Jackie Lawrence was in what she considered the best part of her life. The various struggles of the past were simply that, in the past. She could name them, chew on them, if she wanted, or allowed herself but these days she simple didn't bother.
She'd grown up with a name that she hated, Samantha Jacqueline. She'd often chided her Mom about where they came up with that name. Her Mom only ever smiled her soft enigmatic smile and said her usual: "Oh I like that name." Jackie surely didn't like it. She hadn't wanted to grow up known as "Sam", which was inevitable. But there it was, until she got into college and shed the "Sam" and the image that went with it, and fashioned herself as 'Jackie'.
And, of course there was the image. She'd been sort of heavy in high school. She wasn't really fat but she was 'she's only material to be a friend' heavy. She lived with that, sobbed about it personally and privately until a few things happened. Firstly, in college she discovered the track team and a love of running. She became a work out devote. She also grew an astounding two inches. The end result of her efforts was that Jackie Lawrence was a willowy 5'10" with raven black hair.
But that all changed with what she called 'the Brad incident'. Her athletic nature brought her into contact with various others with the same pursuits. Brad was one of those. He was an athlete. They did the normal; they 'fell in love' and got married. He promised to see her through school, since at an early age Jackie had aimed herself toward medical school.
But Brad turned out to be a whiner. He complained lustily and frequently that she was a millstone around his neck and that all his money was going into her schooling. He actually, to Jackie's immense relief, bailed out, when she was just beginning her med school education. He was the last of her 'Sam' friends before she turned herself into her present 'Jackie'.
So, Brad was gone. He was gone with great relief, when she agreed with him that they mutually foreswore any kind of obligation, financial obligation from each other. It pleased him to shut off what he saw as the flow of money to her education. She continued it then, with a little help from her parents. Of course, he never was able to work through the issue far enough to be able to see that in the future she would probably be the source of the money but for Brad 'that train had left the station', so to speak.
Jackie was a surgeon. It had become her dream and one that she followed with all the intensity that she'd put into her running and track career, or put into refashioning herself as 'Jackie', and not 'Sam'.
In the long process of getting that done, she shut down any thoughts of romance. She simply didn't get involved. She would often enough say to girl friends and those who prompted her to date that she'd been 'entertained quite enough by that kind of idea in her life', thank you.' It was her standard comeback for such suggestions.
She'd worked excessively hard and got to her goal. She was now a staff surgeon at a significant medical center. Once she was established in her practice, she allowed herself to buy an old home in a section of lovely old homes in the near suburbs of her city. She loved the old place and made it super comfortable for herself and her lifestyle.
Jackie took very good care of herself; she continued her exercises and continued running. She dressed with élan and was extremely popular around the hospital. She certainly had had date offers. She remained aloof from them. Her 'Brad Days' had, she thought, cured her of such romantic ideas and she just wasn't interested.
At her present age of 35, Jackie Lawrence was extremely pleased with her life, her practice, her appearance, and especially her home. It all pleased her. She also lived these days for those occasions when she was visited by her Mom or her Dad.
It was being a lovely and fairly rare day off for Jackie. She had decided on a late cup of tea on her patio behind the house. It was her favorite Irish Breakfast tea with sugar and evaporated milk, a true comfort drink. She was just enjoying the early morning sun and the sound of the birds when she was interrupted by a voice:
"Hi there!" came a small almost squeaky voice.
Jackie looked over and all she could see was a small blond head. The head of a little girl. Before Jackie could acknowledge the girl, the little girl spoke again:
"This is Mr Twig," she said, holding up a raggedy brown bear, "And I'm Sam, that's short for Samantha. I was named after my Mommie!"
"Well," Jackie said, both surprised but also completely taken in by the little tow headed, blue eyed girl and her Mr Twig bear, "I'm Jackie, and I'm afraid that I don't have a Mr Twig, so he's welcome here, and you are too."
"Thank you, Jackie," the little girl said with a winning smile that showed a gap where she'd lost her two front teeth.
"In case you're wondering," Sam continued, "Mr Twig and I are here with our Poppa. He' next door now doing some work on Mommie's house."
"How nice for all of you!" Jackie said.
