“I’ve never stopped; I simply forgot that I love you. However, every time I look at you I’m reminded of how I can never stop loving you.”
Months had passed since Nick’s traumatic accident. Esmée had never been allowed back, his parents had taken legal guardianship over him due to his impaired ability to care for himself following severe physical injuries, several surgeries and debilitating amnesia. The court ruling prevented Esmée from doing anything about it. At first she tried to fight Nick’s mother and see him anyway, but it became too hard for her when he would not even remember her, she eventually stopped trying after suffering a nervous breakdown, and ending up in the hospital herself.
A young man was knocking on a window from the outside, another young man opened it from inside, his movements stiff and choppy like those of an old man.
Months ago, since the release from his long term stay in the hospital, Nick had been moved back into his parents’ home, his original room was upstairs, but his still not fully healed injuries and wounds from various surgeries prevented him from climbing stairs so they had converted the former home office adjacent to the living room into Nick’s new room by simply adding a bed. The former downstairs office happened to be conveniently easy to climb into through the window for Ethan, as he had been doing for many months, every single day, and was doing now. Nick’s mother forbade his visits, so Ethan got inventive. They had not gotten caught yet.
“Hey man! How goes it?” asked Ethan as he was climbing in with strange familiarity of having done this hundreds of times by now.
“Can’t complain, except that I am starting to get callused all over my legs and ass from all the splinters I catch visiting you.” Ethan grinned, winking.
“Sorry.” Nick looked guilty.
“No no no, it was a joke. I was just teasing you, dude. Don’t you go getting another episode on me. You remember my name, right?”
“Ethan. Ethan Cameron. My best friend.” the answer sounded rehearsed.
“That’s right, very good! So, what shenanigans have you been up to today?”
“Nothing. More joking. I forgot not to use big words yet. How’s your day been is what I mean.”
“You don’t seem fine. What’s up? Spill it? Mommy dearest been harassing you with stuff again?”
“I want to use it. But I can’t. She won’t help me. I know there are answers. It would help.”
“Use what?” Ethan couldn’t make sense of Nick’s rambling.
“It!” he pointed to his desk.
“Oh your computer? Just turn it on. Want me to show you how?” Ethan asked patiently. Nick had already improved tremendously. The very beginning had been like dealing with a huge toddler. If not handled carefully to avoid too much frustration, Nick would have terrible meltdown episodes, and was very hard to calm back down.
“I figured that out. But it wants a word. I don’t know it. And mom won’t help.”
“It wants a word? Oh, you mean a password? Want me to try? Maybe we can figure it out. I have a good idea what it might be. Let’s see how well I know you, dude.”
Ethan sat down, turned on the machine and when the window appeared typed something, an error popped up.
“See.” Nick told him, resignation in his voice, but then looked on with his mouth open wide when Ethan’s next attempt didn’t fail.
“Voila!” Ethan smirked.
“How did you do that?”
“Told ya, I know you man. I’ll write down the word, but you have to be careful that your mother won’t find it, okay? Knowing her she’ll probably wipe the computer clean like she did with your phone.” Ethan made light of the situation when on the inside ice cold hands grabbed his heart and squeezed as he wrote down what incidentally was his sister’s name, as he remembered that his now so helpless friend once was a prolific computer guru, able to hack into even the most advanced firewalled systems within minutes, yet now had not been able to figure out the task of trying a few fairly obvious passwords.
“I know. I’ll keep it where I keep the other things she can’t see.”
“The other things? What other things? Look at you hiding stuff from mommy. Whatcha hiding? Naughty magazines?” Ethan teased, but it didn’t even generate a smile from Nick.
Instead he shook his head and looked sad, when he looked at the piece of paper with the password.
“That is … her, right? Her name?”
“Have you seen her again?”
“I see her a lot.”
“Are you … with her now? A couple.”
“No, man! She is my sister, remember? We talked about that yesterday. I am married to Amy. Remember Amy? She came with me a few days ago. The pretty redhead with the green eyes.”
“Very pretty. Her eyes are green, but her hair was black.”
“No, man, that is not Amy. That is Ezzy you are thinking of.”
“Yeah. Here. That is who you are thinking of, right?”
Ethan pulled up a photo on his phone of his twin sister Esmée.
Nick said nothing, but his reaction spoke volumes.
“It’s still in there somewhere, isn’t it, huh?” Ethan asked softly.
“Can you bring her … tomorrow?”
“No, sorry. I’ll come, like I do every day. But alone.”
“Nope. No Ezzy, just Ethan.”
“She does not want to come?”
“Probably not. But I won’t even ask, to be honest. Man, you are not doing well, I get that. This is harsh on you, but also on us. Especially on Ezzy. It just about broke her. She has gotten very very sick, mentally and physically after your accident and all. Your mother kicking her out of your penthouse, then she lost her job, because you didn’t work there anymore. Her entire life changed, just like yours has. She had a nervous breakdown, is barely stable now. Lives with our parents, for a while dad stayed home with her most days. She can be left alone again now, so she is getting better slowly. But getting you two together would be a very bad idea. I am not sure I could handle that. And I should probably not even be telling you this. Sorry.”
