Short Story Prompt: Write about a a person whose family member is suffering from amnesia and tries to get that person to remember them.
One year after the search parties had disassembled and the leads had run cold, she decided that it was time to restart her life. She moved back into their bedroom from the guest room; she opened windows and pulled up blinds; she began accepting requests for dinner with family and friends. It wasn’t that the grief was gone; she simply woke up one morning and decided to live with it rather than pretend it simply wasn’t there.
Naturally, when her best friend, Harriet Monroe, asked her to come along for a weekend business trip to New York City, she accepted. The sole hesitation she had, that of Harriet’s demand that Grace make full use of the former’s American Express card, was eventually silenced when her friend regarded her sternly and remarked that she deserved it. You do deserve this, a voice not unlike his, reverberated in the back of her mind.
After a Saturday filled with horse-drawn carriage rides, Central Park, and a plenty of food, Grace decided to call it a day. Had she remembered to turn left at 11th Avenue instead of making a right, she would have never walked by the Grotto Café and glanced inside, and she certainly wouldn’t have seen her presumed dead husband sitting at the counter that faced the window, sipping from a coffee mug. But she did make the wrong turn, and there he was.
With a deafening roar in her ears and her vision swimming, she stumbled toward the window and touched it.
He looked up.
She smiled and waved, tears springing to her eyes.
He looked behind him, then back at her, clearly puzzled.
She tapped at the glass repeatedly, as if to communicate, if she could speak in that moment, for him to come outside. The fact that the patrons inside the café peered at her in confusion remained unnoticed.
He hailed a waiter and spoke to the young man while gesturing toward her.
Moments later, the freckled-faced waiter stood next to her on the sidewalk. “Ma’am,” he said, “do you need some help? My customer thinks you might be upset.”
Grace glanced at the waiter, wondering why this boy was interrupting their moment. Somehow, amid the deafening roar and the violent shifting in her equilibrium, she found her voice. “Please leave me alone. I’m trying to tell my husband to come outside. In fact, tell him to come outside, please.”
“He’s your husband?”
“Yes, he is. He’s my husband. My God.” With that, Grace burst into tears.
Moments later, her husband joined the alarmed waiter on the sidewalk. Carefully, he touched her elbow. “Is there someone we can call? Someone that can help you?” he asked.
It was the voice she had listened to for the past twelve months. Days after he went missing, she would repeatedly call his cell phone and listen to his outgoing message, allowing the warm timbre of Kyle’s voice to drape over her. That voice had saved her during those harrowing days when taking her own life seemed to be the only option after months of searching for a man that couldn’t be found. Nevertheless, here he was, on a sidewalk in New York City, standing before her.
“Kyle,” she sobbed, before throwing her arms around him.
Behind her, the waiter followed the silent instructions of his customer and went back into the restaurant to call the police. He then patted her back gently, carefully.
“Kyle, hold me,” she said, looking up at him, tears cascading down her face. “Why won’t you hold me?”
The word pierced through her tears, through her engorged, pulsating heart, and landed right in the center of her chest. Ma’am.
Grace stepped back abruptly. “Kyle, what’s wrong with you?” she demanded.
He regarded her sadly, pity etched across his demeanor. “Ma’am, I’m sorry. I don’t think I’m the person you’re looking for.”
“Stop what, ma’am?”
“Stop calling me that! I’m—” The words I’m your wife sat on the edge of her tongue, waiting to be uttered, to be screamed. Instead, she took a deep breath and attempted to steady herself, finally recognizing, amid the rush of senses, that something wasn’t quite right here. “Your—your name is Kyle Walsh, isn’t it?” she asked.
“No, ma’am, it’s Henry Baylor.”
“Is this your first time in the city? It can be overwhelming, with all these people. And it can be very easy to confuse one person with someone else.”
Her husband, the only man she had ever loved and trusted, was speaking to her as if she was a child. “It’s me,” she muttered to the ground. “It’s me.”
“Don’t worry; someone will be here to help.”
“It’s me,” she repeated, louder this time. Some passerby turned and glanced in their direction, a feat in a city where nothing seemed to faze its residents or turn their heads. “It’s me. It’s me.”
“I’m really sorry. I don’t know who you are.”
With shaking hands, she dug into her handbag and pulled out her wallet. Opening it, she shoved it toward him and tapped at the photo behind the plastic cover.
He frowned and gazed at the photo. A bride and a groom stood on white sands, the waves of a nearly translucent blue ocean crashing behind them. The bride and groom grinned happily at the camera and held each other tightly. The bride, lovely in her long, white gown, resembled the woman that stood before him. Her dark hair was longer in the photo, but it was indeed her; the same big, brown eyes that now peered at him in bewilderment looked at the camera, albeit happier and beaming with joy. And the groom…
The groom had his face. The same sharp jaw, the same tiny mole underneath his left eye, the same dimpled cheeks.
He looked up at her, blinking rapidly. The strange buzz that he occasionally heard, like a fly let loose inside his head, started up again. After dozens of MRIs and brain scans, the doctors still couldn’t tell him where it came from, other than that he could have possibly suffered from a fall or blow to the head. It was louder this time, the strange buzz, pronounced. Did he and this woman truly know each other?
She came toward him again. “Your name is Kyle Matthew Walsh. I fell in love with you on our first date,” she said softly, her voice quivering. “You proposed to me on our third date. We got married on that beach in Antigua, five years ago. You’ve been—you went missing a year ago. If you can’t remember what you were doing a year ago, then something is wrong.”
This strange woman…with her big, brown eyes that seemed awfully familiar. And, no, he could barely recall events beyond the current year. He strained and pushed, but had resigned himself to being a simple man with no real memories.
Moments later, Grace took his hand into hers and steered them away from the café. She wasn’t sure where they were going; perhaps to find Harriet, to find a hospital; to fly back home. All she knew that was her husband didn’t let go of her hand.