“We should do something,” Ben said quietly.
There was a sob from behind the locked bathroom door and then a female voice burst into tears once more.
“Yeah,” Sam agreed, and thought about it for a moment.
Both men stood motionless in front of the locked bathroom door and looked at it like it was a portal to another universe. As if something mysterious and weird was behind it. Something they couldn’t explain to themselves.
Sam had an idea. A grin spread slowly over his face while the images in his mind became clearer. “All right, Rambo,” he said and clapped his hands enthusiastically. “I’ve got it. I’ll count to three and you’ll kick in the door.” Sam started to count, setting his sight on the door and moving nervously from one foot to another.
Ben glanced at Sam. Did he really want to try that?
Ben raised an eyebrow. He would probably dislocate his shoulder.
Ben didn’t move. Unimpressed, he looked at Sam’s extended arm, pointing at the door. It was ridiculous.
After a moment Sam realized that nothing would happen. “Okay, it was a bad idea,” he admitted and fell back into his clueless posture.
“Yeah, it was,” Ben agreed and buried his fists deep in the pocket of his dark blue hoodie.
“What else can we do?”
“Maybe it’s time for an apology!” Ben burst out.
“Oh, c’mon!” Sam groaned loudly and cocked his head back. “Love hurts! Nazareth has known that since 1975.”
The crying behind the door became louder, interrupted by bitter sobs. With her broken voice Claire whined something incoherent, but it sounded heartbreaking and neither Sam nor Ben were able to look away.
Deep worry lines pervaded Sam’s forehead and cautiously he asked, “What should I tell her?”
Ben just shrugged. “Don’t know. Maybe, that you’re sorry!”
“What?” Sam turned to his friend in confusion. That was beyond question. “Why that?”
Ben rolled his eyes. Sometimes Sam’s behavior was an annoying mixture of intolerance, naivety and carelessness. A textbook example of a S.O.B., it was remarkable. Ben sighed. “Maybe because you’ve told Claire, that Lydia – and I’ll quote this only once – has ‘giant boobs’, when she’d shown us the picture of Wyatt and his new girlfriend!”
“But it’s true!” Sam protested.
There was a weepy howl behind the door that sounded like a lonesome wolf, followed by the unmistakable sound of someone blowing their nose. It was so loud and heavy that Sam almost believed it was an elephant and wondered if Claire had opened up a zoo in their bathroom.
“You hear that?” Ben asked and pointed at the door, his eyes seriously fixed on Sam. “Snore-a-saurus is eating up our toilet paper. I’ll go and buy some more.”
“What?” Sam was confused.
Ben was moving to the door and it took Sam a moment to understand what was going on. “No, no, no,” he repeated franticly and followed him across the room. “Ben, you can’t leave me alone with this lovesick teenager locked up in our bathroom!”
Ben ignored him, put on his jacket and patted down his pockets to be sure he didn’t forget his keys.
Sam’s eyes widened. “Ben!” he repeated harshly. “She is lovesick like… uh…” Sam stalled. “Like a lovesick teenager!” he finished his sentence and suddenly sounded a bit overwhelmed with the situation. “You can’t go right now!”
“Of course, I can. Already done.” Ben said stubbornly. He had enough. Sam was the one who had made her cry, so now it was his job to fix it.
Sam protested. “The stores are closed!”
“Don’t mind,” Ben said and had already opened the door. “Bye,” he added sourly and slammed it shut.
Sam stood in front of the door muttering curses. Maybe Ben was right. Probably he was right. For Christ’s sake! He knew Ben was fucking right. Shit.
A few minutes later Sam was back at the bathroom door. Unfortunately, his wish hadn’t come true and Claire hadn’t either unlocked the door or stopped crying. He had to do something, whether he wanted or not.
Sam cleared his throat, before he knocked on the door almost politely. “Claire?” He waited for a moment, but the only thing he heard were tearful sobs. “Claire, I need to piss.”
Sam knocked and this time more forcefully. “Come on, Claire! Do you really want me to go piss in the kitchen sink?”
The sobs seemed to come to an end and for a moment there was nothing, then Sam heard the quiet click of the lock. He stepped back and in the same moment the door opened.
Claire kept her gaze down and tried not to meet Sam’s eyes as she wiped her cheek with the back of her hand. With a mutter she nodded at the bathroom.
Sam just chuckled and shook his head. “I don’t need to piss at all.”
Claire lifted her gaze. There it was. The look she hated the most.
Sam gave her a neutral look. She was in a cold fury, almost about to hit the ceiling, like the day Ben and he had left her in the woods. He knew it wasn’t a good idea to tell her the truth, but what was the worst that could happen? Another coffee pot thrown at him?
With a shameless coolness Sam confessed that he had fooled her. “It was a trick, Claire. All I wanted was to get you out of the bathroom.”
Claire’s face changed from grief-stricken heartbreak to raving anger. Her voice was loud and full of anger when she yelled at him, “Fuck you, Loudermilk! Fuck you! You’re an –“
“Asshole?” he finished her words so calmly that she had to hold on her breath. “Yeah, I knew that already.”
Within the blink of an eye Claire’s fury had dissolved into thin air. She felt her tears coming up once more and a shiver ran through her body, but before the first sob came out, she heard Sam’s voice so soft and warm that she couldn’t resist his offered comfort.
She gave in and a second later she felt two strong arms around her shaking shoulders and a warm cheek was pressed against her temple. She didn’t know exactly what was going on here, but it seemed to be exactly what she needed.
Sam could feel two fists gripping tightly in the fabric of his shirt. This skinny girl had wrapped her arms around his middle like steel band. He suppressed a sigh.
He wasn’t good at comforting and all those maternal things. He was good at being a pain in the neck and forcing people not to screw up their life in the same way he had done years ago. And, well, he was pretty good at standing as solid as a rock, giving a distraught teenager a shoulder to cry on. Or at least he was getting a lot of practice with Claire, which was not inherently bad.
Claire was still holding him tight, her forehead pressed against his shoulder while she wiped off her tears on his shirt. Sam tried to be patient and started to stroke her back gently and slowly. And suddenly he got it.
Something in the way Claire was hugging him told him that Ben was wrong. She hadn’t locked up herself in the bathroom because of his comment about Lydia’s boobs – well, not mainly – she’d done it because of Wyatt. Now he knew what he had to say and it was definitely no apology!
Sam did his best to keep his voice calm when he started to speak, “This Son-of-a-bitch has broken your heart. I understand that, sweetheart, really.”
Claire couldn’t believe her ears at the first moment. Sam’s voice had a tone so tender and similar to the voice of her father, that she was on the verge to call him dad. What he said touched her broken heart and for the first time she managed to ease her grip.
The steel band around his middle loosened and Sam was thankful for that. He had hit the right spot, so he continued. “He doesn’t deserve such a beautiful and clever girl like you. You’re much too smart and too pretty for such an asshole.”
Claire wiped off her wet face on his shirt one last time and looked up. “Do you really think I’m pretty?” She asked, not completely convinced.
Sam looked down to her. Claire’s make-up was an absolute mess and with the dark circles around her eyes she looked like a lost raccoon – cute, but a little bit silly. “Well,” he began and found it hard not to laugh. “Not right now, but... Ouch!”
Claire had poked him in the side, a little smile on her face. He really understood how to cheer her up – just like her dad.