Saturday, April 27, 2013

It's a miracle it's written at all :)

Note to self: 1) Don't compose a blog in your head, you'll lose it.
                    2) See that little button on the top right of the screen that says SAVE, use it!!!!!!

If you're thinking that I have now lost today's blog twice, you get an icecream as a prize :) I've lost this blog twice now. Once because I composed it in my head while I was walking the much fitter dog around the Gooseponds, and then forgot the whole thing. And just now when some gremlin wiped the entire blog from my screen just as I was about to post.

So here's number 3. The last one was a bit preachy anyway. The first one was awesome, but when I compose something in my head (and it hardly ever happens because I usually have only cloud there that takes form when my fingers touch the keypad) the words leak out of my head and disappear. I guess the words have sunk into the ground around the Gooseponds and maybe they will grow into little word trees or something. Have I mentioned that I'm sleep deprived? In the last blog that vanished I had a very clever line about the reason for this that was to keep you reading to the end. Of course I can't now remember how I did that.

So the whole point of this blog is to discuss boxes, pretty boxes of all shapes and sizes. The other day I had the song Little Boxes by Pete Seeger pop into my head. The song is about the conformity of suburbia, it was first written in 1962 when the cheap suburbs were going up all over America. The song stuck in my head and my mind wandered from housing to people. Because just as modern society is making bland conformist suburbs, it is also making bland conformist people. (Ha! I didn't think of that in the lost blogs).

This is not to say that the non-conformist people are not around, they are. It is more that society rewards a certain type, or at least the media manipulates things to make it appear so. Why does a footballer get paid such a huge amount of money? Why does a model get paid so much to starve herself and strut around like an emaciated stick insect in clothes that a normal person could neither wear nor afford, nor even want to wear? Why does the person who goes to Africa to study a species on the brink of extinction, or to help people who are malnourished due to lack rather than choice get nothing and no assistance?

Okay, I'm going in a different direction to that originally intended. My original point was that society is important, but it should support all people within it, and not just those perceived to be 'successful'. Success is a small word, with a pretty straightforward dictionary meaning - yes I looked it up.


But in our personal lives success is far more complex. Success as a dictionary meaning is not necessarily what will bring happiness or fulfilment in our personal lives. Coming back to society and boxes, and my original thought: why must success be considered in a narrow field as the media feeds to us?  People are as many and varied as butterflies. What makes one person happy is not what another dreams of. And why should it be. Variety is the spice of life, yet modern society seems intent of blanding the variety out of us (blanding is a word, it is now anyway). Think of all the wonderfully unique people - the crazy cat people, the hippies, the artists, musicians, writers, the people who eschew the 'normal' values that society imposes on us, and are happy and content. 

The true meaning of success is of course as varied as the people on this earth. It's a short life, some of us know what our personal success is and some of us search for a big chunk of our lives to find it. Success, in our personal lives, is really just another way of saying the meaning of life (without those that have read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy shouting 42 at you). 

To get back to my point, and I know I'm being long winded about it, the meaning of life is different for all of us. We should all be allowed to find our own personal meaning and to be able to pursue it with the full support of friends, family, and society. Maybe it is to breed a better chicken, or write a song that Bruno Mars sings (because he's cute), or study an obscure slug that lives in the depths of the Amazon. Just because your dream may not be something society considers important does not mean you should give up on it. If it's important to you, and makes you feel that you have found the meaning of your life, then chase it, follow it, give it all you have. Because the true meaning of life is to lie on your death bed with no regrets.

Now why am I sleep deprived? Because this morning at 2am I woke to the sound of dishes banging in my kitchen. I was in bed, the boy child was in bed, the cats were on my bed - so who or what was in my kitchen? I looked at the cats, they were peacefully asleep, the dog was completely silent (this is not a reliable indicator, she was probably asleep and dreaming about food in which case the only way she'd notice a robber was if he was stealing the food) and nothing was stirring except the banging in the kitchen. I was tired, and a little bit  freaked out of my mind, so I lay there and waited for it to stop, which it did. And nothing, no footsteps, nothing. So I lay awake for the next few hours, finally went back to sleep about an hour before I needed to get up and of course woke feeling like something the cat regurgitated (not the cat that eats tinsel, nothing shiny about me this morning). I staggered into the kitchen and it was exactly the same as I had left it the night before. My immediate question was this: if there was an intruder and he/she/it/ghost felt the need to bang dishes, how come he/she/it/ghost wasn't instead motivated to wash the  dishes from the night before that I had lazily left in the sink? And how could I get he/she/it/ghost to do this next time. I bet if I woke  to the sound of dishes being washed and kitchen being cleaned I would smile and go back to sleep no problem.

I will leave you with a photo I took on an expedition to one of the beaches around here. The tide was waaaaaay out which makes it look kind of like a desert if a desert had islands and an ocean. Yeah, sleep deprived, I'll shut up now.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ever had one of those days, where you reach a point when you realise that you will get nothing done that you had planned? So you throw your hands up in the air, and just go with the flow - or you get massively frustrated and fight against it but still in the end have to go with the flow. Of course if you get massively frustrated the flow becomes more like a raging torrent with unseen rips.

Well for me it's been a whole week of those sorts of days. I have a rising tide of anxiety that is coming from my stomach, squeezing my lungs and making my head feel like it will explode. That is  mostly because I haven't written a word and I had planned to have so much done by this point (one week later). I also haven't done any of the promoting of the book that I need to do. It has been distributed to the major stores, and I will have it up on Amazon just as soon as I have the time to sit and go through the hoops Amazon has in place. In a short space of time it will be available in all the catalogues, so while it is not imperative that I act on publicising immediately, I have to do so in the next few days.

This is  not to say that the past week has been a total write off, it hasn't. I've had some part time work and have earned enough to keep the wolf from the door for a bit longer, and I have had a few social moments - the rest of the time I'm damned if I know just what I did, but I know I was too busy to write or even to read. I have a mind that stresses when I don't read often, I think because it dulls the constant script that flows past the back of my eyes. Yes people, there is a script that unfolds at the forefront of my brain, I see it with my minds eye. It is comprised of my conversations with other people, my conversations with myself, even my shopping list when I write it. Everything I think or say or others say to me flows past inside my head and is viewed by my minds eye, whether I want to or not. That's how I spell, I have a picture of the word in my head and I just look at it. It's how I remember conversations, I go back through the script in my head.

I have spent most of my life thinking that was how everyone processed words. I could never understand why they couldn't spell when all they had to do was look at the word in their head. It's the same as the imaginary conversations I rehearse  before I talk to someone. You know, when you have something to say to someone and you plan what you will say, and they will say, and you will respond. You have the whole conversation planned, and then they don't say the right thing (you do this, right?). Imagine being me, the imaginary conversation running next to the actual conversation, and the real life conversation deviates from the prepared script. Rewrite on the fly! Very stressful.

Well anyway, apparently other people don't have this script inside their heads. It beats me how you all organise your thoughts if that is the case. But then it does become overwhelming, and that is one of the reasons I read and I write. The script goes to the back (I learned this phrase from using PowerPoint!) and the words I am reading/writing are at the front. Plus the noise in my head lessens when I write. Even writing this blog is calming, despite it going in an unexpected direction - again.

