1. Racing From Love Ch. 07-09byinspirixis1©
Sam couldn't believe what an asshole he was. After calming down enough to drive he'd gotten back in his car and driven back to LA, thank god he hadn't had to face his parents.
He had no interest in going back to Hortencia, but that situation took care of itself. He'd started drinking at night to escape the memory of that day and she quickly caught on that he was a sinking ship and bailed on him. He was barely managing to show up to half of his summer classes. His swimming had gone to shit.
All he could think of was Brian fucking Emma and it was driving him crazy. He could see them in all sorts of places in all sorts of positions. Him ramming his big black cock into her, and her panting and moaning out his name. When he woke up it was the first thing he thought about, when he was swimming he saw them fucking, when he was in class he saw them fucking, when he was eating he saw them fucking, the only way to escape it was by getting drunk. He took to dialing her number from public phones and hanging up when she answered, then she changed her number. It was an awful summer.
Somehow he managed to pass his classes and summer turned into fall. He hadn't spoken to her since the incident at the house. It had been 4 months. He hated himself.
One Sunday night he was woken by his phone ringing. It was 11 pm and his head was spinning. It was his dad, Emma was missing. He sat up in bed, suddenly sober. She had gone to the Sierras that weekend to trail run and camp but she hadn't come back. Search and rescue had found her car at a trailhead but it was too dark out to start looking for her.
Sam knew the trailhead, they'd backpacked out of there a couple of times when they were younger. He knew where she was headed. Damn her!
He rifled through his closet looking for his camping stuff, found a heat sheet, water purifier, headlamp and first aid kit and stuffed them in a camelpack backpack. He threw his running shoes and some clean clothes in a bag, flipped through the folder of maps he kept in his bookshelves until he found the right one, and grabbed some granola bars from the kitchen on his way out.
He was in the car in less than 5 minutes and at the trailhead by 3:30 am. He had driven insanely fast, he didn't want to think about the kind of danger he'd put himself and the other motorists in. He'd only stopped once, when he'd realized that he needed a walkie talkie, luckily the gas station had a hunting section where he found one. The whole way all he could think about was Emma hurt out in the wilderness.
A knot of nervousness twisted in his gut and made him feel nauseous. What if she had died? He couldn't let himself even consider that, even though he knew it was a possibility. People die up in the mountains all the time.
He saw her old beat up Subaru at the trailhead and knew that he was in the right place. He put on his running shoes and threw the camelpack on. He wrote a note and stuck it under the windshield wiper with the coordinates of where he was going, stuffed a couple of the granola bars down his throat and washed them down with an entire bottle of Gatorade that he'd picked up from the gas station.
Shit, this was going to hurt. He wasn't in very good shape and hadn't been up in the mountains in ages, the altitude was going to be tough. It was cold, he hoped that she wasn't without shelter or proper gear, she'd probably be hypothermic if she was. That thought sent a ripple of nausea through his body.
He was scared, the fear in his gut threw waves of panic over his body and made him feel weak. He had to keep telling himself to calm down. He wanted to find her, but at the same time dreaded what he would find. He'd never be able to forgive himself if she was dead.
There was a half a moon so he opted to leave the headlamp behind, the sun would come up soon anyway. He started jogging, hoping he knew the way that she'd gone. She told him once before that she'd been back to the little lake with the cave on one of her runs because she didn't have to worry if it started raining in the night, of course she didn't carry a tent when she did her overnight trail runs. He just hoped that she went the same way that they'd gone when he'd been with her.
He paced himself, resisting the urge to run too fast, knowing that he might have anywhere up to thirteen miles to cover. He could feel his heart beating in his throat. Fear pumped through his veins and he could hardly feel his legs. He called out her name every couple of minutes not really expecting to hear anything for the first ten miles, where there was an established trail. It was a remote location but it was a well used trail, hikers would have found her if she'd hurt herself on the trail. She must have fallen on the hike down to the lake, it was steep and unstable in parts.
The trail was steep and rocky and his legs soon tired, but he forced himself on in desperation. His lungs were burnt from exertion, each breath its own painful dagger, and yet he pushed himself on, driven by the hope that she might be around the next turn, or over the next hill.
