"Past or Present" Chapter 10
The newsroom was bustling with activity. There was a major breaking story regarding the refurbishment of the riverfront district and the mayor was going to be speaking at the site this afternoon. Grant had a crew ready to go when Stephanie walked in to the newsroom. He couldn't stop staring at her. She was wearing the oddest outfit, for her anyway.
Stephanie had always been perfectly attired in what he’d call impeccable business regalia, but today she looked kind of cute, with her low heeled shoes, dark blue silk pants and a sky blue silk blouse, no jacket in sight, she looked feminine and…too damn approachable.
“Should you even be here?” Mel asked her.
Victoria placed her reticule on her desk, which she knew was Stephanie’s, because of the name etched on a marker on the desk top. “Yes, the doctor said I should return to normal activities, so here I am.” She smiled at her, having no clue what she was supposed to do as a journalist but thrilled to be one, what ever it entailed.
Grant, against his better judgment, walked over to her. “You’re feeling up to working?”
“Absolutely,” she smiled enthusiastically at him.
“Great, I have to cover the mayor’s speech at the waterfront in an hour and I need you to edit my copy on the closing of the old Burberry Hospital, you know the one their demolishing to make way for the new Mega Mall. It’s in the public drive, so can you help me out? Deadline is at four and I won’t make it back in time.” He expected her to tell him off and knew that would knock the gleam of attraction out of his eyes fast, but she didn’t act as expected.
Victoria’s smile never waivered, even as her brain frantically tried to comprehend what he was asking her to do. She nodded and said, “Of course, I can do that for you Grant.”
Grant stared at her a moment longer, noting the shine of her golden hair and the way she’d piled it upward in an old fashioned style, soft tendrils fell around her face and he couldn’t look away from the vivid green of her eyes.
“Thanks,” he mumbled as he stood there staring stupidly at her until Stan his camera man yelled to him to hurry.
He broke eye contact with her and shrugged, “I guess I need more coffee today, thanks again for your help and please get the article to Sam by deadline for me.” He didn’t turn back as he said the last running towards the elevator doors Stan was holding open for him.
“I think you’ve still got Grant completely mystified Stef, he looked positively stumped by your kindness just now.”
“I don’t know why he should be; shouldn’t we be helping each other?” Victoria looked questioningly at Stephanie’s friend and hoped she’d continue to be her friend too…she was going to need her help to navigate this new life.
“Sure, we should and we do but you and Grant …well, never before–“she sighed, “Never mind maybe it is a new day,” she smiled at Stef, “Anyway, I’d better go open some letters and start posting my column."
“Mel? Before you go, could you help me?”
Mel turned back, “Sure, what do you need?”
“I need to know where I’m supposed to go to get the copy for the public drive Grant mentioned. Is it in this office or do I have to travel somewhere to get it?” She asked as she looked anxiously around the room.
Loud alarm bells rang in her head, and Mel knew her friend was definitely not ready to be here.
“You don’t remember how to access the public drive file on your computer?”
Victoria wanted to ask where and what was her computer but she was afraid to admit she didn’t know. It seemed her first question had caused enough suspicion in Mel already.
“I’m afraid not,” she whispered carefully.
“Ok. Maybe it isn’t such a good idea for you to be here today; maybe you still need some rest.”
“No, I just need to get back into my life, please help me.”
Mel broke down at her sad expression, “Certainly, I’ll help you if the doctor said a day at the old grind will jog back your memory….but if it doesn’t… I want you to be honest and tell me. I’m not a doctor and I don’t want to hinder your healing. Okay?”
“Okay.” Victoria repeated and prayed she’d learn the job quickly.
Mel hit a button on a small black box on Victoria’s desk and a square box in front of her with a glass front suddenly lit up. Words quickly moved across it, then letters and numbers and then a picture appeared of a sandy beach with a blue ocean. It appeared vividly on what Mel called the screen.
“Now just type your password in the box on the screen.” Mel moved the keyboard over to her.
There was a small white boxed area in the middle of the screen and a black line was blinking in and out, but Victoria hadn’t a clue what she was supposed to do.
Mel sighed and took back the keyboard, “If you forgot your password we’ll just reset it.” She clicked a few keys then asked, “give me a favorite quote and three numbers and I’ll set it for you.”
“I don’t have a favorite quote.”
“Sure you do, you love Kahlil Gibran, right there on you desk you have one of your favorites.” Mel turned worried eyes on her friend. How much of her memory was still unrecovered?
