A Trail of Memories | Teen Ink

A Trail of Memories

August 18, 2021
By alittlebirdietoldme BRONZE, Springville, New York
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alittlebirdietoldme BRONZE, Springville, New York
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      “Can’t you tell me your name?” 

     My heart pounded and my knuckles turned white as I gripped a locket resting against my collar bone. I felt a drop of blood escape a throbbing gash on my temple. Where am I? I am sitting on a wooden bench in a small park inside a city. That is where everything stops. All of my recollections, all of my memories. Why can’t I remember anything?

     The lady looked pitifully at me as she reached down to my hand and turned my wrist over to see the sloppy penmanship written on it.“Viola,” she read.“I am Miss Davidson, I’m here to help you, dear. Can’t you remember anything?”

     All I did was stare at her grey, wrinkly face. 

     “I will take you to a doctor and decide what to do with you,” she sighed. “Whether that be an orphanage or someplace...” she paused, “elsewhere.”

     Elsewhere? I was too shocked to cry at what she said when she took a handkerchief from her purse and gently wiped the blood from my brow before grabbing my hand.  

     We walked about half of a mile until she led me to a modest brick building. The door was symmetrically in between two windows with boxes overflowing with bright yellow flowers. The lady knocked, and not five seconds later, a middle-aged man with a clean-shaven face and grey hair opened the door and beckoned us in. 

     “Doctor Bailey, this girl was just found, alone, on a bench in the city. She seemed to have lost all her memory.”

     At this, he nodded and led us into his sitting room, and poured us both a cup of tea. 

     “How old are you, child?”

     “Eleven.” I blurted. How do I know this?

     “Can you remember anything else?” he asked. 

     I shook my head suddenly and felt a wave of dizziness and nausea. 

     “May I talk to you in the other room, Miss Davidson?” 

     They proceeded into the hall, where they thought they would be out of my earshot. Next to the doorway hung a large mirror, with a copper frame with elaborate embellishments. Within the frame sat a tiny girl with soft, chestnut brown hair and huge amber eyes that dominated her small dirt-stained face. A bright red scab was forming at her temple. As my eyes met my reflection, startling me, I immediately reverted my attention to their conversation.

     “Must be amnesia.” the doctor said definitively... “From some kind of trauma.”

     I immediately recognized the word “amnesia.” I remembered exactly what it meant, but not how I knew that. And that was the whole problem.

     “Is she fit to be in the orphanage, Doctor?” I held my breath, awaiting his response.

     “I’m sure she will be fine in the orphanage and her memories might even return someday.” 

     I finally exhaled in relief. After the short visit, we boarded the trolley. As the sun set against the buildings around us, we reached an old, brick building with a metal sign next to the door that read, “St. Agatha’s Home for Girls.”

     The alarm rang loud in the apartment, but it wasn’t much useful since Viola was already up and ready. Although this was the eighth month she had been by herself, she still maintained the schedule the nuns kept at the orphanage. But this morning was especially different, her first day at her new job. 

     The intense school curriculum taught by the nuns prepared her for the rigorous work she would do as a journalist, but still, her nerves nearly crippled her. Before leaving her bedroom, she took a peek at the old mirror atop her old dresser. The curlers she slept in created the loveliest waves in her chestnut-brown hair that complimented her stiff and starched pencil skirt and blazer. 

     Taking a deep breath to fuel her confidence, she walked to her nightstand for the final, but crucial, detail; an accessory she had worn ever since she could remember: a silver locket. 

     Inside were two photo sockets; one was empty, but the other had an old picture taken of a woman she believed to be her mother. Soft brown hair, bright marigold eyes. The picture could’ve been mistaken for her if only the woman had a beauty mark above the left side of her mouth as Viola did. 

     She decided against waving down a taxi to enjoy her stroll to her work building, and after a half-hour or so of walking, she arrived at her destination: a large, dull-looking building.

     When she saw the advertisement in the paper for the journalist position, she imagined what a perfect and exciting job she would have. She didn’t imagine cigar smoke-filled rooms, disorganization, and laziness. The last thread of her excitement vanished after her boss suggested she cover the annual flower competition instead of an important or interesting topic.

     It was unsurprising that the highlight of her day was coming back to her lonely, frigid apartment.

     Viola walked up the stairs and through the doors into the room where her’s and the other journalists’ desks were and encountered a vastly different scene. The room was tidy, not a lick of cigar smoke contaminated the air, everyone was working. Why is today so different? Viola thought.

     The shrill voice of the receptionist rang over the loudspeaker and echoed through the room: “A reminder that Mr. Black, the new owner of the publication, is paying us a visit today!” 

     The contagious excitement infected Viola, and she immediately went to her typewriter at her desk to write the tedious article. She stuck her pencil in her hair and began to type “Mrs. Johnson’s Petunias Win it Again!” She knew she was a good writer, she was top of her class at the orphanage. All she wanted was to be given more important things to write about and investigate. Would the owner notice my potential? Would he give me a more important column of the paper? Eventually, Viola came back to reality when the “ding” of her typewriter signaled the end of the line she didn’t remember typing.

   Just as she pulled the paper out of her typewriter, the receptionist breathlessly burst into the room and shouted, “He’s here!” she caught her breath, “he’ll be here in less than-”

     That is when he walked in, and an uncovered, distant memory unfolded in Viola’s head.

     I remember sitting on my window seat, tracing shapes into the foggy windows as the rain soaked our garden and filled the pond. Ever since my parents told me a guest was coming, I had sat by the window, awaiting his arrival. 

