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.



To Know You

part 2



Chapter 4

Samantha couldn’t help but wonder if she was this sick before the therapy, how sick would she be
after? Her stomach twisted itself into a knot and churned with anxiousness. She sat in a large
white walled room filled with cheap furniture and appallingly awful framed art. For some reason
Samantha found it amusing that here in this office, fashion magazines lined the tables shouting out
to the patient that this is what’s important. Long beautiful hair, tall thin body, and most
importantly the right shade of eye shadow. Samantha rolled her eyes and folded her hands in her
lap trying to wipe the perspiration from her palms onto her jeans.

“Miss. Thomas”, a nurse called out. Samantha rose and slowly walked toward the waiting nurse,
who held in her hand a chart. The nurse abruptly turned expecting Samantha to follow and walked
briskly down a small hallway until she reached a large room that contained three brown reclining
chairs. In one of the chairs sat an older woman probably in her 50’s reading a book. When she
walked by the woman, Samantha offered a small smile but the woman only looked back down at
her book. The nurse led Samantha to one of the brown recliners and once she had sat down,
pulled over a tray.

Samantha spent the next hour listening to the nurse’s chit chat while her body was filled with
strangely colored fluids that looked so innocent to be so lethal. After the nurse was finished she
pulled the recliner back up to a sitting position, and Sam waited for the queasiness or the fatigue
to overtake her, but she felt fine save for the anxiety that pulsed through her blood and turned her
stomach in circles. The nurse methodically listed the side effects to watch for and the warning
signs as well. Samantha vaguely heard her, but tried none the less to register all that she was

An hour later she walked out feeling numb with relief, and sat down on a bench and pulled out a
cigarette, knowing full well that she shouldn’t. Wilson was coming by for her any minute to take
her home, and she wasn’t sure she could deal with his reprimand, but she needed something to
calm her nerves. A few minutes after she had snuffed out the cigarette Wilson’s big green pickup
truck came around the corner. He pulled up next to the curb and jumped down and ran over to
where Samantha was sitting.

“Hey Sam!” he called out, as he ran toward her. “How are you feeling? Can you make it to the
truck? Can I help?” he stammered as he tried to take her arm.

Samantha laughed, and pushed him away. Wilson was one of a few she would call friend. The
only reason she had asked Wilson instead of Linda to drive her to the treatments is because out of
everyone who knew of her illness, he was the only one who still treated her normally, and now as
Samantha looked at his face she wondered if that was about to change. He wanted to coddle her
and there was no way she was letting him make her feel sick.
“I’m fine, Wil. In fact I don’t feel sick at all. I probably could have just driven myself here. Don’t
start,” she warned. He beat her to the truck and opened the door for her anyway, and Samantha
tolerated it with a scowl.

When they were on their way Wilson broke down, and asked Samantha about the treatments, and
did it hurt? Samantha thought about it, and answered that, no it didn’t hurt, which was a lie
because the whole time she had sat in that chair listening to that woman’s meaningless chatter she
had to struggle not to break down in tears and run out of that room. It wasn’t physical pain, but a
bone deep pain in the soul. It ripped at her chest and tore at her head. She had been so certain that
she had come to terms with her illness, but sitting in that chair with the sterile smell of bleach
surrounding her, a prick of a needle in her hand, and the sickly green color of the walls had
brought it all to life. Oh how she had wanted to conquer this, and to believe that it could be
conquered. But the feeling that rested in her now was one of grief, profound grief that penetrated
the wall she had built to protect herself.

After Wilson had dropped her off, Samantha sat out on the balcony and closed her eyes, waiting
for some sign of the treatment to begin. But after sitting there for over an hour and still feeling as
she had before, Sam went back inside and drew herself a hot bath. She lay there in the water until
the water had cooled and Sam’s skin had begun to prune.

She couldn’t believe that she would have to face the office tomorrow, after being absent for six
weeks. She wasn’t even sure if she would be able to get out of bed tomorrow morning, but the
feeling that someone was expecting her made her spirits rise, if only a little. The representative
had liked the proposal, and had demanded that she continue on with the project. She was needed,
and so with that thought running through her muddled head Samantha lay under the covers
expecting to be unable to sleep, but being overtaken by slumber moments after her head hit the


Chapter 5

Helen walked into Imagine Advertising with Charles Trask at her side. He had been adamant
about leaving James and Richard behind. Helen felt only slightly guilty for not allowing them to
accompany her to the designer’s house. It had been a brash decision, but one she didn’t fully

Gwen Abbott again welcomed Helen, and in turn Helen introduced Charles to them. He was
stoically silent, and only acknowledged the executives with a curt nod, and a rough hand shake.
They were led to the conference room again, where Helen was pleased to see Samantha Thomas,
the designer, was waiting for them. She sat quietly at the long table and stood cautiously when the
others entered, as if she were afraid she might fall. Helen approached her with her hand out
stretched and offered Samantha a fond smile. She introduced her to Charles who gave her the
same treatment as he had granted her colleagues. Samantha had only nodded back to them both.

