This is a uber story that contains subtext. The characters will definately form a love
for each other.

This story may be best classified as a Hurt/Comfort Story. Readers who
are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of issue may wish to read
something other than this story.

ToKnowYouCover.jpg (117952 bytes)

To Know You

part 1




Years fall from us like leaves fall from the tree. When fall first arrives the leaves fall one at a time,
slowly and quietly so that you hardly miss them, but then as winter approaches they begin to fall
more quickly until eventually it’s raining leaves, and the trees are bare.

In all those years there was one lesson that shined brighter for Helen than all the rest. It was one
of those hard earned lessons. The ones that you don’t set out to learn, but the ones that find you.
The ones you don’t forget because they cost you so much. That lesson is simply this. It is one of
life’s greatest gifts to be loved by those you hold closest to your heart. Like daughter to mother
and husband to wife, lover to lover and friend to friend. So much taken for granted.


Samantha Thomas stared out the third floor window of her Austin apartment lost in thought for
the moment. A sound at the door brought her back, and she briefly contemplated ignoring it. She
opened the door knowing full well who would be there. Paul Rentrow, her brother-in-law stood
there looking amiable as usual. It was his patron visit sent no doubt by Linda, Samantha’s older
sister. Samantha reluctantly invited him in, and sociably offered him something to drink. Paul
refused and Samantha sighed with relief. That meant it was only a short visit.

“Linda asked you to come over again, didn’t she?” Samantha began. “I’m OK, Paul, I don’t need
a baby-sitter.”

Something in his expression told Samantha that Paul was just as enthusiastic to be there as
Samantha was to have him. “I know Sam. I brought you a few things.” Ah, this would be the
weekly supply of groceries. Gifts from Linda.

“I appreciate that, I do. But I’m fine. Tell my overprotective sister that I’m fine, and I’ll call her if
I need anything.” This Samantha said with a small smile to take the unintentional sting from her
words. It wasn’t that she didn’t appreciate her older sister’s concern, it was just that after the last
month she had had enough of it.

“I tell her that and she thinks I’m being callous. She thinks you need companionship.”

Samantha laughed. It was an easy laugh and it took her by surprise that she thought this funny. “I
should tell her myself then. What are the two of you doing for dinner tomorrow night?”

“Oh I’m sure the kids will demand pizza with macaroni and cheese on the side,” Paul said with
his trademark lopsided grin. He had been counting on Samantha’s invitation.

“Come over tomorrow night then. Let me make you a proper adult’s dinner.” And then in a
conspiratorial whisper, “I’ve been told by a few that I can cook quite well.”

“It’s a baby sitter for the boys then.” His grin disappeared. “Thank you Sam. This will do wonders
for your sister.” Paul looked down to hide his eyes. He looked up then, suddenly serious. “She
use to laugh more.”

Samantha stumbled with what to say next and could only manage, “didn’t we all,” and she wished
to take it back as soon as she’d said it.

Silence filled the air between them. They had never been close, and the events of the last few
weeks hadn’t brought them closer .

Paul let them both off the hook. “All right then. Linda will be happy to see you. I’ll see you
tomorrow, Sam.” Whenever Paul was uncomfortable he retreated, and he retreated today with
less grace than usual. Samantha walked him to the door, and felt the familiar pang of guilt when
the wave of relief washed over her.

There was more truth in her sisters words than she liked to admit. ‘She thinks you need
companionship.’ The words echoed in her mind. As much as Samantha longed for the support and
comfort of her family she couldn’t bare to be with them for more than a few minutes at a time.
The long faces full of pity and sympathy drove reality in too deep. Samantha was dying.


Samantha Thomas was 27 when she was told that she had Hodgkins’s Disease. The doctor had
thrown words at her like lymphoma, chemotherapy, tumor, radiation, and cancer.


For months Samantha had been losing weight, and then when the fatigue and the weakness started
Samantha took notice. But it wasn’t until the fever and the chills began that Samantha made an
appointment to see Dr. Sorrel.

