When I wake up on Saturday morning it's to a strange weight on my legs and a pair of huge hazel eyes hovering centimetres above my face. I scream and try to lurch backwards, but all I manage to do is painfully bang my head against the headboard of my bed.
"Ow!" My hand shoots to the crown of my head. "Ow, ow, what is this?"
Quinn, who is sitting perched on my thighs, shakes with silent laughter. "Scream a little bit louder, Annie, and perhaps you can wake the entire school, not just our dorm," she whispers. Despite her words, there's no noise coming from any of our dorm mates, so I'm assuming they're all still asleep.
"What are you doing?" I hiss, pushing at her legs. "Get off me, you freak of nature!"
"I'm interrogating you," she says, as though the fact she's woken me up - on a weekend, might I add - by squashing me half to death is completely normal.
"About what?" I wriggle my torso and try to move up a little bit, but don't succeed. For someone so slim, she's managing to squish me quite effectively. I tilt my head back to gaze at the curtain covering the window beside my bed, and see that it's still the navy blue of pre-dawn outside.
"You and Erik, of course. You can't vanish for an entire night and expect us not to ask questions."
I roll my eyes. "And you couldn't wait until the sun had risen?"
"It's not that early, Annie dear," she tuts.
I widen my eyes at her incredulously. "You have woken me up before the sun is up. It actually is that early, Quinn. Now can you get off? I'm losing feeling in my legs."
"Are you calling me fat?" She puts on a heartbroken expression, and doesn't move.
"Oh, my god, Quinn, I'm going to kick your skinny butt as soon as you get it off my legs. Seriously, I can not feel my feet." I shove at her with both hands, and she finally slides off to stand beside the bed. I sigh with relief and massage the tops of my thighs.
"Now come on; up and at 'em," she says in an enthusiastic whisper, yanking at my doona.
I groan and throw an arm over my face. "What is wrong with you, Quinn?"
"If you hadn't stayed up until all hours cavorting around the school with Erik, you wouldn't be struggling to wake up now," she says knowingly.
I lift my arm to give her a deathly glare before dropping it back over my eyes. "Are you jealous, Quinny?"
"The envy is killing me," she says, utterly deadpan. "Now get your arse out of bed and follow me."
"Are you going to take me somewhere hidden and kill me in cold blood?"
With the sweetest smile imaginable, she tells me, "Only if you don't cooperate."
"Errrggghh," I groan, barely summoning the strength to pull myself out of bed. As I stumble after Quinn out of the dorm and downstairs to the common room I ask, "Was it really just two days ago that I was saying how much I love you?"
"Yep, sure was," she says brightly, throwing herself down into a well worn armchair in the corner of the room. "Regretting those words now, aren't you?"
I collapse into the chair opposite her and rub my tired eyes. "I may be mentally plotting your murder as we speak."
"I thought we'd already established that if anyone's to do any killing here, it'll be me."
I look at her with one bleary eye. She's still in her pyjamas, but as Quinn sleeps in an adorable matching singlet and short set (dark blue, with white polkadots) and braids her hair before bed every night, she still looks incredible. She could almost throw on a jacket and head out on the town. I, on the other hand, am wearing orange flannel pyjama pants (with sheep on them, of all things) tucked into a pair of woolly purple bed socks and an ill-fitting old jumper with a chocolate stain on the neckline, and I can't even imagine what my hair is doing. If I went anywhere like this I'd probably be locked up in an asylum. "You do look like the more murderous out of the two of us," I tell her.
She laughs, "I take that as a compliment."
I tuck my feet up underneath my knees and lean my head against the arm of my chair. "What's up, Quinn?"
"I think I should be the one asking you that question," she replies. "What were you doing with Erik last night?"
I consider lying to her a for brief moment; think about saying that I was having an in depth discussion with him about why I can't be his date to the formal. But I know that Quinn would see through it in a second, so I just sigh, "We were dancing."
Her eyebrows shoot up and her jaw drops open. "You said yes?"
"No!" I say quickly, shaking my head. She looks at me disbelievingly. "No, I didn't say yes, I didn't say I'd go to the formal with him… I said maybe."
"Hang on, let me get this straight…" She leans forward in her chair. "You told Erik that you might go to the formal with him, and then you went and spent god knows how long dancing?"
