Sam slammed her locker door shut, sliding Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time into her backpack before slinging the wide straps over her shoulders. She hurried down the crowded hallway, searching over the mass of people and grateful for her above-average height. Finally catching sight of her intended target, she hurried with more purpose towards a shaggy-haired boy who was standing at another locker.
“Hey, Daniel!” she shouted as she got closer. He turned around and rolled his eyes.
“I’m right here, Sam,” he said, annoyed. She shrugged off the annoyance and leaned against the locker next to his.
“I’m probably doing something with Janet and Vala after school today, so I won’t need a ride home,” she said, fiddling with the ends of her shaggy blonde hair.
Daniel shrugged. “Sure thing. I guess Jack’s driving you then?” he asked, a knowing look in his eyes. She shoved him lightly. He snickered, closing his locker and shouldering his own backpack.
“I’ll grab Jonas after he finishes theater whatever then,” Daniel said. “I’ll just hang out in the library.
At the mention of theater, Sam groaned. “Oh crap, Vala has that whatever then too…I guess it’s just Janet and me tonight. I should be home before supper, I think we’re just going over chemistry stuff.”
Daniel nodded. “All right then, I’ll see you at home.” They split off and went in opposite directions, Sam heading for AP US History and Daniel for Latin.
Sam slid into her desk next to Vala, who was busy braiding her thick pigtails and skimming the chapter she’d forgotten to read the night before. Pulling out her own textbook and notebook, Sam earned herself a sideways friendly glare from her best friend for being so prepared and on top of things. Sam giggled a bit and pulled her Stephen Hawking book from her bag and read for a moment before the start of class.
“Good afternoon, class,” said the bald, casually-dressed older man standing at the front of the room.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Hammond,” mumbled the class back to him, Vala murmuring under her breath afterwards about where he could stick his good afternoon, Sam trying desperately not to laugh out loud in response. Mr. Hammond leveled a glance at the two girls, a smile curving at his lips as Sam tried to hide behind the much shorter girl in the desk in front of her.
“Does anyone have some interesting news to report?” he asked, sitting atop a bar stool appropriated from one of the chemistry labs long ago. A few hands shot up, the usual suspects, including Sam’s. Class began as usual, Vala’s occasional commentary still causing Sam to stifle laughter as the lecture wore on.
After class, the two girls chattered incessantly as they packed their bags to head out for each of their last classes – English for Sam and Spanish for Vala. As she waved goodbye as Vala walked off, Sam caught sight of Jonas as well and waved again, letting him know she saw him. He waved back quickly, but his eyes immediately slid back away from her. Curious, Sam watched for a moment before having to turn to head for her own class. It looked like he’d been waiting for someone – for Vala?
She shook her head. It couldn’t be, they’d grown up next to one another, Sam and Vala had been best friends since before they could remember and Jonas had always been the little one. Shaking off the nagging feeling that she had missed something, she headed off for English.
After school Sam passed the library, waving quickly to Daniel inside to let him know she was leaving, and met up with Janet outside her own locker.
“Hey, Jan,” she said offhandedly, not really concentrating on the conversation as she scanned her planner for the books she needed to take home that night. The shorter girl fiddled with the strap of her messenger bag, waiting for the blonde. Once she was ready, they headed off for the senior parking lot to meet up with Janet’s brother Jack, jabbering all the while.
Once out to the old familiar car, an unfamiliar boy’s face gazed at them from the passenger seat. Janet cocked her head in confusion as Jack jumped out to grab the stack of books Sam carried in her arms. She gave him a crooked smile, taking a second to relinquish the books as a red tinge creeped up her neck and Janet gave a quiet chuckle. This caused the red of Sam’s neck and face to deepen, and she climbed awkwardly into the car as Jack reached in to hand her back her books.
“Who’re you?” Janet asked bluntly of the boy in the front seat as she slid into the opposite side of the back seat.
“This is T,” Jack answered for him, “he’s new and on the football team, I invited him over to run some plays before we go back for gym workouts tomorrow morning. T, this is my sister Janet and her friend Sam.” The boy nodded at each of them and then turned back to the front, saying nothing and causing an interested look to pass between the two girls, but neither said anything to either boy and instead continued their conversation from before.
