PERFECT GAME - Chapter 10 on Eat Sleep Write

*This originally posted here.

November 6, 2013
by Adam Scull

Haley came awake slowly.  She breathed in the aroma of coffee and something else...antiseptic?  She stirred where she lay.  Her vision took a moment to come to her and when it cleared, she knew she was on a mattress wrapped in a thin sheet. 
She took stock of things.  Her muscles ached as if she’d run for miles and she felt very weak.  To her left, a tray sat with a glass of water and a few hypodermic needles.  She frowned. A hospital, perhaps a clinic.  Nearby she heard voices whispering. To her right sat an empty chair. Had someone been using it for a daily vigil?  She could think of no one in Africa that would be so concerned for her well-being. 
"Hello?" she asked hoarsely to no one in particular.
        A tall man came to the foot of the bed.  He had a mysterious, but authoritative quality about him and he looked American.  He was attractive in a way, but that was neither here nor there. "Haley!" he exclaimed excitedly.  "My God, you're finally awake. You've been out for days."
        He spoke to her as if they'd been friends for years.  She licked her lips, frowning.  "What happened to me?  Where am I?"
        "You overworked yourself. You’re in a clinic in Marsabit."
        "I don't understand.  I did this after the flight?"
        Fear and pain crossed his features before they were hidden behind a mask of impassivity.  "Abdalla!"
        A native man appeared.  He was dressed in a crimson-colored robe of sorts.  He looked from Haley to the other man.  "What is it?"
        "You said amnesia was out of the question."
        He sighed.  "I said that odds were against the possibility.  There was, however, a small chance of it occurring.  Rift Valley Fever has many symptoms including confusion."
        The American nodded resolutely.  "She doesn't remember what happened...or me, for that matter."
        "I'm sorry, my friend.  But, it may only be temporary.  It could be the shock from what her body had to endure.  I cannot know without running any tests and our resources are scarce."
        "How long?"
        "A day...a week...a month.  There is no way to know.  These things take time."
        She sighed.  "Hello!  I'm still here."
        The American looked her over and gave her a half-smile.  "We're being rude, of course.  I just needed to be sure what was going on."
        She sighed.  "Include me in it next time."      
        "Of course."
        The other man stepped forward.  "Miss Stewart, do you know where you are?"
        "Africa.”  Her mind scrambled for more details.  “Kenya.”  Then she shook her head.  “I know how I got in the country, but everything else is a blank."
        "You mean everything after you arrived?"
        "Daniel tells me he's your guide.  You hired him.  He's been with you for a little over a week.  Does that sound familiar?"
        She glanced at the American uncertainly.  Pain flashed in his eyes again and a strange kind of desolation gripped her.  Had something occurred between them? This man was intelligent and cool, but his emotions were barely concealed.  He was easy to read.  This man felt something for her...what, she did not know.  Perhaps it was only concern.  Yet she felt drawn to him too...he was very attractive.  "No," she answered softly.
        The American turned to his friend.  "Can it be faked?"
        He gave a nervous laugh. "Not easily...and not convincingly. With this temporary amnesia will come confusion and fear and loneliness.  It's important that she is not left alone."
        She cleared her throat.  "Excuse me, gentlemen.  But, I have questions of my own for Mr.....Daniel..."
        He grinned.  "Daniel West."
        "Mr. West."
        "Daniel," he chided.
        She felt a sense of déjà vu, as if they'd had this discussion once before.  "Daniel," she repeated.  "I hired you?"
        He nodded.  "Yes."
        "How much am I paying you to be my guide?"
        Color shifted beneath his dark skin tone.  "Five hundred."
        Her mouth dropped open. "Thousand?”
He shook his head.
Five hundred dollars? “That's all?" she gasped.
        "That's all I require."
        "Oh." She swallowed hard. "Did something happen out there? Was there danger?  Is that why I’m here?"
        Dear God, what had she been involved in?  "They were after us?"
        He shrugged.  "We tried to stop them."
