Only For You(3)

By: Genna Rulon

The following week Sam demanded I join her dance class— according to Mrs. Whitney it was imperative that Sam study dance—and with no alternative to coax her participation, the Whitneys paid my tuition to accompany Sam. It was Mom who taxied us, watched our rehearsal, and brought us home. In fourth grade, Sam agreed to study piano if I joined her. Unbeknownst to me, piano was another critical life skill that Sam must acquire, which meant I would acquire it as well. In eighth grade, Sam refused to attend a prestigious enrichment summer camp unless I accompanied her. It was quickly understood that if the Whitneys wanted Sam to endure any extracurricular activity, it best include me to gain her cooperation.

Sam’s choice to attend the same university as me was the natural progression. She could have attended any college in the world with her intellect, grades, and familial resources. We applied to the same Ivy League universities. Sam’s dream was to move as far from her parent’s oppressive shadow as her admittance letters could take her. My enrollment would be determined by the university offering the greatest amount of financial aid as I was unwilling to burden my mom or myself with student loans. I was accepted to all schools I applied, and Hensley was the highest-ranking institution to offer a full scholarship. Sam was accepted to the same universities, with the exception of Yale—a slight she would never forgive. When Sam learned I committed to Hensley, she shocked me by following suit. She wanted to share the college experience with me and, after fifteen years of friendship, virtually sisters, separating would be akin to losing a limb.

The Whitneys were appalled at the prospect of Sam living in student dormitories. Consequently, they bought a two-bedroom condominium in the most prestigious complex near to the school. It was small, as all the apartments near school were, but luxurious. Ever generous, Sam insisted I room with her rent-free to eliminate on-campus housing expenses. I never could have foreseen Sam’s decision would be my saving grace.

Two weeks prior to our departure for Hensley, my mom passed away—hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, sudden cardiac death. I was working at a local deli, one of my last days before school began, when Sam came in. She marched to the back without looking at me and spoke with my supervisor. When she returned with my belongings, she took my hand and guided me out. I didn’t ask questions, if Sam needed me I would be there. In her silence, I speculated a confrontation with her parents was the cause; a litany of possible disputes circled my mind. I knew enough to give her space until she was prepared to share what troubled her. She drove a few blocks to the beach, we walked along the shore until finding a relatively desolate section where she sat, and I followed her lead. After a few minutes, Sam turned to me and revealed what transpired. My mom had died at the Whitney estate while working. Mrs. Whitney had found her on the kitchen floor and called an ambulance, but she was gone by the time paramedics arrived. She was gone…just like that. Perfectly healthy and happy that morning; over breakfast we planned a shopping trip to purchase the final supplies I would require for school. Sam held me as I sobbed for hours, inconsolable and adrift. I stayed at the Whitney estate until school began, unable to face my apartment knowing my mom would never return. Mrs. Whitney was kind enough to arrange the funeral on my behalf. Sam and her brothers emptied the apartment, packing everything I would need for school, and placed the rest in storage for me to sort when I wasn’t as vulnerable and raw. I have spent every school break and holiday with the Whitneys since. There was no replacement for my mom, and the Whitneys were not nurturing, but at least I had a place to go when I would otherwise be alone. I will always be grateful to them for that gift.

If not for Sam, I would have shattered irrevocably. She was like a sister, mourning the loss of her surrogate mother while helping me find a way to survive crippling grief. She pushed me when I struggled to maintain the grade point average my scholarship required. She brought me ice cream on the nights I cried with longing for my mom. She partied with me when I finally accepted I was not betraying my mother by enjoying life again. She was selfless and patient when needed, tough and bitchy when required, and entertainment director once I was able. I may never find the words of gratitude equal to all Sam did. I attempted once, but she cut me off.