Noah stopped dead in his tracks just before entering her room.
“May I have more water?” Eden’s voice came to him and James as they stood on the other side of the privacy curtain.
“Let’s give your stomach a chance to adjust,” Melanie encouraged.
“When can I go home?”
If James didn’t have a hand on his shoulder, Noah thought for sure he’d fall down. She was awake. Completely awake.
The doctor paused just outside her room before entering. “Give me a minute and you can come in,” he said to Noah.
Noah nodded, still in a state of shock.
“Eden,” the doctor greeted her. “I see you’re feeling much better.”
Eden felt a rush of adrenaline flow through her. His voice was familiar. “Do I know you?” she asked.
“I’m afraid our times together have been a bit one-sided.” He approached the side of the bed. “I’m Dr. Fredericks and I’ve been with you the entire time of your stay.”
He chuckled. “I’m sure you have a number of questions. All will be answered in time.”
“You were in a car accident.”
“Yes, but first, I need to know how you’re feeling. Headaches? Nausea?”
She looked down in thought a moment, then shook her head. “I don’t think so.”
He chuckled again, “That’s good. Are you up for a visitor?”
Her face lit up at him, “My mom?”
Noah and James looked at one another. Eden’s mother passed away shortly after Morgan’s birth.
“Your mother isn’t here, Eden.”
James wasn’t feeling comfortable at all. Their father had passed away two years before their mother.
“I’m not sure where your parents are, Eden,” the doctor told her. “I haven’t seen them.”
“Oh,” the disappointment filling her voice.
“I was thinking your husband,” he said.
Her eyes grew wide. Her breathing coming in shallow breaths. “I don’t have a husband.”
The doctor quickly took note of her disoriented state. “Eden?”
“Look, my mom will come. Someone needs to call her.”
“Alright,” the doctor calmly approached. “Where does your mom live?”
“On Sycamore Street.”
“Let me see what I can find out, alright?”
Dr. Fredericks took James and Noah to the lounge. “Why hasn’t her mother been here?” he asked, his frustration apparent.
James spoke first, “Doc, Mom’s been dead for over three years.” He watched the doctor take in that information, then added, “And before you ask, Dad died two years before that.”
“Dr. Fredericks, what the hell is going on?” Noah demanded.
“How long have you been married, Mr. Carrington?”
“Six years. Why?”
The doctor paced around, rubbing at his chin a moment. “Alright. Nothing to worry about.”
“Nothing to worry about?” Noah repeated.
“Mr. Carrington, this is common with head injuries. She’s confused. I’m going to have a neurologist take a look and we can go from there.”
Noah slumped into a chair, his knees no longer able to hold him up. “This isn’t happening.”
Three hours later, Noah and James were in Dr. Fredericks’ office with Dr. Miller. “Mr. Carrington,” Dr. Miller started, “your wife has amnesia.”
Okay, hearing the words didn’t make him feel any better. “Amnesia,” Noah echoed.
“How long will it last?” James asked.
“Hard to say Mr. Falcon. The brain is quite delicate. She had blunt force trauma during the accident.”
“Okay, so how do we fix it?” James probed further.
“We don’t fix it, Mr. Falcon. We wait and see if her memory comes back.”
Noah looked up, “If?”
“Anything can spark a memory. A scent. A date. A person…”
“Morgan!” Noah jumped from his seat.
James pulled at Noah’s arm, pulling him to sit back down. “No,” he said sternly.
“Who is Morgan?” Dr. Miller asked.
“Mr. Carrington, if Eden doesn’t remember being married, how is she supposed to remember a son?”
“Dr. Miller, you don’t understand. Eden and Morgan have a bond. Connection. Whatever you want to call it. One look at that little boy and…”
“And the child could be traumatized as well as Eden.” Dr. Fredericks cut in.
“Let me see her,” James spoke up.
“We were hoping for that,” Dr. Miller said. “But, we need to be very specific about how to proceed. She needs to recollect memories on her own. Answer her questions as broadly as possible. Too much information and…”
“Information overload,” James finished. “I got it.”
“Mr. Falcon?” Dr. Miller called his attention to him. Once James looked at him, he continued. “Eden believes your parents are alive.”
“How? It’s been over five years.”
