Title: "Sometimes (These Things)"
Word Count: 2005
Author's Notes: Ryan Murphy created, I just borrowed pretty much forever. This is a prequel to where Popular starts. I've taken a lot of liberty with the possible pasts of the characters, along with trying to set-up some connections within the realm of canon. This is one of the first times I've jumped into the realm of pre-Popular. Special thanks go to my betas: mysensitiveside, talkos and wolfemeister.
Summary: Jane McPherson decides to take her first vacation since her husband died, and Sam tags along for the ride only to find herself not only out of her element but face-to-face with someone new and unexpected.
CATALINA, HERE WE COME
"Sam, come on, a vacation will be good for the both of us," Jane tried reasoning with her stubborn daughter who was having absolutely none of it. Sam had been in a bad mood since Jane announced she was thinking about going on a cruise in the coming months. So far, Jane hadn't been able to do anything to convince her daughter that either trip together would be good.
"Since when do we go on vacations together?" Sam flopped on her bed, opening the latest issue of Rolling Stone and began flipping through the pages randomly. "I just don't see the point. School's starting soon-"
"-In another month, and we'll only be there for a week," Jane replied. Jane crossed her arms and waited for her daughter's response. "It's not like either of us has had any sort of fun this summer." Jane knew trying to her daughter this was a good idea was pointless; Sam's stubborn streak was something she inherited from her father. Even on Sam's best days, her mother's attempts at getting around that bullheadedness were almost futile.
However, this time, Jane was fighting for more than just a vacation. She was looking for a way out, something she could share that was new and exciting with Sam. Something away from the lights of the city, the long days at work and the pain of missing her husband. She wanted to bond, to spend some quality time with Sam, and she wasn't going to let her destroy that dream that maybe, just maybe, something good could come of getting away for awhile together.
"Then, you're going on that cruise," Sam pointed out, rolling onto her back and throwing the magazine to the side. It landed with a thud amongst the pages of the New Yorker, Time, Newsweek and Writer's Digest. New issues were scattered with the old, it seemed all the brunette had done this summer was read.
"Yes, I am," Jane nodded, "But I think I deserve it after working all summer trying to secure that deal. Besides which, it's not even set in stone, yet... I was just thinking about itů"
"I suppose," Sam played along. "I guess, I could enjoy myself. Where are we going again?"
"Catalina," Jane replied, "I left some brochures on the dining room table. I'll be home after five, and you can tell me what you think." Sam nodded. "It's going to be a good trip, Sammy, we both need this."
"Yeah, I'm sure we need it," Sam muttered under her breath, sitting up and watching her mom walk out of her room. The last few weeks had been tense, the summer usually was for them, and Jane was trying to find a way to forget about her husband Joe. At least that's how Sam saw it, and it was the same logic that caused her to lash out at her mother for researching a cruise circling the Pacific Ocean right as the new school year started.
After the fallout from telling Sam about the cruise, Jane thought of this as a peace-making trip. If they both could do something together, perhaps it would be all right for Jane to take a trip by herself. She just wanted some time alone; the last few years had just been reminding her how much she was focused on taking care of Sam instead of herself.
Sam trudged downstairs determined to find a way to ruin this vacation as well as her mom's potential cruise. She'd been working on the latter for awhile now but to no avail, her mom was as stubborn as she was, and it would take a lot more than school starting or a stomach bug to keep Sam from going. Deep down inside, they both really did need a vacation and a chance to clear their minds. Sam knew this, but when did she ever listen to her inner voice? 'Never,' she quashed that voice, 'Just never.'
The brochures on Catalina Island were scattered on the table, and she rolled her eyes at them as she headed for the fridge for the orange juice and then to the cupboards for a glass. She poured some, took a sip and then sat down at the table to read them over. 'Catalina Island,' she thought, 'Looks nice.' She tossed one picture-heavy brochure to the side and opted for one with a little more text on the island itself.
"Catalina Island attracts more than a million tourists a year. A mostly deserted island paradise which only ferries and helicopters can reach," she mimicked the heavy marketing terminology in Times New Roman font on the poorly worded and laid out three-fold. "Maybe I'll have better luck looking up Catalina on the Internet." She chuckled. However, the island began to sound more interesting as she read on.
The island itself was wildlife conservation. Hiking, climbing and other activities on the island were by permit-only, and she assumed her mother had already obtained the proper paperwork to do just that. Cars were scarce with a ten year waiting list just to get one on the island for those who live there. Most people rode bikes and small towns that littered the beach.
Touring reefs, shipwrecks and scuba diving all took place on the shores for beginners and more advanced swimmers alike. Fly-fishing was also a popular pastime. Surfing, not that she would be surfing, took place on one side of the island when good surf was to be found. Catalina housed two harbors, mostly used to ferry traffic to and from the mainland. They'd be leaving from Marina del Rey early in the morning for the hour or so boat ride over.
