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Just One Year (Just One Day #2)

By:Gayle Forman

on holiday here?"

Black hair. Soft breath. A gnawing feeling that I've misplaced something valuable. I pat my pocket.

"My things?" I ask.

"They found your bag and its contents scattered at the scene. Your passport was still inside. So was your wallet."

He hands it to me. I look at the billfold. There are more than a hundred euros inside, though I seem to recall having a lot more. My identity card is missing.

"We also found this." He shows me a small black book. "There is still quite a bit of money in your wallet, no? It doesn't suggest a robbery, unless you fought off your attackers." He frowns, I assume at the apparent foolishness of this maneuver.

Did I do that? A low fog sits overhead, like the mist coming off the canals in the morning that I used to watch and will to burn off. I was always cold. Yael said it was because though I looked Dutch, her Mediterranean blood was swimming in me. I remember that, remember the scratchy wool blanket I would wrap myself in to stay warm. And though I now know where I am, I don't know why I'm here. I'm not supposed to be in Paris. I'm supposed to be in Holland. Maybe that explains that niggling feeling.

Burn off. Burn off, I will the fog. But it is as stubborn as the Dutch fog. Or maybe my will is as weak as the winter sun. Either way, it doesn't burn off.

"Do you know the date?" the doctor asks.

I try to think, but dates float by like leaves in a gutter. But this is nothing new. I know that I never know the date. I don't need to. I shake my head.

"Do you know what month it is?"

Augustus. Août. No, English. "August."

"Day of the week?"

Donderdag, something in my head says. Thursday. "Thursday?" I try.

"Friday," the doctor corrects, and the gnawing feeling grows stronger. Perhaps I am supposed to be somewhere on Friday.

The intercom buzzes. The doctor picks it up, talks for a minute, hangs up, turns to me. "Radiology will be here in thirty minutes." Then he begins talking to me about commotions cérébrales or concussions and temporary short-term memory loss and cats and scans and none of it is making a lot of sense.

"Is there someone we can call?" he asks. And I feel like there is, but for the life of me, I can't think who. Bram is gone and Saba is gone and Yael might as well be. Who else is there?

The nausea hits, fast, like a wave I had my back to. And then there's puke all over my bloodied shirt. The nurse is quick with the basin, but not quick enough. She gives me a towel to clean myself with. The doctor is saying something about nausea and concussions. There are tears in my eyes. I never did learn to throw up without crying.

The nurse mops my face with another towel. "Oh, I missed a spot," she says with a tender smile. "There, on your watch."

On my wrist is a watch, bright and gold. It's not mine. For the quickest moment, I see it on a girl's wrist. I travel up the hand to a slender arm, a strong shoulder, a swan's neck. When I get to the face, I expect it to be blank, like the faces in the dream. But it's not.

Black hair. Pale skin. Warm eyes.

I look at the watch again. The crystal is cracked but it's still ticking. It reads nine. I begin to suspect what it is I've forgotten.

I try to sit up. The world turns to soup.

The doctor pushes me back onto the bed, a hand on my shoulder. "You are agitated because you are confused. This is all temporary, but we will need to take the CT scan to make sure there is no bleeding on the brain. While we wait, we can attend to your facial lacerations. First I will give you something to make the area numb."

The nurse swabs off my cheek with something orange. "Do not worry. This won't stain."

It doesn't stain; it just stings.

• • •

"I think I should go now," I say when the sutures are done.

The doctor laughs. And for a second I see white skin covered in white dust, but warmer underneath. A white room. A throbbing in my cheek.

"Someone is waiting for me." I don't know who, but I know it's true.

"Who is waiting for you?" the doctor asks.

"I don't remember," I admit.

"Mr. de Ruiter. You must have a CT scan. And, after, I would like to keep you for observation until your mental clarity returns. Until you know who it is who waits for you."

Neck. Skin. Lips. Her fragile-strong hand over my heart. I touch my hand to my chest, over the green scrub shirt the nurse gave me after they cut off my bloody shirt to check for broken ribs. And the name, it's almost right there.

Orderlies come to wheel me to a different floor. I'm loaded into a metal tube that clatters around my head. Maybe it's the noise, but inside the tube, the fog begins to burn off. But there is no sunshine behind it, only a dull, leaden sky as the fragments click together. "I need to go. Now!" I shout from the tube.

There's silence. Then the click of the intercom. "Please hold still," a disembodied voice orders in French.

• • •

I am wheeled back downstairs to wait. It is past twelve o'clock.

I wait more. I remember hospitals, remember exactly why I hate them.

I wait more. I am adrenaline slammed into inertia: a fast car stuck in traffic. I take a coin out of my pocket and do the trick Saba taught me as a little boy. It works. I calm down, and when I do, more of the missing pieces slot into place. We came together to Paris. We are together in Paris. I feel her hand gentle on my side, as she rode on the back of the bicycle. I feel her not-so-gentle hand on my side, as we held each other tight. Last night. In a white room.

The white room. She is in the white room, waiting for me.

I look around. Hospital rooms are never white like people believe. They are beige, taupe, mauve: neutral tones meant to soothe heartbreak. What I wouldn't give to be in an actual white room right now.

• • •

Later, the doctor comes back in. He