Authors: Nic Saint
Ten years ago Amy Remington’s life was thrown out of whack when her father died in an accident caused by her boyfriend Brad. She hasn’t seen Brad since, and when she now runs into him again, tragedy strikes a second time when she’s hit by a car and loses all memory of the past decade.
Brad Fuller never expected to run into Amy again, not after all these years. But when he does, he can’t deny the stirrings of his heart: he still has feelings for her. But when through his fault she loses her memory, he’s forced to relive the most tragic day of his life once again. Will he be able to make things right this time?
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BLAST FROM THE PAST
It was always the same when Brad Fuller came to town. Amy knew his arrival spelled trouble with a bit T, as sure as the sideburns he insisted on keeping in spite of the fact they made him look meaner and uglier than hell.
“I don’t want him here, Jackie. I don’t want any of them here. Not Brad nor any of his no-good friends.”
Her sister and co-worker folded one of the shirts she’d been ironing. “Little choice in the matter I’m afraid, hon. Whatever Brad wants, Brad gets. You now how it is.”
Amy knew all too well how it was. It was one of the reasons she’d decided to skip town all those years ago, after all. Now that she was back, Brad was the very last person she ever hoped to lay eyes on.
“Maybe we can close down the shop for the time being.”
Jackie eyed her as if she’d just said the most ridiculous thing. “Close down the shop? Just cause Brad Fuller is coming to town? Have you gone crazy, Amy? You know we can’t afford to close shop for even a day, let alone a fortnight.”
Amy stared before her gloomily. Two weeks of Brad. It was more than she could bear.
“What do have against that man anyway? He’s not as bad as all that. Last time he came by he even paid a personal call to Mom. And you know how hard that must have been for the stubborn pig-headed son-of-a-donkey.”
This surprised Amy. “Brad went to pay Mom a visit? What in heaven’s name for?”
Jackie shrugged and checked the label on one of the designer jeans they just got in that morning. “Beats me.”
Weird, Amy thought. Last time she’d seen Brad must have been well over a decade ago, and even back then her mother never had anything good to say about the man her daughter had dated.
“Perhaps he brought her flowers?” she suggested. “It was that time of the year, right?”
Jackie grinned. “Time of the year or not, Brad’s hardly the kind of guy who’d remember a birthday.”
“Not her birthday. The other thing.”
“Oh.” Jackie gave her a brief nod. “The accident, you mean.” She wavered, then shook her head decidedly, a wave of wheat-colored curls freely swinging around her shoulders. “I’m sure she would have told me if he’d come to pay his respects. She could never shut up about the accident.”
“No, she couldn’t,” Amy agreed.
Their father had died in a car crash exactly ten years ago this year, and the one responsible for the accident had subsequently skipped town and left Amy and her family to mourn the loss in silence. Amy more so than the others, for it had been her beau who’d fled, leaving her not only a father to bury but also the love of her life to get over.
“I don’t think he’d dare show up at Mom’s place to offer his belated condolences,” opined Jackie. She threw her sister a quick look. “He would have done it a lot sooner. Before your return, I mean.”
Amy smoothed a shirt someone had taken off the rack and thrown in a heap on the floor. The morning had been busy at The Crooked Bow, the clothing store the two sisters had opened a couple of months ago.
Buford was a small town, and what it needed, the two women had decided, was the kind of high-end clothing emporium people had to drive all the way to Brinkley for. If they could offer the same quality here in town, they could potentially have a hit on their hands.
So far, business had been brisk, but they were far from there yet. To really make ends meet they had to hit a much higher turnover than they now had, and it didn’t look like that was likely to happen anytime soon.
Still, it was early days, and they weren’t about to give up that easily. After all, Amy had left a career as a computer engineer to return home, and had put all of her savings in the project. If the store didn’t pan out, she’d have to go back to being a wage slave, a prospect she didn’t exactly embrace.
Jackie, a nurse by training, didn’t have as much to lose, but she still gave the shop her all, The Crooked Bow being the fulfillment of a lifelong dream of becoming a shop owner.
“Look, all you need to do when Brad walks in, is tell him you never want to see his ugly face ever again. I’m sure he’ll get the message.”
Amy wondered if she could be as blunt as that. In fact she had no idea how she would react if she saw the boy who broke her heart again. He was a man now, as she was a woman, but still the girlish hopes and dreams that had haunted her a decade ago played a return date from time to time, especially late at night when her mind wasn’t occupied by the thousand and one things running a business demanded.
He had left, and then soon after she had, too. Now she was back, and so was he, at least from time to time. Brad was a seasonal worker, engaged by one of the big oil companies up North. Whenever he was between contracts, he liked to visit the town where he’d grown up, and where his old man still lived. Brad’s mom had died of cancer a couple of years ago, Amy knew. She’d hesitated about going to the funeral, but had eventually decided against it. Life in the big city had been pretty hectic at the time, and she didn’t want to revisit her past, not when she was about to get married to Graham Parker, a partner in the firm where she was employed.
The marriage had only lasted six months before irreconcilable differences had hammered it to pieces, along with Amy’s heart. The next few years she’d nursed her wounds, hoping to meet Mr. Right, and when finally she’d had to admit defeat, Jackie had come up with the crazy plan to go into business together. In the heart of Buford, where it all began.
She wondered, not for the first time, if she’d done the right thing. Especially with Brad Fuller running amok…
“So. What do you think?” Jackie was holding up an embroidered skirt that looked like it could have been popular in the seventies. “Put it on sale or resist the urge?”
Amy gave it the cursory attention it deserved and decided, “On sale. No one in their right mind would buy that thing. Why do we have it, anyway?”
