Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Blank Slate ch 7-9

Yeah, so I have no idea where last week went, but I totally missed posting the next segment on my blog. If you haven't read the beginning of my new book, you can find it here. If you have, here's the third installment!

Chapter Seven

d

Adrianna’s parents stayed the better part of a week. Though she was glad to have met her parents and for the chance to get to know them again, she was relieved when they left. Her mother was suffocating and oppressive in her anxiety to do everything for her daughter’s comfort. She spoiled Aiden rotten one moment, then talked about what a hassle children were the next.

Her sister, Natasha, was apparently working off-off-Broadway, a fact her mother derided as a waste and foolish dream compared to Adrianna’s actual success. It made Adrianna feel bad for her sister—she was following her dreams, wasn’t she? Natasha called to talk to her once, but the conversation had been awkward and mercifully short.

When Megan and Aiden arrived in her room that night, Adrianna had a new question for her sister-in-law. “So, Paola? Not that I have anything against the town, but . . . .”

Megan grinned at Adrianna as she transferred Aiden to his aunt’s open arms. “You love Paola.”

She put a slight sarcastic edge on her voice. “Sure, of course I do. I must. But why? Why did you move there of all places—and why did I move with you? Isn’t there plenty of building going on in Olathe, or Kansas City?”

“Of course. But there’s also more competition in cities—higher business expenses, more bureaucracy to deal with—and don’t underestimate the power of bureaucracy.” Megan shuddered. “Paola has a nice family-friendly atmosphere to it. It’s close enough to the city for your music, and Brock can fly in and out easily enough. You agreed it was ideal.”

Adrianna cuddled Aiden close and listened to Megan wax eloquent about their home, neighborhood, ward, and the school her son would attend in a few more years. She talked about the previous house she and Jake had owned before Aiden was born, and how the need for space had prompted them to build their new place.

“You must be overwhelmed with school, a baby, and our parents here for a ‘nice, long visit.’” Adrianna infused sugary sweetness into her voice, trying to imitate her mother.

Megan laughed weakly. “No doubt about it. As much as your mom wants to help, she does cause a lot of stress.” She played with her purse strap, wrapping it around her fingers before pulling them free again. “I think I took for granted how much you’ve been helping around the house until you weren’t there. We’ll be glad to have you home again—and not just because you babysat for us.”

“It’ll be good to get out of here.” Adrianna twisted the blanket in her hands. She knew she wanted to ask, but worried about how to do so. “I wondered, I noticed that you and my mom, hmmm . . .”

“You mean she thinks I’m the daughter of Satan who is lazy, finding excuses to go to school instead of caring for my child, and keeping you from achieving your full potential while we’re at it?”

That seemed like a fair summation. “Um, yeah. I mean, you talked like things between all of us and them were better.”

Megan pushed hair out of her face and settled more comfortably into the chair. “No, I said things between you and her were getting better. And things between her and Jake are a little less strained, but that’s only because she’s learned not to talk down about me to him. I don’t think she’ll ever forgiven me for ‘making’ you stay here to help us out when I was bedridden with Aiden instead of taking an opportunity to play with some fancy Swiss symphony. In comparison, they think Brock is a genius not only because he’s a talented and famous conductor, but because he was less than thrilled with your choice.”

“So I stayed because of the baby?” Adrianna loved Aiden to pieces already, but it seemed overkill.

“Of course you said that you were tired of traveling and wanted to take a break. You’d just come off a U.S. tour a few weeks before the offer and claimed you wanted to stay in one place for a while.” Megan untangled Aiden’s fingers from her hair, then passed over a sippy cup of water. “I always wondered if it was really me you worried about. Jake was going crazy with worry about me being home alone during the day, and the two of you were always so close. She thinks you only stay here because I can’t handle Aiden without you.”

“Ahh, that explains the comment about me babysitting instead of living up to my full potential.”

“Yes. She’s big on not wasting potential. She still thinks Jake should have been an attorney.” She shrugged. “So, what’s the latest news from the doctor?”

