DISCLAIMER: Popular Characters are not mine. They belong to whomever.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Green Quarter


Part 1

"Should we do one of those nasty food things like peeled grapes as eyeballs? And we need to get some dry ice to do a cauldron effect for the punchbowl. Oh! We should get a tub so we can do bobbing for apples." Sam excitedly wrote down her ideas in her notebook. She and Brooke sat in the kitchen discussing their Halloween plans.

Brooke grimaced. "I always thought bobbing for apples was kinda gross. After the first person, it's backwash city."

"No bobbing? We have to have bobbing," Sam cried, her eyebrows up near her hairline.

Brooke snickered at her expression. "Only if I get to be first."

"Done." Sam wrote it down. Brooke goes first, next to Bobbing for Apples. She grinned as Brooke laughed at her. "So, have you decided what you're going to be?"

"Trinity, from the Matrix," Brooke replied.

"Good one," Sam said, nodding, her throat tightening at the thought of Brooke in all that shiny pleather, or vinyl, or whatever it was.

Brooke and Sam's parents had consented to their throwing a Halloween Party at their house, and had even promised to stay out of sight for the duration, as long as things didn't get out of hand. For their part, Sam and Brooke had promised to not only get along themselves, but that their groups of friends would behave civilly towards each other as well. The parentals had also requested some time put in doing housework, but had yet to collect on that part of the bargain.

Actually, Sam reflected, she and Brooke had been getting along pretty well since the prom, back in May. The events of that night had caused a subtle shift in the relationship between them, and the two had grown closer over the summer. Sam still couldn't say why she charged like a linebacker into Brooke that night, throwing them both clear of an oncoming car barreling straight towards her erstwhile enemy. She didn't think; she just did it. Sam had been winded and Brooke had been out cold for a few minutes, probably from Sam landing on top of her. Thankfully the only real damage sustained was to their dresses and the heel of Sam's shoe.

Once the excitement died down, and she, Brooke and Harrison realized there was still the prom to go to, Sam gracefully ceded defeat to Brooke and watched as the pair left to fulfill their requirement of high school rite of passage. She admitted to herself that she was only competing with Brooke, and didn't really want to date Harrison. The whole thing left a bad taste in her mouth, and since then she had tried not to succumb to her petty urges when it came to Brooke.

"So is Harrison going to be Neo?" Sam asked. "That would be pretty cute."

Brooke looked at her strangely. "Sam, Harrison and I broke up last week. I thought you knew."

"No! I had no idea. Are you all right? What happened?" Sam was shocked at this news; she thought everything was more than okay between the two. But then, she considered, she didn't really talk to Harrison that much anymore, and Carmen and Lily tiptoed around the subject of Brooke and Harrison's relationship, out of some misguided sympathy for her feelings. The truth was that she was fine with their relationship, not that she could convince anyone of it. She did sometimes wish that she still had Harrison as a friend but the fallout of their little power play last spring had made him too uncomfortable to keep Sam as his friend while he was romantically attached to Brooke. She was troubled that Brooke hadn't thought it important to tell her herself. She had thought they were becoming closer.

"I'm okay," Brooke said, a little tentatively. "I was sort of surprised you hadn't said something sooner. Now I know why you didn't, I guess." She leveled her eyes over to Sam's as she explained the rest. "It had been coming on for a while, so neither of us was really surprised, but I was the one who actually put a fork in it. We just sort of fizzled out after awhile. He's a great guy and I still like him a lot. I just don't love him."

"God, Brooke, I'm so sorry," Sam apologized, though not really knowing why. "I really thought you two could be happy together."

"Yeah, I did too," she answered wistfully. "But now this leaves the field open for you, Sam," Brooke looked at Sam with a sad smile.

"What? Brooke, I told you months ago that there was no part of me that still wanted Harrison, and I meant it." Sam exclaimed, frustrated. "I can't believe that you would think me capable of waiting around for your relationship to fail, so I could swoop in and take over. God! I guess that shows what you really think of me, doesn't it?" She asked, as she got up from the table and stalked out of the kitchen.

"Sam, wait! I'm sorry! I didn't really-" Brooke sighed as she watched Sam leave the room. She had really put on her mint-flavored shoes this time.

