To Turn Back The Hands Of Time
Chapters 1 to 4
Catherine awakens from an anaesthetic to find herself the mother of twin girls and married to a man she doesn't even know. So what has happened to Vincent and the tunnels? Were they just a dream?
To Turn Back The Hands Of Time
From somewhere distant came the call, but she wanted nothing more than to ignore it, for here she had found deep sleep, deeper and cosier than any she had known before and it enfolded her deliciously in its compassionate embrace.
Here then, here was where the pain ended and nothing was ever again brought to mind and dreams that began so far away were never to be remembered.
Deep tranquil dreams where nothing stirred, and it was lovely, so lovely. Peaceable, warm and extremely pleasant and she didn’t ever want to be woken out of the soft blanket that surrounded her.
But a sudden startling motion dragged at her, shaking her, and from far away she felt and ignored the feel of a firmness upon her shoulder, ‘Go away’ she heard a voice in her head say, ‘leave me be’ and knew it to be her own.
Then came another voice, calling softly and growing louder, filling with anxiety and the shaking grew stronger, harder but she did not relate that it was to her whom the voice called, for the name was not her own, and she did not want to listen.
"Wake up sleepyhead."
"Just go away!"
"It’s all over now."
"Leave me be!"
"Mrs Downing, come on its time to wake up."
"I said go away!"
The shaking grew ever more persistent, and the voice was full of distress. She heard it fully now, and the darkness, that beautiful tranquil place where she found such delight was receding, moving away out of her grasp, and she found herself suddenly horribly transported away from the darkness and into blazing shards of artificial light.
She blinked several times, opening her eyes with difficulty. Oh to be back where she was, safe warm and snug inside the eternal womb.
“That’s it, Mrs Downing. Nice and steady now, you almost had me worried there for a moment.”
She didn’t recognise the voice, but it was kindly, and firm hands eased her up and helped her to shuffle back against some pillows. She tried to speak, but her mouth was dry, and no words would come.
“Here,” the kindly voice spoke and she felt a coolness against her lips, “Drink some water. Just sips mind.”
The liquid felt wonderful on her dry throat, silky and cool. “Thank you” she croaked as the glass was pulled away again.
“How are you feeling?” the kindly voice asked, but she could not put a face to the voice for her eyes had not become accustomed to the bright lights beyond.
The voice bubbled forth with laughter, “Don’t try to say anything just yet Mrs Downing, you are still sleepy. Its terrible isn’t it? I bet you were having the best sleep of your life and then I come along and wake you up and then guess what?” the question remained unanswered, “I tell you to get some rest, and go back to sleep, stupid isn’t it? I bet you just love me? Never mind, Mrs Downing, you just lie there and have another nap, I’ll wake you again in a while.”
The words were almost lost to her, a garbled message that soaked into her tired brain like rain upon an arid land.
She lowered her body carefully easing back against the pillows as tiny arrow heads of pain made her wince, but oh how lovely it was to sink her body back into the pit. How thankful she was when the well of darkness closed in on her again.
Peace, comfort and tranquillity surrounded her once more and she smiled.
‘Oh welcome - perfect bliss.’
*** *** ***
The smell of antiseptic came to her senses as Christina fought to lift her eyelids the second time. They felt heavy and it was difficult to focus when her eyes did eventually peep from beneath her golden lashes. Even her head hurt, and Christina struggled to free herself from the fog that threatened to suffocate her.
Bit by bit she became aware of other parts of her body. Wiggling her toes sent a strange sensation straight to her groin, which in turn rebelled against the tentative probing quite violently. The sudden pain hit Christina hard and nausea rose in the pit of her belly causing her to gag as it reached her throat. Suddenly she felt the coolness of someone else’s limb supporting the back of her neck, an arm firm and a voice to accompany it, reassuring, “Here love let me help you.”
Christina fell back against the supporting arm gratefully, feeling rather than seeing through her half closed lids someone pumping up pillows behind her and helping her to physically shift herself backwards.
Everywhere hurt and Christina winced with even the slightest of movements. She wondered why. What had happened to her to cause so much discomfort and pain?
“How are you feeling?” Came the gentle voice that Christina distinguished as having heard before. She struggled to raise her lids once more and focused on a white uniform with blue edging.
“Terrible.” Christina croaked. It hurt her to speak.
“Here just wet your lips for now, don’t drink any of the water until the room stops spinning.” The voice laughed, and Christina felt a cold glass pressed to her mouth and the welcome feel of even colder water brush her lips. Christina drew in some of the liquid, and coated the insides of her mouth with it before returning the water back to the glass. “Thank you. Why am I here? Was I in an accident?” She managed to ask her voice somewhat clearer now, and the pain in her parched throat had gone.
“I think you should get some more sleep, you haven’t quite come out of the anaesthetic yet young lady. There’ll be plenty of time for questions later.” The voice had turned brusque but Christina did not argue for she did feel too tired to do so. She nodded just enough to reply and settled herself back against the pillows to sleep, not even aware when her eyelids closed over their welcome place once more.
*** *** ***
The sound of a baby crying woke Christina the third time, and the voice she had heard before accompanied by those same firm hands shook her awake, “Come on sleepy head it’s feeding time.”
Christina shook herself awake, coming around slowly, her eyelids not quite as heavy as before, but still the disorientating feeling persisted of not knowing or understanding where she was.
She blinked rapidly, accepting the arm that bolstered up her pillows as before and helped her to shuffle back against them and again Christina winced.
“Sore huh? It can get like that with a caesarean section. Still it could have been worse. Just be thankful it wasn’t your first.”
Christina said nothing but her eyes spoke volumes. Fully focused now, she saw the nurse laugh, “Still don’t remember huh? Well sorry to be the barer of bad news, but welcome to motherhood.”
Christina gasped, and watched as the nurse nodded with a smile that transformed her face, “Sure thing Mrs. Downing you are the proud mother of these two baby girls here. Aren’t they just adorable?”
For the first time Christina noticed the cot situated just behind the nurse. Two pink blankets wrapped around slightly moving forms, and Christina felt a sudden rush of fear sweep through her, “They’re mine?” she queried hoping for denial. “They can’t be mine.”
The nurse beamed, “Sure are. All twelve pounds between them. Your husband sent word he would be in later. Will he be bringing the older child? What is it a boy or another little girl?”
It was clear by her countenance that Christina was confused. The nurse quickly noticed, “Hey have I said something wrong?”
“You’ve said everything wrong. Pardon me, but I know nothing of these.” Christina swept her arm aside indicating the babies in the cot that the nurse had now wheeled beside her.” And my name isn’t Mrs. Downing. I’m not even married.” Christina’s eyes grew wide with anxiety. Had she been in an accident and they’d found someone else’s identification on her, but how?
The nurse was concerned, Christina saw from her badge that her name was Staff Nurse Pierce as she leaned over to take Christina’s temperature.
“I shouldn’t worry Mrs Downing amnesia is quite common after an anaesthetic. Your memory will soon return, but I’ll just ring for the doctor to take a look at you anyway. Did you want to see your babies?”
Christina looked down at the cot. She felt nothing for the two tiny babies she heard crying there. Yet something pricked at the fringes of her mind, although it was too distant to grasp.
The nurse was concerned, even people with a memory loss could never fail to react to new-born babies. Something was certainly very wrong here. Though all Christina Downing’s vital signs seemed fine. She couldn’t understand it, “You just wait here honey, don’t worry, I’ll leave the babes with you, but I won’t be gone long.” She hurried away, hoping against hope, that by the time she returned Christina Downing would be cuddling at least one of her two daughters.
In her absence Christina stared down at the two pink bundles. The nurse had told her that the babies were hers, but Christina had no recollection of any of this. Not only of giving birth, though she could not deny this, if the pain of her undercarriage was anything to go by, but also of anything else.
Nurse Pierce had spoken of a husband. Christina had no recollection of any man being her husband. Nor did she have any recollection of having given birth before. In fact the very thought was laughable. But she didn’t feel like laughing. Right now she was frantic. ‘What on earth was going on?”
Laying her head back against the pillows, Christina closed her eyes, allowing images to come, any image no matter how small, something that she could build from.
For long moments there was only images cast there by the sounds around her, mainly pictures from TV series. Emergency wards she had seen on the screen, and then something pricked from far away, inspired by the pervading scent of antiseptic.
Deep in her mind Christina could see a man lying upon a bed. Tubes sticking out of him everywhere. And she could see herself holding his hand, talking to him, but gaining no response or that he heard her. And the feeling of desolation that swept over her at the time and the grief that followed. Who was that man? Christina felt close to him, a part of him. Was he her husband? Did he have some life threatening disease? Had he been badly injured at some time?
Try as she might, Christina could gain nothing more from that memory, neither could she completely grasp the sight of the man’s face. It appeared hazy, as did the other things. Christina dwelt inside herself again. There was something else. It was far away, almost unreachable. But as if the light of a flickering candle were inside her head Christina could grasp images. And the candle flame bent this way and that, shining on a piece here and a piece there, until with a jolt of surprise Christina realised that it was the actual candle that she was looking at, watching as it picked out the shadows from beyond.
What all this meant Christina had no idea, and her head ached from thinking. She pushed the memories firmly away. It was the here and now that was important.
The two babies at her side were crying heartily now, and Christina reached down to pull one to her. It hurt to move, but even as she shifted, her nightgown grew wet and if she did not believe it before, the sign of cholesterum leaking from her own breasts convinced her that she was indeed mother to these two little girls. A sudden overwhelming rush of love grasped her and Christina unfastened her night-gown and helped one baby latch on to her nipple like she had done it every day of her life, and glorified in the knowledge that she was giving life sustaining nourishment to one so dependable upon her.
Staff Nurse Pierce, chose that moment to make her appearance and the picture Christina presented pleased her no end. Her smile lit up her whole face; “Oh I am glad.” She gushed, “Here let me help you put the other baby to your other breast. You will find it unusual at first, but it becomes easy in time, and you will appreciate feeding them both at once, otherwise you are going to feel a bit like a milky bar. By the time the second one is fed and changed it will be the first one’s turn again. Believe me you will be a wreck inside of a week.”
Christina nodded wordlessly. Even if she had of been able to speak she would have found no words to express how she felt right at that moment. Tenderness didn’t even come into it. Cherish was one word that sprang to mind, but how to fit that into a sentence was quite another.
Christina’s eyes sang of her joy however and Staff Nurse Pierce thrilled to the sight, “The doctor will be along shortly. But he said not to worry Mrs Downing, as I said before amnesia often affects those who have had to have an anaesthetic. Don’t worry honey everything will come back to you in time. How old is your other child?”
Christina found her voice, “I don’t have another child. I’ve never had a child before. At least not that I know of. What’s happening to me? Why can’t I remember?” Christina panicked and the two babies shifted in her arms, letting go of both of her nipples simultaneously to let fly a hearty yell of distress.
“Try not to upset yourself Mrs Downing, it upsets the babies. There now.” The nurse took one of the two babies from Christina and rocked it gently, settling it down and switching the babies to alternate breasts. “I think they were about finished anyway, but it will be more of a comfort to you to be completely emptied on both sides. Your milk will let down in about forty-eight hours. For now this gooey substance that feeds them coats the insides of their intestines and their new little tummies ready for the onslaught of the milk to come. Of course its not milk that upsets them, its whatever you eat that goes into the milk that could upset their delicate stomachs.”
