Understanding the Heart



Chapter 1

This story is dedicated to anyone who has loved an unrequited love, but especially to those who have had the misfortune (or fortune) to fall in love with their friend...

Samantha sat wearily in the parking lot of the airport wondering, not for the first time on her road trip, what she was doing there. "Ugh, I hate myself for being so... so... so freakin' nice!" she moaned. Slumping over the steering wheel in extreme agitation at herself, Samantha accidentally landed against the horn. A great bellowing, honking noise spewed forth from recesses of her car and brought Samantha back to immediate attention. Looking down at her watch for the two-hundredth time in the past five minutes, she gave another groan and ended it with a resigning sigh.

Samantha had long since reconciled herself to the fact that she was doomed to have an unlucky fate. For she knew that no matter what happened, would always help Jack out of a bind, even if she was in actuality loathe to do so. It had forever been that way, ever since the beginning of their acquaintance in their senior year of high school, and it would continue to be so, especially now that they were back in the same place again attending the same graduate school, but in different disciplines.

For example, Samantha could remember back in their high school days when in spite of her true feelings, she would surprise herself and her friends by being solicitous to Jack's then girlfriend Kim, who was a painful reminder of what Samantha would never be able to have. It never mattered that what she really wanted to do was find a way to make Kim magically disappear and not be kind, generous, or welcoming. But for Jack's sake, Samantha would always make herself into a magnanimous person. She only hoped that he would one day learn to appreciate the effort.

Because of Samantha's inability to deny Jack anything, when he had approached her several weeks ago, asking for directions to the airport and then later telling her that he did not have any means of getting there since his car had lately broken down, Samantha found herself volunteering, against her better judgment, to do the very thing she did not want to do. In short, she had agreed to drive him to the airport to pick up his current girlfriend, Meghan, who was coming to visit him for a week. So now, Samantha sat in her car, waiting. She waited to confront the one person who would force her to share Jack with the world and ruin the illusionary bliss she had been able to create without reality in her presence. Yes, she waited for Meghan.

Jack stood waiting at the gate, rocking back and forth on the heels of his feet, and looking out into the graying sky. Glancing one more time at his watch, he grimly noted that the plane was officially forty-three minutes late. He hated when airline flights were delayed. But just as he expelled an exasperated sigh, a flight attendant announced over the loudspeaker the arrival of flight 1586. Relief washed over Jack as the plane came within sight and was soon being anchored to the ramp of the gate.

Jack and Meghan had been looking forward to this visit. Ever since they'd gone their separate ways after graduating from Georgetown University almost a year ago last May, visits with one another had been few and far in between. Somehow, just as they had promised one another last spring, they had managed to stay together and keep their relationship going strong - despite the distance and notwithstanding everyone else's concerns and/or doubts. This visit to Charlottesville, Virginia was Meghan's first and Jack, like an enthusiastic kindergartner awaiting his turn at show and tell, was eager to show her his new home as well as show her off to his friends. Like a child that impatiently awaits his Christmas presents on Christmas morning, Jack now stood restless in front of Gate 15 at the Richmond International Airport waiting for his girlfriend to appear.

A few minutes later, the doors to the gate opened and the passengers began to trickle off of the plane. Jack craned his neck, hoping to see past the crowds and find his girlfriend. Standing at exactly six feet tall, it was at times like these that Jack was most thankful for being blessed with height. And then, he saw her. Like a beacon in the night, there she stood, graceful and tall with her long blonde hair swept up in a twist. Her red sweater accentuated her pale, rosy skin. And he could not help but hang back for just a few seconds to admire her long legs, hugged by her tight, dark jeans. Meghan paused briefly as she exited the doorway and looked in all directions. A frown tugged at her mouth when she could not find her boyfriend and Jack could not resist hanging back for just a little longer to toy with her emotions. Finally after one or two minutes of hiding behind a column, resistance gave way to excitement and he stepped forward, calling out her name. The smile she bestowed on him paid him handsomely for the time he had stood waiting for her.

"Jack!" Meghan came flying through the rows of chairs and throngs of people and threw herself into the waiting arms of her boyfriend.

Jack gathered her into his arms and swung her about. "I'm so glad to see you!" he murmured against her lips.

She snuggled into the crevice of his arms for a few seconds, trying to get a better hold of him. It had been so long since they had last held one another. "Me too," she breathed.

"Let me take a better look at you," he said, pushing her away to an arm's length. "How I've missed your beauty."

Meghan punched him lightly on the shoulder. "Is that the only thing you've missed?" she asked saucily.

Jack kissed her boldly before winking and answering, "Definitely not, but I have all week to tell you about that," he insinuated.

Taking her handbag from her, Jack pulled her towards the baggage claim area. "Come on, let's go see how much luggage you've brought with you this time."

Meghan pouted. "I don't pack that much," she insisted.

"Yeah, and I have a goat's derrière," he laughed back.

Seeing that Meghan was about to take issue with his comment, he promptly cut her off by speaking first. "Come on," he urged, dragging her with him. "Samantha's waiting for us in the car and she's probably wondering what the heck is taking so long."

Meghan stopped dead in her tracks. "Samantha? Who's that?"

Jack turned around and looked at her incredulously. "My friend. Samantha. I've told you about her."

"No you haven't."

"Yes I have. We went to high school together and now she's also at UVA going to law school. Remember?"

That seemed to jog Meghan's memory a bit, but she still did not comprehend. "You always mentioned her in passing. I didn't know you were such good friends. But I don't quite understand why she's here to pick me up too."

Jack shrugged his shoulders. "Oh yeah, we've always been good friends. And it's all very simple why she's here with us. First off, I didn't have a clue as to how to get the Richmond airport and she does. She's from the area. Secondly, my car broke down and had to go in the shop. So, she thankfully offered to bring me and you should be thankful too because if she hadn't sacrificed her time to come pick you up with me this afternoon, you'd be stuck sitting in a Groome Transportation car for the hour long trip back to Charlottesville. Something I doubt my princess would have appreciated."

Meghan wrinkled her pert little nose and groaned. "Are we going to be totally dependent on her and your other friends for transportation the entire time I'm visiting this week?"

"Don't be silly, Meghan. The car will be fixed by tomorrow morning, thankfully, and Samantha has offered to give up a few hours of her precious sleep to pick me up and drive me to the shop before she has to go to classes. So, by tomorrow afternoon, we'll be able to drive ourselves around."

Samantha, again, Meghan thought petulantly to herself. "I thought we'd be alone this week," she sulked.

Jack pulled her in for a hug. "And so we shall," he promised. "All in good time. But first, you just need to endure an hour-long car ride with Samantha who I promise you are going to just absolutely adore. She's great. And then, once we're back all alone at my apartment, we can do other things," he suggestively placated her.

Meghan mumbled an incoherent reply and followed her boyfriend along.


Chapter 2


Over the course of the next couple of days, it became apparent that Meghan and Samantha were not getting along. Almost from the very first moment they met during the car ride back to school, things had been tense between the two.

Jack's solution to this problem was to find more opportunities for the two women to interact. It was his opinion that the more time Meghan and Samantha spent together, the better they would understand one another and consequently, become better friends. The problem with this remedy and logic however, was that subsequent meetings between the two only served to exacerbate each person's mutual aversion for the other.

Poor Jack. For the life of him, he could not fathom why two of the most important woman in his life, save those in his family, could not be friends.

"It just doesn't make sense," Jack moaned miserably to his friend Ben one afternoon, in between their lectures. "Meghan has met all of my friends here at UVA and she's liked them all, more or less. I don't know, Meghan's kind of odd like that. She's never really gung-ho about anybody but her own friends, but at the very least she's at least had nice things to say about my friends. In fact, she really liked you."

"Really?" Ben asked with interest. He could not help but be a little flattered, even at a time like this.

Jack paid him no heed and kept on talking. He was a man completely absorbed in thought. "But every time it comes to Samantha, it's like she would rather remain silent or something. Even when I try and ask her questions to get a direct answer out of her she finds ways to either avoid the question or just plain brushes it away. Basically, the only thing I'm getting from Meghan is silence. And you know what silence means - disapproval. But why does Meghan disapprove of Samantha? That's what I just don't understand."

Ben was beginning to think his friend a little obtuse. "Have you ever considered that maybe it's because Samantha is a g-i-r-l?"

"What's that got to do with it?" Jack asked in surprise. Obviously he had not given this thought any consideration and was not even sure why he should be giving Samantha's gender any sort of special contemplation.

"Oh, I don't know... jealousy maybe?" Ben felt like hitting his friend over the head with a book or something - hammer maybe? Now he really knew that Jack had not been lying when he once mentioned that his friends in high school used to call him, "The Knife," for being "not the sharpest knife in the drawer." As brilliant as Jack might have been brilliant in terms of academics, there were scores of times when he gave the impression that he lacked all common sense. Ben shook his head at his friend's naiveté.

"Why in the world would Meghan be jealous of Samantha?" Jack asked disbelievingly. "I had lots of female friends in college and Meghan never once had a problem with them. I even lived in the same house with some female friends over one summer and she never complained then. Besides, she's met all my other female friends from UVA and she seemed to like them well enough."

Ben exhaled noisily, "Yes, but how good of a friend were you and are you with all those other girls?"

"I don't know," Jack dragged out.

"In comparison to Samantha," Ben suggested. "How good of a friend would you say your other female friends were to you?"

Jack thought silently for a couple of minutes and then answered, "About the same as I am with Samantha, I guess."

Ben gently grabbed his friend by the shoulders. "Are you absolutely sure about that, Jack? Think about it. The two of you spend an inordinate amount of time together. And I also happen to know that you guys talk over the phone every night. Do you do that with all your female friends?"

Jack laughed his friend off. "Yeah, but half the time we do spend together, we spend with other people too. And as far as the phone conversations go, it's more like a tradition that just carried over from high school. It's merely harmless conversation to vent about the day or talk about other trivial stuff."

"But nonetheless, it's more than you do for any other girl and believe me, it's not going to go over well with your girlfriend who's far away and can't monitor your actions."

