DISCLAIMER: Characters of Popular are not mine. They belong to somebody who is not me. The title was inspired by the lyrics of the song of the same name, on the soundtrack to the movie, Camp.
SERIES: First story in the 'An Ever Fixed Mark' series.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Here's Where I Stand
By Green Quarter


Part 6

Sam stood in front of the mirror, wearing her bathing suit for the first time that summer. She didn't like what she was seeing. Her body was fine, she had to admit she was looking damn good from using her bicycle all summer, but the amount of sun she had gotten while riding to and from work had snuck up on her. She was chagrined to see a very noticeable farmer's tan on her arms and legs. Her skin was brown on the parts of her body that were exposed, but deathly pale everywhere else, where her shorts and tops had masked the sun. It was so not a good look, and she was going to try and start fixing it now on her day off, with nothing on her agenda but sitting by the pool, and doing some reading. Sam didn't want to be known as the two-toned freak when she arrived in Chicago in a few weeks time. She had skulked around this morning and overheard that Brooke was going to a pre-fall sale at Barney's with Mary Cherry, followed by a spree at Pottery Barn for an early start on dorm room decorating. Sam would have the place to herself.

Things still weren't great between her and Brooke, since the emotional upheaval of the previous week. Sam tried to go back to her 'respectful and polite to a fault' scheme, but Brooke was barely speaking to her anyway. She was still very confused about all the miscommunication and misunderstandings that had occurred between them, and her mind just went around in circles the more she thought about it. She just thought it was easier for everyone if she continued to stay away from Brooke, which was harder now that she found herself at home more often.

She took the book she was currently reading along with a large white envelope she had received from Northwestern a few weeks ago and settled down out by the pool, turning her chair to face the sun. She began to go through all the materials in the packet, reading with interest about all that would be coming at her in just a few short weeks. Then she came to a light blue booklet, not much more than a pamphlet, really. Her university had sent her an assignment already. It was Plato's Symposium, and she was expected to participate in a seminar about it during freshman orientation. Each new freshman was randomly sent either an excerpt from Plato's Republic, or the Symposium. The object was not to learn about Plato or whatever, but to give incoming students a feel for how classes were run in their new environment. Group discussion and challenging the instructor were apparently encouraged, and it all thrilled Sam to pieces. It would make a nice change from the dictatorial teaching style of one Ms. Bobbi Glass, that was for damn sure.

Sam began to read, expecting it to be a dry, tediously academic subject, but was pleasantly surprised to find that Plato's Symposium was anything but boring. As she sat reading the photocopied booklet, she discovered that the gist of the thing was a bunch of hung-over ancient Greeks trying to decide if they should get wasted again, then each taking a turn to expound upon the meaning of love. She was thoroughly engrossed, and completely taken by Aristophanes' version of the origin of love.

Aristophanes held that people didn't always look the way they do today. A long time ago, he said, people were creatures that had four arms, four legs, and two faces. There were three sexes: the children of the sun, who had male qualities, the children of the earth, who had female qualities, and the children of the moon, who had a combination of both. These creatures became too powerful and willful for Zeus's liking, and he needed to do something about it. He thought about killing the lot of them, but realized he would be robbing himself of the sacrifices and offerings they gave in their worship of him. So he decided to punish them (and increase their number twofold, thus gaining more worshippers for himself) by splitting them down the middle, forever separating each being from its other half. After these new human beings had been divided into two parts, they would come together in a mutual embrace, trying to grow back into one, but they never could in the same way again. And that became the natural state of humanity, to be always searching for that other half, to want to find the person who would make you whole. "And the reason is that human nature was originally one, and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love," she read. Sam thought it was a wildly beautiful allegory, and mildly subversive, as well.

She put her reading down and considered this. Sam wondered how many people actually found their other half. And what if you had more than one love in your life? Like her mother, for instance; who was the person she was supposed to have been separated from, her father or Mike? Then she thought about herself and Brooke. What happened when one person recognized their other half, but the other person didn't? And what if she was wrong? What if she was deluding herself by thinking that Brooke was the one, and there was actually somebody else out there in the world with whom she was meant to be? Was she to spend her life figuratively bashing herself into Brooke, fruitlessly trying to join herself with someone who didn't want her?

She suddenly became infuriated with Aristophanes, for making her think about these things. But then, the more she thought about it, the more she realized that this really took free will out of the equation. If she and Brooke were destined to be, then they would come together eventually. And if not, then she would hopefully someday find the one for whom she was intended. This made her feel peaceful in a way that she hadn't felt in weeks, maybe months. She could just leave everything up to the fates. This was all assuming Aristophanes was right. And she wanted him to be right; because she couldn't continue on this way, it would kill her. It was already killing any relationship she had built with Brooke over the past three years, and she didn't want that. She wanted to laugh again with Brooke. She wanted the fun Sam back, the one who enjoyed herself on occasion, and wasn't such a wretch to be around.

She got back to her reading, resolving to do two things: she would try to make peace with Brooke, and salvage whatever she could of their threadbare bond. They were stepsisters, after all, and would have to associate with each other for the foreseeable future. Even if Sam couldn't have her heart's desire, they may as well be pleasant to each other. She also decided to sign up for a philosophy class at her first opportunity; she wanted to find out more about good old Aristophanes and guys like him.

A little while later, Sam saw Brooke and Mary Cherry, loaded down with shopping bags, come around the back of the house, heading for the kitchen door. She didn't do anything to call attention to herself, but Mary Cherry saw her, and did a double take. The girl lowered her sunglasses down her nose and stopped Brooke, pointing at Sam, saying something that Sam couldn't quite hear. Brooke glanced over, and tried to move Mary Cherry along in the direction of the house, obviously not wanting to spend any time in Sam's presence. But Mary Cherry was not to be dissuaded; she dropped her bags and walked straight through the hibiscus bushes, making a beeline for Sam's chair.

Polite, be polite, Sam thought. She put on a smile and said, "Hi Mary Cherry, did you have a successful shopping trip?"

"Well, if it isn't Farmer Brown! And white!" Mary Cherry looked Sam up and down, taking in the tan lines that were in all the wrong places. "My God, Spam, how could you let yourself get into such a state?" Mary Cherry asked, truly appalled at the skincare regime, or lack thereof, gone horribly awry before her.

"I didn't mean it," Sam said defensively, as she watched Brooke approach, "it just kind of happened."

