Cabin off Route 77
“John, where are you?”
As Evangeline sat in the car, she just kept going over the last couple of days. John wouldn’t have just disappeared, so he had to be hurt. What if he was somewhere and he couldn’t take care of himself? What if he couldn’t remember? She got out of the car and sucked in some deep breaths. What if Natalie had something to do with John not coming home? Evangeline had done all she could to help her in the past, but she didn’t know how she’d react if Natalie did have something to do with this.
She’d promised she’d stay in the car, but she knew that Antonio meant that she couldn’t be part of the questioning. With that in mind, she decided that she’d just take a little walk. She’d been in the area too many times to remember. The last time had been late fall with the kids. During the twins’ fall break, John and Evangeline had decided to take them hiking, which was always interesting with the twins. She smiled when she remembered the two of them wrestling with their dad after they’d had lunch.
Evangeline walked down the path beside the cabin glancing at the door that Antonio had just entered. She would have a good 15 minutes before Antonio was through if Natalie knew nothing and more if she did, but she couldn’t just sit in the car with her thoughts. She thought about the twins as she found a large stone along the path. She sat down, pulled her knees up and rested her arms across them.
She didn’t realize she was crying until she felt the teardrops fall onto her arms. This was the first time since everything started that she’d been completely alone away from the house. She and the twins missed John so much, she didn’t know how much longer she’d be able to stand him not being at home with them.
“Natalie, do you mind if I talk with you a little more?”
“Look, Antonio, don’t you think if I had any idea where John was, I would have told you?”
“Natalie, I’m not calling you a liar. I just have a feeling that you know something and are holding back.”
Natalie looked at Antonio and could see he was watching her carefully. She found herself controlling her emotions. She had to stay calm. He couldn’t see that she was rattled by his questions.
“You have company?” he asked.
“I told you I was up here alone. Why do you keep asking me the same questions? I told you I’m alone. I needed to get my life together,” Natalie said sharply.
“Well, if that was the case,” Antonio asked,” why are there two glasses and two plates on the table?”
“I didn’t put up the dishes earlier from my first meal. I’m just not that neat.”
“Strange, Jess told me when we were dating what a neat freak you have always been. Has that changed?” Antonio asked.
“No, I’ve just been distracted. Can you understand that? My life is in shambles. I lost the love of my life. Can you cut me some slack?” she asked.
“Natalie, I wish I could but I get the feeling you are keeping something from me. I would hate to think you knew where John was and wanted to keep that truth to yourself.”
“Antonio, what kind of person do you take me for? John has a wife and family. How could I live with my self if I kept them apart? Why would I even want to?” she said, trying to sound convincing.
“I don’t know? I do know that you have approached John on several occasions hoping for some type of connection. This has been since your marriage and his,” Antonio said. He had to be relentless to find out what she knew, even though he hated it.
“Now that would be stupid. I was at his wedding. I saw how he felt about Evangeline. I would never try to come between John and his wife. I can’t believe you think I would do that.”
“I don’t, but I have to ask myself why it upsets you so much. I mean if you have nothing to hide then you should be calm and you’re not. As a matter of fact, you look nervous. Am I keeping you from something?”
“No, you are not. I am just trying to understand what you are trying to get at. Just come out and ask me what you think I know?” she said, flinging her hair back and looking defiant.
“Well since you asked, have you seen John since the accident?” He watched her carefully. She seemed unable to keep eye contact during their conversation.
Natalie’s eyes got bigger and she yelled, “Get out! I won’t keep telling you the truth since you won’t believe me anyway. I don’t know where John is.”
“Natalie, calm down. Listen, I have very few leads and I’m following my gut here. It is telling me that you know something. If you tell me now, I can help you. But if you’re keeping something from me, I can’t promise you what the outcome will be.”
John did feel more comfortable after he’d walked for a few minutes. He thought he’d heard a car pull up but he wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. He knew he should probably try since he wasn’t sure what would bring his memory back. He took a deep breath and turned back toward the cabin. He took a different route since he was in no hurry to get back.
