Read an Excerpt
"We all have our time machines. Some take us back,
they're called memories. Some take us forward, they're called dreams." Jeremy Irons
Withdrawal Slip #1
Ending Balance: $827.76
You always taste so damn good," I whispered as I trailed soft kisses from her lower lips up to her eyes.
Sarai blushed. "You say the sweetest things, Mel."
"That's because you are the sweetest thing, baby." My tongue entered her mouth, and with soft suction she pulled me into her welcoming heat. The enticing wetness and her soft moaning caused a pulsation all over my body.
We were in Bimini, Bahamas, on a private stretch of beach behind a house we rented for the week. The plan was to watch the sun go down, but the moment I looked over at the way her pale pink sundress wrapped around her brown body, I knew exactly who I wanted to "go down." The pink fabric was very thin and I could see that she had on no panties or bra. Her nipples hardened from the cool ocean breeze.
When our kiss was done, the sky had lost its candle and the pink-and-orange heaven was slowly penetrated by darkness. I laid my bare back onto the sand as Sarai knelt between my legs. She pulled her dress over her head quickly and reached for my anxiously awaiting stiff dick.
She moved her face closer to it and opened her mouth. With tiny licks around the very tip she teased me, and then ran her tongue from shaft to tip until there wasn't a dry spot in sight. Her eyes never left mine as her soft wet lips took me in. She squeezed her lips around me and moved up and down. As she came up again I fell out and Sarai said, with the sweetest grin, "I won't even remember this."
"What?" I assumed that the sound of the waves had interrupted what she had said because it didn't make sense to me.
"I won't remember this," she repeated, with the same sexy smile.
"Remember what?" I was now up on my elbows. "You won't remember what?"
She burst into uncontained and almost possessed laughter. "Sarai." I called her name, hoping to get her to snap out of this playful stint and back down to the blow job that I was in desperate need of. "Sarai." The more I called out to her the farther away she moved, until she was waist-deep in the dark ocean water.
From thirty feet away she spoke but I heard her as though she was nibbling on my earlobe. "Tremel, if I don't remember, you remember for me." The noise from the large wave coming up behind her slowly melted into the sound of a police siren on the movie I fell asleep watching.
I slid my hand over the far side of the bed, checking my surroundings. I hoped that something had changed and my sad reality was just a nightmare. But just like the last time I dreamed about Sarai, she was still nowhere to be found. However, this time I was happy to be in her bed instead of a jail cell. That's right...I said jail.
On the night Sarai was shot it turns out that I did all of the wrong things in front of the wrong people the night I selected to reenter Sarai's life. Around ten o'clock that evening two hundred people witnessed my angry poetry performance onstage at Vocalize, which was dedicated to her. Five minutes later fifteen of those people also saw Sarai rush out crying. Two of which were in the ladies' room when she screamed that I was trying to ruin her life. To make matters worse, at midnight I also slipped the security guard in her building $300 to open her apartment and allow me to wait for her. And last, but certainly not least, because Damian was wearing gloves, my fingerprints were the only ones on the gun, and the gun just happened to have been stolen a week before from someone in Boston, my new hometown. Ain't that a bitch?
So as far as the Miami PD was concerned, they could get back to Dunkin' Donuts, their work was done. I was an angry black man with a gun and a motive: a cheating ex-girlfriend. I couldn't win for losing, and no one even pretended to want to hear my explanation.
Luckily, I've been out for two weeks now, thanks to Damian's drunken confession to a stripper in Texas two days before he set out to Guadalajara. Now the closest he'd ever get to Mexico is through the smell of the breakfast burrito one of the federal agents ate while waiting for him to show up at the border...
Those weeks in jail killed everything for me. As a newly signed artist, my CD sales not only stopped, but my shit did a U-turn when news of me shooting my ex-girlfriend and being arrested surfaced. Stores sent my CDs back to the warehouses in droves. I hired the best attorneys the $26,000 in my bank account could afford. And since the only person in my family with $75,000 to post as bail money was my uncle Norman, I just got comfortable in my cell. After the fistfight he and I had during my Christmas visit, my mom knew not to even ask him for air on my behalf.
