Blank Slate – A Work in Progress

Chapter One

Bradley was anxious to get home, and even though it was dark and raining, he navigated the winding road easily, pushing past the posted speed limit.  It had been a grueling day, and he was two hours later than usual.  Gretzky, his weimaraner, would be howling in his crate.  Glancing at the rearview mirror, Bradley saw headlights behind him, and whoever was driving was obviously not as skilled at rainy driving.  The lights seemed to swerve awkwardly, and though Bradley was gaining speed, the headlights were getting closer.  At its current rate, it was possible the car would hit him from behind.  Pressing down harder onto the gas pedal, Bradley prayed his tires would maintain contact with the slick asphalt. Suddenly, the headlights, swerved wildly to one side and then the other, and Bradley watched in horror as they veered away from him completely, went sailing over the guardrail, and then disappeared.

Pulling his car to the shoulder of the road quickly, Bradley grabbed a flashlight from the glove compartment and got out and began to run back toward the place where the car had disappeared.  He pointed the flashlight down the embankment, darting it back and forth until he finally saw a car resting crumpled on its side against a tree.  He dialed 911.

“Yes, I have an emergency.  A car just went off the road and down an embankment on Highway 41, at about the 13 mile marker.  Yes, it looks bad.  Thank you.”

Not wanting to wait until the ambulance arrived, Bradley put the phone and flashlight into his pocket and began carefully making his way down toward the car.  Rain splattered against him, and more than once he stumbled and slid in the muddy grass.  Finally he reached the mangled car, retrieved his flashlight, and peered inside.  The car only had one person inside, a woman who seemed to dangle from her seat belt, her long hair covering her face. Walking around to the side of the car, he tried to get a better look.  Because the front windshield was smashed, he was able to reach in and gingerly push the hair out of her face.  He had to catch his breath when he saw her face.  She was beautiful.  Her lovely face was scratched, however, and she was bleeding from an injury to her head.  He knew better than to try to move her, but he couldn’t help stroking her cheek gently.

“Ahh…What…” her voice was a weak whisper.

“You’ve been in an accident,” Bradley said softly.  “You’re hurt.  Try not to move. What is your name?”

“I…Ahh…I can’t…..” She tried to struggle against the seatbelt.

“Don’t move,” Bradley’s voice became firm.  “The ambulance is on its way.  Just breathe.  I am not going anywhere.”  He reached over and gently took the small hand that was dangling. It just stayed limp in his, and he willed the ambulance to arrive.

“I don’t…..can’t…..” Her voice became agitated.

“Shh, no talking,” Bradley said.  “They are almost here.  Be quiet and still.”  He squeezed her hand very gently, straining to hear sirens.  Finally he heard faint wailing above.  “See, they’re here.  They’ll get you out.  I won’t go anywhere.”  He wasn’t sure why he said that last sentence.  He had done his duty.  The authorities were on the scene.  Besides, his dog, his wet clothing…..Bradley shook his head.  No.  This woman was all alone on a deserted road.  He wasn’t going to leave.

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It’s cold.  Why do I feel so…heavy? I can’t open my eyes, and I can’t think.  What happened?  Move, Dammit!  Why won’t my body move? I need to go.  I need to call……I don’t know! I don’t know who I need to call!  I don’t understand.  What is this, and where am I?  Okay…..something happened.  What was it?  If I could just open my eyes, please! I can’t think.  Please open….light.  I see light.  I hear….sounds.  Beeping sounds.  Is anyone here?  Oh God….who would be here?  It’s…daytime?  What day?  It’s 2012….isn’t it?  I’m….I’m here.  I am……Oh God, who am I?! Where is this!?  I can’t breathe.  No, no!  I can’t breathe……

“Code in room 204!  Get the cart, Now!”  A doctor’s voice echoed through the halls, and suddenly the room was filled.  They went to work, trying to stabilize the patient.

“She’s seizing! Her BP is through the roof! Get over here!”  Voices shouted, hands worked.

Bradley came around the corner, coffee in hand, and saw the activity.  He wasn’t sure why he had hung around for so long.  But she’d had no ID, he never got her name, no contact information.  She was alone.  So he’d asked his nearest neighbor to take the dog out, and he’d been sitting in the waiting room with his ipad ever since.  And now it looked like something was wrong.  Placing his coffee on an empty chair, he walked toward the commotion and moved as close as he dared.  Two doctors were attending to her, and a nurse jogged past him and into the room.  Finally, they dispersed, and the nurse stayed behind to adjust the covers and inject something into her IV.  Bradley exhaled slowly, realizing he had been holding his breath.  The crisis seemed to be over.  He checked his watch and cursed quietly.  It was nearly midnight, and he had to attend an early meeting.  He had to go home and get some sleep.  He downed his coffee in one gulp, left all his contact information with the nurse’s station, and left the hospital.

