DISCLAIMER: I own nothing.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
It's not done. Not by anyone she knows. What she means is, they all know it exists, pretty much, but it seems like something people do on another planet. Another universe.
Turns out, the universe is small.
Heather cradles Sarah's head in her lap, and Sarah just lets her eyelids drift downward and shifts so she's not leaning into anything delicate.
They're watching television in Heather's den, and Heather's dad, the state trooper, is in the kitchen making pudding. Sarah doesn't feel much like having pudding, but she thinks it's sweet that a man would do something like that for his daughter and her friend.
"I love him!" Heather says, pointing at one of the cute boys on the sitcom they're watching. He's tall and blond, and has a white, toothy smile. He's on the cover of almost all of Sarah's magazines but when Heather coos his name, she just rolls her eyes, and shifts again.
When Heather's dad walks in with the desserts, Sarah closes her eyes and pretends to be asleep. She's spending the night, but there's no reason to be any more social than she needs to be.
"Your friend tired?" she hears him ask, and he seems to be keeping his voice as low as he can, which isn't very. He's a big man, and loud. Sarah thinks he doesn't look anything at all like Heather.
When he says that maybe they should hit the hay, Heather mumbles something about she guesses so. A hand brushes against Sarah's shoulder once, then again, gripping and shaking lightly. She opens her eyes and smiles what she hopes is a sleepy smile.
They brush their teeth together in Heather's bathroom, and Heather talks around her toothbrush, chatting about one of her mom's projects with the LDS. It might be interesting, but Sarah's only half listening. Mostly she hears the sound of bristles moving against her teeth. She glances at Heather's reflection in the mirror and raises her eyebrows, nods like she's paying attention. Really she's just looking at Heather's pajamas, which are pink and look like they might be soft to the touch.
Sarah frowns, but, luckily, Heather doesn't notice.
They share Heather's bed, which isn't very big; just large enough for the both of them. It smells like the fabric softener Sarah's mom used to get, the kind with the bear on it. The mattress is softer than the one Sarah has at home, and something about the way she feels her body sink down into it is nice. Makes her feel safe. Or it could be that Heather's next to her, smiling and talking again about that boy on TV. When she exhales, Sarah can smell the sharp reminder of her mint toothpaste, they're that close. "Who do you like, Sarah?" Heather asks.
And Sarah just shrugs and shakes her head. "I don't know. No one yet, I guess."
Heather's mouth quirks up at one end, forming a confused smile. "No one at all?"
So Sarah goes through her mental catalogue of boys, both real (the ones from school) and fictional (the ones on television or in her magazines). She tries to settle on one familiar face, but she can't. "I don't know," she repeats.
"Your brother's cute," Heather say, burying her face deeper into her pillow. The room is so dark, that Sarah can barely make out the eyelashes that flutter against her cheeks as she closes her eyes.
"Yeah, he is. You know, he looks like you."
During their break at work, they share a strawberry shake. Heather made it, and it's so thick Sarah gets a headache sucking through her straw.
"I think this needed more milk," Heather says, laughing, as her head tilts near Sarah's. She wraps her lips around the straw and has minimal success in coaxing anything out of the Styrofoam cup.
Sarah smiles and reaches over, removes the lid and dips her straw into the pink goop. She comes up with a nice sized wad of ice cream, which she holds out near Heather's mouth. It opens and a tongue flicks out to grab at the ice cream. Then it's gone, and Sarah's glancing back down at the cup, dipping and swirling her straw inside.
"Maybe that's better, just ice cream," she hears Heather say.
Nodding, Sarah brings her straw to her mouth and licks away the little bit of flavor that remains.
Later, when they're closing up and Sarah's sweeping while Heather's scrubbing the grills, Heather starts talking about a girl she met at the shelter she'd volunteered at. She repeats the acronym GTL something, but Sarah just knows it's the one for gays. Heather says she thought God wanted her to learn to not judge others, and that when she was at the shelter she really wanted to have an open mind; she wanted to understand.
"What did you want to understand?" Sarah asks, leaning against her broom. She rubs the top of her tennis shoe against her calf. Her feet ache and she knows she shouldn't stop or it'll take forever to finish, but she's curious.
Heather's hand picks up speed, and Sarah watches as she scrubs hard, a frown of concentration etched on her brow. "I guess I just I wanted to know why this girl, who was really cool and pretty, why God would make her the way she was. And it made me sad for her."
"Because she was alone, and she didn't have anyone who loved her. And it didn't seem right."
Finally, Heather's hand stops moving and the brush, heavy with grease and muck, gets tossed in the sink. She's washing her hands when she finally looks up with a small, tight smile and shrugs. She says, "I just wanted to help her, you know?"
"What happened?" Sarah asks, gripping her broom tightly, leaning on it for support.
"I think she went into foster care."
"I don't think she wanted to, but "
Sarah just nodsshe understands about not having choices--her cheek brushing against the wooden broom handle. It's late, and she's tired.
She watches as Heather rinses and dries her hands on her apron and walks over to her. Warm fingers pry her hands from the broom, and Heather smiles again as she pushes back a few errant strands of hair away from Sarah's eyes. "You look sleepy."
Sarah sighs. "Yeah."
"Come on; I'll finish up fast and we can go home."
She falls asleep in a booth, feet up and against the wall, head leaning very near the edge of her seat. When she wakes up, it's to the feeling of a hand stroking her head.
Sarah looks up, and sees Heather smiling down at her, and this feels oddly reminiscent of that other time she came to her rescue. "Ready?" Heather asks.
A hand reaches down and helps Sarah as she maneuvers herself awkwardly first into a sitting position, and as she stands on cramped leg muscles. She rolls her neck and stretches her arms out as she waits for Heather to find her car keys in her purse.
"What was your friend's name?" Sarah asks.
"The one at the shelter. The girl."
Heather finds her keys and pulls them out, jingles them in the palm of her hand. She pauses for a few beats, like she's thinking really hard, trying to remember. "Um, Liz?" she says. "Yeah, Liz."
Heather doesn't discuss her volunteer work again.
A week later, they're closing together again. Sarah wanders over to where Heather is stacking cans of chili sauce, and she brushes her hand across her shoulder. "Need help? I finished in there."
"Oh, I've got it," Heather replies. When she turns, there's a surprised smile on her face.
They're really closethe storage room is small and tall, feels like a towerand Sarah knows she's smiling too, almost stupidly grinning but she doesn't know why. Heather just stares back at her, can of chili in her hand, suspended in mid air.
Finally, Sarah thinks to respond. "Okay," she says, nodding. But she doesn't leave, and she's still in Heather's personal space. When she realizes what she's doing, she rolls her eyes and lets out an exhaled laugh. Nods again sharply and turns to leave.
She hears when the can is abruptly dropped on the shelf, feels when fingers wrap around her forearm and turn her back around. Knows it's Heather who's pressing her mouth against hers. It's a little awkward, and doesn't last more than a few seconds, but when Heather pulls back, Sarah's lips still tingle. She raises a hand to them, touches them.
Heather's looking down and away, and she's blushing a deep red. She looks dazed, and when she opens her mouth to speak, she stutters. "Hey," Sarah says, reaching out to touch Heather's hand. When she raises her head, Sarah leans in and kisses her again, and it lasts a little longer, isn't so awkward. "Okay?"
It's with a sigh that Heather leans back against the shelf, a small, pained smile on her face. She exhales again and smiles a little wider. "Yeah."
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