“I go in for my plastic surgery tomorrow—it’s official, did Jake tell you?” She paused while Megan shook her head. “Also, Brock called a while ago, full of news from Chicago.” He’d called at least once a day to check in with her and fill her in on the symphony scene.

“How’s that going?”

“Well enough, I suppose.” Adrianna picked at the blanket that was spread over her legs. “I don’t remember him at all, but he’s been very understanding and even sweet, despite his frustration. I’m sure it’s been difficult for him, with me living so far away.”

“Your wedding date is next week.” Megan stood and grabbed Aiden before he could toddle into the hall. “I guess it was a hassle to change everything. Your mom told me at least three times how inconvenient it was for her sister to cancel her flights.” She sighed as she settled back into the chair and handed Aiden a stuffed animal.

“Yes, she mentioned that to me, too. I’m sorry to inconvenience her when I have so much choice in the matter.” Adrianna made herself stop fidgeting. She didn’t have any control over it, but she still felt guilty for the lost deposits and canceled plans.

“Your mom is your mom. She isn’t going to change, but she means well.” Megan smiled, then got up to grab Aiden, who had slid from her lap and was trying to make a break for it again.

d

The nail gun jerked in Gavin’s hands and he continued pounding more nails into the house’s outer wall. The man he worked with slid another board into place and Gavin noted it needed trimming. He put down the nail gun and pulled out a pencil.

He really needed something other than work to occupy his mind, because in the dead moments between physical labor and filling out forms, he kept seeing Adrianna’s bandaged face. There was something different about her when he’d talked to her a couple of days earlier. Something that appealed much more than it had before. He tried to tell himself he was being stupid, it was only that she was vulnerable now. He actually hoped when she was healed and back on her feet, he would no longer feel anything for her but vague brotherly antagonism.

Even if she were free—which she wasn’t—and he decided he did feel something more for her—highly unlikely in his estimation—he was hardly ready to get involved in a relationship.

And why was he even thinking about it? Stupid.

“Hey, boss, think we can stop for lunch sometime before three?” Glen asked him.

Gavin looked at his watch and realized it was an hour past the usual lunch break. “Yes, sorry. I guess I’m just in a hurry to get this done.”

“Trying to kill yourself, if you ask me. Working with power tools without your head on your job.” The old man gave him a slap on the shoulder. “But I remember what it was like to be young—full of plans for Friday night.” He cackled and hurried to his truck.

He was right, of course, Gavin thought as he rubbed sweat from his forehead. Power tools and distraction didn’t mix, but at least he was getting something done here, which was more than he could say for his latest attempts to file papers at the office. Tara had always been able to put her hands on any paperwork in a matter of seconds, but with the busy summer season, Gavin had let some of the paperwork pile up and Tara’s system had always left the guys baffled.

When he added the constantly reappearing image of Adrianna in his mind, and the never-ending ringing of the phone, he thought he’d be lucky to get everything straightened out before the new year.


Chapter Eight

d

After ten days in a regular hospital bed and nearly a month since the accident happened, Adrianna was more than happy to be released. It was four days before Halloween and decorations hung in yards and businesses all over town. Those trees that still had leaves sported a host of red, orange, and yellow, and the smell of autumn permeated the air.

The city seemed alien to her, though they passed the occasional familiar business. Brock kept up a running commentary about the places they shopped, and restaurants they patronized as they passed. He took a long route through the city to drive by the theater where the symphony practiced. It seemed he had a memory about each and every corner while she had almost nothing. The few things that did seem familiar would have been familiar to millions of people—fast food chain restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations.

She smiled at Brock. He’d been so kind to her. She couldn’t think of him as a stranger any more, not when he’d spent hours visiting with her each day—even if he had to do so over the telephone. Since he’d come back to town, they’d played checkers and Monopoly. He’d shown her pictures of their life together, or they sat side by side watching television. Invariably he held her hand as they sat quietly—she became reasonably comfortable with the touching, though it felt very awkward at first.

He tried to keep up a positive attitude, but she could sense his desperation growing as quickly as her own and she saw the strain around his eyes and mouth when he was reminded of her limitations. She had been awake two weeks now, but still remembered nothing of her former life except vague images that rarely made sense.

