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Chapter Three: Sam

A few weeks later I was all but living at Sam and Julianne’s place. Kay had been skipping town more and more often so I figured she didn’t care much if I was at home or not. Sam and Julianne were always happy to see me.

That night with Julianne hadn’t repeated itself since. Not long after, she brought home a guy she had started seeing and I knew that was the end of whatever we had on that cold hazy night. I didn’t dwell on it because there was something else keeping me there. Sam. He intrigued me. He tantalized me. And most of the time, he ignored me, which did nothing but make me want him more.

I saw him with other girls, in and out of the house, and each time I would lose hope, only to have it reinstated with a look and that intoxicating, mischievous smile.

One night while I was lying awake next to a sleeping Julianne, he came into the room and leaned against the wall, looking at me suggestively.

After staring for some time, he put a finger to his lips for me to be quiet and grabbed my hand, pulling me from the bed and out of the room. He picked me up easily and sat me down on the kitchen table, roughly.

“What do you want from me, girl?” he breathed in my ear. I couldn’t speak, but it didn’t matter because he didn’t wait for my response.

He kissed me deeply and said, “Stop teasing me.” What? Me tease him? He pulled away and I looked at him in confusion. I couldn’t think of what to say; I never could around Sam.

He smirked at my expression. “Have a good night, baby girl.” With one last kiss on the cheek he walked back to his room, leaving me stunned on the kitchen table, more confused and desperate than ever.

Sam went back to ignoring me afterwards, except for the occasional long glance or an unexpected kiss when no one was looking. After a few days of this, I decided I couldn’t take it any longer. I grabbed my bag and ran out of their apartment, slamming the front door to signify my final exit, tired and aching for something I couldn’t explain.

I stormed back home in anger, pushing aside the miscreants camping on our couch to find Kay. I found her lying in her bed, her back to a man I didn’t recognize.

“Kay?” She moaned and I kneeled down beside her. She looked weird. “Mama?” Her face was blue and she was sweating and shivering. I shook her. She didn’t move. “MAMA!”

I dragged her by the arms to the bathroom, pushing her into the bathtub. I turned on the shower, cold water raining down on us, and stuck my fingers down her throat. I’d seen her do it to others a few times.

“Fuck! Puke! Mama!” My whole hand was down her throat when she finally started heaving.

She threw up for a long time, little blue pills lining the bathtub drain. I turned off the water as she coughed her way into consciousness.

She smiled at me. “Hey, baby.”

“Kay, what the fuck.” She sighed heavily and we hugged for a long time. “Mama, you have to be careful. Please.” I didn’t want to ask questions, feeling protective of her in her fragile state.

She nodded and apologized, slurring her words, obviously still drunk or high or a mix of both. I helped her up out of the tub and cleaned her up, getting her back into bed. The man was no longer there.

Some time passed without seeing Sam, and I felt myself slowly reversing back to my usual, less agitated state. I didn’t stay at Julianne’s as much, as she’d found herself a new boyfriend, so staying away from Sam was almost easy. Kay was back to her baking and promised me she would stay home longer this time. The cold was starting to lift and summer was once again on the horizon.

I had arranged to meet with Julianne at her apartment one afternoon to catch up, as we hadn’t seen much of each other since she had permanently attached herself to her new squeeze. She had flaked on the last few plans we’d made, so I didn’t have high hopes for this one either.

After waiting outside the building as per our agreement for what felt like hours, I gave up and stormed up the stairs, yelling her name as I opened the door to her apartment. “Julianne! Where the fuck are you…”

I sighed in defeat when there was no reply. I was about to go back out the door when the sound of footsteps behind me made me freeze.

“She’s not here,” he said softly, a smile in his voice.

I bit my lip and turned around. Act casual, I told myself. “Oh, Sam, uh, okay, sure. Just, uh, tell the…tell her…tell Julianne that I was, uh, here.” I groaned internally at myself.

I couldn’t say what it was about him—his dark eyes, his stupid smile, or that he was not entirely taking an interest in me—but when he reached around me to close the door and took my hand, leading me to his bedroom, I didn’t resist.

It was a different feeling I got when Sam touched me than I had gotten with Ty or even Dane. It was more like an urge, one that felt out of my control.

Lying in Sam’s bed, the sheets tangled beneath us, my sweltering lust bubble burst when he suddenly said, “I don’t think we should tell Julianne about this.”

I stared at him, my chest still heaving. “Uh, okay. Why?”

