Sunday, September 8, 2013

Amethyst Cloud by Jacqui Pack

A woman suffering from amnesia tries to remember details about her very devoted husband, but finds herself emotionally disconnected; by Jacqui Pack.

I think Reece must care for me very much because he comes every day, and every third day he brings me flowers. I know a lot about flowers, apparently. Often I see the bouquet through the room's glass viewing panel before I see him. He carries it high, in front of his face, as he comes along the corridor, as if he were using it as cover; a distraction to allow him near enough to ambush me. I wonder if he thinks that by surprising me he'll accomplish something. That the sudden shock of seeing him will be the jolt I need.

He's very patient, but I can see how hard it is for him. Last week I heard him, just outside my room, talking to one of the doctors about my scans. He was asking if they'd found anything which would tell them when my amnesia might pass.

When he came in he looked really agitated. Normally he comes straight over but this time he handed the flowers to one of the nurses then stared out of the window as if he didn't know what to say to me. As if we were strangers. Then he said, "Don't you remember me at all?" but he still didn't look at me.

I had to bite my tongue because I wanted to say, "Sure I remember you. You're the guy who brings the flowers," and I thought that would be unkind. In the end I didn't say anything. I don't think I'm an unkind person, but I can't be sure.

Sometimes I think he's more concerned about my not remembering who he is than the fact I don't even remember who I am. Although, maybe that's just me being ungrateful. Reece spends nearly all of his time here, talking about things we've done, showing me photographs, trying to help me, but what I really want is for him just to leave me alone. Right now, I don't want to know about the stuff that involves him. I want to know about me.

I want to know who I am.



I see Tony twice a week because talking to a counsellor is supposedly going to help me adjust. It might even help me remember, or so I'm told.

Not having any memories makes holding a conversation hard. The first few weeks were alright; I listened to people telling me things about myself, and, thanks to medication, I slept a lot. Then, after a while, I started trying to place things, put the information I'd been given into some kind of order. But it's all such a mess, even now. It feels as if a terrorist crept into my head and blew up everything I knew, leaving tiny airborne fragments of knowledge drifting around me.

I'm not keen on talking to Tony. He has a cigarette staleness about him which he tries to disguise by sucking extra strong mints. And I don't feel as if I have anything to say most of the time. I only know what I've been told and none of it feels connected to me. It doesn't feel as if it's mine to talk about. I explained that to Tony and he suggested a role play where I had to give facts about myself and describe my situation. I thought it was ridiculous, but once I started talking I found it got easier.

"My name is Lucy Morcroft. I'm 29 years old, married with no children. I've been with Reece for six years and I worked as a florist until the shop closed down last year. Since then I've been looking for work but there's not much going. I've no brothers or sisters and my parents passed away a few years ago. Reece is an only child too, so we've no family around to speak of. We go on holiday twice a year, usually abroad, although not always. I like to cook, I'm fond of opera and I'm allergic to cats.

"There was a fire, a gas explosion. Reece wasn't at home. Firemen pulled me out, but the woman who lived above us died. I don't know much about her. She was a writer. We didn't really know her except to say hello."

I tried believing what I was saying but it was as if I were reciting lines, playing a part. It didn't make any of it real.



Before Reece arrived today I decided I didn't want to talk about the past. I figured even if I'd lost that part of my life it didn't mean I had to lose any more of it. Discussing the present doesn't interest me. It's an endless round of having my burns cleansed, moisturised and dressed. Painful enough, without reliving the experience by discussing it.

So today I decided we should talk about the future, make some plans, do something positive. By the time Reece walked in, behind the flowers, I'd given up on the idea. Concentrating on the future just made me feel more adrift. How do you move forward when you've no idea which direction you've come from?

Instead, I told him about the dream. It probably wasn't the best thing to talk about but it was all I had that he didn't already know. The dream was something new. It belonged to me.

I was on a beach and the tide was coming in. Someone was calling but I couldn't hear them properly and when I turned back to the land and looked to see who it was I realised that the sea was behind me too. I was stood on a little island of sand with water all around me, coming in from all directions. There was still shouting and I couldn't see where it was coming from and when I tried to answer I couldn't get any sound out.

Then everything changed, and I was on a sail boat. There was a storm and I could see someone swimming, but swimming the wrong way. They were heading towards the boat and I knew they shouldn't, that there was a really important reason they shouldn't reach it. So I leant over the side and shouted to warn them, to make them stop, but they didn't. They kept swimming. Pushing through the water. It was like I knew their life depended on reaching the boat, but all the time I was screaming at them because, somehow, my life depended on them not reaching it.

