Sunday, 14th February, 2021. Lincoln, NE
Valentine’s Day. How could having a day using a body organ as a symbol possibly be romantic? Maybe, St. Patrick’s Day should have a liver instead of a leprechaun for all of the drinking that does damage to said liver. Olivia smirked at her snarky thought regarding the year's most romantic holiday. As she made her way in and out of morning rush-hour traffic, she thought she could make Valentine's Day just another day on the calendar.
No such luck. It was her birthday. She was twenty-nine and feeling fine.
Liar. She was bored. She felt part of herself was missing, leaving her with a hollow, incomplete feeling. The problem was that she didn't know why.
In the freezing February slush of ice and rain, she found an empty parking spot in the Fenwick Library parking lot. Pulling her coat collar closer and grabbing her black and bright polka-dotted umbrella, she stepped out of her car and into the pouring rain. Tucking her favorite red scarf around her neck, she suddenly felt warmer.
Her roommate, Rue, had given it to her as a birthday present a week early, yet, she was attached to it almost to the point of obsession. Olivia made it a point to loop it a specific way, tying it exactly as Sherlock Holmes did on the BBC television series. It soothed that empty spot in her heart that she didn't know why she had.
That scarf seemed alive to her, sometimes, snuggling itself around her like a protective mantle of yarn armor. She knew it was a silly anthropomorphization of an inanimate object. but strangely, she found great comfort whenever she wore it. On several nights, she had cried herself to sleep without knowing why, but holding that scarf made the unexplained anguish almost bearable.
Olivia felt the cold icy sludge pelt her face, realizing she hadn't yet opened her umbrella. The scarf was against her cheeks, wiping away the icy mix when she reached for it. She ran her gloved fingers along the large knitted pattern.
Her day was another ordinary day. No one at the Library knew it was her birthday and she preferred it that way. Throughout the day, she helped patrons check in and out their library materials, told some noisy teenagers to straighten up or leave the library, and set up the new non-fiction display for the Library. One book caught her attention and her eyes widened at what she read on the front cover.
"Doctor Who: More Than a Myth."
Olivia flipped the book over, reading the blurb on the back. "Does the Doctor truly exist or is he just a creature of myth? This book offers evidence that the Sainted Physician exists and intervenes in our lives, sometimes to save us and sometimes to bring destruction. Find out more about the lonely god of time and space who inspired the science fiction phenomena known as Doctor Who."
Olivia chuckled while scoffing at the blurb. Doctor Who was a television show created in the 1960s by BBC producer, Sydney Newman. Whoever had written the book had drunk too much or drank some imaginary hypervodka. She put it on the non-fiction display next to the new book, "The Whovian Encyclopedia."
As the day wore on, her mind kept going back to the book that she had dismissed with disdain. As a Whovian herself, she knew there were those in the fandom who were rabid about their favorite Doctor, whether Rose was the best or worst companion or if classic or new Who was better. She had just submitted her first script to the BBC to review under the pseudonym, Oz Noble, hoping they'd accept it and make it into an episode.
When the last patron left the library at 7:55, Olivia finished the closing routine she did almost every night. With Fenwick Library being only a few minutes from her house, she knew she'd be home by 8:30. As she turned out the lights and went to lock the front door, she thought once more about the blue paperback that had been nagged at her all day, screaming at her, "Hey, pick me up!".
She went over to the non-fiction display, noticing no one had touched it. She thought that odd given it was on the New York Times Bestseller List. Picking it up, she read the author's name: Christopher Noble. Turning to the back inside cover, she saw a photograph of him with short-cropped hair, high forehead, piercing blue eyes and the feature of a Roman emperor. He wore round frameless spectacles that she found charmingly old-fashioned.
What astounded her was that he was a doppelganger for the actor who had played the Ninth Doctor, but was only in mid-thirties while said the actor was fast approaching sixty. His biography read that he was a leading pioneer in the field of temporal mechanics with Ph.Ds in Astrophysics and Quantum Physics from Cambridge and Harvard.
He was handsome as hell and it said he taught at The ASTRID Project-Lincoln. She also worked with a new librarian named Nora Noble who was English. Olivia wondered if there was any connection. "Just because two people are from the same country doesn't mean they know each other."
"Great, I'm talking to myself," she scoffed. Going over to the main desk she checked out the paperback and the audio version of it when she saw it was read by Dr. Noble.
She arrived home at 8:30 and performed her usual routine. Olivia fed Bonnie her brown tabby and her Dachshund, Clyde. Partners in crime, he bayed while she meowed incessantly. The distinct thoughts of "feed me now" came off them in waves. She had stopped at the supermarket on the way home and left with some festive cupcake in honor of her birthday.
Then, she heard the thunder roll and the lightning crack right after that. The cupcakes went flying, the lights went out and Olivia screamed.
"Oh, lovely," she mused, looking out her front door. She saw her entire block was cloaked in darkness. "Power outage. Welcome to my birthday."
She realized that her day had turned upside down and pear-shaped. Alone in the dark on her 29th birthday with only Bonnie and Clyde for company, she refused to let herself fall into a sour funk. Lighting some large three-wick scented candles, she started reading the paperback that she had checked out from the Library.
Her housemate, Rue, had gone somewhere for the weekend, leaving her alone. She was lonely and a little sad because she missed her flamboyant, eccentric roommate. After a few minutes, Olivia lit the fireplace, warmed some water in it on a cooking grill and made herself a hot cuppa of Earl Grey Tea. As far as she knew, tea wouldn't harm the baby.