Samantha again offered the proposal, this time with more formality, and as Helen noticed less
enthusiasm. But Charles was pleased with the presentation as Helen knew he would be, and he
immediately put the plans of the campaign to action. Various small changes were suggested by
both Gwen Abbott, and Charles Trask, and Sam offered no disagreement. The meeting ended
with lunch plans being made. Charles and Helen invited the group of people in the conference
room to lunch at Carey’s restaurant in west Austin. Gwen, Jack, and Charles led the way to the
parking lot leaving Wilson and Samantha in the corner conversing privately. Helen hated to
interrupt, but she truly wanted to congratulate the designer on her proposal.

As she neared them, Wilson threw up his hands and turned suddenly nearly knocking into Helen.
He vehemently apologized and left the conference room. Samantha stood in the corner trying to
maintain a smile that trembled slightly at the edges.

“Hello again. I wanted to congratulate you on your proposal. Charles was thrilled when I told him
of your ideas, but I know that he was even more pleased when he saw the proposal in person,”
Helen said.

“Thank you very much. I’m glad that the idea was approved,” Samantha said shakily.

“You are joining us for lunch I hope. I’m sure that Charles will want to speak to you more, and
I’m sure you may have a few ideas of your own that differ from his. Don’t be afraid to voice
them. He respects that, trust me.”

Samantha sighed deeply and turned her eyes to the floor briefly, and contemplated telling this
woman that what she really wanted was to get out of this building. Helen Riley was intimidating
enough, though, that Sam only said, “Of course. I’m anxious to hear Mr. Trask’s ideas.”

At the restaurant Helen sat across from Samantha at the far end of the table, while Charles talked
non stop about Trask Media. Conversation soon turned from business to more personal
conversation. Samantha pushed the food on her plate around but couldn’t bear the thought of
food at the moment. She drank deeply of the water, and avoided the conversation, steering it
away when it came to her. She glanced now and then at Helen, who listened attentively to the
conversation. Sam noticed this, and appreciated that this woman genuinely looked you in the eye
when she spoke to you, and that when you spoke to her she listened as if what you said was a
great discovery. Helen looked up and saw Sam looking at her. When she did Sam looked away
and pushed her food around again.

“Are you originally from Austin?” Helen asked suddenly.

Sam looked up, and stared at Helen for a moment before answering. “No actually I’m from
Galveston, but I moved here to attend the University of Texas, so I’ve been here for about eight
years. I still feel like there are parts of the city I haven’t seen. I’m not sure if you could live here
your entire life and do everything there is to do. How about you? You don’t sound like a native

“Very good. No, I’m from Charlottesville in Virginia. I haven’t even been in town for a year, and
I think it shows when every time I attempt to go to a mall I end up lost,” Helen said with that
contagious smile.

Sam laughed. “Well, after eight years I think I have the malls down, but I still have trouble with
the restaurants. All I can say is good luck. Do you like it here?”

Helen hesitated, and then leaned forward and said, “I do, but I haven’t gone a day without feeling
homesick. I don’t my family as much as I’m sure I should, but I do miss the colors, and the
foliage, and I miss the brisk cold mornings. Austin is just green, all the time, green.”

Samantha smiled and set down the fork giving up even trying to pretend to enjoy the meal. Helen
hesitated, knowing that the question poised on the edge of her tongue was too personal. She
barely knew this woman. What right did she have? Even though Helen had only met this woman
twice, she felt comfortable with her. Too comfortable because normally her good sense would
have never allowed her to ask the question, but the unmistakably sad face she looked into,
brought the question out of silence. “You said you had an appointment? Did everything go well?”
She flinched wishing she could unask it, but stared straight ahead at Samantha awaiting a reaction.

Samantha deliberated, and then without looking up she nodded, and said, “Yes, everything went

Helen knew that she had overstepped an invisible professional boundary and threw herself into the
conversation still being exchanged at the table among the others. She occasionally looked over at
Sam who looked past them all, at something Helen could only guess at.

Charles soon wrapped the lunch meeting up, and when he stood everyone else at the table stood
as well. Gwen, Jack and Charles all left together leaving only Wilson, Samantha , and Helen again.

Samantha leaned over to Wilson as he put his business jacket on and said quietly, “Could you
drop me off at home? I don’t think I can go back to the office today.”

Before Wilson could turn to answer Helen interjected, “ I could take you home. It’s on my way
back to Trask.”

Looking uncertain, Samantha looked to Wilson, who only shrugged. “ Thank you. I would
appreciate it, if it’s on your way.”

