SCARS FROM THE PAST

SCARS FROM THE PAST

BY EVA

May 6, 1922

"Hurry up Marguerite, we're going to miss lunch. Aren't you clean yet?"

Roxton had been standing guard while Marguerite took her daily bath at the pond, a ritual the rest of the group only partook of a few times a week. But Marguerite insisted someone accompany her to the pond everyday to stand guard while she cleaned away the grime of the jungle which seemed to cling to her more than all the other residents of the treehouse.

"Roxton, you do have your head turned, don't you? I'm coming out," Marguerite called to the impatient man sitting on the shore, rifle ready in hand for anything that might threaten the undressed lady in the pond.

"Yes, Marguerite," Roxton replied sarcastically, "my head is turned. Would it make so much of a difference if it weren't? After all, we've known each other almost two years now, shared numerous life and death situations…even shared the same bed on occasion…."

Marguerite, now emerged from the water and wrapping her robe around her body, smacked him soundly on the shoulder. "We did not share a bed …not the way you make it sound. I assure you whatever sharing of a bed we did was out of pure necessity of the situation."

While slapping Roxton's shoulder, Marguerite's robe slipped precariously off her shoulders, revealing a three inch scar just below the nape of her neck. Roxton felt fortunate to be privy to that part of Marguerite's body that up to this point had been concealed by her long hair, but also wondered what or who could have caused such a scar to this lovely woman's neck.

She quickly pulled the robe up around her shoulders covering whatever nakedness had been revealed, hoping Roxton had not seen the scar she carried for past mistakes in her life. Of course, she knew Roxton, being the well-bred gentleman, would never comment or probe her for an explanation. So, she walked back to the treehouse confident her past was still in the past and would never, pray God, be disclosed to the group of people she had reluctantly come to consider her friends.

*****

After lunch, Marguerite remembered she had left her jeweled hair combs back at the pond, her VERY VALUABLE jeweled combs as she liked to remind everyone.

"I'm going back to get them. I'll only be a few minutes," Marguerite protested to Roxton's insistence he walk with her.

"Now Marguerite, you could be lunch for some hungry raptor in 'only a few minutes.' Better to have someone go with than be sorry later. Besides, without you around, what would I do with myself for that hour everyday I'm conscripted as your guard?"

"Really, John is it that awful doing something nice for me? I would think it would be a welcome change from always dodging dinosaurs," she said teasingly.

"It would be a welcome change if I could get you to give in to some of my suggestions…like joining you in the pond."

"Well, that's never going to happen, so just put it out of your mind right now," Marguerite declared, with too much emphasis on never Roxton thought.

"There they are!" Marguerite pointed to the missing combs laying on a rock across the pond, just where she had left them that morning.

"Stay here and I'll get them," Roxton told her as he waded into the water.

"No, I can get them. I'm closer." Marguerite had already begun maneuvering the distance across the water where the jeweled combs lay waiting to be reclaimed.

She and Roxton reached the rock at the same time and both stretched out their arms stumbling into each other's bodies with a thud. Their thrashing about caused the water to rise and the combs washed into the water.

"Now look what you've done!!"

As Marguerite leaned over to retrieve the combs, Roxton pushed her away and shouted, " I said I'd get them and that's what I'm going to do. Just once Marguerite, I wish you'd let me……"

"Oh…Oh….John!!" Marguerite shouted as she lost her balance and fell backwards into the water. As she fell, her head struck one of the sharp angles of the rock and darkness overpowered her at once.

"Oh, my God! Marguerite!!" Before her head had time to submerge, Roxton had her in his arms lifting her limp body out of the murky water and carrying her to shore. She was still breathing, but a bright red gash on her forehead was already showing it's ugly self.

"Marguerite? Talk to me?" Roxton bent close to her face where he could detect her breath coming in fairly regular intervals, so he surmised she had only been knocked unconscious.

He quickly lifted her up and carried her to the treehouse, where he hoped Challenger would assure him there had been no permanent damage.

Once there, Roxton placed her gently on her bed while Challenger looked at the cut and the swelling that had now become obvious on Marguerite's forehead. When he had cleaned and bandaged the wound, he turned to the pacing Roxton and assured him with, "She may have a headache when she comes to, but other than that Marguerite should be her old self in a day or so." Challenger gave Roxton a comforting pat on the shoulder hoping he had eased his mind.

"I'll stay with her for a while just the same," Roxton said as he placed himself in the chair next to her bed, ready to stay as long as it took for Marguerite to regain consciousness.

******

May 7, 1922

Dawn was breaking through the windows in the treehouse when Roxton woke up to realize he had been in the chair all night. His first thought was of Marguerite as he moved to the side of her bed, leaned over her body and stared down at her peacefully sleeping face.

He was basking in the loveliness of her beauty with her long curling hair spread out so angelic-like on her pillow. But the serene feeling was quickly replaced with the fear - no knowledge - that when she awakened to realize it was he who had caused her latest injury, there would surely be hell to pay.

Marguerite slowly turned her face to him with eyes struggling to open.

He ran to the kitchen where Veronica was preparing breakfast and shouted, "She's awake! Get Challenger!"

As Roxton reentered Marguerite's room, she was sitting up, holding her head and picking at the thick and bulky bandages. "Oh, no. Not again. What did I do this time?"

Roxton had reached the side of her bed by this time, as well as Veronica and Challenger.

"Don't pull at them, my dear. You need those to keep out any infection," Challenger said as he replaced the corner of the bandage that Marguerite had already managed to pull off.

"Infection? Infection from what?"

"The cut you suffered yesterday at the pond" Roxton said guiltily. In fact, he was feeling guilty about causing yesterday's accident. If he hadn't been so clumsy reaching for those damn combs, he wouldn't have caused Marguerite to slip and fall.

Well, he thought with dread, may as well get this over with.

"It's my fault Marguerite. If you want to blame someone, blame me. I shouldn't have been such a clod."

Malone had joined the group by this time and when he and the others heard Roxton's apology, they all tensed waiting for Marguerite to unleash one of her tirades.

Instead, Marguerite slowly slid her arms around Roxton's neck, placed her head on his shoulder and murmured, "It's all right darling. I forgive you as I always do."

Everyone looked from one to the other with mouths and eyes wide open. This was not the same woman who harped all through lunch yesterday about his reluctancy to stand guard at the pond. Could the bump on her head have produced a personality change in the old Marguerite, creating a new one in its place?

Roxton was surprised but relieved at hearing her forgiving words, but the next ones produced utter puzzlement on his face as well as the others in the room.

"Why, Michael when did you shave your beard and mustache?"

Roxton looked over Marguerite's head to Challenger with questioning eyes. Challenger, as surprised as Roxton, could only shrug his shoulders with an 'I don't know'.

