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Authors: Ruth Ann Nordin

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face, placed the cloth to her forehead.

She opened her eyes then and touched the cloth. Her eyebrows furrowed and she scanned the

room.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

Her gaze went back to him and she frowned. “Where am I?”

“In the parlor. You fel down the porch steps and went unconscious, so I brought you in here.

Do you need anything? Can I get you a glass of water?”

She swal owed and looked at their children who watched her even though they stayed by the

box. “I don’t understand…”

“You were on the porch, turned and fel down the steps. Jasper must have seen you trip or

something because he ran over to you.”

“Jasper?”

He let out a slight chuckle. “Yes. He always seems to be watching over you, doesn’t he?”

“Who’s Jasper?”

The chuckle died in his throat and he frowned. “What do you mean ‘who’s Jasper’? He’s our

dog.”

“Our dog?” She struggled to sit up, so he got up from the table and helped her. When she

placed the cloth in her lap, her eyes darted from him to Isaac and then to Rachel. “I don’t see

a dog.”

“He’s outside.” He settled next to her and studied her. “Mary, are you alright?”

Blinking, her head snapped in his direction. “Mary? Is that my name?”

If she’d been the type to joke, he would have laughed, but the problem was, in al the time he’d

known her, she wasn’t one to do such a thing. Concerned, he reached for her hand and held

it. Though she didn’t resist his touch, she didn’t give him the familiar gentle squeeze he’d come

to expect.

He glanced at their children. “Do you know who they are?”

She turned her gaze in their direction and slowly shook her head.

“What about me?” he whispered.

Darting a look at their hands which were clasped together, she said, “No, but I think we’re

close. Are we married?”

“Yes.” Taking an uneasy breath, he careful y thought over his next question. “Do you

remember anything?”

She bit her lower lip and scanned the room. After an uncomfortable moment, she sighed. “No.

Al I remember is waking up here.”

Al he could do was stare at her and wonder how she couldn’t remember him or their children.

They’d been such an important part of her life, and in one moment—just like that—she didn’t

know who they were? Apprehensive, he glanced at the children who were unusual y quiet as

they watched her, probably understanding something was wrong but not knowing what.

“We have to see the doctor,” he final y decided and stood up.

Rachel walked over to her mother and held her arms up. Despite the uncertain expression on

her face, Mary lifted her up and studied her daughter.

“Wet,” Rachel said.

“What?” Mary asked.

“I think she means she needs a new diaper,” Dave answered. “Do you remember how to

change a diaper?” He certainly hoped so because he didn’t have the faintest idea, and realizing

something was seriously wrong with her didn’t put him in the clearest of minds to attempt the

task.

“I know,” Isaac said as he left the frog in the box and went over to them. “I can tel you how,

Ma.”

Nodding, Mary got up from the couch, stil holding her daughter. “What’s your name?”

Dave winced but didn’t interrupt as Isaac answered her.

“Alright, Isaac.” She shifted Rachel to her other arm and cleared her throat. “Where are the

clean diapers?”

As Isaac led Mary up the stairs, Dave stood stil for a moment. How could this be happening?

Al Mary had was a fal . It shouldn’t have been serious. It was just a bump on the head. There

wasn’t even any blood. He rubbed his eyes and tried to figure out what to do. The doctor.

He’d just said they needed to go see the doctor. He wasn’t thinking clearly. It wasn’t like him

to get distracted like that, but it hurt to watch Mary look at him and their children as if she’d

never seen them before. And she looked so scared.

Releasing his breath, he decided while Mary was upstairs taking care of Rachel, he’d better get

the wagon ready to take into town. The sooner he saw the doctor, the sooner he’d start

getting some answers.

Chapter Two

Dave sat by Mary in the smal room while they waited for the doctor to return from running an

errand. Isaac and Rachel, who’d grown bored, were starting to fight with each other. He

glanced at Mary who usual y knew how to calm them down, but al she could do was stare at

them.

His brother Joel entered the building, carrying his medical bag. He paused in the doorway

when he saw them. “Dave, Mary, what’s wrong?” Looking at his overactive nephew and niece,

he said, “It can’t be them. They’re bouncing off the wal s.”

Dave groaned and rubbed his forehead. “I went by Sal y’s, but she wasn’t home. The doctor’s

tending to someone else right now.” After a glance at Mary, he turned his gaze to Joel and

asked, “I don’t suppose you might know what’s wrong with Mary?” Joel was training to become

a doctor, so maybe he’d know something.

“I might,” Joel said as he set his medical bag on the floor and picked Rachel up.

He motioned for Isaac to sit down, which he did, and Dave sighed. Why didn’t he think to do

that?

“What’s wrong, Mary?” Joel asked her.

“She doesn’t remember who she is,” Dave said for her.

His eyes wide, Joel looked between Dave and Mary. “What?”

“It happened about two hours ago. She was fine, fel down the porch steps, bumped her head,

and when she woke up, she didn’t know who anyone was. She doesn’t recognize me, the kids

or…” He turned his gaze to her and motioned to Joel. “Do you remember him?”

Mary shook her head and then stared at her hands which were folded in her lap.

“I don’t think she remembers anyone or anything,” Dave continued. “Mary, do you remember

your life in Maine or coming to Nebraska?”

Tears came to her eyes and she shook her head. “No.”

Concerned, Dave rubbed her back. “It’s alright, sweetheart. Don’t cry.”

For some reason, that made her cry harder.

Joel pul ed out the handkerchief from his suit pocket and handed it to her. “She has amnesia?”

