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It has to stop. It has to. You look yourself in the mirror every morning, sometime between shaving and brushing your teeth, and tell yourself to end it. You grip the sink until your knuckles are white, lean so close that you can actually see your eyes cross, and tell yourself no. No more.
This has been going on for as long as you can remember. Probably since that first time, when you woke up all tangled together and voices were coming from the living room. She rolled off and underneath the bed, as you squeaked and placed a pillow over yourself. No one came in, or even suspected, but you knew it had gone too far. That it had to end.
That was months and months ago.
And now, like every other day, you tell yourself things have to change. You don't want to hurt her, or yourself, but no matter what happens someone is going to end up in tears. You hope it isn't you.
She walks in, following your sister into the kitchen, barely throwing a hello over her shoulder. There is nothing in the way she moves or the way she talks or the way she looks at you that says she was in your arms twelve hours ago, or will be in them again in another couple of hours. But you hear it screaming in your ears, see it when your eyes are both closed and open. You sense her, feel her heat, even when she's two floors up in the studio or across town in her own apartment.
Her touch moves across your skin when she's not there. Something like that phantom vibration you feel your phone making in your pocket when you clearly see it sitting on your table. She's there, underneath your skin, and you've tried to wash her away. You scrub and scrub and scrub until you're red. And she asks if you have a rash late a night, rubbing lotion into your skin. Feeling her hands sooth the wounds you gave yourself hours later when you're alone and convincing yourself that you should take another shower.
But then that would wash her away.
You try and push her away. Well, not exactly push her, but make subtle hints that really aren't all that subtle.
She smiles at you when you mention how grown up Freddie is getting. How he's super smart and got an increase on his allowance and makes the best cheesy mashed potatoes this side of the Mississippi. And when you start talking about his shoe size she chuckles and pushes you back on your bed.
You've gone through all the guys you overhear her talk about with your sister. There's Henry and John and James and Adam and Derek and Tom and a million others. And when you mention how awesome it is that Gibby is comfortable enough with himself to still take his shirt off, now that they're older and in high school and his small pudge is no longer baby fat, she laughs outright and follows you into the shower. You're just thankful that the water is already running and no one else can hear that heavenly sound.
So you decide to wait it out. She'll get bored eventually, and your life hasn't been all that exciting before her anyway. There's only a couple of months left before graduation, and even though you know she doesn't have major plans besides taking some classes at the local university, Carly's leaving so there's really no reason for her to stay.
Time passes and you enjoy every moment you spend with her. Always behind closed doors or when your sister is out and there's no one to walk in on the fun. School days are torturous though, because you sit around telling yourself that you're not waiting for her to get out and come over. That you aren't spending the day making sculptures that turn out to be her elbow or shin or hair. That you aren't waiting to just talk to her and see her smile and listen about her day. Because just listening to her talk is enough.
You're a little shocked when she doesn't go on the senior trip, claiming that her mom blew all the money on lotto tickets and hair dye. Carly offers to lend her the money, but she still says no and she's fine and she wanted a week away from school and all school related things. And when you get home two hours after the bus leaves, with Chinese takeout in your hands, she's sitting on your couch with her feet up and a duffel bag next to her.
And when she smells the food she scrunches up her nose and says she'd rather this amazing Mexican place in Portland that she went to years ago while visiting some random relative no one cares about.
Three hours later you're checking into a hotel while she's messing with the GPS to find El Yummy Pollo.
Graduation comes and goes and you're counting down the days when Carly leaves. You actually have a calendar hidden in one of your drawers, with a frowny face on the day of Carly's flight. As the date creeps closer you try to distance yourself. The time spent in front of the mirror increasing each day. She still comes into your room. After work and on the weekends and hours after the last shooting of iCarly.
She's there at the airport when you drop Carly off. Freddie's taking pictures and filming things, claiming they're for posterity but you know he's been taking a film course at the local college before he heads off to New York in a couple of weeks. She's all teary eyed and acting girly and it kills you a little inside because it makes you like her even more. She hugs Carly one last time, right before Carly comes barreling over to you, saying she doesn't want to go and she'll miss you like crazy and you better not waste all your money on antique hangers. You smile and wipe Carly's cheeks, then your own, before pushing her away when they announce her flight's last call. And when you turn to find her, seeing what will happen, if she will even say goodbye, Freddie says let's go and starts walking towards the exit, not even realizing you're completely broken because she's gone.
You can barely choke out a goodbye when Freddie thanks you for the ride and goes into his apartment. It takes you a couple of tries to get the key into the doorknob and you're blinking so much it's almost like you're blind.
You knew you were going to cry.
The apartment is exactly the same. You thought it was going to be different, like there'd be a black hole in the middle of the living room or a tornado in the kitchen. There's still four glasses sitting on the counter from that morning, and it's so normal it makes your stomach turn and you can't bring yourself to put them in the dishwasher just yet. You didn't realize how hard this was actually going to be.
Sleep. It usually fixes everything, even if you know your dreams will feel like nightmares when you wake up tomorrow. You're kicking off your shoes in the living room and tossing your shirt onto the floor in the hallway, because no one's there to yell about cleaning up, and who are you trying to impress anyway?
You don't even realize the light in your room is on since you're thinking about sleeping on the couch instead of your huge bed. Tripping over a suitcase and falling onto an open duffel clues you in that something is very different. And her laugh, god, like music to your ears, makes you think you're going insane. Her shadow falls over you and you look up, amazed at your imagination.
"Hello" she says and you stare. She smiles and dangles a set of keys in front of her, right above your face since you turned over onto your back to at least be comfortable and crazy instead of uncomfortable and crazy.
"Carly gave them to me" she explains, walking around you and placing a foot on either side of your legs. "She's not stupid, you know." And you're confused, because she bends her knees and sits on your thighs, smiling again.
"I cleaned out a couple of your drawers" she says, leaning down and resting her hands on the carpet. You have no idea where the keys went. "I think I might need more room for all my stuff though," she tells you and you blink and she smiles wider.
She kisses you, two quick pecks to your lips, then one more that lasts a little bit longer. "Hello Spencer."
You smile. "Hey Sam."