Since my release I've been staying at Sarai's place. Not a day goes by that she isn't in my thoughts, my tears, and my heart. I can't stop feeling that maybe if I hadn't come by that night, she'd be lying here in her bed, full of life. Instead I'm not able to drag myself out of bed. It was the last place I held her, smelled and touched her hair, made love to her, and was good to her. Major parts of me regret coming back that night. Then again, if she was all alone that night...she would've gone through everything alone. Something tells me that my presence made what happened a lot easier for her.
The phone rang. I instantly glanced over at the clock: 3:16 a.m. I cleared my throat and reached for the phone. "Hello."
"Hello, Mr. Colten?"
"Yeah," I said as I rolled over.
"This is Nurse Graham." My heart paused right along with her voice "We need you at the hospital right away."
I sat up as my soul sunk. "Is there something I should know?"
"I am not permitted to say." She continued: "Dr. Bowen just asked me to get you here as soon as possible."
"Okay, thanks." I hung up the phone and remembered the last late-night call from the hospital. It happened on my second night out of jail. They thought that they were losing her. Sarai had flatlined several times, for reasons they couldn't explain. Dr. Bowen was called in from home, the nurses were rushing around getting special equipment, and the PA-system operator was shouting "Code blue, code blue in room 207."
I slowly stepped into room 207 and saw my sleeping beauty lying there like she had been for almost a month. Her bedside was surrounded by the hospital staff but I pushed through them and clutched her hand. "Why you playin' games with these people?" I whispered in her ear. "You got everybody earnin' their salaries tonight." I kissed her on her cheek and said, "All right baby, you got me here, so stop it." Blimp, blimp, blimp...the heartbeat monitor suddenly sprang back into action and all of her vital signs slowly fell back into place...but she didn't, wouldn't, and couldn't wake up.
Soon the nurses and Dr. Bowen left us alone. I ran my hand down the side of her face with a smile and asked the same question I asked her the night I knew I would fall in love with her. "Why do I have to push your buttons to get you to act right?" She never answered, but I sat there until morning wishing she would.
As I entered the hospital I felt something different this time. I was unsure if I could pull off the same thing I did last week without tearing up, or getting angry when she didn't talk back. The elevator door opened to the second floor and introduced me to scary silence. As I walked by the nurses' station most of them avoided eye contact and others just looked away altogether. Absolutely no one spoke to me. This must be it, the time that I'd have to say good-bye to her...my last visit.
I stopped a few doors away from room 207 when I saw orderlies rolling out some of the machines I was used to seeing Sarai connected to. I couldn't take another step, and suddenly I didn't give a shit about anybody seeing me cry. "Damn," I whispered to myself as my hands rushed to my head. What would I do now if I couldn't just watch her sleep? Where would I visit her? I'm not about to take my conversations to a cemetery.
Somehow I got my feet to start moving again and through my footsteps and tears I could hear Dr. Bowen ask, "Who is the president of the United States?"
There was a faint whisper of an answer, "Unfortunately, George W. Bush."
"Do you know where you are?"
"Come on, after a million nurses, you, and this damn catheter?" She coughed. "Stevie Wonder could tell me that I'm in the hospital." She went on, "My question to you is, 'What am I doing here?'"
"Your question will be answered shortly." Dr. Bowen continued, "What is your name?"
"Sarai Emery." She giggled weakly, "How many times are you going to ask me that?"
He chuckled. "Until I believe that you're actually talking to me." Dr. Bowen watched as I walked through the door in utter amazement. My eyes were wide open and so was my mouth. My body shook and I nearly dropped to the ground. Sarai was sitting up in bed with her back toward me talking...talking. She was sitting up... talking. Something I never expected to see again in life, much less tonight.
"Do you know this man?" Dr. Bowen pointed at me as I approached.
When Sarai turned to look back at me, it was as though she looked right through me and at the bare white wall behind me. "No." She looked back at the doctor. "Should I?" I felt the blood freeze up throughout my entire body and my eyes couldn't leave her, I couldn't even blink. Damn blinking, I couldn't breathe.
Dr. Bowen saw my expression and seemed embarrassed and hurt for me. "Mr. Colten, why don't you wait for me in the hallway?"
I don't remember getting there but I made it to the hallway and sat on the ground outside of the room with my head in my hands and heard him ask, "What is today's date?"
