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Lucille Sengupta

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Lucille Sengupta

Part One

She’s so cold and she doesn’t know why, she just knows she shouldn’t be. And why is her bed so hard? Something isn’t right and she struggles to awareness, her normally nimble brain sluggish and her thoughts disorganized. It slowly dawns on her that the reason she’s so cold is that she’s lying on the floor, her cheek mashed into the cold, hard surface and her body folded into an almost fetal position. With increasing awareness comes increasing strength and while she’s no closer to remembering how she ended up on the floor, she manages to push herself into a sitting position.

But even that small victory comes at a price, nausea welling up inside her and she gropes for the toilet; one part of her brain registering that she’s in a bathroom while the other part is thankful for the cool porcelain beneath her hands as she retches. Her stomach is empty though, but that doesn’t stop the spasms and she coughs and retches until the wave of nausea passes. Her hair is hanging down in her face and she pushes herself to her feet. She grips the edges of the nearby sink and sucks in several deep breaths when the change in position brings another wave of nausea and she sees spots, but the deep breaths work and she’s finally standing upright, staring into the mirror over the sink.

The late afternoon sun shining in from the next room-she doesn’t question how she knows it’s the afternoon sun and not the morning—is enough and she leans closer to the mirror, relieved that her eyes are clear and her pupils react normally. Her color is ghastly though and when she reaches up to smooth back her hair, her hand trembles. But she’s feeling more confident with each passing moment and while she doesn’t remember how she got here, she at least knows where ‘here’ is. She turns the handle on the faucet, water gurgling into the basin and she carefully splashes some water on her face. The cool water feels good and she reaches for the soft, white cotton towel she knows will be hanging from the hook on the wall. She looks in the mirror again after she lightly pats her face dry and thinks maybe she looks a little better than she did a few minutes earlier. She’s still not sure she hasn’t been drugged or something worse, but she is a woman of science with some very powerful friends and uncovering secrets is her specialty.

She hears the faint sound of a door opening and then closing and this time when she smiles at the still pale woman in the mirror, there’s a bright spark lighting her dark eyes. She slips her feet into the black pumps she finds lying between the toilet and the bath tub and smoothes down the fine wool blend of her skirt. With a final look in the mirror, she adjusts her jacket and straightens her shoulders, swinging her long hair over her shoulder. She hears his footsteps coming closer and when she steps through the partially open door into the bedroom, he’s standing partially turned away from her, next to the chest of drawers where he always empties his pockets and leaves his badge and his gun. But something isn’t quite right and she feels another wave of vertigo. He’s not dressed in his uniform; his shoulders are broader beneath the dark suit coat and there’s something else…something she can’t quite place…“Emerson?”

At the sound of her voice, he stiffens and when he swings around, his gun is in his hand. “Lucy?” It’s his voice but the man staring at her with shock and disbelief on his face isn’t Emerson Hauser…can’t possibly be him. She feels all the blood rush out of her head and hears his voice call her name from a distance as she realizes she’s going to faint.

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When Lucy wakes up a second time, she’s laying on a much softer surface…a bed, with a pillow under her head this time instead of the cold floor. She lies quietly; she hasn’t been unconscious that long, she still feels the warmth of the sun and when she takes a deep breath, she catches the faint whiff of his aftershave. Intense longing rivals with her uncertainty and fear and she’s almost afraid to open her eyes again.

She hears a chair creak and a cool cloth moves soothingly along her forehead. “Lucy?”

The wave of longing almost overwhelms her. No matter that it can’t be, it’s his voice. She slowly opens her eyes and for a moment, a trick of the light shows her an image of a much younger man—or maybe it’s at trick of her mind. But she blinks and focuses and the smooth skin and boyish face she knows is replaced by the care worn and hard face of this stranger. And then something miraculous happens as they stare wordlessly at each other. His blue eyes soften and his features relax and she feels unbidden warmth spread through her. She may not recognize the man, but she recognizes that look.

Lucy reaches out with one hand, her fingertips lightly grazing his cheek, running slowly along his jaw; the day’s growth of stubble tingling along her fingertips. “Emerson?” she whispers in wonder, “Is it really you?”

