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Authors: Ruth Ann Nordin

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in the mirror was like looking at a stranger. Her appearance was unassuming, real y. Nothing

seemed to stand out. She was a bit overweight. Turning her gaze from her overal

appearance, she stepped forward to study her face. Her eyes seemed to be a blend of green

and blue, though it was hard to tel which color dominated more. Her nose stood out a little

more than she’d seen on other people when she was in town, but she thought it fit her face just

fine.

Mousy brown hair she’d pul ed up into a bun, probably because of the heat that morning. She

pul ed it out of the bun to see how long it was, and it fel to the middle of her back. When she

realized how frizzy it was, she decided that her habit of pul ing her hair into a bun had more to

do with that than the heat. After she twisted it back into a bun and secured it with the pins, she

resumed her examination.

She had pale skin, which was unlike the man she’d married who was tan. Perhaps she didn’t

spend much time outside because she did a lot of cooking and sewing and tending to the

children? From what her husband told her, those were the things she loved doing the most.

She figured if his job was taking care of the animals and crops, then he had to spend most of

his time outside so it made sense that his skin was darker than hers.

Yes, she was unassuming. She guessed that she was the type of person who blended into a

crowd. With a shrug, she decided she’d get no answers about who she was or how she came

to be in this house, married to Dave Larson and having his children.

The wind blew in from the window, cooling her off. She was relieved it was windy and that the

bed was positioned in the right location to keep her comfortable. At first, she dreaded the idea

of being in here because she feared she might spend the night burning up from the heat, and

there was no way she could bring herself to take off her nightshirt in front of Dave. Sure, he

might be her husband and maybe he was used to seeing her without her clothes on, but she

didn’t remember any of it.

Strol ing to the window, she peered through the parted curtains and saw Dave leaving the barn.

He was whistling and she wondered if she should recognize the tune. Sighing, she turned and

went to the bed. She was used to sleeping in it with him. She shouldn’t be nervous about it,

but how could she not be? If she retained even a smal memory of him, perhaps everything

would be easier.

She pul ed back the thin blanket and sheet and settled into the bed. Releasing her breath, she

closed her eyes for a moment. This was where she was used to being every night, and yet,

nothing about the bed seemed familiar to her. She opened her eyes and scanned the room in

the fading sunlight. A dresser, a mirror, a table with a bowl and pitcher on it with a dry cloth

hanging on the wal nearby, and the bed with a brass frame. The wal paper had a lovely

pattern of blue flowers on a white background, which she admitted to liking as soon as she saw

it. But then, why wouldn’t she? She probably had a part in picking it out.

The door opened and she turned her attention to Dave as he entered the room. She had to

keep reminding herself that he was her husband, so he had every right to be with her in bed.

“You’re in bed early,” he said.

Worried because she wasn’t sure why he was heading in her direction, she pul ed the blanket

up to her neck despite the fact that it was too warm in the room. “I’m tired. Besides, the sun is

setting. Don’t I usual y go to bed in the evenings?”

He sat on her side of the bed, and she shifted so that his body wasn’t touching hers. If he

noticed the way she pul ed away from him, he didn’t comment on it. Instead, he said, “Usual y

at this time, you’re doing some sewing. It relaxes you.”

“Oh.” She’d take his word for it. It was a bit alarming to know other people knew more about

her than she did, but she decided not to state the observation. Clearing her throat, she asked,

“What do you usual y do?”

“Talk to you while you sew.”

“Then I’m disrupting the routine.”

He chuckled. “No. There are days when we go to bed early.”

She didn’t understand the suggestive smile on his lips so she opted to ignore it. “I don’t think I’l

remember how to sew.”

His expression turned serious, and he leaned forward to brush a stray strand of hair from her

cheek. “You just need to be patient. I’m sure knowing how to sew wil come back to you in

time, just like everything else.”

“I hope so. I hate the thought I won’t get my memory back.” Just the thought of that happening

brought tears to her eyes.

