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.
They met for lunch every day that week, and then promised to meet again the next Monday. Oddly, Madeline found herself missing him over the weekend, a sort of emptiness in her life. Paul was everything she had imagined she would want in a man. In a word, he was perfect. Maybe a little too perfect. She hadn’t found anything wrong with him yet. Cam told her she was being irrational, that his biggest fault was probably not putting the toilet seat down.
Madeline hoped she was right. She hadn’t felt this alive since…well, forever. She couldn’t remember anything that happened before she woke up in the hospital ten months ago, but she doubted she had been this happy. She still hadn’t told Paul about her amnesia, afraid that this feeling would vanish if he knew, that he would vanish.
For the next week, they continued to meet for lunch, going to different restaurants in the area. Her shyness had lessened, and she found it easier to look at his face, to laugh at his jokes, and to sit closer to him. Whenever they parted, he would kiss her hand, nothing more. Sometimes she would fantasize about how it would feel to have his lips against hers, and the thoughts made her blush furiously. I’ve been reading too many of Cam’s erotic novels!
On Friday, she and Paul chose to have a picnic in the park where they first met. She made the sandwiches, and he brought the wine. They sat next to each other on the blanket, separated only by the basket. She was grateful for the barrier, afraid that she may end up in his arms without it. The growing intensity of her feelings terrified her; just two weeks ago, she was perfectly content to live life alone. Now she could hardly wait for her next date with Paul. What was happening to her?
“So do you have to go back to work after lunch?”
Madeline shook her head, hugging her knees to her chest. “No. Fridays tend to be pretty slow. I don’t have a very large patient base since I’m new to the area.”
“Oh? Where did you practice before coming here?”
“Nowhere,” she answered quickly. “I just started a few months ago. I had some things to sort out, but everything’s fine now.”
“Good.” He leaned back, propping himself up with an elbow. “I liked your sandwiches.”
“Thank you.” She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and noticed that he was watching her intently, his gaze moving slowly up her body. Her heart began to beat faster. “What are you doing tomorrow?” she asked, her voice wavering slightly.
“Saturday? Night or day?”
“Not a thing. I’m free after five.” He paused, grinning. “Why do you ask?”
Her throat suddenly went dry, and she took a sip of wine. The sip turned into a gulp, and she coughed. Paul sat up, his hand rubbing her back.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m fine.” Her cheeks were already pink, but the color intensified when she noticed he hadn’t moved his hand. Maybe he’s still concerned I’ll choke, she rationalized.
“So about Saturday night…”
He wasn’t going to let her forget. Madeline took a breath. “My next-door neighbor Cam and her husband are having people over for a little party. Probably just hors d’oeuvres or something light. She invited me and said I could bring someone. And I was wondering–if you weren’t busy–if you’d like to come with me.”
“Under one condition.”
Her eyebrows rose. “Which is?”
“You wear your hair down.”
“That’s an odd request.”
“I’ve always seen you with your hair up, rolled or in a bun. I’d like to see it down.”
A smile touched her lips. “All right.”
He laid flat on his back, looking at the sky through the tree limbs. “So is this a black tie affair?”
“Not quite black tie, but certainly not casual. You should probably wear a suit.” She almost chuckled, since all she had ever seen him wearing was a suit. “What did you say you did for a living?”
“I didn’t. Are you asking?” He winked at her, turning onto his side. “Actually, I can’t give you details since it’s classified. But I work for a global agency.”
“Like NATO or the UN?”
“A little bit of both, actually.”
The fact that he couldn’t go into details should have bothered her, but surprisingly she thought very little of it. She trusted him, probably more than she should. Of course, David couldn’t tell Cam anything about his business in the FBI… “Well, that’s fine,” she said finally. “You can’t tell me what you do, and I can’t give you details about my work.”
“We both must be very loyal.”
“Absolutely dedicated. I guess I thought being a psychiatrist would also keep me busy, but I seem to find myself with a lot of free time.”
“Is that such a bad thing?” he asked quietly.
She looked down at him, her voice equally soft. “Not anymore.”
He sat up, and for a moment she thought he might kiss her. Instead, he gave her a small smile. “You’ll have to tell me where you live so I know where to pick you up tomorrow night.”
“Pick me up? We’re just going to be walking next door.”
“Yeah, but when you put it that way, it doesn’t sound like a date.”
