Chapter 7. Tell Me You're Kidding
“How could she possibly not remember me? I’m her fiancé,” I scoffed. “Tell me you’re kidding, Tina.”
“I’m sorry, honey. I wish I had better news,” Tina said and sighed.
We stood in the hallway a few feet from Aria’s room. Doctors and nurses rushed past us into a different patient’s room.
Tina shook her head. “I tried to jog her memory. I told her how old she was and mentioned a few friends. Ace, she doesn’t even remember Bailey. Aria believes that she just got here. She remembers you, but not well.”
“Well, what does she remember about me? Surely, remembering me a little is better than not at all,” I insisted. A lump rose up my throat.
Tina bit her lip and grimaced. “Aria remembers the first time she met you.”
“And?” I pressed.
“That’s it,” Tina murmured. Tears welled up in Tina’s blue eyes.
“You’re kidding.” I wasn’t sure why I kept saying that, but it felt like a joke. Surely, Tina would start laughing at any moment. “Tell me. . .” I trailed off. “Damn it, Tina. Please, tell me you’re joking.”
“Ace. . .” Tina trailed off and shook her head. Tina’s forehead creased. “You know that I wouldn’t joke about this.”
“It seems unreal. I’ve lived without her for months, and now you are trying to tell me that she doesn’t know who the hell I am!” I threw my hands over my face and rubbed my face fiercely. I drew in a deep breath and dropped my hands. “Can I still see her?”
“Of course. Keep in mind that the doctor said it might be temporary.” Tina pursed her lips.
“Right. You said it might be. That doesn’t give me much hope.”
Tina patted my shoulder and walked around me.
How am I going to do this? I want to kiss her and tell her I love her, but I can’t. I followed Tina into the room. Tina informed me that Aria doesn’t know what happened. The doctor told Tina it was better to let things come back to Aria instead of telling her what happened, and I didn’t agree entirely with the fact.
Aria sat up in the bed, and she stared down at the tattoos on her arm. Aria had no recollection of them being there, and she knitted her eyebrows in confusion. Aria’s eyes locked with mine, and she gasped.
“Hi,” I said and smiled at her.
“W-what are you doing here?” Aria stammered. Aria’s blue eyes flickered to Tina.
“Aria, I’m going to leave you to talk to Ace. Ace can fill you in on some of the things that are going on. The doctors don’t want Ace to tell you everything, but under the circumstances, you need to know some things. Just know that whatever Ace decides to tell you is completely true. Do you remember what the date is? I told you earlier,” Tina explained.
Aria sighed and nodded. “You said that I have been here for two years,” Aria muttered.
“That’s true,” Tina said.
“Okay,” Aria said. Aria didn’t look as if she believed what Tina told her.
Tina gave Aria a hug and kiss goodbye.
A chair sat on the side of Aria’s bed.
Aria grimaced when I got closer.
The chair scraped across the floor as I pulled it a couple of feet away from the bed. The last thing I wanted to do was make her uneasy. I sat down in the chair and leaned back. It was impossible not to stare at her — I hadn’t seen or spoken to her in what felt like forever.
Aria had blue eyes that didn’t match her dark skin and black hair. Her eyes stood out more because of her complexion. Aria’s narrow chin trembled slightly.
“I’m not trying to make you feel uncomfortable. You just woke up, Aria. We can have this conversation later if you prefer,” I said. My eyes stayed fixated on her eyes.
Aria’s eyes melted into mine. “N-no, I want to talk now. I need to know what I’m not remembering. Why are you here? Why would Tina have you tell me what happened? From what I remember, I only met you one time, and it didn’t go well.” Aria leaned back in her bed and stared at me.
I chuckled. “No, I suppose it didn’t. It’s a lot to take in, and I won’t tell you everything. I would rather you remember than be told, but you will need some sort of explanation for why I am around. . .” I trailed off. Angel — I thought to myself. I took a deep breath — one thing at a time, Ace.
“Please,” Aria begged me.
I cleared my throat, and my eyes flickered down to my hands. My hands were folded in my lap. “I’m your fiancé,” I said. “We were supposed to be married a few months ago, but due to a head injury, you slipped into a coma.”
Aria stayed silent.
My gaze went back to Aria.
Aria’s chest rose and fell, and she looked panicked. Aria put a hand over her heart and continued to breathe erratically. “E-excuse me?” Aria looked down at that tattoo on her arm again.
“That tattoo you are tracing with your finger is a symbol for me,” I said.
“What about this one?” Aria pointed her finger at the tattoo she got for Angel.
“We have a son,” I admitted. “His name is Angel. Angel is nine months old.”
Aria fisted her blanket and covered her face with it. Aria sobbed into the blanket, and her body shook. “Oh god,” Aria cried. The blanket muffled her voice.