She could only distantly remember the moment the doctor had told her. “Miss Thomas, the biopsy
showed the tumor to be malignant. It is a form of cancer that we call Hodgkins Disease. This is
one of the most curable of all cancers.” He had said it so matter of factly. Like ‘Yes ma’am we
found an oil leak in your car’, but instead this was, ‘Yes ma’am you have cancer.’

Samantha couldn’t speak, she just absorbed the words. When the doctor had finished what
sounded like a memorized speech the questions overtook Samantha’s silence.

“I’m only 27 years old. I’ve been in great health my whole life.” The words sounded so hollow.

“Hodgkin’s Disease generally strikes male Caucasians between the ages of 15 and 30, although it
is seen in females as well. It can also appear in patients over 50. It’s not uncommon to see this in
a relatively healthy young person.” Again that mechanical answer.

“Chemotherapy. My hair will fall out. I’ll get sick. I won’t be able to work,” Samantha said
desperately. Looking outside herself, though, Samantha would have seen that she was much too

“It is true that a side effect of chemotherapy is hair loss, but we’ve seen many patients never lose
a hair. Nausea and vomiting as well as fatigue and weakness are also common side effects.
Whether or not you will able to continue working is dependent upon how you feel.”

Samantha didn’t want to ask her next question. she didn’t want to know. She could feel that
conscious part of herself drifting away. Her will left her, and she asked the question. “Will I die?”

“Seventy five percent of people with Hodgkins are considered curable. That is a very good

Not a yes. Not a no. Only a percentage. The question burned itself into Samantha’s mind. Will I


Since she’d found out about the cancer Samantha had taken to working out of her apartment. She
was a graphic artist working for an advertising firm in down town Austin. It was just as easy to sit
in front of a computer at home as it was at work., or so Samantha had convinced herself. When
her co-workers were told the news they were generous and kind. They e-mailed her, they called
her, they came to see her. All of them offering their condolences, saying they were so sorry, they
would pray for her. It was a constant reminder. And if they hadn’t reminded her, then her family
was determined they would. She avoided them all.



Chapter 1

She escaped the only way she knew, into brushes and canvas and paint. The feeling of looking at
work she had created was surreal. Many times she looked at a finished piece and asked herself
how could she have created something that her mind couldn’t even conceive. She had no control
over the subject she painted, it flowed out of her unbidden and forced itself to be formed. It
decided the color, the shape, the line. She loved to be it’s instrument of birth. It was a place where
she was isolated with only the will of her imagination and it demanded nothing of her but the
desire to create. She loved it when a piece was finished and she was covered in paint, and the
smell of it surrounded her. It was like salve on old wounds. She felt thoughts leave her and was
only left with the feeling. She felt everything here in her work, the pain, the weariness, and the
grief. She let it swallow her, and nurture her. She released all that she felt and was rewarded with
her soul’s acceptance.

A tree. She had painted a majestic silver oak tree blossoming into new green color with streaks of
sunlight catching the yellow highlights. She didn’t usually paint landscapes. Her muse preferred
portraying still life, and the many facets of human emotion. What had made her paint a tree she
wondered. At the base of the trunk was a striking woman seen only in silhouette. She looked to
be praying in her knelt position with her hands clasped together and her head bowed. Samantha
couldn’t help but think that she looked overwhelmingly sad, like she was mourning. She
wondered again, why had she painted her?

She walked to the kitchen, washed her hands and grabbed the freshest looking apple from the
refrigerator that she could find. She bit the apple and held the whole of it between her teeth, while
she carelessly tore the paint smeared shirt from her back, and finished undressing on her way to
the bathroom. A shower was her next order of the day. She let the steaming water pour over her
body, and savored the bitter taste of the apple. Her water heater only held ten minutes worth of
hot water so she scrambled out of the shower at the first hint of cold. Once she was dry she stood
in front of the scales. She dreaded this, but she had to know how much of her there was left. She
stepped up cautiously. One hundred and twelve pounds. A little over a couple of months ago she
had weighed one hundred and twenty two. She shook off the meaningless math, and walked to the
bedroom. She caught a movement from the corner of her eye, and turned to find herself looking
back from the hall mirror. She still held her muscular body well, but the faintest hint of rib and
collar bone showed through her skin more distinctly than she remembered. Her skin
seemed pale, or had it always been so fair, she couldn’t recall. She ran her hand through her long
golden hair, and wondered how much she would miss it if it all fell out. She couldn’t even
imagine it, so she left the thought, and pulled on her jeans. Linda and Paul would be here well
before the 6:00 time they had decided on over the phone.