Victoria had never heard of the person Mel mentioned, but she looked at the framed writing in a picture stand on her desk. It said ‘Yesterday is today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream and the name Kahlil Gibran was printed in ink beneath it.
“It is beautiful,” Victoria admitted, “and that will be my password?” she asked, not knowing what a password was.
“If we shorten it to 'yesterday’s a memory tomorrow’s a dream', and we capital the d in dream and add numbers and a question mark for the special character. How’s that for your new password?” she smiled.
Victoria’s head hurt but she nodded her approval and watched Mel push the corresponding keys on the strange writing board. It was easy to follow where to hit the little lettered buttons but only black dots appeared in that white box when she looked at it after Mel finished the password.
“Where are the words?”
“It’s encrypted, passwords don’t show, you now that.” Mel wondered if she should call Stef’s mom or her doctor, she was worried at her loss of skills.
“Oh yes, of course, encrypted. What was I thinking?” Victoria tried to smile but it was more of a grimace, she had no idea what that word meant, she’d never hear it before.
Mel turned from her to rummage in a small draw in Stephanie’s desk, “Here I’ll write the password for you on this sticky note and put it under your blotter until you remember it on your own.”
“Thank you.” Victoria wanted to cry. This was going to be so much harder than she’d thought.
“Now let me get you into Grant’s article. See this icon of a folder, it says public drive?”
“Yes,” She smiled, she did see that.
“Click on it once and it will open all the articles currently in task and in the search bar just type in Grant’s name and it will bring up his articles.” As Mel spoke she performed each task slowly so Stef could follow her every instruction.
Victoria followed her every movement and felt she was beginning to understand the process if not all the words Mel was saying.
“Now here is the article Grant wants you to copy edit. That means you fix any mistakes, spell check his work and if it’s good to go, save it to the drive and print a hard copy to take to Sam for a final review and approval before deadline. Got it?”
Victoria had not understood all she’d said but Mel had Grant’s article up on the screen and she had seen where Mel pressed to move it down and read through it, so she felt she could try. “If I need your help where will you be?” she whispered to Mel.
“In my cubicle, across the room. Stef, you have me really worried. Can’t you remember anything?”
There was no point in pretending anymore, this was all too complicated and she needed an ally, “No Mel I can’t but I don’t want to go back to the hospital, I just want to get on with my life. I’m not sick, just a little lost, will you help me?”
Mel felt terrible and she couldn’t imagine going through what Stef was going through but knew Stef would help her if she were in need. Mel promised, “Of course I will and you don’t have to tell anyone else. If you need me, call me on my extension.”
At the bewildered look on Stef’s face Mel showed her the phone and told her to punch in the numbers one and nine and it would ring at her desk.
“Thank you.” she whispered sincerely.
“What are friends for?”
Victoria had no idea but smiled warmly at her.
She settled in and began to read Grant's article. He was a very good writer and she had no need to correct any part of it, he was impeccable in thought and spelling. When she finished she called Mel for help to save and print it.
She found the papers neatly stacked on a shelf attached to a large machine, which she now knew was called a printer. Happy with her progress so far, she felt it had been a good start and a very rewarding afternoon’s work.
She picked up Grant’s article and followed Mel’s directions to Sam’s office.
“Is this Grant’s article on the new Mega Mall?” Sam asked her.
“Yes sir, it is” Victoria smiled proudly.
“Why are you turning in his work?”
“He had to cover the Mayor’s speech and he needed me to copy edit his article. I didn’t mind.”
Sam’s face froze in mid expression, “You didn’t mind?”
“No, of course not, why would I.”
“Alright, this is different and I can’t say I’m not happy you’re trying to get along with Grant but Stephanie your own article is due too, have you finished it?”
“My? Oh, I guess not. I ‘m sorry I-”
“It’s okay, I know this is your first day back and we can put a filler article in its place. You can work on yours for the next edition. You’ve had a full day and I’m letting you leave early. You’ve earned it doing Grant’s work.” He smiled at her.
She felt immediate relief at his words but it was followed shortly by intense and crippling fear. She was not a writer, and having just read the caliber of work Grant turned in, she knew without a doubt she could not match it.
“Thank you sir, I will be in bright and early tomorrow,” she squeaked.
“Tomorrow’s Saturday and you’re not slated for this weekend so enjoy it.”
