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BeitragVerfasst: Do 4. Aug 2016, 20:52 
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This story starts right after the movie ends and has ten chapters. I will post the last two chapters in about a week because I'm not finished with the translation yet. Two very nice ladies, HeySlowpoke and Ligeria, beta-read my translation, so I'd like to thank them a ton for their time and effort! (Nonetheless, please excuse my sometimes weird English - I'm not a native speaker.)

Of course I don't own these characters and no copyright infringement was intended. The book "Carol" (The Price of Salt) is copyrighted by Diogenes and W.W. Nortan & Company. The movie is copyrighted to Weinstein studios (among others).





Chapter 1


Therese involuntarily turned up the collar of her coat when Carol and her friends stepped out of the heavy door of the Oak Room. The night was rather cold for an April evening, but it wasn’t New York’s brisk wind that made her hand shiver when Carol’s colleague-to-be handed her his lighter. Just one more cigarette with the other guests, then she would be alone with Carol.

Carol seemed to be nervous, too. Therese heard her laughing at Mr. Johnson’s lame joke, but it felt forced. Since the others joined in, it wasn’t apparent, but Therese knew Carol’s laugh too well.

Therese looked at her shoes and tried to focus on her breath. Now, there was no way back. All the defensive walls that she had built up so carefully had crumbled to dust within a single day, one after the other. Only a few weeks ago, she had sworn to herself that she would never again make herself so vulnerable towards Carol, and now she was standing right next to her, feeling like an animal offering its neck to the enemy. Even though Carol was anything but an enemy, she was still the person of all people in the world who could hurt Therese the most.

Therese closed her eyes and tried to think of Carol’s words in the Ritz Tower, of the hope in Carol’s voice and the laboriously covered desperation when Therese had declined her offer to move in with her. She tried to envision the radiant smile on Carol’s lips when she had noticed her in the Oak Room and the warm hand on her back when she had led her to her table. It hadn’t just been a delusion. Carol really wanted to live with her.

When Therese opened her eyes again, she felt Carol’s questioning eyes on her. The red lips drew nervously on the cigarette, but there was a hidden sparkling in the blue-grey eyes that Therese had never seen before. Not even in Waterloo.

“We should call it a night,“ Carol said, crushing the butt of her cigarette with her heel.

“Yes.” Therese’s knees immediately started to buckle. She wanted to say something nice to Carol’s friends but her voice failed her completely. So she confined herself to a kind smile and hugged everybody like everyone else did. Then Carol and her were alone.

“They’re nice, my colleagues, aren’t they?” Carol asked while she was looking for her car keys in her purse. Therese nodded, fully aware that Carol couldn’t see the gesture, but she didn’t really seem to expect an answer. “My car is over there,” Carol explained after she had found the keys and pointed to one of the back rows of the parking lot.

Therese’s legs felt like jelly when they crossed the parking lot and she prayed that they would carry her the short way to Carol’s car. Time and space seemed to strangely extend and the walk suddenly felt endlessly far. As if by a miracle, they arrived at the Packard at last and Carol unlocked the passenger door for Therese. Like a distant magical drum, the clicking of Carol’s heels echoed in Therese’s head when she walked around the car to open the driver’s door as well.

As soon as Carol had taken her seat next to Therese, her presence seemed to entirely fill the internal space of the car. Everything else faded into the background and Carol’s presence surrounded Therese like a warm summer rain and made her breathe deeply. The scent of Carol’s perfume was still the same and Therese’s reaction to it, too. After all this time. In spite of everything that had happened. How often had they sat next to each other, nothing but roads in front of them and behind them, and Therese had felt the constant tingle of Carol’s presence in their driving cage.

When Therese noticed that Carol didn’t start the engine, she dared a side glance and saw that Carol was equally afraid. Her hands ran over the steering wheel nervously and Therese anticipated the next question.

“Where do you want me to drive you, Therese?”

Usually Therese became extremely calm when a certain grade of excitement or anxiety was exceeded and it often unsettled the people around her. But this time, Therese surprised herself when she gently took Carol’s hand from the steering wheel and put it in her lap. Almost with a meditative slowness, her fingers took off the leather glove and her fingertips ran attentively over each of the knuckles like caressing a lost treasure.

“Therese …”

Therese put the hand to her lips and kissed it. “Show me your apartment.”

Her heart ached when she saw tears in Carol’s eyes. “Are you sure?” Carol asked without averting her gaze.

“Yes.” Therese had actually never been so sure about something in her entire life. Today, for the first time in months, she finally felt whole. Even though she had changed, even though she was proud of the person she had become, a life without Carol wasn’t a life. Every day without her was colorless and empty, and whatever people were saying, nothing could be more right than this.

Carol cupped Therese’s cheek with her other hand and caressed the soft skin. She didn’t say a word but her grey eyes spoke all the more and Therese felt the overpowering need to touch her. Here and now. At her most intimate spots.

“Let’s go,” Carol whispered. Her voice was husky and brittle and Therese closed her eyes when a wave of shivers ran through her body. These two words sounded like a promise, like a gate into a new life. Of course, they had to talk about a lot of things if they wanted to dare a new beginning. But now, in this moment, there wasn’t anything more important than what they felt for each other.

Therese refused to let go of Carol’s hand during the drive. Carol’s hand rested calmly in her lap and Therese covered the slim fingers with her own as if she never wanted to let go of them till the end of time.

“It’s not far now,” Carol explained about 15 minutes later and the thrill of anticipation was unmistakable in her voice. In a way, she again looked like the Carol whom Therese had met at Frankenberg’s toy department.

Therese, on the other hand, became more nervous by the minute. Would this apartment actually be her new home one day? Would she really live together with Carol? Would she get up with her every day, go to bed with her every night? It felt like an unreal dream, too wonderful, too big to be true.

“Has Rindy stayed at the apartment yet?” Therese broke the silence. Hopefully Carol would tell her what really had happened during the divorce and how it could be possible that she had seen her daughter only twice the last four months.

“No, but she has her own room, of course.” A faint smile brightened up her face and Therese knew that Carol was imagining Rindy at her apartment.

“That’s nice.” Therese squeezed Carol’s hand and looked at her lovingly. But the smile had suddenly disappeared from Carol’s face. She stared at something ahead of them, and then everything happened so fast that Therese’s brain couldn’t follow. She just felt the impact and heard the bang and thought of Sister Alicia and her parents and Carol, again and again Carol, and then everything went black.







* * * *







“Miss? Can you hear me?“

Therese felt like somebody was talking to her from a far distance, like from the other end of a tunnel. But she couldn’t pass it. As much as she tried, she didn’t succeed.

“Miss Belivet?”

Therese tried again, even harder. At the other end of the tunnel the light was blazingly bright and she pressed her eyes together tightly.

“Miss Belivet, can you hear me?”

Therese forced herself to open her eyes, only to close them again immediately. Was she dead? Everything was so bright around her. Suddenly she felt a rough hand smacking her cheek and she jerked her eyes open.

”That’s better.”

Therese stared at the red face of a small, dumpy man with a half-bald head and a double-chin. He wore a white coat, like the other men who stood around her bed, and looked down at her with a satisfied smile. “How are you, Miss Belivet?”

“What?” She looked at him blankly.

Again, the rough hand went to her cheek and patted it. “Don’t worry, Miss Belivet. You’re in very good hands.”

Therese’s eyes tried to roam the room, attempting to understand where she was, but an unbearable headache made it impossible to continue. “I’m sick,” she muttered and closed her eyes again, exhausted.

”That’s understandable,” a different voice said. It sounded younger and kinder than the one of the bald one, but Therese was too tired to open her eyes again. “You have a bad concussion, Miss Belivet. Therefore we’ll have to keep you here for a while. Besides, you’ve got some bruises and contusions. You were extremely lucky.”

Therese tried to say something but her mouth refused to form the words. It took her a while until she finally succeeded. “What happened?” she whispered.

“Don’t you remember that you woke up two times in the ambulance?”

“No.”

“You were in a car accident, Miss Belivet.”

A car accident? I don’t even have a car… Therese suddenly yanked up her upper body and groaned when the pain in her head made her almost lose her consciousness.

Carol! She opened her eyes, trying to figure out who had just been talking to her. But she felt dizzy and everything became blurred before her eyes. Her arms gave in and she sank back into the mattress. “Carol,” she whispered.

“Carol?” The young doctor looked questioningly at the bald one.

“Miss Belivet was not alone in the car.” The older doctor cleared his throat. “A woman named Carol Aird sat at the steering wheel. She’s still in surgery.”

“Surgery?” Therese mumbled under her breath, but she couldn’t ask any further questions because everything around her sank into nothing and the world became black again.





* * *







When Therese woke up the next time, she was alone in the room. Voices and the rattling of dishes reached her ears from the hallway. The splitting headache was still there and Therese immediately felt a wave of nausea again when she tried to bend her head towards the door. What on earth had happened? How long had she been lying here? And where was Carol?

She’s still in surgery. The words of the bald-headed physician popped into her head again. That had to mean that she was still alive, right? But why were the doctors operating on her? What had happened to her? Therese imagined Carol’s slim body lying on the surgical table and immediately the next wave of nausea came over her. She tried to breathe deeply a few times, forcing herself to calm down. Surely, somebody would look after her sooner or later and then she could ask them her questions.

As if Fortuna had read her thoughts, the door opened and two men in navy blue uniforms entered the room. One of them was so tall that his colleague next to him looked like a little boy, although he was obviously the older one. “Miss Belivet?” the smaller one addressed her and headed for Therese’s bed.

”Yes,” she confirmed tiredly, careful not to move her head even a few millimeters.

“My name is Wyler, and this is Mr. Hayes.”He pointed to his tall colleague. ”You’ve been involved in a car accident?“

“Obviously,” Therese groaned quietly. Did the police seriously want to have her testimony now?

“Do you know what happened?” the older one asked, unimpressed.

“No.”

”The car that crashed into yours obviously left its lane. The driver was already dead when the paramedics pulled him out of his car.”

“Oh my God.” Therese felt so dizzy that she struggled not to vomit on her blanket. Too many thoughts were running through her head, refusing to make any sense. Fortunately, the policemen were occupied with checking out her wounds which bought her some time. “Have you talked to Mrs. Aird yet?” she panted out.

“No, she’s not conscious yet.”

Not conscious yet? What was going on with Carol?

“Miss Belivet,” the tall one continued, “Everything points to the fact that the driver lost control over his car. We suspect alcohol but we don’t have the results from the autopsy yet.” He paused. “Miss Belivet? Are you still listening to me?“

“Yes.” Therese forced herself to concentrate. The more distracted she was the longer this would last.

“Who sat at the steering wheel?”

Why did the man ask her that? They already knew the facts. “Mrs. Aird.“

“Do you remember if Mrs. Aird had consumed any alcohol?”

“No.”

“No, you don’t know, or no, she didn’t consume alcohol?”

Of course Therese remembered the glass of wine that Carol had at the Oak Room, but like hell she would tell the policemen about it. “No, I don’t remember.”

The two men exchanged a glance and for a while only the scratching of the pencil on the older one’s notepad was audible. “Where did you come from?” he asked.

“We’d been at a restaurant, the Oak Room

“And what’s the last thing you remember?” the large one asked.

Therese thought about the question. The last thing she remembered was that she and Carol had gotten in the car and Carol hadn’t started the engine. And that she had taken Carol’s hand and…

“Miss Belivet?”

“I’m sorry, sir.” Therese’s voice broke down. She pressed her palms on her eyelids to keep the tears from falling. “I don’t remember anything from the drive.”

“Then try to remember, Miss Belivet.” The giant went to Therese’s bed and bent over her. “Your car was in the middle of a curve on the road when the collision happened. The other car must have hurtled towards you from the left.”

“I don’t remember anyth…” Therese fell silent when from nowhere a wave of random images overwhelmed her. Suddenly everything was back again. Carol’s wide eyes, frozen in shock, the car hurtling towards them, towards Carol. Oh God! Nobody could survive that! Oh God, Carol!

“Miss Belivet?”

Therese couldn’t respond anymore. Beads of sweat appeared on her forehead and she couldn’t get enough air into her lungs anymore. The room’s size changed and it seemed as if it would devour her like a huge mouth. As if from far away she heard one of the policemen leaving the room. Shortly afterwards the young doctor, whom Therese knew already, came in again.

When the physician saw Therese, he immediately sent the two men outside the door. “Don’t you see that this patient needs to rest?” he asked angrily and patted Therese’s shoulder. “Listen, Miss Belivet, I’m gonna tell the nurses to give you a sedative. And the police won’t bother you anymore for now.”

Therese was too busy with breathing to speak, but with a nod she gave him her consent.

About ten minutes later an older nurse with grey locks came through the door and injected something into Therese’s vein. “This will calm you down a bit, little one,” she said and gave Therese an encouraging smile.

Fortunately, the worst part of the attack had already been over before the nurse had entered the room, so Therese’s heart didn’t beat so wildly anymore and the images in her head had decreased a bit. It just hurt even more than before. “What’s your name?” she asked the nurse.

”I’m Vivian,” she introduced herself cheerfully. “You will see me more often for sure.”

“Can you do me a favor, nurse Vivian?” Therese gathered all her courage. “I wasn’t alone in the car. Could you tell me how Mrs. Aird is doing?”

”Are you related to her?”

“Yes, she’s my aunt.” By now, Therese’s brain was working reliably enough to understand that a lie was the only way to get the information.

“I’ll see what I can do.” The nurse looked at least ten years younger when she smiled. “What was the name again?”

“Carol Aird.”

“Okay, fine. But it can take a while,” Vivian warned Therese. “All hell has broken loose today.”

“That’s okay.” Therese stroked her forehead with the back of her hand and noticed that her arms were cluttered with violet-blue bruises. “Will you wake me in case I’m asleep?”

The nurse sternly shook her head. “Try to stay awake, Miss Belivet, even if it’s difficult.”

Therese took a deep breath when the nurse had left the room again. She felt as exhausted as if she had run 50 miles and longed for nothing more than quietness and rest. But as long as she didn’t know how Carol was doing it was impossible to even think of it.

The time of waiting extended to infinity, but finally nurse Vivian’s grey locks appeared in the door again. “Brace yourself for a new fellow patient,” she informed Therese.

“Carol?” Therese heart beat faster immediately.

“No, another car accident.” The nurse pushed Therese’s bed a little to the left in order to make room for the new bed. “By the way, your aunt left surgery a couple of hours ago and will surely stay in intensive care for a while.”

“What’s wrong with her?” Therese’s green eyes looked anxiously at the nurse’s face. “Is she severely injured?”

“Your aunt suffers from a severe traumatic brain injury. In addition, the spleen had to be removed. Her left collarbone and several ribs are broken.” The nurse shoved a second table next to Therese’s bed and pulled the curtains closed. “She was put into an artificial coma.”

“What?” Therese’s fingers dug into the blanket when everything became blurred before her eyes. “Why?”

Vivian patted Therese’s hand when she noticed her expression. “Don’t you worry, little one. That’s just a precaution and very common in cases like this.”

“How long…?” Therese broke off when the door opened and two nurses pushed a bed with a sleeping patient next to Therese’s. The patient was a young woman, not older than eighteen or nineteen, Therese noticed, horrified.

“You should ask your aunt’s treating physician Dr. Meyer about that,” Vivian advised her while she helped her two colleagues pushing the bed of the young patient closer to the wall. “Most often it’s just a few days.”

Therese swallowed down the heavy lump in her throat. “Can I make a phone call somewhere?”

The nurse laughed out loud. “You are supposed to lie here and be a good girl, Miss Belivet. And in a few hours we’ll see how you are doing.”

Therese looked so utterly aghast that even the nurse pitied her. “Listen, dear, in your condition you wouldn’t even make it to the phone,” she explained in a maternal tone. “But I’ll come back in a while and look after you, okay?”

Therese nodded. She hated to admit it, but the nurse was right. She would never make it to the telephone like that. The three nurses quietly left the room and Therese was alone again, apart from the sleeping young woman next to her who probably had come out of surgery not long ago.

Fortunately, it was Saturday and Therese didn’t have to inform her workplace. Nonetheless, she wanted to call Dannie as soon as possible and ask him to call her boss. And she badly needed to contact Abby. She was Carol’s best friend and would know who needed to be informed in Carol’s environment.

Therese wiped a tear out of her eye. She cursed quietly when the crying made her headache even worse. The nurse Vivian had told her quite sternly to stay awake, but Therese couldn’t keep her eyes open anymore. Maybe it would do her good to sleep for a little while, and maybe when she woke up again, it would turn out that everything had been nothing but a bad dream and she was actually lying in her bed at home. Maybe she just didn’t notice that she was in the middle of an endless nightmare – one of those box dreams where you always think you’ve woken up but you’re actually still dreaming.

Before she knew it, sleep overpowered her. She neither heard her fellow patient calling for a doctor in panic nor did she wake up when several nurses ran into the room at short intervals to calm down the upset girl.

When Therese opened her eyes again it was 5 p.m. already and her neighbor sat in her bed bent over a magazine. Surprised, Therese noticed that her dizziness was a lot better when she turned to the young woman. “How are you doing? I’m Therese Belivet,” she introduced herself and cleared her throat. Her voice sounded as if she hadn’t used it for days.

The girl looked up from her magazine. She had been put in a much too big gown and looked even younger than she was anyway. The blond locks that fell softly over her shoulders made her look like a shy angel, a wounded angel considering her bandaged shoulder. “I’m Grace,” she said shortly and focused on her reading again. Apparently, she wasn’t exactly talkative which was quite fine with Therese.

“What happened to you?” Grace asked after a while without looking up from her magazine.

“A car accident.”

“Me too. I wish I had taken the tram.”

“Do you know if the nurse Vivian is still on her shift?”

“Who’s that supposed to be?” Grace shifted her position awkwardly trying not to move her bandaged shoulder. “I don’t know anybody here.”

“She’s one of the nicer nurses.” Therese cautiously turned to the other side and was relieved to notice that it worked better than she had thought. “I’ll try to find her.”

Slowly and with great care, Therese pushed her legs over the edge of the bed and tried to touch the ground. It took her a few minutes until she could stand on her legs safely, but finally she succeeded, and after she had found her purse in the small grey closet, she padded barefoot to the hall.

The nurses were already busy serving dinner and Therese almost bumped into Vivian. “I’m sorry…”

“Oh my Goodness, Miss Belivet, what are you doing here?” she nurse asked, visibly displeased. “You’re supposed to lie in your bed.”

”I need to make a phone call. “

Vivian sighed. “Okay, but afterwards you go back to your room and rest, you hear me?” Only after Therese has promised her faithfully to go back to her bed straight away, the nurse pointed to the glass door at the end of the corridor. “You go through the door over there, then to the right until the hallway ends. You can’t miss it.”

“Thank you.” Therese shuffled on unsteady legs along the hallway, and when the smell of food reached her nostrils she realized she hadn’t eaten anything the entire day. She still didn’t feel hungry at all and the smell of warm food made her feel sick again.

After she had finally arrived at the telephone, Therese took the address book from her purse and looked for Abby’s number. When Carol’s friend had driven her back to New York she had given Therese her address, just in case. Therese had written it down but while doing it, she had sworn to herself she would never use it. But now Abby was the one who would most likely know what to do.

Therese’s hand shook seriously when she reached for the receiver, praying that Abby would be at home. Highly-concentrated, digit by digit, she dialed Abby’s number. Only when the phone started to ring she realized that she hadn’t thought about what she would tell her.

“Abigail Gerhard. Hello?”

No words came out of Therese’s mouth. How could she tell Abby what had happened?

“Hello?”

“Abby?”

“Yes? Who is it?“ Abby asked impatiently.

“It’s … Therese.”

“Therese?” Abby’s voice changed into worry immediately. She seemed to sense that something was wrong. “What’s going on?”

Abby’s simple question was the final straw. The hard-restrained emotions suddenly broke through and Therese helplessly burst into tears.

“Therese?” Abby started to panic. “What happened? Is something wrong with Carol?”

Therese tried to respond but was again and again shaken by sobs.

“What’s wrong, Therese?” Abby asked again.

“We had a car accident,” Therese ejaculated.

“What? Who’s we?” Therese could hear Abby walking through her house.

“Carol and I.”

“Where are you? Are you injured?”

Only now did Therese realize that she didn’t even know which hospital she was at. Her gaze fell onto a table with two chairs in the hallway. On the white table cloth the word Presbyterian Hospital was stitched in red letters. “I think it’s the Presbyterian Hospital,” Therese said slowly.

”How is Carol doing?“ Abby pressed on.

“She just left surgery …” Therese hesitated. “The doctors had to put her into an artificial coma … but they say it’s common treatment … and just a precaution.”

It was quiet on the other end of the line, so quiet Therese feared Abby might have hung up.

“Abby?”´

“I’ll be there in 45 minutes.”







* * *







Therese was relieved to see that her young fellow patient was asleep again when she came back into her room. She felt like curling up somewhere and cry, but privacy seemed to be an alien concept at a hospital. Constantly, nurses entered her room to do some stuff she hadn’t asked them to, and people were pushed through the corridors like cattle.

The way to the telephone had been more straining than she had thought and Therese’s eyes fell shut as soon as she lay down in her bed again. It was good to know that Abby would come soon. Granted, Therese’s encounters with Carol’s best friend had been kind of awkward so far, but Abby was the only one who would know what to do now. Nobody knew Carol better than she did.

Therese had to wait more than an hour until Abby finally knocked on the door. She looked pale and worn out when she stepped to Therese’s bed. “I talked to the doctors first,” she apologized.

“Did they tell you anything?”

“I told them I was Carol’s cousin.” Abby sat down on the edge of Therese’s bed.

Therese nodded knowingly. “I told them I was her niece.”

“So we’re practically relatives now.” Abby forced a smile. “How are you, Therese?”

“I’m so scared for her.”

The corners of Abby’s mouth were shaking and it took a moment until she was in control again. “I was referring to your injuries,” she said eventually.

“I’m fine. The doctors say I’ve been really lucky.” Therese pulled out her arms from under the blanket and showed Abby her bloodshot spots. “Only bruises and a concussion.”

“That’s good to know.” Abby stood up and started walking back and forth across the room. Therese was afraid the clicking of her heels would wake up Grace but she still seemed soundly asleep. “Why on earth were you two sitting in a car together?” Abby asked suddenly.

Therese had to swallow. How should she explain to Abby what had happened? Yesterday seemed like an eternity ago. “Carol wanted to show me her apartment,” Therese said cautiously.

