Jigsaw

“But now you've forgotten”

Ella Roberts has always felt like a jigsaw with a piece missing: incomplete. She knows that there should be something filling the great big hole inside of her, but the harder she pushes for answers, the further away they seem.

So when a boy she’s never supposed to have met before turns up out of the blue and says he has answers, why shouldn't she trust him? After all, it’s hard not to trust someone that you feel like you've known your whole life.

As Ella falls deeper and deeper into the adventure, can she stop herself falling deeper and deeper in love with the boy?

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3. Chapter 2

 

“There isn’t any way we can avoid telling her so she might as well know.” Toby says. “I think she needs to find out anyway.”

My Mum, Dad, Toby and I are all in the living room. Just after I asked the question Dad came in through the door. I didn’t even know he wasn’t here until I heard him shout “I’m home.” He came through to the living room where Mum and Toby were still locking eyes and went bright red. If I hadn’t, much to my surprise, stood in front of Toby to protect him, there would probably have been a punch up. After a lot of shouting on Dad’s part Mum decided we should calmly talk about it.

“Since you obviously know what she needs why don’t you tell her?” Dad challenges in his ‘don’t mess with me’ voice.

The voice that on the odd occasion has been used on me and makes me cry only causes Toby to shrug and say, “It’s not my place.”

“But it was okay for you to come here and mess with her head again?!” Dad looks really angry now so I interrupt quickly.

“Will you two just back off each other and tell me what’s going on here? I need to know the truth because I am sick of feeling like there’s this big secret that I’ve forgotten.” As I speak I can hear my voice is getting louder. But to be honest I don’t care because I am so angry right now it’s all I can do to not scream.

Everyone is silent for a second while looks are exchanged between the three of them. I’m about to start yelling again when Toby speaks.

“You feel like you know me because you do-“

“Stop,” Dad warns.

“I am not just a stranger that turned up at your house, not by a long shot. We used to be a team. Until one day we discovered something that no one was ever supposed to know.”

“I said stop.”

Toby continues as if Dad had never spoken. “Something that wasn’t safe to know.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Perfectly understandable. You probably feel as though you’re in some bad thriller movie as it is.”

I also have the strangest suspicion that I’ve somehow fallen down the rabbit hole.

In those bad thriller movies, there is always an extremely obvious moment when you just know the character’s about to be told something that will turn his world upside-down. That moment is nearing, I think.

“I really do. Part of me thinks I might be dreaming right now.”

“You’re not,” Toby says abruptly. “Part of me wishes I was too.”

He looks so sad; I have this almost irrepressible urge to go over and hug him until I can make his pain go away.

“Will someone please explain?”

“I will, but first, answer me something? Do you honestly not know who I am?” Toby’s piercing blue eyes cut into my soul like a million shards of glass.

Just like that, all the air seems to rush out of the room. It is only me and him here, my Mum and Dad don’t even exist.

I want to tell him yes, yes I do know who you are, of course I do. It seems like that hope that I do know he is, is the one thing that’s keeping him from falling apart, buckling under the weight of his life. Who am I to take that hope away from him? It’s not as if it wouldn’t be the truth anyway - clearly I have met him before, I do know him.

The way my feelings seem ultra-vibrant around him is a sure sign of that.

Yet I can’t lie to him either. I owe him that.

I shake my head and shrug at the same time.

Toby’s eyes flutter close for the briefest of moments. But did I imagine it, because in the next second his jaw is hard, the contours of his face seemingly sharper than they were at the beginning.

I recognise the almost imperceptible change, because it is something I seem to be doing more and more frequently as time passes.

Shutting down.

Holding it together.

Remembering. To. Breathe.

“Ella?”

My Dad’s questioning, anxious voice makes me feel like a skydiver, finally landing after hurtling back down from the clouds. I am stunned by the sudden feeling on being grounded on the Earth.

I give my head a small shake to clear it before nodding at Toby to continue, since I know he was probably trying to speak to me when the world was speeding up beneath my feet.

“The world is full of two kinds of people: those that are bad and those that are struggling to stay good. You and I, Ella, fall into the latter category. But the people who made you feel like you feel fit into the former.”

And suddenly, at Toby’s words, I can almost hear the click of things falling into place in my head. It feels like a relief, like an explosion after pressure that’s been building up for such a very long time.

“Those dreams that I told you about... they’re real aren’t they. Those men drugged me and that’s why I can’t remember anything. That’s why I feel like I’m missing out on something. I’m right aren’t I?” I ask my parents.

This time it’s Dad who speaks up, but not before cutting another death-glare at Toby (if looks could kill, Toby would have died about forty times already). “Yes, Ella, you’re right. But you have to understand, we were trying to protect you. When we gave those men permission to do what they did to you we thought that it would all end. If we thought for one moment tha-”

“Wait a second,” I interrupt him. Something isn’t quite making sense again. “If you gave permission that means they must have asked you for it, which also means that you could have said no. But you said yes.”

Give the girl a prize! How it could possibly have taken me so long to come to such an obvious conclusion, I’ll never know. I’m not usually so slow, but the magnitude of my parents’ betrayal that makes itself known in all that has been taken away from me and all that I have lost is causing my thought processes to significantly slow.

