Chapter 5: Rest, My Poor Heart

"For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart.

And it was not my lips you kissed, but my soul."


You know what they say: apparently, home is where your heart is. But the greatest question of all time is what do you do when you don't know where your heart has wandered off to?

If your heart is not yours anymore.

Where do you go looking for it? Or do you wait around for it to find you?

Would it even come back?

I slipped out of my room and wandered downstairs to get some water, but to my surprise I heard voices drifting from the kitchen. I hadn't expected that Sadie and mom would be back so early. With Sadie's advanced pregnancy and mom's constant juggling act between work, her cooking classes, and looking after Sadie, both of them were always busy, always on the go, always running errands around the city. I was a guest in my own house and yet I barely saw them over the past few days, although I couldn't exactly say that I took the initiative to change that and spend more time with my family, instead of fussing over a simple kiss that meant nothing and was just a 'heat of the moment' kind of thing.

Maybe my problem was that I wasn't flexible in the purely metaphorical sense of the word, of course. I wasn't impulsive like Zack. I couldn't just up and kiss someone because I was the kind of girl who wanted to settle down and only took a chance on someone who was worth it, who could provide me with the safety I'd been looking for my whole life. The absence of a father figure in my life had caused me to develop this fear of the unknown. All I wanted was to feel safe, to be sure of his intentions because, for the life of me, I couldn't play games. Not with him. Not with my best friend.

He was either with me or against me.

I had to know where we stood. I had to know that my life wasn't going to crumble in the blink of a human eye.

Was it so bad that I protected my heart from getting broken? For making sure that no one messed with me, or my feelings? For wanting to be safe? For not taking a risk for someone who wasn't going to catch me if I fell?

I'd be always be mad at myself when I let someone in my heart, trusted him with my deepest, darkest secrets, and then he turned out to be a fake, someone who was obviously out to hurt me. I didn't want people to get too close to me, but Zack had always been there; he had a special spot reserved in my heart and it had never been my intention to become so attached to him, he'd wormed his way into my heart without my permission, without my knowing, even. Like a tropical disease he'd crept into my heart and he wasn't going anywhere. Worst thing was that he was always on my mind and the thought of his kiss was following me like a shadow, especially when it was my biggest wish to be left alone.

I was a bad daughter to my mother, a bad sister to Sadie who had never needed me as much as she needed me now when she'd just found out that her life, as she knew it, was a lie and that sometimes what is broken can never be fixed again. For some reason, knowing how that I'd treated them so unfairly, especially in the last few days when all I thought was myself and how much of a mess my life was, which, compared to the hell Sadie must've been going through right now, was a laughable notion, a thought that should've never entertained… well, of all this scratched away at me and my consciousness. I'd lied to them; I didn't accompany my sister to her doctor's appointment today because I'd told her I wasn't feeling well and I didn't want her to catch my sickness, moreover now that she had a baby on the way… it was a big, not-so-white lie, of course. The broken heart syndrome, last time I checked, was not an air-transmitted disease.

I knew that they were talking about me because the moment I stepped in the kitchen and when they became aware of my presence, both mom and Sadie shut up at once, as if I didn't already know what was running through their heads. I pretended not to notice how the air shifted as I poured myself a glass of water to relieve my dry throat. Maybe I was no longer accustomed to the hot weather as I used to be in my childhood. All those years away from home had had their say because now the sun didn't just warm my skin, it burned it.

"Hey, mom," I kissed my mother's cheek as I always did before I joined Sadie at the breakfast table, trying not to take notice of her pursed lips and knowing looks.

"Hey, sweetie," mom smiled at me before she turned back to her cooking. With every day I spent at home, I gained another pound, all thanks to mom's magical cooking skills.

"How was your nap?" Sadie asked me suspiciously, slightly narrowing her dark eyes at me, as if waiting for the perfect moment when I'd make a mistaken and she'd outfox me. Like every big, nosy sister she loved to be able to do that.

"Fine," I responded a bit crossly, returning her glare with one of my own. "How is the baby?" I asked, my tone softening as I nodded to her bulging belly. I still couldn't wrap my head around the fact that there was life, new life growing inside her. My sister, mind you, of all people. I would've never pictured her as mother and yet sometimes unexplainable things happened.

