We'd gotten Liam a birthday cake, and when it came out, with all the waiters and waitresses singing, he laughed and blew all the candles out with one breath.
"Happy Birthday Liam!" I cried, hugging him close.
"Thanks Cara. This is amazing."
"Well, Ali and I wanted to make sure you had something sophisticated. Jak is responsible for what is going to happen afterwards."
"Oh god, what is going to happen?"
"He wouldn't tell us."
"Hmph. I feel like I should run."
"Advisable," I chuckled. The cake was being served out, and I slid back in to my chair as Liam was surrounded by other people wishing him happy birthday, and getting pictures.
"You're not going to make me come out too are you?" Sam murmured.
"Not if you don't want to, I guess," I shrugged. "But I thought you were enjoying yourself?"
"I am I just..."
"Come on Sam you have to come out." Lexi threw in across the table.
"Yeah come on Sam!" Jak interfered.
She glanced at me and I shrugged.
"Do what you want. They're just acting normal, like you wanted." I turned to eat my cake, giving her time to think.
"Okay." I grinned at her, and her eyes flicked down to my lips. I froze, wondering if she was giving me a hint that she wanted more. But then she laughed. "You've got cake on your face."
Embarrassed, I grabbed a napkin and wiped my mouth.
"No." She chuckled, taking the napkin from my hand. She dabbed my chin, and then smiled. "All done."
"Thanks," I murmured.
And she was so close, and so familiar, and everything was warm and tender...
"Are you guys going to kiss?"
I turned to glare at one of Liam's friends from his course, Dylan, who was staring at us.
"Well not any more, idiot." Liam cried, and Lexi was frowning at us. I blushed, and pulled away.
"I need to go to the bathroom." I muttered and stood up, heading through.
"Cara..." Sam called after me, but I'd already gone.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid." I berated myself as I reached the safety of the bathroom. "What a fucking stupid thing to think."
The door opened, and Ali was there.
"I'm a fucking moron."
"No, you're not."
"Yes I am. What, is she going to kiss me after all I did? What a stupid thing to think."
"Cara, not to kind of wreck this self pity thing, but she was totally leaning in for a kiss before that idiot spoke up."
"No, I got it all confused. She was just... we're just familiar and there's all that unresolved... it's just a dream."
"Whatever you have to think to get you through." She shrugged. "Everyone is ready to go out."
"I don't feel like it."
"Cara Gramms, you march out there with your head held high and go the fuck out. You look too smoking hot to just go to a meal."
"Christ, you're already a parent and the kid isn't even out yet. Except for the language. Knock it off around Blip."
"Cara, get out there, for gods sake. There is literally no reason for you to come home with me. Bugger off."
"Good. My taxi will be here soon, let's go."
She marched me out, and although I was immediately grabbed by Liam to head out, I could see Sam watching me intently. So I put on a smile, and acted as if nothing had happened. We bundled Ali in to a taxi and sent her home, and then followed Jak, to the mystery night out.
Which it just so happened, started in a karaoke bar.
"We're a band man! I was going strip club, but that's for my stag do, and there's only one in the city. Karaoke it is."
"Jesus." Liam groaned, and was led to the bar to get birthday shots. Between singers, the dj played the hits, and Lexi dragged Sam on to the floor. Liam had apparently signed me up to sing not long after his second shot, and I heard my name called out twenty minutes later. By then everyone was pretty drunk, and I was damned pleased that I didn't drink much since the op.
Sam. Well. Wasted didn't particularly cover it. And she was watching me sing with this look on her face like she wanted to drag me off the stage and plaster me against a wall...
"I have to get her home," Myra murmured to me, while Lexi was in the toilet. "God I wish Lexi would just hurry up already."
"I can take her?" I found myself saying.
"Yeah... I mean... if you don't think she'd mind?"
"I.., no she'll be cool. You two have been hanging out. I think she'd be fine."
"Okay." I agreed. I hugged Liam goodbye, and took Sam gently by the waist, leading her out.
When I eventually managed to get her home, she threw up in the toilet, and I cleaned her up, even helped her brush her teeth, and got her in to bed. I didn't undress her though. She might have an issue with that in the morning. As I headed for the door, she lifted her head slightly.
"Don't go." She whispered.
That's how I found myself on the sofa the next morning, in one of her t-shirts, and her still asleep in the bedroom.
"Fuck." I ran my fingers through my hair. Now everyone would think that we'd hooked up, and if I protested they'd think I was lying. I groaned, and sat up. Right. I could leave before she wakes up; she'd never know. Or I could make her some breakfast and then leave, so I could have a chance to check on her. There's no use sneaking out, I reasoned eventually, and stood up to make some tea. The first, I realised, since we'd broken up. I'd not allowed anyone to make me tea since. Hot chocolate yes. Tea, no. I was so wrapped up in my thoughts and making tea and toast, that I didn't hear her footsteps until she was in the room.