"When I see a travesty of this magnitude, I just have to do my civic duty and share my wealth of knowledge in all things beauty-related." Mary Cherry tapped her finger to her chin a few times. "Spam, I'm going to give you some free, unsolicited advice. Here's what you do: you get yourself some sun block, SPF 800 or so ought to do it, and you apply it all over your tan parts. Then you get yourself some Crisco vegetable shortening and slather it all over your non-tan parts. If the sun stays as strong and hot as it's been lately, you should be all evened out in about an hour."

"Or fried extra crispy like the Colonel's secret recipe," Sam said impudently. Brooke had come closer, but was still keeping her distance. She had taken up a position behind Mary Cherry, but Sam could only see her profile, she was facing the pool and her expression was aloof.

"Mark my words, Spam, you could have an all-over luscious skin tone the color of burnt sienna, just like George Hamilton, in only a few hours. That works for some people, you know, but not me with my flawless, porcelain, milky-white skin."

Sam knew there was no arguing with Mary Cherry. "Thanks for the advice, Mary Cherry. I'll get right on that."

"Well, I guess my work here is done." Mary Cherry turned to Brooke. "So how about it, Brookie? Are you comin'? Stupid Bill is gassin' up the plane, and we'll be departin' for Tuscaloosa in two hours. Momma wants me to be there when they break ground on the new library she's payin' for to get me into the University of Alabama. The Cherry Cherry Library," Mary Cherry announced, "don't it sound grand, y'all?" She looked at both of the girls expectantly.

Sam nodded amiably.

Brooke turned to face Mary Cherry and Sam. "I'm sorry, Mary Cherry, I have to baby-sit Mac tomorrow."

"Aw, that's too bad, hon. There would probably be secret dirty fraternity rituals and hazing of some sort goin' on. Oh, well, gotta fly, bye girls," Mary Cherry waved, and then started to go. "Oh, and Spam, I like those shockingly well-defined calves your sportin' these days."

Brooke looked at Sam's legs for a moment before turning to follow Mary Cherry away from the pool.

"Brooke, can I talk to you for a second?" Sam hurriedly asked before Brooke had a chance to escape.

Brooke stopped and half-turned back towards Sam, then looked to where Mary Cherry had picked up her shopping bags and was leaving the backyard without a backward glance. Sam saw that she had no excuse for leaving now. Brooke reluctantly walked back to where Sam was sitting and stood before her, her arms crossed over her chest. Brooke's posture wasn't exactly screaming 'uncomfortable,' but it wasn't using its indoor voice either.

"What is it, Sam?"

Now that she had Brooke's full attention, Sam didn't know what to say. "How was the sale?" she asked lamely.

Brooke's brow furrowed in confusion. "It was fine." She looked away. "Actually it wasn't fine. I got the date wrong and it was the last day of the sale instead of the first day, so there wasn't much of anything left. Didn't stop Mary Cherry from buying up half the place, though."

"Oh." Sam frantically wracked her brain for something else to say. When she couldn't come up with anything, she watched Brooke as she turned to go again. She sat up and leaned forward. "I don't want to fight with you anymore," she said in a rush, and a little more loudly then she intended.

Right away Brooke turned, stepping closer to Sam's chair, and immediately replied. "I don't want to fight anymore, either," she said earnestly. "I don't even know why we're fighting."

"Me neither. We were getting along so well there for such a good long while," Sam said, sadly, and a bit guiltily. She knew that most of the blame rested on her shoulders.

"Why do we?" Brooke asked, bewildered. "Argue, I mean," she clarified. She sat down on a neighboring lounge and looked at Sam, waiting for an answer.

Sam shrugged. "Actually, I don't think we argue that much. It's just all the tense, long drawn out silences that last for days afterwards that really get me down." She had a proposal for Brooke. "Do you think we could, I don't know, start over, or something? We only have a few weeks before we both leave, and I, for one, would be much happier if we weren't at each other's throats the whole time."

"I'd like that," Brooke smiled hesitantly and sat back on the chaise, her body going limp.

They sat in silence for a little while, unsure how to pick up the strands of their friendship.

Then Sam noticed Brooke looking at her legs. "Don't look, I know how bad it is. The worst is the line right below my ankles." Sam pointed to where her tan started above the place where she was usually wearing sneakers. It looked like she was wearing little white socks.

"Yeah, it's pretty bad," Brooke agreed, grinning. "But Mary Cherry is right, your legs are so toned," she said wonderingly. "Have you been going to the gym?"

"No, I've been riding my bike to work."

"I thought you were taking the bus."

"I do, sometimes," Sam explained, "but I like riding my bike. Sometimes I just get in the zone and the hour just flies by and I'm home in no time."

"It takes an hour?"

"Almost. More like forty minutes now. In the beginning it took longer."

"So all of those times when you come home late you're riding your bike in the dark?" Brooke looked at her with dismay.

"Most of the way is well lit. And I bought this really geeky jacket that has reflectory stuff all over it," Sam explained, a little defensively. "And sometimes I get a ride with Lily."

"I would have given you a ride whenever you asked," Brooke declared. "Or you could have borrowed my car. It's not like I've been doing anything besides sitting on my ass all summer."

"That's not true," Sam protested. "You take care of Mac all the time. You must be saving Mom and Mike a fortune in child care."

"They're paying me, Sam," Brooke said dryly.

"Oh." Sam said. "Then I should have been getting rides from you. You haven't been doing anything but sitting on your ass all summer," she kidded, smiling. She had been too proud to ask Brooke or her mother or Mike for rides to work. Looking back now, she thought it was probably pretty stupid of her. "Can I have a ride tomorrow?" she asked cheekily.

"Sure," Brooke smiled. "I think I'll go put on my bathing suit. Are you going to be down here for awhile?"

Sam nodded.

"Good. Do you need anything while I'm inside?" Brooke asked as she got up.

"A bucket of Crisco," Sam said matter-of-factly.

Brooke laughed as she went inside, and Sam thought it was nice to hear it again.

That went well, Sam thought, smiling with relief. She was honestly happy that it looked like they would be able to get along. She would simply push any inappropriate thoughts that sprung up to the back of her brain. She could do this.

Brooke returned with bottled water and a bowl of grapes. She settled down in the chair next to Sam, stretching like a cat with contentment.

"So, how's Harrison?" Sam asked conversationally. "I haven't seen him around, lately."

"You haven't seen anyone around lately. You're too busy selling CD's and riding your bike," Brooke remarked, not unkindly "He's fine. He's playing a lot of golf lately, trying to get as much in while he can."

