“She’s back!” I heard someone whisper excitedly behind my shoulder. That sort of thing seemed to be happening a lot lately - ever since I moved back to my childhood town, actually. I had been living in Anningham for just a few days. It was more than enough to let me know something was up. I turned around in the line so my back faced the deli’s counter. Not one set of eyes was on me, although the feeling deep in my chest said otherwise. I turned back around to look at the beautifully decorated chalkboard menu. “Shhh! She noticed you!” a different, higher-pitched voice rang in my ears this time.
“How could she? It’s all gone now.”
“You’re pushing it.”
“I know what I’m doing.”
My vision cut out abruptly. Or perhaps more accurately, the scene I was observing shifted. Not much and not for long - just enough to throw off my balance. I had gone from studying the panini options to studying the back of my own head from the corner of the restaurant. The scene reverted as quickly as it had changed, and I was stumbling into the elderly man directly in front of me. “So sorry,” I mumbled before spinning around once more. At this point, anyone who wasn’t occupied with their food was staring at the weird girl in the middle of the line who had to be dealing with some form of lunacy. I couldn’t blame them. In fact, I was starting to believe that myself. That was until I spotted the odd pair sitting at the table in the corner. A man and a woman, both about my age, sat next to - not across from - each other. There was no food on their table, not even a number. Their eyes were fixed on one another. They wouldn’t have seemed too suspicious if I hadn’t suspected them already - just slightly odd. “What is your goal here, exactly?” the woman questioned the man sharply. I could hear her as clearly as if she were standing right next to me, and yet her mouth never moved in the least. “She came home! Aren’t you excited?!”
“If the elders ever discover what we’ve been doing -”
“I can’t just stand by and watch. Honestly, I’m surprised you would even suggest such a thing, being her best friend and all!” The young man’s eyebrows furrowed a little in correlation with his mental shouting. “She doesn’t remember me and you know it,” the woman replied, her voice catching.
It was the only solid clue I had to whose voices could be inside my head. I was now next in line and bordering on ravenous, but I was also scared out of my mind. Sometimes the only way out is through, I thought to myself. I stepped out of the line. This had better not be for nothing, I thought as my stomach began to gurgle loudly. I made a beeline to the corner. The pair didn’t notice how close I was until I slammed my hands on the empty table. I could almost see them jump out of their skins as their heads snapped to meet my gaze. I realized I was furious, although I could not pinpoint exactly why. “Well, you always have been a direct one,” the man said with a smirk after he had gotten over his initial shock. Finally, he said something using his mouth. The voice was the same as the one I had been hearing, thankfully. This could have been extremely awkward. It might still be. The woman seemed more frightened than ever. “You could hear us, couldn’t you?” she asked me in awe. It took me a few seconds to realize that, unlike the man, she had not used her voice. “Let’s cut to the chase. And I would prefer it if you both,” I shot a glance toward the woman, “cut out that creepy thing you keep doing to me.” They looked at each other, eyes wide, before simultaneously turning their heads back towards me. If I was scared out of my mind before, nothing could describe the fear I was experiencing at that moment. “Fair enough,” the man began, “I guess we’ll have to re-introduce ourselves. I’m Oliver. This is Farrah,” he said, pointing his thumb towards the woman’s shoulder. “How much do you remember from your time living here?” Farrah asked, leaning forward. It was a good question. At this point, I didn’t wonder how she knew to ask it. These people were strange - and oddly familiar. The memories I had of this place were blurred. Very blurred. “I remember being constantly surrounded by green. I couldn’t believe how many shades there were. And I had a lot of friends, although they all ended up leaving me. Middle school, I guess.” I paused. Why was I so okay with sharing all of this with complete strangers? This had to be one of the oddest interactions I had ever had. Oliver and Farrah looked at each other again. I felt like I was missing something. “What? What is it?”
“Does your mother know where you are?” Farrah asked gently, her eyes wide and caring.
“I’m a grown woman. And what’s it to you, anyway?” I responded, perhaps a little too harshly.
“I knew it. Genevieve would have never allowed this,” Farrah told Oliver disapprovingly.
“You know my mother?”
