tagNovels and NovellasJogging Memories Ch. 06

Jogging Memories Ch. 06

bySpencerfiction©

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Lost

Jennifer Morris had thought long and hard over the nearly thirty-minute car journey home through relatively quiet roads from the hospital on Monday night. She really wanted to talk to someone, anyone, about all the confusing thoughts and hopes and wishes, desires even, which filled her head with the tumult of conflicting indices.

She briefly toyed with the idea of ringing Richard, even though she had recently forced him to agree never to call her again. She was racked with guilt over her affair, fearful of the inevitable fallout once Bob, or Tommy, as he appeared now to be, found out all the sordid details. Bob finding her in bed with her lover was the very last thing she had envisaged when she had set out to continue the affair, so brief had the original mistake been. Some day, some time probably soon, Bob will remember what happened. Then what? Would Jennifer survive the fallout?

As for Richard, he was an absolute arse. Stupid! Everything about what happened was crazy. She knew why Rich wanted to bed her in her own bed, to get one over Bob. Rich was stupid to agree to start up and she was stupid to suggest it in the first place, in fact, thinking about it, Richard was the one who was working on her to give in, not the other way around. She was going to be forty years old next year. Forty and happily married. She had no reason to feel insecure about that did she? What had she found so distressing about that, which led her down this path? Married for twenty years. It just didn't seem possible that it could all crumble around her ears.

Was this what she wanted when she set out to charm the handsome, desirable but difficult Robert Morris to her bed, over twenty years ago? Was it design or desperation that made her chose a man fifteen years older than her as a mate when she herself was at such a tender age? He brought her security; she had to be grateful to him for that.

He had seemed to be a confirmed bachelor when they met. Several of the more mature women at the factory where they both worked had tried to snare the poor man. Bob had resisted all approaches until Jennifer Diplake, spinster of this parish, set out her stall to trap him into making an honest woman of her for the rest of her natural life. Yeah, right, so how long did that honesty last?

Bob already had a tiny mortgage on a small house he almost owned outright at the time. He was a maintenance engineer at the company where Jennifer had started working a few months earlier, shortly after leaving secretarial college. He used to come into the office all the time. Bob was a quiet, reserved man; polite but rarely initiated conversations, only speaking when spoken to. He dressed well, when he was able to discard his customary brown work overalls and socialise with his colleagues once a month or so. The company used to organise regular subsidised and therefore oversubscribed outings throughout the year, to keep their workforce entertained and happy. In the summer they staged picnics in local parks, the seaside or to National Trust properties. In the winter they watched winter shows, and organised dinner dances. Bob reluctantly went in for most of these entertainments. The factory was mainly geared to assembling small parts, so was primarily staffed by women, some married, others single or divorced. Therefore the available single men were at a premium and coercion was a tool much used by the primary organising committee, who had controlling fingers spread through the factory as efficient as any terrorist organisation.

Well, Jennifer thought as she drove home from Chesterfield, she had won him over in those early months of their acquaintance, had kept and married him, and they had enjoyed a great family life together. Just a couple of stupid mistakes on her part with Richard and that Western teacher but she had been blessed with what looked like some kind of reprieve at the eleventh hour. She had to hold on and see this thing out to the end, hoping that Bob would forgive her, if he remembered what happened at all.

Jennifer knew that she loved Bob. She was certain of that. It was just an age thing she was going through, she told herself. She was approaching forty, she felt she was getting old and her children were growing up into adults and leaving her behind. Although Bob was so much older than her, he did not seem to feel his age at all; his body was tight, firm and, she had to admit sensual. She still desired him. He was a considerate lover, better than anyone she'd ever had.

She couldn't explain why she been so stupid and insecure to have done what she had done but that part of her life, she determined, was now over and done with. She declared to herself that she would never again be caught out like that. And there was only one way to guarantee never to be caught out again and that was to be completely honest to her man and maintain her innocence from this point on.

By the time she got home that evening, the kids were already in bed and their lights out, ready for the school day the following day. She thanked Emma, lovely, loyal friend Em, who she hugged for an extra long time, trying to assuage her guilt without completely breaking down and losing it.

