The next morning Sam sat picking over her breakfast when Jake barged through the door in a very un-Jake like fashion. She raised her eyebrows at him while Gram ushered him to the table.
"Would you like some breakfast Jake?" she questioned.
"No thanks, mam. I actually just ate." He answered.
Sam dropped her wondering look to her plate where her eggs that were now growing cold. Her eyes caught on her empty wrist where she usually wore the Phantom's braided mane as a bracelet. She has slid it off last night in frustration. Where had she put it?
"For heavens sake Samantha, eat some of that before it gets cold," Gram scolded.
She had no appetite, and she knew exactly what was to blame. It was the same thing that had kept her up last night and filled her mind with lightning fast thoughts. In the back of her mind she realized Jake was watching her expectantly.
"Yeah?" She asked, sounding meaner than she had meant. Jake only blinked at her harsh voice before smiling and answering;
"Well, I thought since you were kinda stressing about college, I'd take you to come tour mine."
Stressing about college…what was he talking about? Oh yeah. That had been a dumb lie yesterday. Shoot.
Sam looked up at Jake and realized he had a look of pride on his face, like a little kid who had just made his mom breakfast in bed.
Oh man. He's really trying to be nice.
Gram gave Sam a warning look and Sam realized her expression must not be a kind one.
"Sure Jake, that would be great. Let me just grab my bag, okay?"
He nodded and headed out the door to his truck. Sam leaned back against her chair and closed her eyes. She made no effort to move.
"Now you run along and get going with Jake, Samantha. He's really trying to do something nice for you," Gram reminded her.
"Got it," Sam answered and ran upstairs to get her bag. She threw in her phone, water bottle, and wallet incase they stopped for lunch. She flew back down the stairs and paused a moment to say goodbye to Gram.
Soon Jake and her where out and riding down the highway. His college was about two hours away and the car was already filled with the relaxed silence the two friends often shared. Sam noticed there were several boxes in the bed of the truck and guessed he was moving in some of his stuff today. She was pretty sure he got his room key a few weeks early so that he could start training for his track team.
"Hey Jake, you know you don't have to do this right?" Sam asked.
"Yeah," he answered, "I know. But I thought you might like it here. And," he mumbled the next part, "it would be kinda nice having you around."
Jake was glad for the distraction of the upcoming gas station. He hadn't meant to say that, but the truth was he missed having his best friend around when he went to college in the fall. This would be his second year and he hated that every time he came home he felt more and more distant from Sam.
"You want anything?" Jake asked before jumping out of the truck to bring his gas money in.
Sam just shook her head, barely looking at him.
Wow, I've never seen her so stressed out before. She must really be worried about this college thing, Jake mused.
Once they were back on the highway Jake tried again, using some of his new communication skills he had worked on at school.
"What schools have you gotten into already?"
"I applied to the community college. Also the state school, and yours."
"And you got in? To all of them?"
"Yeah." Sam hadn't thought she would see the day when Jakes words outnumbered hers.
Jake nodded and brought his full attention back to the road. Glad for the overcast but warm day, Sam gazed out the open window and looked over the stretches of ground that seemed to extend forever. This was her home. But she had failed to mention the last college she had applied to, and been accepted to. Would she really ever leave her home?
It might make things better. If you could just leave him in the past…maybe the hurt would go away. Maybe every band of mustangs wouldn't make your heart pound. Maybe every horse trailer wouldn't have you questioning if he was in there. Maybe you wouldn't spend hours searching for him on for sale websites and seeing of he was at any of the BLM corrals.
Sam shook her head. He was gone. She had told him to leave by the way she had acted. She had abandoned him.
Taking a deep breath of courage, Sam said, " I applied somewhere else to."
"Yeah. Over in the city."
"Las Vegas?" Jake asked.
"No. New York City. NYU." The car filled with silence. That was far. That was an only sees you over the summer kind of school. If it was even that, and the plane tickets could be afforded.
Jake felt a tweak in his chest as he watched her from the corner of his eye. She watched the dessert. Why would she leave her home? She loved it here.
"Did you get in, Sam?"
