She awoke to gentle tugging at her hair and flashes of light dancing across her eyes. As she sat up, she felt the familiar give of sand beneath her hands and the smell of salt and seaweed in the air. That was all that seemed familiar. Looking around her, she tried to determine on which continent’s beach she was lying. The sand was white, the texture perfect for forming sand castles or enjoying an early morning walk, and the water looked as blue as sapphires. No palm trees or other vegetation dotted the seaside, no cottages or tourist attractions. Just kilometers and kilometers of sand and water as far as her eyes could see.
It was at that moment that her empty stomach made its discomfort known and she felt pain rip through her shoulder and noticed that her vision was blurry in her left eye. Rinsing her right hand off in the gentle tide then wiping it on her damp pant leg, she put it up to her face and felt her poor battered face. Her left eye was almost swollen shut with the brow above broken open, her lips swollen and cracked, her nose bent and painful to the touch. Then she gingerly poked at her shoulder and was startled when her hand came away covered in blood. She pulled her blouse and tank top away from her body and found a large wound that appeared to go straight through her shoulder. It didn’t look like a gunshot wound, there didn’t appear to be any bullet left behind. No, this looked more like a knife wound. And how had she not noticed the pain when she first sat up? Her arm now felt useless and heavy, like it was on fire while just hanging by her side, causing all thoughts of hunger and thirst to leave her mind.
Her instinct for survival was stronger than her pain. She fought her way through the haze of agony, stood up, looked around and picked a direction to go and started walking. As she began plodding across the sand she began to realize that her face had not felt familiar to her. She wondered if she would even recognize herself in a mirror. It was then that it hit her; not only did she have no idea where she was or what had happened to her; she had no clue who she was.
She tried to prioritize what she needed to survive. Water seemed the most desperate of her needs. She had no idea how long she had lain unconscious on the sand. If her parched throat and cramping belly were any indication, it was enough time to be in serious trouble now. She knew she also needed to get help for her injuries. Each step was jolting her shoulder. While everything had felt hazy when she first sat up, her pain was now acute and she was feeling hyper aware of her body. She tried not to focus on anything beyond her immediate needs because if she started to dwell on not remembering who she was, she knew she would panic.
She decided that she needed to stabilize her arm somehow and stop the bleeding from where her shoulder had been pierced. Now that she was vertical and moving, it had started trickling more blood. With concentrated effort, she removed the filmy button up blouse she was wearing and tied the arms together. She carefully slipped it over her head forming a sling for her arm. She shifted her tank top up so it covered the wound as best she could. She tried to staunch the bleeding, but movement was incredibly painful and awkward. She had not realized she had a swimsuit on under her tank. Had she washed up on shore or been dumped there? She tried to tell her racing mind to stop wondering about the whys of her situation and focus everything on saving herself.
She continued staggering along the course she had set for herself. It was all a monotonous view of the white sand, but she kept making herself look up to see if there was any change in the surroundings. Maybe a stream running down to the beach—all water flows to the sea she thought. But then she second guessed herself. What did she really know? If she didn’t know herself, could she trust the knowledge she had about the way the world worked? She periodically scanned up ahead for some form of human life. A boat, a fisherman, a building, something. Maybe there would be people looking for her. Maybe there were people who loved her trying to find her right now. Or maybe someone had wanted her dead—had left her to die. What had happened to her face and shoulder? She gingerly touched her swollen nose and forehead again. Fortunately, her vision seemed to be clearing now. Maybe her memory would soon do the same.
Finally, she came across a small stream shallowly fanning its way down the beach. She fell to her knees and dipped her fingers in the water and licked them, hoping the water wouldn’t taste brackish. To her relief the water was fresh. She crawled up the beach to where the stream was slightly deeper and tried the water again. She dug a little pit in the sand with her one good hand and brought a tiny handful to her mouth. She dipped again and again savoring the refreshment. She might not remember anything, but she was sure that she had never had anything so amazingly refreshing in all her life.
Sitting back in the sand, she looked up the beach to where the stream made its way from some scrubby bushes and palm trees. Was that movement she saw? She tried to yell, but her voice caught in her throat. She pushed herself to her feet and waved her right arm while she stumbled forward. A man in white with a broad hat emerged from the greenery and stopped dead when he saw her. He turned and disappeared and she wondered if the sight of her was so grotesque, but he soon returned with a handful of men who ran down the beach to her. She collapsed into one of their arms.
