The drive from his sister’s house was at least a few hours, and during that time, Chris tried not to think about what was awaiting him at home, or of Claire’s strange request. In fact, he thought about not honoring it for the sake of all the turmoil he’d recently caused his ex-partner. When Chris got back to his house, he stood at the foot of the staircase, looking up at Jill’s room for a while, deciding. Ultimately, something aside from Claire’s request was urging him to go. Oddly, he remembered Jill saying when she brought him home that she didn’t have a problem with him being her room . . . he felt that it was an excuse, but he’d take it. Chris ascended the stairs.
Upon opening the door, Chris was struck with the peculiarity of everything. For one thing, he’d never known Jill to want to sleep in such a large bed, and for another, although nicely decorated, it didn’t have the specific trappings of a woman’s room as it seemed like it didn’t want to commit to décor that was gender specific. In fact, the basic décor – the curtains, bedclothes, and chair upholstery – as sophisticated as it was, wasn’t even specific to Jill’s feminine tastes as he remembered them from her bedroom in her apartment years ago.
As he kept looking around, he noticed other strange things. He recognized her vanity, that was flanked on both sides with short dressers at the front of the room, which were not strange by themselves, but what did seem out of place was the additional tall dresser at the side of the room. He’d never known Jill Valentine to be anything of a clotheshorse, so what could she possibly need the extra furniture for? Something drew him there. With unsettling familiarity, he pulled open one of the drawers from the tall dresser to find men’s clothes inside . . . no, not just men’s clothes, but his clothes, mostly seasonal things that he wouldn’t have needed before he left for Edonia. Chris found it odd again that he’d have recognized that they were things that he wouldn’t have needed before then as if any of that really could have any importance, but yet, . . . it made sense. He pulled more drawers. Some of the contents had more seasonal things, but as he got toward the bottom, he found some with much fewer items and some with nothing in them. Could it be possible that he just stored clothes he wasn’t wearing in Jill’s room? Somehow that question didn’t make sense. Those missing contents in those drawers were in the dresser in his room . . . a dresser that, up until now, had never seemed peculiar to him that wasn’t completely full of clothes.
Chris put his arms on top of the dresser and buried his face in them. Something inside was desperately trying to wrest itself from the shadows of his mind to come to the forefront, and he had the feeling he would rather not see it. He stood there like that for several moments, trying to come to grips with something he didn’t understand, before he realized that he’d never understand it until he found the missing piece that would make sense of all of this. He decided to keep looking; and with that decision, he picked up his head, and found himself staring at Jill’s vanity again. His intuition was urging him, so much so, that he was surprised when he found himself standing in front of it, apparently not being aware of taking the physical steps toward it. But once there, he stood still, staring at it, not daring yet to touch anything. His eyes landed on her jewelry box. Jill rarely wore jewelry, and when she did, it was always something very simple: earring studs or a chain. But Chris was aware, that Jill had a habit of putting things in her jewelry box that were important as long as they were small enough to fit. Chris tried to tell himself that he was being stupid. So what? So Jill sometimes put important things in there; that didn’t mean that whatever clue he was looking for would be small enough to fit inside her jewelry box. . . . And once again, he wasn’t aware of his actions until he saw his hand lifting the lid.
The box contained rows of velvet-lined sections holding exactly the kind of things Chris expected to see; earrings, chains of gold and silver, some with pendants some without, and a few random rings. He was about to close the lid again . . . but one section’s contents caught his eye for the thickness of the simple gold band that was a size much too large for Jill’s slender fingers. He picked it up to find a much smaller one had tried to come with it as the larger band was wide enough to encircle around the smaller one. He jostled them in his palm to let them separate from each other. They matched in design, but only the smaller one could possibly fit Jill. Chris puzzled for a minute as he ignored that thing which was trying to worm its way uncomfortably into his conscious mind. Once again, while it couldn’t find its way from the shadows, it found control of his body as it drove Chris to place the larger ring on the appropriate finger of his left hand.
Like puzzle pieces rearranging or finally materializing to suddenly fall into their empty spaces revealing an image that had no relevant context until now, it came back. It all came back. . . . It . . . all . . . came . . . back. . . .
And Chris Redfield realized that which he didn’t want to remember.
Jill had been eager to get home. For one reason, he wanted to see Chris. For another reason, she needed to see Chris. And for a third reason, while on her way to the house, she’d received an odd text message from her sister-in-law that had read, “I’m sorry” which Jill worried had something to do with Chris.
