Remember Me?(10)

by Sophie Kinsella

A pained expression comes to her face. “Let's not dwell on it, darling. It was years ago.” She gets up as though to remove herself from my questioning. “Now, have you had any lunch? I didn't have time to eat anything, just a snatch of a boiled egg and toast. I'll go and find something for us both. And make sure you eat properly Lexi,“ she adds. ”None of this no-​carbs obsession. A potato won't kill you.” No carbs? Is that how I got this shape? I glance down at my unfamiliar toned legs. It has to be said, they look as if they don't know what a potato is.

“I've changed in appearance quite a lot, haven't I?” I can't help saying, a bit self-​consciously. “My hair... my teeth...” “I suppose you are different.” She peers at me vaguely. “It's been so gradual, I haven't really noticed.” For God's sake. How can you not even notice when your daughter turns from a manky, overweight Snaggletooth into a thin, tanned, groomed person? “I won't be long.” Mum picks up her embroidered shoulder bag. “And Amy should be here any moment.” “Amy's here?” My spirits lift as I visualize my little sister in her pink fleecy vest and flower-​embroidered jeans and those cute sneakers that light up when she dances. “She was just buying some chocolate downstairs.” Mum opens the door. “She loves those mint Kit Kats.” The door closes behind her and I stare at it. They've invented mint Kit Kats? 2007 really is a different world. # Amy's not my half sister or stepsister, like most people assume. She's my full, one-​hundred-​percent sister. But people 50 get confused because: 1. There's thirteen years between us. 2. My mum and dad had split up before she was born. Maybe “split up” is too strong. I'm not sure what went on exactlyall I know is, my dad was never around much when I was growing up. The official reason was that his business was based abroad. The real reason was that he was a feckless chancer. I was only eight when I heard him described like that by one of my aunts at a Christmas party. "When they saw me they got flustered and changed the subject, so I figured feckless was some really terrible swear word. It's always stuck in my mind. Feckless. The first time he left home, I was seven. Mum said he'd gone on a business trip to America, so when Melissa at school said she'd seen him in the co-​op with a woman in red jeans, I told her she was a fat liar. He came back home a few weeks later, looking tiredfrom the jet lag, he said. When I pestered him for a souvenir, he produced a pack of Wrigley's gum. I called it my American gum and showed everyone at schooluntil Melissa pointed out the co-​op price sticker. I never told Dad I knew the truth, or Mum. I'd kind of known all along that he wasn't in America. A couple of years later he disappeared again, for a few months this time. Then he started up a property business in Spain, which went bust. Then he got involved in some dodgy pyramid scheme and tried to get all our friends involved. Somewhere along the line he became an alcoholic... then he moved in for a bit with some Spanish woman But Mum kept taking him back. Then, at last, about three years ago, he moved to Portugal for good, apparently to get away from the tax man. Mum had various other “gentlemen friends” over the years, but she and Dad never divorcednever really let go of each other at all. And, evidently, on one of his jovial, the 51 drinks-​are-​on-​me-​darlings Christmas visits, she and he must have... Well. I don't exactly want to picture it. We got Amy, that's the point. And she's the most adorable little thing, always playing on her disco dance mat and wanting to plait my hair a million times over. The room is quiet and dim since Mum left. I pour myself a glass of water and sip it slowly. My thoughts are all cloudy, like a bomb site after the blast. I feel like a forensics expert, picking through the different strands, trying to work out the full picture. There's a faint knocking at the door and I look up. “Hello? Come in!” “Hi, Lexi?” An unfamiliar girl of about fifteen has edged into the room. She's tall and skinny, with jeans falling off her midriff, a pierced navel, spiky blue-​streaked hair, and about six coats of mascara. I have no idea who she is. As she sees me, she grimaces.

“Your face still looks fucked up.” “Oh,” I say, taken aback. The girl's eyes narrow as she surveys me. “Lexi... it's me. You do know it's me, don't you?” “Right!” I make an apologetic face. “Look, I'm really sorry, but I've had this accident and I'm having some problems with my memory. I mean, I'm sure we have met” “Lexi?” She sounds incredulous; almost hurt. “It's me! It's Amy.” I'm speechless. I'm beyond speechless. This cannot be my baby sister. But it is. Amy's turned into a tall, sassy teenager. 52 Practically an adult. As she saunters around the room, picking things up and putting them down, I'm mesmerized by the height of her. The confidence of her. “Is there any food here? I'm starving.” She has the same sweet, husky voice she always didbut modulated. Cooler and more street-​wise. “Mum's getting me some lunch. You can share if you like.” “Great.” She sits down in a chair and swings her long legs over the arm, displaying gray suede ankle boots with spiky heels. “So, you don't remember anything? That's so cool.” “It's not cool,” I retort. “It's horrible. I remember up to just before Dad's funeral... and then it just goes fuzzy. I don't remember my first few days in hospital, either. It's like I woke up for the first time last night.” “Way out.” Her eyes are wide. “So, you don't remember me visiting you before?” “No. All I remember is you being twelve. With your ponytail and braces. And those cute hair clips you used to wear.” “Don't remind me.” Amy mimes puking, then frowns in thought. “So... let me get this straight. The whole of the last three years is a total blank.” “Like a big black hole. And even before that it's a bit foggy. Apparently I'm married.?” I laugh nervously. “I had no idea! Were you a bridesmaid at the wedding or anything?“ ”Yeah,“ she says distractedly. ”It was cool. Hey, Lexi, I don't want to bring this up when you're feeling so ill and everything, but...” She twists a strand of hair, looking awkward.

“What?” I look at her in surprise. “Tell me.” 53 “Well, it's just that you owe me seventy quid.” She shrugs apologetically. “You borrowed it last week when your cash card wasn't working and you said you'd pay me back. I don't suppose you'll remember...” “Oh,” I say, taken aback. “Of course. Just help yourself.” I gesture at the Louis Vuitton bag. “I don't know if there's any cash in there...” “There will be,” Amy says, swiftly unzipping it with a tiny smile. “Thanks!” She pockets the notes and swings her legs over the arm of the chair again, playing with her collection of silver bangles. Then she looks up, suddenly alert. “Wait a minute. Do you know about” She stops herself. “What?” She surveys me with narrowed, disbelieving eyes. “No one's told you, have they?” “Told me what?” “Jesus. I suppose they're trying to break things to you gradually, but, I mean...” She shakes her head, nibbling her nails. “Personally, I think you should know sooner rather than later.” “Know what?” I feel a beat of alarm. “What, Amy? Tell me!” For a moment Amy seems to debate with herself, then she gets up. “Wait here.” She disappears for a few moments. Then the door opens again and she reappears, clutching an Asian-​looking baby about a year old. He's wearing overalls and holding a beaker of juice, and he gives me a sunny smile. “This is Lennon,” she says, her expression softening. “This is your son.” I stare at them both, frozen in terror. What's she talking about?