“Bet you can’t wait to sit at a piano again. Your mom said you latched on to it like nothing else from the first. She said you played on it when you were only three, so she decided she needed to get you into lessons, and you just took off from there. With all of the other orchestras who wanted you, it’s a miracle you chose to stay in Kansas City.”

Adrianna didn’t know why she’d stayed when there appeared to be so many offers. “I must have liked it here pretty well. Maybe it was because you were here.” She held back her sigh of relief when he smiled. Trying to meet his expectations—and always coming up short—was exhausting.

She glanced out the window and caught a glimpse of herself in the side mirror, then grimaced. It was good he could smile at her, considering what she looked like. She’d undergone plastic surgery to repair the damage to her face earlier that week, and was still sported several bandages. The puffiness was bound to linger for a couple of weeks and the scarring would take months, even years to heal. She sucked in the fear of permanent disfigurement that haunted her.

She touched her face again and remembered the way she’d felt when she looked in the mirror that morning. She didn’t need scary makeup to fit in great on Halloween night. Everyone was bound to think her face was part of her costume. Tears welled in her eyes and she tried to blink them back before her throat closed up with emotion as well. She was going home; it was something to celebrate, not a time to be sad. What was wrong with her?

Immediately she knew the answer: She was tired, still in pain, and on meds. She’d been studying her life for weeks now, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t dredge up any of memories of those she loved the most.

“Honey, are you all right?” Brock squeezed her hand.

“Fine. I’m just fine.” She wiped at her right cheek as discretely as possible, praying he didn’t notice the tears trickling from her eyes. If she let them fall, they would soak into the bandages and someone might be able to tell she’d been crying. “You were saying something about the performance next week?”

He smiled and picked up the conversation again. Adrianna only half listened as she studied the world around her.

d

The ride to Paola took about half an hour, and Brock talked the whole way. “I wish you were coming home with me instead of staying with your brother.” Brock turned the car down a quiet side street.

Adrianna studied him for a long moment. He was handsome, a good man who’d been so patient, but she didn’t love him, and she couldn’t imagine moving in with him—married or not. Since their current status was ‘not’ and she didn’t feel driven to change that, she simply answered, “I know,” and let him draw his own conclusions.

Neither of them spoke the final few minutes of the drive. She wondered if they simply didn’t know what to say. Her stomach felt shaky, her hands clammy, and she couldn’t help wondering what would happen next. Would there be people waiting to see her? The thought of her swollen face made her pray no one would be home.

When they reached the house, there was a large banner stretched across the front porch: “Welcome home Adrianna.” A bunch of helium balloons waved from the upper corners of the banner. Jake pulled weeds in the flower beds while Megan sat on the porch bench, playing with Aiden.

Though Adrianna felt remarkably better, she was grateful when Brock took her by the arm to assist her up the walk. She used that time to study the two-story home’s rock-laden fa├žade, the casual, but well-planned landscaping with flower beds and bushes. The trees out front stretched their branches to meet the bottom of the dormer windows. She couldn’t help but find herself charmed.

“Do you like it?” Jake asked as they neared the front porch.

“Of course. Didn’t I like it before? It’s lovely.”

He seemed relieved and she wondered just how unlike herself this amnesia must have made her if he was so worried. Her eyes darted everywhere, desperately seeking something that would jar a memory from her past.

Nothing.

She pushed away the despair brought on by that realization.

“Do you remember anything? Is it even a little familiar?” Brock asked.

She shook her head. He couldn’t possibly be more disappointed than she was.

When they reached Megan, she hugged Adrianna, and Aiden touched her bandaged face. “Owie?” he asked.

“Yes, owie. It’ll be better soon,” she told him, scooping him into her arms. From their first meeting in the hospital, she had felt a special bond with this little one.

“He’s been asking about you for two hours,” Megan said as they made the transfer.

Adrianna kissed his head and snuggled him close. “He knows where to come for auntie kisses. Don’t you, baby?” She brushed her bare chin against his downy head as Brock guided her inside. When Aiden began to wriggle, she set him down and he made a beeline for the only toy she could see. As she straightened back up, she decided she wouldn’t be ready to chase him around any time soon.

