The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
This is a work of fiction. The events described herein are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places and living persons. All characters engaging in sexual relationships or activities are at least eighteen years old.
~ ~§~ ~
Yes this is a re-write of the original version of ‘The Rings’. It’s is a story I’m still proud of. However, in hindsight, I’m willing to admit it wasn’t perfect. There were too many plot gaps, and I feel that the ending was telegraphed too early in the story. I had allowed the character of the wife to become too accommodating. Other characters were a bit 2 dimensional. If you are not interested then this is the moment to click that ‘back’ button.
This is what I feel this story should have been. It’s much longer than the original, (well over 17,000 additional words.) I’ve attempted to close a few of the plot holes where possible. I’m going to leave the original version up so you can compare them (should you be interested.)
This was my original introduction, and it’s still valid:
This is a ‘what if’ story. I wanted to consider a situation in which nobody is at fault. Yet relationships and marriages are about to be changed forever. It’s about a woman on the horns of a moral, and an emotional dilemma. What if a woman loves, and is loved by two men and yet is not, in fact, unfaithful to either one? What if she is married and still is not unfaithful? It’s the tale of three people, mostly set over two days, none of whom is truly at fault. Yet all have suffered or will suffer, and react in his and her ways of dealing with adversity.
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The original versions were edited and reviewed by Romantic1 and Blackrandl1958, thank you for all your help. This version was Beta read by up11pendragon. Any remaining mistakes are all mine, usually because I can’t resist fiddling with the finished story.
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The Rings. Redux.
<center>‘Cause I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you.
I will wait; Mumford and Sons
‘They have declared their marriage by the joining of hands
and by the giving and receiving of rings.
From the Church of England marriage service
The five-star Caribbean resort was an amazing place for a romantic holiday. Which was all well and good, but unfortunately, I wasn’t there for pleasure; my stay was for business. I’m a director for the company that owns the place. I’d arrived earlier that afternoon on a flight from the Bahamas. I was supposed to be undertaking an anonymous inspection tour of the resort, our version of a secret shopper. I’d spent the past week concluded a similar inspection at our Bahamian resort. After settling into my villa, I’d walked around to get a first impression. Then as darkness fell, I was going to try the main restaurant.
That turned out to have been a good choice, the food was excellent, and it took little for the waiter to convince me that a nightcap in the bar would be a pleasant end to the evening. This leads to my first quandary: What would you do if you looked up from the half-full glass in your hand, and saw your dead wife? And I’m not talking about a ghost or a doppelgänger. This was the woman who’d been my loving wife, and a devoted mother to our daughter, and more critical to the situation I found myself in, was supposed to have died three years ago.
The echoes of her laughter caused me to look up from my drink. That familiar sound stood out as the music paused. It was a clarion call to my shocked senses. She sat there 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 in a gesture deeply embedded in my soul. She was at a table with five other people on the far side of the dance floor. She was sitting beside a man, laughing at something he’d just said, and was most definitely alive!
I stared in shock, I’d been mourning that beautiful woman for three long years. I’d consoled my daughter in her anguish, and the rest of our families as we struggled to comprehend our loss. My daughter’s grief had given me a reason to live as I attempted to bring her broken life back on track. We’d never had the closure of a funeral, as she’d been lost at sea. Just an empty memorial service. Now there she was, sitting less than ten yards from me looking like she hadn’t a care in the world.
I know what I did: I stood up, knocking over the table in front of me in my haste. A loud crash followed by the sound of breaking glass, and suddenly I was the center of attention as everyone’s head turned in my direction.
I called out “Rachael.” The anguish, making my voice sound harsh.
All the eyes in the room seemed to be on me, while mine could only focus on Rachael’s face. For a long moment, while the room seemed frozen in time, her expression changed from a curious smile to puzzlement, and then a look of surprise. It ultimately changed to a look of hesitant recognition, which turned into intense confusion and finally total shock. She staggered to her feet, holding on to the table. 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 stared at me and called out, “What the fuck does he want ... hey Julia, what’s the matter?” Then to his companions, he said urgently, “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 as he saw me take her other hand, he snarled at me, “Who the hell are you? Hey, don’t touch her.”
