tagRomanceDays Forgotten but Not Lost Ch. 08

Days Forgotten but Not Lost Ch. 08

bynageren©

Once again, I wish to thank GaiusPetronius for his helpful edits and suggestions on this series.

*****

June 21, 2001

Patient: I'm just calling to let you know that I won't make my appointment this week.

Counselor: If you need to reschedule, you'll have to talk to my secretary.

Patient: No, it's OK. I just wanted to let you know that... I found her. I'm with her, and... and it's OK.

Counselor: Just OK?

Patient: I'm going to tell her everything tonight.

Counselor: Everything?

Patient: Well, that's going to take some time. All the important stuff, though.

Counselor: We've disagreed in the past on what that includes.

Patient: Your definition this time.

Counselor: Good. And if she... doesn't take it well?

Patient: Then... I guess maybe you should keep that appointment open after all, just in case.

Counselor: (chuckles) Well, despite what you may think of me, I really hope I don't see you on Saturday.

*******

Call me thick, call me slow, say what you will, but when Scott told me that I was Ginny Bowers, I couldn't believe him at first. I had to be persuaded. It wasn't an "Aha!" moment at all, but something that just started to make sense as Scott helped me connect the dots. I had all her books, but they didn't look like they had been opened until I started reading them the year before. Her last book was published a year before my accident, and nothing had come out since. Her last novel had been written around the time of our divorce, which was why it had such a noticeably sadder tone. The pictures in the cabin of me posing with each new book...

"Who is R.S.M.?" I asked as my mind turned over the facts. "Almost all her books were dedicated to R.S.M."

Scott shifted around on the rock and looked at his feet. "I... I thought you knew about that, too... " He sat up and wrapped his arms around his bent legs. "Reuben... Scott... Melik," he said slowly, separating each name.

"Ru... " I muttered.

He nodded. "I didn't plan to go by my middle name with you. But then again, I wasn't planning to talk to you at all that night. So when you caught me off-guard, I reacted... I don't know... poorly, I guess. Maybe I thought that when you heard my name it might evoke memories that I wasn't ready to deal with."

"So... " I began, my fingers tracing the letters R+M scribbled on the rock at different points, with dates going back more than ten years, "you were stalking me, right?"

"No!" he objected, "Not really. Well... sort of, I guess. It was a crazy coincidence, you know, the first time we met after your accident."

"When I startled you to the point of spitting out your drink?"

"Can you blame me? I was trying to just get away for a little bit. I was thinking about you, and so I went back to the bar where we first met."

"We met at Darla's place?"

"Before it was Darla's, yeah. Anyway, I turn around and there you were. We'd been divorced over two years. You talked to me only through a lawyer. You hated me - you had slapped a restraining order on me, even. I could get in trouble for being in the same room with you. And then there you were, hitting on me in a bar. I didn't even know about your accident."

I started to laugh. "I wish I could go back and see the look on your face again, knowing all that."

"When I got back from cleaning up in the bathroom, you had moved on. The old guy at the bar told me what had happened to you. He and I had never met, so I got his unfiltered version."

"Zeke? I didn't think he knew," I mused, wondering it maybe Darla had said something to him.

"Zeke knew because you should have known Zeke. You weren't friends or anything, but he did your taxes for years. When you didn't recognize him, he pieced it together, and Darla confirmed his suspicions."

"Aww, I had no idea. I've been seeing him for two years and he's never said anything."

"Well, don't feel too bad. He told me he's hoping you'll get forgetful and desperate enough to take him home one night."

"Ewww," I shuddered.

"Anyway, after I found out what was going on, I watched from a distance that night as you picked up a guy and walked out the door with him. I felt sick to my stomach. I had still been hoping that the divorce was just a really low point for us and that we would eventually get back together. So I started making weekends at Darla's a habit. I don't know why. I think I just wanted to make sure you weren't being hurt. Or maybe I wanted to see what your new life was like. And yes, I was partly hoping I could win you back. I just hadn't figured out how to do that."

"And then, one slow night at the bar," I commented, "and I took away your chance to finish planning anything."

"Boy did you," he said, shaking his head.

