Authors: Ginnie Carmichael
A Bluebell Valley Novel
All Right Reserved
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.
All names, characters, locations or events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity
to real persons, living or dead, establishment, events and location is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Copyright © 2015 Ginnie Carmichael
Table of Content
“Please, don’t go.”
Austin wrapped his long, comfortable arms around Samantha, giving her one last chance to hold him. She rested her head on his chest, trying to hide the tears that were already rolling down her cheeks. She didn’t want her best friend to leave, but she was going to have to let him go.
“It’s going to be okay, Sam. I promise.”
She held on to him, not knowing what else to do. Austin had finished high school a few months ago, and now he was leaving for college on the other side of the continent. It broke Sam’s heart.
Austin was her best friend and he had always been. They were both born and raised in a small town called Bluebell Valley, hidden in the mountain two hours outside of Portland, Oregon. It was a small community, the kind of place where everybody knew everybody and rumors spread faster than a cold. But Sam had never cared about any of it because she always had Austin.
She vaguely remembered the first time they’d met. It happened at her parents’ bakery. Austin’s mother was a frequent customer and Sam was a curious child. While her mother and Austin’s were chatting, the two children had been playing in the back of the store. From the beginning, Austin had been a like a brother to Sam. They had spent as much time together as their mother had allowed them until Austin was old enough to ride his bike to Sam’s house. He lived on his parents’ orchard, which was out of town while she lived in the apartment on top of the bakery.
Austin was two years older than Sam, but it had never been a problem. They were inseparable. Their friendship had survived elementary school, middle school, and even high school.
While Austin liked math and science, Sam enjoyed playing on the school soccer team and directing the annual play. He liked books, she liked people. They were different, but that only brought them closer. Sam could always use a hand with her homework and Austin was happy to be able to attend parties with her.
Eventually, they both knew things would get different—complicated. Austin would head off to college, leaving Sam behind for a couple of years. They had talked about it many times and they had come to the same conclusion: both of them wanted to leave Bluebell Valley and move to a bigger city where they could live up to their full potential. They also had a plan: Austin would leave for MIT, where he’d been accepted earlier this year. It was a first for Bluebell, to see one of its kids accepted at such a prestigious university. When it was her time to choose where she wanted to study, Sam knew she’d apply for college on the East Coast. It was a perfect plan.
But until then, Austin had to leave Sam’s life. She’d been dreading this day for a while already. Even if she knew she would meet with Austin eventually, Sam would have to be alone for the next two years. She wouldn’t have someone to help with her homework, or someone who could make her bad days good again. Austin would be a phone call away, but it wouldn’t be the same, and it scared her.
It was hard to know that her best friend was going to be out of her life for so long, but Sam knew Austin wanted to change the world. He deserved everything that was happening to him, including his scholarship.
There was one other thing that Sam knew, something she’d never allow herself to say: she was in love with her best friend.
After all those years of being by Austin’s side, she had developed feelings for him. He was the only person to truly understand her. He was the only one who could change her mood from bad to good in seconds, and she had to admit he wasn’t too bad to look at. As he’d grown taller and leaner, she’d started to see him more as a man than as her brother, and that had changed everything. In the past few months, all she’d wanted was to lean in and kiss him, but she wouldn’t allow herself to do that. She wasn’t ready to lose him if she told him the truth and his feelings were different.
Telling him how she felt now was unfair―if not cruel. She was staying behind for the next two years and he had the best opportunity of his life. He’d be surrounded by people exactly like him, who had the same passion and drive to change things. Austin would build a new life in Boston, and Sam wasn’t ready to ruin all of that by confessing her feelings. It would be too selfish, and she wasn’t that kind of person.
On top of all that, she was too scared of being rejected. Would they still be friends if she admitted she had feeling for him? But what if he felt the same way about her? What if he could wait for her to finish high school so she could join him on the East Coast and they could live out their love story? What if he was
The way he was holding her right this second, how he subtly smelled her hair, how he kissed it—were those things a best friend would do?
Austin released Sam from his embrace and she took a step back to look at him. What if he felt the same way? She had been waiting for a sign, but she’d never been sure.
“Austin, I…” Could she say those three words that she had been dying to say for months already?
Sam looked into his eyes, searching for the courage that she was lacking. She could feel a ball of fire grow in her stomach. She had the power to change everything in their relationship. She could either make it the best thing to ever happen to her, or she could destroy something beautiful.
Either way, tomorrow, Austin would be gone.
“I… I’ll miss you.”
“I know, Sam. I’ll miss you too,” Austin replied without any hesitation. “I’ll call you as soon as I get there, okay?”
Sam nodded, her eyes filling with tears again. This time, she wasn’t crying because Austin was leaving, but because she didn’t even have the courage to tell him how she felt. It was too hard.
