Chapter 8

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 what I thought.

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 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 never told her.

He was seventeen and she was yet to turn sixteen.

 

Chapter 9

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.

Chapter 10

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 open 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.  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.

 

 

 

Chapter 11

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

Mel and I had both been on the planning committee for the dance and had been working really hard.

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 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.

I went to the dance.

Two weeks later I wrote Bobby a letter of my own.  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 the slow dances with Marty, so he got really mad.  He and a couple of his friends got drunk from some whiskey they had smuggled in to the dance.

Mel and Stuart brought me home before midnight.

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

Chapter 12

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 be 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…I didn’t exactly know what.

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

Even my parents pretended to be friends.

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 of course I was working so she asked if I would like to 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.

 

Chapter 13

“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 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.

 

 

 

Chapter 14

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 had left behind.

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.