"Really? That's fascinating. I've always found golf to be the most interest…zzzz," Sam pretended to fall asleep mid-sentence. "What is it with men and golf? It's not even a sport. It's just an excuse for guys to walk around and talk smack, just like a bunch of old biddies gossiping on the porch."

Brooke laughed. "Not to mention the fashions. There's entirely too much plaid going on in that sport for my taste. And sweater vests," she added with a shudder. Then Brooke turned serious. "I'm breaking up with him."

Sam looked at Brooke, listening. She couldn't help remembering the last time Brooke had said this.

"I should have done it months ago. But it just kind of gathered its own momentum, and it became easier to stay together, rather than trying to stop the boulder rolling down the hill."

"You're not happy?" Sam asked.

"It's more like I'm not anything. He's just become routine. When he's not around, I don't miss him. I don't get butterflies in my stomach anymore when I'm with him, my heart doesn't even beat faster when we kiss." She looked at Sam, "Was that too much information?"

Sam shrugged noncommittally. She had been there. "That's kind of what happened with me and Gavin, except I think it was mutual. We just kind of fizzled out. But I don't think that Harrison feels the same way you do."

"I know he doesn't," Brooke agreed, a pained look on her face. "I'm such a procrastinator." She looked at Sam. "You and Gavin seemed so good together."

Sam grimaced. It was so clear now why they hadn't worked out. She had never been one to discuss her relationship to death with others, preferring to keep things private, but Brooke looked extremely curious. It would make a good opening for coming out, she mused, but she was too chickenshit. "We just weren't compatible," was all she said.

Brooke looked dubious at the vague non-answer, so Sam threw another tidbit out there.

"Plus, the sex wasn't what I hoped it would be."

Brooke looked taken aback. Now who's giving out too much information, Sam thought, irked at herself. Why did I say that?

"That's a shame," Brooke said sincerely. "I figured you and Gavin were…" She hesitated.

"Sleeping together?"

Brooke nodded. "I guess intimacy can ruin a relationship just as easily as strengthening it."

Sam nodded. Truer words were never spoken, Brooke, she thought.

The conversation hit a lull, as both girls became lost in their own thoughts. Then Brooke looked at the large envelope and assorted papers in Sam's lap. "What's all that?"

"Stuff from Northwestern. Would you believe I have homework already?" Sam went on to explain about the assigned reading, enthusiastically geeking out about Plato. "It was nothing like I thought it would be, I really enjoyed it. If you have some time, you could read it, if you want." Sam handed over the booklet for Brooke to look at.

"Thanks," Brooke leafed through the pages. "I will."

"I mean, you don't have to if you don't want to," Sam quickly said, afraid she had made it impossible for Brooke to say no.

"I want to," Brooke assured her, smiling. She picked up the book that had lain untouched next to Sam's chair all afternoon. "What else are you reading?"

Sam held her breath as Brooke perused the book jacket and read the blurb inside the cover. It was one of Hopey's, The Well of Loneliness. A landmark of lesbian literature, it was written in the 1920's and was the first book to portray a lesbian theme, and was the subject of a notorious obscenity trial back in its time. Sam was enjoying the story, but ultimately, the self-hating and melodramatic heroine was someone with whom she could not identify. "It's pretty good," Sam said, "but I can't really relate."

"Well, why would you?" Brooke asked sensibly. "It's about a bunch of old-timey lesbians in war-torn England."

Sam could have let this pass, but she was tired of evading the issue. She had let her first chance go by, she was going to take this one. Coming out to her mother had shown her that the world wouldn't end if she cracked open the carapace she had been wearing all summer and let out some of the things she had been holding within herself. Regardless of how Brooke would respond, Sam had to tell her.

"That's not really what I mean," Sam began. "The characters in that book are filled with self-loathing and despair because they feel that they have been marked with some kind of otherness that they can't accept in themselves. I haven't felt that way at all since I discovered that I'm gay." She watched Brooke closely for her reaction.

Brooke's head had been lowered, as she had been studying the cover of the book, but it snapped up when she heard what Sam said. "Are you serious?"

Sam looked into Brooke's eyes, hoping that the gravity in her expression would be enough to answer the question. Who would joke about something like this? Brooke was searching her face for a sign of, what? Sam didn't know. She resisted the urge to fill the silence with explanations, to start babbling away with any words she could think of to say. Instead she just stared back at Brooke, and waited while realization sunk in across her features. It was as if all the clocks in Los Angeles had stopped while Sam waited for Brooke to say something.

At last, Brooke tore her eyes away from Sam's and looked at the azure water of the pool. "Well, that's certainly a contributing factor as to why things didn't work out with Gavin," she said.

Sam barked out a laugh. It wasn't funny, but it was so totally not what she had ever expected Brooke to say. Brooke looked back at her, and her confused expression just sent Sam over the edge. She was gripped by gales of laughter so fierce, she could barely speak. "Yes," she wheezed, "I suppose," between bouts of laughter, "it is."

She saw Brooke crack a tentative grin at Sam's uncontained fit of giggles. Sam could only shake her head helplessly and wipe the tears from her eyes while the laughter controlled her. This is ridiculous, she thought; pull yourself together. She made a Herculean effort to gather her wits and apologized. "I'm so sorry Brooke," she apologized breathlessly. "You must think I'm crazy, besides being gay. I think it was just a nervous reaction."

"Okay," Brooke said carefully, justifiably acting like she was dealing with a mental patient.

Sam smiled ruefully. "Let me try that again. It's only the second time I've come out to anyone, so pardon my inexperience. Yes, I'm gay. I realized it earlier this summer, I've come to be pretty happy about it, and it was time to finally come clean."

"I'm happy for you, Sam, if you're happy," Brooke said, seriously. "When did you know? How did you know? Are you seeing anyone? Do you have a girlfriend?"

Sam sobered at the barrage of questions. She should have been prepared for them, but she wasn't. How could she answer honestly without telling Brooke how she felt about her? She was silent.

"Oh! I totally get it!" Brooke slapped her hand to her forehead, then looked at Sam knowingly.

"You do?" Sam asked fearfully.

"All those extra hours working at Kranky's, my ass," Brooke crowed. "You were out with your girlfriend, weren't you? I knew it! I knew you were up to something besides work."

Sam simply stared at Brooke, astonished at her exultant attitude. She wasn't aware that Brooke had been keeping tabs on her comings and goings.

