Seeing You Again for the First Time

By Colleen

 

 

Feedback can be sent to coleen30@webtv.net

 

I have also created a group for discussions of this, past and future stories. Maybe some sneak previews as well.

Join us at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/colleens_corner

 

 

 

Chapter 11

 

"Erin!" Bridgett called out as she dropped to her knees and put her purse under her sister’s head.

"Erin!" rang out another voice from the crowd. Jane plowed her way passed the curious onlookers and came to her friend’s side. "Who are you?" she asked the red head tersely. "What did you do to her?" She knelt down and smoothed the blonde bangs from the unconscious woman’s forehead.

Bridgett rubbed Erin’s limp hand. "I’m her sister," she explained. "She just fainted. Who are…?" She looked up for the first time and was dumbstruck when her eyes landed on the tall woman’s face.

Jane looked over at the mute woman. "What’s wrong?" she asked, but quickly turned her attention back to Erin.

The red head’s mouth moved, but no sound came out.

The noises around her began to get clearer in Erin’s fogged brain. She heard Jane urging her to open her eyes and when she did, there were those endless blues hovering above her. Her strength suddenly flew back to her and she popped up and planted a hard kiss onto the startled woman’s lips.

Bridgett had finally recovered from her own lesser amount of shock. She stood and moved off to one side, trying to disperse the crowd that had gathered. Some of them had already fled at the sight of the same sex public display of affection. She also sent away the medical team that had arrived so quickly.

Erin finally pulled back from the kiss and just buried her head into Jane’s neck. Her body shook with heaving sobs.

Jane soothingly rubbed the back beneath her hands. Her own body was twisted to one side and it was painful, but she didn’t care at that moment. All that mattered was finding out what had happened to the woman she loved and fixing it. "Erin, what is it? What happened?"

The author could only answer with more breathless convulsions. Jane’s white shirt soon became wet with the flood of tears as she rocked the small body in her arms.

Bridgett stepped back over, still not believing her eyes. She reached down and grasped her sister’s shoulders. "Erin let’s get off the floor and go over there and sit down."

The blonde was barely able to pull herself away from the tall woman long enough to stand. She didn’t remove her hand from around Jane’s waist all the way over to the long row of wooden seats.

They sat down and Jane was confused as she studied the smile that was now plastered across Erin’s face. "Can you tell we what just happened?" she asked, brushing away the remaining tears.

Erin kissed the back of the hand she was clutching and nodded.

Bridgett took the seat next to the grinning author. "Erin, you don’t really think…"

Without taking her eyes from the tall woman’s face, she answered her sister’s unfinished question. "I know it’s true Bridgett. And I can tell you a dozen different reasons why."

"But Sis, I agree this is an incredible coincidence, I was even fooled for a minute, but…"

"Would someone mind explaining things to me?" said Jane, wide eyed and totally confused. "What is this all about?"

Erin pitched her head to one side. "This is my sister, Bridgett Nelson."

They nodded to one another as she introduced herself. "Jane Sims."

Erin impulsively hugged the tall woman again before she tried to explain. "I’m sorry I scared you," she said as she caressed the soft face. "I fainted when Bridgett showed me a picture."

"A picture?"

Erin nodded. "I told you that I had never seen Jamie because I was blind when we were together and we thought that they’re weren’t any photographs of her either. But Bridgett…she found one."

The blue eyes softened with compassion. "Well, I can imagine how upsetting that was for you. I’m sorry."

Erin giggled happily. "No. It wasn’t upsetting at all. It was the most wonderful thing."

Dark brows drew together, trying to make sense of the conflicting things she was hearing. "I don’t understand."

Erin reached for the photograph that her sister had taken back. She looked at it again and then at the woman sitting next to her. There wasn’t a doubt in her mind. She placed it in the tall woman’s hand. "This is Jamie."

Blue eyes drifted with natural curiosity to the small picture she held. Once they landed on the chiseled face, they widened. She couldn’t help but notice that she resembled the dark haired woman in the photo. There was a great difference in the length of their hair, but it was the unmistakable color of coal. The eyes, the height; it was all there…but… "You think that…?" She looked up at a grinning Erin. "…I’m her…that this is me?" Jane squeezed her eyes and turned away from the smile. She couldn’t bear to see the disappointment that she was about to deal out. "Erin…it’s not…I had some reconstructive surgery on my face after the accident. It’s just…" She felt the soft fingers under her chin pulling her back. She opened her eyes to see the still happy face.

