Odette invited me upstairs when Kyle squawked so loud we heard it on the other side of the house with the door closed. It was food he was after as he tugged at her top with his tiny fist until she disappeared into the guest room to appear several minutes later with a happy baby.
"I just have to tell you how brave I think it was of you to reveal what you did downstairs," Odette said as she sat down on the bed, spinning Kyle so he was sitting on her knee and facing me.
"It's not so hard for me to talk about now. I've learned to accept it happened and get on with my life the best I can," I replied, waving at Kyle who was studying me rather intently.
He bounced his legs up and down, turning to grin at his mum before looking back to me. Odette carried on speaking, "I can't imagine what it must have been like to forget most of your life. I bet you were so afraid."
I kept waving at Kyle, which caused him to chuckle. "At first, yes. There were significant gaps in my memory. I could remember you one second, and the next, think you were a total stranger. I had no recollection of my life or the people in it. It was devastating, but, in all honesty, I'm not sure how many years I lost, because it's only recently that my memories seem to stay put in there."
"Goodness me," she said with her lips turning down.
"Yeah." There wasn't much else to say.
Trying to lighten her expression, she smiled a little. "Do you remember any part of your recovery?"
People often asked that question, yet answering it seemed impossible. There were so many gaps in my memory; it surprised me that my brain looked whole on the CT scans. "Not exactly. I rely on other people for information."
"You can still remember numbers and words?" she replied.
"In recovery, the doctors ran a lot of tests on me and found that I could still think academically. The injury damaged my episodic memory which is places, events and people, but, my semantic memory which is informational was very active. It's rare, as an injury like mine usually causes both of them to stop working."
"Did you have to retake your degree to get back into teaching?" she asked.
I shook my head. "Oh, no. I was lucky enough to meet Maureen, who works at the school when I was ready to throw myself back into teaching. I began as a supply teacher for a few lessons at first. The rest just sort of followed."
Odette bounced Kyle up and down on the spot, tugging his cotton pyjama top past his belly when it rode up. The pattern resembled elephants inside air bubbles. "It seems you were quick getting back into things," she said.
"It didn't feel that way. I spent so long trying to get my old self back. I felt incredibly frustrated and angry," I replied.
But the longer my mind wasn't coming back to me, the more I realised maybe it never would. Knowing that was a turning point for me. I decided instead of trying to find the old me; I'd embrace the new.
"You inspire me," she said out of nowhere, giving me a smile to match her sparkling eyes.
I was grateful that she didn't pity me as most people did. I didn't see it as my weakness any longer, but my strength. "I do? I won't lie, I love hearing that."
Odette surprised me when she moved forward to kiss both of my cheeks. By the time she was walking to my other side, Kyle had launched himself at me, nearly sliding off my chest as I struggled to catch him. I brought him up so I could hold him properly, laughing when he left open-mouthed kisses all over my face.
"He likes you," Odette said, pulling out her mobile phone from her back jean pocket to snap a few pictures of us. "I've never seen him be this friendly with anyone but us."
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Strain of LoveRomance
FREE STORY WITH PAID BONUS CHAPTERS. A shy primary school teacher, who falls in love with her student's father, learns that the secrets he keeps will change her life forever. ... Primary school teacher Verity Rose's life is simple and straightforw...