The next thing she knew, she was in the back of a truck, being jostled up and down as the driver tore down the road. Images flashed through her mind as she faded in and out of consciousness. Palm trees overhead, a dog licking her hand and then getting shoved away, the concerned but smiling face of a young man bending over her, a hand pressing a towel to her shoulder. Several times, someone held a smart phone to her face with the same video playing every time: a pretty blonde woman on a boat, the faint sounds of people screaming, but she couldn’t figure out what it meant. The man with the phone pointed to her every time he started the clip. The confusion and her physical pain was too overwhelming; she finally batted the man’s hand with the phone out of her face and once again faded out.
The men in the back of the truck with her spoke a language she could not name. It was not her native language, but she must have learned a little of it at some point because she recognized certain words like “hospital.” The truck squealed to a stop and she blurrily opened her eyes to see a flag flying overhead in front of a massive concrete building.
She did not recognize the flag. It had the familiar red, white, and blue colors, but the stripes were different than the American flag that she knew she was accustomed to. There was a gold emblem in the center, with images of mountains and ocean. Where on earth was she?
The men in the truck noisily called out as they pulled up to the curb. There was a rush of more people emerging from the building, wearing drab brown hospital scrubs. They were pushing a rickety-looking gurney, and she thought to herself, “I hope they don’t expect me to get on that thing,” but that choice was taken from her as her vision began to blur and darkness closed in around her eyes. All was blissful, sudden quiet.
She awoke once again in an unfamiliar place. This time she was lying on a stiff mattress, surrounded by scratchy white blankets. There was a persistent beeping noise which made her head hurt, and she raised her hand to discover bandages covering the left side of her face and across the bridge of her nose. Her left shoulder was also heavily bandaged and she found that she could not lift her hand on that side of her body without considerable pain. She ached everywhere with a dull throbbing awareness, and she had a hazy recollection of bumping along in the back of a truck.
Suddenly two people burst noisily into the room, brandishing a camera and microphone.
“Miss Drake, Miss Drake! Can you tell us how you are feeling?” asked a sweaty man wearing a bright orange pullover shirt, as he thrust the microphone into her face.
“W-what?” she asked in confusion, pulling away from the man and his looming camera.
The orange pullover spoke again in a hurried fashion, spewing a stream of questions. “How did you escape your captors? Did you know the men that attacked your boat? Why do you think they wanted you? Were they holding you for ransom?”
Without warning, another two men pushed their way into the room. They grabbed the first men by the backs of their necks, roughly shoving them out the door and yelling. She could hear more shouting and commotion going on outside her door, but she could not understand what was being said.
A few minutes later a harassed-looking man with a smooth, dark complexion and wearing a long white coat entered her room.
“I am so sorry about that intrusion, Miss Drake. I assure you that we are taking every possible measure to ensure your comfort and privacy.” He spoke English very well, although she could tell that it was not his native tongue.
He offered his hand to her, of which she tentatively shook.
“Let me introduce myself to you, Miss Drake. I am Dr. Aguilar. I performed the surgery on your left shoulder about an hour ago. The wound tore through several vital tendons which needed to be repaired. It should take a good several months to heal properly, and you will probably need some physical therapy, but I am sure that with your resources back in the States you will be able to be ready for your next project in no time.”
She looked at him with a glassy expression, and then shook her head.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Did you call me Miss Drake? How is it that everyone seems to know who I am, when I do not even know myself?”
Dr. Aguilar blinked several times, followed by a long pause.
“You do not know who you are?” he asked. “Do you remember anything? Anything that happened?”
“The last thing I remember is waking up on the beach, with no idea how I got there. I don’t know anything that happened to me. I don’t even know my name!” She began to panic. This was so surreal.
Dr. Aguilar pulled out a small flashlight and leaned in, directing the beam into her uncovered right eye, gauging her reaction.
“I had no suspicion that your injuries were so involved. We will need to run a few more tests on you to see the extent of the trauma to your brain.” He had a concerned look on his face, which only increased her anxiety.
“Am I going to get my memory back?” she asked, her voice rising in pitch.
“Most likely. Usually concussion-induced amnesia is a temporary condition. However, I will need to make sure that you don’t have any more serious conditions, like swelling of the brain. Like I said, we will need to run more tests.”
