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A girl drives down the highway and frantically looks in her mirrors. It’s Christmas in Colorado, but she’s not going to see family. No, she’s running from them. She takes a sip of her coffee and tries to relax, but it doesn’t come.
It’s snowing very hard, and the girl is very tired. She’s been driving all night and the stress she’d been experiencing has worn her out. She promised herself that she would get to the first hotel she saw so she wouldn’t fall asleep at the wheel.
The highway was long and the night was getting darker and darker. She was struggling to keep her eyes open.
She breathed a sigh of relief when she drove into a town that had many hotels. She was deciding which one to go to, when out of no where a car frantically pulled out of a bar and went into the wrong lane at fifty miles per hour. The girl couldn’t react fast enough and the stranger’s car smashed into her own. She didn’t even know what was happening, except that her car was rolling. Finally it stopped and her head was slammed into her seat.
Unconsciousness was coming fast. She quickly breathed a prayer, Dear Lord… I’m so sorry. And that was her last thought.
I opened my eyes and then shut them again out of exhaustion. Wake up I told myself. I opened them again and struggled to keep them open, and in the end, I won the battle.
I looked around the room I was in and frowned. I was in a hospital. The walls were white and I was wearing a hospital gown. I heard beeping and looked over to see my heart beat on a machine. I reached up and touched the oxygen tubes in my nose.
Where am I?
I noticed there was a tiny Christmas tree in the corner of my room and there was garland and lights hung up everywhere. A snowman hugging Santa was hanging in the window. It’s Christmas? How could I not have remembered that?
A short, blonde nurse came in wearing purple scrubs. She saw I was awake and smiled. “Nice to see you awake. You gave us quite a scare.”
“What…” I was distracted momentarily by the sound of my voice. It was foreign to me. I had no idea who it belonged to. “What happened?” I finally asked. I could feel pain in my ribs and in one of my legs. There were large purple bruises everywhere on my body. And my abdomen felt like it was on fire.
The nurse smiled. “I’m going to page Dr. Marcello and he can explain everything to you.” She refilled one of the bags next to me and the liquid dripped into the IV tube I was wearing. I felt better almost instantly. “Thank you.” I whispered to the nurse. She smiled.
A very handsome doctor and a younger looking girl doctor came in wearing white lab coats and dark blue scrubs. The man’s brown hair poked out of a red surgeon’s cap and his blue eyes looked friendly. He had a drop-dead gorgeous smile and had a little stubble on his chin. I couldn’t turn my attention from him long enough to see anything about the girl doctor besides her dark red hair.
The male doctor put his hand out for me to shake and smiled. “I’m Dr. Luke Marcello and this is my intern, Dr. Sheila Boyce.”
I shook their hands and looked at him uncomprehendingly. “What happened to me?”
He sat on the bed next to my feet. “You were in a car accident. You broke a rib and your leg in three places. You also had some minor internal bleeding, but we got you into surgery and fixed the problem before it became a problem. You also got a pretty banged up head, but it was nothing that needed surgery. Of course you have a lot of scrapes and bruises, but those should heal quickly. Your rib and leg however…. Well, we are going to keep you here for observation. We couldn’t find an ID for you, so is there somebody you want us to call?”
I frowned. “I don’t know.”
He frowned too. “What do you mean? Don’t you have somebody you can contact in case of emergency?”
I shook my head. “I have no idea. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know my name. I don’t have any memories. I can’t even remember getting in a car accident.”
Dr. Marcello’s eyes widened. “Dr. Boyce…. Page Dr. Garner.”
Dr. Garner appeared to be a man in his late forties or early fifties. He was the brain surgeon at the hospital I was in.
“Dr. Garner,” Dr. Marcello said, “This is… well, we don’t know. That’s the problem. She has no memory of who she is or how she came to be here.”
Dr. Garner smiled kindly at me. “Should we call you Jane Doe?” He asked me.
I sighed. “I don’t know. I just want to be me. I want my memory back.”
Dr Marcello winked at me and looked at me closely. “She definitely isn’t a Jane Doe. She’s too special for that. Wouldn’t you say so, Dr. Garner?”
The man nodded. “She looks like a… Rachel.”
Dr. Marcello frowned and shook his head. “No, Rachels never have blue eyes.”
My apparently blue eyes widened. “They’re blue?”
The nurse grabbed a hand mirror from the bathroom and handed it to me. I looked hesitantly at the handsome doctor and he nodded encouragingly. I took a deep breath and looked into the mirror.
The face I saw could have been a stranger’s. The woman in the mirror had soft, beautiful features. She had baby blue eyes and pink lips that were the perfect size. Her hair was shoulder length and dirty blonde. It was caked in dark red blood, however, and the beautiful face was marred by bruises and scrapes.
I looked up and smiled. “No, not Rachel.” The doctors laughed.
Dr. Marcello put his finger to his lips in thought. “Hmm...” then he snapped his fingers and smiled. “I’ve got it. Your name is Grace.”
I raised my eyebrows and tested the name on my lips. “Grace.” It sounded beautiful. Then I looked at myself in the mirror and said it with more conviction. “Hello, my name is Grace.” I nodded. “Sounds right.”
Dr. Garner smiled. “Well then, Grace, I’d like to take a CT scan right now and see if there’s anything up in your noggin that we can fix. Sometimes, when people get too big of a bump on the head, it can cause part of their brain to close its doors and not let memories come out. Usually, it’s just a protective mechanism, but there might very well be some serious damage. We can’t know until we get the scan. Do you understand?”
I nodded. “I’m ready.”
The kind doctors wheeled my bed to the room. The nurse helped me onto the bed of the CT scanner and helped me lie down. I didn’t make a sound, but all that moving around hurt. I stared up at the ceiling as the bed began to move under the scanner. “Now, Grace,” Dr. Marcello said over the intercom, “try and keep very still, okay?”
“Sure.” I said, loud enough for him to hear. I stayed as straight as a board until the scan was over. The nurse helped me back into bed and this time, was the only one to accompany me to my room.
The nurse checked my charts and turned to me. “Are you in pain?”
I thought about lying, but decided this was my health and I’d better not screw it up. “Yes.”
The nurse smiled sympathetically and filled my IV tube with a clear liquid. Almost instantly, I felt my eyes drooping. “Good night.” The nurse said, with a smile in her voice, but it sounded far away. I blinked once, twice, and then drifted into blissful unconsciousness.
When I woke up again, I was relieved to have some memories of something, even if it was just about the handsome doctor who named me “Grace”.
Speak of the devil; Dr. Marcello came in with Dr. Garner trailing behind him.
“Feeling a bit better, Grace?” Dr. Garner asked.
I smiled sadly and shook my head. The men nodded understandingly. “Well,” Dr. Marcello began, “We checked out your CT scans and everything appeared to be normal. This is a good thing, but also a bad thing. It’s good because that means you don’t need surgery. It’s bad because we don’t know if this memory loss is temporary or permanent.”
I sighed. “So you don’t know if I’ll ever get my memory back?”
Dr. Garner shook his head. “Only time will tell. But we put your face out at every police station in a one-hundred mile radius. If somebody comes in looking for a missing person, it might be somebody who loves you.”
I hesitated and looked at the two doctors in the room. “What if nobody comes?”
The men looked at each other and then looked back at me. Dr. Garner put his hands behind his back and Dr. Marcello picked up my charts. “That isn’t going to happen, Grace.” Dr. Marcello reassured me, “We will search all over the continent if we have to.”
I lowered my head and looked at my slender, pale hands. Hands that somebody, somewhere have held and kissed and loved. Sighing, I nodded. “Okay.”
Dr. Marcello smiled. “Alright then. Well, I have a surgery in ten minutes. I’ll come and check on you before the day is over.” I watched him leave and bit my lip.
Dr. Garner followed my gaze. “Good looking guy, huh?”
I smiled and nodded.
Dr. Garner laughed. “Well, I have a surgery soon too. I won’t get to see you again today, but I’ll check in on you again tomorrow morning. Good night, Grace.” He smiled and left.
The nurse propped me up and took away one of my pillows. I stuck my lower lip out in a pout. She smiled. “I know, it’s not as comfortable, but it’ll help your neck. Is there anything I can do for you before I leave?”
I sighed and thought about it. “Can you wash my hair?” I asked sheepishly.
She took a look at my blood caked hair and nodded. She helped me into a wheelchair and she washed my hair in the bathroom sink. When she was finished, my hair looked shiny and healthy. I got in a position I was comfortable sleeping in and felt the meds flow through my veins. Satisfied for the moment, I drifted to sleep.
* * *
“Grace, you have to exercise that leg if it’s going to get better.” Dr. Marcello said as he held my arm, ready to pull me out of my wheelchair.
I frowned stubbornly. “But it hurts!”
He sighed. “I know, I broke my leg when I was a teenager. I hated walking around on crutches, but it did get better and so will yours.”
“Don’t you have a heart to fix?” I asked angrily.
He smiled and it took my breath away. “I cancelled my surgeries today because I knew you were going to be difficult.”
I sighed. “Fine. Help me up.” He lifted me up like I was a feather and I couldn’t help but feel like a little kid again. “My dad used to pick me up and swing me around in a circle when I was little.” I said as I limped with Dr. Hottie’s arm holding me up.
He gasped. “You just remembered something!”
“I did?” I gasped too. “I did!”
“What else do you remember about your dad?”
I frowned. “That’s it. You lifting me out of my wheelchair made me remember that one moment in my life, but I can’t remember what he looked like or what I looked like or where we were… just that it happened.”
He was still smiling. “That is a very good sign, Grace. Soon we’ll have to start calling you by your real name!”
I laughed. “Wouldn’t it be crazy if that was my real name?”
He smiled and his intense gaze made me shudder. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.”
I turned away. “So doc, how old do you think I am?”
He pursed his lips in thought and helped me turn back around so we could walk back to the wheelchair. I breathed a silent sigh of relief. “I’d guess around twenty to twenty-five.”
Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my broken rib. I sucked in air and put my hand on the wound. Dr. Marcello lifted me into his arms and walked the rest of the way to my wheelchair with me in a cradle. “I think that’s enough walking for today. We don’t want to overdue it.”
I nodded and felt another spasm of pain. “That’s probably a good idea.”
He set me in the chair and started to wheel me towards my room. “But you made very good progress today. I’m proud of you, Grace.”
I blushed. When we got to my room, he picked me up again and set me on my bed. He asked a nurse to give me some pain meds and she immediately went to work. I felt instant relief and I cuddled into my pillow. “So, how old are you, Dr. Luke?”
He sat on my bed by my feet. “I’m almost thirty. This year actually.”
I pretended to wince. “Ooh, old guy.”
He laughed. “But my soul will be eternally a twenty year old.”
I cocked my head. “I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”
He smiled and patted my feet. “You really did do a good job today. I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but there’s a purpose for this.”
I sighed. “All things work for the good to those who love the Lord.” I said, not knowing where that came from.
Luke smiled. “You’re a Christian?”
I frowned. “Yes, I am. I know that without a doubt. I wonder why that is.”
“Just because you lose your memory, doesn’t mean you lose your salvation.” Luke smiled. “It’s nice to know I have someone here to have deep philosophical discussions with. Most of the doctors here are Atheists, even Dr. Garner. They believe in science.”
I shrugged. “I don’t really know that much about it. Even when I had my memory, I don’t think I was very theological. I just know that I love God, he loves me, and Jesus is my Savior.”
Luke laughed. “That’s all there is to know.”
I smiled. Maybe I didn’t have my memory, but I had my God- and isn’t that all I really needed?
A week passed and no one came to claim me. My bruises were almost gone and I could move a bit easier with my broken leg. The broken rib was the only problem. It even hurt to breath.
Luke visited me many times in the day and we talked about our faiths. I remembered so much about the Bible, but it frustrated me that I couldn’t remember my family or my past.
An exact week from the day that the accident happened, the drunk driver that crashed into my car was brought in by the police. He was almost completely unscathed.
Luke was glaring murderously at the man when he arrived. The policeman that was handling him pushed him forward. He looked to be in his early thirties. The man was disheveled and looked like he had just slept in a dumpster. “This is Manny Walton. He was the man who crashed into you a week ago.” The policeman said.
I looked at him and immediately felt sympathy for the man. Obviously, something devastating must have happened in his life for him to turn to drink to find relief. The man’s eyes were swimming with remorse. I cocked my head and smiled sweetly.
“I’m so sorry, ma’am. I promised myself I wouldn’t drive that night and all my buddies told me not to… but I ignored them. Please, please forgive me.”
Luke was still glaring. “You don’t deserve forgiveness.”
“Dr. Marcello, I didn’t deserve forgiveness for my sins and yet God forgave me.” I said, not reprimanding but reminding.
He nodded and looked down at his charts.
“I forgive you, Manny.”
Manny gasped and a tear escaped from his eye. He came over and knelt by my bed. “Thank you, thank you. Thank you.” He whispered, kissing my hand.
I laughed and the sound was light and airy. I felt a deep peace and knew my Heavenly Father was pleased. I lifted Manny’s face so he would look me in the eyes. “Manny, in exchange for your forgiveness, I ask that you will give up drinking altogether and get some help.”
“It was my first time.” He defended.
I shook my head. “I don’t care. I don’t want this to happen to somebody else. And you don’t either. You look like a very good man, Manny. But you don’t need to drink.”
He nodded. “I will. I’ll give it up. I’ll be a good man- somebody a nice lady like you deserves.”
I smiled and patted his head. Then I looked at the officer. “What’s going to happen to him?”
The policeman took Manny’s handcuffs and helped him to his feet. “It depends on if you press charges. He’s going to stay another week in the county jail whether you do or not.”
I immediately shook my head. “No, I won’t press charges.”
The man shrugged. “Suit yourself.” The two headed out of the room and I smiled as they left.
Luke was glaring at his hands. “Are you dissatisfied?” I asked, slightly amused.
He knelt by my bed and met my eyes. I was mesmerized by the depths of them. “No, I’m dissatisfied with the way I acted. I wish I was as good a Christian as you. You see, I haven’t always been a Christian. It came pretty recently actually, about five years ago.”
I smiled and grabbed his hand. “Forgiveness is never easy. And I’m not perfect.” I frowned. “Something happened to me once. I was forgiven for something that was so horrible.” Then I gave him a care-free smile. “I haven’t had much trouble forgiving small offenses since.”
He smiled and stood up, kissing my hand and then letting it fall back on the bed. “I can hardly imagine a girl like you doing something that would be hard to forgive, but your right. Nobody’s perfect.” He took a deep breath and ran his hands through his hair. “I have a surgery soon, but I’ll come back after I’m finished.”
“You don’t have to keep me company; I know you’re a busy man.” I said.
“Actually I do. When I’m here, I’m not just your doctor, I’m your friend and brother in Christ. I have to come.” He patted my head like a little child and for some reason the action was dissatisfying. “See ya later, Grace.”
“Bye, Dr. Marcello.” I said. I was tired from working out my legs that day and was ready for bed.
“Call me Luke.” He said in a hushed tone, just before he shut the door. I watched him walk past my window and sighed longingly.
“Luke.” I tested it on my mouth. “Luke. My friend Luke. Dad, this is my friend Luke.” I looked around me to make sure no one was listening. Then I whispered, “Dad, this is my boyfriend Luke.”
I woke up the next morning and looked around, confused. There were nurses running around the room and Luke and Dr. Garner were looking at me with concern in their eyes.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“You coded last night.” Luke said.
I frowned. “Coded?”
Dr. Garner nodded. “That means your heart stopped beating and we had to shock it to get it pumping again.”
I gasped and looked at myself. “I… died?”
Luke nodded with a deep frown on his face. “Apparently there was more bleeding then we originally thought. It’s coming from your pancreas. We are taking you to the OR for an emergency surgery.”
I closed my eyes and shook my head. “I thought you said I was fine internally.”
Luke took my hand and I pulled my eyelids back to see his face. “We thought you were. But nobody’s perfect, remember?”
I nodded. “Will you pray with me?” I whispered. Fear was crawling up my spine and the last thing I needed was to panic.
He smiled reassuringly and took my other hand. They felt so small in his big, strong ones. He bowed his head and I did the same. “Dear Lord,” He began, “please be with Grace in this surgery. Keep my hands steady and guide them so I can get rid of this bleeding and she can be healthy again.” I opened one eye and saw that his face was rigged with determination. “And bring her loved ones to her. And her memory. In Jesus’ name we ask it, Amen.”
“Amen.” I breathed. I could see that Dr. Garner was looking at us as if we’d lost our minds. I looked back at Luke and winked. “All things happen for the good to those who love the Lord.”
“Amen sister.” He said with a smirk.
The nurses and doctors wheeled my bed to the OR and lifted me onto the surgical table. I had a strange sense of peace about the surgery and I thanked God for this.
Luke walked in wearing a mask, but I could see the smile in his eyes as a nurse put on his rubber gloves. “Good night, Grace. Go ahead and put her under, Kyle.” He said to the anesthesiologist.
“Night, night, don’t let the bed bugs bite.” I said quietly. Kyle put the mask over my mouth.
“Can you count to ten for me, Grace?” Kyle asked.
“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven… eight…. Nine…. te-” I took one last blurry look at Luke and drifted into unconsciousness.
I felt cold fingers touch my hand and stirred. I looked up into the blue eyes and found comfort there. He was stroking my hand and I smiled.
“Well, hey there.” Luke said quietly.
I stretched and ignored the pain in my rib. “Hi.” I raked my fingers through my soft hair and fell back against the pillow. “You look tired.” I said with a smile.
He shrugged. “I stayed here all night. I couldn’t sleep.”
“How did the surgery go?”
“We fixed the hole in your pancreas. Everything looks in tip top shape; this time, I’m sure of it.” He lay back in the chair he was sitting in.
I nodded. “Good. I like to hear when my surgeon is positive about my surgery.” I laughed and then winced. “When is this pain in my rib going to get better?”
He had his eyes closed and he shrugged. “It depends on the person.” He yawned. After a moment of staring at him, I realized he’d fallen asleep. He looked so peaceful and child-like in sleep, but there was strength there too. I grabbed the blanket at the foot of my bed and lay it on him. “Good night, Luke.” I whispered.
I stared up at the ceiling and realized I wasn’t tired. I’d been so tired lately, always needing to sleep because I was so exhausted. Perhaps it was because my heart was pumping so much blood to my pancreas which in turn was just leaking out that it was tiring itself out, making me feel like I’d just run a race.
I noticed a Bible on my lamp stand. I smiled; Luke brought a Bible to read. I picked it up and flipped to my favorite story- the one about Job and his faithfulness to God. I wished I could be so faithful. I may have put on a good face for Luke and everyone else, but I had my doubtful moments.
How could this have happened to me? What was I doing, driving in the middle of night in a snowstorm through Colorado? I racked my brain for some memory of that night or anything before that, but nothing came. The only thing I remembered was waking up in a strange hospital.
I was sitting in a hospital during Christmas. How ridiculous was that?
I felt a tear escape my eye and looked over at Luke who was still fast asleep. I figured now would be the best time to get the crying over with.
The sobs were all bottled up inside of me and I let them out as quietly as possible. Soon my face was covered in salty tears. I decided the reason I hadn’t cried yet was because I had been so determined to fix my leg and get my rib healed that I never had any time to recover from my loss. And truly that was what it was… a loss- a loss of my memory and my family and my life.
I put the Bible down and tried to think of everything I was thankful for. I had a nice hospital to stay in. My body was regaining health. I had Luke to keep me company. I had his face to bring me comfort.
