*Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction meant for entertainment purposes only. Chapter One It was her first full day in Mumbai and she decided to walk around after checking into her hotel. She carried her money, camera, her cigarettes and snacks in a backpack. She was standing at a crowded intersection waiting for the light to change. I was riding in the back seat with my eyes closed as my driver, Ajay, took me to a meeting at the studio. Rani and I had another fight last night and we did not see each other this morning before I left. I was so tired of these arguments but felt trapped in the situation. I loved my kids and didn't want to ruin their lives. Also, I had my career to think about. I was jolted out of this moment by the squeal of the brakes and Ajay swearing in Hindi. As I looked through the windshield, I could see the crowd in front of the car looking down at the ground. Ajay jumped out of the car and ran in front. I didn't get out as that would most certainly cause a riot. Ajay got back in the car and started dialing for emergency personnel. I asked, "What's going on?" Ajay told me he had hit someone and they seemed badly hurt. At that, I jumped out of the car and looked down on a woman laying sprawled in front. She appeared to be around 30 years old. She was bleeding and was unconscious. As I bent down to her, she opened her eyes. She grabbed my hand and held on for dear life. I could tell she was scared, so I spoke to her and tried to comfort her. Just then, EMT's arrived and tried to assess the situation. They said they needed to transport her to the hospital, but she wouldn't release my hand. Her eyes pleaded with me to stay with her and I couldn't say no. As we got into the ambulance, Ajay and several bystanders were being questioned by the police. During the short ride to the hospital, she went into cardiac arrest and they were furiously working to bring her back. Arriving at the hospital, they rushed her into the emergency room and the doctors started working on her. They shocked her three times before they were able to get a pulse. I stood against the wall and watched everything. I was totally devastated that my car had hit her. When they had her stable, one of the doctors, Dr. Patel, asked to speak to me. We went outside and I lit up a cigarette. I was surprised to see that my hand was shaking badly. The doctor said they would have to take her into surgery immediately as she was bleeding internally. They had not found any I.D. on her, so they were listing her as a Jane Doe. They wheeled her past me just as Ajay showed up at the hospital. I was deeply shaken, but asked Ajay if he was alright. He was also shaken, but had given a statement to the police. He said he was driving normally and had a green light when, all of a sudden, she appeared in front of the car. He could not avoid hitting her. Several people who were standing nearby testified that some young teenage boys had grabbed at her backpack and when she fought back, they had shoved her into the roadway. They got away with her belongings and left the scene. No one could identify them. I contacted the studio and said I wouldn't be able to make it since something had come up. The press started arriving at the hospital and it was necessary for the police to come. I was taken to a private waiting room and I called Rani to tell her what happened. She was not impressed. It irritated me that all she thought about was herself and how things affected her. I told her I wouldn't leave the hospital until the woman was out of danger. I must have dozed off and awoke with a start when someone touched my shoulder. I was surprised to see it was fully dark outside. It was Dr. Patel, the surgeon who operated on her, and I tried to focus on what he was saying. One of the nurses brought me a cup of coffee and I smiled at her with gratitude as I took the cup. It wasn't very good coffee, but it was hot and filled with enough caffeine to jolt a horse. Now I listened to what Dr. Patel had to say. "Mr. Khan, we have done all we could and it's now in God's hands. She was badly injured internally and we almost lost her a couple of times, but she hung on. You look exhausted, why don't you go home and get some rest?" I shook my head and said I would stay. I didn't want her to wake up in a strange place and be all alone I inquired and was told there were VIP rooms available on the top floor. I said I wanted her to be in one of those and I would bear all the expenses. I went out for a smoke and sat down on a chair in a gated area. Thank God the press didn't know where I was and could not get to me. I felt so surreal about this whole thing and started to pray. I prayed that God would bring her though this and I started to cry. I even prayed to my mother to send her back in case she started to leave this world. Between the coffee and the adrenaline, I didn't feel I could sleep, but knew I needed to rest. The room I booked was large and spacious with a comfortable sofa and chairs. It looked more like a hotel suite than a hospital room. It also had all the equipment it needed, although very cleverly hidden. I laid down on the sofa and closed my eyes. I don't know how much time elapsed, but opened my eyes when I heard them bring her into the room. The staff transferred her to the bed and hooked her up to various IV's and monitors. They asked me if I needed anything. "Just a blanket and pillow. I'm not leaving her until she's out of danger." They brought me the blanket and pillow and also toiletries and pajamas. After they left, I went up to the bed and looked at the woman. Even unconscious, she was very beautiful. She had long, dark brown hair with caramel highlights. She had really long, dark eyelashes that touched her cheeks with her eyes closed. She had a full generous mouth and high cheekbones. She was very pale and looked quite small in that big hospital bed. I saw her at the accident, but didn't register what she looked like then. I went to the end of the bed and looked at her chart. She was listed as "Jane Doe" and that hurt me that we didn't even know who she was. Even though I