Predictably, an hour later, a half hour early, Linda arrived with Paul in tow. She looked especially
beautiful tonight with her auburn hair swept up off her neck. She was eleven years older than
Samantha and much of her life she believed Linda to be more of a mother to her than a sister.
Linda had always been the one to care for her, the one to rebuke her, and the one she could
always depend upon. Her sister took Samantha in her arms and held her close for so long she
feared she was already crying, but then Linda’s sudden laughter rang through the apartment.

“You look so good! What is that you’re cooking?” she asked as she appreciatively sniffed the air.

“Come in. You’re early, but I’m just about finished in the kitchen,” Samantha said as she ushered
them into the living room. Paul handed Samantha a bottle of wine and looked pleased with
himself. “Thanks Paul. This is perfect, Texas table wine. Come here Linda. I cooked a dish
especially for you.”

She lead her into the kitchen where she immediately took over. Samantha watched on as her sister
taste tested a bit of everything and added a bit of Rotel into the homemade hotsauce for the
fajitas. These moments in the kitchen concocting different recipes to try on each other would
always remain one of Samantha’s fondest memories of her sister. The artist in her used paint while
the artist in her sister used spice, and too much of it to Samantha’s chagrin.

“That’s too much jalapeno. You are the only one who likes it so hot.” Samantha complained in

“I thought you liked it hot.”

“Yeah well as they say I like a little spice with my dinner not a little dinner with my spice. Now
move. I am cooking tonight.”
After Linda left the kitchen Samantha allowed herself a brief moment alone before joining the
others in the dining room. The wine had been poured and the table set. ‘Enjoy yourself, enjoy
yourself, enjoy yourself.’ Samantha repeated the mantra to herself before sitting down.

Dinner passed surprisingly well. Pleasant conversation was traded and Samantha found herself
truly enjoying being in her family’s company for the first time in over a month. Paul shared proud
stories of his children, Aaron and Christy. The youngest, Christy, was only seven but shared her
aunt’s golden hair and fair skin. Paul was a bright red head with a full red beard so Samantha liked
to tell the girl that she was lucky to have taken after her beautiful aunt. Aaron, nearly thirteen,
was his father all over again with bright green eyes and freckles that mapped his face. How two
children of the same parents could look so opposite was beyond everyone.

Paul’s eyes were so full of life when he spoke of his sons. Samantha often thought of her sister’s
family, and she found it hard to imagine a family of her own. The only person she had loved
enough to marry was now married to another. It was an unpleasant memory and Samantha pushed
it aside. This was not the time for thoughts of her less than successful love life.

Samantha escaped out to the balcony after dinner, only to find Linda had followed her. She
debated for a moment, and then shrugged pulling out a cigarette and turning away from the warm
night wind to light it.

“May I join you?” Linda asked, making Samantha wonder if she truly had a choice would she
welcome the coming conversation? But she didn’t have a choice. She nodded and Linda shut the
balcony door behind her. “Why are you avoiding me?

“It’s the paint today. I need some air,” Samantha offered.

“It’s not just tonight. It’s been the last two weeks.” Samantha closed her eyes feigning enjoyment
of the cigarette.

“I thought you quit smoking last year,” Linda said sternly.

“That is why I avoid you,” Samantha blurted out knowing that she could have avoided this, and
wondering why she hadn’t. Maybe she wanted to finally confront her sister, or maybe she wanted
to be confronted.

“What? My concern? Does it bother you so much that I care?” She looked genuinely offended.

“It’s the way you show your care. What does it really matter if I smoke a cigarette? Do you think
it makes a difference?” Sam was yelling now and she turned from Linda to keep her emotions
under control.

“We have to be positive, Samantha. Positive thoughts.” Linda was backtracking now. She feared
the worst. Linda always feared the worst.

