Sam's hands grip the steering wheel as quiet sobs wrack her body.
She's trying hard to get herself under control, has been trying since she stopped on her way out of the door that morning. She had gotten caught up in looking at Freddie as he slept, limbs thrown about her couch but face serene, and years worth of frustration had crept up on her. Her face had flushed and ears tingled before her vision clouded with tears. She had sent him one long last look when she reached the door, and the last thing she remembered was him stirring before she left.
She had sat in her car in the parking lot for a while after, beating herself up for hiding away from him not only last night, but this morning. But then she had looked up and saw him staring out of the window and she felt as if she were making the right choice. There was no way she's last more than five minutes in a room with him without caving under the pressure of a wound peeled freshly in her chest.
He had hurt her too badly.
She swiped a hand over her eyes, wiped the tears away and continued driving. Just for an hour more, she told herself. Just until she felt even a shadow of composure, enough to go back to the apartment. She had already been in her car for the nearly two hours that had passed since her shift ended. It was difficult even getting through her work day, and Sam found herself forcing smiled more so than usual, barely listening as the patrons rattled off their same old order for her to jot down in her same old flip pad. And as much as she wanted for the work day to end, the closer the hour hand on the clock got to the number four, the more her stomach knotted in apprehension and it was getting increasingly difficult to keep her skin from flushing a dark red. And once she had gotten in her car…
Sam squeezes her eyes shut and blinks them open to see the road, long and stretching under the wheels of her car. She turns the volume on the radio louder and wipes away a rogue tear.
::: ::: ::: :::
With the car off, the silence is near deafening. Sam runs a hand across her brows and tugs the keys from the ignition. She sits back in her seat and bites her lip as she tries to figure out a plan for the rest of the night.
Step one, avoid Freddie at all costs.
Step two… Well, once she succeeds in avoiding him, there will be nothing else she'd need to do.
She nods to herself before climbing out of the car, and makes sure it's locked before she enters the building. She unlocks the front door to her apartment and tosses her keys on the table, brushing past Freddie and into the kitchen. She fills a glass with tap water.
"How was your day?" He asks, and Sam grunts into her drink. "I got you something." He comes toward her with a small bag and she eyes it warily. "From the diner," he explained. "Thought you might like something to eat, you know, after being gone half the day."
She places the cup in the sink with a small thump and says, "Thanks. I'm not hungry." She walks away from him and rushes into the bathroom, leaning against the door briefly before moving to the bathtub.
She takes her time in the shower, letting the hot water work over kinks in her neck and soothe her rapidly fluttering pulse. Soap runs heavily down her back as her thoughts turn to Carly, how she must be and if she knew that Freddie was coming to visit her. She vows to call her best friend by the end of the night.
Sam's feet slap the tile and she grabs a towel to dry herself off. "Damn," she berates herself, so careless in the way that she hadn't thought to bring with her a change of clothes. She pulls on her jeans and company tee, tiptoes across the apartment to her bedroom where she quickly changes into something more comfortable. When she exits her room, she can still hear Freddie in the kitchen. She turns the TV on and sits on the couch with her feet curled under her and grabs the phone.
"Carly," Sam says as soon as the line is picked up.
"Sam! Great timing." Carly's voice is joyous and animated, and Sam presses the heel of her hand to her aching eye. "I was just about to call you to let you know that you have a surprise coming your way." She says this in a way that's supposed to have Sam intrigued, begging what it must be, but all it has Sam doing is gritting her teeth.
"He's already here," she deadpanned and turned the volume up, not wanting the guy in question to know that she was holding a conversation about him.
"Oh," Carly said. "Well, then he's earlier than we expected. By two days, I think. Is that even possible?" The sound paper shuffling comes over the line, and then Carly sighs. "Yup, definitely possible. Two days early. Either he did not sleep a wink or he disobeyed road rules and sped there."
"You think so?" Sam could hardly imagine Freddie speeding to see her.
"Totally," she answered. "But then again, that's Freddie. His concern for us usually pushes him past the limit. So, how are you guys getting along?"
"Have you already had a fight with him?"