Christina nodded, hardly hearing a word. She had slipped away again, her mind delving deep inside her to that other time.
Snatches of memory were forcing their way through that threatened to haunt her; to choke her to cut off the breath from her body and followed by a heartache so colossal that nothing else in the world mattered anymore.
*** *** ***
How had it happened?
It had seemed so real and so much had taken place. It couldn’t possibly have been a dream. Oh but if it was?
Christina felt sick inside. To think that the secret world did not exist, that there were no tunnels beneath the streets, and that there were no people living down there, happily and in peace.
And most of all, most of all, he did not exist. Oh please God no, let it not be a dream. Let it not be that the life she saw before her now was the only reality. She didn’t think she would ever get through life if it was.
In comparison to all she had dreamed there was nothing. Nothing, absolutely nothing. The world before her stretched away into emptiness. How would she survive it? Alone? Without him?
A world with no Father, no Mary, no Geoffrey, no Jamie, no Mouse, no…Vincent! Tears began to flow as if they would never stop.
A world where she wasn’t the assistant District Attorney, a world where she wasn’t Catherine Chandler, daughter of the wealthy Charles Chandler.
Surely she was dreaming now? Surely she would wake up and find herself in her beloved tunnels with him. With Vincent?
Surely it hadn’t all of been a dream?
It wasn’t possible.
It couldn’t be.
*** *** ***
Hours later as the two babies were sleeping Christina was dozing. Her head hurt from all the thinking she had done and she found it impossible to sleep.
Nothing made any sense to her. Her life as it stood seemed so unreal, yet she had to believe it was reality if she was to keep her sanity.
Everything else just had to have been a dream.
A beautiful wonderful dream and that was all it had been.
But oh it had seemed so real!
That other life.
And even her own name was alien to her.
She had asked about that, but Nurse Pierce had given her no indication as to why she could not even recollect her own name. She just told her not to worry, as everything would come right in time.
But Christina was extremely confused and when a man she had never seen before popped his head around the door, his face obscured by a huge bunch of roses, Christina was even more perplexed.
“Hello darling.” The man approached, settling the roses into her arms, and leaning forward to press his lips to hers, “How are you feeling?”
Christina stared at him and for long moments he stared back. His eyes registering hurt confusion and then concern.
“Don’t you know me?” he asked somewhat shakily.
Christina shook her head; “I’ve never seen you before.”
“I’m your husband!” He cried. “It’s Jeff, you remember me, you know the good looking one in the family?” he joked and was pleased at least to see her smile. “That’s better honey. You looked so miserable lying there.”
“I feel miserable. Jeff, whoever you are, I’m sorry but I don’t remember anything at all. They tell me its something to do with the anaesthetic but that wore off hours ago. I feel as though I am living someone else’s life here.”
Jeff was clearly distressed. “I don’t know what to say baby.” He told her sincerely. It was true he was at a loss as to know where to start.
“You could help by running me through everything. The nurse can tell me so little.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Everything. Who I am, who you are, how we met, what you do for a living, where we live. Who our parents are, anything and everything. Something must jog my memory.” Christina exasperated.
Jeff drew up a chair, and took one of her hands in his. “Your name is Christina Downing, and I’m your husband Jeff. We’ve been married one year tomorrow, as it happens, and this is the best anniversary present you could have given me my love.” He held her hand to his mouth and kissed each fingertip, before continuing, “Before we were married you were Christina Cunningham. We met when you were working in a diner as a waitress. My first wife had left me and taken my children with her. Her name is Rosa, and I have two other little girls, Laura and Rebecca. You’ve met them and Rosa and you get on fairly well together.
We live in the suburbs of Seattle the city where it rains nine months of the year.” He laughed then remembering that was the way she referred to the place where they lived.
“You’ve never mentioned your parents, always spoken of them in the past tense. I presumed they were dead. My parents live quite close to us. My father Jack makes you laugh, and my mother Freda taught you how to cook and care for a home.”
“I never knew?” Christina cried.
Jeff smiled at her. “Someone neglected your education in that area. You manage very well now.” He chuckled remembering the burnt toast, the charred saucepans, still this wasn’t the time to pick on her faults, he continued, “After we married last year you fell pregnant almost straight away. We live in a nice house with three bedrooms, and we have one dog, a golden retriever named Ben, and a grey and white cat named Smoky. Actually darling you have a thing about cats. It seems that half the neighbouring cats have an affinity toward you or you with them. Whatever, Smoky is always bringing her friends home and you feed them kippers and play with them all. Does that ring any bells?” He smiled and watched her eyes for any sign of recognition.
Kipper, cats, kipper, cats, the two words flew around Christina’s mind. Nothing else mattered and those two words made no sense at all but Christina knew they were a key to something. But what?
“There is something isn’t there?” The delight in Jeff’s voice showed. Christina nodded, “Yes, but it makes no sense.”
“Tell me maybe I can help you.”
Christina laughed, this would sound so ridiculous, “The two words that mean anything are kipper and cat’s.” She laughed nervously feeling ridiculous.
Jeff’s face creased into a smile. “I suppose I should feel offended. Rosa always did say you cared more for the cat’s than you did for me.” Christina felt a bout of annoyance sweep through her. If this was her husband then such a feeling was well placed on mention of his ex-wife. At least that knowledge gave her hope. He must mean something to her then.
Jeff was speaking, “You used to go shopping, and forget all manner of things on the shopping list, but you never forgot the kippers for the neighbourhood cats. We might run out of milk and eggs, but the refrigerator was always full of kippers.” He laughed again, “You and those bloody cats Christina, it became a long standing argument with us. No wonder you remember that above all else.” Christina didn’t seem to notice that his tone was tinged with anger, all she could think of was his explanation to kippers and cats, and somehow his reasons did not ring true. No there was something else, some other reason as to why those two words meant something she was certain of it.
Besides that ever-flickering candle resumed its dance in her head and somehow the word Kipper fitted along with its existence. She didn’t know about the cats though. It wasn’t so much as cats she could see, but rather a cat’s face if that made any sense. She felt she shouldn’t trouble Jeff with this however, she didn’t know why, but something told her she must keep it to herself.
“So, you remember nothing else?” Jeff sounded tired, exasperated, hurt.
“No nothing. I’m sorry Jeff.” Even his name sounded strange on her lips. He noticed.
“What is it?”
“Your name, it sounds so strange to me.”
“Maybe that’s because you rarely use it. You generally call me honey or darling. As I do with you.” He sounded irritated. And though he made her feel awkward and sad, everything he was telling her was as if a stranger was speaking to her about the life of someone else. It had nothing to do with her. There was also something, something at the back of her mind words uttered long ago that had meaning now, Christina could hear herself saying them, ‘That life isn’t mine anymore.’ But whom had she been speaking to, and what had she meant?
Christina sunk back against the pillows. If she thought any harder her head would burst, she was sure of it, her temples pounded with pain.
Jeff was looking at the babies, his attention drawn from hers. She knew she had hurt him, but there was nothing she could do about that. She could find no feelings for him; he was a stranger to her. And that made her feel terrible. Here she was a mother with twin girls, and there he was the father of those same twin girls, but she felt nothing for him. And certainly had no recollection of ever making love with him. Where did they love? Where had the babies been conceived? Not that it mattered really for the proof of their sex life lay beside her wrapped in pink blankets. But if she could just remember anything no matter how silly or how small, then perhaps she would remember everything in time.
Thinking as hard as her mind would allow, Christina focused upon the candle and the word kipper and then tried to imagine loving Jeff. Slowly the swirling vortex opened to a view. It was dark, somewhere dark, and a small light shone to one side of her. There was just enough light for her to pick out a form. Someone was with her, someone hurt, someone she felt great affection for. Christina could feel the rising tide of panic, and she heard herself scream a name. Yes it was there. Sharp, piercing. She could hear it reverberating in her own ears, off the walls, the echo travelling around and behind her, she could hear it, and the name brought great joy flooding through her heart, but it was just a dream wasn’t it?
There she was again, her whole life steeped in a dream. Would she never be able to put it behind her? Would she never be able to remember who she really was, or would that dream insist that she was really a part of the life it represented?
It was all so confusing.
Christina wondered if anyone in that dream meant anything to her now. Maybe she had dreamed about people she knew and had fitted them into the dream. She had to know or she’d go nuts.
“Whose Vincent?” she asked Jeff suddenly, and at the same time wishing she hadn’t. Her mind told her she shouldn’t mention the name to anyone. Jeff looked back at her. The fingers of each hand were clutched within each baby’s hand, and he was reluctant to pull away. “Vincent?” he queried, “I don’t know why?”
Christina shook her head. Hoping he would forget she had asked and relieved when that’s what he seemed to do. He had turned his attention back to his daughters, softly speaking to them. “Have you thought of a name?” his sudden question startled her given her train of thought, but she relaxed when he explained, “Perhaps you don’t remember even that.” He sounded annoyed and this time Christina noticed.
“Christina we knew you were expecting twins, we decided to chose a name each. So have you thought of one?” He was annoyed she could tell. Tears pricked at the back of her eyes. This wasn’t her fault, couldn’t he understand how hard this was for her?
“You haven’t have you?” his voice rose. “You’ve just laid there feeling sorry for yourself, and haven’t thought about our daughters at all. It’s just as Rosa said, you care only about yourself.”
Christina could not reply. She wanted to yell, I do not, but she didn’t know if that were true with not remembering anything about her life with him. But she did know that she felt anger rising with every mention of that woman’s name.
“Perhaps you should let Rosa choose one.” She snapped.
“And now you are being childish. They’re our daughters, what right would Rosa have for naming one of them? Christina listen to me,” he shook her shoulders, “snap out of this. You have only had a caesarean for goodness sake! Thousands of women do every day, but they remember everything well enough. You know what I think?”
Christina had a feeling he was about to tell her whether she wanted him to or not.
“I think you don’t want to remember.”
“And why shouldn’t I?” she asked.
“Because Rosa has been spending time at our house while you were in here, looking after Laura, Rebecca and me, and you are jealous.”
So I should be, Christina thought, but instead asked him, “How long have I been in here for?”
He stared down at her with disbelief, his lips drawn into a thin line in his anger. “Oh ask the hospital!” He flared and made to leave stopping in the doorway to come back and snatch up the bouquet of roses. “You don’t want these Christina. You have never wanted anything from me. I’ll give them to someone that will appreciate them.”
“Rosa you mean?” Christina flared as her eyes filled with tears.
“Oh grow up Christina!”
He left her shaking. His raised voice waking the babies and they began to whimper louder and louder until they cried heartily. Christina placed her hands over her ears. At that moment, if she hadn’t of felt so sore, she would have gladly followed Jeff out of the door and never have looked back.
*** *** ***
Popping her head around the door Felicity Kendrick was happy to see that Christina was awake and called a cheery greeting, “Chris, Hi there. So this is where they have been hiding you.”
