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Persistence of Memory

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It was 5 o'clock on Thursday night when she arrived, the bell tinkling as she came through the door of Kowalski's Bakery at 443 Rivington Street. Jacob looked up to see her, his heart already pounding, and his pulse racing the way it did every time she showed up. He was never quite sure when she'd be in his store -- other than Fridays when she'd buy a loaf of raisin challah and some pastries to take home for shabbos dinner -- but it was always at 5 pm.

Even after all this time, he didn't know her name, even though he'd memorized her face: all blue-grey eyes and full pink lips and red-gold curls, with a dimple that made him weak in the knees, and the sound of her voice, and the scent of her perfume. Not that he ever did anything about it. This woman gave off the air of a classy dame, and Jacob assumed she wouldn't give a schlub like him the time of day. Well, other than placing her orders for bread and danishes and his grandmother Sadie's babka.

He supposed his bubbe Sadie would have told him to stay away from a girl like her. No doubt his grandmother would have said she was floozy...and worse, a shiksa. "Find a nice Jewish girl, Jakeala," he could hear her say. "This one's nothing but trouble."

Somehow, Jacob didn't think that was the case at all. For a start, only a nice Jewish girl would buy raisin challah every Friday without fail.

He had an intense sense of déjà vu with her, as if he'd know her and spent time with her in the past, but that couldn't possibly be true. The first time he'd laid eyes on her was the day she walked into his bakery several months earlier, but he had the same eerie feeling every time she showed up. Today was no different.

"Hello," the woman said, breaking Jacob out of his thoughts.

"Good evening, Miss. What can I get for you today? The usual?" He found himself grinning despite his nerves.

She pursed her lips, as if in deep thought, then replied, "Well, what have you got that's good for Hanukkah?"

"Hanukkah?"

"Yeah, it's next Monday, and I wanted to serve something nice for dessert."

"Well, it's a few days early, but I was planning on having ponchiks for sale on Monday afternoon. They'd be stale if I had them any earlier."

"Ponchiks?"

"Yeah, sorry -- that's the polish name for them. You know, jelly donuts. My mother's recipe from the old country."

"Oh, those would be real nice." She flashed him a smile which made him sure he was melting.

"I'll make sure to have a batch nice and fresh for you at 5 o'clock, Miss--"

Her breath hitched, and she gave him a funny look as if she were contemplating something important before saying, "Goldstein. Queenie Goldstein."

"Pleasure to meet you, Miss Goldstein," he replied, grabbing her hand and shaking it enthusiastically. "I'm Jacob Kowalski."

Queenie laughed. "Yeah, I know."

"Oh, oh, of course you do. It's my bakery, isn't it?" He let out a nervous laugh.

"Yes." She paused for a moment, deep in thought again, then continued. "Would you like to come to dinner on Monday? It's just my sister and me, so it'd be nice to have some other company for the holiday. I could make a nice brisket and some latkes..."

"I'd love to!" Jacob blurted.

"I live at 679 West 24th, second floor. I'll have to meet you downstairs so we can sneak you up. Mrs. Esposito, my land lady, doesn't allow us to have male guests in the house, but..." Queen giggled before lowering her voice to a conspiratorial tone, "well, rules were made to be broken, right?"

"I don't want to get you into any trouble, Miss Goldstein."

"You won't. You can deliver those jelly donuts in person." She winked at him. "And please, call me Queenie."

"What time would you like me there, Miss...er, Queenie?"

"Seven o'clock would be just fabulous."

"Seven o'clock it is."

*

On Monday, Jacob took a cab uptown to 679 West 24th Street, carrying a brown paper bag containing a baker's dozen of freshly made donuts carefully wrapped in wax paper. He was normally very careful with his money -- even with the silver egg shells from his mysterious benefactor and a successful bakery, he remained frugal. However, it was of the utmost importance that he get the donuts to Miss Goldstein's unscathed. The subway would be far too crowded at this hour and so would any bus. There were far too many ways his precious ponchiks might be folded, spindled or mutilated, and he would not, could not let that happen.

