A Whirlwind of Color Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Tuesday

Visiting hours were over.  Thank goodness.  I wanted to fall asleep, but I couldn’t make myself close my eyes.  It felt like I was in a horror movie, and as soon as I let my guard down I’d be taken.

Instead, I stared at the closed blinds.  All day long as random people visited me, my eyes had been drawn to the closed blinds.  Light had streamed through and I so badly wanted to be outside instead of locked in here.  I had never liked running, but for some reason I felt like I had years of pent up energy.  I wanted to run around campus with the wind in my hair.  It was an unfamiliar sensation and it made me start to wonder if everyone was telling the truth.  Because I certainly hated running.  But what if time had morphed into this alternate reality where I loved jogging?  I shook away the thought.  It couldn’t be true.  I couldn’t be missing seven years of my life.  I just couldn’t.

I continued to stare at the blinds.  I knew it was nighttime, but there still seemed to be light streaming through them.  How was that possible?  And I knew I was in a hospital, but the night didn’t sound right.  Like the blanket of sleep hadn’t reached anyone outside yet.  It sounded like there were cars still honking.  Like I was on Main Street during rush hour.  What hospital was I in?  Christiana, probably.  That was the closest one to campus.

I slowly stood up.  A nurse had unhooked me from everything earlier and said I was free to roam around the room.  That it would be good for me to start moving again.  That was probably why I felt the need to run.  No one had told me how long I had been in here, but it must have been awhile because my legs felt weak as I walked over to the window.

The sounds of a busy street were even louder as I drew closer.  I pushed aside the blinds to either side and stared down.  And down.  And down.  To a city street far below.  Yellow taxi cabs sped by, cutting off other cars, leaving so many horns blaring in their wake.  New York City.  There wasn’t a doubt in my mind about my current location.  What the fuck was I doing in NYC?  I took a step back, letting the blinds fall into place.

It’s just a bad dream.  None of this is real.  But when I reached out and opened up the blinds again, the same scene stretched out as far as I could see. 

I hated New York.  I hated the rude people and the lack of grass and fresh air.  Even if everyone was telling the truth and I was 26 and married to an old man, I knew this couldn’t be.  I would never in a million years move to New York City.  I hated it here.  I’d never do this.

I put my hand on my forehead.  I was losing my mind.  None of this was real.  None of it.  I took a deep breath and walked back toward my bed.  I needed to go to sleep.  And then I’d wake up from this nightmare.  Everything would go back to normal.  I’d ace my sociology exam.  I’d stand up to Austin.  And I’d be happy, albeit alone.  I’d much rather be alone for eternity than doomed to a life in NYC with a strange man and stranger friends.  I was used to being on my own.

Before I reached the bed, my feet stopped.  I looked over at the bathroom door.  Looking in a mirror would help me confirm that no time had been lost.  That I was still the 19 year old girl I knew that I was. 

I felt my hands tremble as I pushed open the door and flipped on the light.  I warily stepped in front of the sink and stared into the mirror.  I barely recognized my reflection.  Not that I looked that different.  Just small things that made me not recognize the person staring back at me.  My face looked thinner than I remembered, but that was probably just from my hospital stay.  My hair looked shinier and fuller than usual.  Which was odd because I had been lying in a hospital bed for God knows how long.  How did it look so good still?  It was also a little shorter.  Maybe the hospital staff had cut it.  That was something they probably did for patients, right? 

I touched the side of my left eye.  The small creases that cut through the skin by the corners of my eyes couldn’t be as easily explained.  I was probably just in desperate need of moisturizer.  But really, my complexion looked great.  I’d take the creases next to my eyes over the blackheads on my nose any day.  I leaned closer to the mirror.  My pores had never looked so clear.

Things like that didn’t just change overnight.  I swallowed hard and closed my eyes.  I’m imagining this.  It isn’t real.  I took a deep breath and opened my eyes, expecting my 19 year old self to be staring back at me once again.

But it wasn’t.  I wasn’t the same.  How was I not the same?  I reached out and touched the mirror, like I was about to touch someone else’s face.  But all I felt was the cold glass.  I stared at the tan line on my ring finger and removed my hand from my reflection.  My fingers left smudges on the clean surface. 

The tan line on my ring finger could be explained.  I was terrible with self tanner.  It always left streaks everywhere on my pale skin.  This was just one of those instances.  A classic Penny self-tanning faux pas.  Nothing a little scrubbing wouldn’t remove.

