Bits and Pieces

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Chapter Two

Feeling the pain in her head, she reached to feel the bandages. Slowly she opened her blurry eyes and looked around. All she could see was white. Focusing her eyes, she realized she was in the hospital. She was nauseated and her body ached. Reaching around the bed, she found the call button and pushed it.

Instead of a response over the intercom, a nurse walked into her room. “You’re awake. Let me call the doctor.” She said and immediately left the room.

It was merely five or six minutes later when a man in a long white coat walked into the room. “Casey, I’m so glad to see you awake.” The man said as he flashed a bright light in her eyes. “You’ve been in a coma for some time.”

“How long?” It was all she could say.

“Five weeks.”

“Five weeks? What happened to me?” She said, rubbing her forehead.

“You don’t remember?”

“No. I remember nothing.”

“I’m sorry, you were… caught in a home invasion… I think I need to call Jason, he can explain it to you.”

“Who is Jason?”

“You don’t remember Jason? Do… you… know who I am?”

“No, should I?”

“Oh dear Casey, yes you should. Jason and I have both been good friends with your father for years.” He said, once again looking in her eyes with the bright flashlight.

“Casey, is that my name?” She asked.

“Yes, you don’t remember who you are?”

“No.” She said quietly and began to cry.

“Shhh, don’t cry, we’ll get through this. My name is Dr. Grant, but you’ve always called me Kyle. How do you feel, otherwise?”

“I feel really hungry and I’m really nauseated.”

“Do you think you can eat, we don’t want to see you get sick?”

“I think I would feel better if I could eat something.”

“I’ll order you something light and I’ll get in contact with Jason. He can explain what happened to you and your family. You page me if there is anything you need, otherwise, I’ll see you when Jason get’s here.”

Approximately twenty minutes later, she received some food. Grilled cheese with chicken noodle soup and jello. Milk, juice and crackers. The soup was bland but she didn’t care, she was so hungry. Just as she finished eating, the doctor came back into the room, followed by a man in a suit.

“Casey, this is Detective Powell but you know him better as Jason. Does he look familiar at all?”

She studied him for a moment. “No. I’m sorry.” Her voice was low and regretful.

“Your name is Casey Anne Kingsley. You turned seventeen years old the day before this happened. Your parents and younger brother were brutally murdered. You came into the house to find the perpetrator who shot you in the head. Finding your parents dead first, you called 911 just before you were shot which is probably what saved your life. Your twin sister Emily is no where to be found. She hasn’t been seen since earlier the day of the invasion.”

“My twin sister Emily? How is it you know I’m Casey, not Emily?” Casey asked.

“The tattoo on your ankle.” Dr. Grant said and lifted the blanket exposing the ‘C’ on her ankle. “Your sister has an ‘E’ for Emily.”

“What was my family like? What kind of life did I have?”

“Your parents, Barb and Carl, were good people. I can’t imagine anyone who would want to hurt them. You had a good life, good friends and you are very smart. Emily, however, since her best friend’s death, has changed. She used to be a good girl, like you, but she’s turned to drugs and violence. The crowd she hangs with is less then desirable.”

“So Emily is my twin, are we identical?”

“Yes, Everything is identical except your attitudes and lifestyles. You look just alike.”

“And she is missing?”

“Yes, she was last seen earlier that day, at the homecoming parade. She stabbed a police officer in the leg with a pencil and managed to escape. She hasn’t been heard from since. We are uncertain whether your incident has anything to do with her disappearance or not.” Jason said.

“Do I have any other family around? Aunts, uncles?”

“Not that we are aware of. At least not close. We know that your father has a brother but he’s a thousand miles away and they didn’t stay in touch too often. I don’t even know his name.” Dr. Grant said.

“His name is Matthew Kingsley. He is an Attorney in Hawaii. I’ve already contacted him about the incident. But as far as the public is concerned, there are no survivors and it will stay that way. We have no leads, no witnesses, only you and you don’t remember. You will be put in the witness protection program, given a new identity and placed somewhere away from Holland. It is for your own safety. It may be hard to get used to, but you have to do it to remain safe.” Jason said.

