"Austin! Austin! Austin!" the crowd cheered from the stands as the last football game of the season took place.
"I knew I shouldn't have come to this stupid game!" Sam yelled to Carter as she ran from the stands.
Austin looked up from the huddle to the cheering crowd. He could see Sam frantically trying to escape the stands. He knew he had to make a move fast, or he would lose her. "It's your turn to shine, man!" he yelled to his teammate on the bench.
Suddenly rain began to fall softly. People looked up to the sky in astonishment. It had been months since they had seen a drop of rain.
Sam made her way to the stairs as the rain began to fall harder. Austin was close behind trying to catch up to her. "Sam, wait!" he yelled. This startled her and she slipped on the first concrete step and fell down the entire flight of stairs. Austin ran to her side. Sam lay there completely unable to move.
The piercing sound of sirens filled the stadium. A crowd gathered around Sam, Austin and the paramedics. Sam was put on a stretcher and into the ambulance. Without hesitation, Austin followed. "We can't have you in here", said one of the paramedics to Austin. He protested, but there was no use. The doors closed and Sam was rushed away. Still in his full uniform, Austin hopped in his car and followed.
"Where is Sam Martin!?" Austin shouted as he burst into the ICU. "Sir we need you to lower your voice and calm down", responded an annoyed nurse. He was taken to a cold and bare waiting room where he began to pace for what felt like days. He couldn't think about anything but the image of Sam lying completely unresponsive at the foot of the stairs.
Finally, a doctor came into the waiting room with an update for Austin.
"Son, I understand you were there when she fell. It's important for you to remember that there was nothing you could have done to prevent this."
"What are you telling me? Is she okay? Where is she!?"
"She's in a coma. It's a miracle the she survived her head injury."
Austin sat down with his head between his knees. He felt like he was going to pass out.
"You should go home and get some rest", said the doctor staring Austin's football uniform.
Austin agreed but remained in the waiting room after the doctor left. He just wanted to see her and refused to leave until he could.
He awoke the next morning sitting in the same chair with a stiff neck. He immediately got up and walked out to the nurses' station. He approached the same nurse that had scolded him the night before. She smiled at him with concern in her eyes. "I'll take you to her", she said.
Austin immediately teared up when he laid eyes on her. She was hooked up to so many machines and was wrapped up like a mummy. He couldn't even recognize her.
He slowly approached her. "I'm so sorry… for everything", he whispered in her ear and then broke down. The nurse ran to his side. "The only thing you can do for her right now is be strong." Austin continued to sob. "Do you hear me?" the nurse asked forcefully as she grabbed him by his shoulders. He nodded and agreed to go home and shower, eat and rest before he returned.
He couldn't sleep. He just stared at the wall thinking about how everything would be different if he would have just stood up for her at the pep rally. He cared about her so much and wished more than anything that he could go back in time and redo that day. He finally fell asleep and dreamt of her. She was in her homecoming dress and mask again. This time he got the chance to remove her mask and reveal her true identity as he had wanted to that night. He leaned into kiss her when he awoke to thunder and more rain. He remembered what Sam had said to him just before she fell: "Waiting for you is like waiting for rain in this drought. Useless and disappointing." Her hurtful words gave him hope as he listened to the rain come down harder and harder.
He cheerfully went to see her every day, but days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and now a whole year had gone by since Sam had slipped into a coma. He started to get busier with his freshman year of college and was lucky to visit her once a month. He was thousands of miles away at Princeton, but never a day went by when he didn't think of her. He couldn't focus on his studies and he had completely isolated himself. He was absolutely miserable. This was supposed to be the best time of his life, but he was spending it dwelling on Sam. He needed to do something or things were going to get even worse. He decided to force himself to forget about her the best he could in order to move on with his life.
A few months had gone by since he had made the decision to forget Sam, and he was starting to feel much better. His grades were great, he went out regularly with classmates, and he had even started dating a new girl. Everything was looking up until Halloween night his sophomore year. He was at a party and he saw a girl wearing the same mask Sam had worn at the homecoming dance. He ran out of the room and got on the first flight to L.A. He walked into the room where Sam was only to find an empty bed. He panicked, and the nurse who had calmed him before came to his aid. "She woke up two months ago"', she said as she looked at Austin with the same concerned eyes she had right after Sam's fall. So many thoughts were running through his head. He had to find her. He went to her father's diner only to find that it had been boarded up. He went to the house where she had lived with her stepmother and stepsisters, and there was a new family living there. It was useless. He went back to Princeton and tried to go back to his regular life the best he could.
It was now the beginning of Austin's junior year, and he was doing pretty good. His grades were decent and he had a pretty good social life. A part of him would always be missing because of Sam, but he had just learned to accept that. Halloween was approaching and he was dreading it because of what he had discovered on Halloween the previous year. His friends egged him on to go out with them but he refused and stayed in for the night. He was flipping through channels when it started to pour out of nowhere. He quickly got up to roll up his car windows. He sat in his car for a moment and listened to the rain. It made him think of Sam. He wished more than anything that he could see her again. The pouring rain turned into a light sprinkle. Austin started to get up to go back inside when he saw a figure in white in his rearview mirror. It was a woman wearing a white ball gown and a white masquerade mask. It was her. He couldn't believe his eyes. He slowly walked towards her.
"Waiting for you isn't so useless after all", Sam said as she reached up to touch his face.