As Roxton gently lowered Marguerite back so her head rested again on the pillows, he said "Maybe you should lie back down and rest. You took a nasty blow to your head yesterday."

"You're probably right. Of course you're always right," she said softly.

Again, everyone was amazed at this new agreeable Marguerite.

Veronica whispered to Malone, "Maybe she should bump her head more often. I think I like this Marguerite better than the other one."

Malone gave her a reproaching look and turned to Marguerite, "Are you hungry? Would you like us to bring you breakfast?"

Marguerite who had just become aware of Malone's and Veronica's presence replied patronizingly "Why of course. I always take my breakfast in my room. You should know that by now."

Again Malone and Veronica's mouths dropped open again as they turned to leave the room.

Malone remarked under his breath to Veronica, "Well maybe we'd be better off with the other Marguerite. This one seems to think we're her servants."

Veronica laughed as she pulled him into the kitchen to fix a tray for this new Marguerite.

Challenger bent over to check the dressing on Marguerite's head and silently mouthed the words "We need to talk in the other room" to Roxton.

"All right now, Marguerite, I want you to stay in bed today and if you improve tomorrow, we'll let you get up. Okay?"

"Thank you Thomas. You know I'll do whatever you say. You know what a good patient I've always been. Remember all those other times you patched me up." She had whispered these last words to Challenger as though she didn't want Roxton to hear.

As Roxton arose from the side of her bed where he had been sitting, Marguerite put her hand on his arm and asked, "Don't I get a kiss?"

Though astonished and not sure what could have prompted this sudden reversal of Marguerite's personality, he decided to comply with her request and leaned down to kiss her on the cheek.

Challenger left her room confused by this new situation in the treehouse, followed by an even more confused Roxton.

Once the entire group had reassembled in the kitchen, Veronica spoke first.

"Challenger, what's going on? Marguerite called Roxton, Michael. And I heard her call you Thomas. And she's treating me and Malone like we were her servants. You don't think she's pulling some elaborate trick just to get out of doing her share of work, do you?"

"I'm not sure how to answer you Veronica. It's possible the blow to Marguerite's head caused some kind of time lapse in her mind and she believes us to be people from her past. That's the only explanation I can come up with at this point. As for a trick," he continued stroking his chin, "I don't think she's faking. She suffered a nasty blow to the head which I've known in many cases can produce personality changes or at the very least amnesia."

Roxton raised his head from his hands and said worriedly, "Well what do we do to bring her back?" No matter how much he might enjoy this welcomed good-natured pleasantness, he still wanted his feisty Marguerite back.

"It's possible this could clear up on its own in a few days, so we may need to let it run its course."

"A FEW DAYS?" Veronica objected loudly.

Roxton shushed her with his hands. "She might hear you."

Veronica repeated the question in a softer voice. "A few days? Acting as her servant in my own home? Really Challenger, there has to be another way."

Challenger replied, "There may be, but I can't think of one now until we know what we're dealing with." He moved to pat Veronica on the shoulder. "I know it's not a very comfortable role for you and Malone, but……."

"Don't worry, Veronica…," Roxton interrupted, "…this is my fault and I'll take full responsibility for Marguerite. You and Malone won't have to be servants. I'll stay close to her until this rights itself."

Veronica looked embarrassed with cast down eyes and replied, "Well, I admit I have selfish reasons for wanting the old Marguerite back, so I'll go along with whatever I can do…" she raised her eyes to face her friends, "…but I draw the line at bathing and dressing her!"

Everyone laughed nervously, the first time anyone had laughed that morning since Marguerite awakened to think they were all characters from her past.

*****

Malone reluctantly volunteered to deliver Marguerite's breakfast tray to appease Veronica, and as he entered the room he found the patient sitting up in bed, peering at the dressing on her head with her hand mirror.

She looked up with a smile and motioned him to set the tray on her lap.

"So…you must be new. I haven't seen you before, or the young lady who was here earlier. When did my husband Michael hire you?"

Malone's eyes widened and was about to answer with "Your husband!?", but quickly regained his composure with "Uhmmm…yesterday."

"And what are your names?"

"Uh…uh…" wondering if they should keep their real names or make up new ones, he finally sputtered the first that came to mind, "Victoria and Albert."

"Like…the queen?" Marguerite asked slowly.

"Yes….well you see we're brother and sister" he began beginning to relish the idea of inventing new roles for himself and Veronica "and my…er…our mother was so taken with….."

"Okay, that's all right…." Marguerite said patronizingly, "…you don't have to explain. Many people named their children after Victoria and Albert twenty years ago. Well! Welcome Albert and to your sister. I hope you'll both be happy here serving me and my husband."

There was that word again…husband!

As Malone backed out of the room, he kept repeating the words…"Thank you," while Marguerite smiled, apparently amused at 'Albert's' flustered departure.

Once he had cleared the bedroom door, he nearly knocked over a kitchen chair in his rush to tell the others what Marguerite had just revealed.

"Challenger, this may be worse than we thought," and turning to Roxton, "or it could turn out to be a good thing for you, but this Michael person….is her husband!"

For the second time that day, the group was dumbstruck and wordless.

*****

Later that morning when Roxton and Challenger were alone in the lab, Roxton remembered Marguerite's last words to Challenger.

"She called you Thomas. Who do you think this Thomas is? And what did she whisper to you?"

"Judging by what she said, 'You've patched me up enough times' she must think I'm her doctor. And from the frightened tone in her voice, she may have had several injuries of this nature."

"I don't understand, Challenger. 'Patched me up?' You don't think this Michael had anything to do with those injuries? Remember her first words when she came to were that she forgave me, just as she always did." Roxton sounded troubled when he added, " I'm not getting a good feeling about this."

"Neither am I, old man. But we need to proceed carefully. We don't want to shock her with too much reality. Try to play along with whatever she says until I figure out a better plan. Maybe she'll snap out of this on her own. Only time will tell, John."

*****

When John entered Marguerite's room that afternoon, she was writing in something that looked like a diary. Why hadn't he ever noticed her writing in a diary before? He had been in her room before during short platonic visits, but had never taken the time to notice the personal items in her room. He supposed she had always kept a journal of their time on the plateau, but up to now had kept it hidden from sight.

And, this new personality was so unlike the spirited woman with whom he had shared so many life and death adventures the past two years. Granted, she was more agreeable to him than before, something he had wanted for a long time, but he was bothered that the reason was because she thought him to be another man. Her husband, Malone had said.

And, was it possible he had abused her in some way? If he could get his hands around this Michael's throat, he would strangle the life out of him for causing Marguerite pain. Could he have been the person responsible for the scar on her neck he had noticed at the pond? If so, he definitely didn't like the idea of being confused for such a brute.

