January 1, 2025
Samantha Bradshaw is 25; Andrew Goss is 25; Cory Green is 48; Rose Green is 34; Serder Green is 74; Sam Green is 16
Samantha ran out of the guest house, and didn't stop running until she was out of breath. She had no idea where she was going. She just needed to get away.
Away from both Jeff, and Andrew, and the ugly scene that had followed their meeting.
The three had just stared at each other for a long moment. Samantha was the first to speak.
"You told him I was your girlfriend?"
"Ok, maybe I exaggerated a little, but - "
"But something happened, right?" Andrew turned to Samantha. "You were with him, before you came here?"
"I was, but... he wasn't my boyfriend," she said. "We went out a couple of times, but it was nothing -"
"What do you mean, nothing??" Jeff demanded.
"I didn't mean nothing, I meant - "
"So you mean there was something between you!" Andrew said angrily, "... and then you just left!?"
"Stop yelling at me like that!"
"What am I supposed to do?? I mean, you've always been a bit secretive, but - hell, you were seeing this guy, and you just left - "
"I had a good reason to - "
" - without even saying goodbye, or leaving a note, or - "
"I wrote to him. How do you think he knew where I was?"
"Nine months after you left! I don't believe this! You're stringing me along, you're got this boyfriend you walked out on, and if that isn't enough, you can't stop staring at your boss - "
"This is too much, Samantha... I can't deal with this. You guys obviously have a lot to talk about... "
"Andrew, wait - " she called, but he had already ran up the stairs.
She turned to Jeff. "Thanks a lot," she said sarcastically.
"What, this is my fault?!"
"You could have called or something..."
"You're a fine one to talk!"
"That's not fair. I explained why I left. I was afraid."
"You could have written sooner. You could have called, or emailed, or - anything! You didn't have to wait almost a year," he said angrily. "All the time you were here, having fun with Andrew, and - and staring at your boss - "
"Jeff, don't - "
"I was you boss in Kayton," he said. "What is it, some kind of career advancement thing that you?"
"No! My boss here is married, for crying out loud, there's nothing - "
"Like there was nothing going on with us?!"
"Come on, Jeff. What was I supposed to say to Andrew? If you hadn't told him every little detail of - "
"How was I to know that he knew you?"
"If you'd bothered to call first, I could have - "
"Could have what? Hidden him somewhere? Or just told me not to come? I don't even know why you wrote to me... if all it meant to you was nothing... "
... and that was when she turned and ran. She would like to have believed that she heard Jeff calling after her, but she wasn't even sure of that. She just wanted to get as far away as she could.
It was snowing again, but she barely noticed the cold. In the distance, she could hear the laughter and music of New Year parties. Was this how she was doomed to spend the holidays every year? Running away in the dark while everyone else celebrated.
She found herself outside the nightclub she'd left... less than an hour ago? A lifetime ago? Strange, how so much could change in less than an hour. Cory and Rose had been there, too, and Helen and Leo, who probably expected her to be gone all night after she left with Andrew...
Leaving her coat at the door, she searched for her friends. They had gone now, as far as she could see... but the bar was still open. That was something positive, at least.
Cory paced around the kitchen. "She should be home," he muttered.
"It's a New Year's party," said Rose. "Don't you remember what it's like to be sixteen, going to a New Year's party?"
"Yeah, I do," he said. "That's why I'm worried... "
"She's with Matthew," Rose said., "You've known him since he was a little kid. If you don't trust him, then - "
"He's not a little kid any more. That's half the problem..."
"I don't think- " She was interrupted by a loud banging on the door. "There, she's forgotten her key." said Rose, getting up to answer the door. Cory beat her to it.
"Samantha?! It's almost 2am, what are you doing here?"
"I went back to the club - " she said, staggering through the doorway.
"That's kind of obvious," he said.
"- but you guys were gone... and I didn't want to go home, and I saw your light on... "
"But didn't you leave with Andrew?"
To his surprise, she burst into tears. "He yelled at me!" she sobbed loudly. "They both did!"
"What - who? Both who?"
"Both Andrew and Jeff. They were so angry and they yelled at me... "
"Ssshhh... keep it down!"
"You're not going to yell at me too, are you??" she wailed.
"No, no... but you're going to wake up the whole house if you don't - "
"Too late," said Serder, as he came down the stairs. As if to prove his point, from somewhere upstairs Noah started to cry. Glaring at Samantha, Rose muttered something Cory couldn't quite catch, and ran up the stairs to the screaming toddler.
"Oops," Samantha sniffed, rubbing her eyes.
"Did I hear you mention Jeff?" Serder asked.
Samantha nodded. "He was there when we went back to Andrew's place, and they're both so mad at me, and - "
"Wait, who's Jeff?" Cory asked.
"He's this guy, and we only went out a couple of times, and I couldn't leave him a note, I really couldn't, but I did think of him... it wasn't nothing but he wasn't my boyfriend either and he had no right to say that to Andrew," Samantha said.
"Uh.. right." said Cory.
"I think what she meant was that he's a man she knew in Kayton, before she moved here, right?" Serder said.
Samantha nodded. "That's what I said."
"And he's here now?" Cory asked. "What was he doing at Andrew's place?"
"Andrew lives in the guest house, remember? Only accommodation in town. You know that, silly," she giggled. "You told me that!"
Before Cory could answer, the front door opened.
"Hi Dad," Sam said. "Did you have a good - Oh, hi Samantha."
Cory turned to his daughter. "Do you realise what time it is?" he asked. "Where have you been?"
"Next door. Matthew's parents were still up so I visited for a while..."
"We're still up, too."
"You already have a visitor," she said.
"Good point," said Samantha.
Cory ignored her. "You didn't know that until you walked in here," he said.
"Also good point," said Samantha.
"Will you please keep out of this?" Cory said.
"You're gonna yell at me, aren't you??" Samantha started to cry again.
"Dad, look what you've done!" said Sam.
Cory closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. "No," he said, as calmly as possible. "No, I'm not going to yell at you."
"Are you gonna yell at her?" She sniffed, gesturing to Sam.
"No one is yelling at anyone, at least, not tonight. In fact, I think its probably a bad idea to try to sort any of this out tonight. Let me drive you home, then - "
"No," Samantha protested. "I can't go home... Helen and Leo are there, and they're not expecting me back, and I've already walked in on... oops, maybe I shouldn't tell you guys that."
Cory tried not to think about what it was that she shouldn't tell him. "You can't stay here," he said. "There's nowhere for you to - "
"She can have my bed," Sam suggested.
"And what about you?" Cory asked.
"I'll just sleep next door with Matthew."
"The hell, you'll - "
"Kidding, Dad." she laughed. "If someone can help me get that old mattress out of the closet, I can sleep on the floor somewhere."
"Come on," said Serder, "I'll help you."
"You shouldn't be dragging heavy mattresses around," said Cory.
"I'll help her," he said, in a tone that indicated the subject was closed.
"He shouldn't be doing that," Cory muttered, as his father followed Sam up the stairs.
"He's sweet..." Samantha said.
"You all are....
" 'specially you...
It took a moment for Cory to realise that he probably should follow her, just to be sure she didn't fall.