Authors: Barbara Kaylor
“I see.” Geneva sighed out.
“Why do I feel like the evening’s just been ruined?” Elliot asked, pushing his plate away with several bites left on it.
“I’m sorry, Elliot,” Geneva apologized. “I’m just surprised by your announcement. I had no idea you were engaged.”
“Does it matter to you?” Traces of hope flashed across his eyes. Geneva noticed, but she kept her feet on the ground. If Elliot was Olivia’s man, she didn’t stand a chance with him no matter what. The woman would fight to the death for what she considered hers.
“Of course not,” Geneva lied in a nonchalant way. “Your life is in Orlando, Elliot. One day you’ll remember everything and go back to it. Olivia will make sure of it. She’s a very strong and determined person.”
“Why do I remember you and not her if she’s the one I’m supposed to be in love with?” Elliot turned to Geneva with disappointment and frustration. “I don’t feel as comfortable with her as I do you. There must be a reason for that. It’s the missing link so to speak. I have this feeling if I discover what it is, I’ll get all my memories back. I’m stuck in this one memory until then.”
“I can’t help you, Elliot.” Geneva stood and gathered her dishes. “I wish I could.”
Elliot walked her back to her door. The Palmers had just said goodbye to Perry so Elliot walked back across the road with them, his mind in knots and his heart deflated. He didn’t want Olivia. He wanted Geneva. There was something Geneva wasn’t telling him. He sensed it, but he didn’t want to push her. He’d have to pray it out of her.
Pray was exactly what Elliot did when he reached his cabin. Afterwards, he called Rick to let him know how things were going.
“Has being around Geneva helped you remember?” That was the big question.
“No!” Elliot slapped his hand on the cabin desk. “It’s so frustrating, too. I feel like she’s keeping something from me. There had to be something between us.”
“Maybe you want there to be, brother. Have you thought of that?”
“You mean like I had some secret feelings for Geneva when she worked for me? That kind of thing?”
“It’s possible,” Rick replied. “Why don’t you explore the reason you were so harsh when you fired her. Have you two discussed that at all?”
“Briefly. I apologized. That’s about it.”
“Maybe it’s all tied into the reason behind the firing. Why don’t you focus on that? Have you been praying about this?”
“Yes, and I just did again before calling you. By the way, how’s Mom?”
“Hanging in there. I was thinking of bringing her up for a visit one Saturday if you don’t mind. We can go to lunch somewhere.”
“Let me get back to you on that.” Elliot felt his emotions crowding.
“Sure, no pressure,” Rick said. “I hate to bring up a sore subject, but Olivia’s been asking about you, too. She’s getting antsy.”
“I hate all this,” Elliot griped. “I’m not being fair to her. I don’t know what to do. I don’t love her. I don’t even like being around her. I guess the old me did. Maybe if I spent some time with her, it would come back to me. Maybe I’m wasting my time here, chasing something that’s not important. Maybe this memory of Geneva is just a fluke and nothing significant at all. I’m so confused and frustrated, Rick. I don’t know which way to turn.”
“I know,” Rick said with sympathy. “Just calm down, Elliot. Give it some more time and don’t try so hard to figure it out. Let it evolve. And keep praying.”
“What if my memory never returns? I played around on the laptop and found our website, but nothing came to me. It was unfamiliar. I read everything on it, and no memories came back. I’m lost, Rick. I feel like I don’t belong anywhere, man.”
“The important thing is that you do belong somewhere, Elliot. You do have a family, and we love you. Keep that in mind at all times. You’re a man with amnesia. You’re not a man without a family or a home. If it never comes back to you, you still have a family and a home. Remember that.”
Rick’s comments comforted Elliot, but there was the other matter.
“What about Olivia?” Elliot wondered out loud. “I can’t just let her hang there. Should I go ahead with the wedding even though I don’t love her and just hope one day I’ll remember what she meant to me?”
“That’s your call, buddy.”
Elliot cleaned Geneva’s floors the next day then fixed up the yard. She had guests arriving the following day for the weekend. He was going to stay away while her retreat was in progress. He already missed her.
“I hope I’m not tiring you out with all these chores.” Geneva brought him lunch outside on a tray around noon.
