A Knight in Shining Armor: Chapter 18

Drink this,” someone was saying.

Dougless caught the hand that held the cup to her lips. “Nicholas,” she said, a faint smile on her lips. Her eyes flew open and she sat up. She was stretched out on a pew in the church, just a few feet from the tomb. She swung her legs to the side, placing her feet on the floor, but she felt too dizzy to take a step.

“Are you feeling better?”

She turned to see the vicar, his kindly face full of concern, a cup of water in his hand.

“Where is Nicholas?” she whispered.

“I didn’t see anyone else. Should I call someone for you? I heard you . . . scream,” he said, knowing it wasn’t a scream. Just remembering that sound made the hair on his body stand on end. “When I got here, you were lying on the floor. Could I call someone for you?” he asked again.

On weak legs, Dougless made her way to the tomb. Slowly, memory was coming back to her, yet still she couldn’t believe it. She looked at the vicar. “You didn’t see him leave, did you?” she asked hoarsely. Her throat was raw.

“I saw no one leave. I just saw you praying. Not many people pray with such . . . intensity today.”

She looked back at the tomb. She wanted to touch it, but she knew the marble would be cold, so unlike Nicholas. “You mean you saw us praying,” she corrected.

“Just you,” the vicar said.

Slowly, Dougless turned to look at him. “Nicholas and I were praying together. You came in and saw us. You’ve watched him for days.”

The vicar gave her a sad look. “I’ll take you to a doctor.”

She moved away from his outstretched hand. “Nicholas. The man who prayed here every morning and every afternoon for the last four days. He was the man in the Elizabethan armor. Remember? He nearly walked in front of a bus.”

“More than a week ago I saw you nearly step in front of a coach. Later, you asked me the date.”

“I . . . ?” Dougless asked. “But that was Nicholas. You told me this week you were amazed at how devout he was. I waited for him outside while he prayed. Remember?” Her voice was urgent as she stepped toward him. “Remember? Nicholas! You waved to us as we rode by on bicycles.”

The vicar backed away from her. “I saw you on a bicycle but no man.”

“No . . .” Dougless whispered, then stepped back from him, her eyes wide with horror.

Turning, she ran out of the church, through the churchyard, down three streets, to the left, then the right, and into the hotel. Ignoring the greeting of the woman at the desk, she ran up the stairs.

“Nicholas,” she cried as she looked about the empty room. The bathroom door was closed, and she ran to it, flung it open. Empty. She turned back to the room, but stopped in the doorway, then looked back into the bathroom. She stared at the shelf below the mirror. Her toiletries were there, but his were gone. She touched the empty half of the shelf. No razor, no shaving cream, no aftershave lotion. In the shower, his shampoo was gone.

In their room, she flung open the closet door. Nicholas’s clothes were gone. Only hers hung there, her suitcases and her carry-on below on the floor. In the dresser his socks and handkerchiefs were missing.

“No,” she whispered, then sat down on the side of the bed. It almost made sense that Nicholas was gone, but not his clothes, not the things he had given her. For a moment she put her hand to her heart, then snatched open her blouse. The pin, the beautiful gold pin with the pearl hanging from it, was gone.

Dougless didn’t try to think after that. She tore the room apart looking for something, anything, of his that had been left behind. The emerald ring he’d given her was gone; the note he’d left under her door was gone. She opened her notebooks. Nicholas had written in them in his bizarre handwriting, but now the pages were blank.

“Think, Dougless, think,” she said. There had to be some mark left by him. In the closet were the books they’d purchased; Nicholas had written his name inside them. They were blank now.

There was nothing, nothing of him. She even looked on her clothes for any dark hairs. Clean.

It was when she saw her red silk nightgown that Nicholas had torn from her body and saw that it was now whole that she became angry. “No!” she said, teeth clenched. “You can’t take him away from me so completely. You cannot!”

People, she thought. Even if there was no physical evidence of him there were an awful lot of people who would remember him. Just because a daffy old vicar couldn’t remember him didn’t mean other people didn’t.

Grabbing her handbag, she left the hotel.


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