As he was headed up a different trail, he saw a woman sitting on the rock he usually did when he was watching the sun go down. He wasn’t sure, but there was something familiar about her. He wasn’t getting any flashes of memory, but he had a feeling in the pit of his stomach that he knew her somehow. He could only see her profile, but something about her caught him off guard. It took him a few moments to realize that she was crying. He had taken a few steps toward her when she turned and looked directly into his eyes.
“John,” he heard her say and then flashes of memory started hitting him so fast that he fell to his knees, holding his head.
Evangeline was allowing the tears to flow when she heard the rustle of twigs. She turned toward the sound and saw John. She thought she was hallucinating then realized that he was real. Her breath caught for a moment and then she said his name. As soon as the word left her mouth, she saw him collapse. She jumped from the rock and raced to his side.
He was holding his head with his eyes closed and it looked like he was in excruciating pain.
“John, what’s wrong?”
When he didn’t answer her, she wrapped her arms around him and maneuvered him so that he was resting his head in her lap.
“Honey, it’s going to be alright. I have you,” she said as she ran her fingers through his hair and rubbed his arm and chest. She didn’t want to leave him, but she needed to get him to the hospital. She needed to get Antonio.
“John, I’m going to get Antonio so we can get you to the hospital. I’ll be right back.”
As she was about to move, John caught the hand that was lying on his chest.
“Don’t go,” he said without releasing her hand or opening his eyes.
“John, I’m not leaving you. I just need to get you some help.”
“You’re all the help I need,” he said finally opening his eyes and looking at her. She smiled at his comment and then he continued, “I just remembered everything.”
“What do you mean?”
“I lost my memory in the accident. I’ve been up here for the last few days being lied to.”
“John, what are you talking about?”
“Natalie lied to me. I should have known, but I didn’t. I knew something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was like it was right in front of me and I couldn’t reach it.”
“John, you’re rambling. What are you talking about?”
“Natalie told me that I was her husband.”
Natalie moved away and walked toward the bay windows, and looked out at the skyline and said, “You are asking me to admit to being a monster. What kind of person would keep a man a way from his family and everyone who loves them? How would that be possible? Wouldn’t the man want to go back to his family? Wouldn’t he insist on going home to those he loved? To say I did would be to admit I’m either desperate or crazy. I’m neither. Antonio, please leave. We have nothing more to say.” She stood looking out the window with her back to him.
“Natalie I hear you. I want to believe you. But I don’t believe John is dead. What I envision in my head is seeing him hurt. Maybe someone took care of him. If that is true, I can work with that. If however I find out that he was kept against his will then I won’t be able to help that person. Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?” Antonio tried one last time to break through to her.
“Yes. Now you can go. We have nothing more to say,” Natalie said quietly. She was not giving John up just yet. She needed more time.
“She told you what?” Evangeline asked running her hand over his head. Evangeline kept telling herself that he was real and that he was with her.
John in very concise terms gave Evangeline the details to what had been going on for the past few days.
“I knew something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t remember and she sounded so convincing.”
“This isn’t your fault, but what could she have been thinking? What would make her think that she’d be able to keep you from your family?”
“I don’t know. She tried to get close to me a few times, but it just didn’t work for me. I felt you.”
“I could smell “Flowers in Springtime”. I could hear the kids’ laughter. I knew something was wrong. I just couldn’t put it together.”
At his mention of the kids, Evangeline smiled.
“What’s that smile for?”
“You’re alive and you’re coming home. The kids are going to be so relieved to see you.”
“How are the kids? What do you mean I’m alive?”
“The kids are okay. There was a possibility that you could have been killed. The police have been looking for you since the accident. I knew in my heart that you hadn’t been killed and the kids have been talking about all these things they want to do when you get home. They’ve had a hard time with you not being there but they’ve been doing things to get their mind off it. Lyn has pulled out all the tools you guys need to finish her dollhouse. Johnny is waiting for you to get back so the two of you can practice his curve ball.”
She stopped to catch her breath, as fresh tears rolled down her cheeks. John reached up to cup her cheek and stroke it with his thumb. She continued after a few minutes of enjoying his touch, “Selena came to town to help with the investigation. She and Antonio came up here looking for you earlier and they got suspicious of Natalie. Antonio was coming back to her and I told him I was tagging along. I’m so glad I did.”
He pulled her to him for what felt like their first kiss. They’d come home.