Authors: Leta Blake
After an injury in the ring, amateur boxer Leith Wenz wakes to discover his most recent memories are three years out of date. Unmoored and struggling to face his new reality, Leith must cope anew with painful revelations about his family. His brother is there to support him, but it’s the unfamiliar face of Zach, a man introduced as his best friend, that provides the calm he craves. Until Zach’s presence begins to stir up feelings Leith can’t explain.
For Zach, being forgotten by his lover is excruciating. He carefully hides the truth from Leith to protect them both from additional pain. His bottled-up turmoil finds release through vlogging, where he confesses his fears and grief to the faceless Internet. But after Leith begins to open up to him, Zach's choices may come back to haunt him.
Ultimately, Leith must ask his heart the questions memory can no longer answer.
© 2014 Leta Blake
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author or publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Digital ISBN: 978-1626227200
Cover design Copyright © 2014 by Dar Albert at Wicked Smart Designs
Editing by Keira Andrews
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. No figure skaters, living or dead, were harmed by the writing of this book. Any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Other Books by Leta Blake
“Give me the waters of Lethe that numb the heart, if they exist, I will still not have the power to forget you.”
Memory, as it turned out, was both everything and nothing. It had no substance, no form, no weight, and no color. It was described, in technical terms, as deposits of proteins within cells of the brain. However, these were words that at their heart were as mysterious and ultimately magical as any other metaphor used in an attempt to understand the concept: memory as a storehouse or set of books
a way to keep track of life’s checks and balances; or memory as meaning
a mode of life, and a way of being.
Leith knew now that all these metaphors and all these words boiled down to one thing: memory is the sum of us, the total, and if it is divided, then we are lost.
There were other people in the occupational therapy ward, and Leith studied them with a mixture of horror and envy. There was the droopy, sagging stroke victim Jan Troxell, who could tell anyone the weather report from that morning, but couldn’t remember anything else
not her daughter’s name, not her age, and not her favorite color.
There was David Mueller, for whom every day began as April 12, 2006, until he found out again, and again, and again that he had suffered a brain injury and couldn’t make any more memories.
In some ways these people repulsed Leith, leaving him breathless with terror and disgust at how close he’d come to joining their ranks. People who were shells of the beings they were before, empty and unable to give anything back to the world except for the memory that once they were more, and that they never would be again.
But in other equally scary ways, Leith watched these people with envy. They were free, utterly rudderless in a thrashing ocean, but still free. Their options had been removed from them, and they were at the mercy of the elements and the grace of people’s kindness. But they weren’t tied down to memories of who they were, of what and who they’d loved, the things they’d once dreamed, and the things they’d valued.
Leith was not free. He knew who he was, give or take the last three years of his life. It had been almost two weeks since he’d come out of the coma. The illegal blow to the back of his head during the New York Amateur Boxing Championship match had cost his opponent his career, but it had cost Leith a hell of a lot more than that.
All in all he had a lot more than the other amnesiacs he saw every day in the rehab hospital. His intelligence hadn’t been compromised, and while some of his motor skills were rough, the doctors told him there was no reason to believe he wouldn’t be able to live a completely normal life again. Of course they strongly advised against boxing. Multiple head injuries could be fatal. At least he’d come out of the last one with his life, his brains, and only a few missing years.
His last memory was learning that he would soon be released from prison. In his sparse, clean cell, he’d sat on a bunk and composed a letter to Arthur asking if it would be all right to start over in Brooklyn instead of going home to New Jersey and their father.
Leith had no memory of finishing that letter. No memory of a bus trip from the jail in Florida to Arthur’s apartment in Manhattan. No memory of meeting a girl named Naomi on the ski slopes of Vermont. No memory of his father’s death and no memory of mourning by his dad’s grave. Leith only knew of these things because he’d been told. And he still didn’t know how to believe them.
Leith opened his eyes to find his brother Arthur standing in the door to his rehab room with his roguish, floppy blond hair hanging over his forehead and eyes.
“Good afternoon.” Arthur flicked his hair back and sat down on the side of the bed, his fashionable and expensive-looking dress shirt tight enough to show off his lithe muscles. Over his arm he held his leather jacket, and on his long, sharp face he wore his usual look of worried appraisal.
“Are we British all of a sudden? Why so formal?”
“Just feeling solemn, baby brother. You of all people know how the moods hit sometimes.”
Leith rolled his eyes. Arthur was always a changeable son of a bitch, though to be fair, not half as mercurial as Leith. It was yet another way Arthur had always been somehow less than Leith. The only thing Arthur had more of, in Leith’s own estimation, was brains. Otherwise he was less handsome, less athletic, less impulsive, and less moody.
