We wait in an eternal silence in the hospital room awaiting Dr Connor’s return. Every time I try to speak to Ruby she shushes me and signals for me to stop. The look in her eyes is killing me, a look of betrayal, heartache and disgust. Finally doc returns and we make our way to the car park. I can see my truck parked there, which is strange considering I left it on the highway by the diner.
“Leon dropped it off,” Ruby says to answer my unspoken question. She doesn’t say another word as she opens the passenger door for me. I look warily at her then at the keys in her hand. She shoots me a don’t-even-start-with-me glare and I quickly jump into the passenger seat of the truck.
As we drive along in silence towards her house I dare to speak.
“Can we stop off at my place, I need to get a few things.” I ask carefully.
She doesn’t answer me or even look at me as she changes course. We pull into my driveway and I jump out of the truck without saying anything to her. I know all she wants to hear from me right now are truthful answers to the questions she plans to bombard me with. I make my way through the house crunching the broken glass beneath my boots as I stomp through. I get to the bedroom and I grab her bag of things she packed that night in New Orleans.
I find the box from Joshua’s attorney and I grab the photograph of them and the letter he wrote to her. I collect the small bag of personal belongings of Ruby’s that I grabbed on my recent trip to New Orleans. I throw on some clean clothes and make my way to the bathroom so I can splash some water on my face and brush my teeth.
Over the running water of the tap I can hear more crunching of broken glass as someone else enters the cabin. I quickly duck my head out of the bathroom and I see Ruby down the hall taking in all of the destruction. I finish up and I grab the bags and head towards the living room. I can’t see Ruby, then I hear her emerge from the kitchen with a broom in hand.
I can see the tears running down her face as she begins to sweep the shards of glass and splinters of wood scraping over the dried blood on the floor. I gently reach out and place my free hand over hers.
“Leave it darlin’, I’ll fix it later.” I tell her calmly. She drops the broom and it clatters to the floor as she steps closer to me and winds her arms around my waist and buries her face into my chest. I drop the bags and wrap my arms around her tightly. Pain shoots through my injured arm but I ignore it.
Ruby begins to cry softly, “there’s so much blood.” I hear her muffled voice in my chest.
“Don’t worry darlin’, hardly any of it is mine.” I try to reassure her.
“But it could’ve been,” She whispers desperately as she releases her hold on me. I look down into her swollen pleading eyes, then she turns away from me and walks towards the front door. I pick up the bags and I follow her back out to the truck. When we arrive in her driveway I turn to look at her but she just gets out of the truck. She opens up the door on her back porch like she’s on auto pilot. Kida is her usual excited self as she begins to jump up on me.
“Kida, down.” Ruby orders the dog in such a cold way that Kida stops instantly and retreats to under the couch. Poor Kida, she’s angry with me not you. I take a seat on the couch Kida is hiding under as Ruby goes into the kitchen. I hear the kettle boiling and I set the bags next to me on the couch as I reach underneath to pat Kida. I feel her warm tongue lick my hand and I know she’s alright.
When Ruby re-enters the living room she places a mug down beside me and takes a seat opposite me in the single chair. She puts her mug down beside her and wraps the blanket from the back of the chair around her shoulders. I quickly get up and set about making a fire to warm her. When I return to my seat her questioning glare is fixed in such a way that I wonder if she even noticed me move to start a fire.
“Where should I start?” I ask her seeking instruction.
“Who am I?” She asks coldly. I hate hearing her tone of voice so lifeless. I reach into the bag she packed and I hand her, the papers, passport and purse. She’s holding her birth certificate, passport and all of her I.D and card in her purse. She’s turning each item over and over in her hand trying to decipher any other secrets they may hold.
“Alyson Jade Morgan,” She announces and I nod. “But my nickname is Ruby.” I’m about to explain the story again about her nickname but she holds up her hand. “It wasn’t a question, I know this.” I look at her pleadingly but her eyes shut down to mine. I open up the bag next to me and I hand her the photo frames with pictures of her mother. She takes the bag from me and begins studying the photos.
