August 18, 1980

As eighteen year old Samantha Saxton stepped outside her Naperville, Illinois home, an unseasonably cool June breeze blew her hair across her face. Like most afternoons after coming home from school, Samantha was headed to the mailbox to hopefully retrieve a letter from her boyfriend, BJ. For the past four years, ever since Samantha had moved to Naperville to live with her Aunt Maggie and Cousin Rachel, it had been difficult for her and BJ to see each other during the school year. Where he lived in Winnetka, a rich north-shore suburb of Chicago, was almost an hour away from her. For the first two years, there was the obvious hindrance of not being able to drive; after that it got harder and harder with the classes Samantha was taking. Aunt Rachel had encouraged her to invest her feelings into her studies to take her mind off of missing BJ. However excellent her grades were, Samantha still missed him.

Three boys who couldn't have been older than thirteen rode past her on their bikes as she stepped towards the mailbox, and Samantha was hit with a wave of nostalgia of the summer of 1976. She and BJ had first met and spent many long days together riding bikes, going to the beach and enjoying each other's company before she was forced to move while her mother attended drug and alcohol rehab. "Whole lotta good that did," Samantha thought to herself. What was only intended to be "a couple of weeks" turned into Samantha's entire high school career. It was probably for her own good that Samantha was not around her mother, but she'd gladly live under Gail Saxton's roof if it meant being with BJ as well.

Routinely opening the mailbox, she was so engrossed in her thoughts that she did not even notice the letter in there at first. Her heart fluttered as she picked up the letter and recognized the neat cursive written in blue ink- it was from BJ. It had been two weeks since BJ's last letter. She imagined he had been busy preparing for his graduation from New Trier High School as well as getting ready to attend DePaul University in the fall, as was she. Finally, they would be attending the same school, spending time together whenever they wanted. She could scarce imagine it. She raced into the house and upstairs to her room that she and Lisa shared, where Lisa was perched on her bed, reading a fashion magazine.

"Where's the fire, Sam?" Lisa asked, not even looking up as Samantha quickly entered her room and made way to her desk to sit and read BJ's letter.

She studied his neat handwriting for a few more seconds before carefully opening the letter. Not to her surprise, it was just as neatly written and formatted as the front of the envelope had been. She loved the way his letters were written—just one more thing BJ was doing to prepare for his chosen career of public relations, which Samantha was sure would be perfect for him. Although it surprised her to see such a short letter at first glance, she read on:

Dear Samantha, 15 August 1980

I know it has been a long time since I've written you, but I chose to write you on this date for a reason (I'm not just blowing you off, promise.) Four years ago today was when you left for Naperville. We were moving onto a new chapter of our lives then, and we are again now. I can barely imagine what it will be like to be able to see you whenever I want. I know that these coming years will be the best of our lives. There are a million things I want to tell you about what's been happening over here, but since we will be seeing each other in person in less than ten days, I figure I should wait until then. I know this letter is so much shorter than the others, but in ten days we won't have to write anymore.



Samantha stared at the page in her hand, reading the letter over and over again. Even though it was the shortest letter he had ever written her, it was no doubt the best. She hadn't been aware that the 15th was the exact day she had left- she just knew it had been in August. That was another thing she loved about BJ- how sentimental and attentive he was. She could hardly wait for Aunt Maggie to take her to DePaul on the 25th. Normally, Samantha wished summer would last forever and hated when school rolled around in the fall, especially in the years before she had met BJ. But this year, it would be different.

August 25, 1980

Although it was less than an hour from Naperville to DePaul's campus, the car ride felt like forever to Samantha. She couldn't wait to get to her dorm room, unpack everything, have Maggie and Lisa leave, and especially, see BJ. He had been there since yesterday afternoon, but Maggie couldn't get the day off of work, so they'd had to wait until the next day. BJ would be coming about an hour after they arrived to help unpack and set up her room in Corcoran Hall. She felt lucky that they would be living so close. His residence hall was only about a 10 minute walk from hers.

At last, it was evident to Samantha that they had arrived at campus. Looking to her right, she was greeted by a sprawling, garden-like quad, students from all walks of life, and she had never seen so many important-looking buildings in her life. This was where her new life was about to begin. No longer would her life be inhibited by her mother's problems or her constant missing of BJ. Samantha Saxton was going to show the world that she had something to offer it.

She was free.