I look at the ground as I mumble, "Seven hours."
Quinn practically jumps out of her seat, yelling, "Seven bloody hours? You spent seven whole hours alone with Erik Bass and you didn't murder him?"
"No," I say, still avoiding looking at her. "I mean, we weren't dancing for that whole time, obviously. We- we talked, a lot, and he took me down to the kitchens when we realised we'd missed dinner-"
Quinn, ever subtle, says knowingly, "You had sex, didn't you?"
"What?" Now it's my turn to jump to the edge of my seat. "No, oh my god, no, I didn't sleep with him!"
Quinn has the nerve to look disappointed. "Seven hours and you didn't even shag?"
"We didn't even kiss." I settle back into my seat, rolling my eyes. "We're not all as horny as you are, you know."
"For your information," she says haughtily, "I have been very well behaved lately."
I raise an eyebrow at her, "Oh, have you really?"
"Better than you, at least," she sticks her tongue out at me. "Now tell me, why did you say maybe?"
I crack my knuckles. "I don't know; he wore me down, I suppose."
"So it's not because, god forbid, you actually want to go with him?" Quinn asks innocently.
I blow my fringe out of my eyes so I can look at her directly and say, "I don't know, Quinn. He- He's just being so nice, and maybe I should give him a chance -"
"Sounds like you already have."
"Well I haven't actually said yes, I can still tell him I don't want to go with him -" I trail off as Quinn gives me a look.
"You know that would kill him," she says simply.
I sigh, "I know."
"So you're going to the formal with Erik Bass. What an exciting turn of events!" She twists so that she's sitting sideways, her legs hanging over one arm of the chair and her head resting on the other.
"I suppose I am," I agree flatly. I watch the steady beat of my pulse at my wrist for a moment before looking up with a start. "Who are you going with?"
Quinn swings her legs back and forth, wiggling her bare toes. "Kyle Jamieson, you know that boy from our Art class last year -"
"I know who Kyle Jamieson is," I interrupt. "But when did he ask you?"
"Oh, he asked me on Thursday," she says absentmindedly.
I sit bolt upright on the edge of my seat. "And why didn't you tell me?"
She blinks at me once, steadily, before turning her face back to the ceiling. "All that stuff with you and Erik was much more exciting."
"Quinn, I -" I struggle for words. "I'm sorry I've been so self-absorbed, I should have asked -"
"Oh, shut up." She waves a dismissive hand at me. "It's not a big deal. I don't have feelings for him or anything, it's fine."
"He's a bit cute though," I say, smiling coyly.
"And a good kisser," she adds, and we break into a fit of giggles.
When I've recovered, I lean back into my chair and say, "I sort of thought you might go with Sam, you know."
She turns to face me again. "Sam? Really?" I nod, and she laughs. "Look at you, already planning double dates for you and Erik to go on. Don't you think Roger and Molly are good enough?"
"I am not planning dates!" I exclaim. "I just thought that he would have asked you, seeing as he's so keen on you-"
"Oh, no, Sam's not going to the formal with anyone," Quinn tells me.
I furrow my brow. "He's not?"
She shakes her head. "Nah. He reckons that if he goes with one girl as a date then he's obliged to shag only her at the end of the formal, but if he doesn't take a partner then he can steal as many girls as he wants from other guys over the course of the night."
I gag. "That's truly disgusting."
"That's Sam for you," Quinn says matter-of-factly. "On the bright side, he did tell me that he was aiming to steal me away from Kyle first, which I suppose would almost be a nice sentiment, if it wasn't quite so degrading."
I cover my face as I laugh, "Oh, my god."
"What are you two doing up this early?" Quinn and I both look up to see Molly skipping down the stair case. She's wearing athletic gear; white sneakers, navy shorts and a bright yellow singlet, her hair tied back into a tight ponytail and an iPod in her hand. "And what are you laughing about?"
"Quinn wanted to torture me," I say.
"You deserve it, after ditching us at dinner last night," she says, walking over. "Do you know how antisocial I looked, deliberately keeping the seat beside me empty for someone who never showed up?"
"I'm sorry! We just totally lost track of time," I apologise.
"You and Erik?" Molly perches herself on the arm of my chair. "What were you up to?"
"They were dancing," Quinn says. "Isn't that just the most romantic thing?"
