Chapter 11 The Symbol

Chapter 11 the symbol

I was all dressed and ready when I heard Ryan’s car pull up. I was sitting in front of my mirror. Hoping that I hadn’t put too much make up on, and that my hair was how I usually did it. I couldn’t remember, and the many twists and turns I made in front of the mirror didn’t help. I felt like I had been dressing up a doll or mannequin, rather than myself.

I wore the white dress which cut off a few inches above my knees, and little white shoes to match. My hair was softly curled and I was tolerating it down. I had found blusher and mascara in a little draw on my dresser and had applied them sparingly, not truly liking how wide the mascara made my eyes appear and applying the blusher over my gash was a task in itself. I took deep breaths to calm myself then took the stairs one at a time, reaching the bottom to hear Ryan talking to Nanny.

"Well I hope you’re right about this..." Ryan was saying, his voice a little harsh.

"Ryan, she is stronger than you give her credit she may even begin to remember what happened if she goes down to Woodcrows" Nanny Spoke just as harshly in reply. What was Woodcrows?

"And what if the memories are just too painful for her? What if they bring more bad than good?" Ryan asked, and there was a long silence. Nanny didn’t speak and neither did Ryan. I could feel their thoughts whirling in the air around the kitchen and I knew my cue was now. I turned the corner, hoping to hold a smile in place but when their guilty faces turned to me I knew I’d failed.

I sighed "I'm going to be fine Nanny, and Ryan, even if the memories are painful I’ll get through it...what is Woodcrows?"

Ryan watched me, moving his jaw as if he were chewing the words he was trying to say. Nanny came around the kitchen counter top, holding me at arm’s length.

"You look beautiful" she said, attempting to side track me from my questions.

"Thank you" I smiled warmly back at her. "What is Woodcrows?" I asked again, this time looking at Ryan whose face darkened.

"It’s where it happened" he growled, taking my hand in his. "Let’s go. Night Nanny" he said, he tried to sound kind but failed, kissing her cheek and dragging me away.

"Have a good night you two" she called after us.


Ryan drove in silence for a few minutes and I knew that I should hold the silence until he was ready to talk. His forehead was crumpled in concentration, he drove one handed, leaning his elbow on the car door and biting his index finger. My memory supplied that he was in deep thoughts. After around five minutes, he sighed, indicating that it was alright to start talking.

"This party we’re going where I was attacked?" I was a little intrigued by this, hoping that this may help my memory. Maybe Nanny was right, and this was a good idea. He turned to face me for a moment, his dark eyes looking me over.

"It’s near there...Nanny Thinks it will trigger your memory"

"But that’s good right? If I get my memory back, the people who did this to me will get their punishments" I tried to sound reasonable and I knew Ryan agreed with me.

"I just don’t want you to be hurt anymore" he said quietly. He parked the car in front of a large canopy, alight with fairy lights and adorned with barbeques and speakers. I could hear music. I got out of the car, savouring the night air on my skin. I walked around to Ryan as he got out and looked in his lovely eyes.

"I'm going to be fine...we’re just going to enjoy our night out" I looked in each of his eyes "ok?"

I tried to keep my face stern and serious, but Ryan’s eyes melted it away as he looked me over, all the way down my body and back up. His eyes said the compliments he didn’t say. He hugged me, his warm arms around my shoulders and his fingers tickling the back of my neck. I heard him smell my hair and his muffled "ok" as he agreed with me.

We walked towards the canopy, my arm around his waist and his arm around my shoulder. Ryan was greeted by many unfamiliar faces as we got closer and closer. He would lift his hand in acknowledgement and smile but nothing more.

There were more people than I expected. Groups of girls and boys garlanded the sides of the enormous canopy, the lights creating a dreamy atmosphere around the place. I expected staring which was what I got. Lots of girls watched Ryan and I as we walked in and Ryan noticed my sudden nervous smile split my face.

"Everything is going to be fine; I won’t leave your side...unless you want me to" he whispered into my ear. I was watching a group of girls, staring back at me in horror, their mouths and eyes wide. One of them, my memory couldn’t place, glared at me - anger mixed with horror contorted her face and I thought that I could see her shaking, the girl next to her whispering frantically in her ear.

"Who is that?" I asked Ryan, quickly looking away from her to not make it obvious we were talking about her. Despite having no memory of her, she frightened me. He seemed to know who I was talking about for he answered immediately.