“Not at all.” He washed up with the water hose and dried off with the fresh dish towel, covering the food. “I don’t know if it’s helping my memory any, but it sure feels good to stay busy.” He gulped down a swig of iced tea then said, “Look Geneva, about last night.”
“What about last night?” Geneva leaned against a shade tree with her own glass of tea. She watched Elliot wolf down his sandwich. The light breeze, fluttering through the splay of branches, played with the lacy hem of her ankle-length dress. Elliot’s gaze fell on the delicate movement. He gulped down the rest of his tea to divert his attention.
“I feel like I should apologize for bringing up Olivia,” he finally answered while running a napkin over his mouth. “You seemed so upset by it.”
Geneva smiled. “I was a little shocked at first, but I’m over it.”
Ha! What a fib! You didn’t sleep all night!
A flock of long curls blew into Geneva’s face. She shook her head back. The gesture released the fragrance she’d sprayed on after her shower that morning. It sailed into the air. Elliot breathed it in and froze, wide-eyed. Goosebumps popped up on his arms and the back of his neck. He knew the scent.
“What is it, Elliot?” Geneva noticed the flare in his eyes. “Do you remember something?”
He nodded. “The fragrance you’re wearing. Coconut lime right? I remember it.”
Geneva was befuddled. It was nothing fancy, just body spray she purchased regularly for under ten dollars at one of her favorite mall shops.
“That’s good, but what’s the significance?” She grabbed her hair with one hand and held it back from the breeze.
“You wore it when you worked at the company.” Elliot gazed tenderly at Geneva as a memory slow-danced across his mind. He snatched bits and pieces of it before it faded away like smoke in the wind. There’d been some gathering, a meeting perhaps. They were in a big room. Geneva was standing close enough for him to get a whiff of her fragrance. He had been captivated by it.
The memory had been fleeting, but the emotion left in its wake wasn’t. Elliot now knew why he felt connected to Geneva. He hadn’t just favored her as Rick had said. He had had a crush on her. That would explain his strong desire to remember her.
“I’m sure I wore it a lot.” Geneva had a
in her voice. “It’s one of my favorites. How does any of this help you?”
Elliot didn’t know how to tell her he’d been swept away by it. That he’d had feelings for her back then. Recalling Rick’s suggestion the night before, Elliot switched gears.
“I’d like to discuss the circumstances that led to your dismissal.”
Geneva bristled. “We’ve already talked about that. It’s in the past. You can’t change any of it and, even if you could, I’m happy here. I’d never go back to Orlando. I have a ministry here at Serenity Bed and Breakfast.”
“I’m not looking to change any of that, Geneva. I want to know why I fired you. I can’t remember that part. Rick mentioned a few things, but I want your version.”
The breeze picked up, and Geneva had to clutch the flouncy skirt of her dress before it ballooned. She dropped her hair, letting the wind have it. Strands whipped Elliot’s face. He gently gathered them in his hand. The way he caressed them sent shivers down Geneva’s spine.
“We’ll have to talk later, Elliot,” she said, flustered by his closeness. “I have to get ready for the retreat tomorrow.”
Elliot let go of Geneva’s hair. It shimmered in the afternoon sunlight like bright new pennies. “You have beautiful hair,” he heard himself say. He couldn’t pull his eyes away from her.
Geneva blushed under Elliot’s scrutinizing gaze. She thought of the hundred freckles on her face and turned from him, embarrassed and ashamed of her embarrassment.
“Don’t turn away, Geneva,” Elliot said, reading her mind.
She glanced at him. Her curls spun their fragrance in the air.
“You’re a beautiful woman,” Elliot told her in a convincingly soft way. Her full lips were just inches from him. He longed to kiss them. Instead, he picked up the tray. “I’ll take this in for you.”
In the kitchen, Geneva promised Elliot they would talk about the firing after the weekend.
He nodded. “Thanks. I know it’s hard for you to discuss that time, but it’s important. I want to know everything that led up to it. I realize I didn’t give you a chance to explain at the time, but I am now.”
He started for the door.
“Will you come to church Sunday, Elliot?” Her invitation had a yearning in it.