didn't feel I could sleep, I changed and laid down on the sofa, which was very comfortable. Next thing I knew, it was morning and light was streaming in the window. I went to the bathroom and changed just as the doctor came into the room. "Good morning, Mr. Khan. So you decided to spend the night? Let me just take a look at her chart." As he went over the nightshift chart, he seemed to think she was doing well. But the next 24 hours would be crucial. They were keeping her in an induced coma to help her recover from the surgery. "You may as well go home, Mr. Khan. She won't wake up for at least another 24 hours. We'll call you at home if you like should anything come up." I was reluctant to leave, but decided that I could use a shower and shave and see the children. I called Ajay and had him pick me up at a private exit so the press wouldn't see me. I truly was exhausted now that I was going home. There were press at Mannat, but the police and security personnel kept them away as we pulled behind the gate. When I went in, Kavin, Maya and little Malik came to me and gave me a hug. It was good to be home. Was it only yesterday when I had left them? Rani was nowhere in sight, so I asked Maya where she was. "She's upstairs taking a bath, I think." I went up and knocked on her bathroom door. No answer. I knocked louder and I could tell she was upset when she said, "Come in!" She was out of the tub and putting on her makeup at her vanity. She said she had a meeting for her interior design company later and would need to get ready. I looked at her and said, "Don't you even want to know how she is?" Without looking at me she said, "I'm assuming she's fine since you decided to come home." "No, she's not fine. And the reason I came home was to shower, eat and see the kids, and then I'm going back. How can you be so insensitive and not care whether this woman lives or dies?" Rani just looked at me and went to her closet to pick out her clothes. I left, disgusted that she didn't even ask how I was doing. She must have left for her meeting while I was in the shower and I went to the kitchen for something to eat. Kavin and Maya were leaving but asked me how the woman was and if I was alright. Thank God, at least the kids cared. Little Malik always made me feel better and today was no different. "Papa hurt?" That brought tears to my eyes. "No, Malik, Papa's okay, but has to visit someone who is hurt." After playing with him for awhile, I kissed him and left the house to return to the hospital. I was able to leave the house unnoticed by riding in one of the work trucks that dropped me at the private exit/entrance. I had packed a small bag with some necessities and brought along a book I'd been meaning to read. Chapter Two When I entered the room, I noticed the staff had replaced the sofa with a much more comfortable one. Also, they had replaced one of the club chairs with a recliner. A reading light had been put next to it. I'd only been gone about six or seven hours, but as I looked at the woman in bed, I thought she had more color. I sat down next to the bed and studied the face of the woman in it. She really was very striking and I wondered if she had people who were looking for her right now. I felt sure she must and felt awful that there wasn't more I could do. I walked down to the nurses station and asked to speak with the nurse caring for her. "Yes, Mr. Khan, what can I do for you?" I asked her if they had found out who she was yet. "No, but then we've been pretty busy just keeping her alive." She had come in with no identification papers or anything personal for that matter. The gang of thugs had made off with her backpack and that's all she was carrying with her. I went back to her room and sat in the recliner looking out at the Mumbai skyline as the sun started to set. She was obviously not Indian, so she must be staying somewhere in Mumbai. I called Ajay, knowing I could trust him to be discreet as he had been with me for 15 years, and asked him to start checking some of the hotels in the vicinity of where the accident happened. Dr. Patel came in that evening to check on her condition and said if there were no complications, they would start to bring her out of the induced coma tomorrow. I thanked him and sat down to read my book just as Ajay appeared at the door. I walked outside to the private patio with him and asked him what he had found out. "She's staying at the Taj Lands End in Bandra, sir. She just checked in the morning of the accident. I asked to talk to the manager and told him what had happened and that she was in critical condition in the hospital. They gave me her personal belongings to bring to her. Sir, her name is Alexandra Walker, she's an American, and according to her passport, she's 42 years old." I was surprised, as I wouldn't have thought her to be in her 40's. "Sir, along with her luggage and personal items, there appears to be a diary or journal of some sort." I asked him if he had looked at it and he replied he had not. He handed me the notebook and said he would be on call if I needed him. After Ajay left, I sat down in the recliner, turned the light on and laid the notebook on my lap. It was brown leather with her name "Lexi Walker" embossed in gold on the front. I debated whether I should open and read it. All I wanted to do was help her, so I opened it to the first page which started with the words: Today, I have decided to return to the land of the living. As I read the next sentence, I caught my breath and tears welled up in my eyes. It's been over a year since my husband, Mike, and my children Cody and Nicole were killed by a drunk driver. I closed the notebook and went outside for a cigarette. Reading her words had shaken me badly and I wasn't sure what to do with the information. I went back inside with the intention of not reading further as I felt I was invading her privacy. I picked up the book I had brought with me and tried to read, but I couldn't get her words out of my mind, so I picked up the notebook again. As I read further, she detailed the awful day of the accident, why she wasn't with them, and how she received