Things Happen For A Reason Ch. 01bychezshirecat©
Special thanks go to Kanga40 and Writingdragon for their editing efforts on this one.
"All settled in?"
Luke blinked himself out of the daze he was in and placed the framed wedding photo back on the table in the hallway. He turned toward his beautiful wife and forced a smile as he shrugged and answered, "As settled in as I'm gonna get, probably."
Her happy smile dimmed, and he realized that probably hadn't been the most diplomatic thing to say in the circumstances, at least not with the tone he'd used saying it. Damn, but this was odd. Shifting uncomfortably, he added, "I'm sorry. It's just a little strange." He glanced around and told her, "You have a lovely home. Very warm and welcoming."
"I'm glad you like it," his wife said, obviously now forcing a smile of her own. She awkwardly slid her hands into the back pocket of her jeans, which only caused her full breasts to press against the fabric of her t-shirt and give his attention a new focus.
Luke swallowed and tried to meet her eyes instead of her chest. He didn't know what it was about this woman, but ever since he'd met her, he'd been almost constantly hard, imagining all sorts of dirty and wicked things about that body of hers. Then again, he was human, and she was...well, stacked.
He backtracked and almost laughed at that thought, "ever since he'd met her." By his way of thinking, he'd only met her a month or so ago.
Luke remembered that much all too well, unfortunately. Waking up in the hospital. Not knowing where the hell he was, or why. Then realizing he couldn't even remember who he was, or that the woman, this woman, sitting vigil at his bedside was his wife of ten years. The doctors had said he had traumatic amnesia, a result of an accident on the construction site where he had worked the past two months. Even though he could remember basic knowledge, like how to walk and talk, he couldn't remember the specifics about who he was. His driver's license had said he was Luke Johnston, 35, of Atlanta, Georgia, and since the picture matched his face, he had to believe it was true.
He'd spent long enough in the hospital talking to psychotherapists and being given one test after another. It hadn't helped him remember a damn thing. They'd stuck him in a convalescent home after that, long enough for his body to heal while he came to terms with the idea his mind might never do the same. He'd been glad to get out of there, even if he still had no memory of the woman who'd been holding his hand when he first woke up, the same woman who had visited him everyday without fail, the same woman who always smiled at him as if he were the only man in her universe.
Sarah. His wife's name was Sarah. He had to keep reminding himself of that.
Now, he cleared his throat and tried to make polite conversation. No reason for them both to be uncomfortable. "How long have you, er, have we lived here?"
"About three years," Sarah said. "We bought the house when I found out I—" she stopped herself short, then explained, "Well, when I accepted a job at a nearby school, and it was more convenient."
"I'm surprised. Everything in the guest room looks brand new," he observed.
Sarah smiled wryly and brushed some of her long, dark hair out of her face as she admitted, "I went out last night and bought new sheets and towels. I bought you all new shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant too. All the essentials. I thought it would make you feel more comfortable, rather than use your old stuff."
"You're right, it does," he smiled. "Thank you for being so thoughtful."
She actually turned a little red under the praise, and he suddenly had so many questions he wanted to ask Sarah. How did they meet? How did he propose? Why didn't they have kids? She hadn't offered many details about their marriage, he supposed at the urging of his doctor, who had said he shouldn't try to force his memory to return. And he hadn't had the guts to ask her yet.
"Um, I think I'll go get dinner ready. Feel free to explore the house," Sarah told him as she slowly moved down the hall toward the kitchen she'd shown him when she'd first brought him home, what?, two hours ago now. "If you need anything, just yell."
She didn't take her eyes off him until she had to round the corner, and he sensed that she didn't want to let him out of her sight even then. As if she were amazed he was even here. Still, he watched her too, wondering if he should offer to help or do as she said and explore. He wouldn't mind spending more time with Sarah; hell, he wouldn't mind the opportunity just to stare at her for a while. Even if his head didn't recognize her, his body seemed to know her pretty damn well, or want to know her, at least. Even his doctor had commented on the chemistry between them.
