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Telling Donna that I have memories that don't coincide with
her perfect image of the two of us doesn't make me feel any better about
upsetting her again. Not that I thought it would exactly. Lying to her isn't
helping either one of us though and I know I can't keep up the pretence any
longer. I have seen the wedding photos, listened to her while she told me about
the places we have lived, the vacations we have taken together and while I can
admit that yes, I remember them, it's not my life, or at least the one I left
behind when I stepped into the accelerator chamber for the first time. I don't know her and haven't for many
years. Irrespective of the ready supply
of evidence, we were never the happy couple she has described to me.
Verbena's voice rises steadily above the sound of Donna's
sobbing and I hang my head as she tries to comfort her; still turning the
bottle in my hands. I feel like I should do something, make more tea or maybe
just get up and leave, but I am pretty sure that walking out wouldn't be viewed
Relations between Donna and I have been strained almost from
the beginning and I know I haven't made much of an effort to change that. I had
been too confused and hurt by Al's reaction to me when she had first appeared
at my side to feign interest in her, even though I knew instinctively that's
what was expected of me. I know now that before I leaped home I changed
history, my history and for the last three days I've been trying to work out
why after so many years of setting right what once went wrong for others I have
been returned to a life that I can no longer identify with and I don't
There had been a time when being married to Donna was what I
thought I wanted, but that had all changed when she left me waiting at the alter
for her, humiliating me in front of our friends and family. Everything changed
after that. The way I saw myself; my dreams for the future - everything. It was
Al who saved me from myself. I remember he literally picked me up after Donna
left, took me back to his place and helped me rebuild my life one piece at a
time. I fell in love with him, and tucked away in the far recesses of my
consciousness; buried deep now beneath the new memories that have formed since
my return, I know he loved me too.
Just thinking about the life that I once shared with Al is
enough to make my chest constrict painfully and my eyes water, my breath
catching almost as an afterthought, making it hard to breathe. The feelings
stirring inside of me are hard to contain and I struggle to conceal the affect
they are having on me. I close my eyes, keeping my head down as my shoulders
roll further forward and my body shudders.
I've been trying to reconcile seeing Donna again with my
feelings for Al for days now, but nothing seems to help. I stop turning the
bottle and hold it firmly with both hands; breathing through the emotions still
coiling inside of me. Things are different now and I have to keep reminding
myself that they are. Knowing something doesn't make it easier though.
It's still hard to believe but Al is married to Beth now and
they have children, or to comprehend that I have a daughter of my own. I
scarcely remember her and yet I recall her mother and the time we spent
It's all such a mess.
I know Al has also been avoiding me and it's pretty obvious
he either doesn't remember things the way I do or he doesn't want to. I'm not
I've tried to remember my last leap. I have vague memories
of seeing Jimmy and Frank again. There were others too, Moe and Don Geno and
the guy behind the bar, weird Ernie. I think he was God. I wanted to come home
and he said I could, but there was something else I needed to do first; only I
can't recall what is was, or who I spoke with who could have possibly changed
everything so much.
Nothing seems to make sense. My head hurts and I feel sick
to my stomach.
I don't want any more to drink and I lean the necessary
distance to place the mostly full beer bottle on the coffee table. The tension
in the room has been uncomfortable for some time, but is fast approaching
unbearable. Donna's weeping seems to ebb and flow and while getting up and
leaving may not be considered helpful it's what I want to do more than anything
"I don't understand." She is saying and I look up.
Donna's face is streaked with tears again and I am once
again confronted with the agonising truth of my existence. I have seen her cry a number of times over
the last couple of days. In the beginning I know it was because she was happy
to see me, but that changed not long after Kate released me into her care. I
can't pretend to love her when all I can think of is being with Al.
"Explain it to me Sam." She adds, irritation slowly creeping
into her usually even tone, clipping her words as she turns on me.
I flinch a little and open my mouth, attempting to do as she
has asked; only to have to close it again a moment later when I realise I don't
know what to say. I have no idea why I have two sets of distinct memories. Why
I remember my life with her, but also the one I shared with Al -- if it's a
result of my last leap or if something occurred previously and he decided it
was one of those things that I shouldn't be told? All I do know is that prior
to a couple of days ago I hadn't seen Donna for more than a decade, hadn't even
thought about her more than once or twice during all that time. It is clear
however that my silence isn't helping.
"You can't just claim something like that and then refuse to
explain. Don't you think I have had an enough to contend with? The other women,
a child! I waited every day for you to
come home Sam and now all you can do, is sit on the sofa for hours on end
drinking beer, denying our life together."
I flinch again, my back and shoulders tensing as I sit up;
surprised by the less than subtle reminder of my faithlessness. I know she is
referring to Abigale and Sammy-Jo, but there were others too, Nicole and Tamlyn.
I remember Donna as a young woman, strong willed and
outspoken. The years seem to have reinforced those traits, but they also appear
to have given her a shaper edge and like me, she is tired of pretending.
I glance at Verbena, I'm not sure why. If I am looking for
an ally or for answers, but none are immediately forthcoming and I look back
Donna, running my fingers through my hair to keep it out of my eyes as I try
"The last few days have been difficult..." I begin.
