“Mommy, don’t cry!” I call out to her shivering body as she lets the sadness consume her.  My words are hypocritical given that I am crying just as hard. Mom had always been a daddy’s girl, and with a man like my grandfather, it was easy to see why.  He brought a sense of calm about him; his peaceful smile could cut through any tension like a knife through fresh butter.

“Is she crying about Grandad?” Bowie asks from behind me, trying to act the brave man of the house.  If it wasn’t for the circumstances, it would be cute.  However, I say nothing, just take him in my arms and shuffle us over towards Mom’s bed where she remains fetal.

“Come here, my babies,” she says as she holds her arms out to us, inviting us into the warmth of the bed where we can all fall apart together for a little while.

Mom used to tell us all sorts of stories about growing up with her parents as an only child.  Grandad had been in the army like my father, so he wasn’t always around, but he sure made it special for her when he was. They’d go out for long hikes while her mother would stay behind to cook up a feast for when they got home. I never knew my grandmother, she died before I was born.  Mom always told me I was the blessing that came to melt away all the sadness.  Bowie came a few years after and has always been a wild contrast to me.  Where I am quiet and unassuming, he’s like a bull in a china shop.

After a few minutes of us lying together, she turns quiet, as though the pain has silenced her into nothing but sobs and whimpers.  My father is trying to get home but being out in the middle of the ocean on the other side of the world is understandably slowing him down somewhat. I’m worried about how my mother is going to cope with organizing a funeral without him here.  As it is, I’ve been trying my best to take over the run-of-the-mill chores, as well as making sure Bowie and I get to school on time.  Not that it matters too much; we’re moving at the end of the summer anyway. 

“Sam,” she says softly, breaking me from my anxious thoughts, “I think Bowie’s fallen asleep.  Do you want any dinner?”

“No, it’s ok, Mom,” I tell her. I see her shoulders slump in relief while I try to ignore the grumbling from my stomach. I’m sure I can knock up some toast or a can of soup when I know she’s going to be ok.

“You’re a good girl, Sam, always have been,” she smiles as she brushes away some hair from my cheek.  “Don’t forget to live, though.  Sometimes I worry you’re almost too good.  Enjoy being young!  Especially after all of this.  It slips by so quickly.”

“I’m happy, Mom,” I try to reassure her, “and I love being at home with you and Bowie.  And when Daddy finally finishes in the army, then I will love it even more.”

“I know, baby, but when we move, try to branch out a little,” she says with fresh tears running over her cheeks, “make friends, date boys, whatever!”

“Oh, God, Mom!” I gasp with embarrassment.  “Boys are idiots, and they smell!”

“Girls have cooties!” Bowie whispers from the side of me, still with his eyes closed. 

My mother laughs for the first time in what feels like weeks.  I laugh with her, and I finally relax into her embrace like she’s the adult and I’m the child again.

The weeks have been full of grief and pain, alongside anger and confusion over losing such a great man. I can only hope this will be the last of it for a very long time.

9 months later

The building before me looks so much bigger than my last school, and they have no uniform in place. I’m hoping the hour of changing and selecting the most neutral-colored outfit I could find will put me in good stead with the locals inside.  I’ve done this more times than I can count so I know the score.  You go in slow, assess the dynamics, the who’s who, then take it from there.  I was quite popular in my first two schools, but the school after that was so uptight, I was too afraid to do anything but keep to myself.  I’m hoping this school is like the first two and I’ll make friends quickly.  High School can be an incredibly lonely place if you have no one at your side.

“Do you want me to come in?” Mom asks, but I smile and shake my head. “Ok, well, have a good first day and don’t take any crap!”

I salute her with a cheeky smirk before I wave at Bowie in the back.  The boy is still sulking after he was told to take off his black army boots and leather jacket.  He’s such a poser, even at the tender age of thirteen.  God help my parents when he starts High School.

As I walk down the path to the front entrance, I keep my eyes dead ahead and make sure I stand up tall and straight.  I don’t want to attract any unnecessary attention, but I also don’t want to give the impression that I’m a pushover.  It appears to work when I manage to clear the front doorway and walk into the hall which is crawling with students before the first period.  I follow the signs to the administration office where I tell them my name and explain my situation.  This is something I can do almost robotically now seeing as I’ve done it so many times.  The friendly receptionist smiles and gestures for me to take a seat.

I take in some of the other students waiting to see various members of the administration. Someone already has an injury and is clutching hold of their right eye where a purple bruise is beginning to take shape.  After about five minutes, a girl with beautiful long blonde hair comes bouncing in with a kilowatt smile and a genuine look of excitement to be here.