"You two can't keep your eyes off each other," the good doc had told Luke with a twinkle in his elderly eyes. "Sarah obviously adores you, and if I had a woman like that to go home to ... well, it can't be all that bad, surely?"
They'd obviously been very happy together. This house and the various photo albums she'd brought to his hospital room testified to that. The photos showed a very affectionate couple, always hugging and touching and smiling. So many times at the hospital or the home, Sarah would be talking to him and lay her hand on his leg as if it were habit, only to pull back when he seemed uncomfortable with the gesture. Then she would gaze at one of the old pictures of him with such longing it nearly broke his heart. Other times, the times he felt most comfortable around her, Luke had to admit, she seemed to be keeping herself at a distance from him, acting very formal and aloof. He supposed she must be as wary of him in his current state as he was of her. Poor woman. They'd both gotten a raw deal.
Running a hand over the stubble at his chin, he turned and decided to get familiar with his surroundings. The doctor had actually been pretty vague on when his memory would come back. The old geezer had just evasively kept repeating, "Time will tell." Luke figured anything could jog his memory at any time if the movies were to be believed, and he did seem to remember small, insignificant things everyday. However, he was aware there was a possibility he might not ever remember the important details that told him who he was.
It was such a strange thing, really. He couldn't remember his childhood, any of his friends or family, or any of those experiences that taught people how to be who they eventually became. He could walk and talk, read and write, and although he hadn't yet driven, he was pretty sure he knew how to do that too. He'd watched enough television these past couple of weeks in the hospital to realize he knew the answers to half the questions on Jeopardy and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't remember going to school to learn those things. He didn't know if he was more scared or frustrated by that fact.
As he entered the main bedroom, he passed a mirror and paused to study his reflection. He'd studied it a lot in the past week or so, trying to come to terms with the fact that he couldn't really recognize his own face either. The face staring back at him could be considered handsome, he supposed. Not movie-star handsome, but not bad. He figured a babe like Sarah could have done much better for a match, but he wasn't going to start analyzing her taste now. His sandy-colored hair was much longer than it was in all of the pictures he'd seen of himself, which was funny because they'd told him they'd had to cut it at the hospital. Maybe they had just meant the part they'd shaved so he could get stitches because, for the most part, it was so long now it almost brushed the collar of his shirt. All of the pictures he'd seen of himself showed a short, close-cropped cut, very business-like and professional. Personally he liked this length better, but he would have to see about getting it cut so the shaved part didn't stand out so much.
He also noticed that his face was a lot tanner now than in any of the pictures, and suited him better than the pale, office-confined look. That made sense since he apparently had worked in construction. They'd told him he'd been in an accident at work. They'd been digging a tunnel beneath a road when the area around him and another man had collapsed. He had pushed his co-worker to safety but had been trapped beneath the rubble. It had taken hours to safely remove him from the debris, and they hadn't expected him to be alive when they had finally gotten to him. He didn't remember a thing about it, but he was comforted to know he had been a decent enough man to save his co-worker, even if it had cost him dearly.
He glanced around the room, taking in all of the smallest details. Pictures, books, clothes all neatly put in there place. He wondered if Sarah was a neat freak, or if she had just tidied up for his homecoming. She must have moved all of his stuff into the spare room last night, because he only saw her stuff in here. He opened a few drawers just as a test, and because he was curious at what he'd find. There were some men's clothes in his size, but oddly enough, it all looked brand new, and what didn't smelt sort of funny...musty. He sighed, a little disappointed still not to recognize anything. The adjoining bathroom was the same. He didn't see much of anything at all that belonged to a man in there. Hell, he didn't even see any condoms or proof of birth control pills in the medicine cabinet. What did they do? Practice the rhythm method? Maybe they didn't have to worry about it. Maybe they couldn't have kids. Maybe they kept those things in a drawer beside the bed.
"Um, Luke? I forgot to ask..."
He jumped at the sudden sound of Sarah's voice. He pushed the cabinet closed and turned to find her watching him from the doorway. "I was going to make steaks because it's always been your favorite, but maybe you'd prefer something else?" she continued.