Hopefully from now on I can get back on track, and get on with the things that I really need to be doing - sending the book review requests off, checking to see if the book is up on the other store websites, and working on the next book which is downright shouting at me.

In the meantime, I'll attach a photo of The Gooseponds which I took at dusk today while speed walking the dog - she's getting fitter :)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

I sold a book!

I did, I sold a book - only one, but my first one and so it is very special :) So far my book is still only on Smashwords, although it was accepted yesterday into the Premium catalogue. That means that in around two weeks, it will be in the catalogues of the stores to which Smashwords distributes. These are: Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Baker & Taylor Blio, Library Direct, Baker-Taylor Axis360. I have to wait a few days to upload to Amazon unfortunately, but since it will be a week or two before the other retailers get it on their catalogues, it should be about the same time frame. So next week, I will start on contacting the book reviewers and asking them to read and review it. And I'll do all those other things on my rather long list of things I've prepared.

For these few days I'll focus on the new book. I'm pretty happy with myself because I've got the first few chapters re-written, and I can move on with the rest of the book, which is coming together in my head rather fast. I don't exactly know how it's developing, only that it is. It's as I've said before, I don't know what I will write until I write it. I know that it is forming inside my head, and I know that when I sit down to write it will come out of my fingers. I have no idea how it gets from my brain to my fingers because I don't actually think the words, they just come (kind of like some conversations, where I'm completely surprised by what I've just said). The only way I can describe it is that there is a pressure, a feeling of something formed that I need to get written. So I write. And when I write, when I stop procrastinating and get on with it, the rest of the world disappears. When I stop writing I feel very disoriented because my brain is still in the world I am creating on the screen, and the real world looks like an alien planet!

You know, I never realised how weird I am until I started writing this blog :)

Today's picture is one I took on the Gooseponds a couple of days ago while I was waiting for my friend Clare. She runs the Gooseponds these days, but sometimes she walks with me - I prefer to walk!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Publishing, as with everything else, just the start...

So I am published, at least on Smashwords for now. The book is still waiting to be reviewed for the Smashwords Premium catalogue, from which it will be distributed to other publishers. I am not yet published on Amazon, although I had planned to do it today. There is a very simple reason why - royalties, or more specifically the payment of royalties.

All of these publishers pay in US dollars. Not a problem. Smashwords pays via PayPal, also not a problem. The American IRS takes 30% in tax. That is a problem. I have to get a number to activate the tax treaty between America and Australia, and then I will pay only 5%. But I have to have earned $10 American before Smashwords will give me a letter that I need in order to get the number I need. There is another way which seems easier and quicker and I will try that first. If it works, I'll let you know.

That all seemed complicated and disheartening - then we come to Amazon. Amazon only pays to Australian authors via cheque (or check in American English). And Amazon only pays by cheque once sales exceed $100 American. Amazon pays by EFT to other countries, but not to Australia. I have no idea why. So I have a few choices; getting a cheque which I will then have to pay conversion rates on if I try to bank it, framing all the cheques I get as expensive wall art, or getting a UK bank account. I'm still thinking about that one. It may seem odd, but the UK bank account idea at this time seems like a winner. I go to the UK as often as I can, I would have spending money available this way. I also have my awesome sister (remember her? Saved me from throwing my computer out the door over the cover art?) who lives in the UK and hopefully can help in this matter...

I had planned to spend today publishing to Amazon and then writing. The sun is shining, it's not too hot, I have a clean house, nothing pressing is distracting me from writing (like paid employment). It seemed that today would be a very productive day. Ah, the perils and pitfalls of self publishing if you're Australian! Having come this far I refuse to give up or give in. I did think the worst would be over once I was actually published. I was prepared for the time consuming effort of publicity, and keen to do it since that will actually help get the book out there. This messing about with tax laws in a different country, and the huge hurdle that Amazon now represents was something I was not prepared for!

It's a good thing that there is a constant supply of sayings and proverbs to help get the right mindset :)

Or this one, which is the one I should pay the most attention to...

I think whoever put this one on the web was thinking of me!

Monday, April 15, 2013

I'm published!

Well, I'm published on Smashwords, the book has to pass the review for Premium status (if it passes the review it is published with other houses such as the Apple Store and Barnes & Noble) which takes a few days, but I'm there on Smashwords! What a strange feeling, I've taken the first step in my dream - well the second, the first was writing the book!

It feels pretty good, even though I still have a lot of work to do. I have to start the publicity now, sending the book off to reviewers and do all the other myriad things that will make it more visible to potential buyers. It's pretty daunting, but I'm tackling the process one step at a time. Each journey begins with the first step, and I've taken that. I just need to keep on going to reach my destination.

I haven't yet uploaded to Amazon, that's my next step. So tomorrow, upload to Amazon and start the publicity. Today, savour the moment :)

Only a short blog today, it took a lot longer than I thought to upload the book and I'm running out of day. The dog is sitting at the back door. She doesn't care about the book, she just wants to go for a walk. The cats are sitting in front of me, they don't care either, they just want dinner. So I had better get on with things. I'll leave you with a link to the book on Smashwords - mostly so you can see it sitting there looking all professional :) Quite honestly I have no idea if the link will work, but I'll give it a go.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

One of the first lessons you learn when you write for a living (or write with the intention/hope of making a living from it) is that the most important thing to do is write each day. It doesn't matter if the brain is empty, it doesn't matter if the next day it is apparent that the previous days effort was a load of rubbish. The important thing is to get into the habit, and stay in the habit, of writing every day.

It's surprisingly difficult to do this. After all, I chose to do this (actually the people who live in my head and find it a bit restrictive push me to do this) so I should be highly motivated, right? Wrong! I don't know if it is writers in general, or just me - I like to believe the former - but I find it terribly difficult to start almost every day. Unless I am doing something else that I have to do, or it is 2am - at those times my brain bleeds words and my fingers hurt because I can't let them out. Many times I have been tempted to get out of bed and just write. I don't because on the occasions I did the ramblings that poured out of my head were total rubbish, and I was total rubbish for the entire day due to sleep deprivation. Now I lie in bed and plan chapters in my head in great detail, sure that I will remember them the next day. I never do. I swear each time that I will make notes on my phone, each time I am sure I will remember so I don't make notes and I don't remember.

The other times I mentioned are when I am at work, or running errands, or doing necessary but dull chores like washing or cleaning or cooking, or out to dinner, or any time really when I can't physically sit down and write. Then when I have the time, and I sit down in front of my (lime green) laptop, I find myself procrastinating. I really don't know why, because when I start I am completely absorbed in what I am doing, the world I am creating and the characters I am letting out of my head. And when I stop I feel satisfied and fulfilled. I don't know how to describe it, except that when I write and it's going well I feel like I am doing what I was born to do. It's a great feeling, one I am sure that everyone feels when they find their purpose in life.

