I pull my truck into my driveway and just sit in the cab for a few moments and let the feeling of complete despair flow like waves at the beach drawing back and crashing over me again and again. I’ve done everything I can to help her remember me, now it’s up to her. I set my mind on the menial task of repairing the damage to the cabin. I pull out my tool box and start measuring the door and window frames.
After a trip to the hardware store I’m completely prepared to make the repairs to the cabin. If only I could repair myself this easily. After a few hours I’ve managed to clean up most of the debris and I’ve fixed the new doors to their frames. I hear a car pull up in my driveway and my heart skips a beat as I bolt to see through one of the broken windows. I let my disappointment dissipate before I go to the front door to greet my guest.
“Hey doc,” I say pulling open the newly fashioned door for Dr Connors.
“Hi Mason, how are you holding up?” He asks as he slaps my back and makes his way inside.
“About as well as can be expected doc.” I offer.
“I’ve just had a rather interesting chat with Ruby this morning, and she tells me you filled her in on everything.”
“I can only tell her so much doc, she still doesn’t remember me. She doesn’t even remember Joshua.” I tell him defeated.
“She did mention that, I find it strange that the seemingly only positive things in her life are the ones she doesn’t remember.” He tells me. I hold up my hand as I walk towards the kitchen. I come back with a bottle of whiskey and hand him a glass.
“I don’t know if I feel right about talking about her like this anymore, now she knows who she is.” I say warily.
“Normally I would agree with you, but I truly don’t believe she can remember herself if she can’t remember you.” He says confidently and I smile at his encouragement. “Also she may have pried from me that we read her journal. I tried to explain it was purely out of concern for her, but she still felt betrayed. She stormed out and asked me not to speak to her for a while.”
I just smile at the thought of her righteous tantrum and shake my head. The doc seems to look guilty about the way all this came to the surface.
“It’s alright doc, you were right,” I assure him. “If I’d tried to tell her the story I told her last night when I first arrived, she would’ve run from me and it. Even last night with everything she remembers about her life I could almost see her run from the idea that we were happy together.”
“That’s what I think may be blocking her. All she remembers are the negatives, all the terrible things that happened to her and all of the terrible things she did. I believe she is subconsciously punishing herself by forcing the memory of any happiness into the farthest reaches of her memory.” Doc declares.
“What do you mean she remembers the terrible things she did?” I ask perplexed.
“Well she was with that family for a long time, she told me of a couple of instances where she informed the family about undercover agents in their midst over the years. These men subsequently disappeared. There were some other criminal activities as well.” He explains.
“Stop doc, I don’t want to hear it. She’s seeing this all in the wrong light. All she was doing was surviving. Trust me, the woman I fell in love with, you’ve only seen glimpses of her light. I’ve bathed in it. She has the most compassionate and empathetic heart. That’s probably why she’s taking this so hard.” I tell him assuredly.
“I did share my theory with her, about punishing herself. She just laughed me off then she left, instructing me not to talk to her again.” Doc says abashed.
“It’s not your fault, she can dig her heels in when she is set on something.” I reassure him.
“I suppose there is only so much I can do to save this woman,” I admit, “She has to want to save herself as well.” I take another shot and the burning liquid fire sets my throat aflame.
The doc and I sit silently for a while just drinking and wallowing.
“I’ve been fighting for her since the day I met her, I need her to fight for herself too.” I tell the doc and almost as soon as the words exit my mouth a plan follows straight afterward.
“Are you crazy? What if it doesn’t work?” Doc exclaims still flabbergasted by the idea.
“I’ll give her a couple more days while I fix this place, but one way or another doc, it’s time.”
I take another shot to strengthen my resolve. Doc gets up to leave still disbelieving of what I plan to do.
“I’ll go fill Leon in on the plan,” doc surrenders.
“It’s going to be okay doc.” I try to sound more certain than I feel.