"My Mommie's in heaven with God," Sam continued, "She had the cancer they told me; she got sick and went to God. Mr Twig and I miss her. I think that my Poppa misses her too. There are times when he's sad and has tears in his eyes. Mr Twig and I try to comfort him but he's still sad. Poppa says that he bought the house for my Mommie; it was her dream house and now that Mommie's with God, we'll fix it up and live in it. What do you do?"
Jackie was a bit taken back by the complete switch of topic at the end of the sentence but just smiled and said:
"I'm a doctor, Doctor Jackie is my name."
"Mr Twig and I are pleased to meet you, Dr. Jackie," Sam said then, making sure that the bear bowed to her new friend.
Just then a voice called out: "Sam! Sam!"
"Oh," Sam said, "That's my Poppa; he told me to be sure to not go toward the road and stay where he could see me. But then I saw you setting here and having such a nice morning that I thought that Mr Twig and I would come and say 'hello' to you."
Just then a man with dark curly hair and some gray at the temples came around the side of the house. He was wearing a pair of tan cargo pocket shorts and a tool belt.
"Sam, where'd you get off to?" the man said, just a second before seeing Jackie, who that morning had on a pair of running shorts and a tee shirt.
"Poppa," Sam said politely, "Mr Twig and I were just talking to our neighbor Dr Jackie." Sam smiled her toothless smile, obviously suffused with love for her Poppa and then went on: "Poppa this is Dr Jackie."
The man gave Jackie a smile and said: "Sorry to have the ambassador at loose; she was supposed to stay where I could see her."
"And away from the road, she tells me," Jackie said.
"Exactly," he said and advanced a few steps. "I'm Walt Williams, you already know Sam, Samantha and Mr Twig."
Jackie smiled a broad smile and said: "Pleased to meet you, Walt; I'm Jackie Lawrence. Sam and I are already fast friends."
"Don't you just love my name?" Samantha asked enthusiastically. "It's really Samantha, my Mommie's name, but I got to be called Sam. Mr Twig prefers just 'Sam', though, when I'm in trouble, it's usually 'Samantha'.
Jackie laughed at that and Walt joined her in the laugh.
"Sorry to have your morning disturbed," Walt said.
"Not at all," Jackie said, "I'm always 'in' to my friends; I'm having a day off, and just am lounging here over my tea. I was just going to invite Sam and Mr Twig to join me for tea and cookies. May she?"
Walt looked at Sam who got a huge grin on her face and said: "Poppa, oh, could we? Mr Twig would like it ever so much."
"I'll watch out for her, Walt," Jackie said.
"Thank you," he said, and then "Yes, honey, you and Mr Twig may visit with Dr. Jackie."
"Send her over, if you don't mind, when you need to, " he said to Jackie.
"I'll bring her, if I may," Jackie said.
"Perfect," Walt said and before turning to go, bent to give Sam a hug.
The little girl threw herself into her Poppa's arms and then presented Mr Twig for a hug. Jackie tinkled into laughter and Walt grinned at her and walked back to the work that he was doing on the house.
Tea With Mr Twig
"Well what about milk and cookies, while I have my tea?" Jackie asked.
"Super," Sam said, "Mr Twig and I really like milk and cookies; it's a favorite."
"Good," Jackie continued, "Would you like to come and help me or do you want to wait with Mr Twig?"
"I'd love to help you," Sam said, and went inside with Jackie.
"Your house is very nice," Sam said, as she looked around the kitchen area, with it's breakfast corner, where a round breakfast table was surrounded by a wall of windows that looked out onto the rambling back yard and the woods beyond.
"Thank you, Sam, I'm glad you like it," Jackie said.
"Mr Twig will like it also," Sam said with certainty in her voice.
"Oh, good," Jackie said, "I'm pleased that he would."
"What kind of cookies does Mr Twig like?" Jackie asked.
Sam went over to the walk in pantry where Jackie was and looked at the variety of cookies that were available.
"I like cookies," Jackie said, "Although I try to not eat too many; I watch my weight."
"Well, you're certainly not fat," Sam said again with certainty.
"Why, thank you," Jackie answered, as they picked out a few kinds of cookies to put on a decorative plate to take out to the patio.
"Will it be milk for you?" Jackie asked.
"Yes, ma'am," Sam said, "And I'll share mine with Mr Twig."
"Very thoughtful of you," Jackie said, and carried the plate of cookies and the glass of milk out to the patio.
