What else lies buried in the black hole his mind has become since the crash?
Captain Christophe Marston sat slumped in his wheelchair by the window overlooking the parking lot at Walter Reed Hospital. He was waiting for MacNeil, his family's chauffeur, to come get him out of this blasted hospital.
Six weeks ago, he couldn't wait to get here and see his grandmother. That was before he found out what else he'd forgotten. He raised his left hand to the bandages that still encircled his head. The headaches weren't as bad as they had been for the recent months, but they still troubled him. Those he remembered along with his having surgery to release the pressure inside his skull as well as all the physical therapy.
What he couldn't seem to remember was everything from a month or so before he'd been drafted into the Army until he'd awakened in the hospital on Guam. Nothing about his even being in the army, basic training or the weeks in Nam. He also didn't remember his grandmother dying or the fact that the family antiques business had been in limbo the last year or so. He hadn't realized anything about home until he'd seen Mac six weeks ago.
Mac hadn't known the extent of Chris' memory loss until Chris had asked him why his grandmother hadn't been to see him. The scene out of the window blurred and Chris thought about the sheer misery on Mac's face the first time he'd visited Chris when he arrived at Walter Reed.
"Mr. Chris, your grandmother's been gone since, since just before you left for the Army. I know the doctor said you'd lost some of your memory, but I didn't know how much."
"I remember going off on my tour of Europe and visiting the old family mausoleum of a house in Austria, but then nothing until I woke up on a cot in Guam. I remember going to some antique auctions for Gram in the spring, but that's it. I remember stuff before that, but nothing since.
"Here Gram's been gone for almost a year and to me, it was just a few weeks ago." Tears fell unchecked down Christophe's face.
A touch on his shoulder jolted him back to the waiting room and he quickly swiped his sleeve across his face. "Captain Marston, your ride is here." The matronly nurse wheeled him out to where Mac had the limo waiting under the porte-cochere at the hospital entrance.
She handed him a thick manilla file folder and reminded him to call his doctor the following week. He stiffly moved into the back seat of the long grey car. His walking stick, once something he carried simply as a matter of form, leaned against the back seat.
"I thought you might be wanting it, Mr. Chris. You never used to be without it."
Chris smiled as he picked up the ornate silver and leather cane, circa 1824, Edinburgh. He remembered his grandmother gifting it to him on the occasion of his graduation from Oxford. He remembered how he'd used to play with them when he'd visit his grandmother's home as a child. Later, it was simply a part of a gentleman's attire.
An affectation of a sort, but now, it would serve him well as his balance was not quite what it had been before being injured in Viet Nam and then again when the evac chopper had crashed. He'd heard all about it, of course. Although he didn't remember it, apparently, he'd managed to pull two other guys out of the wreckage before it blew up. They remembered everything and told everyone within hearing how, despite being injured, he crawled back in twice to get his buddies out. And yet, even after talking with them at the field hospital weeks later, he didn't remember them at all.
Walking across to the front parlor in his grandmother's house, he sat in her once favorite Chippendale mahogany wingback chair across from the fireplace. A fine layer of dust coated the furniture. Mac had told him the house would be fully staffed again within a day or so, as he apologized that the house wasn't quite up to snuff yet having been closed up this past year.
Chris wasn't worried. He knew that Mac would have Mrs. Lathrup or someone else of her caliber in place to run the old place as it had always been. He expected a slew of unfamiliar faces as the staff was replenished.
That was the least of his problems. Foremost was what Chris thought of as 'the black hole.' How could a year just vanish from his mind? Why that specific time? Because of it, the Army had honorably discharged him because he didn't remember anything about his training and the doctors didn't know if he'd ever get that time back as he hadn't already. It wasn't even the big things that bothered him so much as the smaller things. His buddies from a boot camp he didn't remember, his grandmother's funeral, time in Europe, all his (according to the stories) stellar time in the military. How could it just be gone? He wanted it back even if it meant remembering being near the land mine that had killed his 'best friend' or the chopper being shot down and crashing or any of the other million details of a year's time. What else was he missing?