"So who is she, Sammy? Anyone I know?" Brooke asked lightheartedly, now curious.

Sam was somewhat disconcerted, although grateful too, to find that Brooke had passed right over the surprise and shock stage and had gone directly to prurient interest. It was almost as if her sexuality was a non-issue. She now felt better equipped to deflect Brooke's questions.

Sam picked up a grape and threw it at Brooke. "None of your beeswax, McQueen." Sam snickered when she saw the grape bounce off Brooke's forehead and land in her lap.

"Nuh Uh, Sam" Brooke scooped up the grape and beaned Sam in the neck with it. "You've been an absentee stepsister all summer, and now you have to pay. With details."

"My, my, it certainly is a scorcher today," Sam fanned herself with her hand and grinned at Brooke, "I think I need to cool off." With that she leapt from her chair and dove into the pool.

"Hey, wait, no fair," Brooke complained, although Sam couldn't hear her.

Sam moved under the water, the only sound was the rush of blood in her ears, and the beat of her heart. That was one way to escape the inquisition, she thought wryly. But she had to come up for air sometime. And she had instigated this herself by making her announcement to Brooke. Sam decided that if Brooke persisted in this line of questioning, she would tell her about Grace. After all, she may not have been the defining lesbian experience for Sam, but she was a legitimate experience none-the-less. And Sam could just vague up the details if need be. She felt bad for using Grace this way, even though the girl would never know it, and felt even worse when she remembered that the matchbook had gone through the wash and she now had no way of getting in touch with her.

She broke the surface at the far end of the pool, to find Brooke standing over her, hands on hips.

"You didn't think it was going to be that easy?" she smirked.

"I'm not telling you anything unless you get in the pool," Sam stalled. Then she made a lunge for Brooke's ankle, even though she would never pull Brooke in.

"Whoa! Okay, I'll do it myself." Brooke stepped back from the edge and started walking around to the shallow end.

Sam turned her back to the pool wall and propped her arms on the pool's edge, dangling herself in the water as she watched Brooke walk around the perimeter of the pool. She allowed herself to really look at Brooke for the first time in a long time. Her simple black bikini showed off her lithe body to extreme advantage, and the even tan she had acquired over the summer just improved upon perfection. It's no wonder I have it so bad for you, she thought.

"Sam, are you checking me out?"

Sam raised her eyes to Brooke's face and saw that Brooke had caught her looking, her features composed in a sly smile. Snagged.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a newfound appreciation for the female form," Sam evaded answering the question outright, then ducked under the water, effectively ending conversation for a few moments at least. She swam underwater towards the shallow end, and saw Brooke's legs and torso appear incrementally as Brooke made her way down the semi-circular steps that led into the pool.

When she came up for air and turned around, she saw Brooke doing an efficient crawl across the pool. Sam stood up and leaned against the pool's edge and let the sun warm her face and upper body, watching as Brooke executed a passable kick turn and started back towards her. When Brooke touched the wall at the shallow end, she dipped her head back and smoothed her hair, breathing heavily. She moved to the steps and parked herself on the third one down, the water line hitting her at just above her breasts.

"Okay, details," Brooke slapped the water by her side, indicating that Sam should sit next to her.

Sam made a big show of splashing over to where Brooke was seated. She told Brooke a tale that included an elaboration on how she genuinely felt about her new chosen lifestyle, a physical description of Grace, and a changed timeline regarding when and how she had met her fictitious girlfriend. She spoke honestly and from her heart about the awakening she had when she had kissed Brooke, only she substituted Grace's name, speaking slowly and deliberately, not wanting to let anything slip. She ended the story with the news that she and Grace had broken off their "relationship" last week when Sam had come home late and had been grounded. Sam didn't want to be forced to produce this figment of her imagination; she could just see Brooke suggesting that Sam bring her girlfriend home for dinner.

Sam felt awful. She never knew she had such a facility for lying; she ought to consider a career in writing fiction, she thought disgustedly. The lies actually manifested in a bad taste in her mouth, like ashes. She sunk below the surface and took some chlorinated pool water into her mouth, welcoming the chemical taste. Here she was trying to be honest about her life, and she ended up telling more lies than ever. But she truly felt that if Brooke knew where her real feelings were directed, she would forever lose the fragile friendship they had just begun rebuilding.

Brooke elicited an appropriate amount of sympathy over Sam's breakup, and put her arm around Sam's shoulders. Sam shivered at the contact, but couldn't look at Brooke. She wondered if she owed it to Brooke to just confess her feelings, consequences be damned. Maybe it would be better than all of these untruths. No. They were stepsisters; it was just too weird. This was for the best.

"I'm sorry things didn't work out with her. You'll find someone better; I just know it," Brooke said reassuringly. "I don't give a flying fig which gender you like, as long as you're happy. You deserve to be happy," she finished, kindly.

Sam chanced a look at Brooke's face and saw only concern and warmth there. She smiled. "Well, I'm at a loss, I don't know what a flying fig is."

Brooke nudged her in the shoulder, grinning, but remained serious. "I'm honored that you told me, Sam. Who was the first person you told? Lily?"


"How'd she take it?"

"Pretty well, considering she thought I was about to get sent to the big house for whacking somebody," Sam replied.

"What do you mean?" Brooke's expression changed before her eyes to the confused face that had caused her such mirth earlier.

Sam laughed a little. "Nothing. Never mind. She took it really well. Very supportive, it couldn't have gone better."

"Doesn't surprise me. Your mom is the best."

"Yeah." Sam should have been happy that Brooke had responded so well to her news, and she was. She just had never thought that it would be such an empty happiness.

"So, you're gay now," Brooke mused.

Sam tried to drag herself up and out of her somber mood. "Yep, it's true. All gay, all the time, twenty-four, seven. Sun-gay through Satur-gay. I've tested positive for the presence of gay," she joked.

"Does this mean you'll be cooking lentils to take to pot luck dinners, and wearing flannel every chance you get, and spelling woman w-o-m-y-n?" Brooke asked with a mischievous grin.

"Hey," Sam protested with a small smile. "I may be gay but I'm not that gay."

"Aw, Sammy, you're our little gay of sunshine," Brooke giggled, squeezing Sam's shoulder.

"Well, I've got to make gay while the sun shines," Sam returned, a real smile creasing her features.

"You could be the mayor of the town of Gay-ville, in the great state of Gay-ifornia," Brooke swung, and missed.

