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 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.

 

 

Chapter 15

When Bobby called the next day to set up the details for Saturday, he told me 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 thrilled at all 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.  We’re not getting married!  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 yelled 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 simply be because he was Irish…like my dad?  That would have been so stupid.  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.

Chapter 17

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 become part of the adult world.  I understood time 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 it was so cheap.  I did give my parents a few dollars each month for rent.  I was such an adult.

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

Of course, I would wait for Bobby…gladly wait for the one…the only one…who could chase away the shadows, banish that 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.

Chapter 18

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.

Even when I had told him that I had never really stopped loving him…he didn’t say the same to me.  Had he stopped?

He never really talked about “us” and what would happen when he got out of the Navy.  He seemed to shy away from that.

I was a little scared  now…scared to say too much…scared I would be hurt again…better to wait and see.

What if…what if he didn’t love me when the three years were over?  What if I was just someone he had wanted to connect with when he was home on leave. 

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

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

Still so young and after having his heart seemingly ripped out after losing Sam before, Bobby was still 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, would have known… if she had been able to real all of the letters he had sent to her the first weeks back aboard ship…not just the quick, first note he had written to tell her that his ship would be sailing to Japan.

If she had been able to read all the letters where he finally dared to open up his heart and tell Sam 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.

 

Chapter 19

Oh…the unbridled power and force of a mother’s love…right or wrong…

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

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

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

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

She plans for you to be away from the house when she knows that a desperate Bobby is going to call…because she has read that letter too.

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 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.

 

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.