Persistence of Memory
Written February 2002
Synopsis: Madeline develops amnesia, and Paul releases her until her condition improves. However, a new terrorist organization is determined to make her re-integration into Section as difficult as possible.
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of LFN Productions, Warner Bros., and USA Network. No infringement is intended.
Madeline leaned back in the wire chair, tapping the edge of her coffee cup impatiently. If she could pick her biggest pet peeve, it would be tardiness, and Cam was notorious for being late.
The soft jingle of the door interrupted the casual conversations. Camille Daly entered the coffee shop and was greeted warmly by the male owner. Madeline hadn’t been greeted like that, even though she was as frequent a visitor as Cam. However, she wasn’t nearly as beautiful. Cam had the body of a model, tall and thin with curves in all the right places. She typically wore tight, figure-flattering outfits, attracting the attention of any man she passed. Her honey-colored hair was always perfectly styled, curled into tight ringlets that framed her heart-shaped face.
She spotted Madeline and waved, saying a few words to the owner and accepting a free cup of coffee. She strolled to the table, swinging her hips as she walked. “Sorry I’m late!” She slid gracefully into the other chair, tossing a lock of hair over her shoulder. “Have you been waiting long?”
Madeline glanced at her watch. “Ten minutes.”
Cam pouted irresistibly. “I’m sorry, Mads.”
She sipped her coffee, leaving a ruby red lip mark on the rim. “So did you have a chance to read it?”
She squealed, “And?”
“It was interesting. The plot was–”
“Oh, who cares about the plot? How were the sex scenes? Did they make you blush?”
Madeline’s cheeks turned slightly red and before Cam could tease her, she said, “Well, I was going to say that I thought the plot was somewhat unbelievable. Mason and Rhea fell in love after one night together? Is that even possible?”
“It’s an erotic romance novel. If it’s not erotic and it’s not romantic, then it doesn’t get published. Plot is inconsequential.”
“Well, if all you’re concerned about are the sex scenes, then you’re fine.”
Cam waved her hands around. “If plot concerns you so much, here. Mason and Rhea shared one night of torrid passion, and she was gone before he woke up. So he spent the next year searching for her, hoping to rekindle what they had started that night, and when he found her, she was stuck in this dead-end job, alone, bored.”
“Which leads to sex scenes two, three, and four: Mason and Rhea reunite.” Madeline smiled sweetly. “I get that part. I just don’t understand the whole love-at-first-sight thing.”
“Well, maybe if you’d date, you’d actually experience it for yourself.”
“It’s not that, Cam, it’s…”
“I know. The amnesia.” She regarded her friend sympathetically. “Have you remembered anything yet?”
Madeline shook her head. “It’s been ten months. Amnesiacs usually start to recall some memories from their childhood after six months. Of course, they also have help, someone from their life to lean on for support. No one from my past has come to claim me.”
“So maybe you were single and alone before the accident. Now you’re still single and alone, but that can change.”
“I don’t know how.”
“First things first. Don’t be so serious all the time! Smile more, make eye contact instead of looking away–”
“I can’t do that! It always makes me blush.”
“Trust me. When you meet a guy that you like, you’ll find it hard not to look at him. Your heart will swell, every thought will be filled with him… It’ll be the most amazing feeling in your life. Oh, and…” She gestured to her neck. “Undo a few of those buttons. Show some cleavage.”
“Cam!” Madeline’s face turned a light shade of pink, and she covered it with her hands. “I think I’ll avoid the dating scene until I get my own life figured out. Besides, Rufus seems to disapprove of every guy that he–” She paused with a chuckle. “Oh, I forgot to tell you. On Sunday, I was walking with Rufus in the park, and all of the sudden, the leash snapped in half, and he went running toward this man in an expensive suit.”
She laughed again. “He jumped at him and knocked him over. But the weird thing is, Rufus was licking him.”
“That’s crazy! Rufus hates everybody!”
“I know! Well, he wasn’t angry–the man–but I must’ve looked like a fool. Can’t even control my own dog.”
Cam leaned over the table, grinning broadly. “Was he cute?”
“The guy that Rufus jumped!”
“Oh.” Madeline frowned. “You know, I can’t even remember what he looks like.”
