Based off of Little Red Riding Hood. A work in progress.
|The first thing that went through his mind was Could it be her? Could it really be her? He couldn’t be absolutely sure, but she was the same height, same eye color, same smile; but her hair was different, she didn’t act like herself, and he couldn’t be sure about the face. Above all, she didn’t recognize him. But something deep inside of him said, You found her. Tell her. Bring her home. End the suffering.
And then he saw a glimpse of a tattoo on the nape of her neck. He wasn’t sure what it was of, but he knew it was a word. How many other people have tattooed words on their necks? Plenty, but what if it’s the same word, what if it proves that it’s her? He tried to be discrete while staring at her neck as she bent down to take a sip of her drink. Her hair parted and fell to the sides. It was a simple four-lettered word, two vowels and two consonants, but at that moment nothing else mattered to him. It was her word. She was talking, explaining something, but he couldn’t really concentrate. He asked her a question and then laughed with her when she gave her answer. He was about to tell her, but the food came and interrupted them. He was forced to act like everything was normal while passing the plates to his right or left.
He wasn’t even finished putting food on his plate when she asked to leave. His heart broke when he took her out and away. The others tried to ask him questions when he repeated over and over, “It’s her. It’s her.” They tried to console him by saying that he would see her again soon. He started to break down because she didn’t recognize him, she didn’t remember anything, and she was gone again.
It felt worse than when he found out how she got the money to run away: stripping at a club in the next town over. It made him sick to think of his sister naked in front of old perverts, all for the sake of money. But this, this was worse. She was there, close enough to touch and then gone in an instant. It wasn’t fair.
I nearly choked on my tea. My eyes were huge with disbelief. “How can you say that? You don’t even know them. The only thing that my dad, Elizabeth, and Linda have done has been trying to help me remember and make me feel comfortable since the moment I regained consciousness and could barely talk, let alone remember anything!” I was furious with his accusations. “How do I know that you’re not the liar? You lied to the paramedics last night.”
His brown eyes were locked on to mine. “You just need to trust me.”
“Trust you? Ha! I barely know you. For all I know, you could be a serial killer on the loose.” I looked away, too angry to look at him.
“But you trusted me enough to meet me at the carousel last night, enough to ask to talk with me today, alone.” His voice was on the edge, but still considerably calmer than mine. People had started pointing and whispering about the scene I was making. I chewed on my lip to relieve some of my aggression.
“Take me home. Now. I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”
“Can you just please believe me?” He was begging. It made me feel somewhat powerful, and I liked it when I knew I shouldn’t have.
“Why don’t you believe me? I am trying to get my life back to normal. I am trying to be the old Brooke Conall,” I shot back. I then remembered the scrapbook Linda gave me for my birthday. “I have a scrapbook full of my pictures if you’re still convinced I’m not Brooke.”
I looked back at Sawyer. His face was different; it was sadder and broken. His response was only, “Oh.”
I waited a few seconds to calm down and then said in a somewhat quieter voice, “Can you please take me home now? I’ll show you the book and then you can stop all of this…nonsense.”
His eyes avoided mine, “Okay. Let’s go. I just need to pay first.” He went to pay the bill and to ward off the kimonoed waitresses’ worries about our dispute. People were still looking at me for ruining their tranquility. They were probably waiting for my head to spontaneously combust or for me to savagely attack the silent koi and escape howling. When neither happened and I saw that Sawyer was finished I stood to follow him back to his car. We walked in silence. The car ride was long and the silence was killing me, but I wasn’t going to be the one to break it. I was too stubborn, a bit of my old self that was coming back I suspected.
My mind began to wander, thinking of the pictures in my book and about the disastrous night before. I jumped when Sawyer asked, “Where should I park?”
“In the garage right in the middle. The code is 3-9-6-2. You can park in my dad’s sp–…” I had been so preoccupied with Sawyer’s allegations that I forgot that my dad was coming home. I didn’t know what time he was supposed to get back. That and Linda was probably informed by Elizabeth that I had disappeared again.
