“Oh. Hi. Is Vince here?” I peer around the gray haired woman, searching the house for my best friend and neighbor of twelve years.
“Vince?” She looks at me with pity in her eyes. “Oh, Honey, I think you need to come in for a few minutes.”
“Okay...” I step through the door with a bit of reluctance. I don’t know who this woman is, or what she’s doing at Vince’s place. Maybe he invited her to dinner too.
“Come on in to the kitchen, Jeff.”
I stop, a chill running up my back. “How do you know my name?”
“Don’t you remember me?”
I look over the woman carefully. Her gray hair is pulled back in a bun. A blue apron covers a flowered dress and a plump body. Her overall look is grandmotherly. There’s something familiar about her face. But, I can’t seem to place her.
“No, I don’t. How do you know me? And where’s Vince? Is he getting dinner ready?” I sniff the air, a fragrant aroma wafting my way, and causing my stomach to growl.
The woman sighs, and begins walking toward the kitchen again.
“I think you need to sit down to hear this. But I need to get back to cooking, so the food doesn’t burn. Just come to the kitchen and I’ll explain everything.”
I look around the living room. It looks just the same as it did yesterday, when I stopped by to check on my friend. A few papers scattered around on the floor. Beer cans overflowing the trash can. Vince’s favorite guitar laying on the couch.
The woman stops in the doorway and fidgets with her apron. “I really need to get back to the kitchen. Come on, Honey. This won’t take long.”
Finally, I nod, and follow her to the kitchen, starting to worry that something bad has happened to Vince.
“Have a seat.” She motions to an empty chair at the table.
“Listen, Jeff. I know this will be hard to hear—it always is. But Vince died ten years ago.” She looks away and focuses her attention on the pot she’s stirring, giving me a moment to reflect on what she said.
A laugh escapes my lips. “Very funny.” I turn back toward the way we came and shout into the house, “Come on out Vince! You can’t fool me that easy!” Turning back to the woman, I say, “Who are you really? And how did Vince get you to play along with this little trick?”
She opens her mouth in surprise. “There’s no trick here, Honey. Vince died ten years ago. You were both in a wreck, and he didn’t survive. I bought his house a year later and have been living here ever since. Mrs. Abington... Remember?” Her eyes seem to plead with me to remember. But I can’t.
I remember the wreck. Vince and I were drunk. We went out for a ride—Vince was driving—and we hit another vehicle head on. Someone in the other vehicle died. But we both survived. It changed our lives forever. Vince became an alcoholic, because he couldn’t deal with the guilt. I went the other way, and have spent the last few years speaking to high schools about the dangers of drunk driving.
But with all the change that’s happened in our lives, Vince and I have gone through it all together. We’ve spent most of our free time together—forever bonded by that one fateful incident. So, I know he isn’t dead. He can’t be.
No. I remember what happened. But I don’t remember this woman or her version of the story.
I look at the woman again, with scrutiny, and doubt creeps in. She does look vaguely familiar. But, wouldn’t I know her if she were my neighbor?
I lean forward and close my eyes, my head spinning. This doesn’t make sense. What’s going on?
“I saw Vince this morning. He invited me to dinner,” I say weakly.
“Honey, you do this every year. On the anniversary of his death, you seem to go back in time and forget what’s happened. You forget about me and you make up some story about seeing him—“
“I didn’t make it up!” I interrupt. “I saw him. He was here—outside the house. I remember, because we happened to take our trash out at the same time.”
I look around the room and spot the trash can half full of beer cans. “That’s his brand of beer. And that was his guitar on the couch. That’s his mother’s picture on the wall, for crying out loud!”
Mrs. Abington sighs and puts down her spoon. “That’s my husband’s brand of beer. And my husband’s guitar. It’s a picture of my mom on the wall. Honey, you’re getting confused. You’re mixing up the past with the present.”
“But he invited me to dinner.” I shake my head, hoping things will get sorted out in the process.
“Honey, you’ve got amnesia. The wreck caused you some problems with short-term memory loss.” She pauses for a moment, before continuing. “Do you need to see the newspaper clippings again?”
“From the wreck.”
I give a weak nod, confused, and sad. I know I need to see them, to see if what she’s saying is true. But I don’t want to look, just in case it is the truth. I can’t bear the thought of my best friend being dead and the past ten years being lies concocted by my imagination.
Mrs. Abington goes to a cabinet and pulls out an envelope. Before she can shut the door, I notice the cookie jar Vince always keeps money in.
