I saw Mark around the Islands every once in a while, and he was friendly, but never pushy or anything. Really, he behaved the same way towards me as Denny or Pierre. Just a good guy friend, nothing more. We were both in Mirabelle's animal shop one evening, because I was running low on pet food for my horse and cat. Vaughn was back at my house; I'd just come into town for this little errand. Mirabelle was in the back room looking for my order; apparently the new delivery guys hadn't really known what they were doing and put everything in all the wrong places.
"Remember anything new, yet?" Mark asked as we waited together.
By this time, I'd told him and a lot of other people about the boat memory.
"Nope," I said, "not a thing. I've given up hope."
"You just have to be patient," he said, "It might come back in time."
He smiled a little and shook his head. "You always were very, very impatient."
"You must have known me pretty well," I said carefully, wondering if he would bring up our history.
"Yeah, I did. Probably better than anyone else on the Islands."
"Except for Vaughn," I said, "Right?"
He hesitated, biting his lip. "Maybe better," he said quietly.
He looked down at his shoes. "We . . . we used to be together, you know. Before you and him."
"Yeah, I know. He told me."
Mark's head jerked up, and he stared at me with wide, surprised eyes. He really did have a cute face, with nearly flawless skin and rough blonde stubble. I could see being attracted to him a year ago. He seemed like the epitome of a handsome, all American blond boy. But I had developed strong feelings for Vaughn over the last few days, and, even though I couldn't honestly say I loved him, I knew that someday, I would. I could just feel it in my bones.
"I'm surprised," Mark said honestly, "I didn't think he would. He's pretty hostile with me, most of the time."
"Well, I don't really blame him," I said, "if you were trying to get back together with me after I'd already told you I wanted Vaughn."
A sad smile tugged at his lips. "You can't blame a guy for trying. I've always loved you, Chelsea. I can't pretend I wanted you to leave me. You sort of did it out of the blue. I don't know what went wrong. I miss you."
"Well, I'm sorry for hurting you," I told him genuinely, "I know enough about myself now that I would never hurt someone intentionally, emotionally or otherwise."
"I know," he said sincerely, "You're so good."
His words brought with them a sudden rush of memory, and I staggered back a step, gasping.
Mark and I were in his room in the Island Inn, sitting on the bed. I was playing with the dial of the small radio on the desk, trying to find something I liked. I could feel his eyes on me as I worked, humming when I finally found a tune I remembered from my days in the city growing up.
"You're so good, Chelsea," he told me.
I leaned back against the pillow and examined the French manicure I'd attempted to do with my nails a few hours ago.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"The thing with the ticket today. I love how you are."
I thought back to this morning when Eliza had heard the announcer talk about a horse show that was taking place this evening in the city's main auditorium. She really, really wanted to go, and the boat was coming to the Islands today, but Chen's shop was closed, so they couldn't get a ticket. I already had two, having bought them a few days in advance. I was looking forward to a day of lazily shopping in the town, maybe stopping in the bakery for a nice cookie or something.
Mark was supposed to be coming with me, but he'd forgotten that he'd made plans to go sailing with Will on his ship, so one of the tickets would be going to waste anyway. Obviously, I had to give Eliza both, since the little girl had to take her father with her.
Gannon had thanked me profusely and given me the money for the tickets. I was disappointed to have to put off my relaxing day, but it made me really happy to know Eliza was going to see her show.
"I'm just glad she got to go do something. These Islands are not always brimming with excitement, you know," I said.
"The peace of this place has a price." Mark shrugged, and scooted up closer to me.
He started kissing my neck, and I knew where he wanted this to go. Mark was a pretty good boyfriend, all things considered. He treated me well, was supportive of my farm, and had a great interest in it himself. But it seemed like the spark that had been between us in the beginning was waning, and I couldn't figure out why. I'd gotten so busy lately with my job, and we hadn't had much time to spend together lately.
That was probably contributing to the problem. I wanted to fix it, but I wasn't sure I was willing to take time away from my work to put more energy into the relationship. It wasn't fair to string him along like this . . . Mark turned my face and kissed my lips. I let him for a minute, but then I pushed on his chest, and he pulled away.
"I promised Regis I'd be at his house in a few minutes to show him the jewels I found a few days ago," I said, "Sorry."
He frowned, disappointed. "Okay, Chelsea. But promise we can have dinner tonight."
I promised him, and I left, but with a heavy heart. I would have to end things tonight.
Mark stepped forward and caught my wrist before I could stumble back into Mirabelle's counter.
"Chelsea, are you okay?" he asked, concerned.
"Yeah." I blinked a few times and righted myself. "I just . . . I remembered something."
"Really? What?" he asked eagerly. I
related the memory to him, leaving out the part about my conflicted feelings about our romantic relationship.
"That's awesome!" He held up his hand. I smiled, and high-fived him.
"Memory number two," he said, "It's only a matter of time before you get a whole slew of them at once."
"I hope not," I replied, rubbing at my temple. "Just one memory at a time is too disorienting."
"What do you think triggers them?" he wondered.
I thought back. "I think it has to do with me seeing or hearing the same thing I did before. Seeing the plastic boat on my sink inspired the memory of my shipwreck here on the islands; you telling me I was good reminded me of before."
His eyes flashed, and I could tell he was calculating some things behind those glassy green eyes.
"That makes sense," he muttered. Then he tilted his head, suddenly curious. "That was the day you broke up with me so suddenly." Mark shook his head.
"I was telling you the truth," I said. I could feel the honesty in my words; the things I'd thought that afternoon had been exactly how I really felt.
"I know," he sighed, "I just wish things had been different. Maybe . . ."
"If you remember . . . how it used to be between us in the beginning . . . maybe you could feel that way again. About me."
I bit my lip at the hopeful note in his voice. "I don't think so, Mark," I told him quietly, "I may not remember anything about Vaughn yet, but I can already understand why I'm in love with him. Please, just don't get your hopes up."
"I won't," he promised, but I knew he was lying.
Just then, Mirabelle emerged from the back room with my bags of pet food. I paid for it silently and then left, feeling Mark's eyes on my back as I exited the Shop.
When I got back to my land, I put the bags into the feed box and headed home. It was around five thirty, and I wanted to try out my supposedly awful cooking skills. Maybe everyone was exaggerating and I wasn't too horrible. I smirked, knowing I was sugar coating it to death. I entered the house to find Vaughn sitting on the floor, playing with a dog.
He was laughing quietly and playing tug-of-war with a long piece of rope. She was growling and yanking at it determinedly, but she just couldn't get it out of his hand. When Vaughn glanced up and saw me, he smiled and let go. The dog bounced around with her prize, and retreated to her basket in the corner to chew on the toy.
"She's cute," I said as he got to his feet.
"Yeah, she is," he agreed, "I got her at the shop earlier this morning. I'm sure you don't remember, but you were attacked by the last dog you got, so I got you this new one. Much tamer."
He held up my arm and examined the white bandage still wrapped around it.
"So that's what that is," I muttered. I'd kept meaning to ask, but I kept forgetting at the last minute. He leaned down and kissed my forehead.
"Did you get everything you needed?" he asked quietly, stroking my cheek.
His touch seemed to melt away the stress of having received another unexpected memory, and I sighed softly in contentment.
"Yes," I said, "Mark waited with me."
The stroking ceased. He made a face and said, "Why?"
I shrugged, and moved around him. I sat down on the bed and started unlacing my shoes.
"I don't know, he was just there when I came. I remembered something new," I said.
I didn't want to upset him with the whole Mark thing, but if I intended to marry this man someday, I should be able to talk to him about anything. This seemed to get rid of some of the annoyance in his beautiful eyes.
"What?" he asked, sitting down next to me.
His arm wrapped around my shoulders and he arranged us so that we were both lying down, with me using one of his arms as a pillow. His hand rested on my hip, and he was staring at me intently, waiting to hear what I had to say. I explained what I had remembered to him in detail, including my thoughts during the exchange. He stiffened when I came to the part about the kiss, but he relaxed a little when I talked about what came after.
"Did you tell him what you remembered?" he asked at the end.
"Yeah, I did. He was happy for me."
"He didn't . . . try to use it to his advantage?"
"Well . . ." I trailed off, my eyes wondering to the wallpaper behind his head. It was decorated with little bright rainbow colored polka dots. I wondered if it had been here when I moved in, or if something had possessed me to choose such ugly wallpaper.
"He did imply that I might want to be with him again if I remembered how it was when things were good between us," I admitted.
Vaughn grumbled something, and I didn't catch anything but a curse word. I gently placed a hand on his cheek and turned his head so he was looking at me again.
"I already promised that wouldn't happen," I said quietly, "and what I did remember only convinced me further that I did love you."
He winced, and I realize it was because of my use of the past tense. I sighed; this wasn't going as well as I'd hoped.
"He's going to keep trying," he muttered, "he's going to keep at it and I'm going to have to drop his sorry ass in the volcano."
"You'll do no such thing," I said, "because you trust me."
"I do," he said.
"Then act like it."
He sighed. "Okay."
He held me tightly for a long time. He didn't really strike me as an insecure person, but then, if the situation was reversed and he was having flashbacks of his ex-girlfriend, I would be jealous and tense, too. He kissed my neck, and I inhaled sharply when his tongue came out to taste my skin.
"I want you to remember . . . ," He said quietly, "I want you to so badly."
I swallowed and my fingers slid into his hair almost automatically, urging him on. Just like before, it seemed my body completely remembered this while my mind was miles behind. It was the oddest feeling. His mouth moved farther down, and I moaned quietly when one of his hands cupped my breast, teasing my nipple through the fabric.
