Remembering
by Mav

Chapter 2: Amnesia

Abstruse voices blurred together and the lighting changed as well as the intensity of my pain. I couldn't differentiate the noises from each other. Someone shouted. Every part of my body seemed to be poked, stretched and thrashed with a burning hot object. I would've vomited if I had the strength. For a second, I was sure I stared at someone's clear blue eyes, but it vanished before I could focus. I must have gained and lost consciousness several times before my energy diminished and I stopped attempting to comprehend the reason for me to be wherever I was.

I faded out.

.-*-.-*-.

beep…

beep…

beep…

I opened my eyes, but immediately squinted and waited until my eyes adjusted to the halogen light. I couldn't move my head.

The empty room I was in had a distinguished scent of disinfectant. A chair and a table lay next to my bed, and a few old children's scribbles covered the yellow wall. An ambulance siren loudened before dying out and leaving behind the buzz of passing cars. It was dark outside, but other than the light in my room, a faint light reflected from the white floor. Regular beeping emitted from a heart rate monitor and an IV delivered fluids and medications the vein in my left arm. My right one was in a white plaster cast. I stretched out my left one, twisting and sensing the needle under my skin. It didn't bother me.

Obviously, I had been taken to a hospital, but not a single paper illustrated the bedside table, so I couldn't take a peek and read the name of the hospital. My head, shoulder and body ached all over, and as I felt an uncomfortable rope-like sensation behind my back, with an effort, I bent my back. A sharp pain cut through my shoulder, but I managed to tear out the cause for my discomfort with my left hand.

It was my hair in a plait.

I nearly laughed, but my dry throat prevented the action; instead, I let out an awkward-sounding cough. I attempted to focus my eyes on the skewed words on the drawings, but it felt as if wrongly prescribed glasses hindered my ability to see. I blinked a few times, but in vain. I rubbed my eyes with the same result, and realised how completely exhausted I felt from being awake just a few minutes.

A ginger-haired nurse entered my room without acknowledging my presence before I cleared my throat. She nearly jumped out of her skin, and held her hand above her heart as she hyperventilated.

"You're awake!"

I hummed a response not completely comprehensible even to myself. My throat made a rasping sound as I attempted again. "Hi." After a few mutterings, I motioned at my throat, croaking, "Water?"

The nurse blinked, stared, and rushed to the bathroom before returning with a cup of water. My hand shook a little, but I offered the woman a smile as I leaned the cup on my cast. I eagerly gulped down the food-canal freezing liquid and gasped for breath after I'd finished. The nurse with a tilted name-tag 'Jeanne Ramwood' finally stopped acting as if my waking had to have been included in one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and rediscovered her vocal chords.

"But he told us you weren't supposed to wake up until maybe a few weeks! …if at all! How long have you been awake? Do you need anything? Wait, no, I gotta go find Dr. Cullen, I dunno if he's at the hospital at this hour of the night, but I'll do my best to reach him… This is amazing, I cannot believe…"

She didn't appear to be expecting an answer, so I simply watched her ramble until she hurried off to the corridor. She left the door open, and I observed the occasional wheeling, rolling and walking by-passers. It was quiet, and none of them paid any attention to my wandering eyes. I felt tired beyond belief, but my hopes to take a nap failed.

The tall man who entered my ward an hour or so later (if there was a clock in my room, they hid it well) was holding what I assumed to be my chart, wearing a generic white coat and a gentle smile. There was no stethoscope. He shut the door and slid the screeching chair next to my bed as his smile grew. "I'm not sure if you remember me."

"Carlisle Cullen," I said like an obedient student. "I mean, Doctor Carlisle Cullen."

His eyebrows shot up before he lowered his eyes to see the direction of my gaze. His shoulders shook as he chuckled. "I see you didn't harm your ability to read."

"Nice to meet you, too." I smiled, ignoring my tiredness while hoping for answers. "So where am I, exactly?"

"Hospital ward," replied the doctor, amused.

"Specifically."

