The smell of bleach and antiseptic invaded my nostrils, the sound of beeping machines echoed and I tried to move, groaning as pain ripped through my skull. Thickness in my throat made me gag and my throat constricted, trying to cough.
Body stiffening as the voices floated to my ears; worried, almost hopeful; my mind drew at a blank at the name they uttered.
Who was Addilyn?
“Addilyn? Sweetheart—” Something smoothed over my forehead, soft and warm, making my eyes flutter on their own. “Addilyn, open your eyes.”
I was Addilyn?
My whole body hurt, my eyelids heavy, as if they were made of lead, but they forced themselves open, the brightness of the room blinding. Once they had stopped rolling around, they found the pair standing over me, their worried faces hazing in and out of focus as my consciousness fought the urge to slip back into blissful blackness.
The woman, her eyes red rimmed from crying leaned over, pressing her lips to my skin in a kiss which gave off so much emotion and relief. The overwhelming love in her embrace was something alien to me.
The first reaction that came to my fogged over mind was to push her away, yell at her… but something was wedged tightly in my throat and all I could manage was to wait for the woman to stand again. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she turned her attention to the man and he leaned over, his smile hiding pain.
“I’m so glad you’re awake sweetheart.” His hand swept across my brow, his smile widening and he glanced up to the woman, tears showing on his wrinkled cheeks. “I will go and get the doctor.”
He hurried from the room, leaving me with the still crying woman. She gazed back down to me, gushing as her words came out in a torrent of emotion, instantly making me instantly uncomfortable. “Oh honey, we were so worried! You’ve been unconscious for so long. We thought we were going to lose you.”
This was strange.
My eyes drifted to the window, seeing the pale blue sky, filled with fluffy white clouds. So many questions ran through my head. Who was this couple, with such an emotional tie to me? Where was I? And why did it seem like my body had been in a fight with a truck?
“Jaxon is going to be relieved to see you’re okay.”
My eyes darted to her, wondering who she was talking about, why the name didn’t seem familiar. Who was Jaxon?
My confusion was interrupted by the sight of a man in a white coat, stethoscope around his neck, walking into the room. Followed by the older man that had been there, when I had woken, his tears having left his cheeks, but emotion still shining brightly in his eyes.
“Addilyn, my name is Doctor Adam Jamieson. It’s good to see you awake.” He leaned over me, his arm extending and a small click hit my ears and he smiled down at me, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I’m going to check your vitals, then we will take the respirator out. It will be uncomfortable, but you will be a whole lot better.”
He lifted his hand, clicking the end of a small thin tube and a bright light hit my eyes.
“Can you follow the light for me Addilyn?” My eyes followed the bright spot and he clicked it off, smiling. “Good.”
The stethoscope moved as he put the buds to his ears and he pressed the large metal circle to my chest, listening intently. He nodded, the smile still plastered to his lips as he put the stethoscope back around his neck. “Your heart sounds fine. So does your breathing. Now, let’s get rid of the respirator.”
He turned to the couple in the room, clasping his hands together. “Mr. and Mrs. Sinclaire, if you don’t mind—would you please step out for a little bit? This might not be something you want to see.”
The pair nodded. “Okay, we will be right outside.”
They turned and left the room as a nurse walked in, pushing a trolley and she stopped beside my bed.
“Addilyn, this is Nurse Meyers, she will help me take out the respirator and see to your needs.”
“Hello Addilyn, nice to see you awake. You had us all worried.” She smiled, leaning over me. Her hands moved, quickly untying the strap which kept the respirator in my mouth and she pulled it away, looking over to the doctor. “Do you think she needs a dose of steroids? Keep her lungs moving.”
“No, she should be fine, her chest is clear and strong, no whistles or wheezes. We will switch off, then take it out and see how she goes.” Doctor Jamieson turned his attention to me, smiling. “Addilyn, we are going to switch off the respirator, it will seem like a crushing on your chest. But it’s fine, your lungs should kick in instantly and you will breath on your own. Then we will take the tube out. Okay?”
