Sam checked his phone for what felt like the millionth time to see that it was 2:37 still, and that Sharon’s blonde hair was not coming towards him in the park. It was empty around him. Not even the crickets were chirping to keep him company. But Sharon insisted they meet in the usual spot right now.
He heard footsteps and looked behind him to see Sharon sprinting towards him. He stood up and held out his arms, saying, “It’s about time!”
Sharon slowed down as she reached him, taking a moment to rest her hands on her knees and catch her breath.
“Well? What’s the emergency?” he asked.
Sharon stood up, smiled, poked Sam’s nose, and said, “Boop!”
Sam frowned. “You woke me up in the middle of the night – on a Wednesday, mind you – and insisted I come here so you could boop my nose?”
Sharon shrugged. “I couldn’t wait until fifth period,” she said.
“That’s not a good answer, Sharon,” Sam replied.
“Well too bad. That’s the story, morning glory.” She gave him a quick pat on the cheek and ran back to her house.
“Don’t do that again!” Sam shouted after her.
“No promises!” Sharon shouted back over her shoulder.
Sharon had resorted to lying upside-down on the bench, with her feet in the air and her hair brushing against the sidewalk. Her texts with Tony had died down to “LOL” and “OK” so the conversation there was over. It was surprisingly empty for a Sunday afternoon in the park.
Sam sat next to her suddenly. Well, probably not so suddenly. She forgot to keep on looking for him. He was more excited than usual.
“Good sermon today?” she asked.
“So, the other day, Bucky and I were watching this porno,” Sam began.
“You and Bucky watch porn together?”
“Not important. What is important is that it was about this guy who was getting off with a pool noodle.”
Sharon sat up the best she could without falling. “How is this not important? You and Bucky watch pornos together about guys getting off with pool noodles. This is possibly the greatest form of blackmail ever,” she said.
“It’s a game that people do where they look up porn based on random things that could be in it, okay?” Sam defended. “Anyway, it turns out the guy in it is in my church’s choir.”
“Shut the hell up.”
“I’m dead serious!”
Sharon leaned back. “I can’t believe porn stars live in our town,” she said with slight astonishment. “If we ask for an autograph, what do we get him to sign?”
“We ask him to sign nothing because we don’t tell people who go to my church that we know they film pornos of themselves,” Sam answered, knocking her legs with his shoulder.
“Says the guy who watched him fuck a pool noodle,” Sharon teased.
“At least I’m not the one who fucked it.”
Sharon snorted a laugh and knocked her legs against his shoulder.
Sharon and Sam had arrived at the park at the same time, from opposite directions, and somehow both decided to make a chicken game of sorts by charging at each other to see who would turn first. The problem with this is that neither of them had the intention of stopping, so they collided right into each other and both ended up on their backs, rubbing their sore heads.
“That was the worst idea,” Sharon said with a wince.
“Yeah,” Sam agreed, “this one is definitely up there.”
“Why did we come here again?”
“What was the answer to number seven on the algebra homework?”
“Oh, right. X equals 3.”
Sharon rolled onto her stomach and tried pushing herself up to her knees, but a surge of pain to her brain made her fall again. Sam didn’t even bother.
“Let’s agree to never do this again,” Sam said.
Nothing beat a snow day on a Monday. What did suck about them was not being able to fall back asleep after your mental alarm clock wakes you up before a reasonable hour and insists you play in the snow, which is where Sharon was stuck at. Sam said he needed to finish his English homework first, so give him an hour or two. Everyone else sucked. Steve wanted to be left alone, still annoyed at the several hours long roast his friends gave him in the group chat. Bucky was catching up on his reading, and thus was renamed “Nerdy Bitch 2” in Sharon’s phone. Original Nerdy Bitch Tony was too busy doing a paint job on his new motorcycle that he was still a few months away from driving because his mother was home and parenting for once. Maria was dangerous to text, because waking her up from sleeping was asking to have a toe broken. (“Trust me, a toe hurts more in the long run than a finger. I’d rather walk than open a pickle jar. They can be opened with a hammer,” was Maria’s bizarre logic.) Bobbi promised she wasn’t doing something with Clint, but she was a liar, Clint’s Snap Story revealed not even five minutes after the two blondes said their goodbyes. Daisy was still sick. Rhodey was studying for the SATs. Hope was visiting her dad in San Francisco for the week, and was sending pictures of the sunshine and weather forecast to rub it in that she was missing the nor’easter. Natasha would have definitely come out, if she was still living in America. Damn exchange programs. They needed to adopt Natasha or marry her into the country.
