Chapter 2

After a fitful night of sleep, Mason woke drowsily to the sounds of the birds chirping and the cars honking outside his two-bedroom apartment. As he lay there with his eyes closed, contemplating whether or not to get up since his alarm had not gone off yet, he kept thinking about how empty the apartment suddenly felt. There used to be so much love in this small apartment that it felt bigger than it is. Rolling over on his right side he reached for Samantha. No matter how many times he kept reaching he would never hold her again. He pressed his fingers between his brows, still not believing she was gone. She knew they had their problems, but they had always seemed to be able to work through them. He never one time dreamed that they would be apart. After all, she was the first girl he had ever genuinely loved. 

The day she left still felt like a dream. He could only stand there and watch, as she threw her clothes in her duffle bag, along with her toothbrush and hairbrush. She was one of the most amazing women he knew. Samantha was the most compassionate person he had ever met, as she never seemed to meet a stranger. There wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t find someone to help. She smiled at everyone, and too often found no fault in anyone. She was not one that angered easily, however when she was angry, the whole world knew it. 

She had this way about herself that made her sexy without her needing to try. This was not normal for a girl of her size. She wasn’t a heavy girl, but she had curves that seemed to go on for days. It was one of the things about her that Mason found attractive immediately. That was different for Mason, as he had always been the guy that wanted the skinny, perfect blonde that every other guy wanted. When he met Samantha he was surprised to find how attracted he was to a girl who seemed plain and too nice. 

At five foot two, Samantha’s long curly brown hair always seemed like it had been left unbrushed most days. She wasn’t one of those girly girls, whose hair was always done and never out of place; not that there was anything wrong with them, she just wasn’t into applying make-up every morning, and constantly worrying about if her shoes needed to match her purse or her shirt. Samantha was more of a plain kind of girl who was just happy in a pair of jeans, t-shirt, and tennis shoes. She wasn’t the kind of beautiful you see in the magazines, but to Mason she was absolutely gorgeous. 

She had a flare of confidence that radiated anywhere she went, however deep down he could tell there were some insecurities that she did not let show through. What Mason loved most about Samantha was how independent she was. Mason had to buy two stools for the apartment, because she

refused to ask for help with things out of her reach. He came home one day to find her standing on the kitchen counter reaching up to the top shelf of their cabinets, obviously looking for something he kept up high, and there was no way she was going to wait for his five-foot ten self to get home. 

All he could do was smile at her as Samantha shrugged her shoulders, as if asking, “what are you gonna do?” He smiled, as he swept her off the counter into his arms and kissed her deeply. 

They were two imperfect people in a world where it seemed only perfect, beautiful people actually succeeded, and much to their satisfaction, they managed to have built a great life together. When they met, Samantha was working at the local bookstore, as she loved all things books and hoped one day to have a library right in her own home. Samantha always talked about opening her own bookstore one day, as this was a dream of hers since she was a young girl. Unfortunately Samantha had seemed to have given up on this dream. She had become comfortable with the simple life they had seemed to have built together over the last year and a half together, and honestly wasn’t sure that a bookstore would allow them to live a comfortable life, like they were doing now. 

Mason threw back the covers and let out a loud groan as he stretched his arms. He hated mornings, as he was more of a night owl. He would much rather work the night shift than have to get up early and deal with the hustle of the many people that swarmed the roads daily. Standing up he moved towards the window in his room. Sure, the window showed the busy city already in full go mode, but Mason loved Colorado; it was the most beautiful place he had ever lived. If you needed a place to go and think, quiet was only a few hours’ drive away. When he had been searching for an apartment, the only thing he really cared about was being able to look out and see the mountains. 

Going into the bathroom, Mason looked at himself in the mirror and all he could think was how much of a loser he was. He had not completed high school and had never really been successful in any job that he had managed to get. The longest job he managed to keep was at the local pet store cleaning out the cages and feeding the animals. He loved it because it meant he was there when no one else was; allowing him to go in,do his job and be gone before even the owner came in on most days. There was not one single person to ask him any questions or tell him what to do. He would often find himself talking and singing to them and seeing as how they never complained, he did not see anything wrong with it. He had been there eight months and did not see himself going anywhere else, even though he only made a little bit above minimum wage. 

After brushing his teeth, Mason turned on the shower, allowing the water to heat up to as hot as he could stand it. He loved the feel of hot water so much, he would stand in the shower until he looked like he was burned. After years of having only cold water, because he couldn’t afford to fix the hot water heater in his family home, he was never going to give up HOT water again. After Mason quickly washed, he reluctantly turned the water off. Grabbing the towel hanging next to the shower, he dried off and dressed for the day. Walking out to the kitchen, Mason picked up his cell phone hoping that Samantha had called him. Seeing that he had four missed calls and none of them were from her, with a sudden twinge of sadness, he put it back down, and made his way over to the fridge to prepare his daily bowl of cereal. 

As he sat and ate his breakfast, he thought of the night before. He had gotten himself into some real trouble, and it started because of his own stubbornness. At a certain point in his life, Mason rejected

the life where he was working multiple jobs and still barely making ends meet. So for the last ten years or so, Mason had been working for a local drug dealer, Eduardo Martinez who was generous in his payments. This led to Mason taking some of the product and selling it himself. It wasn’t like he was taking a whole kilo and selling it. Just a few baggies here and there. The problem was he would buy the drugs from Eduardo and then sell them at a higher cost, so he was making more than Eduardo did. When things started to slow down for Eduardo and Mason was still asking for more product, Eduardo began questioning him. He was not a man you wanted to piss off. At six foot four, he towered over most people and would look down at you like was getting ready to crush you underfoot; who knew what would happen if he suddenly reached out and grabbed you? Mason didn’t plan on finding out either. 

