Sigh…..

Bad news.  Good news.

Bad News:  It wasn’t the batteries…I still weigh (and apparently very correctly) 131.6.

Good News: I now have some spare batteries and…really…who couldn’t use some spare batteries, right?

Have a nice day…

Grrrrrrrrrr……

1.     Apparently…I have pissed off someone in the Universe who has some kind of control over me…

2.     BECAUSE…I am still at 131.6…even though…

3.     As the “starting to REALLY annoy me” title of this “I just ate less…” post states…I AM EATING LESS, DAMMIT!!!! and there is no change…zip…zero…nada…nothing.

WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4.     It has to be the batteries in the scale!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I better have new batteries, dammit.  TTYS.

Have a nice day…

FINALLY…131.6!!!!!!!!

I guess it pays to not eat at all for 2 days…JUST KIDDING!!!!!  Last night, I had the best homemade roast beef with au jus…aka fat…on top and mashed potatoes  with brown gravy for dinner.  Also asparagus slathered (love that word) in butter and one half can of 3.2 beer.  Three half popsicles for dessert and 4 buttery crackers as my bedtime snack.  And yes…I did have lunch.

And no…I didn’t exercise yesterday…I had to go shopping:) …. To buy a pair of jeans…one size smaller!!!!!!!!!  YAY!!!!

Patience pays…

Have a nice day…

132.2 and holding…

I could swear the scale flirted with 130.8 this morning…

So I ran up and down the halls for 10 minutes to see if I could get the number down…yeah…right.  THAT’S never going to happen…:)

Have a nice day…

I TOLD YOU SO…132.8 pounds!!!!

Actually that was yesterday… (and today) but I bought a new laptop and they were transferring data…yada, yada, yada …So I was unable to connect with the world…BUT…there it is…on the downward trend again.

Have a nice day  week-end!

W.   T.   F.   ???

133.6 POUNDS!!!!

Shocking trip to the scale this morning…and I couldn’t figure it out…

…until I realized that for the past 2 days I have been shopping for a new computer…

And…that’s it, folks.  That’s all she wrote…

Stress…it affects every single thing we do…right?  Right!

So,,,now I’m going to go out and run 2 miles…HAH!!!  In my dreams…

Have a nice day…

“NOT A REAL BULLETIN…”

Just a Message…

So…another day of … 132.8…  That’s the deal with this process…days will go by and the weight stays the same…but I feel that soon I will be moving down again.

I know that 130 pounds is out there…calling to me like distant Sirens…hopefully not to a watery doom…  I’ll keep you informed.

Have a nice day…

Here we go…the “bottom line…”

  • Buy a scale that shows not just pounds but ounces as well…as in 125.2 or 125.6.  Mine cost about $35.00…Amazon, of course.
  • This process is a very slow BUT steady one…and you will be thrilled when your weight shifts from .8 to .4…trust me on this…thrilled.
  • In the seven and a half months that I have been doing this, my weight has only increased a couple of times and that was only an ounce or two…not pounds.  99.9% of the time my weight has either decreased or stayed the same.
  • There have been days when I would weigh myself and it would be the same as it had been for the last 7 or 8 days…and then BOOM…down it would go…and stay there…until it went down again.
  • Don’t think for one second that this is not working.  If your weight stays the same…just wait…don’t get nutso and eat a whole blueberry pie heated in the microwave and topped with vanilla bean ice cream out of frustration.  (I think I’m hungry…)
  • Weigh yourself everyday at the same time.  I recommend in the morning right after you get up…go to the bathroom first.
  • And…then record your weight.  Do this every day.  You can also write down anything different or unusual…anything that might help you to understand what you are eating and what you are doing and why you have lost 6 more ounces.
  • I always do a little “happy dance” when the scale goes down…every single time.
  • This will take a long time.  BUT every pound/ounce you lose will be gone forever.
  • THIS WILL WORK!!!
  • After I had lost 4 pounds, I took a four pound bag of sugar and put it on the counter.  Then I picked it up a few times.  It was heavy!  That was the weight I was no longer carrying.  I did the same thing when I had lost 8 pounds…do you know how heavy two 4 pound bags of sugar are?  HEAVY!!!
  • I didn’t do 3 bags of sugar (or 12 pounds).  That was too much for me to pick up.  Exactly.
  • Remember…it took you a long time to gain those unwanted pounds…it will take a long time to lose them…especially if you are an “oldie” like me.
  • BE PATIENT!!!  Don’t give up…it will take your body a few days to adjust to your new changes…but it will adjust and you will start to lose weight.

    The  little more …

Last fall when I weighed 147.8 pounds, I knew I would reach 150 pounds during the winter if I didn’t do something.

I read weight-loss articles, did research on the different programs, ate some horrible diet food, seriously wondered about those diet pills and other junk out there that promised “QUICK WEIGHT LOSS” and knew I would have to figure out something on my own.

So what you have just read is what I came up with…and obviously, I am not done…I still have a way to go.  I should weight 125 pounds by November 1…this year.  I will let you know.

BUT…I feel that this is really a good plan for women over 60…but, of course, for anyone as well.

Most of us have worked really hard all of our lives and we shouldn’t have to go through this whole “weight gain/belly fat” bullshit.

We shouldn’t have to deny ourselves good food…or hot dogs…

(When I say “good” I don’t mean “healthy”…I mean…a cheeseburger with fried onions from Five Guys…and a small order of fries, please…to go…

We shouldn’t have to pay money to have other people tell us what to do at some club or weight-loss clinic…and maybe make us feel bad.

We shouldn’t have to start “running” or do “resistance training” or do “hot Yoga” (what is that anyway?) at age 60 or older…unless of course you’re partial to doing so…

In Minnesota, we have about 3 days when the weather is perfect for walking outside…so I have to gear up in the winter.  I know I look like some 14th century Swedish field worker when I walk outside and the temperature is only 10 degrees…but hey…it’s who I am.  Plus…everyone smiles at me.  I know…I know.

When the weather is really awful…too hot, too cold, too icy, too rainy, too sleety…I just slap on my headphones and walk the hallways of my apartment building…up and down…up and down.  This is really relaxing until people try to stop you to chat.  Then I smile and point to my headphones and mouth, “I’m on the phone…” and just keep going…works every time.

If you live in Minnesota and own a home with no hallways…I recommend buying a treadmill.  I had one when we owned a home and you can accomplish the same results as I do by walking the halls.  There are some really inexpensive ones out there…I know…I bought one for my daughter who was into “training for something” when she was fifteen.

We shouldn’t have to be punished because we ate a few too many cheese burgers or doughnuts a few years ago.  there should be a friendlier, more gentle way to lose those extra pounds and I believe my way will do the trick for most women…well, for everyone, really.

I have always loved food.  I love to cook and I love to eat.  I know that I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life (such as it is) passing on delicacies such as chocolate cake with fudge frosting or…say…lutefisk, swimming in butter…I did mention I was of Swedish ancestry, didn’t I?

I hope you give my way of losing a few pounds a shot.  I truly believe it will work.  It did for me and I am nothing special…trust me.

Thanks for reading.  Now go have half of a chocolate chip cookie…and begin.

And, good luck!!

It really is amazing how quickly you can amass over 5,000 steps in a single day…which is my goal…not always achieved…but nevertheless…my goal.

  • As I have said, I am 75 and recently bought one of those walkers with all the bells and whistles.  I use this when I go walking distances or if I am going to walk for more than 30 minutes or if I am going to walk to the grocery store.  
  • I especially like the seat feature in that I can always find shade in the summer and warm sun in the winter.  The little basket is a great place to put small purchases and toss in water, a sandwich your cell, etc.
  • I always walk down to the lobby to get the mail and packages.
  • I sometimes just walk down to the lobby…for no reason…not even the reason that “it is good for me”.  Hmmm…I think there’s a story there…
  • When I shop at a large grocery store, I always take a cart even if I am not buying a lot of items because I feel more comfortable…and then I can also walk down a couple of extra aisles…browsing as I go.
  • I always park a small distance away from the store entrance when I am out shopping.  Those few extra steps really make a difference.
  • I am not trying to impress anyone with my walking…distance matters nothing to me other than the simple calculation of how far I have walked on a particular day.  I never talk about my walking…or ‘not walking’ for that matter.
  • We live on the ground floor and I always walk up the stairs from our parking spot in the underground garage after I have been out.
  • If I have a couple of light bags, I will carry them up with me.  Skinny husband will bring up the heavier bags with a grocery cart and use the elevator.
  • I take naps 2 or 3 times a week.  I have lunch in bed, read my  book and then sleep for an hour or so.  Pure pleasure.
  • I never do Yoga nor will I.  Too old…no matter what they say…75 is 75.  Walking is the best.  I did Tai Chi for a year a long time ago…but that was enough.
  • I got a Fitbit for my husband but I use it mostly and I average about 5,000 steps a day.  I have done 11,000 on some days and I have also done 700.  It’s no big deal.  It’s like a watch that does a little bit more…there for my convenience to see what’s up.
  • I DO NO FORMAL EXERCISING!  Don’t even ask if I swim…
  • But I am very active and I can feel it if I have sat too long…maybe pouring over the morning newspaper…and it feels crummy.  That old adage, “Use it or lose it” really does apply to us oldies…and to everyone…actually.

Nike says, “Just do it.”  I say…”Just move it…”  It’s the best thing anyone can do at any age.

A note before I begin: 

 I’ve been poking around “weight-loss” and “dieting” blogs and I found out that a lot of people suggest that “just eating less” won’t do it…you have to do a lot of other stuff to lose weight…plus you are going to be hungry and not feel satisfied.  Here is what I say:  Do you want to lose weight or not?  Okay, I’m done.

  • I love to cook, so I wasn’t going to stop cooking my fantastic food and buy crap  “diet food”.  So…I just put a little less of everything on my plate…every single night…except when I made pizza…or we had pizza delivered.  For every rule there should be one exception and this is the one I’m making.  I think this equals god mental health…I think.  I also think I really love pizza.
  • I love sugar with my coffee…so I just put a little less in my cup.
  • When my beloved furry friend, LuLu the Cat, died in 2015…I started to have a whole Hershey bar…every night after dinner for dessert.  I stopped doing that.
  • I have 1/2 to 1 whole can of 3.2 beer with my dinner every night.  (NOT Lite.)
  • I stopped making popcorn with butter every night.  Now I have it once a week. At first it was really hard but then I discovered popsicles!  I have 2 (halves) after dinner every night.
  • I really look at my plate when I am putting food on it.  I mean…really look at it.  I now know exactly when I should stop ladling the gravy over my mashed potatoes…about 2 ladles does it.
  • If we are eating a food that has pieces…like French toast for example…skinny husband will get 10 little squares…and I will get 6…plus butter, of course and maple syrup.
  • I still bake cookies and cakes and buy all sorts of delicious baked goods because my husband weighs 122 pounds…yes, that is exactly right…
  • Occasionally, if I want…I will take a bite out of whatever I am giving him…and then get a popsicle out of the freezer.
  • Christmas was hard this past year.  But instead of eating 3 or 4 warm cookies right out of the oven…I had a half of a cookie.  I had lost almost 3 pounds by then and I didn’t want to screw up…I knew I was on to something.
  • I kept thinking of that children’s book, “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.”  I felt like, “If You Give Tina Half Of A Cookie…she’ll be happy!”  And I was.
  • I still go to Dairy Queen once a week and get a small chocolate sundae.
  • I try to get to White Castle once a week where I order 2 sliders and a small REGULAR Coke…or McDonalds for a Filet-O-Fish sandwich and a small REGULAR Coke.
  • That Coke is the only pop/soda I drink all week.
  • I have never drank diet pop/soda…I tasted it once…
  • I cook with butter.  I cook with whole milk.  I love meat…red, lovely meat.  AND I LOVE GRAVY…as previously mentioned.  I like chicken too…in case you wondered…with barbecue sauce or gravy, of course.
  • I never eat anything labeled “lite” “diet” “fat-free” or my favorite…”tastes awful but it only has 3 calories”…kidding on the last one.
  • I love potatoes in any form.
  • I seldom eat breakfast.  I just have coffee with sugar, no cream
  • But…I almost always have a good lunch.  Sandwiches made with ONE slice of white bread…tuna, chicken, ham, egg salad or peanut butter. I always use Mayo.  I love Mayo…full strength…not lite.  There is always cheese on my lunch plate because I love cheese.  Grapes and strawberries are also there.  And then I add 3 crackers.  My current favorites are Breton Originals…and Better Cheddars.
  • If I do feel like breakfast, I will have a small can of tomato juice or an egg fried in butter.
  • We do not eat out a lot but when we do…I just leave food on my plate if the portion is too large.
  • IMPORTANT!  Do not go to bed hungry!  Every night I read before I go to sleep so I have 3 or 4 crackers and 5 potato chips…and 3 LUDEN’S  cough drops.
  • Odd little observation:  Before I began this bedtime snack ritual, I used to have a little acid reflux.  It was really bothersome.  But now I never have it…go figure.
  • I NEVER deny myself anything because with this plan…I don’t have to.  Except excess…I deny myself excess…that’s fair to say.
  • I eat everything and anything…I just eat less.

So…that’s the “eating” part of my weight-loss process.

I know it is pretty simple but it really worked and obviously is still working since I just lost more weight yesterday!

P.S.  I am never hungry (except before dinner and, really, who isn’t) and I am so very satisfied…

The “Walk A Little Every Day” part  comes tomorrow.

 BULLETIN:  Weight today #133.6..”Woo-hoo”!!!

  • The metabolic rate is much slower when you pass 55 or 60…even slower in your 70’s.
  • After menopause, God is basically done with you and you will gain 5 pounds just by looking at a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.  No.  Don’t argue with me.  It’s true.
  • If you smoke (like I did) the pounds will appear after you quit, but it’s still worth quitting.
  • Retirement means less structured work.  You have more time now for socializing…more opportunities for eating out…perhaps even having extra glasses of wine…or chocolate malts.
  • Living the good, retired life; sleeping late and lovely naps in the afternoon…all can equal weight gain…but so slowly…you hardy notice…until you do!
  • If you should move from a house to an apartment…there is generally less work to do.  And that means less routine burning of calories just by maintaining a certain “house-owning” lifestyle…like gardening, mowing, snow, leaf and twig removal…you know the drill if you have ever owned a house.
  • Question:  Do you really want to pay money to stop eating the foods you love and eat special food that tastes like crap?  Really?
  • Question:  Do you really want to help the U.S.  $68.2  (update)…$70.3  (NEW update…) $72 BILLION  weight-loss market increase their net worth?  Really?
  • Question:  Do you really want to take some probably unsafe/useless, non-FDA approved drug so you can lose 50 pounds in one week? (I’m exaggerating a little here..)  Really?
  • Do you really want to exercise a LOT and even sweat?  Do you really want to lift weights…and…you know…sweat?  Do you really want to pull on those resistance bands until one day you accidentally let go of one end and it snaps your eye out?  Really?
  • Do you want to pay good money (is there bad money??) to a fitness center to have some weight-loss/fitness expert who is probably 12…just kidding…give you a look…when you tell her you gained a pound or eaten half of a doughnut  that morning?  Really?

Yup…I totally agree and am impressed with everything I just said…SO, HERE IS WHAT I DID.

To find out, send $25.00 in unmarked bills to…

HAH!!!! GOTCHA!!!  I’m just kidding….

The Eating Part…Post #4 of “I just ate less…” comes tomorrow!!!!!

  • I am 5’3″ tall and as previously stated…I am 75.
  • I have never been overweight until now.
  • I have mostly weighed around 110-115 pounds…less in my teens and early twenties.
  • I have never dieted.
  • I have one child.
  • I am Caucasian and of Swedish descent.
  • I am in good health for being 75…whatever that means…
  • I am not Type 2 diabetic.  (Although it appears that most of the world is…)
  • WEIGHT LAST OCT. 2018:  147.8 (And yes…I had a big belly…sigh…)
  • CURRENT WEIGHT:  134.2 as of June 7, 2019
  • NOTE:  LOSS OF 13.6 POUNDS…YAY, ME!!!!  ALSO THERE IS BELLY SHRINKAGE.
  • GOAL:  To weigh 125 pounds by November 1, 2019
  • PROCESS:  Lose 1/2 pound per week or 2 pounds per month.  (Did not seem like a big deal, right?  HAH!!!  I was so wrong.)

