Chapter 1 : It's A Wonderful Life
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I pulled my jumper up closer to my neck and wrapped my arms around myself as I walked. My route to work took me through most of the busy, main streets in Edinburgh and only took me about fifteen minutes. I was lucky in that sense I guessed, no need for stifling train or bus rides, just long walks through crowds of early morning commuters.
Today wasn't exactly my lucky day, and forgetting my jacket had only been the beginning. As I was walking down one of the streets, I was knocked to the side by a burly, middle-aged man and sent stumbling straight into the path of a cloud of smoke. The obnoxious git kept on going, not even sparing a glance as I coughed and spluttered my way through the stench of cigar.
Whatever happened to good old-fashioned chivalry?
As the day progressed, it didn't get much better. I arrived just about on time for my shift at Carla's Coffee and got chewed out by Carla herself for nearly being late. Then I got groped by no less than four seedy looking businessmen within an hour (A new record). By the time two o'clock rolled around I was definitely ready for a break.
I sighed as I took my usual ramble through the streets, munching on my 'Today-is-a-crap-day-and-I-need-sugar' cookie and mulling over my pathetic life. Because there really was no other word for it. I had no friends to speak of, a dead-end job and the highlight of my day was eating this cookie.
Now, before you start assuming anything, let me just tell you that I have an excellent reason for being in this situation. An excellent reason. See, the thing is, I don’t remember. I don't remember anything about my life before a year ago.
Yup, that’s right. I have amnesia.
Like, proper amnesia. Everything from before a year ago is a complete blank. I can't remember my family or friends (Or if I even had any) . Nor can I remember where I lived, what I did, or what age I am.
According to the doctors, I was brought into Emergency after a car crash with extensive injuries and when I woke up I knew less than they did. The one thing that I could tell them was that my name was Elena. I chose the name Palmer for myself. Since I had no idea what my surname was, I figured I may as well choose one I liked.
See, the doctors did all these tests on me when I woke up. Apparently, I have an English accent but no one fitting my description was ever reported missing. I understand social cues and speak fluently but make odd mistakes, like when I called the doctors 'Healers'. And I have absolutely no knowledge of subjects like Maths and Science, which I really should if I'm as educated as I appear.
That is one of the main problems with not knowing who I am. I have no proof of an education, no matter how educated I may seem, and hence the reason I'm stuck working in this terrible café every weekday and most weekends.
I don't know much more now than I did a year ago. There are those odd times, when something seems overwhelmingly familiar. For instance, there was one time I met a elderly woman with a sharp Scottish accent, and as I listened to her speak I felt a strange emotion, one I still cannot put a name on. It felt comforting, almost like I was home, or something…
But to put it simply, I'm a mystery.
And I live here in Edinburgh because I have nowhere else to go.
I soon arrived back at Carla's, not exactly ready to start working again, and threw back on my uniform. I had only three hours left until I could go home. Tomorrow was Saturday, and for the first time in three weeks I had it off and I fully intended to savour it.
I didn't really know where to go. Over the past year I've visited all the local places, never venturing more than an hour away from the city. I could try find out more about myself but there is nowhere I could go and nothing I could do that hasn't already been tried.
And to be honest, I'm not even sure if I want to know. There's something strange about my past, about how no one ever reported me missing. Were my family awful people, who couldn't care less about me? Did l even have a family?
Sometimes I desperately wanted to have all the answers, but other times I found myself wondering..
Do I really want to know?
It was nearing six by the time I got home, Carla had decided that an extra half-hour of cleaning wouldn't hurt, seeing as I was off tomorrow. I scowled as I walked up the apartment staircase. Bloody woman.
But, despite the time, it was still light outside, and it looked lovely. I decided to quickly change into something marginally more comfortable and go for a ramble around the city. I hadn't done that in quite a while… There was a bakery down one of the side streets that opened late, and I vaguely remembered reading about an arts and crafts fair near the castle..
My musings were interrupted by a dreadfully familiar voice as I reached my door.
I closed my eyes to steady myself, my back to him. I had been so, so close.. I shouldn't have bothered coming home. Damn you and your comfy clothes Elena!
I spun around, plastering a fake smile on my face.
"Well, hey Drew."
Drew Bradley stood there, smiling creepily at me. Well, I suppose most people would say he was smiling 'cutely', or 'hotly' or something, but I was slightly biased. The guy has been stalking me since I first moved here, almost a year ago, constantly asking me out on dates. And constantly being turned down.
There was nothing overly wrong with him - I was just not interested. A fact that he simply did not seem to get.
"You're home late tonight. Hope that woman's not working you too hard." He smiled.
I smiled back. When Drew wasn't doing his creepy 'go out with me' act, he was actually a genuinely nice person. There wasn't actually a good reason why I shouldn’t go out with him. Except that it just didn't feel right. Everytime I'd considered saying yes, I'd gotten this horrible feeling in my gut. Like I would be committing some huge betrayal by accepting.
I supposed it wasn't really fair that the reason I hated him so much was more to do with my feelings than his actions. But that awful guilty feeling that sprung up everytime he asked me out did not make sense and it gave me the creeps. Hence the reason he gave me the creeps.
His irritating persistence did not help matters either.
"Ugh. She always does." I looked at his clothes. "You off somewhere Drew?"
"I'm going out with the guys from work. We're going to a few pubs around the place. You up for it?"
It was completely hopeless and he knew it. But at least I knew he wouldn't be badgering me all night, or worse yet, following me around Edinburgh. To 'show me the sights'.
"Nope. You know me Drew." I smirked at him. "Enjoy yourself."
"You're killing me, Elena!" He shouted after me, as I entered the flat. I caught one last glance of his grinning face before I shut the door. I shook my head. It would take a ton of bricks to knock that guy down.
I walked straight to my bedroom, changing into a nice pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. Tonight was a night all to myself. There was no one around to notice if I got home late, or to judge me for eating fifty crêpes in a row. While that fact would've usually made me feel depressed, tonight I felt slightly liberated.
I could do anything I liked.
It was about an hour later. I was walking down one of the quieter streets in the city, away from the Friday night madness, munching on a crêpe. It was still very bright, there was only a hint of dusk in the sky and even then you had to squint.
This was one of my favourite places in Edinburgh. It was quite a new street, but surrounded by old buildings. There was a long pathway down the centre of it, with pretty flowerpots and a couple of benches on either side and it was always fairly quiet, since there were no cars allowed down.
Tonight, I spotted an elderly couple taking a stroll and a young child skipping ahead of her mother, pointing excitedly at one of the shops. I passed a well-dressed businessman, a harried look on his face, a couple of teenagers, walking quickly towards the other end of the street, and a young woman with gorgeous red hair, sitting on a bench just ahead, her back turned to me.
I always loved watching these people, wondering where they were going, what the looks on their faces meant. Why did the businessman look so stressed? Were the teenagers heading towards the park, or somewhere more sinister? Some of the scenarios I invented were truly ridiculous, but they always made me laugh.
Shaking my head at my own silliness, I deposited the crêpe wrapper in the bin and kept walking. I had only walked a few more metres when I heard shouting behind me, a young woman, calling someone. I ignored it, not even listening to what she was shouting. But a few seconds later the shouts became clearer.
I whipped around, not really believing what I was hearing, or seeing actually. The young woman with the gorgeous, fiery red hair was running towards me.
And she was shouting my name.