        She shivered; she could well imagine the kind of situation she'd been determined to stop.  And perhaps this man had wanted to be involved as well. "I see. And they've been following us since then?"
        "Yes...but, there was also the fever and the fire-"
        "Fire?" she whispered.
        The native man laid a hand on his friend's shoulder.  "Daniel, let her rest.  This is too much for her."
        He nodded.  "Thank you for helping, Abdalla.”
        He grinned.  "I fear you would have slit my poor throat if I hadn't." Then he turned away.
        "What did he mean by that?"
        He suddenly looked sheepish. "I was concerned about you. You lost consciousness in my arms three days ago."
        She’d fainted in his arms? Was there a significance to those words? "Then, why the amnesia?"
        He shrugged.  "Abdalla thinks it is part of this disease you have."
        She swallowed. "Is that what you think?"
        "Perhaps. But, I wouldn’t blame you for being in shock after everything that happened."
        She nodded. There was also the sense of intuition she felt about them both.  They had a connection and it wasn't only survival-related.  So, what was it? "Were we...did we-" She sighed.  “Were we lovers?”
        He frowned, chuckling. "No. Nothing happened between us, Haley. There's nothing left to stay for."
        Wasn't there? She wasn't sure she believed him.  What if he was only protecting her from the truth? Or perhaps he meant to hide it, to avoid connections. "There's my book..." she managed.
        "There is that, of course. But, nothing else."
        Would she have stayed for the man if she didn't have amnesia?  Haley couldn’t be certain there was absolutely nothing between them. She had such an odd feeling around him. Too weary to analyze it further, she sighed.  "Are we still being pursued?"
        He nodded.  "I believe so."  He sighed.  "I will protect you, Haley.  That's a promise."
        "I don't know you well enough to believe that."
        "You can trust me," he replied softly.
        "Thank you."
        "For being concerned."
        He smiled. "You're hard not to be concerned about."
        Perhaps that was true; her parents had always worried for her.
        “Is this…” she swallowed and managed to finish, “disease serious?”
        He shook his head.  “It’s pretty common around here.  Abdalla is taking care of you with antibiotics and such.” He frowned. “I’m not really sure what he’s giving you, but he can tell you.  You should be fine with some rest.”
        She nodded. “Why am I so sore everywhere?”
        “That’s part of it too.  Abdalla?”
        The man returned. “What can I do for you, friend?”
        “Are you giving her anything for the muscle pain?”
        He nodded and gestured for a nurse to bring a syringe. He prepped it, flicking his finger against the plastic.  Then he inserted it beneath her skin. She was in so much discomfort that she hardly felt the sting.  After he administered the medication, he patted her arm. “Lala salama,” he said and stepped away.
        She frowned.  “What did he say?”
        Daniel smiled gently.  “Sleep well.”
        Relieved, her head fell back on the pillow.  “I’m not sure I can sleep just yet.  Will you stay?”
        He nodded.  “I will.”  He sat down on the chair next to the bed. 
        “Can you tell me again what happened?  Why they are after us?”
        He launched into the story.  His deep, even voice comforted her.  She listened while he spun the tale of the elephant, how Daniel had driven the car as they were shot at.  Later, they had come across the animals in the cages. They had made quick work of their escape.  Then there was the fire, of course. 
        Haley was satisfied that the reason she was in danger was for a good cause.  It eased some of the fear that had grown since he’d informed her. “Tell me about you.  How did you become a guide?”
        “I was raised here.  My mother was from the states, but she was a veterinarian.  And she wanted to make a difference.  So she came here, brought me with her when I was just a boy.”
        “Is she still here?”
        He nodded.  “She is.  Actually, she lives a few miles away.”  He glanced away.  “She’d love you,” he said in a low tone.
        Again, she got the feeling that there was more to her relationship with Daniel West than he let on.  And she would figure it out.  She was determined to.