“I forgot that my dad is coming home. He was supposed to be on a business trip for the next couple of days, but Linda called him after I snuck out last night; so he should be home or coming at any minute. And Linda’s probably freaking out right now.” I sighed deeply. I was going to be in more trouble than I had originally anticipated.
“Who’s Linda and why would she be freaking out?”
“She’s my babysitter and I kinda ditched the rest of my therapy session this morning to talk to you.”
“That’s just great. I haven’t even met them and they probably hate me. I think I’ll just drop you off in that case.”
“No. I want you to see that you’re wrong. I want you to see the pictures.” My tone was sharp and demanding. I was beginning to feel like my old self and it felt good. “Just come up really quick to see. I won’t say that you’re Sawyer, I promise. If you do this and see how wrong you are, you’ll never have to see me or my dad or Linda again.”
He shut his eyes and clenched his jaw. “This is a really bad idea, but I want to be sure,” he said through his teeth.
He parked in the spot that was open and the closest to the elevator. We rode the elevator and with each passing floor, I began to shake more and more. When the doors opened at the seventh floor, Sawyer let me out first so he could follow me to the apartment I shared with my dad and Linda. When I opened the door I expected to see Linda pacing around, but she wasn’t there. I called out, “Linda? Dad? Is anybody here?” I went to see if anyone was in the bedrooms. Nobody was in my dad’s room so I went to the other side to my room and it was empty as well. Could this be some good luck for once? I grabbed the scrapbook from my room and went to the kitchen where Sawyer was waiting patiently for me. “I don’t know how long we have, but here’s the pictures.”
He followed me to the couch and I laid the book on the coffee table in front of us. I looked around and saw the birthday decorations I hadn’t noticed from the day before. I wondered when Linda put up the green, white, and pink streamers and balloon bouquet with a “Happy Birthday” message written across the center Mylar balloon. “It’s your birthday?”
“Yesterday,” I said detached. “I turned eighteen. This is supposed to be my last semester of high school.” I pushed the gloomy thoughts out of my head and said to him, “Look at the pictures, please. I don’t know how much time we have left before my dad gets back.”
Sawyer opened it cautiously and flipped through slowly, examining each picture with great care. I watched him look at the pictures and I saw a tear run down his cheek. He caught it before he thought I saw it. “I’m sorry. I just really wanted you to be her. I wanted to be right for Gabe.” His voice was steady.
“It’s okay. He’s your friend. You wanted to help him. I’m sorry I reacted the way I did at the tea garden.” I wanted to comfort him now. My emotions were all over the place since I met him. “Do you want anything to eat or drink since we left so quickly?”
“Sure, but can I ask you one more question? I just want to know.”
“Okay. Ask away.”
“Do you have a tattoo on the back of your neck?”
I stared at him confused. How could he possibly know that? Maybe he saw it the night before. “Yeah.”
“What is it a tattoo of?”
“It’s a name: Eris. I liked studying Greek mythology when I was in school. And it kinda describes my life perfectly right now.” And then I heard the key being inserted into the doorknob. I stared at the door with every single muscle in my body tense. I wasn’t expecting them to be home yet. I wasn’t ready to get in trouble. I shut the scrapbook. Sawyer didn’t say a word. He was equally nervous about the person on the other side of the door about to come in. He or she was taking a long time taking the key out and opening the door. The anticipation was killing me. The door finally opened, but she didn’t speak until the seconds of initial shock passed by. Then she said, “Who the hell are you?”
The ring weighed a million pounds on her finger. She wasn’t excited like any other woman would be. Yes, she did love him, but the idea of marriage scared her. She had acted excited for him so his feelings wouldn’t be hurt. He was so happy when she accepted his ring. She had portrayed the emotion thousands of times before, so it wasn’t too difficult. But she was happy that she had to leave for the airport right after so she wouldn’t have to wear the mask of happiness. She played with it the entire flight, twisting it around her finger, feeling the coolness of the diamond on her thumb.
She knew what her mother would say about it: she was too young, she was still in school, and she knew hardly anything about love. All of which were true, but she did love Hayden and he loved her and knew that it would somehow work out.