"Bellevue Hospital, 462 First Avenue, New York City, New York, United States of America," explained Dr. Cullen, still slightly entertained. "Is that specific enough?"

"Thank you."

How the hell did I get here?

I remembered the scene at the cliffs, but I couldn't figure out what happened before that. Did I live in New York?

The doctor set down the file, offered me a genuine smile, and wiped his glasses as he asked, "And you are?"

"I —" I started. "I am…" I stopped rubbing the ends of my hair, frowned and blinked at the doctor who calmly eyed my embarrassment. I dreaded my brain telling me what my gut-feeling already knew, and a pain shot through my head as I took a few deep, deliberate breaths. I rubbed my eyes. "I mean, my name is…" I huffed. "My name is…"

The man leaned closer. "It's okay. Don't panic. Everything's fine. Breathe."

I took a few ragged breaths as my heart-rate quickened, and continued to stare at the doctor in horror. "I can't… I—I don't know." I swallowed and felt tightness in my throat. "I can't remember."

"There's no reason to panic," assured the doctor quietly. "Breathe."

I did.

But how could I not know? It's just a name, for Christ's sake. Just a few letters combined in a way that formed the word I was called by, how is that so difficult? Apparently, it was.

"But how can I —? I'll need a health insurance to pay for this, a place to go, a family —"

"Breathe," repeated the doctor, sliding his chair closer. "Your priority right now should be to get well. Do you need anything?"

"I—I… I mean…" I stuttered, at a loss for words as my unnerving situation started to sink in. I shut my eyes, attempting to remember something — anything — but all I received was a headache that seemed to be getting progressively worse by the second.

997, 991, 947, 953, 967, 971… I thought and kept my eyes closed as I realised I could name all the states of the United States of America, I knew how to tie a shoelace and why the sky was blue. But for the life in me, I could not recall my own name. I focused in the feeling of love a family should provide, but I only fed my own headache. If I had friends and a family, my brain refused to tell me.

"Are you alright?"

I opened my eyes to a concerned pair of blue eyes, and nodded.

"Would you like some water, food, painkillers or…?"

I managed a weak smile. "I, uh, can't I have them all?"

The man chuckled, standing up to get me some water. He filled a needle and injected a transparent liquid into the peripheral venous catheter at the back of my left hand. I felt a little uneasy trusting him with a substance I knew nothing about, but then reminded myself I was looking at the man who had saved my life. If it weren't for him, I would no longer exist. My heart seemed to expand in my chest, and I suddenly felt a little emotional.

"Thank you," I murmured, stretching my lips into a smile. "So much."

"No need, it's my job."

"No, that's not what I meant." I tilted my head at my aching, bruised body (or attempted to, anyway, because of my cervical collar). "For saving my life. I don't know how I'll ever be able to repay you."

He smiled as he sat down again. "How about you get better? That'll be a start."

"Before I spend the rest of my life in slavery?"

He let out a good-hearted laugh, shaking his head. "Before we figure out who you are. So don't worry about it. Anyone would've done the same."

I highly doubted that, but smiled instead, changing the subject as I lifted my right hand and tilted my head toward it. "Morphine?"

"Yes," he affirmed. "We thought of Fentanyl, but with your body mass, we didn't want to risk it."

"Knocking me out with opiums already?"

"Because that's what doctors are for."

"No doubt."

He chuckled before eyeing my chart, and pursing his lips. "I actually need to talk to you about a few things, but you must be tired. Tomorrow?"

"I'm not tired at all." I hid a yawn, and forced my eyes more open than they'd been before.

"I can see that." He smiled, slid the chair away from the bed and stood. "Don't you worry about anything right now, okay? Get some rest."

Before he exited the room, I piped up, "Doctor?"

He stopped, and turned around. "Call me Carlisle."

"Okay, Carlisle," I repeated. "Before you go, I just want to confirm… do I have amnesia?"

He sighed. "Probably."

"Why?"

"We don't know yet. I'll elaborate tomorrow, get some rest now."

I would have liked to say I had the willpower to prove to myself I was not tired, but I was out the moment he had shut the door.