"She's doing well. The doctor said that everything's going according to plan and that she might pop out any second now," Sadie explained with a soft smile on her face as she caressed her belly and thought about her unborn child.


She was going to be a girl. It was not just a baby. She was already part of the family and it was so strange to think of this small creature as a real person, as my niece.

"Have you decided on a name yet?" I queried, steering the topic away from anything that might've concerned me because the only time when Sadie wasn't nipping at me was when she was talking about her baby.

"Well, John and I were thinking-"

A frosty silence settled over us after that, the kind of silence that made even your breathing sound loud.

John and I, her ex-husband and her.

The room temperature dropped by 20 degrees as Sadie tried to burn holes through the table and what I could've possibly said to make it all better? I wasn't even there for her when she found out, when she moved back in with mom, or when her ex begged her to come back.

Even if Sadie and I had never been particularly close, I couldn't stand seeing her hurt. I preferred the grumpy, testy Sadie over the sad, quiet one, even if her anger was directed to me. Anything was better than her silence.

Thankfully, mom stepped in and tried to patch things up. I'd almost forgotten that it was Sadie who was suffering from a broken heart, not me. She was the one with the real problems while I was just fretting over a single kiss between friends. This very instant, I felt both better and worse. Worse because I had to witness my sister break down to realize this and better because I finally knew what I had to do, finally accepted the truth, and saw how silly I'd acted, how selfish I was being and how a reality check was all I needed to get back on track.

And get back on track I did.

I slipped past my mother and sister unnoticed, thinking that all I did was get into their way, anyway. Nothing I could say or do would change a thing, or miraculously mend Sadie's damaged heart. Well, except for kick her ex's ass, but I doubted Sadie would appreciate my beating up the father of her unborn child, even if he was a sleaze and deserved far worse. A woman's heart didn't take in consideration such small details that could be easily overlooked when she was still in love with the scumbag who had caused her grief. The only thing that stopped Sadie was running back into her ex's arms was the fact that she was too smart, even blinded by her love for him, the unsightly truth was staring right into her face. He didn't love her and she deserved someone who gave a fuck about her – as cynical as that may sound. Her daughter deserved someone better.

I changed out of my clothes because I looked like a bum and then put my hair up in a high ponytail, getting ready for a lap around the neighborhood.

I needed to clear my head and prioritize my life because if Sadie could do it, what was stopping me?

I cracked my neck, yelled at my mom that I was going out for a jog, and then walked out of the house, not even thinking of who I might've run into.

Zack lived in the house across from the street. This was how we met, actually. Seeing how we went to the same school and were even in the same grade, our parents took turns driving us to school when we were in elementary school. At first I wasn't too fond of the idea. I'd never openly despised Zack, but I'd never been a big fan of his, either. All I knew was that he was the one who put a worm in Wendy McCarter's lunch just because she was terrified of them. So I hardly considered Wendy my friend and to be honest, she irritated the hell out of me, but I used to get headaches only from hearing her speak. Imagine how my poor eyes must've reacted to her shrieks.

If my mom hadn't forbidden me to fight, I would've stormed up to her and forced her to eat that worm myself. So instead I had to listen to Wendy complain about that damned worm and what a 'meanie' Zack was every single minute of every single day for the next two weeks. She just wouldn't get over it.

It was a stupid reason to dislike someone, but knowing that Zack was to be blamed for Wendy's nonstop complaining fest made me dislike him even a little bit more. I wouldn't have been so mad if it was me he'd pranked. But I was a bit of a tomboy then and the fact that Zack didn't mind rolling around on the ground with me, or getting muddy, unlike my then best friend, Abby Jacobs, who couldn't stand the sight of dirt, improved my opinion of him and somehow, along the way, Zack and me became best friends.

There was not a moment of lucidity when I thought, 'hey, that's my best friend.'

No, it didn't happen suddenly, but when you spent every waking hour with someone would make you love him a little bit more with the passing of each day.

As my darn lucky would have it, Zack was mowing the lawn when I stepped out of my house and, as if he was just waiting for me, he immediately glanced up and noticed my hesitation before I had a chance to hide out of his sight and play dumb. 'Hey, Zack, I didn't see you there.'