In the very beginning, I couldn’t lose any weight at all…WE ARE TALKING ZERO POUNDS.

I even skipped meals.  Not a good idea…ever…okay…once in while we all do it.

I spent over a month trying to figure out what I was doing wrong because it was painfully obvious I was doing absolutely nothing right…when I gained 2 pounds!

And, of course, having a metabolism of dry paint (which is what you have when you reach age 75) doesn’t help.

Plus…when I was skipping breakfast and lunch in a wild attempt to lose SOMETHING…ANYTHING…my body thought I was stranded on a desert (not dessert) island and in danger of starving to death…so it decided to store my fat.  Thanks a lot, body.

I tried counting calories.   I used the “Lose It” app.  It was fine and good but I really did have better things to do with my dwindling years.

Plus…everyone knows 10 barbecued chicken wings have more calories than one stalk of celery…UNLESS you dip the celery in lard.

I clearly had no idea what I was doing…but I wasn’t giving up.  There had to be a way…and there was…BUT it wasn’t easy.

It was just plain simple.

P.S.  I’ve looked at other weight-loss blogs and they have very pretty pictures and really great recipes.  I apologize in advance (in case you hadn’t already noticed)…there are no pics and no recipes.  (But I did put this notice in green…so there’s that.)

 

This whole series of posts (and I believe there are only six) are generally for older women (over 60) who want to lose less than 50 pounds.  I imagine it would apply to all women…but if you are younger, you can try it also.  It will just work quicker…

This is NOT a guide to eating healthy or a guide to “healthful eating/living”.

This is simply how I have lost almost 14 pounds in 6 months (beginning last October) and am still on track to lose 11 more pounds by November.

So, if you need to lose 100 pounds or if you are looking for emotional guidance as you lose weight or if you believe you can actually lose 15 pounds in 2 weeks…STOP READING!!

For everyone else…Let’s Go!!!!

One day last month (May) I was chatting with my 46-year-old daughter.  I am 75 going on…

I mentioned to her that I had lost 13.5 pounds since last October.

She actually stopped what she was doing…she was eating a piece of her excellent homemade cinnamon roll…and looked at me.

I was really surprised because she normally doesn’t pay much attention to anything I say…you know how busy these young people are…

“How did you do that?” she asked me…in a TRULY interested voice.

And…she really wanted to know…

“Well,” I answered slowly, “I just ate less…”

“And I tried to walk a little every day.”

“Huh.”   She said thoughtfully…and I was so encouraged by this outburst of interest and excitement that I thought that maybe I should share my weight-loss process with others.

My goal here is to tell you what happened to me and I don’t see why it can’t happen to you.

My blog is mainly for publishing my short stories…not for giving out weight-loss advice…but this is really good stuff…so I hope it works for you (it will)…and you can also search around and read some of my short stories if you wish.

So, as my delightful 11-year-old granddaughter said recently before giving a very impressive speech to a large group of people, “Let’s just dive right in and get started.”

 

By

Tina Nelson

For complete story go to https://prettyprettygoodshortfiction.com/category/remember-me/

I THOUGHT IT WAS ALL OVER.

I THOUGHT THAT I COULD COME HOME…

I WAS WRONG.  DEAD WRONG.

Prologue.

Fall in Minnesota.  Summer was gone…finally.  I hate summer.  I always have.  Too much sun.  Too hot.  Too many bugs.  And now…unfortunately…too old to wear really  cute sun tops…sigh..

November on the other hand, is the perfect month.  The sun hardly ever shines and when it does, it’s weak and getting weaker…almost dying…I’m okay with that.

The wind is chilly but not piercing…not yet anyway.  November here is just like November in Winnipeg, Canada.  I love Canada.

I lived in Canada for many years…beginning in 1969…yes…that date is correct…and whatever you want to wonder about that…go right ahead.

It makes no difference to me.  I am way beyond that.  But here is something you don’t need to wonder about…because it is true.

The Vietnam war was a horrible and tragic  mistake.

And…more than 58,000 young boys and men lost their lives because of that mistake…and one of them was my very best forever friend,  Johnny Taylor.

I met Johnny at an outrageous Halloween party in 8th grade.

From that night on, he was my only true friend in so many ways and later became my forever friend and then…my ever so sweet and delightful lover.

Johnny didn’t die in Vietnam…oh, he was there all right.  He was definitely there…for 365 long, brutal, killing days and nights.  He was there for every single one of them.

And then…he came back home…to die of a heroin overdose…in my arms…in the back of a speeding ambulance with me screaming into his beautiful, unseeing brown eyes.

“YOU CAN’T DIE!!  YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME!!  YOU PROMISED YOU WOULD NEVER LEAVE ME AGAIN!  YOU PROMISED!!!”

It was 1967.  He was 19.  I was 18.

Fucking Amen…

8th Grade Halloween.  I meet Johnny.

There comes a time in every childhood when you are told…you’re “too old to go ‘trick or treating’ this year.”

No more free candy from strangers.  No more running wildly around the streets in the deepest of darkness…screaming and hollering to your friends…stuffing candy in your mouth as fast as you can…yes, yes you heard right…even while you are running…and hollering.  It was…after all…1960.

All gone.  Forever…just because you got one year older.

In 1960, our suburb of Bloomington, Minnesota was new but growing fast.  There were acres of new housing developments with miles of streets that we could dash up and down…filling old pillow cases with candy and money and whatever else strangers were willing to give us.  Home-made fudge was the best.  Remember…1960.

There were no parents standing in the streets with glow lights or flashlights to guide us…or umbrellas to shield us from the rain.  If it rained, we got wet and we lived.  If we fell down…we got up.  And…we came home.

But this year…5 days before October 31, my mother said…

“Riley.  You’re too old to go trick or treating this year.  All of us moms got together and we decided that now that you kids are in 8th grade…you’re just too old.  No arguments (and here she held up her hand for emphasis)…we have all decided.”

Oh…we knew it was coming.  We had heard the whispers and had actually paid attention when the moms had dropped little hints…so we knew.

And we were ready.

 

When I say “we” were ready…I meant of course…Karla Johansen was ready.  She was my excellent friend and self-proclaimed leader of our little gang of seven.

She…even in 8th grade…was ready for everything and anything at all times…and all of us just basically said “how high” when she told us to jump.

Her mother was an oddity for this time in history.  She worked full time…and was consumed constantly with guilt…even though she was an elementary school teacher and home almost as much as the other moms of our little group…who did not work outside the home.

But this was 1960.   Most moms stayed home…whether they wanted to or not.

So…because of her mother’s on-going guilt…Karla had an edge…and she had learned early in her young life how to successfully use that power.

Two years ago, in fact, she had managed somehow to convince her parents to build an in-ground, Olympic-size swimming pool in their backyard, even though they went to their summer cabin every weekend from June thru September.  Yeah…they had some money.

Karla loved her gang but not one of them had a summer cabin by the lake like she did.  But now they spent every hot sunny day splashing in “Karla’s pool”.   No one could ever accuse Karla of not being a great friend.  She was a wonder.

Even as my mother was delivering the Halloween bad news to me, I knew Karla was also receiving it from her mom…and responding with anguish, sobs and fake tears.  She had practiced how she would react in front of me and she was pretty damn good.

“NO TRICK OR TREATING!!!!!”  I could almost hear her screaming and I lived blocks away.

What I couldn’t hear was her poor mom, Liz Johansen (we all loved her, she was such a sweetheart) telling Karla how sorry she was for this terrible disruption in her life.

“Is there anything I can do, Karla?  Is there anything you want?  Please stop crying dear…there must be something that would make you happy…”

“Well…mom…since you’re asking…maybe a little Halloween party?  With orange and black crepe streamers?  And maybe you could (here, she told me, she paused for a little sob) make those fantastic brownies that everyone likes?  And remember that scavenger hunt we had on my 10th birthday?  The kids really loved that…” said Karla.

All of that was…of course…bull shit.

What Karla really wanted was a boy/girl party with food and pop and loud music and dancing and red lights and games like Post Office, Spin the Bottle and Seven Minutes in Heaven…and maybe a little Truth or Dare (if everyone was feeling risky)…and strict orders: to “not come down the basement and embarrass me”.

THAT was the party Karla wanted…and of course…got.

But Karla was a smart 8th grader…so her initial request for a small party was charming and innocent and sure to be granted and…it was.

As she told me later, “Riley.  It was a piece of cake.  I could have won an Oscar!”

The party was a HUGE success!  There must have been 25-30 kids there…some even Karla didn’t know…but the word got out and kids…out “trick or treating”… just knocked politely on the door and sweet mom, Liz let them in with a welcoming smile…and sent them down the basement.

(Karla’s party was probably the first prototype of the fantastic open house parties to come as we got older.  Those parties dotted the streets of our sprawling suburb every Friday and Saturday night in the late fifties and early sixties.

All you needed then was a car and maybe an address…or sometimes you could just drive up and down the streets looking for lots of cars parked in front of a house…with the lights blazing…a dead giveaway.

You just waked in, smiled nicely to the parent…who was usually sitting in the kitchen looking a little shell-shocked…and went wherever her hand pointed…usually to the basement.

Karla’s party had only walk-ins…no cars yet…and we all drank the pop, ate the sloppy Joes, did the little “scavenger hunt” Karla’s mom had organized and then about 9:00 Karla put red bulbs in the light sockets…and a ‘DO NOT DISTURB–THIS MEANS YOU MOM’ sign on the basement door.  It was time to have a real party!!!

The plan was to start slow…this was, after all…the first time most of us had been at a party like this…but Karla and I had done a lot of reading…

Spin the Bottle was first and everyone got into a large circle and got very quiet.  There was a lot of nervous laughter…from everyone…including me.

Truth or Dare would be last.  I had played ‘Truth’ once before…at a slumber party last summer with a group of girls…four of the girls went home crying.  It was pretty intense.

Karla, as hostess and most fearless of us all, went first and the bottle stopped in front of Ronald Simmons…the most quiet and shyest boy in our school…and Karla’s next door neighbor.

Everyone gasped out loud!  Why was he here?  Who invited him?  He never even talked to anyone…I wasn’t sure he could talk…I had never heard him.

“Ronny!!  I didn’t know you were coming tonight.” said Karla in a very friendly, non-threatening voice.

“I was #7 on your mom’s Scavenger Hunt list.” he said as he  pointed to Brian Carlson, one of our gang…who was looking slightly embarrassed…making eye contact with no one.

“Very funny, Brian.” said Karla with a disapproving tone to her voice.

To Ronny she said, “Well, good to…see you, Ronny…”  And then she gave him a big smile…and went to re-spin the bottle…but wait…

No one let Karla get away with that move…she and Ronny had to go into the storage area for a kiss…rules were rules.

They came out 30 seconds later…both of them with blazing red cheeks!

Later, Karla told me he refused to kiss her so she just grabbed him by his shoulders and kissed him anyway.

“I think he kind of screamed, Riley, honest.” she said.

(Side Note:  Ronny Simmons became a many times decorated homicide detective for the Minneapolis Police Department…after working Vice for ten years…he never married.)

The game continued and very quickly most everyone had their turns at Spin the Bottle and were laughing and having a good time.  Everyone was anxious to move up to something more daring.  I know I was…I hadn’t gotten ‘chosen by the bottle’.

It was time for Seven Minutes in Heaven…where two people spent seven minutes in a darkened room doing whatever they wanted.

John Taylor, a really good-looking new boy who had just last week moved to Bloomington from St. Paul, Mn., had been smiling at me a lot and I had been smiling back.  We hadn’t yet talked…only said “hi”.

He looked older and “exciting”.  Maybe it was his all black Zorro costume…but what did I know…I was only 13.

It turned out John had missed a year of school because of an auto accident and had to repeat second grade…so he was older.  He was…14.

When it was his time to spin …he reached out and stopped the bottle before it could go past me and looked right at me with a devilish grin.

I never went into the other room with anyone else all night…John’s turn always stopped at me …and he encouraged the spinning bottle to pass by me when the other boys had their turn…pretty heady stuff for an 8th grade girl like me.

John Taylor had an agenda that Halloween night and I was at the top of it…me and my Hawaiian Dancing Girl costume.

 

 

 

 

I will definitely explain my authentic (read very skimpy) Hawaiian Dancing Girl costume…a tin of dark brown body powder included with the rental price…but first…

…my life in a nutshell before this party.

My mom and dad didn’t always read the set of instructions that came with living in this world…which…if you don’t have children is workable…but they had me…

I was the first girl to wear lipstick, albeit pale, pale pink lipstick in 6th grade.  My dad brought it home because he thought I would like it.  I did.

This was scandalous in 1958.  But mom and dad thought it was cool.  And so did I.

I later wore it to my Wednesday confirmation class at some really strict (no-name) evangelical church (let’s not say cult, here).

A friend of a friend of my dad’s had recommended this church to him…one dark and story night in a neighborhood bar.

Someone had to have been very drunk at the time for this to have ever been thought to be a good idea.  Again.  Let’s not use the word cult.

I got banned and sent home on my red Schwinn bike because I was wearing lipstick.

I was allowed back to class after a very curt call from my mother who had just shelled out a ton of money for my expensive white confirmation dress with matching shoes.  She had also just prepaid for a confirmation group photo in an oak frame.  My mom was fierce when she was upset…

So…I was allowed to return to the fold…whatever…

But then I brought a nice Catholic boy to a confirmation class hay ride three weeks later and was then permanently banned from class…we were, however, allowed to finish the hayride.

However, the group picture had already been taken and paid for so it looked like I had actually been confirmed even though I had not.

“Screw it,” my dad said.  “We got the picture!”  And it hung ever so proudly in their living room for years.

My mom said she thought she was Jewish anyway…and so that was the end of my formal religious education.

I started using black eye liner in 7th grade but no one cared…

Now…about that costume…a friend of my dad’s…

“No trick or treating!!” shouted my dad when he was told of the “new Halloween rule”.

“Has everyone gone mad?” he exclaimed..

“It’s a terrible idea!!!  Riley’s just a kid…she’s only 9…10…how old are your, darlin’?” he said turning to me.

“I’m thirteen dad and Karla’s having a swell costume party instead and I’m really looking forward to that!”

I gave him a huge supportive smile…because he seemed to really need it.

The next day he came home from work with a telephone number and an address he got from a guy he knew…who knew of a professional costume shop in Minneapolis.

My dad always knew a guy…or at least a guy who knew a guy.

“We’ll get you something really spectacular, Riley.  So…you won’t be so sad,” Dad said.

“I’m not sad, dad.” I said.

Mom just smiled and put three Swanson chicken TV dinners in the oven…they were her specialty.

After dinner, my dad made a phone call to make sure the shop was open.  We all trekked down to this really tiny (read kind of dingy) shop on Washington Avenue.

The costume shop was for adults…it’s okay to let your mind wander here…

I think he sold some other stuff as well…anyway…he had told my dad over the phone that he would give him a good deal…my dad loved a good deal.

Because I was thirteen and…you know…kid-short, I only had 2 choices of costumes.

A clown costume with blue and white baggy pants and red shirt…and a re-usable red ball I could pop on my nose…OR…a Hawaiian Dancing Girl costume–tin of dark brown body powder included with rental price.  The clown costume was really never even considered.

The night of the party, it took my mom over an hour to cover my exposed skin with  the dark brown powder but when she was done…I looked…like an 8th grade girl in a Hawaiian Dancing Girl costume…that was a  little too skimpy…but…

“Oh, what the hell,” said my mom…putting some more powder on my ‘chest’.

My dad gave me two thumbs up.

“You look great, kiddo.  Very…Hawaiian.”  He sounded so proud.

I don’t know if he was proud of the way I looked, proud of the costume itself or proud of the fact that he had indeed gotten a good deal.

He then leaned in to give me a big hug.  He pulled away and the front of his white tee-shirt was streaked all over with brown powder!