Abby’s reaction surprised her. “So she plucked up her courage …” she muttered with a smile.

Therese’s thoughts involuntarily went to the afternoon at the Ritz Tower. Carol hadn’t been the only one who had plucked up her courage on that day. They both had overcome their fears, had jumped off a cliff, several times, and Therese had hoped so much that now everything would fall into place. Instead, she was lying here at a hospital and Carol fought for her life. “What did you talk about with the doctors?” she asked quietly.

“I didn’t stop pressing on until they finally allowed me to see Carol,” Abby explained. “Would you like to join me?”

“Yes.” A big heavy lump grew immediately in Therese’s stomach. She didn’t think she could bear seeing Carol like this, but she had to do it. It was more important than anything else.

”Can you get up?” Abby went to the bed and offered Therese her hand. ”Do you need help?”

“No, I’m fine.” Therese still had to move in slow motion to keep the waves of nausea within bounds. But Abby waited patiently for her to leave her bed. She took Therese’s coat that the nurses had put in the closet when she had arrived and put it around her shoulders. “Carol is in a different building,” she explained.

With slow steps they headed off to the intensive care unit. Therese’s cautious moves contrasted sharply with the wildly beating heart in her chest. She was scared to see Carol and Abby was no different. Carol’s friend had crossed her arms in front of her chest and constantly looked at the ground while they walked slowly along the hallway.

When they finally stopped in front of a double-winged door, Abby’s face was white as a sheet. She made no effort to open the door, so it was Therese who gathered all her courage and pushed the door to intensive care open. A nurse in green scrubs handed them protective clothing and led them along a long corridor with beds, one next to the other. At the end of the corridor, the nurse pointed to the last bed.

There she lay, Carol, quiet and peacefully, and looked as if she was asleep, if it wasn’t for the machines and tubes that seemed to be connected everywhere to her body. Their regular noises hurt Therese’s ears and she needed some time until she could step closer to the bed. Seeing Carol’s slender figure lying in the big bed tore her heart apart. How could that be possible? How could a drunken car driver change everything from one second to another?

Therese wiped her hand over her eyes and silently sat down at the headboard of Carol’s bed. Gently, her fingers touched the blond strands of hair that partly hadn’t been cleaned from the blood yet. “Carol,” she whispered. “Don’t give up now, Carol …”

Then her voice broke off. Silently, she took Carol’s hand and put it carefully it into her own. Abby had stepped to the opposite side of the bed and it was the first time Therese saw her cry.

_________________
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Chapter 2



Therese had to stay two more days at the hospital before she was discharged. Since the doctors had forbidden any physical strain, she had to stay at her apartment most of the time, which gave her much too much time to think. The fact that she couldn’t do anything for Carol almost drove her crazy, and every day she waited impatiently for the clock to strike 3 p.m. so that she could go back to the hospital. There she would sit at Carol’s bed for hours, holding her hand and asking the staff again and again if Carol’s condition was really stable.

At the beginning of the following week, the doctors finally started to lead Carol out of anesthesia. Therese couldn’t be there because she had started to work again, but Abby stayed at the hospital the entire day and held down the fort. “I’ll call as soon as something happens,” she promised Therese faithfully. “The doctors say everything goes according to plan.”

Nonetheless, Therese’s thoughts wandered to the hospital time after time that day and it was impossible for her to concentrate on anything else. Her colleague Henry, who had a quick temper anyway, snapped at her several times to get her out of her trance, but it mostly worked only for a few minutes.

As soon as Therese had finished work, she rushed out of the newsroom and took a taxi straight to the hospital. Carol had been relocated to a normal ward and when Therese careened along the long corridor she could already see Abby standing in front of Carol’s door. “Her doctor is inside at the moment,” Abby explained and pointed with her thumb to the door.

“Is she awake?” Therese asked, panting for air. She had been running so fast that she had to lean her hands on her knees to recover her breath.

“Yes.” Abby nodded.

“Really?” Therese beamed. She felt the sudden impulse to clasp Abby into her arms but Carol’s friend was noticeable reserved. “How is she doing?”

“She’s fine … I mean … considering the circumstances.“ Abby smiled, but Therese now was sure that something was wrong.

“What’s going on?” she asked suspiciously.

Before Abby could respond, Carol’s door opened and Dr. Meyer appeared in the hallway.

“May I go in?” Therese asked immediately.

“Yes, you may if you make it short.” Dr. Meyer, the ward physician, knew Therese already from her visits and shook her hand when she stepped up to him. “And you should be prepared.”

“Prepared?” Therese glanced anxiously at Abby and then back to Dr. Meyer. “Prepared for what?”

Dr. Meyer looked at his watch to make clear that he didn’t have much time. “An accident like that is often a shock for the brain,” he explained with a certain sternness, as if he would give a lecture to his students. “Many people suffer from amnesia for the accident occurrence. That’s not uncommon.” He knocked on his round skull with his fist and Therese wondered how often he might have made that gesture in front of his students. “In very rare cases a person develops even a general amnesia.”

“A general amnesia?” Therese looked at Dr. Meyer uncomprehendingly. “What does that mean?”

“It means that Mrs. Aird won’t recognize you.”

“Not rec …” Therese broke off when her knees gave way. She leaned against the wall and looked at Abby helplessly.

“Dr. Meyer says it’s only temporary,” Abby explained, but Therese sensed that she was afraid, too.

Suddenly the room started to turn and Therese slid down on the floor. She tried to focus on a certain spot in her field of vision and her eyes eventually stopped on the doctor’s white shoes. “Does she remember anything?” she asked tonelessly.

“Don’t panic, Miss Belivet. There’s no reason for it.” Dr. Meyer’s voice took on a fatherly intonation. “Mrs. Aird doesn’t even know who she is herself. That’s typical for a general amnesia. The patients don’t have any access to their autobiographical memory. That’s why they don’t remember who they are nor do they remember locations that should be familiar to them. But they do have access to activities, like riding a bike or typing or playing tennis, and they do remember a lot of facts that they had learned somewhere, though they aren’t able to tell you where they learned them.”

Therese didn’t process more than half of what the doctor said. It was just too much and the only thing she could think of was how lonely Carol must feel right now. This couldn’t be true. The whole day she had waited for the moment when Carol would wake up, and now she couldn’t even remember who she was?

“Please mind that this is usually temporary,” Dr. Meyer repeated Abby’s words. “The brain has to recover from the shock first.”

“What does temporary mean?” Abby probed and as a precaution got in front of the physician so that he couldn’t pass her without having the question answered.

Dr. Meyer shook his head slowly. “That varies from case to case. Most of the time it lasts only days. In some cases it takes weeks or even months. And …”

“And?” Abby’s dark eyes pierced into the doctor’s blue ones.

“And we know about some cases where the memory never came back,” Dr. Meyer admitted. “But you shouldn’t expect the worst.”

Therese had fallen into a weird stupor and heard the doctor’s words only through a dense fog. Did that mean that she would encounter a stranger when she walked through that door? And that she herself would be a stranger to Carol, too? A random person who claimed to be her friend?

”Therese, are you okay?” Abby’s worried face appeared in her visual field when she kneeled in front of her.

Therese nodded silently, though nothing was okay and both of them knew it.

“What’s the best way to approach her?” Abby turned back to Dr. Meyer.

The physician glanced at his watch again. “Listen, ladies, I have a meeting in a few minutes,” he announced. “I suggest you try to avoid any kind of excitement. Try to confuse Mrs. Aird the least possible. Be always clear, confident, kind and supportive.” He briefly shook Therese’s and Abby’s hands and went away without another word.

Therese propped her head on her arms when a heavy tiredness spread through her. Wouldn’t it be better to go home? What should Carol do with a person who was practically a stranger to her? Wouldn’t it frighten her even more? On the other hand, it had to be horrible not knowing who you were and not having any reference mark to your own life. “Did you talk to her, Abby?” Therese asked, gazing at the floor. It was a grey linoleum floor, its unimaginative pattern already annoying her since the first day.

“Yes.” Abby took a silver cigarette case out of her purse and pushed a cigarette between her lips without lighting it. “I introduced myself as a good friend. Carol acknowledged that matter-of-factly.”

That was so Carol. Even when she didn’t know who she was, she still kept her composure. Therese bit on her lips when tears welled in her eyes. Clearly, she couldn’t leave Carol alone in this condition. “Would you like to come with me?” she asked Abby.

“Do you want me to come with you?”

Therese shook her head. “No.”

Abby nodded. Obviously she hadn’t expected any other response. “I’ll be outside in front of the main entrance.” She offered Therese her hand and pulled her up from the floor. “Good luck, Therese,” she said, patting her arm. “Please excuse me, but I need to get some fresh air.”

Therese didn’t blame her for wanting to leave the ward as soon as possible. After all, she had held out here the entire day and she had to stomach the news, too.

When Abby’s steps had faded away, Therese turned to Carol’s door. Now or never, she told herself and put a shaking hand on the door handle. With the other hand she knocked on the door and entered without waiting for a response.

The room was barely illuminated and it smelled strongly of disinfectants and soap. There was only one bed in the room and Therese had to look twice until she recognized Carol. Only her head and arms peeped out from under the blanket, but at least her body had been freed from the tubes and machines. Carol was obviously awake and looked at Therese with a mixture of curiosity and discomfort.

”Hello.” Therese hesitantly took a few steps towards her. “My name is Therese Belivet.“ She felt like being in a theater of the absurd, but Carol didn’t seem to share the impression.

“Hello, Therese Belivet.” Carol offered her hand to her and an involuntary shiver ran down Therese’s spine when she heard Carol say her name.

“I’m … a good friend,” Therese stuttered and was angry with her husky voice. Dr. Meyer had warned her insistently not to upset Carol and she was already failing miserably. “The doctors told me that … that your memory is temporarily blocked …” Therese paused hoping against hope Carol would laugh out loud and everything turned out to be a bad joke. But Carol just looked at the foot of her bead and didn’t say anything. “Nonetheless I wanted to see you,” Therese added eventually.

“That’s … nice.” It was audible that Carol hadn’t used her voice for a long time. She smiled politely but looked so lost that Therese’s heart was bleeding.

Therese pulled a chair to the bed and sat down next to Carol. Usually Carol had always been the one who had led conversations, but now she was just lying there and Therese wasn’t sure if her presence was even welcome. “Are you in pain, Carol?”

“A little bit.” Carol pointed at the medicine on the side table next to the bed. “They gave me a lot of painkillers, so it’s bearable.”

“Can I do anything for you?”

It was obvious how uncomfortable Carol felt about the situation and Therese wondered how she could help Carol without reminding her by her mere presence that her entire life had disappeared in a huge abyss.

“Dr. Meyer told me not to think too much,” Carol responded slowly. “He said I should get well again first ... but …” She lifted her eyelids and for the first time she really looked at Therese. “But if people miss me, I’d like you to tell them about the accident.”

Therese could only nod wordlessly. Of course, it was inevitable that Mr. Aird had to know about the accident, for the reason alone that they had a child together.

“Besides …” Carol wiped a blond strand of hair from her forehead with her right hand – a gesture that was so familiar to Therese that she had to keep herself hard from not crying instantly. “Besides I don’t want anybody to know about my condition. That would only worry people and Dr. Meyer said my memory would come back in a few days anyway.”

“Of course.” Therese wanted to enfold Carol in her arms and assure her that she needn’t to be afraid, or at least hold her hand like she had done every day when Carol had still been in a coma. But it wasn’t possible. “Would you like to have visitors?” she asked instead.

Carol shook her head. “No, I’ll get in touch with people as soon as my memory is back.“ She hesitated for a moment. “That applies to you, too, and to the woman who had been here earlier.”

“Abby?”

“Yes.” Carol tapped her forehead with her index finger as if it could bring back her memory. “I must confess that I have a lot of questions, but Dr. Meyer said my brain just needed rest and time. So it’s pointless to bother you with that.” She smiled, almost apologetically.

Therese had the protest on the tip of her tongue but Carol’s words sounded reasonable. The more rest she got the quicker this whole nightmare would be over. On the side table, next to the medications, lay a piece of paper and a pencil and Therese scribbled her address and her telephone number with shaking hands on the paper. “I’ll write down my number at work, too,” she explained. “So you can call me anytime.”

“Thank you.” Carol nodded and again Therese felt the need to clasp Carol tightly in her arms. How was she supposed to survive the next days without seeing Carol? Without knowing how she was doing? Without being able to do anything for her?

When Therese offered Carol her hand to say good-bye she saw the fear in Carol’s eyes and she was tempted to throw caution to the winds and immediately set up camp at the hospital. But she needed to accept Carol’s wish. “Good bye, Carol,” she said quietly and left the room without turning around again.

_________________
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BeitragVerfasst: Do 4. Aug 2016, 20:54 
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Chapter 3



The following days went by so slowly as if some deity had turned time. Therese did her best to concentrate on her work, but her thoughts wandered back to Carol again and again. Every day she expected Carol to call; every evening she spent next to the phone. But the call never came.

The only one Therese regularly talked to was Abby. Like Therese, she was hoping for good news every day and it did Therese good not to be alone with her hoping and yearning. Until a few weeks ago, Abby would have been the last person Therese could imagine having an encouraging phone call with, but the subtle hostility that she had often sensed from Abby was completely gone.

In the meantime, Abby had contacted Hargess Aird who had acknowledged the news about the accident with a certain coolness. The furniture shop, that had employed Carol, had been informed by Abby as well, and also another friend whom Therese didn’t know. Only now did Therese really understand how lonely Carol had become due to the divorce. The social circles she had been in apparently had taken the husband’s side and, overnight, had vanished off the face of the earth.

“Carol has only you and me now,” Abby had said to Therese. “She needs to be able to count on us.” It had sounded almost threatening and Therese had been irritated that Abby had found it even necessary to point it out. Of course, she was aware of her responsibility and nothing in the world could keep her from being there for Carol.

But how could she be there for her when Carol didn’t let her? The days passed by without a call from Carol. Abby couldn’t bear the waiting anymore either and was already planning to drive to the hospital, when Carol finally contacted Therese. “Is this Therese Belivet?” she asked when Therese picked up the phone after the second ring.

“Carol?”

“I…” Carol cleared her throat. “If it’s not too much trouble, I’d like to ask you if you could visit me once more.”

“No, not at all.” Therese bit on her bottom lip. Carol’s voice sounded so sad that she really had to contain herself not to bombard her with questions. “When would you like me to come by?”

Loud voices in the background made Carol hesitate and she didn’t respond immediately. “What day would suit you?” she asked when the noise in the corridor had decreased a bit. “Maybe tomorrow?”

“I can also come today,” Therese suggested, before Carol had ended the sentence. “If that’s not too late for you, that is.” A glance at her wristwatch indicated it was almost 8 p.m.

“No, I…”

“Good. Then I’ll be at the hospital in twenty minutes.” Before Carol could change her mind, Therese hung up and ordered a taxi. She almost forgot her wallet, but when she was about to lock the door of her apartment, she remembered just in time that her purse was still in her bedroom.

Although it wasn’t cold outside, Therese shivered so severely that her teeth were clattering while she was waiting for the ordered taxi in front of her door. Why would Carol want to talk to her? What had happened? Clearly, she didn’t have her memory back yet, otherwise she would have spoken differently to Therese. Did she feel just lonely or did something come up?

It felt like an eternity until the taxi finally arrived. Probably only a few minutes had passed, but ever since the accident, Therese felt as if time had strangely conspired against her. Furthermore, the taxi driver, quite uncommon for his profession, wasn’t in a hurry at all and he cautiously stopped at every traffic light that was about to turn red. So it was already 8:30 p.m. when Therese finally arrived at the Presbytarian Hospital.

Like a few days ago, Therese careered along the long corridors, and almost burst into tears when she realized that Carol had again been relocated to another room. Of course, she couldn’t have gone far, and after Therese had recovered her breath, she decided to knock at the nurses’ lounge. There she was informed that Carol had been moved to a three-bed room.

When Therese opened the door to Carol’s room, her first gaze fell on two older ladies in red-dotted nightgowns whose beds were near the door. The women were at least about 70 years old and only greeted Therese briefly, before they delved into their books again. Carol stood at the window, with her back to Therese, gazing down at the hospital’s inner yard.

Startled by the closing door, Carol turned around and Therese’s heart skipped a beat when Carol smiled at her. Would there ever be a day when Carol’s appearance didn’t make her speechless? Even now, in the hospital’s white bathrobe, she looked like a Greek goddess.

When Carol approached her, Therese noticed that her moves were still a bit stiff and cautious, but altogether she seemed to be much better. “Would you mind going outside for a little while?” Carol asked before Therese had taken off her coat.

“Yes, of course.” Therese took Carol’s woolen coat out of the closet and put it over her shoulders. The mobility of Carol’s left arm still seemed to be limited, so Therese didn’t even try to dress her properly.

Silently they left the room and Carol determinedly headed for the door leading to the inner yard of the building. As soon as they stepped outside, the sweet smell of spring and new-mown grass greeted them and Therese involuntarily took a deep breath.

“This is where I spend my days.” Carol had watched Therese with a smile. “That’s more enjoyable than listening to medical records of old people.” She sat down on the bench next to the door, inviting Therese to take a seat next to her.

“How are you doing?” Therese asked, looking disapprovingly at the cigarette box that Carol had taken out of her coat’s pocket.

Carol shrugged. “The doctors allowed it,” she said, offering Therese a cigarette. “They usually stand here themselves at breaks.“

Therese hadn’t smoked a single cigarette since the accident, but after a quick debate with herself she eventually accepted the offer with thanks. Maybe a cigarette would calm her fluttering nerves.

Carol leaned back on the bench, blowing small billows of smoke into the dusk. The sight was so familiar that Therese’s chest constricted painfully and for a moment she looked at the flower bed in front of them to regain her composure.

The flower bed was littered with small forget-me-not blooms, spreading out like a big blue carpet over the inner yard. The dusk made their bright blue shine even more, and Therese silently shook her head when she became aware of the irony. She wished the plant had a magical effect, like in some old fairytales when the heroes reached for their magic herb to achieve something really big. But there was no magic cure for Carol. Her memories had to find their way back on their own.

“Dr. Meyer told me that you were in the car with me?” Carol broke the silence. “I hope you’re doing all right?”

Therese watched Carol smoothing her coat nervously. The topic seemed to make her really uncomfortable. Did she feel guilty because she had been sitting at the steering wheel? “The driver was drunk,” she hastened to assure her. “He lost control over his car and accidentally slid to our lane.” She lifted her hand to put it on Carol’s arm, but at the last second she lost courage and the hand fell back on the bench. “It wasn’t your fault, Carol.”

Carol nodded mutely and took a deep draw from her cigarette. “The memories haven’t come back yet,” she said as if it wouldn’t be obvious. “I only see a huge black hole. That’s all.”

Maybe everyone else would have overheard the restrained pain in her voice, but Therese felt it like her own, and this time she plucked up courage. Quite cautiously, she put her hand on Carol’s back and waited to see whether she would approve. Was this gesture okay for a friend? “Dr. Meyer says that sometimes it takes more time to get the memories back,” Therese assured her and wished her voice would sound more confident. “You need to be patient.”

Carol didn’t respond, but at least she didn’t resist the touch. “Some doctor told me you were my niece,” she said and turned to Therese. “You however introduced yourself as a friend …” She paused and searched Therese’s face for a clue. “Who are you really?”

Carol’s intense gaze made Therese blush. “I … I cheated a little bit, so that they would tell me how you were doing,“ she responded with a shy smile.

“That’s what I thought.” Carol raised an eyebrow. “So Abby isn’t my cousin either, is she?“

“No.” Therese shook her head and suddenly had to laugh. Carol joined her and for a quick moment everything became lighter and brighter.

“I’ll be discharged next week,” Carol said suddenly. “And Dr. Meyer told me I would need some support during the first days.” She pointed at her torso. “I’m not allowed to carry anything or walk a lot of steps.”

“Abby and I can take care of you,” Therese said quickly. “My boss already told me that I could take some days off anytime.”

“That’s very kind of you … because …” Carol hesitated. “I don’t know, I didn’t find a wedding ring among my stuff,” she explained with a trace of amazement. “Do I live alone?”

“Yes,” Therese nodded and dared to add, “We were on the way to your new apartment when it happened.”

Carol frowned. “At midnight?”

“Yes.” Of course, Carol was suspicious. It was, after all, an uncommon time for an apartment viewing. “We had just been at a restaurant,” Therese explained. “And …”

“Why did I move?” Carol interrupted her. She gave Therese a challenging look when she noticed her hesitation.

Therese stared fixedly at the flower bed, not knowing what to do. Dr. Meyer had strictly ordered to upset Carol as less as possible and not to talk about the divorce at all. But how could Therese explain to Carol her life without telling her about the separation from her husband? And how was Carol supposed to remember, when her brain had nothing to hold on to? “You’ve just finished a divorce proceeding,” she explained with a calm voice. “And you told me about your nice apartment on Madison Avenue.”

But Carol wasn’t interested in the nice apartment. “Are children involved?” she asked. Her voice trembled and Therese intensified the soft pressure of her hand on Carol’s back.

“You have a daughter.”

Therese felt Carol slumping down under her fingers. Helplessly, she had to watch Carol covering her mouth with her hand, suppressing a sob. A look of pure horror was written on her face, and there was nothing Therese could do.

“She’s living with her father,” Therese continued and was surprised about the calmness in her voice. “She probably doesn’t know anything about the accident yet.”

“How old is she?” Carol spoke so quietly that Therese could barely understand her.

“Rindy is eight.” Therese had no idea if it was okay to mention the name of Carol’s daughter, but she knew that Carol would have asked her anyway. “And I’m sure her father is taking good care of her.”

“What …” Carol went silent and gazed into space. “What did a mother do that would result in her child living with her father?” she asked tonelessly.

“Carol…” Therese got up from the bench. This conversation was about to go off the rails pretty quickly, and obviously she was doing everything wrong. “Carol, you are a wonderful mother and everybody who knows you is aware of that,” she tried to assure her. “You have nothing to blame yourself for.”

“You’re not telling me the truth.” Carol wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “Nobody does. Why does no one tell me what’s really going on?”

Therese inwardly agreed with Carol. What kind of a weird therapy left the patient completely in the dark? Wasn’t that even more horrible than hearing about unpleasant things? It was Carol’s life after all. Whether it was good or bad, she had to live it, with or without her memory. “I’ll talk to Dr. Meyer,” Therese promised. “First thing in the morning.”