How in the world was she going to tell her family that she was three months pregnant, but didn't remember doing the deed to get that way? Olivia's memory was a blank from Halloween night to New Year's Eve, not a sliver of memory filled that two month period. Her neighbor, Rita, told her that she'd met Rue at the Library, had hit it off and when Rue needed a place to live, had offered her a room in exchange for sharing expenses.
She'd been to a neurologist at St. Gertrude's Hospital of the Sainted Physician who had diagnosed her with Disassociative Amnesia. She thought it rather odd that an Episcopal nun was also a neurologist. She had told the good doctor that she'd never had brain surgery, but she did have Synesthesia. The doctor gently revealed to her that she'd had brain surgery by guiding Olivia's fingers to the small scar at the base at the back of her neck where just below that indentation at the back of her skull. Olivia didn't remember ever having surgery.
Then, she had received a call two days later from Dr. Kyle with the results of her bloodwork. When Olivia had returned to her office, she and Dr. Kyle had a surreal conversation.
“Olivia,” Dr. Kyle had approached her with feline grace, fascinated by the neurologist’s movements when she entered the room. She was dressed in the gold and brown colors of her order and wore gloves, unique to the Sisters of the Sainted Physician. “I’m glad we could meet today.”
“Hopefully, you have some answers for me,” Olivia sighed. “So what is it, Doctor? What's wrong? “
Dr. Kyle sat in a chair beside her, giving a gentle nod and motioning Olivia to sit. She carried an electronic tablet in her gloved hands.
“So, what is it?” Olivia asked. “Brain tumor, cancer, head trauma, too much television?”
“Still cheeky, I see.” Dr. Kyle nodded. “Always one to give a glib quip in the face of adversity.”
“Sorry?” Olivia turned to look at the other woman. “Come again?”
“You may not remember, Olivia, but I saw you several months ago for your Synesthesia,” Dr. Kyle coughed. “I’ve seen you before as a patient.”
“You have? When?” Olivia’s jaw hung slack.
“Shortly after Halloween,” the doctor explained. “You experienced a Chiari Malformation due to a traumatic brain injury.”
“And what is that?”
“Your brain decided to drop through the hole in your skull into your spinal column,” Dr. Kyle explained. “Due to the swelling of your brain, you had emergency surgery to relieve the pressure of your cranium against sensitive tissue.”
“So, traumatic brain injury, my brains falling out of my skull and you cut a hole in it to relieve the pressure,” Olivia listed everything she counted each point on her fingers. “Lovely. Let me guess, I tripped over my shoelaces, right? Mother Rita said I turn klutziness into an Olympic sport.”
“No,” Dr. Kyle gave her a small smile.
“Are you sure you know who you’re talking to?” Olivia scoffed, snorting softly. “Not exactly known for my acrobatic feats and graceful maneuvering, Doc. I trip on air."
Dr. Kyle's subtle London accent had a calming effect on Olivia, mesmerizing her. “You’re from London, South London, by the accent, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” Dr. Kyle paused, her green eyes wide. “Very astute.”
“Why do I keep thinking you’re from Savannah?” Olivia asked, the nagging intuition of a memory just-out-of reach that seemed buried and buried again.
“I’m just amazed that you remember our conversation about where I’m from,” the doctor rose from her chair, quickly turning away to grab an x-ray and post it the lit panel behind her. “I'm from Savannah, just a few kilometers northwest of London. I practiced there before taking my vows. Maybe, your memories are starting to return.”
Why did the doctor act that day like she was a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs? Olivia mused at the abrupt change in the neurologist's behavior.
“After reviewing all of the test results accumulated over the past week, I know there’s nothing physically wrong with you. There are no complications resulting from your surgery. Your brain has completely healed.”
“Then why is there another lobe at the base of my skull?” Olivia pointed to the small lump above her spine on the x-ray. “Do I have an extra brain?”
“No,” Dr. Kyle laughed, coughing again. “You’re in excellent health.”
“Then, what’s wrong with me?” Olivia willed herself to keep her voice neutral and not to ball her fists in frustration. “Why can’t I remember those missing two months?”
“From what you’ve shared with staff this week, I’ve concluded your amnesia comes from multiple environmental factors: stress, psychological trauma. We've already had that discussion. Today, you're here because I wanted to share with you about what we found in your bloodwork."
“And that’s good, how?” Olivia motioned for the doctor to elaborate.
“I think it’ll be good for you in your recovery. It has to do with what showed up."
"Don't keep me in suspense, just give me the diagnosis?” Olivia eyed the doctor. “Do I have a disease? Leukemia? Am I the victim of alien abduction?”
The doctor stared at her, blinking several times in silence, then answered. “You always catch me off-guard with your deadpan humor, Olivia. No, none of those, unless you’ve spoken to some Martians lately.”
“That’s what I wanted to see,” Dr. Kyle grinned back. “Humor is a great diffuser of stress. This isn’t anything bad. It’s something that will change your life depending on how you wish to move forward. In your blood tests, there were high levels of hCG.”
“hCG?” Olivia asked, cocking her head. “What’s hCG?”
“Human Chorionic Gonadotropin,” Dr. Kyle explained. “It’s a hormone that shows in specific testing. Your blood test results show high levels of it. Olivia, congratulations. You’re pregnant.”
“I’m what?” The exam room turned sideways and everything turned white.
What Olivia didn't hear or see was Dr. Kyle talking to the receptionist, a red-headed woman sitting behind the front desk in the reception area. "Donna, please call the Doctor and tell him that Olivia only fainted this time."