He groans, something low and deep and primal that might be her name and suddenly he’s not sitting on the chair anymore, but he’s on the bed, pulling her roughly into his arms. His urgency overpowers her and she buries her face in his neck, clinging to him. He shudders, his breathing ragged and she holds him even tighter. Stroking the fingers of one hand through the hair at his nape, she murmurs, “Emerson, what is it? What’s happened to you?”

His arms slowly fall from around her and she suddenly feels chilled to the bone by the look in his eyes. She’s never seen him look anything but confident and sure of himself, but this older version has a weary, sad look in his eyes that scares her. He takes her hand, anchoring her. “Nothing’s happened to me, Lucy.”

“I don’t understand.” She’s really scared now and she looks almost wildly around the room, seeing what she didn’t see before. The wind-up alarm clock on the bedside table has been replaced with a sleek clock that flashes the time at her in bright red lights; a desk sits in the corner of the room, covered with an array of electronics and equipment that look like they’re from the set of a science fiction movie and through the window she see what should be the familiar and comforting view of the Golden Gate Bridge but the skyline has changed to the point that she wouldn’t recognize it as San Francisco if not for the bridge…and the tiny white speck in a bay of blue that she knows is Alcatraz.

She finally looks back at him, her hand now clutching at his, her nails digging into his palm. “What’s happened, Emerson?”

“Lucy…it’s the year 2012. Where have you been for the last fifty years?”

She almost can’t take it in and she wants to cry out that he must be wrong; that he’s playing some kind of cruel joke. But he could never lie to her and she sees the truth in his eyes. And then a chill runs through her and she feels like she can’t breathe. “Emerson, I can’t remember.”

Part Two

He’s never slept well. Even when he was young and idealistic and still believed justice was blind, he’d never slept more than a few hours a night. And in the few weeks since one Doctor Milton Beauregard had reappeared just as mysteriously as he’d disappeared, he’d slept even less…even though it also meant his years of waiting were finally over.

Normally he paces the rooms of his spacious apartment, watching the lights of the city and the elegant lines of the Golden Gate, sparkling over the darker backdrop of the bay and the faint light that is his nemesis. He stands now by the large bank of windows in the living room, looking out at the bay. He owns the building he lives in now, bought cheap when the neighborhood was crumbling and crime-ridden and now, almost forty years later he owns a prime piece of real estate in a revitalized, up and coming neighborhood. He rents out the lower floors to young professionals and wealthy singles who want the cachet of a historic address and view of the bay. But that’s not the reason he stayed put, transforming the topmost floor into one huge apartment. He kept it because it was his last link to her.

Emerson leaves the bank of windows and pads softly through the dark to the door of his spare room. He leans against the door jamb and watches her now, instead of the lights of the city and the mocking lights from the Rock. She’s finally sleeping, curled up on her side and facing the door, the mild sedative she’d reluctantly agreed to take doing its job. Her chest raises slowly and evenly, her face a dim oval in the ambient light from the city at night. She’s just as beautiful as the day he met her.

God, he’d been so young. She had been older than him then, back when they first met. But that hadn’t stopped him from admiring her—or wanting her. After all these years, he is still amazed she had wanted to go out with him. Those few months with her had been the best of his life. He wonders what she thinks when she looks at him now…older…tougher and harder while she is the same. No, he corrects himself, looks the same. A person can’t disappear for fifty years without some kind of change—obvious or not.

After that night in 1963 when his life had changed forever, he’d boxed up all her personal possessions and stored them will all the rest and he thought he’d stored away all his feelings for her as well. He couldn’t have been more mistaken. He turns away from the sleeping woman, forcing himself to remain objective. She’s nothing more than a specimen to him now, one more clue in the puzzle that has consumed his life.

He tries to walk away…to return to his lonely view of the city…but he can’t and he returns to the doorway and watches her while she sleeps, haunting him more now that she’s returned. God help him…she’s still just as beautiful as the day he last saw her; her dark eyes still kind, even though they’re shadowed now with sorry and confusion. He wants to do nothing more than to hold her and never let her go. But he can’t, the need to know what’s happened must override his need and while he knows the scientist in her will understand, he’s not so sure about the woman.

