Why Can’t I Remember What I Forgot?

Written in response to: Write a love story without using the word “love.”... view prompt

18 comments

Fantasy Fiction Mystery

London, England—September 4, 1992 at 5:01 pm—the birth of Terence Lovelace Jr.

*********************

The cityscape was unfolding beyond the window as lights appeared against the backdrop of the approaching sundown.

I awoke suddenly, hungry, and crying, swaddled in my mother's arms.

There was a light at a tunnel’s end, and I had struggled through a rush of water to reach it.


Gloved hands pulled me naked and exhausted

into a cold, sterile room with bright lights that hurt my eyes. Everything around me was out of focus, but I instinctively whaled before someone slapped my butt. 


 A sliver of memory was quickly fading. I hastily tucked, as I had done many times before, the soon-to-be-forgotten memory into the repository that stores and retrieves our emotional information—the subconscious mind.

*********************

Present day, late May 2023:

The sun moved around to the West, and Meggie Dunlap turned to stare at the ceiling. Catnaps always left her feeling sleep-drunk.


The door to her small third-floor walk-up opened, and she peered through thick eyelashes, afraid to open her eyes wider. All she could make out was a uniform, that of a waitress or hotel maid. The uniform carried a food tray and spoke with a distinctively English accent, with a hint of the Cornwall region.


“Mrs. Lovelace, I’m sorry to wake you, but you slept through afternoon tea. I thought you might be a tad peckish.”


Meggie was in fight-or-flight mode, rolling to the other side of the bed. She cursed when a foot caught on the bedsheet as she jumped to her feet, causing her to fall onto an end table and knock over a lamp. The uniform hovered, gripping her upper arms to help her to a quilted settee at the end of the bed. The space was enormous, nothing like her efficiency apartment, and the furnishings looked posh.


“Where... Am I,” Meggie asked, trembling.


“Here, Mrs., take a sip of water; you mustn’t get dehydrated,” the uniform said, holding a glass to her lips. She pushed the glass away and confronted the uniform, “I was resting in my apartment... Oh no, what time is it? I have to be at work.”


She looked nervously at her wrist for a watch and scanned the room for a clock, but there wasn't one. Frustrated, she stood and leveled her gaze on the uniform’s face. The woman was older, but the way she wore her salt-and-pepper hair in a tight updo made her features more severe.


“Mrs. Lovelace, please be seated and try to relax,” the woman in the uniform pleaded.


“Who in the hell is Mrs. Lovelace?”


The question had barely rolled off of Meggie’s lips when a bizarrely dressed guy walked through the door. He wore long hair and what her grandparents would have called glam rock threads in their day. 


It occurred to her that he resembled Terry Lovelace, a seventies musician her gram and granddad were fans of. When he vanished from the British music scene, the tabloids labeled him a ‘burned-out rocker.’


To hear her Gram tell it, when Terry and his band, the Lovers, performed a cover of ‘Smoke On The Water’ at their concerts, his arrangement of the guitar riff voted the ‘greatest ever’ was more outstanding than the original.


Uh, what are you doing here,” Meggie stammered.


“I’m your husband, Luv, remember? We are at our home in Berkshire,” he said, sounding very British.


Confused and becoming a little frightened she ran her fingers through her hair before inquiring,

 “Near London, in the UK? No, I’m Meggie Dunlap, and I live in San Francisco. I’m a sous chef at Osito.”


This had to be a hoax or possibly a kidnapping and she needed to get her bearings. Meggie went to the window overlooking lush grounds enclosed by a high wrought iron fence.


The stranger in the seventies outfit approached her quietly. She froze when he placed his arms around her and his hands slid to what she thought was a little too intimate part of her abdomen.


“Pet, he said softly, the doctors want you to be extra careful in your condition. You’ve already been through a lot in the last week.”  


What did he mean by her condition? Meggie’s thoughts raced, and her hands flew to her stomach. Underneath the silky robe, she found a good-sized bump. 


“I took a nap before work and woke up married and pregnant. How did that happen,” Meggie demanded to know.


He gently pivoted her to face him and he continued to speak in a low, sensual tone,


“Right, sweetheart—his thumb massaging a gold band on her ring finger. We married three years ago, and we’re a bit over four months pregnant.” 


“Cate, my gram has a collection of Terry and the Lovers photos and memorabilia.

You’re not a seventy-something Terry Lovelace,” Meggie whispered.


