Chapter 24

The divorce was final in February…so fast when no one 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 Al 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 of boxes of photos and miscellaneous papers over to my apartment to look through.

I pushed the boxes under my bed.  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 the diary…her diary.

She had left her personal daily diary…the 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 do what she could 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 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.”

Of course, I never got that call.

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.

Chapter 25

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 don’t know.  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…” said Melanie 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 crackers 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.

“What are you going to do now? Mel asked after the crackers and tea were gone.

“Do?” I choked out.  “What do you mean…do?”

“Are you going to show that diary to Bobby?  I think he should know the truth.”

Of course, that had been the first thing I had thought too…but then…cold reality had set in and I 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.

I knew he had gotten married…six months after I married Russ.  But that was all I knew.  That was all I waned to know.  I picked up  the diary, aimlessly flipping the pages.

“I can’t Mel.  I don’t want to cause any trouble…I just…can’t.”  I wiped away more tears that had started to fall.

“But..but” I continued, “he should know, right?”  Know that it wasn’t my fault…to show him the diary…to…to…” I held the diary loosely 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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 26

“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’s been sick…” she paused…and then went on.

“Anyway, when I saw Mike Nordstrom at the first reunion planning meeting in June…you remember Mike, right?  He owns Frankie’s?”

“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 he didn’t know for sure…and…Sam?  Bobby’s a widow…his first wife died more than 15 years ago.”

And then she got up and went into the kitchen to make some more tea.

A thousand visions of me and Bobby together again raced through my mind, but I forced  them to the side when Mel returned.

“What’s wrong with Janet?” I asked.

Mel sat down on the floor again.  “Well…we don’t know for sure.  Stuart took her to the clinic today for some tests.  She’s been having dizzy spells…I hope it’s nothing…”  Mel’s voice trailed off.

I reached over and gave her hand a squeeze.  Poor Mel.  I knew how much she loved Janet.

“I’m so sorry, dear.  I’m sure it will be fine.  She a tough old gal.  How old is she, anyway?”

Mel smiled…”She’s ninety-six!  Can you believe that?  And you’re right!  She is tough.”

“But let me finish telling you about Bobby.  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 knew it.” 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 in high school.  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 want to tell me everything.  And he’ll probably want to show them to Bobby…”

“Are you 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 on Saturday 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?”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 27

How would I look to Bobby after all these years, I wondered…looking into the full-length bathroom mirror…instinctively tucking my 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 good for an older woman…even with a cane.

Every summer for the past few years, I had volunteered at a park near my apartment.  I helped with the kids summer school program.

Up until this summer, I could almost always keep up with those little squirts…and…get nicely tanned.

My light brown hair was streaked from the sun and I had managed to get in yesterday to get a few extra highlights added…grey was so…grey.

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 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 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 shirt 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, 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 liked to use it when I was out and about… since I could easily hook it over my arm when standing or if I felt like walking without it.

Everything was hanging nealy 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 days ago had been a foreshadow and not just a fantasy.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 31

“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 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.

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 jeans and a tee-shirt and look good.

No shirt and tie for Bobby tonight…that didn’t surprise me.

I sat down and then watched with amazement as he walked up 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 away.  A few people 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.

I couldn’t believe this was happening.  It was like time had evaporated 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 an old suit of his dad’s just for me.  One week later he had enlisted in the Navy.

He pointed to the cane and looked at me with a question in his eyes but did not say anything.  I answered.

“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 me with those soft, brown eyes.

 

Chapter 32

“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.

I was unsure because I hadn’t danced since before my stroke…

“Don’t worry, I won’t let you fall.” he said.

The song was way too short.  I wanted to be in Bobby’s arms so much longer…it felt so right…just like before…all those many years ago.

As we started to walk back to the table, my arm slipped around his.  I was feeling so comfortable being with him.

“I haven’t been dancing since before my stroke.  Russ and I had gone to my nephew’s wedding…” I began to tell him and then I stopped.

I don’t know why I had even mentioned that but when I did…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.

“Well that was silly.” I said quickly and was about to explain to Bobby the reason for the tears when he looked at his watch and said…

“This has been so great, Sammy, but I promised the ‘wifey’ 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?” he asked politely.

I was trying to find words to explain the unexpected tears after our dance…and then realized that an explanation didn’t matter at all.

Bobby said he was married.  Mike must have 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 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 again.

“Hi, is everything okay?  How is Janet?” I asked.

“She’s fine now…in ICU , of course, 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 and he had just gotten off the phone with Bobby who said that ‘you were still in love with Russ’.

“Bobby told him that you were crying over your divorce.  What’s going on, Sam?”

I looked at the phone in disbelief.  What was she talking about?

“What do you mean?” I asked.

And…then it slowly dawned on me.  The comment I had made about being at my nephew’s 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.

“Sam?  Are you still there?  Mike said that then Bobby had told you some 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 to see you.

“Mike had told him about the 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.

“That’s why Bobby came tonight, Sam…just to see you.” Melanie said.

“Oh, Melanie.  I can’t believe this!  This is so mixed up…” 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….in case you were wondering.

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 firing by me.

I’ll call him tomorrow, I thought.  We’ll get this straightened out.  It’ll be 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 we had talked…and 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 Russel 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, 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 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.  So there I stood.

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 my cane…much less stand up again.

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, my cane just inches away…a hand reached in and picked it 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.

“I just got off the phone with Mike and…was informed that apparently I can still be a complete idiot at times,” he said as he handed me my cane.

“I also realized that I had forgotten something.” His voice was softer now.

I looked at him…my eyes searching his as his had searched mine in that strange dream just a few nights ago…what was he talking about?

“I forgot you, Sammy.”

    THE END