Today I have started work on my next book, while I wait to upload the first. I have the first few chapters already, I started it quite a long time ago. However I have changed the characters and the storyline a few times and it languished for a while as I tried to figure out where I wanted to take it. That's a lie. I knew where I wanted to take it, I just didn't want to have to do the rewrite! But today I have started, and now the whole book is clamouring for me to write it. As I think I have said, it will be a series of 4 books, a separate book for each of the characters who will all be introduced in the first one. Today each of my characters has become real and visible to me in my minds eye. They are fully fleshed, their personalities and motives are clear to me - although I am sure that will change as I write, I have not yet had a character stay as I originally intended. I seem to write pretty wilful characters. But if you think about it long enough, that makes sense because they have to be strong characters to be living in my head pushing me to write about them. Or maybe that sounds crazy. If it does, just mentally delete that last comment, I did not say it!

Today though, before I started, was one of those days where I felt like my head was completely empty. Possibly that is because I am doing a rewrite of the first few chapters, and there are parts I want to keep so I have to de-construct and reconstruct, which for me is a lot harder than just writing. The hardest part of anything is the first step, something I remind myself about every day. Having done what I set out to do I rewarded myself with a cup of tea, and opened this blog to write a post. My mind was completely blank - well actually it was still in the new world I am creating - and I had not a clue about how to start. So I did what I do best, put my fingers on the keyboard and let them go. This blog is the result. I hope it has been entertaining :)

I will leave you with a photo of Penelope the Labrador. You know the book about Marley? Penelope is a bit like Marley; headstrong, a bit of a bulldozer, obsessed with water and squeaky toys. She also, like most Labradors, just loves life. Currently we are having several days of unseasonable rain. I live near an area called The Gooseponds, a body of water prone to flooding in weather conditions like this. As I have said in another blog, I take the dog for a walk almost every day or she goes nuts. So yesterday she was determined to go for a walk, even though it was raining and The Gooseponds was flooding. I kept telling her this, and she kept telling me it was time for a walk. So I put the lead on her and took her around the corner to The Gooseponds. It was raining, the wind was blowing a gale, the footpath in front of us was flooded. This is the conversation we had, and I swear she replied just like I write:

Me: You see Penelope, The Gooseponds is flooded. Ducks are swimming on the footpath.
Penelope: I don't see the problem.
Me: Righto then!

We went for a walk.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hi there, I apologise for the few days silence. I'd love to say these days have been filled with balloons and rainbows and pots of gold - sadly none of those have graced my world. I've just been rather distracted and not sleeping so well - which makes the people in my head yawn a lot and squabble among themselves over the comfy spots to settle, and they don't talk much to me.

The weather has been quite cool and rainy, which I find both good and bad. Good, because I love to curl up with my laptop and a large pot of tea and read and write when it rains. Bad, because here in the southern hemisphere it's autumn and in this part of North Queensland that means the summer monsoon should have finished and it should be cool and dry weather. We don't get much cool weather here, I enjoy the few weeks we do get so I resent the rain just a teensy bit. On the other hand, I am gainfully unemployed right now so that means I can sit on the lounge with the laptop in fact on my lap, a cat on my legs and a good view out the side door of the rain pelting down. And I'm inside, all snug and warm and don't have to go outside for anything!

Well actually I do, I have to go drop off my resume at a couple of places, but I can wait until the rain stops to do that. And I have to go to the post office to check my mailbox because my lovely friend from Poland has sent me something and I want to see if it has arrived. But those are good reasons to venture outside. And there's no timetable for them. So I can watch the rain and drink my tea and write, and feel pretty good about life right now.

Which leads me to a life lesson I'm practising - children do it effortlessly but we forget as we grow older. Live in the moment. Sure I could sit here on the lounge and stress and worry because I am currently unemployed - but I'll still be unemployed no matter how much I stress about it. And if I do that I miss the simple pleasure of sitting on the lounge with a cat on my legs and a hot cup of tea beside me, watching the rain drowning my front yard.

I could also stress and worry that I will publish my book, and do all the publicity for it, and nobody will buy it. Little point in that either, and I'll miss the excitement in actually publishing the book I feel so strongly about. I wrote a book! And I'm publishing it.  It's taken me a lot of years to reach this point of following my dream - in a few days I'll take the first big step. I feel enormous satisfaction at finally figuring out what fulfils me in my life, and going after it. I'm not going to let myself take any of that away.

Needless worry and stress are self destructive and self defeating. It's horribly easy to do both to the exclusion of everything else. I am possibly world champion at it. I've been down a very deep and dark hole, with very slippery sides. I've climbed out and fallen back in many times in the course of my life. But my life has motored on, even when I was at the very bottom of the hole. And every day of my life brings me one day closer to the end of it. Pretty sure there's no re-do button anywhere. Some lessons I learn very slowly and this is one of those. But I've got it now. Live in the moment. Enjoy the small pleasures, look for the little things that make you smile.

Sure, the past can be painful but it's done - no re-do button - and every experience brings with it a lesson even if it's a painful one. The future is important, plan for it. I've planned every step I need to take to publicise the book once it's published. I've planned a series of four books for my next writing project and I'm pretty excited about the characters already. I have a plan for finding employment on a part time basis. I have a plan for the next stage in my life.

But what I have realised is that if I spend too long thinking about the past, planning for the future and stressing about events either past, present or possibly future, I fail to experience the now. I don't see experience the rain, I see only the inconvenience. I don't experience walking the dog, I see only the annoyance of having to take her every single day so she doesn't go nuts. I don't notice the birds, or the flowers, or the crisp smell of the rain washed air, or how the breeze ruffles the water and makes lovely patterns on the surface. I am not living now, I am hurrying towards the future with blinkers on. I am not, in fact living at all.

Well that sounds a bit preachy, and I didn't set out to write any of it! But there you have it, I don't know what I'm thinking until I start to write and then my fingers take over. I hope this didn't bore you all too much. I did plan to attach the third chapter of the book here, before it is published. I hope you read and enjoy it, and of course go buy the book when it is ready :)