"It’s not a coincidence." She brought their joined hands to her chest. "I know it with all my heart."

* * * *

They were in Bridgett’s vehicle heading toward the mountain ranch before Erin began to explain the reason she was so certain. "First off, don’t you think it would be an even greater coincidence that the surgeon just happened to make you look exactly like Jamie Sheridan, rather than us finding our way back to one another?"

She shrugged. "I suppose."

"Okay. Now consider this. You yourself said that you felt like you were guided to Ireland to find out who you were. How else would you explain how drawn to one another we were, how we became so close, so quickly? How we fell in love in just a few days."

Jamie’s head jumped up at that statement. "What did you just say?"

Erin stared deep into her eyes. "I said that I love you."

The dark haired woman sighed. "But do you only love me because you think I’m Jamie?" she asked hesitantly.

"I know now that you are Jamie. But I did fall in love with you when we were still in Ireland. I was just afraid to admit it." She could still see the hesitation written across the furrowed forehead. "Okay, how about some hard facts? When were you found in that farmer’s field?" She had never asked before for details about Jane’s accident, not wanting hurt her new friend. But if only she had…

That was a date firmly etched in the tall woman’s mind. The first day...or the last day, however you look at it that she lost everything. "January seventh."

Although Erin had known what the answer was going to be, it didn’t stop her heart from fluttering. "Bridgett was with me when I lost contact with Jamie on the phone. What was that date Brig?"

The dark green eyes glanced into the rear view mirror to meet the curious blues looking back. "January seventh," she confirmed.

"And in what part of the world were you found?" Erin asked the woman beside her.

Jamie let out a deep breath before answering. "China."

The smile widened. "Bridgett?"

"The private plane, in which Jamie had been a passenger, crashed in Asia," she said very formally.

That tone was starting to anger Erin, but nothing was going to sway her attention from her lover. "Jamie, those are not all coincidences. That would be totally impossible."

Jane tightened her hand around Erin’s. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears when she let herself even consider the possibility. "Could we really have found each other again?" she asked in a heart aching whisper.

Erin closed her eyes, but couldn’t hold back the tears of joy. She was certain before, but hearing Jamie ask that question, clinched it in her heart. Jamie was more concerned with their connection than with her own identity. Their souls were back together…forever.

Once they re-opened, Jamie stared into the green eyes that stared back and she saw the depth of love that resided there. But was it for her or because of a mistaken identity? God, I want this to be true, she thought. I already love her…from the minute I laid eyes on her. Suddenly arms were around her neck and words were whispered in her ear.

"I love you. I missed you so much." Erin pulled away and placed a small kiss on her lips. She put her forehead against Jamie’s. "God how could I have forgotten that kiss. I didn’t really…but I think…I know I was afraid to even consider…"

Jamie dropped her head back, the confusion still running rampant. She raised her fingers to rub her throbbing temples.

"Do you have a headache?" asked Erin.

"Yeah. I get them quite often."

"We’ll be home soon. Then you can get some rest."

 

* * * *

Jamie had fallen asleep and her head was back against the seat of Bridgett’s car. All the questions and the reasonable answers had been put aside for the moment.

Peace.

Quiet.

It was all relative. The peace she had found just two weeks before, in the form of a new friend, was now, at the same time doubled and torn apart. Even with all the revelations, a doubt was still lodged at the back of her brain as to her true identity. How would Erin react if somehow the joyous discovery turned out not to be true? What would happen to them then?

The quiet inside of the luxury car was a dichotomy to what was happening in her slumbering head, as a dream played out at the edge of her brain. She saw faceless figures, pacing nervously. She heard voices lifted in anger, but couldn’t make out any of the words being shouted. She knew she was one of the two people arguing, but her eyes wouldn’t see the other person. The discussion escalated and she turned and walked out. The frustration of the emotion she was feeling in the dream and the turmoil that her conscious mind was experiencing was overwhelming.

Jamie’s eyes flew open and she jerked from her sleep.

"It’s okay," said Erin. "Everything’s okay, it was just a dream." She raised the hand she was holding and placed a kiss on it. "But this isn’t."

Jamie gave a halfhearted smile and nodded.

