Authors: Denise Mathews
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #Regency
She looked up into his sympathetic and gentle eyes. "Time!" she screamed. "What does time mean when you don't even know your own face! Can't you understand? Who am I? I don't know that face. She's—I'm a stranger." Her sobs choked her, then she moaned. "It's been twelve long days. In another week I'll be leaving here with two strangers, Roarke and myself."
The doctor helped Sara over to her bed. She sat down and slumped over, wringing her hands together in her lap, her sobs shaking the bed. He sat on the bed beside her with his arm around her, holding her close. He let her cry for a little while longer then took her tear-streaked face in his hands. "Come on, Joe! It's time to pull yourself together. You know you'll remember soon. It's not as hopeless as you think. Haven't you remembered some things that have happened?"
Sara looked into the doctor's eyes, resentment, frustration, and fear filling hers. "Remember? How can you call it remembering when those damned flashes come and go so fast that I can't even hold on to them for a few seconds. Do you know what it's like to wake up in the morning not knowing who you are? People walk on tiptoes around me as though I'm crazy. The nurses spoon-feed me information, afraid to say too much and afraid to say too little. And Roarke! God, I don't know who to feel sorrier for, him or me. He comes in each day with that defensive look in his eyes, answering some of my questions but not volunteering any details about our life together."
Sara's hands shook and tears cascaded down her still slightly bruised cheeks. She could feel Dr. Maxwell pat her shoulder in an attempt to comfort her. Her head began to ache and the pain intensified with every sob that shook her body. "I can't stand much more. I'm going home soon. I'll be going home with Roarke." Sara chuckled bitterly through her tears. "Home. I don't even know where home is or what it looks like. Roarke has to take home a wife who's incapable of sharing anything with him. Dear God, what's going to happen to me?" She hung her head and the anguished sobs wracked her body.
The doctor took hold of one of her hands that she had folded into fists of frustration. "Sara, I don't know how you feel, it would be stupid of me to say I did. But there's one thing you must understand and remember—you had a severe blow on the head. Your body is in the process of healing itself and all this takes time. While your body is healing, there's not much energy left in you for big emotional battles. I know this is going to be hard to do, but you must accept the situation. Once your body is healed, you'll have the energy you need to explore all your feelings and flashes of memory."
Sara grabbed for the tissues sitting on the table beside her bed. After several attempts to pull herself together, she finally succeeded. "I didn't mean to come apart at the seams, but it's just so damn frustrating and I'm scared!"
Dr. Maxwell stood up and sighed, then smiled at Sara. He recognized the core of steel that Sara possessed as strength, even if she didn't. "Listen, in three months time you'll invite me to dinner and we'll laugh about all this. Just give yourself time. That's the magic prescription I have for you—time." He bent over and placed a gentle kiss on her bandaged forehead. A dimple played momentarily on Sara's cheek. "What if..."
He held up his hand to stop her. "No 'what-ifs,' young lady. We'll cross all the 'what-ifs' when we come to them. Why don't you try to take a nap and I'll see you this evening." He watched Sara awkwardly climb under the covers. The heavy cast on her foot wouldn't be changed for a light walking cast for several more weeks and her side was still sore. He knew she was not only emotionally upset but physically uncomfortable. She had more courage under the circumstances than she realized. He winked as he turned to leave. "See you later, Joe." Sara's weak laughter followed him out of the room.
Once out in the corridor, Ted Maxwell paused and leaned against the wall. He was becoming very fond of Sara and his heart ached to see her so frustrated and disheartened. He only hoped that what he told her would come true. He shook his head and walked down the hall to answer his insistent beeper.
Sara gazed into the mirror every chance she had. She came to know the reflected face very well, not because of any memories but because she studied it so intently. Sara didn't think she was being conceited in feeling that she was attractive. Her long ash blond hair with its hint of natural curl was brushed back and held with combs. The dark-amber eyes, shot through with brown, changed their intensity with her moods. The tip of her nose was slightly tilted, and her mouth was full and soft. When she smiled, straight white teeth peeked through pink lips and dimples appeared under her high-boned cheeks.
Sighing, she turned the mirror over and laid it on the bed. She could feel her eyes smarting from the salty tears that were gathering on her lashes.
, she thought bitterly,
no matter how often I study that face, it means nothing to me
. Clumsily she crawled out of bed and grasped at her crutches. She had to somehow escape this feeling of being trapped in a stranger's body.
She limped around the room and her mind whirled with the thoughts that not only was she trapped in a stranger's body but was married to a stranger. Regardless of how often she saw Roarke, there was no recognition, no familiarity. Their developing relationship was not one of continuing intimacy derived from years of being together but from her viewpoint was new and frightening. It seemed to her that Roarke and she were destined to remain strangers because all they had in common was a past she couldn't remember. She kept hoping that he would lift his obstinate veil of reluctancy to talk about their marriage, but she was unsuccessful in drawing him from behind it.
