Chapter 41

As Ashley had a lot of cleaning to do she decided to stay at home and relax. The house was quiet after three days of chaos and she already missed them terribly.

As she was sorting her mails and enjoying her cup of tea she heard the bell ring. She opened the door and it was a flower delivery guy. It was from one of her colleague and she signed it and looked for a place to keep it when she heard her door bell ring again. This time it was a parcel. Then she had a phone call to return and it was almost 3 o’clock in the evening and she desperately needed a shower.

She filled the bathtub with hot water and added lavender drops to sooth her frayed senses and brought her statue with her and placed it in front of her and turned on the music and relaxed and replayed the day of the Oscars in her mind.

She felt happy and light and unexplainable sense of déjà vu as if something important was coming her way. She nearly drifted off to sleep there and awoke suddenly to the sound of her door bell ringing.

“Oh my gosh it looks like the bell again. I’m not sure though.” She got off in a hurry and flung a robe around her. She heard the bell ringing again. She was sure it was another delivery and was thinking what a waste of money that all the flowers were coming to her on the same day. She pulled her hair into a ponytail and rushed to the door and opened it before looking into the peephole.

There was the biggest delivery of the day a bouquet with her favorite blue lilies and a card with it saying Tracy Nolan.

Her hands shook while she signed her name. She closed the door and put the flowers gently on the table and opened the card.

“Ashley, Congratulations. My family and myself are in the process of building a home for foster kids in Woodstock, Connecticut near New Haven. We congratulate you on using the media for creating awareness for such an important issue. We are proud of you. Tracy Nolan.” Please visit our website regarding our organization. Hoping to hear from you soon.

She held the card to her chest. There was no phone numbers or address written. So she immediately logged onto her computer and looked up at the website. She clicked on the about page and there was a picture of Sam standing with his arms around a few kids with his huge smile. It was so good to see him after all these years. She saw a picture of his mom (she assumed) reading books to little kids around her. She went to the contact us page and looked up the address and then she knew what she should do.

Just then her phone rang and it was Jackie.

“Hey we just landed and thank god the kids slept all the way.”

“Good. I miss them already. Jackie I need to talk to you. I got a flower bouquet from Sam’s mom I think.”

“What are you kidding me? From his mom?”

“Apparently they have an organization in Woodstock to help kids in foster care and she took the card and read it out to Jackie. I just looked up at their website and sure enough there is a picture of him and his mom.”

“I had five missed calls and the caller ID just shows UNKNOWN. I was assuming it might be Sam.”

“I need to see him one last time. Of late I have been wondering how he is doing and have to admit I am having my regrets.”

“Ah Ashley. You have accomplished so much and it’s been how long now, almost ten years. What if he is happily married to that Ms.Perfect and has five perfect kids with her. So please Ashley just let it rest and try to move on as he has.”

“But as I am speaking to you. I have already booked my flight for tomorrow to New Haven. I have been thinking too much all my life and for a change I want to listen to my heart and I want to see him again. I am sure he is married and all, but I have to….Jackie.”

“I’m glad that I get to see you again here. But I don’t want my best friend to be hurt or anything.”

“Ah! Don’t worry dear friend. I have an iron heart!”

“See you soon then.”

Chapter 40

It was one of the happiest days in Ashley’s life. She was glowing and all her teammates surrounded her and congratulated her. The party after the Oscars was fun. Ashley drank and danced like she never had and she was glad that Jackie and Jason were there along with her. When they got home it was almost 3 am.

Jackie saw five missed calls from a number UNKNOWN on her list she wondered who it would be. May be Sam? She thought and prayed he had seen the Oscars. Jackie turned back to see Jason sound asleep. But it was before long that she fell asleep wondering and praying that Sam had seen the Oscars too.

Within two hours the kids were awake and woke up Jackie and Jason who could barely open their eyes.

In her excitement Ashley wasn’t able to sleep much. She was already awake and called the kids down for breakfast. The smell of pancakes brought those little feet down quicker than her voice. They all wanted to hold the Oscars and Ashley took a picture of each of them with the statue. She opened the newspaper to see her picture with the Oscars and an article about her speech about foster cares.

She got a call from two organizations which were helping foster children requesting her to be their ambassador. She got a call from a magazine too who wanted an interview from her. Ashley felt she needed time to adjust to this new limelight.

Jackie walked down the stairs with a childlike grin on her face.
“Hey why are you up so early? You go and sleep I’ll take care of the kids. The nanny said she would be here in another hour. So go back to sleep.”

But Jackie was still smiling and came around and hugged Ashley and said “I’m so proud of you.”

“Thanks. I think you have already told me that yesterday.”

“Yes. But it feels so unreal to see that shining statue on the kitchen counter. Never in my life had I dreamt of a night like that, never.”

