Authors: Barbara Kaylor
Geneva didn’t feel good about any of it and moped through the rest of the morning and afternoon, unable to pretend otherwise. She was in love with a man who belonged to another woman. It didn’t matter that they weren’t married. Olivia was planning her wedding to Elliot. That mattered to Geneva. Her spirits drooped with guilt and anger. When Elliot suggested she go home early, she didn’t protest. She couldn’t look at him anymore without seeing Olivia. Making future plans with Elliot was out of the question.
While soaking in a hot tub of bubbles, Geneva wondered why God had given her a blessing mixed with heartache. She had won Elliot’s heart, but only the amnesiac side. Somewhere inside the man, the memory of Olivia lurked like a three-headed monster, waiting to devour her. It made loving Elliot seem devious and sinful.
During a quick dinner before the service that night, Geneva continued her quiet, mopey mood. She’d invited Elliot and the Palmers for hotdogs, baked beans, and macaroni salad. Thankfully, table talk centered on Elliot’s project. Geneva slid into the background with her troubled thoughts, but not without Elliot noticing.
“This thing with Olivia really has you down,” he said after dinner while helping Geneva clean the kitchen. “I don’t think I’ve seen you frown so much since I’ve been in Holly Park. You look like you’ve lost your best friend.”
Geneva tied an apron over her clothes. “I feel that way, Elliot. I know God’s going to reveal a way through all this. I have to be patient, but I don’t like causing hurt to anyone, not even Olivia Swanson.”
Elliot’s smile was full of tenderness and compassion. “I wouldn’t expect anything less of you, Geneva. You always think of the other person, but—” he took both of her hands in his—“this is not your problem. You’ve done nothing wrong. I have. I’m going to make this right. I don’t know how yet, but I will.”
Elliot’s positive words cracked Geneva’s shell of dread, but only a tad.
“I know you will, Elliot,” she managed with a half-smile that hid her fears.
You could wake up tomorrow and remember your love for Olivia.
Geneva couldn’t pull herself free of that one, miserable thought.
“May I join you for the service tonight?” Elliot’s request delighted Geneva.
“Of course.” Her heart bubbled with joy. They strolled to the church together. Elliot wanted to hold hands like sweethearts, but knew it wouldn’t look right. They weren’t officially a couple.
They sat with the Palmers. Elliot’s presence next to Geneva drew curious looks from some in the congregation. To ward off any gossip, Elliot and Geneva behaved as old friends and nothing more. When Geneva introduced him after the service to church members, she played up his involvement with the Palmers and their campground. That generated several lines of discussion. Elliot was suddenly the toast of the town as interested folks circled him.
Over dessert later, he discussed the church members he’d met and how they’d support the new campground.
“I can’t tell you what that means to us, Elliot,” Ed Palmer said with a choked voice. “I haven’t been able to concentrate on the place since Wade died.”
“It’s all we can do to get through the day,” Winnie added with watery eyes. “You’ve been a godsend, Elliot.”
“Are you still going to sell the campground once it’s restored?” Perry asked over his cherry crisp.
Ed and Winnie both nodded as one.
“Our family is up north,” Ed reminded them. “We need to be closer to our home.”
“We have relatives who aren’t doing well,” Winnie explained. “They need our help.”
Perry shook his head. “You’ll need lots of prayers to sell in this economy. I’ll get right on it.”
“I hope the people who buy it are as nice as you two have been,” Geneva said. “I really do hate thinking about losing you for neighbors.”
“Don’t worry, Geneva. We won’t sell it to just anybody,” Winnie assured her.
Ed smiled. “The property should be very appealing with all the renovations Elliot’s planning.”
Elliot didn’t hear. He was lost in another memory. His first bite of Geneva’s cherry dessert had thrown him back in time to a company picnic. Geneva, dressed in denim capris and a striped shirt, her hair flowing in the wind, was helping set up the table. She’d brought a cherry pie. He had watched her remove it from her basket. While no was looking, he’d walked over and asked for a sample which she gladly provided. It wasn’t the sweet dish that had interested him. He had wanted to be near her.
When the call had come for everyone to eat, she had volunteered to help serve and spent a good bit of time, walking drinks to the tables and passing out utensils and napkins.