I ignored him to touch her face gingerly and whispered, “Rachael, oh dear God, Rachael, is it really you?”
I rocked backward, falling on my ass as I was shoved away from her, he was shouting, “Leave my wife alone you bastard.”
Was I mistaken? Did she just look like Rachael and my desperate longing was confusing me? Was she really his wife? I looked again at the woman on the floor between us. His wife? Could that true - no, it couldn’t be. I wasn’t mistaken; the woman was Rachael. At her neck glinted the antique gold cross I’d bought for her after our daughter was born. I shook my head in disbelief, if she had wanted to leave me, then faking her own death was one hell of a step.
I was dragged 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 faced up to the other man. “I don’t know who the fuck you are, but if she is your wife, then we’ve got a big problem. As far as I know, I’m still married to her, 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, its Rachael!”
There was a soft moan from the woman resting on the floor between us. “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, Jim. She burst into tears, her body shaking.
I put my arm around her, and she instinctively buried her face into my neck.
“What the hell is going on here?” Jim shouted as he pulled her away from me.
~ ~§~ ~
First interlude: Julia/Rachael
Jim was knocking on the bathroom door. “Come on Jules, we’re going to be late,” he called. “The table is booked for seven, and the others have called to say they’re on their way down to the lobby.”
“One minute,” I called out as I washed the evidence of my surprise for him down the sink and gave a final check that the last traces of the red dye and trimmed pussy hairs were gone.
I applied the last of my makeup. “Whose fault is that” I called over my shoulder. “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 the work weary Jim.
I stepped back from the counter and looked at the woman reflected in the mirror. She was tall at five-ten. Her long black hair cascaded over her shoulders and framed her oval face. Bright blue eyes, high cheekbones, and plump, kissable lips were more of her attributes. There are more: her full breasts, a large thirty-eight C, with just a hint of sag clearly demonstrating their natural state; the large dark areolae, tipped with long firm nipples, were, she knew too well, beyond-enticing to Jim. Those breasts were waiting to be covered by the lacy red bra she held in her hand. High-cut panties matching the bra, and lace topped stockings finished covering the parts that were for Jim’s eyes only. He purchased the set specifically for this vacation. The lingerie came from Victoria’s Secret, and Jim even selected and purchased it himself. I cannot wait to show it and my ‘new’ feature to him.
I smiled and muttered, “Not bad looking for a thirty-eight-year-old.” Then I hesitated, if that is how old I am, I thought. My reality brought me back to earth.
I didn’t know how old I was, or, in fact, who I was. The problem is I can only remember the last three years. My age, even my name had been taken from educated guesses. My previous life is 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 robbed, assaulted, and probably raped some time ago. They guessed it had happened either on the beach, or on a boat, and I’d been dumped. In fact, the boat scenario was considered to be the most likely, as the authorities were never able to find any record of a stay at one of the local hotels.
Most of my injuries were several days old, and at some time, I’d been in the water for some time. I’d appeared to have been dumped in the undergrowth to the side of the track just off the beach and left for dead. I had no identification other than a small gold cross, and a broken chain hidden in my clutched fist. I’m not sure why but the authorities 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 specialist care hospital in Florida.
I sighed and fastened my 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, as he spun me around, and his lips latched onto mine. My tongue found his. 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 with a dull ache of desire.
“Didn’t you get enough of me earlier,” I laughed.
“Never, how could I ever get enough of my goddess.”
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 side of my dress to flash my panties at 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, and Paul had found me a job
with his company after I was discharged. Mary and I had quickly become close friends.
