"Past or Present" Chapter 7
He was not her husband, he may resemble him, but he was not him.
Grant’s smile was strained, Stephanie was staring him down and he didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but his feelings were bordering on the latter.
“So how are you feeling today?” The Doctor asked her, “I’m glad you’re able to get out of bed and your strength is returning."
“I feel fine,” she replied to the Doctor while eyeing the other man curiously. Same build, hair color and eye color as her husband, a future replica of the man she had easily fallen in love with but come to dislike because of his faithlessness. Was this future Harrison as deceitful? Is that why Stephanie disliked him? She wondered as her eyes narrowed on him.
“Stephanie,” the doctor drew her attention back to him and asked, “Do you know who this is?”
“No, but I do know he is not my husband.” she said with a small smile.
“You’re married?” This question came from Grant and no one was more surprised then him that he’d asked it, why did he care, so long as he wasn’t her spouse, what did it matter who was?
That was a good question, Victoria thought as she studied him, and she really did not know how to answer it. If she was not now in her own life and this man before her was not her husband was she free from that marriage? To her mind it appeared she was.
She smiled widely and said, “No. I don’t believe I am.”
Grant didn’t know why but it annoyed him to see her so happy about it.
"This is good, you’re beginning to remember,” the doctor smiled picking up her chart and writing on it.
Victoria wondered what he was writing. Hopefully, it was to send her home. “Does that mean I can leave now?” she asked him sweetly.
“I think you’re definitely on the mend, but let’s give you another day or maybe two to heal. Tomorrow we’ll talk again and revisit that question.”
“Tomorrow?” she whispered sadly. She did not want to spend another day trapped here, there was so much more outside she wanted to experience before she was sent back to her life, if she was sent back. And she didn’t like being the oddity in the room, constantly scrutinized by everyone. It was most uncomfortable. She dearly wanted to see what else Stephanie’s life held for her, beyond this hospital room.
She looked at the man eyeing her with trepidation and wondered if he could be useful to her? This man had knowledge of her in this life and was the only familiar face here. Like it or not, he might be her only way out.
“How do I know you?” She asked him curiously.
Grant’s brow lifted at her question. It felt weird that she didn’t recognize him.
“I’m Grant Westfield. We work together.” He watched her eyes for any recognition. He’d wondered if her amnesia was real or pretend? It was a ridiculous thought, why would she pretend? He admitted he mistrusted her to the extreme, no reason for it, but the mistrust was there all the same.
She nodded at his answer but no recognition appeared in her eyes.
The doctor turned to Grant, “I have to check on a few more patients but I think it’s a good idea for you to stay here and answer a few of her questions, if you wouldn’t mind of course, it could be tremendously beneficial for her.”
It was the last thing Grant wanted to do, but before he could come up with an excuse, why he needed to leave, the doctor was already heading to the door taking his silence as agreement.
“Great, I’ll check back in a little while.” The doctor’s told them as he left the room.
Victoria needed a reference point, a reason to understand why she and Stephanie had switched lives. Maybe Grant could help her.
“I do have some questions you might be able to answer.”
“I’ll try.” He’d give her five minutes.
“Since you obviously know me, tell me something that might help me remember you.” She picked up a folded blanket and wrapped it around her as she walked over to a chair near the window and sat down.
Grant nearly laughed at the question, she wouldn’t really want to remember him, but if it got him out of here quicker he’d tell her.
“Okay,” he nodded and sat down on the chair next to her bed turning it to face her. “We work at The Island Gazette. You’re a passable reporter and to be honest, we don’t generally get along.”
She felt the truth in half of his statement, she did believe they didn’t get along, and that it was a strong dislike, but she had a sudden insight from Stephanie’s life. Victoria saw her desk; the one in the newspaper’s office, and knew she could write well and had been praised for it. She was a better reporter than he had claimed. She eyed him curiously.
“We don’t get along? Is it because you are the better reporter?” her eyes searched his trying to see behind his calm façade. She realized with a jolt that he hated her, but why? What had future her done to him?
“I don’t want to provoke an argument with you; it’s probably not good for your recovery.”
“Do not worry about that. I need to know about this life…I mean my life, so just tell me the truth. What do you feel about me?”
He’d try to be kinder considering her current state of amnesia, or possible amnesia but there was just so much he could cover up, after all they weren’t friends.
“In fairness, you’ve only worked at the newspaper for six months, so I suppose you’ll get better over time. Of course, you mostly write fluff articles, nothing with substance. Sam hasn’t trusted you yet with a big breaking news story but maybe, in time, he will. You should always harbor hope I say, dream big it could happen for you.” He threw in the encouragement hoping she’d be satisfied with it and besides pigs might fly some day.