"I bet you were glad things moved so quickly," I said wryly.

"Huh? Are you kidding? It was agonizingly slow," he lamented.

"We slept together the first night, Scott... Ru... whatever."

"Not that," he sighed. "I knew that part would be easy..."

"Ru!" I snapped.

"You know what I mean," he said, a little dismissively. "You were there to pick up guys. How easy would it have been for me, knowing you as well as I do, to convince you to take me home?"

I exhaled loudly and shrugged. "You're right. Go on."

"I've told you this already. It's not just your body I want. It's you. And that would take time, especially since, well... you didn't even know who you were, really."

"And so the garden, and the food..." I reflected.

"Exactly. And a bunch of little things that I hoped might spark a subconscious sense of attachment."

"When were you planning to tell me who you were?" I asked, knowing we still hadn't gotten to the hard questions.

"I didn't have a plan," he groaned, shamefacedly putting his hands up to his forehead, then slowly dragging them down. "Part of me wanted to see if we could just start fresh. A new life together, a happy life again. Cut ties and move somewhere new. I wasn't pretending to be someone else. Everything you know of Scott is true - it's me."

"But if I remembered... or when we inevitably talked to someone who knew you... like my mom... "

"I knew there'd be hell to pay."

"She really doesn't like you," I commented softly.

"Hm? Oh, Sylvia you mean? Yeah, she hates me," he said with a hint of a laugh.

"What's the story there?"

Just then the honk of a car horn broke the stillness of the afternoon.

"Let's go talk to Irwin," Scott said, sliding off the rock. "I'll tell you on the way."

We walked back to the path and Scott told me of our real first meeting, in Darla's place, back when it was a college hang-out. We were in a creative writing class together and he approached me to talk about an upcoming assignment. It was Scott who first started telling me I should write more. We dated, and after our first night together, I wrote an erotic story about it. Scott insisted I had real talent, the kind that could sell books. I finished my first novel before I graduated. I completed a pre-med degree but never went any further in that field. I had become a devoted writer.

My mother hated it; she had wanted a doctor in the family. She said I'd wasted four years and she blamed Scott for all of it. She scowled through the wedding. Even when I found modest success in my career, she told me how ashamed and disappointed she was. She told me she wanted me to pay her back for all the money she had wasted on my education. Just to spite her, I sent her a check for almost twice that - all the money I'd earned from my third book. She never cashed it. But she also never mentioned money again.

Just then, we were coming into the clearing and saw Irwin by the lake, squatting down and looking at the boat, which he had pulled ashore. We walked up to him and he said, "She's almost sea-worthy. Reuben, can you run up to my truck and grab a bucket of pitch? There's one little spot here I'm worried about." Scott looked at me and grinned, then jogged away. Of course Irwin had a plan to get me alone for a minute.

Once Scott was out of earshot, Irwin asked without looking away from the boat, "You OK?"

"I'm fine, Irwin, thank you. We're finally talking some things through. We've been together for a few weeks now."

Irwin raised his eyebrows and half-smiled. "OK, then," he mumbled. Then standing up he said, "You know, I think that spot'll be fine for a while. I'll come fix it next week."

We walked back to the cabin, where Scott was still rummaging around in the bed of Irwin's truck. "I don't see anything, Irwin," he hollered, playing along with the ruse.

"No? Well, maybe I forgot it. Never mind, then." Irwin climbed into his truck and leaned out his window as he started it up. "Cheryl sent some more supplies up, in case you was staying," he said, nodding to Scott. "I put them on the porch."

"Thanks!" I yelled, waving as he drove off. Scott was already carrying the box inside. I followed him in and he went right to the kitchen. Evening was coming, and we were both hungry. Scott busied himself in the kitchen, and I tried to help. "You never really could cook," he said with a smile.

"I'd rather just blame that on the amnesia," I said.

"A convenient lie," he joked.

"Scott... I think I'm going to keep calling you that for now... you're avoiding talking about something."

He was silent for a moment while onions sizzled in a pan. "I know," he said solemnly. "Let's talk about that after dinner, OK?"