the news. She felt such guilt that she hadn't died with them. Her babies without her! Cody was only 15 and Nicole 13. They hadn't even started life yet and it was over. She prayed that her mother and father who were already deceased would take care of them for her. I couldn't even imagine the pain this woman had gone through and now she was all alone in the world. I vowed that when she pulled through, and she would if I had anything to say about it, I would make sure she didn't want for anything. Small compensation for having lost your entire family. I went on to read that she had resumed her career as a photojournalist, a profession she had when she married but gave up to raise her children. Seems she was doing mostly freelance stuff right now. Travelogues and such. That's why she had come to India, to photograph and report back to the readers in America why they should vacation in India. What a way to start! She hadn't even been in Mumbai for 24 hours before she was mugged and mowed down by King Khan's car. If it wasn't so awful, it would be sort of funny. Welcome to India, Ms. Walker! I spent the rest of the evening reading about her past, which was pleasant, if not remarkable. She met her husband Mike in college and they married right after graduation. Once she had children, they became the focus of her life. Mike was busy with his career as an investment analyst, so she was more or less mother and father to the kids. Seems Cody was very athletic and she attended all his matches. Nicole was very artistic and creative and she went to all her school plays and concerts. They were her life. Somewhere along the way, she didn't mention Mike as often but always mentioned the children. After the accident, she was in a daze for months. The apathy of grief just about did her in, but her natural aptitude and her will to survive started to return. That's when she decided to make some drastic changes. Mike had left her without the need to work again, but she couldn't abide that. So she brushed off her degree and took advanced classes in photojournalism and looked for work. She took small, not very well paid jobs at first, but as she became more known, she accepted bigger and better jobs. Several agencies wanted to hire her full time, but she wanted the freedom of not being tied down. She became a gypsy. It was almost morning when I finished reading and closed the notebook. I felt I knew this woman better than I knew my own wife of over 20 years. It felt funny knowing all this about her when she didn't even know I existed. As I went out for coffee and a smoke, I decided to give Rani a call and apologize for being rude earlier. I was feeling lonely, the kind of lonely I would get when thinking of my mother and father. The phone rang several times before she picked up. She had been asleep and said I could have waited until later to call her. I apologized for waking her up but told her I just wanted to hear her voice. She asked if I was coming home and I said I would wait to talk to the doctor when he came in later today. Silence, then she said, "Fine, I just wanted to know for the children's sake as they are missing you." "I know, I miss them too", I said. "And, do you miss me, Rani?" "Shah, what do you want me to say? What possible good can you do by staying at the hospital with a stranger?" "Rani, I just don't want her to be alone. You have no idea just how alone this woman is." "Well, apparently, you do. I'll just tell the kids that Papa will be home sometime, okay!" She hung up. I was so tired of this bickering and fighting. Doesn't she realize how fortunate we are to have each other and the kids? No, she doesn't because she only sees things as they concern her. Fine, I would only go home to spend time with the kids. I came back into the room just as the doctor was checking her. "Looks like we're going to start bringing her out of the coma. It will take about a day or so for her system to catch up and she'll be fully awake. Why don't you take a break today. She won't know whether you're here or not until sometime tomorrow." I called Ajay to pick me up and we went to the studio first so I could clear my schedule for several days. The police report on the accident indicated that neither Ajay or I had any liability in the accident and that the case was focusing on the street thugs, but still no leads. After getting home and showering and grabbing a bite to eat, I was playing with Malik when Rani approached me. "So, you finally decided to come home." I was still miffed about our earlier encounter so I didn't answer her, but continued to play with Malik. She said she had errands to run and would be back later. Strange, I had never stopped working long enough to realize we didn't have anything to say to each other anymore. They say life and death encounters make one's perspectives change. I always thought it would be my life or death encounter, not some other person's. But reading about and seeing this woman had brought into sharp focus just how far Rani and I had drifted apart. We never really talked about anything except the children. I had accepted that and felt it was okay until yesterday when all this happened. How quickly life can change on you. Chapter Three Kavin was getting ready to go back to school in London and Maya was busy with her friends. Only little Malik seemed to have time for "Papa". Malik was so cute when I suggested we pray for the nice lady who was hurt and in the hospital. How fortunate I am to have my children. I felt a deep stab of pain for "Lexi", all alone and in the hospital. I wanted to go back to be with her, but decided I should get a good nights rest. I took care of some business on the computer then watched some TV with Malik. We both fell asleep in the chair and woke up when Rani came home. After putting Malik to bed, I slept in my study. Since Kavin had to be at the airport very early the next morning, I said I would drop him on my way to the hospital. Rani just rolled her eyes at me, but didn't say anything. It was always difficult to say goodbye to my children, especially when they left the country. After hugging and kissing