He had not been in contact with Eduardo for the last two years, but apparently time had not healed all wounds as the old adage goes to say. Eduardo must have figured out where Mason had moved to and had been watching his every move. He didn’t want to move but it seemed as if he may have to. He had it surprisingly good in all honesty. His rent was paid in advance, and all his bills were too. His life at the animal store was just some extra money that allowed him to be on the up and up. No one would question the guy that cleaned the animal cages at the local animal shop, right? 

After cleaning up, Mason grabbed his keys, pulled on a hat and walked out the door, double checking to ensure it was locked. Knowing he was going to have to find a new place to hide out for a while, Mason started trying to figure out which direction to go now. Should he remain in the only state he had known, or was it time for him to call a new state home? He knew the answer was to call a new state home, but that meant leaving the only home he ever knew behind, and while it should have seemed appealing, it saddened him, because it was the only connection he had left with his dad. 

Pulling into the driveway of her childhood home, Samantha put the car in park, and sat back taking it all in. It hadn’t changed a bit since she left home six years ago. The porch needed a new coat of paint, and the front door was that awful yellow that she just had to have as a little girl. Her daddy had appeased her even though her mama had been against it from the get-go. Looking up at her bedroom window on the second floor, the curtains she had as a teen still hung there pulled open just enough to let the morning sun in. Her mama was not one to ever change anything in Samantha’s childhood room. She knew that if she went into her room right now, her jean jacket from her senior year would still be hanging on the closet door knob, and all of her trophies she had won doing volleyball, softball and track would be right where she left them. 

Opening the car door, Samantha slowly got out. Standing for a moment taking in the scenery, she didn’t even realize she missed until now. She saw Rick out in the field mending a fence, while Jackson was out tending to the animals. Since her daddy died her mama made sure the men daddy had hired did not lose their jobs, and Samantha didn’t blame her for it, as she would do the same now that mama was gone. Daddy and mama would have wanted it that way. 

Samantha walked up the creaky stairs as the front door opened, she looked up to see Martha standing there in her scrubs waiting for her. For a middle-aged woman Martha, you could tell was

extremely fit, and honestly knowing what her job entailed was much needed. Looking into Martha’s green eyes, Samantha saw the sadness that she was currently feeling, and the love that Samantha needed to feel at that point in her life. 

Having only met Martha two times since she started caring for her mama, Samantha felt comfortable with her, however she wasn’t sure if hugging her was appropriate. She just knew she needed to feel close to someone right now and Martha was right there in front of her. Afterall, they both had one thing in common; they both loved her mama. After comforting each other with a warm hug, both holding back tears, the two women parted and walked into the house. 

Sitting down at the kitchen table that Samantha remembered eating all of her meals while she was growing up, Samantha said to Martha, “Thank you so much for all that you have done. I can’t put into words how much it is appreciated. I honestly am not sure where to go next with this since mama took care of everything when we lost daddy.” 

“It really is not a problem.I have always felt that helping the family during the grieving period was part of the job when you are taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Besides, in the four months I have worked for Mrs. Crouse, I feel like she became part of my family.” Martha replied. Taking a slight moment to compose herself she continued, “Yes she was as stubborn as could be, but she was also so caring and wanted to ensure everyone was taken care of before she was. She would have me go out and check on the guys in the field a few times a day and man did she make sure I took them food too, even though she knew they brought their own.” Shaking her head Martha put her head in her hands and quietly began to cry. 

The two women sat in silence for a few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts about the woman who had made such an impact on their lives. A woman who was one of a kind, but a cut above the rest. She may have been aloof, but she had a side to her that was just as soft as a teddy bear. 

When the quiet became too much for Samantha, she stood up and walked from the kitchen to the living room where the hospital bed still sat. “They are coming on Monday to get the bed.” Martha said following Samantha. She started to strip the bed, but Samantha walked over and put her hand on Martha’s. 

“No, please leave it. I will do that. You have already done so much for me.” Samantha said as she ran her hand on the pillow her mama’s head had once laid. “I am going to lay down for a while. It’s been a long drive from Colorado to here. You can go home if you would like.” Finally feeling the exhaustion set in, all she really wanted to do now is lay down and sleep for a while. 

“Are you sure? I can stay and take care of this while you get some sleep.” Martha said in a concerned tone. 

“No really I will be fine. I just need to get some rest; besides, it will be good for me to be here alone. It’s the first time I’ve been to my childhood home since leaving ten years ago.” Samantha heart brokenly replied. “I will call you in the morning when I am up and ready to start the day, and when I need help with the planning, if that is alright?”

Grabbing her purse she left by the door, Martha put her hand on Samantha’s arm and said, “Of course sweetheart. I would be happy to help you, just let me know when you are ready, and I will come get you.” With that she walked out the front door. 

Watching Martha leave, Samantha took in the view that she had nearly forgotten. The sun shone high in the cloudless afternoon sky, which was a deep opulent blue. For Samantha, her lack of sleep made her wish the sky was the dark inky black of midnight. 

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