“I’ll think about it,” he said with a warm smile. He strode back out to finish his work with a bug burrowing in his brain. The more he was around Geneva, the more he was certain he had loved her at one time. Why else would she be the one and only person he’d remember? But, if he had been in love with Geneva, why had he let her go, and what was he doing with Olivia?
Those questions needled Elliot as he worked away the afternoon. Afterwards, he decided to take a long walk around the hilly farmland he’d been admiring. Perry had told him he could whenever he wanted.
“Just be on the lookout for snakes,” the preacher had instructed. “They like to move around this time of year.”
Elliot had barely left the yard when he heard a crunching noise behind him. He turned and saw Russell hurrying to catch up. Elliot smiled. He liked the dog’s company.
“Come on boy!” He slapped the side of his leg to beckon the pooch. Russell appeared to grin from ear to ear when he reached Elliot.
“Good boy!” Elliot praised the animal with some hearty back rubs.
They walked together, appraising the wilderness around them. Elliot wondered if he had ever loved the outdoors as he did now. His body was toned, but not from any outdoor activities. Rick had told him he worked out in the gym a lot. Keeping healthy must have been important to him. His stamina surprised him. He managed to accomplish a lot in no time without getting fatigued.
Elliot came to a fallen tree and sat down on the decaying trunk. Russell trotted around in the field, but kept close. All around, nature bustled with energy. Bees circled the faces of wildflowers waving in the sun-washed breeze and white, puffy clouds drifted overhead like tufts of pulled cotton while new leaves rustled softly on the branches of nearby trees, and birds soared in the warm sky.
Serenity, just like the name of Geneva’s inn, settled over Elliot like morning fog. His heart opened with yearnings, and his eyes searched the heavens.
Who am I, God? Why do I remember Geneva and no one else? Are you doing that? What are you trying to teach me? Help me, Father. You saved me from the accident. Please help me once again. I can’t do this alone. I don’t know where I’ve come from, where I’ve been, or where any of this is going to lead me, but you do.
Elliot didn’t know what else to say. Praying still seemed so unfamiliar to him yet he dared not go a day without doing it. Had he been a praying man? He’d prayed in the hospital. When his mother and brother prayed over him after he returned home, he had felt God’s spirit.
He’d been told him he’d become a Christian before he entered his teens. God had his
hand on him. Elliot could sense it. He needed God more than ever now.
I’m as lost as any man could ever be.
Tears welled in Elliot’s eyes as he pleaded.
I want to know who I am.
A strange homesickness overcame him, but he didn’t know what it meant. He couldn’t attach himself to any familiar place. Nothing came to him. He had no recollection of the sweet woman who called herself his mother. Nor did he feel any connection other than friendship with Rick. Yet, he longed for home and family. He remembered what Rick had told him the night before. He did belong somewhere, and he did have a family. He just couldn’t remember any of it.
I’m not trying hard enough!
He scolded himself.
Pain speared Elliot’s head as he tried with all his might to force memories to the surface. He grabbed his skull with both hands and pressed on it until the excruciating stitch subsided.
In the distance, Geneva lurched as she watched Elliot. She started toward him, but Perry stopped her. He’d seen the man walk into the fields from his church office.
“Leave him to his thoughts, Geneva,” Perry said as he strolled onto the back porch just as Geneva bounded off the steps. “He needs the time alone.”
“Are you sure, Grandpa? He’s acting like he’s in pain.”
“You seem awfully worried about a man you don’t like.” Perry sat down in a rocker and pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his brow.
Geneva shrugged off his insinuation. “Don’t make anything out of my concern. It’s only because he’s recovering from a car accident and has amnesia. Shouldn’t I be worried about him?”
“He’s been a big help around here these past few days.” Perry sidestepped Geneva’s question. He didn’t want to needle her too much. “The Palmers are in hog heaven over him.”
Geneva had a faraway look in her eye. “It’s strange he remembers only me.”
“The Lord works in mysterious ways, child.”
Geneva’s eyes pinpointed the corner of the field where Elliot still sat. “Why would God want Elliot to remember me? Or the day he fired me?”
“I’m sure God will reveal that when He’s good and ready.”
“What am I supposed to do in the meantime?” Geneva moaned as she settled into the rocker next to her grandfather. “Elliot acts like I’ve got all the answers. He thinks we were close. He feels connected to me.”