"Monitor my actions?" Jack balked. "You don't think she trusts me?"

Ben gave his friend a silent answer accompanied by a deliberate look.

"You'd think she'd trust me! She ought to trust me! I mean, she'd have no problem if I behaved this way with a male friend, right? So why should it make a difference just because there's a gender difference?"

Does Jack know nothing? Ben wondered.

"Because there is a gender difference," he heaved.

Seeing that Jack was not fully convinced and not wanting to keep trying to reason with him, as his efforts were proving to be ineffectual, Ben gave up. "Look, maybe Meghan's not jealous of Samantha. I don't know. It was just a suggestion. Who knows, for all you know, it could be Samantha who doesn't like Meghan. But irregardless of who does or doesn't like who, you can't go on trying to force something that won't happen, Jack, and there's no sense in spending all your energy worrying over it."

Jack saw that there was merit in his friend's words and so left it at that. He was not however totally convinced that Samantha and Meghan could not be friends. Jack was graced with one of those open and artless characters that insisted on being cheerful all the time in addition to seeing the optimistic side of things. In his opinion, everyone was a friend and there were indeed few people in this world he could not tolerate. As much as he knew Ben was probably right, he just could not bring himself to admit it. On the whole though, his conversation was enlightening and it gave him something to think about - more than once did Jack ponder this question of whether or not trust existed in his relationship with Meghan.

As far as Samantha was concerned, the reasons for her stagnant relationship with Meghan were completely a result of Meghan's own doing. As she told her friend one night during their nightly phone calls, "She just doesn't like me, Jack. I've tried to befriend her like you wanted me to, but it's not working. I really have tried to be sociable with Meghan, and you know I'm not an outgoing person by nature, but still, I've tried and at the very most, for all my efforts, I get an uninterested smile from her."

"Are you sure it's an uninterested smile, Sam? I mean, it is at least a smile. Maybe you're just misreading her smiles," he offered.

"Trust me, Jack. I would know the difference between an uninterested smile and an interested smile. If she were truly interested, she would try and keep the conversation going. Instead, she just kind of nods her head condescendingly and then looks back away. She's clearly disinterested. Look, I'm sorry, but you're going to have to find someone else to keep her occupied when you're in class and I'm not. You know I'd help you if I could, so it's not like I'm trying to make an excuse to get out of baby-sitting your girlfriend. But it's just not going to work out this time. Besides, I don't think she likes it when you dump her on me."

"I do not dump her on you," Jack protested. "You were the only one that so nobly offered to take her off my hands when I said that I didn't know what I was going to do with her when I was in classes."

Yeah, and I don't know what I was thinking. I think I might have been on drugs or inebriated when I offered, Samantha thought to herself.

"Yeah, well that was before I found out that she wasn't going to like me. I mean, you may not think you have dumped her on me, but I bet she thinks she's been dumped."

"This is ridiculous," Jack muttered.

"Well don't tell me that! I'm not the one being mean and rude."

"Are you sure you didn't do anything to offend her, Sam?" Jack asked.

Samantha gave a horrified yelp. "What the heck kind of a question is that Jack Donaldson? Do you think I would go and intentionally offend anyone?"

"Well, no..."

"Well, okay then. Gees, I would hope that you would know me well enough to know I'm not black-hearted."

"Oh, are you suggesting that Meghan's the black-hearted one now?"

"I'm not suggesting anything," Samantha retorted hotly.

"This is not getting us anywhere, Sam."

"You know I only state the truth and nothing but the truth."


There was a tense moment of silence before Samantha asserted, "What? You started it!"

Jack groaned. "Fine, you're right. I apologize. Forgiven?"

Samantha sniffed.

"Are you going to make me grovel?"

"Would you?" she asked brightly.

"My dear beneficent friend, Samantha, of whom I have so lately offended. I do hope that you will accept my deepest apologies for my insolence. May it never happen, again. There, will that do?"

"I suppose it'll have to do."

Reverting back to their serious conversation, Jack lamented, "I just don't understand, Sam. What does Meghan have against you?"

"I really don't know, Jack," Samantha answered softly. "I mean, you've been there with us every time Meghan and I've met. You've been privy to all our exchanges. You know her better than I do. You can't figure any of this out?"

Jack let out a frustrated sigh. "No..."

There was a startling and abrupt shift in their conversation as Samantha had a sudden realization. "Why are you calling me?"

All of a sudden, Samantha had remembered that Jack's attention should probably be elsewhere and not on the phone with her. Jack, though was not quite as observant as his friend.

"What?" was his lazy answer.

"Why are you calling me?" Samantha repeated.

"Ummm... Don't we always talk each night?" Jack asked, clearly not understanding where Samantha's question was coming from.

"Yes... but this isn't one of our normal, typical weeks, Jack. You have a guest this week," Samantha reminded him. "Shouldn't you be hanging out with Meghan instead of talking on the phone with me?"

"Oh," was Jack's first reaction. "No. Why should Meghan care who I talk to? Besides, even if she does care, she's taking a shower right now so what is she going to do? Come out here in her bath towel and demand that I hang up? It's not like I'm not neglecting her or anything like that right now."

"All the same, Jack. I'd be careful," Samantha warned.

"Careful of what?"

"You don't think..."

"Think what?"

Samantha shook her head. It wasn't worth explaining if Jack did not think there was anything to be concerned about. "Nothing. Never mind. Look, I gotta get back to finish my reading. I'll chat with you tomorrow?"

"Yeah, sure. Oh hey, before you go, I almost forgot to ask. You wanna join us for dinner tomorrow night? We're going to Blue Moon - your favorite," he taunted.

Samantha wrinkled her nose. As much as she loved dining at Blue Moon, she did not exactly relish the thought of spending an evening with the "Ice Queen" either.

Maybe I can get out of this, she contemplated.

"I don't think Meghan appreciates me spending so much time with the two of you. I mean, haven't we just agreed that she doesn't like me? And besides, don't you want to spend some time alone with her?"

"Look, Sam. I have spent almost every waking and sleeping hour alone with Meghan these past couple of days. I don't see what's so odd about wanting to spend time with my friends too. Should things be that much different just because my girlfriend's visiting? Not to mention, I do want her to get to know you guys too and vice versa. And who knows, even though we don't think Meghan likes you, that doesn't mean there still isn't hope for the two of you yet. Right? I mean, you'll never know until the very end, right?"

Samantha's head plunked unceremoniously onto her pillow and banged it gently against the soft surface several times. Does nothing go into this boy's head??? This is such a hopeless business! Why does he always have to see the good in people? Why does he insist on torturing me like this? Why? Ugh!!!!

Samantha wanted to scream, but kept herself in check and gave a calm, unaffected answer instead. "Fine, fine. If you say so, Jack. Whatever you say. I'll see you guys tomorrow then. Seven o'clock?"

"Sure. Our usual booth."

"Cool. Good-night, Jack."

"G'night, Sam."

Samantha hung up the phone with a heavy heart. You might want me to get to know Meghan, but I don't think Meghan wants to get to know me, she thought miserably to herself.

*As far as I know, Blue Moon is a fictional restaurant name. If there is, in fact, a restaurant by the same name in Charlottesville, VA, it was not intentional.


Chapter 3

The next evening, Samantha walked into Blue Moon, a favorite restaurant/bar hangout of hers and Jack's, over fifteen minutes late and feeling absolutely worn out. She was not prone to lateness, but it had been a trying day and that she had even made it to Blue Moon in one, whole piece was to be commended. Nothing seemed to be going her way and Samantha had a feeling things were only going to get worse.

Samantha and Jack spent many of their Friday nights at Blue Moon, in the enjoyable company of their other friends, but this Friday night was not one that Samantha was especially looking forward to. For starters, it had been raining torrential downpours all day long. Samantha was convinced that no good ever came from a rainy, dismal, cold, and gray day. From the moment Samantha had woken up and looked out the window into the dark and gloomy sky that very morning, she had known that it would be a terrible day.

The second way Samantha could tell her day was going to be horrible one was because she was extremely tired. She had gotten very little sleep the night before, and on top of that, one of her professors had decided it was her lucky day to be picked on, sneered at and made fun of in front of the entire class. Several times in class, Samantha could feel her facial features scrunching up and preparing to cry. Only the greatest restraints and the support of her friends sitting beside her kept her from doing so. The only good thing about that experience was that her Constitutional Law professor, Professor Limpwit, did this so often that everyone, at some point or another, had an opportunity to be made into a fool. So, rather than laughing at each other's plight, the students were more likely to feel empathy. It was just unfortunate that today, of all days, happened to be Samantha's unlucky day to be the "dunce."

As if that experience had not been enough, after being dismissed from class almost fifteen minutes after they were supposed to get out, Samantha and her friends had gone to the student lounge to study and go over their notes together. It was there that someone accidentally knocked over a cup of coffee, spilling the remnants of the drink directly into Samantha's lap. The only lucky thing that came out of that was that the contents of the cup narrowly missed her notebook, thus saving her from having to borrow someone else's notes copy over later. Samantha had made a mad dash for home right after the accident to take a shower to cleanse herself of the coffee stench, change her clothes and wash out the coffee stain before it set. By the time she had finished doing all of that, she was running so late that she gave up all pretenses of trying to make it to Blue Moon by seven o'clock. If Jack was so insistent on having her company, he was going to have to deal with her being late, she decided.

Needless to say, after such an inauspicious day, the last thing Samantha needed on her already full list of unpleasant incidents was to endure the wrath of deadly stares from a certain girlfriend. Samantha had been tempted to skip the event altogether, but remembering that she had promised Jack she would go, and make another attempt at friendship, for his sake and his sake alone she went.

As soon as she stepped foot into the bar, Joe, the ever-present barman was there to greet her. "Evenin', Miss Samantha. You sure are lookin' plumb tuckered out there this evenin'. Shouldn't you be at home in bed or somethin'?"

Samantha smiled back at the friendly man and paused to chat with him. "Hello there, Joe. Thank you for your concern. It warms my heart to see it. It has been a long and trying day, but no worse than yours I suppose."