The inside of the house was well put together, classy and homey, comfortable and show-room quality all at once. She loved the living room with the baby grand piano, soaring ceilings, and the way the great room spilled into the dining room and then the kitchen. The place was spotless and she wondered how on earth Megan had time to clean with her busy schedule. Jake certainly hadn’t had the time to help much. “Wow, the place looks great.” It smelled great too, the aroma of fresh baking wafted in the air. Then she spied the plate of cookies across the room.

“Thanks, we’re so happy to have you home.” Megan pulled several glasses from the cupboard and set them on the granite countertop. A pitcher of pink lemonade joined them a moment later and she poured four drinks.

Brock settled Adrianna on the sofa and claimed the spot next to her. “I had the piano tuned. I know it’s been a while, and you mentioned it wasn’t quite perfect anymore.”

“Thank you. All of you. I appreciate the support.” Adrianna took the glass of lemonade Megan handed her and took a sip.

“Everyone’s just glad to have you home.” Jake came back into the house with her bag of belongings and carried them to a room down the hall. “You’re looking good today.”

Adrianna smiled at the obvious lie—she looked horrible—and pushed back the awkward feeling. It was so nice, so comfortable, but it just didn’t seem right. Maybe she was the one who didn’t fit properly. Had she belonged before, she wondered?

Megan brought over the plate of cookies and Adrianna recognized the gingery scent in the air a moment before she took her first bite. She moaned as spices exploded onto her tongue and the cookie melted perfectly. “This is so good,” she mumbled around the food in her mouth.

“Glad you like them. It’s a new recipe. I guess we’ll keep it.” Megan finished off her lemonade and stood, returning to the kitchen to put the cup in the dishwasher. “I’m sorry, I really have to go. I can’t miss this class. Is there anything you need before I leave?”

Unable to think of anything, Adrianna shook her head. “I’ll be fine. Go learn something.”

Megan squeezed Adrianna’s shoulder. “Welcome home. I’ll see you tonight. There’s a casserole in the fridge if you’re hungry before I get back. Just pop it in the oven for an hour.”

“Thanks.” Adrianna watched her sister-in-law walk out the door after a quick hug and kiss to her husband.

“Well, as much as I hate to do it, I really need to get back to work. You have my cell number, of course.” Jake pointed toward the white cordless on the counter. “All of our numbers are posted by the phone. Call if you need anything.” He walked past and ruffled her hair.

“Just eat when you get hungry, don’t worry about us. I’ll take Aiden to daycare. I’ve been behind these past few weeks, so I might be a little late smoothing out some snags.” Then he scooped up Aiden with his toy, shouldered the duck-covered diaper bag, and exited the house, leaving Adrianna feeling like her head was in a blender—it all happened so fast.

When she heard the truck engine start, she looked over at her remaining companion.

She and Brock were alone. She met his eyes and the room seemed to close in on them. The quiet echoed as she sat on the sofa, her hands clasped around her drink. He looked awkward and uncertain. “Adie, I’m going to try to be patient for your memory to return. I know you’re confused and . . .” he rubbed his hands over his face. “How does one even begin to deal with something like this?”

Tears rushed to Adrianna’s eyes. “I really appreciate your patience. Everything’s so unfamiliar. I don’t remember anything here, it’s completely throwing me. You didn’t have to be so good to me.” She shifted her whole body to face him. After a brief hesitation, she placed a hand on his upper arm.

“The doctors said it could be months.” There was so much sadness in his eyes.

“Or never.” The words were barely a whisper on her lips, but they both knew it was true. There was no point ignoring the possibility, however slight.

He took her free hand and moved it to his chest, reaching out to touch her shoulder with the other hand. “Let’s not worry about that for now. How about if you try out the piano? I’d love to hear you play the Mozart piece you were working on.”

Panic welled in Adrianna’s chest and she shook her head. “Not today. My fingers are still pretty stiff. I’d rather practice a few times before I play in front of anyone else, limber them up.” It was true enough that her fingers were a bit sore still, but she was afraid to play in front of anyone else—the thought made her insides quiver with fear.

