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

The Freakness In Me

"What?" By that point, I think Sabrina was genuinely not expecting my advances to cease. "Wh-what did you say?"

"You're right." No longer able to keep from falling apart in the middle of the floor, I pulled out a chair at the refreshment table and sat in it. "One hundred percent."

"I... I'm right? Oh. Well... peachy." Her brow furrowed as her breathing slowly fought its way toward normalcy. "Um... just out of curiosity, which part, exactly, is the part I'm right about?"

For a long, intense moment, I drank her in. God, was she radiant; that dress was every bit as breathtaking as it had been when last she wore it, and her hair, while slightly disheveled from Roxie and Ophelia struggling her into the dress, still looked great considering (magic, perhaps?). Her eyes sparkled and her cheeks were rouged, and the streaks running down them did nothing to detract from her beauty. It all made me wish I had been able to see her in this light back during the real Prom, to appreciate everything about her more. Honestly, if this day hadn't been coming for a long, long time, it would have happened in an instant right then and there... just from me taking a good look at her.

"Hello? Earth to Chessler Two, do you copy?"

"No." When her nose crinkled up, I realised that word probably didn't mean much independent of the thoughts behind it, so I elaborated. "No, I don't have the right to do this to you anymore. As much as I know I could, and it might even work, it's... I don't want things to happen that way. Damn, I... I've been so selfish."

"W-ell, I wouldn't go that far, I mean-"

"Oh, man, I can't believe I didn't notice that before - even while you were trying to tell me. Wow, I'm sorry, Sabrina - you were right all along. It's in my nature to control things, and here I am, doing it one more time. Well, this is the last time."

"W-what?!" Her eyes flew open. "No, Libby - no, don't try it again, I- your death isn't going to solve anyth-"

"I'm flying back to the city in the morning, you know," I said firmly, even as my eyes began welling up. No stopping to refute her assumption of suicide; a clean, quick break was in order. "You won't have to worry about seeing me again, because I- I'll make sure I keep as much distance between us as possible. Maybe we'll miss each other for a while, but at least I won't keep ruining your life by-" I almost couldn't finish, but I pressed on. "...by being in it."

"Libby..."

"I'll be going, now. Don't worry about all this stuff, I've got people to come by and wrap it up tomorrow." Woodenly, I picked up my handbag from the table and started walking away.

"You're doing it again."

I paused, halfway to the doors. "D-doing what?"

"Controlling everything." I turned to look at her, only to see her doing the same. "First you're trying to shoehorn me into a deeper relationship, and now you're taking it off the table completely? When are you gonna learn to let things percolate a minute or two?"

"Wh-what are you saying? Do you... you don't hate me?"

"When did I ever?" she snorted. "Well, I mean, other than for the first half of our relationship." A second ticked by as she laughed again. "Nah, even that's a fib. I never hated you, per se."

My eyes dropped to the floor as my head absorbed this positive shift. "But... but I was-"

"What are these?"

Blinking, I looked back up to see her gloved hand running over the four presents neatly arranged in the middle of the hors d'oeuvres. Shakily, suddenly very nervous because I had forgotten about them entirely, I said, "Nothing, really. Just some stupid junk."

"Like what?" she said, picking up the small gift bag from among the three boxes. "They... are for me, right? Or did you go on another of your self-indulgent sprees for old time's sake?"

"They're for you," I whispered. "But like I said, they're lame; you could maybe exchange them, though."

"Chanel No. 5?! Holy Moses, this must've set you back a pretty penny!"

"Nice going, Morgan," I muttered to myself with a smile.

"Libby," she chided playfully as she shook one of the larger boxes, "you're not trying to buy my affections again, are you? 'Cos if you are, it's almost working, but- but not..."

For a moment, neither of us said anything as she stared at the bottle; then, her eyes widened, squeezed shut, and opened again.

"Perfume. The science fair... oh, Libby." She laughed wetly, holding her hand to her mouth as she picked the tiny bottle back up and stared at it. "But I think this stuff might be slightly higher-quality than that dross we cooked up."

"Probably so," I chuckled, walking closer to the table.

"This is the sweetest- damn, listen to me!" Waving her hand at her eyes, she put the bottle down and grabbed the stripe-wrapped flat package. "What else did you get me?"

