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I'm Not Me
Whoever you are reading this, consider yourself lucky that I took the time to write down a part of my life worth writing about. I was the usual teenager with the average teen problems; like covering up a zit because my mom said not to pop it, finding that cute high school boyfriend to spend my weekends with, having that one best friend that would know my deepest secrets, and worrying about where I would spend Friday nights. At least, I assumed I was the usual teenager. I had normal problems. To my knowledge, I didn’t realize just how not normal my life was.
It would have been nice to be included into the secret that was worth protecting for 18 years. So let me take you back to the beginning. You’d be surprised at how much can change overnight. I know everyone says, “Oh before you know it, you’re grown and paying bills, so enjoy your youth.” Well, the grown part is true; children wish to grow up with the blink of their eyes, but it’s never a good idea. Oh, I don’t believe I properly introduced myself, forgive me. My name is Jade Marshalls.
I never planned on writing down my life. It never seemed important enough. My sister was the golden child in the family. I suppose there is a golden child in every family; parents agree to like one kid more than another but never admit it. My mom openly admitted it. My sister Clarissa is my mom’s favorite. Growing up, I never had that special mother-daughter relationship that you see on TV. Mom always treated me like I was her daughter, not her child. Her child was my sister.
Looks wise, I don’t look anything like my sister or my mom. My sister is 5 feet, four inches, size three, flowing long light brown hair, hazel eyes, and a smile that could paralyze the average man. Her hair must be perfect at all times or nothing is safe. My mom is the same way. Me? Well, I’m five feet, one inch. I’m a size 6; a real cow compared to my perfect sister. My hair is long too but it is dark brown. I don’t mind my hair being messy. It actually looks better messed up. I have dark brown eyes, so dark they look black. I’m way too smart in English. That’s like my best subject. I don’t compare to my sister. My sister wears skirts and heels and makeup and all those girlie things. I’m perfectly happy wearing jeans and a t-shirt and Converse. The only makeup I use is eyeliner and some mascara.
Anyway, I don’t remember much of my childhood. The last thing I really remember was being in a car accident. It was raining hard that night; I don’t remember who was driving or who was in the car with me. I was maybe ten years old. Whoever was driving lost control over the wheel. The car spun out of control and I hit my head-hard. I woke up in the hospital a few days later, screaming and wondering where I was. The nurses and doctors had to control me somehow, so they used a sedative on me. After that, I don’t remember much of anything.
The doctors say I was in a coma for ten months. They also say that my long term memory was lost during the accident. I suppose it’s fate. The doctor said my memory would come back. When my mother came in the hospital to claim me, I had no idea who she was. “I’m your mother, of course you remember me.” Was I really supposed to remember her? I didn’t even remember my own name! Just because she said she was my mom, didn’t mean I believed her. Nor did I believe the little girl that was with her saying she was my little sister.
Well, I suppose you noticed the gap in months, huh? Yeah, nothing interesting happened during November or December. So I just bypassed it all and got to where it matters. Halloween sucked. Thanksgiving came and went. Christmas was the same every year, my sister receiving the world and me unwrapping presents that I bought myself. I was glad when school started back up again even though it was always a blur to me. After my accident, I spent three months in physical therapy and then put straight into the sixth grade. Once I started high school, bits of my memory came back. At first it was little things, the scent of a flower, a word someone would say, or a scene that was happening; or a woman with long dark brown hair running in the distance, or a tall man sitting down, drinking coffee. I kept these slight memories of a foreign person to myself. I couldn’t fathom telling my mom. Something told me not too; that she wouldn’t believe me.
Well, my birthday is soon! Yay! In just another month I’ll be 18! Then, I graduate in May and start college in September. I was accepted into Saint-Xavier University. I was shocked when I got my acceptance letter. I didn’t share the news with my mom or sister. Why should they know? Anyway, I never paid attention to my classes. High school seemed inane. Yet somehow, I was an A student and on the Honor Roll. It has been seven years since my accident; and I wonder if my memory will ever truly come back. Sometimes I wonder where I come from; if I come from anywhere really. Since I hardly remember who I was as a kid, it didn’t make sense to keep looking for the past. Kids, the next time you want to grow up in the blink of an eye, don’t! You really miss being a kid; trust me, I know because I can’t remember being one.
