Noel, who’d fallen asleep in a chair next to my bed, jolted awake. “Hey. Easy,” he murmured, reaching out to comfort me. “It’s okay.”
“Wha...?” I slowly lowered my arms and looked down at myself. I was still in the scrubs I’d been wearing for days, but my hands were now bandaged. “What happened? How long was I out?”
Breathing out a long sigh as if he were worn to the bone, Noel sent me a tired smile. He hadn’t shaved in days, and his eyes were lined with weariness. But he slid up to the side of my bed to sit by me and comfort me as if nothing whatsoever was afflicting him.
“You passed out after—”
I waved him quiet, wincing when I thought about the horror that had lit through me when I realized Oren had no idea who I was, and the pain that came when I heard him scream for his dead sister.
“Yeah, I remember that part.”
Noel nodded and gulped. “The staff brought you in here and looked you over. You’re suffering from some severe exhaustion and dehydration, kiddo.” He took my wrists and looked down at my bandages. “Why didn’t you tell me you’d gotten hurt that day, too? Your scratches could’ve gotten infected.”
I shrugged and glanced away. “I don’t know. I didn’t really notice, I guess.” Or care.
He blew out a breath. “We’ve both been so worried about him, we haven’t been taking care of ourselves. Tonight, we’re going home and we’re sleeping in real beds and letting Aspen fill us with a warm, home-cooked meal. No arguments.”
“Still doesn’t remember either of us.” I choked out a sound of denial, and Noel’s face flooded with grief. “We’re not doing him any good by staying here and making ourselves sick, Caroline. The doctors said he could get his full memory back in a matter of minutes, hours, days, or—”
“Never,” I said, the word echoing through my head.
I’d seen the movie The Vow with Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams. It’d been based on a real, live couple, and she’d never gotten her memory back.
What if Oren never remembered me? What if he was lost to me forever?
Fear clogged my throat. Knowing him this last year and developing a relationship with him had defined me in ways I’d stay for the rest of my life. To think all that could be completely erased from him devastated me.
I told myself I should be happy he was alive, relieved he’d made it out of the coma. But the selfish, needy part of me just wanted him to look at me and remember us.
“Caroline.” Noel’s voice was calming as he wrapped an arm around my shoulder. “It’s going to be okay.”
I nodded, but my eyes still went damp. I wiped at them, tired of crying, tired of hurting. I just wanted Oren. I wanted to burrow into his arms and forget any of this had ever happened.
“How’s he doing?” I asked.
“Better,” a voice answered from the opened doorway. Brenda hesitated when she met my gaze, but then she stepped into the room with Phil at her heels. “His speech is clear and unhindered. His fine motor skills were slow at the beginning, but they’re developing by the hour.”
“And his memory?” I asked, glancing away because I still didn’t know where I stood with her. It was strange to see her looking at me with such compassion.
Brenda sat on the bed next to Noel. “He’s still missing about five years. He thinks he’s a senior in high school, and he hasn’t recovered anything more since awakening.”
I nodded. “That’s...” I cleared my throat. “Well, at least he still has the first...” But I just couldn’t voice my gratefulness.
His mother took my hands, smiling softly as if she understood my dilemma and forgave me for my sorrow. “I wanted to thank you,” she said. “Thank you for not telling him who you were. He was already disoriented and scared. Learning about Zoey devastated him enough. I think hearing he was married and—”
“I know.” I nodded and pulled my hands away from her to curl them to my chest. “I would never do anything to hurt him more.”
Brenda seemed a little sad that I’d pulled away, but she nodded. “I know that. You love him very much, and I...” She cleared her throat and glanced down. “I’d like to apologize for the things I said to you. I was...I was hysterical and scared. And I needed to lash out and blame someone, but you weren’t—”
Since I still felt responsible, I couldn’t listen to her pardon me. I lifted my hand and rushed out, “It’s okay. I understand.”