Kavin goodbye, I told Ajay to drop me at the hospital. I felt a tingle of nerves as we drove anticipating the moment she opened her eyes and saw me. Would she blame me? Well, it was my car that hit her. As I walked into her room, the doctor and nurse were checking her vitals and the doctor felt the immediate danger was over. They had taken her off the meds to keep her in a coma and were just waiting for her to come around. Dr. Patel said that sometimes talking to or reading to a person could awaken them. He said he would check on her periodically during the day. After everyone left, I pulled up a chair next to the bed and picked out a book that I especially liked. The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran always gave me comfort. I started to read and would look up once in awhile to see if there was any response. I took some cigarette breaks and the nurse brought me something to eat, although I wasn't very hungry. The doctor popped in a few times and towards evening felt that she was starting to respond to some stimuli. At one point, he ran an instrument up the sole of her foot and she flinched. "That's a positive sign, Mr Khan. It could be a few hours yet, but I think she'll be fully awake by tomorrow morning." As I got comfortable for the night, I looked at the face of this woman in the dim hospital light. I felt an enormous protectiveness towards her. "I promise you, I'll make the rest of your life alot easier than it's been." I woke with a start. I had heard a moan from the bed and was up in a flash, pressing the call button for the nurse. Lexi was starting to move and made low moaning sounds as if she was in pain. When the nurse appeared, she said it was normal for a patient to exhibit discomfort when they regained consciousness. She assured me that Lexi was not in undue pain. She would contact Dr. Patel to update him. I stood at the side of her bed and took ahold of her hand. When I did, she gave me a slight squeeze and I smiled. Thank you, God, for not taking her just yet. I pulled up a chair and sat, but never let go of her hand. It seemed like hours went by and she became more animated but still had not opened her eyes yet. All thought of going back to sleep had fled as I watched her intently. When the doctor came in, I hurriedly dressed in the bathroom, brushed my teeth and combed my hair. The nurse very graciously brought me a large cup of coffee. Smiling with gratitude, I went out to have a smoke while the doctor examined her. When I returned, the doctor said he was very pleased with her progress and expected her to fully awaken any moment. He also said he would be on the floor doing rounds and would only be moments away if there was any change. I sat down again and took her hand just as she opened her eyes. I looked into the most beautiful green eyes I had ever seen and was mesmerized. Her eyes were light green with darker green encircling the iris. She looked at me with confusion and I felt I should say something. "Hello, I'm Shah Rukh." I felt sort of dumb saying that, but didn't know what else to say. With my free hand, I pushed the nurse's call button. The doctor and nurse came in at the same time and I stepped back while they examined her. Dr. Patel asked her if she knew where she was. "No." He explained that there had been an accident and she was in the hospital. He asked her if she remembered the accident. "No." He asked her if she knew her name and a puzzled look came into her eyes, like she was trying to remember. "No." The confusion in her eyes was replaced by a scared look and she started to get agitated. I felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach. The nurse gave her a shot which immediately calmed her down. Dr. Patel motioned for me to step out into the hall with him. "It's not unusual for a patent to suffer temporary amnesia after a traumatic accident and surgery, so don't be unduly upset about it." He ordered that she be given sedatives, although in a decreasing dosage until she regained her memory. "What should I do to help her, Doctor?" "You said you've read her diary and know alot about her past life, haan? Well, feed her little bits of information but don't tell her about her family's deaths yet." He felt that might be too much of a shock. "As she recovers her memory, she'll remember those events on her own." When I went in to see her, she was calm, drowsy even, as if she'd had a few drinks. I hated that they were keeping her doped up but had to trust the doctor on this. She gave me a heartbreaking smile as I walked up to her bed. She took my hand and looked into my eyes. "I know you. I recognize your voice." I had a queer feeling deep in my heart that she did know me. How I wanted to make things alright for her! As I sat down, she started to ask me questions that I wasn't sure about answering. "Did I know you before this accident?" "No", I replied. "How did we meet?" I took a deep breath, "I was riding in the car that accidentally hit you. I rode with you to the hospital and have been with you ever since." She asked me the name of the hospital and when I told her, she looked puzzled and asked what city we were in. "Mumbai." She had a surprised look on her face and her eyes seemed to become a darker green. I realized she didn't even know she was in India. I said that among her personal belongings we had discovered that she was a photojournalist who had just arrived the morning of the accident. She wrinkled up her forehead and said how strange this was not to know who or what you are. She didn't ask anymore questions so I didn't volunteer anymore information. She turned on the TV and watched CNN as I sat and pretended to read my book. Seeing the expressions cross over her face, I could sense the total confusion she must be feeling. When the nurse came in to give her a sedative, she said she didn't want it. I saw a flash of anger flare up in her eyes. So there was a "junglee billi" (wildcat) inside her! This amused me and I told the nurse to call Dr. Patel and rescind the order. The nurse was not happy, but she went to make the call. Lexi looked at me and her eyes softened as she