I looked down at my hands, arms, legs, and feet.  Everything else looked familiar enough.  Normal enough.  I was still me.

I touched my stomach through my hospital gown and froze.  My stomach felt bloated.  Very bloated.  It didn’t feel like my stomach at all.  I pulled up my hospital gown and stared in horror at the sight of myself. 

I had a small beer belly.  That was the only way to describe it.  There was a horizontal line with stitches beneath the protrusion.  And there were two other smaller lines with sutures on either side of my stomach.

What the hell had I been in here for?  I put my hand on my stomach.  For a second I thought maybe I looked this way because I was pregnant.  But that couldn’t be it.  I’d feel different.  I’d feel a baby inside of me.  It was something I’d always wanted, way way in the future.  And this was certainly not that time.  Even thinking about carrying Austin’s baby made me nauseous.  No, it wasn’t possible.  Absolutely not.  My parents would kill me.

Just the thought of disappointment on their faces made me know how impossible being pregnant was.  I’d never get pregnant out of wedlock.  I wouldn’t be able to handle upsetting them.  That was why I always followed the rules.  And got good grades.  And did everything I was supposed to do.  It was also why I was on birth control and made Austin use a condom.  No mistakes.  I lowered my hospital gown back down over my stomach.

I must have had something wrong with my intestines or liver or something.  Liver.  It definitely had to be my liver.  I’d drunk alcohol before I was 21 and this was my punishment.  When was the last time I had something to drink?  When was the last party Melissa dragged me to?  I doubted I had more than one beer either way.  Could that have made my liver fail?  Or maybe it had been two beers.  I couldn’t remember.  Either way, that was probably what did it.  And my stomach was swollen because of whatever the doctors did to fix my failing liver.  I was fine now.  No one said I was dying so they probably didn’t have to remove it.  They had just opened me up and poked around a bit.  Everything would go back to normal soon.  How important could a liver be?

Or maybe all of this was a bad dream.  A horrid dream and I’d wake up in the morning in my dorm room and everything would be okay.  I was just stressed out over finals.  Knowing me, I had probably fallen asleep in the library with my head in a book and was just dreaming away.

I stared at my reflection.  The reflection I didn’t believe.  It’s all in your head.  I switched off the lights.  It’s all in your head.  I climbed into bed and pulled the covers up to my chin.  It’s all in your head.  But I couldn’t erase the image of the city street below.  Or ignore the sounds of the cars.  Or the fact that a woman had stared back at me in the mirror.  Not the girl that I knew.

END OF CHAPTER 4

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A Whirlwind of Color Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Tuesday

One couple at a time came into my room and pretended to know me.  A me that didn’t exist.  A fabrication in their minds.  I knew who I was.  And I didn’t belong in this hospital bed surrounded by strangers.

They told me story after story, all which sounded made up.  And almost all the stories featured the man standing in the corner of the room, staring too intently at me.  James.  My make-believe husband.  Not once did a smile cross his face at hearing any of the funny memories.  Not once did his scowl disappear. 

I tore my eyes away from him and stared back at the couple in front of me.  A blonde with a kind smile and a man with dark eyes and dark hair.  They both looked tan like they had just been on the beach.  And they definitely looked older than me.  Cleary I wasn’t really friends with all these old people.  If this was some sort of prank, they should have hired younger actors.

The woman glanced nervously at the man and both their smiles disappeared.  I had been tuning them out.  Had they said something funny?  Something I should have laughed at or remembered? 

“First you two ruined my proposal and now my honeymoon too?  What am I going to do with you?”  The guy named Mason winked at me.

That explained why they were so tan.  They had been on their honeymoon.  But it didn’t explain anything else he said.  Or who he was.  Or why I was friends with either of them in this fantasy world.

“You just got married?” I asked.  “Congratulations.”  How the hell can I get out of here?

The woman started blinking fast, like tears were threatening to spill.  “Yeah, Penny.  You were my matron of honor.”

Matron of honor.  I stared at her.  So we weren’t just friends in this made up reality.  We were really good friends.  Best friends, possibly.  I shook my head.  I already had a best friend.  Where was Melissa anyway?

The woman put her hand on my blanket covered shin.  “Don’t you remember?”  Her smile wavered when I didn’t immediately respond.  She removed her hand like I had burned her and looked up at her husband.