     It wasn’t often that my parents had guests, in fact, I couldn’t remember if they ever had. “An old friend,” my father had told me, but my mother’s anxious demeanor and my father’s nervous pacing about the room said otherwise. 

     At last, through the rain, I saw the shape of an automobile park outside our house and a tall, thin man approached our front door. He had distinct features, a crooked nose, a long sullen face, and a receding hairline that was masked by his nearly bald haircut. 

     I tried to be as polite as I could, remembering each lesson of etiquette Lydia, our housekeeper, had taught me; but the secretive tension in the air left my nerves as delicate as my parents. So when the guest broke the silence, he startled me so that I dropped my fork on my plate. 

     “It’s been almost eleven years,” he said. “You abandoned us, Cleo. Was it even worth it?” 

     My mother’s expressive eyes scoured his face in angered bewilderment then gradually lingered to mine. I felt a sudden heaviness in my chest when I realized I was the “it.” 

     “Don’t ask me that,” she snapped. “You know the answer.” She looked to my father for some support, but he remained silent. He ran his hands through his dark hair and his icy blue eyes met mine at this moment. 

     “Vi, I think you should help Lydia with the dishes now.” 

     I furrowed my brow and searched his eyes for some sign. He gave me a slight smile to reassure me, but I could sense its inauthenticity. Although we had the same wide grin and a matching beauty mark, I didn’t understand him as well as my mother, and I wanted to stay with her, but now was not the time to argue. 

     “Yes, father.” 

     After helping Lydia tidy up, she sent me right up to bed before I could ask many questions. 

     The next morning, my parents packed up all our essential belongings and we left my home forever. 

     And that was the end of my memory.

    Filled with shock, her hands shot up and grasped the locket around her neck. 

     She immediately knew he would recognize her because of how much she resembled her mother. She quietly escaped from the room, ran down the stairs, and left the building

     Years and years of questions swelled up inside of her. She had accepted she would never know the answers to them, but now they were all that mattered to her. As if she were repeatedly punched in the stomach, her gut was screaming at her to leave, that she wasn’t safe in his midst. Without hesitating, she traveled back to her apartment. 

     When she arrived at her musty abode, she packed everything she needed.

     At five minutes past midnight, when she finally finished packing everything she could in her suitcase, and cleaned up everything else so as to not give her landlord much trouble, she looked around the old, musty apartment, locked the door, and left. She never loved this home, but because it was the only thing that felt familiar and safe to her, she felt a hole of emptiness creep up inside of her.

     She put on her cloche hat with a big wool scarf and matching gloves and discreetly stepped into the dewy cold of the night. She could only get to the corner of the street before she looked at her old apartment for the last time. Her suspicions were confirmed when she saw three men emerge from a black automobile parked in front of her apartment. She picked up her suitcase and ran after she saw them approach her apartment, and instead of knocking, they vehemently struck down the door. 

     After she ran as far as she could while lugging her suitcase, she stopped to catch her breath. She stood there under the light of the streetlamp without the slightest notion of what she was going to do next when another lost memory returned.

    “Happy eleventh birthday, darling.” My mother smiled, as she gently wiped my hair from my face as she awoke me. “Start getting ready,” she whispered, “I have a surprise for you today. I laid out an outfit on your trunk.”

     I was overcome with surprise and excitement so I immediately hopped out of bed. Sitting on my chest at the foot of my bed lay a blue and white polka-dotted dress, small white flowery shoes, and the prettiest hat I had ever seen.

    After what seemed like hours and hours of driving, we finally arrived at our destination. The enormous house in front of me was surreal compared to its surroundings, considering the area enveloping the house was farmland. I did not expect a big white house with pillars and perfectly kept up landscaping.

     “Viola!" a voice called. I looked to the entrance of the house towards the sound of the voice. It belonged to a woman who resembled my mother but had fiery red hair. Alongside her was a young girl, only slightly older than me, with red curls and big green eyes.  

     The woman ran to embrace my mother, my father, then me. She held my hands lovingly and pulled me towards her house. “Come come,” she said. “You three must be hungry, and the food will get cold.” 

     “Viola,” my mother said with a smile, “Say hello to your aunt and cousin.” 

     We were escorted into the stately dining room of the vast house. As much as the outside was striking, the inside was incomparable in beauty. I looked around and saw paintings of strange-looking people, white statues, and marble tiles that covered the floors. 

    “Come with me.” my cousin said. I followed my cousin into the hallway, up the sumptuous stairs, and into her bedroom. 

    My bedroom at our new apartment was filled with books, drawings, one rag doll that used to be my mother’s, and an old piano. I stopped dead in my tracks when I came to the doorway of her room. It was the most pinkish, most magnificent, and most humongous bedroom I had ever seen. A beautiful dollhouse filled with ornate porcelain figurines and trinkets, stuffed animals galore, and a beautiful princess-like bed. My eyes stopped at a small box wrapped in flowery wrapping paper and a blue ribbon sitting on a desk beside her dollhouse. 

     “Happy birthday Viola,” she said as she picked up and handed me the gift. I opened it up to find a porcelain doll, with the same brown hair and big amber eyes as me. 

     Then my memory abruptly ended.

     A raindrop fell on her cheek as she stood stagnant on the street corner under the flickering street lamp. The gradual sprinkle of rain drove her to keep trudging along to the train station.

     She checked her watch to see the arrows indicate the time was 12:25. She remembered from past excursions that the trains left at an even hour mark, so she gladly slowed her pace to a walk. 