She glanced at him, remembering everything about him that she loved so much. His brown hair was spiked and his glasses made his eyes look bigger, but she had always found that cute. Austin was a lot taller than she was, and she had told him so many times that he would have been amazing at basketball, but it wasn’t something he was into. His shirt was too big for him, which made him look a lot skinnier than he actually was. Even if he didn’t work out a lot, Austin still had quite a bit of muscle as he spent a lot of time on his parents’ orchards. He loved to work with his hands and it always made her heart beat faster when she’d watched him, sitting in a close spot, spying on his strong arms.
“I should go,” Austin whispered as he caressed Sam’s face, wiping the path made by a tear. “If you ever need anything, I’ll be a phone call away.”
Sam nodded, trying to stay strong. She wanted Austin to be proud of her, but she had such a hard time keeping her tears at bay. She had all these emotions inside of her that just wanted to spill out.
“Okay,” she finally whispered back, their eyes meeting one last time. She wished Austin could have seen a better version of her on his last day in Bluebell Valley, but that was something she couldn’t do. It was breaking her heart that he was leaving, even if he didn’t know how deep that cut was.
Austin smiled and something inside Sam lit up when she saw his perfect teeth. Maybe it would be okay. Maybe she
survive those next two years by herself.
“I’ll see you soon, Sam.”
She took a deep breath, trying to keep the next wave of tears far away. She looked at him as he turned away from her, walking to his blue truck parked on the other side of the street. His life was packed in the back of the truck and Sam wasn’t a part of it anymore. Austin wasn’t a boy anymore. He had turned into a man and his life called him far away from her.
The engine roared as he started the truck and she waved at him as he looked back one more time, smiling at her, before he drove out of town, out of her life.
“I love you,” she was finally able to whisper as she watched the truck disappear at the end of the street. She sat down on the sidewalk, the hole in her heart getting bigger and bigger with every second that she was far away from Austin, the love of her life.
Present Day ― Summer 2015
When Sam finally had a second to peek out the window, she noticed the sun was already rising. It was a new summer day in Bluebell Valley, and it was going to look exactly like the previous one.
Nothing here ever changes
, she thought. People left, people came, but it didn’t matter. They were all so predictable, never willing to get out of their comfort zone. Sam could even guess who her first customer at the bakery would be.
She had been up for an hour already, like every morning, to prepare the bread and pastries. The ovens were full, which gave her a second to sit down on the chair in the corner and take a break.
The back room was getting unbearably hot, so she grabbed a cold glass of water and sat in the front of the store, close to a window. From where she sat, she could hear the morning wind blow through the cracks of the old building, making its way in to cool her down.
Other than the cracking and the wind, the bakery was silent. Her mother was still sleeping upstairs and the town wasn’t awake yet, either. Sam had another good hour of waiting before her first customer would come in, so she decided to lie back in her chair and close her eyes for a few seconds.
How did I end up like this?
she thought. Every day, she tried to shut that part of her that was questioning her life choices. Why was she still in Bluebell Valley? Why couldn’t she just leave? She wasn’t happy here… but she simply couldn’t.
Ten years ago, she had been ready to leave. She was going to move to the East Coast with Austin. She didn’t hate Bluebell Valley back when she still had Austin by her side, but she was eager to live a fuller life outside of it. The East Coast seemed full of dreams, where real life would start. All Sam had wanted was to finish high school and move out of her house, but her plans had quickly changed when her best friend had stopped returning her calls and e-mails.
She and Austin were supposed to keep in touch, stay in contact. They were supposed to wait for each other, to start a new life. But Austin had forgotten about her. After only six months, Sam completely stopped getting any news from Austin. She had tried to talk to Austin’s parents, but they were in the dark too. It seemed Austin hadn’t only cut ties with Sam, but with everybody he knew in Bluebell Valley, too.
Nobody knew what was happening with him and Sam decided it was time to move on. She had found a new best friend, but she was still angry at Austin. How could he do something like that to her? Didn’t he care about her? After ten years, she wasn’t waiting for an answer anymore. She’d moved on with her life, but not the way she had wanted to.
When she finished high school, she still had that desire to leave Bluebell Valley behind her. She had been accepted to the University of Washington in Seattle, which had a great Psychology program. She was planning on starting a new life and getting out of a town that reminded her of Austin everywhere she looked. What she hadn’t planned for was her father passing away during her second year of college. Sam had to forget about her degree to help her mother.
Gemma was a very sweet woman who loved the bakery, but she didn’t know how to run it. She knew how to serve clients and bake, but that was it. Sam had to take care of everything else at only twenty years old. Lucky for her, she’d been around long enough to know how her father was running things and the transition had been a lot smoother than she’d imagined. But after that, Sam had never been able to leave again. She had tried to hire someone to run the bakery while she kept studying, but when her mother had heard about it, she almost had a heart attack.