He started to head for the door, but stopped when she called out to him.
“Wait!” she cried. “Please tell me my name!”
“Lena. Lena Drake,” he said quietly, and with his hand on the door knob he looked over his shoulder and added, “Welcome to Costa Rica, Miss Drake.” Then he left.
Lena didn’t know what she was supposed to feel. Some sort of instinctive recognition of her name, maybe? There was none, however.
She noticed an old television set propped on a shelf in a corner of the room. There was a TV remote hanging from her bed, and she switched it on, hoping for more answers.
The picture that materialized on the television was of a news broadcast. The announcers were speaking in what she now recognized as Spanish, although the accent was a little different than what she was familiar with. The broadcast was turned over to a live reporter, who was standing in a rowdy crowd of people and other news crews. Suddenly she recognized the building that was directly behind the reporter. It was the same building that she had seen from the back of the truck, with the billowing red, white, and blue flag over it. The hospital, she assumed. Those people were all standing right outside where she was at now.
An image of a blond woman was put up on the screen, and Lena recognized it as the same woman that the men in the back of the truck kept pointing out to her on their phone. She recognized when the reporter said “Lena Drake,” then a few moments later, “Hollywood, California.”
That was her, Lena Drake, from Hollywood, California. And somehow everyone seemed to already know who she was.
If she really was this Lena Drake that she saw pictures of flashing across the TV screen, how did she end up injured on a sandy beach in Costa Rica? It was the first of so many questions.
There were so many questions and no answers. Her head hurt terribly and she was so very tired. She rested her eyes for just a moment and fell deeply asleep, the effects of surgery, her ordeal and her memory loss all combining to make her truly exhausted.
She woke hours later as she was being wheeled down the hospital. “What? What’s going on? Where are you taking me?” asked Lena.
“No hablo Ingles,” said the attendant as he shook his head vigorously back and forth. “No hablo Ingles.”
She assumed it meant he didn’t speak english. She was in Costa Rica so that made sense. She was glad she remembered where she was and that her name was Lena Drake. It was a relief her short term memory still worked. She was wheeled into a room with a large, circular machine. It was large and looked worrisome.
Another man came into the room and said a few words to the attendant who had brought her down the hallway. He took the clipboard from the man and then looked over the paperwork there.
“Hola, Senorita,” said the second man. “My name is Doctor Lopez. Doctor Aguilar has requested a CT-scan to check your brain.”
Lena could tell he was having a hard time with English but was glad he was making an effort.
“Thank-you for telling me what is happening,” said Lena. “I asked the other guy but he didn’t speak English.”
“Yes, yes, well I need you to go in the machine and just relax and we take pictures so to give them to Dr. Aguilar. It will make noise but it okay. Okay?” asked Dr. Lopez.
She nodded her head. What else could she do? She needed to be well so she could get answers. When we finished, Dr. Lopez had her wheeled back to her room but not before he asked her for her autograph. She signed his doctor’s pad with her name Lena Drake. She was glad she remembered her name. It was a small triumph among all this overwhelming confusion and sense of loss.
The attendant rolled her down the hallway in silence, which was fine with her since neither of them spoke the same language. As they approached her room, she noticed a woman pacing back and forth who was wringing her hands and talking to herself. She hoped she had answers and not more problems for her. She had enough of those right now! When she was wheeled into the room, the lady stopped and stared at her. The woman didn’t move, just stared. It was a little disconcerting.
“Lanie, Lanie, it’s really you, isn’t it?” asked the young woman, for she appeared very young now that we were in the room together.
“You’re going to have to tell me. I don’t really know who I am or who you are. It’s been a very bad week but I thought my name was Lena,” I tried to laugh but couldn’t quite manage it.
“Lanie, it is you. I’m so glad,” she said as she tried to give her a big bear hug.
Lena let out a little moan and the strange woman jumped back. Her hug had tugged at Lena’s shoulder a bit too much.
“Sorry, sorry, Lanie, I didn’t mean to hurt you,” she said. “I’m just so glad you’re alive. I thought I’d never see you again.”
“Why don’t you start by telling me who you are and what happened to me because I don’t remember a thing. Is my nickname Lanie?” I asked.