Dr. Miller took in a breath. He’d dealt with amnesia patients in the past and the families of those patients dealt with the uncertainty differently.
“Mr. Falcon, quite simply, Eden thinks she’s still sixteen and living at home with your parents.”
“What?” Noah couldn’t believe his ears.
“What else?” James asked, sensing there was more.
“She will not accept the fact that she’s married and has a husband.”
Noah stood and paced, holding the hair back from his face. “I don’t understand,” he finally said.
“Noah,” Dr. Miller called. “For whatever reason, her mind is blocking out everything for the past eight years.”
“Everything?” Noah asked. “Including Morgan?”
“I’m sorry Noah. As far as Eden is concerned, you don’t exist. Therefore, neither does your son.”
Noah stood in shock. He’d been afraid of losing his wife all over again when she woke. He had no idea the loss would be one that obliterated him from her memory.
“Does she know anything about Morgan?” James asked.
“No. She gets very upset with the mention of a husband. I didn’t mention a child. She’s still in a delicate state medically. Too much stress and anxiety will only set her back.”
Noah’s heart broke. Morgan would never understand this. Hell, he didn’t understand it.
Noah remained outside her room as James entered.
“Hey Sprite,” he softly greeted.
Her bed at a slight incline, she lifted her head and looked at him at the sound of his voice. “Jimmy!” Her arms lifted to him.
He hugged her close before sitting in the chair beside the bed.
“Daddy’s mad, isn’t he?”
He furrowed his brow. “Why?”
“I broke the car!”
She remembered the accident years ago when she’d totaled the family car shortly after getting her license when she was sixteen. “Dad’s not mad.”
“Don’t worry about that,” he told her. “Right now, you need to rest.”
“Jimmy, how long have I been here?”
“A couple weeks,” he answered.
She fiddled with her hands in her lap.
“Jimmy, I think something’s wrong.”
“You just had an accident and you need to heal.”
She shook her head slowly as tears slowly cascaded down her cheeks.
“Sprite, talk to me.”
“Jimmy, the doctors said I have a husband.”
Noah stood, listening. She didn’t even sound like Eden. If he didn’t know she was on the other side of the curtain, he’d have sworn she was a scared teenage woman. What the hell was going on?
When James sat silently and looked away, she called to him. “Jimmy?”
“Eden, you need to rest.”
“Oh God,” she sobbed. “You sound like Dad.”
James stood and began pacing. How much could he tell her? Only answer her questions in the broadest terms.
“Jimmy, am I married?”
He turned to look at her, so small within the hospital bed. Looking at him as though she were lost.
“Yes,” he answered, sounding defeated.
“How?” She searched his face for answers before looking at her hands. “I can’t be.”
“Eden, you just woke up from…”
“From what Jimmy?” she cried.
“You’ve been in a coma for a couple of weeks.”
“No! I remember being in the ambulance. Daddy was there!” James could see her anxiety rising, just like Dr. Miller had warned him.
He swallowed the lump in his throat. “It’s not the same accident Eden.”
“Look, just get some rest. You’re confused right now.”
Her sobs came heavier now. “Look!” she cried. “There’s no wedding ring! And … and I’m not old enough.”
Noah bowed his head. She hadn’t worn her ring for months.
“Eden, calm down,” James told her.
“No!” Her right hand had a bright pink cast on it as her right fingers caressed her empty left ring finger.
She swallowed as they sat silently for a moment. “How old am I?”
“Eden, please don’t do this,” he softly begged. “You need to rest.”
“How old?” she demanded.
“Twenty-four,” he answered.
“That’s impossible. I can’t…” She looked down. “I have an algebra test. My college prep tests.” She sobbed heavier now. “Jimmy help me,” she said through tears.
He enveloped her in a hug. “You’ll be alright, Sprite. We’ll get through this,” he promised knowing he wasn’t sure if what he said were true.
Noah rubbed his hand down his face. She was lost to him. Lost in a way he couldn’t get through to.
Eden made significant strides physically over the next week. While Noah and James met with medical staff, Eden concentrated on regaining strength. Whenever someone mentioned her having a husband, she’d panic.
James sat with her after her physical therapy.
“Sprite, are you sure…”
“Jimmy, I don’t have a husband. I can’t.”
