I woke up to Sam's breath on my nose. As I realized this I sat up so fast that my throbbing head nearly made me throw up all over him. I clutched my head and tried to sneak out of bed without disturbing him. This is pretty difficult considering my bed is against one wall and Sam is lying on the side opposite the wall. He's spread out and tabled and clearly blocking my way to freedom and safety. I manage to crawl over him very slowly without disturbing him too much, but I lost it at the very end and tumble over the edge of the bed and onto the floor. I made a fairly muffled themp and groze as I waited to hear any sort of sound coming from Sam. He just grumbled a little.


He settled back down into sleep. I picked myself up and moved into the bathroom. I took a quick inventory of my clothes and everything seemed to be in place…nothing had happened last night. I breathed a sigh of relief. I tousled my hair a little into a cute, 'bedhead' do, and then I brushed my teeth and swept on some chap stick. I was already pouring my first cup of coffee and heating up a skillet for some real breakfast by the time I heard Sam brown and roll out of bed.

Luckily I was working the night shift today at Sunny Hills Retirement Home, so I had the entire day to take it easy and get all my usual end-of-the-week chores out of the way. Sam stumbled into the kitchen looking beaten-down and hung over, but somehow I still felt an intense longing to stroll over to him and kiss him right on the mouth. Instead I just said:

"So how do you like your eggs?"

Sam smiled at this domestic display and said:

"Overeasy would be great."

"Overeasy it is…"

For some reason we both just grinned at each other for a while before we both realized we were staring and looked away awkwardly. Sam coughed and movied to pour himself a cup of coffee. For the first time since I met him Sam didn't drink his coffee black. As a matter of fact, he put so much sugar in his coffee that I was tempted to ask 'you want some coffee with that sugar?' He always drank his coffee black to impress people.

I didn't know what this meant.

Despite the term 'overeasy', this particular style of cooked egg is not overly easy to make. I tried, I really did, but in the end I broke every yolk and Sam and I had to settle fore regular fried egg sandwiches.

Sam stayed for breakfast, which I thought was reasonable, but what surprised me was that he stuck around even after that. He stood next to me tapping his fingers on the dryer in an interesting rhythm while I loaded some laundry into the washing machine. I was a little frustrated because my usual ratio of soap and fabric softener was about 1:4. What could I say? I really liked my clothes to be soft. However, I had forgotten to get more fabric softener and I had just enough lefr in the bottom for a 1:1 ratio.

Sam was talking idly about some new book he had just read. He said it was by this French existentialist whose name I couldn't remember. It sounded very interesting, but also very depressing. While the washer was going, Sam and I watched the last little bit of March of the Penguins that we had missed. He sat on the couch and I sat on the easy chair.

After the movie Sam leapt up and stood with a manic look on his face.

"I have a great idea."

He ran across the living room, leapt through the kitchen and dashed out the door. Through the kitchen window I saw him jerk open his car door and pull out a medium-sized black bag. It sort of resembled a laptop carrying case. He came back in and dumped its contents on the kitchen table. It clearly wasn't a laptop.

I moved up to the table. It was covered with tubes of paint and brushes at all different levels of wear and tear. The last thing was a small book of square foot canvases. The canvases are just little sheets that you tear out of a book, nothing fancy.

"I want you to paint with me Bumble Bea"

It seems like Sam is just determined to keep shocking me today. Not only was he asking me to start some magnificent peace of art with him, but he had called me by my rarely-used nickname. Growing up I was cursed with the name Beatrice. By the time I started kindergarten I made it clear that my name had to be shortened to Bea, or I simply wouldn't respond. What five-year-old wants to be called by the same name as the crazy old cat lady across town? Beatrice Stratton. BS. BullShit. Honestly? I was fucked. IN middle school I picked up the name Bumble Bea. My very first boyfriend had started it when I was fourteen years old. The reason for the nickname was my general clumsiness, but there was absolutely no malice in calling me Bumble Bea.