.-*-.-*-.

The next time I opened my eyes, sunbeams cast into my ward and a balding janitor was washing the floor, humming Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head and occasionally staring out of the window. He sent me a holey grin as he noticed I had woken up.

"Beautiful day, aye?"

"Very," I smiled, sensing a buzzing headache that was much less intense than the one yesterday. "Would you happen to know what time it is?"

He checked the watch on his wrist. "Almost two in the afternoon."

"Thanks."

He leaned on his mop, tilting his head toward the flowery tray on my bedside table. A lonely bowl filled with white goo sat in the middle.

"You might wanna eat that before they take it away."

I placed it in my lap. "Are they trying to starve me?"

"No, but you might wanna take it easy if you haven't eaten for a while."

It tasted like the best and worst food I'd ever had, probably because it was the only thing I could remember having.

I spent the day testing my memory and speaking to the nurses who stepped into my ward from time to time. Our conversations didn't step outside of the boundaries of frivolous matters, and I counted the people who started the conversation by mentioning the weather. I didn't mind, though; they kept my mind off the uncertainty of my future and I was grateful for that. At about six PM, I asked the same ginger-haired nurse to let me stand in front of the bathroom mirror. I hadn't done so thus far and felt weak and a little awkward, but leaned on the sink, closer to the reflection, and eyed myself.

My hair, still in a braid, reached my midsection and was the same dark shade of brown as my eyes. I had a pointy chin, high cheekbones and dark circles around my eyes. A few transparent veins on my temples magnified my paleness. There was nothing gasp-worthy, but overall, I had little to complain about. I gripped the sink tighter as a wave of dizziness hit me. It wasn't a rare occurrence, but it still annoyed me to feel like a ninety year old man.

The nurse held onto my shoulder as she helped me to my bed. "Better?"

"Thank you."

Jeanne smiled. "That's what I'm here for. How do you feel?"

"Like someone drained me from spinal fluids, played hockey with my muscles and stole my blood." I offered her a smile, hyperventilating slightly from the exercise. "Never better."

She briefly caressed my hair. "It'll be alright. You survived the worst." Jeanne placed a blanket on me. "Doctor Cullen will be here shortly. He'll tell you more about the policeman and the social worker coming here."

I blinked rapidly. My voice cracked. "A—a Police Officer? A social worker? Why?"

"Shh," she shushed. "It's alright. They just wanna talk to you."

"About what? It's not like I'm in any condition to talk about the adventures of my life while sipping tea and discussing politics."

But I already knew. How did you get here? Are you lying? Were you abused? If not, do you think it's possible you were? Do you think there's anyone having a grudge against you? Maybe you hit your head. Maybe you have a psychological trauma. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe it wasn't. Maybe your folks are out there looking for you.

Maybe.

But I didn't know.

I didn't know.

A few hours later, Doctor Carlisle Cullen stepped into my ward. He was casually clad in jeans and a black jacket, and nothing about his appearance suggested that he worked here.

"Getting in?"

"Had a night shift," explained Carlisle. "Slept through the whole day." He shut the door, slid the chair closer to me, and placed my chart in the bedside table. "So, how're we doing today?"

"I don't know about you, but I'm quite alright, given the circumstances." I offered him a smile. "How're you?"

"Good, good," he reciprocated. "Still no memories?"

"None whatsoever. You could probably pull out a gun, but I doubt even the possibility of being killed would make me remember," I said. "At least that's what it feels like. What do you think happened to me?"

"It's hard to tell," started Carlisle, rubbing the place where two reddish marks suggested he usually wore glasses. "Amnesia can be caused by various different things, but from the way we found you, I can't actually say I'd be surprised by your lack of memory. In most cases, memory comes back, but in some rare occasions the memories won't return. It could be caused by damage to the brain, the use of certain drugs or even drinking too much alcohol; if the problem is psychological, your brain may want to shield off a traumatic event in your past. At the moment, it's almost impossible to know which one of these is the cause of yours. It might even not be permanent, just the shock of what happened to you."

