I feel myself smiling as everything goes white. A warm hand is wrapped in mine, reassuring me of safety. The room forms slowly around me, the curtains are drawn and billowing. Seb is awake, but not paying attention to me, he stares at the white material, thinking. What is he thinking? I can usually tell, but my mind is slow and weary, I fail to analyse his expression, thought there isn’t much to go on. His eyes are blank, his mouth neutral and no hint of expression.
Until he realises I am awake, which lifts the mood of every muscle in his face. A smile, eyes awake, eyebrows lifted. He squeezes my hand, sending a rush of elation down my arm. I wonder when he got back; he wasn’t here last night, unless my hallucination edited him out. It was too real to be a dream, I remember it too well.
“How are you feeling?” he asks. I try to reply but find my throat is too dry. I swallow before trying again.
“I’m fine,” I manage. He doesn’t seem convinced, but I grin at his suspicion, persuading him that I’m telling him the truth. I gaze at him for a while, admiring his emerald eyes as I have done a thousand times before. He returns, but double takes, obviously noticing something.
“What is it?” I ask.
“Your pupils are the same!” he replies, unable to believe what he is seeing. I sit up quickly, sending a rush of pain through my head. I ignore it, not caring about anything other than this potential sign of recovery. After so long, can it really have healed? Why would this happen so suddenly? Seb is rummaging through his bag to find his phone, which he hands to me so that I can use the camera.
I look into the camera and see myself looking back at me, but not the face I used to know. Just as Seb said, my eyes are perfectly normal, far more of my right iris is visible than ever before, contracting the pupil. I cover my face with my hands, plunging my world into darkness, then let the light in. No blinding glare, just a quick adjustment to the new conditions. Is this what it should be like? I don’t know, but it seems right, it feels like some kind of miracle.
I beam at Seb, who is equally excited. I can’t understand what led to this, but I don’t much care anymore. Does this mean my brain is fixed? Does it mean I’ll remember my childhood? I don’t know, but it must mean something has changed. Maybe I will see my parents’ faces one day, with eyes that they recognise.
“Why do you think this has happened?” Seb asks.
“How should I know?”
“They’re your eyes.”
“I don’t know why it was stuck, what makes you think I’ve suddenly worked it out?”
He shrugs his shoulders at my sigh, sending us both in to laughter. Neither of us is quite sure what to make of the situation, but we both know that it means a lot to me.
I have always hated that eye. Before I got to know everyone at work, I used to turn my head to one side to hide it. I don’t know why I was so embarrassed by it, but I suppose I care a lot about my appearance. It was the one thing I had no control over, but it was the thing most people noticed first about me, which was frustrating. So when I got my job, I kept it a secret as long as I could. It was Cal who spotted it first, though he didn’t say anything, he just gave me a questioning look.
I can still remember the relief I felt at his reaction, not repulsion or disgust, but simply intrigue. I was still reluctant to reveal it, especially when new people joined, like when Ed took over. He personally introduced himself to every employee in the department, a short meeting in his new office to let everyone know how he planned to change things. He remarked at first about my name, asking me a few difficult questions about my family, which I avoided carefully. I was never quite sure when he noticed my eye, but he told me to stop worrying about it. I tried for a while, but with little success.
My thoughts are interrupted by a scream from outside.
Seb runs to the window to find the source of the noise.
“Oh my God!” he exclaims.
“What is it?” I ask, but I know exactly what he’s going to say.
“There’s a dead body on the street.”
Damn. It wasn’t a dream then.
I could have helped; I should have told someone or saved him myself. Instead I assumed it was my mind playing tricks on me, when for once it wasn’t. I join Seb by the window, seeing the man in the coat, exactly as I remember. A crowd begins to gather around him, followed by the sound of a siren. The police soon clear the area and start searching for evidence.
After a few minutes, the press arrive, reporters and journalists all wrestling to interview someone who knows what happened. They should be in here. Should I tell them? Would they believe me if I did? I don’t know. Damn. I’m not even sure what I saw, I certainly can’t give them any details. Well, if they ask, I’ll answer truthfully, but for now I’ll stay here and try to keep it out of mind.
Replaying my memories, the plastic bag reminds me to ask Seb about the money. I try to keep my tone light, smiling, but asking quite bluntly.
“Where did that bag of money come from?” I ask. He jumps at the sudden break of the silence, then stares at me.
“What bag?” he asks, appearing confused.
“I found a bag at home which had something like six thousand pounds in it, then next time I was home it was gone.”
“Oh, that bag,” he says, laughing to himself. “I had to transfer some money and I was out of cheques, so I had to use cash.”
“Why not just do a transfer?” I ask, still not convinced.
“There’s a charge, I didn’t want to lose any money,” he answers. I’m not sure if I should believe him, if he is telling the truth he was being unbelievably stupid.
“Why did you do it all in one go? Imagine if you’d lost that bag, we’d have been stuck,” I argue.
“I know, I know, I’m sorry,” he says. He holds his hands in miniature surrender, admitting his mistake. I glare at him, but I can’t keep a straight face for long. Once again, we descend into laughter, which is once again interrupted by the opening of the door.
The doctor walks in, just as miserable as yesterday.
“The police are asking for witnesses to a murder that happened just out there,” he points to the window, “Did either of you see anything?” he asks.
