A man and a woman wake up separately, seemingly alone on a deserted island with no memory of how they came to be there, no memory of their pasts, but drawn to each other… even though they can’t remember why. And things aren’t quite what they seem…
They were walking along the edge of the trees, trying to avoid the heat of the sun when Rachel suddenly stopped moving. She was in the zone again and Charles knew that meant she was remembering something. She stood still, but her body was trembling so hard he could see it.
Charles hesitated. Should he hold her? Would that pull her out of whatever she was remembering? They talked about their memories all the time, but had never addressed this kind of thing. He felt drawn to her as he saw her shaking harder. He had just reached out to her when she started screaming. A heartbreaking scream ripped from her shaking body and she fell to her knees on the sand. Charles jumped to her, taking ahold of her and wrapping his arms around her as if he could protect her from whatever was happening.
Sobs wracked her body and the screaming, the wailing coming from her was stabbing right through him. He held her, rocking her body gently back and forth, silent tears streaming from his face as he tried to take the pain from her. She clutched onto him like he was the only thing keeping her from drowning as her voice became dry and hoarse from the screaming.
He didn’t know what to say, so he just rocked her back and forth and said all those useless things that people say in times of grief, “It’ll be okay. I’m right here… I’m with you, baby. Please, it’s going to be okay.”
At some point she started to calm, her body wilting against his as if she had given up. He held her still, unmoving until he heard her breathing start to slow and ease into sleep. He laid down with her then and rested her head on his arm, pulling her close. His heart was racing from the ordeal, but she was worn out, completely and utterly spent and he didn’t have the heart to wake her or leave her for even a moment. He closed his eyes and just tried to absorb her pain.
Rachel wiped her hands on her apron. Her mother was puttering around the kitchen, making stew while Rachel was kneading bread. There was a hum of excitement in the air already, even though Charles wouldn’t be home for another three days.
Still, Rachel couldn’t help be count down the minutes. Her husband was coming home! She would finally get to do things like this for him. She looked at the small table set up in the dining area and pictured them sitting down for a meal together every evening when he got off work. She smiled a dreamy smile and her mom gently nudged her, noting the fact that she was about to knead the bread right off the edge of the counter. Rachel smiled and blushed.
“So, you’re pretty excited to see him again, then?” her mother asked.
“Well, yes! All the letter writing is wonderful, but I want him back in the flesh!” She saw her mom smiling and blushed even more. “I mean… well, it will just be so nice to have him home safe. I just…” She paused, her mind obviously somewhere else, “I can’t explain it, but I feel like part of me is missing. There is this feeling deep inside of me that is always reaching for him, expecting him to be there.”
Her mother stepped over and hugged her shoulders, “That’s the way it should be, honey. I’m thrilled that he’s coming home so soon. It will be good to finally start your life together. Here, let me take over the kneading and you go wash up. You’re looking awfully tired today.”
Rachel stepped back, “Thank you, mom. I haven’t gotten much sleep the last two nights. I’ve been having the worst nightmares and I think I just need my husband home sooner than later!” She was washing her hands in the sink when the doorbell rang. “Oh, I guess I’ll get that, since you’re covered in flour now.” She smiled and went to the door.
She opened the door and squinted against the bright sun, not quite understanding why two strangers were at her door. “Mrs. Charles Johnson?” the older man asked.
“Yes, that’s me.” She looked back and forth between the two uniformed men. “What’s this about?”
“May we come in, ma’am?”
Rachel automatically stepped back, allowing them inside. She heard a buzzing in her ears and pressure started to build in her throat. She tried to swallow, to call out to her mother, but nothing seemed to be working. Her hand clutched the door as she watched the two gentlemen walk inside.
She saw her mother come around the corner, wiping her hands on her apron, “Rachel, where are your manners, I asked…” her voice trailed off and her face went white. “What is this about?”
The older man cleared his throat, “Is there somewhere we could sit down?” He asked, his voice should have been soothing, but it made Rachel want to scream. She stood in silence, still gripping the door like she was made of wood.
Her mother took over, “Certainly, gentlemen. Come into the sitting room. Can I get you something to drink?”
