Memories of Nobody
A forgotten memory is like a butterfly.
The more you chase after it the farther away it gets.
But if you stand still,
close your eyes,
and hold your breath,
maybe, just maybe,
It will come to you.
I first met Mallory at a coffee shop. It was a nice enough place and as long as I ordered something, the staff never bothered me for staying around for hours on end doodling in my sketch book.
“That’s kind of cool. Is that a Kelpie?”
Her voice was sweet and had a hint of innocence in it, masked by a terrible pain. At least that is what I like to think is what I thought when I first heard it. In truth I was more amazed that a woman was talking to me at all.
I looked up from my sketch book at the college age woman standing behind me looking over my shoulder at the sketch I was working on. She had long red hair and piercing green eyes that made my heart both race and stop simultaneously.
“Yeah,” I nodded nervously. “I’m amazed, most people would say that it’s just a black horse with a guy ridding on it.”
She smiled. “But horses can’t walk on water,” she said pointing at the water in the drawing. “Only Kelpies can do that. They entice humans to ride on them before riding out into the ocean and drowning them, before they devour them.”
I put down my pencil smiling at her. “You know a lot about fairies?”
She nodded giving me a warm smile. “You could say that I grew up learning about them.” She sat down in the chair across from me. In turn, I set my sketch book down so there was nothing blocking our conversation.
“I never knew why but I’ve always loved reading the stories about fairies and for some reason. I find drawing them fascinating…” I trailed off. “I just realized how gay that sounded.” I scratched my forehead wanting to die from embarrassment.
She laughed giving me a warm, playful smile. Her eyes seamed unreal somehow. They gleamed liked green emeralds. I found I couldn’t look away from them and I had no desire to do so.
I honestly do not think I could have made a bigger fool out of myself that night even if I had tried. The real mystery isn’t why it took us so long to start dating but the fact that she ever agreed to do so in the first place.
“It’s fine,” she assured me with a smile. “After all, when you know the original stories, not the bed time stories that Disney made up, you realize just how scary and dark those stories really are. That Fey are not some happy whimsical pixy but dangerous and terrifying monsters.”
“I know, right?” I leaned forward in my seat getting excited. “I mean those stories were first made up to warn children of the dangers of the outside world. To help explain all the terrible things that happened that people couldn’t understand.”
“Really?” She smiled staring at me with her green eyes. “You can call me Mallory by the way.” She held out her hand.
Looking back, I probably was a little too eager in shaking her hand. I think it might have made me look like some kind of creep. But she never said anything about it, and maybe she even found it cute, I don’t know. But I remember that her hand was soft and warm. The moment I touched it my whole world melted around me.
“So are you an artist, Brandon?” she asked withdrawing her hand never taking her gaze off of me.
I sighed at the question. “I guess, though it’s hard to say that I am an artist when I have never sold a piece before.”
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk about my work. It was just that talking about my failure of a career as an artist only served to depress me. “What about you? What do you do?” I was trying my best to change the subject without making it seem like I was just blowing her question off.
“I’m a full time college student.” She seemed a little disappointed that I had changed the topic but she kept on giving me a smile all the same.
“Really? What’s your major?” I pressed.
“That is a good question.” She fidgeted with her hands a little. She had a look that was similar to mine when talking about my art not selling. “Right now you could say that I am in humanities but to be honest I just take classes that interest me.”
“Hey, the only college classes I have ever taken were art classes so it’s not like I can really judge.” I gave a casual shrug.
We sat there and talked until the coffee shop closed. Then we stood in the parking lot for over an hour before the two of us finally got in our cars and went home. How I wished that the night would never ended. I would have done anything just to keep talking to her.
Looking back it was probably one of the greatest nights of my life.
After that first night I met up with Mallory a couple of times in the coffee shop, always at night. I never told her that I went there every day sitting there for hours in hopes that I would see her again. It wasn’t until the second time that we met did we exchange phone numbers. Even then she was the one who suggested it and she was the first to call me.
I was sure that I lost every man point I had ever accumulated but Mallory didn’t seem to mind my bashfulness. Every time I would say something stupid or fumble up my words she would just laugh and give me her warm smile. To be honest I think her warmest smiles were when I did something embarrassing, as if she was just happy that I could be myself around her.
Our first outing together was at a library of all places.
“I found this here the other day. Take a look.” Mallory handed me an old book that looked more like a tome.
I took the book from her and read the title out loud. “Stories and legends of ancient Ireland.” I flipped it open and started skimming the pages.