      The cold air created chilblains on her legs and feet, but it was the emptiness and the eeriness of the streets that sent shivers down her spine. A soft “meow” came from the direction of a nearby alley, triggering Viola’s heartbeat to thump louder and quicker. As she walked further down the street, the smell of rotten food and cat feces emitted by the alley and its dumpster made her stomach turn. 

     Seconds later, she heard the crinkle of pebbles on the pavement. She anxiously turned her head and saw the same black automobile a block away, getting closer and closer to her. 

     Without a moment of hesitation, she picked up her suitcase with her boney arms and ran into the ominous alley. She hoisted her suitcase into the dumpster and jumped in after it and made sure to close the top without making a single noise. 

      I didn’t think this one through, she thought as she tried to ignore the decayed apple that fell on her shoulder. The aroma overtook her senses, and before long, all went black.

     The tune of “That’s Amore” in the form of a whistle filled her ears as she began to wake up from her sleep in the dumpster. DUMPSTER. 

     “Wait!” she cried. Her words were too late, but her arms covered her face in time as the contents of the garbage bin engulfed her. 

     “Is there someone in there? Ma’am?” Oh no, the young man thought. He couldn’t hide the bewildered look on his face when he saw the girl sitting in the dumpster covered in the garbage he had dumped in there.  

     “Can you stop staring and help me out of here?” 

     “Yes, yes, of course. I’m so sorry ma’am.” 

       Finally out of the dumpster, she straightened her stained skirt and ran her fingers through her hair to tame it. She gave the man a nod of thanks, peeled a browned banana peel from her shoulder, then continued her trek to the train station. 

     “Wait!” He called, putting the pieces together, “you can’t board the train like that.” 

     “Excuse me?”

     “You smell awful,” he argued. “I can take you to my mother’s home, we live two blocks away. You can clean up and eat there too.”

      “I’m sorry but-”

     “It’s the least I can do, please.” he gave a kind smile that was momentarily replaced by a gag.

     Should I trust him? She thought. She came to her senses, quite literally, as she held back a hurl brought upon by the smell she emitted. He’s right, she thought. I can’t leave the city subtly in my present state. Besides, she admitted to herself, a nice meal sounds perfect. 


     “What is your name, anyway?” he inquired. “My name is Angelo Costa.” 

     “Um-” she hesitated. Should I trust him? One of her hands clenched the locket around her neck, while the other one fingered a knife tucked into her belt. How much worse could telling him my name be for me? “Viola.”

    She followed him to the front door of a townhouse in a better-kept part of the city. Angelo opened the door, and as the gape in the door grew, the smell of food deafened the stench of Viola’s clothing. 

      “Mother!” Angelo called. 

     The creak of the floorboard grew louder as Mrs. Costa came to greet her son and the stranger. But her jolly smile vanished, and immediately the woman clenched her hand and covered her mouth as she gagged. 

     “My sister, Rosetta.” he motioned to the chubby girl standing behind his mother with two dark french braids and wispies framing her tanned face, with her mouth wide open.

     “Oh my.” His mother held out her free arm and motioned for Viola to follow her. “Let’s let you get cleaned up, then we’ll chat.”

      “Molto buono!” the feisty, greyed, mother exclaimed after taking a loud deep breath as Viola descended the staircase after she took a long bath. “Supper is on the table for you,” she led Viola into the kitchen where a plate of fragrant lasagna sat waiting for her. 

     “Thank you,” Viola replied meekly. She wished she could have offered to reimburse her, but she had only enough money to buy a train ticket and not much more.  

     Another meal was set out across the table, and sure enough, Angelo walked in and joined her. She was too flustered before to notice his features, but she could now see his deep blue, almost black, kind eyes. She felt an immediate rush of sadness as they made her think of her mother's thoughtful eyes.

     “Thank you,” she spoke softly. 

     “Why did you go in that dumpster?” 

     “Because it was cozy in there?” she replied as the sides of her lips curled into a smirk. 

     He understood that she didn’t want to discuss it. “I’d imagine you’ll want to leave as soon as possible. I’ll take you to the train station tomorrow morning.” 

      She felt a surge of gratitude and relief upon hearing his words and receiving the kindness his family showed her as she washed her plate in the sink. 

     “Now, now, dear, you go sit down by the fire. I’ll clean up the dishes.” Mrs. Costa scolded. 

     Viola followed Angelo into the small, homely sitting room.

     “Should we play Monopoly?” He asked. “I just bought it the other day.” 

      The rest of the evening unfolded in games and laughter as the four of them played different games and the family recalled past stories. Viola felt a pang of sadness as she knew what she would be leaving. Something she longed to completely remember and something she longed to experience again: family.

     A train blared throughout the station and stopped just as Viola approached the ticket booth. 

     “One ticket for Gristhorpe,” she told the lady working at the booth. 

     “Make that two,” Angelo said as he walked up from behind her. His olive-skinned arm reached in front of her, setting money down on the counter.

     “What are you talking about?” she demanded, “you don’t need to go with me.” 

     “Well, it’s quite the coincidence then,” he shrugged. “My mother wanted me to do an errand for her that happens to be in Gristhorpe.”

     She scoured his face fiercely until she replied, “Well, I can pay for my ticket.”

     “No, no. I insist.” He quickly slid the money closer to the Ticketmaster.

     “Fine. But not because I can’t afford a ticket.” 

     “Sure. That’s why you spent a night in a dumpster.”

     After their quiet and uneventful train ride, Viola opened her mouth to bid her new, and possibly only, friend farewell. 

     “Viola,” he said before she could speak, “if you ever need help, don’t hesitate to find me or my family.” 

