“Should I be concerned about someone called, ‘Ewan?’”
Chris’s bemused face reflected back in the partially fogged mirror baffled her. Tap water rushed over his Schick disposable. Yvette snatched her phone from the counter. The ghost of his shaving cream hung in the post-shower air, and she resisted the urge to swipe a stray dab of white from the soft underside of his chin.
What business did her roommate have looking at her Google searches? And why was Ewan’s web page so hard to find. He was a critically acclaimed author, for the love of Pete.
“You should be concerned about your privacy issues.”
She spun on her heel, headed for the closet. Confused by the piles of mom jeans and little league sweatshirts, she turned to the closet rod.
Where the hell are my clothes?
She settled for a top with a deep vee-neck and some tailored black trousers. Zipping on the only boots she could find, she resolved to call Nan and Anna. This amnesia – because that’s what this had to be – was disturbing.
The kitchen smelled of gently spoiling milk and swollen Cheerios. Yvette wrinkled her nose. Unacceptable. Chris’s children were attractive, but how could she be expected to work under these conditions.
Again, she thought of Nan and the warm, light-drenched kitchen at the Damselfly Inn. Nan would know what had driven her to move in with Chris and his two pre-teens. Nan would know where Ewan was and why she couldn’t find his number in her phone.
“What’s the occasion?” Chris cleaned up nice, she had to hand it to him. Academic casual suited him; she was sure his female students appreciated his boyish good looks. If she weren’t engaged to her own professor, she’d have thought twice about upgrading their roommate situation to something more permanent.
“No occasion.” She pulled her hair back, twisting the long, dark waves into a hasty knot and securing it with a chopstick from the silverware drawer. “Just going over to the inn before I head in to Sweet Pease.”
Chris’s forehead wrinkled; his expression clouded. She thought he might say something, but he only opened the fridge to grab a water bottle and an apple.
Yvette peered under the sink in search of gloves. Tackling the dishes was going to require serious equipment.
Chris paused at the screen door. “Hey?”
Yvette looked up, nearly rapping her head on the cabinet door. “Yeah?”
His expression had shifted from cloudy to cautious. “You going to sleep in the guest room again tonight?”
“Where the hell else would I sleep?”
He sighed audibly and the door slapped closed behind him. Yvette watched him climb into his Camry with an oddly heavy heart.
She ran a sinkful of soapy water and dropped the worst of the pans in before giving up on the disaster on the counters. She needed answers. She needed her best friend.
Her hot-pink van wasn’t in the driveway, but there was a beige Chevy SUV in the space next to Chris’s now empty half of the driveway, and a set of keys hanging by the door. The “Mothership Pilot” keychain was a bit much, but wheels were wheels.
She kept her eyes on the road, especially through the college, where students were liable to be crossing the state highway on their way across campus. She couldn’t quite bring herself to focus on the street signs, but the view of the valley when the road curved around the alpaca farm took her breath away. As it did every time.
Her chest tightened with something akin to fear, however, when she realized that Fuller’s Dairy was missing from the landscape. She pulled the Chevy onto the shoulder and sucked in a breath.
Where the hell was Walt Fuller’s barn? The dairy herd?
The yellow Victorian was there; that was enough. Nan would get her through it. A cup of coffee, a cookie, some girl-talk. Heart pounding, she signaled left, and slipped back onto the asphalt. The closer she came to the house, the more the knot of dread and confusion hardened in her belly.
The Damselfly Inn looked all wrong.
Yvette white knuckled the wheel as the road traced the hillside and bisected the valley.
The Swift’s perennial gardens, the ones Nan cared for meticulously, The old maple tree on the west side of the house… the one that brought Joss and Nan together… Gone.
The property swirled in her vision and she braked hard in the dirt driveway. The house was boarded up, a construction permit hung by one corner on the inside of the front window. Where the garage should have been, there was nothing. Neglected grass and a scraggly, wild sapling guarded the peeling clapboards.
Like it was never here.
Yvette climbed out of the Chevy and hiked into the grass. Breathing came harder and harder as she circled the house. The brick terrace with its pergolas and fairy lights was gone, the gabled third story roofline replaced by an awkward cupola.
She knew this house as well as she knew her apartment or her bakery kitchen. As well as the house in town where she’d grown up with her brother.
Jack! Jack would know what was going on. She pulled her phone from her pocket and searched for his name in her contacts.
No brother. No best friend. No Ewan. No parents.
Tears stung the bridge of her nose. In her rush to get into the house, she never noticed the rot, never felt the weather-softened wood give out until the porch floorboards rushed up to meet her.
She came to in a hospital room, that much she could tell from the sounds and the smell, but she left her eyes closed.
Chris was speaking. Her roommate was there, speaking to a woman with a soothing, molasses-timbred voice.
“She’s been like this since we got the news about her sister. It’s almost like she doesn’t know who she is… like she thinks she’s someone else..” His voice hitched. Yvette could hear the break of tears restrained. What was he upset about? “I found these in the guest room when I got home with the kids… when I realized she was missing.” Which she? Did he realize that everyone she knew had vanished?
There was a flutter of pages, fingers leafing through a paperback. A murmur of assent. There was a flutter of recognition, memories leafing through the life of another Kate with a beautiful, complicated, messy life and a storybook ending. A Kate just like her.
Just like her.
I’ve been lurking around the Tipsy Lit Prompted pages of late. This week, though I procrastinated, I was too drawn to the prompt not to try. Poor Yvette, she’d been reading my first two Thornton Vermont novels (Bannerwing Books, 2014 & 2015, for the love of Pete!).
Here’s the actual prompt:
Someone has become convinced they are a character in your latest fiction project. In story, tell us who are they and how does that belief affect their life in the ‘real’ world?