"J'aime ce moment avec toi. C'est parfait."
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It had been two weeks since Meredith last spoke to him. The only class they had together was English, and most times, he’d look her way and wonder what went through her mind. Sam wanted to explain why he was at the river and why he wanted death rather than life, but it meant someone knowing. It meant saying goodbye to a political career.
It meant accepting the future.
It means a future entwined with Beth’s.
Sam took out his Australian politics textbook and stared at it. His future had always been so clear. Become a minister. Change the world. Do some good. Make history. However, his life had diverted. His life no longer followed the plan.
“My favourite world leaders were Winston Churchill and Woodrow Wilson. Truman is up there, too, and even Bob Hawke.”
He craned his head to see Meredith standing next to him. She took the textbook out of his hand and studied it. The way she pursed her lips had him fascinated and drawn, more so than when he first laid eyes on her at thirteen.
“Why Woodrow Wilson?” he asked.
Meredith looked up and raised her brow. “The man’s principles are what based the League of Nations.”
An unbelievable chuckle escaped Sam. He was impressed. “The League of Nations failed.”
She handed him back the book. Sam placed it in his bag and pulled the bag out of his locker.
“Some things have to fail for a better understanding. That’s why the UN is so successful. Countries learnt from their mistakes when it comes to handling international affairs.”
“What are you? A politics enthusiast?” Sam asked. He didn’t even attempt to hide the humour in his voice as he closed his locker.
Meredith shook her head. “No. History lover and appreciator. Unfortunately, politics is always entwined.”
The serious response had him nodding.
Meredith, I will never understand why you would want to be around me.
Breathe the same air as me.
Or live the same seconds I live.
I am inferior to your supremacy.
“There it is,” Meredith stated.
Sam’s brows furrowed, confused. “What?”
“Something in you just clicks. You suddenly get lost in your thoughts. It’s the same look you had that night.”
Beth is pregnant.
I can’t be a politician.
I can’t want you, Meredith.
He took in a sharp breath of air at the thought. He could never have Meredith. A weak man would never want to drown himself. A weak man was not the man who ended up with Meredith Driessen. A weak man wasn’t the man who stood next to her outside his locker.
“It’s nothing. I don’t need saving, Meredith. Look, thanks for that night. Your act of heroism is done.” Sam hated the painful expression that overcame Meredith’s face. He threaded his arms through the straps of his bag, letting them rest on his shoulders.
“Okay,” she said, her eyes not quite meeting his.
“Goodbye, Meredith.” He didn’t give her time to reply. Instead, Sam pushed past her and made his way to the doors. Truth be told, he wanted to turn around and apologise for being an asshole to her, but Meredith was too sweet to be pulled into the disaster that was his life.
Sam pushed the door open and marched towards the car park. He had walked across the basketball courts when his phone vibrated in his pocket. Not stopping, he pulled it out to see a new message.
Unknown: Sam, it wasn’t an act of heroism. I won’t ask for anything. I don’t want anything but to know that you’re okay. Have you ever thought that maybe you saved me? Like I said, I’d never hesitate when it comes to you, Sam. I’m sorry for intruding on your life. –Meredith.
His heart leapt at her words. She’d never hesitate when it came to him. A thousand possibilities to her meaning succumbed his thoughts. Sam knew she’d always try to save him if she were given the same night to live again.
Sam: You should have let me die, Meredith.
When he reached his black Jeep, he opened the driver’s side door and threw his bag in. Just as he was about to let his phone join his bag, it vibrated.
Unknown: That was never an option, Sam.
Sam got in the car, closed the door, and held his phone tightly in his hands. He had saved Meredith’s number before he replied.
Sam: You always have options. You were careless.
Meredith: What if the roles were reversed? Would you have let me die? Would you have stood there? Could you live the rest of your life knowing you could have saved me?
The heaviness in his chest made it hard to breathe. The concept of it being the other way around was unimaginable.
Meredith: Because I couldn’t, Sam. I’m nothing to you. I get that. I see how other girls look at you and how you look at them. But when you stare at me, it’s like my existence is an inconvenience to you. If you had died, I don’t think I could ever face your parents and tell them that I did nothing to save you. I wish someone had saved me when I needed it.
Sam: I couldn’t possibly imagine PERFECT MEREDITH ever needing to be saved. My life isn’t yours to monitor. Are we done here?
Sam: Okay? Is that all you have to say? You only ever say ‘Okay.’ Surely, you know more words.
