There is something about the rainfall. The way it drops out of the sky, once clouds born from bodies of water, how it wets every gap, crack, crevice in the street, on the rooftops. Cleansing in the way that it runs across everything on the earth, shining rocks and leaving surfaces gleaming. Scary in the way that it beats a hard patter against window panes, its cousin, thunder, not far behind.
It is this that wakes Sam from her light nap. She started when she heard the rhythm against her ear and pulled back from her reclined spot against the large window to look out into the grey daylight, to the trees flying by. It is so dark that behind her reflection, she can see the other inhabitants of the bus.
There is a couple sitting directly across the aisle from her, the man holding and cooing at a small child as the woman types away on a laptop. The eerie glow from the screen sheds light upon her face, and Sam can see that her mouth is slack and her eyelids are heavy. But then the baby reaches over and tugs at one of the woman's curls and she snaps out of her dozing, sending a funny look at the child and a small glare at the man. He smiles sheepishly.
Seated behind the older couple is a young boy, probably around her age, bopping his head along to the headphones over his ears. He is chewing on his lip and his hand is moving furiously as he sketches what must be his twentieth picture since this long ride had began. Sam finds herself staring at him for a long time, at the way the end of his hair curls up from underneath his skullcap and how he pauses every five seconds to rub at his nose. He has a bandage along the right side of his face and there is a cast on the hand that he isn't using to draw, but other than that, he looks completely normal. Approachable.
Sam thinks that if she were who she used to be, she would probably be talking and joking with him, because she couldn't help but be a sociable person. But then again, if she were who she used to be, she wouldn't be running away.
It's when she spots an elderly couple rubbing their noses against each others' that she pulls her eyes away from the reflection of the window and scrunches down in her seat. Besides the fact that she thinks that people past the age of thirty should not be making out, ever, she's shaken over the memory—or, memories—that made it hard for her to face Seattle.
She hadn't expected their clandestine relationship to happen, didn't really imagine herself with one of her best friends in the first place. But it had happened, had started the day that they hosted the iCarly Web Awards and Sam noticed Freddie giving her this look, and she had only just been able to shake off the confusing feeling after weeks' past when he had pulled her in his arms. It was in the school, after one of Sam's many detentions and Freddie's dorky AV Club meeting, and Sam remembers stumbling home that day, dazed, and her fingers hadn't left her lips until after she let herself in her room and fell on the bed.
As she closes her eyes, she allows memories of their relationship overtake her. All of the sneaked kisses, soft touches that made her head spin, hidden smiles and desire in his eyes. She dwells on the memory of the last day she saw him, at Spencer and Charlotte's wedding, when Carly was wearing a flowing silver bridesmaid dress and Freddie hadn't been able to pull his eyes away from her for more than a few minutes. Sam hadn't thought twice about it because Carly looked gorgeous at the time with dark hair pulled up in a beautiful dark bun adorned with flecks of silver and gold and heels adding a few inches to her already modelesque form. Sam, herself, wasn't even able to look away from the proud smile spread across Carly's face, so she didn't think to be suspicious of Freddie.
Later, at the reception, something deep in her chest had panged painfully as she watched from the sidelines Freddie twirling Carly across the ballroom floor. She thought that it was some ridiculous form of jealousy that she was feeling, but as one song turned into the next then the next and the tempo picked up, Sam found herself outside of the reception hall, clutching her brightly glowing cellphone as it rang Freddie's number. It rang and rang.
He didn't pick up.
Soon, though, Freddie stepped through the doors and Sam's hand clutched the fabric of her dress, bunching it up against her heart as she watched him take a deep breath and let it out, a wide, happy smile on his face.
He had turned to her, startled, when she called his name.
"You looked like you were having fun."
Freddie paused and looked over her shoulder. "I wondered where you went off to."
"Don't lie," she said, sharply. She took a few steps toward him. "Freddie, just what do you think you were doing?"
He shook his head and gave her a look that said, Must I really explain to you what you already saw? He answered, "I was dancing. What are you doing?"
"Freddie," her hands clenched at her sides, cell phone digging into her palm. "You and Carly…"
He looked away from her.
"You and Carly," she started again. "Just answer me this. Is something going on between the two of you?"
"What?" Freddie had laughed. "Carly was just asking me the same question last week."
"Just answer the question."
Freddie hesitated, took a deep breath. "I don't know," he finally answered. "Maybe."
"Maybe," Sam mumbled under her breath, and looked away. She hated herself at that moment for sniffing back tears she could feel forming behind her lids. "How did you answer the question she asked you a week ago?"
"I told her that… That there was nothing between us."
Sam had nodded, forcing a tight smile. "Good."
"Don't," she jerked away from his reaching hands, walked around him to the door. She felt as if her breath was being stifled, her eyes stinging in a way they never had and in a way that she never wanted anyone to see. She was afraid that she'd break apart.
Poor, stupid, foolish her. She had known of Freddie's feelings for Carly and had to swallow back nausea as Carly told her through late night discussions on the phone how Freddie was getting taller, how his smile made her smile, how she felt as if she were finally returning his feelings and if she should be worried. Sam had never thought, though, that Freddie would actually leave her for Carly.
Childhood crush or not, she hadn't ever thought that he would just drop her after two years of being her's.
Sam gasped and opened her eyes as the bus hid a deep pothole, and sat up. The boy listening to his mp3 shot her a curious look through brown eyes, and Sam quickly looked away, down to the cell phone she held in her lap. The small lcd display lit up as an incoming call from Carly signaled.
It was the third call from her best friend in the past ten minutes. Sam knew she should just turn her phone off—it would make Carly's frequent calls less worrying—but something in her kept her fingers away from the red button. She knew that it had to do with the fluttering feeling that rose in her throat on the few and far apart occasions that Freddie decided to call her, and though she felt foolishly hopeful and nervous at the same time, she couldn't find the courage she needed to pick up on his calls.
She tucked the phone in her jeans pocket and stared out the window, past the heavily falling drops to the blur of greenery, and breathed slow and deep to calm her stuttering heart.
She couldn't believe that she had fallen for Freddie Benson.