This is a uber story. It is a continuation of the story begun in To Know You. It helps to have read the first story, but I think you can still enjoy this one without having read the first one.
This story revolves around a loving relationship between two women, what that
relationship is will be up to the reader to decide.
This story is still 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 Love You
Helen frantically ran from room to room straightening pillows that were slightly askew,
away an old TV Guide still sitting on the coffee table, and analyzing every room the way her
mother would, with an ever critical eye. Her mother, Amy Riley, would arrive from
Charlottesville any moment, and Helen looked to the hall clock with trepidation. There was one
person who could always intimidate Helen, and that was her mother. With unerring accuracy,
Amy Riley could find Helens weakest spot, and she never failed to take advantage of the
vulnerability Helen felt toward her. It was a game they had played for years, Amy would fight for
control, while Helen would fight for escape. Helen had won the battle, but the war was still being
fought, or so Amy liked to think.
Looking back to her childhood, she could remember a time when she had looked up to her
with love, and admiration. Every weekend Amy would find a new location for them to hike and
explore. Helen liked to pretend that she was a warrior scouting out the enemy. Her mother was
her trusty sidekick, and Amy would always play along. Her father never accompanied them, but
this to Helen was all the better. She loved to have her mother all to herself, tracking through the
Virginia woods, or hiking the Shenandoah National Park. Many times they would throw caution
to the wind, and Amy would load up the little red Ford station wagon, and they would drive all
day till they reached the Chesapeake Bay, but Helens favorite escape from the world with her
mom was Smith Mountain Lake, where the sunset lit the large mass of water on fire with its
beauty, and the shadowy silhouette of the Blue Mountain Ridge rose in the distance. They would
spend their days fishing, or riding horses on the lake shore, and their evenings were given to
fireside conversations on the beach in front of their cabin.
This was the woman Helen liked to remember in her heart, but her mind could never let
the person she would come to know through her teenage years. The weekend trips came to a halt
one year when Amy refused to leave the house for more than a few hours at a time. One holiday,
when Helen was fifteen she begged her mother to take her to the cabin at Smith Mountain, but
Amy refused, and told Helen to never ask her again. Helen realized then, that those trips were her
mothers attempt to be away from her husband. Every chance she got for ten years, Amy would
take Helen as far away as she could get for a weekend, and get through the week, only to escape
again. That was why her father had never joined them, he had never once, taken a vacation with
them in all those years. Helen stormed her brain, trying to reason out her parents relationship.
One day she had convinced herself that her father was beating her mother, and she confronted
Amy with this revelation. Amy had slapped Helen hard across the cheek, leaving an angry red
mark. Dont you ever speak of your father that way! she had yelled. He is the most gentle man,
and he would never harm me...or you!
Helen had turned away, and never brought it up again. It wasnt until five years
later that Helen
learned the reason behind her parents distance. It wasnt physical abuse, but sometimes Helen
wondered if it wasnt worse than that. It was then, that Helen had distanced herself from her
family, both physically and emotionally. The mother she had admired and adored was a memory
that she looked on with pain, and affection. The woman who came to visit her now, was a relation
that she only referred to as Amy.
Amy arrived that afternoon with three bags in tow. She was only staying for a week, but
packed for a month. You never know, was her favorite thing to say. Helen watched her pull up
in a small compact car from the kitchen window, and didnt open the door until she heard the bell
sound from the hallway. She squared her shoulders, and took in a steadying breath, and opened
the door cautiously. A long moment of silence followed when daughter and mother looked to
each other, wondering what should be said.
Amy broke the silence. Helen, you look beautiful...as always, she said with a genuine smile.
Hey, come in. Im sure youre tired after days on the road. There
was not a hug, only an
awkward pat on the back from Amy as Helen gathered her mothers bags and took them into the
living room. You should have flown.
Oh, you know me. I like to drive, Amy predictably said.
Let me show you to your room. Amy followed Helen quietly through the
hallway to the back
Amy walked in, and appraised the room with roaming eyes. They stopped and widened when
came upon a painting hanging on the far end of the room over the queen sized bed. When did
you get this?
Helen indulged herself in a proud smile, and said, A friend of mine painted that
for me. Shes
quite an artist, isnt she?
Im impressed. Amy nodded her head, and approached the painting to get
a closer look. Will I
meet this friend? She turned to look at her daughter with expectation in her voice.
Actually she wants to meet you, although, Helen finished to herself,
Im not sure why. Shes
coming for dinner tomorrow night.
