Previously on The Legacy Files...
Colleen's breathing picked up again. "It's – all – too – much," she managed to get out.
"I get it. Everything's slowed down and it's really hitting you now. I think you were better off in angry mode. Want to punch me again? That seemed to help."
She laughed in spite of herself, and felt like she sounded crazy.
Evan looked around himself, as if suddenly aware of where they were. "Ha. I'm sure this place isn't helping you feel less stressed, is it?"
She shook her head, emphatically. It hadn't' really occurred to her until he asked, but the moment she had walked in the door to this "medical wing" and seen Hillary again, she had felt her anxiety level hit the roof. Maybe it was this place.
"How about a change of scenery?"
And now, The Past is a Present, Part 4...
Suggested soundtrack: Don't Look Back in Anger by Daniel Robinson
Colleen was on the back on a motorcycle with a guy she barely knew, who claimed to know her, riding along the winding coastal highway, going who knew where. This was not like her at all. She was organized, dependable. She planned things out and made lists. And yet, strangely, this felt like her too. In some way, this experience touched a part in her, pulled at some tiny thread that had lain undiscovered all this time. Some thread that connected to the fabric of who she was before.
When she had first become aware that her memories were gone, she had told herself that she was Colleen. That was who she was and had always been. And that had been good enough. Until now. Until it was a question more than an answer. Colleen? Who was Colleen? She was more than just a personality that had endured trauma and near deletion. She was the sum of experiences and abilities and people she knew little about. And while this had been scary and overwhelming only an hour ago, it now felt…exhilarating. There was more to her, like she somehow always knew there was, but didn’t want to admit to herself.
The fresh air and the ocean view had cleared her head and quieted her anxiety, just as Evan had said it would, and now she just felt an odd sense of freedom, like the world was suddenly a bigger place.
Evan pulled into one of the beach entrances and stopped the bike along the inside of the stone wall that surrounded the small parking lot. “Want to sit?” he asked her over his shoulder, as he took off his helmet and dismounted the bike. Collen nodded and took her helmet off and placed it on the seat next to his.
The place was deserted. It was the middle of a weekday in February, so not prime beach-going time, but the weather was pleasant enough, and it was nice to have the place to themselves. Evan led the way down to the rocks, and sat down on one rather large flat one and faced the ocean. Colleen sat next to him, as if by habit.
“Have I been here before?” she asked.
“To the beach?”
“No, I know I’ve been to the beach. But have I sat on this rock?”
“This rock right here?” Evan smacked it with the palm of his hand. “I don’t know. Probably. We used to come out here a lot to think.” He looked out towards the waves. It felt like he was avoiding eye contact with her, but she couldn’t be sure. “You feeling better?”
“Yes,” she said, as was surprised by the sureness she felt.
“You just needed some of this good sea air in you.” He made a show of breathing deep, and then laid back on the rock and closed his eyes.
They sat in companionable silence for a while, just listening to the waves and the seagulls flying overhead. It was Colleen who finally spoke up.
“I don’t know who I am anymore,” she said, quietly.
“I do,” he said, careful to keep his eyes shut.
“No,” she said. You know who I was, before the …incident. And Robert and Katherine,” she went on,” they know who I became after the incident. But no one knows who I’m going to be when all the pieces come together. Not even me.”
He opened one eye and looked up at her. “Does that upset you?”
“No,” she said. “I thought it would. I mean, it did at first. But right now, I just feel…I don’t know how to describe it. New? Like I’m becoming someone new?”
He laughed gently. “Like New Colleen?”
“Yeah,” she smiled back. “New Colleen.”
“Okay.” He sat up on his elbows and looked at her in the eyes for what felt like the first time since leaving the estate. “So, what does New Colleen need right now?”
“Time, I guess,” she said, considering the question. “And information. Lots of information. But not all at once. I swear if you give me one huge info dump, I’m going to need a sedative,” she laughed.
“Noted,” he said, smiling. “I think I can make that happen for you. I have an idea.”
“What if you came to the estate, every afternoon, every other day, whatever works for you,” he said, and she could tell he was trying not to scare her off, “and we can go over some things at your own pace? I can take you to headquarters. I can show you some videos. I can even run through some memories with you.” The apprehension she felt at him touching her mind again must have shown on her face, because he immediately sat up and raised his hands in a placating gesture. “Slowly,” he said. “One at a time. And only if you want to.”
“Okay,” she said. “I like that idea.”
They sat and let the ideas and plans sink in while the waves lapped the shore. It was Evan who broke the silence this time.
“I’m sorry, by the way.”
She waited, trying to figure out what he was apologizing for, before finally responding. “For what?”
“The memory thing. I’m not in the habit of doing that to people, I promise. I mean, there are defensive techniques of the mind that I sometimes use, I guess you can say,” he looked at her cautiously.
“Like how you stopped those men Thursday night.”
“Yes, like that. But I don’t treat people’s minds like my playground. I’m sorry. There’s no excuse for what I did to you.” His voice broke a little with that last admission.
“Then why did you do it?”
He looked down at his hands. “I was confused. Desperate. I couldn’t understand why you weren’t you. I was trying to make you understand. I thought maybe if you could just remember, you would snap out of it somehow. And Thursday night, when you were in danger, it was faster than words. It was a mistake.”