"Tell me, Jen?" her friend asked, as she rubbed Jennifer's back, "What's going on? JJ's really concerned about you and you're so upset."

"JJ's upset?" Jennifer fought back a sob, "She doesn't know the half of it!"

"Are you and Bob break-"

"No!" Jennifer snapped, then calmer as she released her grip on Emma, "No, not that, of course not. Emma, Bob is in hospital in Chesterfield."

"No!" Emma gasped, "How is he?"

"He's up and about and has been for a couple of days," Jennifer answered, "Hopefully they will let him home in the next two or three days."

"Has he been there all week?" Emma asked.

"Yes," Jennifer had been rehearsing all the way home how she was going to explain this to Emma, "Bob was taken to hospital in Chesterfield after he stumbled into an attempted rape while he was on his usual run on Sunday. He was playing the hero, got beaten up for his pains and left in a coma."

Emma was astounded, "Never! Is he gonna be alright?"

"Yes, he's going to be fine, he came out of the coma a couple of days ago," Jennifer smiled, "The surgeon left him in the coma after the operation for about four or five days. I told the kids a white lie that Bob was on a course so they wouldn't worry about him. His eyes are black and blue and can't take strong light at the moment."

"Thank God he's alright!"

"But..."

"But? What do you mean, Jen, but?"

"Well, Bob took a blow to the head and ..." Jennifer hesitated a moment, "He's lost his memory, Em, he doesn't remember me or the kids, or anything at all since his early twenties."

"What?" Emma was trying to get her head around this. "Wait, you said he was some kind of hero?"

"Yes, he stopped the rape of a young girl, I met the mother. Her girl is only about two years older than JJ but she sounds-"

"Hold on, hold on, Jen, let's get this straight. Bob stops a rape, gets beat up and loses everything? Is he a, you know, a ... vegetable?"

"No, no, he's walking, talking, he has all his faculties, except that he has lost most of his memories."

"So, will he get them back some time?" Emma sat down on a kitchen stool.

"Bob reckons his shrink, Phoebe, says 'maybe'," Jennifer filled the kettle for a brew.

"Phoebe?" enquired Emma, with raised eyebrows.

"Yeah!" Jennifer laughed for the first time since leaving the hospital, "Bob is different, Em, very different."

"How?" Emma smiled, pleased that Jennifer's sombre mood was lifted.

"He seems younger, chattier, more flirty," Jennifer looked Emma in the eye, "Funny and ... Oh! Gosh! He's hot! Hotter than he has been in a long while."

"I've always thought he was hot, Jen, especially since he took up running and developed that incredible bod of his."

"So, you've thought he was hot all this time, did you Em, and didn't make a move on him?"

Emma shook her head, "I've got both my hands full with Rich. Besides, you're my best friend, Jen. I couldn't do that to you."

"No?" Jennifer said quietly, adding, "No. Of course you wouldn't."

Emma nodded, "So, when will your new hot hunk be able to come home?"

"Tomorrow is unlikely, more like Wednesday or Thursday he thinks, but I'm going in early in the morning to see if I can catch the doctor on his rounds and find out more. His nurse says I can visit Bob at any time during the day. They do have fixed visiting hours, but they appear to relax them for next of kin, especially as Bob seems to have earned a hero-worship status there. I may just have to go lose myself and have a coffee whenever the medics need to do anything to him."

After they finished their pot of tea, Emma couldn't wait to get home and reassure her husband Richard that his best friend, that he had clearly been concerned about for over a week, was safe, almost sound, and coming home as a hero, hopefully in a matter of days.

<<<>>>

Tommy Barlow was sucking his teeth, wondering what he was going to do with the new complications in his life. He had dreamed again towards dawn, at least it was his most recent dream that he remembered when we awoke. He was convinced that he had been rolling down a wooded hill in the dark. Then he appeared to be in a graveyard, surrounded by headstones and statuary. This was confused with flashing lights now and again, then he was off rolling again, hitting gorse bushes and being scratched by thorns and finally coming to rest and sleeping, being aroused by Helen pouring water onto his face.

