She is twelve years four months and thirty days old when she realises that hate is the best disguise for unrequited love.
She'd always been aware of not making a huge song and dance over her 'slightly larger than a crush but definitely smaller than a stalker-status obsession' love for Freddie, preferring to keep it under wraps to save herself the jibes she was bound to get from her peers for liking "the dork", the label he was widely associated with by the time they hit junior high. Instead she favoured adoring him in silence, being fixated on him from a far, staring at him from across the room while wanting to go back to seven years old and crappy crayon drawings. But one day is all it took for somebody something to flick the switch inside her labelled 'Do Not Touch' and she became a fiery ball of violently hormonal pre-teen girl, hating everyone and everything, hating him in particular.
The hate came easily to her because deep down she'd always despised him for never loving her back, loathed him for leading her on with what she later came to realise were only 'friendly' hugs and kisses. He saw her as a friend, a best friend, and nothing more.
It started out small, calling him a cruel name here and there, more often than not combining his birth name with his nickname to create the now infamous Freddork and she avoided eye contact with him whenever she verbally attacked him so it never really hit her how much her change from sweet-to-evil wounded him. Seven weeks down the line and it escalated to the extent that she brought in violence, just skin pinches and hair tugging to begin with, but the more he reacted the more she felt it was necessary to hurt him.
She would brutally kiss him with her fists. She'd punch him in the jaw and show her love in the spilling of his blood, oozing from his mouth and dripping from his chin to the floor. She'd embrace him with vicious kicks to the shins, her affection seen in the form of bruises that coloured purple and black and blue. She'd leave him with marks and scars, something for him to treasure, something that labelled him hers, even if he did not know it at the time.
She resents him for three years five months and nineteen days.
She is fifteen years nine months and eighteen days old when he admits his love for her, pulling her to one side after gym class and pressing a chaste kiss to her virgin lips and in that moment she swears her world came to a standstill, if only for a few seconds.
"Better late than never," she teases him for the next two years two months and twelve days.
Is it possible for her to fall in love with the same person for the second time in her life? And it is at all feasible for her to feel anything other than the intense, raging detestation she should have towards the person who broke her heart into a million minuscule pieces? Is it love or just pure lust from being deprived of the man who made a woman of her, or at least a woman of who she used to be, for so long?
It is stupid, so fucking stupid because she knows what she is letting herself in for, she's been there and done it all before, and if she had any sense she'd have been running in the opposite direction as soon as he left her alone the previous evening. But she established that she lost all her common sense a long time ago. Theoretically, falling head over heels all over again shouldn't even be on the agenda because he's only been back in her life for approximately ten hours and even the most fickle hearted girl couldn't fall in love in such a short space of time. She's stupid, gullible and easily lead and she is punishing herself to hell for the second time in her twenty-two years eleven months and twenty-eight days of existence.
Maybe she's just taken a liking to getting burnt by hellfire.
She blames him and everything he has done for her since he found her half-dressed and freezing cold on the sidewalk for the conflicting emotions she is having. It is the caring gestures like putting a roof over her head, supplying her with clothes, pumping her full of coffee and every other little thing he's done that are the reasons behind her imminent fall from grace and her tumble back into love or lust or whatever the hell it is (that is if she had any grace remaining, having lost most of it mere weeks before her heart went kaput and crumbled into dust like an age-old stone).
In retrospect, he's always been the kind of person to go out of his way to help others, be it the time he gave all the money in his wallet to the homeless woman and her small child when they were on their way to their first date at the cinema or the time he gave his favourite jacket to the young boy who'd been rescued after falling into the rowing lake at the park. It is no surprise that he took her home so willingly without knowing whether or not she was a man-hating serial killer and she half-wishes that she was exactly that. She'd have butchered him by now. He's become bit of a saint-like figure, trusting easily, far too eager to help and she hates him for it with every fibre of her being.
But just because he is some kind of do-gooder does not mean he is not capable of lapsing into wrong-doing. She has experienced his 'other' side first hand.
