This is a ‘what if’ story. I wanted to consider a situation where nobody was at fault, yet relationships and marriages were about to be changed forever. It’s about a woman in the horns of a moral dilemma. What if a woman loves and is loved by two men and yet is not, in theory, unfaithful to either? What if she is married and still is not unfaithful? It’s the tale of three people set over two days, none of whom are at fault, yet all have or will suffer and react in one way or another.
It looks at the emotional turmoil that evolves as the story develops. I’ve tried to look at it from the different perspectives of the three main characters. The central character is Peter, but I’ve interspersed his narrative with ones from the other two main protagonists. And yes I know when I’ve described the conversations from a second perspective, I’ve not used the same words but that’s reality, isn’t it. What we hear isn’t always what the other person is saying; it’s what we understand they are trying to say.
I can’t thank Romantic1 enough for the time he spent reviewing and editing the first version. This revised version was edited by Blackrandl1958, thank you for all your help. Any remaining mistakes are all mine, usually because I can’t resist fiddling with the finished story.
I was staying at a Caribbean resort, not on holiday, I’m afraid. I was on business, a surprise inspection tour for the company that owned the place. I’d arrived earlier that day, and after a nice meal, I had decided that a nightcap in the bar would be a pleasant end to the evening.
This leads to my first question: What would you do if you looked up from the half-full glass sitting on the table in front of you, and saw your dead wife in the bar, sitting with a group of people at a table on the far side of the dance floor. This was your loving wife and a devoted mother who was supposed to have died three years ago. She sat beside a man, laughing at something he’d said and was most definitely alive!
It had been the sound of her laughter that had made me look up from my drink, the sound of her laugh, loud in a pause in the music, a clarion call to my shocked senses. She was as beautiful as she’d ever been. Her long dark hair was falling in waves to her shoulders. Her hand was flicking the strands off her face with a gesture embedded into my soul.
For three long years, I’d mourned that beautiful woman, the mother of our daughter. I’d consoled my daughter in her anguish, and she in her turn had given me a reason to live. I’d not been given the closure of a funeral, as she’d been lost at sea. There she was sitting less than ten yards from me.
I know what I did: I stood up, knocking over the table in front of me. There was a loud crash and the sound of breaking glass and suddenly I was the center of attention.
I called out “Rachael.” The anguish, making my voice sound harsh.
All eyes seemed to be on me, while mine could only focus on Rachael’s face. For long, long moments, while the rest of the room seemed frozen in time, the expression on her face changed from a cautious smile to puzzlement look of surprise. It ultimately changed to a look of hesitant recognition, then intense confusion and finally total shock. She staggered to her feet, her face blanching before her eyes rolled up and she collapsed in a heap on the floor.
In the silence, the man seated by her side called out, “What the fuck ... Julia, what’s the matter?” Then to his companions, “Shit guys, I need some help here, Julia’s fainted.”
I was halfway across the room before he finished talking. I slid to a halt at her side, dropping to my knees, my hands reaching out to her.
He was on her other side, holding her hand. “Julia darling, what’s the matter?” Then he snarled at me, “Who the hell are you? Hey, don’t touch her.”
I ignored him to gingerly touch her face and whisper, “Rachael, oh dear God, Rachael, is it really you?”
I rocked back, falling on my ass as he pushed me away from her, shouting, “Leave my wife alone you bastard.”
I looked again at the woman on the floor between us. His wife? No, it couldn’t be. No, I wasn’t mistaken, it was Rachael. She still wore around her neck the antique gold cross I’d bought for her after our daughter was born. If she had wanted to leave me, then faking her own death was a hell of a step.
I was hauled to my feet by the two men who’d been seated at the same table. They tried to hustle me away, but I shrugged them off with a harsh, angry, “Fuck off.”
I addressed the other man. “I don’t know who the fuck you are, but if you’re married to her, then we’ve got a big problem, because as far as I know, we are still married, even though she’s supposed to be dead...” I trailed off, the enormity of the situation crashing down on me.