“I am so sorry. I do remember her .. a little bit … sometimes. I am trying Ethan. Really. But it’s like .. like…there is a wall… ” he became nervous and panicked, till Ethan held on to him, speaking calmly.
“Hey hey .. bro … calm down. Breathe. No need to get so worked up, it is what it is, okay? At least you remember me now. I just about lost my shit when I realized you didn’t and your mother wouldn’t let me see you. Not really ideal that I have to sneak in here like your secret lover, but hey, things you do for friends, right? At least we still have each other. And you know I am like herpes, I keep coming back no matter what you do or say. That won’t ever change.”
Nick fell apart, crying at Ethan’s shoulder, nearly breaking the young man’s heart. His big-mouthed, casual, athletic friend, once a bulldog of a lawyer, now crying on his shoulder like a toddler with a busted knee.
And nothing he could do about it other than what he had been doing. Fate really could be an asshole, Ethan thought. And poor Ezzy, too. His sister wasn’t in any better shape either.
“Hey quit it dude or this is going to turn into a cry-fest. You keep working on getting better, I know it is hard, but keep at it. You made so much progress already, you’ll get it all back in no time. And then we’ll all laugh at this one day, happy we all made it through okay. Mark my words.”
Nick broke into a small smile.
“I promise. And that I won’t forget. I want to get better. I need to get out of this house. My mother – I know she is trying to help, but she is suffocating me. I left a few times, but when I am outside I panic. I cannot remember anything and when I feel pressured I mess up everything. Even my name.”
“I know. Take your time. I’ll always be here for you, dude.”
The two young men and best friends hugged goodbye soon after.
“There she is!” Ethan exclaimed when he spotted the lithe figured young woman dressed in all black near the agreed meeting point of the local airport, then started running towards her.
You look great, sis!” Ethan embraced his twin sister, both holding on to each other longer than usual. They had always been close, they both had been through devastating and trying times, each trying to cope in their own way.
“So good to see you Ethan!” she told him now. While he couldn’t see her face as she was still holding him tight, he knew there now was a permanent sense of melancholy in her eyes that never seemed to fade, even when she smiled, a fact that tore on Ethan’s heartstrings, even though he said nothing.
“Let’s get you home! Knowing you, you want a shower and change, before even really talking to anybody.” he grabbed the handle of her suitcase and still holding on to his sister they started walking to the car.
“You know me too well. How’s Amy?”
“She is doing great! We’re both so excited. Can you imagine me as a daddy?”
“I totally can! You’ll be the best dad, Ethan. Just like our daddy. And grandpa.”
“I’ll try. Thanks sis!”
He turned away briefly and and missed the flash of severe pain in her eyes, which started clouding with tears, but by the time he turned back to her had all been replaced by the smile she wore to cover all this up.
While apparently joining her brother’s small talk on the car ride to Brindleton Bay, her mind was far away.
A different place, a different time. If only … yeah, if only things had not happened the way they had, she would be about as far along as Amy now. If only she could go back to that night. She had cursed herself so many times for her reaction then. She had been shocked and annoyed by the surprise pregnancy. Now she would give anything to have that baby. But she lost it. The loss of Nick had consumed her mind and body and evidently it had no longer felt it could support a pregnancy. She was all alone in a public bathroom when she went through the miscarriage. Nobody knew about it. Still to this day. Not even Ethan. Only her and the doctor she went to when she realized she was bleeding when she shouldn’t be. She remembered the feeling when he confirmed to her what she already felt inside. That was when she lost all hope and gave up trying. The next day she had a nervous breakdown.
All that had been many months ago, but it felt like decades. She felt old sometimes, not like in her early twenties.
She had moved away. Some stupid coincidence landed her in the show business of all places. She applied for an assistant position at some film studio, but someone scouting for a movie saw her, she fit the bill, was asked to try out and got the role. By then she had mastered faking her feelings so nobody would know what endless pain she had been in since Nick’s accident. Perfect precursor for an acting career, in an environment where nothing was real. For the most part she just functioned these days, like a programmed mechanical doll. Glancing at Ethan she remembered that he was still friends with Nick. And that Nick would be there later. A sharp pain shot through her entire body, but she didn’t let on.
Eerily, right into her thoughts about Nick, Ethan said quietly.
“You know he will be there too. Is that still going to be okay? If not, I am sure he would understand …”
“No, that’s silly. It’s all fine.” she lied almost convincing herself.
By the time the party rolled around, Ezzy played happy until she saw him arrive. With a woman. Of course he was dating. From Ethan she knew he was working again. He was still every bit as handsome as she remembered him. And charming, as she watched him open the car door for the woman he was with. That was too much for her to handle, so she snuck out into the yard, hoping nobody would come looking for her.
Inside there was laughter, eating, avid talking.
Nick was laughing at a joke when he saw her through the big window. The expression froze on his face.