* * *





They talked about trivial things for the rest of the evening and Therese tried hard to avoid any more mines. She wasn’t sure if it had been right to tell Carol so much about her life without having talked to the doctors first. If Carol didn’t sleep tonight, it would clearly be Therese’s fault.

After some time, when the first stars could be seen in the night sky and their burning cigarettes looked like little glow worms hovering through the air, Carol asked Therese about her work. It was the perfect opportunity to change to a more harmless topic and Therese talked unusually long about her job at the New York Times. Carol listened to her with interest, like she had done in the past, but she made less comments than usual. From time to time, she lowered her head and seemed absent-minded and distracted, but at least Therese’s diversionary tactic worked out more or less. She even thought that she saw a feeling of regret on Carol’s face when they eventually said goodbye to each other.

As soon as Therese came home, she called Abby to tell her the news. It was after 11 p.m. and Abby was in bed already, but Therese knew that she wouldn’t mind. They had a silent agreement that they would call each other at any time, day or night, if there was something new to tell.

“I saw Carol today,” Therese said the moment Abby picked up the phone.

Abby was immediately fully awake. “And?”

“She still doesn’t remember anything …” Therese spoke quietly to not bother the other neighbors in the building. “It’s so hard for her not to know anything. But when I finally decided to tell her something, she was devastated.”

“What did you tell her?”

“She wanted to know if she was married and if she had kids.”

“Hold on a second.” Therese heard Abby shifting in the bed to get a more comfortable position. “You did the right thing, Therese. One day she will come back to her apartment and find traces of her life. Pictures of her daughter, divorce documents, and who knows what else. It’s important to prepare her for that, no matter what the doctors say.”

Abby’s words made Therese exhale in relief. So it had been right to listen to her instincts. Deeply in thought, she wrapped the telephone cord around her index finger until it was completely wrapped. In the end, nobody could tell her what was right and what was wrong. Neither the physicians nor Abby nor Carol herself. “She will be discharged someday next week and she asked me whether we could support her,” Therese said in a low voice. She interrupted herself when she heard a noise, but it was only Mrs. Rosefield’s cat. The old lady from the fourth floor bought a grey Persian after her husband had died, and the animal took every opportunity to sidle off. The first times Therese had always caught the cat, but by now she knew that she would come back anyway, as soon as she had grown tired of the adventures outside.

“Oh.” Abby yawned. “Carol actually asked if we could help her at home? Obviously this woman has to lose her memory to ask somebody for help.”

Therese smiled. “Maybe it just reveals how desperate she is,” she mused, quickly serious again. She was silent for a while, preparing herself for her next sentence. The mere thought of it hurt, but she had to ignore her own needs and wishes now. “I think it’s better if you do it, Abby. You’ve known Carol since you were ten. If anyone can bring back her memories, it’s you.”

Therese heard Abby getting out of her bed. “No, Therese, you should do that. I’m Carol’s best friend, but I’m not the one who she needs most now. If something can bring her back, then it’s your … then it’s you,” Abby said determinedly.

Abby’s words brought tears to Therese’s eyes. She knew what the decision cost the friend. “Thank you,” she said quietly and wished she had Abby’s confidence. Suddenly it occurred to her that Carol could get her memories back but maybe not her feelings for her. Why should Carol feel different from now, only because she would have some more memories? The thought surrounded her heart like an iron ring and Therese forced herself to focus on the phone call again. “Maybe we can split the weeks, if she needs us for a longer time,” she suggested. “I’ll talk to Dr. Meyer tomorrow and ask him how we should proceed.”

“Do you want me to come with you?”

“Yes,” Therese said, relieved. “I was hoping you would ask me that.”





* * *





At 5 p.m. the following day, Therese and Abby took a seat in the cushioned arm chairs in Dr. Meyer’s office. “We don’t know much about general amnesia yet,” he stated while a nurse poured a dash of milk into his coffee mug. “But it seems that there’s always a reason when the amnesia lasts longer than usual.”

“What do you mean by reason?“ Abby probed. With an elegant move, she crossed her legs and looked straight in the physician’s face. “What are you insinuating, doctor?”

Dr. Meyer leant back in his office chair and folded his hands. “We’ve found that people who are in a difficult life situation often recover worse from amnesia than people who feel fine with their life.”

Abby screwed up her eyes and was about to say something when Therese got ahead of her. “So it’s your theory that Mrs. Aird’s brain doesn’t want to remember anything?” she inquired.

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.” Dr. Meyer gave Abby a disarming smile, which usually seemed to make every recipient swoon. Not Abby, though.

“What you call a theory, doctor, I call quite a claim,” she said furiously. “You’re downright saying that it’s Mrs. Aird’s fault that she doesn’t remember anything.”

Dr. Meyer shook his head, smiling. “We’re talking about the unconscious mind here, Miss Gerhard,” he countered with a slightly arrogant undertone. “I’m a surgeon, so this isn’t my specialty. If you would like to talk to a psychotherapist, I can arrange that.”

“Not again.” Abby rolled her eyes and Therese put a soothing arm on Abby’s shoulder.

“What are we supposed to do, Dr. Meyer?” she asked kindly.

The doctor looked at her, slightly surprised. Apparently he had forgotten that she was in the room, too. “Well, like I said, I can only repeat what the psychologists recommend in cases like this,” he explained, turning to Abby again. “Imagine, the brain stands in front of an impermeable wall. You can help the brain get over this wall. Our mind works like a network and it eagerly reaches for clues you offer. So tell the patient stories about her past, show her pictures, confront her with smells from the past, or with sounds or noises. All senses can help. But beware of dramatic memories, and focus on the good stuff instead. Always.”

“Is there anything we absolutely shouldn’t do?” Abby wanted to know. To Therese’s relief, she had leant back in her arm chair again. Most certainly, it wasn’t a good idea to mess with the ward physician.

Dr. Meyer took a sip from his coffee and glanced at his watch. “Whatever happens, don’t talk about the divorce in any way.”

“Why?” Abby frowned. “How are we supposed to explain Mrs. Aird her life without telling her about the divorce?”

Dr. Meyer tapped on Carol’s file with his flat hand. “Since Mrs. Aird released me from medical confidentiality, I’m allowed to tell you that her former spouse takes very good care of her right now. He will take her home next week. She lived in that house many years which will definitely jog her memory. Of course, close friends can be helpful, too.”

Therese and Abby exchanged a horrified glance. “Harge is here?” Abby asked, shaking her head in disbelief. “Why?”

”Mr. Aird took a day off so that he could take care of his wife,” Dr. Meyer said, not without pleasure. “Whatever friction this couple had in the past – in the face of a stroke of fate like this it’s good to put the unpleasant moments aside and focus on what’s really important.”

“And the reasons for the divorce aren’t of any interest?” Abby had obvious difficulty containing herself, but she held back when she caught Therese’s warning glance.

“I think that’s it for now,” Dr. Meyer decided and rose from his chair. “If you would excuse me, ladies …”

He was about to leave his office, but Therese had one more question. “Excuse me, Dr. Meyer, but what if we don’t agree that Mrs. Aird goes with her former husband?” she asked calmly. “She has her own apartment, after all.”

“You’ll have to discuss this with Mr. Aird,” he responded brusquely. “We don’t interfere with decisions like that.” He gave his nurse a sign that she should accompany the two women to the door and left his office in a hurry.

“I’ll kill him,” Abby uttered under her breath as soon as they stood in the hallway again. “What the hell is Harge doing here?”

“Maybe we should go to Carol?” Therese crossed her arms in front of her chest trying to ignore the anger in her belly. If they lost their head now it didn’t help anybody, and Carol least of all.

“Absolutely,” Abby fumed and strode towards Carol’s room. Therese held her breath when Abby walked into the hospital room without knocking. At least the two other patients weren’t present.

Hargess Aird sat at the edge of Carol’s bed, holding her hand while he was quietly talking to her. He turned around when Therese closed the door and looked at them with deep mistrust. “Hello Abby,” he said as if Therese wasn’t in the room.

“Hello Harge,” Abby responded so coldly that the blood froze in Therese’s veins. “This is a surprise.”

The air was so thick one could cut it with a knife and Carol watched them, bewildered. Therese stood at the door, paralyzed, while Abby walked to Mr. Aird, offering him her hand so that he had to release Carol’s fingers. “I can pay my wife a visit, can’t I?” he stated when Abby didn’t say anything. “We have a daughter after all,” he added, looking lovingly at Carol.

“Harge was so kind to offer me to stay with him, until I’m feeling better,” Carol explained with a soothing smile. “I’ll have everything I need there, so I won’t bother you.”

Therese finally came out of her paralysis and went to the window. Her heart was hammering wildly and she was afraid that it would jump out of her chest any minute. What was Mr. Aird up to? Did he plan to get Carol back? Of course he did. He had always wanted her back, and now that Carol couldn’t defend herself, he took his chance. And Therese couldn’t do anything about it. He knew very well that she couldn’t make a scene in Carol’s presence, and neither could Abby.

Therese could hardly blink back her tears. Carol chose me! a voice screamed inside of her. Me!. But her mouth remained silent and only her chest was lifting and falling so quickly that she got dizzy.

“Therese?” Of course Carol noticed that something was wrong, but Therese wasn’t able to react.

“We’d better come back in a while,” Abby responded for Therese and stepped at her side to link arms with her. “Come on, Therese, we’ll take a little walk.”

“But …” Carol went silent when Therese turned around and she could see her face.

“See you later, Carol,” Abby said casually and waved at her without deigning to look at Mr. Aird.





* * *





Therese left the building as fast as she could and started to run across the campus. When she had almost reached Rockefeller University, Abby finally caught up with her. “Therese, wait!” she panted, tugging at Therese’s arm. “Don’t be so childish. There’s no point in running away.”

Therese was so furious that she could hardly see where she was going and Abby linked arms with her to prevent her from having another accident. How could Mr. Aird do that? And that stupid doctor was even buying this!

“What we need is a plan,” Abby announced fiercely. “There’s no way Harge can take Carol to his place.”

Finally, Therese slowed down her steps. Maybe she was just losing her mind. Who was she to judge what would be right or wrong in a situation like this? “And if it would be better for her?” she asked tonelessly. “She would be with Rindy at least …”

“Have you completely lost your mind?” Abby stared at her as if two heads had grown from her neck. “You don’t know how much she suffered in that marriage,” she said angrily. “You hadn’t known her yet back then.” She stopped to tie a scarf around her head. Only then did Therese notice that a brisk wind was sweeping through the trees and she waited until Abby had buttoned up her coat. “Carol must not go back to him,” Abby repeated. “She fought so hard for the life she wanted to start now. And she should definitely have it.”

Therese sank down on a bench, wiping a tear from her cheek. When she had seen Carol with Mr. Aird it had been painfully obvious what she had given up: her whole life.

“She wanted to live with you, Therese.” Abby wiped a couple of leaves from the bench before she sat down next to her. “That’s what she wanted.”

Therese took a side-glance at her, thinking of the moment in the Ritz Tower when Carol had asked her to move in with her. At that time, it had been impossible for her to say yes. Now she would like nothing better than that. But it was too late.

“Carol needs to be what she deserves, which is happy,” Abby continued. “And I won’t just stand by while Harge is playing the loving husband and steals this from her.”

Therese shook her head about Abby. Carol was lucky to have a friend like her. Instead of mourning over her or claiming her for herself, Abby fought for Carol’s happiness. “Thank you, Abby,” Therese said from the bottom of her heart, searching in the dark eyes for whether she had understood.

She had.

For a while they silently sat on the bench, then Therese picked up the topic again. “So what do we do now? We can’t kidnap Carol or anything.”

“That would probably be the easiest,” Abby muttered. “Harge has to get the wrong discharge date.”

“How do you want to do that? That only happens in crime stories.”

“You’d be surprised what I’m capable of,” Abby continued. “And we need to convince Carol that it’s better for her to go back to her own apartment.” She punched Therese in the ribs. “That, however, is your part, young lady. I can’t do everything alone.”

Therese punched back but quickly became serious again. “How can I take it up with Mr. Aird?” she asked with a sigh. He could offer Carol everything, and she had nothing.

“Don’t underestimate yourself, Therese.” Abby patted her on the shoulder. “You have won once already, haven’t you?”





* * *





Abby and Therese had to take a walk for two more hours until Mr. Aird’s car had finally left the hospital campus. Accordingly, Carol looked extremely tired when they knocked at her door again. Probably, she just wanted to have her peace, but even without her memory she was too polite to send Therese and Abby away.

Mr. Aird’s aftershave still hung in the air when they entered the room and Therese immediately opened the window. The smell made her feel sick. What had Mr. Aird done in the last two hours? In her mind, Therese saw him and Carol sitting on the bed in a tight embrace, and she made an inconspicuous gesture to wipe the image away.

Carol had of course understood that something was wrong and Therese forced a smile when she felt Carol’s questioning look on her.

“My dear, would you please be so kind and close the window again?” the patient near the door asked her. “It’s kind of brisk outside.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, ma’am.” Therese closed the window and joined Abby, who had walked to Carol’s bed. “You look tired, Carol,” Therese said, worried. “Maybe we’d better leave?”

Carol didn’t respond. “Why don’t you agree with Harge’s offer?” she asked instead.

Therese shot a quick glance at Abby and when she nodded, she sat down on the edge of Carol’s bed - in the same spot where Harge Aird had just sat. “There are several reasons.” She tried to speak as low as possible so that the other two patients couldn’t understand her. “For one, he didn’t always treat you well. Second, you had your reasons to live on your own. And third, it probably would be best for your daughter not to see you before you remember her again.”

Therese held her breath and waited. She had uttered the three reasons in her mind so often in the last two hours that she wasn’t sure whether she had really said them aloud.

But Carol had obviously listened well. Deeply in thought, she looked at her hands that she had folded on the blanket. “What’s with you and Harge?” she said quietly. “Are you the reason for our divorce?”

“What?” Therese looked at her, aghast.

“Did you have an affair?”

“No.” Therese inwardly shuddered with disgust at the absurd idea. But what was Carol supposed to think when she was behaving like this?

“Then what’s going on?” Carol probed.

“You are among friends, Carol,” Abby intervened and sat down next to Therese. “There’s no reason to mistrust her.”

Carol was silent and Therese could easily imagine what was going on in her head. Surely, Mr. Aird had told her how much he still loved her and that he wanted to be there for her. And that her friends would only try to drive a wedge between him and her. “Why did we divorce?” Carol wanted to know.

“Carol.” Abby put her hand on Carol’s. “A divorce is always unpleasant and therefore the doctors told us not to talk to you about it.”

Again, Therese felt Carol’s questioning look and again it made her blush. “We should go now, Abby,” Therese said quietly. She got up and it took all of her strength not to press her lips on Carol’s pale forehead.

“Okay.” Abby sounded frustrated, but she knew as well that it would do no good to confuse Carol any further. “Just take your time and think about it, Carol,” she asked her friend. “And please, believe us that we would really like to be there for you. And you would do us a favor.”

“That’s very kind of you.” Carol was so exhausted that she could hardly speak. “Thank you for your visit.” She shook the hands of the two women. “I’d be glad if you could come by every now and then,” she added, turning to Therese again. “I’m sorry that I’m not quite myself today.”

“That’s okay; you won’t get rid of us so easily.” Therese smiled at her warmly. “Good night, Carol.”

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Chapter 4



From then on, Therese drove to the hospital every day. Fortunately, Dannie didn’t live far from the clinic and had offered to drop her off after work. Of course, it hadn’t gotten lost on him that Therese sometimes looked depressed and that she made mistakes at the office she usually would never make. After repeated inquiries, Therese had eventually admitted to him that Carol had been with her in the car accident.

“Has your friend gotten her memory back yet?” Dannie asked when they got into his Ford after a long working day.

Therese shook her head. “She has no clue her former husband is only manipulating her. He pretends to be her loving spouse and she doesn’t remember what he had done to her.” The mere thought of the meeting with Harge Aird made Therese feel sick again. “And now he will take her home as soon as she is discharged.”

“And the doctors agreed to that?” Dannie honked loudly when a stylish Chevrolet almost collided with him. “That won’t be a healing environment for her, will it?”

“Obviously, it’s enough that he had been her husband once.” Therese couldn’t hide the bitterness in her voice. “Nobody asks what kind of marriage it had been.”

“And what do you want to do now?”

The question rather was what she could do. Therese looked through the passenger’s window, watching the crowd on the sidewalks. Why did the people in New York always seem to be in a hurry? “I don’t know,” she sighed. “We somehow have to convince Carol that it’s better for her to move back into her apartment.”

“The husband won’t put up with that.”

Unfortunately, Dannie was right. Mr. Aird wouldn’t blow his chance and he already had the physicians on his side. “Carol’s friend says we should tell him the wrong discharge date, but he would talk to Carol’s doctor anyway.”

“Maybe I can help you.” Dannie stopped nearby the entrance of the Presbytarian Hospital and turned off the engine. “I could contact Mr. Aird as a reporter and tell him that the New York Times is working on an article about amnesia. And that I’d like to interview his former wife.”

“You would do that?” Therese was surprised about the unusual thirst for action of her friend. It almost looked as if he liked the idea of playing a trick on Mr. Aird.

“Yes, of course.” Dannie had already imagined everything to a T. “Then I’ll ask permission if I can interview his ex-wife on the day of the discharge and tell him the wrong date.”

The plan almost sounded too good to be true. “But Mr. Aird would ask the doctors anyway, wouldn’t he?” she said skeptically.

“You underestimate our effect on people as reporters.” Dannie smiled broadly. “People think the press knows everything. And if he actually does call Carol’s doctor, you have to find a way that she’ll be home long before then.”

“Thank you, Dannie.” Therese gave her friend a hug.

“My pleasure.“ He squeezed her hand when she opened the passenger’s door. “Just tell me when you’re ready, okay?“

“Okay.” Therese waved goodbye until his Ford disappeared in the traffic, then she headed off for Carol’s ward.





* * *







The visits at the hospital were undoubtedly the highlights of Therese’s days. It was the only time when peace sat in her soul, the only time when she wouldn’t glance at her watch perpetually thinking how Carol might be doing. And Carol seemed to enjoy Therese’s visits, too.

They often just sat next to each other on their bench in the inner yard, smoking or drinking coffee together. Sometimes Carol asked questions about her life and Therese tried her best to answer them as well as possible. It wasn’t easy to skip the difficult parts of Carol’s life and focus on the good stuff, especially because Carol had lost almost everything due to the divorce. There wasn’t much left in her life, and yet Therese was sure that Carol had been happy when they had driven to her apartment on Madison Avenue.

The doctors were quite satisfied with Carol’s recovery, at least as far as her physical condition was concerned. She felt a little better from day to day and soon she could do without pain medication. She still wasn’t allowed to carry things and had to avoid certain moves, but in general the wounds seemed to have healed well. Carol’s memory, however, stayed inaccessible like a deep jungle. Not even the slightest touch of memories came back and Therese anxiously expected a discharge date.

Therese didn’t want to put any pressure on Carol, so she hadn’t approached the question again as to where Carol would stay, but the pending decision hung above their meetings like the sword of Damocles. At least, Carol’s former husband hadn’t emerged at the hospital again, even though he sent her flowers every day. The hospital room was already overflowing with roses, tulips and lilies.

Dannie had kept his promise and had actually called Mr. Aird as a reporter from the New York Times. As expected, Mr. Aird had rebuffed him brusquely, but not before Dannie had casually told him when his ex-wife would be discharged. The date Dannie had mentioned was three days after the actual discharge date which would give Carol enough time to settle in at her apartment.

However, their plan would only work out if Carol changed her mind about moving back in with her former husband.

But how could Therese convince her? She had already told Carol her reasons and wouldn’t repeat them, because Dr. Meyer had strictly forbidden her to speak about the divorce. So Therese had no arguments against living in Carol’s former home. At heart, she wasn’t sure if she agreed with the doctor’s theory that the stress related to the divorce would be the cause of Carol’s prolonged amnesia. Dr. Meyer didn’t know anything about Carol’s life, so how could he presume to know what was bothering her soul? Nonetheless, Therese decided to comply with the doctor’s demands for she wouldn’t want to do anything wrong after all.

So Therese had no option but to just offer Carol support and friendship. Secretly, she hoped that Carol’s feelings for her would blaze up again, but it was hard to say what was going on inside of Carol. She was polite and kind to Therese, like she was with everyone else. Was love nothing but an accumulation of memories? How could it be that Carol had declared her love only hours before the accident, and now there seemed to be nothing left of these feelings?

Sometimes, when they sat next to each other on their bench, Therese imagined she would tell Carol how she felt. She imagined she would confess that she lay awake night after night thinking of her. And that she would feel dizzy every time they saw each other. And she imagined she would tell her about their trip, and about Waterloo, and about their plans to live together.

But none of this passed her lips. Maybe it was better for Carol not to feel drawn to Therese. If she returned to her old life, she would finally have her daughter back. She wouldn’t need to decide between two different lives, and maybe she would be less unhappy than a few weeks ago. Abby was convinced that Carol had wanted to live with her, but Therese wasn’t so sure whether giving everything else up had been the right step for Carol.

She wondered if she would be able to make the sacrifice to give up Carol – now that they had finally found each other again after months, now that she had finally admitted to herself that a life without Carol wouldn’t be a life. It physically hurt sitting next to her without being able to touch her. Everything in Therese, every fiber of her body was drawn to Carol. But she couldn’t let it show. Maybe Carol’s subconscious wanted to turn back everything so that she could decide once again. And maybe Carol’s decision would be different this time.

When they sat on the bench, Therese often felt Carol’s gaze on her. Sometimes, it seemed as if Carol wanted to ask her something but didn’t voice it. And sometimes, when their eyes met, Carol averted her gaze.

“I don’t think it’s good for my daughter to be confronted with a mother who doesn’t remember her,” Carol said one evening. “It’s not something a child should experience.”

Therese was about to light a cigarette and stopped mid movement. “I guess you’re right,” she said cautiously. “Besides, you have an apartment of your own and friends who support you.”

Carol smiled. “I know, but I can’t ask that of you.”

“Oh, but you should.” Therese dared to look straight into Carol’s eyes and this time Carol didn’t avoid her gaze. It was like time stood still and Therese felt heat spreading through her body causing her face to flush. For a second, she thought she would lose control, but then Carol turned away.

“I can’t imagine that you wouldn't visit me every day anymore,” Carol said with a soft smile.

Then let me be with you! Therese wanted to shout but remained silent.

“Okay, good. I agree,” Carol said eventually. “Provided, that I pay for your unpaid leave.”

Therese opened her mouth to object but then closed it again. It wasn’t a good idea to jeopardize Carol’s approval by a stupid discussion. “So we have an agreement?” she asked just to be sure.