So when Sam finally arrived at the park, Sharon’s first statement was, “You should marry Natasha so she can live with us forever.”
“What? No. I’m not doing a green card marriage,” Sam said. “Stop coming to me with illegal ideas.”
“Ugh, fine! Then make Steve do it!”
“Can’t. He’s still swearing off relationships after we kept on messing with him for being the slutty friend, remember?”
Sharon threw her arms up in the air. Why wouldn’t her friends just marry their friend for the green card? “Then ask him next week! Or Bucky!”
Sam rolled his eyes. “You’ll make him cry. You know he’s always scared to do anything illegal. Remember when we forced him to jaywalk?”
Sharon did remember how much Bucky was crying over crossing the street. She wished she could argue against Bucky crying, but those were the most pathetic tears she’d seen after Steve picked up Bucky, threw him over his shoulder, and crossed over with the others to the bagel shop. She and Steve promised not to tell anyone (read: Tony and Sam) that he was crying over a crime that everyone commits daily. He needed to get out more.
“Then we’ll get Tony to marry Natasha,” Sharon said. “He’s well off. He can give her whatever she wants. And if shit goes haywire, they can run away easier than the rest of us.”
“Pepper,” Sam deadpanned.
“Sharon, you know gay marriage is legal, right?” Sam asked.
Sharon really had forgotten. “Fuck! Why didn’t I think of that! We can always ask Hope!”
“What? I’m not into Nat. Maybe if she had dark brown hair and bright blue eyes and less of an hourglass figure, I’d think about it,” Sharon pondered aloud.
“So if she looked like Maria,” Sam said.
“A most perfect woman for me, yes.”
“Okay, well are we gonna build that ‘bitching snowman’ you wouldn’t stop blowing up my phone over?”
“Well, duh! I just needed you here!” Sharon pointed behind her to the giant balls of snow behind her. “I need someone to help me stack them.
“Oh, I’ve been here since seven, and I got bored waiting for you to start,” Sharon explained, as if this was somehow normal behavior.
“I swear, Sharon…”
“I also made a few forts for the snowball fight.”
“I was bored!”
Sam was too energized from rushing to the park from the gym. He started doing jumping jacks until those bored him, them switching to push-ups, then sit-ups, then realized that he and Sharon needed to coordinate times to meet up rather than just going and hoping the other was there already.
His phone buzzed. It was Steve. Strange – not that he was calling, because he always forgot that texting was much more convenient for Sam, but because it was what should be past his bedtime. Yes, the sixteen-year-old had a strict bedtime. No, it’s not his parents’ enforcement. It’s his own. Sam didn’t question it, but he did remind Steve constantly that coffee was invented for a reason.
“Steve, you’ve got to start texting, man,” Sam started the conversation with.
“Please don’t kick my ass,” Steve pleaded. He sounded so… desperate.
Sam sat up straighter on the bench. Very rarely did Steve swear. “What? Why would I do that?”
“I fucked up again, man. I really fucked it up.”
Sam’s eyes widened. He knew. “You didn’t. Tell me you didn’t.”
“I didn’t mean to!”
“Didn’t mean to? If you didn’t mean to, you wouldn’t have done it in the first place!”
“Just promise you aren’t gonna kick my ass!”
“Me? Kick your ass? Steve, I’m your best friend. I wouldn’t never do that.”
“Oh, thank god.”