As John approached her bed, Marguerite hid the diary under her pillow and

quickly smiled. "Michael, I'm glad you're here. I wanted to say how sorry I am for last night."

"Last night? Uh..I'm not sure I know what you mean."

"Oh, you know how angry I was with you for going out last night. I truly didn't mean those awful things I said to you. My temper! It just gets away from me sometimes."

John thought, she even sounds different, almost child-like, like a young school girl.

"Oh, your temper…..oh, well yes….we all know what a temper you have." John groped for the right words. He remembered Challenger's words…go along with whatever she said.

John continued, "You know, it's funny. I don't even remember what we argued about. Do you?"

"Silly, of course I do. You were upset over the good news."

"Good news?"

"Does the thought of becoming a father really scare you that much?"

Father?

John turned his face away from Marguerite until he could regain his composure. After swallowing hard, he searched for the right words to erase the worried look from her face.

"Marguerite, whatever happened last night was due to the shock of the 'good news'. Of course, I'm happy….a little surprised…but certainly happy." He took her in his arms and pulled her close to him, trying to remove whatever pain this Michael may have caused her.

He wasn't sure what to do or say next until he could seek Challenger's advice, but for now it was enough to hold her and feel her body relax in his arms. He had wanted so long to hold her like this and have his affections returned by the woman he had fallen so deeply in love with.

John stayed with her that afternoon, bringing her lunch on a tray, reading to her… anything to stay near her in case she needed something and always steering the conversation away from the 'expectancy'.

As dusk fell over the treehouse, he stood up to leave.

"You'd better try to sleep now."

"You're not staying with me?"

This was the dilemma he had hoped all day he could avoid. One part of him wanted to stay with her. But not under these circumstances. His ingrained nobility wouldn't allow him to take advantage of her present vulnerability. But what could he say to make the disappointed look on her face disappear.

"Marguerite, I think you need to get a good night's sleep. I wouldn't want to accidentally bump your head."

"You're going out again, aren't you? I was right last night, there is some one else!"

"No, Marguerite. There's no one else. I promise you!" How could there ever be anyone else for me, Roxton thought. "What if I stay with you until you go to sleep. Would that make you feel better?"

"Michael, don't leave tonight. Stay home with me," she pleaded.

"I'll stay with you if that will make you happy. But you really need to sleep now. Lie back down….that's right….". John leaned over and blew out the candle beside the bed. As Marguerite slid down under the sheets, John laid down beside her, keeping himself safely above the coverlet. He moved his arm underneath her neck and she leaned into the curve of his shoulder, nestled her head to his chest and closed her eyes.

John had never been so at such a loss for what to do. He had longed for a moment like this, holding Marguerite in his arms in her bed, but knew he shouldn't and wouldn't act on the impulses that were coursing through his body.

John held her for a long time stroking her hair and when he was certain she was asleep, gently removed his arm and moved off the bed. He pulled the sheet up to cover her bare arms and tenderly kissed her forehead before returning to his room.

******

May 8, 1922

The next morning, Roxton rose early to check on Marguerite and found her out of bed holding her hand mirror in front of her body stroking her stomach, much like all women do when they learn they are with child.

He was painfully reminded of what she had told him the night before, that she was with child, his child, or rather this Michael's child. John's mind was reeling with confusion. All morning he had hoped for an overnight miracle and that she had snapped out of this strange and unfamiliar persona. But he could see from the glow on her face and her preoccupation with the size and feel of her stomach, she still thought she was married to another man and carrying his child.

"Oh, there you are! You weren't here when I woke up. Where were you darling?"

"Just out and about. Shouldn't you be resting?"

"You're probably right, but I've never felt better or happier."

"Well, are you hungry? Would you like me to bring you breakfast?"

John was remembering his promise to Veronica yesterday about staying close to Marguerite through this crisis. He was also worried with the past history of the two females in the treehouse, Veronica might not be able to maintain the ruse of pretending she and Ned were servants. They would all need to be careful the next few days. He wanted to take no risks that might push her further into this realm of delusion.

"I'm famished. But shouldn't you let one of our servants do that. Just tell cook to fill the tray with everything in the pantry. You know, I'm eating for two now." She suddenly turned and asked with panic in her voice, "You're not going out today are you? Please stay with me again today, Michael. Yesterday was…."

John bristled at being called Michael and quickly interrupted her with "Okay, I'll stay with you but only if you get back in bed. I'll go see what I can do about breakfast."

She allowed John to guide her to the bed with a broad smile on her face as she obviously enjoyed the idea of being pampered by the man she loved.

Roxton entered the kitchen where the others were already awake and sitting down to breakfast. From the dismal look on the young hunter's face, Challenger could tell right away how distressed he was and said, "She's no better is she?"

"No and I'm at a loss what to do. Challenger, she told me yesterday she's pregnant." Roxton could see the surprised look on everyone's face and quickly added, "Or, at least whoever she's become in the last couple of days believes she's pregnant. What do we do, Challenger?"

"Have your breakfast, John and I'll go have a talk with her."

*****

Challenger knocked at the entrance to his patient's bedroom and asked, "Marguerite, can I come in?"

"Thomas? Did Michael send for you? I would have come to your office. You didn't need to come to me, although I'm glad you're here. Did Michael tell you the good news?" Marguerite was chattering on cheerily until she noticed Challenger's worried look.

"Now, don't bother giving me any of that doctor mumble jumble of wait and see. I know I'm pregnant! A woman just knows these things. Thomas, I just know this child will help settle Michael down. He's going to make a wonderful father. Don't you think?"

Challenger thought to himself, she sounds so different…so young and optimistic . Not at all like the Marguerite he had become so close to since their time on the plateau.

"Well, yes….but, maybe you should wait and see before you make any more plans. You know you had a nasty bump to your head a couple of days ago. You might just be feeling the effects of that."

"Nonsense. I never felt healthier in my life."

"I know, Marguerite…but..…."

"You worry too much Thomas. Every thing is going to work out with Michael…I know it will. He's been so thoughtful and caring since I told him...well except for the first night. But after he had time to accept it, he's back to the same way he was when I first met him." She paused when she saw that same worried look on his face again. " Oh, I know that look. Don't worry. He's going to be a wonderful father."

"Well, okay if you insist my dear. But just go slowly…we don't want you to get overexcited, now do we?"

"Where is Michael? Did you see him when you came in?"

"I'll find him for you. But for now, I want you back in bed. You should rest for at least another day."

"Oh Thomas, I've rested enough in the past couple of days. I want to get out of the house and ……"

"Now, Marguerite…you need to rest," Challenger insisted. "Maybe tomorrow you can go out."

"Oh, okay….worry wart! I'll rest today….but can you find Michael for me?"