I repeat my conclusion with more conviction, sudden white-hot heat flashing through me. Anger, the colour of deep, blood red. Before now I was the calm before the storm, but the lightning and thunder have finally come. “They asked you for permission and you said YES!” On every word my voice rises in pitch. In my fury, my blame looks for as many places to fall as possible. I point an accusing finger at Toby. “Why wasn’t he memory wiped or whatever? Why was I the only one who was kept in the dark?”

The entire room looks a taken aback at my rage, then shocked when they realise my rant has finished and I expect someone to answer my question.

“Answer me!” I shout and they all jump about a mile in the air.

Toby is the one who decides to fill in the blanks for me, most probably due to the fact that the two adults in the room are more than slightly worried I will bite their heads off again.

“Because we were both under the legal age of sixteen when the incident happened, they had to have permission to give the drug that would effectively wipe your memory of all traces of what we knew. Your parents were easily able to be contacted for permission – and I’d just like to say that your Mum and Dad were probably given a brief summary of the situation at hand, and about a couple of minutes to decide between memory-wiped daughter and no daughter at all, which doesn’t mean I am defending their decision - but I have no family. And no family equals no one to lump the responsibility on.

“But there’s something I need you to know, something I need you to believe: I begged them to do the same to me. I didn’t want to be the one who got off ‘scot-free’, because it wasn’t ‘scot-free’ if it meant I’d lost you. The problem was that although those men are scary as hell, Ella, believe it or not, the one thing that scares them is the law.” Toby sighs deeply and sinks back into the chair like all this talking has exhausted him.

I wonder briefly at the fact he has no family. I even feel sympathy for him, but it does nothing to cancel out how angry I am. “So what happened then? They just told you to keep whatever secret and you obeyed them?!” I scream hysterically.

“They said that if I let anything slip they’d kill you. They were making a promise, not a threat,” Toby replies calmly like it’s no big deal. I, however, feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach as all the air rushes out of me and I sit down suddenly, which can only mean at some point in all this I had stood up in my rage.

“Oh.”

For a while we all sit silently while my brain is trying to process all this new information.

I don’t even know where to begin to put this messed up jigsaw in the right order. I haven’t even been given a picture to copy, only a faint outline of the way things go.

I wonder why I would have been so stupid as to get involved in something that would ultimately result in unnatural amnesia.

There is a something niggling away at me, something trying tunnel its way to the surface.

Why has Toby come back?

I push it away. There are more important things to be worrying about at present. For instance…

“Could I get my memories back?” My voice comes out very small instead of with the confidence I’d have liked. “I mean, they must be somewhere, right?”

This isn’t a Harry Potter film. Your memories aren’t in glass vials in Dumbledore’s office.

Toby nods, though to which part I’m not sure. “When I made up my mind that I would come and see you, I managed to track something down that would reverse the effects of what those men gave you.”

My heart lifts slightly.

“But I threw it away before I came.”

Thud.

“I knew that I wouldn’t be able to keep that I had it with me from you. And I also knew that then you would ask for it and far be it from me to stop you because you’re seventeen now and it would be completely legal. I’m sorry but this is the way it has to be.”

Just as I’m about to ask why it would be so bad if I got my memories back, Dad erupts like a volcano.

“Get out,” he growls.

Toby frowns. Could it be that he’s actually oblivious that he’s done anything wrong? “Why?”

“I don’t want such a… such a… tease in my house!”

I think that’s a word that you usually apply to girls for a very different reason.

I can tell that you knew something would stir in her when she saw you again, yet you came anyway! The fact that you would do that proves you don’t care about her!”

Something clenches in Toby’s face at that.

“You coming here was extremely selfish of you.” Dad’s yelling now. “Not only that, you gave her false hope when you said she could remember again even though you haven’t got that... that... THING with you anyway!”

“It’s called a drug reverser,” Toby says calmly and his tone of voice suggests that what he’s really saying is “You’re being unreasonable”. In that moment I realise that he’s probably used to dealing with extremely angry people all the time, and also that my Dad shaking with rage might not be anything he hasn’t seen before.

Unfortunately, Dad picks up on the connotations in Toby’s tone too.

“DO I LOOK LIKE I BLOODY CARE WHAT THE DAMN THING IS CALLED?!”

Now I’m the one thinking he’s being unreasonable.

Dad stands up causing him to tower over Toby like a sky-scraper.

But Toby looks coolly up at him, before standing up himself. And would you believe it, he almost matches my Dad in height.

 “I’m sorry to have bothered you Mr and Mrs Roberts. I’ll see myself out.”

Wait, no! I’m not ready for him to go yet.

I’m visibly panicking as Toby starts to walk to the door. When he stops, gives my hand a meaningful look and says, “Take care Ella” I frown, thinking all I mean to him is an after-thought goodbye.

Then I understand the meaning behind the look.

Despite what Toby said about showing himself out, Mum and Dad get up and follow him. Probably to check he’s not still lurking in the house somewhere.

I look down at my hand and wonder how Toby could possibly have seen me ball up the piece of paper he wrote on in my fist when he was looking at my Mum.

“Ten minutes,” I say to myself.

I start counting.

 

 

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