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Amaranthine Tapestries

Amaranthine Tapestries

Vorschau lesen

Amaranthine Tapestries

Länge:
767 Seiten
12 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
May 19, 2014
ISBN:
9781310302060
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

: Experience the agony & the ecstasy in this tumultuous saga of six friends who risk it all on an emotional journey to find love & fulfillment ... Kathryn – Will her physically abusive & unfaithful husband drive her into the arms of another man? Steven – Will the business remain his mistress having no one to fill his heart or his bed? Rachel – Will her past of married men & one-night stands keep her from finding her soul mate? Michael – Will the impending death of his mentor breathe new life into his stagnant career & predictable marriage? Frank – Will working with the police to find a violent predator on the gay community reunite him his partner in the next life? David – Will this aging rocker fool around & fall in love? ...feel their pain as they suffer the indignity of rape and abuse, the heartbreaking loss of a child and say goodbye to a dear friend. Share their joy as they find their way home, ignite fiery passions and embrace new dreams as their lives intertwine to become Amaranthine Tapestries.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
May 19, 2014
ISBN:
9781310302060
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

A native New Yorker, Mary now resides in the Pocono Mountains with her beloved husband and spirited Chow Chows. Mary is new to the literary world having enjoyed a successful healthcare career for the past 19 years. Mary’s artistic pursuits also include a newfound passion for photography and more than 15 years as a professional vocalist. Watch for upcoming novels from Mary that will include the exciting, fast-paced sequel to The Cain Sanction; the Amaranthine Tapestries – a lusty story of forbidden love and timeless devotion; and The Autumn of Lily – an emotional journey of hope, rebirth and second chances.


Buchvorschau

Amaranthine Tapestries - Mary McNally Ratto

Tapestries.

Chapter 1 - Lost

Dr. Barney Sidowski or Dr. Sid, as he was known to his patients, was driving home after another late shift at Sarasota General Hospital. After thirty years as an E.R. attending, he had become as much of an institution as the hospital itself. He preferred the long hours of treating patients to wandering around his big, empty house alone. Since losing his wife, Marie, to cancer last year, he’d been trying to get up the courage to sell the house and buy a small condo closer to the hospital, but he couldn’t find the energy to make the few home repairs the realtor had suggested and didn’t have the heart to box up Marie’s belongings and give them to Good Will. All of his memories of life with Marie were in that house. Her prize winning rose garden, the porch swing he and their daughter, Samantha, had bought her for Mother’s Day, the gourmet kitchen they had designed for entertaining friends and family, the hot tub they would soak in for hours talking about anything but his patients and hospital politics and the many colorful bird houses he had made in his wood shop for her that dotted their property. If he sold the house now, he would forfeit all of those memories and he wasn’t ready to wipe the slate clean and start over. All he had left were his memories.

It was just around two a.m. and he was alone on the long stretch of road. The star-speckled night sky had given way to clouds and a light drizzle. He usually took the scenic route home; the top down, his arm out the window and Sinatra on the stereo. But, tonight he was feeling the stress of the day and didn’t trust his failing eyesight on the dimly lit back roads in bad weather. His arthritis was flaring up and he longed for the comfort of a hot shower followed by a warm bed for at least eight hours.

His eyes followed the bends in the road carefully and he kept his high beams on to better illuminate the highway in front of him. He thought he detected movement along the shoulder just ahead, but assumed it was the bad weather and lack of sleep playing tricks on his eyes. As he drew closer, he could make out enough detail to see that it was a person walking along the side of the road. When he pulled up along side them, he realized it was a young woman dressed in a white sundress. With no other cars in sight and not trusting the element that would be on the road at that hour, Barney couldn’t in good conscience pass her by without stopping to help.

Barney pulled the car onto the shoulder about twenty yards in front of the woman so he didn’t startle her. He got out of the car and walked toward her the same way he would a frightened animal. Even in the limited light, he could see a large gash in her head that was bleeding down the side of her face and across the front of her dress. Her eyes looked distant and unaware and they were wide open with fear; she seemed to be in shock and mentally removed from her surroundings. She had on nothing more than a white sundress that was soaked through from the rain and her feet were bare. Barney was struck by her beauty, even with her hair hanging in wet strands around her face and mascara smeared around her eyes. She reminded him of Merle Oberon from Wuthering Heights with her alabaster skin, long dark hair and warm eyes. She was tall and slim and even with her fear and uncertainty, she carried herself with a regal air. She looked like a haunted, delicate, porcelain doll.

Barney heard her mumbling to herself, but couldn’t make out what she was saying. He cautiously moved closer to the woman and held out his hand.

"I’m Dr. Barney Sidowski, but you can call me Dr. Sid. You look like you need help.

Again she mumbled something Barney couldn’t understand.

Miss, you have a serious head wound that needs medical attention. I would like to help you, if you’ll let me."

Barney inched closer still and could see bruising and abrasions on her arms and legs. He held out his hand again and this time she acknowledged him.

Please, I’d like to help you. Can I call someone?

The woman began to tremble and tears streamed down her face.

He’s dead.

Who’s dead?

The man.

Where is the man?

Back there, in the dark.

Do you know him? Were you with him?

He just stared at me and never moved. I had to get away.

What is your name, dear?

The woman’s face twisted with confusion and her eyes looked off in the distance in search of an answer, but none came.

I don’t know.

Do you live around here?

Again the woman shook her head.

I don’t know. I can’t remember.

Barney wanted to take her back to the hospital so he could examine her, but wasn’t sure if she trusted him enough to get in his car. He also needed to call the local police and make them aware of a possible death in the area. Maybe if they found the man she spoke of, they would also learn more about her.

It’s okay. That’s not important right now. I just need you to trust me. Can you do that?

Why?

You need to go to the hospital. You’re hurt and need medical attention. I’m a doctor and I work at the hospital, they’re my friends. They will help you, but you need to come with me. Will you do that?