They sat and had their cookies, talking companionably for a bit, when Sam said:
"I used to have tea parties with my Mom, before she got sick."
The thought was apparently too much for her. In about a moment, her face fell and she began to sob.
"I miss her so!" she said through tears that were coming quickly.
"Come, Sam," Jackie said, holding out her arms to the little girl, "Doctors give hugs."
Sam climbed down from her chair, grabbed Mr Twig and went into Jackie's arms. She curled into Jackie's lap and, turning her face, to Jackie's tee shirt, began to cry in earnest. That's when Walt appeared again. He stood for a moment just staring at the scene in front of him, and the way Jackie was cradling and caring for Sam.
"Hey?" he said but Jackie said to him:
"We're having a little sadness. Sam has been talking about having tea parties with her Mom."
Sam turned and seeing her father produced a smile. "I was telling Dr Jackie about Mommie," she said.
"Yes, honey, I know," he said, coming up to the patio and holding his arms out now for a hug of his own.
Sam looked up into her father's face and said softly:
"Poppa, Dr. Jackie would make a very nice Mommie..."
At that point Walt got red in the face and Jackie put her hand to her mouth to keep from laughing out loud, and then Sam went on:
"But, Dr. Jackie, we need another Samantha; it's Poppa's favorite name. I'm sorry."
Jackie got control of herself and said:
"I understand completely, Sam; but you and Mr Twig and I can certainly be friends, and whenever you're here and I am home, I'd like it if you came to visit me. Would you?"
"Oh, yes," Sam said enthusiastically, "Promise." Then she turned to her father again and said:
"Dr Jackie has such a lovely kitchen with a round table and all; I'm going to take Mr Twig in to see it, maybe she'd let you come in to see it too."
She looked at Jackie hopefully, once she'd said it and Jackie gave a brief laugh and said:
"Of course, Mr Twig and your Poppa are welcome to come in and see my kitchen."
They went in, single file and Sam showed her father around the kitchen, telling him what she liked about it. He was attentive and Jackie was secretly pleased. Once the tour was over, Walt said:
"I have to go to the hardware store; Jackie, is it possible for Sam to stay with you, while I'm gone?"
"Of course," Jackie said quickly, "I'd love it."
Sam smiled, and said: "You go, Poppa, Mr Twig and I are enjoying our visit with Dr Jackie."
They continued their 'tea party', and Walt stopped to tell Jackie that he was back, after just a little bit. He went back to work and Sam stayed with Jackie.
"Are you getting hungry?" Jackie asked, after just a while. "It's about lunch time."
"Yes, please," Sam said, "Can we make some lunch for Poppa too?"
"Well, I guess that we can," Jackie said. "What do you think he'd like?"
"Oh, I think he'd like best grilled cheese and tomato soup," Sam said with her usual certainty.
"Well that's what we'll have," Jackie said.
They busied themselves together making the lunch. Jackie got a stool for Sam to stand on and put an apron around her waist, since she wanted to help with the making of the lunch. When it was all finished, and ready, Jackie got a tray and loaded it with the soup, the grilled cheese sandwiches, cookies and drinks for all three of them, since Sam said that she and Mr Twig would, as usual, share.
Walt was surprised, pleasantly, when the girls arrived with the lunch in tow.
"Wow!" he said, "Lunch with beautiful women and a tray loaded with favorites."
Turning to Jackie he smiled broadly and said: "I really appreciate this; I know how much of an invasion of your day off this is."
"Not a bit of it," Jackie said, "I love the company, and Sam and I are such good friends, aren't we?"
"Sure are," Sam said, "I helped with the lunch; I had my own apron and all. I fixed the soup. Isn't it grand?"
Walt laughed and said: "Yes, it's just grand."
They ate their lunch in silence, and only after they were finished did Walt say to Jackie:
"I have only a little more to do here; she can stay here with me now."
"But Poppa," Sam protested, "I helped with the lunch and should help now with the cleaning up, I think."
Jackie smiled and nodded to Walt.
"Okay, pumpkin," he said, "You can help with the clean up but then I want you and his nibs Mr Twig to take a nap."
"Oh, can I nap at Dr Jackie's house?" Sam asked eagerly.
