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.

“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…