"Yeah, I did," She answered.
Jake didn't ask any more questions. He wasn't sure he wanted to know right now. What he wanted most was for Sam to come back to him, to be vulnerable in front of him again. To open up whatever was going on that would make her want to move across the country.
If I can just make her fall in love with this school. If she can see how good it could be here…with me.
Soon they were pulling up into the schools area. Huge, historic looking buildings lined the streets and Jake drove forward in search of his new dorm building. Finally he saw the name scrolled across the front and turned to pull into its parking lot.
"Mind if we visit the dorms first?" He asked her.
Sam just nodded in response. They climbed out and Jake jumped into the bed to throw down the boxes. They both grabbed one, Sam grunting under the heavy weight, and headed towards the building. Jake pulled his ID out in order to scan it and let them in.
Once they entered the elevator Sam dropped the box with a thunk.
"Jacob Ely! What is in this box?" She exclaimed. Jake couldn't help but smile at her outburst of emotions.
"Uh, my books I think. And maybe my running shoes."
Sam rolled her eyes and picked the box back up when the doors slid open to reveal a long, carpeted hallway. Jake led them down until they got to a door labeled 203. He slid in his key and fidgeted with it until the lock popped open. Sam carefully observed the room once they entered. It was definitely nicer than the ones she had seen at the state university. Two beds were on either side of the room along with a set of desks and dressers. A large closet was next to the door and at the back of the room a large window looked down on the well-maintained campus. She had hardly noticed Jake was already unpacking his box of school supplies onto his desk. Soon they were working together to unpack her box and line up his books on his desk.
"Ew, these stink," Sam said, motioning to a pair of Jakes running shoes she had just pulled out. Jake grabbed them and threw them into the bottom of his closet.
"Hey, those are my old ones for rainy days." Sam giggled at his response.
"You sound like a girl Jake," she teased. Jake just rolled his eyes in response.
"Hey, what's left in here?" Sam gestured to Jakes box where she could see something was still resting at the bottom.
"Uh, nothing," Jake said, moving to grab the box. Sam beat him to it and pulled the wooden picture frame out. She smiled at the photo.
Sam was sitting on Blackie's back, grinning proudly from her position. Jake stood in front of them, looking more concentrated but still happy. His hand was loosely holding onto the bridle Sam had fashioned out of one of her old nightgowns.
Jake rubbed the back of his neck, obviously embarrassed. Sam knew she shouldn't cry at a photo, a happy photo at that, but she still felt the tears stinging behind her eyes. She turned away and placed the frame on Jake's desk.
"That's nice Jake," She whispered. She didn't talk louder for the fear her voice would break.
Trying to get her mind off of him, she raised her voice and asked to go check out the rest of the campus.
"Sure," Jake responded.
An hour later they sat in a small restaurant on campus that Jake had claimed 'reminded him of Clara's.' They had both ordered burgers and shakes. Jake was almost done with his while Sam had only taken a few bites.
"So what do you think?" Jake asked her. Sam thought for a minute.
"Actually, I really like it. It's a lot nicer than the state school. And the journalism having its own newspaper and printing stuff is pretty cool."
Jake smiled at her response.
"Good, I'm glad you like it. You gotta make your decision soon though, right? School starts in two weeks."
Sam just sighed then responded.
"Yeah, I know. I just…it's so hard to choose. Like what if I hate it here. Or what is I can't make any friends in New York because they all think I'm a hick."
"Well," Jake answered, "I can guarantee neither of those things will happen if you come here. Besides, isn't Jen coming here too?"
Sam brightened at the reminder of her best friend who had been away this summer at an internship working as a vet.
"But what do you mean Jake? Are you really gonna hang out with a stinky little freshman?" She joked.
She had been joking but Jake answered seriously.
"Of course Sam. I want you to come here."
Was that a tone of begging I just noticed in his voice? This really wasn't making any sense. And if I came here…how often would I be made to think of him. Would I be able to move on and think about school or would I continue to feel this way?
"I'll think about it, okay?" Sam said.
With that they paid and left the restaurant to start on their drive home.