What if all the love stories were real? What if soul mates really existed but yours was on the other side of the world? Would you cross the oceans to get to them? Would you stay with them despite your relationship being built on lies and misinformation?
Aelia St. Clair is found in just that position, waking up with no recollection of her life, in a beautiful mansion, she finds the person whom her soul loves. But there’s a catch, the world she has found herself in is not the world she’s remembering, and she is haunted with feelings of paranoia even as she’s falling head over heels for a person she barely knows. And she’s not alone, she has her best friends by her side and they’re feeling similar things with the man’s brothers. So maybe it is real, maybe this is where she belongs, with him and with them. Until the truth comes out.
My heartbeat rippled through my ears, pounding away any hint of what woke me. The more I reached for it the more a pain from the back of my skull started bleeding forward. My breathing came out more like gasps. Unsteady and unpredictable. I closed my eyes and focused on filling my lungs slowly with air and letting out again until my racing heart slowed, and I could breathe at a regular pace. I couldn’t tell if it was sweat or tears on my cheeks as I suddenly became hyper aware of how hot I was under the dense covers. I fluffed the comforter a couple of times before realizing how stiff my muscles had become. I felt utterly exhausted even after a full night’s rest. As much as I wanted to uncover myself, I just ended up shifting over to the cooler side of the bed and burying my face in the blanket. I needed to get up and wash off all this sweat and anxiety but the pounding on the nape of my neck fought against it. What was I dreaming about? What made me wake so suddenly? Had I finally remembered something?
Sitting up more slowly I tried to focus on the faint memory, still no faces of the world I left behind or so it appears I left behind.. They were just dreams but the surreality of it all makes me believe otherwise. My heart feels empty but also full with the feeling of loss and pain. Yet I wake up in a bed of ivory and gold. A place so pristine and perfect. I just can’t seem to shake the retching feeling deep down that I don’t belong here. The indistinct voices I’ve heard over and over the past couple of weeks trail into my ears as I nestle deeper into the fluffiest fur comforter I’ve ever felt. The voice of a little girl followed by footsteps and laughter, I have a feeling it could’ve been my own voice when I was younger but there’s a part of me that believes otherwise. Am I a mother? Or was I a mother? How old was I and how old could she be? Why does that feeling, that emptiness sit with me so deeply in my soul. It feels even heavier in the morning and at night when I lie alone.
I wake with the morning sun peeking through the sheer floor length curtains that cover the French doors. My headache finally subsided. The aroma of coffee sneaks in from the hallway. With a gentle knock I know my breakfast has arrived. It feels as though they know when I wake up. Always different. Always fresh. I grab my satin robe that drags the floor like the train of a wedding dress I’ve always wanted. I open the door and there waiting for me is a sweet little breakfast cart, neatly organized. It’s a golden bar cart with two glass shelves. Centered is a golden tray with a dome lid covered platter. To the left there’s a fresh cup of coffee presweetened with scents of caramel and chocolate. I push the cart into my room toward the base of my bed, grab the cup of coffee and head toward the balcony. Outside, I sit in a modern chair that looks like a sphere that’s been diagonally sliced, gray with white cushions. I like it because it’s wide enough that I’m able to fold my legs underneath me. I cozy up with my coffee. The liquid fills my body with warmth as a gentle salty breeze hits my face. I take in the view in front of me, every time I come here, I notice something new. As if I haven’t come out here every day for the past few days. To the east, which is where my balcony directly faces, past the rolling green hills there’s an ocean. I can smell the faint scent of it and the sounds of the seagulls just barely brush my ears. The sun fills the sky with stunning pastels. It’s one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. Closer to the manor, which is what I call this place, there’s a wall that encompasses the premises. It’s easily 20 feet tall and solid. It’s the one thing about this view that makes me uneasy. Normally walls would make me feel safe, secure but today that’s not the case.
