Chapter 7

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.”

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.

 

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 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…