She was in the backyard - they say it was a little past nine

When her prince pulled up - a white pickup truck

Her folks shoulda seen it comin' - it was only just a matter of time

Plenty old enough - and you can't stop love

She stuck a note on the screen door - "sorry but I got to go"

That was all she wrote - her mama's heart was broke

That was all she wrote - so the story goes

Sam stared out over the ranch she had loved all her life. She pushed the red hair that had finally grown long again out of her eyes. Despite the early hour, it was already hot. Somewhere out there was her father with Pepper, Ross and Dallas. Somewhere out there was Zanzibar. She took a deep breath, pulling the desert air deep into her lungs. It was almost nine o'clock and she had made her decision.

The truck sounds caught her attention and she turned toward the drive away. Apart from the truck that Jake had purchased almost new (as she kept reminding him) the yard was deserted. Brynna and Gram had taken Cody into a kiddie arts and crafts class at the mall. Jake climbed out of the front seat, putting the cowboy hat on his head. He leaned against the door and tried to look cool, but Sam knew that he was grinning, just from the sight of her. The thought made her heart attempt to fly from her chest.

"C'mon Brat."

Fresh from college and starting a new job with a police force in another part of rural Nevada, Jake thought he owned the world. With an eye roll, Sam ducked into the house to grab the bag she had packed with care just hours before, after Gram had woken her up for morning chores. Before she lifted the bag, though, she lifted the pen that she had laid out next to the notepad. What should she say to her family? She imagined they would be shocked – eighteen years old and running away to some big city to be with her boyfriend at his new job – but they would never have understood if she had tried to explain it to them.

She would call them later, she decided, but scribbled out a quit note. Sorry, Sam scrawled and wrote the truth, but I have to go. She left it there on the counter and ran outside into the desert heat, the scent of home and the sound of horses in her ears. She dropped her bag just as she reached him and jumped into Jake's arms. She wrapped her legs around his waist and planted a kiss on the lazy grin he always seemed to wear.

"You sure?"

She had her arms around his neck, playing with the hair he had finally grown back. "I have never been more sure of anything in my life."

His defenses dropped as his face softened. "Hey Brat," his whispered in her ear.

"Yeah?" She whispered back, feeling the warmth from his skin on her body.

"I love you."

Sam stared into his brown eyes, the eyes she had grown up with, and had never felt happier. "Love you too, Cowboy." She winked lazily, and hopped down. "We best get on the road. Don't want to be late."

Jake grabbed her bag and slid in the truck. After he started it and rolled down the windows, he reached for his hand.

"Sam!" Brynna shouted, trying to juggle Cody, who was hanging from one hand, and a bag of groceries. "Okay, honey," she urged Cody, "go upstairs and get a clean shirt." The paint splattered four year old ran dutifully to his room, but Brynna doubted he was getting a shirt.

"Sam!" Grace echoed Brynna's earlier call as she too bustled in with groceries.

"Did she go for a ride?" Brynna put the bag down and reached for the notepad which was covered in Sam's handwriting. "Sorry but I have to go." Brynna read. "What on earth does that mean?"

"I have no idea." Grace admitted. "Are all the horses in the barn?"

"I'll go check." Brynna ducked out to the barn but aside from the horses the cowboys were using, everyone was there. "Strange," Brynna mused, and then she noticed it. The imprints of truck tires. More specifically, the truck Jake had just purchased. All of her years of the BLM had made her an expert in details. And her mind clicked. The way Sam had been overly affectionate with her family in the past few weeks, how vague she had been about her college plans and how Jake was leaving today for his new job. Sam had mentioned he was coming by to say goodbye (Brynna really hadn't wanted to be here for it, knowing how much Sam loved him and how they would have wanted privacy for their last moment together) but what if Sam had left with him?

Brynna ran the last few feet to the kitchen. She reached for the phone and dialed Sam's number. She got voicemail. "Samantha Forster," Brynna tried to sound threatening, but she knew that, Sam being eighteen, there wasn't much she could do, "You had better be home tonight." And she hung up.

Grace was watching her, but there were no questions in her eyes. With wisdom she had always seemed to possess, Grace remarked, "He'll take care of her. And they love each other."

Brynna set her jaw, unable to believe it, and tried not cry as she dialed Wyatt.

Now her daddy's in the kitchen - starin' out the window

Scratchin' and a rackin' his brains

How could 18 years just up and walk away

Our little pony-tailed girl grown up to be a woman

Now she's gone in the blink of an eye

She left the suds in the bucket

And the clothes hangin' out on the line

Now don't you wonder what the preacher's gonna preach about Sunday morn

Nothin' quite like this has happened here before

Well he must have been a looker - smooth talkin' son of a gun

For such a grounded girl - to just up and run

Course you can't fence time - and you can't stop love

Wyatt stood on the front porch, staring into the night. It was nearing midnight, which was much too late considering his long days and early mornings, but he couldn't make himself go inside. His wife, mother and son had all gone to bed an hour ago, but he had to wait for his daughter. He had to believe that she would come home. How couldn't she? What had she been thinking? Running away at the age of eighteen – with no money, no school and with some boy … No, Wyatt corrected himself. It's not just some boy. This was the only thing he could draw comfort from.