“I’m sorry Linda,” Sam whispered . “I need a little time, and more than anything,” Samantha said
as she looked at Linda over her shoulder, “I need you to believe that I’m going to be fine.
Because I am you know. I’m going to be fine.” My new mantra, Sam thought. ‘I’m going to be

“I do believe that,” Linda answered, and when she said it Samantha believed her. It was such a
simple concession, but for Samantha stone weights dropped from her spirit. She turned to her
sister and embraced her. Linda did cry then, and Samantha held her while they looked out over
the city turned silver by the rising moon.


It had been 6 weeks since Samantha had learned that she had Hodgkin’s Disease, and
chemotherapy would start tomorrow. She dreaded it with a passion, but accepted that she must
go. Runners were regularly delivering work back and forth between Samantha and the company
she worked for called Imagine Advertising. She was a digital graphic artist which meant she was
working because she had to work. If she had a choice, she would only use canvas, but instead she
created ads for print. In spite of that, she enjoyed the deadlines and the challenge of creating an ad
that pleased an entire company in less than ample time.

It was difficult working from home. She needed personal contact with the company
representatives, and feedback on what changes were necessary. She had only put in three years
with the agency and they were being more than fair in their treatment of her. She didn’t know
how long their generosity would last. Long enough to be cured?

Samantha tried to speculate how long the treatments would take, and how much work she could
accomplish if she got truly sick. The last thing she wanted was to lose the apartment, and have to
rely on Linda. She could always paint, but she’d never been able to make any real money with her
work. She’d spent nine months one year hopping from gallery to gallery with her work, and had
only disappointment to show for the time. Graphic art paid a regular competitive salary, and
struggling artists flocked to the field. Though it was a way to get your work seen, you didn’t have
much of a choice in the work you did.

Her current project was due today, and the runner was due within the hour. The concept of this
design was a one shot deal. If the rep liked the idea, the contract was theirs, but if they were
displeased the rep would walk. Samantha packaged the project, and set it by the door. Now that
work was set aside, Samantha changed to an old white shirt and set out a new blank canvas. A
blank canvas was such a wonderful thing. It demanded to be touched, to be changed into
something else. It could be turned into anything Samantha dared, and today she dared flesh.


Chapter 2

She groped and reached and pulled her body to it’s full length. The persistent beeping that filled
the small room would drive her to madness before the day had even begun. Finally in the dark of
the room her fingers found the off button and she struck it a little harder than she intended.


She tore the covers from her sprawled position on the bed and swung her legs over the edge,
sitting up. She made her way to the bathroom and turned the water to the shower on. She
stripped her T-shirt and panties off, and pulled a fresh towel out from the cabinet under the sink,
and stepped into the shower , lathering her hair and body. She took a brief moment to relish the
strong scent of the body wash, lavender. Business was on the forefront of her mind, as it always
was. Today was Tuesday and Trask’s ad campaign was her first priority.

She showered quickly, dried her long torso, and threw her long dark hair into the fresh towel. The
shower shook the last traces of sleep from her mind, and she dove into the tasks of the morning.
While she got ready for the day ahead, her mind was busy arranging meetings and writing memos.
She poured a last cup of coffee before she snatched her briefcase and started to the car.


Helen Riley was the creative manager of Trask Media, a web design company based in Austin,
Texas. She was originally from Charlottesville Virginia, where she had grown up and attended the
University of Virginia. She thought of Charlottesville often, the rolling lush valleys, and the
shadowy silhouette of mountains always looming in the distance. Growing up she hadn’t known
that the beauty of her surroundings didn’t go on beyond the state line, but since moving to Texas
there was so much about Virginia that she missed incredibly. Austin had its own unique character
though and the thought of having her parents a thousand miles away usually drove away her home
sickness and her longing for Virginia mountains.