"And now we only need to know what happened to me."

"Yes," affirmed the Doctor, noticing my sarcasm. "As simple as that."

"Is there any way of speeding up the process of remembering?"

"I've heard getting you into the environment you're familiar with and surrounding you with people you knew might speed it up a little, but if there's nothing you remember, it's impossible to do that."

"So, what do I do?" I asked with a voice that reflected my vulnerability. I cleared my throat. "What should I do?"

"We've contacted a social worker, and she should be here in a few days," said Carlisle. "No need for that face, it's our obligation to report cases such as yours. We've also contacted the Police Department and informed them about your condition."

"My amnesia?"

"And the bodily harm that's been done to you." He sighed. "We cannot say for sure, but it seems likely that you were held captive and abused."

"The scars on my legs."

"Exactly. Whoever it was, or whoever they were, it's clear they didn't expect you to survive. I might be completely wrong, but by the scars on your legs, one could assume you were tied up, maybe with a weight tied to it so you'd sink. You probably fought back, or tried to. You could've harmed your hand falling, or fighting, or it was done to manipulate you into doing something. Either way, I believe it's most likely it was intentional, and with the clear intention of hurting you beyond repair."

"What you're saying is, someone wanted to kill me."

"It's a far stretch with no tangible evidence, but not at all an unlikely speculation." He locked eyes with me. "You need to understand how vulnerable you are, and how unique your situation really is. The Police promised to search through all the missing person reports during the last six months, but it's likely that once your face gets plastered on billboards with the story of a girl who cannot recall a single thing about her life, you'll be beating the press away with a stick. It's an extraordinary situation you're in, and you need to be careful. Unless, of course, you do want your story to be all over the place."

"I don't." I immediately replied. "I mean, obviously, I want to find my family, but I don't want to become the next hot topic for newspapers. And if there's someone out there who expects me to be dead, doesn't that put me in danger if I suddenly appear on billboards asking who I am?"

"I agree."

I took a breath, and fiddled with the ends of my braid as I asked, "So what do you suggest I do?"

"Speak to the social worker, and then speak to the NYPD. We'll go from there."

"But what if I—" I cleared my throat. "What if there's no one who knows who I am?"

"Don't worry," assured Carlisle. "There has to be someone."

"But what if there isn't? Do I just walk away from here with no job, no place to go, no-one I'd know? Where do I go?"

"We'll figure something out. No-one will let you become a homeless. You shouldn't concern yourself over this before we know anything certain."

"But the hospital isn't obliged to care what happens to me after I leave."

"But I am," retorted Carlisle. "Do you really think my conscious would allow me to let anything happen to you?"

"But — but you already saved my life, why are you helping me?"

"If anyone in the world needs help right now, it's you," replied Carlisle simply. "A reason as good as any."

"Thank you."

"Not worth mentioning," said Carlisle, giving a glance at the clock. "Is there anything else you want to know?"

"Well, I'm just interested. If we don't know what my name is, what did you write on my file?"

He stretched out his arm and let me see the chart. I snickered, raising an eyebrow. "Jane Doe?"

"It's the typical placeholder name for legal action."

"Why not Maria Rossi or Erika Mustermann or Joe Bloggs?"

"Because we're in America. Your English suggests that you're a native-speaker, but even if you aren't, it's much simpler for everyone to use Jane for now. If that doesn't suit for you, I'm sure you can change it."

"No, it's not a problem," I said. "A name as good as any, I guess."

"The good news is, we ran a blood test and other than your memories, nothing seems to be out of order. You should be able to function without help within a few weeks." He offered me a good-hearted smile which I mirrored.

"Doctor?"

"Carlisle."

"Carlisle," I repeated. "Would you mind telling me what date it is?"

"Monday, February the sixteenth. You were in a coma for nearly three weeks." He patted my cast and stood up. "It's quite a miracle you're alive, to be honest. Not many of us believed you would wake up."