******

Challenger left her room shaking his head, obviously disappointed in himself for not knowing what he was going to tell Roxton. He knew he was depending on him to come up with a solution for this latest crisis. John must be going through hell right now. He knew…..no, everyone in the treehouse knew, how much John cared for this woman. To have her mistake him for a bully of a husband must be torture for his young friend.

Challenger entered the room and Roxton looked up hoping he would say that Marguerite had indeed been playing some kind of joke the last couple of days. But he could see by the look on his face nothing had changed.

"She's asking for you, John."

Roxton stood up and started for her bedroom but Challenger stopped him and cautioned, "John be careful what you say. As I told you last night, try to go along with whatever she says. Perhaps she'll reveal something to you that will help."

Roxton nodded in agreement, then hastily walked to Marguerite's room with the tray of food Veronica had prepared.

****

Marguerite was sitting up in bed, brushing her hair when John entered the room with her breakfast.

"Marguerite… hope you're hungry. Veronica loaded down your tray."

"You mean Victoria, don't you, Michael? And, you did bring it yourself. My sweet, sweet Michael."

There were only a few occasions over the past two years when John had been privileged to Marguerite's good-natured side, so when he heard this unfamiliar amiability, a glow rushed over his face. Then he remembered what she had called him. Michael!

Even though he didn't like the subterfuge they were involved in, he knew his role was that of Michael, her husband. He wasn't sure yet, but he had a strong feeling she had been emotionally as well as physically abused by this man from her past. He fought the sudden surge of anger at this man for hurting her because he knew right now he needed to return her pleasant demeanor with the same of his own.

John put the tray on the night table, sat down on the bed beside her and took the brush from her hand. "Here, let me do that for you. I'm afraid you'll knock your bandages off."

He began to brush her long, raven tresses with love in every stroke. He had never felt so much tenderness for this woman beside him. He had longed for a moment like this…a moment when he could tell her what was in his heart. A moment when her mood was soft and yielding.

"You're looking much better this morning," he whispered against her neck.

Marguerite turned around, put her arm around his shoulder and pulled him to her. He could tell she wanted him to kiss her, that she was initiating an intimate moment. His lips gently met hers and he felt himself giving into the moment with a sudden warmth rushing through his body.

But his conscience was also telling him this was wrong. She thinks I'm someone else, someone I don't want to be compared to. But the lips tenderly pressing into his own tasted so sweet he couldn't help himself. He dropped the brush on the bed and circled her body with one arm, grasped her long raven hair with the other hand and pulled her to him.

"Oh, Marguerite…."

She raised her face to his and said "I love you so much, Michael…"

He suddenly realized how wrong this moment was. She was calling him Michael again. She didn't know who he was. This was wrong. Wrong to deceive Marguerite and wrong of him to take advantage of her under these circumstances.

"…let's stay in bed today and talk about…."

John abruptly pulled away and stood up.

Panic clouded her lovely face. "Michael, what's wrong?"

"I need some air, Marguerite." He needed to remove himself from this torment. God knows, he wanted to stay with her, but the frustration and rage was swelling inside him from the thought of her not knowing who he was.

"Oh Michael…come back to bed…please…", Marguerite cried.

"You stay in bed and eat your breakfast. I'll be back later, I promise." He softly touched her cheek and left the room before he was tempted to stay.

When Challenger saw Roxton grab his rifle and gun holster and head for the elevator, he knew something had aroused his young friend's anger. He had seen him like this before when he and Marguerite had been caught up in one of their spats, and hoped he hadn't quarreled with her this time.

"I'd better go check on Marguerite," Challenger told the others.

When he entered her room, he found her in an agitated state with tears in her eyes.

"Marguerite, I came to check your dressing." The anxious look on her face prompted him to ask, "Are you okay, my dear?"

"Did you see Michael on your way in? Where did he go? Did he leave the house?" Marguerite was becoming hysterical with each query. "I must have said something to make him leave again, but I…."

"Now, now Marguerite. This isn't doing you or….er your baby….any good. You need to relax, eat your breakfast…and I'll go look for …uh….Michael."

Challenger left the room and descended in the elevator to the jungle floor where he found Roxton angrily strapping on his gun holster.

"Roxton, man…what happened? You've put Marguerite in a fretful state of mind. This isn't helping you know."

"I can't stand to hear her call me Michael, not one more time. Challenger, I think it best I make myself scarce for a while until she returns to her oldself."

"You're probably right, John. Stay clear of her room today and I'll keep an eye on her for now."

*****

John didn't return to the treehouse until dusk, hoping his mind had cleared sufficiently to take on the role of champion for his Marguerite once more.

Veronica was clearing the evening meal dishes when Roxton entered the kitchen.

"Roxton, we didn't know how long you'd be, so we saved your dinner for you."

"Not hungry. But, thanks anyway Veronica. Where is everyone? And, how's Marguerite?"

"Well, Challenger's in his lab and Malone's in Marguerite's room trying to read her to sleep. She's been restless since you left this morning. Made several trips out here looking for you. Challenger of course insisted she get back in bed, but you know our Marguerite….". Her voice trailed off when she saw the anguished look on Roxton's face.

"I should have stayed with her today. But every time she calls me Michael, my blood churns, and I'm afraid I won't be able to keep up the pretending. I feel so responsible for all of this."

"This isn't easy for any of us John, but you shouldn't blame yourself."

"You don't understand. It's my fault she fell. We were arguing over those damn combs that had fallen in the water. She insisted on getting them herself, and I was determined to do it for her. I pushed her away Veronica…I pushed her and that's how she fell. I'm no better than this Michael."

Veronica put her hand on John's shoulder and said, "John, don't beat yourself up over this. We all know how frustrating Marguerite can be. God knows I've wanted to push her myself…and more! She might have lost her balance anyway whether you pushed her or not."

Malone walked into the room and Roxton stood up and said "How is she?"

"Well, she's finally asleep. Took quite a few chapters of Hounds of the Baskerville to quiet her down. Something tells me there's still quite a bit of the Marguerite we know lurking somewhere in that mind of hers. That story terrifies me, but Marguerite…"

Before Malone could finish, Roxton stood up and headed for Marguerite's room.

"Roxton…..?"

"Let him go, Malone. He's feeling a bit guilty right now."

After looking in on a sleeping Marguerite, he placed the jeweled combs he had retrieved earlier that day on her night table. He then moved one of the reclining chairs in the library to just outside her room and threw a pillow on it. He removed his gun holster vest, hung it over the back of the chair and settled down for a long night's vigil. Malone and Veronica knew he planned to spend the rest of the night there to be close to Marguerite.

******

John was startled awake several hours later by Marguerite's crying. He rushed into her room and found her in the throes of a nightmare. Her face was twisted in pain and tears were visible on her face. She cried out, "No, Michael. Please don't Michael. Stop…please stop…."