Joe blushed. "No ma'am, I just work away behind my little bar here. But you, you're a big, stuffin' law student. You've got bigger things on your plate to worry about."

Samantha laughed as her imagination conjured up the picture of her as a "big, stuffin' law student."

"Ah, but a plate's a plate, Joe," she reminded him. "And don't think I don't know you have your own worries. How is your mother doing these days? Is she feeling any better?"

Joe was a smidgen surprised that the young lady would remember a conversation from over three weeks ago when he had told her that his mother had a terrible cold. But he was only a little surprised for he had seen her interact many times with her friends when they frequented Blue Moon and he knew her to be a sweet, kind-hearted girl, always caring about other people more than she did herself.

"She's doing fine now, Miss Samantha. Just fine. She's startin' to move around the house now."

"I'm glad to hear it, Joe. You must be a very good nurse to your mother," she complimented him.

"Awe, go on now, stop it."

"But it's true!" Samantha protested. "How else would your mother get well so quickly?" she asked.

"She's a strong woman," Joe solemnly answered. "Nothing licks my Mama, that's for sure!" Samantha laughed openly at his description.

"But if you don't mind me sayin', Miss Sam, I'm a bit worried about you, I am. Your eyes are droopin' and your shoulders are saggin'. You should go home and rest your pretty, little head."

Samantha brushed aside his kind attention. "Oh, don't you worry about me, Joe; I'll be fine. I suppose I should be home, nursing myself with some chicken soup and keeping company with some sappy, romance movie tonight, but I told a friend I'd meet him here for dinner."

"Aye, and he's a waitin' for ya ma'am in yer usual spot with the other miss," Joe replied, waving his hand over in the general direction of their usual booth.

Samantha looked over in the direction of his wave and squared her shoulders in preparation for the inevitable. "Thanks, Joe."

She waved good-bye but about halfway to the table, she turned around and headed back for the bar. "Joe, I've a favor to ask of you. I think I'm going to need a drink to get me through this night. Can you use your magic and make me a good one that'll get me through the night?"

Joe grinned large and wide, showing off his pearly white teeth, in understanding. "Yes'm! Don't you worry 'bout a thing. Comin' right up!"

Jack and Meghan were already sitting huddled together on the one side of Samantha and Jack's favorite booth. Jack's left arm was draped comfortably around his girlfriend's shoulders and Meghan's right hand was resting lightly on his left knee below the table. The couple had been talking softly to one another and snuggling while waiting for their guest, but as soon as Jack had heard Joe call out his salutation to Samantha, his head had turned in anticipation of her arrival. Meghan had given him an irate look when his focus shifted away from her, but he either overlooked it or easily dismissed it because he did not pay her any attention.

Jack could not refrain from shooting Samantha a questioning look, when she hunkered abruptly down across the table from the two of them without her usual poise and grace. "You look tired. Are you okay?" he asked.

"I am and I'm fine," Samantha tersely answered.

Jack raised his eyebrows. "Are you sure?"


Jack was not accustomed to an uncommunicative Samantha and tried to keep the conversation going. "So, what were you talking to Joe about... and why are you drinking?" The sound of shock from the sight of a mixed drink embedded in Samantha's right hand was traceable in his voice.

A little annoyed that Jack was so concerned and focusing all his attentions on Samantha's actions, Meghan looked up at her boyfriend and asked, "Why are you giving the poor girl the third degree?"

It was Samantha's turn to raise her eyebrows. This time they were a result of Meghan's question. So, now I'm a "poor girl," am I? What is she up to? I know she couldn't possibly be trying to stick up for me, Samantha smirked to herself. I hate b*****s with ulterior motives. I wonder how long it'll take before her ulterior motives come to light.

A heated exchange between Jack and Meghan commenced and Samantha watched on with great amusement. It was almost like watching a tennis match, only she was right up front for it, not seated high up in the bleachers, and there was not a net to divide the players nor a ball going back and forth between the two.

La-dee-da... I wonder how long it will take before they enter into a real lover's quarrel, Samantha thought evilly.

"Because for one thing, Samantha never drinks. And secondly, I was only making a friendly inquiry."

"Well obviously she's drinking tonight, duh! Don't you see the glass in her hand? And why should you care who she's talking to?"

Hmmmm... a most keen observation, Meghan. Wow. Should we all clap our hands and be impressed by your abilities to astound the populace with your brilliant observations? Samantha wondered sardonically.

"I can see very well that she's drinking tonight. Thank you, Meghan. And Sam drinking is precisely what concerns me. I mean, wouldn't you be a little concerned if one of your friends that never drank was drinking one night?"

Seeing that there was no answer forthcoming, Jack continued. "And I don't really care who Sam was talking to. I was merely asking out of polite inquiry. Kind of like how a person asks his friend how his day went because it's nice to do that and see what the other person has to say. I wasn't trying to dig out information for my own personal use or whatever like some other people I know like to do," he stated exasperatedly.

Samantha could sense that a storm was brewing in the nearer future than she had earlier predicted. She held up her hand and called for silence. Meghan tried to get a word in edgewise, but Samantha's tired yet determined face brooked no opposition. Her mouth instantaneously clamped shut.

Addressing Meghan first, Samantha tried to dispel all the woman's fears. "Jack's right. I rarely ever drink so it's okay if he wants to be a concerned friend and ask me why I'm drinking. I don't mind; it's not intrusive."

Then, turning to Jack, she spoke again. "Joe and I were just exchanging pleasantries, I asked if his mother was doing better, you know, the usual. As for why I'm drinking..." she held her glass of mixed drink up for a brief inspection before putting it back on the table and then shrugged her shoulders. "I'm tired and I just felt like it. I've had a rough day. I felt that I deserved it."

"But you don't like alcohol, Sam," he observed.

"I don't like a lot of things," she quipped, giving him a knowing look.

Jack nodded his head in understanding and let it go. The shared look however, did not go unnoticed by Meghan and she narrowed her eyes for the briefest of moments. But then, seeing as how Jack had turned his attentions back to herself, much to both women's relief, Meghan allowed the evening to continue.

The rest of the meal continued in a stinted fashion. Meghan made concerted efforts to ignore Samantha and leave her out of the conversation by talking about things that only Jack would be familiar with. Jack tried his best to give Meghan the attention she was craving so that she would not create another scene. He also kept furtively glancing in Samantha's direction, hoping to catch her eye and communicate his apologies through a look.

Samantha however was happily consumed by the meal in front of her and paid very little attention to the couple sitting before her. It was obvious that Meghan did not want her participating in conversations and she was only too happy to oblige by maintaining her silence. She knew that Jack felt bad and was trying hard to include her, but at that point, she just did not care enough to try anymore. Samantha infinitely preferred to simply concentrate on her food and devise a method to get out of the dinner at the earliest possible moment.

Shouldn't be too hard, Samantha speculated. Meghan will probably be overjoyed to get rid of me. In fact, I bet she would probably even help me out the door. Drop, kick, boot.

About half way through their meal, when Meghan was off powdering her nose in the ladies' room, one of Samantha's law school friends, Tony, stopped by their table carrying a pool stick in his left hand.

"Hey Samantha! Hey Jack! Fancy meeting you two here. I didn't know you guys were going to be here tonight. You should've told us you were coming! A bunch of us came over to have dinner and shoot some pool. Spotted you on my way to the bathroom and thought I'd come over and ask if the two of you wanted join us in the back. As it would happen, we were looking for another pair. Greg thinks he's going to beat the crap out of all of us and it'd sure be nice to have someone put him in his place like I know you two, the dynamite-duo, would."

Using her right arm to support her head, which was starting to pound from a growing headache, Samantha looked up at her friend. "Hi Tony," she greeted him weakly.

Observing Meghan returning from her trip to the washroom, Samantha quickly made to introduce the two before Tony accidentally said something that might set off Meghan's ire.

"Tony, let me introduce you to our guest this evening," Samantha indicated towards a person behind him with a nod of her head. "This is Meghan, Jack's girlfriend," she tried to highlight the word "girlfriend" and tip off her friend.

Tony was thankfully a quick-witted person and immediately understood the hint. Turning around, he cheerfully greeted the newcomer. "Oh, hi. Sorry, didn't see you there."

He held out his hand and introduced himself, "I'm Anthony McElrath, but call me Tony. I'm an Italian-Irish extraordinaire as you can tell from my name and more importantly, friend of Samantha and Jack's here. It's nice to meet you, did you just get in?"

Tony was a much-loved friend of Samantha's. His open disposition and quirky ways as well as his incredible intelligence and sharpness were what exceptionally endeared him to her. Over the course of the school year, Samantha had really come to value his friendship. Samantha often thought that if she were attracted to Tony, he would make an excellent boyfriend. It was a shame then that she felt nothing beyond friendship for him.

Meghan took his offered hand into her own, shook it firmly, and replied airily, "Meghan Cooper." She tossed her long, silky locks over her shoulder. "And no, I've been here almost a week now. I'm surprised we haven't met sooner, I thought I'd met all of Jack's friends."

"Ah well, yes. See, I don't usually see much of Jack during the week being of the law school crew, so it doesn't come as a surprise that we haven't met yet."

"The law school crew?" she queried.

"Yes, naturally Sam has her own separate friends from law school and I have my friends from med school. But as a result of our friendship, our friends started to intermingle too. Consequently, we have the med school crew and the law school crew to distinguish between the two sets of friends," Jack explained.

"Oh, so you all hang out all the time?" Meghan asked, trying to understand the dynamics of their friendships.

"Oh, definitely!" Tony enthusiastically answered. "Well, on the weekdays, we mostly hang out only with the friends from our own schools just because we tend to see more of one another, but on the weekends we tend to get together as one large group. It's fun to get together as a group. I personally enjoy spending time with people other than law students on the weekend. It's a nice change of pace and through conversations, we can really learn from one another. And it's just a lot of fun to hang out in a big group like that."

"So, the med school crowd and the law school crowd only intermingle on the weekends?"

