Remember Me?(7)

by Sophie Kinsella

Chapter 3

They've made me a nice strong cup of tea. Because that cures amnesia, doesn't it, a cup of tea? No, stop it. Don't be so sarky. I'm grateful for the tea. At least it's something to hold on to. At least it's something real.

As Dr. Harman talks about neurological exams and CT scans, I'm somehow managing to keep it together. I'm nodding calmly, as if to say, “Yeah, no problem. I'm cool with all of this.” But inside I'm not remotely cool. I'm freaking. The truth keeps hitting me in the guts, over and over, till I feel giddy. When at last he gets paged and has to leave, I feel a huge sense of relief. I can't be talked at anymore. I'm not following any of what he says, anyway. I take a gulp of tea and flop back on my pillows. (Okay, I take it all back about the tea. It's the best thing I've tasted for a long time.) Maureen has gone off duty and Nicole has stayed in the room and is scribbling on my chart. “How are you feeling?” 34 “Really, really... really weird.” I try to smile. “I don't blame you.” She smiles back sympathetically. “Just take it easy. Don't push yourself. You've got a lot to take in. Your brain is trying to reboot itself.” She consults her watch and writes down the time. “When people get amnesia,” I venture, “do the missing memories come back?” “Usually.” She gives a reassuring nod. I shut my eyes tight and try throwing my mind back as hard as I can. Waiting for it to net something, snag on something. But there's nothing. Just black, frictionless nothing. “So, tell me about 2007.” I open my eyes. “Who's prime minister now? And president of America?” “That would be Tony Blair,” replies Nicole. “And President Bush.” “Oh. Same.” I cast around. “So...have they solved global warming? Or cured AIDS?” Nicole shrugs. “Not yet.” You'd think a bit more would have happened in three years. You'd think the world would have moved on. I'm a bit unimpressed by 2007, to be honest. “Would you like a magazine?” Nicole asks. “I'm just going to sort you out some breakfast.” She disappears out of the door, then returns and hands me a copy of Hello! I run my eyes down the headlinesand feel a jolt of shock. “ 'Jennifer Aniston and Her New Man.'” I read the words aloud uncertainly. “What new man? Why would she need a new man?”

“Oh yes.” Nicole follows my gaze, unconcerned. “You know she split up from Brad Pitt?” “Jennifer and Brad split?” I stare up at her, aghast. “You can't be serious! They can't have done!”

“He went off with Angelina Jolie. They've got a daughter.” “No!” I wail. “But Jen and Brad were so perfect together! They looked so good, and they had that lovely wedding picture and everything ” “They're divorced now.” Nicole shrugs, like it's no big deal. I can't get over this. Jennifer and Brad are divorced. The world is a different place. “Everyone's pretty much got used to it.” Nicole pats my shoulder soothingly. “I'll get you some breakfast. Would you like full English, continental, or fruit basket? Or all three?” “Um... continental, please. Thanks very much.” I open the magazine, then put it down again. “Hang on. Fruit basket? Did the NHS suddenly get a load of money or something?” “This isn't NHS.” She smiles. “You're in the private wing.” Private? I can't afford to go private. “I'll just refresh your tea...” She picks up the smart china pot and starts to pour. “Stop!” I exclaim in panic. I can't have any more tea. It probably costs fifty quid a cup. “Something wrong?” Nicole says in surprise. “I can't afford all this,” I say in an embarrassed rush. “I'm sorry, I don't know why I'm in this posh room. I should have been taken to an NHS hospital. I'm happy to move...” “It's all covered by your private health insurance,” she says. “Don't worry.” “Oh,” I say, taken aback. “Oh, right.” I took out private health insurance? Well, of course I did. I'm twenty-​eight now. I'm sensible. 36 I'm twenty-​eight years old. It hits me right in the stomach, as though for the first time. I'm a different person. I'm not me anymore. I mean, obviously I'm still me. But I'm twenty-​eight-​yearold me. Whoever the hell that is. I peer at my twenty-​eightyear- old hand as though for clues. Someone who can afford private health insurance, obviously, and gets a really good manicure, and... Wait a minute. Slowly I turn my head and focus again on the glossy Louis Vuitton. No. It's not possible. This zillion-​pound, designer, moviestar- type bag couldn't really be “Nicole?” I swallow, trying to sound nonchalant. “D'you think... Is that bag... mine?” “Should be.” Nicole nods. “I'll just check for you...” She opens the bag, pulls out a matching Louis Vuitton wallet, and snaps it open. “Yes, it's yours.” She turns the wallet around to display a platinum American Express card with Lexi Smart printed across it. My brain is short-​circuiting as I stare at the embossed letters. That's my platinum credit card. This is my bag. “But these bags cost, like... a thousand quid.” My voice is strangled. “I know they do.” Nicole suddenly laughs. “Go on, relax. It's yours!” Gingerly I stroke the handle, hardly daring to touch it. I can't believe this belongs to me. I mean... where did I get it? Am I earning loads of money or something? “So, I was really in a car crash?” I look up, suddenly wanting to know everything about myself, all at once. “I was really driving? In a Mercedes?” “Apparently.” She takes in my expression of disbelief. “Didn't you have a Mercedes in 2004, then?”