Christina turned her head, her eyes at first showing disinterest, “I know you don’t I?” It was the first time in many days that Christina had recognised anyone.
“Sure do. Jeff says you don’t remember anything though nice touch Chris. Did you plan it?” Felicity laughed gaily her grey eyes lighting up as she flopped herself down in the chair alongside the bed.
Despite herself Christina smiled, “ I don’t remember anyone, except you, and that’s coming back to me more now, you’re Fliss aren’t you?”
“Yes and best of friends too. We tell each other everything, and I mean everything. So is it true? Come on you know you can trust me Chris. Have you really lost your memory?”
Christina nodded, “I can’t remember anyone. It’s been so frustrating. Why then do I know you?” It didn’t seem to make any sense.
“As I said we are best of friends, and you have told me things that you have never told Jeff.”
Christina nodded again, “Isn’t that funny. I know I can trust you. I know I’ve confided in you, but I can’t remember the things I have told you. Its like anything to do with my husband is a huge void in my life. Its so frustrating.”
“It’s a blessing in disguise if you ask me Chris, that’s if you really can’t remember. You and he were never really happy. Well in the beginning maybe, but things turned sour when Rosa returned on the scene, which wasn’t long after your marriage. Seems that she didn’t want Jeff while he was free, but the moment he remarried, she didn’t want anyone else to have him either. She’s a right conniving little bitch I can tell you. She certainly made your life a misery. Its little wonder you want to remember any of that.”
“Maybe that’s the reason.” Christina commented, “perhaps it’s a protective thing, maybe my mind won’t let me remember so that I can no longer be hurt if things were as bad as you imply they were.”
“You’d better believe it honey and I’m saying nothing to remind you either. Let it be buried in the past. Tell you what though, one thing you did ask me was to keep an eye on the old cow while you were in here, I’ve done that, and believe me Chris, I have all the proof you need if you want to divorce the slime ball.”
Christina laughed. In the few days she had met her husband she had called him many things, but slime ball just about topped it. He fitted the description perfectly.
“So tell me about my life excluding the rotten things.” She asked her friend.
Felicity pulled a face; “There’s not much to tell. I’ve known you for about four years. We are neighbours and that’s thanks to my showing you a house that was for sale next door to me. Before that we worked together as waitresses in the same diner. I’ve been there for donkey’s years, and known Jeff for half that time, but you just seemed to pop up out of nowhere. This isn’t the first time you’ve had amnesia Chris. At least that’s the way it seemed at the time. You knew things about yourself, but there was never any emotion in the things you spoke of. Everything you said was so clinical.”
“When we first met, I asked you things about yourself, your family, background, hobbies, things like that, and you replied, told me everything that I needed to know, and possibly everything that you knew, but it was as if you were reeling the facts off of a list. It always seemed so unreal. And you know Chris, when we spoke of experiences and things like that, I might say, something like, Oh I remember a time when…blah, blah, blah, and go off about something, but you, well you never came out with anything like that. It was all so weird at first. I got to thinking in the end, that you were either hiding some great secret or you had forgotten your past or something.”
Christina was silent for several moments dwelling on these things. Vaguely she could remember those conversations. “I do have difficulty remembering anything since the day I left hospital actually.” She murmured not realising she had spoken aloud.
“Hospital? Why were you in hospital?” Felicity was surprised. In four years Christina had never mentioned this.
“Pardon, what hospital?”
“What is this, you can’t have forgotten already? You just said you have difficulty remembering anything since leaving hospital. When were you in hospital?”
Christina rubbed her forehead; “I said that?” Drawing her brows together she looked so confused.
“Hell Chris what is this? I think you need someone to help you.”
A picture raced through Christina’s mind just then, she gasped. “I was in a hospital, but nothing like this one. When I left there I was ushered away in a limousine and taken to a clinic I think.” Christina drew her brows together thinking hard, “I wish I knew why.”
“That is so weird Chris. Were you in some kind of accident?”
“I don’t know. I can only remember bits of it.”
“You’ve never spoken of your folks Chris, could they have owned a limo?”
“If they did or if they do, they have never visited me since. I don’t know Fliss, I just don’t know, and it hurts my head to try. Whatever happened to me, wherever I come from I just don’t know. It does my head in. It seems that I’ve not just lost one past but two, can you imagine how crazy that is?”
“I can, though its never happened to any other person I know, I can see how a thing like that would drive you insane, if you let it. You mustn’t let it Chris. Whatever the past, it’s the present that is most important for now. You asked me to keep an eye on Jeff and Rosa do you remember?” Christina found that she didn’t but she nodded nonetheless.
“Well I did that for you. Seems Rosa can’t leave her ex-husband alone. Her car has been present outside your house the whole while you have been in here, and I’ve seen the two of the silhouetted beyond the drapes at night just before they turn out the lamps.”
“I don’t know why, but knowing what I know now, I have to say that doesn’t surprise me. Fliss was I happy?”
“No. He led you a merry dance Chris. Was never home when he said he’d be, had all the excuses on God’s earth, you never trusted him Chris, and then there were the jibes about Rosa said this, and Rosa said that. You were never Rosa’s most favourite person, I can tell you despite what Jeff led you to believe. Most times we concluded that he wanted to believe that the two of you were bosom buddies he was always shoving you and Rosa together believing that a great friendship had developed between the two of you. I think you both rather allowed him to believe it was working, while deep down inside the two of you loathed one another.”
“What are the other children like? His and Rosa’s daughters?”
“They’re nice kids, obviously take after Jeff’s parents, who are wonderful people. How they came to get a son like him beats me. You get on well with them, but then so does Rosa. I think they only want what’s best for their son really and whomsoever makes him happy at the time has their favour.”
“Earlier you spoke of divorce, have I ever mentioned it before?”
“And then some! Don’t know where you’d go though, you don’t know anyone but me, and I live next door, and hell I’d miss you kiddo.”
Christina gasped, her head reeling, and stared wide-eyed at Felicity.
“What? Chris what’s the matter?”
“I don’t know, for a moment there I had a flash of memory, it came and went so fast I couldn’t grasp it. Oh Fliss what am I going to do?”
“It must have been something I said.” Felicity spoke as if to herself thinking back on her words. She’d said nothing out of the ordinary though. “Do you know anyone other than me?” she asked, it was all she could think of.
“I’m beginning to wonder, but if I do how on earth do I find them if I don’t even know who they are?”
“Look let’s get off the merry-go-round shall we? We were talking about your divorce.”
Christina nodded. Then her face grew grim. ”I’ve these to consider now.” She pointed to the babies that were laying in their cots to one side of her bed. “ I can’t just up and leave, I don’t even know if I could now.”
“You could leave them with Jeff.”
“No I couldn’t do that. When they were born I couldn’t connect with them. I couldn’t even remember being pregnant, but these last few days I have grown to love them, and I couldn’t imagine my life without them now. So I guess that’s it, I’m trapped, for Jeff will certainly want them as well.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that if I were you. Jeff is old fashioned.” Felicity laughed, “You once called him King Henry the Eighth.”
Christina grinned, “I did, why?”
“He’s always wanted a son. Rosa has had two girls by him, and he had a live-in girlfriend before Rosa who also has two girls by him, and now you have given him two girls. Looks like if you don’t watch out, he’ll have you beheaded and move on to another Mrs Downing and keep doing so until he gets the son that he’s dreamed of.”
“He mightn’t need to get me beheaded. I think certified would be more appropriate. Why can’t I remember any of this? Besides if what you say is true then why is he hanging around Rosa again? And why is a son so important?”
“He’s always wanted a boy. Something to do with an heir to the throne I think.” Felicity laughed, “that and the fact that his grandfather’s will expressly demands it. No heir, no inheritance I believe, although that’s only what we have read between the lines from things Jeff’s parents have let slip. Really though it doesn’t make any sense does it? But its true Chris and if I were you, I’d divorce him, take your daughters and run. I hear New York is nice at this time of year.”
“New York! Why New York?”
“You mused about it once.”
“Yes said you’d love to go there.”
“But it’s at least four thousand kilometres away.”
“I know, but you were flipping through a travel brochure and your attention was diverted by a photo of Manhattan Island and you just went all funny about it.”
Felicity shrugged, “I dunno, kinda weird that’s all. First you kept staring at the photo, and then when I asked why, you said you didn’t know, but the place just appealed to you. I couldn’t see any difference to Seattle really, after all it wouldn’t be like going to Florida for the palm trees and sunshine would it?”
Christina gasped again, as another image flew through her mind.
“There you go again, what did I say this time?”
Christina shook her head; “I can’t explain it. Certain words that you say seem to trigger some meaning, like when you said Kiddo back there and Sunshine a moment ago. It happened a few days ago too, when Jeff spoke of kippers and cats. These words seem to dredge up something from the past and are as elusive as willo the wisp. I can’t hold onto them long enough to grasp their meaning. And there’s another thing I had this weird dream before I came round from the anaesthetic. It seemed so real, and all these things that give me flashes of insight seem to fit into the dream. It drives me nuts. I mean were these things part of my life and that triggered the dream, or do those things remind me of the dream? It was so lovely Fliss, I’d give anything for it to be real.”
“I would say everything will return to its proper place in time. Look I think we have done enough talking for today. Just try to get some rest huh? And promise me you’ll do the decent thing and divorce Jeff. It makes sense Chris, and while you have this amnesia thing you will have less heartache from doing it believe me. Once you remember your heartstrings will get the better of you and you won’t do it, and then where will you be huh? Back to square one. Believe me Chris, you’re having this amnesia is a blessing in disguise. I’ll see you tomorrow huh?” Felicity bent to kiss Christina’s cheek, and patted her hand, before walking to the door, but Christina called her back, “Wait Fliss, there’s something I have to tell someone or I will go nuts.”
Felicity walked back towards the bed, her concern evident “You worried about something Chris?”
“Yes. You know all this talk about divorce has got me thinking, that and another thing..." She hesitated wondering if she should say anything to anyone really.
”What other thing?” Felicity sat at her side taking one of her hands in her own, and stroking it softly, Christina could see that her friend’s concern was genuine.
Christina took a deep breath, “The consultant tells me that these aren’t my only children.” She waved a hand to encompass the sleeping babies in their cots, and Fliss followed her gaze.
“I don’t understand. I thought you said you hadn’t been pregnant before?”
“I didn’t think I had.”
“And now, apparently I have given birth at least once in my life, about four or five years ago actually. But Fliss I remember nothing of this!” Christina’s voice rose hysterically. “Oh Fliss when I think of that it tears me to shreds. Who on earth am I? Why can’t I remember, and supposing I was already married? You know that would make me a bigamist don’t you? Whatever would Jeff make of that?”
Felicity drew in a long breath and let it out sharply. She didn’t know what to say.
Christina waited for her friend to say something, concerned when she did not. “Say something Fliss?”
“I don’t know what to say. It’s awful. Whichever way you look at it, it’s like an ever-increasing circle, a ripple on a pond. You think of one thing and it leads to another and another and so on. If you’ve another child out there somewhere, then somewhere there must be people looking for you.