“Cara?” I looked around and saw her blinking, still dressed in her skinny jeans and top from last night.
“Morning.” I whispered.
“What…? Did we..?”
“No.” I hurried to answer. “I slept on the sofa. You were… pretty out of it.”
“I can’t remember anything.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. Have some tea.” I passed her the mug. She looked down at me as I did and I realised I was still only wearing pants and the t-shirt I’d borrowed. “Oh… I’d better get dressed. Sorry… about the t-shirt… I hope you don’t mind.”
“No, not at all.” She took a gulp of tea and I saw her eyes flick down again before she fixed them firmly on my face in determined fashion. “What are you making?”
“Just toast… I didn’t think you’d want much. I’ll go when I’ve made it.”
“You don’t have to.”
“You could at least shower before you go.”
“Why, do I stink?” I asked, raising an eyebrow but smiling gently.
“Probably not as much as me.” She allowed, smiling. The toast popped and I turned to get it, spreading butter on it and cutting it in to triangles.
“There you go.” I offered, presenting the plate to her.
“Thank you. Are you not having any?”
“I didn’t want to presume… I was just going to go.”
“Stay. Have some.” She offered and after a moment’s pause I took a slice from the plate.
She shrugged and gulped some more water down.
“My head kills. What… what happened last night?"
"You got really drunk, obviously. I offered to take you home and Myra let me. I don't think Lexi would have but she was in the toilet. And I brought you home, because the taxi wouldn't allow you in."
“Oh. Okay. Thanks.”
She chewed on the toast for a bit longer, and then put down the plate.
“I’m going for a shower.”
“Alright, I’ll get dressed and go.”
“You can shower after me if you wait a bit.”
“Sam I don’t really…” She raised an eyebrow at me and I stopped. “Okay. I’ll stay.”
“Come on then.” She left the plate on the side and slouched towards the hallway, gulping tea as she did so. I followed nervously. When I passed through the door I found her standing there, looking at me.
“Are you alright?”
“My head’s splitting, I feel sick and… for a moment there… seeing you cooking breakfast…” She stopped. I looked down and nodded.
“I know. It feels like-“
“-normal.” She finished.
“I know.” I whispered.
We stood there for a long time and I couldn’t look at her. I stood, twisting my hands, aware that my legs were out and there was the bed we had shared for so long…
“Shower.” She muttered and when I looked up she was disappearing in to the bathroom. I let out a breath I hadn’t known I’d been holding, and ran my hands through my hair. God… what a night.
I felt so drained I sat on the bed and that’s where Sam found me, head in hands, when she peered around the bathroom door a minute later.
“I forgot my towel Cara would you… are you alright?”
“Fine.” I replied, rubbing my eyes and looking up at her. “Where’s your towel?”
“Where they always are.” She disappeared in to the bathroom again. I rummaged through the bottom drawer and pulled out one of her towels, a big white one that used to wrap around the both of us… The memory brought tears to my eyes and I lay my cheek against the soft fabric, allowing myself a moment of reminiscence. Then I went to the bathroom door which was still slightly ajar.
“Sam? Towel.” I said, putting it through the door. She didn’t take it. “Sam?” I opened the door after a moment of no response and looked in, afraid she’d passed out and hit her head. Sam turned around sharply from where she’d been spitting toothpaste in to the sink. She was entirely naked. I couldn’t help my eyes skimming her body before I glanced away and closed my eyes. “Shit, sorry! I thought you were… you might have passed out… here’s your towel.” I finished lamely, holding it up in her general direction. I felt her take the towel and let go immediately.
“I’m decent.” She murmured and I opened my eyes, turning my head back to her. The towel was wrapped around her now and she was looking at me curiously.
"I'm going to go. I know how long you take in the shower." I joked, to make light of the awkward situation. "I'll see you... soon I guess."
"Sure." She replied, and smiled. "Thanks for bringing me home."
Her eyes flicked down again.
"You can borrow my running trousers. I don't want you walking home in last nights outfit; you'll freeze."
"Thank you." It was difficult to leave after that, especially when she drew me in for a quick hug, in just her towel. But she moved so fast that I could barely react, and it was only as I was running home (far too chilly to walk in just a t-shirt and skin tight lycra trousers, and thank goodness I'd worn flats) that I thought about how she smelled like home.
Back at last, and mercifully before anyone was up, it seemed, I showered, and settled down to watch some films on my laptop.