"Steaks sound fine," he told her, feeling awkward, as if he'd been caught invading a stranger's personal space. "I like mine well done, please." Too late he realized she must know that already, and then marveled at another trivial detail that had come easily to his mind.
She smiled – one of those formal smiles again – and left, and he breathed a sigh of relief that she hadn't taken offense that he'd been snooping. Then again, why should she? He was her husband. He laughed a little at the thought and fingered the unfamiliar gold band on his finger. To be someone's husband, he sure felt awfully...unattached. When the doctor had first explained that Sarah was his wife, he'd denied it, told them they must have him confused with someone else. He hadn't felt a damn thing when he looked at her outside of what any red-blooded, healthy young male would feel. To him, she was nothing more than a beautiful stranger he'd met several weeks ago. Yet even when Sarah was acting wary of him, he could see that she had strong feelings for him. That made this situation all the more awkward for him. What did she expect or want from him? What if he never regained his memory?
Troubled by his thoughts, he explored the rest of the house and found several areas in need of repair. There was some faulty wiring in the basement where the washer and dryer were, part of the porch was all but rotted through, and the ceiling of the living room had stains as if the roof had leaked recently. Funny how he easily spotted the flaws and knew instantly what it would take to fix them. He couldn't help but wondering why, if he had worked in construction, the problems hadn't been fixed already.
He found one room that was locked, and although that piqued his curiosity, he figured it wasn't any of his business to ask Sarah for a key so he could see inside. It was probably just an old storage closet anyway – that part of the house wasn't shaped to include another room of any size. When he made his way back to the kitchen, Sarah was cutting vegetables to go with their meal. As he got closer he could hear that she was actually crying softly. Oh hell.
"Are you OK?" he asked automatically, startling her. Lifting her sad face, she stared at him pitifully for a second before trying to regain her composure. He felt terrible. Sarah had been nothing but kind to him. But this had to be hard for her, maybe even harder than it was for him if she really loved him as much as she seemed to.
"I just—" she wiped away a few tears and tried to smile. "I almost lost you forever. I wasn't sure I'd ever have you this close to me again." Then the tears began again, and he reacted on instinct, gathering her in his arms for comfort. She grabbed hold of him as if she were afraid to let go as she sobbed quietly against his shoulder. "I love you, Luke. Please don't ever leave me. I know you can't remember me now, but please give me a chance. I can make you love me again, I know I can. We can start fresh. That's better anyway, right?"
"Hey, I'm not going anywhere," he assured her, although he wasn't sure it was a promise he could keep. If he couldn't regain his memories, he feared there wouldn't be much hope for their marriage. Maybe he would come to love her as much as his former self had, but then again, maybe he wouldn't. The future was as uncertain to him as his past was.
After a few minutes, she calmed down and pulled away. "I'm sorry. This can't be easy for you. Just forget what I said. No pressure."
He smiled a little at that and allowed her to pull herself together without comment. He was almost sorry to let her go. Sarah had felt good in his arms, as if some of the void had been filled by her presence. He shook himself of the odd thought. Somehow they managed to get dinner ready, and Luke was careful not to ask any sensitive questions as he probed for details about her. She was acting wary again, answering his questions as if she were doing a proper interview. In any case, he learned that she had been a brand new kindergarten teacher when they'd first met, but she now taught fifth grade at a local elementary school, which explained why she hadn't had to call in to work anymore – it was now the beginning of June.
He learned that they'd met when she had rear-ended him one day while rushing to a doctor's appointment, and she had been near-to-tears, expecting the worst when he got out of his car to confront her.
"But you always said you took one look at me and that was it -- love at first sight," Sarah explained shyly, smiling to herself at the memory. "You leaned down into my window, and I was expecting you to start yelling. Instead you just smiled real big and asked if I had dinner plans."
"And you agreed to go out with me, just like that?"
