Chapter 2: In Sickness and In Health
"Hi! Nice to meet you, what's your name?" Brittany flashed her a grin; the grin she usually flashed to strangers. Santana suddenly felt sick. She excused herself and bolted out of the room. Just as she opened the door, she almost crashed headfirst into Quinn who was just rushing back after hearing the news from Brittany's doctor. One look at Santana's face and Quinn knew Santana had found out.
"I'm so sorry." Quinn whispered. Santana pushed her aside and flung herself into the hallways, desperate to get away from the room. Quinn followed and put her hand on Santana's back as she sank to the floor. The crying started out small but soon progressed enough that Quinn felt herself shaking as she clung onto Santana. Nurses regarded her sadly, asking if she needed anything but Quinn waved them away. When Santana's sobs grew more manageable, Quinn helped her into a chair.
"She...she doesn't remember me." Santana said hollowly.
"The doctor says it might not be permanent." Quinn offered.
"I know her. She's Brittany. She's my wife. I will always love her. But when she looked at me, I was just a stranger."
"You need to tell her who you are." Quinn said.
"What's the point?" Santana asked. "She doesn't remember me. She...she..." Santana closed her eyes and her breathing quickened as she tried to force the words out. "She doesn't love me."
"She loves you, Santana, she just doesn't remember it. She's still your wife, nothing changes that." Santana hung her head, not responding. Quinn continued rubbing her back, trying to comfort her. She too was stunned by the revelation. After a while, when Santana had returned to normal breathing, Quinn asked,
"So what are you going to do?" Santana's shoulders barely moved when she shrugged. All of the energy had dissipated from her body.
"She's my wife." She replied. "I'm going to take her home."
"Are you going to tell her right away or are you going to wait? The doctor said that introducing the patient to new relationships needs to happen gradually."
"I'm not going to tell her we're married." Santana replied.
"Well, that's one..." Quinn stopped in mid-sentence. Her head whipped towards Santana, making her neck crack with the speed. "Excuse me?"
"I'm going to take her home. I dunno, I'll tell her we're roommates or something." Santana said.
"You're joking." Quinn said, laughing a little but it was a dead laugh because she knew that tone of voice. "You're going to take her home and do what? Pretend she's not your wife? The love of your life?" She demanded. Santana shook her head.
"What do you want me to do? Tell her that we're married and have her try to remember what it's like to love me? Do you want me to kiss her like nothing is wrong? I don't want that, Q, I don't want to force her to love me."
"You're not forcing to her to do anything!" Quinn's volume rose. "You're making her remember who the hell she is!"
"And what if she doesn't, huh? What if this is permanent?" Santana yelled. "I don't want her to pretend to love me. I'd rather her not love me than pretend." Santana closed her eyes. She imagined what would happen if she told Brittany. "Can you picture it, Quinn? Because I can. I see Brittany forcing herself to kiss me on the cheek or whispering a strained 'I love you'. I can see mornings every day. I wake up and there she is, staring right at me, trying to recollect memories of this...this stranger sleeping next to her." She opened her eyes and tears fell.
"You're stupid." Quinn hissed.
"Then you tell me how it works. How do you describe twenty-two years of life together to someone whose memory begins a few weeks ago at most? How do you make someone feel a lifetime of love with just the words, 'we're married' or 'we were in love'?" Santana asked. Quinn didn't reply. She didn't know the answer to Santana's question and she began to see why Santana wanted to keep it a secret. Telling Brittany would put a certain pressure on her to act like nothing was wrong. It would be nothing more than a one-sided love. If Brittany never recovered her memory, she might have to fake her feelings for Santana for the rest of her life. They could only wait for her to remember. Her heart broke, knowing that even though Santana had her wife back, she didn't really. All she had was the physical part and none of the relationship they spent more than two decades building.
"So what's the plan?" Quinn asked.
"Like I said, I take her home." Santana replied. "We don't mention the marriage. If she regains her memory, then she does." Through sickness and health. Santana thought. "If she...if she doesn't then she can live her life without worry." Quinn took Santana's hand and squeezed it. Santana leaned her head against Quinn's shoulder for a moment.
"Are you going to be ok?" It was a stupid question but it came to her lips automatically. Santana sighed and stood up.
"No, but I have to be." She said. Quinn nodded and they walked back to the room. Just as they were about to enter, Santana stopped.