John had no idea what to do. Should he wake her or let her continue crying out in pain? He couldn't stand hearing her crying so he took hold of her shoulders and began to shake her. "Marguerite, wake up…you're having a bad dream….wake up."

Marguerite's eyes opened to realize John was gripping and shaking her shoulders and she cried out in terror. "Get away from me! Haven't you done enough? Don't touch me again!"

John quickly released her and stood up helpless. He wanted to take her back in his arms and comfort her, but the look on her face immobilized him where he stood.

Challenger was the first to reach her room after hearing her cries. Veronica and Malone followed close behind to see what had alarmed Marguerite to the point of screaming.

"Oh, Thomas, I'm so glad you're here" cried Marguerite.

Challenger looked at Roxton and asked "What happened?"

"She had a nightmare, I woke her up…and……I don't know.…."

Challenger whispered to Roxton out of Marguerite's hearing range, "John, you'd better leave. Obviously your being here is upsetting her even more."

Roxton turned quickly and stormed out of the room, almost knocking Malone and Veronica over with his angry body.

Malone followed Roxton to his room where he found him sitting on the edge of his bed, head in his hands.

"John, what happened? Why was Marguerite screaming?"

Roxton's eyes were moist when he raised his head and answered, "She had a nightmare. She kept crying out for Michael to stop…I couldn't stand it any longer. When I woke her up, she had this terrified look in her eyes. Ned, she was afraid of me…almost as though she thought it was me hurting her."

"John, it's not you she's seeing" Ned tried to console his friend. "It's obvious she's mistaken you for this Michael, who doesn't sound very nice. But, you know…we all know how Marguerite feels about you. Even though she's never actually put her feelings into words, it's plain to see how much she cares for you."

"When is this going to end? I can't stand the thought of being compared to this monster. Challenger has to find a way to bring the old Marguerite back to us…to me."

Challenger entered the room with a strange look on his face. Roxton stood up expecting the worse, but could never have predicted what Challenger was about to tell them.

"John, you'd better sit down. Marguerite just told me she lost her baby. It seems that Michael came home after one of his drunken binges and …I don't how to say this, but apparently he struck her…several times….and it caused her to lose her baby. And, from what she told me, it's not the first time he'd hit her. It's obvious to me now that in her mind, she's reliving some terrible chapter in her life, probably from a time when she was very young. "

Roxton stood there speechless, and he said with a husky voice, "I need to be with her. She needs me to be with her."

As he moved toward the door, Challenger blocked his path and said "No, John…that would be the worst thing you could do right now. Remember she still thinks you're Michael. She's terrified of you. Veronica volunteered to stay in her room the rest of the night and we'll see what happens tomorrow morning."

"This is all my fault!"

" John, this isn't your fault. "

"Yes, it is! If I hadn't caused her to slip in the water and cut her head, this wouldn't be happening. She wouldn't be reliving this nightmare again."

"Get some sleep John. Daylight has a way of putting a different perspective on everything."

Veronica entered the room to check on Roxton. She had been thinking all night of the confidence he had entrusted with her earlier that evening. She was as worried about Roxton as much as for the safety of Marguerite. No one understood what was happening, least of all John.

Roxton asked anxiously, "What's she doing now? Has she calmed down?."

"No, she's writing in some kind of journal. Says she can't get back to sleep until she finishes. She's all worked up about something. So, I thought a cup of tea might calm her. John, she'll be all right. You didn't know she was going to react like this."

"John, I've an idea. You said you saw her writing in this diary the first day she regained consciousness. We've all seen her writing in her diary. Maybe we need to get a look at what she's writing down."

Malone spoke up with "You mean spy on her? Invade her privacy? I don't know Challenger, a woman's diary can be a pretty personal thing."

"Exactly!" They could tell Challenger was getting excited about a possible cure. "She might be writing down all the events that took place during that horrible period in her life and if we knew everything, we might find a way to bring her back from this delusion."

"I don't know," Veronica began, "it sounds sort of wrong to me."

"Well we need to do something. I can't stand this pretending to be someone I'm not." Roxton raked his hand through his hair. "But how do we get her out of the room long enough to read it"

"Why not plan a picnic by the pond tomorrow. That should keep her out of the treehouse for a couple of hours. I'll go along since she obviously trusts me. Veronica can go with us while you and Malone find her journal."

As Challenger walked with Veronica to the kitchen, Veronica reluctantly agreed with "You really think reading her diary can help?"

Challenger shook his head and said, "I don't know, Veronica, but we need to do something. I don't think John can take much more of this pretense. I'm afraid at any time he could say or do something that will push her further into this delusion. I know you don't want to see that happen."

"Even with all our differences, I've actually started to enjoy Marguerite's company. She's almost like family and right now she needs help, so I'll do what I can."

Challenger placed his hand on Veronica's arm and said, "You're a good friend to feel that way."

"Just don't tell Marguerite! I sort of like the squabbling . Gives us all something to talk about at the end of day."

Challenger laughed and nodded. "You'd better take that tea in before she comes out here looking for John…or should I say Michael."

******

May 9, 1922

Next morning, Challenger knocked on Marguerite's door and found her fully dressed, brushing her hair and looking like her old self again. His heart jumped at the thought that maybe she had returned to them.

"Oh, there you are Thomas. You know it seems like weeks since I left this room. This is going to be such fun. I'm so glad you suggested it. You haven't seen Michael have you?"

His heart sank when she called him Thomas.

"No, he doesn't seem to be home this morning."

"Just as well. We probably won't see him for a few days at least. He always disappears after one of these episodes."

Challenger noticed something had changed in her demeanor. Her voice sounded cold and distant while talking about Michael now. Not the same sweet, demure agreeable tone he had heard her use in the last couple of days. But neither was she completely back to the Marguerite they knew from the past two years. She just seemed different somehow.

Perhaps a breakthrough was imminent. If so, hopefully the treehouse could return to it's normal routine again.

"But let's not talk about all that unpleasantness. Is everything ready to go? I'm starving."

Challenger followed Marguerite into the kitchen where Veronica was waiting with baskets packed with their lunch.

"Victoria, you've outdone yourself this time," Marguerite said while peering into each basket. "Well, let's get started."

Before they descended in the elevator, Marguerite took a quick look around the treehouse as though looking for someone, then turned to join the others in the elevator.

When Roxton and Malone heard the elevator reach the jungle floor, they left the lab where they been staying out of sight. Malone peered over the balcony, and when he was sure their friends were on there way to the pond, he and Roxton quickly headed for Marguerite's room to search for her journal.

"I saw her hide it under her pillow that first day," Roxton said as he lifted the pillow.