“Don’t worry about me,” she’d told him when he had joked about her not getting anything to eat. “I’ll eat when things settle down.” He would have joined her had it not been for Olivia, who had invited herself to the family table. The memory ended, but the feeling in his heart had taken on a life of its own. It was insanely powerful and as real as the voices around him. It was all he could do to wait until he was alone with Geneva to tell her.
“I remember that picnic!” Geneva blurted later. The Palmers and Perry had said their goodbyes and had retired for the evening. Elliot lingered to help Geneva clean up. When the Palmers and Perry had offered to help, Elliot had shooed them away. He wanted Geneva all to himself.
“My memories are slowly returning and they’re all about you.” Elliot gazed into Geneva’s wide-eyed expression. “This love I have in my heart for you is real. I have to tell Olivia. I have to let her know how much I love you, and that I can’t marry her, now or ever.”
“You can’t do that, Elliot!”
“Why not?” The color drained from Elliot’s face.
“You’re not healed yet, Elliot.” Tears pooled in the corners of Geneva’s eyes. “You can’t make life-altering decisions before the rest of your memories return. For all you know, you might have felt this same way about Olivia. In fact, you may feel even stronger love for her than for me. You simply don’t know.”
Elliot’s brow rippled under a lock of hair. “You keep pushing me away, Geneva. Don’t you want us to be together?”
“Of course I do, but only if it’s right.” Geneva willed strength into her words. “I’ve been sick about this all day! I dreamed of having your love. Now that I do, I can’t act on it because someone else is involved. I’m torn between doing what I feel like doing and doing what I know is the right thing to do.” She forced herself to keep it together even though her heart had dropped to her stomach.
“You think that strongly that I could be in love with Olivia?” The idea was preposterous to Elliot, but Geneva had a point.
Geneva nodded. “Not that I want you to be, Elliot, but there is a possibility. You are engaged to her. She must mean something to you.”
“So I’ve been told.” Elliot’s jaw swiveled with frustration. “I’m going to go crazy if I don’t start remembering soon.”
“No you won’t.” Geneva put a comforting hand to the side of his face. “Be patient. God’s working here. All we have to do is believe and trust. Remember the Psalm, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ Sometimes, we can’t work these things out. We have to rely on God’s mighty hands and His time frame. I don’t think He’ll allow you to go much longer without your memories.”
Elliot covered Geneva’s soft hand with his own.
“You’re all I want now, Geneva.” Pain overshadowed the courage in his tone. “But, I’ll keep the Psalm in the forefront of my mind.”
“I plan to, also,” Geneva said, longing to touch the strands of hair brushing his brow. A playful smile lifted the corners of her lips.
“What?” He asked.
“I like this scruffy, rugged look better than your GQ one. You’re a natural outdoorsman.”
Olivia had called him a bum, but Elliot didn’t care. He only cared what Geneva thought of him.
“I should probably get a haircut.” Elliot touched his thick waves.
Geneva turned her smile up a notch. “Only a teensy one, though. I like the longer style.”
“I want to kiss you, Geneva,” Elliot blurted, playfully and seriously. “But, I’ll be good until I straighten things out with Olivia.”
“Thank you, Elliot,” Geneva said with some hesitance. “If it helps any, this is just as hard for me. I’d like you to kiss me, but I think it’s better if we not move forward just yet. I can wait.”
Elliot’s gaze was penetrating in a loving, warm way. Geneva swooned under it for a few moments then swished the emotion away before caving to it.
“I won’t be coming to the lake tomorrow,” she said, clearing her head. “I need to get things ready for this weekend.”
“I miss you already.”
“I have to run errands tomorrow,” Geneva remembered. “Why don’t you ride along?”
They worked out a time then Elliot left. His cell phone rang as he entered his cabin. It was Rick telling him they were coming on Saturday for the week. Elliot was thrilled until Rick brought up Olivia.
“She came by the other day, furious that you never return her calls,” Rick said in the folds of a troublesome sigh. “She wants me to convince you to go through with the wedding. I explained it was your call.”
“Are you there?” Rick asked.
“Yeah, I’m here,” Elliot replied. “I’m sorry you’re taking the brunt of Olivia. I should be handling it. I’ll call her.”
He punched in her number as soon as he ended his call with Rick.