Sam had not run off with some teenage punk. She had gone off with Jake, who had watched grow along with his little girl. As he gazed over the yard that hardly seem to change, his could see them, perched outside the pasture, eyes wide as they studied the horses, both being too young to go on rides of their own, and whispering about the mustangs that they cherished dreams of taming. If he blinked again, he could see Louise, her belly rounded in her last few weeks of pregnancy, sitting by La Charla, singing to herself.

He closed his eyes against the absence of his daughter. But around him, memories of her swirled around him. Even the clothes on the line, snapping in the night wind, made him think of her and the chores she had not been around to do. But what he could he do? Other than go and drag her home? She was an adult now, and as much as he hated to think of her in anyway but his baby girl, he had to accept that she was going to make her own choices. And she had chosen the man she was in love with.

But that didn't mean he was going to stop praying that she would come home.

He finally returned inside, to the black house where only part of his heart was resting. As he was passing through the kitchen, the phone rang. He jumped for it, do avoid waking up Cody.

"Forster Residence," he answered.

"Daddy?" Sam's voice slipped over the phone line.

"Where are you?" It was impossible to not sound angry.

"I'm with Jake. I'm safe and I'm really sorry. I know this probably seems stupid to you, but it's what's best for me."

"Come home." This time, it was impossible to not sound like he was pleading.

"I will Daddy, I promise and it will be soon. This is just something I have to do. Take care of Cougar and Blaze and Ace for me and tell everyone I love them."

"Okay." Wyatt agreed, tears thick in his throat.

"And Daddy?"


"I love you."

"I love you too, baby girl."

Now all the biddy's in the beauty shop gossip goin' non-stop

Sippin' on pink lemonade

How could 18 years just up and walk away

Our little pony-tailed girl grown up to be a woman

Now she's gone in the blink of an eye

She left the suds in the bucket

And the clothes hangin' out on the line

When Grace walked into the hair shop, all talking ceased. And she knew. They were talking about Samantha. Sam had run away yesterday, but they were already gossiping about her, and Grace could only imagine what they were saying, how they were tearing her granddaughter down. She sat down in the hairdressers chair and Sandra began to dutifully clip her hair. Around Grace, the conversations began to flare up again.

"Is that Grace Forster?" One of the Moms who was there with their toddlers whispered to the other.

"I think so. Was it her daughter that ran off with the Ely boy?"

The first mother shook her head. "No, she's much too old to have an eighteen year old daughter. It was her granddaughter. You remember, the daughter of that woman who stupidly drowned quite a few years back?"

"Oh yes, I remember! My parents wouldn't let my brother get his license because they were scared he was going to do the same thing."

"You better hope that Jake doesn't. I don't know how much more that family can take."

The second mother nodded. "Although the Ely's usually have a good head on their shoulders. Wasn't Jake the one that got that nice job right out of college?"

"Wasn't Jake the only one who got into college?" The first mother sneered.

Grace tried to keep herself from reacting. She had to know that people were going to talk, but it wasn't as though Samantha were knocked up, or getting married, she just needed time to find herself. And if taking a road trip with the boy she had loved since childhood helped Sam do that, Grace would be as supportive as possible, as long as Sam knew she had somewhere to come home too.

"All done Grace."

"Thank you Sandra." Grace smiled and stood up, but when she passed the two mothers, something made her pause. A dark blush stained their cheeks. "By the way, my granddaughter is nothing you accused her of being. She was raised properly. She is not," Grace forced out the word, "a whore. She is a beautiful, intelligent, young woman and she does not deserve any of this slander."

Head still held high, Grace paid Sandra and strode out of the shop.

She's got her pretty little bare feet hangin' out the window

And they're headin' up to Vegas tonight

How could 18 years just up and walk away

Our little pony-tailed girl grown up to be a woman

Now she's gone in the blink of an eye

She left the suds in the bucket

And the clothes hangin' out on the line

Sam spun the radio dial, trying to find a new station as her favourite one had blurred to static ages ago. Finally settling, she leaned back into the seat and let the still warm night air rush over her face from the open window.

"I got us a hotel room," Jake finally broke the long stretch of silence between the two. "We'll stop for the night."

"Okay," Sam smiled, just happy to be with him.

He reached for her hand again (he had barely let it go since they had begun driving). Sam looked down at their intertwined fingers, light and dark, light and dark. Despite her longing for her ranch and her kitten and her horses, she would return.

Right now, she stretched out, her feet going out the window and her head against Jake's shoulders. On the floor, Singer let out a coyote yip and Sam smiled.

"Love you." She whispered.

"Love you too."

So I heard the song and thought 'Sake' so let me know. I don't own Phantom Stallion or the song is Suds In The Bucket by Sara Evans.