Her senses were heightened as she flipped through the faded photographs. The smooth surfaces slid easily beneath her fingertips, like a fresh deck of cards. A musty scent wafted from the wooden box, mingling with the cool summer air. The sprinkler clicked rhythmically, spraying water on the yellowing grass to the side of the house. The mist drifted on the breeze to tingle against her arm, prompting gooseflesh. As she slid her tongue along her lips, she could taste the tangy remnants of the lemonade from the empty glass sitting on the table. She stared at the features of the girl in the photo at the top of the stack before her.
They were the auburn hair and green eyes of her reflection. Sun kissed skin, freckles on nose and cheeks. A half smile that came naturally, without coaxing. Traits that were recognizable, yes. But strangely, not familiar.
The man called her Vivianne, but it too, was foreign. She still couldn’t recall her name. The doctor said there was a chance she would regain her memories. But the only treatment he could prescribe was time, which she found herself with an abundance of.
A hand on her shoulder pulled her attention from the photos. The man stood to her side. His mouth curved into a smile, but his eyes remained dark. She returned the smile, knowing it was the best action she could choose.
“I think you’ve spent enough time outside, Viv. It’d be best for you to go back inside and get some rest.” It wasn’t a request.
She bit down on her lower lip, searching her mind for an excuse not to return to the dark, dusty farmhouse that the man would accept.
“Won’t you join me for one more glass of lemonade? Then we can go in together?” she turned to him as she spoke, presenting her sweetest smile.
The man frowned and squinted his eyes, as though examining her beyond the words. He was silent for a moment as he stared at her. She resisted the urge to squirm uncomfortably or avert her gaze. Her heart pounded against her chest as she forced the smile to remain.
He exhaled and nodded, the false smile deepening, “I suppose that would be a nice way to end the evening. I’ll be right back. Don’t move.” He grabbed her empty glass and walked back towards the house.
The sound of the screen door slamming behind him was like a gunshot. The girl tossed the photos in her hand back into the box and sprang to her feet. She knew the road past the driveway would make it too easy to follow her, so she ran towards the side of the house and the cornfield beyond.
Her yellow sundress whipped like a flag in the wind as she moved. She took in a sharp breath as the water from the sprinkler hit her bare legs. The feeling of the ice cold water tugged at a memory locked within her damaged mind. Bounding forward like a deer fleeing a hunter, she leapt into the safety of the corn stalks. Her legs pumped as she refused to slow. The broad, green leaves sliced at her bare arms and legs, drawing blood. A wave of panic rose as she realized the trail she was leaving behind.
Tears streaked down her cheeks as thoughts of capture raced through her mind. She couldn’t spend one more day in the room that had been painted lavender. She needed clarity. She needed to find out what had happened to her. The man’s stern looks and strange responses only muddled her mind further. His rules kept her imprisoned, ignorant of the truth. Although he hadn’t laid a hand on her, she knew it was only a matter of time. She could only continue forward, there was no turning back after leaving the way she had.
Bubbles gurgled from her throat as she was engulfed by water. A memory smashed against the prison within her mind, trying to escape as frantically as she tried to take a breath. She thrashed her arms and legs, trying to gain purchase on something solid. The frigid water of the irrigation canal embraced her like a mother reunited with a lost child. The memory broke through the wall and to the forefront of her mind: she didn’t know how to swim.
She cried out, water filled her lungs. Her body began to sink, just as it had before. She looked up towards the surface, the dim twilight fading as her body moved lower. She raised her arm and waved goodbye.
Air replaced water as something gripped her wrist and pulled her forth. Arms held her, patting her back, forcing water from her lungs. She coughed and cried and gripped her savior, crying. As she panted, fighting to catch her breath, she looked up to the man. His face was stern, but tears rolled down his cheeks. His silence communicated his inability to share his fear. Her mind was whole once more, and she realized her mistake.
With sad eyes and a soft voice she said, “I’m sorry, daddy.”