She had only come to Austin seven months ago after becoming aware of an open position in a
growing company in a city now being labeled as the new Silicon Valley. Within two weeks of
applying she found herself on an airplane anxiously preparing for her first interview. When she
arrived and the interviewer named to her the prestigious position of Creative Manager, she
suffered a brief moment of panic. She was anything but creative. Her analytical mind did not
create, it problem solved, it formulated, but it did not create. She released a sigh of relief when it
was explained to her that the position title was merely an acquiescence to the board. They
requested an applicant with an art background to better handle a web design company, but for
those in management it was well known that the best person for the job was someone with a
detailed, highly experienced background in business practices. The thirty one year old woman
from Virginia with an MA in Business was called for an interview, but Helen was convinced that
it was her five years as Senior Manager of Bauman Corporation, a provider of communications,
electronics and information, that truly turned their eye, not to mention the year she sacrificed to
teach Business Ethics at the University.

When the interview was complete and she had been given the coveted position she experienced a
moment of doubt. She adored Charlottesville, she couldn’t stand the thought of moving as far
away as Richmond much less as far as Texas. Didn’t Texans wear cowboy shaped construction
hats, and eat steak for breakfast? She also enjoyed the comfort she felt at her current job, and in
the end that had also been the reason she had left. Helen Riley was not a person who longed for
safety and comfort. When Helen had first started at Bauman the company was undergoing a
questionable merger. New computer software confused the process and job curtailing had
distressed the employees to the point of backstabbing one another in order to move up the ranks
where, at the time, positions were more secure. The instability of the company revealed a side to
Helen that at first frightened her. She brought no emotion to her position, and the person that she
became was powerfully equipped for the cutthroat business world, but was someone Helen didn’t
know if she could live with. She became merciless in her attempts to secure the best interests of
the company. She weeded out the poorest of the personnel by introducing them to impossible
situations, and pushed morale aside in favor of the intimidation that the situation gave her. Three
years passed before business at Bauman ran successfully, and the merger had turned prosperous
for many. Looking back on it now she wondered how she had survived working in the quiet
environment of Bauman for the last two of her five years. She enjoyed her work best when things
were shaken up, when million dollar decisions rested on her hands, and when the employees
surrounding her anxiously wished to please her.

The position of Creative Manager at Trask Media was a new world to her, and the challenge that
provided was welcomed by Helen. When the only thing in your life worth mentioning is work, you
begin to mold your personality around your role, and the role she played here was intercessor.
She was the intermediate between the talent of the company and the money of the company. The
talent wanted to control the projects. They wanted to be the first and last word of every decision,
but the money of the company wanted to please the suits who only looked to the client for
satisfaction. It was a constant battle, and the fact that business transactions were successful was
primarily dependent on Helen’s ability to make them both believe they were in control.


Helen arrived at the seven story building at ten till seven. Her quick gait took her to her office
where already messages awaited her attention. First priority, Trask’s ad campaign. The fact that a
web design company had to enlist an advertising firm had never fully registered to Helen. Web
designers creating ads for companies over the country were at her disposal just two floors below
hers working for Trask Media, yet she was told the suits would rather gain an advertising firm to
handle the print campaign.

Her meeting, two weeks previous, with Imagine Advertising had been tedious but necessary. She
had appointed James Sullivan and Richard Reinhart to represent the company, but decided to be
personally involved considering this would be the first print advertising for Trask. The company
was extending their marketing beyond the web to trade magazines and audio-visual media. Gwen
Abbot from Imagine had called the following week after the initial meeting to schedule a
conference with a team of designers.

Helen actually found herself looking forward to the meeting. She felt a dizzy sense of power
directing a multi-million dollar ad campaign. Her confidence in the management decisions she
made daily didn’t seem to apply here, and knew she would need to rely on James and Richard for
their marketing experience. Still she could spot a valuable idea when she saw one.

The time of the meeting arrived and Helen drove her own car to Imagine Advertising. After seven
months she still struggled with Austin traffic and the dreaded Interstate35. She had seen none too
few bumper stickers with the words, ‘I survived I-35’, to know she wasn’t the only one who daily
did battle on Austin roads. When she pulled into the parking lot of Imagine Advertising, she saw
James’ Explorer and parked next to it. He of course would have already gone in with Richard to,
as he had put it, scout out the designers. He explained that he made it a habit of watching the
designers before their pitch to evaluate their confidence in their own idea. Sweating palms and
bowed heads were not good signs. Helen shook her head at the thought and walked in the
building. She received the royal treatment, straight to the conference room where coffee, tea, and
refreshments awaited her. Gwen Abott was already there and several others, whose names she had
made it a point to remember from their last meeting.