"Wasn't my time to go, I guess." I shrugged. "Do you still converse with the other guy who saved me?"

"You mean my son Emmett?"

I felt my face grow warm. "Sorry. Yes, him. Could you send him my gratitude? I'd send him so much more, but gratitude is all I have right now."

"Of course," replied Carlisle, grinning. It made the wrinkles around his eyes grow more defined, and for a moment, I saw the age in his eyes. "But you can do it in person in a few days. I told him about your condition and he's determined to drop by after his lectures on Friday."

"Great! Not that he should feel obliged to come, but I'd love to say my thanks in person."

"I thought so." Carlisle grinned. "But I need to go now, the nurses will check on you every once in a while. Do you need anything?"

"Could you smuggle in some real food? A banana? A sandwich? Something I can sink my teeth into."

He laughed. "I can't make any promises, but I'll see what I can do."

.-*-.-*-.

On a dreary Wednesday morning, I managed to visit the bathroom all by myself, and I did a little inward happy dance at my progress. My body still ached, I still got confused and dizzy, and I still needed morphine to get me through the day with minimum amount of pain, but my little steps toward healing made me determined to get well. Even when that meant I had to leave and start thinking of how to handle my situation. I felt scared, to be honest. I hoped it wasn't too apparent, but after the first night, I could not sleep through the whole night. Nightly hospital, dim-lighted and occasionally busy (but mostly not) as it was, made me feel lonely.

Carlisle's speculations hadn't really surprised me, but I had spent two days contemplating on my condition, and came to the same conclusion that there was no way my situation was just an accident. It couldn't have been. But who would try to kill me and why? Why couldn't they have just shot a bullet through my head and be done with it? Why bother throwing me off a boat or whatever without making sure I was dead first?

I couldn't fully understand my own reaction, either. I felt more concerned over the fact that I had nowhere to go, and there was no-one I knew; than by the potential of a killer. It felt too surreal to be true. I couldn't figure out what motivation anyone would have to kill me, or if I just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Both were possible, but the latter felt more likely.

In the evening, a uniformed (with an empty gun socket) middle-aged man knocked on the open door and stepped into my ward without waiting for a reply. A tall woman in a suit followed him, and they both took a seat. The short-haired brunette removed her glasses, wiped them with the edge of her beige costume-suit, and put them on. Neither of them said a word.

Welcome to the zoo, today's special feature is a girl who doesn't know who she is! Form a line, and quickly, or your ticket will go to waste!

I felt slightly disheartened by their silence, so out of spite for their greet-less entering, I remained silent. After a good thirty seconds of my careful ignoring and their even more cautious staring, the police-officer broke the silence, "I'm Raymond Harper, New York Police Department Officer in Manhattan."

"I'm a social worker for the NYC Social Services, and my name is Susan Fisher," said the dark-haired woman in a scratchy voice.

I offered them a wave with my left hand, and muttered, "Nice to meet you both. I'm someone with a name, but I guess you can call me Jane for now."

I managed to get a hesitant smile out of the policeman. "Should we get straight to business?"

"Be my guest." I offered the police officer a warmer smile.

"How can we be certain you're not just another kid who escaped from home and pretends not to know where that is? Such a deep case of amnesia is extremely rare."

"You can't. But unless you're suggesting that it's possible to pretend to be in a coma for three weeks, faking injuries such as this one —" I pulled the blanket toward me so that it uncovered my ankles. "— and that I faked finding myself from a seashore, then you can probably trust your own judgement."

"So we can't be sure," claimed the man calmly. "You could be aware of where you entire family is and not just want to go to them."

"Hypothetically — let's say I did know who they are or where they reside. Don't you think my injuries are enough to suggest sending me back there would not be the best of ideas? I'm not saying they're the cause of this, but we can't rule it out."

"What if you created the injuries yourself?" piped in Ms. Fisher.

"If I did, I wouldn't know, and wouldn't that be all the more reason to find out what happened to me?"

The Police Officer sighed. "So you insist you have amnesia?"

No, I get a kick out of trying to drown myself and banging my head against a wall to lose all my memories.