“Oh, hi, you must be Samantha!” she says as he holds her hand out for mine.  “I’m Scarlett, your assigned buddy for the day!  Don’t you worry, I’m going to take good care of you.”

“Hello,” I reply, taking in how perky she is.  This girl is going to be in customer relations of some sort; that or marketing because I bet she could charm the panties of anyone. “It’s Sam, but nice to meet you.  I’m so glad you’re nice.”

“Well, sure,” she says with a flap of her manicured hand.  “Let’s get started, shall we?”

I try to hide my smile when I think of how much she sounds like one of those Youtube instructional videos on how to make a filing cabinet out of a toilet roll or something to that effect.  I pick up my bag and begin to trail behind her as she shows me various parts of the school, everything from the cafeteria, the library, and the sports field.

“We have an excellent football team here; I’m the head cheerleader.  You should definitely try out, honey!” Scarlett finally pauses to draw breath as she turns to face me. I smile half-heartedly, then turn towards the field and watch some of the team already running around like ants caught out on a rainy day.

“I’m more into athletics actually.  I used to do sprinting, hurdles, and long-distance at my other schools,” I tell her, but keep my eyes on the field ahead.  “My brother loves football, but I’ve never really seen the fascination.”

“Oh, me neither, but cheering is fun!” she says as she joins in with my gazing across the field to where the players are all dressed like warriors about to go into battle.  You can smell the sweat from here.

“Besides, the view is quite something, if you know what I mean!” She leans in as she taps my arm with a playful giggle. “There are a lot of cute players on the team, especially number thirteen, Grant Thomas.  I’ve had my eye on him for a while now; just waiting for the right time to make my move.  Shouldn’t be too hard, I’ve already caught him checking me out on more than one occasion.”

“Please,” a new voice says from behind us, which instantly takes my attention away from the field.  “Grant Thomas has made out with almost every girl on the squad, apart from Scar and me that is.”

“Oh, hey, Ashley, this is Sam,” Scarlett says as she gestures to the gorgeous girl in front of me. Her soft smile has me instantly warming to her and for some reason, I know I want to be friends with this girl.  Her smooth ebony skin is just as flawless as Scarlett’s and I have to wonder if they put something in the water around here.

“Nice to meet you,” I shake her hand, “are you a cheer-“

Before I have a chance to finish that sentence, a large body takes my feet right out from under me as he tackles me to the ground with all the grace of a charging bull.  The slam of my body against the hard ground below has me gasping for air, while his weight on top of mine feels like I am steadily being crushed.

“Oh my God!” Scarlett yells as the lump on top of me leans up onto his hands to look at me through his helmet.  “Sam, honey, are you ok?”

“Scar, what kind of hell question is that?!” Ashley snaps as she gets out her phone to call someone.

“Fuck, I’m so sorry!” The hulk of a player rushes out as he tears off his helmet to let his sweaty dark hair hang over his eyes…his gorgeous, hypnotizing, mossy green…

“It’s ok, Sam, I’ve called the office.  They’re sending someone to check you out.” Ashley leans down to tell me, thankfully snapping me out of this God-like creature’s mythical powers to render me stupid.

“Sam?  Is that your name?  I’m so sorry, Sam,” he says in a voice that should be used for saucy audiobooks, like the ones my mom secretly listens to.

“I’m-” I begin but have to clutch at my chest to try and stave off the pain of trying to talk again.

“Shit, I was trying to get the ball and totally misjudged where you guys were standing!”  he says as he finally crawls off me.  “Can you move?”

“Just,” I reply as I try to curl up.

“Here, let me,” he says as he bends down to pick me up like a baby inside of his muscular, beautifully tanned arms.  As I cling to his neck, he looks at me in a way that’s disarming; it holds my gaze captive and I feel like I’m melting against him. “I’ll take you to the nurse’s office.”

“Is this really necessary?” Scarlett says with a less perky tone of voice. “I’m sure Sam is able to walk by herself!”

“Sam, you enjoy yourself!” Ashley winks at me as I’m led off inside of this stranger’s arms. I swear I see Scarlett stomp her perfectly heeled foot in protest.

“I’m Grant by the way,” he tells me as if he really needed to after Scarlett’s little performance back there. “Grant Thomas.  You new here, Sam?”

“Ah-ha,” I reply rather gormlessly. “Scarlett was giving me a tour when you ran into me.”

“Please accept my apology for knocking you over like a clumsy oaf!” he says as his stern expression melts into a wicked smirk.  “Not that I’m a hundred percent sorry that I did.”

To be continued…

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