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A Story Untold
Looking on, I knew she was alone. The expression on her face, the hopeless lean against the barbed wire fence, the slight pull on the rusted locks on the gate: all clues that broke my heart. Jailed, stuck in the prison of her own situation, nowhere to go. It was cold, colder than usual for November, but her jacket showed otherwise. Her long, Irish hair flew back behind her head, caught in the breeze of a stormy gust. Freckles dotted her face like magic marker, and her pale face was red with cold. Her eyes were lava just cooled, and they were big and dazed on her face.
As I walked on by, going to my job at the corner deli, she caught my eye. I figured she would be gone when I came off work, so I just went to work as usual. To my surprise, when I was done, (at nine o’clock at night I might add) she was there, seemingly not to have moved. Even to my immature fifteen-year-old-mind, I knew she needed a place to go. My heart went out to her, and I approached her carefully.
“Excuse me,” I said tentatively. I don’t know why she made me nervous; maybe it was the fact that she was also shockingly beautiful that threw me off. Her head snapped up. “I was, um, wondering…uh…” I took a deep breath and started over. “My name is John Keeler, and I wanted to know if you needed a place to sleep tonight.” She looked at me, her face a mask of confusion and puzzlement. I felt like she was sizing me up, trying to see if I was serious or not.
Finally she replied,
“Yes.” Her voice was a singing of bells, a trill of a flute. It was light and airy and the absolute most stunning voice I had ever heard in my entire life. I instantly knew that if she ever said anything, I would listen just to hear her speak. My stuttered like my voice had a few minutes ago, and it was as if I opened a door to stain glass window, a million different facets of a new world.
She followed me home. Two blocks into our silent walk, I saw her shiver.
“Are you cold?” I asked, generally concerned. She nodded as she pulled her sleeves over her fingers. I took off my heavy wool coat and wrapped it around her shoulders. She gave me a grateful smile. Her smile was dazzling. As I turned back to walk again, I was dazed by her. She fascinated me. It was as if I had just discovered a clear blue lake; she made wonder.
When I arrived home, I called out to my parents.
“Mom! Dad!” Being an only child, I could normally get away with more stunts and trouble than most kids (my parents believed I needed to make mistakes to learn for myself), but I couldn’t imagine how they would react to this. As they walked into the room, their faces flashed horror and shock. Although their masks of surprise disappeared, I knew the girl had seen. She shrunk back a little. “Guys, this is my friend…” I stopped, realizing I had no idea what her name was. Just as I was about to ask her, she said,
“Sam. My name is Sam.” I, a little startled, quickly recovered.
“Yes. Um, she needs a place to sleep tonight, and I told her, since we have the extra bedroom, that she could stay here.” My mom was the first to speak.
“Of course – I mean if she really needs it, of course she can use it,” my mom said. “Sam…do you need to shower? I have some pajamas if you need them.” Sam looked downright surprised.
“Um, yes, Miss, that would be…much appreciated,” she replied in her singsong voice. My father recovered then too.
“I’ll throw your clothes in the wash; this way they’ll be clean for tomorrow.” Sam nighttime eyes widened a bit.
“Oh, thank you very much, sir!” My mother looked at her peculiarly.
“Sam, honey, do you have any family?” A shadow crossed her face as she replied to my mother.
“No,” she said. “I have no one.”
Later that evening, I tiptoed into Sam’s room to see how she was doing.
“Hey, Sam,” I said.
“Hey, John,” she replied with a sad little smile. Taken aback that she remembered my name, I noticed she was crying.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. It took her a minute to answer. I sat down on the bed next to her and waited.
“I’ve never been treated this nicely before. Even before my dad died and my sister left and my mom got into prison, it was always less than the best. I guess I forgot what a real house looks like,” she said softly, her eyes burning holes through mine as her voice quavered a little. “And what’s it like for someone to actually care.” She turned away. Only then did I realize the place she had been frozen outside of was the Judith County Prison. I boldly laid my hand over hers.
“I care.” She faced me again.
“I know.” She smiled. I stood up.
“Good night, Sam.”
“Good night, John.”
The next morning (a Saturday, I might add), I awoke to sunlight streaming in from the window. I guessed it was near nine. My mind replayed the events of last night in my head. Sam! I bolted upright. I hoped to God she didn’t leave. My prayers were answered as I walked into the kitchen to see Sam, still in her pajamas with a bit of bed head, eating a bowl of Frosted Cheerios. I think it was that moment that I fell in love with her, seeing so vulnerable yet so happy. Her black coffee eyes seemed brighter than last night, and the corners of her mouth were slightly turned up.
“This is great, Mrs. Keeler,” Sam commented. My mother laughed.
“It’s cereal, sweetie.”