“Holy Crap!!” I said…not quite horrified.

My parents just laughed…and told me…”don’t go hugging anyone tonight!”

I thought…well, okay.

Do you remember Chapter 3…and my “Seven Minutes in Heaven”…with John Taylor and his black Zorro costume…many, many times?

Good memory.

John and his parents had moved into a big, ranch rambler right across the street from Karla.  He had asked if he could walk me home…I lived about six blocks away.  Of course, I said yes.

“But first I want to show you my pet snake, Waldo.” said John.  “He’s super friendly.”

I was not FOND of snakes but I thought John was a pretty good kisser…so I pretended…

We left Karla’s party a little early and walked over to his house.

His parents were playing cards with some of their friends in the living room.

They were all dressed up and soft music was playing in the background.

It looked very elegant…with drinks and snacks scattered around on little side tables.  No one was in costume…

The front door opened right into the living room so when we walked in…everyone immediately looked over at us.

John introduced me.  “Mom.  Dad.  This is Riley.  She’s a friend I met at Karla’s party.  I wanted her to meet Waldo and then I’m going to walk her home.”

His parents rose slightly from the table, as if they were going to come over to us but  then sat back down.

I gave them all a friendly little wave and a smile

No one said a word.  Not. One. Word.  They just stared at us…mouths literally hanging open.

My hand slowly rose to my chest, just to make sure nothing was…you know…hanging out.  Nope.  I was good.

John’s father looked a bit upset…his face was quite red and John’s mom looked a little flustered as well.

Finally, one of the men…obviously more fortified with alcohol than the others…said a little too loudly…

“Well!!  It looks like Johnny and Riley have been having fun tonight…”

John smiled politely at his father’s semi-drunken friend and looked down at me…I also smiled and looked at John…and then I really looked at John.

Most of my body powder…if not all…was now all over the front of John’s black Zorro costume.

It was on his arms.  It was on his legs.  His whole fucking body was covered in dark brown powder.  Even his face was streaked with brown powder.

It was fairly obvious that Zorro had indeed been rolling around somewhere with the little Hawaiian girl…

John saw the look on my face and then looked down at the front of his costume.

He just grinned at me and chuckled…like it was no big deal…because…to John…it really wasn’t.

I, however, was so embarrassed.  I pulled at his hand and quickly edged back toward the front door.  There would be no “Waldo viewing” tonight.

I waved a polite good-bye to the adults…only one of whom waved back.

Through the years, as I got to know John, I was to learn that nothing ever really bothered him…which is why…I think…I came to like him so very, very much.

And…from that night on…we were each other’s best friend.

And…I was the only one who would call him…”Johnny”…

Johnny and I didn’t date each other once in high school.  That full body “kissing/hugging” session on Halloween in 8th grade was it.

From ninth grade on, we were always dating other people.  Event though there was a strong connection between us…we never seemed to get together to actually go out on a real boy/girl date.

But during our four years in high school, we shared many classes, activities and lunch hours.

We became fearsome fast friends…talking on the phone almost every night…many times complaining about the girl or guy we were currently dating.

When we got older and had access to cars, we would meet at Ralph’s…the only drug store in Bloomington that still served Lime Phosphates…we were both huge fans.

Our friendship grew even if our love life didn’t.

Johnny was bat-shit smart but hated to study or take notes or pay attention in class.

I would often see him looking out the window at something he found way more fascinating than what the teacher was saying.

But I did study.  And I did take notes…and I easily and with no conscience slipped my very best friend copies of my notes for tests.

Many hours were spent studying together…that is…when I could get him to stop talking to my parents…who adored him…and come into my bedroom where we could study.

But even that was hard.  Johnny would always flop on my bed and gaze up at the twinkle lights I had hung from my ceiling.

“Turn off all the lights, Riley.  I want to see the stars.”

I never argued.  It was no use.  Our study sessions always began with us laying side by side on my bed…looking up at “the stars” in total darkness.

Then we would talk…about anything and everything…as long as it did not have anything to do with algorithms or cell structure.  Maybe later…we would study.

Sometimes I had to take his face in my hands and make him look at me, to get him to pay attention and listen to what I was trying to say to him.

He would smile and say, “Tinka.  You have the prettiest eyes.”

Tinka was his pet name for me…I had no idea why…but Johnny said, “One day, Tinka, I will tell you…”

And then he would  try to kiss me and of course I was always dating someone else so I would laugh and push him away.  But sometimes…sometimes I wouldn’t always want to…

“Johnny!!!  Pay Attention!!  Do you want to graduate with honors or not?  Your dad will kill you if you don’t…you now that, don’t you?”

And then, and only then, would he listen…at least for a little while.

He was very careful about what his father thought of him.  It was so important for Johnny to impress him.  I don’t think his father ever knew that…

Johnny and I were both atypical National Honor Society members who…along with twenty-four other ‘more normal’ kids went to Chicago one month before graduation for our 3 day, 2 night senior trip.

We basically just hung out together…just the two of us…because the other kids avoided us…we were like “the bad boys of NHS.”

We tried to get the room assignments changed so we could share a room…but no one was on board with that.

We were just friends, after all, so we didn’t see a problem…our advisor, however, didn’t agree.

Both of us smoked like chimneys so there were many very ‘intimate’ moments in the train’s tiny bathroom…sharing cigarettes…

There was also very little sleep that weekend…and sometimes it was nice to put my weary head on Johnny’s chest.

And…even nicer when he would put his arm around me and say, “Little, tired Tinka,” and kiss the top of my head.

One day, we ditched the other kids and went to the Lincoln Park Zoo instead of the ‘scheduled’ trip to the Art Institute of Chicago.  It was a  beautiful day and we wanted to be outside.

We ate hot dogs and ice cream and smoked two packs of cigarettes.

We tried to get this young guy with really long hair to buy us some beer at a liquor store we had scoped out…but that didn’t fly.

We thought we were so daring…

We thought we were so much cooler than the other kids.  We really weren’t.

The other kids thought we were just plain nuts.  We probably were.

Then one month later we were throwing our mortar boards into the air at the graduation ceremony.

“Let’s keep in touch this summer, Riley.” Johnny said and kissed my forehead…I was dating some jock at the time…who was hovering nearby.

“Call me anytime, Johnny and we’ll do something.” I said and I reached up to kiss his cheek.  He was dating some blonde bombshell from Richfield…also hovering.

“Done.” He said.

But…summer flew by…and even though we talked many times on the phone we never got together.

 

 

Johnny took his full ride scholarship to the private and very expensive Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

He had moved into an older one-bedroom apartment on Goodrich Avenue.  He said he liked it because of the big windows that over looked the tree-lined street.

Johnny’s parents were bankrolling his apartment rent.

Plus they were giving him a monthly allowance as a reward for “studying so hard” in high school the he had earned a scholarship.

“They should be paying me!” I had half-heartedly complained to Johnny when he had told me about his windfall one day while talking on the phone this summer.

Johnny had paused…

“Yes…that may be true…but, Riley, I am a GENIUS….you know.”

He always jokingly bragged about his I.Q.  It was like 152 or 160 or something nutso high like that.

“Yes…” I replied slowly. “But…I read somewhere…there’s a fine line between being a genius and being crazy…you know…JOHN!”  He hated it when I called him John and I laughed and hung up the phone.

I was going to go to the University of Minnesota and living at home with mom and dad to save money.

I was waiting to hear if I had secured the highly sought after “weekend popcorn girl” job at the Campus Theater.  I needed the extra money.  My student loan hadn’t kicked in yet.

The pay was really good and you could study during the movie…and eat as much popcorn as you wanted…and butter.

Johnny and I had tried to talk every day during the summer and then when school began…it was harder.

College life was different.  So much time…and yet…so little time.

We didn’t actually see each other for almost five months.

But then…one night at a ridiculously drunken party…in a ridiculously crowded tiny apartment in Dinky Town near the University of Minnesota campus…

“Johnny!  What are you doing here?  Are you slumming?”  I said…and put my arms out for a hug.

“Tinka…give me a kiss.”  And I did.

Both Johnny and I got blind drunk and were not dating anyone else…so…

It seemed appropriate…and about time.

It was a ratty little apartment but it had one bedroom with a door that locked…and we locked it.

 

 

When I look back now…I think I truly fell in love with Johnny Taylor at that 8th grade Halloween Party…and never really fell out…

He agreed…but then…he always agreed with me.

Within a week, I had moved into Johnny’s apartment.

It was like we had been together forever.  Everything fell so easily into place.  There was a bus line that went right down Snelling Avenue to the East River Road and into the U of M campus…no one wanted to drive a car to the U. if there was some other way.

I got a job as a waitress at Pierre’s Pizza, just a short one-block walk from our apartment and my student loan had kicked in so I could quite my other job as…

Yes, I had gotten the weekend popcorn girl job!  Even after only a couple of weeks I knew I was going to miss that butter  I mean…popcorn.

Johnny, who had been close to failing ALL of his classes, cleared his mind, stopped partying and began to study…and not just to please me…but to please himself…to please us.

When we weren’t being in love, making love, working or studying, we spent every minute doing whatever we could to protest the Vietnam War.  We marched.  We made signs.  We went to meetings and protest rallies.  We wrote letters.

But still…more and more young men were coming home in body bags…shown in full color on CBS news.

Every night there was  footage…showing young men…somewhere in Nam…either bleeding from wounds or shooting at the enemy.   It was horrible to watch.  But I felt I owed it to every soldier to do so.

One night…as we were drifting off to sleep…Johnny, holding me close to him as he did every night, softly whispered.

“I don’t think I could ever kill anybody, Riley.”  And then…even softer…

“I don’t want to…”

 

Around the middle of June, Johnny got his Order to Report for Induction.  He had been drafted.

“What about your student deferment, Johnny?   What about that?” I cried.

Johnny sat at our kitchen table, shaking his head.

“You know, before you moved in, I remember taking this test…it was some kind of draft test…I don’t know…I didn’t pay that much attention.”

“I had been out the night before…didn’t get much sleep before taking it…I was a little hung-over…”

He looked up at me sheepishly.

“I should have had you there, Tinka, slipping me notes…”

I frantically paced around the small kitchen as Johnny sat holding the letter in his hands…looking at it in total disbelief.

“I never really thought it would happen.” He said quietly.

“I think I have about two weeks before I have to report.”  He looked again at the letter and let it fall to the floor.

I picked it up and tore it in half.  Then I tore it in half again.

“NO!!!!  You’re not going!!!  I won’t let you go!” I shouted.

“There must be something we can do!  We’ve got to do something!  Wait!!!  Why can’t we get married, Johnny?  They don’t take married men, right?” I said.

That deferment ended last August Riley.  Apparently, Johnson needs the wisdom of the married man.” He said sarcastically.

“Canada….we’ll move to Canada.  Lots of boys are doing it, Johnny.  We can do…”

Before I could finish, Johnny was holding up his hand and shaking his head…

“My dad would disown me, Riley…and forbid my mom and Alec from visiting me. ”

I knew how close Johnny and his mom were and Johnny loved his little brother so much.  Alec was just two years younger than Johnny…and he idolized him.

“You know how my dad feels about “duty and service to country”.  He said glumly.  Both Johnny’s dad and grandfather had served in the Army…and both during war time.

“If I went to Canada, I wouldn’t see my mom or Alec ever again, Riley.”

“Well if you die in some fucking rice field in Nam…you won’t see them ever again either…will you!!!!” I screamed at him.

 

At the airport…Johnny held me in his arms as tears poured down my face and my body shook with sobs.

“It took so long for us to find each other…” I cried.

“Please don’t leave me, Johnny!!  I will die without you!!  I will!  I will die!”  And my voice rose…causing others nearby to look away from the painfully sad couple…

Johnny pulled back…and took my face in his hands…as I had done to him so many times in high school…but this time he was forcing me to listen.

“I will never leave you again, Tinka…I promise!  When this year is over…I will come home to you and we will always be together.  I promise you.”

And then he kissed all the tears from my cheeks and held me so tight I could hardly breathe and then…before one more second passed…he quickly turned and walked away.

One year later…Johnny Taylor came home…as promised.

Fucking Amen.

MANY, MANY YEARS LATER…

So…there I sat…in the restaurant section of Larson’s grocery store…watching dead leaves swirl around on their charming but now “Closed for the Winter” patio…leaves whistling by…like the memories from so many years ago…

I finished my coffee and looked out the window and wondered how soon it would snow…

I had been gone from Minnesota for a long time and had only returned a few months ago to help Alec’s wife, Cara, deal with the crushing burden of his unexpected illness and impending death.

Alec had joined me in Canada rather than register for the draft in 1969, secured a college degree, met the enchanting Cara, got married and then returned to the United States in 1977 after President Carter issued amnesty to those men who had moved to Canada rather than go to Vietnam.

He and Cara had visited me several times each year…they had no children…so we became a “family”.

Dearest Cara…confined to a wheelchair after a car accident several years ago…had reluctantly asked me for help…and I had come down with no hesitation.

I was pretty confident that enough years had gone by for any of the ghosts from my past to rise up and cause me any problems…I was pretty sure of that by now…sure that they were all dead.

I got up, grabbed my purse, turned and started to walk toward the grocery area of the store…when suddenly there was a slight tap on my shoulder.

I turned around and looked at a white-haired man…about my own age…maybe a couple of years past seventy.

He tilted his head a bit but didn’t quite smile.  Then…in a low, gravelly voice…that is usually the result of years of smoking and drinking…or both..he said…

“Remember me?”

And…at first, I didn’t remember.

But then I looked a little harder…past the many years of living that can sometimes change a person completely.

I looked at his odd eyes.  He was wearing bright, blue contact lenses.

I thought…how strange for an older man to do so…

But then he smiled…and suddenly I knew exactly who he was…

“I thought you were dead, Tommy.”

 

After Johnny died, I registered for Fall classes at the University of Minnesota because I knew I should.

I moved back home…partly to save on expenses…but mostly to absorb the healing magic that only parents can give you when you’re hurting…I needed a lot of magic right now.

I had packed up all of Johnny’s clothes and had given them all to the Salvation Army because I knew Johnny would like that…except for one blue plaid flannel shirt that I think I wore more than he did…it was ‘our shirt’…it still smelled of Old Spice…Johnny’s favorite after-shave cologne.

I had called Johnny’s mom and asked her if she wanted any of Johnny’s clothes or if she thought Alec would want anything.

“No, Riley.  The Salvation Army is a good place for them.  Alec is having a really hard time dealing with John’s death…he blames his father.”

“He says when he has to register for the draft in two years, he’s going to Canada instead…”

I didn’t know what to say…I wasn’t sure if Johnny had told anyone of my idea for us to go to Canada.  But then she continued…

“John told Alec that he wanted to go to Canada with you…and would have…if it hadn’t been for their father being so against it.”

“I wish he had gone, Riley.  I wish the two of you had just packed up and gone to Canada.”

More tears than I thought possible were falling down my cheeks and stopped me from saying anything more than a choked good bye.

 

I hadn’t gone to Johnny’s funeral.  His father had planned a huge memorial for his first-born son…full of praise for the bravery John had shown in proudly fighting for his country.

If I had gone to Johnny’s funeral, this is what I would have said to his father.

“He OD’d on heroin, Mr. Taylor.”

“Maybe you’d like to read all the letters Johnny sent me.  They rip my heart to shreds every time I read them.”

“I don’t want to read them…but it’s all I have of him now.”

“He was so full of pain and horror at having…even accidentally…killed innocent women and children…he couldn’t sleep…not without drugs…and sometimes not even with drugs.”

“His heart was broken after watching so many of his friends blown to pieces right before his eyes or bleed to death in his arms…crying like little kids…so scared…because they didn’t want to die but knew they were going to.”

“He was haunted by the blood that poured from the bodies of all the Vietcong soldiers he had killed…some who looked younger than Alec.”

“He wasn’t a brave hero, Mr. Taylor…he was just trying to survive…just like all the other boys around him.”

“They were all just trying to survive and come home…just come home.”

That’s what I would have said to his father if I had been at Johnny’s funeral.