"That’s Emily" he snorted "Take no notice of her, she’s doesn’t like anyone" Ryan lead us over to a space near the drinks and let go of me to grab some. My eyes darted to Emily frequently; it seemed that my eyeballs were forcing themselves in that direction. My intuition reminded me of the symbol my hand had drawn and prodding towards my mother.

Emily was strikingly beautiful, dark hair, longer than mine hung from her ponytail all the way to her backside, and her dark heavily lidded eyes seemed to freeze my skin as she watched me.

"Hey Ryan" a male voice called, and an unfamiliar face strode up to us. He wore a bright smile on his face, and when he looked at me it only brightened. "Hey Nat, how’re you doing?" his voice was laden with concern and curiosity.

"I'm fine thank you...I’m sorry I don’t remem- "Nat’s memory isn’t perfect yet" Ryan cut ahead of me.

"Oh that’s cool...I’m Jack" He extended his pale hand towards me. I took it; his skin was cold and sweaty. His small brown eyes looked me over.

"When we were about twelve I tried to kiss you" he said, bursting into a story. He chortled, enjoying himself. He was attempting to remind me of who he was. "And you punched me straight in the face and told me Ryan would throttle me if I ever touched you again"

"I did not!" I gasped, letting go of his hand to cover my mouth in shock. Jack let out a howl of laughter "Well I am so sorry" I felt myself reddening, Ryan’s fingers slid through mine and to distract myself I sipped the red, sweet liquid in my plastic cup.

"Yeah, and if you try again I’ll do exactly that" Ryan joked letting go of my hand to playfully punch Jack. His little face contorted into chuckles. I had forgotten, in that brief moment that Emily watched me with venom in her eyes, the girls around her jumped when my eyes swept over them. I was glad Jack stood almost directly in front of me, blocking their view.

Suddenly, a group of guys started teaming into the canopy, howling and whooping and growing louder when they saw Ryan.

"Woo Ryan baby!" one of them wailed.

"You missed the greatest game" another bellowed.

They jumped on him, pounding his arms and ruffling his hair.

"And look who he has with him!" the biggest one of them all said, staring at me in wonder. His green eyes gazed at me, his mouth wide open. He was broader than Ryan, his arms more muscular, he had thick black hair.

"Hey now George, she may not remember you" Ryan warned, putting his hand on his chest. Ryan looked more serious than I had ever seen him; his eyes were wide with apprehension. He looked at "George" and waited, his hand still a restraint on George’s chest.

I didn’t remember him but as I looked him over, my heart swelled for no reason I could think of it. I smiled sheepishly.

"Nat, this is George...well, you call him Bear" Ryan explained. His hand slid from George’s chest.

George was a bear and as soon as Ryan said it, I remembered calling him it. His face grew more and more familiar to me.

"Oh come on Ryan, she must remember me" Bear said loudly, striding closer, his eyes wide and shiny with enthusiasm. "You remember me, don’t cha...Cub?"

I laughed despite myself. The nickname made sense. "It’s coming back to me..." I conceded. Bear let out a howl and picked me up, hugging me to his body.

"It’s mighty good to see you girl!" he cried setting me on my feet.

As more of the canopy filled, I familiarised myself with the faces of the guys surrounding me. It was obvious that they were part of a football team, all of them were huge. They all patted my back and gave me kind smiles. My body immediately relaxed and I relished that I was calm and content surrounded by these faces, despite how many of them seemed to be strangers to me.

They discussed a game which allowed me to sit and listen for a while. I loved watching Ryan talk to other people. I recognized how much of a brute he could be. Tackling his friends to the ground just for a laugh, I loved that he could be almost two people when with me and when with them. They all adored him; it seemed a natural instinct to be in awe of him.

"So why do I call you Bear?" I asked George who sat next to me. His feet were tucked beneath my knees. He took a long pull on his drink and then smiled, showing me big white teeth.

"Isn’t it obvious?" he opened his arms looking down at himself. It was pretty obvious.

"So I just started calling you that?" I asked, amazed.

"Yep, you said George was a pansy name and that "Bear" was much more "manly" He laughed, but it didn’t last long. After I was able to breathe from giggles, his face took on an unfamiliar seriousness. "It was mighty terrible what happened to you." His green eyes watched me for a reaction, or response. I wasn’t sure what he wanted, all I could do was nod; I hadn’t yet found words of comfort for people who said this to me, for a moment as we were silent everything else seemed to be. Ryan was recovering from laughter and started pulling me up by my elbows.

