Chapter six – Memory flashes
‘I’m sorry, can I help you?’
I snapped from the inside of my mind back into the playground. The young mother had seen me watching and immediately picked up her child, looking at me suspiciously. I felt my cheeks turn red.
‘Ah- I, no, I just…’ I stuttered. ‘Your daughter is beautiful… umm, goodbye.’
I ran. The young woman didn’t give me a second glance as I bolted past her and diverted her attention back to the toddler, who was giggling in her arms.
I ran a good five minutes before finally calming down and stopping near a pond. My heart was beating like mad, but it wasn’t just because of the running. I recognised something from that scene. It disappeared again within a second, but just now I remembered something from my past.
But what was it? I closed my eyes and tried to summon the memory again, but my brain failed me. Frustrated, I threw a rock in the water.
Come on, Cathy, think, I thought. There were two children. A boy and a girl. Were they yours? …No, they couldn’t have been. They were too old. Unless I gave birth to them when I was still a teenager, but the boy seemed older than the girl, as well, so they couldn’t have been mine. Cousins, maybe?
‘Ugh, this is so annoying!’ I shouted. I couldn’t figure this out on my own. I needed someone to talk to…
Yes, I did need someone to talk to. So why not?
I nodded to myself in agreement and took out my phone. Aside from Ashley and Lara’s, Julian’s number was still the only one in it.
‘Julian Marquet. Who am I speaking to?’
‘Umm, Julian? It’s me.’
‘Why, lady Catherine! Have you called to grace me with your presence on a date?’ he said, in an overly dramatic tone that made me giggle.
‘Why, yes,’ I said in a snobbish tone, playing along with his game. ‘I have cleared my schedule in your honour and now I have a free evening. Name a place and time, mister Marquet.’
‘Really? Great!’ he said, dropping the formal tone. ‘Okay, meet me at the southern subway port at eight. I’ll take you to a classy dinner this time, so be sure to dress normal!’
‘What, no ghost stories?’ I joked. Julian laughed from the other side of the phone channel.
‘No ghost stories. And no grumpy horse, either!’
‘Understood, mister Marquet. I’ll see you at eight. Don’t let me wait, okay?’
The southern subway was quite far from the church, though. I decided to spend some of my money again and take the metro across Bridgeport, to save me time.
After hours of carefully examining the map to see which line I had to take, I ended up at the wrong station. Twice. It was only a few minutes extra, though, so I decided to walk the rest of the way.
Coming out of the metro gate, I locked eyes with a passing woman for a second. I looked away a moment later, but then quickly gazed at her again.
She seemed… familiar. Did I see her on the streets somewhere in the past few weeks?
… No, that wasn’t it. This woman seemed really familiar, like I was supposed to know her from somewhere. I looked at her suspiciously and tried to remember from where.
She stopped and looked at me too, with eyes a fraction bigger than usual and her mouth open, as if she wanted to say something… did this woman know me, too?
Apparently not. She walked right past me a second later, without giving me a second glance. I was probably just imagining things. The bad feeling in my stomach didn´t go away, though.
I left the station behind and headed for the place Julian promised to meet me at. It was further away than I thought.
Something was wrong. I could feel it. There was noise of passing cars in the background, but all of the birds were silent and the air was filled with tension.
I walked faster and glanced around me every few seconds. There was nothing around me, only a man walking in the background…
… A man that was heading in the exact same direction as me. That couldn´t be a coincidence. Was that guy following me?
I quickly turned left and walked around the supermarket. When I came back around the front, the man was gone. I thought he went elsewhere for a second but then I saw him coming out of the alley again, following me in plain sight. In plain sight! What was that guy thinking?! And why was he following me in the first place? Was he going to mug me, or worse?
My heart was pounding in my chest with fear. I changed directions again and then something snapped. He wasn’t going to leave me alone. I took a deep breath and started running, past flowerbeds and barely looking what was in front of me. I had to get away, I had to get away from him!
Running footsteps were right behind me. I picked up my pace, but my follower was faster and was gaining on me quickly. His heavy breathing worked like a panic button in my head. Run, run, run away!
The next second, I almost jumped head-first into the water. Oh, plumbob, a pond! My path was blocked! My path was blocked and I was in a dead spot in the city, where no one from the streets could see me!
He caught up with me.
I forcefully shut off my mind and jumped into the water. My feet immediately sank away into the mud, but I yanked them out again and waded my way to the other side. A small feeling of triumph came over me when the man hesitated.
‘There!’ I muttered. ‘Now leave me alone!’
The next second, he was in the water as well and grabbed for me. I jumped back and bolted away again, while he was calling names because his shoes got stuck in the mud.
I used that moment to get away and ran, underneath a metal pillar, around the bushes-
And slammed straight into Julian.
‘Woah! Watch it!’ He yelled, holding me back with his hands. Then he saw who I was.
‘Julian! Thank mother plumbob!’
