In 'Last Man Standing', Sam tells Foyle that she ended her engagement to Adam after an attack of the jitters. I thought the idea of a jittery Sam deserved a ficlet of its own. Thanks to Persiflage for her beta help.
I suppose it was the sight of me in the mirror that sent me over the edge.
The heavy white satin gown was beautiful. I looked like a princess – if I can ever be said to resemble a princess – and at first I told myself that it was because the style perhaps didn't suit as well as I'd initially thought. But then, as the seamstress began pulling and tucking and pinning, I knew that the gown itself had nothing to do with the distress that abruptly descended on me like a wet, gray blanket. The longer I stared at my reflection, the more I felt completely detached from the bright chatter around me.
Mother was bemoaning the fact that I hadn't wanted to wear her own wedding gown. Mrs. Bodley, the seamstress who had single-handedly clothed much of Lyminster during my lifetime, reminded her that it wasn't surprising as styles changed so rapidly, that young girls had minds of their own these days. Of course, ever-changing styles meant a continual stream of business for her, so I doubt that she was terribly empathetic. I wished they would both be quiet. They were happy for me, so very happy.
And I was miserable, so very miserable. There was no point trying to deny it any longer.
"Could I have a glass of water?" I asked, my mouth suddenly parched.
"Not now, dear. You might spill on your lovely dress." Mrs. Bodley was fussing with the hem and didn't even look at me. I tried again.
"Please. I really need a drink of water."
"Soon, Samantha," my mother said absently. "Be patient."
"No." I stepped down from the low stool on which I stood. "I can't be patient. I can't do this."
"Why, Sam!" Shocked, Mother finally looked me full in the face. "Whatever is wrong?"
I began struggling with the gown, trying to climb out of it.
"I can't do it," I gasped, feeling very short of breath. "I'm sorry. I can't."
"Here, here," Mrs. Bodley scolded, "you'll muss your dress!"
"I don't care. I'm not wearing it. I can't."
Mother and Mrs. Bodley exchanged looks.
"Samantha dear," Mother began, choosing her words carefully, "are you saying that you can't wear a white dress?"
"No, it's not that!" I protested vehemently. "I can't wear anything – I can't marry Adam –"
Mrs. Bodley, bless her heart, had dressed many brides-to-be over her lifetime; I was probably not the first to react this way.
"There, there, dear," she soothed, "why don't you let your mum help you out of the dress? I'll wait outside for a few minutes until you're feeling better."
The dress was half-on, half-off when I heard the door close behind her. Mother, meanwhile, was trying to help, but I was desperate to get the dress off me.
"Sam, stop. You'll rip it!"
"I don't care," I cried, my voice muffled by the yards of white satin.
Finally, I was rid of the dress. Exhausted, I sank down on the fitting stool while Mother frantically tried to straighten and smooth the satiny expanse before draping it carefully over the back of a chair. Then she scurried off to fetch a glass of water. I knew that she would demand a full explanation, which she would then relate to my father, and then he would demand to hear it from my own mouth. And then, worse yet, I would have to tell Adam.
Why couldn't I bring myself to go through with this? Adam Wainwright was so kind, so lovely, so perfect in every way, except for one major obstacle: he wasn't Christopher Foyle.
"Why?" I muttered, clenching my hands into fists and pounding them on my knees. "Why, why, why?"
Why was I unable to leave behind what amounted to the best years of my life, those war years when Mr. Foyle and I had driven all over the South Downs? Why was he always, always in my thoughts even now when he was in America? I buried my face in my hands and tried to calm myself. Breathe, Sam. In, out, in, out… Breathe…
I heard the door open, heard my mother's soft footsteps.
"Here's your water, darling."
My hand trembled as I reached for the proffered glass. "Thanks, Mum."
"Are you all right?" she asked, her brow furrowed with concern.
"No." I tried a few sips of the water, but it was no good. I took a huge gulp.
"What's wrong, Sam?" Mum pulled up a chair next to me. "Is it – are you worried about – "
"Worried about what?" I stared blankly at my mother, wondering why she wore such a guarded expression.
"You know. About… that. About… relations. Between a man and a woman."
I'm sure it took every ounce of courage Eleanor Stewart possessed to say those words aloud. I felt a sudden rush of affection for my mother.
"No, Mum. I'm not worried about…" I'd started to say 'sex', then thought better of it. "About that," I finished.
"What, then? Is there something about Adam that's causing you to have second thoughts? Perhaps if your engagement lasted a bit longer…"
"More time won't help. " I suddenly took a good look at the water glass in my hand. "I don't suppose I could have something a bit stronger?"
"Sam! It's only ten o'clock in the morning!" Mum was aghast.
"Oh. So it is." And with that, I burst into tears. Not just a few, ladylike tears, but a full-fledged deluge, accompanied by hiccups and incoherent sobs. I've never been one of those weepy girls who break down at every turn. And I never cry like this.
I barely noticed when Mum left the room, or when she returned. The next thing I knew, she was taking the water glass away and replacing it with something else. I blinked, and through watery eyes saw a healthy measure of whiskey in my hand.
"Thank you," I said in a small voice, and took a drink. The stuff burned its way down to my toes. I'm not a huge fan of whiskey, and now I remembered why. I coughed and sputtered for a good minute.
"Better?" my mother asked when I was finally able to draw breath. She pressed a handkerchief into my free hand.