He shrugged and ran a finger between my naked breasts. “I don’t know, it’s awkward? Plus, it’ll be way more fun this way.”

He winked and I smiled uncertainly. “Fine. But she will find out eventually.”

“Sure,” he whispered, slipping a hand between my legs and officially ending the conversation.

After that first time, we stuck to meeting in the park to make out behind the bushes, or I’d climb into bed with him when Julianne was out for the night.

But then one night, Julianne suggested that she and I go drink by The Creek. We were at the same circle as that first night with Ty and Mike, and it felt just like old times. This time, though, neither of us had a man with us. Julianne said she wasn’t ready to introduce me to her new guy just yet and I claimed I wasn’t in the mood to seduce.

For most of the night, she gushed about how happy she was, and maybe I would’ve been more concerned about who her mystery guy was if I hadn’t been trying so hard to keep my own secret.

Suddenly she gave me a knowing look and sighed. “I know about you and Sam, Isa.”

I froze, my drink half-way to my mouth. “Julianne…”

Her face morphed and she laughed, squeezing my leg. “Isa, girl! It’s okay! I’m happy for you! I love you guys!” She was slurring, but her drunken words put me at ease. “But you should have told me!” She was trying to be angry but she couldn’t stop smiling.

I hugged her. “I’m sorry, Julianne. I wanted to tell you. Are you weirded out?”

She shrugged. “Maybe a little. I mean, you sure have a thing for keeping it in the family, huh?”

I grimaced and she downed her drink, getting up in search of another, ending the conversation just as easily as Sam had.

Julianne and I parted ways when the party died down and I went to find Sam, excited and nervous and…feeling that urge again. I found him in the kitchen of his apartment, sitting at the table in his boxers and eating cereal out of a mug, and jumped on him, squealing.

“Isa! Hi!” He wrapped me in a hug and kissed me. I stopped him before I could forget that I had something to tell him.

“By the way,” I said, catching my breath, “Julianne knows.”

His face crinkled in worry. “Shit,” he muttered.

I looked at him in confusion, sure that he would have felt relief. “She said she’s fine with it.”

His expression didn’t change. Was he embarrassed to be with me? He seemed to follow my train of thought and relaxed his face, massaging the furrows out of my forehead. “I figured she knew. We didn’t really do a good job of hiding it.”

I didn’t respond and he kissed me reassuringly. “I’m glad she knows, baby.”

I made myself believe him and kissed him back. He picked me up and carried me to his bed. I giggled as he threw me down on it. I tried to tell him I was sorry for exposing us but he silenced me with a kiss.

“Shut your mouth baby girl,” he whispered seductively. “It’s time for bed.”

My time with Sam was special and anything but pure. We would lie in bed or on the couch or on the kitchen floor and I would trace the tattoos on his arms while he drew some on mine. We didn’t know each other very well, but I liked that. It was like living a lie.

I had learned one thing about Sam, though, and that was that he had a reputation. I knew this because when word of us had spread somewhat, the groupies began to appear. Girls with too much makeup and too tight shorts would stop me on my way to the corner store with sarcastic blessings and words of wisdom one can only have from hindsight.

One in particular, a girl named Missy, a tweaker who I’d seen around our apartment a few times, stopped me in the park one day and pushed me against a tree.

I pushed her back. “What the fuck!”

She smiled and told me to be quiet. “Sam always liked the feisty ones.”

I had grown tired of the fifth degree and wondered what exactly I had gotten myself into. “Seriously, what’s with the parade of bimbos?” I spat at her.

She laughed and hacked like a smoker. “Sam is…popular. He’s been around. And he’s charming, you know that. Most of these girls are just jealous. You don’t really know him though, do you?”

I glared at her. She was uncharacteristically pretty, despite the yellowed tint of her skin from rampant drug use. “So, what do you want?”

She leaned her skinny body against me and pushed me back into the tree. “I just wanted to see his new flame for myself, and also warn you about Sam, for my Karma and what not.”

I rolled my eyes. “Whatever. Leave me alone.” I pushed her away and started walking.

“Use protection!” she shouted after me, her nasally laugh following me down the street.

Later that night, lying on the hood of Sam’s car behind the grocery mart, I told Sam about my day’s encounters. He brushed them off with a laugh. “Don’t let those bitches get in your head. I like to tease, you know that.” He kissed my ear to prove his point.

Anger and lust swirled dangerously inside me. I tried not to dwell and convinced myself that he wanted me. I wasn’t just the flavor of the day.

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