“It shouldn’t be any harder to get used to than my own identity when I don’t remember anything. Why don’t I remember?” Casey said.

“You are suffering from retrograde amnesia and are in a dissociative fugue state. It is from a combination of head trauma as well as mental trauma. Your brain doesn’t want you to remember.” Kyle informed her.

“How long does this last?” Casey asked.

“We are not sure. It could be permanent, or it could be temporary. If it is temporary, there is no telling when it will return. It could come back all at once tomorrow or it could come back in bits and pieces over years. It’s very unpredictable.” Kyle informed them.

“If by chance you remember anything about that night, please contact me immediately. If by chance you feel your sister, let me know.” Jason said.

“What do you mean, feel my sister?” Casey asked.

“Since you were born, you could feel each other. It was like a sixth sense. You couldn’t tell what the other was actually doing, just if they were content, or in trouble or perhaps causing trouble.”

“Interesting. If I do have feelings like that, I probably won’t recognize them as such.”

“If you do, contact me. We’re not sure if she is even alive.” Jason stressed.

“I hope your not counting on me to help, I’m not sure what I can do.” Casey said.

“Considering that you don’t remember anything, I’m not sure either.” Jason said. “But I’ll leave you this, just in case.” He said, reaching in his pocket for a business card.

Taking the card, she looked at it for a minute before placing it on the bedside table. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, how I’m going to live. I don’t know where to go from here.” She mumbled.

“Casey, just start to live your life the best way you can. You have to move on, life does not stop. I’m sure you’ll do fine. You’re smart and you’ve always been on the right track.” Jason said. “Is there anything I can get you?”

“Something to eat.” She mumbled.

“Didn’t you just eat?” Dr. Grant asked.

“Well yes, but it wasn’t much. Just remember I haven’t eaten in five weeks.” She forced a smile.

“Ok, as long as it’s ok with Kyle, I’ll get whatever you want.”

“I want a cheeseburger and french fries.”

“Ok. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Jason said and left the room.

“I don’t want you worrying about anything. Jason will make sure you are well taken care of.”

“What’s the use? I have no life, it has been erased. I’m probably better off dead.” Casey said.

“Casey please don’t say that. You can still have a great life. It’ll be whatever you make it and I believe you can make it good.”

Putting her hands to her face, she cried again, not sure what was worse. The news of losing her entire family or the fact that she couldn’t remember them. She wasn’t sure what would happen from here on out. All she knew is that she was utterly alone in this foreign world.

Hearing his name paged on the intercom, Kyle had to leave her room. “I’ll be back soon.” He said and patted her shoulder. “Get some rest.”

Leaving her room, she continued to cry, confused by her current situation. Her head was pounding and crying only made it worse. Wiping her eyes, she found the remote for the TV and turned it on. Laying back in bed, she found herself bored.

It wasn’t long before Jason returned with her food. Staying only to drop the food off, he was caught up in a different investigation and had to leave. Casey drew in a deep breath trying to control her emotions enough to eat.

Moments later, the nurse came into the room. “Dr. Grant has ordered you some pain medication.” She said and injected the medication into her IV line. “I hope you get the chance to eat because this takes effect very quickly.”

“I’ll start now.” She said and opened the Styrofoam container.

The nurse was right, she barely had time to finish eating before the pain medicine knocked her out. Before she knew it, she was standing in a strange yet familiar place. Stepping around the corner, she replayed the events in her mind. Seeing her mother on the floor, she ran to her and dialed 911 while she checked for a pulse on her mother. Looking up, she saw the masked man with a glass eye and a gun. Just as the gun discharged, she jumped and woke up, sitting straight up.

Out of breath and shaking, she was terrified. To her, it was just a bad dream, she didn’t immediately associate it with her own fate. Rubbing her head, she still felt the pain that had been reduced to a dull ache. Feeling incredibly ill, she knew she would get sick. Pulling the covers back, she pulled her feet to the side but when she stood up, she was incredibly weak and fell to her knees.

Crawling on her hands and feet toward the bathroom, she barely made it to the toilet before she vomited the contents of her stomach. Flushing the toilet, she pulled herself up on the sink and stood before the mirror. Looking at her face, she saw her deep brown eyes.