Rachel could hear her mother, ever the wonderful hostess making them comfortable. Suddenly she felt her mother’s arm around her waist. “Come on Rachel, we need to hear what these gentlemen have to say.” A small broken sound came from Rachel’s mouth. Her mother tried reassuring her, “Maybe it’s not that bad. We need to go see what they have to say.” She pulled Rachel into the sitting room and both of the gentlemen stood up.
“Mrs. Johnson, There is no easy way to say this,” He cleared his throat and Rachel’s mind went blank. She didn’t want to hear this. A chill ran down her arms, down her spine, she felt her legs going weak.
The younger gentleman caught her before she hit the floor. He helped her into a chair and kneeled in front of her, taking her hands, looking into her eyes he said, “We’re so terribly sorry. You should know that your husband died a hero.”
That was the last thing she heard. She saw the folded flag, the words registered and she screamed. A horrible, shattered sound came wrenching out of her soul as the truth hit her. Her mother was trying to soothe her, hug her, anything, but she couldn’t handle the touch.
She fell out of the chair and onto her knees on the floor, wailing with a grief that felt as if it would never end. The gentlemen and her mother were saying words of comfort, but she didn’t hear any of them. She leaned her head on the floor and the emotion took over. She cried until she was hoarse.
The other people in the room disappeared from her awareness. She felt as if she was being rocked gently back and forth. She heard his voice, “It’ll be okay. I’m right here… I’m with you, baby. Please, it’s going to be okay.” and thought that maybe she was losing her mind.
Rachel squeezed her eyes shut, wanting for this all to be another one of her nightmares. She felt a warm breeze blow over her, the scent of the sea filling her nostrils. She felt his hand wrap around her shoulders as he murmured words of love to her. Her body started to calm and she looked up and saw him there. He was right there in front of her, but not really.
Charles sat in front of her, she could feel him. He had no shirt on and his hair was far longer than it should have been, but it was him. She reached out to touch him and the image flickered and faded. She could still feel him as someone helped her to her feet.
She heard her mother’s voice, talking about calling the doctor, about the shock… and she fell asleep on her bed with the echo of Charles’ voice comforting her in her dreams. ‘It will all be okay,’ she thought.
And it was.
Rachel woke up next to Charles on the beach sometime later. Rachel ran her fingers over his face as if to reassure herself that he was still there. That he was still real. She kissed him awake. “Hey sleepyhead,” she said.
“Rachel! Are you okay? What happened?” Charles was instantly awake.
“I don’t know. That was the hardest memory yet. It was so real. I felt like I was there. You remember that you went off to war?” Charles nodded. “You didn’t come back.”
Charles wrapped his arms around her, “Oh no. Love, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s… okay,” she curled into his warmth. “I mean, I think it was okay. I had a life and I think I was happy enough. I missed you, though. I always missed you.”
“Well, I’m here now.” He rested his chin on her hair, “Wherever THIS is… I’m here. We’re both here.”
They were both quiet for a while before Rachel spoke again, “Where do you think we are? When do you think we are? I mean, those first memories, of our house. Of your mom being a pest… that definitely wasn’t the same time as the more recent memories.”
“I don’t know,” Charles sounded almost as cynical as he felt, “It’s pretty impossible to argue when we’re both having the exact same kind of dreams… or memories. But still. This is all pretty unbelievable… but I don’t know what else to think. It FEELS real.”
“It feels real to me, too.” She met his eyes, “I mean, there are weirder things that people believe in. Surely we don’t know all there is to know about the world.” She looked out at the still water, lapping against the white sand beach. “I can’t believe we’re still here. I still feel that drive to keep moving. Like there is something else we’re supposed to find or maybe realize?”
“Me, too.” He stood up, offering his hand. “That being said, I suppose we should get with the program. Surely we will have circled the entire island in another day or two. We can’t possibly have that much more area to cover.”
“Then what?” Rachel asked.
“Then…” He squeezed her hand, “Then, I guess that we just find a way to make our home here. I don’t know what else we could do.”
They started walking then, heading for the big rock at the end of the island. Rachel had a feeling that once they got themselves on the other side of it, then things would change. They just had to get there first. She looked down at their feet as they started walking and smiled. There was no hurry right then. As long as they were together, it was all going to be okay.
Charles smiled at her and they headed for the rock. Based on the distance they usually covered, he figured they’d be close to the rock, if not headed around it by the end of the day.
(To Be Continued)