dedication: to Sonya.
notes: RL stuff. I'm adjusting.

title: calcium deficiency
summary: Please don't touch me; I've come too far to let you bring me down.






She doesn't even know what's going on. Her parents are gone and her brother is leaving and it's in the glow of a cell phone that she finds herself waiting for a text from a boy who she loved once. She's always waiting for him—always waiting for him to get out of the shower or to do his laundry or to hurry up and pick her up and take her out for coffee. It's always something, and she's always waiting for him.

It's probably not healthy, that.

But she does it anyway, because she actually likes him more than she's ever liked anyone. There's something about him that drags her up and out and it's just sad because he makes it so hard to say no.

She pretends she's not waiting for it but she really knows she is. She sits and types out a story, working on the fringes of society and the fringes of music. She bites her lips and determinedly ignores her phone.

And then her phone vibrates, singing out the digital world's longest theme song. She flails and dives at her phone with her hair in crazy loops of dark brown curls and she probably looks like some sort of rabid animal. She's okay with that, though, because it suits her. Probably.

She flicks through to the new text and squints at it past the light of the phone.

To: Sara

Wat r u doing 2night?

The sad thing is that it's from someone else; it's from a girl called Jessica and she sighs and replies.

To: Jessica

Nothing, why?

She knows they all think she's strange because her grammar is perfect and her diction is even better but she thinks that that shouldn't be surprising at all. She's a writer, after—she plays in a world of words and to deny that would be betrayal of the worst sort. She sends the text off with a sigh and a slump of her shoulders.

It's not even ten seconds later that the next text comes in.

To: Sara
good. Jers coming 2 get u.

There is a moment of utter, blind panic.

To: Jessica
What? When?

She can almost hear Jessica laughing. She knows her friend, and she knows that Jessica is probably chortling. Jessica is the kind of girl that likes springing plans on people.

Sara should have known that.

To: Sara
lolno. like right now? or sumthin idk. b ready 2 go. we're at kierras.

Sara makes an inelegant noise in the back of her throat and presses her fingers to her eyes. They feel like ice and against her eyeballs, and the press is cold and calming. For a moment, she sits there at the kitchen table, trying to regain a sense of balance in the world. She feels dirty and tired and would give anything for a shower; time to make herself look presentable.

Then she realizes that she's smudging what little make-up she's wearing, and the panic returns.

She dashes to the bathroom, stripping off her dirty tank top along the way. She leaves a trail of clothes behind her. In the tungsten light of the bathroom, she catches sight of a pale girl with big dark eyes and hair half-way down her back. The girl in the mirror is almost an adult with darkly-tanned arms and a pale midsection—she hates bikinis, anyway, and it's not like anyone's going to see her like this so she doesn't care—and she looks frazzled.

Sara almost laughs at herself. She does her make-up in thirty seconds with her shirt off, just two rings of eyeliner and the flick of mascara. Then she's back in her bedroom, wiggling into proper jeans and a loose pink shirt that makes her breasts look smaller than they actually are. It's probably a good thing, she considers briefly, because her tits are huge.

And then the doorbell is ringing. It echoes around the inside of her head and she bites her lip, takes a deep breath, and plunges in.

"Come in!" she calls down, but she knows him and she knows that he won't open the door—

"Ready to go?"

Except when he does. Sara blinks down at him. He's standing in the foyer in a Blink-182 shirt with his hands shoved in his pockets, and he's grinning like a mad man. She stares.

"You actually decided to come in, Jeremy?"

"Shocker, I know," Jeremy laughs.

She thinks he's the stupidest person she'd ever met.

"Lemme just grab my jacket, and—shit," she pauses and then looks over her shoulder. Her younger brother is somewhere in the recesses of the house "HEY NICK!"

"WHAT?" he yells back. His voice is faint and Sara vaguely thinks he might be in his bedroom with the door closed for a reason.

She doesn't want to know. "I'M GOING OUT. I DUNNO WHEN I'LL BE HOME!"

"YEAH, WHATEVER," he yells.

Sara rolls her eyes and shrugs. Jeremy grins and drags her outside with her jacket half on in reply.

His truck is old and white, rusted around the wheels; a genuine piece of shit. The doors are locked and she waits around for him to unlock her side from the interior, examining her nails in the meantime. They're crimson and chipped and it's a good distraction until she hears the click of the lock.

She's just closing the door behind her as the truck literally roars to life. It rumbles beneath her, the faded navy corduroy soft and warm underneath her fingers. His truck always smells like spilled coffee and the dead of winter. It is the product of midnight Tim Horton runs and the fact that he always drives with the windows down. Sara shakes her head to herself.

"Where are we going?" he yells over the dull roar and the pound of the bass that started a soon as the truck did.

"Kierra's," she says, but it comes out sounding like a question. "She didn't tell me what's going on tonight."

Jeremy snorts. "She never tells anyone what's going on."

Sara nods and fiddles with his iPod. It's hooked into the speakers and she picks Jack's Mannequin. It's something that they both like; something they both know and love. She picks a song about drowning because she's crazy and it was always like drowning, with him. Everything was like drowning.

