Alfred Buchan looked out of the window and watched the blue shadow of the airplane slide over the glittering white snowfields. He was exhausted. Ever since his 76-year-old mother had become ill, he divided his time between Alaska and L.A.
He didn’t think he could do it for much longer. In fact, each time he returned from the tiny town he grew up in in Alaska back to Los Angeles, he asked himself why. It was time to make a change.
He started thinking about his wife. Pretty Samantha, who’d been so sweet when he’d first met her, but now spent all her time having something done to her face or body, or buying expensive clothes.
Alfred had loved her back then when he’d been a hopeful young agent with a handful of clients and she’d been a would-be starlet with not enough talent. But he’d loved her, hadn’t he? And she’d loved him.
Sometimes we have to give up our ambitions to find our dreams.
Then came success, and money, lots of money. Suddenly, Alfred was representing the top Hollywood actors and actresses, he was at all the A-list parties with Samantha, and it had all gone to their head like fine French champagne.
Alfred had bought Sam a Malibu mansion and had the decorator put in a nursery, and that was their first quarrel. “They forgot to clear this out…” Sam said derisively, waving her hand at the pretty crib and soft toys.
Alfred wrapped his arms around her. “I was hoping the crib would inspire you…” he whispered in her ear smiling. But Sam pushed him away.
“Are you mad? Me, ruin my figure to give you rugrats?” she cried. “Don’t even think about it!”
“But when we were dating I told you I wanted kids, Sam,” Alfred said quietly. “When we could afford it, and when we were settled. We’re settled now.”
“Oh please,” Sam cried. “That was love talk! I said what you wanted to hear!”
As it turned out, Sam had said a lot of things Alfred had wanted to hear, for example, her attitude towards family. Sam was an orphan, and she’d expressed loved and admiration for Alfred’s mom, but now that she was ill, she wouldn’t see her.
“You know how sickness disgusts me, Alfred!” she’d cried when he asked her to fly with him to Juneau when his mom was first diagnosed. “I won’t go. Why don’t you just put her in one of those homes? You can afford it!”
“She’s my mother, Sam,” Alfred said. “And I’m going to give her every bit of independence and dignity that I can — because that is how she lived her life.”
Just then, the plane hit an air pocket and jolted Alfred out of his bitter reverie. “Hold on folks!” cried the pilot. “We’re just hitting a little hard road here!” Alfred thought that his death somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness would certainly profit Sam…
Then it hit him like a lightning bolt! It would profit him too! If he died… Well, he could always divorce Sam but she had already threatened to tie him up in court for the next five years and he couldn’t afford that kind of time.
But if he died…All he’d have to do is keep it simple, the simpler, the better. Of course, he’d have to take care of the business end of things very quietly indeed, but it could be done!
Alfred was excited! He could escape from the life he’d thought he wanted and go back to the tiny trappers’ town he’d grown up in, live up in the cabin with his mom, close to his brother, Dave, and his family. Maybe, just maybe, he could be happy!
When he landed in L.A., Alfred picked up his phone and started setting a series of events in motion. One of these was the sale of his small but exceeding valuable agency to a multinational for a huge sum of money. That money was immediately transferred to a trust he set up in his family name, with his mother as the chief beneficiary.
Two weeks later, Alfred went surfing and he never came back. After two days, police found his SUV, with his clothes, wallet, and watch parked on an isolated beach known for its spectacular waves and treacherous currents. His damaged surfboard washed ashore, but Alfred was never seen again.
In the meantime, a quiet man named John moved into Agatha Buchan’s home as a caregiver. He was tall like Alfred but wore casual rough clothes, and a thick beard — something Alfred would never have done.
John quickly became close to the family, and Dave’s kids even called him ‘uncle.’ As for John, he’d never been happier. He spent his time with his mother and wandering the woods.
Samantha was finding her new life without Alfred less peaceful and congenial. The courts demanded that a certain amount of time pass before they declared a man dead and free his property and bank accounts for probate.
Then Sam discovered that the agency had been sold and the money transferred to parts unknown! She was left with the Malibu mansion, of course, and her own bank accounts held enough to keep her comfortable, but Sam wasn’t happy.
The invitations to the A-list parties dried up — after all, they’d been for Alfred, and Sam had been only his plus one. Two years after Alfred’s disappearance, Sam was at the end of her tether!
Then one evening, she was watching TV when a flash on the news caught her eye. An orphan boy had been saved by a woodsman somewhere in Alaska after a tree fell on him.
The reporter was enthusiastically explaining that the man had carried the boy on his back through a snowstorm for seven miles, and Sam was about to flip the channel when she saw the face of the supposed hero. It was Alfred!
The beard was a change, but his profile, the way he turned his head away from the camera, Sam knew it was her husband. “I’m getting him back,” Sam said to herself. “And the fame and parties and everything I deserve!”
Three days later, Sam was pounding on the door of Agatha Buchan’s cabin. “Alfred!” she screamed. “I know you’re in there, and I’m not leaving until you talk to me!”
After a while, the door opened and Alfred walked out. “Keep your voice down,” Alfred said calmly. “My mother and Jason are taking a nap.”
“Jason?” asked Sam bewildered. “Who’s Jason?”
“He’s the little boy I found in the woods. I’m adopting him,” Alfred said quietly.
“Well, I’m calling the police and social services and you won’t get to adopt a stray dog!” Sam screamed. “You’re pretending to be DEAD!”
“No, I’m not.” Alfred said calmly. “You and the authorities presumed me dead. I never said I was dead. I haven’t done anything illegal.”
“The money! Where’s the money?” screeched Sam angrily. “It’s all gone!”
“It’s in a trust for my family. I left you plenty to live in, Sam,” Alfred said.
“But Alfred…” Sam suddenly smiled that sweet smile he’d once loved. “It’s you I miss…”
“Me?” Alfred asked quietly. “I’m another man now Sam. I have a family, responsibilities, and a son. And who knows, maybe one day there will be a woman in my life who will love me for myself.”
Alfred closed the door firmly in Sam’s face. He ordered his L.A. lawyers to file for a divorce and left all his California property in Sam’s hands. It didn’t last long, neither did that pretty face.
What can we learn from this story?
Sometimes we have to give up our ambitions to find our dreams. Alfred discovered that what made him happy wasn’t money or success — it was love and family.
Honesty is the most important factor in a relationship. Sam lied to Alfred about who she was and what she wanted and their marriage fell apart.