“My mother, she was so beautiful.” She cries quietly and I sit silent waiting for her to examine the rest of her belongings. I’ve never looked in the bag she packed and I’m curious to see what she discovers. I know she remembers a lot of terrible things from her past but I’m hoping touching her belongings will shake loose some happy memories as well. One by one she pulls out her things.
I see her pull out the Saints jersey she wore that day at the game we went to, the one she’s wearing in my favourite photo of us. I decide to wait with the photos of us, I want her to know who she is before I tell her who we are. She continues pulling out clothes, books and personal belongings and she recognises them.
I reach into the bag of things I packed recently and I pull out the woven bracelet she always wore. The one her mother gave her. She holds out her wrist and I fasten it over the faded image of the fake tattoo from our carnival night. I smile as I see the faded image on my own wrist.
“I thought I lost it,” she says gratefully. I smile a heartfelt smile at her. Then she looks more serious. “Okay, I know who I am, now who are you?” I look to my shoes as I begin my story.
I tell her about where I grew up, my parents, how they died, everything. I tell her about my army days and my recruitment with the Bureau. I go into detail about my assignment in the middle-east that left me scarred and almost dead. I see the tears form in her eyes as I explain about Annabelle who left me after my disfigurement. I tell her that my life was a series of undercover assignments and how I was just going through the motions of life in between assignments.
Then I finally reach the assignment where I met her. I explain that my undercover identity was James Carson, hence the name confusion. I tell her all of the terrible things that I witnessed happen to her during my assignment. The way we became friends, then more than friends. I tell her the brutal way she found out that I wasn’t who she thought. I flinch as I remember the look of pure hurt strewn across her face when the Bureau returned her to the bar after flipping her into an asset.
I tell her that she opted for witness protection during that interaction with the Bureau. I told her how much I hurt her, and how I spent almost three days thinking she was dead. I sink into the memory of that abyss and I lose all track of my current situation.
“Mason,” Ruby’s voice calls concerned.
“I’m sorry,” I shake off the haunting memory. “Where was I?”
“I just found out about you, and I was hurt and agreed to witness protection.” She offers.
I continue telling her about how she was helping me with the investigation. I tell her about the attack on her life—in her apartment—that landed me on life support. I raise up my shirt to show her the knife wound. She winces, then I continue to explain that our love got us through everything. She smiles sadly at me as I can see the lack of recognition remain on her face.
“I remember the night of the take down, I know you were there, but I have no memory of you before that.” She says apologetically. I let my head fall back on the couch in defeat. “There are holes, I know something or someone belongs there but I just don’t know who.” She confesses. She bites her lip, her tell when she doesn’t want to ask me something.
“What is it?” I ask her encouragingly.
“Whose baby is this?” She asks desperately as she runs her hand affectionately across her belly. I look at her seriously.
“Yours,” I tell her trying to keep the sound of my breaking heart out of my voice, “and mine.” I let out a deep breath and avert my eyes from her.
“You’ve been lying to me for six months, you’ve known who I am this whole time. You knew you were the father of my baby and you said nothing.” She spits her pain soaked words at me through her tears and I drop to my knees on the floor in front of her.
“I wanted to tell you everything the moment I found you, but I was in unchartered waters. Dr Connors told me that if I told you the truth and you rejected it, your amnesia could become more severe.” I plead for forgiveness. I place my hands on her knees and she swipes them off.
“I’ve been so alone, so distraught and heart broken,” she cries, “and you had the power to end my pain and you didn’t.” I look up to meet her tear filled eyes.
“I’m so sorry,” I beg, “please, I love you so much. I would rather lay down my life then see you hurt this way by my own doing.”
“How can you claim to love me, and kept the truth from me for so long?” She accuses.
I shake my head trying to shake lose the self-loathing filling my entire being right now. I remain on my knees in front of her, by body begging for forgiveness.