It’s been three days since I told doc my plan to resolve things with Ruby and tonight is the night I put that plan into action. I haven’t heard from Ruby since the other day and that worries me a little. I’ve confirmed with Leon that she’s working tonight, and he knows his role in the plan. I look around my completely fixed up cabin, then I start to pack up my things.
I’ve packed everything I own and thrown it into the bed of the truck. I turn off all the electricity and take out all of the trash and leave the bin beside the road. I lock up the now empty house and I put the keys in the letter box before I drive out of the driveway. I make my way through town for what may be my last chance, before I make way to the highway.
As I drive towards the diner I can see the sun being swallowed by the treacherous waters of Lake Superior, plunging the world into night. When I reach the diner, I can see there is no one inside who is a local other than the doc and Leon. Ruby is serving a couple of random truckers who are passing through. Leon and doc spread the word through town that the diner was closed tonight.
People even told me that it was closed so I know it worked well. I just didn’t want an audience for what I’m about to do to her. The doc is sipping his coffee when I enter the diner. Leon is quietly asking the two truckers to relocate from the counter to one of the far booths. They comply curiously and I walk towards the counter where Ruby is writing down an order with her back towards me. Leon makes his way back into the kitchen after indicating for her to greet the customer behind her.
Leon disappears through the kitchen doors as Ruby turns to face me. Her face fills with so many emotions as she takes in my appearance. I’m holding a duffle bag and I’m sure I look as desperate as I feel right now.
“Hi,” She says gravely as her eyes look back towards my bag again. Leon reaches over the pass and turns the radio on loud enough that we can’t be overheard by the truckers. Ruby turns slightly and appears grateful for the assist. I look at the clock above the kitchen, I need to make this quick.
“I’m leaving,” I reveal to her. I spy her name tag, it now reads ‘Alyson’. She’s accepted everything about herself except the good things.
“What do you mean you’re leaving?” She asks taken aback.
“Exactly what you think it means Ruby. I refuse to hang around here like a ghost haunting you.” I explain ruefully.
“I don’t think of you like that, I never said I want you to leave.”
“You never said that you wanted me to stay either Ruby,” I try to explain as the hurt fills her eyes.
“I don’t want you to go Mason, I think I remember something else about you,” she’s bargaining.
“No you don’t,” I accost her, “you’re just scared of being alone with yourself. Because if you’re alone with yourself too long you may actually start to believe all of the terrible things you think you know about yourself.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Of course you do. Without me telling you that you are without a doubt the bravest, most compassionate, beautiful woman I have ever known you’ll forget that about yourself. You know yourself so much better than the twisted version of your own memories Ruby. Trust your instincts like I told you.”
“What if I can’t?” She starts to sob and my resolve is fading.
“Then trust me, you do trust me don’t you?” I ask and she nods as she bites her lip trying to stop her sobs.
“Please don’t leave Mason, I’ll try harder to remember you I swear.” She’s begging me and I have to fire the heavy artillery in defence.
“Do you honestly think I could do that? Wait around while you remember everyone from your school bus driver as a child to the UPS guy who delivered you last package. Even the monster who abused you on every physical and mental plain for nearly eight years, everyone except me.” I cut off choking on my words. I don’t want to hurt her but this is my last resort. “I’m not enough of a martyr to do that to myself Ruby, not even for you.”
“I’m sorry I’m hurting you right now, but you can’t just deliver an ultimatum like this. Either I remember you or you’re gone.” She fires as her hurt turns to anger. I need her rage, I need her passion, and I need her to fight.
“This isn’t an ultimatum,” I qualify.
“That’s exactly what this is.” She snaps angrily. I try not to seem pleased with my efforts to anger her so easily. She freezes on the spot as though something suddenly occurs to her, “What about our baby?”
“I will always be there for my child Ruby.” I charge now anger boiling inside me at the question.
“What if I suddenly remember you, and you’re not here?” She’s starting to lose her fire.
“Do what I did,” I say mockingly, “go town to town searching for me, crossing off each one on a map as you go.” Her face fills with rage again.