I looked over at him and felt something strange in the depths of my being that seemed to radiate from my heart and squeeze my lungs and keep me from breathing. What was this feeling? It was slightly familiar, but in a fuzzy, vague sort of way.
A few hours later, the early morning sunlight shone through my window and Luke stirred and sat up. “Good morning.” I said quietly.
He smiled, “For me or you?”
I laughed. “You; I’m not tired anymore.”
Luke wiped his hand over his eyes. “Your heart isn’t doing as much work anymore since your pancreas is healed.”
With a fist pump in the air, I made a victory cry. “I totally guessed that!” I yelled, ignoring the pain in my rib as I did so.
He smiled and shook his head amusingly. “You should be a doctor. Have you ever…” He stopped.
I smiled. “Have I ever thought about being a doctor? I’m not sure, obviously, but recently it seems very intriguing. I could do it, I think.”
He smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes. There was sorrow there. “I know you could do it.”
I sighed. “What if no one comes? What do I do?”
Luke ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t know. I guess you could make a life for yourself. You’d have to do a ton of paperwork, though, to be an eligible citizen and get your name changed and everything. So instead, how about we hope your family comes for you?”
I lay back on my pillow and closed my eyes. Taking a huge breath, I finally turned to him again. “I’m scared.” It took a lot for me to admit it, but after I did it felt good, like a load had been taken off my shoulders.
Luke grabbed my hands. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside cool waters, and he restores my soul. His rod and his staff, they comfort me.”
I smiled and stared into his eyes. They seemed to be endless. “You’re eyes are the color of the ocean.” I said, surprised at my forwardness.
He laughed. “Only sometimes. On rainy days they’re gray.”
“I’ll bet they’re pretty even then.” I said with a silly smile.
He checked his watch. “Ah, I have a surgery in twenty minutes. I’d better go prep my patient.” I nodded and blushed when he kissed my forehead.
As he walked out of the room, I surprised myself by missing him. I missed his face, his voice, his deep, ocean blue eyes.
And I wasn’t sure why, but I felt like I was betraying someone.
“Luke.” I said when he visited me later that day. “I think I’m in love with somebody.”
He was checking my charts at the moment, but then he looked at me with wide eyes. I thought I saw a bit of fire burning in his blue eyes. Jealous fire, maybe? No, that’s ridiculous. “Really?” he asked, curiosity dripping from that one word.
I nodded. “Maybe I had a boyfriend.”
He smiled, completely recovered from his shock. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you had a husband and three kids.” He put his fingers to his lips. “David, Mary, and Jacob.”
I laughed. “You are quite the name-giver aren’t you? What makes you think I’d have three kids named David, Mary, and Joseph?”
He shrugged. “They’re biblical names. You strike me as the kind of girl who would name your children after people in the Bible.” He looked around him and then leaned forwards to whisper secretly. “I’d probably do the same thing.”
“I’m surprised you don’t have any kids of your own.” I said hesitantly.
He put my charts down and sat on my bed. “I’ve had a few girlfriends, but none were very serious. I’m waiting for the one, you know?” I just smiled. “Yeah, it sounds mushy, but I’m completely serious.”
I shook my head. “No, it’s very sweet. And honorable, I might add.”
He bowed. “Why thank you.”
I giggled. And then sighed. “I hope whoever it is comes for me soon. I’d hate to stay in a hospital over Christmas.”
He put his finger to his mouth in thought. “I’ll bet I can get you discharged for one night so you can come and have Christmas dinner with me and my folks.”
I opened my mouth and my eyes in shock and then hugged him fiercely, ignoring my rib’s screams of pain. “Thank you so much, Luke.”
He cleared his throat and for a moment I was embarrassed, but then I saw his amusement in his eyes and I smiled. “I’ll talk to the chief of surgery about it.”
“When’s Christmas?” I asked timidly.
He laughed. “Wednesday.”
I groaned. “What am I going to wear?”
“We’ll buy you something nice before dinner. I’m thinking a black dress? Or maybe red.” He said with a twinkle in his eye.
“No, any clothes without blood all over them will be fine. A t-shirt and jeans is all I want.”
“Consider it a Christmas present.” I gave him a look, but he just smiled.
I smiled back. “I’d get you a present if I had any money.”
He touched my cheek with one finger. “All I want for Christmas is you to get better. That’s what you can get me.”
I laughed. “Sounds easy enough.” Then I frowned. “I’m gonna look so ugly with my cast.”
He smiled, still touching my cheek. “You’ll look pretty anyway.”
I blushed under his scrutiny and looked down. I tried to breathe normal, but I was afraid he could hear the frantic beating of my heart.
He took a deep, slightly shuddering breath and checked his watch. “I have to check on some of my other patients, but I’ll talk to the chief before the day is over. I’ll have my mom go shopping tomorrow for something for you to wear, and you can just stay at my house if you want instead of coming back here.”
I smiled. “Thank you so much, Luke, for everything.”
He kissed my cheek and then left to check his patients. I started to notice that every time he kissed me it got closer and closer to my lips. First it was my hand, then my forehead, now my cheek. What was I going to do if it ever became my lips?
Luke ended up getting permission to take me out of the hospital for Christmas as long as he brought me back Christmas night. I was bubbling with excitement to get out of the hospital and see Denver. Especially if it was with Luke.
The day before Christmas Eve came around and I was standing on my crutches in my bathroom, trying to fix my hair. I had few supplies, only a brush and a few barrettes, but I looked okay.
Luke finally arrived and rolled his eyes at some laughing nurses when he came through my door. “What?” I asked amusingly, sitting straighter.
He sighed heavily and handed me the JcPenny’s bag in his hand. “This is what.” He smiled and shook his head. “The male nurses have been harassing me about spending so much time with you and now I bring in a JcPenny’s bag… it set them over the edge.” He chuckled.
I smiled and looked in the bag. I gasped at the contents. “Luke, I said a t-shirt and jeans!” there was a black pencil skirt and a gorgeous blue blouse. I pulled them out and then gasped again. Underneath that outfit was a beautiful and elegant burgundy evening gown.
“Luke!” I said in exasperation. He had a huge smile on his face. He helped me to my feet and put the dress up to me. I smiled down at it and then looked up at him.
“I just wanted to do something nice for you.”
I laughed. “You’re letting me stay at your house for Christmas and you hardly know me. I think that’s something nice enough!” I said in exasperation.
Luke shrugged. “Well, I figured you’d say that, so I came up with a different, true, excuse. My parents are classy folks and they expect me to wear a shirt and tie for Christmas dinner. My younger brother Dennis is coming too with his girlfriend Annie. Trust me; they will all be very dressed up. You won’t want to be left out, would you?”
I glared at him and then looked back at the dress. Finally I sighed. “Ok, fine, but what’s with the skirt and shirt ensemble?”
“My mom picked it out. And I just thought you’d look pretty in that.” He said in a husky tone. I looked up at him and he was very close to my face. I leaned in, trapped by his gaze and the smell of his cologne. Suddenly, some male nurses tapped on the glass window of my room and I quickly backed away. Dazed for a moment, I shook my head free of the all-consuming thoughts of Dr. Marcello and said, “Um… I’m going to go change and then we’ll leave.” I picked up the blouse and skirt and clutched the back of my hospital gown as I made my way to the bathroom.
Locking the door behind me, I sighed and looked at myself in the mirror. My cheeks were flushed. I changed into the new clothes Luke bought me and smiled at his thoughtfulness… and his style.
When I opened the door, he was standing at the nurses’ station, checking charts for some of his other patients. I cleared my throat to catch his attention and he looked over at me. His eyes widened and his mouth slacked slightly. He looked either stunned or dazzled.
“Do I look ok?” I asked him, not sure about the reason for his reaction.
He looked into my eyes and fixed a heart-stopping smile. “I was completely wrong. You don’t look pretty at all. You look absolutely breath-taking.” He set the chart down. “Shall we?”
It took me a second to remember to breathe and then I frowned, feeling like I was missing something. Then it dawned on me and I smacked my forehead with my palm. “A shoe!” I said in bewilderment.
He looked at my bare foot and casted other one and then threw his head back in laughter. “I am so sorry!” he said through his chuckles.
I giggled. “How am I going to walk through the streets of Denver barefoot?”
He finally sobered, but the smile never left his face or those dazzling blue eyes of his. “I could always carry you. That would be easier than having to walk around with a cripple.”
I glared at him but then smirked. “You’d like that wouldn’t you, pretty boy?” I pointed on of my crutches at him.
He lifted his hands in the air in surrender. “Well we don’t have to stop anywhere. And my parents are already at my house. I’m sure Annie brought another pair of shoes, and if they don’t fit, no one will mind if you have one bare foot.”
“Don’t be so sure.”
He went back to my room to get the shopping bag. “Maybe you should carry this.”
We got in the elevator and rode down to the first floor. He led me to his car. It was a brand new black corvette and my mouth watered at the sight of it. “This is your car?” I asked
He winked and helped me into the passenger seat. “Hospitals pay cardio surgeons a pretty penny. But this was a gift from mom and dad on my eighteenth birthday. Isn’t she a beauty?”
I waited till he got in the driver’s seat to say. “Please tell me you aren’t one of those crazy people who name their cars?”
He looked wounded. “Deanna is not just a car… she’s a friend.”
I laughed and leaned my head back on the leather seat. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been to Denver, but it’s safe to say I don’t remember it if I have.” I looked at the window and saw the tall buildings. “This place is amazing!”
He didn’t say anything for a while so I just watched the scenery roll by.
Finally he took a deep breath. “I have to warn you,” he said hesitantly, “Dennis isn’t a Christian and I wouldn’t be surprised if Annie isn’t too. Den is… well… he can be kind of a jerk sometimes. I just wanted to warn you.”
I nodded. “Everything will be just fine.”