The very first boy I ever liked…the very first boy I ever loved…the very first person in the entire world I ever felt a genuine connection with besides my grandfather…had started calling me Bumble Bea, and now I'd probably only been called that five times in the past two years. Various people who were close to me still used it when they had something in credibly important to tell me. Now here Sam was calling me that name all over again. It froze me in my tracks.

Bumble Bea.

His genius play on words from a million and a half lives ago…and I still loved him. I still felt that unbreakable connection with him.

"Okay…let's paint."

So we did. I started out trying to paint something realistic, a kid bouncing a ball…and a giving tree like Shel Silverstein talked about, but I quickly gave those up for the abstract. We painted straight lines and wavy lines and snow and blobs of color accented with white and yellow and pink like the space inside your ears. Our hands were splattered with paint and it stuck under our nails and in the crevices of our cuticles. My jeans and my '#1 Vodka of 2011!' shirt would be stained forever, but I was okay with that.

We stood back and admired our work. It wasn't museum-worthy, but it was beautiful because we had done it. I imagined that anyone looking at it would know everything about us. Our lives. Every interaction between us. All the confusion was being presented by a conglomeration of red, fuchsia, and aquamarine and a million other colors of paint. IN some places the paint was spread on thick and jaggedly raised; in other places it was spread thin and flat. The mountains of texture were amazing. It seemed to present all of our highs and lows. I was speechless, breathless. I had to change the subject.

"Want some lunch?"

He started at the painting for a moment longer, and then nodded his head without looking at me. While Sam cleaned up the paint mess, I moved my clothes from the washer into the dryer. I climbed the stairs slowly, dwelling on what a weird day today had been. Sam jerked his head towards me as I reached the top of the stairs. I was a little startled and blurted out:

"Is stir fry okay?"

"Chinese is always welcome."

I started pulling out a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and poured them into a skillet. I added some canned Chinese noodles that I found by some fluke in the grocery store. I was a little bit wary of noodles that came from a can, but, I needed cheap and fast…and you can't always expect quality with cheap and fast. I added some teriyaki sauce and sprinkled some ginger on top. Stir fry was really a staple in my diet. It was simple and delicious, and it certainly beat the shit out of Ramen Noodles in the taste category. I scrounged up a can of water chestnuts, because stir fry just isn't stir fry without water chestnuts.

I was still standing at the stove and Sam was sitting at the table drumming his fingers, when Ellen and Jason crashed through the door. Sam's fingers stopped drumming immediately and he stared at them. I turned and stared as well, frozen with spatula in mid-air. Ellen and Jason stood in the doorway with raised eyebrows. No one moved for about a full five seconds, then Ellen winked at me and whisked over to slide the spatula out of my hand. She hip-bumped me over a bit and leaned over the skillet of stir fry.

"This smells delicious. It looks like our surprise timing was just about perfect."

Jason moved to sit by Sam and Sam started drumming his fingers again. Everything really felt normal for the first time in about sixteen hours. I heard the dryer ding and moved to go fold my clothes. Ellen practically sprang after me and declared she'd help me fold the clothes. I knew what this was leading to.

"Sooo…what brings Sam here?"

"Elle…please…just…don't even start with this because I don't even know. I have absolutely no idea what has been going on for the past sixteen hours. This has been the weirdest day of my life."

"Wait…sixteen hours…" Ellen counted on her fingers.

"Sam stayed the NIGHT?!?!" She gestured a little too wildly and smacked her hand on the washing machine. There was a resounding clang as Ellen cursed and held her hand to her chest.

"Elle! Keep your voice down! Shhh…Yes, he I did, but I nothing happened. We watched March of the Penguins and finished off the wine from Sunday. We just fell asleep. There was no hanky-panky, so just wipe that look off your face and that worry out of your head." I fiercely folded some jeans.

"But he's still here! It's after noon…and he's still here. You guys did what all morning?"

"We at breakfast and painted and I did laundry… that's it. I swear."

"Sooo…he stuck around all morning to do a whole lot of nothing? He just hung around here by himself just to spend time with you? When was the last time he did something like that Bea? I mean…seriously…you doing laundry is not all that interesting. You couldn't even interest a mathematician geek with your 4:1 softener ratios or how the amount of clothes affect how much your washer rocks around and makes a shit ton of noise. So why the hell do you think he was here?"

