Finally having some time alone was a real relief. Every time she turned around someone was there watching her to make sure that she was okay. It was understandable. She had been in a car accident where the driver had been announced dead at the scene. The real problem was the amnesia. When she had arrived at the hospital she’d had no idea of who she was. Her coat had produced a debit card which had told her she was C. Hawkins. Then her family had turned up. Well, C. Hawkins’ family had turned up, and as she technically was that person, they were her family. There was just no connection.
They had no idea what it felt like. She was told that her name was Charlotte but she didn’t feel like Charlotte. Charlotte’s mother kept bombarding her with memories which really didn’t help. All she could do was stare at a wall and attempt to keep the confusion she felt from drowning her. In the end she just had to get away. The only way she could do that was by going to the bathroom after a long time spent convincing them, Charlotte’s parents, that she was going to be fine. What really turned it for her was the way Charlotte’s brother Lloyd had agreed with her. It was just retrograde amnesia. The new memories stuck like flies on flypaper.
Unfortunately that meant her entire memory consisted of one day which was full of pain. First there was waking up in the car after the accident. She must have only been unconcious for a few moments because when she came to there was just screaming. That had just made her headache worse but it wasn’t long before the paramedics arrived. Once she had pain relief it faded to nothing and she could focus on what she knew. In the end there was nothing, at least not until she got to the hospital.
Sighing, she stared into the mirror. Physically she looked fine. Nothing had really damaged her. She’d been sitting in the back seat with her seat belt on so she would have been fine if something from the boot hadn’t whacked her in the back of the head. The boot thing hadn’t been there to stop anything. The paramedics weren’t sure exactly what it had been but they did narrow it down to a couple of suspects. Really she had been very lucky considering exactly what had been in that boot. She could easily have been dead.
Instead she was dealing with amnesia. People knew who she was but she couldn’t connect Charlotte with the face that she was staring at. Slowly she pulled her blond hair back with her hands and stared into her blue eyes. It didn’t matter how many times she told herself she was Charlotte she still didn’t feel like her. Tears welled up in her eyes but she forced them away. Crying wasn’t going to help.
“Are you okay?” Charlotte’s mother called from outside the door.
“I’m fine,” she lied, managing to keep her voice steady even though her throat was full of emotion.
“If you need me I’ll be right out here.”
There was no doubt that Charlotte’s parents cared about her. It just didn’t help. They cared about a girl who no longer really existed, except in their memories. She knew she’d have to start again and rebuild who she was. At least until her memories came back. If they came back. The doctor had said they might not. Charlotte’s mother had cried at the thought of her never regaining her memories and she’d felt guilty for feeling relieved.
Would they be able to cope with calling her a different name? The longer she stared into the mirror the more she felt like she should be called Anna. Technically Charlotte was gone. It was like she had died but possibly less permanent if her memories came back. She just needed to move on, needed to stop pretending that she was Charlotte when she knew she wasn’t, and start again. Anna would be a new start if Charlotte’s family could accept calling her that. Making the decision to talk to them about it made her feel like a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
When she left the room Charlotte’s mother was sitting on a chair close to the entrance of the ladies’ bathroom. Now that she had looked in a mirror she could see the resemblance between them but she still didn’t feel any connection to her. Feeling guilty she managed to fake a smile and let the woman lead her back to her bed. It was when she was back in the bed, staring at Charlotte’s family that she started to feel unsure about her decision. She knew she had to do it, otherwise she would always be pretending to be someone she wasn’t.
“Do you feel better now?” Charlotte’s father asked her. Forcing herself to look at him, she nodded. “We were thinking about asking the doctor if you were ready to go home. Would you be able to cope with that?”
Breathing deeply she looked over at the only person she thought would understand the choice she had made. Lloyd stared back at her. He had been the easiest person to deal with because he didn’t seem to expect anything from her. Charlotte’s parents wanted her to be Charlotte but he seemed to get that it wasn’t that simple. It was his understanding that gave her the courage to gather her thoughts together.
“I don’t know,” she replied, keeping her eyes locked on Lloyd. If she looked at either parent she wouldn’t be able to say anything more. “It’s hard… pretending to be Charlotte. I’m not her any more, if I ever was her. Getting the truth from memories is hard because people all have their own point of view and I honestly can’t believe that she really was as perfect as you make her out to be.” She smiled. “Right now I need to move on from her. I know this is probably going to hurt you but I was wondering if you’d be able to call me a different name.”
There was a long silence. “No,” Charlotte’s father finally answered over his wife’s sobs. “You are Charlotte and I will not be calling you by any other name.”
She stared down at the bed, feeling more tears well up in her eyes. If she could have spoken around the knot of emotion in her throat she might have said something more to convince them but she couldn’t. As a tear trickled down her cheek she felt like an awful person for even suggesting it even though she really needed it. They cared about Charlotte more than they cared about the girl who was in front of them, struggling to deal with not knowing who she was.
“She’s not Charlotte,” Lloyd said, surprising her. Wiping the tear away she looked up at him. “We may think she’s Charlotte, but that’s not who she is inside. If you ever want to have your daughter back again then you need to do something to help her.” Lloyd held his hand out to her and after a few moments she took it. “Pushing her to be the person you remember her to be isn’t helping her. It’s being selfish. I know how difficult this is. I’m dealing with it too but I think this is hardest for her. What do you want to be called?”
“Anna,” she whispered, only just managing to get it past the knot.
“This is Anna.”
“That is our daughter Charlotte,” Charlotte’s father growled.
“Dad, do you have any idea what it’s like to have amnesia?”
He squeezed her hand and another tear trickled down her cheek. “I don’t know any of you. You say that you’re my family but I have no proof of that and I can’t remember what our relationship is like. I keep getting bombarded with memories that I don’t connect to. I know that you cared about Charlotte. I just don’t feel like you care about me. I am not her. I don’t know who she was. I don’t know who I am. The memories from before may never come back and that means I need to start again. If I don’t have your support in that then I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Another silence. This one was even more tense than the one before. She clung onto Lloyd’s hand like it was a lifeline, relieved that at least one person seemed to understand what she needed. He gently stroked her hand with his thumb.
“I can’t do it,” Charlotte’s father said. “That is the daughter I raised as Charlotte and I can’t bring myself to call her something else just because she has lost her memory.”
“Just because? Did you listen to what she just said?”
“We’ve got a lot to cope with too.”
“Please don’t argue,” Charlotte’s mother said. “We need to do what is right for our daughter and right now all you’re doing, Peter, is causing her more pain. Yes, we’re dealing with a lot but she’s dealing with more. If you want to be called Anna then that’s what we’ll call you.”
Anna turned to look at her to find that tears were still streaming down her cheeks. “Thank you,” she replied, feeling guilty that she had caused so much pain, even though it really wasn’t her fault.
“You don’t have to thank me.” She managed a smile. “It’s going to take time but things will work out.”
***Pagan: Vitali: Meeting Anna >>>