said, "Thanks, I don't like the feeling I get on them." I asked her if she had been on sedatives before and you could tell she was trying to remember. "I think so." They brought a tray with some soup and crackers on it and she tried to eat some, without much success. She dozed off for a couple of hours while I made some business calls. I had just stepped out for a smoke when the nurse came to get me. Lexi had awakened and not seeing me there, she panicked. I threw my cigarette down and hurried into her room. The relief on her face when she saw me went straight through me. Somehow, she only felt safe if I was with her. Maybe I had done her no favors by being at her bedside so much, but now it was too late to alter it. I wouldn't let her be alone. I did tell her I would have to leave for awhile to take care of something but would be back later. She was fine with that as long as I told her I was leaving. As Ajay drove me back home, I thought about what would happen to her. As much as I wanted her to recover and go on with her life, the thought of never seeing her again disturbed me greatly. I had already made arrangements to send her monthly checks to take care of her expenses, but that seemed such a small thing. Where would she go, back to whom would she go? The thought of her wandering all alone made me anxious. I know I've always been overprotective with my loved ones, but I'd only known Lexi for about 3 days. Somehow, under stress, it seemed like I'd known her all my life. What would she do now? Chapter Four The days started to run together as she continued to improve physically, but she had still not regained her memory. I was able to leave her to take care of business and go home to see the kids as long as I told her I was leaving. She grew to trust that I would come back. When I overheard a nurse ask her if she knew who I was, she replied "Yes, he's my friend, Shah Rukh." The nurse was about to tell her more, but as I entered the room, she looked at me and stopped. After saying hello to Lexi, I went out to the nurses station and said that under no circumstance did I want them to volunteer information to her. It was better that she just thought of me as "her friend Shah Rukh". Thankfully, the press had gotten tired of the story and mercifully stopped stalking the hospital. Dr. Patel talked to me about where Lexi would go when she was released. He felt she was getting close to healing physically, but was concerned that she still could not remember anything before the accident. I started to think about her release too and did not want her to leave Mumbai without getting her memory back. According to her diary, she did not have a permanent address back in America, but just stayed in short term rentals during assignments. It was also apparent that she did not have any relatives or close friends to take care of her. Seems like she had avoided getting close to people since the death of her family. I understood the feeling, that if you allow yourself to get too close, people can leave you or up and die on you. Who needs that hurt? Rani and I were at a stalemate. She didn't bring up the subject of me being at the hospital and I didn't ask her questions about where she went. Right now, the only joy I was able to have was with my kids. Kavin and I would Skype every day and I would spend time with Maya and Malik daily. Other than that, I had delegated most of my work to other people so as to be available at the hospital. I had made some inquiries very discreetly about an apartment near Mannat that was fully furnished for Lexi. I had my accoutant put the apartment title in Lexi's name so that I was not connected to it in any way. Even the purchase check and monthly living expenses were drawn on a private account that I had set up. Not even Rani knew it existed. I hated being so secretive, but I knew how the film community and the press would spin this. Also, Rani would most definitely not understand. Even though we were drifting further apart, I didn't want the stress or hassle of a showdown. I also arranged for a live in maid/cook/housekeeper. I didn't want Lexi to know she would also be reporting to Dr. Patel and me about Lexi's mental health. Finally, the day came when Dr. Patel said they were going to release Lexi and I explained to him that arrangements had been made for her care. He didn't ask me any questions except that if she was still in the country in three months, he would like to see her for a followup exam. Since Lexi had still not recovered her memory, she didn't argue when I told her Ajay would be taking her to her new apartment. She seemed to know that I cared about her and therefore she trusted me. I told her I would come over after she was settled in and check on her. As she left the hospital with Ajay, she gave me a hug and smiled. It took all my will not to go with her. When Ajay returned he reported that she seemed to love the apartment which overlooked the ocean. She also approved of the live in help, Mrs. Kapoor. Mrs. Kapoor was a college educated widow with no children of her own and was thrilled to have someone who needed her. She was also very discreet and wouldn't talk to the press or anyone else about my connection to Lexi. Leaving the hospital for good felt strange, as my life had centered around it and Lexi for over a month. I felt I needed to get my life back on track, at least as far as my career was concerned. My problems with Rani weren't so easily handled. As far as Rani, or anyone else knew, Lexi had recovered and gone back to where she came from. It felt strange to know that Lexi was less than a mile away from Mannat and me. I promised Lexi I would drop in and see her, so without telling Rani where I was going, I left. Mrs. Kapoor answered the doorbell, smiled and said Lexi was on the balcony. I had not seen the apartment before and as I walked towards the balcony, I noticed how beautiful it was. Well, she deserved to have a nice place to live. As I stepped onto the balcony, she had her back to me. We were on the sixth floor and it had a fantastic view of the ocean. The sun had just set and there was a mild breeze blowing