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They told me not to worry. They said that they would help me through it all. They said everything would be resolved and tied up in a perfect little bow. They told me to smile, that my parents would be in soon. Then they smiled and told me I’d get through it all, I was a strong girl. They told me everything I needed to hear, everything I needed to know. They told me nothing but lies.
I was twelve when I lost my memory. The newspapers called it a freak accident. It was not raining, it was not snowing, the roads were not wet or icy. The driver was not distracted. It just happened. No fatalities, one unconscious child. Me.
I woke up with absolutely no recollection of anything. It was as though I saw the world through brand new eyes. It was peculiar being twelve and learning to walk and read and write and do simple math. It was even more peculiar trusting a boatload of strangers that claimed to be your family and friends. But I did.
The doctors were even friendly and helpful. They explained things such as retrograde amnesia and the degrees of burns, they told me that I had been in a coma for what had been days, and they promised me my life would return to normal.
And for years I thought it had. I was living in a ritzy colonial down the street from the high school in which I attended with my parents and our small dog, Baxter. My mom was the principal of the middle school and my dad was a doctor- we were by no means struggling for money or about to hit the poverty line. I maintained a strong GPA, which was considered extraordinary after relearning the basics of math and English at the age of twelve. After school, I sang in the chorus and sometimes worked behind the scenes in the drama productions. I was even Ivy League bound with a hefty scholarship for swimming. Everything seemed perfect.
Well, things are not what they seem.
I was packing for college when I came across a tiny box in the corner of my closet. It was worn and the flaps sagged in a little. It was not labeled, which was strange, and it taunted me to open it. So I did.
There was not a whole lot inside of it; a couple crinkled tests, a few faded photos, a dried up chapstick. What really caught my attention was the brown leather diary. It was faded and worn, apparently old, and my name was etched in crooked letters, as if written by a kindergartner. Still, I opened it, amazed to read the following: “Property of Annalise Combs.”
Intrigued at who Annalise could be, I continued to read. The beginning entries were tedious and dry. “I went to school today,” one read while another just said, “It was a good day.” Entry after entry was terse and halfway through I began to bore. Then I flipped the page and there was one line that particularly caught my eye.
Unlike the rest of the entries, this one was written in black ink instead of pencil and the letters were distinct but backwards. I scrambled through the box to find a piece of a shattered mirror, and turning it to the book, I soon found my heart beginning to pound.
The beats were so loud that I quickly hid myself away in my closet, closing the doors in case anyone could hear my frantic disposition. I traced the words with the very top of my fingertips.
“Your name is Annalise Combs. You were born in Southern Georgia to Fred and Anna Combs. You have a brother, Chet. He is safe. Do not trust anyone. Keep this journal by your side and watch your back. They are out to get you. Do not trust anyone!”
With pains spreading across my ribs, I flipped the page. It was blank. I flipped another. Blank. Page after page were blank. I threw the journal against the wall in a fury.
“Is everything okay up there?” My mother called from downstairs, if she were even my mother.
I closed my eyes. How could everything be okay? Annalise Combs was a target. Where was she? And how did her entry get mixed up in what was all of mine? I stared at the limp journal in the corner. There was something familiar about the writing. I reached for the box.
At the bottom, tucked beneath the flap were a series of photographs, all with the same backward facing writing. One read “Chet” while another read “Mom and Dad, New York 2004.” The last was a family photograph and right in the middle of the frame was a face I knew all too well.
It was mine.
I was Annalise Combs. I was the one being targeted. My brother, whom I could not even remember, was safe. But my current parents, the people I now called mom and dad, were not the ones in the photograph. I took in all the air around me, unable to breathe. Where were they? Where was I?
But the question that lingered in my mind the longest weighed perhaps more than all the other questions combined: who was after me?