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For Better, For Worse

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Prologue

Friday 7th January 2011

The two of them sat in an unnerving silence inside the freezing cold car, watching the comings and goings at the secured gate area in front of them with a false appearance of interest. Sam could not stop herself from chewing on the sleeve of her over-sized grey hoody and resisted the temptation to turn her head towards her companion, determined to stay strong and resolute as she mentally readied herself for her impending departure from by his side.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to drive you in?” came the voice from beside her, and Sam felt herself furiously shaking her head as her face reddened with the warmth of embarrassment.

“No, I think that would be a bit, um…” she started, before trailing off unable to finish the sentence. “Thank you for bringing me though, you really didn’t have to,” she added, trying to keep the on-off polite conversation going for longer than it had done throughout the entire length of their cross-country journey.

“I said I would, didn’t I?” Dylan responded tersely. “Stay safe out there,” he continued, before pausing for a few seconds. “Make sure he takes care of you,” he finished brusquely, causing Sam to wince at the tone and implication behind the incredibly pointed words.

After a moment of hesitation, she found the courage to vocalise a thought that had been stuck in the back of her mind ever since she had received notification of her return date. “Do you want me to remove you as my next of kin?” she queried, suddenly finding a reason to stare purposefully out of the passenger window into the snowy nothingness, so as not be tempted to look in her husband’s direction. “You know, just in case something happens. I’m sure you won’t want them bothering you,” she added, risking a quick glance towards him in spite of her better judgement, noticing he was still glaring straight ahead, eyes unfocused on the scene in front of them.

“What? And replace me with whom exactly?” Dylan asked harshly, obviously infuriated, and Sam found herself floundering for a suitable or satisfactory response. “They can still phone me Samantha. We are still married,” he stated matter-of-factly. “Technically speaking at any rate.”

Sam shut her eyes and briefly hung her head in shame, as she forced herself to answer him. “Yeah, technically.” She pushed herself to undo her seatbelt and turn in her chair so she now facing her husband and eyed his body language intently. “Listen Dylan,” she started, noting with alarm quite how vulnerable she sounded as she spoke. “None of this is your fault, I’m the one who messed up and you shouldn’t be the one who has to suffer.” In response, Dylan slightly lowered his gaze, the weight of her words apparently heavy upon his shoulders as she continued. “You’re not happy; you haven’t been happy for ages. You must know as well as I do that you aren’t suited to being a country GP,” Sam said, her tone becoming more serious and urgent as she gained confidence in her words. “You don’t have to worry about me anymore, go back and get yourself an E.D. consultancy, do something you want to do for a change. Forget about me, forget about us.”

“Sam,” Dylan curtly started to respond, a warning tone in his voice.

“No,” she replied, cutting him off before he could finish dismissing her concern. “I need you to know you have my permission to move on, not that you need it. Please just promise me you will at least think about it. I screwed everything up, not you, and you deserve to get your life back, I owe you that much at least.”

Dylan cocked his head to one side slightly and met her gaze, nodding his head gently in an acknowledgement of her words. Sam looked away, took a deep breath, and opened the car door, before jumping down onto the icy ground. She moved to open the rear door of the vehicle and bent down to lure the scruffy dog camped out on the back seat into a tight clinch.

“Goodbye darling,” she whispered into the dejected looking mutt’s ear, blinking back tears as she breathed in the familiar canine smell, knowing it was likely to be for the last time. “Take care of him for me you daft thing.” Sam gently ruffled the dog’s messy coat as she gradually released her and busied herself with hauling the rucksack from behind the passenger seat up onto her shoulder, groaning slightly at the load as she did so. She walked round the back of the car and found herself face to face with Dylan, who had clambered out of the driver side door and was standing leaning against the side of the vehicle, deep in contemplation.

“Look after yourself Grumpy,” she said in his direction, her voice so quiet that she wasn’t even sure she had said the words out loud.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” was the comment that automatically escaped Dylan’s mouth. “Try to come back in one piece alright?” Sam nodded, but before she could offer a further answer, she found herself being pulled into a heartfelt embrace, her lips meeting her husband’s in a fleeting symbolisation of compassion and farewell. “Samantha,” he began as the two of them separated and his hand briefly met that of his wife. “I’ll see you in….” he continued but stopped on seeing her shake her head sadly.

“Goodbye Dylan,” she responded, moving her hand away from him and trying not to notice how her voice shook. “Good luck, with everything,” she added, barely able to force the words out given the overwhelming burden of guilt placed squarely at her feet. “I’m sorry,” she ended, before turning away and trudging as rapidly as her military booted feet would carry her across the snowy tarmac towards the entrance to the army base, the emotions in her heart far heavier than the bag upon her shoulder.

“Goodbye Samantha,” Dylan said aloud, knowing that the wife who had disappeared behind the closing gates could no longer hear his words. He climbed back into the car, started the engine with a jolt and hit his hand hard against the steering wheel in frustration. Dervla jumped through into the passenger seat from the rear of the vehicle and he instinctively patted her coat as she rested her head on his lap. “She’s gone,” he spoke, voice no more than a whisper. “Samantha is gone for good.”