Now she was headed to her dad’s apartment. There was an older couple in the elevator with her carrying groceries back to their apartment. They spoke softly and lovingly to one another. This is what it will be like for us, she thought. We will grow old together and have children together and live in an apartment in the city and hold hands in an elevator. And it scared her. She had been thinking about leaving him. She had been toying with the idea before he proposed, but she couldn’t help but think about what would happen if she did leave him. She didn’t have a logical reason. She just wasn’t comfortable with being with someone who knew her so well. It was too comfortable. She had been waiting for a reason to leave him, but he was good, any woman would be lucky to have him. So she decided to make him happy at the sacrifice of herself.
The couple got off on the fifth floor, but she remained in the elevator. When it stopped at the correct floor, she doubled-checked the number her dad gave her. When she approached the door with the same number on the paper she had, she bent down to retrieve the spare key underneath the welcome mat, like her dad told her. She inserted the key into the keyhole and turned it to the left. When the door didn’t open, she tried turning it to the left. She pushed the door open a little and returned the key to its hiding spot. She picked up her bag and entered the apartment. There were two people, a girl and a man, across from the door sitting on a couch, but she didn’t recognize either one of them. Once her tongue found its way back to her mouth, she said, “Who the hell are you?”
“Wait, I should be asking you that question. Who are you and what are you doing in my apartment?” I demanded as I walked towards her. She was surprised and didn’t move from the doorway. I heard Sawyer follow me. I folded my arms against my chest and shifted my weight to my left foot.
“My name is Melanie and I’m visiting my dad for my birthday and Spring Break. I was supposed to get here yesterday, but my flight got cancelled.” She was slightly taller than me, but she was wearing high heels. She had platinum blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. She was matching from her earrings to her nail polish to her outfit in green. Her big hazel eyes shone with confusion. Her skin was flawless and her makeup looked completely natural.
“Well, you have the wrong apartment.”
“I don’t think so. He told me apartment number 705 and that the key would be under the welcome mat.”
“What’s your dad’s name?” I asked, but suddenly I wasn’t as confident.
“Raymond Conall.” She was as confused as I was.
“I don’t have a sister though. I’m an only child,” I mumbled to myself. “He can’t… you’re not…no…” I stared at the floor like it would give me all of the answers. She did look like the girl in the pictures, but that couldn’t be true.
Sawyer wrapped his arms around my shoulders as if I was going to faint. I have no idea why he would think this, but I was thankful for some sort of comfort. “Why don’t you close the door and come in for a few minutes so we can get this sorted out, Melanie?” He led all of us back to the couch. Sawyer sat with me on one end of the couch while Melanie sat on the edge of the opposite end.
“I’m Sawyer and this is Brooke.”
She turned her head sharply and glared at me. “What?” she asked as she looked back at Sawyer. “No she’s not. I am. I don’t know what kind of scam you two are trying to pull, but I’m not falling for it. And I’m telling my dad as soon as he gets here.” She was standing up now, yelling at us.
Sawyer stood up, too. “Whoa, let’s take this slowly. I though you said that your name was Melanie, not Brooke. We aren’t pulling any scam. Brooke – that Brooke –,” he said as he pointed to me, “was in a car accident a month ago and…”
“And I have amnesia. I live here with my dad and Linda. I have pictures if you want proof…”
“Let me see them. And my full name is Brooke Melanie Aldine, but it was Conall before my parents divorced and I went with my mother’s maiden name.” Both of them were sitting back down, but her hazel eyes were still suspicious. I leaned over and opened the scrapbook once again.
She looked at the first page and flipped quickly through, pointing to each face as she described them. “These are pictures of me. That’s me at a Halloween party as a ladybug in first grade with my friends, Danielle, in the princess costume, and Ashley, in the vampire costume. And that’s me with Steve, Olivia, Mary, Christi, and Luke at my tenth birthday party that we had at the Rainforest Café. And that’s me with Ashley, Olivia, Christi, Danielle, and Mary at our Valentine’s Day tea party when we were eight. And these are school pictures of me from Fairmont Elementary. You are the ones who are mistaken.” She slammed the scrapbook closed once she pointed out the last picture of ‘her’ at the beach with ‘her’ friends last summer.
