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Authors: Jacob Chance

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BOOK: QUIVER (QUAKE Book 2)
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Chapter Three

Janny

 

   
  He doesn’t know who I am. How can this be happening?

     
“I don’t understand how it’s possible that you don’t remember me.” I shake my head and stare pleadingly into his eyes.
We’re in love, we’ve talked about getting married and having children. How can you not know who I am?
I take a deep breath and try to calm myself down. I know he can’t help this, but it hurts so damn much. My stomach rolls. I fight the rising nausea and my heart pounds anxiously. It’s devastating to think that I was such an insignificant part of his life – devastating to know that I was forgettable. The love we share isn’t ordinary, it’s deeper than anything I’ve ever experienced before. I want to pound my fists on his bed and beat them against the mattress while I scream
how could you forget us?

     
I rise from the chair and take a few steps, keeping my back to him while I wipe away my tears. I breathe deeply in an attempt to regain control of my scattered emotions, but it sounds so much easier than it actually is. All I want to do is crumble to the floor and sob, but there’s no one to pick me up anymore – no one to hold me in their arms and take all my worries away – no one to make me feel safe when my fears get the best of me.

    
What if he never regains his memories of me?

      How will I ever be able to move on from him and the love we shared?

     
No matter how much this hurts, I have to remember today was a great day. Kyle woke up and he’s going to be okay. He has a lot of work to do before he’ll be going home, but he’s alive and breathing and that’s all that matters. I need to focus on all the positives, not how he doesn’t remember me. How am I supposed to react to this information? Should I continue to sit by his bedside, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week? I’m no different than a complete stranger to him. Would he really want someone he doesn’t know spending all their time with him?

      I keep pacing up and down the hallway outside his new room. Now that he’s awake and stable, they’ve moved him to another floor. I chew on my thumb nail.
Should I leave or not?
My stomach is churning from the stress I’ve been dealing with and all I want to do is go home and cry myself to sleep in my own bed. The thought of sliding between our cool, crisp sheets that smell like Kyle, has me longing for home even more. I haven’t been there for days now and I want to be surrounded by our familiar things – things that remind me that we really were in love – things that give me hope that he’ll remember me again.

      I stop in front of his room and peer through the doorway; he’s sleeping soundly. The sight of him makes my stomach roll with worry. I need a break. I need to get away from the disappointment of today. I glance at him one final time before I turn and walk down the hallway toward the elevator. When I round the corner, Kenna, Kyle’s sister is coming toward me. She’s dressed in nursing scrubs from her shift in the emergency room. She smiles when she sees me, her cheeks are flushed pink with excitement.

      “How is he? Is he aware of what’s going on? How is he feeling?” She rapidly fires off questions at me and pulls me in for a hug. Her arms squeeze me tight and it reminds me that I’m not completely alone. There are people in my life who care about Kyle – care about me – and I don’t have to deal with all of this by myself.

      I squeeze my eyes shut and tell myself not to cry before I answer her. “He’s sleeping now, but he’s going to be okay. He’s aware of what happened, but he does have some paralysis in his right arm. They’re planning on sending him to a rehabilitation facility as soon as possible.” I slip out of her hug and tuck my hair behind my ear. It’s a nervous gesture of mine and a definite tell that Kyle always seems to pick up on. He knows I’m uncomfortable whenever I do it, but then again, not much slips past his cop eyes. He sees all. Even things I’m not ready for him to, or things I don’t want to worry him with. He has an uncanny ability to get me to reveal things. He’s like my own personal version of truth serum.

      “I’ll look over his chart and see what’s going on. If you have any medical questions you need answers for, just ask.” She reassuringly pats my arm with her hand. “I’m working day shift the next few days, so I can come up here and visit with him for dinnertime.”

      I nod my head. I just want to get out of here. “I’m on my way out now. I haven’t left here in days, and now that he’s stable, I want to go home and shower.” I take two steps backward and fight the urge to run toward the elevator.

      “Okay, I’ll stay for a while and keep him company. I’ll talk to you later.” She smiles at me. I nod, give her a wave of my hand and resume my journey toward freedom.

