What was the best day of her life had turned into the worst in a matter of minutes. At 3:00pm, she had hugged both of them after taking the standard cap and gown graduation picture outside of Crestview School of Architecture at the university of her father. At 3:14, she arrived at the house she had grown up in. Cars were parked all over the small suburb in Central Indiana. Her graduation open house was already underway. She parked her car, a graduation present, at a neighbor's house careful to avoid the fire hydrant that her cousin had once opened spraying a rush of water over the entire street on the hottest day of the summer several years ago. She was now getting ready to embark on a new life as an architect at her father's firm. Her boyfriend of nearly four years had planned to propose later that evening. He had already asked her father for permission. At 3:16, she walked in the front door of what was now her parent's house where her aunt, her mother's twin, met her. At 3:20, her aunt poured herself a drink while they talked about the future. At 3:21, her phone rang. She didn't recognize the number. Normally, when that happened she let it go to voicemail, but for some reason, this time, she felt the impulse to answer. The roads during an Indiana winter are slippery with black ice. The boy who also just graduated from school had already downed a few beers with his friends and decided to hop into his car and speed off to his own party. A few minutes after that, the cars were in pieces on the side of the only road leading to the house where their only daughter was waiting for them. Her aunt's drink fell from the hand holding it as if in slow motion and crashed leaving shards of glass and spilled vodka on the floor her father had tiled two years earlier. The funeral was three days later. The whole family was there. All of her friends including her cousin Noah, her roommate and best friend Rachel, and her boyfriend Evan stood behind her as the family priest read from the Bible in Spanish, a language none of her friends could understand. She sat in silence, unable to cry.
Five months went by and there were still no tears. Her cousin had gone back to Chicago with her aunt to finish up his final semester of school. Rachel had grown tired of her anti-social behavior after all this time and she wanted her best friend back and her boyfriend, who also had to return to Chicago to finish school, was now her ex-boyfriend. She never left her apartment and had taken to having the local grocery store deliver her groceries and other necessities, which they were willing to do for a small fee because they had known and loved her parents. She had no plans for the future anymore and wanted nothing other than to just be left alone. Unfortunately, her aunt wouldn't allow this new dream to come to fruition.
"Santana Lopez, open this door right now."
Santana stared through to peep hole and saw the woman who looked just like her dead mother. She did not want to open the door.
"Santana, it's time to go. If you ever answered your phone, you'd know what today is. Now, open this door before I have Noah break it down." Her aunt looked angry through the peephole.
Reluctantly, she opened the door. She didn't know that by doing so, her life would again be altered forever. In a few minutes, her aunt had Santana's bags packed and her cousin had taken to forming a Noah shaped lump on the couch. With remote in hand, he changed the channel to ESPN while Santana sat on the edge of her bed and watched her one and only aunt throw a bag of clothes into the living room.
Two hours later, Noah, Santana, and her aunt pulled up in front of a large country house on the edge of Jasper Lake. This no Starbucks town had a sign travelers pass while entering that read "Jasper Indiana Population 752 Welcome to the home of Hoosier hospitality."
Her aunt dropped Santana's bags by the front door while Noah ran inside the house. He seemed finally excited about something. Her aunt opened Santana's door as Santana was resting her head against her window.
"Why am I here? This place looks more boring that Indianapolis and that's saying something." Santana asked as she slowly removed herself from her aunt's overpriced, new car.
"You have been moping around your apartment far too long. Noah graduated last week and his father and I promised we'd give him one last summer of fun before he enters that real world he's been avoiding all his life. We rented this house for him and his friends; some of which are your friends and I expect you two to have a good time."
Another car pulled up behind them and Santana recognized it immediately.
"Sam has been told to keep an eye on you since I know Noah will be in a drunken stupor for the next three months. I told him he's not to let you leave this town until I come back to get you. You never got a chance to celebrate graduating a semester early because of what happened. I want you to try to do that now."
The door to Sam's car opened and Santana's ex-boyfriend got out. His eyes immediately went to hers. She quickly looked away.
"Samuel, help Santana carry her stuff into the house and you all get settled. I'm due back in Chicago later tonight. If you need anything, Noah has the credit card. Don't let him go too crazy. He's been given a limit." Her aunt quickly hugged Santana who did not hug back and she got in her car and sped off down the deserted dirt road that was the only road into the tiny town of Jasper they passed on their way to what was now Santana's home for the next three months.
"She sure makes a quick exit after she kidnaps someone." Santana remarked to no one in particular.
"Hey San." Sam offered while smiling awkwardly.
"Evan." Samuel William Evans III had gone to school with Noah and on a weekend trek to visit her cousin during their freshman year, Santana fell for him. Her aunt always called him by his given name, but all of their friends knew him as Evan because he hated the name Samuel or really because Santana didn't like the name Sam. She had dated a Sam in high school and it ended with his head between the legs of one of her friends in the limo after their prom. So, needles to say, she preferred to call this Sam something else and she chose Evan. It stuck.
Santana heard another car door open. Another guy got out of Evan's car and walked to the trunk.
"That's Kurt. He's going to be my step brother next month."
"Your mom is getting married again? Didn't her divorce get finalized like a few months ago?" Santana asked, only partially interested.