“Hmmmm…yes it does feel unreal. But the reality of it is hitting me hard now. People are calling me to be an ambassador for their organization and two magazines want my interview. Gosh I didn’t think about all this before and don’t like this attention one bit.”

“Ashley all this will settle down in a week or two and you can carry on your work as usual. You have used this opportunity to bring to light about the children of foster care. I’m sure many people will definitely think about it and may be bring more children into their homes. You’ve got to use this fame to bring about more awareness and the much needed funds. Who better than you to be their ambassador? So as always go for it girl.”

“Ashley I don’t want them to pry into my personal life. I really don’t want them to ask me questions about Sam or any of my past foster care experiences.”

“Always give the same answer with a big smile, “I would like to skip that question.” It is as easy as that. So don’t worry.” Jackie looked at her with admiration and smiled.

Ashley hesitated for a while and asked “Jackie do you think Sam would have seen the Oscars?”

“You have to be hiding under a rock to not hear about the Oscars. I’m sure he would have seen it.”

“Hmmm….” She pondered for a while.

“So Ashley I know I’m asking you for the millionth time. Don’t you want to find someone to share your life with?”

“Maybe. I’ve been so focused on my career that I didn’t have the time for anything else. But love has to happen by itself. How can I go looking for it? I’m sure at the right time I’ll be meeting the right guy for me. So until then I’m happy being with myself!” she looked up at Jackie to see her with a goofy smile on her face.

“Hey Jackie from the time you woke up you have this funny grin on your face. Come on what is it? You know you can’t hide anything from me.”

“So you are ready now isn’t it?”

Ashley brought her eyebrows together with curiosity and asked “So are you going to set me on a date with someone? You are the only one who hasn’t done it so go ahead! I’m ready now!” she jumped from her stool with her hands up and did a turn and bowed to Jackie.

Jackie heard her kids squabbling and walked out to the lawn to see what was going on. Ashley followed her and was tickled to see the fight going on between the kids and one of them nearly in tears.
She felt proud to see Jackie handling them with ease and patience and seeing the pouts on the little ones face made her want to go and hug him.

At the right moment the nanny rung the bell and Jackie sighed with relief. The lack of sleep and too much drink were causing her a headache.

It didn’t seem like a Monday at all, at home she would be so busy getting the kids ready and trying to squeeze in all the house work and taking care of the business calls too. She was to leave California the next day and was sad in one way. Ashley had taken a week off. She wanted the excitement to wear off and spend time with Jackie and the kids. She called the magazines and set up a time for the interview on Friday. The organization that she had volunteered for had sent her a bouquet and she planned to visit them soon and become the voice for this organization because she knew what they were about. She wanted to reorganize her things because she had neglected them for too long and not think about work.

When Jason woke up all of them decided to head to the beach with the kids.
The kids squealed and brought the excitement on for Jackie who had wanted to stay at home and relax.
The weather was perfect and they had the most amazing time at the beach.
Ashley loved children and the kids were always asking her to play with them. While Jackie and Jason relaxed Ashley took care of the kids. When they headed back home in the evening the kids were already asleep before they got down.
The next day Jackie and Jason were all set to leave, Ashley felt a lump form in her throat. Though she had very good friends here she felt like herself only with Jackie.

“Ashley, why don’t you think about moving back to the east? You know I can’t move the whole team and business here but I really wish you would think along those lines.” She said touching her cheeks.

“I surely will Jackie. I miss the kids too. I will definitely see what I can do.”

They hugged each other and the kids gave her some sloppy kisses and got ready to board the plane.

Chapter 42

Ashley was nervous and apprehensive about going unannounced. Thinking about Veronica and meeting her made her even more uneasy but this time the voice inside her was louder than her head and she was ready to face anything just to see him once.

She packed her things and made arrangements for her dogs and took the flight to New Haven. She didn’t even want to meet Jackie for the fear that she might succeed in changing her mind. So she got the cab and drove down to Woodstock.

The closer she came to the exit towards Woodstock the more her heart raced. Woodstock was a typical American small town. She wanted to ask around to find where he lived right now. The voice in her head was screaming at her saying that she was stupid to do this and was sure that he would not even welcome her into his house.

But she kept pressing the accelerator. Being a small town she assumed people would know about each other. She got down at a gas station and enquired about Sam Nolan’s whereabouts. She remembered his mother’s name was Tracy and the guy at the gas station immediately recognized who she was talking about and gave the direction and said that she would be able to tell her where her son was living now.

Their house was almost at the outskirts of the town. It was a dirt road with tall grass on either side leading to the address that she had on her google map. At the end of the road stood a house surrounded by maple trees and a white picket fence around it. It looked like a picture from a magazine. She parked her car and walked towards the house to hear the scream of kids from the backyard. She wondered whether they were Sam’s kids.

