'Hello there. Who are you?'
I stare at the strangers crowding around my bed. Something is familiar about them, but I can't exactly grasp what.
'I'm your daughter, Mama,' says the familiar stranger, a young woman with dark hair, the same shade as mine.
'Daughter,' I muse, glancing at her. I look inquiringly at two other men. 'Who are you?'
'I'm your husband,' says the man, who looks as if he's in his 60's. 'This is your son, Lacey.' He nods toward the man.
'Husband. Son. Who's Lacey?'
'Oh, Mama,' cries the daughter. She flings her arms over me, the husband and the son joining in. 'You're Lacey, Mama. You're Lacey.'
That night, I laughed a lot. The daughter told me her name was Lauren, the husband told me his name was Todd, and the son told me his name was Teddy.
'Teddy,' I chuckle. 'Funny name.'
Teddy's cheeks flush. 'You thought of it, Mum. You said that you named me after your favourite teddy bear.'
'Huh,' I muse again.
We played board games galore. Todd was especially good at it, but I always lost.
'That's alright, Mama,' says Lauren, patting me on the back. 'No one can be good at everything.
As the daughter, husband, and son left, I waved them off. They promised they hoped they would come back again soon.
And to my surprise, I hoped so too.
The busy noises of the city fill my ears. Cars zoom past and the skyscrapers brush the sky. I linger outside the bakery stores, the scent of food tempting me forward, but then I smell something better. Freedom. I inhale the smell of freedom. The familiar strangers have left, but I am determined to find them.
'Daughter?' I call, but my voice is drowned by the chatter of the crowd. 'Husband? Son?'
'You alright, Mrs?' says a man about the son's age. 'Need help finding someone?'
'Are you my son?' I ask. I can't exactly remember what he looks like anymore.
'Umm...' says the man. He shuffles away.
Hmm. The real son wouldn't have done that.
Suddenly, someone shouts, 'Oh, Mrs Cotton! Thank goodness I've found you!' A stranger comes up to me, sweat streaming down her face. 'I thought we lost you! Come on, let's get you back up to your room at the Village.
'Are you my daughter?' I ask. 'What's the Village?'
'Mrs Cotton,' sighs the woman sadly. 'Dear Mrs Cotton. Your daughter is coming next week, like normal. Remember? She always comes on Sunday afternoon, you know.'
'Don't know,' I murmur, feeling stupid.
'Great news, Mrs Cotton! Your daughter, Lauren, is coming to work here at the Village and she'll help us look after you. Isn't that good?'
'So good.' I choke out, but inside I'm hitting myself for forgetting the daughter's name was Lauren. 'When?'
'Now!' says a voice, and a young woman bursts into my room with a smile.
'Where's Lauren?' I ask.
'It's me, Mama,' says the stranger, her face falling.
'Oh, it is Lauren!' I laugh. But deep inside, I still did not remember who this person was.
'Good morning, Mama,' someone says.
'It's morning?' I mumbled.
'Yes, Mama. It's morning. I made your favourite. Freshly squeezed orange juice with avocado and cottage cheese! Yum.'
'Not my favourite,' I say.
'But, but, when I was little, you always said this was your favourite, Mama.'
I cannot recall saying that, I think stubbornly. Another lady creeps in. She says something to the woman, thinking I can't hear her. I can.
'Mrs Cotton-I'm mean, Lacey, doesn't really have a favourite, anymore, Lauren.'
'That's ok,' says the Lauren person, brightening. 'As soon as Mama tries this, she'll remember. I know she will.'
Lauren hands me the plate. I pick it up. Here goes nothing, I think.
Picking up the orange liquid, I sniff it. Smells ... edible. I take the tiniest sip. Eww! It's tastes so cold and weird. However, I force a smile. Then, I picked up a fork and picked at the avocado and cheese. I gingerly scoop a little bit of each on it. Lauren and the lady watch with wide eyes. I shovel it into my mouth. Before I can stop myself, I cried, 'ACK!' At the top of my voice.
The taste is so horrible, I drop the plate onto the floor. SMASH! It shatters into a thousand pieces. Oh no, I think. Lauren isn't going to be happy. I was right.
Lauren looks up at me. 'Mama?'
The question I've been asking myself all morning slips out. 'Who's Mama?'
Lauren bites her lip. Her soft eyes well up with tears. She started to sob, and she ran out the door as tears began to leak out.
'Oh no.' I whispered. I knew I had done something terribly wrong. 'What did I do?' I cried, looking at the lady.
'Oh, Mrs Cotton,' she says. 'I-I'm going to get a broom to sweep this mess up, alright? Stay put, Mrs Cotton.' Shaking her head slightly, the lady leaves the room too.
What did I do wrong?
I ring the bell. My curtain flutters slightly as the wind whooshes in through the open window. I sink into the warm bed covers, the only place I ever feel safe in. Ring. Ring. Ring.
My door opens. 'Yes, Mrs Cotton?' says a woman.
'Bright.' I whisper.
'Here, I'll close the curtains for you.' The curtains gently scrape closed. 'There. All better?'
'Oh, my. Poor Mrs Cotton. You must be hallucinating again. Would you like me to get you your eye mask? It might help.'
I shake my head. A sleep mask won't fill the hole in my heart. I always feel the hole in my heart. Like ... something is missing in there.
'Alright, Mrs Cotton. 'Lauren, Todd, and Teddy are coming tomorrow, by the way.'
I don't answer, but in my head I'm thinking, Who is Lisa, Todd and Teddy?
I looked at the familiar strangers.
'Hello there. Who are you?'