"Well, it's not like we purposely ignore one another during the week, Meghan," Jack answered. "It's just that with our campuses being separate, there are less chances of us running into one another during the day. Sometimes we run into one another here -Frank's the coffee shop along the main street, for example, is a place you often run into people."

"Exactly," Tony continued. "That's why we all try to get together over the weekends - work permitting, of course."

"Yeah, sometimes we're just too busy and we don't even see our friends from our own school!" Jack laughed.

"Samantha and Jack are different though," Tony declared. "They've known each other for so long now that they came to UVA as really good friends. Since they had one another, they didn't have to suffer being in a new place with no acquaintances. They were lucky that they had each other to hang out with at the beginning of the school year when everyone else was kind of lost. They still do hang out all the time. The rest of us, we're never really sure where they find the time to hang out or talk on the phone like they do, but they do. So instead of trying to figure it out, we just envy their easy friendship, but..." his words trailed off as he realized his crucial mistake.

A black cloud was already beginning to form over Meghan's head as she listened to Tony speak. All of the sudden, things were much more clearer to her. It was obvious that Samantha's friendship was something Jack had kept hidden from her. Samantha was more than an old acquaintance from high school who happened to be going to the same school. She just knew there had to be something more going on between Jack and Samantha than they were letting on and she was hell bent on finding out what it was.

"But we always hang out in groups more or less all the time," Tony lamely finished. He was quickly attempting to fix his blunder, but it was clearly too late. Meghan had already turned to look at Jack's poker face. It was obvious that Meghan had many questions on her mind.

Shoot, what have I just done? I'm such an idiot! I'd better get out of here fast, Tony thought.

Not wanting to be there when the tornado hit, Tony quickly made his excuses and said he had stayed too long and needed to get back to his friends and the pool game. Samantha, who also wanted to avoid a similar fate since she was too exhausted to have to fight and defend herself, joined him in his escape leaving Jack to battle the natural disaster entirely on his own.

Jack quickly soothed his girlfriend with some flattering words and now being alone with him, Meghan was disposed to forgive him easily. After all, there would be plenty of time to investigate matters later and at the moment she was content to revel in her boyfriend's attentions instead. Therefore in a matter of seconds, the danger had been averted and the rest of the evening was spent in tranquility.

Despite Jack's from-time-to-time inattentive and unperceptive personality, he was not so unobservant and clueless as to notice that his friend had been disturbed by the evening's events. As soon as he returned to his apartment later that evening, and was sure Meghan was in the bathroom washing up and out of his way, Jack hurried to the cordless phone and took it into the kitchen to call Samantha in privacy. Dialing her number through speed-dial, Jack was dismayed to find that she was either not yet home or not answering the phone and so left a message.

"Hey Sam, it's Jack. I was just calling to make sure that you made it home safely tonight and were okay. Guess you're either not home yet, already sleeping, or not answering the phone. Hope my phone call didn't wake you if you are sleeping. Anyways, I couldn't help noticing that you looked a little off tonight. Are you sure everything's okay? You're not getting sick are you? Um... I'm sorry about what happened at dinner tonight. Thanks for coming though; I really appreciated it. This message is going to cut off on me, so I'd better go. I hope you feel better and I'll check in with you tomorrow. Sleep well. Bye." Click.

In the meantime, Meghan had finished washing up and emerged from the bathroom. Noticing that the red light was lighted on the phone cradle by the bed and the handset was missing she guessed correctly that Jack was using the phone. Creeping stealthily over to the door and holding it ajar, she eavesdropped from her place in the bedroom. Meghan strained her ears to try and figure out whom Jack was talking to. She was enraged to find her boyfriend whispering a long and lowly spoken message into Samantha's voicemail.

Why does he care about her so much? she wondered. Meghan was sure that something was amiss. She was not a simpleton and she would not be played for a fool. She had been watching Samantha carefully over the past several days and dissected her every movement. Her female intuition told her to be wary for it was evident to her that Samantha held some sort of affection for her boyfriend and she was determined to put the little upstart in her place. She refused to lose Jack to Samantha.


Chapter 4

Much to Meghan's infinite relief, the rest of the weekend was spent in Jack's company and his company alone. It was so nice to be able to spend time with him without any outside disturbances - especially from those that came in the form of Samantha Clements.

Saturday morning was spent wending their way through a local bazaar since one of Meghan's favorite pastimes was shopping for antique items. In the afternoon, Jack took Meghan to see Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, and stroll through its handsome gardens. Afterwards that night, Jack splurged and took his girlfriend out to dinner at Boar's Head Inn, a country resort, set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The chefs at the Old Mill Room at Boar's Head Inn were well mastered in the culinary arts and the restaurant was renowned for its fine dining. Though the food was expensive, they were also delectable and both thoroughly delighted in the evening.

On Sunday morning, they were content to sleep in and then stay warm and cozy underneath the covers. Eventually, Meghan ventured out of bed only to bring food back to it. They both enjoyed eating brunch in bed and working on the Sunday crossword puzzle together. Jack had to get some work done so, in the afternoon they took a short drive over to the University of Virginia Medical School library. Leaving Meghan to her own devices and letting her amuse herself on the computers, Jack meandered off to a separate part of the library to do his homework and study in solitary confinement. It was pretty late when Jack and Meghan left the library that evening, so rather than going out to eat again, they ordered carryout Chinese food to eat while they watched old movies. They were both so tired by their eventful weekend that after thoroughly gorging themselves on Pork Lo Mein and Kung Pao Chicken, Meghan and Jack fell asleep right in front of the television.

Even though a weekend spent in Jack's company alone had done much to revive her spirits as well as her confidence in Jack, this did not mean that Meghan had forgotten the events of Friday night nor of the days before Friday. Meghan still did not trust Samantha. She was convinced that the woman was out to steal her boyfriend and she was not going to stand idly by to watch her do so. And so, Monday afternoon found Meghan seeking Samantha out for a little tête-à-tête.

The tiny bells over the green doorframe jingled, signaling the arrival of another customer. Meghan walked into Frank's Coffee Shop and glanced around, ignoring the expectant gaze of the balding, stout man behind the coffee counter, and took in the scene before her while looking for her prey. Spying her interest, hidden in the far, back corner of the store, with her head slumped over a book, Meghan grinned like a Cheshire cat and walked uninvited over to the booth, sliding easily into it.

How fortunate that she's already seated in a private, out of the way corner, Meghan thought gleefully to herself. I can do this without the prying eyes of the world and without having to worry about people overhearing our conversation.

Sitting down nimbly across from Samantha, she placed her purse on top of the table and then shed her thin jacket. "Hello."

Samantha looked up from her book and put her coffee cup down. Shoving the fallen hair out of her eyes with one hand and keeping her page with the other, she glanced at the woman across from her. She was, to say the least, a bit surprised to see Meghan perched in the seat across from her. Though she often ran into friends at Frank's, a local hang out for many UVA students, Meghan was not someone she had ever anticipated bumping into nor did she ever expect that Meghan would willingly be in her company.

Meghan's regal posture made her conscious of her own poor posture. Sitting up a little straighter, Samantha smiled and tried to erase the perplexed look on her face while greeting her friend's girlfriend with as much warmth as she could muster. "Hello, Meghan."

Meghan's own reply was tepid at best. "I thought I might find you here."

To say that Samantha was shocked by the cool reply would have been a lie. Over the weekend, Samantha had come to accept that Meghan did not like her. She was not, however, above wondering what she had done to gain such little respect from this woman with whom she had always tried her hardest to be friendly. Her female intuitions told her that Meghan was putting up jealous defenses, but she was not know what had provoked them. Certainly, she had never given Meghan any cause to worry. She had always tried to maintain a casual façade in front of Meghan and had even tried to befriend the woman on the car ride from the airport back to Charlottesville. But for some reason or another, Meghan had from the outset blatantly refused all attempts at friendship.

Once provoked, Samantha was not above protecting herself from open barbs. Raising her eyebrows, she looked confidently back, taking in Meghan's icy glares. "Oh?"

Placing a napkin into her book to serve as a bookmarker and snapping her book shut, Samantha pushed it aside and asked, "And why, may I ask, is that?"

"Because Jack mentioned to me on his way to class that he liked to come here for both respite and a place to study," she answered, looking down at Samantha's book as if to emphasize her last point.

Samantha instinctively knew what Meghan was trying to imply, but she was not about to fall into this woman's trap. "Frank's is a place that many UVA students frequent for the very same reasons you just named. It's never a surprise to find either one of us here or any of our other friends for that matter," Samantha explained, taking care to emphasize her own last point.

"I see." Meghan tapped her fingers idly along the tabletop. There was an interminable pause of silence, before Meghan burst out, "Well this is some crappy service. Don't they have people that come and take orders from their customers?"

Samantha tried very hard to hide the smile that was beginning to form at the corners of her mouth behind the back of her right hand. "Um, you order at the counter with Frank and then either wait for your drink there or someone brings it to you."

"Well, that's an interesting way to provide service," Meghan snidely commented.

"It's kind of nice," Samantha acknowledged. "Frank's a really nice guy and we all enjoy talking with him while waiting for our drinks."

"Why would I want to talk with the coffee man?" was Meghan's short question.

Samantha sighed. It was obvious that this woman was determined to find fault in everything this afternoon. "Well, if you want a cup of coffee, that's the way it's done around here."

The only response Meghan deigned to give was a low grunt.

I thought Jack said his girlfriend was nice! And for someone who thinks they are so decidedly above others in matters of sophistication, she sure doesn't act sophisticated by grunting like that, Samantha thought to herself.

Meghan continued to tap her hand on the table, staring down at them and occasionally stopping to pick at a nail here and there. She knew Samantha was waiting for her to say something, but she was not quite sure what it was she wanted to say. Meghan was frustrated that this woman was being so evasive in her answers. She was not accustomed to being trifled with. She was used to getting her own way and especially with great ease.

Taking one more look at her companion, Meghan decided that Samantha had to have some sort of an inkling of what she was about, so she decided to come straight to the point.

"You and Jack have known each other for quite some time, haven't you?" Though it was a question, she had asked it in such a way that it was actually said as though she was making a statement.