He only remembered snatches of the dream and tried to fit the images and his feelings input into the framework of what he understood had happened to him, but frustratingly unable to fit the pieces of the jigsaw together into something meaningful.

It had been late morning on Sunday, he understood from what he had been told, when he stumbled into the two abductors and was beaten up for his trouble. Tommy believed what Rachel told him in her summary the previous day. The sun was high and bright, with tree branches blowing in the breeze. That must have been the flashing lights in his dreams. His eyes had received damage hopefully of a temporary nature by the bright light; the dehydration probably meant his eyes were dry and the lids open to the sunlight, before it all went black. Maybe that was why the images look dark as if it was night. The graveyard was disturbing though, accompanied by feelings of dread; maybe Phoebe was right, it was a representation of death.

Awake this morning, Tuesday, he was still trying to figure out what was concrete fact and what were hazy dreams. Helen said she poured water over his sunburned face, and he coughed. It was only at that point that she realised he was alive and ran off to get help. That must be the sensations of being wet. Hitting gravestones must be the beating he received confused with the symbolism that indicated he was preparing himself for the end of his life.

But memories of family life, of Jennifer, his wife of nearly twenty years, there was absolutely nothing. Last night Jennifer and he had briefly discussed their three children. He was told he had lived with them for all of their lives, between 14 and 18 years and taking a full and active part in their upbringing and leisure activities. Of them he could remember absolutely nothing. All his memories, fresh as if they happened only yesterday, were over thirty years old.

He comprehended as irrefutable fact that he had somehow lost those thirty odd years, the evidence of his own eyes in the washroom mirror were enough to convince him. He was old and grey and wrinkled, unlike the youthful face alive with pimples that he had looked at when he last shaved. For him, that seemed like less than a week ago.

So, he knew he was old and had responsibilities that he had to pick up and deal with as soon as he was released from hospital. He had no choice. It was a challenge he simply had to take on board. Yet inside he felt like he was still just a kid, wanting fun, enjoying being cheeky and retaining a devil-may-care attitude to life. He remembered his young wife Sally with a vivid recollection that hurt deeply, he missed her, missed her with an ache that left a void a mile wide in his heart. It was as if Sally had suddenly been wrenched from him and replaced by a bunch of strangers, all of whom had unrealistic expectations of him.

Meanwhile, in the intervening years, Sally must have coped with his abandonment, remarried and set up a new life in a far off continent. What else could he call what he did, other than abandonment? Sally didn't leave him. No, he left her. Why? He couldn't wrap his mind around how that could have happened. But it did. Mum had left the photos with him, that he had poured over all yesterday and ever since waking up this morning. The proof was there. Sally was left alone to face childbirth and bringing up a child, his child. She had got on with her life and was now a grandmother.

Life, and he would have to get used to this fact sooner rather than later, had moved on without him. One moment he was a young childless man, the next he was a grandfather.

Even when he had visitors yesterday, they failed to trigger anything in his recent experience. Alicia, she was the bubbly young mother of an impossibly mature daughter, who he was supposed to have saved from a fate worse than death. Alicia had painted up this act as if it was a daring deed by him. But he had absolutely no recollection of the incident, it was as if that had been performed by a different person entirely, a complete stranger.

Then his "new" wife, Jennifer, had visited with him last night. His supposed wife, as his subconscious persisted in reference to her. Jen was a complete stranger, albeit an attractive and personable one, easy to talk to and engage with, but she brought no fresh memories to the surface. He had shown her the photos he remembered of his youth and the newer ones of which he had only a vague understanding of who everyone was. Even his mother had forgotten who some of the people in the pictures were and kept changing her mind, which was confusing him.

The photos he was mostly treasuring that he had fed into his new memory banks were those of the mature Sally. The series of photos demonstrated the development from a pretty teenager and innocent, almost gawky young wife, that he remembered so vividly, into a beautiful mature woman of grace and elegance, tanned to perfection in the southern sunshine of Melbourne, Australia.

There were photos, too, of the development of his eldest son, one he had no idea existed until the day before yesterday.