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Part Three

She almost feels normal, standing at the bow of the boat, the wind whipping her hair and the sun shining bright off the water. The open water, the sound of gulls and the wind stinging her eyes is all like she remembers. Emerson is never far from her side and she accepts the inevitable and quiet comfort of his presence. Leaving the safety of his apartment had been more overwhelming than she’d expected. She thought she’d been prepared but nothing could have prepared her for how utterly foreign the city she had grown to love now feels to her. But out on the bay, everything feels like it did, it feels…normal.

From a distance, Alcatraz looks like she remembers. It’s only as the boat gets closer that she sees the decay, the crumbling plaster and the general air of decline that has settled over the prison like fogs settle over the bay. She glances over her shoulder at Emerson. “It’s really a national historic site now?”

“Yes,” he answers, his smile sardonic. “Tourists flock here by the boatload.”

She smiles and looks back at the buildings. She understands the human interest and curiosity with the dangerous and unknown, so she decides to be silently amused by the spectacle of the famous prison with tourists walking her halls and not prisoners.

But it’s still with apprehension that she walks with Emerson up the steep drive from the dock. Her last memory is that of Alcatraz, in her office, with a cup of tea, meticulously writing down her notes and observations of her most recent therapy session. If it weren’t for the obvious change and indisputable proof that she is no longer in 1963, she would have not believed such a fanciful tale. She had known there was other research going on at Alcatraz, the prisoners providing an almost limitless pool of subjects. Little had she known that she’d end up as much a subject as any of them.

Instead of taking her to the prison proper, Emerson leads her down a side path, into a part of the prison grounds she never frequented. It’s cool and damp, the moss growing heavy on the bricks. She cautiously follows him into an underground chamber or cellar, standing hesitantly until he turns on the lights. She gasps at the long wall filled with pictures and clippings.

“These are the sixty-threes.”

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He watches…observes…studies her, both as a man hungry for the sight of her and as an investigator, searching for the secrets hidden in her disappearance. Since their arrival at the island, she’s behaved and reacted as coolly and calmly as he remembers. She’s quick and smart, talking with the rest of the team like she hasn’t just woken up from a fifty year sleep less than twenty-four hours ago.

And they’re in awe of her already, deferring to her opinions and knowledge. He’s never been prouder of her—and he’s never been more terrified. Terrified that whatever brought her back to him will take her away again…terrified that the man he’s become and the fifty years between them will change how she feels…terrified that he’s too old.

She looks up and catches him watching her and when she smiles, he feels some of the terror fade.

After several hours, the group breaks up, each going to their workstations and she comes over to his desk. “What do you think?” he asks her, already knowing the answer.

“It’s all just so incredible. And you’re in charge.”

“Don’t sound so surprised.”

She chuckles. “Oh, I’m not surprised at all.”

“Come on,” he says, making a sudden decision. “Let’s take a walk.”

They leave the underground chamber, retracing their steps, mingling with the tourists who slowly walk, talk and laugh, posing for pictures in the bright sun. She slips her arm through his as they walk through the front entrance and down Broadway. It’s chilly out of the sun and they walk slowly past each empty cell. When they reach the end of the cell block, she asks, “Can we go to the infirmary?”

He’d known she’d ask and nods, slipping a set of keys out of his pocket; they make their way to the next level. It’s quiet here; the only sound the faint sounds of tourists, gulls and the echo of their feet. She releases his arm and he waits, watching as she slowly walks past the infirmary, the exams rooms, the offices.

“It’s all so different,” she murmurs. “It just doesn’t seem possible.” She stops at the far end of the corridor, looking out the barred windows at the city; looking lost and vulnerable and he wonders what she’s thinking. When she turns to look at him, her eyes are shadowed but there’s a remembered hint of steel in her voice.

“I’m ready to go now.”

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It’s been a long day; she can feel the stress of fifty years catching up with her finally. The return trip on the boat has been in silence. The wind is brisk and the water rough, forcing Emerson to seek shelter in the wheel house, but she remains standing in the bow, the wind blowing her hair around her face as she stares at the twinkling lights of the city. She keeps wondering when she’s going to wake up, even though the evidence of her own eyes and a day spent in the old and new of Alcatraz leaves her no doubt that she is a relic of a distant time and place.