I nodded to him as he leaned over, flicking the switch on the machine at the head of the bed, the whooshing sound stopping. Doctor Sinclaire had been right—
The feeling of something crushing against my chest as the forced air from the respirator stopped, had me at a panic, until my own lungs kicked back into gear and my lungs heaved with my first unaided breath. It was only a slight gasp, a choking sound and Nurse Meyers put her hands under my back, lifting me to a sitting position and the doctor gripped the tube.
“Okay, this is going to be uncomfortable.”
My eyes slammed closed, gagging as the tube leaving my throat made me vomit, the hot liquid splashing onto my legs, soaking quickly into the blankets.
“It’s fine sweetheart, it’s fine.” Nurse Meyers cooed, rubbing my back as Doctor Jamieson hauled the large object from my mouth. Leaning forward I choked slightly, gasping, gagging and vomiting as the lingering sensation still made my throat tingle.
Nurse Meyers lifted a cup of water to my mouth, making me sip at the cool liquid, washing the taste of vomit from my mouth. Sagging back against the pillows the doctor had piled behind me, she leaned in, brushing the hair from my face. “Feel better?”
Dr. Jamieson leaned in before I could reply, a flat stick in his hand. “Ok, open your mouth, let me check to make sure there is no damage to your throat.”
Opening my mouth, he pressed the stick down on my tongue and I closed my eyes, willing my body to behave. “I have to admit, Miss Sinclaire, you are an extremely resilient young woman. With the accident, you should have sustained far greater injuries than you did.”
The words raspy in my throat as I tried to make sense of what had he was trying to tell me. “What accident?”
Doctor Sinclaire glanced at the nurse who was now changing the vomit soaked blankets and his gaze turned back to me, searching my face. “You were in a car accident Addilyn. You were thrown from the vehicle and suffered some head injuries. And some minor physical ones. You’ve been in a coma for close to a month—Don’t you remember?”
My eyebrows scrunched together, trying to remember, before I shook my head. The deeper into my mind I delved, the more clouded it became. There seemed to be nothing before I had woken up. “No—”
“It’s okay. You will remember in time.” He insisted, placing his hand on my shoulder. “Now, how about we bring your parents back in?” He walked to the door, opening it and spoke out into the corridor.
The woman from before rushed in, crossing to me and she kissed my forehead, tears running fresh down her face and I tensed, the need to push her away growing.
“Stop, please.” My hand lifted, pushing at the woman’s shoulder and she stood, looking down at me in shock. “I can’t—”
“It’s okay Addi, you’ve been through a lot. You must be in pain.” The man replied and my gaze lifted to him, seeing the concern.
“No—I—the pain isn’t too bad.” Licking my lips, I realized the pain was almost not existent. It had been more discomfort than anything. My gaze shifted to the Dr. Jamieson, seeing the confusion in his eyes. “I can’t remember.”
“It’s fine. We did say it might take some time.”
“No, you don’t understand.” My brain throbbed, my gaze dropping to the new blankets, the cleanliness of them. My gaze shifted to Nurse Meyers, seeing her smile, before it moved to the couple—the people the doctor claimed were my parents. “I can’t remember anything.”
“Of the accident? That’s normal, it’s the brain’s way of protecting you.” Doctor Jamieson explained, making me groan with frustration.
“No, not of the accident—yes, of the accident, of before the accident—of them.”
The pair stared at me with shock, the woman stepping forward. “Addi, we—we’re your parents.” Fear seeded the woman’s voice, hurt that there might be a problem.
Frowning, my gaze shifted to them, to the Doctor, the Nurse, then back to the pair.
“I can’t remember—” The tears streaming down the cheeks of the pair in front of me, didn’t even rip at me—not a single emotion flowed to me and my gaze shifted, dropping to the blanket again. “I’m sorry—don’t know who you are.”
* * * *
“What we have is a classic case of amnesia. The brain has put up a barrier to protect itself from the accident. In Addilyn’s case, it is extreme. Not only does she not remember the accident, but anything pre-dating her waking up in the hospital, including her own name.”
Everyone listened to the man sitting on the edge of my bed. My mother—or the woman who was apparently my mother—hadn’t stopped crying since they had been informed I couldn’t remember who they were. My father had been quiet, trying to sooth her.
