I had forgotten how much I craved Penny’s touch until I couldn’t have it. That’s what time did. Made perfection feel like normalcy. But it was easy to remember just how lucky I was when the one thing I craved was stripped from me. And I’d never take her for granted again. I’d never lose my temper. I’d never put my own needs first. I’d treat her the way she deserved.
Because Penny was everything to me. The sun rose and set with her. She was the air I breathed. She was the only vice I needed. And relying on a person was so much better than relying on any substance. I was okay with this bleak feeling of existence if I knew she was coming back to me. And I knew I was close.
When I had left the apartment tonight, her eyes were begging me to stay. She had been waiting for a kiss. And as much as I wanted to close the distance, I knew that I needed her to lean the rest of the way in. Me pushing her hadn’t helped. Me trying to manipulate the situation had helped even less. She needed to make the decision to stay. To try and remember us. And she would. She had to.
In the meantime, holding my son was comforting. He was a little piece of her. A piece of her that wanted me, was relying on me, loved me. I watched his chest rise and fall without the machines and breathed a little easier myself. “Your mom’s going to remember.”
He squirmed in my arms.
I smiled down at him. “And we’re going to take you home soon.” I said those words almost every time I saw him. I didn’t know if they were true. But I felt like if I kept saying it, then it would miraculously happen. I couldn’t lose my son. I just couldn’t.
“What do you want to do tonight?” I asked him. Every night, I’d hold him until visiting hours were over. Just the two of us. And I was very aware of the fact that it should have been three. But he was a pretty good distraction. Especially his blue irises. It almost felt like I was looking into Penny’s eyes. Like I was close to her even though actually being this close to her freaked her out right now. A minor setback.
Earlier tonight I was almost positive that she had been waiting for me to kiss her. It was all over her face. I was holding out hope that part of the reason she wanted a kiss was because she was starting to remember. And even if she didn’t remember, it was still a good sign. It meant she wanted me regardless.
After Penny read the book she wrote, she’d definitely be swayed the rest of the way. She was reading right now, trying to remember our love story. She’d look at me differently when I got home later. Hopefully she’d look at me with love in her eyes instead of unfamiliarity and fear.
“How about we look up the movie she apparently loves so much.” I placed Liam down on my lap and pulled my phone out of my pocket. I leaned down and showed him the screen, even though I knew he couldn’t read the Wikipedia article I had brought up about The Princess Bride. “A romantic comedy,” I said. “It figures.” I looked back down at my son. “She loves them. You’ll see when you’re older and she makes us all watch them with her.”
I looked back at the screen. The article mentioned the phrase “as you wish” several times. It was exactly what Penny had talked about. But each time I saw it, the words felt more familiar. “Where have I heard that before? Do you know?”
My son blinked at me.
“Yeah. I don’t remember either. Now we know how your mom feels.”
He blinked again.
“As you wish,” I said. “As you wish.” I slid my phone back into my pocket and lifted Liam back into my arms. “As you wish.”
I could have sworn he sighed, like he was tired of my obsession with the phrase.
“And why wouldn’t she have mentioned it to me if it was her favorite movie?” I began to rock Liam in my arms. “As you wish.” All I could recall was a Disney song about wishing on a star. “Maybe I’ve just seen the movie before. We could watch a little of it right now if you want. How does that sound?” I smiled at him. “I know I’m not technically supposed to use my phone in here, but it can be our little secret.” I pulled my phone back out and adjusted Liam in my arms so we could both see the screen. “This is your mom’s favorite movie,” I whispered right before it began. “We’re going to surprise her by knowing all about it.” I kissed the top of Liam’s head.
But my smile almost immediately faded. “Is it me, or does Westley look a lot like Tyler?”
I frowned and it looked like Liam frowned back at me.
“Don’t make that face, little dude.”
He continued to frown at me, which made me laugh. “Cut it out. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. Your mom’s having trouble remembering, but she loves me with all her heart and…” my voice trailed off. As you wish. The familiarity of the phrase came back in a rush. “Oh fuck.” I immediately dropped my phone in order to cover Liam’s ears. “Sorry. Sorry.” I pulled my hands away from his ears. “You won’t remember that, right? Let’s just pretend it never happened. It can be our little secret.” I leaned down to lift my phone off the ground as I swallowed down another curse in my throat. Penny had a keychain with those words etched into it beside a metal heart. A keychain that Tyler had given her. That she had kept all these years. I looked back down at the image of Westley on the screen. They really did look similar.
I tried to shake away the thought. They didn’t look that similar. And the keychain was just a gift. But my optimism still felt squashed. I tried to picture her closing her eyes, waiting for my kiss earlier this evening. It was harder when it felt like she was waiting for Tyler’s. Her never mentioning the movie to me confirmed all my suspicions. Why would she tell me it was her favorite if it reminded her of another man?
Liam squirmed in my arms.
“You know, you’re probably right,” I said. “She used to like it and now she doesn’t. Besides, she doesn’t remember Tyler either. And you should have seen her after I mentioned the song we danced to at our wedding. She remembered. I could see it on her face. She’s remembering me.” I ran my hand along the side of his small face. “She’s remembering us. And she’ll remember that Tyler is just a friend.”
But what if her memories didn’t all come back at once? What if she started to remember from the beginning when she liked both Tyler and me? Like in her manuscript I had just given her to read…
“You know what, little dude? I need to cut out a little early tonight. I know, I know.” I leaned down and kissed his forehead. “When our family is put back together again you’ll be thanking me. I need to go pull a grand romantic gesture to keep her attention on us.”
I stared at him squirming in my arms. “I know she doesn’t always like grand gestures, but she’ll like this one.” I had been carrying her engagement ring around in my pocket for days. I wanted to give it back to her, but something had been stopping me. It felt like I needed to ask her again. I was going to get down on one knee and ask her to choose me. I needed to hear her say I was what she wanted. And I wanted her to know how much I loved her too.
I knew it was just a movie. Just a keychain. Maybe it meant something in the past, but it didn’t now. The Penny I knew didn’t seem to like this movie anymore. She definitely didn’t mention it because it was no longer her favorite, not because she was hiding some deep love for Tyler. Now I just needed her to remember.
The doctors had told me to take it slow. To ease her back into her life. But slow was killing me. Nothing Penny and I did had ever been slow. “I’m going to go win your mother back once and for all.”
Liam just stared at me.
“It’s not a bad idea. You’ll see, little dude.”
He had no reaction.
“I promise I’m thinking straight despite the fact that I’m exhausted.” As if on cue, I yawned. “I’m not even that tired,” I said through another yawn. I motioned for the nurse in the hall to come put him back in his incubator. “Next time I see you, I’ll be whole again. And your mom’s going to remember you. And we’ll be one big happy family.” I pulled him close to my chest. Please don’t make me a liar, Penny. Please remember.
I took a deep breath, wishing my lungs could do the work for Liam’s weak ones. “I love you.” I kissed the side of his forehead. “I’ll be back in the morning. Keep breathing for us.” But really I meant keep breathing for me. Because if his little heart stopped, I was afraid mine would too.
END OF CHAPTER 1
Join me Thursday 1/10 at 7:30 PM EST for a live reading of a sneak peek of Chapter 2 on my Facebook page HERE!
And come back next Tuesday to see Chapter 2! *Ch. 2 Now Available HeRE*
And don’t forget to pre-order your copy today:
This is Love Release Announcement
Want to be the first to get notified about This is Love
on release day? Fill out the form below: