As soon as I begin to pull out of the driveway, Charlie’s phone rings.
“My sister,” she says right before she answers it with a hello. She listens quietly for several seconds, eyeing me the entire time. “She was drunk when I got home. I’ll be there in a few minutes.” She ends the call. “Back to the school,” she says. “My alcoholic mother was supposed to pick my sister up after her swim practice. Looks like we’re about to meet another sibling.”
I laugh. “I feel like I was a chauffer in my past life.”
Charlie’s expression tightens. “I’ll stop referring to us in the third person if you stop referring to it as a past life. We didn’t die, Silas. We just can’t remember anything.”
“We can remember some things,” I clarify.
I begin to head back in the direction of the school. At least I’ll know my way around with all of this back and forth.
“There was this family in Texas,” she says. “They had a parrot, but he went missing. Four years later, he showed up out of the blue—speaking Spanish.” She laughs. “Why do I remember that pointless story but I can’t remember what I did twelve hours ago?”
I don’t respond, because her question is rhetorical, unlike all the questions in my head.
When we pull up to the school again, a spitting image of Charlie is standing by the entrance with her hands crossed tightly over her chest. She climbs into the backseat and sits in the same spot where my brother was just sitting.
“How was your day?” Charlie asks her.
“Shut up,” her sister says.
“Bad, I take it?”
“Shut up,” she says again.
Charlie looks at me wide-eyed, but with a mischievous grin on her face.
“Were you waiting long?”
“Shut up,” her sister says again.
I realize now that Charlie is just instigating her. I smile when she keeps at it.
“Mom was pretty wasted when I got home today.”
“What’s new?” her sister says.
At least she didn’t say shut up this time.
Charlie fires a couple more questions, but her sister ignores her completely, giving her full attention to the phone in her hands. When we pull into Charlie’s driveway, her sister begins to open her door before the car even comes to a stop.
“Tell mom I’ll be late,” Charlie says as her sister climbs out of the car. “And when do you think Dad will be home?”
Her sister pauses. She stares at Charlie with contempt. “Ten to fifteen, according to the judge.” She slams the door.
I wasn’t expecting that, and apparently neither was Charlie. She slowly turns around in her seat until she’s facing forward again. She inhales a slow breath and carefully releases it. “My sister hates me. I live in a dump. My mom’s an alcoholic. My father is in prison. I cheat on you.” She looks at me. “Why the hell are you even dating me?”
If I knew her better, I’d hug her. Hold her hand. Something. I don’t know what to do. There’s no protocol on how to console your girlfriend of four years who you just met this morning.
“Well, according to Ezra, I’ve loved you since before I could walk. I guess that’s hard to let go of.”
She laughs under her breath. “You must have some fierce loyalty, because I’m even beginning to hate me.”
I want to reach over and touch her cheek. Make her look at me. I don’t, though. I put the car in reverse and keep my hands to myself. “Maybe there’s a lot more to you than just your financial status and who your family is.”
“Yeah,” she says. She glances at me and the disappointment is momentarily replaced by a brief smile. “Maybe.”
I smile with her, but we both glance out our respective windows to hide them. Once we’re on the road again, Charlie reaches for the radio. She scrolls through several stations, settling on one that we both immediately begin singing. As soon as the first line of lyrics comes out of our mouths, we both immediately turn and face one another.
“Lyrics,” she says softly. “We remember song lyrics.”
Nothing is adding up. At this point, my mind is so exhausted I don’t even feel like attempting to figure it out at the moment. I just want the respite the music provides. Apparently so does she, because she sits quietly beside me for most of the drive. After several minutes pass, I can feel her look at me.
“I hate that I cheated on you.” She immediately turns up the volume on the radio and settles against her seat. She doesn’t want a response from me, but if she did I would tell her it was okay. That I forgive her. Because the girl sitting next to me right now doesn’t seem like she could be the girl who previously betrayed me.
She never asks where we’re going. I don’t even know where we’re going. I just drive, because driving seems to be the only time my mind settles down. I have no idea how long we drive, but the sun is finally setting when I decide to turn around and head back. We’re both lost in our heads the entire time, which is ironic for two people who have no memories.
“We need to go through our phones,” I say to her. It’s the first thing spoken between us in over an hour. “Check old text messages, emails, voicemail. We might find something that could explain this.”
She pulls her phone out. “I tried that earlier, but I don’t have a fancy phone like yours. I only get text messages, but I barely have any.”