He drove out of town and into the country. Snow fell and it made a beautiful picture, but the darkening night made me somewhat uncomfortable. “Where are we going?” I asked
He didn’t answer for a moment and turned onto a gravel road. We drove over a bridge and the river running under it was completely ice. “Luke, where are we going?” I asked again. He just smirked
Finally, we stopped in front of a gate and Luke had to hurry out into the snow to open it so we could drive through. When he got back in the car, he pulled forward and said, “Welcome to the Marcello cabin.”
I stared at the little cabin with my mouth wide open. It wasn’t just a little cabin. It was like the mansion of cabins. And it was absolutely gorgeous, with one entire wall made completely of glass, looking at the mountains.
He smiled and got out of the car, then helped me out of my side.
He grabbed my crutches, picked me up, and walked to the front porch with me in his arms. He waited to put me down until after we’d crossed the threshold so I wouldn’t have to touch the cold snow with my bare foot. I was touched by his thoughtfulness
There was a wall mount of an elk to greet us in the front door. “Mom! Dad! Den!” He yelled. “I’m home!”
A thin, petite woman who looked like she could be in her late forties, early fifties, was pulling some dish out of the oven in the beautiful kitchen. She smiled at her son and kissed his cheek. “Mom, this is Grace.” He said, giving my fake name. “Grace, this is my mother, Margaret, but you can call her Marge.”
She smiled and took one of my hands. “Oh, you poor dear. Luke told me all about you. Well, just make yourself part of the family, alright?”
I smiled gratefully and squeezed her hand that she was holding. A man who looked fit, though his hair was graying and there were obviously age lines on his face, came into the kitchen and firmly shook Luke’s hand. “Dad, Grace, Grace, this is the renowned surgeon, Dr. Andrew Marcello.”
“Pleased to meet you.” I said formally.
He kissed my hand. “And your, my dear. Grace, you say? Why, I thought you had lost your memory in that dreadful accident?”
I nodded. “I did. Luke gave me the name Grace until I find out who I really am.”
Luke smiled proudly at me. “It fits her, don’t you think mother?”
Marge nodded. A beeper rang out and she jumped. “Oh, the green beans are ready.” She said happily, as if it was the best news she’d ever heard.
A man who looked to be in his late teens or early twenties walked in with a very pretty red-head in a green cocktail dress at his side. “Grace, this is my brother Dennis and his girlfriend Annie.”
“Nice to meet you.” Dennis said, not bothering to shake my hand. Annie smiled politely, but all I could see was suspicion in her sapphire eyes.
“Nice to meet you both.” I said with a slight smile.
Andrew smiled and put his hand at the small of my back to lead me into the living room. “Oh, please do sit down in the living room. You must be exhausted. Dennis, did you know Grace was in an accident?”
He shook his head, but there was no curiosity. Andrew continued and filled glasses of what looked like champagne. “Yes she got hit by a drunk driver.”
Annie looked me over as she sat next to Dennis on the big brown couch. Luke helped me sit down on the other one and then planted himself very closely next to me. I was thankful for him being so close.
Annie finished looking at me. “And she broke her foot. How sad.” She said, not sounding sympathetic at all.
I was about to say something, when Luke beat me to it. “She also broke a few ribs, was in need of surgery, oh and she lost her memory. Yes, Grace has been through a lot.” He sounded irritated.
I patted his knee. “I’m quite alright now.”
Andrew handed out drinks and when he got to me I frowned, but took it. He sat next to his wife and began asking Annie about her life in Chicago.
I whispered to Luke, “I’m not sure if I drink.”
He put his glass down on the coffee table. “I don’t. If it doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it. My parents won’t be offended.”
I took a sip of the champagne and grimaced. Luke nodded in understanding and set my glass down also.
I took a look around. It definitely looked like a cabin. All of the furniture was brown and a sort of modern western look. There was a huge green Christmas tree sitting in the corner and it had pretty silver ornaments on it. I noticed there were no personal decorations on the tree, like there were when I was a kid.
I gasped quietly and looked at Luke. “I just remembered something.”
“Do tell.” Marge said, overhearing our conversation.
I felt nervous under the whole family’s scrutiny. “Oh, I just remembered that when I had Christmas at my house as a kid we always cut down trees in the woods and decorated them with handmade ornaments. I remember what the tree looked like, vaguely, but I can’t see anything else.” I said, somewhat disappointed that the memory didn’t bring back any other memories.
Dennis laughed. “That sounds like something off a movie.”
Annie nodded. “I don’t think my family ever cut down a real tree.”
Luke smiled. “It sounds absolutely wonderful.” He looked down at me and I blushed. Dennis made a disgusted sound and I wanted to stick my tongue out at him like a child.
Marge got up and finished fixing dinner. “Marge, would you like me to set the table?” I asked.
She smiled at me with a look of thankfulness. “Oh, Grace, you don’t have to do that. You can hardly move around.”
“Actually,” I argued, standing up to prove my point. “I’m getting pretty good at this crutches thing.”
She shrugged. “Luke, why don’t you help Grace?”
Luke handed me my crutches and looked at me like I was super woman or something. We went into the kitchen and Luke gave me four plates and he took the rest and the utensils. I frowned as I tried to hold the plates and move with my crutches at the same time. It wasn’t working. Luke looked like he was about to take the plates from me, when I set down the crutch on my bad side and held the plates with my now empty hand. “I can get around on one crutch.” I told him, daring him to challenge me.
He looked amused and put his hand out for me to continue. I nodded once and limped slowly to the dining room table. I put down the plates and slid them into their right spots. When I was finished I was exhausted, but victorious. “Ha!” I said, wiping my hand on my forehead. “I told you I could do it.”
Marge laughed. “Thank you, dear. Everyone come to the table; Christmas Eve’s Eve dinner is ready.” She said happily. I took the seat next to Luke across from the window wall. I smiled at him. “The view is beautiful from here.”
“Thank you.” Andrew said proudly as he sat down next to me. “We’ve had this cabin for three generations. We built on a little, but this room and that window have been here the whole time.”
I sighed. “Wow, that’s amazing.” The rest of the family took their seats. Dennis and Annie sat across from Luke and I and my heart sank when Annie sat directly across from me. Marge and Andrew sat at the ends of the table. Andrew put his hands out to each side. I grabbed Luke’s hand and marveled at its warmth. I hadn’t realized I was so cold until then. Then I grabbed Andrew’s hand. It was rough and calloused.
“No thank you.” Annie said politely, putting her hands in her lap.
“Me neither.” Dennis said.
His parents looked very sad at the couple’s refusal for prayer, but I could see they weren’t surprised.
“Grace,” Andrew said in his deep, rumbling voice, “Would you like to say Grace?” he asked, seeming amused at his play at words.
I smiled. “I’d love to.” I set my eyes on Annie for a moment and then bowed my head. “Father in Heaven, thank you so much for this beautiful Christmas evening. Bless this family over the holiday. And Lord, bless my own family wherever they are. Thank you for this food. Amen.”
“Amen’s” were heard. Andrew picked up the food and passed it around the table. As everyone took their share, Luke said, “So dad, how’s Boulder Hope Hospital treating you?”
Andrew shrugged. “As well as can be expected. I mean, it’s no St. Bartholomew’s, but it’s a good hospital nonetheless.”
Marge took the mashed potatoes and huffed. “I for one hate Boulder. I was so relieved that you suggested we stay in the cabin, Luke, because I got to come home to Denver.”
Dennis rolled his eyes. “Mom, Boulder isn’t that far from Denver. You could drive over any time.”
Marge sighed. “It’s not the same as living here. I miss all my friends and my Bible study.”
“Did you find a good church?” Luke asked as he dished himself some roast beef.
Andrew nodded with a smile. “It’s called Aurora Heights Community Church. It’s fairly small, like our subdivision, and the pastor is amazing.”
Luke smiled. “Have you gotten into a Bible study there, ma?”
Marge sighed. “I have, but it’s filled with stuffy old women who can hardly read the Scriptures because they’re too blind.”
Andrew gave his wife a look and then continued, “
She wants to come down here once a week and go to her old Bible study.”
Luke shrugged. “I don’t see how that would be a problem. Is it?”
“Well, not a problem per se…” He said hesitantly.
Marge glared at her husband from across the table. “He doesn’t want me driving in the snow on the interstate.”
Dennis frowned. “Mom’s a great driver, Dad.”
Andrew lifted his hands in surrender. “I know, I know, but anything could happen. Especially after Luke told me Grace’s story, I’ve been extremely cautious about driving.”
I felt my eyes widen. “Oh, please, Dr. Marcello, don’t deny Mrs. Marcello the chance to study God’s Word with people she loves because of a freak accident that happened to me!” I looked at Luke to make sure I didn’t overstep my bounds, but he looked pleased with what I said.
Andrew nodded. “You’re probably right, Grace, I’m just always a worrier.”
I put my hand on top of his. “Everything works together for the good of them that love the Lord, Romans 8:28.” I said kindly.
Andrew smiled and patted my hand. “Now why can’t you remember your name?”
Everyone at the table laughed, save Annie and Dennis. They seemed as stone cold as ever.
We all finished our dinner with pleasant conversation and then Dennis and Annie helped Marge clean up. Luke showed me my room which was, mercifully, on the first floor. I learned that there were actually three floors to the beautiful cabin. The basement was more like the game room- filled with ping pong tables, pool tables, a bar, and a huge flat screen TV where they watched football games and what not. The second floor was all extra bedrooms.
Luke turned the light on in the room closest to the kitchen. I gasped. The king sized bed was covered in a snow white comforter that looked like it would poof away if you even touched it. The window was covered with blue curtains that were the color of the sky on a warm summer day. The walls were tan and clean.
I sighed. “This room is so cozy looking.”
Luke smiled and lifted me off my feet into a cradle. I yelped in surprise, but he didn’t put me down. “Wait till you try the bed.”
I was about to comment on his seemingly inappropriate statement, when he dropped me gently on the bed. And then I knew what he meant.
“Wow.” I said as I snuggled into the soft fabric. “I could go to sleep right now.” I said, stifling a yawn.