Sam rolled her eyes but gamely continued, "I'm the quarterback of the Green Gay Packers."

"You're a Gaylord in the Knights of the Gay Table," Brooke liked that one.

Sam groaned.

"Your favorite movie is To Live and Die in L Gay, or is it Gays of Thunder?" Brooke grinned and rubbed her chin comically.

"Ew, I hate Tom Cruise!" Sam objected, giggling. "No, it's Groundhog Gay."

"I thought it was Gay it Forward. No, no, wait, it's Remains of the Gay." Brooke cackled.

"Ha! No, it's Gay Anything. 'I gave her my heart and she gave me a gay,'" Sam quoted, holding her sides and gasping for breath.

"The Unbearable Lightness of Being Gay, starring Daniel Gay Lewis," Brooke hardly got it out for laughing so hard.

By this time, the pair was doubled over, leaning on each other for support, and splashing each other as they tried to regain their composure. Every time one of them would get control of themselves, the other would break forth in a renewed fit of giggles, and so it went until the sun started to go down, and they were as wrinkly as two old prunes.

Sam couldn't remember the last time she had been so silly and laughed so hard, she was grateful to Brooke for giving her her laughter back. She didn't think it was possible for her to love Brooke more than she did at this moment. As they wrapped themselves in towels and collected their things, Sam stopped and simply said, "Thank you, Brooke."

"Anytime, Sam," Brooke replied, not really knowing what she was being thanked for.

She couldn't resist one last attempt as they walked to the house together. "Hey, waiter, there's a gay in my soup."

"Ugh, Brooke, that was so lame."


Part 7

Brooke sat on her bed, flowery wrapping paper spread out before her. She was wrapping a going away present for Sam. She had spent a long time trying to think of a good gift, but in the end had gone with something prosaic and slightly egotistical. She had looked through her photographs and found the best one of the two of them. It had been taken last year after they had met Wanda Ricketts and had sat outside the school eating pie. Brooke thought they both looked good in the photo; they both seemed happy to be in each other's company. A sterling silver frame completed the gift. She put the present in a gift bag along with one of the many gray Stanford t-shirts she had bought on her last visit to the campus, thinking she would give Sam the bag at the airport tomorrow.

The three weeks since Sam had declared her change in sexual preference had been among the smoothest in the sometimes-rocky history they shared. She thought Sam had become much more relaxed and cheerful since making her disclosure, even though it appeared to Brooke that she was still hurting over her breakup with the girl who had broken her heart. She would sometimes look at Sam and see a wistful faraway expression in her eyes.

Sam's becoming a lesbian was something Brooke had never seen coming, and was a path that she couldn't ever see choosing for herself, but she figured love made one do some pretty funny things. The words Sam had used to express the feelings she had when she kissed that girl for the first time had made Brooke feel envious. None of the boys she had dated had made her feel anything like what Sam had described. She briefly thought of the kiss she and Sam had shared the night of the graduation party. Sam liked kissing girls now, she thought, but she didn't like kissing me. Brooke felt an irrational stab of hurt go through her. What was she thinking? She wasn't gay, and the stepsister thing was just…ew. Personally, she thought Sam's ex must be some kind of idiot. Sam was a great girl, a real catch.

Brooke had bent over backwards to be nice to Sam, and made an effort to spend as much time with her as she could, so Sam wouldn't have time to brood. But it still seemed like Sam was holding her at arm's length a little bit, and Brooke couldn't figure that out. It wasn't anything she could put her finger on, and she would be hard pressed to come up with an example of it, it was just a vibe she was getting from Sam.

Other than that, things were great. They were spending a lot of time together as a family, too. She had seen Jane surreptitiously wipe a tear from her eye one day last week when, after a marathon game of Monopoly, Sam had whooped in triumph and thrown all the bank money in the air when she had crushed Mike, her most worthy opponent, who had hung in there long after Brooke and Jane had ceded defeat. When Brooke had asked her for the secret to her game-playing success, Sam had simply said, "Trust in the top hat," and nodded sagely, like she was Yoda or something. Brooke grinned at the memory.

They had finally watched Glitter, and had inevitably found much to make fun of, as well as other movies that were ripe for the snarking. It had become one of Brooke's favorite pastimes, sitting in the darkened living room beside Sam, one of them making some comment that would set them off, and then having to pause the movie lest they miss some other feeble line or horrible wardrobe choice because they were laughing too hard.

They went shopping for school stuff together, and had each tried to help the other sort through their belongings and decide what was necessary for dorm life. They had shared the emails they had each received from their future roommates and pored over every line, parsing the comments for signs of an impending freakshow, wondering whom they were destined to be living with. Sam had said that after Brooke, living with anyone else would be cake, but Brooke knew it was only a joke. Mac had also benefited from their renewed closeness, as Sam now helped baby-sit whenever she wasn't at Kranky's these days. All the good times they had been having just hammered home to Brooke how much she would miss Sam.

Sam was expecting a ride from her, on this, her last day at Kranky's, but Brooke thought she should make sure Sam hadn't made any last minute changes in her plan. Picking up the phone and dialing Sam's cell, Brooke heard the shrill ring tone echoing in Sam's room next door. Honestly, why did she even have a phone if she never had it with her, Brooke thought, exasperated. She used her phone constantly, and couldn't imagine leaving the house without it. Her father had gotten a good deal on a family plan a while ago, and Brooke had been psyched to receive the new phone, but she remembered that Sam had merely thanked Mike and went back to whatever book she had been reading. She decided to leave a message anyway in case Sam checked her voicemail from the store.

"Hi, it's Brooke. I was calling to see if you still wanted me to pick you up at five, but your phone is here. So if you check your voicemail," she trailed off. Then she somehow found herself adding to the message. "Anyway, Sam, I just wanted to say how glad I was that we patched things up. I've really had fun hanging out with you these last few weeks. I'm going to miss you, and I hope we can still be close, even though we'll be far apart. I know we've had our ups and downs, but I think that you're really great, and I think you are going to do well at school and everything. I really love you, Sam, um, like in a sisterly way. I think you may be the best friend I've ever had." She paused again. "Well, if your plans change, call me back. Bye."

Brooke put the phone down and looked at it for a moment. That was a bit much. She collected the wrapping paper and scissors from the bed and started downstairs. As she passed by Sam's room, she stopped, and bit her lip. Coming to a decision, she entered the room, now looking barren with most of Sam's personal stuff packed and sent off to her school already. Sam's phone was sitting in its charger on her desk, and Brooke picked it up and dialed the voice mail access number. She waited until she heard herself say "Hi, it's Brooke…" and then pressed seven for delete.