“I should talk to my dad–I mean Mr. Conall–when he gets here. He can sort this whole mess out. He should be home soon.”
“I have a better idea. Why don’t Melanie–or do you want to be called Brooke?”
“Melanie, please. I hate the name Brooke.”
“Anyway, Melanie and I will leave and let you talk to him alone. Don’t let him know that Melanie was here and don’t let him know that I’ve been asking questions. Are you two okay with that?”
“Wait a minute, I just got here. I am supposed to be spending my vacation with my dad, not hiding so some stranger to talk to him. I did not come all the way from New York to be in San Francisco with strangers who are trying to steal my identity.”
“Look, I will explain everything to you if you come with me. I promise that I won’t even touch you; we don’t even have to leave this building, but we have to get out of here before Mr. Conall gets here.” Sawyer was so logical; how could anyone disagree with him? Maybe he should be studying to become a lawyer instead of an architect. “Can you just go along with this so we can figure out what’s going on?”
She sat stiffly, thinking about the choices and weighing each of their consequences. Finally she spoke, “Okay, but I’m calling my boyfr– my fiancée and getting him to come out here. As soon as you,” she glared at me and then continued, “whoever you are, get some answers, I’m coming back, stay with my dad, and then heading back to New York on Monday. Let’s go.” She immediately whipped her cell phone out of her purse and hit a speed dial; she began to walk out of the apartment, demanding Sawyer to follow. “I thought you said we were in a hurry. You have to lead me to where we’re hiding. Let’s go! Oh, not you, Hayden, sorry. Actually that’s why I’m calling. I need you to get on the next possible flight to San Francisco.” She was already out the door, but Sawyer lingered in the kitchen, apologizing with his eyes.
He hesitated and then said, “You can do it. You have my number if anything happens. Call me if you find out anything.” I nodded like I understood, but this was too much for me to comprehend. He left and shut the door with regret. All I wanted was to be myself again, but what if everything I was told was a lie like Sawyer said? What if I wasn’t becoming me but someone else? What if I would never know the truth, the real me? I knew that I had to ask the man I called father for a month, but I also knew that he would answer any of my questions. All I could do was hope that I might remember something else, something that would give me a clue as to who I am or what I am doing here.
I went to the bookshelf that contained thick literature, biographies of well-known dead people, non-fiction, classics, and a sparse amount of modern fiction; this way I could occupy my mind while I waited for Linda or Mr. Conall to arrive. I removed the most worn book and placed it into my lap as I sunk into the couch. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. I traced the embossed letters of gold and admired the simple binding of hard brown. I opened it to the dog-eared page in the beginning and started to read. The chapter was titled “Hunting-Song of the Seeonee Pack.”
As the dawn was breaking the Sambhur belled
Once, twice and again!
And a doe leaped up, and a doe leaped up
From the pond in the wood where the wild deer sup.
This I, scouting alone, beheld,
Once, twice and again!
As the dawn was breaking the Sambhur belled
Once, twice and again!
And a wolf stole back, and a wolf stole back
To carry the word to the waiting pack,
And we sought and we found and we bayed on his track
Once, twice and again!
As the dawn was breaking the Wolf Pack yelled
Once, twice again!
Feet in the jungle that leave no mark!
Eyes that can see in the dark–the dark!
Tongue–give tongue to it! Hark! O hark!
Once, twice and again!
After I finished the last line of the brief chapter, I heard talking from behind the front door. I knew that it was him this time. I was not as nervous as before, but I still didn’t know if I could ask him the questions. I didn’t know if I could ask him if I really was his daughter. What if I was wrong? What if this was some big mistake?
All thoughts cleared from my mind once he stormed through the door with Linda following and trying to soothe him. I shut the book closed and winced as it made a loud thud. He realized I was sitting on the couch for the first time since he entered our home, his home. He had relief all over his face, but that was only fleeting. Rage over took and he began to yell. “Brooke! Where were you? Why did you leave the hospital in the middle of your session? Who were you with? And why did you run off last night to meet some boy you don’t even know? Tell me, tell me!”