And…that’s why I stayed away.

 

 

 

 

A few days after Johnny’s funeral, I marched with about 5,000 other protesters down Summit Avenue from Macalester College to the St. Paul capitol.  There were a lot of speakers that day on the capitol steps and they were all very angry.

President Johnson had just announced a new troop deployment to Viet Nam.

He had earlier ‘leaked’ to the media of a withdrawal of troops, something he often did to appease the war protesters…but the ‘withdrawal’ was just another wretched lie that would send more heart broken families and friends to grave sites over the next days, weeks, months and even years.

As frustration with the war increased, protesters were becoming more militant.  But they were passionately against the war…and that was all that mattered to me.

I was hurting and I needed to do something.

I needed to do more to help end this horror…to stop more young men from coming home in black body bags.

Johnny was gone…he would never hold me in his arms again…never!  I could not get past my sadness…I missed him so much.

I wanted everyone to know the anguish and pain that this stupid war was bringing to thousands of people like me.

I wanted everyone to know and to care and to do something…

I wanted the pain to go away…

I wanted Johnny back.

One year had gone by…but I was still angry and frustrated.  The war in Viet Nam was escalating and more and more young men were coming home dead…or like Johnny…drug addicts.

It was just after the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August, 1968 that I met Tommy Clark.

He was currently working toward a law degree on scholarship at the University of Minnesota.

As a student at Berkeley in California, he had been quite active in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), organizing many anti-war rallies.

He had just returned from Chicago and still had bruises from his clash with the police at the convention.

He didn’t try to hide them.  He seemed to be proud of them as he was wearing only a raggedy, sleeveless tee shirt on a chilly Minnesota night.

He and a couple of other students were speaking to a very large group of anti-war protesters who had gathered in front of Coffman Union on the University of Minnesota campus.

Protests and rallies and marches were getting larger and becoming more organized…but still in America…in was pretty much business as usual.

President Johnson was still spewing lies to try to keep protesters happy…what did he care?  He wasn’t even seeking a second term.

Civil disobedience was becoming the new catch phrase at protest rallies.

Tommy was calling out for ideas that might grab the attention of the press…noting that there was NO press at this rally.

I was at the front of the group and I called out a suggestion to have protesters chain themselves to the water tower on Snelling Avenue and Ford Parkway…a heavily trafficked area of St. Paul.

Everyone cheered and I looked up at Tommy Clark who was also cheering and clapping.

“And a hunger strike!” I shouted out.

“This country may have become numb to seeing young boys bleeding to death ‘in living color’ on their TV screens…but no one wants to see young college kids starving to death on Snelling Avenue in Minnesota.”

More cheering…

 

Tommy began to  speak again and everyone looked back at him…but he was talking to me.

“Hey!  I like your idea.  What’s your name?” He called to me.

I shouted out my name.

Tommy said as he pointed to me…”That’s a great idea, Riley,  We need more ideas like that.”

“I think a hunger strike and chaining a few of us to that tower would get a lot of attention…but think…just think what would happen if we just blew the damn thing up.”  And then he paused…

Shocked silence at first…but then quiet murmuring and a smattering of applause.

So far the protests on this campus had been basically non-violent…peaceful…but some colleges and universities…Wisconsin for example…had seen major conflicts between the police and war protesters.

But so far…not at the University of Minnesota or at any  other locations around the state.

Tommy handled the reluctance and surprise of the crowd with ease.

“But…I wouldn’t want any protesters chained to the tower at the time…of course…” he joked and with that comment he again had the crowd completely with him.

Then he quickly shifted focus and stressed that civil disobedience like “hunger strikes” and “blocking roadways” would get massive coverage in the press…and that was the important thing.

He also mentioned again the “Snelling Avenue water tower idea” and my name…

And then after a couple more speakers… the rally was over.

 

Later…at a little bar in Dinky Town…I saw Tommy siting with a bunch of other kids I had seen at the rally.  They were all sitting in a huge booth by the back wall.

I went over and introduced myself…just in case he had forgotten who I was.

I told him how impressed I was with his speech and told him I was eager to help in any way.

“Riley.  Of course I remember you!  Here sit down next to me.”  He said and patted the space next to him and everyone slid over.

Tommy said he had been talking to other anti-war protest leaders on other campuses across the country and they had been sharing strategies.

He was flying to Washington D.C. tomorrow to plan the inauguration protest…if Nixon was elected..

We sat and talked that night for hours and over the next several weeks, we got together to plan strategies and share more ideas.

We were all students…so we had to fit everything in around classes…but winter break was coming.

It was the middle of January when Tommy brought up the water tower idea again…only this time the plan was to blow it up.

“It’s the only way to get the press to pay attention,” Tommy said.  “And it will be safe…no one will be around in the dead of winter…I’ve checked it out many times and the place is always deserted…not one foot print in the snow.

“I talked with a couple of guys from New York and California and they all said…and I agree…we have to start making people sit up and take notice.”

“Blowing things up will do that…and we’ll get the front-page headlines we deserve.”

Everyone agreed with Tommy…but I did not.

“No.  Sorry…no violence.” I said.  “I’ll lay in the street.  I’ll get arrested.  I’ll chain myself to a building or whatever…but no violence that could possibly hurt innocent people.  Absolutely not.”

Sheila Baxter and her boyfriend Gerald Michaels were sitting next to me.  They were also working toward law degrees and had known Tommy when he was in California.

They also had come here on scholarship.

Another boy, Mikey Longwell was the organizer of a small group of kids who had been at the Wisconsin Dow Day protest…where there had been injuries…it was the first university protest to turn violent.

They listened to me and then turned back to Tommy.  It was like I hadn’t said anything at all.

I sat for a few more minutes shaking my head in disapproval.

Finally, I had enough.  I stood up and started to put on my jacket.

“I’m leaving.  I’m not doing this.” I said and started to walk out.

Tommy got up and followed me to the door.  He grabbed my arm so I couldn’t leave.

“You better keep quiet about this, Riley.  Remember all those people at that rally a few months ago?”

“They heard one thing over and over again…that ‘staging a protest at the water tower’ was your idea.”

And then Tommy smiled and my whole body suddenly got so cold I shivered.

I knew then that Tommy Clark could be very dangerous if you made him mad.  I think I just did.

I angrily pulled my arm away and walked out the door.

 

 

 

I immediately went home and told my mom and dad about Tommy Clark’s plans.

They called my uncle, Carl Andrews, a retired St. Paul homicide detective…and then..everything happened very fast.

Within twenty-four hours, Tommy, Sheila, Gerald and Mikey were all  picked up for questioning by the St. Paul Police Department.

I, too, was questioned.  Initially, I was being considered the “instigator” of this plot…since Tommy and his friends had all said it was my idea…but California police records showed quite a history of “trouble making events” for Tommy Clark and that lifted all suspicion from me.

But I did have to admit the “chaining” and “hunger strike” plans were my idea.

We then had to appear before a grand jury to see if there was enough evidence for a felony charge.

Unfortunately, the grand jury determined there was not enough conclusive evidence that a crime was actually going to be committed.

Instead, they determined it was more likely just some “bragging” by some college kids who had had too many beers to drink…

And that Riley Sanderson…who had also been drinking when she had heard of these “let’s blow up the tower” plans…had just misinterpreted the whole thing.

Since no charges were filed, our names were never released but everyone knew quickly who we were…and Tommy was a hero to the more militant side of the anti-war movement.

The University of Minnesota, however, looked at this incident differently and decided to use this as an example to other students at the University who may be planning acts of civil disobedience in protesting the Viet Nam war…

They placed a full-page ad in the Minnesota Daily…citing the University’s policy regarding protests and rallies and consequences for unlawful behavior.

We were all called into the Dean’s office and expelled without any recourse.

Tommy and his friends’ scholarships were rescinded…and everything went on our permanent record.

It didn’t matter to me.  I was heading north as soon as possible.  My parents would be joining me.

“Time for new beginnings…” my dad had said.  “For all of us…”

But…just as I was leaving the building I realized that I had forgotten my gloves and walked back to get them.

Tommy, Sheila, Gerald and Mikey were all huddled together at a table quietly talking.

I could see that Sheila had been crying.  I knew how close she had been to getting her law degree and how much she had looked forward to being a lawyer.

I grabbed my gloves and turned back to the door.  Tommy spotted me.

“This isn’t over, ‘little girl’… far from it.  You made a very big mistake.”

And…then he gave me that chillingly, cold smile that I would never forget.

…Larson’s Grocery…

…NOW….

I stepped back…I could not believe that Tommy Clark was standing less than three feet in front of me…smiling that disgusting smile of his.

My heart began to pound like a jack-hammer.

I had been wrong…all these years…I had been so wrong.

Not everyone was dead after all.

They say…that if you are ever confronted by a vicious  animal, you should never run.  They will instinctively think you are prey and chase you .

And when they catch you…and they will catch you…they will kill you.

Instead, shout as loudly as you can or grab a couple of rocks and bang them together.

Your chances are good the animal will be momentarily startled at least for a short time…giving you a chance to escape.

I had no rocks.  My mouth was so dry I could hardly swallow…much less shout. And what exactly would I shout?   So I stood and waited.

“You look good, Riley.”

I suddenly felt dizzy and I swayed just a little.

“I need to sit down…” I said and made an effort to walk back to where I had been sitting.

But Tommy took my elbow and steered me out the door of Larson’s.

“I think what you need is a drink, Riley.  I know I could use one.  There’s a friendly-looking little bar a couple of doors down.”

It had started to rain ever so  slightly…and still holding tightly to my arm…he led me down the block.

Maybe Tommy had mellowed.  It had been so many years.  Maybe this was just a chance encounter.

Maybe his frightening smile was just a…smile.  Maybe this was a dream and I would wake up.

And maybe pigs could fly…

Two doors down from Larson’s was the kind of neighborhood bar that seldom saw strangers…especially in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon.

Sure enough…when we walked in…the three men at the bar turned at the sound of the door opening…stopped talking and just looked at the two of us.

Tommy gave them a nod and then guided me to a booth way over in a corner by a window.  It was stuffy in the bar and Tommy opened the window a little.  The cool air felt good.

An older woman…perhaps in her sixties came right over and leaned against the side of the booth.  I had a feeling she may have been the owner.

She gave us a cool smile…and I’m sure she was thinking…”Now…who the hell are you two?”

But she said pleasantly, “Nice rainy day, right?”

I returned her smile…and desperately tried to think of something I could say or do to get me out of this booth…and away from Tommy.

I had decided…pigs can’t fly.

“Where is the ladies’ room?” I asked.

She looked away from us and pointed to a neon sign on the other side of the bar…past a few tables.

I made a move to get up…but Tommy reached across and put a restraining hand on my arm…

“Riley, can you hold on for just a couple of minutes?  Let’s order first.  I’m starving.”

He gave the waitress a big smile and said, “We’ll need a second or two.”

He reached for the little menus propped up by the salt & pepper shakers.  His jacket fell open a little.

That’s when I saw the holster…and the gun.

“Sure, blue eyes…I’ll be back.”

Tommy smiled at her again and then turned back…but there was no smile for me…he knew I had seen the gun.

 

 

“Oh, don’t be scared, Riley…I’m not going to kill you.  The gun’s not for you.  I always carry now…it’s legal in Minnesota, you know…or maybe you don’t.  You’ve been gone for such a long time.”

But I do have a story to tell you and I want you to hear it.   I want you to know how…” he paused, folded his hands together in front of him, took a deep breath…and then began again.

“I want you to completely understand the consequences of your foolish actions that night when you and your uncle decided to call the police.”

I made an effort to speak but before I could say anything…

“No…let me talk.  I’ve waited a long time, Riley.”  Tommy seemed very calm…not angry at all.

I relaxed a little.

“Fine.  I’l listen to you, Tommy.  But I read about Sheila and Gerald in the newspaper.  I know what happened to them.”

“I read that about six months after we were all expelled from the University of Minnesota…they blew themselves up in an abandoned apartment building in New York City…along with four innocent teenagers who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“…and Mikey…I can’t help it that his marriage failed…or should I say marriages…and that he felt that suicide was the solution to his problems.”

“That’s not on me.” I said, feeling more sure of myself now…

“I’ve even kept track of you…Tommy…but I thought you were dead.”

 

 

“I heard you went to California after the Kent State tragedy.  But then I heard nothing more about you.”  I said.

“You were so active in the protest movement…it was like you disappeared.”

“What happened…?” I asked.

Tommy didn’t answer but instead signaled the waitress over and ordered two whisky sours and two cheeseburgers with fries.

Apparently Tommy’s memory was still good.  He ordered my favorite food and drink combination from our college days…and still today, as well.

The curtain was fluttering beside me and I was just about to close the window when the waitress quickly returned with our drinks.

Again…Tommy gave her a big smile…and I’m sure she was thinking…big tip.  Well.  Maybe…

“I’ll be back in a few…” the friendly waitress said.

I took a sip of my drink. Wow!  It was strong…better go slow, I thought.

Tommy, however, drank almost half of his glass before putting it down.

Then he leaned  to the side so he could look around me.

Instinctively, I turned to see what he was looking at…

A group of eight or nine young people had come into the bar…all laughing and talking and carrying prettily, wrapped boxes.

One of them was very, very pregnant.  It was obviously a ‘farewell’ party for the beaming pregnant woman.

When I looked back at Tommy, he had the gun out and was attaching…what I knew from watching so many ‘cop’ programs on TV…a silencer.

My mouth flew open to cry out…but before I could even inhale enough oxygen to do so…Tommy very quietly said…

 

“If you say one word, Riley, I will kill everyone in this wretched hole in the wall bar…and first to go will be the cute, little pregnant woman.”

“Do.  You.  Understand?”  He spoke each word so very carefully.

I could hardly breathe.  But I nodded.

Tommy chuckled softly.  “You really didn’t believe me when I said that I wasn’t going to kill you…did you, Riley?”

“Of course, I’m going to kill you.”

“I’ve waited fifty years to do this.  Have you ever heard of that saying, ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’?  Well, this ‘dish’ is almost frozen…and will be all the sweeter.”

“When Sheila and Gerald died…I was supposed to be with them.  I was the explosives expert…but I was dead drunk in some crap apartment I was crashing at with some crap girl I had met at a bar.”

“Do you know why I was drunk, Riley?  I had just received a letter…from the American Bar Association telling me that no state in this glorious country would grant me permission to practice law…due to ‘lack of good moral character'”.

“No moral character, Riley!  Me…who had spent the best six years of his life working to prevent the deaths of thousands of young men in that stupid war.”

“And poor Mikey…he never got over the deaths of Sheila and Gerald.”

“He blamed himself for not being there…blamed me too…used to send me pathetic letters…trying to make himself feel better.”

“Finally, after five years of guilt that he couldn’t handle…he hung himself.”

“But what happened to me…you ask?  I ended up in California and spent the next forty years working under a phony name, as a paralegal during the day.”

“They didn’t even check my fake references…they just wanted me cheap.  And at night…I drank myself to sleep in front of the television set…waiting…”

“I always hoped I would see you again, Riley.  After I “retired”, I moved back to Minnesota…kept an eye on little Alec and his lovely wife…and of course I bought this gun.”

“But you were always just a dream away…until  your angry Letter to the Editor last month in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the increase in suicide rates of veterans.”

“You shouldn’t have used your real name, Riley.  That was very careless of you…very careless.”

Suddenly there was a change in Tommy…the calmness was gone…replaced by a quiet rage.

 

“Everything that happened to Sheila, Gerald, Mikey and me was your fault, Riley…you and your stupid, interfering uncle…but I got him.”

“Now…after years of waiting…I’m finally going to get you.”

My mouth fell open.  “Uncle Carl was killed by…”

Before I could finish, Tommy interrupted me.  He was almost gleeful in his telling.

“I enjoyed reading the cops’ investigation on his ‘ambush‘ murder…they thought it was some former ex-convict…perhaps seeking revenge.  It was revenge all right…my revenge.”

“Bastard…” I whispered under my breath.

Tommy carefully lifted the gun off the table and pointed it at me.  I looked right into his eyes and saw those hideously fake, blue eyes wince just as he pulled the trigger.

