"Excuse me? But just who are you?"
Phryne's words shocked most of the people in the room. For a moment, the room was silent, the kind of silence that made it possible to hear hearts beating rapidly. A roaring silence. Deafening.
Jack felt dizzy for a moment; he heard his heartbeat thundering in his ears. She didn't know who he was? He shifted his stance to keep his knees from buckling because he was so astounded.
Suddenly everyone in the room started to speak at once.
"Phryne dear, this is Jack, your fiancé," Aunt P spoke up, her voice rife with confusion.
Jack saw Phryne glance down at her hand and the look of stunned fascination showed clearly on her face.
"Miss, this is Jack!" Dorothy said as well.
"Phryne! Of course you know him. For heaven's sake, he's been one of your main topics of conversation for the past two years." Mac's words were blunt, to say the least, mostly in the hope to stir her memories. The idea that she didn't remember Jack was almost beyond comprehension. What about the rest of them?
What about the rest of them? Oh God, what if she didn't remember any of them?
Amnesia? It was almost unthinkable.
The only person in the room who didn't immediately speak, who didn't even look altogether shocked was Dr. Harrison. He moved to Phryne's bedside and quickly began to examine her.
"I need everyone to leave the room while I examine Miss Fisher," he said over his shoulder. For a few seconds they all seemed rooted to their spots, reluctant to move. "Please?" He needed to determine just how severe her amnesia was and that could be uncomfortable for her family to hear. It wasn't uncommon after such critical head trauma for temporary amnesia to occur. Assuming this was only temporary.
Finally Jack, Aunt P and Dorothy filed through the door, all feeling crestfallen at this new turn of events.
How on earth was this possible they wondered?
"Doctor, you are emotionally connected with this patient. Are you sure you should be here with her at this time? It could prove difficult for you."
"Difficult for me? What about Phryne? That would seem to be the problem, not me. Yes, I will stay!" Mac retorted, managing to sound defensive and vulnerable at the same time.
Dr. Harrison turned his attention to Miss Fisher, pulling up a chair beside her bed and flipping to a new page on her chart.
Phryne had been quiet for the past few minutes. Mac was disturbed by this fact; Phryne was never quiet about anything. Ever!
Dr. Harrison asked, "Do you know your name?"
"Um, Miss Fisher?"
The question had been rather pointless but he pressed on. "Do you know it because you remember it or because you've heard us calling you by that name?"
"I - well, I heard you say so."
"But you didn't know it until someone said it?"
"Yes, of course I know my own name!" she exclaimed but the unsure look she wore on her face told a different tale.
"Where do you live, Miss Fisher?"
"Here, in this city?"
"Which city would that be?"
A terrified look passed over her face and she started crying as it all began to become clear to her. She didn't know where she was. Australia? England? Surely not France, the accents weren't right.
The red-haired woman seemed…almost …seemed familiar. Who was she, besides another doctor?
"Where am I? Please tell me," she asked, almost choking on the words.
Aunt P felt slightly faint and leaned a bit more on Jack as they walked to the waiting lounge. She sank down gratefully into the chair that in ordinary circumstances would be deemed abominable.
Dot noticed that she looked slightly pale and rushed to see if she could find a cup of tea for the elder woman. As she walked down the hall, Bert, Cec and Mr. Butler arrived with a basket, which hopefully had some tea in it and maybe some biscuits.
Yes, it contained those items and much more. When Dorothy hadn't returned home earlier as was normal Mr. B rallied the troops, aka, Bert and Cec to head down to the hospital to find out what was going on.
Mr. Butler, always known to have some strange sense about what was required even before the request was made had let his intuition guide him in the case and was grateful that the lads had jumped to, immediately showing up to get him and an over-stuffed basket of food to the hospital.
All three men were stymied by the news, as shocked and afraid for Miss Fisher as the other three.
No one was particularly hungry and even though Jacks favorite sandwich was included he didn't dare to eat right now. His stomach was as nervous as if a swarm of bees had taken up residence in it.
Aunt P and Dorothy accepted cups of tea and sipped the delicious brew cautiously. Mr. B made about the best cuppa of anyone they knew but there was too much worry in the room to be able to enjoy it.
"So the doctors are examining her now?" Mr. B ventured.
Jack nodded glumly. "We really don't know anything yet," he said and it was hard to not notice the despair in his voice.
At this point he wasn't really worried that she hadn't remembered him. What he was concerned about was how the amnesia might affect her; the idea of not remembering anything was a terribly scary prospect for a human being who so cherished past memories, for anyone, but especially Phryne.
He couldn't stop the worry that perhaps she remembered everyone except him. What if she truly didn't love him? Didn't want to wear his ring?
How would that change things?
"We are in Melbourne, Miss Fisher. Does that sound familiar to you at all?"
Phryne's brow wrinkled for a moment as she tried to place something here. A child, maybe? A little blond girl? For a moment it almost became clear and in a second the memory vanished, leaving her feeling even more lost.
She shook her head and tears sprung to her eyes again. "For a moment, there was a young girl, a blond haired girl. She might have been wearing blue ribbons." She snuffled as more tears stung her eyes. "My goodness, do I always cry so much? Do I have a…a…" she left off, not being able to think of the right word.