Sam stood on the longest line at Mr. Cluck's because it was the one where Lily was behind the register. She was on her lunch break from Kranky's and was changing up the tradition a little. Many times over the summer, Sam had come to Mr. Cluck's after her shift and spent her evening hanging out and talking with Lily during the lulls. But she saw that Lily wasn't very surprised to be seeing her in the daylight, she knew that Sam was leaving tomorrow for Chicago.

"The usual, Ms. McPherson?" Lily asked as she slapped a tray on the countertop and put a placemat on it.

"Yes, please, Mrs. Ford," Sam replied grinning. "You have a break coming up, right?"

"Yeah, in five minutes," Lily put a Chicken Caesar Salad and a diet Coke on Sam's tray, and Sam retreated to the dining area.

"So how many days left?" Sam asked when Lily joined her at her usual table in the back.

Lily sat down wearily and sipped from her soda. She had long since passed the point where she could actually stomach any of the food that Mr. Cluck's served. "Seven."

Josh and Lily would be attending UCLA. Lily had worked very hard to secure on-campus couples housing for Josh and herself, and had lined up work-study jobs for the two of them as part of their financial aid package. Seven was the number of days before the semester started, until they moved out of her mother's house, and Lily's last day at Mr. Cluck's. Excited didn't even come close to describing Lily's state of mind.

"How about you? Excited? Nervous? Sad? Scared? What?" Lily asked.

"All of the above," Sam replied. "But I didn't come here to talk about school."

Lily raised her eyebrows in inquiry.

Sam was getting good at having this conversation. "I have something to tell you. I have been going through some personal stuff this summer and I wanted to tell you," she hesitated, and then continued, "that I'm gay."

"Well it's about time," was all Lily said.

Sam was floored. "You knew?" She watched Lily nod, a smile on her face. "How?"

"Have you forgotten that I've had my own struggles with sexuality, Sam?" she asked. "You have sat here in that seat, night after night this summer, reading the official lesbian coming out reading list. I read a few of those books myself, dork," she said affectionately.

"Why didn't you say anything?" Sam was still shocked.

"Because it's not my place to confront you about it," Lily explained. "When you were ready, you would share. I'm glad you didn't do it in an email or over the phone from Chicago. Time was seriously running out."

"You're so smucking fart, Lily," Sam grinned.

"I do have a question for you, though," Lily said. "What happened to make you start thinking about it?"

"There was a little incident that I had with another girl," Sam said vaguely. "It kind of changed my whole entire life."

"Was it Brooke? At Sugar Daddy's party? I didn't see the game, but I heard about it," Lily asked shrewdly.

"No, it absolutely was not Brooke," Sam hotly denied. It was like Lily had thought about all of this beforehand, and was ready to fire away.

"Okay, okay," Lily backed off. "I'm just saying that if you are crushing on Brooke, maybe you should tell her."

"I'm not," Sam repeated with finality. Then she looked uncertain. "Lil, I'm not hot for Brooke, but what if, in some crazy bizarro and totally hypothetical world where nonsensical things happen as a matter of course, I was. Why should I tell her?"

"Don't you want to know if there is the slightest chance that she could like you back?" Lily asked, reasonably. "Even if she doesn't, and laughs in your face, at least you tried. Then you'll know, and you can move on. It takes two to tango, Sam, and from what I heard, you two could move to Argentina and enter contests."

Sam flushed crimson. "But in the crazy hypothetical world, as well as in this one, isn't the whole stepsister issue kind of hard to overlook?" she asked tentatively.

Lily shrugged, unconcerned. "It's not like you're related by blood."

Sam didn't say anything for a few minutes. It was impossible. Brooke didn't even lean that way. And she didn't think she'd be able to take it if Brooke laughed in her face. She would rather not know. God, she was such a pussy. If she couldn't sack up and let Brooke know how she felt then she deserved whatever she got, or didn't get, in this case. Looking steadily at Lily, she said, "Well, that would certainly be a tough situation if I was in love with Brooke."

"I guess it would be," Lily said, carefully, looking sadly at Sam.

Sam was extremely grateful to Lily for keeping up her tattered charade, the girl was a good friend, and she was going to miss her incredibly. She looked at her watch and saw that she was already late in getting back to work, but what were they going to do? Fire her? It was her last day.

"It's such a relief to have told you, Lil. Now I have to tell Carmen."

"Oh, she knows," Lily said casually, then looked askance at Sam. "I didn't tell her, Ray did."

"God. The guy never opens his mouth, yet he manages to spill my secrets," Sam said, indignant. She had known that Hopey and Ray had discussed her, but she didn't know that Carmen knew. So Carmen and Lily had obviously discussed this, she finally grasped. Whatever. It didn't even matter.

Now comes the hard part. Sam stood up and opened her arms to hug Lily. "I know you are going to do great, Lily. You and Josh are really on your way, now."

"You, too, Sammy. I'm looking forward to seeing your by-line in the L.A. Times one of these days," Lily let Sam go, and watched as she threw away her trash and headed for the door. "You better keep in touch, Sam," she called after her.

Sam turned around and said, "I will. You better too."

Brooke usually found Sam waiting outside whenever she came to pick her up, but she was a few minutes early, so she parked the car and went inside the store. She saw Sam in the back of the store, helping a customer in the Show Tunes section. After Sam located the desired disc for the customer, she saw Brooke and smiled.

"Hi," Sam said, steering Brooke in the direction of the front counter. "I just want to say goodbye to a few people and then we can go." She turned her attention to one of her colleagues at the register. "Hey, Dan, have you seen Ray?"

Dan frowned. "I think he left," he said.

"He left?" Sam was distressed.

Dan shrugged.


Brooke turned to see a woman approaching who could have stepped from the pages of a rock music magazine, a magazine like Rolling Stone but ten times cooler. Brooke thought she exuded a mellow yet edgy sensibility, if that were at all possible. She was kind of intimidating.

"Hopey," Sam said, "I was just about to get going. Oh, this is my stepsister, Brooke, by the way. Brooke, this is Hopey, my boss."

Hopey turned her gaze to Brooke with interest. She held out her hand and Brooke shook it. "It's nice to meet you." Then she looked at Sam again. "We just got the new U2 in. Do you think you could put it out on the floor before you go? Everybody else seems to be busy right now."