"I want to make you forget," he whispered, "I want you to forget everything you remembered about him. I want you to remember that there's only me for you, and you for me."
He rolled to hover over me, resting his weight on his elbows.
"Will you let me remind you?" he whispered in my skin, pulling my earlobe into his mouth and grazing it lightly with his teeth. I sighed and arched into him, feeling how aroused he was through the fabric of his black jeans.
"Vaughn . . . ," I whispered, "I want to, I really do, but . . ."
"We don't have to actually have sex," he said, his voice low and hoarse. "I know you aren't ready for that yet, but . . . let me make you feel good, Chelsea. I need to tonight. Please."
He stared down at me with his piercing eyes, and I was so achingly turned on by his words that I lost any ability to refuse him. It wasn't like I was sleeping with someone I barely knew – we'd been together for a year. I just didn't remember it. And even if I never did, he loved me. Even without him reassuring me of this several times over, I could see it in his eyes.
"Okay," I whispered quietly.
He kissed me deeply, using his tongue in such a suggestive way I whimpered. His hips were rocking against me in a rhythm as old as time itself. I managed to push him away long enough to pull off my shirt. My bra was nothing lacy or daring; it was a simple, white, and supportive. I let him remove it, and studied the hungry look in his eyes when he did.
"You're so beautiful," he said as he cupped them in his hands. They fit perfectly, as if they'd been made for his hands alone.
"Thank you," I managed to say.
His touch was like fire coursing through my veins; hot arousal was building in my core and making me ache for him to be inside me. He rolled one of my nipples between his thumb and forefinger, and I arched into his touch again, loving the little pleasure it was bringing my body. He leaned down and took the other in his mouth, and I moaned again, louder this time.
He spent a generous amount of time on each of my breasts, murmuring about how much he loved the sounds that I made. He ran a finger down my stomach and traced around my belly button. I squirmed beneath him, trying to get him to undo the button on my jeans, needing him to relieve the pressure between my legs.
He smirked as he eased my pants off my body, enjoying tormenting me with his slow progress. His hand slid between my thighs, and he rubbed at me through the fabric of my panties. I fisted the comforter beneath me and unabashedly rocked my hips into his fingers, continuing to vocalize my need.
He watched me, and I wanted to be embarrassed by the wild way I was responding to him, but I couldn't find it in me to care. When he pulled panties off and slid a long finger inside me, I wanted to cry at how familiar it felt, like he'd pleasured me like this a thousand times before but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't recall it exactly in my mind. When his finger started moving in slow circles around my clit, I bit my lip and groaned.
"Does that feel good, baby?" he whispered, knowing full well that it did.
"God, yes," I panted shallowly.
His fingers started to move faster, and I felt pressure building up within me.
"He could never make you feel like this," he said to me.
"I'm the only one who will ever see you this way. Promise me, Chelsea," he commanded.
I wanted to answer him, but I near mindless with the need to orgasm by now, and I couldn't manage a coherent reply. When I didn't answer, he quit rubbing me the way I needed him to.
"Promise me," he growled again.
"I promise," I whimpered, "Only you, Vaughn. Only you."
He resumed his work, and I continued to moan and thrash beneath him until I was almost there.
"So close," I managed to gasp, "So damn close."
"Come for me, baby," he ordered, "come for me, now."
And I did. I came apart, my climax hitting me with wave after wave of pleasure, starting at my core and shooting to the tips of my fingers and toes. I cried out his name and heard him grunt in response. When it was over, he gathered me in his arms and held me against his chest, kissing my forehead and telling me how much he loved me. I just lay there for a moment, coming down from my high. When I was somewhat logical again, it occurred to me that he was fully clothed and I was totally naked.
"I can see why we did that a lot," I said plainly.
He chuckled. "Do you want something to eat? Or do you want to sleep now?"
"I'm tired," I admitted.
"Then let's sleep," he said.
"Wait." I suddenly felt guilty. It didn't seem fair that I got mine, but I hadn't touched him. And I wanted to touch him. Badly. The feel of his hard body against mine had driven me crazy, and I wanted very much to see it unclothed and just as much at my mercy as I'd been at his.
"Wait," I said again. I leaned forward to kiss his jaw, and one of my hands trailed down to his belt. He caught my wrist in his hand.
"It's okay, Chelsea," he said in my ear, "this was supposed to be about you. We'll do that another time."
"But you want me," I protested, "I want to make you feel good, too."
"And you will. Soon. But not tonight." He kissed me softly on the lips and motioned for me to get up. I did, disappointed, and yanked the first pair of pajamas I saw out of my nightstand. Throwing them on without bothering with underwear, I turned back to him.
He stood and went to my dresser, pulling out a pair of black sweatpants. He changed in the bathroom, unfortunately for me, and we slipped under the covers together.
He held me close, and I said softly, "It's only felt like a few days to me, but I swear, I feel like I love you."
"Good," he said quietly, "because so do I."
And I fell asleep, certain that – even without my memories – that I had never been happier.
In the morning, over coffee, I informed Vaughn about my opinion on my hideous house décor.
"Did I seriously pick out that wallpaper?" I asked. "Because it hurts me to look directly at it."
He smiled and shook his head. "No, it was here when you first moved here. Gannon could change it for you, but it's kind of expensive, so you kept putting it off. There were more important things to buy than wallpaper. But, yes, you always hated it. You're exactly the same."
"Well, could I possibly afford to fix it now? After two years here, I should have some kind of savings."
He stood, placed his cup in the sink, and went to the closet by my wardrobe. I probably should have used it for clothes, but when I peeked in yesterday I saw random boxes on the ground and a few tattered sweatshirts on the top shelf.
"This is all stuff from when you lived in the city, and those boxes in the corner are all my stuff. I need to go back to the city tomorrow for a few hours to get some more things, by the way," he told me, moving around some of the clothes on the shelf.
He found what he was looking for and carried it back to the table – a small black box that, upon further inspection, I found was a safe.
"No banks on the Islands," he explained, "You can either open it with a key or put in the code."
"Well, since I have no idea what the code is, the key is probably my best option."
"You lost the key a long time ago. The code is your sister's birthday, 2390."
"My sister is twenty two?" I asked, punching in the numbers.
"Yes, same age as me."
"Huh." The box popped open and I saw it was lined with money, quite a bit, it seemed.
"Wow," I said, "I must be a good saver. How much is here?"
"Eleven thousand exactly," he said, "you were saving to rebuild the bridge between your land and some island you just raised. You said the Harvest Sprite said it was for fruit trees."
"Well, I can do that later. I have more important matters to attend do. Like not vomiting every time I enter my house. How much is wallpaper?"
"I'm not sure. Gannon's not closed today, though – we can ask."
I finished my coffee and we walked to Sprout Island, hand in hand. A few people stopped us along the way to ask how I was doing – Will and Lilly, Elliot and Charlie – but we got there soon enough. When we entered, Denny and Lanna were in front of us, apparently with the same idea. Denny was critically eyeing a sample of wallpaper Gannon had laid out for them.
"I don't know, Lanna," Denny said, and grimaced. "Why would you get wallpaper decorated with pink hearts when everything in your house is already pink?"
Lanna smiled and rolled her eyes, like the answer was obvious. "Of course I'm getting pink wallpaper, Denny. Pink in my theme."
"It burns my eyes every time I come over," Denny joked.
Lanna crossed her arms and pretended to be irritated. "It that's how you feel, maybe I won't invite you over anymore."
Denny's eyes widened, as if he was horrified by the thought. But then he smiled, and wrapped his arms around her. "I would brave all the pink in the world for you, baby."
She giggled and kissed his nose.
I groaned. "Some of us have things to do today other than watch you pick the color of your walls, people."
But my tone was playful. Really, they were sweet together. Denny and Lanna turn towards us, as if only now realizing we were here.
"Would it be more enjoyable for you if I picked out your wallpaper, Chelsea? I've been to your house before, and, I gotta say – it could use some prettying up. It looks like a clown puked on your walls."
Beside me, Vaughn winced. "We'd live in a box before we lived in a house decorated with little pink hearts."
I laughed. "Speak for yourself. I'm not getting blown away by the next massive typhoon that hits the Islands, no matter how sickening the inside of the house is."
Denny smiled. "Aw, you should get the hearts, Vaughn. Get in touch with your feminine side."
Lanna, Denny and I all laugh out loud while Vaughn continued to grimace.
Gannon exhaled sharply, and I could tell we were beginning to irritate him. "Do you want the wallpaper or not?" he asked Lanna impatiently.
She studied the design once more with a thoughtful expression. "Yes, I think I will," she said.
Denny groaned. "Lanna."
"My house, my wallpaper."
"I'll have it done by tomorrow," Gannon said as she handed him the money necessary for the job.
Lanna and Denny were still bickering playfully with each other when they walked out the door. Vaughn and I approached the counter, hand in hand.
"I'd like to look at some samples, too, Gannon," I told him.
I looked through the little book and settled on a simple, solid shaded of blue. It went with my lamp.
"What would you do if I bought the wallpaper Lanna did?" I asked Vaughn after Gannon told me it'd be done in a few days, and we walk out of his house.
"I may have to call off the wedding," he replied smoothly, "It's just not worth having to wake up to pink hearts every day."
I snorted, and asked Gannon about the price. Vaughn was right; it was a bit steeper than I was expecting, but I gave him the money anyway.
