tagRomanceDays Forgotten but Not Lost Ch. 07

Days Forgotten but Not Lost Ch. 07

bynageren©

Mid-June, 2001

Counselor: And you think she knows everything now?

Patient: I don't know what she knows. She had to have seen the pictures, she probably saw my real name... It won't be hard to put the pieces together.

Counselor: But she didn't confront you.

Patient: No. I was asleep. I woke up, the pictures were out on my desk, and she was gone.

Counselor: Let me guess, she's not answering her phone.

Patient: Or her door.

Counselor: Can we talk about...

Patient: (angrily) This... is what I want to talk about!

Counselor: (sharply) I am not your friend who is supposed to listen and help you problem-solve once you've made another self-destructive choice! My job as your counselor is to make sure that you have the emotional skills to keep you from swallowing another bottle of pills the next time she... or the next woman... shuts you out of her life. You scheduled an emergency appointment, now let me do what you pay me to do!

Patient: (softly) There won't be a next woman.

Counselor: Excuse me?

Patient: I said, there won't be a next woman. There's only her. I've only ever loved her.

*******

I drove east for a few hours, then stopped for breakfast and a fill-up. I found a pay phone and called work. It was Sunday, but I knew the offices were open all weekend for a special project we were working on. I was glad when Lee Ann answered. Better her than Monica. I still had all my vacation days available, so I took a week off. Getting permission to do that at the last second was a stretch, but the thing about data entry is that the work is mind-numbingly routine and there's no shortage of temps to be found.

I still didn't know where I would go; I figured I would drive until something made me want to stop. After another hour I saw a rock formation that felt familiar, making me think I should exit the interstate. Upon reaching the intersection at the end of the ramp, I was surprised to notice that my finger had instinctively flicked on my left turn signal. Another forty minutes up a winding, two-lane road and I was beginning to worry I was getting myself lost. I nervously drummed the steering wheel with my fingers. That craving was back. Dammit! What did I want? The road crept up through hills, and green fields gave way to light woodlands.

Finally, I came to a crossroads and didn't know which way to go. At the corner there was a general store that seemed to beckon me, so I stopped there to... Well, I guess I couldn't really ask for directions if I didn't have a destination. But I at least needed something to drink, so I pulled into the empty parking lot.

I walked into the store, which matched the stereotype for every country store you could imagine. The symphony of smells hit me as soon as the door opened, and I knew there was going to be a whole selection of baked goods, local honey, and some other things my stomach already knew but my mind couldn't yet name. I wandered towards the counter, where a gray-haired woman was stocking a shelf. When she turned and saw me, she smiled warmly and shouted, "Irwin! One cabin special!"

From the back, a man's voice hollered, "On it!"

I got to the counter, feeling a bit confused, and the woman said, "I was wondering when you'd be back. Just the usual, right?"

I nodded, a little stunned. While I was still thinking of what to say, a spry, older gentleman hurried past me with a box and began grabbing things from the shelves.

"Should be a good week," she said. "Weather's supposed to be nice. You staying longer than that?"

"No, I don't think so," I answered softly.

"OK. Just holler if you need anything. I had Irwin go check on things this winter. He said everything's fine, but if there's a problem...
"I'll holler," I said, faking a comfortable smile.

"You should have called," she chided me with a worried expression. "We could have gotten everything ready for you – aired it out, washed the sheets, the usual. You know we don't mind."

"Kind of a last-minute trip," I explained. "And... I seem to have lost my address book and all my phone numbers."

"Oh! Heavens, how inconvenient," she tutted, grabbing a business card from next to the register and slipping it into my hand. "We tried calling you a while back, but..."

She was interrupted by Irwin, who walked up, struggling with the awkward size of an overstuffed cardboard box. "I'll just put it in the back seat," he said. "Do I need the keys?"

Realizing he was talking to me, I said, "Uh... no. Should be open."

As he walked out, the older woman put her hand on mine, her finger gently touching where a wedding ring would have been. She smiled sadly and said, "It's good to see you, dear."

"You too," I said, sniffing as my eyes teared up. I was mourning the loss of this friendship. While I hadn't missed them, for two years I had missed the idea of people like them in my life. They knew me. I missed being known.