“Oh, and by the way,” I managed to add, “Her name is not Julia, it’s Rachael!”
“P ... Peter is that you?” Rachael’s soft voice broke into my tirade.
“Yes, love,” I replied in the same tone, as I went to her side again.
She looked at me and then at the man at my side. “Oh, god no, James. She burst into tears, her body shaking.
I put my arm around her, and she buried her face into my neck.
“What the hell is going on here?” James shouted as he tried to pull her away from me.
Jim was knocking on the bathroom door.
“Come on Jules we’re going to be late, the tables booked for seven, and the others have called to say their waiting in the lobby for us.”
“One minute,” I called out as I washed the evidence of my surprise for Jim down the sink and checked that the last traces of the red dye and trimmed hairs had gone.
I applied the last of my makeup. “And whose fault is that,” I added. “You’re the one who insisted we had time for another quickie.” Not that I’d minded our afternoon sessions, this vacation seemed to have rejuvenated Jim.
I stepped back from the counter and looked at the woman in the mirror. Tall, at five-ten, long black hair cascading over her shoulders framed an oval face. Bright blue eyes, high cheekbones and plump, kissable lips, full breasts, a full thirty-eight C with just a hint of sag, dark large areola tipped with long firm nipples. Breasts waiting to be covered by the lacy black bra I held in my hand. The bra to matching high cut panties I was wearing from the set of Victoria’s Secret lingerie Jim had bought me specifically for this trip, the panties that now almost hid my surprise.
I smiled and muttered, “Not bad for a thirty-eight-year-old.” Then I hesitated, if that is how old I am, I thought, as my reality brought me back to earth.
I didn’t know how old I was, or, in fact, who I was. The problem was, I could only remember the last thirty-three months of my life, my age, even my name were educated guesses. My previous life was a complete blank, ever since I’d woken up from a three-month coma. I had been found half-naked and unconscious on a track that led up from a beach on one of the American Virgin Islands. The authorities best guess was that I had been attacked and sexually assaulted, either on the beach or on a boat. Some of my injuries were several days old, and at some time, I’d been in the water. They thought I’d been dumped in the undergrowth and left for dead. I had no identification other than a gold cross and a broken chain clutched in my hand. It was assumed I was American. I was treated at the local hospital, but after I didn’t come out of my coma, they transferred me to a special hospital in Florida.
I sighed and fastened the bra, then I took the dress I’d picked out for tonight from its hanger. I slipped it on over my head and pulled it down over my hips, teasing it into place. I opened the door and gave my husband a kiss before asking him to zip me up.
He lifted my hair up and kissed the back of my neck before pulling up the zip. I felt a shiver of excitement as his lips brushed my skin. I pushed my butt into his crotch and gave it a shimmy.
He groaned, “Do that again, and we may not make our dinner reservation.”
I laughed, and he spun me around and his lips latched on to mine. My tongue found his and all I could think about was his firm body and the hard lump that was pressing against my pussy, l loved the way he made me feel, warm and wet and a dull ache of desire.
“Didn’t you get enough of me earlier,” I laughed.
He broke my grip and gave me a slap on my butt. “Come on vixen, we’ll pick this up later.”
I laughed, “Promises, promises,” I said and blew him a kiss as I slipped out of his grasp.
Our friends were already seated at our table at the restaurant when we arrived, still giggling at the expression of the couple outside when they saw me raising the hem of my dress to flash Jim.
Jim held out my chair, and I sat down. Around the table sat Paul, Mary, Amy and David. Amy is Jim’s sister and David is her husband. Mary was the nurse who looked after me when I was in the coma and my best friend. She and her husband Paul had offered me a place to live after I was discharged. Mary and I had quickly become close friends.
I first met Jim at a barbeque. It was an annual summer event that Mary and Paul held every year. Amy and David had brought Jim along. He was relocating from out of State. He was forty-three, tall and handsome, his short hair is going grey at the temples, and I think I fell in love with him after the first time he smiled at me. We were married after nine months, and it only took us that long because I needed to convince my psychiatrist that I wasn’t going to regain my memory. Tomorrow would be our first anniversary, and that was the reason we were all on vacation at this Caribbean resort.