"Yup. She's known this guy for 6 months. Kurt's our age though. He hardly ever says anything, but my mom wanted me to bring him here. We're supposed to be bonding brother style. He's kind of weird if you ask me. He reads a lot of magazines and not like sports magazines, but like other magazines."
This was awkward for Santana. She had broken up with Evan two days after the funeral. She hadn't seen him since. In fact, she broke up with him via his voice mail and never returned his daily messages until finally the daily messages turned to weekly and then stopped all together.
"You guys have to check this place out. It's huge. Ev, the basement has a game room with pool, ping pong and a giant TV. Mom really had this place pimped out for us."
Three more cars pulled up behind Evan's. Kurt walked up to the house with his stuff and walked right past Noah without a word. Santana thought there was something a little off about him. His sense of style seemed a little different than most guys she knew, but she shook it off as she took in the others getting out of the cars.
Noah ran down the porch steps and over to the blonde girl getting out of her car. He immediately shoved his tongue down her throat and she didn't really seem to mind.
"His new girl of the week, Brittany. She's a dancer he met at a party." Evan explained to Santana.
"Blonde. Just his type." She looked more closely at the girl and noticed that she wasn't unattractive. She was tall and thin and her hair was long and shiny and… Santana stopped staring long enough to notice the others.
Tina and Mike were Evan's friends who subsequently became Noah's friends through their four years together at school. Tina used to be one of Santana's friends too until she thought Santana had a thing for Mike and then Tina stopped talking to her all together. Santana never had a thing for Mike. She just got along with guys easier than some girls. In fact, with the exception of her brief friendship with Tina and her longtime friendship with her roommate Rachel, Santana pretty much had only male friends. She liked it better that way. Not a lot of drama.
A few hours later, Artie showed up. He had just graduated as the salutatorian and was on his way to law school in the fall. Santana remembered when Artie used to be full of creativity and made them video everything they did. Then, his parents made him see the logical light and he went pre-law.
Noah moved himself and Brittany into the master bedroom. Evan and Kurt took the two twin beds. Tina and Mike were in the bedroom in the basement with the double bed and Artie was on the couch. Santana thought as a last addition to the group that she too would be couching it. However, when Evan was carrying her stuff to where she would be sleeping for the next three months, he didn't go up stairs or down stairs. He walked around back.
"Your aunt specifically said that you get the guesthouse all to yourself, but only because you were the only one of us who actually worked hard enough to graduate a semester early from school. She also told me that I'm not allowed to let you stay in here for three months by yourself. That's the deal. Take it or take the couch next to Artie."
"Artie snores," she stated plainly. "And it's not my fault you guys slacked while I studied."
"And the snoring is why he's on the couch and not sharing a room with anyone. This place is basically a house in and of itself, huh?" He asked while looking around at the studio like apartment. There was a kitchen with a mini refrigerator, stove, and sink, a full bath, and a dining room table next to a bed that obviously folded up into a couch if necessary. Evan dropped her stuff on the bed. "I'll let you get settled. We're taking the boat out soon. Change into your suit and join us. Puck's determined to stay on the water skis this time. I'm determined to get a tan."
"Not really feeling it today. I'm just gonna chill here."
"The deal is you get the sweet room if you socialize like a normal human being." Evan walked out backwards as he said this and shut the screen door as he exited. "Do you think I should use SPF? I mean, I want a tan, but I don't want to burn. My skin is sensitive and I don't know the sun down here."
Santana didn't answer him and he shrugged his shoulders and left still pondering whether or not to put on sunscreen. She didn't put on her bikini like she was pretty sure Evan wanted her to. She remembered why she fell for him in the first place, but also remembered why she ended it. He was a cute, fun loving guy who could make her laugh and also kind of let her do what she wanted. It was good once, but he was a part of her past life and that life was gone the day her parents died.
When she heard the gang heading down the hill leading to the dock where her aunt and uncle's boat rested, she grabbed her I-Pod and dragged herself out the door. A few minutes later, the boat was slowly leaving the dock and moving across the water. It was a cool day and Santana had wished she had grabbed a sweatshirt for when Noah sped up and the wind kicked into high gear. Evan brought his Northwestern fraternity sweater that she had worn several times even though it was against the frat guy code to let your girl wear your letters. It was sitting on a seat next to him. She could have asked him to wear it, but she decided to just be cold instead. At least then she'd feel something.
For some reason, she felt like she needed to turn her glance back toward the house that was now far behind them. It was like an impulse swept over her at the same time the wind picked up. As she turned, her long, dark hair blew into her face and she attempted to brush it away from her caramel skin. Just as she did, she noticed something. Well, she noticed someone. The impulse had directed her to the tall, blonde girl who was pushing a wheelbarrow of dirt in what was now Santana's new backyard.
"Did we forget someone?" She asked.
Puck turned around. He took his hand off the wheel and grabbed his beer.
"Oh no, that's the gardener. Mom and I met her when we came down to find a place. She's gonna take care of the place since Mom knows we won't. Her name's… I don't remember. Something weird."
Santana couldn't help but stare. She didn't know why, but something was forcing her neck to stay put and her eyes to hold their glance. After what was at least a minute, Santana's glance was met. The mysterious girl in the dirty wife beater and Capri jeans finally realized she was being stared at. Santana turned away upon being caught and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening watching Puck and his friends fall off the water skis while she listened to movie soundtracks on her I-Pod thinking about some girl she knew nothing about.