I can’t move.
My body is completely numb. The world is nothing but darkness, a velvety black curtain stretching in every direction.
What was that? The voice faded almost before I could hear it, lost in the infinite void. Once again there is silence.
Rose, can you hear me?
I hear it again, louder this time. The sound pierces through the inky veil, like an invisible hand dragging me up from the murky depths.
Rose, wake up! Please wake up…..
My eyes flutter open, immediately blinded by the sun’s bright light. Pain shoots through my body. My lungs feel like they’re filled with rocks; every breath is agony. A fit of violent coughing takes hold, tearing apart my ribs. As the convulsions subside, I begin to feel the throbbing pain in my head, radiating out from my right temple.
“Rose, thank God! You got hit in the head pretty hard. How do you feel?”
I look up at an unfamiliar face, long blonde hair hanging in ringlets around an oval face. Her glasses sat crooked on her nose, cracks running across one lens. The woman wore what must have been a nice dress at one time, now it was covered in soot and blood, the seams tearing apart. She held me in her arms, one hand supporting my head and the other clutching mine in a tight embrace.
I open my mouth, but no words come out. My throat feels as though it has been ripped to shreds.
“Don’t worry Rose, I shear the ambulance coming now. You’re going to be alright.”
Her grip on my hand grows tighter; I look down to see the rings on both of our fingers, gold bands studded with tiny diamonds. They match?
The ambulance comes screeching around the corner, its sirens blaring like a wailing child. For the first time I take in my surroundings. I lay on a gentle slope covered with well-kempt grass; I can feel the cool moisture wicking through my thin dress. A ways before me towers a hedge of wild roses, but their fragrance is overwhelmed by the smoke clouding the air.
I turn my head to the left, taking in a horrific sight. A modern home – one of the fancy ones with massive windows and structured balconies – stands up on the hill, flames shooting from a gaping hole smashed through the glass front. Soot darkened the pristine white walls and scorched the concrete driveway. A black Corvette parks in front of what must have been the garage, now surrounded by rubble.
The woman takes her hand from mine and uses it to push back my hair, long dark strands which were strewn about my face.
“You’ll be okay Rose. I promise. It’s going to be okay.”
I look up at him again, this time noticing the tears threatening to spill from her reddened eyes. The ambulance has arrived; I can shear them unloading the gurney. My voice comes out a whisper as I make one more attempt to speak before the darkness overtakes my mind once more:
“Who are you?”
The starched hospital sheets feel cool against my tender skin. Bandages wind their way around my head and down my arms; who knows where else. On the nightstand perches a clear class vase, overflowing with an assortment of flowers. The scent of roses, daisies, daffodils, and tulips permeates the sterile air.
The strange woman is back, sitting in a folding chair by my bedside. She’s wearing a freshly pressed pantsuit, complete with a pair of diamond earrings. New glasses frame her hazel eyes, thin black frames giving her a business-like air.
I turn my head to face the woman; the motion seems to rouse her from some sort of daze. A grin spreads across her face, and her eyes are suddenly filled with childlike joy. Her hands thrust forward suddenly, and she restrains her excited motions to tenderly take my hand in hers.
“Rose! I’m so glad you’re awake! How do you feel?”
I struggle to talk once more, not from pain but from thirst. Almost seeming to act upon instinct, the woman takes a glass of water from next to the flower vase and places it in my hands, guiding it up to my lips. The water tastes like heaven, the cool liquid slipping down my throat. Gently, the woman takes the empty glass and places it back on the table.
I look down at my bandaged arms, questions racing through my head. I can’t remember anything before those few agonizing moments in the grass. I jerk my head up in shock with a sudden realization – I don’t remember anything at all.
What’s my name? The woman keeps calling me Rose. Who is she? We wore rings. Matching rings. Are we engaged? Married? Do we have a family? Kids? That house looked expensive. Was it ours?
“What happened?” I ask the woman, my voice barely above a whimper.
“You don’t remember? Well, I’m not surprised about that. You took quite a hit to the head.”
She leans closer, sort of half-smile on her face. Not a mocking sort of smile, but one that betrays a deep love for someone. For me?