Our table was on a patio overlooking the beach. The white sand glowed in the light of the full moon that hung over the ocean. The six of us had become close friends, and we were a happy group. The food at the restaurant was Asian fusion and deserved the great reviews. I was pleased that the hotel had recommended it to us. I was doubly pleased because I’d booked another restaurant they had suggested for our anniversary meal tomorrow.
Jim was offering me a spoon of his Chocolate mousse, and I seductively played with it, while I caressed his leg. I ran my fingers up his leg and played with the bulge his interested cock caused in his trousers.
Mary’s question interrupted us, “Julia, have you worked out why this resort sounds familiar yet?”
I brought myself back to the here and now and shrugged my shoulders. “No, I just know that I get this funny feeling I’d heard the name, ‘Golden Tradewinds’ long before we found the site on the web. I just knew it would be as wonderful as it is.”
Mary was always keen to know if I ever remembered anything about my past. I’d only told her a couple of days ago, that recently I’d been having the odd flashes of a large house set in a field. There had been vague impressions of a man, a tall, handsome man and a pretty young girl sitting on a horse.
I looked at Jim and the smile he gave me washed away any feelings of unease I had. It had been three years, and nothing was going to come back to me.
We decided to have a drink at the bar at the hotel to finish off the evening. The six of us walked the short distance along the beach to the hotel. I took my heels off and felt the still warm sand under my feet. I splashed along the water’s edge, Mary and Amy followed suit, and the three of us played in the shallow water. Tiny fish scattered from our feet in flashes of silver. We tried to tempt our men to join us. They refused, and Jim started filming us with the camera on his phone.
It was just after ten when we walked into the bar at the resort. There was a table big enough for the six of us that had just been vacated, it was to one side of a small dance floor, and we quickly claimed it. The waitress took our order, and I gave Jim a playful slap because he was ogling her long legs.
We were toasting a wonderful vacation and my choice of resort. I remember laughing at something Jim said when there was a loud crash and the sound of broken glass from the other side of the dance floor. Everyone looked to see what was happening. A stranger, no, shit, he wasn’t a stranger, he was the man I’d been seeing in my memory flashes, was rising to his feet. His face was thinner and a bit gaunter than the picture in my mind, but it was him. He stared at me with a shocked almost haunting expression on his face.
His mouth opened in shock then he cried out a name, “Rachael.”
That name, spoken in his voice, cut right through me like a knife. I knew who he was ... Peter Rodgers, and who I was. I was his wife, and my name was Rachael, and ... and...
The room went dark.
... I heard two familiar voices arguing above me. Wait, that made no sense, how could they be above me. I focused and realized I was lying on my back on the floor.
Peter was saying, “Oh and by the way, her name is not Julia; it’s Rachael.”
“P ... Peter is that you?” I asked.
“Yes love,” he replied, and he moved closer.
I could see the face of the man I’d loved, no that’s not true, the man I’d never stopped loving, even though I hadn’t been able to remember him. He looked almost the same, a little older, a few more lines and hints of grey at his temples. His face was thinner, but the smile he gave me was so familiar. I could tell from that one look, that he loved me and was in shock. Why was he in so much anguish?
I looked from him to the second man kneeling on my other side. Jim’s confused, concerned and angry, yes angry face, stared down at me. My past and present lives surged and made my head a battlefield. I squeezed my eyes shut and let my lost memories begin to populate the void that had been my previous life. There were still so many gaps, but I thought I could sense memories hovering, waiting for the right time to introduce themselves.
I opened my eyes. Both of my husbands looked down at me. Oh God, I’d married James because I’d forgotten about Peter and ... and who else, the young girl in my dreams, who was she?