The woman thought for a second and realized her options were limited. She was cold and frightened and didn’t want to walk alone in the dark anymore. He had an honest face and warm eyes and she needed to trust someone.

Yes. I’ll come with you.

Barney took her gently by the arm and led her to his car. He secured her in the passenger seat and headed back in the direction of the hospital. When they arrived, he walked her inside past the registration desk and directed her to an empty curtain area in the E.R. Luckily, it was a quiet night and his favorite nurse was on the floor.

I have to leave you for just a minute, but I’m going to send in my favorite nurse. Her name is Mrs. Baker. She is going to help you.

Are you coming back, Barney?

Yes, I promise, I’ll be right back.

The woman sat on top of the gurney letting her legs dangle over the side. She had the body of a woman in her thirties, but her eyes bore the innocence and fear of a young girl who had gotten lost on her way home.

Barney pulled Nurse Baker aside to tell him of his late night rescue.

Poor thing. And she can’t remember anything?

No. I think it’s her head wound. I’d like to get her cleaned up; maybe get her some scrubs to change into and then we’ve got to contact the local police. I’ll give them the mile marker where I found her and they can start looking for the man she claims is dead.

Do you think she’s telling the truth?

I don’t think she’s lying. Something terrible definitely happened to her, but I just don’t know what. We need the police to get involved. Maybe they can help fill in some of the blanks.

Okay, Barney, I’ll look after her. What do you want ordered?

First, let’s get a CT scan for her head wound along with the standard blood work. I also want to see if she’s under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. And do one of your usual assessments. Look for any other wounds or indications of what she’s been through. But, keep a low profile. I don’t want to traumatize her more than she already has been. Let’s take it slow.

Will do. You look tired, Barney. You put in a long shift today.

I’m okay. All of a sudden I’m wide awake. Just give me a shout when the test results are in. I’ll be at the nurses’ station talking with the police.

Mrs. Baker stepped behind the curtain wearing her warmest smile and carrying a fresh pair of scrubs. Barney had been right. She was beautiful, but something in her eyes said she’d been through an ordeal.

Hello, my name is Mrs. Baker and I’m going to take care of you.

Hello. Barney says you’re his favorite nurse.

Well, he’s my favorite doctor. But, don’t tell anyone I said that.

I don’t know my name.

"Yes, Dr. Sid told me, but that’s okay. You’re in good hands. Now, why don’t we get you cleaned up and into some dry clothes. I brought these nice new scrubs for you to change into. You must be cold.

The woman nodded.

Okay, let’s take your dress off and we’ll put it in this bag for you. Do you have any shoes?"

I don’t know where they are.

That’s okay, too. I’ll get you some warm booties for your feet.

The woman raised her arms so the dress could be pulled over her head. Mrs. Baker took notice of the jagged scarring along her arms, legs and back. The scars across her stomach looked particularly deep and severe. There were some minor bruises and scratches that looked fresh, but the head wound was the worst of her injuries.

When the woman was made comfortable, a phlebotomist came in to draw some blood while Mrs. Baker called the radiology department for a portable CT scan. She found Barney in his office talking with the local sheriff.

So, how is our mystery patient?

I think she’s been abused.

Recently?

No, she has scars along her arms and legs and her back and stomach are a mess. It looks like a pattern of abuse. The scars don’t have the same aging pattern.

Let’s order some x-rays. Let’s see how deep the abuse goes.

Domestic violence was a hot button issue for Barney. He headed up the committee that funded the women’s shelter run by the hospital and organized a weekly support group. His daughter, Samantha, had married a man who was prone to violent attacks and it lead to her suicide at the age of twenty-five. He could still remember the night she had called to say goodbye and how he and Marie had rushed to the house to save her, only to find her lifeless body in the bathtub, both wrists slit to the bone. He had tried to file charges against her husband, but they couldn’t prove he was to blame and his attorney suggested that Samantha had a history of untreated depression that led to her suicide. The only thing that kept Barney from going off the deep end was trying to help other women escape the same fate. He and Marie championed the cause for the women’s shelter and worked tirelessly to raise the money to get it started. He couldn’t bring Samantha back, but he hoped the shelter would provide other women in the same situation with an alternative to suicide.

Okay. What did the police say?

They don’t have a missing persons report, yet. So, I gave them the mile marker where I found her and they’re going to start searching the area. How is she doing?

She seems to be calm; still confused, but a little less frightened.

Okay. Don’t leave her alone for too long. I don’t want her walking out of here until we get some answers.

A couple of hours later, Barney was treating the victims of a motor vehicle accident when Mrs. Baker alerted him that the mystery woman’s test results had returned. Her drug screens were negative and the CT scan showed a severe concussion, but no skull fracture.

I put the x-rays up on the reader. You’ve got to see this to believe it.

Barney gasped in horror at the number of fractures she had suffered over the years. She looked like she’d been put through a meat grinder; the same bones broken in the same places time and again. There was no mistaking the tell-tale signs of repeated, long-term abuse.

My God, Baker, what that poor girl has been through. It’s no wonder she’s in shock.

The external wounds have healed, but how do we heal her mind. We may be witnessing a total emotional breakdown as a result of years of abuse.

I know this is unkind to say, but I hope the police do find a man dead and it’s the man who did this.

I agree. This guy’s a real monster.

Oh, there’s something else you need to know about.

What’s that?

She’s pregnant.

What?! Well, you better get obstetrics down here to check her out. Now, we’ve got two lives to be concerned with.

Will do. Are we keeping her here with us?

She’s staying here until we hear back from the police. I don’t really have medical justification for keeping her here, but her pregnancy just created enough of a complication to warrant further tests. We’ll decide what to do next in the morning.

We can’t just release her on her own and we definitely can’t give her back to the bastard who did this.

