43 - Sam
My cellphone buzzes in my pocket. The grass underneath my feet crunches as I halt, pulling out my cellphone to reveal a photo attachment of Chris with his arm around Ashley and her left hand proudly displaying the ring, two huge grins on their faces. It is accompanied with the caption; "She said YES!"
"Dorks," I chuckle to myself, feeling the warmth of the sun radiating off the skin of my face, before I thumb out "Congrats ;)" and pressing send.
My smile startled off my lips, I glance up, catching a glimpse of Mike with his hands stuffed in his pockets just as I'm tackled with a lump of a body and tumble to the ground. My back hits the grassy ground of the park with a thump, the wind huffing out of me. "Hey, Wolfie," I puff out through laughs, feeling the wolf sniff around my face as his tail thumps back and forth in a wag. My fingers find their way up to his neck, giving him a well deserved scratch behind the ears. "How you been, buddy?"
"I've been great, thanks," Mike muses and I smirk, pushing my head away from Wolfie's wet nose far enough to catch the man's silhouetted figure caught in the glistening, midday sun.
"I wasn't asking you," I retort with a smile, gently guiding Wolfie's heavy body off me and heaving myself to a sitting position.
Mike rolls his eyes before leaning down and offering his hand to me. I gladly take it, fitting my hand in his, and feeling Mike effortlessly pull me up to my feet.
"You don't know how refreshing that is," he thinks aloud as I brush grass stains from the back of my jeans. I glance up at him in a question. "Not to have somebody look at me like I'm a murderer."
There's a thin skin of something hidden behind his eyes; a thought that is convinced he is a murderer. I think he'll always be haunted with that feeling of pulling that trucker and hearing it's harrowing click. But he's moving on. He's not alone.
I crouch down to give Wolfie another pat. He's got Wolfie. And he's got me. And someday Chris will be able to move past that incident with Ashley in court - but I think he's on the verge of forgiving Mike.
I don't expect Matt to come around any time soon. But he's definitely better with Mike than he was before. At least there's an improvement. I hope it'll get better – I hate being in a the tense, dense atmosphere when they're in the same room together.
And then there's Jess - she's been very slowly integrating herself in with us. Not openly, but we'll invite her out to get coffee or check out a film in the cinema, and she'll reluctantly accept. Though, deep down, I can tell that she's happy for it.
She's been trying to lay low, hiding away from the public eye - but hanging with us isn't exactly the best strategy for that. The video released during the trial at court was eventually released through media as police evidence. And since then, it's pretty much become viral. Everyone is suddenly aware of these creatures that exist in the world - whether they debate on it being faked or not - and my blog has had a huge increase in views. It's hard to keep up.
But, without even planning it, I succeeded. The world knows. It can't escape or disprove the truth anymore. There were no words needed, no long winded blog posts or the perfect words. Just a video and a trusty prison escapee.
"It'll get better," I assure Mike, stretching back to my feet. He shifts his shoulders, uncomfortable, but he seems to take me at my word. "One day they'll forget."
Mike nods, avoiding my eyes. "Are you really going to see him?" He asks, lifting his head and squinting at me through the sunlight.
I sigh. "I have to, Mike."
"You have no say in this," I warn him with my eyes. I know he's worried about me but I can't be the abandoner now. Josh deserves more than that. Even if he hasn't noticed, he's given me more than I ever deserved from him. "And besides, when you in prison, I didn't abandon you."
Mike exhales, knowing I'm right. "Fine," he says with a gruff voice, tapping the side of his thigh to call Wolfie to heal. The wolf gladly obeys, heartily ready to please his master. It makes me smile to see them together again. Even if that means I have to say goodbye. I didn't realise how much I'd miss Wolfie until I took him to Mike as soon as he was let out of prison and adjusted back to fresh air. Free air. It felt lonely in my apartment now, without the pattering of Wolfie's paws against the wooden flooring, or Josh's shifting restlessness in his sleep. The sound of my tapping on the keyboard is now far too loud for the hollow, empty space of my apartment.
"But be careful," Mike eyes me, his features pulled into a grimace.
A breathy laugh escapes my laugh. "I will," I smile, feeling my lungs inhale air to settle my bubbling nerves. "You know me."
"You came," Josh's face lights up as I sit in the seat opposite, the receiver pressed to his cheek, our bodies separated with a sheet of glass.
"Of course I did," I muse with a smile, though my eyes don't lift up enough to meet his gaze. My eyes are just far too heavy. They hold too much now. "Who do you think I am?"
Josh's cheeks bulge as he grins, his eyes narrowing mischievously. "Sammy," he says plainly, his tongue darting out of his mouth to wet his bottom lip. Then he adds, "Sammy is mine."
For a second, my heart freezes. Stops beating, the beeping of the heart monitor ceasing to a long blare of a sound. My eyes snap to his, shocked. I can't tell if he's serious or if he's just kidding, his eyes shimmering with an alive kind of enthusiasm. I don't know whether I want him to be serious.
"You wish," I mumble, my lips tugged into a smile. But my voice is quiet, no energy in it.
Josh looks at me. His eyes watch me like he's studying me. Then, slowly, he lifts his hand up and presses his palm up against the glass. I look at it for a minute. The lines and veins on his skin. The things that make him Josh.
Slowly, I lift my hand up, grazing my fingertips along the glass where his hand is pressed on the other side. I can almost feel the sensation of his skin tickling mine.
"When I get out of here," he hums, his voice crackling through the receiver, his eyes watching our hands. "Let's go some place. Just the two of us."
My breath hitches in my throat. I can feel my heart crash into my ribs, my fingers tingling. I don't know how I even want to answer that. A part of me tugs at my heart, tempting me. And then the other half... it's scared. It's unsure. It has claimed Mike's voice, warning me to be careful.
I can't say yes to Josh. Not when I can't afford to give him every part of me.
"We'll see, Josh," I smile, pulling back my hand from his, unable to hide the sadness in my eyes. He watches my hand, dropping it seconds after I move mine, the sound of his thumping against the table on his side. Like the sound of his heart. "We'll see."