Meredith: I do, but I can see they’re wasted here. I’m sorry, Sam. I’ll leave you alone.
You never have to be sorry, Meredith.
It was what he wanted to reply, but he didn’t. The desperation and determination that flickered in her eyes had marked him for life. He had gone from infatuation to more. And Sam couldn’t afford more with Meredith.
Sam: Thank you.
Sam threw his phone on the passenger seat. Frustration and stupidity fuelled him. He had hurt Meredith for being Meredith.
For being sweet and kind. For directing compassion his way.
He sat in the driver’s seat staring out at the green Mazda hatchback parked in front of him. After some time, Sam shoved the key into the ignition, turned his Jeep to life, and pulled out of the student car park. He hadn’t driven a hundred metres when the rain had begun to pour. Sam glanced at the clock on the dash to see that his exchanges with Meredith would get him home later than expected. At least he’d missed the school traffic.
Reaching over, Sam turned the radio volume louder as it played “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC. His fingers tapped in time with the music, his head nodding along. The rain that washed over the windshield had Sam turning the wipers to a faster setting. A dark blob caught his eye as he slowed down. Once he got closer, he noticed her blonde hair and blue ribbon. The nerves that he felt around her had resurfaced, and he swallowed hard at the sight of her drenched form.
He should have listened to his brain. He should have continued to drive, but he hadn’t. Instead, he drove ahead of her and pulled over. Sam reached for his phone and pulled up her number. He had shaken his head before he balled his fist and called her.
“Sam?” she asked, surprised, once she had answered his call.
“Get in the car, Meredith,” he said, emotionless.
It was a demand.
Perfect Meredith didn’t get sick.
“Is that Jeep yours?”
“Yes, get in.”
“It’s okay, Sam. I’m fine,” Meredith assured.
He squinted to see her walk past his car.
What is she doing?
He was out of the car before he could even answer his own question. The rain that hit him didn’t make him flinch. He closed the door and rushed towards her.
“What are you doing?” he yelled after her.
Meredith turned around and placed her phone in the pocket of her skirt. “Going home,” she said loudly over the sound of thunder. Parts of her blonde hair were stuck to her face, and her school uniform had soaked right through. “I missed the bus.
Another one isn’t for a while. I’d make it home before it arrived,” she explained.
“Why did you miss the bus?” he asked as he wiped the water from around his eyes.
He noticed that she didn’t have panda eyes or smudged makeup on her face. The one time Beth had been in the rain, her makeup had run, and her hair had curled. It only confirmed his thought. Meredith went natural. No makeup. And she was beautiful without it.
She gave him a tight smile. “I was by your locker. Ours are in different parts of C-block. And on my way to the bus stop, I was texting you.”
So much guilt hit him.
“I’ll give you a lift. I just”—he paused at the realisation—“need directions. I don’t know where you live.”
“The one time I want you to say ‘okay,’ you don’t. I’m driving you home,” Sam said. He didn’t give her his attention to argue. Instead, he turned and got back into the Jeep. Sam sat in the driver’s seat, staring at her staring at him. He brought up his phone and texted her.
Sam: I’ll wait.
Meredith glanced down and pulled out her phone. He saw the frown on her face as she texted back.
Meredith: It’s okay, Sam.
He lifted his chin from the message to see her shaking her head at him.
Sam: You said you’d never hesitate when it came to me. You’re hesitating, Meredith Driessen. So one more time … can I take you home?
His eyes met hers.
He smiled at the word.
He frowned at the word.
His heart ached at the word.
His future fell in love with that word.
It took just one word.
Read chapter six in the next newsletter reveal!
Seven years ago, a night by the river would bind them together. Seven years ago, Sam’s entire world blew up before his eyes.
His only saviour …
She saved his life, exposing him to what it could be like to be with her. But that wasn’t Life’s plan. Because deep down, his secrets will destroy their lives and separate them. His secrets will break both their hearts until the day he finds her standing on the edge of the train platform, completely lost.
He did this to her.
And Sam knows that if he doesn’t go to her, he’ll lose her forever.
Will seven years be enough to mend their scars? Or will the secrets they both keep deny them once more?
One thing is certain …
You may never know tomorrow’s sunlight if you’re drowning in yesterday’s storm.
I’m about to start the two month marketing campaign for The First Touch of Sunlight – YEP! I am prepared for this release day – and I could really use YOUR help!
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Until the next chapter reveal next Tuesday, I’ll leave you here with the very fine words from Forrest …
“And that’s all I have to say about that …”