“First Love” Chapter 20

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.

 

 

“First Love” Chapter 21

The Paperback Edition…

TWO YEARS PASS…

The world continued to spin and for a long time…I did’t care whether it did or not.

I changed jobs.  The memory of that magical meeting with Bobby in the shopping center food court was too painful.

I started working in a flower shop near where I lived called “A Rose is a Rose”.  I learned the intricate art of flower arranging and design from Sadie Morgan, the owner…and I stuck around.

After a while, she offered me the job of assistant manager.  I took it…flowers are beautiful and uncomplicated…I liked that.

Even though the parents were being friendly to each other, I thought about moving out…but didn’t.

I dated a little…nothing remotely serious and when I turned twenty-one, Mel and I went out to dinner at Frankie’s, our favorite pizza hangout in high school.

We could finally drink beer there…legally.

Mel and Stuart.  They had married so young but had stayed married and in love…and had two beautiful boys that I loved and spoiled whenever I got the chance.

When we walked in, we were greeted by Mike Nordstrom.  He had been in the same class as Bobby in high school and they had been pretty good friends.

Mel and I were both surprised to find that Mike was not just a ‘greeter’…but was the new owner.  He had bought the restaurant last year when it had gone up for sale.

Mike had been a regular at Frankie’s…even after graduation.  It was a good fit for someone who loved pizza and gossip.

And Mike had loved to gossip.  In high school he knew everything about everybody…he was… like a girl.  Turns out…he still loved to gossip

So…that night we got free pizza, free beer and I got free unexpected news about Bobby Flanagan…who was still a very good friend of Mike’s.

Mike sat down in our booth and went into great detail on how Bobby had gone a little crazy after our second break-up.

Finally, seeing the slight shaking of Mel’s head to signal him to stop talking and the shocked look on my face, he was quick to add…

“Oh, he’s fine now, Sam.  He’s actually going to start working with his dad at their hardware store when he gets out of the Navy.

“He was in here a lot, the last time he was home on leave,” Mike continued.

“I think he gets out of the Navy next year, am I right, Sam?  Sam?”

 

“First Love” Chapter 22

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.

 

“First Love” Chapter 23

Paperback Edition…

When I was sixty-one…I had a small stroke.

My apparently not-so-devoted husband and I parted ways.  It happens I guess…some people can’t handle the strain of a major health crisis in a marriage.

To be fair…the marriage had lost its snap years ago.   Russell just didn’t want to grow up…and so he didn’t.

I had recovered from the stroke almost completely…aside from a slight weakness in my left leg that forced me to use a cane most of the time.

I also had some crummy vision problems which I was sort of handling.

But, poor husband Russ…couldn’t handle the “cane”.  He could not deal with the small disability that was now part of me…so…he could not deal with me.

“You know, Samantha.  You look so old when you use that cane.” he had said one day..

We had been grocery shopping together.  It was shortly after the stroke and I needed help since I could not easily bend down…not to mention getting back up.  Awkward…

“When I’m with you, I feel so old.  And I don’t want to feel old.  I wish you were young again, Samantha.”

“Do you remember how beautiful you were…when you were young?”

“I wish you were that way again…do you really need that cane?”

Even though I was not overly surprised by his comment…I was nonetheless flattened.

There is no other way to describe it.  I imagine this is how you would feel if you stepped off a curb and were hit by a cement truck.

But then…I got up.

“Yes,” I answered him thoughtfully.  “Yes…I believe I do need this cane…and will probably always need this cane.”

“But you know, Russell…I actually believe it’s you I don’t need.”

And I didn’t.

I filed for divorce on Christmas Eve…three days after being hit by that cement truck.

 

 

“First Love” Chapter 1

The Paperback Edition…

A long time ago…

Go back to a Minnesota cold November day.  I am standing in the lunch line at Portland High School, waiting for my favorite hot lunch…roast turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes…giggling not too loudly with my best friend, Melanie Taylor.  We were checking out all the cute, older boys surrounding us in line.

Mel and I had been best friends since 3rd grade and we had been looking forward to our entrance into 9th grade for every single moment of the whole, long, boring summer.

We were both fourteen and still too young for real summer jobs.  I wouldn’t turn fifteen until December.  Mel’s birthday was next week.

Baby sitting and walking back and forth to each other’s houses were the sum total of our summer.  We were gloriously tanned but impressively bored.

I hung out more at Mel’s house than she did at mine.  Unfortunately, it was neighborhood knowledge and gossip that my father Victor Jones drank too often and too much…that his beautiful wife, Katie Jones, deserved so much better and “Oh, that sweet, sweet Sam…it must be so hard for her.”

It was.

From age eleven on, I never knew a day when there wasn’t a lost, lonely feeling in the pit of my stomach and a thin veil of sadness around me that never quite lifted.

But that was about to change…

“First Love” Chapter 2

“The Paperback Edition”

For some unknown reason, Mel’s and my freshman science class ended with a shared lunch hour with a lot of the sophomores and juniors.  Happily for us, many were drop-dead good-looking older boys.

