Waking up with Sammy in my arms was the best feeling in the world. If only it hadn’t been overshadowed by the events from the night before. I held her as she cried again and then held her longer as she fell back to sleep.
Eventually I couldn’t wait any longer and had to carefully pull myself out from under her, so I could go use the restroom.
Pink. That’s the only word that could be used to describe Sammy’s bathroom. I don’t think I’ve ever used a more girly, frilly bathroom. It’s possible I was the only man who had ever used this bathroom before. These thoughts spiraled through my mind as I purposely avoided the direction my brain wanted to explore. Where was this heading?
I had admitted I was in love with Sammy. Now what? Would she officially become my girlfriend? The title was insufficient to describe my love for her. This was deeper. Forever deeper. Life-changing deeper. I pushed the thoughts to the back of my mind again and looked at myself in the mirror as I washed my hands.
Sammy was sitting up in bed when I came out of the bathroom, her face a combination of confusion and exhaustion. Her crumpled prom dress didn’t look comfortable and I felt bad that I hadn’t woken her up to change her clothes. I looked down at my own wrinkled tux pants and white shirt. At least I had slipped off my jacket, tie, and cummerbund.
“You probably won’t get the deposit back on that tux.” Sammy chuckled. It was good to hear her laugh, even if it was half-hearted and forced.
“I didn’t exactly bring pajamas with me when I left my dorm.” I sat back down on the edge of her bed and cleared my throat. “It probably wouldn’t be appropriate to sleep in my boxers.”
“Yeah… probably not.” She looked down at her crumpled dress. “I must have been exhausted to have slept in this.”
“Exhausted enough to let a guy sleep in your bed,” I mumbled. “I’m sorry if I took advantage of the situation.”
“First of all, you’re not just any guy.” Sammy scooted herself closer to me. “And I’m really glad you didn’t leave me alone.” She rested her head on my shoulder and I pulled her close.
Commotion in the living room startled us and the twins burst into Sammy’s bedroom before we could pull away from one another.
“Oh… my… gosh,” Kat said, her jaw hanging open.
“I knew it!” Krystal pushed her sister out of the way. “How long have you guys been sleeping together, and why didn’t you even tell us?”
“We’re not sleeping together,” Sammy said.
“This is not how it looks.” I stood and backed away from the bed.
“I mean, technically we slept together,” Sammy stammered. “But we’re not sleeping together.”
“I was just comforting her,” I said.
The girls finally seemed to notice something was wrong and they both crawled up on Sammy’s bed, fussing over her like little mother hens.
“Sammy, you look like hell.” Kat pushed Sammy’s hair away from her face. “What happened to you?”
“Nothing happened to me,” Sammy said, dangerously close to tears again. “Mom’s sick.”
“She’s in the hospital,” I told them.
“What? Why?” Krystal reached out to hug Sammy.
“You know what,” I interrupted. “I’m gonna head down to my car and find my change of clothes while you ladies talk, and change out of that dress, and, and, do whatever it is girls do.”
“You’re coming back, right?” Sammy’s desperation showed on her face and in her words.
“Of course.” I stepped closer again and leaned down to kiss her forehead. “I’ll see if I can find us some breakfast too.”
She thanked me as I ducked out of the room and closed the door behind me.
I didn’t bother with shoes as I trekked down the third-floor stairs and almost ran into one of the house guests.
“Well, look at you, stud,” the guy said. “Have a fun night?”
“No, we spent most of the night in the hospital,” I said.
“Oh, that’s right.” Realization came over the man. “Mrs. Walton got sick yesterday, didn’t she? I’m so sorry. Is she okay? Did she come home yet?”
“Not yet.” I kept walking down the hall and then turned to head down the grand staircase. “They think she might have cancer.”
“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do?”
I started to answer in the negative but turned and nodded. “Do you think you could find us some breakfast? We’re going to head back up to the hospital in a few minutes.”
“Sure, buddy.” He put his hand on my shoulder. “I’ll see what I can scrounge up.”
“Thanks,” I said, and kept walking down the stairs and out the door to my car. My wrinkled clothes from the day before were crumpled in the back seat and I shook my head and grumbled under my breath. “Great.”
I took my clothes inside to the laundry room and grabbed a couple of dryer sheets, threw them, along with my clothes and a damp clean towel into the dryer and turned it on. Then I walked into the kitchen where several guests were in various stages of fixing themselves meals. They all looked up when I came in the door.
“Brandon,” a familiar voice spoke from across the room. The lady from the phone call. “How is Mrs. Walton?”
“Uh…” All eyes were now on me. I swallowed hard, glad I was the one to have to do this and not Sammy. “They think she has ovarian cancer.”
“Oh, no!” This lady I didn’t know rushed across the room and threw herself into my arms as if she was a loving family member there to comfort me. I patted her on the back, not sure what else to do or say. “Is there anything we can do to help?”
“Well, um…” I tried to think. This place was kind of like a hotel. What would a hotel manager do in this situation? “Are any of you checking out today? Or staying again tonight?”
“I think we’re all leaving today.” Most of the people nodded.