Jackie laughed and nodded at Walt again: "Yes, you can, honey;" she said, "If your Poppa doesn't mind."
"Thank you again," Walt said, "Sam normally stays with my sister, when I'm over here working on the house. She was busy today. It seems like such an imposition."
"It's not, really," Jackie said, putting her hand on his arm. "We're getting along famously. I'll put her down for a nap, once we've done the clean up and will let you know, when she's up and about."
"Thank you so much!" he said earnestly, smiling at her.
Jackie and Sam took the tray back to her house, once the lunch was all eaten. Jackie got out the pink apron that Sam had worn before, and once Mr Twig was seated at the kitchen table in the breakfast alcove, the two girls gathered at the sink to do the clean up.
"I used to help my Mommie," Sam said proudly.
"I bet you did," Jackie said, "And I appreciate the help that you're giving me."
They were finally done and Sam yawned.
"I guess it's time for you and Mr Twig to have your nap."
"Yes," Sam said, "We're getting tired."
"Well, come with me then," Jackie said, leading both the little girl and her bear up the stairs to her room. She had a king sized canopy bed that Sam just loved. Jackie helped her get up onto the bed with Mr Twig and put a cover over her.
"My Mommie would lie down with me and Mr Twig," Sam said softly.
"Then I will too," Jackie said, getting into bed and snuggling the little girl up to her.
"Thank you, Dr. Jackie," Sam said and with the swiftness of youth, slipped into slumber.
Jackie had tears in her eyes, as she held onto the little girl, saying softly to herself:
"No, thank you Samantha."
Her mind lingered over the little girl's name and all of her past struggle with being a 'Sam' came back to her, only this time it didn't seem as bad a name as she once had thought it.
She'd had a run that morning and was herself drowsy in a few minutes. She woke up after about a half hour with Sam still curled in her arms. She lay there until Sam woke about twenty minutes later.
Sam opened her eyes and smiled at Jackie, saying a soft:
"Hi, Dr Jackie! Thank you for the nap on this pretty bed."
"It's my pleasure, love," Jackie said, leaning over to kiss Sam's cheek and being both surprised and pleased by the fact that Sam moved her face also and gave her a kiss at the same time.
"We're gonna be good friends, Dr Jackie, don't you think?" Sam asked softly.
"Oh, I think we're gonna be the best friends ever," Jackie said, realizing that she meant it.
Jackie took Sam for a brief wash up, once the nap was done. Then the two of them decided to go an look for Walt. They were walking hand in hand, and Mr Twig was under Sam's arm, when they found him at the house next door.
Sam ran to her father and hugged him, as soon as she saw him.
"Oh, Poppa," she said, "Dr Jackie has a big, big bed with a cover over it; it's ever so lovely, and she napped with Mr Twig and me, just like Momma used to. It was so nice!"
Walt smiled at her and gave her a kiss. His glance at Jackie was one full of the greatest possible appreciation. Jackie understood, nodding at him.
"That's marvelous, pumpkin," he said to Sam. "And you know what? I'm finished here for today and we can go home."
"Ice creams on the way?" Sam asked.
"Ice creams on the way," Walt said.
Sam went to Jackie then and gave her a hug. Jackie bent down and gave, and got a kiss from Sam.
"Thank you, Dr Jackie," Sam said, "For letting me spend the time with you."
"Well, we're good friends," Jackie said, "You need to come and see me again."
"We should show Poppa your lovely bed," Sam said, her enthusiasm boiling over.
"We will," Jackie said, "Maybe next time."
"Goodie!" Sam said.
Jackie waved to them, as they drove away, and went to her house with a sigh and a smile on her face. It was only about 15 minutes later, as she was sitting and reading a magazine, that the doorbell rang.
Jackie went to it and was surprised to see Walt standing there. He was holding a soft chocolate ice cream cone.
Jackie smiled broadly at him and waved to Sam, sitting in his truck.
"How nice!" Jackie said, "Thank you."
"We didn't want you to feel left out, and thank you again. I know she can be a handful."
"She's delightful," Jackie said.
Then Walt got a strange, almost embarrassed, look on his face and said:
"May I ask you to dinner to, um, say a proper 'thank you'?"
Jackie was taken aback by it but realized immediately that she was very pleased by the invitation.
"I'd like that!" she said.
"What's your schedule," he said, "I imagine that it's more complicated than mine."
