"This really feels like home!" exclaimed Anne, sipping her coffee.
She knew she needed to be somewhere, but where? She stared out the window from the backseat, watching the raindrops slide down the glass, drop onto the door and continue it's path to the road. "Just like me", she thought, "Sliding down to nowhere".
She glanced up at the back of Marie Sargent's head. She is in the car because Maria is taking her somewhere. She knew her name was Anne, because they told her it was. If only she could remember why and how she had come to live at Heritage House. Maria told her to take it slowly, after all, last month was the first time she became aware that she existed. Before she had lived in a fog, unaware of her surroundings or of the people around her. Though she wondered if that hadn't been a good thing with all the prodding, questioning and tests she had gone through lately. She knew that it is a miracle she even became aware, after all, she had lived in a fog for ten years, or so they said. They being Maria Sargent and Doctor Stanley. They were nice people. You could tell Maria wanted her to continue remembering and Doctor Stanley wanted her well.
She wondered what well meant. After all she didn't hurt anywhere, sometimes she did pinch herself to make sure she hadn't slipped back into the fog. Especially when they left her in her room, sometimes it would be so quiet, no sound except her breathing. There were scary moments when she felt her room became the center of the fog. Only when someone else entered did she give a sigh of relief, I mean, no one else had ever been in the fog, so if a person stood there, it was the real room.
The day she existed, it began slowly. The sound, started out as a whisper, as though the fog was being sucked out, then it came racing at her until she saw someone standing in front of her. It wasn't gray anymore, she remembered raising her arms to protect herself from the onslaught of sound, she saw their lips move and heard something that seemed garbled up with the noise of existing. She screamed and placed her hands over her ears, but it didn't stop the noise. She felt a sting in her left arm, then the fog engulfed her again. Thankfully, there was silence.
The next time she existed, her eyes opened, she heard a noise, but it wasn't loud, the window was open and she heard a bird, then laughter floated in from somewhere. A click sounded and a beautiful woman stood there. She had fiery red hair and the greenest eyes ever, they looked like emeralds. A dust of freckles ran across her nose. She said, "Hello, Anne. How are you feeling?"
Anne tried to speak, but no sound came out. So she shrugged and sat up. The beautiful woman reached out to study her and to keep her from falling out of the bed. "My name is Maria Sargent, and I'm your caregiver while you've been here at Heritage House. Do you remember coming to Heritage
Anne didn't try to say anything this time, just shook her head no. The only thing she remembered was yesterday when she started existing.
In the month since she awoke, she had learned that she had been at Heritage House for ten years, ever since she was a girl of ten . Maria had been with her the whole time, as well as Doctor Stanley. They kept asking her questions about did she remember her mother and father. She didn't even know she had a mother and father or that her mother came every day for a year, while her father came every week. Over time they had cut back their visits to once a month. They kept asking about her brother Alan. They even showed her pictures of her mother and father. They showed her a picture of Alan but it upset her so much they never tried that again. When she saw his face she screamed and screamed. Another sting in her arm gave her the fog and silence she wanted.
On the day her parents came to Heritage House, they were allowed to visit her on the veranda, with Maria standing by. She had been a little nervous, but they were an attractive couple, both with blonde hair, her father's had gray running back along the side of his head, as though someone had taken a paint brush and wiped it across his hair. They were both tall and slim, both had blue eyes which looked at her expectantly, she wasn't sure what they needed her to say or what they wanted to hear. They were just two people who wanted more than she could give at the time. Since that day, they started coming more frequently till Anne looked forward to their arrival. That is until this last Sunday's visit.
They were sitting in the house's conservatory, enjoying the scent of the indoor house plants with the sound of a small waterfall in the background. Even though it was cold outside, it had been warm with the sun shining down through the glass. Her mother and father were sharing news from home, talking about her grandmother Mimi wanting to come and see her. Brooks, the butler and his wife, Adele, wanted to know how she felt about them coming as well. After all, they had known her since her birth. Then her father said," Adele was the one with her when Alan..", at the mention of Alan's name she jumped up and wrapped her arms around herself. She paced back and forth a few times until her father put his arms around her and hugged her to his chest. "I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have mentioned his name!" Gently he rocked her back and forth until she quieted down. Thankfully, Maria came and took her back to her room.