He laughed. “It’s a lot better than that hospital bed you’ve been sleeping in, right?”
I closed my eyes and sighed in complete bliss. “Join me.” I said peacefully.
He went over and lay on the other side of me. He sighed as well. “Nice.”
I nodded. “Thank you so much for taking me out of that place. I would have hated to stay in a hospital during Christmas. Now I just wish I could have brought all my neighbors here too and then it would have been a party.” My words were slightly mumbled.
He lifted a knee up and laid his hands on his stomach. “Better than my crazy parents and even crazier twenty year old brother.”
I shrugged. “Your parents are amazing people. I even don’t mind your brother that much.” I dropped my voice to a whisper. “It’s Annie that freaks me out. She seems so cold.”
He nodded. “That was my impression too. My parents are worried about the influence she’ll have on Dennis.”
I took a deep breath. “I would be too. Let’s just hope we can get through the season without a fiasco of some sort.”
He lifted his hand for a high five and I laughed, smacking it with my hand. Just then Dennis walked in the room. “Well, don’t you two look cozy?”
Luke glared at his brother. “What do you want, Dennis?”
He sat on the edge of the bed by Luke. “What did you think of Annie?” he asked excitedly. This was the first time I’d seen any sort of emotion from him since I’d met him. “Isn’t she beautiful?”
I nodded. “She’s stunning.”
Luke smiled reassuringly. “She seems perfect for you, Den.”
Dennis laughed and smacked his brother playfully on the leg. “That’s what I thought.” He sighed happily. “I think I might love her, dude. She may be the one.”
Luke frowned. “Are you sure? I mean, you guys have only been dating for, what, four months? That’s hardly long enough to get to know a person.”
Dennis glared at his brother. “I know her.”
Luke lifted his hands in surrender. “Okay, okay, I’m just looking out for you, bro.”
Dennis stood up. “I don’t need you to look out for me. I just need you to support me when I make life-altering decisions.”
Luke nodded. “I’m always on your side, Dennis.” He smiled teasingly. “Unless it’s when you decide to go for fast food on eat-out night, then you’re on your own pal.”
Dennis laughed and shook his head. “Glad to have you back, Luke.” He walked out of the room and I looked at Luke. “He doesn’t seem like a jerk to me.”
Luke sighed. “He has the worst temper of anyone I’ve ever met. And this is the fifth time he’s pulled the ‘I think I might love her, she may be the one’ line.”
I nodded. “Ah, so he’s kind of a player?”
“No, he just falls in love easy.” Luke stood up. “Well, I wish I could sleep in this bed and kick you out, but I’m a gentleman so I bid you goodnight and I’ll see you in the morning.”
I frowned. “Um, Luke, what am I supposed to sleep in?”
He smacked his forehead with his palm. “I’m so sorry, I completely spaced that! Here I’ll go get one of my t-shirts and you can sleep in it.” He rushed out of the room and was back faster than I expected, carrying a gray t-shirt. He threw it to me and then kissed my forehead. “Good night.”
I smiled. “Night.” When he turned off the light and shut the door, I smelt his shirt. It smelt like him. I sighed and threw my clothes off trying not to hurt a rib or my foot and then slipped on Luke’s t-shirt. Wearing his shirt was kind of… intimate, and I felt weird in it. But it smelled so good.
I said my prayers and then drifted into sleep, dreaming of Luke.
The next morning, I put on the same clothes I wore that night since they weren’t dirty and made my way into the kitchen, drawn to the smell of something delicious. I smiled at the sight of Marge already ready for the day and making chocolate chip pancakes. “That looks amazing.” I said with a smile.
She clutched her chest and looked at me with surprise. “Oh dear, you frightened me!”
I rushed to her side. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”
She took a deep breath and nodded. “Yes. I have a heart condition. I’m alright now, though. Thank you dear. And if anything happens, we have the best cardio-thoracic surgeon in all of Colorado right under our roof. And if you happen to break a finger, we also have the best orthopedic surgeon in Colorado.” She laughed
I grinned and filled a mug full of coffee. “Do you have any low fat creamer?” I asked.
She nodded, never tearing her eyes off the spatula. “It’s in the cupboard above the coffee pot.” I grabbed it and put three spoonfuls in the coffee. Then I poured a bit of sugar and went to sit at the table. The snow was falling, slow and gradual to the ground and I sighed in contentment, sipping my perfect cup of coffee. “It’s funny,” I mused, “that I have all these strange habits like putting so much cream and sugar in my coffee, but I cant remember anything about myself. Maybe I’ll never get my full memory restored.” I said with a sigh.
“Actually, I think you’re doing quite well Grace.” Marge said, joining me with a plate of pancakes and a cup of coffee. “I remember when I was little my big brother was horse-back riding and he hit his head on a rock and got amnesia. It was the scariest thing in the world for a seven year old girl to have her brother look at her like she was a stranger.” Marge shook her head and took a sip of her coffee. “He never fully got his memory back. But I can tell you will because Donny never remembered little memories like what the Christmas tree looked like, and he was around his family! You show great potential, and I know my son agrees.”
I smiled when she mentioned Luke. “He’s amazing.” I said in a whimsical tone.
Marge studied me. “I’ve seen the way you look at him. He is a handsome boy, don’t you think?”
I gave Marge a sideways look and then stared at the mountains covered in snow. “He is.”
“My Luke has never been in love.” She said sadly. “I was hoping to have little grandbabies running around my feet by now, but he says God hasn’t brought the right girl along. I think she’s finally here.”
I pretended to not know who she was talking about. “Luke deserves all the happiness in the world. He’s a great guy.”
“He deserves you, Gracie.” She said, making me look her in the eye.
I shook my head. “I don’t even know who I am, Marge. How can I be the right girl for him?” I felt that same twinge of guilt when I thought about falling in love with Luke. “And I think I have someone already. Every time I think about Luke, I get this guilty feeling in the pit of my stomach.”
Marge nodded understandingly. “Well, I know one thing. There’s always a reason for everything the Lord does.”
Just then, Luke walked in wearing a button up shirt and jeans and his dark brown hair was wet. “Good morning.” He said, kissing his mom on the cheek. He smiled at me and I worried that he had heard our conversation. But then I figured he didn’t know how to greet me, certainly not with a kiss on the cheek like he’d done for his mother. Instead, he grabbed three plates and forks and the syrup.
“Oh, Luke, I want to wait until Dennis and your father get up before we eat.” Marge said.
“Mom, the pancakes are going to get cold before noon.” He said humorously.
She laughed. “Well, alright, I can always make more.”
Luke dished me up and I smiled gratefully. My rib had been hurting all morning, especially when I moved my arms. I immediately dug into my pancakes. “These are so good, Marge.” I said my mouth full. “But I guess after eating hospital food every day for the past too weeks, any home cooked meal would be good.”
Luke frowned. “I would have brought you food if you had mentioned that you didn’t like the hospital food.”
I smiled and patted his arm. “No, its fine, it’s actually not that bad.” I looked around secretively then whispered, “Don’t tell any of the other patients, but I think the cook is sweet on me.”
Luke and Marge laughed. Marge gave Luke a knowing look and then stood up. “Well, I’d better go… check on the dog.”
“We don’t have a dog, mom.” Luke said.
Marge ignored him and walked out of the room. Luke rolled his eyes. “I don’t know what she’s up to, but I know it’s no good.”
I laughed. “I love your mom.”
“I think she loves you too.” He said amusingly, “Which may or may not be a good thing.”
I took another bite of the delicious pancakes. “I’d vouch for it being a good thing.”
Luke shrugged, but didn’t say anything, because he too was indulging himself in the pancakes.
We ate in companionable silence until Luke said, “So I was thinking maybe we could go ice skating on the pond today.”
I lifted my casted foot off the ground and cleared my throat. “I think that might be a small problem.”
He shrugged. “We could put socks on your cast and crutches and you could just slide around a little.”
I narrowed my eyes. “I don’t want to risk falling on my rib. It’s been hurting this morning.”
“Are you alright?” he asked worriedly.
I smiled. “I’m fine. I just don’t think ice skating will be on the agenda for a while for me.”
He nodded. “You’re probably right. Well what should we do?”
I shrugged and stood up with my plate in hand. “We could do all sorts of cute movie-style Christmas stuff; we could bake cookies in the shape of Santa Clause, we could go caroling, we could cook a fantastic dinner complete with ham and figgy pudding.”
He laughed and followed me to the sink. “I don’t know about the figgy pudding, but the caroling sounds intriguing. You probably have a fantastic singing voice.”
I blushed. “I don’t know. I haven’t sung since the accident; I’ve never had a reason to.”
“Try.” He said quietly.
I grimaced. “Do I have to?”
He nodded. “Sing Deck the Halls.”
I rolled my eyes. “Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la la la la la.” I cringed. Singing like this so spontaneously was so awkward.
Luke smiled widely and joined me singing the next verse in perfect tenor harmony, “Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la la la la la.”
I laughed. “That wasn’t bad!”
“You have a beautiful voice.” He said softly.
I shook my head, but didn’t move as he tipped his head toward me. Just then, Dennis walked in and Luke pulled back nonchalantly.
“What’s going on in here?” Dennis asked accusingly.
I smiled sweetly. “Caroling!”
Dennis leaned against the counter, looking cool. “We Marcellos have great voices. Maybe we’ll sing something for you and Annie.”
Then Annie walked in. “Speak of the devil.” Luke murmured quiet enough so only I could hear. I held back a giggle.
“Merry Christmas, Anne.” Dennis said, kissing his girl.
Annie smiled. She was decked out in a strapless green top and black skirt. “Merry Christmas.” Her voice sounded like warm honey, which was way different then last night when the sound of her voice could possibly break glass.
I looked at Luke and he looked as surprised as I did.
“Annie, I was just telling Grace here that my family is an amazing quartet. My mom sings soprano, Luke sings tenor, I sing bass, and Dad sings baritone. We are going to sing for you two tonight.” Dennis said.