“You may not remember much but you are still acting just like you. Okay, business it is. I’m your younger sister Lily. I am three years younger than you which makes me 21, although people say I could easily pass for 15 which might be great when I’m 50 but not so exciting right now. You have a twin sister name Lena and we have an older sister, Lavinia. Yes, our parents had a thing for the letter L. Our sister Lena is a very, very famous actress. She is kind of the benefactor of the family, since Mom and Dad died. They were killed in an auto accident about three years ago. Anyway, we all live with her in Hollywood and have a big, happy family of women,” said Lily.
“So I’m not a famous movie star but the twin sister of a famous movie star?” she asked because her head was swirling in confusion.
“Yep, but we let the press think that Lena had been kidnapped because we didn’t want the pirates to kill you. We wanted them to think you were valuable, which you are, to us, and Lena would have paid any price to get you back.”
“What is this about pirates?” Lena/Lanie asked. Things were getting very confusing.
“Well, Lena has a boyfriend and his name is Jason Buren. He’s an actor too. It was his yacht we were on when the pirates came aboard and kidnapped you. We were headed to the island San Andres off the coast of Nicaragua, where Lena likes to vacation since it’s away from prying eyes. Lena was below deck reading a new script and the rest of us were up sunbathing and enjoying the beautiful weather when this boat pulled along beside us. It was just like the movies. The pirates threw up these rope ladders and climbed aboard the yacht. They were dressed as pirates, like the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean. We think they were probably Columbian drug lords looking for drugs on the yacht but when they recognized you, they grabbed you instead. Once we realized they were going to take you, we tried to trade them for the drugs Jason had but they said you were far more valuable than drugs. They started dragging you off the boat and that’s when Lena came up top and hid and took some footage of the pirates dragging you off the boat. We gave the footage to the FBI and CIA so they could try and find you but some of it got leaked to the press and you’ve been on every channel all over the world. You are just as famous as Lena, although you were thought to be Lena in that footage so that might mean Lena is just more famous. But, it was you Lanie, in the video, so you’re still famous, just in disguise,” said Lily.
“Okay, now my head really is spinning,” said Lanie.
Lanie settled back onto the lumpy pillow and tried to take in everything that had happened. She looked over at Lily. She didn’t remember her, but felt comfortable with her. Safe. It must be because she was her sister. Lily sat with a cell phone and furiously texted and groaned when she didn’t have service and walked around the room trying to get a signal. Finally Lily said she’d have to leave. “I have to let Lena know you’re OK.” she said, “ She’s frantic.”
“Hurry back,” Lanie said. She felt nervous letting Lily out of her sight. Lily was so confident with who she was that Lanie felt a little confident that everything would be OK.
A little while later, Lily came back into the room. “They’re on their way,” she said.
“Yes,” Lily said, “Lena and Jason. This has just been so crazy. It will be nice when we can get you out of here and we can get back to California.”
“Yeah,” Lanie said. She didn’t remember her life in California but considered that at least most people would be speaking English. The less unfamiliar things, the better.
For the next 15 minutes, Lanie quizzed Lily. “Favorite color?” she asked.
Lily wrinkled her nose, “Ugh, no. Lena had a piranha for awhile that her old boyfriend gave her but it died. We are not pet people.”
“Oh, OK.” Lanie said. She didn’t know what kind of “people” they were.
“Do I have a boyfriend?”
“No...you did. You broke up about 6 months ago.” Lily leaned forward and said fervently, “Good riddance.”
“Do I have a job? What do I do?”
“You’re a photographer! A really great photographer. You have had one small show at a little gallery but you mostly take pictures at weddings. Sometimes you do portraits. You did Lena’s last headshots.”
Lanie was silent awhile, taking all this in. Her thoughts were interrupted by what must be Lena and Jason bursting through the door. “Lanie!” she cried, throwing her arms around Lanie like Lily had.
Again Lanie gasped in pain just like earlier.
“Oh sorry!” Lena said, “I’m just so happy to see you! So relieved. Let me look at you.” Lena looked her twin over carefully, wincing at the bruises on her faces. Lanie looked at Lena with the same amount of interest. She had a twin. Amazing.
“So how are you doing?” Lena asked, “Are you OK?”
“I..think so... I can’t remember anything.”
“Nothing?” Lena said, “Really? That sounds like a plotline of a soap opera.”
“Lena got her start on All My Children,” Lily supplied, then she turned to Lena, “She honestly doesn’t remember anything. We need to get her home and get her in to see some...specialists...or something.”