I say I have been here for a few days. I vaguely remember a man when I first woke explaining my condition to me to the best of his ability but just like the rest of my thoughts, I can’t seem to place every detail. Was it a man even? A doctor? Other than that, encounter I have only spoken a very few words to a lady named Grace. Due to my extreme confusion and exhaustion speaking was more of a chore than it should be. I have so many thoughts that I can’t seem to find room for words. As if my brain is working so hard to remember, speaking doesn’t seem as important. Though timid, Grace has a gentle spirit. She’s nice and patient but doesn’t come across as the type to spark much conversation. She is beautiful. She appears around my age, just a couple inches shorter than me with auburn hair that perfectly complements her unique, porcelain skin. The first thing I noticed about her was her eyes. They are a forest green with a golden yellow star around the pupil. She has such a welcoming presence about her and has been really helpful in this process. Encouraging me to do puzzles, cross words, challenging my brain to help increase its activity.
When I woke up here I couldn’t remember anything. The first couple of hours were a blur. I couldn’t even move really because I felt so stunned. Before long I started to remember simple things like my name, Aelia, and just my overall being. My brain started working enough to form thoughts and I was able to move. I was hooked up to an I.V pole and there was a monitor attached to my finger that blinked but didn’t beep or if it did I couldn’t hear it. I looked around the room and over to my right, noticed a mirror that expanded the whole wall. Reflecting everything in its path. Like something you would see in a dance hall. It made me more paranoid than it probably should. I slowly got up, my muscles aching from laying still. I walked over to the mirror, my footing was unsteady at first but got more sure with each step. Without an initial reason, I touched the mirror with my finger focusing solely on the glass itself. I remembered a way to test double sided mirrors, as if I were in an interrogation room-or being watched without my knowledge. What you’re testing with your finger is to see which side the reflective coating is facing. For glass in two way mirrors, the mirror coating has to be facing you. If your finger’s reflection touches itself, that is the coated side. Funny, I could remember this but nothing else. For the record, it was only one way.
Once that was confirmed, I looked over the rest of my body. My long blonde hair was tousled from sleep. I half expected to be in a hospital gown but I wasn’t exactly in a hospital room either. Everything around me was so bright and princess-like. My blue eyes were decorated with bags and crust, I rubbed the crust out and focused again on my reflection. Even puff. My eyes stood out the most, looked unnatural against my tan skin which was warm like I had been in the sun before that morning. Looking down, I noticed a huge bruise on my thigh. It didn’t hurt as I touched it but felt a little tender. I had a few more bruises along my arms, most of them were healing. They were accompanied by a few scratches but nothing that seemed deep enough to scar. I looked back up at the mirror and even looking at my body as a whole I still felt that a huge part of me was… Missing. It almost felt like I was looking at a shell of a person.
I tried really hard to remember and that made my head start to ache and I felt really faint. I opened my eyes as I was being placed back into bed. This was when the doctor came and gently explained what was going on but clearly not enough for me to remember. This was also the day that I met Grace. She came in later that day and introduced herself with a bright but shy smile. Extending her hand, she knew my name already but I still introduced myself anyway. My own name even felt foreign on my tongue. I noticed that she had a handful of syringes. She mentioned that she would be taking care of me for the weeks to come. “Like a personal assistant, you can call on me for anything.” She asked if I was hungry and before that moment I didn’t realize I was uncomfortably so. My stomach felt like it was touching my back. I requested something vegetarian friendly, that was something I remembered about myself. It wasn’t so much remembering I was vegetarian as much as I remembered my distaste for meat. She led me back into bed and dispensed some of the medicine into my IV. I didn’t ask what it was even though I wanted to.
Suddenly, I heard my room door open, interrupting my thoughts. I glanced through the open balcony door, it was Grace and she looked unusually… Chipper? “Miss, is there anything you would like to do today? It’s a perfect day for a swim. The pools are heated and even so it’s supposed to be perfect weather today.” She clasped her hands together and rocked on her heels. I thought it was weird that she called me Miss as if I were important enough. I hadn’t been outside past my balcony since I started feeling normal, to be honest the thought never even crossed my mind. I hadn’t really been asked to either, I suppose. “Okay.” I said. I still feel like I’m in a daze and I’m trying to take in everything I can before acting too swiftly. If I’m being truthful I wanted to escape. It was a weird feeling since I wasn’t technically imprisoned or anything. I just had this urge to run away. I wasn’t locked away in my room. I was free to roam the halls and the house but I didn’t really go far because I was afraid I was going to get lost.