      Alone in the elevator, it feels like the small space is closing in on me. If I didn’t know it was impossible, I’d swear the interior walls were moving closer, just waiting to squeeze me in their stainless steel grip. It’s making me claustrophobic, and that, combined with the weight of all that’s happened in the past four days, has my heart pounding and my breaths leaving me in quick, shallow pants. The weight of the world feels like it’s bearing down on me. I can’t do this anymore; can’t handle more disappointment or more loss in my life. By the time the elevator reaches the first floor I’m on the verge of a panic attack and it’s not pretty. When the doors open I stumble out on weak legs with a gasp and bend over, placing my hands on my knees. I draw in large gulps of air and the lightheadedness subsides. I hate that my panic issues are back with a vengeance. I thought I’d conquered them years ago, but since the kidnapping they’ve been happening every time I feel stressed or anxious.

      When I step outside into the oppressive, muggy heat of the evening, it feels like the air is thick enough to cut with a knife. I grab the hair elastic off my wrist and fasten my hair in a ponytail.

      It’s only a ten-minute drive to my apartment and when I walk inside I find Josh sitting on our couch watching TV. I forgot that I gave him a key so he could bring me whatever I needed. He jumps up when he sees me and I’m in his arms before I even know what’s happening. Having him hold me like this is such a comfort, I start to sob. He pulls me in closer and caresses my hair. All the sorrow, worry and heartbreak of the past four days finally breaks me. My salty tears drench my cheeks and Josh’s shirt while they flow endlessly from my eyes.

      “Shh,” he whispers, while he strokes my hair. “It’s okay. I’ve got you. Let it all out babe.”

      We stay that way until my sobs have died down to small hiccups of air and my tears have finally subsided. “How did you know that I needed you?” I wipe the tears from my eyes.

      “Elle told me to come over here and wait for you, but she didn’t get a chance to tell me why. Do you want to talk about it?” he asks, drawing back from me. He holds me loosely in his arms and studies my face. His light green gaze searchingly meets mine before his eyebrows draw together in a frown. “Is Kyle okay?” he asks, and I love that he seems genuinely concerned about him. The two of them have come to some sort of an understanding over the past couple of months since Kyle and I moved in together. They haven’t told me the details, but they went out for a few beers one night and came home buddies. 

      I nod my head. “He woke up earlier today and he’s doing great. They already moved him out of I.C.U. He has some issues that will require rehab, but otherwise he’s doing really well.” I grab his hand and tug on it. “Come sit down with me so I can tell you the rest of it.” I lead him over to the couch before tiredly collapsing down onto it. I lay my head back and close my eyes, preparing myself for what I have to say. When I open my eyes, he’s looking at me, waiting patiently for me to speak.
That’s Josh for you
. He never tries to rush me when I need to share something with him, or when I need to vent. It’s also what makes him such a great friend in my time of need.

      “Kyle doesn’t remember who I am.” I bite on my bottom lip so hard I draw blood, and the bitter, metallic taste is strong in my mouth.

      “What do you mean he doesn’t remember you? Does he have amnesia?”

      I can see the concern in his eyes and when he takes my hand in his, it helps me find the strength to tell him the rest.

      “Kylerememberseverythingbutme.” The words leave me in a jumbled rush.

      Josh inclines his head to the side, staring at me. “Can you repeat that, and this time not at warp speed?”

      His love for Star Trek and all sci-fi in general, has me smiling in spite of my sadness.

      “Kyle remembers everything, but me. He doesn’t know who I am.”

      He squeezes my hand. “Do the doctors think he’ll regain his memory?”

      “There’s no way for them to know for sure.” I raise my shoulders up and down in a helpless gesture. I stare down at my lap, thinking about the four days I spent sitting at Kyle’s bedside wanting nothing more than to see him wake up so I could look into his beautiful golden-flecked eyes and tell him how much I love him. I spent much of that time imagining various scenarios to prepare myself for whatever the outcome might be. It never once crossed my mind that he might not know who I am.

      “Of course he’s going to remember you. He loves you. You’re not the kind of girl a guy forgets.”

      I glance at him and catch a brief glimpse of longing on his face before he masks it.

      “Don’t worry, it's all going to work out.”

      I hold onto Josh’s words. I have to. I need to. This can’t be it for us.

      The next day I get out of bed, prepared to put my game face on. I have a plan in mind. After tossing and turning for the first half of the night, it came to me. I’m going to try to jog his memory; help him remember me. Maybe all his brain needs is a gentle nudge, and all of our time together will come back to him. I’ve never been a quitter and I’m not going to start now.

      I walk into Kyle’s hospital room with purpose in my stride. I beam a smile at him. “Hey there, handsome. How are you feeling today?”

      He grimaces before answering. “I’ve been better.”