“She hears us when we do this. Just relax. It’ll be okay. She’s not dangerous anymore,” Oliver said, ignoring me. Resolve seemed to form in Farrah’s eyes. She looked at me with a familiarity I had only ever seen from my mother. “I’m going to show you something. Hopefully, it will clear things up.” She reached into the satchel on her side and pulled out two small glass vials filled with murky, greenish liquid. Surprise washed over Oliver’s face, his cool demeanor finally broken. “You kept them?!” Farrah ignored him, choosing to focus on me instead. She gestured to the chair in front of me. I sat, despite my better judgment. Her hand reached across the table and mine did the same. Carefully, she unfurled her fingers and let one of the vials slide into my palm. I didn’t know why, but I trusted her. Besides, my mother had always told me I was too reckless for my own good. So when Farrah said, “Bottoms up!” I followed her lead.
Almost instantaneously, the deli was gone - replaced by a giant forest under an overcast sky. I recognized this place, although now I could see the individual leaves on the trees. I could make out specific features on the children’s faces surrounding me. I was seeing the world from a vantage point I hadn’t experienced in a decade. Everything was bigger - more interesting. “Eve!...Eve! Do it again!” My mouth opened without my permission. “Okay, ready?” My voice was higher but undoubtedly my own. My small hands reached out, seemingly of their own accord, to the temples of a young, smiling Farrah. It was unmistakably her. A recent memory - at least, recent to the child version of myself - played in flashes before disappearing. I could feel a growing sense of emptiness as it passed through my fingertips and into my friend. She smiled, “Again!”
“I don’t know, Farrah, I’m pretty tired and my mother wants me home in time for training.” It was a lie. I was scared. I was beginning to forget my mother’s face. I had to get back to her.
“You’ve obviously trained enough, Eve. You’re better than any of us!” Her voice quieted as she said, “There’s a rumor you’re better than even the most powerful elder.”
The scene ended, but I was not back in the deli. I was in the temple, standing before a council of ten ancient-looking men. The first few moments seemed to awaken a memory I didn’t know I had. I knew what was coming next. “Genevieve, your offspring has become inconceivably powerful. We understand you came to us for guidance, but I am afraid we cannot restore the memories she has lost. She is not the same person we once knew and will continue to abuse her power as long as she does not remember who she is. Therefore, you and Evelyn are hereby forever banished from our land and tied to the pledge of silence.” My mother was fierce. Fire blazed behind her dark eyes.
“She threatens your positions. You haven’t actually tried to find a cure. You’re weak. All of you.”
“I am sorry you feel that way. Unfortunately, if you do not leave willingly, other means can be arranged.” The elder banged his staff on the stone floor, signaling the defenders. My mother took my hand. I barely felt it. It was as though I was merely an observer. No emotion was connected to this memory.
I opened my eyes to see Farrah and Oliver staring at me, unblinking. To say the situation was disconcerting would be a gross understatement. “Did it work?!” Farrah asked, “Oh, I really hope it worked. I’ve been working on this thing for years!”
Oliver glared at her, saying, “WE have been working on this thing.”
“Well, I don’t know what worked exactly, but something sure did,” I responded. Somehow, their eyes got even bigger. I hadn’t needed to open my mouth to get that message across.
“YES!” Farrah exclaimed loudly. If anyone wasn’t looking at our table already, they were now. Oliver’s grin was contagious. I hadn’t realized I was smiling until my cheeks were sore. “So what now?” I asked after my initial giddiness had faded. Up to this point, I had found my life to be incredibly unremarkable. Now, I belonged somewhere again. I searched my mind for the recently restored memories once more, only to find that the feeling of anticipation was all that remained. Soon, even that faded. I looked at the strangers sitting across from me. They were staring; concern plastered across both of their faces. I had asked them a question. What was it? It didn’t matter. They weren’t answering anyway. Rude. I stood in a huff, trying desperately to remember my unanswered question. All I knew was that there had been one. “Was my question hard to answer?” I asked the woman. She just sat there, her eyes beginning to glisten with tears. The man was no more help. Frustrated and hungry, I turned my back to the corner table and made my way to the ever-growing line in front of the counter. Ooh, the paninis looked great.