Lost and Found Bride

By: Modean Moon

One



Richard Jordan stood in the shadow of the draperies, but not completely unnoticed. The man behind the massive mahogany desk—the doctor, Richard thought derisively, Dr. Hampton—was aware of him. Although Hampton attempted an attitude of professional detachment, Richard saw the moisture beading on his forehead and upper lip as he gripped the pen in his hand and scrawled tense circles on the folder before him.

The atmosphere in the spacious room was close and stifling. Heavy mahogany furniture filled the room, heavy paneling diminished it, and heavy draperies darkened it still more. No medicinal smells intruded—only those of old wood and lemon oil. Not pleasant scents these; no, the old wood here carried the essence of rot, of wood worms busily destroying the structure behind the facade, and of decadence.

Outside the decoratively barred windows the late-October sunlight fought its way through the bare limbs of the trees, and a light breeze scattered the fallen leaves across the lawn. Outside, the air was crisp and fresh, promising a harsh winter but beguiling with its gentleness. Richard fought a fleeting impulse to thrust open the windows, in spite of the discreet wiring of the alarm system along the edge of them, and let that breeze into the room. Would that cleanse the air in the room? Could anything cleanse it?

But it was not the doctor behind the desk, or even the room that held his attention. It was the woman. Swathed in a shapeless, long-sleeved garment, she sat on the edge of the chair in front of the desk. The anger that he had felt when he’d first seen her asleep in a room bare of anything except the narrow cot on which she’d lain had not faded. He knew he might never lose the anger, but it had firmed itself into a chilling resolve—to have her released into his care.

Her hair, once shimmering ebony that fell to below her waist, had been cropped close to her head with no thought given to style. Always slender, she now appeared almost skeletal. But it was the sight of her eyes that fed his anger, that had him clutching at the window ledge to keep from lunging across the room. Gone was the sparkle of intelligence and humor that had lit her small features. Her eyes were now two gray smudges in the pallor of her face, without life, without hope, smudges that she turned toward the man behind the desk.

Even her voice had changed—still soft, still low, but without the music of laughter, without the breathless catch of anticipation. Without inflection of emotion, she answered Hampton’s questions—the same questions, the same answers Richard had heard the day before.

“What is your name?”

“Alexandra Wilbanks.”

“What is your birthday?”

“October 27.”

“What day is this?”

“March 15.”

“What is your husband’s name?”

“I have no husband.”

Hampton turned to him and spoke, calling attention to his presence, but the woman did not move.

“As you can see, as I told you yesterday Mr. Jordan, she is completely out of touch with reality.”

“Not quite.” Richard stepped from his place in the shadows. The answers were wrong for the questions, but they were based in reality—a reality this so-called doctor would have discovered for himself had he ever attempted to help her. Wilbanks, the name under which she had been admitted, was her maiden name. October 27, though not her birthday, was her wedding day. And March 15 was the day his plane had crashed.

Richard walked to her chair and knelt in front of her, willing himself to think of nothing but her and the present moment. He braced his hands on the arms of the chair as he spoke softly.

“Lexi?”

She cocked her head at the sound of his voice and turned her eyes toward him.

“Do you remember me?”

He thought he saw a question in the flatness of her eyes. It was fleeting, and he couldn’t be sure whether he had seen it or imagined it, but she looked at him—at the irritation on his cheek where dermal abrasion had finally removed the last of the scars, at the angry red welts still showing on his hand as it rested on the chair arm.

“You came. Before.”

He let his breath out in a long, slow exhalation. “Yes. Yesterday.” And it had taken all his control not to carry her from this place at that time. All his control to pretend to agree with Hampton that she was where she needed to be. But he had sensed that pretense was necessary for her safety, and he had needed time to prepare for today.

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