The moment the words had left my lips, my mind knew that they had not been the right ones to utter and guilt had wrought through me at the sight of shock and dismay which had flashed across my parent’s features.
Doctor Jamieson had quickly called for the Brain Specialist, trying to figure out what had happened.
“While Addilyn’s physical injuries were not severe, it seems she has had a brain injury in the Limbic System. It is deep inside the medial temporal lobe.” His terminology meant nothing to any of us and with the confused looks, he continued. “The Limbic System includes the hippocampus, the amygdala, the cingulate gyrus, the thalamus, the hypothalamus, the epithalamus, the mammillary body and other organs, many of which are of particular relevance to the processing of memory.”
“What does it mean?” My father asked and our attention shifted from the specialist to him, seeing his face slack, his hands gripping my mother’s tightly. “Will it get better?”
The man turned to me, his pale eyes watching me for a moment, before he smiled and turned back to my parents, shrugging slightly. “Honestly? She might get part of it back. She might not get any of it back… ever.”
“Oh god!” my mother cried out, burying her head in her hands, her sobs growing in intensity, while my father tried his best to sooth her.
“I’m sorry, it depends on the amount and severity of the damage to the area. We will have to do tests. MRI, EEG, make sure there are no lesions to the brain. Then we can try some therapies to get it working again. We might be able to gain back basic recognition of family and friends.”
“What about Jaxon?” It was the second time she had mentioned his name and my gaze went to her face, seeing her red rimmed eyes lifting, staring at the man. “Jaxon will be devas—”
The door swung open and my gaze attention went to it, seeing the young man standing at the door, his face in shock. He wore black jeans and grey long-sleeved shirt. Cuffs and a watch sat on his wrist, rings on his fingers, his black hair ruffed slightly. His bright blue eyes were on me, going wide as he saw me sitting in the bed, awake.
“Addi—” He rushed forward, ignoring the protest of my mother and he gripped my face, pressing his mouth against mine and moisture fell on my face as he kissed me.
My hands went to his chest, ignoring the hard muscle underneath, pushing him away, ignoring the scent of him, the urgency in his kiss. He stared down at me, shock on his face as I stared at him with wide eyes. My father lifted himself, putting his hand on his shoulder. “Jax—”
“What?” he asked, turning his eyes to my father, his voice deep, seeing the way the two rings on his bottom lip moved as he spoke, catching my attention. “What’s going on?”
“She can’t remember Jaxon.” Mom murmured and he screwed his face up at her, before looking back to me.
“Addilyn can’t remember who we are, who you are—she doesn’t even know who she is.” My father’s voice came across tortured and Jax—obviously someone I had a relationship with—blinked, stepping toward me.
“Addi—?” Trying to push myself back into the pillow further at his advance; his eyes widened at my movement and he stopped, stepping back his voice quiet. “Addi.”
“Sorry. I—I don’t remember anything. Who are you?”
Jaxon’s face paled and he swayed slightly and my father gripped his shoulders, turning him and made him sit. He sank into the chair, burying his head in his hands as my mother put her arms around his shoulders, soothing him.
“I—” His voice was raw as his head lifted, his gaze meeting mine. “Addi, we—”
“Mister?” the Brain Surgeon lifted himself, holding out his hand and Jax lifted his shaking it, the skull ring on the third finger of his left hand twinkling.
“Thryce. Jaxon Thryce.”
’Do you mind if I call you Jaxon?” He nodded, still staring at me and the man continued. “Miss Sinclaire has had an injury to the part of her brain which controls memory. She needs time for it to heal and regain that function.”
“Brain injuries are tricky; they can sometimes be easy to fix. A bit of hypnotherapy might be able to bring back the memories with ease. Sometimes, they are terrible and no amount of help offered will bring them back.”
“So, she’s going to be stuck like this? No memories? Of anyone?”
“Could be.” He stated and I lowering my gaze, not able to hold the bright pools of the young man anymore—not when they held such sorrow. “She might remember in a week, a month, a year—or not at all. We don’t know.”
The sound of his sniff made me lift my gaze, seeing the tears rolling down his face and I shifted it to the specialist as he regarded Jax.