Think Brandon. What would Sammy do when guests left? Laundry! “Can any of you help with getting all the bedding downstairs and start at least one load of laundry before you go?”
One lady stepped forward. “My sister and I are just here for a little getaway and we’re not in any hurry to get back,” she said. “We’ll get all the bedding changed and washed and get this place cleaned up real nice.”
“Thank you, that would be amazing.” I got choked up. That same woman from the phone call pulled me into her arms again and I fought the need to break down and cry onto her shoulder like she was my mom. I didn’t have my own mom anymore, and the only mom I had was now lying in a hospital bed.
I couldn’t do this. I needed to be strong for her and for Sammy. I politely stepped back and patted the woman on the arm. “I need to get ready to take Sammy back up to the hospital.”
I backed out of the kitchen and into the laundry room to retrieve my clothes. They were less-wrinkly and would have to do. As I turned to head back upstairs, the guy I’d met in the hall stopped me with a tray of bagels and cream cheese and orange juice, and two little cups of yogurt with granola on top.
“Oh, thank you so much.” I draped my clothes over my shoulder and took the tray.
Trudging back up the stairs was more difficult than going down. I was running on empty. I needed food, sleep, and a shower. Unfortunately, I was going to have to settle for food and a shower. Sleep would not be available for many hours.
“Sammy?” I ducked my head cautiously into the third-floor apartment, hoping I wasn’t interrupting her. She sat on the sofa letting Kat French braid her wet hair.
“You brought food!”
“The houseguests helped me out,” I said, setting the tray on the kitchen table. I was hungry, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to relax and eat until I’d cleaned myself up. “Would it be too weird if I used your shower?”
“Of course not.” Sammy waited for one more second while Kat wrapped a hair band around the end of her braid, then she rose from the couch. “I’ll show you where everything is, and there’s a trick to my faucet. Come on.”
I grabbed my clothes and followed her back into her room. Someone had made her bed, and my shoes, jacket, and tie were folded together and on the chair.
“If you turn the knob to the right it’s supposed to be hot, but it’s cold.” Sammy leaned over and turned the knob, but I reached for her hand and pulled her into my arms.
I held her. I just held her in my arms and breathed in whatever shampoo and body wash had made her smell this good. I wasn’t about to attempt to kiss her considering I hadn’t showered and had no idea how I was going to politely ask for a toothbrush. I just held her. She wrapped her arms around me and held me too. I could have stayed in that moment for a long time, but an idea popped into my head.
“Hey, do you guys keep extra toiletries around for guests who forget things? Like, a razor and a toothbrush, for instance?”
“Come to think of it, we do.” She pulled away and smiled up at me then reached up and ran her hand along my stubble. “Although you would look kind of cute with a beard.”
“Yeah, well you’re not getting a kiss until I have a toothbrush, if that’s any incentive.”
“That’s a huge incentive.” She pulled herself out of my arms and hurried from the room.
I closed the door and peeled off several layers of the fancy tuxedo I was still wearing and waited for her to hand me the new toothbrush and razor through a crack in the door.
Pink. Everything was pink. The shampoo, soap, towels, even the toothbrush. Okay the razor was a cheap disposable white thing that made me cringe. It worked though, so I wasn’t going to complain. I was going to smell like roses, but it was better than how I smelled before.
Putting on the same clothes from the day before wasn’t fun, but better than wearing a tux that had spent half the night in a hospital and the other half in bed.
“We’re going to need to paint that bathroom,” I told Sammy as I came back into the kitchen, still drying my hair with a pink towel.
“What’s wrong with my bathroom?” She stuck out her lower lip.
“It’s pink.” I left it at that, deciding the statement stood on its own.
“What color would you like it to be?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Anything but pink.” I made myself comfortable at the kitchen table and scarfed down a bagel smothered in cream cheese. The orange juice didn’t taste all that good having just brushed my teeth, so I got up and grabbed a water bottle from the fridge. I realized we were all alone again. “Where are the twins?”
“They went downstairs to check the computer and see how many guests we have scheduled to arrive today.” She didn’t look up at me while lacing up her sneakers. “They’re going to stay today to help out, so you and I can focus on mom.”
“That’s amazing of them,” I said. “You have incredible friends.”
“Yeah, I do.” She raised her head and met my eyes. There was moisture that she tried to blink away.
“Hey, come here.” I opened my arms and pulled her onto my lap. She tucked her head onto my shoulder and cried just a little. Not the heavy sobs from last night and this morning, just a combination of sorrow and gratefulness. I rubbed her back and whispered, “it’s going to be okay.”
“You can’t know that for sure,” she said.
“But I can be here for you no matter what.”
“Promise?” The vulnerability in her eyes reminded me of a frightened child.
“I promise.” My gaze was drawn to her lips and she lifted her face toward mine.
“Are you guys making out again?” Krystal asked, barging in the door.
Sammy jumped off my lap as if she’d been caught alone with her boyfriend. Yeah, pretty much had been. Would I ever get a moment alone with this girl?
Running To You
Click here to read the next chapter in my work-in-progress!