It had been crowded. Maybe she'd been turned when he was looking. But she was right there, not twenty feet from him. Why couldn't he pick her out? Wasn't identifying your mate a prerequisite of mating? He pulled the woman back against him. He could remember that his wife had liked having her stomach rubbed. She shifted in her sleep. Did this one like it? How could he tell if this was really her? He remembered other times he'd rubbed a stomach, his first child, that moment when his wife had told him they were pregnant, the lurch in his life as he'd shifted to accommodate the new responsibility, as he'd lost a few of his escape routes, been tied closer to this woman. But was that really this woman?
He buried his face in the nape of her neck, inhaling mingled scents of perfume and shampoo and something below that which might be the woman. The scents brought back a flood of memories. He remembered courting his wife, he remembered long nights talking about politics, change and revolution, he remembered see fire in a pair of eyes and feeling that fire pour through him. But wouldn't any perfume evoke the same memories? Couldn't another woman have the same scent?
He tried to remember her, remember what she looked like, what she felt like, what she sounded like. There was nothing. He could remember listening to her, could remember the crowds, the lights, the thrum of the machinery he'd been nestled within backstage. He could remember what she spoke about, and how the crowd shouted back and stamped their feet, their voices pounding into the machinery and throbbing into his body. He could remember holding someone, and talking with them, he could remember everything, the associations flooded his mind, swept him into reverie, but always he was brought up short, she was there, but she was merely she, his wife, his lover, some creature that he couldn't see, couldn't hear, merely knew.
He shook her awake. "Who are you? Are you my wife? Where did you come from? Why are you here? What did you do with her? What did you do to me?"
The sigh. He remembered that sigh as it pressed into his stomach through her back. The woman slowly stretched, turned and looked him in the eye with a strange smile. Did he remember those eyes? That smile? Were they hers? The woman hiked herself up a little onto the pillows, and snaked her arm around behind his head. He didn't resist the pressure pulling him to her chest. Something about this was familiar. The hand that stroked his hair. Was that her? Had this happened before. "'Tsokay, just a bad dream, go back to sleep."
Ah, yes, now he remembered. This was her. He could sleep now.
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This work is Copyright (c) Mike Fletcher 1997