Authors: Heather Topham Wood
The Memory Witch
Heather Topham Wood
© Copyright Heather Topham Wood2013. All rights reserved
Cover Art: Jeannie Ruesch
Editor: Kathryn Steves
Crescent Moon Press
1385 Highway 35
Middletown, NJ 07748
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All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Crescent Moon Press electronic publication/print
publication: December 2013
To Bryan, I could’ve never written a single word without your love and support.
To Dominic and Luke, thanks for inspiring me on a daily basis, I love you dearly.
To my friends and family, you don’t need me to tell you how awesome you all are. Thank you for always supporting me no matter what.
I didn’t have a single remembrance before the age of eight. The first day of kindergarten, losing my first tooth, my first best friend—these memories vanished into an unexplained chasm and were still missing ten years later.
My mother would never explain the root of this anomaly to me. The only thing she’d say is that losing my father that year did something irreversible to my brain. A crater opened up inside of me and every early memory fell into oblivion.
I had eight years with my father before he died—but I didn’t have one memory of him. I didn’t know what it felt like to be inside of his embrace. I had no recollection of the scent I breathed in when he gathered me up into his arms. I had to imagine the memories through a haphazard collage of photographs and videos left behind.
My father was murdered in a fumbled burglary attempt at our home. My mother told me I should be grateful we weren’t home that night because we would be six feet under right alongside him. The ice in her voice made me wonder if she blamed him in some way for being killed.
Mere weeks after we laid him to rest, we moved two hours away from our New Jersey hometown to Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania. A visit to his final resting place was a rare occurrence and we were estranged from my father’s side of the family. The part that I always had a hard time wrapping my head around was that my father’s unsolved murder never plagued my mother. She never sought out the killer to exact justice for taking a father away from his young daughter.
She insisted we needed a fresh start. And for ten years, I lived a seemingly normal teenage existence with the exception of my unique case of amnesia. My mother never brought me to a team of doctors to analyze my brain and she has never pushed me to remember. I comprehended the oddities surrounding my life, but we’d lived this way for so long that it became normal.
Until the day that everything changed.
“This is going to be the best summer of our lives,” my boyfriend Tanner Black declared. His golden boy good looks and padded bank account afforded him the opportunity to make this declaration.
We had graduated high school a mere two weeks ago. This night was Tanner’s first of many planned summer soirees held at his sprawling house deep within the Pennsylvania countryside. His parents had more frequent flyer miles than movie stars and were gone more than they were home with their only son.
Not that the lack of parental supervision bothered Tanner. He was able to open up his house to the crème de la crème of Harveys Lake. Since we were sophomores, holding all night ragers had helped lift his popularity to stratosphere status. When he asked me out during our junior year, I assumed it was a practical joke and rolled my eyes instead of providing him with a response.
When he convinced me that he was indeed serious, I almost refused him. My refusal hadn’t stemmed from lack of attraction. Tanner Black was concocted from the stuff that girl’s fantasies were made up of. He had sandy blond hair, a year-round tan, and a dazzling smile. My best friend Amber Webber threatened to move lunch tables if I told him that I wasn’t interested in him.
My hesitation came from knowing we were from completely different social circles. I lived in a modest house with a single mother who turned me into a latchkey kid from a very young age. Although she worked twelve-hour shifts as a nurse at the local hospital, we never had any extra money. Any extra income was brought in by the odd jobs I held around town. I spent time babysitting, walking dogs, and waiting tables. Why would Tanner want a waitress with a small circle of friends when he could date the homecoming queen?
After our first date, I realized I had judged Tanner too hastily. There were no signs of the snobbery I expected. He didn’t name drop that he had regular dinners with the Kennedys or the Trumps or ask whether I vacationed in the Hamptons. In fact, he was one of the most thoughtful dates I ever had. Flowers were presented to both my mother and me and he underwent her questioning without so much of a flinch. He held open every door for me and he actually paid attention when I talked.
A year later and Tanner had my heart ensnared. His careless joie de vivre left me with a contact high. Dating Tanner was my escapist fantasy and he distracted me from the grind of holding down several after-school jobs while trying to maintain a 4.0 GPA. Tanner Black would also be my future. While I was going to Lehigh University in the fall, he would be at Drexel University. Driving distance was only an hour between the two schools and we had made promises to see each other as often as possible.
Tanner leaned in for a kiss before refilling his beer. I was sticking to soda since I nominated myself as his alcohol monitor for the night. The last time I had ignored my self-imposed duties, Tanner decided to go
Grand Theft Auto
on his father’s classic car collection. A fender bender with a tree in his driveway prompted his parents to take away his car for a month.
“Hey Black! Are we going to light off those fireworks? Or what?” Mark Close, Tanner’s best friend, approached us. Mark had started dating Amber about two months after I became a permanent fixture on Tanner’s arm.
“Do you mind, Quinn?” Tanner gave me a devastating smile. After a year, I still wasn’t immune to his charms. When I didn’t answer, he leaned in closer and tucked a strand of my dark blond hair behind my ear. “It
Fourth of July weekend, babe. It would be un-American to not light off fireworks.”
I waved him off after breathing out a long-suffering sigh. “Fine, but be careful. Make sure none of those drunken idiots out back blow off a finger.”
After watching his hasty departure through the sliding glass doors, I wandered through the oversized rooms of the Black house. Amber was nowhere to be found and I lacked the enthusiasm for small talk with anyone else. I had woken up with the most anxious feeling that morning. As the dread seeped through me, an insufferable headache had formed over the course of the day. I had no idea the origin of my apprehension. As Tanner had said, this was to be the best summer of our lives. If that was true, why did I feel a detachment from everyone around me?