"There it is!"

As he picked up the diary, a picture and something that looked like an old newspaper article fell out of the book onto the floor. Malone picked them up as Roxton sat down on the bed to read whatever personal notes Marguerite had written. He felt a little embarrassed at invading her privacy. If she ever found out, he'd have a hard time facing her again. But as Challenger said, they needed to know everything and this seemed to be the only way.

When he opened the diary, he turned to the last entries and retraced the past few days. As he read Marguerite's written words, his breath became labored and a lump formed in his throat.

"Ned, look at the dates. They're 12 years ago."

After reading a couple of pages, he slammed the book shut and stood up abruptly. Malone looked up and saw the anger on Roxton's face and his clenched fists.

"What's wrong? What did she write?"

"It's as I thought… her husband was hitting her for some time and last night he caused her to lose her baby. If I had my hands on him right now, I'd crush the life out of him…I'd kill him for hurting her."

"You won't have to, John. I think Marguerite already did."

"What!?"

Roxton took the newspaper article from Ned and slowly sat down when he saw the pictures above the article. There was one of a very young Marguerite and the picture next to it was of Michael Kingsley, who bore a striking resemblance to himself. Not identical, but the same color hair, same shape face, same smile. The main difference was the beard and moustache and the eyes. His eyes looked cold and threatening, like those of someone who would bully his wife.

"My God, Ned…..he looks so much like me. No wonder she thinks I'm him."

"Read the article, John."

On the night of May 10, 1910 Mrs. Marguerite Kingsley was arrested for the murder of her husband, Michael Kingsley but released several hours later when it was determined she shot her husband with his own gun in self defense.

Dr. Thomas Heglund, Mrs. Kingsley's family doctor and a trusted friend of the family, was witness to the shooting along with two servants, and gave testimony to the police that Mrs. Kingsley had for some time been physically abused by her husband.

According to Mrs. Kingsley's statement her husband returned home last night after a couple nights disappearance in a drunken state and made threatening moves toward her. Ms. Kingsley shot him because, as she recounted in her statement, she feared for her life.

As a result of Dr. Heglund's and the servants' corroborating testimony, all charges were dropped and Mrs. Kingsley was released from custody.

"Look at the date, John…."

"May 10, 1910! Where's the diary?" John quickly picked up the diary and turned to the last entry. "Look at the date on today's entry, May 9, 1910...that's one day before she shot her husband. Tomorrow she's going to shoot and kill her husband and right now in her mind that's me."

"I have to get some paper and pencil and copy this article for Challenger. He has to know every word. Anything in the diary that could help?"

John picked up the diary again and sat down on the bed. He turned to the last entry and read the words Marguerite had written last night after he had awakened her from her nightmare.

May 8, 1910

Michael came home drunk again tonight and before I knew what I was saying I had accused him of being with another woman. He became so enraged he frightened me and I ran to my room, but before I could lock the door he had pushed his way in and was making advances toward me. I could still smell the other woman's cheap perfume on his clothes. I didn't want him touching me but when I tried to get away from him he pushed me against the wall. When I still refused, he started hitting me.

John looked away quickly before Ned could see the rage in his eyes.

"What's wrong, John?"

"I can't read anymore." Roxton threw the book on the bed.

Ned picked up the diary and started reading the entry that had so infuriated John.

He hit me hard in my stomach several times and only stopped when he saw the blood on my gown. The servants heard me screaming but the damage had already been done by the time they pulled him away from me. Michael of course ran and Thomas was called to the house. But by the time he arrived, it was too late. I had already lost my baby.

Michael has changed so much since I married him a year ago. He was so caring, so loving. It's obvious now he married me for my inheritance. He didn't want a wife, he didn't want children. He wanted my money. I'll never let this happen again. No man will ever get close enough to betray me or hurt me again.

With any luck, I won't see Michael for a few days but when he does come home, I'll tell him I want a divorce. I want him out of my life for good.

Thomas suggested an outing tomorrow if I feel up to it. A picnic…just Thomas and me.

Victoria is here now with my tea. The one good thing Michael did was hiring this new servant. She's a treasure.

Ned smiled at the last entry….Marguerite calling Veronica 'a treasure'. He had to remember to tell Veronica - or should he say 'Victoria'.

May 9, 1910

Thomas is right. What's that favorite saying of his…morning puts a different perspective on everything. I do feel better this morning. Michael's not home yet. Maybe he'll never come back. I'm afraid what will happen when he does return.

I'll never let him hurt me again.

When Malone had copied down the article and parts of the journal he said, "We'd better put everything back where we found it, Roxton. We don't want her to know we've been in here snooping."

*****

Malone and Roxton left her room shaken by what they had just learned about Marguerite's past. That she shot her husband in self defense was a shock, but the fact Marguerite had once allowed a man to physically abuse her, was the most astonishing of all.

Roxton sat at the kitchen table with a wounded look on his face. Malone thought he saw tears in his eyes when Roxton said, "How could she have allowed anyone to hurt her like that. That's not the Marguerite I know."

"John, we all know what a strong-willed woman she is now. But remember this was twelve years ago. That would make her about 17 or 18, probably just out of boarding school and maybe in love for the first time. Love can cloud our good senses and cause us to make foolish and unwise decisions."

"This would explain her distrust of men and especially me since I look so much like this Michael."

"Well, at least we know the whole story. And I've copied the article down for Challenger to read. He'll know what to do. I don't like seeing Marguerite hurting anymore than you do John."

They heard the elevator moving and knew the others were returning from their outing.

"John, you'd better go to the lab. Remember, Michael's not supposed to surface again until tomorrow."

"I'm going," Roxton said as he quickly descended the steps into the lab. His heart was aching from what he had read, not only in the article but the journal. How could any man be abusive to a woman? How could any man hurt the woman he was supposed to love? According to Marguerite's journal, Michael had never loved her for herself, but for her inheritance. No wonder Marguerite was so protective of her money. And, of her heart.

But what worried him most was the newspaper article. Marguerite had shot and killed Michael in self-defense? He must have come home the next day and threatened her again. He could hear her voice amongst the others upstairs and he longed to rush to her side and hold her. He wanted to offer her his protection for the rest of her life, to be sure no one would ever harm her again. He wanted to do or say something that would make her see she could trust him, trust him with her heart.

Challenger came rushing down the stairs to the lab with Malone following close behind.

"Malone just showed me the article and the entries from the journal. I may have come up with a possible solution. Back in London, I attended several lectures by a Swedish doctor. He's been exploring the idea of repressed memories and how they can surface many years later. From what she's written in her journal, I believe this may be what we're dealing with."

"Well if it is, what to do we do? I'm willing to do anything, Challenger, anything!…whatever I can to erase those memories from her past."