Groaning, Cam said, “See? You just proved my point. You find a guy that your dog actually likes, and you don’t even get a good look at him! Did you get his name at least?”
“I’m sorry! You know I don’t do well with men.”
“You’re just shy, but when you meet the right guy, you’ll get over that in no time.” Cam offered a friendly smile. “Thanks for reading my manuscript. I have to go, gotta do some research for the final sex scene.”
“Ahh. Are you sure David’s up to it?” Cam’s husband was a special agent with the FBI, his unusually generous income giving her the opportunity to work on her novels without having another job, but she didn’t get to see him too often with his busy schedule.
“He’d better be!” She grinned mischievously. “Oh! You’ve got to come over for a party next Saturday. He’s having some of his spy friends over, and not only will I be bored, but it could be just the opportunity you need to meet a nice guy.”
“Just think about it.” She stood and gave Madeline a quick hug. “I’ll see you later.”
Two men collided with one another while watching Cam leave, and Madeline resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Men never looked at her like that. She didn’t want men to look at her like that. She preferred to be invisible, just another anonymous face in a crowded café, everything about her blending in with the scenery. At times, she was just a little jealous of Cam and her straightforward manner. Cam was comfortable in a room full of strangers, even more so if they were all men, while Madeline was the exact opposite. Being around men made her nervous. She couldn’t imagine being so bold. Shyness was her nature, and she was afraid to get close to anyone in case…
She couldn’t help wondering if her amnesia made her a more private person than she would have been under normal circumstances. Her shady past kept her from becoming involved in any intimate relationships. What if she had a husband and children already? How could she merge her new life with her old one then? And what if she had done something awful? Her new love might not be comfortable with it and leave her. It was easier to stay single, to stay lonely.
She left money on the table and started out the door. As she stepped into the sunlight, she was momentarily blinded and bumped into someone. “Oh, excuse me, I’m sorry.”
Madeline frowned and lifted her head toward the sound. She didn’t recognize the man who was grinning at her, but her eyebrows slowly rose at his attractiveness. He was tall and strong and had a clearly-defined profile. She certainly would have remembered him and his neatly-styled gray hair and clear blue eyes. His face held lines of wisdom, and he had an air of authority about him that she found captivating. The man’s grin widened at her interested gaze, and she immediately ducked her head, embarrassed to have been caught looking. “Do–do I know you?”
“Somewhat. I’m afraid we weren’t properly introduced. I’m Paul, from the park on Sunday.”
The voice. She recognized his voice, thick and throaty. This was the man Rufus had knocked down? She shook his outstretched hand, and it was softer than she thought it would be. “Oh, hello.” She paused for a moment. “Are you all right? Anything bothering you from Sunday?”
He chuckled. “No. This is simply a chance encounter.”
She smiled in relief. “Good. I’m glad you’re all right.”
“Thank you. Hey, I was about to go grab some lunch. If you’re hungry, you’re welcome to join me.”
She was puzzled and more than a little nervous by his invitation, but her mouth said yes before her head could stop her.
“Great. Do you like Italian?”
They walked down the street in silence, mostly because Madeline couldn’t get herself to speak. What was she supposed to say? She didn’t know anything about him, except for the fact that Rufus seemed to like him. Well, that, and she found him incredibly attractive. She had just spent five minutes in the coffee shop convincing herself that she didn’t need this exact situation! Now here she was, on her first actual ‘date.’ Cam would be proud. Maybe Madeline would have something to tell her if she didn’t make a complete fool out of herself.
Paul opened the door for her, his hand lightly touching her back as he followed her inside. She shivered at the contact. Relax, she told herself. It’s just lunch, nothing more.
“Are you cold?” he asked gently.
She pursed her lips together. He had seen her tremble! “I’ll be fine, just a little chill.”
“Let’s sit by the window. The sun should warm you up.”
Nodding in agreement, she headed for the table with the red and white checkered cloth. Before she could sit down, Paul pulled the chair out for her. “Thank you,” she said in surprise, feeling a blush creep onto her cheeks.
“You’re welcome.” He flashed that irresistible grin at her again and began to scan the menu. “Have you been here before, Doctor?”
“Madeline.” The formalities were completely unnecessary. She didn’t want to feel like she was having lunch with a patient. “And, no, I haven’t.”
