Out of all her friends back home, Eunice was surprised it was Sam Hood who turned up at her cabin door on the Tuesday evening of her second week. She had just returned from dinner at the mess hall.
“What on earth are you doing here Sam?” she asked, opening the door.
“Hey Eunice! I was running an errand,” he said, looking awkward.
“Well you’re a sight for sore eyes,” she smiled.
“I thought I’d swing by to see if you wanted to take a walk before it gets dark. It’s pretty by the water,” he said.
She was just about to make her round of evening phone calls to Gabrielle and Arisbel but they could wait. She was delighted to see a familiar face.
“Okay, sure. Cecile don’t you worry, I’m just going out with a childhood friend,” she smiled at Sam, calling over her shoulder.
She had known Sam her entire life as her neighbor but hadn’t noticed him much over the past few grades of high school. Her popularity put her in different friend bracket. Sam was more of a loner sidelines type of guy.
The Hoods were neighbors a few doors down on Columbia. There were three Hood boys; Otis the oldest who had married and moved to north, Sam in the middle and the youngest was Rory whom she didn’t know much except he had left a few years ago. Sam’s father worked for city maintenance as a garbage collector and his mother was a mid-wife.
A grownup Sam stood before her a tall thick and fit man in an army green golf shirt, khaki shorts and espadrilles. He was smart and mild mannered. Some called him overly passive but hearing him speak reminded her how he was the most authentic person she had ever known.
Sam said he’d just got his driver’s license and wanted to take the family car out for a spin. She thought it was sweet but wondered if there was another reason. She had adapted to independence at camp quite easily and seeing Sam made her realize she wasn’t home sick.
She vaguely remembered them playing house, sneaking into abandoned houses and construction sites as twelve year olds, “Okay Sam you are now officially the daddy. I’m the mommy. Okay?” Eunice said, asserting her most natural tomboy bossiness.
“Yes okay so now how do we play house?” Sam said.
“Well I don’t know. Either we have a fight or we make up,” she said. She didn’t remember her goal being to kiss him but that’s what happened.
Until now she hadn’t thought about that moment. How scary and indescribably exciting it had been in her loins maybe not then but she certainly felt it now. She wasn’t supposed to think frisky with Sam Hood. He was supposed to be like a cousin.
By Sam’s second visit on Thursday of the same week, he brought her favorite Moon Pie’s, Zapp’s Chips and Goo Goo’s. They walked by the water’s edge then watched horseback riders in the distance as they drank canned sodas.
She was open to seeing him differently. All she knew was something had changed about her feeling toward him, he was comfortable and safe as if he were kin. She didn’t need to sport a mask to fit into his clique expectations like she did with her real friends. She wondered what it would be like to have him kiss her on the mouth again.
Sam came to see her twice a week for a month. She’d tell him about what she’d accomplished in her music sessions. They’d get into long talks about life, dream trips and reminisce about the neighborhood.
Her stomach panged with a crush. She had never fallen for guys who chased her like the other girls did. Even that charismatic Terrence. Sam made her feel a bit sick to her stomach. She actually missed him minutes after he left.
Eunice looked at him, “You seem to dig me. You want to take care of me. I love how curious you are and like to try new things. You see the positive beyond the negatives. You are handsome and stylish,” she hugged him tight.
He adjusted her shoulders with his large hands so he could look into her eyes properly, “Eunice, I like how you don’t really care what people think of you. You never get bored and you try to help people without knowing the consequence. That one I find a little kooky!” he laughed.
“I guess I had to get over myself. I was the lightest girl on our street. I don’t care about that as much now,” she said.
“Maybe I always thought I was the darkest guy in Montgomery,” Sam said.
“Oh Sam. Think about it. The lightest and darkest kids on Columbia! I didn’t think that mattered to boys. They’re not superficial like girls. Wicked bitches!” she laughed.
“Funny. Guys see girls as scary and difficult. My brothers had the good looks while I had to grow into mine,” he said, making his eyes wide in exclamation. She laughed.
“We must remember even black people judge beauty based on white features. We’ve been hypnotized over hundreds of years,” Eunice said.
“You’re a wise girl,” he said.
“Naw, I take what I’ve heard and share. That one is my Aunt Angela’s,” she said.
“You sly thing,” he said.
She thought of a brazen idea.
“Say, Cecile is going away this weekend. Maybe if you could come Saturday morning instead of Thursday. Maybe stay over on the sofa. Are you working?” she asked, casually as if she didn’t care what his answer would be.
“Mmmh. I might well do that,” he said.