[Cheerless #6] CheerSoaked: A Tale Of Two Freaks

How The Westbridge Was Won

"What time is it, Melchior?"

Sighing, he looked at his watch. "Almost a minute after the last time you asked. Damn, girl, buy yourself a bag of patience!" A wicked smile. "Actually, if you may be interested, I got a potnah who could hook you up with the-"

"Shut up," I spat, smoothing out the wrinkles in my dress. "Oh, this was a terrible idea. A horrible idea. A terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad-"

"It's a hot mess, I get it!" With a shake of his head, he went to check the sound system for the third time, but right as he got to the booth, I heard a car door slam from the parking lot.

"Shit, it's showtime! Quick-"

"Yeah, I'm on it," he hissed, punching about a thousand buttons. "And I'mma bounce as soon as you give the signal, which I have memorised."

"You sure? Tell me what it is again, I need to be-"

"Look," he sighed (again), leaning on the table and taking the toothpick out of his mouth. "You know I owe cousin Mil a favour - and for real, me and that punkinhead square now - but you better stop trippin' or you can do this shit yourself. And just 'cause that Prozac-poppin' redhead friend of yours can't take a hint to save her life don't mean my skull's made of concrete, too. So be calm, and all will be calm, feel me?"

I frowned, trying to resist the temptation to run my hand through my hair or rub my arm. "Sorry, sorry... thanks for everything, by the way. I- I mean that. I'm just-"

"Ain't no thang."

When the speakers finally hummed to life (it seemed like it happened way too late, but it's only because I was so nervous my vibrations could have powered a thousand watches for a decade), a fleet of strings began playing. Ye olde mirror ball dropped down from the ceiling and lit up, casting that spotty, intergalactic ambiance around the room that it tends to create, and everything else looked perfect. Correction: everything was perfect... except me. I was totally out of my mind and I knew it, but now it was way, way too late to cancel everything... because she was at the door.

"Thanks for dropping me off, for whatever reason!" she shouted after the receding engine roar of Roxie's car. Her words were moderately terse. "Oh, and thank you again for making me stuff myself into this getup - while blindfolded! I really, really owe you guys!" Then, the door opened, and in she walked.

Her jaw dropped immediately as a black handkerchief fell from her hand to the floor. "What the...?"

Not daring to make a sound, I watched as she looked all around the gymnasium, taking in the balloons, the wooden floor, the suits of armour.

"Why is it... Prom? This- this doesn't..." Yet still I couldn't speak. Even though I knew it would probably be smart to speak up right about then, for some reason I couldn't; I didn't want to disturb her before she was finished exploring the room. "And... is that 'Tonight, Tonight' playing?"

"Yeah," I whispered, though I don't think she could hear me; she was still halfway across the room. Behind my back, I waved the peace sign (it was the easiest-yet-unmistakeable signal I knew), and I saw Melchior nod out of the corner of my eye before he disappeared through the boys' locker room.

"It's all here," she breathed. "The peasant huts and castle courtyard backdrops, the- the refreshments, and the decor, and that cheesy disco ball, and..." Then she looked down, took a double take at what she was wearing, and looked back up at me. "Libby... the dresses. These are the dresses."

"Yeah," I whispered again.

"But... how in the hell did you get our Junior Prom formal wear? These- and how am I still fitting into it?!" she demanded, moving her hand over her abdomen. "I could've sworn I gained a few pounds in the past two years!"

"Not from where I'm standing," I said before I realised how slutty it was. Luckily, she was too blown away by the whole grand scale to pick up on that.

"Where did you get these - all of this? It's surreal, and amazing, and... and how?!"

"Here and there," I said quietly, a shy smile forming in response to her wonderment. "The dance floor and suits of armour and stuff were in the theatre department's prop room, and I remembered most of the decisions on streamers and junk from when we were on Prom Planning Committee."

"But the dresses, Chessler!" she said, gawking at mine. "They... I can't believe you found them!"

"Your aunts had yours. I- I stopped by on the way over here and pleaded with them to find it, and luckily you hadn't thrown it out or taken it with you to the college house. As for mine, I'd stashed it at my Gran's when I moved to New York."

"Holy crap," she breathed, not quite done glancing around at everything. "And... and you're even playing the Pumpkins. It's- it's perfect. It's absolutely perfect."

"I'm glad you like it."

Then it hit her; her eyes went to me, and she cocked her head to the side. "But... but why is it perfect? Why are we here, why- what is all this, Libby?"

