It was one of those Saturday nights for most college kids in my town, and on that specific night I was just playing the part of every single other one of them. We were all out drinking, having a blast, hopping from bar to bar and discovering new drinks and things about ourselves through our slurred and honest speech. Dialect of a drunken language. After the fourth bar and the twentieth time some losers asked us if they could buy us a drink, it started pouring down raining outside.
“Damnit,” Leo said as the rest of the group shrugged their shoulders and kept dancing. He was the DD of the night and was clearly not having the time of his life or “living it up” as we had stated. By this point in the night, I was extremely intoxicated and getting exhausted. I slurred this to Leo whose eyes bulged out and thought I was speaking some new language thought up by aliens.
“What?” he asked.
“I said I think I’m going home. I can take a cab or something… it’s just a few blocks over, you know.”
Without too much of a fuss from him or any of my other friends, I was out on the street in the pouring down rain. Nauseous effects from the overabundance of alcohol set in and I began quickening my pace, thinking I needed to find the nearest trash can but instead losing the contents over the edge of a sidewalk. I kept walking and realized I had been walking in the rain for quite some time and it felt pretty good, so I kept up the pace and kept going until I reached my block.
A neighbor of mine was getting out of her car and smiled at me, but as I drew closer, her face turned to near horror. She pointed above me and I had only seconds to look up when I noticed that a monstrous branch was letting loose from the tree it was attached to. As it fell above my head, I heard her scream, “Lucy, WATCH OUT!!”
When I woke, my eyesight was hazy as if I was looking through a telescope with limited vision on both sides, and my head was pounding like a rocket taking launch. As the blurriness faded, I noticed two people leaning over the bed and my vision zoomed in until I made out the lines of the man and the woman.
“Mom…Dad?” I asked, confused as hell and wanting to leap out of my bed, but my mom held onto my arm and stopped me from going anywhere.
“You took quite the hit,” my mom laughed. “Freaked us out, back there.”
I looked down at my ruffled, pink bed sheets and my sleeping gown with the princess on it. “Wha-what happened?”
“You fell out of the tree in the back yard, honey,” my father insisted, placing a hand on my forehead and feeling my temperature. “We’re going to let you rest and you’ll feel better in no time. Good thing, too, because there’s a lot of chores to do around here.”
My parents trudged out of the room and as I began to gain more focus in the bedroom, I saw the other familiar bed across the room with the blankets pulled up to the mouth of nobody other than my sister, Julie. She was small and shaking, her eyes tremendous as she watched me from across the room.
“What?” I asked, still a bit lost and confused.
“You really don’t remember?” she asked.
“Remember what? What are you talking about?”
“You…you don’t remember what they did to you,” she replied softly. “You don’t remember anything. You think you fell out of a tree.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked again, this time a bit furiously.
“Go look in the mirror, Lucy,” she shot out, her face totally revealed from behind the blanket. She had large, black bruises all over her face and a cut at her lip.
I strode across the room and as soon as I was in front of our full-length mirror, I gasped. My arms were covered in scars and upon further inspection, I noticed that one had a bump the size of a golf ball at the elbow. My face was completely black and blue with two purple eye sockets, glowing from the newness of the bruises.
“Holy… what happened to me?” I asked, whipping around to face my sister on the bed.
“It was the fight,” she said. “We were doing chores and you finished up and asked mom if you could walk to the neighbor’s house to play. She insisted that it wasn’t done yet and that you couldn’t go today. You stomped off and…she grabbed ahold of you and threw you down the stairs.” A few steps went by the bedroom and I hopped back into my bed frantically. When I turned back to Julie, she had her finger raised to her mouth in a shushing motion to remind us to be quiet. “She yanked you by the hair. You passed out. I was screaming for them to call an ambulance… and then dad came in and whipped me across the face until I shut up. He told me the neighbors would hear.”
“What?” I asked incredulously. “No… mom and dad wouldn’t do that. What in the world are you talking about?”
Then my eyes dropped to the scars and unhealed bruises on my arms, not so fresh, and the memories came flooding in. Each bruise a new reminder of what we had gone through and probably what was likely to come as well.
My mind turned to fresh panic, probably not the best in a situation where my mind was already racing and shot full of pain like morphine. In my haziness I told Julie to get dressed. She was younger than me by a year and I had to protect her. I told her we would have to escape out the window.
“Do you know how much trouble we’re going to be in if we get caught?” she asked me in a whimper, her voice rising at the end.
“Do you know how dead we’re going to be, like really dead, if they lay their hands on us again?” I threatened, and she nodded as knowingly as anybody would.
Just as I asked for her help to pry the window open and we hoisted it together, our bedroom door shot open and we screamed like a pack of monkeys who had just discovered their babies had been killed. Our dad was standing there, mom in tow behind him, and he didn’t take more than a couple of seconds to adjust his sights in on what was taking place in our bedroom.
“I KNEW you shits were up to something!” he thumped across the room, screaming loudly with the window half-open. I attempted to push Julie out and scramble on myself, but it was too late. I remember catching a glimpse of her last foot getting caught on a sharp nail sticking out of the window, screaming in pain, and the horrified look on our neighbor’s face across the street as she went unnoticed by my parents and slipped into her home, grabbing her phone to call 9-1-1. And then my father’s hand met my face and I was out cold.
“I just hope there’s no long-term, lasting-“ My mother’s voice cut off and she shrieked in joy as my eyes flittered a bit like the wings of a butterfly lost in a storm. “SHE’S AWAKE! OH MY GOD, SHE’S AWAKE!”
My eyes refocused and I felt my face, looked down at my outfit and feet, wiggled my toes for good measures. I peered into the mirror next to my hospital bed and noticed that I was in a hospital gown and there were absolutely no bruises on my arms or face, safe for the wrapping around the uppermost part of my head and hooked up to numerous IVs through my arms.
“Where am I?” I asked. “I just had the weirdest dream…”
“Oh, honey,” my mom cried as my dad met me by my side and the nurses rushed around happily, seeing that I was now awake. “You were struck by a branch outside your apartment at college and you were in a coma for a few days. We didn’t think…didn’t think we would ever see you speak or blink your eyes again. This is just wonderful.”
“Struck by a tree branch?” I asked. “You would never believe the dream I just had. I have to tell you about it.”
“It can wait…” my mom trailed off as doctors and nurses pushed around her and checked my vitals.
“No, mom, really,” I said, feeling my blood pressure rising through my body. “I had a dream that you guys weren’t my parents and that my real parents were these child abusers. And I had a sister, Julie…”
“Honey, really, not now,” my mom whispered close to my face. “We’re so glad that our baby is okay. These doctors know what’s best to you.”
“But it was so real, mom,” I said. “It was like… a fucking memory.”
Over the next few weeks I was sent into extensive therapy and rehabilitation on the road to recovery. Missing school wasn’t so bad and Leo and the gang came to visit me occasionally. We kept in contact through texting which was really the only thing I looked forward to as the drone of the same daytime television shows were doing me no good. I heard from my neighbor and thanked her profusely for coming to my rescue and being there when the branch fell. Neighbors do wonderful things sometimes; it’s good to have them around.
My therapist mentioned to me one day that my memories would start to come back. I keep telling him that I remember a lot of what happened before the branch cracked me over my head and sent me into la-la land, and he laughs as I tell him this but it’s a bit more serious than that to me. Memories are coming back, for sure. I remember a lot about how my biological parents killed Julie and buried her in the forest of our old hometown. I remember moving across the country to my aunt and uncle’s and adjusting back into my lifestyle. Yes, childhood is coming back. Memories are coming back, just as he promised they would.
And I have a lot of questions.