The words brought another smile to her lips. It seemed that, whenever she was with him, all she did was smile. “Are you familiar with the city?”
“North of town, there’s a subdivision called Willow Creek.”
“Once you get there, take the first street to the right. You’ll see a huge house with columns and lots of windows. That’s where Cam lives. I live next door, in the little tiny house.”
“If you live in Willow Creek, it can’t be a small house.”
“Compared to Cam’s, it’s a shack.”
Still grinning, he fingered a loose strand of her hair that rested on her cheek. “What time?”
“Six-thirty,” she managed, unable to focus on anything but his hand and its motions.
“Don’t forget to wear your hair down.” He tucked the curly tendril behind her ear. “I’ve got to go.”
“Oh.” He helped her to her feet, and she picked up the basket. “So I guess I’ll see you at six-thirty tomorrow night.”
“I’ll be there.” He stroked the side of her face gently, and she closed her eyes. It felt so comforting, so natural. “Bye.”
“Goodbye,” she replied, her voice trailing off as he walked away.
“Hi, David, is Cam around?”
The man on the other end was silent for a moment. “No, sorry, Madeline. She’s getting ready, and you know how long that takes her.”
Madeline nodded to herself. “I bet she’s been in there for an hour already.”
“Two hours. So I take it you’re coming.”
“I am, and I’m bringing a guest.”
“Ah. Is this the man that has occupied all of your time lately?”
“It is,” she beamed, rummaging through her jewelry box to find a suitable pair of earrings.
“I’ll be sure to tell Cam. She’s been talking about your love life almost as much as she’s been talking about her latest novel.”
She smirked. “Well, I hope I don’t disappoint her.”
“I think the fact that you’re dating is good enough for her. I’ll tell her you called, and we’ll see you tonight.”
“Thanks, bye.” She glanced at the clock. It was almost 6:30. Yesterday she had told Paul the wrong time; the party actually started at 7:00. Now she would have to entertain for half an hour. Maybe he would just want a tour of her house, but that would take almost no time at all. There were a lot of things she couldn’t explain, like why her bathroom was decorated in brown when she didn’t really care for the color.
She would have to tell him about her amnesia. If their relationship progressed in the same manner as it had so far, it would only be a matter of time before he asked about her family and her background. And if by that time she still couldn’t remember, at least she wouldn’t have to make something up.
After the party, she promised herself. I’ll tell him when he walks me home. She inserted her small diamond earrings and looked at herself in the mirror. As promised, her hair was down, and she had somehow managed to have it frame her face perfectly. That typically didn’t happen, which was why she was so fond of putting it in a bun or braiding it. No one could see the mass of unruly hair if it was hidden from view. She was wearing the only nice outfit that she owned, a knee-length black dress that was cut a little too low for her tastes. Cam had given it to her for her birthday so she didn’t have any excuses to avoid David’s parties.
Rufus had been laying on the floor, watching her, but his ears perked up at a sound. Madeline glanced at him, and he padded out of the room and down the stairs. Paul must be here. The doorbell rang, and she took a deep breath, looking at herself once again. She hurried after Rufus; he was waiting by the front door silently, as a good watchdog should.
“Hello,” she greeted as she stepped aside to allow him entrance. “You’re right on time.”
Rufus jumped on him, and Paul patted him absently, his eyes focused on Madeline. His gaze traveled up and down her body more than once, and she couldn’t hide the blush that crept onto her cheeks. Fortunately, he wasn’t looking at her face. “You look…very nice. Very nice.”
“Is that for me?” she asked, reaching for the red rose he held in his hand.
“Oh! Yes, here.” He cleared his throat and averted his gaze, giving her the flower. “I hope it’s all right.”
“The flower? Why wouldn’t it be?”
“Giving the wrong flower or the wrong color could end a date before it even begins. I had to pick between yellow for friendship and red for love, and I didn’t want to give you something that you wouldn’t accept, but I thought–”
She put her fingers against his lips, and he looked at her. “Don’t think.” Madeline shook her head. ‘Don’t think?’ What kind of comment was that? “I mean it’s…it’s lovely, Paul, thank you.”
He chuckled, kissing her fingertips. “You should put it in a vase, and we’ll get going.”
“Actually, we can’t leave yet. The party starts at seven.”