     She accepted his friendly handshake, but before answering, she glanced behind him and her eyes widened in horror. 

     Confused at her expression, Angelo looked in the direction she was. Far at the other side of the station stood a tall man in a black outfit with a large overcoat that almost concealed his holstered gun. 

     “Run,” Viola mumbled. Great, she thought, now I’ve dragged him into this. She picked up her suitcase and ran out of the station. Before following her, Angelo looked back and saw the man whistle, and two more men in similar outfits started running in their direction. 

     “Over here!” Viola called. Why is she running towards the docks? There weren’t any boats and it was chillier by the water. 

     “I’m in the barrel!” her muffled voice called. “There’s one next to me!” He was well over 6 feet tall and was strongly built. There’s no way, he thought. 

     “Where’d they go?” a gruff voice yelled. 

     Panicking, Angelo looked around, not sure where to go. 

     “On the dock!” At this command, all three of the men jumped down onto the dock. 

     Viola’s heartbeat quickened as she heard heavy footsteps approach the barrel next to her. She put her ear up to the side of the barrel and listened as the man lifted the lid of the neighboring barrel, and prepared herself for the worst. 

     “Not here!” 

     Viola’s heart dropped from relief and she wiped the cold sweat off her brow. 

     After waiting a few minutes, she carefully lifted the top of the barrel and stepped out of it. “Angelo?” she called quietly. “Angelo!”

     She anxiously looked around the dock when she noticed a bunch of bubbles form on the top of the water as a head emerged. 

     “Angelo!” she gasped. “Are you crazy?” 

     He emerged from the water, his overcoat and all of his clothing drenched from the mucky November seawater. 

     Angelo started boyishly laughing then almost immediately started to cough and shiver. 

     “I thought you were a goner.” she tried to say in an irritated voice, but it ended in a trail of laughter.

     “It was a close one,” he replied. “Are those the same men that caused you to hide?”

     “No, I told you, it was just comfortable there.” she grinned, but then saw his serious face and continued in a more serious tone, “Yes, it was.” 

     “Are you ever going to tell me about it?” 

     “I’m not sure if there is much to tell.” she paused for a moment, “I suppose I can try.” 

     After he dressed in his dry clothes that were kept in Viola’s suitcase, they walked for miles along the chilly sea. Seven years she had spent, never telling a soul anything about her, pushing everyone at the orphanage away. Now she was telling her whole life story, everything she remembered, everything she didn’t, to someone she had just met. As they stopped for a moment to rest, Viola’s mind escaped to a memory.

    “Mother!” I called, “mother!” I couldn’t bear the impatience, so I ran down the stairs to find her. 

     “Mother, father taught me a new song on the piano!” I said, nearly out of breath from running and my excitement as I entered the sitting room. I searched my mother’s face to find an expression that matched my own, but all I could find was a melancholy smile. 

      She slowly got up out of her chair and took me by the hand. “I’d love to hear it, darling.” 

     I led her into my room where a piano that my mother had given to me for my last birthday sat at the far end of the room. My mother had said that every lady needs to learn and own a piano, and as I had turned 9, she thought it was the right time. 

     “What song did you teach her, dear?” She looked at my father. 

     “Vi, play the song,” he said with a wink as he stood up and walked to my mother and began to dance with her as I nervously began playing the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” When I finished, I looked to see my mother’s reaction. 

     I was about to ask her what she thought, but my parents stood frozen in the middle of my room. They were so still, it was as though someone took a photograph of them slow dancing. I thought they looked so content in each other's arms that I hardly noticed a tear run down my mother’s cheek. 

     Then, as per usual, my memory hit a stand-still.

     The last light of the day started to disappear over the rolling hills in front of them. At last, they saw a big white house in the distance. “There it is!” Viola exclaimed with relief. 

     The outside of the house was almost as she remembered it but weathered and disheveled. Something is off, she thought. But there was no turning back--they had nowhere else to go.

     “I suppose we should ring the doorbell,” Angelo grinned. Viola had been staring at the front door for the past five minutes. With a sarcastic smirk and an eye roll, she rang the doorbell. 


     Viola tried the handle of the door, but it wouldn’t budge. She took a pin out of her hair that let her loose curls fall to her shoulders and began to try the lock.

    “I could just kick it...” Angelo broke the silence after a few minutes of her trying but failing, to unlock the door. 

    “I’ve almost got it,” she muttered with impatience.

    “Let me just kick it-”

    “Voíla!” she grinned. “Told you so!” She laughed because she didn’t think it would work.

     She led the way into the dusty foyer of the mansion and then into the vast hall. Silence echoed through the house, only to be interrupted by the pitter-patter of mice feet in the distance. The grand wooden staircase was grey with dust and the white statues in pieces upon the marble floors. The paintings were torn and ravaged by the mice, and only a few windows were left unshattered. In the middle of the floor of the vast room, a chandelier sat amidst a circle of broken glass.

     Her heart dropped as she desperately ran up the stairs, through the halls, and into her cousin’s bedroom. The same state of destruction was present in the room, and at the foot of a once beautiful bed sat a dirtied porcelain doll with brown hair and amber eyes.

     At once, an ocean of memories enveloped her as she crumbled to the ground, her face wet with tears.

     “Dottie! Dottie!” I cried, shaking my cousin. “Wake up!” 

     Screams, yells, booms, and gunshots echoed through the house and were getting closer and closer.

     “What is it, Vi?” she moaned, rubbing her eyes awake. 