Queenie greeted him outside the brownstone, looking radiant. Jacob held the bag of donuts up for her inspect.

Her smile broadened. "Smells wonderful." She glanced around the street, then pulled out a thin black wand with a mother-of-pearl handle in the shape of a snail.

"Hey, what's that?"

"I'll explain in a little while," she said softly, then tapped him on the shoulder with it. "There, you should be safe now. Just don't say anything until we get upstairs. We don't want Mrs. Esposito catching on to us."

Jacob didn't know what she was talking about, but decided to indulge her for the moment. He had never thought Queenie was the crazy type before, so maybe this was just a slight eccentricity of hers. He decided he could live with that.

Quietly they crept up the stairs to the second-floor apartment. Once Queenie got the door closed behind them, she tapped him again with the wand. "Okay, we should be fine now."

"What was that all about?" Jacob took a deep breath, taking in the aroma of cooking meat, onions, and garlic wafting in from the kitchen. His mouth began to water. He could hear the rattling of pots and utensils as well.

Queenie said something that sounded like "a minor Disillusionment charm" to Jacob, which didn't make any sense at all. She gave him a sheepish look, then added, "Never mind, honey."

"Where should would you like me to put these?" Jacob held up the bag of donuts.

"I'll take them into the kitchen." Queenie took them from him, inhaled the scent of the fresh baked pastries, and smiled. "Mmmm, smells great."

"Is that your sister making dinner?"

She shook her head. "She was called into work tonight to work on a case so it's just us. I hope you don't mind."

"Case? What does your sister do?"

"She's uh--" Queenie suddenly couldn't meet his eyes. "She works with the police."

"Secretary?"

"Yeah, something like that. It's just the two of us here, tonight. Nice and cozy." She beamed at him.

Looking around the apartment, he realized it was oddly familiar, as if he'd spent time here before, but that wasn't possible. There were photos on the wall of a dark-haired woman who Jacob instinctively knew was Queenie's sister, and a red-haired man who Jacob thought he should to recognize as well. "Huh."

Queenie's brow furrowed and she looked at him intently. "You're thinking you've been up here before, aren't you?"

Jacob glanced over at her, startled. "Yeah, I am actually." He let out a nervous chuckle. "Can you read minds or something?"

Queenie laughed and shook her head. "Read minds? Ha. That'd really be somethin', now wouldn't it?"

He laughed too. "I couldn't have been here before though. We didn't know anybody who lived uptown...but I know I've been in this apartment and..."

"And?"

"Have we met before?"

"Well, sure, honey. I've been to your bakery about a hundred times now--"

"No, I mean...before that. I swear we've been together before this." Jacob looked down at his shoes in embarrassment. "You must think I'm crazy or something. I hope I'm not scaring you."

"No, honey. Not at all." There was something unreadable about her expression, but she turned away from him and headed toward the kitchen. "I'd better check on the food. I don't want anything to burn. Make yourself at home."

Jacob nodded, taking a cursory look around the living room while she busied herself in the kitchen. The eerie feeling that he'd been in these rooms before grew stronger, something that he couldn't shake, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. It was like the weird dreams he sometimes had featuring strange adventures and even stranger creatures, creatures that he would then try to recreate with his baking skills.

The only thing that seemed new about the room was the Hanukkah menorah which sat, devoid of candles, on a cabinet.

"Jacob honey, are you okay?" Queenie's voice was soft as she came back from the kitchen.

Jacob turned to face her, not wanting to worry her. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine."

In one hand she held a lit candle, the shamash or helper used to light the menorah. In the other she had her wand again. "We'll eat as soon as I light the candles, okay?"

"Yeah. Please, I'm starving and it smells really great."

He turned back to face the menorah which now held a small blue taper. He blinked in surprise; there was no way he'd missed it being there before, but a candle couldn't come out of nowhere, could it?

Calmly, Queenie approached the menorah, touched the tip of the shamash to the candle, and then intoned "Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah."* Jacob mouthed the words along with her as she said the prayer. The night's candle flared, then burned true, creating a warm glow in the room.