I sneaked past the clusters of our friends and headed upstairs. Tanner’s sprawling bedroom was to the left of staircase. Partygoers knew the Black’s bedrooms were off limits, which ensured I would have the privacy I craved.
Tanner’s bedroom was dark as I entered. I stumbled through until I reached his window. Throwing open the curtains, I spied Tanner and his friends on the back deck below. A soft glow was cast on the bedroom as fireworks illuminated the sky. I pressed my head against the window and shut my eyes as the sounds of the detonated fireworks pierced my brain.
No one understood my dark moods. I didn’t expect them to since I failed to comprehend them myself. Something was very wrong inside of me. Cloaked whispers from the eight years I had lost called to me. Their siren’s call urged me to find out what happened to me. My memories weren’t ripped from my head due to a child’s grief over losing her father. There was more to the story that had yet to be revealed.
I spied Tanner’s Drexel hooded sweatshirt thrown haphazardly across his bedpost. I slipped my arms inside and snuggled into the warmth of the fabric. I crawled into his king-sized bed and relaxed my body. I hugged the pillow and reveled in the solidarity I felt knowing I could always gain comfort from Tanner. Tanner was the reason I would never succumb to the terror I experienced whenever I attempted to recover my lost memories.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything more beautiful,” Tanner’s voice whispered to me.
I opened my eyes and his muscular arms entrapped me. My initial feeling was panic. I had to squash the emotion quickly. When it came to intimacy with Tanner, I had to consistently cloak my true feelings. I shot a forced smile his way as he grazed a finger down my cheek.
“Is the party over?” I whispered and attempted to sit up. His hand gripped my forearm and he positioned me back against the bed.
“A few people are still hanging around. Amber just left. She said you were complaining about a headache earlier and she thought you bailed. I know this is one of your favorite hiding spots, so I figured I would check here first,” he explained in a husky whisper.
“You know me so well,” I agreed.
Tanner didn’t reply and instead moistened his lips. His hand became tangled in my hair as he moved my head closer to his. His lips crushed against mine and we began to kiss passionately.
I drew his body to mine and kissed him back. I used my mouth to tug on his lower lip and he moaned into my mouth. His hands moved away from my hair and landed on my hips. The longer we kissed, the bolder he grew. He began an exploration of my body over my clothes while keeping me lip locked.
The sensation of his hands over my exposed skin dulled coherent thoughts. I turned my brain off. Tanner was an expert kisser and knew the exact way to move his mouth in order to leave me weak in the knees. The tips of his fingertips inched under the silky fabric of my bra. My body froze and my eyes widened. My heart rate quickened. However, my body’s responses weren’t from desire. It was from dread.
“Quinn, please…” Tanner begged when he took note of my reaction. He wasn’t astonished to see me in this state. This happened each time Tanner tried to take things farther.
With a single bound, I was removed from his embrace and off of his bed. I turned on the bedside lamp before straightening out my clothing. I felt his caramel colored eyes bore into me. I refused to meet his likely grim expression.
“Quinn, we need to talk about this.”
“I’m not ready. There’s nothing else to say,” I said to the floor. We locked eyes after a long minute and regrets choked off my lame explanations. Tanner loved me—nothing else should matter. Maybe it was time I put my fears aside and let him take me to bed.
I cleared my throat. “My birthday is two days away. Maybe we could plan something for that night?” I almost wanted him to refuse. I silently begged for him reply that we never had to have sex if I could never go over this strong urge to flee each time the subject was broached.
Tanner gave me an eager look. “You mean it?”
The words had floated out of my mouth thoughtlessly. They were hanging over us and held a promise that Tanner had been waiting for since we started dating. I had the feeling there was no taking them back. “Yes,” I whispered.
Tanner clutched my hand and led me back into his bed. His kisses were urgent and his body hinted at how ecstatic he was with my decision. Honestly, I was nauseated over the words that had carelessly dripped from my lips, but I tried to turn numb. At moments like this, it was the easiest thing to do. If I felt nothing, then I didn’t have to wonder at why I panicked at the thought of sharing my body with Tanner. Nothing about Tanner was repulsive. He was gorgeous, kind, and intelligent. There was no logical reason that sleeping with him should sicken me to the point that my stomach cramped and my head spun.
“Are you staying over? What time does your mom’s shift end?”
My mother’s hectic work schedule kept her maternal presence in my life at a minimum. Most nights, I slept alone in our house. Tanner always invited me to stay with him and I would sometimes take him up on his invitation, even if it meant I had to spend a few extra hours warding off his advances.
“Not until six. Can you set the alarm on your cell to five?”
My mom certainly suspected I spent many nights with Tanner, but I never gave her enough evidence to confirm her allegations. I wanted to tell her she had nothing to worry about as far as the sex department, but our track record with open communication was spotty. There was always an underlying strain between us. I suspected it stemmed from her refusal to discuss my father or the past. Whatever happened ten years ago was painful enough that we both blocked it out. She purposely shut out those memories while I was forced to live without them.
“Are you going back down to the party?” I asked Tanner. He usually understood when I decided to retreat from time to time. He hated that I felt like an outsider amongst his friends, but it was difficult to find common ground among the elite of Lake-Lehman Junior/Senior High School. A single mother who had to decide some months whether or not we could afford to have cable raised me. My mom said that my father didn’t have a life insurance policy when he died, which meant we were on our own money wise. Since I was fourteen, I found ways to help out by working as much as my school schedule allowed.
“Yes, but I’ll be back quickly. Can’t leave a beautiful girl alone in my bed for long,” he said with a smile in his voice. He kissed me again before heading for the door. I waved him off as he turned back. I snuggled under the warmth that his body heat had left behind and managed to let Tanner’s lingering scent lull me back to sleep.