"Alright," I conceded. I tried to think of something happy. "Tell me about Thailand," I said.

Without looking up from the pans in front of him, Scott smiled.

*******

We ate dinner on the living room rug. Cheryl had sent steaks and wine. I think she was hoping things were going well between us. I wished it was a bit colder outside, cold enough to warrant a fire. As we ate, Scott turned the pages of the scrapbook, filling in the stories of our trip to Thailand.

We had been married almost two years. When we had gotten married, funds were low. My mother had cut me off financially, thinking she could bully me away from the path I was on. We used what little we could spare to pay for the simple wedding. But then my first novel was published, and Ginny Bowers was a hit. The second book was published just six months later and kept the momentum going. On our one year anniversary, we started planning a honeymoon. At that point money was really no object. Scott's teaching paid the bills (barely) as long as we lived simply, so all my earnings were free to be saved, invested, or spent. Fortunately, we did little of the latter and a lot of the first two. But Thailand was our big splurge.

For three weeks over the winter holiday we backpacked in Chiang Mai, explored Bangkok, lounged in Hua Hin... It was wonderful. We were young and in love. We really did run out of condoms before kayaking out to a private island for a few nights. Scott said it was the most exciting love-making we'd ever experienced. The thrill and intimacy of going bareback was something we only ever risked during those three days.

I told him of my dream from the first night in the cabin. He said it sounded about 20% fantasy and 80% reality. Imagining again our time on the beach caused me to consider skipping any further conversation for the night and take him to bed. Whatever conflict was between us could wait until the morning, I thought.

Scott may have been thinking the same thing, but instead of acting on it, he stood up, carried our plates to the sink and rinsed them off. Wiping his hands on a towel, he said, "Let's go out to the boat."

Still on the floor, I turned my body towards him and asked, "Now? In the dark?"

He gave me that warm smile that inspired trust. "Even if you don't remember it, try to imagine floating on the lake and staring at the stars."

I closed my eyes and did imagine it. "It would be like floating in space," I whispered. I opened my eyes when I heard Scott at the front door.

I quickly stood and looked around. "You never wear your shoes," he said. It still amazed me how well he knew what I was thinking.

*******

Scott had found only one of the oars, but it was enough to get us away from from the dock and out to the middle of the lake. We floated in silence, him leaning back and me between his legs, resting against him. His arms were on the edges of the boat, and I pulled them close, wrapping myself in his embrace. Scott had brought a large fleece blanket in case it got too chilly. I spread it out on my lap and draped it over our legs.

"About seven or eight years into our marriage," he began, "it got rough. Some of it was the usual - just stress. Your books weren't selling as well as they used to, and that upset you. I think you were worried you'd lose your contract. Anyway, we also started talking about kids, which we were both eager to have. But... I was worried. You had some... issues... that complicated things., and I didn't want to start a family until...until you made some changes." He was obviously uncomfortable and was choosing his words carefully and delicately.

"The pills?" I prompted.

"You know?"

"I've guessed. I found some in the cabin."

"Did you...?" his voice quavered.

"No," I whispered, fighting tears. Scott exhaled slowly. "No, I didn't. I flushed them. I wanted them so badly, though." I squeezed his arms tighter around me, wanting him to keep away all the things that frightened me.

"I know," he said, after a moment of floating in the stillness of the night. "You had gotten addicted to pain killers. You thought I didn't know how bad it was, but you couldn't really hide it from me. When I suggested rehab before trying to get pregnant, you flipped out on me. It was bad timing, too. You had been distant, and I was lonely. Vicky started working at my school that fall."

At the mention of Vicky's name, I stiffened involuntarily.

"She pursued me... but that doesn't excuse what I did. I still made my choices. I'm responsible for them. I blamed you at first, but that was a cop-out. After a few weeks, a few weeks of just... harsh words between us... I gave in. Vicky and I went to her place after work one day. She and I lasted almost six weeks. With Vicky it was just a physical thing, mostly. I mean, she said so many nice things and was so very eager to please, and a guy can't help but like that, too. Especially when you... when we had been missing that in our marriage."