Mac knew exactly what she wanted and found a clean handkerchief in her pocket. "It's clean," she said with a smile and a nod.
Phryne looked at it for a moment and accepted it with a murmur of thanks.
Mac spoke up and said, "That small girl was most likely Janey, your younger sister. She died when she was very young."
"That’s not important now, but it was very hard on your family. I'll tell you about it at another time."
Phryne nodded numbly, not sure what to think. She had to force herself to focus on Dr. Harrison when he spoke again.
"Miss Fisher, let's start with what happened to you, what brought you to the hospital. Do you remember any of that?"
"I, um, no, I don't think so. What happened to me?"
Dr. Harrison nodded to Mac who told the story. "We had just had a family celebration. You were there as was Jack, myself, Dorothy and Hugh, Mr. Butler, Bert, Cec and Alice."
"What were we celebrating?"
"Basically the last case you and Jack worked on. And also, Cec and Alice announced she was pregnant."
"Case? What do you mean?"
"Jack is a Detective Inspector with the City Police. You solve mysteries and you often work with him. This was a case where young girls were abducted and sold into white slavery. You found them on a ship that was getting ready to leave port and you, Jack and Hugh managed to release the girls and get the bad guys!" Mac told her, smiling at Dr. Harrison's expression as he heard the tale.
"What the bloody hell was I doing something like that for?" The words were just one tiny decibel below a scream and both Mac and Dr. Harrison winced.
"Because it's what you love to do; that and drive poor Jack to distraction, I might add."
Phryne was clearly puzzled by the red-haired woman's words. "So you were there, at dinner? Are we…friends?" she ventured.
"Yes, for many years, since the war in fact. We were in the ambulance service, in France."
War? France? Yes, she vaguely remembered a war, but it still was a huge mystery. "Um, so what happened after the dinner?"
"We all agreed to meet back at your house for drinks. I believe you and Jack arrived first. Apparently when you arrived and got out of the automobile someone started shooting at you. Jack was hit in the arm and you were shot in the head. When you fell you hit your head on the curb. If I'm correct, I believe that Dr. Harrison thinks that might be what is causing your amnesia."
Phryne watched as the man, whose name was Dr. Harrison nodded in agreement. "What is your name?" she asked the red-headed doctor who was evidently her friend, from the war? It seemed only a surreal memory, more like something she'd read about rather been a part of.
So many questions filled her head, like how old she was, who her family was. She owned a house? Her life was all gone, every last detail. How could that be? She seemed to remember basic things, just not any personal memories. Was that possible?
"My name is Elizabeth Macmillan but you always call me Mac." Mac took her hand for a moment and was surprised when Phryne immediately pulled it away and tucked it down firmly by her side.
The name didn't sound familiar at all, no matter how hard she tried to remember. A new question came to mind, "Where was I shot?"
"In your head Miss Fisher; your temporal lobe to be precise. We successfully removed the bullet. It's the wound on the other side that is causing your memory problem, as Dr. Macmillan suggested. Now, let's get back to a few more questions. For instance, let's see what general memories you have. Can you name the alphabet?"
Phryne thought about it for a moment and then recited them all without missing a single one. "Is that good?" she asked and for the first time a small smile lit up her face. She remembered something!
"Can you count to 20?"
Again she managed to get them all correct and felt a bit more confidant. She knew there were 4 seasons and that Australia was in the southern hemisphere and that England was in the north. She named many countries successfully but when she was asked which ones she had visited she drew a blank.
"Who are my parents? Are they here?"
The corners of Mac's mouth tweaked up as she tried to control a wide smile. Phryne may not realize it now but in normal circumstances she was positively thrilled that they weren't in Australia.
"No, Phryne, they are actually in England. Your father inherited a Baronetcy during the war. You are actually referred to as 'The Honorable Miss Fisher'. What do you remember about British rank and titles?" she asked, suddenly curious about this subject. Mac cared little for Phryne's title but this again shocked Dr. Harrison who hadn't realized he had been treating a member of the nobility.
Again this subject came easily to her, except the part about her father.
Dr. Harrison made a few more notes on the chart, considering what he believed the issue to be. Miss Fisher seemed to have some sense of memories far in her past, although they were blurry at best. She seemed to remember nothing of her own personal life, so any memories that she did have would be colored by that. The good news was that she remembered most of the learned memories, which made him hopeful that she would eventually recover her memory. It was possible that she would never remember the trauma when she was shot, but otherwise he was sure that she'd be okay, eventually.
"Miss Fisher, considering everything we have discussed and learned; I think it very likely that you have a type of amnesia caused by traumatic events." He went on to explain his reasoning and Phryne listened quietly, trying to process it all.
"So you believe I will regain my memories?" she questioned, almost afraid to hope.
"Yes, I do. You may not ever remember the traumatic event, but the rest of your life, I do feel hopeful about. Think of it as the event sort of blocking the pathway for your other memory."
"I don't know for sure. It could be an hour, a week or a month or more. Most people seem to recover within a few weeks, although some almost immediately."
Phryne lay back on the bed, feeling terribly discouraged. It was like there was a large black cloud shrouding her memory and she didn't like it one damn bit!
To be continued…