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 13

“Hey, Sammy, how are you?” Bobby said and I was treated to that wonderful Irish grin that I had loved…and missed so much.

“Bobby!  I…I don’t know what to say…I was supposed to meet a friend here…” I stammered as I looked around the food court for Betsy.

Bobby quickly interrupted me.

“Yeah…I got Betsy to do me a little favor…I hope you’re not mad…” he said hesitantly, his  soft, brown eyes looking…looking…

Perhaps for the first time, he was wondering how I would feel about seeing him…wondering if maybe this wasn’t a good idea after all.

“Oh…no!” I protested.   “Of course not…I…I’m so sorry about that letter, Bobby…” I blurted out and looked down at my hands, not daring to look at his face.  Tears were stabbing at my eyes.

Bobby was quick to speak.

“NO!  It was me.  It was all me.  I was so wrong, Sammy.  It was all my fault…I was a complete fool.”

He tilted up my chin and looked way too deep into my eyes.

“Forgive me?” he earnestly pleaded…a hint of a smile playing around his mouth.

The Flanagan charm still worked.  Of course, I said “yes”…since I’m not sure what else I could have done.

 

 

 

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 16

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 and after just a few quick pleasantries with my mother and father, 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 assumed we would be riding there with his parents since Bobby would only be in town for a short time.

“Rental,” he replied.  “I thought we should go separately in case we wanted to leave early.

“You know my parents, Sammy, once they get going they can play cards 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…his Uncle Brian knew how to open a bottle of Irish whiskey.

It was about 6:00 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”.

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 over at Bobby and he was starting to sweat.

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.

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 finished 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 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 after all this time.

I slowly opened my eyes and smiled.  “It’s All in the Game” was playing on the record player.  It was the first song that Bobby and I had danced to at an after-game dance one very cold night so long ago.

“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…oh so many times.

He slipped his arms around my waist, pulling me closer to him and my arms went naturally around his neck and we were…together.

Only a few seconds passed and then Bobby pulled away…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.

 

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.