“Can you say words, you know, in my head?”
He looked at her, tentatively, and she nodded.
Yes, she felt whispered across her brain. It was such a strange sensation. She smiled.
“Huh,” she said. “Can you hear me if I respond?”
“No. I can’t read minds, remember?”
“So it’s one-way communication, then?”
“So if you can’t read my mind, then how can you manipulate my memories?” He winced at her choice of words.
“They’re my memories,” he said. “I was projecting them to you.”
This admission surprised her. She had thought they were her own memories, buried deep inside, that he had somehow managed to bring to the surface. Did this mean he couldn’t help her retrieve the rest of her memories, then? A wave of disappointment washed over her. Had she been hoping this in the back of her mind all along? “Oh,” was all she said.
“But they’re yours, too,” he reassured her, perhaps picking up on her change of mood. “They are shared memories.”
“Yeah,” she said. She picked at some rock algae with her fingernail, feeling slightly deflated. Her emotions were such a rollercoaster. One minute, she was afraid of the memories he flashed in her mind. The next, she was disappointed he couldn’t do it better.
“Hey.” His hand reached over and took hers, and she looked up, into his eyes. “Would you like to experience a shared memory with me right now? It’s a good one,” he assured her. “One of my favorites. And it happened right here.”
She couldn’t resist the hopefulness she saw in his face. This was his chance to redeem himself, and give her a positive experience to replace the negative one, and she had trouble denying him that. “Well,” she paused. “Okay,” she said, hesitantly.
“You don’t have to, if you don’t want to. Really.”
“I want to,” she said, and she closed her eyes.
“You don’t have to close you, but you can if you want to.”
She kept her eyes closed, and felt the gentlest of nudges, not a jolt, as before. And then suddenly the darkness was punctuated with stars. So many stars. And red embers floating into the sky. It was beautiful. She looked around and saw herself this time, like it was an out-of-body experience. She saw herself, sitting on the rocks with Evan, and Julia. She and Evan were teenagers, and Julia was maybe eleven or twelve. The waves were closer. It was high tide. They were happy. They were singing. Julia was strumming a guitar. She listened carefully. It was “Don’t’ Look Back in Anger.”
She turned and saw Evan, older Evan, standing off to one side.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “This is different.”
“It’s just another way to do it,” he said. “To get the whole picture. Don’t worry,” he laughed softly. “I don’t know how or why it works either. It just does.”
He came to stand closer to her, and they watched their younger selves sing the Oasis song, everyone knowing all of the words as if they had heard it a million times. She mouthed along. She knew them still. She had always known them. It was something that had stayed with her between this life and the last.
“This is a favorite memory of mine,” Evan began slowly, “because it was the last really good one. We knew no fear. No loss. We were just three kids, enjoying a night at the beach.” He didn’t look away from the scene before them. He seemed unable to. He went on. “We snuck out, you know,” he smiled. “They had no idea. We pushed our bikes out the portal, and then road them once we were on the other side. I deactivated the security sensor. That’s what they got for letting me hang out with your dad. I knew how everything worked.” She saw his smile fade slowly, and then everything quickly dissolved around her, and she was sitting on the rock again, in daylight, facing Evan. He looked tired. And different somehow, but as she tried to read his face, he turned away from her and used his hands to push himself to his feet.
“Time to get back,” he said, wobbling on his feet for a split second, before reaching out to take her hand and pull her to her feet, not really looking her in the face. He held onto her hand a heartbeat longer than necessary before declaring, “It’s getting late,” and starting off towards the bike, leaving Colleen with nothing to do but follow.
The ride to Katherine’s place was quiet. The sun was starting to go down by the time they stopped on the street in front of the apartment building. Colleen looked up and saw Katherine’s head appear in the window. She was going to have to answer a lot of questions.
Evan flipped up his visor, but didn’t take his helmet off. He got off the seat so Colleen could store her helmet beneath it. He seemed like he was in a hurry.
Colleen wasn’t sure what to say. “Well…thanks,” she said, awkwardly. He turned and walked back to the bike, and he thought he was just going to leave without saying anything, but instead, he rummaged in the storage compartment and came back with something in his hand. Then he took her hand and placed the item in her palm. It looked like a chunky watch and an earplug.
“What is it?” she asked.
“It’s a communicator.”
“Like a cellular phone?” She hadn’t been able to afford one of those yet. She was still using a pager.
“Yeah, kind of. But private. It’ll only contact me and Julia. And 911.”
“Oh. Okay,” she said.
“In – in case you need anything. Or just want to talk. Or whatever.”
“Right.” She stuck the items in her pocket. “Um, is everything okay?” she ventured. His mood had changed considerably after their shared memory.
“Yes,” he said quickly, and then opened his mouth as if to say more, but then closed it again. And then smiled. “It’s just been a long day.”
“Agreed,” she said. “The longest.” And smiled back at him.
Katherine’s face appeared in the window again, the movement catching their attention.
“She’s going to start flipping the porchlight on and off in a minute,” Evan joked, and they both laughed, the tension broken.
Evan got back on the bike. “Let me know when you want to get together next,” he said. “See you around, New Colleen.” And he started the bike and drove away.
Colleen looked up at the window. What was she going to tell Katherine? Where to even start?