No, he actually gave me the same look from yesterday – 'you say we're cool, I know we're not.'

It annoyed me beyond belief, to say the least, so whether I liked it or not, I walked up to him to say hi. Of course, I was only passing by, so I'd pretend that I had to go and I'd be on my way.

Zack turned off the mower when he saw me heading over to him and I tried not to get distracted by his naked chest, or the way his sweaty skin glistened in the burning sun. Why did he have to mow the lawn naked?

Okay, so he wasn't naked, per se. He was only shirtless and I was the last one to talk since I barely wore any clothing myself, but it was different because the heat had got to my head and well, Zack was an underwear model for god's sakes. He had to be a little bit more considerate. All the neighbors were peeking through their curtains, trying to catch a glance of his fit body.

Why had he felt the need to remove his shirt?

Where has his consideration gone off to?

"Hey, Zack," I smiled agreeably, trying to bring back the old Samantha, the one who could smile effortlessly, even if her heart, mind, and body were screaming no. She knew not to let things – most of all, boys – get to her. I liked that Samantha better.

"Hey, Sam," Zack gave me an unreadable look, too, but he'd always been a better actor than me, "are you going for a run?" he asked as his hooded, hazel eyes swept over my body and I felt exposed, more exposed than I'd ever felt standing right in front of him, my best friend, or any other boy.

Then I cursed myself for wearing something so revealing because there we were, two hardly clothed almost adults, who had shared a kiss not too long ago and we only had a wooden fence separating us from jumping each other.

This is what hell must feel like, I thought as I tried to sort myself out and mask my emotions, even though Zack's bare torso was a sight for sore eyes and I wondered why I had never thought about-

This was my ultimate punishment – look, but never touch. Not because I couldn't, but because I shouldn't.

We'd crossed enough lines as it was.

Oh, yes, this was hell. Even the nearly unbearable heat was fitting for the occasion.

In the end my body was burning up.

"Oh, yes, I am," I replied a bit breathlessly because here I was hardly moving at all and yet I was sweating like a pig with a wig.. god, that didn't even make any sense!

Pull yourself together, Sam, a voice, the voice of reason, screamed silently in my head because my plan to play it off wasn't going to work if I kept acting like a moron and thinking like one while we're at it, too.

"I'm…," I wanted to find just the right words, but then Zack wiped the sweat off his forehead and wet wisps of black hair fell into his eyes and I-

I'll never mention the word wet again.

I'll never think of the word wet the same way ever again.

"I'm going to run a lap or two around the neighborhood, reliving the glorious high school years and all…," I shrugged and congratulated myself on how normal I sounded. Almost normal. He couldn't expect to be my normal normal after such a short time, right?

I was making attempts and that counted for something. After all, we were not only best friends, but also roommates. I needed to get myself in line since, apparently, kissing random girls was a no-brainer for Zack.

But I had to forget.

Running had always helped me remember who I was. When I was in high school, I was a cheerleader and I used to run just to keep in shape, but as time went on, I started doing it only for myself because it made me feel better about life, chased the dark thoughts out of my mind, and whenever I wanted to think, I went to run, and after every run I had the answer to every question I'd asked myself. It was as simple as.

"Can I join you?" Zack asked, gazing at me speculatively and daring me to say no.

No, Zack, I don't want you to come because it's you I'm running away from. Sorry.

Yes, this was not a conversation I was looking forward to holding with him.

Truth is that he knew me better than anybody gave him credit for. He knew that whenever I acted like everything was fine, I was a mess on the inside, that I needed to talk, but wouldn't until he pushed me over the edge and brought out that side of me I never wanted anyone to see.

His hazy, almost mocking eyes were boring into mine with such intensity that it would've taken my breath away if I wasn't so mad at him that I couldn't even speak. My left eye twitched and a grotesque smile spread across my chapped lips.

I couldn't believe he was making me do this. And at that moment I could honestly say that I hated him, I hated my best friend, I hated Zack more than I remembered hating anybody else for taking this little delight I found in life away from me.