A week later while eating a most excellent breakfast provided by the new cook, Mrs. Mathewson, and reading over some articles Mac had found about his grandmother and their auction house, Chris mused on the possibilities of continuing the family business. The attorneys had descended a few days prior and Chris knew there was plenty of money available to get it going again along with the inventory that had simply been stored away. He hadn't really even thought about money or livelihoods or any of that. The lawyers said he had no reason to rush into anything, to take some time and finish healing.
But that felt wrong, somehow. He felt wrong. Empty. He was feeling well enough, except for the BH as Mac had started calling it, and needed to be doing something, anything. He wouldn't just sit around. He couldn't. But did he want to continue the antiquities business? Of course, he did, didn't he?
A staff member came into the morning room. "Sir, there is a Lieutenant Jeffreys here to see you. He's in the front parlor."
"Please tell him I'll be there directly." Lieutenant Jeffreys? He didn't remember a Jeffreys. Chris smiled at himself. Like that meant anything at all.
The young man in uniform stood and snapped to attention when Chris walked into the room. "At ease, Lieutenant. I'm no longer in the service. How can I help you?"
"Sir, I had to come see you once I got back home. After the crash and all. Sir?" The young man paused, frowned. "You don't remember me, do you, sir?"
Chris shook his head. "I'm sorry, but I do not. The last year or so is simply gone."
"Well, sir, I'm Brian Jeffreys. We were at OCS together. We got sent to different units in Nam, but I was wondering, sir, if you ever found Sam?"
"Sam?" Chris shrugged.
"Sam, sir. You talked about her all the time during training You'd met her in Paris? And lost her address?"
Chris shook his head. "No, I'm sorry, but I don't remember any Sam. A lady, you say?"
Brian looked at Chris sadly. "You said she was the love of your life, sir. You'd call her your 'darling Samantha.'"
"And I lost her?"
"Your wallet got picked on the way to the airport when you came home after your grandmother's accident. You were looking for her and didn't know why you hadn't heard from her and then you left for basic and ..." Brian's voice drifted off.
"Did she have a last name?"
"You just called her Sam or Samantha. I think she was a writer." Brian paused. "So, I guess then, you never found her."
"No, I guess not. Or if I did, I don't remember. One more thing the black hole of my mind has swallowed."
"I'm sorry, sir. It's just that I always wondered. It was such a great story, you know?"
"I guess it would be, if I remembered any of it. Leave me your name and where to find you. If I ever find out, I'll let you know."
Mac came into the foyer as Chris was seeing Lieutenant Jeffreys to the door. "Mac, did I ever happen to mention a Sam or Samantha to you?"
"No, Mr. Chris, can't say as I remember a Sam or Samantha. Was she someone from the gallery?"
"No, she was someone I met in Paris, just before I came home. Do you know where to find Mrs. Lathrup or maybe some of the ladies from the gallery? Perhaps she tried to contact me after I left for basic."
"I can check into it for you. Let me see what I can find out."
"Thank you, Mac. It would mean a lot to me."
"Think maybe she could fill in some of the dots, sir?"
Three months later, Chris was being taken on a tour of an estate to see if there were any pieces he might be interested in. The estate manager had served him some lemonade on the rear veranda of the wide swept wrap-around porch. Pots of bougainvillea hung in each opening of the porch arches, long strands of ivy moving gently in the breeze. The scent caught Chris by surprise and for a moment he felt like he almost remembered something, but then, like the elusive breeze, it was gone.
Driving home, he remembered that Mac hadn't been able to find out any information for him, but the bougainvillea moment had brought his mystery woman to mind again. Well, he mused, now I know a little bit more about you. I wonder if I'll ever know more.
I need to find her, whomever she is, thought Chris. She's got to be out there, somewhere.