Marilyn Chambers had risen
at approximately seven a.m. that Friday morning, and by eight o'clock she'd swallowed her first cup of coffee
for the day and was almost fully prepared to take her morning jog.
On the brown, poorly cared for front porch of her St. Simons home, she slowly put each of her running shoes on, taking her time to tie them carefully with the fear that she might trip over a loose string while in the midst of her run. She'd placed her thick auburn colored hair back into a ponytail, and she wore her usual red T-shirt and matching shorts. After twisting each arm behind her back- pressing against her shoulders to relieve any pains there from the previous night's unrest, she bent down to do several toe touches. She was relatively limber after performing these tasks daily for the past two years; however, on this particular morning she felt more pain in her joints than usual. She wondered if she needed to buy a new mattress... though inside her she knew the real reason of why she was having such difficulty sleeping- she attempted to push these thoughts out of her mind.
The smell of the island morning was a compote of warm wet marshlands and saltwater, an aroma Marilyn had come to adore after the few years of living there. To her, it was the scent of an exotic locality, different and distinct, a terrific change from the smell of the big city.
And Marilyn relished it that morning as she began her fast paced walking- she sped over the grey gravel of the driveway and turned onto the main road. She did not pass another house for five minutes. The home she was living in was set apart from most of the others along Hampton Point, and she had chosen the abode for that reason. She prefered the isolation, but her only disappointment with the place was that it was not terribly close to the marsh, as most of the other houses there were. But those were more expensive. And as she made her way towards where those other homes she inhaled the morning air, filling her lungs with the sweetness of the day- it being so sweet to Marilyn since it lacked all memory of her past life. Usually.
She began to walk faster. She moved her arms to the beat of some silent rhythm, a rhythm only Marilyn could hear. She glanced over at some of the massive houses that lay next to the marshes. The sunlight dappled those front porches and thick grassy lawns with its vibrant ferocity, making shade only when the great clusters of trees told it to. Marilyn gazed at the tall windows lining the front of one particular house, and the wonderfully crafted pink and white staircase that led up to the front door of another. She picked up her pace and began a slow jog.
As she did this, it would be inevitable that since little else occupied her mind at the time, she would begin to recall the memories of Atlanta, of her old home, and of her dead husband. It always happened. Especially on a Friday- because he had died on a Friday. The change of venue could not keep it all away.
Marilyn worked at the library on the island, but only had a few acquantances and rarely saw her family, since most of them lived in Atlanta. Every day, she followed the same routine. And every night, her dreams in some way or another consisted of her past life. When she jogged, her little reveries consumed all of her and she could remember the familiar sounds of that bustling city, and could taste her old life as sure as maple syrup on her tongue. On this particular morning it was very strong. There were quick sounds of unseen animals scurrying behind the brush as she passed by, but she could not hear it. She was seeing his black hair, his warm eyes, and his smile that was forever gone.
Another sound came up behind her and unfortunately she did not notice this one either. Marilyn was rounding a sharp curve, and so was a blue Toyota. In less than an instant her mind flashed into assorted colors and her body flung forward, intense but frail. And then Marilyn saw darkness.
A haze enveloped Marilyn's view. She saw smoke, fog, something blocking her sight. She fought to overcome it as she came to, blinking her eyes and rubbing them until the fog slowly evaporated and she found herself on a dark soft couch. Her head rested on a pillow. She looked around and found her surroundings unknown. Before she could completely sort out anything in her head a tall figure of a strange man appeared above her. But it was difficult to see him with a trace of the fog still there.
"Thank God. Are you all right? I swear I never saw you. You don't know how horrible I felt the moment I realized what happened. I mean... it was just out of nowhere. I'm so sorry. Can you move? Do you hear me? God, please say you can..."
"I...can hear you fine," Marilyn whispered in a slightly hoarse voice. The man sighed and bent down to take a cool cloth from Marilyn's forehead, and as he did so she caught her first true glimpse of the man, his Stygian hair and his green eyes a double shock for her at that moment. She gasped and clutched the pillow beneath her.
"What's the matter?" asked the man fearfully. His voice held a richness she could not forget and again Marilyn gasped. But she could find no words. What could she say to him? That he looked just like her dead husband? He'd figure she had a concussion for sure then.
"Where am I?" she asked. The nerves in her body were beginning to wake up and she began to feel pain in her torso. The feeling of blood rushing all through her body flooded her senses as she grew more aware of herself. She winced in pain as she touched her side, the area where she hit the cement.