Brooke trudged up the stairs, cursing her foolishness. There was some part of her that truly thought that Sam had been waiting for her and Harrison to break up. It would explain why Sam had been so sweet to her since the prom. There had hardly been an uncivil word between them for months and she had grudgingly grown to enjoy and depend on their fledgling friendship. She couldn't help having her suspicions, could she? She just should have kept them to herself. Why did she even care if Sam was after Harrison? It was of no concern to her now. Then why did she feel ambivalent about the thought of Sam and Harrison together? Not ambivalent, upset.

She stood in front of Sam's room and knocked, hoping to mend fences before bedtime. Sam didn't answer, so Brooke opened the door a few inches to see Sam sitting on her bed with her headphones on, her Physics book open in front of her. She looked up when she saw Brooke and then quickly looked down again. She waved her in with one hand and removed her headphones with the other. Brooke could faintly hear the sound of Ani Difranco whining about something or other, but now was not the time to annoy Sam about her taste in music.

"Did you understand any of that stuff about calculating vectors that Glass was talking about today?" Sam asked, flipping the pages of her Physics book, "'Cause I totally didn't." It seems Ms. Glass was a triple threat in the sciences and had taken over teaching Physics to this year's crop of seniors.

The subject of Physics momentarily disconcerted Brooke, as she had her mind set on apologizing. "Yeah, kinda… Look Sam, I'm really sorry I said that about you and Harrison. I really don't think that-"

"Don't worry about it," Sam interrupted. "Whatever. I thought I was succeeding in turning over a new leaf, but I guess I'm kidding myself if not even you think I've changed."

"I don't know why you think you need to turn over a new leaf," Brooke quoted the air at this, "there was nothing wrong with your old leaf."

"I don't know how you can say that, Brooke." Sam closed her textbook and looked up at the girl standing over her bed. "I blindly tried to sabotage your relationship just because I had to win. I ruined a friendship with Harrison for the sake of competing with you. And let's not forget the mess I made with George."

"Well, you can't do penance forever. And that hair shirt you're wearing is so last spring, and doesn't do a thing for your figure." Brooke tried to jolly Sam out of her mood. "And Sam, sabotaging my relationship is a moot point now, don't you think?"

"Maybe. What happened, Brooke? You guys were, like, disgustingly happy."

Brooke's face became flushed and she grew visibly uncomfortable, fidgeting with her shirt cuff. "I really don't want to talk about it right now. Can we just skip it and get back to Halloween?"

Sam mentally shook herself out of her mood. "Only if you stop standing there like a goon and sit down," she smiled.

"Well, I have to keep my distance from Ani's caterwauling. I can hear that screeching from clear across the room," Brooke giggled, knowing full well the response she was about to get.

"Get out!" Sam pretended to be outraged, and pointed to the door. "If you would stop listening to that nutball Mariah Carey for two seconds you might be able to appreciate the genius that is Ani."

Now it was Brooke's turn to be outraged. "I so regret telling you that! I only like that one song. You are never going to forget it, are you?"

"Nope. Blackmail material filed away for future use. It's only her worst song, too. And you question my musical taste," Sam tsked, shaking her head and grinning like a fool. She was bipolar, she knew it. It was only moments ago she was in the blackest mood imaginable, and now she couldn't remember what had gotten her upset. Oh yeah -- she remembered. She'd think about it later.

Brooke flopped onto the bed. "All right, let's hear 'the genius that is Ani.'" Air quotes, again. Sam didn't know why she detested anyone else using air quotes, but found it endearing when Brooke did it. Without getting up, Sam pulled the cord of her headphones out of the jack in her stereo across the room and the sound of acoustic guitar suddenly filled the air. Unfortunately for anyone wishing to make a convert, Ani started inarticulately moaning along with the bridge.

"Genius, huh? I think I'll stick with Mariah," Brooke guffawed at the look of dismay that crossed Sam's face. Quickly changing the subject she asked, "So what are you going to be for Halloween?"

"Not a clue," Sam confessed. "Carmen and I are going shopping tomorrow to try and figure out something. Maybe we'll do something together, but not something stupid like the M&M dudes or anything. It has to be cool."

"You really get into Halloween, don't you?" Brooke asked appraisingly.

"Well, yeah! It's the only night of the year you can really be something or someone else." Sam said, excitedly.

"We didn't hang out on Halloween last year," Brooke said. "What was your costume?"

"Um, Ompf lumfpf," Sam muttered behind her hand, trying to dissemble. "Don't make me say it, it's so embarrassing!"