"Um, sure," Sam said uncertainly. "I'll be right back, Brooke, this shouldn't take long."

Brooke glared at Hopey. Who did this Joan Jett wannabe think she was? Sam had worked her ass off for her all summer, and now she was squeezing every last drop of work out of her before she left. Rude much? She didn't care if it did look like Hopey, what kind of name was that anyway, could pound her into the ground, she was going to give her a piece of her mind.

But Hopey was looking at her, an amused expression on her face. "I'm not really a slave driver," she said, "Just wait." And she nodded towards the door to the back room, where Sam was entering.

Brooke heard many voices raised in a muffled shout of "Surprise!" When she turned back to Hopey she saw the woman had broken out into a full-blown grin.

"Come on back," she said to Brooke, "we're celebrating." Then she turned to Dan. "I'll send someone out to relieve you in a few minutes, Dan. Can you handle it out here?"

"No problem," Dan said. "Save me a piece of cake."

Brooke stood in the backroom, surrounded by the detritus of old promotional campaigns and almost the entire staff of Kranky's, in front of a large cutout standup display of the Backstreet Boys, circa Millennium, that had been defaced to near unrecognizability. Music was playing and there was lots of animated conversation and laughter. She watched as person after person congratulated Sam, and thought Sam herself looked a little dazed by the attention. She saw Sam beam when a tall platinum blonde guy approached her and produced a stack of what appeared to be homemade CD's, which he then handed to her. Sam flipped through them, visibly moved. It didn't look like a word had passed between the two of them, as Brooke watched Sam throw her arms around the man and hug him for a long time.

"Hey, Brooke."

Brooke turned to see Carmen standing next to her. "Carmen, hi, what are you doing here?" she asked, surprised.

"Ray told me about the surprise party for Sam," Carmen disclosed. "I'm crashing." At Brooke's blank look, she pointed out the blonde fellow. "That's Ray. He and Sam have been shift partners all summer, they've gotten pretty close. Sam introduced us, and now Ray and I have gotten pretty close, too," she grinned.

"Oh," Brooke was a bit overwhelmed by the sudden awareness of this other part of Sam's life that she had known nothing about. Sam was obviously well loved here at Kranky's, she thought, as she watched Hopey join Sam and Ray and start talking with both of them. It was like they were a family, the way they were treating each other with such warmth and gladness. She was suddenly struck by the fact that all these people had probably seen more of Sam this summer than she had. These people seemed to know Sam better than Brooke knew her herself, she thought, as she watched Sam burst out laughing at something Hopey said, then look quickly at Ray to see what his reaction would be.

There were entire sections of Sam's life, big sections, Brooke realized, that were closed to her. Her job and the people she knew here at the record store, for one thing, and her new gay life, for another. That Brooke would not be a part of Sam's college life, either, filled her with something akin to desolation. She wondered how well she really knew her stepsister, anyway. Brooke thought she knew everything there was to know about Sam, after all, how much could you hide from someone who lives in the same house as you? But she was wrong, she thought. It made her feel kind of empty, for some reason. Was it her fault? Had she been oblivious to what Sam had tried to show her? Or did Sam deliberately hide large portions of herself from view.

"Look at her, Carmen, she looks so happy," Brooke said pensively

"Yeah, but I bet she's a little bit sad, too," Carmen replied. "I think she's really going to miss this place. And I know they are going to miss her. Ray thinks the sun shines out of her butt. It's kind of annoying, actually."

Brooke nodded morosely, feeling happy for Sam, but a little bewildered too.

It was still supposed to be business as usual at the record store, so the party didn't last very long. Ray and Carmen had taken off, after Carmen had said her own goodbye to Sam, and now Hopey was walking Sam and Brooke to the car.

"It's going to be tough not seeing your face around here, Samantha. It's also going to be a lot harder for these slackers to find someone to take a shift now that you're leaving," Hopey said, smiling. "I bet you're going to miss your stepsister too, right Brooke?"

"No, Brooke is going to take Stanford by storm. You're looking at the next Big Woman on Campus, she won't have time to miss me," Sam answered, self-deprecatingly.

"Somehow I doubt that," Hopey returned.

They had reached the car, and Sam turned to Hopey and hugged her fiercely. "Thanks Hopey, for everything," she said, "I couldn't have made it through this summer without you."

What was that supposed to mean, Brooke wondered.

"Anytime. Come back and see us sometime," Hopey replied.

"I will." Sam said with emotion.

Sam had tears in her eyes, Brooke noticed with shock. In her experience, Sam was not a crier.

As Brooke turned the car out of the parking lot she said, "That was nice. They sure do like you."

"Yeah, I guess," Sam replied absently, smiling faintly in her direction.

Then Brooke quietly said, "I am, you know."

"You are, what?" Sam asked, as she turned away from Brooke in her seat for a last look at Kranky's.

"Going to miss you," Brooke elaborated.

"I know," Sam sighed. "And I'm going to miss you, too," she said, but she was still looking out the window, and didn't turn to face Brooke. They rode the rest of the way home in silence.

Sam was walking determinedly down the concourse at LAX, five paces in front of the rest of her family. The day had started on a wrong note when Mac decided to have one of those mornings, when she was happy with nothing and let everyone know it. The little girl brayed and bawled and got red in the face like she was a baseball player going nose to nose with the umpire. No one could soothe her except "Book," Mac's best friend forever and her most recently acquired word.

Then after loading the car and finally getting on the road, they had hit traffic on La Cienega, before hitting more traffic on the 405. Sam thought everything would have been easier if she could've just taken a cab, like she had suggested. And now they were all moving as if they were wearing lead boots. Were they trying to make her miss her flight, she thought in frustration.

Sam took a breath and tried to calm down. She had plenty of time. This morning had been hard. Her mother had been close to tears from the time she woke up until pretty much right now, and Mike had been quieter than usual. Mac had certainly not helped with her mood. Brooke was the only one who was acting normally, and for that, Sam was grateful. She hadn't let herself think about how she wouldn't be seeing Brooke again for months, probably.

She had finally been able to just unclench over the whole ordeal with Brooke, and had simply tried to enjoy the time she had left with her. They had so much fun these last few weeks, Sam was really sorry that she was leaving. But she thought that perhaps the reason why she had been able to enjoy Brooke's company and ignore the pangs in her heart was because it was a finite chunk of time, and she knew the moment of escape was imminent.