“Oh God no, James,” I cried out. I had betrayed my marriage and had married another man, a man who didn’t deserve the pain he must be feeling. I started sobbing, and I clung on to my husband and pressed my face against his chest, the smell of his familiar aftershave calming me. He touched my face and an electric shock shot through me. I opened my mouth in a soundless gasp.
From the other side, I heard James shout, “What the hell is going on here?” He tried to pull me away from the safety of Peters’ arms. I held on like grim death in fear of losing him again.
The bar staff must have called the duty manager, and he arrived after a few moments. He made a quick assessment of the situation, and before anyone else could say much, he deftly ushered us into a small side room a few steps from the entrance of the bar. He sat us down, and a waiter and a hotel security guard appeared. At least, the waiter brought a round of drinks with him.
There were seven of us in the room as well as the duty manager. James, Rachael, myself and the two couples who had been seated at their table. Rachael sat in a chair, her face white as she stared at me. James stood behind Rachael with his hand on her shoulder, he glared at me as one of the other women stood beside him whispering in his ear.
I considered my rival; upsettingly, Jim was a handsome bastard. I could see why Rachael had fallen for him. He was tall, six-two with clean cut features. I guessed he was in his mid-40’s.
The manager said, “I’m sorry, but you were all upsetting the other guests. Mr. Goldthorpe, it’s obvious that your wife needed to be somewhere quieter. Do you want me to call the doctor?”
James, after glancing at Rachael, shook his head.
The manager asked, “Mr. Goldthorpe, I’m not sure I understand what’s happening. Are you accusing this man of attacking your wife, or is it that she’s having an affair with him?”
“I want you to throw the bastard out of the resort,” James said forcefully.
I snorted, “How the fuck can I have an affair with my own wife?” Then I turned my attention to Rachael, “The more important question is; Rachael, how are you alive and where the hell have you been for the past three years?”
Jim said, “What the fuck do you mean, your wife; she’s my wife.” He put his arm around her protectively.
Rachael next words made him go white. She said, “Jim, wait, he’s right; I am his wife.” An eerie silence met her words.
Jim looked at Rachael to me then back again. “I ... I err, I don’t understand.” He stammered.
She stepped closer to me and seemed to be gathering her thoughts. She tentatively reached out her hand to me and said, “Peter, I’m sorry, until a few minutes ago I didn’t remember that I was Rachael; I thought I was Julia. Seeing you across the room brought back some of my memories. I remember you and that we were married, we were happy, weren’t we?”
“We were ... are. I still love you. We...” I rambled, unable to put a sentence together. I had tears of love and joy starting to run down my cheeks. I wanted to crush her to me and show her how much I’d missed her, but hesitated.
She pulled back her hair back off her forehead, and I saw the faint line of a jagged scar that disappeared into her hairline. “I woke up in hospital two years and nine months ago, and I could remember absolutely nothing about myself. When they asked me my name, for some reason Julia popped into my mind.”
“It’s our daughter’s name,” I said.
“We have a daughter?” Her voice shook, and she slumped back down onto a chair.
“Oh God, we do, don’t we. I remember her now; she is the young girl of my dreams.”
Tears were flowing down Rachael’s face as the memory of her own daughter flooded her head.
I nodded, fumbled for my wallet and found the photo of Julia taken at her 16th birthday party. “She’s grown up so much in the last three years. She’s a young lady now, and she looks so much like you,” l said.
She took it and started crying in long racking sobs. The women who’d been whispering to James, came over and put her arm around Rachael and peered at the photo she was holding.
“She’s beautiful, Julia.” The taller of the two women said.
Rachael sat staring at the photograph, her face a wash of emotions.
“Where is she. I want to see her, is she here?”
I shook my head. “She’s not here, she’s back in the UK, I’m here on my own; it’s a business trip.”
“Can I call my ... our daughter?”
I checked the time, ten-forty, “It’s three-forty in the morning back in the UK, and she’ll be asleep. She is staying with Mum and Dad. We can call her in a few hours, I promise. Crap, we need to let your parents know you’re still alive as well.”