“Are you joking? I can't even drive!” When did I learn to drive? When did I suddenly start to afford designer handbags and Mercedes cars, for God's sake? “Look in your bag,” suggests Nicole. “Maybe the things inside will jog your memory.” “Okay. Good idea.” There are flutters in my stomach as I pull open the bag. A smell of leather, mixed with some unfamiliar perfume, rises from the inside. I reach inand the first thing I pull out is a tiny gold-​plated Estee Lauder compact. At once I flip it open to have a look. “You've had some cuts to the face, Lexi,” Nicole says quickly. “Don't be alarmedthey'll heal.” As I meet my own eyes in the tiny mirror, I feel sudden relief. It's still me, even if there's a huge graze on my eyelid. I move the mirror about, trying to get a good view, flinching as I see the bandage on my head. I tilt it farther down: there are my lips, looking weirdly full and pink, as if I was snogging all last night, and Oh my God. Those aren't my teeth. They're all white. They're all gleamy. I'm looking at a stranger's mouth. “Are you okay?” Nicole interrupts my daze. “Lexi?” “I'd like a proper mirror, please,” I manage at last. “I need to see myself. Have you got one you could bring me?” “There's one in the bathroom.” She comes forward. “In fact, it's a good idea for you to get moving. I'll help you.” I heave myself out of the high metal bed. My legs are wobbly, but I manage to totter into the adjoining bathroom. “Now,” she says, before she closes the door. “You have had some cuts and bruising, so your appearance may be a little bit of a shock. Are you ready?” 38 “Yes. I'll be fine. Just show me.” I take a deep breath and steel myself. She swings the door shut to reveal a full-​length mirror on the back of it. Is that... me? I can't speak. My legs have turned to jelly. I grip a towel rail, trying to keep control of myself. “I know your injuries look bad.” Nicole has a strong arm around me. “But believe me, they're just surface wounds.” I'm not even looking at the cuts. Or the bandage or the staple on my forehead. It's what's underneath. “That's not...” I gesture at my reflection. “That's not what I look like.” I close my eyes and visualize my old self, just to make sure I'm not going crazy. Mouse-​colored frizzy hair, blue eyes, slightly fatter than I'd like to be. Nice-​ish face but nothing special. Black eyeliner and bright pink Tesco lipstick. The standard Lexi Smart look. Then I open my eyes again. A different girl is staring back at me. Some of my hair has been messed up by the crash, but the rest is a bright, unfamiliar shade of chestnut, all straight and sleek with not one bit of frizz. My toenails are perfectly pink and polished. My legs are tanned golden brown, and thinner than before. And more muscled. “What's changed?” Nicole is looking at my reflection curiously. “Everything!” I manage. “I look all... sheeny.” “Sheeny?” She laughs. “My hair, my legs, my teeth...” I can't take my eyes off those immaculate pearly whites. They must have cost a bloody fortune. “They're nice!” She nods politely. “No. No. No.” I'm shaking my head vigorously. “You don't understand. I have the worst teeth in the world. My nickname is 'Snaggletooth.'“ ”Shouldn't think it is anymore.“ Nicole raises an amused eyebrow. ”And I've lost loads of weight And my face is different; I'm not sure exactly how...“ I scan my features, trying to work it out. My eyebrows are thin and groomed... my lips seem fuller somehow.... I peer more closely, suddenly suspicious. Have I had something done? Have I turned into someone who has work done? I tear myself away from the mirror and pull the door open, my head spinning. ”Take it easy,“ Nicole warns, hurrying after me. ”You've had a shock to the system. Maybe you should take things one step at a time ” Ignoring her, I grab the Louis Vuitton bag and start yanking things out of it, examining each item closely as though it might impart a message. God, just look at this stuff. A Tiffany key fob, a pair of Prada sunglasses, a lip gloss: Lancome, not Tesco. And here's a small, pale-​green Smythson diary. I hesitate for a moment, psyching myself upthen open it. With a jolt I see my own familiar handwriting. Lexi Smart, 2007 is scribbled inside the front cover. I must have written those words. I must have doodled that feathery bird in the corner. But I have absolutely no recollection of doing so.