Her long blonde hair still had remnants of dried blood and there was an area around her wound that had been shaved. She looked younger than she assumed she would look. But despite her injuries, she knew she was beautiful. Even looking at herself in the mirror would not jog her memory.

Casey knew she was too weak to stand in a slippery shower. Walking slowly, she returned to her bed where she laid back down, feeling weak and somewhat dizzy. Everything she was feeling she attributed to her head wound. Closing her eyes, she tried to picture anything from her past life but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t remember anything. She was depressed knowing she knew no one. And because of the police, no one knew she was there, alive. Except the hospital and the police.

The following day, knowing she needed to build her strength, she managed to shower with help, using caution around her wound and IV site. After resting for an hour, she slipped on some hospital slippers and began to walk down the hallway, toting her IV cart with her. Small distances at first, by the third day, she took the elevator to the third floor where the nursery wing was.

Approaching her, a nurse asked which one was hers. “Oh, that’s not why I’m here, none of them are mine, I’m just looking.” Casey smiled at her.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I guess I just assumed.” The nurse smiled back.

“It’s ok. Maybe someday.” Casey smiled again before turning to return to her room on the second floor.

When she walked through the door, she saw Detective Powell in her room. “Jason, right?” She asked.

“Yes. I see you’re doing better.”

“I am. I’m trying to gain strength. I think they will let me out soon.”

“Yes, actually, that’s why I’m here. I need to fill you in on what’s going on. They are planning on releasing you tomorrow morning. From there, I will take you shopping, because you’ll need clothes and school supplies. That will give me time to explain your new identity to you and where you’ll be placed.”

“Tomorrow? That’s good. I’m getting tired of being here, it’s so boring.”

“I will take you to your new home, which is a foster care home a few counties away. I will drop you off the day before Thanksgiving. The following Monday, you will start school. I’ve arranged for the same classes you were taking so you don’t skip a beat.”

“What if I don’t remember my classes, my work. What if I fail?” Casey was concerned.

“You are very smart, I’m sure you’ll do fine. Amnesia only works on memory, not skills.”

“You’ll have to get me some clothes to leave the hospital with, I’ve found nothing but gowns.”

Walking to the chair, she saw the bags he picked up. “Here, I’ve already brought you a few outfits. And shoes. And a coat.”

“Oh, thanks Jason.” She smiled and took the bags from his hands.

“I’ll be back in the morning, when you’re released. If you need anything before then, please contact me. Or after for that matter.” Jason said.

“Ok. I’ll be waiting for you.” Casey said as she was looking at the clothing. “I really like these, you did a good job.”

“Thanks Casey, I was hoping you’d like them, although I did have a little help.” He smiled and walked toward the door.

After Jason left the room, Casey went to the bathroom to change her clothes. Slipping the IV bag through the sleeve of her shirt, she put it on and pulled her jeans on. She was glad they fit, however, her jeans were very snug. Walking back to her bed, she pulled on some socks and tried on her shoes. She wondered how they were right on with her sizes.

Sliding her coat around her shoulders, she walked down the hallway to the elevator. Taking the elevator to the bottom floor, she walked until she found an exit. The late November air was chilly as she stepped into it. There were two people standing just outside the door smoking cigarettes. The smoke nearly made her cough but she stepped away from it.

The two people looked at her, seeing the area of hair that had been shaved around her wound. But they said nothing to her, just continued with their conversation. Casey only wanted to feel the cool air, breathe it into her lungs and taste the crispness. Snow was lightly falling but the ground was still bare.

Finding the bench along the side of the building, she took a seat. Just sitting for awhile, she watched as people came and went and realized it was the emergency room entrance. As the sun was fading and the parking lot lights came on, she decided it was time to go back to her room. She probably missed dinner, it would be there but cold. She would eat it anyways. She seemed to be constantly hungry, but realized how long she had went without food.

Sitting on her bedside table was her tray of food. Pulling the table to her as she sat on the bed, she pulled off the covers and saw the food that was somewhat still warm. She didn’t care, she ate everything on the tray, drank all the juice and milk. After dinner, she laid in the bed and watched TV, falling asleep around ten thirty.

