Charlie’s eyes drop to the ground. “Upstairs?” she says curiously. She inhales a slow breath, and I can hear the air sliding through her clenched teeth. “Silas?” She lifts her eyes to mine, and they’re narrowed. She has an accusatory look about her and I have no idea what I’ve done to provoke this look. “You wouldn’t lie to me, would you?”
I tilt my head, not sure if I heard her right. “What do you mean?”
“I’ve been noticing things. Little things,” she says.
I can feel the descent of my heart. What did I say? “Charlie…I’m not sure what you’re getting at.”
She takes a step back. Her hand covers her mouth for a moment, and then she points at me. “How do you know your bedroom is upstairs when you haven’t even been to your house yet?”
Shit. I did say upstairs.
Shaking her head, she adds, “And you made a comment earlier at the prison. About how you’ve prayed a lot in the last few days, but we’re both only supposed to remember today. And this morning…when I told you my name was Delilah? I could see you trying not to smile. Because you knew I was lying.” Her voice begins to falter between suspicious and scared. I hold up a reassuring palm, but she backs another step closer to the house.
This is a problem. I’m not sure I know how to respond to her. I don’t like knowing that she would rather run inside a house that terrified her five minutes ago than be standing near me. Why did I lie to her this morning?
“Charlie. Please don’t be scared of me.” I can tell it’s already too late.
She darts for her front door, so I lunge forward and wrap my arms around her, pulling her against my chest. She starts to scream, so I cover her mouth with my hand. “Calm down,” I say against her ear. “I won’t hurt you.” The last thing I need is for her not to trust me. She grabs my arm with both hands, trying to free herself from my grasp. “You’re right. Charlie, you’re right. I lied to you. But if you’ll calm down for two seconds, I’ll explain why.”
She lifts a leg while I’m still holding on to her from behind. She presses her foot against the house and kicks as hard as she can, sending both of us tumbling backward. I lose my grip on her and she begins to crawl away from me, but I’m able to grab her again and push her onto her back. She’s looking up at me wide-eyed, but she isn’t screaming this time. My hands are pressing her arms against the ground.
“Stop it,” I tell her.
“Why did you lie?” she cries. “Why are you pretending this happened to you too?” She struggles some more, so I tighten my hold.
“I’m not pretending, Charlie! I’ve been forgetting, just like you have. But it didn’t happen to me today. I don’t know why. But I can only remember the last two days, that’s it. I swear.” I look her in the eyes and she holds my stare. She’s still mildly struggling, but I can tell she also wants to hear my explanation. “I didn’t want you to be afraid of me this morning, so I pretended it happened again. But I swear, up until this morning, it’s been happening to both of us.”
She stops struggling and just lets her head fall to the side. She closes her eyes, completely exhausted. Emotionally and physically. “Why is this happening,” she whispers in defeat.
“I don’t know, Charlie,” I say, releasing one of her arms. “I don’t know.” I brush her hair out of her face. “I’m about to let go of you. I’m going to stand up and get in my car. After I drop Landon off, I’ll come back for you, okay?”
She nods her head but doesn’t open her eyes. I release her other arm and slowly stand up. When I’m no longer pinning her to the ground, she quickly sits up and scoots away from me before standing up.
“I was lying to protect you. Not to hurt you. You believe me, right?”
She rubs the spots on her arms where I was holding her down. She produces a meek, “Yeah.” And then, after clearing her throat, “Be back in an hour. And don’t lie to me ever again.”
I wait for her to walk back inside her house before I head back to the car.
“What the hell was that all about?” Landon asks.
“Nothing,” I reply, staring out the window as we pass her house. “Just telling her goodnight.” I reach into the back seat to grab all of our things. “I’m going back to Jamais Jamais for my Land Rover.”
Landon laughs. “We sort of wrecked it last night. Tearing down a gate?”
I remember. I was there. “It might still drive okay, though. It’s worth a shot, and I can’t keep using...whose car is this, anyway?”
“Mom’s,” he says. “I texted her this morning and told her yours was in the shop and that we needed hers today.”
I knew I liked this kid.
“So…Janette, huh?” I ask him.
He turns toward the window. “Shut up.”
The Land Rover’s front end was a debacle of twisted metal and debris. But apparently the damage was only cosmetic, because it cranked right up.
It took all I had not to go inside the gate again and scream at that psycho woman for leading us in the wrong direction, but I didn’t. Charlie’s dad has caused enough of a shit storm in her world.
I calmly drive my car to Charlie’s house and wait for her at the end of the road like I said I would. I text her to let her know I’m in a different vehicle.
I begin to turn theories over in my mind while I wait for her. It’s hard for me to suspend belief in order to give our circumstances an explanation, but the only things I can come up with are otherworldly.
An alien abduction.
Twin brain tumors?
None of it makes sense.
I’m making notes when the passenger door opens. A rush of wind follows Charlie inside the car, and I find myself wishing it would push her all the way to my side. Her hair is damp and she’s in different clothes.
She says, “Hi,” and pulls the seatbelt into place. “What were you writing?”
I hand her the notebook and pen and then back out of the driveway. She begins reading over my summary.
When she’s finished, she says, “None of it makes sense, Silas. We got into a fight and broke up the night before this started. The next day we can’t remember anything other than random stuff, like books and photography. It keeps happening for a week, until you don’t lose your memory and I do.” She pulls her feet up on the seat and taps the pen against the notebook. “What are we missing? There has to be something. I have no memory before this morning, so what happened yesterday that made you stop forgetting? Did anything happen last night?”