"Well, this weekend would probably suit me just fine," she said.
"I understand," he said, "Friday?"
"Friday's good," she said, "Eightish?"
"Good," he answered, and seemed pleased with himself.
"Dress?" she asked.
"I'll wear a sport coat," he said.
"Fine, I can judge from that," was her reply.
He left her smiling and she got another wave from Sam.
Dinner With Walt
She was tingling, when he left. She almost forgot the ice cream cone. The entire event had her off balance a bit: the ice cream cone, those waves from Sam, who was in the car, and finally Walt's asking her to dinner. She was approaching giddy.
She had a quick remedy. She called her nurse assistant, a member of her surgical team, office mate and close friend.
Doris answered the phone in a professional tone saying: "Dr. Lawrence's office."
"Doris," Jackie said in a rush, "What are you doing there?"
"Someone's got to make sure the money machine doesn't stall, boss," Doris said with obvious humor. "What can I do for you, boss?"
"Help!" Jackie cried into the phone.
"What?" Doris asked, now getting anxious.
"I have a date and I NEED HELP!" Jackie said.
Doris' response was to cheer, and then: "Good for you! About time! Who? When? Tell me! Tell me!"
Jackie went over today's incidents one step at a time and finished with Walt bringing back the ice cream cone and asking her to dinner.
"What do I do?" Jackie asked plaintively.
"I'm about done here," Doris said, "I'll be right over."
"Thank you!" Jackie said sighing.
Doris was as good as her word. She and her husband Al had even tried to fix up Jackie at times but Jackie never was interested. Doris was excited about this news.
Jackie was waiting for her at the door. She opened the door and Doris came in with her arms spread out wide, saying: "Ooooooooo! Aren't you excited!"
"I'm too nervous to be excited," Jackie said complaining. "Give me a complicated injury to deal with any time."
"No, boss," Doris said, "We'll get you fixed up. So, it's on Friday, right?"
"Yes," Jackie said. "Tea?" But Doris opted to go with Jackie first to look over her wardrobe.
They were looking through clothes and Doris said: "You know, Jackie, almost any of these frocks that you wear for hospital functions would serve very nicely. We could always opt for the little black dress idea."
"Do you think?" Jackie asked.
"I do indeed," Doris said. "Let's look at these two. Try them on and we'll see."
After deciding on a dress, they took time then to look over accessories and decided on a pearl necklace and not much more to accessorize. By the time they were finished and ready for tea, Jackie felt much better about it.
They sat at Jackie's kitchen table and Doris asked:
"So what is it about this guy?"
"Well," Jackie admitted, "I already love his daughter."
"You mean 'Sam'?" Doris asked.
"Yes, Sam," Jackie said, and then went into some of the details that she hadn't previously given Doris. She spoke about Sam crying about her Mom and how she comforted the little girl, and then what she said to her father about making a good Mom but that they were holding out for a Samantha.
"Did you tell them?" Doris asked.
"Of course not!" Jackie said, "I'm not going to raise my hand and tell the world that my name is Samantha."
"I think that maybe you should," Doris said, laughing again.
"Fine help you are," Jackie said but then immediately said to Doris:
"Hey, I really appreciate the help here. I would have died on the vine trying to get myself ready."
"No, you're just out of practice is all," Doris said, heading toward the door.
That Friday Jackie was turned out in spectacular fashion. She faced herself in the mirror, when she was all dressed and said:
"Impressive!" Then the thought climbed into her mind: "Hope he likes the way I look." Just then the doorbell rang.
Walt was smiling, when she opened the door but soon it turned to an all out stare for a few seconds.
"Sorry," he said, "Left my manners at home with the chickens."
Jackie giggled and said: "Really, nicest compliment that I've had in a long, long time."
"All ready?" he asked.
"Yes," she said, as they walked to his car.
"How's my pal and Mr Twig?" she asked him.
"She's spectacular," he said, "She warned me, as I left, to remember that we're looking for another Samantha." He was laughing at the end of the statement.
She just swallowed and giggled too. She said nothing.
They got in the car and he said: "Jackie, you look so lovely!"
"Yes," she said, "Different from tee and running shorts."
"Lovely in those also," was his statement and she blushed.
"Sorry, didn't mean to make you blush," he said then, and in answer she simply touched his arm.