Lanie didn’t like the way they seemed to be talking about her like she wasn’t there. Then she realized that she kind of wasn’t there. Whoever she was was lost somewhere inside her mind.
“You really don’t remember anything?” Jason asked, speaking for the first time. He also removed his sunglasses which he’d been wearing the whole time they’d been in the room. His eyes seemed overly bright and blood-shot.
Lanie shook her head.
“Well, I want to talk to the doctor,” Lena said. She obviously was a person used to getting what she wanted when she wanted it. “I’m going to go find someone.”
“Why don’t you go with her?” Jason said to Lily. “You can head them off if the press catch wind that this is really Lena.”
“Good idea,” Lily said.
They left the room and Lanie was left alone with Jason. It made her feel distinctly uncomfortable.
As soon as they were gone, he leaned down close by the bed and peered at Lanie’s face. “So you don’t remember?” he asked. She could smell alcohol on his breath.
“No,” Lanie said, “I don’t remember anything.”
“You don’t remember...about us?”
“What about us?” Lanie asked.
“Your sisters don’t know,” he said, leering a little.
“Don’t know what?”
“We’re really in love,” he said.
Lanie didn’t know much about her life, but she knew one thing. He was lying.
Jason winked at Lanie and held one finger to his mouth. She cringed. “There’s no ‘us’. You’re my sister’s boyfriend,” she frowned.
“Don’t be like that Lanie.” He sat down on the bed next to her and tucked her hair behind her ear. “We were going to tell her after this trip. Run away with me Lanie. I love you and you love me. It’ll be fine. You’ll see.” She could smell the lies he secreted like the cheap alcohol on his breath. Something was very wrong, but she couldn’t remember what. Her instincts were telling her to not trust him, though her mind refused to tell her why. Sitting there, with him so close, made Lanie uncomfortable. There wasn’t enough space between them, and there was nowhere to run and hide, though she felt like she needed to. Lanie couldn’t mask her confusion and fear.
“I’m not going anywhere with you. I don’t remember you. I want you to leave.”
“What’s wrong baby? Just try to remember.” He stood up and pulled the curtain closed. He looked around the room opening cabinets and drawers. “Where’s your camera Lanie? There are pictures of you and me on there. You’ll see.”
“I washed up on a beach…I’m pretty sure I didn’t snap pictures of my near death experience. Leave me alone,” Lanie snapped. Jason’s back was to her, but she could swear that she heard him mumble something about being ‘more trouble than it was worth’ under his breath. He spun around and grabbed her arm, pulling her upright. The wound that had been stitched earlier began to pulse and pierce. His blood-shot eyes danced with a fury she couldn’t understand. He gripped her tighter and clenched his teeth preparing to say something, but he didn’t get the opportunity. Lilly and Lena walked in with the doctor and opened the curtains. He stood up calmly and put his sunglasses back on. Lena’s eyes narrowed as she tried to make eye contact through his dark glasses.
“She needed help sitting up,” was his explanation. He took a step away from the bed and ran his hand through his hair.
“Are you okay Lanie?” she asked but she never looked at Lanie.
“Fine….I’m fine…just really tired. I just want to sleep.” Lanie didn’t want to explain. She just wanted to be alone.
“How soon can she be discharged doctor?” Lilly asked.
“We need to run a few more tests, but if everything checks out she can go home in a couple of days.”
“Are any of her injuries life threatening?” Jason probed as he began pacing.
“No. Not that we can tell. But that is why we need more tests.” The doctor tried to explain how the amnesia could be the result of major brain trauma, but Jason cut him off before he was able to finish.
“If she’s not critical, we should take her back to the states to a doctor there. The sooner the better I say,” Jason blurted at Lena.
“She needs to rest,” Lilly protested. “It’s not like she just scraped her knee! She’s been kidnapped, stabbed and left to die. She’s in no condition to travel.”
“You are so dramatic Lilly. You should have been the one in acting,” Lena laughed. Lanie watched them carry on this conversation around her, like she was in a coma and couldn’t hear. The doctor was shaking his head and mumbling something in Spanish.
“I’m not leaving!” Lanie screamed over the top of them. “I don’t know anything about who I am except for the crumbs you have fed me. How do I know what’s real? I’m not going anywhere until you show me proof of who I am.”
