The Paperback Edition

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 opened 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 he did…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.

 

 

 

The Paperback Edition

Around the end of April, I told Bobby that Mel and I were going to the Spring Festival Dance next month with a couple of friends.

Mel and I had both been on the planning committee for the dance and we had been working really hard to make everything go smoothly and to make the gym look pretty.

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 very 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.

When Saturday night came…I went to the dance.

Two weeks later I wrote Bobby a letter.  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 Marty when they played slow dances and he got really angry.  He and a couple of his buddies got drunk from some whiskey they had smuggled in to the dance.   It was a wretchedly, lonely night.

Mel and Stuart brought me home.

And that was the end of my junior year in high school…

The Paperback Edition…

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 become 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…but I didn’t know exactly what.

Everyone at ShoesPlus was super nice and I made a couple of new friends and I casually dated and it was all so very normal.

Even my parents pretended to be friends for a while.

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 I was working so she suggested we 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.

 

“The Paperback Edition”

“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 I 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…

 

 

 

“The Paperback Edition”

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 knew before.

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.

 

 

The Paperback Edition…

When Bobby called the next day to set up the details for Saturday, he told me that 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 at all thrilled 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.   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 said 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 possibly be because Bobby was Irish…like my dad?  Did she think that he would become a drinker like my dad?  That would have been so stupid.  Bobby never drank…ever.  And my mom knew that…  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.

“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…

 

The Paperback Edition…

The unbridled force of a mother’s love…right or wrong…is unbelievably powerful.

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

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

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

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

She plans for you to be away from the house when she knows that a desperate Bobby is going to call…because of course…she knows the exact time he will do so.

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, 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.

 

The Paperback Edition…

After getting that hurtful, angry letter from Bobby, I immediately wrote him back.  I could hardly see the words on the paper as I wrote.  Tears were streaming down my face.

I could not bear the thought that he would no longer be a part of my life ever again.  I could not lose him…not again.

He had not said much in his letter to me…only that he should never have trusted me, that I was a stupid child and he hoped I would grow up some day…and of course…everything  said with so much anger.

In my letter, I begged Bobby to please read my letters again…how could he not know how much I loved him…how much I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life!

I told him that the only letter I had received from him was his first letter to me weeks ago…the one he had sent me after returning from his leave…and now this horrible one.

Why hadn’t he written to me? I asked… hadn’t he received my letters?

Please call me!  I begged him.  I didn’t even know if he could do this…but I begged anyway.

I told him I just couldn’t understand what was happening or why  he was saying the things he was saying.  It was like he was talking about another person…not me.

Please call me, I had said.  Please write me…and…and then…

I gave the letter to my mother to mail.

 

 

The Paperback Edition…

Mel shook my arm.  “Sam!  Are you okay?  You look pale as a ghost!”

Mel shot an angry look at Mike.

“Way to go dummy!  What were you thinking going on and on about Bobby?  Go get some water or coffee or something…just go.”

Mike got up quickly.  “Right.  Sorry, Sam.  I really shouldn’t have done that…Bobby told me not to say anything…I just got carried away…sorry…I’ll get some…” and he headed off to the bar.

Mel patted my hand.  She was such a dear.

“I’m fine…really.  It was just such a shock…I knew he would be coming home at some point, of course, but I just kept pushing that thought away.  Can we leave before Mike gets back?  I’m done here.”

THREE YEARS LATER... after that night Mel and I had visited Frankie’s…Russell Allison sauntered into ‘A Rose is a Rose’ to buy a dozen yellow roses…for his soon to be ex-girlfriend.

Russell and I got married six months later.  We had a beautiful daughter, Sarah, five years after that, and life went on…as it always does.

I had been married almost seven years and one bright Spring day, I was paying for my groceries at Target..when I looked up to see Bobby Flanagan one aisle over.  He was done checking out and was just standing there…looking right at me…and he was smiling…smiling at me.

It appeared he had seen me first and had waited to see what I would do…how I would react when I saw him.  Well…

I was completely stunned.  I gave him a shy, hesitant smile but I’m sure it came out not quite right…perhaps, perhaps lop-sided as before…oh those many years ago in a high school lunch line on a cold November day.

Of course, Sam did not know that crooked, shy smile was the very same smile that had made Bobby fall in love with her…the smile that had captured his heart that day when he was only sixteen.

Bobby returned my smile, took a couple of steps as if he was going to come over and talk to me…but then abruptly turned and walked out the door.

I would not see Bobby Flanagan again for almost 30 years.