School without Sam felt so strange, it was like a crucial part of me had been cut off and I was going to have to learn to live without it, learn to live without seeing him everyday and being able to just talk to him whenever I wanted to.
My heart ached just to be near him again and as much as Bridget and Kate tried to distract me so I wouldn’t think about him there were certain reminders of his absence that even they couldn’t prevent from sneaking up on me, like sitting alone in Maths while the rest of the class chatted away or the Monday morning assembly where Mr Scott presented the soccer team with trophies for their season, when he held up the trophy for Sam, he spoke about how, not only was he a valued captain of the soccer team but also an outstanding student who he could see would go far in life and he wasn’t wrong, Sam had the intelligence and ambition to do whatever he wanted, it just sucked that what he ultimately wanted to do meant he had to move to another continent, far away from me.
There was an eight hour time difference between us, which made it difficult to have a good flow of communication, either he was going to bed when I was waking up or I’d be at school through out the day when he was free to chat but whenever I saw an email notification in my inbox my heart would lift up, as much as reading about his adventures made me miss him even more, I loved hearing that he was having such a good time being back home and around his family.
By Tuesday I was starting to get into a routine, I’d wake up 20 minutes earlier than usual just so I had enough time to boot up our computer and read through the email that Sam had sent through while I was asleep, then I’d write back and tell him about whatever was going on here, not that there was really much to tell, nothing exciting ever happened in Claremont...or so I thought.
On Tuesday Morning Mr Scott announced an urgent assembly for all year 12 students after roll call. The assembly hall was freezing this time of year, the space heaters scattered along the walls did very little to heat up such a huge room so I was hoping that this wasn’t one of those times where Mr Scott would just drone on about how ‘this is the most important year of your lives year 12, this year determines everything and you shouldn’t waste time’ he would say, as he wasted our time giving the exact same, boring, endless speech over and over. Having lived beyond year 12, I wanted to tell him that, for most of us, there were bigger challenges to come and that the pressure that not only he, but also our other teachers, were putting on us was extreme, they were building this year up to be the end of everything, when in reality, it was just the beginning, once we stepped outside of school, which had provided us a safety net for the past 13 years of our lives, then the harsh reality of the real world would kick in.
“Morning year 12, I won’t keep you long” Mr Scott said when we were all seated in the hall, Kate was usually required on stage for all assemblies so it seemed odd that she hadn’t been briefed or even asked to stand beside Mr Scott for this one, instead, in her place stood our Vice Principal, Mrs Radd. “I know that the majority of you are awaiting the results of your half yearly exams so that you can apply to universities for next year and I apologise for the delay but an extremely serious allegation of cheating had been brought to our attention and required a full investigation”
Gasps and whispers are heard from students throughout the hall, now it made sense why Kate wasn’t invited up on stage, any time a student had been caught cheating it had to be dealt with without exposing their identity to the rest of the student body, although it was never that hard to guess who it was because that student would be expelled immediately. I peered around the room, taking in all the now familiar faces that I spend five days a week with, Lucas was sitting two rows in front of Kate and I, he was also looking around but smiled when his eyes locked on mine, clearly thinking the same thing I was, that it could be someone from our group, not that we really had much of a group these days. His eyes went wide and he mouthed ‘Sam’ to me, I shook my head and he looked relived.
“As you are fully aware year 12, cheating of any kind, will result in expulsion from the school” Mr Scott continued, trying to regain the attention of the shocked student body. “The student involved has been dealt with, not only by the school but also the school board and will remain anonymous however as principal of this school it is my responsibility to remind all students that cheating will not be tolerated, you will get caught and you will be ultimately harming yourself in the long run, especially this far into your year when you have so much at stake, it’s a risk that will have dire consequences.”
Finally, something exciting had happened in Claremont and Sam wasn’t here to enjoy it, well at least I’d have interesting news to fill an email with.
By lunch time the cheating scandal had reached the years below mine, which wasn’t a surprise, a student, in any year, getting expelled was a rarity so it created quite the buzz around the school yard. The rumour mill was running wild with who it could possibly be, any student from year 12 who was absent that day became prime suspect number one and many times I had to defend Sam’s honour and explain that he was in England.
What surprised me more than anything though was Petra, she usually was one who loved to start gossip and would fuel rumours without a single care given, even if her information was true or not, yet she was remaining very tight lipped, even as people threw out allegations around her she just sat at her table across from ours, focused only on the contents of the lunchbox in front of her.
“Petra knows something” I whispered loud enough for Bridget, Kate and Alex to hear. “There’s no way that girl wouldn’t be jumping in on the biggest scandal of the year, unless she protecting the identity of the cheater”
“It’s Kristen” Lucas said as he sat down beside me and took his own lunch box out of his bag, I was shocked that he was sitting with us and half expected Kate to tell him to piss off but she didn’t, she just leaned in closer to him to hear his reason’s why he was pointing the finger at his ex. “I overheard Petra and one of her minions discussing it in PE, being unpopular has its advantages, I can listen in on conversations and go unnoticed by the masses.” How things had rapidly changed in such a short amount of time from Lucas.
“Is she sure though? Kristen could just be out sick today and you know what Petra is like?” Kate questioned him, she once hate this guy and every word that came out of his mouth would be met with an insult but now she was hanging onto his words like they were gospel.
“Kristen called her last night, broke the news to her first hand and made her swear she wouldn’t tell a soul but we all know that Petra couldn’t keep her trap shut and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time” Lucas laughed.
“I wonder if she used the same tactic as last time when she cheated on her preliminaries” I ponder out loud, Kate laughs because she knows what I’m referring to but the others met me with confused stares. “She gave a geek a blow job in exchange for sitting her biology exam last year”
“That just gives new meaning to ‘how low can you go’, in Kristens case, to the very bottom it seems” Bridget chuckles.