It was so quiet…I can understand why they called it a ‘silencer’.

But I felt nothing but a whisper of air that brushed by my head.

Tommy looked so surprised…and then his head fell to the table with a thud and one bright blue contact lens popped out.

Years of smoking, drinking and hate had finally caught up with Tommy Clark…or whatever name he went by now.

I reached over and checked for a pulse…I thought I could feel a soft, little beat…

I breathed slowly and waited a few more minutes.  I took a couple sips of my drink.

I could hear our waitress still taking orders from the party group.  She would be a while…everyone was laughing…having such a good time.

I shuddered…knowing that Tommy would have shot that pregnant woman with no regret.

I checked again for a pulse.  This time I could feel nothing.

“Be sure, Riley.” I said to myself.  “Be very sure.”  And I waited just a little bit longer…and then I checked again.

Nothing.  The life of Tommy Clark was over…probably a nice, clean coronary…no questions would be asked.  Old people die all the time.

I reached for his gun lying on the table.  The barrel had cooled enough to pick it up and I gently removed Tommy’s fingers from the handle.

I put the gun in my purse and looked down at Tommy.

“Well.  You’re all dead now…aren’t you?” I said and then I smiled…just a little.

I turned to the window where the curtains were still swinging back and forth…letting in the cool air..

I could tell just by looking…they had probable not been cleaned for years.

I pulled a corner of the curtain to the side….

…and there was a neat, little hole right under the window sill…could be almost anything…could have been there for twenty years…or twenty seconds.

I let the curtain fall back into place…hiding that little hole as it fluttered in the breeze.

…and waved “slightly frantically” at our waitress…who was now heading to the kitchen.

I called out in my best “shaky, frightened old lady” voice…

“Can somebody help me, please?  I think we have a problem here…”

      THE END

By

Tina Nelson

(The Paperback Edition…)

You really can’t go back…can you?

They say you never forget your first love.  I didn’t.  But maybe I should have.  Sometimes when you play with fire, you get burned.

******

Prologue:

He stood across from me and I wondered why we were in this strange, smoky place with all these odd people milling aimlessly around murmuring words but not really saying anything.

He had his usual self-confident, self-assured smile on his face.  I loved that smile.  As he leaned toward me, perhaps to kiss me, someone in the suddenly silent room whispered for all to hear.  “She’s departed from her mind, you know.”

He hesitated then, tilting his head to the side, placing his hands lightly on my shoulders.

“I guess there will be no romancing tonight…”  His smile had disappeared from his face.

“Not me.  Not me,” I said softly.

Then he drew me to him, holding me so close…and safe…just like before…all those years ago.

“It’s not too late then?”  He asked with a wondering that lingered in the air.  His words brushing my ear so only I could hear.

“No,” I said quietly.  “I’ve dreamed about you for so long.  I thought I would never see you again.”

He pulled back a little, those dark eyes searching mine, and then…pausing slightly as he had always done…kissed me gently on my lips.

And then I woke up…cheeks wet with tears…

 

 

 

The Paperback Edition…

A long time ago…

Go back to a Minnesota cold November day.  I am standing in the lunch line at Portland High School, waiting for my favorite hot lunch…roast turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes…giggling not too loudly with my best friend, Melanie Taylor.  We were checking out all the cute, older boys surrounding us in line.

Mel and I had been best friends since 3rd grade and we had been looking forward to our entrance into 9th grade for every single moment of the whole, long, boring summer.

We were both fourteen and still too young for real summer jobs.  I wouldn’t turn fifteen until December.  Mel’s birthday was next week.

Baby sitting and walking back and forth to each other’s houses were the sum total of our summer.  We were gloriously tanned but impressively bored.

I hung out more at Mel’s house than she did at mine.  Unfortunately, it was neighborhood knowledge and gossip that my father Victor Jones drank too often and too much…that his beautiful wife, Katie Jones, deserved so much better and “Oh, that sweet, sweet Sam…it must be so hard for her.”

It was.

From age eleven on, I never knew a day when there wasn’t a lost, lonely feeling in the pit of my stomach and a thin veil of sadness around me that never quite lifted.

But that was about to change…

“The Paperback Edition”

For some unknown reason, Mel’s and my freshman science class ended with a shared lunch hour with a lot of the sophomores and juniors.  Happily for us, many were drop-dead good-looking older boys.

So, every chance we had, we were looking at them and much to our delight…they were looking right back at us.  Were we innocent little lambs ready to be shorn?  Maybe, I don’t know.

So naive we were…and so dazed by all the attention.  And so very unprepared.

We had learned about dating and romance…and even sex…from books and movies…where no matter what happened, there was always a happy ending.

After all…it was 1957.

We were so very, very young.

We had tired weeks ago of the antics of the freshman boys…even the new ones from other schools in our district.  They couldn’t even drive a car, for heaven’s sake.

Suddenly, as we stood in line that November day, someone bumped into me from behind and my biology book flew out of my hand and skittered across the floor.

A group of older boys behind us in line laughed loudly and my face turned bright red.  I still blushed and hated myself every time it happened.

“You dropped your book,” one of them said, looking back at his friends, enjoying their approval and laughter.  He seemed so pleased with his joke.

I kneeled down to get my book and raising up, looked into the face of the most handsome boy I had ever seen.  His dark brown eyes were looking right at me and my breath was stilled for a moment.

He didn’t say he was sorry…because of course he wasn’t…I was just the random recipient of his stupid prank.

I tried to give him and his friends a big smile to show that I was cool and smooth and ‘not just some dumb, little, freshman girl’ but his look was so intense my smile froze crookedly on my face…not very cool at all.

His friends laughed even harder at my obvious embarrassment.  My cheeks flamed even more and tears jumped to my eyes.

He stopped laughing then and bent down to pick up a sheet of paper that had fallen out of my book.

“Here, I think this is yours too.”  He was almost apologetic.

He handed me the paper but my throat had closed and I couldn’t speak.  Couldn’t even say thanks.

I turned quickly away, brushing a stray tear off my cheek and willing my face to stop blushing.  He must think I’m a total idiot…still a child of the eighth grade, I thought.

“I am a total fool,” I muttered under my breath.

I moved up in the line, heart pounding from humiliation.

“Sam!  Do you know who that was?” asked Melanie.

I shook my head and stole a look back over my shoulder at the group of boys who were now admiring a very stunning and buxom teacher who had just walked by.

“No,” I mumbled…still feeling quite stupid.

“That’s Bobby Flanagan!  He’s the most popular boy at Portland!  All the girls are wild for him!  Even the senior girls and he’s only a sophomore!”  Melanie was all but jumping up and down.

“I think he likes you,”  she whispered to me…those magical words that best friends…no matter what age…say to each other whether they are true or not.

I turned back again and this time Bobby was looking right at me with a big grin on his face.

My heart literally skipped a beat…trite…but true nonetheless.

Samantha Jones…meet Bobby Flanagan…your First Love.

 

 

The Paperback Edition…

When you’re 14 going on 15…going on 16…and your mysterious new body is continuously running at a fever pitch and you’re dating a Bobby Flanagan, it’s always the Fourth of July with spectacular fireworks and sighs of wonderment.

For the next two years, nothing mattered to me except to be with Bobby.  Thank God I was naturally smart so school was easy.  I still managed the B honor roll…something I would need with college in the future…and college was definitely in the future.  But not now.

Those two summers were magical…days glorious for not doing what should be done and nights delightful in doing what we should not.

Best memory?  Oh…can I even choose?  Maybe…Bobby and me in the back seat of his best friend’s car, heading to a nearby drive-in for hamburgers…still sun dazzled after hours of laying on a beach…somewhere.

Bobby’s arms wrapped around me, his hands travelling all over my sun-tanned body and kisses that have put all others since then…on another page entirely.  My bare feet…danging out the open window…keeping time to the insistent beat of Jan and Dean’s “Baby Talk”.

Yes.  That was the best memory…

Because…because THAT…was what First Love felt like…14 going on 15…going on 16…going on…going on…

The Paperback Edition…

Even now as I look back on those two summers, now with older…perhaps  slightly jaded eyes, I can still…even now…feel the thrill, the excitement that Bobby brought to me…to my life.

Bobby became my life.  I loved him without measure.

Were we having sex?  Maybe…I don’t know for sure…I was so incredibly innocent back then.  We all were.   I wasn’t sure what was going on, but something was and I liked it and wasn’t saying no.

His boyish, irresistible charm reassured me every dark night or sunny afternoon when we were alone together, that all would be fine.  He made it all so easy.  But then…everything was easy with Bobby.

“Don’t worry, Sammy.  It’s okay, it’ll be fine.  I love you.  You know I love you, don’t you?”

And he would look at me with those intense brown eyes that always held a little laughter in them…and then…and then…of course, I knew he did.

But there were other times when Bobby’s words of love were flippant and breezy.

And then, that lost, lonely feeling in the pit of my stomach would return.

I would wonder why did he want me?  What was so special about me…Samantha Jones.

There were many other girls in high school that he could have chosen…prettier than me by far…more sophisticated and certainly less innocent.

Sometimes I would wonder if I was just a little toy for Bobby…a toy to play with for a short while…a toy he would keep until someone else came along.

 

 

 

The Paperback Edition…

But Samantha Jones was very, very wrong.

Travel back again to that cold November day.  That was the day Samantha Jones stole Bobby Flanagan’s heart and she didn’t even know it.

That was the day when he saw her shy, lop-sided smile, and sensed the lonely, sweet sadness that she had successfully hidden from everyone…even from her best friend Mel.

That was the day when Bobby fell completely in love with Sam…not yet even knowing her name…just knowing somehow that loving her and making her happy was more important to him than anything else he would ever do.

But he was so young…only 16…too young then to understand completely such powerful feelings…much less able to share them, even with the one he loved so much.

Easier to set them aside for the moment…easier to smile…and so he did.

Bobby often hid his true feelings behind a mask of brashness and cockiness that came easy to a wickedly handsome Irish boy whose charm unsettled all the girls who met him.

Yes…Bobby loved Sam, perhaps more even than she loved him…but he never really told her…never shared with her how much he needed her…how much of his happiness depended on hers…how much her laughter and sweet innocence brightened his every day…how much joy he felt whenever he was near her.

He never let her know how necessary she was to the simple existence of his every day.  Had she only known, Sam would have been bound to him forever…but Bobby never told her.

 

 

The Paperback Edition…

Two glorious years floated by.  Days that began with walking to class with Bobby and nights that ended with either eager kisses in the darkness of his car or a soft “I love you, good night” spoken in  hushed voices on the phone.

We were ‘that couple’…the one other kids pointed at in the halls…and my previously unimportant young girl self basked in that new attention…but of course it was nothing new to the winsome and popular Bobby.

The reality of my life before Bobby,  the unfair reality that had stopped an easy smile from appearing on my lips was gone…thanks to Bobby.

I smiled a lot now.

All my problems had been pushed aside by the force and simple presence of Bobby’s love…the strength and intensity of which sometimes surprised us both.

We were so young.

But we were slowly growing up…

 

“The Paperback Edition”

I was entering my junior year of high school and I had started to think ahead to college.  There were meetings with counselors and applications and forms to fill out.

I had always dreamed of becoming an elementary school teacher.

Bobby, who was actually very smart, was causing his teachers a lot of worry.  They knew there was a good chance he would not graduate unless he buckled down and hit some good grades this…his senior year.

He was well liked by his teachers and they were all too willing to bend the rules a little for him.   It wouldn’t have been the first time.

“Bobby, you have such potential, you shouldn’t waste it,” they would tell him.  They had even talked to me…knowing and understanding the strong bond we shared.

But Bobby hated the word ‘potential’.  He had heard it too often from his father who had wanted him to start working in the family hardware store immediately after graduation from high school.

For most young boys at that time, that would have been an easy, golden career path…but not for Bobby.

Bobby wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after high school.

“I just want a choice, Sammy.” he had told me so many times.  “I just need a little time to think and decide what I want to do  with my life.”

But…Bobby needed to graduate from high school…to not do so would reflect badly on the Flanagan name.  And his proud father, Jack, was having none of that.

Jack’s plan for Bobby’s future had been decided years ago…his charming son was not going to change it.

And yet… Bobby did just that.

 

“The Paperback Edition”

Without warning…on a beautiful sunny October day, with Fall shadows still a few weeks away, Bobby shook the ground I stood on.

Without telling me what he was going to do…Bobby Flanagan walked away from me…walked away from us.

He signed up for a six-year enlistment in the U.S. Navy, two days after he had turned seventeen.

He was certain that the Navy would offer him so many more opportunities than the life his father his planned for him.

After days and nights filled with my tears that wouldn’t stop, Bobby’s words were of little comfort.

“It’ll be okay,” he said after wiping my tears away.   “We can do this, Sammy.  You know we can.”

And yet he had never asked me…before enlisting… what I thought about his decision…or how I felt.

In my heart and in my head, I knew how much this meant to him.  I knew how important this was for him.

I only wished that I also knew that I was just as important to him…that he loved me as much as he loved his new, shiny-bright future.

What Samantha didn’t know…what would have changed everything…was how many tears Bobby had cried when the reality of his quick decision, the reality of his leaving her set in…even though he was sure it was the best solution for their future together.  But…he never told her.

What Samantha didn’t know…was that leaving her was the hardest thing Bobby had ever had to do…and it was breaking his heart.  But…he chose not to tell her.

He was barely seventeen and she was yet to turn sixteen…

 

The Paperback Edition…

It all happened so fast.  Two weeks later Bobby was gone…gone from my life…seemingly forever…because that’s how you feel when you’re fifteen.

That lost, lonely feeling was back, causing more hurt than before.

I didn’t have Bobby there to know without me saying…why I had dark shadows under my eyes.

It’s hard to sleep when angry shouts and the sounds of broken glass are cutting through your dreams.

I had no Bobby to gently take my hand and softly give it a squeeze…silently telling me that he understood…and how much he cared…while the morning chatter of sleepy students was echoing around us in the halls.

There was no Bobby to sling a comforting arm of support around my shoulders…making me feel I could get through this.  No Bobby to tell me…we would get through this…together.

Together was gone.

The Paperback Edition

Letter writing was hard for Bobby those first weeks.  Boot camp was tough, I knew that.

I wrote to him every day…sometimes twice…each time telling him how much I missed him and loved him and sharing everything that was happening to me.

Bobby’s few letters were filled with his new adventure.  “Everything’s great!” he said.

“I love you Sammy…I miss you so much!”

It wasn’t a good time for me.  Mel had met the love of her life, Stuart Archer and spent every moment with him…just as I had done with Bobby.  I understood.  But…

I was beyond lonely.

Then one night, three days before Christmas Eve, the front door bell rang.  There on our front step stood Bobby in his full Navy-Blue uniform…looking so very handsome.

“Hey Sammy…Merry  Christmas!”

His heart-melting Irish grin was plastered from ear to ear and his arms were opened wide.

I was in those arms before he could say one more word.  His signature cologne, Old Spice, smelled like heaven.

Even though only a few weeks had passed, Bobby seemed more mature and definitely more confident about his life…and he was so happy.

He talked a lot about his future…his future…he kept saying “his” future.  I know, I know…he meant “our” future.

I was sure that Bobby’s feelings toward me and toward us had not changed.

I had just turned sixteen.

The two weeks flew by like two days…we spent every minute together.  One night he took me shopping and he bought ‘his girl’ a black dress and a pink necklace to wear on their last night together before he had to leave…and he said, “I love you Sammy”  And then…

And then…as quickly as he had appeared…he was gone.  I was even more lonely than before.

Bobby’s letters became shorter and shorter and there were fewer of them.

He said he loved me and missed me.  I knew that he did…but sometimes it seemed like an afterthought.

His life had changed so much and he was different.  Mine had not.  I was not.

I wanted to understand.  But every time I read another short letter…filled with all his new experiences…I felt forgotten and unimportant…replaced by the excitement of Bobby’s new life in the Navy.

Six months ago, I was Bobby’s life.

Dear, sweet Mel tried to make me feel better.