Eden looked down to her hands in her lap. “You know how Mom is with boys. And, I’m still in school.”
“Sprite, I know Mom protected you. She was afraid…”
“I’d meet a boy like Abby did.”
“Look, I know it wasn’t fair of Mom to keep you sheltered the way she did.”
“No Jimmy! I’ve never had a boyfriend. I can’t be…” she let it hang open ended.
“Maybe if you see him, it’ll bring your memory back,” James tried.
Eden looked down in thought. “I can’t.” She sniffled. “If Mom finds out you brought a boy in here, you know she’ll be angry.”
Noah’s heart took another hit every time he heard her refuse to see him. He’d patiently wait outside her room whenever James visited, trying to convince her to see him.
Dr. Miller told them not to push. Eden would progress at her own pace.
“Jimmy, why aren’t Mom and Dad here?”
James looked at her. “They can’t come here,” he told her.
“Look,” she started, sounding a bit anxious, “I know Daddy is working. But, Mom can come. Why can’t you bring her here?”
She wasn’t giving up on her quest for their parents as easily this time as she had the past few days.
She lifted her head to look at him. “Jimmy, tell me Mom wasn’t in the car.”
James didn’t know how to get her out of this conversation. “Mom wasn’t in the car.”
“Then where is she? Why won’t she come see me? Daddy?”
James stood and paced, rubbing at his tired face. “They’re not here Eden,” he said softly.
“When will they get here?”
He took the seat by the bed and looked at her. “They’re gone.”
“Gone where?” she asked tentatively.
“Honey, they passed away.”
“No!” she screamed causing the nurses and Dr. Miller, who’d been outside her room, to come racing in. “You’re lying! I hate you!”
“What’s going on?” Dr. Miller demanded at seeing her hysterical state.
“Leave me alone!” she screamed at all of them. “They’re not dead!”
Dr. Miller knew what had happened and asked James to leave the room.
Twenty minutes later, he entered the lounge to meet up with James and Noah.
“How is she?” James asked.
“This episode has tired her out. The nurse is with her now.”
“She asked,” James began explaining.
“I know. This is very difficult for families of amnesia patients. I know you all want her to be well. It’s just going to take some time.”
“But, how much time?” Noah asked.
“I don’t know Mr. Carrington. We just have to be patient.”
He let them absorb all of this before asking, “I need you to tell me about this time in her life. What exactly was her relationship with her parents?”
Noah looked to James.
“Eden was very protected by our parents. Our mom in particular. Because of this, Eden put all her energy into her school work. When she was sixteen, she finished high school and was taking tests for college.”
“Alright. We know where she thinks she’s at now. What came next?”
“Eden wanted to go to another state for school. I helped her fight her case with our parents. I knew Eden needed to grow. I convinced Mom and Dad to let her go. I promised to keep an eye on her.”
“So, she was in college at seventeen?” Dr. Miller asked.
“Sixteen. I helped her find an apartment close to campus. She called me at least every other day.” James stood and began pacing. “I knew Eden had an independent spirit. Mom and Dad tried to contain it.”
“Okay, so tell me, how did Eden adjust to independence?”
“Once she was on her own, she became this whole new person. She was excited at supporting herself. Being on her own.”
Dr. Miller turned to Noah. “And when did you meet Eden?”
“In college. She was in her second year at the time.”
“I’m assuming it was a pleasant meeting since you married…”
“We dated about ten months and got married three months after she turned eighteen.”
Dr. Miller shook his head.
“What’s all this got to do with now?” James asked.
“Usually in amnesia cases, there’s a traumatic experience the patient is trying to avoid. If what the two of you are telling me is the truth, I don’t see something that happened eight years ago to cause this lapse in her memory.”
“I don’t remember anything that could be that upsetting for Eden to want to forget, do you?” James looked to Noah.
Noah shrugged. “Nothing. We dated. Got married. Had Morgan two years later. Her parents died after we married, so that’s the only thing I could think that was hard for her.”
“Hard for her how?” Dr. Miller asked.
“Her dad went through a lengthy illness. His passing was easier for her to take than her mom’s.”
James looked at Noah curiously. “She had a hard time with Mom’s death?”
“She didn’t want you guys to think she wasn’t strong enough. She and her mom had developed a relationship the couple years before she died. With her mother not drinking anymore, they bonded. Her death was unexpected.”