      “I have something that might help. I reach inside the paper bag I’ve brought and pull out a roast beef sandwich. I open up the paper, spread it out on the roll away table and pull it over his lap. I open a small bag of Fritos and pop one in my mouth before placing them next to his sandwich. He glances down at the food and then back to me, a smile on his lips.

      “Thanks, this looks great. I haven’t had a roast beef sandwich in a long time.”

     I know. Not since we had our picnic.

      I reach into the other bag I have and pull out a small stuffed duck. I set it on his tray and wait for him to remember.

      “We’re going to feed the ducks.”

     
I stare intently at him, focusing on his expression for some sign of recognition. I don’t see any ‘aha’ moments, no lightbulbs over his head. All I see is my boyfriend who doesn’t remember me, enjoying the lunch that I brought for him. I guess for now that’s going to have to be enough.

 

Two days later

 

      When I arrive for my daily visit with Kyle, he’s dozing in his hospital bed. The sight of his dark lashes resting on his cheeks makes me wonder what he looked like as a child. I wish this nightmare would end and everything would return to the way it used to be.

     
“I want to raise a family with you and only you.”

      He continues to slumber while I sit in the chair next to his bed reading a magazine. The sound of his slow, deep breaths is comforting to me. I can’t wait until he’s back home and I can sleep in his arms again.

      He stirs, his eyes opening slowly. He gives me a sleepy smile when he first notices me and for a moment I’m convinced he remembers me. But then I see the shuttered expression on his face and I know he doesn’t.

      “How are you feeling today?” I caress his hair-covered cheek with my fingers. He hasn’t shaved in over a week now. Not since the night he collapsed.

      “I feel fine; ready to get out of here.” He sighs.

      “I brought something for you,” I open the container holding the piece of triple-chocolate cake and place it on his tray. “I thought you might like this. It’s from Decadence. We went there for dessert on our first date.” I hand him a plastic fork and hold my breath as he takes a bite. Will it be enough to make him remember? Chocolate can make a lot of things better, I’m just not sure this is one of them.

Chapter Four

Kyle

 

     
“How can you not remember Janny?” My sister glares at me accusingly.

      “Kenna, I
did
have surgery on my brain less than a week ago. Cut me some fucking slack.” I clench my teeth together to keep myself from saying something I’ll regret. “It’s not like I forgot her on purpose. I want to remember her, but no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I search the recesses of my mind for memories of her, she isn’t there. It’s like we never met.” I pinch the bridge of my nose between my thumb and index finger with my good hand, while my right arm remains on the bed like the useless appendage it’s become.

      “You guys were so in love – they found an engagement ring in your pocket when they brought you to the hospital. I have it at my place when you’re ready to give it to her.”

      My fingers leave the bridge of my nose to slide up over my forehead and rub back and forth along the surface of my freshly-shaved head. The short stubble is soft against my hand. I got a free haircut out of my stay here and in exchange, all I had to do was have my skull drilled into.

      “Obviously you never got a chance to pop the question before you collapsed, but you were going to. You had the whole thing planned out. You told me about it earlier in the week.”

      Jesus. It’s even worse than I thought. Poor Janny. My heart goes out to her for all the pain this must be causing her. I can definitely sympathize, but that’s about all I can do. I can’t make myself have feelings for her any more than I can force myself to remember her. She’s a beautiful girl and I definitely feel a physical attraction to her, but that’s not enough to pick up where we left off. Besides, I’m a fucking mess right now and no sweet, young girl like her should be saddled with me and all my baggage. I’m looking at an uphill battle to return to my normal everyday life. My rehabilitation is going to take all my focus and energy. I can’t afford the distraction that disappointing her would be. I’m not the same man she fell in love with and I won’t ever be. She’s been bringing me things each day, things she thinks will make me remember her, but I still don’t. It’s not having the desired result. It’s only forcing me to see I need to let her go.

      The next day passes slower than any other day I can remember in my thirty-three years. I’m tired of staring at the ugly grayish-white ceiling panels, and thinking about my future only depresses me. There’s a part of me that wishes I hadn’t survived the surgery – that I’d just slipped quietly away into the great beyond. What lies on the other side of this life has to be better than what I’m looking forward to. Being trapped in this body is like a prison and I want to escape from it. I haven’t had a peaceful existence since my parents died. They passed on and I like to think they’re still together and in a better place. At least I hope it’s a better place, because I’d like to think that there’s a reward for all the shit I’ve dealt with in this lifetime.