Sam thought back to the last time she was on a boat. It was at Marina del Rey, coincidentally, and they were taking a little joyride through the harbor. Joe McPherson loved the ocean, something Sam didn't inherit. She hated being out to sea and suffered from seasickness but fondly remembered the time she spent with her father as being one of the best memories of her life. She missed him very much, another reason she didn't want to take this vacation; it reminded her too much of her dad, and she hadn't even left, yet.
She stopped herself. 'No more,' she thought, picking up another brochure listing some of the more entertaining aspects of the Catalina nightlife. There were art shows, jazz shows and other festivals held year-round. They wouldn't be going at the most entertaining time of the year, but she was sure she'd be able to find some culturally exciting aspects to learn from. The museum held thousands of years of Native American artifacts as well as photographs of the island's history and inhabitants.
They were staying in a hotel on the west side of the island, one of the tourist hot spots, and in the middle of some of the most exciting areas of Catalina. Her mom had already booked the rooms, the ferry tickets, and Sam was sure she already packed her bags. Now, she just had to make up her mind and go with it, or else she had to try and stop it. Sam sat back in the chair, peeled her banana and took a bite, chewing slowly while thinking.
"What do I have to lose?" she asked aloud. 'Just my sanity, I suppose,' she thought. 'It can't be all that bad. I'm sure I can find something to write about while there.' "I guess that's it then." She stood. "We're going to Catalina." Sam picked up the phone a few moments later, called her mom's cell phone and told her she was sold on the vacation plan. Jane was elated, Sam wasn't necessarily as excited. Nevertheless, she was going to try and have a good time if for nobody else's sake but her mom's.
A week later, Jane and Sam stood overlooking Catalina Island from the harbor shortly after the journey from Marina del Rey. Sam only showed mild signs of seasickness from the trek, and Jane thought well enough ahead to bring a few pills to keep her daughter from heaving overboard into the clear blue water. Her daughter enjoyed the calm sea that surrounded her during the ride, the waves splashing gently against the ferry as it came into the dock.
Sam shielded her eyes from the bright Californian sun as she hoisted her backpack strap over her right arm and carried her suitcase in her free hand. She had stopped in the middle of the crowd, taking in the initial sights of the crowded boardwalk in front of her. People flurried on her left and right, some grumbling under their breath that someone would just stop in the middle of walking. A few people bumped into her, mumbling sorrys in barely audible voices before continuing on their hurried way. Jane had to elbow her daughter in the side jostling her from the teenager's reverie before Sam began walking forward again.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Sam said, jumping when she bumped into someone next to her as she walked down the pier. When she turned her head to say the words, she was met by a pair of hazel eyes that seemed all too familiar on the island paradise.
"It's okay," the blonde replied nonchalantly. She was searching for her father in the madness surrounding her. He'd stopped for just a second to pick up her other two suitcases while she meandered ahead. "It's kind of crowded today."
"You've been here before?" Sam asked, forgetting her manners. She figured the island was the sort of place people came to once, for whatever reason, and never came back. Besides, she reasoned, isn't that what vacations were all about?
"Yeah, once before," she said. It'd been years since she'd been, and it'd been with both her mother and father. 'In happier times,' Brooke thought. 'Much happier times.' "I'm Brooke, by the way." A sort of shadow overcame Brooke's face, and Sam noticed it instantly. She wanted to ask what was wrong, her curious nature biting at her. She forced her tongue into the side of her mouth nervously to keep from prying.
"Sam. I'm Sam. Maybe I'll see you around?" she said suddenly, pushing down her curiosity with all her might. She would've extended her hand, but it was full at the moment as were the blonde's. Brooke was carrying two cases of luggage herself, and Sam wondered just who packed so much for a vacation. Sam's immediate overview, classification and analysis of the other girl were typical of the future journalist's demeanor. Sam tried to resist the urge to ask the blonde if she was natural or if she went through a lifetime's worth of Clairol hair color to get that golden hue in her hair.
"Yeah, maybe," she stopped for a second to look behind her. "If my dad ever catches up with me..." Sam looked in the direction the taller girl did before realizing she would lose her mom, too, if she didn't start walking faster to catch up.
"I'll see you around then," Sam said before racing to make it up to Jane's position at the top of the stairs leading to the boardwalk. She was out of breath by the time she made it to her mother's side. She looked back quickly, Jane noticing before speaking.
"Meet a new friend?" Jane inquired, pointing to the right when they hit the wood. She had watched her daughter talking to the blonde, smiling. It was a long time since Sam had reached out to another person besides her own little social circle. 'Maybe this is the start of something new for Sam,' Jane thought, grinning. 'Hopefully, it's something new for the both of us.'
"I hope so," Sam looked back, smiling, but she couldn't find the blonde in the mass of people surrounding the pier as another ferry pulled into the harbor. Sam smiled, thinking that maybe this vacation wasn't going to be so bad after all.