"Don't give me that condescending tone." Sam shifts on the couch and puts the phone over her other ear, watching as the bright colors of a television show flash across the screen. "And besides, when are we not fighting?"
"I don't know," Carly says, sounding uncertain. "There was a few times where you guys looked content in each other's company."
"That's because I knew I was leaving soon," Sam lies before she can stop herself. She winces and concentrates on loosening her grip around the phone.
"Sam," Carly starts.
"No, Carly, I'm sorry. Just… Bad joke. Nevermind me."
"When are you going to tell me?"
Sam lets silence fall over their conversation. She looks down at the floor and lets out a heavy breath. "I'll tell you when I tell you, Carly. Trust me, just…" Trust me, she thinks. "Just know that if you ever want to see your precious friend again, you'd better tell him to get lost."
Carly laughs and Sam knows she's not mistaken in hearing a certain degree of misery in her voice. "You wouldn't hurt him."
Sam rises to the challenge, feeling a little slighted. "And why wouldn't I?"
"Because he cares about you and he drove all the way there, illegally speeding and all, just to see you. He misses you. We all do."
"Carly," Sam says, so suddenly deflated.
"Anyway, I have to turn in. I have an early call into the station in the morning." Carly pauses and Sam hears her weary sigh. "Be well. And be nice, okay?"
Sam, unsure of what to say, tells Carly goodnight and hangs p the phone. She stares blankly at the television for a while, thinking, when Freddie takes a seat at the other end of the couch.
She stirs and sends him a glance. "Really? This late at night?"
Freddie snorts a laugh into his coffee. "College life tends to take regular hours away from you."
"I guess," she says and twists her lips to the side as her finger picks at a loose thread on the cushion. She shakes the bangs from her eyes and surreptitiously gives Freddie a long look. It's stiff, the way he's sitting, his back ramrod straight, shoulders high, and fingers a light shade of yellow where they're gripping the cup. His jaw is clenched and he is staring a little too intensely at the TV, perhaps not seeing anything at all.
Sam turns her head away, says, "I haven't exactly been homely."
From the corner of her eye, she sees Freddie rouse. He clears his throat. "We have bad history, I understand you being mad. Don't worry about it."
"The last thing I want to do is start making excuses for myself," Sam says. She can feel the burn on her face at the spot where Freddie is staring. "So, obligatory question. How is everything going?"
"Um, well, um…" He blows out a breath, seemingly flustered. "My life is… decent. Studying is intense, which is what I pretty much expected. I have no kind of night life—or day life, for that matter—because I'm trying to get a firm grasp on my major and double minors. So, it's, uh… It's intense." He clears his throat again. "Thanks for asking."
There is a pressing question on the tip of her tongue. She wonders if she should just bite the bullet. "How about… Any girls?"
He snorts. "No. I wish, but no."
"What happened to you and Carly?" A weight she didn't know was weighing on her is lifted off her shoulders as soon as the question is blurted and she watches out for his reaction.
He smiles wistfully before answering. "We broke up a while ago. She said that what we were getting into was a turning too serious, too quickly, and then she dumped me."
Sam purses her lips and flicks through the channels in quick succession. "And now you're bitter." It's not quite a question, not quite a statement, but Sam did want for him to refute it. At least he could give her that.
"No," he says, surprisingly. "I was—as weird as it sounds coming from a guy who was in love with her half his life—I was relieved. I still don't know why I felt that way."
Sam nods and slows down on changing the channels. She has to ask. "Is there anything you regret about being with Carly?"
"Yeah. And she's sitting right in front of me."
Sam is thrown for a loop, so suddenly dizzy. She swallows, hard. "What are you saying?"
He places his mug on the table, takes a deep breath and lets it out shakily. "I should have never gotten—"
"You know what?" Sam interrupt, forces a grin. "I should go to bed. I'm exhausted."
Freddie touches her wrist as she passes by him, loosely wrapping his fingers around her. "Please don't leave."
She shakes her head and pulls out of his once familiar, now foreign, hold. "Sleep tight, Freddie." Her eyes feel sore again and it hurts to blink, hurts too much to stay around him.
She's running away again, and this time she knows it's because she would not be able to handle what she knew he was about to tell her.