He looked confused, but allowed me to stay close to him.
‘Cathy, I thought we would meet at the station. I’ve been looking for you for over half an hour. What is going on?’
The answer came out of the bushes right after he finished speaking, with a deadly glare in his eyes. Julian immediately grabbed me and pushed me behind his back.
‘What on plumbob do you think you’re doing?!’ he shouted at the unknown man.
‘Turn around and walk away, Bridgeport boy. This has got nothing to do with you.’
His voice was distant and cold, almost metallic-like, and made me take a step back out of fright. Julian didn’t seem one bit impressed.
‘I’ll tell you who has got nothing to do with this. Cathy and I here have an appointment, and I’ve never seen you before in my life. Cathy doesn’t seem very fond of you either. Now you have two options, you creep. Either you’re going to tell me what the hell you were doing chasing her around, or you can turn around right now and never bother her again. Your choice.’
‘I don’t think so.’ The guy shifted in position, just a little bit, but in a way that I could see he was trained to fight. Julian noticed it too. At that very second, though, a car pulled up in the street behind us.
‘I’ll be happy to fight this out with you right here, if you’re prepared to go to sim-jail for it,’ Julian threatened. ‘If not, you better run away right now and don’t ever show your face again.’
‘We’ll make you regret this,’ the man growled. Then he turned around and ran away. Within a few seconds, he was out of sight.
I let my breath slip away between my teeth. All this time I was holding it in without even realising.
Slowly, Julian turned around.
‘Are you all right?’
My heart melted when I saw the concerned look on his face. He protected me, when he barely even knew who I was. Why did he do that?
‘I… don’t know.’
‘We need to talk.’
‘Yes,’ I muttered softly. ‘We do… about a lot of things. But… not here.’
‘Don’t worry. I’ll take you somewhere safe.’
‘The firehouse? Really?’
‘Hey, you didn’t want to go back to your house,’ Julian smiled. ‘I have a couple of friends who work here. They gave me a key in case of emergencies. There’s no one around today, and we’ll lock all the doors and windows, if that makes you feel safer.’
I couldn’t go back to my house, because I lived in the church. The public church. But of course, Julian didn’t know this.
Locking everything took about ten minutes. It would have gone faster if we both did a side of the building, but Julian wouldn’t let me out of his sight even for a second. Afraid that the man from before would sneak in and find me, maybe. I didn’t mind his presence at all because, really, I was afraid of that, too.
Eventually, we retreated into what seemed to be the bedroom for fire-fighter personnel. Julian looked around for a second, and then turned around to me.
‘There. This should be safe enough. Now would you tell me what on plumbob is going on?’
I hesitated with my words. Julian noticed, walked past me and sat down on the wooden floor, looking everywhere but at me. At ease, I curled myself up behind him.
‘Okay… I’ll tell you everything. But it’s a long story.’
‘I don’t mind. We have all night, after all.’
A small smile appeared on my face.
‘My name is not really Catherine, Julian. I made up that name so I could answer people normally if they asked who I was. The truth is… I don’t even know who I am myself.’
‘What do you mean?’ I heard from behind me.
‘A few weeks ago, sister Lara from the church found me lying unconscious behind a building. I had a big wound on the side of my head and didn’t wake up, so she took me to the church and tended to me there. And when I finally did wake up… I didn’t remember who I was anymore.’
Hearing the words come from my lips like that, it sounded like a really fake story. Would Julian even believe a word of it?
‘I went to the Town Hall right after that, to see if someone maybe reported me missing, but they said it would take over a month before they could let me into the file room. They probably won’t let me at all, because I don’t know my real name.’
‘I waited,’ I said. ‘I took a job as a gardener and have been waiting until the end of the month.’
‘In a week…’
Julian was silent for a while.
‘Do you remember anything at all?’ he asked eventually.
‘No. There have been moments though, when I was in town, that I recognised things… maybe. But I don’t know where I know them from.’
Another silence fell. I nervously plucked the fibres from my blouse.
‘Do you… not believe me?’
‘Stand up for a bit, Cathy.’
I obeyed, and when I turned around, Julian put his hand on my arm. A warm feeling of safety came over me.
‘I believe you.’
My heart jumped. ‘Really?’ I whispered.
‘Really. It’s a strange story, but the guy from before was real. I saw the look on your face tonight. Something is going on, and I bet it’s more than just memory loss. I’m going to help you, Cathy.’
‘We’ll go to the Town Hall. First thing in the morning, the two of us.’
‘The boy there doesn’t speed up if you try to rush things, you know,’ I tried to say with a smile.
‘He won’t rush things for you. But with me, it will be different. We’re going to find out who you are tomorrow.’
He smiled a reassuring smile to me and I felt my heart melt again. I had no idea that the happy-go-lucky boy from the park had this side to his personality, as well.
Please, reactions are very welcome =D Advice especially, I want to improve my writing/picture making ^^