Chapter 12

The next day Sam called Jackie and spoke to her,

“Hi Jackie, this is Sam. How are you?”

“I’m fine. So how is everything?” she was shocked that he was calling her and wondered what it was about.

“Jackie, did Ashley say anything to you?”

“About what?”

“About the conversation that I or we had.”

“No….She didn’t say anything. Ah….But I remember her saying she wanted to tell me something and later she said she forgot what it was about. But anyways what is going on? She was unusually quieter this morning too. Is everything okay?”

“Jackie, do you believe in love at first sight?”

“Yes, I do Jason. Sorry…Sam.” She held her forehead for the slip of her tongue.

“I feel ridiculous talking to you about this, since we have just met once. But I needed to talk to someone, who knows Ashley well. So….”

“That’s okay Sam. We all need someone to listen to us sometimes.”

“I drove Ashley to a park yesterday and told her how I feel about her. Even though I have deeper feelings for her, I wanted to start off as being friends. I just want her to be normal around me as she is with Peter. Just because I had asked her if I could take her out for dinner, she has been trying to escape my attention for the past two months. I never expected to kiss her at the restaurant. It’s just that I have been trying hard to get hold of her and when I saw her there, I just wanted to make sure it was real. I am just clueless as to how to handle this Jackie. So I need your help.”

“Sam, first stop trying so hard. She is like a butterfly, the more harder you try the further she is going to go away from you, but wait patiently she might come to you when you least expect it. But as I’ve told you before, she has issues from her past that she has to get over with. So just start off trying to a friend to her. See what you can do to help her in her studies or anything else. Just start afresh. As long as you have lots of patience, I know one day you can find your way into her heart without her knowing. First you have to build her trust in you. No one has been there for her since she was eight. She has managed to survive and deal with all the circumstances on her own. But she badly needs someone who would love her unconditionally. So all I would say is don’t give up yet.” Jackie said assuring him.

“Okay. I will. But don’t tell her that I called you. I know I am putting you in an awkward situation. But having your friend’s welfare in mind I want you to help me.”

“Okay Sam. Let’s make a pact. As long as you promise me that you will never hurt her, I promise you that I will help you because I can understand how you feel.”

“Thanks Jackie. I promise you I would not do anything to hurt her.”

“Okay see you around. Call me if you need anything.”

“Hey Jackie, actually I remembered that Ashley’s birthday is coming up in a few weeks. I want to do something special for her. So I want to take up the help that you offered.”

“That was too quick buddy. Okay tell me what you have in mind.”

“I want to take her out for dinner and I want you to come along.”

“Okay anyway she wanted to meet my boyfriend too so that would be a perfect time for their introduction as well. Let me know what you have planned.”

“I will call you up again and tell you the details. I need to go. Thanks in advance for your help.”

Jackie kept the phone smiling and thinking to herself “Love makes you do crazy stuff I guess”.
Sam seemed to be a nice guy and hoped that he would be the one to break open Ashley’s brick wall.

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Chapter 11

“Jackie, come on spill the beans.”

“I’ve been waiting to tell you this for the past two days, but…..”

“Jackie, enough come on what is it about?”

“Hey there is this guy Jason, he is my batch mate. He is kind of cool. Has more tattoos that me! But I and he have been going out for the past one month. He is a really sweet guy; opposite of me in many ways. He is quiet and calm and you know how I am. I think I am in love with him.”

“What? In love with him? Jackie….how long have you known him?”

“For the past two months. We started hanging out with each other initially and have been serious for the past one month.”

“Isn’t it too early to come to a conclusion?” For the second time in a day she was asking the same question, just clueless as to how people assume they are in love when they have known each other for a very little time.

“I think it was love at first sight for me, but I haven’t said anything about my feelings to him yet. I am in no hurry.”

“Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“You are so pessimistic about love. I am not blaming you for that. But I was sure you would not understand. But I had to share it with someone, who else than you. So………..”

