A Christmas to Remember 3

CHAPTER 3:  The Routine

            Mike looked out the passenger window quietly.  He hadn’t said a word since he got in the car.  But neither did Cara.  They rode in silence. 

            “Look,” Cara finally said as they took an exit off the interstate.  “There are some things you should know.”

            “What? Like the fact you are kidnapping me?” Mike asked derisively. 

            “Funny,” Cara said though her tone did not suggest amusement.  “You have three kids…”

            Mike winced.

            “Andrew is 12 and just tried out for the basketball team. He only made the team because they need all the players but he could use some practice.”

            “He can’t play ball?”

            She ignored him.  “Carly is nine and will follow you around mimicking you.  I think it’s just a phase but she does it all the time.”

            “That sounds annoying.”

            Again, she ignored him.  “And Patrick is seven…”

            “The sick one,” he said.

            “He’s not…” she caught herself.  “He’s better now.”

            “Great,” he said sarcastically.  “At least one of us is better.”

            Cara sucked in her top lip.  “Look, here’s the deal.  You took a leave of absence from work for the month to watch the kids while I study for my real estate exam.  I will take the test on the 22nd.  If you are still experiencing your brain blur by then you are free to go and do whatever you want to get your memories back.  I just need your help until then.”

            He thought about it.  “Fine.  I think I can manage a few weeks with this arrangement.”  Although he was becoming a little disheartened that the scenery was not looking familiar.  They were obviously getting close to home because the blocks were becoming more residential.  “What do I do?”

            “What?” Cara asked making a turn onto a street.

            “For a living.  You said I took a leave of absence.”

            She swallowed. “You’re a landscaper.  December is your slowest time of year so you picked up some hours as an overnight stocker at my sister’s store.  She is the manager and said you could help out for the month.  That way you can be with the kids after school while I study.  I currently teach school during the day so you will have the house to yourself.”

            “To sleep apparently,” he said.  At least he was going to get a reprieve during the day.

            “Or to clean the house and keep up with the chores,” she said.

            He closed his eyes and tried to picture himself as a landscaper.  It didn’t feel right.  Being a housekeeper even felt more out of line.

            They pulled into a driveway and she turned off the car.  She looked at him.  “Ready?”

            He snorted.  “If I said no, can we keep driving around some more?”

            “They won’t bite,” she said opening her door.  “Anymore.”

            The door to the house opened and a boy and girl ran out to greet them.  “Dad!” they yelled and grabbed Mike’s legs. 

            “Carly,” that was a safe and easy choice.  “And Andrew?”  he guessed trying to remember the names Cara had told him.

            The boy looked up at him.  “I’m Patrick.”

            An older boy walked out the door and laughed.  “You thought I was a seven year old?” Andrew asked.  Mike looked at him.  His son was almost as tall as him and probably would have been able to pick him up.  He definitely wouldn’t have wrapped himself around his dad’s legs.  Since Mike didn’t like to make mistakes he brushed off the comment.

            “I can’t walk with you grabbing my legs,” he complained but only Carly loosened her grip.  Patrick continued to hold on.  Mike looked at Cara for help.

            “They missed you,” she said smiling and walked inside with Andrew leaving him to navigate out of the seven-year old’s death grip.  Carly grabbed his hand and pulled him inside.

            When he finally made it in to the house, he was hoping for some kind of brain blur lift.  Surely, familiar surroundings would do the trick.  It didn’t.  Nothing looked familiar at all.  This made him all the more certain he did not belong and Cara was pulling either some long con or unfunny prank.

            “Best to get on with it then,” she said when he peeked into the kitchen. 

            He took out the list and looked at it.  “I did just get out of the hospital.”

            “Remember, routine will help you get your memory back.  Probably.”

            He looked around at his surroundings and tried to will his memory back.

            She smiled.  “Andrew will help you find everything you need.  As for me, I have lost half the day.  I need to get to studying.”  She kissed the two younger kids and tussled Andrew’s hair.  “Remember, this is important so I need to study.  If you need anything, ask your dad.”  Then she disappeared into a room and closed the door.

            Mike was alone with three kids who claimed to be his but he didn’t recognize them at all.  Three weeks suddenly felt like a long, long time.

            “I’ll show you where the laundry room is,” Andrew said leading him down a small hallway.  They walked into the room and there were clothes all over the floor.  “We need some clean clothes for school tomorrow.”

            Andrew took out his phone and started texting someone while he walked out of the room.

            Mike looked around the room to decide where to start.  He couldn’t make a decision so he just started throwing clothes in the wash machine.  After he dropped the detergent in, he started it.  But then he had a thought.  He ran to the room Cara had closed herself in and swung open the door.

            “Where are my clothes?” he asked.