I had been introduced to Jim at Mary and Paul’s annual summer barbecue. Jim had come with Amy and David. He’d recently moved back to his hometown from out of State. He was forty-three, tall and handsome; his short hair is going grey at the temples. I was immediately attracted to him and he to me. It didn’t take long before I’d fallen in love with him. We dated, and he popped the question after three months,
We were married six months later, and the delay was mainly due to my need to convince my psychiatrist that I understood the risk that my memory might return. Not that there was any evidence that they would come back. Tomorrow would be our first anniversary and the reason we were all on vacation at this Caribbean resort.
Our table was on a patio lit by the flames of torches and 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 its 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 to you yet?”
I brought myself back to the here and now and shrugged my shoulders. “Royal Tradewinds, no, I just have this funny feeling I’d heard the name long before we found the site on the web. I just knew it would be as wonderful as it has turned out to be.”
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 a dream every few days 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 almost three years, and nothing was going to come back to me.
To round the evening off, we decided to return to the hotel, and have a drink and a dance at the beach bar. We chose to walk along the beach. It was only a short distance 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 laughingly refused, dodging the splashes of water we sent in their direction. Jim started filming us with the camera on his phone.
It was just after ten when we arrived at the resort beach bar. 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. There was a band playing soft Caribbean-style music, and I was looking forward to dancing slowly with my husband. The young Caribbean waitress dressed in skin-tight tee-shirt and shorts took our drink order, and I gave Jim a playful slap because he was ogling her long slender legs.
Our drinks arrived quickly, and we toasted to a wonderful vacation, and I was complimented on my choice of resorts. I was thinking about dragging Jim onto the dance floor and wrapping myself around his firm body. I had a pleasant ache in my pussy as I anticipated the pleasure he’d give me as soon as we got back to our room.
I was laughing at something Jim said when a loud crash and the sound of broken glass came from the other side of the small dance floor. Everyone looked to see what was happening. A table was on its side, and a shocked looking stranger was rising to his feet.
No, not a stranger, as I looked at him he looked familiar. Then it hit me, I knew where I’d seen him. He was the man I’d seen in my dreams. His face was thinner and a bit gaunter than the picture in my mind, but it was definitely him. He stared at me with an anguished expression.
Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. He opened his mouth in shock; then he called out a woman’s name, “Rachael.” That name, spoken in his voice, cut right through me like a knife, it echoed around my head seeking a home. There was a moment of blackness, then a flash of clarity. I knew who he was ... Pete ... Peter Rodgers and I was his wife, and my name was Rachael, and ... and...
My legs felt so heavy, and I felt my knees fold as I struggled to stand. The room spun, went dark, and then nothing.
... Light and sound began to coalesce around me. I heard two familiar voices above me arguing. 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 speaking, “By the way, her name is not Julia; it’s Rachael.”
“P ... Peter is that you?” I asked.
“Yes love,” he replied and moved closer.
I could see the gaunt drawn 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, but not. Older, a few more lines and hints of grey at his temples. His face was thinner than I remembered, but the smile he gave me was very 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 face – yes, angry - stared at me. My past and present lives surged and made my head a battlefield. I squeezed my eyes shut, and let the trickle of lost memories start populating the void that had been my previous life. There were still many gaps, but I thought I could sense countless old memories hovering, just waiting for the right time to reintroduce themselves. I wanted to wave the white flag at the assault, but the memories kept coming.
Memories shuffled, new, and old, intertwined. They were fighting for their rightful places in my head. Memories of being held by both men, loving both of them could not be suppressed: memories of making love to both of them, and of wanting both of them. Memories of a family, Peter, and my daughter were tentative, but present, I tried to focus on that one, but it kept drifting away, staying just beyond the fringes of my memory.
I opened my eyes. Both of my husbands looked down at me. Reality slammed into 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 my God. No!” I gasped out as the enormity of the situation I was in hit me. I had forgotten my first love and had married another man, a man who didn’t deserve the pain he must be feeling. Now I was betraying him as well. 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. I lost focus, the room spun, and all I could feel was the arms that held me.