"Years, Sam," she reminds me. "The last five years." Each
word enunciated with such disappointment that it's hard to hear.
I feel a wave of guilt wash over me; the weight of the
emotion weighing me down and tethering me in place as Donna and I regard one
another. I know my leaping through time has changed many lives. I used to think
that in most cases it had been for the better. Al had told me very early on
that the reason he couldn't give me details about myself was because I might
try to change aspects of my own life. I understood; not straight away, but as
time went on, I came to understand that my own life was one that couldn't be
altered. I had to invent Ziggy and Project Quantum Leap had to exist. I know I
tried a couple of times, succeeding with Tom but failing to get my father to
take better care of himself, but I also know I did my best to focus on what I
needed to do, each time hoping that the next leap would bring me home again. Al
was waiting for me and hopefully one day he would forgive me for turning our
lives into a living nightmare. I feel
sorry for Donna, but I am not responsible for what she's endured. She left me
and I moved on.
There is a stalemate of sorts while Donna continues to hold
my gaze until finally Verbena intervenes, breaking the silence and giving me
the opportunity to look away.
"If you could explain what you mean Sam, I think that would
help us all to understand." She offers me a small smile; her dark eyes kind and
patient as she holds Donna’s hands in her own.
My memories of Verbena extend far beyond my years of
leaping. Not that I remembered her initially. Like so many of the people in my
life Al had to remind me who she was and what role she played her at the
Project. I recall Doctor Beeks had come highly recommended when we first met and I
have always liked her. Regardless of how I feel about my homecoming I know that
she means well and that she is trying to help, but I am not sure even she will
be able to make sense of what I am about to say.
I sigh and sit back, surveying the space around me and the
women watching my every move. "Before I
leaped the first time I lived here alone." I tell them, and then look at Donna
again. Her eyes are very bright and more tears are inevitable I realise;
resigning myself to the fact I push on, gesturing as I do to the neatly
decorated room. "I know this is hard to understand, but this isn't my home."
Two sets of eyes stare back at me as I pause. Donna's bottom
lip is trembling and as expected, tears appear at the corner of her eyes to
slide down her cheeks. I want be completely honest with her, clear this up once
and for all, but I don't think she is ready to hear that while the official
record registered me as residing alone and Admiral Calavicci
as being assigned his own 270 square feet of living space, in reality he spent
his time here with me. We were lovers in every sense of the word and while we
never made vows to one another in the same way she and I had, I was committed
to him all the years we were together. It also seems pointless, especially when
everything is so different between Al and I now.
For a full minute or perhaps a little longer the only response
I receive from the other side of the room is a serious of half choked sounds as
Donna repeatedly tries to compose herself; eventually giving up the comfort of
Verbena's grasp to retrieve a Kleenex from the sleeve of her blouse to dab at
her eyes -- her distress and confusion painful to watch.
Verbena just looks perplexed, her brows knitted together as
her eyes search mine. To her credit she
recovers reasonably quickly, pulling herself together as she tugs her cardigan
more securely around her shoulders then eases off the sofa. Standing
momentarily, I watch as she glances down at Donna to check on her wellbeing; a
silent exchange that takes less than a second or two before she is moving again
to step around the coffee table to perch on the corner.
She reaches out to me once she is settled, casually touching
my knee to assure my attention; her expression serious when she sits back
again. "When we spoke yesterday, you indicated that you and Donna had been
reminiscing and I took that to mean that you recalled your life together."
The conversation Verbena is referring to had been one of the
less formal visits we have had over the last couple of days. Arriving
unannounced in the middle of the day she had found me going through an old
photo album Donna had given me. "Yes, that's right," I reply.
"But you also remember your life without her, a time when
you said she sent you a letter telling you she couldn't marry you?"
I sigh again, glancing briefly at the woman sitting to her
left, but nod in return to my friend's question. I can see her turning the information over in
her mind, trying to comprehend what I have said, wondering no doubt, how any of
this is possible.
"Are you saying that you have two sets of memories Sam, each
pertaining to the same time frame?"
I look at Donna again. Her tears have dried and she appears
engaged and as curious as Verbena to hear my response. "Yes." I tell them both.
Verbena's brow furrows for a second time. "That's
incredible. Can you tell me about it?"
I'm not sure that I can, though I know I need to at least
make an attempt. "I'll try."
I've been experiencing what I can only described as mixed
messages ever since Donna walked into the waiting room. How to put the
phenomena it into words however is probably easier said than done. I take a
breath, trying to relax and focus on what I remember about my life prior to
I close my eyes, shutting out the present and the sights and
sounds around me. I think about Al, warmth blooming in my chest as my memories
of him take shape, my mind taking me back to when he kissed me for the first
It was late June 1989, a few weeks after I had received
Donna's letter, I had been staying with him.
I can feel the heat of the day, the sweat on the back of my neck. Al's
house had no air conditioning and all the windows were open. I was sitting on
the couch in the living room trying to stay cool. He had just gotten home from
one of his AA meetings and was talking about what he was going to prepare for dinner.