Tommy wondered if Bob had known about Brett all along but simply didn't tell his new immediate family. One more possible secret, among so many secrets, like Bob's name and family details. What kind of man had this Bob Morris been? Tommy didn't think it possible that he could be the same man.

Tommy could see from the albums that Brett Barlow had developed into a handsome young man. He understood that he had built an excellent business of his own, had a beautiful wife and two cute children. My grandchildren, Tommy thought, with a lump in his throat. That was almost too much to take in; all new, fresh images for the memory banks, without any hint of anything coming from his own internal memories. Not a spark or even a dull glow of cognisance rose up to meet the overwhelming influx of the brand sparkling new.

"Hello, Mr Barlow, how are you this morning?" came the female voice from the doorway, disturbing his reflective reverie. He looked up, recognising his trick cyclist, Dr Phoebe Holland, who was introduced to him yesterday, just before he met his Mum and the detectives. She was a tall blond woman with a faint Geordie accent to her otherwise quite cultured voice.

"Doctor Holland, good morning. I am as well as I could expect, considering the circumstances, how are you?" he returned.

"Fine, thank you for asking," she pulled out his chart from the end of the bed, checking his medication. Seeing nothing in the hieroglyphics that concerned her, she returned it unmarked to the little rack and beamed at him.

"Physically, you look as though you are well on in your mend. Dr Harding tells me he is pleased with your progress and that you should be able to leave hospital in the next couple of days."

"That'd be great Doc, but I don't exactly know if I want to go home with my er ... wife."

"It is bound to feel strange at first, Mr Barlow, I can understand you feeling a wee bit reluctant. There's no getting around that it is going to be a challenge for you. At the moment you don't recognise your wife and will hardly even know her by the time you go home. But I'm sure this will be the best thing for you in the long run. You need to be at home with all your family and other things around you that were once familiar to you. Almost any one of those objects could trigger a response from your brain. Think of it like a motor, just waiting for a kick start."

"I'll take your word for it Doc, but I am doubting whether I've got much of a brain to fall back on. I didn't do well at school and I never had much ambition to do any more than provide for my wife and raise a family."

"Those are very noble deeds, Mr Barlow," Phoebe said, "For most people doing that well is sufficient for a satisfactory life."

"I don't feel very noble, Doc, just a bit more than a little stupid. At the very least of being a clumsy careless sod who has lost 32 years," he clicked his fingers, "Just like that, poof!"

He couldn't help but laugh at that. He was delighted that she joined him in being amused. Damn it, he thought, ever since I've woken up, having lost a memory, a wife, a son and a dad, he had found himself surrounded by attractive women who seemed to be hanging on his every word. Why hadn't this happened when he was young and had all his mental and physical faculties intact?

He knew why immediately. Back then he had his Sally and she had him; when he was with her he had no eyes for anyone else.

"Maybe," Dr Phoebe suggested, "You should look at this situation in a way that accepts you haven't actually 'lost' those memories, merely 'misplaced' or 'misfiled' them and that one day everything will slot back together again."

"Mmm, that's one way to consider it," Tommy thought about and digested the notion, then smiling back at her, "Maybe these memories are all hiding behind an obstacle?"

"Yes, I believe that is a good way to think about it. Some of your 30-year-old crystal clear memories are obscuring those hidden ones which are lurking in the background, in the shadows and they just need a little coaxing to get back into the light again."

"Does that mean drugs or hypnotism, stuff like that, Doc?"

"We have a full armoury of possibilities, Mr Barlow, but I would suggest that time itself is the most powerful drug I can recommend in your case. Just move back in with your family, keep things as relaxed and stress-free as possible and get on with living your life. If your memory is going to come back, then it will. If it doesn't then the chances are that you and your family will adjust to the new situation, just like you would following, say, something as drastic as a stroke. The chances are very good that something, and it could be very insignificant, will spark off a memory or two. That could build into something sustainable. If not, well, you still have your whole life ahead of you to live. You will form new memories, and in the end that may suffice."

"OK, Doc, you've convinced me, although I have already half decided that I was going to move back in with my present wife, anyway, despite my doubts. I really don't have anywhere else to go."

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