Today is February fifteenth and I am officially 18 years old! Hell yeah! Of course nothing special will happen on this day. It’s the day after Valentine’s Day and couples are still celebrating their love and my sister is with her boyfriend again today. To my mom it’s just another day. And you know what? That is totally okay with me! Besides, I planned a special birthday dinner for myself at Benihana and then after I’m going to go buy my birthday present-a purple fleece Northface sweater. I’ve wanted one for a long time now and I am finally going to get it! My favorite color has always been purple, ever since I can remember and that isn’t too far back.
Anyway, I didn’t get real dressed up for my birthday, just skinny jeans, black Converse, a tight fitted t-shirt and a small jacket. Yeah you’re probably right, I will freeze, but I don’t have a warmer coat. Besides, I’ll layer up. Don’t worry. *Smiles* By the time I reach Benihana it’s about 7:30pm. I walk in and the headwaiter says my table for one is no longer available.
“What do you mean it isn’t available? I reserved this table two weeks ago! I even arrived thirty minutes before my said time!” I scream at him. He’s probably in his late thirties, slightly balding. He looks like he needs a good night sleep.
“Miss, I’m terribly sorry, but the table was needed for a party of 15. We tried contacting you—“he tries explaining but I cut him off.
“Tried contacting me? That is some major bull because I never received a phone call!”
“Miss—“but I held my hand up and said, “No, this is bullshit and I am never coming back here.”
I stormed out of there and went straight to Northface. Maybe I did overreact but I mean come on, wouldn’t you have done the same? By the time I reached Northface they were closed early. This just wasn’t my night. Clearly someone somewhere was trying to tell me something. So I just walked around for a bit. It was becoming pretty chilly out so I ducked into an old bookstore; the kind of bookstore where you can actually smell the books. I looked around for something interesting. What I found was something I wasn’t looking for intentionally.
“May I help you?” said a voice; I jumped and stopped, stared straight ahead and slowly turned around. It was a woman, mid-forties, dark wavy hair-like mine- she had dark brown eyes too. For a moment, I saw myself looking in a mirror. I blinked my eyes and focused. The woman’s name was Margaret.
I cleared my voice and spoke up. “Um…hello there, I was just looking around,” I couldn’t think of what to say, I mean the book in my hand was about stars for heaven’s sake. “I was just wondering if you had a book about recalling memories.” That seemed like a reasonable lie, after all, I couldn’t remember my own past.
“Yes, we do. Follow me to the back,” Margaret said, she seemed irritated about being here so late. Perhaps she planned on closing until I walked in. great; mom always said I ruin things. This lady probably had plans to be with her family and I just ruined it. She leads me to the back, it is a pretty small. The book shelf she leads me to has about four books on recalling memories.
As she walks away I thank her and turn my attention to the four books. One title really grabbed my attention, “Don’t Know Who You Are? That’s Okay, We’ll Help You Remember.” I grabbed it and went straight to pay for it. I figured if I left early then so could she. As I reached for the counter she stared at me with such intensity, like she knew me from somewhere but couldn’t remember. She rings up my book to $15.23. Whoa, that seems like a lot for a book, but since it’s my birthday perhaps I should splurge a little. Once my book is paid for, I scurry outside. I walk back towards the city, towards my car too. Since the night is basically killed off, I figured I could just go home.
When I reach the house, my mother and sister have left to their respective parties they had planned for tonight. Guess it is just me in the house. That is probably the best birthday present they’ve ever given me! Well, aside from my mom buying me another cell phone. My old one was one from the 1980’s. You know that brick telephone I am referring too? Yeah, well it wasn’t that one per se but it was so out of date.
Anyway, I go up to my room and change out of my newly bought birthday clothes. What a waste. I change into my pajamas, which is basically yoga pants and a t-shirt. I crawled into bed and turned on my television. It was only 11pm! Wow, how lame, it was Saturday night and my plans fell through. I sat up in bed and flipped through the new book I bought, nothing grabbed out at me so I set it down and turned to the TV.
I turned to a channel where one of those old 80’s movies was playing. The one with Molly Ringwald, she’s in detention with four other students. It is right at the part where all the kids are getting high, figures. Since nothing else seems to be on, I stay on the 80’s film, which I later remembered is known as The Breakfast Club. I can’t remember when I fell asleep or what day it was but it was good to not be bothered. “Happy Birthday, Jade,” I faintly remember someone whispering. Impossible, my sister wasn’t home, neither was my mom. And both never wished me a happy birthday. After that, I just remember being pulled under by the abysmal night.