Not knowing exactly where these questions were meant to turn, Samantha had little choice but to be as honest as she could be, but at the same time, without leaving opportunities for her comments to be misconstrued. "Um, yes, we became friends our senior year of high school."

"How convenient that you both ended up at UVA for grad. school," Meghan observed.

"Well, I don't know what you mean by 'convenient,' but if you mean it in the sense of 'interesting,' 'surprising' or even 'amazing,' then, yes, I suppose you could say that it was convenient."

"I was actually referring to the possibility that oh, I don't know, perhaps one of you could have arranged it so that you attended the same graduate school as the other..."

Samantha did not like any of the implications Meghan was trying to make and sought to cut her off. "I assure you, Meghan, that Jack's and my ending up at UVA together was nothing more than a pleasant surprise. I don't really think that the admissions process is anything you can actually play around with."

It was Meghan's turn to raise her eyebrows. "Pleasant surprise?" she sneered.

Samantha could have slapped herself on her forehead for her usage of the adjective, pleasant and tried to rectify the situation before Meghan insisted on twisting it and all her other comments around for her own benefit.

"Yes, pleasant. It is always a pleasure for friends to come together again," she glibly countered. "And of course it's a surprise. As I just said, you don't think we could possibly have orchestrated our admittances into UVA do you?"

Meghan chose not to answer Samantha's question and moved smoothly on. "And you two have spent a lot of time together since you met up again at UVA."

Samantha was becoming increasingly irritated by this line of third-degree questioning which seemed to have no end in sight. Realizing that all her efforts of trying to befriend Jack's girlfriend were ineffectual, Samantha decided to give up all pretenses and get straight to her point. She was not about to let Meghan play around with her.

"Forgive me, Meghan, but I am a very busy student with not much time on my hands," and held up her textbook as proof of her words. "I'm not quite sure what your purpose here is this afternoon, but if you would just get down to business and stop beating around the bush with your evasive questions, it would save us both a world of trouble."

"Well, since you put it like that, I guess I will," Meghan began. "I simply do not see how you and Jack could possibly have become such good friends over the course of several months without raising some sort of suspicions."

Samantha chuckled as the truth made itself free. This time, she did not even bother to try and hide her amusement. She had had her suspicions of course, but now that Meghan had more or less openly admitted that she was jealous, it made things much easier for her.

Raising some sort of suspicions, indeed, Samantha snorted.

"Meghan, I doubt that you have anything to fear from me. Contrary to what you may believe, my friendship with Jack did not suddenly blossom over several months, it is in fact a friendship that has grown over the course of several years. True, we did not know each other very long in high school, we only became friends our senior year, but by the time we graduated, we were very close. It's only natural that being together again, we would carry on where we left of."

"Wait, I'm confused. How close were you? Jack never mentioned you when we were at Georgetown. And from the way Jack usually mentions your name in passing these days, it didn't seem like the two of you had been anything more than casual acquaintances." Meghan was still doubtful and suspicious and a few words from the supposed competition were not going to calm her fears.

"As close as two friends can get without going any further than friendship," Samantha honestly answered.

Samantha was tired of playing games with this woman and decided to tell her as she saw it. She did not really care if Jack thought differently on the matter. In her opinion, it was time for Meghan to hear the truth.

"Look, Meghan. If you want to know the whole entire history of my relationship with Jack, here it is: By the time we graduated from high school, Jack and I were the very best of friends. In our relatively short acquaintance, we learned to care about one another and support one another through difficult times, much like you would probably do for any of your own close friends now. Distance, however, is not always an easy thing to overcome, as you probably know from your own long-distance relationship with Jack, and we grew apart during college. It honestly doesn't come as a big surprise that Jack never mentioned me at Georgetown. From the phone conversations we used to have while in college, my impression is that he didn't speak much of high school. He sort of became disenchanted with the legacy of it all by his second year and was even more so by the time he met you junior year. Besides, Jack has always had a tendency to focus more on the people in front of him and forget about people in the periphery in the process. It's a really annoying habit, I must say and one we often argued over in college. I think our friendship became strained in college because of that, but now that I'm back in his immediate presence, things have been better. But the short of it is, we're friends and that's all Jack is ever going to see me as. And, speaking of Jack not mentioning other people... if you really must know, he rarely mentioned you to me whenever we did talk during college."

Meghan couldn't prevent the small gasp that escaped her mouth at this last comment. Samantha hadn't meant to say it either, but she was rapidly losing control of herself and things she hadn't planned on mentioning were slipping out fast and quick before she could even stop herself. The momentum had picked up and Samantha just kept on going.

"The fact remains, Meghan. We may not have been the best of friends that we were in high school, but the concern we had for one another then was never lost in college. I've always continued to count Jack amongst my closest and dearest friends - even with the distance and all. So, it's been a real joy for me to come here, rediscover an old friendship and build on that. It wasn't an opportunity I was about to pass up just because of spiteful, petty, annoying, jealous girlfriends!!!"

Meghan was outraged not only by Samantha's final comment but also by her loss of the upper hand in the situation. "That is enough!" she demanded.

But Samantha was quicker. "No, it's not! I have done nothing wrong by being friends with Jack. It's the only thing I've ever been to him these past six years and the only thing I'll ever get to be to him. I don't need silly spoiled brats like you to come in here and tell me what to do, handing me covert threats to stay away like I'm some sort of a cheap whore sleeping with their boyfriends. If you really want to know what I think, the only thing I've done wrong here is try to be nice to you and be your friend. But know this. I did it for Jack's sake, not my own. You don't deserve my friendship and I don't have to put up with this! The only thing I will regret as I leave you sitting here wallowing in your jealousy is the disappointment Jack will feel when he finds out that I can't stand the sight of you."

With that, Samantha got up and grabbed her book. She dumped some money on the table and stormed out of the coffee shop. Frank, the proprietor of the shop, saw Samantha leave in distress and felt compelled to follow her out the door out of fatherly concern. But once he made it out onto the sidewalk, he saw Samantha, standing at the corner several feet down from the front of his store, crying her heart out. Knowing that she was more likely to want space than comfort, he sadly left her alone and returned to his place behind the counter of his coffee place.

Frank stared stonily at the woman that remained alone at the table where Samantha had just recently left. Samantha, like many of the other UVA students that came to his shop, was a favorite of his and it hurt him to see her pained. Frank had seen the tall, blonde woman when she stalked into his store and had noted with some curiosity that she sat with Samantha. His desire to know who she was had unwittingly made him eavesdrop on their conversation. In horror, he had watched the scene unfold before him. Minute by minute, and with each word, he began to understand what had always eluded him before.

Samantha and Jack often came to his coffee shop with their other friends, but he always maintained that the two of them got along very well. He had always wondered why they were never anything more than friends and now he understood. A veritable barracuda stood in their way. Frank shook his head as he dried another coffee mug and set it upside down underneath the counter. It was not his place to meddle, but he hoped Jack would one day see the treasure he held before him and replace the spiteful woman who insisted on staying on. G-d help anyone that dared to hurt one of his children, as he was wont to call his favorites.

*For those interested in seeing what Boar's Head Inn looks like or would like to get a flavor of what the dinner menu is like at the Old Mill Room, please visit: http://www.boarsheadinn.com/

* As for Frank's Coffee Shop... that's another figment of my imagination. While I'm sure there are Frank's in Charlottesville and plenty of coffee shops too, I don't think there's a Frank that owns a coffee shop.


Chapter 5

Samantha was not sure how long she stood outside crying by the curb of the street. All she knew was that if Tony had not happened upon her several minutes later, she would probably have been still crying in plain sight for everyone to see. As it turned out, it was a very good thing Tony ran into her when he did and took her away to a secluded place to talk, for not five minutes after they left the corner did Jack come strolling and whistling down the sidewalk from the opposite direction to meet Meghan at Frank's.

Tony and Samantha crossed the street together and went and sat on a bench that was located in a secluded corner of the UVA campus grounds. Putting his arms around her, Tony leaned in close while Samantha hid her face in her friend's chest. Samantha struggled to pull on her sleeves and tried to dry her overflowing eyes.

"I'm so sorry, I must look like a horrid fuss pot right now," Samantha sniffled.

Tony soothingly rubbed her back. "Not at all, doll, not at all. What's got you down?" he asked.

Samantha ignored the question and kept on rubbing her eyes with her sleeves. Seeing that there was no answer forthcoming Tony pressed on. "There's no point in trying to hide it, Samantha. You've been upset since the weekend now, I can tell. Won't you tell me what's troubling you?"

Samantha shook her head. It was too embarrassing to have to reveal her heart.

"Well, if you won't tell me, won't you at least tell someone else? I think it would make you feel a lot better to unburden yourself - I can tell that you have a lot on your mind. Why don't you tell Jack?" Tony suggested. "Don't you two usually share everything anyways?"

At the mention of Jack's name, Samantha broke down into another flood of tears. Exasperated with herself and the entire world at that point, Samantha gave up and incoherently began to flail. "G-d, I hate myself!" she passionately wailed.

"Why????" was Tony's incredulous and shocked reply. Though he could tell that something had been eating away at his friend for a while now, he was nonetheless stunned by the fervor and strength of her emotions.

"Ugh! Because for the past six years, I have been completely deluding myself, letting myself think that this could ever work. But it can't! It can't! And it never will. I can't go on like this anymore!" Samantha felt like beating herself with a stick, she was so thoroughly frustrated and disgusted with herself.

"What won't work?" Tony appeased.

"Jack!!!!" The way in which Samantha gave her answer made it seem as though she were stating the obvious.

But to Tony, nothing was obvious. He was still lost as to what Samantha was trying to tell him in her fit of aggravation. "Jack? What's wrong with Jack?"

Samantha looked up at Tony, her face was streaked with tears and her hair in disarray, but the look in her eyes had an unmistakable glow in them. It was then that realization dawned on Tony. All of the sudden, he knew exactly what was going on.

"You love Jack."

He stated it simply and so matter-of-factly. Samantha was horrified by Tony's calmness. "Wha-a-a? How did you know?"