Amy only smiled, and began unpacking her bags. Helen took a brief moment to watch her
She had shoulder length hair that was nearly as dark as Helens, and her skin was bronzed from all
her time spent in the sun. If there was one person who loved the outdoors more than Helen, it was
Amy. The only sign of her mothers fifty five years, were deep wrinkles that extended from the
corners of her eyes, and around her mouth. From a distance Amy could easily pass for thirty or
forty, but once up close, her years showed plainly. She still seemed fit and lively, and Helen
couldnt suppress a brief moment of admiration for her mothers internal youth. She forced herself
to turn away and she walked to the kitchen where she made roast beef sandwiches for them both.
They ate in silence, except for the brief moments of cordial conversation. When ten
rolled around, Amy put away her dishes and bid Helen goodnight.
Goodnight Amy, Helen called after her.
You did what!? Helen exclaimed over the phone.
I quit, Helen! Can you believe I just did that? Sam blurted out.
No, I cant. Why? Is everything ok? she asked suddenly fearing Sam had
taken a turn for the
Well, Im unemployed, but other than that, everything is great!
Samantha had become emboldened by her experience with cancer over the past three months, and
she was always convincing Helen to try new experiences, like sushi, and rock climbing, and even a
brief bout with kickboxing, which Helen had loved, but was short-lived due to an ugly black eye
received by Sam from an over anxious fifty year old woman.
Shes fifty! Sam had exclaimed. I can bench press one hundred
pounds, and run two miles
without a sweat. How did this happen!?.
Helen placed a cool wash rag on the swollen eye, and could only answer, Yes, but
for her age. Besides that was clearly a sucker punch. Dont worry about it. The amusement in
Helens eyes was all Sam needed to quickly find something new to take its place. Karate.
Helen was always surprised by Sams new declarations. One day it was tubing all
the way down
the San Marcus River. It may take a few hours, but we can do it, Sam had said. The following
weekend, it was sushi, raw fish. Helen had almost drawn the line there, but it was Sam who
backed out when she saw the white translucent substance sitting on her plate. Helen had laughed
as they retreated from the restaurant to find the nearest hamburger.
This new brave Sam was a side to her friend that Helen adored. Every week it was
new, and she found herself looking forward to Sams new discoveries. She felt like a kid all over
again, seeking new adventures, with a childlike anticipation.
Sams newest task at hand was meeting the mother of Helen Riley. Helen had pleaded
not to put herself through it, but Sam had insisted.
You were there for me in my most painful moments, and now I want to be there for
had said with a generous smile. What Sam didnt know was that Helen was greatly relieved to
know her friend would be there with her, if only to create conversation. But she felt a
protectiveness rise in her, because she knew her mother would find fault with Sam, just as she
found endless fault with Helen and all she strove to do.
You are forewarned, my friend, Helen had declared to Sam with a seriousness
in her eyes that
The following evening, Samantha arrived for dinner at Helens house, and Amy
dashed for the
door to answer it before Helen could. She opened the door with her arms outstretched, and she
embraced Sam, while Sam only looked over Amys shoulder with a bewildered look on her face.
Helen looked on with shock and wide blue eyes at Sams questioning face.
Amy finally released her, and held her at arms length looking her up and down.
You must be the famous artist. Its wonderful to meet you. Im
Helens mother. She held her
hand out to shake, which seemed odd to Sam seeing as how they had just hugged.
Im Samantha, its an honor to meet you.
Come in, come in! Amy exclaimed.
Sam shrugged in question to Helen, who only shrugged back with a still startled
her face. Sam pulled her to the side of the living room, and whispered, What was that?
I dont know, Helen said suspiciously. That wasnt my mother. I dont know who that was.
They walked into the kitchen, where dinner was already set on the table.
Helen and Amy had spent the afternoon cooking chicken enchiladas, and Mexican rice. The
was set for four, and Sam looked at the table, puzzled. Once more she whispered to Helen, Are
we expecting someone else?
No. Its a long story, but for now lets just say its a habit of my mothers.
Samantha nodded and took a seat across from Amy. The table was once again quiet, and
Samantha ventured to make conversation.
Mrs. Riley, I hear that youre a beach connoisseur. Have you ever visited the Texas beaches?
Oh, Samantha, you can call me Amy. Heck, even my daughter calls me Amy, she
said with a
glance to Helen, who only pushed the food around on her plate. Actually, I have visited both
Galveston, and Corpus Christi, and I must say I am a huge fan of South Padre Island.
I love Padre Island! A beach bums paradise.
Yes, it is wonderful, but tell me have you ever visited the Virginia Beach?
No, but I would love to someday. Helens acclaimed it as the finest beach on the East Coast.
Oh, you would love its white sand, and the rolling waves. Its not
like Padre Island, where you
have the Gulf of Mexico sheltering the waters, its so open and blue. It truly is the finest beach.