“Perhaps the reason I can’t remember you is because I never really knew you.” She sobs defeated.
“Please don’t say that, we were so madly in love. I know you felt it too.” I appeal. I reach into my pocket for my phone and I flick to the photos and hand her the phone. “Scroll through them and tell me this is one sided.” I implore her.
She takes the phone from me and begins to flick through the few photos of the two of us. I know when she reaches my favourite one because I hear a sharp intake of breath.
“I don’t deny we meant something to each other, I just deny that feeling still exists.” She surrenders and I can feel her memory of me recoiling further into the dark pit of her mind.
“Please don’t say that,” I beg her.
“Who’s this?” She asks suddenly and I look at the phone and see the image of a passed out Joshua sporting a new sharpie moustache.
“Wait, you don’t remember him either?” I question her. She shakes her head at me confused by the question and probably the sudden hope in my voice. I reach back across to the couch I was sitting on and I grab the photo of the two of them and I hand it to her. Ruby cautiously takes the photo from me and looks at it.
“Wait, isn’t that your friend who died? The other agent?” She asks me and I look at her confused.
“Yes, he was the other undercover agent working at the bar. You see, that’s the two of you at work. He was the only friend I ever saw you outside of work with. You knew him as Matt, it was his identity then. You two were thick as thieves.” I try to answer her. She looks annoyed for a moment.
“Didn’t I have anyone in my life who wasn’t lying to me?” She asks rhetorically. “I don’t remember him either.”
“He was working in the bar for two years with you,” I say incredulously. She looks back at the photo then back to me.
“Did Viktor kill him?” She asks demandingly. I don’t want her to have to bear this. I know when she remembers him, this information will only cause her pain. However not as much pain as if she finds out I lied to her again. I nod solemnly as I look at the photo of the two of them hanging loosely in her lap.
“He destroyed every human connection I had, that’s why I don’t make them anymore. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was always afraid to get attached to anyone in case he hurt them to punish me.” This revelation is right on the money.
“I don’t understand why I can’t remember him, I was obviously crazy about him.” She smiles a half smile as she looks at the picture.
“You also trusted him, in fact he was the first person you told about being pregnant.” I offer her trying to fish her memory of him from her mind.
“I told him before I told you?” She queries.
“Actually you never told me,” I confess, “You tried to but I didn’t understand at the time. It was such a crazy few days before the take down. I didn’t actually find out until after you were gone. I found the pregnancy test in the waste bin at our house.”
She looks apologetic for a moment then she looks back the picture of her and Joshua. I hand her the letter addressed to her from him—still sealed—and she takes it from me like it’s made of something far more delicate than paper.
“Before we go on deep cover assignments, the Bureau makes us write our finals messages to our loved ones as a precaution in the event of something happening.” I explain to her and she tucks the letter under her blanket next to her heart. “I got a letter too, I brought it for you to read if you’d like, it might help.” I say as I hand her my letter as well.
I see her yawn as she places my letter next to hers underneath the blanket. I glance at my watch and I realize I’ve talked into the early hours of the morning.
“You should get some rest,” I tell her gently. She gets to her feet clutching the blanket and the letters as she makes her way down the hall towards her bedroom. I hear her bedroom door close and I lay down on the couch looking up at the ceiling for a few moments, until I hear snoring.
I roll over and look underneath the couch where Kida is still hiding out.
“Kida,” I whisper, and the dog wakes with a start. “Come on out girl,” I coo. Kida crawls out from under the couch and curls up on the floor beside me licking my hand a couple of times as it hangs off the couch. The fire has warmed the room up so well I take my shirt off before I fall asleep.
I can hear the faint rustling sounds in the bags around me and flicking through the papers that were left on the chair opposite me. I hear Kida stir and a quiet
“Shhh,” comes from somewhere nearby. Its morning, I can hear the birds outside and see the red glow from behind my eyelids as the sunlight fights for recognition. I pretend to remain asleep as Ruby rummages around me. I can hear her removing the bags and walking down the hall way to her bedroom.