My mind raced; what the hell was I going to tell my daughter. Your mother’s alive, but she’s living with another man, and they are married, and from the way she seemed in his presence earlier, she might stay with him? Fuck, that was going to cause her even more hurt. I hurt at the thought that she was alive, but wouldn’t be with me.
The name they kept calling her was irritating me. I said to them, “Look, this is what I know. I’m Peter, Peter Rodgers. The woman you all know as Julia is my wife, Rachael Rodgers. We were ... no.”
I shook my head. “No, it’s not, ‘were’, we are married and have been for the last eighteen years. We have a sixteen-year-old daughter called Julia. Almost three years ago Rachael was supposed to have died when the yacht she was sailing in, sank in a storm in the southern Caribbean.”
Rachael and the rest of her group looked surprised at that statement. The taller of the two women nodded and then gestured to the others around the table.
“I’m Amy, James, her husband, is my brother.” She pointed at the taller of the two other men, “My husband, David, and that’s Paul and his wife, Mary. We are all here this week for a vacation, and we are going to celebrate James and Julia’s wedding anniversary tomorrow night...” Her voice trailed away at the obvious implications of her words.
The room went silent at the last statement. I looked from my wife to her other husband.
I think James and I were thinking the same thing, which of us was married to Rachael. I know I could see him looking at me.
I said, “Look, I understand you all know her as Julia but her name is Rachael, and I wish you would call her that.”
I looked at Rachael and smiled at her, she gave me a strained smile in return. “It’s my name,” she told her friends.
Paul pointed at his wife, “Mary was a nurse on the unit they brought Julia to after she woke up.”
Mary looked at her husband, and then said to me. “Julia ... I’m sorry, I mean Rachael. Rachael was in a coma; she was found at the side of a road near a beach in the American Virgin Islands. It looked like she’d been assaulted and there was a bad head injury. She was also suffering from sunstroke and malnutrition. She was delirious and drifting in and out of consciousness. Finally, she fell into a coma. After the local hospital had stabilized her, she was airlifted to the medical center in Florida where I work. They thought she was most likely a tourist, but the authorities were never able to find a missing guest from any of the hotels.”
“Jesus, the American Virgin Islands, that’s well over two hundred miles from where the boat was supposed to have gone down.”
I tried to grasp the implications of that thought. “When was she found?”
The date James gave was seven days after the reported date of the sinking. How the hell had she got that far?
Mary asked Rachael, “How much of your old life do you remember?”
“Bits, it’s just like dream sequences in a film, all disjointed. I remember being married to Peter; I know I had a daughter. We lived in a house in the country. I remember fields and horses; Julia was riding a bay mare.” She pressed her hands against her head. “There’re other things, but they’re just bits and pieces. I know that there’s more in here, but it’s not coming, why can’t I remember any more? Christ my head hurts!”
Mary hugged her and said? “Don’t worry, now things are starting to coming back, you’re going to recall the rest, just don’t force it. More and more will come back to you, but it’s going to take its time.”
The yacht had been owned by my brother and his wife. Rachael, our daughter Julia, her best friend Alison and I were all supposed to join them for a month cruising around the island. Unfortunately, Julia had to re-sit a school exam, and I was asked at the last minute to attend a conference for the company. Rather than disappoint Rachael, who was still feeling rough from the car accident, I suggested she fly on the original date and the rest of us would join them a few days later.
Our flight to Martinique was cancelled due to the storm. When we got there, the yacht had been reported missing. Simon and Angie were found half dead on a life raft five days later. They told me that Rachael never managed to make it to the raft after she fell overboard. They remember seeing her getting hit by the mast as it went overboard; then the rope holding the life raft to the yacht broke and the seas were too rough for them to get back to search for her.
The local coast guard had searched for over a week before they called off it off. Rachael had been declared missing, presumed dead, six months later.