You mentioned being in a hospital Chris, would it have been the same place as where you gave birth? Did the child die, was that why you can’t remember anything? Did it send you insane and you had to recover at a clinic? There are so many loose ends Chris. I can see why it would drive you nuts honey.”
Christina nodded, as tears formed in her eyes, “And what if I was already married, where was my husband when all this was going on? Even if I wasn’t married then where was child’s father? Oh Fliss, I don’t know what to do.” Her voice rose again and the two women hugged one another seeking comfort.
Felicity’s mind was in turmoil. To think that she was unable to have any children and here was Christina with two that trapped her into a marriage she didn’t want and with the knowledge of having another child that she could not remember.
Life was so unfair.
“I don’t know Chris, but I’ll do everything in my power to help you, you only have to say what you need and its yours.”
Christina nodded slowly as a plan formulated in her mind, “Thank you Fliss. I might just take you up on that.”
*** *** ***
Christina gazed with disinterest out onto a world of water.
Seattle the wet city. She wondered why she had ever remained living there. Felicity was right, her past was elusive to her. When she thought backward there was just this huge wall of nothingness. It was like she had never been born, like she had just stepped out from a spaceship or something into the world as she knew it now, but if that were so why had she remained in a city that was so obviously abhorrent to her?
And why did Felicity imply that she had a ‘thing’ about New York. It was way across the other side of America. She couldn’t have gone any further if she’d tried. Well perhaps to Bermuda, but then with its history of things disappearing, Christina at least found room for humour at the thought of it. That would be going too far, it was bad enough that she had lost her memory.
Even that though surprised her. Why could she remember facts about another country like the Bermuda triangle, or even the distance to New York? How did she know such things? And why could she remember such things but not know where she had come from or who she was?
For hours after Felicity had left the day before Christina had sat in a kind of limbo feasting her mind on the snippets that did keep returning to her. Various words mainly triggered a response from her mind, but not long enough for pictures to form in her head, just quick flashes of something elusive.
Perhaps being back home would jog her memory, whenever that might be. No one had said anything about that yet. She knew she had to wait until the stitches were out, but how long would that be?
Christina watched her daughters as they slept. Upon their birth the consultant had found that at some stage in her life she had birthed another child. Christina could not remember this at all, even something as wonderful as a first child and she had forgotten. Really it was the one reason that kept her trying to remember. It was the only clue that she had of a past life.
The consultant had been to see her about it but there had been nothing she could tell him. She remembered the conversation and how annoyed he had seemed.
“You can’t have forgotten something as important as that” he had frowned at her.
“I have forgotten, I’ve forgotten everything.”
“That’s as now. But before when you were coming here for ante natal classes, you filled out a form that told us these babies would be your first.”
“Perhaps they are, how can you know otherwise?”
“Mrs. Downing be reasonable. I’m a consultant; I’ve delivered more babies than you’ve had hot dinners, seen more pregnant woman than you could count. If the stretch marks on your abdomen could be accounted to overweight at some stage, then the scars that appear on your uterus would show a different picture. Believe me Mrs Downing, you have had another child, about four to five years ago I would say.”
Four to five years ago Christina mused remembering the conversation. If that were true then what Felicity knew of her must have occurred just as she had stepped from that other life. It was so infuriating, and the more she tried to remember the harder it became. All that she succeeded in doing was to make herself miserable and give herself a blinding headache.
She tried to think about something else. Jeff had told her they were to name a child each, but she did not know which child to bestow a name upon, and besides she would like to have named them both. Whatever she chose, Jeff might not approve of, and vice versa, she might hate the name he chose. She thought she would leave it for now, until he called in to see her again, if ever he did.
And what of the divorce? If things were as bad as Fliss had implied then surely a divorce would be the best thing, but where would she go? Who else did she know that was far enough away for the split to be final? And who would have the twins?
Her head spun around and around until she thought she would scream, and so she tried emptying her mind and settled down into the pillows hoping to sleep long enough or at least until the pain in her eyes and heart had gone.
*** *** ***
When Jeff came to see her again, Christina was feeling more sure of herself and had resolutely pushed all thoughts of reclaiming her past and of the reoccurring dream firmly to the back of her mind. No matter how she had tried nothing further would materialise, and it was no use trying any more. If her memory returned it would do so in its own sweet time, and that it had started to do so gladdened her. She would know it all in time, but for now there were more pressing things at hand. The present and her future were equally important.
Tensely, Jeff popped his head around the door. It had been days since he had plucked up enough courage to come again. In all those days he had berated himself for his behaviour. Each time he had been he had only stayed minutes, unable to bear longer. But he had reasoned with himself since. His wife had lost her memory, it wasn’t her fault, and the way he had treated her during that first visit was abhorrent. It wasn't her fault either that she had given him daughters, maybe the fault lay with him. Maybe he only had daughters within him. But if that were so he’d made a grave mistake in marrying her, no even before that, he had made a grave mistake in divorcing Rosa. He knew that now. Rosa knew it too. The time they had spent together these past couple of weeks while Christine had been in hospital had convinced him of this.
He loved Rosa, he always had, but he had a responsibility to Christina too, and to the two newest members of his family, but he was reluctant to do his duty in that direction.
In the past few days he had done a lot of soul searching, and he suspected that Fliss may have done a little mixing of her own, knowing what she had possibly seen and how close she was to his wife.
His head hung low, he decided honesty was the best policy, and decided to use his wife’s memory loss to push home his advantage.
“Chris, hi how are you?” his voice showed genuine concern. He was concerned. He’d loved her, once.
Christina had turned her head at the sound of the door opening, her lips drawn into a firm line at the sight of his face, but his words eased her into a soft smile of welcome of her own. She still had no recollection of being married to the man, but could not doubt that he was her husband.
From behind his back he produced a bouquet of flowers, and grinned sheepishly, “I plan to leave them with you this time “ he told her softly.
Christina could find no retort to answer him with. It felt so strange speaking with him at all. And it suddenly surprised her to know that she didn’t even find him attractive. How could she have possibly made love to him? A sudden thought grabbed her, and instantly, she smiled, the smile lighting up her face, maybe it had been too dark to see him when they had she thought. Jeff warmed to her smile, his courage gaining ground again, just as it had in his firm resolve outside the door to her room lost only momentarily by the hostility in her eyes when he’d entered.
“I’ll leave them here shall I?” his question brooked no answer. He lay the bouquet at the foot of her bed. The flowers were covered in plastic film, it would be of no use putting them into her arms she could not smell their fragrance through their covering.
Christina watched him step from the foot of her bed towards her sleeping daughters. She caught herself short; their sleeping daughters.
“They look the image of you Chris. Like two peas in a pod, two miniature replicas of their mother. So beautiful." Christina warmed to his words. He had shown her no affection, but to say the babies were beautiful and like her pleased her no end. She had thought so too. Oh not conceded that they were as beautiful as she but that the two little girls bore no resemblance to their father, for which she was grateful. To go through life with a face like that…well Christina would have pitied them.
She smiled again, wondering why she gained such intense pleasure at his expense, and Jeff chose that moment to turn. He caught the affection in her smile, was gladdened when the smile lit her eyes, and found some humour there. It was almost like old times.
“What?” he asked, “What’s so funny?”
Christina laughed unable to help herself. She could not tell him, whoever he was, it would be too cruel.
Later she would wish that she had regardless.
Leaving the babies Jeff turned and walked back to her bed, “Chris, there is something I have to tell you.” He hesitated seeming to draw courage from somewhere. Christina tensed, she could tell that whatever was coming was going to disturb her, but was important to him.
“While you have been in here…” he paused, then his next words came out in a rush. They were incoherent, garbled words, the need to get them out and over with as fast as possible extremely apparent.
“Rosa has been staying at the house, with the children, she has been so good…in the circumstances…I couldn’t believe how good she has been about everything…I divorced her for you…you were the other woman…she should have hated me.” He stopped drew breath, and went on, “ Chris, I never wanted to hurt you…but I was wrong…I should never have left Rosa…should never have married you.” At this confession Chris gasped. She could only thank Fliss for having warned her or she might well have screamed. She did not know this man, did not love this man, or could not remember a time when she had, but this, this what he told her was betrayal in its purest form and she could have kicked him right out the door.
Jeff was continuing faster now, eager to be done with it. “Rosa and I are lovers again. Chris…I want her to stay…to be with me. I don’t love you anymore…I’m sorry.”
What kind of man could be so heartless?
Here she was with no memory, two babies, no home, no relatives that she knew of and with only one friend in the world that she did know whom she might stay with and her living next door to her husband at that. What kind of man could be so callous as to boot her out of his life at such a time in hers?
Christina could find nothing in which to answer him. Her blood boiled and she drew her hands into clenched fists, the need to scratch his eyes out so strong for his even daring to come here and breathe
Jeff saw her hands coming at his face before Christina even knew that her fingers were heading his way. In a dream she saw her nails strike his flesh and felt the warm blood trickle, before the horror of what she had done froze her in mid stroke.
Suddenly her mind was filled with other images, wild crazy thoughts of something she knew she had never seen, but of something she had been told many times.
Jeff grasped her wrist lunging her hand away from him, and Christina was horrified all over again to see the three long and bloodied scratches across his cheek. “You cow.” Jeff jumped to his feet, going at once to the mirror to check on his injuries, as if he thought she had no right to her anger. He dabbed at the cuts with a paper towel from the dispenser on the wall, running one beneath the tap and then holding it against his cheek. His eyes blazed, but Christina saw none of it. Her head pounded, her heart drummed wildly drowning out the horror of what she had inflicted, seeing only that other hand, that other face, those other scars.
She barely heard him speak, “I’ll have my solicitor draw up the papers Chris. I’ll sign them and get someone to bring them to you to sign. You can have the house. I’ll move out, you’ll want to be near someone you know.”
He left her then, but she could not believe that he’d attempt it again. He paused at the door, strode back picked up the bouquet and took it with him. Again! He’d done it again! Christina found she loathed him with all the hatred her heart could hold. How had the man have ever of been her husband?
*** *** ***
In the minutes that followed a quiet stillness surrounded her and her body relaxed and Chris started to feel alive. When her whole world had crumbled around her she rose from the ashes victorious. The feeling was unbelievable. And for the first time in many days she truly felt she was somebody. Someone that stood alone but free from hidden chains that once bound her, enslaved her to a life she had no recollection of.
If she never regained her memory it no longer mattered, she could build from this, she had her daughters, and they could start a new life together.
Then suddenly the door opened again, and a bolt of fear fled through her disappearing as instantly as it had risen. Jeff stood in the doorway, his face furious, “And you can keep the little monsters” Jeff waved a hand towards the two babies now restless in their cots, “they’ll probably turn out like you anyway, and Rosa wants nothing to remind her of you. Not that I think I do now!” Jeff still held the paper towel tightly to his throbbing cheek “I hope you’re satisfied, the doctor thinks these will leave a scar.”
“Good!” Christina retorted, the first words she realised she had spoken in all of this. She delighted when she saw him flinch, and delighted in taking him to the hilt. “It will transform your face. You know give you the rugged handsome look, and everyone will be intrigued to know how you came to get the scars!”
“I would never tell them you did this to me. I wouldn’t give you the satisfaction.” He was yelling now, disturbing the babies even more. They started to whimper.
