel natural now. It felt like I was forcing him to kiss me, like he was still scared of me. And how could he not be scared of me? I whaled on him only like every day. I was the last person in the world that this innocent dork would ever want to kiss, and yet here we were, both leaning in slowly.
Then our lips met.
It was like a fire had been lit inside my stomach; our heads tilted slightly, our mouths just barely connected. His eyes were shut lightly, and he looked like he was enjoying himself.
Oh god, a part of me screamed. I'm kissing Freddie Benson.
And I liked it.
Suddenly, Freddie was a new guy to me; I noticed how smooth and flawless his skin was, how his brown hair had grown and looked full and soft, how his arms were muscular and his lips felt so good against mine. My eyes searched him almost hungrily, seeing the new Freddie Benson for the first time.
He was a natural. I was the newbie. I barely did anything except stare at him awkwardly through unfocused eyes. And suddenly we pulled away, and it was over all too soon.
An awkward, tense silence followed; but what could you expect? Though all I wanted was to pull him back against me (I bet I could, the dude's weaker than a sack of dead fish) I stepped away slightly.
Freddie look puzzled, yet strangely euphoric.
"Well, that was, um…" he began, his voice hoarse.
"Nice?" I finished timidly.
"Yeah, nice, uh…"
"Good work?" I said, and my hesitation made it sound like a question.
"Thank you, you too," he finished, nodding. His expression was dead. I couldn't see the new Freddie anywhere in his eyes.
I swung my legs over the windowsill really slowly. I felt like puking. Did Freddie hate me? Was I a bad kisser? Did he regret kissing me?
"Hey," he called, and I turned to see the new Freddie, my Freddie, grinning at me with that half smile.
"I hate you," he smiled, almost laughing. My stomach twisted into a knot, my heart broke, and I felt like screaming. I had made him promise to hate me again after the kiss. So now he did. I had lost him, lost what I had just found. We could've been so happy… or could we?
"Hate you too," I mumbled, and ran. For the first time, I regretted lying.
I ran down the stairs, tears forming in my eyes. When was the last time I cried? Oh yeah. When I had to work to pay back Carly and *gulp* Freddie. I had screamed at Freddie like a banshee when he came in and saw me there, in Carly's arms, scared and sad.
Lubert screamed incoherently after me as I ran out into the night; maybe I would go home tonight, instead of sleep at Carly's. Somehow, I didn't feel like talking to her. Not now.
"Mom, I'm back," I called, entering the tiny trailer. She didn't answer. She never does.
I crawled into bed, and fell asleep mercifully quickly. Guess who I dreamed of?
You guessed it.