Helen listened to their conversation in awe. Not since she was a child had she heard
speak so kindly and unreserved to anyone. Her distant coldness seemed to be melted by
Samanthas mere presence, and it left Helen stunned. They continued on in their discussions until
dinner was finished, and they moved to the living room to drink hot sweet tea.
So, Samantha, youre an artist?
Well, Im a graphic designer, with aspirations to be an artist, you could say, Sam answered.
It doesnt take a buyer to make you an artist. I think your work is wonderful, Amy beamed.
Youve seen my work? Sam asked with a shy smile.
Oh, yes, the work hanging in Helens bedroom is wonderful.
Helen remained quiet through the evening, and only spoke when Samantha told her that
needed to get home. She still owed Imagine Advertising two weeks, and she had to complete two
more designs before that time. Helen reluctantly walked Samantha to the door, while Amy called
a goodnight from the living room.
Your mother seems nice. Not near what you had me expecting.
No, not what I was expecting either. I dont understand. That woman is not
the mother I
remember. She hasnt said a negative thing since she arrived. Im baffled, Samantha. Helen
seemed truly troubled, and Sam furrowed her eyebrows in concern.
What is it Helen?
I dont know. I cant figure her out. I dont even know why
shes here. Helen looked away, lost
in thought. Sam reached out and touched her arm. Helen squeezed her hand, and offered a weak
Let me take the both of you out to eat tomorrow. We can show her Austin.
Please? she pleaded
when she saw Helens indecision.
Helen relented, and was silently grateful that Sam had offered. When Amy spoke to Sam,
in her a ghost of the mother she loved so dearly. Her sweet attention could make you feel as if
you were the center of her world, and oh how she wanted to experience the strong embrace that
Sam had been given that evening. Apparently Helen wasnt the only one who saw the
extaordinary spirit in Samantha Thomas.
* * * * * * *
Amy woke early the next morning, and made pancakes with hashbrowns for two. She set out
table, with an extra setting, and made fresh tea. When Helen groggily walked in, she was struck
by the delicious aroma of maple syrup. She gaped at the gleaming smile on her mothers face, and
sat down numbly next to her mother at the breakfast table.
You didnt have to make breakfast. I could have cooked something, Helen said.
I know, but I wanted to. Remember when we use to make these huge breakfasts just
for you and
me at the cabin? How did we ever manage to eat all that food?
Helen drifted back in time, to a season of her life when all she knew in this world was
She remembered everything. I dont think we ever did.
Remember that one summer, when you were riding that horse...what was his
kept trying to nibble your feet? Amy asked pleasantly.
His name was Raven.
Thats right! Remember that year when we rented the leaky boat, and we ended
back to the dock?
Stop, ok? Just stop. What are you doing? Helen finally asked.
Amy paused and looked out the kitchen window. Ive been thinking about those
trips we use to
take. We had such fun, she said with melancholy.
Helen felt her throat constricting, and couldnt bring more words to her mouth.
She only stared at
Dad sends his love.
Helen scoffed, and began clearing the table. Amy sat back, knowing it was too early to
the subject, but feeling the urge to get truths out in the air.
He would have come, but you know how busy her gets.
Too bad, was all Helen would say.
Arent you wondering why Im here? Amy asked.
Helen turned with her back to the sink, and her hands gripping the cabinet behind her
that her knuckles were white. Its crossed my mind.
Im here because I miss you.
Helens grip softened, and she walked back to the table. What? You woke up
one day, and you
decided you missed me, so you jump in the car and you drive nearly two thousand miles to tell me
Ive missed you for a long time.
The air in the room suddenly became too thick, and Helen struggled to get air through
to her lungs. She couldnt believe after so many years that they were having this discussion.
She got up and walked outside, gasping for air, and trying to keep her emotions under
and key she had placed them so long ago.
* * * * * * *
Helen arrived at Imagine a little after noon, and walked into the now familiar
building. She made
her way to the design department, and walked through the double doors to Samanthas cubicle.
When she rounded the wall, she watched Samantha as she sketched on a large piece of white
poster board. Her tongue was slightly protruded, which she claimed was how she worked best. It
brought a smile to Helens weary soul.
Hey, stranger, Helen called out.
Sam wheeled around, and beamed when she saw Helen standing there. Hey you, what
I thought I owed you lunch after last night. Are you free?
Samantha put away her charcoal pencil, and straightened her small desk. You act
as if it were
torture. I kind of like your mother. That doesnt make me the enemy does it? Sam asked with a
Helen laughed and shook her head.
They drove down Guadeloupe street in front of the University, until they reached
Restaurant, where they chose a seat outside under a giant green umbrella. Sam knew instantly that
something was on Helens mind, and she knew just how to get it out of her.
How long are we going to sit here before you tell me? Sam asked gently.
Tell you what?