“It has all sorts of stories in it about all kinds of Fey.” She stood behind me resting her chin on my shoulder as she watched me flip through the pages. Her being so close and pressing her chest into my back made it hard for me to actually focus on the book.
“Look here.” She reached over putting her finger on a page. “A Kabouter. It’s rare to see these Fey drawn so menacingly.”
“Why do you always call them Fey, and not Fairies?” I asked turning my head and getting a mouth full of hair. It smelled so nice. Like mint.
She gave a dismissive look. “Oh, just something my father always said. Fairies have such an emasculate sound to it.” She took her chin off my shoulder and held up her finger as if she was giving a lecture and lowered the pitch of her voice. “Fey are creatures to be feared and respected. They should not be referred to in such a childish manor as Fairies,” she laughed.
“Sounds like your father had a bit of a fascination with Fairies as well. Is that where you got it from?” I tried to hide my smile behind the book holding it up in front of my face. Her impression of her father was definitely something else.
Mallory’s expression turned a little sullen. “I guess. Though really it’s just I grew up learning about them. So it is only natural that I would have an interest.”
I decided to drop it. I had noticed that taking about Mallory’s childhood or family was a bit of a touchy subject for her. So I decided to not bring it up as best as I could. I couldn’t help but wonder though if maybe she was not on the best of terms with her parents. I had never once heard her mention her mother. I didn’t know if that meant that she was never around or what.
I smiled and went back to talking about the book. I may not know much about mending relationships but I knew that I didn’t like it when Mallory was sad. So I wanted to do whatever I could to make her smile.
No please let me keep this one at least.
We spent almost every day together after that. I would often come visit her on campus and we would have lunch together. I always felt bad, for she would always pay for me. She said it was because she got it cheaper due to her discount for living on campus. In truth it was because I didn’t have any money to spare.
We never talked about anything important, in fact the few times I would even bring up political or economic topics she would look completely lost, and would often reference things from decades ago. I didn’t mind, in fact I was happy, it meant there wasn’t anything major that we really disagreed about.
We had been hanging out for over a year before our first official date. And it came to no surprise to me that she was the one who made the first move.
I felt stiff in my suit but it was worth it to see Mallory in her long red dress, her red hair falling perfectly to her back, all of it bringing out her gorgeous green eyes. There was almost something magical about her. As if someone had cast a spell over her entire outfit.
“How did you get tickets to this?” I asked as she dragged me through the art gallery by my hand.
With her free hand she held up a finger to her lips. “Shhh, it’s a surprise,” she smiled.
Everywhere I looked I saw people that probably made more money in a week than I had made in my entire life. Most of them I recognized from art magazines or I had seen their work on display somewhere before. To say that I was star struck was an understatement. But none of that seemed to phase Mallory. She moved as if she was used to being around this type of crowd, that or she didn’t fully realize the people she was with.
“Mallory slow down,” I said tripping over my own feet as she pulled me along. “The point of an art exhibition is to stand and enjoy the art around us.”
“There is something I want you to see first, before any other piece,” she said. She lead me to the rear of the gallery, the area usually used for some new up and coming artist that had yet to make a big enough name for themselves to be put in the main gallery.
“Right here,” she said stopping in front of one of the paintings.
I stood and looked at for a moment thinking there was something oddly familiar about the art style. “Wait,” I blinked. “This is one of mine.” Forgetting where I was I practically shouted at the realization.
Mallory wrapped her arm around my own pushing in close. “I was talking to a friend about some of your work and showed him a picture. He in turn showed it to his father who was putting this show on and he asked if he could display it.” She looked up at me with her green eyes. “Hope you don’t mind that I didn’t tell you. I wanted it to be a surprise.”
In truth I was angry at her. Not because she had done this behind my back or that she didn’t tell me until now, but the fact that I had been unable to do this on my own. I had no idea what kind of person that made me, that I had to have my girlfriend do this kind of thing for me.
That thought cooled me down a bit. The sight of her standing there hoping that her gift, that she had done only to make me happy, would be accepted.
“It’s beautiful,” I said looking only at her.
“Then kiss me already.”
I leaned in, our lips meeting for the first time. In that single moment I could have died with no regrets.
No, please God don’t take this from me.
“What’s up?” she asked looking up from the book that she was reading.
We were sitting in my studio apartment. She would often come over and do homework or even bring me dinner. We didn’t talk much as it was hard for me to paint and talk at the same time. Most of the time when I tried to say anything she would get mad saying that I shouldn’t be slacking off by talking to her.
She was just happy to be around me, even if we didn’t say anything. To be honest I had felt the same way.