“So………..When can I meet him?” She tickled her.

“Yes. I really really want you to meet him. I’ll set a date and let you know.”

“Okay. That sounds great.”

“What were you going to tell me about?”

“I…I forgot what I was going to say? I’m thrilled for you and I pray everything works out well.”

She didn’t want to quell Jackie’s joy when she had just stamped someone else’s feelings for her.
Later Ashley asked her all the details about how they met and everything and she could see Jackie’s face just brighten up when she spoke about him.Though Ashley was happy for Jackie and enjoyed her dramatic description of the incidents leading her and Jason together, one part of her wanted to warn Jackie about not getting too attached with him.
Ashley felt Jackie was right about her being pessimistic about love. But is it my fault, she wondered. Most of the homes that she had been in, she had witness two adults living together in misery for all the wrong reasons and blaming each other for all the short comings in their life. Her mom and dad’s life together was no fairy tale either and she knew that stories about “love at first sight” and “happily ever after” were only that -stories.

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Chapter 10

Peter had become anxious when he hadn’t seen Ashley for a long time.

“Hey where have you been? I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Couldn’t you call me and let me know that you would be late.”

“Sorry Peter, I just had to go somewhere urgently. So what did they teach today? Can you teach me this evening?”
“Sure we can go over it. But are you okay? You look pale.”
“I’m fine. Just a bit tired and my head hurts.”
“You wait here. I will get you some coffee.” Peter walked fast towards the cafeteria.

Ashley watched him with admiration. If only people could see him for who he was, beneath his glasses and nerdy looks; he was the sweetest soul she thought.

Sam had missed an important meeting that morning and his whole schedule had been thrown off. Being a Monday he was swamped with emails and phone calls and was busy the whole day. But now and then his thoughts wandered off to Ashley and he wondered what she must have gone through without both her parents around. He felt pity, as well as an overwhelming need to take care of her and wished she would trust him.

It was almost 7pm when Ashley had finished her lessons with Peter. As she walked out she noticed the lights were still on in Sam’s room. She wanted to go in and ask him if he needed coffee, but decided against it and walked by his room.Sam saw him them through his window and called out.

“Aren’t you guys late? Do you want me to drop you?” Sam asked as they walked by his window.

“No” they answered unanimously, looked at each other and giggled.

“We are good. Thanks. Good Night.” Peter said completing the sentence and pulled Ashley’s hands to get her moving.
“Good Night.” Sam watched them go and wished he was the one holding her hands.

When Ashley walked into the home, dinner time was already over. But Jackie had saved a plate of food for her.

“What happened? I was so worried. Couldn’t you at least call?”

“Sorry Jackie. I had a lot of work to cover today. I was with Peter only.”

“Okay. Wash your hands and come and eat. The food is already cold.”

Ashley sat down with her food and wondered how within three months she already had two friends who worried about her and one more wanting to be her friend.

Life had turned around for the best in the past three months. How many times she had cried herself to sleep wishing that she would not wake up to see a new day. How many times she had fought with God for putting her in such situations where she was dependent on others for everything. How many times she had been desperate for love, for a tender hand to touch her and say everything would be okay. But now being needed, taken care and worried about felt wonderful and she felt grateful for her friends. She looked at Jackie for a long time and smiled.

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?” Jackie squirmed in her seat.
“Thanks for what?”
“For being a friend. Without you this place would have been miserable for me.”
“Oh come on, don’t get too sentimental. Eat now.” She forced Ashley to finish up.
“Ashley, after you wash up. I need to talk to you.”
“Even I need to talk to you Jackie. You are not going away anywhere? Are you?” she asked her apprehensively because whenever she became close to someone either she had to move or they moved away to another place. That was one of the reasons that Ashley never tried to make friends.
“No” she smiled shyly.
“Jackie, are you blushing? Now I don’t care about washing up. I’m all ears for you. Tell me.”