"Country girl, take my hand..." he bellowed and his song started to sizzle from the speakers. I shot Bear what I hoped was a reassuring, cheerful smile, which he returned, watching me as Ryan swirled me around until we reached the dance floor.

The rest of the football team followed, most of them with girls. The music got louder and my natural impulse to dance came so effortlessly, I was so relieved. Ryan twirled me around, his warm fingers sliding through mine - his laughter in my ear. He smiled wider and brighter than I can remember since I woke up, I loved that smile. His happiness was contagious and soon even I was singing along to the song, poorly because I couldn’t remember the words. My hair spun around me as I was dipped and twirled by Ryan. Dancing with him was a natural thing too; memories of other nights like this were popping into my head as I danced. The song finished but none of us were ready to leave the dance floor, the night air was thicker in the middle of the dance floor but I was glad to be in a crowd of people but only with Ryan. When the slow song came on, something happened in Ryan’s features before he pulled me into his chest, I wondered what it was, but I knew he wouldn’t be able to hear me properly if I tried to ask. We held each other as we swayed to the song; it was so lovely that I found myself closing my eyes.

The warmth of Ryan’s chest, his fingers on the back of my neck and then I was in another memory. The same song was playing quieter, through only one of my ears and the sun beat down on my face. Dust was beneath me and I felt arms around my waist. I turned and Ryan was there, his face younger and less defined. His eyes were a little panicked and he looked nervous. He drew me closer, until his lips pressed into mine hard. It wasn’t as long and heated as the kisses I remember now but my head spun and my heart fluttered. I realised why the kiss had been so different. It had been our first. Ryan’s expression when the song had come on now made sense. I beamed and opened my eyes.


When the song ended Ryan lead us back to the place where we had all been lounging. I decided that I would tell him about my memory later.

"Are you having fun?" he asked, looking at my grinning face.

"Yes...tonight’s been wonderful"

Ryan grinned back at me and we took sips of our drink. "Yeah you must have been having fun, you were actually singing" he teased putting his cup down.

"Not well...remembering the words were a bit of an issue" I grimaced. My eyes swept the canopy for Emily; I could feel her glare prickling my skin.

"Hey Nat" a timid voice broke out of the music. I turned to see a girl, who looked afraid as she waited for my response.

"Hey" I said and then looked at Ryan quickly, hoping he would introduce us.

"Nat, this is are friends" he said awkwardly. "I’ll let you two, talk" he said getting up and leaving me. I wanted to shout after him as I watched his face turn back to me with a trusting smile.

Sophie sat down next to me. She had pale brown hair, cut into a bob with a fringe, hiding her blue eyes.

"I know you can’t remember me" she began and I could see her lips pulling downwards in sadness "but we used to be real good friends" she tried to smile but her face was just too sad. "I got some photos here...Ryan told me that pictures and sounds help with your memory" she dove into her pocket and pulled a pack of photos from it. She flicked through, a bright smile now curving her lips, but her eyes were still sad. "This one is from the beach...we were collecting shells, we got a bag of ‘em each" she nodded, her fringe bouncing. I took the picture from her; we were standing with our ankles in the water, our hair blowing in the wind. My arm wound around her shoulder forcing her face towards the camera. We both looked really happy. As I looked over the picture, I smelt sand and salt from the ocean.

"I-I...can I look at some more?" I asked kindly, Sophie had begun crying.

"Yeah" she sniffed handing them to me. I didn’t like seeing her crying. I knew in my heart that it would be normal for me to comfort her and seeing as we were friends I should try.

I looked into her face and said "so we’re really close right?" She nodded eagerly, edging towards me. She could tell that I was going to tell her something gossip worthy. "I have no idea what to say to people when – when they ask me about what’s so darn awkward" as I confessed this and looked into her sweet face, the familiarity of it all whooshed back to me.

"Well that’s because you’re caring way too much about what they’re say or do whatever you want to. You got no reason to try and make them feel better" she said, she spoke very fast and her voice got higher pitched as the sentence wore on. I bit my lip and considered this.