“Maybe they are over to their grandma’s house.” She thought and opened the gate to walk into the cobbled pathway leading to the house with a porch. Flower pots overflowing with flowers hung from the roof. She rang the bell and stood there waiting. But no one answered.

So she walked around the house to see two boys chasing each other with a sword. An older woman was on her knees working in the garden and a few yards from the house she saw another structure for a house and two men – One was cutting the plywood and another holding it. They had helmet on and she could not see their faces as they were turning the other side. With all this noise no wondered no one heard the bell she thought.

She stood there with a black over coat and her Gucci handbag and sun glasses for a moment waiting to see if anyone would turn around.

Finally the kids noticed her and screamed and all of them turned around at the same moment to see her.

Ashley froze when all the eyes were on her.

Ashley immediately felt that the older woman must be Sam’s mom because she had the same piercing grey eyes and smile. She walked towards her and said.

“Hi are you looking for someone?”

She removed her sunglasses and spoke nervously “I’m looking for Sam Nolan. The guy at the gas station said that you would be able to help me.”

“Yes surely. I am his mom and may I know who I am talking to?”

“I’m sorry. I am Ashley and I was his student years ago. I was passing by this side and thought I would just swing by to see him. Is he here?”

“So you are the Ashley? You look taller in person than on TV and prettier too.”

“Thanks and you must be Mrs. Tracy Nolan?” Ashley asked with apprehension.

“Yes I am. So you got the bouquet that we sent you on behalf of our organization?”

“Yes I did and those lilies were lovely. Thank You so much.” She leaned over to give her a gentle hug.

“That is indeed a great achievement. You will be an inspiration for many more kids now. Sam is at the computer center and will be here in half an hour for lunch. Please come inside. You must be tired after your drive.”

“Yes a bit. Or if you give me the address to the center I can go there.”

“It would take you another half hour drive from here honey. He would be closing that place and heading home right now. I don’t want you to miss him again would I?” she spoke with a teasing smile.

“Come in. Come in. I have plenty for food and we can all have lunch.”

“Kids put those swords down and come in for lunch. Ted you too.” She yelled.

“Who is that?” he yelled back.

“Sam’s friend.” She said and winked.

Ashley was becoming nervous on hearing her talk. She spoke as if she knew Ashley and had a grin planted on her face.

“So how is Sam? Are those his kids?”
“No. We are fostering these two kids.” she nodded. “So you really don’t know anything that happened to him?” she asked her curiously.

“To tell you the truth I haven’t been in touch with him and it has been almost ten years since I’ve seen him.” Her eyes were glistening with tears.

She walked into the dining room with the smell of spaghetti sauce wafting through the air and her stomach grumbled reminding her that she had been drinking only coffee since the time she took the flight.

“What can I get you honey? Some juice? You look really flushed. Please have a seat.”

Ashley was becoming nervous by the minute. She sat down on one of the chairs in the kitchen. For a second she felt like bolting through the door and going the same way she had driven and then when she looked at the wall diagonally opposite to her she saw the painting that she had given.

“You are a good artist. That’s a pretty picture.” Tracy handed her a glass of lemonade.


The kids came running through the back door and went straight to the bathroom to wash their hands.

One of the men came in too. He was almost six feet tall.

“Hello young lady. So what is your name?”

“Ashley.” She held out her hand and he said

“I’m Ted. Sam’s father.” Her hand sunk into his.

“Please remove you jacket and make yourself at home, Sam will be here any minute.” At the exact moment the bell rang and Ted winked at her and said

“May be in a second then!” he chuckled.

The kids ran to him and said “You have a lady friend waiting for you? Who is she?” they whispered.

Sam shrugged his shoulders not knowing whether they were just kidding.

“I have to see to tell you that. Don’t I?” he said ruffling their hair.

The voice that Ashley had wanted to hear for so many years, wafted through the air to where she was sitting and she got up. Her knees felt weak and her heart was pounding louder that she felt she would not be able to hear anyone talk.

Sam’s mother was warming up the food and setting the table. Ashley stood up and walked through the corridor towards the front door.

Sam was hanging his jacket and he turned around and he became pale as if he had seen a ghost.

“Ashley?” he nodded his head and brushed his hair with his hand unable to believe if this was a dream or if he was hallucinating.

“Hi Sam.” Ashley’s eyes were welled up. She was expecting Veronica to walk right in then so she controlled herself and walked slowly towards him because she felt like Sam’s leg had been glued to where he was standing.

“Ashley. How did you? When did you…” he was getting emotional as well but the two kids were standing beside’s him and watching the expression on both their faces.

“I just came ten minutes back.”