"What is it Sweetheart?" asked Erin. "Aren’t you happy about how things turned out? I thought you wanted…us…"

The timber in that voice broke Jamie’s heart. She pulled Erin tightly to her body. "Yes, I do want there to be an us. I just…even if it is true, how can I be Jamie Sheridan without her memories?"

Erin reached up and tapped the side of the dark head. "Jamie Sheridan wasn’t just in here. The essence of Jamie Sheridan came from here." She laid her hand over the other woman’s heart. "And that hasn’t changed."

They soon arrived at the ranch. Jamie craned her neck to see out the side window, as they went under the big sign proclaiming Sheridan Stables. They pulled up in front of the big, white house that didn’t look a bit familiar to the tall woman. Erin reluctantly let go of the hand she had clutched for the last two hours. She watched as Jamie got out of the car and slowly took in all of the surrounding sights. There wasn’t a flicker of recognition about anything, only bewilderment.

Jamie heard a dog bark and she turned to see a big golden retriever barreling off the front porch, heading straight for her. The dog stopped at her feet and waited patiently for her hellos. Jamie bent down and cautiously patted the furry head. The touch was cold and impersonal and the animal was very dismayed.

Erin walked over and stopped to their level. "This is Artemis. I think she was expecting a little different greeting."

Jamie took in the big brown eyes that held a sad quality. "But it’s been six months. She still remembers…me?"

Erin pulled the dog’s face around and received several doggie kisses. "Of course she does. The two of you were great playmates," she explained. "But she liked it when you played rough. It will just take her a little while to get used to you…being back…like this."

Jamie cringed at her choice of words.

"I’m sorry," said Erin. "I didn’t mean it like that, it just…"

She was stopped with a shake of a dark head. "No. It’s okay. I understand. And it will take a lot of getting used to…for all of us." Jamie looked back to the dog and reached out with both hands, scratching behind both ears and the two wrestled for several seconds.

Erin watched with a huge smile as once again a tear made its way down her cheek. She soon broke up the playtime. "Okay you two." She reached down and helped the tall woman to her feet. "Let’s go inside and I’ll show you around."

Bridgett had busied herself taking in the luggage and processing the unusual turn of events. She had, on several occasions, leveled Jamie with a very chilly stare. And she hadn’t said a personal word to the stranger since they had gotten in the car.

Half an hour later she sat in the kitchen drinking tea that her sister had brought back from Ireland. Erin practically danced through the door and poured herself a flavorful cup.

"Where’s Jane?" asked Bridgett.

"Jamie is looking around up stairs to get herself acquainted. Then she said she was going to take a shower to relax a little. She has a lot of back problems." Erin saw the red head nod. "You haven’t said much since you picked us up, Brig. What’s going on?"

"Don’t take this the wrong way, Sis, but I almost wish I hadn’t found that photograph."

"Don’t say that!" Erin yelled with rage in her voice. The intensity soon dissipated when she realized that the situation had them all nervous and exhausted. "Bridgett, I will be forever grateful to you for that. But why?" she asked as almost an afterthought.

"Erin, I…I don’t want to see you hurt, the way you were in the last six months. Don’t you remember what happened to you? We almost lost you. I don’t want to see you slip back into that fantasy world by trying to turn this woman into Jamie."

"She is Jamie!" Erin slammed the heavy mug down onto the counter top, the tea sloshing all over her hand. She turned away and took several deep, calming breaths. She certainly understood her sister’s concern, but she knew there was no way of convincing her or anyone else just why she was so certain that the woman upstairs was indeed Jamie Sheridan. The author finally took the seat next to Bridgett and took her hand. They had always had such a close relationship. Bridgett had always been so much more than just a big sister, she was a mentor, a listener…a best friend. "Bridgett, you have to trust me on this. It is the truth. I have a second chance to be with the person I love most in the world. And Jamie has a second chance to live. I know she loves me. I have her back."

"I hope so Erin. I hope so."

 

* * * *

 

Jamie came down the stairs just as Erin stepped in through the front door. The tall woman had spent the last few minutes just exploring the upstairs rooms. Although she had never lived in that house, she had visited it on many occasions and the house was full of their personal items, which she might have recognized under different circumstances. But it was still a strange experience. "Where is your sister?" she asked, taking a seat on the tan couch that had resided at the beach house.

"She had to get home," Erin answered, taking the seat next to Jamie.