Chapter 3

Alicia felt almost dizzy with relief. She had been so worried that no-one would believe her that to know this man accepted what she had to say and was going to stand by her was almost overwhelming. She may be an uptight person but she did have good taste in men she thought a little crazily. “I was so worried before, and now I don’t feel nearly as bad. Thank you Andrew,” she said, smiling at him before checking her watch. Seeing that there was still half an hour before they had to leave, and feeling hungry still, she got up to put on some more bread to toast, and turned to the fridge looking for jam. She had a longing for strawberry jam. Locating it in the door of the fridge she turned back with it in her hand to wait for the toast to pop and surprised Andrew staring at her with a peculiar expression on his face.
“Oh dear, don’t I eat strawberry jam? I’m not allergic am I?”
“No, not that I know of. It’s just that you don’t usually eat it. You generally stick to low fat and low sugar foods.”
“Oh.” Alicia stared at the toast she was about to spread liberally with butter and jam. Her whole being longed for the treat. “Oh well, it won’t hurt just this once. I think I need the sugar. I feel like I’ve been in shock all morning.”
Andrew looked sombre. “I can’t imagine what it’s like for you. I look at you and I see you. But it’s a different aspect of you. The you that was here yesterday would be unable to eat until she had cleaned up the kitchen. She would also be wearing full make-up because you never go without it, even on weekends.”
Alicia was astonished, “I don’t? My skin should look terrible then. Do I have regular facials or something?”
Andrew shrugged, “I suppose so, you don’t really tell me about day to day things.”
Automatically sitting at the table Alicia tucked into her toast with gusto. Leaning back in his chair Andrew watched her visible enjoyment of her food with pleasure.
“What do we talk about? Do we get on well together?” Alicia wasn’t sure whether she should ask such personal questions so soon – but then it wasn’t soon for Andrew she thought. For him it had been at least 13 years, probably longer.
“We talk about work, the kids, what we want to do on the weekends, where we should go for holidays – stuff like that.”
Looking at her slightly crestfallen face he continued, “We’ve been married for 15 years, we know each other very well. There are no more surprises.” He stopped himself and then continued a bit wryly. “At least, I thought there were no more surprises. I guess I was wrong.”
Her mouth full of toast, Alicia nodded vigorous agreement. She gazed at him for a while, carefully formulating her next words. “For you, it’s been 15 years. For me, it’s been this morning. I feel like a brand new person, with no memory of anything at all. I’m going to have to ask you a lot of questions, because I have nothing but blanks in my mind.”
Andrew nodded, his face worried. “The most important thing you need to know is that I love you. We have the odd argument, but I cannot imagine my life without you, and I always thought you felt the same way. Yet you have woken up this morning and I am wiped out of your mind as cleanly as deleting a folder on a computer. Perhaps you don’t feel the same way I do.” He stared at her, his chocolate eyes dark with emotion. “If it is anything that I have done that has caused this, I promise it will never happen again.”
Alicia stared back at him, the last piece of toast forgotten on her plate. That her memory loss had somehow been caused by Andrew had not occurred to her. She considered the notion carefully. With her limited knowledge she couldn’t be sure – yet her instinct on looking at him was that he was not a part of it. She trusted him, she realized. A trust that went so deep that even memory loss could not erase it had to be coupled with powerful emotion. Without thinking she reached her hand across the table and grasped his.
Staring earnestly into his sad eyes she said, “I don’t know what caused this, or how long it will last. I do know that I trust you with my life, and if I trust you even though I don’t remember you then I must love you every bit as much as you love me. I can’t bury a love that strong for ever. I will remember you, and our children, and our life. The doctor will be able to help, I’m sure.” She paused before wondering out loud, “Do I know my doctor well? Will he, or she, know the old me well enough to see the differences in the current me?”
Andrew snorted with laughter, even as his eyes sheened over with unshed tears. “You’ve know your doctor almost as long as you’ve known me. Believe me, Dr Tennant will know something has happened straight away. I don’t think he’s ever seen you without your face on, and he delivered our babies!”
Alicia dropped her eyes to her plate and picked up the final piece of toast, more for something to do than because she wanted it. She thought hard as she tore bits off the toast, choosing her words carefully. Looking up again she asked, “Am I an obsessive compulsive?”
Andrew looked stunned, but then said, “I can see why you would ask that question. It must seem that way without a reference point. No, I don’t think you are obsessive. You just like things organized and tidy.” He paused, then went on, “Although we have three children and we entertain regularly, you are not comfortable around people you don’t know, and you seem to gain confidence by wearing makeup. Now I think it is just a habit for you.”
Alicia absorbed that. She could imagine herself feeling uncomfortable with strangers – but maybe that was because now she was surrounded by strangers, with no hope of finding anyone familiar. Glancing at her watch, she saw that it was time to go see the doctor. She took her plate to the sink and rinsed it off. Looking at the mess on the table she felt an urge to tidy it off which was quickly buried when she thought of trying to figure out where everything went.
Andrew, seeing her sudden confusion, came to her aid. Taking the plate from her he put it down in the sink. Ignoring the table he said, “Come on, let’s go. I’ll get your bag.”
Alicia stared after him as he disappeared out of the kitchen. She supposed she had a bag full of day to day indicators of who she was. No, she thought. It would carry only the essentials. There would be no discarded tissues, old dockets or forgotten lipsticks in her bag.
She waited irresolutely in the middle of the kitchen. Logic told her that they would go out through the front door as that was the way Andrew had come in - but what if they were taking another car to the doctor? Then they would presumably go through the garage. Only thing was, she wasn’t sure where that was. There was an archway through to another room, and peeking through that she saw that it was a formal dining room. At least, she hoped it was formal. That left the door that led to the lobby and the front door, and a closed door in the far corner. Going to that, she opened it and saw that it led to the laundry. It was a reasonable assumption to think that the garage would be beyond the laundry. She looked around the well fitted, and of course immaculate laundry, then jumped guiltily when Andrew touched her arm. Feeling like a guest caught snooping she felt her face heat up. Andrew smiled kindly at her, looking a little puzzled at her guilty expression.
“Sorry, I feel like a visitor overstepping the boundaries.” She felt like crying at the stricken look on his face.
Wrapping his long arms around her he hugged her close, burying his face in her hair. They stayed like that for a long moment, then Andrew pulled back.
“Right, let’s get going. The sooner we see the doctor the sooner we find out what is wrong so you can get better.”
He handed Alicia her bag and she quickly peeked in. As she expected, the essentials with no rubbish or clutter. She did however admire her taste in handbags. Briefly, she wondered if she only had the one – she hadn’t seen any in the bedroom. Slinging the bag over her shoulder Alicia followed Andrew through the kitchen and lobby and out the front door.
Once out she paused to take in her surroundings. The front of the house was surrounded by gardens and a wide lawn that ended at a tall hedge. The car was parked on the driveway at the side, and she followed Andrew along the path to it. There was no-one in sight, for which she was thankful. She quickly got into the car, somehow feeling safer once inside.
The drive to the doctor was taken mostly in silence. Alicia was fully occupied in staring around her, trying to see something familiar. With a sinking feeling that she was rapidly getting used to, she gave up the attempt and just stared at the surroundings as they drove. She guessed they lived somewhere tropical, and felt certain that it was in Queensland. She wondered why she was certain of the state, but not the town she lived in.
Glancing at Andrew, she voiced the question that she had hoped would have been answered for her by looking around as they drove. “Andrew, where do we live?”
Andrew veered sharply before just as quickly correcting the vehicle. Glancing at her in astonishment, he visibly composed himself before answering in a hoarse voice.      “Mackay, for our entire married life. We have lived in our current house for the past four years. Neither of us are local though. I come from Brisbane and you come from the Sunshine Coast.”
“Oh.” Alicia thought for a moment. “Where did we meet?”
Spying a parking spot Andrew focused on parking the car before turning towards her and answering, “The Eiffel Tower, of all places. Honey, I will answer all of your questions, but right now I think the shock is setting in for me. Could we just go in and see the doctor, and I’ll tell you more after we get home again? I think I’ve only just fully realized what it is like for you and I have to try to come to terms with that myself. How you are so calm I don’t know because I feel like punching a hole in something.”
Alicia gave him a small smile. “I’m not calm, I’m numb.” With that she got out of the car and waited for her stranger husband to escort her to the doctor.
      Two hours later they were back in the car, somewhat shell-shocked. The doctor had reacted in amazement, he had never had a case of amnesia before. He had been unable to offer a quick cure, or a reason. Instead he had ordered a barrage of tests and booked Alicia into the hospital in order to undergo them. She might be in for several days. The doctor seemed hopeful that a reason for her amnesia could be found, but refused to even speculate on what that might be.
For the first time since she woke that morning Alicia was fearful for her health. A terrifying list of possible reasons were now presenting themselves to her, top of the list being brain tumour. She reached for the seatbelt to strap herself in, and realized that she was shaking so much that she was unable to buckle the belt.
Andrew leaned over to do it for her, then took her by the shoulders and gazed urgently into her eyes. “The doctor didn’t say anything, it probably isn’t anything medical. If it were you would have had other symptoms and you haven’t. These tests are just to rule out the possibilities so we can find the real cause. OK?”