Irwin came back in, dusting his hands. Leaning his wiry frame against the counter and crossing his arms, he peered down at me. I hastily wiped my eyes and looked up at him. He was a good foot taller than me, and it seemed like the top of his head poked out above his hair. He pointed out to my car and said, "You need some air in the back tire. I'll get that before you go." His accent wasn't local, but he seemed quite at home in these hills. "I doubt you'll need much firewood, but if you end up needing more than you can collect, I can have Barry come up and chop some for you."

"Thank you, I'll be fine," I said.

"Cheryl tell you about the plants?" he asked.

"No..." Cheryl said. "Thought I'd let her be surprised, but since you brought it up... "

Irwin jumped in. "Your wildflowers went wild. Prettiest damn sight on the mountain right now. They run all the way down your drive and right up to the road. They'll meet you at the turn-off."

I nodded and smiled. Hopefully that would spare me from needing to ask directions.

Irwin continued. "Your herbs didn't last long, though, 'cept for the mint. Damn stuff just takes over, don' it? You're gonna wake up dreaming you're in a mouthwash factory. It's all over your south lawn."

"Well, isn't that something?" I said with amazement.

"Yep. Sure is," agreed Irwin. "Welp, let me see to that tire." He trotted out the door, and I reached into my purse to retrieve my wallet. Looking at Cheryl to ask for the total, I was stopped by her bewildered expression.

"What are you doin', Miss Millie?" she asked me. "Same as always – find us on your way out."

I almost broke down and told her everything right then. In any case, I was pretty sure I would tell her before the week was over. I felt like I wanted to ask them to be my new mom and dad.

Putting everything back in its place, I shook my head and said, "Sorry... I'm a little out of it today. Long drive."

"Well, that's what this place is good for," she said. "Coming back to your senses."

*******



The trees got thicker, and the elevation was steadily increasing. I wondered how long I would have to drive before I found the turn. I wondered how long I would continue to drive if I missed it. Twenty minutes later, I had my answer – thankfully to the first question, and not to the second. I rounded a bend and saw a splash of color on the right. Just past the large patch of flowers was a hidden driveway. I managed to slow down just enough to make the turn.

I had to stop and collect myself. Stretching down the dirt road for about a hundred yards was one long swath of wildflowers. It was like my own personal rainbow leading me on my way. I rolled my car slowly along. Coming down to a clearing, I saw exactly what I had come to expect: the cabin from the photos. In the colors of early summer, it looked quite different from the snow-covered one in the pictures, but there was no doubt it was the same place.

I followed a worn path to what seemed to be the parking spot. Stepping out, I breathed in deep. The scent of mint was strong. I stepped up on the porch, running my fingers along the handrail. I thought of the picture of Scott and me taken on that very porch several (how many? I wondered) winters before. I walked up to the door and tried the handle. Locked.

Looking around, I hoped some hiding place would become apparent. Stepping back a little, I tried again. I walked forward towards the door and my right hand instinctively reached out to the planter under the front window. Anything that had been in the planter was long dead, but it was not in the planter that my fingers traveled. Reaching under the rectangular box, I felt a little recess. Inside was a cloth pouch. I pulled out the pouch and shook a key into my hand. The whole thing had happened almost on auto-pilot. For much of the day I had been feeling like an observer inside my own body, following what I could only call 'instinct' in the place of the memories that should have guided me.

I unlocked the door and pushed it open. Hesitantly, I stepped inside. My eyes needed a few seconds to begin adjusting to the lower level of light. Once they did, I began walking around. It was simple, but livable. There was a kitchen, a living room with a fireplace, a bedroom, and a bathroom. The kitchen had a small fridge, which I plugged in. That reminded me to bring in the box Irwin had put together, the "cabin special." I retrieved it from the back of my car and started unpacking it. In addition to essentials like basic toiletries, matches, and so on, it contained enough food to feed me for the week. I put the perishables in the fridge and left the rest sitting out on the counter for the time being.