The boat dips and rises, everything's soaked, my lungs are bursting, I'm leaning over the side and spray hits my face, blurring my vision. The salt in the air stings my throat but I still scream and scream at the swimmer and I lean out further and further but they can't hear me, they don't stop. Then my hand slips and I fall.

Reece said he didn't believe dreams were symbolic or anything like that. I told him I thought maybe strange dreams were a sign my subconscious was trying to prompt memories into coming back. I thought Reece would be pleased because there's been nothing else so far to be hopeful about, but he acted irritated.

Falling from the boat wasn't quite the end. I didn't tell him the rest. I didn't think he wanted to know.



It'll be months before the bandages come off. I try not to imagine what's beneath them. My skin, what passes for my skin, is incredibly painful. When they change the dressings I make sure I close my eyes because I've no desire to catch my reflection in the glass panel. If I mention anything about disfigurement or having to wear a wig, Reece tells me how lucky he is I'm alive and how I could never be anything but beautiful in his eyes.

That kind of talk makes me uncomfortable.

By all accounts Reece and I are happy together so I feel guilty about thinking badly of him, especially when he does so much for me. I shouldn't even think it, much less put it into words, but there are times when he seems almost pleased he's got this opportunity to prove how devoted he is.



Reece brought in my favourite CDs. It was something Tony suggested.

I tried listening to them, I really did. Opera used to be something I loved, so Reece says. Tony said there have been cases where undergoing a near death experience, as he put it, changed people's personalities and tastes. I think that's happened to me. I found the CDs boring to be honest, so I have the radio tuned to an R&B station instead, although I've had them out a few times when Reece has been here. Just to show him I'm trying.

Sometimes he plays me tracks that are special to me, and explains who the characters are and what's happening. That's what he was doing when Nurse Hanway came in. She called him into the corridor where she thought I couldn't hear what was being said.

"We've had a request from someone wanting to speak to you and your wife, a Simon Harrison. The doctor asked me to mention it to you."

"Who's that? I don't know him."

"Seems he was Susannah Harrison's brother."

"What does he want with Lucy?" Reece asked. "Why could he possibly want to see her?"

"I don't know, but doctor thought speaking to him wouldn't do your wife any harm."

"No. She's not ready for anything like that. Tell him no."

"It could possibly help her accept what happened. You know the difficulty she's having -"

"No. He just wants to make her feel guilty about being alive. It's very sad but his sister's gone. There's nothing me or my Lucy can do about it. He has to leave us alone."

He walked into the room without saying a word to me and went back to the CD player as if nothing had happened. I could tell he was upset although I couldn't understand why. Between talking to Reece and Tony it feels as if I do nothing but discuss the fire, the past, or how I'm feeling. Talking to someone new, about someone else, might make a nice change.

Reece didn't ask for my opinion though. He just decided what was best for me.



Tony asks open questions that I don't have the answers to and doesn't seem at all put out by long silences. I don't like silence. I end up rambling on about something, anything. Which, I suppose, is why he does it.

To fill one silence I told him about my dream, right the way through to the end. He seemed to find it interesting.

"Tell me Lucy, how did falling off the boat make you feel?"

"I'm not sure what you mean," I said. I've grown to hate open questions.

"When you think about that part of the dream, does it leave you frightened? Can you recall whether it was fear or the sensation of falling, perhaps even landing, which woke you?"

"Neither, it wasn't like that. I remember being able to read the name of the boat as I went down. I think I woke up after that. Slipping over the edge was frightening I guess, but the falling was slow and lasted for a long time, long enough for me to look around. I don't remember being scared by it." Tony frowned, so I searched for a way to make myself clearer. "Like Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole. I know it doesn't make much sense, but at the time, in the dream, it didn't seem odd. Things happen like that in dreams, don't they? Do you think it means anything?"

"What do you think it could mean?"

"Well," I fumbled around for something that sounded sensible, "I thought maybe it was connected to what happened."

He nodded and made a note in my file. "You were in a fire, not a boating accident."

"I know, but -"

"There are theories that dreams are linked to the subconscious, or are perhaps the brain's way of processing and storing information. I wouldn't set too much store on the events within the dream itself. However, we may find that analysing your reaction to them proves to be a useful way of exploring certain issues. Does that answer your question?"

No. "I think so. Tony?"

"Yes?" he said, slipping a mint into his mouth.

