I let out a long breath. My hands were starting to cramp from being wrapped around the steering wheel for so long. I flexed them the best that I could, hitting the brakes as I came to a set of stoplights in yet another small town I was passing through. As I waited for the light to change, I could feel his memory welling back to me – something I had been battling fiercely since last night. I didn't want him in my mind any longer; something that was easier said than done. I spun the tune dial on my radio, hoping I would pick up a station. All of my favourites had faded to static hours ago.
To my relief, I found a song. I hoped that the unfamiliar melody would help keep my mind off the past several months. I hoped that it would save me the heartache from thinking about him at all. Unfortunately, the song related just a little too uncomfortably closely to my situation. And, as I drove, the lyrics wormed free my memories.
His face began to flash against every street sign I saw; I could feel his cold touch on my skin despite the heat in my car being turned up the whole way. I could feel a rogue tear dripping from the corner of my eye. I blinked it away, focusing on the black of the road and how I was so close to my destination – so close that things were starting to look familiar. I had driven through this city many times – I had to pass through it to get to my old neighborhood.
My heart fluttered in my chest as I recognized the streets I had become familiar with in childhood. I had grown up walking these roads, watching the other children play and wishing I could join them. I knew these houses – my mother's friends and their perfect little daughters (ones that had grown up to mock me) lived in these houses. I followed the street up to the very end, where it turned off into a long driveway. I signaled down the drive, following the row of trees that I had learned to climb before the age of ten. I stopped in front of the grand white house sitting at the end of the driveway.
I felt tears prick my eyes; not because I was sad, but because I was finally home.
I ventured out to the local market. It had the best produce around – something that I needed a lot of, considering my anti-meat stance. I was picking through the sweet potatoes when I heard a voice behind me – a high pitched voice that sounded almost like an American Paullina.
I pasted a smile on my face. This was no Paullina; though the queen bee of Casper was much more recent, much closer on my mind, this girl was not here. Leslie – blonde haired, blue eyed – was the queen around this part of town. I turned around and she looked much different than I remembered her. She was no longer prancing around in short skirts and high boots with her cleavage on display. This girl had her hair in a messy bun and was dressed in a modest coat and jeans that did nothing to hide her baby bump.
"Leslie," I breathed. "Wow."
She cocked her head to the side. "You've been gone a long time."
"I have," I agreed.
"I was going to come see you, after." She revealed quickly. I opened my mouth to speak but she interrupted me. "No, don't say anything. I need to be selfish here; I've been trying not to be for the past few months because I wanted to be a better person when I bring my child into the world. And that involves clearing my conscience and that involves you. I heard what you did and I instantly knew that it was my fault."
She grabbed my hand, her fingers icy cold. I looked into her shining eyes and saw an overwhelming guilt reflected there.
"All of those things I said to you, all of the times my friends and I simply shut you out, every little thing we laughed over . . . My God, looking back at it all now, we were simply awful to you. And I didn't wake up to how horrible of a human being I was until you . . . took desperate measures. I want to tell you how sorry I am. For everything."
"I appreciate the apology, Leslie. I truly do." I offered her a comforting smile.
She smiled back at me, beauty glowing through the simple expression. "Are you back for good now?"
"Until the end of summer, then I'm off to school."
"We should speak again."
"Sure," I agreed, not entirely confident I wanted such a thing to happen.
"Well, see you around."
I turned back to the sweet potatoes, finding that my hands were trembling.
Despite the cold, I went out onto my roof. I thought of another rooftop, states away, where I had once sat with a ghostly boy. I toyed with the snow on the shingles, thinking of hair white as snow and a touch just as cold. For one night, I let the wind whistle over me and I allowed his memory to overtake me. I thought of the beginning when he was just my friend, to when we had truly kissed for the first time, to how I fell in love with him over time, to how we fell together in a tangle of limbs, to his final confessions that pierced my soul.
I could still feel that pain. I thought that it would fade; that the chaos of moving, of the rise of memories in this place, would force him to the back of my mind. But that wasn't how it worked. He wasn't fading, wasn't disappearing from my mind. If anything – through time and distance – he began to grow in my mind. Memories of him, instead of becoming tattered a blurred, became clear and defined. I could feel him next to me, could feel his lips against mine, as sharply as though he were actually there – as if we had just kissed.
I tried not to think of the last kiss I had shared with him. When he had kissed me as Fenton, moments after I had felt my heart melt into my shoes, and I had kissed him back, knowing full well that I would never be able to do so again.
Tara and Jackson had a successful move to New Orleans. They did not live as close to me as any of us had hoped we would, but it was nice to know that friendly faces were only an hour and a half away from me, and that we could visit regularly. I was increasingly enjoying Tara's presence, as she somehow knew that my heart was in tatters. She dragged me shopping, rock climbing, horseback riding; she was just trying to get me out of my comfort zone and to experience life – I was eternally thankful.