“Gwen, thank you for arranging this so quickly,” Helen said as she offered her hand. She gauged
the woman to be as strong willed as herself when Gwen returned the strong grip.

“Wilson, Jack, it’s nice to see you again,” she said as she again offered her hand. A tall, slightly
balding man named, Jack, stepped forward and reached out grabbing only her fingers as if she
were a lady in waiting from the 18th century. Oh, Helen hated that. Wilson Harvey, a younger
man, maybe fortyish stepped up next and as if he had read her mind gripped her hand with a
strong deliberate motion. A grin crept to her face, and in the next breath she wiped it away.

Becoming agitated, Helen wondered when James and Richard would make their grand entrance.
“James Sullivan and Richard Reinhart, my associates, will be along in short time,” I announced,
trying to stall for time.

“Oh, they’ve already arrived. They had a phone call to make and said they would join us in a
moment,” Gwen informed Helen. “Would you like some coffee?”

“Tea, if you have it, please.” Helen had never taken to the flavor of coffee.

James and Richard arrived in the conference room before the tea could, and Helen hid a scowl, as
she took a seat at the head of the table. She liked to throw others off by immediately taking
command. James and Richard took seats to the right of her, while Gwen, Wilson, and Jack sat to
her left.

Wilson took the initiative. “Let me begin by letting you know a little about our approach to the
market you’re targeting.” He was quite impressive with his casual professionalism. He had the
ability to remain formal at the same time as allowing his audience to feel unrestricted and
comfortable enough to openly communicate. He delivered his dutiful speech, and then invited
three designers, one by one, into the conference room. They displayed visuals and handed out
prepared written material on their conceptions. Helen found their pitches lackluster and hollow,
but kept her face expressionless. James and Richard must have agreed because they kept their
heads buried in the material and refused to make eye contact with the designers.

Feeling discouraged, Helen began to bring the meeting to a close, when Wilson announced that he
had one more designer who had prepared a proposal for the campaign. He said that the designer
had been working from home and that her work was to be picked up today by messenger, and that
he regretted that the designer could not have arrived to offer her proposition in person. Helen felt
a resurgence of hope and offered to meet the designer personally at designer’s home. Wilson
jumped on the notion, and encouraged her to feel free to meet the young designer at her
convenience, but his expression changed to one of apprehension when Helen suggested now
would be as good a time as any. Wilson, who already felt his client’s dissatisfaction with the
previous proposals, sighed heavily and nodded acquiescence. Helen could see his discomfort, but
felt the need to take a suitable idea back to Charlie Trask, the vice president of Trask Media. Her
better judgment was outweighed by her commitment to the company.


Gwen and Jack left Wilson to handle the details, as they too looked uncomfortable at having a
pitch take place without their presence. Wilson returned after a brief trip to the second floor, and
handed Helen a manila folder with a name and address on a paper within. Once outside James and
Richard too voiced their displeasure with having to view such an informal proposal. Helen, who
was already frustrated by the unproductive morning, excused their absence from the meeting, and
headed toward her car. Following closely behind she could hear their dissenting comments. She
brushed off their protests and left them standing bewildered in the parking lot. Once she was on
the road and had stopped at a light she reached over to the passenger seat and picked up the
manila folder. She opened the cover and looked at the name. Helen nodded at the address, pleased
that she wouldn’t have a problem finding the apartment complex. Let’s hope this Samantha
Thomas has more to offer than her associates, Helen thought to herself.


