NOOKS AND CRANNIES

                I am here.  Just here and nowhere else, and with nothing in my head to tell me where here is, or why I should be here, or where I might have been before here, or why here might be in some way important.

            I look around.  Big place.  Pretty.  And what the hell, and where the hell, and who the hell am I?

            It's a weird feeling, and I feel like it's not the right kind of feeling, but there's no way to know because I have nothing else in my head to tell me if I'm supposed to feel any different.  Shouldn't I have a name or something, though?  Shouldn't I know what that is?
            It's unnerving.  So I look around at the place.  It's a place, that it definitely is.  What kind of a place I have no idea.  I can't figure out if it feels homey or spooky.  One or the other, that's for sure.

            Okay, spooky.  Because now there are voices outside and they're coming closer.  I think about hiding but the voices don't really sound threatening.  Not familiar, either, but then what is right now?

            The doors come open behind me and I turn toward that sound, the soft clunk and scrape.  There are people.

            The one in front sees me first and he roots to the spot as astonishment moves over his face.  Behind him, the other two stop talking and freeze as he gestures with one hand.

            "Cordelia?" he says.

            His voice, his face, that word--they mean nothing to me.  I wait for something to click.  Am I Cordelia?  Is that my name?  Am I supposed to know who the hell this guy is, with his funky dark hair and his deeply beetled brow?  And the other two--the big, strapping bald black hunk and the girl who looks really underfed--

            I look back at him, the one in front who's still looking at me like he's seeing a ghost, like I'm the ghost and he just can't quite get his brain around what he's seeing and the question of the day becomes:

            "Who are you people?"

            He's still staring at me and I don't think he heard what I said because suddenly there's a flash across his face, like relief and he says, "My God, it's you.  You're back."

            Back?  Back from where?  How can I be back from somewhere when I don't know where I am now?  Did I go on some kind of really good vacation because if I did that's just wrong that I can't remember any of it…

            They're all still pretty much staring at me.  The guy, the guy with the broad shoulders in the not-quite-right pinstripe suit (why would I think it's not right if I don't even know who the hell he is), seems to finally realize I'm just staring at him like who the hell are you, because he says, "Don't you remember?" and he sounds like maybe he's offended that I don't.  "Angel," he adds.

            Okay, is that his name, or is that my name, or is he my boyfriend or something and that's just what he likes to call me?  I'm completely flummoxed so I just shake my head because no, I don't remember.

            He swings back toward the other two.  "Um…you see her too, right?  I'm not just…"

            The big black guy jumps in.  "No, man, it's real."

            Well, that's a relief.  I was beginning to think it was all in my imagination.  Can you have an imagination if you have no memory?  Can you have anything at all?

            He takes a step toward me, the guy in the suit, and suddenly I'm afraid he's going to come right up to me, touch me, hug me--God, would he kiss me?  Do I know him that well?  Did I?  I step back.  It's fear, just fear and my big ole head with nothing in it.

            "It's okay," he says.  He's as flummoxed as I am, I think.  He looks--hurt.  The fact I don't know him is causing him pain.

            Well, big man, it's causing me some pain, too.  He keeps moving toward me and I keep moving back.  Does he not get this?  Is he that thick?  Is there so much gel in his hair he can have no thoughts?

            "We're friends," he goes on, as if he thinks maybe if he says this stuff over and over I'll have some kind of giant epiphany.  "You know us."  He gestures toward the other two.  "Fred.  Gunn."

            That's helpful.  Which one the hell is which?  Could go either way.  Or maybe not.  The girl's probably not Gunn, so that would make her Fred.  So the guy who's intent on driving me backwards across the damn room is--what did he call himself?  Angel?  What is this, the Land of Gender Ambiguous Names?

            And Angel is still talking.  "You're dazed, or something must have…"  He takes another step toward me and I continue to back up.  "Thank God you're back."

            He sounds pretty sincere.  Wherever I was, whoever I was, he must have missed me.  I can't even think about the implications of that.

            "So…we know each other?"

            "Yeah.  Really well."

            "Okay…"  What does that mean, really well?  God, have I seen him naked at some point?  One would think that would be something I would remember.  "Um…"  There is just no describing the awkwardness of this situation.  "Who am I?"

#

            Okay, a couple of hours have passed, and nothing's gotten any better.  I'm not completely convinced I'm not a spy, nor am I convinced these people aren't insane.

            I do know that I can kick the hell out of a band of evil lawyers, which may or may not be a useful skill.

            Why can I remember "lawyer" when "Cordelia Chase" means nothing to me?  It's like my brain is full of nooks and crannies where there should be information, but there isn't.

            My brain is like an English muffin.

            Angel's doing everything he can to try to convince me I belong here.  Obviously I've worked here, because my voice is on the answering machine, but why is he trying so hard?  He looks at me with this expression that I'm sure is supposed to be sincere and reassuring, but mostly he just looks constipated.  I'm thinking sincere and reassuring aren't a regular part of his repertoire.

            And I keep flashing on that picture I found in the box in my room.  So intimate, of me holding the baby and smiling, him bending over the both of us, also smiling.  Cozy.

            Did I spew something of his out of my loins at some point?  I mean, there are stretch marks…that baby could be mine.

            He stands in the door now, leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed over his chest.  I wonder which nook and/or cranny in my head used to have him in it.  I have a feeling he may have filled up more than one.  How long have I known him?

