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Authors: Andrea Lochen

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The Repeat Year

BOOK: The Repeat Year
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The Repeat

Year

The Repeat

Year

ANDREA LOCHEN

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

For more information about the Penguin Group, visit penguin.com.

This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.

Copyright © 2013 by Andrea Lochen.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

BERKLEY
®
is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

eBook ISBN 978-1-101-59884-9

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Lochen, Andrea.

The repeat year / Andrea Lochen. — Berkley trade paperback edition.

pages cm

ISBN 978-0-425-26313-6 (pbk.)

1. Nurses—Fiction. 2. Time travel—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3612.O246R47 2013

813'.6—dc23

2012045918

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Berkley trade paperback edition / May 2013

Cover design by Diana Kolsky.

Cover image of “Couple in the Rain” © Dmitriy Shironosov / Shutterstock;

“Umbrella Pattern” © Lorelinka / Shutterstock.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

For Matt

Acknowledgments

Writing can be such a lonely pursuit, so I want to thank the many writers along the way who have made me feel like a valued part of the writing community. As an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin, I was blessed to work with Ron Wallace, Judy Mitchell, Lorrie Moore, Ron Kuka, and Jesse Lee Kercheval. Thank you all for believing in me and encouraging me to pursue writing.

The University of Michigan gave me the opportunity to devote two blissful years to my writing, for which I am most grateful. While there I wrote the first draft of
The Repeat Year
and was privileged to work with Peter Ho Davies, Nicholas Delbanco, Laura Kasischke, Eileen Pollack, and Michael Byers. My appreciation also goes out to Andrea Beauchamp and the Hopwood Awards program for recognizing the spark of potential in my early draft.

Thanks to The Best Cohort Ever, who didn’t earn this title for no reason: Becky Adams, Kate Blakinger, Steve Dabrowski, Delia DeCourcy, Randa Jarrar, Tiana Kahaukawila, Jane Martin, Kodi Scheer, Ben Stroud, Joy Wood, and Steve Woodward. Their encouraging feedback on the early chapters helped shape my novel to what it would one day become. Becky Adams was a particular help with later drafts of the novel, and Kodi Scheer has been the kind of friend every writer dreams of having: tirelessly reading and rereading various versions of chapters piecemeal, offering wise suggestions, and never failing to boost my spirits and make me laugh.

Thanks to my agent, Stephany Evans, who is my own fairy godmother, although thankfully not of the Sherry Witan variety. Her expert guidance in the publishing world has proven invaluable. I’d also like to thank her assistant, Becky Vinters, who offered some very smart editorial comments, and everyone at FinePrint Literary Management.

Thank you to the wonderful team at the Berkley Publishing Group. Thanks especially to Emily Beth Rapoport, for being a champion for my book and giving it a home, and to Andie Avila, for her tireless efforts to bring my lifelong dream to fruition.

I am grateful to my husband, an emergency medicine doctor and an excellent resource for all things medical, who good-naturedly answered all my bizarre questions about diseases, drugs, and procedures. Thanks also to my friend Dr. Brittany Bettendorf, who read my novel for accuracy (medical and otherwise) in its later stages. Any medical mistakes made are purely my own.

I am indebted to my family for their love, patience, and support throughout the years. My parents, Mike and Linda Kurtz, and my sister, Steph Hundt, have been my biggest fans and constant cheerleaders since I wrote my first story in the third grade. It’s impossible to fail with a family like them because they’ve always made me feel like a success.

Finally, thank you to my husband, Matt Lochen, who prayed for me every day, patiently endured my writerly moods, built me a desk and my own “writing nook,” and never stopped believing in me. There aren’t adequate words in the English language to express my love and gratitude to you.

Chapter 1

S
omewher
e between sleep and wakefulness, Olive enjoyed the sensation of someone next to her in bed. There was no physical contact, just the soft radiation of warmth and breath, and the vague, tugging feeling of a body close to hers. Daylight brightened the inside of her eyelids, and still she resisted, clinging to the edge of sleep and the elusive presence of her companion. It had been almost six months since she had shared a bed. She’d forgotten what a delicious feeling it was—they were as snug as a pair of mice burrowed into a pile of wood shavings.

The brush of a calf against her own bare leg broke the spell. It was a very solid, very hairy calf. Olive opened her eyes. Her gaze fell on white vertical blinds tapping gently against the window as if they were large piano keys being played by an invisible hand. She was not in her own bedroom. She slowly turned her head toward the owner of the hairy calf. He was concealed under the blanket and facing the other direction. Only a few inches of his brown hair peeked out.

Had Alex persuaded her to stay over at his place? She didn’t remember going home with him, only how lonesome the ICU had been—she’d been stuck working the night shift on New Year’s Eve of all nights—until Alex had been called in to check on his congestive heart failure patient. He had fastened a party hat to Olive’s head and kissed her at midnight. Sure, he’d also kissed Mrs. Conrad, the seventy-two-year-old wife of Olive’s patient, but only because Mrs. Conrad had been determined to stay up and watch the countdown on TV. No one should ever ring in the new year alone, Alex had said.