Chapter 3

Underneath the blaring of the stereo, Samantha heard the harsh knocking at the door. She tore
herself away from the scene in front of her, turned the stereo off, and grabbed a rag from the
desk. Her hands wore a conglomeration of brown, red, blue, and a new shade formed from the
mixture of colors, that Samantha wasn’t sure she had ever seen before, nor was she sure she liked
it. Using the rag, Samantha tried to wipe away the worst of the paint from her hands to open the
door, all the while listening to the insistent knocking that became louder and louder. Giving up on
the paint she thrust open the door expecting the familiar company courier, and finding instead a
tall, well dressed woman with coal black hair, longer than her own, that flowed down over her
shoulders. Caught off guard, and unable to find words she motioned for the woman to come in.
Helen nodded with a slight smile and walked in smelling of lavender and soap, and maybe a hint
of leather.

“Samantha Thomas?” the woman asked and Samantha numbly affirmed this was true. “I was sent
over by Mr. Wilson Harvey. I’m Helen Riley, Creative Manager at Trask Media, and I believe
you’ve been working on a proposal for our ad campaign.” As Helen said this she suddenly
doubted that she’d been given the correct address. She had expected Wilson to call the designer,
so that the designer could be prepared but clearly Samantha Thomas had not been expecting her.

Appearing to come to herself, Samantha could only manage to say, “The Trask campaign! Oh of
course. I was expecting someone else to come pick that up.” Becoming aware of her marked
silence, Samantha looked down at her hands and her paint smudged clothes and offered the
woman across from her a small smile of embarrassment. Samantha ran a hand through her hair
and feeling specks of paint, couldn’t help but widen that smile and noticed that her guest mirrored
the expression.

“I’m sorry. I’ve caught you off guard. I was hoping to see your ideas, and I assumed Wilson
would call,” Helen said, struggling to hide her amusement at the designer’s slight blush.

“I’ve been in my studio so he probably called and I didn’t hear.” Samantha took the rag she still
held and scrubbed harder at the drying paint on her hands. “Have you been at the door long?”

“No, not long.”

“Please come on in. Can I get you something to drink, tea, water? I could make some coffee?”
Samantha offered as she escorted Helen out of the entryway.

“I would love some ice tea if you have it,” Helen answered as she sat on the cream colored sofa.
The apartment was open and modest. From her view in the living room Helen could see the
downtown buildings through the glass balcony door to her right. The living room opened up into
the kitchen and she caught glimpses here and there of the young woman’s movement. She was not
what Helen had expected. The designers she had met at Imagine Advertising wore navy or black
suits with their cautiously groomed appearance. Samantha Thomas wore old, torn, loose jeans
with a multicolored long sleeve button shirt that must have once been white. Her golden red hair
was disheveled and tinged blue here and there. Her face though was free of paint, her skin
annoyingly flawless and Helen could easily see her youthful demeanor, open and unrestricted.

Samantha interrupted Helen’s thoughts when she entered the living room with two tall glasses of
iced tea. Helen was thankful for the informality of this meeting, and took the glass from the
woman’s hand with a smile of gratitude. She noticed the designer’s hands were now clean, and
her hair had been smoothed into a semblance of order.

“Can I take you back to my studio? It would be the best place to view the work. I have a drawing
board where I can set up the visuals,” Sam said as she pointed down a long hallway.

Helen silently nodded and stood, following her through a long hallway where she passed a small
bathroom and two furnished bedrooms, until at the end she turned into a large open room with
hard wood floors. The room strongly smelled of paint and something else, a chemical Helen
couldn’t recognize. Samantha led her to the far right corner of the room where a desk was settled
next to a tall white drawing table with a stool stowed underneath. Samantha began pulling two
large black display panels from a large leather portfolio case, and placed them on the drawing
table. While Samantha went back to her portfolio to gather the written presentation, Helen leaned
over the table to view the illustration. It was completely different from the presentations she had
seen earlier, the drawing wasn’t sedate, or overworked as the others had been. It was pure and
uncontrived, the simple image of a child standing alone in an empty room. The illustrations went
on to tell a story that Helen thought turned the sometimes ugly, sometimes confusing, and always
greedy business of web media into an honest necessary enterprise. Whew, if this woman could do
that, she was good!

Helen couldn’t contain the smile that came to her face. When Samantha looked up from the
folders she held in her hand, she looked at Helen’s pleased expression, then glanced at the table
and knew then that the customer was satisfied. She had seen that look too many times in
presentations in the Imagine conference room. Complete the deal, Samantha thought, and handed
one of the two folders she held in her hand to Helen.