Chapter 9

Sam was miserable the entire weekend. With his previous girlfriends, he had never analyzed his actions too much and was always in control of the situations. But here, he thought about his every move a thousand times. He wondered how she would respond when she saw him on Monday. He didn’t want to scare her away by moving too fast nor stay further away just watching her in agony.

“What was the thing that Jackie had mentioned about her being sensitive about men? Had someone hurt her in the past?” He wondered.

He wanted to know more about her, but felt stuck when the girl he wanted to talk was never alone and ran a thousand miles on hearing his voice.

“Why in the world am I drawn to her? I feel clueless, when it comes to her.” He thought and cursed himself. But he knew he couldn’t stop what he was feeling for her even if he wanted to.

After spending two agonizing days Sam decided that he needed to talk to her and let her know how he felt about her. He waited near the bus stop in his car where she usually got down; hoping Peter would not come along with her as well.

She got down from the bus at 8:45 am looking fresh as a flower whereas he looked as if he hadn’t slept for two days with dark circles under his eyes.
He honked his car and got her attention and opened the passenger door for her.

“Hi Ashley, Get in.”

Ashley had never expected to see him here and she was taken aback when he had asked her to get in. She got into the car nervously and closed the door gently wondering why on earth he was doing this to her. The radio was playing a song by Sheryl Crowe which she loved but she couldn’t relax.

“I think the door is not closed properly.” He leaned over her side to close it with a big thud. She could smell his after shave cologne and his brown hair though neatly combed was wet with water dripping on his blue collared shirt.

“Have you buckled up? Okay let’s go.” He turned to her side and looked at her. She sure seemed very uneasy.

“Ashley, I need to talk to you. You always walk away from me when I’m around. So I thought I needed to do this. Get you buckled up so that you won’t escape from me.” He chuckled looking at her. Ashley’s face had become red. She was mad and tense at the same time.

“If only he was not the institute head I could have just walk out.” She thought to herself.

Then he took out his phone and called the receptionist.
“Good Morning Ms.Peggy. This is Sam. I am running late today. So if anyone is looking for me tell them that I’ll be there around 10 am.”
Every passing second was making Ashley wonder if he could just finish off what he had to say and release her soon. But Sam seemed to take his time and he looked as if he was in no hurry. He was making small talks to her and it annoyed her even more.

“Did you have your breakfast Ashley?”
“Yes” she nodded looking outside window.

He drove her to a park nearby and parked the car. Ashley’s hands had become cold because she couldn’t think of what he wanted to say to her.

“Ashley I am not going to apologize for the kiss. Ever since the day you walked into my office I haven’t been able to get you out of my head. I have tried my best to go out of the way to talk to you but you seem to go further away from me every time I’m around. I really like you a lot and wish we could be friends and not be awkward around each other. Can you give me a chance to prove that I’m not like other men who might have hurt you before?”
Ashley turned towards him and looked at him with a distress in his eyes.

“Who told you that?”
“I’m just assuming; you are not like the other girls; you run away from all the guys and hardly take an effort to talk to any of them there. So I was just thinking that something would have happened to you in your past. Am I right?”

He could see tears waiting in her eyes ready to start flowing any moment. She composed herself and spoke.

“Can you please leave me alone Sam? Please find someone more interesting. There are so many women out there who are fighting for your attention; give them a chance. I’m not ready for a relationship of any kind. All I want to do is make use of this opportunity that I have been given and make something out of my life. My life has been at the mercy of the government and all the foster care people. Finally I’ve been given an opportunity to be who I want to be. I don’t have anything to offer you or to anyone else. I’m flattered that you have even noticed me. So please Sam, save us both the misery and don’t make too much of that one kiss. For you a hundred women would come at the snap of your finger. So please leave me alone.” She said with anger and not caring any more to stop the tears that were flowing down her cheeks.