"Umm." She thought awhile. "I'm not exactly sure, but Nat's party is next week, so it should be mid-May, like May twentieth or something like that."
"Okay." He paused. "That's not quite today's date, but tell me the last thing you remember before you woke up a couple hours ago."
"I remember talking to my two best friends, Nat and India, at a bar and driving home to see my boyfriend, Damian, and then going to work." She paused, concerned. "That was yesterday...I think."
"No, that wasn't yesterday," Dr. Bowen said.
"Was I in a car accident?" She tried to rationalize. 'Cause I don't remember driving home from work."
"No, there wasn't a car accident." He paused. "Let me have you open up your mouth, I need to take a look at you."
For twenty minutes he examined her to be certain that all was well physically. She had all of her faculties and no part of her body was numb. During this time many nurses gleefully peered into the room, not believing that the coma girl was up, talking, and asking for a meal. One nurse looked down at me with joy. "You must be going out of your mind."
"I am." I continued in a mumble, "She said she didn't know me." What the fuck...She said she didn't know me, I repeated over and over in my mind. I continued listening in on what Dr. Bowen had to say. "You were shot, suffered severe trauma, and your body went into shock, leaving you comatose." Dr. Bowen took a deep breath. "Today's date is April fifth, 2005." He sighed. "What you're remembering happened at least ten months ago."
"Whoa." She took a deep breath. "Now, what do you mean shot? Who shot me?"
"Well, Ms. Emery, the detectives will be able to tell you more about the incident, I'm just a doctor."
"Detectives? The incident?" She was in disarray.
"Okay, wait!" Sarai was astonished. "So I've been in a coma for ten months?"
"No," Dr. Bowen explained. "You've been out for about twenty-seven days, but it seems you may have lost some of your long-term memory. When we conduct tests in the morning we'll learn more. In the meantime let me check out your wound."
"So this bandage covers the gunshot?"
"Yes. You were shot just below the heart, you are an extremely lucky young woman." He examined her injury. "So how are you feeling?"
"Sleepy, very sleepy, but you're telling me that I've been in a coma, so I don't want to go back to sleep."
"No, you seem to be doing fine," he reassured her. "Tiredness is a natural stage of recovery, get some rest. I promise that you'll wake up in the morning."
"Doctor," she called out to him. "I need to make some phone calls. I cannot believe none of my friends are here."
"They were, but it's pretty late now," Dr. Bowen said. "How about you make those calls in the morning, I'll have a nurse sit with you until you fall asleep so that you'll have some company."
She sounded scared. "I'm a little worried because my dad is sick and my brother...I need to talk to him."
He cleared his throat. "Your concern is understandable. I'm sure your friend Miss Blake will be able to tell you everything in the morning," he said. "However, it's important for you to rest tonight, you have a big day ahead of you." He continued: "Take these pills and when you wake up I'm sure you'll be surrounded by all of your friends."
He took a few minutes to review her chart, jot some things down, and give special instructions to the nurse who would sit with her, but before he could make it into the hallway, Sleeping Beauty was out like a light again. "Mr. Colten." He looked down at me and extended his hand. "Let's talk."
"Funny, I was about to say the same thing." I stood to my feet.
"I'm sorry, I should've told you that this was a possibility."
"This." I cut him off. "What exactly is this?"
"Retrograde amnesia," Dr. Bowen said as he pressed the elevator button. "Let's get a cup of coffee."
I followed him to a room behind the main doors of the emergency room and sat in a chair across the table from where he placed his coffee mug. "Coffee?" he asked me.
"No." I had one question, but I was terrified of the answer. "What should I expect?"
"Well, with retrograde amnesia, people lose memories from the time just prior to the injury. This time period may stretch from a few minutes to several years. It seems as though Sarai has lost the last ten or eleven months."
"Well, I met her ten months ago, so that basically rules me out of her life?" I asked, but didn't give him a chance to talk. "That's fucked up."
"I know." He sipped from the mug. "But we have no way of controlling how our bodies work. We all store different memories at different levels." He smiled. "However, when a retrograde amnesiac recovers, they recall older memories first, and then more recent memories make their way back, until all memory is recovered."