The inevitable tension of the situation was back in full force. Jamie felt like she was stuck in limbo again; afraid to go forward, unwilling to go back. Back before Ireland that is. The last two weeks of her life had been nearly perfect, but now she didn’t quite know what everyone was going to expect of her. And there was still that 1% doubt that she couldn’t shake.

"Jamie, what’s wrong?"

The blue eyes remained fixed to the dark carpeting at her bare feet. She shrugged a shoulder. "It’s just…not exactly…what I’d imagined, being here I mean."

"I know this must be scary for you. But that’s what I’m here for, to help you through this and to help you get your life back. And this is your life, your dream."

Jamie jumped up from the couch. "I…ahhh…need some water." She pointed toward the back of the house. "The kitchen is through there you said?"

Erin nodded.

Jamie returned a few minutes later with the big yellow dog on her heels.

Attuned to the uneasiness floating around the room, Artemis stood between Erin and Jamie, who was just standing in the doorway. The dog’s tongue flopped out of one side of her mouth as she looked back and forth between her humans.

Erin could see the proverbial eggshells gathering on the floor as the minutes of silence slipped away. Finally she’d had enough. She stood slowly and approached Jamie, stopping only to give the dog some long overdue attention.

The tall woman sipped her glass of water as she watched the playful duo.

After a few minutes, Erin found herself actually tiptoeing across the room where her friend…lover…everything stood leaning against the doorframe. "I could go fix us something to eat," she suggested. "Are you hungry?"

"No. Not right now. But you go on."

Erin started to move toward the kitchen, but stopped near Jamie’s shoulder. "You still don’t believe it, do you?" she asked, staring at the wall across from her.

Jamie stepped over a few feet and set her glass down on a side table that held a small lamp and a pad and pen. "I believe everything that you said and I know for you it’s the absolute truth. But I just wish…"

"You think it’s all circumstantial and you want some solid physical proof."

The dark head nodded sadly. "Yes. Without my memories, I need that proof, for both our sakes."

"And if we can’t find anything and your memories don’t come back, you’ll never know if I love you or if I love you because I think you’re Jamie."

There was no response, but the answer was loud and clear.

Erin turned down the hall and went on to the kitchen.

The situation had become far more difficult than it should ever have been. Finding herself had been the single most powerful desire the dark haired woman had known since she woke up in a hospital bed so many months ago. But this new revelation was a double-edged sword. Her desire to be with Erin had replaced her need to discover her identity. But suddenly she could have both. All I have to do is accept this. I can be Jamie Sheridan. She ran frustrated hands through her damp hair as her thoughts continued. Right up until the day I might remember who I really am. That would… A loud crash disrupted her musings. "Erin?" She jumped up and headed to the kitchen, running head on into the little blonde that came barreling down the hallway. "Are you all right?" she asked, taking the smaller woman by the shoulders and doing a visual inspection for injuries.

"I’m fine, I just dropped a pan." Erin took the hand from her arm and pulled the taller woman into the living room. She turned to face her very seriously.

"Erin what’s going on?"

"I know where to find the proof you need."

Jamie audibly swallowed and asked with a reserved, excitement, "Where?" Whichever way it turned out, she knew they could at least move on.

Erin took a deep breath. "Jamie had a birthmark. A small patch of raised skin in the shape of a crescent moon. It was on the inside of her right shoulder blade." Before anything else could be said, she stepped behind the tall woman and took the hem of the white t-shirt in her hands. There was a hesitation and the dark head turned slightly. Erin looked up at the profile. "I need you to promise me that when I show you that the birthmark is there, you will, without a doubt, finally accept that you are Jamie Shea Sheridan."

"I promise," slipped through trembling lips.

Erin inched the material up, revealing the long, thin, pale scar running down the center of the otherwise perfect back. She would spend a lifetime trying to ease the pain associated with that injury, but the immediate question had to be answered as she reached the sight where the mark should be. One more lift and the mystery was solved. Erin leaned in. "Welcome home," she whispered against the birthmark that she had traced with sensitive fingertips so many times before.

Jamie turned within the arms that suddenly encircled her. Their lips met in a thunderous kiss of desire, passion, love, relief and happiness. "I love you so much," she said.

"And I missed you so much. Don’t ever leave me again. I love you."

The minutes ticked away as they stood there holding one another. Their world was whole once again. Their love was a shining light that broke the darkness of solitude. And a future of hopes and dreams was back on its proper path.

A bark interrupted the cherished moment.

