"The Rarest Thing"
Sam Uley sighed, his long body hunched behind the counter of the Indian wares shop on the border of the reservation. Why he had even taken this job was beyond him. He distantly remembered a need for college tuition, but even that need didn't seem enough to keep him there, behind the counter, staring at the blinking light on the cash register that greeted the costumers with "Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!"
His shift was almost over, and the replacement was conveniently always a few minutes early. She was a girl a few years younger then him, saving up for college already, with long black hair always hiding her face and thick glasses always sliding down her nose.
He heard the bell overtop the door sound and he grimaced. He was hoping his shift would end without incident. However, instead of a costumer seeking "authentic Indian wares," a beautiful Indian girl came around the rack.
Sam exhaled in complete peace. Leah Clearwater was his girlfriend, and had been since they began dating the summer before their junior year of high school. And now, two weeks after their high school graduation, they were still going strong. He took her in as she approached the counter, her short black hair in her perfect face, her thin frame, her beautiful copper of her skin. He'd never tire of looking at her.
"Ready to go?" she asked, her hands flat on the counter.
"Just a minute. Annie isn't here yet."
Lea gave him a fake pout and he laughed.
"Alright, fine. I'm going to go over to the bathroom real quick then."
"Sounds good," he said, and she smiled at him and turned to use the employee-only restroom down the hall.
Annie suddenly bustled in, a huge book held tightly across her chest.
"Sorry… am I late?" she asked breathlessly.
"Nope. Right on time," Sam grinned. He noticed the book. "What are you reading? War and Peace?"
"Actually, yes." Annie blushed, showing him the cover. Sam chuckled. She nervously looked away from him and tied the apron around her. He'd always figured she had a crush on him or something. He didn't want to encourage anything though. He was very much taken.
"Well, have fun with… whoever wrote that thing."
"Right. See you tomorrow."
He stuffed his apron under the counter and went to wait for Leah down the hall.
The bonfire that night hadn't held them long. Sam had eaten a record number of hot dogs before Leah pulled him back to her car for a taste of what was to come back at her house. Her parents had taken a weekend down to Portland for her father's heart condition, leaving a very empty home for two teenagers very much in heat. Sam loved these stolen nights. He failed to realize that for each weekend alone, Leah's father was getting worse and worse. Perhaps that thought would have put a damper on the mood.
The next morning, as Sam woke up and reached for his girlfriend, he didn't remember much of the bonfire or the car or of her aching father. All he could register was the most intensely smelling bacon his nose had ever taken in. It floored him. It seemed his entire body lifted and slammed into the headrest. He swore, waiting for the smell to subside. When it didn't, Sam reluctantly rolled to the side of the bed, groaning and rubbing his face.
This intensity of his senses had been occurring all that week, on and off in random spurts that he couldn't possibly control. Even last night, he remembered looking at the bonfire and feeling as if he was seeing flames for the first time. "Is it supposed to be that orange?" he'd asked.
His friends had asked if he'd had anything to drink or smoke.
But it had danced in the most peculiar way, like it had a rhythm all its own. The colors had come alive before him, and he hadn't been able to tear his eyes away for almost half an hour. It was easily one of the most beautiful things he'd ever seen.
The smell, however, was just about the opposite of beauty.
Sam opened his eyes and the light nearly blinded him. He wished his senses would just go back to normal. Was it some sort of allergy or something? Did allergies just pop up when you are eighteen?
He pulled on his clothes and stumbled to the kitchen.
"Hey," he greeted, kissing her on the cheek, before slumping into one of the old wooden chairs surrounding her table. He felt nauseous.
"You alright?" she asked, lifting the pan of eggs from the stove. She was wearing one of his old flannel shirts he had left on her floor one night and cut-off shorts. He wished he could enjoy being with her on this rare morning, or at least enjoy the view of his shirt barely buttoned and the shorts, but instead he felt too sick by the smells around her kitchen.
"Just this bug I've had lately… I'll be fine soon."
"Sam…" she said, as if it was worse than it sounded. Which it was. "What do you want? Cold stuff or aspirin?"
Leah turned from the cabinet and plopped two small blue pills in his hand. She kissed him on the forehead. "Hungry?"
His stomach screamed no, but he didn't want to be rude. She'd obviously cooked for him.
"Great, because I made a lot," she said with a grin. He saw her smile, and couldn't stop from grinning himself.
"So my cousin's coming over today."
"Which cousin?" he asked.
"Emily Young. You remember her, right?"
Sam nodded. "Yeah, I like her."
Leah turned. "Yeah, she's great."
"When's she coming?"
"A few hours. We were going to go out to lunch, so you better be out of here by noon!"
"We'll see about that," he said with a grin.
"And here's your plate!" she said, turning toward him with a little flourish. Sam felt the bile rise in his throat.
"Awesome," he choked out.
"Eat up!" She turned back to the counter to make up a plate of her own. Sam wondered how long he'd be able to keep the putridly strong-smelling food down, and if that time would cover his running to the bathroom far upstairs where Leah could not hear him puke her breakfast and his guts out.
Emily Young liked to sit near the river. She was known for being a bit of worrier, known for always being in her head instead of being present among a group of people, and the river seemed to get rid of her worrying and let her thoughts escape down the running stream. She was supposed to meet her cousin Leah at her house in a few hours: she would be staying with her for the summer, before she went off to college. But until then, the river was nice. It was one of her favorite parts of the Quillette reservation. Besides, she didn't want to show up early. Leah and Emily were like sisters, and last summer she'd learned that Leah and her boyfriend Sam had… gone all the way. Her aunt and uncle would be back later that day, but who knew? No, she'd rather wait.
She remembered the first time she met Sam. It must have been a year ago, last summer. She'd liked him immediately, perhaps liked him a bit too much, and she tried to suppress those feelings. He was Leah's, and nothing would ever happen. It was such a relief to leave within the week, to go back home to the Makah reservation. But now she was back, and Sam was again in her thoughts.
Yes, the river was a good placed to make a new start.
Emily checked her watch so the time of her departure wouldn't catch her off guard. An hour or two went by quickly near the river.