There was a pause. “That’s fine.” His thumb ran over the curve of her shoulder and he leaned in.

Avoiding his kiss, Adrianna buried her face in his shirt when he pulled her close.

She was almost relieved a few minutes later when she truthfully had to tell him she was exhausted and needed a nap. Though he’d been nothing but kind to her, she didn’t want to be alone with him. She didn’t know what to do about him—or more, about herself. She’d seen the happy pictures of the two of them, he’d told her dozens of stories about their time together, but she just couldn’t feel tingly in his presence.

That realization made her wonder if she ever had felt that excitement, that little thrill in the chest that she felt when she watched a sweet romance on TV. Was that all smoke and mirrors, something that only happened in shows, or had that been between them once? If it had, where had it gone? Shouldn’t she be reveling in the excitement of discovering love all over again? She wasn’t though, and she didn’t know what to do about it.


Chapter Nine

d

Adrianna smiled as she let Brock through the front door the next morning. She had already bathed and dressed for the day. Her hair had been combed, but considering the condition it was in, there wasn’t really anything that could be done with it. And with bandages still covering much of her face, makeup was out of the question. It was a wonder Brock didn’t cringe every time he saw her.

He bent over and pressed a kiss to her temple. “Everyone in the symphony is asking about you,” he said as he slid into the chair next to hers.

“You’ve already been in touch with them this morning? You have been busy. I hope they’re all doing good.” She stood and opened a cupboard door. “Care for a glass of juice? It’s orange-pineapple.”

“Sure.” He gave her a funny look. “I spoke with them after you went to bed yesterday. They’re all doingwell. They want to know when you’ll be back with us, of course.”

Adrianna realized from his emphasis that she had misspoken. Was she always the model of proper grammar in her former life, then? “Of course.” There was no point discussing when she’d return to performing.

“Did you have some time to work on that Mozart piece after I left yesterday?” He accepted the glass of juice she poured him.

“No, I slept most of the afternoon, and then everyone came home. With dinner and everything, I didn’t get to it.” She thought about it whenever she saw the piano, but there was no way she would make her first attempt at playing while in front of others. She still had trouble believing she ever performed on a stage—even if she could play the piece flawlessly.

He pressed his lips together at her comment, but then he donned a forced-looking smile. “Well, plenty of time for that. I’m sure you’ll want to wait until you’re stronger before you begin touring again. They’ll miss you during the Christmas performances, but you know they had to replace you while you were still in the coma. There was no telling when you’d be better.”

“Of course. I’m sure the director,” she hoped that was the right word. What was the correct terminology, anyway? “had to make the best decisions for the good of the group.”

“You don’t seem upset.” He gave her a sidelong glance as he sipped his juice.

She forked up some scrambled eggs, searching for an excuse that would diffuse the defensiveness she heard in his voice. “You already told me you had to postpone or reschedule all of my events in the immediate future. Why? Did you expect me to be upset?”

He slanted a look at her. “You’ve always been kind of competitive. Honestly, I thought you’d at least pout a little.”

Adrianna considered his words and tried to imagine herself pouting over not getting to perform in front of hundreds of people. Nope, she decided after a couple of seconds, she wasn’t feeling the slightest hint of a pout. “Maybe I’ve just rearranged my priorities since the accident.”

He looked as though he wasn’t sure that was a good thing.

d

A couple more days passed before Adrianna dared look in the mirror without her bandages. Megan had been changing the dressings for her since she arrived home and had reassured her that the swelling and bruising were going down every day. Still, Adrianna wasn’t sure if she dared see for herself. The brochures and other papers the doctor had provided before she went in for surgery were very clear about the drawbacks and possible complications of the surgery.

Thursday morning before her shower, Adrianna stood in front of the mirror looking at her reflection, uncertain if she was ready to see her face. She would still need to wear some of the pressure dressings around the clock for a couple of weeks, and others she would continue to wear at least part time for a while yet. An array of camouflaging makeup to help conceal the bruising and uneven skin tones she may have to live with for the rest of her life took up a section of the counter.