Olive lifted the sheet to look down at her body. Oh, shit. She wasn’t naked, thank God for that, but what she was wearing wasn’t much better: a black camisole and hot pink underwear. She lifted the sheet a little higher to see if she could discern Alex’s state of dress, but the sheet was tucked tightly beneath him. She couldn’t believe this. Just when they had started to reconstruct a semblance of a professional work relationship. What had she been thinking? After working a twelve-hour shift, she typically went straight home to bed. Had they gone out for celebratory drinks instead? It was disconcerting that she couldn’t remember. She felt sleazy.

She slipped out of bed and began to hunt for her navy blue scrubs. They weren’t on the floor next to or under the bed. She crept to the other side of the bed and looked down at the blanketed cocoon. Alex’s face was covered. He didn’t stir.

No clothes on the floor. No socks, no pants, no boxers, and certainly no blue scrubs. Only a TV remote, a man’s watch, and a folded newspaper littered the beige carpeting. Alex’s bedroom looked less cluttered than she remembered it. Where were his skis, his swim fins? His precariously stacked medical reference books? Still, the room looked awfully familiar. She stopped in front of the dresser. Definitely not Alex’s dresser, which was a huge German wardrobe, a family heirloom. This dresser was six drawers high with a scratched mahogany finish. It was as recognizable to her as her own childhood dresser, which had been painted white with pink stenciled bows.

On top of the dresser, next to a halogen lamp and a large metal Slinky, stood a silver-framed photograph of her face. It was a picture she knew well, one taken of her in college. In it, she wore a gray woolen cap with a red pompon on top. Her nose was pink from the cold; her eyes were slits against the glare of the snow. It was a picture only one person had ever admired.

“Phil?” Her voice sounded loud in the silent room.

“What?” was the muffled reply from the bed.

“Phil?” she repeated in disbelief. The lump under the blanket squirmed a little. She hurried to his bedside and gently pulled the blanket away from the face of her ex-boyfriend. His features were at once both familiar and foreign to her. A shock of dark brown hair. Neat, thick eyebrows. A long, slightly crooked nose. Brown stubble above his lip and across his cheeks and chin. A small, dark freckle under his left eye. Her breath caught in her throat as she stared down at him. Her worry dissipated and was replaced by a kind of relief. A flutter of joy.

Without opening his eyes, he reached out and grabbed Olive around her waist and pulled her toward him. “Come back to bed,” he mumbled.

She resisted his embrace and took a few steps backward. “How did I get here last night?” she asked. “I don’t remember coming here at all. Did you stop by the hospital?”

Phil opened his eyes. They were bottle green and flecked like a snake’s skin. “I hope you didn’t forget
everything
,” he said. “Now come here.” His arms were clumsy with sleep. He reached out again but could barely touch her where she was standing. His fingers brushed against the bare strip of skin between the bottom of her camisole and the waistband of her underwear. Her skin tingled.

“Did we sleep together?” she asked.

“If by
sleep together
, you mean have wild, passionate sex, then yes.” He was more awake now and scrutinizing her. A mischievous smile touched his lips.

Olive pulled her tank top down to cover her stomach but only succeeded in exposing the tops of her breasts. She crossed her arms and tried to look stern. Surprised as she was, this was Phil. It was hard to resist smiling back at him. Phil Russell, whom she had dated and loved for over three years, and broken up with—quite badly—last February. She hadn’t seen him since and had only spoken to him on the phone a few times throughout the year. Once, when she’d heard his mother, Carol, was in the hospital for knee surgery. Another time to tell him she’d found one of his Nike golf shoes at the bottom of her closet and did he want it back? She had spitefully withheld his left shoe when she’d returned a box of his belongings. He hadn’t wanted it anymore; he’d already thrown out its mate.

“Look,” Olive started. “I have no idea how I ended up here, and if I gave you the wrong impression last night, I’m sorry. But I really should get going now.”

“Go?” His playful grin changed to a look of concern. The skin between his eyebrows puckered. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Where are my clothes?”

Phil raised one eyebrow. “In the kitchen where we took them off.”

She pushed open his bedroom door, nearly hitting Cashew, who had apparently had his nose pressed against the door, in the face. Cashew was a flat-faced, swirly-furred, brown-and-tan shih tzu. He was supposed to be Carol’s dog, but he had gone through such periods of doggy depression when Phil had left for college that Carol had agreed to let her son have him.

Cashew leaped and danced around Olive, wriggling and twisting into the shape of his namesake. Olive had always adored the little dog as much as he adored her. She had been almost as devastated to lose Cashew as she had been to lose Phil. But what could she have done after their cataclysmic breakup?
Hey, Phil. Do you think it would be okay if I stopped by your apartment when you’re not home to visit your dog?
There had been so many casualties when they’d separated.

She scooped Cashew into her arms and walked out into the living room. Everything was arranged the same as when they’d been dating. The mismatched armchairs and futon, the glass coffee table he’d inherited from his grandmother, the bookcase crammed with three-ring binders and science textbooks, his Bowflex looking like some kind of ancient torture device in the corner of the room. Remnants of a quasi-romantic evening—a pair of wineglasses and a pizza box—rested on the coffee table. Olive glanced back and realized that Phil was following her to the kitchen in his boxers.

