It was a Friday morning, and Sam was just coming up to Alex's house. He had walked her to school everyday since half way through their first year at Firs Wood High. It had become a set-in-stone routine by now. As he pressed the door bell, he knew instead of making a sound, the bell would flash lights around the house to catch Alex's attention, as she wouldn't be able to hear a knock. Sometimes her parents left the door open once they had left for work anyway. She lived in a friendly neighbourhood on a welcoming street, next to about 8 or 9 other houses which, from the outside, all looked exactly the same. The neighbours on the left were a fragile old couple who spent all day doing cross words together and drinking tea with two sugars despite what the doctors said, and generously handed out whole bags of sweets every Halloween. The neighbours on the right were a couple with new baby twins called Annabel and Gabrielle, who wore matching fleeces and shoes with pink butterflies printed all over them. The man who lived a few houses along had an excited dog named Bruce who was the only animal on Earth who got along with Grudge, Alex's cat, who was named appropriately. The street was like a distant family to each other.
As Sam stepped inside, as this was on of those day where Mr and Mrs Barns had left the door unlocked, he was surrounded by familiar smells and sights. Her house always smelled of toast, most likely because they were always eating it. He moved in to the lounge, and found Alex sat on her navy blue sofa which lay usually with a few remotes relaxing on top of it, facing the TV which the Barns family appeared physically unable to turn off as everyday for the past couple of years, it had always been on. The carpet was cream and pulled apart thanks to Grudge, who was old and simply roamed around using only the expensive furniture as a temporary scratching post. But, of course, because he lived in the Barns household and had done for many years, he was loved. The walls were covered in paper which wasn't any particular colour, and which had tons of pencil doodles such as smiley faces and the word 'Alex' in 101 different fonts on the spot just below the window.
As she acknowledged his arrival, Alex picked up her khaki satchel. Sam knew that bag so well; she'd had it forever. Now it was frayed around the edges and a suspicious white blob was hidden on the bottom of the long shoulder strap, but the silver, swirly quote on the front had unbelievably not been scratched off. It read 'Life isn't worth living without some one to live it with,' to remind her that she can never be alone. He smiled, then reached out to hold her hand. She locked the front door as they left, and the cold wind slapped them hard in the face. Typical English weather, cursed Sam under his breath. It was supposed to be nicer at the weekend though, which lead nicely to his next topic. He started a conversation in BSL, as confidently as he could manage. "I was wondering, if you're not busy tomorrow, you could come to mine for the day? We could go in the pool or something, as the extension has just been finished?" He looked up at Alex hopefully, with wide eyes. Alex had been to his house tons of times before, but usually as a meeting point before the cinema or something. She'd seen his room once, when they had done some revision together after school for a science GSCE, but that was all. What he was suggesting was completely letting him in to what she hadn't already seen of his home, and his life. It may not seem like such a big deal to some people, but to him it was. Rejection danced around him like flames over petrol, and he was fearful of it. The plan was for him to invite her swimming, because the pool had just been extended. It was big before, now it was massive. Massive, clear and blue. He hoped she'd like it. For lunch, he'd prepare a picnic, including all of her favourite foods. His lawn was practically a field anyway, so he'd thought it would be lovely for them to sit and and talk on a picnic mat together. But now, walking along a grey pavement on a dreary day, the idea seemed a little stupid. He bet she would be busy anyway, with Maddy or someone. It felt like forever before she responded, but really only a few seconds passed before her fingers twitched.
"I'd love to," they told him. He exhaled, and allowed his shoulders to loosen with relief. "What time should I come?" she asked him. As he told her, they wondered closer to the depressing grey building otherwise known as Firs Wood High School. Today though, not even that could bring him down. Sam was literally buzzing.
Firs Wood High was a large, grey building with no windows and bars across the doors. Okay, so that is an exaggeration, but the stones are grey. The field was rather big and had sections for every purpose; playing football, relaxing, P.E, other sports and the gardens. Each class room was quite big, as were some of the teachers. Just a few. A perfect example of this was Sam and Alex's maths teacher, was was currently blissfully unaware he had just put half of his class to sleep.