“Yes, we have an agreement. It’s better that way.”





* * *





Therese couldn’t wait to tell Abby the good news, and indeed Carol’s friend was quite relieved when Therese called her late that night. “I’ll talk to Dr. Meyer tomorrow to keep him from messing things up,” Abby promised. “The swinging of my hips seems to convince him more than your arguments, so let me do it, okay?”

“Okay.” Therese laughed. “Would you drive us to Madison Avenue?” she asked, suddenly feeling nervous. If everything went well she would live with Carol for a while.

“Of course.” Abby counted all the food and things she intended to buy in advance. It sounded like she planned to empty an entire grocery store, and eventually Abby admitted that she might be overshooting a bit. “There’s a chance that you two won’t fit into the car anymore,” she joked good-naturedly. “Well, you fit into everything, Therese, but I’m not so sure about Carol.”

“Carol and I are quite capable of going grocery shopping,” Therese protested with a smile. “And unlike Carol, I’m allowed to carry things.”

“No, you’re much too young for healthy shopping. Somebody has to take care of you two.”

“Who is supposed to eat all that?”

“Carol’s brain needs piles of vitamins and it won’t hurt you either.” Abby yawned when the grandfather clock in her living room stroke 12 o’clock. “Good night, Therese. You’ll see, when Carol finally lives at her apartment again, it’ll be half the battle.”

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Chapter 5



Two days later, Therese stood at 8:30 sharp in front of her door waiting for Abby’s green Packard. Only with great difficulty could she suppress a yawn, when she looked at her watch again. She hadn’t slept for more than three hours last night and at four o’clock in the morning she had been so fully alert that the night had definitely been over. Therese had counted the hours since then, and now it was finally time to pick up Carol at the hospital.

Fortunately, Abby arrived right on time. She honked loudly when she spotted the small frame of Therese, as if she hadn’t seen her otherwise. “My goodness, you’re trembling,” Abby said worriedly, when Therese sat down on the passenger’s seat, shivering.

“I’m okay,” Therese muttered, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “I just didn’t get enough sleep last night.”

Abby noticed quickly that it was best to leave Therese alone during their drive. And indeed, she seemed to feel better, when they eventually arrived at the hospital campus.

Carol was already waiting in front of the main entrance, waving at them with a bunch of red roses. “From Harge,” she explained, after Abby had stopped the car next to her. “I didn’t want them to rot in the hospital room.”

Abby exchanged a glance with Therese who hurried to switch from the passenger’s seat to the back seat, so that Carol would have it more convenient for her long legs. “Do you know why Harge thinks I’ll be discharged on Monday?” Carol asked when the three of them sat in the car. “He wrote it on a note that came with these roses.”

“I have no idea.” Abby innocently shook her head while Therese was glad to sit on the seat behind Carol. “Did you tell him about the mistake?”

“No, I don’t have his phone number.” Carol pulled her address book out of her purse. “I found this little book, but who would enter their own number in their address book.”

“Nobody.” Abby smiled sympathetically. ”Harge doesn’t seem to be very well informed, though. Do you want me to call him for you?”

“Yes, that would be nice.” Carol nodded thankfully. “I don’t want to cause any inconvenience for him.”

Therese noticed that Carol was unusually tense during their drive, and when she mentioned it, Carol admitted that the car drive made her feel uncomfortable.

“That’s probably because of the accident.” Abby immediately slowed down the car’s speed. “Therese had the same problem the first days after her hospital stay, right Therese?”

“Yes, that’s true,” Therese agreed. Maybe Carol’s anxiety was a rather good sign, since it indicated that something in Carol remembered the accident.

When they stopped at the apartment on Madison Avenue, Carol was visibly relieved that the drive was over. Her joy didn’t last long though, because as soon as she stepped out of the car, she had to face a home that felt completely foreign to her. Probably, she had hoped that she would recognize the building somehow, and now she had to admit to herself that she would move into an entirely unfamiliar apartment.

Abby and Therese didn’t want to enhance her embarrassment and buzzed around, while Carol tried several keys on the front door in order to get into the stairway. She seemed so lost, standing in front of the entrance with all these keys in her hand. Therese wished she could be there for her, but she sensed that Carol could only barely keep her composure.

The last key eventually worked, and after they had taken the elevator to the seventh floor, the searching for the right key started anew in front the apartment door. When Carol had finally opened the wooden door, they stepped into the small hallway and Therese immediately felt her knees go weak. Everything at the apartment smelled of Carol.

“Shall we take a look around?” Therese asked quietly and Carol nodded mutely. She looked as if she would collapse any minute and, as a precaution, Abby linked arms with her.

Viewing the apartment was painful for Therese as well, but she tried not to let it show. This actually should have been their joint dwelling. If the accident hadn’t happened, these rooms could have been her home, too.

The room that Carol probably had intended for Therese was a fully furnished room with a tasty green patterned wallpaper and a big double window with a beautiful view on the Central Park. Therese’s heart almost skipped a beat when she detected a pile of “Popular Photography” magazines on the small desk.

“Am I interested in photography?” Carol asked, frowning.

“No, but Therese is,” Abby casually said and Therese sent her a warning glance. It was obvious that Carol was trying to figure out why this room was clearly unused so far. Before she could ask some questions, Abby led her to the opposite room.

This one was doubtlessly intended for Rindy. It was arranged so lovingly and detailed that all three women stood still, moved at the sight. Carol didn’t say a word but motionlessly leant in the doorframe while her restless eyes were roaming the room. Therese didn’t dare to imagine what was going on inside of her. When would this nightmare finally end?

With a stiff move, Carol kneeled on the floor and opened one of the dresser’s drawers. Inside, she found, neatly folded, children’s underwear, and with shaking hands, Carol pulled out a small white undershirt.

“We’ll be in the next room.” Abby exchanged a glance with Therese and they disappeared, soft-footed, into the bedroom. Since she felt like an intruder Therese stopped in the doorframe while Abby sat down on the big double-bed with a sigh. Suddenly Therese realized that Abby must have deliberately avoided being in this apartment, otherwise she would have known this place by heart long since. Maybe a part of her had never stopped hoping that Carol would choose her again after the separation from her husband. But Carol hadn’t done that.

Therese’s gaze wandered to the photograph of Rindy that stood on Carol’s dressing table. Should she hide it? Maybe seeing her daughter would make Carol feel even worse. On the other hand, Dr. Meyer had explicitly recommended that Carol be given as many impressions of the past as possible, especially the good ones.

“I don’t believe in Dr. Meyer’s theory about the divorce trauma,” Abby stated, who had followed Therese’s gaze. “Why should a soul create a way of protection that causes even more anguish than the actual memory?”

Therese didn’t respond. It was hard to say why sometimes the soul did the things it did. But anyway, she had to try to make Carol’s life as pleasant as possible no matter what. And if her soul was ready to live this life, Carol’s memories would eventually come back. “Did Carol ever tell you what the psychotherapist did with her back then?” Therese suddenly asked. The New York Times had published an article not long ago about a man who had fallen in love with another man and had been treated from his doctor with downright torture-like techniques, in order to cast out his abnormality. The therapists called that procedure an aversion therapy.

Abby shook her head. “No, she has never talked about that.”

Therese’s stomach tensed up involuntarily. It was definitely not a good sign when Carol hadn’t mentioned anything at all to Abby. What could the therapist have done to Carol? Was this weird kind of therapy only intended for male patients or for female ones as well? Why did people think anyway that they would have the right to judge which love was right and which one was wrong?

Therese startled when she heard steps from behind. She immediately noticed that Carol had cried and of course her first look fell on the photograph on the dressing table. Without a word, Carol walked to the picture and took it in both of her hands.

There was no comforting word, no calming gesture that could make it better, and Therese helplessly watched Carol brushing her fingertips over the picture of the happily smiling girl.

“Shall I cook something for us?” Therese asked quietly.

Carol shook her head, but Therese decided to walk to the kitchen anyway. She needed something to focus on, and she was sure that Carol had eaten even less as she herself today.

The familiar activities in the kitchen did Therese good and helped her to calm her shaken soul. In a way it was strange to find all these utensils from Carol’s kitchen again. Basically, it was easier for her to feel at home in this apartment than for Carol.

Forty-five minutes later, all three of them sat at Carol’s dining table, even though none of them felt actually hungry. Therese had cooked creamed spinach with an egg on top because she knew that Carol liked it and because it had been the very first meal they had eaten together.

Therese still remembered that meeting as if it had been yesterday and she hoped that Carol’s gustatory nerves would jog Carol’s memory somehow.

That didn’t happen though. Carol mutely picked at her food and didn’t eat more than three bites. Abby was unusually quiet as well and made no move to lift the subdued mood. After lunch, Abby had to leave and when Therese accompanied her to the door she had to promise Abby to call her first thing in the morning. Just to be on the safe side, Abby wrote down a second phone number. It was the number of a Steakhouse, where she sometimes stayed because a friend of hers was working there.

“You can call me day and night,” Abby emphasized. It was obviously difficult for her to leave Carol and Therese behind at the apartment. “You know that, don’t you?”

“Of course.” Therese forced a smile, although she didn’t even slightly feel as confident as she pretended to be.

As soon as they were alone, Carol asked to have a little nap, so Therese retired to the green room and skimmed some of the Popular Photography magazines. Usually she loved that magazine, but this time she had to read every word five times and still didn’t comprehend the meaning. Eventually, she put the copies back on the pile and curled up on the small couch.

She had just fallen asleep when a loud clattering woke her up with a start. Immediately, she was on her feet hurrying to Carol’s bedroom next door. Carol sat upright in her bed, wide-eyed, and had apparently knocked down the bedside lamp.

Therese picked up the lamp from the floor and checked the bulb. Fortunately, nothing was broken. “Are you all right, Carol?”

Carol didn’t respond, but she didn’t look like anything was all right. With tentative steps, Therese walked to her bed and sat down on the edge. “What’s up, Carol?”

“I had a dream ...” Carol cleared her throat.

“A nightmare?”

“No, I …” With an unconscious move, Carol brushed a blond strand of hair from her forehead that had fallen in her face. “It was just … Christmas.”

“Christmas?” Therese folded her hands in her lap waiting for Carol to continue. The warm May weather outside didn’t really give an occasion to dream of Christmas.

“Yes … it was so … real… The nicely decorated tree and the burning wood in the chimney … and the red candles ...” Carol looked at Therese with her grey eyes as if she wanted to draw a secret from them. “Maybe a scene at home, when I was a child?”

Therese took Carol’s hand and squeezed it. “Yes, maybe this is your first memory,” she whispered.

Carol squeezed back and a quiet smile flashed over her face. Yes, it had to be a memory. Therese could feel Carol’s quick pulse rate in her hand and she felt so happy she wanted to embrace the whole world. But she kept sitting on the edge of the bed, quiet and still, holding Carol’s hand. Yes, it had definitely been the right idea to take Carol home to her own apartment.





* * *







In the afternoon, they decided to take a little walk outside, but since Carol wasn’t allowed to walk too much, they already had to go back to the apartment after ten minutes. Afterwards, they sat down in the living room, both reading a book. Carol was so tired that she had trouble keeping her eyes open, so that Therese eventually suggested she go to bed early. “I can sleep on the couch in the green room,” she offered, but Carol stopped her with a wave of her hand.

“On that little thing? That’s out of question,” she objected, surprisingly vigorously. “Only a child can sleep on that.”

“That’s okay, I’m not that tall,” Therese assured her. She certainly didn’t want to be a bother to Carol and she was sure that she would get along with the sofa quite well. In fact, she had already fallen asleep on that couch earlier.

“Therese Belivet, I won’t let you sleep on that little sofa after all you have done for me.” Carol’s voice tolerated no dissent. “Did you see how big the bed in the bedroom is?”

Of course, Therese had noticed the size of the bed and spontaneously had asked herself why Carol might have bought a double-bed. Had she already hoped not to live alone in this apartment when she had rented it? Therese was pretty sure that Carol asked herself the same question, but as long as her soul didn’t give away any memories, the answer would remain a secret.

Therese doubted that she could stand to sleep next to Carol. Granted, she had been sleeping next to her every night only a few months ago, but that had been a completely different situation. Back then, she had been full of hope that Carol would reciprocate her feelings, and there had been nothing better than falling asleep next to her and waking up at her side. Now Therese was alone with her yearning, and Carol’s intimate presence wouldn’t make things better. “Let’s give it a try for one night,” Therese suggested. “And tomorrow we’ll take it from there.”

Carol agreed to her proposal and shortly afterwards they sat next to each other in their pajamas in the big bed, reading their books. Like in the living room, Carol’s eyes fell shut quickly and Therese turned off the light a few minutes later to avoid bothering her in her sleep.

In the dark, when they lay next to each other and Therese listened to Carol’s regular breaths, it almost felt as it had used to be. Almost like home. And even though it was nothing but an illusion, it had a soothing effect on her.

Therese felt her limbs becoming heavier and bit by bit the tension of the last weeks melted away. For the first time in a long while, she felt hope again that things would take a turn for the better. Carol was here, right next to her, she had just grabbed the first tail of a memory, and maybe someday life would be normal again.

When Carol moved, the scent of her perfume reached Therese’s nostrils and she couldn’t help but feel her body immediately reacting to it. Annoyed with herself, she turned around on the other side, trying to ignore her throbbing center. This was definitely going to be a long night.

“Therese?” Carol’s voice sounded as if she was almost asleep.

“Yes?”

“Did you hold my hand when I was in a coma?”

Therese jerked her eyes open again. How was she supposed to answer that? “Yes,” she said so quietly that Carol might not hear her.

“I remember that.”

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Chapter 6



To her surprise, Therese slept like a rock that night and only woke up when Carol left the bed to go to the bathroom. When Therese opened her eyes, a soft morning light was already shining through the window, making the room warm and nice.

With a sigh, Therese turned on her back and allowed herself to calmly inspect the room. None of the furniture looked familiar to her, but it wasn’t a surprise that Carol hadn’t taken many of her belongings with her when she had moved to the new apartment. But her enthusiasm for elegant furniture and talent for making a home beautiful was immediately apparent in this apartment as well. Maybe even more than in Carol’s old home, because this time she had made all of the decisions on her own.

Therese yawned, turning on her side to slumber a few more minutes. The blanket next to her still smelled of Carol and Therese couldn’t resist the temptation of burying her face deeply into her pillow. How many months had she missed this scent, had tried to ultimately forget it, and yet longed for it time after time. It still felt kind of surreal that Carol was part of her life again.

Would Carol be able to manage dressing herself? Therese wasn’t sure if she should walk to the bathroom and offer her help. Carol was such a proud person that Therese didn’t want to make her appear more helpless than she actually was. On the other hand, this was the exact reason why Therese doubted that Carol would actually ask her for help when she needed support.

Therese decided to end the futile dialogue in her head and padded barefoot to the bathroom. Tentatively, she knocked on the door. “Can you manage, Carol?”

“Yes, thank you.” Therese heard a rustling noise, then the door opened and Carol stood in the doorframe. She wore the red plaid bathrobe that she had also worn on their journey to Chicago and Therese’s knees almost gave way when a flood of memories popped into her head. “I just can’t wash my hair because I’m not able to lift my arms,” Carol said, completely unaware of what she was doing to Therese. “But I’d like to do that in the afternoon, if you would help me?”

“Of course.” Therese couldn’t stop staring at Carol.

“Anything wrong?” Carol looked down on herself. “I found this bathrobe in the wardrobe.”

“N-no … everything’s fine ...” Therese stuttered. “I’m going to go make breakfast.”





* * *







The mountains of food that Abby had bought beforehand paid off when Therese created a delicious breakfast for Carol and herself. While she hadn’t been able to swallow down practically anything the last days, she finally felt hungry again today and Carol seemed to like Therese’s blueberry pancakes as well.

After breakfast, Therese decided to do some shopping while Carol would continue repossessing the apartment. She opened all cabinets and each drawer, one by one, to get an idea of where her belongings were. It seemed as if she wanted to elicit from the apartment who she was, and the quarrying preoccupied her so much that Therese considered it a good time to leave her alone in the apartment for a little while.

When she returned from shopping, she found Carol sitting in an armchair in the living room, the portrait of Rindy in her hands. She had pulled her naked feet onto the chair and was so engrossed in the picture that she didn’t hear Therese coming. Her eyes wandered tenderly over the child’s face while she wiped a tear from her cheek

Therese quietly put down the shopping bags and knocked as cautiously as possible on the back of the living room door. “Carol?”

Carol startled and immediately put the picture upside down on the coffee table. “Hey,” she said quietly.

“Hey,” Therese replied, walking to Carol’s armchair.

“How can one forget their child?” Carol’s voice sounded hollow. “What kind of a mother am I?”

“You haven’t forgotten your child, Carol.” Therese kneeled on the carpet in front of her. “The accident built up a thick wall that won’t let anything pass. But behind it, everything is still there.” She put her hand on Carol’s arm. “I know that you’re a wonderful mother who loves her child more than anything. And this love is still there. It’s just ... behind the wall ...”

Suddenly it felt like years ago that Therese had been jealous of Rindy because the child’s mother had left her for her daughter. None of this mattered anymore. The most important thing was that Carol’s memories would come back so that she finally didn’t have to suffer anymore. And having her mother back would be good for Rindy as well. Therese wished so much that she could just throw caution to the wind and kiss away all the worries from Carol’s forehead, but she knew that she had to be patient. Carol’s memories were like a timid animal that would only come closer when you stopped trying to lure it.

Carol smiled at Therese’s words, but the silent tear that ran down her cheek told another story. “Therese, how did we meet?” she asked suddenly.

Therese blushed to the roots of her hair and quickly withdrew her hand from Carol’s arm. Of course, her embarrassment didn’t slip Carol’s attention and there it was again, that scrutinizing, questioning look that Therese already knew from the hospital. “I worked at a department store at that time, Frankenberg’s, and you were a customer.” Therese was grateful that her voice sounded almost normal.

“A customer?” Carol shook her head in disbelief. “You don’t meet people that way.“

“In our case, it happened that way.” The loud rushing in Therese’s head made it quite more difficult to concentrate on a good change of subject. Her palm still burned at the spot where she had touched Carol’s arm. Had Carol noticed anything? Why did she ask these kinds of questions all of a sudden? “Do you miss your husband?” Therese asked abruptly and Carol raised her eyebrows, surprised.

“Harge?” Carol asked hesitantly. “I don’t even know who he is ...“

“Well…” Therese looked past her on the dark plank floor. “Maybe you miss ...“

“… a man?” Carol reached for the cigarette box on the coffee table and slid a cigarette between her lips. “Should I?” She puffed the smoke towards the ceiling.

Therese wished she could withdraw her words then and there. Why on earth had she asked that question? Carol was obviously waiting for an answer, but what was she supposed to tell her?

“And what about you?” Carol asked when Therese remained silent. “You certainly have suitors.”

“Well, yes…” Therese wiped an invisible thread from her skirt. ”But ...”

“You should go out more, Therese,” Carol interrupted her. “It would do you good.”

“I don’t know ... I ...”

“You’re still so young ...” Carol offered Therese a cigarette. ”You shouldn’t waste your life helping an old bag get her memories back.”

Therese’s chest tensed up at Carol’s words. Why would she say something like that? Did Carol want to get rid of her?

The ringing of the phone saved Therese from answering and Carol confusedly looked at her, before she finally comprehended that the shrill sound was coming from the phone. “Excuse me,” she said, rising to get the phone. “Hello? …. Oh, hello Harge ...” Mr. Aird’s upset voice reached Therese’s ear, although she couldn’t understand what he was saying. “Yes, I’m at my apartment,” Carol confirmed. “I found it more appropriate … What? … Why? How was I supposed to do that? I didn’t have your phone number …”

Carol was visibly irritated by her ex-husband’s commanding tone and Therese couldn’t suppress a hidden smile. Without a sound, she rose from the floor and sat down in the armchair opposite of Carol. In any other situation, she would have discreetly left the room, but she had to know if Mr. Aird still intended to come for Carol. Just to do something, she reached for the novel she had started to read the day before and delved into it.

“What? … A reporter? … From the New York Times?“ Carol frowned, looking over to Therese who was very busy reading the same line for the third time. “I’m sorry, Harge ... But it’s better this way … especially for Rindy ...” She sighed. “No, that’s very kind of you, but it’s not necessary. Therese and Abby are taking good care of me.” Therese pricked up her ears when it suddenly became silent on the other line. Only a few minutes later, the phone call was finished.

“Harge called the hospital today in order to hear when I would be discharged,” Carol explained while Therese continued to intently stare at her book. “He assumed I wouldn’t be allowed to go home before the day after tomorrow. Didn’t Abby say she would call him?”

Carol sat back in the armchair opposite to Therese, obviously waiting for a reaction from her. Undoubtedly, she had seen through Dannie’s plan, so it wasn’t advisable to deny it. Therese forced herself to look up from her book. “Do you regret not having moved back to your old house?”

“No.” Carol shook her head. “It’s good as it is. I’m sure I had my reasons for living in this apartment.” Carol hesitated for a moment, before she got up from her armchair. “Should I make us a cup of tea?”

“Please, Carol, sit back down. I’ll make the tea.” Therese ignored Carol’s protest, pushing her back into the armchair. Hurriedly, she disappeared in the kitchen and threw her arms up in the air, as soon as she had closed the kitchen’s door. Abby would crack up when she heard about the phone call.







* * *





Abby was indeed mightily amused when Therese told her about Mr. Aird’s call, and she spontaneously decided to drop by Carol’s place. An hour later, she cheerfully stood in front of the apartment door with three ice cream cones, and the three of them sat down on Carol’s balcony. Abby’s ice cream tasted delicious and Therese’s mood rose even more when it turned out that Abby had bought it at the Italian restaurant just around the corner. Who would have thought that Madison Avenue hosted an insider’s tip for Italian ice cream.

Sitting on the comfortable balcony chairs, they could watch the vivid activity in Central Park, even though the people looked like tiny colorful spots from the distance. Nevertheless, the nice view radiated a peaceful atmosphere and Therese took a few pictures of Carol and Abby while they sat relaxed on their adjustable chairs, licking their ice cream cones or taking a sip from their coffees. They looked like the subjects of a postcard and Therese secretly took some close-ups. Despite all her worries, Carol still took Therese’s breath away when she looked at her.

“I talked to your colleagues at the furniture store this morning, Carol,” Abby reported, lazily squinting against the sun. “They said you can start there any time, if you’re feeling well enough.”