About two hours later, as the librarians threaded their ways through the stacks to let stray students know the library was closing, Daniel headed for the backstage door of the theater, where he knew he’d find both Jonas and Vala and could herd them to the car. Pulling open the door, he headed to the wings on the left, where he knew both of them tended to leave their backpacks during rehearsals. He couldn’t hear any conversation, which meant that the other theater kids had probably already left or were hanging around the choir room. But hearing neither Jonas nor Vala’s voice was a bit disconcerting, and he pushed back the last curtain of the wings with an unusual feeling of apprehension welling in his chest.
Two very familiar people stood, quite close together, in the shadows of the back corner of the stage. Daniel stopped dead in his tracks for a moment and watched as they wrapped their arms around one another and leaned their heads close, drawing together for a kiss.
Stunned, he let go of the heavy Latin book he held in his arms and it slammed loudly to the floor. The two sprang apart, Vala reaching up to tug at her pigtails and Jonas spinning around to grab both their bags from the floor.
“Hi, Daniel,” squeaked out Jonas, shouldering his bag and handing the other to Vala. “We were just…getting ready…to leave…” his voice trailed off, and when Daniel didn’t say anything, both he and Vala scurried out to the hallway and the back lot where they knew his car was parked.
The car ride home was uncharacteristically silent as Jonas in the front seat and Vala in the back consciously avoided catching each other’s eyes in any way possible. When they finally reached the end of the drive, Vala jumped out of the car without a backwards glace, shouting an offhanded “bye!” as she sped across her own lawn to the house next door. Jonas hung his head as he climbed out, avoiding Daniel’s gaze and hurrying up to their own front door. Both boys headed for their shared bedroom, but Jonas cleared out immediately for the attic game room and Daniel headed straight for Sam’s room, pushing open the door without knocking.
“Hey, Dan,” she said without looking up from her space sprawled on the bed, knowing her twin was the only one who would come in that way.
“Hey, he responded, settling down in her desk chair and spinning a few times before scooching over to the bed and placing a hand over her open book to force her to look at him. “Guess what I just saw?” he asked, not moving his hand.
“I don’t know,” she said, an annoyed edge to her voice, “a dead squirrel in the road?” Daniel rolled his eyes, still not moving his hand.
“No, backstage when I went to grab Jonas and Vala to bring them home. It was quiet and no one else was there, so I was just walking back to where they always throw their bags to wait for them and as I pushed back the curtains – they were just standing there and then they hugged and then they were kissing.” He moved his hand off the book, but it no longer mattered – Sam twisted herself into a sitting position, mouth agape.
“Wait. So Jonas – our Jonas, our little brother who is probably playing some video game up in the attic – and Vala, my best friend who has lived next door to us since before we were born – were kissing backstage?!” She snapped her book shut and waited for his response, which came only in the form of a nod.
Neither spoke for a moment, the thought curling around their brain as they contemplated what had happened. Sam stroked the cover of her book, speaking slowly.
“Well…I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that, they’ve known each other forever and we know them both and trust them both…it’ll just be really awkward if they break up.”
Daniel nodded again, then a mischievous grin spread across his face. “Well, no less awkward than if you break up with Jack!”, earning him a pillow thrown at his face and a well-aimed tickle of the ribs, causing both teenagers to break into loud giggles that drew Jonas down from the attic and back into the comfortable camaraderie of three well-matched siblings.
Once the ruckus died down and Sam’s room was put back to rights, she leveled her gaze at her younger brother. “Jonas, it’s a bit of a shock to know about you and Vala, but we just wanted to let you know…we’re not going to get involved any more than we already are unless you want us, it’s your relationship…” she meant to keep going, but was cut off by the younger boy clapping his hands over his ears and repeating “awkward! awkward! awkward!” and causing all three to dissolve into giggles again.
That evening, text messages sped between Janet and Sam, Sam and Vala, Jonas and Vala – the whole crew of teenagers, including newcomer T, were well-informed by the time they arrived at school the next morning, noses buried in books and footballs flying and Vala acting out some strange new one-girl improv scene. Everything had apparently returned to normal, Jack taking Sam’s books and her blonde hair stark against her deepening blush and Daniel trying to get up the nerve to scooch closer to Janet on the steps they’d commandeered – except that when Vala was finally satisfied with her monologue, she plopped down next to Jonas instead of Sam and interlaced her fingers with his, pulling a forgotten math assignment from her book.
So, not everything. Just most things.