“What’s the matter?” The second Kit Kat opened the door, Samson could tell she had been crying. Not the unavoidable tears that came at the climax of a sad movie or even the sadness of a bad day. She had been crying so long that her face was swollen and red. It was obvious that she had tried to clean herself up when she heard him ring the bell, but nothing could hide that kind of grief.
“I’m all right. Just come inside and log your fifteen minutes so Elvis won’t scold you.” She opened the door further to let him in the house, but he wouldn’t cross the threshold. “No way! You’re coming with me.” He reached far enough into the house to grab her hand and pull without actually stepping into the house. She resisted his pull. “No, I’m not really dressed for public.” Samson pulled harder, but she held fast.
“You can’t stay in this house if you’re sad. Trust me. This place will mirror your feelings back at you until you are completely unable to escape.” She pulled her hand out of his. “I don’t feel like seeing anyone today.” Samson objected, “You CAN’T stay here.” He gritted his teeth and stepped into the house. The moment he did, he could feel the weight of inadequacy suffocate him. Nothing he ever did would be good enough. The grief of it overwhelmed him.
Kit Kat wasn’t dressed appropriately for the weather. From her lightweight T-shirt down to her bare feet, she was not ready for the cold chill of September. Rather than stand to stay in the house for even one more second, Samson scooped Kit Kat into his arms and slammed her door shut in one graceful movement.
The suddenness of it all must have taken her by surprise because she didn’t say a word until he bounced her into the passenger seat of the ranger truck. He shut the door and ran around to the driver’s side. He half expected her to be escaping by the time he got around, but she just sat there and looked at him like she had never seen him before.
“You just picked me up like I was nothing,” she said as Samson started up the pickup and pulled out of the drive so quickly that the frozen gravel kicked up in a spray of rock and frost. “Yeah, I’m Samson. Haven’t you heard? Just don’t cut off all my hair, okay?” He waggled his long, black braid at her. Kit Kat looked back at her house. “I didn’t lock the door.” She seemed completely unaware that she wasn’t wearing any shoes or even a coat. He replied as he pulled onto the main highway, trying to merge into the primary lane, “You live in Merriton, remember? I could’ve left that door wide open and no one would’ve come in. All we would’ve had was a lecture from Elvis about wasting energy trying to heat the whole world.”
He laughed alone at his little joke as he passed Mt. Zen Cafe. “Where are we going?” she asked, still seemingly unaware of her state of dress. It was a good question. Where was he taking her? The feelings of despair and uselessness were dissipating the further he got from her house, but the only thought on his mind was home. He would take her home and she could recover there.
The signs at the side of the road urging him to vote for Angie for Mayor whizzed past so quickly that he misread them as, “Andrea for Mayor.” He shook his head and focused on them and was surprised to notice that they DID read, “Andrea for Mayor.” Who was Andrea? For a split second, he worried that he had been calling Angie by the wrong name all this time.
Kit Kat pulled her feet up onto the seat and wrapped her arms around her legs. Samson thought that she must be cold, so he turned up the heat, blasting its warm and dusty air onto their faces. When he pulled into Emigration, however, he noticed that she wasn’t shivering. She was crying again.
He pulled around his street and into his driveway, pressing the button to open his garage door in one motion. The pickup eased into the garage and he switched it off. He left his side of the truck and walked to hers, opening the door. She wept openly, and, this time, fell into his arms as he lifted her gently from the truck and to the door. Into the house and into the guest room where she had went to sleep that strange night, he put her down on the bed and left her in the room with the lights out and closed the door.
He could hear her crying beyond the door, but was reluctant to bother her. How long did it take for the effects of the house to wear out when he moved to the Thunder Brothers Ranch? For him, it took weeks. He envisioned her hiding in his guest room for weeks and a comforting feeling overtook him. He wanted to take care of her. He wanted to protect her from anything that could hurt her. He wanted to run into the guest room and wrap his arms around her in a hug that would never end.
Instead, he went into the kitchen and started to cook. He opened a can of tomatoes, a can of kidney beans and a can of green beans, dumping all three into a sauce pan. He didn’t have any meat in his fridge except a half-eaten package of pepperoni. Without a second thought, he tossed the red circles of spicy meat into the pan and added some garlic and Italian seasoning. It wasn’t the best recipe for soup, but it would be better than nothing.