Since he was six years older than Leith, Arthur should have been by all rights larger, yet he was shaped like a whip while Leith had always been a hammer. Leith still couldn’t believe he was twenty-three, and Arthur twenty-nine. Almost
Arthur had always been there for him, and Leith loved him more than he liked to say. As an unexpected pang of emotion waved through him, he almost made a familiar joke about his brother’s lack of physical substance, but he wasn’t looking so strong and healthy himself these days. A month in a bed would do that to a body.
He’d once been six feet of pure muscle, but now he was soft and weak. The nurses assured him he’d soon be fit enough once he was cleared for exercise. A certain impertinent nurse with red hair and an upturned nose had also claimed he was still the handsomest patient on the unit. Given what he knew of the rest of the patients, Leith understood it was more of a tease than a true compliment, but his vanity clung to it anyway.
With his full lips, long eyelashes, and the golden flecks in his hazel eyes, he’d always thought he was a pretty good looking guy, and he was pleased a little brain trauma hadn’t changed
, at least.
Leith licked his dry lips, and seeing Arthur’s empty hands decided to get in a dig of another kind. “Gee, thanks for bringing your little bro something decent to eat. It’s not like I’m starving to death in here or anything.”
“Sorry. Not today. But don’t worry
you won’t go hungry.”
“Speak for yourself. You know what the food here is like.”
Arthur ignored his bitching and reached out to smooth Leith’s light brown hair. “We need to get you a haircut.”
“What? I look great.”
“Sure, you’re sexy as a devil.” Arthur brushed at Leith’s clothes like he was dusting him off, and then said, “Leith, listen up. There’s someone here to see you, and you need to be incredibly kind to him.”
“Okay. Why? What’s wrong with him?”
“Nothing’s wrong with him. He’s just been worried for you. We’ll talk about the specifics later, but for now…let him hug you and touch you, okay? Let him have a little reassurance. He needs that now.”
Leith frowned. “Is this a friend of mine?”
“Yes. He’s your best friend. His name is Zachariah Stephens. Does that sound familiar? You call him Zach.”
“Zach?” Leith said the name a few times, trying out both the long and short versions. “I don’t remember. He’s my best friend?” Leith hadn’t had someone he would have called a best friend since childhood. And even then it’d been Arthur. Did grown men even declare friendships like that? It seemed a little weird.
But Leith didn’t question it because the end of Arthur’s nose went red, and his gray eyes swam as they always did when Leith didn’t remember something or someone important. “He’s the best friend you’ve ever had. Be nice to him.” Arthur patted his arm as he stood. “Let him hug you.”
Leith took a deep breath and sat up straighter in his bed. So far he’d met a black girl with an afro named Marian, and a blonde big-boobed girl with a nice laugh called Ava. He understood that he lived in a walk-up in Park Slope with Marian and Ava, but he didn’t remember anything about them, not even when they told him stories about how they became friends, things they’d done together, and places they’d been.
He could tell they’d all been worried
disturbed even by how blankly he looked at them. So he was determined to do better for this Zach, his best friend. He attempted a pleasant expression and waited patiently.
Arthur looked at him one last time before opening the door and saying to whoever was waiting outside, “Okay, he’s ready for you.”
Leith smiled at the handsome and trim black-haired guy in dark trendy jeans and a bright green T-shirt as he came into the room, feeling suddenly aware of his own pajama bottoms and t-shirt. This Zachariah held a basket and wore a very tentative expression.
“Hello, Leith,” he said, his smile tremulous and full of bravado.
He looked about five years older than Leith, and about four inches shorter. His limbs were long and lanky, and his hips were quite narrow, which somehow made him seem smaller than he really was. He had lush lips and pale skin. From behind the stranger, Arthur nodded a goodbye, mouthing the words, “Hug him,” again.
Leith searched for any kind of memory of this man, his supposed “best friend.”
Nada. Nip. Nothing.
He kept smiling even though he may as well have never seen him before in his life.
The guy cleared his throat, his expression full of worry, and he glanced over his shoulder at the door Arthur had just closed behind him.
Leith charged ahead into the moment. What choice did he have really? Unless something changed, this was going to be his life for a while. “Hi…Zach?”
Zach’s head snapped forward. His eyes sparked, and he took a sharp breath. “You
Leith shook his head, sorry that he’d blown it already by giving his friend false hope. “That’s your name, right? Zachariah…something. Smith? No, Stephens, right? I’m sorry. Arthur told me.”
“Oh right. Of course. I expected that, but I guess I’d hoped…” Zach’s smile didn’t crinkle his eyes, and he looked as though he’d taken a hit to the gut.