“Could I get a cookie?” I say, nodding toward the jar.
“Sure, Honey. Whatever you want.” She reaches back up and pulls the jar down. Peering into it, a look of surprise flashes across her face for a moment. “I’m sorry,” she says quietly, her face reddening. “It looks like we’re all out.”
“That’s okay. I’ll just take the newspaper clippings.” I try to keep my hand steady as I take the envelope from her hand, but it’s hard to hide the shaking. I’m sure that’s Vince’s money jar.
The clippings seem to be authentic—though the color and crispness of the paper clearly indicates they’re photocopies.
I read the headlines, quickly. Auto
ONE CAR COLLISION ON RT 66. ONE DEAD IN WRECK. VINCE DAVIES, 24, DEAD. ALCOHOL THE CAUSE OF COLLISION THAT KILLED PASSENGER. DRIVER IN DWI CASE SUFFERED SEVERE CONCUSSION. MEMORY LOSS ALLOWS DEFENDANT TO RUN FREE.
A sick feeling starts to grow in my stomach. This isn’t how I remember it at all. I thought Vince was driving, we hit another vehicle, and killed the driver. Vince has amnesia. Not me. I was the passenger. And I was unharmed.
The room spins around me. Am I wrong? Do I have amnesia?
I look up to see Mrs. Abington stirring the pot on the stove and watching me closely.
“Well?” she asks cautiously.
I look down at the floor, unsure what to say.
“Would you like to stay for supper?” she says tenderly.
I want to say no. I want to go home and try to sort this out, but something holds me back. I need more answers. More proof. And maybe being alone right now is a bad idea anyway. “Sure. That would be nice.”
She smiles warmly and turns back to the pot. But something in her eyes causes a wave of nausea to hit.
I rise from my chair. “Maybe I should just go home. I’m not feeling well. I think I need some sleep. And time to process all this.”
“No, I think you’ll be fine. You just need some dinner. Sit back down and rest while it cooks.” She takes a step forward, determination on her face.
I back up to the door that goes to the backyard, suddenly feeling trapped. I need to get out of here. I need to get home. Now.
“Sit down, Honey. You’ll feel better in a few minutes.” She takes another step forward, casually laying her hand on a butcher knife, and I lunge toward the door.
“Harvey!” the woman yells.
Suddenly, the door flies open and I find myself face to face with a large, gray haired man.
“Jeff!” He says with surprise. “It’s nice of you to drop by. I just went over to your house to invite you to dinner.”
I look around the room wildly, searching for a way of escape and finding none.
“Sit down, boy.”
With no other choice, and still questioning my sanity, I obey.
“Don’t you know us, boy?”
I look at the two of them carefully, hoping that I can call the couple to mind. Mrs. Abington. Harvey. Harvey Abington...
Oh no. I remember. Suddenly, everything becomes clear in my mind, and all the doubts the woman put in my head are gone. She was lying to me just to get me to stay until her husband got back. I don’t have amnesia. And Vince didn’t die in the wreck.
I jump up from the chair, but a heavy hand pushes me back down.
“I think he finally remembers us,” the man chuckles.
“So he does,” says the woman. “I have to admit, I was hurt when he didn’t. It’s a pity we remembered him so well and he didn’t seem to have the faintest idea who we were.”
“What do you want with me? And where’s Vince?”
“Oh, Vince is gone.” Harvey paces the room. “He had to be the first to go. He was driving, after all. He was the one that actually killed our son.”
“What did you do to him? What did you do to Vince?!”
“The legal system failed us. They let Vince off because he had amnesia. So we had to take things into our own hands. We waited patiently for the perfect time. And what better time than the tenth anniversary of our son’s death to bring him to justice.
“And, since you and Vince are so close, and you were an accomplice in our son’s murder, we thought it fitting you should get the same reward as him.”
Once again, I jump from my chair, only to be pushed back down by Mr. Abington.
While her husband holds me down, Mrs. Abington brings some rope to tie me up. As she secures me to the chair, she looks at me with sadness on her face, but with a glimmer of joy in her eyes. “Don’t worry, Honey, it’ll all be over soon.”
Harvey looks at Mrs. Abington with affection, and sniffs the air. “Mmmm....Something sure smells good. What are we having for dinner tonight?”
“Vince-meat pie,” she purrs back, without hesitation. “And maybe some Honey for dessert,” she says, winking.