"Yes, thanks." I dabbed at my eyes and eventually blew my runny nose. "I'm sorry. I've rather spoilt things, haven't I?"
"I don't know, Samantha. You still haven't explained."
"No, I haven't." I inhaled deeply. "It's all wrong, you see. I can't marry Adam because I'm in love with someone else."
"Someone else? Who?"
Here it came, then. The Tricky Part, to be followed by the Inevitable Explosion. I took a deep breath.
"I'm in love with Mr. Foyle. Have been for the longest time."
"Mr. Foyle!" Mum recoiled in her chair, looking as shocked as if I'd slapped her. "And all this time, your father and I were sure that he was watching out for you, taking care of you! What has he done to you, Sam? Answer me!"
"He's done nothing, Mum. Nothing! And never anything that was untoward. He doesn't even know that I feel this way."
"Be that as it may, the fact remains that he's – he's old, Samantha!"
"Mum, you seem to think that I'm still eighteen. I'm not. I'm almost twenty-eight. I'm not a child."
"Of course you're not a child. But Sam, don't you want children? How old will your Mr. Foyle be when your children are grown? Besides, he's already gone through raising a family. What makes you think he'd want to do that all over again?"
"I don't know that he would, and quite frankly, I don't know that he'll even want anything to do with me when he comes back from America. I may end up a spinster, Mum. All I do know for certain is that I don't want to settle for less."
That was a rather low blow on my part. Mother had always preached on waiting for the right man to come along, not marrying just for the sake of being married. I could tell from the look on her face that despite her exasperation, Eleanor Stewart was just the tiniest bit proud of me.
"Adam is a wonderful young man," she said, scowling.
"Yes, he is. I just don't want to be married to him."
After a few moments, Mum sighed and rose wearily to her feet. "I'll tell your father that you want to postpone the wedding. I won't tell him about Mr. Foyle, however. You'll do that part yourself."
I'd thought that telling Dad would not be too difficult, seeing as how he'd actually met Mr. Foyle. I was wrong.
"Oh, Sam…" My father stared at the worn surface of the desk where he'd prepared so many sermons over the years. Did he always find his inspiration in the grain of wood, I wondered irreverently? "Mr. Foyle is a fine man, but it sounds just a bit like you have a bad case of hero-worship to me."
"Hero-worship! Dad, it's not hero-worship, or a crush, or a silly schoolgirl infatuation!" I protested hotly, half-rising from my seat. "I'm a grown woman! Don't you think I'd know the difference by now?"
He shot me a warning look that was all too familiar. "If you're a grown woman, then you can surely discuss this calmly and quietly without any hysterics."
"Yes, sir." Mutinously, I stuffed down my outrage, wishing that just once I could converse with my father without feeling like a wayward child.
"That's better. Now you say that he has no inkling that you harbor feelings for him. Wouldn't you have known by now if he had feelings for you?"
"Mr. Foyle's a very private man. He wouldn't say anything if he felt it wasn't appropriate."
"No, I suppose he wouldn't ."
"And since he didn't know my feelings, Dad, he couldn't possibly have reciprocated them."
"I'm afraid that you are setting yourself up for a great deal of heartbreak, my dear."
"Well, if I'm going to have my heart broken, then I'll just have to deal with it. But I won't marry Adam if I don't love him. It's not fair to him." I was rather proud of the last sentence. It made it sound as if I were doing all this for Adam's benefit.
"No, it's not fair to him." Dad tapped the fingers of one hand restlessly on his desk. "You're going to tell him as soon as possible?" It was part question, part demand.
"Yes, sir. Tonight."
"And what, exactly, are you going to say?"
"What do you mean?"
"Are you going to hedge your bets? Tell Adam that you just aren't ready to get married yet, so that he'll still be around in case Mr. Foyle doesn't return your affection? Or are you going to tell him that there is someone you love more?"
"Dad!" I squirmed inwardly. Why, oh why, did I have to have a vicar for a father? He just had to make sure that I'd looked into all the moral considerations.
"Well, Samantha? This is what grown people do, face the hard things of life. If you truly love Mr. Foyle, then you have to tell Adam the truth."
"I will, Dad. I will."
Surprisingly, telling Adam was not so very hard at all.
Telling Andrew Foyle that I wouldn't marry him was easy. After all, he hadn't exactly proposed properly, just said something along the lines of "Marry me, Sam, it'll be great". I only needed to refuse him by ignoring his comment.
Telling Joe Farnetti had been hard. Dear Joe had been so certain that I was the one for him. So devoted as I lay in hospital with Anthrax. I truly think I broke his heart the day I told him that I wouldn't be following him home to California at war's end.
Adam Wainwright merely smiled sadly and said, "I thought so."
"Thought – what?" I stammered, confused.
"I could tell by the way you looked at Mr. Foyle, Sam. You never looked at me that way."
"I didn't?" The breath seemed to leave me in a large whoosh.
Adam merely shook his head. I suddenly felt very, very small.
"I'm – I'm so sorry. I do love you, Adam. I honestly thought –"
"I know you do, Sam." He leaned over to kiss me on the cheek. "And it's all right."
"Can we still be friends?" Tears welled up in my eyes.
"Of course. And I wish you the best." Adam gently brushed one of my tears away. "I have a feeling that Mr. Foyle won't know what hit him."
I gave a very un-ladylike snort. "Provided he doesn't tell me that I'm mad and to go away and never bother him again."
"He won't. I've seen the way he looks at you, too."
It gave me hope.