“Oh, how lovely,” she smiled with genuine joy, she was being given a respite and now all she had to do was learn how to be a journalist in two days.
* * *
Stephanie grabbed her coat off the peg by the door and ran from the house, much like she had seen the real Victoria do the other day, only this time it was she who felt anxious to leave.
After Harrison left her alone in the library denying her story and effectively telling her to go home she’d felt crushed. There was no way to change this sad life, so she may as well go back and live out her own. She decided she was going to return to the scene of her accident and beg whoever plotted this weird life twist to let her go home.
The snow crunched under her feet and she realized she should have changed from the soft soled shoes to boots because the cold, wet snow was seeping into her shoes and her feet were starting to feel numb. She trudged on determined to ignore her discomfort, she was going home. And besides, if her car did materialize, she would climb inside and turn on the heater and warm her feet as she drove home. She smiled at the hopeful image and she knew exactly where that stupid car should be, right near the tree she could see outlined just up ahead.
When She stood only a few feet from the tree she saw the large ditch that surrounded it but unfortunately her car was not in it.
The snow began to fall harder and she shivered as the wind picked up. She continued walking over to the tree and leaned against it.
“Why are you doing this to me?” She cried out, but her words were lost in the sudden force of the wind.
She sank down to the base of the tree and cried. Her tears fell like cold, ice chips running down her cheeks but she didn’t care.
“Why am I here? He won’t listen, he doesn’t trust me and I can’t change anything.” she whispered dejectedly, accepting her defeat, “Please just let me go home.”
The wind whipped around her as if in answer and she pulled her coat tighter to ward off the icy chill that now permeated every bone in her body. She started to stand up but a strong force pushed her back down. She looked around but she was alone and she wondered at the feeling. She tried again to stand up and again the same force pushed her back down.
“What are you trying to do freeze me to death?” she asked but instead of an answer the wind quieted and she heard voices.
Stephanie could see three men walking towards her from the house. It was Harrison, his cousin Darrin and another man she didn’t know. She tried to call out to them but they didn’t seem to hear her and when she tried to stand up she found she was still held firmly in place on the cold ground.
She watched as they drew closer and noticed oddly that Harrison appeared to be very drunk, swaying against his cousin. She’d only left him twenty minutes ago, how was he dressed differently and in the company of these two, and appearing to be drunk? It didn’t make sense to her. She called out to him but he didn’t hear her, none of the men did. They stopped near the ditch, a few feet away from her. Still, they didn’t acknowledge her presence, it was as if she wasn’t there.
“So cousin, I’m sorry we have to end it this way but,” Darrin’s hatred was evident in his voice, “you’ve denied me my money for the last time.”
“Sorry?” Harrison swayed against him seeming unable to comprehend what his cousin had said.
Stephanie had heard it clearly and struggled to break the bonds of whatever held her immobile so she could warn him but to no use.
“No matter, you don’t need to understand Harry and you won’t have to think about it beyond tonight, and since your father’s will already names me the next to inherit, as you have no wife, and no heirs, poor fool that you are…neither will I.”
Harrison’s eyes widened at his cousin’s words and he whispered almost soberly, “She was right about you.”
Darrin laughed cynically, “Of course she was and she never strayed from you cousin, your little dove loved you wholeheartedly, isn’t that all the pity and you threw her away like so much trash. I am so very good at lies I have to admit,” he laughed sadistically and Harrison tried to throw a punch at his face but Darrin moved away and simultaneously nodded to the other man with them.
The man Stephanie didn’t recognize was holding a gun and it was aimed at Harrison’s head.
Stephanie screamed and closed her eyes but she heard the shot and her heart stopped at the sound. Her screams pierced the night and she couldn’t open her eyes. She thought they would surely shoot her too but no other sound or shot rang out.
Stephanie opened her eyes. They were blurred with tears but she quickly scrambled from the ground wanting to help Harrison if she could but she looked down at the ditch and he wasn’t there, no one was there.
The night was eerily quiet, no foot prints marred the snow and she noticed the wind had fallen to a whisper.
“What the hell was that?” she cried out into the quiet night but knew no answer would come, and maybe she already knew what it was.
It was the future, if she didn’t come up with some way to change it; it was exactly how Harrison's life would end but she would change it. She would not let Harrison die knowing she was right.
"No, he is going to live knowing I was right!" She muttered as she walked back to the house.