Chapter 1

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 that my father Victor Jones drank too often and too much…that his beautiful wife, Kathy 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…

Chapter 2

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.

 

 

Chapter 3

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…

Chapter 4

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 while…a toy he would keep until someone else came along.

 

 

 

Chapter 5

But Samantha Jones was very, very wrong.

Go 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…bu 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 he never told her.

 

 

Chapter 6

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

 

Chapter 7

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.”

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.