Or at least, it was six months.

But now, six months later, it's not. It's a weird thing that is almost-drowning only not. She's keeping her head above the body of water that is his ocean, bobbing up and down, kissing the surface from beneath to suck in air. She's learning to swim because she has to, not because she wants to.

She distantly thinks she is something of a masochist, but she's pretty much okay with that.

Nothing beautiful ever came out of feeling good.

Sara chuckles miserably. She's a writer. She knows better than anyone else how rarely beautiful things ever came from good places. Beautiful things are always broken, because human beings find the tragic to be the most desirable state of being. It's pretty sick, when she thinks about it, so she tries not to do that too much. Instead, she looks at Jeremy, driving but not concentrated on the road, too busy dancing to the music to care. She would be concerned, but she's known him since she was thirteen years old; if she doesn't trust him by now, she probably wouldn't trust him ever.

But she does trust him, so she doesn't say anything.

The banter between them in an easy thing, a rapport built of years of friendship. There is still hesitation, but then, part of her is still mad at him for disappearing without word for six months. It is mostly erased in the conversation, but she can't help but think that I loved you, once. Why do you still do this to me?

But he doesn't have answers for her, and she knows she probably wouldn't want them even if he did have them. They wouldn't be enough, and they both know that.

Sara looks out the window and tries not to sigh. She knows why he left. He needed to get his shit together, and it's hard to get your shit together when all you have are all the terrible reminders of why you don't want to get your shit together in the first place.

But that doesn't mean she can't be mad at him for it.

They park in front of a big house with peeling pink stucco for siding. The place is familiar, but part of Sara hates it here. Part of Sara hates everything, but she doesn't really acknowledge that part. That part is the part that still hurts and hates and destroys, even after all this time.

Sara shakes it off. Her curls swing, and they head to the front door.

Jeremy's fingers brush hers again and again as they walk side by side. She surreptitiously pulls her hand away. She's come too far to let him bring her down. This, she swears.

She rings the doorbell and she stands there are waits for someone to open the door, shivering in the pre-autumn chill. It's only September; still early in the month. It ought to still be warm, but it's not so she just stands there and shivers and waits it out.

Kierra opens the door in pajamas and brown-red-purple hair done up in a messy knot at the top of her head. Her eyes are yellow-green and wide and she all but throws herself on Sara. The two girls laugh and slip inside, hand in hand in the fashion of childhood friends. Jeremy trails behind them. Neither girl looks at him, too engrossed in catching up after a long summer of heat and other people.

Jessica is curled up on the couch, bemoaning her (almost ex) boyfriend. Sara and Kierra flop down on the couch across from her, laughing, and throw pillows and blankets on top of each other. It's very reminiscent of childhood, Sara thinks, and she raises her eyes to the TV.

"What are we watching?" she asks.

"E.T.," Jessica claps. "It's, like, so old! And E.T. is super short. And super fat."

"And super wrinkly," Kierra supplies, and all three of them laugh again.

The movie flickers in the half light as they all fall silent. Sara glances at Jeremy. He's not said a word, not a single one, since Kierra let them in. He's still all alone in a leather armchair, and she thinks he looks melancholy and old and tired, and it would be funny if it weren't quite so sad.

And then the movie gets sketchy, and she hides her head under the blanket.

There is an explosion of laughter. "You really can't handle anything, can you?"

Sara doesn't know who asked. Frankly, she really doesn't care because it's the truth. "I'm not good with scary things! You know that! I can't take anything suspenseful!"

There is more laughter, and then silence as the others go back to the movie. Sara hides under the blanket, tucked up into a little ball of hopes and dreams, wishes and fears. She would have stayed like that for a long time, getting her breathing and her absolute hatred of all things horrific out of her mind, but then the couch shifts, and someone sits down next to her.

Jeremy ducks his head under the blanket.

He is seriously the stupidest person she's ever met.

"Hey," he says. "Alive in there?"

"Yeah. Is it over?"

"Not yet, but we're heading back to my place for fire. You gonna come?"

She snorts. "Like I have a choice. You drove me here, remember?"

"Yeah," he chuckles. He tugs on a lock of her hair, and withdraws from the blanket-fort she's made herself. She stays there immobile for a moment longer, breathing deeply through her nose to get the scent of him out of her system.

Please don't touch me; I've come too far to let you bring me down.

She slides the blanket off her head and grins.

"Well," she says, "let's go, then!"

And so they do.

/ / /

The sun's disappeared entirely by the time they end up in Jeremy's back yard. They tumble in, the four of them, with shivers and booze aplenty. They went to the liquor store just to stock up, and that alone tells Sara what kind of night it's going to be.

They're drinking ten minutes later, anyway.

She drops her purse on the table on the porch and stretches. She's not quite sure when Richard shows up. His hands are all over Kierra, but this is nothing new. Nor does she know when Torrey and his girlfriend show up, but they are both as they always are; a dark and beautiful pair, and her heart skips a beat at the sight of them. Justina is probably the most gorgeous human female she's ever seen, and she quietly thinks it's not fair.