Luke held his hands up. “Wait, wait, no we are not!”
Dennis smiled evilly and tapped his fingers together. He let out an evil laugh. Luke rolled his eyes and shook my crutch, motioning for me to follow him downstairs. Dennis called after us. “You will sing Luke!”
When we got down there I looked around and noticed the beautiful woodwork. There were two elk heads and a moose right above the flat screen TV. “Wow, it’s so beautiful down here.” There was a foosball table, a ping pong table, and a pool table. I laughed “I’m a master pool player!” I said, surprising myself.
Luke lifted an eyebrow. “How do you know that?”
I shrugged. “I just do.”
He smirked. “No one’s better than the pool king. Get ready to be dominated.”
I smiled. “You’re on.”
We played a vicious, intense game of pool. It was close, but I ended up winning. “Ha!” I said as I put my stick away. “I told you I was the man.”
He laughed. “That’s funny, you don’t look like one.” I followed him to the brown couch. He flipped the channels to a Christmas movie and we sat back and watched It’s a Wonderful Life. I cried.
When it was finished, Luke wiped away the tear that was rolling down my face. “There, there. It’s just a movie.” He said as he wrapped his arms around me. I willingly laid my head on his shoulder and felt that same guilt, but I didn’t move away. I accepted his comfort.
I found myself wishing he would try and steal a kiss again.
This was getting dangerous.
“You are the most dangerous woman I’ve ever met!” Andrew yelled and threw his cards on the table. “I’ve never been beaten in poker, and then you come along and beat all of us!”
We were all sitting at the dining room table playing poker and I had won three times in a row. We paid for stacks of poker chips with colorful mini marshmallows.
“One more time?” I asked.
Dennis gave me an exasperated look. “Please don’t torture us any longer!”
I laughed and stole a glance at Annie. She was drinking her club soda with a sour look on her face. I had a feeling she didn’t like losing. “Okay, okay. I want to step out and get some fresh air anyway. That should give someone else a chance to win.” I said, winking at Andrew.
Luke stood up. “I’ll go with you.”
“You don’t have to.” I said as I limped to the door. But I knew he would anyway.
I was right. Luke came up behind me and grabbed Marge’s winter coat. “It’s cold.” He explained. “Mom won’t mind.” I slipped the coat on gently, trying not to jostle the rib.
He opened the door for me and I took a deep breath. “It’s so beautiful out here.”
He nodded. “Are you content?”
I closed my eyes and smiled. “Yes.”
His voice sounded strained. “That’s good.”
“What’s wrong?” I asked, turning to look at him.
He shrugged and refused to look at me. “Nothing really. My mom talked to me at lunch today. She said she’s worried that I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life. I think she’s kind of disappointed that I haven’t given her grandchildren yet.”
I decided lightness was the best approach. “Well she should know that’s physically impossible for a male.”
He smiled, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. His cheeks turned red and he finally looked at me. “She wants us to become an item. She got so upset that she practically had a heart attack right in front of me. She didn’t, of course, but I was really worried about her.”
My eyes widened. “What are you going to do?”
“I’m not sure yet. I’m hoping she just gets over it, but knowing Margaret Marcello that’s not going to happen.” He sighed. “I’m so worried.”
I squeezed his hand. “I’m sorry, Luke.”
He shrugged. “Are you ready to go inside?”
I nodded. “But let’s not subject your poor family to my amazing poker skills again.”
He laughed and the sound was light and normal.
When we came back, Marge was in the kitchen getting a bag of pretzels. When she saw us walk in she gave us a hopeful look, but then disappointment colored her eyes when she noticed we weren’t being romantic. I turned to him in the shadows “Please forgive me.” I whispered so only he could hear.
“For what?” he asked.
“For kissing you.” I stood on my tip-toes and pressed my mouth to his and then quickly pulled away.
He stared at me in shock, and then understanding entered his face. He smiled. Marge clapped. “I knew it!”
I looked at her as if surprised that she had caught us. “Oh, I’m sorry.”
Luke sat us down and looked at his mom. “Now don’t get any ideas, missy.” He said, pointing a finger at his mother.
She looked happy as a clam and pretended to zip her lips shut and throw away the key. “I’m not going to say anything.”
This was going to be an interesting night.
We finished Christmas Eve dinner and then grouped in the living room. Luke sat next to me and put his arm around me.
Andrew lifted the family Bible out of a bookshelf and sat next to his wife. “I’m going to read the Christmas story.” He looked at me. “It’s a family tradition.” He explained.
Dennis quickly rose to his feet. “Annie and I are going to watch a movie downstairs.” The couple rushed out of the room and Marge sighed. “I was hoping he’d stick around this year.”
“Why don’t you start dad?” Luke said.
Andrew nodded and read the Nativity story out loud. I scooted a little closer to Luke and leaned against him as I listened to the story of how my Lord was born. It was almost magical.
When Andrew was finished he shut the book and sighed. “I never get tired of that story.” We all nodded in agreement.
“My grandpa used to read that story to us, I think.” I said, trying to remember more about those times, but all I had was a vague fact.
“Do you see his face?” Luke asked.
I shook my head. “It’s like always. I know it happened, but I can’t picture it.”
He squeezed my shoulder. “Don’t worry, you will.”
“Now, I’m not a brain surgeon or anything, but from my experience in the field of medicine, I’ve seen plenty of cases just like yours.” Andrew said. “Temporary amnesia is much more common than permanent.”
“Thanks for trying to cheer me up, Andrew.” I said with a genuine smile. “And I think you’re right; I’m starting to remember random little things every day.” I sighed. “I just hope my family finds me soon. I have a feeling we didn’t part on good terms.”
“Really?” Luke asked. “You didn’t tell me that.”
“It’s just a feeling. Obviously I don’t know for sure, but just this once I hope my memory is failing me and I made that part up.” I frowned, imagining what could have happened that would have caused me to be driving so late at night by myself.
Luke squeezed my shoulder. “Me too.” He took a deep breath. “Well, you know what they say, Santa won’t come until all the good little boys and girls are asleep snugly in their beds.”
“Don’t forget the visions of sugar plums.” I jousted.
“Touché.” Luke smiled. He stood and helped me carefully to my feet. I said goodnight to Luke’s parents and we walked slowly to my room. Luke unmade my bed and smiled. “I’ll see you in the morning.” He kissed my cheek. “And thanks for giving my mom a good Christmas present.” He said with a wink.
I cleared my throat and tried to steady my heart. His nearness made me feel dizzy. Suddenly the look in his eyes changed. All humor was gone and was replaced with a look I didn’t recognize until he slowly leaned towards me.
His lips touched mine and warning sirens flashed through my head, but I ignored them as I touched his face with my one free hand. He touched my waist softly and kissed me again.
Finally, I pulled away and stared into his eyes. His were clouded with confusion and that same strange look I couldn’t name.
Suddenly he cleared his throat and backed up. “Um… sorry about that.” He frowned and turned away. “Goodnight, Grace.” He said, without looking at me and softly shut the door.
I sighed in frustration. What had I gotten myself into?
The next morning, I woke up disoriented. Where was I? I suddenly recognized the room. I was in Luke’s family cabin. But something was different.
Then it hit me like a freight train.
My name was Abigail Jean Brandon. I was twenty years old and I lived in Ontario, Canada where I was a preschool teacher. My parent’s names were Joe and Cynthia Brandon. I had a sister named Holly and her husband’s name was Ken. They have a daughter named Elise.
And I had a fiancée- Sam Jones.
I gasped and put my hands over my face as the memories rushed back. My whole life literally flashed before my eyes and I cringed. Everything made sense now.
Sam cheated on me.
The memory of that night was fresh in my mind. We were staying at my grandparent’s house in L.A for the holidays. Sam told me everything about his affair with one of our mutual friends April. A girl I grew up with.
I had just broken off our engagement. He begged for forgiveness, but I told him he would never have it. I told him he could go straight down to the Devil’s layer for all I cared. With that, I stormed out of the house to my now totaled Sentra. I got in and started driving. I didn’t even care where I was going, but I figured the opposite way of the ocean would be best. I knew I didn’t want to go home. I couldn’t bear to see the looks of disappointment in my parent’s eyes. Abigail- the girl who made one mistake after another- chose an unfaithful fiancée. How typical.
So I kept going. I made it to Vegas and considered spending my life’s savings there, but where would that get me? So I just made a short pit stop there and continued.
Once I got into Colorado, Sam called. He told me he was following me, but lost me in Utah. He asked where I was so he could come get me and bring me home. I hung up on him. But I was worried that he’d find me. The night of the accident I was jumpy, nervous, and distracted.
And then I got hit by a drunk driver and lost my memory.
I started sobbing uncontrollably. I didn’t know if it was from the onslaught of information that triggered it or the unbearable memories of losing the only love I had ever known. But I did know that I could not stop.
Suddenly, Luke burst through the door and rushed to my side. He pulled me into his arms and spoke softly. “Grace, what’s wrong? Shhh, calm down honey.” But I couldn’t calm down. I couldn’t.
My name was not Grace.
A whole new round of sobs began and I knew my ribs were not happy about all this jostling. But everything hurt now. My heart and soul especially.
Luke pulled back and grabbed my face, making me look at him.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice sounding tormented.
“I remember.” I whispered.
Understanding lit his eyes and at first he was shocked. Then he grinned. Then he frowned again, because I was still crying.
“What do you remember?”
“Everything.” I said, and then everything went black.
* * *
“What’s wrong with her?” I recognized Marge’s voice, worried and very distant.
“When someone who’s had enough brain damage to lose their memory regains it, the brain has to take a break for a second. It’s kind of like when a computer is on overdrive and shuts itself off. Grace’s brain overheated for a minute. But she’ll come to.” Andrew.
“Wow, I can’t believe it all just came back to her like that.” Dennis.