in. She seemed lost in thought and was unaware of my presence. As I stood there and looked at her, I thought again of how small she was, only about 5'3" and about a 100 pounds. The thought of my big car ramming into her small body made me groan. At that sound, she turned and locked her eyes on mine. Without speaking, she walked to me and wrapped her body to mine. I was stunned at her embrace, but found my arms around her hugging her close to me. It felt so natural that it scared me. I finally pulled away and looked down at her. The temptation to kiss her was so strong, but I couldn't take advantage of her. I sat her down and took a seat across from her where I could recover my senses. I finally found my voice and tried to sound normal. "So, do you like the apartment?" Tears filled her eyes. "It's beautiful Shah Rukh, but how can I afford this?" I lied and told her it was being paid for by my insurance. I also said she would be getting monthly expense checks, also from my insurance company. She seemed alittle confused, but she accepted anything I told her. I hated to lie to her, especially when she looked at me with those beautiful trusting eyes. I couldn't tell her the truth, at least not yet. I had Ajay check with immigration regarding her passport and had her stay extended. They granted her a work visa that was good for six months and renewable. I listed her as an employee of mine, but didn't put her on the rolls of my productions company because Rani had access to all the workings there. I wanted her to be happy, but I didn't think sitting in the apartment all day would satisfy her. So I bought her a beautiful camera and suggested she start taking some photos around Mumbai. Ajay drove her around and she seemed instinctively to know how to use forgotten skills. Without knowing how, she set up a darkroom in the apartment to develop her photos, which were stunning. Her skill as a photographer must have been retained in a separate part of her brain. She was looking healthy and regaining a passion for life that was contagious. I felt better just being around her. She had a sharp sense of humor and a keen intelligence. She was an avid reader and liked to discuss various things. By now, she had also discovered that I was not only her friend, Shah Rukh, but also "King Khan, the Baadshah, King of Romance", and the biggest movie star in India. Didn't seem to make any difference to her. I was still just her friend, Shah Rukh. Rani and I were only speaking to each other when it concerned the kids or business. She knew something had changed, but thankfully didn't know what. I think we had both given up trying to have a loving relationship and were settling for a peaceful existence. It wasn't ideal, but I didn't know what else to do. We had never considered splitting up because it would hurt the children. Life is not always fair and I'd had my share of good breaks with my career, reaching heights that even my mother could never have imagined for me. I was very grateful for, and satisfied with, the life I had. That is, until Lexi came into the picture. Rani had known me since I was 19 and she was 15, and been there through all the highs and lows. But Lexi knew me as a mature man, someone who cared deeply about her welfare. She also, by now, knew I was married with children. She never asked me any personal questions about them, but I could see the questions in her eyes. Outside of the first night on the balcony, we had maintained a physical distance so as not to cross a line with each other. If it was our destiny to be only friends, I would respect that. I knew I had feelings for her that I wouldn't even express to myself. It had been about two and a half months, when I told her Dr. Patel had contacted me about her. She set up an appointment and went to see him. He gave her a clean bill of health, but was not very optimistic about her amnesia. He referred her to Dr. Chopra, a psychiatrist who dealt with memory loss, and made an appointment to see her. When Lexi told me this, I actually became scared. It worried me that she would recover her memory and I would lose her. How stupid that was! She was not mine to lose. But she had become such a big part of my life, I wasn't sure how I would react if she left India for good. Rani and I still put up a good front for the film community and the press. I still remembered the huge flap there had been over my "alleged" affair with my former costar, Devi. We truly were only close friends, but I shuddered at what the press would do with this situation. I had given Mrs. Kapoor my private cell number in case of an emergency, but she had never used it. It was about 10:00 pm when I got a call from her. She was frantic and I had trouble understanding what she was saying. I finally got her calmed down enough to hear her say, "Oh, Mr. Khan, Lexi is gone!" "Gone! What do you mean gone?" Chapter Five "Well, after dinner, she said she wanted to get some fresh air so I assumed she meant the balcony. I went to my room and about an hour later, I came out to check on her and she was nowhere to be found. I'm worried sick about her. I tried calling her cell number, but it just rang in the apartment, so she's out somewhere in Mumbai at 10:00 at night without any way to reach her. Oh, sir, what should I do?" I was also worried sick, but tried to make my voice sound calm for Mrs. Kapoor. "She's probably just in the vicinity of the apartment building sitting somewhere enjoying the night air. Don't panic, I'll go look for her. Keep your phone on and if she comes back, call me again, haan?" "Haan, sir." As I hung up the phone, I felt panic start to rise in my chest. How could she just walk out this late at night in Mumbai. What in heavens name was she thinking? I felt anger rise up to join the fear I was feeling. I wondered how to explain to Rani that I was going out. We were no longer sleeping in the same room, so I poked my head in her room and said goodnight. She gave me a surprised look but said, "Goodnight." I quickly changed and called Ajay and said I needed him. I asked him to bring his car as I didn't want anyone to recognize my distinctive