Tony shrugged his shoulders. "I didn't know - until now that is," he confessed.

"Then how did you guess so easily?" she marveled.

"I guess I've always kind of wondered and suspected even... your look just now gave it all the way, Samantha. There's no mistaking the look. As soon as Jack's name was mentioned, there was a look of love in your eyes."

Samantha affected a mortified stance. "Is it really written that plainly on my face? Do you think he knows?" she asked in extreme agitation. "I don't think I could bear it if Jack knew I liked him."

Tony tightened his hug and tried to reassure his friend. "No, it's not written across your face and I don't think everyone suspects, least of all Jack. Honestly," he persuaded.

Tony could see the doubts lingering in Samantha's countenance. "I guess I've had my suspicions because... well... I know you, Samantha. We've been such good friends for all these months now. And even though we don't talk about everything, we certainly talk about most things. How could I not notice the way you truly cared about Jack? I mean I know you care about all your friends; but well, it was hard not to notice that you treated Jack differently. He was obviously more special to you. It all came together for me just now and I suppose it affirmed only what I've suspected for so long now. You love Jack."

Samantha somberly nodded her head in assent. "I've never meant to. And goodness knows I've tried to stop. But I just can't seem to help myself," she weakly finished.

"Why is it so bad to love Jack?"

Samantha shook her head and refused to give an answer. There's nothing wrong in loving him, it's just fruitless and pointless, Samantha thought to herself.

"How long have you felt this way about him?"

Samantha looked far away into the distance and took her time in answering. "Oh, I'm not really sure anymore Tony. All I know is that it wasn't love at first sight - I fell in love with a friend. It was so long ago and it was so gradual that I really can't pinpoint a place or time. And then there was college - I never was sure how I felt about Jack in those four years, you know. Distance made us grow apart and there were many times where I wondered if I was just holding onto the past. But this year has been so different. It's been like having the old Jack again and if I didn't love him in college, then I certainly fell in love all over again this year. But you know, if I had to think back and remember a time where I did know I loved him, it would have to be the time I was really sick during the winter of our senior year and he called me up one night to tell me that if it got so bad that I had to go to the Health Center, he'd come visit me, tuck me in, and make me feel like I was at home with my mommy."

"That was sweet of him."

Samantha smiled faintly at the memory. "Yeah, he was forever doing sweet things like that. Sometimes I wished he wouldn't though. I mean, I would never have been so tempted to like him if he hadn't been so darn nice!"

"Why haven't you ever said anything or done anything about it?" Tony asked, as if Samantha revealing her heart to Jack was the most logical and reasonable thing to do.

Samantha laughed somewhat bitterly at both the question and the thought. "Because not only has their never been the opportunity for me to do so in our six years of friendship, but also because Jack has never looked upon me that way and sadly, never will. To him, I'm always the supportive friend and nothing more."

Tony started to say something in protest, but Samantha turned back around and stopped him before he could continue. "No, it's the truth and it's okay. It really is. And plus, I've always been pretty much content with my friendship with Jack. It's something I'd rather have than nothing at all and I have long since resigned myself to my fate. It's just that with already so little to go on, I don't know what I'd do without at least his friendship."

Samantha paused a minute as she heaved a little sigh. "But unfortunately, it seems like with every girlfriend he has ever had, friendship with Jack seems like a doomed future. No one wants to share him; not that I really blame them, I suppose. He's a special person and although it's easy for me to say that if I were his girlfriend I would trust him and allow him to make his friends as he chose, I can't promise that I wouldn't be reacting the same as Meghan now."

"Has Meghan said she doesn't want Jack to be your friend?"

Samantha gritted her teeth. "No. But I've no doubt it's only a matter of time. That girl has been jealous of me since the first minute she meant me, although I've no idea why. Jack has too good a heart and it will take nothing less than a bulldozer to run him over before he realizes that. To him, it's just some unsolvable mystery why Meghan and I don't get along."

"But once she does make it known? You think he'll take her side?"

"I'd like to say that he wouldn't, but truthfully, I don't know. The last girlfriend he had, his affections were already waning so he wasn't exactly blind to her faults. He pretty much knew what she was about. But this time, I know that Jack really likes Meghan and I'm sure it's bound to blind his senses a little. He's tried really hard to make their long-distance relationship work so far. I wouldn't be surprise if he indulged her in her little whims here and there just to continue making it work. Small sacrifice to keep her happy, don't you think?"

"Giving up a friend like you? I don't think I'd call that a small sacrifice."

Samantha shrugged her shoulders. It was not that she disagreed with Tony, she just knew Jack very well - too well, almost. "Jack can be a wimp you know. He's a strong guy and has enough presence of a mind to know what he wants or doesn't want, but when it comes to keeping peace, he's a total wimp. He'll do anything just to preserve order - even if that means doing something he doesn't really agree with or want to do. Basically, in this instance, he'll tell Meghan what she wants to hear. He'll renounce our friendship, but once she leaves Charlottesville, he'll be my friend again. He did a similar sort of thing in high school. His ex-girlfriend, Kim, was extremely jealous of all his female friends that she didn't know, so he just never told her about me or my other friends. It worked out fine then and I'm sure it would work out just as well now if Jack did pretend to give me up just to make Meghan happy. But, I don't know... I've given is a lot of thought and I just don't know if I'm up to that anymore. I don't know if I always want to be the 'clandestine friend', if you know what I mean. I've never done anything wrong by being his friend, yet I feel like I'm the mistress everyone needs to keep mum about. I'm tired of it all, that's all."

"You shouldn't have to feel like you're a clandestine friend or a mistress."

"I agree. Unfortunately, that also means that it's either that or nothing at all. And since I can't do this to myself anymore, I'm going to lose Jack. I just wish there was another way to solve this problem!"

"Poor Samantha," Tony observed.

"Such is the way of life," was Samantha's cynical answer.

"I don't like hearing you say those kinds of things. You're supposed to be the beacon of optimism in our lives."

"No, that's Jack. He's the optimistic, 'Mr. Sunshine' man. I only try to be, but even I have a realistic, logical side to me and sometimes my realist side likes to take over my idealistic side. But you know what? I think that it's about time I listened to my head instead of my heart on this matter."

Tony frowned.

"Look, Tony. It's my problem - it's been my problem for these past six years - I'll be fine. Don't worry about me. I've made it this far and I'll no doubt survive the disappointment of this time, somehow. Thanks for listening to me though and letting me cry on your shoulders. You're sweet to do so and I really appreciate it." She kissed his cheek in thanks. "I'll be fine, truly, I will. I should get going though and so should you," Samantha urged.

"Are you sure?" Tony was reluctant to leave Samantha especially after everything she had just been through and told him. "Why don't we go and have dinner somewhere tonight? My treat."

Samantha smiled at him; she knew exactly what he was trying to do. "You're thoughtful and generous, Tony. But if you don't mind, what I really want to do right now is just go home and be alone."

"Sure, doll." Tony gave her a hug before he got up and headed on home.

After Tony left, Samantha wiped her eyes one more time before she looked down to pick up her book and jacket. When she reached down though, all she found was her book. With dismay, Samantha realized that she had left her jacket in Frank's when she had run out of there in a terrible rush earlier that the afternoon.


Chapter 6

Upon reentering Frank's and making her way towards the back of the shop, Samantha found, much to her dismay, that Meghan had not yet left the coffee shop. Samantha frowned even harder after taking note that Meghan was now joined in company by Jack, who had taken up her previously vacated spot. Samantha knew that her jacket was lying just beyond Jack's left side - so close and yet, so far. There was obviously no other way to retrieve her jacket other than walking up to the pair and asking them for it and at the moment, Samantha was rather loath to disturb them, not to mention face Meghan again.

Heaving a sigh, Samantha turned around to beat a fast retreat. It was plain to see that she would have to go home without her jacket and return for it later. Who knew, maybe Jack would even bring it to her. After all, there was no way he could possibly have not seen it. Samantha was almost out the door when she caught wind of her name being spoken in hushed voices in the back. With sudden horror, Samantha became conscious that Jack and Meghan were discussing her!

Curiosity won over propriety and Samantha crept stealthily back to a nearby booth and waved the approaching Frank away before he could reveal her presence. Nodding in understanding, Frank went back to cleaning and drying his coffee mugs, whistling as he worked. Samantha was now far enough away to remain unseen, so long as no one else came by and gave her position away, but she was also close enough to distinctly hear whatever Jack and Meghan had to say about her.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. You had a talk with Sam and then she just ran off for no apparent reason, leaving her jacket behind? Why on earth would she do that? What did you say to her???" Jack asked suspiciously.

"It's not about what I said to her," Meghan answered. "She ran off because she was obviously embarrassed."

"I don't understand what you're trying to say," Samantha heard Jack huff.

"It's obvious that the little chit is infatuated with you," Meghan imperiously announced. "Unless you do something about it, her infatuation unchecked will continue to escalate. I'm telling you - it's better to do something about it now than later on when things will be more difficult."

Samantha raised her fist to her mouth upon hearing the truth of Meghan's words. Will Jack believe her? She can't just undo everything I've worked so hard to salvage, she pleaded silently to no one.

"I don't know what you're talking about, Meghan. Samantha and I have only ever been friends these past six years and we've both been happy about that. We've never wanted anything more and we're not going to ever want anything more. She's only a friend. We'll never want anything more than that."

Samantha relaxed a little after hearing Jack's reassurances although she shifted a little in her seat. Hearing Jack be so pronounced in announcing his disinterest in her as anything more than a friend was a rather disconcerting experience.

"Correction. You haven't wanted anything more. But can you be so sure that Samantha has never wanted anything more than friendship?"

Silence reigned while Jack seemed to ponder his girlfriend's question. "No..." he slowly began. "I don't suppose I can say with absolute certainty, but I'm fairly certain. I mean, I really wouldn't know since it's not something we talk about. But I think that after knowing Samantha for so many years I'd be able to tell; don't you think?"

Meghan carefully flicked the lint off the cuff of her sleeve with her immaculately painted fingernails. "No, not really."

