There was a hard smash on her head. The world went dark.
Sarah Walker woke up in a bed that wasn't her own, in a house that she didn't live in, in a country she'd never visited. But she knew where she was. She shot up from her sleep with a start, making all the blood rush from her head. She groaned and fell back to her pillow. It felt like she took one too many sips from a bottle last night. But she could remember exactly where she was last night. And it was no party.
She could remember everything perfectly. Yesterday was December 8, 2010. She, along with hundreds of other strangers, was gathered in the section of Central Park they dedicated 'Strawberry Fields'. In front of her was a black-and-white mosaic; the John Lennon memorial. It was covered in flowers, candles, vinyl records, pictures, everything to commemorate and remember John. Sarah placed her own tribute on the ground. A bundle of roses, her old metal peace sign necklace and a hand-written letter to John he would never read. As she looked up to see the Dakota, strung with flowers and signs of peace, a group of men caught her eye. They were all dressed in black and walking briskly to the gathered mourners.
Suddenly, a gun shot. The crowd ducked down in unison, everybody trying to protect everyone else from the danger. Sarah watched as the men, probably about 12 of them, advanced towards the group. There were bodies behind them, blood pooling around the people who only came to remember the man of international peace. As the sound of guns being fired and bodies falling to the ground continued, hysteria broke out in Strawberry Fields. John's fans broke up and tried to run from the armed men, but the shear size of the crowd made it near impossible to move. Screams and gunshots filled the air that was just occupied by a man's guitar as he sang 'Imagine'. Sarah was being trampled and tripping over the mass of people. The crowd rushed passed her as she was left behind. She turned to see one of the men point his gun at her. She screamed but the noise was too great, she couldn't even hear herself. He approached her and grabbed her forearm. He tugged her back out of the crowd and swung the butt of his gun against her head. She heard a distinct crack within her skull, and then everything went silent.
That was the very last thing she could remember. She ran her hand over the orange shag comforter on the bed that smelled strongly like home. But it wasn't home. It couldn't be home. Because home was… it was in America, she knew that much. What other reason would there be for her to be in Central Park on the evening of December 8, 2010? But this place, it wasn't Manhattan and it wasn't 2010. She was living in a small apartment, 1354 West Church Avenue in Liverpool, England. She was born and raised here. And it's not December 9, 2010. It's July 17, 1961.
This felt like some terrible time-traveling movie, except for the fact that she knew she was just waking up now. This room, this bed, the soft music coming from the next room, it all seems creepily like home. Sarah desperately tried to remember her live of the dream. If she could remember where she came from, what town in America she lived in, she could determine what was real. But she couldn't remember a thing before her arrival in Strawberry Fields, which she only knew as that park with the red gates she rarely visited. It didn't exist in New York City. Did it?
There were two lives repaying in her mind. She could remember the live with her mother here in England so well, all the pain and hardships they've been through that just pulled them closer together as mother and daughter. But she remembered so many details of her live in America. She knew what technologies were available then (will be available?) and all the facts and modern (future?) slang of the generation raised by the internet. But the internet didn't exist yet. Neither did IPods or cell phones or color TV. But she knew they existed at some point. She had one of each. She knew who will be of importance and who will leave an impact on the world, even possibly in the near future. But how she could be sure, she can't be. This all could be some weird dream now or the remains of that terrible nightmare. After all, she wasn't even sure if John Lennon was a real person.
That was it. It was just the nightmare she had. Some fucked up story created by her drugged out subconscious. She probably just smoked some bad pot or popped a few too many pills. She was still on a high, that's why she was questioning life and existence itself. This happened all the time; that she was 100% sure of.
So with that to hold onto, Sarah got out of bed and changed out of her pajamas and into some actual clothes. A light beige pencil skirt and a matching semi-low cut blazer with short sleeves and a lime green shirt underneath it. She put on a pair of while heels and while applying her makeup, a strange feeling crept over her. She put down her eye liner and really looked at the outfit she picked out. Did she always feel this… uncomfortable in heels and a skirt? Wouldn't it feel better to put on something a bit more fitting, like blue jeans? And something that didn't pinch her feet, like a pair of worn out sneakers?
Sarah violently shook her head to clear the thoughts. How ridiculous would that be? What would people say if she was seen dressing like a boy? No, she would never. Her mother would have her head. She finished applying her makeup, a bit lighter today than usual, and fixing her hair in her signature bouffant style the other girls in town could never get just right, but she mastered with ease. She left her room and saw her mother dancing along to her overly used Frank Sinatra record while cooking breakfast. Sarah smiled to herself. Her mother played that record so much; it skipped nearly ever 30 seconds and repeated in at least 4 spots on either side. She was saving up her money so she could buy her mother a new record so she could abuse that one with love too.