I have walked along the halls some days. There were some rooms that were locked and others that were not. I found the elevators but didn’t dare push the buttons. At the end of one of the halls there was a door that said ‘Library’ but as I entered the room itself I was not expecting what was on the other side. The library was simply grand. It was as if it was its own wing of the building. It reminded me of the one the Beast gave to Belle in The Beauty and The Beast story and for a second I wondered if my prince charming wondered about these halls. I’ve seen several men in fitted suits and fancy loafers. Everyone dressed like they’re attending a formal event. Now that I recall, I haven’t seen many other women besides the nurses and housekeepers.
Grace grabbed me out of my daze. She opened my walk-in closet that had more clothes than I could wear in a year. She guided me over to the part of my closet that had swimsuits. She knew I still needed help finding certain things. “Do you have a preference?” She said, shuffling her hands through the options, finally picking up a light blue bikini. “No,” I said, “You pick.”
I got changed into the bikini Grace picked out and she also chose a cover up that complimented it perfectly. I followed Grace to the ground level pool, apparently there are different pools on different floors. We used the elevator that I noticed didn’t have any numbers on the buttons. As I walked through the mansion I took in the atmosphere as much as I could. The decor is clean, modern, minimal with touches of art here and there. By clean I mean lots of white and grays, with details of gold that added just the right amount of luxury.
Speaking of luxury, we walked down the right side of these stunning double staircases that opened into a foyer. I hadn’t seen this part of the home yet. At the base there were these huge double doors which I assume leads to the front of this palace of a home. I looked at them and for a split second wanted to run but logic set in. I didn’t know where I would go or who was on the other side. We continued towards the back of the home into a parlor which had cathedral ceilings and the whole back wall was made of glass, giving you a panoramic view of the outside. For a moment I thought Grace was going to walk right into it until she reached for a handle and slid a glass door open. We walked past a beautiful patio set up and down a set of steps that were encompassed in a stunning white tile that flowed into the frame of the pool and expanded over to the left where the building extended under an outdoor seating area that was connected to a sunroom with three walls of paneled glass.
There were pairs of lounge chairs decorating the poolside. I picked a set to the right of the pool in front of one of two large cabanas that overshadowed white linen beds and fluffy pillows. This place reminded me of a resort of sorts. The only other person out there besides us was a man who was laying on the opposite side of the pool in the far corner, but I didn’t really pay that much attention to him other than acknowledging his presence. Grace reached into her pool bag and pulled out some sunscreen and tanning oil. I put on the oil and stretched my body across the lounge chair. The sun felt so good on my skin. I asked Grace to sit with me and she went and got an umbrella and a comfortable chair from the patio. She said she and the sun don’t get along very well.
I could feel her eyes on me at this moment as if she was waiting for me to say something. I sat up and engaged in her stare but before I could get any words out… “So do you know who that is?” Nudging her head toward the man in the corner chair, she smiled shyly. She tried to hide the eagerness in her voice but failed. “No. I can’t really tell.” I said squinting my eyes as if it made a difference. “Well… Do you want to know who that is?” I heard a hint of disappointment in her voice. “Not really.” I said simply and laid back in my chair. I don’t know why I said that. I felt like I was already taking in too much of my surroundings and I felt overwhelmed. Part of me even felt like I should do something other than lay by the pool. I had a sense of urgency building inside of me. I could see in Grace’s eyes she was not pleased with my answer.
“Is there anything you do want to know?” She probed but she hushed her tone just slightly. Enough to awake the urgent feeling in my chest. I sat up and turned fully toward her. She had a pleading look in her eyes. It was both intriguing and worrisome. A thought crossed my mind and I narrowed my eyes. “Can you only tell me things if I ask you about them?” She nodded slowly. “Assuming that you’ll never ask.” A sinking feeling filled my stomach and the look in her eyes flickered to slight panic, as if told me that she felt like she said too much. I thought for a moment… I’ve had a lot of emotions and questions building up inside of me since I came to. “I can’t seem to shake the feeling that I don’t belong here. Do you know why that is?” Her brows furrowed at this, “I unfortunately don’t really know much about where you come from or how you got here.” Her voice sounded cold and thoughtful, “You arrived here a month after I started, shortly after I finished training. You slept for several days if I recall correctly before even waking up. They mentioned you might not feel well and to not overwhelm you.” She chuckled. “I thought it was funny that the first thing you asked was if the fur was real on your bed. Your linens and wardrobe are the only ones not made of real animal fur in the home. Which in my opinion was strange at first. They didn’t give me much information on you, just that you were very important to Ezekiel. He was worried about you, sincerely. But I was told only to tell you things if you asked about them directly, to avoid you getting overstimulated. I just broke that rule but something about that just didn’t sit right with me.”
