“Do you remember?” the girl whispered in my ear beside me, as she had before.
I shook my head for the ninth time. Pretty soon I wouldn’t have any more fingers to keep track of my head-shaking. Without my fingers, I couldn’t remember anything.
The general store smiled familiarly at me, shoppers passing in with empty hands and passing out with carts full of goods. But no, I had not seen it before. I was sure of it. Neither had I seen the bank, the post office, or that little brown church we’d passed by moments before.
“We’re relying on you to remember,” the girl whispered, her dark eyes widening as she gazed on up at me as if she were my friend. But she wasn’t my friend. She had told me her name, but I’d forgotten that, too.
“Aye!” the old man shouted, but the horses weren’t listening. They were plodding on through the cobblestone streets at a slow, lulling pace.
“Why should I trust you?” I asked the girl, who looked to be no more than seven years old. “And where are you taking me?”
“I’m Wren. You know who I am, you just don’t remember. Trust me, and you will see that we are going to a place where you will be safe. All you have to do is answer the man’s questions. But first, Sara, you must remember.”
Sara. She knew my name. I studied her face, which was as bright and round as a golden apple. Copper ringlets spread out from her head in a cloud. “Who are you, anyway?”
“I told you,” she said softly, “I’m Wren.”
Suddenly, the wagon jolted. “Ah, here we are!” cried the old man.
A shack. A broken-down, miserable shack half the size of my bedroom. I scrambled out of the wagon and strode towards the door. Without any memories, there was no reason for fear.
When I opened the door, dust greeted me, spiraling about the silent room. Out of the shadows stepped a man with luminous green eyes towering above me. “My daughter…” he said hoarsely, and he reached out his arms for me.
But I stood there, aloof. “You’re not my father. I know it.”
The man showed his teeth, grinning wryly. “Still my stubborn girl, eh?” He glanced at Wren, and then eyed the old man behind me. He seemed to be trying to tell them something with his eyes.
Then he stepped toward me. “You don’t remember anything do ya,” he said between clenched teeth. “Well, I am your father. Trust me, I remember everything.”
I racked my brain for anything. The farthest back I could remember was waking up on that wagon rumbling through town. How could I be sure this man was who he said he was?
Wren tugged at my arm, saying something, but I wasn’t listening. I was just looking at her, struck all the sudden with an aching feeling of hurt and love at the same time. My brain seemed to be flying out everywhere at once, trying to grasp what was just out of my reach. The little girl looked familiar, that’s all I knew.
I pulled tendrils of my hair and matched it beside hers. The same. Copper brown. Just as I had suspected.
“Is she your daughter?” I asked the tall man.
His face went blank for a second, and the blankness told it all.
“Uh, yes, she’s my daughter. Yeah, Wren, ya don’t remember your big sister?”
The girl didn’t say a word.
I couldn’t handle anymore of the lies. Heart pounding, I fled out of the shack, passed Wren and the old man, then passed the wagon and the horses.
I flew by the general store. Then the little brown church, the post office, and the bank. Finally, I stopped, breathless. The gate standing before me—I’d seen it before. And that feeling, that adrenaline running through my veins as fast as my legs—I’d felt it before.
I ran back to the shack just as swiftly as I’d run away. “Wren, can you tell me who you are?”
The girl gazed up at me, wide-eyed. “No, I can’t. I’m here to take you away.”
I confronted the tall man, who was not my father. I faked a smile. “Don’t let her, Papa. I want to be with you.”
The tall man scoffed. “Papa, you say? Ha! False memories aren’t going to help me, little girl. Take her away, Wren.”
Just as I had hoped, I was soon on the wagon with Wren at my side and the old man “ayeing” the horses that kept on plodding at a slow pace. But memories swept through me. The general store had been my daily savior, the little brown church my weekly reminder, and the bank and post office necessities of an ordinary life. I had lived such a life once. Then I had ran as fast as I could to escape it, far out the gate into extraordinary life beyond, where everything the tall man wanted to know was waiting for him.
And now my little sister was taking me home.