"Full?" Sam asked, rubbing my stomach gently.
"Mhmm." I mumbled sleepily. "Thank you for cooking."
"Well you always do it." She grinned, kissing my stomach. I closed my eyes. It was exhausting trying to keep up a barrier between me and what was bearing down on me. Especially when Sam was being so sweet and caring. She was lying on me, her head just above my stomach, rubbing it gently. I wondered how she'd react when she found out... I stroked her hair and tried not to cry. I took a deep breath and something in the way it was pulled in made her stir and look up at me. "Hey, what's up?"
I shook my head and looked away to blink away any evidence of tears. She moved, sitting up carefully and took my hand.
"Cara, baby, what's wrong?"
"Nothing." I smiled, looking back at her and biting my lip. I could feel that my eyes were swimming and she frowned.
"Something is up."
"I just..." My phone buzzed. I went to take it out.
"Cara, can't you just leave it and tell me?"
"Just a second..." I was stalling for time so when I saw Anna's text... "Oh god."
"Anna's really upset. Apparently she's had a fight with Megan."
"Oh for..!" Sam cried out and pulled away, standing and running her hands through her hair, agitated. "For once can you put Anna's problems to the bottom of your to do list? You're upset but you won't tell me anything. Don't just run off to deal with her..."
"Sam, stop it." I cried, tears falling from my eyes. "Please, stop."
She took in a deep breath and let it go, her eyes watering. I wiped away the tears from my eyes and turned away. It took a moment, but she came and sat beside me again.
"Is it that bad?"
"It's nothing. I'm just... I don't know how to deal with all of this."
"All of what?" She asked.
I let out a breath and laughed hysterically. Do I tell her? Her birthday party was only a couple of days away and...
"Anna leaving. You..."
"What about me?"
"I don't know how to help you."
"I don't need help. What are you talking about?"
I glanced over at her. I was clutching at straws, trying to divert away from what the real problem was.
"What do you want Sam?"
"Want in what?"
"The future. I mean, everything. What do you want to be doing in five/ten years?"
"Well hopefully I'll be living with you-" She began but I cut her off.
"Don't. I'm talking about business... life..."
She frowned at me.
"You want to know my business plan?"
"Yes." I shrugged.
"In two years I'll have opened my gallery in America, and in another three it will be a gallery in France."
I stared at her.
"And how are you going to manage them?"
"I start it off, and then employ a manager to keep looking after it. Or go in with one already picked. Where is this going?"
"I just... I wonder if I'm holding you back. Or if I will be."
"Don't be stupid." She replied.
"Stupid?" I repeated, insulted.
"Not what I meant."
"I think you pretty much meant that."
"No... Cara, I meant that I'm not going to be held back by you. You can come with me."
"I have uni. And after that, what if I can't get away from my job? You'll just stay back because of me? Or go off for a couple of months..."
"Cara, why does this matter? We can face that when we come to it."
"I... I guess. I've just been thinking about the future..."
"That's how you think about the future?" She took my hand and stroked it gently. I shrugged. "You're doing it wrong." She smiled gently. "You should think about everything we'll get to do in the future, together. I know we're going to do so much together, and neither of us will hold the other back."
"How do you know?"
"Because I want it, and I always get what I want." She smirked. "I got you in the first place didn't I?" I relented and smiled. She grinned in her success and reached forward to kiss me. "Is that everything bothering you?"
"Yes." I lied.
"Right. Well then I'm going to wash these pots up, and then I think-"
She stopped and stared at me.
"Anna... I should go and see her."
"Oh... yeah. I'll walk you."
"You don't have to."
"I'll just walk you to the door. I'm not invading. Just keeping you safe."
"And if any guys go for me you can just call the police." I replied, remembering what Lexi had told me.
"What?" She stopped, one plate already in her hand. "How-? Lexi."
"I may have got it out of her."
"What else did you get out of her?"
"She just told me some of the things you'd told her when you first met me." Sam groaned. "Don't worry. I already knew you were a soppy romantic at heart."
"She's doing nothing for my street cred." Sam winked and took up the other plate. I chuckled at her use of the phrase and went to get my coat. I knew I probably shouldn't go and see Anna; she needed to sort this out on her own, but I was her friend and she needed advice. At any rate I was glad that Sam was walking with me. After the little burst of emotion that had escaped just then... I didn't think I could last much longer. I wanted to tell her everything. I just wanted that comfort from her. But I knew she'd just be worrying about me, and I wanted to give her a birthday without that first. I hoped the little project I'd asked Myra to do for me would be finished in time...
"Ready?" Sam asked, stirring me from my thoughts.
"Oh, yeah. What are you going to do while I'm there?"
"Get a drink. There's a nice bar near Anna's. Levi's?"
"I've been. It's nice. Maybe we'll join you if she's not too bad."
"That would be nice." She smiled.
We headed out the door and through the city towards Anna's flat. My hand was warm and safe in Sam's, and I couldn't help but snuggle in to her. It was still warm even though the sun had gone; the summer was doing a good job this year.
"There's something different about you." Sam murmured as we walked. I blinked and looked at her.
"I don't know... something. Your hair's grown a bit."
"I'm growing it out."
"Since when?" She asked, surprised.
"I don't know. I just didn't get it cut last month and I'm letting it grow. I think it could look nice..."
She pursed her lips thoughtfully and looked at me. Then she smiled.
"I think so too."
"Yeah. And I think I'd really like running my hands through it." She smirked.
"Always back to sex." I teased.
"Not necessarily sex... kissing you would do."
I rolled my eyes and pulled her along while she chuckled.
We reached the door that led up to Anna's flat and Sam flattened me against it to kiss me goodbye.
"I'll see you in Levi's, if you don't text me otherwise." She murmured. I nodded and she grinned, heading off in to the dark.
"Be safe." I called after her, and then took out the key Anna had given me to let myself up.
"Anna?" I called as I entered the flat. "Where are you? Are you ok?"
I found her curled up on the sofa, crying.
"I didn't know if you were coming or not." She explained as I hugged her and I realised that in the midst of everything I'd forgotten to text her back.
"Sorry. I'm here. What happened?"
She explained the whole argument to me and then sat back, cried out.
"Can you believe she said that?"
I frowned at her.
"Anna... I agree with Megan. She should be your first port of call now, not me."
Anna stared at me in disbelief.