Finally he arrived at the place where she would have turned off to go down to the lake. He stopped and tried to catch his breath, the fire in his lungs causing him to cough in fits. His legs were aching and his stomach was filled with bile. He forced himself to focus, examining the ground for a few hundred meters.
The sky was a faint blue-grey in anticipation of the sunrise, it had taken him 2 hours to get there. Finally he saw it, footsteps where she'd left the trail. She was so light she didn't leave much of an impression in the sandy soil, but it was enough for him. His heart picked up, she had to be close now.
He followed her footsteps for as long as he could but they were light and he wasn't skilled at tracking. He'd just have to take the most logical way he could see and hope that was the way Emma had gone. He picked his way through the woods, calling her name continuously, stopping every couple of hundred yards to listen for her. Nothing so far.
He was getting close to the lake. God he hoped she was down in the cave, it would have retained some of her warmth and kept the wind down. He jogged the last couple of hundred yards to the lake.
It was beautiful down there, there sun was just rising and the big sugar pines and craggy peaks of the sierras were reflected perfectly on the surface. He called out her name, it echoed slightly and some birds took off in fright. No response. Please let her be in the cave, he thought.
He ran around the little lake to where he could see the waterfall, he knew the cave was back there somewhere. It didn't take him long to see it, and thank god, there she was.
She wasn't moving. Please let her be alive, he thought as he approached her. She was balled up in the fetal position with her arms and legs inside the down vest that she was wearing. He recognized it, it was his old one from high school. He leaned over and touched her neck, 'Em?' He felt her pulse, thank god she was alive.
He didn't know what was wrong with her but she didn't look good. Her face was pale and her curly hair was matted with dirt and leaves. Her skin felt cold and clammy and there was a thin line of crusty salt at her hair line.
'Emma, wake up,' he tried to roll her over on her back and she opened her eyes and cried out in pain.
Her eyes were blood shot. He didn't know how he was hurting her. She started shaking, it could be from pain or the cold, he wasn't sure.
'Emma, where does it hurt? Tell me where it hurts,' he begged.
She wasn't coherent, she couldn't get any words out. He put his hand on her forehead, she was burning up. He undid the vest and could see what he hoped the major problem was. She'd broken her left leg. It was a compound fracture of the tibia or fibula, he couldn't tell which. It had broken so badly that it punctured the skin. She had tried to splint it. She must have fallen hard to break it this bad, he wondered if anything else was broken.
'S...ss..ss..Sam,' she was stuttering his name.
'Don't worry Em, I'm here, I'll take care of you,' he tried to soothe her even as his own heart was pounding in his chest.
He scanned the rest of her body looking for other injuries. Her left arm was tucked under her shirt. He carefully lifted up her shirt and saw that she'd shoved her forearm under her bra so that her hand was resting on her chest. Shit, she must have broken it, too. He gently felt from her forearm up her biceps and to her shoulder where she let out a wimper. It must be her collar bone.
God, she was so tiny. Was it just him or did she look emaciated? Emma had always been lean, but not skinny like this.
There was no way he could carry her out of here, her injuries were too severe for that to be an option. For all he knew she might have internal organ injuries too.
He was scared but he knew he had to stay calm. He covered her with the heat sheet and tried to make her drink some water, it mostly ran from the sides of her mouth. Her lips were cracked and there was dried blood on them.
'Emma, I'm going to go call search and rescue and see if we can get a helicopter over here.' He was pacing his words to keep the panic from his voice.
He didn't see any sign that she had registered what he had said, she was looking at him but her eyes were glazed over. He left the cave, turned the radio to the emergency channel, and called in to search and rescue. He gave them their coordinates and asked for a helicopter. After a brief pause they confirmed the coordinates and told him that the extraction could only be done over the water at that location.
'Do you have a stretcher that can float?' he asked.
'Okay, what's your ETA?'
'Okay, see you in 12 minutes.'
He was relieved but he knew the worst was yet to come. Moving Emma was not going to be pretty, it was going to be excruciatingly painful for her.