"Well, I've given it some thought and I believe the best thing we can do is to let this whole chapter in her life play through to the end."

"Wait a minute Challenger," Malone interrupted, "according to the article, she's going to kill her husband tomorrow night. Are you saying we should let her shoot John?"

"Exactly!"

Roxton and Malone both stared disbelievingly at Challenger.

"Oh, no! No…what I meant was we let the whole terrible day play out and let her shoot who she thinks is Michael…BUT we put blank shells in the gun." The two young men both sighed with relief. "It won't be that difficult to slip in her room while she's sleeping tonight and replace the real bullets with blanks."

"But how will her shooting me, or who she thinks is Michael, bring her back?"

"This doctor I mentioned earlier believes sometimes the reenactment of a traumatic act can be enough of a shock to bring someone back from an hysterical state to one of reality. It's my contention that Marguerite may also be harboring guilt feelings about shooting someone she loved. Tomorrow night when she shoots you…er…Michael…and then realizes you're not dead, that along with the shock of the reenactment…well… it may bring her back to reality."

Challenger paused for his words to sink in, then asked, "Well, that is what everyone wants, isn't it?"

"Of course, you know it's what we all want," Roxton answered.

"Splendid! Roxton, you keep to the lab for tonight and all day tomorrow. Then late tomorrow afternoon, we'll set the stage. Marguerite should be in her room where I'll make sure her gun is in plain view. The rest of us will be in the great room as you come up in the elevator and begin shouting for Marguerite. When she comes out of her bedroom, if all goes as it did twelve years ago, she should have the gun with her. You'll need to make some menacing moves toward her, John….."

"Oh no! No…I can't do that to her."

Challenger silenced Roxton's objections with, "John, this needs to be as real as we can get it. Once she fires the gun and realizes she didn't kill you….well lets just hope it brings her out of this nightmare she's reliving."

Malone complimented the scientist with "Not a bad plan, Challenger. I couldn't have written a better story myself."

Roxton threw Malone a frown and turned a troubled face to Challenger. "I don't know George, do you really place a lot of confidence in this doctor's theories? Do you really think that's what Marguerite is suffering from? Repressed memories? Guilt?"

"Well, I admit it's a new theory explaining the mysteries of the mind. The theory may or may not be conclusive, but what else do we have to work with? She seems to be slipping further and further away." The older man put a comforting hand on his young friend's shoulder to reassure him. "It'll work, John. We'll make it work."

*******

May 10, 1922

The day began as all days in the treehouse began, with sunlight dancing through the windows and birds singing good morning songs to the rising residents.

Roxton had spent a restless night on the cot in Challenger's lab, never completely sleeping because he thought he could hear Marguerite crying in her room. He had ached to go to her, take her in his arms and comfort her, but he knew he had to stay away for another day. His stomach hurt when he thought about pretending to be Michael for one more day and he feared how this day might end. If Challenger's plan didn't work, Marguerite might always mistake him to be Michael. When he thought Marguerite may never know him again as John, that she would never want to be near him again, tears welled up in his eyes.

He shook his head to stop the tears. He had to keep a level head if he was to perform the plan Challenger had laid out for them.

He could hear everyone moving about upstairs, including Marguerite. She sounded different somehow, almost like the Marguerite he had known the past two years. Maybe she had come back on her own.

He was toying with idea of going to her, when Malone descended the stairs to the lab.

"Man! You look terrible, didn't you get any sleep?"

"What do you think! Of course, I didn't get any sleep. I'm going to get shot tonight, remember?" Roxton replied sarcastically. "How is Marguerite this morning? From here she almost sounds like her old self."

"Well, she's not. Still thinks me and Veronica are her servants. I don't know, I'm kind of enjoying being called Albert…..". Malone stopped when he saw how much his words had upset Roxton.

"John, I'm sorry. I didn't mean I didn't want the old Marguerite back. Well…..I don't know what I meant. You know she's treating me and Veronica like we were part of her family. Funny. I never would have expected Marguerite to treat servants that well."

"Perhaps with her husband hurting her, she turned to the other people in her life at that time for comfort. You can see how close she is to Challenger. Since I've known Marguerite, I don't think I've ever heard her talk about friends or family." His voice turned soft and tender as he continued, " I wish I had been in her life during that time. She wouldn't be in the miserable state of mind she's in now."

*******

As the day droned on, Roxton became restless in the lab. Even with Challenger there to talk to, he didn't have much to say. He just wanted to get this charade over with so they could all sleep easy tonight.

Late that afternoon, Challenger told Roxton, "You should take the elevator downstairs now John and get ready to come back up on my signal. I'll keep Marguerite in her room until you're out of sight."

Roxton nodded, took his hat and stood at the bottom of the stairs waiting for Challenger to enter Marguerite's room. When he gave John the signal, the young hunter quickly left the treehouse in the elevator and paced the jungle floor below waiting for his cue to begin his part in the reenactment.

Malone and Veronica took their places in the kitchen. After Challenger gave Roxton the signal, he joined the others. Everyone had nervous looks on their faces as they looked from one to the other. Malone had the copied newspaper article in his pants pocket, and kept looking at it nervously.

Challenger had coached everyone that afternoon on their respective roles in this dark chapter from Marguerite's dark past. Malone and Veronica were to stay in the kitchen, while he would take his place in the great room. Roxton's role was to enter the treehouse at Challenger's signal and begin shouting for Marguerite in a bad-tempered way. He was to shout for her until she joined him in the great room and then to make threatening moves toward her. Roxton had been disturbed by the last suggestion, but Challenger finally persuaded him this is how her husband would have behaved twelve years ago.

In the hopes of a bringing her back to him, Roxton agreed to go along with the role Challenger had laid out for him. His heart was beating nervously when he entered the room and starting calling Marguerite's name.

"Marguerite? Marguerite, where are you?"

With Roxton in the lead role, Malone knew he had no lines in this charade, but he couldn't help pulling out the article one last time and reading it over quickly before the scene started. However when he read it over this time, one line stood out. Why had he not remembered this before when Challenger was writing the script. The article had said, "Mrs. Kingsley shot her husband with his own gun."

When Marguerite appeared in the room before John, Malone realized the mistake Challenger had made. The plan called for her to be carrying her own gun loaded with the blank shells Challenger had switched last night. But, to Malone's horror, Marguerite was holding one of Roxton's guns, which everyone knew were always kept loaded with real bullets.

"I'm here, Michael. You're not coming near me tonight. You're not touching me again. You shouldn't have come back. Why did you come back?" Her voice sounded cold and determined. "But now that you're here, you should know you'll never get the chance to hurt me again. You made me lose our baby and I'll never forgive you for that."

Roxton made a move toward her and she raised the gun and pointed it at him. "Stay where you are. Don't come any closer."