"It's for you. See, with Gran dying, and all the other hurdles to clear and dealing to do, something very important kinda fell through the cracks. I wanted to say... thanks for saving my life. You've done that at least twice now, and probably yet more times that you had to erase from my memory. So... thank you, Sabrina. Thanks a billion."

Her hand went to her chest almost automatically. "Aww... oh Libby, it was my privilege. C'mon, I couldn't let my best friend get herself frozen or squished, now, could I?"

That got me grinning, but after a few seconds I cleared my throat and pressed on bravely. "Well, not knowing how else to approach something that huge, I figured I might try to fix our Prom; give us a second chance to do it better, y'know? Let's face it, last time I ruined the whole shebang single-handedly."

A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. "No pun intended, right?"

"Well... maybe a little," I giggled nervously. "But... but I am sorry I slapped you. Sabrina, God, I'm so sorry for all the ways I've made your life a giant craphole of pain."

She shook her head slightly. "C'mon, what are-"

"I'm sorry I slapped you, and sorry I avoided you for weeks, and sorry I tried to bribe you with a car! I'm sorry I slobbered on you at the rave, and sorry I made you eat sushi, and sorry I yelled at you in the rain, and sorry I eavesdropped on you, and sorry I was such a right-wing nut about your secret, and sorry I almost raped you, and sorry I made you worry, and sorry I made you sad, and sorry about all the awful, terrible, mean, nasty things I ever said or did to you! God, I'm just-"

"Wait, wait - let me take a wild stab at this. You're sorry?"

She was right - I was babbling. Therefore, I simply nodded.

"Libby," she sighed, shoulders drooping as she rolled her eyes. "Geez Louise, you didn't have to hijack the gym to apologise to me. A simple plate of brownies or something would've been plenty."

"Those aren't the only reasons we're here, though." Fidgeting to a ridiculous degree, I stepped forward. "It's... it's about more than that. Much, much more."

"Ahh." And as she stared at me, I could see her beginning to act twitchy, too. The camouflage of this flashy display could only disguise my true intentions for so long, right? "Is- is that so? Well, then, pray tell, Goody Chessler - why doest thee tarry here?"

"What? Stop sounding like some kind of jousting champ, this is important!"

"It can't be," she whispered, avoiding my eyes. Her worst fears were realised, and while I understood that it was all my fault, neither could I ignore the way things were anymore. Evidently, though, she could, and desperately wanted to. "I don't think I can talk about this, because I- I'm not ready. Do you understand that? I'm not-"

"Can you at least hear me out?"

"No! No, I don't think I can try without wanting to book!" I saw her foot stomp under the hemline of her dress. "Dammit, Libby, I can't handle it, okay? I just... just-"

"You're why I sing."

And she fell silent, staring at the floor with her fists clenched by her hips as if tensed to run away at a moment's notice.

"It's... it's not the only reason, obviously," I began slowly, trying to fight the urge to throw up or hide under the refreshment table or do something even more drastic. Did my voice have to quaiver like that? "There's personal fulfillment, and the rest of the band, and the handful of fans, but... but I sing for you. Do you know why?"

Obviously, she didn't answer. My tongue wetted my lips before I dove ahead.

"Because you're the only reason my life has any meaning. It's like, without the thought of you, I have no motivation to get up in the morning and make something of my pitiful life. When I sing, I think about all the things that have ever mattered in my life, like Gran, and my parents - despite everything, that is, and the guys playing behind me... but, most of all, I think of you. Even as long ago as when I graduated from Swords, when I belted out 'Wish You Were Here'... it held a very personal meaning for me, 'cos there was somebody I missed so bad it burned."

"Libby-"

"In that freakly way you do, you showed me love in the face of my hate, in spite of the awful excuse for a person I was, and... and it opened whole new areas of my heart that had been roped off as condemned. You waved your magic wand and turned a materialistic Pinocchio into a real girl. My voice comes from you."

"That's... that's pretty swell of you to say, Libby," she said, and I could tell she was tearing up. "But... I'm not sure I can accept any deeper meaning than that you admire me as a friend. M-maybe that's not what you're intending, but... but yeah."

That wasn't going to deter me, not now. "Sabrina, for reasons beyond my comprehension, I need you. Those faces you make in uncomfortable situations - like that one," and she almost smiled. "The way your laughter rings in my ears like silver bells... how warm your smile and your spirit are. Life without those things is like living in the desert - all alone, with only tumbleweeds and lizards to break the monotony."