I rubbed the ends of my hair, sighing. "Please, put me under a lie detector if you want." I locked eyes with the man. "I'm not obliged to make you believe me. You either do or you don't. Maybe you can see a motive in my alleged faking, and if you do, I wouldn't mind hearing about it, but the fact is, I do not know what happened before I woke up in the seashore. Nothing. Not a single memory. Every time I try to remember, I get a blinding headache."

I kept my eyes on his grey ones until he finally admitted, "I believe you."

"Thank you."

"Can you describe how exactly you came to? Why was Dr. Carlisle Cullen there?"

"I'm afraid you should talk to him about that. His perception of the day they found me wasn't suffering under the aftermath of a possible brain injury."

The man shuffled, took some notes and nodded. "I most certainly will."

Our conversation continued for at least two hours, and the indifferent-looking social worker rarely said anything. I answered questions without actually answering them (because, really, what did I have to say?), inquired about their search for reported missing persons — with a number of unconfirmed results — and tried to get a general idea of how I should proceed after getting out of the hospital. According to them, I had to go to the Police Station to see a number of people hoping that the description of me coincided with their faith that I was the one they were looking for.

And, apparently, thirteen families or people thought I could be their sister, child or a girlfriend. Was there a swarm of brown-haired girls fleeing from their loved ones? I couldn't decide whether to be scared or hopeful. What if one of them did claim to know me? How could I be sure it wasn't someone craving to take advantage of my lack of memory? Whether I found someone who claimed to know me or who really did know me, I could not confirm nor disconfirmtheir claim. Because I didn't know.

I didn't know.

"But what if," I started. "What if there's no-one? What do I do then?"

The Policeman sighed, giving a glance at the quiet social worker. She, too, seemed to find a piece of sympathetic cell in her as she straightened her back and offered me a hint of a smile. But before I could make out her words, a sharp, blistering pain shot through my head, and I panted slightly in my attempt to understand her. I wanted to scream.

What was she saying? Something about becoming homeless? It couldn't be. She wouldn't be that cruel. I took a deep breath before I asked her to repeat herself.

"The obvious choice would be a homeless shelter."

"But I—I don't think I'm homeless," I reasoned, still holding onto my head with my working arm. "I just don't know where my home is."

"It's the best choice until we get details on your situation," said Raymond Harris, eyeing me carefully. "Are you alright? You seem awfully pale suddenly."

You mean paler than usually? Gee, I must've evaporated.

As my headaches appeared and vanished without consulting me, I ignored his concern. "And by: 'until we get details,' do you mean until a right family — my family — does come around, or until my memory returns? If so, we can wait until I die. It might not return at all. And I might not have anyone."

"Let's wait until the situation settles, you get better, come and see the people who want to confirm that you are or are not the girl they're looking for, and we'll go from there, okay? Be optimistic. There has to be someone."

Easy for him to say. He didn't nearly bleed to death, lose his memories, break an arm, have a concussion and headaches so painful as to be on the verge of fainting, and lay in a hospital ward like a vegetable with a cervical collar without so much as a health insurance.

"Alright," I said.

"Alright?" repeated the Police Officer, clearly surprised by my lack of resistance. I shrugged, and after a moment of silence, they got up. "Alright then," finished Raymond Harris. "We'll contact your doctor soon to hear about your progress and agree on a time you could pay us a visit. Your case is being investigated. As soon as you remember anything at all, we expect you to cooperate."

I nodded, managing a faint smile as I watched them go and wished to sleep off my current headache.

.-*-.-*-.

By the time Friday rolled around, I had gotten used to the hospital routine, and as my health improved, I no longer had the luxury of being able to sleep in the mornings. I also met my physiotherapist, a short, well-built woman with eagle-eyes and a sadistic tendency to make me repeat every exercise I managed to perform successfully; for those I failed mostly included using both hands or neck, neither of which I could actually move. As I was being rolled back into my ward, I felt drained beyond belief. The blood in my shoulder pulsated in an odd place left above my heart. I was sweaty, exhausted and almost made a promise to never agree to this sort of torture again.