Trust me, that’s not going to happen. If I have to, I’ll take her home with me until we find some family or friends we can trust.

Okay, Barney, I’ll stay close.

Thanks, Baker.

Barney stopped in to see her as he was making rounds. She seemed to be resting comfortably and had calmed down considerably since he last saw her.

Hi, how are you doing?

Hi, Dr. Sid. I’m good, I think. Everyone has been very nice to me, especially Mrs. Baker.

Yeah, she is the best. Are you hungry? Can I get you something to drink?

No, thanks. I’m not very hungry. Am I going home soon?

Do you know where home is?

No, but maybe someone is looking for me.

Well, I contacted the police and they’re going to let us know. Just be patient.

Okay. Thanks.

I’ve got to do rounds, but I’ll be back in a little while and Mrs. Baker is here, if you need anything. Just press the call bell.

Okay. I will. Thanks.

Barney’s heart ached for what she’d been through and couldn’t wait to see who turned up to claim her. If she did have a husband responsible for that level of abuse and he tried to take her home, Barney would see him in handcuffs before he would allow her to leave with him. It was too late to help his Samantha, but this woman could be saved.

Chapter 2 - Left

The clock on the microwave blinked two a.m. The only light in the apartment came from a flickering television teetering on the edge of a milk crate. It was the only thing he took with him when he left his wife. The sparse furnishings consisted of a threadbare, sagging sectional couch, an oak coffee table covered with cigarette burns, a lamp shaped like a boat anchor and an end table with only three legs. The shabby furniture, peeling wallpaper and stained flooring made the apartment less than ideal, but David saw past its obvious flaws for its close proximity to work, reasonable rent and incredible potential. He had planned to gut the entire apartment right down to the studs and refurnish and redecorate to make it his and Kathryn’s ideal home. But, life decided to kick him in the stomach instead and now he spent his nights alone in this rat hole dreaming about the one that got away. Suddenly, his surroundings seemed a perfect fit for his mood.

His cell phone was his only connection to the outside world, but lately he’d been turning it off as soon as he left the office; not wanting to speak with anyone for any reason. The television kept him company while he ate, if he ate, while he drank, which seemed to be all the time and while he slept, which was none of the time. Sleep only came these days after he had consumed enough alcohol to render him unconscious. He cut off all ties to friends and his few remaining relatives and barely spoke to anyone in the office, if he decided to show up for work at all. When he did go into the office, he was more like a ghost than an involved, contributing business partner. Embarrassed by his current living conditions, no one had the address of his new place except Steven, his business partner, and he was given strict instructions that it was to be used for emergencies only. He wanted to be left alone to wallow in his bitterness and self-pity and to drown his sorrows with his best friend, Jose’ Tequila.

Most nights he spent on the floor muttering to himself about broken promises and shattered dreams while the songs that reminded him of her played on the stereo. He relived in his mind the memories associated with each song; what they were doing or where they were and why the song had become meaningful for them as a couple. If he drank enough tequila and allowed himself to get lost in the music, he could feel himself being transported back to that moment in time when a particular song helped to define their relationship. On a good night, he drank until he had just enough strength to drag himself off to his big empty bed. But, lately, too many nights were spent passed out on the living room floor until the morning sun poked through the holes in the window shade and he could feel its heat on his face.

David felt discarded and disillusioned. Never had he believed a love so deep was possible. He had been the ultimate player. When he met with the many couples who came into the office to plan their wedding, he viewed them as hopeless saps who were functioning under a romantic delusion that would all come crashing down the first time he saw her without makeup or the minute he wouldn’t get out of his recliner chair to help with the kids. He prided himself on having kept every woman in his life at arm’s length. No woman was going to make a fool out of him because he couldn’t control his emotions. He enjoyed their company in limited doses, slept with them when he was so motivated, left them when he became bored and never looked back. When he realized it was time to stop being a player and to settle down, he found a nice woman with similar interests and a past a lot purer than his own. He couldn’t say that he loved her, but he felt enough affection toward her that he didn’t mind her being around on a regular basis.

When David first met Kathryn, he didn’t like her. He thought her abrasive, outspoken, challenging, opinionated and not worth the effort. Smart women were too much work and needed to analyze everything to death. Initially, he thought the troubles with her husband were her own doing. He found her comments about Carl to be critical, unforgiving and bitchy. But, as they were forced together to grow the business, he began to learn more about her home life and he realized he had misjudged her. His initial impression of her had been unfair. Her tough attitude was nothing more than a survival tactic. She was trying to raise a young daughter while dealing with a husband who was never home, selfish and unfaithful. He had known men like her husband before. He traveled around sowing his seed with every flower in his path while his dutiful, faithful wife kept the home fires burning. David’s initial dislike for Kathryn grew into a deep respect and compassion and they eventually became friends. Over time, they found themselves becoming more at ease with each other and able to share many confidences. When he broke through her hard, tough exterior, he found a warm, caring woman with a hearty sense of humor, a driving ambition and a deep devotion to her daughter. By the time they had known each other a year, David considered himself fortunate to count Kathryn among his closest friends.

The thought of a sexual relationship with Kathryn had never seriously crossed his mind. They were friends only because they shared a professional commitment to their business, but philosophically and ideologically they were too different and too committed to their marriages to complicate their lives with an affair. It wasn’t until they were left alone during a business trip that David felt an all too familiar stirring and it was if someone had flipped a light switch. In an instant, the blinders had come off and he saw Kathryn for the beautiful, desirable woman that she was. The fact that she was a wife and mother and his business partner suddenly became a secondary consideration. He was shaken by this epiphany and he attempted to keep his distance from her lest she sense that something had changed in him. But, when she began to notice that her close friend and confidant was finding reasons not to be around, she asked him if she had done something to offend him or make him angry. Realizing that he couldn’t punish her for how he felt, he told himself to bury his desire for her and to put it out of his head. That was the first time in his life that respect and friendship with a woman became more important than his desire to sleep with her.