He cleared his throat.  “I know Rob is desperate to see you.  He’s probably here by now.  We’ll go let him know it’s his turn.”

   I would have asked who Rob was, but I didn’t want to hear another story.  The two of them walked out of the room, leaving James and me alone.

I didn’t know where to look so I settled on my intertwined fingers.  I wished he would leave.  Then I could find a way to get out of this room.  The silence was heavy between us.  I could feel his eyes on me.  But I didn’t know what he wanted.  And even if I had known, I doubted I could give it to him.  I wasn’t who he thought I was.

But the silence was driving me insane.  “How long have we been married in this scenario?” I asked, while still staring at my hands.

He hesitated, his eyes boring into me.  “A little over four years.”

That was a long time.  Four years that I couldn’t remember because they had never really happened.  I wished he would stop staring.  I wished he’d leave me in peace.  “Did we date for a while before that?” I asked, trying desperately to vanquish the awkward tension in the air.  I had never been good in situations filled with awkwardness.  My mouth usually filled the silence with incoherent nonsense.  Or I’d just stay mute until the awkwardness felt physically painful.

“We were engaged for two and a half years.”

That was an odd way to answer that question.  I looked up from my hands.  “But how long did we date before our fake engagement?”

His eyes locked with mine.  “I proposed to you two months after I met you.”

I laughed.

He didn’t.

I bit the inside of my lip.  We’d been married for four years.  Engaged for two and a half.  And my mom had said I was 26.  Yeah, right.  I stared at him.  That would have meant that he proposed to me when I was 19.  The same age I actually was.  I racked my brain, trying to remember him.  But there was nothing there.  Because none of this was real.

Besides, who gets engaged when they’re 19?  Not me.  Certainly not me.  I had never even officially had a boyfriend.  Austin and his stupid lack of labels.  He was an idiot and surely even he wouldn’t propose to someone when he was 19.  But James was older than me.  That was obvious.  There was no way he had been 19 when he proposed in this twisted fairytale he was spewing.

I stared at him staring at me.  “How old are you?”

“Thirty four.”

Thirty four?  “You’re fifteen years old than me!”

The corners of his mouth turned up ever so slightly.  “Penny, you’re not 19.  You’re 26.  And you’ll be 27 in a few months.  You’ve always been pretty adamant about the fact that I’m only seven years older than you.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that you fake proposed to a 19 year old when you were what...27?”

“Yes, but you were 20, not 19.  It was after your birthday.  And none of this is made up.”

“That doesn’t make it better.”

The small smile had vanished from his face. 

“How did we even meet, huh?  I’m 19 right now and I’m seeing someone.  How could I be engaged to you after my next birthday?  And how would we have even met when you’re so much older than me?  I’m busy studying all the time.  None of what you’re saying could possibly be true.  This whole thing is ridiculous.”

“You’re not 19.”

“Yes I am!”  Tears pricked the corners of my eyes.  I didn’t want to cry in front of him.  “I am.”  I looked back down at my knotted hands on my lap.  I blinked fast, forcing the tears to stay at bay.  “You didn’t answer my question.”

“We got engaged because we were in love.  That guy that you think you’re dating right now?  Austin?  He’s a prick.  He never treated you right.  You deserved the world and all he gave you were excuses and lies.  You’re one in a million, Penny.  Not one of a million. Is it so hard to believe that you were strong enough to realize you deserved better?”

Yes.  Because I still stayed up late at night waiting for Austin’s calls.  Waiting for some validation that I was good enough.  One in a million.  Not one of a million.  That was sweet.  James thought I deserved the world.  He clearly loved me.  The word love seemed to roll my stomach.  I felt like I was going to be sick.  No, he didn’t love me.  He was just a good actor.  “I meant the other question,” I said, trying to distract myself.  “How did we supposedly meet?”

He didn’t respond, so I looked up at him.  There was heat in his gaze.  It was like he was willing me to remember.  But there was nothing there.  No recognition of his features.  No feeling when he looked at me.  Nothing.

“It’s a long story,” he finally said.

“I’m stuck in a hospital.  I probably have time for it.”

He shook his head.  “You didn’t like our age difference.  You’re not going to like this either.”

“How bad could it be?”  Maybe he just didn’t remember what he was supposed to say.  Actors forgot their lines all the time.

“I don’t think it’s bad.  And neither do you.”  He stared at me.  “Neither did you, I mean.”  But the expression on his face made it seem like it was really bad.