I went back to the bedroom and looked around. There was a queen-sized bed, a single dresser, and next to the window was a desk with a lamp and a well-preserved manual typewriter. But as interesting as that set-up was, it wasn't what demanded my attention. The walls were lined with pictures. The first one that caught my eye was of Scott in an exact copy of my beach photo. I was sure it was the same spot because I had practically memorized my photo, thinking it some key to my past. And here was a much younger Scott – younger by about a decade – standing in the same place I had stood. Walking slowly around the room, stopping at each frame in turn, I saw pictures of Scott and me, pictures of one or the other of us, pictures of the two of us with friends... it was clear that we had been very happy once. In a sad way, the pictures seemed to play out the future I had begun to hope we would have together, the memories I had wanted to make with him. But now it seemed those memories had already been made, and, in my case, forgotten.

I was becoming convinced that "Maurice Knight" may never have existed and that Scott was my ex-husband. If that was so, then a more disturbing question came to mind: What had happened to drive us apart? If Vicky were the only one advising me to stay away from my ex, I could dismiss that at this point. Her words meant nothing to me. But my mother had said the same, as had other friends who connected with me after my accident. Scott himself had admitted he had done something to hurt the woman he loved, who I could presume was me. But... now what?

*******

I was getting restless; I had the feeling that there was something I should be doing there. I looked out the window and decided to take a walk. It was only mid-day, and I had a lot of nervous energy. Stepping outside, I left the door unlocked and walked into the sunshine. There was a clear path down to the lake. I followed it, and as I got down to the water I could see that the path split. My guess was that it circled the lake, a loop that I estimated would be about two or three miles long.

I started walking, seeing things that felt familiar. I sometimes knew what would be around a certain corner, but seeing it still felt like a surprise. I chose a leisurely pace, taking over two hours to make the loop, which included a long stop on the shore opposite the cabin. I sat in the grass and watched birds and fish and bugs act as if I wasn't there.

I thought a lot about Scott. I thought about whether or not I would let myself continue with him. I could probably understand why he hadn't told me up front about our history, but at the rate I was being deceived lately, my self-protective instinct was in overdrive. I had finally begun letting go of that instinct when I was with Scott. I had been starting to feel not only that I could trust him, but that I could even let him protect me. Perhaps that was why my discovery that morning seemed like all the more of a betrayal.

As I made my way back to the cabin, my stomach rumbled. I had skipped lunch after my late breakfast on the road. Pulling a few items from the box on the table, I made a simple meal, which I ate on the porch. It was just approaching evening, but I was already getting sleepy. It had been a long day, a day that had started early and that had pushed my emotions to the limit.

After cleaning up from my dinner, I started searching drawers. There were more pictures, some of them saved in photo albums. Most of the pictures were of isolated events – ordinary, everyday sorts of things. I saw my garden as it used to be. There were some silly pictures of me smiling and holding up each Ginny Bowers book in front of a store display, like some kind of super-fan. But then I found one photo album that stood out.

Someone (I assume it was me) had made a scrapbook. It was titled "Thailand, December 1990." I tossed it onto the bed, then changed into a tank top and boxers. While brushing my teeth, I noticed a prescription bottle in the medicine cabinet. Pain-killers. It had my name – or my first name with Scott's last name, rather – Amelia Melik. The date on the bottle was from three years earlier. My hands trembled as I held it. I felt a strong urge to open it and swallow a few pills.

The craving! It had found its object and was in high gear. My heart raced and my breathing quickened. I wanted it. My hands started shaking so much that the pills in the bottle were rattling. I twisted open the lid and looked inside. There were maybe a dozen pills at the bottom. How many could I take? Just one? A few?

I could hear the panicked sound of my breath echoing off the tiles in the small room. My pulse was throbbing in my ears. My eyes started watering and I choked back a scream. Who was I? Why did I feel like this could actually make things better?

Not trusting myself to keep up the debate, I acted on a better impulse and dumped the pills in the toilet. Flushing them away, I tossed the empty bottle in the trash and leaned over the sink. Looking at myself in the mirror, I started to weep.

Some things are better left forgotten.

*******

After a cathartic bout of tears while standing there over the sink, I washed my face and locked up the cabin for the night. It wasn't even dark, but I figured time and schedules weren't an issue for me that week. I would probably enjoy waking up at dawn and going to the lake. Had there been a coffee maker in the kitchen? There must have been, I thought. Irwin had given me filters and grounds.