Whats going on Helen? Youve been distant ever since your mom arrived.
Oh, Sam. she said with a sigh. I dont even know how to talk to
her any more. Shes like a
stranger to me. I think I could have handled this visit if she was the person I remembered, but do
you know what she did this morning? she asked incredulously. She cooked me breakfast.
Sam couldnt find that unusual, so she didnt say anything.
The woman I remember would not have cooked breakfast for me, nor would she have
stranger. When I left Charlottesville a year ago she was this cold lonely woman. She rarely smiled,
and she wouldnt even leave her house. Now here she is, laughing, and talking about old times as
if nothing ever changed. I cant figure it out.
What changed, Helen? Sam knew it was risky to ask Helen about her past. It
was the one off
Helen surprisingly told Sam everything. She told her about their trips, and about her
and the gradual change in her mother. One year, she just stopped, and we never went anywhere
outside Charlottesville again. I was attending the university when I finally found out about my
fathers infidelity. I found out that my father had been unfaithful to my mother for over fifteen
years. It enraged me, and I ran to my mother, and I told her everything I knew. She just looked at
me, with this sorrowful expression, and she told me that she already knew everything. I
understood then, that she took me away every weekend to get us both away from him. She didnt
want to hear the rumors or see the signs. And yet she stayed with him all those years. Even at the
end, when I begged her to leave him, she just told me to get out. Weve never been the same
since. She wouldnt leave him, but she didnt think twice about leaving me. Helen couldnt look
Sam in the face with so much hurt obvious in her voice.
Sam reached out her hand and put it over Helens. Words failed her, and she held
until their lunch had arrived. They avoided the subject of Amy Riley, and it wasnt until Helen had
pulled into Imagines parking lot that Samantha finally said, Helen, maybe shes here because she
wants to make amends.
What if I cant forgive her? Helen asked.
Maybe, in the end, all she needs is for you to hear her.
Helen looked at Sam thoughtfully, and nodded. Youll still take us out tonight wont you?
Oh yeah, I have it all planned out. I decided that a northerner needs some true
so Im thinking Mexican food at Sontoros. Would that be ok?
Thank you, Sam. Helen said, for so much more than just dinner.
Sam picked Helen and Amy up after 6:00, and drove them to Sontoros in her black
Galant. It was a Friday night, and the place was busier than Sam had expected. They waited
twenty minutes just to be seated, and when they were, they could hear each other only with
difficulty. Sam was already regretting her decision to bring them here, and she apologized to
Helen over and over again with her eyes.
When they had finished, Sam drove them to Zilker Park where they walked through the
nestled in between the Cedar and Oak trees that lined the path. They made their way to Barton
Springs which ran through Zilker Park, and walked along the Springs shore and listened to the
quiet rustle of the constantly running water. The three women walked till the sun began to set,
and the light began to fade. Sam wondered at these two strong willed women, and glanced over at
them, their features blurring in the darkness. They were just two silhouettes now, and Sam saw
the resemblance they shared. It was in their strong defined features, and their clear blue eyes, but
Sam doubted they ever noticed these similarities.
Helen became restless, and told Sam she would go and bring the car back, so they
to walk back through the trail in the dark. Sam understood Helens need to be away, and so she
Amy and Sam were left alone sitting on a wooden bench in front of Zilkers rose
strong sweet smell filled the night air, and Sam breathed it in greedily. Every breath she was
granted was a gift to her, and she never took it for granted. Amy, too, breathed deeply of the
heady scent, and sighed the deep breaths out into the warm darkness that surrounded them. Sam
could hardly make out Amys silhouette now, and she strained to see the womans expression.
I never knew Texas was so beautiful, Amy muttered.
It is, isnt it? A moment passed before Sam pierced the silence again.
In April the bluebonnets
begin blossoming and in every field and stretch of grass, you see blue waves of flowers with
patches of red, and yellow interspersed. Their smell is like incense, that pervades the air, and it
mixes with the smell of spring rain, and I know then, that there is no other place I would rather
Youre happy here then? Amy asked.
Sam thought back to her discussion with Helen, and could say with certainty, Yes.
Silence once again descended on them. Words would not form in Sams mind, and she
find small talk to fill the defeaning hush.
Not far from here there are dinosaur tracks. They were discovered in 1991,
theyve become quite
a tourist attraction. Amy didnt reply.
Maybe you can get Helen to take you to Mount Bonnell. Its this beautiful
trail that goes up 99
steps to the top, where you can look down on Town Lake. Its gorgeous. Still no response.
Helen, please hurry, she thought to herself.
How long have you known Helen?
Not long, actually. Three months I guess.
Does she say much about me? Sam didnt know how to respond. Amy spoke
again before she
could answer, No, its ok. I shouldnt ask you that. Its not fair to Helen, I know. Do you want
to know why Im here?