Suddenly, she found herself in the same doorway where she stood, seeing her parents murdered But this time, they were alive. She could see her family at Christmas time, her mother and father, her sister, her brother and herself. It appeared that her and her sister were approximately ten years old, running and playing with the new toys they got for Christmas. It seemed like a happy time and it pulled on Casey’s heart strings in her sleep.

But when she woke up, she found herself back in the hospital, alone. She wasn’t sure if the dream was real, something from her past, or fabricated from what her mind wanted her to believe. She was more confused than ever. By now, it was nearly five in the morning. Laying in bed for an hour, she knew she couldn’t go back to sleep.

Getting out of bed, she decided to take a shower by herself, using caution again, around her wound and IV site. As she dressed and came from the bathroom, she saw the nurse enter her room. It was six AM. “Good morning Casey. I’m Amanda and I’ll be your nurse for awhile. I understand you will be leaving today.”

“Yes.”

“I’ve come to remove the IV from your arm.” She said, pointing at the bed.

“I’ll be glad to get rid of that baggage.” Casey smiled.

“Yeah, it can become annoying.” The nurse smiled back.

Pulling the needle from her arm, the nurse threw the tubing and bag away and threw the needle in a disposal container. Then she left the room. Soon following, they brought in the breakfast trays. Casey scooted up in bed and pulled the table toward her. As she was eating, Jason came into her room.

“Oh, I was going to take you out for breakfast, after eating hospital food all this time.” Jason said.

“Well, you still can, I never get full on this stuff. They feed me like a bird.” She smiled and continued to eat her eggs.

“We need to wait for Kyle to release you first. He should be in soon.” He said and handed her a file.

“What’s this?” She asked.

“This is a file you’ll need to keep hidden, it is your real identity. Lock it up in a safe place, you’ll need it when this is all over.”

Looking in the file, it contained her information such as her drivers license, social security card, birth certificate and school records. There was also information about her family and the crimes committed against them.

“Put those away because you are no longer Casey Anne Kingsley. You are now Tess Sheldon. That is your new name.” He handed her another file of a different color.

Opening the other file, she found her new identity. A drivers license and school records. Looking at her license, it was the same picture as the one on her original license, but the information was different. It listed an address in Dover. She placed both files on the bedside table as she saw Dr. Grant enter the room.

“Good morning Casey, Jason.” He greeted them both. “I have your release papers here. And I have a couple of prescriptions for you as well. I want you to take them as prescribed. I’m giving you my business card in case you need anything, you can contact me as well as Jason.” He said as he signed her paperwork. Then he reached down and gave her a hug. “I understand it will be some time before I’ll see you again, I’ll miss you.”

“Thank you Kyle. You’ve been really good to me.” Casey said. “I’ll miss you too.” She hugged him back and smiled.

Before leaving the room, Kyle shook Jason’s hand. “Take good care of her.”

“I will Kyle, you can count on it.” Jason returned.

Leaving the hospital, Jason drove to Dover where they visited the local stores there. Three hours she shopped, buying clothing, shoes, boots, accessories and school supplies. Then he took her to a beauty salon to change her hair. Cutting her hair shoulder length, they colored it black. She looked different with black hair and Jason was satisfied with her new look.

Driving out of town, Jason took her to a farm with a long driveway. There were horses and cows, chickens and ducks, a few goats and an alpaca. On the porch sat two dogs and a cat. Pulling up the long driveway, the dogs ran to the car, greeting them as they opened their doors.

“Don’t worry, they don’t bite.” Jason said as he got out of the car.

“Good, I may bite back.” Casey smiled and squatted down to pet the dog.

Standing back up, she looked around the property and at the large house. Seeing two people come out, she smiled at them. “Come on Casey, I’ll introduce you.” Jason said.

Following him to the house, she examined the two people on the porch. “You must be Tess.” The woman said.

“Yes.” She said, holding her hand out for a shake.

“Tess, this is Maddy and Elliot. They are your foster parents.”

“Please, come in.” Maddy offered, opening the door for them.