“Jul ... Rachael woke up after a couple of months,” Mary said, “but she had lost her memory, she spoke with what we thought was a faint American accent and when we suggested a few names, she thought she recognized Julia. We’ve been calling her Julia ever since. She had nowhere to stay, so I offered to let her stay with us.”
“And I’m forever grateful for that kindness, Mary,” Rachael said.
“We were friends with Amy and David and they introduced her to James. She was lonely, confused and a little scared. I think the pair of them hit it off straight away.”
“Pete,” Rachael said, “I’m sorry, but I honestly didn’t recall anything from my earlier life. The police and the hospital did an extensive search to see if I was a match for any missing person in the records. I wasn’t wearing a wedding ring although there was a mark on my finger, so they thought I may have been divorced. But because they thought I was American, they didn’t check the foreign records.”
“That was my fault,” Mary said. “I told the police and immigration that she spoke with an American accent when she first woke up.”
“We had never visited the States, so there wouldn’t be any record of her,” I mentioned
“The hospital helped me get my documentation. I became Julia Smith, and my date of birth was the day I woke up. The tenth of April, and they guessed I was thirty-five.”
Then she looked at me, “Peter, how old am I, it was one of those things that really frustrated me, not knowing when I was born.”
“Your birthday is November the fourth, and you are thirty-nine.”
I looked at her hand and the two rings on her finger. “You weren’t wearing your rings because you’d broken several fingers in a car accident a few weeks earlier. Your ring finger was so swollen they had cut off the rings at the hospital. I’d taken them to be repaired. I had them with me when we flew out to join you. I still have them with me.”
I pulled the leather pouch on its thong from under my shirt. I dropped her wedding, engagement and eternity ring into my palm. They had been my most tangible connection to my lost wife, a symbol of our love and my loss.
She looked at them with tears streaming down her face. Then she looked down at her hand and the two rings that sat on her finger, and she sobbed.
“Oh God, what have I done?”
She saw me begin to put them back in the pouch and she gave a cry. “No don’t, please can I have them back?”
I hesitated, they were one of my most prized physical memories of her, and I didn’t want to lose them. I only wanted to give them to her if I knew she was definitely coming back to me. I wasn’t going to give them to her so she could wear them for him!
“Only if you are going to use them for the purpose they were bought for,” I replied with a hint of despair.
She bit her lip in indecision. Again, she looked at the two rings on her fingers. “Am I still married to you?”
“I think so, but I don’t really know. The lawyers have begun the process of getting a death certificate, you were declared missing, presumed dead, I don’t know if that ends our marriage? I don’t want it to. I still love you and want you.”
We both looked around the room, but I don’t think anybody had a clue. I tucked the rings safely back into the pouch. They were just too precious to me.
“I’ll contact them in the morning and get them to stop or reverse the process,” I told them. “When that’s done, I guess we still are married, because you’re not dead.”
“Crap,” James said. “Being declared dead is the same as a divorce, so we are the legally married ones.”
Amy asked me, “You have a British accent, are you British? Is British law different from ours?”
“I’ve no idea, but yes I’m British, so is Rachael.” Her comment about accents triggered a thought. Someone had said that Rachael had spoken with an American accent when she had first woken up. Why would they think she was American?
I mused, “Rachael’s mother lived in America for many years, before returning to the UK.”
“That could explain what I thought was a faint American accent,” Mary replied.
I nodded. “But it also means Rachael’s not an American citizen, unless you took American citizenship?” I asked her.
She shook her head, “Everybody just assumed I was American.”
“She’s my wife, so she’s automatically a citizen.” James interrupted.
David shook his head. “It doesn’t work like that Jim, if she’s British, then she still has to apply to become an American even if she is legally married to you.”
“Christ, why did you marry him,” I spat out in frustration.
Rachael sobbed and said, “Because I was scared and alone, Pete. I knew something important was missing from my life. I had no past; I wanted a future. Then I met James, he was kind and fun to be with. We dated for six months, and when he asked me to marry him, I said yes because he seemed to offer something to fill that gaping void in my life.”