“You should have seen her, dad. She looked like her heart was completely broken.” Luke. Dear, sweet Luke. This voice pulled me out of my slumber and my eyes fluttered. I opened them completely and saw them all there. Everyone except Annie.
Luke smiled at me when I opened my eyes. “Hey, honey, how are you doing?”
I frowned. “I’m okay.” I didn’t feel okay at all. I felt disoriented, depressed, and homesick.
Marge felt my forehead. “You don’t look okay. Do you want me to make you some tea?”
I nodded slowly. My eyes felt droopy, like I could go back to sleep any minute. “Stay awake, Grace.” Luke said softly, rubbing my hands.
“My name isn’t Grace.” I said quietly.
Luke and Andrew looked at each other and then looked back at me. “What is your name?”
“Abigail. Abigail Brandon.” I said, but my voice lacked conviction. I didn’t want to be Abigail Brandon. I wanted to be anyone but Abigail Brandon.
Luke smiled. “Well I think Abigail fits you much better than Grace anyway.”
Dennis nodded. “I can definitely see Abigail.”
Andrew agreed. “Abigail is a beautiful name.”
I smiled gratefully at their attempt to make me feel better.
Luke seemed like he just realized something. “Where do you live, Gr- I mean, Abigail?”
“You can call me Abby. All my friends call me that. I live in Ontario. Canada.”
Three sets of eyebrows rose. Luke sighed. “I was afraid of that. Well, we’d better get a hold of your family and tell them what happened.”
I shook my head. “No, I can’t go back Luke. I…” I hesitated and looked at all the curious eyes around me. I lowered my voice. “I was running away that night.”
Andrew cleared his throat. “Come on Dennis, let’s go see if there’s a game on.”
The two left the room just as Marge came to give me my tea. Andrew gave her a look and she hustled out, shutting the door behind her.
“Tell me everything.” Luke said finally.
I told him the whole story about Sam. Every horrible detail. It felt odd that I could recall my whole life when before I couldn’t remember a thing. Like for a while I could only see a tiny piece of a picture- a beautiful pink petal that could only belong to a rose- but now I could see the whole flower, thorns and all. When I finished, Luke got off the bed and paced for what seemed like forever. “Luke?” He held up a finger and I bit my lip.
I tried to sit up in my bed, but my ribs hurt and I let out a little gasp of pain.
Luke finally came and helped me sit up. Then he sat near my feet and stared into my eyes, as if seeing me for the very first time.
“Are you mad at me?” I asked softly.
He shook his head no. “But I’m having a really hard time not tracking down your ex fiancée and teaching him a lesson.”
I think I smiled. I tried to. “I’m sad.” I said pitifully.
His eyebrows furrowed. “Abby, you are so beautiful, and kind, and funny, and amazing. You don’t need him.”
I looked down. All the feelings I had for Sam were so confusing. I still loved him, even though I was furious with him. But now Luke was in my life. And I knew my feelings for him were a lot stronger than I’d let myself believe. Our kiss last night proved that. “I’m so confused.” I said finally, putting my hands over my face.
He grabbed my wrists and pulled my hands down, but I didn’t look at him. He tilted my chin up and his gorgeous face was just two inches away.
“I feel like I have to say this now, Gra- Abby, because you have your past back and I know you have a lot of decisions to make. And I’m really sorry that I have to add one more on, but you need to hear this. I love you. I don’t know when it happened, probably the first time I called you Grace, but I fell for you hard and I can’t stand the thought of you loving anyone else.”
His declaration didn’t surprise me. I smiled sadly. “I know, Luke. And I care about you a lot. But I’m going to have to sort things out in my life before I make any commitment. I hope you can understand.”
He nodded. “I’ll leave you alone for a little so you can think. Come out whenever you’re ready.” He turned to go, and when he got to the door he turned back to me. “Oh, and Merry Christmas Abigail.”
I sat alone in my cozy room in the home of one of the kindest, most accepting families I had ever met. They let me, a stranger, stay with them, fed me, took care of me, and even loved me. I had never known anyone like the Marcellos. Even Dennis was starting to grow on me.
I leaned my head back and looked up. “God, what am I going to do? You were with me when I crashed and you saved my life, but you took my memory. Why? Lord, I want Your will in everything, but I’m so confused right now. I thought Sam was my soul mate. I thought we would grow old together. But he cheated. Do I go back to him?” Silence. “Do I forgive him?” Forgive others just as I have forgiven you. I remembered the drunk driver who caused the accident. I had forgiven him so easily. How could I hold a grudge against Sam?
Christ laid down his life for me. He went up on that cross and died for me, a sinner. He forgave me in all my sinfulness and made me a new creation.
Father, I forgive Sam. I ask that you would forgive me for holding anything against him. I pray that Sam would forgive me for not talking things through with him. I pray that my parents will forgive me for running away. Help me make better choices. And show me what to do about Luke
At his name I gave a slight shudder. There was something about his piercing blue eyes that caught me and held me in. His strong arms protected me and his beautiful heart loved me. How could I not love him in return?
But how could I just forget about Sam and everything he was to me?
At that, there was a knock at the door. Marge came in with a smile and a plate of mouthwatering chocolate chip cookies. “Can I come in?”
“As long as you bring the cookies.” I said with a small smile.
“Of course.” She sat at my feet like Luke had and handed me a cookie. I took a bite.
She set the plate down and looked at me.
“This isn’t just about cookies, is it?” I asked.
She smiled and shook her head no. “I wanted to talk to you. You know, after my brother lost his memory, he did begin to remember things. He eventually remembered me and playing with me. He remembered my parents and my sister. But he never had any memories with our grandfather. And that was very strange because out of all of us kids, Max was the closest to Grandpa. You see, he had died a couple months before Max’s accident and Max was absolutely devastated. You had never seen a boy so distraught. So I asked him about it once. ‘Max, why don’t you remember Grandpa?’ and you know what he said? He said, ‘Well, Margie, I think when you love someone very much and they die its heart breaking. Maybe God gave me another chance to live happily without Grandpa’s memory.’”
I frowned. “But I remember everything.”
“Yes, but now you have a fresh start to begin to forget.” She smiled and grabbed her plate. “We’ll have lunch in a couple minutes if you want to freshen up and join us.”
I thanked her and watched her leave.
A fresh start to begin to forget.
I got up and changed into some clothes Luke convinced Annie to let me borrow- a pair of jeans (I had to roll one pant leg up over my cast which looked absolutely ridiculous) and a green knit sweater. I pulled my hair up into a messy ponytail and splashed some cold water on my blotchy red face. My eyes were a bit swollen from crying, but a little mascara covered that up. Looking decent, I grabbed my crutches and made my way to the kitchen.
The falling snow outside was the backdrop to the lovely family sitting at the table. I felt my heart be squeezed by the love I felt for these people.
“Hey Grace- er, Abby.” Andrew said with a smile.
I gave him a half smile. “You can call me Grace if you want. I don’t mind.”
Marge shook her head. “You’re Abigail and that’s what we’ll learn to call you. Have a seat sweetie and I’ll fix you a plate of ham. Mashed potatoes?”
“Yes please.” I said, taking a seat next to Luke.
Annie sat across from me again, but she wouldn’t look at me. I tried not to let it get to me.
Andrew prayed over the meal and we dug in. “So tell us about Christmas at your house, Abby. Now that you know what they’re like.” Andrew chuckled.
I smiled at the memories that flooded my brain. “Well I was right about cutting down the trees. My grandpa owns a huge ranch in Ontario and it’s completely covered in all sorts of trees including the most incredible Christmas trees you’ve ever seen. My sister Holly and I used to help him drag it back to his house and put it up. We covered it in all sorts of hand made decorations that we’d collected over the years and little trinkets that my grandma made every year.” I chuckled. “My dad always tried to get us to string up popcorn like he did when he was a kid, but we always ended up just eating the popcorn.”
“Wow that sounds magical.” Annie said in wonder. We all looked at her and she was looking at me with huge eyes. I smiled at her. “It really was.”
She smiled softly, but looked back at her food quickly.
Luke gave me an inquisitive look.
“What else can you tell us, Abby? I think you’ve enchanted us all with your Christmas tale.” Andrew said.
I continued with my stories of Christmas in Canada. We would take a family trip down to Niagara Falls on Christmas Eve and watch the light show. Then when we got home, we sang French Christmas carols, since my mother was a French Canadian.
“What does a French carol sound like?” Dennis asked in wonder.
I sang them Noel Blanc, or White Christmas in English. They all clapped excitedly. “Do you speak French?” Luke asked.
“Oui. But only a little. I’m not near as talented as my mother. She’s got the most beautiful accent you’ve ever heard.” I sighed longingly. “I do miss my mother.”
Andrew put his fork down seriously. “Abigail, I’m saying this because I truly care about you. When you get back to the hospital tonight, you need to call your family. They’re probably worried sick about you.”
I nodded. “They wouldn’t have any idea where to look for me. I’m sure Sam already told them I was gone. My mother’s always been a huge worrier. She’s probably frantic.” I sighed. “I will. I’ll call them.”
We all finished lunch and went off to our own activities. Annie tapped my shoulder. “Can I talk to you for a minute… alone?” She whispered.
My eyes widened. “Uh, sure Annie.”
I followed her to my bedroom and she closed the door. “Ok, this is really hard for me because I’m not really someone who likes to ask for help. But I need yours.” She took a deep breath and I prepared myself for anything. “I’m pregnant.”
I sat down on the bed in shock. “Pregnant? And Dennis…?”
She nodded. “He’s the father. I found out the other night. I haven’t told anyone yet, because I figured I’d get a quick abortion and be done with it and no one would have to know. But… how can I?” She buried her face in her hands. “You introduced me to something I’d never known- a loving God. I never wanted to believe in Him because my mom left and my dad shacked up with a drug addict and he kicked me out. I lived with friends all through high school. I didn’t even go to college. Dennis and I started dating when we graduated and I moved in with him and his roommate.”
