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In Loving and In Memory

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Dani's room is usually so pristine. Or as pristine as a room can be during this time. It's hard trying to keep things in order, not with occasional raids and surprise check-ins from the uniforms of the new age. No one gets a free pass from your place being turned inside-out by authorities. Not even if you're the CEO of a big pharmaceutical company. Or you used to be one.

Well, it was pristine up until last night, one of those special nights for check-ins in the area. This is the second time this week they’ve done a check. And since the days have been more chaotic, Dani predicts there might be another one within the week. 

It's only 2 pm and Dani is exhausted. She didn't get enough sleep from all the noise that was happening last night. The checks took longer than usual and she was hypervigilant about any possible follow ups that might happen. Cause the uniforms do that— a double-whammy surprise of check-ins hoping to catch “something”. But they never do, and all they ever do is make a mess that none of them are there to clean up after. 

Her place has definitely seen better days. But these days, better days are rare and fleeting. And Dani's place -much like her- hasn't had those in a while. She's only fixed half of it and isn't finished re-organizing when she hears a knock. 

Dani partially opens the door, hoping to hide the remaining mess from whoever is on the other side, and is faced with Gigi holding a bottle of wine. She twists the bottle to show the label and Dani is instantly taken back to the first time Gigi showed up at her new place and all the times they wanted to celebrate something new and exciting. Over the course of their relationship, this wine became a representation for new beginnings. Dani wonders if Gigi remembers it too.

 

“Hey Gigi.” Dani greets while wiping her hands with a small cloth.

"Hey. Are you busy?" 

"I was just cleaning up the mess from last night's check." Dani swings the door a bit wider revealing the mess she was initially trying to hide. "How's yours?"

"Just finished. I thought we could have a chat," Gigi takes in the room, "but maybe later is a better time?"

"No, it's okay." Dani folds the cloth and places it in her back pocket. "I can finish up later. What did you want to talk about?"

"Us." 

"Oh." Dani is stunned. After the accident, she and Gigi had the painful agreement that Gigi move out while she undergoes therapy. Being surrounded by the unfamiliar and feeling the pressure of not remembering quickly is getting too much for Gigi. ‘I just don’t want to feel like a stranger in my… our home. Please Dani…’ Dani recalls.

"Yeah, um, come on in." Dani recovers, making space for Gigi to enter.

Gigi hands Dani the bottle, "Thank you."

"You didn't have to…" Dani starts to say.

"I wanted to. Plus, it's a good one." Gigi says as she enters Dani's place. "Think maybe they'll do another one this week…? Good and bad things come in threes, as the old saying goes."

Dani smiles as she walks past Gigi to place the wine on the dining table. "I was just thinking that earlier." She turns back to Gigi who was still standing by the door, not moving.

"If I'm being honest, I didn't think you'd come to me about us. Not after…" Dani points to a chair, hoping Gigi would do something else other than stand there.

"I know, I'm sorry. It wasn’t fair to you." Gigi makes her way to Dani. "I was being stubborn. I thought I could do it on my own and through therapy… But I should have just accepted your help from the start." 

“I’m glad you’re here now, what do you want to know?" 

"I'm actually not sure where to begin…" Gigi runs a hand through her hair and looks around. She spots a wall decorated with photos, “Do you mind if I—?” Gigi asks, pointing to it. 

“No, go ahead. Feel free to ask me about anything there.” 

Gigi chuckles as she walks towards the wall, “That’s very… professional.” Dani lets out a laugh. Even with her memory loss, Gigi still teases her on how she answers. “Hah, you're right. I guess I'm just a little nervous”. Dani is met with a smirk before Gigi turns to face their wall of memories. Her wall of memories now.

 

It feels very private, for Dani. Or maybe, intimate is a better word for it. It is a little nerve-wracking watching someone's fresh eyes stare so intently at her memories. Even if that someone is Gigi.

Dani lets go of the breath she didn't know she was holding and pours each of them a glass of water to keep herself busy.

As if in a museum, Gigi takes her time looking at every photo on the wall, occasionally leaning down to take a closer look at some of the framed ones. It's like she’s trying to take in every detail to try and help restore some of her memory. 