To add to her unhappy muddle of emotions, she conversely found herself looking forward to his visits with breathless expectancy. Not only did she want to remember him because he was her link to the past, but she was becoming curious about the physical side of their relationship.
When he would lean over and kiss her gently on the lips, the soft pressure would start a tingling that was both exciting and confusing. The slightest touch of his hand left a burning sensation on her flesh. If his eyes rested on her lovingly, her heart would begin to pound with the promise his look held. His very nearness seemed to awaken desire in her. She was afraid of how her body automatically remembered and responded to him, but when he left her, the arousal would be replaced with confusion. Tomorrow she would be going home with Roarke, and the thought of being alone with him intrigued and frightened her.
She was trying to follow Ted Maxwell's advice to give herself time, but sometimes she just couldn't control her agitation. And these were the times she paced around her room, limping on the crutches, ungainly in her attempt to run away from herself.
The new memory… her new memory, she thought possessively, of Roarke's visit last night brought tears to her eyes. Almost bouncing into the room, he had taken her into his arms, kissed her lightly on the lips and said, "Honey, I'm sorry I didn't get here to see you this morning."
Smiling and trying to ignore the tingling flesh of her lips where his had touched them, she teased him. "That's okay, your flowers were a fairly decent replacement. I really don't expect you to be here all the time. I feel sure you have more important things to do than come to this hospital to visit me."
At his crestfallen look she quickly added, "It would be nice if you could be here all the time, but I know you're busy, Roarke."
Her reassurance brought a pleased look to his face and his eyes glowed warmly. Placing his arm around her waist, he helped her to the chair by the window. "I'm glad you feel that way. I would be here all the time if I could be. We're all so excited about you coming home. Martha and Bradley have the entire house torn apart, getting it ready for your homecoming. It's going to be so wonderful to have you there, close by me again." He paused, cleared his throat, then continued. "It's so beautiful at home, the spring weather has been perfect and all the flowers are in bloom. Wait till you see it, the tulips you planted are gorgeous and the magnolia trees are ready to burst open." He kneeled beside her. "Are you eager to go home, darling?"
Sara looked into the clear blue eyes and mixed with the awe she felt over the fact that this man was her husband, she experienced a twinge of her now familiar companion, the fear that was with her constantly. "It sounds so beautiful, Roarke, but I don't think eager is quite the word. It's terrible not to remember people and things that have been so important in your life. Do Martha and Bradley know I don't remember them?"
Ignoring her plaintive question, he continued. "Your room is bright and beautiful, just waiting for your presence to complete the decor."
"What a nice thing to say, Roarke." Wistfully she turned her face away from him. "I'm sorry, but I don't remember anything about our home or our room."
Roarke slowly straightened up, dropped her hands, and gazed out the window. "It's… it's your room, Sara, not ours. I… ah… we… Ted Maxwell and I thought it would be better if you had your own room. You'll… you'll rest better." Glancing over his shoulder, he said in a low voice, "I'll be just across the hall from you."
Sara dropped her eyes and a small "oh" escaped her lips.
Roarke continued to stare outside and the silence between them lengthened oppressively. Sara felt almost compulsive in her need to fill the void. She struggled to think of something to say then recalled an incident from earlier in the day. "Roarke, I'd like to ask you something. This afternoon when the nurse mentioned about packing to go home, I had one of those crazy flashes of memory." She stopped abruptly when he pivoted around. A grim expression distorted his features.
His back stiffened and he asked tautly, "Just what is it you think you remember?"
Confused by his tone of voice and his threatening posture, Sara answered quietly, "I saw myself walking out of a house with suitcases. I was crying as I put them in the trunk of a car."
His brows lowered over his darkened eyes. "You were going on a trip." The words were clipped short.
"On a trip? Why was I crying so hard?"
Roarke looked out the window again and mumbled, "You hate good-byes."
Sara shook her head with disbelief. "Roarke, please look at me. No one cries that way just because they hate to say good-bye. I can hardly believe that."
His eyes seemed to pierce her heart. "Believe what you want, Sara, you always did. I have to leave now. I'll see you tomorrow."
Sara stared at the empty doorway for several minutes after he disappeared through it. Finally she began to weep from sheer tension and confoundment. Was there no way to keep their relationship on an even keel? How could a man be so thoughtful and sensitive about some things and yet at the same time be insensitive to her predicament? It had to be all her fault somehow. She always seemed to ask him the wrong question or say the wrong thing. But what, she anguished, was wrong with what she said or asked?
The chatter of a group of nurses walking past her door caught her attention and brought her mind back to the present. Her arms were aching and she realized she had been frantically limping around the small room as though really trying to run away.