He did remember her. Most of his memories had come back, few things remained blurry and some may be lost for good. But not her. He also remembered Ethan telling him her health was delicate. And that she had moved to Del Sol Valley. And he remembered his girlfriend, who was now stroking his arm, evidently talking about him to some other guests, so he flashed a smile, but the words were only a dull roar in the background.
Every fiber of him wanted to go talk to Esmée, but he was afraid what her reaction would be. He felt guilty. The accident had not been his fault. It had been dark and late that night, when he finally could sneak away from the client meeting. The driver of the 18 wheeler had suffered a stroke and lost control of the truck just seconds before Nick had turned on his blinker to exit. Five minutes from home was where the terrible accident happened. The driver of the truck had died instantly. Nick magically survived after he was pulled from a mangled car, but at a very high price. Her.
It took almost a year for enough of his memory to return to be self sufficient again. And then the other things started coming back, pieces of a puzzle at first, but when they started to make sense, it was awful for him. As soon as he realized what he had had with Ezzy, he tried to find her, only to find out the pain of losing him like this nearly killed her. A nervous break down, a severe eating disorder, a suicide attempt.
When at some time he noticed her slipping out the front door, he knew where she was going.
The breeze felt like a cool hand caressing the face as she stood by the shore listening to the ocean rumble. She noticed the smell of the salty air, more intensely than before, since she wasn’t used to it any more.
She sensed a presence and turned around, and knew instantly who the tall, dark outline belonged to.
The moon illuminated just enough of his face now for her to read the same uncertainty as she felt. Maybe there was just nothing left to say anymore.
She saw and heard him swallow hard, then his voice, quiet and raspy.
“You look good.” It was spoken like an observation, not a pick up line.
She never replied, only turned back around, her back to him, an inner turmoil brewing in her, afraid she’d cry.
“Please say something.” he begged, his voice only a whisper.
“I am seeing someone too, but he had to work and could not come.” she said, her voice quiet.
“I am sorry to hear that.” he replied. Debatable if he meant the fact that her presumed boyfriend couldn’t make it or that she had one in the first place.
When she said no more, he started again.
“I am sorry for how things ended with us. I never meant to …”
“Please don’t.” she cut him off.
“Can we try to … at least …. be able to talk? I am still your brother’s best friend …”
“There is nothing connecting us anymore, Nick. All buried in the past. No use waking the dead.”
“We could at least be friends. The three of us, like back when …”
“Nick. Please don’t. You know there is no way. Not after everything. I am only here for the weekend to celebrate the good news with Ethan and Amy.”
“I know a secret. Cole and Ava are expecting too. They haven’t told anybody yet.” he said casually, while inching closer to her. She noticed it, ignored it and let him.
“I am happy for them.”
“I .. umm .. we … ahem .. our …”
“Nick. Please don’t ask. There is nothing to talk about.”
“No. Not since about a week after your accident.” There. She told him without telling him.
“Oh gawd, I am so sorry. I feel like it is all my fault.”
“Nonsense. It is nobody’s fault. Just wasn’t meant to be.” her tone was purposely detached.
“Is there … a .. grave?”
“No. It was too early on. Just a memory. A faded one. Like all the rest.” A lie. nothing was faded to her, everything remained the same gaping wound it had always been.
“Ezzy .. it’s not just a memory… I…”
“Stop. And nobody calls me that anymore, except close family.”
“We are family …”
“We WERE family. That ended when I was erased from your life and finally returned your ring. Now you have Miss Thing. Shouldn’t you be getting back to her?”
“I am only going out with her to keep everybody out of my business. All I need is one word from you and she is history.”
“How convenient. A Do Not Disturb sign you can fuck at night.”
“Ezz… Esmée! I couldn’t find you. Nobody would tell me where you went. Either supposedly I wasn’t strong enough, or you weren’t .. or we both weren’t … I tried to find you. I swear!”
“Stop trying. This chapter is closed. Best to stay that way.”
He sat down on the couch, turned on the TV, flipping through channels till he found the one he was looking for.
When he finally saw what he had been waiting for, he smiled a sad smile. If anyone who knew him well enough were to look at him closely, they would have realized that he was far away now.
His smile was gone when suddenly the channel was changed. He looked behind him and saw his girlfriend with the remote.
“Turn it back.”
“I don’t want to watch that stupid ass movie! ‘The Perfect Celeb Cribs’ is on channel 543. That’s my favorite show!”
“TURN IT BACK! NOW!” his voice sounded deep and dangerous now.
“Watch that tone!” she snarled at him.
“GIVE ME MY FUCKING REMOTE NOW OR GET THAT ASS OUT OF MY CRIB!” he roared, ripping the remote out of the manicured hands of the stunned woman, as he flipped the channel back frantically.
“Is that your brain shit flaring up or something?! That is no way to treat your woman!”
He didn’t even react to her continued shouting, as he was staring at the words “The End” now on the TV screen.
Just like a sad and ironic reminder of his life, as he saw the end credits now list a familiar name as one of the main characters “Esmée Cameron”.