“From California?”

“I rented a car and drove here from New Haven.” Ashley was wondering whether the expression that he held in his face was that of excitement or horror on seeing her.

Sam’s mom called out to him saying, “Sam lunch is ready. Ask those two knights in armor to come to the table too.”

He gently pushed the kids towards the dining room. “Are you hungry?” he turned to Ashley and asked her. He was shocked beyond words and he could hardly think clearly.

Ashley shrugged her shoulders all the hunger had evaporated on seeing him. “So how are you Sam?”

“I am good…I’m good. Congratulations on your Oscars. You made it didn’t you?”

She brushed it off saying “I didn’t work towards it, it just happened.”

“Jackie didn’t come?” Ashley nodded her head to say no.

“I’m starving. Let’s have lunch first.” She noticed that he had a limp when he walked. Grey hairs were already sprouting near his ears. He looked tanned and he still had maintained himself. But there was something missing that she couldn’t put her finger on.

“Mom what’s for lunch?” he walked towards the kitchen asking her to follow him.

All of them turned around to see Ashley and Sam.

“Hey dad. This is Ashley. She was one of my best students at the center in New Haven.”

“Ah! I see.” He said sarcastically and winked at her.

He pulled out a chair and made her sit and she noticed then that there was no ring on his finger. She wished she could talk to him instead of sitting around his people and eating. But his mother was adamant on feeding them.
His mom and dad asked a lot of question about her work which she answered good-naturedly. His mother was curious about all the celebrities that she had met at the Oscars and she filled in on all the details. Sam was impressed that she still remembered his siblings name when she asked about them. This is what he had wanted that Christmas long time back and here it was all happening so unexpectedly. He wanted to pinch himself to see whether he was dreaming.

He hardly spoke nor ate and just sat there and watched her talking to his mom and dad. She was not the timid girl that he had seen years back. She looked self-assured and spoke to his parents with ease. She took her time to answer and spoke slowly and answered things in detail. Her hair was cut short and the bangs that used to be hanging to cover her face were not there. She looked younger than her age he thought. She looked healthier and radiant. He noticed that all that she was wearing were designer clothes and shoes. She was still having her jacket on.

The kids got bored with all the talks and they hurried to their room.

Ashley had hardly touched her food too.

“Ashley you need to eat up what’s on your plate.” Her mother spoke to her like a child and laughed. Ashley took an immediate liking to her. She was just the way Sam had described her and she felt Sam had gotten his good looks from her as well.

“So how long are you here for Ashley?” his mother asked her while she was picking on her food with her head bent down.

“I will be leaving in an hour or so. I have a friend in New Haven and I want to reach there before it gets too dark.”

“Okay. But you are most welcome to stay here and finish what you came here for.” She patted her on her shoulder and left Ashley and Sam alone.

“Thanks.” She looked up and nodded her head.

“I’m done with my food too.” Sam got up to leave.

“I’m done too.” They scarped the leftovers in silence and washed their plates.

“Come let’s go outside.” He opened the back door leading towards the backyard and the place where the new building was coming up. He walked right past it and there was a huge oak tree with a wooden swing hanging down and a few yards from there Ashley saw the stream shimmering in the afternoon sunlight.

“This is beautiful. Your house is very nice too.”

He sat down on the grass near the stream and didn’t answer her. Then he looked for small stones and threw them one by one onto the water running by.

Ashley stood where she was for awhile and watched him.

“So what is that your parents are building?” she asked trying to make him talk.

Instead of answering her he asked vehemently “So what made you come here after all these years?”

“I just needed to see you and talk to you.”

“In all these years you never thought about that.” He spoke still throwing those pebbles angrily onto the water.
She was still standing behind him with her hands folded watching him.

“I did Sam. Many times, a million times. But I was scared.”

“Scared that I would be a hindrance to your dreams?”

“No. Scared that I would give up every dream that I had and fall into the same bandwagon of the many women that I had seen in my life who blamed the one that they loved that they were responsible for the place that they were in.”

“So you never felt that I wouldn’t be one of those men who would pull you up instead.”

“Sam, I had issues from my past that made me behave in the way I did to you. It has taken me so many years to come to the place where I am now.”

“Seeing you at the Oscars was an enough proof that you had indeed succeeded in what you set out to do and you have proved your point that you could do it without me or any other men I guess. I got it Ashley. I got it. Thanks.” He spoke harshly.

Tears broke their walls and flowed.

“I didn’t come to rub it on you Sam that I did it without you. I came to tell you that I missed you all these years and that I indeed had fallen for you deeper that I thought but was afraid to admit it. I could not love another man without looking for a trace of you there in their face or in their mannerism. Every man that I saw proved that he was not the one I was looking for. I came to tell you that the distance didn’t matter at all and that you have been in my thoughts every single day from the day that I left and I came to tell you in person that I loved you, I still love you and that I always will Sam. I always will. I felt you deserved that.”