Well, my birthday was a drag as you all read. School continues to take its sweet time ending. The only good news is that graduation is two weeks away. Thank God! Anyway, since my hair is so long, I can hide my headphones within my hair while I’m in school. So I have been listening to my iPod for the last two classes. I’m listening to “Layla” by Eric Clapton. This is such a great song. Any of you out there know it? If not, Google or Bing it. It’s worth listening too.
Today is May 21st and also graduation day! I am so close to being out of my mother’s house and out of their lives! Being that today is kind of an important day, my mom and sister actually took the time out of their already filled schedule to attend. I never asked them too, but it kind of felt nice to be the center of attention for once.
I’m wearing skin tight fitted knee high dress. It’s amethyst and totally gorgeous. I wore black suede heels and just did a slight curl to my fabulously long hair. I was waiting in line to be called up to receive my diploma when I noticed her. The woman from the bookstore I went to on my birthday. What was her name? Maggie? Macy? Damn, I couldn’t remember her name. Guess it really doesn’t matter. But why is she here? Does she have a kid who is also graduating too? It seemed plausible. I mean I only knew about five students and they weren’t friends, just acquaintances.
The principle was taking centuries to call out the M names. Finally he reaches the M’s. “Jenna Macs.” He announces. Jenna goes up to receive her diploma and to smile for the photographer. “Daniel Madison.” After Daniel is done Frank Maple is next and so on. Ahh! It’s almost my turn! “Jacqueline Marks.” She’s right in front of me, I so excited, I practically push her up on the stage. Finally. “Jade Marshalls.” Standing tall with confidence I walk up the stage stairs, straight to the principle. With my left hand I take my well-earned diploma and with my right I shake his hand. “Congratulations Jade,” he whispers. “Thank you,” I say back. I walk back to my seat and that was that.
After everyone received their diplomas I ran for my car and drove home. I started packing my bags for college. A smile was still on my face, hello, I deserve to be happy. I did it! I’m almost done packing my first bag when the front door opens. It is my mom and sister. They both come up to my room, uninvited they just walk in and sit on my bed.
“Uh, please come in and sit down,” I say to them, with a touch of annoyance in my voice.
“We need to talk,” mother says.
“Okay, well can it wait? I’m kind of busy,” I attempt to say but am cut off short by my sister.
“No, it can’t. We need to tell you this-now,”
“Okay, fine, what?” I sit on my window ledge and await their “so-important” talk.
For a while they both just sit there looking back at one another, not knowing how to begin. The silence was killing me and was also annoying so I said, “Well someone talk!” Alright, so I kind of yelled it.
My mother speaks up. “You aren’t mine.” She let out a breath I didn’t realize she was holding. Clarissa sinks farther back into the wall.
What did she say? How can that be true? Before I can respond, she continues.
“Remember the car crash you were in? When you were ten years old? We saw on the news what happened. The car hydroplaned, your father lost control and then the car flipped over the side of the road. Your father was killed instantly. Your mother, Margaret, was unstable and had some amnesia. You were knocked out; you had hit your head and were rushed to the hospital. You lost a lot of blood and the doctors weren’t sure if you’d make it. Your mother was rushed to a different hospital. She couldn’t recall ever having a daughter and you were in a coma for months. When you woke up, doctors had said your long term memory was lost and you had no recollection of anything before the accident.”
She was speaking so fast, I really couldn’t process everything she was telling me.
“You were in the hospital for a week already before Clarissa had said we should adopt you; to take you in as our own and just go with it,” she continues on. “She was only eight but she was smart. So we gathered a story that you were with an uncle in the car and that you were my daughter. When we showed up to take you home, you fought so hard, yelling that I wasn’t your mother and that you didn’t have a sister. Clarissa, as if on cue, started crying. She kept saying you forgot her. I tried telling you that I was your mother and that she was your sister. You thrashed against the walls screaming that your mother was Margaret Reynolds and that your father was Adam Reynolds. You had said your name was Nisa Emma Reynolds.
“At that, I knew I had to convince you that your name was Jade Marshalls and that you always played a game where your name was Nisa. The doctors gave you a sedative to calm you down. As I told you the fake story, you seemed to believe me. You don’t remember thrashing around or screaming because after everything happened, you passed out. Your brain collapsed and you went back into a coma. Only for a week though, after that we did put you in physical therapy for three months. Then, we brought you home. We enrolled you in school. But you always knew deep down that something was wrong. We tried being a family to you. No one knew what happened to your mother, and I tried being one to you. But you knew, and you fought me so hard, that finally I gave up and paid more attention to Clarissa, my daughter. You ended up leading your own life and we never bothered with you anymore.”