Linda stood behind him and mouthed the word ‘sorry.’ I looked back to him and said in a small voice, “I’m sorry, Dad.” That word suddenly felt wrong on my lips. “But I met him after my session yesterday, and…”
“And what? Just because he says he knows you doesn’t mean it’s true! Linda.” He said her name softly and she quietly snuck away to the master bedroom.
“Well I believed you when you said you were my father!” I was yelling now, too. It felt natural to defend my actions, no matter how wrong they were. I stood to make myself feel bigger; sitting on the couch made me feel small and weak, but standing made me feel defiant and sturdier.
“And were you with this boy again today? Did he convince you to ditch Dr. Stav?”
“No, it was my idea! He didn’t try to hurt me at all! All he was trying to do was be nice and help me figure out who I am! Not everybody is bad like you want them to be! You don’t have to keep me locked up in here like some prisoner! I went with him so I could feel normal for once! I thought maybe I could remember something from before last month! And I did!”
“You know what, Brooke? The doctors said that you could leave the hospital early only if you rested and attended daily sessions with Dr. Stav. And since gallivanting off with this boy is not resting and you left your sessions, Dr. Stav, Linda, and I think it would be best for you to return to the hospital until Dr. Stav sees fit.”
“You have got to be kidding me! You can’t do that!” I stepped backward, but the couch wouldn’t let me go far.
“I can and I am. I am doing this only because I am your father and I love you so much. I want you to get better, Brooke.” He came closer and grabbed my right arm tenderly.
“Are you really my dad? Or are you trying to cover something up?”
“Where is this coming from? Of course I’m your father. Did this boy tell you otherwise?”
“Yes. He. Did. And I believe him,” I said through my teeth. He tightened his grip on my arm.
“Linda!” Linda emerged from the bedroom and stood quietly on my left side. She too grabbed my arm, but her grip was gentle.
“They’re on their way. They should be up in at least five minutes.” She started to push me towards my room.
“Who’s on their way? Where are you taking me?”
“We just need you to stay calm. Can you stay in your room for a few minutes?” Linda was the only calm one. He was still furious and I was confused and starting to get frantic. They both started leading me to my room. I tried to make it as hard as possible by making my feet like lead. I tried to break my arms free of their grips. I succeeded in freeing my left arm, but she just grabbed it again.
“You’re not in your right state of mind, Brooke. You need some rest. Dr. Stav has arranged for you to stay at the hospital for as long as you need.” Too frustrated with me being uncooperative, he pinned my arms down and lifted me up. I was too shocked to try to stop him. He carried me to my room and smoothly tossed me on my bed. He shut the door before I could try to stop him. I heard a locking sound from the other side and tried to open the door. It was locked. I banged on the door, pleading for them to let me out. I hit the door one last time before I remembered the fire escape I had used the night before. I tried to lift it but it remained shut. Linda must have done something to it this morning, I thought. I sat on my bed and took the picture out from under my mattress. The one picture I had burned into my brain, the one I thought was of my mother and me. I cried because I didn’t know what else to do
Then I heard his voice from the other side of my door. I was somewhat calmer than our screaming match less than five minutes prior. “Brooke, the people from the hospital are here. If you tell me the name of the boy you were with last night and this morning, I can talk to them. You’ll probably just stay in the hospital for one night. I’ll make sure he’ll never see you again.”
“No!” Sawyer was the only one who seemed to be helping me at this point; I wasn’t about to betray him. I heard some mumbling and then the door being unlocked. Two men dressed in white button-down shirts tucked into matching white pants came in. One was tall and tan. His hair was black and very short. The other was considerably shorter and had light red hair. His face was covered with freckles. Both were big with muscles. I got off my bed and tried to make a run for the door, but the bigger of the two grabbed my waist. I started kicking and hitting them to make them put me down, but the second man grabbed my legs. As strange as it was, I felt better. I felt like the old me was bubbling up and fighting to break the surface.
“No! No! Don’t do this to me! You can’t do this to me!” They carried me over to the stretcher they apparently brought with them. The bigger one held my arms down while the other cuffed my wrists to the stretcher. Then I began kicking harder, but the bigger one held them down too.