"Sure," I said through gritted teeth and the smile I sent Zack was anything but convincing, compared to the one he flashed me over his shoulder when he was strolling towards his house casually.

"Give me a sec," he'd told me, throwing his sweat-soaked shirt over his shoulder before he went inside his house and he left me outside to fume all I wanted.

I used the little time he was away to school my expression into one of perfect apathy and indifference. I was the impersonation of cool, calm and collected when he walked out again and approached me, now having changed into his basketball shorts and finally (thankfully) wearing a shirt.

Thank goodness, I sent my gratitude to the goddess who had had mercy on me because only a woman could relate to the whirlwind of emotions inside me as I uncrossed my arms, willed my body to relax, and asked Zack if he was ready to go. Without a word, he nodded his head and off we went, jogging side by side just like in the old days when his face wasn't splattered over magazine covers all over the country and I wasn't such a nutjob. Yet.

We ran in - what was supposed to be - a companionable silence but, to me, it was anything but that. Zack, though, as always true to his nature, didn't look to be perturbed one bit while I wanted to pull my hair out and made sure to keep my mouth shut because I felt like cursing him out for no apparent reason other the one that he existed. I barely managed to curb my tongue whenever I got one of those sudden urges to hit him, but passing through the neighborhood even people whose names I couldn't even recall greeted us like we were some sort of royalty, so keeping the tense smile on my face, I waved and pretended that it was nice to see them, too.

As if on purpose, Zack made sure we were running shoulder to shoulder. If I picked up my pace, he'd follow. If I slowed down, he'd fall behind, too. As if he wanted me to know that there was no getting rid of him. This time, unlike all the others, my jog didn't calm my nerves. If anything I felt even more stressed and on edge than before. I wouldn't even risk a glance at Zack, although, knowing him as well as I did, he was grinning smugly at me, at how worked up I was.

We were running uphill when I took the plunge and threw caution to the wind.

I wasn't happy with Zack. No, I still hadn't forgiven him and I doubted I ever would. Even when I got over his "act of passion" and what it did to my head, I still would be secretly mad at him for not having the privilege to say, 'yes, my best friend's a guy, but we've never kissed and I've never thought of him romantically.'

So I ran for my life, like I was chased by demons when it was only my best friend, who actually had no trouble keeping up with me at all, and the only thing I did by trying to escape him was to prove to him and to the world what an idiot I was. When my vision became blurry and I felt like I might collapse, my run turned into a walk until I stopped short, putting my hands on my knees and leaning forward, hoping that, 'please, god, save me the humiliation and don't let me kneel over.'

My lungs were on fire and my knees were weak, barely supporting my weight as I tried to catch my breath, concentrating solely on not passing out. For a moment I was so out of it, thinking that it wasn't normal to feel this way when suddenly, spots swam before my eyes and a blurry face came into view, a face I knew all too well. Then it all sharpened into focus.

Zack's face.

He was leaning forward, too, hands resting on his knees, but he wasn't even out of breath, the jerk. Not even a bead of sweat was running down the side of his face. He looked perfectly fine, his skin shining in the sun, and his lips too close for comfort.

I blinked hard.

"You okay, champ?" he asked me innocently and the infuriating smirk present on his face did nothing to help me.

My breathing, instead of calming down, became very fast, dangerously fast.

Does he want to send me into cardiac arrest? Does he wish me dead, I wondered to myself as I stared into the face of the devil himself.

Was I okay?

No, I wasn't.

He must've been even a bigger idiot than me to ask me that.

I was not okay. I was the opposite of okay. I was unwell, I was bad. I had it bad.

And when Zack looked into my eyes, I could tell that he knew it, too.

I hated this infuriating smirk that graced his lips whenever he'd look at me like that, like he knew.

I hated how he made me feel, how he'd always made me feel.

But what aggravated me even more was that I didn't hate him.

I didn't hate him at all and that was when trouble normally started.

A/N: I am so, so sorry that I took so long to update this! But I actually had some trouble getting this chapter out because I took the wrong approach to it. Long story short, it's all good now. All you need to know is that I have no intention of giving up on it. How can I? I love Zack. I'm really excited about the way this chap turned out and I hope you enjoyed it, too :)!