"You don't have a specific date in mind for that, do you?" I asked, biting my lip. We crossed the street and entered the Café, having decided that coffee had not been enough of a breakfast.
"No," he said, as we slid across from each other into a booth. "But I'll set a date as soon as you'll let me."
"Hmm . . ." I pondered my feelings on that. It made me happy to know he would wait, but at the same time, I felt like I shouldn't make him wait that long. I chewed the inside of my cheek as the waitress came to take our order and left. I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn't even hear him tell her what he wanted, so I asked when she left.
"Oh, just some chicken strips," he said, shrugging.
I raised an eyebrow at him. "Why? That comes with a little bowl of carrots, and you hate those," I said.
He opened his mouth to reply, but then his mouth snapped shut and he stared at me in amazement.
"What?" I wondered.
"You remembered that I hate carrots," he said.
I blinked as I processed his words. "I . . . I guess I did."
There hadn't even been some sort of memory that had suddenly sprung out of nowhere like the other two. The words had just slipped through my lips without a second thought.
"Wow," I murmured, "I have no idea where that came from."
He reached across the table and took my hand, his eyes alight with excitement.
"It doesn't matter," he said, "where it came from. What matters is that you remembered something about me. Granted, I wish it had been something different than my choice of vegetables, but I'll take what I can get."
He chuckled. I half-smiled.
"I'm happy I did. I just wish these memories weren't come back to me in broken bits and pieces."
"At least some are coming back at all," he told me gently, "You may not ever remember everything from before."
"I know," I sighed, "I feel cheated."
The door of the Café swung open suddenly and Julia and Natalie stomped in. Their eyes came to rest on us and they walked to our table.
"Scoot, Chelsea," Natalie commanded. I raised an eyebrow at the both of them questioningly, but I did as told. The snide, short redheaded girl slid in next to me, and Julia slid into the booth next to her cousin.
"We both feel seriously neglected," she announced, "and we've come to steal you for the rest of the day from my selfish relative."
Vaughn shot her a grumpy look. I smiled at the both of them. It felt good to know that I had such good friends who wanted to spend time with me.
"I'm leaving for the city tomorrow," he told them.
"Yeah, he is," I said, "he has to get the last of his stuff. We can have a complete girls' day then. Okay?" T
hey pursed their lips in thought, but then Natalie nodded. "Yeah, I guess that'll work. We'll come over early in the morning to help you with your work."
I shook my head. "No, come a little later than that. I want to try to do it myself."
Julia shrugged, and leaned forward excitedly. "So Elliot and I have decided to get married on the first of Summer. Chelsea, you're supposed to be my maid of honor, I'm going to be Natalie's and Natalie is going to be yours. I know you don't remember, but we worked this out a while ago so we would all have a turn. But I think we should move some things around since you . . . are having brain troubles. We were supposed to have an engagement party for the both of us, but, uh . . . it didn't happen."
"I can do it," I said indignantly, "I may not remember everyone very well from before, but I'm quite fond of you now."
"Quite fond," Natalie repeated, chuckling. "If you'd bothered to spend some time with us, you'd freaking love us by now. Are you 'quite fond' of Vaughn?"
I bit my lip, unsure of how to respond. Natalie frowned and made a face, suddenly realize how on the spot she'd put me. Sometimes, her mouth really could be big.
"I . . . yes, I am," I said, very aware of his eyes on me, but refusing to look at him.
In the moments afterward, there was a short, uncomfortable silence. I finally glanced up at Vaughn. He was frowning and looking out the window. I sighed. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, I really didn't, but I couldn't lie to him. I really was very fond of him, and I enjoying spending time with him. But this still felt very, very new to me and love was too big a word right now.
Maybe I was just the kind of person who didn't love easily. Maybe it had something to do with my childhood, which was a complete blank to me.
"Well," Julia said, shifting in her seat uncomfortably, "okay, Chelsea, you can still do it if you want to. We'll talk tomorrow about it."
She turned her head and eyed her cousin with a wary look in her eyes. "I hope you'll come . . . happily," she said.
He sighed, and just then the waitress showed up with our food. She put the plates down in front of us and left without a word. I picked at my pasta and wondered why Julia was worried about this. Wouldn't Vaughn be perfectly happy to see her get married?
"Yeah, I will," he grumbled to her, "I was probably a little harsh before, but . . . I don't know. I don't know if he's good enough for you."
"He is," she told him seriously, "I promise. But thank you for worrying about me. I knew you cared, somewhere in there."
He rolled his eyes. She laughed quietly, kissed his cheek, and then stood.
"C'mon, Nat," she said, "Let's go see if Pierre has any cookies."
"Pierre always has something sweet for me to eat," Natalie said as they walked away, "Whether it's food or his" –
"Ugh!" I covered my ears with my hands. "How on earth is she that different from her brother? If I even mentioned sex in front of him, I think he'd faint."
"I have no idea," he muttered, "she's always been like that."
I shook my head and we finished our meal in silence. He wanted to pay the check, but I insisted on doing it myself. I needed to get back into the habit of keeping track of my money and how I spent it. I wasn't going to go bankrupt because I was completely clueless about how I'd managed my funds before. I'd re-learn that, same as everything else.
"I'm sorry about . . . what else Natalie said," I murmured as we left the Café.
"It's fine, Chelsea. I don't want you to lie to me about how you feel," he said, and I knew he meant it.
I sighed, and we walked to Kirk's boat. I wanted to do some fishing on Meadow Island.
Vaughn's boat left very early in the morning, so he wasn't there when I woke up. My alarm went off at six am, same as always, and also same as always, I wanted to throw a hammer at it to get it to shut up. I yawned and stretched my muscles.
This was the first time I'd really been alone since the accident. I made myself some toast, and then I made some more toast because the first piece burned. I took a shower, ate, and got all my tools together in my bag. I fed the new dog, which I'd decided to name Puddles given the splashes of brown on her otherwise white coat and played with her for a bit.
I could see waking up and doing this every morning by myself before I had any boyfriend attachments. Biting my lip, I exited the house and wondered if Mark had ever been there in the morning. If we'd been together for three seasons, it was possible that we'd slept together. Frowning at that, I tended to my garden and made note of the fact that everything would probably be ready for harvest the next day. I spent a long time with each of the animals, since I felt like I'd neglected giving them any real affection.
I could tell they felt that way because the quality of my milk and eggs was a little off, B quality instead of A or S, which was what Vaughn said they usually were. Just as I was putting everything in the shipping box, I jerked up the sound of Mark's voice.
"Already back into your old routine?" He stood with his hands in his pockets, smiling.
"Yeah, I'm trying to get everything back to the way it was before," I said. I stood upright and dusted my hands off on my jeans. "What are you doing here?"
He shrugged. "I just thought I'd come see how you were doing. Everyone seems to be doing that lately. Friends do that, don't they?"
"Yes, I guess so," I said, "though it is a little strange when said friends show up when their friends' boyfriends' are conveniently absent."
I figured I might as well be blunt about the whole thing. I wanted to figure out what exactly he wanted from me. I knew from our conversation in the Shop that he wasn't over what we used to have. But was he serious about going after it, or was he going to let it go? Him showing up here, today, was a strong sign that it wasn't going to happen.
He blinked and smiled, the picture of innocence. "I don't know what you mean," he said, "Really, I just came to say hello. I didn't even know he was gone."
"Right," I said, shutting the lid of the shipping bin. "And I purposefully jumped into the hole on Volcano Island and nearly knocked my head off my shoulders."
"You don't have to believe me." He shrugged. "But it's true."
"Alright," I allowed, "Well, I'm pretty much done with my farm stuff. I was going to clean out my refrigerator because I'm pretty sure there's a bowl of bean dip in there from the civil war."
"Sounds fun," he said, "Can I help?"
I eyed him warily for a second, but if he really was just trying to be friendly, I didn't want to hurt his feelings. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy.
"Sure," I said, gesturing for him to follow me, "But keep your hands to yourself."
Mark rolled his eyes and slipped his hands into his jean pockets. We went into my house and he plopped down on one of my kitchen table chairs. He glanced around the house, and I realized there must be memories here for him.
"This place hasn't changed much," he commented, "Same old table, same old wardrobe, same old bed . . ."
He glanced at me purposefully at the last one. I ignored him and opened the fridge after fishing out a garbage bag from under the sink. I gave it to him to hold open with I tossed all my questionable food in. I mostly had fruits and vegetables, but I had some meats and cheeses and other things, too. I must buy hamburger and stuff from Chen. There was no way I was butchering my own animals.
"About that," I asked him, "just out of curiosity, did we ever . . . ?"
"Yeah, a few times," he told me, "towards the start of the third season. You seemed to enjoy my company then."
I made a face at the green mold sprouting in the bean dip I knew was hiding here in the back. "Huh," I said, like it was the most uninteresting subject in the world. Maybe that's why we broke up; we started sleeping together. I chuckled to myself under my breath and he looked at me curiously.
"Nothing, nothing. Hold the bag up – I'm kicking you out if you can't perform the one simple task I ask of you," I warned, dropping in a little bag of grapes that were probably going to start talking to me soon. Did I never clean this fridge?
"You know," Mark began conversationally, "I got you that boat."
I blinked as I arranged everything edible into proper order. "What boat?"
"The one you saw a few days ago that inspired your first memory of before. I got it for you at a gift shop in the city. I had to go alone that day because you had to tighten everything down on your land for a typhoon that was supposedly coming in a few days, according to Taro, anyway." He tightened the plastic handles of the bag and made a face at the smell.