They both laughed, swearing they could see a smile on the golden canine’s face.

They brushed away the last of the joyful tears from each other’s face. "I’m hungry now," said Jamie.

Erin’s voice dropped to its lowest possible range. "So am I," she said with a suggestively wiggling eyebrow.

Jamie licked her lips and blushed. "I…um…meant for food."

"Oh."

One blue eye winked. "At least for now."

Erin took her by the hand again and back to the kitchen they went. "Just so you know," she said. "I don’t plan to let you out of my sight for…" She titled her head thinking of a number. "Forty or fifty years."

"Sounds perfect to me."

 

* * * *

 

 

Later that evening, Erin sat on the back porch watching Jamie riding Teegan around the corral. She’d asked for some time alone and Erin certainly understood, but she just couldn’t stay away. She’s here Erin. She’s not going to leave again. But if you don’t give her some space, you might just push her away. After her little mental scolding, Erin pulled the photo from her pocket. The smiling face was looking off to the right and Erin wondered what Jamie was seeing and thinking at that moment. She said a silent prayer that the photograph even existed given her partner’s aversion to cameras. Erin remembered back to the time when she found out why.

It was just three days after Christmas and Erin was sitting in front of the fireplace enjoying her peaceful life.

Jamie had just gotten home from her shift at the limo company and she had traced the smell of the hickory logs to the den. "Hi Sweetheart," she said dropping down on the couch next to her blonde lover. They engaged in several wonderful kisses before Erin asked how her night went. Jamie gave the usual answer. She then noticed something clenched in Erin’s fist. "What have you got there?"

Erin smiled and let the chain dangle from her fingers. "Did I tell you how much I love this?" she asked.

The golden locket swayed, hypnotically before the blue eyes. "You’ve mentioned it once or twice."

"I think it’s time we filled in at least two of these spaces," said Erin. "I know a great photographer…" she stopped when Jamie left her side rather abruptly. "What’s wrong?"

"I just thought…we could wait until…I mean you can’t even…"

"See them?"

A sledgehammer hit Jamie in the stomach at her crass choice of words. She hurried back to the couch and pulled Erin into a hug, cursing the footprints on her tonsils. "Sweetheart, I am so sorry. That was very insensitive of me." A hand caressed her cheek.

"I forgive you and I am willing to wait until I can see again…on one condition. Tell me why you hate having your picture taken." She felt Jamie stiffen again. "What ever it is Honey, don’t be afraid of it anymore." Erin curled her fingers around Jamie’s and waited.

With a small sigh and a shudder Jamie began the story. "I had been planning to runaway from my foster parents for a while. But I needed money. I told you about the counselors they sent me to. One was this man, in his forties I guess. Of course I never mentioned my plan to him, but one day he asked me if I would like to make some money. I realize now how stupid I was to even think about saying yes. But I did. He said he was a photographer and he was putting together a book. He asked me if I would model for him. I went to his house one Saturday, dressed like he had asked. He took some pictures in one room that he had turned into a studio. Then he said he wanted to take some more in a different room."

When Jamie paused, Erin’s heart began beating against her ribs, afraid of what she was going to hear.

"Like an idiot, I followed him. There were a bunch of rugs and pillows thrown on the floor and a curtain was drawn across one wall, but I knew there was no window there. He took about three more pictures when the phone rang and he left to answer it. I started looking around and curiosity got the better of me. I pulled back that curtain and what I saw scared the hell out of me. The wall was covered with photos of girls around my age, some even younger. But they were all…naked. And they looked terrified. I could only stand there imagining what horrendous things he had done to them. It was terrifying, but it was too much of a shock. I couldn’t even run. A few minutes later he walked back in and I tried, but it was like I was paralyzed. He said that if I told anyone what I saw he would kill me. He was in my face snarling at me and then I started to get angry. Suddenly we heard a siren coming down the street and he loosened his grip on my arms. I pulled away and kicked him where it hurt the most. Of course I never told the Matthews, not that they would have believed me. I ran away a few days later and I’ve never told anyone about that, until now. I’m an adult and it shouldn’t still bother me…but…""

"Oh Sweetheart, it doesn’t matter what your age; that was a very traumatic thing that happened to you. I’m glad you shared that with me and now that I understand, you don’t ever have to put a picture in here."

"No! I won’t let him take away something you want, something I want to give you." She fingered the golden locket. " When I bought this, I thought I could handle it."