Sam whispered, Yes.
I came here to tell her something, but I cant seem to say it. Sam
thought she heard tears in her
voice, but she couldnt be sure in the inky darkness. I know that I have to tell her, but Im so
afraid that she wont even care. I dont think I could bare that, Sam.
Why is she telling me all this? Sam thought to herself.
How do I tell my only child that her father is lying in a hospital bed,
dying? Amy asked with
Sam struggled to suck in air, but her throat had closed, and she gasped for a breath.
declaration from Amy had so shaken Sam that she felt her body begin to shiver. Her mouth went
dry and she closed her eyes, willing her emotions under control. The same thought ran through
her mind reapeatedly, Oh, Helen. Sam couldnt judge how much time had passed since Amy had
said the words, and she listened intently for a sound from Amys direction.
Amy? Sam spoke into the dark.
Amy, listen to me. Believe me when I say I understand, and believe me when I say
is strong. Trust me, she is strong enough for the both of you. Still no response. You have to tell
A whisper sounded as if from far away. I know. I know. I know, she said over and over again.
Sam reached out to touch her arm, and slid closer to her. Amy? She loves you, and
You will tell her, wont you?
Just then Sam heard the sound of a car in the distant parking lot. She knew it was hers
squeak of the brakes, and she stood to find a sign of Helen. Amy stood as well, and wiped fiercely
at her eyes, attempting to hide all traces of their conversation. Sam thought she heard a whispered
yes, but it disappeared with the wind, and she wondered if it had only been her imagination.
Sam? Helen called out.
Helen, were coming! Sam reached out for Amy and whispered in her ear.
Are you all right?
She felt Amy nod, and she led her to the opening in the line of trees that led to the lit parking lot.
Helen watched them walk over, and she saw Sams hand resting on her mothers elbow, and she
saw the moisture under Amys eyes. Questions begged to be asked, but Helen only tossed the
keys to Sam, and opened the front door for her mother. Over the top of the car Helen glanced at
Sam, who avoided her eyes. It was then that Helen saw the line of tears running down Sams
Helen awoke the following morning to the sound of a whirring blender coming from the
She reached over to the night stand and turned the alarm clock toward her. 5:00 a.m.
She dragged herself from bed, and walked into the kitchen, preparing herself for
Her mother stood behind the cabinet with one hand on the blender and the other stirring a skillet
of scrambled eggs. She had already taken a shower, and she was wearing khaki slacks with a silk
navy blouse. Helen watched her mother as she poured the contents of the blender into a bowl, and
pulled the eggs from the heat. Her mind flashed back to another time, in another house, where she
had grown up, and she remembered a little girl who use to love to help her mom cook in the
mornings. She shook the memory away, and walked into the kitchen.
Mom? Why are you up so early? Its five in the morning.
Amy whirled around, startled by her daughters unknown presence. Helen! I
didnt know you
were up yet. Did I wake you?
Helen laughed at the question. Yeah.
Amy returned to her tasks, and poured the contents of the blended substance in the bowl
small pot on the stove. Im so use to getting up early to cook breakfast for your father, that I
cant seem to break the habit. She let out a sharp sigh, and stirred the liquid in the pot.
Helen walked up to stand beside her mother, and she realized that she was making gravy.
took the spoon from her mom, as she had as a girl, while her mother pulled fresh biscuits from the
oven. The smell of freshly baked bread permeated the small kitchen, and Helen allowed herself a
brief moment of melancholy. Helen lifted the spoon she had been stirring up to her mouth, and
tasted the gravy, and gave a moan of pleasure.
Amy turned to her, and smiled. Helen smiled back, and she realized that they
hadnt smiled in each
others company for a long time.
They ate breakfast in companionable silence. It wasnt a cold lonely silence as it
had been, but a
warm undemanding one. Helen finished eating, and watched her mother as she patted apple butter
on a biscuit. She debated whether or not she should ask the question, and finally her curiosity won
Last night at Zilker, did Sam tell you anything?
Amy looked up, and shook her head.
She didnt tell you about anything that might have happened to her recently? Helen asked again.
No, Helen. Why?
Helen had wrongly assumed Sam had told Amy of her remission, but her mother was clearly
puzzled. What did you talk about?
Amy didnt look up, she would only shrug.
Samantha likes to talk, are you saying the two of you didnt talk? Helen persisted.
Amy shrugged again and said, She was telling me about a tourist attraction. That
kid is like a
tour guide. I can tell she loves it here. Do you love it here as much as she does? Will you ever
come home again?
It was Helens turn to shrug, and she ended the conversation there.