Leaving it leaning against the table, he went to the sink and picked it up. It was just a simple white and blue decorative boat – it would also look nice with the new wallpaper I was getting.
"I wonder why you kept it," he said, examining it closely like it was a precious stone, "Maybe you liked having something around that made you think of me."
"Or maybe I just like boats," I grumbled, picking up the garbage bag.
I took it outside and threw it in my big green garbage tub. Then I went back inside and looked around for my hammer. I was thinking about crafting some material stone for a new fence.
"Well, we have to clear out of here now – Gannon will be here in a few minutes to do the wallpaper," I said.
Mark nodded thoughtfully and put the boat down.
"Ugh – material stone?" he asked when he saw the hammer in my hand. I nodded, and we exited the house. I went into my massive field and started hunting for decent rocks.
He followed me. "Crafting lumber and stone was not one of my favored lessons."
"No, but I liked gardening with you. You have a green thumb from God. You win the crop competition almost every season. There was this one pumpkin that got to be so enormous we couldn't even cart it all the way to Meadow Island; the judges had to come here." He laughed, his glassy green eyes sparkling with remembered joy.
"We grew it together," he told me, "took us forever, but it was worth it. Best pie ever."
I smiled. And was promptly overwhelmed in the same way as before.
I stood by the field with my hands on my hips, staring at the huge pumpkin taking up way more of its fair share of space. There was no question I was winning the competition this year, but I was still at loss about how to get it to Meadow Island. It was too big to pick up, even for two people.
"That," Mark said, grinning, "is one damn fine pumpkin."
I laughed. "I agree."
He wrapped an arm around my waist and smiled at me fondly. "Let's grow another one just like this next year."
I shrugged. "Okay."
I didn't see why not. I wouldn't mind having him around in another year or longer. His eyes grew mischievous.
"Want to go inside and celebrate our for-sure victory?"
I giggled and pulled away from him, skipping down the path to my house.
"Sure, if you can catch me," I called.
His eyes narrowed at the challenge and he took off running after me. I ran inside the house and laughed when he caught me, ticking my ribs. The tickling quickly morphed into kissing, and we spend the rest of the afternoon inside.
I swallowed against a lump that had lodged itself in my throat.
"What?" Mark asked, "What, did you remember something else? You had the same surprised look on your face as before."
"Yeah . . ." I trailed off. "I remember the day with the pumpkin, the day before the contest."
He got a distant look on his face for a moment as he recalled the day I was thinking off.
"Ah," he said, "Yeah. That was a good day. Don't you remember it that way?"
I exhaled sharply and turned away from him, staring down at my shoes. On one hand, I was happy to have remembered something new, I really was. But why did it have to be this? A day when Mark and I were still together? The images flashing through my mind of us kissing and doing . . . more than that . . . felt like yesterday. Even though it was over a year ago, just remembering all of a sudden made it seem very recent.
A strong wave of emotion hit me, mostly guilt, but also aggravation with myself for remembering this, of all things. I had been genuinely happy with Mark in this memory, unlike the first one, where I was pretty much indifferent to his company. Maybe it was just a good day, probably early in our relationship. I didn't want to be thinking these things, I wanted to remember being happy with Vaughn, not Mark.
"I think you should go now, Mark," I said quietly.
He hesitated for a moment, but when I glanced over my shoulder and he saw the seriousness in my eyes he nodded.
"Okay," he said gently.
He reached out and touched my shoulder lightly. "I really am glad you're remembering, Chelsea. Not just because it's about us, but because it means you're getting better."
I didn't answer, and he turned and headed off my land. I trudged back to my house, because I wanted to make a call, and because Gannon wasn't there yet. A tear fell down my cheek, and I hadn't even noticed that my eyes were watery. I picked up the phone and dialed.
"Hello?" said a female voice.
"I want to talk to Dr. Trent," I told her.
"Okay, just a moment, dear."
It was lucky I had the number to mineral town – the place Mirabelle told me the doctor worked – and his number on my desk. He answered the phone a few minutes later, and I refrained from bawling to him over the phone about problems in my personal life, but just barely. He was just easy to talk to.
"I don't understand why I'm only remembering things about him," I said, "I don't want to."
"But you said the first memory wasn't about Mark – it was about getting shipwrecked on the Islands," he pointed out.
"Yeah, and I remembered it by looking at a boat he gave me!" I cried.
"That might have nothing to with it," Dr. Trent said in an amiable voice, and I envied his ability to be so calm. "You might just be having more trouble remember things that happened more recently. Maybe the last year or so will be more difficult to recover. It all has to do with what part of the brain is injured. Information is stored in different places, you know."
"Yeah." I sniffed. "I know."
"And maybe since you were with Mark over a year ago, and he's apparently bringing up events that took place then, it's helping you remember," he suggested.
"But Julia and Natalie are around, and I don't remember anything about them," I protested.
"Have you really spent that much time with either of them, or anybody on the Islands besides Vaughn? It might be harder to remember him because you got to know him much later on than the other Islanders. Ask Julia or Natalie or anybody to bring up specific events of the past the way Mark has. The first time you remembered something that concerned him, he said something exactly the same way as before, and the second time, he brought up an even that happened while you were standing in the same place as before. Things like this are all factors in what you remember, and what you don't. Is this making sense?" he asked patiently.
I wiped another stray tear off my cheek and thought about what he said. I could see what he was talking about – those memories had all been triggered by something.
"Yeah, it makes sense," I said quietly, "I think I will try that. I'm supposed to see Julia and Natalie later today. I'll try it with them. Thanks, Dr. Trent."
"Feel better, Chelsea," he told me, and the he hung up.
Just then, there was a knock at the door. It was Gannon, coming to inform me that he was here to do the wallpaper and if I didn't vacate the premises now it wouldn't get done until the next day.
I intercepted Natalie and Julia on the bridge leaving Vendure Island.
"We were just coming to get you," Julia said. Her hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail, and there were silver hoops in her ears. Natalie had some kind of white powder on her top, so I figured she'd been working for most of the morning.
"Gannon just kicked me out," I said, smiling, "so I was coming to get you guys."
"Let's go to Meadow Island and talk," Julia said, "I think that would be nice. And then we can have lunch at the Diner."
"Sounds good to me," Natalie agreed.
So we did. On the Island, we settled beside the water, and I noticed a beautiful white shrine on the northernmost tip.
"That's where you go to raise islands with the Sunstones you collect," Natalie told me, jerking her chin in its direction.
"Huh." I yawned lazily, not having the energy to think about such important tasks.
Natalie peered over the island's edge and into the water.
"Hmph," she muttered at her reflection, "I need to stop munching on the brownies and cakes Pierre is constantly cooking. I'm getting fat."
"You are not," Julia argued, "You're perfectly fine."
Natalie continued grimacing at herself.
Julia shook her head and looked at me. "So, any new memories?" she asked.
I fidgeted, wondering if I should confide in them. I decided to, because I wanted to talk and these two were my best friends apparently. I told them about the latest two memories, both involving Mark, and I finished with what Dr. Trent said on the phone. When I was done, the both of them looked thoughtful.
"It makes sense," Julia said, "if you think about it."
"Okay, Chelsea." Natalie rubbed her hands together. "I'm going to bring up something specific from the past concerning you and me, and maybe it'll be easier to recall since it took place right here on this particular island."
"Shoot," I said.
"Okay. So, this was the cooking festival last year. All the islanders had gathered here to watch it. Pierre was the judge, as usual, but when he told everybody to take their places next to their entries, one of them slipped over a rock and tripped. His face landed smack in the middle of his pie." She laughed, falling backward on the grass.
I listened intently to her every word and tried to pull up the memory she described, but nothing was coming. Huffing in frustration, I looked out at the beautiful blue ocean waves crashing into the sides of the land.
"I don't recall that," I said.
Julia grabbed one of my hands in both of hers and stared at me hard, her eyes matching the blue shade of the ocean exactly.
"It's alright," she said softly, "let's just keep talking. Maybe it's not happening because you're trying too hard. Just relax and maybe it'll happen on its own."
I nodded and managed to hold my emotions at bay.
"Let's talk about something else," I suggested.
So we did. Eventually, I managed to stop thinking about my amnesia problem and immerse myself in the conversation. Natalie launched into a tirade about how both of us were engaged and she and Pierre had been dating for one year now and he still wasn't showing any indication of popping the question.
"It'll happen," I told her encouragingly, "some men just take their time."
"It's not fair that it happened to you first," she grumbled, "who would have guessed the sulky, antisocial dude would find the nerve to propose."
"I wish I could remember how he did it," I said wistfully.
"He took you into the city," Julia told me, "to a friend of his. This friend also has a farm, I guess, and he let you guys borrow two of his horses. It was really exciting, because, well, since you weren't on the Islands, there was a lot more room to run. Anyway, you went to a racing track in the evening and raced around a few times. He asked you after the third one. You said you almost fell off your horse, it was so unexpected. I don't think you ever expected him to ask, being the way he was. But he'd already bought you a ring and you said yes. You just don't wear it yet because you didn't want to get it all dirty before the ceremony. He's keeping it safe for you until then."
"That sounds romantic," I said quietly.
"Very out of character for the emo cowboy man," Natalie commented.
"You guys don't really get along, do you?" I asked.
"Nope. But that's okay. I don't like very many people."
I smirked and looked away.
"What?" she asked suspiciously.
"I think you don't get along with Vaughn," I snickered, "because you're too much alike. Ever hear of opposites attract? Well, that's true. But when you're too similar to someone, you tend to butt heads, interestingly enough."