She distracted me by laughing. "Look at this one" she crooned "this is our class photo...we must have been about twelve right there" she pointed a manicured finger at herself and then me. I was satisfied to see that I hadn’t changed that much. "And there’s Ryan" her finger slid along the photo to the boy on my right – a big mound of brown hair on top of a brightly smiling face. I took the picture from her and laughed. I also saw someone else who I recognized; he was even big at twelve. I pointed at Bear. "Oh yeah and that’s George" she sighed. Her voice adopted something sickly sweet and her eyes started to melt as she looked at the photo.

Then she looked at me startled. "Oh’re not stupid. When your memory comes back you’ll know just how much I love him" she admitted, defeated. This piece of trivia excited me. My heart started to stutter at her words.

"Does he know?" I asked eagerly.

"Oh come on, he doesn’t even know I exist!" she blushed and looked a little annoyed at herself. I followed her gaze to Bear who was sitting on some guys shoulders. Ryan was with them, laughing at some joke.

When I looked back at Sophie, she was watching me. "Y’know, Ryan says that you went to him as soon as you came out of the hospital"

"Yeah...when I – when I woke up, his face was the first thing I remembered"

"Do you remember anything else?" I was astounded to hear that she wasn’t curious, but she was actually concerned. She also seemed worried about what she might hear.

"Not really" I shook my head.

At that moment Bear came over, sitting directly in front of me and Sophie. He smiled warmly at both of us, and I heard Sophie gasp. "So, how’s about you girls come for a dance?" he said, looking at Sophie. I could feel her skin reddening. This was my cue to be elsewhere.

"Actually, I'm going to talk to Ryan quickly...maybe I’ll join you two later" I stood up and began to give Sophie her photos.

"No, honey you keep them. I have loads more. You and I should go shopping...later in the week? I’ll text you, is that alright?" her smile was so bright and excited. I agreed and watched them head off towards the dance floor.

I jumped when familiar warm hands wound around my waist and Ryan’s chin rested on my shoulder.

"I think I have just successfully, fixed our two friends up. High five me" I held my hand out and Ryan slapped it.

"Bravo" he said, turning me around to face him. "So...I’ve got work tomorrow, so I’ve got to go home...get some sleep. Bear said he would give you a lift home if you wanted to stay but if you don’t...I’m leaving now" I could sense how much he did not like this plan, his eyes were serious and his voice adopted something false and proper.

"No, I'm pretty tired actually. Let’s go home" I watched his face relax and his fingers held mine tightly as we said our goodbyes. I turned to see Bear and Sophie in a tight embrace, dancing and laughing. I didn’t think twice about leaving them to it.

The car park was packed with cars as we weaved our way towards Ryan’s. The night air had gotten colder and I shivered closer to Ryan, who was like holding a hot water bottle. The tranquillity of the night soon dried up, I felt my intuition stir in my stomach.

There were footsteps behind us and I was pushed hard from behind, the jolt of it threw me off balance and Ryan tried to grab me before I hit the ground. His warm hands grabbed the tops of my arms and dragged me back up. Something was wrong, when he turned me round Emily stood in front of me, a wicked smile on her pale face.

"Now, who would have thought Natali Martin could cheat death?" she snarled.

"Hey, back off Emily" Ryan roared. He stepped between us.

She let out a cruel cackle "Like you could stop me hurting your precious Natali" she stepped closer, and her dark hair fell from her shoulder, revealing her neck which bore the tattoo that made my blood run stone cold. I stared at it in horror.


Kill her,

"Come on Nat" Ryan tried to turn me but my body was locked. I couldn’t breathe, but I didn’t feel like I needed to. I glared at Emily, waiting.

"There is no point protecting her" Emily threatened "Death will get her, just like it got her mother." An inhuman smile split Emily’s face.

Ryan had no hope of holding me back, because even I couldn’t control it. My body lunged forward and my fist collided with Emily’s face, my nails clawed her pale soft skin and my knuckles forced her jaw upward. It only took her a second to recover but she did, grabbing my hair in both her hands and shaking me. I could see her dark eyes blazing with anger.

"I’ll get you again" she promised, her nails dug into the skin on my head and her mouth curved into an ugly smile that didn’t suit her beautiful face. But then she was being pinned back by a group of faceless people and Ryan was carrying me away.

Someone called back to Ryan who lifted his hand in acknowledgement and then there was darkness.

The End

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