“What, did I steal you from someone else?”  I laughed because the idea was absolutely preposterous.

He lowered both his eyebrows.  “No.”

But for some reason I didn’t believe him.  Maybe it was the pause.  Maybe it was the way he looked offended when I’d asked.  Oh my God, did I steal him from someone else?  I shook my head.  Of course I hadn’t.  I didn’t even know him.  He was probably married to some Hollywood actress and obviously someone like me wouldn’t be able to steal him away even if I tried.  Not that I wanted to.  But still, I was curious about why he looked so upset.  It didn’t look like he was acting.

Before I could ask him any more questions the door flew open.

A man I had never seen in my life ran over to my bed and threw his arms around me.  His hair was wet like he had just taken a shower.  The t-shirt that clung to his broad shoulders was as wet as his hair.  Like he had thrown it on instead of drying off with a towel.

“You scared me half to death, sis.”  He kissed my cheek before pulling back.  “You look okay.  Do you feel okay?”  He pulled me into another hug.  “I’m so fucking happy you’re okay.”

Sis?  I wasn’t missing seven years of my life and there was no chance I had a sibling I didn’t know about.  Especially one older than me who looked nothing like me.

“Really, how are you feeling?”  He put both his hands on my shoulders and stared at me intently.

Who the hell is this person?  The intensity in his eyes suddenly looked familiar.  I studied his features and glanced at my pretend husband.  They looked similar.  Maybe this was James’ brother?  Which meant I was this man’s fake sister-in-law?  “Umm...I’m good.  Trying to get out of here as soon as possible.”  I laughed awkwardly.

“Yeah, I know how you hate hospitals.  But you’re awake and everything now so you’ll probably get out in a beat.  I’m just so fucking glad you’re okay.”  He pulled me into another hug.  “I never would have been able to forgive myself.” 

“Robert Hunter!”  A very pregnant woman stumbled into the room completely out of breath.  “I was trying to talk to you.”

“It can wait,” he said.  He released me from his embrace but kept staring at me instead of the pregnant woman.  “Scarlett’s doing okay.  She’s in the waiting room and I know she wants to see you.  And we’ve been looking in on Liam every day.  He’s strong.  I know he’s gonna make it.  You’re all fighters.”  He tapped the bottom of my chin.

“Who are Scarlett and Liam?”

His lips parted like he was about to tell me something.  But then he started laughing.  “Good one, sis.”  The pregnant woman walked up behind him and pulled him away from me with surprising strength.

She started whispering something to him, moving her arms around in agitation.

“No.”  He laughed.  “You’re shitting me.  Penny tell them what’s up.  Tell them you know who I am.”

Who is this person?  “Someone called you Robert Hunter?  I’m guessing you two are related somehow.”  I gestured back and forth between him and James.

He laughed again but it sounded forced.  “Very funny.  If you’re getting me back for all the times I’ve messed with you…”

“This isn’t a joke, Rob,” the woman hissed.  “She doesn’t remember us.  She doesn’t even remember James.”

Rob looked at James and shook his head.  “That can’t be true.  She’s just…that’s not true.  Tell them, Penny.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I just shrugged my shoulders.

“This isn’t funny,” he said.  “My jokes are at least funny.  Cut it out.”

“We’re just going to take a minute.”  The woman pulled Rob toward the door.  “We’ll be back.”  They disappeared into the hall.

I looked over at James.  “Are you related to him?”

“He’s my little brother.”

“He’s…loud.”

James smiled.  “He is.”

“Are him and I supposed to be close?  He seemed pretty upset.”

“The two of you are really good friends.”  James left his perch against the wall and walked over to me.  “My family and friends became yours.”

My heart started racing.  What was he about to do?

He eyed the machine that was monitoring my heart rate and smiled.    “Everyone you’ve seen today loves you.  But no one on this earth loves you as much as I do.”  He slowly reached out his hand and brushed his fingers against my cheek.

I flinched and he immediately pulled away.

The look of hurt on his face was palpable.  I hadn’t flinched when his brother had repeatedly hugged me.  Why had I flinched from his touch?  I needed to change the subject.  I needed to wipe away that look of pain.

“Who are Scarlett and Liam?” I asked.

The hurt seemed to grow tenfold.  His Adam’s apple rose and fell as he stared at me.

“Two people I should know I guess?” I said.