They left the restaurant and separated from the others at the parking lot. Helen unlocked the
doors to her gold Legend, and walked around the car to the drivers side. They drove along in
silence for most of the drive. Helen couldn’t think of anything to say that would break the ice her
question had seemed to form. They arrived in front of the apartment complex and Samantha
opened the car door. She turned back to thank Helen, but Helen interrupted with, “Are you still
working on that painting or was that the finished product?”

Samantha turned away from Helen, and allowed a smile to play on her face, but wiped it away as
she turned back. “Actually I was in the process of finishing it when you stopped by the other day.
I haven’t had time to finish it yet. It’s not my typical work.”

“What is your typical work?” Helen asked genuinely interested.

“I’m not sure that I have a typical work. I guess I just paint whatever comes to mind at the
moment, which I guess tells you where my mind was at the time I painted that one huh?”
Samantha said not sure why she was saying it at all.

Helen laughed, and it was a beautiful sound. It was so light and warm. It soothed Sam’s soul in a
way she couldn’t describe. She wanted so much to remember what it was like to laugh so with
such carefree abandon. No one had laughed with her like that for weeks. There always seemed to
be that feeling in the air that laughing was not allowed around a woman with cancer. But oh, how
Sam just wanted to let go and laugh, and forget for a time what she faced. She turned back to
Helen suddenly and without even thinking about it, she invited her to come up to her apartment.
She offered to show some of her work to Helen expecting the woman to decline, to say that she
had to get back to work, to say that she truly wasn’t interested, but to her surprise and to Helen’s
as well Helen agreed.


Chapter 6

“I know you’re probably in a rush to get back to work, so I’ll hurry,” Samantha said as she
opened the door to her apartment and allowed Helen to come in before closing it.

“Oh, it’s no hurry. I don’t have a meeting until 3:00 with some web designers,” Helen said as she
peered around the room feeling more at ease this visit than her previous one.

“They’re a spirited bunch, I’m sure. You have my sympathy,” Samantha said with a wry smile of
amusement. She recalled clearly the weekly riotous meetings held by Gwen Abott for the
designers. Sam had never been sure who came away victorious from these meetings, but she had a
strong feeling it wasn’t Gwen.

“Heh, “ Helen scoffed as if Sam had read her mind. “I am somewhat dreading it, which would be
putting it mildly.”

Samantha turned on the lights as she walked through the rooms, and led Helen back down the
hallway to her studio. Now that Helen looked around the room more closely she saw that in the
left side of the room, next to the large window, there were several blank canvases leaned against
the walls, and drop cloths were draped over what must have been Samantha’s paintings. The hard
wooden floor had become a virtual palette of multicolored paints that had dripped, spilled, and
splashed. The entire room was saturated with character, and Helen knew then that this room was
a part of Samantha’s identity, it was her daily escape. Helen looked to Samantha then who pulled
two easels from the back of the room. She placed them in the light that streamed from the
window. She then walked over and picked up two of the cloth adorned canvases, and set them on
the easels. Looking shyly at Helen, Sam pulled the drop cloth off the first painting, and stood back
to allow Helen to look without Sam being able to see her face.

Helen looked with awe at the painting of a gray cloudy sky with a restless churning gray sea
underneath. The painting seemed so colorless until your eyes were lead to a tall lean woman in the
distance walking along the shore line with her feet dragging in the frothy surf. Her flowing bright
red dress blew in the imaginary wind, and her face looked up at the storm laden sky. Her left hand
was extended out to a young girl probably not much older than seven. The little girl’s face was
upturned to the woman’s and the expression she wore was one of wonderment and devotion.
Pouring down upon the two figures was a single stream of sunlight that had escaped the clouds. It
illuminated their bodies, and even though they seemed so small in the context of the painting
Helen could make out the colors of their eyes. Blue in the woman’s, and a lucid green in the little

Helen turned slowly to Sam, and offered her a smile of gratitude for allowing her to see her work.
Silently Sam walked over to the second easel, and eased the cloth from the canvas, and again
stepped back. This painting was so different that it seemed as if it might have been painted by
another artist, and just to be sure Helen dropped her eyes, and there she saw that Samantha’s
signature trimmed the bottom of the painting. While the first painting had seemed real enough for
Helen to feel the damp wind, this painting was abstract. It was unique and the design was
impressive, but it didn’t have the stark beauty that the first canvas possessed. Helen looked
around for the painting she had seen the other day and couldn’t visibly find it.

Sam’s eyebrows rose in question, and she asked, “Were you looking for something in particular?”

Oh, thought Helen, with an inkling of mischief, she is going to make me ask, isn’t she? She gave
in and confidently said, “I would love to see the one that I saw on my last visit.”