license plate that ended in '555'. Everyone in Mumbai, and probably in India, knew that all my vehicles ended with '555'. As I got into the front seat of his car, I explained to him that Lexi was missing and we needed to find her. I assumed she was on foot and had not taken a taxi anywhere, so we concentrated our search around her apartment building. Wild thoughts kept popping into my head and I prayed she wasn't in any danger. If I was unsure about my feelings for her, this crystallized everything. I truly felt like crying. Ajay circled the area in ever widening circles, but with no success. By now, it was way past midnight, not a good time for a woman to be out alone in Mumbai. I prayed harder. Bandra is an affluent, upscale area but anyone could have grabbed her. Damn it Lexi, where the hell are you? I wanted to throttle her, I wanted to hold her and never let her go. My feelings were so extreme. Ajay asked me if I was alright. I tried to calm down and said, "I'll be fine as soon as we find her." We searched for over three hours and I told him if we didn't find her soon, I would call the police. Screw the press! As we headed back towards the apartment, I happened to look out at the beach. There was a full moon and I seemed to see someone there. I told Ajay to stop and I got out. As I walked towards a small figure sitting on the beach, I realized it was her. Thank you, God! She didn't appear to see me walking towards her and I was getting ready to berate her for taking off, but then I stopped dead in my tracks. I have never seen such a look of anguish on a person's face as I did now. Oh no! I knew her memory had returned and she was dealing with the awful loss of her family all over again. I sat down next to her and gently put my hand on her shoulder. She turned and looked into my eyes with so much pain in hers that it took my breath away. "Oh Lexi." I wanted to hold her and comfort her, but the words wouldn't come. Her eyes were dry, but there was an emptiness behind them. She shivered and I wrapped my arms around her to warm her up. "My sweet Lexi." I barely noticed that Ajay had put a blanket around both our shoulders and left again. As we sat huddled together on that beach, it was as if we became one person. The pain I still felt at the loss of my parents merged with her pain and became one. I knew in my heart that I had never felt this close to another human being, not even Rani. The sun was just starting to peek over the horizon as I stood, picked her up and carried her to the car. We drove back to the apartment in silence. She had not spoken a word. I carried her in and Mrs. Kapoor undressed her and put her in bed. As I sat on the sofa, the night's events had totally drained me. I don't think I'd ever been this tired. I don't know when Mrs. Kapoor put a blanket over me and I only woke when I smelled coffee brewing. Mrs. Kapoor handed me a cup and as I sipped it, I asked her if she had looked in on Lexi. "Yes, poor little thing. She looks so small and frail laying in that big bed. Her eyes were open so I tried to talk to her, but she didn't seem to notice I was there. Should we call the doctor?" "No, let's wait a bit." I told Mrs. Kapoor that I believed her memory had returned and she was reliving the loss of her family again. I said I would go home, shower and shave (as I looked like a homeless bum), and then I would return. If anything happened while I was gone, she was to call me immediately. As I walked out of the building, I saw that Ajay had slept in his car. Bless him. I need to give him a raise. I got into the passenger seat and he drove me back to Mannat. Rani was in the kitchen when I came in. "Where have you been? I looked in the study but it didn't look like you had slept there. Shah, what's going on?" I wasn't up to telling her the truth, so I lied and told her I couldn't sleep and had taken a walk. I don't know if she believed me, but by then, I didn't care. I recalled an interview I had given several years ago where I very glibly said 'No woman has ever made me go weak in the knees'. Well, you know what they say about karma! As I returned to her apartment, Mrs. Kapoor met me with a worried look on her face. She said Lexi was quiet, too quiet. I went into the bedroom and my heart seized with pain. She looked like a small child who's just been told there is no Santa Clause. I sat down on the bed and took her hand. It was ice cold and I rubbed it between both of mine. She didn't look at me, but seemed to be staring at a place that didn't exist anymore. I felt I needed to reach her somehow before she was lost to me forever. I went out onto the balcony and called Dr. Chopra and told her the situation. She said she would come right over. As we waited, Mrs. Kapoor tearfully told me how much she cared for Lexi and how kind Lexi was to her. We both sat there deep in our thoughts, startled when the intercom buzzed and we let Dr. Chopra in. She asked Mrs. Kapoor if anything unusual had happened before Lexi went missing. Mrs. Kapoor shook her head no, but then recalled that there had been an accident down on the street. After the police and ambulances left, Lexi told her she wanted to get some fresh air. Dr. Chopra asked if Lexi seemed upset by the accident, but Mrs. Kapoor said she didn't think so. Dr. Chopra then looked at me. "Mr. Khan, I believe the car accident yesterday triggered her memory. I don't think she recalled everything at once, but gradually over the course of the night, she must have remembered the accident that killed her family. Thank God you found her safe. I feel the memory of that accident is as painful to her now as when the actual event occurred." I walked Dr. Chopra outside. As we stood by her car she said, "Mr. Khan, I know this puts you in a delicate position and I respect that. Lexi has repeatedly said how safe she feels when you are with her. Without your help, we may never get her back. Would you be willing to help bring her through this? If this is something you feel you can't do, let me know and I'll make arrangements to have her admitted to a clinic." I didn't know what was going to happen, but I did