Chapter 3 Home
I looked back at the sketch of Ryan. I had his eyes drawn the exact shape as my memories, even the way his nose fits so perfectly into his face, the way his lips curve into that beautiful smile. “Ryan.” I said the word like euphoria on my tongue. My grandmother’s smile brightened and extinguished.
“You remember him?” she said curiously, for some reason there was guilt in her eyes.
I nodded eagerly at her. “His face” I murmured, running my fingers over the sketch.
“I have not told him yet” she spoke sheepishly, as if she were afraid I would get mad at this, however her admittance was only the more evidence that he truly existed because my mind had begun to consider whether he were part of my imagination. His perfect face hardly seemed real. “He’s going to be...well he’s going to be so happy.” she exclaimed, she cupped her hands together and smiled warmly.
“Who is he?” I asked, my eyes had gone back to his picture. I didn’t want to look away – afraid it may vanish.
“Well now Ryan...he’s a bit of everything” I turned to watch my grandmother wink. I felt myself smile along with her, but I frowned at her words.
She had an amused look on her face; she sat on the corner of my bed and opened a box of the chocolates. The smell wafted down to me, churning my stomach. “Tell me about him, please”
I wanted to hear her voice more, it was cheerful and giddy. I wanted to remember him too, I figured as her voice shaped his story it would help me sculpt my memories. She handed me a chocolate square wrapped in gold foil. I un-wrapped it and popped it into my mouth, the centre was caramel; it clung to my teeth and made my stomach rumble.
“Well now,” she said, she stuffed a chocolate into her mouth and spoke slowly as she chewed “You have been friends all of your life. You’ve been together through everything...I’m sure that he will tell you everything when you see him” she smiled “He loves you very much.” her eyes were warm when she spoke and my heart swelled, I believed that I loved him too, although I had no memory of anything about him - apart from his face.
“Wh-what does he think? Does he think that I am dead? Does he know?” I croaked. I contemplated whether I wanted my answer. Her dread overwhelmed the atmosphere as I asked.
“Yes, honey he knows. I haven’t seen him since he left here two weeks ago.” She nodded. “He was devastated and very, very angry and I told him to be careful and not do anything stupid” her voice was stern.
I had an odd flicker of recognition, as if his anger was something my memory expected. My body yearned to see him, it was almost painful.
“Well there’s no way I'm letting you out of my sight right now” she said, again she was stern. Then she smiled “plus we can’t have him seeing you all weak and smelly can we?”
I laughed and rolled my head back, suddenly feeling exhausted. All was well. I thought. I had my grandmother and my yearning for Ryan would soon be relieved. My heart ached for him with such determination it was hard to concentrate on not getting up and going to him myself. I thought of him in pain, “devastated” as my grandmother had put it. I cringed at the word, I needed to hold him, my skin needed the contact, needed the familiarity of him.
My body was telling me it was what I wanted, it was all I wanted. It was so strong it exhausted me.
“Well now honey, I think you should sleep a little and then we can go home, I'm sure” she tucked the blankets around me and took my sketchbooks from me.
“Home?” I asked confused.
“Yes honey, but don’t worry about that now. Get some sleep” she drew the blinds on my windows.
The warm darkness was inviting. It engulfed me, left me deaf and blind.
Then it was bright and hot, the sunlight beating down on me as I sat with a familiar feeling beneath me. The desert was sandy and dusty; the wind whipped the dust up over my head. There was someone with me but I couldn’t control my head to turn it. I felt content here, like it was where I was supposed to be. I could smell creosote and dust but there was another familiar scent that made my head spin with delight and as I turned my head I knew why. My hand was placed on a thigh, covered in blue denim. I followed the denim up, up over a black t-shirt and to a beautiful handsome face. Ryan.
He sat back leaning on his hands, he looked relaxed – he was enjoying the weather. His dark brown eyes caught mine and he sat forward enveloping me in his arms. How right that moment felt, how perfect he was, it was all there, all on the desert. I rubbed my fingers through the thin hair on his arms, savouring his skin with mine.
“Don’t ever leave me Nat? You promise? This is where you have to be, this is where we belong ok?” his grip on me tightened and I had no need to think over my answer, of course I would never leave.
“Ok, I promise” I lent my head into the dip of his shoulder. The sun continued to beat down effortlessly as we stared into the vast desert, the three main colours of orange, blue and yellow. Beautiful in every way.
Abruptly I was pulled away from the dream; I was crying, warm tears trickling down my face.
“I promised!” I wailed into the dark room. Nanny had gotten up from her chair, she was now wearing a dressing gown, and she took my hands in hers. “I promised I would never leave him” I shook my head from side to side as if to release myself from the thoughts I was having.
“Shhh honey, everything is fine. We’re going to see him tomorrow I promise” she brushed my hair away from my face and looked at me with her bright eyes.
“Ryan is just fine. Please go back to sleep, everything is fine” she promised. I nodded calmly taking deep breaths.
She turned the lamp off and it was dark again. It was only moments later than I was back in the desert. My perfect memory with Ryan continuing as if I had never left.
The next morning I told my grandmother about my dream.