Alicia stared back into his beautiful bitter chocolate eyes and nodded her agreement. Satisfied, Andrew straightened up and started the car. Alicia stared resolutely out the window. She would have been a lot more reassured if she hadn’t seen the flicker of fear in the depths of his eyes. She may not remember him, but it seemed that her subconscious could still read him as well as one would expect after 15 years of marriage.
Later on, sitting in the chair beside her hospital bed and staring out at the view across the river, Alicia was occupied in sorting through the things she knew about herself and her life. Andrew had only told her a little, as the doctor felt that too much information would be overwhelming. She knew her name – Alicia Russell. She met Andrew on top of the Eiffel Tower, when they were both on overseas holidays. He said that he saw her and deliberately bumped into her to start a conversation. They got to know each other in Paris and then when they found out they were both living in Mackay, they arranged to meet up when they returned. Andrew was the one who followed up on the arrangement and contacted her. He said he was surprised when she agreed to see him, and after just a year of dating they married.
He had described the wedding a little when she asked. She had insisted on an informal ceremony.  Both sets of parents had come, but no other relatives. This was also at her insistence, although he personally didn’t mind one bit. She supposed that meant that the parents’ had. They had married in a park, and had a reception at a local restaurant. There had been only themselves, their parents and their closest friends at the wedding. She wondered at that, but remembered that Andrew had said that she felt uncomfortable around too many people.
The children had come along in due course, each child planned and anticipated with delight except for Michael who was a happy accident. Her parents and his saw them often, but he did not mention any other family of hers. Maybe she didn’t have anyone apart from her parents. She shrugged as she thought about that. Right now she didn’t really care about the possibility of an extended family, not when she couldn’t remember her immediate one.
She continued her musing. She was an accountant – not surprising. Andrew was one also which she did find surprising. He had laughed when she said that to him, and said she was surprised the first time too. They owned an accountancy firm which was very successful. That was why he could easily take the day off, and as much time as was needed now to get her well, he had said firmly.
The only other information she had was sketchy. Andrew had told her a bit about the children. Josh was quiet and almost as tidy as she was. Sarah was a ray of sunshine, happy, bright, just a bit messy and rather loud. Michael was a bundle of energy, loud, talkative and extremely messy. Sarah and Michael were each an open book, but Josh was more introspective. Like you, Andrew had said.
She had asked him how he thought the children would react to what had happened to her, and he confessed that he didn’t know. They had decided to keep the children away until the tests had been completed. That would be the next day, so he was going to bring them to see her tomorrow afternoon. By then the doctors would have a better idea of what was going on.
Now, sitting in the chair, Alicia wondered if that had been the right decision. Maybe she should have seen the children today, perhaps it would have been less stressful for them. But perhaps Andrew was hoping that following a nights sleep she would wake up with her memory fully returned and there would be no need for an anxious meeting with them. Probably he did, because that was what she was hoping.
      During the whole surreal day, hope had been popping into her consciousness, wrapping tendrils around her mind so that it was always there in the background. The hope that when she went to sleep tonight the switch that had flipped to the ‘off’ position last night would in the same mysterious way flip back to ‘on’ and she would wake up with her memory fully restored.
For the rest of that strange afternoon, a patient in hospital yet not sick or injured, that hope continued to grow. She took a phone call from Andrew, who assured her that all was well with the children (he had downplayed the problem) and they were looking forward to seeing her the next day. She had undergone all the tests arranged by her doctor. She was a little scared by how rapidly the move had been to get all the tests done and was trying not to think about that.
Now she was waiting until she felt tired enough to go to sleep. She had tried watching television, curious to patch another piece onto the image she was developing of herself. It had not been a success, as she was unable to concentrate on anything on the screen. She tried reading, but could not concentrate on the printed word either. Instead she was back in the chair by the window, staring out at the night.
Although the events of the day had left her feeling drained and exhausted, those same events were playing around and around in her head which made it impossible for her to sleep. Try as she did, Alicia could not think of a non-medical reason for such sudden memory loss, and as the hour grew progressively later she worried more and more about what could be wrong with her. All kinds of terrifying possibilities haunted her until she had worked herself into a state of near hysteria.
The night shift nurse found her curled up tightly in the chair sobbing her heart out. Having seen more than her share of distraught individuals in her time, the nurse went smoothly into action. She gave Alicia a firm and reassuring hug, spoke to her in a sing-song soothing tone and placed her into bed.
Disappearing into the little bathroom she reappeared with a damp face cloth and gently wiped the tears from her face. Then she encouraged Alicia to take a few sips of water, knowing that such simple actions restored a feeling of normality to the patient. Alicia did as she was told without resistance.
When the nurse told her to lie down, close her eyes and try to sleep, with the promise that she would be back in ten minutes to check on her, Alicia did just that. And just as the knowledge that a grownup would be back to check on the child engenders a feeling of security so that they sleep, so too did it work for Alicia. When the nurse came back in ten minutes, as promised, Alicia was sound asleep. Satisfied that natural sleep was the best thing for her the nurse went on with her rounds. She came back regularly to check, but each time found Alicia deeply asleep.
It was the unfamiliar sound of a breakfast tray rattling along the corridor that woke Alicia from the heaviest sleep she could remember experiencing. For a moment she was disoriented, peering around the room in bewilderment. Then memory came rushing back. That’s right, she was in hospital. Today she would get the test results. Today she would see Andrew and the children. And in a weeks’ time… something was happening.
Frustrated, Alicia tried to grab onto the sliver of memory that pulled back into the dark recesses of her brain even as she tried to grab it. For just a second there she had felt like her old self. She had known her husband and children, really known them. She had felt something else too – was it foreboding, or fear, and something was happening in a week. She had felt tangible things from the person that she used to be but now they had gone again and here she was, this empty shell.
“Aaagh!” Picking up the nearest object, the tissue box, she threw it with all her strength at the wall opposite the bed. Small and light as it was it fell short and did nothing to alleviate the frustrated anger raging through her. She looked at the bedside table and seeing a book she had taken from the hospital library she flung it at the wall. It hit with a satisfying clunk, and fell to the floor in a mess of pages.
It wasn’t enough though. She could feel rage and frustration and fear boiling up inside her and she had to get it all out. Her eyes settled on the water glass the nurse had left the night before. There was still a bit of water left in it. She stared at it for several long seconds. A small rational part of her was telling her not to do it, to have consideration for the staff who would have to clean it up. Another part of her, another small part, was urging her to do it. Why should she always be the one to have consideration for others? Who was thinking of her when…
Abruptly a door slammed closed in her head. It was such a strong sensation that she could almost feel it. She touched trembling fingers to her forehead. Something had almost happened, something that felt momentous. Or it would have been momentous, if her brain had not cut off the thought before she could form it. The frustration and rage drained away, leaving only icy cold fear. What was happening to her? It was as though there was something inside her head operating independently from her conscious mind. Was it her subconscious?
Along with other bits of impersonal trivia that she had not forgotten was the little bit she had read about the subconscious, enough to know that it was capable of keeping information away from the conscious mind in order to protect the psyche of that person. Was that what was happening to her? But surely there was nothing so terrible in her life that she had to lose her memory in order to protect herself from it. Was there?
Picking up the water glass, Alicia took a sip, the urge to throw things gone. She felt quite calm now, and certain that the tests that had been done yesterday would show nothing. She knew with absolute clarity that there was nothing physically wrong with her. No, it was something else, but how was she to find out what when she couldn’t remember anything?
At that point the breakfast tray rumbled into the room. Alicia gratefully accepted a cup of tea, and added plenty of milk so that she could drink it quickly. She requested another one before the attendant had finished putting out her breakfast tray, and, after adding considerably less milk, drank the piping hot beverage more slowly. Gradually the icy cold fear seeped out of her body and the tea restored her equilibrium as it almost always did.
It was odd, she thought as she had been thinking ever since this had happened, how some things remained even when memory left. Some things she remembered, mostly general knowledge. That made sense as it was not directly linked to her or her life. It made more sense therefore, that she would not know how she liked her tea, since that was such a personal thing. Yet she did not even have to think about it. Maybe that was the key. Maybe it was the things that had become automatic that remained. Like muscle memory, there was no conscious effort required to recall them.
But then, she should have known what she looked like and she hadn’t – yet she had known how old she was. Weird. She spent the rest of the morning before Andrew and the doctor came writing a list of the things that she knew and the things she didn’t. She was certainly an accountant, she accepted wryly as she looked at the resultant ‘yes’ and ‘no’ columns. She had started on sub-headings – things she should have known based on the automatic theory yet didn’t, when her first visitor of the day arrived. Andrew.