That was just the kind of news I wanted to hear. "So you think that she'll fully recover?"
"I can't say at the moment, but after we run some tests tomorrow, I'll have a more definite prognosis."
I kept thinking about the way she looked at me, the stranger in her room, and it tugged at the very core of my heart. "So what do I do or say to her?" Then I thought hard about it. "Or should I just stay away?"
"No, I wouldn't suggest that." He leaned back into his chair. "Just be patient, things may come back to her bit by bit, don't force it. Start out by having someone that she recognizes, like Miss Blake, reintroduce her to you."
From that moment on I realized I had a world of memories that now only belonged to me. Like how absolutely gorgeous she was at Nat's party; I couldn't keep my eyes off of her and created situations where she'd have to talk to me, even though her man was in the room. Thoughts of how she dissed me that night and how I got revenge on the poetry stage later. Damn! I thought of our first date when I turned her apartment into a Café de Mel and cooked crabs. Man, the look on her face when a few crabs got away. Memories, memories, memories.
My mind went to our first kiss and how much we both wanted it to continue, but we tried to be polite and not overdo it. I reminisced about the first time I eased my chocolate lightning into her soft and moistened piece of earth. She quivered and gave off a sexy moan as she accepted me. It was the first of many times that her body was my ticket to paradise. Now I stand alone on an oasis and she looks at me, through me, blankly, and asks if she should know me. In her mind she is still in love with Damian, but in my heart she still belongs to me.
Long after Dr. Bowen left, I sat in that room wondering how anyone would tell her that Savion, her twin brother, had put a gun to his head and ended his life just minutes before she was shot, and that he mailed her a long letter begging her forgiveness. In it, he said that watching his personality, emotions, mentality, and his body die of AIDS had stifled his will to live. His body was in the morgue for a week before I realized that in his world there was just Sarai and their Alzheimer-stricken father...so there would be no funeral arrangements made. Though I was in jail, I had my mother use my money to pay an Atlanta funeral home for a small service and cremation; they shipped Savion's ashes to Miami. Had Sarai died, I would've buried them together.
Because I was, and still am, so much in love with her and everything and everyone in her life, I used some of the last of my money to extend her father's nursing-home care by four months. So guess who's going broke this time?
After walking the entire hospital and finally calling Nat with the news, I tiptoed into room 207 shortly after 8 a.m. and thanked the heavens that Sarai was still asleep. Just as she had once said about her father, as long as she couldn't see me, her not remembering me couldn't hurt me. I sat on the cold uncomfortable chair and studied her face. Even though her hair was pulled into the messiest ponytail I had ever seen, her beauty shone through like sunshine after a hurricane.
I smiled at her and the voice of Lauryn Hill's "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" flooded me and came out in a melodic whisper, "You're just too good to be true, can't take my eyes off of you." Would she ever love me again? I had to make her love me again.
"Nice voice." Sarai's words startled me.
"Oh, snap." I had just noticed that she was staring back at me. "I'm sorry. Did I wake you?"
"Yeah," she said. "It's all right, though." She struggled to laugh.
I was nervous, I didn't know what to say or do. I didn't know what I should act like, so I stood and walked over to the bed. "Is there anything that I can do for you?"
"Breakfast would be wonderful," she said.
"Umm." I didn't know how to break it to her. "The doctor wants you on liquids only this morning because of all of the tests they need to run on you today."
"Liquids?" She gave me that I-don't-give-a-damn look. "You woke me up and now you won't feed me? What kind of a nurse are you?"
"I'm not a nurse." I laughed.
After a brief but prickly bit of silence she asked, "So what are you, the hospital's entertainer, or are you paid to watch the sick throughout the night?"
"So?" I asked back.
"So, who are you?"
"Well." I cleared my throat and strangely my mind went blank too. "I called your friend Nat, and she should be here in less than an hour."
"Okay, but that still doesn't tell me who you are." She asked as she slowly sat up, "And how do you know Nat?"
"We used to work together at Northern Miami Middle."
"Oh, okay," she said, but she still seemed confused. "But why are you here?"
I wasn't about to embarrass myself. "Well, if you must know, she had something important to do last night and asked that I come by and look out for you in case you woke up." I smiled. "And you did."
