Chapter Four – Confessions
MAKING HER WAY DOWN THE STAIRS, into the lobby, Samantha puzzled over her roommate situation and how she could tactfully bring it up with Nick and Peter. She barely knew them, and she really wanted to be friends with them, but if she complained about her roommate to them, after meeting her no more than two hours earlier, they would think she was petty and obnoxious. But she needed someone to talk to, and for now, they were all she had.
In the lobby, Peter was waiting for her. He stood when he saw her, smiling as he watched her approach.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hi…” replied Samantha. “Where’s Nick?” She couldn’t think of anything else to fill the silence that followed her greeting.
“He’s coming,” was Peter’s curt response.
Ah, so he was going to be surly and rude again. That’s how this game was to be played. Well fine, she could play by these rules. She could be snootily silent. Maybe then he’d realize how he was acting.
She looked at him in annoyed silence. She hadn’t really actually looked at him before. He looked athletic, like he played lacrosse, or perhaps soccer. His face was very angular, sharp, but there was a soft edge to his features that was unexplainable, like something in his countenance had softened the sharp lines of his face that were his heritage. And he was tall, his six foot two build towering over her comparatively slight five foot seven frame.
Her mind went back to the silent warning she had received earlier. The word rang true in her mind for a second time that day. Danger. Perhaps he was dangerous after all. She felt odd, standing this close to him, looking at him as he looked in the opposite direction, wondering if he was a danger to her after all.
She hadn’t heard Nick come behind her, but reacted instantly as he startled her, elbowing him in the gut and spinning to kick him, before she realized who it was. She was amazed she hadn’t smashed the professional looking camera that was swinging from his neck to pieces. He staggered backwards, obviously in pain. He hadn’t been expecting her reaction.
“Sorry,” she said, elongating the word to increase her sincerity. She really hadn’t meant to hurt him. Well, once she realized who it was, she hadn’t meant to hurt him. Before that, she had meant to beat the life out of him. Her fight or flight mechanism was much more geared towards fight.
“God, you and your roommate are crazy.”
“I didn’t mean to.”
Nick still looked in pain, but he was recovering. She hadn’t hit him too hard.
“Are you ok?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be fine.”
“You startled me… I tend to attack when someone startles me. It got me into a bit of trouble in high school.”
“Yeah, and if it had been anyone else, it might have gotten you into trouble here,” Peter said, his voice amused. He hadn’t been expecting her reaction either, and was now chuckling to himself at his roommate’s expense. “She really got you good Nick.”
“Yeah, I know. Where’d you learn that?”
“Karate class. I’m a black belt… a couple of times over,” she sounded smug. She was very proud of this accomplishment. She was almost as good as her mother had been when she was still an agent.
“Well, I guess I’ll be more careful next time,” Nick said with a smile, straightening up. “Everyone ready to go?”
Samantha and Peter both nodded. As the three of them walked out of the building, Samantha’s brain finally caught something he had said.
“Wait, both me and my roommate are crazy?” she asked. She knew Laurel was a bit peppy because of her parents, but she hadn’t gotten the crazy vibe from her.
“I’ll tell you about it later,” he replied looking around like he expected Laurel to appear out of nowhere. “My truck’s over here.”
The drive to the ice cream shop was short, and Samantha wondered why they didn’t just walk. It was a nice day, and she would have liked to enjoy the sun a little. Parking was, again, tricky, but they managed to find a spot just a short walk from the shop. Samantha stepped out of the back seat of Nick’s huge Dodge Ram and breathed in the scent of the city. The summer smells invigorated her. Perhaps she would tell them about her experiences with Laurel’s parents after all.
The ice cream parlor was small, but reasonably empty, with a patio outside so people could enjoy the sun and eat at the same time. She missed going to get ice cream on warm summer days. It was something her mother would do with her in DC. Her father stopped eating ice cream after her death. It reminded him too much of her. Everything reminded him too much of her. Samantha hadn’t been out to get ice cream with anyone in years.
The boys ordered first, they both already had favorites here, but Samantha took her time, looking at all the shop had to offer. And then she found it. She was absolutely amazed that the first time in ten years that she went to an ice cream shop she would find her favorite flavor. Pink, gooey and delicious peppermint ice cream. She was decided, and she soon found out that it was just as good as she remembered. Or better.