Friday, April 5, 2013

What a day...

There have been quite  few upheavals in my life lately, not least of which is my working life. I'm sure everyone has experienced a difficult work environment. We have all felt like square pegs in a round hole at one time or another. I was only thinking this today, and really I think 'square peg' is a misnomer. Square peg denotes a certain inflexibility, perhaps even an aura of boring. Generally, square pegs are not inflexible, and definitely not boring. Square pegs have their own minds and usually a pretty strong belief in themselves. Square pegs tend to be highly individualistic and have a desire to stay true to who they are. Square pegs are different - at least from the perspective of the round hole they are not fitting into. Square pegs should be glittery stars!

I am surely a glittery star as far as my current work goes, so much so that this glittery star has had enough and was going to quit today. The security of a guaranteed income really can become secondary to being able to sleep at night. Happily for me the daunting experience of quitting was taken out of my hands. Obviously my boss has no fondness for glittery stars (!) and today, on a day off work for me, came around to my house while I was away and slipped a letter of dismissal into my letterbox.

Sure, I should be rather annoyed at such an underhand way of dismissing me - but in fact I am relieved and feel like a huge burden has been taken off my shoulders (I have never been fired before, I would not have imagined this to be my reaction). Tonight, I am sure I will sleep well :) The problem was not ever my lack of intelligence, but rather the lack of training - not everybody can teach. So I have mentally thanked my boss for solving my problem for me and resolved to give the whole situation no more thought.

We must all remember that old sayings and proverbs have remained in the collective memory because they carry truth within them. The saying that I think applies to me right now is this one: When one door closes, another opens. The trick is to focus on the door that is opening, the closed one is done and finished with.

For me, that means that I now have time to focus on getting this book published, and on writing the others that fill my head. I don't know how it is for other writers, but for me, given a tiny glimmer of encouragement, the people who live inside my head become very insistent that I tell their stories.

I do need to find alternative employment of course. I am not a person with sponsors forming an orderly line at my front door, I need to work to pay the bills. But I have learned that I feel most fulfilled when I have time to write, so that means I will be looking for part time or casual work. And until I find work, I can focus entirely on this book and on starting the next one.

Today I thought I had the book completely ready to send off to be formatted - then I discovered a thing called an ISBN. This is the International Standard Book Number. Every published book needs one as an identifier. I have just secured one and I can tell you it makes me feel very professional!

So now the book is ready to be sent off for formatting, and once it is done I can upload it and I will then be a published author. Very exciting!

At this point, in case you enjoyed the first chapter, I will attach the second for your entertainment.

