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something from the archives: another sunset - part 3

part three follows the jump...






Part 3


Liz was afraid. Make that terrified. When she’d opened her eyes, she’d recognized what the d├ęcor meant, but not why she was there. It had hurt to move; even opening her eyes had seemed a form a medieval torture.

Michael. That was the orderly’s name. Elizabeth was hers. Myrna, it seemed, was the name of the nurse. Liz recited the few facts she knew about herself like a mantra. She didn’t know who she was. She didn’t know anyone, and something about the way Myrna and Michael had talked about the accident told her there was more to the whole thing than even they were telling her.

She had brown eyes. She looked at a tendril of hair on her shoulders; she apparently also had brown hair. Myrna had asked her about siblings and parents, it was odd thinking that there were people that knew her, people she must have lived with her entire life, and yet they were people she couldn’t even remember.

Everything felt like it was happening to someone else. Like in a soap opera where the heroine is in a terrible accident and suffers amnesia falling madly in love even as her past life fell to pieces. What happens when the young heroine remembers? Does the present fall to pieces? What matters more? Liz knew it wasn’t a soap opera because there wasn’t a camera crew filming, because she couldn’t remember facts about who she was, although things like soap operas and camera crews and the fact that George W. Bush was president came easily to her mind.

What was it about memory that made some things fade and some things stay and others disappear altogether?

She wanted to ask Michael. He was sitting perched precariously on the edge of her bed. Looking at everything in the room except for her. He’d been staring at the watercolor seascape for the past ten minutes when the door opened.

"Lizzie?"

A young man stood in the door. Lean and tall with dark brown hair and blue eyes, he looked into the room worriedly.

Startled when he saw Michael, he asked, "What are you doing here?"

"I’m an orderly here. She woke up while I was cleaning up. She’s…"

Liz interrupted as Michael spoke.

"Who are you?"

The young man started. Concern lining his face as he forgot about Michael’s presence in the room.

"What do you mean? Liz, it’s me. Alex."

"She can’t remember." Michael explained, "That’s why I stayed with her." To Elizabeth he said, "I guess you’re a Liz then."

"Am I?" She frowned, that didn't feel quite right. Looking at the young man she asked, "Are you my brother?"

"Yes. I don’t understand."

Michael watched as Alex’s face fell. He felt really bad for him. Not only had he been suddenly orphaned, but now his sister didn’t remember who she was, or that she had a brother. Michael knew about being alone. But he was sure he had never been alone as Alex felt in that instant.

There was something terrifying about the idea of being forgotten. It was one thing for someone you went to high school with not to remember who you were when you ran into them ten years down the road, quite another was to have your own flesh and blood forget. Because right now all that tied Alex and Liz together were genetics. It was as if the Parker family had ceased to exist.

Michael tried to catch Alex up on everything that had happened since Elizabeth had wakened. "They think she might have amnesia. I’ll leave you guys alone now. Get reacquainted and stuff."

"No Michael, please don’t leave."

"Liz, it’s okay. I know Alex; he’s a nice guy, your brother."

"I just feel…" she shook her head, "will you come back?"

"Sure. When my shift’s over. I promise." Addressing Alex he said, "Sorry, man."

Michael sympathetically pat Alex on the shoulder before leaving the hospital room behind him. He hated himself for feeling glad that she hadn’t wanted him to leave. He knew that he would have come back regardless of the fact that she wanted him to.

*****

Alex remembered Michael from the football field. He remembered that Kyle knew him from high school. He seemed a decent guy, but he didn’t want anyone hanging around his baby sister.

Only his baby sister didn’t know that. She didn’t even know she was his baby sister.

Alex had just wanted Liz to wake up. He wanted to see the trust and warmth he’d always seen in her chocolate colored eyes. But all he saw now was wariness. Her gaze kept skittering to the door. As if she was silently willing Michael to walk back through it.

He knew Liz felt trapped. And he hated the fact that he was the warden in her eyes.

How was he supposed to tell her that she shouldn’t feel afraid? All he could feel was terror. Oh, there was grief; he’d lost his family after all. He’d loved his parents. But most of all he felt terror. And knowing that Liz didn’t remember any of the things he did only increased that feeling.

How was he supposed to hold their lives together?

"What really happened?"

"What do you mean?"

"The accident. There’s something more to it than me getting hurt. What is it?"

Alex closed his eyes. He knew he would have to tell her the truth if she ever was going to trust him. But he was afraid that she would hate him for it, blame him for it. He was afraid that just maybe the knowledge might make things worse. He swallowed convulsively before replying.

"Our parents were killed. A drunk guy slammed into the car, they were killed instantly."

"Oh." Elizabeth frowned and was silent for a long moment. After a while she looked up at Alex and asked, "What were their names?"

"Nancy and Jeff."

Alex watched closely as Liz nodded and shrugged. The knowledge not affecting her no more than the police briefs you read in the newspaper about how a guy walked into his own home and killed his young pregnant wife and three children with a switchblade. That flicker of horror and then you move on to the next page. It’s another person’s life. It’s not real.

Alex realized then that the Liz he knew was gone. She wasn’t real. There was someone else sitting there on the bed with her name. But the memories that made his sister real to him weren’t there any more. And he understood then, why she preferred to be with Michael. She didn’t have to play a role with him. She didn’t have to care about people she couldn’t even remember the names of. She could be real.

Taking a breath he said, "I want to get to know you."

"But you already do. I’m the one who doesn’t know me." Liz seemed on the verge of tears, this was the first bit of real emotion she'd showed since he'd walked in to the room.

"Yeah. I know. But you aren’t the same. Look, I know you’ll be getting used to a lot of stuff. And you’re going to have to figure out who you are, because if you can’t remember you’ll be starting over. I love you. You’re my baby sister. No matter who you are. And it’s okay. We can go slowly."

"Why? How did you know?"

"‘Cause I feel the same way. Only I haven’t forgotten. I’m figuring out who I am also. I can’t lose you too. But I know I can’t force any expectations, and if you can’t remember we’ll start from scratch."

Quietly taking in what he was offering her, Elizabeth nodded slowly. "What’s your name?"

He smiled. Knowing instinctively what she was doing. It was what he’d hoped she’d do.

"Alexander Charles Parker."

"I’m Elizabeth…" Her voice trailed off.

"Elizabeth Claudia Parker." Alex completed the introduction for her.

"It’s good to meet you. I think you must be the best big brother on the planet."

"Yeah. Well you’ve got to be the best baby sister this side of the Milky Way." Alex looked into Liz’s eyes and saw relief. And he knew he had done the right thing. He’d keep what was left of his family together, no matter who each one of them turned out to be.

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