She lifted her hands and removed the wraps, wincing slightly as the discomfort, which had at least reduced to the point that she didn’t need prescription pain medication anymore.

Compared to her first glimpses of her face in the hospital, she did look better, she decided, as she uncovered her cheeks. There was a long scar on her forehead, but it wasn’t too thick, considering the swelling. She imagined it would lighten and become unnoticeable with the right makeup and a little time. Her cheeks were still bumpy and red, but not as bad as before despite the lingering green and blue spots common to bruising.

She pulled off the pressure bandage from her nose and studied it. It no longer appeared hamburger-like, though there was a long way to go before it looked exactly normal. She tried to remember the picture her plastic surgeon had shown her of the end result and sent up a prayer that it was accurate.

She climbed into the shower. Her tears mingled with the water. Though she didn’t want her vanity to take over, she desperately wanted the healing to speed up so she could go out of the house again without feeling too self-conscious.

d

Brock’s eyes widened when Adrianna greeted him at the door a couple of hours later. He carried insulated cups and a pastry bag again. She still had a few bandages on, but most of them were gone, and she had played with her new makeup to smooth over the newly uncovered areas.

“Hey, sweetheart.” He studied her for a long moment.

She stepped back, motioning him in. His perusal made her uncomfortable. “There’s still a fair amount of swelling. It could last a couple more weeks, but it looks a little better, don’t you think?”

“Yes, it does.” He stepped close and pressed a kiss to her temple. “I’m sure you’ll be back to my beautiful Adrianna in no time.”

Though she knew he hadn’t meant his words to hurt, they still left a small wound. She reasoned that he was right, even if it had come out badly. She didn’t seem to be his Adrianna anymore, and she definitely wasn’t beautiful now. It wasn’t like she needed the reminder though.

He pulled his coffee and her cocoa from the drink carrier and removed the cupcakes again—both German chocolate this time. “Sorry, they didn’t have your favorite flavor today, so I got us both chocolate ones.”

Adrianna snatched hers up with glee, thankful for the change and her eyes nearly rolled back in her head with pleasure when she sunk her teeth into the confection. “Oh, I think this is my new favorite. These are awesome.”

His brow furrowed—whether at her change of tastes or something else, she wasn’t sure, but she wasn’t about to argue as she took another bite of the cupcake.

d

By the next day, Adrianna was running out of ideas for things to do with Brock. How had they ever expected to keep a marriage going when they couldn’t spend three days together without getting bored? They seemed to drift from one thing to another, more for the need to do something than for the enjoyment of the activity itself. Even their silences, which should have been fairly comfortable, were awkward.

Worse still was the growing frustration she sensed in Brock as time passed. It was clear he expended a lot of effort trying to understand where she was coming from, but the continued lack of progress wore on them both.

She looked across her Scrabble pieces and back to the board again. There was just enough room. “And with Q-U- and A-R-Y added to your AND, to form quandary and the Y with the M on the other word forms MY. Plus I get the double word score for quandary. . .” She began adding the numbers. Forty-nine, she thought with more than a little satisfaction. Not bad at all.

His brows formed an irritated line. “I had no idea how good you’d be at this game.” The words were almost an accusation. His mood had been growing darker for the past hour, and she was torn between annoyance at his mood, and wanting to pussy foot around it. Brock in a snit was a new thing for her.

She opted for irritation, but pretended she didn’t hear the heat in his tone. “I played it with a couple of girls at school sometimes growing up,” she said as she pushed the letters into place. She froze as her words registered and looked into his surprised eyes.

“You remember playing this before?” His lips lifted at the corners.

A smile bloomed across her face. “I do. Can you believe it?”

The stereo switched to a new CD and he came around the table. “Every step is that much closer.” He leaned in to kiss her and she turned her head so his mouth landed on her jaw.

He paused after his lips brushed against her skin and she could feel the tension in his shoulders as the muscles tightened. The next song began, awash with string instruments.

“What a lovely song,” Adrianna tried to redirect him as she slid from his embrace. “Is it classical?” She was still trying to figure out which songs fit into which musical style.