What? What is this? I’m not Jade Marshalls? Who just graduated-Jade or this Nisa person?
Mother drones on again, finishing her story. “You ended living your life as we hoped you would. You forgot about Nisa and became Jade. You never bothered with us though. You kept leading your own life. Pretty soon, it seemed obvious that you weren’t happy but you never said anything. You had become Jade Marshalls, a person who doesn’t exist.”
When she was done, Clarissa let out a breath as if she’d been holding it the whole time. I didn’t know what to think, or feel. When you find out that your whole life-or the life you thought you knew was a lie; you really have no response. I sat there, on the window ledge still. I couldn’t move. Before I could rejoice with the happy fact that I wasn’t related to this horrible woman and her daughter, I let out rage.
“YOU LIED TO ME! THIS WHOLE TIME! I WAS RIGHT THIS WHOLE TIME! YOU AREN’T MY MOTHER. AND YOU,” I turned to Clarissa, “YOU ARE A WITCH!” Okay, so witch isn’t the word I wanted to use but I’m keeping this PG-13. “Where is my mother? My birth mother! Where is she?! You must have found out over the past 7 years! Tell me now!”
“Jade, I –“this woman started.
“No! My name isn’t Jade. It’s Nisa!” I screamed back at her.
Mom look frightened, or I should call her Aggie, that is her name now. This woman has no relation to me at all. She attempted to speak again. “Okay, Nisa, I am not sure exactly. I did hear she regained her memory and sent people looking for you. But she lives in the city, she owns some store, and we lived here in the suburbs. No one ever found you. You were safe from finding out too soon.”
“Oh and finding out on my GRADUATION DAY was so much better?!” I was becoming more and more angry. I was beyond enraged.
“We wanted to tell you sooner, but you seemed content in this life, we didn’t want to disrupt that. But now you’re going off to college and starting a new life, we figured we’d tell you now.”
This didn’t make sense, I knew I wasn’t hers. I knew I had another life out there somewhere. Margaret. Margaret Reynolds. She owned a store and lived in the city. I needed to find her. I needed to tell her that for seven years she went alone and so did I. I had to find her. Then it hit me, Margaret. I already knew her! She owned the bookstore I went to the night of my birthday! She stared at me with such fascination, of course. Now it made sense, she knew me before I knew her. I remember thinking when I looked at her that it was like looing in a mirror. A mother would never forget her daughter, no matter how many years passed without seeing her.
“Get out!” I ordered Clarissa and Aggie.
“Nisa—“they both said.
“No, leave, get out, now!”
The left my room without another word, as I slouched against my door, I began to cry. I cried and cried for ten minutes straight. After I was done, I kicked and screamed and yelled. The picture I had of me Clarissa, and Aggie on my dresser seemed fake. I picked it up and whipped it to the wall. I threw all my clothes in the rest of my suitcases. When my clothes were all packed, I ran to the car. I threw my stuff in the trunk. In the room I had lived in for the past seven years were things that weren’t mine, they weren’t Nisa’s. They belonged to Jade. I drove and drove. I ended up on the expressway. I knew where I was headed before I realized it properly.
I saw the skyline of Chicago; I knew I was close. I knew she was looking for me too. Why else appear at my graduation? Had she known all along whom I was? Where I lived? Why didn’t she say anything sooner? Would I have believed her if she did? I keep on driving and driving. I soon reached the book store, I let the car idle for a bit before turning it off.
I gathered up enough courage to do this, I had come a long way, and I couldn’t give up now. I killed the ignition. I stepped out of the car; I take a look at the name of the store for the first time, “Home Books.” Home, she is my home now. I left behind a life I knew, a life that was a lie. Aggie won’t worry about me now, and Clarissa can have the spotlight as she always did.
I lock the car and walk into the store. Margaret is nowhere to be found, she must be in the back. In the back of the cash register is a family picture. It’s a man, Margaret and a little girl, laughing at the park. The man must be her husband, Adam; my father as well. And I must be that little girl. It frightened me so I turned away.
I look around and settle on this children’s book. “Can I help you?” She says. I set the book down and turn around. It is like looking in a mirror. We have the same eyes, same hair, and same body structure. We’re about the same height; our faces are shaped exactly the same, except her cheekbones are lower than mine. That must come from my father, Adam. Her face expression is sad yet hopeful. “Can I help you?” she repeats. I walk up to her slowly. I take in everything, the way she smells, the way she stands, the way she shifts her balance. I can’t think of anything else to say so I say the only thing I can think of.