     “There’s something going-” before I could finish, something hit the window across the room and the glass shattered, and a small shard of glass lodged into my temple. Dottie screamed and hopped out of her bed. 

     “We need to leave.” I whimpered, wiping my brow with my sleeve. I didn’t have time to worry about a cut. 

     Hand-in-hand, the two of us raced across the hall to find our parents. First, we went to her mother’s room. Empty. Then my parents’. Empty. 

     Before we left the room, I quickly ran to the dresser where my mother’s locket was and pulled it over my head.

     We continued to run down to the servant’s staircase, and into the kitchen. 

     “The cellar is this way,” Dottie beckoned. We ran through the kitchen and carefully crept down into the dark cellar. 

     Once we closed the hatch and were safely away from the noise and the chaos, I turned abruptly to my cousin. 

     “What is going on?” I implored, looking straight into her eyes. This wasn’t just a robbery, and I knew it. 

     “Viola, I don’t know if I should--”

     She confirmed what I had been thinking, there was something big going on that I didn’t know about. I grabbed her by the shoulders and looked her straight in the eyes. “Dorothy. We don’t even know if our parents are alive. I need to know why this is happening.”

     Then my memory ended.

     Hunger made Viola’s head pound, and her back ached from wandering around the house all night trying to trigger more memories. When was the last time we ate? She wondered, two days ago. 

     She trudged to the kitchen and opened the pantry door. Seven years ago was the last time she, or anyone else, she assumed, had been in the kitchen.

     Empty containers, the food most likely eaten by animals. Mice droppings in the cooking ingredients. Finally, seemingly edible canned sardines. Sardines it is.

     “Angelo?” she stepped into the hall. He was nowhere to be found. 

     “Over here!”

     She followed his voice into the library. She remembered it since there weren’t as many strains on her memories anymore. She handed him a can of sardines and a fork as she walked towards the bookcase. 

     He scrunched his nose in disgust as he took the sardines. “What are we going to do next?”

     She laughed. “I remember my mother once told me ‘if you don’t know what to do, read a book.’” She then scrutinized the bookshelf. Nostalgically, she fingered a book and began to pull it off the shelf, “I remember that this was always her favorite-”

     A loud creaking noise shifted the bookshelf. Viola shrieked from surprise as her body hit the cold marble and the impact sent the sardines gliding across the floor. 

     Angelo immediately ran over, took her hand, and helped her to her feet. They looked at each other in disbelief as they eyed a staircase that the bookshelf had exposed.

     “Let me go first.” Angelo shot a protective arm in front of her.

     “I think I can handle it.” Even with a bag of supplies, she was still small and quick. She ducked under his arm and quickly snatched the flashlight he was holding in his hand. 

     The stairs were thin and steep and had a thick stench of mud and dust. In no time at all, Viola reached the bottom, soon joined by Angelo. In front of them were two long, dark paths.

     “Eeny meeny, miny mo,” Angelo joked. “But really, which one should we go down?”

     Viola turned to Angelo and grabbed his hand. He can’t come with me. These thoughts pounded in her brain. I can’t let anything happen to him.  

     “Angelo, I need you to go back. I can’t let you come with me,” she said quietly.

     “What are you talking about? I’m going with you...” 

     “Angelo!” her voice began to buckle. He needed to leave. She regained the strength in her voice as she began to speak again. “I could never live with myself if anything were to happen to you. Your mother and sister need you. Goodbye.” 

     She paused to kiss him gently on the cheek, then scooped up her bag and began to run. She turned off the flashlight so he couldn’t follow, and ran down the right tunnel as the memory that fought the hardest to stay away, came back.

     Dottie quickly and quietly told me the whole story. “Our moms were brought up by our grandmother, alone. When they were teenagers, they were involved in a group. They were con artists.” She paused to catch her breath. “My mother had me, and your mother became pregnant. When our grandfather, who had left them as babies, found out, he searched for our parents and got them out of the group. 

     “He left them lots of money when he died. The group held this against them. They tried to encourage our mothers to use their fortune to support them. They threatened violence, so our parents went into hiding. They tried to settle down.

     “Milo Black used to be friends with our mothers,” she explained. “He wasn't the leader of the group, he knew our parents the longest and didn’t want any harm to come to them. Eventually, he grew jealous of their wealth and tried to convince them to come back, that the group needed the money and that they could do great things with it.” She shook as she continued to the next part. “When your parents kicked him out of the house and moved, Milo told the group where my family was hiding. How he knew it, we had no idea. And now my dad is gone, and my mother might be as well.”

     She took a deep breath. “Then we had to move again, we thought we would be safe here.” 

     I sat there, staring at the dirty wall in front of me, and tried to process everything. There was still so much I didn’t know and I had no idea where my parents were. 

     “Down in the cellar!” called a familiar voice. 

     My heart was bursting out of my chest, and the words I had meant to say were stuck in my throat. I wanted to scream. I wanted to call out for my mother. I wanted to warn my cousin. 

     Instead, the sound of bullets filled the room and I ran to hide beneath the sacks of potatoes and vegetables. I heard screams and yells. My gut told me she was dead, but my heart and mind went blank. The ringing in my ears subsided and there was complete silence. 

     I lifted my head above the sack to get a clear breath of air and I saw him. And now I could put a name to the face: Milo Black.

     “You.” I spat, holding back my tears with all my might. “Where are my parents?” I looked around for Dottie’s body, but only a pile of blood filled the space where she sat. 

     “If you want to live, you’ll have to come with me quietly.” 

     “Why should I? How could you expect me to believe a word you say?”