            "Am I a mom?" I ask him suddenly, because I need to know these things.  They're hidings things from me, all three of them.  I can tell.  But hopefully he'll be straight with me about this.  "I found this."

            He crosses the room to me and I hand him a picture, this one of just the baby.  He looks at it.  There's something in his eyes, something sad.  "That's Connor.  That's my son.  But no, you're not his mother."

            Is this a relief or a disappointment?  I'm not even sure.  He sits on the bed next to me, not too close, just near, and there's something reassuring about having him there.  He'd been pretty scary out in the garden, dispatching evil lawyers with brutal efficiency, but then so had I.  But the point had been that he'd rushed to my rescue.  And then tried oh, so hard to make me understand that he was my friend.  Constipated look or not, it had been more than a little endearing.

            "We weren't a happy family?" I venture, and it surprises me that I'm a little saddened by that.

            He seems sad, too.  Regretful.  "Not like that."

            Like how, then?  The Big Question looms, the whole naked question.  He'd said something before, when he'd started blabbering about the ballet, that had made me think there was something he wasn't telling me.  Something maybe…intimate.

            "And you and I…" I go on, and there's suddenly some elemental force making me lean toward him. He leans, too.  "We weren't…"  Closer…  "Together?"

            He's close enough now I should be able to feel his breath on my lips, but I don't.  That's an odd thing.

            "Not exactly…" he says, and there's a funny note in his voice.  There's definitely something nobody's telling me.  Something to do with me, and with him, and with how two people can be "not exactly" together.

            A thought jumps into my head and I lean back suddenly.  "Was I a nun?"

            He seems as surprised by the change in subject as I am.  My crazy, fractured brain seems to be functioning with some kind of weird, random access system.

            "A what?" he says.

            "Were we not a happy family because I was a nun?"

            He's staring at me like I've completely lost my mind.  Which, of course, I have.  Have we forgotten that already, Mr. Tall, Dark and Coifed? 

            I reach into the cardboard box next to me, and pull out the pile of rosaries that's had me puzzled.  "I was going through my things and I found these…"

            I drop them into his open hands and all hell breaks loose.  Literally.  Angel's forehead wrinkles up--and not like he's frowning, because that wouldn't be unusual at all, but like some kind of alien fungus is growing on it--and all of a sudden he's looking at me with freakish yellow eyes and his mouth full of these huge, sharp, pointy teeth that look like they could rip half your throat out and maybe that's exactly what they're for--

            And the growling--did I mention the growling?

            So I do what any sensible amnesiac would do.  I scream and run like hell.

#

            It just doesn't get any worse than being forced to sing in front of a green-faced guy with horns who then runs out of the room like he's about to vomit.  I'm beginning to think I repressed my entire life because of some kind of horrible experience of humiliation.  If so, I'd kind of like to do it again, please, so I can get rid of the last few hours.

The last few hours, during which I've been subjected to the most bizarre story I've ever heard.  Or maybe it isn't, because I don't remember any other stories.  So this is the first one, and by God my storytelling experience is starting off with a bang.

Angel's a vampire.  Oh, yeah, vampires are real, apparently.  And vampires are evil except Angel isn't, even though he has those teeth and those nasty yellow eyes and that weird forehead thing.  I mean, he doesn't right now, but he did.  He says he won't bite me, that he hasn't bitten a human being in ages and ages.  Oh, so you oughtta be really hungry for one right about now, huh?  It's like forcing back the craving for chocolate, or cheesecake--it never goes away and it never ends well.

And me--I have some kind of funky superhero powers and I can see visions, so I should be prepared for that in case it happens, so it doesn't scare me too much.  And I got hijacked by the higher powers and that's where I've been for the last three months.  Then the demon DNA thing--I'm some kind of hybrid demon-critter but nobody seems to know what that means.

They're either telling me the truth, or they're completely insane.  But they're so sincere, especially Angel, who really looks like he needs a good dose of Milk of Magnesia at this point.

He tries so hard, though, he really does.  "It's not you," he assures me as he trails the green guy out of the room.  "It's the song.  It reminds him of--"  And apparently he can't figure out how to finish this particular line of crap, because he just closes the door behind him.

I really need to get the hell out of here.  This place is too confusing, too creepy, and too full of lies.  And guys who turn into demons and apparently want to suck your face off.  So when the kid shows up, maybe it's stupid of me to go with him, but God, it feels so good to get out of that freaky hotel.

#

            I'd hoped the pieces might start to come together once I got out of the hotel, but so far nothing.  I've learned a few things, though.  I can defend myself.  I know how to kill vampires and I'm actually pretty good at it.  And this kid Connor--he's Angel's kid and he was a baby just six months ago but now he's a teenager with raging hormone problems and apparently a couple extra hands.  I can't stay with him much longer--it's just not going to work out what with his delusions of adult studliness.  And my delusions of sanity.

            There's just too much I need to know.  And there's a nook inside that's filled in a little, except it's not in my head.  It's in my heart.

            "No more lies?" I ask Angel, as he sits next to me on the bench in the garden.  He's got a cut on his face.  I don't know where it came from.  He won't let me touch it and I'm not sure why I feel like I should.  He should get some peroxide on that and some Neosporin and a good-sized Band-Aid.

            I've done this for him before.  Something flashes in my head--his chest, bare skin, with a big hole in it.  Bandages and tape…

            "No more lies," he says gently.

            "Good.  Because there's something I need to know."

            It's hard to look at him, but I have to.  I have to know.  I have to see his eyes when he answers me.

            "Were we in love?"

END.