“I can’t believe you’re just giving up like this after going through all that to find me. So because it’s taking me a little longer to remember you, you’re just giving up on me all together. The supposed ‘love of your life’.” She’s starting to see through this ploy. I go on the attack.
“I never called you the love of my life.” I defend. I’m running out of time.
“No, your friend Joshua did. It was in his letter, going on about how lucky I was to have you in my life. Something so strong and unbreakable that I could always hold on to. To finally know what life was all about. I guess your friend didn’t know you too well.” She spits angrily. My anger towards her is now real.
“You let go Ruby. You can stand there and blame your amnesia all you want but we both know it’s true.” I spit at her.
“How can I let go of something I can’t remember holding in the first place.”
“You don’t want to remember, because God forbid you could actually be happy and loved. Your life exists in the memory of suffering and you’ve managed to convince yourself that’s what you deserve.”
Ruby shoots a dark glare at Dr Connors and shakes her head.
“That doesn’t even make sense.”
“Really?” I question, “you read Joshua’s letter, he must’ve have told you how much he loved you. How you reminded him of the sister he loved and lost too young.” Her eyes fill with tears as I continue. “You had love, you have love. But you don’t want to remember it. Because if someone you didn’t love could hurt you so much, then how much pain could someone you do love cause you?”
“Oh God,” Ruby cries out as she drops and leans back against the counter to steady herself. I want to run to her, I want to stop this but I’ve come too far and any second now the final part of my plan comes into play.
Ruby continues crying as I walk slowly towards her. I lean and kiss her slowly on her forehead as I place my hand gently on her belly. I lean close to her ear and whisper,
“You are the love of my life,” I hesitate, “come and find me when you let yourself remember that I’m also the love of yours.” I hear the familiar intro to a song on the radio and I plant another light kiss on her cheek before turning and walking away. I stop half way to the door and I half turn to face her.
“By the way,” I call and her tear stained face looks up, “I’ve always loved you in those boots.” I return to my original path and the song on the radio completely fills the silence in the diner. I pull open the door and jingle of the cow bell breaks my heart as I remember the song playing on the radio. It’s her favourite song, it was playing in the car on our way to Nashville where we spent an incredible weekend together after I snuck her away from the bar in New Orleans.
I can still hear her singing along with that song in my truck cab as we drove along the highway. Then in Nashville I requested the song from the band where we were having dinner. I asked her to dance and her face lit up like a Christmas tree. Now that song will haunt only me as I feel the diner door slam shut behind me. I reach my truck, being strong enough not to look back. I throw my duffle bag into the back of the truck as I try to stop the tears building behind my eyes.
The cool night wind is howling around me in the parking lot and my ears play a horrible trick on me as I think I hear her call my name. I shake it off and start to walk around behind the truck to the driver’s side door. My body stiffens in place as I distinctly hear the cowbell of the diner door.
“Mason,” Ruby’s voice cries hysterically as I hear her run down the front steps of the diner. I hear her boots on the gravel running towards me. I dare to turn if nothing but to dash the delusion in my mind. My heart stops beating the second I see her face, and her eyes as they recognise mine. I start at a run to meet her and she leaps up as I wrap her in the fiercest hug.
I can barely breathe through my own relief as Ruby wraps her legs around my waist to get her body as close to mine as possible. I can feel the warm round orb between us and I tear escapes my eye as I pull her face back to look at it. Her eyes are filled with love and recognition and fear.
“Oh my God Mason I’m so sorry.” She says then my lips rush to hers. I lose myself in her kiss, and it is her. My Ruby. We stand in the car park kissing for the longest time. I feel like I’m going to pass out from lack of oxygen, as we try to make up for nearly seven months of not kissing. “Take me home,” She whispers through our kisses and I obediently manoeuvre her to the passenger door and help her into the truck as I tear my lips from hers I begin to ache as I close her door.
I shoot a quick look back to the diner and Leon and the doc cheering from a booth by the window as I run around to my side of the truck and jump in.