“Fair enough,” Lena sighed. “We’ll let you rest and get your bearings. We’ll come back later with whatever proof we can rouse.” She pulled Jason towards her and cast a glare that needed no translation. Lilly walked over and patted Lanie’s hand. She smiled innocently at her and promised she’d be back shortly.
When the room was empty of their Hollywood drama, Lanie dozed off slowly and fell into a restless sleep. She dreamt of a choppy ocean near a rickety wooden dock and men frantically screaming at a girl in the water. The water was swirling around her and her head kept getting sucked under. No…not sucked….pushed. Men were pulling her up out of the water by her hair and slamming her onto the swaying dock. They were demanding something….smacking her in the face when she was unable to answer. Her chest jerks violently as she tries to fill her lungs with air. They push her down in the water again. They continue their interrogation until she stops fighting back. She floats away face down.
The next morning found Lanie restless and nervous. She had endured strange dreams most of the night and the rest of the time she spent trying to get comfortable on her thin and flat hospital bed. Her sisters were on her mind, as were her parents. She had seen her sisters and now had some idea of who made up her small family. However, she couldn’t remember her parents. And remembering them again became very important to her. She decided that she would do whatever she could to get her memory back, if only to remember them. Oh, and of course, figure out more about those dreaded pirates.
Something was niggling her brain, somewhere way in the back. Things were not what they seemed, she knew it. Wearily, she wondered if she could trust these feelings or if they were just the result of her traumatic experience. She quickly brushed those thoughts away and started concentrating on her strange dreams again. And she couldn’t forget Jason and not trusting a thing he said, but again her mind was blank when she tried to find a reason not to trust him.
She was not left with much time to try to sort things out. Nurses were in and out taking her blood pressure, checking her IV, charting her stats. Dr. Aguilar stopped by a few times, checking on her and smiling, trying to reassure her that she would get her memory back. It would just take time. Lanie didn’t feel like time was on her side though.
Six months later
The bird was perched perfectly, the early sun’s rays hitting the beautiful plumage so that it sparkled in the crisp morning light. She captured the Whydah bird just as it prepared to take flight. When she captured these moments in time, she remembered again why she loved her life taking pictures. That was only one of the few things she could remember though.
Lanie felt as if her amnesia was destroying her life. The only place she felt comfortable was behind the camera, as if the lens could shield and protect her from all the real things out there that she was afraid of. She was afraid of running into friends whom she no longer remembered. Terrified of going to work and not recognizing her co-workers. Saddened when people contacted her to take their portraits, only to realize that they had been her clients before but she didn’t remember them. Figuring out where she banked, trying to get her driver’s license renewed, and remembering where she had her dry cleaning done were just icing on the rotten cake.
Since the kidnapping and subsequent return to America, she had tried to keep a low profile. Being the twin of a very famous actress made that difficult in today’s society with cell phones, youtube, facebook and other social media. So she sought the company of nature, animals, landscapes; things that did not mind that she couldn’t remember her first sunrise or sunset. She had also kept her distance from her family. They had returned with “proof,” but what they had was meager and not really proof at all. Seeing her twin, she felt like any of the pictures could have been photoshopped or faked. She didn’t feel a connection with her twin either, which really bothered her. Lily though, she was another story. Her enthusiasm and naivete helped calm Lanie and thus she became her only confidant. Her only friend. And she still hadn’t recovered any memories of her mother or father.
Lena and Jason had gotten engaged. What Lena saw in Jason was beyond Lanie. He was smug and controlling, deceitful and smarmy. And every time she was in his company, she felt those negative vibes all over again. Vibes that reverberated through her mind and told her there was something very wrong about him. Lena was impatient with Lanie, expecting her to go with the flow, enjoy life and just be grateful to have made it home. Long gone were any twin-speak or special bond the two might have shared before the accident.
“Accident my foot” Lanie thought darkly.
It was the next day that she received a package in the mail. It had made several stops around the world while searching for her. California, Arizona, Spain and now the wilds of Africa. The sendee of the package was from Nicaragua and Lanie wondered suspiciously what on earth anyone would have sent her from there. The yacht had never made it to Nicaragua, as they were besieged by the dreadful pirates before then.