"Trust me, they won't be nearly as expensive," I blurted, wishing so, so much that she hadn't opened the perfume first. "To be frank, they're kind of-"

"A... a book. Magic School Bus?!" Her eyebrows only knitted further as she took a closer look at it. "The Magic School Bus: Inside The Human Body. Well, uh... at least maybe I'll learn something."

Nevermind some namby-pamby old misgivings; this was genuine, grade-A regret. Nausea set in. "Oh, I told you they were stupid! Let me take the other two back before-"

"No, tell me," she said patiently. "I mean, no sane adult goes out and gets some fourth-grade piece of posterboard with pages for no reason - and for all the sanity you lack, you're not that far gone. But you're gonna have to help me, 'cos I'm so not in the right headspace to get the deeper, here."

"Well... Jesus, this seemed like a less frivolous idea at the time!" Taking a few steadying breaths, I leaned against the table, knowing I was about to sound like a dumbass. "Thing is, you saved me from being run over by a large vehicle, and- and you did it with magic. Hence the Magic School Bus, and the saving of my, uh, human body - which you have steered an enchanted vehicle inside at least once." I started to say more, but the words died on my lips.

She stared at me for what seemed like an hour; I felt it rather than seeing it, because I was too ashamed to look at her. Then, I could suddenly hear her unwrapping another package, and I looked up in horror to see it was the worst of them all. Desperately, I made a last-ditch effort to dissuade her. "I am so not kidding, Sabrina, it might be better if you didn't-"

"This is Harry Potter." She held it up for me to see, as if I didn't know what it looked like. Funny aside, I barely did - I hadn't picked any up myself. Arianna was always reading them on break; it was the only reason I knew she wasn't totally illiterate. "Harry Potter, Libby?"

I totally could have died. As she said to me once before, the road to Hell...

"Is this some kind of gag?" she said. "I mean, you know, the magic they do in these books is like, a severely bogus representation of our craft. I mean, they still use brooms!"

"You stole my heart."

She stopped dead, still holding the book; after a few moments, she glanced back at the title again.

"Oh... 'Prisoner Of Azkaban'."

"So maybe my money would've been better spent on renting a Cyrano," I laughed harshly, inwardly beating my ass into next week for listening to Harvey's advice. "Glaringly obvious at this point. But seriously, corny as it may sound, the fact remains that I- I'm captive under your spell. Pathetic cubed, but true."

"Come on," she said; this was such a bad scene, but for some reason she didn't seem to mind. Blinking, she put the book down on the table next to the other presents. "Libby, I'm sorry. Maybe the books DO fall under the category of 'different', but they're sweet. I didn't mean to poke fun at them, honest. But hey, as long as we're going for broke..."

"Wait!" I blurted out ashamdedly as she went for the last package, my hand stretching out toward it like I was running after my grandmother in the dream I'd had the first night after her passing. "Why kick a good homecoming queen when she's down? Let's just-"

"A hot water bottle?"

Dead silence. When I didn't bother to explain again, her face scrunched up a little as she said, "Are you, uhh... trying to tell me something? Is the nozzle somewhere in the wrapping, or-"

"No!" I half-laughed; it was almost enough to cut through the shame and disappointment hanging in the air. "No, I didn't- it's not supposed to be hygenic so much as, um, symbolic."

"Oh. OH!" She gazed at it for a long moment, almost as if it had revealed itself to be made of solid platinum, then looked back up at me and laughed herself. "Pre-Christmas escapades. Duh!"

"You gave me one once, and it was definitely crucial then, so I figured... y'know."

"Yeah, I- yeah." As I watched, her eyes swept from it to the other presents, and I was amazed she didn't look at any of them with revulsion. "Gosh, that seems like decades ago."

"It's cheap," I agreed, too preoccupied with moping to take in what she was actualy saying. "They're all cheap, I- they're not good enough. I mean, of course they're not, not for you."

"Don't say that," she said quietly, clutching the rubber bag to her chest. "They're clever, and a clever gift is tons better than maxing out plastic in my opinion."