"Wait." She pulled off their wedding ring and looked at it for a moment. It was stupid, like Quinn said, but Santana couldn't think of any other way. She gripped the ring tightly, making a silent wish on the physical proof of their promise to be together forever that Brittany would remember it. She dropped it into her pocket and nodded to Quinn. Quinn opened the door and the two walked in.
Brittany was sitting up reading a magazine when they saw her. It almost made Santana run out again but Quinn's grip on her hand kept her there.
"Hi! You're the visitor from earlier!" Brittany smiled. Santana made herself do the same even though all she wanted to do was cry. "And you're new! What's your name?"
"You don't remember us, do you?" Quinn asked. Brittany hung her head.
"The doctor said I have memory loss. So I probably know you but I don't remember, right?" She asked sorrowfully. Santana fought back a sob, or maybe a painful laugh and it came out more of a hiccup.
"How about your name? Do you remember your name?"
"Well...I think it's Brittany. Don't remember my last name though. And the doctor says that my memory's not reliable enough." She replied.
"Well, good news is, you're right. Your name is Brittany." Quinn said, faking cheerfulness. "We're...we're your friends." At that, Brittany brightened.
"I figured as much! I was hoping my friends would come pick me up." She said.
"We need to go." Santana whispered so that only Quinn could hear. "I can't do this." But her best friend held her ground.
"I'm Quinn. We've been friends for a very long time." Brittany's smile dimmed a little.
"I'm sorry I don't remember much." She admitted.
"It's ok, we're here to help. You're...you're coming home with us."
"Really?" Brittany asked excitedly. "When? Where?"
"As soon as you get the clear to go." Quinn replied.
"Where do I live?"
"With me." Santana croaked. The two turned to face her. "We're..." The words were harder to say than Santana had ever thought possible. "We're roommates." Just saying it made her feel sick to her stomach. All of her wanted to scream for Brittany to snap out of it, to remember who Santana was, to remember that they were madly in love and married but the words died in her throat. Brittany's eyes shone.
"What's your name?" She asked. It took everything Santana had not to break down right there.
"Santana." She replied. Brittany stuck out her hand.
"Hi!" She said. Santana made herself grasp Brittany's hand. It was the same hand she'd held for years and now it was extended as if they'd never touched before. But to Santana, it was still the soft, warm grasp that she knew. She hoped that Brittany would remember as well, that maybe just this small bit of contact would jog her memory but nothing changed in the blond's expression.
"It's good to meet you again. I'll try my hardest to remember you." She promised. Santana glanced down at Brittany's left hand. The ring was missing and Santana thought sadly that it probably fell off in the river. She turned around and Quinn saw the unshed tears in her eyes.
"Well, we need to head back." Quinn said. Brittany pouted.
"Already? You just got here! I have lots of questions!"
"We'll be back tomorrow, promise." Quinn said. "And we'll answer all your questions then. This is a lot for us to process too." She looked through her purse and took out a pen. She wrote on a receipt she found in her bag. "This is my phone number and Santana's phone number as well. Please call us if you need anything." Brittany took the paper from Quinn's hand and studied it. The two turned to leave.
"Santana?" Brittany said. Santana turned around, thinking that by some miracle, Brittany's memory had returned. But when she met her eyes, she saw no further signs of recognition.
"Thanks." The blond continued. "For being the first person to visit me." Santana nodded, feeling a lump in her throat and she quickly exited the room.
The drive home was painfully quiet for Quinn. Apart from the rain, the only thing she could hear were Santana's muffled sobs in the passenger's seat. It took a will of steel for Quinn not to cry along with her.
"Why can't she remember me?" Santana whispered to herself over and over again. When Quinn reached Santana's building, she made some hot milk with honey and brought it to Santana who lay curled up in bed. Quinn forced Santana to drink it along with one of the prescribed sleeping pills.
"I'll be right here." Quinn reassured her. Santana soon fell asleep and Quinn sat next to her, sadly watching the brunette's features twist in her sleep. She finally nodded off herself, thinking of what it must be like to forget the most important person in the world and she wondered who had it worse.