"I am so sorry that she put you out of your way for me." She seemed sincere.
"Not a problem at all." God, I missed her.
Sarai sprang a question on me. "So you two are seeing each other?"
"What?" I asked. "Who two?"
"You and Nat?"
I made a face. "Noooo."
"Whoa. What's all that?" She stopped me. "Time out, please don't act like there is something wrong with my girl."
"No." I interrupted her. "No, that's not how I meant it. She's a great girl, but no...we're just friends. Plus, I think Nick is bigger than me, so I don't want any problems."
"Okay." She smiled. "I remember you coming in last night, I'm sure that the doctor discussed this amnesia stuff with you."
"Did we meet before or are you just doing Nat this favor?" she asked.
"No, we've met." I really didn't want her to ask me anything else.
She seemed puzzled. "So we know" she corrected herself "excuse me, we knew one another?" Damn she had gone past tense on me.
"We knew one another very well, Sarai."
When I spoke her name she swiftly looked over at me as though the sound of her name rolling off my tongue and through my lips was familiar. "What is your name?"
"Tremel." I extended my hand but didn't wait for her to reach for it; I grabbed her cold hand and held it. "I'm Tremel Colten." I sighed. "You used to call me Mel."
"It's nice to meet you." She turned my hold on her hand into a handshake. "Do you know Damian as well?" Her eyes lit up as she said his name and dropped my hand.
What the fuck? "Yeah." That was all I cared to say.
She looked around the room quickly. "Is there a phone in here?"
"There was a phone, the doctor removed it." I continued: "He said that it is important that all of your verbal communication is done person to person over the next few days." I sighed. "A lot has happened to you, a lot that you don't remember, and for your own good he wants your best friend to be the one to update you on what's what and who's who in your life. The wrong phone call can expose you to too much at one time."
"I wonder why Nat didn't ask Damian to sit with me." She shrugged her shoulders. "Is he on his way too?"
I was disappointed. "I don't think so."
"Well, Tremel, is it?" She wanted to make sure that she was saying my name right.
"What else can you tell me?"
I was already exhausted with this. "What do you want to know?"
She was blunt. "Who shot me?"
As much as I wanted to say, That punk muthafucka you asking for is the coward that left you a quarter of an inch from death or paralyzed from the neck down, I fought myself not to say, I almost died trying to protect you and all I get is a handshake? I wished that I was the one lying here instead of you, and you're asking me about him? I looked at her and said, "You don't really want to know."
"Ms. Emery, welcome back," a nurse said loudly as she walked into the room, followed by two others rolling a few gadgets into the room. She grabbed Sarai's chart. "How are you feeling?"
Sarai looked away from me. "Hungry."
"Uh-oh, doctor's orders don't call for that," the nurse smiled. "How about some juice, though?"
"Let me get a gallon of your best stuff, then," Sarai said, and we all laughed.
"Dr. Bowen performed the initial physical examination on you last night, but we need to do a more detailed vital and reflex check before you begin undergoing all of the testing today." She flipped through the chart. "Girl, you are a miracle. You can see, hear, talk, you sittin' up, and you'll probably be walking around as soon as we get some food up in you." She hung the clipboard on the foot of the bed and moved closer to Sarai's face. "We need to remove the catheter. Nurse Wiggins, would you shut the door, please?"
When the nurse lifted her sheet Sarai shifted uncomfortably and glared over at me as if to ask me to leave. She wouldn't have to tell me twice. Honestly, whether she remembered me or not, catheter removal wasn't my thing. I began tiptoeing toward the door. "Ms. Emery, would you like for your fiancé to stay?" Nurse Wiggins asked Sarai while pointing at me.
"Fiancé?" She giggled. "No, he's a friend of a friend of mine."
A friend of a friend? What the...? Nat and I concocted the story of me being her fiancé so that I could visit, give my input, and be in her room as much as I could. But now that she was awake all she was doing was hurting my feelings. I left the room and then decided to leave the hospital altogether. I was angry. I knew that I shouldn't be, but I had been dumped before and this pain was no different. Even though she truly couldn't help not remembering me, it was still her face, her smile, and her voice that didn't know mine.
Copyright © 2008 by Trista Russell