Apologies: Ha, found it! The book i stole some of the plot from was Ice Wind and Fire, by Mel Keegan... yes, this just happened to be dropped in the return slot at a university library.
Summary: Sam and Brooke haven't spoken for three years, but Brooke is finally graduating from college, and that is about to change. At least if porcupines and terrorists have anything to say about it, it will.
Sam closed her eyes and let herself breathe in Brooke’s scent. She was amazing. Sam hadn’t been unconscious for nearly as long, but she had spent the whole time panicking. She had checked Brooke’s breathing, but her limp form looked so much like how Sam had imagined her dead. After the 2 am phone call Sam had imagined her dead so many times. She had dreamed the entire scene from Brooke’s point of view: desperate, calling for help, only to be cursed at and left to die by the person she trusted to save her from herself.
And now here she was, curled up against her shoulder. She had been angry when they first ran into each other, but Sam hadn’t exactly been welcoming. And she hadn’t been angry enough.
“Why don’t you hate me?” Sam mumbled.
She felt Brooke stir against her side. “What?” Her voice was foggy.
“Don’t sleep! You might have a concussion,” Sam snapped, and then flinched as she felt the gaping hole in her face open up.
Brooke groaned. “Even if I don’t, I have a killer headache, and you being nasty to me isn’t helping.”
Sam swallowed, and said in a quieter voice. “Sorry. I only have two tones right now.”
“Snap and whimper?”
“Yeah,” Sam sighed, and leaned back against Brooke. “I am sorry for getting you into this.”
“Comes with the job.” Brooke smiled. “Even if it is my first day.”
“How on earth did you become a news photographer?” That wasn’t the question Sam really wanted answered, but this would do for now. If she was going to keep Brooke awake all night they had plenty of time. “Weren’t you pre-law?”
Brooke sighed and pulled away from her. Sam missed her warmth. “You know about my nervous breakdown.”
Sam grumbled acquiescence. Nervous breakdown, anorexia relapse, attempted suicide, whatever you wanted to call it.
“I wasn’t dealing well with my classes.” Brooke tried to shrug, but winced. “Stanford isn’t high school. You know that. I bet Yale was the same. It’s like filling a whole school with the top five percent of students, and unlike you, I’m not the top of the top.”
Sam snorted. “Top of the top? Are you kidding me?”
“You didn’t have these problems. You were doing fine. You couldn’t shut up about the paper, about your journalism classes.”
“It was hard for me too. And I didn’t-“ Sam shut her mouth. “The paper wasn’t very competitive, just enthusiastic. They were a good support.”
“Well, cheerleading wasn’t like that. I didn’t even make the team.” Brooke smirked. “A blessing in disguise, maybe. But it all got to be too much. I was failing at everything, and I was having that feeling of losing control again.”
“So you quit eating.”
“If you know everything, I don’t see why you’re asking these questions!”
“Just because you haven’t matured from being a stupid teenager? You act to type, dumb blonde.”
“Fuck you too.”
They sat for a while. Sam was trying not to cry. She sniffed once audibly and Brooke sighed. Better to get everything out now than let it fester.
“You know all about my relapse. So when I started eating again I had to figure out what to quit instead. Being dumped hadn’t helped me, so I quit dating. My friends dragging me to parties, making me drink, and keeping me from studying hadn’t helped, so I quit socializing. Taking really hard classes about law and politics that bored me to death hadn’t helped, so I tried to figure out what sort of classes I would enjoy being in. The only one I loved was my photography class, so I switched to being an art major.”
“Did you work for the paper?”
Brooke nodded. “I needed a new activity and new friends. And I missed you.”
Sam sniffed again and reached out just to touch her. Brooke leaned close to her and ran her thumb over her face, catching the tears.
“It’s your turn to answer painful questions. Why did you shut me out of your life? Did you lose respect for me after what I did?”
“Shut you out?” Sam strangled a sob. “I shut myself out. I couldn’t deal with what I had done.”
“What you did? You saved my life.”
“You called me, begging for help, and I cursed you out. I lost respect for myself.”
“I shoveled all my self-responsibility onto you. I could feel myself fading. I passed out. If you hadn’t called the police and told them where I was, I could have died there.”