Things would get better. She would be far away and starting a new life without Brooke, without the impossibility of being with Brooke. She would have all sorts of new challenges and endeavors to occupy her time, and would hardly be thinking of Brooke at all. She would meet new people and make new friends, and maybe even find someone who she could love unreservedly. This was good. It was right. Now, all she wanted was to get gone.

Earlier this morning, she had gone back up to her room for one last look around, as her family was out in the driveway, stowing her suitcase and putting Mac in her car seat. There was nothing she had missed; everything had been packed away, the room as impersonal as one in a hotel, as if she would never be returning. She went down the hall and pushed Brooke's door open, standing in the doorway and surveying the controlled chaos of Brooke's yet to be completed packing job, she was leaving three days after Sam. Her eyes fell on a shaggy stuffed dog, a recent present from Harrison. For all that Brooke talked about it, she still hadn't broken up with him. Across the room in Brooke's bookcase, she saw the blue leatherette spine of her yearbook, wedged between a dog-eared copy of Bridget Jones' Diary and last spring's Vanity Fair Hollywood issue. She realized she had never signed Brooke's yearbook, and thought back to that day before graduation, before everything changed. Would she go back in time and do things differently if she could? She honestly didn't know. She had closed the door and joined her family in the car.

As she walked through the airport, she checked her watch again, then patted her jacket pockets, searching for her boarding pass. Brooke had caught up with her and tapped her on the shoulder. Sam half-turned but didn't slow down. She watched as Brooke rummaged in her bag, and pulled out the Symposium booklet that Sam would need for orientation. She had completely forgotten about it.

"Sorry I had this so long," Brooke apologized, trying to smooth the wrinkled paper and straighten the bent pages. "I put it in here the day you gave it to me, I read it weeks ago when I brought Mac to gymboree one day."

"Thanks," Sam took the booklet and shoved it in the side pocket of her messenger bag.

"I, uh, really liked what that one guy had to say, about the gods splitting everyone in two and always searching for your other half and all that," Brooke said, steering Sam out of the way of a courtesy cart that went beeping by.

Sam nodded. She couldn't believe Brooke was trying to have a discussion about Greek philosophy now. Any other time before today, and Sam would have killed to be having this conversation with Brooke, but now it was too late.

"Yeah, I liked that part as well," she said distractedly, she still hadn't found her boarding pass.

By this time they had reached the gate from where Sam's plane was departing. Her mother and Mike rolled up with Mac in her stroller, as the gate attendant called for all passengers seated in rows ten and higher. Sam finally found her boarding pass in her breast pocket, put there so she would remember where it was. She turned to see her mother barely able to contain her tears.

"Aw, Mom, don't cry," Sam pleaded, as she closed the gap between them and hugged her tight. "I'll probably be so homesick I'll have to call you everyday." She closed her eyes and basked in her mother's love for a few moments. "I love you."

"Oh, I love you, too. Call twice a day if you want to, I won't mind," Jane laughed a little, as they separated, and wiped her eyes with a tissue.

She stood on her tiptoes and gave Mike a kiss on the cheek. "Bye Mike, thanks for everything," she smiled at him. "One down, two to go."

"Good luck, Sam, be good," Mike replied, smiling, grabbing her around the shoulder in a quick hug.

Sam kneeled down in front of Mac. "Well, Mac, this is it. Lay off those hazel nut lattes, they'll make you cranky, and stunt your growth."

"Book! Book!" Mac gurgled happily, no sign now of her rotten temper.

"No, not Brooke, Sam, the cooler sister," Sam corrected, smiling. She leaned in to kiss her sister and Mac took the opportunity to grab a hunk of Sam's hair, giggling gleefully. As she tried to extricate her sister's sticky fingers from her hair, she saw Brooke go behind the stroller and retrieve something from the storage basket underneath. "Come on, Macaroni, United Airlines waits for no one," Sam said, prying herself loose.

When she stood up she saw that Brooke was holding a white gift bag with flames of purple and gold tissue paper poking out of the top. A present, Sam realized. Why hadn't she thought of that? And the purple and gold, Northwestern's school colors, was a nice touch. Brooke was such a classy girl.

"I didn't get you anything," Sam said, as she took the bag from Brooke's outstretched hands.

"It's nothing big," Brooke said shyly, "just something to remember me by."

As if I could ever forget you, Sam thought. "Thanks."

"I know you'll do great, Sam," Brooke continued awkwardly. "Good luck."

"Yes, you too, good luck." What more was there to say after that? Stay tough, she thought, don't start crying now. It was time for the Government Sanctioned Officially Permissible Stepsister Hug. Sam put the bag down on the floor and wiped her palms on her thighs. They approached each other and embraced, but Sam didn't let it become one of those insincere hugs where the two people looked like the capital letter A, only touching at the shoulders. She pulled Brooke to her at the waist, so that they were connected from shoulder to thigh, and Brooke's arms tightened around her neck.

To Sam, it felt like one of Zeus's own lightning bolts had struck them, not breaking them apart, but fusing them together in a warmth that was both new and familiar at the same time. Four arms, four legs, two faces. She closed her eyes and breathed in, trying to burn this moment onto her senses. She knew Brooke. She was written indelibly on her soul. Sam knew Brooke in the same way that her blood knew how to get from her heart to her brain.

"My other half," she murmured mournfully into Brooke's shoulder, sending it out into the world as an appeal, or a request, or a plea to Aristophanes, or Zeus, or whomever was in charge on this particular day.

"What?" Brooke asked.

Sam stepped back and looked into Brooke's slightly dilated and unfocused eyes. "Nothing. We're sisters. We're friends." It would have to be enough.

"Yes." Brooke answered, her eyes clearing but expressing confusion.

Sam heard the gate attendant announcing the last call for passengers and stumbled backwards, looking at her entire family. The corners of her mouth turned upward in a reasonable facsimile of a smile and she waved, and turned to go, heedlessly forgetting the gift bag on the floor at Brooke's feet.

Don't look back, she thought, as she handed her boarding pass to the attendant and disappeared down the Jetway and into the hopeful ambiguity of her future. Her new life was waiting.

Here's where I stand
Here's who I am
Love me, but don't tell me who I have to be
Here's who I am, I'm what you see

Here's where I stand
Here's who I am
Help me to move on but please don't tell me how
I'm on my way, I'm movin' now

- Michael Gore & Lynn Ahrens
   "Here's Where I Stand"

The End

Sequel The Mercy of the Fallen

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