Carol’s face hardened and she took a sip from her coffee. “How am I supposed to work there when I don’t remember anything?”

But Abby didn’t give up so easily. “You will know everything necessary as soon as you start doing it,” she said determinedly. “You can’t just sit here waiting for your memories to come back. Nobody knows when this will happen. But outside, there is life, waiting for you.”

Carol laughed bitterly. “That’s easier said than done.”

“I know.” Abby placed a hand on Carol’s thigh. “But I’m right, and you know it.“

Carol was silent, looking thoughtfully into her coffee cup. “Why do you think that I will know what to do at the shop?”

“I know it, because I know you, Carol Aird.” Abby winked at her, noticeably trying to lift the mood again. “When it’s about antiques, you’re like a terrier that has gotten its teeth into a leg.”

“Oh, really?” Carol had to smile. “I’m a terrier?”

Abby nodded solemnly. “I know what I’m talking about. Didn’t Therese tell you that you and I had a furniture store together?”

“No.” Carol looked at Therese with surprise, who blushed the second time that day.

“I … we hadn’t the time to talk about it yet,” Therese hurried to explain. She hoped that Abby didn’t think she had kept this secret from Carol because she considered her competition. Therese’s gaze fell on the ringed hand that rested so naturally on Carol’s thigh. She hadn’t thought about it yet, but was the idea really so far-fetched that Carol would fall in love with Abby again? Carol’s friend was so much more at ease than Therese, she could effortlessly make Carol laugh and she could always create an atmosphere of easiness and confidence. Even now, even under these difficult circumstances, she had a natural familiarity with Carol that Therese would never have. It wasn’t that long ago that Abby and Carol had been in love with each other – why shouldn’t it happen again? Things change, Abby herself had said.

Therese rose from her chair abruptly when she noticed that she started to feel sick. “Are you all right?” Carol asked, worried. “You’re as white as a sheet.”

“It’s okay.“ Therese excused herself, leaving the balcony in a hurry. Carol and Abby should enjoy themselves, but she didn’t intend to be the witness when it happened.

Therese knew exactly how ridiculous she was behaving right now, but she couldn’t do anything about it. The whole frustration and desperation of the last weeks burst forth as she dropped on the couch in the green room, sobbing.

What was it with love? If she had lost her memory, wouldn’t she love Carol anyway? Therese was sure that she would love Carol always and everywhere, no matter with or without any memories. Loving her was as natural as breathing and it was so hard to accept that things were apparently different for Carol. Therese knew that she couldn’t be jealous of the whole world. First Mr. Aird, now Abby – Therese needed to let go of Carol, otherwise she wouldn’t make it through the next days.

Therese suppressed a curse when she heard a soft knock on the door. Before she could answer, the door opened and Carol’s blond shock of hair appeared in the door crack. “What’s going on?” Carol came in and sat down next to her on the couch. “I’m sorry if I’ve said something wrong.” She put her hand on Therese’s back, stroking her shoulder blades.

Carol’s nearness was the last thing Therese could bear right now and she turned away from Carol. “Nothing, I’m fine,” she muttered dismissively.

“No, you’re obviously not fine.” Carol’s voice alone tore Therese’s heart into a thousand pieces. Soft like velvet, it easily reached her deepest depths, to places where Therese had sealed everything she wasn’t allowed to feel. “Don’t you want to tell me what’s going on?”

Therese’s skin burned like fire under Carol’s hand. “It’s ... nothing ...” she whispered, shaking her head.

But Carol was apparently unwilling to go and kept sitting next to Therese without taking her hand from her back.

“I’m sorry,” Therese whispered.

“It’s okay.“ Carol reached for a woolen blanket and put it around Therese’s shoulders. For a while they just sat there, until Carol eventually broke the silence. “Abby had to leave ... and I thought ... if it’s possible ... you could wash my hair now?”

Wash Carol’s hair? Now? Did she want to kill her? “Of course,” Therese heard herself saying. “I’ll just clear away the dishes from the balcony.”

“I’ve already done that.”

“What?” Therese sat up, alarmed. “You shouldn’t …”

“I’m able to carry two or three cups,” Carol interrupted her, smiling. “I’ll be in the bathroom.”

Therese nodded mutely, waiting for her hammering heart to calm down again. So much for her approach to let go of Carol – Therese almost had to laugh about the irony of the situation. If she was going on like this, she should prudently save herself a place at the insane asylum.

Therese rose from the couch with a sigh and plodded to the bathroom. When she entered it, she almost dropped dead. Carol had already taken off her blouse and was sitting in front of the sink. Therese hurried to collect the items she needed for the hair washing, trying to look at anything but Carol. But time after time her eyes wandered, magically drawn to Carol’s naked back. Not even half a year ago, her lips had caressed the slim neck, had left hot traces on the naked shoulders and a small bruise on Carol’s delicate collarbone. She still heard Carol’s breath at her ear, felt her hands on her breasts. How was she supposed to pretend that none of this had ever happened?

“The scars are healing well.” Therese cleared her throat and instructed Carol to bow her head slightly over the sink. It was difficult for Carol to find a position that didn’t cause her pain, but eventually she found a more or less bearable posture and Therese could turn on the faucet. Her hand was shaking slightly when she held it under the warm water, checking the temperature.

Gently, millimeter by millimeter, Therese’s hand brushed through Carol’s soft strands, taking care that the water reached all the spots. “Is the temperature okay?”

“Wonderful.”

Therese turned off the water and grabbed the shampoo. Invisible for Carol, she deeply breathed in its fragrance and then started to distribute the foaming mass in Carol’s wet hair. With long, tender strokes, she moved through the strands, simultaneously massaging the sensitive scalp. Carol’s soft sighs caused vibrations in Therese’s fingertips, spreading out through her whole body.

Without noticing it, she let her fingers take charge and got lost in the circling moves, in the soft, smooth wisps of hair, in the lifting and lowering of Carol’s chest. She only woke from her trance when Carol suddenly sucked in a deep breath. “It’s okay now,” Carol said in a husky voice and Therese quickly turned on the faucet again, removing the white foam from her hair.

“Are you in pain?” Therese immediately regretted her carelessness. “We’re almost finished.”

Carol didn’t respond, but her cheeks were reddened and her face heated, when Therese cautiously pulled her head out from under the faucet and started to dry the hair with a towel.

“Done.” Therese put another towel around Carol’s shoulders and carefully combed the wet hair. Putting it in curlers was an art of its own, but Therese learned quickly, and soon Carol was satisfied with the result.

“I feel like a new woman,” she said gratefully, smiling at Therese in the mirror.

“Anytime.” Therese relished Carol’s joy. “Do you feel like reading?“ she suggested, and shortly afterwards they both sat in the living room, bent over their books.

After a while they started reading out passages of their novels to each other, even though Therese couldn’t concentrate at all on what was going on in Carol’s story. But closing the eyes and listening to Carol’s deep voice was heaven on earth. If time stood still now, forever and ever, she would be in Paradise in perpetuity.







* * *









After dinner, they sat on the balcony again until dusk. Like the day before, they decided to go to bed early, since Carol still needed a lot of sleep. Maybe the brain needed it to push through the thicket and finally overcome the wall one day.

“Therese?” Carol asked when they lay in bed and she had just turned off the light. “Dr. Meyer said that there’s probably something my soul doesn’t want to remember ... do you have any idea what that could be?”

Therese turned to her, and even though it was pitch black behind the closed curtains, she felt as if Carol was looking at her. “Dr. Meyer told me it has something to do with the divorce,” she replied evasively.

“Yes, I know.” Carol rustled with her blanket next to Therese. “But what do you think?”

“I don’t agree,” Therese said vaguely. She had sworn to herself that she wouldn’t lie to Carol, but nevertheless she had to be careful.

“Then what do you think?”

Abby had been right when she had called Carol a terrier. Sometimes she could be unpleasantly persistent. “I believe it’s something else,” Therese said hesitantly.

“What do you mean?”

When Therese heard the fear in Carol’s voice, she moved closer to her side. “Dr. Meyer doesn’t know a thing about you. The divorce is more or less the only information he has got, so it’s no wonder he reduces everything to that.”

Therese’s soft tone didn’t seem to calm Carol though. “You have something in mind that you’re not telling me,” she said, not without blame in her voice. “Why won’t you talk to me?”

She couldn’t know how much Therese longed for laying the truth on the line and how much strength it cost her to repress this need again and again. “When your mind is ready, you will remember it yourself,” Therese said with conviction. “You just have to have patience.”

“Patience ...” Carol sighed deeply. “I’m afraid I’m developing an allergy to this word.”

Therese didn’t respond to this. She shared Carol’s pain, but her soul seemed to have its own time. It was futile trying to cheat it.

“Good,“ Carol said eventually. “We’re going to play a game, and you only have to say yes or no.“

“Okay.” Therese bit her lip. Why on earth had she agreed to that? She closed her eyes tightly, nervously listening to the darkness.

“Did I kill anybody?”

“What?” Therese shook her head vehemently. “No.”

“Did I commit a crime?”

“No.” Therese couldn’t believe that Carol was really taking this into consideration.

“Do I have a mental disease?“

“No.” Therese hesitated just a second. It wasn’t a secret that many doctors considered same-sex love a mental disease, but she was convinced that something like that had to feel different. Loving Carol was the truest, most natural, and most important feeling she ever had. And even though Carol didn’t seem to reciprocate these feelings anymore, there couldn’t be anything wrong with love, and even less could it be a kind of aberration.

Carol had noticed Therese’s hesitation very well, but she didn’t probe into it. “Any other disease?”

“No.“

“Did I harm anyone?“

“No.“

“Then what is it?” Carol hit the blanket with her hand, frustrated. “Did anybody harm me?”

“Maybe.” Therese held her breath.

“What?“ Carol moved closer to her so that their faces were only inches apart. “What, Therese?”

Therese knew she couldn’t break down now. ”The game is over,” she said quietly. “But whatever might have tortured you in the past, it’s over now,” she added.

“Is it?” The question sounded so anxious that Therese had to swallow down a big lump in her throat.

“Yes.”

“Okay.“ Carol was silent for a while and Therese hoped she would be finally satisfied with her answer. “How close have we been?” Carol suddenly asked.

Therese’s pulse accelerated skywards immediately. “Why are you asking me that?”

“I don’t know ...” Carol hesitated. ”You didn’t answer my question.”

Therese was glad that Carol couldn’t see her flushed face in the dark. “I will, but not today,” she said, pretending to yawn. “Good night, Carol.”

Carol didn’t respond and Therese thought she had already fallen asleep, when suddenly she felt a warm hand at her temple. Tender fingers ran slowly over her cheek brushing a dark strand of hair away from her face. “Good night, Therese.”

_________________
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BeitragVerfasst: Do 4. Aug 2016, 20:59 
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Chapter 7



“Therese? Are you awake?”

“What?” Therese startled so quickly from her sleep that she bumped against the bedpost. ”What’s up?” she asked sleepily, rubbing her sore arm.

Carol sat bolt-upright in the bed. “What color was the house I lived in?”

“What color?” Therese rubbed her eyes, waiting for her brain to activate. “Grey, I think.”

“And the place in front of the house? What did it look like?” Without waiting for Therese’s answer, Carol continued. “Can you reach it from two sides?”

“Yes.” Suddenly, Therese was wide awake. “Did you remember something?”

“I had a dream ... about Rindy.” Carol shook her head as if she couldn’t believe it herself. “She played with a dog on the grass in front of this house.”

“What did the dog look like?” Therese sat up in the bed, too. She wouldn’t get any more sleep now anyway.

“It was a puppy ...” Carol thoughtfully tapped on her upper lip with her finger. “A beagle, maybe?”

“Oh, I know!“ Now Therese was a hundred percent sure that it really had to be a memory. ”That’s your neighbor’s dog!” she explained excitedly.

“Really?“ Carol made such a sceptic face that Therese had to laugh. “They played together ... and then the puppy accidentally scratched Rindy and she ran to me, crying a little bit.” Carol wistfully smiled at the memory. “But it wasn’t that bad. I just had to blow on the spot and then everything was fine again. She continued playing straightaway.”

Therese grabbed Carol’s hand, squeezing it. “How are you doing now?”

“Good …” Carol closed her eyes and thought about it. “A little bit dizzy.” Her thumb brushed over the back of Therese’s hand, while she was trying to find the right words. “I couldn’t really recognize Rindy’s face, but I remember the feeling when she freed herself from my embrace, because she wanted to play again … her happiness, although the tears hadn’t dried yet.”

Therese listened attentively to Carol’s words, unable to say something. She only felt the circling moves of Carol’s thumb and how the soft tingling spread under her skin down to her toes.

“There’s some stirring in my head evidently, don’t you think?” Carol smiled.

“Yes.” Therese would have loved to open a bottle of champagne in the middle of the night and she noticed too late that it was a bad time to look into Carol’s eyes. Her own revealed too much, and yet she couldn’t avert her gaze.

Eventually, Carol let go of Therese’s hand and leant back in the bed. “I’m awfully selfish, I’m sorry.” She shook her head in embarrassment. “You must be terribly tired.”

Tiredness was actually the last thing Therese had to fight against, but a look at Carol’s alarm clock indicated that it was only 4:35 a.m. If she didn’t get a few more hours of sleep, she wouldn’t be much help for Carol tomorrow. “You should sleep some more, too,” she advised Carol, glad to have found her voice again.

“Yes, I know.” Carol sighed. “I guess it’s worth a try.”





* * *







It took almost an hour until both women finally went back to sleep, and when they woke up in the morning it was 9 o’clock already. Therese had secretly hoped that the rest of the night would reveal more memories, but unfortunately, that hadn’t happened. Therese’s disappointment didn’t last long though, because Carol was in as good a mood as Therese had ever seen her before, not even before the accident. She hummed to herself in the bathroom, sang some lines from time to time and moved with an entirely new lightness through the rooms.

“We could listen to some records after breakfast,” Therese suggested. “... and see which songs you remember.”

“Great idea.” Humming Rosemary Clooney’s Half as Much , Carol put a stool in front of the kitchen cupboard to get down a pot. If you loved me half as much as I love you, you wouldn’t worry me half as much as you do ... Just in time, Therese jumped forward, hindering her from stepping on the stool.

“Are you crazy, Carol? Just because you have a few memories back, doesn’t mean you can get down pots again,” she said strictly. “The doctors said you have to wait for these kinds of moves at least two more weeks.”

“I know, I know,” Carol sighed, not really dejected. “But I feel so useless.”

“In that case, you can choose some nice records, while I’m getting down the pot,” Therese suggested.

Carol turned on her heels and disappeared into the living room. Therese could hear her humming in the kitchen and had to smile about her unusual good mood. I know I would never be this blue, if you loved me half as much as I do…” It was one of these moments when Therese’s heart was so full with love that it was about to burst in her chest. Maybe she should do some shopping today, without Carol, to come to her senses again. The last few nights had brought them too closely together and Therese knew that she had to be careful.

She had just set the table for breakfast, when Carol emerged in the doorframe with a pile of records under her arm. “You want to hear all of them?” Therese asked, laughing.

“Well, not today.” Carol put the records on the table to show Therese her selection, but suddenly hesitated.

“What’s up?” Therese stepped next to her, following Carol’s gaze at the record cover.

“This one is from you, isn’t it?” Carol handed her the blue-white record with songs from Billie Holiday that she had given Carol for Christmas last year.

All the color drained away from Therese’s face when she turned over the cover and her eyes fell on the songs. Easy Living was written in white letters on the backside. “How do you know that, Carol?” She scanned the cover for a note. Some people used to write the name and date on their records if it had been a gift, but apparently, Carol wasn’t one of them.

“I don’t know. It’s just ... a feeling.” Carol amusedly watched Therese scanning the cover. “I’m going to play it, so that we can listen to it at breakfast.”

“No!” Therese tried to put on a neutral face when Carol raised her eyebrow.

“Why not? Don’t you like Billie Holiday?”

“I do, but ...” Therese struggled for a reasonable argument, but didn’t find one. But she would certainly not listen to this record. Since their journey to Chicago, Therese had cherished it like an invisible treasure and it was hard enough that Carol didn’t remember anything of this. Listening to these songs would definitely destroy what was left of her self-control. “Can’t we just start with something else?” Therese asked, pointing at the pile.

Carol watched her with an unreadable expression. “You’re a strange girl sometimes.” She shook her head and pulled out a Frank Sinatra record. “How about this one?”

“Sounds good.” Therese lit the two candles in the silver brass chandeliers on the table. “Breakfast is ready.”

Soon after, swinging sounds filled the rooms, exuding a relaxed, pleasant atmosphere. Carol was so full of energy that she suggested at breakfast to postpone their plans and have a picnic in Central Park instead. “The sun is shining outside, and they say it will rain in the afternoon,” she explained, and before she knew it, Therese had thrown over her shopping plans and agreed to Carol’s suggestion.

After breakfast, Therese made a salad while Carol brewed some coffee and gathered the picnic supplies. It was about 77 degrees outside and the air was already a little bit heavy. But the sky was still a deep blue and the allegedly approaching rain was hardly perceptible.

Therese had never been in Central Park in the middle of the week, at least not in the morning, and she wondered where all the people came from. Young mothers took their babies for a walk, students lay on the grass, reading textbooks, men in black suits used the early break for a walk, and of course lots of tourists roamed the park.

Carol and Therese decided to stay near the Bethesda Fountain and Therese stretched the big picnic blanket on the grass, while Carol unpacked their basket. She poured each of them a cup of wonderful smelling coffee and then they sat down in the grass and observed the hustle and bustle at the shore of the small lake near the fountain.

Therese had always loved the huge Bethesda Angel with her tall, spread wings, and she had already taken countless pictures of the statue years ago. None of them had captured the angel’s spirit to her satisfaction and she was glad to have her camera with her today.

Carol just waved at her lazily when Therese hinted with a gesture that she wanted to get closer to the statue. So she grabbed her camera and tried to capture the voluminous fountain from different angles. Usually, she was totally engrossed in her work when she took pictures, but this time she constantly felt Carol’s gaze on her and that distracted her so much that she eventually gave up and decided to turn the tables. Why should she struggle with the Bethesda Angel, when such a beautiful subject was lying in front of her in the grass?

With a mischievous smile, Therese stalked up on Carol and released the shutter button time and again. Of course, Carol had long noticed what Therese was doing but she played along, feigning ignorance. Once again, Therese noticed how useful it was to be able to hide behind the camera. Under this pretext, she could have a long look at Carol from all sides and zoom in on her face so closely like it never would be possible in reality. And above all, she could capture, quite officially, the most beautiful moment for eternity.

At some point, Carol eventually started to protest. “That’s enough! I feel like a film diva already,” she complained. “I didn’t come here to watch you walking around the whole time.”

Therese sat down next to her, laughing, and angled for an apple in the picnic basket. “I thought you came here for relaxing and not for grumbling,” she teased.

“It’s easier to relax when you stop running around.” Carol lay back on the blanket and patted the spot next to her with her hand. “Come and lie down with me.”

Therese put the camera aside and made herself comfortable on the blanket. She had taken a book with her, but it was too nice lying on her back and just closing her eyes. She could hear the twittering of birds, the high voices of children, the constant rushing of the fountain, the waving of leaves in the trees, and when she opened her eyes, she looked at the blue sky, interrupted by white little clouds and green treetops. Carol was dozing next to her and her regular breaths felt like the epitome of peace.

As long as they were lying here, there was only the two of them. No yesterday, no tomorrow, and Therese could just enjoy being alive and feeling Carol next to her. She imagined how it would be to spend the rest of her life with Carol. That it would be normal one day to fall asleep next to her and normal to wake up next to her. That she would leave for work from Madison Avenue in the morning and when she came home in evening, Carol would be there. That Carol would listen to her when she told her the latest news from the newsroom, and would tell her about beautiful furniture and annoying customers whom she’d had to deal with at work. That Carol’s naked feet would rest on Therese’s thighs, while they both were reading their books and the wood crackled in the fireplace. That they would celebrate birthdays, cook the turkey on Thanksgiving, and would decorate the Christmas tree, maybe with Rindy, if Mr. Aird agreed to it.

Nothing did she crave more than at least a small piece of that fantasy to come true, but it was so hard to say what was going on inside of Carol. It felt as if the gentle touch, when Carol had said goodnight yesterday, had never happened, and Therese didn’t know what to do about that. It had been the first time that she was sure Carol would feel more than just gratefulness or friendship for her. But today Carol behaved as if she didn’t remember that moment anymore.

“Hey Therese!” A familiar voice interrupted her thoughts.

Therese instinctively jumped when a shadow fell on her face. “Hi Dannie, what are you doing here?” she whispered, trying not to disturb Carol. But Carol had already noticed him and put on her sunglasses.

“Lunch break.” He smiled and sat down on the grass next to Therese. “Don’t you want to introduce me?”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Therese blushed and pointed at Carol, who offered Dannie her hand. “Carol Aird and Dannie,” Therese introduced them.

“Dannie McElroy,” he corrected her, shaking Carol’s hand. ”Nice to meet you, Mrs. Aird,” he charmingly added. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Therese gave him a warning glance, but it was already too late.

“Likewise.” Carol smiled politely. “Mr. McElroy was the name?“

Therese’s stomach twisted into a big knot, while Dannie had no idea what he had done wrong. How was he supposed to know that Mr. Aird had mentioned Dannie’s surname when he had talked to Carol on the phone. “Dannie is a colleague of mine,” Therese explained, superfluously.

“And a good friend, too,” Dannie added, not without pride in his voice. “Therese is a very special person.”

“Yes, she is.” Carol‘s face didn’t reveal in the slightest that she knew very well that Dannie, Therese and Abby had not only deliberately lied to her ex-husband, but hadn’t told her the truth either. “Don’t you want to join us, Mr. McElroy? We still have some hot coffee and plenty of salad.”

“No, thank you.” Dannie shook his head. “Actually, I came here to ask Therese whether she wanted to join us for a few minutes.” He pointed behind his back with his thumb and only then Therese noticed that half of her department sat on the other side of the Bethesda Fountain, having lunch. “We just want to enjoy the nice weather a little bit, before we have to go back to the newsroom.”

Therese hesitated but Carol put her hand on her arm, encouraging her to go with him. “Have fun with your colleagues, Therese. I’m not going anywhere.”

Unable to make a decision on her own, Therese got up and followed Dannie to the other side of the fountain. In hindsight, she was happy to have joined him, because it did her good to notice how happy her colleagues were to see her. And she realized that she had missed her colleagues, too, and that she was looking forward to returning to work. Of course, everybody wanted to know why she was on unpaid vacation and above all, who the fashionable woman was that had accompanied her to the park.