He was silent for a moment. I started to get lost in thought, imagining what it must have been like to live with Scott but to always be at odds with him. What was it like to lie down at night next to a man that you didn't even want to talk to?

He continued, "You were here at the cabin for a lot of that time, and Vicky tried to act like she and I were dating or something. It became clear she thought I was going to leave you for her; she kept saying I had never loved you and that she and I were soul mates. I knew that wasn't true at all. I knew that what I felt when I was with her paled in comparison to what you and I had. So I ended it."

"I bet she went ballistic," I said.

"Actually, no. Worse than that. She was totally calm and totally convinced I'd come back to her. She said she'd wait for me."

"She's still waiting, and scheming, I think," I said.

"Yeah, well, Vicky was never your friend, so her showing up in your life after your accident is proof of how far she's ready to go."

"I was wondering about that," I commented. "Her whole story of our friendship was starting to seem contrived. So she basically showed up in my life and tried to erase you from my apartment, didn't she?"

"Looks like it."

"But we were divorced. Why did she still need to worry about me?"

Scott sighed and squeezed me a little. "The divorce was all you. I made it clear to you and to Vicky that you were the only woman I loved. Whether or not you and I were together, you were a threat to her."

"The divorce was all me?"

"All you. After I ended the affair, I brought you up here to talk about it. That was when we took the pictures you saw."

"Oohh..."

"After a really good day or two of starting to reconnect and heal and even talk about rehab, I told you about Vicky. In retrospect, it was horrible timing. Anyway, I swore it was over and I asked you to forgive me and to go with me to see a marriage counselor. I swore I'd do anything to make it right. But I had hurt you badly. I don't know...I thought...I don't know. There was a lot of fighting and a lot of crying. What it came down to was you saying that you couldn't forgive me. You said that as long as you lived, you would never be able to forget how I'd betrayed you. And that was it. It was a long, silent ride back home."

I closed my eyes and thought about that, trying to imagine what the end of a marriage looks like. "How... strange," I finally said.

"Strange?"

"Turns out I did forget. And that was all it took to get us back together."

Scott sniffed a little laugh. "Oh, that was all, huh?"

"No big deal," I said, squeezing his arms tighter around myself and leaning my head on his arm.

I looked up at the stars. My problems seemed so small and inconsequential. My life seemed so short and frenetic. I waited for Scott to go on. I didn't mind the silence, though. The lapping of the water against the boat was enough to fill my ears and my mind for now.

"That's it?" I finally asked.

"Hm? Yeah, pretty much."

"That doesn't sound right," I mused. "Why would I react so strongly to... to that? It seems, maybe, a little disproportionate, you think?"

"I didn't blame you for it. Look at it this way. You're used to being alone. But the old Millie had been rejected by her mom over me. She changed the whole course of her life and married me. You would tell me that I was your everything, and I don't think you were just being sappy. You meant every word of it."

"And then you betrayed me," I said softly.

"It was about the worst thing I could have done to you. I didn't think of it that way at the time. I just thought of satisfying myself. Vicky was... a convenient body at my disposal. The way I treated her was bad in its own way. I tried to apologize, but she only wants to hear one thing from me."

Craning my head back to get a look at his face, I asked, "And she's not going to hear it, right?"

"Never, love."

"Did you ever tell her you loved her?"

Laughing, he said, "No. And it irked the hell out of her because she had been saying it since day one. She was so sure we were meant to be."

"Not was. Is. She is still sure of it." I shifted around to get more comfortable. The rise and fall of his chest moved my head slowly up and down. Cool air moved across the lake, and I could smell the mint on the breeze. I felt myself dozing off.

Scott ran the back of his fingers along my cheek. Softly he told a story of how I had once fallen asleep in his arms just like this, on the boat at night. I must have dreamed something startling, because I awoke with a shout and a full body spasm. Trying to stop me from going into the water, Scott had over-corrected and we flipped the boat. I would later joke that Scott had engineered the whole thing just to get me naked in front of the fire. He would point out that I was the one who had started it all.

I smiled. I liked listening to him tell stories of us. An owl hooted nearby and I wondered where on the lake we had ended up.

"So what now, Millie?" Scott asked very softly.

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