“Amnesia?” Dave asked.

“Where she can’t remember anything,” his brother clarified.

As much as it hurt to admit it, Dave said, “It seems to fit. She doesn’t seem to remember

anything from before she woke up on the couch this afternoon.” To be sure, he asked her, “You

do remember waking up on the couch and seeing Isaac and Rachel with the frog in that box,

right?”

Sniffling as she wiped her eyes with the handkerchief, she nodded. “I remember that, and I

remember changing Rachel’s diaper and coming into town.”

“Wel , that’s good,” Joel replied.

“So wil that help us?” Dave asked.

Joel shrugged. “I’m not sure. I’ve never had to deal with anyone who had amnesia before.”

“Yeah but you’ve researched everything that can go wrong with a person, right?”

“There are a lot of things that can go wrong, Dave.”

“I don’t believe you. You’ve been doing this for what? Five years? Don’t you know everything

you need to by now?”

Shifting Rachel to his other arm, Joel rol ed his eyes. “I do what I can.”

With a heavy sigh, Dave said, “I’m sorry, Joel.”

“It’s alright. If this happened to April, I don’t know what I’d do.”

Looking at Mary who was stil softly crying, he rubbed her back again. “We’l get through this,

sweetheart.” She didn’t bother answering, and he couldn’t blame her. To her, he was a

stranger who was tel ing her everything was going to be alright, and who would believe

someone they didn’t know?

“Why is Ma crying?” Isaac asked as he impatiently shifted on the chair.

“Because she’s scared.”

“Why is she scared?”

“Because she doesn’t remember any of us.” Before his son could ask another question, Dave

turned to his brother. “How are Nora and Tess?”

At the mention of his daughters, Joel smiled. “They’re getting along just fine. I think Nora likes

being a big sister, but she tends to treat Tess like a dol , so we have to keep tel ing her to be

gentle.”

“We didn’t have that problem with Isaac. He had no interest in babies when Rachel was born.”

Isaac turned his attention from the open window and looked at his father. “Babies can’t do

nothing.”

“Wel , Isaac,” Joel began as he rocked side to side to keep Rachel from getting bored, “girls

love babies. They like to pretend they’re mothers.”

Grimacing, Isaac shook his head and turned his gaze back to the window.

Joel laughed. “That’s a boy for you.”

With a smile, Dave looked at Mary and wondered if that cheered her up or not, but she was stil

crying. He didn’t know what to do. Of al the things that could happen to her, he never

imagined this would be one of them.

Doctor Adams walked through the open door.

Relieved, Dave stood up.

“What can I do for you, Dave?” Doctor Adams asked, his gaze shifting from him to Mary and

then back to him.

“Mary doesn’t remember anything.” Dave proceeded to tel the doctor the whole story. When

he was done, he added, “And so we’re here to figure out what to do.”

The doctor went over to Mary. “Where did she hit her head?”

Dave felt around the back of her head until he found the bump. “Right here.”

As he inspected it, he asked Mary, “Does it hurt?”

“A little bit,” she replied, sniffling.

The doctor turned his attention to her face and checked her eyes. “Your pupils look normal.

Are you dizzy or do you feel nauseous?”

“No.”

“That’s good. Do you have a headache?”

“No. I’m just a little sore where the bump is.”

He nodded and rubbed his chin. “And you don’t remember anything before you woke up on the

couch?”

Her lower lip trembled and she shook her head.

“The good news is that the memory loss might be temporary,” the doctor said, turning his

attention back to Dave.

That announcement made Dave feel much better. “What are the chances it’s temporary?”

“Good. She looks fine, she’s coherent, and she’s not sick. But it’s a good idea to watch over

her for a couple weeks. If she doesn’t seem like her regular self or gets sick or dizzy, I want

you to let me know.”

“Alright,” Dave replied, hoping they wouldn’t need to see the doctor again. He didn’t think he

could take it if she took a turn for the worse. “Is there anything I can do to help her?”

“You’l be taking her home, so that’s the best place for her to be. Just surround her with

familiar things and people. Something along the way wil probably trigger her memory and then

things should start coming back to her. It could happen at once or a little bit at a time.”

Looking at Mary who was stil crying, he hoped this lapse in memory wouldn’t last long,

especial y for her sake.

“Dave, I can come out in a couple days to check on her,” Joel offered as he set Rachel down.

Dave nodded and paid the doctor. Isaac got down from his chair and joined Rachel at their

father’s side. Slipping his arm under Mary’s, Dave helped her up. With one last look at the

doctor, he asked, “Is there anything she shouldn’t do?”

Doctor Adams shook his head. “As long as she doesn’t get sick or dizzy, she should be fine.”

“Thanks.”

Dave continued to hold Mary’s arm while they left the building, and Isaac and Rachel fol owed

them. He paused and held his hand to Rachel so she wouldn’t go running off, and then he led

everyone to the wagon. By the time everyone was settled in the long seat, he got in and

noticed that Mary had final y stopped crying. Reaching across the children, he squeezed her

hand. “We’re going to be alright.”

Though she stil seemed overwhelmed, she smiled.

Feeling better, he released her hand and sat upright so he could urge the horses forward. It

occurred to him that he could stop by Sal y’s since she and Mary were friends, but he figured

Mary was going through enough at the moment. The last thing she needed was to be

bombarded by a bunch of people. Besides, Joel would probably let Sal y know, which meant

Sal y would be out at their place soon enough. Knowing Sal y, she’d tel everyone else. With

another look in his wife’s direction, he led them back home.

BOOK: To Have and To Hold
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