“Ashley I am not interest in other women. I want you. I promise I won’t distract you from your course. Can’t we be friends? You know how many times I picked up my phone to call you; but I knew you would not talk to me. The heart chooses whom to love; we think we have a choice but actually we don’t. From the first day that I met you I felt a connection with you which I haven’t felt with anyone else. I chose to respond to it and I will not give up just yet.” He sighed and looked at her.

“Sam. Maybe you can’t choose how you feel about me but you can at least choose to understand that I am not ready for any relationships. Plus you hardly know anything about me and I don’t believe in fantasies anymore. I respect you and the work that you do. After many years I have found some peace here. Please don’t mess up things for me. I have nowhere or nobody to turn to if I don’t make it out of here. So please Sam, understand.” She sobbed uncontrollably now covering her face with both her hands.

“I am trying to Ashley. I want to understand you. I want to be there for you when you need anything; to protect you and to take care of you. Just don’t run away from me is all that I ask you. You are doing great in your course so far. I am already making arrangement for the best companies to come out to our institute at the end of the year. So you will definitely get a job by the end of the course. Look at me Ashley.” He held her face and wiped her tears.

“I want you to be happy as well. So don’t cry. Please trust me.”

For the first time since she sat down, she looked at his face and wanted to believe all that he had said. But all her past came rushing back at her. How many times men had said that to her “Trust me”; and in all her innocence she had trusted them – only to be betrayed, used and discarded.

She nodded her head still apprehensive about all that he had said.
“Only time has to tell the truth.” She thought to herself.
“Can we go back?”
“Okay. Let’s go.” He held out a bottle of water and started the car.
“So where are you from basically?”
“See you don’t know anything about me and you are bringing yourself to conclusions.”
“Maybe I’m doing everything in reverse. Anyway, knowing neither where you come from nor your past will affect how I feel about you. I like the Ashley that I see now; that’s all that matters.”

She shook her head and smiled.
“Okay you haven’t answered my question.”
“I’m from New York or that’s where I was born.”
“Your parents?”
“Both of them are no more.”
“I’m sorry.” He turned around to see her looking out through the window and lost in her thoughts.
“So what happened? How did you get into foster homes?”
She told him the story that she had told Jackie and turned around to see him shocked.
“If I tell you my whole story you would never come around me again. Probably I should tell you, so that you don’t have any of your fantasies. Sam, I come with a lot of emotional baggage which I need to address before I can open up my heart to someone. We can be friends; that’s all. Please don’t expect anything more from me and be disappointed. As I said before I don’t have anything to give anyone.”

“Okay friends?” he held out his hand.
She hesitated for a moment and sighed and shook his hands.

The car came to a halt at the entrance of the institute. Ashley got down and walked without looking back.

“I know one day you will look at me the same way that I look at you now. Until then I am ready to wait Ashley because I love you.” He thought to himself as he saw her walk away.

Chapter 8

Ashley had asked Jackie to come to the institute on Friday so that they could go together for dinner. She had wanted to introduce Peter to her too. Ashley walked out with the stipend in hand and a big smile on her face. She became happier when she saw Jackie already waiting for her outside. For a change, Jackie was wearing clean clothes at the end of the day.

“Hey Jackie.” she ran and hugged her and introduced Peter to her.

“Jackie this is Peter.”
“Peter this is Jackie.”

They said “Hi” to each other and stood there talking for some time. Ashley was tempted to call Peter along with them but she knew she couldn’t afford to pay for three as she had a list of things to buy this month. So they parted ways and both Jackie and Ashley got on the bus towards downtown. Peter had suggested a pizza place in downtown saying it was the best pizza that he had ever had and both of them got on the bus.

Being a Friday the restaurant was already filled with people and loud music when they entered. The place was decorated in red and white checkered wall paper and had a bar in the center of the room and TV screens in different places. Each table had red and white table cloth with a small green plant in a vase filled with water. The surrounding looked intimate as well as lively and was warm because of the stone oven in one corner where they were tossing and rolling out the pizza one by one. They could see more people walking towards the restaurant and were glad that they had got in early to get a nice window seat. They ordered a large pepperoni pizza with bread sticks and pasta and a coke. The smell of food was so appetizing that Ashley and Jackie couldn’t wait for the food to arrive. Ashley felt that Peter had suggested the perfect place for dinner and felt excited.

The waiter served the food with a big smile and said “Ladies all this for you or is anyone else joining you?”
“All this food only for us!” Jackie said smugly and giggled as they dug into their steaming hot pizza. Ashley and Jackie ate their food leisurely and they were in no mood to leave such a lively place and head to the home.
When Ashley got up to refill her coke, she felt a prickling on her back when she saw a face almost like Sam’s. But she thought to herself “I must be hallucinating. “And walked swiftly towards her table. What she hadn’t realized was that it was indeed Sam and he was squeezing his way towards her table as soon as he had spotted her.
When she heard “Hi Ashley.” She froze hearing the familiar voice and turned around to see Sam wearing a red t-shirt with a black leather jacket and jeans and looking casual and even more striking than with his work clothes.

“Hi Sam.” She blushed.
“What a surprise to see you here?”
“Do you come here often?” She asked shyly.
“Yep. I love this place and come here almost every Friday with my buddies. It’s worth the wait I tell you.”
“Sam this is Jackie.”
“Jackie this is Sam, our institute head.”
“Hey how are you?”
“Nice to meet you finally. Heard a lot about you.”
“Hopefully they are good things.”
“Only good things I promise. Please sit down.” Jackie pointed at the empty chair besides them. Ashley looked at her with piercing eyes as if asking her why she was doing this.
“Don’t worry Ashley I won’t eat your food.” Sam had noticed her reaction and answered quickly and took his seat.
“Actually we got carried away and ordered way too much food so there’s plenty. Help yourself.” Added Jackie quickly.
“So Jackie what do you do?”
“I’m taking lessons in carpentry. I’ve always loved working with wood. So eventually I will be learning about building homes too and I’m pretty excited about that!”
“So how did you ended up in this job? You look pretty young to be an institute head. I’m sorry to be blunt.” She said slyly.
“Actually I started here as a student when I was doing my degree. Then I started teaching some of the courses in my spare time and when I heard that the current institute head was leaving I applied and got it. I really love this place.”

Sam and Jackie were busy in their conversation and this gave Ashley the time to absorb him and his gestures- the way he was at ease with himself and how attentive he was to the person he was talking to. But what she didn’t know was Sam was finding it hard to concentrate on what Jackie was saying. He was delighted to see Ashley here and this is where he had wanted to bring her when he had asked her out.
Ashley felt that Jackie always knew how to carry on a conversation and she never felt intimidated by new people or surroundings unlike her. They even got each other’s phone numbers and it looked like they got along pretty well for the first time. While Ashley was deep in her thoughts, unconsciously she started drawing Sam’s face on the napkin. Jackie nudged Sam to look; he was truly stunned at how quickly and beautifully she had captured him with his expressions.
Jackie’s phone rang and jolted Ashley back to the world.
“Hey I need to get this call, I’ll be back.” Jackie said in a hurry and walked out.
Ashley tried to crumple the napkin, when Sam held her hand and took it out gently.
“This is amazing. But I think you haven’t gotten my lips right because I was turning the other side.”
She shook her head and looked at his face for the first time since he sat down and his eyes seemed to draw her into a different dimension. The world around her disappeared and it felt as if only both of them existed at that moment. Her heart beat faster and erratically. Sam leaned in closer held her back with one arm and kissed her slowly and gently. She felt a tingle down her spine as if an electric energy was coursing through her and the walls around her disappeared as she reveled in the warmth of his lips against hers. Her mind was screaming to move away, but her body refused to cooperate. The reality of it hit her when the waiter walked in with the bills. She suddenly realized what had happened between them and sprung up like a wound up spring. She kept the money on the table along with the bill in a hurry and said.
“Sam I ….need to go.”
“Ashley please… don’t walk away. Can we talk?” he said pleadingly.
Tears were threatening to cloud her eyes and she didn’t want him to see that. She felt she had to get some cold air to clear her head and compose herself.
“What was I thinking?” she cursed herself.
“I can’t. I’m sorry….” She walked away without looking back.
Jackie had seen the entire scene unfold from where she stood. She knew that, even though Sam had his entire attention on her he had wanted Ashley to know more about the real Sam without his title. She wanted to give them the space and so she walked out pretending she had an important call to take even though she hadn’t recognized the number.
Ashley was walking fast towards the other side of the restaurant when Jackie called out to her.
“Ashley, wait. Where are you going leaving me alone?”
“I’m sorry Jackie. I …..wasn’t thinking.”
“Have you paid for the food?”
“Yes” she nodded.
“Hey I forgot my handbag in there. Did you get it?”
Ashley nodded her head to say “No”
“Okay you stay right here I will go and get it.”