“May I ask? What is your relationship with Miss Sinclaire?”
My gaze shifted back to the young man, seeing him frown and he lowered his gaze, staring at the floor.
“We’re in a relationship.” His quiet words hit me like a truck. Staring at the young man, broken with the idea I didn’t know who he was, I watched as his shoulders sagged, weighed down with emotion. He lifted his head, staring at me, tears running down his cheeks as he whispered. “We’re engaged.”
* * * *
Nurse Meyers had chased my family and supposed fiancé out of the room, citing the need for me to get clean, since I had been in a coma for so long.
Having helped me out of the bed, out of the gown and into the plastic shower wheelchair, wheeling me into the running shower, she left me there. “I will be back in a minute hon.”
Now sitting as hot water sluiced over me, my mind tried to figure out what was wrong with me and my brain. I had no memories of the pair who claimed they were my parents. Of the boy who seemed so emotionally wrecked with the idea I couldn’t remember his face, his name—or the fact we were engaged.
I didn’t even know my full name, date of birth. Nothing. Everything before me waking up in the hospital was blank. Lifting my arm, pushing my hair from my face, the water off my skin, my eyebrows furrowed with the events that had transpired, as the door open. “Are you okay hon? Are you done now?”
Looking to Nurse Meyers, I nodded. “Yes, thank you.”
She shut off the water, stepping into the shower cubicle and she gripped the chair, wheeling me into the open space. Picking up a towel, she started to rub me down, chatting away as she did. “You are such a pretty little thing and that fiancé of yours, he is a handsome young man. Such charisma—”
“I wouldn’t know.” My voice whispered, trying to think of anything to help me remember what my life was like, what my family and friends were like. But nothing came forth and my eyes start to sting, tears forming and my bottom lip trembled.
“Oh sweetheart, I didn’t mean to upset you.” She put her hand on my shoulder, looking down at me and I lifting my head, looking up at her.
“It’s okay.” My voice was quiet, tortured with emotion and not having used it for over a month. “It’s just—I can’t remember anything.”
“Hopefully therapy will help.” She winked, trying to lift my spirits. “Can you stand?”
Gripping the arms of the wheelchair as she held it, making sure it didn’t slide from underneath me, I gritted my teeth, forcing my legs to behave. Grunting as the pain in my legs shot through to my back, I stood, gasping slightly at the small feat, reaching for the door.
“Are you okay hon?”
“Yes. Fine” I muttered through gritted teeth, my hands steadying me on the door frame and she moved the chair away.
“Okay, I’m going to finish drying you and we might dress you in something nice and clean.” She quickly rubbed the towel over me, before stiff cloth hit my skin and she slipped the gown over me, smiling as she came around, tying the little straps at the front. “We’re going to be having you do basic things. Sitting around, walking a little bit. Trying to get your muscles working properly again.”
Nurse Meyers gently took my hand and she helped me slowly walk, shuffling me to the bed and I slumped into it as she moved my legs, lifting them onto the mattress, pulling the covers over me. “Are you okay?”
“Yes. Tired.” My heart pounded and she smiled, picking up a black piece of fabric and she wrapped it around my arm. The cuff tightened and I leaned back, closing my eyes. The machine let go and she took the cuff from me. “Looks brilliant. For someone who’s been in a coma for the last month, you’re in remarkable condition.”
My eyes opened as she moved, pushing the trolley to the side and leaned over me. “Do you want anything? Food, a coffee? Maybe your parents to come back in?”
Shaking my head, my gaze couldn’t help going to the door, dreading the idea of the pair… or Jaxon coming back in right now. “Some time to myself would be great. Let me try and figure out what’s going on.”
“Of course.” Smiling, Nurse Meyers lifted her hand to my face, smoothing her knuckles over my cheek. “It’ll be fine. You’ll see.”
“I hope so.” My voice came as a bare whisper and she turned, leaving me. Letting the tears fall as I turned, laying on the pillow, the emotions which had built since waking earlier, flooded through me and I cried.
