Sam was here.
Anxiety began to stir up in Millie’s stomach as she heard the rubber sole of Sam’s old, dirty shoes tread lightly down the stairs. She could see them make their way down now. All Millie could think about was how much she hated those shoes, scuffed up from daily wear, probably as a means to distract her from the confrontation she’s been dreading all day.
Sam stepped down from the stairs and made his way toward her. Millie darted her eyes to the ground and smoothed the tips of her hair nervously. It was much more attractive than biting her nails, another nervous habit she couldn’t seem to break.
The urge to see if Sam was just as afraid as she was overpowered Millie’s fear of eye contact. She glanced up quickly, as if to get it over with and her eyes locked with Sam’s. He looked down at her, his brows raised expectingly. He was as calm and patient as always, to Millie’s disappointment. Why was she always the only anxious wreck in the room?
“Thank you for meeting me,” Millie said to the ground.
“Sure,” Sam shoved his hands into his jean pockets.
He was effortlessly cool. Probably because he’s older, Millie thought.
Millie copied his stance by sliding her hands into the pockets of her hoodie. It made her feel protected, but not cool.
“I wanted to apologize last night, but I’m not very good at these things.”
“I know,” Sam said, matter-of-factly.
Millie shot her eyes at him.
“And it’s totally okay,” he added.
“It was unfair of me to be upset with you the other night. I acted out because I wanted you to notice I was angry.”
“I definitely noticed,” Sam nodded as he recounted the other night.
Millie saw Sam with another girl. A blonde girl she had never seen before. Sam and Millie were not dating, but there was an undeniable connection between the two of them, an unspoken truth even. Millie couldn’t help but storm out of the theater after her poetry reading at Sam’s weekly talent showcase. The standing ovation from the audience after pouring her soul out on stage. The praise from Sam as soon as she stepped off stage. It all meant nothing to her as the foolishness seeped in upon witnessing Sam sit next to the blonde and wrap his arm around her.
“I wanted to ask you what was wrong, but I didn’t want to overstep any boundaries,” he told her.
Boundaries. Since when were there boundaries between the two of them? Since the mystery blind showed up. That’s when.
And Sam knowing Millie was upset explains why he was so accommodating to her last night. Asking her if she needed anything. Making sure she was comfortable. He wasn’t head over heels for her. He was afraid of making her angry again.
“I know I can be a bad friend,” he said.
Friend was the only word Millie absorbed.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” Millie said lowly.
Millie looked up at Sam. His voice was gentle. Kind. Loving. Things she didn’t want it to be, because it was a reminder that Sam wasn’t in love with her, he was just a good friend.
“Don’t ever apologize for your feelings.”
Millie nodded, tears swelling in her eyes. She removed a hand from her pocket and wiped her tears away with her hoodie.
She knew that this was the end. Not indefinitely, but their friendship wouldn’t be the same again. They wouldn’t go on lunch dates anymore, and she would cease coming to his talent showcases. The ones she would only go to to see him. The showcase she signed up for to impress him. That definitely had to stop.
Things would have to be quiet for awhile, and it was a shame because Sam was a really good person. He wasn’t like Fran and Mike, Millie’s best friends, who always had something negative to say. Sam had a good energy. Always had something witty to say. He made sure you had something to drink. That you didn’t walk to your car alone. Even when you were mad at him.
Sam was refreshing. Millie had never met a person like that before.
When Millie realized she hadn’t thought those words, but actually said them aloud to Sam, she was even more shocked. She didn’t tell guys how she felt about them, because it was always unrequited.
“Thank you for letting me know how you feel,” Sam nodded assuringly.
Oh, God. Millie just poured her heart out to Sam and he didn’t know how to respond except to be polite.
Millie waited for the embarrassment to hit, but it never came. Instead she felt relieved. Finally she told Sam what he meant to her, and even though he didn’t think of her the same way, all the bad stuff that Millie thought had permanently made a home inside of her evaporated.
Anxiety must be withholding information, Millie thought.
“Promise me this,” Sam continued. “You stop apologizing for how you feel, and I won’t be so hard on myself. Deal?”
Millie forced a smile and agreed. Sam gave her a tight hug, resting his chin on her head. Millie recalled the first time Sam did this: he held her, hesitating at first, but when he finally tapped his chin to her head and searched the right spot, they were a perfect fit.
The heartache was afloat after Sam left, but nothing overwhelming. Millie wanted to live with it for a little while. And she especially wanted to be alone. She owed herself some loneliness.