Tears formed in the corners of his eyes.  If I hadn’t been staring at him, I would have missed it, because he immediately blinked them away.

He cleared his throat.  “If you’ll excuse me for one second.  I just…I need a minute.”  He hurried away from me, like he couldn’t stand being next to me for another second.

I was left alone in the hospital room.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I rather liked being alone.

END OF CHAPTER 3

Come back next Tuesday to see Chapter 4!

***Ch. 4 now available HERE***

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A Whirlwind of Color Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Tuesday

A different doctor than the first one came into the room.  He looked much more professional with a white coat, hair graying at the temples, and a stethoscope dangling from his neck.  I instantly trusted him more than the other man.  And he didn’t hover unnecessarily close or make me feel uncomfortable in any way.  Except for his onslaught of questions.

“And what’s your name?” he asked.  The way he was staring at me made me think this was some sort of trick question.  But I had only ever had one name.

“Penny Taylor.”  Maybe I didn’t like him that much after all.  He was treating me like a child.  I knew my own name.  “Do you want me to spell that for you?”

He chuckled.  “No, that won’t be necessary.”  He looked down at his notebook.  “And the very last thing you remember is studying?” he asked.

I nodded, my mind stuck on what my mom had said.  Penny, you’re 26 years old.  I shook my head.  I’d think I’d remember if seven years of my life had flown by.  “So can I get out of here?  I really do feel fine and I have exams to study for.”

The doctor jotted something down in his notebook.  He looked up from his pages and smiled.  “We’ll get you out of here as soon as we can, Penny.  You have my word.”

“You can’t release her like this,” my mom said.  “What’s wrong with her?”

Her words stung.  There was nothing wrong with me.  She was the one that had lost her mind.  I glanced at my dad for reassurance, but he was staring at me with just as much worry etched on his face. 

Penny, you’re 26 years old.  The words swirled around in my head, refusing to settle.  I’m 19.

“I’m going to go talk to your family in the hall,” the doctor said.  “We’ll be back in a minute.  Sit tight, alright?”  He tapped my blanket covered foot and walked out the door with my parents.

This was just some sort of bad dream.  I hadn’t been sleeping that well.  Austin had blown me off the past few nights, claiming he was studying for finals.  But he never studied, his GPA was proof of that.  I knew what he was doing behind my back.  Who he was doing.  And he was slowly driving me insane.

I was fed up with his shit.  I was so sick of being his second choice.  We needed to have a serious conversation about what we were.  Again.  How many times had we talked about the same issues over and over again?  But I refused to go home for the summer without knowing where we stood.  That would definitely drive me mad.

Wake up.  I patted the sides of my face but the hospital room didn’t magically transform to my dorm room.  Melissa would know what to do.  She could tell everyone what was going on.  I looked at the nightstand for my cell phone but it was nowhere in sight.  The chairs by the bed were empty too.  My backpack was nowhere in sight. Damn it.

I looked down at the IV stuck in my arm.  I was just contemplating how much it would hurt to pull it out when the door flew open.

The first doctor came barging in, his eyes blazing with anger. 

“Penny, we’re leaving.  I’m taking you home.”

I shrunk away from him.  Why would he take me home?  My parents could do that.  I didn’t like this doctor.

“Everything’s okay.  Let’s just get you unhooked from these.”  He looked at the machine I was attached to, like he was trying to figure out what to do.  How inexperienced was he?

“Mr. Hunter,” my new doctor said as he came into the room.  His cheeks were flushed red with anger.

“Penny, you know I’m sorry.  You know that.  You know I’d never hurt you.”

I opened my mouth and then closed it again.  Who was this guy?  “I don’t know you.”

He ran his hands down his face.  “Baby.”  He sounded tormented.

But I was more focused on what he had said rather than how he had said it.  Was he talking to me?  I looked at my parents.  I didn’t think he was talking to them.  When I turned back to him, he was on his knees by the side of my bed.

“Baby, just let me take you home.  We can’t trust any of the doctors here.  They don’t know what they’re talking about.  We’re going to go home and everything’s going to go back to normal.”

“To normal?”  My heart was racing.  What normal was he referring to?  And how did it involve me?

He grabbed my hand.  “Yes, baby.  Tell him you want to go home.”

I pulled my hand away from him.  “I want to go back to school.  I have finals.”