Therese told them with a few words about Carol’s accident and that she would need some support at home for a while. She withheld Carol’s amnesia as well as the fact that it had been the same accident that had kept Therese away from work, too. Luckily, Dannie was discreet this time and didn’t mention anything from the things that Therese had told him about Carol and herself.

“I’m sorry, but we really have to leave,” Henry said, who had started as an intern at the New York Times a few weeks ago. “Come back soon, Therese. We’re lacking of the feminine side.” Everybody laughed about his stupid joke and Therese promised that she would get in touch soon.

“Did you have a nice time?” Carol shut her book when Therese came back. “You’re kind of the only woman at the rooster party, aren’t you?”

“Yes, we only have men in our department,” Therese explained casually. “It’s the same as at any other newspaper.”

“And which of them have you been dating yet?” Carol poured Therese a second cup of coffee from the Thermos bottle and added a dash of milk. Then she took a sip from her own cup and started to read again as if she hadn’t asked Therese a question.

“None of them,” Therese responded, holding the hot cup in front of her face like a shield. Why did Carol have to ask these questions again?

“Some of them seem to be really nice ...”

“Why are you asking me that?” Therese harshly interrupted her. “Do you want me to go out with somebody?”

Carol looked up from her book, surprised. “I want you to be fine,” she said. “Is that wrong?”

“I am fine,” Therese insisted.

“That’s not what I mean.“

Therese flinched when Carol was about to put her hand on her back. “Let’s go home.” She started to gather their things and tucked them into the basket. “You said it would be raining soon.” She knew very well that despite the weather forecast, it was still warm and sunny, but she didn’t feel like listening to Carol’s approaches to setting her up with a man anymore. Maybe it would have been better if she had gone shopping.

Carol started to fold the blanket without a word and then they headed home. It was the first fight between them and Therese already regretted her harsh reaction. But she had definitely reached the limit of what she was able to bear. If Carol went on like this, it would be only a question of time until she finally lost her composure.







* * *





Even though Therese and Carol managed to make up with each other in the evening, the day in the park had caused a rift in their togetherness that they weren’t able to mend anymore. Carol’s contradictory behavior drove Therese crazy and the situation escalated even more during the next days. On the one hand, there was a permanently growing nearness and intimacy between them, while on the other hand, Carol pushed Therese away again and again.

Maybe because of their growing nearness, Carol had started to touch Therese more, which made it even worse. A hand on Therese’s shoulder, a quick stroking of her back, an interlacing of their fingers – brief and innocent touches that Carol didn’t even seem to be aware of, and she obviously had no idea about the turmoil she caused in Therese. Every time, a roaring storm raged inside of her and the so carefully buried yearning came dangerously close to the surface, so that Therese eventually began to fear Carol’s proximity. A loving touch, an incautious word, an unintentional move – Therese’s already fragile balance got mixed up more and more and she couldn't find a way back to the calmness and confidence she still had had at the beginning of their living together.

Her hope that Carol’s dream of Rindy would be the beginning of her memories finally coming back didn’t come true. By the end of the week, Carol had only one more dream – a happy moment with her husband. Otherwise, Carol’s unconsciousness remained as stubborn as an old donkey.

Although she didn’t admit it, it hurt Therese that none of Carol’s memories had anything to do with her. Had she been so unimportant to Carol? Just a passionate affair that hadn’t been deep enough to really leave traces behind? Therese was aware that it made sense that Carol’s memories gave their relationship a wide berth, but that didn’t make it any less painful.

One evening, when Carol told Therese again that she should go out more, Therese just got up and left the room. She would have liked to have coped better with the situation, but it just wasn’t possible anymore. She felt that she had reached her limits. If she didn’t get more distance, she would explode any minute, and Carol didn’t deserve that. It wasn’t her fault that Therese felt that way.

With a deep sigh, Therese sat down on the couch in the green room. In her condition, she wasn’t helpful for Carol anymore and there was only one option. Therese reached for the phone receiver and dialed Abby’s number.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Abby.”

“Therese? What’s going on?“ Abby noticed immediately that something was wrong.

“I can’t do this anymore, Abby.” Therese fought back her tears. “Can’t you come?”

“What’s wrong, Therese?” Of course, Abby didn’t get the situation. Except from Therese’s flight from the balcony during her last visit, she had no reason to believe that there would be any kind of problem.

Therese felt so ridiculous with her misplaced needs. She was totally overreacting. Wasn’t it the most important thing that Carol would feel better again? How could she be so selfish and only think of herself? She repeated in her head that she had tried her best and how it would be better for all participants when Abby took over her role.

“Did you have a fight?” Abby probed.

“Yes ... No … Well, that too ...” Therese fell silent. It was too complicated to explain it. “Please, Abby, I can’t do this anymore.”

Finally, Abby seemed to understand. “Sometimes friendship has to be enough,” she said sympathetically.

“Maybe for you.” Therese regretted the bitter words as soon as they had left her lips. Hurting Abby was the last thing she wanted, and she tried to direct the conversation back to her request. “Would it be possible for you?” she asked with a softer voice.

She had been so sure that Abby would agree immediately, but something seemed to hold her back. “Are you not alone?”

“No.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Therese brushed her forehead with her hand. It was more than time to leave this place. Usually it wasn’t like her to ambush people like this.

“It’s okay.” Abby cleared her throat. “Tomorrow would be too soon, but I can take over the day after tomorrow.“

“But you don’t really want to?“

“Yes, of course.” Abby kept covered the receiver and Therese could hear her talking to somebody. “What do I need to know?” she asked, addressing Therese again.

Therese felt violently sick all of a sudden. Maybe she should call everything off. It just hurt too much to leave Carol. But staying wouldn’t hurt any less, she tried to tell herself. It would be better for Carol if Abby was there for her from now on.

Therese pulled herself together. “Carol still needs a lot of sleep, so it’s good for her to take a nap in the afternoon ...”, she explained, wiping a tear from her cheek. “And she constantly wants to help in the household and does moves she’s not allowed to … so you have to keep an eye on her. The bandages have to be changed from time to time, but not so frequently anymore … And you’d probably do her a favor if you washed her hair ...” Therese’s voice broke every now and then, but Abby seemed to understand her. “We ... we didn’t have the time to listen to her records,” she added, swallowing hard. “But this will probably boost her memory somehow ...”

“All right, I’m doing my best.” Abby yawned. “I’m sorry, but I don’t really have time now. Let’s talk again tomorrow, okay?”

“All right.” Therese was secretly relieved that Abby wanted to end the phone call. She couldn’t withhold her tears any longer and wanted to leave the apartment before she finally lost her composure. “Thank you, Abby.”

“You’re very welcome.”

Therese put down the receiver and pressed her hands against her eyes. It would be best not to tell Carol that she would leave for a while – maybe she wouldn’t even notice her absence. Therese turned around and froze when she saw Carol standing in the doorframe.

“Who were you talking to?” she asked coldly.

“To Abby.” Therese averted her gaze.

“Why?”

“I asked her to take over for me.“

“Why should she take over?“ Carol’s grey eyes pierced into hers. “Why won’t you talk to me?”

“I ...” Therese struggled for the right words. “I can’t stay away from work much longer, if I want to keep my job.” That was a reasonable explanation, wasn’t it?

“Don’t take me for a fool.” Carol spoke calmly, but Therese heard the tremor in her voice. “Is it so difficult to live with me?”

“No ... it’s just ...” Therese passed Carol when she walked to the apartment door, grabbing her jacket from the wardrobe. “Abby had offered her help, too.”

“I’m not a child, Therese.” Carol crossed her arms, stepping closer to Therese. “Just because I’ve lost my memories doesn’t mean you can lie through your teeth to me.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Therese put on her jacket and grabbed her keys. “But now that you’re asking … maybe it couldn’t hurt if you thought about your behavior, too.”

“I’m behaving completely normal. It’s you who’s acting strangely.”

Therese heard Carol’s restrained anger, but she was sick of having to weigh each of her words. “Fine. So it’s all my fault,” she said defiantly.

“I don’t like it when people tend to twist everything.” The strictness in Carol’s voice maddened Therese even more. She hated it when Carol tried to lecture her.

“Then stop trying to set me up with men!” she shouted, more loudly than she had intended.

“Set you up?“ Carol rolled her eyes. “What do you mean?“

“You can't stop saying that I need a man to be happy.“

”That’s not the point at all.“ Carol was also about to lose her composure now. “That’s the way the world works. Don’t you get that? That’s life!“

“Great!“ Therese was so furious that she almost tore off a button when she fastened up her jacket. “And what is the way the world works?”

“That you will leave me.“

Therese abruptly dropped her hands. That’s what this was about? Carol was pushing her away, before she would leave on her own? Therese shook her head in disbelief. She needed to tell Carol how wrong she was, but her voice failed her. All she could see were Carol’s pleading eyes and she knew if she didn’t leave now, she would do something she would regret for the rest of her life. Therese tore open the door and was about to walk out of the apartment when Carol’s hands grabbed her arm. And before Therese could react, Carol pulled her towards her and kissed her.

_________________
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BeitragVerfasst: Do 4. Aug 2016, 21:00 
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Chapter 8



”I’m sorry, I …” The shock was written on Carol’s face when she stepped back. But before she could clear her head, Therese’s lips were back on hers. Again and again, they searched the red lips, and all the restrained passion, the desperation, the agonies of the last weeks forged ahead in the kiss.

Carol didn’t respond to the kiss though. She just stood there, frozen, as if she was in some kind of shock and eventually, Therese let her go so that she could see her face. With horror, she saw tears in her grey eyes, but before she could say anything, Carol turned around and walked back to the green room. There she sat down, holding her head in her hands.

Therese followed her instantly and sat down next to her on the couch. It was obvious that Carol needed time and Therese didn’t know how she could be there for her without pressing too much.

“I loved you, didn’t I?” Carol asked, without lifting her head.

“Do you remember anything?” Therese cautiously put her hand on Carol’s back. She just kept sitting there next to Carol, while she felt her unsteady breaths lifting and lowering under her hand.

“No.” Carol shook her head. “No scenes … but ...” She turned to Therese, looking directly in her eyes. ”I remember the feeling of your lips on mine.”

Therese cupped Carol’s cheek with her hand, brushing a tear from her face. She prayed that Carol considered the memory a good one.

“Why didn’t you tell me anything?” The quiet accusation in Carol’s voice was audible, but at the same time she reached for Therese’s free hand and put it in her lap. “I didn’t understand why I was feeling that way.”

Therese looked at her own small hand, lying so safely in Carol’s lap as if it didn’t belong anywhere else. She had no idea whether Carol regretted the kiss, but she was glad that the truth was finally out.

“It has always been different with you … from the beginning,” Carol continued thoughtfully. “But I didn’t understand what it was.”

Carol’s serious expression frightened Therese. Did she condemn her feelings? “Do you think it’s something bad?” she asked, holding her breath.

“No.” Carol shook her head and smiled, when she saw Therese heaving a sigh of relieve. “Is that the reason why you wanted to leave?”

Therese bowed her head. “I love you so much,” she whispered, her voice trembling. “I wish I could change it, but I can’t.”

“Don’t you dare.” Carol took Therese’s hand to her lips and kissed it. It was a slow, sensual kiss and Therese felt it in every fiber of her body. Before she knew what was happening, she felt Carol’s hand on her neck, gently pulling her head closer to her lips.

This time, Carol was there, really there to receive her. And Therese felt her whole body exhaling, as if it had been on a long journey and finally came home.

Carol’s lips brushed, almost shyly, over her face, and Therese understood that, for the first time, she was the one who had to give assurance. Carol didn’t have anything to draw on and Therese had to be cautious and gentle with her.

But when Carol’s quiet moaning reached her ear, something inside her blew a fuse and she pushed Carol down on the couch while her hungry lips wandered to Carol’s neck and her hand slipped impatiently under her blouse. Carol’s quick breathing in her ear almost caused her to pass out and it took all of her strength to lift her head and pause. If they weren’t careful, they would jeopardize Carol’s injuries. But Carol was having none of it. She drew Therese back to herself, disallowing any resistance. One after another, their clothes landed on the dark planked floor, and Therese’s “Be careful” went unheard.

Therese felt Carol gradually letting her body take charge, which, unlike her, seemed to remember. And Therese tried to come up to meet her, to answer each unspoken question, and for that she had to let go, too. Their bodies found each other without haste, skin to skin, crotch to crotch, and the salt of their sweating bodies mingled with Carol’s tears.







* * *







“Take me to bed,” Carol whispered when they finally lay, nestled up to one another, on the small couch.

Therese just grabbed her hand with a smile and led her to the bedroom. As soon as Carol had lain down, she pulled Therese towards her on the bed and then pushed her on her back.

“Please, be careful,” Therese objected again, trying to ignore the throbbing in her hot abdomen. “Your injuries haven’t healed enough.”

Again, Carol refused to listen. A hand on Therese’s breast, the other one at her hip, her lips wandered over the slim body, taking their time to caress every single inch, until Therese started to shake uncontrollably. “It appears to me there are more important wounds that haven’t healed yet,” Carol murmured before she gave Therese a deep, long kiss on the lips.

“Carol ... please … stop that … I’m serious,” Therese laboriously whispered. “Let me do it.”

“All right,” Carol sighed, smothering her with more kisses, before she let go of Therese and turned on her back again.

Therese knew that Carol was waiting for her, but taking the initiative was still unfamiliar to her and she wanted so many things at once. In the course of the last few months, since their journey, she had suffered from all the scenes in her head that had happened on their trip. The images used to suddenly pop up in the most inappropriate situations - Carol’s hands on her breast, her lips buried in her neck, her tongue touching her most intimate spots – it was totally unpredictable which moment would pop up, and where and when. But every time, it had triggered all of the emotions again and then they had been there on the surface, undeniable and overwhelming, like they had been in Waterloo. As much as Therese had tried to forget her nights with Carol, she had never succeeded.

Carol had awakened feelings in her that she hadn’t even known existed. She had struck chords in her that she had never experienced before. Carol had taken her time to get to know Therese and in doing so, Therese had been getting to know herself. At the following night at the Drake Hotel, she had already been bolder. She knew what she wanted and wasn’t timid about claiming it. And she had learned what Carol needed, because she had felt each of her reactions like her own.

Now the time had come where she could give her back all that, and the idea alone made Therese’s body tremble noticeably. Now she was the experienced one. She knew what Carol didn’t know and she would give her everything she had. Carol’s vulnerability brought tears to her eyes and she swore to herself that she would show her all the love she felt inside.

“How often have we done this before?” Carol asked when Therese’s fingertips ran over her naked belly, causing goose bumps.

“Two times.” The most beautiful moments in my life, Therese wanted to add, but no words left her lips - the expression in Carol’s dark eyes chased away all thoughts. Carol’s mouth was slightly open and Therese dove into the red lips like a cliff diver into the blue sea.

“Only two times?” Carol asked when she had recovered her breath.

“Not enough?”

“No.”

Therese kissed Carol’s nose and smiled. “Then let’s change it.”

For a long time, these were the last words spoken between them, because when Therese’s fingers wandered lower and slipped between Carol’s damp thighs, they entered a new land. Therese became immersed in Carol like in a prayer, time and space blurred into one another and the world outside stopped existing. Therese felt Carol letting go, how one wall after the other fell, up to the highest peak of ecstasy, when Carol exploded like a star whose bright sparks showered down on Therese.

“I love you,” Therese whispered, taking Carol’s shaking body tightly into her arms. She had never really had the chance to say it and now she couldn’t stop repeating it over and over again in her head. I love you. Therese gently pushed her knees between Carol’s knee pits from behind, put an arm under her head and embraced her upper body with the other. The tremor of Carol’s quick breaths spread to Therese’s body and she softly kissed Carol’s neck and shoulders, until the trembling slowly subsided.

For a long while, they just lay there and Therese was just about to move when she felt another strong shiver spreading through Carol’s body like a big flood wave. What on earth was that? Therese held her breath. Did they tear open a wound? “Carol?” she asked, worried, and when Carol didn’t respond, she bent over her. “What’s going on? Are you hurting?”

“Nothing.” Carol covered her eyes with her hands. “It’s already over.”

“What’s over?” Therese kissed her temple, wishing her kisses could heal Carol’s pain. ”Did I hurt you?“

“No. It’s …” Carol hesitated. “It ...“ She paused again. “It’s nothing.“

“Carol …” Therese gave her another encouraging kiss on the cheek. “Just tell me.”

“It’s ridiculous.”

“Certainly not.”

Carol sighed. “It felt like an electric shock,” she finally said.

”An electric shock?“ Therese was immediately alarmed. “That’s what it felt like?”

Carol turned towards her and regarded her with a penetrating gaze. Some of her blond strands hung in her still heated face and she wiped them away with a trace of anger. “What do you know, Therese?” she asked with a voice that wouldn’t accept any contradiction. “And don’t you dare lie to me again.”

Therese tried to avert her gaze, but Carol didn’t let her. “I don’t know anything for sure,” she said truthfully.

“But you’re suspecting something.”

“Yes.”

“What?” Carol cupped her cheek, forcing Therese to look at her. “What do you suspect, Therese?”

Therese looked at Carol’s questioning face, in her beloved blue-grey eyes. She saw the fear in them, but also determination and strength. And she needed only a few seconds to make her decision. To hell with Dr. Meyer and his good advice. “I suspect that this could be a memory.”

“What could be a memory?”

“The electric shocks.” Therese reached for Carol’s hand.

“You’re crazy.“ Carol shook her head. “We’re living in the 20th century.” She didn’t really sound convinced though. Therese knew that she had made Carol think, and that she was comparing her feelings with Therese’s theory.

“Your lawyer told you to undergo psychotherapy, Carol,” Therese explained softly. She was absolutely sure now that she was doing the right thing. If Carol’s memories didn’t stir on their own, she had to meet them halfway, and there wouldn’t be a better time than this. “In the process of the divorce,” she added and when Carol looked at her as if she had lost her mind, she pointed at Carol and then herself.

“Because of us?” Carol turned away her head and stared at the ceiling.

“You were fighting for the custody of your daughter,” Therese continued cautiously. “And ... I’ve read about this special kind of treatment ...” She waited for Carol to show any kind of reaction, but she just continued staring at the ceiling. “The treatment extinguishes so called undesirable behavior by connecting it to an unpleasant stimulus, so that the patient starts to associate the unpleasant effect with the unwanted habit and gives it up.”

Carol covered her eyes with her hand, so that Therese couldn’t see her face. Had she gone too far? “People are stupid and always scared,” Carol eventually said without taking her hand from her eyes. “They fear what they don’t know. And when you’re different, they try to squeeze you into their norms and rules.”

Therese wasn’t sure if Carol expected a response from her. Instead of an answer, she took Carol’s other hand and quickly kissed it, before she put it back on her belly.

“So what do you do, when you’re different?” Carol continued. “When you have to choose between your instincts and their truth?”

Therese had no idea what she would do. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Her fingers still smelled of Carol and she couldn’t imagine this love to be wrong. Of course, she was aware that many people didn’t approve her feelings, but she had never been forced to make a decision like Carol had. “I think it’s important to stay to your truth,” Therese said quietly.

“Yes, that’s right.” Carol took her hand from her eyes and slipped it under her head, while she looked at the ceiling. “But what do you do, when they take your child away from you in that case?” It was one of the most beautiful ceilings that Therese had ever seen, decorated with elegant white stucco, twining a golden candelabra. All the ceilings of this apartment were decorated with similar patterns and it might have been one of the reasons why Carol had chosen this apartment. She loved stucco and had always been sad that her old home didn’t have it. “Then you have to make them believe that they have won,” Carol explained, without taking her gaze from the ceiling. “Otherwise they will try to break you.”

Therese was holding her breath. Who exactly was Carol talking about?

“You have to lie,” Carol said, as if she wasn’t there. “You have to pretend, and you have to agree with them. And you have to bury your own truth deeply inside of you, so that they won’t get it. Because, if you give that away, you’ll give up yourself.”

“Carol ...” Therese let go of Carol’s hand and propped her head on her elbow so that she could look at her. “Are you remembering something?”

“Why? What do you mean?” Carol turned her head towards her, confused.

“Because you’re talking as if you’ve just remembered something.”

Carol went silent, obviously considering Therese’s question. “I don’t know,” she said thoughtfully. “I don’t feel anything ... It’s more like shadows ...” She turned her face back to the ceiling and Therese noticed a small line between her brows that she had never seen before. “I always have this dream ...” Carol said slowly. “There’s this older man, tall, with greying temples and a grey full beard. He talks to me, he is kind and friendly, but I sense that something is wrong. Then, suddenly, I’m a child again and he tells me that I’m a bad girl, but he would know how he could help me ... I usually wake up then, and my hands and arms feel kind of numb for a while.”

Therese gently took Carol’s hand and kissed each of the delicate bones. “This is where they usually attach the cable,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry, Carol.”

“Don’t be.” Carol pulled Therese in her arms. “I’m sure it wasn’t that bad ...” She slowly ran her fingers through Therese’s hair, while she continued talking. “I don’t think it was really painful. It was more ... unpleasant.” She paused for a while. “The worst is when they try to take from you the most precious thing you have. When they trample on it and drag it through the muck. And when they tell you that you’re a bad mother and a bad person.”

Therese felt a heavy, painful lump in her throat, but she didn’t want to cry in Carol’s presence. She had never considered that the physical pain hadn’t been the worst, but the humiliation and the approach to turn her into somebody else that she was not. When Therese imagined that someone would try to rip her love for Carol from her heart, everything inside of her convulsed. She didn’t know any other person who radiated so much pride and dignity, and it felt like an irony of fate that Carol of all people had to give up all of that in order to get custody of her child - and had lost her daughter anyway. Therese brushed a secret tear from her cheek, smiling apologetically, when she noticed that Carol had seen it.

“Don’t cry,” Carol whispered, wiping the rest of the moisture away with her thumb. Therese nodded bravely, although her heart felt unbearably heavy. For some reason she seemed to feel all the emotions Carol couldn’t feel, and she was afraid that if she really started crying, she would never stop.

“Do you think that the psychotherapist gave you current pulses, while you had to imagine the two of us together?” It wasn’t really a question, because it was painfully obvious that it must have been that way. But Therese wanted Carol to remember, to really remember, and to feel, not just to guess or to see something like shadows.

Carol’s hands had stopped running through Therese’s hair. ”He had no right to sully what we had ...” she said quietly.