"Come on, McPherson, spill!" Brooke ordered, sitting up and pointing in Sam's face.

Sam swatted away Brooke's finger and said, "Okay! Lily, Carmen, and I were stuck and didn't have any ideas so we were Oompa Loompas." She watched Brooke start cackling with glee. "But we were really good Oompa Loompas! Until that orange makeup started getting everywhere and –"

"Tell me you have pictures," Brooke demanded.

"No pictures survived to tell the tale of that night," Sam stated, making a mental note to tell Carmen never to give up the goods.

"Ah, nuts! I would have loved to see that. How is it that we lived in the same house last year and I didn't know you were an Oompa Loompa for Halloween?" Brooke asked, honestly puzzled.

"Well all I know about your costume last year was that it was white." Sam recalled. "What were you?"

"Nicole, Mary Cherry and I did a group thing, too. We were all Gwyneth Paltrow." Brooke laid back down and put her hands up, doing a 'picture this' kind of thing. "My costume was the best if I do say so. I was the Gwyneth of Shakespeare in Love, the white Elizabethan wedding dress from the end, you know? When she went and did Juliet before leaving with Mr. Darcy?" Brooke glanced at Sam, caught up in the telling of her story. "Nicole was the Gwyneth of Hard Eight, she was clearly suited for the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold-plate."

"And which Gwyneth was Mary Cherry?" asked Sam, now extremely curious.

"Well, there wasn't much left at that point so she had to be the Gwyneth from Shallow Hal. She wasn't too pleased. But I do have pictures! Mary Cherry's whole costume doesn't even fit in some of them," Brooke enthused.

"But you're not doing the group thing this year," Sam said, laughing at the thought of Mary Cherry.

"No. I wanted a change," Brooke said, vaguely.

"Yeah, me too. No Oompa Loompas this year for me," Sam vowed.

Brooke started giggling again, then realized, "Hey, I've been listening to Ani for twenty minutes! I've got to get out of here. Goodnight, Sam."

"Get out!" Sam raged, almost hitting Brooke with a pillow as the door closed behind her.


Part 2

Sam sat in Physics class the next day, trying to concentrate on vectors, but failing miserably. After last night's giddy-fest with Brooke in her bedroom, she had trouble falling asleep. She turned over the news of Brooke and Harrison's break-up in her mind, worrying the problem like it was a Rubik's cube. Now in class, she was still thinking about it. How could she have failed to notice they had separated? Granted, she had spent every available free minute last week working on an article about corrupt bidding practices for the school's back parking lot paving job, but this was huge news. Even if she had spent every lunch period in the newspaper office last week, wouldn't she have heard the scuttlebutt in the hallways?

She snuck a sidelong glance at Brooke, who appeared to be completely absorbed in Glass' lecture. Brooke didn't look like someone suffering over a painful break-up. She twisted in her seat to get a look at Harrison, who was looking out the window, head resting in the palm of his hand. It had always been hard to tell what Harrison was thinking.

Brooke had long ago perfected the art of seeming attentive in class. To all outward appearances she was the model student, but too often her mind wandered to all sorts of topics. Like now, Brooke noticed Sam looking at her, and then at Harrison with a puzzled expression on her face. She took this as confirmation that Sam had indeed not known about the breakup. She had suspected the girl of being less than truthful when she denied knowledge of it, but now realized this was not the case. Brooke could see the wheels turning in Sam's brain, mentally castigating herself for being so unaware. No one could've put on an act for a whole week, pretending not to know something. She didn't know how the girl could be so dense, but she was somewhat relieved that Sam hadn't deceived her. She still felt bad for assuming the worst in Sam. But if she wasn't after Harrison, then why was she being so nice to her? Brooke turned the question around on herself. If she had all these suspicions about Sam, why then had she cultivated the friendship Sam had offered? Harrison said he knew. She didn't know. And thinking about it was doing her head in. She took out a sheet of loose-leaf and wrote:


Why not be a smurf for Halloween?

It's not too far a stretch from an Oompa-Loompa.

(Stick to what you know.)



She slid the note over to Sam's side of the lab table with a straight face. Sam looked into Brooke's serious countenance and opened the note. Brooke saw her suppress a grin as she read it before she balled up the note and threw it at her. Brooke couldn't hold back the snort of laughter that escaped as everyone turned to look at them.

