The ranch was a beautiful place. Wide open spaces, inside and out. Elizabeth loved the sunk in living room with its high ceilings and one section of one wall, facing towards the mountains, was mostly glass. It was a spectacular place. And it came with servants. A married couple named Manny and Trisha. Elizabeth knew she could trust them because she knew Jason trusted them. They wouldn't be there if he didn't. And Manny's younger brother, Leo, took care of the horses.
Elizabeth was happy here, except for one thing. Zander. They had been at the ranch for two weeks and there was no visible change in his condition. She had been hoping against hope that coming to the ranch would make a difference. Selena had warned her not to expect too much, but it was hard. Sometimes, when she would sit with Zander on the porch, she would share that he was in there. That he was looking at the view or watching the dogs chase a rabbit or the cats and kittens at play near his feet. A couple of the kittens would climb over him, and one would often fall asleep in his lap. Elizabeth would wait for him to do something, but he wouldn't. Zander never did anything unless guided to do so. It was sad and heartbreaking. He had shut himself so far away inside that she feared he would never come back to them.
One morning Elizabeth woke up with a start. It was barely dawn but she had an uneasy feeling that something was wrong. She got out of bed, pulled on sweat pants and a tee shirt and headed down the hallway to Zander's room. She crept in then froze. His bed was empty. Panic set in and Elizabeth ran out to wake up Jason and Selena. Both of them assured her that Zander could not have gotten far. Selena stated flat out that Zander's physical condition would keep him from being able to go any distance. He would be too weak. But that didn't settle Elizabeth's fears. However, finding Zander sitting on the front porch, petting a tiny, black kitten, did. She blinked back tears and a smile curved her lips as she sat down beside him. "Zander?"
He lifted his head to look at her.
Tears slid down Elizabeth's face. She turned to look at Selena, wanting to be sure that this meant what she thought it did. That Zander was finding his way back to them. When Selena smiled and nodded at her, Elizabeth took a chance. She sat down next to Zander and wrapped her arms around him. And she sobbed with happiness when she felt his arms go around her and he hugged her back.
* * * * *
Selena studied Zander as he stared out the window of the room she had commandeered as her office. Three days had passed since his breakthrough and she was pleased with his progress. He wasn't back to normal by any means, but he was working his way there. Right now he was in a rather *childlike* stage of development. Everything was new and wondrous to him. He knew Elizabeth and Jason by name, but he wasn't ready to remember who they really were or their real connection to him. Selena didn't push it. She wanted his memories to return naturally. That way they could deal with them appropriately. She knew that once he remembered everything having to do with Luis Alcazar and the hell that man had put him through, that it was going to be rough. "What are you thinking about, Zander?" she asked. He had a smile on his face as he looked out the window.
"It's warm out," he said softly.
"Yes…it's a beautiful day. Jason told me he was going to take you riding today." Zander had jumped onto one of the horses, bareback, yesterday, terrifying them all. But it turned out that Zander was a natural on horseback, so Jason had agreed to take him on the trails today. Selena could tell that in his own way, Zander was chomping at the bit, longing to be free. He just didn't understand what he desired freedom from.
Zander turned from the window and nodded. "It's going to be great. He's letting me ride Diablo."
Selena tried not to show how much that worried her. Diablo was a bit wild. And he was huge. But the fact that she was someone afraid of horses might be prejudicing her a bit. "Do you like it when it's warm?" Selena asked.
"Yeah...it reminds me of home."
"Do you remember where home is?"
A frown crossed Zander's face. "Florida."
Selena was surprised to hear him say that and it looked to her as if he was a bit surprised at himself. "Did you like it there?"
"I guess not." Zander began to pace. "I didn't stay there."
"I don't know." Zander stopped pacing and his brow furrowed in concentration. "I didn't like it at home. They didn't want me."
Selena felt like they were really making some progress, and sooner than she had expected. "Who didn't want you?"
Zander shrugged. "Doesn't matter. I left."
"Where did you go?"
Selena could see that he was starting to get agitated and she wondered what he was remembering. She didn't want to push too hard though. "Do you remember Port Charles?"
Surprise flared in Zander's eyes and he began to shake. "Emily...they were going to kill her. Sorel...he wanted her dead. He tried to kill us." Pressing his hands to his temples, Zander sank to his knees.
"It’s okay...it's okay," Selena told him as she knelt beside him and took her in his arms. She had a feeling that his memories were flooding back and Zander was suffering a kind of sensory overload. Too many images and emotions coming at him at once. "Just think about Diablo and going on the trails today. Think about this moment in time, Zander. Let go of the past...okay?" Selena could feel him shaking harder and then he went still in her arms. She didn't know what to expect and was relieved to find him smiling at her.
"Can I go now?" Zander asked, rising to his feet.
Selena stood up with him and nodded. "Sure. Have fun. And be careful."
Zander nodded. "I will." Then he was gone.
"That was scary," Selena whispered to herself, as she headed for the desk. She sat down to type up some notes on the computer, but jumped when a soft voice queried,
"What was scary?"
Selena turned to find Elizabeth standing there. "Were you listening?" she asked, her tone questioning but not accusing. She knew how much Elizabeth cared about Zander and how much she wanted to help him.
Elizabeth didn't deny it. "I heard a bit. He's starting to remember things."
"Yeah he is. It's coming back faster than I thought it would."
"Is that good or bad?"
Selena shrugged. "I won't know until it happens. I think that Zander is building a mental shield in a sense. He's trying to cling only to good and happy things. I think, subconsciously, he knows there are bad things waiting for him. So he's trying to be ready for it. He did really well today. He was able to disassociate himself from the pain and darkness those memories evoked. He'll need that kind of detachment to deal with it when he starts remembering what Alcazar did to him."
Elizabeth sighed. "I wish he didn't have to remember. God...it's so horrific just thinking about it. How is he going to deal with it? How could anyone deal with that kind of abuse and being violated like that?"
"You were raped and you worked through it," Selena pointed out.
"It was one time and it was nothing compared to what Luis did to Zander."
Selena went to Elizabeth and hugged her. "It was just as bad in its own way. But you found a way to deal with it and move on. We'll have to help Zander do the same."
* * * * *
Zander really liked Elizabeth. He enjoyed spending time with her. Every night, after dinner, they would go for a walk. Tonight they headed into the woods and Elizabeth was in a playful mood to match his own. They played an impromptu game of tag and Zander laughed when he caught her, lifting her in his arms to whirl her around until they were both dizzy and collapsed into the grass. "You look beautiful," Zander whispered.
Elizabeth was surprised but she smiled. "Thank you." She leaned in and pressed a kiss to his cheek.
"What was that for?" Zander asked.
"Because I like you," Elizabeth replied.
Zander smiled then he reached out and let his fingers tangle in her soft hair. Then it seemed only natural to lean in and kiss her soft lips.
© Shelly 2004