The imposter grinned or she thought maybe he was laughing at her. By this time she was feeling paranoid and unsure of anything.


“I’m Terry’s son, Terrance Jr. He told her, try to recall, darling, we arranged this for Dad’s seventy-fifth birthday?”


“Arranged what,” Meggie asked.


“I’m impersonating Terry, accompanied by his former bandmates the, Lovers.”


We’ll be performing

his old fan favorites tonight at a tribute for his birthday,” he said, seemingly disappointed that she didn’t know what he was talking about.


Terrence stepped aside and removed the wig and facial disguise, almost forgetting the retro porkchop sideburns. Revealed was a man in his early thirties with dark eyes and curly, dark hair that could pass for black.


“Meggie darling,” he persuaded, placing a hand on the small of her back. “Please allow Mrs. Dogfinch to help you dress for the celebration.”


Hmm, she thought, the uniform does have a name.


“Cheers,” he called to the maid for her assistance before leaving. 


“Come now, dear, let us get you dressed,”


Mrs. Dogfinch said, beckoning her with a wave to a dressing room off the bedroom.”


“Mrs Goldfish, Meggie said firmly, I assure you I can dress myself.“ 


In response, the maid smiled but quickly corrected her, “It’s Mrs. Dogfinch, my dear. Morwenna Dogfinch, to be sure.”


“I don’t care if it’s Mrs. Dog Shit, I’ll dress myself,” she said, her voice becoming a little pitchy.


Meggie slammed clothes hangers back and forth in the oversized closet.


Shoved in the back was a one-piece rose gold jumpsuit with a short matching jacket. It wasn’t consider evening wear, like the ugly sequined designer evening gowns that the maid laid out for her. But it seemed roomy enough and would work for a party and, more importantly, for her escape.


On a top shelf, there were boxes where she found clothes that didn’t have expensive designer names and personal items that she realized were hers. Meggie searched through the worn handbags and discovered a California driver's license for Meghan Cate Dunlap, not due for renewal for another year, and a valid passport. Several credit cards were also in her name, and all but one had expired.


In the dressing room, a phone was charging, a new one by the looks of It. The phone wasn’t locked and had no stored information other than the Apple ID in the name of Meghan C. Lovelace.


Meggie knew her location was traceable if she used the phone and she decided to leave it there. At the time, she had no recollection of the car accident that destroyed her cell phone and laptop


After stepping out of the shower, she hurried to dry her shoulder-length brown hair. Natural highlights framed her face, and on the left side of her forehead was a bloody gash covered by surgical tape. She combed a few bangs over it, and the rest of the hair she drew into a loose upsweep with diamond-encrusted hairpins.  


There was a knock at her door and the thought crossed her mind that if she remained quiet, they might go away.


In the dim light, she wasn't sure but thought it was the son who’d changed into a dinner jacket.


Meggie was skeptical of her visitor’s motives, and she inched backward until her leg touched something in the way, nearly toppling her over. It was the younger Lovelace who reached out to steady her, his anxiety was palpable when he pulled her close.


“I almost lost you once, Luv—I won’t let that happen again,” he said, his voice becoming jagged and breathless against her temple,


When his hold on her tightened, she felt the outline of what she feared was the perpetrator of her ‘condition.’


There was another knock at the door, and Meggie squirmed out of his arms when the maid entered.


“Pardon the intrusion, but Sir Terrence has arrived.”


 Mrs Dogfinch said, looking over her attire with a disapproving “huff” before excusing herself.


“So, it’s Sir Terrance. Does that mean the queen knighted him? It must be a great honor,” Meggie added gratuitously, still feeling his warmth against her.


“Yes, quite,” he answered

and offered his arm, directing her toward the door,


“Darling, shall we greet our guests?” Before she could respond, Terrence leaned over and brushed his lips softly on hers.

By the way, he said, “you look smashing tonight.”


An aging Sir Terrence Lovelace stood at the bottom of the staircase. Meggie noticed he was conservatively dressed in a plain black tux, unlike his rocker alter ego. 


 “My boy, give us a hug,” he said, throwing his arms around his son, who laughed and replied, “Happy Birthday, old chap!”


When he saw Meggie’s growing belly, which was more evident in the tight one-piece she wore. The once-famous rocker's face lit up, and he shouted above the chatter of their guests,


“Blimey lass,” kissing her on the cheek and touching her stomach.


His daughter-in-law placed the clutch she carried over her midsection in hopes of discouraging more unwanted groping. 