“Penny.”  His voice broke.  “You’re not in school anymore.  You know that.  I know you remember.  You have to remember.”  He lifted up my hand again, tilting it toward me.

I stared down at my hand.  There was a tan line on my ring finger.  A line that would have formed from years of wearing an engagement ring.  Or a wedding ring.  Or both.  I looked back at the man on his knees, with the desperation on his face.  There were small crinkles around the corners of his eyes.  Lines that came with age.  He was…old.  Not old like my parents.  But certainly older than me.  Too old for me.

“I need you to remember.”  His Adam’s apple rose and fell.  “I need you.”

I felt like I was going to throw up.  How many times had I wished Austin would look at me the way this stranger did?  So why did his gaze just make me feel sick to my stomach?  I pulled my hand away from him and shifted away from him on the bed.

“Mom, Dad.  Can’t you just take me home?  Please?”

“Penny, the doctor thinks it’s best if you just go back to your normal routine,” my mom said.

“Then take me back to school…”

“Your normal routine with James.  And Scarlett.  Here in New York.”

“But not for a few days,” my doctor interjected.  “We’d like to monitor your progress.  Despite what your husband thinks, not every doctor affiliated with this hospital is out to get you.  You’re safe here.  And hopefully your memory will come back before you even head back to your apartment.”

I barely heard him.  I was completely focused on one word he said.  Husband.  I looked down at the tan line on my finger.  I was married?  I looked at the man on his knees again.  To him?

“Does that sound good?” the doctor asked.  “In the mean time, there are a bunch of people in the waiting room ready to help jog your memory.  Familiar faces and stories will be good.”  He cleared his throat.  “Not angry, harsh moments.  Pleasant fun ones.”  He was staring at…my husband. 

I swallowed hard.  “You’re not a doctor?” I said to him.

For a moment it looked like he was going to cry.  But then he lowered both his eyebrows.  He stared at me in a way that no one ever had before.  Like he hated me and loved me at the same time.  Goosebumps rose on my skin.

“No.  I’m not a doctor,” he said.

“What’s your name?”

“James.”  He pressed his lips together and stared at me for a moment, like he was willing me to remember.  “James Hunter.”  He looked at me expectantly, like his name alone would trigger a memory.

But I didn’t feel like I had anything to remember.  I felt like everyone here was wrong.  The doctor.  My parents.  This man kneeling beside my bed.  This beautiful, broken man.  I didn’t need to know anything more about him to know that he was so broken.  And even though I didn’t know him, I hoped to God it wasn’t my fault that he was like this.  Because I had no clue how to fix him.  I had no idea who he was.  And as soon as I was out of this hospital I was going back to school.  I had finals to take.  School was my number one priority.

END OF CHAPTER 2

Come back next Tuesday to see Chapter 3!

***Ch. 3 now available HERE***

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A Whirlwind of Color Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Tuesday

The incessant beeping of Melissa’s alarm clock was driving me nuts.  Why was she getting up so early?  I was the one with a 9 a.m. final.  I tried to ignore it, but now that I was awake I couldn’t fall back asleep.  “Melissa, turn it off,” I groaned. 

“Penny?  Penny, thank God.”  But it wasn’t Melissa talking.  It was definitely a man’s voice.

My eyes flew open and I stared at the man leaning over my bed.  Why was there a man in my dorm room?  Why was he so close to me?  My heart started pounding in my chest.  Jesus, where did I leave my pepper spray?  I reached toward my nightstand but my fingers came up empty.

The room came into focus and I quickly realized that I wasn’t in my dorm room at all.  And the beeping was coming from the machines surrounding me, not from Melissa’s alarm clock.  Was I in the hospital?  I sat up and silently cursed when the IV tugged against my skin.

“You’re awake,” the man said.

I turned back toward him.  He was my doctor I presumed.  But he looked like one of those doctors you’d see on primetime TV instead of in real life.  He was almost too perfect looking.  He wasn’t wearing a white coat, just a freshly pressed suit.  And he was much too close to me.  “What happened?” I asked.  “Where are my parents?”  I felt fine, but panic was setting in.  I didn’t remember how I got here.  Why didn’t I remember what was wrong with me?

“They’re in the waiting room.”  The doctor reached for my hand that wasn’t attached to the IV.

I pulled away from him.  What was he doing?

“Penny.”  He lowered his eyebrows slightly.