Now, after all that had passed between them, David found it ironic that he was the one who had been left devastated and broken. He guessed the player had finally met his match. He tried to accept it as poetic justice, but his bitterness and loneliness were too deep to drown with alcohol, although he tried his best each and every night. He had loved her so deeply and so passionately and with such an unwavering devotion. He knew, deep in his soul, that they belonged to each other and he never doubted she felt the same. Yet, he faced another night alone in this empty apartment because he had walked out on his wife and his life to prove his commitment to her and their future together and she had chosen the bastard who had murdered their unborn child.

They had spent the better part of the last four years talking and dreaming about what it would mean to live a normal life; to be together every day and night without fear of discovery and repercussions. No more secret liaisons in cheap motels or accounting for their whereabouts or sneaking phone calls late at night when everyone else was asleep. Simple things like sitting down to dinner at the end of the day or climbing into bed and laying in each other’s arms until morning was more than they had dared hope for. They longed for the normalcy that came with having a relationship that could exist out in the open.

They hated the thought of hurting innocent people. It had never been their intention and they had promised they would accept and live within the limitations forced on them by their situation, but being apart had become too difficult and began to impact their relationships at home. Their spouses had noticed the change in each of them and struggled to understand the reasons.

When they were together, they became invincible; a world unto themselves. Their energy lit up a room and enveloped everyone around them. Their emotional bond was too strong to break and no one dared try. They were connected on a level more spiritual than physical.

Without much effort, David could picture her standing before him as she had many times. Her auburn hair falling over her shoulders, just covering the tops of her breasts. She was slight in her build, but round and curvy in all the right places. When she walked through a room, she commanded attention and made it her own. She carried herself with confidence and just a hint of defiance. When necessary, she could be as tough as nails and could shred a man with one glance.

But, with him, she became something different. Soft, sensual and delicate. She saved all of her tenderness and passion for him. When they made love, she gave herself to him without reservation, holding nothing back. Only he had the ability to penetrate the walls she had built up around her over the years and break through the defenses that had helped her survive the numerous disappointments and betrayals she had suffered on her own. He knew she had scars he couldn’t erase and hurts he couldn’t mend, but somehow, with him, she found a part of herself that could still be wild and free.

David felt himself slipping into unconsciousness. He waited, each night, for the alcohol to have this effect. Without it, sleep would never come. Tonight, he couldn’t find the strength to pull himself up and stumble into the bedroom. He hated the emptiness of that big bed. As he rested his head on the stained rug, he felt the tears begin to flow as he called out her name.

Kathryn, Kathryn, I love you. Why did you go?

Chapter 3 – Found

The next morning Sergeant Aaron Matthews of the Sarasota Police Department walked into Barney’s office with a grim expression on his face. In his hands, he carried a woman’s purse.

Good morning, Dr. Sidowski, I think I’ve got some answers to your mystery patient and it isn’t good news.

Was she telling the truth about their being a dead body?

Yep. It appears she was in a car accident. We found the car not far from where you saw her walking along the road. Inside the car was a man, who is deceased. Judging from license inside his wallet, he was Carl Martin. Your mystery patient’s husband.

Really?

Yeah, this is her purse. Would you take a look at the photo license and confirm that they are the same woman?

Barney looked at the license and he could see it was clearly the same woman he had found the night before.

Yes, Sergeant, that’s her. It says her name is Kathryn Martin.

Yes, and it appears she was driving the car when it crashed into a tree. Her husband was found in the passenger seat. Did you test her for alcohol or drugs?

Yes, her drug and alcohol screen was negative.

So what caused the accident?

We may never know, Sergeant.

Well, I’ve got to ask around. A man is dead and we would like to know why.

Does she have any family in the area?

No, we found an emergency contact number in his wallet for his parents back in New Jersey and we called to make notification. They have a young daughter who was staying with them. It seems they just recently moved to Sarasota because of a job transfer.

What a shame. Okay, well, I guess I’ll speak with Kathryn and try to fill in some of the blanks for her. Are her in-laws coming down to get her?

Yeah, they’ll be here in the morning. They want to make funeral arrangements for their son. His body is being transferred to your morgue. I would like them to view the body to make a positive identification.

Okay, I’ll keep her here until they arrive. Thanks for all your help.

Not a problem. That’s what we’re here for. I’ll let you know if we find out anything else with our investigation. Has she remembered anything?

No, but we did learn something disturbing about her.

What’s that?

She’s been a victim of long-term, domestic abuse.

How can you tell?

One of my nurses saw several scars on her body and her x-rays revealed chronic fractures typical of domestic violence.

Wow, then maybe the bastard got what he deserved.

Yeah, I agree, but I guess it’s time to fill in some of the blanks for this young woman. I appreciate your help, Sergeant. Can I give her purse back to her?

Yes, that’s fine. At some point, we’d like to question her about the accident.

It’s a waste of time unless she remembers something.

Would you call the station, if she does? I’d like to retrace her steps from last night and figure out why they ended up against that tree.

Barney carried Kathryn’s purse down to where she was resting quietly after last night. Mrs. Baker was still keeping watch over their newest patient.

What you got there?

Our mystery patient’s purse.

Where did the police find it?

Beside her dead husband in the front seat of their car.

Oh, Barney, she was in an accident?

Yeah and it looks like she was driving.

Oh, my. Do they know her name?

Yeah, it’s Kathryn Martin. She’s originally from New Jersey. She and her husband just moved here a few weeks ago.

I wonder if he was her abuser.

I don’t think we’ll know until her memory returns.

What do we do, now?

I’m going to talk with her. Tell her the truth. I’d like you to come along; offer some moral support.

Mrs. Baker and Dr. Sid stepped behind the curtain. Kathryn was sitting up and seemed more rested than the night before, but still very much unaware of her situation.

Good morning.