At this point, I had no idea what to do. After all this time, and I had to be the asshole to give her the bad news. I sighed and stood up. I rubbed her back.
Aria jumped slightly and looked up at me. The blanket fell into her lap. “You’re messing with me, right?” Aria’s eyes pleaded with mine. No part of her wanted to believe what I said, but she knew that I told her the truth.
“I’m sorry. I hate this, and I hate being the one to have to tell you about it,” I murmured.
“Can you prove it to me?” Aria’s voice came out a squeak. “Not prove it, but like, can you show me a picture or something of us?”
I chuckled. “Well, that is easy enough. There are plenty of those.” I pulled my phone out and showed her my wallpaper. My wallpaper on the phone was of her, Angel, and me.
“Wow, is that him?”
“That’s him,” I said. “We took this picture about a week before the incident.”
Aria sniffled and nodded. “He’s beautiful. God, what kind of mother forgets her own son?” Aria shook her head. Tears flooded her cheeks.
“It’s not your fault, Aria.”
“What happened? You said it was an accident. Were we in a car accident?” Aria asked.
“I won’t tell you that part. I’m hoping that your memory will come back.”
“When will it come back?”
“I don’t know that,” I said softly. “The doctor said it’s a fifty-fifty chance that it will come back. They have no possible way of knowing.”
“So, what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to take care of a baby and love a man that I have no recollection of?” Aria wiped her tears away and gritted her teeth.
“For now, I think you should focus on getting physically stronger. Nobody expects you to take care of Angel on your own. You will get to know him and understand him. Angel is still young, and I don’t think that part will take you very long — being a mother is sort of a natural instinct.” I sat down on the bed beside her and rested a hand on her knee.
Aria’s eyes flickered to where my hand was and back to my eyes. She drew in a deep breath and bit down on her lip. “It is so strange. It’s like I can feel it. . .” Aria trailed off.
My eyebrows knitted together in confusion. “Feel what?”
“N-nothing. Never mind,” Aria muttered.
“As for us, I don’t expect that we will just go back to the way we were. That is actually impossible as long as you don’t have your memory,” I said. I rubbed my jaw. Irritation bubbled in the pit of my stomach.
“So, we don’t have to get married?” Aria tilted her head.
I smiled and shook my head. “No, but that could change over time. You fell in love with me once. I would like to think that you might fall in love with me again, eventually, but there is no guarantee of that.”
“Do you love me?” Aria raised one eyebrow and bit her lip. From the look in her eyes, it was as if she wasn’t sure she wanted the answer.
I snorted and rolled my eyes. “Of course. Just because you don’t remember loving me doesn’t mean that I don’t love you. That isn’t something that a person can turn off.”
“It’s difficult for you,” Aria murmured.
“Yes,” I agreed. “It’s the most difficult thing I have ever been through. I wasn’t sure if you would live or die. They told me you could have had total memory loss, be paralyzed, or lose your eyesight. The past few months have been hell or worse. To see you looking at me like I’m some stranger—” I stopped and swallowed hard.
“I’m sorry.” Aria’s chin trembled.
“It’s not your fault. I’m just happy that you are alive,” I said honestly. “You should get some rest. I need to get back home and check on Angel.”
“Can I see him?” Aria grabbed my arm to stop me. Aria dropped her hand when I looked down at it.
“How about tomorrow? I think you should have time to process things,” I said.
Aria nodded in agreement. “Tomorrow is good.”
“Good. I’ll be here around noon then,” I said. It took everything I had not to kiss her or hug her — as much as I wanted to, I didn’t want to upset her. I knew Aria so well that it seemed ridiculous to think that she didn’t know me at all. The way Aria looked at me burned me. Someone had to wake me out of this nightmare soon because I wasn’t sure how long I could hold it together.
The boys asked me to play poker with them tonight, and with everything that was going on, I needed a distraction.
“She doesn’t remember you at all?” Benny asked in disbelief.
I sucked air into my lungs through clenched teeth. “Not really. She remembers meeting me for the first time, and that is it. In Aria’s mind, she just got to California.”
“So, she lost like two years’ worth of memories. Is that possible? I always thought if someone lost their memory, they lost their entire memory,” Austin said. Austin scratched the top of his head.
“That’s fucking weird,” Luis muttered.
“So, she doesn’t remember Angel either?” Abel raised his eyebrows.
“Aria doesn’t remember anything,” I snapped.
The guys gave me a solemn expression.
“Look,” I started. “I agreed to this damn game to distract me. I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to even think about it. This is a fucking nightmare.”
Joey bowed his head. “No offense, man, but I think you should just appreciate the fact that she is alive.”
