Disclaimer: S.E. Hinton owns the Outsiders. Tegan and Sara own the song. I own Sam (and the plot line, of course).
Chapter 18 – I know, I know, I know
You're one room right over
Stressing and loving me
I know, I know, I know
Be still my love
The same as I love you
You'll always love me too
This love isn't good unless
It's me and you
As we rumbled down the road in Owen's old Chevrolet, Sam slept beside me. As for myself, I was jittering nervously at the thought of meeting her oldest brother. Would he like me? Would I screw something up? How would this all pan out when it came down to it?
I started tapping my fingers on the steering wheel to the rhythm of my thumping heart and Sam woke up. It was about 9:30 on a Sunday morning, and Interstate 44 wasn't too busy, so I leaned over and kissed her cheek before I switched lanes.
"Mornin'," I said.
She groaned slightly at the invasion of her peace but eventually smiled a slow, sleepy grin and returned the greeting. "Mornin'." Her voice was gravelly, low and tired, but still had a gentle quality to it. I'd never understand how girls could do it – be so rough and so soft at the same time.
I knew she still wasn't sleeping well with her injuries so I tried to get her to go back to sleep but she insisted that she was fine and that the 45 minutes was enough. Realizing that we were only about a half hour from the apartment, I let the conversation drop and moved on to other subjects.
"So Sam, what do I have to know about Jake? What do I avoid and how do I go about staying out of trouble?"
She paused for a minute, her eyebrows coming together in thought. "Well," she started, "Jake is kind of like a mix of Toby and Owen. He's very responsible and very successful, but isn't too serious. The only thing you should never bring up around Jake is my dad. They haven't gotten along for years and the general rule is to just avoid the topic. I think you'll like him, though. I know he'll like you."
Hearing her say that made me relax a good bit and I sunk back into my seat like I hadn't been able to before. "Are you sure? I mean, I'm kind of nervous."
Sam laughed, a true, open laugh that revealed the joy of her heart. "Soda! If you can live with someone as serious as Darry, flawlessly charm a guy like Toby, laugh with Owen, and love Pony like you can, Jake will be no problem. He's just easier. We've always been really close and I know he's excited to meet you."
I remained silent for a minute, thinking about all the relationships she'd just mentioned. Her analysis was right - I did have very different people in my life – but to hear the girl I loved acknowledge all of them made it even more incredible. I felt like I'd burst if I thought about it too long.
Choosing rather to change the subject than to burst, I spoke. "So what is Jake's apartment like?"
"Oh, it's a nicer one – nothing special, really, but nice enough to make do. There are no cockroaches or anything." She laughed again and I couldn't help but take notice. "He's on the third floor of a 4 story building outside the center of town. There are a few restaurants and a drive-in not too far, but it's pretty basic. He's off today but has to work tomorrow." She stopped, turned her chin slightly downward, and blushed. But she continued, turning to look at me, finally. "So we'll be alone…"
My eyes when a little rounder than I'd like to admit, because those last words held a whole lot more promise and temptation in them than I'd ever have expected from Sam. I was speechless but had to respond. "Oh. I see." I flashed her a grin and turned back to the road as we approached a toll booth.
I paid the toll and we continued to drive in relative silence as she directed me to a brick, 4-story building in what looked to be a middle class part of town. I parked on a side street and, much to her dismay, opened the door for her, helping her out of the car before I grabbed the bags in one hand, took her arm in the other, and headed toward the building. There wasn't an elevator, so I dropped the bags at the door and we started up the stairs. Sam was definitely healing well, but cracked ribs weren't something to play around with, I knew from experience. Eventually, at the platform between the second and third floor, I knelt down and had her jump on my back for the next flight. I know it had to hurt her, but she was already hurting enough to do it without complaint, so I figured it was best.
When we reached the top of the flight, she opened a door and we walked partway down a long hall to a door marked "305". She knocked and a moment later, a tall, copper-headed man came to the door.
He started to throw his arms toward her in big-brother, bear hug fashion, but she stepped back quickly, catching his hands and grasping them tightly. "Sorry, Jake, I'm still a little sore for bear hugs but it's really great to see you."
He looked apologetic then and took her face in his hands and kissed her forehead instead. I felt a bit awkward, like I shouldn't have been in on the moment until he turned his attention to me. His grayish-green eyes were intimidating, even moreso than Toby's, and I felt, again, out of place. That is, until he smiled, extended a big hand, and took mine.