"There," said Queenie, placing the shamash in the center of the menorah. "Now we can eat." She cocked her head, studying him carefully.

"What?" asked Jacob, confused.

Without a word, Queenie reached up and placed both hands on his temples, her fingers warm and soft as she touched him. Jacob felt his body respond, and he shifted in embarrassment. Queenie let out a soft laugh. "Close your eyes and relax."

"What are you--?" He felt a tiny bit of pressure inside of his head, like something was trying to escape. There was a brief flash behind his eyelids -- for a second, he thought it was the candles -- followed by a slow realization, like a curtain rising in his head, that his memories were returning. It all came flooding back: Newt, Tina, MACUSA, Graves, the Niffler, the Occamy, all the fantastic beasts living inside of Newt's magic briefcase...and the Thunderbird. "Oh, God, Queenie--I remember you! I remember everything!"

Queenie let out a squeal, then threw her arms around him. "Honey, that's wonderful!"

Jacob pulled her closer to him, and emboldened by the remembrance of her kiss goodbye in the rain as his memories began to recede, crushed her mouth with his. Queenie yielded immediately, kissing him back with equal passion.

It seemed like an eternity before they broke it off, both panting heavily.

Queenie looked at Jacob with half-lidded eyes, the corner of her mouth curling into a fetching smirk. "Would you mind if we put off dinner for just a little while, honey?"

"Why, what did you--?" Jacob started, then blushed. "Oh. Oh."

She ran a finger lightly down his front, from his collar down to his groin, making Jacob groan. "Uh huh."

"Are you sure you want to...?" He wasn't sure what words to use, and making hand gestures seemed the height of rudeness, but Queenie just grinned, and belatedly he remembered she really did know how to read minds. His blush deepened immediately.

"It's 1927, Jacob, and I'm a thoroughly modern girl."

"But what about," his voice dropped to nearly a whisper, "protection?" That wasn't a subject he'd ever broached with a woman before, least of all a classy girl like Queen Goldstein. "I don't want to--"

She pressed her index finger against his lips, cutting him off. "I'm a witch, honey. We have ways to take care of that."

That elicited a sigh of relief from him. He had been with women before, in France during his stint with the American Expeditionary Forces during the World War, but this was very different.

Slipping her hand in his, Queenie led Jacob to her bedroom, closing the door behind them. "Tina is working on a case, so she'll probably be out all night. We've got plenty of time."

Silently, he nodded, then pulled her in for another searing kiss.

They made short work of removing one another's clothing, garments thrown hastily onto a heap on the floor. Queenie was as beautiful naked as she was dressed, reminding Jacob of a classical painting of a nymph he'd seen once at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, her skin soft and luminous in the soft light of the bedside lamp. Compared to her, he felt awkward and doughy.

No sooner had the thought crossed his mind than Queenie shook her head, her eyes meeting his. "I think you're absolutely adorable," she murmured, then kissed him in reassurance.

They tumbled onto her bed, the springs squeaking beneath their combined weight. Jacob took his time exploring Queenie's body, determined to kiss each and every delectable inch of her. He started at her lips, then over her chin and down her throat to her collarbone. He cupped her breasts, caressing them softly before lowering his head down, drawing one nipple into his mouth and sucking gently. He was pleased to hear her breath hitch and feel her wriggling against him.

Queenie sighed in contentment, arching her back, her fingers buried in his hair. Jacob ranged his kisses lower, down the line of her stomach until he reached the juncture between her legs. He nipped and licked at the soft white flesh of her thighs before gently parting them, exposing her slick lips and the hard, swollen nub beneath. He pressed his thumb against her clit, encircling it in slow, steady arcs.

She moaned in approval, urging him on. Jacob buried his nose in the line of reddish curls of her mons, his lips grazing the bare skin to either side before working his way down again. Queenie was warm and wet, the musky scent of her making Jacob's head reel. His groin was throbbing painfully, but right now, all he wanted was to please her.