“I wasn’t in the room, but I’ve got a pretty good idea. You had been baking in the kitchen when the oven exploded – turns out the gas line had been cracked. As soon as the fire came on, it was too late.”
“That’s what the fire department said, anyways. I heard the blast from the next room over. What a mess! I’m so glad you’re alive; I’ve been so worried about you…” Her voice trails off as tears fill her eyes once again. She brings my hand up to her face, placing a kiss on my fingertips.
I pull my hand back, leaving him with an expression halfway between confusion and betrayal.
“Rose? What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know who you are,” I tell him, my voice shaking.
“You don’t remember me?” The tears in her eyes begin streaming down her now pale face, splashing in tiny drops on the front of her blazer.
“I…I don’t remember anything…. I don’t know who I am…”
The woman looks absolutely crushed, lowering her head into her hands in despair. Carefully, I reach out to stroke her shoulder.
Her head snaps up suddenly, her eyes staring directly into mine.
“Rose, you’re the love of my life. You have absolutely nothing to apologize for. Maybe you don’t remember me, but as soon as we leave the hospital, I’ll make you fall in love with me all over again.”
She takes my hand again, and the time I don’t pull away.
“I’ll do anything for you, Rose.”
“The house… It looks brand new…?”
The woman – Evelyn; she told me her name is Evelyn – pulls into the driveway, parking the silver Mercedes in the same place the Corvette had been. The windows have been completely replaced, and only the faintest smudges of soot remain on the driveway.
“Well, on the outside, at least. The repair crew is still working on the kitchen. I’m having it remodeled, just like you had wanted.”
“They must have worked fast to have it this nice already.”
Evelyn turns to me, a look of concern in her eyes.
“Rose, do you know how long you were in the hospital for?”
“A few days, I guess?”
“Three weeks. You were there for three weeks.”
I sit back in the plush leather seat, a wave of realization coming over me. I had taken a quick look in the mirror before we left, noticing the scars which now run across my face and down my neck and chest. My arms were burned too, but not as badly.
Evelyn gets out of the car, coming around to open the door for me. I take her extended hand, pulling myself up from the seat and stepping outside. I stumble forwards, Evelyn catching me in her firm embrace. She pulls me up close against him, steadying me against her chest.
“Take your time; I’m here to hold you.”
I can feel myself blush. It feels so natural, being held in her arms.
“Come on, let’s go inside.”
I wrap my hand around her arm as we make our way to the front door. I can tell she’s a fast walker; she’s slowed her pace to match mine.
Evelyn opens the front door, and we step into the air-conditioned foyer. I look around in awe at the airy room, filled with simple yet elegant pieces giving the house a modern and expensive feel. Obviously it was expensive; this house is more like a mansion. Evelyn stands leaning against the wall, a smirk on her face as she watches me take in my surroundings. After a few moments, she places a hand on my shoulder.
“Want to see the rest of the house?”
“We really live here?” I ask, unable to believe my eyes.
“Of course. I’ve worked hard to earn enough to afford this. Nothing but the best for you, dear.”
A sudden thought crosses my mind, one that I can’t push aside.
“Evelyn… Did I marry you for money?”
She seems startled by the question, then bursts into laughter.
“Rose, when we met, I could barely afford a studio apartment! If you were a gold digger, you would’ve left me on the first date!”
We pass through a few more rooms before coming to the kitchen. The center island is strewn with plywood sheets and power tools; marble slabs are stacked in one corner. The room smells of sawdust.
“You always wanted a bigger kitchen, so they’re expanding it a little.” She points to an empty area beneath the countertop. “That’s where the oven was. It’s being replaced, and so are the gas lines. If this were to happen again…. No!”
She turns to me suddenly, placing her hands on my arms and bending slightly to look me in the eyes.
“Rose, I can’t bear the thought of losing you. I don’t know what I’d do without you. You’ve always been there for me no matter what. There’s no one else like you, Rose. I love you so mu-“
I bring my arms up around her shoulders, pulling him in for a passionate kiss and cutting off her sentence. She closes her eyes, wrapping her arms around my body and pulling me in tight. Nothing else matters in this moment, only that we’re together.
“I love you too, Evelyn.”