“I know you don’t like talking about it, but what’s up with you and your father?” I had been dreading this conversation for months but as time passed it just seemed to become a bigger and bigger thing that loomed over any conversation that we had.
“It’s nothing really. You should just get back to your painting.” She tried to shrug it off and went back to her reading.
I had half a mind to just let the matter drop then and there but I had steeled myself and was going to get some kind of answer from her.
I set my paint brush down on the easel careful for it not to hit the canvas. “Please. I won’t work until you tell me.”
She looked up from her book at me her eyes narrowed. “I said don’t worry about it. Now get back to work.”
“And I said I won’t until you tell me.” I tried my best to look intimidating as I stared her down.
We had a staring contest, neither of us willing to give ground.
“Could this constitute as our first fight?” she asked not backing down on her glare.
“Not yet,” I said maintaining my own stare. “But I have three brothers so I don’t count it as a fight unless someone throws a punch.”
There was a long pause as we waited for the other to break away first.
“Fine,” Mallory said relenting only slightly. Though she didn’t sound too happy nor like she was ready to fully give up. “My father is a rich man with a lot of power and authority. As his only child he expected me to one day take over his little kingdom after he died. But I decided that I wanted to live my life how I saw fit so I cut all ties and moved out on my own. And I have not seen or spoken to him since.” She crossed her arms glaring at me. “Happy?”
I sighed. “Yeah actually.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“I‘m glad that you could tell me that. And I am happy to know you a little better. Since we met you have told me almost nothing about your past. Though I am glad to hear that he didn’t like abuse you or anything.” I almost started laughing. After hearing her story I didn’t know why I had made such a big deal out of it. It wasn’t like knowing would somehow change anything.
“What? No. My father would never. It was just that he…uh,” This was the first time I think I had ever seen her flustered. It was cute in its own way. This must be how she saw me every time I managed to stick my foot in my mouth.
I was sitting in the coffee shop where Mallory and I had first met, working on another sketch. We would often meet up here before going out somewhere, always at night. I would usually come in early and use that time to do some sketch work on my next piece.
“Excuse me. I am looking for someone who I heard comes here often.”
I looked up from my sketch book at the man talking to one of the employees. He was wearing a black leather coat and fedora. He was facing away from me so I couldn’t see his face but he was tall and skinny like me.
“She is about 5’9, red hair, and green eyes. She would look to be in her twenties,” the man continued.
“Yeah sure, that sounds like Mallory,” the attendant said, “Do you know her?”
I stood up grabbing my empty coffee cup and, as calmly as I could, walked to the trash, throwing it away before heading for the door. Out of the corner of my eye I glanced at the person, trying to get a look at his face, but my eyes could only focus on his sunglasses.
Why was he wearing sunglasses? It was dark out. How could he even see?
“I’m a friend of the family,” he explained. “I am supposed to be picking her up but I can’t seem to find her. So I figured I would visit her normal hang outs to see if she is there. Have you seen her by any chance?”
I didn’t wait to hear the rest as I walked outside. My chest was pounding. As soon as I thought that I was out of sight, I took off running.
I saw Mallory off in the distance walking toward the coffee shop. She was in her normal blue jeans and tank top.
She smiled when she saw me. “Hey Brandon, I was just coming to get you.”
“No time. We have to get out of here.” I grabbed her arm and dragged her toward the parking lot.
“Brandon what’s going on?” her voice was playful. “You’ve never been so forward before.”
“There was some guy in there looking for you,” I said already out of breath. Man I needed to work out more.
Mallory broke free of my grip stopping dead. “What did this man look like?” Her face was serious her fist clinching tightly like she was getting ready for a fight.
I searched my mind thinking it over. “I don’t know, white, tall, kind of like Ne0 from the Matrix. He even had the sunglasses and leather coat.”
For the first time I could recall there was a look of fear on Mallory’s face. Without saying a word she pulled out her car keys and headed for her car.
I think I knew then that our happy life together would soon come to an end.
Several weeks had passed since that night. Mallory had become unusually quiet and reclusive. I had convinced her to stay with me, saying that if he was looking for her he was more likely to go to her place than to mine. And for a while things seemed to calm down.
We stopped going to the coffee shop for fear that the guy might be watching. Mallory stopped going to class saying that she would just make up the credits next semester. I had never seen her so shaken. While she claimed that she didn’t know who that guy was, there was no doubt in her mind that he had been sent by her father.
Though, I had my doubts about her not knowing the guy. The way she acted the first night after I described him was like she knew what the guy was capable of. She didn’t talk about it and I had no clue what I should say or do, so I remained quiet.
I did know her staying with me was a temporary solution at best. Sooner or later the guy would track her here. How would I protect her then?