Of all the possibilities she could’ve imagined for herself in the new year, waking up in bed with her ex-boyfriend had not been one of them. Even though she couldn’t remember the path that had gotten her to his place, and even though she knew it was a mistake, she still thought it was a perversely pleasant one. Just to see Phil’s sleeping face in the fuzzy morning glow had made this strange escapade worthwhile. Ten months of separation had dulled the pain of proximity for her, and seemingly for him as well. Perhaps they could even be friends now if she hadn’t just messed things up by somehow landing herself in his bed. Still, she wished she could remember last night’s sex. Phil was a spectacular lover.

She found a pile of discarded clothes under the kitchen table—a tangle of jeans, socks, and a turtleneck sweater. Her blue scrubs were still nowhere to be found. She nuzzled Cashew against her chin one more time and then set him down.

“Can my chocolate chip pancakes convince you to stay?” Phil asked. He opened an overhead cupboard and retrieved a bag of chocolate chips.

Olive pulled the turtleneck sweater over her head. She wanted to ask why he was being so nice to her. Had he forgotten how things had ended between them? The unforgivable thing she had done? And when she’d confessed, the way he’d held the door open for her and ushered her from his apartment and life as though she were a stranger?

“You’re sweet, Phil. But trying to re-create our New Year’s Eve together from last year is really too much. Wine and pizza, the chocolate chip pancakes. I don’t understand why you’re going to such lengths for me. Why now? What’s changed?”

“What do you mean? I thought I was being original,” he said, and set the chocolate chips down on the counter. “Gosh, Cashew is going nuts! Ha-ha, pun intended. You’d think he hadn’t seen you in months! I love that about dogs. Rolling out the red carpet for you even if you’ve been gone for only a few hours.”

Olive looked down to see that Cashew was snuffling her sock with the intensity of a bomb-sniffing dog. He paused in his inspection and gave her ankle a good slurp. “But he hasn’t—” she started to insist.

But Phil had already disappeared into the fridge. He emerged with eggs and milk. “Anyway, didn’t we spend New Year’s Eve last year in Las Vegas?”

“We spent New Year’s in Vegas in 2009.” She turned away from him and zipped up the fly of her jeans.

“Right.”

“And we spent New Year’s at your place in 2010. We watched the ball drop on TV.”

“Right. Last night.”

“Is this some kind of joke?” she asked. “Because I’m really not in the mood for this.”

“I’m just as bewildered as you are. You seemed fine last night, but you must have had too much to drink. Maybe you should go back to bed and sleep it off.”

“What I need to do is drive home and figure out what possessed me to come here last night,” she muttered. Her purse was sitting on the counter next to a potted bonsai tree. It was a yellow leather hobo bag, an older purse she didn’t recall bringing to work. She must have gone home to change clothes and purses last night. It seemed unlikely, but no more unlikely than spending the night with her ex.

She swung the yellow purse over her arm and took a step toward the door, but Phil blocked her with his body. She was extremely conscious of his bare chest; she had forgotten how good he looked with his shirt off. His chest and stomach looked as smooth as rock that had been shaped by rippling water. God, she’d missed that.

“You’re acting really strange. I don’t know if it’s a good idea for you to drive.”

“I’m fine.”

Phil looked skeptical. “Will you call me as soon as you get home?”

She nodded. He would come to his senses by then. Whatever had happened between them last night was a mistake, much like the horrible mistake she had made last February. But standing there in his affectionate gaze, she couldn’t refuse the hug he offered her. Even though he hadn’t showered yet, the scent of his woodsy soap still lingered on the bare skin of his neck and shoulders. His embrace was firm and gentle, and it carried with it three years of memories.

Olive had barely reached the stairwell when she heard a door flung open and Phil’s voice trailing after her. “Hang on a sec,” he called. “I just remembered
I
drove last night. I’ll drive you home as soon as I’m dressed. I need to let Cashew out quick, too. Just give me one minute.”

“What?” she called back to him, but he had already closed the apartment door. The puzzle of last night’s events was becoming more and more complex. Had Phil stopped by the ICU to visit her, or had their paths crossed somewhere else? She was tired—and a little ashamed—of trying to give shape and substance to the black hole in her memory of last night. She would ask Phil the specifics sometime soon, but right now, she didn’t want to give him any more reason to be concerned about her. Frankly, she was concerned about herself. Blacking out and sleeping with her ex? Definitely not a very good way to start the new year.

She heard Phil’s door open and shut again, and he was soon at her side.

“Are you sure you don’t mind driving me?” she asked. “I mean, do you have the time? Because I could call a taxi or something.”

Phil laughed. “Um, yeah, I have the time.”

His ancient tan Mercedes-Benz was parked in one of the farthest spots in the parking lot. It was a 1987 diesel, a car he had told Olive he bought back in high school when driving a Mercedes, no matter how old, was considered cool. But more than nine years later, the thing still wouldn’t die. Phil was too reasonable to trade the Mercedes in for a newer car when it was still running all right. Prudence was his religion.

BOOK: The Repeat Year
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