* * * * * * *
That evening Helen showed up at Sams apartment, unexpectedly. She had brought Sam
and she relished the surprised look on Samanthas face when Helen presented the large irregular
Why did you do that? Sam asked, kneeling to the floor and shaking the box.
Why do you always ask why? Just open it.
Sam eased the blue paper off the box, and lifted the top to find inside a neatly folded
box kite. Samantha ran her fingers over the fabric, and looked to Helen.
Helen knelt beside Sam. In Virginia, one of my favorite things to do was go to
the annual Kite
Festival. When I found out that Austin was having one this weekend, I wanted to get you a kite,
and take you. I thought I should contribute to your, Do New Things List.
Sam let out a musical laugh, and pulled the kite out of its box. Sam hugged it to
her chest, and
smiled in gratitude.
Helen sat for a moment watching Sam admire the gift. Then she said, Sam? What
were you and
my mother discussing last night?
Sam looked up suddenly, and abruptly stood. You mean your mom didnt say
anything to you
Helen stood as well, and an uneasiness trembled in her chin. Should she have said
specific to me? Sam didnt answer. Come on, Sam. What is it? Tell me, she said sternly.
Helen, I dont feel that it would be right for you to hear this from me. I
dont know the details. I
think Amy should tell you.
Helen paced back and forth, and then took Sam gently by the shoulders, and looked into
Sam, tell me. Please tell me.
Helens gaze was so intense that Sam was forced to look away. She debated a
made up her mind to tell Helen all she knew. She took her hand and led her to the couch, she sat
down, and Helen joined her. Helen, Amy told me last night...that your father... Sam couldnt
form the words.
At the mention of her father, Helen stiffened and asked harshly, What? My father what?
Sam swallowed, and said, Your father is dying.
Helens shoulders slumped, and she turned away from Sam. She hadnt seen her
father in nine
years, even the mention of him made rage boil in her heart. She set her jaw, and struggled to take
back control of the anger that flooded through her. She didnt want to show this side of herself to
Helen? Are you ok? Sam asked, concern etched in her voice.
Is that why shes here?
I think so. Shes afraid you wont care, but...
Helen interrupted her, She thinks I wont care? Why should I care?
Sam shuddered. You dont mean that, Helen.
You dont know him, Sam, Helen said trying to convince her.
Maybe not, but I do know you.
Helen sighed and stood, stepping over Sam. She started toward the door. Sam stood as
reached out to grab Helens arm. Helen, are you ok?
Helen pulled away, and walked to the apartment door. She yanked it open, and turned
Sam. She seemed to look through her, and then she just left. Sam was left standing alone in the
entry way. She looked down at the blue packaging that Helen had used to wrap the kite. She
picked it up, and saw a small note attached to the paper.
Just a little something to keep you busy, until
your next daring adventure.
Samantha held the wrapping paper in her hand, and she picked the kite up off the floor.
She set it
gently down on the couch, dropped down next to it, and reread Helens note. All of her being
wanted to chase after Helen, but she knew that this was one thing she had to face alone.
Helen entered her home with a slam of the door. She treaded lightly into the living
her mother sat watching tv. Her mother looked up at her then, and she knew.
You spoke to Sam tonight didnt you?
Yes, and I hate that she was the one who had to tell me. I dont want to
drag her into this,
Helen said through gritted teeth. It took effort for Helen to keep her anger chained down deep.
Amy switched the tv off, and she sat up straight. I wanted to tell you.
Is that the only reason you came here?
I always thought that one of the reasons you moved here was to be away from me,
so I wasnt
sure I was welcome here. When your father got sick, I knew I had to come.
What do you mean sick?
He had a heart attack three weeks ago. They admitted him to the hospital, and he
but they say he doesnt look good.
Helen closed her eyes, and blocked the emotions out. Why did you come all this
way to tell me
that? A phone call three weeks ago would have been sufficient.
Amy winced, and squared her shoulders. I was hoping you would come back with me.
even want to talk to him? He is your father.
The words struck Helen like a knife. Why should the guilt be on her, and yet she felt
it so vividly.
She dropped heavily to the couch, and covered her eyes with her hand. She felt Amy sit beside
her, and felt her mothers arm surround her. She leaned into her embrace, and let painful tears fall
on her shoulder.
* * * * * * *
The coming dawn shined crimson through the open blinds in Helens bedroom. The
lines of light fell on Helen as she lay on her side, awake, and wrapped in the warm comforter on
her bed. Though her body felt warm, her heart felt chilled, and she felt numb from the exhaustion
of her tumbling thoughts. She recalled with an ache of guilt the way she had spoken to Sam the
night before. She recalled with bitterness Amys account of her fathers illness, and she recalled
with brilliant clarity her moment of emotional breakdown in her mothers arms. It had been nearly
12 hours ago since she felt her life was under control, now it seemed to tumble in upheaval.