Molly claps her hands together and exclaims happily, "So you finally said yes, then? Oh my gosh, this is so exciting!"
I don't bother to correct her, instead just mumbling, "Mhmm."
"Oh, oh, oh, it'll be so wonderful," Molly beams, "you and Erik, Quinn and Sam, Roger and I -"
"Whoa, hold up," Quinn holds up a hand. "I am not going to the formal with Sam, Mol. We've been over this."
"Pish posh," Molly says frivolously, "You might not be going with him but everyone knows that the two of you will end up spending the night together."
"If everything goes to plan, Molly, you've hit the nail on the head."
Molly is so startled by the new voice she jumps up off the chair arm and lands practically half way across the room, and I spin around so awkwardly that I feel a crack in my neck as I jump onto my knees and peer over the top of the back of the chair. Quinn is the only one who remains composed, still hanging lazily sideways in her armchair. "And that's the only thing here that will be getting nailed," she drawls, glancing sideways at Sam, who's just appeared at the foot of the stairs.
He gives her a crooked grin. "The fact that I am sneaking out of the girls dorm as we speak suggests otherwise, Quinn dear."
"You're not doing a very good job of sneaking," Molly says. She seems to have recovered from her shock and is now stretching her legs by pulling her feet up behind her back.
"You can't blame me for expecting the common room to be empty," he says, strolling casually forward. "It's a bit too early to be chatting down here, don't you think?"
"I told you!" I exclaim, giving Quinn an I-told-you-so look.
"Especially for you, Annie; I'm surprised you're conscious at this hour," he tells me, leaning his elbows on the back of my chair. I'm thoroughly annoyed to note that, like Quinn, Sam looks quite composed despite having just got out of bed. Although his hair is a bit mussed and his shirt slightly crumpled - he appears to have slept (or not slept, as it may be) in his uniform from yesterday - if we had classes today he could just stroll out of here and get on with his day without anyone batting an eyelid.
I scowl, "Oh, shut up. What poor girl have you just corrupted?"
"And there's that red-head temper again," he says, avoiding the question entirely.
I scrunch my nose at him sulkily and whack his arm. "You're horrible."
"I'm marvellous," he counters.
"Have you heard the news?" Quinn asks, seemingly bored with our hostile banter.
Sam tilts his head to the side inquisitively. "I hear many things. You'd actually be surprised at how much of this school's idle gossip I know."
Quinn rolls her eyes. "Do you actually listen to what the girls talk about before you shag them?"
He chuckles appreciatively, "Well I'm not going to hang around for a chat over breakfast the next morning, am I?"
Apparently this is too much for Molly, because she pulls a scandalous face and says disgustedly, "Alright, on that note, I'm going for my run. I'll see you at breakfast."
"Tootlepip," Sam waves goodbye cheerily. She grimaces at him as she exits the room, plugging her headphones in as she goes. He turns back to Quinn, "Anyway, what's this news?"
Quinn grins devilishly. "Annie's finally agreed to go the formal with Erik."
Sam looks at me, genuinely surprised. "You have?"
I nod, sounding resigned, even though my heart rate picks up at just the thought of Erik. "Yup."
"Gee, don't sound too enthusiastic there," he says sarcastically, knocking me sideways.
I lose my balance and nearly fall backwards out of the chair. Thankfully I manage to save myself by clutching onto the headrest, but I pull myself back up with a bit too much force and end up slamming my face into the back of the seat. Sam immediately cracks up with laughter and I hear Quinn gasping for breath in between her giggles behind me. I don't move my face because I don't want them to see how badly I'm blushing, so when I growl, "I will murder you both," it loses some of its ferocity on account of being muffled.
"You're so clumsy you'd probably trip on your way over to us and fall on your own knife," Sam quips.
That's obviously too funny for Quinn to handle, and I hear a thump as she falls out of her armchair and collapses onto the ground. I turn around to see her clutching at her sides and rolling around hysterically.
"It's too early for this shit," I snap. "You're a horrible friend, you know that?"
She doesn't reply, because she's too busy trying to calm herself down enough to stand. I wait for her to contain herself, and when she finally pulls herself upright she just smiles at me and says, "I'd consider us even then, wouldn't you?"