"Like I said Sweetheart, I don’t ever want you to do anything that makes you uncomfortable."

"But I want to do this. And now that I have told you, I think I can as long as you are there with me."

"What are you thinking about?"

Erin jumped and the photo flew form her hand.

"I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you." Jamie took the chair next to her and retrieved the photo.

"That’s all right. But I think I have to apologize." Erin nodded back toward the barn. "I know you wanted to be alone, but…I just…I spent all those months not being able to see you and now that I can…" She actually blushed. "I’m making up for lost time."

Jamie smiled and took her hand. "You don’t have to apologize. I never want to be that alone. And looking at the most beautiful woman in the world has certainly become my favorite pastime."

They spent the next few minutes just sitting quietly side by side as the twilight landed over the ranch.

Jamie broke the silence a while later. "Erin, I need to ask you something."

"Okay."

"I…ummm…I overheard you talking to Bridgett in the kitchen, earlier."

"Jamie we have the proof now, it’s…"

"No. That’s not what I’m talking about. I need to know…would you tell me what she was talking about when she said that they had almost lost you." Even in the pale light, Jamie could see the blood drain from the author’s face. She quickly reached over and took both hands in hers. "What ever it is, it’s okay. If you can’t really talk about it I’ll understand. But I would really like to know. I need to know what you went through. We need to help each other."

Erin lost herself in the compassionate blue eyes. She thought about the memory she had just had, about the courageous confession Jamie had made to her. Erin had to follow that example and share her story. Perhaps it would help them both heal or perhaps it wouldn’t, but whichever, it needed to be done. She nodded slowly.

Jamie gave her a small kiss on the cheek. "Thank you Sweetheart."

"Before I do this, you have to promise me that you won’t feel guilty. You had no control over what happened."

Now Jamie was really scared about what she was going to hear, but it wasn’t going to stop her. They would face the truth and their fears together. "Okay, I promise."

"I couldn’t face your death. I couldn’t accept it. I moved out here from the beach and fell into a total fantasy world. A world where you were still alive, you were just on an extended trip. I even carried on imaginary phone conversations with you. But that world crumbled on what was supposed to be our wedding day.

Bridgett and her mother had tried to keep her occupied, offering to take a trip, inviting her for a day of shopping, etc…but Erin wouldn’t go for any of it. She had a wedding to prepare for. She woke up the sunny morning of April 14th and went about caring for the horses and Artemis as usual. She was all alone on the sixty-acre ranch, having given the two employees the day off.

After lunch she had showered and put on the dress Jamie had gotten her for Christmas. She fussed with her hair and added the just right touch of make-up. She had to be beautiful for her soon to be spouse. A bouquet of expensive orchids had been delivered to the house that morning and she carefully took them from the packaging. Erin inhaled their scent and gently fingered the delicate petals. She smiled brightly at the two tiered wedding cake decorated with purple and yellow flowers that sat in the center of the table, surrounded by dozens of plates and silverware. Erin giggled and looked around to make sure that no one was peaking in on her. She swiped the tip of her finger across a small area of white icing and gave it an experimental lick. "Mmmm, that’s’ good," she said to the empty room. Her smile took on a slightly evil quality as she pictured Jamie with cake smeared all over her mouth and then getting to lick it off. "I can’t wait to feed my wife this delectable desert." Erin took one last look around and smoothed out her dress. "I think that’s everything," she said. "Let’s go Artemis, she’s waiting for us."

The dog happily followed her human to the barn. Erin carefully stepped through the stable, stopping to say hello to Teegan and Simeron on the way.

The electric golf cart bounced across the field for almost half a mile before coming to a stop. Erin got out and straightened her dress again. She grabbed the flowers from the seat beside her and turned, expecting to see her beautiful lover waiting for her. "Jamie, where are you? I know you like to play games, but can’t we wait until the honeymoon." Erin moved toward the small grove of trees. "I know where you are." She giggled. "You can’t hide from…" Erin stopped suddenly when she came around behind one of the old oaks. There was the gray, stone marker carved with the simple words,

Jamie Shea Sheridan

April 11, 1971 - January 7, 2001

Beloved partner and friend

Erin looked down at her fancy dress and her stomach wretched. She fought to keep the stinging bile from seeing the light of day. She tossed down the flowers in her hand, the flowers she herself had ordered the day before, but that she had not remembered doing so until that moment. "Oh God!" she whispered sickly. " What am I doing?" Erin dropped to her knees and her face soon became drenched with tears as the pain of Jamie’s death hit her like a speeding train. She sat there for just a few seconds with her arms clutching her burning insides. She rocked back and forth, hating herself, hating the world…hating Jamie. "I can’t do this! I can’t do this again!"