“Oh. Well, that’s fine. There’s something I wanted to tell you, but I’m not sure if I should wait until after we get back from the party or not.”
“Will it ruin the evening?”
“I hope not.”
Madeline began to tremble slightly. “What is it?”
“I have to go to Europe on business for the next week. I’m leaving early tomorrow morning, and I’ll be back late Friday night.”
The color drained from her face, and she opened her mouth to speak. A week? She had a hard enough time waiting to see him from day to day. How would she last a week? A gasp escaped her lips. “Okay.”
He touched the side of her face. “I’m so sorry. I wish you could come with me.” His caresses became more gentle, and she relaxed. “Well, you never know. It could be good for us, a week apart. Help us figure out what we want…if we don’t already know.”
“Do you know?” she whispered.
“I might.” A grin appeared. “So can I see the rest of your house?”
Madeline gave him the grand tour, pleased with his approving nods and smiles. He didn’t ask about her brown bathroom or anything else that she couldn’t answer, and she felt the tension slowly fade from her body. By the time they had finished, it was getting close to 7:00. “We should probably go to Cam’s. We wouldn’t want to be late.”
He glanced at his watch. “You’re right. Uh, don’t forget your shoes.”
She looked down at the dark nylons that covered her bare feet. “Oh. Good idea. I’ll be right back.” She hurried back to her room and searched for a decent pair of black shoes. She had so many of that color, but she needed some with a decent amount of height. She finally made her selection, some slingbacks that Cam had suggested. Madeline had no sense of fashion whatsoever and was glad that Cam liked to shop. Slipping them on, she returned to the living room where Paul was scanning her book collection.
“I didn’t realize you were interested in bonsai,” he said, not facing her. “I would’ve brought you a juniper tree.”
“Actually, I’m not interested in bonsai. I tried it once; it was boring.”
He seemed very surprised, tilting his head at her as if she was kidding. “Really?”
“Really. Why are you looking at me like that?”
He snapped out of his trance and shook his head. “Just wondering why you would have so many books on it and not like it.” He returned his attention to the shelf, eventually removing two paperback novels with an amused grin. “Now this is certainly not what I would’ve expected. ‘The Hot Tides of Passion’ and ‘Vibrations of Liquid Fire?'”
Oh, how could she have forgotten those were there? Madeline lunged at him, swiping the books from his grasp. “Uh, never mind those. They’re, uh…” Her cheeks burned as she struggled to form a sentence. “Cam, my neighbor Cam, is a, a, uh, romance novelist of, um, erotic romances.”
“Really?” He raised an eyebrow. “Could I borrow them?”
“B-borrow them? Why?”
“It’s a long flight to Europe.”
“Oh.” Her trembling hands passed them over to him. “She actually has another one, ‘An Even Deeper Ecstasy,’ which is in my…on my…” She squeezed her eyes shut. “Nightstand.”
“An even deeper ecstasy? Is that the title or just your personal review?”
Her eyes grew wide, and she knew her face was turning even redder. “Uh, the…the title.” He must’ve thought she was a prude, the way she was blushing at Cam’s novels. “I haven’t finished it yet; she had me read her latest manuscript.”
“Can I borrow both of these?”
“Did you want the other one, too?”
“No, you finish it. Which one do you prefer?”
She pressed her lips into a straight line. “They’re both fine.”
“I’m sure they’re great, but I never read a book without some kind of recommendation.” He held up the books so she could see the covers. “Should I read about Chance and Maya’s erotic beach adventure?”
Madeline chuckled. “‘The Hot Tides of Passion.'”
“Or…” He grinned at her. “Do I start with Hunter and Jacqueline’s snow-melting winter romance?”
“I’d go with ‘Vibrations of Liquid Fire.’ It’s more…” Words escaped her. Erotic? Interesting? Plot-centered? “I just think you’ll like it better.”
“‘Vibrations of Liquid Fire’ it is. Thank you.”
The telephone rang, and Madeline was thankful for the interruption. The room had become too warm for her. “Hello?”
“Hey, Mads. Some of the guests have already arrived, so you might as well come on over.” Cam paused. “Is your man with you?”
“Yes. We’ll be right there.”
“Ohh, I can’t wait!” The line went dead, and Madeline sat the receiver back down. She hoped Cam didn’t embarrass her too much.
End of part three