Samuel Austin Miller came to us in January 2008, right at the end of winter break. I first met Sam in Mrs. Gagnon’s Honors Physics class, where he was the only other sophomore, aside from Cassie Cote, and myself. He was tall and thin, with sandy blond hair, hazel brown eyes, and a splattering of freckles across his nose that spilled onto his cheeks. He stood awkwardly at the front of the class, while Mrs. Gagnon introduced him to the class. She then asked him to tell us a little about himself. I didn’t get much out of his nervously told backstory, aside from the fact that he had recently moved to our small town of Wakefield, New Hampshire from some big city in Kentucky. He lived with his dad, and he had a dog named Beau. I would have guessed that he was from Kentucky from his accent alone. I had never met anyone with an accent that thick.
As Sam made his way toward an empty desk at the back of the room, I noticed that the majority of the girls in the room were following him with their eyes, like a bunch of hungry vultures. Two girls in the front started giggling and whispering to each other, keeping their eyes locked on him. I knew for a fact that they both already had boyfriends.
Like I said, they’re vultures.
I turned to Cassie, my best friend, and a usually level-headed human being, to see if she had noticed the reaction of our peers, only to find that she, too, was staring at Sam. I kicked at her foot, and made a disapproving “tsk tsk tsk” noise, to let her know that I was not impressed. I looked up, just in time to accidentally lock eyes with a pair of hazel brown eyes, framed by long, dark lashes. I felt my face heat up, and I immediately turned my gaze to the front of the classroom, where Mrs. Gagnon was lecturing on Electrostatics, or something.
My mouth felt strangely dry for the entire duration of the day.
Weeks passed, and I learned that Sam and I shared a lot of the same classes. He realised this as well, and made a habit of seating himself near me whenever he could. I wasn’t complaining.
On February 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day, Sam spoke to me for the first time. I mean, he asked me to borrow a pencil, and it felt really cliche, but… it was nice. And, it made me hate that overblown, Hallmark holiday just a little less.
After he broke the ice, Sam and I became friends very quickly. He showed me pictures of his chocolate lab, Beau, and told me about how weird Wakefield was from Lexington, Kentucky, where he had lived for his entire life, up until that point. He told me all about what it was like growing up in a big city, and in turn, I would tell him about the joys of growing up in a small town. Fishing, hiking, skiing, and especially, catching fireflies bugs with my younger sister, Sophie.
“You know, I’ve actually never seen a firefly in person,” Sam told me one day, “I never really left the city before coming here, and I guess they just don’t like all the lights and skyscrapers.”
I was shocked.
“We have to change that!” I told him excitedly, “You, me, and Cassie have to go out this summer and catch some. You’ll love it!”
He smiled at me, and I felt my heart skip a beat.
“Thanks, Naomi. That sounds awesome.”
I found myself really liking how he said my name with his thick, Kentucky accent. It made my face feel hot.
True to my word, the first weekend after school was let out in June, the three of us went out into the field behind Cassie’s house, armed with flashlights, butterfly nets, and mason jars. Right at dusk, the air around us became illuminated with the brilliant, blinking lights of a thousand fireflies. As the sun set, I caught a look of pure wonder on Sam’s face, and it made me indescribably happy.
“Did you know that fireflies create light by using a bioluminescent gland in their abdomen? The chemicals in the gland mix with the oxygen in the air, and that creates the glow. They can even control it. Isn’t that amazing?” Even in the dark, I could hear the smile on Cassie’s face as she told us her fun fact. Cassie was always such a nerd, and I loved her for that.
“Really? I didn’t know that,” Sam told her, “That sounds so cool though. How do you know all that?”
“Oh, well, I read a lot. I like books. And bugs. And books about bugs,” Cassie fumbled through her words, “Do you like bugs?”
Sa laughed, “I don’t know, I’ve never really seen much besides spiders and ants. Maybe you could teach me about them sometime.”
Cassie giggled, and I turned to look at her under the dim light of the moon. Sam and Cassie were standing face-to-face, and despite the silence in the air, the moment somehow screamed a million things, and I suddenly didn’t want to be standing in the middle of a dark field with my best friend, and this boy, anymore.
By the end of the summer, Cassie and Sam were a couple, and we had stopped hanging out as a group. I felt angry about that, but I didn’t know why. I also felt very, very lonely.