"Something funny, McSiblings?" bellowed Glass.

"No, Ms. Glass," Sam answered for the both of them, shooting Brooke a look.

"Well, kindly can it then, please!" Ms Glass narrowed her eyes at the pair before turning back to the blackboard.

Sam sighed with relief at getting off so lightly. She looked at Brooke, who was still chuckling softly to herself, and knew she had to come up with the best costume ever this year. Now, her pride was at stake.

"Maybe we should represent the Lollipop Guild," Carmen mused as she held up a Munchkin costume.

"Carmen! You want to go from an Oompa-Loompa to a Munchkin?" Sam demanded in disbelief.

"Even the Lollipop Guild's gotta represent, that's all I'm saying," Carmen replied, flustered, as she returned the costume to the rack. "What's up with you, Sam? You've never freaked out about Halloween before. What's the big deal? Besides, it's two days to Halloween, this place is pretty well picked over." She looked around the busy costume shop with its half-empty racks.

"I know. There's nothing here. What am I going to do? I wanted to have the coolest, sexiest costume this year." Sam whined.

"Don't you think you should have thought of that before the eve of the eve of all Hallows eve?" Carmen had even confused herself with that one. "Anyway, Brooke's got that one covered. She's going to be Trinity."

"Carmen, why didn't you tell me about Brooke and Harrison?" Sam asked, out of nowhere.

After Carmen recovered from the whiplash of the rapid subject change, she calmly said, "Lily and I talked about it, and we thought it would be better coming from Brooke or Harrison themselves. Why? We've been waiting for you to weigh in with an opinion, we thought you just didn't want to talk about it."

"That's just it Carm, neither of them did tell me. I had no idea. I had to open my mouth and insert my foot before Brooke told me last night. God only knows what she thought of that," Sam said, chagrined. "Although it didn't seem to bother her too much."

"I'm sorry, Sam. We should have told you." Carmen apologized. "And that's just it. They're both walking around like nothing's wrong, so nobody could blame you for not seeing it. You especially, since your head has been in the clouds for weeks, now."

"I'm supposed to be a reporter," Sam said, choosing to ignore Carmen's last comment. "I'm supposed to be really astute with the powers of observation thing. And this just went right by me," she said, helplessly.

"Sam, why do you care so much? I mean, it's their problem, right?" Carmen stopped flipping through the rack of costumes and turned to look at Sam. "Unless… You're not going after Harrison, are you?"

"NO. Why does everyone keep asking me that?" Sam cried. "That is all in the past. The only way I want Harrison is as a friend. But he clearly doesn't want me as one, so I've even given up on that."

"Maybe he needs a friend right now, Sam."

"Yeah, maybe," Sam sighed. "So what are we going to do about costumes?"

"I'm kind of digging this flapper outfit. What do you think?" Carmen held up a slinky red and black drop-waisted evening dress, with lots of fringe. "With the right hair and makeup, I could look pretty hot."

Sam smiled and gave her a wolf whistle. "You'll look more than hot, you'll be flapperific," she corn-balled.

Carmen rolled her eyes and laughed. "You want to look for another one? We could both be flappers, if you want," she suggested.

"Nah, I'll think of some other lame thing to be," Sam replied. But no tertiary movie or TV characters of substandard height that require body makeup. Got it?"

Carmen just looked at her like she had finally flipped her lid.

Brooke and Nicole were sitting in the kitchen when Sam returned from the costume store empty-handed.

"What, no costume, Sam?" Brooke asked, innocently. "That smurf idea's looking better and better, isn't it?"

"Spam's going to be a smurf? HA!" Nicole had no words.

"I'm NOT going to be a smurf," Sam gritted out, glaring at Brooke, and then Nicole. "Aren't there any small children you could be eating, Satan? Or is it a few days too early for you?"

"Oh, cheer up, hun," Nicole snapped back. "Those eyebrows of yours are scary enough that you don't need a costume." Nicole gathered up her things and looked at Brooke. "Thanks for the water and the mints, Brookie," she patted her stomach. "I think I spoiled my dinner. See you tomorrow. Spam, I think your costume idea is just the smurfiest." The two remaining girls could hear her laughing all the way out to her car.

Sam turned to Brooke and said, "Thanks for that. I just love being a source of amusement for good old Satan."