She gave me such a sad look and continued, “I just wish I’d waited. I’m so sorry, my love, what do we do now that I’ve fucked it all up?”
Jim grunted in pain at her words, and she quickly said, “Jim I didn’t mean to say it like that, I still love you, but Peter’s my husband and I love him and I always will. I feel all my old emotions about him and my family flooding back to my memory.”
I held my arms out, and she wrapped hers around me sobbing gently. Her hand sought mine and that familiar spark shot between us.
James said, “Jules, what’s going on; I love you, and whatever he says we are still a couple.”
She stepped over to him and held him close. She slipped into his arms with a degree of familiarity that I found very unsettling; I guess it mirrored the thoughts Jim had just had seeing Rachael in my arms. His eyes were fixed on me if looks could kill I was doomed to an early grave.
She said “James I love you, too, but less than an hour ago my life was turned on its head yet again. I have a husband who thought I was dead. I have a daughter and parents who still believe I’m dead. She needs me, and I need to see her. I need to see my parents and where I lived.”
Oh God, I thought, is she’s talking about come home just for a visit. Could she be going to leave me a second time? I started to panic again. She’s going to go back to him, and she’s going to take our daughter as well!
She saw my face, stopped talking and came back to me.
She took my face between her hands and kissed me. “Peter, I may not have remembered everything yet, but the first thing I did recall was how much I love you. I promise I’m not going to hurt you or Julia, but this is so confusing.”
I looked around the little room, and it depressed me. It was far too clinical for what we needed to talk about. It was gone midnight, and in another hour I could risk calling my parents. Dad was always an early riser.
“I have one of the villas; can we all go there and, at least, be comfortable while we talk?” I suggested. “. Rachael, my laptops’ there, and in an hour or so I can set up a Skype call. Then you can see as well as talk to our daughter.”
“Please,” she said, “I’d really like to do that.”
There was a general round of agreement from her friends, although Jim didn’t look too happy. They asked for a moment to talk together, so I stepped away. I took the opportunity to speak to the duty manager who’d been waiting patiently for us to finish. The name on his label was Michael.
“Michael, do you know who I am?”
“I’m sorry sir I don’t, I understand you’re Mr. Rodgers, and I gather you arrived yesterday and are staying villa two.”
“Correct, my name is Peter Rodgers, but what’s important is that I work for Rodgers Holdings.”
Realization flashed across his face, and he gasped. “You’re THAT Mr. Rodgers.”
I nodded. He should recognize the name of one of the directors of the company that owned the resort.
“What are you doing here, sir?”
“It was supposed to be a surprise inspection.” I gave a dry little laugh at that. “Let’s make sure everything goes smoothly, please.”
He nodded as Amy said they were ready.
We headed out of the main building and out through the gardens towards the beach villas. The path to the villas was only wide enough for two to walk side by side comfortably, so with Jim glaring at us, Rachael walked beside me, and we carried on talking. She linked her arm into mine in a warm gesture that showed me we both still carried the torch for each other.
As we walked towards the villa, Rachael asked me, “How is it you are here; what are you doing at this hotel, Peter?”
I gave an ironic laugh, and then murmured. “Because you decided to have your anniversary at a resort that is owned by the company I work for. I’m one of the directors of the company that owns this resort. I was on an unannounced inspection, which I’ve now completely blown.”
She looked at me with an open mouth, “That’s why I thought the name sounded familiar.” She spoke in the same quiet tones I used.
“We were in the process of buying the resort when you went missing. You’d been doing some of the paperwork on the deal.”
Rachael asked, “Were you a director when we were married.”
I sighed, “Rachael, we are still married, and yes I was a director then, so were ... are you, as is my brother and sister. It’s a family business. We own this and two other resorts in the Caribbean.”
“I’m sorry, this is really hard for me. I don’t mean to sound like we aren’t married.”
My villa was one of a small group of eight luxury two-bedroom VIP villas we’d opened this year. They were the main reason I was there. I’d done a quick anonymous inspection of the resort in the Bahamas the last week, and the next week I was scheduled to visit Antigua.