Victoria didn’t understand most of what he had said but she knew men were always going to garner the most accolades in any field, that Stephanie could even work along side him was an accomplishment to her mind. It was not a surprise that he felt she did not belong there. What had startled her was the anger she saw in his eyes and how it made her think again of Harrison, for it was exactly how Harrison had looked at her the last time she had seen him.
She shook off the strange feeling of dejavu and said, “I will hope to improve my writing skills so you will not be so annoyed with my lack of talents. Will that help us?”
He didn’t think so, but he’d be an ass to say it. “Sure. Maybe.” he shrugged.
"Who else works at this newspaper? Tell me their names and what they do, maybe I will remember them.”
He thought she was playing him for a fool but her eyes were sharply focused on him and against his usual judgment of her, he felt she was being honest. What the hell, he might as well placate her.
“Let’s see, there’s Mike, and Sarah the copy editors, and Janice, Cecily and Frank the night reporters. There’s Melanie your best friend at the paper. She writes the Dear Mel column.”
“What is that, what does she write?”
Now she was jerking him around he thought, and he was close to telling her so but she was leaning forward and her bright eyes were full of interest. He had to admit she was a damn good actress if it wasn’t real. Okay, he’d play her game; he only had three minutes left to give her.
“She answers letters from the reader’s, questions about their life or their love life. She gives them sound advice and tries to help them.”
Victoria thought that sounded very interesting. She wished she could have written to someone to help her and Harrison. It might not have helped but it would have been nice to have a confidant.
“Is she good at it?”
Grant admitted to himself Mel was darn good at it, but he’d never said it out loud, “Yeah, I suppose she’s okay.”
“Is that good?”
He sighed heavily. She wasn’t going to let him breeze through his answers. He narrowed his eyes in annoyance at her and said succinctly, “Yes, she’s very good at it, probably the best I’ve ever read in that line of work.”
Victoria didn’t see his irritation; she was concentrating on his answers and making metal notes to refer to later, “Who else is there?”
“Our boss Sam, the editor, he likes your work.” He smile was condescending but she didn’t notice.
“I shall take note of that and perhaps he will someday give me that breaking news story.” She smiled brightly at him, proud she had remembered and had repeated it correctly, even if she didn’t know exactly what it meant.
“Sure.” Grant shrugged. He wondered why she was speaking in such proper tones. It spooked him. He looked at his watch, he had two more minutes.
“What did I do to you that you have such a dislike for me?” she asked quietly.
Grant looked up from his watch, he’d been clocking the second hand and her words penetrated his happy thoughts of leaving.
“Why?” he asked lamely having no easy answer to give her. She’d never asked him before.
“I am curious. I can feel you do not like me very much.” she admitted, her eyes searching his, trying to see beyond the shocked look.
“We didn’t like each other, pretty much on sight and it was mutual.”
“How do you know it was mutual? Did I say something?”
Grant remembered the day Sam brought her over to meet him; he’d looked up from his desk into the greenest eyes he’d ever seen in a face symmetrically beautiful and felt a sucker punch in the gut. Instead of the, ‘I want to get to know her better’ reaction it should have caused him, all he wanted to do was make her leave. It wasn't that he wasn't attracted to her, it was that he didnt want to be. He didn't trust her and he didn't like her and it was on first sight. She wasn't taken with him either, her eyes had narrowed with annoyance on her first glance at him too.
“We didn’t say anything but it was mutual all the same.”
“And you did not think that strange? Had we met before? disagreed or argued?”
“No and no. Can we get off this now, we don’t like each other and this conversation isn’t changing that.”
Oh, but it was changing something for Victoria. It was changing how she viewed her own life. Her life with Harrison had in effect changed Stephanie’s life with Grant. She knew it was true, but what was the point of knowing? There was simply no way to change it. Was she supposed to change it? Is that why she was here? She hoped not. Grant did remind her too much of Harrison, and even if he was not her husband now, he had been once.
“You’ve been so kind to try to answer my questions, and for what it’s worth, whatever real or perceived dislike there is between us, for my part in it, I am sorry.”
Grant felt like the biggest ass for having let her see how he felt, and her kind words only made it worse. “You haven’t done anything, as I said it began on first sight, no real reason for it. We just don’t get along.”
Victoria couldn’t share with him what she knew; they’d truly have her committed if she did. Instead, She smiled sadly at him and said, “I will be more aware of the fact we don’t like each other and try not to have you suffer my presence when ever I can help it. Will that be better for you?”
