Everyone at school knew Eunice was out of Sam’s league and prior their summer interlude he wouldn’t have disagreed. Most thought Sam’s dream girl should have been someone simple like Stacey Rogers.
Stacey was the girl who made funny eyes at him ever since grade three. The same girl who had always vied to beat him at the milk bubble blowing contest in homeroom. The crowned winner was the first kid to blow enough foamed milk to flow over the desks edge. Stacey was the only girl who could compete with the boys.
By grade six she was gone. Her family had been run out of a home purchase on a white bread street for fear it’d be red-lined. They gave up on the South and moved to Vermont where her father became mayor, them becoming the first family in the mayor’s residence in Montpelier.
Sam and Eunice had enough in common they could spend hours discussing current events, or hurricanes and fantasize about chasing twisters. Had he imagined their chemistry?
He tried to stay logical but the thought of her presence eclipsed his reality turning it fantastic. He knew she was different by how his pulsating heart calmed when she was around. She could stop heart palpitations. It had seemed like she only had eyes for him. He ached when she looked in his eyes for long spells and ached more when she didn’t. How could he ever fulfill the needs of a girl like that?
They had laid on her bunk cot fully clothed. In fact he made sure to be overly clothed for fear their mutual attraction would take things too far. He was new to all that sex business. They stared at each other nose to nose for at least an hour without speaking in words as if they were mind melding respective DNA like on Star Trek.
Now thoughts of Eunice were spoiled by Terrence and Jax’s ugly voice in his head. They were right he wasn’t worthy. If they made his life hell at school it would only be an embarrassment reflecting on her. He’d be doing her a favor by ending things.
He had Harpo’s voice of reason in his head too. It was critical Sam kept up with his studies and graduate so he could start bringing home real bacon. “Whatchu playin’ at boy? You’re gonna move on and get a real job that pays. Three sons and all I got is you? An offspring is supposed to take care of his old Pappy,” Harpo said.
It wasn’t so hard to let go of the fantasy of living happily ever after with Eunice. The sheen of cordiality of first love had stripped away boundaries so the killer pain point was knowing their childhood friendship wouldn’t survive either. He wished they could simply be back like before when they were neighborly and familial friends. If there were tiers, levels and castes Sam was out of her league on all counts, he was in a sub class even for the Columbia street set.
“Listen Eunice. The summer was perfect but I gotta tell you we’re from the same world in one way but different worlds altogether. We are 17. When we are back in school I’ll be sticking to my own kind. It’s just cleaner. I know you probably f-f-feel the s-s-same,” he said. In his mind he added, I want you to know that no one will ever take your spot in my heart. This summer has shown me that it has always been you. I lo-love you and would die for you Eunice.
Sam’s stammer had returned.
For the first weeks when Sam saw Eunice at school he wasn’t ashamed if dismay showed upon his face or hold back and hide his feelings. See what you’ve done to me? You have killed me. What a shitty feeling lovesickness was! It was worse than his worst cold with chills and a fever. Eunice was a professional icy purveyor so he wasn’t sure she had noticed him anyway. Sam you don’t know what people are feeling on the inside. Don’t be afraid, the truth only stings for a second!
Sam’s long face was inconsequential to rumor mongers. Can you believe she went out with him? That was like crossbreeding a poodle and a Doberman! What do you expect him to say? He must be biiiittt-er! [Warning: Any thoughts or opinions expressed by Sam Hood are equivalent to the concerns of a disgruntled former employee].
Sam remembered being in the woods with her, they were maybe ten, searching types of bark for their respective science projects. He needed birch, the coveted white paper bark with dark random blotches. The trees life sustaining sap flowed like blood through veins circulating up and down. Teachers warned not to strip the birch bark away or else kill the tree.
Sam had been obsessed with finding the right example to make his project the best to win the top prize of a one minute shop which granted you a free-for-all in the school supply cupboard. He was dying to get his hands on a stapler.
A distraction over near the creek took Eunice off her search. Three white boys were frog gigging. They had cornered a huge frog and were taunting it. Hunting frogs for eating was one thing but to gleefully torture and kill one was wrong.
Eunice noticed the boys first. He saw her eyes squint turning bionic as she honed in on the threat to the frog. She could smell trouble a mile away!
She flew off the handle and dashed over twig and stone to where they stood. Sam called after her but she was deaf except for her mission.
From a distance he saw her hands moving wildly. The white dudes were in deep shit! She was crazy and fearless but the dudes lacked respect.
Things took a turn as one boy had her by the wrists while another looked over at Sam on route, shrugged then hunched down to grab Eunice by the ankles.
Sam an underweight bean pole, picked up a palm sized rock and headed after her. By the time he caught up the gangly dudes had her held down. One guy waved a large dead frog in her face. He targeted the one holding her by the shoulders, faking him out by pretending to karate kick his face instead surprising him with a rock-fisted gut punch. It sent him backward into the mud. The diversion gave Eunice a chance to grab the other two boys by the backs of their necks and knock their heads together.
“Whoa, what are you doing you uppity bitch! We was just messing around,” one hollered.
“You had best skedaddle back to where you came from,” she said, fuelled by adrenalin.
Her tomboy determination scared Sam while he also admired her drive to action. Tough guys would’ve only talked about doing what she acted on. He figured they had bonded and she’d appreciate his being her accomplice.
The commitments they’d made while at music camp were fantastic memories now. Maybe he was exhausted by her or too lazy to make a move but frightened of being alone.
He reverted back to a dopey romantic, imagining them as two oak trees with roots entangled beneath the soil and out of sight. The taller and older they grew the deeper and wider their roots would flourish; connecting them to other tree roots under the forest floor. We will never stand alone; even if above ground they see us separate. We will have a deep connection beneath the earth’s surface forever.