“He’s busy, Sam.  He’s got a lot of new stuff going on…Bobby adores you.  You know that.”

Every night I went to sleep…wearing an Old Spice scented,  blue plaid shirt that Bobby had given me…tears trying to escape my eyes.

 

 

 

The Paperback Edition

Around the end of April, I told Bobby that Mel and I were going to the Spring Festival Dance next month with a couple of friends.

Mel and I had both been on the planning committee for the dance and we had been working really hard to make everything go smoothly and to make the gym look pretty.

Mel was going to go with Stuart Archer, her boyfriend and I was going to go with Marty Nichols who had also been on the planning committee…we were just friends.

I really wanted to go.  It did not occur to me…not for a moment that Bobby might not like me going…or even care as long as I was happy.  I was very wrong.

Bobby wrote back right away…something he had not been doing for the past three months.  He was brief.

“Absolutely not!”  He wrote and I could feel desperate anger in his words…uncommon for Bobby who seldom got mad at anything.

“How are you waiting for me if you are dating other guys?  How are you my girl?” He had asked.

I wrote back quickly and re-explained that Marty Nichols was just a friend…in fact…Bobby knew him.  They had been in freshman Spanish together.

Another quick reply from Bobby.  “No!  If you go to this damn dance, Sammy, we are finished,” Bobby wrote back.

“You obviously don’t care about me anymore.”

And then he added the most hurtful words of all…words that showed me Bobby had really forgotten me…forgotten who I was…forgotten who we were.

“I’m sure Marty is probably looking for more than just to dance with you.  Maybe that’s what you’re looking for too..”

He had just signed it “B”.

I sat on my bed and held his short letter in my hands for hours…tears of heartache and disbelief pouring from my eyes every time I read it…glad for once I was all alone.

When Saturday night came…I went to the dance.

Two weeks later I wrote Bobby a letter.  I told him that I had a great time at the dance and that Marty was such a nice guy.

I told him that I wouldn’t be writing to him anymore…and that I would toss any letters from him away without opening them.

Of course, that was all a lie.  The dance was awful.  I didn’t want to dance so close to Marty when they played slow dances and he got really angry.  He and a couple of his buddies got drunk from some whiskey they had smuggled in to the dance.   It was a wretchedly, lonely night.

Mel and Stuart brought me home.

And that was the end of my junior year in high school…

The Paperback Edition…

My senior year of high school passed quickly.  I graduated with honors, which was not a big accomplishment since I never dated…or did much of anything else except study.

Mel and Stuart got married in July…she was two months pregnant.  Stuart started an apprenticeship program to become an electrician and they moved into a small trailer home…and were deliriously happy.

I got some bad advice from a beloved teacher, blew a scholarship to the University of Minnesota and went instead to a local, private college which I realized…too late…that I could not afford.

I had to quit after one semester.  Two jobs didn’t cut it.

But really…it was the sore throat and crap cold one very bleak December day that did me in.  Too sick.  Too tired.  Too fucking sick and tired.

So, I dropped out of college and caused a huge fight between my parents because…because that’s what they did.

And life went on because it always does.

I bought a cheap little car with $200.00 I borrowed from my grandma who died soon after, so I never had to pay her back.

I got a cheap little job as a stock clerk for a shoe store chain at the local mall…and waited for something to happen to me…but I didn’t know exactly what.

Everyone at ShoesPlus was super nice and I made a couple of new friends and I casually dated and it was all so very normal.

Even my parents pretended to be friends for a while.

But in the bottom of my stomach, just off in the corner…that lost, lonely feeling persisted.  I wondered if it would ever go away.

Then one day at work, Betsy Vick, a friend from Portland  High School, came into ShoesPlus.  We talked for a few minutes but I was working so she suggested we go to lunch and ‘share more memories’.

I was really surprised since we hadn’t been that good friends…but I said “Sure, why not.”  We agreed to meet in the food court at 12:30.

When I got to there, I looked all over but Betsy was nowhere to be found.  I looked down at my watch to check the time…and when I looked up, I saw Bobby Flanagan walking toward me.

I could hardy take a breath.

 

“The Paperback Edition”

“Hey, Sammy, how are you?” Bobby said and I was treated to that wonderful Irish grin that I had loved…and missed so much.

“Bobby!  I…I don’t know what to say…I was supposed to meet a friend here…” I stammered as I looked around the food court for Betsy.

Bobby quickly interrupted me.

“Yeah…I got Betsy to do me a little favor…I hope you’re not mad…” he said hesitantly, his  soft, brown eyes looking…looking…

Perhaps for the first time, he was wondering how I would feel about seeing him…wondering if maybe this wasn’t a good idea after all.

“Oh…no!” I protested.   “Of course not…I…I’m so sorry about that letter, Bobby…” I blurted out and I looked down at my hands, not daring to look at his face.  Tears were stabbing at my eyes.

Bobby was quick to speak.

“NO!  It was me.  It was all me.  I was so wrong, Sammy.  It was all my fault…I was a complete fool.”

He tilted up my chin and looked way too deep into my eyes.

“Forgive me?” he earnestly pleaded…a hint of a smile playing around his mouth.

The Flanagan charm still worked.  Of course, I said “yes”…since I’m not sure what else I could have done…

 

 

 

“The Paperback Edition”

People were beginning to take notice of this little, lunch time mini-drama.  It was getting   too quiet in the food  court…especially around where Bobby and I were standing.

“Let’s go sit over there.”  Bobby said.  He took my hand and we walked to a table in the far corner…away from listening ears and curious eyes.

His hand…holding mine…seemed incredibly natural.

A waitress came right over but of course I couldn’t even think about eating…so I just ordered black coffee.  Bobby ordered his favorite sandwich… a ‘lightly toasted BLT with extra mayo’.

“Don’t you eat these days, Sammy?” He asked.  “You look so skinny…so different than before.”

He was looking at me so hard…as if his eyes were taking pictures of me.

I somehow managed to quiet down all the emotions that were exploding inside me.

“Well, it’s been over two years, you know.  But you look the same, Bobby…still handsome as ever.” I said so calmly, I surprised myself.

I think I even surprised Bobby.  I was a different ‘Sammy’ than the girl he knew before.

The waitress brought over my coffee and Bobby’s sandwich and we managed to talk about ‘everyday-type’ things.  It was good…and then my lunch hour was almost over.

I stood and picked up my purse from the table…but I made no effort to leave…not sure what to do next…not sure what I wanted to do next.

I just waited and looked over at Bobby.  He had also stood and was putting money on the table for the waitress.

Very quietly, he said, “My Aunt Lou is having a little family reunion now that I’m in town for a couple of weeks.

“Would you like to go?  It’s this Saturday…if you’re not working…or busy…that is.”

He suddenly seemed unsure…maybe realizing for the first time that I might say no…

I didn’t.

 

 

The Paperback Edition…

When Bobby called the next day to set up the details for Saturday, he told me that his parents were really looking forward to seeing me…they had always loved me when we had been dating in high school.

My mother, on the other hand, was not at all thrilled to hear that I was going to see Bobby again.

“What does he want, Samantha?  I thought you two had broken up.  Why does he want to see you again?” she asked sharply when I told her of the lunch meeting with Bobby…and the upcoming party with his family this weekend.

“Mom!  We’re just going to a family get-together.   You know  how much his family likes me…”

My mom had always hated the fact that the Flanagan family was so fond of me.  I was like another member of their family.

“Just don’t get pregnant!” she said and walked out onto our patio and slammed the door shut behind here.

I stared at the closed door,  so  surprised at her strong reaction.  I wondered again why she disliked Bobby so much.

Could it possibly be because Bobby was Irish…like my dad?  Did she think that he would become a drinker like my dad?  That would have been so stupid.  Bobby never drank…ever.  And my mom knew that…  I shook my head.  I didn’t want to think about this.  Not now.

All I wanted to do right now…was to think about seeing Bobby…in three days.

“Paperback Edition”

I hardly slept the night before the party and I was wide awake when the birds started chirping “good morning”.

I don’t know if I was more nervous about being with Bobby again or wondering if my mother would say something awful to him when he came to pick me up.

But I was all ready when he came and after just a few quick pleasantries with my mom and dad, we were out the door.

Bobby walked ahead of me to a brand-new blue and white Chevrolet and opened the passenger door for me.

“Where did you get the car?” I asked, getting in.  I had assumed we would be riding to his aunt and uncle’s house with his parents.  I knew he had sold his own car when he had enlisted in the Navy.

“It’s a rental,” he replied.  “I thought we should go separately in case we wanted to leave early.”

“You know my parents, Sammy, once they start playing cards, they can go on for hours.” he said laughing.

I laughed too.  I had seen them in action many times.

I loved Bobby’s laugh, it could still the devil himself.

The party was already in full swing when we got there.  Bobby’s parents almost crushed me with hugs and his little sister, Mary, shyly handed me a candle she had made at her summer Craft Camp.

There was a huge table loaded with food…his Aunt Lou was a fantastic cook…and his Uncle Brian knew how to share a bottle of Irish whiskey.  Everyone was having a swell time.

It was about 5:00 and the ‘final dessert’ had been passed around and both Bobby and I were stuffed…and we were “not…no, no…absolutely not…thank you very much” said Bobby “going to play canasta with them”.

We walked out to the backyard and sat down on a bench under a huge elm tree.  It was a normal July day in Minnesota…hot.  We watched the younger kids play badminton but even in the shade it was too warm for us.

I looked at Bobby…he was sweating and I was ‘glistening’… we both agreed we had had enough ‘summer’.

He got up, took my hand and we headed back to the house.  He carefully opened the back door, motioned for me to be quiet and we crept into the empty kitchen…like thieves in the night.

Bobby opened the door to the basement and flicked on the stair light and let me go first.  He closed the door softly behind him and followed me down the stairs.

It was a seventy-five-year-old house and the basement was ‘decorated’ 50’s style…with linoleum on the floor, cheap wood paneling on the walls and cast-off sofas, chairs and tables scattered around.  There was an old record player next to the fireplace.

It was wonderfully cool and quiet.

Bobby went over and was looking at his cousin’s old record collection.  I sat down on the sofa and leaned my head back and closed my eyes…still almost not believing that now…right now…I was with Bobby again…after all this time.

I slowly opened my eyes and smiled.  “It’s All in the Game” was playing on the record player.  It had been one of our favorite songs to dance to in high school.

“Want to dance, Sammy?” asked Bobby, holding his arms out to me.

I didn’t need to answer.  I just stood up and started to put my arms out…like you would if you were going to dance with an old friend…but that’s not how Bobby and I had danced…so long ago.

He slipped his arms around my waist, moving us closer together and my arms went naturally around his neck and we were…together.

Only a few seconds passed and then Bobby pulled back a little…his questioning eyes almost asking permission as he looked at me, and then hesitating just a little…he kissed me.

And then he kissed me again…and again.

 

The Paperback Edition…

It would be only a little over three years and then Bobby would be out of the Navy.  It didn’t seem like a very long time at all.

I had now become part of the adult world.  I understood myself a little better now.   I understood Bobby a little better now…and I think I understood life a little better now.

I had a full-time job.  I bought my own clothes.  I paid for my own car insurance.  Granted…I still lived at home but I did give my parents money each month for groceries and rent.  I was such an adult.

And…I was wonderfully, truly in love with Bobby Flanagan…and he was wonderfully, truly in love with me.

Of course, I would wait for Bobby…gladly wait for the one…the only one…who could chase away all the shadows, banish the lonely feeling  that had haunted me for years and make me laugh until I cried.

Of  course, I would wait for the only one who could bring me pure joy with just one look, one touch, one kiss.

Of course I would wait…

But then…I didn’t.

The Paperback Edition…

Those two weeks with Bobby had been unbelievably wonderful.  I had taken time off from work so that we could be together…much to the displeasure of my mother.

“I see he’s already a bad influence on you, Samantha.” she said coldly.  She knew I had taken vacation time but that made no difference to her.

Bobby talked a lot about life aboard ship.  He really loved the Navy…and I wondered how much he had missed me before…how hurt he had been when we broke up…he never said.  But then…I hadn’t told me much either.

When I told him one night that I had never really stopped loving him…he said that he felt the same…but he was so quiet when he said it, I wondered if it were true.

Neither of us  really talked about  what would happen when he got out of the Navy.  We had now.  Now was all that mattered.  Now was beautiful.

Bobby knew I loved him…and he loved me.

But just before his leave was over, a horrible thought crept into my head…what if I was just someone he had wanted to connect with when he was home on leave and nothing more?  Could that be possible?

No…no…  That couldn’t be true…wasn’t true…not Bobby.  He did love me…I was sure…I was so very sure.

But always in my ear was my mother’s voice…warning me over and over…telling me that Bobby wasn’t right for me…telling me there would be other boys…better suited to me.

Sam still did not know how much Bobby loved her because he was scared of being hurt again and so…he had not told her that life without her would be impossible.

Still so young and still hurting after having his heart seemingly ripped out after losing Sam before, Bobby was unsure…still dared not to tell her she was his life…now more than ever before.

Dared not to tell her that he could not bear the thought of losing her…that it would destroy him.

Dared not to tell her that her smile not only brightened his day…it brightened his whole world.

Dared not to tell her that every night he made plans for their future and went to sleep with a grin on his face…thinking of them being together.

How could Samantha Jones have known all of that, if Bobby Flanagan had not dared to tell her?

She could have known, of course, would have known… if she had been able to real all of the letters Bobby had written to her the first weeks back aboard ship…not just the quick, first note he had written to tell her that his ship would soon be sailing to Japan…but long detailed letters telling her how much he loved her more than anything.

If Sam had been able to read all the letters when Bobby had finally dared to open up his heart and tell her she was his life and always had been from that first, cold, November day so long ago…and that he loved her beyond all else.

In those letters, Bobby tells Sam that he’s sure he can get special leave so that they can get married even before he gets out of the Navy…”soon, very soon, Sammy”.

He tells her he is now looking forward to working with his dad at the hardware store.  He says, if she wants, she can start looking for an apartment for them and…and…so much more.

He goes on and on about their future…their future together.  Bobby has plans and he hopes that she does too…and can’t wait to hear from her.

But…he never does…

 

The Paperback Edition…

The unbridled force of a mother’s love…right or wrong…is unbelievably powerful.

She takes you to the doctor for vaccinations…knowing it will hurt for a bit…but she knows it is the right thing to do.

She makes you eat healthy food even if you don’t want to…because she knows it is the right thing to do.

If you run out into the street, she swats your behind and gets so very angry at you…because she knows it is the right thing to do.

And then…she takes all the letters from the one person you love with all your heart, reads them and then burns them…so fearful is she that you will end up just like her…with an irresponsible husband who has made her life miserable with his uncontrolled drinking and carelessness.

She volunteers to mail your letters to Bobby for you…but instead reads them and then  burns them.

She plans for you to be away from the house when she knows that a desperate Bobby is going to call…because of course…she knows the exact time he will do so.

She tells Bobby Flanagan when he calls…that “I’m so sorry, Bobby, but Samantha doesn’t want to see or hear from you ever again.  I am so, so  sorry.”  And she makes sure he believes her…because that is the right thing to do.

But…she does let you read the last letter you will ever receive from Bobby…because she has already read that letter and knows how full of anger it is.

And…being the good mother she is…she consoles you when you cry and makes your favorite meal for dinner…because she knows it is the right thing to do.

 

The Paperback Edition…

After getting that hurtful, angry letter from Bobby, I immediately wrote him back.  I could hardly see the words on the paper as I wrote.  Tears were streaming down my face.

I could not bear the thought that he would no longer be a part of my life ever again.  I could not lose him…not again.

He had not said much in his letter to me…only that he should never have trusted me, that I was a stupid child and he hoped I would grow up some day…and of course…everything  said with so much anger.

In my letter, I begged Bobby to please read my letters again…how could he not know how much I loved him…how much I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life!

I told him that the only letter I had received from him was his first letter to me weeks ago…the one he had sent me after returning from his leave…and now this horrible one.

Why hadn’t he written to me? I asked… hadn’t he received my letters?