“I can’t believe it!” Olivia’s squeal blasted Elliot’s ears. “You’re actually returning my calls! Why haven’t you called me before now! Are you cheating on me with that tramp Geneva Passion, because if you are—”
“She’s not a tramp!” Elliot snapped then thought of Geneva and calmed down. He wasn’t going to let Olivia draw him into a shouting match. “I’m not cheating on you, Olivia,” he said with more control. “I’m just trying to get my life back. It helps to be here.”
“Uh-huh! Right! Shouldn’t I be the one helping you?” The taunting in her voice grated on Elliot’s nerves, but he knew she was right in a way.
“Look, Olivia, I’m sorry if I seem insensitive to you—”
“Insensitive! You’ve been downright rude and heartless!”
Elliot squeezed the sudden stitch between his eyes. Her criticism seemed laughable, considering her own wretched attitude.
“I’m just confused right now.” Elliot tried to reason with her. “Can’t you understand, I don’t remember my life with you? I don’t remember my life with my family. I don’t enjoy this, but it’s the way things are right now for me. All I’m asking for is some patience and understanding on your part. Can’t you give me that?”
Olivia exaggerated an intimidating sigh over the phone. “All I understand is that you’re in Holly Park, romancing this so-called memory of Geneva Passion. How do I know you’re not making all this up?”
“You think I’d make up amnesia?” Elliot was beginning to doubt Olivia’s sanity. “Why would I do that?”
“To break up with me.”
“Would I do something like that? I thought I was a straightforward kind of guy. Wouldn’t I just tell you if I wanted out of the relationship?” He could tell her that now, but Geneva wouldn’t approve.
A heavy silence dropped like an anchor between them.
“I suppose you would.” Olivia didn’t sound convinced.
“I’ll try to see you again after next week.” Elliot grimaced at the thought.
“Why not now?” Her question came out as a command.
“Rick and the family are coming this Saturday,” he explained even though he didn’t want to. “They’re spending the week with me at the campground.”
“How cozy!” Hate riddled her words. “Why wasn’t I invited?”
“It’s a time for the family, Olivia.” Elliot hadn’t even thought of asking Olivia. He needed the quality time with his family. Surely some memories were bound to surface during their week together.
“I seem to be the last one on your list,” she spat out. “It’s obvious you don’t really care what happens between us!”
Elliot didn’t know how to respond to that. He really didn’t care and yet he knew he should.
“I’m trying to piece my life together, Olivia,” he said, mustering some sympathy for her. “I know you don’t believe in God, but I have to trust Him to help me.”
“So that’s what you’re relying on to get well? God!” She chortled, sardonically. “Good luck with that! I’m hanging up. You don’t even make sense anymore!”
The line went dead. Elliot felt instant relief, but he knew it was only until he faced Olivia again. Sleep that night was impossible, and the next morning, his spirits fluctuated between high and low as he worked. Geneva called him for lunch so he cleaned up and headed over. The sight of her on the porch, waving, leveled out his mood. She was like sunshine and country air. Elliot’s heart burst at the seams.
“What’s all this?” He asked, entering the kitchen. Dishes lined the counters, taking up every inch of space.
“You’re going to help me deliver food this afternoon,” Geneva answered as she filled a box with plastic containers. “It’ll take your mind off your situation.”
They packed up Geneva’s car and left as soon as they had finished their sandwiches and iced tea.
“Grandpa usually does this, but he’s counseling some church members today.” Geneva maneuvered her car down a dirt road, lined with rusty mobile homes and dismal houses. “I thought you could use the break from your troubles.”
Elliot welcomed the change, but it wasn’t a comfortable experience. Meeting others in various stages of hardship saddened him. It made him realize how blessed he was. On their way home, he asked of the elderly they visited who lived alone, “How do they manage?”
“Members of the church look after them,” Geneva replied as she wound through the rural community. “I bring food, but others clean their homes, take them to their doctors’ appointments, and mow their yards or do repairs. We all work together.”
“And the families? Does it work the same with them, too?” Elliot had been moved by the destitute households he had witnessed on their rounds. Fathers out of work, mothers worn out and tired, children with worried faces. He’d only seen that part of life in pictures and on television. To see it firsthand was disturbing.
Geneva nodded. “We do all we can.”