The Paperback Edition…

But Samantha Jones was very, very wrong.

Travel 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…but 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 Bobby never told her.

 

 

The Paperback Edition…

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

 

“The Paperback Edition”

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  with my life.”

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.

 

“The Paperback Edition”

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…before enlisting… what I thought about his decision…or how I felt.

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 quick 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 chose not to tell her.

He was barely seventeen and she was yet to turn sixteen…