Red (Part )
I looked at her confused. This was what I had wanted: something for me to look at to help me remember. I took one of my hands and touched my cheek. I realized the reason for her apology. I had been crying, but not because I was sad. I was happy. Probably the happiest I had been in the past month. “No, this is perfect. It’s just what I wanted, what I needed. Thank you so much,” I whispered. I hugged her with sincere appreciation.
“Well, you can finish looking at it in the car. Do you want to do some shopping? Your dad says you can have whatever you like. After that we can grab a bite to eat. You can pick any restaurant for lunch.” She went around to the driver’s side and let herself in. I opened the door to the passenger’s side and slid into the seat. The car was warmer. We shut our doors almost in unison. She started the engine as I buckled my seatbelt. I started to consider lunch as we drove down the parking garage.
I knew that my dad was behind this. He was trying to buy me off with presents and paying for lunch, even though it was my birthday. He was trying to make up for something, but what? Linda was looking at me for my answer, so I said the first thing that popped into my head, “How about some seafood from Fisherman’s Wharf?” I immediately regretted it, but meeting with Sawyer was all I could think of. Relax, I told myself; I didn’t give away too much. I closed my eyes to concentrate. How many other places in San Francisco were there? Plenty. She wouldn’t suspect anything. Once we were at Fisherman’s Wharf, I could ask her about being there with Sawyer. Maybe I could convince her to not tell my dad. The paper was suddenly heavy in my pocket.
“Sounds good. Where do you want to start shopping?” Her eyes returned to keeping focus on the still cars in front of us, waiting for the slightest move. I must have had a decent answer. Did I like seafood before? Was this a sign to her that my old preferences were coming back? If so, why wasn’t she letting me know? I was so frustrated. I couldn’t remember anything, even though I was trying so hard. I tried to focus on something positive, and then I remembered Linda’s question. Maybe I could use this as a way to reinvent myself. What kind of clothes did I like? I tried to remember the boxes of clothes in my room. A groan escaped from me.
“Do you have a headache? I have your medicine in my purse. It’s in the…” Her head snapped back and forth between looking at me with concern and looking at the slow-moving cars ahead of us as she gave me instructions.
“No, Linda. I’m fine. I don’t have a headache. I’m just tired.” I was being honest. I tried to put this little incident behind us by answering her earlier question. “Anywhere is fine. It doesn’t really matter.”
He replayed the last time he saw her somewhat happy in his head. It was when they were having dinner on her birthday, the night before she disappeared. She was forcing a smile most of the night, but at least it wasn’t all night. She really did like the Border collie puppy he got her. She had named him Toby after her favorite character in Sweeny Todd. He was well behaved for a puppy. He knew that she needed a friend that would always be there for her. Less than a handful have been there for her this whole time. She fell asleep with Toby snuggled next to her that night.
He could always tell when she was being sincere. She loved anything that came from him because they were close, closer than any other siblings he knew. But they had grown apart some when she changed. He missed her when he saw her sneak out in the middle of the night and not come back until two days later. Even though he was five years younger than her, he still understood the pain he felt when she left. He could see the pain it caused her when she realized he knew about her far from perfect life. She wanted to shield him from that life. She hated what she had become and didn’t want him to fall into that trap. And he didn’t blame her. He saw what had become of her and he didn’t want any part of it.
Thinking about what Cori had done made him confused. He was angry with her for doing those things and never having the same amount of trust from their parents that he should have. He also felt pity for her, that she had fallen into this dark path and followed it blindly until she could be saved, if she could be saved at all. He was not sure if she was actually getting better or just trying to appease them. But then why would she run away all of a sudden? Why would she turn around when she was just beginning to see a light?
He could not rid himself of his thoughts of Cori while he waited on his best friend’s porch. He had lost all the time thinking of her while he walked the six blocks to Jordan’s house. His parents were away for the week, so they wouldn’t see him and call his parents. His brother and sister were away at college until the next school holiday. Jordan answered the door. Gabe came over to his house unannounced many times before, but he was surprised to see him after all the weeks of his silence and reclusion.
