When You Were Young (Chapter 4, page 1 of 4)

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Chapter 4

For at least a half hour Joseph stood in the driveway, numb with indecision. One question kept rising in his mind: How? Today should have been the happiest day of his life. The school he'd dreamed of attending since childhood had accepted him. And yet what good was this news if Samantha didn't come with him?

Despite graduating at the top of his class, despite everything he knew about chemistry, physics, and biology, he hadn't seen this coming. In his mind, the scenario always played out with Samantha leaping into his arms, overcome with joy for them and their future. Never had he considered she wouldn't want to go to California with him.

Now she was gone, leaving him forever. How had this come about? He didn't understand it. True, he hadn't considered her two little cousins well enough, but they were distant relatives at best to her. Why did she feel such responsibility to take care of them? Why would she throw away three years for them?

She loved them, of course she did. He thought of last summer when they took Molly and Becky over to Lake Hart. Samantha ran along the beach with them, waded into the water with them, and bought them ice cream. When Molly got sunburned, Samantha comforted her and rubbed her down with some ointment. He listened from the hallway as she told them a complicated bedtime story about princesses and knights and then sang them a lullaby. She kissed them each on the forehead before leaving.

Now the question became: How could he have been so blind? They weren't her cousins so much as her children. He certainly couldn't ask her to leave her adopted daughters thousands of miles behind in the care of others. He may as well ask her to chop off a hand or foot.

His indecision melted away. She had promised to come back for the party tonight, but he didn't want to wait that long. He needed to find her right now. He needed to set things right.

What would he say? "I'm sorry," he would begin. Then what? "I've been a fool. I know how important your cousins are to you. I shouldn't have thought you'd leave them behind." A good start, he hoped anyway as he started downhill towards the highway. "They can come along. They'll love California. It's warm and sunny all year and there are plenty of beaches." Given how easily Molly sunburned with her redhead's skin and Becky's uneasiness about her weight problem, he didn't think this a great selling point.

"You and the girls can get an apartment near campus and I'll come over there when I'm not in class or doing homework. We can have one room for us and one for them. I'll be onto my master's thesis by the time they're old enough to need their own rooms. You can get a job somewhere or go back to school."

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