Samantha went to join Nick and Peter at the table they had stationed themselves at outside. The day was beautiful. The birds were singing, the wind gently blowing, the cars zooming by. Perfect. Samantha sat in her reverie for a few minutes as Nick and Peter discussed something about their room. She wasn’t really paying attention, only waiting for a pause in their conversation for her to bring up Laurel again.
And then the fateful pause came, and Samantha jumped at her opportunity.
“So… why is Laurel crazy?” she asked innocently, giving Peter a slight mocking grin much like the one he had been giving her the whole afternoon. She had forgotten that she was determined to hate him.
Nick looked away sheepishly. He didn’t want to admit what had happened. He had hoped Samantha had forgotten about it completely. But Samantha would never give it up. She had her own stories to relate.
“Nick, come on. If she’s crazy, I need to know why.” She intentionally used this excuse. It was a logical reason to need to hear the story, and she knew Nick wouldn’t be able to hold out.
“Oh, fine!” he let out, unable to deny the emerald green eyes that were looking at him pleadingly. “Well… she tried to beat me up. Just like you.”
“What did you do?” Samantha was surprised at what she said. She barely knew him, but already she was calling him out when he wasn’t saying everything. How could she possibly know that he was holding out on her? But she was right.
“I don’t know, I just said hi.”
“There must have been something.”
“I was just being me… you know, friendly.”
“Perhaps a little too friendly?” Peter cut in.
Nick shrugged, and Samantha rolled her eyes. Of course Laurel would take his friendliness like she did. How did she know that he didn’t know who she was? He just thought she was some normal person, who happened to be attractive and blonde. He was being Nick, and she didn’t realize that he wasn’t being nice because she was the daughter of a celebrity, that that was just who he was. Samantha would have to patch some things up when she saw Laurel again. Nick would probably be around often, and she didn’t want a repeat of what had happened today.
“Laurel’s not really like that, or at least I don’t think so,” Samantha informed Nick. “But her parents are nasty. They’re two of those famous types who think the rest of us are beneath them. Awful people. But Laurel’s so different from them, it’s weird.”
She paused, not sure if they were really interested. Why would they care? But they looked like they did. Or they were just being nice, hearing the slight tinge of distress that colored her voice when she talked about the Davies.
“Go on,” Nick urged.
“Ok…” Samantha stuttered. He really seemed he wanted to hear what she had to say. So she related the second half of the day to them, from the moment Laurel burst into her life till the moment she reached the lobby.
“You should have gone to dinner with them,” Peter said when Samantha had finally finished her story.
“You’ve been waiting all afternoon to say that haven’t you,” she countered, her voice even, but with tinted with acidity.
“They would have fed you.”
“It would have been awkward, and uncomfortable. And I would have had to talk to them. It would have been awful for everyone involved, particularly me.”
“But you could have brought us tasty leftovers and we wouldn’t have to scrounge up something later.”
“And why did you lie to them?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“You said your parents had already left. They never came.”
“It was easier than the truth. They would have asked why my parents didn’t come and then I would have told them about my mother…”
She hadn’t meant to say that. That was the whole reason she had lied in the first place.
“What about your mother?” Peter challenged.
“She’s dead…” Samantha said meekly. She hated telling people about her mother. She didn’t want their sympathy and she didn’t want to answer their questions. People were always so amazingly curious.
“I’m sorry,” Peter apologized. “I didn’t know.”
“No, you didn’t. Because I didn’t tell you.”
“It wasn’t right of me to bring it up.”
“You didn’t know.”
She couldn’t fault him. She had brought it up, after all, not him. She had let it slip. Why was she being so careless.
“And your dad?”
“He never really got over it. He pretended like he did, but he didn’t. He’s a mess. He hardly leaves the house anymore. And I left him. I left him all alone.”
“He’ll be ok.”
“Yeah… but I just keep feeling like I abandoned him. And yet, at the same time, I’m thrilled because I’m finally free. I was finally able to escape.”
They sat their in silence for a few minutes, no one really knowing what to say. Nick was the first to break it. He had used up his silence quota for the day. He hadn’t said a word since Samantha began her story, and had quietly kept out of the mini spat she had with Peter.
“She called you a chav?”
They all laughed, it was the perfect thing for him to say.