Once back onshore, Emerson doesn’t drive straight to his place, but takes her into China Town. Like Alcatraz, this area is comforting and familiar and they stop for dinner at a small restaurant they’d frequented fifty years earlier. She knows what he’s after; that the familiar surroundings will make her feel less out of place. And she wishes that it could, but all she can see when she looks at him are the years they’ve lost and the melancholy she’s been fighting all day settles around her like fog settles around Alcatraz.

When their awkward and silent dinner draws to a close, Emerson drives swiftly and efficiently through the streets of the city and she studies him. The light from the console is not flattering, putting the planes of his face into harsh relief. He’s so different now, yet so much the same. She’s unsure and uncertain…of him…herself…and what they were…maybe still are. For her it’s as if she’s merely woken up after a night’s sleep but for him…time unimaginable has passed, filled with memories and moments of a life time she’ll never know.

What has happened to them—to her—is incredible, unbelievable, completely unfair and more than any two people should have to bear. Dragging her eyes away from him and staring blindly out the window, she deliberately cloaks herself with clinical detachment and wonders which one of them will break first.

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Part Four

She comes to him during the night and he suspects her appearance in his bedroom coincides with his futile attempt to sleep. He’s exhausted, physically and emotionally, but beyond the upheaval of her reappearance is the chasm of the fifty years that have passed for him.

But that doesn’t stop him from wanting her…or the dread of that want.

She’s wearing a softly patterned silk robe he remembers well, no doubt retrieved from the trunk with her clothing he had delivered from the island earlier that day. The light from the Tiffany bedside lamp glows softly on her and his breath stops when her hands slowly untie the belt of her robe.

“Lucy,” he protests, drawing upon the strength that has gotten him through the years without her. “Don’t—”

She shrugs, ignoring him, the robe slipping smoothly off her shoulders and down her arms, pooling at her feet. His breath catches, she’s even more beautiful than he remembers and he remembers her as the most beautiful woman in the world.

“Lucy,” he groans, ignoring the arousal pulsing hotly through him. “Please.” He’s not sure if he’s pleading for her to continue or to leave.

Her smile is tender and he’s as lost as he was the first time they’d made love. “Shhh…” she whispers, pressing two cool fingers to his lips before pulling back the sheet covering him and slipping into his bed.

He’s not been celibate for the last fifty years, but he has been faithful to her, waiting for fifty years for this moment. She coaxes him out of his plain white T-shirt and he wants to feel self-conscious about the changes time has wrought on his body, but he can’t, the look of approval and adoration in her eyes undoing him.

She touches him reverently, exploring and relearning, just as he relearns the taste and feel of her. It’s almost too much and he’s once more afraid of his vulnerability with this woman and he tries to push her away, but it’s took late…and all he can do is groan as she sinks down on him, enfolding him in her warmth. She gasps his name softly and slowly starts rocking against him. He moves with her, following her lead, letting her set the pace, desperate now to please her.

He fumbles slightly at first, but with patience and determination, he strokes and caresses her, rewarded in full when she moans his name, her body contracting intimately around him. And it’s enough to upset the tenuous hold he has on his desire and he grips her hips a bit roughly, thrusting against her as she slowly sinks down against him, her hair falling around him and he presses his face into her throat when release finally courses through him. The please is so exquisite he can barely breathe and he sucks in big breaths, striving to regain control. But he can’t stop himself from stroking the soft skin of her back…from enjoying the pleasure of her breasts pressed against his chest…and the relief of having her back in his arms.

Hauser strokes her hair, wondering if he’ll be able to sleep now and wondering what the hell is going to happen to them next.

He feels her body tense beneath his hands and his arms tighten around her and reluctantly fall away when she shifts off him. The mattress gives as she slips out of his bed and he has only a brief glimpse of her before she’s once again wrapped in her silk robe. He wants to ask her stay, but he won’t. It’s enough for that she’s back; the rest will come with time.

She pauses at the door and turns back to look at him. “What’s to become of me, Emerson?”

The question surprises him and he honestly doesn’t know what to say, but he remembers that this woman, looking uncertain and scared, is Doctor Lucille Sengupta, brilliant psychiatrist and extraordinary woman.

“Anything you want.”

THE END