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When Samantha Droke was four years old, she met her would-be best friend of thirteen years. She had just clambered out of her crowded, family minivan when a stream of ice cold water tagged her favorite ‘Ah! Real Monsters!’ shirt. The attack almost got her into panic mode when a pale, red-headed, freckle-covered boy ran over with a water gun in hand. After thirty seconds, Sam sent him on his way with a black eye forming, and she had decided right then and there that she was going to like this place on Boxer lane in Tracy, California.
Thirteen years later, Ian’s auburn-red hair fell across his eyes as Sam watched his actions carefully. He tossed his head to move the hair from his bright green eyes, that were almost transparent they were so light.
“You’re staring again.” Ian’s smooth voice surprised Samantha, sounding loud in the quiet.
“Am not.” Sam countered softly and looked down at her hands. She listened to him sigh, and sensed his eyes on her. “Now you’re staring.”
“How does looking at someone for a whole two seconds qualify as staring?”
Samantha smiled at his tone; he was obviously demanding an answer. “It just does.”
“You wish I was staring at you, Sammy Dee.” Ian laughed as he tossed a sock over her head, aiming for the laundry basket behind her but missing by a long shot. She snorted hearing it quietly hit the floor and glanced at him as he shrugged casually, unbothered. She smiled, but it faded quickly.
“Why do you have to leave?”
Sam’s question was followed by silence. She hadn’t been expecting an answer, though; she already knew it.
Ian was a year older than her, a grade above. Though they were both seventeen at the moment, Sam has just turned a month ago and Ian would be eighteen in three weeks. He had graduated high school in June, and now it was August. He was off to UC Berkley today.
“Do you want to go to the park?” Ian broke the silence after a long while. He had just snapped his final suitcase shut – packed and ready to go. Sam nodded slowly and stood from the creaky wood chair, zipping her pale green sweatshirt to her chest. Ian moved his hair from his eyes again and walked out of the room, catching her by the sleeve and tugging her with him. Sam rolled her eyes as she stumbled along with him, but was grinning secretly to herself.
“Strawberry kiwi.” Sam answered her best friend’s question of what type of gum she was currently chewing on.
“Gross.” Ian said instantly, his lightly freckled nose scrunching in disgust. Sam laughed at the expression. “Okay, your turn.” He nodded up at her.
The two had started out playing Truth or Dare, but it had quickly dissolved into just Truth in the hour they’d been sitting on the giant, metal slide of the park. Sam was at the top on the platform, almost ten feet above Ian, who was sitting backwards – facing her – at the bottom.
“Right.” Sam acknowledged his statement, but went quiet again. She noticed Ian’s eyebrow raise, so she took a deep breath. “Right.” She repeated to herself. “Are you nervous about college?”
“Nah. Just more school work.” Ian replied nonchalantly. Sam scowled down at him.
“Maybe to you. Geek.”
Ian laughed loudly at her bold words. “Just because I wear glasses, and am an A-plus student…” His voice faded and Sam smiled victoriously.
“You need to stop denying your true self, Ian Vincent.” She reminded him. “It’ll just come back to bite you in the butt.”
“Ouch.” Ian shook his head. “Like that time I sat on your dog?”
“Yes!” Sam exclaimed as she remembered. “You and your huge self could have crushed poor Ollie.” She stated and crossed her arms over her chest. Of course this was a lie. Ollie was a rottweiler, and Ian was basically a human 6-foot-two toothpick. Knowing this, Ian snorted and rolled his eyes. It was nearly sunset, and Sam admired how the light glinted through his eyes, almost like they were diamonds.
“Crushed?” Ian repeated in disbelief. “That mutt is huge.”
“Is not.” Sam pushed off the platform and slid down. Ian attempted to move, or at least fall, off to the side, but he was too slow. Sam bent her knees before crashing into him and they both tumbled backwards off the bottom. Ian landed on his back, blinking up at the sky while Sam ended on her bottom, on top of his legs.
“Well. That wasn’t very nice.” Ian propped himself up on his elbows and mock-frowned at her. Sam grinned and crossed her legs, staying in place.