“No.” Therese lifted her head to kiss the soft mouth that had to lie and pretend so much. “Do you have any idea what might have happened?“

“Actually, I’m seeing it in my mind’s eye ...like a small film ...” Carol held her breath and only released it when Therese hugged her tightly. “I think I imagined the mating ritual of burgundy snails.”

“What?” Therese wasn’t sure if she heard correctly. “You know something about the lovemaking of burgundy snails?” she asked incredulously.

“I guess so.” Carol chuckled when she saw Therese’s flabbergasted face. “Maybe I had watched a television report … I see the scenes in black and white – that’s kind of unusual, don’t you think?”

Therese had to chuckle too now, but she quickly became serious again, when she noticed how pale Carol looked. “Are you all right?”

“Yes.” Carol smiled warmly at her. “Just a little dizzy.”

Therese nodded, unable to speak. Her brave Carol. How could she ever have believed that she would be able to turn away from this love? She had done Carol so wrong. While she herself had been trying to hate her for months, Carol had desperately tried to protect their love.

Overwhelmed, Therese took Carol’s face in both of her hands. “I love you,” she said softly and started to cover first Carol’s mouth and then her face with small butterfly kisses. She took her time, taking care that no millimeter of her beloved face would be left unappreciated. “This is the truest … kiss… best … kiss …. deepest … kiss … biggest … kiss… and most wonderful … kiss … feeling … kiss… I’ve ever had.” She also kissed away the small tear that threatened to fall from Carol’s lashes.

Carol smiled under Therese’s lips. “I’m sorry that I don’t remember our first time,” she said with a trace of bitterness.

“But you do.” Therese caressed Carol’s forehead where she guessed the memories would be somewhere. “Believe me, you do.” If Carol really didn’t remember, her body would have reacted differently earlier, Therese was sure of that.

“But I don’t have any images,” Carol sighed softly, when Therese’s lips had reached a very sensitive spot right under her earlobe.

“Let’s make more new ones then.” Therese lingered especially long at Carol’s ear, when she noticed that the small hairs on Carol’s arms erected by her caressing touch. Therese felt like a bird that had left its cage and could finally do what it was meant for. She couldn’t get enough of Carol’s skin, of her scent, of the quiet noises she made, and she wished the world outside of this bed would just melt into thin air like the ghosts in the fairy tales from 1001 nights.

As if she could read Therese’s mind, Carol pulled her closer to her chest and pressed a kiss to her dark hairline. “You never get enough, do you?” she said with a smile, but her eyes were serious.

“No.”

“Me neither.” Therese took a sharp breath when Carol’s knee slipped between her thighs. “I’m not finished with you, Therese Belivet,” she said sternly, and the sound of her voice alone sent dozens of chills through Therese’s body. To stress her point, Carol’s hand followed her knee and Therese blushed furiously when she noticed the surprise in Carol’s eyes. “You need me ...” Carol whispered, moved.

“Yes.“ Therese felt a bit embarrassed that Carol found her so damp and swollen, while she had decided to be only there for Carol tonight. But the expression in Carol’s eyes made her embarrassment vanish quickly.

Carol didn’t hesitate, didn’t play, didn’t ask. She entered Therese directly, while pulling her down into a kiss. Therese moaned with pleasure when Carol’s fingers started to move inside of her and she spread her thighs apart to give Carol better access.

“Please be careful with your injuries,” Therese whispered heavily, but Carol only kissed her even deeper. She drew her into a dance that made Therese almost lose her senses. Everything inside of her and around her was Carol, pushing her closer to her climax at dizzying speed.

“Let go, dearest,” Carol whispered. “I’ve got you.”







* * *







When Therese woke up the next morning, Carol was still soundly asleep. It was already 9:30 a.m. and Therese gently kissed the fingertips of the slim hand that was peeking out from under the blanket. When Carol still didn’t move, she decided to get up, preparing breakfast in the kitchen.

Therese felt so full of energy that she turned everything in the kitchen upside down and created a formidable, sumptuous breakfast that could have fed an entire firefighter crew. Soon, the scent of freshly brewed coffee wafted through the apartment and Therese was sure that Carol’s head would emerge in the door any minute now. It was 10:30 a.m. meanwhile and Carol had never slept so long.

When there was still nothing happening, Therese balanced towards the bedroom with an overcrowded tray and carefully pushed down the handle of the bedroom door with her elbow. When she put down the tray on the floor next to the bed, Carol opened her eyes.

“Good morning.” Therese smiled, angry at herself that she was suddenly getting shy. “Did I wake you?”

“No.” Carol shook her head. “Come here, Therese.”

Something was definitely wrong. Did Carol regret what they did? Therese anxiously sat down on the edge of the bed, looking at her with wide eyes.

Carol took Therese’s hand and pulled it towards her under the blanket. “My angel,” she said tenderly.

Therese froze. Overcome by a sudden dizziness, she saw tiny sparkling stars swirling before her inner eye, while she was trying to get a clear head. “You remember,” she said with a shaking voice.

“Yes.” Carol looked up at her and Therese saw that she had cried. “Everything.”

Everything? Therese just sat there, staring at Carol. Everything???

“Aren’t you happy for me?”

Finally, Therese moved into gear. “Oh yes,” she whispered, and a beaming spread over her face that could have competed with the star of the Three Wise Men and stood in contrast with the tears that filled her eyes. “You made it?”

“Yes.” Carol pulled her down towards her and kissed her. “Thanks to you.”

“Me?” Therese’s protest died when Carol’s lips chased away every reasonable thought from her head.

“Don’t play innocent.” Carol smiled. “You know exactly what you have done.”

Therese kissed the nape of Carol’s neck to hide her blushing face. She couldn’t believe that she really had her Carol back. Completely and utterly. And first and foremost, that Carol had herself back. Maybe she was still dreaming? Just to be on the safe side, Therese secretly pinched her arm, exhaling in relief when it hurt. “I made breakfast,” she whispered into Carol’s ear. “Are you hungry?”

To her disappointment, Carol shook her head. “I’m sorry, Therese,” she said regretfully. “I’m sure you have really made an effort, but I have a splitting headache. “

Only now, Therese noticed how exhausted and pale Carol looked. No wonder. Therese could only guess the fight that must have raged inside of her last night, until her unconsciousness finally gave away the key to her memories.

“Then you’d better stay in bed today.” Therese propped her head on her elbow and ran her fingers over Carol’s eyebrows. “Would you like some chamomile tea?”

Carol smiled tiredly. ”I’ll stay in bed, if you’ll stay with me.“

Therese didn’t need to be told twice. In spite of her growling stomach, she hopped into the bed next to Carol, moving as close to her as possible. “I’m sorry that you’re not feeling well.”

“Oh, I am feeling well,” Carol objected, squeezing Therese’s hand. “I’m actually feeling very well. And I’m ready to have three more days of this killer headache, if that’s the price for my memory.”

“Shall I get you an aspirin?” Therese wanted to get up, but Carol held on to her.

“Stay here,” she said quietly, and Therese willingly sank back into the sheets and Carol’s softness. For a while, they just lay there, arms and legs intertwined, enjoying the closeness of each other.

“Do you still want to leave, Therese?” Carol suddenly asked and Therese was surprised about the fear in her voice. What gave her that idea now?

Suddenly, it dawned on her. The arrangement with Abby! After last night, she had totally forgotten about the phone call with her.

With a deep sigh, Therese snuggled closer into Carol’s warm body, burying her face into the fragrant blond hair. “Never.”



To be continued...

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Chapter 9




“Oh my God!” Carol was leaning against the kitchen’s doorframe, staring in shock at the feast on the table. “Who else did you invite?”

“Nobody.” Therese tried to hide her embarrassment by clearing the table and storing the food in the refrigerator. “I just felt like having a nice breakfast with you.” She pointed with her head at one of the chairs. “Come, sit down, I’ll make you some chamomile tea.”

Carol obediently sat down and watched Therese’s fruitless attempts to place all leftovers in the refrigerator. “Maybe we should invite Abby tomorrow,” she suggested with a smile. “She loves good food and we can’t eat all that anyway.”

Silently, Therese took the cold meat out of the refrigerator again and stored it with a new strategy. She had been looking forward to a breakfast for two, especially since her plan hadn’t worked out today. But of course she understood that Carol wanted to talk to her friend as soon as possible. “I have to call Abby anyway and then I can ask her,” she offered.

“That’s nice of you, but I’d like to call her myself.” Carol pulled a face when Therese put a mug of hot tea in front of her. The typical smell of chamomile seemed to make her feel even sicker. Nonetheless, she took a few sips. “Maybe I should call Abby now while you’re warming up your breakfast?”

Therese snorted quietly about Carol’s choice of words. The clock above the kitchen door indicated that it was a quarter to four already and Therese pondered which parts of the ‘breakfast’ leftovers she should put into the pan. The scrambled eggs maybe? Or the meat? ”Yes, call her,” she responded half-heartedly. Actually, she didn’t want to share Carol even for a few seconds, but of course that was ridiculous. “It’ll take a while until the pan is hot,” she assured her.

Carol got up and stepped behind Therese. “I hate to leave you alone,” she whispered into her ear and wrapped her arms around Therese’s shoulders.

Carol’s moist lips on her neck appeased Therese on the spot and she suppressed a chuckle when Carol’s blond hair tickled her cheek. “Don’t stay away too long,” she warned, pulling Carol’s hands away which had secretly pushed themselves under her bathrobe. “Otherwise the food will get cold again.”

“I see.” Carol kissed the back of Therese’s head before she went to the living room and Therese attended the food. Undoubtedly, it had been unwise to leave the food on the table for hours, but leaving the bed hadn’t been an option – neither for her nor for Carol. And if it had been up to Therese, they would still be in bed, huddled up against each other.

With a sigh, Therese turned off the stove again when she heard Carol’s laughter in the living room. It sounded like one of the typical Carol-Abby phone calls, which could last long. So Therese decided to make herself a cup of coffee and read the newspaper until Carol came back. She used to take her time every morning reading the New York Times, because she had started to really miss her colleagues, and reading the daily news made her feel a bit closer to them.

Dannie had done a good job with an article about a Renoir exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art and Therese was planning to call him as soon as possible. Maybe he would agree to visit the exhibition a second time with her and maybe Carol would be interested in joining them, too.

It stirred Therese’s blood, thinking about what they could do together now. How would it be like to live with Carol permanently? Did she really think it through when she had asked Therese back then at the Ritz Tower? What would they tell the neighbors? And their colleagues and friends? Was it possible to keep a relationship secret over years? And did they even want that? Who was supposed to know about them and who wasn’t?

Once again, Carol’s ringing laughter reached the kitchen and Therese was angry at herself that it stung her. Now that Carol had her memories back, the intimate familiarity of the two women was back as well. And if Therese wasn’t able to get a grip about her jealousy of Abby, it would become difficult for all three of them. After all, Abby was part of Carol’s life and she would always be her best friend.

How many signs do you need? Therese admonished herself. Carol didn’t want anything but friendship from Abby – no less, but no more either. Maybe it was so difficult to believe because Therese still didn’t understand what Carol saw in her. Sometimes she was afraid that Carol was wrong about her and that she saw something in her that wasn’t really there. But even without her memories Carol had developed feelings for her. That had to mean something, hadn’t it?

Carol had left her once before though and Therese almost hadn’t survived that. But since their journey together, so many things had happened and Carol hadn’t given a single hint that she would like to withdraw her question. So it was time to stop behaving like a little girl with fear of abandonment and instead be a mature partner to Carol. Maybe she should even suggest that the three of them should do something together from time to time so that they all could get more attuned with the situation.

“Haven’t you started yet?“ Carol’s voice interrupted Therese’s thoughts. “You could have eaten breakfast without me.“

Therese folded the newspaper without turning around. “Did you have a nice chat?“

“Oh yes.“ Carol sat down next to her, taking the newspaper from her. “Abby noticed right away that my memories were back. I had just said my name by then.”

“She knows you well.” Therese smiled. “What did you talk about?”

“Abby and Marlene will come by for breakfast tomorrow morning.” Carol took a sip from her meanwhile cold chamomile tea and put it down again, obvious disgust in her face.

“I’ll make you a new one.” Therese stood up to turn on the stove again. “Is Marlene the woman who is staying at Abby’s?”

“Yes, that’s her.”

Something in the way Carol said it made Therese turn around. She furrowed her brow suspiciously when she saw Carol smirk. “Is she…” Therese didn’t know how to voice her assumption. “Are they…”

“Yes, she is and they are.” Carol pulled Therese back to her. “But you never know how long it lasts with Abby.”

Therese let herself sink into Carol’s lap all too willingly. The idea of spending the day with a couple that was like Carol and her excited her. She couldn’t even imagine how that must feel like. She was so used to controlling every look, every gesture, every word, that the idea of not having to pretend involuntarily made her smile. “So our leftovers will be eaten after all,” she commented dryly, snuggling in Carol’s embrace. “And you should eat something, too, so that your headache gets better.”

“Can’t we just go back to bed?” Carol’s lips lingered on Therese’s earlobe, which didn’t make it easier to remain steadfast.

“Carol, I’m serious. You really should eat something, even if it’s difficult.” Reluctantly, Therese freed herself from the embrace and shortly afterwards, she put a plate with steaming scrambled eggs in front of her. “And I’ll get you a headache pill from the bathroom.”

But Carol grabbed her hand. “Not now, darling. You need the food more urgently than I do. It’s 5 p.m. already.”

“Only if you eat something, too,” Therese insisted, sitting down on her chair again. “We have lots of fresh fruit, some bread, and a few cold sausages. And your tea will be ready in a minute.”

Carol actually took a few bites, even if it was obviously difficult to her. She still looked so exhausted and worn out that Therese would have thought she was sick if she hadn’t known better.

Therese was curious what Carol and Abby had been talking about, but decided to leave Carol alone for a while. Following an inner impulse, she put her hand on Carol’s and didn’t let go for the rest of the meal. Carol didn’t make a move either and so they just sat there, enjoying the deep affinity and eating their scrambled eggs.

From time to time, Carol brushed a tear from her face, but when Therese called her on that, she couldn’t say why. “It’s simply just too much, I guess,” she apologized. “I'm not used to suddenly remembering everything.”

Therese nodded, understanding. Overnight, Carol suddenly had her life back and it certainly wasn’t easy to sort out everything. “You want to talk to Rindy as soon as possible, don’t you?” Therese ran her thumb over the back of Carol’s hand and kissed her fingers when she nodded. “Maybe you should do that before we go back to bed?”

Carol shook her head in frustration. “I want to wait until the headache gets better. Rindy will be worried if she hears me like this.”

Therese admired how naturally Carol always put Rindy’s needs over hers. If her mother had been just a little bit like Carol she probably would have been spared a lot of things in her childhood. “Why didn’t you get custody for Rindy?” she asked tentatively. “You did everything they wanted, didn’t you?”

“No, I didn’t.” Carol propped her head tiredly on her hand. “When I noticed how much Harge and I were tearing at our poor child and I realized that he was ready to carry matters to extremes, I quit therapy.” She closed her eyes, remembering that day, and Therese squeezed her hand compassionately. “I knew I didn’t stand a chance anymore. The longer I would have fought, the worse it would have been. And Rindy would have suffered the most …” Carol hesitated, lighting herself a cigarette. “I deliberately left custody to Harge and told everybody at the hearing that I didn’t regret anything that I had done.”

Therese flinched, staring at Carol with wide eyes. “But …” she stuttered, shaking her head. “But Rindy is the most important thing in the world for you. She’s your daughter …”

“Yes.” Carol wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “But the tapes … I hadn’t had a chance anymore.”

Therese swallowed heavily, looking at their intertwined hands. “I shouldn’t have come with you,” she whispered. “If I had said no back then, your daughter would be with you now.”

“Therese …” Carol bent closer to her. “It wasn’t your fault,” she said emphatically. “After Harge had seen you at my place, he had gone straight to his lawyer, applying for sole custody.” She lowered her gaze when Therese looked at her in confusion. Carol had told her about the unexpected application for sole custody but she hadn’t told her anything about the connection to her visit. “He based his application on a morality clause, in which he referred to Abby … and to you …”

Therese slumped back into her chair. “Then why did you ask me if I would go with you?” she asked tonelessly.

“I wanted you with me.”

Therese just shook her head, unable to say anything. She hadn’t been aware that Carol had taken such a high risk. Of course, neither of them could have known that her husband would hire a private detective, but nevertheless, the idea of going on a trip with the person whose name was already written down in the attorney’s file, was profusely unmindful and that wasn’t like Carol at all.

At that time, when Carol had asked her to go with her, a no had been unthinkable. She just had to go with her and she would have even said yes if the world had ended. But little did she know that Carol had felt the same.

“It’s all water under the bridge now anyway.” Carol ran her index finger over Therese’s frowned forehead. “Don’t let it get to you so much.”

But Therese couldn’t let it go at that. “Do you regret our trip?” she asked, her heart hammering anxiously in her chest.

Carol stubbed out her cigarette in the ashtray. “Yes and no,” she said, covering Therese’s fingers with both hands. “Yes, I regret that I didn’t wait until the proceeding was over. And no, I don’t regret what happened … between us.”

Therese averted her gaze. “This journey …” she said, halting. “This journey … was the best that ever happened to me ... and also the worst.”

“I know.” Carol rose from her chair and wrapped her arms around her. “I’m sorry.”

Therese sank into Carol’s embrace, pressing her face into Carol’s lap. She closed her eyes when her forehead touched the soft bathrobe and Carol’s familiar scent reached her nostrils. “I’ll get you an aspirin and then we’ll go back to bed,” she whispered into Carol’s bathrobe.

They cleared the table together and then Carol went back to bed, while Therese was looking for painkillers in the bathroom. “Carol, don’t you have any headache pills in your apartment?” she shouted from the bathroom.

“Can't you find them?” Carol shouted back. “I’m not sure if I bought any, to be honest.”

“Then I will do that now.” Therese emerged from the bathroom, stopping at the bedpost.

“Why don’t you leave the stupid pills, Therese.” Carol propped herself on her elbow, patting the vacant spot next to her. “And join me instead.”

Therese’s heart melted immediately when she looked into the pleading blue-grey eyes. She had to remain strong though. Carol still looked extremely exhausted and a little nap would do her good, while Therese could take care of the painkillers. “I’ll be back in no time,” she assured Carol. “I’m going to get dressed and you should rest and sleep.”

Carol sighed deeply when Therese didn’t allow herself to be persuaded. “Don’t stay away too long,” she said tiredly and smiled when Therese bent down to kiss her cheek.

Therese pulled the blanket higher over Carol’s shoulders and tried to withdraw from the bed. She felt like a magnet that had to be moved in the wrong direction. On more time, she allowed herself to kiss Carol’s forehead, then she gathered her clothes and disappeared into the bathroom.






* * *






A warm, soothing wind greeted Therese when she opened the front door. In the apartment she hadn’t realized how sunny and hot it was outside and she hesitated for a moment, pondering if she should go back in and put on something cooler. But she decided against it since the pharmacy store around the corner wasn’t far away after all. She would get the pills there and then quickly slip back under the covers with Carol. Some people would say it was a waste spending a sunny day in bed, but in this case it was easy to set priorities. Determined, Therese joined the busy crowd on the sidewalk. The quicker she finished her mission, the sooner she would get back to Carol.

While Therese was walking down Madison Avenue, the surroundings felt strangely unreal. The streets, the houses, the people – everything seemed as if she herself wasn’t part of this world. The people did what they always did. For them it was a day like every other. But since Carol had gotten her memories back, the sky was bluer, the trees greener, the smell of the flowers sweeter. And Therese wasn’t the same either. Her step was livelier, her shoulders lighter, and her gaze brighter. But nobody seemed to notice, nor did anybody seem to be interested.

Therese involuntarily slowed down her step when she suddenly smelled the scent of roses. It had to come from the flower shop across the street and she decided to give it a visit.

As soon as Therese stepped through the shabby wooden door, a wonderful fragrance embraced her like in paradise. Gorgeous roses in all colors surrounded her, but something else caught her attention. In the back of the shop, next to the counter, the bright blue of Forget-Me-Not blossoms shone towards her.

“I’ll take them all,” she told the surprised seller. “Do you have any bags to put them in?”

The lady nodded and came back shortly afterwards with six big paper bags. “Somebody can consider themselves lucky,” she said with a chuckle while wrapping the Forget-Me-Not flowers in paper and putting them into the bags.

Therese wondered whether the seller would still chuckle if she knew the story behind it, but basically she didn’t care. People could think whatever they wanted as long as she could be together with Carol. One day the world would understand that love was just love, no matter the gender, or the religion, or the color of one’s skin, or whatever else.

Heavily laden, Therese left the flower shop and headed for the pharmacy store. She amused herself over the pharmacist’s questioning look, who obviously would have loved to know the story behind the flowers. But of course Therese didn’t even think of telling him. Even after his second approach, she didn’t react and dropped the headache pills into one of her big bags, smiling friendly.

The flowers were heavier than Therese had thought and she wiped the sweat from her forehead when she finally stood in front of Carol’s door again. As quiet as possible, she opened the door, took off her shoes and sneaked into the kitchen with her bags. As to be expected, Carol didn’t have enough vases, so glasses, pots and other vessels had to serve for the flowers, too. Afterwards, Therese distributed the Forget-Me-Not flowers around the entire apartment, except for the bedroom where Carol seemed to slumber soundly.

After a while the whole apartment radiated in bright blue and Therese looked satisfied at her work. So far, she had always waited for other people to take the first step, but this time she would do it herself.

The apartment already smelled like a flower shop when Therese gently pushed down the door handle, a glass of water and the package of painkillers in her hand. To her surprise Carol wasn’t asleep but lay awake on the bed in a fetal position, her face wet with tears.

“Carol! ” Therese immediately put down the glass of water and ran to her. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.” Carol reached for a handkerchief under her pillow and blew into it. “I just talked to Rindy.”

“And?” Therese kneeled in front of the bed, so that she could be eye to eye with Carol. “Didn’t it go well?”

“Oh yes, it did.” Carol wiped her face with her sleeve, when a new stream of tears came. “She was so happy to be able to talk to me.”

“But?”

“No but.” Carol stretched out her arm, running her hand through Therese’s hair. “Harge will bring her here the day after tomorrow.”

“But that’s fantastic!” Therese leaped onto the bed and pulled Carol tightly into her arms. She didn’t understand why Carol’s former spouse had changed his mind all of a sudden, but maybe the last weeks had made him realize how much Rindy needed her mother. “I can do some shopping or go back to my apartment as long as she’s here,” Therese offered.

