1 Nightmares and cold coffee baths
I jolt awake, sweat dripping down my neck. Before I can forget anything I grab my journal and turn on my small bedside lamp. I need to write out all the fragments I remember.
Images of boney hands with long dirty fingernails and rusty chains flash in my mind. I shudder, remembering the screams and smell of blood in the air.
I close my eyes and draw a rough sketch of the hands, forcing myself to picture every detail. The large sapphire ring on the pointer finger has details that are fading, slipping from my memory before I can draw them.
With a deep sigh, I place the notebook under my pillow again. I look around my room in the dim light of my little lamp. I run my hands over the soft pink blanket spread over my legs. When did I buy this? Did I want pink or was that all they had? Do I like pink? I don’t think so.
My alarm starts to beep, startling me from my thoughts. I crawl out of bed and begin to prepare for the day. I open my closet and run my fingers over the clothes hanging there. Everything looks brand new. There are no tags, but nothing looks worn. In fact, everything in this apartment looks like that.
Every book, every pillow, everything, none of my candles have ever been burned.
The whole place looks like I purchased it, brand new, set it up, then walked directly into the street where I was hit by a car.
Nothing feels lived in or loved. There isn’t a single thing here that looks like I had any kind of connection to it.
I pick a long black skirt and a long-sleeved, white turtleneck bodysuit.
After showering and dressing I make myself coffee in my tiny kitchen. The coffeemaker is the only thing in this apartment that I don’t doubt I bought. I love coffee.
When I woke up in the hospital after the accident they brought me some with my first meal. It was love at first sip.
Clamping the lid down on my tumbler, I walk toward the door. After bundling myself into my jacket and gloves I make my way down the creaking, narrow staircase to the street. My apartment is on top of a bakery that closed several years ago.
The cold air hits my face as soon as I open the door. Luckily the library is only a few blocks over.
I arrive just as Florence pulls her car into the lot. She’s a sweet older woman, the library’s head librarian.
I wish I had opened up to her more before my accident. She hardly knows anything about me. Nothing that I can’t find out from my apartment, anyway.
Eight months ago when I woke up in the hospital the doctors told me that over time I might recover memories or fragments of memories from my life before. I still have nothing, not a single memory aside from the horrific dreams. Flo tries to help with what she can but apparently I was very closed off.
“Good morning, Dear” her cheerful voice ringing out in the frozen, silent air.
“Morning, Flo” I take the last sip of my coffee “it’s freezing today!”
“I expect we’ll see some snow!”
I smile at her as I hurry to unlock the doors. Something about Flo is comforting. I don’t have any family. According to the paperwork in my apartment my parents died several years ago. Flo feels like the grandmother that I don’t remember having.
By afternoon I’m exhausted. I decided to make a romance novel display in the front entrance for valentine’s day and I’m pretty sure I bit off more than I can chew.
The backer paper is as long as my body and I have to stand on a step-stool, on my toes to reach it. To say that I’ve been struggling is an understatement.
“Finished?” Flo asks as I pass the front desk.
“Not even close!” I’m taking a coffee break.”
“Why don’t you try water, Dear? You know, hydrate?”
“You use water to make coffee, Flo.”
She shakes her head with a smile. My coffee consumption levels are probably reaching dangerous levels.
After making my steaming hot cup I head back to my display. My design is a deep red background with a dancing couple cut out of black paper to look like silhouettes. I hung the red paper, now it’s time to hang the couple that I painstakingly cut from a huge piece of black paper. The cutouts are almost as tall as I am.
That’s not really saying much, I’m pretty short.
When I’m done I quickly clean up the area. Grabbing my now cold coffee from it’s forgotten place on the floor, I take a step back to admire my work.
It’s good work, I’m proud of it. I stare at the paper couple, holding onto each other, dancing. Am I getting jealous of the paper people that I made?
Why am I so single?
When I first came back to work I asked Flo if I ever mentioned any boyfriends. She said that I hadn’t. From what I can gather from my apartment I’ve never even spoken to a man. There isn’t a single shred of evidence that I have any semblance of a social life whatsoever.
I sigh. Pathetic.
As I turn to walk back inside from the small entrance hall I’m flung to the ground. I sit up, gasping and spluttering on the cold coffee that’s now everywhere.
“Oh, shit! Sorry, I didn’t see you there.”
I look up to see a giant, standing over me. Rubbing my eyes clear of coffee I realize what happened. Just as I turned, he opened the door and I stepped into it as he simultaneously pushed it into me. The result being a sore head, a bruised ass and a coffee bath.
The giant reaches his hand out to me, when I place my hand in his he pulls me up like a rag doll.
“Sorry about that, I’m Hunter.”
“It’s fine, I wasn’t watching where I was going.” I wipe coffee from my cheeks onto my sleeves. I’m so thrilled I wore white today.
Now that I’m standing I look at the man again. He still looks like a giant.
“I’m looking for Flo. Is she here?”
“Yes, she’s right inside at the desk” I motion through the second set of doors.
“Thanks and again, I’m so sorry. You’re so short I didn’t see you through the little window on the door.” He chuckles.
Giant man walks past me on his way out, as I mop the spilled coffee off the floor.
He looks guilty “I’m so sorry to create all this extra cleaning for you.”
“Don’t worry about it. It was probably time to mop this area anyway.” I give him a small smile. While being soaked in cold coffee isn’t my most favorite thing, it was an accident.
After he leaves I lock the doors behind him. It’s officially closing time.
When I come back into the main library I find Flo reshelving today’s returns.
“Oh honey! What happened to you?”
“There was a little accident with some coffee.”
“You’re not burned are you?”
“No, it was ice cold”
“Oh, good! You could have been scalded! Hey!” She changes the subject “will you come have dinner at my house tomorrow? I found a new recipe for enchiladas and you can’t make that for just one!”
“Sure, Flo. That sounds nice, thank you.”
Flo invites me to dinner often. I think she feels bad about my lonely sad-sack loser life. I appreciate her invitations and the bit of extra human interaction they give me. She’s also an excellent cook.
“Go ahead and head out, honey. I’m sure you want to change. I’ll lock up.”
After saying our goodbyes I begin the short trek home. I sigh into the darkness. The sun sets so early. I can’t wait for summer. I don’t remember what any of my old preferences were but I definitely like summer now.
Stepping out of the shower I turn to look at the scar on my shoulder blade. It’s not very big but it’s painful. My shoulder blades and upper back always hurt. It’s like a dull throbbing. It doesn’t matter what I do, pain killers, heating pads, yoga, nothing helps.
After I’m dressed in my pajamas I decide to look through my bookshelves. I take every book from the shelf, shake out the pages and search for anything, a piece of paper, a picture, a clue.
After I’ve looked through every book I sit back, discouraged. I don’t know what I expected to find, this isn’t the first time I’ve done this, or even the second.
Sitting on my small sofa I scroll through Netflix. I pick a random movie and press play, hoping that it will jog a memory. Digging into my microwave fettuccine meal, I try to relax.
By the time The Other Guys is over no memories have returned, I have no idea if I’ve seen it before but I did laugh quite a bit, so it’s not a total loss.
I rub my aching shoulder as I climb into bed. As I burrow into my blankets I fight the familiar feelings of dread settling into my chest. I hate sleeping, the nightmares are so vivid and horrifying that I would rather skip sleep altogether.
Forcing myself to close my eyes, I take a few deep breaths. I have to sleep, sleep is when the memories come.