What Lies Beneath(6)

By: Andrea Laurence

Of course, Alex didn’t keep a woman long enough for the relationship to sour. It might not seem like it now, but the old Cynthia was still lurking inside her. That woman was miserable and unfaithful and stomped on his feelings with her expensive stiletto heels. Will had broken it off with her, and he had no doubt she’d be back before long. He wasn’t going to lose his heart, freedom or any more years of his life to this relationship.

The doctors said she could probably go home soon. He was certain Pauline and George would want her back at their estate, but Will was going to insist she return to their penthouse so he could care for her. Having her at home was the natural choice. It was closer to the doctor, and being around her own things would be good for her.

And if it jogged her memory and she went back to normal? It would save him the trouble of breaking up with her a second time.

* * *

“Would you like to trade seats?”

The words floated in her brain, her dreams mixing reality and fantasy with a dash of pain medication to really confuse things.

“My name is Cynthia Dempsey.”

The words made her frown even in her sleep. Cynthia Dempsey. She wished they would stop calling her that. But she also didn’t know what she’d rather have people call her. If she wasn’t Cynthia Dempsey, shouldn’t she know who she really was?

And she did. The name was on the tip of her tongue.

The boom of an engine bursting into flames dashed the name from her mind. Then there was only the horrible, sickening feeling of falling from the sky.


She shot up in bed, hurting about a half dozen parts of her body in the process. Her heart was racing, her breath quick in her throat. The nearby bed monitor started beeping, and before she could gather her composure, one of the night shift nurses came in.

“How are we, Miss Dempsey?”

“Stop calling me that,” she snapped, the confusion of sleep removing the buffer that edited what she shouldn’t say.

“Okay…Cynthia. Are you all right?”

She saw it was her favorite nurse, Gwen, when she reached over and turned on the small light above her bed. Gwen was a tiny Southern girl with naturally curly ash-blond hair and a positive but no-nonsense attitude about life. She could also draw blood without pain, so that instantly put her at the top of Cynthia’s list.

“Yes.” She wiped her sleepy eyes with her good hand. “I just had a bad dream. I’m sorry for snarling at you like that.”

“Don’t you worry your pretty li’l head about it,” Gwen said, her thick Tennessee accent curling her words. She turned off the alarm and checked her IV fluids. “A lot of trauma patients have nightmares. Do you want something to help you sleep?”

“No, I’m tired of…not feeling like myself. Although I’m beginning to wonder if that has anything to do with the medication.”

Gwen sat at the edge of the bed and patted her knee. “You had some pretty severe head trauma, honey. It’s possible you might never feel exactly like you used to. Or that you won’t know when you do. Just make the most of how and what you feel like, now.”

Cynthia decided to take advantage of the only person she could really talk to about this. Will wouldn’t understand. It would just upset Pauline. Her mother spent every afternoon with her at the hospital, showing her pictures, telling stories and trying to unlock her memory. Saying she didn’t feel like herself would just be an insult to Pauline’s hard work.

“It feels all wrong. The people. The way they treat me. I mean, look at this.” She slipped her arm out of the sling and extended her pale pink cast to show off her engagement ring.

“That’s lovely,” Gwen said politely, although her dark brown eyes had grown twice their size upon seeing the massive diamond.

“Don’t. We both know this could feed a third-world country for a year.”

“Probably,” she conceded.

“This doesn’t feel like me. I don’t feel like some snobby uptown girl that went to private school and got everything she ever wanted. I feel like a fish out of water, and I shouldn’t. If this is my life, why do I feel so out of touch with it? How can I be who I am when I don’t know who I was?”

“Honey, this is a little deep for a three o’clock in the morning conversation. But here’s some unsolicited advice from a Tennessee fish in Manhattan waters. I’d stop worrying about who you were and just be yourself. You’ll go crazy trying to figure out what you should do and how you should act.”

“How do I do that?”

“For a start, stop fighting it. When you walk out of this room to start your new life, embrace being Cynthia Dempsey. Then, just do what you feel. If the new Cynthia would rather go to a Knicks game than the symphony, that’s okay. If you’ve lost your taste for caviar and expensive wine, eat a cheeseburger and drink a beer. Only you know who you want to be now. Don’t let anyone change that.”

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