“The bakery has been in the family for decades, Samantha. I won’t let anyone take it away from us, do you understand?”
Sam had felt powerless. She wanted to help her mother, but she also wanted it to be her choice, and it wasn’t. After a few months of fighting with her, Sam had resigned to stay in Bluebell Valley. Gemma couldn’t and wouldn’t understand her reasons for leaving.
Now, six years later, Sam was the one starting the ovens in the morning and closing the store at night while also taking care of their books and suppliers. It was a hard job, but it kept her brain busy enough all day long that she wasn’t consumed with thoughts of how stuck she was.
Sam opened her eyes as the familiar smell of warm bread reached her nose. She stood up, ready to keep working. As she got to the ovens and started pulling the bread out, she noticed her jar on top of a shelf on the back wall. She sighed as she dropped a loaf of bed in a basket.
After six years, she had forgotten her dream of being a psychologist. The one that had replaced it―and that kept her alive every day―was to visit Italy. She had been saving for years already, but on top of her own apartment to pay for and her old car that needed regular repairs, it was hard to even put a twenty dollar bill in the jar at the end of the month. Slowly, Sam would someday be able to afford jumping on a plane and leaving Bluebell behind her for two weeks.
Sam wanted to go to Italy because it was her grandmother's birth country. Her Italian blood was calling her, and it was stronger than anything else. Gemma had never wanted to visit her mother’s birth country, but Sam deeply wanted to. She craved their tasty food and exotic culture.
But that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. She didn’t have more than eighty dollars in that jar.
Sam grabbed the last loaf of bread out of the oven when she heard the front door open. She couldn’t see who it was, but it didn’t matter. She knew exactly who had just opened that door.
“Back here!” Sam called as a brunette’s head popped behind the door.
“Hey, Sam! How’s it going?” asked April, the only best friend Sam had left in this town.
“As usual,” she replied, grabbing the basket of loafs, moving to the front of the store. April followed her and sat down at a table close to Sam as she completed her morning tasks. “Anything new with you?”
“Nope,” April replied and they both giggled. This was their usual conversation and it would always be the same. “Actually, that’s not entirely true. You know who I ran into last night? Shawn. Do you remember him? He was a year older than us in high school. Apparently, he married a sexy lawyer from Seattle and lives there now.” She sighed, crossing her arms over her chest. “I wish I could find a sexy lawyer who would take me to Seattle. How do you even think he met this girl?”
“No idea. But who knows, maybe you’ll get sued and you’ll fall in love with the lawyer you hire,” Sam replied with a smile, placing the bread under the counter. She left the basket on the counter and turned around to make her and April a cup of coffee in the fancy new machine she had invested in a few years back. Looking back on it, this was the best purchase she had made in a long time.
When the two cups were ready, Sam grabbed them and met April at the table.
“There you go,” Sam said as she handed April the cup. She sat in front of her friend and sipped her first dose of caffeine of the morning. It was delicious. “Are you ready for the Robinsons’ wedding this weekend?” April ran the flower shop two stores down the road.
“Yes, I am―and it was about time. You can’t even imagine how many times I had to redo everything before they were satisfied. I’m glad their wedding is this weekend and I can move on with my life.”
Sam couldn’t help giggling at how annoyed April was. Slowly, her grumpy face turned back into a smile and she let out a small laugh too.
complicated. I would prefer arrangements for funerals, if it weren't for the fact that someone had to die,” she admitted.
“So you’re telling me it’s a great thing we don’t make any wedding cakes here?” Sam asked.
April and Sam spent a good twenty minutes talking about Bluebell Valley and its people, sharing stories they had heard or witnessed. They both lived in a small town, and like any other, gossip was a big part of everybody’s daily life. It wasn’t something Sam was exactly proud of, but it was the only way she had to know what was happening in town. And really, what else was there to talk about? The weather? After a while, there wasn’t much to say about that.
Sam was enjoying her second cup of coffee when April finally looked down at her watch.
“I should go soon.”
It was time to officially start their separate days, but if the weather was nice enough, they would meet again for lunch later.
Sam was so grateful for April. If it wasn’t for her, she didn’t know how she would have survived in this town. Bluebell Valley was her cage and April offered the kind of distraction she needed.
“I’ll come by later,” Sam promised. She had a lot of things to work on later when her mother would take over the front of the store, but escaping on a daily break with April was the second best part of her day after this one.
They both stood up and Sam hugged April tightly before she watched her leave.
“Thanks again for the coffee,” April said before closing the door behind her.
The coffee was a small price to pay for Sam to keep her sanity in this town.