Sam grinned, and went to the far end of the room and turned a canvas around and replaced the
abstract painting on the second easel with the one of Helen’s current interest. The two women
stepped back and looked appreciatively at the depiction. Helen saw new details now that must
have been added after she had left. Remembering all that caught her attention from the day before
she remarked to herself again that even though the painting was sensual, it was not indecent. It
was quite simply gorgeous.

“What do you like about it so much?” Samantha asked.

“Everything,” Helen answered.

Samantha showed Helen several other works before she offered Helen a cup of tea. Helen went to
the balcony door and looked out at the bustling city. She was not in the mood to get back to
work, but she knew she must. She looked over her shoulder at the small woman in the kitchen and
noted to herself that she looked so much different with her long hair loose around her shoulders
and navy slacks and blazer than she had before in her paint flecked ponytail, and her jeans and
colorfully spotted shirt. She still looked naively young though, and Helen felt a protective urge
rise in her to think that soon Charles Trask would try in every way to squash her youthfulness,
and introduce her to hardball business, as he liked to call it.

Helen quickly drank the warm honeyed tea, and reluctantly told Sam that she had to leave. Sam
walked her guest to the entry way, and searched for a way to think Helen for the interest she had
shown in her work. “I am grateful that you took the time away from your day to look at my
paintings. I enjoy hearing what others say when they see them. I don’t consider myself exactly
impartial when it comes to my own work.”

Helen looked down at the smaller woman, and spoke with genuine sincerity, “I feel honored to
have seen art like that. My company should be the grateful ones to have such talent on our side.”
She put a smile into her words, “Thank you for asking me to see them.”

Sam abashedly looked down at her feet unable to find words to answer the compliment. “Heh. I’ll
just remind you that you’re now technically my boss, and I should be the one shamelessly
flattering you, not the other way around.”

“We’ll see if you want to shamelessly flatter me after you’ve had to work with me for more than a
couple of days. I give it another week before you discover what a difficult person I can and will
be,” Helen warned with a mockingly innocent smile. A moment later the smile softened and
reached all the way to Helen’s eyes. She turned to leave and Samantha waved after her.

Samantha closed the door and began clearing the tea cups from the table. She hadn’t suffered
from the side effects of the chemo yet, she was still in the wait and see mode. The only adverse
reaction she could even put her finger on was a little light headedness now and then. Maybe it
wouldn’t get much worse. Weren’t there some stories of people who underwent chemotherapy
and never got truly sick? Maybe she would be one of those people. Her next treatment was
scheduled for the day after tomorrow, and she wouldn’t have another meeting with Trask until
after the weekend. She vowed to herself that she would remain healthy until after this project had
been completed. That was as far ahead into the future as she dared to look.


Chapter 7

Helen had spent the greater part of the morning going round and round with Charlie. He had
demanded that Gwen Abott add another designer to the ad campaign to assist Samantha Thomas,
and now he went so far as to take on one of the web designers from Trask to make, what he
called necessary, changes to the original design. The presentation wasn’t even recognizable any

“Helen, it’s too big for one designer. I need a designer from Trask to implement my changes my
way. The base concept was good, but let’s expand on the idea now. I’ll have the two designers
from Imagine work with Daniel from upstairs. He’s an excellent artist.” Charlie wasn’t making
new arguments, just going back over the original one over and over again.

“The first idea was the one that caught our eye. It was good as it was, now you’ve completely
changed it. Why even hire Imagine, if a graphic artist from Trask could have done the work?”
Helen was furious with Charlie. The altered proposal somehow felt fabricated and false. Was this
honestly what he planned to use to sell their services? She had doubted his knowledge of the
company before, but now she was positive that he was replacing his father only in name. Bryan
Trask would never have allowed an ad like this to represent the company.

“We hired them for the idea, don’t you see? We take the original plan and build on it to suit the
company’s needs. I’ll have Daniel work with the Imagine designers. I’m not disposing of them.
It’s done Helen,” Charlie said sternly, ending the debate.

Helen clamped her jaw on the words that were building on her tongue. She watched Charlie for a
moment as he sat back down at his massive oak desk He had excused her from his office and
from his mind. He didn’t even care that she still stood there in his office. She turned on her heel
and made her way to her own office where she immediately called downstairs and scheduled a
meeting with Daniel Greer that afternoon. She then made a phone call to Wilson Harvey at
Imagine and asked for a meeting between Trask and Imagine that afternoon. He agreed, and she
sent an electronic memo to Charlie asking for his presence that afternoon at 3:00. He sent her
back an obnoxiously friendly response that he would love to toss some more ideas back and forth
with the designers. He looked forward to it he added at the end of the note.