From the time Sam had sat down at their table, he hadn’t wanted to make her uneasy. So he had tried to put his entire focus on Jackie. For the past two months he had been watching her and had wanted to talk to her and get to know her better. But whenever he was around she always walked away or never acknowledged his presence. But today he never expected to kiss her. He knew that he was falling for her, in spite of hardly knowing anything about this girl. He also knew that he had terrified her further away from him and she would never want to be in his presence anymore. He put his hands on his forehead and bent down thinking about the whole incident and cursing himself for acting impulsively when Jackie walked in and nudged him gently.

“Sam, Are you okay?
Sam shook his head and looked the other way.
“You like her don’t you?”
Sam nodded his head to say “Yes” and he seemed lost in his thoughts.
“Sam you are going to need a lot, I mean a lot of patience and perseverance to get her to trust you. She doesn’t trust anyone easily; especially men. The way she behaves has nothing to do with you. It is her way of protecting herself from being hurt. Also if you ever hurt her, you will be in deep trouble buddy. All the best. “She patted him on his shoulder and walked out with her handbag.By the time Jackie and Ashley got on the bus it had become chilly. Ashley was quiet the entire way when Jackie finally broke the silence.

“Ashley I saw what happened. From the moment Sam walked in, I felt he likes you even though he pretended otherwise. You have to learn to trust. Not all men are alike Ashley. You should open up and give him a chance or any other men I mean. How long are you going to protect yourself from feeling vulnerable? I know you are lonely in there. This is a new chapter of your life. There are so many good people out there even though you haven’t seen much of them so far. But trust me; I am seeing them every day now. So cheer up girl, you have been kissed by a hot guy and you are all sulky! If the girls at your institute come to know about this, they’ll be so jealous of you.” She gave her a shove. Ashley finally smiled.

“Hey by the way is he a good kisser?” Jackie teased her.
Ashley pinched her and they both laughed.

Even though Jackie tried to distract her with small talks, Ashley couldn’t shake off what had happened. More than anything she hated herself for letting down her walls and reveling in that moment for a bit too long.
She felt Sam with his charming looks and smooth talks would knock her off her feet if she didn’t stay strong.
“Men have always been the source of my problem. I detest them and I know there’s only one thing that they are after. Sam however charming you are, I will not be fooled anymore by guys like you.” She resolved to herself and fell asleep and glad that it was the weekend.
After a long time, the same nightmare returned. She tossed and turned and whimpered. Someone shook her and she awoke with a startle. It was Jackie; she was sitting near her bed with a glass of water.
“Here drink this. Everything will be alright.”
Ashley nodded with tears in her eyes and curled back to sleep.


Ashley walked in apprehensively into the computer center hoping she would not have to meet Sam early in the morning and she was glad that she was done with the organizing of file as well.

She managed to stay out of his sight until the afternoon. While she was with the students supervising them, Sam walked past her. Ashley’s heart beat erratically but she didn’t dare to look at him and instead focused on teaching the student next to her.  Sam spoke to another intern standing two feet from her and walked back to his room.