“Well, without either of you knowing anything traumatic enough eight years ago, we’re back to square one. We wait until she regains her memory to find the answer.”
“And, if she doesn’t?”
“Let’s give it some time. I’m assuming her independent nature will prevail. Now that she knows your parents are deceased, this could unlock her memories. Similar to how she went through the growing up process by going off to college.”
Noah was totally confused. Where did all this leave him and Morgan? She refused to acknowledge he even existed. And, she didn’t have a clue she had a son. He hadn’t seen her since she woke. Would seeing him spark a memory? Or would she become as agitated as she was finding out her parents were dead?
At home, Morgan sensed his mother’s recovery. Back to asking for her constantly. Each time, another hole drilled into his heart. He had to continue denying his son the one thing he wanted the most.
She convinced a nurse to let her go onto a secured patient patio. Noah watched from a distance.
Everyone else had left the patio as she enjoyed the afternoon sun. She watched the man across the patio. Looking at her when she thought she couldn’t see. He’d been there the past few times she’d been here. But she didn’t feel afraid. A foreign feeling flowed through her. He intrigued her.
She waited for him to make eye contact, and when he did she gathered up her courage, “Hi!” she greeted.
He nodded back. Smiling a tentative smile.
“Can you help me?” she called to him.
He stood and began walking to her. Light brown hair, a little longish but still cute. He wore slim jeans, a tee and button-down shirt over that. As he stood before her, she noticed his eyes. A soft brown, filled with … sadness?
He felt her perusal as he walked toward her. She doesn’t know who you are, he reminded himself as he took each step closer. Her auburn hair bright in the sun. Her eyes as dark as he remembered. And, trusting? He hadn’t seen trust in her eyes for a long time.
“Can I get the nurse for you?” he asked.
She shook her head, blinking slowly. “No.”
“Would you like to go back inside?”
Damn those eyes of hers. They were as close to ebony as you could get. And, he knew they glimmered even brighter when she flirted. Flirted? Is she flirting with me?
She shook her head again.
“Something to drink?” he probed further.
She giggled, then lifted her good arm toward him. “Help me.”
Okay, the giggle took him off guard. But, asking for help?
“I want to stand up.” She lifted her chin defiantly.
“Are you sure you can?” he asked.
“Are you saying I can’t?”
Where the hell had this playful banter come from? He bent at the waist and leaned toward her, eye level. “You’re in a wheelchair.”
She broke eye contact and contemplated his statement. Then, she looked back at him. His eyes are really pretty.
“I want to try,” she answered.
He looked at her broken arm then back to her eyes. “You’re sure about this?” he all but laughed.
“Not really,” she countered. “But, no one else here will let me try.”
“Look, if you don’t want to help…”
“I didn’t say I didn’t want to help,” he interrupted.
She shook her good arm at him.
When his hand met with hers, she closed her eyes at the warmth that traveled up her arm.
“Hey, you okay?”
She opened her eyes and met his. Chewing on her bottom lip, she nodded.
Gently, he held her good hand with his other at her right upper arm, pulling her to stand.
She wasn’t prepared for the wave of nausea that hit at the excursion. Surely standing up had never been this difficult. When he started to set her back down, she protested. “No!”
Her shallow breathing had him concerned. She was looking green. “You’re not lookin’ so good.”
She took in a breath, “I have to do this.”
There was the Eden he knew. Full of determination. Don’t tell her no.
He set her back in the chair. He smiled at her determined stare. He held up a finger, “Hold that thought,” he said before leaving the patio.
He returned a moment later, two cups in hand. “Here, drink this,” he said handing her one.
She looked at the bubbly liquid in the cup then up to his smiling face. “It’s pop.”
He sat in a patio chair. “Ginger ale.”
She looked at the patio entrance. Seeing no one there, she cradled the paper cup in her hands. “I don’t think I’m supposed to have this,” she said, tipping the cup at her lips.
When he went to reach for it, she sat back. Her mischievous smile took him off guard. “Don’t you dare,” she told him playfully.
“If you’re not…” he began.
“Shh,” she scolded then smiled some more. “This is the first normal thing I’ve had since I…” she stopped.
She looked into the cup, “Woke up.”