Chapter 2
Alicia took one more look at herself, admiring the light of battle gleaming out of her eyes, making them even deeper and more striking. A random thought drifted out of the grey mist, it’s nice to be able to admire myself and not feel guilty. Uncertain of how to interpret it she dismissed it and focused on the wardrobe. The first step in this battle was to be dressed for it. She felt inadequate clad only in a nightdress.
She slid open a wardrobe door and peeped in. Goodness, it was a walk in wardrobe. How had she missed that when Andrew got his clothes before? Staring too hard at his cute backside, she supposed. She had opened one of the doors at the opposite end to where Andrew had gone earlier, and her guess had been correct. Facing her were rows of women’s clothes. No, her own clothes, she corrected herself irritably. She was not surprised to note that they were all perfectly organized.
To one side were shelves filled with neatly folded casual clothes – denim shorts, cargo pants, t-shirts and the like. Hanging up next to the shelves were casual skirts and shirts, plus a few dresses. On the other side were racks of hangers filled with more formal clothes such as tailored suits and even a few evening gowns. There was a section of shelving devoted to shoes, sitting paired up neatly in rows and organized by style. She noted that there were a lot of high heeled shoes, as well as more casual sandals and trainers, but not a single pair of thongs were visible.
She turned around in bemusement; she had no idea what was appropriate wear for today. Was she working, at home in casual wear, or did she even have going shopping clothes? She noticed a row of drawers next to the shoe shelves. Underwear, she guessed correctly. Drawers of underwear, also neatly organized into colours and styles. In the top two drawers were underpants and bras in neutral colours and comfortable styles. The next two drawers contained dressier styles, bolder colours and lace embellishments. The second drawer from the bottom held pantyhose in beige tones and in the bottom drawer were stockings and pantyhose in black and lace.
Alicia was astounded. Was she really this woman? She didn’t feel like an ultra-organized person. She felt in chaos, her mind was spinning and she felt lost. Did this person really dress in casual underwear and matching casual outerwear? Maybe she wore the racy underwear underneath the casual clothes as her own personal secret. Alicia hoped so, she was beginning to feel some disdain towards this rather obsessive woman that apparently was her.
Turning back towards the shelves of folded clothes she selected a pair of denim shorts and a t-shirt. From the underwear section she chose the plainest bra and pants, decided on trainers and then looked around for socks. Where would an obsessive person store socks? Alicia looked more closely at the rows of shoes. There was a narrow drawer underneath the shelf that held the trainers. Sliding it out Alicia saw it contained socks, also neatly ordered and arranged in sections – white and coloured. She took out a pair at random and then went back into the ensuite to dress.
She would have liked to have taken a shower, but not sure of when Andrew would be back and unwilling for him to see her naked, she closed the door and instead hurriedly dressed in what felt like borrowed clothes. She found all the toiletries she needed on the vanity, including what she hoped was her toothbrush. A quick search yielded a selection of hair ties in the top drawer of the vanity and she secured her hair in a loose plait. Ready to face whatever came next she opened the door and came back into the bedroom.
She was feeling very let down, because she had been so hopeful that seeing herself and her clothes would restore her memory. Instead, here she was dressed in clothes that she didn’t recognize, seeing reflected in every mirror a person whom she didn’t know, and now she was beginning to feel that she didn’t even really want to know who she was.
She poked through the jewellery in the cases on the dresser. It was all beautiful, but she didn’t put any on – it felt too much like she was borrowing someone else’s things without permission. Noticing the unmade bed she straightened the covers and fluffed up the pillows. Her nightgown was still on the floor in the ensuite. Feeling like an untidy guest she picked it up and hesitated, not knowing where it should go. There didn’t seem to be anywhere in the room for it to hang so she folded it up and slipped it under the pillow.
Now what? Alicia didn’t know what else to do. She guessed that there would be more clues to her identity in the drawers of the dresser, but she already felt like a guest spying on her hosts. In any case nothing seemed to be going to work. The panic patrolling the edges of her consciousness made itself known again, and again she pushed it away.
Feeling a bit like a prisoner Alicia looked uncertainly at the curtained windows. There were two windows in the bedroom and what looked to be a door also. She chose the window closest to her and slid open the curtains. The view outside the window rang no bells, but was pretty nonetheless. She saw that the house was two storeys and the bedroom was on the upper level. The window looked down onto a garden that was of course immaculate. She could see flower beds and shrubs, and beyond the garden other houses that looked big and prosperous.
Moving to the next window she opened the curtains and looked out. Much the same view, but she could also see enough of the road at the front to be certain that they were in a leafy residential suburb. Where did she live? Her mind was still keeping that a secret. She could be in Brisbane, Cairns or Rockhampton. At least she knew she was Australian, and even that she lived in Queensland, she thought.
She carried on to the curtained door set next to the ensuite. Sliding those curtains back she saw a pair of French doors that opened out onto a large balcony. Feeling a sudden desire for fresh air Alicia unlatched the doors and pushed them open. Warm summer air rushed into the room and she breathed in the mingled scent of flowers and salt.
Walking out onto the balcony Alicia experienced a lifting of her spirits as she took in the view of the back garden and beyond, seeing for the first time that the ocean was not far away. There were more garden beds and shrubs, and a large pool was visible at the bottom of some stone steps. Peering over the side Alicia saw that there was an entertainment area underneath the balcony. A small table and two cane chairs were arranged at one end of the balcony, and she sank down into one of the chairs with a strong feeling of déjà vu.
At last, there was a feeling of familiarity to something. She guessed that here was a place she came to often, perhaps to read or to be by herself. She leaned back in the chair and tried to call up a memory, any memory. Nothing happened and with a sigh she stared out over the rail towards the sea. She could see a couple of islands in the distance and wondered idly what they were.
A feeling of peace stole over her, and even with the dramatic loss of herself, she felt her body begin to relax. She sighed, and settled more comfortably in the chair. She could feel the taut nerves relax, tight muscles loosen, and something that had been clenched in the depths of her stomach released its grip. She realized that she was hungry.
She sat for a while and considered her options, which didn’t take long as they were few. She could stay here until Andrew returned, and hope that the peace would restore her memory. That didn’t seem likely but it was the easiest option. Her only other option that she could see was to venture beyond the room and find the kitchen. That was the most sensible thing to do, considering that she felt like she hadn’t eaten in a long time. It was, however, a seriously daunting proposition.
The thought of opening the bedroom door and venturing beyond the boundaries of her tiny known world to whatever lay beyond was frightening enough to make her muscles tighten up again. She realized that it was adrenalin flooding her system, and supposed that she had released quite a bit of it already this morning. That was probably why she was so hungry, she thought absently, her head swivelling so that she was looking back into the bedroom.
She checked the time again, and saw that it was almost 9am. Still half an hour or so until Andrew returned. She didn’t want to wait any longer, so she pushed herself out of the chair and strode purposefully through the bedroom.
Hesitating with her hand on the door knob, Alicia forced herself to open the door. It opened easily, and she peeked around it half fearfully. Beyond the bedroom she saw a long hallway with several closed doors just beckoning to be opened and explored. Coming fully out of the room she felt disoriented, and stared back at the bedroom.
Closing her eyes briefly she rationalised that she was at one end of the house, and that meant the most of the doors she was seeing were likely to be bedrooms. Grabbing her courage in both hands she opened the first door on her left, and was faced with a large storage cupboard. Inside were rows of deep shelves, full of boxes each bearing a label. She glanced at the nearest one. It was a blue plastic box and the label read ‘light bulbs’. On top of it was a similar box, only it was red and its label said ‘hole punch, leather care and shoe care’.
Closing the door she moved on. Opening the next door on the left she saw a neatly organized linen closet. Opposite that was a bathroom, with the door left ajar. She peeped in and was encouraged to see that this room was in a state of dishabille. It felt reassuring to know that the whole house was not perfect. There was a towel on the floor, an empty toothpaste box on the vanity and various toothbrushes spread over the surface. It looked like this was the children’s bathroom and they were in a rush this morning. Stifling an urge to tidy up, and not sure if it was a natural urge or a polite guest urge, she moved onto the next room, which was next door to the bathroom.
The door to this room was also left ajar, and peeping in she gasped as she beheld total chaos. This room obviously belonged to the youngest, Michael. The bed was unmade, and toy cars were scattered all over the floor. Piles of other toys were shoved in corners and a pair of pyjamas lay on the floor in front of the bed, along with a discarded school shirt. Was this the normal state of this room, or was it the end result of an active boy filling in time until his parents got up? She had no idea, and she had no inclination to tidy up this mess right now.