“It’s just a shame that Sam wasn’t here to witness Kristen’s downfall, he’d get such a kick out of this, after what she did to him” Lucas says quietly, being one of only a few people who actually knew Kristen and Sam once dated. “Where is he anyway?”
“He’s in England, he’s got an interview with Cambridge University today so I’m guessing Claremont High would be the furtherest thing on his mind right now but I’ll email him after school with all the juicy gossip” Just another reminder that Sam isn’t here.
“We should celebrate” Kate suggests. “We should go out for dinner on Friday night, all five of us” She looks warmly at Lucas when she says it too, I don’t know what this pregnancy is doing to her but it seems to making her all warm and fuzzy towards someone she once despised with a passion, could have something to do with what happened at Bridget’s trial, Lucas just looks grateful to be included though.
“I’ll book us a table at that Italian place by the lake” Alex says. “Kate and I have a scan at 4 that afternoon but we should be done by 6 at the latest”
“Scan?” Lucas asks, I forget that only a handful of people actually know about Kate’s pregnancy.
“We’re having a baby” Kate whispers, looking uncertain if she’s really wanting to make this public knowledge outside of our little group, but Lucas had brought us a gem of news today so maybe she felt like giving some back. “Actually, we are having two babies, we found out last Friday but I didn’t feel right telling you then, what with everything that went down with Sam after the trial”
“Twins” I mouth to her, shocked and surprised.
“Yep, not sure of the sexes yet, it’s still too early to tell but theres two in there, no wonder I was getting so big so quickly, my Mum was half my size at this stage with all her pregnancies” Kate rubs her tummy lovingly and leans over to kiss Alex. Their little love bubble just keeps growing stronger.
“Congratulations” Lucas holds out his hand to Alex who shakes it. “My Mum fell pregnant with me when she was in her last year of high school, she managed to raise me alone and build a strong career too, she’d probably be able to give you some awesome advice”
“Thanks Lucas, I may have to email her and ask her a million questions because, if I’m being honest, it’s super scary, the cost of everything is unbelievably outrageous and then we have to times that by two for everything.”
“We still have Charlotte’s cot in the garage, I’m sure Mum would be happy to donate it to you as well as a lot of both our old baby clothes, then you only have to worry about getting a second cot and I’m sure that you could find one second hand for a fraction of what a new one would cost you” Lucas starts listing off helpful suggestions, things that I wouldn’t have even thought of, like making your own baby clothing and food and Kate starts taking notes.
“Wait, you said your Mum raised you alone? Where was Roy?” I question Lucas, Roy is a deadbeat dad to both Lucas and Charlotte but surely he hadn’t always been that bad.
“Roy’s my stepdad, I call him Dad though to make it easier Charlotte, so she doesn’t get confused but he’s not really a dad to either one of us. My real dad walked out on my Mum when I was just a baby, he came back last year, looking to build a relationship with me but it was too little too late and I told him where to go” Lucas looks so pained just admitting the truth about Roy and his real father. I dated this boy for two years and had no idea that Roy wasn’t his biological dad. My mind is officially blown.
“Your mum deserves so much better than Roy” I hate saying that out loud to him but I have to be honest, Gail is such a beautiful, kind soul and Roy is just a pig of a man.
“She really does and I tell her that often” Lucas shares with us, “she’s in the process of filing for a divorce and getting full custody of Char, she finally kicked Roy three weeks ago but he keeps coming back every afternoon with promises that he’ll get sober and make an effort, like every other time she’s kicked him out, it lasts about a week and then he’s back on the couch everyday swinging back a slab of beer and telling her that she’s useless. I punched him once and the fucker still came back”
“Our dad got a restraining order against our Mum after the trial because she’s been calling up and abusing us and then just showed up on Sunday night, screaming that I destroyed her life so dad went to the police” Bridget tells Lucas.
“Your mum could do the same thing if Roy keeps coming back” I suggest and Lucas nods in agreement.
“Yeah, I think it may just come to that because he’s really scaring Charlotte, she can’t sleep by herself right now, she afraid he’s going to come get her and take her from mum like he threatened to” My heart broke for that little girl, to be so afraid of the man who was ultimately meant to be her protector.
Bridget met me at my car at the end of the school day, her hands in her pockets as she shifted back and forth to try and warm up, another freezing, cold, Winter’s night was approaching. I unlocked the doors and we both scrambled in fast into my tiny, old car. I turned on the engine and turned the heat up to try and warm us up as quickly as possible but it took a couple of minutes to start generating the heat. Sam’s truck never had these issues, the heat seemed instant in his whereas mine needed to be coaxed out of hiding it seemed. Once it was warm enough, I set it back to a reasonable temp and began our short drive home.
Bridget was quiet on the drive home, lost in her own thoughts, I wouldn’t have minded so much but it gave me time to focus on my own and all of mine were on Sam and how much I missed him.
“Are you going to tell Sam about the dinner with Lucas on Friday?” Bridget asked when I pulled up in the driveway, was that what she had been stewing on this whole time?
“You make it sound like I’m going on a date with Lucas behind Sam’s back, you’ll be there, as will Kate and Alex” I point out.
“I know but you saw how badly Sam reacted to me just hugging Lucas after the trial, I think you should be honest with him, just tell him we’re all going out together because if he finds out you hid it from him then he’ll be super pissed”
“I’ll think about it.” I say, just to appease her, I have no intention of ever letting Sam know that I’ll be hanging out with Lucas, I know I’m not doing anything wrong and it would only cause trouble, some things are best left in the dark to save the hassle and really, what he didn’t know couldn’t hurt him.