     “If you come with me, I’ll spare you and let you go.” He paused, “or I could kill you on the spot, just as I was ordered.”

     I reluctantly followed him through the halls and out the back door where an automobile was parked. I looked back to the house and saw the destruction and the chaos. But no signs of my parents or my aunt.

    With his gun, he nudged me into the back seat of the vehicle and drove me away. I was too shocked and dazed to sleep, so I spent the entire time staring out the window with my mind as blank as a piece of paper. 

     At last, we reached a stop. He opened the car door for me, gripped me by the hand, and led me into a dank, small building off of a thin, dimly lit alley. He knocked on the door and we were led into the room by a man in white scrubs. 

     “You wanted someone to experiment on. Here you go.” 

     “But she’s a child, Milo. The crime is much worse.” The man said calmly, as he brought me over to a chair and began to carefully take the shard of glass out of my forehead. My mind and body were numb from pain, I had forgotten it was there.

     “He either wants her dead or her memories taken away. This is the kinder option, Frederick.” 

     As I heard these words, I quickly wrote my name on my hand with a pen sitting on the table while they were distracted-I couldn’t forget that. The next thing I remember is complete darkness and waking up at a bench in the middle of the night in the city.

     Mud, sweat, and tears soaked her sleeve as she wiped her face then squeezed her locket tightly with her hand. All the events of the last several years finally caught up to her. Her aunt, her cousin, her parents, now Angelo. Perhaps it was fate for her to be alone. 

     What am I even doing? She thought. My parents are probably dead. I can’t just go to the police. She started choking on her tears and decided to rest, she hadn’t slept in days and it started to show. She slid against the wall of the tunnel but felt something smooth and silky.

      She lifted a floral, silky scarf. Through the dirt, she could see the brightness of the design and the colors: yellow, coral-pink, royal blue. And a memory popped in her head: 

     After I dressed in the blue and white polka-dotted dress, small white flowery shoes, and the pretty hat, I excitedly hopped down the hall of our apartment to find my mother and father setting the table for our breakfast. 

      My mother was wearing a dark navy blue dress that hugged her hourglass figure. Her honey brown hair was perfectly curled, framing her beautiful face. Around her neck was a silk floral scarf whose colors brought out the brightness of her amber eyes.

     Her mother’s scarf. She escaped. She’s alive. Viola hugged the scarf tightly and tried to smell the perfume that had faintly lingered on the scarf after all these years.

     “She’s alive.” Those words held more weight than anything else she had heard her voice speak.

     Her joy quickly turned into fear when she heard footsteps. Not daring to use her flashlight, she quietly grabbed her bag and the scarf and ran as fast as she could in the complete darkness. 

     Finally, she saw the light at the end of the tunnel. It wasn’t actually a light, but she walked into a ladder against the wall at the end of the tunnel. Above it, there was a hatch door that she easily opened. 

     The sight after she got out of the tunnel made her head throb in confusion. She was transported back to the cellar in her own home that she lived many, many, many years ago. 

      Everything was the same. She knew she had to act fast, so she hid her bag in a closet and ran up the halls and into her parent’s room. She reached under her parent’s bed and grabbed a case and opened it. She remembered her father teaching her how to shoot a gun and she wondered whether or not she had lost that ability. 

     She heard the cellar door open, and she shoved the case back under the bed and cocked the revolver in her hand.

     She crept down the stairs as silently as she could. Like muscle memory, she avoided all of the wooden steps that would creak and give her away. A figure stood in the doorway of the kitchen with a gun in his arms and rope hanging out of a bag on his back. 

     “Drop the gun,” she said as aggressively as she could, her gun pointed right against his covered head. 

     The man quickly turned to shoot her, thinking he would be faster, but her bullet pierced his shoulder just in time to save her life.

     Two men lifted Viola’s crumbled body from the floor and walked her to one of the two black automobiles parked outside. This is just a nightmare. This is a nightmare, Viola’s dazed mind kept trying to tell her. 

     At last, they arrived at a building in the city. Not too close to the other buildings, but not too far away that it looked strange or unfitting. 

     “Come on!” One of them yanked her out of the car. 

     “Where are you taking me?” 

     “To the boss,” he replied in a grave voice. 


     “No,” he laughed, “Mr. Wainwright.”

     They stepped into the rickety elevator and went up to the top story of the building. They stepped into a large, grey office room that had a large wooden desk with neatly sorted papers, pens, and a table lamp. On the other side of the desk sat a person Viola had dreamt of seeing for the past seven years. A person that she had longed to hug and kiss, a person whom she used to pray she could sing, dance, and play the piano with one more time.

     “I taught you well, Vi.” He laughed darkly as he rubbed his shoulder, “I didn’t know you were actually paying attention.” 

     “I have an ability to recall memories easily. Even if they are taken away from me.” The brightness of her eyes turned fiery as she spat those words at her father. 

     He made a motion with his hand, and immediately the man let go of Viola’s arm and left the room. Somehow she felt less safe alone with her father. Her arm grasped her locket as she wondered what she had missed. She never remembered him like this. 

     He saw her nervous impulse and proceeded to walk towards her and yank the locket off of her neck. “The wedding gift I gave to your mother.” He paused to open it up, revealing a small picture of Cleo. “I see she took my picture out of it.”

     “I wonder why.” she glared at him, but immediately regretted it when she saw his expression turn colder. 

     “Why did you do all this? Order the attack on my aunt’s house? Kill my aunt and my cousin? Take away my memories? My mother?” 

     “There are things you can’t possibly understand, Viola.”

     “Why not just kill me?” 