She doubted that she would be capable of driving two days back to Virginia, only to say
her father? Maybe, Amy had come here because her father had something to say to her. The
thought flashed in her mind, but she shook it away before it had time to settle. She was better off
not raising false hopes. If she went, could she ask Sam to come with her? Sam had just recovered
from radiation treatments, how could she even think to take Sam to Virginia with her?
Helen buried her face in the pillow, and let out a soft moan of frustration. She pushed
and out of the bed. Her first priority of the day was to find Sam.
* * * * * * *
Samantha popped the cork off the bottle of the 1996 Merlot. She sniffed the cork, and
its sweet woodsy aroma. Linda, Samanthas sister, had brought it over as a gift from the Texas
Hill Country Vineyard to celebrate Sams remission. When Linda offered the wine, Sam had only
smiled knowingly and pulled down two wine glasses from the top cupboard. Linda had never truly
believed that Samantha would pull through after she had told Linda that the cancer had spread,
something Sam wished she had never told her sister in the first place.
Sam took the two glasses into the living room, where she made a toast to health, and a
with joy. She drank deeply of the beautiful deep garnet colored liquid, and let the prickly
sensation slide down her throat.
So now youre back to work, right? Linda asked casually.
Actually, Ive put in my two week notice. Sam winced for the expected reaction.
Oh? was all she heard Linda say.
Yes. I want to concentrate on my painting. Somewhere along the way I realized
that painting is
all Ive ever wanted to do, and I feel I need to commit to it completely.
And that means quitting your job? I mean come on Sam, youve always been
able to paint. Why
cant you continue to paint and to work?
I dont expect you to understand, Linda. Its my choice and I made it.
I believe in myself, and I
believe that I can be a successful artist.
You are an artist, at Imagine! Linda persisted.
Samantha only gave a patient smile, and sipped at her wine. A rap sounded at the door,
set the glass down, and she jumped to the door. She swung it open. She released a breath she
didnt even realize she had been holding when she saw Helen standing there.
Helen spoke first. Can I talk to you?
Sam beckoned her in, and shut the door behind her. When Helen walked through the entry
the first thing she saw was a short woman with long auburn hair sitting on the sofa, sipping a glass
of wine. She turned to Sam.
I didnt know you had anyone over, I can come back later. I should have
called first, Helen
Sam took her by the arm and led her into the living room. Since when have you
ever called first?
Come meet my sister.
Helens eye brows shot up, and she attempted to turn back around, but Sam held on
not sure Im in the best frame of mind to meet members of your family right now, Helen
Please dont go? Sam pleaded. A simple look from the young woman was
all it took for Helen
to yield. When they came into the living room, Linda looked up at Helen and she immediately
stood. Sam introduced them, and offered Helen a glass of wine, which Helen readily accepted.
She took the full glass of Merlot, and gulped down half of its contents before taking a seat in a
chair across from the sofa. Sam swallowed a grin, and sat next to her sister.
I worked with Helens company. Shes a Creative Manager from Trask
Media, Sam explained
Does your friend know that youre quitting your job? Linda asked, not
uncomfortable subject drop.
Actually, she, Sam began, but was interrupted by Helens authoritative voice.
I do know, and I support her 100%. Dont you?
Linda hesitated, looking from her sister to this stranger. Yes, of course I
do, was all she could
Sam put a smile into her eyes, even though she couldnt show it on her lips, and
gave a silent
thank you to Helen. Only a few minutes later, Linda excused herself, and said she had to get
home. Sam showed her to the door, and gave her a stiff hug. Thank you again for the wine, and
thank you for helping me enjoy it., Sam said. Linda gave a final glance into the living room, and
offered a smile to Sam as she turned to leave.
When Sam had shut the door, and had turned around she saw that Helen was now leaning
the doorway of the entry way. Did I scare her away? Helen asked with a guilty expression
written on her face.
Sam laughed softly, and brushed away the topic as she walked toward Helen. Are
you ok? It
was the same question Helen had never answered the evening before.
I dont know. She paused with her eyes directed into Sams green
ones. I wanted to tell you
Im sorry for last night. I never meant to speak to you that way. And I never meant for you to be
pulled into my family problems.
Sam bit her tongue on the platitudes that first tried to spill out of her mouth. She
didnt need to hear her say, Oh Helen, dont worry. Everything will work out just fine. She was
at a loss as to what Helen needed to hear. Helen, I...
She wants me to go back with her.
To Virginia? Are you going?
I dont want to, but something inside me says that I should. Helen
felt on the verge of tears, and
she turned away to hide them from Sam.
When will you leave? Sam still struggled for words.