Hello.

How are you feeling?

Good, I guess. My head hurts a bit and I’m a little sore.

Did you sleep at all?

No, not much. I just lay here trying to remember.

Anything come to you?

No. You and Mrs. Baker are the only things I remember about last night. Did you find the man I told you about?

Dr. Sid sat down on the edge of the bed and explained his visit from the police. He told her of their discovery, but didn’t share that the police believed her responsible for the accident.

I have a husband?

Yes, his name was Carl.

And he’s dead?

Yes, he died in the car accident.

Kathryn looked down at her left hand and saw the thin gold band on her ring finger.

How do they know who he is?

The police found his wallet which contained a driver’s license with the same last name as yours. Also, the police spoke to his parents and they confirmed you and he were married.

Dr. Sid, what’s my name?

Your license said Kathryn Martin and your in-laws confirmed it.

Kathryn spoke her name out loud to see if it sounded familiar.

What do you think of your name?

It feels right.

Kathryn thought she should be more upset at learning her husband was dead. But, she felt no more than if she had learned of the death of a stranger. She wondered if that could be blamed solely on the amnesia or something sadder still. Kathryn turned to look at Barney, a deep sadness in her eyes.

I feel terribly sad.

That’s understandable. You just lost your husband.

No, I feel sad because I don’t feel anything for him. What does that say about me?

After the x-rays revealed the hellish life this woman had suffered, neither Barney or Mrs. Baker was shocked by her indifference. She was probably relieved and too ashamed to admit it.

Right now, I think it says you have amnesia. I wouldn’t read more into it than that. It’s too soon. You have to give yourself a chance.

What else did the police find out about me?

They said you have a daughter.

A daughter. I don’t remember her either. Is she here?

No, she’s with your in-laws in New Jersey. They’ll be here sometime tomorrow morning. It seems you recently moved here from New Jersey and your daughter was staying with them while you got settled.

Dr. Sid placed her purse beside her on the bed.

The police found your purse. You may want to look through it, when you’re up to it. It might help to fill in some of the blanks.

What if I don’t know my daughter, when I see her tomorrow? Won’t she be terribly hurt? I don’t want to let her down. I’m her mother.

Just tell her the truth, Kathryn. You were in an accident and hit your head and you may not be able to remember things for a while. Until you know more, that’s all you can really say.

I hope you’re right. So, where do I go from here? Are you releasing me? I don’t know where I live.

Barney took Kathryn’s hands in his.

We’re going to keep you here with us until your family arrives.

Thank you. I wouldn’t know where else to go.

There’s something else I need to tell you, Kathryn.

Yes?

When you first arrived, we ran the standard blood work. Because of your age and the need for x-rays, I thought it would be best to test for pregnancy Well, the test came back positive.

Barney waited for the weight of his statement to register before continuing. For the first time since the accident, some real emotion registered on Kathryn’s face. Until then, she had exhibited a flat affect; not showing any real emotion to anyone or anything around her.

Are you saying I’m pregnant?

Yes, it looks that way.

I can barely take care of myself and now I’m going to be responsible for two children? Oh my God. What am I going to do?

You’re not alone, Kathryn. Your husband’s family is coming. I doubt they’ll leave you when you need them most. Just take it slowly. It’s been less than twenty-four hours since the accident. Give yourself some time.

I can’t stay this way, Dr. Sid. I’m no good to my children, like this. You have to help me.

I’m going to send a psychiatrist in to see you, Dr. Brittany Morgan. She has done tremendous work with amnesia victims. I think you’re going to like her. She will continue to treat you even after you’re released.

I feel so lost, Dr. Sid, do you have any idea when my memory will come back?

I wish I could, but it’s not an exact science. It could come back gradually or all at once. I’m sorry I can’t be more help.

It’s okay. I understand. You’ve both been so kind already. I don’t know what would have happened, if you had just driven past me and left me out there. I think I owe you my life.

Don’t be silly, Kathryn, I’m glad I could help. That’s why I became a doctor. In a little while, they’re going to transfer you to a room on the Obstetrics floor. We want to run a few tests and make sure your baby is okay. Dr. Johnson is the attending and I think you’ll like him a lot. But, in the meantime, would you like something to eat? You have to keep up your strength.

Yes, actually, I am a little hungry, now.

Nurse Baker jumped in with an offer of help.

How about I run down to the cafeteria and bring back some breakfast?

Thank you, Mrs. Baker, that’s a great idea. Now, our little waiting room out there is pretty full so I’ll be around for a while and I’ll check in on you from time to time. In the meantime, try and rest. If you need anything, just press the call bell.

Kathryn smiled and squeezed Barney’s hand. Thank God there were still good people in the world.

After Barney left, Kathryn was glad to have a few minutes alone with Mrs. Baker.

Mrs. Baker, can I ask you a question?

Sure, hon, what can I do for you?

I want to see my husband. Can you arrange that for me?

Mrs. Baker could see from the look in Kathryn’s eyes that she was sincere in her request. As a woman, she could understand her desire to look upon her husband’s face one last time; whatever the relationship had been between them.

Okay. Let me call down to the morgue to make sure his body has arrived. I’ll let you know. In the meantime, let’s get some food into you.

Mrs. Baker ran through a list of food items she could bring Kathryn from the cafeteria. Kathryn thought it was odd that she could remember how she liked her eggs, but she couldn’t remember being married and having a daughter.

Chapter 4 - Revelations

Kathryn sat with the purse on her lap unsure of what the contents might reveal about her. Her fingers played with the zipper until her curiosity got the better of her and she found the courage to look inside. In the main compartment, she found general items most women carried in their purse, a hairbrush, assorted cosmetics, a few tampons and some breath mints. Kathryn took these items out and placed them on the bed beside her. The second, smaller compartment contained a wallet, a check register and a date book.

