It was July twelfth. She checked her watch again. She’d gotten it as a gift from the staff at the hospital, it had a large digital face and showed the time and the date.
The cab let her off on Farwell. She looked at her handwritten directions again. Mary, the secretary on the ward, had written them out in her painstakingly neat handwriting. Four-oh-six Farwell Street.
“Oh, sorry. How much do I owe you?” she asked, flushing.
“You want me to wait, lady?”
He looked around the neighborhood. “This isn’t the greatest place to find a cab, lady.”
She glanced out at the neat brownstones, with their clipped hedges and potted plants. “No, I suppose not.”
“I’ll cut your rate to a flat forty, you want me to wait and take you back.”
She looked back. “Okay, that would be nice.”
“Well, Mary’s a good friend of mine.”
“Oh.” She had forgotten that. Had Mary told her? She felt her brow furrow and pushed it aside, looking back out at the sidewalk. She looked back at her paper. Four-oh-six Farwell Street. She opened the door and stepped out.
The doorbell was wrought iron in the shape of a black cat, with the bell as the eye. “Yes?” a voice demanded from the panel next to the bell.
“Um, hello. This is, um, Denise Cartwell. Mary Simmons made an appointment for me to stop by today.” She looked wildly at her watch, suddenly nervous. July twelfth. Her heartbeat slowed. She had the right day.
After a pause, the voice came again. “I’ll let you in.”
A raucous buzz followed that and Denise pushed the door open. It resisted, heavy and solid. She managed to get into the foyer by dint of throwing her back into it and stood on the patterned marble.
“So, you’re Denise?”
An old woman with iron-gray hair stood staring down at her from the second-floor balcony. “Yes, ma’am.”
The woman swept majestically down the stairs and Denise fought the urge to step back. “You wish to see the apartment?”
Denise nodded, voice somewhere near her solar plexus. The woman frowned but turned and lead the way through the foyer to the hallway beyond. A door on the right opened onto a large and sunny sitting room furnished with white and rose-colored furniture. On the left, a dining room with a table big enough to seat ten. The landlady turned left at the next hallway and went down three short steps to a closed door. She pulled a key from her blouse and unlocked the door.
“There’s an entry on the other side, so you don’t have to come through the main house unless you wish to.” She motioned for Denise to go ahead of her.
Denise gasped. The apartment was gorgeous. Honey-colored hard-wood flooring glowed in the afternoon light, huge windows lined the walls. She saw with approval that the bedroom was just as well-lit with natural light. The bathroom had an enormous claw-footed tub and a skylight.
“When is it available?”
“This coming month, if you want it. I have the paperwork, if you’d like.”
“Yes, please. I’ll have to take it with me; Mary will help me fill it out.”
The woman studied her for a moment, unmoving. “I have to ask. You look so familiar, didn’t you used to live around here?”
Denise turned away, the sudden flash of darkness and sound overwhelming the quiet sunlit space. She was startled to feel tears on her cheeks and reached up a hand to wipe them away.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.” She sounded embarrassed.
“No, it’s all right,” Denise said quickly, clearing her throat. “I used to live here. Just up the street, in fact.”
Recognition dawned in the woman’s eyes. Denise looked away, she didn’t want to see it.
“So. You have the paperwork?”
“Yes. Yes, I’ll just get it, shall I? You look around. Take all the time you need.” Denise heard her steps receding.
Denise walked over to the window. She saw a neatly manicured back yard, complete with wrought-iron table and two chairs, perfect for reading when the weather was nice. Her vision blurred, washing the trees outside into indistinct shapes.
“Oh, Daniel…” she whispered to the trees. Like always, she seemed to feel a warmth, as though he were with her. She didn’t know how long she stood like that, staring, sightless, outside.
She heard muffled voices, the landlady and another woman.
“…that lawyer,” Denise heard distinctly.
“Shh,” the landlady admonished. “You mind your tongue, Nancy. The last thing the poor woman needs is to be bothered by your gossip.”
“But Mother –”
“Not another word, young lady. Go back to the kitchen, I’ll be along.”
“Yes, Mother,” the other person sighed.
‘That lawyer.’ Denise sighed. For months, that was all they’d said at the hospital when they thought she couldn’t hear.
“Please forgive my daughter,” the landlady said. “Your assault stunned the neighborhood, I don’t mean to be rude.”
“No, no. It’s all right. I’m better now,” Denise managed to say with grace.
“Call me Emily,” the landlady said warmly, handing the papers over in a neat manila folder.
Denise smiled and watched as Emily’s eyes slid sideways to the scars by her ear. On impulse, Denise moved her head and swept the hair back with one hand.
“Goodness,” Emily commented.
Denise let her hair fall. “They say the memory will come back to me in time,” she confided.
Emily nodded, her brusqueness somehow comforting. “Well, don’t you worry. We’ll have you settled in no time. I’m sure all the good parts will come back to you, and Lord knows you don’t need the bad ones, right?”
Denise smiled in spite of herself, charmed. She was still smiling when she got back into the cab and looked on her paper. “Two-seventeen Fourth Avenue, please. Kingston Hospital.”
The cab driver nodded at her and she sat back to enjoy the ride. She had a home again.