So, every chance we had, we were looking at them and much to our delight…they were looking right back at us.  Were we innocent little lambs ready to be shorn?  Maybe, I don’t know.

So naive we were…and so dazed by all the attention.  And so very unprepared.

We had learned about dating and romance…and even sex…from books and movies…where no matter what happened, there was always a happy ending.

After all…it was 1957.

We were so very, very young.

We had tired weeks ago of the antics of the freshman boys…even the new ones from other schools in our district.  They couldn’t even drive a car, for heaven’s sake.

Suddenly, as we stood in line that November day, someone bumped into me from behind and my biology book flew out of my hand and skittered across the floor.

A group of older boys behind us in line laughed loudly and my face turned bright red.  I still blushed and hated myself every time it happened.

“You dropped your book,” one of them said, looking back at his friends, enjoying their approval and laughter.  He seemed so pleased with his joke.

I kneeled down to get my book and raising up, looked into the face of the most handsome boy I had ever seen.  His dark brown eyes were looking right at me and my breath was stilled for a moment.

He didn’t say he was sorry…because of course he wasn’t…I was just the random recipient of his stupid prank.

I tried to give him and his friends a big smile to show that I was cool and smooth and ‘not just some dumb, little, freshman girl’ but his look was so intense my smile froze crookedly on my face…not very cool at all.

His friends laughed even harder at my obvious embarrassment.  My cheeks flamed even more and tears jumped to my eyes.

He stopped laughing then and bent down to pick up a sheet of paper that had fallen out of my book.

“Here, I think this is yours too.”  He was almost apologetic.

He handed me the paper but my throat had closed and I couldn’t speak.  Couldn’t even say thanks.

I turned quickly away, brushing a stray tear off my cheek and willing my face to stop blushing.  He must think I’m a total idiot…still a child of the eighth grade, I thought.

“I am a total fool,” I muttered under my breath.

I moved up in the line, heart pounding from humiliation.

“Sam!  Do you know who that was?” asked Melanie.

I shook my head and stole a look back over my shoulder at the group of boys who were now admiring a very stunning and buxom teacher who had just walked by.

“No,” I mumbled…still feeling quite stupid.

“That’s Bobby Flanagan!  He’s the most popular boy at Portland!  All the girls are wild for him!  Even the senior girls and he’s only a sophomore!”  Melanie was all but jumping up and down.

“I think he likes you,”  she whispered to me…those magical words that best friends…no matter what age…say to each other whether they are true or not.

I turned back again and this time Bobby was looking right at me with a big grin on his face.

My heart literally skipped a beat…trite…but true nonetheless.

Samantha Jones…meet Bobby Flanagan…your First Love.

 

 

“First Love” Chapter 3

The Paperback Edition…

When you’re 14 going on 15…going on 16…and your mysterious new body is continuously running at a fever pitch and you’re dating a Bobby Flanagan, it’s always the Fourth of July with spectacular fireworks and sighs of wonderment.

For the next two years, nothing mattered to me except to be with Bobby.  Thank God I was naturally smart so school was easy.  I still managed the B honor roll…something I would need with college in the future…and college was definitely in the future.  But not now.

Those two summers were magical…days glorious for not doing what should be done and nights delightful in doing what we should not.

Best memory?  Oh…can I even choose?  Maybe…Bobby and me in the back seat of his best friend’s car, heading to a nearby drive-in for hamburgers…still sun dazzled after hours of laying on a beach…somewhere.

Bobby’s arms wrapped around me, his hands travelling all over my sun-tanned body and kisses that have put all others since then…on another page entirely.  My bare feet…danging out the open window…keeping time to the insistent beat of Jan and Dean’s “Baby Talk”.

Yes.  That was the best memory…

Because…because THAT…was what First Love felt like…14 going on 15…going on 16…going on…going on…

“First Love” Chapter 4

The Paperback Edition…

Even now as I look back on those two summers, now with older…perhaps  slightly jaded eyes, I can still…even now…feel the thrill, the excitement that Bobby brought to me…to my life.

Bobby became my life.  I loved him without measure.

Were we having sex?  Maybe…I don’t know for sure…I was so incredibly innocent back then.  We all were.   I wasn’t sure what was going on, but something was and I liked it and wasn’t saying no.

His boyish, irresistible charm reassured me every dark night or sunny afternoon when we were alone together, that all would be fine.  He made it all so easy.  But then…everything was easy with Bobby.

“Don’t worry, Sammy.  It’s okay, it’ll be fine.  I love you.  You know I love you, don’t you?”

And he would look at me with those intense brown eyes that always held a little laughter in them…and then…and then…of course, I knew he did.

But there were other times when Bobby’s words of love were flippant and breezy.

And then, that lost, lonely feeling in the pit of my stomach would return.

I would wonder why did he want me?  What was so special about me…Samantha Jones.

There were many other girls in high school that he could have chosen…prettier than me by far…more sophisticated and certainly less innocent.

Sometimes I would wonder if I was just a little toy for Bobby…a toy to play with for a short while…a toy he would keep until someone else came along.

 

 

 

“First Love” Chapter 5

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.

 

 

“First Love” Chapter 6

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…