She removed the wallet first hoping it contained pictures. The billfold held twenty-five dollars and some loose change. She found a few major credit cards and some store cards and a current New Jersey Driver’s License. The name on each read Kathryn Martin. She searched the wallet for pictures and found just one of a little girl with dark, curly hair and deep brown eyes. In the picture, she was wearing a girl scout uniform and standing behind a table littered with cookie boxes. Kathryn felt a deep emotional stirring for the child and knew they shared a special bond. On the back was written the name Olivia and the date of June 2011. She wondered why the wallet didn’t contain any other pictures of a husband or friends.

The last item in the wallet was a parking stub from the Sea Mist restaurant dated the same night as the accident. She closed her eyes, holding the ticket tightly between her fingers and tried to conjure up images of that night. Without much effort, the memories came quickly. They were clear and vivid, but fractured and frightening. She saw herself upset and crying, running in the rain and the dark. There was a man, angry, yelling, running behind her. Then suddenly all was quiet. He had blood on his face and his shirt. His eyes stared dead and accusing. Kathryn opened her eyes not wanting to remember anymore.

Kathryn examined the date book next and noticed it was dated 2008. She wondered why she would keep a date book that was four years old. She flipped through the pages curious to know how she occupied her time. She found seminars listed, monthly staff meetings, a business expo in April and a convention in Dallas she attended in September, in particular, September 28th was circled in red. Her weekends were spent attending weddings of couples whose names she didn’t recognize. When she reached the end of the book, she found a picture hidden inside the back flap. The picture showed five people standing in front of a booth. The name above the booth read Elite Weddings. She was standing in the middle of four men smiling broadly and appearing very happy. Kathryn examined the faces of the men beside her in the picture. As she looked at each one, she sensed feelings of camaraderie and friendship.

Though intrigued by all of them, she felt drawn to the man standing to her right. There was something about his face that touched her heart. It felt warm and familiar. He was leaning his head towards hers and she seemed pleased by this. As she studied his face, strong feelings stirred within her. Kathryn felt he meant more to her than the others, but in why?

She tried to focus on the remaining items in her purse, but her eyes continually returned to the man in the picture. He was tall, dark and extremely good looking with a well-toned, muscular body accentuated by tight jeans and a form-fitting polo shirt. He had warm brown eyes and a sincere, bright smile. She felt an intimate stirring which seemed natural when she thought of him.

Kathryn fell asleep with the thought of him uppermost in her mind and his picture clutched in her hand. She began to dream and her dream transported her to a tiny room occupied primarily by a large bed. The shabby furniture, flimsy curtains and graffiti-stained walls gave it the feel of a cheap motel. She sensed a presence in the bed with her and saw a man beside her with his back turned away from her. She reached out and touched his shoulder. He turned towards her and smiled with an affection that comforted her soul. It was the man from the picture. He reached for her and she went to him willingly. His touch felt right. He kissed her hungrily and buried her body beneath his. She heard herself call out his name.

David, my David, I love you.

I love you, Kathryn, he replied. You belong to me.

After awakening from her nap, Mrs. Baker came to tell her that Carl’s body had been delivered to the morgue.

When would you like to see your husband, Kathryn?

I’d like to go now, before I lose my nerve.

Absolutely. Let’s get a robe wrapped around you so you don’t get a chill. I’m going to come with you, if that’s alright?

I was hoping you would. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a morgue before.

They rode the elevator in silence, neither one knowing what to say. When they arrived, the coroner’s assistant took Kathryn into the room where they were keeping his body. It was incredibly cold, both in temperature and atmosphere. She felt a shiver to the bone and was already anxious to leave.

The assistant walked her to a small door in a wall of many doors. He grabbed the handle and slid the tray out. Below a plastic sheet, she could see the outline of a body. She took a deep breath and Mrs. Baker held onto her arm to keep her steady.

Are you ready, Mrs. Martin?

Yes, please.

The assistant pulled back the plastic cover to reveal only Carl’s face. Kathryn studied him and waited to feel something. She looked closely at the curve of his chin, his blonde hair, the shape of his nose and ridge of his brow. He had been a good looking man, but there was a hardness about him. She wondered if his features softened when he smiled, if he smiled. The more she looked at him, the more uneasy she became. A fear began to grow inside her belly and she wondered if she had been afraid of him in life. He didn’t look anything like the man from the picture, the man she called David, and she didn’t feel any of the love or desire she felt in her dream.

Kathryn bent over and kissed Carl on the lips, as if to say goodbye out of respect rather than love. Even after touching him, she felt none of the emotions a wife should feel for her husband. She knew it was time to go. To stay, when she felt nothing, was disrespectful and morbid.

I’m done, thank you.

Okay.

The assistant slid Carl back inside his metal tomb and walked away.

Are you alright?

Yes, I didn’t feel anything. His face seemed familiar, but it didn’t trigger any memories or emotions. You would think I should feel something.

It’s okay, Kathryn, don’t be so hard on yourself. Your memory will return in time and then you’ll grieve as you were meant to.

Mrs. Baker walked Kathryn back upstairs and put her safely into bed.

Are you sure okay?

Yes, I’m fine. Please don’t worry.

Mrs. Baker left Kathryn alone with her thoughts and went to finish her rounds. Kathryn now had an image of her husband in her mind, but it raised more questions than it answered.

Chapter 5 Grief

The pain overwhelmed her; more intense than she could ever have imagined. It was only hours before that she had learned of the death of her only child. When she closed her eyes, she could still see him as a little boy playing in the leaves, sledding in the yard, going to the prom, graduating from college. She could still smell his hair after a long bath or the dirty gym sneakers he hid in the back of his closet after basketball practice. So much promise, so much potential, so much to live for, until he married white trash.

