Hannah Bryant has always been different. Since she was a child, she's had vivid dreams of death and loss. Years later, Hannah is a successful doctor who's gotten past the terrors that used to plague her. In a flash, everything she has worked so hard for is in danger when the dreams return with a vengeance.
But the dreams haunting Hannah's sleep now are nothing like the ones from her childhood. No longer does she dream of death and destruction--now her dreams are of a man who elicits a reaction from Hannah's body that's strangely familiar and startlingly brand new at the same time.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Make Me Remember by Emma Petersen
"What brings you to see us today--" I looked down at the medical chart in my hand before I continued, "Mrs. Peltier?"
I smiled, not only to reassure her but also because I was relieved she was my last patient after a very long and very stressful day.
"My granddaughter." Despite my attempts to set her at ease, the elderly woman gave me a suspicious look. "And I've had trouble with..." She hesitated.
I patted the older woman's hand and nodded. She was probably embarrassed to admit she had a problem with constipation. I saw no reason to embarrass her further when the information was written in the chart. "It's something that afflicts us all once in a while. Besides that, are you experiencing any other difficulties?" I looked up from the prescription pad in my hand into the stunned face of the patient's granddaughter. "Is there a problem?"
The younger woman blushed and shook her head. "No, it's just you're the first doctor I've met who bothered to learn Dakota. I grew up here and can't speak it half as well as you."
I looked at her, puzzled. "I beg your pardon?"
"You speak Dakota very well. My grandmother hates coming to the tribal clinic but once she heard the new doctor spoke Dakota..." At my confused expression, she explained further. "My grandmother doesn't speak English."
I backed away from the two women slowly, my skin hot and clammy at the same time. I shook my head and caught myself as I stumbled in my haste to get out of the room.
Turning, I fled, my professionalism enough to keep me from crying out but not enough to keep me in the room.
This can't be happening. Please, God. Don't let this be happening again.
I barely made it to the ladies' room before I was violently ill. Spasms slammed through me and tears streamed down my face. I couldn't help the pathetic moan that escaped my lips. Long after my stomach was empty, I still retched as I fought to calm my racing mind.
There had to be some sort of misunderstanding. I didn't speak any language other than English.
Or at least that's what I had long ago convinced myself.
I picked myself up off the cold tile floor and walked out of the bathroom stall. I avoided looking in the mirror, knowing what I'd find, but at the last moment, I gave in and met the wide, terrified eyes of my pasty reflection.
"You don't have to give in to your imagination," I whispered.
As a child, the words had been my mantra. I'd repeat them to myself over and over again when I'd wake up from a nightmare, scared and alone. I said them out loud now as I pinched my cheeks to bring some color back into them.
This was just one incident in a span of twenty years. It didn't matter.
I washed my hands, rinsed my mouth and splashed water on my face before I grabbed some paper towels and left the bathroom only to come face-to-face with my nurse, Robin.
"Dr. Bryant, are you okay?"
I forced a smile. "Yes, Robin, thank you. I'm going to head home a little early. I think I may have picked up a touch of the stomach flu."
Robin hesitated, looking as if she wanted to say something else, but nodded instead. "Is the patient in room one ready to go?"
I flushed and hoped the patient wouldn't tell Robin about my odd behavior. "Yes, her prescription is in the chart. I didn't have time to give it to her before I got sick."
"It's okay, Dr. Bryant. I'll give it to her. You go home and rest." Robin patted my arm before walking toward the exam room.
I grabbed my purse and keys out of the office I shared with two other doctors at the small clinic on the Standing Ridge Reservation.
Walking slowly toward my car, I purposely didn't think about what happened earlier, or at least I tried not to. Twenty years, completely obliterated in the matter of seconds, and the worst part was I had a feeling it was only the beginning.
* * * * *
The drive from the clinic to the house I rented in the tiny reservation town of Two Kettles passed in a blur. I breathed a sigh of relief as my garage door whirred open. I was home, or at least what had been my home for the past couple months.
I had accepted this temporary assignment in South Dakota, despite my parents' protests. It was the first time I had stood up and made a choice without their influence. I never really thought about why, when I finally decided to stand up for something, it had been this, of all things.
I didn't know anyone here. The only thing I knew was the clinic where I now practiced was understaffed and in desperate need of doctors. And it didn't hurt that in return for a half-year commitment they would pay off the remainder of my student loans.
The freedom of standing up for myself had been heady. Until that day, every act in my life had been made with my parents' approval in mind. When I stuck to my guns and didn't let them sway me it had been as if one decision had triggered another. It had given me the strength to ask Marcus to wait until I got back to California to answer to his marriage proposal. Also the courage to tell him I needed a break from our relationship before I totally committed myself to him and our life together.
He had agreed to both requests easily--maybe a little too easily. Maybe it had been wrong of me to ask, but I couldn't accept his proposal or choose the man I married simply because I knew my parents approved of him.