"Of course!" she feigned disbelief that he would imagine otherwise. "I was terrified if I didn't, you would fake whiplash and my insurance rates would go sky high!" At his disbelieving look, Sarah smiled and admitted, "OK, I said 'no' and we traded insurance information. But then you sent all these beautiful flowers to me a few days later with this sweet note saying you hoped I was OK and that my nerves had recovered. The next day, you called and asked me out again, and you were so charming how could I resist?"
He laughed, felt himself flattered by the comment none-the-less, and asked, "So was I working in construction when we met?"
Luke thought he saw her stiffen as if he'd said something wrong, but then again he didn't know her well enough to be able to judge her reaction for certain. He figured he must have been wrong when she sent him a direct look and shook her head. "No, back then, you were a lawyer. Even more reason for me to go out with you," she tried to joke.
A lawyer! "How—I mean, why was I working in construction if I was a lawyer? Did I get disbarred or something? What kind of lawyer was I?"
Sarah hesitated, then explained, "You started as a corporate lawyer in your father's firm. You worked with a lot of big businesses and made a lot of money, but you always said you wished you were doing something that really helped people. A friend invited you to join his firm, and from that point on, you handled mostly civil cases."
A lawyer. He didn't feel like a lawyer. He even felt a sort of strange, instinctive hatred of them. And his dad...his dad had been a lawyer too. Wow.
Sarah must have seen the look that passed across his face because she added, "A few years ago you got fed up with the lifestyle and bitterness of it all. We—" Again, she hesitated. "Well, you and I were having some problems too. You decided it best to make some changes in your life, and that included your career. Honestly, I'm not sure why you chose to go into construction. You always had lots of interests and could do anything you set your mind to. ... Would you like some dessert or coffee?"
Luke had a million questions he wanted to ask about this exciting revelation, but it was obvious she was uncomfortable with the direction this conversation had taken, so he pretended he would love some dessert and coffee and sat quietly while she retrieved it.
They sat and talked about simple things, such as his family history and hobbies, for another hour. His parents were both dead; he had no brothers or sisters, only a couple of aunts, uncles and cousins he barely kept in touch with. Apparently he had grown up pretty well off, not super rich, but living in a large house and never wanting for anything. He'd also played baseball with a group of friends every Saturday until a few years ago when he had to have to knee surgery. How odd it was to hear such things about himself.
Out of politeness more than anything, Luke also asked a few questions about Sarah's past. He wondered about her own family, and she explained that her parents were still living, but she had been an only and unexpected child late in their years. "We were never really all that close — maybe too much of a generation gap. Even then, I don't think they really wanted a child, and certainly not a girl," she said, sipping her coffee. "Now they live in Arizona. I get a card from them every now and then — birthdays, Christmas — but that's about the extent of their interest in me. Well, I suppose these past few years, we have grown a bit closer, but it's hard for me to trust it, you know?"
He heard the hurt in her voice, although she tried to sound nonchalant about it. He figured her childhood must have been pretty lonely, and thought out loud, "So basically we just had each other."
Sarah nodded, a bit somberly Luke thought, and added, "I hope we still do. No matter what, I'll always be there for you, Luke. Even if you can't remember...anything. I would like to still be your friend."
Finally he admitted, "I appreciate all you've done for me, Sarah, but I really am exhausted. I think I'm going to call it a night, if you don't mind."
But he wasn't as tired as he'd thought. Luke tossed and turned for a while before getting out of bed, feeling edgy and restless. He took a quick shower and watched a little television but quickly became bored with it. Even though his body was still tired and a bit bruised, his mind couldn't stop puzzling over his predicament. He just felt so lost, so alone. Turning the television off, he decided to see if Sarah would like to talk some more, if she hadn't gone to bed yet. This time he wanted to know more about her, her life and her hobbies. He quietly opened his door in case she had gone to sleep already and crept down the hallway to her bedroom. As he grew closer, he could tell that she was talking to someone on the phone.
"....I know, baby, but it's only for the summer. I promise we'll be together again soon, can you understand that?" Sarah paused, and Luke imagined she was listening to the person on the other end. Then, she said emotionally, "Of course I love you. I love you so much, baby. Just trust me, OK?"