With that done she closed her eyes and laid back in the leather chair. She was strongly tempted to
phone Bryan Trask and make him aware of his sons performance as Vice President of Trask, but
she held hope that the project could still be salvaged by Samantha and the new designer from


It had hit Samantha sometime after midnight. She felt as if she had caught the flu overnight. She
was nauseous and tired, but she couldn’t close her eyes without feeling as if the room were
spinning. When she walked into the bathroom she glanced into the mirror and caught a ghost like
impression of herself. Her face had gone pale, and an area of darkness had developed underneath
her eyes. She groaned to herself and shuffled back to her bed. She finally fell into a restless sleep
about 2:00 a.m. and didn’t wake until she heard the phone blaring from the bedside table.

“Hello,” she heard herself say from far away.

“Sam? Did I wake you?” It was Wilson.

“Yes,” she mumbled. “What time is it Wil?”

“It’s nearly 11:00 a.m. Are you all right? Are you feeling sick? Do you need me to get you

“No Wil, I’m fine. Did you call to check up on me? Is this going to be a regular thing, because we
should set a time or something. Anything after noon would work good for me.” She was being
sarcastically mean, and she hated it. She tried so hard not to push those closest to her away, but
the bitterness within her came to the surface and she fought it back down.

“Yes, and no. Yes, I was going to check in with you today. And no, that’s not why I’m calling.
Helen Riley from Trask has asked for a meeting this afternoon. Charles Trask called earlier this
morning and asked that we put another designer on the presentation to assist you. He also said
that he’s chosen a designer from his company to assist the changes he has planned. They need a
design meeting this afternoon. If you can’t make it, I can cover for you.”

She moaned out loud. They were adding designers, that was rarely a positive sign. “Who will you
assign to the campaign? Please say it won’t be Chris. I think that if you said Chris I would have to
play my, ‘I’m too sick to make it card’.”

“Gwen is assigning it to Noah. And are you too sick? I’ll talk to Gwen, it won’t be a big deal with
her. You know that,” Wilson said tempting her.

She sighed deeply bringing herself to a sitting position. The queasiness had faded to a faint
uneasiness, and her longs didn’t feel like they were filled with lead. She stood and abruptly sat
back down when the room began to spin. If Trask was assigning new designers it meant the idea
was being changed. It meant more than the small changes he had initially suggested, and that
meant she had to show, if only to defend the original design. “No Wil, I feel pretty good
considering. I need to be there, right? Will Gwen be attending?” Samantha had avoided Gwen
since she had gotten her diagnosis. Somewhere in the back of her mind she expected that every
time she met with Gwen she had to either prove her worth to the company, or quietly accept her
walking papers.

“No, I’ll be going with you and Noah this afternoon, and Helen Riley and Charles Trask will
attend with their designer. I do understand from Trask that changes have already been made, so
be prepared for anything, all right?” She understood completely.

When Samantha pulled into the Trask Media parking lot she saw that Wilson’s truck was already
parked up front. She pulled in next to it, and crawled out of the car fighting the fatigue that
threatened to drag her under the surface of her exhaustion. Wilson waved from beside the double
front glass doors, and started to walk over. When he neared her, he halted and his eyes widened
slightly when he saw her.

“What?” she demanded.

“Nothing,” he insisted. “You just look a little under the weather, that’s all.”

Sam took a deep breath to prepare herself for reactions like this, and walked past him to the front
doors. She heard him behind her rushing to keep up, and when he barely reached the door ahead
of her, he opened it so that she could enter. She walked through and saw Noah sitting on a bright
blue sofa in the reception area. A huge smile lit up his face when he saw her, and she felt a return
smile come to her lips.

“Hey Sam, I haven’t see you in a while. How are you?” He said politely.

“I’m good Noah,” she returned looking up at him through her golden bangs. There was a time
when Samantha had first started at Imagine Advertising that she thought she wouldn’t be able to
cut it, but Noah had convinced her that she was more than able, and after a time she came to
believe it herself. She had always held him in high regard for that, and she was glad that he had
been assigned to the Trask campaign.

Shortly they were led back through a series of hallways to an enclosed bright room where
Charles, Helen, and someone Sam had never met before, stood waiting for them. Introductions
were made again and everyone found a seat. Samantha noticed that Helen avoided eye contact
with anyone and wondered why she seemed so agitated. The designer from Trask, named Daniel
Greer stepped to the front of the room where a display board was located. Daniel took two black
display panels from a bag at the back of the room, and placed them on the board.

Samantha was sure her jaw had dropped and thought that maybe she had even let a small
whispered cry escape her lips when she saw the display. Helen looked to her immediately
searching her eyes for a reaction. Samantha locked eye contact with Helen and put a silent aching
question into her expression. The question that sprang to Sam’s mind was why? Helen only sighed
and looked away.