“It’s your turn to ask.” She said shortly and nodded, making her long ponytail bounce against her back.
“Alright.” Ian said with a lopsided grin. “Are you going to miss me, Sammy Dee?” Sam smiled down at him and shrugged her shoulders, turning her head away from him. “Aw, c’mon. That’s no way to treat your best friend since you were four.”
“Who ever said you were my best friend?” Sam looked at him from the corner of her eye.
“Ha-ha. Real funny.” Ian turned over suddenly, causing Sam to fall off his legs and onto the cold ground. “It’s getting dark.” He commented as he sat up on his knees, brushing off the back of his faded jeans.
“Oh.” Sam blinked. “Ian, you were supposed to leave by four. It’s probably nearly six now.” She bit her lip when he stood up, keeping her place on the ground.
“Well, I guess I’m late for getting to my apartment.” He ran his hand through his hair absently, glancing around the desolate park. “At least it isn’t a nine hour drive.”
“It’s close.” Sam sighed. Ian held his hand out for her so he could help her to her feet, but Sam just looked at it, then up at him again. “Ian. I don’t want you to leave.”
Ian’s eyebrows rose, but that was the only response he gave. Sam waited anxiously, expecting him to say something along the lines of ‘I’ll miss you too’ or at least, ‘I know’. When nothing came out of his mouth, a frown appeared on her face. She eyed Ian’s hand he was still offering to her, but still did not take it. Instead, she pushed off the ground and rose to her feet herself. Ian let his hand fall to his side.
“Are you not going to miss me?” She asked after a few more seconds, pursing her lips expectantly.
“I will.” He actually answered this time. For some reason, those words hurt same more than a simply ‘no’ would have.
“That’s all you have to say? You’re leaving me behind to go to college, I won’t see you until Thanksgiving, and all you have to say is ‘I will’?”
“What more should I say?” Ian recognized the familiar look of anger flash through her eyes and he took an automatic step back. He’d been punched more than enough times to know what was coming next from her.
Which is why he was so surprised when Sam exhaled and shook her head slowly. “Nevermind.” She mumbled before slowly walking past him
“I will miss you.” He said, sincerity in his voice as he trailed along behind her. “You’re my best friend, how could I not?”
“Yeah.” Sam shrugged, keeping her eyes ahead. “Good question.”
“Are you mad at me?”
Sam didn’t say anything.
“You have to answer. Or do you pass? You know if you pass in Truth you loose the game. We’ve been playing this round of Truth for almost ten years now.”
“I’m aware.” Sam said icily. Ian stopped in his tracks, blinking in confusion.
“Why are you so confusing, Sam? What did I do?” He asked, frowning. Sam stopped as well and turned to him, her blue eyes blazing.
“You just don’t get it! Are you serious that blind, Ian? Can you honestly be that idiotic as an A-plus student?” Her voice rose in pitch as her anger burned through. Ian stood still as he stared at her. She waited for him to disagree, then groaned in frustration when he said nothing. “Stop doing that!”
“Doing what?” Ian asked innocently.
“That! Holy crap, Ian, you are so infuriating.”
“I know that. You point it out almost every day.”
“There’s a reason for that you idiot.”
“Just tell me what I did!”
“You didn’t do anything, that’s just it. You never do anything.”
“I do a lot, Sammy – ”
“Not what I want you do, Ian.”
“Tell me what you want me to do! I’m only human, I can’t read your freakish girl mind!”
“Hey.” Sam frowned at him. She hadn’t noticed, but as they’d been arguing Ian had stepped closer. He was now standing a good two inches from her face; minus the five-inch difference of height.
“Hey.” Ian repeated, but in a suddenly soft tone. Sam blinked at him. He reached out and brushed her hair from her eyes, like she’d wished to do for him so many times before. “Tell me please, Sammy Dee.” He went to drop his hand, and then hesitated and left it pressed against her cheek. Automatically Sam leaned her head into is palm and closed her eyes.
“I just…I think I love you, Ian.”