Gabe asked carefully, but he already knew the answer, “Your dad has information on Cori’s case, right?”
Jordan answered just as carefully, not sure where his best friend was headed, “Yeah. My dad’s the police chief, but you already knew that. Why do you ask?”
Gabe spoke slowly, but forcefully, “I want you to help me with something.”
We finally made it back to the apartment after hours of shopping. I left the bags of our newfound treasures on the catchall table by the door. Linda made her way into the living area to unwind and catch up on the six o’clock news. I went to the bathroom to freshen up. I was spent from the shopping, the lunch we had in Fisherman’s Wharf, and spending a few hours at the salon getting our hair dyed and nails done. Linda got a few highlights and I got my hair dyed brown at the suggestion of Linda. She said my hair would look nice if I had it a darker shade of brown and then she continued to talk; I could not pay attention to the conversations as my mind would not stop thinking about Sawyer and the possibility of a few hours of freedom tonight.
The music signaling the start of the six o’clock news traveled to the bathroom. I suddenly had a craving for some apple juice. I searched the fridge and was in luck. Half a bottle of apple juice was there. I watched the reporters deliver tonight’s headlines as I pour the juice into a glass. Linda was curled up into a ball at one end of the couch watching the reporters’ lips intensely.
A picture took up the screen and lingered as the female reporter articulates the reason for belonging on TV, capturing my interest. It was a picture of a young woman with long blonde hair streaked with color. She was smiling slightly, as if just for the picture. That picture was soon replaced with another of the woman, with the same forced smile, with what I presumed to be her friends. Then that picture disappeared and the woman’s information took up the screen as the reporter recited it. It read:
19 years old
Missing since February 25, 2008
I was immediately empathetic for the woman’s family. I knew what it felt like to lose someone close to you, even if it was myself. The reporter’s voice made the story behind the pictures all the more somber. “The police believe that she has been kidnapped, but do not yet have any suspects. However, she has runaway before. “
A photomontage of Cori Baine starts with baby pictures and change to show her happy childhood and then her troubled years as a teen. “Adopted as a baby by Ethan Goldman and his then-wife, Maya. A few years after Cori was added to the Goldman family, Maya gave birth to their first biological son. But not long after their son’s birth, Ethan began abusing Maya. Maya left divorced Ethan and was granted full custody of the children. A couple years later, Maya met and eventually married Trinidad’s high school principal, Allen Baine. Distressed from her mother’s divorce and marriage to Allen, Cori became rebellious. She experimented with drugs, drank alcohol, subjected herself to self-mutilation, and attempted suicide on several occasions. She would runaway to try to see her first adoptive father, Ethan, or to find her birth mother. Maya and Allen sent her to a number of camps for troubled teens, but none of them seemed to work until the most recent camp. According to her family, Cori was getting better and therefore would not have willingly disappeared. And now some footage of the Baines at their home in Trinidad from earlier today…”s
A video of the girl’s parents standing together came up. The mother was struggling to hold back tears as she spoke. Her graying light brown hair barely touched her shoulders. She was not tall, but not short. Her eyes were puffy and red as if she had been crying for some time. Her husband was standing solemnly behind her right shoulder. He was taller than his wife, but his eyes were empty. Maybe if they weren’t so sad, they could look like the perfect parents.
“Never has our daughter been away for a month. Whenever she ran away before it was only for a few days, a week at the most. She’s our baby and we miss her terribly. I just want my baby girl back.”
The mother could no longer contain her sorrow. She started to cry into her hands. He continued to speak for his wife. He was not crying, but his voice was empty and melancholy.
“She has been unstable the past couple of years, so she has been living with us. We believe that she is alive and we keep praying that whom ever has done this will see the pain that he or she has caused. We just want to know why somebody would take our daughter. Please help us find Cori. We are willing to pay a large reward, just please give us back our daughter.”
The screen returned to the information of the missing woman and a number appeared. “If you have any information involving Cori Baine, please call the toll-free number on your screen.” The reporter moved on to a happier story.