Does that mean you think I should go? Helen asked, suddenly turning to face Sam.
Oh, Helen...I cant answer that for you. Sam reached out to touch
Helens forearm. What I do
know is that Ive learned to listen to that something inside me. Call it fate, or intuition, but
somehow it seems to know things I dont. Maybe its you who needs this even more than your
Trust me, he doesnt need anything from me, Sam. He never has.
The bitterness in Helens words brought chill bumps to her arms, and she
considered her next
words carefully. I dont want you to have any regrets.
Helen looked to the floor, and lost herself in the question. Why should she have
asked herself. She didnt owe him anything. A question came to her, and she glanced back at Sam.
Why was she so intent on defending someone she didnt know? Sam saw the question in her eyes,
and took a slight step backwards. It hit Helen then, Sam was defending him because he was a man
dying. She gentled her tone, and took a step toward Sam.
You think I should go see him, dont you? Sam didnt answer.
You can tell me, Sam. I wont
What if, near the end, he needs to make amends?
What if he doesnt?
I dont know who your father is, but I do know hes hurt you. I just
dont want him to have that
power over you anymore. I dont think you should go for him, but I do believe you should go for
Helen could feel the pain begin in the back of her head, and she knew then that she
back to Virginia with her mother. She would face all the old ghosts, if only to lock them away
once and for all.
She reached out for Sam and fiercely embraced her. Never, in all her life, had she felt
comforted by someone. Her simple words, and her unquestionable devotion were a defense
against all that threatened her.
She had packed lightly, thinking to fly back in no more than four days. She had been
more than once to ask Sam to come along, and even thought once that she had seen the
expectation to be asked in Sams eyes, but she pushed the wish aside. Four days, and she would
Helen watched as her mother cooked breakfast, once again. She seemed lighter somehow
and had ever since Helen had told her she would go home with her. Maybe someday she would be
the person Helen remembered, maybe it had been her fathers presence all those years. She shook
the grim thought from her mind, and refused to think of her father. they finished breakfast quickly,
and Helen took their bags to Amys car.
With a final glance at the house Helen tucked her long body into the small car, and
daughter began a journey that would cross seven state lines and take them nearly two thousand
miles away from, what Helen considered, home to a place Helen had long ago thought left behind.
* * * * * * *
Samantha woke early the morning of her four month check up. The anxiety that crushed
now, recalled memories of a time when that anxiousness had established itself as a permanent part
of her body. Since her remission, she had come to remember life before cancer, and she had no
desire to go back to that dark place.
She arrived in front of the hospital well before her appointment, and made her way down
familiar, barren halls. Her heels made loud clicking noises on the laminated tile that echoed off the
walls in mocking imitation. She reached Dr. Sigels office, and pulled open the heavy wooden
door. She sat on a green and white checkered couch next to an older woman wearing a Cowboys
hat pulled on over a blue bandanna. Sam wondered what kind of cancer she had, and why one
persons hair fell out and anothers didnt. She stared longer than she meant to, and the woman
looked over at her. She smiled kindly, and looked away back toward the magazine she had been
reading. She was probably accustomed to people gawking at her with pity in their eyes. Sam
turned away, troubled by the emotions just being back in this office caused. She waited in the
small room for half an hour before she heard her name called by the nurse she now knew on a first
name basis, Judith.
Samantha saw Dr. Sigel holding the door to his office open when she was led back. He
her, and Sam tried to judge, good news or bad news, from his expression. He had a good poker
face. She shook his hand, and entered the large open space, and heard the door shut behind her.
There was such finality in the sound of the door closing, that Sam felt herself jump at the easiness
it caused. Dr. Sigel circled the desk and sat heavily in the broad leather chair. He thumbed
through a file, and looked up at her over his glasses. Her fingers began intertwining together in
Samantha, how are you feeling?
Great, she answered hoping it would convince him that all was well.
Thats good. No fatigue or weight loss?
No, in fact I think Ive gained a little muscle, Sam said proudly.
Youve been keeping active then?
Good. Well, I have the results of the newest CT scan, and I dont want to
alarm you, but it looks
like the cancer is back.
He didnt want to alarm her!? Her stomach threatened to betray her, and her eyes
tears. Her hand involuntarily reached out to the chair next to her, but it was empty. She squared
her shoulders, breathed in deeply, and resolved herself to not break down until she had left this
office. She listened as Dr. Sigel recited his memorized speeches and his treatment schedules, and she gritted her teeth as he once again explained in graphic detail every possible side effect of the chemotherapy treatments. Her mind flashed back to a bright room filled with brown recliners where nurses with needles and IVs waited to heal you. And all the while her soul ached for the presence of the only person who could bring her comfort, Helen, who was miles and days away.
To Be Continued....
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