Time passed, as time is prone to. Kissing in the front of Luke’s taxi lead to slipping each other hushed slices of their afternoons when they were supposed to be meeting other people, doing other things. Luke moved in with Vera after two perfect weeks- or at least as close to perfect as humanity can get.
Like all good things, it was over too soon.
It was a Thursday, Vera told me, right at the twilight of their relationship. That was when she first realised something was wrong. Luke would come home after he’d finished his work at the taxi rank, and his artfully messed up hair would have flakes of debris in it. Sometimes they’d be talking, her running her fingers down the ridge in his back, and then he’d suddenly tense, his shoulders hunching.
It wasn’t until Saturday that she managed to ask him about it.
“Are you okay?” said Vera, falling backwards to lie on her back, so Luke didn’t have to look her in the eye. She trusted him not to lie to her, anyway- and maybe it was a pathetic, foolish trust with no real root in sanity, but there it was. Trust.
Luke shrugged, rubbing at his eyes. “I’ve just had a hard day at work. I mean, it’s not like anything’s too difficult for the greatest cab driver in all of London, by which I mean me, but…” He trailed off, as if losing himself in his own words. After a delayed second, he smiled. “So, why’d you ask?”
“You have dirt in your hair. And on your shoes. Not to mention the muddy footprints all over the hallway.”
His face stretching in surprise, Luke plucked a bit of dust from the end of his sandy curls. “Never knew you were such a clean freak,” he said, his voice carefully light.
Vera sat up, tired of staring so aimlessly at the ceiling. “No one likes mud all over the floor, Luke.”
“Oh yeah? Pigs probably might. They love the stuff.”
“And that would be a valid point, except that we’re not pigs.” Vera rolled her heavily lined eyes. “Whatever. What I’m trying to ask you is, why is there mud everywhere? I thought you were a taxi guy.”
Luke paused. “I am.”
“Are you telling the truth? You paused.”
“Um… I did?”
“Yeah. A really obvious, super suspicious kind of pause.” The way Vera said it, she wasn’t angry. Not yet, anyway- she’d only known Luke for three weeks, after all. She couldn’t expect the guy not to have any secrets: that would be unreasonable, and she was anything but.
Vera just wished he’d tell her the secrets, that was all. It wouldn’t be so bad if Luke hadn’t been so terrible at hiding them. Unfortunately, he couldn’t even be bothered to comb his own hair to brush the dirt out, meaning every time Vera looked at him she couldn’t stop thinking about where it had come from.
With her secrets, it had been different. Her first date with Luke – second, if you counted the time they first met in the taxi – Vera had cut herself open with her favourite artist’s knife (for isn’t romance an art?) spilling all her hopes and dreams and past over the little coffee shop table.
As far as I know, she’s never told anyone what she said to Luke that day. I think it’s for the best, really. The Vera of the time Before Luke is so different to the girl I love now.
But back on that Thursday, sitting next to Vera on the cheap single bed that both of them slept in, Luke sighed. “I don’t know, Vera. God, I don’t know.”
“Don’t know what?”
“What I’m doing, to be honest.” Luke laughed; but it was an odd laugh, an ugly little gurgling sound at the back of his throat. Even that, to Vera, sounded like he was coughing on fallen stardust. That’s what love, then, was all about- making a constellation out of your lover and glorifying them above every forgotten hero in the night sky.
“I…” continued Luke, trailing off slightly. “You know, I’m trying to be honest with you, Vera. I really am. Except…”
“What is it?” Vera answered, trying to seem casual. It was an act that was harder said than done, considering how much she cared about every word that formed on Luke’s chewed, tender lips. She almost wished that she could press her fingers to his lips there and then, catching each syllable like softened rainwater.
“I’m a taxi driver on night shifts, right? I couldn’t make that up- I mean, we wouldn’t have even met if I hadn’t been doing the job. But…” Luke shook his head, forcing his head into his hands. “You’re not going to believe this, Vera. I can’t- I can’t.”