“Just try stopping Tony and Maria.”
Sam looked up to see Sharon running towards him, tripping over herself every few steps. “Lemme call you back,” he said, hanging up before Steve could say anything else.
He opened his arms right in time for Sharon to tackle him into a hug and sob into his shirt. He shushed her and caressed her hair as he hugged her.
“I hate him,” she said several minutes later, her sobbing reduced to tears and occasional hiccupping.
“No you don’t,” Sam insisted. “You always say that, but you don’t mean it.”
“I do. He’s the meanest son of a bitch I’ve ever met, and I hate him. I hate them both.” She sniffled. “You smell so sweaty.”
“I just came from the gym. Anyway, you could never hate him. Just because Steve is an accidental asshole all the time doesn’t mean he won’t find a way to make it up to you.”
Sharon pulled out of the hug and raised an eyebrow. “What are you talking about?” she asked.
Now Sam was confused. “What are you talking about?” he asked.
“My mom and dad decided to put Aunt Peggy in a nursing home in DC that’s too far for us to always visit her, so I’m barely gonna see her anymore,” Sharon explained. “What did you think I was upset about?”
“I thought Steve cheated on you! He called saying he fucked up and not to kick his ass! That’s what he says whenever he cheats on someone!” Sam exclaimed.
Sharon gasped. “He cheated on Arnie?”
“Steve and Arnie got back together? Since when?”
“Probably around the time you thought him and I got back together.” Sharon wiped her face, scrunching her nose at the snot on her sweater sleeve. “What kind of idiot is he to cheat on Arnie? And who did he cheat on him with?”
“I don’t know,” Sam admitted with a shrug. “Whoever it was, it’s bad enough to make him think I’d kick his ass.”
“How rude! He knows you’d never kick his ass! It’s me he should be worried about kicking his ass!” Sharon stole Sam’s phone from his pocket and went to dial Steve’s number. Now Sam was regretting not putting a lock code on it. Not like Sharon wouldn’t have figured it out anyway. Or Bucky to spite him.
“What about your Aunt Peggy?”
“We can talk about that later!”
“Wait!” Sam reached out and grabbed her sleeve that wasn’t covered in snot. Sharon held the phone out of his reach in case he tried to take it back. Instead, he said, “Put it on speaker.” Sharon did.
“Sam, please tell me you didn’t tell anyone else about this,” Steve said.
“Too late,” Sharon answered.
“Sharon?! Oh, shit.”
“‘Oh, shit’ is right! When I’m done with you…”
Sam took one look at Sharon and knew that he would regret this conversation. But it needed to be had, and she insisted it needed to happen in person.
“Why did you change the group chat name to ‘Gabe from The Office Waxes His Butthole’?” he asked.
Sharon grinned. “So, you know how Tony is going through his cinephile phase again?” she asked.
“So we were watching Other People on Netflix because he heard that the script and Molly Shannon were quote-unquote ‘phenomenal’.” Sharon motioned an explosion with her hands in a way that Sam knew only Tony would do and be serious about. “It was me, him, Bucky, and Steve. Don’t know why Bucky was over, because he said something about a museum trip, but anyway, we’re watching the movie and Gabe from The Office was in it.”
“Bucky said it’s next weekend, and actors are allowed to be in more than one thing,” Sam said.
“Right, he did say that! But there’s this sex scene with the main guy and Gabe from The Office, and after, they have this big conversation about their junk and sex, and a big part of it is talking about how Gabe from The Office waxed his butthole before they got it on,” Sharon continued.
“The actor has a name. He wasn’t born ‘Gabe from The Office’.”
“Well, I don’t know his name.”
The conversation was put on hold so Sam could look up the answer. “Zach Wood,” he said. “But his character’s name in Other People is Paul. Either way, both are easier and shorter to say than ‘Gabe from The Office’.”
“But we all know him as Gabe from The Office!” Sharon insisted.
“We need to stop saying ‘Gabe from The Office’.”