“Well, I suppose I’ll have to go with the angel hair pasta with alfredo sauce. They couldn’t mess that up too badly.”
She chuckled softly. “Are you anticipating something terrible?”
“No, I’m generally optimistic. But I’d be embarrassed if I took you to lunch and the food was terrible.”
She started to smile again, but when she looked up, her expression faltered. He was cradling his head in his hand, and there was a wedding ring on his finger. Madeline wanted to find some excuse to leave. This wasn’t right. She shouldn’t be having lunch with a married man, especially one that she found attractive.
“Is something wrong?” he asked, apparently having noticed the change in her mood.
“I–” Her mouth wouldn’t work again, and she froze. Finally, she managed a tight shake of her head. When the waiter brought their water, she clamped her hands around the glass and stared at the floating ice.
Lunch took much too long for her liking, and she resisted the urge to bolt out of the restaurant. Why did he have to be married? She did her best to maintain her end of the conversation, but her eyes kept shifting to his ring. Paul knew something was wrong, and he asked her once again what it was.
“I… Thank you for lunch, but I can’t do this again.”
He almost laughed, out of surprise rather than humor. “Why?”
“I don’t date married men,” she declared finally, still avoiding his gaze.
This time he did laugh. “Well, you’re in luck because I’m not married.”
Her lashes flew up, and she regarded him skeptically. “You’re not?”
“No. What gave you that idea?” Before she had a chance to respond, his head jerked slightly in realization. “Oh!” He held out his hand, showing her the ring. “You mean this?” Madeline nodded quickly. “This isn’t a wedding ring. It’s actually…” He hesitated for a moment. “I wear this ring for someone that was very close to me, someone that I lost.”
She drew in a breath. “I’m sorry…”
“It’s okay. It–it was a long time ago. I guess I just didn’t want to forget her, and I was afraid that I would.”
“It’s tempting to live in the past, but at some point, we just have to go on with our lives. All we have are our memories, but we can’t let them tie us down to something we’ve lost when there are other possibilities.” The words humbled her, and she made a silent vow to follow her own advice.
He captured her gaze, and they shared a level of understanding that surprised her. His eyes, which had never strayed from her face, seemed to reach into her soul. Finally, he spoke, his voice barely above a whisper. “Can I see you again, Madeline?”
“Yes,” she replied, feeling the heat rise to her cheeks again. “I’d like that.”
“Tomorrow, same time?”
At first, she nodded, but then she shook her head. “No. I have some patients scheduled tomorrow afternoon, but my lunch break is at 12:30.”
“12:30 it is then.” He paid the bill, dismissing her protests to pay for her meal, then offered to walk her back to her car. She accepted, thankful that the traffic drowned out the sound of her pounding heart. She wasn’t sure what she had done to attract his attention, and at the moment she didn’t care. There was something about him, something that made her feel like a different person. The way he looked at her, perhaps?
“This is my car,” she said as they approached the white sport utility vehicle. “Plenty of room for Rufus.”
He grinned. “How is Rufus?”
“He’s fine. A little upset that I won’t take him on walks anymore. I’m going to have to do some searching for a stronger leash.” She fumbled in her purse for her keys, her hands shaking from his closeness.
“Well, I wouldn’t be too concerned with the leash. If he hadn’t broken it, we might not have met.”
Madeline spun toward him, pulling out her keys as well as her cell phone and a small flashlight. Everything fell onto the cement, scattering around her feet. Her cheeks turned bright red as she bent down to get them, and Paul knelt to help her. They reached for the phone at the same time, and her fingers lightly brushed against his. “Sorry,” she muttered nervously. I thought these things only happened in the movies, she thought, looking away from him.
Paul slipped his hand in hers and helped her up, but he didn’t let go right away. “I’m glad I ran into you today.”
Her breath quickened, and she couldn’t decide if she wanted to pull away or squeeze his hand tighter. The blush deepened, and if he noticed, he didn’t say anything. “Me too. Thank you for lunch.”
He brought her hand to his lips and brushed a gentle kiss across her knuckles. Madeline was sure he could feel her pulse pounding in her wrist. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow,” she repeated, and he grinned and walked away. Still in a daze, she somehow managed to unlock her car door and climb inside. Another date? Whatever you did, Madeline, just keep doing it.