Paul shouted, “What the hell is going on here?” Someone tried to pull me away from the safety of the arms that held me. I held on like grim death in fear that I would lose him.
~ ~§~ ~
One of the bar staff must have called the duty manager, and he arrived after a few moments. He’d made a quick assessment of the situation, and before anyone else could say much, he had deftly ushered us into a small comfortable side room a few steps from the entrance of the bar. None of us resisted, not wanting to play out the impending drama in front of the rest of the bar. Rachael was crying, and being hugged by one of the women. The rest of her friends gathered around the pair of them leaving me isolated.
The manager asked us to sit down and called a waiter to bring us a round of drinks. While we waited, a hotel security guard appeared and stood in the doorway. At least, the waiter brought a round of drinks with him.
There were seven of us in the room in addition to the duty manager. Rachael, and Jim, the man I realized was claiming to be her husband, the two couples who had been seated at the same table, and me. Rachael sat on the edge of a chair on the far side of the table. She held her head in her hands, her shoulders were shaking as she sobbed. One of the women knelt beside her trying to comfort her while the rest of her group glared at me. Jim sat on the seat beside Rachael while I stood to the side.
A few moments later, a young woman arrived and introduced herself as the resort’s duty nurse. The manager spoke to her and pointed at Rachael, she came over to her and spoke quietly. Soon it seemed that Rachael looked less upset.
The manager said, “I’m sorry to pull you away from the bar, but I felt that under the circumstances you would all prefer to discuss this in private. Mr. Goldthorpe, it was obvious that your wife needed to be somewhere quieter.” He looked at the nurse who came over and spoke quietly in his ear.
The manager looked around the room and then said to Rachael, “Do you want me to call the doctor?”
Rachael raised her head and shook it, 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; unfortunately, Jim was a handsome bastard. I could see why Rachael had fallen for him. He was tall, six-two, black hair and clean-cut features. I guessed he was a few years younger than me.
The manager addressed Jim, “Mr. Goldthorpe, this is all rather confusing. Are you accusing this man of assaulting your wife, or are you suggesting she’s having an affair with him?”
“No, he’s upsetting her. I want you to throw the bastard out of the resort,” James said forcefully.
I snorted, “Of course I’m upset, that’s my wife he’s married to.”
“Your ex-wife?” The manager asked with a hint of resignation. It was obvious his first thought was that this was an ugly divorce problem.
“No,” I bitterly responded. “The one who’s supposed to be dead for the past three years.”
He gave me a surprised look, that wasn’t what he was expecting to hear.
I turned my attention to Rachael and began asking the questions I’d been desperate to ask. “What I’m trying to understand is how are you alive Rachael. Where the hell have you been for the past three years? How could you do this to your daughter, your family, Christ even me?”
Jim said, “What the fuck do you mean, are you delusional, she’s not your wife; she’s my wife.” He put his arm around her protectively.
Rachael’s next words took the color from his face. She said, “Jim, he’s right; I am his wife, I have a daughter. Christ what a bloody mess.” An eerie silence met her words.
Jim looked at Rachael, to me, and then back again, a sense of dread obvious on his face. “I ... I err, I don’t understand.” He stammered.
She stood up and stepped around the table moving closer to me and seemed to be gathering her thoughts. Jim followed her, and she squeezed his hand while tentatively reaching out her other one to me before drawing it back.
She said, “Jim, I’m not sure what just happened, but my memories are coming back. Seeing Peter in the bar was the trigger. I’m beginning to remember my old life. I’m Rachael and Peter’s my husband.
She looked at me, her words tinged with sadness. “I had thought I was a woman called Julia, Peter. I was a woman without a past and could remember nothing from before my accident. Seeing you across the room is starting to bring back some of my memories. I remember being married to you, 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 a hospital almost three years ago, and I could not remember anything. When they asked me my name, for some reason, Julia popped into my mind, now I know why it’s our daughter’s name.” Her voice shook, and she slumped back down into a chair, her hands going to her face again.