Chris cast a sidelong look at them, alighting from the bed without thought to comfort her babies, shouting back in passing, “Oh no. Not you, never you, you would have to tell them something far more elaborate than that. Say why don’t you tell everyone that you wrestled with a lion and won!” Her anger utmost now, it fell and plummeted at the speed of light, and Christina gasped, caught a hand to her throat, the breath unwilling to come, caught there, held and she was unable to breathe at all.
Jeff just stared at her, he wanted to hit her, but his steely grey eyes said nothing, besides her appearance already showed her regret, she looked horrified, “What did I ever see in you?” he whispered before closing the door firmly behind him for the final time.
Christina remained motionless, her heart hammering against her ribs. She moved slowly towards her babies, picking them up each one in turn, her agitation apparent in her stunted movements.
The door re-opened, and her head shot back as her eyes filled with renewed fury, How dare he come back? But a nurse stood there, followed by Fliss her eyes luminous with concern, “I saw Jeff on the way up, did you do that?” for a split second her eyes mirrored hope.
Christina nodded, “Didn’t he tell you?”
“He never saw me. Bravo Chris, I’m proud of you honey. I never thought you had it in you. How do you feel?”
“Triumphant.” Christina grinned, “And before you say anything, believe me he deserved it.” Her last words were directed at the nurse who hovered at Fliss’s side.
“I didn’t say a word.” The nurse grinned, “It’s not for me to speculate but if you knew I’d seen that kind of behaviour a thousand times before then you would understand. I was concerned for you dear that’s all. He came out of this door like an atom bomb.” She grinned.
“What do you mean seen it before?” Christina was intrigued.
“Husbands and wives fighting all the time. Having babies brings out the best and the worst in people. What did you do fall out over names or something? Let me guess he wanted to name one of the babies after his mother right, and you wanted to name one after your mother right?” the nurse grinned, she could not have expected her words to have hurt so much.
“My mother is dead.” Christina told her as her eyes filled with tears. “She died when I was ten.”
Felicity stared at her, “How do you know?” Christina heard her friend gasp, “You’ve remembered haven’t you?”
Christina looked strange all of the sudden, and filled with concern the nurse stepped forward placing a hand on her forehead, and placing a thermometer beneath Christina’s tongue. While she was unable to speak Christina shook her head her eyes wide, and her voice rose the moment the nurse withdrew the offensive thing. “No. Oh Fliss, how did I know? Its true though I know it, my mother did die when I was ten. Oh Fliss am I going mad? I keep remembering things, but it’s all so sudden, there is no forethought, nothing. It just flares up out of nowhere.”
“What is this?” the nurse was concerned, “You still can’t remember anything?”
Briefly Felicity outlined her friend’s inability to remember her past, and even her distant past, the nurse shook her head sadly. “Obviously something traumatic then. Your heart refuses to let you remember, while your mind has flashes of things that are hard to grasp. So tell me why did you want to scratch your husband’s eyes out?”
“He’s leaving me.” Christina’s voice sounded weary.
“He’ll come round. I’ve heard that before. Suddenly the thought of fatherhood becomes too much, you’ll see just give him time to think…”
“No!” Christina flared, “You’re wrong, he’s fallen in love with his ex-wife and is going back to her. Seems we’re going to be neighbours after all Fliss, he’s giving me the house.”
“He’s leaving?” Fliss could not contain her joy.
Christina nodded her eyes wet with tears. She had never felt such stress before. She guessed she should feel relief but instead she felt as if she were dreaming the whole thing. In fact everything was a dream it had to be.
For the only thing that seemed to make her happy was the life she had dreamed of, but she had to forget about that, it wasn’t real. Places and people like that didn’t really exist, only maybe in fairy tales. Even so she found great difficulty wrenching herself away from the dream and back to the present.
“How could you get so lucky?” Fliss was saying, making the nurse look from one to the other totally mystified. “I really thought you’d have a job divorcing him Chris.”
Christina tried to pull herself back to the present, it was difficult but she managed it, “He even said I could keep the babies. Seems Rosa wants no reminders of me, and Jeff thinks they take after me.” Christina told her friend.
“And so they should. You carried them, you suffered all the heartburn without too much complaint, all the backache. He never did anything to help you know? I did it everything for you. I massaged your back, I helped ease your discomfort as you grew larger and larger. I carried your shopping and stacked it away into the cupboards, and he did nothing, nothing at all, save complain that everything was different, that you were no fun anymore. I ask you, no fun!” Felicity turned to the nurse drawing her into the conversation. “ She was huge, like an overstuffed elephant and he’d done that to her, yet he complained all the time about the way she looked, the way she moved, how boring she had become, how tired she was all the time. He complained about everything and anything. I really hate the guy.”
“I can’t remember any of it.” Christina spoke quietly, “Not a bit.” Her voice was filled with awe and Christina shook her head, knowing her husband, her own husband had behaved in such a callous way grieved her tenfold. “Did he ever love me Fliss?”
“He says so.” Fliss shook her head, “I don’t know Chris. Even you couldn’t decide about that. I think we both came to agree that he wanted only one thing from you.”
They spoke together, “a son.” Sadly Felicity nodded, “He only ever cared about getting his hands on that damn inheritance. He wanted to be rich, filthy rich, it was all he ever dreamed of.”
All this was lost on the nurse, and politely she made her leave of them, feeling she should not be a party to this. They hardly saw her go.
“Is the house ours or mortgaged?” The thought suddenly sprang to Chris’s mind. How would she manage a job with two babies?
“Mortgaged I think, like mine is.”
“Do you go out to work?”
“Yes, only part time. I get by, if you like I’d have the babies while you work part time too. Sooner that then have you move away and never see you again.”
“There could be another solution.”
“I could sell my house, and move into yours and use the money from the sale to help with your mortgage.”
Felicity’s face lit up “You’d do that? For real?”
Christina nodded, “Besides when the memories return I want nothing in that house to remind me of being with him.”
Felicity nodded, she could understand that. “Then it’s a deal. We’ll bring the babies up between us, and if ever each of us finds another man we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now women reign, and that includes you two.” Felicity pointed a finger at the two babies resting now in her friend’s arms, but wide awake now and quiet as if knowing that their future was at stake here.
“Talking of which.” Christina looked down at her daughters, “Its time these two had a name each, got any ideas?”
“Sure but I don’t need any of my own, you have already named them, don’t you remember.” Felicity shook her head, needless question she thought, of course her friend didn’t remember, “If they were girls you were going to call them Jenny and Nancy. I take it that still stands?”
A tremor ran through Christina, “Did the names mean anything to me?” She drew her brows together trying to remember.
“You just liked them I think.”
“But I never said the names were after anyone?”
Felicity shook her head, “not that I can remember. Why are they?”
“I don’t know, but something tells me they were people I knew. Oh Fliss if only I could remember.”
“I guess you will in time. That kinda scares me though. I mean if you suddenly remember you were married to someone else, and you do remember that other child, then you will be compelled to leave, and we’ll never see one another again. I’ve never had a friend like you Chris, its like I have known you all my life. We are sisters not friends, you mean that much to me.”
Christina felt her friend’s fear, and a knot of anguish crept inside her, “Wherever I go I’ll take you with me, you’ve been so good to me Fliss, I would never forget it. If it happens that I do have another life out there somewhere, if it happens that I do have to return to it, then I want you to come with me, wherever it lies, would you do that?”
Felicity eyes filled with tears and she nodded unable to voice a reply, as the tears streamed down her face, she didn’t know whether she hoped her friend would remember or not, and neither mattered anymore.
“I have to go now Chris, its way past visiting time, they’ll be along to kick me out soon, I’ll come back tonight though okay?”
“Tomorrow will do Fliss, is that all right?”
Felicity nodded, “Yes if you’re sure you’ll be okay?”
“I’m sure, and thanks Fliss, thanks for everything, but most of all for being such a good friend.”
Felicity bent and kissed her friend’s warm cheek, she’d meant what she’d said, and Christina was like a sister to her, the sister that she had never had. She patted her hand and headed for the door, “Fliss?” the question caught her step, she turned waiting for her friend to speak, “Just out of interest Fliss, did I ever have names ready if they’d turned out to be boys?”
Felicity smiled, “Yes, you were adamant about that, caused Jeff some grief I can tell you. You could give no reason why you wanted such names and he kept thinking they were names from a past you wouldn’t not tell him about, I don’t think they were though, it was just his suspicious mind.”
“What were they?”
“Are you still here?” Christina heard the nurse calling from behind Felicity, “Visiting time ended over five minutes ago. Mrs Downing needs her rest you know that, now come on be off with you.”
“I’m going I’m going.” Felicity’s voice was tinged with humour, “Permit me first to answer her question.” She spoke to the nurse, then turning back to Christina she said, “Jacob and Vincent, those were the names, Jacob and Vincent, and you wouldn’t hear of any others. See you tomorrow Chris.”
The door closed with a loud bump behind her, but Christina never heard it. Her mind and her heart were spinning away, out of this world and into another, far, far away, while her breath caught and held in her throat and she thought she might never breathe again.
So she had known of the names before the dream had come.
But was the place real? Had she dreamed them in the right context, the right moment in time?
Or had she slipped through some dimension, to another world?
Christina closed her eyes, and conjured up the dream. Perhaps the answers she so desperately sought lay in the dream.
Gently she drifted off into sleep.
*** *** ***
‘He was there she could see him. This beautiful mythological creature from distant times past.
His hair like a halo about his head, thick and golden, so thick that she wanted to drown her hands in its lushness, feel its silky weight against her palms.
His eyes were blue, so blue that she could only think of a lagoon on a summer’s day drawing her toward them wanting only to submerge herself into their depths, to drown in their warmth.
And his hands, clawed, beautiful long fingers of roughened fur, yes fur that touched her with such reverence such love and tenderness. She could feel the depth of his love through the tips of his fingers and know those sharp talons could never hurt her.
There were candles, everywhere. Their dancing light pushing back the inky darkness that by itself enveloped her in its embrace. There was no fear here, even in the darkness, there was no fear while he held her in his arms.
Christina stirred as peacefulness washed over her, wave upon warm wave of tranquillity. She had come home and the past was firmly behind her and she felt so happy.
But then it all changed and Jeff’s face swam before her and his voice was telling her; “They’re just like you, two peas in a pod Chris.” But it was his face that stared back at her from the two faces of her babies laid in their cots; his face with the three scars across one cheek. Then suddenly it wasn’t his face, it was that of some other, and his voice melted away to be replaced by the one whose arms she was in with such anguish and remorse. “I did that to him, we had a misunderstanding. My own brother and I hurt him…
Christine struggled to wake to get out of her dreams. They would not let her go. The dreams kept coming holding her fast.
It had all altered again. He was there his blue eyes filled with sadness his arms resolutely at his sides, and he was speaking to her, “You must forget me, you had a life! You must live that life, there are children waiting to be born. Catherine I know you, I know that for which your heart yearns, things that I could never give to you…
Christina fought again to awaken. The dreams wanted to hold her fast, but she would not let them, she had to escape, she had to.