Sam’s original design had been changed to beyond recognition. It bore little semblance to the
proposal she had presented just yesterday. She looked to Daniel and burned with fury at the proud
smile he wore on his smug face. She searched around the room for support, and saw only Helen
looking back at her. The meeting strained along, and Sam held quiet. This was the client, it was
ultimately their decision. She only wished this new design didn’t wear her name. She felt the
uneasiness in her stomach change to a queasy burning sensation, and willed the meeting to end

When the meeting had been brought to a close by Charles Trask, Samantha broke for the door
and nearly made it to the entrance of the building when she heard her name called from behind.
She turned to see Helen coming toward her, and she fought to control the storming emotions
roiling inside of her.

“Sam, I wanted to get your response to the changes that were suggested.” Helen said a little out
of breath after her quick pursuit of the young designer.

“Those didn’t look like suggestions, they looked like a decree. The client knows best,” she said a
little out of breath herself.

“I didn’t like the changes I saw, and I made that clear to Charlie. I told you to be honest with him.
He will listen to you, Sam. He will respect your true opinion.” Helen said the words struggling to
believe them herself.

Sam debated with herself and eventually the rising sickness in her heart won out and she walked
away knowing this could be the weapon that Gwen would use to force her out of the company.
To walk away from a client was to walk away from your own job. She kept walking until she
reached her car, and she drove home forcing all thoughts from her mind. When she got into the
apartment she sat at the dining room table and put her head in her hands, and felt her heart beating
hard in her chest. She rocked back and forth, and contemplated calling Wilson to set things
straight. She asked herself, if she hadn’t gotten sick, would she have walked out of that building
today. She hoped that her decision hadn’t been a result of the illness. That would be the point of
defeat, when she let it make her decisions for her.

She wasn’t sure how much time had passed before she heard knock at the door, but her cheeks
felt hot and wet with tears. She wiped them away, and rose expecting Wilson’s prepared lecture.
He would be disappointed, and somewhere in his face she would see that he had expected it, that
he knew she wouldn’t make it. She opened the door and standing there, with bright blue
affectionate eyes was Helen Riley.


Sam invited Helen in, not sure of what to anticipate. Helen remained silent until she had sat down
at the table. Samantha sat next to her preparing herself for anything.

“I wanted to talk to you personally about the campaign. I think Charles it wrong, but you’re right
you know, the final call is his. I have no say in what his decision will be, and I truly do believe that
he might listen to you. Why you won’t even try is beyond me. If you don’t speak up the proposal
will go forth as presented today. If you’re comfortable with that then I’m wasting my time here,”
Helen began not allowing Sam to interrupt until she had finished.

Taken aback, Sam grappled with what to say. “I’m not sure I have it in me right now to protect
my design. Noah Rankin is an excellent artist, and I trust him to do what’s best for the client. If
what’s best for your company is that ad, then I should just step aside.” It was all bull crap, and she
knew it.

“So you think that what’s best for the company is an ad where the product of the company is
ignored, and instead flashy images the focus of the message.” Helen said demanding Samantha to
be truthful to herself and to the woman in front of her.

“No, of course I don’t, but there are things you don’t know.” Sam was so close to telling Helen
the real truth right then, that she had bigger fights at hand, but she couldn’t lay that burden on this
woman. She looked to Helen, and saw there a face that believed in her, and Sam decided that she
would defend the original design. She had answered her own question in her mind, ‘if she hadn’t
gotten sick, would she have walked out of that building today’, and the answer was no.


Chapter 8

Sam rode with Helen back to Trask Media, and they shared little words on the way. When they
arrived Helen showed Samantha to her office, and asked her to sit in a soft gray chair while she
phoned Charlie. Samantha listened to Helen, while she wondered what Charlie was saying on the
other end. Helen hung the phone up by slamming the receiver down, and Sam’s eyebrows shot up
at her outward show of hostility. Was it aimed at her or Charlie, Sam wondered.

“We’ll make him wait a few minutes, then we’ll go over. Can I get you something while we
wait?” Helen asked briskly.

“No thanks,” Sam answered. A silence stretched out between them. Helen riffled through papers
on her desk, and made an attempt to give some order to the area. She sighed deeply and looked
up at Sam with a slight exasperated smile on her face. She blew the sigh out and Sam watched as
Helen’s dark bangs blew up, then landed softly on her forehead.

“You may live to regret your decision to talk to that man, but I’m glad you’re here. You’re my
last hope to rescue this project. Tell me honestly, what did you think of Charlie’s changes to the
design,” Helen said.

Helen’s blunt tone made it clear that she didn’t think highly of her boss, and this gave Sam
courage to speak freely. “Honestly? Well honestly I don’t think he knows advertising very well,
and that surprises me seeing that he’s the VP of a web design company. I’m not saying that
changes weren’t in order for the design, but he reworked all of it, and I can’t see why.”

“Well, let’s head over, and give this a try. And if he throws us out of his office we’ll just say I
owe you dinner for putting you through that.” Helen said it with a smile, but there was a hint of
apprehension behind the words.