She quickly parked in the driveway, and hurried into the house especially after noticing his Hummer was there. She called his name, but there wasn’t an answer back. She quickly searched the first floor and then ran upstairs, calling for him again. She quickly walked down the hallway toward his room, and called his name once more. She didn’t need to make it to his room before she heard him answer: “I’m in here, Jill.” She realized by the sound of his voice that he was definitely not in that particular room, but much closer in a more unnerving location.
Jill tried not to seem apprehensive upon entering their bedroom, especially when seeing him sitting in the chair across from her next to his dresser with his elbows resting on his knees and his eyes down, refusing to look at her. Before the moment could linger, she spoke first.
“Hey, I need to talk to you-“
“I’ll bet you do,” he replied looking at his closed hand instead of her. “I just need to ask you . . . when I had offered you a way out, why did you try to do it like this?”
“. . . Do what?”
He looked up at her and opened his hand to show her the two golden wedding bands.
Jill inhaled deeply. She put her palms together and placed her hands to her lips, meditating on how to say what she needed to, praying that he would believe what he refused to three weeks before leaving for Edonia.
He turned his head to look away from her. “If you didn’t want to be with me, why didn’t you just accept the divorce?” He clenched his jaw and swallowed back a lump of emotion. “It would make more sense than living with me for nothing.” He dropped his eyes to the floor, not wanting to see her feelings of guilt and the surprise on her face.
But he wouldn’t have seen them if he’d dared to look because her intentions toward him could never be as cruel as he was imagining; her feelings for him went much deeper than he believed.
“That’s not what this was about, Chris. This is not at all how I wanted you to find out.”
“Finding out isn’t the problem, Jill,” he replied forcefully as he stood up from the chair. “It’s why you didn’t tell me – it’s why you even took off your wedding ring in the first place so I wouldn’t remember, or why you put me back in the guestroom instead of our bedroom!”
“Well, at that point, I didn’t know what else to do! I was still too afraid to tell you!” Her defense sounded feeble as her own words rang in her ears.
“Afraid of what, Valentine? Afraid that you couldn’t be rid of me sooner?”
“No! Of course not!” she quickly rejoined, trying to not notice that he called her by her maiden name. “And would you listen to yourself? If I wanted you out of my life, does it make any sense that I would still let you know that you lived here?”
“All my shit is here - you wouldn’t have had any other choice! Besides, you’ve made it clear that you respect me, so out of that respect, I doubt you’d have kicked me out of our house, but it’s just fitting that you kept me out of our bedroom.”
The right words that would convince him still weren’t coming, and out of her impatience and frustration, all Jill could reply with was, “That had nothing to do with anything! I truly didn’t mean for you to find out this way!”
“Well what ‘way’ were you going to tell me, Valentine?”
She cast her eyes to the side of room, looking for hope in the absence of answers, looking for eloquence in the abundance of that which was ineffable. “I-I don’t know. I hadn’t figured that out yet.”
Chris sighed and slowly shook his head at her. He didn’t want to feel like a bully, grilling her for answers like he was. He was aware that he had backed her into some kind of a corner, and this was a position they had never been in before, which definitely made it just as uncomfortable for him as he could see it was for her. “Jill,” he said more quietly. “I’m not looking for anything other than straight answers; I don’t want a convenient lie just to make the both of us feel better about what’s going on. I just want you understand that regardless of your respect for me and my feelings - that you don’t have to hide anything. I just want you to realize what you’re really feeling so we can just get this over with. But I need to hear it from your lips, otherwise I won’t have the strength to leave you on my own.”
She rolled her eyes and released an exasperated sigh, but those actions weren’t cathartic enough to stop the tears from welling up. “But that’s what I can’t ever seem to get across to you! I don’t want anything other than this life! I don’t want anyone other than you! I tried telling you that before, but just like now, you never seem to understand that!”
His volume increased with his agitation, “And how am I supposed to understand that when I come home from losing my memories and my wife sticks me in the guestroom?!”
“Because I didn’t want you to remember this – this fight!” she replied matching his volume. “Because I know that you love me so much that you’d give up everything you’ve wanted just so I can be happy!”
“That’s right,” he said with a steady calm. “I do love you like that. And the fact that weeks before I left for Edonia, you told me that it wasn’t love but respect for me that got you agreeing to this marriage – the fact that you didn’t tell me we were married when I came back, leaves me with no other choice but to believe that you’re denying that now only because you genuinely don’t want to hurt me through that same respect and that the best thing I could do for you is to free you from this. That’s what I understand from all of this, and what you don’t seem to understand is the pain I feel from your loveless respect – the pain of knowing that you never returned my love for you, knowing that every time we’re intimate that you don’t want me as much as I want you, knowing that no matter how much closer it seems like we are, we’re still only as close as we were as partners in combat. And that’s not the life I thought I was giving you. If I had realized that sooner, there would have been no point in us promising our lives to each other. And out of principle and how I feel about you, I can’t stay here and keep you from feeling as fulfilled as I did before all this happened.”