“Go ahead, Casey, I’ll get your things.” Jason said as he and Elliot went to the car.

Following Maddy inside, she showed her around the house, the kitchen, living room, and bathroom. Then she took her upstairs and showed her room to her. Opening the door, the room was bright yellow with matching bedding and décor. She realized yellow was her favorite color and it made her feel welcome and content.

“I like it.” Tess mumbled.

“The bathroom is just down the hall. I’ll give you some time alone to get used to your room, put your things away.” Maddy said as Jason and Elliot brought her things into the room. Jason give her a warm goodbye hug before leaving her there.

Finding the hangers in the closet, she hung some clothes up and some she put in the dresser. The original file Jason had given her, she put in the bottom drawer, under her clothes. The other, she put in the desk along with her school supplies. Last, she set up her computer, needing a password to sign into the wireless network. Stepping down the stairs, Maddy met her at the base of the stairway.

“I’m glad you’ve come down. It’s almost time for the others to return home.” Maddy said.

“Others?”

“Yes, the other children who live here. Colin is twelve. Brett and Zoey are brother and sister. Brett is seventeen and Zoey is fifteen. Colin has been here for four years and the other two for about two. When Brett turns eighteen in February, he can leave. But I don’t think he will without his sister. They are rather close.”

“And they are at school now?” Tess asked.

“Yes, on their way home.”

“I came down to get a password for the internet.”

“Ok, I’ll give that to you before they get home, don’t give it to Brett or Zoey. They’ve lost their privileges for now.” Maddy said and wrote it on a piece of paper then handed it to her.

Looking around the living room at the pictures and other items, she waited for the others to return to meet them. Hearing the sound of the bus stopping before the house, she looked out the window and saw two children get off the bus. Both boys, no girl.

“Where is Zoey?” Maddy asked as they came into the house.

“She had after school detention.” The older boy answered, looking at Tess.

“Was she fighting again?” Maddy asked the older boy.

“I don’t know, I didn’t see what happened. She didn’t tell me.”

“I’ll have to go get her, but before I do, I want to introduce you to Tess. She’s going to be staying with us. This is Brett, and this is Colin.” Maddy pointed at the two boys.

Smiling at the older boy, she thought he was cute and he was the same age as her. “Hi.” She spoke to him then looked at the younger boy. “Hi.” She said to him too. Then returned her gaze to Brett.

“Tess, I understand you’re not from around here. Why don’t you go with me, I’ll show you around.”

“Um, ok, that would be ok.” Tess agreed to go.

Grabbing her jacket, she followed Maddy out the door and to the minivan parked in the driveway. Zipping up her coat, she opened the door and got in. “I need to stop and get a few last minute things for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.” Maddy added.

“Ok.” Tess shrugged her shoulders, not minding.

Pulling up beside a large building, Tess saw the sign saying ‘Dover High School’. “This is where you’ll be going to school starting Monday.” Maddy said.

“It’s not too far from home.” Tess mumbled and looked to see a girl coming toward the van.

The girl opened the sliding door and climbed in, shutting it behind her. “Zoey, what am I going to do with you, all this fighting, what’s happening?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Zoey said shortly.

“Well, anyways, this is Tess, she’s going to be staying with us.”

“Hi.” Tess said to Zoey.

Zoey just rolled her eyes and looked away. Tess turned back around and watched to see where they were going. Stopping at the grocery store, Zoey wanted to stay in the van while Tess went into the store with Maddy.

“You don’t have any kids of your own?” Tess asked Maddy.

“No, we tried for years but discovered we can’t have children. So instead, we offer a home to those less fortunate.”

“You must be good people to do that for others. How old are you and Elliot?”

“I’m twenty nine and Elliot is thirty two. Colin was our first foster child. He was seven when he came to us. He’s our little cowboy, loves to ride the horses. Brett and Zoey could care less about the animals.”

“If you don’t mind, I may indulge in horseback riding.”

“Can you ride?”

“I don’t know.” Casey said, not sure if she could or not.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot. They told us you had amnesia.”

“Yes and it sucks.”