He released her as if he’d been burned and looked her in the eye. “This is Giovanni Gabrieli, the Italian Renaissance composer, and the song isn’t simply lovely.” He threw his hands up and turned from her, taking two steps away, then flipped back around to face her. “Who are you? I swear you got a total personality transplant in that accident. You won’t kiss me. You refuse to even try playing the piano. You can suddenly spell words I didn’t think you’d ever even heard before. And worst, you know absolutely nothing about music—music that was your entire life before the accident.”

A long moment of silence hung between them as tears rose to Adrianna’s eyes. She had to swallow down the lump that blocked her throat and the despair she had been working to keep at bay swamped her. “I’m sorry I can’t live up to your expectations right now.”

“I don’t want to expect more than you can give, I just want everything to go back to normal.” He cursed under his breath. “I need a break. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” He pivoted and headed for the front door, slamming it behind him.

Adrianna steadied herself against the kitchen table where they had been playing. After a moment, she began picking up the pieces strewn across the tabletop. He was right, of course. She probably wasn’t acting like herself—she didn’t know what they all wanted her to be or expected of her.

“Could have been worse.”

Adrianna nodded as she heard Megan approaching from behind. “I suppose. He didn’t throw anything, yell, scream or . . . well, he did cuss. But still.” Her hands shook as she put the tiles away.

“Want to talk about it?”

“If it would help, I’d love to.” She rubbed her hands through her hair and was struck again by what a mess it was. She really needed a trip to the salon. “Unfortunately, I don’t remember why he’s important to me. I don’t recall the music and jokes and fun we had together. He’s a great guy, but I feel like we’re on completely different wavelengths.”

“Honey, I’m sorry to tell you this, but even if you are head over heels in love and think you’ve got everything in common before you marry, you still have times when you wonder who this guy is you’re with. You know I adore your brother most of the time, but he can be a real jerk sometimes too.” Megan helped slide the board and game pieces back into the box. “You can’t expect perfection from anyone, not Brock and not yourself. You’re both going to make mistakes, and this had been a stressful month.”

“So I should overlook it?” Adrianna turned to face her sister-in-law.

Megan took a moment before she answered. “I think you’re both trying too hard to force something that will return with your memory. Stressing out over it isn’t going to fix the main problem, so you might as well let it come on its own.”

“Easy for you to say. You know where you belong.” She looked around at the kitchen and dining room. “This is your home.”

Megan picked up the box and carried it to the game cupboard. “I haven’t always felt that way, you know. It may have seemed like you were the third wheel when you moved in to help out when I was on bed rest, but it wasn’t easy for me, either. You and Jake have always been so close. I sometimes felt left out of the loop when we were dating and first married.”

“But he’s your husband—you belong more than I do.”

Megan smiled. “You’ve had decades together when we’d only known each other a couple of months or even after a couple of years. It can take a while to adjust to new situations—and your situation is about as strange as it could be.”

The phone rang and Megan walked over to pick it up. When Adrianna overheard her apologizing, that she couldn’t do whatever was being asked of her because she didn’t have a sitter, Adrianna walked over and tapped her sister-in-law on the shoulder. She waited for Megan to focus on her. “What am I, wallpaper?” She had done nothing but rest and sit around watching everyone else work since she returned home—or at least it felt that way. She was far stronger and wanted to be doing something. After what had happened with Brock it was necessary.

Megan placed a hand over the receiver. “You’re recovering from a major accident.”

“How long will you be?”

“An hour and a half, two at the most, but I can’t—”

“Of course, you can. I insist. Aiden’s taking his nap, yes? He’ll sleep quite a while. When he gets up, I’ll put in a movie for him. Please, give me something useful to do so I don’t feel like a complete failure.” She did her best to make her face look as pathetic as she felt. At the moment she doubted anyone could look that pathetic, but she made a valiant effort anyway.

“You’re sure?” Megan looked skeptical, but hopeful.

“Absolutely. Go ahead. We’ll be fine.”


You can read the story in its entirety in ebook format for $1.99 on Kindle, Nook, and most other ebook formats through Smashwords.com. It is also available in paper from my website (autographed to you!) or onAmazon.com.

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