The Wife He Couldn't ForgetBy: Yvonne Lindsay
She hated hospitals.
Olivia swallowed hard against the acrid taste that settled on her tongue and the fearful memories that whispered through her mind as she entered the main doors and reluctantly scoured the directory for the department she needed.
Needed, ha, now there was a term. The last thing she needed was to reconnect with her estranged husband, even if he’d apparently been asking for her. Xander had made his choices when he left her two years ago, and she’d managed just fine, thank you, since then. Fine. Yeah, a great acronym for freaked out, insecure, neurotic and emotional. That probably summed it up nicely. She didn’t really need to even be here, and yet she was.
The elevator pinged, and its doors slid open in front of her. She fought the urge to turn tail and run. Instead, she deliberately placed one foot in front of the other, entering the car and pressing the button for the floor she needed.
Damn, there was that word again. Need. Four measly letters with a wealth of meaning. It was right up there with want. On its own insignificant, but when placed in the context of a relationship where two people were heading in distinctly different directions it had all the power in the world to hurt. She’d overcome that hurt. The pain of abandonment. The losses that had almost overwhelmed her completely. At least she’d thought she had, right up until the phone call that had jarred her from sleep this morning.
Olivia gripped the strap of her handbag just that little bit tighter. She didn’t have to see Xander if she didn’t want to—even if he had apparently woken from a six-week coma last night demanding to see her. Demanding, yes, that would be Xander. Nothing as subtle as a politely worded request. She sighed and stepped forward as the doors opened at her floor, then halted at the reception area.
“Can I help you?” the harried nurse behind the counter asked her, juggling an armful of files.
“Dr. Thomas, is he available? He’s expecting me.”
“Oh, you’re Mrs. Jackson? Sure, follow me.”
The nurse showed her into a blandly decorated private waiting room, then left, saying the doctor would be with her shortly.
Unable to sit, Olivia paced. Three steps forward. Three steps back. And again. They really ought to make these rooms bigger, she thought in frustration. The click of the door opening behind her made her spin around. This was the doctor, she assumed, although he looked far too young to be a neurological specialist.
“Mrs. Jackson, thank you for coming.”
She nodded and took his proffered hand, noting the contrast between them—his clean, warm and dry, hers paint stained and so cold she’d begun to wonder if she’d lost all circulation since she’d received the news about Xander.
“You said Xander had been in an accident?”
“Yes, he lost control of his car on a wet road. Hit a power pole. His physical injuries have healed as well as could have been expected. Now he’s out of the coma, he’s been moved from the high-dependency unit and onto a general ward.”
“And his accident? I was told it happened six weeks ago? That’s a long time to be in a coma, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is. He’d been showing signs of awareness these past few days, and his nerve responses were promising. Then last night he woke fully, asking for you. It caught the staff by surprise. Only his mother was listed as next of kin.”
Olivia sank into a chair. Xander? Asking for her? On the day he’d left her he’d said they had nothing to say to each other anymore. Were they talking about the same man?
“I...I don’t understand,” she finally managed.
“His other injuries aside, Mr. Jackson is suffering from post-traumatic amnesia. It’s not unusual after a brain injury—in fact, studies show that less than 3 percent of patients experience no memory loss.”
“And he’s not in that 3 percent.”
The doctor shook his head. “Post-traumatic amnesia is a phase people go through following a significant brain injury, when they are confused, disoriented and have trouble with their memory, especially short-term memory loss. Although, Mr. Jackson’s case is a little more unusual with some long-term memory loss evident. I take it you were unaware of his accident?”
“I rarely see anyone who is in regular contact with him and I was never particularly close with his mother. I’m not surprised no one told me. I haven’t seen Xander since he walked out on our marriage two years ago. We’re just waiting for a court date to complete our divorce.”
Olivia shuddered. Even now she couldn’t keep the bitterness from her voice.
“Ah, I see. That makes things problematic then.”