She fought against them hard, struggling against their pull, and gradually she won, bit by bit she surfaced, her breathing coming in short sharp bursts, her mouth dry from panting as if she had been running.
What was that?
Her eyes flew wildly around her, what had she dreamed? It had seemed so real, so real. Almost, almost as if… it were…real.
Christina settled herself back against the pillows, just thinking. Her mind going around and around with crazy wild thoughts.
Who was he? The one with the bluest eyes she had ever seen, who was he? What was he? And more importantly what was he to her?
How could she have called Jeff ugly in light of that? In light of the one in her dreams the one with whom she had moulded her body to with such desire. Yet he wasn’t ugly, he was beautiful. Different yes, but definitely beautiful and he had made her feel so safe, so cherished.
And what was it he had called her? Catherine, yes Catherine. And for the first time Christina knew it had been no dream, it was a memory from the past, jumbled but real and she was very much a part of it.
But it was so long ago and she had no way of knowing how much time had lapsed since all those things had meant anything to her. Or did she?
For hours she lay there staring out at the fading night sky seeing for the first time in how many years she did not know, but seeing the heralding wisps of light that signified dawn was on its way. That sight brought about a heaviness of spirit and a sense of loss, one she could not understand. Only the returning darkness would bring her joy again she knew, but why was that?
Christina didn’t know the answers to all her questions but she was remembering a little more each day, and it would come, she was sure of it. All of it, it would come in time.
Somewhere out there she had another life to lead, had another man to love, someone that loved her more than life itself, who he was she didn’t know, but her dreams had told her enough to know he was different. Maybe not in the way she had dreamed but enough to know that through his personality his face to her was beautiful.
And an unfamiliar ache started deep within her for this other love, this other lost love and Christina vowed that she would remember, and when she did she would search the earth if she had to until she found him again.
No matter what, they would be together again one day.
And then she would truly be happy.
*** *** ***
A winter wonderland of snow covered Manhattan.
Its virgin blanket filtered into every nook and cranny and swept around the tall buildings and right across the vast streets, void for the moment of life, as New York’s inhabitants were frozen into immobility, some literally, by the heavy snowfall of the hour past.
Some eight inches had already fallen and by the look of it more was to come. Huge mushroom capped clouds covered the sky tinged yellow by the weight of the snow that they bore and giant snowflakes fell in a steady rhythm onto the city below.
Central Park was shrouded in a lush carpet of white brilliance, with not a blade of grass to be seen. As far as the eye could see everywhere was white. It hung from the branches of trees in soft ribbons frozen where it had slithered, and banked up high against the entrance to the drainage culvert that was the doorway to another kind of winter wonderland.
For beyond the entrance a network of tunnels beckoned a warm welcome by smooth purple light that tapered further along to a soft amber glow enumerating from strategically placed lamps that welcomed any weary traveller home. And if one could turn back the hands of time one would find how those tunnels had been home to so many for so long, in fact hundreds of years of varying lives and experiences had been shared beneath the city.
Oftentimes an inky darkness had enveloped the inhabitants but no fear was found there. So far from the city streets an ever-present cosiness awaited those desperate for a place to call home, the darkness welcoming them with open arms into a world void of sunlight but filled with a different kind of light seldom to be found anywhere else on earth. Here was home, despite the chill of the tunnels and trepidation of the unknown. A place to call home, far away from the wickedness of the world above. Somewhere safe, and a little warmer than the world above in more ways than one.
For far beneath the earth was a city within a city and excavations had revealed the most amazing of things.
A ship, a huge sailing ship had been discovered when Lower Manhattan had been under construction. And beneath the street of the same name a wall constructed of timber had been discovered stretching the length of the city that had been built to keep Indians at bay some three hundred years earlier.
Treasure had been found down there too, deep beneath the city. Treasure in old wooden caskets. Emeralds, sapphires, rubies, gold sovereigns, pearls, you name it, it was found down there, and deeper, far deeper beneath the granite bedded streets, in the earth’s own subterranean world could be found it’s own treasures of ever forming gemstones. Amethyst, Calcite, Quartz, Malachite Garnet and Copper that gave off their own light and dazzled the eyes with their splendour inside huge caverns literally made up of sparkling crystal.
In time some of it had been broken into small fragments and polished to create gifts of jewellery for friends or lovers.
A crystal, rich with the penetrating light of a million suns captured inside of it, caught the dance of the flickering candles and spun off a brilliant light from its many facets, as it was twirled around and around upon its golden chain.
Holding the crystal high above his head young Jacob Wells was spellbound as ever by the gemstone’s beauty. Brilliant shafts of light bedazzled his young mind.
Jacob was just three years old, well going on four actually and he had a remarkable aptitude for learning and remembering.
His father and grandfather marvelled at him for not the first time when Jacob spoke of something that had happened long ago, just as he did on this day.
“Jamie says its snowing today. Do you remember the first time you took me to see the snow daddy?” Jacob did not look at his father. The ever-present crystal delighted him too much to turn away. Inside its wondrous depths Jacob could visualise erupting volcanoes and could almost feel the white-hot heat of the vomited lava as it spilled down the mountainside.
His father ruffled the tawny head of his son, and drew him up onto his lap, “Yes.” He told the child, and as always his father’s voice filled Jacob with warmth and sweetness like honey.
Jacob waited, knowing from past experience that his father would run through the memory in his own time. “It was before your first birthday as I remember. My journal would tell me better.”
Jacob’s eyes danced like the crystal in his hand. “ I could tell you better.” Jacob laughed and his voice was filled with mischief, causing his father and grandfather to chuckle. “I wanted to walk through the snow, but the depth of it was deeper than I was tall, and you had to hold onto my hand in case I toppled over into a drift and was lost forever.”
His father’s eyes opened wide twinkling happily. “Yes I remember. As always though I am surprised to find that you do too.”
From his favourite corner where he sat in his chair by the warm stove Jacob’s grandfather chuckled. “It shouldn’t be so surprising Vincent, that your son’s aptitude for learning is as great as your own. As I remember a certain someone remembers the very first time he saw the moon.”
Vincent smiled, “Yes.” His smile softened at the memory, his eyes wet with tears.
Jacob shuffled in his father’s lap. If his father and grandfather were off on another trip down Memory Lane, he would have to divert them before it got too serious.
“Can we go then daddy? Tonight? Will you take me to see the snow again?”
“I don’t see why not.” Vincent told his son as he unravelled the chain from Jacob’s hand and carefully tucked the crystal inside a leather pouch that he wore around his neck. “It has never snowed since the first time you saw it, and it would be a shame to miss it, but we’ll not walk too far into the park. If we go out too late it will be way past your bedtime, and if we go too early there will be people about. Do you really remember your first time in the snow, or is it that you have just heard us speak of it since?”
Jacob looked hurt, he touched his forehead with one long slim finger, “I can see it in here.” He told his father indignantly. Vincent chuckled, “Then I believe you. What else do you see in there?” A clawed finger tapped his son’s forehead and Jacob grinned from ear to ear.
“Lots.” He told his father, “But I feel more in here.” He touched the region of his heart. “And today it feels really weird.”
Vincent’s eyes narrowed and he shot a glance over to his father, whose own concern became apparent, “Have you a pain Jacob?” the panic in his grandfather’s voice was evident.
“No.” Father relaxed, issuing a sigh of relief simultaneously with his son.
“It’s not like that.” Jacob went on. “It’s a funny feeling, it’s like, it’s like…” for the first time since he could express himself Jacob found it hard to explain this.
Vincent’s eyes took on new meaning; he held his breath, ‘was it possible that his son could feel the beat of another’s heart just as he himself could?’
While Jacob fought for the right words, Vincent and Father passed knowing looks over the child’s bonny head. Their eyes spoke volumes.
Jacob changed direction, “It sounds daft.” He began, “But if I listen to my heart beating when my ear is laid upon the pillow, I can hear an echo, and when I can’t hear it at all I feel as if there are two drums beating inside of me."
Vincent understood that description at once. His mouth gaped and with eyes wide he gasped. Father noticed the transformation at once. He’d seen it so many times in the past. That ‘look’ that came into his son’s blue eyes whenever Vincent had felt Catherine near. Vincent was delirious with happiness.
“I understand exactly.” Vincent told his son.
“You do?” the delight in Jacob’s voice was evident. He exhaled a huge sigh of relief, and Vincent had a question for him, “How long have you felt that way? Was it just today?”
Jacob turned in his father’s lap, snuggling himself against one firm and muscled arm, his feet trailing across his father’s legs, so that Jacob could see into Vincent’s eyes. And how he loved those eyes. Blue as a summer’s sky that Jamie had shown him on more than one occasion during his jaunts to the park above.
“I’ve felt it before but today it is stronger. Sometimes when I am laying down my head to sleep I have heard the echo, but it has been far away.”
“How near is it today?” Father asked.
What he expected his grandson to say he wasn’t quite sure. But since the boy’s mother had died and Vincent had lost all connection with her before her death he could only conclude that Jacob was feeling his father’s heartbeat alongside his own.
“Its still a long way off but stronger today.” Vincent and Father exchanged glances again. “Perhaps his perception of it will become clearer in the next few days Vincent.” Father advised.
Vincent nodded, “I know what you are feeling Jacob. I too have felt this feeling with you since the day you were born. It is a bond, a connection that we share, like the one I shared with your mother and now you have become aware that you can feel me too.” Vincent smiled at his son, bending to kiss the tawny head tenderly. It pleased Vincent greatly that he could share this miracle with his child. But Jacob was shaking his head; “I don’t think so daddy. Remember yesterday, when I couldn’t find you?” Vincent nodded and his son went on, “I had this feeling then, and it didn’t lead me to you. It led me to Jamie.”
Curious glances passed between Father and Vincent. That was impossible. How could it be linked to Jamie?
“And where was Jamie?” Father asked, though had no reason to ask it, for Jamie’s whereabouts had no bearing on the matter at all, or so he thought.
“She was coming back from Above.” Jacob spoke innocently.
“From Above! I don’t understand. Jacob were you looking for Jamie, or were you being drawn to go Above?” Vincent’s heart filled with anxiety, perhaps this feeling his son was experiencing wasn’t the beat of another’s heart after all, perhaps it was in fact, that his son was being drawn into his mother’s world Above. And if that was the case, then Vincent knew that one day he would lose his son. Lose him to a world where he could not follow, and that thought brought the greatest sadness to Vincent’s heart. Not since Catherine’s death had he felt such pain.
Awaiting his son’s reply filled him with dread. Jacob was having difficulty analysing the feeling. He had withdrawn into himself, almost as if he was consulting with his heart. “I wasn’t looking for Jamie.” He said at last. That he did know. Jamie had been the furthest from his mind. “I don’t know daddy, I just wanted to go Above. I’m sorry.” He spoke tearfully now; for he knew how his father had forbidden him to go anywhere near Above on his own.
Vincent hugged his son. He could in no way reprimand him. He knew only too well how strong the call was, and how difficult it was to ignore. “It’s all right Jacob, I’m not angry with you, though promise me if you get this feeling so strongly again, you will come to get me first, all right?”
Jacob promised but surprised Vincent by adding, “I have it now.”