“One of Herbert’s extras,” Jackie muttered before folding it up and placing it in the bargain bin labeled ’20 % Off!’ near the store entrance.
Their main supplier, Herbert Sukridge, liked to throw in some items of clothing he thought had a bright future. Unfortunately, the customers mostly decided otherwise.
“I really think we should consider finding a different supplier, Jack. It’s the third time Herbert has let us down. I’m starting to think the guy knows absolutely zilch about the clothing business.”
“Well, so do we, which makes us the perfect business partners.” She raised her eyes to the ceiling and quoted one of Herbert’s mantras. “Partners that sew together, grow together.”
“Well, that may be true for all his other clients, but we actually need to make a living here, so…” Her voice trailed off when the doorbell dinged, and she put on her best salesperson face, which, in her opinion, involved stretching the muscles of her face beyond endurance.
Analyzing and solving programming problems for a decade had done little to prepare her for direct contact with customers, and sometimes she thought she really didn’t have it in her to grin and bear it, as Jackie liked to describe the sales experience.
The door opened and a smallish man in his middle fifties entered. Oh, dear, Amy thought. Another husband in search of something to gift the wife or girlfriend. Invariably they fumbled the size and then started examining Amy’s or Jackie’s figure for comparison.
“How can I help you, sir?”
The man gave her a lost puppy look. “I, erm, am looking for something to buy?”
“Then you’ve come to the right place. The Crooked Bow is in the business of selling.” She would have laughed at her own little joke, but thought it probably inappropriate. “What are you looking for exactly, sir?”
The man darted anxious looks around the store, then fastened his gaze on the lingerie section. “I’m, ahm, I need to get my wife something for our wedding anniversary?” A hesitant smile appeared on his lips. “She likes lingerie.”
Don’t we all, thought Amy, directing the man to the inner sanctum of the store, where the frilliest garments and gauziest little nothings awaited. The man patted his combover and gave one of the brassieres on display a keen look. Black, gauzy lace, it exuded luxurious decadence.
“Your wife’s cup size?”
“Oh, ah, um…” The man looked appropriately flustered at the intimate question. He then directed an inquisitive look at Amy’s modest bust, and slowly shook his head, as if he didn’t like what he saw. Amy sighed inwardly, and directed the man to a small chart placed on the inside of one of the fitting rooms, where he could take his pick of cup sizes. Without flinching, he pointed a chubby finger at the largest one.
Of course, thought Amy, and as she helped the man make his choice, she thought ruefully back to the day when her boobs had stopped growing and she’d realized this tiny bust of hers was all she was ever going to be blessed with.
Though several men had assured her they were plenty—a nice handful, as one had described them—she’d always felt inadequate. As if having small breasts was one of her personal flaws. Though to be fair it wasn’t as if she’d had any say in the matter.
Watching the customer leave the store with the biggest size bra in a small Crooked Bow baggie, she felt the gloom that had been hanging over her for days, really start to settle. Not wanting to give into the mood, she headed for the small kitchen in the back of the store, and poured herself another cup of coffee and broke off another piece of dark chocolate.
Letting the chocolate melt in her mouth with a sip of hot java, she ambled back into the store, where her sister was now transferring a box of sweaters to their rightful place on a display table near the front of the shop.
She walked over to the window, and stared out at the street. They’d been in luck when they found this place. A grocery store before they moved in, the old lady who’d leased it had decided to retire at the ripe old age of eighty-five and the owner not wanting to be fussy had decided to let them have it on the cheap, fearful he wouldn’t find any tenants. Main Street had been on the decline for years, all the best businesses having moved to the shopping mall in Brinkley. Main Street now consisted of a bunch of dime stores, a rundown old church, a Burger King, a Chinese restaurant, falafel place and a couple of clothing or shoe stores.
Amy sipped from her cup as she stared out at Saint-Michael’s Church across the street. Though rundown and derelict, it still attracted a few parishioners every Sunday, and the old priest who ran it refused to give up and shut the place down.
Suddenly she got an idea. “I’ll be right back,” she hollered to Jackie, who had disappeared into the small office space in the back of the store.
Stepping onto the sidewalk, she crossed the street at a trot, and when she arrived at the church, hesitated only a moment before pushing open the heavy oak doors. The cool darkness of Saint-Michael’s provided its customary contrast to the light and heat of the day, and the musty smell reminded her of Sunday mornings visiting this church with her family.
Not having set foot inside in years, she was pleasantly surprised to find it looking exactly as she remembered.
She walked to the closest alcove, where a statue of Mother Mary was placed, looking beatific holding her child. It briefly pained Amy to realize she was twenty-eight with absolutely no prospect of starting a family of her own.
She picked up a candle, dumping a coin in the offertory box, then lit it and placed it on a free spike. Kneeling on a nearby footstool, she bowed her head, and whispered a few words in prayer. “Please, God, help me make something of this store. Help me turn it into a flourishing business that will support both me and my sister’s families…” At the mention of the word ‘families’, she felt that soft blanket of sorrow enclose her heart once again. “I want a family,” she whispered, her eyes dewy and her throat constricted. “A husband to love me, to accept me for who I am, whom I can love and respect in return. And a little baby. A family of my own…”
No sooner had she muttered the heartfelt words than a gust of wind stirred the stillness, and when she looked up at the statue of Mary, she thought she detected a sparkle in her eyes.
She sighed deeply, remembering better days when her own family had been whole… Before Brad Fuller had destroyed the quiet happiness of her home on that fateful night. Had effectively ripped her life apart in one fell swoop.