Back in the cave he took out the first aid kit and went to work stabilizing the injuries that he could see. Emma whimpered quietly. He felt sick to his stomach knowing that she had been waiting for him in such pain for so long. He could see streaks of dried blood and dirt on the rocks from where she must have dragged herself into the cave.
When he had done all he could to stabilize her leg and collar bone he poured some water on a piece of gauze and washed her face. She was passing in and out of semi-consciousness, one second she seemed to focus on him and then the next she was out of it.
Finally Sam heard the helicopter. He took off his shoes and socks and picked Emma up as carefully as he could, cradling her right side to his body so as to avoid her broken bones. She was so light, she couldn't have weighed more than 80 pounds. She was moaning from the pain.
When Sam emerged from the cave the helicopter was already hovering over the lake, the pilot saw him and started to lower the stretcher. Once the stretcher was resting on the surface of the lake Sam started walking into the water towards it. The water was cold but luckily the bottom was sandy so it was relatively easy to keep his balance.
The turbulence from the helicopter blades beat down on them and Emma shrank into his chest, he could feel her sobbing against him. The water was creeping up around his ribcage and he lifted his arms to try and hold her out of the water. He gently set her on the stretcher and strapped her in. She was crying and babbling his name over and over again.
He leaned in beside her ear, 'I love you Emma. I'll see you at the hospital.'
He was sure that she didn't understand what was happening, she was looking at him, but she was babbling as if her brain wasn't working properly. He stepped away from the stretcher and gave the pilot the thumbs up. He watched as the stretcher slowly ascended into the helicopter and the EMT inside pulled her inside, safe. The pilot waved, Sam waved back, and they were gone.
Sam walked back out of the lake and sat down on the bank, exhausted. He started crying, big sobs that wracked his chest. He knew that he had done everything he could but he felt somehow responsible for what had happened to her. He sat there like that until he became aware that he was thirsty.
He pulled himself together, there was only one way out of here for him, he was going to have to walk out, and the sooner the better. He went back up to the cave and put his shoes and socks back on, stuffed the first aid kit and heat sheet back in his camelpack and threw it on his back. He downed the rest of his water and used the purifier to sterilize some more of the lake water.
He walked the 3 miles up to the trail. He looked for the place where Emma had fallen along the way, but couldn't find anything. Once he was up at the trail he started jogging. He was really tired, he wasn't used to running like this.
It took him 4 hours to walk and jog out of the wilderness. His legs were heavy and his feet ached with blisters. He'd met some of the search and rescue volunteers along the way but all they could offer him was food and water, they were in a designated wilderness area, and there were no wheels allowed. When he emerged at the trailhead his dad was waiting for him. Sam was relieved that he wouldn't have to drive. His dad hugged him for a long time, he had tears in his eyes.
Sam wanted to sleep on the drive to Sacramento, where Emma had been airlifted, but he had to know what was wrong with her.
'Why is she so thin?' he asked his dad.
His dad shifted uncomfortably, 'Sam, Emma's had a really tough time lately, she's been struggling with depression and anxiety. She's had problems eating.'
Sam let his head fall back onto the head rest and closed his eyes, 'Why didn't you tell me?'
'She asked us not to.'
He couldn't help it, he started crying again, big fat tears leaked out of his eyes and ran down his face, streaking through the dirt and crusted sweat. His heart was so heavy. He turned his head away from his dad.
'Son, she didn't want to worry you, she knows you have problems of your own.'
Sam just nodded. He felt terrible, he was pretty sure he had something to do with Emma's depression. God he'd been such an ass, how could he have excommunicated her like that with no explanation. And then the incident at the house at the beginning of the summer, what had he been thinking? He'd spent the past year feeling sorry for himself without stopping to think what he might be doing to Emma.
She might die. She might die and he would never be able to apologize to her, to make it up to her. She was burning up with a fever when she'd been lifted from the lake, her dying was a real possibility. He was so exhausted but he couldn't sleep.
He watched blankly as the pine trees turned to oak and madrone and then the rolling golden brown hills gave way to the flats of the Central Valley.