The anger in Sam was simmering high and he didn’t turn around for the fear that seeing her face would make him forgive her for all the pain and anguish that he had felt all these years. Finally when he had found his peace here she was rocking his boat and he didn’t like it one bit.

“I guess that is all I came to say.”

“You are not the same person Ashley. I can hardly recognize the person that you have become.”

“Don’t be fooled by the labels that I have decked myself with Sam.” She was silent for a moment and then he heard the crunching of footsteps against the grass. Ashley came and sat next to him with her hands hugging the knees that were folded close to her body. She had removed her jacket and revealed the purple sweater that she had been wearing beneath it. Those were the ones Sam had bought for her during the time that she had stayed at his place. She turned around to look at his face unable to stop the tears that flowed like the stream in front of her.

He turned to look at her and recognizing the sweater immediately.

“You are still mad at me Sam, even though you say that you are not. Please forgive…”

He shut her mouth with his hands and looked at those eyes that haunted him even after all these years. Tears welled up in his matching the intensity with which they were coming out of Ashley’s eyes. He wiped her tears and saw the timid and vulnerable girl that he had seen the first time. He held her face with both his hands and spoke.

“I’m so proud of you. You did the right thing. It has been very hard for me because I haven’t been able to move on like how everyone in this world does. How could you love someone so much and then just move on? I tried to. I tried. But here I am after all these years still stuck on you. Probably that is why I am mad at you. Mad at myself even more.”

Ashley put her hand over his cheeks and asked
“Will you give me another chance to make it up to you after all these years Sam? Even I haven’t been able to love someone as I loved you. Even though I have been in therapy for so many years I still cannot make myself trust any men. But I am willing breakdown the walls and trust you. I know you are different from many of them and I know you loved me for who I was with my deep scars and all.”

He took her hand in his and kissed it.

“Ashley you have made a wonderful life for yourself at the other side of this country. I’m still the small town boy with little dreams and still living in a single bedroom apartment. I am not even close to making the cost of all those labels that you have been wearing. For a change I am going to be practical. I am glad that you came all the way looking for me. Even gladder to hear that you love me. But life has taken us both of us in very different paths and changed us too for the better or worse. My life is with these foster kids now. I am happy and I have found my peace and my path finally. Likewise you have to move forward with your life in the direction that you have been going now.”

“Sam, what if I say that for the rest of my life I would like to make your dreams come true by standing beside you and supporting you. I have always been involved with kids in foster cares in California and now we can join together and do more than what each of us set out to do.”

Sam shook his head not quiet believing what was being said.

“I will move out from California this time. None of those matter to me anymore. I thought you would be married by now. I just wanted an excuse to see you and so I brought this check for your organization. She handed over a check for $50000.”

“How did you know about it?”

“I got a bouquet of blue lilies from the CEO of this organization.”


“I think probably your CEO didn’t consult with you before sending it out.” She smiled cheekily.


Just then he heard his mom call him “Sam I have some tea ready. Please come over here and take it.”

“You wait here. I will be back.”

The whole place looked magical with the gentle sound of water splashing against the rocks and the smell of grass and the shadow of the oak tree almost ready to burst with spring leaves and above all sitting and talking with Sam.

“Will I ever be able to convince him?” she wondered. She could never imagine going back to California and working there after seeing him after all these years. She had never expected him to be single and never thought she would get another chance after ten years. She felt that it was meant to be and resolved to fight for it no matter what excuse he gave or no matter how practical he was going to be about their situation.

“I have thought enough of doing the right thing and being realistic. For a change I want to take a chance and I am willing to sacrifice any comfort to be with him. Please God help me.” She pleaded

Sam looked at his mother quizzically and asked “So it was you who sneaked behind my back and sent her flowers Mom.”

“We are into encouraging kids from foster care after all and when a child from the same system succeeded, it is the duty of the CEO of the organization to congratulate them and that is what I did. I didn’t ask her to come. She has come looking for you.”

“So hope everything is okay there?” she pointed towards the backyard.

“Is she married yet?”

“No. she says she wants to move here and help me out with the center and the home and she gave me this.” He handed over the check.

“So what did you say?”

“I don’t know. I feel we are different people now. I haven’t answered her yet.”

“So you are going to let her go again?”

“I…” he hesitated.

“Sam. You have to understand that it is difficult for a girl who had undergone so much of trauma at the hands of men to trust men. You have to understand that it was not you she was scared about, but all the men who had made her trust her and betrayed her at the end. So you are going to be that man who she can learn to trust and depend and you are going to be the man standing like a rock when she needs you because you have been in love with her for a long long time. You are not going to waste your time thinking about it and analyzing it again. Here…” She placed a velvet box in his hand.