Within twenty minutes, the soup was bubbling nicely and Samson heard the door to her room click open. His first reaction would have been to run to that opening door, but he had learned from Mira that his over-eagerness was a scary thing for most women, so he waited. He struggled with his instincts and let her come to him. She inched into the kitchen, furtively. He could tell that she was still upset, but had been able to calm down a bit. He restrained his impulse to take her in his arms and pulled out a chair at the table instead, gesturing at it with his hand.
“I made soup,” he said quietly, “Soup fixes everything.” She shook her head. “I can’t eat noodles.” Samson walked over to the saucepan and dipped a ladleful, showing her the beans and pepperoni. “No noodles.” She sat down at the table and he carefully filled the bowl he had placed in front of her. He filled his own bowl and handed her a sleeve of saltines, but she shook her head again. “Sorry, I can’t eat wheat.”
Eager to please her, he popped out of his chair and opened the pantry doors. He looked for tortilla chips, pushing aside boxes of cereal, brown sugar in a large, glass container and more cans of green beans, tomatoes and kidney beans. He held out the bag of chips to her. She smiled for the first time since he had found her at the Bowen House and his world felt like all the colors had been adjusted to be brighter. The dark and cloudy autumn day suddenly felt like early spring when the snow started to melt.
He let her eat in silence and guiltily enjoyed her presence. When had he last been so happy? He couldn’t remember. Just having her in the house, eating a bowl of soup with him felt better than anything he had experienced in a long time. Not even when Random handed him that six-digit check had he been this happy. Then he remembered, the last time he had felt this joy, he had been with Mira and the twinge of pain from the memory made the scent of his soup turn sour. The tomatoes tasted a tad more acidic as he remembered her leaving.
Suddenly, the silence that had been so comforting and blissful was suffocating. He tried to talk to Kit Kat to push the memory of her sister out of his mind. “What happened?” He asked her. She looked at him with puffy red eyes and started to speak, “One year…” She stopped as her eyes filled with tears again. She tilted her head back and sniffled. “One year ago, Dave told me he was done.” Samson watched her hold her emotions in, or perhaps they had all escaped in the weeping before.
He answered, “I… I thought your divorce went through months ago. I… that’s what John said…” The sound of John’s name on his lips made his stomach turn. Where was he? Shouldn’t he have been here to rescue her from the Bowen House? Why was he just leaving her alone? Every fiber of Samson’s right hand and arm clenched with the desire to punch John straight in the mouth.
She was crying again and all the muscles in Samson’s arm relaxed and immediately twitched with the desire to hug her. Instead, he gently patted her hand. She quickly moved the hand to wipe her face. She lifted the neckline of her T-shirt over her face and hid within her shirt, allowing it to sop up her tears.
Samson’s empty hand sat on the table and he reproached it in his mind. He wiped it on his pants and tried to comfort her, “Listen to me. You can’t ever let yourself be sad in the Bowen House. That place will just feed off you until there’s nothing left.” She peeked out of the neck of her T-shirt and gave him a look of derision.
Samson continued, “You have to believe me. When…” He started to tell her about it: his worst and most embarrassing time in his life. Would he tell her? She shook her head at him, still half hidden by the neck of her shirt, “My house isn’t haunted,” she snorted out in an angry sort of cry. Yes, he would tell her everything. “No, no. Listen to me. When I got fired from Zerbitz, I came to stay with Random and Sierra at the Bowen House and it nearly killed me. I felt like I was worthless and that house made it worse and worse until I would’ve ended up killing myself.”
He stopped. Was it true? Would he have tried to commit suicide? Then, in a flash, he remembered Lobo out on the mountain, skiing in the avalanche area. Yes, every time he had snuck onto the mountain to ski, he had been attempting to kill himself. It was only by the grace of Roscoe’s vigilance that he was still alive today.
Samson looked across the table at Kit Kat and it took every ounce of restraint not to pull her into his arms and kiss her with the fire of a man who had escaped death.