She stuck her tongue out at me. "I am not like" –
"I think Chelsea might be on to something, Nat," Julia agreed, giggling.
Natalie shook her head in denial and crossed her arms over her chest, muttering something under her breath. As she shifted, a locket I hadn't noticed before caught the sun and blinded me for a second. I threw my hand over my eyes and gasped.
"I don't know, Chelsea." Natalie pursed her lips at the locket on display.
It was beautiful, engraved with elegant lines of silver and tiny hearts. The chain was gold, and I knew she had a picture of her and Pierre that would fit inside perfectly.
"It's perfectly for you, Nat," I said persuasively, "You have to get it."
"I don't crap money, Chelsea. I don't know . . ."
"I'll pitch in for it, Natalie," Julia volunteered, appearing beside us suddenly.
She'd been off looking at different brands of perfume, but apparently she'd heard Natalie's debate about buying the necklace she wanted. Really, it wasn't worth the price the store was asking for it – I'd mined enough stuff for Regis to know that buy now – but this was an expensive place. I'd come to the city for a fun day with my best friends.
We'd stopped at a music store for Natalie, a book store for me, then lunch, and lastly we'd stopped into a department store for Julia. She'd admitted to me on more than one occasion that she tended to have expensive taste, but she didn't go shopping very often so it was only if she indulged once in a while. I'd saw a pair of heels just a moment ago I loved, but I paid more for my first car than those things.
"I will, too, Nat," I said, "it's been too long since you got anything nice for yourself."
"No, you guys don't have to do that," she sighed.
"We want to," Julia told her firmly, "and you're going to let us."
She plucked it off the rack and took it to the counter with her choice of perfume, and the price made my eyes widen a little. But I could afford to help out, and I really did want to do this for my friend. She put it on after we left the store and smiled.
"Thanks, guys," Natalie said, much quieter and shyer than usual.
"It looks so pretty, Natalie! Pierre will love it. Lanna will be so jealous."
She linked her arms with us. "Well, I'm hungry again. Anyone up for a pizza?"
"What is it, Chelsea?" Julia asked eagerly.
"Natalie's locket," I said, blinking at the onslaught on the memory, "I remembered being in the city the day we bought it."
"That was in the beginning of Summer last year," Natalie mused.
Against my will, tears beaded in my eyes. "I'm so relieved," I sighed, "it's so nice to remember something that isn't about Mark."
"You're only remembering stuff about him because he's manipulating it, Chelsea," Julia said gently, "he still loves you. He may have seen thing whole accident as an opportunity to rekindle your feelings for him. It's kind of despicable, but Mark is really a good guy at heart, I promise. You did kind of break up with him really abruptly and he never completely understood why."
"I must not have loved him very much," I said, wiping at my eyes.
"You did," Natalie said, also gentle, "you wouldn't have been with him as long as you were if you didn't. But you basically chose your work over him."
"My cousin is who you're really in love with," Julia said, "you were so excited to marry him."
"Then why can't I remember?!" I sniveled.
Natalie and Julia shared a sympathetic look, and they both scooted closer to me. They hugged one, one on each side, as the stress of the last few days hit me all at once, the unfairness of all of this, anger at myself for being stupid enough to allow it to happen, wistfulness for what was mine but wasn't anymore. I clung to them both, and I sobbed.
I cried for a long time, and they were silent, supportive presences, with me the whole time. When I couldn't cry anymore and my eyes were dry, I smiled at them.
"Sorry I'm such a mess," I sighed.
"It's okay, Chelsea," Natalie said, patting my shoulder, "We understand."
"Well." I rubbed the last of the moisture from my eyes and they scooted away again.
"Enough about me," I said firmly, "I want to talk about your wedding and my maid-of-honor duties."
Julia brightened and immediately launched into her plans. And I didn't think about my amnesia for the rest of my time with them.
Vaughn got back at around eight in the evening. Denny, Elliot and Will helped him carry boxes from the dock to my house. It took three trips total, and I thanked them all profusely at the end of the trip. It didn't surprise me that Denny and Elliot helped, but Will was a surprise. But it shouldn't have been. The tall, blond, blue eyed charmer was an all-around nice guy, the kind willing to give you the shirt off his back and smile about it. Vaughn thanked them, too, managing to smile, and they dispersed. The pile of his boxes in the corner had gotten considerably larger.
I slipped into his arms and sighed at it. "We'll have to start unpacking all of that. You sure have a lot of stuff."
He smiled down at me gently, kissing my forehead. "You never know how much unnecessary crap you have until you move."
"Guess not." I placed my hand against his rough cheek and kissed him softly. "I missed you," I said quietly.
"Good," he said, "I missed you, too."
He held me in silence for a long time, and then glanced up. "The wallpaper looks nice," he commented.
I looked at the light blue walls that matched my lamp and comfortable and smiled. "Yeah, it does."
Weeks passed. One of my sheep gave birth to a lamb I named Wooly, I built a new fence, and summer started, bringing intense waves of heat with it. Julia and Elliot got married, and were now off on their honeymoon. Their wedding was beautiful, and I was glad Julia was happy. Vaughn had already sat down with Elliot and calmly explained that if he ever did anything at all to hurt his cousin, he would half-kill him, tie an anchor around his feet and toss him into the ocean beside one of the Islands.
Elliot had taken this in good humor, but honestly, I think it made him a little nervous. No new memories came to the surface of my mind, no matter how hard I tried to unlock them. Vaughn continued to be patient with me Frustration still lingered with me constantly, but I was also trying to build some kind of wall of acceptance.
If I really wasn't going to get all my memories back, there was no use in spending my time crying about it. I would do what Vaughn said; go on with my life and try to create new memories that were even better than the old ones. I spent a lot of time with Vaughn, and I could honestly say by now that I loved him. I only hoped it was the same intensity as before.
We'd unpacked all his stuff, and I was used to him living with me by now. We still hadn't had sex yet, but I wanted to. The memory of the night he had pleasured me with his fingers was still fresh in my mind, and I shuddered a little in delight whenever I remembered it. I couldn't wake to experience making love with him for real.
Who knows, maybe the act would inspire some new memories of before. I chuckled to myself as I left some carrots on a stump for the rabbits on Animal Island. Suddenly having flashbacks of sex while in the middle of it was kind of a funny thought. I moved a little deeper into the woods and, wouldn't you know it, I ran into Mark, who was leaving little cubes of sugar on another stump. He glanced up when he heard me approach and smiled.
"Hey, Chelsea, didn't see you there." He stood up straight and turned. "Just felt like leaving a treat for my little friends around here."
"Yeah, me too," I agreed, "I haven't been here in a while and just thought I'd see what was up."
"You been doing okay?" he asked, same as every time he saw me. His blue baseball cap was backwards on his head, and there were dark circles under his eyes.
"Not sleeping well?" I asked curiously.
"No, just kind of stressed out. I really want to get a place of my own – an Inn isn't exactly a home – but it's hard to think about. I guess I've just gotten too attached to Sunshine Islands."
"It's definitely a nice place," I said, "I can see why I decided to settle here after getting shipwrecked."
"You certainly did a nice job of turning it back into a bustling place. You know, when you first got here, these islands were pretty dumpy. There weren't even that many islands. You made it into a place worth living. When I first moved here, I remember meeting you. You were working in your fields with dirt all over your face and clothes. You were filthy from head to toe, but I remember thinking you were beautiful, even through all that. There was just something about you that seemed to . . . glow." He sighed, and half-smiled at me.
"Thanks," I said quietly.
A sudden memory hit me; a short one. Me and Mark and Denny were hanging out right here, and one of the bunnies had gotten brave enough to stumble out of the trees and take a carrot directly from my hand. Mark had laughed and leaned over to kiss my cheek, then pet the bunny, stroking its soft ears. I sighed, wishing yet again he didn't make these recollections come up. They felt so real, so recent. Mark suddenly stepped forward and grabbed my hand, holding it between his two hands.
"I make you remember things," he said quietly, his bright green eyes burning seriously, "because subconsciously, you miss me. You regret breaking up with me, but you don't know how to tell me, or how to get away from him. I've seen how he is; he can't possibly treat you well. Chelsea, I miss you. I love you. Please. Come back to me."
I blinked at his sudden declaration. "Mark, I" –
He held up one finger. "Just think about it," he begged, "please, just for one moment. And, let me . . ." He stepped closer still, and my back was against a tree.
"Mark" – I said again, but his hands came up to rest on the sides of my face.
He kissed my lips softly, his thumbs rubbing circles on my cheeks.
"Please remember," he whispered against my mouth, "I love you . . ."
For a moment, I just stood there, frozen. He took this as encouragement and kissed me again, harder this time. His touch actually did seem familiar, warm, even. I matched the memory I'd just had of us in the forest, which felt like moments ago . . . except it hadn't been. It was over a year ago. Back when we were together. And I'd broken up with him for a reason. I refused to believe that I was a cold hearted bitch who strung him along for seasons on end. I couldn't help it if I fell out of love with him . . .
. . . and in love with someone else. But I did. And this – what was happening right now – was wrong. I had promised Vaughn that I wouldn't let this happen, regardless of what I remembered or how strong the feelings were that came with them. I didn't want Mark kissing me against a tree on Animal Island, I didn't want his hands cupping my face or his declarations of love. I wanted the same thing now as I had before my accident: Vaughn.