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After a fitful night’s sleep, Bradley awoke to the sound of the alarm and groaned softly.  He got out of bed and headed straight for the shower, stepping in before the water was hot, hoping that the shock of the cold would jolt him awake.  He washed his hair and body and wondered how the woman had fared during the night.  No one at the hospital had called, but then he wondered what the procedure was when it came to releasing information when they didn’t even know who the patient was.  Shaking his head, he stood under the spray for a few minutes and rolled his stiff shoulders.  He had to focus during this meeting and get some work done.  After that he would have time to go back to the hospital.  He couldn’t get her face out of his mind.  She was beautiful, but she had been terrified, which was understandable.  And who was she?  Why hadn’t she had any identification with her?  Maybe the police had gotten some information based on her license plates.  Bradley turned off the water and dried himself quickly  Looking in the mirror, he saw one tired man.  Running his hand over his sculpted chest, he stopped to finger a long scar.  That was why he had felt compelled to stop.  He didn’t want her to have to lie there alone.  He knew how that felt.  He walked into the bedroom and put on a dark suit, a white shirt, and a power tie – his uniform.  Grabbing his keys, briefcase, and phone he headed out the door, handing Gretzky a bone through the crate on the way out the door.

It was 1:00 in the afternoon before Bradley made it to the hospital.  No one had phoned him, and he hoped that meant good news.  

“Hello,” He said to the nurse at the station.  “Is there any news about the woman who came in last night?  She was in a car accident and had no identification.”

“The doctor is talking to her now, Sir,” the nurse answered.

“Talking? Then she awake?”  Bradley was relieved that she was conscious and a little miffed that no one had called him.

“She woke up about an hour ago.  Poor thing.  It’s really rough on her.” The nurse shook her head and then went back to her work.

Bradley was a bit puzzled, but he walked toward her room.  Maybe now that she was awake her family could be contacted.  

She was sitting up slightly, propped against several pillows.  The doctor had her hand, but she looked very upset.  Bradley could tell she had been crying.  She covered her face with her free hand, and the doctor patted her before he got up to leave the room.  He met Bradley as he exited.

“You were with her last night?” the doctor asked.

“Yes, until about midnight,” Bradley answered.  “Has her family been contacted?”

The doctor shook his head and sighed.  “She can’t tell us anything.  Not even her name.  She didn’t tell you?”

“No, she said just a few words.  They didn’t make much sense.”

“I gave her a sedative.  She was very agitated, understandably.  It isn’t uncommon for patients in this kind of accident to experience memory loss.  We can only hope she begins to remember soon.”

Bradley looked from the doctor to her vulnerable form.  “Can I sit with her?”

“She’ll probably be asleep soon.  But yes of course.  Please don’t ask her any stressful questions, however. She needs to rest.”

Bradley nodded and headed into the room.  He pulled a chair close to the bed and sat in it.  The small creaking sound of the plastic caused her to open her eyes.  She tried to focus on him, and he could tell she was somewhat confused.

“Who – who are you?” she asked, her voice soft and hoarse.

“I’m Bradley Malone,” he answered, smiling slightly.  “I was there the night of your accident.”

“Oh….” her voice softened even more.  “I think – did you talk to me?”

“Yes, I did,” Bradley’s smile grew wider.  She remembered; that had to be a good sign.  “Your car went off the road, and I went down to see how you were and waited with you until the ambulance arrived.”

“Bradley,” she said, more to herself than to him.  “I know your name.  I know the doctor’s name.”  She looked at the wall and sighed.  “I don’t know mine.  I don’t understand.”

Bradley carefully reached for her hand.  She didn’t pull away.  “You were hurt pretty badly.  The doctor said it was normal to have some memory problems. As you get stronger you will probably start remembering.”

“I saw my chart,” she continued as if she had not heard him.  “It says Jane Doe.  I hate that.  It sounds like some TV movie.”

Bradley squeezed her hand slightly and thought for a minute.  “You know, I bet they would call you something else if you asked.  Is there a name you’d rather be called until you remember?”

“A different name,” she wrinkled her forehead, and Bradley couldn’t help but notice the way her nose crinkled.  “I didn’t think of that.  I don’t know how I would choose.”

“Well,” Bradley thought a bit more. “Do you remember any books or movies that you liked?  Maybe you could chose a character’s name.”

She closed her eyes and became still.  Bradley watched her for several minutes, wondering if she had fallen asleep.  He was about to get up and go home when he heard her say something.

“Anne,” she said.

“What?”

“Anne…Anne with an E.  I remember that.  From a book.” She opened her eyes.

“Anne, yes, I think I know that book.  My sister read it, I believe.  It’s a good choice.”

“Do you remember the name of the book?” her eyes were pleading, and his heart clenched.  She was so desperate to remember something.  He squeezed her hand again and racked his brain to remember what the books were called.  His sister Leanne had been crazy over them.  Something about a house?

“Anne of Green Gables?” he ventured, hoping it was the same series.

Her eyes became wider, and they lit up suddenly.  “Yes! Yes that’s it.  I remember.  Anne of Green Gables.  She had red hair.  I think I wanted red hair.”

Bradley smiled.  “I think your hair is lovely,” he said without thinking.  She looked at him, then lowered her eyes.  “Sorry,” he said.  “But I do.”

“Thank you Bradley.” She yawned.  “I think I want to sleep.  My head feels fuzzy.”

“Yes, you need to rest.”  Bradley stood.  “If it’s alright with you, Anne, I’d like to come back tomorrow.”

She smiled and then yawned again.  “I’d like that.  You’re the only person who has looked familiar to me.”