Strangers of the Past: Part VII
Posted on 27/08/2012
Both Marcus and Hapta sat on chairs watching Jonathan pace the entire floor of the hotel suite, occasionally sending each other worried glances when the quiet man covered his face with his hands or rammed his fingers into his already-disheveled hair.
“You should have a seat,” Hapta finally spoke through the strained silence in the room. Still, Jonathan didn’t give any indication that he’d heard them, strolling back and forth to gather his frenzied thoughts.
“John, drink something,” Marcus mumbled, standing to his feet and reaching for his brother-in-law’s arm. He clamped his mouth shut when Jonathan merely swiped his arm away and walked around the man. “You’ll need your strength,” he continued talking at Jonathan’s back.
Jonathan shook his head, his temple throbbing from the thoughts running in his mind. “How could I have not recognized her, my own wife? I heard her voice and it didn’t register…” he mumbled audibly, turning again to walk the length of the room. His heart twisted from guilt. “Even if she knew who I was, I didn’t recognize my own wife…”
“You couldn’t have expected her to be the first woman we met here,” Marcus replied in a gentle tone, still reeling from the shock of finding Hannah so quickly. He’d believed that she was close but not so soon.
His brother-in-law merely groaned, covering his face. He stopped in the middle of the room, breathing laboriously as if he’d just run several miles without rest.
Marcus exchanged a worried glance at Hapta who nodded and walked to the door, leaving the two men alone. Stepping over to Jonathan, he tentatively placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “It scares me too… that she is here. That she is alive and well.” They’d lost hope eight years ago of ever seeing her again.
“She has a family, Marcus…” Jonathan’s voice sounded broken and muffled against his hands. “You heard the man say it. Hannah has moved on without me and has a family. On her own.” He tried to swallow at the dry lump lodged in his throat. “She doesn’t know me… Doesn’t remember me.” Tears slid down his cheeks and he blinked, surprised at the tingling in his face.
His brother-in-law sighed, looking down at the carpet beneath their feet. If Hannah didn’t remember the love of her life and husband, what if she didn’t remember her twin sister or the rest of the family? Imagining his wife, Tampa’s disappointed and hurt expression twisted his heart. “It’ll be okay. We’ll figure something out.” He licked his lips. “Everything will work out,” he said again for both Jonathan and himself, squeezing the man’s shoulder for good measure.
“What did she do for a living?” Hapta asked after a long stretch of silence between them once they’d settled in their respective places of rest for the night.
Marcus stared at the ceiling, hands tucked under his head. “Doctor…”
Jonathan merely blinked into the darkness, face stained and sticky from his tears.
“Should we check the hospitals to find out more about her profession now?”
Marcus clucked his tongue. “I highly doubt Sunrise Tours is a hospital.”
“Well, you heard Francis say they rent vehicles… Maybe she’s renting one for her practice.”
“If she doesn’t remember me or anything about her old life,” Jonathan finally spoke, his voice sounding hollow in his own ears. “Maybe she doesn’t even remember being a doctor.” His heart twisted agonizingly, imagining his Hannah wandering about, not knowing her true identity.
Marcus nodded. “John’s right…” He sighed heavily. “Tampa’s going to freak out when I tell her.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t. If your wife boards a plane here and that woman sees her own face on someone else, we’ll have hell to pay,” Hapta mumbled begrudgingly. “Both your wife’s and hers. Double trouble indeed.”
Jonathan and Marcus threw a glare into the darkness.
Hapta grinned a second later. “I’m teasing. Calm down.” He sighed, shifting on the springy mattress. “What a successful day…” When the heavy silence replied, he chuckled. “Relax guys. Everything worked out today. We’ve covered some good ground so far.” He grunted when two pillows landed firmly on his person. “Goodnight, gentlemen. Our real work starts tomorrow.”
Marcus scoffed lightly.
Jonathan kept his eyes closed, tucking his own hands under his head and turned to stare blankly at the starlit sky from the open window of their hotel suite.
The next morning, Jonathan fluttered his eyes open to a silent room. Stifling a yawn, he lifted his head and scanned the empty space with a weary gaze. The pallet where Marcus slept was empty, the blanket folded on one edge. The mattress Hapta took was left untouched, the patterned bed sheet wrinkled and draped on one side. Sighing, Jonathan shifted his gaze to the folding door that led to a balcony and the view of the hotel’s adjacent building wall. A man clad in a simple printed shirt and shorts stood out on the balcony, back facing Jonathan.
Sitting still, Jonathan merely listened for the man’s voice amid the sudden chirping of birds perched on the balcony railing.
“Calm down…” the man muttered, his voice straining to remain gentle. “There is still plenty of time to find her.” He paused for a moment and then sighed. “He’s still sleeping…” Then just as his brother-in-law’s shoulders turned slowly, Jonathan braced himself.
The two men stared at each other and Jonathan managed a smile. Then the man by the balcony nodded. “Okay, hold on…” He lowered the phone from his ear and extended it. “It’s Tampa.”
Jonathan frowned at Marcus, now noticing his troubled expression. “Did you tell her?” he mouthed, now standing slowly to his feet, his bones still weary from the uncomfortable position on the floor.