Ashley was sure he might be mad at her and he being the center head intimidated her even more. She didn’t have the courage to explain things to him as Jackie had suggested and she did the thing that she knew always to do – to be out of sight of the person who intimated her and to never look them in the eye.

Almost two weeks passed and Ashley was glad that she had managed to stay out of Sam’s sight.

But Sam couldn’t get her out of his head. Even during his meetings he was distracted. He couldn’t fathom why in the world he had to keep thinking about her and looking to see if it was her, when anyone passed by his room.  It was clear to him that she was avoiding him and she never even looked up at him even at the time he had caught her unaware.

What Ashley didn’t know was that he was watching her even more carefully than before. He noticed her every reactions and mannerism when she stood on the floor teaching the students. He walked by her class in the morning to see if she had come and he stood by the cafeteria window in the evening to see her walking to the bus stop with Peter. He noticed how relaxed Ashley was around Peter. Even though Sam had many times wanted to come and speak to her, he was unable to find her alone. He also saw that Ashley had opened up to few of her classmates who were girls.

One day he found her in the cafeteria listening to an iPod with Peter besides her and he felt a pang of jealousy hit him. He wished he was the one next to her instead.  He missed the time that he had with her while she organized the files and though he made an effort to come around her she seemed to be like a mirage moving further away from him. It dawned on him finally that he was falling for her more than he would have like to admit it to himself and he wished she did not avoid him.

But Ashley was oblivious to what Sam felt towards her and her only goal was to stay out of his sight. Ashley used all her spare time to practice her lessons. She was thrilled when she was able to replicate some of her drawings with the software. She browsed the web and tried to learn more than what was taught and had her entire focus on her studies.

Her teacher was very impressed with her efforts and skills. She printed out one of her art to be displayed on the exhibit board and showed it to Sam and praised her saying that she was one of her best student this year. She also mentioned that Peter was doing equally well and spoke about few of her other students too.

When she left, Sam decided he had enough of the hide and seek and wanted to use this opportunity to talk to her because he was sure even if a year goes by she would not use any excuse to come and speak to him unlike the other women.

Peter and Ashley were practicing their lessons in their computer lab when Sam walked in and cleared his throat to be noticed. Ashley became jittery when she recognized the voice and her heart beat wildly.

He pulled a chair near to them and spoke

“How are you guys doing?”

“We are doing well.” Answered Peter for both of them pulling his glasses up.

“Your teacher came to my room and mentioned that both of you are doing extremely well in your course and she gave me a print out of this painting that was done by you.” He looked into Ashley’s face to get a response from her. Her face had become pink and he was happy that he had that kind of effect on her.

“Where did you see this sunrise? It’s beautiful.”

“I drew this when I was on my way to New Haven.” She answered looking down and twisting her fingers.

She remembered how anxious she was when she was on the bus towards the home in New Haven and this sunrise seemed like a sign telling her that a new beginning was on its way and everything was going to be fine and it was actually proving to be.

“I will put it up on the display board tomorrow for everyone to see. Great job and keep working hard.”  He got up to leave and turned around once he was near the door and said

“By the way, both of you are completing two months at the center and you will be getting your first stipend tomorrow. Good night.”

“Good night.” Both of them chimed.

“Ashley we need to celebrate. Tomorrow being a Friday shall we go out and eat.”

Ashley had promised Jackie that with her first salary she would take her out for dinner and told Peter

“I’m sorry Peter; I have already promised Jackie that I would take her for dinner tomorrow. Can we go some other week?”

“No Problems Ashley. Maybe we can go next Friday?”

“Okay next Friday it is.”

“Thanks Peter.”

“Thanks for what?”

“Thanks for understanding.”

“Ah what are friends for? Come on lets go home.”

Ashley felt safe with him unlike how she felt around other males. Indeed he had become a very good friend to her in the past two months. Though he looked nerdy and nervous she thought he was funny and sensible.