She paused. “I feel like a horrible person telling you all this. And now here I am knocked up. But the other night I over heard you and Luke talking about forgiveness and it struck me.”
I interrupted her. “Annie, nothing you could ever do could make God love you any less. He created you. He knows you. And He loves you! All you have to do is ask for forgiveness for, not only the big sins, but the daily ones too, accept Jesus’ gift of salvation- because he died on the cross to wipe your sins away- and turn your back on the things of this world. You have to put your life in His hands.”
Tears rolled down her soft cheeks. “I’m scared.” She whispered and her voice shook. She looked so vulnerable, something I was sure she had never shown anyone before.
I motioned for her to come sit next to me. “I can help you, Annie. I can see you have a beautiful heart. You are a precious child of God, and He longs for you to come to Him and lay all your burdens at your feet.”
“What about the baby?” She asked, her heart breaking in front of me.
“You know abortion isn’t what you want. I can see it in your eyes. So have the baby. If you don’t think you can handle being a mother… we’ll find someone who can. Don’t you think that’s better than ending its life?”
She nodded quickly. “Of course I do.”
I took a deep breath. “Good. Well, I’d say our first order of business is to tell Dennis. I can be with you if you want or you can tell him alone. But he needs to know.”
She hugged me and I hesitated out of shock, but quickly wrapped my arms around her and stroked her red hair while she cried on my shoulder.
Finally she sat up and nodded. “I’m ready.” She said in a shaky, crackly voice. “I’ll do it alone.”
I nodded. “I’m really proud of you.”
She got up and walked to the door. When she opened it she turned around. “Thank you, Grace. I mean, Abby.” She smiled reluctantly, took a deep breath, and walked out. I followed behind slowly and saw her speak softly to Dennis. His brow furrowed, but he nodded as she led him upstairs. I sighed and spoke a silent prayer for her and her baby.
Luke was around the corner and cocked an eyebrow. “What was that about?”
I hesitated. “I’ll have to tell you later. But things between me and Annie are good now.” I said with a smile.
He didn’t smile back, but I saw the love for me in his eyes. “I’m glad.” He said warily. “Can we talk?”
I nodded. “I was just about to ask the same thing.”
We entered my room again and it struck me how much it felt like home to me. A lot of big things have happened in this room, I thought to myself. My first kiss with Luke, my memory returning, my talk with Annie, and now this talk.
We sat down and he took my hand. “I’m so sorry for saying what I did earlier. I should have waited until you had recovered from your shock. Regaining lost memory takes a lot out of a person. I’ll bet you’re exhausted.”
He was right, I suddenly realized. My mind was completely drained. “I’m glad you said it when you did. You gave me a lot to think about.”
“So what are you going to do?” He asked me. I understood perfectly what he meant.
And I knew just how to tell him.
I took a deep breath and leaned towards him, gauging his expression. Shock crossed his face when he realized what I was doing and at first backed away, but I grabbed his shirt softly with one hand and pulled him towards me. He gave in quite easily, and I pressed my lips tenderly against his. When we finally pulled away, I was disappointed. I wanted nothing more than to kiss Lucas Marcello for the rest of forever.
But I needed to say this first. “I’m sorry, Luke, but I need to see Sam. We need to straighten out this whole mess I made. I need to ask for his forgiveness. I hope you understand. I’m not choosing him by any means. But a chapter of my life has to end before I start a new one.”
He looked dissatisfied. “I do understand. I’m so sorry, Abby.”
I sighed. “Me too.”
I stared at myself in the mirror. My blonde hair was curled and I had an elegant amount of makeup on. My burgundy dress fit perfectly and you could hardly tell that I had a broken leg. The whole thing was so perfect, yet I felt so empty. I had hoped that with regaining my memory, I would gain peace. Unfortunately it had the opposite effect. I was so much happier when I had no idea who I was…. when all I knew was Luke and his family. The phrase ignorance is bliss came to mind.
I straightened up and put on my bravest face. Time for Christmas dinner.
When I entered the dining room, I noticed the soft lighting, the lit candles, and the sound of an orchestra playing O Holy Night on the stereo. I smiled as I smelt the delicious food Marge had prepared. The Christmas tree was shining brightly and snow was falling softly outside.
I looked at the table and saw that everyone was already seated. After I set my crutches against the counter, Luke helped me sit in my chair next to him. Though he was holding me around the waist, his touch felt almost distant. Like he was just holding me tight enough so I wouldn’t fall down. I felt the enormous weight of his distance on my shoulders, but tried to keep up my brave façade.
Annie smiled weakly at me from across the table and I saw that Dennis was absolutely glowing. I was very pleased by his reaction to the news that he was going to be a father. At least Annie would have a painless happy ending.
“Shall we pray?” Andrew asked with a smile.
We held hands around the table and I felt Luke grab mine loosely. I felt my heart breaking as I bowed my head.
“Dear Heavenly Father-“
Suddenly, there was a loud, persistent banging on the door. We all looked to see what was going on and Andrew huffed at being interrupted.
“Excuse me, I’ll go see what all that noise is about.” He said, annoyed.
I looked at Marge and she shrugged. We weren’t supposed to have any company tonight.
“You know Abigail? Um… yes, she’s right this way.”
I jolted at hearing my name and turned around just as he walked in the room. I gasped. “Sam?”
And then everything went black.
* * * * * *
“Abby, Abigail can you hear me?” I heard an old familiar voice talking to me so far away.
“Abby, wake up honey.”
“Get your hands off of her.”
“I’m a doctor, I suggest you let me do my job.”
“Sam?” I moaned. My head was spinning and I struggled to open my eyes. “Luke?” I said as I looked up into one set of bright blue eyes that I fell in love with and another set of dark brown eyes that were so familiar to me- eyes I’d known for years.
“Abby.” They said in unison.
My head cleared and I tried to sit up but Luke held me down. I realized I was on the couch. “What happenend?”
“You passed out.” Luke said. “I caught you before you fell out of your chair and carried you to the couch.”
“Thank you.” I said, squeezing his hand that was in mine.
Sam looked at the two of us and cleared his throat. “Um, hi Abby.”
I looked down. “Hi Sam.”
“Let’s give these two some privacy.” Andrew said. I looked at him gratefully. Luke hesitated as he knelt by my side, but finally got up and followed his parents. Sam took his place and put his hand on my cheek. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you. I think you need to explain why you’re here, in a strangers’ house, with a broken leg…?”
I sighed. “Yeah, I guess I do.” I told him the whole story. It took a while, but I’d always been so honest with Sam so I gave him every detail, minus the private moments with Luke. He couldn’t have those memories, they were mine.
Sam sat back on his heels with an astonished look in his eyes. “Wow… Abby I’m so sorry. I can’t believe all this happened! When I lost track of you in Utah, I thought you were gone forever. I gave up hope that you would ever come back. But your parents were so worried about you, so after about two weeks I went looking for you again. I saw that there was a Jane Doe in Denver and I thought I’d see and sure enough it was you. But everyone at the hospital said you were with Dr. Marcello. You have no idea what a relief it was to have found you!” he frowned. “You shouldn’t have run off like that Abigail. That was very irresponsible.”
“Don’t speak to me like I’m a child, Sam. I’m an adult and I can go wherever I please. And it was your fault I ran away!” I half-shouted at him. I felt my anger well up at him. “You cheated on me, Sam.” Tears formed in my eyes and I tried to blink them away but they fell anyway.
Sam’s eyes showed his misery at the mistake he made. He looked down at his hands. “I am so sorry, Abby.”
I sighed and remembered my little conversation with God that morning. “I have forgiven you.”
He looked at me with wide eyes. “Really?”
I nodded. “I’ve forgiven you the way God forgives me every day for my sinfulness.”
He sighed. “God, huh? You still have this unshakeable faith in a God that would let you get hit by a drunk driver?”
“Yes, Sam. If it wasn’t for this accident… well, I would have never met the Marcello’s. I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this family.”
“Love? What about that doctor fellow, you love him?”
I sighed. “Actually, yes. Yes I do, Sam, and I think it would be best if you leave. We were about to enjoy a family Christmas dinner. I’ll call you tomorrow when I’m back at the hospital and we can talk then.”
He stared into my eyes and then slowly nodded. “Ok. I’ll see you tomorrow. I love you Abigail.”
I couldn’t choke out a reply, and he solemnly stood up. I let him kiss my cheek and watched him walk away.
He must have seen Andrew in the hallway. “Sorry for interrupting your dinner. Have a good night.”
“You too.” Andrew said quietly. I heard the door close and the family entered the room and stared at me.
Luke’s piercing blue eyes were staring deep into mine.
I cleared my throat. “Dinner time.”
Marge smiled and came over to help me maneuver back to the table.
Dinner was quiet and reserved and I could tell everyone was sneaking glances at me to make sure I was ok. “Ok, can we pretend that the whole Sam interruption never happened and have a real dinner conversation?”
Luke nodded. “Abby’s right.”
“We’re sorry dear.” Marge said. “How are you feeling by the way?”
I laughed. “I’m sick of passing out!”
Everyone chuckled softly, not quite sure if it was okay to laugh. “Guys, I’m fine I promise. I just want to enjoy my… my last night with my new family. I’ll worry about all the other stuff tomorrow.”
“I think that’s a good of time as any to make an announcement.” Dennis said as he grabbed Annie’s hand. “Me and Annie are engaged.”
Marge gasped. “Engaged? Really?! That’s so wonderful, Dennis!”
Andrew laughed heartily and shook Dennis’s hand. “Congratulations you two.”
Luke smiled at his brother.
I looked at Annie and saw the happiness in her eyes, but I also saw the fear and I knew that I was going to have to keep in touch with her when I left. She was going to need a lot of encouragement in her newfound faith in God. She looked over and gave me a smile. “Thank you.” She mouthed.
I nodded and placed a hand over my heart.