"Come on, Sam. It was just a joke," Brooke replied. She could tell Sam was only moderately irritated. "Why don't you have a costume? I thought you and Carmen were going shopping?"

"We did. I didn't find anything." Sam sat down at the table. She realized that wanting a sexy costume like Brooke's was just another way of competing with her. Maybe she should be a smurf, she thought to herself, or a flapper with Carmen.

"Hey," Brooke waved her hand in front of Sam's face. "Why so glum, chum?"

"This happens every year," Sam moped. "I wait till the last minute, and then I'm disappointed when there's no good costumes left. Halloween is only my favorite holiday. You'd think I would learn one of these years."

Brooke raised her arm, snapped her fingers and called an imaginary maitre'd over to the kitchen table. "Pity party, table for one, please," she said importantly. "Right this way, madam." She grabbed Sam by the arm and dragged her out of the kitchen and into the hallway.

"Madam? What am I, eighty?" Sam giggled. "Unhand me, young lady! Where are you taking me? If I had an umbrella I'd whack you with it." She marveled at Brooke's ability to charm her, seemingly at will. She was dragged to the console table where the phone book was kept. Brooke pulled it out and leaned over it, then began smacking at the yellow pages.

"Consignment shops. Vintage clothing stores. The Sally Army. Even Goodwill, for pete's sake! Hellooo? Use your resources, Tippy Typewriter! Of course, the costume shops have nothing but mothballs left, but they're not your only options." Brooke looked up at Sam and slid the book in her direction. "So get cracking, Tippy, because I just declared a moratorium on Smurfs at my party." She headed for the stairs

"Your party?" Sam asked incredulously, watching Brooke mount the steps. She got no response from Brooke.


Brooke turned around, waiting.

Sam suddenly didn't know what to say. "I really hate being called Tippy Typewriter," was what she came up with. Brooke smirked at her and continued on her way. Sam watched her ascend and thought to herself, God, she's hot. Wait. What?


Part 3

A little later, Brooke stepped outside and saw that Sam's Beetle wasn't in the driveway. She must have taken my advice and went back out to look for a costume, Brooke surmised. She herself was taking the short walk three doors down to Harrison's. There were a few things she needed to clarify.

Harrison opened the door after she rang the bell, his face expressionless. "Hi Brooke," he said, without emotion.

"Hi, Harrison," Brooke replied. There was an awkward pause. "Do you think I could come in? I need to talk to you."

Harrison silently moved away from the door and waited for Brooke to step through. He then led her into his room, kept as neatly as ever, Brooke noticed. She sat on the bed while Harrison turned his desk chair to face her and sat down.

"So, what's up, Brooke?" Harrison asked.

"How are you doing?" Brooke answered with another question. She wasn't sure how to bring up what she wanted to talk about.

"I'm great. School's fine, and my golf swing is improving. My girlfriend dumped me, but at least I still have my health," he responded sarcastically.

Brooke flinched. She guessed she deserved that. But their last conversation had been cordial, and she thought their parting was amicable. Prolonging this any further was not an option. "When we were having our…" Brooke paused, unsure how to continue.

"When you broke up with me?" Harrison supplied.

"Yes. When we were talking you said that it was Sam's fault we were breaking up." Brooke watched Harrison nod his head like he had been waiting for this. "I'm not sure I know what you meant by that. Did you mean that you want to go out with her now?"

"No, Brooke, that's not what I meant," Harrison sighed. "Even if I wanted to, I doubt she would want me after I chose you over her." He looked at the floor for a long moment before continuing. Things had been festering in him since Brooke's little talk last week and he had to let them out. "Did you know that whenever we hung out in your room, you always talked a little bit louder so Sam would know we were in there?"

Brooke's mouth opened in surprise.

"Do you realize that whenever I picked you up to go out you would parade me around your house so that Sam would see us? And when we were in the same room as Sam, you were always watching her to see what her reaction was to us? Do you even know how that made me feel, Brooke?" Harrison cried. "It was very subtle, but I noticed it from the beginning. When you couldn't get a rise out of Sam, I thought it would stop. Only that's when you started to lose interest in me. Or what I represented."

"What you represented?" Brooke repeated, dumbly.

"The trophy in your contest with Sam." Harrison finished, bleakly.

