This story is a sequel to my short story TO Remember and the subsequent character interview. If you haven’t read that story, click here.For the interview, click here. Also, my readers are the most patient and amazing people on the planet! Thank you for waiting for this story.
Something deep inside me stirs. Setting down my fork, I refuse a second slice of cheesecake.
“Are you done, Carly?” Ms. Jeannine says.
I jump, my eyes widening, when the man across the table grabs my hand again. I pull away.
“She doesn’t have to go back to her room yet, does she?” He says.
Ms. Jeannine nods. “I’m afraid she does. You know the rules, Brandon.” She lowers her voice. “You know when she—”
“But I just want some time with her.”
“You’ve been upsetting her lately—”
“I’m not upset,” I say and squeeze Brandon’s hand, “not any more than you would be if you were dumped somewhere and forced to spend another Thanksgiving away from your family.”
“Another?” Ms. Jeannine says.
I look from her confusion to the hope in Brandon’s eyes. “Well, yes,” I clear my throat, “I was here last year too, wasn’t I?”
Ms. Jeannine kneels beside me. “Carly, what else do you remember?”
“I—” my mind fuzzes. I twist the paper napkin in my hands.
“Do you remember me?” Brandon says.
His eyes shine, and I can feel my tears trying to fall. What’s wrong with me? “Why should I remember?” I rip the napkin and throw the pieces at him. “What’s so fantastic about you?” I try to push back my chair but it’s stuck.
Ms. Jeannine helps me up. “It’s okay, honey. There’s no harm in not remembering.”
“I’m sorry,” Brandon says, “I didn’t mean to upset you—”
“What difference does that make?” I say.
Back in my room, Ms. Jeannine brushes out my hair. “Have you done this before?” I say.
“Why don’t I remember anything between last Thanksgiving and now?” I look into the eyes of her reflection in the vanity mirror and she flinches.
“You’ve had enough excitement for one night, Carly.”
I reach back and stop her hand. “What’s wrong?”
She comes around to look me in the face. “Someday, when you’re ready, you’ll remember your life, and how you came to be here but—”
“Remember my life?” I shake my head. “I know who I am. Don’t I?”
She pats my hand and helps me into a nightgown. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Carly,” she folds back the covers of the bed, her hand hovering over the walkie-talkie at her waist, “please calm down, and get into bed. It’s time for everyone to go to sleep.”
“You aren’t my mother, why should I do what you say?”
“Because I’m the authority here, not you.”
“This is the dumbest boarding school on the planet.” I cross my arms with a huff and sink into the sheets.
“It’s not—” she rubs her forehead. “You’ll feel better in the morning.” As she steps into the hallway, she flips off the light.
I try to go to sleep, but it seems like every breath I take sends my dreams further away from me. I hear my door click and I pull the covers over my head. Why won’t Ms. Jeannine leave me alone?
“Carly?” a large hand touches my side. “Carly? Have you fallen asleep yet?”
I inch the covers down only to dive back under them as I’m blinded by light. “Get out or I’ll scream! What are you trying to do?”
“Sorry,” he says, “it’s me, Brandon. I feel terrible for upsetting you, but will you please talk to me?”
“What do you want?” I sit up and peek from behind the covers. “Aren’t you going to get in trouble with the head mistress?”
“The what?” He looks over his shoulder. “Oh, you mean, Nurse Jeannine.” He holds out his hand. “Not if you come with me.”
The light outlines his face catching specks of green in his eyes. My heart picks up it’s pace.
“You really are beautiful,” he says, almost more to himself.
I lower the sheets and look around the room, sleep still feeling anything but close. “If you try anything, I’ll scream.” I take his hand and he leads me through the darkened halls passed another woman in uniform who pretends not to notice us. “How old are you?”
“The same age as you.”
I frown. “You look older.”
“So do you.” He sighs.
Taking off his robe, he wraps it around me and I notice, for the first time, that he’s walking with a cane. “What happened to you?”
He shrugs. “We’ve talked about that before.”
My stomach twists into knots.
“It’s okay,” he says, lifting my chin. For a moment he doesn’t say anything, his thumb gently brushing my cheek. “I know you don’t remember, but I’m tired of acting like we’re strangers. So, just for tonight, can I stop pretending? Would that bother you too much?”
My knees shake and he wraps an arm around my shoulders. He seems so familiar as he snuggles me to his side. “I guess I wouldn’t mind, for a little bit,” I say. We walk in silence, slowly finding the right pace.
“So, you believe me?” he says.
“Why wouldn’t I?” I watch his profile and he bites his lip.
“You haven’t before.”
“We’ve done this before?”
“No.” He chuckles softly. “The last time I tried this you had already fallen asleep.”
I stop walking and he turns to face me. “You watch me sleep?”
“No. You—I mean—you see—” he scratches at the back of his neck, muttering under his breath.
I back away, my heart beginning to race.
“Don’t come near me.” My voice breaks and I hold up my hands.
“Okay, just please look in the left pocket of my robe.” Tears gather in his eyes.
Without taking my eyes off him I fish something out of it. I hold it in the light between us and it glistens. At the end of the silver chain hangs a locket with a man and a woman engraved on it. They’re dancing and laughing and in an instant I know I’ve seen this locket before.
I stagger back, images, sounds, smells and years flashing through my mind. I fall to my knees.
“Please, say you remember.” Brandon’s voice reaches to me pulling me from the violent current. He sinks to his knees at my side.
I take his face in my hands, resting my forehead to his, my whole body shaking. “I remember every lie.”
Thanks so much for reading! I also thank you, again, for your patience in waiting for this delayed story. I hope you found it to be worth the wait. Have a question you’d like to “ask” Carly? Leave it in a comment below and I’ll include it in the next character interview! And, don’t forget to check out the Ruling Reader program by clicking here.