“This is my engagement ring. I am sure it would be loose for her. But don’t let her go again. If your dad had given up on me 40 years ago I would have been a rich man’s wife with an empty heart but he didn’t and I am richer than any woman out there because I get to see the face of the love of my life first thing in the morning and as the last thing at night.”

“Don’t think too much. You will figure it out how to work it out. I think she will too. Now go…” she pushed him out the door placing a tray with two cups of tea and some cookies.

Sam came walking over carrying the tray. Ashley had taken a seat on the swing and was swinging gently unaware of his arrival.

He put the tray down and stopped the swing and took a place besides her.

“This place feels magical.”

“This is my favorite place too. I have too many good memories around here.” He took her hand in his and held it tightly.

“I can imagine.” She said pushing the hair that was covering her eyes.

“Ashley I want to make another unforgettable memory in this place.” He pulled out the ring from his pocket and showed it to her.

“Ashley I never want to lose you again. Whatever life throws at us, the good, bad and the ugly I want us to standing beside each other and facing it. I may not be able to give you a life of luxury at the present moment but I can promise you a life time of my relentless love, support and protection but also the freedom to be who you are. Will you marry me Ashley?”

Tears of joy danced through her eyelashes and her hand shook.
“But wait Sam…”

Sam jumped out of the swing and stopped the swing from swinging and looked into Ashley’s eyes as if asking are you kidding me?

“Haven’t I waited enough?”

“Sam, but I need to tell you something important before you…”

“Before what?” he asked impatiently.

“I can never have children.” She looked down at the ground not knowing what is reaction would be.

Sam knelt down before her holding her hand again.

“Ashley. Was that one of your reasons you ran away too?”

She nodded letting the tears slide down her cheeks.

“Ashley. You are what I want. Aren’t we both enough for each other? We also have these foster care kids to take care don’t we? So Ashley I am asking again. Will you marry me?”

“I will marry you Sam Nolan. I will. I promise to never leave your side until I die Sam. I love you and I trust you more than anyone in this world. I will always be a good friend to you and your partner to help you achieve your dreams.”

He slid the ring into her finger and it was lose as his mom told him. He held her hand even tighter. Pulled her up from the swing and pulled her closer towards him and kissed her.


To buy a copy of this novel.

Chapter 39

The day Sam saw Ashley at Jackie’s wedding, it had burst open the flood of feelings that he had put a dam on.

Seeing her in the mirror with her wavy blond hair and her peach colored dress standing on the road had made him want to turn around and rush back into her arms wishing she would take him and say she would never leave him again.
But when he had watched her from a distance he knew she was doing well and probably moved on too. He was scared to be hurt a second time for he knew he would never be able to re-patch the hole that she had already created in him.
It hurt him to leave her there standing on the road, but he knew that it would hurt him even more to know that she had moved on without him and he decided it was better to not know and keep dreaming that she too was pinning for him the same way he was for her.

So he left her there standing on the road. After a month he left Veronica too.

He knew that he was not doing justice to her and he felt it would be better to let her know that he couldn’t marry her instead of filling her with empty promises. He wanted what his parents had. He wanted the kind of love that was palpable when a couple was together. He wanted no pretense or shows but the complete knowing that the person he got married to would be the person that he would want to marry over and over again every year. He knew that he didn’t or couldn’t have that with Veronica and he decided to leave her and he knew in his heart that he was doing the right thing for her as he had done for Ashley.

While Ashley’s life went into a perusal of better material wealth and achievements, Sam had taken a very different course of life than Ashley. Sam packed his bag and left to his small town where he had grown up. He wanted to live a life that would make a difference for more kids like Ashley. He rented up a place close to his parents. He started a computer center to teach underprivileged kids in his neighborhood and the schools which were not well equipped with such a facility.

He was working on his dream of opening a dorm for teenage kids who were out of foster cares. He had purchased a land near his parent’s house and his parents and friends were helping him build it.

Sam was his mother’s star. Being the youngest he had stayed with her for the longest time. He was the sensitive kind and always intuitively understood what the others around him wanted and put their needs before his. He used to always help her in the kitchen and by sixteen he was a wonderful cook. He baked cookies for his sister’s kids and he was a favorite among the kids too.

When he told her that he was coming back home to settle down she was glad that she her youngest baby would be near her. Though she hadn’t taken a liking to Veronica she had been glad that he was settling down. But after the breakup and his move back home she noticed that lost look on his face and it worried her. He refused to talk about it and had later dived with a zest into building the computer center.