Malone had been trying to move closer to Challenger to alert him Marguerite wasn't carrying the gun with blank shells, but instead had Roxton's loaded gun. When he reached Challenger's side, he whispered, "The article said she shot her husband with his gun. Challenger, she's holding Roxton's gun!"

"I see that now, but I don't know if John realizes it yet. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. I have to distract her somehow."

"I don't think that will be enough. Someone needs to grab the gun away from her at the same time. Here," Malone grabbed an empty glass beeker from the counter behind them, "throw this and I'll charge her when she looks away from Roxton.

Challenger nodded in agreement. He was sure by this time Roxton also realized whose gun Marguerite was holding.

Indeed, Roxton had caught his breath when he saw the pearl handle of the gun Marguerite was holding. He recognized it immediately as his own and drew in his breath sharply remembering how he always kept it loaded for any kind of emergency. Why had she taken his gun instead of her own?

Then with a shock he remembered. The evening of her nightmare, when he had slept in the chair outside her room, he had removed his holster vest and hung it over the back of the chair. As she came out of her room tonight, it must have been the first thing she saw.

How could he have been so careless? He knew he had been out of his mind with worry the last few days and all normal routines had been abandoned. But to have forgotten to safely store his guns away, was completely unlike him.

He saw Challenger hold up the glass beeker and Malone motioned he was ready to tackle Marguerite at the right cue.

"Now!" Malone whispered to Challenger. Challenger threw the beeker across the room and shouted her name. A startled Marguerite turned at the noise, and Malone and Roxton lunged for her at the same time. Malone knocked the gun from her hand as Roxton pushed her to the floor. Marguerite slid across the floor striking her head on the corner of a chest against the wall.

In the melee, the gun went off and everyone froze. Each looked anxiously at each other and realized that luckily the bullet had shot and shattered the mirror over the kitchen sink, sparing everyone in the room. Veronica moved to Malone's side to help him up, as John turned to Marguerite and pulled her head up to rest on his lap.

"Marguerite, are you okay? Are you all right?"

Marguerite's eyes looked up to John's and then fluttered closed.

"Oh no, Marguerite. Not again. Challenger?"

"She's just unconscious, John. I heard her hit her head when she landed on the floor. Let's take her to her room and pray she's all right when she comes to."

John picked up the unconscious Marguerite and for the second time in a week carried her limp body to her bed. Veronica brought in a basin of cold water to bathe her face, a task John immediately took responsibility for. He lovingly placed the cold cloth on her forehead and stroked her hair gently.

An hour later John was still sitting by her bed holding her hand when Marguerite's eyes began to open slowly and realize that he was again standing vigil over her bed. His head raised to an alert position waiting for her to speak.

"Marguerite….do you know where you are?"

"Hmmmm…..my head hurts. What are you doing in here?" Marguerite was looking around the room, as though looking for something specific. When her eyes rested on the night table, she said, "Oh, you found my combs. Just like you said you would. I should have listened to you at the pond. I wouldn't have hit my head if I had listened to you."

Roxton breathed easy for the first time in many days when he realized she not only remembered the combs, but also the day at the pond. His Marguerite was back, the same Marguerite he had known the last two years was back.

When he entered the kitchen to fetch her a cup tea, everyone knew normalcy had returned to the treehouse. Roxton's face was beaming.

"She's back. I really think she's back. Challenger you're a genius. And Ned, I need to thank you. I don't think this would have turned out as well as it did without you. I want to thank all of you for what you did tonight."

"No need to thank us John," Veronica began, "we all have our reasons for wanting the 'old' Marguerite back. Now, you'd better get that cup of tea back in there before she starts looking for you."

John smiled appreciatively at his friends and carried the tea into Marguerite's room where he found her holding her hand mirror looking at the impending scar on her forehead.

"Another scar, and on my face!" Marguerite sighed. "How many more scars will I carry back to London, I wonder." She looked up at John and took the cup of tea he was offering. "Well, I suppose this one's my fault. I should have listened to you and let you get the combs. I suppose you're waiting for an apology."

"Marguerite, I'm the one who should be asking for your forgiveness. I'm the reason you slipped and fell in the water. I pushed you," he admitted. "That's why you lost your balance. I'm so sorry, Marguerite."

She glared at him and said, "You PUSHED me? I don't believe what I'm hearing. You…admitting something was your fault. So I guess I have you to thank for this scar."

John answered with, "Oh! Well! If we're comparing scars, what about this one?" He pointed to the small white line on his lower lip, a painful reminder of the first time he tried to kiss Marguerite.

Marguerite leaned in to John's face with squinting eyes. "Where? I don't see anything. Oh, you mean THAT tiny little scar. You big baby, it's hardly noticeable…and you only have yourself to blame for that one."

John threw his head back suddenly and laughed, causing Marguerite to break into laughter of her own.

What a comfort, John thought, to know that the Marguerite he knew so well was back. No one could match words with him like she could. No one gave him that special feeling like she did.

"It's good to have you back."

"What?… have me back? Where did I go? Oh, you mean when I was knocked unconscious."

"Something like that." Roxton handed her the cup from the night table. "Here, drink your tea Marguerite. Then you need to try and sleep. You've had a very busy week." He leaned in and kissed her on the forehead near her new scar, a scar he would forever feel responsible for causing.

*****

When everyone had retired for the evening, John heard someone moving around in the kitchen. When he went to check, he found Marguerite burning the pictures and newspaper article from her journal at the stove.

"Marguerite, are you sure you want to do this?"

"For some reason, I feel the need to destroy any reminders of my past."

When the last of the papers were reduced to ashes, John put his arm around her waist, pulled her close to him and said, "If you'll let me, I'll make certain your future is much brighter than your past."

Marguerite pulled away walking slowly to her bedroom. John turned around to see her standing in the doorway tilting her head invitingly, "Are you coming in?"

John followed her into her bedroom and as they sat close to each other on the edge of her bed, Marguerite took his hands in hers and said, "Before we go any further, I need to tell you something….I need to tell you something that happened when I was…."

John put his fingers to her lips to quiet them and said, "You owe me no explanations. What's in your past, should stay in the past."

"But if you knew certain things about me, you may not want me in your life."

John cradled her face in his hands and said, "Marguerite, there's nothing you could ever say or do that would change how I feel about you. But," and he looked at her with wary eyes, "there is one thing I need to hear."

"And, what would that be?"

"I need you to say my name". John held his breath waiting for her answer.

Marguerite gave him a puzzled look and then whispered slowly, "Lord… John… Roxton?"

John sighed with relief, for hearing her speak his name finally convinced him she knew who he was, and after tonight he would spend the rest of his life making sure the door to her past remained closed forever.

THE END