"Ah, there you are! Tired little thing, aren't you?" her mother called out in a pleasant, yet slightly gravely, tone. The years have gotten to her body, but not her spirit. Sarah admired her for that. She sat down at the broken wood table standing on only three legs now and leaning against the window sill.
"I felt today was a good a day as any to sleep in," Sarah replied as the let the smell of eggs and meat fill her nostrils and the chorus of birds enter her ears. It was only 10 o'clock, but when you need to run in such piss-poor condition as this one, every hour counts.
"Well, can't blame you can I? I wish I could sleep in. Hell, I wish I could go to some far off island, smaller than this one and sip coconut juice from its shell!" Sarah and her mother laughed loudly.
"Spend the whole day lounging on the beach, not worrying about when it's gonna rain," Sarah added to the fantasy.
"Hoping a young beach boy would stroll past," her mother murmured, though Sarah heard. It made her skin crawl every so slightly. Sarah heard the needle skid on the end of the record.
"Oh, the vinyl's done! I'll get it. Any requests?" Sarah asked.
"Whatever you want dear," her mother replied, putting the food on two chipped plates. Sarah got up and dug through the milk cart of limited records. They only owned about 14, but they were all of their favorite musicians and groups; Dusty Springfield, Elvis Presley, the Supremes, Buddy Holly. But as she pulled out her favorite Elvis record and put the needle down on the black vinyl disk, his voice echoed out of the speakers and she got the impression it wasn't all that great anymore. It was still good music, but it felt as if the lyrics and the tune was missing something. Did she always feel like this?
She rubbed her eyes quickly, not to let her mother see. She was still high, is all. Get some food in her stomach and fresh air in her lungs and she'd be fine. She returned to the table where her mother was already eating her breakfast.
"So what's the itinerary for today mum?" Sarah asked as she cut a piece of the ham with her fork and popped it in her mouth.
"Got to go to work at noon darling, then coming back around 10 tonight. I want you to go shopping today for me. I wrote down all we need." She pointed to the cork board filled with notices and reminders. On top was a little list of things to buy at the market.
"I can do that," Sarah replied. They ate their meal in a comfortable silence until something popped into Sarah's mind. It wasn't the most pleasant thing, but her mother needed to know nonetheless. "Mum?" Her mother looked up from her coffee cup. "I got that job at the record store." Her news hung in the air for a moment.
The two talked about it, and fought about it, for the entire final three months of her senior year. Sarah convinced her mother that they couldn't spend the money they didn't have on a college education. She was much more content going to work and helping her mother pay their bills and keep the home halfway decent. Her mother had different views. She wanted more for her daughter and was convinced that going to school would open up so many more doors. That was a lie and they both knew it. The difference was Sarah's mother didn't want to admit it. So after many long arguments, they agreed that Sarah would not go to college and in fact stay home and get a job to help support her mother. She started applying for jobs rather than colleges the day after her graduation. It took two months but she finally found a good paying job at a popular record store. It paid £4 an hour, almost half of what her mother made at the factory she worked at.
Sarah's mother was not pleased with this news. It just made it all so much more real. They were worse off than she would ever admit to her daughter. She couldn't even afford to support them both on her own. She was taking her daughter's life away from her and it didn't seem like Sarah cared. Or at least, she didn't understand what she was doing. She took her and her daughter's empty plates and quickly went to work washing them.
"It's a beautiful day today," she said changing the subject. "You should go outside. Spend the day out."
"No, I've got things to do. My chores-"
"They'll be here when you get back," she interrupted. "It's perfect outside today. You should spend it at the park, in the fields, walk down the old railroad. Just do something!" She put down the dishes with a clattering splash. "I don't want you stuck inside." Sarah looked at her mother. She was in such pain all the time. She walked up behind her and hugged her waist the way she did when she was little and afraid.
"Okay mum. I'll go out today." She kissed the top of her mother's head and went to get her purse from her room. "I'll be back soon, I can't stay out too long." Her mother sighed.
"I know." Sarah stood with one hand on the door, staring at her mother. She looked down into the dark water of the sink, thinking over where her life went wrong. It broke Sarah's heart. She left just then just so she wouldn't start crying.