“I don’t want to chase you away from here.” Carol turned around on her back with a sigh. “But Harge has indeed made it a condition that you won’t be here when Rindy comes.”

“That was to be expected, wasn’t it?” Therese bravely ignored the lump that was forming in her throat. There was no way she would spoil this chance for Carol.

“No.” Carol shook her head. “But that mustn’t be a durable solution.”

Therese ran her fingers softly over Carol’s face, brushing away the remaining damp with her fingertips. “Sooner or later we will find a better solution,” she stated. “Now the most important thing is that you can see each other.”

Carol grabbed her wrist and kissed her palm. “Since when are you so mature?” she asked, amazed.

Therese shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe it started when you entered the toy section of Frankenberg’s department store one day.”

Carol laughed quietly and kissed her lips. “I love you, Therese.”

I love you too, Carol. Therese quickly buried her face into the crook of Carol’s neck. She had known it, of course, had felt it in every gesture, every look, but hearing the words aloud again, finally brought peace to her soul.

Therese kissed the salty skin in Carol’s neck. She felt her desire blazing up like a hot flame, but Carol still had a headache and needed to rest. “I brought you the pills,” Therese said with a husky voice, freeing herself from Carol’s arms. “You should take two at once, I think.” She got up and picked up the glass of water from the floor that she had put there before.

Carol took the two pills from her gratefully, sighing contentedly after she had emptied the glass. The prospect of alleviation alone seemed to bring her relief. “Change back into your pajamas,” she said, yawning. “I’ll make a bee line to the bathroom.”

“No, wait! ” Therese tried to hold Carol back, but it was too late already. Carol had opened the door and stared at an ocean of blue Forget-Me-Not blossoms.

“What on earth …” Carol turned towards her, open-mouthed.

Therese blushed to the roots of her hair, but it was too late for excuses, and besides she had promised herself to be courageous this time. So she got up from the bed and walked to Carol. “You got your life back today,” she explained, wrapping her arm around Carol’s waist. “And I got back mine …”

Carol took a deep breath, inhaling the sweet scent of the flowers, and shook her head when Therese noticed her watery eyes. “I’m sorry, I know I’m terrible today.”

Instead of a response, Therese linked arms with her and led her through the radiant blue apartment. “Back then, at the Ritz Tower you asked me something …” she started shyly when they entered the living room. “And because of your memory loss I never had the chance to correct my answer …”

She couldn’t say more because Carol wrapped both of her arms around her and kissed her tenderly. “Is that a yes?” she whispered with an unsteady voice.

“Yes,” Therese confirmed, smiling, and stole another kiss from her. “Yes, that’s a yes.”

Carol smiled into Therese’s mouth. “A yes is a yes is a yes,“ she freely quoted Gertrud Stein. “My dear, dear Therese …”

For a long while no more words were spoken. Both women stood in the middle of the room, locked in a heartfelt embrace, searching for the lips of the other again and again, and only quiet sighs and tender caresses filled the room.

“We should stop … Your head …” Therese warned eventually.

“Believe or not, the pain has melted into thin air …” Carol’s tongue dove into the small hollow of Therese’s collarbone and educed a deep sigh from Therese.

Therese couldn’t believe how fast she always reacted to Carol. How could it be that her body felt like bursting into flames within seconds? Carol’s voice alone drove her absolutely crazy, not to mention her tongue. How had she survived spending so many days at her side?

“My angel,” Carol whispered out of breath, pulling Therese in a deep kiss. “How can I ever make up for what you did for me?”

Therese’s answer came promptly.

“Take me to bed.”

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Chapter 10

- Epilogue –

April, 1970

“Carol?” Therese walked through the damp grass until she spotted Carol’s white shock of hair behind the cherry tree. She was kneeling on the ground, apparently seeding something, probably the poppy and the marigold they had bought together the other day. Therese had actually asked her to cut the forsythia branches first, but Carol rarely listened when it came to their backyard. At least Therese had to admit that it was in the best hands with her. Every year the yard blossomed in all its glory and all neighbors envied them.

Carol took off her gloves when she saw Therese approaching her and put them next to the seeds on the ground. “Did you call me?”

“Yes.” Therese was still a bit out of breath for she had run through the entire house to find Carol. “Rindy is on the phone.”

“Oh.” Surprised, Carol stood up, beating the dirt from her green apron. “But she said she would call tomorrow, didn’t she?”

“Yes, but you know your daughter. She spontaneously decided to drop by today.” Therese removed a small branch that had gotten tangled in Carol’s hair.

“Today? We wanted to clean the house before she comes.” Carol was clearly less flexible than Therese considering the spontaneous ideas of her daughter. She had her principles and was sometimes hard to be dissuaded from them. Taking big strides, she walked to the house so that Therese had difficulties following her.

“I’m sure she won’t mind,” Therese panted. “Do they clean at all in her commune?”

“That’s bad enough,” Carol muttered, taking off her shoes on the patio before she entered the house. But as soon as she heard her daughter’s voice, Carol’s mood changed immediately. “How are you, my darling?” she asked, full of joy. “Therese said you want to drop by? You know that you’re always welcome here.”

Therese decided to withdraw to the second floor and start the cleaning. A tidy home wasn’t as important to her as to Carol, but she knew how unpleasant her partner felt when they had visitors and not everything was in place. This was also true for Rindy’s visits, although mother and daughter had had arguments for years because Rindy’s room had always been so untidy that she usually wasn’t able to find things. Rindy’s room at her father’s place had been in an even worse condition, because Carol at least tried to negotiate with her daughter.

First of all, Therese entered the big room she had repurposed as a workroom and put all the scattered photos into their boxes. Even though she was still working as a freelancer at the New York Times, she had dedicated herself more and more to artistic photography and could almost made a living from the income. Several exhibitions in New York City and its environs had helped her to make a name for herself. The New Yorkers seemed to like her photos, maybe because she loved to take pictures from everyday life that people could identify with.

Nevertheless, Carol was still the main earner in their household. She had worked her way up to the top step by step and was now an executive at a big furniture house. It was her money that they had used to buy this house on Long Island one day. With its huge backyard and its marvelous location near the sea, they were both very happy that they had gotten it just at the right moment.

After Therese had also put the cameras back into the vitrine, she went next door to the bedroom, put the books on the nightstand back on the shelves and the brushes and cosmetics into the drawers. Then she cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed the entire second floor. Only Rindy’s room remained untouched, since the young woman didn’t like it when they changed things there.

When she put the vacuum cleaner back into the storage room, Carol was still talking to Rindy. What did they have to speak about for such a long time? Therese had always been discreet but she couldn’t help hearing Carol’s words when she passed her on her way to the kitchen. “Then we’ll put clean sheets on the bed in the guestroom. That’s not a problem,” she heard Carol saying. “No, that’s no trouble at all, Rindy. Your bed is too small for the two of you.”

Did Rindy intend to bring a friend with her? Maybe somebody from the commune? It hadn’t been easy for Carol when Rindy had joined the flower power movement last year. By now, she lived in a shared flat in a commune near Philadelphia, where so many people moved in and out that Therese had given up on remembering their names.

Carol and Therese had spent countless evenings on their sofa in the living room discussing Rindy’s new lifestyle. People talked about the danger of drugs and excesses all the time, and Therese understood why Carol felt as if Rindy had moved directly into the lion’s den. But when they talked to her on the phone or when she visited them, Rindy was the same as always, apart from her new clothing style. “She’s young,” Therese had said to Carol. “If you are the daughter of a business man, you may need a flower power phase to find yourself.”

“As long as the phase doesn't last too long ...” Carol had whispered into Therese’s hair. “Why doesn’t she take classes instead of joining one demonstration after the other?”

Even though Therese agreed with Carol, she was also glad that Rindy took the chance to experiment. Carol had never had that possibility. From the outset, she had been raised to marry a rich man, have children, and run a household. “It would have been better for you if you’d had the chance to discover who you were and what you wanted,” Therese had pointed out.

“But then Rindy wouldn’t exist and I never would have met you either.” Carol had pressed a tender kiss on Therese’s lips and like most of the time this discussion had ended with them falling asleep on the sofa.

“Rindy will arrive in the evening and bring a friend with her,” Carol’s voice called from the living room. “How about a vegetable gratin?”

Therese peeped out of the kitchen door. “Can you make the gratin and I’ll take care of the guestroom?” she asked with a charming look. It wasn’t a secret that Carol’s art of cooking was much more pronounced than hers.

“Of course.” Carol walked to her and kissed her on the forehead. “You know how much I hate to put clean sheets on a bed.”

It was indeed mostly Therese who used to take care of the guestroom, even when one of Carol’s friends visited them, like Abby or Jeanette for instance. But Therese was very pleased with this kind of labor division and pulled Carol in for a real kiss. Carol’s face was glowing and her eyes were shining deep blue in a way they usually only did when they were making love. “You’re delighted, aren’t you?” Therese tenderly ran her fingers through Carol’s white hair. “We will spoil Rindy and her friend. You’ll see.”

Carol’s fingers slipped under Therese’s pullover and started to run up and down her spin. “Let’s go to bed again,” she whispered into Therese’s neck.

“What? Now?” Therese stopped breathing when Carol’s fingers slid down into her panties. “But …”

“They won’t arrive before six and who knows how long they will stay.” Carol’s tongue tickled Therese’s ear. “I want to have you for myself for a little while before all hell breaks loose.”

It didn’t take much to persuade Therese. They dropped everything and only moments later the bedroom that Therese had just tidied so carefully was cluttered with their clothes. A shoe here, a bra there – Carol was in a hurry and Therese gave her all too willingly what she needed. “I love you, Carol,” she whispered tenderly. “As if I stand in a desert and you are raining down upon me.”

Carol was breathing hard under her, legs spread, her fingers digging into Therese’s back. “Don’t stop,” she moaned. “Please.”

“You. Always you … here and everywhere,” Therese whispered, holding the trembling Carol tightly in her arms.





* * *






They got lost in their lovemaking for two hours and accordingly, they had to really hurry up afterwards to make up for the lost time. After they had cooked, tidied, vacuumed, dusted, set the table and prepared the guestroom and the backyard in record time, their faces were so heated and their clothing soaked that they both had to take a quick shower before Rindy pulled into their driveway.

Rindy’s hair was longer than last time which made her resemblance with her mother even more evident. She wore a batik dyed orange-yellow t-shirt and flared pants where she had embroidered several colorful flowers. With a loud bang she shut the door of her white Ford and threw herself into the arms of her mother.

A bit hesitatingly, the passenger’s door opened too and a slim young woman with blue eyes and black curls got out of the car. She too wore a batik shirt, but with blue-green shades, and a bright blue skirt that reached down to her ankles. Since Rindy and her mother were still in each other’s arms, Therese walked to the young woman, reaching out her hand. “You must be Rindy’s friend, right?”

“Yes, I am.” The woman returned Therese’s handshake, glancing at Carol and Rindy with a slight smile. “And you must be Therese.”

Finally, Rindy turned around and also hugged Therese tightly. “Mom, Therese, this is Hannah,” she introduced her friend. “I think we can skip the formalities.”

Carol nodded and shook Hannah’s hand. “I’m Carol,” she said, smiling cordially. “Welcome to our home, Hannah.”

Therese followed Rindy to the car trunk and helped her carrying the luggage into the house. “I’ll bring Hannah’s stuff to the guestroom, okay?”

Rindy put down her suitcase and turned to Therese. “Why the guestroom? I told Mom that we would sleep in my room.”

Therese looked at Carol and Carol at her daughter. “Let Hannah stay in the guestroom, Rindy. Your bed is simply too small for the two of you,” Carol started but Rindy just rolled her eyes and gave Hanna a hint that she should follow her to her room.

“That’s nice of you, Mom, but we’ll manage,” she informed her and carried the luggage to the second floor without another word.

“Great. I’m glad I made such an effort to prepare the guestroom,” Therese stated dryly when Carol stepped next to her, wrapping an arm around her.

“Our daughter has a mind of her own,” Carol sighed.

“Which means we did everything right.” Therese‘s smile disappeared when she realized how close they were standing. What if Rindy hadn’t brought her friend into the loop? Carol sensed Therese’s discomfort and pulled her even closer.

“If Hannah hasn’t known it before, she knows it now,” she whispered and with that Carol considered the matter closed.

Ten minutes later, Rindy came downstairs and joined Carol and Therese in the kitchen. “Oh, that smells good,” she commented, closing her eyes in pleasure. “I’m starved.”

“You’ll have to be patient for twenty more minutes.” Carol beamed at her daughter as if she was a vision. She was always so happy when Rindy visited them that Therese wished it would happen more often. She had taken Rindy into her heart too and missed her almost as much as Carol did. “Can we get you a drink?” Carol asked.

“Yes. Do you have Ginger Ale?”

Carol shook her head about her daughter in amusement. “Sweet pea, when you visit us we always have Ginger Ale.”

Rindy gave both women a kiss on the cheek. “I have the best mothers in the world, just in case I haven’t said it often enough.”

“You can’t say that too often.” Therese laughed and poured Rindy a glass of Ginger Ale. “How was the drive?”

“It was okay.” Rindy sat down at the kitchen table and watched Carol and Therese washing the dishes. “We were just a little bit late because Hannah likes to sleep long in the morning.”

“Another reason why you should sleep in two different rooms.” Carol couldn’t help the comment. “You’ve always been an early bird.”

“Mom, please, leave it,” Rindy moaned, half in earnest, half in jest. “I’m really grateful that I still have my room for visits and Hannah likes it, too. She’s taking a quick nap in my bed.”

“Is Hannah one of your roommates?” Therese asked while putting the cleaned bowls back into the cabinet.

“No, she lives in the shared flat next to us,” Rindy explained. “But she will move to our place soon.”

”From the apartment next door to yours?” Carol raised her eyebrows.

“Yes, she’s not really getting along with her roommates. And besides …” Carol and Therese exchanged glances when Rindy hesitated. “Besides … we are together, Mom.”

“Oh my God.” Carol slumped down on the chair next to Rindy. “Are you serious?”

“Why?” Rindy looked at her puzzled. “Why wouldn’t I be serious?”

“Because … because …” Carol gestured through the air. “You can’t just waltz in here and tell us you’re in love with a woman.”

“Why not?” Rindy got more and more confused. “You are, too.”

“That’s something completely different,” Carol said harshly.

“Oh, yes? Why?” Rindy became indignant too now.

“You … you have no idea what that means. You’re much too young to foresee …”

“I’m the same age Therese was when she met you, Mom,” Rindy objected. “And I don’t get the problem at all. I love Hannah and I was hoping that you would be glad for me because I’ve found a person who means something to me.”

“Of course we’re glad,” Therese tried to explain. “But …”

“But what?” Rindy interrupted her. “I’m not gay, by the way. These kinds of pigeon-holes don’t make any sense anyway. It isn’t the gender that counts, it’s the person. As you know I’ve fallen in love with men before, but this time it’s a woman. And I thought if somebody understands this, it would be you.”

Therese looked into Carol’s pale face and then at Rindy’s reddened one and decided that de-escalation would be the only reasonable strategy now. “Hold on, Rindy,” she said and pulled Carol up from the chair. “We’ll be back in a minute.”

“Okay.” Rindy had tears in her eyes and Therese cast a glance over her shoulder, indicating that she should stay calm. In fact, it seemed to work because Rindy leant back in her chair and took another sip of her Ginger Ale.

“My goodness, this child,” Carol groaned when they stepped on the patio. “Can’t she just skip something, just once?”

Therese silently linked arms with her and took a walk with her through the backyard. From time to time Carol wiped a tear from her eyes but she seemed to calm down eventually. “What are you afraid of, Carol?” Therese asked after a while.

“Isn’t that obvious?” Carol looked up at the sky as if she would find a solution there. “Do you really want for our daughter to have to live like us?”

“No.” Therese shook her head. “But things have changed.”

“Yes, maybe in that hippie commune.” Carol searched for a tissue in her pocket and blew her nose. “But the world outside is still as narrow-minded as before. A few flower children crowding the streets won't change that.”

Therese was silent for a long while and gently pushed Carol down in the swing under the apple tree. “Do you know what I think?” she said, putting her hands on Carol’s shoulders. “I think that you’re afraid because you have suffered so much. I agree that this won’t make Rindy’s life easy, but I also know how exhilarating it is to be with a woman.” She bent down to Carol and kissed her pale forehead.

Carol stared wordlessly at the forsythia branches she had cut a few hours ago, but Therese knew that she had hit the mark. For years, they hadn’t talked about the whole divorce proceeding nor about the therapy Carol had had to undergo and the humiliations and emotional pain associated with it.

They hadn’t deliberately avoided talking about it but it just hadn’t been important anymore. Carol had taken a lot of effort in putting her old world behind her and they had built something new together. They had a nice life and were happy with each other, and Therese was grateful for every day she could live on this earth. She knew that Carol felt the same, even though on some days some kind of melancholia came over her that she herself couldn’t fully explain. But mostly it was gone by the next day and life went on.

Carol’s friend Jeanette had told Therese many times how much Carol had changed since the divorce, how much happier she seemed and how much she had blossomed. And Carol showed Therese every day how much she loved her. She liked to give her little presents, just to make Therese smile and she never ran dry of ideas to please her.

So maybe this was just one of those days when Carol’s old life came around the corner, ambushing her. “I love you, Therese,” Carol said quietly. “What would I do without you?”

Therese bent down towards her and kissed her. She didn’t often have the chance to be the taller one and took advantage of it thoroughly. “The question is rather, what would I do without you,” she whispered, pressing Carol’s face into her lap while she tenderly ran her fingers through her hair. Carol was still as beautiful as she had been when Therese had seen her for the very first time in the toy department. She had just gotten older and her face had gotten even more expressive.

“You probably would live somewhere in Paris with Richard Semco, raising many little Frenchmen,” Carol muttered into her lap.

“Oh my God, no!” Therese laughed. “I wouldn’t want to change my life for anything in the world.”

Carol looked up to her. “Me neither,” she said and pulled Therese down into such a sensual kiss that it took her breath away.

“In spite of everything?” Therese asked when she had regained her breath.

“In spite of everything.”

“Then give your daughter the chance to find her own way.”

“All right, all right, I got it.” Carol raised her hands defensively. “Let’s go back and take care of the gratin.”

But Therese wasn’t satisfied yet. “Are you really okay, Carol?”

“Yes,” she said with a firm voice. “I’m okay.”

Hand in hand they walked back to the house and then Carol had a serious talk with her daughter, while Therese took care of the gratin and the dessert. It was the first time that Carol told Rindy about the therapy sessions, about the current impulses, and the therapist’s attempts to guide her back on track so that she could be an appropriate and decent mother for her daughter.

Rindy was shocked and hugged her mother tightly. “I’m fine, really,” Carol assured her. “It’s all in the past but I’m sorry I overreacted. You know that I’m usually not that way.”

“Exactly.” Rindy poked her in the ribs. “That’s why I didn’t get why you freaked out.”

“I didn’t freak out,” Carol objected indignantly.

“Yes, you did,” Rindy teased her.

“Therese, did I freak out?” Carol turned to Therese who preferred keeping her mouth shut.

Instead, she showed them the fragrant vegetable gratin. “What do you think?”

“Mmmmhhh.” Rindy’s hunger came back quickly. “I’ll get Hannah. She’s probably still sleeping.”





* * *






It felt kind of strange, sitting at the table with Rindy and her girlfriend and Therese felt a little bit like in one of these new-fangled comedies that were running on TV lately. Fortunately, Hannah was a wonderful person who Therese and Carol became very fond of over the next days. She just bubbled over with ideas and drive which did Rindy good who sometimes liked to take each day as it came.

Both of them complimented each other wonderfully and even Carol had to admit that they were a beautiful couple. Besides, as a women, Hannah fitted much better into their everyday life than if Rindy had brought a boyfriend to their house.

“That still can happen,” Therese warned, laughing at Carol’s disapproving look.

“I hope not. I’ve just gotten used to the new situation.” Carol pointed at the sofa where Rindy and Hannah cuddled with each other. “They are so cute together, but I have to admit that I would love to have our sofa back from time to time.”

“Why don’t we change the room next to Rindy’s into a comfortable living room? We’re only using it as a storage room anyway.” Therese suggested. “Then they could cuddle there whenever they want to and we would have our sofa back.”

“You always have the best ideas, my angel,” Carol chuckled. “Even though I’m the one in the business.”

“That’s why you will be the one who takes care of the room’s design,” Therese stated with a wink.

“Oh no, that will be up to them.”

“Do you really want to have a multi-colored room with peace-signs on the wall up there?”

“It’s their room, so they should furnish and arrange it,” Carol explained matter-of factly. “And when they decorate the walls with Easy Rider posters, I’m fine with that.”

Therese looked at her suspiciously. “You just want to have your daughter here more often.”

“Touché.” Carol smiled, reaching for Therese’s hand. “And I want them to feel comfortable here.”

“And you want your sofa back.”

“Yes, that, too.” Carol sighed dramatically. “Do you think I want too much from life?”

Therese silently touched her forehead with Carol’s. “You can never want too much from life.”

“But I want you as well.”

“You have me already.”

“But I want you over and over again.”

“And you get me over and over again.”

Carol stroked Therese’s cheek with her hand. “Did I tell you today that I love you?”

“Yes, but not often enough.” Therese smiled. “And I love you, too.”

And so it happened that Rindy and Hannah were provided with two rooms on the second floor that both of them decorated to their hearts’ content. Of course, their project got around among their friends and soon Rindy and Hannah brought people from the commune with them who seemed to feel quite comfortable at Carol’s and Therese’s home. Luckily, most of them were nice and polite people who Carol and Therese liked to have as their guests.

Nevertheless, they both were glad when Rindy pronounced that Hannah and she would take law classes at university. “The world needs more justice, and I can only fight for it if I know the law,” Rindy explained, sitting down on Carol’s lap.

“What are you up to?” Carol asked suspiciously.

“Dad refused to support me. He said he wouldn’t pay for that ‘law crap’,” Rindy explained, playing with Carol’s necklace. “Would you support me with money? At least a little bit?”

Carol exchanged a look with Therese. “Of course, sweet pea. We can limit ourselves a little bit.”

“You two are the best!” Rindy shouted with glee, wrapping her arms around her mother. “You will see I will make you both proud.”

“That’s not possible.” Carol smiled.

“Why not? Don’t you think I’m capable of that?” Rindy looked at her, taken aback.

“Yes, we do,” Therese responded, walking over to Rindy and Carol. “But we are already proud of you every day.”

_________________
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