I snort indignantly, but I know that she's right. I have been selfish this week and if the roles were reversed and she'd been the one to headbutt a chair I would have laughed at her, too. "Whatever."
Sam laughs and leans against the arm of my chair. "So you're really going to the formal with Erik?" He asks me.
"I am," I say, and this time I can't quite hide my enthusiasm. I quickly add, "But don't tell him! It- It's not quite official, yet."
He smiles. "I knew you'd come round."
I feel myself smiling back. "And how did you know?"
"Because you two have always been passionate about each other," Sam tells me, earning a snort from Quinn.
I go to contradict him, but then I realise he's right. "Passionate about hating each other, maybe."
"Passion is passion. Besides, there's not a lot that's better than hate sex." He winks. Quinn immediately loses it, and I throw my head back, laughing so hard I start crying.
I wipe the tears from my eyes as I say, "Sam, you are honestly the most disgusting person I've ever met."
He mimes holding an award in one hand and a microphone in the other, saying in a teary voice, "I'd like to thank all the little people who made winning this award possible -" He breaks off when he sees that we're about to start crying again, and just grins at us.
"So do you often have sleepovers in the girl's dorm?" Quinn asks once she can breathe again, sounding genuinely curious.
"It's an occasional habit," he says neutrally.
I lean towards him. "Who's bed were you in last night?"
"I would tell you," he says, leaning down towards me so I can see a glint in his eyes, "except you're bloody hopeless at keeping secrets."
Quinn stands up with a chuckle. "Alright, well, I think I've tortured Annie enough for now." She stretches her arms above her head and yawns. "I'm going to go laze about in bed for an hour or two, I think."
I gape at her, dumbfounded. "You're going back to bed? You woke me up before dawn and now you're just going to go back to sleep?"
She shrugs. "Yeah. Pretty much." Just as I feel my expression changing from annoyed to murderous, she laughs and says, "No, I'm just going to the loo. I just couldn't resist seeing your face."
"You're a bitch," I grumble.
"I'll be right back, wait here for me," she instructs, heading towards the bathroom.
When she's out of earshot I pout at Sam. "Who were you with last night?" He shakes his head, smirking. I plead, "I promise, I am not terrible at keeping secrets; I've kept plenty of them! I haven't told anyone about -" I catch myself just before I reveal that Roger told me about how Sam really got his scar. Perhaps I am terrible at keeping secrets.
Sam's hand goes straight to his forehead, unconsciously. There's an awkward pause where neither of us speaks, and then he tells me, "He has a terrible habit, our friend Roger, of feeling guilty when he breaks a promise. Something to do with having a conscience or something like that? I wouldn't know." He gives me a meaningful look, and I realise that Roger's told him I know.
"What a horrible infliction, a conscience," I say jokingly. One side of Sam's mouth quirks up, and I find myself reaching out to rest a hand on his knee. "I really am sorry, about- about the whole thing."
He shrugs, but doesn't move my hand. "Why are you apologising? It's not your fault."
I blink. "Well, it's not, but -"
"I need a smoke," He says suddenly, interrupting me.
I realise that Quinn's returning from the bathroom and shift back, drawing my hand off his knee. "Alright?" I say, but it comes out sounding more like a question.
Quinn is in the process of un-braiding her hair when she re-joins us. "What's this?"
"I'm going for a smoke. Care to join?" Sam asks casually, picking at a loose thread on the arm of my chair.
Quinn finishes doing her hair before replying, "Yeah, sure. Might as well."
"Quinn, you're not smoking are you?" I admonish.
"Only when I'm drunk," she answers, and sadly she's telling the truth. "So you don't have to worry about it this morning."
Sam stands up and I notice that he's got his tie tucked into the pocket of his trousers. "Lovely to see you, Annie, and wonderful to hear you've finally realised what a good bloke Erik is. Bravo." He even applauds, just for good measure.
I wave lazily. "Goodbye, Sam."
Quinn smiles at me as they leave the room, "Enjoy the morning."
"I'm going right back to bed!" I call out after her, and I hear the both of them laughing as the door swings shut behind them.
a.n. Thank you for all of the REVIEWS and favourites and follows, it's so lovely to see that you're enjoying the story!
Please tell me what you think, about the characters, their relationships - what's going to happen at the formal?
Hope you're all having a marvellous day, and thanks for reading.