The tears were flowing freely from her eyes now in silent streams. She was desperately afraid of the outcome of this, and there was only one antidote that had always worked at overcoming her fears, and it was standing in front of her. She came up close to him, and touched his arm. He pulled back, and turned away from her. “Chris,” she whispered, her voice quavering. “Please . . . I – I need you to hold me. Please.”
In spite of his pain, Chris could not ever refuse a request for help and security from Jill Valentine, especially a tearful one. He knew it was going to make this harder, but he was compelled to aid her. He turned back toward her, and gently enfolded her into an embrace, feeling her body relax into his, and her arms pulling him closer. He sighed, and rested his head onto hers. The amount of pleasure and contentment he received in holding her completely disregarded all his feelings of emotional pain.
“Christmas morning,” Jill began tearfully, “when Claire and I got the call from the BSAA about what happened to you, before they could tell me that you were safe and alive, a million thoughts raced through my mind at once about how I was going to live without you and even whether or not I wanted to. I don’t even remember what life felt like without you being here. And afterward, I felt so guilty about what happened to you because I wondered if I had caused it – that if I had understood myself better, if I hadn’t said what I did in the way that I did, that it wouldn’t have been in the back of your mind, possibly making you a little careless about your self-preservation. Piers told me and Claire what happened, and I had to ask him if you had said anything about me or the fight we’d had. When we came back, your sister asked me why would I have asked Piers something like that, so I told her. She asked me a bunch of questions, and I answered her honestly. She basically said that I do love you, but I had been confusing it for respect because until you came into my life, all I had to go on to model male and female relationships on was what I saw from my mother who never respected any of the men she was with. . . .”
“. . . Okay . . . .” It was an emotionless and unsatisfying reply from him.
“I’m telling you this so that you understand that I’m not changing my story to get you to stay or to be diplomatic. I only had to understand it better myself so now you can understand.”
Chris sighed heavily. It made sense, and he wanted to believe her, but the pain was still freshly churning, and he couldn’t shake the upset she had caused him and could have avoided had she just done something as simple as not take off her wedding ring so he could have remembered everything. Would the fight have started all over had she walked into his hospital room that first day? He couldn’t tell. Either way, it was an odd thing for her to do. For Jill to choose such a strange action, Chris knew that she was either telling the truth and had been so fearful of losing him right away that she took this risk to desperately keep that from happening, or she really had hoped that he would never remember and keep on as they had been for reasons only she could really know. Neither action really sounded like Jill, but the first only didn’t sound like her because he wasn’t used to the idea; the second didn’t sound like her because she was much more intelligent and didn’t leave things to chance like that. The odds were better for the former, but still, it was difficult to internalize.
“Okay, Jill,” he said again, just as devoid of discernible emotion as he had before. He stroked her head as it lay on his shoulder. “Okay.”
They would eventually separate from the embrace, and Chris would wipe away the remnants of her tears just as he always did, but for hours later, things wouldn’t feel the same. There were no more words of separation or divorce, but the resolution was wholly incomplete. Chris felt that this was his fault, but he didn’t know why he couldn’t just let it all go and resume their lives as they had before the fight several months ago. Jill felt it too. Relieved that he seemed to believe her, but knowing that something was still off, she didn’t press the issue any further because her husband never reacted well to being pushed.
That night found Chris Redfield putting his clothes back inside the dresser of the master bedroom. He closed the drawer, and didn’t move for several seconds.
Jill was sitting upright in bed, rubbing lotion on her hands, and had been observing him the entire time. “Something wrong?” she made sure her tone was gentle.
“Are you sure this is okay?” He didn’t look at her, and didn’t know why he couldn’t.
“Of course. It was your idea to move into the guestroom originally, remember?”
“Yeah,” he said quietly. Chris walked over to the bed, and silently got in, settling into the very familiar pillows and sheets. His body remembered how odd the guestroom bed had felt in comparison to this. It was this intimate setting – the soft lighting, the bed, and Jill beside him that made him realize why he still wasn’t at ease with the whole situation: despite everything she’d said to him yesterday and today, she never said the actual words that expressed what he once took for granted, but after all this, needed her to physically say it. He closed his eyes, and told himself to let it go.