“But how long did it take me? You called me and I hung up on you and went back to work on my paper while you were dying. It took me an hour before I finally looked up the number for your campus police. If you had done anything besides try to starve yourself to death, it would have been too late.” Sam buried her face into Brooke’s neck, feeling Brooke’s fingers trace through her hair, and so thankful for it. “We were supposed to be friends, finally, after years of being enemies, and I failed at being your friend.” Sam closed her eyes. She had let her panic and her fear at loving Brooke too much turn into anger and nearly destroy the object of her affection.
“You’re so pathetic, Sam.”
“Oh, thanks a lot.”
“Hey,” Brooke pressed her cheek against Sam’s hair, “I’m pathetic too. Oh, no, my classes are too hard. Oh no, my boyfriend thinks I’m frigid or… or something. I’m going to starve myself because I can’t change my life in the ways I needed it to change.”
“You had a boyfriend,” Sam mumbled. “I was always worrying that the reason you stopped talking to me so much was because you had a boyfriend.”
* * *
Something was strange. She knew this room; she knew this scene. There was Simon, her boyfriend, sitting across from her in the Student Union. He had that frown on his face that always made her nervous. He was going to dump her. That was what happened in this scene. But some small things were different. Her shoulder felt stiff and painful, and the scent… dust, and something warm. It smelled like Sam. But that didn’t make sense. Sam was in Connecticut. She hadn’t spoken to Sam in a week. She didn’t know what to tell her. She didn’t want Sam to think her weak, but she wanted to confess everything to her.
“Are you going to eat that?”
Simon eyed her untouched burrito and she pushed it across the table to him.
“Look, you’re a great girl,” he started. Brooke wondered how he knew that. It wasn’t as if she ever told him anything about herself. “But my buddies are kind of weirded out that we’ve been dating for three months and you won’t sleep with me.”
Brooke frowned. Did nothing change from high school? She had slept with two guys in high school and it had been a mistake both times. Shouldn’t there be something that said, yes, this is the one you want? Not just her brain saying this is the one you should want.
“They say you’re frigid.”
Brooke had been called this before, and she had done some research. Some people were asexual. She had considered this for a while, but it didn’t make sense. She really did desperately want the type of relationship where you were never too close, where you never had enough of each other. But she had always been a private person, and every boy she had known was boring after an hour or two. Until Nicole tried to kill her, she had been able to talk to her for hours, although Gwyneth had been at least 75% of the subject matter. And last year she had spent every evening IMing Sam until 1 am. She didn’t really understand her friends who did that sort of thing with their boyfriends. She didn’t like boy things, videogames or football, and she couldn’t believe her friends who said that their boys were really interesting. Maybe she just had bad taste in men.
She eyed Simon. On paper they had a lot of interests in common. He was a politics major. He was blonde. He liked to make movies. He was into psychology and actually very sensitive. He probably never would have taken her burrito if she had ever told him about her eating disorder. And yet they never managed to have a real conversation.
“But, I think it’s something else.”
This was new. Brooke tried to sit up straighter, but her shoulder spasmed oddly.
“This is kind of awkward, but… have you ever thought you might be gay?”
Brooke stared at him blankly. “What?”
“Well, Trisha, Jake’s girlfriend, she said that she thought you were hitting on her at the party on Friday.”
“Are you joking? We were just talking.”
“She said you invited her back to your room.”
“To look at my photos! She said she was into photography!”
Simon frowned. “That’s not important. But it’s something I’ve been considering for a while. I thought you were using me as a beard, actually.”
“Who’s that girl you’re always online with? I thought she was your ex-girlfriend.”
“My step-sister! Not my ex-girlfriend! How could you think that?”
“You have all those pictures of you two…”
Simon shrugged. “She doesn’t look like your sister. And truthfully, you don’t really talk about her like she’s your sister.”
Brooke sighed and rested her head on the table. “Oh my god.”
“I’m sorry if I’m wrong. But maybe it’s worth thinking about.”
“You’re a shitty psychologist.”
“Sorry, Brooke. But I think this is it for us.”
“Yeah,” Brooke groaned. “You think I’m … gay, and I think you’re a jerk. Lets call it a day.”
He had inhaled the burrito, and he left, tossing the plate away on his way out. Brooke just lay on the table, wishing he had just dumped her straight out. She could never tell Sam about this. Never. She wanted to stop thinking about it, but she couldn’t help wondering if it was true.