     “That was Milo mostly. He always loved your mother, he didn’t want to harm you.” he paused. Viola couldn’t see any remnant of her old father in him. Was that all just for show? “Now that you are 18, you can inherit your aunt’s fortune. She left it to you in her will, since Dottie died as well.” I flinched in pain. “And you’ll sign it over to me.”

     “Is that what it is all about? Money?” Viola laughed incredulously. “You must not have ever cared about me or my mother.”  

     “I left everything for your mother. I sat back for 11 years. I waited for the right moment. She was so naive. She had no idea I was the leader of the group. Sometimes I thought she did, just wouldn’t let herself believe it.” 

     “I remembered you as kind-hearted, strong, and loving,” she whispered. “You never deserved my mother, and I think you knew that. Instead of trying to better yourself to deserve her, you gave up. You gave in to your darkness and now you have nothing. You don’t have my money, and you don’t have anyone who loves you.” She stopped to take a breath, “not anymore.” 

     She thought she saw something flicker in his eyes. He sat up from his chair and walked over to the window, avoiding her sad eyes. He unclenched his fist to reveal her silver locket. He opened up the window, snapped the locket in half, and let it fall from his hands and down onto the ground, five stories below.

     What do I do now? Viola thought, gripping the bars of the metal door that kept her from escaping. At least she was away from her father, alone so she could think. 

     She heard a cough outside of her room. The guard had been so quiet, she had forgotten he was there. 


     “What do you want?” His voice sounded young, not much older than her. What is he doing here? She had nothing to lose. She figured her father was going to finish the job and kill her anyway. Why don’t I ask him? 

     “What is your name?” 

     “What?” the guard questioned, obviously startled by the personal question. “Peter.”

     “Peter,” she began. “Why are you even here? You could do something so much better with your life than waste it by guarding an innocent girl.”

     There I go. She thought. Now he won’t bring me any more food and I’ll starve to death. 

     He didn’t respond to her until he took a deep breath and said: “My parents worked with your father. After your mother left and your father took over, part of joining was to pool all your money. When they wanted to leave, they were indebted to him, so he took me and called it even.”

     “Your parents gave you up?” 

     “They were saving up money to pay him and get me back.” 

     Were. That’s the word that stuck in her brain. She hated the thought of being an orphan, but she had gotten used to it before her memories came back. Now that thought seemed so much better to her than having one parent probably dead, and the other who is keeping you locked up, only sparing your life to get your money. But then a stronger thought popped into her head. 

      “Is that a common thing for all of the people that work for him?”

     “What’s in it for us?” 

     Her cell was filled with people, spilling out into the hallway. Thankfully, her father made sure her cell was secluded from the rest of the building, deep at the end of the hall in the basement. Many of the men reassured her he never came down, and all of them were banking on it. 

     “Your families are ‘indebted’ to him, right?” Nods and murmurs filled the room. “Well, I’ve got money, and a lot of it.” 

     Just as Viola started to continue speaking, a young boy ran into the room, the lookout. He held onto the doorway to catch his breath as he yelled: “Leave! They’re coming down any minute!” 

     Seconds later, the room emptied and Viola was in there, by herself, with the one guard sitting outside whistling. 

     She quickly grabbed one of the books her father had put in there and pretended to read it. When the footsteps got louder, she looked up from the book to see her father. Walking with him was a familiar, horrible face. 

     “Viola. Nice to finally see you. Well, nice to finally not have to chase you, that is.” Milo bent down to the chair and grabbed her arm, lifting her to her feet. 

     “Where are you taking me?”

     Memories flashed through her brain as they drove her down the familiar road and pulled her out of the automobile. She felt the cold sting of a brush burn from the tie around her wrists as they did. 

     Viola’s father knocked on the door before Milo pushed her through it. She felt an immediate headache from the strong scent of bleach lingering in the air. Dizziness weakened her body and she stumbled a foot over and leaned against a table. 

     She felt a different kind of nausea when she saw the doctor’s face. The face of a man who used his wasted talents to take away her memories.

     “Viola,” the doctor smiled. “So nice to see you again.”

     His friendly voice only fueled her anger. What should I do? She thought, what should I do? When all hope seemed lost, she felt a soft prick against her stomach. My knife. She cut through the cloth that tied her hands together, and with her heart beating out of her chest, she turned around, grabbed her father, and held her knife against his throat, and dug her hands into the bandaged wound on his shoulder.

      “Let me go and put your hands behind your heads or I will kill him.” 

     “Oh Viola.” Her father said in a sing-song voice. “You wouldn’t kill me.”

     She dug the blade in slightly as a drop of blood appeared on his skin and trickled down his neck. Simultaneously, she felt a needle pierce her own.

     Angelo despairingly trudged up the staircase and back into the library of the mansion before the secret door closed again. He was beside himself on what to do. Why did I freeze? He thought. If only I would have run after her. Viola had taken his only flashlight, so he was determined to find another when he heard the echoes of footsteps approaching. 

     Quickly, Angelo hid behind the tall window curtain and he held his breath. He peeked behind it and saw a man with dark hair and cold blue eyes scouring the bookshelf. Angelo felt a sudden realization as the man smiled when he found the book that opened the door. The wide grin, the straight teeth, the large freckle at the corner of the mouth. Viola’s father. 

     Why did he have a revolver? Why is he dressed the same as the men that were chasing them? Angelo had to warn Viola. 

      Lingering a short distance away, Angelo crept behind Viola’s father. He could faintly see the small footprints left by Viola that were trampled on by larger ones. After an hour of walking, Angelo saw the man stop and climb up a ladder ten yards away. 