“Joey, I know that. I do appreciate that she is alive, okay? It’s just. . .” I trailed off and shook my head. “You didn’t see the look on her face. I meant nothing to her. She doesn’t love me. She doesn’t know me. It was like I never existed. I was the last person she would have thought of. It hurts really bad. It doesn’t even feel like I got her back. She’s awake, and she is her, but she is the version of herself from two years ago. It’s as if someone took our entire relationship and deleted that part of her life.”
“It sounds horrible. Aria is nothing like she was two years ago. She grew into a different person over those two years. I can’t imagine how this is going to go,” Luis muttered.
I rolled my eyes. “Let’s get back to the game.”
We played a few rounds of poker. I won a couple of them. Austin and Luis had won a game too.
It was clear to me that I had to get used to the fact that I wouldn’t be sleeping next to Aria anytime soon. For the first time in months, I went into my room and laid in bed.
As I laid in bed, I mulled over what to do with Aria. It would be my decision on where Aria went when she got released from the hospital. I didn’t want her to be uneasy, but I knew that if there were any chance of her getting her memory back, it would be here at home with Angel and me. However, a part of me was concerned that she would want to live with Tina or her mother. As of right now, the person she was most comfortable with was Tina.
Aria had no recollection of what happened with Carlos or Tammy, just as she didn’t recall her relationship with me. There was no doubt in my mind that it would be challenging to have her here, but it seemed to be the only logical solution. Aria needed to be at home if she was ever going to get back to the way she was.
If the alarm clock could speak, it would have told me to go to sleep. As a matter of fact, the clock would have knocked my lights out at this point. I was never the type to sleep a lot, and lately, I slept less than average. The blue digits on the clock continued to roll over from one number to the next, and the only thing I could do was stare at it helplessly.
After I had finally drifted off to sleep, I dreamt a horrible dream. Nightmares had been more occurrent since what happened to Aria. This dream was the worst of all of them.
Rosa strode into the kitchen and handed Angel to me. “Good morning, Ace. Tammy and Tina are here to see you,” Rosa said. Rosa turned to leave.
Tina and Tammy walked past Rosa and into the kitchen. Tammy held her son, Chad, that had been born a few months after Angel. Tammy and Carlos had intentionally got pregnant in hopes they would raise this child together. Life had a different plan. It saddened me that Carlos didn’t get to see either of his children grow up. Carlos had spent little to no time with them.
“Good morning,” I said politely.
Angel wiggled around in my arms and reached for Tina. Angel cooed at her with wide blue eyes. His blue eyes were starting to turn brown.
Tina smiled and took Angel from me. “Hi, sweetheart,” Tina cooed at Angel. Tina looked at me, and her expression grew serious. “Ace, the doctors want to release Aria today. Aria isn’t coping well at the hospital.”
“What do you mean? What’s wrong?” My breathing and pulse accelerated.
“She’s okay, but she is having panic attacks. The doctors think she would get better faster if she were in a familiar place. The doctors want to release her into my care,” Tina explained. “I told them I had to discuss it with you.”
“Aria doesn’t recall making amends with me,” Tammy said. Her voice filled with sadness. “It might be best that Aria stay with Tina for a while.”
“Honestly, I don’t. I think Aria will do better here with Angel and me,” I said.
“Ace, she doesn’t remember you,” Tina argued.
“I understand that, but Aria is still my—” I stopped. I had nearly called Aria my wife. She should have been my wife months ago. “Angel needs her. I think if we bring her back here, there is a better chance it could jog her memory. We might have to face the fact that Aria will have to start all over again,” I explained. “If she is here, maybe I can teach her to be herself or teach her who she was.”
For that, Tina and Tammy had no argument. They stared at me with thoughtfulness and agreed to what I said.
“They will want a nurse to come in and check on Aria frequently,” Tammy said.
“Sounds good,” I said. I reached for Angel. “I told Aria that I would take Angel to her today. It’s probably best that I go sort things out with the doctor.”
The doctors should have been contacting me before they contacted Tina. I was on Aria’s emergency contact list. It was my decision to keep her on life support when she had slipped into a coma.
“We can come with,” Tina offered.
“That would be good,” I agreed.
I took Angel upstairs with me to get both of us ready to leave. I thought hard about what I would say to Aria to make her realize what was best was for her to come home with me. However, I knew that in the long run, it was up to Aria. Aria was an adult, and she could choose where she wanted to go.
Tammy and Tina were already in Tina’s car when I pulled the GTO out of the garage. The GTO sped up the driveway.
Angel sat in the back seat and made cooing noises all the way to the hospital.
In order to get Aria to agree to come home with me, I had to not push at her about it and let her think it was her decision. Aria hated being told what to do and that hadn’t changed much. Aria listened to what I had to say, but now that she didn’t remember me, I knew that wouldn’t be the case.