"So which am I," she quipped shakily, "a lizard or a-"

"You're the mountains. Deep, and high, and green and brown and white, and full of animals and trees, and majestic, and breathtaking! There's no way I could ever experience all you have to offer, and I'm not sure I'm strong enough to take it in anyway, but- but I want to. Like I told you last night, there's just so much of you, and I can't help but get lost in it every time, and - the funny part is, I thought I didn't want that, but I do! I want to see more and more until I've seen all there is, and then I want to start over from the beginning!"

"You have to stop this," she said desperately. Sweat was beading at her temples, and her eyes continued to avoid mine. "I- I can't let myself hear any more, it's- it's just too-"

"No!" I swallowed hard. "No, you do have to hear it, because it's the truth. What you do with that truth is up to you, but this has to be said, or I'm afraid I'll shrivel up and croak!" When she glared up at me briefly, eyes dangerous and reproachful, I coughed. "Uh, that is- sorry, I didn't mean that the way it came out."

"I hope not, because that gash on your wrist means you don't get to joke about stuff like that anymore."

"But I'm not joking. I mean every word I'm saying, don't doubt that."

"And they hurt," she said, finally looking at me again. Why did she look so... empty? "The words, they hurt because I can't do anything with them. Don't you see? It's too much - I can't shoulder being that, I- I can barely shoulder being Sabrina The Teenage Witch! God, even if a broadcast network made a sitcom about my life they wouldn't be so cruel as to turn me into a- a-"

"I know," I said quietly to save her from having to go through with it. "And, fact is, I can't say it, either. I've been trying, so maybe I could get more used to the idea, but... it's not working."

"Then how? How do you expect-"

"However it takes." Wiping my eyes, I stepped toward her, and she didn't even bother to react; all the heavy topics were so much bigger than spatial distance. "Sabrina, you and I can't seem to stop hurting each other, and- and for a long time, I thought it was because the fossilised ice queen within kept rearing its ugly head to strike out at you. But now I know better. There's only one thing that can hit this hard, sting this bad, and leave such nasty, disfiguring scars."

"Don't," she whispered. "Don't say it, I can't know this."

"Love. It's always been a more powerful force than hate, right? Just a taste of it can drive people crazy! Sure, hate has some hefty mojo of its own, but..." Sighing, I shook my head. "See, while I thought our friendship was falling apart because of some residual petty issues from high school, it was really fighting to grow, fighting against our wills for things to stay the same."

"Stop this!" she shouted, folding her arms. "Y-you're totally jumping the gun, or to conclusions, y... and I can't help but wonder if it's because of your grandmother dying, that you feel like you need to grab onto some-"

"Don't you even go there," I warned, simultaneously feeling the knife blade twist deep within my guts as a fresh pang of loss shot icewater into my veins. "That has nothing to do with this."

"I can't be this for you; why won't you listen?!" Her eyes were shining, even as they narrowed at me, challenging me. "Maybe I do like you, but I can't like you the way you want me to, I won't let myself, I- it feels so wrong, so unnatural!"

"Dammit, Sabrina!" She had finally made me as angry as she was, though neither of us were really that angry with each other. "You think I wanted this? That my master plan was to string Adymm along until I could get up the nerve to come out, to hop the sexuality fence and let my fag flag fly?! You think I meant to fall for you?!"

There was a visible wince from both of us when I said it. For her part, she turned away slightly, but she didn't run away, and she didn't say anything hurtful. She just stared at the hardwood.

"Everybody always says you can't help who you fall in love with; that it's just fate, and you kind of get swept along by it. Well, gee, let's see if we have any living proof lying around here - oh, wait!"

"Please, Libby..."

Forcing my tone to return to normal, I took another step toward her. "You have to see I mean what I'm saying, right? Th-this isn't some joke or passing fancy!"

"Jesus, what the hell do you want from me? I have little in common with a- a Gordon Gano, and I seem to remember you were all over-"

"This scares me as much as it does you - all the pitfalls, and consequences, and what people might think. But there's no stopping it. I've tried so, so hard to put all the worms back in the can, but they won't go! Sabrina..."

"DONT TOUCH ME!" My hand jerked back from her face. "D-don't, please! If you touch me, I might- I'll come undone, and I can't let that happen! Rrgh, you keep doing this to me over and over, and you seem to miss the part where it's KILLING ME!" She punctuated those last words by jabbing her hand at her own chest. "Why don't you understand that I can't?! Why won't you STOP?!"

Seconds passed as the soft strains of another Pumpkins acoustic ballad echoed through the room. Nodding slightly, I stepped back, hands clasped in front of my dress.

"Okay."

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~~*~ END Chapter Eleven

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