“I did,” I say. Seb looks at me, surprised, eyes asking me why I hadn’t told him. I try to tell him my reasons, but it can’t be conveyed with just an expression. I sit on the end of the bed and the doctor shows two police officers in to my room, pulling up a chair for each of them.
One is a woman, quite tall, with modest make-up and black hair tied back in a bun. The other is a man, a little shorter than the woman; with ginger hair in what I can only assume is a trendy style, though to me it looks ridiculous. His jaw moves occasionally, chewing some gum which only adds to his adolescent appearance. The woman is clearly the more experienced of the two, not boasting any of the cockiness of her colleague. She clears her throat and takes out a notebook.
“Could I have your name please?” she asks in a polite, calming voice.
“Volani Hlavinka,” I answer obediently. She starts writing, then hands me the notebook instead.
“I can’t spell it, it’s probably quicker if you write it,” she explains. I jot it down quickly, noticing a judgmental look from the male officer; I suppose he thinks I’m foreign, which I am, apparently.
“Thanks,” she says, “Where were you last night?”
“I was in this room.”
“For most of the night, yes.”
“Could you give me a brief description of what you saw please? Include anything you think is important,” she asks. I can see everyone’s eyes trained on me, especially Seb’s. I take a breath.
“I woke up in the night, I’m not sure what time but it was pitch black. I couldn’t breathe so I went over to the window for some air, as I was closing it I noticed a man in a coat standing in the street. I think he was the man you found. Another man came up to him and gave him something, a bag I think. Then they started arguing,” I pause, if I tell them that I saw the actual shooting, there would be too many questions about why I didn’t tell anyone. “After a while I lost interest and went back to bed, I heard a bang but I thought it was just someone dropping something and I was too tired to go and find out.”
The two officers look at each other for a second, then back at me. The woman’s pen moves frantically to note down all the information. The male officer steps in to ask the next question.
“So, uh, can you give us a description of the second man please? Rough age, height, that kind of thing,” he says. I hesitate, trying to remember, it was so dark it was hard to tell anything about either of them.
“I think he was late-twenties to early-thirties, I couldn’t really see him that well, but he was a little shorter than the man in the coat. He had black or brown hair I think.”
“Any tattoos or piercings? Any identifying features you can remember?” he asks, looking at the woman after every sentence. I guess he’s trying to impress her, but judging by her expression, it isn’t working particularly well. I try to remember if I saw anything that would identify him, I vaguely recall a slight glint on his left ear, but it was by no means certain.
“He might have had an earring, but it was dark so I’m not sure,” I reply, as vaguely as possible, not wanting to give them false leads.
“Which ear?” the woman asks.
“I think I saw one in the left, but it could have been both, I didn’t see his right side.” I answer, again, keeping my answer open in case I’m wrong.
“Did you see a weapon of any kind?” she asks. I consider my options; on the one hand, I could tell them and make their life easier but reveal that I knew more than I let on. On the other hand, I could keep quiet and not risk anything, but make it more difficult for the investigation.
“I don’t think so,” I say.
“Anything else you think is important?” she asks. I shake my head, she nods, but the man refuses to accept my answer.
“There’s something she’s not telling us,” he complains to the woman. She just shakes her head at him and apologises, closing her notebook and smiling at me.
“Thank you for your time, Miss Hlavinka,” she says, shaking my hand and leading the other officer out with her. I can still hear him protesting as they walk along the corridor, followed by the doctor.
As soon as they leave, Seb sits on the chair in front of me and looks at the floor just in front of my feet.
“Why didn’t you tell me what you saw?” he asks. I can’t answer, I’m not sure myself, I suppose it was because I didn’t believe it myself. I can’t expect him to believe me can I? If anyone told you they’d seen that, you wouldn’t believe them, let alone someone with a history of hallucination and memory loss. Still, I know I should have told him, or someone. I put my hand on his, noticing it shaking slightly.
“Seb, I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking straight and seeing the body was such a shock, I didn’t have time to make the connection until they came in,” I say, as sincerely as I can. Though it is true, I still feel like I’m lying to him. Should I tell him I saw the shot? Maybe if I explained about my assumption he’d understand. But I can’t.
He nods slowly, giving me a weak smile. The shock seems to have affected him more than me; his movements are sluggish, like he’s pushing against some weight on his shoulders. He’s in some kind of trance, not making eye contact. He drops my hand and stands up, slowly unwinding his spine until he is stood upright.
“Don’t worry about it, I’m overreacting. But please tell me when these things happen OK?” he says.
“OK,” I reply.
“I love you,” he says, rather suddenly. Still, he doesn’t look at me; it sounds more like he is reassuring himself. But it can’t be that, he wouldn’t start to question our love over this would he? Surely nearly two years is long enough for him to be certain? He seems to be expecting an answer, though it is normally unspoken, I give it.
“I love you too,” I whisper. He seems relieved, but still stares out of the window.
“I’m going to get some air,” he says, not even waiting for a response before turning on his heel and leaving the room in a sudden burst of speed.
I lie back on the bed, my eyes returning to the window, now wide open. The air is warmer than the last few days, though still just as refreshing as it washes over my face. I’m not tired, but I see little point in leaving my eyes open just to stare at the unchanging ceiling. So I let my lids fall.
Everything goes black.