Jack sat back in his seat, with one arm stretched across the back of his chair, eagerly awaiting her explanation. "Do tell."

"Well, you see; you're a guy."

"Really?" Jack rolled his eyes. "Tell me something I wasn't already well aware of."

Meghan chose to ignore Jack's flippant comment. "Guys are not always so... oh, how shall we put it... perceptive of the female psyche, no?"

"Hold on a second, Meghan. I think I'm a pretty perceptive kind of guy."

"Okay, fine. You are perceptive. Happy?"


"But you don't always understand the female psyche do you?" Jack had to admit that he could not very well argue that point. "So, although I have only just met Samantha, it has occurred to me in those several times that she is clearly infatuated with you but desperately trying to hide it so as to not lose your friendship."

"WHAT? What on earth are you talking about?"

"You see, just as I suspected. You can't tell. But it's true, Jack. I'm telling you, your little friend has the hots for you. You have to believe me."

"You have got to be kidding me," Jack laughed out loud.

There mere thought of Samantha being interested in him was enough to send him over the edge. But one look at Meghan's face betrayed that she was in earnest. "You can't be serious, Meghan."

"I assure you, I'm not kidding and I am serious."

"How can you be so certain?"

"I'm a woman, Jack!"

"And that makes you the expert? Don't you think it matters that I'm her friend and you are not?"

"No, not really."

"You're freakin' biased against her, Meghan! You haven't been anything but unpleasant to Sam since the day you got here! What do you know about Sam's feelings?"

Meghan leaned over the table and hissed, "Like I said, Jack. I'm a woman and I've got the intuition. I don't like her because she likes you."

This conversation was not going as Jack had planned. How did we ever get on this subject? Where is she trying to take this conversation? Is there even a point here? He thought wondrously to himself.

Jack held up his hands, calling for attention. "Okay, fine. Even if what you say is true - let's say that Samantha does like me - what then? What do you want me to do about it? Completely embarrass her and possibly myself by calling her on it? What purpose would that serve?"

"Well, it'd be open honesty for one thing," Meghan retorted.

"Yeah, and then what? There's no point to that. Besides, even if she was interested in me, she seems to be very happy with the current situation or else don't you think she would have said something by now?"

"Well, it is somewhat puzzling," Meghan mused. "But the only explanation I can come up with is that she's still biding her time. She's a very calculating woman. She obviously doesn't think that now is the best time to spring this upon you. But I'm telling you, Jack, the feelings are definitely there. It's just a matter of when she's going to erupt! And if you don't do something about it now, she's going to wreck everything we have now."

Jack could have slumped his head down onto the table and banged it several times while he was at it. He was so confused. "What? What does Samantha possibly being interested in me have anything to do with us???"

"She might try to steal you away," Meghan simply stated.

"No way! No way! You may know the female psyche better than me, you may understand it better, or whatever, but I know Samantha's psyche better than you. She's not your average female. She's my friend. And I know that Sam would never do that in a million years. She's too honorable to do that sort of thing."

"That's what you think now, Jack. But are you still going to say that sometime in the future when she shows up on your doorstep?"

"Well for one thing, she's not going to show up on my doorstep. And secondly, even if she did happen to show up on my doorstep - which I very much doubt she will - then I will just tell her that I'm very sorry, but I am totally in love with Meghan Ethel Cooper and I'll hope that we can still be friends, but that's it! And third, you do realize that this really is just utterly ridiculous! It's idle speculation, for goodness sakes! This will never happen!"

"First of all, I can't believe you just used my middle name. You know you're not supposed to say my middle name out loud!" Meghan peevishly admonished. "And secondly, well, I'm sorry, Jack. But I just can't be so sure as you. I know you want me to be trusting, but this isn't a matter of whether or not I trust you. I totally trust you! It's her I don't trust! Look, I'm millions of miles away from you normally. I can't always keep an eye on things for you and it's plain to see, you're not keeping an eye out for yourself. What if Samantha does wheedle her way into things? Even you can't swear up and down that you're a hundred percent she won't try to integrate yourself into your life and supplant me and I'll be damned if I let her try and take you away from me."

Jack shook his head. "But she's not going to take you away from me, Meghan. Fine, don't trust her. But trust me. You just said you trusted me. Well, don't you think I'd be able to handle her if she came to me? Samantha would never have the opportunity to 'wheedle' her way into our lives. I love you, Meghan and that's the most important thing to remember. Right?"

"Fine, if you really do love me... then you'll break off your friendship with Samantha."

"Wh-wh-wh-what????" Jack couldn't believe his ears. Did she just actually ask what he thought she asked? Meghan could not possibly be asking this of him. "You can't do that!"

"I just did. I want you to have absolutely no more contact with her."

"B-b-b-but, why???" Jack looked at her incredulously. "What purpose would that serve?"

"I'll be able to rest easier knowing that she won't get some sort of a hold over you."

"This is ridiculous, Meghan. I just told you that no matter what happens, Samantha will never get a 'hold' over me."

It was Meghan's turn to shake her head. "I'm sorry, Jack. This is the way it has to be. I can't trust Samantha. And if I mean more to you than her, you'll sacrifice the friendship for something greater - love."

Jack's mind was whirling. He was not quite sure how they had gone from point A to point B. He kind of felt like they were talking in circles and not really accomplishing anything and now, Meghan wanted him to break his friendship with Samantha. Where had that come from? He tried to trace back each and every sentence and thought of their conversation. Each time, he came up empty-handed. All he could come up with was: Meghan thought Samantha liked Jack. Jack disagreed. Meghan thought Samantha would try and steal Jack. Jack did not think Samantha liked him, nor did he think she would try and steal him even if she did. Plus, he would not let himself be stolen. And now Meghan wanted him to play it safe by ending his six-year friendship with Samantha. Jack was not quite following the logic.

"I just want us to be happy, Jack. Can't you see that? I'm doing this for us. I'm scared of losing you." Meghan's voice began to quiver at the thought and Jack couldn't bear seeing his girlfriend cry.

Jack did not know what to say. He felt like Meghan was hurling the world at him and he did not have enough time to process his thoughts. All he could see was that Meghan was about to break down into tears any moment now and he really hated it when girls cried. He never knew what to do with himself when Meghan cried. Jack was feeling extremely flustered.

"Oh, alright, alright, alright. You know I could never deny you anything. Fine, if you want me to stop being friends with Samantha, it's done. I'll tell her we can't be friends anymore after you leave."

"No," she pouted. "I want you to do it before I leave."

Jack sighed. "Fine, I'll do it as soon as possible."

What did it matter? He thought to himself. Meghan will leave, I'll still be friends with Samantha, and no one will be none the wiser and yet, everyone will be appeased. Perfect plan, Jack! He couldn't help but want to pat himself on the back for his supreme skills of diplomacy.

Meghan meanwhile, looked like the cat that had just swallowed the canary. She had finally gotten her way and Samantha would officially be out of the picture. She could not have been more pleased with the outcome of things; indeed she was very satisfied with the results. Even though her initial plan to approach Samantha personally had backfired, this was just as good, if not better. This way, Jack was putting an end to their friendship rather than the opposite way where Samantha would probably still pine over him. However, with Jack doing the break up, it was more likely to send Samantha into a fury and then Jack would be all hers.

Yes, this will do just fine, Meghan thought to herself. Fine, indeed!

Meanwhile, Samantha sat not five feet away absolutely stunned by what had just taken place. The whole of their conversation had been scandalous at best, but Meghan's final demand had been just about the last straw.

How can she demand that of him? She asked herself. It's not fair! It's not fair! It's not fair! She wanted to wail. Samantha wanted the world to see how perfectly unfair Meghan was being. Most of all, she wanted Jack to see how unfair she was being. The final straw had been when Jack had actually deigned to concede to her command.

How can he do that? How can he do that to himself and how can he do that to me? She asked herself repeatedly after hearing him seal their fate.

Samantha wanted desperately to throw herself down and beat the ground like a spoiled child and insist on a reevaluation of the situation, but she knew she couldn't. Oh my goodness, I can't believe what I just heard. The thoughts kept running through her head and she sat paralyzed, shell-shocked, and immobile.

It's done now... my friendship with Jack is officially over. There's nothing more that I can do? What just happened here? I need air. I need fresh air. Yes, I'm just dreaming this. I'm being delusional. I have to be! This isn't happening. It couldn't possibly be happening to me! I need air. Samantha stood up groggily from her chair and faltered a bit. She grabbed the table for support and stood for just a minute longer, trying to regain her balance.

Frank watched helplessly from his station behind the counter. He, like Samantha, had overheard much of the discussion between Jack and Meghan and had likewise been appalled by its content. His heart and sympathy went out to Samantha as he watched the poor girl struggling to retain her sense of control. But he knew that if he budged from his place, not only would he reveal Samantha's whereabouts but he would also be reaffirming her fear that she was currently weak. Frank knew that Samantha hated more than anything in this world to be weak or to appear weak. She was a strong-willed woman and liked to deal with matters on her own. So instead of going to her aid and helping her out the door, he watched grimly as she struggled and said a silent prayer for her as she walked dolefully out of his coffee shop for the second time that day.


Chapter 7

For the second time that day, Samantha found herself standing outside of Frank's with tears trickling down her face. This time however, she resolved to not be found by a wandering friend while watering the concrete floor. Resolutely but dejectedly, she found her way back to her car and drove slowly home. Jack and Meghan's words replayed over and over again in her head as she drove towards her apartment. She tried to concentrate on the task at hand, but it seemed like the more Samantha tried not to think about them, the more she thought about them instead. Samantha was more than frustrated. She was upset, she was hurt, and she was angry with the world. All she wanted to do was slam on her horn and vent her irritations. Unfortunately, she could not do that. So, instead, she tried to drive herself back home safely.