Father gasped, “I don’t know what to say Vincent.” He told his son truthfully.
“Neither do I.” Vincent answered, “Jacob is it a strong feeling? Do you see any pictures in your head as to where you have to go?”
Jacob thought hard about that by dwelling deep inside himself. Now he knew his father had experienced this, it wasn’t so frightening to look inside anymore. Before it had been fear that had made him close his eyes to the pictures that presented themselves along with the feeling.
“I can see a big room. It’s bright and sunny, and there’s a bed with white sheets. And there’s a baby!” he gasped as the picture formed and he could see the child so clearly.
Father and Vincent exchanged glances again. What was this? Could Jacob be remembering his birth perhaps?
“Can you see anyone else?” Vincent whispered.
Jacob gasped his eyes wide and fearful, “Yes I can see, I can see…mother!” he added the last breathlessly. “Daddy I can see her! It’s mother, she’s alive!”
With disbelief tears coursed down Vincent’s cheeks, and Father left his chair to hobble across to his son, and drape an affectionate arm around the quaking shoulders. Great rasping sobs thundered through Vincent’s frame. If only it were so. If only Catherine were alive.
“It’s a memory it has to be.” Vincent sobbed, but Jacob looked from his father to his grandfather in turn and shook his head, “No it’s real. I can see it. The lady you have on that painting in your chamber, and the one whose picture you carry, the one who you said was my mother, I can see her, here.” He tapped his forehead, “And I can feel her here,” he placed a hand over his heart. “She’s alive. She’s not dead daddy, mummy’s alive!” Jacob jumped up, and danced around the chamber his joy impossible to contain; “Mummy’s not dead.” He repeated for emphasis, “she’s alive, she’s alive, she’s alive!”
*** *** ***
Vincent had tried so hard to never immerse himself in the memories again, but after Jacob’s disclosure Vincent found them returning with full force.
Lying upon his bed, after leaving Jacob in Father’s safe hands, Vincent let the pain engulf him once again. It was but yesterday, each memory so poignantly clear that his tears gathered and fell in quick succession down Vincent’s cheeks.
He would never forget the heartache of the final moment when he had held Catherine in his arms, and she had told him that there was a child. He had no recollection of their loving, but he believed her because even moments earlier a helicopter had whirled away from the rooftop carrying Gabriel (the man that had kidnapped her) and their son into the sky. The Bond that he had shared with his Catherine had manifested itself in the heart of the child, and it was to their son that he had been drawn as Gabriel had taken the baby off into the night.
As Catherine died in his arms, and when Vincent had carried her body across the rooftops to her apartment, Vincent had vowed that she would live on within him. That while he lived she lived, but that was not literal, only spiritual. His Catherine was lost to him, and only since the recovery of his son had he been able to cope with his loss.
From that morning as he had left her lifeless body upon her bed, he had never laid eyes on her again. And for the past four years he had grieved her, the hurt going as deep as a burning sword twisting into his heart, and that pain was only just beginning to heal thanks to their son, who filled each new day with brightness and joy.
So it was impossible that Jacob could feel his mother alive. But how could he dash the child’s joy? What Jacob was feeling had to be bound to his remarkable aptitude for memory, and somehow he had confused the past with the present.
Wretched Vincent lurched from the bed. Somehow he had to make Jacob see where the truth lay, and he had to do it soon, but oh if only there were no need of that. If only Catherine were alive.
He left his chamber, walking slowly not at all eager to speak with his son. But his feet seemed to have minds of their own, and they led him away from the main hub towards his and Catherine’s place beneath the bandstand.
If only he could turn back the hands of time he would. There was so much he would have done differently. That day when Catherine had come to see him after his illness, when he had lost all sense of the Bond, he had known even without it that there had been something on her mind. But he had been the first to start speaking and the moment had been lost and Catherine had not told him her troubles. If only he had let her speak.
He knew now that she was coming to tell him that they had loved that dark day when the fevers had consumed him down in the underground caverns. When she had gone there to bring him back from the dead, they had loved, and her love had saved him, and they had created new life, in the child that she carried.
So many times Vincent had thought about this since, and he was convinced that had he of listened that time when Catherine came to see him with something on her mind, instead of thinking only of what he had lost, then things would surely have been different.
He could not know of course whether Gabriel would still have kidnapped her, and he could not know whether the Bond would have returned sooner, but he told himself if only he had known of her pregnancy, he may have been able to help her more.
Father told him he was punishing himself for things that there were no grounds for. Knowledge may not have altered anything, but deep inside Vincent wondered if it could have, and he punished himself over and over again. He could have had less fear, could have shown Catherine what she had meant to him. Could have told her how much he loved her, wanted her. Though he had made himself ignore it, in hindsight he knew how much Catherine loved him. And if he had allowed himself to admit it then he would have accepted that she had desired him too. Because if he had only known that she carried his child he could have altered the way things were between them. He could have loved her again, and then the memory of their loving would not have been lost to him.
And so many times Catherine had begged him to let her live in his world, and he had firmly refused believing it would be wrong for her to forsake all she had ever known for him.
Had he of known what the future had in store for her, had he of known that her being Below would have protected her, he would have readily agreed to her living with him.
Since the day she had died in his arms, half of Vincent’s whole self had died with her. Their son had renewed his love of life, but still his heart ached by her death.
Not a day went by when he didn’t hear her gay tickling laughter filling his mind, or when her face would swim before his, just as he closed his eyes to sleep at night.
Sometimes in the early morning before the city awoke he could almost imagine that she lay beside him. Yet when he opened his eyes, it was the soft breath of his son that he could hear, and as much as he loved his son, the disappointment and reality of never seeing Catherine again hit him so hard that he just wanted to crawl away and die.
So if only Jacob was right.
If only the feelings he was experiencing was a Bond with his mother. Then again perhaps it was. Perhaps Jacob had somehow crossed the boundary between life and death and could feel his mother that way.
Vincent raised his head. Yes perhaps that was it. But it didn’t explain the large room with Catherine laid in a hospital bed and the baby alongside her.
Vincent shook his head.
No, that wasn’t it at all. It had to be a memory it just had to be. He knew his son’s marvellous ability to remember, and that was what it was. Jacob could remember his birth as amazing as that sounded.
Still the acceptance of that possibility brought no relief. It still meant that he had to dash his son’s hopes that his mother lived and Vincent was loath to do this.
If only it were possible to turn back the hands of time, if only he could reach back and rescue Catherine before she had been given that fatal injection of morphine, then everything would be all right, then Jacob’s belief would be founded. Catherine would be alive, and the three of them would have their happy life together. Maybe there would have been more children by now.
But it was not to be, and no amount of wishing would make it so. Jacob had to face the facts just as he himself had been made to face the facts by Father on so many occasions. Catherine wasn’t coming back, she was gone, and they would never see her again until they entered Paradise.
Vincent pulled his legs from under him, making to stand. He had been laid upon the scattered cushions beneath the bandstand, a place he frequented often, letting the memories and the tears come. Father often scolded him for putting himself through the grief, but it was there that he felt closest to Catherine and it was there that he could dream.
Yet the time for dreams was past. This day he would make his son understand that he was living on a memory just the same as he himself had been doing these past four years, and from this day they would help one another to look forward and not back. They had so much to live for, they had each other and that was all that mattered.
With a last backward glance at the faded cushions he and Catherine had laid upon so many times just absorbing the music filtering down from above, Vincent brushed away an errant tear. He would not return here again until he could do so without crying. And Vincent knew deep in his heart that that might take forever.
*** *** ***
Jacob’s feelings had distressed Father and he wondered how they might affect his son, and how Vincent might cope with speaking to Jacob about them.
What could Vincent tell his grandson that would make the child believe that the feelings he had were memories and nothing else? Jacob’s joy had broken Father’s heart and the belief that Jacob’s mother lived had greatly distressed Vincent too.
Telling Mary helped. As ever she was wise with her words and full of her sympathy, and Father was glad that Vincent returned while Mary was still sharing tea with him. As his son descended the steps Father held out to his son a welcome cup of tea.
“Thank you Father.” Vincent took the cup and settled himself into his chair.
“Father has just been telling me about everything.” Mary spoke softly, and Vincent lifted his lips from the rim of the cup and raised his eyes to hers.
“Mary is concerned about Jacob. She also said something I found very distressing.” Father voiced his concern very delicately, assessing the best he could of his son’s acceptance.
“What is that Mary?” Vincent was clearly troubled.
“Only that Jacob is seldom wrong Vincent.” Vincent went to speak but Mary halted him, “No hear me out. So much of Catherine’s death was hush-hush you know. Diana Bennett, Joe Maxwell and Elliot Burch helped to reunite you with Jacob, but Gabriel got away and to this day we don’t know where he is. We don’t even know if he’s still alive. You tore several shreds off of him I believe.”
Vincent remembered that only too well, the fact when the police arrived before he could strike the fatal blow and that Diana had ushered him away, following close behind with the baby in her arms, leaving a bloodied and dying Gabriel to the police. Mary was right there was no telling if Gabriel had lived or died and nothing they had unearthed since had told them anything that they needed to know.
“Well what if, just what if, Catherine’s death was a cover up. You lost the connection you shared with her, so you would have been none the wiser. And with Gabriel on the loose then Catherine’s life would have been in danger. We all know about the witness protection programme so supposing someone put Catherine onto that, supposing Jacob’s right and that Catherine is alive somewhere?” Mary wished she could bite her tongue off, the last thing she wanted was to distress Vincent, but she had a feeling about this in light of Jacob’s belief, and decided her opinion could be well grounded.
Vincent hadn’t spoken but Father hurried to his side. His son’s lips were turning blue, and Father slapped him hard across one cheek, knowing that Vincent was unable to get his breath. Vincent jolted and stood to let out the biggest roar he had uttered in a long time. Mary and Father huddled together as they watched in horror as Vincent raised his arms and then brought each in turn crashing down onto the table. “Noooo!” He roared, “I saw her. She died in my arms. How can you forget that?” He seethed staring at Mary, his chest rising and falling with his anger and distress.
“I haven’t forgotten that Vincent, but I remember how Narcissa told you that Catherine lived even at that time. I can remember your denial at her insistence that Catherine lived, and I know that since that day you have never been to see Narcissa. Those words along with the feelings Jacob has only convince me further that there might just be some truth in this.”
Vincent sank his body back into the chair. His laboured breathing slowed and Father watched with concern as Vincent’s face changed from one of horror, to one of disbelief and finally to one showing the faintest expression of hope. Father’s heart lifted when he saw it, and when Vincent whispered; “Could it be true?” it brought tears to his eyes.
Such hope shone from Vincent’s face warring with disbelief. “She was given an overdose of morphine.” He spoke as if to himself.
“Yes but under the circumstances, with the hurry Gabriel and his cohorts were in, the doctor might so easily have administered too little…” Father tried to say more but Vincent flared, “Or too much!” he rose to his feet again, but this time started his notorious pacing. “I saw her Father. I saw her take her final breath, I saw her life ebb away.” He spread his hands, his voice filled with pain. “She died Father, in my arms. Catherine, died in my arms.”
“Not necessarily.” God what was he doing, building his son up like this? If he were wrong, then the second grief could be far worse than the first.
