Fate sometimes conspires to right a decades-old wrong. The 6.8 earthquake that strikes Southern California one warm March night is the fateful event that brings family therapist Ann Hart and trauma specialist Ted McConaughy back together.
Twenty years after his betrayal caused the cancellation of their wedding, Ted finds himself in need of Ann’s help. The intense, recurring dreams that are invading his sleep are thought to be memories of past lives. And hypnotherapy, one of Ann’s specialties, may be the cure he seeks.
Their journey defies time and reason, forcing them to re-evaluate their capacity for love and forgiveness.
Thursday, March 13
The courtyard of Toni’s building was unnervingly quiet. The terrarium-like space with a waterfall-fed pond and stream stood silent and dry. The earthquake must have damaged the water system in the building. It made him wonder if Toni would even be in her office. There was no one around, but the faint sound of clanging metal hammering metal indicated that workers were there.
The door to Toni’s office stood partially open. If she wasn’t there would her door be open? Perhaps her last patient left and the next had not yet arrived. His footsteps seemed to echo in the stillness of the landscaped atrium. He stood at the open door gathering his courage, finally pushing it open the rest of the way.
The office reminded him of a study or library in an English manor house. The centerpiece of the room was a large desk, mahogany perhaps. A dusty rose leather chair sat behind it. At one end of the large room was a conversation area. There was a small oval table separating a loveseat and two comfortable looking chairs. Knowing Toni, he suspected several of the pieces were antique.
There was no trite theme like ‘English Country Cottage’ and no obvious color scheme either. It wasn’t the usual therapist’s office with blue or yellow walls with decorations that theoretically created a calming atmosphere. Like Toni, this room was warm and inviting. It was a gift she had, making people comfortable.
He stepped into the office. At the other end of the room was a spiral staircase of highly polished wood which led to a loft surrounded by railings matching the staircase. He assumed the earthquake had caused the empty shelves that lined the balcony.
He strained to see if she was upstairs and took a few steps backwards until he bumped into one of the chairs in the conversation area. There she was, sitting on the floor stacking books after wiping them off with a cloth. The sun streamed through the skylight highlighting glints of copper in her hair. She was wearing it up, accentuating the curve of her neck. He remembered how the chestnut tresses looked when they tumbled in soft waves over her shoulders and down her back. He sighed.
He hadn’t really seen her yesterday, so he didn’t realize how lovely she still was … yesterday! That was why he was here, to apologize for whatever it was he’d done. He sat on the arm of the closest chair and cleared his throat.
Ann glanced over her shoulder assuming it was one of the workmen who had been coming in and out since she arrived. She couldn’t have been more surprised. She got up and went to the railing.
“How did you find me?”
He blew out the breath he’d been holding. “My powers of deduction are quite remarkable these days … you’re listed in information.”
“Oh.” Her stomach was suddenly tied in knots.
“When did you change your name?”
“I got married, if it’s any of your business.”
“I meant your first name.”
“Ann is more professional than Toni.”
“Toni suits you.”
“It suited the child I was. What do you want?”
“I want to apologize.”
Eager for him to leave, she rushed to say, “Apology accepted.” She hesitated a fraction of a moment. “You can go now,” she said and started to turn away.
“I’d like to talk.
“You could tell me what you’ve been doing.”
“I have no desire to have a conversation with you about anything, certainly not about my life.” She had the souvenir box from Big Bear in her hand, and she almost threw it at him, but controlled herself. “Look, I accepted the apology for your bizarre behavior yesterday, so why are you still here?”
Ted slipped off the arm of the chair into the seat. “Why are you so angry?”
She glared at him from her perch in the loft and could see in his eyes that he really didn’t know why. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, turning her back to the room. Why was she still angry after all these years? Uncle Jamie had tried many times to get her to purge the anger, but even through her happy years with Alex she held on to it. If she had a patient doing this, she’d be counseling to let it go. So why couldn’t she?
Her thoughts thus engaged and her back to the room she didn’t see Ted move from the conversation area to the foot of the stairs. She turned at the sound of an unfamiliar voice.
Ann rubbed her eyes dry before turning. “What?”
Speaking with a soft Scottish brogue Ted said, “I would know your name.”
She stepped to the head of the stairs. “What?”
“Your name Miss, what is your name?”
Now, what was happening? Ted was standing there looking up at her, but it wasn’t Ted. What did that even mean? Assuming it would be like yesterday, she braced herself for another explosive confrontation. She looked into his eyes; it definitely wasn’t Ted looking back. What was going on? Whatever it was, she was concerned that he might become as volatile as he had been the day before so thought it best to play along until she could figure out what he was doing.
Slowly she said, “Ann Hart, my name is Ann Hart.”