Erin jumped up and started running. It didn’t take long for her high heels to get caught in the soft earth and she went tumbling, her right hand landing on a stick puncturing the fleshy part of her palm just below her thumb. That pain didn’t even register as she brought her hand up and watched the blood drizzle down her arm.

Erin kicked off her shoes after the minor distraction and she took off again. Her hose lasted just seconds as the scratchy grass and hard clumps of dirt ate through them.

The sun began to set, taking with it the heat of the day. No matter how hard she tried, Erin couldn’t out run the intense pain. She knew Jamie would never again be by her side, never hold her hand and she would never feel the warmth and safety as she slept in her lover’s arms all night long. All those things filtered through her mind as her feet hit the ground carrying her through the maze of trees, but no closer to home.

Suddenly a lake came into sight. Erin stopped. Her heart beat against her ribs, but that was not it’s greatest hurt. Her lungs felt seared as they worked triple time taking in the oxygen. Every square inch of her body and soul was wracked with unbelievable pain and she just wanted it to end…she just wanted oblivion.

Her aching and bleeding feet took one step after the other down the grassy embankment. Erin pushed aside the tall cattails and moved forward as the water rose to her hips…to her chest…to her neck. One final step took her beneath the water line and she sank easily into the depths. The cool liquid cradled her body as the darkness enveloped her soul.

Artemis had finally tracked down her human, but her scent stopped at the shore. The dog barked and barked, edging closer. Just as she was about to jump into the water a blonde head broke the surface. Frantic hands waved and splashed, fighting to stay alive. Erin’s fingers scratched and clawed against the muddy bank and she managed to just keep her head out of the water. Just as exhaustion was about to pull Erin back into the murkiness, the dog chomped down on the collar of her dress and planted four paws in the mud. Artemis held tight until Erin regained enough energy to crawl completely out of the water, where she collapsed into unconsciousness.

Erin awoke to total darkness, but she knew she was still alive. Warm doggie breath assailed the side of her face and a long rough tongue soon followed. "I’m okay Arte, I’m okay." Erin tuned on her back and the soft twinkles high above caught her attention. Soon she began to shiver as the chilled mountain air began skimming over her damp body. Artemis began barking, drawing Erin’s gaze. The dog ran over to the tree line and stopped, she looked back begging her human to follow.

Erin knew she was in danger of freezing to death, not so much from the temperature itself, but from a combination of the wet clothing and the condition her body was in. She managed to pull herself to her hands and knees and slowly crawled into the brush. She scooted in under a high bush and pulled her aching body into a fetal position. Artemis instinctively stretched out beside Erin, protecting her from the cold and from the night. Several totally absurd thoughts passed through her mind as sleep invaded her confused world.

Erin spent the most miserable night of her life, after having had the second most miserable day of her life. She awoke the next morning feeling numb. But as she trudged back to the spot where it all began, every ache and pain, coupled with every breath made her aware of life. She wasn’t quite sure what had saved her from drowning in that lake, but she was happy that it had.

Erin slowly approached the tombstone. She knelt down, ignoring the hurt and placed the discarded flowers on top of the stone marker. She smiled sadly. "I love you Jamie. And I will see you again…someday." She placed a kiss upon her fingertips and touched the name one last time.

Erin looked up and saw tears pooling in her lover’s eyes. "I started seeing a grief counselor and slowly my life regained some semblance of order. After much soul searching, I finally came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to die that way…because I didn’t want you to hate me for giving up."

"God Erin, I…" Jamie’s voice always became very scratchy when she very emotional.

"You promised," Erin reminded her.

"I know. It’s not guilt, I just can’t stand the thought of you hurting so much, almost…"

"But I didn’t. And you didn’t. We both went through six months of hell, but that’s all over now. We’re here, together. Right now that’s all that’s important."

 

* * * *

 

After watching half of, what Jamie was informed was one of their favorite movies, the dark haired woman noticed Erin yawning. "I guess you need to get some sleep."

"You’re not sleepy?" Erin asked.