Suddenly odd noises started coming from outside. Construction equipment? She didn’t remember any construction…
Brooke started to wake up.
* * *
Sam knew it was a dream. She had had it more than a hundred times. The same dream every time. But this time she felt odd, like she shouldn’t be dreaming. There was something she was supposed to be doing.
She was at her desk, scowling at a paper on Corporate Social Responsibility, and wondering why Brooke wasn’t online. She hadn’t spoken to her all week. It was making her tense. She kept on considering horror images of why Brooke hadn’t contacted her. Unfortunately, her having a boyfriend kept popping up as one of the most horrifying, and she kept shoving it down. It was stupid. Of course Brooke had a boyfriend. She wasn’t celibate. Just because they never talked about that sort of stuff didn’t mean it wasn’t going on.
She sighed, leaning against her elbow. “You’re pathetic,” she muttered to herself. “Just admit it. You’re obsessed with her and she doesn’t have a clue.” Or maybe she did? What if that was the reason she wasn’t calling? What if she figured it out and decided she needed to cut the connection?
It wasn’t fair! Brooke was playing with her! Sam needed to talk to her. She needed to know she was okay. Even if Brooke hated her now, she needed to know she was doing all right.
She hadn’t gotten anywhere with this paper. It was all Brooke’s fault. Her screwed up life was all Brooke’s fault. She should call. Just check in. Sam couldn’t get anything done worrying about her.
Sam looked at the clock: 2 am. The paper was due at 8:30. Crap.
The phone rang. Sam frowned. It had to be Brooke. Sam was mad at her. Maybe she wouldn’t answer. That lasted one more ring. She picked up the phone.
There was silence on the other end.
“Brooke? Is that you?”
“I’m sorry, Sam.”
She sounded like she was crying. What was going on?
“I’m such a failure. I’m failing at everything and I couldn’t even tell you.”
“Brooke? Are you okay?”
“I don’t know. I feel kind of weird.”
“Have you eaten today?”
“I’m not hungry.”
Sam heard the smile in Brooke’s voice. “How long? How long have you gone without eating?”
“I’m not hungry. I feel sick. I don’t want to eat when I feel sick.”
“Sammy,” Brooke whimpered.
“Do you have anything there? Have you been staying hydrated? Why are you doing this to me? I can’t take care of you! I’m three thousand miles away. Fuck, Brooke! Can’t I trust you to even keep yourself alive?”
“Maybe I don’t want to be alive anymore.”
“It’s just so hard. It’s too hard. I love you, Sammy.”
“Brooke! Don’t you dare do this to me! What do you expect? That I’m going to drop everything and run to your side? Grow up, princess! How many times am I going to have to chase after you? Maybe I just don’t care anymore. Do you hear that? I don’t care about your problems!”
The phone line went dead. Sam set it down slowly. What the fuck was that? It wasn’t fair of Brooke to play with her feelings like that. Was she threatening suicide? How selfish could you get? She was three thousand miles away. Even if she came as fast as she could it would take six hours at the least. She wanted to run to her side. The paper sat in front of her. She had to look after herself first, didn’t she? Didn’t she?
She fumbled for the phone and dialed Brooke’s number. It was busy. She called her cell, no answer. She stared at her paper for a few more minutes, not seeing the words. Then she opened the Internet, Stanford.edu, public safety. She dialed again.
“Um, hi. I think, I mean, my friend, she called, and she sounded bad. I think she might be in trouble.”
“Yeah? She been drinking?” His voice was sarcastic.
“I don’t know. I’m at Yale.”
“Yale? Is this a prank call?”
“No! My friend! I want you to check on her. Don’t you have a suicide reduction policy? If you don’t do anything I’m calling 911.”
“Fine, I’ll send someone over. Got the room number?”
“Yeah.” Sam read the address.
“Can you call me after you check on her? Or tell her to call…”
“Sure, what’s your number?”
The room faded out as Sam was giving the number and she found herself outside of Brooke’s door. The officer was next to her, unlocking the door. “It was too late. We figured you’d want to see.”
Sam pushed the door open. Brooke was lying in the middle of the room, body limp and thin. “Oh god, oh god…”
* * *