When she lifted her eyes to meet his gaze, he was lost. He couldn’t remember the last time her eyes hadn’t held contempt or anger when they looked at him.
“That was what, a few hours ago?” he inquired.
“Never mind,” she answered.
She sipped the cold, carbonated liquid. Her sigh at how good it felt on her throat slammed into him. He’d heard her sigh like that before. A long time ago. In his arms.
He shook his head, “Glad you like it.”
She set the cup down on the table. “Okay, let’s do this.”
His eyes grew wide as he looked at her. “You want to try standing again?”
“The sooner I stand, the sooner I walk,” she told him.
“Getting a little ahead of yourself, aren’t you?” he asked as he stood before her.
She smiled and he was lost. She took in a breath to prepare herself. He thought it was to gather her strength. She knew it was because she knew what to expect. She hadn’t been imagining it. There was that warmth again when he took her hand.
Her legs were wobbly, but she was standing. Her eyes met his as she stood before him. Her smile filled her entire face. After a moment, he went to help her sit back down.
“No.” Their eyes met.
He didn’t know what to do. Comply? Make her sit back down?
“I wanna walk,” she told him.
“I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Why not?” she challenged.
“I’m not a medical doctor, but…”
“Fine, I’ll do it myself.”
“Now, that really isn’t a good idea.”
Just then, she looked like Morgan when he was determined. His heart felt in a vice grip. Morgan.
“You okay?” she asked at the stricken look that covered his face.
“Just remembering my … never mind.”
She gave him a curious look then shook free. “Okay, now stand over here,” she indicated her left side. She laughed at the look on his face. “It’ll be much easier to walk if you’re beside me.”
“I really don’t think this…”
“Just put your arm around my back. Hold my hand and I’ll do the rest.”
“Look, maybe you should…” she wobbled on unsteady legs and he quickly set her back in the chair. “See, you’re not ready.”
Her big tears sliding down her cheeks took him by surprise.
“Hey, you did great.” He squat down before her.
She sighed in frustration. “I hate this,” she said softly.
“Take it slow,” he encouraged.
Her eyes lifted to look into his again. “Will you help me?” she asked.
He sat in the chair he’d vacated a moment before. “I’m not helping you up again.”
“Tomorrow. Help me tomorrow.” He opened his mouth to say something, when she interrupted. “Please?”
He ran his hand down over his face. Eden didn’t say please anymore. She ordered.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized.
Okay, Eden didn’t apologize the past two years either. His world was falling off its axis.
“You’re here for someone, aren’t you?” she asked.
He only looked at her. Where the hell had this vulnerable Eden come from? He’d lost her two and a half years ago. When she began turning cold and distant.
“Not really,” his voice soft.
“You lost someone?” she asked, then quickly added, “I’m sorry, that wasn’t nice.”
Had he lost someone? Her? Or was she right here? What happened when her memory returned?
“I’m sorry, here I ask you to help and you don’t even know my name. I’m Eden. Eden Falcon.”
Falcon. Of course.
Her left hand reached out to him. “Noah,” he smiled, grasping her extended hand gently before letting it go, watching it fall to her lap.
He wheeled her back to her room, which was now out of intensive care. James and Noah locked glances briefly as he approached the nurse’s station.
“Eden,” James greeted. “Where’ve you been?” James cast a glare at Noah then back to her.
“Jimmy, this is Noah.” She watched the men eye each other up. “Jimmy stop!”
The nurse came around and wheeled her in the room, leaving the men alone.
Once out of sight, James grasped Noah’s arm and pulled him to the lounge. “What are you doing?” James demanded.
“She doesn’t know who I am, James,” he growled. “She saw me on the patio and asked me over. That’s all.”
James paced. “She didn’t recognize you at all?”
“No!” he nearly shouted. And I didn’t recognize her either! He turned to face James. “We have to do something. Morgan needs his mother.”
“Not yet,” James bit back.
“Not yet? When James? When you and the rest of the Falcons decide the boy can see his mother?”
James bowed his head before approaching Noah. “Look, I know this is tough. On you more than any of us. But think about it. She didn’t recognize you. What happens when she rejects her son?”
Noah knew what James said was right. He hated it.
James squeezed his shoulder. “You’re doing great Noah.”
“Yeah great,” he sighed.