“Dinner in return for stepping into a war ground?” Sam said with a mischievous rise of her
eyebrow. “Sounds good to me,” this time said with a winning smile that said, either way I win.


They arrived in front of Threadgill’s at around 7:00. Helen had expected the restaurant to be busy,
but the parking lot was only half filled.

“Well, he didn’t actually throw us out did he? I mean he just semi-politely asked us to leave. He
did listen to you, right? I said he would, right?” Helen said.

“That was semi-polite!? Ouch, I would hate to see his discourteous side. And yes, you said he
would listen, you also said he would respect me for being honest,” Sam said with a triumphant

“Well, when I said be honest, I’m not sure I meant for you to tell him the new design was
abhorrent. That may knock your status from respect down a little to disdain,” Helen said with an
answering rise of the eyebrow.

“He did push me into that a little when he said, my original design was flat. It wasn’t flat was it?
You would have told me if it was flat, right?” Sam said with genuine doubt in her voice.

Helen laughed, and said, “Yes, I most assuredly would have told you if your design was flat.” She
laughed again, and the two women were seated at a table in the center of the room.

Sam had suggested the restaurant because she liked the relaxed at home atmosphere that the
place provided, not to mention that they made the best Country Fried Steak in the state. Sam
ordered, and shot Helen an astonished glance when Helen ordered the all vegetable plate.

“What?” Helen asked.

“I didn’t take you for a vegetarian.” Sam said in a whisper as if it were a secret.

“I’m not,” Helen answered in a whisper as well. “I just really like the way they cook the
vegetables here.”

“You’ve been here before? Why didn’t you tell me?” Sam asked in a regular tone.

“You seemed like you wanted to surprise me, so I just let you believe that.” Helen laughed again
at the mock scowl on Sam’s face.

The two women ate, talking nothing of business. Sam asked about Virginia, and Helen asked
about art. Conversation came easy to them, and Helen wondered to herself why the unsuccessful
meeting in Charlie’s’ office today didn’t disturb her more. Samantha had walked into that office
with an uncertainty in her face, but by the time they had left Helen had seen another side to the
woman. She had argued with Charlie in a way that Helen had never dared to, and whether she
knew it or not Sam had won a grudging respect from Charlie, and from Helen.

Helen took Sam home when they had finished eating, and promised Sam that all hope was not
lost. There was another design meeting scheduled for Monday, and Helen still felt that the project
could be mended. Sam honestly doubted this, but feigned agreement to assuage Helen’s concern.
This project was a lost cause as far as Sam was concerned.


The next day was Saturday, and Sam returned to the hospital for her second dose of chemo. She
went in feeling sluggish and weak, but came out feeling exuberant. The medications gave her a
rush she hadn’t expected, and she rode that intense high until that evening when she finally fell
asleep. Linda had come over that afternoon, and Sam wasn’t sure she would have gotten through
it if hadn’t been for that rush of positive energy. It made Samantha feel like the chemo was just a
dream, that you couldn’t feel this good if you were supposed to be that sick.

She dreamed that night of someone holding her, she wasn’t sure who it was. This person was
sponging her face, and stroking her hair. Sam realized that she was in a hospital bed, and as the
dream progressed the figure taking care of her got darker and darker. Someone was yelling for
her, yelling for her to fight, to wake up, to come back to them. But the room got darker until her
sleep turned dreamless and she woke with a desperate weight on her chest, and she reached down
to the pillow, and felt the dampness there. Her face was damp too, and she realized that she had
been crying in her sleep. She had never been the weepy type, but now tears came to her so easily
that often she reached to her eyes to feel wet streaks trailing down her face, and she wondered,
why was she crying. She remembered her dream then and tried to remember who the person was
who had been there with her, but nothing came to her mind, only an image of someone with bright
blue eyes.


Chapter 9

Monday came too quickly for Helen, who was dreading the course of the day, a meeting with the
designers that morning, and a meeting with the board that afternoon. As Helen drank a final cup
of coffee before leaving the house for work, she let her thoughts drift to Samantha Thomas. She
admired the woman for being able to stand up to a client like she had, and she enjoyed her playful
banter, but there was something beneath the surface that told Helen she wasn’t imagining things
when she looked at Sam and saw such a sorrowful depth to her.

The morning progressed, and when it was time for the design meeting, Helen sat at the long table
in the large bright room waiting for Charlie and the designers to arrive. Charlie showed up first,
and Helen just glared at him as he went to the coffee pot and poured a steaming cup of the black
liquid. He ignored her presence as he paced the room. Soon Wilson entered, with Noah, and Sam
behind him. When Helen saw Sam her eyebrows furrowed and a frown formed on her lips. She
had just seen Sam on Friday, and in a matter of just two days her cheeks appeared slightly hollow,
and there were dark circles visible under her eyes. She stood up and started toward Sam, and
pulled her to a corner.

