Pieces of Me by N.R. Walker

Chapter One





Justin





The mist was thick and heavy, surrounding me and swirling through me, weighing me down. It clung to my bones and made it hard to move. Heavy and tiring, and impossible to see through. If I could just see past it, through it, if it would just clear a little, I’d be able to see . . . All the answers were in there, the life I’d had, everything I’d known, was shrouded in mist . . .

Until the wings came into view. Like they had before in every other dream. Hard to recognise at first, so much was missing. But they shone a little brighter now, the mist swirled and danced around the wings, and I tried to get to them faster. I needed to be closer, and the mist began to clear. I reached out and touched the wings. I’d never been able to touch the wings before . . . This was new, and I was closer than I’d ever been.

Then the mist was gone.

The wings were soft under my palm. A heartbeat boomed under my touch, scaring me. Calling me home.

I startled awake with a name echoing through my head.

Dallas.

And for a brief moment, I could feel his warmth, his strength. I could smell his scent, taste his kiss . . .

Then it was gone.

I closed my eyes, trying to grasp what was left of that dream, trying to recall every detail, but I couldn’t. The dream I’d had many times had changed now I knew what the wings were. What they meant, and why they felt like home. When I had no idea what home even was, those wings resonated in my heart.

I understood now why that stranger who sat by my bed in the hospital, who never left, felt so familiar. I didn’t know him, I’d never seen him before, but for some reason I trusted him. When he’d held my hand in hospital, it felt . . . right. It felt new, but somehow familiar.

And now I knew why.

Sure, I’d seen the photos of us together, and I’d read the text messages, but they never sparked any feeling apart from sadness, because I couldn’t remember, and I longed for what the two guys in the photo had. I had no emotional connection to those pictures. I didn’t recognise him in those photographs, and I didn’t recognise who I was in them either.

But somewhere in my brain, in the mist and blank confusion, was a pair of wings—a memory—that had been trying to tell me since the accident that the man by my bedside was my home.

I’d had snippets of memories, of things I knew, but this one was a big one. This one had feelings behind it. Safety, comfort, strength.

Like he’d said, if that was the only thing I ever remembered, he’d be happy with that. And I kind of agreed with him. I mean, I wanted all my memories back, but that one was a real good place to start.

I pressed the incline button on the couch and sat up, giving myself a few seconds to adjust. I hated how my body and my mind were no longer in sync. How it took a few seconds for things to register, like there was a two-second telecast delay. And the worst part was that I knew I was talking slow. I could hear it, but I just could not kick my brain into second gear. Everything I did was slow. How I thought, how I spoke, how I moved.

It was just how I was now.

I hated it, but there was nothing I could do about it. Sure, it was frustrating, but I just didn’t have the energy or the brainpower to be angry about it. There were a lot of things my mind wouldn’t let me do. A lot of things I knew I should care about or ask about, but I just . . . couldn’t. I didn’t have the capacity for it.

I could remember what it was like to be thinking about twenty different things at once, to worry about things like work and money, but now my mind had none of that noise.

There was only mist, and haze, and a whole lotta blank.

At least my bladder still had a direct line to my brain. With a sigh, I sat forward on the couch and got myself onto my scooter. I used the bathroom, then sat in front of the jigsaw puzzle for a bit. I got some more of it done, which felt good. It was slow-going like everything else, but it felt good to accomplish something. Progress was progress, one piece at a time.

Dallas came up for lunch and he was all smiles when he saw me at the table. “Hey, you.”

My belly did a little somersault, and the pleasantness was a nice change from the confusion that I’d been shrouded in. “Hey.”

He came over and put his hand on my shoulder. It was warm and there was a gentle strength in his touch. “Getting more done, I see. It’s looking really good.”

I didn’t know why his approval meant a lot to me. I smiled up at him. “Thanks.”