The way he was staring at me made me uncomfortable.  Like he could see right through my soul.  I tried to inch away from him, but I was already close to falling off the side of the bed. “Can you get my parents for me?”

He just stared at me like he couldn’t comprehend my words.  Maybe he didn’t speak English well or something.  Lots of doctors came to America for work, right?  That was a thing.

“Where is my mom?  Can you get her for me?”  Comprendo?

“Penny, I know I fucked up.  If you’d just give me a chance to explain…”

“Please.”  Tears started to prick the corners of my eyes.  What the hell did he need to explain?  I must be dying.  God, I’m too young to die!

He looked so dejected.  He opened his mouth like he was going to say something, but then pressed his lips back together.

“Please.”

“Okay.  I’ll go get them.”  But he didn’t move.  He just stood there staring at me.

I didn’t want a stranger to see me cry.  I turned my head away from him.  I didn’t turn back until I heard the door close behind him.  He didn’t seem like a very good doctor.  He hadn’t even taken my vitals.

My mom came running into the room, quickly followed by my dad.

“Sweetie, thank goodness you’re awake.”  She grabbed my hand and squeezed it.

It was so good to see her.

“You gave us quite the fright, Pen” my dad said and took the seat next to my bed.  “How are you feeling?”

“Fine.  I feel fine.”

“James said you wanted to speak to us right away.”

James?  Was that the doctor’s name?   “I don’t even know why I’m in here.  And I definitely need a new doctor.  He…”

“We’ve already taken care of that, sweetie,” my mom said and squeezed my hand again.  She reached out and pushed some of my hair off my forehead.  “It’s all going to be okay.”

I exhaled slowly.  They must have sensed that my doctor had no idea what he was talking about either.  I was so glad they were here.  What would I do without them?

“But what happened?” I asked.  “Am I dying?”

“No, no, no,” my mom said.  “You’re fine.  You’re awake.  Everyone was worried that you might not wake up.”  She paused.  “But the baby…” her voice trailed off and tears started to well in her eyes.

“Was I babysitting or something?”  Why couldn’t I remember?

My mom glanced at my dad and then back at me.  “Sweetie, what’s the last thing you remember?”

“I was studying for my sociology final.  I must have fallen asleep in bed.”

She stared at me.  “Sociology?  Didn’t you take that freshman year?”

“Um…yeah.”  I laughed awkwardly.  “Just a few more exams and I’ll officially be done my first year.  Oh no…do you think I missed any of my finals while I’ve been here?  What day is it?”

My mom looked back at my dad.  “Peter, get the doctor.”  Her voice sounded so serious.

My dad practically flew out of his chair.  I had never seen him move so fast.

“Why?” I asked.  “What’s wrong?”

She squeezed my hand.  “You’re not in college anymore.  Don’t you remember?”

“Of course I’m still in college.  It’s not like I dropped out.  I’d never do that.  I love school.”

She stared at me.  “Penny, you’re 26 years old.”

I laughed.  “Mom, I’m 19.”

She dropped my hand and covered her mouth before her sob escaped.

“I’m 19,” I said again.  Right?

END OF CHAPTER 1

Come back next Tuesday to see Chapter 2!

***Ch 2 now available HERE***

And don’t forget to pre-order your copy today:


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*~*Cover Reveal*~*

James and Penny are back this fall! A Whirlwind of Color is being released November 27th.  And you’re not going to want to miss this installment of James and Penny’s story.  (For all the books featuring James and Penny check out my suggested reading order on my website.)

And the best news?  It’s already available for pre-order on all the major e-book retailers.  Pre-order your copy of A Whirlwind of Color today:

And don't forget to add A Whirlwind of Color to your TBR list on Goodreads

Without further ado…it’s time for the cover reveal!!

Blurb:
One great love.  That’s what every heart craves.  I was lucky enough to find mine when I was 19.  But I wouldn’t describe myself as lucky now.

My husband looks at me like I’m the light of his life.  We live in a penthouse apartment that overlooks Central Park.  My closet it filled with designer clothes and more pairs of shoes than I can count.  I have everything I could possibly want at my fingertips. 

And I’ve accomplished my dream of writing a novel.  I wrote my love story.  Every kiss, every touch, every memory compiled in a manuscript.  The pages make my heart ache, my tears flow freely, and my cheeks hurt from laughter.  My whole life is written on these pages.

I have the perfect husband.  The perfect family.  The perfect life. 

But I don’t remember any of it.