Beth

by Jennifer L. Rowland

Prologue

Al's face twisted in anguish as he faced his best friend. Tears shone in his eyes as the words were wrenched from his throat, from his heart. From his soul.

"Oh, Sam. God, I love her!" Intense pain filled the space between the two men, palpable and heavy. "Beth is the only woman I ever really loved; she's the only one I ever wanted to grow old with." The hurt on his face cut through Sam like a lance.

"That's why all my marriages never worked after that... Sam, if you're lucky, life is gonna give you one shot at true love...and Beth was mine. Now, I lost her, but you can get her back for me!"

Sam was tormented by his own pain as his friend begged him for help. "God, Al, I wish I could. But I can't...and no one knows that better than you."

"I don't know that!" argued Al, desperately, stubbornly gripping the fleeting chance with both hands.

"In your heart you do," countered Sam, as gently as he could. In all the times Sam had wished he could touch the Observer, the longing had never been so keen as it was now. He felt like he'd just kicked a puppy.

"No. No," Al wouldn't meet Sam's eyes, and he shook his head. Then, firmly, trying to convince Sam as well as himself, he reiterated, "You were Leaped in here to keep Beth and me together."

At the time, Sam had been convinced Al was wrong, that he'd been there solely to save the life of Roger Skaggs. However, once the policeman had been saved, Sam still hadn't Leaped, and he'd told Al it was so the Observer could spend the final moments of Sam's Leap with his true love.

Now, as he sat next to the Bartender, Sam realized that maybe those final moments had been for him, Sam, to have given Beth the hope she needed to wait for Al's return. Would it really have taken so long to do? He'd just been told he could control his Leaps, and with conviction, he knew where his next one would take him.

"I've got a wrong to put right for Al..."