"Does Amethyst Cloud mean anything?"

"What does it mean to you?"

"Nothing. It was the name of the boat, that's all. We're not getting anywhere are we?"

He smiled. "On the contrary, Lucy. Today, you've made real progress."

"Have I?"

"Oh yes," he said with a satisfied nod. "Today you've remembered the beginning of Alice in Wonderland."



I'm still having weird dreams. They don't come every night but they're always different. I've had so many I think of them as normal, so I don't mention them to anyone now.

Sometimes I wake up with the feeling I've been dreaming about something and not be able to say what. Then something will happen during the day and things will start to come back to me. It's a strange feeling, suddenly knowing something you didn't know a few minutes before. I wonder if my memory will come back, all of a sudden, like that.

Most of the dreams are very confused. Perspectives change without warning; I'll be in impossible places and situations. It can even feel as if I'm in two places at once.

Not all of them are like that though. In one I was at a kind of party in a shop. Not a party with dancing and music, one where lots of people stood around talking. I was standing with a man who had short curly hair and was wearing a blue suit. I found it hilarious for some reason.

Everyone wanted to talk to me, and there was a banner strung across the room. I was laughing. I felt really happy.

After I woke up I realised that was the weirdest part of it, laughing and feeling happy again.



Today was my birthday. I'm a Gemini it seems. Reece brought me in a cake and some balloons and a large card with a soppy message. And flowers, an even bigger bouquet than normal. The nurses came in and everyone sang 'Happy Birthday'. I felt a bit of a fraud because the day didn't feel special. It was a day just like any other.

Nurse Hanway changed my dressings and Reece went to get a drink.

"The big three-o, eh? I never got flowers like that when I turned thirty. Might have taken the sting out of it if I had."

I kept my eyes shut. "You think?"

"God yes. The most considerate thing my ex ever did was leave. That man was just a waste of space when all's said and done. But that hubby of yours, now he's something else. He's a real keeper."

"I'm very lucky." I heard the gloop of the moisturiser as she scooped it up in her hands and readied myself for pain.

"He thinks he's the lucky one. Not a week goes by that he doesn't tell me how you're the best thing ever happened to him. How he must have felt when he thought he'd lost you I can't imagine."

"He didn't tell me that."

"Sorry?"

"That he thought he'd lost me."

"Not something he wants to dwell on I suppose. Don't fidget so, I'm nearly done."

"Tell me. Tell me what he said."

She began to apply the clean dressings. "Well, as I remember you were still unconscious, only been here a day or so. He told me they pulled out one body... Hell. you don't want to know about this. We should only talk about happy things on your birthday."

"I do. Please, carry on."

She sighed and stopped what she was doing. I kept my eyes closed.

"The first body they pulled out was, well, you know. It wasn't until they pulled you out barely alive, but alive all the same, he knew that poor woman wasn't you."

"Who identified the body then? How did they know it even was her?"

I felt her hands on me again. "Dental records I imagine. There, all done. You can open your eyes now."

"Have you ever heard of something called Amethyst Cloud?" I knew the question was pointless before I'd even asked it. "It might be an opera."

She shook her head. "Opera's not really my cup of tea."

I knew what she meant.

She was propping me up in bed when Reece came back with his drink. "Now, here's a man who would know."

"Know what?" he asked sitting on the chair beside me.

An opera called Amethyst Crowd?"

"Cloud," I said, feeling cross with her. I could have asked him myself if I'd wanted to. "Amethyst Cloud."

"Never heard of it," he said sipping his drink. "Should I?"

"No," I said. "It's nothing. I think I must have imagined it."

"Now, who needs memories when you have an imagination and a good man?" said Nurse Hanway, chuckling to herself.

Who indeed?



"Lucy, how are you feeling today?"

"How do you expect me to be feeling?"

I've begun to answer Tony's open questions with ones of my own. I know it's not clever, but it amuses me because it annoys him so much.

"People tend to undergo certain stages while recovering from severe trauma. I would expect you to possibly have feelings of guilt but also resentment, even bitterness perhaps at this stage."

"Guilt, for what?"

He paused, "Surviving, when others didn't. It's a common reaction."

"Would feeling bitter at surviving be common too?"

"Under the circumstances, perfectly. Have you been feeling that way recently?"

"Tony, what do you know about the woman who died?"

"Er," he scanned his notes, "Not much. Susannah Harrison, lived upstairs from you, single I understand."

"She was a novelist."

"Yes, I believe she wrote a number of books."

