Chapter 3 - Perfectly Imperfect
Sam's phone was buzzing. It was the last sound she'd heard before drifting off into a fitful, dream-filled sleep. Maybe dream wasn't the right word. She'd had a nightmare. The kind that leaves a thin film of dread and anxiety covering everything even after you're awake. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and looked over at her phone.
The caller was one of three people: her mother calling to say she would be home late or not at all, Carly to apologize again for how the test had turned out, or Freddie. She picked up the phone and groaned, setting it back down on the nightstand.
He'd been calling and texting every hour on the hour since she'd left Carly's house. She wasn't ready to talk to him yet so she was doing what she did best, avoiding an uncomfortable situation by pretending it didn't exist. But his constant calls were making that difficult. She knew she would have to talk to him eventually – there was no way he'd let something like this go undiscussed, but she wanted to put it off for as long as possible. Avoiding the inevitable.
Damn Carly and her stupid test. As soon as Carly had said 'compatibility,' Sam knew that taking it was a bad idea. It wasn't that the results had shocked her. The set of random questions just confirmed what she already knew. She and Freddie were like Fat Cakes and carrots, as different as it was possible to be. But it wasn't something she thought about that often. They hadn't been together long but they'd somehow found a way to make it work in spite of it all. Their differences were there, but they existed on the sidelines of the relationship. So even if she'd known it in her heart, even if that truth had caused more arguments between them than she could count, for some reason seeing right in front of her in black and white had made it real. Too real.
Incompatible. That's what the results said.
This couple is not meant to be and should not under any circumstances be allowed to date. There's a greater chance for peace in the Middle East than there is of these two idiots making it work. Get out now before it's too late. SAVE YOURSELVES!
That's what it might as well have said.
Her phone buzzed again, signaling a text message. Reaching for it, she scanned the message quickly.
Freddie: Call me so we can talk.
Freddie: Can you come over here? Can I come there? I just want to see you.
Sam fell back against her pillows, her breath coming out in a rush. Every time he'd texted her she'd held her breath, certain that it would say what she didn't want to hear. That the person she'd fought so hard to be with was serving her walking papers.
She hadn't been in many relationships. There was Jonah, the scumbag who ended up liking Carly. Then there was Shane, and after she and Carly fought over him she'd lost interest. And who could forget Pete, the very cute, very dumb jock she'd been obsessed over. That had lasted as long as it took her to discover that all he ever talked about was video games and football, and that he had the personality of a soap dish. She hadn't been sad to see that end. She'd never really been sad to see any of those relationships end. Freddie was different.
There were plenty of guys who'd been interested in her over the years, but Freddie was the first one who actually listened when she talked and looked at her face instead of her boobs (most of the time). It had taken her a long time to believe it, but at this point she knew that he really cared about her. He cared if her homework was done or if she'd eaten. He cared enough not to let her walk home alone in the dark, even if they both knew she'd be the one fighting off whoever might attack them. Over seven years of being enemies, then friends, and then more, he'd taken the time to really get to know her. He understood her in a way that no one else did, including Carly. And unlike Carly – who usually seemed preoccupied with 'fixing' Sam, Freddie just took her as she was. He didn't try to change her or make her a better person, and that made her want to be a better person.
She'd never have guessed it in the beginning, but what she had with Freddie was actually pretty good most of the time. They fought, but they'd learned the beauty of making up. She liked him, thought she might even love him – though she'd never said the words. That's what made this so hard. She'd just gotten used to him being here. Just started to believe that, at least for the moment, he wasn't going anywhere. What if wanted this to be over? What if he thought the test was right, right enough to end this? She might be confused right now, but there was one thing she was entirely sure of. She didn't want it to be over.
She sat up, her knuckles white as she gripped the side of her bed. She looked over at the clock. It was almost two o'clock; three hours since 'the incident'. She was surprised Freddie hadn't shown up at her house yet. There wasn't much time to consider why as the sound of her doorbell ripped through the silence of the house. She knew who it was – didn't even need to peek through the blinds to see the porch below. Her hands were shaking as she considered her options. She could sit here and ignore the door until he went away. That wouldn't work. Freddie was persistent, especially when he felt the need to talk about something. He knew she was here – she'd texted Carly around noon just to let her know she'd made it home okay, and Freddie was probably the first person Carly called to report that information. She could go downstairs, fling the door open and tell him to get lost. That wouldn't work either. He'd gotten really good and not taking no for an answer.
She sighed and stood from the bed. Time to face the music.
The doorbell was ringing again by the time she flung open the door to reveal Freddie, leaning against the door frame.
"Hey." He said.
"I've been calling you."
"I saw that."
"So why haven't you answered?"
"I've been busy." She said walking into the house, the sound of his heavy footsteps following her.
She stood in the hallway trying to decide where to have this conversation. Most of the rooms in her house were filled with some memory of their time together. The living room, where he'd held her all afternoon as she cried her eyes out over Frothy.
The kitchen, where an attempt at homemade pizza-baking had turned into an all-out food fight and she'd gotten her first glimpse of the wonder that was Freddie's abs as he removed his tomato sauce-covered shirt.