Finally they made it to the hospital and found his mom in the waiting room. Emma was being prepped for surgery, they'd gotten her fever under control and rehydrated her. She had a shattered fibula, fractured tibia, 3 cracked ribs and a broken collar bone, but amazingly all of her internal organs were fine. She was going to be okay. Sam was relieved beyond belief, finally his exhaustion took over him. He had to sleep, his dad checked him into a motel nearby and he fell into a long deep sleep.
Emma had just been given the bad news. She would be in a cast for six weeks and remain on crutches for at least four more weeks after that. No running for at least four or five months. Because she had also fractured her collarbone she wouldn't be able to use crutches for at least four weeks, so she'd be in a wheelchair for the next month. To top it all off she wouldn't be able to take her anti depressants while she remained on the pain killers for the next couple of weeks.
To say she was feeling low would have been the understatement of the year. She'd seen her family that morning. Sam had stood quietly beside the bed hardly looking at her the entire time. Her mom had explained how he had driven from LA in the middle of the night and run the whole way out to the lake in the dark to find her.
She felt like such a dick. She knew Sam didn't want to be here, he wanted to be back in LA in his own life, with his girlfriend. She couldn't believe how dumb she'd been to go on that run by herself, and she felt guilty for dragging him up there to rescue her. When she saw him again she would tell him to go back to school, back to his life.
She didn't have to wait long, that afternoon he came in to see her, she was surprised that he didn't have their parents with him.
'Where are mom and dad?'
'They're at the hotel, I wanted to talk to you alone,' he was speaking quietly.
She knew what he was about to say so she made it easy for him, 'I know Sam, don't worry about it, you should go back to LA now, I understand,' she was sitting up in the bed looking down into her lap.
He sat on the bed. 'No Emma, I want to stay here and help you to get better.'
She looked up, surprised. 'Why?'
His brow was wrinkled, his blue eyes filled with regret. 'Emma, I... well I'm sorry for being such an ass lately.'
She was silent, not knowing how to respond.
'I don't know what my problem was. I've been confused. Let me make it up to you, let me take care of you.' His eyes were begging her.
Emma was confused, she hadn't been expecting this. Of course she wanted him to stay, but she was afraid, what if he rejected her again after she got used to him being around.
'I don't know Sam, don't you want to get back to your life in LA?'
'There's nothing for me down there Em, nothing more important than you.'
She scanned his face for some hint of sarcasm, but found none. There were purple rings under his eyes and he sat perfectly still waiting for her to say something. He was wearing clothes but Emma had the distinct impression that he was naked.
'What about school and swimming, and your girlfriend?' she asked.
'I can take some classes remotely and just go down for the exams. I'm sure I can work something out with my coach for swimming, and I don't have a girlfriend, I haven't for a while.' His head dropped when he made that last comment.
Emma's mood improved dramatically with that revelation, but she was still wary. She wanted to say yes but she also wanted to protect herself from him, she knew he could crush her heart so easily.
'Sam, can I ask, why the sudden change in heart? I mean, I thought you hated me.'
That comment hit him hard. He wasn't sure how much he should tell her, if she was depressed and he told her that he was in love with her it might just make things worse. Right now what she needed was a steady dependable brother.
'I've never hated you, I was just being selfish. I wanted to make my own way in life and I thought that it would be best if I were on my own. I'm sorry Em, I never thought about how it must have seemed from your point of view.'
He was ashamed of himself, he'd been such a selfish asshole. He knew that he would do whatever it took to make it up to her. If it meant driving her to dates with Brian he knew that he would do it. He'd do anything for Emma.
'When I thought I might lose you I realized that I have to have you in my life Emma, let me stay and take care of you,' he begged.
There was a pause. 'Okay,' she seemed tentative.
'Okay?' he was hopeful.
She nodded, 'Okay'.
Sam was happier than he had been in a long time, he felt optimistic. He would win her over eventually. He needed to regain her trust, help her to become healthy again, and then he would tell her.
They'd taken her home from the hospital the day after she had agreed to let him stay. His parents seemed to be happy enough about him staying and went back to their jobs without too much bother. That was the good thing about have two career professionals for parents, they pretty much stayed out of your business.