Although Samantha hadn’t been fully prepared she knew the presentation well, and determinedly
made her pitch. Helen listened with interest. A lot of what the young designer had tried for in the
proposal was a bit too sentimental for Trask, but the theme would be exactly something Charlie
Trask would fall for. He believed in the business of his father and ached to expand beyond his
father’s original goals. That was the reason for the ad campaign and this would feed right into
Charlie’s ego.

Just as Samantha was wrapping up the presentation, Helen’s eye caught sight of a painting that
caused a fierce blush to creep up her neck and into her cheeks. It was a portrait of two people
intertwined, their bodies becoming lost in each other. The painting was so real that Helen felt she
should avert her eyes to keep from watching something that was intended to be private. But she
could not avert her eyes, the scene was so tender and yet so intense that Helen found herself
striving to see further into the painting as if the two lovers might turn and catch her in her spying.
When Samantha looked up from the folder she held and saw the wide eyed stare directed at the
opposite side of the room she turned and flinched at what she knew had captured the client’s

She dashed over to the painting and threw the clean drop cloth over the canvas. She sighed deeply
before turning around to face the woman, and looked her straight in the eyes. “I am so sorry. I
know what you must think of me now, but...I don’t know quite what to say.” It was her turn to
blush now and her cheeks turned a bright shade of crimson.

“Don’t apologize for art like that,” Helen said as she walked across the room to join Samantha. “I
am in awe of your talent.” Helen took a moment to look closely at the painting, the way the light
hit the skin of the lovers, their eyes closed, their fingers intertwined. “It’s beautiful,” Helen
whispered in admiration. She shook her head, and looked back to Samantha, whose slight blush
had turned to a hot red flush. “Your proposal is exceptional as well,” Helen said, effectively
changing the subject. “It’s very original and not something I had thought of for Trask. Did you
research the company?”

Still uncertain Samantha answered, “Yes, Gwen Abbott sent me some material on your company.
I thought the proposal might become too idealist, but I liked the concept of an innocent
surrounded by the more sinister. I thought the point it made was simple and effective.”

Returning back to the drawing table, Helen talked as she walked forcing Samantha to follow after
her. “I have a couple of recommendations and Charles Trask will want to see it soon. Can we
implement some changes within the week?”

Samantha thought of tomorrow’s appointment with the urologist. “Yes, of course we can. I’ll
send the project to Wilson today and whatever changes you would like made can be made by
Noah Rankin, he’s a terrific designer. You’ll like his work.”

Helen stopped suddenly. “Wait. This is your design right? I’d prefer to have you stay on as the
designer,.” Helen said, refusing to budge on this.

“I’m flattered but I have an appointment tomorrow that I have to keep, and I wouldn’t want to
cause the project to be put off or delayed.” Samantha said as she struggled to explain without
telling Helen more than Samantha was willing to reveal.

“Don’t be flattered, just be available day after tomorrow. We’ll make up for the delay.”
Helen declared as she tucked the folder she still held under her arm. She looked on expectantly at
Samantha, and anticipated her reply.

“Thank you. I’ll be available Wednesday.” Samantha was trying with effort to push aside the fears
she had that the chemotherapy would not allow her to continue to work. She felt obligated
though. The design was hers, and that made it her responsibility as well.

“That’s a deal then. Thank you for taking the time out of, what’s probably, your day off. The
illustration looks great, and I look forward to working with you more.”

Samantha nodded and escorted Helen back through the apartment to the front entry way. There
was a brief awkward moment when Samantha wasn’t sure how to end the conversation. “I’ll talk
to you Wednesday then,” Samantha said, inwardly winced at the curt parting.

“Wednesday then.” Helen started to walk out the door, then as a last thought she turned back to
Samantha and in a secretive whisper she said, “I really really loved that painting.” Her eyebrows wiggled, and with a smile she turned back to the door and walked out into the hall.

Stunned, Samantha shut the door and slid down to the hard wood floor, wishing that she had
thrown that drop cloth on the canvas sooner.


Continued - Part ll


Return to The Bard's Corner