Jamie’s trembling hands gave away her answer. "I’m not sure." She chuckled. "Boy that sounded silly didn’t it? If I don’t know, who would?"

She followed Erin up the stairs and into their room.

Erin went to turn down the bed. "You can have the bathroom first," she said.

Without even thinking, Jamie pulled out the exact dresser drawer that had always held her clothes. Erin had unpacked for her earlier and put her things away in the same drawer.

Erin watched with a smile, but said nothing. She knew they were in for some difficult times, but like they had always promised each other, they would do it together.

Jamie returned from washing the layer of corral dust from her skin and hair. Erin was already in the bed with her eyes closed and Jamie hesitated for just a second. The easy banter that they had fallen into over dinner was now replaced by a strange insecurity.

Green eyes drifted open and took in the tall figure.

Jamie looked away from those eyes and sat down with her back to Erin. "I…uh…I don’t…" She shook her head. "We’ve been sleeping in the same bed for the last five nights, but suddenly it’s a little awkward." She pulled the covers back and slid her long legs under as her head came to rest on the pillow.

"Jamie, we slept in the same bed for almost five months," Erin reminded her.

"But I don’t remember any of that." Jamie took a breath. "Were we this shy with each other at the beginning?"

The author laughed. "No. Shyness was never a problem with us. There were other things to overcome…but let’s talk about that some other time." She turned on her side and folded her arm under her head. The strong profile beside her soon turned to face her. Erin cautiously lifted her hand and rubbed the arm closet to her. "Jamie, I don’t expect anything from you that you aren’t ready to give. But there is something I would like to do, if you feel comfortable."

"Okay, what is it?"

Erin scooted closer and placed her head against her favorite shoulder and cuddled against the long body. "Is this all right?"

Jamie closed her eyes as her arm snaked around to return the caress. "This is wonderful."

"This was always my favorite time of day, just to be close to you and feel your warmth." Erin inhaled deeply. "Smell your clean, fresh scent and hear your heartbeat."

"I’m guessing it was on my list of favorites too," Jamie said with a soft smile. She traced Erin’s arm with her fingertips, relaxing them both.

The blonde snuggled in a little more. "I won’t rush you into a physical relationship. It has to be awkward not remembering being with anyone in the past."

Jamie stared at the dark ceiling as a memory did come to her. "Erin?"

"Mmmm?"

"I don’t want to hurt you. But I don’t want there to be any secrets between us either. It didn’t really matter before, but now…you need to know."

The green eyes opened, but she didn’t move. "It’s okay, Jamie. Whatever it is, you can tell me."

"There was a nurse at the center, the one I mentioned several times. Well, we became good friends. I hadn’t really given any thought to that part of my life until… I mean..." Jamie let out a frustrated sigh. "About two weeks before I left, Lia was helping me with my physical therapy. Afterward, she decided I needed to do something fun. We went to a small lake that was near by and went for a boat ride. I actually managed to have a nice time and I think I may have even smiled once. Then we went to her apartment for coffee and one thing led to another and I…spent the night. It only happened that one time," she rushed to say. "I mean I felt like I was betraying someone…and I…and I was. I’m really sorry Erin." A small hand landed on her chest and rubbed soothingly.

Erin finally looked up with a gentle, loving expression. "Sweetheart, I’m not mad. How could I be? In fact I guess I have to thank her for allowing you to make that discovery about yourself. As long as she respected you and treated you with tenderness."

Jamie nodded.

"But I am glad you told me."

Jamie breathed a sigh of relief. "Me too."

Erin listened to that heart beating. She just couldn’t wipe the smile form her face and the happiness from her soul. "This is all just so incredible," she whispered against the red shirt beneath her head. "Thank you for coming back to me."

"We both need to thank what ever or who ever made this happen."

Erin’s eyes had drifted shut as she said that silent thank you. "Once you get your memory back, every thing will be perfect," she mumbled to Jamie.

A few seconds passed before the dark haired woman had another thought. "Are you still awake?" she asked quietly.

"Yeah."

"You don’t have to thank Lia for anything."

"What do you mean?"

"Even if I had had no clue what so ever about my orientation, I would have known the minute I laid eyes on you. Because I truly fell in love with you at first sight. I love you Erin."

The author’s bright smile broke through the darkness like a beacon. She caressed the side of Jamie’s face and leaned in for a lengthy and passionate kiss. "I love you, Jamie Sheridan."

More to come soon.


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