Marcus shook his head mutely as his brother-in-law approached him. “She’s worried about you,” he mouthed back and handed the phone to him, stepping away from the balcony. “Hapta’s downstairs. I’ll take a shower and we can join him later.” He strode back into the room, leaving Jonathan staring worriedly at his wake.
Taking a deep breath, Jonathan put the phone to his ear. “Tampa…”
She sighed loudly. “Good, you sound okay. I was worried that Mark was lying to me.”
The corner of Jonathan’s mouth lifted. “Why would he do that?” He glanced behind him as Marcus picked up a duffel bag and walked to the bathroom.
“It doesn’t matter. How are you? Everything alright?”
Jonathan frowned, now wondering how much Marcus had told his wife about Hannah. “Yeah, I’m okay… How are the children?”
“Yours or mine?” Tampa asked, her voice lightening a little in humor. “Trouble… but they’re healthy and safe.” Jonathan could imagine the gentle smile on her face and quietly thanked his sister-in-law for being so strong for all of them. “They miss you terribly…”
“I miss them too.”
Tampa sighed. “John, do you think you guys will find her there?”
For some reason, Jonathan could tell this wasn’t the first time she’d asked this question and that he wasn’t the first person to be asked. “We’re doing our best… Just keep praying and hoping.”
“It’s all I do, John… What else could I do?”
Jonathan’s brows lifted as he heard the desperation rising in her voice. He clenched his jaw. “Don’t worry, Tampa. Just stay calm and be strong for the children. Tell them I love them and we’ll be home soon.” Their mother and I, we’ll be coming home soon… I promise you.
Over freshly toasted bread and squeezed orange juice, the clatter of a fork against a porcelain plate attracted curious stares from fellow hotel guests to the three men sitting together in the corner. Jonathan gaped at his brother-in-law from across the small table. “What did you say?”
Hapta was equally staring at his comrade. “Yeah, repeat yourself.”
Marcus remained unfazed by their surprise or the stares around them. He lifted the toast to his lips. “If she doesn’t remember us, we have to make her to remember.”
Jonathan frowned, feeling his heart stirring. “What does that mean, Marcus?”
“What do you think I mean? Hannah looked right through you and I, not recognizing any of us. We have to find out what happened and how to bring her back.” He chewed the crunchy bread, staring right back at them.
Hapta and Jonathan exchanged worried glances before Marcus sighed. “Look, I’m not saying it’s going to be a piece of cake. She’s very defensive right now and frankly, she’ll probably be suspicious of us.”
“What’s your plan?” Jonathan interrupted, his voice steady.
It was now Marcus and Hapta now exchanging looks.
“How do you plan on finding out what happened?” Jonathan continued, curling his fingers into his palms. He needed to know why his wife couldn’t recognize him, why his heart squeezed painfully when her gaze merely skipped over him when she’d once gazed dreamily at him before.
Hapta frowned in thought. “Why don’t we start at the hospital here? Find out—”
“It won’t be that simple,” Jonathan interjected, his brow furrowed deeply. “It will be suspicious that three tourists are asking around about one of their residents. We don’t even know her name…” At this admission, his stomach twisted painfully and he gently pushed aside the lukewarm juice in front of him.
Marcus nodded, understanding the look in his brother-in-law’s eyes. “Sunrise Tours is a tourist agency here.”
Hapta rolled his eyes. “We figured as much…” He picked at his teeth. “Do you think she’s a tour guide?”
Jonathan bobbed his head affirmatively. “Had to be…” He couldn’t wrap his head around his Hannah happily giving visitors tours of a country, instead of standing next to a surgery table ready to operate.
“I think there’s more to what Francis told us,” Marcus interrupted his thoughts. “Maybe we can ask him for her information to ask for penance for our crimes.”
“Crimes!” Hapta sputtered. “It was an honest mistake.”
“Of course but she doesn’t think so,” Marcus continued. “We can ask Francis for some information about where she works, and then of course her name so we can pay back for the inconvenience we caused her.”
Jonathan nodded. “I have a better idea…”
The two seasoned officers glanced his way and he began to speak, their eyes lightening up even as the other hotel residents grew bored, standing up to go about their day.
Marcus clapped his hand. “John, you’re a genius. What a fantastic idea! Why didn’t we think of that before?”
Jonathan shrugged. “It didn’t cross any of our minds… Sunrise tours, if she really works for them, then we could ask for a tour as a way to pay for our… mistake.”
Hapta was not so convinced and rubbed his chin. “So what you’re saying is that we find out information about Sunrise Tours, book a week-long tour under the pretense that we’re working on a travel documentary and we need an expert to show us everything, including history and personal stories about St. Lucia… and hope that she’s the one they pick as our guide?” He shook his head. “What makes you think they’ll pick her? What if she’s not someone they would recommend as the best?”
Both Jonathan and Marcus glanced once at each other and chuckled together. At Hapta’s annoyed expression, Marcus raised a hand. “Trust me, for the many years we’ve known Hannah… it’s only in her nature to excel. Even if she doesn’t remember anything, it’s in her genes to be the best she can be.”
“What if you’re wrong though?”
Jonathan nodded when Hapta narrowed his eyes at him. “I’ll take my chances…” He had to. His life depended on it. His heart did too.