“Hey, it’l be alright. No matter what happens, we’re in this together. Judging by how great

supper was, I think you’l pick up sewing in no time. You seem to be able to do the things you

did before.”

Wiping a tear that slid down her cheek, she shrugged. “Maybe.”

“The important thing is that you’re feeling alright. You’re not dizzy or nauseous, are you?”

“No. I feel fine.”

He lowered his head and gave her a soft kiss. “Try not to worry about it. It was a shock for al

of us, but we’l get through it. Considering how many things could have gone wrong, we got

lucky. I’d rather have you lose your memory instead of you breaking your neck.”

Yes, she supposed that was a way of putting a positive slant on things.

He stood up and went to the dresser. “I forgot to bring up the kerosene lamp. I’l be right

back.”

Once he was out of the room, she threw off the blanket and let the breeze coming in through

the window cool her off. She couldn’t sleep with that blanket covering her for the entire night.

She’d end up turning into a pool of sweat. Sitting up, she waved her hand over the back of her

neck. It helped a little but not enough.

She stood up and checked her reflection in the mirror with what little sunlight filtered in through

the room. The nightshirt concealed her wel enough. She could probably get away with

sleeping without the blanket over her. When she heard Dave coming up the stairs, she hurried

back to the bed and settled into it, resisting the urge to pul the blanket back up to her neck.

Instead, she rol ed onto her side so she was facing the door. Her arm fel over her breasts,

and she brought her knees up. There. Now he couldn’t see anything private. She knew it was

ridiculous to cover herself from him. They had two children, after al , but she couldn’t bring

herself to expose anything personal to him, at least not yet.

He came back into the room with two cups. “I brought you some water.” He set them on the

dresser and started to unbutton his shirt.

Furrowing her eyebrows, she said, “I thought you were going to get the kerosene lamp.”

He paused on the fourth button of his shirt and sighed. “Right. I was going to do that. I’l be

right back.”

As he left the room a second time, she couldn’t help but giggle. And here she thought she was

the one with the memory problem. Laughing helped her relax so that by the time Dave returned

with the lamp, she wasn’t as nervous as before.

“I even remembered the matches,” he proudly stated as he set them by the lamp on the

dresser. “Would you like me to light it?”

“No. I just want to go to sleep.”

He nodded and shut the bedroom door. “It’s been a long day.” As he resumed the task of

unbuttoning his shirt, he asked, “Do you stil feel alright?”

“You asked me that a moment ago.”

He shrugged out of his shirt. “I know, but I worry about you.”

When he pul ed his undershirt over his head, her cheeks grew warm and she averted her gaze

from him. Surely, he didn’t intend to get completely undressed in front of her! She chanced a

glance in his direction and saw him unbuttoning his pants.

“I was going to ask you if you wanted to visit my sisters, but I suspect they’l be coming out

tomorrow to see how you’re doing. Maybe they’l say or do something that wil spark a

memory.”

She watched as he took off his pants and socks. How could he undress in front of her as if it

was no big deal? Wel , of course, it wasn’t a big deal. Not to him. He probably did this out of

habit. Even so, she closed her eyes so she wouldn’t see if he took off his underwear.

She heard him walk across the room and then felt the bed shift as he settled next to her. Since

her back was to him, she opened her eyes, glad the daylight was quickly fading into night. Now

if she had to rol onto her back or anything, he wouldn’t be able to see her.

“Can I hold you?” he whispered. “Ever since we’ve been married, I got used to holding you at

night. I don’t know if I can sleep otherwise.”

She glanced over her shoulder so she could look at him, surprised he wanted to hold her when

it was warm in the room. Was it wise to let a man who was either ful y naked, or almost

naked, hold her in bed? She saw the hopeful look in his eyes and it occurred to her how much

it would mean to him if she said yes. “You can hold me.”

He smiled and snuggled up to her, pressing her back against his chest. “Thank you.”

She expected the experience to be an awkward one, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was comfortable,

as if she was supposed to be in his arms. She even remembered that being with him like this in

the past had been peaceful.