My stomach tightened and I concentrated on keeping my breathing even as my heart sped up. Usually, when a woman's heart pounded at the thought of her lover, it was a good thing. Unfortunately, in my case, it wasn't. I loved Marcus, just not the way a woman should love a man who could possibly be her future husband.
Then again, what did I know about husbands and love? My parents' relationship wasn't based upon love--I knew that for a fact.
When I was sixteen, my mother had given me the "talk" and she was very candid about her relationship with my father. Explaining that while she did care for him, messy emotions like lust and passion were not part of the equation. To my mother, feelings were fleeting and didn't make for a lasting, healthy relationship. If you were weak enough to let your body control you, then you deserved to reap the consequences. Which could range from an unplanned pregnancy to a "social disease", as my mother called sexually transmitted diseases, or worse.
Women who not only acknowledged but let their baser needs control them don't get anywhere in life, she'd said. And that, in my mother's mind, was worse than death. She took pride in having wealth, a house in the best of neighborhoods and a successful, well-respected and prominent husband.
My mother's mercenary reasoning hadn't killed my secret belief in true love, but it had dampened it. I respected Marcus as a person and I knew if we got married after our break, we'd have a good life. He knew all my secrets and hadn't treated me any differently when he found them out, but kindness and understanding weren't reasons to spend the rest of your life with a person. Were they?
I grabbed my purse, got out of the car and refused to let my mind wander back to the things I'd rather not think about. All that was over now.
Opening the door that led to the entryway of the house, I tossed my keys on the counter that divided a small living room from a tinier kitchen. I ignored the red blinking light on the answering machine that signaled I had a message. Instead, I removed my lab coat and flung it over the arm of the sofa as I made my way to the hallway that led to my bedroom and bathroom.
Stripping as I walked down the hall, I remembered I had been supposed to call Marcus earlier that morning. Picking up the phone on the nightstand by my bed, I dialed his number.
As the phone rang, I thought about the man who had asked me to marry him. He was a good man, an even better doctor, and I was lucky to have him, or so my mother had told me on more than one occasion. Marcus Edwards was my father's medical practice and business partner. He was also a brilliant oncologist and the youngest chief of medical staff in the county.
My father had mentored Marcus in college during my teens. He had rarely brought his students to our home, but from the beginning it had been different with Marcus. Though he often said he owed his success to the elder Dr. Bryant, I knew the truth. Marcus was ambitious, determined and had no other choice except to excel. It was either work hard and prosper or die in the rough Los Angeles neighborhood where he had been raised.
When he met my father, Marcus had been in his first year of college, working two jobs and still maintaining a near-perfect GPA. My father had come home raving nonstop about the brilliant young man he had met earlier that day. The next night Marcus had come for dinner and had been a standing guest from that night forward. Even my elitist mother adored him, despite the fact he had been born in the wrong county.
I stifled a sigh when I got his answering machine. I didn't know why I was surprised he wasn't home. Marcus was more of a workaholic than my father.
As I left a message, I ignored the unease in my stomach and refused to contemplate how it would be to be married to a man who loved his job more than he loved me. My mother had survived it and so would I.
Is that all you want from a marriage, to survive it?
Walking into the adjoining bathroom, I undressed and ran bathwater. As the tub filled, I studied my reflection in the full-length mirror.
Marcus and I hadn't had sex in almost a year, not including the four months I'd been in South Dakota.
Week after week, we each had made excuses, until neither of us bothered to come up with reasons not to have sex. And though neither of us would come out and say it, I knew the few encounters we'd shared had been less than earth shaking for both of us.
Some would say Marcus' lack of interest could be taken as a sign that he'd found someone else. Sadly, though I knew Marcus was faithful, I just couldn't bring myself to care either way.
Naked, I stood in front of the mirror and studied my body. I was pudgy. It was the only word I could think of that fittingly described my body. My breasts were more than a handful and, as a teenager, a source of embarrassment to my petite mother. She thought my breast size bordered on vulgar and had said so on more than one occasion. Must have come from your father's side, she'd say before she'd put her hands on her slender size-two waist and shook her head sadly.
My waist size was the only thing I had inherited from her. It was small, though not as tiny as hers, and unfortunately flared out into hips too wide to be considered fashionable.
I ran a hand over my nipple, shivering as it puckered from the light caress. Fascinated, I ran my hand over the other and watched as it too drew tight. I continued down my stomach to my thighs and hesitated a moment. I knew what I'd find if I sank my fingers between my bare lips. There would be the wetness that was always mysteriously missing during my encounters with Marcus.
I was more than capable of becoming aroused and achieving an orgasm, but with Marcus my body was as responsive as a remote control without batteries. It wasn't as if Marcus wasn't physically attractive. The clich� "tall, dark and handsome" couldn't describe him better and yet...
I stifled a sigh, turned from the mirror and climbed down into the bathtub. I groaned as the hot water enveloped me, soothing my sore muscles and loosening my limbs. Relaxing against the tub's slanted back, I pretended this entire day was nothing more than a bad dream.