Closing the door she continued exploring the upper storey of the house. The rest of the rooms on the right were more bedrooms. The one next to Michaels must be Sarah’s judging by the plethora of pink and yellow. The bed was yellow, the covers pink. The other furniture was also yellow, with pink curtains and thankfully white walls. Alicia was surprised by the abundance of colour – it gave the impression of an exuberant personality which she did not associate with what she had learned of herself so far.
Her daughter was also a pretty tidy child, with the bed made in a rudimentary fashion and pyjamas lying carelessly on the covers. Papers and colouring pencils lay in cheerful profusion on a desk in one corner, and a bookcase next to it was stuffed with books. The wardrobe was closed and the small dressing table held little more than a brush and some hair ties.
Unsure of what to make of it all Alicia closed the door and continued on. The next door opened onto what had to be the guest bedroom, as it was immaculate and showed no sign of occupation. Opposite it was the last bedroom on this level, Josh’s. This room was giving nothing away. It was tidy, the bed made and nothing on the desk to give any sort of clue to his personality. This room also held a bookcase full of books. There was a wardrobe, and a dresser. She stared into the room for several long seconds, but did not enter. It felt like a violation of his privacy, and try as she did she could feel no connection to any of these children.
Softly closing the door she moved down the hallway in a sober mood. How was she to interact with this family when she felt no attachment, no familiarity, nothing more than curiosity? The last door was back one from Josh’s, and when she opened it she saw that it was a rumpus room. There was a large lounge suite, various game consoles, even a pool table. It appeared that the children were well provided for, she thought.
The staircase was around a corner in this room, she realized that it ran down the back of the two storage closets. She hesitated briefly before beginning the descent to ground level. There were photos hanging on the wall at intervals on the way down, and she gazed at them curiously. She supposed they were documentation of her life, yet nothing sparked any sort of recognition.
It was bizarre and frightening to be looking at snapshots of her life and not remember any of them. There was a wedding photo in which she recognized only herself and Andrew. She supposed the two older couples in the photo were their respective parents but she couldn’t even begin to guess who belonged to whom. Further down the stairs her eyes collided with a large studio portrait which was clearly a family shot. She wondered absently how recent it was, as her gaze took in her children.
There were Josh, Sarah and Michael, smiling happily into the camera as she and Andrew stood proudly at the back of the shot. She studied it a little desperately. Josh looked a lot like Andrew, dark chocolate eyes gazing seriously out of the photo, tousled dark hair just a little too long. He had his arm around Sarah. Her daughter had her blue eyes Alicia thought, but with mischief shining out of them like a beacon. She had long white-blonde hair and Alicia wondered how two dark haired parents could produce a blonde haired child.
Michael stood in the front with Josh’s hand resting on his shoulder, a devil in shorts and t-shirt she thought. His eyes were a light brown, almost the colour of honey and his hair was golden brown rather than dark. He wore an angelic expression, but she could see the mischief lurking in the back of those innocent eyes.
Alicia stared intently at the tableau, willing herself to remember, but there was not a flicker. While she admired her children, she felt no maternal pull towards them. In despair she jerked her eyes away from the photo and descended the rest of the stairs, resolutely not looking at any more pictures. It was just too painful to see what she had lost. She could not bear the thought of never regaining her memory, of never being a proper part of this family again. She shuddered and pushed away the thought of being isolated within her fractured mind for the rest of her life.
Blinking eyes that had blurred with unshed tears, she reached the bottom of the stairs and stood irresolutely in the foyer. The stairs ended across the foyer from the front door, she saw. There was a doorway on either wall but from where she stood she couldn’t see what lay through them. The smell of toast and coffee lingering on the air directed her to the door nearest the staircase, and sure enough, through it lay the kitchen.
With hope once again rising she stepped through the doorway into what must surely be her territory. The sense of smell was a powerful trigger she knew, so maybe that coupled with what she had seen would throw her internal switch from ‘off’ to ‘on’. The room she saw was large and inviting, the walls a cheerful lemon colour, the fittings and fixtures gleaming. She ran a finger along one long bench top – pale granite, cool and smooth to the touch. She looked at the stove and cooktop, tried to imagine herself here cooking the evening meal. She opened the huge fridge and peeped in at the contents. She cast a quick gaze over the table, still littered with cereal bowls and boxes. A coffee mug stood near the sink, still half full. Clearly the family had needed to hurry to get away on time.
Picking up the mug she stuck her nose in and inhaled deeply. Fragrant coffee fumes filled her lungs and made her feel dizzy. It served to remind her that she was hungry, but did nothing to jog her memory. Dejected, she located the jug easily enough and turned it on. A search of the pantry and cupboards eventually yielded bread for toast, and several boxes of teabags. Tea was what she wanted, but she didn’t know if that was what she drank. She just knew that she needed the comfort of a steaming cup of tea.
The toaster was on the bench, still slightly warm, so she put some bread in and pushed down the lever. A quick rummage through the fridge failed to locate any butter, and then she saw it still on the table. There was honey there too, and she took it back to the bench with the butter. The small rituals of buttering toast and making tea helped to soothe nerves made ragged by the events of the morning. She was relieved to note that she did not have to think about how she took her tea. Evidently that was one of the small remnants of her previous life.
She had finished the toast and was sitting drinking the last of her tea when she heard the front door open. Realising (hoping) that it was Andrew she froze with her hands wrapped around the mug, staring at the doorway. She had no idea what she was going to say to this man who was both her husband and a total stranger. How was he going to react when she told him that she couldn’t remember anything?
Andrew came into the kitchen while she was still trying to formulate an explanation and stood staring at her in apparent shock. She stared back, perplexed. She didn’t know what she had done that would make him look like that. Was it the wrong clothes for today, or did she not usually eat breakfast, or maybe she hated tea? She tried a smile, but it went all wobbly on her face.
He dropped the keys he was carrying onto the bench and rushed to her side. Wrapping his arms around her he stroked the back of her head soothingly. Alicia rested her head on his shoulder with a little sigh, and gave herself up to the rather pleasant sensation of being coddled.
All too soon he held her shoulders back and gazed searchingly into her eyes. Tentatively he asked, “Are you feeling better?”
Not knowing how to answer, Alicia shook her head slightly.
“Well I rang the doctor as soon as they opened and made an appointment for you. Do you think you should go?”
Should she go to see the doctor? She had to do something, so maybe this was the place to start. She nodded her head, then thought to ask, “What time is my appointment?”
“11.30. You’ve still got an hour or so before we have to leave. Can I get you anything? Do you need some painkillers or…” Andrew paused, gesturing helplessly. “Alicia,” he continued carefully, “What is wrong with you? Do you feel sick, or dizzy, or what? I can see you’re not yourself, you haven’t cleaned the kitchen or put your make-up on so you must be feeling pretty dreadful.”
Alicia filed that titbit of information away. Apparently she was big on tidiness, and she wore make-up even in casual clothes. Right now she just didn’t have the energy to put on make-up and besides which she had no idea how she liked to wear it. Cleaning anything was going to take time since she would have to search for everything she needed. Having observed the contents of the cupboards, fridge and pantry, though, she figured that it would not take long to find things, organized as she was – or used to be.
She stared at Andrew who was looking at her with an expression somewhere between concern and exasperation. Deciding that the only way to tell him what had happened was to start at the beginning she did just that. To his credit he listened to her without interruption as she recounted everything that had happened to her since she woke this morning. She could see that he was struggling to believe her, but she slogged on regardless.
“And now here I am in a kitchen I don’t recognize, wearing clothes I don’t recognize, talking to my husband that I don’t...” Stopping abruptly she stared at him wide-eyed.
Andrew stared back and slowly filled in, “recognize. You don’t know me, do you?”
“No,” she replied in a voice little more than a whisper. “I don’t know myself either. I don’t know what I do all day, what I wear, how I behave, where the children go to school. I don’t even know the children,” she finished softly. “What am I going to do?”
Andrew gazed at her, his eyes full of purpose and determination. “Not you, us. What are we going to do? I married you for better or worse. We’ll find out what has caused this, and we’ll fix it. You’re not alone, you have me and the children. They may find it a little difficult to understand, but I’m sure this is only a temporary thing. You were fine yesterday and last night. This can’t be anything serious. We’ll go see the doctor and he can tell us what to do. You’ll see Alicia, everything will work out just fine.” Straightening, he took the seat next to her. “Remember, it’s us against the world darlin’, and together we can face anything.”