After a year she noticed he went out with girls but none of them ever stuck around for more than a day or two. Like a mother hen she kept her eyes on him without him knowing it.

Sam had watched the Oscars at home with his parents and they had seen his reaction when he spotted Ashley on the stage.

“Oh my God! It’s Ashley. It’s Ashley.” He yelled brushing his hair with one hand like he always did when he was nervous. He could hardly see any traces of the girl who had left New Haven ten years back. She looked glamorous and her diamond earring sparkled as she spoke on the mike. He took her all in but all the time wondering that she had indeed become someone that could hardly recognize.

His parents watched him with surprise because they had never seen their son getting excited about anything since the day he had landed there. When Ashley had mentioned Sam, there were tears flowing down his cheeks and he had run to the attic like a mad man.

His parents finally knew the reason for his distress all these years and prayed at least now he would talk to them.
Sam’s mother heard a loud crash on the floor and she walked up hesitantly up the stairs. Sam threw the painting across the room and cried like he never had in his entire life and then a rage over took him.

“She was stupid to believe that I would be a hindrance to her dreams when all I had wanted to be was a ladder where she could reach any heights that she had wanted to. She never even gave me chance and she had to put me through all this agony.”

His mother walked up to him and held him and he curled on her lap and cried like the toddler that he once was.

“Sam, talk to me. Even as a teenager you used to share with me at least most of the things that happened in your life. Since the day you landed here I have been worried about you Sam. Talk to me.”

Sam narrated everything to her – from the day Ashley had walked into his room to the day that she had walked out of his life.

Chapter 38

The day that Ashley and Jackie had awaited had finally come. It felt so unreal walking down the red carpet with all the cameras flashing.

Ashley was dressed in a black designer wear dress with a side slit open. She had done up her hair and it had two strands of the locks floating along the side of her face. She had a diamond earring on and she looked stunning.

Jackie and Jason got a seat in the front row as Ashley had to sit along with her team mates.
Ashley’s stomach was in knots and she still couldn’t believe that she was seated at the Oscars. Even in her wildest dreams she had never imagined this. Jackie and Ashley pinched each other several times to confirm it to themselves that it was real.Peter had also come and sat next to Jason.

The show began and there was laughter and tension in the air. Ashley recognized all the familiar faces and at times felt like going near the celebrity to prove that they were real and not wax statues.
The Animation movie category was towards the end and she tried her best to relax and enjoy. She had never worked on any film with the Oscars on her mind. She was grateful that she had come this far and she knew that even if their movie didn’t win this was a night that she would never forget.

Finally the call came up for the animation category. Ashley was the only female in the category of directors in the animation movies. The 8 nominees awaited in silence to hear the name being read out from the envelope.

“The Academy Award goes to…….” The movie Ashley had worked on was rolled out.

Ashley was astonished and awed and she didn’t know how she was going to get on stage. She waved to Jackie and all her team mates hugged her and she waded her way through the crowd unsteady and dazed.

She received the Oscars and kissed it and took a deep breath to take it all in. She didn’t want to shed a single tear today, not even a tear of joy. She wanted to remember every second of this.

She started her speech by thanking all her team mates and the company that she worked for and spoke.

“The one person in the world that I would like to thank is my best friend and confidante Jackie. Without your love and encouragement I wouldn’t be here today finding my dream and my friend Peter who has always encouraged me to dream big.
“I would also like to use this opportunity to bring awareness about children in foster care. There are approximately 424,000 children that are in and out of foster care every year. For no fault of theirs they are brought into this system. The system which is meant for their welfare is sometimes the one that causes more harm to them when they are displaced from home to home. I encourage all of you who are watching today to open your hearts and homes to these children and give them your love because that is all they need to prove to themselves that they are worthy indeed. To all the children now staying in homes and foster cares Never give up and dream big. I was one among you 15 years back. So if I can do it you can too.”

She looked into the camera now. “This is for you Sam.”

“As I stand here today, the one regret I have is about you. I wish I had you besides me sharing my dream and cheering me up. I now know what it feels like to love someone and loose them as well. But the answer to the question you asked me on the day that I left has always been with you in the picture that I presented to you. Hope you have forgiven me.”

There was a huge applause and while Ashley got down from the stairs and walked straight to where Jackie and Peter awaited.

Whereas in a small town in the east coast, Sam dashed upstairs to the attic to find the picture that Ashley had given him.He rampaged through his den in a rush trying to find the picture frame which he had hid from his sight for all these years. While he lifted one of the books the frame fell down and shattered the glass in all corners. Sam lifted it up and looked closely. Though the picture looked a bit faded it was still intact. He turned it around and saw the handwriting which was familiar to him.