* * * *
“We will start with something small, a few things you need to know about yourself, like name and age. The basics, nothing more.” The woman in the chair was petite, her pale grey hair shining in the light, the wrinkles around her eyes creasing as she smiled at me.
My gaze stayed on her, trying to ignore not only the presence my parents, but Jaxon. They had asked if he would be able to sit in with us, since we were engaged. I had wanted to protest, but something about the desperation in his eyes kept me quiet and the therapist had taken it as approval.
“Okay, let’s start. Just small things please, we don’t want to overload Addilyn with too much useless information, too early on. It could do more damage than good.”
“Okay.” My father nodded, squeezing my mom’s hand, before his dark eyes met mine. “Your name is Addilyn Jade Sinclaire. You were born on the seventeenth of March 1997.”
“You turn nineteen in two weeks.” My mom quipped and I blinked, turning my head to the window. I had a name now, a full name and date of birth and tears pricked at my eyes, making me blink.
“You have two older brothers, Blake and Donny and a little sister, Mia.”
The names meant nothing to me and looked back to them, seeing the tears rolling down their cheeks and my gaze shifted to Jaxon. He was slouched in the chair in the corner, watching me. His bright blue eyes were rimmed with a thick circle of dark blue, the concern and sorrow sitting in those pools making my heart hurt. He was a good looking boy. Dark curls and bright blue eyes—but there was no connection to him—no heart pounding knowledge that this was the young man I was supposed to know, love… marry.
My father must have noticed the exchange, because he cleared his throat, making me break eye contact with Jaxon.
“You and Jax have been friends since you were both little. You were five, he was seven. You started dating in year six—have been together ever since. He proposed to you last month.”
Looking back to Jaxon, seeing the tears on his lashes, I dropped my gaze to his neck, following the natural curve of his skin, the Adam’s-Apple, the hollow of his throat. There was a chain around his neck, sitting bright on the dark fabric of his shirt and on those gold links, sat a sparkling diamond and gold ring. I lifted my gaze again, before looking away; not seeming to be able to hold his intense gaze long.
Picking at the blanket in front of me, wanting everyone to leave—to let me process what had had been divulged, wondering how best to voice it, knowing the last time I said something, I had hurt them. “I need to be alone.”
The silence in the room was palpable.
Jaxon hissed and my gaze darted up as he stood and he turned, stalking to the door. He threw it open, storming out and my mom was next, chasing after him, leaving me with the therapist and my father.
“I know this is hard Mr. Sinclaire, but we have to take it slowly. Only this morning, your daughter was in a coma.”
“Yes. I understand.” His words were quiet and he stood, stepping forward. He wanted to hug me, show me it would be ok, he would be there for me—but I flinched and he stopped. The pain which flashed through his features was strong and he almost broke in front of me, his face falling, bottom lip quivering. He turned, walking to the door and he left.
Tears rolled down my cheeks.
Tears for the man, who had left upset. For the woman, who hadn’t seemed to stop crying for the whole day. For the young man, who had lost his fiancé—and most importantly, I cried for me. As the therapist stood, crossing to me and put her hand on my shoulder, soothing me, I bawled for myself—knowing I would never be the same again.
* * * *
“Now, I know you have been through a lot in the last couple of hours Addilyn, but we need to do some tests. So lay back, stay still, relax and let’s see what kind of damage has been done.” Doctor Jamieson smiled down at me, his teeth bright.
“Okay.” Laying on a hard table, I felt far from relaxed and as he moved, it slid into the MRI machine; as it kicked into gear. The whirring made my ears hurt and I closed my eyes, gritting my teeth.
A voice came through the speakers, slightly distorted. “Okay Addilyn, we are going to do a scan of your brain, then we will have you out of there, okay? It will be about ten minutes.”
My fists clenched as the machine’s sound picked up pace and my eyes scrunched tighter. The whir of the MRI made my skin crawl, like bugs climbing all over it and I concentrated, trying to ignore it. But it wouldn’t stop and my hands moved, trying to shake them off.
“Addilyn, you have to stay still.”
The voice was grating in my ears and my jaw clenched tighter, grinding my teeth and images flashed before me.
