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The Love Triangle

By´╝ÜViolet Jackson

Chapter 1 - Grace

The first thing I noticed when I woke up was the smell of citrus. It was sharp and sweet, pushing through the waves of darkness that undulated around me.

When I opened my eyes, my surroundings didn’t match the smell. Everything was clinically white, the floors and the walls and the ceiling all looked the same, and there were monitors and tubes everywhere. It really hit me that I was in a hospital when the citrus smell was replaced by the chemical smell that hung in the air.

I suddenly couldn’t breathe. My chest tightened. I gasped for air, reaching my arms up, but the tubes that went into the crook of my elbow tugged at the skin and it hurt.

“She’s crashing,” I heard a nurse say.

“We need to intubate,” another said.

“Don’t,” a male voice said. I saw white spots dancing in my vision, felt like I was drowning. “Look at the machines. Everything is normal. She’s having a panic attack.”

I felt a sharp prick in my arm, and then suddenly everything stopped. It was like a curtain slowly opened, and I could see everything normally, everyone standing around me looked worried. The nurse on my left had a syringe in her hand. I let my eyes slide over the faces. All strangers. I was just about to start panicking again when I found one that I knew.

Elijah stood at the foot of my bed, his hand gripping the footboard so tightly his knuckles turned white. His face was serious, a deep crease between his blond eyebrows. The scar that ran across his left cheek looked more prominent when he wasn’t smiling.

“Elijah?” I said and my voice didn’t sound like my own. But his face changed, relief relaxing the tightness around his eyes, and he smiled.

“I’m here, sweetheart,” he said. “You’re going to be fine.”

“Where’s Justin?” I asked. His face clouded over, the smile draining from his face, and I had a sinking feeling that something was terribly wrong.

The nurses closed around me, blocking my view of him. One of them shone a bright light into my eyes and I blinked. And then the ache in my head crashed down on me like I’d been holding it at bay and the constraints had finally broken.

“My head,” I said, pressing my palm against my forehead and squeezing my eyes shut. My fingertips touched the top of my head, where I should have felt hair, but instead they touched cloth. I opened my eyes and ran my fingers over my head. It was bandaged almost all the way from what I could tell, running all the way around. My fingers slowed down, my body knowing that I was nearing the part that really hurt before my mind caught up.

“Do you know your name?” the nurse with the little flashlight asked me.

“Grace Davis,” I said.

It seemed like a silly question, but the nurse smiled and nodded. “Okay, Grace. You’re in the hospital. You were in an accident. You’re at Fort Atkinson Medical Center. We’re going to keep you a couple of days just to make sure you’re okay.”

I covered my eyes with my hands. The pain throbbed behind my eyelids. “What kind of accident? Where’s Justin?”

Elijah cleared his throat.

“I can’t stay. I have a very important meeting to get to,” I said. The merger with Bennett Brothers was the biggest deal so far for Magna Solutions.

“You’re not going anywhere until we know you’re alright,” Elijah said.

“If we lose Bennett Brothers, we’re in trouble. You can’t do the meeting without me.”

Elijah stepped around to the side of the bed so that he was in the circle of heads bowing over me.

“Bennett Brothers? Darling, that meeting happened over six months ago.” He looked worried again. His fingers fiddled with each other, with nothing to hold. They would be better curled around a whiskey tumbler. They always were.

“What?” I asked. I suddenly felt like a veil had dropped again, like they were all talking through foam. The nurse with the flashlight got into my eyes again and I turned my head away to get rid of her. Every time she did it, my headache got worse.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” she asked. I closed my eyes and tried to think. It hurt to do it, and it felt like I was remembering everything through a screen. It was hazy.

“Elijah and I were having coffee at Salvatore. The last thing I remember is him complaining about the price of the coffee. January 26th.”

Elijah looked up at the nurses. I didn’t like the look on any of their faces.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“She’s suffering from memory loss,” the nurse said like I wasn’t even there.

“But she knows who I am,” Elijah answered.