He heard the click of her bedside lamp as she transitioned the switch. He realized then that he hadn’t turned off the lamp on the nightstand beside him, but just as he opened his eyes to do that, he felt Jill’s body slide across him and turn off his light. In the darkness, he felt her nestle close against him between his side and his arm. Her warmth and closeness felt good, and Chris reminded himself that he didn’t need to feel uneasy; after all, their altercation was over. He tried to force himself to let go of all the emotional turmoil, but it wasn’t working. He had no reason really to not trust his wife’s explanation for her true feelings not being communicated properly, however, he realized that he didn’t truly have a foundation of words or actions from her to fully trust that explanation either. He quickly searched his memories but couldn’t find anything from her founded in love that could be separated from the inspiration of respect. Love and respect were too good of a combination together that one really shouldn’t be able to separate them anyway. Since he couldn’t figure it out, and since she felt too good lying against him, Chris allowed himself to bring his arm around her. He heaved a sigh.
Jill brought herself a little closer to lay her head on his shoulder and her hand on his chest. “. . . You know . . .” she began quietly, “you’ve been home months now, and we haven’t ‘celebrated’ properly.”
It was the first time she had ever brought something like that to his attention. During the past few years, when he hadn’t questioned her feelings, when it was possible for him to feel welcome to her affections, when he came home from missions, he always instigated their amorous encounters. Her statement sounded like a suggestion, but it felt like a guilty move on her part, born from tradition and duty just like the night before he left. Just like months ago, Chris could admit to himself that he really would have liked to accept her offer, but he just couldn’t – not under the recent emotional circumstances. “It’s all right,” he replied. “Don’t worry about it.” His own words of refusal caused an ache in his chest. The purely physical parts of him accused his heart and mind of being insane, masochistic terrorists against the union.
Jill couldn’t help but see a parallel to tonight and the night before Chris left. Back then, she had wished she had tried harder, although knowing that he still would’ve refused her. She now realized what piece had been missing. She summoned up some courage and let it mingle with her vulnerability that she knew her husband couldn’t resist. She pushed herself up onto his chest, tenderly kissing it and slowly bringing herself closer to his face. She felt him grab onto her to stop her ascent to his lips, then relent as his resolve wore off, then regain himself and resist her again.
“Jill, please. You don’t have to do this.”
She stopped and looked up at him. “But what if I want to? What am I supposed to do when I need you?”
He regarded her and her words steadily in the darkness for a moment. He had answer for her, in that while keeping her close, he gently pushed her off so he could position himself on top of her. Wrapping his strong arms around her smaller frame, he pulled her into himself and a long awaited, unrestrained, passionate kiss. Jill received it and gave it back to him, matching his intensity, bringing him as close as she was physically able.
Suddenly, Chris pulled back from the embrace, ushering in a blast of cold in the absence of his warmth. He cast his face downward so she couldn’t have access to it.
He needed her to know that although he was doing this for her, that it wasn’t devoid of his most powerful feelings for her even if he felt that she couldn’t truly return them. He looked back up into her eyes. “I love you, Jill Valentine.”
Relieved that he wasn’t intending to stop, she smiled and touched his face. “That’s Jill Redfield to you, buster!”
It was enough to break some of the tension, and she saw Chris laugh a little at her playful feistiness. “Oh, excuse me, then,” he said and began to kiss her neck.
“Yeah, you better ask me to excuse you,” she replied, lavishing in his long-awaited affection. “My husband will kick your ass.”
“I highly doubt that, Mrs. Redfield. I’m pretty strong,” said Chris in a heavy breath before he returned to find more available places on Jill that could use some attention.
“Yeah, well, my husband’s a big, sexy, beefcake who knows more ways in how to kill a zombie, save the world from bioterrorism, and please his wife than you know about . . .” she was struggling for words as it was becoming more difficult to think about anything other than what Chris was doing. “Folding socks!”
Chris stopped and looked at her, amused, knowing how her concentration was being compromised. “Folding socks, eh?”
“Yeah? Well . . . I know a lot of different ways to fold socks.”
“I know,” she breathed.
“Your husband sounds insane, Mrs. Redfield.”
“He’s that too. And he’s amazing, and I love him more than anything.”
“. . . Really?”
“. . . Yes . . . really.” She returned Chris’ gaze.
He could clearly see her sincerity even in the darkness, illuminated only slightly by moonlight through the blinds. As usual, when Chris was truly touched by something powerful from within, he had a difficult time keeping it to himself. He tenderly caressed Jill’s face with one hand, and she smiled contentedly. “That’s all I needed to know.”
Jill pulled him close again, wrapping her arms around him. They both nestled deeply into the curves and sinews of the other, acknowledging the need they both had for each other that was founded in great respect and immeasurable love.