And it didn't matter that I had little to no recollection of him from before, because just over the past few weeks, he had managed to create feelings in me that outshined my happiest memories with Mark. I loved him. So much. But if he were to see me right now, he would leave. This epiphany shot through my mind in a matter of seconds; my hands came up, and I pushed on Mark's chest.
He pulled back, a resigned look already in place on his face, expecting my rebuttal.
"Mark, listen to me," I said plainly. I wouldn't be cruel; I knew he really did care for me, and I had loved him once. But he needed to understand my feelings once and for all so he could move on and find happiness like I had.
"I'm sorry, Mark, I really am. Through the flashes of memory I'd gotten, I can see that maybe we were happy once. But I won't – can't – ever feel like that about you again. I want you to be able to move on and stop tormenting yourself like this, because you deserve better. We can be friends, I promise. But I love Vaughn. I always will. Some stupid accident on Volcano Island hasn't changed that. And you're wrong about him," I said firmly, "I know he seems . . . difficult. Sometimes he really is. But he loves me, too, Mark, and he acts like it. I feel so safe and cared for with him . . ."
Mark sighed. He stepped back and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Okay," he said simply, "I just . . . I'm sorry, Chelsea . . . I had to try one more time. But I promise, I'll leave you alone now."
"Friends," I reminded him.
"I don't think so. I can't be around you and pretend I just want to be your friend." He smiled sadly.
"Well, thank you for being honest," I sighed.
"You're welcome. Well . . . see you around."
And he turned and headed out of the forest. I let out a long breath, and then I sat down to wait for the animals to come.
Later that evening, when I returned home, Vaughn had made pancakes. He said they were pretty simple to make, and that I might even be able to create an edible one.
"Thanks," I said sarcastically as I sat down to eat my plate.
He sat across from me, and I took just a small moment to appreciate him, sitting there.
"What?" he asked, noticing my staring.
"Nothing," I replied, "I was just wondering how I got so lucky as to meet you here on the islands."
He snorted and leaned back in his chair, his eyes flashing with amusement.
"Believe me, I'm the lucky one," he said.
Though he seemed joking, there was a certain seriousness in his expression.
"Hmm," I murmured quietly.
We ate in silence for a while, and then he asked me about my day. The pancake suddenly felt lumpy and tasteless in my mouth. Should I tell him about what took place on Animal Island or not? A part of me really wanted to, but I was worried about how he would react.
"Well . . . it was good, mostly . . ." I trailed off, managing to swallow, "It's just . . ."
"What? Did you remember something bad?" he asked, staring intently at me.
I sighed and looked away. "I bumped into Mark today," I began, anticipating his wince.
"Oh." He put down his fork, and tried to be calm. "What did he do?"
"It doesn't matter," I chickened out, "it doesn't mean anything."
"Chelsea, please tell me."
I shrugged. "He told me he loved me, and he basically asked me to consider leaving you."
I pushed the plate away, suddenly not hungry anymore.
"I see," he said through his teeth, and leaned back in the chair. I could hear the anger simmering beneath his civil tone.
"Uh . . . hekissedme," I said, my words all jumbled as they came out too quickly.
"What?" I groaned, annoying with myself for dancing around the question.
"He kissed me," I told him firmly, quick to add, "and that's all. I told him that I loved you and he needed to get over me."
Fury flashed in his eyes and he muttered something under his breath. "It figures he would pull something like this now. He was always looking for an opportunity to take you away from me."
"Well, I love you, so he would never have succeeded," I said gently, reaching across the table to take his hand. "It's alright. I took care of it."
"I'm going to talk to him tomorrow."
"I don't think that's a good idea. You're too mad." I frowned at him, pressing my lips into a tight line. I had a hard time believing that their chat would be limited to talk only.
"I want to," he snapped.
"Remember how you told me not to tell you what to do? The same principle applies here."
"I'm being reasonable! You're not!" My voice rose with my temper.
"Wanting to keep a dog that could potentially rip your face off is reasonable?" he asked flatly.
"You know I don't remember that!"
"Well, you did." He glanced at the door. "I want to talk to him now, actually."
Vaughn stood, without another word, and started walking. I got to my feet, and wanted to kick myself for opening my big mouth.
He whirled and stared at my challengingly. "So when you come home from wherever you've been and tell me that your asshole ex-boyfriend is kissing you and trying to get you to hate me, I'm just supposed to sit here and nod along?"
I opened my mouth to protest, but I wasn't sure what to respond with. I wanted him to stay here, but when he phrased it like that, I didn't know how to . . . He left the house, and I followed behind him closely, nervousness coiling in my stomach.
Mark was, as I'd guessed, in his room at the Inn. Unfortunately, Vaughn also guessed this and strode down the hallway without even greeting the Innkeeper. He eyed us warily as we passed, knowing that we lived on the Islands and wouldn't be paying for a room. Vaughn stopped at the door of room 4B and knocked three times, hard.
I heard a rustling inside, and then the door swung open. Mark stood there in a big white t-shirt and gray sweatpants with a dark stain on the knee.
"Who the hell are you," Vaughn spat, "to try to kiss Chelsea and tell her you want her back? What kind of sick, demented bastard are you to take advantage of her when she can't remember a goddamn thing about her life?"
"What - ?" Mark blinked at the sudden accusations, obviously a little disoriented. Maybe he'd been taking a nap.
"Vaughn," I said quietly, "calm down."
He exhaled sharply and glanced at me. He saw the pleading in my eyes and he bit his lip. For a moment, three of us just stood there in silence.
"I . . ." Mark shook his head and gestured to his room. "Come inside for a minute."
We did. I glanced around the room, wondering if it would spark a memory, but it didn't.
"I know you're mad," Mark said to Vaughn, his voice reasonably calm, "and yeah, maybe I am a jerk for taking advantage of this situation, but I had to try."
"You need to stay away from her," Vaughn snapped, "You have no right" –
"You are an asshole," Mark interrupted, aggravation worming its way into his voice, "you've hated everyone on these Islands since the moment you stepped foot on this land. You glare at everyone and everything. How was I supposed to know you hadn't trapped her in some kind of abusive relationship? I love her, I couldn't let that happen."
"Mark," I said quietly, "Vaughn is nothing but good to me. I told you that earlier today."
"Well, I hope so, Chelsea. I hope you get your memory back and the two of you skip merrily into the sunset." His normally friendly bright green eyes were dark, and his voice was laced with bitterness. "But I'll spend the rest of my life wondering why I wasn't good enough for you. What the hell does he have that I don't? I was good to you. I loved you. And you kissed me back earlier today, on Animal Island."
Vaughn's gaze darted to me, and they narrowed, waiting for my rebuttal.
"I did not," I told both of them.
"You didn't push me away, then. You let me kiss you. You thought about it." Mark's gaze was fixed totally on me, ignoring Vaughn completely.
"I was just flustered. You practically sprung yourself on me."
Mark shook his head and stepped forward, hands coming up to rest on my arms. "I'm sorry for that. I told you that. But" –
He didn't finish. One second he was standing front of me, the next he was across the room, slamming into the wall.
"I'm going to leave now," Vaughn said, his tone flat, quiet, "because if I don't, I'll . . ."
He shook his head, turned, and slipped out the door, shooting me an unfathomable glance over his shoulder. Mark groaned, one of his hands held tightly over his eye. I wanted to go after him, but I also needed to make sure Mark was alright. I helped him get to his feet.
"Are you okay?" I sighed.
"Yeah, I'll be fine. I guess I kind of deserved it. I'd punch some guy in the face who was kissing my fiancé too, but man, that hurt like a bitch."
"It looked like it did," I admitted, "I'm sorry it happened. I just . . ."
"I understand, Chelsea. I already told you I did. I just got . . . caught up in the moment. I know you didn't kiss me back."
"Good," I said firmly, "now I've . . . I've got to go."
I turned and hurriedly exited the hotel room. I figured Vaughn would have headed back home, but when I got to the fork in the path, I saw him speeding away in Kirk's boat. Probably to Meadow Island. He'd told me once a few days ago he liked to go there to think.
I followed him when Kirk got back and found him sitting on the edge of the Island, staring out at the waves. Sighing heavily, I sat down beside him. I wanted to touch him, but he wasn't giving off that kind of vibe at the moment.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly, surprisingly, after a long silence. "I know I probably . . . overreacted. I just . . . the thought of you and him . . ."
"I know," I said, "I'm sorry. I probably shouldn't have told you."
"No," he sighed, reaching out for my hand, "I want you to talk to me. We've always talked to each other. Even in the beginning . . . you had this way of . . . making me talk."
"I love you, Vaughn," I said.
He raised an eyebrow at me questioningly. "You don't have to say that."
"I'm not just saying it," I promised, "it hasn't felt like that long to me, but . . . but I do. I do think you went a little crazy, but it's just because you care. And ever since I lost my memory, you've been so patient with me. I wish so badly that I could remember you."
He stared at me hard for a long moment, and opened his arms. I scooted close to him, and pressed my lips to his neck. "It doesn't matter," he said quietly, his palm against my cheek. "I love you, too."
His skin was so warm, his touch so gentle. I kissed his lips softly, and the zing of heat that started low in my belly was like a slow burn.
"I want to go back to our house," I whispered in his ear as his hands moved down my back, "and I want you to make love to me."
"Mmm," he murmured, "that sounds good to me."
Smiling, I got to my feet, and pulled him with me.
It was getting dark by the time we got in the house. When the door closed behind us, he pulled me close and started kissing my neck. I shivered in anticipation of what was to come, but I pushed on his chest.