She is only looking, she isn’t asking Dani questions about any of them. And nothing makes Dani more nervous than a quiet Gigi. Not that there’s anything else to hear, Dani could not hear past her heartbeat pumping in her ears.

Gigi tries her best to keep her hands to herself, afraid to touch things that aren’t hers —even if most of the photos have her face in them. Then she spots a small plush toy. Gigi hesitates. But she takes a closer look and before she can stop herself, she reaches for it and holds it in her hands.

“We have a child?” Gigi asks, turning the toy over. Silence. She looks over to Dani and Gigi must have read the look on Dani’s face. It's unmistakable . “…had?” Dani looks down and nods.

“I'm so sorry, I wish I could remember all of this.” Gigi says, with a hint of frustration in her voice. She breathes out, trying to not let her emotions take over. “Did we… think of a name?” Dani gets up and walks behind Gigi to look over the toy in her hands, still giving Gigi the space she needs. “We were gonna go with, Julian,” Dani says softly

 

Dani catches it, just for a split second, Gigi placing a hand on her belly and Dani wonders if she remembers or it’s just muscle memory. She tries to keep a straight face, because for some reason Gigi doesn't notice her own movements. Her hope for a breakthrough in that moment drops just as quickly as Gigi’s hand drops from her belly. That’s one.

Gigi smiles, sadly. How can she feel a sense of terrible loss over something she can’t remember. “Julian”, she repeats, placing the toy back in its previous location. 

“Not remembering any of this is not your fault, Gigi. There is nothing to be sorry for. Things just… happened. Got dealt a bad hand—” Dani says, pointing to a photo of Gigi happily biting the top half of a poker chip with Dani’s arms wrapped around her waist and giving her a kiss on the cheek.

“Poker night.” Dani finishes on a lighter note. Looking at the photo, Dani swears she can still hear Gigi’s laugh bubbling in her throat as she gives her a kiss. And remembers the laugh bursting out as Dani playfully bites her jaw after the photo was taken. Gigi looks at the photo, then to Dani and shakes her head, nothing . Dani’s smile fades but nods in understanding.

"I know. I feel… helpless. Having no recollection when clearly a lot has happened to me.” She looks back at the photos and turns around to face Dani, “To us.” 

 

They lock eyes for the first time and it almost feels familiar. Dani still gets so lost in Gigi’s eyes. Always hypnotized by their intensity, torn between looking away and wanting to look deeper. Gigi looks at her the same way she always did— softly and full of love. But it also feels like she’s looking at her for the first time. And maybe Gigi is. And the thought of that makes Dani feel butterflies in her stomach. This feels too much. Dani clears her throat and breaks eye contact. 

“Wine?” Dani asks, making her way to get them both a glass and placing them on the dining table. Gigi nods and follows Dani. “You can ask me more questions if you’re curious about the photos. Or about anything, really.”

“Yes, that would be great.” Dani pours Gigi a glass and then one for herself. They lift both their glasses, then take a sip. The two sit in silence. Dani is watching Gigi trace the stem of her glass with her fingers and she knows that Gigi is trying to find the right words to say.

 

"I feel it,” Gigi starts saying with her eyes never leaving her glass. Dani quietly moves her drink to the side to fully focus on Gigi.

“In my chest. I know in my heart who I am to you. I just,” Gigi quickly touches the scar on her forehead. A nervous habit she developed after her accident and shakes her head in disbelief, “can’t remember the in-betweens and the hows of it. And I want to remember.” Gigi emphasized on the last few words before taking another sip from her glass.

“We can’t force you to remember everything all at once, Gi.”

“But I can see it hurting you.” Dani opens her mouth to say something and Gigi continues before Dani could, “And don't tell me that it’s not. Because even if everything about this,” Gigi motions back to the wall, “is new to me, no accident could make me forget how to read you.” 

"I never really had a great poker face.” Dani says jokingly, trying to lighten the mood.

“No, you have a great poker face. I just knew all your tells.” Dani clenches her jaw at that, that’s two. Maybe this is working. Gigi notices Dani’s reaction and smiles. Gigi fidgets with her glass again. 