Curiosity finally got the best of her and she tore the packing tape off, gently folded the flaps of the box back and looked suspiciously at the object nestled amidst the air-filled bubble wrap inside. As she pulled the camera out, she felt a spark of recognition as soon as she had it securely in her grip. This was her camera. The camera that had been lost when she was kidnapped by those pirates. Suddenly her mind clicked and she remembered Jason pleading with her about the location of her camera. Even boasting that there were pictures of the two of them on her memory card showing that they were in love, and how she immediately knew that he was lying. Quickly, her fingers knowing exactly what buttons to push, she tried to access the pictures on the memory card. The camera’s battery was dead. She would have to wait until she got back to the lodge that night.
The rest of that day, as her driver took her around the grounds of the park, her mind seemed to be working at warp speed. Things were dashing through her mind that felt and tasted like memories. Her twin and her at the beach, building sand castles. Lily coming home from the doctor’s office after falling out of a tree, so proud of her bright pink arm cast. Her first photographic shot, how she had felt right away that this was her talent, this is why she was here on earth. Her mom, having lunch with her just a few days before the accident… All these memories cascaded into her mind, bring joy and laughter, peace and grief more quickly that she knew what to do with them. Soon, she no longer cared about more shots of birds or wildlife. She just wanted to go back to her room, lie down and let these thoughts and memories wash over her, examine them in private, and see what she was like before she lost her memory.
After a long 45 minute drive down dirt roads filled with holes and cliffs on either side, her driver finally roused her from her stupor to let her know that they had arrived back at the lodge. After telling him to meet her the next morning at the usual time, she fled into the lodge and sought out her room like it was her personal sanctuary. Putting her camera equipment down next to her bed, removing her shoes and hat, she laid down on the bed, cuddling a pillow in her arms protectively. Though if she was protecting the pillow or the pillow was protecting her, she wasn’t sure.
Bit by bit she remembered her life. She treasured the memories of her mother and her father. While her father and she had not been particularly close, she and her mother had shared a special relationship. Her mother loved her and was proud of her and just experiencing those feelings again helped her know that she could trust the rest of her memories. Good, bad or terrible. And she knew terrible ones were coming.
Then there it was. Lena and Jason, meeting with some shady looking men one night at their home. Why these characters were in her house, she had no idea. Perhaps they were business associates of Jason, or even friends of his from his days of growing up in San Antonio. She had been in the kitchen when she heard them all talking, hushed and furtive-like in the living room. As she looked in she realized that these goons were there to deliver a few packages. One for her sister and two for Jason. All of a sudden it clicked, why Jason had red rimmed eyes and always seemed to have a cold. Cocaine. He was addicted and had gotten her sister addicted as well. Grabbing her ever-near camera, she shot a few pictures of them. One of the dealers, Jason, the other men and finally one including her sister. Lanie knew that if this news got out, Lena would be ruined. But she couldn’t not take a picture of everyone there, could she? Of course not.
That was a week before her parents were killed in the auto accident. How could all of this be connected? Apparently, Jason had had connections to her family long before he started dating Lena. Perhaps she would never know, but at least now she understood that her parents weren’t in any “accident.” They had been murdered. Which led her to the trip they had taken on the yacht to San Andres. It was supposedly just a last minute whim, Lena corralling them all together, giving them just a few days to clear their schedules and get packed up for some fun in the sun.
Lanie wasn’t sure of many other details, except that fun was not supposed to be on her itinerary. She was there because her twin sister and her boyfriend, both of whom were beautiful, famous movie stars and more importantly, drug addicts, had planned to have her killed.
14 months later
It was a day full of blue skies, the scent of orange blossoms in the air and long awaited justice. Lena and Jason had just been sentenced to years and years and years spent in little cells wearing prison garb. They wouldn’t be together, they wouldn’t be able to sell drugs, let alone partake of them themselves, nor would they be a threat to Lily or Lanie any longer. The last year or so had been a long, dark time for her and her little sister, but today justice was finally on their side. Jason was found guilty of killing her parents. Then Lena and Jason were found guilty of attempted murder, selling drugs, and kidnapping. Lanie was sure there were many other things that they could have been accused of and prosecuted for, but their celebrity status probably saved them from the death penalty, among other things.
It was also a day for Lanie and Lily to visit the graves of their parents. It had been 5 years since their sudden deaths. Mystery still shrouded much of the circumstances surrounding their murder, but the girls knew they loved their mom and dad and missed them very much. That day they were able to bring flowers, clean up the grave site, and have closure with their parents’ tragic end. She and Lily were ok and she hoped she never had to forget that, or anything else, again.