She blamed Kathryn for her son's death. She had warned him about marrying such a young, immature girl, but Carl wouldn't listen; too much in love to think straight. She never saw any sign that Kathryn returned his affection or shared his devotion. The only good that came from their marriage was her beautiful granddaughter, Olivia, who was the spitting image of Carl. Every minute spent with her felt like reliving the joys of Carl's childhood. She was smart, outgoing, warm and caring; all the traits her father had possessed.

Evelyn had been very upset with Carl’s decision to move them to Florida and had begged him to stay. She didn’t want him so far away from her. She wanted to be close; to remain a part of his life. Carl looked to her for advice and guidance and always respected her opinion, even though it was obvious his wife resented it. Kathryn never complained to her face. She always made an effort to be polite and respectful, but she always fell short; never truly able to hide her true feelings of contempt and disdain for Evelyn’s interference in their lives.

Kathryn no longer had a choice. With Carl gone, Evelyn intended to stay for as long as it took; permanently, if necessary. Carl would want her near to help raise Olivia.

A light tapping on the bedroom door interrupted her thoughts.

Evelyn, are you awake?

Yes, Patrick, I can’t sleep.

I thought the doctor gave you something. I know how upset you are, but you need to rest. We have a long day tomorrow.

Yes, I know. I slept for a little while, but I keep thinking about Carl.

I know, dear. I’m in shock, too. And I can’t help wondering how Kathryn is doing with all of this. It must be incredibly difficult for her. She's in a strange place, nothing familiar. They'd only been in Sarasota a few weeks. She's probably eager to see a familiar face. I'm sure she misses Olivia, terribly. Lord knows, Olivia needs her mother now more than ever. She's trying to be strong, but she’s just a child. You know how close they are.

Dear God, Patrick. How can you possibly think about Kathryn and what Kathryn is going through? She's the reason Carl is dead. As for Olivia and Kathryn, their closeness is because Kathryn pushed Carl away. She never gave him a chance with Olivia. She always made him the bad guy.

That’s not true, Evelyn. You’re sick with grief and you’re remembering things the way you want to; not the way they really were. Our son was not a good husband or father. God rest his soul. He made life very difficult for Kathryn and he never had time for Olivia.

How can you say that? Carl wasn’t perfect, but he was better than she deserved. She never gave him a chance to be a good husband and father. She made unreasonable demands of him.

Wanting Carl to be home more often was not an unreasonable request, Evelyn.

He was trying to earn a living, Patrick. Traveling was part of his job.

"Were the other women part of his job, as well, Evelyn?

Patrick could tell by Evelyn's expression that she had stopped listening. This wasn’t the time or the place to debate their son’s virtues or lack thereof.

It doesn’t matter, now. This isn’t the time for this. I'm going to say goodnight to Olivia and then go downstairs to watch the news. Tomorrow, we are going to pull together as a family. We have all suffered a terrible loss. So, I expect you to be as sympathetic and supportive as you can."

Patrick didn't believe Evelyn's silence meant she understood or agreed. But, he didn't much care right now. Evelyn had the maturity and life experience to handle her grief, Patrick was more concerned for ten-year-old Olivia. He promised to be there for her and Kathryn, even if Evelyn chose to shut them out.

He left the room without saying anymore and walked slowly to Olivia's room not sure what he would say to the child when he got there. She didn't behave like other children her age. She had an intelligence and awareness usually possessed by older children. He assumed it came from being an only child with parents in a troubled marriage. Luckily, she always appeared happy and carefree and unbothered by the domestic turmoil around her. He just hoped this loss didn't prove too much for her.

His thoughts turned again to Evelyn. Life had not always been easy with her, but she had been a good wife and he had been crazy in love with her, once. Over the years, she had grown hard and unforgiving. Religious fanaticism, personal disappointments and bitterness caused her to find fault and pass judgment on the people around her; intruding in private matters and offering unsolicited advice became her two favorite hobbies. Yet, for all of her arrogance and bravado, she seemed more lost and helpless than anyone else.

As he reached Olivia's room, his apprehension grew. He needed to be careful. He didn't want to say the wrong thing and upset the poor child further; especially when her mother wasn’t around to comfort her.

Olivia? It's Grandpa. Can I come in?

Yeah, sure.

Patrick found her sitting on the bed just staring out the window. When she turned to look at him, her beauty took his breath away. Even at eight years old, she had classic features. The deep brown of her hair contrasted with her alabaster skin; the brown of her eyes as warm and rich as chocolate pudding. Her cheeks and full lips the color of an American Beauty rose.

Patrick feared the boys would begin to notice in only a few short years. Fortunately, her intelligence matched her beauty, which, Patrick hoped, would help her stay grounded when boys became a part of her life.

How are you, honey?

I'm okay, Grandpa. I'm excited about seeing mom. You sure she's gonna be okay?

She's fine and just as excited to see you. I'm very sorry about your Dad, though.

I'm sorry, too. How are you, Grandpa? Daddy was your son.

It's more difficult than I can say. Someday, when you have children, you'll understand how much Grandma and I loved your father.

I think I know. Mom is always telling me how important I am to her and that she could never be happy again if anything bad ever happened to me.

That's about right. You're a smart young lady. I think you should try to get some rest now. We'll see your Mom in the morning.

Yeah, okay. I am a little tired.

Goodnight, Olivia. Please call me if you need anything at all.

Thanks, I will. Goodnight, Grandpa.

As he left her room, he felt guilty for not spending more time with her, but he didn't feel equipped to handle a child’s grief. He was struggling to control his own emotions and didn’t want to breakdown in front of her. He felt Carl's loss just as intensely as Evelyn, but he needed to stay strong and couldn’t indulge his grief.

Patrick needed to go to bed, but he couldn’t face Evelyn again. He knew he would find her still lying awake in the dark, wallowing in anger and grief. For a moment, he considered calling Kathryn to warn her about Evelyn's demeanor, but realized Kathryn knew her mother-in-law well and had dealt with her before. He also prayed Evelyn would surprise him and show some compassion when she came face-to-face with Kathryn tomorrow, at least for Olivia’s sake.