Brooke sat there, speechless and stunned. He was right. Why did she do all of that? She didn't even know she was doing it, on any conscious level. But Harrison called her on it, and she knew it was true. He had every right to feel used. "Harrison, I am so sorry. Why did I do those things?" she asked helplessly.

"I don't know, Brooke," Harrison replied, but the look in his eyes made her think that he did know.

Brooke slowly made her way back home, lost in thought. She went over the events of the last months in her mind. She was utterly baffled as to why she would act that way. What was to be gained by throwing her relationship in Sam's face constantly? Was she really that petty, that she would flaunt her victory in the face of Sam's misery? But Sam wasn't miserable about it. She had confessed to Brooke that the only reason she engaged in the competition for Harrison was for the competition itself. So why hadn't Brooke acknowledged that she had done the same. Why drag Harrison into this charade? She really liked Harrison, but was that the reason she set out to win his affection? If she was honest with herself for once in her stupid life, the answer was no.

Brooke rationalized that the whole thing had snowballed out of control. How could she walk away after all the work she put into chasing Harrison? She had felt jubilant the night of the prom, when she both avoided a near-accident, and got the guy, too. But she knew she was kidding herself. She hadn't stopped to think about what the consequences of her actions would be. What kind of person was she that she would knowingly use someone to make herself look and feel better? Hell, she wasn't Nicole, was she? But she didn't know any of this at the time, a voice said. She was only realizing it now after the fact. That's no excuse. What had she been trying to prove? And to whom was she trying to prove it? Herself? Sam? Why would she need to prove anything to Sam?

All she knew for sure was that Harrison had been a pawn in their game, the game that Sam had stepped away from and refused to play. But Brooke continued to play it instead of owning up to the truth, and had hurt Harrison horribly. She was disgusted with herself.

Sam returned with her arms full from her triumphant shopping expedition. She had written down a list of addresses from the phone book and had gone from store to store until she found what she didn't know she was looking for. She had amassed quite a collection of bits and pieces along the way, as she entertained and discarded ideas as she went. She found a great dress from the fifties, for the perfect Donna Reed costume, and a candy apple red wig for that Sydney Bristow spy Barbie look, even a construction worker's hardhat and tool belt if she ever wanted to be a member of the Village People. She figured she'd never be unprepared for Halloween again.

But the piece de resistance was found in the last store she visited, of course. She hung it in her closet reverently, and stored the rest still in bags on the closet floor. She went to find Brooke to thank her and tell her about all the cool shops she had been to.

She knocked on Brooke's door but got no reply. She opened it a crack and saw that the room was dim, with Brooke a motionless lump in the middle of her bed. "Brooke?" Sam whispered, but still no response. She quietly closed the door and returned to her own room. She was slightly disappointed to have no one to goof off with, but that only meant that she couldn't put off what she needed to do.

Sam was going to apply her now questionable journalistic and investigatory skills to herself. Too many things lately had not been adding up. She was not behaving like she normally would and she was determined to find out why. Therefore, she was going to interview herself. She sat on her bed with her notebook in her lap in case she needed to record any deep insight that Subject Sam might tell Reporter Sam.

Okay, first question:

RS: What's wrong with you, loser?

SS: Hey!

Okay, first question, really:

RS: What exactly is the nature of your problem?

SS: What is this, therapy?

RS: I'm asking the questions here. I knew you were going to be a hostile subject.

SS: Whatever. My problem is that I have not been myself lately.

RS: And how does this problem manifest itself?

SS: Well, I didn't even notice a major event that happened to Brooke, for one thing. Also, I didn't think of any alternatives for costume-hunting, which is so unlike me. I'm all about alternatives. Brooke had to point it out to me. My moods have been all over the place. I can't concentrate on anything. It's like my brain isn't functioning to full capacity anymore. And I noticed Brooke's ass today.

RS: There seems to be a recurring theme here. Why does Brooke figure so prominently in your problem?

SS: Don't you know this already? You should, I'm having an inner dialogue with myself here.

RS: Humor me.

SS: Fine. Our friendship is relatively new, only a matter of several months. We've always been adversaries before that, competing for everything. Blah biddy blah blah blah. Moving on. But we've been spending a lot of time together, lately. So when she told me about her breakup so long after the fact, it kind of hurt that she didn't trust me or wouldn't confide in me.

RS: So what? Friends don't always tell each other everything.