"You're at my house. Lucky we wern't too far away. Are you in a lot of pain? I know I should have taken you to the hospital... but I didn't know if you were injured terribly bad. I was going the speed limit- but if I had been one of the many who didn't you'd be sidewalk bacon by now."
The man laughed at his little joke and Marilyn attempted to smile, but she still found it hard to look at the amazing stranger kneeling beside her. The pain in her mind began to feel worse than the pain in her body. She fought hard not to cry, not to spill over in this moment of mixed calamities. She put her hands into fists, balled together to absorb the shock of the onrushing pain. She licked her cracked lips. The distrubing man saw this and rose to grab her some water from the kitchen, just across from where she lay.
"You must be really thirsty," he said, attempting to remain calm but was still in a state of slight panic. He'd almost killed the woman. He grabbed a glass out of the cupboard, fumbling a bit, and then filled it with tap water. He smelled the glass.
"Ugh," he reeled from the stench. "Damn it. The well water is bad right now, and I've just run out of bottled. I'm so sorry. This stuff is pretty nasty." He poured it down the drain.
Marilyn laughed in her daze. "Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink."
The man chuckled. "I think you're coming to, now. Do you remember your name? I'd sure like to know."
"Marilyn," she said. She tried to sit up on the couch but flinched from the burning ache in her side.
“Lay back,” said the man. “You don’t have to get up right away.” His hands went to her shoulders and their warmth passed through Marilyn immediately. She fell back onto the pillow staring inquisitively up at the stranger.
“What’s your name? she asked.
“William.” he replied with a smile. Marilyn laughed.
“I’ve always loved that name. It was my grandfather’s. And I had always planned that if I had a son I would name him William.”
William grinned down at her, his eyes containing an indelible amount of brightness and warmth. The similarity was uncanny to Marilyn and she could not hide how uncomfortable she was feeling.
“Are you in a lot of pain?” asked William. Again, he touched her. This time the top of her hand. Heat. Unbearable. She tried to look away.
“It’s not that,” she finally responded. “It’s just...you couldn’t possibly know how much you look like...” She couldn’t say it. Not his name. To say his name out loud after so long would rip her stomach like a paper shredder. William did not persist on the subject.
“Do you live around here?” he asked instead. She nodded.
“About a half mile down the road, on Butler Drive.”
“What do you do for a living? I’ll guess and say you’re a teacher. You seem like you’d be a perfect teacher.”
Marilyn smiled at the man’s curiosity. “Actually, I was a teacher in Atlanta before I moved down here a few years ago. Now I work at the library on the other end of the island. What do you do?”
During all this time William had kept his hand on hers. The sensation was wonderful to Marilyn, so soothing and beautiful. And throwing. It was as though his touch made the pain in her body go numb. She'd longed for that touch again for so long, the simplicity of it shocked her- how much more it seemed to relieve her. His touch seemed to offer ease from years of pain.
“A little of this and that. This is actually my summer home. Just where I vacation. I don’t really work when I’m down here.”
Silence siezed the hazy living room. Marilyn could not break away from the sight of William, whose eyes were filled with a strange sense of worry. His brow furrowed in the quiet air, and suddenly Marilyn’s heart was gripped in searing pain. So much like him. So much.
“I could get you something else to drink. Some juice or something.” William began to rise but Marilyn grabbed his arm, bringing him back to her side.
“No, don’t...don’t go...”
She did not want him to leave, to take his healing touch from her. His expression was calm, intense, perfect, and he seemed to completely understand what she was doing just then. He reached towards her, touched her cheek. Her face was pale but she was glowing all crimson within. She imbibed everything his touch gave her and at that moment the truth broke through. A fortified dam breaking. It exploded into her mind with such force the tears sprung into her eyes, turning them into miniature geisers.
“Michael?” Her voice was strained but to her it felt as though it echoed through every cave and hollow of her being. He smiled, bent down, kissed her lips. Marilyn’s mind flew into blackness again, and then she heard beeps- some wretched beeping burning her ears as she awoke in the emergency room, the cold bed beneath her flat and unyieling to the spasms of pain wrecking her body. She held fast to the previous warmth, not wanting to let go of the comfort she'd just felt. She held fast, bathing her body in her mind with the jogging memory.
“She’s awake!” a female doctor yelled. A jumble of hands were flying above Marilyn’s face, quick, intense, frightening. The doctors’ movements died down. Once doctor, a man with deep brown eyes, peered down at the confused jogger. Marilyn blinked and squinted underneath the brutal bright lights.
From below his mask the doctor whispered, “Thank God.”