What Would You Do ‘In Sam’s Shoes?’
I’m winding down a ghostwriting project, a fictional book a client hired me to write that is based on real-life events. We’re looking forward to releasing it sometime around the end of July, but in the meantime, I wanted to share some excerpts.
The grand, mahogany casket loomed large ahead of her, topped by a massive cascading bouquet of pink roses. Around the perimeter of the room, display tables dressed in white linens bore artifacts of a life well lived, from golf memorabilia to seemingly trivial trinkets. The focal point of the entire collection was an exquisite eight-by-ten crystal frame bearing a formal wedding photo of a bride and groom in happier days. To the casual observer, the smiling couple represented an ideal – the beautiful, wholesome wife and the handsome all-American groom dressed in the finest attire befitting the occasion, their pedigree, and their lifestyle. On either side of this centerpiece, smaller and much plainer frames told the story of a father’s love for his sons, with images of the recently departed engaged in various activities with them like playing basketball and camping out in the woods.
As the funeral home worker entered the room, Sam stood at a distance with her back turned to the unfolding scene a few feet away. She could hear the rustling of the flowers and the barely audible sound of the casket lid moving against its hinges to reveal the body at rest inside. She trembled at the thought of laying eyes upon his still, lifeless form and doubted she had the strength to confront the reality of this devastating, unexpected loss.
Consumed by torturous thoughts, she continued to stare out at the hallway minutes after the woman had left her in privacy again. How was she going to handle the sight of his hideously disfigured face? The thought of staring at a nasty patchwork of scars stubbornly protruding through a heavy layer of funeral parlor make-up was just too much to bear. Her entire body convulsed as she broke down in uncontrollable weeping.
Why? Why did this have to happen? Why now? Why at all?
“Sam?” She heard Shannon’s soft voice behind her. “I have to tell you he looks normal. I think you’re going to be OK looking at him.”
She slowly turned to face her sister. “You really think so?”
Shannon placed her hands on Sam’s shoulders in a gesture of comfort and confidence.
“Yes, yes I really do. I’d never tell you that if I didn’t believe it. But I can stay here in the room with you if you want; I’ll just hang out in the back.”
“No, no – I have to do this alone. Please.”
Sam drew her into a hug, appreciative of her unwavering support. She then watched until the door closed behind Shannon, leaving her alone with her soulmate for the last time.
She clutched her tissues in one hand as she strode past the oddly arranged folding chairs that appeared as if they’d been set up for a round of the classic children’s musical game. Instead of facing the front of the room, they faced the side walls, as if unwilling to confront the reality of death.
Filled with determination and resolve, Sam took a gulp of air and reached out to touch the side of the casket to steady herself. Then she opened her eyes wide.
Oh, my God, not a scratch. A dried-up creek, two inches of water. How can this be? How can he possibly look like the sweet manly man I loved?
She was dumbfounded as she gazed at his perfect face. For a few moments, all she could do was stare at him in silence and wish that the entire scene was nothing more than a nightmare from which she’d awaken at any second. She placed her hand on his cheek and reacted to its icy coldness as a fresh wave of sorrow engulfed her.
“Baby, I love you! I love you so much. What the hell happened? Why? Why did you get on that bike? Why? How could you just leave me like this!”
She dropped to her knees and prayed out loud through staccato breaths. “God, I need you. I have nowhere else to turn. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. Please, give me the strength to focus on my kids. I promise, I’ll spend more time praying and appreciating the good things in my life. Just please, help me.”
Sam pleaded and cried until she was utterly spent. Then she wiped her face and got back on her feet just as Shannon re-entered the room to check on her.
“Let’s go,” Sam ordered.
“But the lady said we could stay as long as you need. You don’t have to rush; there’s plenty of time before the funeral – “
“I’m done. It’s time to move on and heal.”
“Ok, whatever you want.”
Shannon followed her big sister out to the hallway, hoping this little episode signified the beginning of her new life. God knew, she’d been through enough heartache for one human being.
As she pondered the significance of his words, Sam felt as if she’d been the target of a prank played on her by a sadistic Universe that took pleasure in her pain. Why else had their relationship unfolded with such ease and serendipity, only to crash and burn in the worst way imaginable? There was no other woman, at least none that she was aware of. It was much worse than that. Her husband, who had vowed to love her forever, simply didn’t want her to be his partner anymore as he pursued a dream she fully supported. It didn’t make any sense.
Her knees buckled as she dissolved into anguished tears on the sofa. While the sight of her crying tugged at his heart, Alec made no move to comfort her. After a few minutes of listening to her sobs, he announced, “I want a divorce.”
When she exited the revolving glass doors, the early summer sun bathed her in its intense heat in stark contrast to the conference room’s frigid air-conditioning. She squinted and sighed in frustration as she fumbled through her purse in search of her sunglasses and keys while walking as fast as she could from the scene.
Then she saw it.
Alec’s six-month-old Pathfinder parked in a shaded area in a remote corner of the lot. She glanced behind her at the building entrance, but there was no sign of him or anyone else. Emboldened, she picked up her pace, incited by a fresh wave of undiluted rage. Although a desire for revenge had never been part of her intrinsic make-up, the finality of the morning’s events had triggered new and overpowering emotions that won out over lingering heartache and depression. She’d just allowed this man to walk away unscathed after he rewarded her devotion by making her a divorcee at an age when most of her friends hadn’t yet married for the first time. He deserved some sort of punishment.
She approached the passenger side at the back bumper and, before she could change her mind, dragged her key across the length of the car. Shaking, she stood at the front bumper for a moment to inspect her handiwork before the slam of a door a few feet behind her brought her back to reality. Heart pounding, she spun around and was relieved to discover it was nothing more than two business people engrossed in their own conversation as they headed toward the office building. She exhaled deeply, then proceeded in the direction of her Accord before her new ex-husband could discover what she’d done.
By early December, Sam and David had gone out a few times. But the more hours she spent in his company, the more dramatic the differences between him and Alec became. Stability and maturity aside, she missed that passion and questioned whether it had to be an either/or proposition. Wasn’t it possible to find a combination of Alec and David in someone else? Could Alec just need another year or two of sowing his oats before coming back to her? With every ounce of her being, she wanted to believe it could happen. One night, as if reading her mind, David asked some pointed questions as they sat in a small bistro sipping cappuccino after seeing The Santa Clause 2 with Tim Allen.
“Sam, I hope you don’t mind my asking, but what is the nature of your relationship with Alec? I know you see him from time to time and I was just wondering if you were hoping to work things out with him. I’m just a regular guy, not an up-and-coming country music singer, and I don’t want to hang out with you if you’re still in love with your ex-husband.”
She experienced a powerful twinge of guilt. In fact, not only had she been fantasizing about Alec, she’d seen him several times since she and David had begun dating. Torn over how to explain their relationship to him, she’d chosen to avoid the topic altogether. But now that he’d confronted her directly, it was time to address the situation. She took a deep breath.
“Look, David, there’s nothing going on between Alec and me. We’re truly just friends. We were married for five years and we’ve kinda been through a lot of life together, but we’re not reconciling. I’m on my own path; he’s on his own path. For all I know, he’ll be heading to Nashville tomorrow for his big break. And I do know he’s been enjoying the companionship of groupies, if you know what I mean. There’s nothing you need to worry about.” As she spoke the words, she wondered who she was trying to convince more.
Stay tuned for more details as we get closer to the publication of In Sam’s Shoes! Interested in learning more about my ghostwriting services? Contact me.