Needless to add, I was forced to break that almost-promise the next day.

But on Saturday, in the late afternoon, a familiar — and the fact that I could use this word made me giddy with excitement — face peeked into my yellow ward. The burly man, even more defined by muscles than I could recall, frowned to himself before his eyes landed on me and he let his mouth stretch into a dimply grin. He took off the ear-pads of his I-pod, slid the uncomfortable chair next to my bed and sat down. I smiled.

"I was told you have memory problems, so I guess you probably don't remember me," he said amiably. "My father and I helped you a few weeks back. You were pretty out of it."

"Hi, Emmett." My grin widened. "Nice to see you again."

Momentarily taken aback, he leaned away from my bed. "But you — how do you…?"

"Magic," I replied, chuckling. "I'm from Hogwarts."

He let out a laugh and shook his head. "You remember me, huh? Or dad told you."

"Both. I only have problems with what happened before you two saved me," I said. "And by 'problems' I mean I'm not quite sure who I am, where I come from or what's up with my injuries. It's been a real adventure."

"I can only imagine."

"Thanks for saving me and coming to visit me, by the way." I smiled. "I'm glad you did."

"Without me, you'd only know one person on this planet," said Emmett. "So now you know two."

I laughed. "Indeed."

"But how're you feeling?"

"All things considered? I'm alive. That's a place to start, at least." I smiled through my perpetual headache and realised I didn't know anything about the guy. "Are you enrolled in a university? What're you studying?"

"NYU, Economics, I'm a few months away from my Bachelor's."

"Sounds great!"

"Would sound even greater if I didn't have to spend most of my time writing my thesis."

"Isn't that sort of the point?"

"True," he agreed. "But the knowledge doesn't make it more tolerable."

I laughed. "So that makes you… twenty one? Twenty two?"

"Twenty two," answered Emmett, grinning. "So how old do you think you are?"

"Not a day over ninety, that's for sure." I played with the edges of my braid. "What's your guess?"

He chuckled while appraising my face, and I blushed slightly.

"You look young, like, I'd say… less than twenty."

"Like I said, not a day over ninety."

He shook his head while letting out a hearty laugh. "We're gonna have to keep you around if you don't find your family yet. I've always wanted a personal entertainer."

"Is that a job offer I hear?"

"Without the money part, yes."

"A slave then?"

The both of us laughed, but after a minute of chuckles, his smile dimmed and he grew more serious. "What're you gonna do once you get out?"

"I guess I…" I halted to a stop and cringed. "I don't quite know yet. If there's no-one then I guess I'll — I'll have to settle for a homeless shelter for now."

"You've thought about that?"

"I try not to, but if there's absolutely no-one then I have no other choice."

"You have us."

I chuckled a cheerless laugh. "Yeah, and you've known me for what? A full hour?"

"That doesn't mean we'll let you go and live on the streets. I mean, you have literally nobody, how creepy is that?"

"Not creepier than being dead, that's for sure."

"You have an odd sense of humour, anyone tell you that?"

"You just did."

Our laugh wasn't quite as joyous as the burden of my condition weighed us down, but during the next hour, we discussed minor matters and I felt better because he wasn't scared of going with my black humour. I could tell he didn't like the idea of me going to a homeless shelter (not that I was ecstatic, either), but we no longer touched the subject. He felt like a cheerful brother I never had. (Or did I? I might have.)

But I didn't know.

I didn't really want him to leave, so as he stood up and prepared to do just that, I asked, "Will I be seeing you again?" The prospect of spending too much time with four walls and a ceiling didn't particularly appeal to me.

Emmett shook his head and grinned. "A girl who doesn't know who she is? Are you kidding me? You're like real life Jason Bourne. I wouldn't miss it for the world."

I let out a laugh. "If only it turned out I'd been a super spy."

"Just promise that you'll share once you do remember." Emmett smiled, pulling out his I-pod. "I can't miss out on that."