“Let’s leave,” I said suddenly.
“What?” Mallory looked up from the book that she had been pretending to read.
“Let’s pack up our stuff and get on the first plane out of the City.” I reached down and grabbed her hands holding them close to my chest. “It doesn’t matter where. We will just go and lose ourselves in the crowd.”
“Brandon, I can’t ask you to do that. Your art is finally starting to get notoriety, and-”
“I don’t care about any of that,” I cut her off raising my voice. “I can paint anywhere and use any name I want. All that matters to me is that I am with you.”
She broke down in tears then, sinking her face into my shoulder. That was the first time I had ever seen her cry.
“I’m so sorry,” she sobbed. “I didn’t want this to happen.”
I put my arms around her holding her close. I didn’t say anything, I just held her and let her get it all out. I have no idea how long we stayed like that. She cried until she couldn’t cry any longer. Then we just stood there in silence.
“Alright I got the tickets,” I said walking up to Mallory pushing my way passed all the other bustling people trying to get to their plane. “Hopefully by buying our tickets here, instead of online, they won’t be able to know that we left until it’s too late.”
I reached down and grabbed my bags and one of the suitcases. Even packing light I was surprised at how much stuff we still had.
“Plane leaves in two hours giving us enough time to get through security and find our gate.” I gave her a smile checking the gate number on the ticket before heading off.
Mallory reached out grabbing my hand. I stopped turning around, thinking there might be something wrong. She stood there for a moment looking at the floor. Then she stepped in putting her forehead on my chest. “I’m sorry for all of this.”
I dropped my bag and put my arm around her. “It will be fine. I promise.” Somehow I was surprisingly calm. This was the first time that I felt like I was the strong one that she needed to use me for support instead of the other way around.
“It’s a Kodak moment.”
Both of us jumped at the sound of the voice being so close. I turned seeing the guy from before standing not five feet away. He was still in his leather coat and sunglasses though this time he had on a black cap and fingerless leather gloves like a biker would wear.
“Sorry, is that not a thing anymore?” he asked rather playfully considering his utter apathetic tone. “Is Kodak even still around? I don’t watch much TV.”
“Run.” I dropped all my luggage, and grabbed Mallory’s hand as I took off, leaving all of our stuff behind.
I sprinted for the gate dragging Mallory behind me. If we could get passed the gate then it would be impossible for him to follow us. There was a chance that he didn’t know where we were going and we would still be fine. At least that was what I hoping anyway.
It was a good thing the sight of people running for a gate in a large airport was not an uncommon sight or else we might have attracted a lot of unwanted attention.
We stopped as we fell into line for the gate. I looked behind me to see if the guy had followed us. I didn’t see him and thought it would be unlikely that he would make a scene with the TSA agents so close by.
“Brandon, what are we going to do?” Mallory squeezed my hand.
“It’s all right.” I squeezed back. “We’ll be fine as soon as we get past security.”
We stood in silence as the line slowly moved. I was just hoping the entire time that we wouldn’t be selected for a random search or something. The last thing I wanted was to waste time with a full body pat down.
“Do you mind if I wait here for a moment. Some friends of mine forgot something and I want to give it to them before they leave.”
I looked ahead and saw the man in black talking to one of the TSA agents at the gate. He turned and saw me. “Oh there they are. Thank you,” he said to the agent as he waved at us and started walking to where we were.
I swore as I started looking around. Mallory grabbed my shirt in fear. If we took off now it would only bring suspicion on us and I had no idea how that would work out. But maybe that was exactly what we needed. My mind started racing as I thought of what I could use.
“I’m not going to hurt you Malvallet,” the man said holding up his hands. “I just want to talk.”
Malvallet? Who was that? I realized then that he was talking to Mallory. Was that her real name?
The man took another step forward trying to be as non-threatening as possible. “Can we go someplace and talk? Like the food court? Airport food is super expensive but there are lots of cameras.” He lowered his hands and stood there a good ten feet away.
“You promise you won’t hurt us?” Mallory asked.
“I swear. I will not force you to come with me if you chose not to.” The man put his hand over his heart and raised his other hand like he was being sworn in or something.
I looked at Mallory and she gave me a single nod.
“Alright,” I said.
The man led us to one of the many coffee shop like places in the terminal. He picked one that had tables for us to sit at and without a word took a seat in an isolated corner with his back to the wall. I would have thought he would want us to sit there. That way if we tried to run he could block us off, but maybe he was serious about just wanting to talk.
“I’m surprised,” Mallory said after we had all sat down. “I thought the Hyperion didn’t get involved in politics.”