“Who’s Ezekiel?” I inquired. She just simply pointed. My eyes followed her finger to the tan man in the white swim shorts. I tried to get a better look at him now. His build. His hair. He hasn’t really moved much since I first glanced over there. He seems to be sleeping? Dead? Maybe hungover. I didn’t really get a good look at him before. He seems handsome. Fit. Tall. Dark hair. Handsome.. But not the man I saw in my dreams. Though I couldn’t see faces. I saw bodies and features unlike his.
“So… Who told you not to say anything to me?” Grace cleared her voice, “my boss she’s the executive housekeeper. She didn’t tell me not to say anything to you. She just said not to overwhelm you and to only answer questions as you ask.” Well there was part of that, that was understandable. I guess? I considered a moment. “Are there other guests here?” I wanted to know more. Grace perked up a bit at that question. “Yes! There are two more girls that arrived around the same time as you. I figured you were all friends but none of you had really mentioned the other ones. I believe one of them got injured pretty badly. I assumed maybe you guys were in an accident which is why you all were acting differently. I heard about a helicopter. Vehicle. Something happened but the details aren’t clear. I can try to get more information, but I try not to poke around too much and make people upset or suspicious.” She was so eager like she was figuring out the storyline to a mystery novel. For a second I wondered how much of what she was saying was just conspiracy. I tried really hard to remember an accident, but it felt as if my memory was blocked. “Did you bring me out here because he was out here?” I tried to make the connection between me and the man and this home, but it really didn’t make much sense to me at all. I looked back at the huge mansion; it was even bigger from this angle. “I thought it would help you talk more and feel comfortable. You haven’t talked or eaten much since we’ve met, and I thought a familiar face would help.”
Grace was kind for that, but I really couldn’t remember Ezekiel. Is this his home? Maybe I should ask about that, but I felt way more interested in these other girls. Maybe friends? It would be nice to meet a familiar face. “Maybe meeting the other girls would help? If we all came in at the same time, then maybe we’re friends and we could reconnect.” Her face turned sour, and she sighed, “That could work except…” Her voice trailed off.
“Except what? We’re not allowed to see each other?”
“No, that’s not it. The other girls have responded.. Differently. They all show symptoms of amnesia from the accident and some of the medicine but one is very violent and the other one has kind of just taken.. in the lifestyle.”
“Taken in the lifestyle?”
“Yeah, like no questions asked. She doesn’t remember anything from before but she feels at peace here and loves everything about it.”
I glanced back over to where Ezekiel was but he wasn’t there. He was now walking along the other side of the pool. He lifted up his sunglasses and we locked eyes. He flashed me a smile so pristine and I was instantly overcome with a wave of comfort that I haven’t felt since I arrived. My heart melted into a puddle and time seemed to stand still. It was only for a few seconds but it felt like he looked through me into my soul. As he looked away and kept walking, time sped up again.
I realized I was holding my breath. I put my hand on my chest and noticed my heart was thumping so rapidly. I felt my pulse in every part of my body like I just ran a marathon on a hot day. I reached over and chugged the bottle of water that Grace had packed. I guess I wasn’t the only one who felt time slow down because when I looked over at Grace her face was lit up like I just accidentally told her a huge secret. “Okay what was that? Are you in love? I think I felt the earth shift!” My guard instantly went up but softened a bit. My earth did shift, it felt like the world inside me exploded and came back together again in the same shape but a different place. I could not deny the inevitable connection we had. Yet I felt a pang of wrongness for some reason. “If that were true, why didn’t he say anything or stop to speak to me?”
“I think he’s trying to keep his distance because he’s worried about you. I overheard he wanted to plan dinner for you two alone but didn’t know if it was something you’re ready for.” He’s right… I wasn’t ready. I don’t think I would ever be.
A rough draft excerpt from the future novel; Happenstance by Caysey Petty.