"You must be Sodapop. Hi, I'm Jake. It's nice to have you here." His voice was refined, not so rough as most of those I knew but not buttery, like he was trying to sell me something. He seemed genuine and I liked that.
"Well, hi. Just call me Soda. It sure is nice of you to let us stay here," I replied.
"Oh, that ain't no thing," he said, revealing a bit more of a southern twang than I had expected from him. "I'd do anything for my Sammy there and Toby was ready to kill her with her whining, so I've heard." Sam blushed and smiled, and I smiled as well. "But that's neither here no there. Where's your stuff?"
"Oh, it's downstairs. I'll just run down and get it. Give you a minute to catch up. I'll be right back."
I made a quick exit then and went down to get the bags.
As Soda went to get the bags, I came up next to Jake and slipped my arm through his. Of all my brothers, Jake was always closest to me when we were kids. Toby was always too serious and Owen was too busy doing everything under the sun, so Jake and I shared some time together. I felt his arm slip around my shoulder in a half-hug and I smiled.
"It's nice to be here, Jake. I've missed you," I said quietly.
"Oh, girl. Don't start the waterworks. I've missed you too, but you're here now and we've got some catching up to do. You'll stay here til tomorrow and next time I'll head down to Tulsa to see you all. It's good – we're good."
Jake always seemed so sure of things that it made me believe him. Whether he'd actually be down anytime soon was totally unknown, but it didn't matter for a minute.
He continued in a more practical direction. "You can stay in my other bedroom. There's lots of stuff in it – I use it for my office – but there's a bed and a night stand. There's probably a closet too, but I'm not making any guarantees at all about what you'll find in there. The couch out here is pretty comfy to sleep on so I'm thinking I'll put your boy there."
"That's fine," I replied. "It's only one night anyway."
Soda walked in then and asked where to put the bags. I pointed him to Toby's extra bedroom and he went in to drop them off. A minute later, he returned. "Glory, Jake, how many people live in that bedroom? It's a wreck!"
The minute the words left his mouth, it was obvious he regretted saying them. Jake kept his mouth closed for a minute, mostly for effect, I think, before he burst into a hearty laugh. Soda breathed again when Jake laughed, clearly relieved that he hadn't offended anyone by being himself.
"Yeah, yeah, kid. Don't I know it? I'm a mess, but it works. You're staying on the couch anyway; you won't have to look at it."
From then on, the air was relaxed and relieved, and we really enjoyed each other. We spent the day in the city, from lunch at the "best burger shop in town", according to Jake, to seeing the sites, including the Cowboy Hall of Fame, which Soda loved. By 5 o'clock, though, I was beat and all I wanted to do was to go back and sit on the couch in Soda's arms. Soda knew that I was tired and asked Jake if we could head back to the apartment. He complied willingly, but stopped on the way to pick up fixings for spaghetti. Spaghetti has always been my favorite, since I was just a kid, and it was a nice gesture for Jake to remember and think of me.
So the evening passed in glorious peace, Soda and I on the couch after dinner and Jake in his chair. We talked and passed time and Soda fit in perfectly, like a new saddle, special made. The boys talked about horses and cars and the differences in the cities they lived in. I mostly listened and answered questions about my job, my brothers, what happened to me. It was nice. It was comfortable. It was the way that family should be. And when 10:30 rolled around, my usually-insomniac brother "retired", as he put it, sending me a wink and a wave on his way out of the room. I cuddled a little closer to Soda then, but we remained silent. After a few minutes, I turned my head up and placed gentle little kisses down and around the nape of his neck, intertwining my fingers with his. It was a gentle moment, a moment that people like to remember when life has moved on and way has lead on to way. I turned in his arms and straddled his thighs on the couch, kissing him then for all I was worth. We stayed that way, his hands roaming my back and his tongue exploring mine for quite some time, until finally I stood, offered my hand to him, and lead him to my makeshift bedroom.
OK, A/N time -
I know this is a bit of a cliffy, but I wanted to separate anything that might be "offensive" from what is pretty harmless, and I'm not sure when I'm going to get around to it. Sorry about the SERIOUSLY infrequent updates. I write when I have time, and that's almost never. SO ANYWAY, the next chapter should be a nice little "romance" for you, ahem, and then there will probably be some changes. You might actually hate me. :(
Oh well, they're my characters and they're taking over my brain.