Each villa stood on pilings set over a reef and featured a glass floor in the lounge. Assess to each was via a private walkway. The group of villas had their own dedicated staff, and I saw Michael had hurried forward and was talking urgently to the two on duty.
We sat down on the rattan furniture on the large veranda that wrapped around my villa. Beneath us, the waves lapped at the pilings and flashes of phosphorescence flickered in the dark water. I arranged with the manager to have a selection of drinks and food delivered. I don’t know about everyone else, but I needed a strong drink.
The manager left us to go back to the front desk. I guess he wanted to warn the rest of the staff that I was there. Well, that right royally stuffed my idea of further inspections at the place.
Rachael sat down on a sofa beside me. Jim sat opposite us, and the others found places to sit where they could watch the three of us. I watched as they looked around at the villa.
Amy seemed to be their spokesperson, and it was she that broke the silence.
“Peter, what’s going to happen now? I mean, what do you hope is going to happen?”
“I want to resume my life with my wife and daughter; I want it to be as it was before the storm. We were in love and could barely stand to be apart for a moment. We were a family. Julia was so close to her mother, too. We were in a great relationship with Rachael’s parents, who we saw often. I want that all back.”
Jim interrupted, “Well I want the same thing, I want my wife, my life to be back the way it was before he turned up.”
“Jim, let him talk, we know what you want,” Amy said sharply.
I was about to start talking when Rachael started, she seemed to have come to a decision, and we all watched as she pulled off her wedding and engagement rings.
“Jim, until we find out what the exact situation is I don’t think I should be wearing these.” She placed them in his open hand he was holding out to her.
I saw a tear trickle down his face, but I drew no satisfaction from seeing it. He’d had his whole life turned upside down in the space of a few minutes. He’d come here to celebrate their first wedding anniversary only to find that his loving wife had a past now coming to the fore.
“Please don’t do it, Jules,” he sobbed.
She took hold of his hand. “I’m not Julia, Jim; I’m Rachael, and you gave these rings to Julia.”
“Can I have my rings please,” she asked me.
I didn’t hesitate, this time; I lifted the pouch on its leather thong over my head and handed it to her. She emptied then onto her palm and turned them over and over in her hands, she read out the inscription on the inside of the eternity ring. “R ten years of love P.”
“Oh, that explains the R, P, & J on my cross. It’s for Rachael, Peter and Julia.”
I nodded. “I bought it for you after Julia was born and had it engraved with our initials.”
Then she gasped, “Oh, Julia had a glandular fever earlier that year. She mucked up her music exams and was re-sitting them. That’s why you and she weren’t on the boat.”
I grinned at her, happy that more of her memories were coming back. “That’s right, there was a last minute cancellation, and she was able to re-sit. You were still feeling rough after your accident, so I insisted that you fly over earlier; we didn’t want to spoil the start of your vacation. Simon and Angie were already here, sailing between the islands. I had a conference, so I offered to stay in London so I could fly over with her and her friend when she’d finished her exams. We were all going to spend the next four weeks on the yacht.”
She looked at James and gave him a sad smile as she slid our rings back onto finger they’d come off three years ago.
Both women were giving Jim sympathetic smiles as they watch Rachael look at the rings on her finger.
“That’s what was wrong,” she said. “Every time I’d see my hand I’d think that something felt off. There were only two rings instead of these three.” Then she slid them back off and placed them back in the pouch.
“For the same reason I can’t wear Jim’s rings, I can’t wear these until everything is sorted out.”
She hesitated before offering the pouch back to me.
“You keep it,” I told her, wrapping her fingers around it. “When you feel ready you can put them back on.”
She nodded and slipped the thong over her head and tucked the pouch under her dresses neckline.
Jim looked at both of us, “What do we do?” he asked almost pleading. “She is my wife just as much as she’s yours. We have nearly two years of happy memories that just can’t mean nothing now...”