know I couldn't bear to see Lexi put into a mental clinic and be all alone again. I had promised her when she laid in a coma at the hospital, that I would make this right for her. I would follow my heart and let the chips fall where they may. I looked at Dr. Chopra and said, "I will always stand by Lexi." She smiled and said, "Good, we'll begin the work of bringing Lexi back to us tomorrow. I'll see you in the morning." She told Mrs. Kapoor to check on her every few hours and she would be back by 9:00 in the morning. Chapter Six On the way home, I tried to figure out how I would tell Rani about this. I'm not a liar or deceitful person by nature, but it seemed as if I was backed into a corner. With all that was happening with Lexi, the last thing I needed was the stress of telling Rani. By the time I reached the back entrance of Mannat, I had decided to tell Rani that I needed to take care of some business dealings in the U.S. I would have to be very vague about details so she wouldn't check up on me. Now I realized why I didn't like lying, it was too easy to foul up. I came into the house and could hear Malik laughing and playing upstairs. I knew that if Rani and I separated, she would have custody of the kids. Kavin and Maya were almost grown, but it was little three year old Malik that broke my heart. I love all my children so much! As I came upstairs, Malik ran to me yelling, "Papa, Papa." I scooped him up in my arms and buried my face in his neck. For a split second I considered calling Dr. Chopra and telling her I couldn't help her with Lexi, but I couldn't forget the look I had seen in Lexi's eyes on the beach. Even if Rani and I did separate, I knew I wouldn't lose my children. But if I abandoned Lexi, she would have no one else. Putting Malik down and walking towards the bedroom, I made up my mind to go through with the lie. Rani was in her big walk-in closet rearranging her shoes when I came in. She looked at me but didn't say anything. I sat down on one of her dressing room chairs. "Rani, I'm going to have to be away for alittle while on business." She looked at me and said, "Where are you going?" I was prepared for this and told her I would be in New York first, then I had several meetings in L. A. I wasn't sure how long this business would take, but I knew I would be gone over a week. She accepted what I told her and didn't seem too upset. I told her I would Skype with the children everyday and keep all of them updated about my return. She asked when I had to leave. "Tomorrow morning, so I need to start packing." She just said okay and asked if I needed anything special I wanted to take. I said no, I could handle it. Maya didn't have a problem with my being away because she was used to it, but little Malik started to cry, "Papa no go, Papa no go." I hugged and kissed him and told him I would call him every night before bedtime. Rani, at least did say, "Have a nice trip." Man, I felt like a piece of shit! Ajay picked me up in his car, again so as not to attract attention, but I needn't have worried. There were hardly any people out as it was pouring rain. He dropped me at the back entrance of the building and I took the elevator up to Lexi's apartment. I had my own key, so I knocked and unlocked the door. Mrs. Kapoor was happy to see me but said Dr. Chopra hadn't arrived yet. She got me a cup of coffee and we sat at the dining room table. She said Lexi had been quiet all night, only getting up once to use the bathroom. I asked Mrs. Kapoor if Lexi had said anything yet, but she shook her head no while looking like she could cry. Mrs. Kapoor said she would unpack my belongings and put me in a spare bedroom. Lexi was lying on her back with her head turned towards the windows as if watching the rain come down. I walked into her line of vision but she never once changed the look in her eyes. What are you seeing, Lexi? Where are you? I wanted to shake her and bring her back to me, but just then Mrs. Kapoor ushered Dr. Chopra into the apartment. Dr. Chopra seemed pleased that I had honored my word to be there for Lexi. She told me that she had contacted two prominent psychiatrists, one in Germany, one in the U.S. who had worked extensively with traumatic cases such as Lexi's. Without letting them know the patient's name, she had explained the situation and they said they would fax her some suggestions. They said they would also be available for consultation if needed. Dr. Chopra went in to check Lexi's vitals and observe her reactions. Basically, there weren't any. Sometimes, if you spoke her name, she would look at you. Well, not actually at you, more like through you. It was almost like her life spirit was gone. After examining her, she came in the living room and sat down across from me. Mrs. Kapoor poured more coffee for me and offered Dr. Chopra chai. I had so many questions, most of which she couldn't answer just yet. She said it would be an uphill battle and that Lexi would have to want to come back to the living. Funny, but that's the phrase Lexi herself had used in the first line of her diary. Now she was going to have to fight that battle all over again. How much could she take? Only Ajay, Mrs. Kapoor, Dr. Patel and Dr. Chopra knew where I was and I wanted to keep it that way. I called Karishma, my secretary at my production studio, and told her to handle things until further notice as I was away on other business. I had to be very careful because Rani was an officer of the company. She knew more than I did about what was going on at the office. Karishma asked how they could get ahold of me in case they needed me. I gave her Ajay's number and said they could reach me through him. Boy, this deceit was harder than any film I had ever done. Dr. Chopra felt we needed to get Lexi up and out of bed, so the three of us swung her legs over the edge and pulled her into a sitting position. She made a small animal mewling noise, almost like a kitten, but didn't make any eye contact or speak to us. I left the room while Mrs. Kapoor and the doctor changed her into a comfortable kurta and leggings. Mrs. Kapoor brushed her hair and washed her face.