“I know!” Sam replied brightly. I laughed as I sat down beside her.
“Like a baby.” I smiled. My mom handed me a bowl of Fruit Loops. I ate them quickly.
“Hey, honey, why don’t you and Sam go for a walk after you get dressed?” My mom asked me.
“Sure,” I said, glancing at Sam. “That would be great.” I went to my room and slipped on a pair of jeans, a polo shirt, my Air Jordans, and my wool coat. I came out to see same in my mom’s Boston College sweatshirt, jeans, and her worn out Puma shoes.
“You’re gonna be cold,” I warned her. She shrugged.
“I find that I don’t get cold easily anymore.” I didn’t ask her what she meant. I grabbed my keys, and we headed out the door. Sam slipped her arm through my, astounding me for a minute. We walked in silence for a couple of minutes before I spoke.
“Will you stay?”
“Tonight, I will.” My heart breathed a sigh of relief. “Hey, John, why did you help me? Why didn’t you just leave me there, in front of that place?” It took me a second to answer.
“Well…it’s just I know what it’s like to be alone, because my parents once got into a car crash, and I thought they were going to die. It was a really hard time for me. I also…well I thought you were the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.” I held my breath as I waited for her answer.
“Oh, John…” Sam turned to face me, and she fell into my arms. I buried my face in her glorious Irish hair, and I knew I wanted her to stay more than anything else I had ever felt in my fifteen years. She in my arms was my heaven; and as we walked back, I knew she felt the same way.
That night, Sam came into my room and sat on my bed.
“I had a good time today.”
“Yeah, me too.” She smiled.
“See you tomorrow?”
“Yupp.” I winked at her.
“Good night, John.”
“Good night, Sam.”
The next morning I awoke early, excited to see Sam and spend the day together. I walked into the kitchen, but it was just my mom and dad there.
“Where’s Sam?” I asked.
“Oh, honey,” my mom said, her eyes filling with tears.
“What’s going on?” I asked, my stomach sinking.
“Son, Sam left,” my father said.
“What do you mean she left? She told me she was gonna stay the night.” My voice wasn’t desperate or hysterical; it was a scary monotone, just stating the facts.
“I guess she did,” my dad replied, not looking me in the eye. My heart gave a painful throb.
“John, sweetie, what’s that on your cheek?” my mother questioned.
“Huh?” I ran to the bathroom. On my cheek, just faintly, was a red lipstick stain.
“So,” I say, continuing my speech to my college kids, “never think that an act of kindness goes to waste. It will change you in ways you never thought imaginable. In those two days, Sam taught me about love, kindness, and the importance of caring.” My students applauded and whooped. I tell that story every year to my sophomore pupils, and every year I feel like I change outlooks and, in my best imaginings, lives. Sam really did change my life; she was my first love, my first encounter with solitary living, and my eye-opener to gratefulness. When she left, I didn’t cry, I didn’t lash out, but everyone could see that I had changed emotionally. I was more thoughtful, more focused, and definitely more thankful. Almost nine years have gone by, but I still remember her. I probably never will forget.
“I want you guys to write a fictional story about how an act of kindness can change lives. Due Tuesday!” I called over the chatter. There was an audible sigh, but I knew they wouldn’t mind it too much. As college English students, this should be a breeze.
I packed up my stuff and was walking down the hallway when I heard a voice call “Mr. Keeler!” The voice was a rush of fresh air. I froze. Could it be…Sam? I always hoped that she would hear my speech and come back, but as I turned, I saw it was just one of my students with a question.
“Yes, Ava?” I asked, disappointed.
“Did this…Sam have orange, Irish hair?” she asked curiously.
“Yes,” I said, suddenly interested.
“Freckles? Pale skin? No know family?”
“Yes, yes.” I answered eagerly.
“Mr. Keeler, I think you should come with me. I think I might know your Sam,” Ava said breathlessly.
My heart was racing wildly.
I followed Ava into the heart of Boston, weaving maniacally behind her. We arrived at an old, run down but clean Cape Cod style house. I followed Ava up to the door. My mind was a bundle of nerves, intertwining endlessly. I couldn’t seem to focus. Then all of a sudden, Ava pressed the doorbell. Ding-dong. I realized that this was a moment I had waited for all my life.
An Irish-haired girl answered the door. She was tall and lean. Her skin was a milky white, with freckles dotting her face like magic marker. She had on a Boston College sweatshirt with long sweatpants and an old, brown jacket. Her eyes were molten lava just cooled. Sam. My Sam.
“Hey, Sammie, I have a visitor for you. Sam, this is John. John, this is my cousin, Sam.” Her eyes widened with shock and surprised the way I had seen once before. Her lips moved as if to speak, but no words came out.
“Hey, Sam,” I said. She smiled.