“Yeah, can you believe that,” Samantha said with laughter in her voice.
“How much time did she spend in England?”
“I have no idea. That’s probably another thing I should ask Laurel. Except I can’t, because then she’ll know I overheard the whole conversation. I’ll confirm all of her parents’ suspicions.”
“Nah, it’s only human to eavesdrop on a conversation that is obviously about oneself.”
“Human or not, you don’t tell people you’ve been doing it.”
By then they had all finished their ice cream and were just sitting in the sun. There was a long pause again. Samantha couldn’t figure out where these pauses came from. She had just expected someone to always be talking. By the looks on the two boys’ faces, they thought the same.
“So…” Samantha started, “what next?”
Peter looked at his watch. “Well, it’s 5…”
“So what do you guys normally do at 5 when you have nothing to do.”
Peter and Nick looked at each other and, in unison, said, “Video games?”
Peter sounded like he was asking a question, Nick was making a statement. For him, it was obviously time for video games.
Samantha sighed. Time to go back to that tiny room that she shared with a girl with the least agreeable parents she had ever met. She didn’t want to, but it was all there was left to do. She wasn’t hungry, so she couldn’t suggest an early dinner. And she didn’t know the town well enough to suggest anything else.
“Ok, let’s go.”
The ride back to campus was quiet, except for the constant ramblings coming from Nick. He really didn’t know how to be quiet. A five second silence was the most he could allow. Samantha still couldn’t decipher him. She knew nothing about him. Or Peter. And they already knew one of the most personal things about her. Why had she opened up to them so quickly? She didn’t know. She wondered if it had been a good thing to tell them about her mother, so soon.
No… the silent voice reprimanded her. She ignored it. Peter was not dangerous. She would prove that much. Her mind slipped back to the conversation at the ice cream parlor. She wondered if they would treat her differently now. She hoped not. She hated when people knew about her mother. They always tried to make her feel loved and included, but it always felt like they just felt sorry for her. She didn’t feel sorry for herself, why should anyone else feel like she should be pitied.
Her thoughts were brought back to reality at the sound of her cell phone ringing. It hardly ever rang now, and the sound surprised her. She looked at the caller ID—she didn’t recognize the number. Laurel? she thought, not really expecting it. But it was really the only person it could be. She smiled at Peter, who had turned to look at her at the sound of her phone, and answered.
“Samantha,” Samantha quickly corrected, not even thinking.
“Nothing. Hi Laurel.”
“What’s up?” Samantha asked, prodding Laurel to the reason she called.
“Oh, nothing,” she paused, not really looking forward to saying what she was about to say. “Look. I was just wondering if you’d reconsider coming to dinner with me and my parents. It’ll be fun, I swear.”
Samantha shuddered at the thought. It would not be fun. Not in a million years. She’d rather eat dirt than go to dinner with Laurel’s parents. She’d rather starve than spend an hour with them. For a split second, she wondered why she had such strong feelings about them, but quickly pushed it out of her mind. That was a topic to mull over later. She needed to stay on point.
“No, that’s ok. I think I’m gonna stay in and get used to living in a dorm room tonight, maybe order some Chinese or something.”
“Oh, ok. Are you sure?” Samantha could hear the hints of desperation in Laurel’s voice. She really didn’t want to go to dinner with her parents alone. Samantha didn’t understand it.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” Samantha said, letting the faintest sound of apology color her voice. She really did wish that her desire to help Laurel outweighed her disgust in being anywhere near her parents, but it didn’t. She sighed. There wasn’t anything she could do.
“Ok… maybe some other time.” Laurel said dejectedly.
Samantha mused that that tone normally won her arguments. But not today. Any other day, Samantha probably would have agreed to go, but today, today was her day. That was what she had determinedly decided this morning, and she was going to stick to it. She was not doing things that she didn’t want to do. No matter what Laurel’s tone hinted at. She’d make it up to her later.
“Are you still in the room? Peter, Nick and I are almost back.”
That was actually a lie. They had already parked and were getting out of the car.
“Yeah, I still have to get dressed and you know… get ready.” Her voice still sounded upset, but she was resigned now. Samantha was not going to save her from her parents.
“Well, I’ll be up in a few minutes. I’ll help.”