"I don't know, but it doesn't matter. He's my friend just the same as you guys are. It's no different than one of you staying the night and then hanging out here." I dumped all the socks out onto the top of the dryer and started matching them.

"Bea it is different and it does matter. It's completely different form one of us staying here because we don't exactly have the same type of history that you two do."

I drop the socks that I was matching.

"Our history….is…history. Please, just…please leave the past in the past Elle…things are different now and they're okay and Sam and I are okay. Okay is good. I don't want to…stir things up again."

"Okay is not the same as good, Bea. Okay is in the middle, it's apathy, it's transitionary. You can't spend your whole life in transition! You two love each other! You're both being so fucking stupid to throw something like this away! Admit it! You love him and you know you would give anything to be going with him to New York. Just try and tell me any different…just try to…"

"Stop! Just drop it! I love him, of course I do, but nothing is ever going to happen again, it can't work. The risk is too much for both of us, that is not even an option!"

The volume and hysteria in our voices had slowly been escalating all this time. I was breathing heavily and pairing striped socks with solid colors socks and white socks with bright blue ones. I let out a muffled scream of frustration.

"And I fucking hate matching these fucking socks!!!"

Ellen's eyes got wide and I looked up to see Sam standing at the top of the stairs. The look on his face bordered on shock, concern, and complete and utter confusion. It scared me a little.

I cleared my throat and threw the last of the mismatched socks into the basket. I kept my eyes averted from both Sam and Ellen.

"I should probably go ahead and finish my cleaning. You guys can all stay if you want but it won't really be that interesting, and I might put you to work."

One thing I loved about my friends was that they truly understand when I need to be alone. I don't even have to say it. It's quite the connection.

"Um…yeah, we only come here so you'll feed us anyway right?"

Ellen laughed and moved to round everyone else up and get the hell out of there. After everyone was gone I worked on washing the dishes and cleaning all my sheets and pillow cases. I'd been planning on washing them anyways, but Sam's familiar scent that clung to them was a little extra incentive to get them clean. I just couldn't handle sleeping in that bed with that scent drifting into my nostrils. It was just too much.

After I'd exhausted myself cleaning. I wondered out and sat on the lawn. I cried like I had two days before. This time I wasn't crying for my grandfather. This time I was being selfish; I was crying for me. I sobbed for all the pain of my indecision, for every time I wanted to draw Sam to me and kiss him and I didn't. The tears kept coming and coming as I imagined the future in New York with Sam that I would never have. I couldn't let myself have it. I asked myself why not and said it would be so easy; all I had to do was just let him in. The other side of my head said that it was selfish to keep him tied down and he wouldn't want me holding him back anyway. The other side of my head told me he didn't love me. I wrestled with my thoughts. I couldn't decipher which thoughts were coming from my heart and which thoughts were coming from my head. I wasn't sure which set of thoughts were true and which set of thoughts were just shit. It felt like a physical fight with myself, even though I was sitting perfectly still…not moving an inch. The big question of the day was:

Am I denying myself what I want just because I'm afraid?

I had no idea what the answer to that question was. The events of the past twenty-two hours had made all of my resolve dissipate. NO I wasn't sure if I was being strong and taking the reasonable path, or being weak and taking the easier, less-scary way out. I just didn't want to worry about it anymore. I was falling apart.

"Grandpa. I miss you and I wish you were here. You always know what to do…you know Sam…you know me…you know our history…I'm making the right choice….right?"

Of course I was met with silence. It's not like I expected the big booming voice of my grandfather to echo across the lawn and give me an answer, but the silence just seemed to solidify my doubt. How ironic.

The sun started going down early and it was already starting to get chilly. I peeled myself off the lawn. I could already feel a stiffness settling into my knees form the chill. I decided the best way to remedy this was to have a really hot, soothing, bath before I had to go into work.