     He waited a bit before following, then began to climb up into a cellar. 

     The sound of two gunshots rang from inside the house. As fast as he could, Angelo climbed up the ladder, went up the cellar stairs, and paused in the doorway, concealing himself behind the already opened door. 

     Standing across the hall a small figure held a gun in her hands. Where did she get that? Standing two feet away from her was her father, with a bright red shoulder oozing blood. Viola shot her father. The realization hit him, just before it hit her and she crumbled to the ground in shock. 

     Seconds later, two men walked through the front door and carried her outside and the other helped her father.

     After they left, Angelo went to the kitchen doorway where Viola had dropped her gun, and he picked it up.

     The sun is hot on my skin but the wind cools me down. I slip off my shoes so I can feel the warm sand on my naked feet. My dress is light, my hair falls in waves on my back. 

     “Mommy!” I hear a voice call. I look down and see a small toddler holding my hand. He has tanned skin and curly chestnut hair. He has a big blue seashell in his hand and holds it up to his ear. 

     He lets go of my hand and runs to a woman on the beach. The woman braids the dark hair of a little girl. When the girl sees me, she runs up to me and hugs me. But she can’t hug me normally because I have an enlarged belly, I am pregnant

     I lift my finger and see a small ring on my left hand. 

     “Lunch is ready!” Now this voice I know before I see him. With an identical ring, Angelo has a laughing little boy slung over his shoulders, the little boy identical to the girl. 

     My mother holds the little girl’s hand and mine and we walk to the beach house. We walk to the kitchen where plates with cold ham sandwiches are laid out for everyone. Me, Angelo, the twins, the little boy, my mother. Another person steps into the room. And he laughs a deep, dark, laugh that wakes me from my dream.

     “What have you done to her? Tell me.” Angelo bellowed as he charged over to the doctor, pointing the revolver at him. 

     “Angelo, don’t hurt him,” Peter reasoned, his gun fixed on Milo and Mr. Wainwright, who had their arms and legs bound to their chairs. “The police will be here any second; they will take care of things.”

     “I gave her the memory-erasing serum.” The doctor explained nervously. Angelo’s eyes darkened as he pressed the gun against his head. “The-the sooner she wakes up, the less impact the serum will have."

     She can’t go through this again. Angelo thought as he defeatedly walked back to Viola and picked up her motionless but still breathing, body in his arms. He tried everything to wake her up. Nothing worked. 

     “I guess she will never know how she succeeded,” Viola’s father declared, following with a peal of laughter that sent shivers down Angelo’s spine. 

     Viola’s eyelids slowly opened, and she began to cough. “Angelo,” her voice was timid and whimpery. “Is this a dream?”

     Relief encompassed him, and a bright smile spread across his face. “Viola, your plan worked! Nearly all the men working for your father left and helped me get you back,” he said as he motioned to the men behind him. “The police will be here any second.” 

     “Thank you,” she whispered, and with all of her strength, she lifted her head and kissed him softly on his lips before slumping back into his arms. 

     “You have five minutes, Miss Wainwright.”

     “Thank you,” she told the corrections officer. She walked into the cell and sat across the table from a man in shackles and an unreadable expression on his unshaved face. 

     “There are so many things I won’t ever know or understand about you,” Viola began. “We had a good life when I was young. We were happy.” She paused to emphasize, “but you threw it all away.”

     He looked away from her as his blue eyes developed a sheen of water. 

     Her face hardened and her eyes focused on his as she asked the questions she had gone there for. “Where is my mother? Does she know it was you?”

     “Yes, she does.” His voice quivered slightly and his hands trembled, “But I let her go.” As he said this, she realized one thing: although he did terrible things, he really did love her mother. “I lied and told her you were in France, she’s looking for you.”

     She never gave up on me. 

     “I know her telephone number.” He avoided eye contact with her. “Do you have a piece of paper?”

     I took a deep breath before the doors of the train opened. After all this time, the idea that she was on the other side of the doors seemed surreal. All I could hear was my quickened heartbeat as I searched the crowd exiting the train, looking for her face. Then I saw her. 

     Our eyes met, and she immediately ran to me. Her big gold eyes filled with tears as she whispered “Viola,” as she gently stroked my hair behind my ear. “You’re beautiful.” 

     We cried for a few minutes longer, both not eager to let go of the long overdue embrace. Eventually, we walked to a restaurant to appease our appetites. 

     “I have searched for you everywhere for the last seven years,” she ran her bony fingers through her hair. I noticed the premature silver strands speckled in her chestnut brown hair: an outward sign of the hardships she faced. 

     I placed my left hand on hers and explained the ring around my index finger. “I’m getting married, mother.” 

     A new flow of tears wet our handkerchiefs as we talked about both of our experiences that we had gone through apart from each other. We discussed not only the memories I lost and of the memories we made, but the ones we planned to make in the future.

     I sat on the wooden bench in the city that for so long, was my first memory. It took me this long to even come back-I couldn’t bring myself to. 

     I watched as mothers pushed their babies in strollers and toddlers soaked their clothes with the water of the fountain. I pulled the broken locket out of my pocket and held it in my hand. For so long, I had kept this token as a reminder that I had someone who loved me. Now that I had my mother, I had people who loved me, it was just a reminder of something I needed to forgive and forget. 

     I walked over to the wishing fountain and gave the kids a smile as I walked by them. I opened my hand to let the locket sink to the bottom of the wishing fountain, and let it carry with it the burden of my sorrow and longing I had carried for the past several years.

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