Please call me!  I begged him.  I didn’t even know if he could do this…but I begged anyway.

I told him I just couldn’t understand what was happening or why  he was saying the things he was saying.  It was like he was talking about another person…not me.

Please call me, I had said.  Please write me…and…and then…

I gave the letter to my mother to mail.

 

 

The Paperback Edition…

TWO YEARS PASS…

The world continued to spin and for a long time…I did’t care whether it did or not.

I changed jobs.  The memory of that magical meeting with Bobby in the shopping center food court was too painful.

I started working in a flower shop near where I lived called “A Rose is a Rose”.  I learned the intricate art of flower arranging and design from Sadie Morgan, the owner…and I stuck around.

After a while, she offered me the job of assistant manager.  I took it…flowers are beautiful and uncomplicated…I liked that.

Even though the parents were being friendly to each other, I thought about moving out…but didn’t.

I dated a little…nothing remotely serious and when I turned twenty-one, Mel and I went out to dinner at Frankie’s, our favorite pizza hangout in high school.

We could finally drink beer there…legally.

Mel and Stuart.  They had married so young but had stayed married and in love…and had two beautiful boys that I loved and spoiled whenever I got the chance.

When we walked in, we were greeted by Mike Nordstrom.  He had been in the same class as Bobby in high school and they had been pretty good friends.

Mel and I were both surprised to find that Mike was not just a ‘greeter’…but was the new owner.  He had bought the restaurant last year when it had gone up for sale.

Mike had been a regular at Frankie’s…even after graduation.  It was a good fit for someone who loved pizza and gossip.

And Mike had loved to gossip.  In high school he knew everything about everybody…he was… like a girl.  Turns out…he still loved to gossip

So…that night we got free pizza, free beer and I got free unexpected news about Bobby Flanagan…who was still a very good friend of Mike’s.

Mike sat down in our booth and went into great detail on how Bobby had gone a little crazy after our second break-up.

Finally, seeing the slight shaking of Mel’s head to signal him to stop talking and the shocked look on my face, he was quick to add…

“Oh, he’s fine now, Sam.  He’s actually going to start working with his dad at their hardware store when he gets out of the Navy.

“He was in here a lot, the last time he was home on leave,” Mike continued.

“I think he gets out of the Navy next year, am I right, Sam?  Sam?”

 

The Paperback Edition…

Mel shook my arm.  “Sam!  Are you okay?  You look pale as a ghost!”

Mel shot an angry look at Mike.

“Way to go dummy!  What were you thinking going on and on about Bobby?  Go get some water or coffee or something…just go.”

Mike got up quickly.  “Right.  Sorry, Sam.  I really shouldn’t have done that…Bobby told me not to say anything…I just got carried away…sorry…I’ll get some…” and he headed off to the bar.

Mel patted my hand.  She was such a dear.

“I’m fine…really.  It was just such a shock…I knew he would be coming home at some point, of course, but I just kept pushing that thought away.  Can we leave before Mike gets back?  I’m done here.”

THREE YEARS LATER... after that night Mel and I had visited Frankie’s…Russell Allison sauntered into ‘A Rose is a Rose’ to buy a dozen yellow roses…for his soon to be ex-girlfriend.

Russell and I got married six months later.  We had a beautiful daughter, Sarah, five years after that, and life went on…as it always does.

I had been married almost seven years and one bright Spring day, I was paying for my groceries at Target..when I looked up to see Bobby Flanagan one aisle over.  He was done checking out and was just standing there…looking right at me…and he was smiling…smiling at me.

It appeared he had seen me first and had waited to see what I would do…how I would react when I saw him.  Well…

I was completely stunned.  I gave him a shy, hesitant smile but I’m sure it came out not quite right…perhaps, perhaps lop-sided as before…oh those many years ago in a high school lunch line on a cold November day.

Of course, Sam did not know that crooked, shy smile was the very same smile that had made Bobby fall in love with her…the smile that had captured his heart that day when he was only sixteen.

Bobby returned my smile, took a couple of steps as if he was going to come over and talk to me…but then abruptly turned and walked out the door.

I would not see Bobby Flanagan again for almost 30 years.

 

Paperback Edition…

When I was sixty-one…I had a small stroke.

My apparently not-so-devoted husband and I parted ways.  It happens I guess…some people can’t handle the strain of a major health crisis in a marriage.

To be fair…the marriage had lost its snap years ago.   Russell just didn’t want to grow up…and so he didn’t.

I had recovered from the stroke almost completely…aside from a slight weakness in my left leg that forced me to use a cane most of the time.

I also had some crummy vision problems which I was sort of handling.

But, poor husband Russ…couldn’t handle the “cane”.  He could not deal with the small disability that was now part of me…so…he could not deal with me.

“You know, Samantha.  You look so old when you use that cane.” he had said one day..

We had been grocery shopping together.  It was shortly after the stroke and I needed help since I could not easily bend down…not to mention getting back up.  Awkward…

“When I’m with you, I feel so old.  And I don’t want to feel old.  I wish you were young again, Samantha.”

“Do you remember how beautiful you were…when you were young?”

“I wish you were that way again…do you really need that cane?”

Even though I was not overly surprised by his comment…I was nonetheless flattened.

There is no other way to describe it.  I imagine this is how you would feel if you stepped off a curb and were hit by a cement truck.

But then…I got up.

“Yes,” I answered him thoughtfully.  “Yes…I believe I do need this cane…and will probably always need this cane.”

“But you know, Russell…I actually believe it’s you I don’t need.”

And I didn’t.

I filed for divorce on Christmas Eve…three days after being hit by that cement truck.

 

 

The Paperback Edition…

The divorce was final in February…so fast when no one really cares.

Even daughter Sarah was quick to say, “You should have done it years ago, mom.  Dad was such a jerk.”

The papers came in the mail along with an announcement that Portland High School was going to have an All Class-All-Year Reunion in August.  Oh…

My mother died two months after my divorce was final.

My dad had died a couple of years earlier…so now it was just me and remnants of their life.

I was told the house would sell quickly if I priced it cheap enough…so I did.  That house held no special memories for me…I just wanted it to be gone.

There was little I wanted so I threw mostly everything out…Stuart had carried a couple  boxes of photos and miscellaneous papers over to my apartment.

I pushed the boxes into the closet.  I was in no hurry to re-visit the past.

It was two weeks before the class reunion and I finally needed to go through all that stuff in those boxes.

I was looking for a certain picture of Melanie and me that my mom had taken on our first day at Portland High School…two brand-new little freshman girls with scared stiff smiles on their faces.

It would be perfect for the “Then & Now” board that would be displayed at the reunion.  I was going with Mel since Stuart had bailed.  He hated large gatherings and Mel felt she should go since she was on the planning committee.

My mom had kept so much stuff.  I made a mental note to myself to not keep so much stuff…and then I found a diary…her diary.

She had left her personal daily diary…a journal really…one in which she had noted the weather for every day, minor and major illnesses and various appointments….and…

And…in great detail…her plan to end the relationship between Bobby Flanagan and me…after we had re-united that hot summer so long ago.

She even had made a check-list of things to do and little boxes that she had checked off as they got done.  It was almost diabolical in its precision.

And tucked between the pages was one single letter addressed to me from Bobby.

My hands shook so hard as I took that one piece of paper out of the envelope.

It was a heart-breaking letter, where Bobby…just like me…had not understood at all what was happening.

“Please write to me, Sammy!” he had begged…just as I had begged him.

In the letter, he told me he was going to call me…telling me the date and the time.

He promised “he would fix everything”.

“Don’t worry, Sammy,” he had written.  “I love you.  I love you more than anything.”

Of course, I never got that call…having been sent out of the house on an errand by my mother.

And that night, after reading his anguished letter to me over and over, until tears had all but swollen my eyes shut…I fell into a deep sleep and had that strange, lovely dream where Bobby and I were finally together.

The Paperback Edition…

The next morning, after my call, Mel had rushed over to my apartment.

After a big, loving hug…she asked, “Why did your mom do this, Sam?  Why did she hate Bobby so much?”

I backed away and walked into the kitchen and sat down at the breakfast bar.  I just shook my head.  Mel followed and started water to boil on the stove.

“I don’t know, Mel.  I have no idea.  I think when she looked at Bobby…she saw Victor…”

“Your dad, right?”

“Yes.  My dad was such a charmer…just like Bobby.  I think she thought she was protecting me somehow…”

“Oh, Sam…I am so sorry.”  Melanie said with so much love in her voice I started to cry again.

“I’ll get us some tea. You’ll feel better.”

We took our tea…and some cookies that Mel had found in the pantry, walked into the living room and sat down on the floor…backs up against the sofa, looking out onto the sunny courtyard outside my apartment window…and watched the squirrels play.

Mel was carefully paging thru the diary and shaking her head.  “This is just too tragic.”

“Are you planning to do something?  Mel asked softly after the cookies and tea were gone.

“What do you mean…?” I asked.

“I mean…are you planning to show this to Bobby?”

Of course, that had been the first thing I had thought too…but then…cold reality had set in and I had brushed that thought from my mind.

I hadn’t heard anything about Bobby for years…even though we all lived within a few suburbs of each other.  I had always avoided the shopping center where he and his dad owned their hardware store.

But I knew he had gotten married…six months after I married Russ.  But that was all I knew.  That was all I had ever waned to know.  I opened up  the diary, aimlessly flipping the pages.

“I can’t Mel.  I don’t want to cause any trouble for him or his family…I just…can’t.”  I wiped away more tears that had started to fall.

“But..then…” I continued, “He should know, right?  He should know that it wasn’t my doing…he should know the truth.”  I picked up the letter and then let it fall softly to the carpet.

“I just don’t know…” I murmured…tears falling on my empty hands.

“I have something to tell you, Sam.” Mel said quietly and then she reached over and gently picked up both of my hands…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Paperback Edition…

“Is he…dead?” I cried out…almost unable to get the words out…and pulling my hands back.

“Oh!!  NO!  Not at all!  I just took your hands because…it seemed like a loving thing to do.  I’m sorry, Sam.  I used to do that all the time when the boys were little.

“I meant to make you feel better.”  And then Mel started to cry…really hard.

“Melanie!  What’s the matter?”  I was really worried now, Mel was always so calm and steady.

“It’s…it’s just such a…sad, sad love story.”

I had to smile a little.  Sweet Melanie.  She had such a gentle soul.

“And…and…Sam…Bobby might be coming to the reunion Saturday.”

I could not believe what I was hearing.  I sat there speechless.

“I was going to tell you sooner but then I know how hard life has been lately with your stroke and your divorce and your mom dying and all…

“So, I had planned to wait just a bit more, but then I forgot…you know that my mother-in-law Janet has been sick…” she paused and I nodded my head sympathetically.  Mel really loved her mother-in-law.

“We’re not sure what’s wrong and it’s kind of scary…”  Then she continued.

“Anyway, when I saw Mike Nordstrom at the first reunion planning meeting in June…you remember Mike, right?  He owns Frankie’s?  We went there a long time ago?”

“Yes.  I remember…go on…” I urged her.

“Well,” Mel said.  “At that meeting he mentioned to me that Bobby might be going to the reunion but…then he kind of clammed up and said he didn’t know for sure…and…Sam?  Bobby’s a widow…his first wife died more than 20 years ago.”

And then she got up and went into the kitchen to get some more tea.

A thousand visions of me and Bobby together again raced through my mind.  Can this really be happening?  Now?  After all these years?

Mel returned, handed me a fresh cup of tea and then sat back down.

“The reunion committee has a lot of information on the graduates…but remember, Bobby didn’t actually graduate…he went into the Navy and then got his GED…”

I interrupted, “Oh crap.” I said disappointed.

“No, now wait Sam…let me finish.  Maybe the committee doesn’t have any information on Bobby…but… ‘fellow reunion committee member, Mike’ has all the information we would  want to know.

“And…when Mike first told me about Bobby, I could tell that he wanted to tell me more…you know how he loved to gossip.  He still does.”

“But, I guess he and Bobby have become really close these past few years…and apparently even Mike has limits…so he stopped talking once he realized he had probably said too much.

“But I know that once he sees those diary pages, Sam, he’ll tell me everything.  And he’ll probably want to show them to Bobby…”

“Would you be okay with that, Sam?”

I was.  I really was.  That way…no matter what happened…whether I saw Bobby or not…at least he would know the truth…and that was the important thing after all.

And, maybe…just maybe…Bobby would come to the reunion…and maybe I  would see him.  Maybe…

I stood up and looked into the mirror hanging on the wall over Mel’s head.

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

“What? asked Melanie, looking up with a puzzled expression on her face.

“Who’s Toto?”

 

 

 

 

 

The Paperback Edition…

How would I look to Bobby after all these years, I wondered…looking into the full-length bathroom mirror…instinctively tucking my short hair behind my ears.

Would he, like Russell, be disappointed in how I now looked?

Would Bobby expect to see me looking young…as I had over 30 years ago when we had last seen each other that day in Target?

And…would he see the cane and wince?  As Russell had done…many times…

Those searing, cruel words from Russ…spoken almost a year ago…about looking old and not being beautiful anymore…still cut deep.

But…most of the time… I knew I looked pretty damn good…even with a cane.

Every summer for the past few years, I had volunteered at a park near our house.  I helped with the kids summer school program.

Up until this summer, I could almost always keep up with those little squirts as they ran all over…and…get nice tan in the bargain.  This summer I was in charge of “The Craft Table”…and supervising the sandbox.

My light brown hair was streaked from the sun but I didn’t think a few blonde highlights would hurt…grey…can be so grey.  I was lucky to get an appointment at Chico’s Salon on such short notice.  I guess it pays to tip well…

Was I being stupid?  Of course, I was.  But…even in high school no one could understand why Bobby Flanagan had picked me to be “his girl”.  He could have picked so many others…

I had been nothing special…Scandinavian cute…that about covered it.

Wait!  Except for my ears…I had very special ears…a little too big for my face and they stuck out…just a bit.   That was my “outstanding” feature…and that had been Bobby’s best little joke…

I wondered what Bobby would look like?

The reunion information sheet had declared in CAPS that the dress code would be ‘Summer Casual’…whatever that meant.

For me…it meant a slightly short, black skirt and a white, cap-sleeved linen top…because I still could.

I didn’t wear jewelry as a rule, but I had put on the pink necklace that Bobby had bought me on his first leave home from the Navy…many years ago.  Yes…I had saved it.

Black and white low-heeled shoes and my cane completed the outfit.  The cane was black hickory and was the old-fashioned kind with a hook at the top.  I had found it at an estate sale shortly after my stroke. It was quite old but it did the trick.

I liked to use it when I was out and about…since I could easily hook it over my arm when standing or hook it on a shopping cart handle.

Everything was hanging neatly on the outside of my bedroom closet door…just waiting.

I checked the mirror and wondered again if I was out of my mind for doing this…out of my mind for even hoping that my strange dream of a few nights ago had been a foreshadow and not just a..dream..

Melanie had been really busy these last couple of days.  Janet had taken a turn for the worse and Mel was spending a lot more time at her house.

She had not yet had time to get more information from Mike about Bobby…not even if he was coming to the reunion.

Last time I had talked to her…which was…yesterday morning, I think?  Yes.  She had not yet shown Mike the copies of the important pages of my mother’s diary.

I knew those pages were the key to whether or not Mike was willing to tell Mel more information about Bobby.

 

 

 

 

 

The Paperback Edition…

The day of the reunion had come and it was now 5:00 and time for me to leave.  I had left calls for Mel but had not heard back from her all day.

As much as I wanted to know what she had found out…I didn’t want to push it.  I knew she was staying with Janet.

We were supposed to meet in the entry by the main door.  I had only driven by this place once before…and that had been several years ago…but I remembered that it was pretty swell.  It overlooked Lake Minnetonka.

I took one last look in my hall mirror.  I shook my head slightly…as if to tell myself that maybe…just maybe…this wasn’t such a good idea after all.

You’re playing with fire, Sam, I thought…and then headed out the door.

There was a grand, circular driveway in front of the Merriweather Golf and Country Club and I drove my little Toyota RAV4  right to the main entrance.