I give her a few more minutes before I dramatically stir, letting her know I’m waking. I open my eyes and see her sitting innocently in the chair opposite me. Her expression is a firm set with determination radiating from her posture.
“Good morning,” I greet her as I reach for my shirt. She puts her foot down on my shirt pinning it to the ground.
“Wait, I want you to tell me something first.” She demands.
“And I need to be half naked for this?” I query.
“Yes, I want to know how many of those are because of me.” She asks indicating towards my torso. I know she’s pointing at my various scars and I find myself getting annoyed at this line of questioning.
“All of these,” I enunciates irritably, “happened because of me, not you.”
She looks stung by my response and I rip the shirt out from beneath her foot. She jumps up and comes to stand behind me. I feel her hands on the top of my bare shoulders and I tremble at the contact of her skin on mine. Her lips are at my ear as she whispers her desperate plea.
“Please tell me,” she implores as her hands travel over seductively over my bare chest. I jump up from the couch furious with her tactics to get me to answer this.
“What does it matter?” I demand throwing my shirt back down to the floor. I let my anger show, I refuse to tip toe around this topic. Yes I’m in the wrong for not telling her the truth about us sooner, but this is something she doesn’t need to know. Especially when she can’t remember me, so that it would matter to her. Her eyes continue to plead with mine, but her body has taken a step back from the ball of fury I’m standing in at the moment.
“Fine,” I spit, “here.” I say grabbing a hold of her hand as I bring it to my bare chest. I run her hand over my ribs. “These are the ribs Viktor broke, when he first suspected I was in love with you.” I move her hand up to my jaw, “This is the jaw that was dislocated when I stopped the assassin in your apartment. Also from that encounter is the dislocated shoulder, fractured wrist and finally,” I say moving her hand to the knife wound on my abdomen, “this is from where that assassin slid the six inch blade into me that was intended for you.”
Ruby starts to cry and tries to pull her hand free from mine.
“Wait we’re not finished.” I tell her moving her hand towards my thigh. “This is where I was shot by Dimitri Nolikov, the night of the take down as I advanced towards the back dock to save you from Viktor.” I move her hand up to my top shoulder, “this is where Viktor shot me as I dove into the Mississippi after he dumped you into it.”
I place her hand over my still fresh bullet wound on my arm with such force that I bust the stitches and I feel the blood before I see it stain the white bandage. I ignore the pain, “This where I was shot by one of the nine men Viktor sent to kill me the other night just so he’d have a clear path to you.” I drop the level of my voice and I can hear her quiet sobs and her pleading eyes that are now begging for me to stop.
I move her hand back up to my chest over my heart. “This one is the worst one of them all. This is where my heart broke, after I finally found you—after months of going town to town searching—and you didn’t recognise me.” I say still gripping tightly to her hand.
“You’re hurting me,” She gasps as she tries to free her hand. I drop it instantly and she falls to her knees in hysterical sobbing. I crouch down to help her to her feet gently and I lead her to the couch. She sits down as I lean down to pick up my shirt. I pull it on over my head and I turn to face Ruby.
“I’m sorry, I’ll go.” I tell her. I want her to have some time to process everything without me around making it harder for her.
“Go where?” She asks urgently.
“I’m going to go start repairing my house,” I say with a half laugh. “I’ve told you everything I know, it’s up to you if you want to remember me.” I say sadly as I make my way to the door.
“Mason,” she calls in barely a whisper and I turn on my heel to face her. “I was the one who told Viktor you were an undercover agent. I put your life in danger, I know that much is true.” She confesses and the guilt in her face is completely undeserved.
“I don’t even care Ruby, you could’ve pulled the trigger yourself and it wouldn’t matter. I know you love me the same way I do you and nothing will change me knowing that for the both of us.” I assure her as I walk out the door.