"I want to go freshen up," I said quietly, pressing my lips to his jaw.
"Okay," he agreed.
I pulled open one of my wardrobe, grabbed something from the second drawer down and slipped into the bathroom. I just stood there for a minute, nervousness balling in my stomach. This may not have been first time – far from it – but in my mind, it was. And though I did not doubt that he would make this loving and gentle, I worried about disappointing him.
What if it was better between us before? I took a deep breath to clear my head and held up what I had retrieved from the wardrobe. It was pretty, white and delicate. I undressed and slipped it on, wondering if I'd ever worn this particular one before. It stopped at mid-thigh, and I enjoyed the feeling of such soft silk on my bare skin.
The two spaghetti straps on my shoulders were a deep black, the same color as the two small satin bows on both my hips. Looked at myself in the mirror and really studied my face for a second. I was clearly in shape from all the physical work I did around here, and my eyes were a soft shade of blue.
My long brown hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail, and I slowly reached up to pull the elastic from it, letting my hair fall in waves down to the middle of my back. I must have loved long hair very much to endure having to take care of it and constantly keep it back when I was working. Taking another deep breath, I turned and opened the door.
Stepping out, I saw Vaughn sitting on my bed. He'd kicked off his boots and pulled off his black gloves. His eyes took in my outfit eagerly and I smiled at him shyly.
"Did I wear this kind of thing a lot?" I asked quietly.
"Yes," he affirmed, "sometimes. That one is my favorite, though."
I slowly approached him, stopping only when my hips were between his knees and my hands were in his hair.
"This feels new to me," I admitted softly, kissing his cheek, and then his forehead. He gazed up at me seriously, and I couldn't imagine a sight on this Earth more beautiful than those curiously colored eyes.
"I know," he told me, one of his hands resting on the small of my back. "We can go slow, I promise."
I nodded thoughtfully, and tilted my head down to kiss him. His kiss was warm and comforting, and I could feel the heat of his skin easily through the thin material of my clothing. That now familiar feeling of desire burned through my body again and made me kiss him deeper, holding him close, but still not close enough.
He pulled me down so that I was straddling his hips, and the lingerie slipped even further up my legs, exposing the simple white underwear that went with it, and I shivered, remembering the last time he had seen this much – and more – of my skin. But tonight would be different – I wouldn't leave him hanging after by body got the release it so desperately craved.
Tonight, I would see all of him as he had seen me, and please him in much the same way. I had been aching to see him come undone since then, and I had every intention of making it happen as soon as possible.
But I would have to wait a little while, at least – this wasn't about the primal race for orgasm, but rather, getting reacquainted with each other's bodies and rekindling the passion and desire I knew we'd felt in my pre-accident state.
"I want you," I whispered boldly, "do you want me?"
Outside, I could hear the beginning of rainfall, and somehow the soft pattering of raindrops against the window made this all the more romantic. He chuckled softly and gently rolled us so he was hovering over me, and then he rocked his hips into mine.
I inhaled sharply at the friction, and heard him whisper, "I do, Chelsea. So much. Don't you feel how bad I want you?"
I did. I could feel how hard he was. I couldn't manage to reply as his lips started leaving blazing little wet kisses down my neck, over my collarbone. I tugged on his hair, indicating how much I wanted his mouth to move farther down. My breasts felt full and heavy, aching for attention, and I moaned quietly when he kissed one through the fabric.
"As sexy as you look in this," he whispered, his voice hoarse with lust, "I want it off you, now."
I obliged, sitting for a minute so he could pull it off me. He slid the underwear off my hips and tossed it off the bed. And then I laid back, completely bared to him. Vaughn sat back on his knees and unabashedly studied my body. A wave of embarrassment hit me under such intense scrutiny, I squirmed a little.
"Don't be embarrassed," he said quietly, leaning back down cup my breasts in his hands like before. "
We've done this so many times," he continued softly, "but I never get tired of looking at your body. You're so, so beautiful."
I gasped appreciatively at his praise and his expert fondling. He teased my hardened nipples for a minute, and one of his hands slid down lower. He laid his palm flat against my stomach, and down to my thigh. He continued all the way down to my foot, kissing bits and pieces of my skin as he went, and I knew that I had never felt so adored.
His achingly slowly process was sweet, but impatience was coiling in my belly, and suddenly it aggravated me to no end that he was still fully clothed. Gently pulled my leg away from his hands, I sat up and reached for the buttons on his shirt. I wanted nothing more than to feel his bare skin against mine. When I managed to get them all undone despite my shaky fingers, he shrugged it off to the floor without taking his eyes off mine.
I took my time running my hands down his solid chest, and admiring his tightly muscled stomach. Clearly, there was as much manual labor to his job as there was paperwork. You couldn't get abs like this by just sitting behind a desk all day.
"You're gorgeous," I told him quietly.
He half smiled at me. "Thanks."
He kissed me again, rougher this time, a bit of his self-control fizzling away as our desire grew. I stroked my tongue along his hand reached down between us to palm him through his jeans, and a soft groan slipped from him, igniting my arousal even further, if that was even possible. It didn't seem like he'd be the most vocal person in bed, so to drag these small, pleasured noises from him was like a small reward. I tugged on his belt.
"Off," I managed to gasp around his mouth.
The feeling of our chests pressed together was heavenly – the contrast of my small, soft frame against his hard, very male body was amazing. Somehow, we managed to pull away from each other long enough to get this last article of clothing separating us off him, and then I managed to coax him onto his back so I could appreciate him like he had me. He was so leanly muscled, with a long torso and that amazing V on his hips that made me want to whimper out loud.
His arousal (I decided to call it that until I was more comfortable with dirtier words) stood at attention for me, and I wondered how it would ever fit inside of me.
"It's . . . big," I said quietly.
Vaughn laughed softly. "Thanks for the ego boost."
I blushed a little. The fact this man, who, from everything that I had gathered these past few weeks, was usually so cold and closed off to everyone around him, had opened up to me and started to love me so fiercely it hurt was awe-inspiring.
"I think I should be on top," he said quietly, and I nodded in agreement.
After all, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew how my body was aching, and I knew he had what would satisfy it, but going about it was foreign to me. We rolled once again, and he kissed me softly. His hand trailed down, and I felt one of his fingers push inside me. I bit my lip and sighed. He pushed it a little deeper, testing how wet I was, and then pulled it out, apparently satisfied that I was ready for him.
"Relax," he whispered to me, and I swallowed, trying to oblige.
And then I felt him push into me slowly. My head feel back against the pillow, and I moaned at the long-awaited penetration. When he was in a deep as he could go, he stilled for a moment, as I got used to the feeling of him being there.
"This okay?" he breathed, and I could sense his desire to move, to start thrusting into me hard.
"Yeah," I said, "this is good."
He swallowed, and I saw his Adam's apple bob once in his throat. He started to move, and gradually my hips found the rhythm of this and I was meeting each of his movements with much anticipation. The pleasure of our movements and the sheer, raw amount of passion and love put into the action was indescribable.
He was mostly silent as we rocked, but the glazed look of gratification in his eyes made it obvious he was enjoying this as much as I was. I, on the other hand, found it impossible not to gasp and moan his name throughout. True to his word, he remained gentle, but as the pressure within me started to build, I needed . . .
"Harder, Vaughn," I groaned, "please . . ."
A broken growl slipped from his lips as he did as I asked, his thrusts coming harder and less restrained than before. The slick sound of our skin slapping together aroused me even further; he angled himself just a little differently than before, and suddenly, he was stroking a spot inside me that would surely drive me mad. My head thrashed to the side, and a louder moan came out of me before I could help it.
"Like that," I whimpered, "just like that. Oh, God, Vaughn . . ."
He grunted and slammed into me, hard. "Come, Chelsea," he ordered quietly, simply.
The climax hit me with dizzying force, and a cry passed my lips that bordered on a scream. It felt so good I could cry. When it subsided and I felt spent, though, I kept rocking my hips into his thrusts, which were erratic by now; I needed his orgasm just as much, if not more, than I had needed my own.
Feeling like he might need a little coaxing more on the dirtier side, I breathed, "I love how good you fuck me, Vaughn. Come, baby, please, I need it."
"Fuck," he moaned, pushing roughly into me three more times before breathing my name and enjoying his own release. He relaxed, and for a second, I felt all his weight and had a hard time taking a breath.
"Sorry," he sighed, rolling onto his back.
I frowned when he pulled out me, immediately missing the contact. I rolled so we were pressed together again, his arms tight around me.
"Thank you," I said quietly, holding up one of his hands and kissing each of his fingers individually, "for making that so amazing for me."
"I'm going to make it like that for you, all the time," he promised, pressing a kiss to my forehead.
"Mmm," I said, "that sounds nice. I really enjoyed seeing you like that. I want to discover all the different ways I can please you."
"Okay," he answered easily.
We held each other for a long time in silence, and the gentle lulling sound of the rain combined with my total satisfaction made me sleepy. Yawning, I closed my eyes.
"Chelsea?" I heard him say softly.
"Marry me. This weekend."
My eyes opened and I stared at him. "I . . ." I trailed off.
"Please," he added, "I love you. I promise you'll never regret it. We can work on getting your memories back still."
I swallowed hard. I felt kind of weird agreeing when I'd felt like I'd known him for such a short amount of time, but hadn't I just had a big epiphany about how much I loved him just yesterday? And it was obvious he loved me. The idea of making this official made me smile.
"Yes," I said, "Yes, okay."
