Sweet Sam


The days of my life, since I was eighteen, are blank. They do not exist. Irrelevant. The story of my life since I’ve entered adulthood is filled with emptiness, no clear line, no direct path, nor future to follow. I have existed but not lived, simply wandering through the last ten years with my eyes closed.

It’s a Wednesday when I get the text notification. The day I join the world again. 

Hi Amber. It’s Sam. I got your number from your cousin Jack. I don’t know if you remember me from school, but I’m in the area and it would be grand to meet for a drink on Saturday. Let me know, cheers, S.

In the privacy of my room, I practice saying his name, feeling the syllable fall off it. I say it over and over until I become so excited, I’ve to stop. It’s been so long since I’ve said his name; it feels unsettling.

I meet Sam on Saturday night in a dimly lit pub with round pine tables and stools. I flatten the creases in my dress with the palm of my hand.

Sam comes back from the bar with his carer Lilly, who is carrying our drinks. He’s wearing a white cotton shirt and he looks so good I’ve to remind myself to breathe. He’s apologetic to those he accidently bumps with his wheelchair. Some are mad. Some are understanding. Some are sympathetic. A grimace passes over Sam’s face when a lady looks at him with pity. I catch it before his disappointment settles and ask him how his day’s been, to distract him. 

I tell them I don’t mind if Lilly stays with us, but she says no, she has arranged to meet a friend instead. A tingle arrives below my belly button. Anybody who looks at us will think we are on a date. The anticipation overwhelms me.

He leans backwards, stretching innocently as the cotton rides up and reveals a gap. He’s slight with his pelvic bone leading to the rim of black boxers. He smells of freshly laundered clothes and soap. I sip my wine to distract myself from falling apart completely. It is acidic and burns my throat as I swallow but I gulp it down regardless. 

He engages in small talk. The weather. My work. The novel he is reading. I listen. Let the words fall from him as though they’re golden. They drift through my ears with his gentle tone; soft and melodic. He decides we should do a toast, to us, for reconnecting after all these years. Our glasses clink and he laughs, and we drink. Everything about him is appealing to me as it has always been and will remain to be, no matter the months or years that follow and how our bodies age.

Outside the pub, I light my cigarette and deeply inhale. Sam is beside me; his face is illuminated under the streetlamp. Handsome with fine lines etched across his forehead, the sign of the last decade without me. A life lived while mine remained in waiting. He looks lovely to me, his full lips, expectant eyes, narrow shoulders. 

It is gone ten and I know I have texts from Paul. The man who shares my bed and my flat, my boyfriend. He is big built with a taste for hard liquor and even harder sex. There is not any feature or part of him that is redeeming to me anymore. We’ve become comfortable in our mutual dislike for each other. Remaining only together for convenience, to share the bills, to attend social conventions. We don’t even enjoy one another’s company; companionship isn’t something our relationship offers. I throw my phone into my handbag, ignoring him. I find myself not caring; too drunk and intoxicated with wine and sweet Sam. That reality is unappealing. I want to be here, in this moment.

Is that Paul again? he asks softly.

I nod. 

I don’t mind. If you want to phone him, he says.

I don’t, I say.

I stump out my cigarette and walk back to the pub, Sam following. Instinctively, I go to hold his hand so we can stay close together as we battle the throngs of merry people, but I forget he now uses a wheelchair. He gulps and winces as my wrist collides harshly with his throat. 

We are back at the table and I find myself doing it anyway. I can’t look at him. I just reach out and hold my hand in his. My hand, which has always been and will always be my hand, holding Sam’s again, after all these years. I’m acutely aware he is letting me. I look around the pub to see if any of Paul’s friends are here, but they aren’t. Much too trendy to socialise in this quaint local pub which is why it holds such appeal. 

I feel his chalky blue eyes searching mine, the way they used to. I know this man intimately even if he has forgotten. That tiny mole on his neck with a strand of stubble poking through which bleeds when he snags it shaving. The little scar on his eyebrow from an ex whose hair became entangled in his piercing and tore it out. I know he falls asleep almost instantly after he comes. 

We were madly in love, intoxicated with the other.

I don’t say anything. I close my eyes and try to forget there was ever a car accident which stole his memory of me and left him paralysed I pretend there is nobody else in the world. When I am with Sam, I even believe that. 

You okay Amber? he asks gently.

I nod. I sit, almost mannequin like. It is not for a few moments that I realise my face is streaming wet.


Hannah Sutherland is a writer based in Scotland and is working on her debut novel. Her prose is published, and forthcoming in different Literary Magazines. 


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