Feb 15, 2021

Fiction Mystery Friendship

      Janelle sat in her car, keys in hand the small beads of sweat that began to slowly roll down her brow brought her out of her daze. She shook the thoughts from her head and wiped her brow. How long had she been sitting here? Surely in this early spring heatwave, it wouldn’t take long for her car to heat up she thought as she stepped out into the even hotter parking lot.

           The sun reflected off of the blacktop momentarily blinding Janelle who had once again forgotten her sunglasses. The Santa Anna winds making the heat more unbearable. She quickened her pace slightly toward Target.

           She didn’t need a cart, but she instinctively took one as she passed by. These moments of losing time weren’t getting better. She had been through every test her doctor could come up with, and came up with nothing, her test results were completely normal. What she hadn’t told her doctor was that she couldn’t recall a single moment from the year 2020. All she remembered was going to bed on December 31st, 2019 at 8pm and waking up at 5am on January 1st, 2021. Her doctor would surely think she was crazy had she known.

           The year had been crazy based on what she had read after the fact, but she couldn’t remember anything. She remembered that for some reason she had decided to take a technology cleanse, and even shut off her cell phone for the year. Her lease for her apartment was up, so she had found a small community in the desert designed for people who wanted to disconnect for a while.

           “Excuse me.” A large lady rudely exclaimed as she squeezed by Janelle jolting her back to reality.

           Janelle looked down at her list and began searching earnestly for the items. She was concentrating so hard on not losing focus that she ran straight into the man standing in the middle of the bread aisle staring at her.

           “Oh, sorry.” She gathered herself and began to turn away.

           “Wait, Janelle? Is that you?” He stammered catching her shoulder.

           “Um, yes can I help you?” She paused looking into his eyes, but they didn’t look familiar at all.

           “It’s me, Kevin.” He pulled down his facemask momentary but pulled it back over his nose at Janelle’s still confused look.

           “Oh Kevin, hey, it’s been a while?” She recovered slightly attempting to feign recognition.

           “Yea, I don’t think we saw each other at all this past year, I was beginning to wonder if you had picked up and moved to Montana. Like you talked about all the time.” He eyed her suspiciously, giving Janelle the impression that she was supposed to know this man more than she did. "Hey, you want to grab a coffee, and catch up?" He offered, attempting to break the tension. She needed to get out of there.

           “Oh, I’m so sorry, my period, bye.” She took off at a dead run leaving her cart behind and the young, dumbfounded man staring after her. Once she reached her car she jumped in and started it not looking back until she shifted her car into reverse. There was no sign of the man. He hadn’t followed her.

           She pulled up to the gate at her apartment complex and scanned her card to open the gate. Once she parked, she removed the key from the ignition and rushed to her door. It was extremely unlikely she’d been followed but the excitement from her flight had her heart pounding. She didn’t remember the man, but his presence seemed to turn her blood to ice.

           What had happened in 2020? She asked herself for the thousandth time in the three months since she had woken up. She was sure she had gone to the community, but she was supposed to leave on January 1st, 2020, and return on December 31st, 2020 and she didn’t remember any of it. It did happen. It had to have happened. She had letters from her friends complaining about having to write letters and begging her to be more specific about her day-to-day life events they wanted more details. She wanted more details. She had tried to vaguely question her friends for information without sounding crazy but that wasn’t working she needed answers. She stood up and went back out to her car. 

           “Did you forget how to operate a phone?” Sam rolled her eyes as she answered the door on the fifth knock.

           “Sorry, I had this weird, um thing happened today, well more like the past year really, can you talk?” Janelle stammered an apology.

           “Yes, of course, come in.” Sam’s annoyance changed to concern as she led her friend to the couch. “What, happened?”

           “Well, I’ve been having memory problems as you know. However, it’s a bit more serious than I’ve let on. I don’t want you to think I’m crazy, but I don’t remember the past year at all.” Janelle spilled her heart before her mind could stop her.

           “Oh, sweetie I’m so sorry. I guessed something was off by your vague letters, and your questions when you returned. I never guessed it was this serious. What happened today?” She questioned moving to the couch to put an arm around her friend.

           “I was in Target, and I ran into this guy. I can’t remember him. But I had to have met him before 2020 because he said he hadn’t heard from me in a year.” Janelle paused trying to recall his face.

           “Wait a second.” Janelle pulled out her cell and scrolled through their conversations in her messages. When she found what she was looking for she held out her phone for Janelle to see. The picture was at a beach Janelle had taken the picture. It showed her arm stretched out in front of her grasping the hand of the stranger. He was looking away from Janelle, looking out at the Ocean. The only thing she had written was some lyrics from the song Memories by Marron 5: cause the drinks bring back all the memories, of everything we've been through.

           “That’s him, but who is he, and why that song?” Janelle thought out loud.

           “You never said. You didn’t talk much about him, honestly. You said didn’t want to ruin anything until you knew it was real you said.”

           “This is a lot. Can I send this to myself, please? I just. I need to think about this.” Janelle forwarded the message to herself at her friend's nod. She handed the phone back and started for the door.

           “Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it? You’re welcome to stay as long as you need Janelle.” Sam reached for her friend's elbow.

           “No, Sam really it’s fine. I’m fine. I’ll call you if I need anything. I just want to sleep I think.” Janelle wrapped her friend in a reassuring hug and walked back out to her car.

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