"Please don't patronise me," I said, suddenly two inches away from breaking down all over the room - but I held it together. God had the good grace to grant me that much. "I know they're silly, and childish. I only- I-"

"Shh, c'mon." She led me over to the chair and sat me down, her hand lingering on my shoulder. "Don't do this to yourself, they were-"

"I only wanted to show you just how much you've meant to me these past two years, and I messed that up, too. No wonder you're unreceptive - I wouldn't receive me in a receiving line!"

"Now stop that," she said sharply, waving the stupid, pointless bag under my face - that only made me feel worse. "They're the most touching gifts anyone's ever given me, and my aunts can conjure things from midair!"

"But are they enough? E-even if you weren't lying to spare my feelings, I know they wouldn't be enough! I'm sorry for putting you through this, Sabrina, and I don't- I don't deserve..."

And that's when it happened. Well, not exactly - it had been happening all along, little by little, ever since she infiltrated my world and rearranged my thinking. But this is the moment when the dam finally gave way.

"I'm yours to do with as you please," I said as I looked up at her, my will broken at last, giving myself over wholly. "Whatever you decide, it's up to you; take me for your own, hold me at arm's length, throw me away..."

Her voice cracked as she gaped at me openly, her chest heaving to feed her quickening heart. The hot water bottle bounced along the ground and settled behind one of the cardboard cutouts. "Libby!"

"There's not much left for me to say - and I won't say the words I want to, because I don't want to force your hand, or break you down; I want it to be what you truly want. Make your decision, and I'll be that for you: stranger, friend, or- or whatever. This cheerless heart is in your hands."

There. I had said my peace, and had nothing left in me but to stare at the floor, rubbing my bicep and trying not to betray another emotion.

"...you could have had me in the rain."

Startled, I looked up. "The... rain?"

"I knew what you were going to say." The tears running down her face were so heavy, so plentiful, I couldn't help but shed a few at the sight of hers. Her voice was so overwrought, so strained... "Any idiot with an IQ higher than an amoeba would have been able to tell. I asked you not to jerk me around, and what did you do? Jerked me around. Jerk."

"S-Sabrina, I- I didn't-"

"If only you had said it," she said, sniffling slightly through her would-be stony gaze into nothingness. "We were so close, and- and if you would have spit it out then, I w-would have fallen right into your trap, and we would never have gone through all the misery and suffering since that night. Easy, so easy. But no, not for us."

My heart didn't want to be put through this, but I had no choice; it seemed I was going to have to make it through this one last conversation before I could let it give out once and for all. "I- I'm sorry, I- I was scared, it-"

"Damn you, Libby," she whispered quietly. "Damn you for making it be me. For making it be me who tells you."

What?

Lip quivering from the effort it took to hold everything in, she pulled me to my feet, slipped her hands behind my ears and stared into my eyes.

"I'm keeping your heart."

"Oh-!" It was all I could say. That one short word was the best I could do, and I felt so foolish, but at the same time I couldn't bring myself to care; I was too busy soaring on butterfly wings.

"I am," she went on, her right thumb stroking my cheek as she cast all her misgivings aside. "Jerky parts and all. What the hell else am I supposed to do? I need your heart to always be next to mine, because... because I kinda sorta love you, Libby. God help me, I love you!"

My hand moved up her back to rest on the nape of her neck. "Sabrina, I- I love you, too! More than I know, even now, you just- you consume me!"

"Maybe later," she muttered with a wink; we both giggled nervously, not even daring to think about deeper things like that yet.

"Damn... Sabrina, do you know what you're getting yourself into? I can be so schitzo, and vindictive, and- are you sure you can tolerate being with some dumb cheerleader for the rest of your-"

Then her hands drew my head in, and I was lost in what was only our second kiss - in the exact same locale as our first, felicitously enough - though as far as I was concerned, this one was the first that counted. It was like cotton candy, and lemons, and cherries, and a glorious fruit salad of everything I've ever loved to death or secretly desired were poured into a mold and presented to me free of charge. My entire life and the long, painful journey fell away, and we were lifted above the clouds, and all those other things the romantics spout off about, except real, and concrete, and warm. Maybe it was her witchly forces at work, or maybe it was simply the natural kind of magic... but either way, I could never forget that sweet, sacred moment as long as I lived.

Eventually, she broke the kiss to speak, and as she did she looked back into my eyes with a shy smile, breathing heavily as her tears mixed with mine.

"Go team."

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~~*~ END Chapter Twelve

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