She said she had to find out, and I agreed to help her. I was one of the guys who had loved her and left her. But when she could have told my secret and ruined me, she didn’t. And I owed her for that.
Samantha and I lost track of each other. Then, about five years after we split up, we bumped into each other. The first moments were awkward, then we relaxed and opened up. I said I was surprised that she and Len didn’t make it. She was surprised that I was alone. We stumbled into a casual friendship.
Life took us in different directions and we lost touch again. We reconnected online and, both of us being the other side of fifty, we got to reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ – even the not so good ones. It was nice to have share knowing laughter.
Sam called me up after reading my article in Maclean’s about a multi-vehicle smashup on Highway 400 over the long weekend.
“Anyone can write about crashed cars, but you did some nice human interest bits about the people who were touched by the tragedy,” Sam told me, reluctantly admitting that reading it made her cry.
Fast forward a year and she called me again, this time to ask a favour. When Sam explained what she wanted, I told her she was nuts. “No, hear me out, Rex,” and outlined a plan so bizarre it just might work. She had all the details worked out and said she’d clear the decks with her sister and cousins, her only living relatives, as well as the other key players.
I arranged a boating accident at my friend’s cottage. When questioned, I said Samantha had gone up for a few days to work on her novel undisturbed.
“Why did she take the boat out?” the police demanded
“I have no idea”, was my baffled reply. “She has run the before, but not when it was overcast and windy. Something must have happened. Someone must have needed help; Sam could never refuse anyone.” I choked back a sob; I was getting caught up in playing the part.
“Well, it looks like that impulse cost her life,” the officer remarked.
They found it odd, that no one ever came forward. Searches were carried out but Sam’s body was never found.
To give her family and friends some closure, a memorial service would be held. A copy of the obit was mailed to Bryan by Sam’s very reluctant sister, Bella. She knew how much Bryan had meant to Sam. He was “the one that got away” and Sam had never stopped pining for him. He’d been a widower now for 6 months and Sam was dying to get in touch with him, but she was afraid. Fear of the unknown was fine; but rejection, again, would be unbearable.
The day of the funeral came. The sun was bright and it was unseasonably warm – that seemed disrespectful, somehow. The small church filled up. Family, a handful of friends, a dozen or so former colleagues. Sam’s editor and agent. I was there, too.
Neither Bella nor I saw Bryan. Sam was hidden in a corner in the organ loft. Maybe this would all be for nothing.
After the service, a small procession made its way along the city streets to Hyde Park, where Sam’s ashes were to be scattered. Sam was hidden in the back of her sister’s van. Bella parked so that Sam could look out the back window. Tears filled her eyes as she watched the small cluster of friends and family, standing on a hill overlooking the leafy trees and brush of her favourite childhood retreat.
Bella and her cousins stood together near the edge. I stood a respectful few feet away. As the minister intoned a final prayer, I saw movement by a tree some 10 feet from where Bella stood. A man in a dark jacket, sunglasses. Was it Bryan? I was tempted to look over at the van but I didn’t. Sam would be able to tell, even at that distance, if it was him.
When the urn had been emptied, people slowly drifted away and the man approached Bella. I couldn’t hear so I inched closer. The man wept and Bella was comforting him. “She never stopped –,” loving you, I thought I heard her say. The wind whistled between heir words. I picked out his words “… have cancer… three months or … wish we could have…”
I went back to my car, glanced at the van and started to cry.