“Why would anybody do such a thing? Poor family. They must be miserable,” Linda said quietly. The picture of the woman stayed in my mind. Something about her was familiar.
“Do we know that family? I have a feeling that I know her.”
A flash of panic caught Linda’s face, but then smoothed out into her natural bubbly personality. She pressed mute on the remote so I could hear her. “I don’t think so. Maybe you saw her when you lived in Santa Rosa before…” She didn’t continue, but we both knew what she was going to say: before you moved to San Francisco and lost your memory.
“Why did we move to San Francisco? Why didn’t we stay in Santa Rosa?”
Linda seemed more relaxed answering this question. She said it like an actress delivering well-rehearsed lines. “You lived in San Francisco as a little girl, but after your mom left, you and your dad moved to Santa Rosa for a life away from the city. Your dad got a promotion and the two of you had to move back to San Francisco. You were in your senior year of high school. You were taking debate and Latin to prepare yourself to study law once you got to college so you could become a lawyer, just like your dad. He was so proud of you. And then after your…accident, your dad thought it would be a good to stay here since you lived here for a while and then you could finish up your credits next year.”
I saw my opportunity to ask her and I took it. “Do you know if I know anybody named Sawyer?” I bit my bottom lip as I waited for her response. My heart was pounding with anticipation.
“Not that I know of. But then again, you could have known him from before…why do you ask?” Her brows pulled together in confusion.
“When I went to the bathroom when I was waiting for you, I ran into him, rather he ran into me. He said I looked familiar and…”
“He invited me to Pier 39. I was wondering if I could…”
Linda cut me off harshly. Her face went rigid. “No. You can’t go. Your dad wouldn’t allow it.”
“But Linda, he might know me and there’s a chance that I know him, I could start to remember things. I wouldn’t be out too long. I just want a night to be normal. Please? It’s my birthday!”
“He could have just been saying those things. How can you trust somebody you’ve just met?”
“I trusted you and my dad when I woke up in the hospital when I had no who you were!” I retorted.
“What if he just said that he recognized you so he could get you alone and…hurt you? I won’t allow it, especially when your dad is gone.”
“So you two don’t want me to remember? Is that it? Do you not want my life ever get back to normal?”
“Of course not, Brooke; but it’s too early to go off on your own. That was part of the deal when you left the hospital after a week: you have to take it easy and listen to your dad and me.”
“Can’t you trust me to take care of myself? I’m not a child! I’m nineteen years old! I need to start living my life!” Angry tears started to leak from my eyes. I had begun to yell, but she stayed at a normal volume. How did I get so out of control with this? Her face went emotionless.
“We trust you, Brooke. We just don’t trust other people. Your dad has already lost you once; don’t put yourself in a situation that will make him lose you again.” I knew part of what she was saying was true. I didn’t want to hurt my dad again. I decided that I didn’t want to be around Linda the rest of the night.
I tried to make my voice calm, but I was close to falling apart. “I’m going to my room and I’ll come out if I want dinner. Don’t talk to me for the rest of the night.” I turned sharply on my heel and stormed off to my room. I slammed the door behind me and collapsed onto my bed, sobbing with anger and frustration. I was surprised that Linda followed my request and didn’t bother me. Some birthday this was turning out to be.
I angrily took my clothes out of their boxes. I didn’t know what else to do with my time. And it was about time that I got rid of the boxes, tried to make my life seem as normal as possible. The colors of my wardrobe blended together through my angry tears. I stopped because I realized that no matter how hard I tried, nothing would ever be normal again. Not if I got my memory back or started a new life. I was never going to be the Brooke everyone knew.
I took out the scrap of paper with Sawyer’s number on it. I was ready to tear the source of my frustration when I realized that I had just created the perfect situation to sneak out. The window in my room had a fire escape, I could call Sawyer from the phone in my room, and Linda wouldn’t be bothering me any time soon. A smile displayed itself on my face. I could make it back before she knows that I’m gone. I would have to wait here until it was closer to eight so she wouldn’t suspect anything.