Chapter OneSAM AND I are sitting on a mostly deserted beach on Lake Michigan a little north of the Drake Hotel in Chicago. The Drake is filled with treasured memories for both of us, and we had dinner at our favorite table there earlier. I need to be with Sam tonight, because it's one year since, well, everything happened that shouldn't have happened-it's one year since Danny died.
"This is the spot where I met Danny, Sam. In May, six years ago," I say.
Sam is a good listener who holds eye contact beautifully and is almost always interested in what I have to say, even when I'm being a bore, like now. We've been best friends since I was two, maybe even before that. Just about everybody calls us "the cutest couple," which is a little too saccharine for both of our tastes. But it happens to be true.
"Sam, it was freezing that night Danny and I met, and I had a terrible cold. To make it worse, I had been locked out of our apartment by my old boyfriend Chris, that awful beast."
"That despicable brute, that creep," Sam contributes. "I never liked Chris. Can you tell?"
"So this nice guy, Danny, comes jogging by and he asks if I'm all right. I'm coughing and crying and a total mess. And I say, 'Do I look like I'm all right? Mind your own blanking business. You're not going to pick me up, if that's what you're thinking. Scram!'" I snorted a laugh Sam's way.
"That's where I got my nickname, 'Scram.' Anyway, Danny came back on the second half of his run. He said he could hear me coughing for two miles down the beach. He brought me coffee, Sam. He ran up the beach with a hot cup of coffee for a complete stranger."
"Yes, but a beautiful stranger, you have to admit."
I stopped talking, and Sam hugged me and said, "You've been through so much. It's awful and it's unfair. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all better for you."
I pulled out a folded, wrinkled envelope from the pocket of my jeans. "Danny left this for me. In Hawaii. One year ago today."
"Go ahead, Jennifer. Let it out. I want to hear everything tonight."
I opened the letter and began to read. I was already starting to choke up.
Dear, wonderful, gorgeous Jennifer ...
You're the writer, not me, but I had to try to put down some of my feelings about your incredible news. I always thought that you couldn't possibly make me any happier, but I was wrong.
Jen, I'm flying so high right now I can't believe what I'm feeling. I am, without a doubt, the luckiest man in the world. I married the best woman, and now I'm going to have the best baby with her. How could I not be a pretty good dad, with all that going for me? I will be. I promise.
I love you even more today than I did yesterday, and you wouldn't believe how much I loved you yesterday.
I love you, and our little "peanut." ... Danny.
Tears started to roll down my cheeks. "I'm such a big baby," I said. "I'm pathetic."
"No, you're one of the strongest women I know. You've lost so much, and you're still fighting."
"Yeah, but I'm losing the battle. I'm losing. I'm losing real bad, Sam."
Then Sam pulled me close and hugged me, and for the moment at least, it was all better-just like always.