Samantha couldn’t help smiling at the prospect. She bet Laurel’s clothes were amazing. Not that that matters to me, she reprimanded herself.
After saying goodbye, Samantha hung up and had to run to catch up the boys, who were already walking into Adams. She barely managed to get to the door before it closed. She really didn’t feel like swiping her card. Peter and Nick chuckled at each other as Samantha barely managed to catch the door with her foot. She glared at them as she stalked past them and nearly tripped over the mat in front of the stairs. Their chuckles grew louder. She wanted to disappear, but then smiled at herself. She was being silly.
She waited for them at the top of the stairs.
“We didn’t want to trip on anything,” Peter replied, mocking her.
Samantha rolled her eyes. She was over it. They all walked back down to their rooms.
“You gonna play with us?” asked Nick, politely.
“Nah. I told Laurel I’d help her pick out what she was going to wear.”
“Have fun,” he said, scrunching up his face. He would never understand girls.
“Thanks.” Samantha sounded more enthusiastic than she believed she could be. It always amazed her that she was such a girl sometimes.
She waved goodbye and walked into her room. Clothes were everywhere. She wondered where Hurricane Laurel was.
“Laurel?” asked Samantha curiously.
“I’m in the bathroom!”
“I thought maybe your closet swallowed you.”
“No, I just couldn’t figure out what to wear.”
“Have you done it yet?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you come out so I can see?” Samantha was getting tired of talking through a door.
“Ok…” was Laurel’s meek reply.
She looked perfect. Samantha couldn’t see how she could say she didn’t know if she had found an outfit. The dress was a blue, teal and green knee length strapless number that perfectly matched the brightness and color of her eyes. Samantha nodded in approval.
“You look great!”
“Yeah… well, my mother’s seen this one before. She’s going to ask me if I’m a pauper. She doesn’t like me wearing things multiple times.”
“She just doesn’t want you to be normal.”
“She’s a nightmare.”
“I could tell. She doesn’t like me much.”
“It’s not you. She would have been like that to any person who had the misfortune of being my roommate.”
“She doesn’t want you to be normal.”
“Yeah, but I want to be normal.”
“Tonight, you don’t have much of a choice.”
“Yeah, I know. So do I really look ok?”
“You want the boys to give you a second opinion?”
“No…” Laurel sighed.
“Look. Go to dinner. Be the daughter they want you to be. Come back here after, and we can be normal all you like. We’ll make popcorn and put in a movie, and talk. Ok?”
Samantha didn’t know what was motivating her to be this nice to Laurel. She still hadn’t decided if she liked her, and she wasn’t sure if she really wanted to bond yet. She needed to get a better feel for this living with someone who actually talked. Samantha looked at her roommate and sighed sympathetically.
“When do you have to leave?”
“Soon, but I need to put all this stuff back up,” she said, indicating all of the dresses that were draped over her bed. “Are you sure you won’t come?”
“No. I’m not going to. I’m sorry Laurel. But… look. Think about how unpleasant it is going to be for you. Now multiply it by, I don’t know, a hundred? A thousand? I’m not having dinner with your parents.”
“Ok, yeah, I get that.”
Laurel reached down for her dresses and started putting them back in her closet. Samantha watched, not knowing if Laurel wanted her help or not. Laurel looked over at her and smiled.
“Thanks for calming me down.”
“No problem.” Samantha looked at the clock. “When do you have to leave?”
Laurel turned her attention to the clock on Samantha’s desk. “Um, now.”
“Ok, have fun, don’t disappoint your parents too much, and when you come back we’ll have a girl’s night… As soon as I find a microwave and a bag of popcorn.”
As it turned out, Nick and Peter happened to have both, and Samantha managed to beg her way into stealing both the use of the microwave and a bag of popcorn.
Laurel was gone for almost two hours. Samantha couldn’t believe they were eating that whole time. Who spent two hours at dinner? In that time, Samantha ordered Chinese, reordered her books, and watched Peter and Nick blow each other up in whatever video game they were playing. There were cartoons with yellow hair, and that’s all she could tell. Anime, it’s anime, they tried to correct her. But she resisted. No, they are cartoons who blow each other up with yellow balls of light.
When Laurel finally returned, Samantha wasn’t sure she was up to a movie night and a get to know you chat, but luckily, Laurel wasn’t either.