Before the meal began, everyone raised a glass of wine to toast the man of the hour, followed by a gregarious round of “For He’s a Jolly good fellow.”


 Meggie tried to mingle or give the impression that she was while Terrence was changing into his costume for the

tribute.


There was the compulsory sympathy for what guests called her “Unfortunate accident.” 


Of course, there were congratulations on the impending arrival. However, she sensed an undercurrent of resentment, mainly from the women. She attributed it to their mistaken belief that she’d somehow snagged the most attractive and eligible bachelor in London. 


Lights in the large entertainment hall lowered, and footlights lit the small stage. Red smoke rose upward as the room went wild with whistling and applause that filled the house. 


Sir Terrance was thrilled with his talented son’s performance, and he squeezed Meggie and planted a kiss on the top of her head.  


The ties to her real life were in the beaded clutch that Meggie held tightly as she quickly crossed the backyard. Near the side gate, a group of partiers were vaping and talking loudly. From their direction a

haze of cannabis floated around her providing a little extra distraction for the escape.


The neighborhood was still except for the clicking of her heels on the pavement as she rushed down the lane.


Mrs. Dogfinch’s mouth curled into a smirk when she caught sight of Meggie from a window sneaking through the gate past security, whom she had instructed to allow her to pass. Young Terrence was like a son to her, and she wasn’t about to let him make the same mistake as his father.


This time, if she had anything to say about it she’d make ‘right sure’

the ‘nasty little tart’ disappeared for good. Unlike the fog-shrouded night when the she packed her bags and announced she was paying an unexpected visit to her family in the States. 


Due to the intermediate WyFy connection, poor cell phone service, and the construction site meetings, it was difficult to reach Terrence. He managed his father's business interests, and he was inspecting a building project near the mountain resort where he stayed.


Mrs. Dogfinch assured the woman she thought of as an ‘unwanted intruder’ that she’d informed Terrence of her last-minute trip, and he thought it was a brilliant idea before her pregnancy was too far along.


Meggie was in a coma for twenty-four hours after crashing her car in the fog on the way to the airport.


It was fortunate for the maid that she was suffering from what the doctors diagnosed as Traumatic Amnesia. It affected her short-term memory and required consistent reminders of certain people, places, and events while other memories remained intact. 


Terrence knew nothing about Meggie's plans to visit her family, and now Mrs. Dogfinch had time to fabricate a story. Nonetheless, she couldn't account for the packed luggage in the boot of her wrecked car.

*********************

After his musical tribute ended, Terrence searched the crowd for Meggie, but guests gathered around him and his dad to reminisce about the old days. He didn't want to appear rude by leaving to look for her.


The evening was drawing to a close when Terrence discovered his wife didn’t retire earlier, which had seemed likely due to the baby and her recent injuries.


“Bloody hell, woman, he shouted at Mrs Dogfinch, still suspicious of her explanation of events leading up to Meggie’s accident. You were supposed to look after her!”

*********************

The maid had also looked after his mother Baroness Louisa. Terrence’s father dropped Terry and the Lovers long-awaited comeback tour like it was yesterday's plum pudding when the ‘twat’ wiggled her little ‘tush’ in front of him. Their union was short-lived because the role of wife and mother was not Louisa's cup of tea.


When Terrence’s father received the news that Louisa had died in a freak ski accident, Terry and the Lovers had finally returned to touring. Since the band was on the road, he relied on Mrs. Dogfinch to console his young son. However, she was inconveniently out of town at a relative's funeral. 

*********************

The last of the burning embers cooled as Terrence stared motionless into the fireplace. Would he hold Meggie in his arms again, he wondered. Would they ever again share nights of unbridled passion, the thought of which made his knees weak with longing?


How many reincarnations had he pursued her through?More than he cared to count, only to have her slip away each time. 


The names changed, but it was always her from lifetimes of wealth to others of poverty. With each rebirth, the memory of her was locked in his newly developing subconscious to resurface when they met again. 


This go-round Terrence found her at the San Francisco restaurant where she was the chef who prepared the most extraordinary meal he’d tasted.

*********************

Cate Dunlap waited for her granddaughter at the Princess Street tram stop ten minutes from her cottage in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. 


Edinburgh, Scotland, had become her home after the death of her beloved, Meggie’s grandad. 