“You two would always sneak off somewhere. As soon as Ryan got that car you were off” she moved her hand through the air and made a zooming noise. I smiled and turned to make the bed I had been lying in. I folded the corners over neatly and flattened it out.
“Oh isn’t she the sweetest?!” a familiar voice crooned I turned to see the kind nurse from yesterday coming through the door. She had spoken to my grandmother, who nodded. I obviously looked confused because she continued “In all my life I would never have thought anyone would make their beds after themselves” she shook her head and smiled, her hands on her hips.
I shrugged and smiled weakly.
“I brought you clothes” Nanny said, handing me a pile. I nodded to the nurse who waved as I walked to the bathroom to change. This part of my day was one I was not looking forward to. This bathroom as I was told by my grandmother had a mirror. I feared what I looked like, my body although familiar to me now had seemed alien to me and although my grandmother made no comment on my appearance, apart from needing a good clean. I wanted to be familiar to myself.
I decided to wait until after my shower, turning my back on the cabinet and switching the shower on. The warm water was like heaven and even better when I had lathered myself up with the lavender shower gel Nanny had bought. The scent was my trigger to familiarity, brief flashes of my old bathroom were flicking in recognition as I blinked, breathing the heavy smell into my system. My bathroom had been smaller than this, the bath tub and shower decorated with multicoloured waterproof stickers of fish that I remember putting on there. My sink was dark blue, so was my toilet and the tub so the effect gave the place the look of an aquarium.
I scrubbed my hair and my skin until it burnt a little then stepped out into the cold of the bathroom shivering until I towelled myself dry and had clothed myself.
My grandmother had given me a bright yellow t-shirt and dark blue shorts with white tennis shoes. These clothes were not familiar, but it was hardly important. Wrapped around one of my socks however was a yellow bracelet, it was thin and weaved with two pearls and a white stone dolphin in the centre. It looked weathered, but not familiar. I put it on suddenly panicking whether it had to be on the left or right hand. My grandmother would tell me if I got it wrong.
The mirror had been steamed by my shower and only a misty outline of me could be seen in the mirror. I took deep breaths, thinking that if I removed the condensation, bit by bit the shock will be less severe. With my fingers I rubbed from my hair line down to my eyebrows.
My hair was light brown that much I had already established. The roots were lighter than the rest but I figured that was because of the sun. My eyebrows were a similar colour, they were straight and symmetrical, and they looked like my grandmothers. I scooped my hair up into a ponytail, noticing that even after it was up that is still reached the bottom of my shoulder blades.
Still taking deep breathes I wiped to reveal my eyes, they were wider than I expected and they were the same startling blue as Nanny. I was beginning to think we looked very much alike already. My eyes were framed with thick long eyelashes, a characteristic that I liked. I suddenly felt a little better about the rest and wiped straight down the mirror.
I let out the shriek instantly; it echoed in the small room and returned to me making me jump in fright. My grandmother burst into the room immediately.
“Oh honey it’s alright” she said, hugging me. I continued to stare at my cheek, the chunk of skin that I was missing, it left an ugly hole in my skin, and tanned soft skin surrounded the bright pink wound. I felt a little sick, the thought of my skin coming away from my face like that. I gagged and Nanny let me go.
I didn’t want to look at that again. I ducked out of the bathroom and made myself busy packing away the books and the chocolates.
“You’re still beautiful to me” My grandmother croaked, her voice was stricken with emotion. She watched me worriedly. I took a deep breath; again the need to comfort her was a presence in the room. I did not mind it, the love I felt for her was there, and it had emerged through my memories.
“It’s ok, I just never really realised how squeamish I was...the absence of skin kind of grossed me out” I admitted screwing up my face. I felt the cut stretch and fought the nausea.
Nanny smiled weakly and took my bag from me. I followed her out of the hospital with my hand in hers; the action was so familiar that it shocked me when I took her hand so quickly. I wondered whether the memory was from my childhood and she would think it strange.
From the way my body looked and the extent of my vocabulary I would have guessed I was seventeen or eighteen. I had not asked my grandmother and she had not told me. From the way Ryan looked, and I would have guessed our age was similar it was the estimate I was reaching.
The sun was just as bright as my dream. From my memories La Vernia, Texas was hot almost annually. It did not bother me, but body expected it and my memory revelled in this new discovery, showing me the memories of when it did rain here and how miserable I was. I seemed to like the sun.
Nanny drove a jeep that seemed so unlikely of her. She was so fragile, so ladylike I hardly believed my eyes when she jumped into the truck, slamming the door with force behind her. I loved the car; it was so rugged and tough looking.
My memory swivelled backwards to an old man driving it; I was sitting in the back playing with a toy aeroplane, the wind blowing through my hair. Nanny was in front looking at the man with such adoration. My own pain wrenched me out of the memory; the man must have been my grandfather. I had no other clearer memories of him, not that I wanted to revisit them now. I would have to relive his loss again when the time was right.
I had not forgotten Ryan, who was always stowed in a secret place in the back of my mind. My heart thumped and thumped in my chest as I thought of him now. Nanny had unrolled the windows and was enjoying the freedom of the hospital like I was. My hand had not left hers since we left the hospital but again this felt normal, natural. It was my secure hold to reality.