After a couple of minutes, she closed her eyes. The breeze drifting in through the open window

did cool her off as she’d hoped. As she was drifting off to sleep, she heard him murmur, “ I love

you, Mary.” Her skin warmed in pleasure, and though she was now wide awake because of his

words, she didn’t mind it.

***

The next day just as Mary was col ecting dishes to wash after lunch, there was a knock at the

front door. While Dave and Isaac went to answer it, she placed the remaining plates on the

worktable. She checked the water in the pot on the cook stove. It wasn’t hot enough yet to

dump into the two sinks so she turned to Rachel and wiped her hands clean.

Isaac ran back into the kitchen. “Can I help Pa look for bugs in the corn?”

Glancing up from Rachel as she wiped her mouth clean, Mary asked, “Shouldn’t you ask him

that?” After al , she didn’t remember if he usual y did that or not.

“If you ask him, he’l say yes,” Isaac replied. “He can’t tel you no.”

Surprised that she should have so much influence over Dave, she shrugged. “Alright. I’l ask

him.”

“Good. Aunt Sal y and Aunt Jenny brought babies, and I don’t want to be with babies.”

“Aunt Sal y and Aunt Jenny?”

“Pa’s sisters. You like them.”

That was good. If she liked them, then there shouldn’t be a problem with seeing them. Helping

Rachel down from the highchair, she decided to go to the parlor where she could hear her

husband talking. Her steps slowed as Isaac and Rachel fol owed her.

“Thanks for coming by,” he said.

“She doesn’t remember anything at al ?” one of the blonde women asked as she shifted a ten-

month-old girl from one hip to another.

“No,” he began, “but she’s stil the same wonderful person as before, so she hasn’t changed.”

Mary’s cheeks grew warm at his words. It was nice she was married to a man who thought so

wel of her. She fol owed Isaac and Rachel into the parlor, and the two women and their

children looked at her.

Dave turned around and smiled. “Mary, these are my sisters, Sal y and Jenny.”

She nodded at them, noting that Sal y was the older one of the two women.

“Sal y has a son named Greg and a daughter named Laura,” he continued.

“I’m ten,” Greg said, his chest puffed out with pride.

“And I’m eight,” another boy said, standing next to Greg.

“That’s Jeremy,” Dave added. “He’s Jenny’s oldest son.”

Greg put his arm around Jeremy and grinned. “We’re as close as brothers.”

Isaac’s eyebrows furrowed. “What about me?”

“You’re like a brother, too, squirt,” Greg said and gave him a light punch in the arm.

“Ow,” Isaac replied, rubbing his arm.

Looking amused, Dave continued, “Jenny’s other children are Carl and Emma.”

“Carl’s three and Emma is two months old,” Greg told Mary. “They’re stil babies.”

Beside her, Rachel held her arms up so Mary picked her daughter up and rubbed her back.

Rachel, in turn, rested her head against Mary’s shoulders and closed her eyes. “I think she’s

tired.” She looked at Dave. “Should I put her down for a nap?”

“I don’t know when she usual y goes to sleep,” he told her.

“After lunch,” Isaac said.

Sal y shook her head and sighed. “I can’t believe your son remembers things better than you

do, David.”

Surprised that his sister should cal him that instead of Dave, she wanted to ask her why, but

Jenny said, “I think Emma needs a nap, too. Mary, can I put her down to sleep in Rachel’s

room?”

“Yes, of course,” Mary replied, hiding her apprehension. It was unsettling to see al these

people and know they knew her but she didn’t know them.

“Just my luck,” Sal y mused as she looked at her daughter who was wide awake. “Laura slept

al the way here.”

“Probably because you were yapping the whole way,” Dave teased before he turned to Greg

and Jeremy. “You boys want to help me pick bugs off the corn?”

Remembering her promise to Isaac, Mary asked, “Can Isaac go with you, too?”

Dave glanced at his son who shot him a hopeful look and nodded. “Sure.”

Wondering why her son didn’t think he could get the same response she did when Dave so

BOOK: To Have and To Hold
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