They’re letting me out of the hospital today. I’m to go home, though I have no idea of where that may be. I’ve forgotten you see. Since the accident I have no memory of who I am or the least detail about my life.
Driving away with the man who claims me as his wife, I observe the stunning beauty of this Mediterranean island; a patchwork of olive groves and vine covered hills, cypress trees stretching tall in the distance. The road is twisting and narrow, a sheer drop on one side down to rocks and the clear blue water below.
I shiver now in the blazing heat, thinking of how close I came to death. My car it seems plummeted out of control somewhere along this stretch of road and were it not for a fortuitously placed boulder, breaking the fall of the small Seat, that drop would certainly have been the end of me.
I look now at the man beside me. Robert is his name. His hair is sun streaked, longish over the collar of his pale blue shirt, his skin deeply tanned; handsome I suppose, though strangely I feel nothing. Not a glimmer of recognition.
The doctors say that my memory should return, slowly with time. It’s important not to tell me too much they say, but just to let my recollections emerge in their own way.
What they did tell me is that my name is Eve Parker and I’m thirty four years old. My driving license was in the glove compartment. Apparently, I’m an artist and my husband, Robert, a successful writer of crime novels.
The house, when we reach it is stark white, draped in orange and pink bougainvillea. The view from the terrace is breath-taking; an artist’s dream, I imagine.
The terrace is where I first see her, my twin sister, Amy who they tell me is visiting from England. I catch my breath at the uncanny resemblance. She’s a mirror image of me but minus the bruises. She greets me though, with surprising coolness and I readily agree to Robert’s suggestion that I lie down to rest in my room.
I’m to sleep in a guest room it seems, which suits me well as I have no wish to share this stranger’s bed.
Over the next few days I explore the house, trying to stir a memory. I look around in Robert’s study at the shelves lined with first editions. It’s a huge, airy room with a vast window looking out at the blue ocean. The walls are bright white to best display the vibrant, abstract oils that give the place the appearance of a gallery. Are these my paintings I wonder? They look almost threatening to me.
Glancing through some of my husband’s books, I note his expertise in all manner of death. Murder would seem to be his trademark. There are limitless ways to kill someone it seems, and Robert puts them to good use in his novels, which apparently are popular.
I expect to feel more recognition when I visit my studio, also large and filled with more of the same glaringly bright oils, abstract depictions of views of the island. Why don’t I feel a connection? They must be my work after all. If I didn’t know I had painted them, I would be tempted to describe them as ugly.
If only I could remember. The doctors say it may take a while, so I suppose I must be patient.
‘Why don’t you paint?’ Amy suggests. ‘Instead of just gazing into space all the time.’
We’re sitting on the terrace, drinking coffee after a late breakfast. She’s clearly irritated by my presence and I wonder what I’ve done to annoy her. And besides, if she finds me so irritating why doesn’t she just go home, back to England? I don’t understand the dynamic of our relationship. Why is she here if we don’t get on?
‘I don’t feel as if I can paint,’ I tell her.
‘Really? Why is that, I wonder?’
‘I don’t know. Maybe being bashed on the head has something to do with it.’ She looks at me oddly now, her expression unreadable. She watches me a lot I’ve noticed, this unfamiliar sister of mine. It’s unnerving.
Robert is warmer, more attentive, but still I feel isolated inside my empty head.
After a while I do begin to have brief memory flashes, deep in the night. It’s probably a dream, but I see two little girls playing in a large garden, a swing, some kind of pond. There’s a woman too, our mother I suppose, holding out her arms to the child Eve, who is smiling and laughing. The other little girl, Amy, sits on a swing looking sulky and sullen.
There was a policeman here last night. I overheard him talking to Robert in the study. It seems my brakes were tampered with. Somebody meant me to die.
I can just imagine the headlines; ‘Crime Writer’s Wife, Victim of Attempted Murder.’ What an irony. I imagine there is an investigation but no one has said anything to me.
One evening, as the three of us eat dinner on the terrace and Robert pours me another glass of wine, I see his concern for me, deep in his eyes. And for the first time I feel a flicker of attraction. Do I love this man, I wonder? Is our marriage a happy one?
Amy drains her glass and looks intently at me with that same unreadable expression.
‘You know the police are investigating the crash, don’t you? You do know the car was tampered with?’
Robert flashes a warning glance at her. ‘Enough,’ he says sharply. ‘Remember what the doctors said.’
‘Oh, I remember,’ Amy snaps. ‘But does she?’ With this ambiguous remark my sister slams down her empty wine glass and leaves the table.
I’m still not sure what all this means. Why is she so angry?
Slivers of memory are in fact starting to emerge, but as yet I’m unable to see the full picture. It feels like I have perhaps twenty unconnected pieces of a fifty piece puzzle.
Over the next few weeks, my feelings for Robert grow warmer. We take walks together down the stony track that leads to the beach. And one day he takes hold of my hand and I feel myself tremble inside with a longing I had quite forgotten.
‘Are you coming back to me?’ Robert smiles and kisses my fingers.
‘Maybe,’ I smile back at him. And I think perhaps it’s true. In fact, I’m remembering more and more now. It seems the doctors are right.
But as each fragmented image emerges, a growing sense of unease is building inside me. A vivid tableau of the night of the accident has been slowly forming in my mind, piece by piece like an elaborate mosaic. I see Robert and myself on the terrace, the dark night sky ablaze with stars. He has his arms around me and softly strokes my hair. His kiss is passionate and I remember now how I responded with equally intense desire.
‘Don’t worry, my darling. By tomorrow this will all be over. Everything will be ours.’ Those were his words; words that reverberate now inside my awakening brain. We had a plan you see, Robert and I. I remember that now.
It’s all coming back to me, crystal clear as the water crashing below on the rocks. My sister was meant to be taking a shower, but she burst out through the French windows, seeing us together. She was furious, icy cold with rage.
‘You were always jealous,’ she said. ‘You always wanted what was mine, ever since we were children. Well, I’ve had enough. I want you out. Right now. Just pack up your stuff and go. I never want to see you again.’
Fine, I thought, jumping into the Seat, which was parked close by on the driveway; keys handily in the ignition. I’ll drive down to the bar in the village. Give her time to calm down.
Robert ran after me, waving and shouting frantically as I roared off down the drive. He’d already fixed the brakes you see, but I didn’t know that then, not until it was too late.
You see, I’m not Eve at all. I’m Amy. And it was my sister who was meant to die.
© Sue Hassett