“Oh God, she was the young girl in my dreams.”
Tears were flowing down Rachael’s face as the memories of her daughter inundated her psyche.
I nodded and felt in my pocket for my phone, before remembering I’d left it in my villa. So I fumbled for my wallet and found the photo of Julia taken at her last birthday party, her fourteenth.
“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 woman 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.
“Is she here with you, can I see her?”
I shook my head. “I’m sorry she’s back in the UK; this was a business trip, and I’m on my own.”
“Is there a way I can speak to her?” I could hear the desperation in her voice.
“Of course you can,” I checked the time, ten-forty and mentally calculated the time difference between here and home. I gave a brief shake of my head, “but it’s only three-forty in the morning back in the UK, and she’ll be asleep. She is staying with my parents while I’m away. We can call her in a few hours, I promise. Crap, we need to let your parents and the rest of the families know you’re still alive.”
“Can’t we call her now...” she started desperation in her voice. Then continued, “no I’m sorry, I can wait another couple of hours.”
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.
From the looks she’d been giving him, she was in love with him, and I wasn’t sure Rachael was willing to leave him. Fuck, that would cause Julia even more hurt. I sympathized with her I wasn’t sure I would be able to consider the possibility that Rachael was alive, but wouldn’t be with me.
“Look, what I know is this,” I said. “My name is Peter Rodgers. The woman you think of as Julia, is my wife, Rachael Rodgers. We were...” I shook my head annoyed at myself for the slip.
“We were married eighteen years ago and as far as I know we are still married. We have a daughter, Julia who is now fifteen. Almost three years ago Rachael was supposed to have died when the yacht she was sailing on, 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.
The woman who had a passing resemblance to Jim said, “I’m Amy James. Julia’s husband is my brother.” She pointed to the taller of the two other men, “This is my husband, David, and that’s Paul and his wife, Mary. We are all here for a vacation, and to celebrate James and Julia’s 1st 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 one of us is married to Rachael? Could we both be married to her? I could see him looking at me.
Her friends constantly calling Rachael, Julia was beginning to grate on me. I said, “I know you all think of her as Julia but it’s not her name, it’s 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. “He’s right, it’s my real name, and I’m going to need to get used to it again,” she told her friends.
Paul pointed at his wife, “Mary is a nurse, she works at the rehab unit that Julia was transferred to when she came out of her coma.”
Mary looked at her husband and then said to me. “When Julia ... I’m sorry, I mean Rachael. When she was brought into my hospital, she was in a coma. She had been 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. When she was found, she was delirious and drifting in and out of consciousness. The doctors decided to put her into a medically induced coma because of the head injury. 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 the yachts’ last reported position.” I tried to grasp the implications of that thought. “When was she found?”
The date was seven days after that of the sinking. How the hell had she managed to travel that far and not be spotted?
The yacht had been owned by my brother Simon, and he kept it moored at the Royal Martinique yacht club when he wasn’t sailing. He, Angie, his wife, Rachael, Julia, her best friend Alison, and I were all supposed to fly out to the island to enjoy a month cruising around the islands.
Simon had invited my family to join him and his wife on the yacht. It was planned at short notice to help Rachael get over the effects of the injuries she’d sustained in an accident a month earlier. Her car had been rear-ended by a joyrider, and she’d suffered a concussion, a broken wrist, and a couple of broken fingers. She’d been hospitalized for a couple of days, and the trip was for her benefit as she’d been depressed.
A couple of days before we were due to fly, Julia was offered an opportunity to take a music exam she’d missed earlier in the year due to ill health. After the exam the candidates were required to give a recital. We were keen for her to take the exam, but it would have meant missing most of the first week of the vacation. I knew Rachael was looking forward to the trip, and only one of us needed to stay with our daughter. So it was agreed that she still fly with Simon and Angie on the original date.