I placed my foot in the water. It felt hot and wonderful at first, but then began to sting horribly, so I jerked my foot out again. I needed to let the water cool just a little bit before I sunk my whole body into it. I loved my baths so hot they almost hurt, but not so hot that they sting and practically burn your skin off. I perched on the edge of the bathtub, which was freezing and uncomfortable, and grabbed a book off the top of the stack of towels. It was a book of crude bathroom humor that Jason had bought for me as a house-warming gift. It wasn't really a house warming because I've lived here since I was two, it was just the first time it had officially been mine. I really appreciated Jason's gift anyway. It lightened the mood and made me feel a little better about the fact that I was living alone in a newly inherited house, having just lost the most important person in my life. Jason really was a good friend.

After a few pages of pretty graphic jokes, I decided that the water had probably cooled off enough to be bearable. I slid in and felt my skin slowly go numb, but the good kind of numb. I sank in up to my neck and enjoyed the steaming water tingling my skin. I breathed in deep and felt all the endorphins rushing around in my head.

It was such a shame to have to get out of my bath and get ready for work. Mr. Myers and Mrs. Flinn were waiting. When I got to work I found some unwelcome news on the assignment board. I was scheduled to clean that bathroom at the end of the West Wing of the building. It was the job everyone feared. This bathroom…was quite possibly the scariest place it has ever been my displeasure to enter. It was dark and small and the heavy stonewalls made it feel like no one would hear you scream. If you died in this place non one would ever find you. This bathroom for some reason reminded me of the sort of place someone had hung himself or herself in a long time ago. I was afraid to check my hair in the mirror because I was certain I would see a ghoulish, half-rotted face peeking up behind me. The first time I'd ever used that bathroom I had been certain there was someone in the stall next to me. I felt a presence and heard the tell-tale rustles of someone else preparing to do their business…but then I realized there were no feet.

No one was in there with me.

Needless to say I finished up as fast as humanly possible and high-tailed it out of there. I haven't really used that bathroom since. No one really uses that bathroom anymore. The only ones who used it were resident's relatives who were visiting for the first time.

They never used it again after the first time either.

Even though no one really used the bathroom at the end of the West Wing, we still had to clean it once a week. It was always an anxious and terrifying experience. When I got there I propped the door open with a large rock that we kept there just for this purpose. No one wanted to be in there on their knees cleaning for an hour with that door shut. It made it seem like you might never make it out again. So I propped open the door and got to work. I was speed cleaning as best as I could, but it was decent-sized bathroom and it still took quite some time to clean it. My body was tensed the entire time I was in there. It was stupid to be afraid of a bathroom, but whenever I was in there all I could picture was that face behind me in the mirror, or the feet or some poor woman swinging in one of the stalls because she just couldn't take it anymore. When I was in there I remembered all the horror stories people had told me about the times they'd spent in there and heard strange noises and seen strange things. Being in that room, I could feel my heart rate rise and my adrenalin kick in so I could be ready to dart out at the very first sign of danger. As I said, it was a stupid thing to be afraid of…but at least I wasn't alone in my fear.

When I got back to the front desk, Mindy patted me on the back and commended me on my bravery.

"Well, you've made it out alive once again. No you've got a few weeks to recover before your turn comes up and you have to do it all over again."

"I know, seriously. I feel like their trying to kill us with heart attacks by sending us all in to clean that thing once a week. I think even the little puppies on my scrubs were crying."

Mindy laughed and we parted ways. I finished out my shift without any more mishaps. When I finally got home it was nearly five in the morning. I'd been up for about twenty-one hours straight. It had definitely been one of the oddest, most exhausting days of my life. I feel into bed and slept like a dead person.

My phone brought me back into consciousness around seven that evening. It was Ellen.

"Hullo?" My voice was sluggish and my throat was clogged with sleep. My eyes could barely adjust to read her name on my caller ID.

"I know you're tired but we can't just let you waste your entire day in bed. We're coming over."

I didn't even have a chance to refuse. I was getting up I guess, so I rolled out of bed and stretched the stiffness out a little. The one thing I hated most about late shifts was that they made me so disoriented. Waking up at seven in the evening threw off not only what was left of that day, but messed up the day after as well. I hoped everyone's plans for the evening involved a good, stiff drink.