Somewhere between my screams, I heard him say to the two men, “She will receive the best care in the psych ward, correct? I don’t want her to share a room with anybody. Make sure she doesn’t hurt herself.” Then he directed his words to me, “I love you, Brooke.”
“Don’t worry, sir. We’ll take good care of her, but you might want to wait a few minutes for the screaming to subside.” I couldn’t tell which one was speaking, but I didn’t really care.
I struggled against the leather cuffs that chained me to the stretcher. The smaller one grabbed the head of the stretcher and began pulling out to the elevator. The larger one followed closely behind and was brandishing a needle. As we got closer to the elevator, I saw the curious people who had stayed at home today peeking out of their doorways. The larger one rolled up my left sleeve and shoved the needle into my skin. Despite my protests, I was beginning to calm down, but I knew it was the drug working. They wanted me passed out so I would be easier to deal with and transfer to the hospital. The last thing I saw out of my heavy eyelids was the elevator door closing. I thought they would follow me, but they didn’t. I fell into a drugged blackness and no matter how hard I tried to fight I tumbled farther and farther into it.
She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. The excitement in his voice made her heart skip a beat; but when his tone changed, she held her breath and tucked her bottom lip beneath her teeth. “…but I’m not sure where to find her again. I don’t know where she’s staying. I’m not even one-hundred percent sure it’s her, but you should have seen her, Mom. She wasn’t the same, her hair was totally different, and her face had cuts and was swollen, but I really believe it was her. I really think we found her.”
She remembered the first time she heard those words; she had been married to Ethan for two years and was working the late shift as the new girl at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka. It was a slow February night and the only thing she had left to do was to finish paperwork on the latest patient.
The hallways were quiet except for the conversation between she and the other night nurse, Nicole. They were talking about plans for the vacation that wouldn’t come until next Christmas when a young girl stumbled in with two EMTs by her side. She was a tiny thing, but with a protruding belly. Her dirty blonde hair was unkempt and long. She was wearing a gray long-sleeved dress and had no shoes. She was crying and trying to speak. Nicole rushed to get a wheelchair while Maya went to her.
“We found her walking around outside. Someone just threw her out of a car. We were just coming back from getting some coffee. She hasn’t said anything important yet,” the EMT on her right informed me.
“Thanks. We’ll take it from here. What’s you name, sweetie?” she asked, grabbing the girl’s hand. She couldn’t be older than seventeen. Nicole came with the wheelchair and the girl sat down. The EMTs waited around to see the ending. They wheeled her over to the nearest empty bed and helped her transfer to the bed.
“Jennifer,” she choked out. Nicole left to call the doctor who was on duty that night.
“Okay. Jennifer, how old are you?”
“Eighteen,” she wailed.
“How far along are you?”
“It wasn’t my fault this time. It wasn’t my fault.” She was sobbing. Her English was accented, but Maya wasn’t sure where it was from.
“It’s going to be okay, Jennifer, but I need you to answer some more questions. The doctor will be here soon.” Nicole had returned, brandishing a needle and saline.
“Nicole is going to give you an IV to get you some fluids and medication to help you with the pain. You’re going to feel a little prick.” She continued to cry, clutching her belly with her left had.
The doctor came in quickly with gloves stretched up to his elbows. He was the only one who spoke with enthusiasm that night, “Somebody is going to become a mom. Let’s get this baby out, shall we?”
Nicole and Maya held back Jennifer’s legs as the doctor instructed her over her screams. After an hour, a healthy six pound four ounce baby girl was cleaned and bundled up. Nicole asked, “What are you going to name her?”
“I can’t keep her, I can’t. It wasn’t my fault this time.”
“Shh, shh. It’s okay. Nobody’s blaming you. Do you mean you’re putting her up for adoption?” I asked. She nodded her head as she squeezed out tears. Nicole went and got the adoption papers hesitantly. She whispered to Maya, “Who should we call about putting this baby into adoption?”
But Jennifer had heard her and grabbed Maya’s shirt. “I want you to have her. You’re her mother, now.” Maya nodded, shocked and scared yet grateful. She had to say yes.
The next morning after the papers were signed, Jennifer was gone but the baby was sleeping in Maya’s arms. Her little Cori Rowan.