Her bedroom where…she really didn't want to think of all the things that had happened in that bedroom. It was the place they first learned how great making up could be.
She settled on the hallway and turned to face him, crossing her arms over her chest.
"So…" she said
"So what?" Freddie asked, looking genuinely confused.
"So say what you came to say and get it over with."
"Sam…what do you think I came here to say?"
"Let's not do this Freddie. You saw the results. I saw the results. You said we need to talk and we both know what that talk is gonna be about." She sighed in frustration as he continued to look at her like she had three eyes. "Okay, let me help you. You say 'Sam the test says we aren't compatible' then I say 'No shit Sherlock' then you tell me not to curse and you say 'I think it's best to just end this now' and I say…"
Freddie rolled his eyes, grabbed her hand and started toward the stairs.
"Freddie…what the hell are you doing? Let go of me!"
"Shut up, Sam."
She was so shocked her mouth hung open as she trailed behind him into her bedroom. He sat her down on the bed and turned the desk chair around to face her, sitting down and leaning over on his knees.
"Now, I just want you to sit there quietly and hear me out."
"I don't want to hear you out! I want to see you out…of my house!"
Freddie reached over and put a hand over her mouth. Her eyes went wide and a series of muffled expletives filled the room.
"Sam, we can do this the hard way or the easy way, but either way you're going to listen to what I have to say." He looked at her, a hint of a smile on his face. "Now, are you ready to be calm?" She sighed and shook her head. He removed his hand slowly and sat back in the chair.
"Your hand tastes like Perma-Gel," she said, wiping her tongue on the sleeve of her shirt.
"You shouldn't have licked it." Reaching into his back pocket he removed a folded slip of paper. Opening it he looked down at what was written there before looking back at Sam.
"You're crazy," he said, "like really, really crazy."
"So you came all the way over here to say I'm crazy?"
"Yep. And so am I. I realized it when I read those test results. And do you know what else I realized?" He looked back from the paper to her. "The test was right. We are completely different. You're stubborn. And sometimes you're lazy. Your room is always a mess. You call me names. You never let me hold the remote. You take my class notes and don't give them back. You hate my mother. You want be a roadie for Cuttlefish." His voice got quiet. "And you've never said you love me."
"Freddie…" Sam looked as he pulled a second piece of paper out of his pocket.
"Do you know what this is?
"I hope it's dental records because if you don't hurry up they're going to need them to identify your body!"
He was undeterred by the venom in her voice.
"This," He said, unfolding the paper. "Is all the reasons the test was wrong." He looked over at her, his eyes soft as he studied her face. "Your smile. I love that smile." He ran a finger over her bottom lip. "When you smile, I smile too, even if I'm having the world's worst day." He laughed, and continued. "You have a tiny freckle behind your ear and when I kiss it you giggle."
"I don't giggle," she murmured, trying not to smile.
"Yes you do. And it's adorable, now shut up and let me finish." She pretended to zip her lips and he continued. "You take my shirts so you can sleep in them. You pretend to be confused about computer stuff sometimes and you listen while I explain it to you - even though I know almost as much as I do. You stopped calling my mother crazy. Last week you let me have the last slice of pizza, even though it was your favorite kind." He glanced at Sam who was staring intently at her lap, chewing on the corner of her bottom lip. "You let me see you cry when Frothy died. You always tell me there's nothing I can't do. You make me feel smart and strong and lucky just because you're in my life." He folded the paper back up and reached out to hold the hands the rested in her lap. "You taught me what it means to really love someone and how amazing it feels when they love you back. You've told me a million times in a million different ways that you love me – and you didn't even have to use words."
He placed a finger on her chin, raising her face so he could see her eyes. "Sam, when I read those results I was scared. Scared because I thought that maybe the people that made that test knew something that we didn't. Maybe they somehow knew that we didn't belong together and we were just fooling ourselves. But then I thought about it, really thought about it and I realized something. I realized that test is garbage, do you know why?" she shook her head. "Because I know something that they don't know. I know that I love you. Yes, we're different, we want different things, and we might not know what's gonna happen in our future. But I know that I love you now and that I want to love you for as long as you let me. That's all I need to know."
Sam sniffled, finally losing the battle with the tears stinging her eyes. She looked at him and asked the question she already knew the answer to.
"Did you mean that?"
"Every word." He raised two fingers in the air, "Scout's Honor."
She smiled her first genuine smile of the day. Grabbing both of his hands she pulled him from his chair and onto the bed beside her. "Good because I think you might be stuck with me for a while."
He didn't respond, just smiled and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her flush against him, her back to his chest. He buried his face in her hair and inhaled the familiar scent of vanilla shampoo. She relaxed into his arms, running her fingers over the arms that held her tight.
"I love you." She whispered into the quiet room. She was met with the soft sound of Freddie snoring behind her. She snuggled down further into his arms, resting her head on a pillow. "Yeah, I know…you love me too."
She didn't fall asleep right away. She laid with him, listening to him breath, content just to be with him. The moment was almost perfect. Just like them.
And that was okay with her.