Sam leaned against his car, deep in thought. He had never been rejected by a woman. At least, not by one who hadn't been pushed into it. There had been plenty of women, like Cindy, who had gotten mad at him. They had pouted and stamped their feet and hurled abuse but they had always returned to his bed eventually, leaving him to finish things in the end. And his preferred way of ending a relationship? Withdraw. Go a little monosyllabic. Seem preoccupied. They eventually got the message and backed off. On occasion, he had even been known to leave the country rather than have an uncomfortable conversation.
He had never felt like withdrawing from Grace. He had tried after that first time they had slept together, but her kind blue eyes and buttoned up outfits had well and truly snared him, from the first time he had seen her in Shannon's bar. But she had left him high and dry. She'd done it three times now, he realised. Surely it was time to give up and admit defeat?
He had nearly stopped breathing when he had seen that suited up asshole kneeling at her feet. Wasn't he the dude who had broken her heart by banging his colleague? Why on earth would she rather be with him? He really didn't understand her. He had had the best sex of his life with Grace, and he had thought she felt the same, but then she had turned round and told him it wasn't working. Twice. Ok, she probably wanted a little more than a fuck buddy, but hadn't embarrassing himself in front of everyone in her local bar been enough for her? All the Ivy League degrees in the world weren't going to help him work this one out.
He watched JD walking towards him, swinging his kit bag, looking like a completely different boy. He was smiling from ear to ear, a shit eating grin that warmed Sam's heart and reminded him of his Dad.
"I won, bro!" JD shouted across the parking lot, not being able to wait until he got nearer. "Broke the team record."
"That's awesome!" Sam yelled back.
When JD finally reached him, Sam gave his brother a big crushing hug not caring if it embarrassed him. "The next Michael Phelps," he said proudly, mussing his hair. "Come on, let's go home. Shannon had her baby and she wants to Skype us."
Shannon was propped up in bed, laptop balanced on her knee, a tightly wrapped bundle tucked in her arms. She had held the baby's face up to the camera earlier, which had made JD recoil in horror. Sam had suppressed his laughter and declared it to be the cutest thing he had ever seen.
She was glowing with happiness. Sam tentatively asked about the boyfriend.
"He was there the whole time," she said happily. "He's had the soppiest look on his face ever since. Everything's going to be OK, Sam. I'm so happy."
"That's great!" he said, trying to keep the cynicism out of his voice. "You're happy, JD's happy…" and his voice trailed off.
"What about you, Sam?" Shannon asked gently.
"I'm OK," he said.
He had a sudden urge to clean the filth off his macbook screen.
"How's Grace?" Shannon asked.
"OK," he muttered.
"Still seeing that guy?"
"I don't know. He proposed to her and she said no."
"Really?" Shannon shrieked a little too loudly, her image wobbling as her laptop shook under her excited legs.
"Don't get excited. She doesn't want me."
"Don't be ridiculous," Shannon said, leaning forward towards the camera and pointing into it. "You are a screwed up fuck, but you are clever and gorgeous and I've seen the way she looks at you."
JD's voice came from behind Sam. "Are you talking about Miss Gilbert?"
"Oh fuck," they both heard Shannon say.
"Language!" Sam said piously and JD giggled.
"You're talking about Miss Gilbert, aren't you?" JD persisted. "My brother has the hots for my teacher. Gross!"
Sam put his head in his hands. "Can we have this conversation some other time?"
"No!" Shannon yelled into her laptop. "You have to do something, Sam!"
"No you haven't. You've … how can I put this? You've enjoyed physical relations with her but you need to move beyond that."
"Oh Jesus," JD moaned behind him.
Sam turned to him and asked, "Why are you still here?"
"It's gross but it's interesting."
The next day at school, JD was looking at Grace very strangely. Normally he would be doing anything instead of paying attention; looking out of the window, playing with a pen, picking an eraser apart, trying to get someone else's attention, but today he was staring straight at her is if he was hanging on her every word. The strange thing was, when she asked him a question, it was clear he hadn't been listening.
"Are you all right?" she asked him at the end of class, and he blushed.
"Shannon had her baby yesterday," he said in a rush.
"That's great news!" Grace said, pondering how different she would feel if it really had been Sam's.
JD looked at his feet. "I'm worried about Sam. There's something wrong with him."
"What?" Grace couldn't help blurting out, panic unexpectedly shooting through her chest.
"He's sad all the time. He keeps talking about going away. I'm frightened he's going to leave me."
Grace just stared at JD, her brain and mouth not working.
"I've got swim practice," he declared suddenly, and walked out of the room, leaving Grace rooted to the spot.
JD walked down the corridor smiling to himself. He'd gotten the response he was hoping for.