“See? It’s addictive. And he waxes his butthole, which is why that’s the new name of the group chat,” Sharon explained, as if that somehow made sense. “We can watch it together sometime so that you’ll be in on the joke, I promise.”
“I’m not sure I want to,” Sam said.
“Because why would I want to hear about a guy talking about waxing his butthole?”
“Listen, Sam, it’s important! This is going to define the group friendship!”
Sam shook his head. What a weird ass group.
Sharon found herself sitting up in a tree today. Usually, she wouldn’t even think about it, because bugs are gross, but it was early February. She swung her leg as low as she could without falling so that Sam could see her. The tree was close enough to their usual bench that he would figure it out eventually.
When Sam made his way to her, he shook his head. “Seriously?” he asked.
“Whatever was super urgent that you insisted I drop everything and run here is going to have to wait for you to get up here,” Sharon said.
“You’re gonna make me work for this?”
“Work for what?”
Sam grinned. “It’s a surprise. Now, close your eyes. And move your boney ass so I can get up there.”
“Rude,” Sharon said. She turned her back from the tree and scooted closer to the end of the large branch she was straddling. “Not all of us are blessed with perfect asses like you.”
“Blame your parents for that one. It’s got nothing to do with me. And close your eyes!”
Sharon stuck out her tongue but closed her eyes anyway. She smiled as she heard Sam struggling to reach the branch she was on, swearing under his breath that he needed to stop befriending people who are part-monkey.
“I’m getting bored,” she announced.
“Everything bores you,” Sam retorted. She heard him grunt, and felt him getting closer to her.
“You don’t bore me.”
“That’s probably the best compliment you can give me.”
“No problem. I’ll be here all week.”
“I hope not. You’d miss pizza day.”
“Cold pizza from Dominos isn’t going to solve all my problems and make my week.”
“If it did, then I’ll have a hard time topping that.” He was almost on her branch. She could feel it.
“That’s what she said.”
“You’re not allowed to hang out with Clint anymore.”
“Plot twist, I picked that up from Scott.”
“That’s not an improvement, if you can believe that.”
“I know.” Sharon could feel Sam sitting in front of her. Her one swinging leg was bouncing shoes with Sam. His breath was heavy. She felt a bit nervous, but she wasn’t sure why.
“You ready?” Sam asked.
“Duh,” Sharon answered just to be a little shit. She licked her lips. Why did she lick them?
She heard Sam scoot closer, and whisper to himself, “Don’t fuck this up, man.” One hand came to rest on top of hers. It felt calloused. The other rested on her cheek. She nuzzled into it a bit. A pair of lips pressed against hers, and every instinct she had pushed her to press back. It tasted like the cinnamon mints that Sam loved so much. Hers probably tasted like Mentos. She’d been inhaling them since Aunt Peggy bought her a box of rolls. She hoped Sam didn’t mind tasting the mint overload from her mouth.
They pulled apart. Sharon kept her eyes closed. “So, what’d you get me?” she teased.
“Shut up,” Sam said with a laugh, shoving her lightly. Sharon finally opened her eyes. Sam’s eyes were gleaming, and his cheeks were pinker.
“You know what this means, right?” she asked.
Sam looked worried for a second. “Does it mean what I hope it means? Because if it doesn’t, then I really fucked up,” he said.
“It means we’re gonna have to out-cute every other couple on Valentine’s Day,” Sharon said, grinning at Sam’s sigh of relief. “We’ll definitely out-cute Steve and Rachel, but it’s Tony who’s gonna try to put everyone to shame with his gifts to Pepper.”
“I think us not telling anyone this is a thing until Valentine’s Day with matching outfits and obnoxious cute-couple stuff will be hard to beat,” Sam said.
“Devious. I like it.”
Sharon and Sam didn’t leave the tree for a while, just sitting there, straddling it with their thighs and playing footsies. They didn’t need to go all-out right away because they knew they didn’t have to. This was already more than enough. It was perfect for them.