“He does not,” the man said. “I am looking for a girl who has gone missing, nothing more and nothing less. I have no interest in if you take the throne or not. Nor will I pressure you one way or another.”
“Wait. Throne?” I looked at Mallory but she stare was focused only on the man across from them, a fire unlike I had ever seen burning in her eyes. I took my cue and closed my mouth.
“Can you please just wait fifty years or so?” she asked her voice surprisingly authoritative. Almost like this was her normal way of speaking. “I promise I will come home then. I had no intention of staying away forever.”
Fifty years? She couldn’t be serious. We would both be dead by then.
“Your father is sick,” the man said. “He has been for some time.” It was almost frightening how emotionless his voice was. As if all of this was nothing to him.
“How sick?” Mallory’s voice on the other hand had become full of worry.
“Very,” the man answered. “He could die any day now. If that happens and you are not there to take his place he fears it could cause chaos. He also fears that if your land’s enemies find out that there was no lord...” his voice trailed off.
Mallory hung her head. Tears were starting to well up. “I just wanted to live a normal life. Was that so selfish of a thing to ask? Just to take some time away from court politics.” She looked up at me with a sad warmth in her eyes. “Fall in love. Raise a family.”
“The Nobles Oblige says that you must put the desires of your people ahead of your own.” The man didn’t sound like he was chastising but he wasn’t being supportive either.
“I know all of that!” she snapped. “Every day for over a century I was drilled with lesson of duty and responsibility. I just…” her voice trailed off and she started to cry. “It’s not fair.”
I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to comfort her in some way but I had no idea what was going on. None of it made any sense to me. To be honest it still doesn’t. Not that it matters now.
“I was just asked to find you and I did.” The man stood up and started to move around the table. “Now that I have done that, my job is done. What you do now is up to you.”
“What should I do?” she whispered. She looked up at him begging him for an answer.
“I can’t tell you that.” His face was stern as he looked down on her. “The Hyperion does not get involved in politics remember,” he sighed massaging his forehead. “I have found though that most people know what the right thing to do is. Though it is rarely the easiest thing to do. The question is not, what should you do. Instead it is, what will you do.”
Tears were still streaming down her face as she slowly rose from her chair.
“Mallory don’t.” I reached for her grabbing her hand. She stood there refusing to look at me.
“I’m sorry Brandon. Had I known that it would end like this I would have never talked to you that night. I would have never…” she refused to look at me as she spoke, but her voice was determined.
“Don’t say that.” I didn’t know what else to say. I had to say something, anything, to make her stay. If I didn’t I knew I would never see her again.
She wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve before turning and looking at me. “Promise me something.” She gave me a faint smile. “Promise that you will forget about me. That you will live a normal life and find happiness without me.”
I stood up grabbing her shoulders. “I can’t do that. How can I ever forget about you now that I’ve met you? How can I ever be happy again if you are not with me? Mallory I love you.”
Tears started building in her eyes again. “I thought you might say that.” She hung her head. “Hyperion please make sure he gets home alright?”
The man nodded.
She reached out softly putting her hand on my cheek. She looked up at me with her green eyes. There was a pain there, I could see it clearly now. It was a pain that went beyond today, or the past few weeks. This was a pain that had always been there, only I could never see it.
“It will be alright.” Her words were but a whisper. She gently moved her hand, the tip of her index finger touching my forehead.
I loved you too.
I sprang out of my bed panic building inside me as I immediately looked around my room, expecting to see someone there. I couldn’t be sure why, seeing as how I lived alone. I’ve never even had someone stay the night before.
What was that voice? I felt like I should recognize it. I thought maybe it had belonged to someone very important to me. The memory seemed so close that I could just reach out and grab it. Though the more I thought about it the farther it seemed to move from my grasp.
I could feel something warm running down the side of my face.
I reached up and put my hand to my cheek.
It’s a tear. I was crying. I looked at my hand in disbelief.
Why am I crying?
For some reason there was an aching in my chest. Like I had lost something important to me, only I couldn’t remember what it was that I had lost.
Why am I so sad?
Why do I feel so dead inside?
I fell forward grabbing a clump of my bed sheets. The tears were flowing freely now, falling on my bed leaving small stains on the covers.
I could barely breathe. The pain in my chest was agonizing. I felt like I had to go somewhere, that I had to look for something but I didn’t know what I was supposed to be looking for.
Why do I feel this way?
What’s wrong with me?
Why is there this void?
“Why?” I screamed at my empty room.
I cried and I screamed over the thing I had forgotten.
The things we regret most are things left unsaid…