Cate’s cottage reminded Meggie of eighteenth-century Van Gough watercolor. It was built of sandstone and igneous rocks,

wrapped in lavender flowering vines. Towering overhead was Castle Rock perched at the top of the rocky summit. The site of Edinburgh Castle where daily, droves of tourists made pilgrimages.


Cate strolled with her granddaughter in the garden—a festive mural of brightly colored flowers and a potpourri of fragrances. Afterward, tea and sandwiches were served on the back porch, surrounded by the fresh, lemony scent of the Bog Myrtle growing there. Their conversation comfortably segued from sharing fond memories of Meggie’s Granddad to her reasons for secretly fleeing England.


Certain memories were returning to Cate’s granddaughter. They came in flashes, more a feeling than any actual substance. Meggie knew she’d missed being a culinarian. Another was the uneasiness she felt with the wealthy trappings that came with her marriage, but that’s where the remembering ended. It was possible those feelings had nagged at her until one night she packed her bags and drove blindly down the road in a dense fog. 


Cate touched the wound on Meggie’s forehead; she recoiled as if something evil had reached out and touched her in return.


“Morweena Dogfinch,” she mumbled. 


Inside the quaint rustic cottage a lace-covered photo album lay on a lovely antique piano bench. Cate caressed it, smoothing the lace before she turned to her granddaughter.


“Meghan, she said quietly, the photos in this album are of yours and Terrence Lovelace’s wedding.”


 Admittedly, the pictures seemed like an idyllic setting for a wedding. However, Meggie knew anyone with a computer could have photoshopped the images.


“Why wasn't our family there, Gram?


“Why don't I feel connected to Terrence, to his child?” Meggie asked tearfully.


Her gram gently lifted Meggie’s chin to look her in the eyes as she spoke, “The pandemic limited everyone's travel.” Cate continued her tone more serious, “Meghan, there is no doubt in my mind that the depth of your connection to Terrence runs deeply. I also know you want the baby you’re carrying as much as he does.”

*********************

The Lovelace”a private security detail and Terrence Jr. cornered Mrs. Dogfinch creeping down the back stairs of their home in Berkshire. She was making off with a cache of stolen goods that she could hawk for a tidy sum.


“Yor an ungrateful prat,” she screamed at Terrence, with decidedly more of her West Country accent surfacing.


“It twere me, she spat, who swaddled you, a newborn babe in my arms, not that trollop who birthed you! The Baroness was too busy fretting over her stitched-up fanny and how knackered she were.”


There was no sign of remorse evident in the soulless black pools of her eyes as her angery tirade continued.

“It twere me who pitched Louisa off of the scissor lift. One had to stop her and I did a proper job of it.

That daft milksop, yor dad, agreed to let her take you, a five-year-old barely out of nappies, to the States to help peddle her latest scheme. Overpriced designer clobber for little nippers—rubbish, that's what it twere.”


Investigators never figured out how the old bird managed to walk through a bolted door or get past the Lovelace home security system that went to Defcon-one when a nat flew by the motion sensors. There was no way she would have known what the new

code was. It was immediately changed soon after security initially caught her attempting to leave.


The only thing an investigation came up with conclusively, is that there is no one by the name of ‘Dogfinch’ anywhere in the UK. 

*********************

The Edinburgh afternoon was perfect for a ride aboard the Old Town trolley to the historic Royal Mile.


Terrence planned to join his wife for tea and a tiny someone would have a scoop of strawberry ice cream, most of which ended up everywhere but in her mouth. Later they would dine and laugh together before wrapping the day in a mediforical bow. A day that was truly a gift.


Louisa Grace Lovelace, named in honor of her grandmothers, nestled in the curve of her daddy's arm for the ride. The little half-pint jabbered endlessly in toddler talk until they reached their destination and hopped of at the trolley stop.


Louisa Grace broke free of Terrence’s hand and wobbled on ahead of him. He watched her curls bounce in the sunlight and listened for her happy squeals when she saw her mother in the distance.


Meggie waited for them in front of a historical landmark where she was the proprietor and chef of Dunlap’s Tavern.


Dunlap’s was bustling

with crowds most

days. The spices and herbs that Meggie added to the country's favorite dishes teased the taste buds of the tourists who leisurely meandered up and down the Royal Mile. They topped off a tour of the old Castle with an afternoon of sightseeing in the Old Town district.


Eventually, most stepped through the Norway Oak and repurposed stained glass doors of the tavern. Some cozied up to Dunlap’s bar with the locals to order a ‘dram’ of lager and listen to an ‘auld’ Lowlander from one of the last remaining clans spin an ancient Celtic yarn of hither and yon. 