Madeline eyed the clock anxiously. It would take her two minutes to walk to the coffee shop, where she was meeting Paul, so she still had four minutes. I could leave early, she thought. Otherwise, I’ll drive myself crazy with the waiting.
She blushed at her own excitement. She hadn’t been able to sleep or eat because her stomach continuously lurched at the thought of him. Was this what Cam had been referring to? That ‘amazing’ feeling? She wasn’t sure it felt so amazing, but it certainly made her giddy.
She had called Cam last night for support, but no one answered so she left a message. Cam was probably doing her ‘research’ with David. Their marriage was perfect. David trusted his wife implicitly, and she never gave him reason not to, despite her many male admirers. They had been married since they graduated high school. Madeline didn’t know what kept their marriage so strong, but she hoped for a relationship like that in her own life.
“Doctor Wolfe?” the voice of her teenage secretary, Jenny, came through the speaker.
“Cam’s on line one for you.”
“Thanks.” Speak of the devil. She picked up the phone. “Hello?”
“Hey, Mads! I got your message, sorry I didn’t call last night but I was busy.”
“I know. How’s David?”
“Still sleeping.” She giggled. “I think I wore him out. So what’s up?”
She couldn’t keep the smile out of her voice. “I met someone yesterday.”
“Yesterday? After I left you at Café Au Lait?”
“Yes. Remember the guy I told you about that Rufus jumped in the park?”
“No. I actually bumped into him on the sidewalk, and he took me to lunch. I’m meeting him again in just a few minutes.”
“Wow, I’m so excited! What’s he like? Is he cute?”
“He’s not your type, Cam, but I think he’s wonderful.” The words surprised her, and she blushed in spite of herself. “I can’t explain it.”
“Ohhh, this is so great!” Cam was probably jumping up and down on the other end. “I can’t wait to meet him. Oh, I know! Bring him over next Saturday!”
“Cam! I barely know the man! I’m not going to just invite him to your house!”
“You’ll know him by next Saturday! If the opportunity presents itself, be bold. I know you can do it, Mads.” There was a pause. “Hey, David’s up. I’m going to tell him the good news. Have a wonderful lunch. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”
Madeline chuckled and hung up the phone. Don’t do anything Cam wouldn’t do? That pretty much gave her permission to do anything. Her eyes turned to the clock. 12:29. She was going to be late! Gathering her purse, she rushed out of her office into the waiting room. Jenny looked up from her magazine. “I’m going to lunch. Do you need anything? How’s my hair?”
“How’s your hair?” Jenny laughed. “You got a date or something?”
“Don’t patronize me, Jen.”
“You do!” Jenny circled the desk excitedly and checked Madeline’s outfit and hair for anything out of place. “No, you look fine. Doctor Wolfe, I’m impressed! When did you find the time to hook a man?”
Madeline shook her head with a chuckle. “I suppose you could say Rufus hooked him for me.” The clock on the wall caught her attention, and she gasped. “Oh, I have to go. I’ll be back in time for my one-thirty appointment.”
She hurried down the sidewalk, hoping she didn’t trip along the way. She was already late; she didn’t need a broken nose to go with it. I never should’ve bought these high heels! The ‘don’t walk’ sign appeared before she had a chance to cross the street, and she sighed, impatiently shifting her weight from foot to foot. Finally ‘walk,’ and she moved with the rest of the pedestrians to the other side of the road, trying to push to the front.
Paul was waiting for her, casually leaning against the brick, looking in her direction. His face seemed to brighten when he saw her, and as she approached she noticed he had his hands behind his back.
“I’m so sorry I’m late,” she apologized, stopping in front of him. “My friend called just as I was about to leave and–”
“You’re not late,” he interrupted. “I thought I was going to be late. Finding this was difficult.” He presented a large white flower to her, and a soft gasp escaped her lips.
“Oh, it’s lovely!” Madeline admired it for a moment. It seemed familiar somehow, but she knew nothing about flowers. “What is it?”
He chuckled. “It’s a calla lily. Do you like it?”
“It’s beautiful! You didn’t need to do this.”
“I wanted to do it.” They shared a smile, and he took her by the elbow and walked with her down the street. “So what sounds good today?”
“Hmm…sandwiches? There’s a deli around the corner.”
“Okay. Let’s go.”
End of part two