I woke up with a feeling of dread on the first day of school. When I walked through the front doors of Nute Middle School/High School & Library (go Rams!), I immediately saw Cassie and Sam. It was the first time I had seen either of them in weeks. Cassie run to me, hugged me tightly, and immediately started to tell me about how much she had missed me over the summer. She also asked me why I hadn’t called or texted her. I wasn’t listening. My eyes hadn’t left Sam, who suddenly seemed to have the complexion of a bronzed god, which only made his hazel eyes and freckles stand out even more. I felt a pit forming in my stomach.
I felt a hand on my shoulder, and looked up into the very blue, concerned eyes of my best friend in the entire world.
“Naomi? Are you okay?” The genuine concern in Cassie’s voice made my heart ache.
“What? Oh, I’m fine, just tired. I have to get used to waking up early again,” I lied, but Cassie seemed to buy it.
“Oh, yeah, I totally feel you. I feel like we stayed up way too late just about every night this summer,” Cassie smiled and turned to Sam, “Remember when we went to Lovell Lake so I could teach you how to fish, and we ended up falling asleep in the grass? We didn’t wake up until it was dark out. My mom freaked! That was so fun. I wish you could have been there, Nao-“
“You know, I actually have to go talk to Ms. Garcia before first period. I have gym with her later, and I started my period this morning, and I don’t feel great. You know how it is. I’ll see you guys later.” I turned quickly, and headed toward the gym. I could feel their eyes on my back, and I felt a familiar sting in my own.
I ducked into the girl’s bathroom as soon as I rounded the corner. Inside a stall, which had already accumulated a surprising amount of graffiti for only the first day of school, I sat down, and put my head in my hands. I tried to swallow the stupid lump that had formed in my throat, but my mouth was dry. My face, on the other hand, was not.
I sat in that stall for all of first period, feeling confused, and angry, and hopeless. Why did I feel so bad? I heard the bell ring, followed by the shuffling of students, and the slamming of lockers. I wiped my face, and stepped out of the stall. Peering at my reflection in the mirror, I couldn’t help but question what Cassie had that I didn’t. She was pretty, and smart, and sweet, but so was I, right? Were we really so different? She had her long, blonde hair, and perfect skin, and those damn blue eyes. My hair was brown, and my eyes were brown, and my skin was okay… was I not as pretty as her? I had never thought much about it. Boys had always liked Cassie, probably more than me, and it never bothered me, because none of them had ever really wanted to date her. At least, not until Sam came along. Maybe she was better than me.
I stopped at the water fountain before heading to my next class. The water didn’t really help. My throat felt like it was burning, which only reminded me of those damn fireflies…
“Okay… Algebra II with Mr. Dube. Fantastic. I hate math,” I muttered to myself as I found the door to Mr. Dube’s classroom. I walked in, only to find an already full class, all loudly catching up with each other about their various summer adventures. I scanned the room, trying to find an empty seat, and found only one. As I made my way toward the empty desk, nestled in the back corner, I suddenly became aware of the person seated next to it.
An all-too-familiar pair of hazel brown eyes locked onto mine, and Sam smiled his beautiful smile at me, “Hey, Naomi. Guess we have Algebra together, huh?”
I sat down without answering him, and immediately began looking through my bag, keeping my back to him. He didn’t try to continue the conversation, and I silently thanked him for at least being able to pick up on this particular hint that I was dropping for him.
I kept my eyes focused toward the front of the room for the remainder of the class, but I didn’t absorb a single word that was said. When the bell rang, Sam hurried into the hall, no doubt to meet his girlfriend for a little PDA before third period.
I sighed, and made my way out to the bustling hallway. I ignored the new pain in my stomach, and made my way to my locker. For a moment, I toyed with the thought of asking my parents if they would let me transfer schools, but I knew that they wouldn’t. I was just going to have to live with this feeling, probably for the rest of my life.
I slammed my locker shut, which caused the girl at the locker to my left to jump and glare at me. I didn’t care. I wanted to go home and never come back to this stupid school, with it’s stupid students, and it’s stupid lockers, ever again. I did know one thing for certain, and that was that I was definitely not going to be going to their wedding.
To Be Continued…