Santana woke up early in the morning and turned around. When she saw blond hair, her first instinct was that it had all been a bad dream but when her eyes cleared a little more, she saw that it wasn't her wife sleeping next to her. She rolled out of bed, rubbing her swollen eyes. She stumbled over to the mirror and looked at herself. Her eyes were bloodshot and her hair was a mess of tangles. She eyed the two toothbrushes sitting near the sink and the previous day's events settled into her mind.
She wandered into the kitchen in a daze, pausing to glance at all the pictures of her and Brittany hung up in frames in the living room. She initially wanted to get cereal even though she had no appetite but she opened the cupboard, she saw the handle of vodka resting two shelves above the cheerios. She decided that alcohol was a better breakfast for that morning. She grabbed the bottle and unscrewed it, taking a giant swig from it. She went over to the wall and plucked a picture of their wedding day, with Santana carrying Brittany in her arms bridal style, and flopped down on the couch, drinking more of the vodka. She looked at it for a long time, long enough for the alcohol to hit her system. It didn't take much, given how much she was drinking and how little she had eaten in the past 24 hours. Her eyes blurred with more tears and she felt a certain resentment towards the two people in the picture. Then, with a force only alcohol could provide, she flung the picture as hard as she could against the wall where the frame and glass shattered brilliantly.
Quinn woke up to hear crashing noises and she sat up with a start. At first she wondered if there was construction going on nearby but after a few more sounds of glass shattering, she determined that it came from the living room.
"Santana?" She shouted, feeling dread well up inside. She jumped out of bed and dashed outside. The sight that greeted her made every cell in her body freeze.
Glass lay everywhere, books were scattered. She looked down at her feet and saw the marriage certificate that previously hung on the wall above the couch lying there on the floor. The frame was cracked and the glass in several pieces everywhere.
Pictures of the two lay all over the room and in the middle of all of it sat Santana. In one hand she held a bottle her other hand was bleeding profusely. It looked like something out of a horror film.
Quinn took less than a second to take it all in and with a maturity that preceded her years, she deftly navigated the war zone over to Santana.
"Santana, give me the bottle."
"I'm cleaning." Santana slurred.
"Give me the bottle." Quinn said firmly. Without waiting for an answer, Quinn reached out and snatched it from her hands. Santana slumped forward. "Santana, get up, take a shower. You have 15 minutes, any longer and I'm coming to get you. I want you to take a shower, wash that cut with soap and get back here." Wordlessly, Santana stood up, walked to the bathroom and Quinn heard the water start running. She stood up and got a broom from the closet and began sweeping up the mess. She picked up the marriage certificate and pictures and set them on the coffee table. The shower shut off and Santana stumbled into the living room where she collapsed on the couch. Quinn took a seat next to her.
"What were you doing?" Quinn asked, checking Santana's arm. The cut wasn't too deep and it looked worse than it was. Still, she began bandaging it with some gauze she located in the kitchen.
"Packing up our life." Santana answered. Quinn breathed in deeply.
"Flinging things across the room is not packing." She pointed out. Santana rested her head in her hands.
"I wanted to put everything about our marriage in a box. Fuck, Q, that's two years of our life I'm packing away."
"Why are you doing this?" Quinn asked. "Why are you going through all of this trouble to hide something important to you? To her?"
"I guess I want to see if she'll still love me." Santana replied. "I can tell her facts, Quinn. I can tell her what her birthday is, who she knew, where she grew up. But I can't make her feeling things. If I tell her we're married, I will be placing the obligation to love me. And god, Q, I can't do that."
"How the hell are you going to hide something that big?" Quinn asked. "Everyone who knows you knows you're married!"
"I know, I know it's stupid. And I know it probably won't work. I plan to tell her eventually. But I want her to figure out for herself what she wants from me."
"What happens if..."
"If she doesn't love me anymore? If her memory never returns and she realizes that she doesn't love me?" Santana closed her eyes. "Then...then I have to let her go."
"You're willing to go that far to make sure she's genuinely happy?" She asked. "You're ready to sacrifice yourself so that Brittany can fall in love with whomever she wants, even if it's not you?" Santana looked at her with clear, serious eyes.
"If I had to die for her happiness, I would."
"Goddamnit." Quinn breathed. The two of them sat there for a long time as they both processed what Santana's words meant. Then, silently, Quinn got up and went to the closet. When she returned, she held a big box in her hand and set it down. Together, they started putting away the last two years of Santana's life with Brittany.