“How about we skip the movie?” she asked when Samantha followed her into their room after the popcorn finished popping.
Samantha shut the door as quickly as she could. The boys were staring.
“That’s fine with me. It’s been a long day.”
“Yeah. Tell me about it. I was in the car for almost five hours.”
“Yeah. It would have been shorter, but I had to go slow enough for Michael not to tell my parents I was driving recklessly.” She rolled her eyes. “I hate driving slow.”
Samantha smiled, wondering what was considered slow.
“How was dinner?” she asked, changing the subject.
“Mindless, as always. Sometimes I don’t think my parents have a single brain cell left that can form a complete and intelligent thought. But I guess my dad, at least, does… He has to be able to talk to all those movie people about things… But they don’t have anything left over for me, that’s for sure.”
“At least your parents talk to you,” Samantha mumbled, barely audible. She didn’t really want Laurel to hear what she said. It would bring up more questions. She quickly moved on. “So what did Nick do to you that made you try to hit him?”
“Nick, this afternoon. You were supposed to tell him we were waiting for him, and he came downstairs saying you tried to beat him up. What happened?”
“Oh. I think I overreacted.”
“Yeah, I think you might have.”
“It’s just… I thought he was a photographer. I hate the paparazzi,” Laurel grumbled the last sentence. Hate didn’t even come close to what she felt about them.
“I don’t think he even knew who you were.”
“Yeah, I think I realized that after he started telling me that I was crazy.”
“Don’t worry, I took care of him for you.”
Laurel lifted a curious eyebrow in Samantha’s direction. “What’d he do to you?”
Samantha smiled. It was so ridiculous, looking back on the events of that afternoon. “He tried to spook me… I reacted. Fight or flight and all that…”
Laurel laughed at that, amused that Nick had been beat up by two girls in one day, “I bet he wasn’t expecting that.”
“No, he wasn’t.” They laughed together. Samantha was enjoying this. It was nice to have someone to talk to for once, to be at home and not silent, to be able to admit her feelings to someone else. She couldn’t explain why she and Laurel had become so close so quickly, but she liked it.
Samantha had opened the bag of popcorn and had started munching on it as they talked. Laurel sat down next to Samantha and took a handful of popcorn, munching on it thoughtfully. She was curious about something, but Samantha couldn’t tell what.
“What do your parents do?”
“Well, you know what my parents do… what about yours?”
“Oh, my dad’s a cop… and my mom was and FBI agent…”
“Wow. The FBI? That must have been crazy.”
“Yeah. I guess.”
“What does she do now? Stay at home, take care of the kids kind of mom?”
“What?” Samantha was confused. She had answered the question, right?
“You said was. Your mother was and FBI agent. What does she do now?”
“Oh… um… well… actually…”
“Yeah… My mother’s… well, my mother’s not around anymore.” That’s the closest she could get to the truth in front of Laurel. She wasn’t sure why, but she just couldn’t let that out to someone she was going to have to see everyday for the rest of the year. So she left it as a white lie. Let Laurel take it was she would.
“Oh. Oh dear, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. It was a while ago.”
“When did she leave?”
Samantha would have snickered if she hadn’t felt the waves of memories about to drown her. Leave. When did she leave? That didn’t even come close to what happened.
“Almost ten years ago…”
Black and white images flashed through Samantha’s mind. All that blood, her mother lying motionless in the center of it. Her father’s face when he ran in at her scream. Samantha swallowed down the memories. She couldn’t let Laurel know how much it affected her.
But Laurel did notice.
“Maybe we should watch that movie after all,” she said, smiling.
Samantha was grateful for the distraction. A movie was definitely better than talking anymore. She needed something happy… a comedy… no sad parts… but it was up to Laurel to pick.
“What do you want to watch?” Samantha asked, passing her the box of DVDs she had brought from home. Red Eye was not included.
“Um…” Laurel reached in and grabbed the first movie that she placed her hand on. “Bridget Jones’s Diary?”
“Sounds good to me.”
Throughout the whole movie, Samantha kept her face blank, only showing any emotion when the movie deemed in necessary. Laurel cautiously looked over on occasion to see how Samantha was holding up, but Samantha’s face gave nothing away. Inside, she was still trying to repress all the memories that she had carefully repressed that morning. She was not going to think about her mother. Today was her day.