He felt so tired and worn down; he needed to rest. The den looked like his best chance for a quiet night's sleep. Olivia's room was nearby and Evelyn wouldn't even notice his absence. Carl had replaced him as the most important man in her life years ago. Patrick believed Carl’s ghost would stand between them now. Sadly, he no longer cared.

Chapter 6 - Family

Patrick, Evelyn and Olivia arrived in Sarasota a little after eleven a.m. As they left the air-conditioned terminal, the heat of the day overwhelmed them. Once settled in their rental car, they headed straight to the hospital. They considered stopping at the new house first, but they needed directions and didn't have a key. They also wanted to reunite Olivia with Kathryn as soon as possible.

How do people stand this heat down here? It's unbearable. The humidity is downright unhealthy. It doesn't make sense so many senior citizens retire here.

Patrick was relieved Evelyn had decided to communicate with them. She hadn't said more than two words since they left New Jersey and Olivia was beginning to think she had done something wrong. He knew Carl's death consumed her with grief, but he feared the other destructive emotions that might be consuming her as well.

Oh, it's not so bad, Gram. I'm sure we'll adjust to it. I can't imagine not having snow at Christmastime, but at least I can go swimming all year. I think it's going to be neat. I never liked the cold weather anyway. I only got a snow day out of it, once in a while.

That's the right attitude, Olivia. I, for one, think it's rather exciting to move to a new place. It's an adventure.

Good for you, Gramps. Maybe you and Gram can stick around for awhile. I'm sure Mom and I will need the company. Family should stick together when bad stuff happens. Right?

You can count on it, Olivia. There is no way, on God's green Earth, your Grandfather and I are leaving you alone in this strange place. I'll manage the heat somehow. I'm sure the house has air-conditioning.

Gee, Gram. I'm not going to be alone down here. I'm going to be with Mom.

Well, you know what I meant. You're right, family should stick together and that's what I intend for us to do.

Patrick could sense trouble on the horizon. Nothing he said to Evelyn last night had gotten through to her. If they planned to stay in Florida, he would insist they get a place of their own. Kathryn had a tough road ahead. Evelyn breathing down her neck, second-guessing and criticizing every decision could undermine her efforts to recover.

The hospital driveway came up on the right suddenly and he slowed down to watch for Visitor Parking. They stopped at the reception desk inside the main lobby to ask for Kathryn's room.

Good afternoon. We're here to see Kathryn Martin.

Your name sir?

Patrick Martin. I'm her father-in-law. This is my wife, Evelyn, and Kathryn's daughter, Olivia.

Thank you, sir. I'm going to call the nurse's station and let them know you're here. Why don't you all take a seat. It should only be a couple of minutes.

Thank you.

I don't understand, miss. Why can't we go right up? Why do we have to wait?

I'm sorry, Mrs. Martin. I'm just following instructions. It won't take long, I promise.

Patrick took Evelyn by the arm and steered her toward the chairs.

It's alright, Evelyn. I'm sure everything is fine; try to be patient.

As promised, the receptionist beckoned to them only minutes after they arrived.

Sir?

Yes.

You can go up to the third floor nurses’ station. However, Dr. Johnson would like to speak with you before you go in to see Mrs. Martin.

Why? Is something wrong? We've come a long way and need to see her, Evelyn stated with a hint of hysteria in her voice.

I don't know, ma'am. They didn't give me a reason. Now follow the red line along the floor and it will lead you to the elevators. Once on the third floor, go to your right and you can't miss the nurse's station. Dr. Johnson will meet you there.

Thank you. You've been very kind.

Patrick tried to make-up for Evelyn's abrupt behavior.

When they reached the nurse's station, a young man in a lab coat stood talking with the nurses. Evelyn didn't fail to notice his age.

He seems a little young to be a doctor. I hope this isn't Kathryn's doctor. He looks like he just graduated from high school.

Alright, Evelyn, that's enough. The hospital wouldn't have him on staff, if he wasn't capable.

The young man turned and his held hand out to Patrick. He looked even younger up close, but he had a warm, friendly smile and a good grip.

Good afternoon Mr. Martin, Mrs. Martin and you must be Olivia. I'm Dr. Johnson. I've been caring for Kathryn since she was moved to my floor yesterday afternoon. First, let me say, I'm very sorry for your loss. This must be a difficult time for all of you.

Patrick saw the tears in Evelyn's eyes, so he thought he should speak first.

Yes, Dr. Johnson, it is, but, there isn't anything we can do for our son right now. We're all just worried about Kathryn.

Well, then, let's have a seat in my office so we can talk a few minutes. She's going to be just fine, but there are some circumstances you should know about before you see her.

They followed the doctor into his office and took a seat.

Kathryn's physical injuries include a serious concussion and several cuts and bruises. She may experience some headaches and some tenderness around the bruises, but I expect her to make a full recovery.

Dr. Johnson, what do you mean by physical injuries?

Kathryn is suffering from amnesia. I believe it's temporary and, with the help of a good psychiatrist and the love and support of her family, she should recover her memory, in time.

Amnesia? You mean she doesn't remember anything about that night?

That's right, Mrs. Martin. Her head injury combined with the emotional trauma of the accident caused her brain to shut down certain areas of her memory. Right now, it isn't allowing her to recall these events or too many other memories from her past. It hasn't wiped out her personality or a sense of who she is. She definitely knows what she likes and doesn't like, how she feels about certain situations and she has no difficulty making decisions.

Do you think my Mom will remember me?

"I don't know, Olivia. I am sure that she loves you, but you have to be patient with her. As she remembers the past, it will be like reliving it all over again. All the emotions of a particular incident will be as fresh as it was at the time it happened. She may seem disoriented at times, she may be prone to mood swings and she may act irrationally when she is struggling to remember something. You are obviously

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