"And that," spoke Mr Soles, "is how we use Pythagoras' theorem to help us solve algebra questions," he concluded. This was one of the only Sam and Alex were together, despite the fact they were placed on opposite sides of the room. Still, it was easier to talk with out the teacher knowing if you knew sign language! Alex caught Sam's eye, then signed under her desk, "Looking forward to tomorrow!" Sam replied, "me too," then moved his gaze back to Mr Soles explaining in further detail how to use some boring rule in some boring question in some boring test for some boring job. Sam really cared about his education, understandably. He always did his homework, and would do extra for credit. Alex wasn't the same. Maths, although she understood it perfectly, wasn't for her. You would expect her to like it, because it is something you can't argue is right or wrong, it just is. You don't have to hear to look at a sum and think yeah, I know that. Something in her brain just clicked with numbers, which it didn't with Sam. For them to both be in the same set, it took Alex years of irresponsibly slacking off and refusing to learn to her full ability, and Sam years of after school tutors and practise exams. She knew it was wrong to not act to her full potential, but she had no interest in maths at all. She didn't just look at a sum and think, yeah, I know that, but she also looked at it and thought that she never wanted to look at it again after high school. So what was the point? Although everyone told her otherwise, she refused to believe maths was the most important subject. She knew she could never become an actor or a singer, but there were still other things she could be before she became a mathematician. She could be a lyricist, or a writer, or a painter. Three things which, she hoped, she was good at. They were all so personal to her too. Her stories and drawings at home were well kept secrets, even from Sam. She had thought about sharing them, but what if his reaction was to laugh?
Her thoughts were then interrupted by Joe McManus, the almost obese boy taking up the whole desk next to her, who nudged her and passes her a note, from Sam. It was written on squared paper, meaning he'd torn it from the back of his exercise book. She felt her heart melt as she read the 3 words written on it, 'I love you.' She loved it when he wrote her messages. He did it all the time, and it never got old. Reaching for her pen, she wrote back 'Love you too' underneath, then passed it to Joe to give to Sam.
A person's name is supposed to define who they are. Sam reckoned his name did a pretty good job of that. Sam- simple, yet lovable. He certainly wasn't hard to work out, just as his name wasn't hard to spell. He was just Sam. S-A-M. Not Samuel. Just Sam. Sam Carter. Alex's name, however. She was special, and different and beautiful. Her name wasn't. There were over 7 other Alex's in the school, and although it was a large school, she definitely deserved a much more glamorous name; something more unique. He hated to refer to a children's film once again, but he bet there were no other Ariel's swimming around in the sea.
Back to reality, Saturday had come. Sam knew he should feel nervous, but this just felt so right. He couldn't wait to see Alex again, even though he only saw her yesterday. It seemed like much longer. Sam's parents were away for the whole weekend, so he had the place to himself. They usually worked from home, on the third floor of his house where all the offices and study rooms which he wasn't allowed in were. Even though they were home all the time, he still barely saw them. But, this weekend, they had left for a meeting abroad to discuss a jaw-dropping deal with an important client. He had the gardens, the pool, the house, and if he were one year older and had a licence, he would have both the cars too. It was then when he heard the door bell ring. It wasn't a chirpy 'ding-dong' like most houses, it was a loud, arrogant buzz, much like doors bells on city office buildings. The house was furnished in that way too- not homely and welcoming, but modern and neat. It did look nice, but not comfy. His house could be summarised as a designed studio ripped out the pages of a popular housing magazine to inspire the uncreative people in the world. It was a show house; not one for living in. Alex always complained about her box room and how lucky he was, but he didn't feel lucky. Speaking of Alex, as he opened the door, there she was. Her hair was tumbling across her shoulders easily and smoothly. Her green eyes were glimmering like emeralds in the beams of sunlight. She was wearing a loose grey T-shirt which was cropped at the waist, revealing her flat, tanned stomach, and a pair of light denim shorts. He loved the way she could wear the simplest things and make them look so stunning. He greeted her with a tight hug and a shy peck on the cheek, then gestured for her to come inside. She stood tightly by the three-seater couch, and thanked him for the drink he handed her. Diet coke in a glass bottle with a lemon and a bended straw- only way to drink coke, she thought to herself. Sam knew that by now, and hadn't even had to ask her what she wanted. He always had a regular coke, fresh out the freezer in a can. Sam signed to her that she looked beautiful an that they will have fun in the pool today. Alex politely smiled and despite herself, felt her cheeks blaze dark red. She had always been rubbish at taking compliments. Sam was great at giving them, though. She loved that.
