Chapter 16


Susan turned around at the voice, trying to pick out the speaker from
the small crowd of students and teachers in her small deli. It wasn't
difficult. The man in question had a unique look about him. She smiled
at him as she laid down a coffee for one of her patrons.

"Hello, Mr. Calavicci. This is an unexpected surprise."

He smiled at her. "Yeah. Well, I figured I might as well eat here for a
change. Besides, I owe you money. Right?"

She laughed a bit. "You don't have to worry about that yet, Mr.

"Al," he corrected.

Susan nodded with acknowledgement. "So, what can I get for you today,
Al? The usual?"

"Actually, I was thinking of having something different. Any

"Well," Susan replied with a thoughtful look. "I make a mean chicken
salad sandwich."

He smiled and laughed. "Sounds good to me."

"Coming right up, then." She turned away to put the sandwich together.

Sam took a breath as he sat at the counter. He still wasn't sure of
everything on this leap yet but he was sure of one thing. Both Al and
Ziggy were right about why he was here. He just wasn't sure he was doing
it the right way.

"So, tell me the truth," Susan commented after a moment. "You didn't
come down here just for lunch, did you?"

Sam feigned surprise at the thought. "What do you mean?"

She laughed gently. "I think you know what I mean. Ever since I started
making you lunch, you've been a practical hermit. Don't you like

"Well, I…" Sam started, unsure how to answer and still keep in the
character of the person he was replacing.

"No," a raspy voice overlaid the end of Sam's words, causing Sam to
start slightly.

Susan looked at him with curiosity. "Did I ask the wrong question?"

Sam shook his head, giving Al a slight glare. "No, that's not it. I like
people. It's just… things are a little difficult for me right now. I
prefer to be alone."

"Then, what are you doing here?" she asked.

Al looked at Sam pointedly. "My question exactly."

Sam gave a quick glance at Al before going in for the plunge.

"Because you look like her."

"What?" both Al and Susan asked simultaneously, one with indignation,
the latter with surprise.

"Sam, what the hell do you think you're doing?" Al demanded.

Sam ignored the demand and continued. "You look like her," he repeated.

Susan looked at him with sad questioning. "Like who?"

"Sam, don't do this," Al warned.

"Like my wife… ex-wife," Sam corrected without looking at Susan.

She got a sad look in her eyes. "I do?" she questioned softly, not
knowing what else to say.

Sam nodded while Al exhaled in frustration. 

"Sam, I sure hope you know what you're doing because I sure as hell
don't." He started to pace a bit.

"What happened to her?" Susan asked, overlapping Al's words.

Sam exhaled, not looking at her. "We divorced."

"Doesn't sound like it was mutual," she commented.

"It wasn't," he replied quietly.

The silence hung between them, seeming to fill the deli despite the
people who were talking in the background. Susan, in the silence,
quickly put together the sandwich he had ordered and placed it in front
of him, not saying a word.

Sam broke the silence. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," she replied softly.

Al was looking between the two, trying to figure out what Sam was
planning. So far, though, he had no idea and it frustrated him greatly.
Sam was tampering with his life, after all.

Al huffed in his frustration. "Okay, Sam. This has gone far enough. We
have to talk."

Sam took a drink of water before standing. "Will you excuse me for a
moment?" he asked Susan before going towards the men's room.

"Sam, what the hell are you doing?" Al yelled at him as he entered the
room, not minding the other man who was already in there. "I told you to
ask her out, not to woo her into falling head over heels for you!" He
paused a moment, waiting for an answer. "Dammit, Sam! Don't just stand
there admiring yourself! Talk to me!"

Sam had been washing his face and looking into the mirror, trying to
look as if he was doing what he came in there to do. Once the extra man
had left, he turned to Al with a glare.

"What are you so scared of, Al? Why are you so adamant against you and
Susan getting together? It's obvious that you only told me to take her
out because that's what Ziggy said I had to do. But you didn't want me
to. Why? Tell me, Al! And don't give me that nonsense that it's because
she looks like Beth. I can tell you love her so why don't you want to
marry her?"

"I hurt her, Sam!" Al finally said. "I cheated on her! Broke her heart.
Our separation was anything but amicable, even though we both agreed on
it. I thought that she would finally heal me of the emotional pain I was
in. I was wrong. I found out the hard way that, even though I loved her,
I wasn't in love with her." He took a breath. "It was wrong for me to
even date her and she paid the price for my mistake."

Sam thought about Al's words. "Was the mistake your dating her or not
letting yourself accept her for who she really is?" He hesitated,
studying his friend's confused look. "Susan isn't Beth, Al."

Al glared at him. "You don't think I know that?"

"You do now. But did you really know that then? Or did you just expect
her to magically transform into Beth?"

For a moment, Al's face was filled with anger. The expression
dissipated, though, leaving only thoughtfulness. However, he didn't say
a word.

Sam exhaled, getting his answer by Al's silence. "So, you were in love
with Susan but you couldn't handle the fact that, although she looks
like her, she isn't Beth."

Al didn't look at him, staring at the handlink as if it had some kind of
insight. "What? You got a psych degree while I wasn't looking?" he asked

Sam looked at him with gentle concern. "What do you want me to do, Al?"

Al was quiet for a moment. "Does it really matter?"

Sam nodded. "Of course, it does. This is your life we're dealing with."

Al huffed. "Tell that to Beeks and Ziggy."

"What do you want, Al?" Sam paraphrased his previous question. 

Al looked at him with pause. "I don't know what I want, Sam. But I do
know that I don't want Susan to die and, if we are meant to be married,
I don't want it to end the way our relationship did."

Sam nodded. "Then I know what I'm here to do." He started out the door.