Vera pulled him closer to her, her arm wrapping around his waist like he was drowning in an ocean and she was the only thing keeping him afloat. “You can, Luke,” she told him, her voice unusually gentle. “Whatever it is, you can tell me.”
“You can. Look, I won’t judge you, whatever it is.”
Luke tilted his head slightly, as if steeling himself for something. “Right. Right.” He blew out the breath from his cheeks, dragging a weary smile onto his face. “Okay, so this is going to sound stupid, but-“
“Nothing you say could ever be stupid.”
“Is that a challenge? One add one is three.” Luke stuck out his tongue, then leaned further into Vera so that his elbow brushed against hers and her head could rest on his shoulder. “Right. Okay. There’s this thing that happens to me, sometimes. After I leave for work, in the mornings. Sometimes before then, sometimes when I should still be here with you. It’s weird. I don’t know where I am, and I don’t know what happens in that time, once I - you know - sort of gain consciousness again. It’s like I’ve lost control of my body, but I can’t have- I mean, I mean…”
“You mean?” prompted Vera, her voice quiet.
“Yesterday morning. What time did I leave yesterday morning?”
“Yeah. But I can only remember up to half eight. Then my memory just fades out.”
“You were conscious, though. That doesn’t make sense.”
“Maybe I knew what I was doing at the time. I just don’t know now. It’s only from around six or something that I can remember stuff happening again.”
“Vera?” said Luke softly, nudging her with his shoulder. “Vera, say something.”
“Okay,” answered Vera. “Cool.”
“Cool. I think it’s cool. You’ve got, like, a Jekyll and Hyde thing going on. Except both sides of you are perfect and gorgeous and amazing, and… and fabulous and amazing and-“
“You’ve said amazing already,” pointed out Luke, obviously relieved. He smiled at her, and the electricity between them that sparked from that smile- that electricity could have powered all of Tokyo for a month.
“I have? Well, damn it.”
“So… You’re not mad at me?”
“Why would I be?” Vera pushed her hair behind her ear. “You’re telling the truth, right?”
“Okay then. So that’s that. You lose your memory. You probably need to see a doctor about it. Like I said, cool.”
Luke laughed, reaching out and playfully flicking Vera’s hair back in front of her face. She pulled a face at him, crossing her eyes and forcing her teeth forwards.
“You’re still beautiful, you know. Even when you look like that,” said Luke, leaning backwards to rest on one elbow as he admired her.
“Mmm,” murmured Vera. “Yeah, I can see myself on the cover of Vogue with this look.”
“I mean it. Seriously. You’re- you’re amazing, Vera. And I-“ Luke cut what probably could have turned into a long rambling speech about his love for Vera decidedly short. “Wait. Okay, so I just got a really crazy idea.”
“I’m fine with crazy.”
“It might also be slightly boring for you, depending on how it turns out.”
Vera coughed and to Luke it probably seemed like the sound of the sea melting into the sky. “Right, so I’m slightly less okay with boring but I could still go with this.”
“Tomorrow,” said Luke, “come to work with me.”
“Sorry? I have a job too, remember. I’ve already called in sick too many times this month. My manager hates me enough anyway.”
“And this would be so more fun than arguing with your manager. Come to work with me! Because, you know, after I leave the flat, I’m not even sure if I go to work. You can follow me, in the morning, and find out where I go during all that time I can’t remember.”
“That sounds like it could end up being a boring day riding round in the front of your taxi, listening to overly pissed grandfathers empty their life stories out on me.”
“Hey, we met in the front of a taxi. Was that boring?” asked Luke, feigning hurt.
Vera tried to hide her smile and failed miserably. “I guess not, but-“
“So it might be boring, but who knows if I’ll even go to work, right? I might be a special agent or something, and neither of us will know unless you come with me tomorrow and find out.”
Luke puckered his bottom lip, widening his eyes. “Come on! Please. It’ll be an adventure.”
She sighed, rolling her eyes, but Luke knew that she’d given in.
After all, Vera never could say no to an adventure.