They went outside by the pool with their drinks, as it was a gorgeous day. The sun bleated down on their heads like rain, when in fact it was the opposite. They lay side by side on expensive white deck-chairs, and talked endlessly together about school, their friends, each other. At this point, Alex stopped feeling like a guest and began to feel like she belonged, here with Sam. She had come wearing her bikini underneath her clothes, so once his can was empty, Sam went to change. He was only a few minutes, but when he returned, he smiled to himself. There on the deck chair, with a stunning navy blue bikini on with white stars, was his gorgeously positioned girl friend, presenting herself like an ornament. He came closer, and saw that her bright eyes were shut, and her lashes were gently curved over her lips. She was smiling softly towards the sun, and she looked so pretty Sam wanted to grab a brush and paint her.
"Ready to jump in?" Sam cried, and excited rush taking over his tone of voice. He watched as she opened her eyes, glanced down at the pool in front of her, only a small portion of it covered by his bold shadow, and uncrossed her legs ready to curl her toes around the edge. As she did so, she felt the heat of the dry stone beneath her feet begging her to take Sam's hand and splash in to the cool water. She felt her fingers reach for his, making her black nail varnish stand out even more against his pale complexion. He tanned a lot on holidays, but was usually extremely fair skinned. They looked up at each other, just for a moment, until she broke the silence by exclaiming "Jump!" at the top of her voice. She forced herself upwards and couldn't feel Sam holding her back, so she tucked her arms and legs in as tightly as she could and landed loudly in the refreshing pool. She hadn't cared about being graceful, or elegant at that moment. She felt a jolt of panic when she realised she couldn't touch the bottom of the pool; even with the very ends of her toes. It went away quickly, as she surfaced neatly for breath and then continued to swim. She was a strong swimmer, they both were.
Sam watched with fascination as Alex swam deeper and deeper, her arms creating perfect circles around her in breast-stroke, urging her forward, her strands of red hair rippling behind her with every movement. He followed her down and noticed the spectacular waves of sunlight decorating the the walls of the pool with a flickering sparkle, creating thousands of fantastic diamond swirls, like when you hold a crystal to the light. He then went to the surface, and the same sun was bouncing off the top of the water beautifully between every wave. He caught up with Alex and reached for her hand. It was harder to swim with only one hand, but he noticed how their fingers entwined together, fitting better than the unique pieces which can eventually make something amazing, like a jigsaw. He motioned to switch to dolphin stroke, and let their bodies ripple just like the turquoise stretch of water they were in. At last, Alex felt the tiles at the bottom of the pool brush against her feet. They had reached the shallow end, and she was now able to stand. Doing so, she wiped her wet hair from her face, although the long ends of it still floated away from her shoulders, unable to stop the huge grin from spreading from either side of her cheeks, which were flushed with pleasure at the experience. She took Sam's other hand and they swirled around for a while, spinning and smiling and singing. They played a game with Sam's old football, which was battered and almost deflated as a result of the many winning games of 'footie' in the park with old mates, but it still worked for a simple round of catch. Alex was a terrible thrower, but that only made the game more humorous. Next they raced each length ways to the opposite side of the pool, and although Alex got out of breath very quickly she won a reasonable amount of races. You could hear them giggling from miles off.
After a wonderful swim, they climbed out both dripping wet and soaking all over. It was way past lunch time, but even so, Sam lead her to the garden. Her eyes widened at the sight- an incredibly long stretch of healthy green grass, decorated with more flowers and water features than she'd ever seen. It was like something out of a story book; incredibly well designed. A thin yet powerful stream ran through the middle of the grass, where stepping stones lay wet inside it, all the way up. A brown-brick arched bridged curved neatly over the water, joined by a little pebbled path that lead up to it. The path continued on the other side of the bridge, surrounded by deep green trees. Fairy lights were twirled between the branches and made the whole place seem magical. The path then split round either side of a tiny, grey-bricked well, then met at the other side of it. It brought her to a whole new area, covered in plants of all kinds. Alex wasn't great at flowers, but she recognised daisies, daffodils, forget-me-nots and roses. Lots of beautiful roses. In the middle of them all, there was a spectacular, pale grey stone fountain, with a vertical spout which spurted water delicately all around it, so the falling droplets formed a huge arch around the spout. A small wooden bench sat around the feature, and Alex assumed they would be stopping there. But, Sam lead her further, past gentle butterflies and humble bumble bees, until they reached an impressive willow tree by the end of the stream, where a picnic mat was already set out. A single beam of sunlight shone through the gaps in the willow's hypnotically swaying branches, each one seeming to whisper to you, and she watched in disbelief as Sam lit three tea-light candles and placed them around the mat. It was getting darker by now, so they were in perfect evening light. It was impressive, to say the least. Stunning, would be a more appropriate choice of vocabulary. Or amazing, magnificent, fantastic, romantic. Very romantic.