In their session together on Monday, Maria asked her how she felt about her father mentioning her brother. She shrugged and asked, "Why does the mention of his name upset me so much? Why can't I remember anything before the day I existed?"
"Anne, remember we talked about you using the word awoke rather than existing."
Resentfully she thought, "I didn't wake up though, I started existing." Still Maria didn't explain to her why she became upset with the mention of her brother's name, only that at the right time she would remember.
Then Thursday night she had a horrible dream. She awakened herself with her screaming, her body was drenched with sweat, she was sitting on the edge of her bed flailing her arms from side to side. Only this time Maria didn't give her a shot to take her back into the fog. Instead, she made her repeat the dream. At first she had been stubborn, then as she realized Maria wasn't going away until she told her the dream, she repeated it.
Now they were on the way to somewhere that Maria said she needed to remember. They had been traveling an hour when it started to rain. The hissing of the water on the road, an occasional blaring of a car horn soon gave way to the hum of their tires. They hadn't passed another car for a few miles. Suddenly a sign loomed up on her side of the road, "Home of Roan's World Famous Peaches, stop and enjoy the fresh taste of newly harvested peaches, and try our homemade ice cream." Then the words beneath which stated "Open from June 1st through September 7th". Here it was December so we wouldn't be able to stop, yet we slowed and turned onto a side road curving around as they drove along until they pulled up before an antebellum house. The tall columns held up the balcony that traveled around the second story, with white rocking chairs spaced along for comfortable seating. Three steps curved around the front entrance which widened into a veranda that traveled forever. She had a flashback of walking along that veranda, she remembered it took forever to go from one side to other.
As she looked at the house, she realized it was decorated for Christmas. Huge round wreaths adorned the double doors, while Christmas garlands decorated the balcony rails. There were two Christmas trees out front decorated with white Christmas lights. The house was beautiful, yet she didn't want to get out of the car. Her legs wouldn't move, her breathing became erratic and loud.
Maria opened the back door, "Anne, look at me, take a slow breath and relax. Come on, remember, I'm here with you."
Finally she managed to get out of the car, there were her mother and father standing on the steps, along with an older couple, whom she assumed would be Brooks and Adele.
With Maria's arm around her shoulders, she allowed herself to be guided toward the house. As each step took her closer to the door though, she wanted to stop. A fearful dread came over her as she entered the house. When she looked up he was coming down the winding staircase, then it all came back, the blood, her beloved brother lying at the bottom of the stairs, it had been all her fault. After this thought, Anne fainted.
She moaned, tossed and turned as she came awake. Her dead brother was sitting on the side of the bed, holding her hand. She whimpered, pulled her hand free and scrambled back up the bed. "You're dead!", she shouted.
"No, Anne, I'm not. Your young mind saw me fall after stepping on your doll, then the blood you just couldn't handle the shock. Head injuries have a tendency to bleed and since you were never able to handle the sight of blood, the sight frightened you into silence. You couldn't handle the thought that you might have killed me. It wasn't your fault, you were a child, it was an accident. Unfortunately you weren't able to hear us tell you that I'm alive. I came to visit twice, put you became so agitated, they made me stop. I'm alright, Annie."
Annie, that was the name he always called me. He said Anne was such a grownup name for a little girl to carry. The next few hours we caught up on the last ten years. Alan is five years older than her.He'd gone to college and as soon as he received his law degree he wanted to go into partnership with their father. He told about the woman he is dating and hoped to marry. Finally Maria came to the door and suggested we come downstairs and have a cup of coffee with her before she left to go back to Heritage House.
"Will I be coming back with you?", I asked.
She looked at me, "Do you want to go back or stay here?"
Anne thought a minute before replying, " I want to stay here."
"Then hurry down and see me off."
After Maria left, they all stayed in the livingroom, letting the peace of the evening envelop them as they sat there watching the fire flames flicker in the polished wood floor. Occasionally, the Christmas tree lights would blink like stars. "This feels like home", exclaimed Anne, as she sat sipping her coffee, as she sat in the overstuffed white chair. "Why did it take me ten years to come back?"
Her mother came over, kissed her on her forehead, "It only matters that you're here now. Sometimes there are no answers to our "why" questions."
Tuesday Morning Writings is a project sponsored by Gaelikaa and Judy Harper. The words are copyright of Judy Harper.