I would stay with Julia the extra couple of days re-sitting her exam would take. Her friend wanted to fly with Julia, so the plan was for the three of us to join Rachael and the others in Martinique a few days later.
Rachael agreed that both of us didn’t need to stay with Julia. So four days before she went missing, Julia and I saw her off at Heathrow airport.
Our flight to Martinique was delayed 24 hours due to the tail end of the severe tropical storm. When we got there, we discovered that my brother’s yacht had been reported missing, one of over half a dozen that were reported sunk or missing in the same storm. 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 remembered seeing her getting hit by the mast as it went overboard; then the line holding the life raft to the yacht broke free, and the seas were too rough for them to get back to search for her.
Only three of the missing yachts were located, before the local coast guard had called off the search for the other lost yachts. Rachael and the crews from two other missing yachts had been declared missing, presumed dead, six months later.
Mary asked Rachael, “How much of your old life do you remember?”
“I always thought it would be like a switch flicking on if my memory came back, but it’s not. Bits are there, it’s just like dream sequences in a film, all disjointed. I remember being married to Peter; I know we have 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 are 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 anymore?” She clutched her head, “Christ my head hurts!”
Mary hugged her and said “Don’t worry; now that things are starting to come back, you’re going to recall the rest. It’s important that you don’t force it. More and more will come back to you, but it’s going to take its time.”
“There were a few complications, but after a couple of months, the doctors decided it was time to bring Jul ... Rachael out of her coma,” Mary said. “But after she woke up it was apparent she had lost her memory. She spoke with what was thought to be a faint American accent. When we suggested a few names, she thought she recognized Julia. We’ve been calling her Julia ever since. And when she was ready to leave hospital I offered her a place to stay as she had nowhere to go.”
“And I’ll be 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 didn’t remember anything from before. I was told that the hospital and the local authorities did an extensive search to see if I was a match for any missing person in their records. I wasn’t wearing a wedding ring although there was evidence I’d recently worn one. So it was thought I might have been recently divorced. But apparently they didn’t check the foreign records because they thought I was American, and I’d received my injuries locally.”
Mary said, “Her records indicated that when they interviewed her when she first woke up, police and immigration thought she spoke with an American accent.”
“We had never visited the States, so there wouldn’t be any record of her,” I mused.
“The hospital in Florida helped me get my documentation, and I became Julia Smith. My date of birth became 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? I should know but it’s one of those thing I can’t quite remember yet. 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 been in a accident a few weeks before the trip. You’d suffered a concussion and had broken your wrist and several fingers. Your ring finger was one of the broken ones. It swell so badly that the nurse had to cut your rings off. 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 was going to give them to Julia on her eighteenth birthday.”
I pulled the leather pouch on its thong from under my shirt. I dropped her wedding, engagement, and eternity rings 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 did I do?” She whispered.
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 down at the two rings on her fingers. “Are we still married?”
“Of course we are,” I started, but then hesitated and had to admit, “but legally I don’t really know.”
Rachael gave me a confused look, as Jim looked on hopefully. “What do you mean?” She asked.
“I was told by our solicitors that it takes seven years before a missing person can be declared dead,” I said. “In your case, you were declared missing, and presumed dead by the authorities on Martinique. But they aren’t willing to issue a death certificate for another four years. I don’t know if their original statement was enough to end our marriage.”
We both looked around the room at the others, 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 spoke softly to Rachael, “I’ll contact our solicitors in the morning and see where we stand. Regardless of what happens, I’ll get them to stop or reverse the process. When that’s done, I guess we still are married, because obviously, you’re not dead.”
James had leaned forward, and had overheard my last words, and said. “If you were declared dead then you can’t be married to him anymore. I’m sure being declared dead is the same as a divorce, so we are the legally married ones.”
For a moment that seemed to kill the conversation. None of us knew what to say next. Jim’s friends were mulling over what we’d said when Amy asked me, “You’ve got a British accent, are you British? Is British law on this different from ours?”