He smiled at me, one of those rare, full smiles I treasured.
"Good," he said simply.
And then we fell asleep.
When I woke up in the morning, memories of the previous night came rushing back, and I smiled hugely. Sitting up, I took the opportunity to study my fiancé, who was still asleep. Rarely did I get to do this, as he was generally up at least a half hour before me. Sighing happily to myself, I slipped out of bed, shivered a little at the cold air and hunted through my wardrobe for some clothes. I found sweat pants and an old gray sweatshirt, which would do fine.
I turned off the alarm and went to find my rucksack, figuring I'd let Vaughn sleep in a little today since I'd woken up so early. I needed to plant some new grass and find the Wonderful piece I'd misplaced a few days ago. Quietly, I tugged the pack up on my shoulders and slipped out of the house; I'd return a little later for breakfast. It was still dark, so I avoided the field and went around it on my way to the barn, lest I slip and kill myself on the stray bits of log and rock littering the ground. I switched on the light inside, and the animals shifted irritably; I guess they slept a little later than this too.
"Good morning, everyone," I said quietly, reaching down to stroke the head of the little lamb.
I began tending to them all exactly as I usually did – feeding, brushing and so on. But I noticed one of my sheep still hadn't eaten the fodder I'd left in his feed bin from yesterday, and he baaed weakly in happiness when I brushed his wool.
Frowning, I let the rucksack slide from my shoulders and started looking through it; sometimes I kept spare bottles of animal medicine just in case. But I couldn't find any at all, and Mirabelle wouldn't open for another two hours. Frustrated, I sat down and dumped the contents of the whole bag out on the floor to be sure I wasn't missing anything. But there was no medicine.
Sighing, I started shoving everything back inside when something bright caught my eye beneath a few wild herbs I'd picked a few days ago. Shifting them aside, I picked it up curiously. It was a diamond, a decent sized one, and it sparkled brightly under the light. How on earth had it ended up buried at the bottom of my rucksack? When had I gotten it?
I flipped through my short stack of memories; looking . . . A flash of something hit me just then. A mine . . . deep inside a volcano . . . where I had fallen. I remembered reaching a particularly deep floor and cracking open a rock with my hammer, discovering the treasure inside and ambling back to the stairs. But I'd fallen into dark pitfall on my way down . . . and hit my head hard.
Hard enough to erase any and all memory from my life before.
But . . . Volcano Island. I could see it so clearly in my head, as if I was still deep inside the mine, where all this had began. Why was I in the mine? To look for Regis's fine jewelry. Who was Regis? Sabrina's father. I'd known him ever since I moved to Sunshine Islands two years ago. Before that, I'd lived with my parents and my sister in the city.
"Oh my God," I whispered, letting the diamond fall to the floor as everything hit me all at once. The flood of so much memory hitting me all at once was like a physical, violent force slapping me across the face. My whole body trembled as I recalled event after event in my life up until this very moment in stunning clarity.
I wrapped my arms around my knees and started rocking in a tight ball, tears rolling down my cheeks at the intensity of the recollections. It was as if all my previous thoughts had been locked away tightly in a deep, dark closet in the back of my mind, and suddenly someone had thrown it open and everything fell down on me at once, suffocating me with its weight and force.
I sat like that for what felt like an eternity as my brain struggled to settle all the proper information in the right places without turning me into a nutcase in the process. When I felt I could function somewhat normally again, I managed to sit up and blink at the wall. It was . . . all back. Just like that? Just because I looked at a diamond I happened to find the day of my accident?
All I had to do was dig up that freaking rock in my bag and all the angst of the previous weeks could have been avoided? Seriously? I flipped anxiously through my memories to make sure it was all there, asking myself stupid little questions. Favorite ice cream? Rocky Road. Sister's name? Kelly. First kiss? Fifth grade.
"Oh my God," I said again. And the Islands. I could remember getting shipwrecked here, learning about sunstones, raising the islands and making friendships along the way that would last a lifetime. Julia and Natalie, they were my best friends . . . I recalled building this place up from basically nothing, to becoming as successful as I was today. I saw meeting Mark, and being with him for a time . . . and breaking it off because I didn't love him enough to stay with him.
And Vaughn. It all came back about him: how he seemed like a total asshole when we first met, but gradually getting to know him over the course of a year, and then dating him, falling in love with him, agreeing to marry him, the first time.
Swallowing thickly, I jumped to my feet and raced back to the house, throwing the door open. I ran to the bed and shook him awake; his eyes flew open and he sat up, blinking rapidly at me. "What?" he snapped immediately, and then frowned apologetically when he saw that it was me.
"Vaughn, I was out doing my normal morning stuff, and I found a diamond in my pack," I explained quickly.
"Great. Something else for Regis to fawn over. Maybe it'll keep him in his house and away from the rest of us for a long time." He yawned and glanced at the clock. "Did you turn off the alarm?"
"Forget about the alarm," I said impatiently. I took his face in both my hands and stared at him hard.
"What is it, Chelsea? A diamond is nice, but it's not that exciting."
"I don't care about the stupid diamond," I told him, "But I found in the day of my accident."
One of his eyebrows rose questioningly. "How do you know that?"
"Because I remember!" I cried happily, "It made me remember! Everything! It all came back just now, and so fast . . ."
His eyes widened and he opened his mouth to speak and shut it again quickly. "You . . . you remember? All of it?"
"Every single last thing," I confirmed, leaning down to kiss him. Then I stepped back and danced around the room crazily.
"Get dressed," I said, "we have to go tell people!"
"Oh my God, Chelsea, really?" Julia – who had returned home with Elliot only last night – cried, dancing around in much the same way I had.
"That's great, Chelsea," Elliot agreed, smiling.
Julia wrapped me in a tight hug. "I need to get Natalie over here."
"Why ruin the moment?" Vaughn muttered, but he was smiling, too.
Julia rolled her eyes, went to the door, and shouted Natalie's name to all on Vendure Island. I grimaced, hoping she was outside. Luckily, she was beside the Diner, gathering some flowers. Upon hearing Julia's yell, she dropped what she was doing and came to investigate; Felicia, Taro, Gannon and Charlie all watched her leave from their various positions on the Islands curiously.
Julia told Natalie the news, and the two of them hugged me at the same time, bouncing around like little monkeys.
"I knew it'd all come back," Natalie said, "There's no way anyone who's ever met me would be able to forget the awesomest thing they've ever seen."
I rolled my eyes, clearly recalling Natalie's generous amount of self-confidence.
"Well, I just wanted to come tell you guys," I said quietly, "I'm just . . . so happy."
I hugged them all once more, including Elliot, and then exited the building with Vaughn.
"Don't you want to go tell everyone else?" he asked as I headed back toward my land. The land I knew I had worked my ass off for.
"Word'll get around," I said casually, "who wants to spend their whole morning talking to everyone?"
"Not me," he said.
I giggled. "I know, trust me. I know you well."
He picked me up on the bridge leading to my house and swung me in a circle. "I know you do," he said, his eyes shining with true happiness, and I relished such joy shown so openly in his face. "And I hope you never forget me again. That was awful. But . . ."
"Never," I promised as he set me down, "I will never forget again."
"It was kind of nice, getting you to love me again. Even when you were remembering things about Mick."
"Mark," I corrected.
He shrugged. "Whatever."
I sighed and took his hand fondly as we continued to walk.
"I don't think there's any parallel universe, accidental memory loss or disastrous event that would prevent me from falling in love with you," I said earnestly.
He just continued to smile.
"Excited for this weekend?" he asked as we stepped into the house.
"I seriously cannot wait. Let's do it tomorrow."
"Sounds good to me."
And so that's what we did. Nathan and Alisa were irritated about being given such short notice, but they especially loved conducting wedding ceremonies, so they got over it. We invited everyone that evening, even going as far as Mushroom Island to invite Shea, who agreed eagerly when we mentioned the cake Pierre was sure to bake. He, too, was aggravated, as he could not create "a proper work of art" over night, but I assured him a regular cake would be nice.
He muttered something about pink frosting, but relented gracefully. Everyone heard about my sudden recollected, and I received an endless stream of congratulations on both my marriage and my lack of brain damage. I gave Dr. Trent a call and told him everything, just for the sake of doing it, and he was thrilled for me. I mentioned how odd it was that a simple diamond had brought it all back so suddenly, and his tone made me picture him shrugging.
"Sometimes odd things can trigger memories," he said simply, and I was happy with his explanation.
Speaking of the diamond, I never sold it to Regis. I put it in a small blue box in the bottom drawer of my wardrobe, so I could look at it periodically in the future and remember these peculiar events of my life in the past weeks. In the morning, Julia and Natalie whisked me away to the church on Mystic Islands, and before I knew it was standing at the alter in front of all my friends on Sunshine Islands and publicly proclaiming my love and devotion to the man in front of me.
When it was over and everyone filed out of the church, I heard the loud bell that signified the Harvest Goddess' blessing of the union.
"Thank you," I said quietly to Vaughn as the lot of us shuffled to Kirk's boat; he would take as many of us as he could to Meadow Island for a small reception.
"For what?" he asked, looking amazing in his black tux and his combed silver hair, thankfully lacking a hat.
"For sticking around and dealing with all that. I hope it's all worth it. I hope to make it up to you with an epic life together."
He laughed softly. "It will be more than worth it," he promised.
"Good," I said quietly.
"I was always going to stay whether you got all your memories back or not. I would have always been here." Vaughn smirked. "Whenever you remembered."
A/N: Reviews are always appreciated. :-)