A few people were walking up the sidewalk to the main door from the back parking lot but plenty were also taking advantage of the valet parking…as did I.

Last time we had talked, Mel and I had made plans to drive separately to the club in case she had to leave early.

A very cute young man opened my car door for me, gave me his hand to help me get out and then retrieved my purse and cane which had been laying on the front seat beside me.

Oh, how I wish I could have just said…ever so breezily…”Oh, you can just forget the cane!”…but I knew that would have been a foolish move.

I thanked him and slipped him $20.  He seemed genuinely pleased.  I was glad.

Now all I had to do was go inside, find a chair and wait for Melanie to arrive.

I waited for him to drive off and then I looked up at the entrance to the country club.

This was a pretty swanky place to have our reunion, I thought…no wonder the ticket price was so high.

And…then I really looked at the entrance…at the six stairs with no railing that led up to it.  Well…my oh my.

 

The Paperback Edition…

I hesitated at the bottom of the stairs, and the very nice young man who had already parked my car was suddenly right next to me.

“There’s a ramp off to the side, ma’am.” He said helpfully and then dashed away to park another car.

“Oh…thanks, dear, I’m fine.  I was just…uh…admiring the building…but thanks.”  I said to his disappearing back.

I can do stairs, I thought, if I do them slowly.  I just don’t like to do stairs.

I casually waited until a group of much younger people zipped around me and up the steps.

Then I took a deep breath and slowly and hopefully without attracting too much attention…climbed the six stairs to the front doors…which were being opened for guests by pretty, young girls with welcoming smiles on their faces.

Youth.  You can’t beat it.

I hadn’t been to a class reunion since Mel and I had gone to our ten-year reunion.  It had been such a joke.

How is it possible for so many people to not change after ten years?

The boring little cliques still existed and they had made every possible attempt to be ‘noticed’.  The more liquor they had consumed…the louder they became.

Mel and I had left early that night many years ago and  vowed never to attend another reunion…ever.  But things change.  Life changes…and here I am.

I walked over to the official registration table…and offered a friendly hello to…leaning in to read her name tag…squinting a little…ahhh…Pat Duncan (Stokes) it said…

Who was Pat Duncan (Stokes)?  Yes!  Now I remembered…she was a Homecoming queen candidate when we both were seniors and she had married Jerry Stokes…her steady boyfriend all thru high school.

“Hi, Pat!” I said confidently.

“Hi, Samantha Jones.  Glad you could make this one!” she said cheerfully.

I was so surprised.  For a short minute, I thought…had I not changed?  Did I really look like I had in high school?  And then seeing the surprised look on my face, Pat grinned and pointed to the “THEN & NOW’ board.

There I saw a current picture of me…and that ninth-grade photo of me and Mel.

“Everyone has been talking about that picture of you and Melanie,” Pat said.  “So cute!”

She handed me a name-tag.  It said…Sam Jones (Alison)

“Thanks, Pat.” I said politely, taking the tag from her.  I saw no reason to mention the wrong name on the tag.

I walked over to the side of the main entry, casually threw my name tag in the trash, pulled out a chair from a small table and sat down to wait for Melanie.

So far I would give this class reunion a C+…although Pat Duncan (Stokes) had been really sweet.

I hooked my cane and purse over the side arm of the chair and leaned back to wait.   I had a really good look at everyone who was coming.

They all looked so festive…I had my own private ‘red carpet’ viewing seat.

Then my cell phone rang and three people near me almost jumped out of their skin…frowning at me big time.

Oh, crap!  This morning I had turned my cell up as loud as it could go…with the loudest and most annoying ring tone I could find.  I hadn’t wanted to miss any of Melanie’s calls today.

I quickly turned the volume off and then I looked at the screen.  It was Melanie.  Oh, this can’t be good…not at this time, I thought.

“Please don’t kill me Sam…I can’t be there tonight!  Janet just had a heart attack and we’re on our way to the hospital!”

“We’re right behind the ambulance!  I was with her when it happened, Sam.  It was so horrible!  I can’t talk…I am so sorry, Sam!  I’ll call you later.”

“Mel!  Wait!!  Did you find out if Bob…”  I was talking to a dead line.

Mel had hung up.

 

 

 

The Paperback Edition…

Now I wouldn’t know if Bobby was going to be here tonight or not.  I didn’t know anything…except that Melanie wasn’t going to be here.

As of three days ago, Bobby hadn’t responded to the formal invite.  Maybe I could call Mike?  He would know…no…no…and would he even tell me if he did?  Anyway, I didn’t have his phone number.

What to do?  I looked around the room and it was slowly filling up.

I stood up, grabbed my cane, hooked my little purse over my shoulder and headed for the bar…a nice glass of wine would taste really good right now.

I waited my turn and was not surprised to find that I could not recognize anyone as I glanced around the room.

With my crappy vision and so many people from other classes, I started to wonder if maybe I was going to be the only one here from our class…aside, of course, from the friendly Pat Duncan.

No problem.  I didn’t think I was going to stay too long.

I ordered a glass of ‘house red’ from the cutest, little twelve-year-old girl.  (Okay…she just looked twelve.)  

She also handed me several napkins which I probably would need since she had filled my wine glass almost to the top.

I took a small sip and  started to walk…ever so carefully…so as not to spill my wine…over to a small table off to the side.

Suddenly, someone got on the PA system and hollered “WELCOME EVERYONE!!!  GO HAWKS!!!”

Then the speaker shrieked that loud, ear-piercing sound…as they so often do…only this time louder than I had ever heard before.  It was like those monthly air raid sirens that almost deafen you.

I probably was a little tense, so the jarring noise made me misstep…just a little…nothing significant…but just enough for Mark Hansen, the most obnoxious boy in our class to notice.

He had been walking toward the bar and had seen me stumble.  Unfortunately…I was soon to discover…he was still obnoxious…and very loud.

“HEY, SAMANTHA JONES!!!” he hollered and pointed to my cane.  “It looks like you’ve been cut down a little.”

His remark was loud enough to draw lots of attention to me…and then he grabbed my cane out of my hand and started to twirl it around like a baton.  Was he drunk out of his mind already?  Who did things like that?

“LET ME HELP YOU TO YOUR SEAT, MADAM.”  He said at the top of his voice…as if talking to a large crowd…something he had always done in high school.

And unfortunately,  whoever had been talking on the loud-speaker had stopped…and all anyone heard was Mark’s loud voice booming throughout the room.

He held my cane out for me to grab…but just a little out of reach.  What in the holy hell had I ever done to him, I thought.

I stood there for a moment…wondering if I should just turn around and walk carefully out of this disaster that I had foolishly created for myself.

But then…but then…

 

 

 

The Paperback Edition…

“Hey, Sammy.”  From behind me, I heard that deep familiar voice…wrapped up in his favorite cologne, Old Spice.

No one had ever called me Sammy…no one except Bobby.

I turned slowly around.  And there he was…looking at me so very seriously…so not like the Bobby Flanagan I had known.

“Bobby.”  It was all I could say…and it was almost a whisper.

Suddenly, I was feeling a lot unsteady without my trusted cane…the one that Mark was continuing to tap on the floor in front of him.

Did he think he was fucking Fred Astaire?

I reached out for Bobby’s hand.

“Can we sit down?” I said a little shakily and motioned to an empty table nearby.

Bobby glanced back at Mark but then took my hand and we walked to the table.

I could sense him looking at me.  What was he seeing?

Was he seeing the ‘old Samantha Jones’ that my ex-husband could no longer love?”

“I like your necklace…” Bobby said.

I turned to look at him.  Even in the dim lightning, I could see that Bobby, like all good Irishmen, had aged well.  Some grey hair, a few pounds here and there but he could still wear a blazer and tee shirt and look good.

No shirt and tie for Bobby tonight…that didn’t surprise me.

I sat down and then watched as he walked back over to Mark Hansen who was still playing with my cane.

Bobby carefully took the cane away from Mark and then slammed it against Mark’s knee.  My mouth fell open.

Mark cried out in pain, swore profusely but then limped quietly away.  A few people actually clapped.  Mark had not been a favorite in high school.

Bobby turned and walked back toward me…the signature Bobby Flanagan grin now on his face.  He handed me my cane.

“Now I know why I hated high school,” he said as he pulled out the chair next to me and sat down.

I couldn’t believe this was happening.  It was like years had disappeared and we were at the Portland High School Homecoming Dance…the last dance that Bobby and I had gone to together.

The boys had been instructed to wear suits since it was a semi-formal affair and Bobby had bristled at the idea.

Typical Bobby behavior at that time…he bristled at everything…except me.

He had worn jeans and a blazer he had borrowed from his dad…with a white tee shirt and a tie loosely hung around  his neck.  One week later he had enlisted in the Navy.

He gave a nod to the cane and looked at me with concern in his eyes but he didn’t ask any questions.  I answered them anyway.

“Stroke.  Almost a year ago.  Nothing major, thank God.  Just a little weakness in the left side and my vision is crap…but I can still pretty much drive.”

I gave him my standard…”everything will be okay” smile…the one I had been giving to everyone these last few months.

Bobby didn’t say a word.  He just looked at Sam and then he slowly reached over and put his hand ever so gently over hers…not sure if it was the right thing to do…

The Paperback Edition…

“I heard…” Bobby began…and then the song “Young Love” by Sonny James started to play.  It had been ‘our’ song in high school…the very first song that Bobby and I had ever danced to in a darkened gym…on a winter night so long ago.

Bobby stood up then and for a brief moment I thought he was going to leave and my heart paused.  I looked up and he had his arms held out toward me.

“Want to dance, Sammy?” he asked with a grin on his face.

I hesitated a bit.  I was a little unsure because I hadn’t danced since before my stroke…

“Don’t worry, I won’t let you fall.” he said…as if reading my mind.

The song was way too short.  I wanted to be in Bobby’s arms so much longer…it felt so right…just like before….

We started to walk back to the table, his hand holding mine.  I was so unbelievably   happy being with him.

“I haven’t been dancing since just before my stroke.  Russ and I had gone to his nephew’s wedding…” I said and then tears just started to fall.

I guess it was just remembering the pain that Russ had caused me with his ‘cane’ comments.  I brushed them away quickly.  But Bobby had seen them.

“Well that was stupid of me…” I said and was about to explain to Bobby the reason for the tears when he looked at his watch and said…

“Well, this has been so great, Sammy, but I promised the wife I would get home early so we could go out for dinner and maybe catch a late movie.”

He didn’t even sit back down once we reached the table.

“Are you staying for the dinner?” Bobby asked politely.

I was trying to find words to explain the tears after our dance and how they had nothing to do with my divorce…but then realized that an explanation didn’t matter at all.

Bobby had said he was married.  Mike must have somehow misunderstood.  My dream was indeed a foreshadow.  I had seen Bobby and “there would be no romancing tonight,” I thought bitterly.

“I…no, but I think I’ll sit here for a while.” I answered him quietly.

“It’s been great seeing you, Bobby.” I said.   And I looked away…out onto the dance floor and waved to…no one.

“Be happy, Sammy.”  And then he quickly turned and walked away.  I didn’t watch.

Burned.  Burned badly. It happens when you play with fire.  I knew that.  I should have left the past where it belonged…in dream land.

Time for me to go.  Just as I stood up, I saw my purse moving a little on the table.  What the…?

Oh, it was my phone vibrating.  That’s right, I had turned off the volume after the ear-splitting call from Melanie earlier in the evening.

I looked and it was Mel.

“Hi, is everything okay?  How is Janet?” I asked.

“She’s fine now…in ICU, but they think it was just a minor attack.”

“But what’s going on with you, Sam?  I just got a crazy call from Mike.  He had just gotten off the phone with Bobby who told him that he thought you were still in love with Russ!”

“Bobby said that you were crying because of your divorce.  What’s going on, Sam?”

I looked at the phone in disbelief.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

And…then it slowly dawned on me.  The comment I had made about being at the  wedding and the last dance with Russ before my stroke.

Of course.  Bobby had thought the tears were over the end of my marriage…damn.  Would we ever get this right?

“Sam?  Are you still there?  Mike said that then Bobby told you some made-up  cockamamie story…that he was married and that he had to go home to his wife.

“Bobby isn’t married, Sam.  After his wife died over fifteen years ago…he never re-married because he never really got over you, Sam.  He came tonight just to see you.”

“Mike had told him about your mother’s diary…had even faxed him the pages for him to read.”

“Wait!” I interrupted.  “How did Mike know about the diary?  I thought you hadn’t talked to him.”

“This morning I went over to Frankie’s and we talked for almost an hour.  I showed him the diary and that’s when ho opened up about Bobby…and said he was going to call him.  I tried to call you but that’s when Janet had her heart attack…

“That’s why Bobby came tonight, Sam…to see you.” Melanie finished.

“Oh, Melanie.  I can’t believe this!  This is so mixed up…  Call Mike back, Mel.  Bobby has to know the truth.” I cried.

But even as I was talking to Mel, I was making my way to the front door.  Maybe Bobby had done valet parking as I had and was still out front, waiting for his car.

“I’ll talk to you later, Mel.” I said and hung up.

Hurrying is not something one does well with a cane…

I came out onto the front terrace of the club to find no one there except the valet.  No Bobby.  Too late.

I walked slowly down the steps and gave my ticket to the nice young man and then I walked over to lean against a low garden wall.  There were so many thoughts shooting through my brain.

I’ll call him when I get home, I thought.  We’ll get this straightened out.  It’ll be okay.  Finally…okay.

I’ll tell him everything and it will be fine.

But something nagged at the back of my brain…why hadn’t Bobby told me right away that he had talked to Mike?

Why hadn’t he said something about the diary?  We had talked…not much, for sure…but  then our song had played and…and…we had danced…

We.  Had.  Danced.  Had I stumbled again?  Had I stepped on his foot?  Had I…

Suddenly those painful words that Russell had shot at me months ago…slammed into me once again.

“You look so old, Samantha.  Remember when you were beautiful?  Remember?  Do you really need the cane, Samantha?  It makes you look so old.”

And then I realized…so stupid I was…so very, very stupid.   Bobby hadn’t seen me since I was a pretty, young housewife…shopping for groceries that day so many, years ago…and now…now he felt he had to hold me up on the dance floor…so I wouldn’t fall…

Maybe first love doesn’t mean so much after all.  My eyes were now burning with unshed  tears.

“Here you go ma’am,” the valet said politely as he handed me my car key.

“Oh, oh thank you…thank you so much!” I said and leaned my cane against the wall so I could open my purse.

I was searching to get another $20 but looked up to see he had already walked away and gone inside.

I reached for my cane through blurry eyes and knocked it to the ground.

“Well that’s just great.” I said…surprised at my self-pity.

There was no way I could reach down and pick up that cane…

And yet…and yet…that is exactly what I had to do.

I wasn’t just going to stand there forever and wait for someone to help me.

“Poor Samantha Jones…” I quietly mocked myself.

Another chapter of my life was unfolding…

Concentrating ever so hard, I slowly started to kneel down so I could pick up my errant cane.  Once I had the cane, it would be better.

“I may never leave the house again.” I whispered to myself…perhaps for the first time hating my disability and feeling way too sorry for myself…but…it had been a hellish night.

Then, as I was almost to the ground,  I heard footsteps running toward me…and a hand reached in and picked my cane up and another hand gently took my elbow, helping me to stand.

I put on my very best, ever so grateful smile as I turned to thank the valet.  But it wasn’t the valet.

It was Bobby and I was in his arms and he was holding me so close..as though he thought I might float away.

“Sammy!  I’m so sorry,  I just got off the phone with Mike.  I should have stayed and listened to you explain.  I am such a fool.  Please, can you forgive me?” he pleaded.  And without waiting for an answer…he went on…

“And…I should have told you, Sammy…when I first saw you tonight…”

His voice was softer now as he took my face in his hands, gently wiping away my tears.

I looked at him…my eyes searching his as his had searched mine in that strange dream just a few nights ago…

“I should have told you…that I have loved you from the first moment we met.  You are my life, Sammy.  I love you without measure.”

    THE END