Vincent spun on him, “What do you mean?”
“If Catherine weren’t given enough morphine to kill her, she could have slipped into a coma in your arms. All her vital signs would have diminished. You would not be blamed for thinking she had died.” Father hoped his words would bring back the look of hope to his son’s eyes, instead what he saw there frightened him more.
“Then Catherine was buried alive!” The words were wrenched from his son, from deep inside his body. It reminded Father of someone having their intestines pulled from their gut while still alive. He’d seen that once in a snuff movie and he could well remember the pain that went along with that sight.
“No Vincent!” Mary cried as she too saw the implications of this. Father wouldn’t accept it either. “No Vincent.” He echoed, “If that were so then Jacob would not be feeling the way he does right now.”
Mention of Jacob had Vincent halt in his tracks. Father was right. As Jacob believed he could feel her, then she must be alive. But where?
“I have no feeling of her, yet I have a Bond with Jacob.” Vincent’s voice was void of expression. Father could tell the toll it had taken on his son just to believe this even slightly.
“I think that’s the way it is Vincent. You are unable to feel more than one person. When the Bond was lost between yourself and Catherine, we later established it was because the Bond had transferred to your child. And let’s face it Jacob has never shown any sign of being connected to you, yet there have been times when he has had that look in his eye, a look I once associated with your perception of Catherine’s whereabouts. Looking back I never thought anything of it then, but now I find I am able to piece it together. Jacob I believe has always shared a Bond with his mother, only none of us have known that, or have contemplated it because we believed that Catherine was dead.”
“Then if she isn’t where is she?” Vincent’s voice was now filled with dismay and a little sarcasm.
“If we are to pursue this, we have to start at the right place. Jacob is fine but you cannot go Above with him in daylight, and he is too young to go out with someone else at night. I think we should speak to Diana Bennett about this.” Father told him.
“That’s not what I meant.” Vincent flared.
“Then what did you mean?”
“If Catherine is alive, why hasn’t she been in contact with me?” Vincent’s voice rose.
“Maybe she can’t, maybe she doesn’t know anything.” Father wished there were an easier way to explain.
When he had first heard about the morphine he had read through his medical journals to establish how such a drug would kill a person. He had been surprised to learn that an overdose of morphine would sometimes result in a coma and amnesia from which at times there would be no return. He could remember wishing that would have been preferable to death, for Vincent at least would have been spared the grief of losing his Catherine even if she could not remember him. For Father knew that given time Vincent would have taught her to love him all over again.
“I don’t understand.” Vincent was saying, “What do you mean?”
“That maybe Catherine has amnesia, its possible that she remembers nothing of her past, or even of who she is.”
“Then either way she is lost to me.” Vincent slumped back into his chair. Mary looked on obviously distressed. She had started this. She wished she had kept her mouth shut. Vincent’s pain hurt her too. She should have checked her facts first before she put hope into his heart where perhaps there should have been none.
There was silence for some moments, each with his own thoughts, until Father stood up and headed towards his writing bureau. Taking up a pen and paper he began to write. “I’m sending this to Diana Bennett.” He told them both. “We will start there. She’ll know the correct places to look, and the right strings to pull. One way or another we will know for certain, and then we can talk to Jacob.”
Father had been around his unique son long enough to realise that many things were never as they first appeared, and that was why he trusted his grandson’s feelings now.
Neither Mary nor Vincent replied. They nodded just slightly and Vincent’s eyes wore a glazed expression.
Mary’s were filled with sorrow.
*** *** ***
Such a note from Jacob Wells was the last thing Diana Bennett had expected to read, especially this far down the track, and she gave it her full attention. Once she would have pushed it to the back of her drawer and approached it whenever her present cases were solved, but this case was close to her heart and she gave it utmost priority.
Diana had never quite forgotten the way Vincent had made her feel, nor quite forgotten the sorrow he had to face in bringing up his son without the woman that he loved. From time to time Diana had sought out news of Vincent, but never had she visited, knowing Vincent’s presence would affect her far more then she cared to admit.
Smoothing the creases from Father’s note, Diana read the contents over and over. She believed thoroughly in the strength of the Bond, and found it remarkable that Jacob felt his mother was alive. She also read with interest Father’s ideas on the matter and even with a little scepticism the ramblings of the old wise woman they called Narcissa. But mainly she drew on something that had bothered her from the very first. The mystery concerning Catherine’s body.
At the time it had bugged her but she pushed it resolutely aside, believing it to be a spelling mistake. But many times afterwards she had thought about it briefly while in Vincent’s chamber she had seen the photograph he had of Catherine. Or the painting he had hung on the wall of the two of them. And later even finding photographs belonging to Catherine herself revealed that the hair colouring of the woman that she had examined that day on the pathologist’s table and the woman laughing back at her from the photograph were not one and the same.
How she cursed the day when Joe had been coming to see the pathologist, and she had led him away from the room, telling him she had seen everything they needed to know. If Joe had gone in there, surely he would have known for a certainty whether of not that woman with the holes cut in her from the pathologist's knife, was Catherine Chandler or not.
It was, Diana reasoned a good likeness, and the report had shown that the woman had died of a morphine overdose and had recently given birth. Everything matched, except there was just minor things that had bothered her enough to make her wonder at the time, until a reasonable explanation had surfaced. Like Catherine’s nails for instance. Someone, she couldn’t remember who now, had told her that Catherine had long nails. Why that came up in conversation she’d never know, but at the time Diana could distinctly remember the dead woman having no nails at all. They were bitten down to the quick. Diana had reasoned that after six months penned up at the kidnappers home, even the sanest woman would bite her nails down to nothing. So there was an answer for that.
And there was a similar answer for her hair colour. It was darker than those in the photographs, but then six months shut away without sunlight could do that.
Something rankled as Diana thought more and more about it, and she pulled up her notes on the case at that time, inserting a floppy disk into her PC to refresh her mind on everything that had happened to Catherine Chandler almost four years ago.
The disk accompanied a folder in which were stored some of Catherine’s personal affects. Diana placed a photograph of Catherine at one side of her, and worked along with it, checking off information from the screen as it came into view.
The hair was a different shade, but she’d answered that.
The nails were shorter but she’d answered that.
The eyes were the same colour.
The face was the same and for all intents and purposes it was Cathy Chandler as far as the photograph revealed.
Diana took a sip of her coffee thoughtful for several minutes. That could be it of course. Someone had restructured this other woman’s face to look like Cathy Chandler’s with the use of latex.
There were all the usual lines in the right places. There was the same eyebrows, eyelashes, the same sweep of her hair, the same luscious lips, the same colour eyes, but…and Diana gasped here, as it all suddenly fell into place, there was no scar beneath her ear! Whoever had reconstructed the face of another with the aid of a report a photograph and some latex had not known that Catherine Chandler bore a scar below her ear. A relic from the attack she had received the night that Vincent had found her.
Hope flared in Diana. If this was true, then somewhere Catherine Chandler did live, and at no other time did Diana feel more fired with enthusiasm to find out where or why.
Her first thought was to run and find Vincent to put him out of his misery, but what could she tell him? No more than was already presumed. She needed facts and a reason, and for that she needed to be cunning. Whomsoever had gone to great lengths to ‘disappear’ Catherine Chandler would have covered their tracks remarkably well, unless, just unless they were so convinced of their success that they had made an error just like the one she had just found.
Hopeful Diana closed down her PC, and downed her coffee, before reaching for her bag, keys and jacket and leaving her apartment to head for the District Attorney’s office.
*** *** ***
Joe Maxwell was Senior District Attorney now.
Since John Moreno’s business with Catherine’s Chandler’s kidnap had led to his death, Joe had been promoted to Moreno’s position.
And it was a long time since he had seen Diana, and she was unprepared for the feeling of grief that her face presented when she walked through his door some half an hour after leaving her home.
“Diana. What gives?”
“Hi Joe, and how are you too?”
“Fine, just fine. So tell me what do I owe the pleasure of your creeping out from under your rock?”
“Yuck Joe, you make me sound like some insect, I’m not that bad surely?”
Joe laughed, stretching a rubber band between his fingers nervously.
“You still do that then?” Diana nodded indicating the rubber band; Joe put it down at once. “Its not an easy habit to break.” He grinned at her, “So what can I do for you Diana, or is this just a social visit? Though I can’t imagine anything social dragging you away from your work.”
“Ordinarily that would be right, but I learned something today that just might interest you. Sit down Joe, this is going to come as quite a shock.”
Diana outlined her reason for her visit and watched the colour drain from Joe’s face.
“You’re off your rocker Bennett. Probably shut yourself away from society too long. Tell me you are just winding me up right?” he laughed nervously. The thought of Catherine Chandler being alive was too impossible for words.
“I wish that were so Joe. But I have the facts, I just need the motive, and I need to know of any loopholes into the witness protection scheme, especially one that Cathy may have been put on.”
Joe stared at her, and Diana had to wave her hand in front of his face, “Hello, Earth to Joe. Is anyone home?”
Joe came back to earth with a jolt, “What, Oh sorry Diana, my mind was racing everywhere and nowhere. You’re serious about this right?”
“Never been more serious about anything in my life Joe. Cathy is alive, why else would they put another dead body in her place?”
“Why else would they allow me to come as far as the pathologist doors and risk me seeing her body? It doesn’t make sense Diana. I could have told you straight away if that was Cathy lying there or not.”
“That’s what I presumed earlier, but maybe not. I saw her Joe, and the latex job fooled me. Maybe if you had seen her too then you would have made allowances for any slight changes just as I did. You know with the length of time she had been dead, and the length of time since you’d last seen her, all or any one of those things could have made you make allowances for any changes that you might have seen.”
“But you forget I saw her that day in her apartment, when her body had just been discovered.”
“Did you go right up to her?”
“Well no, I couldn’t bring myself to do so, as it happens.”
“So using some body to impersonate her at the mortuary might have fooled you too?”
“Maybe. Guess we’ll never know now.”
“Guess not. We can’t change the past Joe but we can change the future. Will you work with me on this one?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I need you, besides I’ve missed your jokes.” Diana grinned appealingly.
“Then what can I say, you have my full support.” Joe’s brown eyes twinkled with mischief.
“Thanks Joe.” They smiled at each other, and Joe picked up his jacket from the chair, “So where do you want to start? No let me guess, the witness protection files right?”
Diana nodded and Joe grinned at her, “Then follow me.”
They headed towards the doors and to the elevator and for the first time in a long time, Joe felt his spirits lifting. ”Say have you heard the one about…” his voice travelled over his shoulder as the elevator doors closed behind them, and a light on the panel indicted that they headed for the basement and the huge vault of files stored down there.
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Four - click on 'Next' below:
The stories found within this website have been written by and for lovers of the American television series Beauty and the Beast and no infringement upon the rights held by Ron Koslow, CBS, Republic Entertainment, Witt-Thomas Productions or any other Copyright holder to Beauty and the Beast is intended.
Furthermore all the stories found on this website belong to Wendy Tunnard de-Veryard, are protected by copyright and none should be copied, added to or subtracted from or altered in any way, without the prior authorisation of the author.