“It seems she lost about six months. The blow to her head was very severe.”

“Can someone tell me what’s going on?” I asked. “Where’s Justin?” They were still ignoring me. Every time I asked about Justin, Elijah’s face changed. It scared me.

“What does that mean? She’s lost six months? What else is there that I don’t know about?” Elijah sounded upset. I was very aware of the scar on his face, of how mean he looked with his hair cut so short to his scalp. He wasn’t a big man, he was my height, which wasn’t very tall. But he could fill a room with his presence, and he was doing it now. A male nurse came in as if summoned.

“Mr. Wilson, please come with me,” he said.

“Where are we going?” Elijah was getting more and more defensive.

“We’re just going to step out for a moment. Ms. Davis has been through a very traumatic ordeal and we all need to stay calm for her sake.”

I wanted to ask them to leave us alone. He was the only person I knew, the only person I understood in this room, and this was scaring me. I wanted him to sit on the edge of my bed and hold my hand. I needed to be told that the doubt and the fear and the panic I felt was just silly.

But instead, Elijah pursed his lips together and he left the room. His presence filtered out with him until I felt small and alone.

“You’re going to be just fine,” the nurse that stayed at my bedside told me. “You’re not the first amnesia patient, and we have a great team of doctors that know exactly what they’re doing.”

It was supposed to make me feel better. It didn’t. Telling me that I was an ‘amnesia patient’ made my chest feel tight all over again.

“How much have I lost?” I asked. “Will I get it back?”

The nurse smiled at me, the kind of smile that was supposed to reassure me and just didn’t, and patted my hand. “I’m going to fetch Doctor Stein for you. He’s your attending, and he’ll be able to tell you whatever you need to know.”

She left the room, and I was finally alone. It should have been comforting, it should have been nice to have time to hear myself think, it should have been nice that no one shone lights in my eyes and pricked needles into my arms. Instead I wanted her to come back. I wanted someone to stay, anyone.

Justin popped his head around the door. His shoulder-length hair was loose, hanging around his shoulders instead of being pulled away from his face like he’d left in a hurry with no time to tie it up.

“There she is,” he said. A smile spread across his face like a sunrise, lighting it up. He had his cowboy hat in his hands, turning it around and around. “When I heard, I came right over.”

“Oh my gosh, Justin,” I said, and started crying. He walked into the room, with his rolling gait. He walked like he didn’t have a care in the world, even when he had so much on his plate. He was a little laid back, comfortable in life, and it looked like nothing ever got to him. He sat down on the edge of my bed. His blue eyes were electric, filled with concern and something I couldn’t place. Something that looked like pain. “I was scared something had happened to you.”

He frowned. I leaned forward and put my arms around his neck and buried my face in his shoulder. I breathed in deeply, smelling sun and grass and male on his clothes.

“When I woke up and Elijah was here instead of you, I thought you might be in here too. Or worse.”

“Listen, Grace,” he said, peeling my arms from his neck. “Elijah is right outside and he isn’t happy to see me.”

“So? He’s never happy to see you. I’m just so glad you’re okay. Gosh, the nurses won’t leave me alone and my head is killing me. When are we going home?”

“I don’t know when you’re leaving, honey,” he said. “I’m sure Elijah will speak to the doctor and get you out of here as soon as he can. He’ll be anxious to have you home again.”

“Who?” I asked.

Justin frowned. “Elijah.”

“What?” I said. I pressed my fingers to my temples. A ringing sound was starting in my ears and my head felt like it weighed a ton. Justin hesitated, looked over his shoulder when a doctor, Doctor Stein I assumed, walked in.

“What’s going on?” he asked the doctor.

“She’s lost about six months. Ms. Davis has a form of amnesia that’s erased roughly the last six months.” The doctor looked at me. His eyes were soft and warm when he spoke and he had dark hair that had started graying above his ears. “With some luck you’re going to gain it back, but until then the best way to handle it is to keep moving forward.”