Jackson, on the other hand, I was getting the increasing urge to kick. Despite being the reason their family had relocated to another state, he did nothing but complain about the circumstance and seek out further troubles. Tara had whispered that he had found drugs here; stuff much harder than the weed he had been playing around with in Amity. I wasn't concerning myself with his drug habit – if Jackson wanted to ruin his life, he was well within his rights to do so.
I wanted to kick him because he would never stop talking about Phantom. While his crush had somewhat amused me when I had been with Phantom, now it only infuriated me. He would go on about the ghost boy's hair (but what did he know about how it waved in the wind only to fall back into the same messy spot), his heroic deeds (but he was so much more than that and so much less; he was a hero but he was also a useless, lying human), and his beautiful eyes (but what did he know about those green eyes that glowed in the darkness and didn't just see me in fine detail but could read my thoughts just as easily?).
I stopped talking to Jackson.
Tara never asked why.
After I had been in New Orleans for a month and a half, I got a message from Tucker. I remembered the boy's last attempt at friendship and how genuine it had seemed. I read the message with curiosity though there wasn't much to it. He said he was sorry for Fenton's behavior and that the two still weren't talking; he asked how I was doing and if I missed Amity at all.
I thought about not replying. I thought about not trusting Tucker and assuming that it was only Fenton playing me through another means. It would be an easy conclusion to come too, except that I didn't want to come to that conclusion. I didn't want to be bitter and I didn't want to think the worst of people. I especially didn't want Fenton to be the reason I started hating the rest of the world – I had enough reasons to be angry at the universe without him making it worse.
So, I replied to Tucker. And something grew from there in the following months. It never came close to being a relationship – it never came to close to brushing attraction on either ends. Somehow, we just became friends (though some claim it's impossible for a guy and a girl to be just friends). I understood him and he understood me; we both liked the same humor. I almost regretted not becoming friends with Tucker while I was still in Amity, though based on who he was running with at the time, I could see why it hadn't happened.
The one topic that neither of us ever mentioned or even went near was Fenton. Tucker tactfully left him out of conversation and I barely talked about my months in Amity at all. I was relieved for the mutual understanding; I was getting better and better at leaving Fenton in the past. The small part of me that had craved for him to be closer, that had needed to hear any news on him at all, was dying away more and more every day. It barely existed anymore and I knew that, very soon, it would disappear.
Leslie's mother, Anne, rushed me into her home with a bright smile. I recognized her from a plethora of Mother's parties from when Mother still lived here. She led me to the living room, where Leslie and several other young girls and their mothers sat. Baby shower presents were piled in one corner, and I added my own gift to the pile. Leslie pulled me into the seat next to her and introduced me to the room, though many of these girls had been my tormentors and knew very well who I was.
Some of them wouldn't look at me. Some of them glared at me, letting me know that they were still in control. A very few, those who were like Leslie, met my eyes apologetically and offered me hopeful smiles; I returned those looks and suddenly I had made a few acquaintances who, by the beginning of summer, had turned into friends.
It was nearing the middle of July and it was a sweltering day. I was curled up in the shade of my front porch, letting the warmth lay across my skin. I flipped the page of my book and my warm fingers left pads of sweet on the inside of the pages. I dropped the book, realizing that it was fruitless to try to think in the heat. I rolled over onto my stomach and took a deep breath, letting the summer day relax me.
My dreamy state was interrupted by the sharp ringing of my phone. I groped around for the infernal thing. "Hello?" I mumbled, bringing it to my ear.
"Hello, Samantha!" My mother's voice rang shrilly though the phone.
"What's up?" I slurred.
"I wanted to discuss something with you."
"Since you are going away to college in the fall – too far away, in my opinion – I had an idea."
"New York isn't that far away," I mumbled.
"Nevertheless, I want you to come home for the summer."
"New Orleans is my home," I countered, feeling a flutter of panic building in the pit of my stomach – a sensation that had become unfamiliar over the past few months.
"Fair enough. I would like you to come see me, at my home in Amity Park, for the remainder of the summer."
"Mother, I don't know." I managed reluctantly.
"Please, dearest daughter of mine? It would mean so much to my old heart."
How could I say no to her when she said things like that?
"All right, Mother. I'll come home at the beginning of August."
I don't own anything recognizable. Thanks to my betas, foreversky, for being so fantastic during this fic; Reflections wouldn't be what it is without them! And thanks to you, my readers, for making this such a joy to write and for making Reflections my first fic with over 1000 reviews!
Here's the new schedule! May 9th I will be publishing a one-shot songfic titled Better Than Me which is a small peek into Danny's mindset after Reflections. On May 16thWonderwall – Danny's companion – will make its debut and I will continue to update on Wednesdays to the best of my ability.
Also, the song Sam briefly alludes to in the very beginning is Cold As Stone by Lady Antebellum which inspired the end of the story, especially this chapter. It should definitely be checked out; it's a fantastic song.
Thanks again for being so fantastic! I hope to see you all at Better Than Me and Wonderwall!