“Sam I love you too, but I need to spread my wings and I ask you to understand me and not be mad at me for too long.” Ashley

Tears fell in huge chunks in the broken glasses as he held the picture close to his heart.
He had watched the Oscars and when he saw Ashley in there he was stunned. He couldn’t recognize her and she looked dazzling and confidant and he was surprised to find the girl who could hardly talk give a speech in front of such a huge crowd. He was proud of her that she had indeed succeeded in what she had set out to do.

“Maybe if she had stayed back she wouldn’t be where she was standing now.” He thought to himself.
How he wished he could see her? Though her memories were more like a gentle breeze which caught him unaware from time to time he knew that in this lifetime he would not be able to love another like he loved her. Maybe that was the reason he left Veronica too.

Chapter 37

Jackie had three kids by now -the twin boys and a girl. They were six and four years and a handful. They arrived on a Friday afternoon and it was a tearful and happy reunion.

Jason had joined them after a long time as he had not taken off during the previous visits that Jackie had made.
Ashley had kept a bedroom decorated for the kids and the kids loved coming here because they were spoilt rotten by Aunt Ashley.

The house which always remained quiet except for the sound of the dog barking occasionally was now filled with laughter and screams and chaos.

Jason relaxed on the couch watching TV while Jackie and Ashley caught up on all the things that they had missed in the past one year. Ashley had arranged for a baby sitter so that Jackie could relax too. As Jason had preferred to be glued to his remote they left him with the kids and nanny and headed out for shopping.

They remembered the time at the home when they hardly had any money to buy new clothes and felt blessed that they had come a long way.

Ashley saw that Jackie was very happy in her role as a mother and wife and admired the way she handled the kids. Jason was his sweet old self and Ashley could see that the love that they had for each other had rather grown more into a deep understanding of one another. The times that she had visited them she admired the way that they still adored each other and she saw her first example of a good marriage between them.

Jackie on the other hand admired Ashley for who she had become. She who was shy and reserved was now a confidant young lady capable of managing so many others too. She had become assertive and she saw how at ease she was now at the company of the opposite sex. But she worried about her constantly that she hardly went out with anyone. When she pointed that out Ashley always dismissed her saying that she was perfectly happy and she had no time to wallow in loneliness. Jackie and Ashley never spoke about Sam, though each wondered where and how he was.

The last thing that Jackie had heard about him was that he had moved back to his home town and she had not told Ashley about it so as to not evoke her past memories.

But what Jackie didn’t know was that there was not a day that Ashley did not think about him. Though she had made peace with the past she had realized that in the dates that she had gone out, there were very few of them who interested her and very few of them as decent as him. So she had given up on dating and thought when the time is right she would meet the right kind of guy for herself.

The kind of guy who would treat her with the dignity and love that she deserved.

Chapter 36

5 years later……

Ashley had gotten the opportunity to work as the head of story for a few animation movies and she was also given a chance to direct two short movies.

She got the surprise of her life when she had landed a wonderful opportunity to direct a full length animated movie. Though she deliberated about her decision for some time, she finally found the courage and pushed herself. Ashley’s hard work and dedication were finally paid off when the Oscars made an announcement that the animation movie that she had helped direct and develop was nominated for the Oscars.

She was excited beyond words and left a voicemail for Jackie with the same words she had called eight years earlier.
“Jackie pick up the phone I don’t care how busy you are call me immediately!”

Jackie had just then walked in from the grocery store with three kids in tow, panicked and called Ashley.

“Ashley is everything okay.”

“Jackie we are going to the Oscars! The movie that I directed has been nominated for the Oscars. I’m already looking into tickets for you and the family so you better get yourself here.”

“Oh my Gosh Ashley. Oscars! Really Wow unbelievable!! Ashley I’m am so glad for you. I will not miss it for anything in the world. You go ahead and book it. I will even close the business for two days. Ashley you have made it. I’m so proud of you. I’m sure you mamma will be smiling at you from there. “

Ashley was in tears hearing the last statement. It was true she felt. She had done all this to make her proud and to compensate for the life that she had lived and didn’t want the sacrifice she had made for her to go in vain. She crossed her fingers. “Mamma this is for you.”

Peter had moved on to another company and she called him next. They had drifted apart in the last few years but he was equally excited for her and congratulated her.

She wanted to call one more person and let him know that she had finally hit the pinnacle of her achievement list but she knew that she couldn’t.

These past ten years she had become a workaholic. At 30 years she had achieved more than she ever set out to do.

She had the finest of the designer clothes, shoes and bags, the best convertible car, a beautiful house, two beautiful dogs. She volunteered at the orphanage in her spare time and helped educate many of the kids there. She also worked to raise funds for organizations that helped children in foster care.

She always kept herself busy so that she had no time to spare in gloom or loneliness. But today she wished she had that special someone besides her sharing her joy and success.