She spoke to him then, aiming for honesty:
"Walt, I haven't dated for years. Friends have given up on me. I was married before to a senseless, shallow jock, who declared that he was spending too much money on me, while I was working toward my goals. He left and I gave up men and just concentrated on work. I'm not even sure that I know how to act on a date anymore."
"You're doing fine," he said. There was a silence and he picked it up and asked:
"What kind of doctor are you?"
"I'm a surgeon," she said.
"Oh," he commented, "You were so great with Sam that I was sure that you were a psychologist or something like that."
"No," she said, smiling, "I guess that Sam and I and Mr Twig just have chemistry."
"I have to say that she doesn't always take to people well, or often quickly. I was amazed at the way she acted with you the other day."
"She is so sweet," Jackie said. "It was a lovely day. Did you know that she asked me to nap with her?"
"No," he answered, "She didn't tell me that part."
Jackie explained about the scene in her bedroom. Walt just sighed, and said:
"Losing her mother was so hard on her."
"Can't have been easy for you either," Jackie said, putting her hand on his arm.
"No, difficult time; I got cheers from my sister, when she learned that I was going out on a date."
"I had the same response from my best friend, the nurse practitioner from my practice." She laughed then, and went on to explain to him her call to Doris in a panic.
"Panic, yes, I know the word well," he said, "But here we are."
The dinner, it turned out, was lovely; they both did relax with one another. Jackie proceeded to give him details of her problems with Brad, and he talked about the terrible time when he was losing his 'Sam' to cancer. Their conversation was soft but received with a great deal of understanding from each of them.
"So," he said, "A surgeon."
"Yes," she said, "General surgery but I've done a lot of emergency stuff too. Generally everything comes my way. But I'm having fun with it."
"Wow!" he marveled, "Not sure I've ever heard a doctor say that kind of thing."
They talked about his job as high school basketball coach for one of the local high schools. By then they were finished with their dinner and ready to head home.
He took her to her house and she asked him if he wanted to come in. He accepted and she got them each an after dinner drink. She put on some music and they sat companionably and talked still some more.
As they talked, they talked a bit about dating habits. He laughed and said: "In 'my day' or maybe 'our day' it was always a big decision about kissing on the first date. It's changed."
She laughed, when he said that and agreed with him that things had, indeed changed.
They walked to the door, and at the door she said to him: "Walt, at least one thing is certain, I'm not letting you out of this house without a kiss."
"Oh, yes," he said, and put his arms around her.
The kiss was really spectacular.
"Wow!' she said, "Some kisser, Walt!"
"Wow yourself," he said.
Then as he was turning to go: "Walt, thank you for a lovely evening and say hello to that precious little girl of yours and her Mr Twig."
He turned and smiled at her: "I will give a good report about you to my sister. I promised to call her as soon as I got home."
She laughed and said: "Yes, I have to call my nurse practitioner Doris to report on you. I'll say the best for you."
She watched him as he went to his car; when he was gone, she closed the door and leaned against the door just smiling to herself.
"Very nice, Walt Williams," she said, "Very nice."
Walt Comes Again
It was several days later. Jackie had just gotten home from the hospital. She'd had a long day, and a very busy one. She gave herself the luxury of a glass of wine before her shower, and dinner.
As she was walking toward the cabinet with the wine in it, she glanced out the side window and noticed that Walt's truck was parked at the house next door. She only saw it briefly before she heard the door bell ring.
She went, anticipating already that it was Walt, and upon opening it, saw him standing there. He seemed a bit lost.
"Walt?" she said, pleased to see him.
"Maybe out for dinner?"
"Great!" she said, "Can we take Sam and Mr Twig with us?"
"She'll love that," he responded.
He simply gazed at her then and said: "Jackie, I'm so overwhelmed by this thing that has grown between us; I can't explain it. I know it's not down to only how Sam reacts to you. It's just so amazing to me."
She answered softly: "I know and I agree, Walt; it's so scary but, I think, manageable; at least it feels right." and then she leaned in to kiss him.
"It does that," he said, kissing her back.
Sam was over the moon, when she realized that her friend Dr. Jackie was with her Poppa. The two of them were met at the door by Walt's sister, Judy, and right behind her came Sam with Mr Twig.