People milling around me, singing me happy birthday. Hugging me, kissing me, telling me how much they loved me, how proud of me they were. The feeling of love washing over me proved that I was happy and my gaze lifted from the cake, my grin wide. But my joy soon turned to horror—No-one had a face.
My eyes snapped open, seeing the white wall of the machine whirring, the tube rolling around and around over me and my stomach heaved with sickness, still seeing the faceless people. “Turn it off.”
“Addilyn you need to stay still—”
“NOW!” I screamed, wiggling and the machine started to shut down. The bed slid out as I rolled to the side. My knees cracked on the hard floor of the hospital, making me cry out and I tried to scramble away, get somewhere safe. I wasn’t strong enough to do this, my mind would see me in a mental institute before it gave me back my memories.
“Addilyn!” Doctor Jamieson’s voice was loud and grating, his hands on my sensitive skin hurt and I slapped out at him. “Get me some Diazepam!”
Still slapping at him, screaming like a banshee and another set of hands grip me, holding me down. I kicked, flailing, before a sharp pinch to my arm had me whimpering.
“Addilyn, calm down.”
Blackness engulfed me, my body going slack and my mind drifted away into nothingness.
* * * *
“She’s had a breakdown. We had to dose her with Diazepam. Something happened inside her mind, while she was in the MRI machine. We recorded a massive spike in her brainwaves, right before she had the episode.”
Doctor Jamieson’s voice floated through the fog of the drugs, concerned. Someone crying again and I knew, deep down, it would be my mother.
“What does it mean?” My father.
“There is brain activity in her memory banks, her Hippocampus. But it’s limited. We couldn’t see any lesions, but we know her brain is having a hard time of recollecting what she knows. It’s trying but it just can’t seem to make it happen.”
“How long will it last?” Jaxon’s voice and my heart rate increased. Even if I didn’t know him, couldn’t remember him, his voice was like a shot of adrenaline to me. The thought of being tied to the very handsome man making me giddy and my brain turn to mush.
“I couldn’t say Mr. Thryce. Most amnesia cases only last a few minutes, not even enough time for people to notice. Some last days, some last a few months. All we can suggest is some therapy, people surrounding her who love her and hope for the best.”
“Hope for the best?” Anger seeded through Jaxon’s voice and my eyes fluttered, the fog of the drugs lifting. “My fiancé can’t remember who she is, who her parents are, who I am and you are asking us to hope for the best?”
“Jax.” My mother hissed, her emotions raw.
“No Elizabeth, this is shit and you know it.” Stomping boots, a door slamming and my mom burst into tears again.
“Sorry about Jax, Doctor Jamieson.” My father apologized.
“No, it’s fine. It’s the normal response from loved ones who have someone with Amnesia. I’m sorry I have to explain all this. But I don’t have more answers. I want to be able to help, tell you that we can give her a drug and it’ll all go back to being normal. But I’d be lying. I’m sorry, I really am.”
“We understand. What now?”
“Well, when she wakes, I will organize some more scans. See if there is a blockage in the receptors of her brain, stopping the signals. Check for deep lesions. If they all come up clear—then I’m afraid it will be a therapy and wait game. There won’t be anything we can do. The brain is both extremely fragile and extremely resilient.”
“Okay. Thanks.” Footsteps again, a door closing and my mother’s sobs grew. “Come now Liz, it will be fine.”
“How do you know Jordan? She was in an accident which could have easily killed her, she can’t remember who she is. How can you say it will all be fine? What happens if she never remembers? What will it do to our family? What do you think it will do to Jaxon?”
“Jaxon is a big boy; he can cope—”
“He is heartbroken—”
“As am I, but I refuse to think our Addilyn is gone and I am shocked you would think it. You should be there encouraging her, not sobbing like a baby. She gets her resilience from you, not me.”
The sobbing subsiding and she sighed. “Fine. I will be strong—for her. But you need to know something Jordan Sinclaire, this is breaking me so much more than you think.”
“I know sweetheart. I know.”
My mind clouded slightly again. I had to sleep, the day had been too much for me, the anger, the shock I had been through, the shock my family had been through. Everyone needed to recover—and maybe tomorrow, I would be able to tackle this head on.