“Are you all right?” She asked, concern visible in her eyes.

Sam faltered, and was tempted again to tell Helen everything, but instead she only said, “Oh yeah,
I’m fine. I was up way too late last night doing some painting.”

Helen looked at Sam for a brief intense moment, and let out a breath. “Are you ready for this? It
might get ugly in here today.”

Samantha shrugged, and bit the corner of her lip. “I think, by now, I’m ready for just about

Helen only arched an eyebrow, and took a seat near the head of the table, while Sam took a seat
near Wilson. Charlie began the meeting as soon as Daniel Greer entered the room, and after an
hour of again going round and round with Charlie, Helen and Wilson brought the meeting to an
end with no productive progress evident. Sam and Noah agreed to follow Daniel to the design
department, where they could sketch some alternate ideas.

Sam spent the afternoon with Daniel in a small, stuffy, isolated room, and realized that she liked
him about as much as she liked Charlie. He scrapped her ideas, and all Noah and she could do was
roll their eyes behind his back. She was at her breaking point, and she had lost what hope she had
left for the project’s success. She packed up her small bag, and Noah followed her out through
the long hallway that led to the elevator.

“What a mess. Wilson has his hands full with this one,” Noah remarked while they stood in the
small compartment.

Sam turned an astonished smile on him. “What! You think it’s Wil that has his hands full? It’s us
that should be worried. No matter what Charlie Trask decides to do in the end, we’re going to get
the credit, or rather should I say the blame.”

Noah cast his eyes to the floor, and seemed to ponder this when a beep sounded and the elevator
came to the fifth floor.

“Why are we stopping here?” Noah asked.

“I’ve got something to take care of, but you should go on without me, and I’ll get in touch with
you at the office tomorrow,” Sam said over her shoulder as she stepped out of the elevator. The
doors closed behind her, and she hesitated a moment to get her bearings. She was pretty sure
Helen’s office was to the right, but all the offices looked the same. She continued on down the
blue carpeted hallway, and stopped when she heard a familiar voice up ahead. She stopped in
front of the doorway, and peeked around the corner. Helen was yelling at someone on the phone,
while typing away on her computer furiously. Sam waited a moment, and then tapped lightly on
the door. Helen looked up, and beckoned her in with a smile, which was strange because it wasn’t
often that you saw someone yelling with a smile on their face. Sam sat in a plush gray chair, and
waited, until Helen slammed the phone down. She must do that often, Sam thought.

“Hey, how did it go downstairs,” Helen asked with a mischievous grin.

“Awful. I thought if I could sketch some ideas out for Daniel, that we could compromise, but he
scrapped them all,” Sam answered.

Helen put her forefinger up to her lips, and looked down at her desk with a deep sigh. ”You’re

“Yes, I’m discouraged,” Samantha said, and after a moment she added, “I guess I just came up to
tell you how things went...and to...thank you for your support.”

Helen smiled fondly, and gave a slight nod, her way of saying, ‘you’re welcome’.

“Well, listen. I need to get home, and you look busy, so I’m sure I’ll see you soon,” Sam said as
she rose from the chair.

Helen stood as well, and walked around her desk. “You still look tired. I hope you’re headed
home to sleep.”

“Yes, sleep sounds nice. Thanks again,” Sam said as she turned to go.

Helen walked her out the door, and into the hallway. She watched the woman walk away, and
seeing the slumped shoulders, and the bowed head, she felt a pang of concern for her. Deep down
in her gut she could feel that something wasn’t right. The girl was too strong willed to give in so
easily. From what Helen had seen, she was someone who believed in her work, and poured
passion into everything she did. It bewildered her.


Two days later, Sam survived another treatment, and this time there was no grand high. Her arm
was bruised where the IV had been, and the fatigue she felt was like nothing she had known
before. She was emotionally and physically weary to the point of indifference. She couldn’t even
decline Wilson’s offer to carry her from his truck to her apartment. He carried her through the
door, and into the elevator, and down the long hallway to the front of her door, while she just
clung to him with her head buried in his shoulder. He set her down as she struggled to retrieve the key from her jeans pocket.

Wilson walked her in, and made her a kettle of hot tea. She accepted it gratefully and sat on the
sofa with her knees tucked underneath her while she drank it. Wil stayed for over an hour helping
her into bed, and pulling the bed cover up over her body. She moaned what sounded like a ‘thank
you’, and he let himself out locking the door behind himself. She slept restlessly with piercing
dreams that made her feel as if she would drown in her own exhaustion.

She woke hours later feeling as if it had been only minutes. Her head spun, while her stomach
turned. She closed her eyes and wished for the oblivion of dreamless sleep.

Continued - Part lll

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