He made a deep bow. “Andrew Mcnaughton, at your service, Miss Hart.” His mouth turned into a lopsided grin. “It is Miss, is it not?”
Baffled, but trying to elicit information, she sidestepped his question and asked one of her own. “How do you come to be here Mr. Mcnaughton?”
Continuing in the Scottish brogue he hesitantly answered, “The same way you did, Miss Hart. I boarded at Glasgow.”
He chuckled. Obviously it was Scotland for where else would they have been? “Yes. We left Glasgow under full sail at eventide yesterday, and with God’s speed shall arrive in Antigua three weeks hence.” He looked up at her rather quizzically and asked, “Are you in need of the ship’s physician, Miss Hart?”
Unsure what to say about any of it she asked, “Why do you ask?”
“As you are aboard a ship but have no memory of it, I thought perhaps you were in need of medical assistance.”
Still thinking that playing along would answer some questions she responded, “I am quite well, thank you, however, as you suggest I do seem to have lost some time. Can you tell me the date?
“It is, as of the midnight hour, the tenth of May in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and five.”
A loud rap on the open door made both Ann and Ted turn. A man in gray work clothes looked up at her. “Saw your door standing open, Doc, wanted to check that nothing was amiss.” He looked through squinty eyes at Ted. “Are you all right?”
Ann looked down at Ted, who looked up at her. He was back. He was Ted again. She turned to the workman. “I’m fine. Thanks, Sam.”
Glaring at Ted, he said, “Okay, just makin’ sure.” He left, looking over his shoulder as he went.
Once the workman was gone, she asked, “What’s going on with you?”
Trying to recovery gracefully, from what he wasn’t sure, he answered her question with, “What do you mean?” He glanced around. Before Ann could answer him he said, “How did I get over here?”
“I guess I mean, why am I over here?”
“Well, you should say what you mean, and mean what you say.”
“Hmmm, I believe we’ve had that conversation before.” She couldn’t help but smile, remembering their first meeting.
She was about to ask him about his odd behavior again, when he cleared his throat and pulled the rose out of the pocket of his jacket. He took a few more steps up the stairs, and then held it out to her. “I brought this as a bit of a peace offering. It reminded me of you.”
His sporadic and peculiar behavior was pushed to a back burner, and curiosity now replaced her anger. Hesitantly she said, “It’s beautiful.” It was almost a question. Taking a few steps down, she accepted the proffered bloom, “I’ve never seen a rose this color. Where did you get it?”
“The Huntington Library.”
“I didn’t know the Huntington sold individual blossoms like this.”
Quietly and with downcast eyes he admitted, “I didn’t buy it, exactly.”
“Exactly?” Realization struck, and her eyes popped wide open. “You picked it!?! You stole it from the rose garden?”
He looked, for all the world, like a small boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Then she saw a smile come into his eyes that spoke of satisfaction. She couldn’t help herself; she laughed.
“I’ve never been given a pilfered rose before.” She smiled.
It was nice that she wasn’t angry about it. “I couldn’t resist it.”
“I could probably have your library membership revoked and have you banned permanently from even being allowed in.”
“But you wouldn’t, would you?”
Unable to deny her amusement, Ann conceded that she would not. The ‘girl on the swing’ clock chimed the half hour. Ted glanced at his watch.
“I need to go,” he said as he took the few steps still separating them. “It was wonderful seeing you again.” He leaned in and kissed her cheek then rushed down the stairs. At the door he turned back, “I’ll call you,” he said and left.
Ann’s mind was in complete turmoil. But when she calmed down and thought about it for a second, she found that she really enjoyed the exchange. She sat on the step in the middle of the staircase, and inhaled the fragrance of the rose. A pilfered flower. She shook her head, making no effort to stop the grin from spreading across her face. She was amazed at how comfortable it was being with him, but even more amazed that she wanted to hear from him.
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“Where shall I begin? Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?” (J.A. June 15, 1808)
That I reside in the Victorian village of Monrovia, California; a mere two miles from my place of employment. A local hospital where I spend most daylight hours in the operating room as a scrub nurse.
That I am a native Californian, having been born in Glendale, and spent most of my life here with a relatively short span of years in Reno, Nevada where I attended school. Returning after graduation I have remained in sunny SoCal.
That I was widowed some time ago. That I have very domestic hobbies like sewing, cooking, baking, candy making and cake decorating. Oh, yes I write, too. Mike, my late husband and teacher, taught me that writing has to be treated like a job so every day no matter how tired I am I edit, research one or more projects and write.
That I have finished the sequel to The Man Who Loves Jane Austen with Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen; have started a story of reincarnation that takes place in Pasadena, CA and am making notes for a ghost story set in San Francisco. Three stories running around in my head and often colliding but I untangle the debris and continue on.
There you have a few of my nothings.
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