“Am I still full of myself?” I hold the photo up to her face. I’d love to see her expression. “No comment? Okay.” I slide the picture back into its spot. “I like riding in your front pocket.”
She takes in a quick breath and turns, eyes narrowed. “Yeah, well … I bet you still have that picture of me in your wallet.” Her chin tips up, shoulders back.
Happiness steals my smile. She brings me unfathomable joy. It’s the reason I named my daughter after her. And I love when she says me and I instead of Daisy or her.
“Always,” I say with complete sincerity.
Swayze deflates a fraction when I surrender total honesty. “The picture in your wallet makes sense.” She looks down at the fraction of space between us. “The picture in my pocket doesn’t make the same kind of sense.”
“Then why the fascination with it?”
She shrugs. “I love the expression on your face. Your hair. Your lips. Your eyebrows. The stubble along your jaw. But mostly …” Her gaze finds mine again. “It feels like a bridge to the gap between then and now. It feels like a big piece to this puzzle that’s in my head.”
And since I can’t stop myself, I slide my hands in her hair and kiss the top of her head one more time because I love how it feels. She rests her palms gently on my chest—I love how that feels too. Basically, I love all the feels—right or wrong—that I get from her.
If I were Griffin, I’d beat the ever living shit out of me for touching something that’s not mine. But the problem is … when I do touch her, my head goes blank, listening only to my heart whispering “mine.”
“Goodnight.” She climbs up and gives me one last smile.
“Hey, what an unexpected surprise.” My mom hugs me when I step inside the front door.
“Griffin’s working late and I wanted to talk to you.”
“Did you eat?”
I follow her to the kitchen. “Not yet.”
She gestures for me to sit at the table. “I’ll make you a sandwich while you talk.”
I’m not that hungry, but it might be easier to tell her everything when she’s not staring at me the whole time like a therapist. “That would be great. Thanks.”
“So what’s up? Wedding stuff?” She grabs things from the fridge.
“I know why I knew more than other kids my age.”
Mom laughs. “Wow. You made your father and me promise to never discuss it again. I haven’t mentioned it in years. Now we’re going to talk about it?” She shoots me an incredulous look.
Drumming my fingers on the table, I nod. “It’s quite the story.”
With her back to me, she opens jars and starts assembling what looks like a turkey sandwich. “I like stories. Let’s hear it. Once upon a time …”
“Once upon a time, over twenty-two years ago, I was Nathaniel Hunt’s best friend, Morgan Daisy Gallagher.”
It’s quite the opening line to a story.
Ever so slowly, she looks over her shoulder, lips parted.
I smile. “I know things she knew. People she knew, especially Nate. I see strangers that I recognize, but I remember them from many years ago … as in before I was born. I just know a lot of random stuff, but now it doesn’t seem so random.”
The butter knife clanks against the plate, and she completely turns toward me. “Swayze …”
I hold up my hands, palms out. “I know. Believe me. I know. It’s crazy. Not possible. It begs for a more logical explanation. It’s taken me months to even consider this could be a real possibility. But there is no other explanation. This is the reason Dr. Greyson referred me to a new psychiatrist. Dr. Albright is sort of an expert on the matter.”
“Swayze …” She moves toward me like I could attack her.
“Mom, I need you to believe me so I can tell you what this has done to me.”
With unsteady legs, she plops down onto the chair next to me. “You’re asking me to believe in reincarnation.”
“I’m asking you to believe me. People pack sanctuaries every Sunday to worship God. They can’t prove he exists. I have way more proof that I was Morgan Daisy Gallagher in another life than anyone has that God truly exists. Many religions believe in reincarnation. And some very brilliant historic figures also believed in it.”
She chews on the inside of her cheek, forehead wrinkled. “Start from the very beginning.”
And so I do. I start with the day I saw Nate in the waiting room at Dr. Greyson’s office. Nothing gets left out, not even the photo in my pocket. After an hour of trying to explain every little detail, including Doug Mann and why I went so crazy over Erica’s death, my mom looks like a statue or maybe a ghost, pale and expressionless.
“What about Griffin?” She speaks her first words.
“I don’t know. Sometimes I think he believes me, but whether he does or not, it doesn’t matter. Either way, he hates that I have this connection with Nate. And I don’t blame him, but I also don’t know what to do about it. He wants me to quit my job so we can pack up and move far away from all of this, but I can’t outrun what’s in my head.”
“I think so. It’s so hard to tell with him. He’s this pillar of confidence, and he’s good at hiding his emotions.”
“Should he be jealous?”
She holds up the photo of Nate that’s still on the table. “Are you sure?”
Ghosting my fingers over my bottom lip, I stare at it. After a few seconds of contemplative silence, tears burn my eyes. “I feel like I’m piecing myself together. And I don’t know if Griffin will still love me the same way when he sees the whole me.”
Mom sets the photo back on the table. “Tell me about these pieces.”
A tiny smile fights its way to my lips. She’s had so much therapy she sounds like a therapist.
“They’re thrilling and utterly terrifying. When I’m with Nate and we’re talking about the past, it’s not weird. It feels natural. He’s so familiar. It’s the epitome of feeling like you’ve known someone your whole life. And I adore Morgan. I think I would no matter what, but when I’m there, I can’t stop thinking he named his daughter after me. It’s life-changing.”
My mom makes slow nods, trying to process everything I throw at her. “Beyond the flattery of him naming his daughter after this person you believe was you, and the familiarity, how do you feel about him? What is your relationship with him? Swayze…” a bit of regret sinks into her eyes “…do you have feelings for him that go beyond just friends?”
“No. I don’t have …” I sigh. “It’s complicated. It’s confusing. When I’m with Griffin, I have this need for him to accept me as not only Swayze but the parts of me that are Daisy too. But when I’m with Nate, I like the separation.”
“Because if you’re Daisy with him, then Swayze is not cheating on her fiancé.”
“Mom …” I frown. “That’s not what’s happening. I’m not cheating on Griffin.”
“Have you crossed the line with Nate?”
I’m not sure if I should be offended that she doesn’t trust me or elated that she’s protecting Griffin. Pushing out of my chair, I finish making the sandwich she started. “You’ll have to explain this line.”
“Have you kissed him?”
He’s kissed me on the head, but that doesn’t count. Does it?
“Do you want to kiss him?”
I finish cutting the sandwich in half and set the knife off to the side, pausing a moment to hold back my knee-jerk reaction. This is my mom, the person who loves me unconditionally. She loves me if I meet Griffin at the altar. She loves me if he leaves me tomorrow. I don’t have to hide from her.
“I love Griffin. There has not been one day since we met that I’ve questioned wanting to be with him—not since I met Nate, not since I’ve acknowledge my past, not when we’ve fought, not yesterday, not today, and I won’t question it tomorrow.”
My gaze shifts from the knife to my mom. “But Nate has become my obsession.”
We both move our attention to the photo.
“I can’t shut off my brain, but the one thing that scares me more than the deluge of memories is this insatiable curiosity.”
“About?” She shoots me a sidelong glance.
Biting my lips together, I search for a way to explain this without it sounding like I want it to happen. “I wonder what his lips would feel like pressed to my neck where he used to kiss her … or me. I wonder if it would bring forth more memories.”
“Or start a fire that would burn down your whole world?” Her eyebrows lift, giving me that motherly-warning look.
“Yeah … or that.”
“Do I need to give you the curiosity-killed-the-cat speech?”
I shake my head.
“Do you think that Griffin might be right? Maybe you should find another job. I know it won’t change the memories you have, but it would eliminate the temptation.”