Crawling into bed, I picked up the scrapbook. I flipped through pictures of Scott and me riding elephants, hiking through jungles, playing at waterfalls, feeding monkeys. There were a lot of beach photos, including one of the two of us at the same beach whose image I had come to know so well. As I studied the pictures, I could almost hear some of the sounds. I closed my eyes and remembered the humid walk through a tropical fruit plantation. I recalled the surprisingly bristly feel of the elephant. I couldn't remember the events themselves, but I was beginning to remember how they had felt. I remembered my amazement at finding an endless field of starfish at our feet one evening.

And beneath all those sensory memories was an undercurrent of one emotion, happiness. I remembered feeling warm and happy and loved and complete. A honeymoon, maybe? I wished there was a wedding album somewhere. I saw rings on our fingers. What had become of my wedding ring?

The sky was getting dark earlier than I had expected. Then I remembered the trees and hills would block the sun sooner than the flat city sprawl I was used to. With a sigh, I set the book on the nightstand and lay down. The sheets smelled a little musty, but not too unpleasant; they would do. My body promised me that sleep wouldn't wait long.

*******

A cabin on the beach. It was nighttime, and the only light was from the stars. The only sound was the crash of the waves and the heavy breathing of the man above me. The only people on the island were the two of us, myself and him. We were the only people in the world, it seemed.

We had kayaked out there and rented the cabin for a few nights of beautiful solitude. We had played in the waves and watched the stars come out. And now, in this cabin that was no bigger than our bedroom back home, we had put up the mosquito netting and removed our clothes. The smell of sunblock lingered on our skin as our bodies glided against each other.

My mind was drifting between dreams and wakefulness. The images and scenes that my dreams had initiated were fueling my fantasies. But it wasn't a fantasy, was it? It was a memory, an honest-to-goodness memory. Or was I still asleep and dreaming about being awake? It didn't matter, as long as it continued. My hands slipped under my clothes as I pictured the scene again.

"Do you have the condoms?" I asked breathlessly.

His cock was poised to enter me, the tip just breaking past my folds. "We ran out yesterday," he whispered, his lips brushing mine. "We'll have to get more in Bangkok."

I groaned softly, moving my hips a little, teasing his tip. "Bangkok isn't for three more days."

"I didn't think we'd go through so many in our first week," he said, both of us smiling at the memories of using up our supply.

"We can't..." I sighed, then reconsidered. "You'll have to... unnnnh..." I was interrupted by the sensation of his cock starting to press into me. "You'll have to pull out."

"I don't know if I'll be able to," he confessed, pushing the rest of the way in.

"Just do your best," I breathed, giving in to my own desire and pushing my hips up.

It didn't last long. We were both so excited, and the novel experience of taking me unprotected was too much for him. After only a few beautiful minutes of our bodies sliding together – in sync with the sound of the waves hitting the shore – he gasped, "I'm close, baby."

"This moment is just too perfect," I murmured, looking into his eyes.

"It's only perfect because we're together," he replied, slowing down as he spoke. But then, as if he had been too close to stop, he pushed hard into me and sped up again. I opened my mouth in a silent cry, trembling as a small orgasm surprised me. Just then, he gasped, "I've gotta... gotta..." Not wanting anything to ruin the perfection of that moment, a perfection I saw extended in the way we were climaxing together, I put my hands on his bottom and pulled him into me.

"Oh God, baby... Oh... I love you!" he gasped, sliding firmly into me and releasing. The throbbing of his cock inside my clenching walls was the only thing in the world for a few seconds. Then, as the intensity wore off, the sound of the waves drew us out of our euphoric fog. Putting his hand on my cheek, he said, "I do, Millie, I love you so much."

Pushing my face up to kiss him, I said with a heartfelt passion that took me by surprise, "You're my everything."



*******

I didn't know how much was dream and how much was fantasy, but my fingers didn't care. They skillfully brought me to a healthy climax, and I shouted in release. The sweat on my brow from the warm summer evening made me confused enough to wonder if I was still on that blesséd beach; but it was the sound of crickets and not waves that lulled me back to sleep.

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