I step forward, pressing every piece of me against him, wanting to crawl into and hug his broken, terrified heart. “I’m saying nothing would make me happier.”
He groans, pressing his lips against mine so hard, so strong, that it almost hurts, his hands grabbing at my skin with long, possessive grasps, pulling me against him as if he will never have the chance to touch me again. “That’s a yes?” he asks abruptly, pulling off my mouth, as if the last-minute verification is needed.
I smile, finding his eyes. “That’s a yes, Brant Sharp. I will marry you and be your wife whenever you want to have me.”
“Yesterday,” he blurts, returning to my mouth. “Now.” He presses forward and pulls me tighter, my body made aware of the size of his need. “Forever.”
Then my future husband makes love to me in the shower of our home. And I make sure, for the next fifteen minutes, that no one else crosses his mind. Literally or figuratively.
“When will the doctor be here?” Wearing boxer briefs, Brant pulls on a T-shirt, his hands reaching for jeans when I’d really rather him be in pajamas, in bed, behaving as my patient.
“In the next half hour.”
He opens a drawer and reaches inside, grabbing a bottle of Aciphex and tossing it to me. “Ask her what this is, and what it’s meant to treat.”
I examine the bottle, twisting open the lid to see it stocked with white tablets. “These aren’t Aciphex?”
“No.” He looks, for a brief moment, sheepish. “Jillian told me they were to control my blackouts.”
“Your what?” I hold up a hand. “Wait. We have so much to discuss it’s crazy. The majority of it concerning Jillian. Can you tell me everything in fifteen minutes?”
He shrugs. “I can do it in five.”
I pocket the bottle of pills. “Let’s sit on the deck and talk.”
“When I was eleven, everything in my life started to change. It came with the onset of my family’s purchase of a computer, the introduction to advanced technology affecting more than just my interests. It was as if my brain turned on full force, in a hundred ways at once, an unlocking of a door that I had shut. I was always intelligent, but I was suddenly gifted. I began to apply the simple facts, concepts, mathematics that I knew, and used them in the way that the computer did – as simple rules that can work with each other to conclude an output. My brain was reborn and it was obsessed with discovery. I could think, could process more, do a hundred calculations in a minute, but I also was bombarded with colors, images, thoughts… more than I could handle at one time. I’d want to build three things at once. Or have two different opinions on the same subject, at the same time. I’d argue with myself, presenting both sides of an argument, my mind understanding the nuances and opinions of either side and feeling strongly on both points.” He collects his thoughts, then continues.
“Everything became, in a series of months, maddening. My brain worked in overtime, and I was exhausted over it. At some point during that time, during that summer… That was when the blackouts started. My brain would go a hundred miles an hour then… nothing. There would be hours of time where I would black out. Say and do things I had no recollection of.”
He pauses and I wait for him to continue.
“Then, on October 12th… I woke up from a blackout in a child’s psych ward. Jillian was in the hospital. That was when the doctors and medical tests started. I don’t remember a lot of that time, but when I got out, Jillian moved into our house. I never went back to school, didn’t see my friends again, everything was focused on keeping me home, keeping my brain busy. We discovered I did better if I had a problem and focused on it. Complex math problems, or unraveling code to debug a virus… anything that involved complex thought quieted the madness. This was before commercial use of the internet, back when computers were basic input output computation tools. Data processors. That was about it. I had already learned to build a computer. When I was in the basement full-time, I began the focus of improving the machine, its performance, then—once that was solved—its capabilities.” He takes a sip of wine, glances at me.
“But the blackouts continued. My parents… they were worried. Worried I would have another occurrence of whatever had happened in October. So I was put on a sedative, something to keep me calm. It stopped the blackouts, but I couldn’t think on it. It dulled everything, including my ability to process intelligent thought—at least not on the same level as before. I grew increasingly quiet, lost interest in computers, in everything. So…” He shifts, lifting a foot and placing it against the stone wall. “Jillian and I made a deal.”
My mouth dries out as I forget to swallow. “A deal?”
“I stopped taking the medication, and she covered for any blackouts I had. At that point in time, close to the completion of Sheila, I was in the basement 90% of the time, with her for the majority of that. My parents—I was only seeing them at meals and before bed. Any blackouts I had, Jillian concealed. In exchange, I focused on getting Sheila finished and ready for our meetings with investors.”
“You were, what? Twelve at this point?”
“Yes, had just turned twelve.”
“Not old enough to make that deal.”
“I wasn’t a typical twelve-year-old. I was intelligent enough to make a quantified decision of risk versus reward. And since Jillian was the one most at risk, and since she was the one spending time with me… I made the decision.”
“No. She made the decision. How much did she make in your initial sale?”
“A few million dollars. Ten percent of the deal.”
I keep quiet, allow him to pull his own conclusions of my thoughts on the matter. After a moment, he resumes.
“When I was around twenty, we started BSX. Stopped selling off my developments and instead moved them in-house. Our income increased ten-fold and I decided I had enough. Enough money to live the rest of my life in wealth. Enough residual income that my children wouldn’t ever have to work. I went to Jillian and told her I wanted a change. Told her I wanted to resume the medicine.”
He sighs. “Not knowing about my blackouts… it was a constant fear in my life. I’d have them without even knowing it. Jillian would wear a long-sleeve shirt, and I’d wonder if she was covering up bruises from my touch. We were still, for the most part, sequestered from the outside world. And I wanted to live, to have a life, to work in an environment where I could collaborate with others, have relationships, friendships. I wanted normality, and I was willing to sacrifice my career for it. Willing to set aside computers and live a muted intellectual life if it meant security in knowing and controlling my actions. In knowing, more importantly, my lack of unknown actions.”