Donna turned her head. A nurse was standing in the doorway.
“There’s a visitor to see you, ma’am. A Mr. Jack Kemp.”
“Do I know a Jack Kemp?”
“He’s the paramedic who saved your life, ma’am.”
“Oh!” Donna sat up and brushed a strand of unruly hair out of her eyes. “Please send him in.”
The nurse nodded and disappeared. A moment later, a tall young man with dark hair entered the room. He bobbed his head meekly.
“Please, have a seat.”
Jack Kemp pulled a chair up to her bedside and seated himself in it with a shy smile. Donna noticed that his hands were nervously wringing a California Angels baseball cap.
“Well, Mr. Kemp. It appears I owe you a thank you.”
“Really, it was nothing.”
She smiled. “I don’t know about you, but almost losing my life is not ‘nothing’ to me. I want you to know I am very grateful. If there’s anything I can do for you, Mr. Kemp, just let me know.”
He laughed hesitantly. “Well, could you call me…Jack? ‘Mr Kemp’ reminds me too much of all those reporters out there.”
Donna echoed his laughter. “I’m surprised they didn’t try to follow you in!”
“They did, but fortunately you have a good press agent.”
“I meant what I said, though, Jack. It wasn’t nothing. It meant a great deal to me.”
He nodded. “I wasn’t trying to belittle it or anything, it’s just that…well, it’s my…job.”
“That’s right. I forgot you were a paramedic.”
Jack smiled, bemused. “Something like that.”
“And I’m something like an actress,” she responded, her eyes twinkling. “Or at least that’s what I’ve been told.”
“What you’ve been told?”
Donna nodded, hoping she wasn’t saying anything terribly out of character.
“It sounds like you don’t have a lot of faith in your own abilities,” he commented, concerned.
She laughed. “No, it’s not that. I…just can’t remember.”
The young man’s face furrowed in concentration. “You have amnesia?”
“Yes, and it’s incredibly frustrating. But, I don’t suppose you would have a lot of experience with this sort of thing.”
“You’d be surprised.”
“So would you,” she retorted.
Jack shook his head in apparent amusement.
“What’s so funny?”
“Deja vu,” he replied with a lopsided grin. “I had a similar conversation once before…it was even in a hospital I think, but otherwise the circumstances were COMPLETELY different!”
“Mind if I ask how they were so different?”
He shook his head. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Try me. I think I’d believe anything right about now.”
For no apparent reason, their eyes met. Donna’s breath caught in her throat.
I know him! The face was as foreign as the one in her mirror, and the dark eyes were those of a stranger, but something in those eyes was painfully familiar. In the back of her mind, a distant memory flickered. “If you look into my eyes, you’ll see another soul.” Someone had spoken those words to her long ago–someone she did not know at the time would become very important to her. Someone she had to find. With the desperation that can only be born of memory loss, she clung to the fragile phrase, but even this new key could not open the locked door.
“Is something wrong?” With those simple words the concerned voice severed the thin thread of memory.
“I was just trying to remember someone,” she said faintly. “Someone I cared about. But I can’t see their face…I don’t know who they were or what relationship they were to me…There’s nothing…” She stopped, unable to go on because of a combination of choking tears and a fear of revealing too much.
The concern on Jack’s face didn’t fade, but somehow a wide range of other emotions joined it, from a gentle sympathy to the same painful nostalgia that she felt. “I know the feeling,” he whispered. “I…had that happen once…or twice.”
“It’s like,” Donna continued, frustrated. “Like my mind has suddenly become a big piece of…”
“Swiss cheese,” they concluded simultaneously.
Donna smiled softly. “It seems we think alike, Jack.” She rolled over on her side and gazed thoughtfully out the window. “I hope you don’t mind me dumping this all on you. It’s just that…well…I feel comfortable with you. I feel like I know you already.”
“It’s fine. I’m enjoying talking to you.”
“I hope I haven’t gotten you all depressed.”
“Not at all.”
Donna turned once again to face Ferne Marshall’s young rescuer. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, Jack, but why did you come here? Why did you come to see me?”
“Well, I wanted to see how you were doing, and to be perfectly honest, Judy–my sister–asked what you were like. I figured I should have something to tell her.”
The ‘star’ smiled. “I hope you like what you see. I can’t risk my own rescuer spreading bad publicity about me,” she joked.
“I also wanted to talk to you about what happened.”
Uh, oh. How can I discuss an event I wasn’t there for? she wondered. “If you don’t mind, I don’t want to talk about it,” she excused herself quickly. “Besides…”
“Oh, yeah. The amnesia. I forgot.”
Donna tried not to laugh at the accidental pun, or the sheepish expression on Jack’s face.
He glanced at her with a confused frown. “What’s so funny?”
“You forgot I have amnesia?” she queried him, eyes twinkling.
“Oh.” He smiled lopsidedly. “I didn’t realize I said that.”
“What do you want to know, anyway?”
“Just if you knew why anyone would want to kill you, or who.”
Donna shrugged. “I’m afraid not. Are you a detective in your spare time or something, Jack?”
“Occasionally. I just don’t want to see you get hurt again, or worse.”
She smiled. “Believe me, neither do I!”
At that moment, a nurse appeared in the doorway.
“Sorry to disturb you, Miss Marshall, but visiting hours are over.”
Donna nodded. “Thank you.”
Jack stood somewhat reluctantly. “Well, it was good to meet you officially, Miss Marshall.”
“Please call me Ferne.”
Jack nodded and turned toward the door.
“Oh, and Jack?”
He turned in the doorway and glanced back at her.
“If you can, please do come see me again.”
He smiled and donned the cap that had been keeping his hands busy. “I will.”
Shortly after he had left, Beth reappeared, this time wearing an oversized black, long-sleeved shirt with colorful letters all over it and a pair of red stretch pants and red patent-leather shoes.
Donna’s eyes widened. “Where did you get that outfit?”
Beth smiled. “I swiped the shirt from my husband. I was in a rather strange mood.”
“I can see that,” the patient replied with a little smile.
“How are you doing?” she asked.
Donna shrugged. “Same as before, I guess. I suppose you know I had a visitor?”
The Observer looked surprised. “Really? Who?”
“Jack Kemp. He’s the paramedic who saved the real Ferne’s life the first time.”
Beth nodded, seemingly trying to conceal a pleased smile. “What did you think of him?”
Donna was quiet for a moment, pondering the puzzle of emotions her visitor had brought on. “I felt like…like I already knew him, like…if we ordered burgers together, I could pick out all his favorite toppings without having to ask.” There was another faint twinge of familiarity, but it vanished before she could catch more than a glimpse. Neither of them spoke for a while. Donna’s thoughts were wandering and Beth knew better than to interrupt.
“Do I know him, Beth?”
Beth glanced at her, startled. “Do you know who?”
“Do I know Jack Kemp, in my own time?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I…” She paused, not quite sure how to answer. “I…recognized him…sort of. Not his face, or anything like that…it was like I recognized his soul.”
Beth considered for a moment before answering. “Well…no. You don’t know Jack Kemp.”