“I could imagine it would.” Maddy said as she picked out some oranges. “Can you grab some Macintosh apples and bananas?”

“Sure.” Tess said, picking out the best fruit.

Returning home, they gathered in the dining room to eat dinner. First, they discussed Zoey’s punishment for detention at the dinner table, stating that it is more effective to discuss it as a family then in private. Her punishment was that she was grounded to her room until they return to school on Monday. Then they discussed the chore chart.

“Because this is Tess’s first night, she had no house hold chores, but just to let you know, Tess, there is a chore chart in the kitchen. I will add you to it and print out a new one tomorrow. All chores are to be done after dinner. Followed by homework. Bedtime is ten PM. When you finish your homework, you are free to do whatever you want, within reason, until bedtime.”

“And what time do we get up for school?” Tess asked.

“I will wake you at six thirty.”

Tess nodded her head, knowing she would be up by six, to claim the bathroom first. There are two bathrooms in the house and they both contain a shower. After she finished with dinner, she returned to her room. She was interested in learning what the internet had to say about her family’s murder. Seeing pictures of the crime scene, she knew her dreams were real. The pictures were identical to her dreams and they left a bigger scar within her.

She also learned about her family, her father was a well known surgeon. And her mother was a nurse. She saw articles about her missing sister, and that she vanished without a trace. And she saw articles about herself containing school pictures of her with friends. There was one picture of her standing on a float, kissing a boy, but they were too far away for her to see him clearly. All the pictures she looked at caused her to have flashbacks, split second images in her head.

At ten PM, she shut her computer down and went to bed, but it was no use, she couldn’t sleep. It was nearly eleven when she pulled the covers back and got out of bed. Turning on a dim light, she dug in her drawer and pulled out her file. Looking through it, she saw more pictures of her family. She found documents about life insurance policies. And she found information about her parents lawyer. He would be someone to contact, privately. Making a mental note of his number, she closed the file and put it back away.

Laying down in bed, she tossed and turned for another hour before she finally fell asleep at nearly two in the morning. Then she found herself sitting on some concrete steps outside of a large building. Looking at the wall, she saw the letters, ‘Holland High School’. Hearing someone call her ‘Casey’, she looked to see a boy about the same age as her sit beside her.

For a moment, she held a light conversation with him before they agreed to go to dinner together. Casey followed him to a car where she sat in the passengers side. The boy was very good looking and she instantly had a comforting feeling from him. Then she called him Travis, as if she had always known him.

He took her to a restaurant where it seemed they knew everyone. She helped herself to gather soft drinks for both him and her and she assumed she may work there. After they ate dinner, he took her home and kissed her goodbye.

At six, the alarm woke her and she pushed the snooze button for a seven minute nap. Sounding again, she turned it off and climbed out of bed. Grabbing her bathrobe, she headed for the bathroom. The thought of the dream was laying heavy on her mind. Who was this boy she was kissing?

The hot shower somewhat revived her after not getting much sleep. With her bathrobe on, she opened the door and saw Maddy standing there, she startled Tess. “Oh my God, Maddy!” She said, leaning against the doorway.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, I was just wondering what you’re doing up.” Maddy said.

“Well, it’s Thanksgiving. I figured I’d get up and help you cook.”

“Oh Tess, that’s so sweet. You can if you want, but you don’t have to.”

“I think I used to with my mom...” She mumbled, trying to remember.

“Well come on down if you want, it’ll be only you and me.” Maddy said.

“Let me get dressed and I’ll be down.” Tess said.

Dressing in jeans and a t-shirt, she pulled on some socks and went downstairs. All the lights were off except in the kitchen. Maddy was basting the turkey, getting ready to put it in the oven. “What would you like me to do?” Tess asked.

“Right now, nothing. How about I put this turkey in and I’ll make us some breakfast. Do you drink coffee?”

“I don’t know, but I will have some.”

Pouring them both a cup of coffee, Maddy gave her a cup and showed her the cream and sugar on the table. Casey tried it black and settled for the taste. Maddy cooked them some bacon and eggs while they quietly held light conversation. Casey couldn’t contribute much to the conversation, she didn’t have much to say.