      I’ve just finished eating my dinner when Janny walks into my room. My chest tightens when I see her and take in her natural beauty. She has on jean cutoff shorts and a tank top. Her blonde hair falls in casual waves over her shoulders, down to the tips of her breasts. I want to rest my cheek on those soft curves so she can rub my head and tell me that everything is going to be okay. I know I don’t remember her, but somehow I know she’d do that for me. I also know that her breasts would be soft and cushion my cheek perfectly. She’d smell sweet like the most tempting dessert and I’d want a taste. I’d slowly push her shirt up and devour every inch of skin revealed with my hungry eyes.

      “Hi, how’s your day been?” she asks, snapping me out of my fantasy and back into the hell of my reality.

      “How do you think it’s been?” I snap. “It’s fucking great lying here all day not being able to move my arm. Everyone should be so fucking lucky.” She blanches at my sharp, sarcastic answer. I feel sorry for a moment, but I’m so angry at the world right now and unfortunately she’s the only one here for me to take it out on.

      “Listen, I don’t mean to be a dickhead, but if you ask a dumb question you can’t expect me to be happy about it.” She bites on the dark pink plumpness of her bottom lip and tucks the right side of her hair behind her ear. She stands beside my bed with her eyes lowered. I can sense she’s trying to decide if she should sit down or flee from my room before I have an opportunity to say something else hurtful. When she raises her eyes to meet mine, anger flashes in them for a moment before she sits in the recliner at my bedside. She slides a blue backpack from her shoulder and sets it in her lap. Her head drops down when she rifles through the main compartment and it gives me an opportunity to study the perfection of her face. Her eyebrows are darker than the golden hue of her hair and their graceful arches frame her large blue eyes. Her small, straight nose is overshadowed by the succulent shape of her lips. Those lips make me long to see what they’d feel like underneath mine. The need to sink my teeth into her plump lower lip has my cock twitching and I smile with relief that it’s still working.

      “Here, I brought you a book to read and some chocolate.” She holds up a new paperback thriller by one of my favorite authors, and a candy bar. “I know how much you love plain milk chocolate,” she says before she places them both down on the table near my bed.

      “Thank you.” I stare at her. She locks eyes with me and I get lost in blue depths surrounded by long, dark lashes. They’re unlike any I’ve seen before.

      “Your eyes are such a unique color. The only time I’ve seen that shade of blue was in my Crayola box when I was a kid.”
I wonder if that’s what attracted me to her in the first place.
“The color is cerulean blue and it was always my favorite one.”

      Those same eyes go wide at my words. It’s the nicest thing I’ve said to her since I woke up from my coma.

      “Any word on when you’re getting out of here?” She zips her bag closed and places it down on the floor, waiting for my answer.

      “They mentioned moving me to rehab tomorrow. Any place is better than being stuck here.” I stare up at the ceiling and think about what the next few months will be like for me. I know I have a lot of work ahead of me and I don’t think it’s fair to drag Janny through it. Especially when I don’t know if my memory will ever return. It seems cruel to give her any hope that we can be what we once were when it might never happen. She’s so young, just beginning her adult life and she has a bright future ahead of her. I won’t be the thing that holds her back. If I loved her, she must be someone really special and she deserves the best.
I’m not what she needs. 

      “Listen, I know you want to be here for me, but I don’t want you to. I want you to move on with your life and focus on what you need to do.” I pause, trying to gather the words I know I need to say – words I know are going to tear through her like a bullet. She can hate me, but I’m doing this for her. “I know we were in love before all of this happened, but I don’t have romantic feelings toward you now. I think you’re a really sweet girl, and I know I’m physically attracted to you, but I need to focus on my recovery. I can’t be distracted with how much I’m disappointing you by not regaining my memory.”

      She’s perched on the edge of the seat, sitting so still, with her hands folded gracefully in her lap. Her calm body language belies the devastation showing on her face. Her lips are pressed together and the sheen of tears in her eyes tells the true story of how devastating this is for her. I feel like the biggest bastard in the world right now, but I know it’s the best thing for Janny in the long run. Someday she’ll look back and realize I was just a tiny part of her life. Five months out of eighty or ninety years won’t even be a blip on her radar. She’ll meet the man she’s meant to be with and live happily ever after. Maybe once in a while she’ll think of me and wonder how I am, but that’s all I’ll be to her...a memory from long ago.

BOOK: QUIVER (QUAKE Book 2)
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