“How are you feeling about all of this?” Dani asks after a beat. “Is it too much?”

Gigi tilts her head to think, "I feel less angry now about not remembering but,” Dani waits for her to continue. “we looked really happy and I'm sad I'm missing all of that,” she takes another sip of her wine, “and Julian.” Gigi finishes.

Dani chews on her lip not knowing what to say. She was prepared to answer and talk for hours about their relationship: how they started, their dates, the wedding, the anniversaries, even the fights, but she just didn't think Julian would be brought up this soon.

“You said you’d call him “JJ”, because he’d end up being Julian joon at home.” Dani mentions. She chuckles remembering the night the two of them were giggling over how silly Gigi and JJ sound together. 

“JJ is reserved for us, not for anyone else, Daniela.” A laughing Gigi reasons out and it snaps Dani out of remembering. That's three. Good things come in threes.

Dani shakes her head smiling, “You said that”. They pause for a moment.

"I did. I just remembered that.” Gigi replies with a little surprise in her voice. Dani couldn't hold back the surprise and joy in her eyes. There is a chance. The corner of Gigi's mouth curls up into a smile then it goes away instantly. Her eyebrows furrow, eyes focusing again on her glass, “Not all of it, just bits and pieces from that night. And barely. I lose them as soon as they come back, so I'm not sure if they’re real.”

 

Dani reaches to hold Gigi’s hand but stops short, not wanting to overwhelm her at this moment. She places her hand next to Gigi's, fighting the urge to push their fingers to touch. Gigi looks at their hands.

“You’re wearing your ring.” Gigi states.

"I am.”

“I'm yours?” Gigi looks to Dani, eyes questioning. Dani nods, as she locks eyes with Gigi.

“As you are mine?” Gigi continues. Dani blinks, trying to hold back the tears that are starting to creep in and nods again, afraid her voice would break if she says anything.

“And it’s just you and me?” Gigi lifts her fingers, she’s shaking. She’s almost touching Dani.

“Just us.” Dani whispers. Her whisper sounds so loud in her own ears amplified by her heart that's still racing. Her eyes drop to Gigi’s lifted fingers. Gigi slowly places them back on the table, not touching Dani’s. and Dani slowly lets out a breath. Dani isn’t sure if it was of relief or disappointment, she’s feeling everything too intensely to be able to tell.

“Dani?” she hears Gigi's voice so soft she almost missed it. Dani looks back at her. “Would it be okay if I drop by tomorrow? Maybe you can tell me more… about us?” Dani smiles, “Absolutely.”

They stand up at the same time and Gigi starts walking towards Dani’s door. The walk to the door feels longer, the air heavier, and the silence between them has never been this loud nor this suffocating. Gigi reaches the door and stops to turn to Dani, “Thank you for doing this. I should've asked for you sooner.” And before Dani could say anything, Gigi walks out, closing the door behind her.

Dani locks the door after Gigi, leans her forehead on it, and finally lets herself cry.

 

_

 

Gigi stands on the other side of the door, unable to find the strength to take another step after what just happened inside. A memory. A good one too. Finally, something that can possibly replace the one that keeps waking her in the middle of the night since her injury. Her hand touches her scar again. Sometimes it still feels so raw, she can still remember how it hurts. She moves some of her hair over the scar, covering it up slightly.

Just as she turns to leave, she hears a soft sob. Then silence. Another one. And another one. The pauses in between become shorter until they’re non-existent.

She sits on the floor, her back against the wall next to Dani’s door listening to the woman cry. It feels like something is pushing into her, trying to crack her sternum. She puts a hand on her chest and looks at the door. 

Gigi fiddles with something underneath her shirt, she pulls out her necklace with her ring attached to it. She clutches it tightly in her hand. Hearing Dani cry is hurting her all the same.

Gigi thinks, will returning the next day cause Dani this much pain again? What if she never remembers? Will all this hurt from trying to recall her memories be for nothing? She stays there for a while, thinking, listening, trying to remember. She waits until it’s silent from the other side. She takes a deep breath before getting up and walking back to her room. Tomorrow will be another day. And maybe, tomorrow will bring in another memory.