The smell of food must have levitated through the house because as she finished, Elliot and Colin both came out of their rooms. Joining Tess at the table, Maddy served them some breakfast. Just as Tess finished cleaning up after breakfast, Brett came down the stairs. Tess pulled some eggs and bacon from the microwave and offered him a plate.

“Thanks.” Brett said and sat at the table with it. “So Tess, where are you from?”

“They said I was from Holland.” She answered him.

“What do you mean, they said?”

“I have amnesia. I don’t remember any aspect of my life beyond a week ago.”

“What? Wow, that’s got to be tough. What happened?”

“Um...” She stumbled, not wanting to reveal too much of her past. “I suffered some sort of head trauma. But don’t ask me what happened, I don’t remember.”

“Do you know how old you are?”

Smiling, she answered him. “Yes, I’m seventeen, just like you.”

“When is your birthday? Do you know?”

“You’re older, I won’t be eighteen until October.”

“Do you want to hang out sometime, I’ll show you around.”

“Ok, I’d like that.”

“Maybe later this evening, we can escape the house and go somewhere.”

“Don’t we have to ask permission?” Tess asked.

“Not really, as long as you’re back by curfew and you’re not already in trouble.”

“Ok. Maybe we will.”

Just then Zoey walked into the kitchen, hair all messy and in her pajamas. “There is eggs and toast in the microwave for you.” Tess informed her.

Zoey managed a slight smile at her as she walked by and opened the microwave. “So what’s your story?” She asked Tess as she took a bite of bacon.

“She doesn’t have a story, she has amnesia.” Brett answered.

Taking another bite, Zoey looked at Tess. “Really?”

Tess simply nodded her head. “I don’t remember anything from my past including what happened to me.”

“Obviously you lost your parents, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.” Zoey said.

It was like a slap in the face to Tess as she tried to swallow what Zoey said. It was harsh but true. “I don’t want to talk about me because I don’t have any information to offer. What about you two, what happened to your parents?”

“Our parents are still alive, they just lost their rights to see us. We haven’t seen them in almost two years. But when I turn eighteen, I’m going to find them.” Brett said.

“Wow, I’m sorry, they were bad parents?”

“Yes, we were beat everyday, usually where bruises don’t show. Until they took us out of there. Maddy and Elliot do take good care of us, but some of us don’t appreciate it.” Brett said, attributing the last few words toward Zoey.

“I do appreciate it, I just don’t like being told what to do. My parents don’t get to tell me what to do, neither does Maddy and Elliot. I do what I want.” Zoey sounded upset.

Tess sat quiet, not wanting to rouse Zoey’s attitude. But she didn’t agree with her, knowing she was only fifteen. Tess washed Brett’s dirty dishes and waited for Zoey to finish and clean hers too. Just as she finished cleaning the kitchen, Maddy came in. Brett and Zoey both exited but Tess stayed to help.

Peeling and chopping carrots, onions, celery and potatoes, she started the carrots and potatoes while Maddy used the onions and celery in the homemade stuffing. Taking the turkey out of the oven, Maddy stuffed it and put the remaining stuffing in an aluminum container. Then basted the turkey again and put it back in the oven.

Expecting her mother and father to come for dinner, Maddy cleaned the house while Tess peeled and chopped apples, grapes, oranges, bananas and walnuts for a fruit salad. Then Tess watched as Maddy made the homemade whipped cream and mixed it with the fruit and walnuts.

As soon as the turkey came out of the oven, in went the green bean casserole and the candied yams. As Maddy’s parents arrived, Tess finished the mashed potatoes and made the gravy from the turkey broth. Putting a bowl of fresh corn in the microwave was the last step and dinner was done. Taking the casserole and yams out of the oven, she put in two pumpkin pies and set the timer.

Her mother helped Maddy and Tess set the table and fill it with all the food. Taking their places around the table, her mother said grace while everyone waited for her to finish. Saying their Amen’s they dug into the food until everyone had filled themselves. Before anyone left the table, Maddy made an announcement.

“Because I didn’t get a chore chart finished, and Tess helped me cook all day, I will assign clean up and put away to Brett and Colin and Zoey can do the dishes. It is Tess’s turn to relax.”

