(Book 1 of the Unremembered Trilogy)
by Jessica Brody
FSG Books for Young Readers – March 2013
The water is cold and ruthless, lapping against my cheek.
Slapping me awake. Filling my mouth with the taste of salty solitude.
I cough violently and open my eyes, taking in the world around me. Seeing it for the first time. It’s not a world I recognize. I gaze upon miles and miles of dark blue ocean. Peppered with large floating objects. Metal. Like the one I’m lying on.
And then there are the bodies.
I count twenty in my vicinity. Two within reach. Although I don’t dare try.
Their lifeless faces are frozen in terror. Their eyes are empty. Staring into nothing.
I press a palm to my throbbing temple. My head feels like it’s made out of stone. Everything is drab and heavy and seen through a filthy lens. I close my eyes tight.
The voices come an hour later. After night has fallen. I hear them cutting through the darkness. It takes them forever to reach me. A light breaks through the dense fog and blinds me.
No one speaks as they pull me from the water. No one has to. It’s clear from the looks on their faces they did not expect to find me.
They did not expect to find anyone.
Alive, that is.
I’m wrapped in a thick blue blanket and laid on a hard wooden surface. That’s when the questions start. Questions that make my brain hurt.
“What is your name?”
I wish I knew.
“Do you know where you are?”
I glance upward and find nothing but a sea of unhelpful stars.
“Do you remember boarding the plane?”
My brain twists in agony, causing my forehead to throb again.
Plane. Plane. What is a plane?
And then comes the question that awakens something deep within me. That ignites a tiny, faraway spark somewhere in the back corners of my mind.
“Do you know what year it is?”
I blink, feeling a small glimmer of hope surge from the pit of my stomach.
“1609,” I whisper with unfounded conviction
Today is the only day I remember. Waking up in that ocean is all I have. The rest is empty space. Although I don’t know how far back that space goes—how many years it spans. That’s the thing about voids: they can be as short as the blink of an eye, or they can be infinite. Consuming your entire existence in a flash of meaningless white. Leaving you with nothing.
Every second that ticks by is new. Every feeling that pulses through me is foreign. Every thought in my brain is like nothing I’ve ever thought before. And all I can hope for is one moment that mirrors an absent one. One fleeting glimpse of familiarity.
Something that makes me . . . me.
Otherwise, I could be anyone.
Forgetting who you are is so much more complicated than simply forgetting your name. It’s also forgetting your dreams.
Your aspirations. What makes you happy. What you pray you’ll never have to live without. It’s meeting yourself for the first time, and not being sure of your first impression.
After the rescue boat docked, I was brought here. To this room. Men and women in white coats flutter in and out. They stick sharp things in my arm. They study charts and scratch their heads. They poke and prod and watch me for a reaction. They want something to be wrong with me. But I assure them that I’m fine. That I feel no pain.
The fog around me has finally lifted. Objects are crisp and detailed. My head no longer feels as though it weighs a hundred pounds. In fact, I feel strong. Capable. Anxious to get out of this bed. Out of this room with its unfamiliar chemical smells. But they won’t let me. They insist I need more time.
From the confusion I see etched into their faces, I’m pretty sure it’s they who need the time.
They won’t allow me to eat any real food. Instead they deliver nutrients through a tube in my arm. It’s inserted directly into my vein. Inches above a thick white plastic bracelet with the words Jane Doe printed on it in crisp black letters.
I ask them why I need to be here when I’m clearly not injured. I have no visible wounds. No broken bones. I wave my arms and turn my wrists and ankles in wide circles to prove my claim. But they don’t respond. And this infuriates me.
After a few hours, they determine that I’m sixteen years old. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to react to this information. I don’t feel sixteen. But then again, how do I know what sixteen feels like? How do I know what any age feels like?
And how can I be sure that they’re right? For all I know, they could have just made up that number. But they assure me that they have qualified tests. Specialists. Experts. And they all say the same thing.
That I’m sixteen.
The tests can’t tell me my name, though. They can’t tell me where I’m from. Where I live. Who my family is. Or even my favorite color.
And no matter how many “experts” they shuttle in and out of this room, no one can seem to explain why I’m the only survivor of the kind of plane crash no one survives.
They talk about something called a passenger manifest. I’ve deduced that it’s a kind of master list. A register of everyone who boarded the plane.
I’ve also deduced that I’m not on it.
And that doesn’t seem to be going over very well with anyone.
A man in a gray suit, who identifies himself as Mr. Rayunas from Social Services, says he’s trying to locate my next of kin. He carries around a strange-looking metal device that he calls a cell phone. He holds it up to his ear and talks. He also likes to stare at it and stab at tiny buttons on its surface. I don’t know what my “next of kin” is, but by the look on his face, he’s having trouble locating it.
He whispers things to the others. Things I’m assuming he doesn’t want me to hear. But I hear them anyway. Foreign, unfamiliar words like “foster care” and “the press” and “minor.” Every so often they all pause and glance over at me. They shake their heads. Then they continue whispering.
There’s a woman named Kiyana who comes in every hour. She has dark skin and speaks with an accent that makes it sound like she’s singing. She wears pink. She smiles and fl uffs my pillow. Presses two fingers against my wrist. Writes stuff down on a clipboard. I’ve come to look forward to her visits. She’s kinder than the others. She takes the time to talk to me. Ask me questions. Real ones. Even though she knows I don’t have any of the answers.
“You’re jus’ so beautiful,” she says to me, tapping her fi nger tenderly against my cheek. “Like one of those pictures they airbrush for the fashion magazines, you know?”
I don’t know. But I offer her a weak smile regardless. For some reason, it feels like an appropriate response.
“Not a blemish,” she goes on. “Not one flaw. When you get your memory back, you’re gonna have to tell me your secret, love.” Then she winks at me.
I like that she says when and not if.
Even though I don’t remember learning those words, I understand the difference.
“And those eyes,” she croons, moving in closer. “I’ve never seen sucha color. Lavender, almos’.” She pauses, thinking, and leans closer still. “No. Violet.” She smiles like she’s stumbled upon a long-lost secret. “I bet that’s your name. Violet. Ring any bells?”
I shake my head. Of course it doesn’t.
“Well,” she says, straightening the sheets around my bed, “I’m gonna call you anyway. Jus’ until you remember the real one. Much nicer soundin’ than Jane Doe.”
She takes a step back, tilts her head to the side. “Sucha pretty girl. Do you even remember whatcha look like, love?”
I shake my head again.
She smiles softly. Her eyes crinkle at the corners. “Hang on then. I’ll show you.”
She leaves the room. Returns a moment later with an oval- shaped mirror. Light bounces off it as she walks to my bedside. She holds it up.
A face appears in the light pink frame.
One with long and sleek honey-brown hair. Smooth golden skin. A small, straight nose. Heart-shaped mouth. High cheekbones. Large, almond-shaped purple eyes.
“Yes, that’s you,” she says. And then, “You musta been a model. Such perfection.”
But I don’t see what she sees. I only see a stranger. A person I don’t recognize. A face I don’t know. And behind those eyes are sixteen years of experiences I fear I’ll never be able to remember. A life held prisoner behind a locked door. And the only key has been lost at sea.
I watch purple tears form in the reflecting glass.
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux Books for Young Readers
Hardcover (March 5, 2013)