Alex glanced up shyly at Sam, a sweet, surprised expression on her face.
"You could use it as a show garden," she concluded.
"I'm not interested in making money off it," he explained.
"But you could, if you wanted to. How long did this take you?"
"Ages, about a year for all of it. I just asked my parents if I could do up the garden in my spare time and they said yes. I just took the money from their accounts."
"I had no idea you were this... talented at designing!"
"I'm not really, I just had a few ideas that turned in to something, not much,"
"Well, its something to be proud of," Alex signed. Munching on a packet of crisps, she relaxed in to Sam's arms and shut her eyes. It felt so good to be held after such a great day. She couldn't even remember waking up in the morning, because it felt like she had been with Sam all her life.
Sam was pleased with the result of the day. Alex had loved it all, and been impressed by his garden. They had had a great time together, and life doesn't get much better than that. Now, she was curled up in his arms, her face flushed slightly and her hair damp, loose and gorgeous. He felt like they were in a whole other world together; a dream world. Or on holiday with her. He would love to take her on holiday, but he knew that could probably never happen. He also knew that soon the sun would go in completely, night would come and take over the sky, and Alex would be picked up to go home. They didn't have long, so he blocked all other thoughts from his mind, and savoured the mood.
"So it's your sixteenth soon," Sam enquired. "Are you thinking of doing anything special?" Alex explained of how she didn't want a big party, but it was still a big deal to her. She told him she'd love to go abroad, but her folks couldn't even almost afford that. Sam had turned 16 months ago, and, like her, hadn't wanted a big party. He'd gone out with a few mates though, and they'd pretended to be older than they were to buy some alcohol. The oldest looking of the group went in and managed to get some, and they all speak of it as if it were a crazy night not to be spoke of, although they can't have drank more than a few sips of beer each. Alex occasionally like to have a drink, but she was always very sensible and knew when to stop. She wasn't often allowed to drink, but on nights like her birthday or New Years Eve, her parents were less strict.
Eventually, Alex did have to return home. She had been planning to walk as her house wasn't far from Sam's, but her dad had called earlier saying he'd come and pick her up after work. They had just bought a new car- a silver pergeut- and were extremely proud of it. Just to remain on her dad's good side, Sam decided to complement the car. "It's a gorgeous shade of silver, Mr Barns, and a splendid shape too," he said, pretending he knew much more about cars than he did. Frankly, he had no idea whether it was a 'splendid shape' or not. His parents had two cars; a BMW and an Alfa Romeo. Not that that meant anything to him, except that his parents spent too much money on cars because they hardly ever used both at once. Of course, when he turned seventeen they would pay for driving lessons for him and then buy him a car without a second thought. The first thought being 'maybe he'll get in to his car, drive away and not come back.' Although, maybe not even his parents were that cold-hearted.
Alex sat in the passenger seat of her dad's new car. It smelt strongly of leather, and the seats were shiny to sit on. Soon it would be clattered with old CD's, chocolate bar wrappers, parking tickets and spare shoes, so she wanted to make the most of the cleanness. She really wouldn't have minded taking the bus or walking, but her dad always made a special effort to be the best parent possible, which she found sweet. She was very close to both her parents. They pulled up in to the tight drive round the side of her house cautiously, so as not to scratch the silver paint. She opened her classic, red front door with her blue key decorated with yellow smiley faces, and strode in to the kitchen. She felt on top of the world, and her mood was so high it could literally shake hands with passengers on planes. Until, Alex reached the kitchen, and found her mum, leaning over the counter in tears. She looked up at Alex and cried, "Alex dear, I've just been fired!" Her voice was distressed and painful to listen to. Her flawless skin was now red and blotchy, and her eyes puffy. Alex's dad soon followed and his eyes widened when he saw his wife's expression. Still she continued with one last statement; "We might have to move!"