At present she is stuck in the mother of all traffic jams while Freddie uselessly pounds on his horn every five minutes, but no amount of noisy beeping is making the cars in front of them move any faster. Somehow over breakfast – they'd had cereal and she had to bite her tongue until she tasted the metallic hint of blood so she did not blurt out that they used to eat the same cereal every time she stayed over at his apartment – he'd gotten her talking about how she came to being in Seattle and she'd mentioned her currently lost car parked up beside some warehouses with her limited belongings inside it. He'd promptly insisted on helping her get to her car despite her urges that she was perfectly capable of doing it herself, but he'd been adamant in assisting her and when he looked at her with his chocolate brown orbs full of the bloody concern he seems to be overflowing with she couldn't exactly say no because his disappointment would have gutted her.
She is sat in the passenger seat of his car and it is a throwback to being sixteen without a care in the world about the fact they were breaking the driving regulations by speeding down the highway with the windows wound down, stereo playing soft rock and the wind blowing her long blonde hair in her face while he laughed. He still has the same car he had when he first got his permit and she is being bombarded with memories of the times she has spent inside the vehicle. She can see the ghosts of their former selves having sex on the back seat, the car rocking side to side as the windows steam up and she can see them curled around each other afterwards in post-coital bliss. She'd want to throw herself out of the car door in the hopes of getting decapitated by a passing oil tanker or something similarly large and lethal, anything that'll cause lasting damage, if they or the vehicles around them were actually moving.
They've already attempted conversation but it didn't get particularly far, stopping after he questioned her about her age (she lied, saying she was already twenty-three and not two days off her twenty-third birthday) and asked whether or not she'd been to Seattle before. She'd answered no, but only after she fought an internal battle with Samantha who desperately wanted to tell him that of course she's been to Seattle before, she lived here for the majority of her fucked-up life. She won the battle out of sheer determination for wanting to keep her 'secret' safe, for now.
Stefanie is in control; Samantha is going to have to take a backseat.
"Thanks for the clothes," she says because she is desperate for an excuse to break the atmosphere that has fallen upon them, gesturing at the white cotton dress and stone wash jeans he'd dug out for her earlier that morning. She's still barefoot though. The dress had been her best option because it didn't matter if it was a little loose around the waist, but the jeans had been an issue, and eventually she had to opt to borrow a leather belt from Freddie rather than suffer the embarrassment of the jeans making an escape to her ankles as soon as she walked five steps.
She has always known she's on the slim side, but when did she get so tiny, like, anorexic tiny? She hasn't been paying attention to anything over the years, not really, and food has been the last thing on her mind. It wasn't out of choice because she's always loved her food, well, Samantha did.
"It's fine, really, it isn't like Wendy is going to be wanting them back any time soon," he replies, but he sounds agitated, the bad traffic clearly pissing him off, just like the time he'd tried to drive them to Port Angeles for a day-out that never happened in the end.
Wendy, Wendy 'Little Miss Perfect' Lloyd. Of course it would have been Wendy Lloyd, with her dark red hair and adorable facial features and cheek pinching habits who had nabbed him for herself as soon as Samantha's retreating back could no longer be seen in the distance, although she's glad to an extent. At least it hadn't been 'her', the devil incarnate, evil personified in a deceivingly innocent girl. The girl who'd had everything at her disposal and still wanted more more more. The girl who was able to make the entire teen male population of Seattle fall at her feet just so she could kick them away like they were disease-ridden stray cats. The girl with no soul and no compassion only her good looks – her luscious brunette hair and 'butter wouldn't melt' hazel eyes – on her side, the girl whose looks were also her weapons of mass destruction. At least it hadn't been the girl behind the rise and fall of Samantha Mia Puckett who had managed to sink her feline talons into Freddie as soon as she was out of the picture.
At least it hadn't been Carly Elizabeth Shay, Satan's love child with a Greek goddess.
You're in a car with a beautiful boy, and you're trying not to tell him that you love him, and you're trying to choke down the feeling, and you're trembling.
A/N: Quote is from Richard Siken's 'You Are Jeff'.
Apologies if this seems a bit... blah, it has been one of those weeks. As always, thank you for reading and putting up with my sporadic updates.