I started to cry, which was ridiculous, because I had been doing so well and
he'd been so good to me. It was almost as if everything that had happened
caught with me that day and I couldn't hold it in any longer. He sat down
beside me to comfort me and starting stroking my hair. It didn't feel strange.
It felt good, different, but after a while, I'm not sure how long he leaned in
and kissed me. I recall he tried to shake it off, telling me it was a mistake
and it didn't mean anything. Two days later I went to Al's room after he had
gone to bed and amongst other things, I had kissed him back.
I open my eyes again. The women waiting patiently for me to
explain my situation and the memories associated with them pushing everything
"It feels like having a veil over my memories," I say, then
shake my head, it's not quite right, but I guess it's the best analogy I have
at the moment. "If I think about the time before, when it was just Al and I
building Ziggy and working on the Project together, then everything else
fades," I tell them. "It's like they still exist, but they happened at another
time and they aren't relevant to the present."
I'm not sure I am making any sense and I look from Verbena
to Donna and then back again, trying to gauge her reaction. I can tell she is
trying to empathise, but other than that it is hard to know.
"What about when you focus on the present, what happens to
the other memories? Do they fade as well, settle somewhere under the
"Mostly, it depends on the memory; some seem harder to shift
than others." I know I'm not being very specific, but I need to talk to Al
before I say anymore. I have to find out if he's experiencing the same crossed
connection or it's what I fear most, and he has no memory of what we shared.
Verbena still appears to be considering what I have said.
I'm not sure if she believes what I have told her. I know she's been concerned
for me and while she hasn't come right out and said anything exactly ever since
I got back I get the impression that she suspects I'm not playing with a full
deck. Of course she'd never be as blunt as that, but basically that's what it
amounts too. I can't say I blame her but
other than just telling her what's been happening for me I don't know how to convince
her, or anyone else for that matter, that I can't just pick up the life I have
been allotted and get on with it. "Where's Al?" I chance. "I haven't seen him
for days now and the number I have for him seems to be disconnected."
If Verbena is taken aback by my change of topic, it doesn't
show. "He's been in Washington," she explains. "The committee called an
emergency meeting and he had to go."
I'm not overly surprised that the committee wants to talk to
Al. News of my return must have them asking a lot questions and I guess he's
the best one to answer them - still. "Shouldn't I have gone with him?"
"It's probably too soon for you to be dealing with Senator
Weitzman and the others, but Al's back now."
"I need to talk to him Verbena. Please, can you help me?"
"Of course Sam," she says, fishing her cell from the pocket
in her skirt. "The local telco built a new tower a couple of years ago, so
that's probably why the number you have for him no longer works."
I watch while she locates Al's number and then hands the
phone it to me. She smiles as I lean
forward to take it from her, adding. "I'd like to keeping to talking, but I
think what you've told me is enough for tonight." Standing next, her gaze
drifts to where Donna is sitting and goes on. "We'll just have a chat while you make your call."
Taking her cue Donna scoops up the tea tray and stands also.
It is clear however that she has no idea what to say to me.
"Thanks," I say as they both move to exit the living room.
It's not long before I hear their voice emanating from the
kitchen and I take a deep breath and press the number displayed for me,
mentally adding it to the other new ones I have learnt.
Al picks up on the second ring and I feel my heart begin to
race and my hand shake.
"No Al." I close my eyes and duck my head, trying to settle
myself. "It's Sam."
I tell myself the pause from the other end of the line is
because I've caught Al off-guard, he was probably in the middle of something
and not because he doesn't want to hear from me.
"Hi kid," he eventually says. "How're doing?"
I let out the breath I had been holding. "Okay. I haven't
seen you for a few days and was thinking that maybe we could catch up, maybe
tonight or tomorrow?"
There is another pause, shorter this time where I imagine Al
rubbing his hand over his face. "Sure Sam." He sounds tired, I realise. "It's
getting a bit late though," he goes. "Did Verbena tell you that Weitzman and
Bartlett are busting my balls?"
I open my eyes and smile into the phone. "Yes, she did." The
stuck, awkward feeling I have been experiencing unfurls inside of me and I
relax against the back of the sofa.
"Okay, good. Yeah I've been in D.C, just got back this
afternoon. Beth's not here. She's in Chicago with Libby, school just started
again and I am here on my own. Tomorrow is better. You could come by my office
around lunch time and I could rustle us up some sandwiches from the canteen if
"That sounds good. I'll come down about twelve," I agree.
"Good, Sam. Hey, I'm beat. Just need to eat something then
I'm gonna turn in for the night."
I hear Al yawn. "Sure," I tell him. "I'll see you tomorrow.
The line goes dead not long after and I stare for untold
moments at the small device in my hand, watching as the small light
illuminating the screen dulls and then goes dark.
I sit for a couple more minutes, enjoying the solitude for
as long as it lasts. It won't be long now I realise. I will be seeing Al again
in a few more hours and then I will know one way or the other if the last five
year of trying to get home have been worth it or not.
Part Nine Not available yet.
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