by Melanie-Anne

You told her it was over. You told her that it was finished. You couldn't hurt the girls, you said.

She understood, she said.

And for a while (a week or so, maybe less) you were okay with it. As the days passed, you decided you were doing the right thing. You knew it was true because the right thing is never the easy thing.

When you looked at your wife, you couldn't help thinking of another woman - the Other Woman.

No, you say, Samantha was never the Other Woman to you. She was more. She was-

Stop thinking about her, you say. (It never helps.)

You've made your choice. You picked your family over your heart. Your vows (remember those?) over words whispered in the dead of night. So when she asked, you could tell her it really was over (and you prayed she couldn't see the lie in your eyes).

You might have been able to continue the deception indefinitely, had it not been for Barry Mashburn and a bullet.

You hated the fear in her voice just before it happened (your fault, you sent her in there!), hated the terror you felt when you heard the gunshot.

When Mashburn wouldn't let her go, you had to go in and get her. When you saw her lying on the floor, bleeding, in pain, you wanted to kill him. (That's how you could identify with him, you realized later: you almost lost Samantha the way he lost his wife.)

You knew then that you loved her. That it had never been 'just an affair'. That you were well and truly fucked, because how could you go back to pretending that nothing had ever happened? She would always know what you had done for her. Everyone would know.

And there was Mashburn, thinking he was better than you were because he loved his wife. Condemning you for ruining your marriage. For hurting your kids. (Umm, Barry, you wanted to say, you don't think this is hurting your kids?)

So what if, maybe, when Mashburn had the gun against your head, a small part of you actually wanted him to pull the trigger? But you thought of your girls and held your tongue. Thought of Marie and how you were going to explain your actions (I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking, she was injured, I would have done it for any other agent.)


Thought of Samantha, and what to say to her (I'm sorry, I love you, I'm sorry I love you.)


You don't remember how you got Mashburn out of there or Van Doren's words to you. You don't remember what Marie said when she woke up to find you watching her.

You do remember how hard it was not to rush straight to the hospital instead of going home (A decision is a decision, Jackie boy, your father used to say).

You remember the nausea rising in your throat when forensics gave you the bullet. You intended to give it to Samantha, but you never did. You visited the hospital when she was sleeping because you didn't know what to say. You kissed her forehead and smoothed back her hair, and thought of countless other times you'd done that.

And how you would never do it again.

You had no idea how you were going to handle this when she came back to work. It never occurred to you that she would do anything but come back to work.

She sent you a postcard from San Francisco and signed it 'Love Sam'. That was six months ago and you haven't heard from her since. (The postcard lives in the bottom drawer of your desk; you look at it every day.) San Francisco . . . she couldn't get farther away if she tried.

Days turn into nights turn into weeks . . . You find yourself humming snatches of a half-forgotten song: If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair. You wonder if she does, if she's changed at all, if someone else is whispering to her at night and calling her Sam. (I like it when you call me Sam, she'd said, but only you, only like this.)

Still, you hope she's happy and that she thinks of you as often as you think of her. And you get on with your life (isn't that what you told Barry Mashburn to do?).

A decision is a decision, Jackie boy.

Even if it's wrong.


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