The problem, of course, is that Justina is sweet and soft as cotton candy, and to hurt her would be sacrilege. On top of that, she and Sara get along very well.

The boys are building up a fire, and it's: snap, crackle, pop, pop, pop as the wood starts to burn.

They clink coolers, and the games begin.

Sociables and cold night air mix and smear in her memory, and she; five vodka coolers in before she realizes that she's starting to get tipsy. It's a bit of a blur, and she's smoking her fourth cigar-cigarette (she can't even tell which is which until she's sucking on it anyway).

Four girls sit around the table playing cards and blowing smoke into the air. There's a hazy moment when all four of them exhale smoke upwards in perfect tandem.

And then they laugh and laugh and laugh.

Suddenly it's eleven o'clock and the fire is burning low. There's a bi-law that says that, rain or shine, the night has to be silent.

They move inside and the interior heating flushes Sara's cheeks with warmth.

(Or maybe that's just the alcohol, she can't really tell.)

The cards give way to banter and sleepy-dopey Kierra drags Richard outside to do god knows what. Sara drinks red-as-blood cranberry juice. It's tart and wonderful, and it stains her mouth crimson. She wonders if Jeremy is staring at her or just behind her. It could be either, because she's not seeing so straight.

She's texting someone. Her phone is a small black brick sitting on the table, vibrating violently when Jeremy's up out of his chair and grabbing. He laughs "Who're you texting? Your boyfriend?"

Sara flushes darkly, setting her jaw and jumping up after him. "He's not my boyfriend, stupid. Give it back!"

He just laughs, and though the sound catches in his throat and twists, he dashes into the dark living room. And Sara, being reckless and stupid and never thinking things through, follows him. He makes it to the front door, out of sight of the kitchen and the group of people screeching there. He stands at the front door, and waits for her to catch up.

"Give my phone back," she tells him. "Or I'll get grumpy."

Just to spite her, he holds it out of her reach. "Come get it, then."

Sara seethes. She very nearly stumbles over the shoes set out on the floor, because it's dark and she's sort of drunk and she's pretty blind most of the time. She stands in front of him, five inches shorter than he with her hands on her hips.

"Give. It. Back," she says, and enunciates each word.

Jeremy grins at her, wide enough to be visible even in the gloom. "It's right here," he says, an holds the still-glowing phone just over her head.

"You are—so infuriating!" she growls. She's not willing to jump on him to get her phone back, not yet, but it's starting to get close because she is really annoyed with him. "Give it!"

"No," he says. He's back against the wall next to the closet, and still grinning he biggest, brightest shit-eating grin she's ever seen. Her nails dig into her palms as he says "Reach for it."

So she does.

She steps over the last of the shoes and into his personal space. A thrill of fear goes up her spine, although she's not sure why. Maybe it's just a drunk's instincts, but he's looking down at her like she's something to eat and it makes her shudder.

Please don't touch me; I've come too far to let you bring me down.

There is an inch of space between them and Sara stretches for her phone. Her fingers are almost there, but not quite, and then—

(There's a moment, here, where she knows that something is absolutely about to change. Something is going to change, and she's going to hate it because it's going to hurt and there will be nothing she can do about it.)

—he drops his head, and kisses her.

It's a soft kiss, sweet and slow. She can taste the beer on his breath, the late-night peach cigars and something else, something that is indefinably Jeremy. It soothes through her, not demanding but there, insistent in that subtle way that he's always had. The sad thing is that this isn't the first time; she's never had a spine when it comes to him, and maybe her bones liquefy for lack of calcium to hold her up.

She stands there with her hands dropped to her sides and lets him kiss her, her heart pounding in her throat. She knows she should be resisting, pushing him away, something, anything.

But she doesn't.

She stands there and they kiss until he pulls back and looks at her. "You okay?" he asks.

Sara stares at the floor, trying not to cry. "Why do you have to do things like this?"

His arms slip around her in something that is half-hug, half-embrace. Maybe it feels a little like goodbye, but Sara was never good at placing the things he said and did on the Friend Scale.

"Because I like you," he says.

And it's not fair. It's really, really not fair. He went away from a long time, she remembers. Six months. They didn't talk for six months, and suddenly it's like nothing ever happened and it's all just fine and dandy.

Except when it isn't.

Sara takes two steps back, shaking her head slowly. She wants to tell him a lot of things—things like no, you don't like me, you like messing with me and you're a shitty friend and it's not fair that you're doing this to me. It's not fair.

But she doesn't say those things.

"C'mon," she says. "The others are waiting."

She can feel her phone in her back pocket. She doesn't know when he slipped it there, but he did. She smiles at him, a little, and motions back towards the kitchen.

He just nods.

And there she finds herself again, in the glow of a cell phone, waiting for a boy she once loved. And maybe she'll always be waiting for him. Maybe she'll always hurt over him.

She moves towards the kitchen, grim determination in her jaw. There is still laughter there, and Jeremy's sister and her best friend and Torrey and his girlfriend and Jessica—all of them are waiting, laughing, blowing smoke across the lamp-light just to see it swirl. It's a wonderful cacophony.

And it's time to move on.