“Thank you.” Tess smiled and excused herself from the table. Before returning to her room, she took the pumpkin pies from the oven. Sitting on her bed with her computer, she checked out some popular sights under the name of Casey Kingsley. Her pages were filled with memorandums from an assortment of people.

After a half hour of searching, she felt extremely tired and could barely keep her eyes open. Closing her computer, she laid on the bed and looked at the clock. It was just after three PM. Then she closed her eyes.

Hearing a knock on the door, she opened her eyes and looked at the clock. It was nearly six PM. “Yeah?” She answered, thinking she actually had good sleep with no interruptions.

“Tess?” She heard Maddy’s voice. “I haven’t seen you in a while, I just wanted to check on you.”

Stretching, she pulled herself out of bed and went to the door. Opening it, she responded. “I was just taking a nap. Must be the Tryptophan in the turkey that made me so tired.”

“Probably. As long as you’re alright, that’s all I was wondering.”

“Yeah, I was so tired, but I feel better now. Thanks for your concern.”

“If there’s anything you need, don’t hesitate to ask.” Maddy said.

“No, I’m fine. I think I’m going to go out and greet the horses.”

“Ok, there are some carrots in the kitchen if you want to take a few out.”

“Oh, thanks. That sounds like a good idea.”

“Are you used to horses at all?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Maybe you should have Colin go with you, he’s good with the horses. He could teach you.”

“That’s not necessary, I’ll be fine.” She said slipping on her rain boots.

“Ok. The horses are all gentle but just be careful.” Maddy said as Tess left the room.

Throwing on her coat, Tess went to the barn where there were three horses and one pony. She assumed the pony belonged to Colin. Immediately the palomino mare came up to her and greeted her. Tess smiled and stroked the horse’s neck.

“Hi girl, who are you?” She held her hand flat for the horse to lick her salty palm.

The barn smelled of hay and manure. Seeing the bucket of grain, she grabbed a handful and fed it to the mare. The other horses gathered around, waiting for their share of grain. Tess smiled and fed them all a handful of rich grain. Climbing the gate, she walked to the center of the pasture and turned to see the palomino mare follow her.

Leading the mare to the wall of the barn, she climbed on the horse and sat on her back. Grabbing a handful of hair, she gave a slight kick, making the horse walk. It was obvious the horse had been ridden bareback before.

Reaching up and grabbing the halter, she tried to steer the horse out the back door. The air was warm but the wind was cold as it hit her face. Giving the horse another slight kick, the horse began to trot. Tess squeezed her knees and ankles against the horse, trying to hold on. Knowing the next gate was smoother, she kicked the horse into a canter, riding across the bare field.

Looking out the window, Brett saw her riding across the field just in time to see her fall off. Grabbing his coat, he ran out the door and toward the field. Watching her stand to her feet, he knew she was alright but he still ran toward her. Slipping through the barbed wire fence, he went to her.

“Tess, are you alright?”

“Yeah, I guess I’m still learning.” She said, feeling embarrassed.

“I think it’s easier with a saddle, but I don’t ride them.” Brett admitted.

“Why not?” She asked.

“I’m not interested.”

“Oh, I love horses.” Tess admitted, not sure if she always had.

It appeared that her love and approach to horses came naturally. Again, the palomino mare approached her, pushing Tess with her muzzle. “I think she likes you.” Brett said.

“I think she does too.” Tess said and stroked her neck. After landing on her back, it felt somewhat sore but she still wanted to ride. “Here, help me up.”

“What, you’re getting back on?”

“Well yes, haven’t you ever heard the saying? If you fall off, you get right back on.” She said, surprised she remembered that.

“You’re right, just be careful.” He said and cupped his hands to give her a boost.

The mare stood still as she mounted her, until Tess gave her a slight kick. Slowly walking around the field, Tess was satisfied with the speed. Brett watched as she rode approximately ten minutes before jumping off the horse. By now, it was completely dark. Walking toward the house, Brett followed her. Looking back at him, she smiled and waited for him to come up beside her, realizing she liked him.

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