            “Excuse me?”

            “I was just in the laundry room tackling Mount Everclothes.  I saw little people’s clothes and some of yours but I didn’t see any of mine.  Pretty sure that boy and I don’t share the same style so none of those were mine. Where are my clothes?”

            She nodded her head and put down the book she was reading.  “You do realize we were going on a trip?   You did your laundry so you could pack.”

            Dang.  That sounded logical.

            She stood up and led him to a bedroom.  “Here are your clothes.”  She opened the closet and there were men’s clothes neatly hanging.  “Nice try though,” she patted his chest and went back to her study.  He closed the closet door and took out the list to see what was next.  Shopping.  She conveniently made a sub-list of things they needed at the store.

            “Andrew,” he yelled.  “I’m going to need you to help me find the store.”

            That night when Cara walked into the bedroom she jumped.  Mike laid on his stomach on the bed.  “Oh,” she said.  “I was not expecting anyone in here.”

            “It’s my bed.  I am exhausted.”

            “Actually, it’s my bed,” she said.  “Yours is down the hall.”

            “What?” he asked too tired to move. 

            “You moved to the couch for the month.  You know, to give me space to concentrate.  It was your idea, you didn’t want to be a bother while I am hyper-focused on the exam.”

            “This can’t be my life.”

            She walked to the closet and opened it.  “It is.  This is the good life, remember?  That’s what you always called it anyway.”

            “Doubt it,” he mumbled.

            She turned and looked at him.  “Don’t forget, you need to go to work.  Your shift is starting in just a little bit.”

            “Won’t. Can’t.  Not going.”

            “Honey,” she said walking into the bathroom.  “It was very nice of Kristen to let you pick up this shift.  She is doing us a favor.  You can’t let her down.”

            He was pretty sure he could.

            “This was your idea, you know,” she held a toothbrush in her hand.  “You were the one who said I need time to study and pass this exam,” she deepened her voice, “it’s important for our family.”

            He finally turned over and looked at her.  “Was that supposed to be me?”

            She shrugged and walked back into the bathroom.

            “Fine,” he said and stood up.  “I will do this only to get my memory back and then I will prove to you that this is not my routine.”

            She walked back out with the toothbrush in her mouth.  “What?  That makes no sense.”

            His face contorted.  “I know!”  He stood up and grabbed a jacket.

            “Have fun, honey,” she said smiling as he stormed out.

            The store was the same one Andrew had taken him shopping at earlier.  He walked in just before the doors were locked.  A man spoke to him, “I’m sorry sir, we are closing for the night.”

            “Apparently I work here,” he said.  “You don’t recognize me?”

            “No,” the man replied.  “But I’m new here.  Just started for the season.”

            “Hi Mike,” a blond woman approached him a little taller than his wife.  “Cara said you were in the hospital?”

            He nodded.

            “That’s too bad.  Glad you’re okay, though,” she smiled and hugged him.  “Cara said you have some amnesia?  That you don’t remember much?”

            Some amnesia.  Like one would pick up some groceries. “Just anything important.”

            She nodded and started walking in a way that he figured he was supposed to follow.  “Well, I’m Kristen, your sister-in-law.  This is my store.  And I made a list of your duties here overnight.”

            Again, with the lists.   “I can see the family resemblance,” he said as he looked over the list.

            “Basically, you will be locked in here for the night until the morning shift arrives at 6:00.  You need to make sure all the shelves are restocked and straightened up before we reopen.   Any questions?”

            “I think I got it,” he said in a flat tone. 

            “Good.  Have a good night.”  She walked toward the door and turned off the main lights leaving only minimal lighting in the store.  “And Mike…”

            He turned and looked at her. 

            “I really am glad you’re okay and helping out.”

            He nodded.  “Wish I could say the same.”

            She smiled and walked out the door leaving him very much alone.

            He looked at the list and crumbled it up.  For the first couple of hours, he tried creating a make shift bed out of cardboard boxes he found in the back.  But he couldn’t get comfortable enough to rest and finally decided the night was passing too slowly doing nothing.  He relented and picked up the list he had dropped on the floor and started checking off the items on the list.  It was boring work and still a long night but at least he had something to keep him busy.  As he stocked the shelves he sung a song he made up that went along to the Bon Jovi song “It’s My Life.”  His variation sounded like:

            Not my life

            Not now or ever

            I ain’t gonna forget forever

            I just want my life while I’m alive

            (my real life)

It amazed him that he could remember lyrics to a Bon Jovi song but still couldn’t remember his own name. 

Previous Chapter: Chapter 2

Next Chapter: Chapter 4

One thought on “A Christmas to Remember 3

  1. Pingback: A Christmas to Remember 4 | ck's days

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