"Had you heard of her?"

"Hundreds of novels are published every year. Not all writers are well known."

"She had a brother. I think he wanted to contact me a little while ago."

He turned a page. "Yes. Nurse Hanway has made a note here in the records. You refused to meet him."

"Reece refused. I'd like to see him. Would you be able to arrange it?"

"In what way do you feel it would be beneficial?"

"Tony, something else..."

"Yes?"

"Don't tell Reece."



This Amethyst Cloud thing is really bugging me. It doesn't seem to mean anything to anyone and yet it feels significant. It even cropped up again in a dream, except it wasn't a boat this time.

It was a child. My child. And it was lost. I was searching for it in a forest, but I couldn't call out because I was being followed, and if whoever was hunting me discovered where I was I'd never have another chance to find my baby.

It felt very real and urgent. But it was also very vague. I don't even know whether the child was a girl or a boy.

All the same, Amethyst Cloud Morcroft? What a great name.



When our session started yesterday Tony told me he had spoken to Susannah Harrison's brother. He had rung him and explained I still didn't remember anything about the day of the fire or my life before it. Tony also advised me to tell Reece but although I felt a little bad, keeping something from him, I knew he'd put a stop to it if he found out.

"I asked Mr Harrison the question you gave me," Tony said, sliding a sweet between his lips.

"And?"

"He was rather shocked. I was rather shocked actually." He paused and I heard the mint crunch. "It seems it's a manuscript. His sister had sent it to her publisher only a week before the fire. He asked me how you knew about it. Lucy, I think Susannah Harrison may have mentioned her work to you. You realise what this means?"

I didn't, but things were happening in my mind. Abstract images, thoughts, conversations were turning around, fitting together like a jigsaw without a picture.

I didn't have any answers but I had enough information to begin asking questions. Questions that felt important. And, for the first time, something felt as if it had some connection to me, as if it belonged to me without my learning about it second-hand. I didn't have that feeling before.

I thought about Reece, how devoted he was, and how I'd struggled for months to like all the things he said I enjoyed. I thought about how he'd discouraged me when I'd hoped my dreams were connected to my memory. Why would he have done that when he was so desperate for me to remember him?

Tony leant forward, "Lucy, did you hear what I said? I think this may be a sign that you're starting to recover your memory."



I told Reece I was tired and that he should leave early. It wasn't a complete untruth. He'd been with me all morning and I needed a rest.

The same questions kept churning inside me and I found Reece's presence distracting. He was one of the main things I needed to think about. I kept reminding myself of all the time he'd spent with me, of how kind he'd been. I felt I owed him for that. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt but, I kept coming back to the same uncomfortable conclusions.

I was asleep when Simon Harrison arrived. It was probably better that way because it gave him a chance to have a good stare at my bandages. Apart from the staff and Reece I haven't seen anyone for months. I must look shocking to people who aren't used to me, even with the burns covered. He was hovering by the end of the bed, still wearing his hat and coat, when I woke.

I liked him the moment I saw him. He smiled.

"You're Simon," I said. It wasn't a question.

He came forward and took off his hat. His hair was longer than I'd expected, but the curls were there.

"I hope you don't mind my coming in like this," he said. "But when the man mentioned Amethyst Cloud on the phone I felt I needed to see you as soon as I could."

"Do you have a blue suit?"

He frowned, a familiar crease appearing between his eyes, at the unexpected question. "I did a few years ago. Not anymore."

"I'm glad. The trouser legs were way too long."

I knew him.

I knew myself.

6 comments:

  1. i think this is a great Story. some of the descriptions are so good, e.g. the Terrorist creeping into her head. It works on more than one Level, i feel.
    I´d love to know what happens next?????

    great work

    Michael McCarthy

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  2. Whoa - nicely done and a great ending...but I'm with Michael...what's next????

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  3. Whew, you certainly know how to keep your readers hanging! We really want to know the story behind the story. Great use of language with no unnecessary padding. More, please.
    Beryl.

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  4. Many thanks to everyone who's read my story and especially to those who have gone to the trouble of leaving comments. It's really encouraging to get such positive feedback, and very interesting to discover which aspects of the story people have enjoyed. Thanks.

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  5. I loved it and want to read more. Teddy

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  6. "It feels as if a terrorist crept into my head and blew up everything I knew, leaving tiny airborne fragments of knowledge drifting around me."

    Love this line. Seems to fall in with the boat dream.

    Fine writing. Just wished my brain could figure out the ending.

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