Queenie's fingers wound deeper into Jacob's hair, tugging slightly. He flicked the tip of his tongue against the bud of her clit, savoring her taste. She shifted, and moaned again, and Jacob began to lap at her in earnest. He slid a finger inside her, experimentally, then two, feeling her clench around him. Sucking on her clit elicited a loud gasp followed by a ragged moan, her hips beginning to rock up.

Jacob thrust his fingers in, the out again, being careful not to hurt her. He also was doing his best to match the pace with the fluttering of his tongue. Concentrating on keeping up the same rhythm was a welcome distraction from his own needs which were growing more urgent. Queenie wriggled and ground against his face, her thighs squeezing him tight.

"Oh, honey.... oh...oh!" Queenie began to quake beneath him, and then suddenly she was coming in violent shudders, writhing and mewling with great abandon. Jacob could only hope Mrs. Esposito wasn't home to hear her. Finally, Queenie slowed, then stilled. Gasping for breath, she looked up at him, a blissful smile playing on her lips. "Wow, you're good."

Jacob raised his head, grinning bashfully. "Glad to hear it."

"Now, how about you?" Queenie wiggled herself up to a seated position, then slid out from under him. "Come up here, honey." She patted the mattress next to her, shooting him a coquettish look.

He didn't need to be told a second time, crawling up the length of the mattress in a shot to meet her. She leaned over and kissed him full on the mouth before easing him back onto the bed. Jacob's heart began to pound as Queenie pushed him flat against the sheets, then threw one leg over to straddle him, her knees pressing into his hips. His cock was already fully erect, aching like it had never ached before.

"You just lie back and enjoy yourself," Queenie told him.

Jacob was not about to argue.

Queenie wrapped her hands around his cock, her thumb sliding across the swollen head. She raised herself up just enough to guide him inside of her, then eased herself down again with another breathy moan.

Jacob grasped her firmly, and pushed upwards. Queenie tightened around him, raising and lowering herself slowly. His response was to thrust up hard, pelvis grinding into hers, fingers now digging into her hips. His breathing grew ragged as he clamped his mouth on hers, groaning against her lips. She picked up the pace, riding him urgently, the need for release building as they moved together in a frantic rhythm.

And then suddenly he lost all control, crying out as he came. He held her fast against him, his body wracked with tremors as he spilled into her, hot and deep. Wave after intense wave of release washed over him, until he finally collapsed back on the pillows. He pulled Queenie down to him and peppered her face with kisses.

"I love you too," she said softly.

"What?"

"I can read minds, remember? So, I love you too." Queenie planted a lingering kiss on his mouth. "I'm just glad you remember me now."

"Me too. I thought I was going crazy. I can't tell you how relieved to know I'm not completely kookoo."

"I kept hoping your obliviation wasn't permanent. It's why I kept coming to the bakery every couple of days. Just to see how you were doing." She tousled his hair affectionately. "I didn't want anything to happen to you."

"I guess it's a miracle of Hanukkah that I got my memories back." He kissed her lightly. "Hey, is my remembering going to cause trouble with your people? That MACUSA bunch. They seemed pretty hard-nosed about everything, and I don't really want them coming after me if I can help it," said Jacob.

"We'll talk to Tina when she comes home and see what she thinks. We're not supposed to interact with you No-Majs under any circumstances, but," Queenie looked thoughtful, "I'm not going to let them take you away from me again."

"No," said Jacob resolutely, "I'm not going to let them either."

"We'll talk to my sister. She'll know what to do. I don't want to deal with all that now."

Jacob's stomach growled, and he grinned. "Me neither. Besides, I'm starving, and you did promise me a nice dinner."

"Yeah, I did." Queenie laughed. "And you made me jelly donuts and everything." She curled up against him, her head resting on his shoulder. "I could get up and heat up the food or..."

"Or?"

"We could stay here and work up more of an appetite first. Let's see if maybe you can last for eight nights."

He stared at her for a moment, taken aback by the bawdy comment, then laughed. "I guess we could." Jacob tightened his arm around her, and pulled her close. The food could wait. It really was a miracle that he was back with his girl again, and he wasn't about to waste it.

* Blessed art thou, Lord, our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to light the Hanukkah lights.