Grant felt like he’d just kicked a puppy and he wasn’t thrilled with himself and her proper tone of voice was making it worse.
“Look, you don’t have to hide from me. We’ve managed to work together so far. So don’t sweat it okay?”
He was looking at his watch again probably wanting to leave and somehow this rude behavior in Grant didn’t upset her as much as it would have if he were Harrison. He wasn’t her husband. Thank God.
“Thank you for trying to help me even thought I know it was painful for you.” She whispered the last three words and Grant shifted uncomfortably in his chair.
“It’s not painful,” it was, but he hated for her to be right, “I just have an appointment, an interview with…someone…and why I keep looking at my watch,” he lied and it was obvious he was lying but what the hell, he felt like a fool trying to explain why they hated each other…especially, when she wasn’t appearing to hate him at all.
“I completely understand your need to leave. You have a busy schedule and I’ve taken too much of your time but I am thankful to you Grant for answering my questions.”
Her smile was genuine and dazzling, and the little dimple in her cheek drew his eye, her beautiful turquoise eyes were lit with hope and he felt a kick to his gut. It was not a welcome feeling and it was time to get the hell out of here. He stood up so fast he nearly knocked the chair over.
“Well, I know Mel is on her way to the airport to pick up your Mom, and your sister should be here later too, so you’ve got a big day ahead of you and like I said, I have an interview so I better get back to work.” He didn’t give her time to respond and said a quick “See you later,” not meaning it, as he walked out the door.
Victoria stared at the door wanting to call him back. Her heart pounded with renewed fear.
Who were her Mother and Sister? And what would happen to her if she couldn’t identify them…They might never let her out of here.
“Crud muffins,” she whispered just as the nurse brought in her breakfast tray.
* * *
Harrison helped her dismount as Peter walked his horse into the stable.
“Thank you for this afternoon’s lesson. Will we ride again tomorrow?” Stephanie asked even as her legs cramped from being useless for so long.
Harrison smiled seeing her wince, “I think you’ll need a day to rest before we ride again.”
“No, I’ll be fine, I can handle it.”
The turn of phrase made him pause; she had sounded different. He wondered anew at her motives for wanting a second chance.
“Victoria I think we need to address the issue you have avoided.”
“What?” she shifted her weight over to her left leg, her right was going to sleep on her.
“Our marriage is over, we both admitted it yesterday. Why do you not leave, return to your family as you said you would?”
Stephanie drew in a sharp breath at his words, she had to think. She didn't want to be sent away. She’d never get back to her life if she didn’t fix this one and if she left him now he would be dead in a month.
“No, I truly regret those words. Our marriage is not over but it had been dealt a deadly blow from the lies we’ve allowed and those around us who wish it to be dissolved for their benefit. We do need to talk Harrison and I need you to trust me enough to listen to me.”
“You wish to talk about it?”
“Fine, then tell me when your love for me turn you to a desire for others?” he asked sharply, anger renewed with the memory of her words telling him of her affairs.
Stephanie growled with exasperation, “You aren’t hearing me Harrison, There weren’t any others; I said that to hurt you because I believed you had been unfaithful to me.”
“And I ask you, why would you confess to something so destructive to our marriage if it was untrue?”
Stephanie searched her memory for the moment Victoria began to mistrust Harrison. It was the night he didn’t come home. She was trying to bring the day into clear memory but at her hesitation he thought she had no answer to his question.
“You cannot dispute my questions accuracy can you?”
“Wait, I’m thinking.”
He smirked and she dearly wanted to slap him but she had to prove her point. She’d had a clear image of the events earlier today but after the long and miserable afternoon on horseback her memory of it had fractured. She hated the way he was looking at her but before she could say anything in her defense they were interrupted and her moment was lost.
“I put Moonlight in her stall.” Peter said as he walked out from the stable.
Harrisons turned to him and smiled, “Would you like to help me rub down the horses and feed them?
“Oh yes, very much, please.” the boy’s face lit up.
“And as you seemed so willing to continue my dear,” He looked back at Victoria, “We shall resume your lesson tomorrow.” He finished with a wicked grin before turning away from her.
He walked the horses into the stable leaving her to stand there and contemplate her next move. It was important he not send her away and more important they team up to stop the threats that were aimed at both of them, threats he was apparently unaware of.
She walked towards the house, her legs aching. Why had she asked for more torture tomorrow? “Stupid.” she mumbled as her body screamed for her to sit down, even as her back side told her, don’t even think about it.