Samantha drove home so slowly that it took her an extra ten minutes to make it there. She let herself into her apartment and threw her book carelessly down on the kitchen table. The book thudded heavily as it made contact with the table and then promptly skidded off the other side, landing loudly on the cold, tiled floor. Samantha was too tired to care and left it there to retrieve at a later time. Too drained to cook and too depressed to eat, she did not even stop at the kitchen and continued on her way to her bedroom where she promptly kicked off her shoes and flung herself into bed. Pulling her bedcovers over her head, she shut out the world and soon fell into a much-needed deep slumber. The last coherent thought she allowed herself to have before she became impervious to the world was, And this is only Monday - the beginning of the week.

Samantha woke up several hours later from the hunger pains rumbling low in her stomach. Although she did not really have an appetite, she was hungry nonetheless. The anxieties she had endured over the course of the day had made her forget all about feeding times and now her stomach was making her aware of its unhappiness.

"Fine, fine, fine. I'll get you some food," she grumbled to it, as if it were an animate object that could talk back with her. In a way it could, as it rumbled back its thanks as she headed towards the kitchen.

Samantha stumbled into the kitchen, almost tripping over the book that had fallen to the floor when she had chucked it onto the kitchen table earlier that day. "Damn!" she swore, catching herself before she could fall.

As if this day could possibly get any worse, she thought angrily. Too upset to care what she ate, she made herself a simple ham and white bread sandwich with a little mayonnaise. It was understood that she was only eating to make her body happy and not out of personal pleasure.

Samantha turned on the radio to listen to some music while she cleaned up her mess and sighed when she heard the song being played at that moment. The song's lyrics though resonated well with her current emotions, was not going to cheer her up:

I don't wanna lose you,
I don't wanna use you
Just to have somebody by my side
And I don't wanna hate you
I don't wanna take you
But I don't wanna be the one to cry
That don't really matter to anyone, anymore
But like a fool I keep losing my place
And I keep seeing you walk through that door

But there's a danger in loving somebody too much
And its sad when you know it's your heart you can't trust
There's a reason why people don't stay where they are
Baby sometimes love just ain't enough

Now I could never change you
I don't wanna blame you
Baby you don't have to take the fall
Yes I may have hurt you
But I did not desert you
Maybe I just want to have it all
It makes a sound like thunder
It makes me feel like rain
And like a fool who will never see the truth
I keep thinking something's gonna change

But there's a danger in loving somebody too much
And its sad when you know it's your heart you can't trust
There's a reason why people don't stay where they are
Baby sometimes love just ain't enough

And there's no way home
when it's late at night and you're all alone
Are there things that you wanted to say
Do you feel me beside you in your bed
there beside you where I used to lay

And there's a Danger in Loving somebody too much
And it's sad when you know it's your heart they can't touch
There's a reason why people don't stay who they are
Cause baby sometimes love just ain't enough
Baby sometimes love just ain't enough*

Just as she was finishing up from cleaning her dirty dishes, a knock was heard at the door. Samantha groaned. Now what?

She dragged her feet to the door and held her hand on the doorknob for the briefest of moments. Should I open the door? I don't really want to talk to anyone right now. If I just ignore it, the person will go away and think I'm not home. Oh, what the heck... She opened the door and immediately wished she had followed her initial reactions for there, standing on her doorstep, was a much disheveled and distracted-looking Jack.

Great, just what I needed, she moaned silently to herself.

Not even bothering to extend a proper greeting to him, she simply waved him in and shut the door behind them. Jack immediately headed towards the couch and sat down heavily. There was a guilty look plastered on his face and Samantha knew immediately what he was about. She walked slowly towards him and wished that she could either be in a far off place or that the following conversation would never take place. Choosing to remain standing, she stood in front of him a short distance away, with her arms crossed in front.

There was a static and tense silence as the heavy air in the room cackled with charged energy. It was evident that Jack did not know where to begin nor did he really want to begin. Samantha on the other hand was not about to say a thing, she left it all in Jack's hands. She would see what he had to say first.

After several minutes, Jack looked up helplessly. His eyes immediately sought hers and he stammered, "I-I-I..." he broke away, unable to continue.

Samantha moved stealthily away from her position towards the window and looked out onto the parking lot below. She began to mentally count the cars parked below and then place them in color categories - two red cars, one yellow car, three silver cars, two blue cars - anything to avoid looking at him as well as avoid discussing the not-yet-raised topic of conversation. Samantha could hear Jack trying to begin another conversation in the background, only to give up on himself again.

His arms raised themselves as he made a motion to speak, but then they dropped them back down and he slapped his knees as he exhaled loudly in immense frustration. "God, I don't want to be here and I don't want to have to say this!" he struggled.

Samantha winced at the resonance of his husky voice. The raw emotion in his voice ran deep and it pained Samantha to have to hear it. A part of her - her hurt and pride - wanted him to suffer acutely for this act of betrayal he was about to commit, but her heart, her heart and sympathies wanted to reach out to him and let him know that as much as she hated this, she understood and would never blame him. Samantha knew that this was not easy for Jack. A few minutes of internal struggles concluded that she ought to choose to follow her heart and then hope fervently that she would never have cause to regret her decision in the future.

Moving towards the couch, Samantha sat down gently beside him. "I know," she spoke.

Her voice was so quiet, so soft that for a split second, Jack thought his mind was playing tricks on him. Did I hear her correctly? She knows? Knows what? Could she really know?

But the voice continued. "You are surprised. I overheard when I went back for my jacket. Thank you for bringing it back to me tonight," she pointed at the navy colored jacket he held absently in his hands and then took it back from him, placing it in her own lap, before putting it down on the other side of her seat.

Jack looked at her in marvel. He didn't know what to say, so he said the first thing that came to mind. "Oh, G-d, Samantha! I'm so sorry!"

Oddly enough, the only emotion Samantha could feel at that moment was a total sense of peace and harmony. She looked intensely at him for some seconds and then looked away, fixating her vision on a picture frame across the room. Ironically, the picture was of Samantha, Jack, and one of their other high school friends, Tabbi, taken one afternoon on the Boston Harbor Boat Cruise of their senior year of high school. Samantha's voice was steady, calm, emotionless, and strong as she spoke. Her words gave her strength as she kept talking. It was as if she was drawing nourishment for her confidence from her very own feelings. "Don't be. There's nothing for you to be sorry for. You have made your choice and you must stand by it now. Meghan is important to you and I respect your decision."

Jack shook his head in dazed disbelief. How can she be so easy about all of this? How is she dismissing its importance so effortlessly?

"But you're important to me too, Samantha. You are my friend! Didn't you used to argue endlessly with me in college about the importance of maintaining friendships?"

Samantha's gaze returned to look at his face. Her eyes lost their glossy stare and warmed at the sight of distress displayed plainly across his face. She knew that it was only a matter of time before tears started rolling down her face. "Meghan placed a choice before you, Jack. You have considered your options and you have made your choice. You can't have both. Meghan won't allow it and neither will I," she resolutely determined.

"But it doesn't have to be this way. Meghan's leaving Wednesday. She'll never know if no one tells her." Jack felt as if he was grasping for straws, trying to hold on for dear life as they slipped through his fingers.

"And then what, Jack?" the tears that had threatened to descend were now making their presence known. "Will we always be scurrying behind Meghan's back just to keep her happy? I can't do it! I'm sorry, but I can't. It makes me feel cheap and it won't be worth it in the end. And what will you do if you one day end up marrying her? Will it be so easy then to keep every friendship she disapproves of clandestine? It's better to end it now then set ourselves up for a bigger heartbreak later."

"I don't want to do this, Samantha. I really don't. You have to believe me. I don't know why she's doing this. I'll talk to her again. I'll..."

Samantha cut him off by standing up and returning to her place at the window.

"What?" he asked.

Samantha gave a hollow, tinny laugh. "Listen to yourself. Listen to me. Listen to us. You'd think we were carrying on some sort of torrid affair behind your girlfriend's back and was just caught in bed together or something like that."

Missing the humor, Jack chose to remain silent.

"No, just go, Jack. You owe me nothing. You've been a good and faithful friend all these years and I truly do appreciate it. But Meghan," Samantha sighed. "She makes you happy and you deserve to be happy. I could never be at peace with myself if I knew that I had stood in the way to your opportunity of happiness."

I on the other hand, I will never make you as happy as she can, even though it is my greatest wish that I could, Samantha thoughtfully added.

"But I can't ask you to sacrifice our friendship," Jack whispered.

"You're not asking me to sacrifice our friendship, I'm doing it on my own volition, Jack. In fact, I'm asking you to release me from this bond of friendship."

Shocked into silence, it was only after a lapse of time had passed that Jack was able to recover. "I'm so sorry, Samantha," he whispered.

Samantha turned away from the window and looked at him, sitting so forlornly on the couch. "You haven't anything to be sorry for, Jack!"

Samantha longed to be able to run towards him, give him a hug, and let him know that she did not blame him. Instead, she hung her head in shame. "The only person that has to be sorry is myself. I've deluded myself into secretly hoping that there could one day be something more, but I have always known that one day this would happen. It was only a matter of when, but I have always chosen to ignore it. No, you've nothing to be sorry for, Jack. You have always been so good to me, so kind, caring, and considerate. I've really appreciated everything you've done for me: putting up with all my antics and trying so hard to be the friend that I wanted you to be. You've been such a good friend to me and that's all I've ever wanted. I won't regret the times I've spent with you. I'll cherish them always." Her voice faltered, "But I think it's time to move on now, don't you?"

Jack stood up, moved by her speech, although a trifle confused by her cryptic beginning. "I don't know what to say," he rasped.

"Don't say anything." Samantha moved to the front door and slowly opened it. "Don't say anything," she repeated.

As Jack walked past her, he couldn't stop himself from bending over and kissing her on the forehead and wiping away her some of her tears with his thumb. Offering her a half-hearted smile, he whispered, "Take care of yourself, Samantha."

Samantha shut the door behind him and leaned her back against it. Then, she whispered back to his retreating silhouette, "You too, Jack." Then she slumped to the floor and let the floodgate open, crying her eyes out until she had no more tears to shed.


*Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough
Words and music by Patty Smyth and Glen Burtnik

Until Chapter 8-10 are restored in the archives, please feel free to email the author for them.


© 2001 Copyright held by the author.



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