February 10, 2024 23:35

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18 comments

Martin Ross
17:32 Apr 15, 2024

Wow! Your lead-in told me from the beginning I was going to read something epic and haunting. There are a few types of what we call “fantasy,” and yours is the kind of melodic, probing, complex, quietly powerful fantasy I enjoy most. This is prose poetry, and I’d expect to find it alongside folks like Bradbury, Collier, King, or Gaiman in a best of anthology. Fantastic work!

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Judith Jerdé
21:49 Apr 15, 2024

Martin, your comments are so kind and so much appreciated! Positive feedback helps me to continue writing.

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Karen Hope
00:40 Feb 19, 2024

An intriguing and complex story. Meggie is a strong main character. I love the beginning, and will now wonder if babies are thinking "someone slapped my butt."

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Judith Jerdé
01:37 Feb 19, 2024

Karen, I’m sure slapping a newborn to encourage it breathe deeply is most likely frowned now. It was was a thing back in the day. Thank you for taking the time to read the story.

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Stella Aurelius
23:38 Feb 18, 2024

Oooh, very mysterious ! I love the rich details you included. I do agree that the POV switch can be a bit confusing, but I think transitions and breaks are a good way to diminish that. Lovely job ! (And thank you so much for living both of my Sugar Rush week stories, by the way.)

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Judith Jerdé
15:37 Feb 19, 2024

Stella, Thank you so much for the positive feedback.

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L J
21:41 Feb 18, 2024

I agree with the comments. It was a good story but I think it needed more focus. The title is about Morweena so I think the focus needs to be about her. She is an interesting character and would be a good narrator: we can see the story through her eyes. I got a little confused about the "reincarnation" part of the story and the paragraphs need to be adjusted. The scope of the story is big so maybe it could be 2 stories. It's hard to go from first to third person. I would suggest, for a writing exercise, to re-tell this story through Morwee...

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Judith Jerdé
21:59 Feb 18, 2024

Great insights, I do seem to get lost in my stories. Thank you for taking the time to read the story and giving me very helpful feedback. Much appreciated.

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Danie Holland
17:07 Feb 15, 2024

Judith, I'm impressed with the large scope of this story. The part I found most intriguing was waking up to find your pregnant and married and have no idea how you got yourself into that situation. Thank you for the story! Danie

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Judith Jerdé
17:40 Feb 15, 2024

Danie, thank you so much for taking the time to read the story!

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Michał Przywara
21:49 Feb 13, 2024

The title caught my eye, and we get quite a mystery indeed! A variation on “the butler did it.” There was a part where Morweena almost seemed to be doing what she's doing out of some twisted sense of loyalty - but then by the end, when she's stealing and has not a shred of remorse, it was probably just a cover so she'd feel better about her misdeeds. Critique-wise, I had a bit of trouble following the scene changes. I think the alternation between first- and third-person was part of this, as the switch was a little jarring each time and ma...

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Judith Jerdé
23:46 Feb 13, 2024

Michal, Thank you so much for reading my story. I’m just trying different things out and I’m wondering if you could suggest a better way to change the focus between first person and third person I would really appreciate any feedback that you can give. I love your work. Thanks much.

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Michał Przywara
00:31 Feb 14, 2024

I'm normally leery of alternating between first and third (and for that matter, second). I've always found the shift to be at least a little jarring, and I find that harms immersion. It's easy enough to do all third person, and then change the POV character between scenes - that's common enough. I've seen the same thing with first person, where one chapter is character A and the next is character B. A lot of bigger fantasy books might do this, and they'll even clearly state whose chapter it is right at the start, to help the reader orient ...

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Judith Jerdé
04:37 Feb 14, 2024

Michal, thanks so much for the great ideas. This is very helpful information!

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Mary Bendickson
17:44 Feb 11, 2024

A lovely story laced with mystery and some misery. Thanks for liking my 'Sixties Teen '. And 'Alyce's Restaurant '. Thanks for reading and liking my 'Because He Lives '.

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Judith Jerdé
23:49 Feb 13, 2024

Thank you Mary for reading my story. I love your writing and appreciate that you take the time to read mine.

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Mary Bendickson
02:18 Apr 09, 2024

Thanks for liking my 'Hammer Down'.

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Judith Jerdé
14:19 Apr 09, 2024

thanks Mary, I always look forward to reading your work.

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