SS: But I want to be the kind of friend that she trusts. I've changed a lot. I won't compete with her anymore, friends don't do that. They support each other.

RS: Okay, goody-goody. Follow-up question. Why do you want to be the kind of friend she trusts?

SS: Because I like her.

RS: Like her, how?

SS: What do you mean, how?

RS: Would you send her a Christmas card? Would you go bowling with her? Do you want to carry her books? Would you do her taxes for her? Does she make you want to write bad poetry? Would you feed her cold and starve her fever? Would you listen to Mariah Carey for her? Be specific!

SS: Yes! Yes to all of those things. But I also like her because of the 800 different laughs she has. I like the way she brushes her teeth, the way she climbs stairs, the way she hums in the car, and the way she still avoids, to this day, stepping on cracks on the sidewalk. I like how she picks imaginary lint off her clothes. I like how even when she's pissing me off I find her funny. I like how I can't be in a bad mood when I'm around her. And I like her because she's smart, funny, kind, beautiful, etc. Don't get me started on the adjectives; I could go all night. You know me.

RS: Yeah, I do. Girl, you got it bad.

SS: No kidding. But that still doesn't explain why my brain hasn't been working lately.

RS: I think it does. You just made a breakthrough. Just now, you have consciously thought about your feelings for Brooke for the first time. What do you think your subconscious was doing before just now? And it was working overtime, let me tell you.

SS: Huh. Makes sense. So does this mean I'm gay?

RS: Small steps, Grasshopper, small steps. All things in time.

SS: Okay this is getting seriously weird now.

Sam started to laugh. She always suspected she was nuts, but now she knew for sure. And she was schizo too, as an added bonus. Or gift with purchase. Because she had bought the king-sized crazy. She felt almost dizzy with the realization. She liked Brooke. She LIKED her, liked her. She maybe even more than liked her, but she was not going to go there yet. That would really be crazy. Crazier. It was so simple, really. Things were starting to make sense now. She felt a rush of euphoria surge through her. Sam wanted to bask in this feeling of happiness. She was surprised that she didn't feel more scared of the revelation. Nothing was fazing her. Not the life-altering knowledge that she might prefer girls, or the fact that the girl in particular she preferred was hopelessly straight, or the vast complications this would bring to her existence. She just wanted to enjoy it.

There was a knock on the door and her mother entered, holding Sam's baby sister Mac in her arms. Jane took in the image of Sam sitting Indian-style on her bed, quietly chuckling with a glazed look in her eyes. The TV wasn't on, her notebook was a blank page in front of her, and there was no evidence of drugs. "What's so funny, Sam?" she asked warily.

"Nothing, Mom," Sam bounded off her bed and grabbed Mac from her mother's arms. "Hiya, Mackie baby. How're you doing?" Sam twirled around the room lifting the baby over her head. "What are you going to be for Halloween, kiddo?" Mac giggled with pleasure.

"Sam, don't get her all whipped into a frenzy," Jane called out nervously. "I'm putting her to bed now, she'll never settle down if you keep doing that."

Suddenly, Brooke's face appeared behind Jane's in the doorway, looking groggy and out of sorts. She blankly took in the domestic scene before her, a frown on her face.

When Sam saw Brooke, her heart lurched.

Jane turned to see what she was looking at. "Oh, Brooke, I'm glad you're here too." She leaned against the doorframe so that she addressed both girls. "Your dad and I want to collect on the other part of our bargain." Sam groaned, she knew dishpan hands or something like it was in her near future. "We need you to clean out the garage, and we want it done before the party."

"Why does it have to be done before the party?" Brooke asked belligerently.

Jane's eyebrows drew together. "Because we're asking you to, Brooke. Besides, it'll be nice to have it clean for the party"

"We're not having the party in the garage," Brooke snippily pointed out.

"You won't have a party at all if it doesn't get done," Jane returned, losing her patience with Brooke. She was bewildered by the hostility of her usually placid stepdaughter.

"It's okay, Mom. We'll do it tomorrow after school," Sam placated, returning Mac to her mother's arms after kissing the baby on the forehead.

"All right," Jane looked at both girls and then nodded. She kissed Sam on the cheek, and then Brooke, and bid them goodnight.

Sam took a deep breath and turned to face Brooke for the first time since her big revelation, but when she looked up, Brooke was gone, and Sam could hear the soft click of her bedroom door closing.

Part 4

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