The Amnesia Project

By: Barbara Winkes
Chapter One



Dani



2003



It was the summer that should have been the adventure of our lives. The three of us, Alice, Joy and I, were going to New York City for the first time, ten days to explore what seemed like a magical place to us. Sure, we had all gone out of state for college, but this was different. This was the first day of the rest of our lives, or something similarly melodramatic I would have come up with on the verge of twenty-two.

I was unsure about many things. I had an internship lined up with a bank, thanks to a friend of my dad’s, and I didn’t even know if I still wanted to go to business school afterwards. Then there was this other thing…I couldn’t handle too many uncertainties, so I tried not to think about it too much. The girls who had been my best friends since junior high deserved the truth though. In New York, on a relaxed evening after a couple of drinks, I was going to tell them, and I knew they wouldn’t judge me.

The drama started a week before our departure.

When I picked up Alice to meet with Joy in town, she all but stormed out of her parents’ house, slamming the door. I didn’t think much of it at that time. Alice always had a flair for theatrics.

“You won’t believe this!” she said, and I realized she was so angry she was close to tears.

“What happened?” Mr. and Mrs. MacGregor were among the most laid back people I knew, so I couldn’t imagine what made her this upset.

She sat in the car, slamming that door too, making me wince.

“Easy.”

“Wait until you hear it,” she said darkly. “I can’t believe how sneaky they are. Mom and Dad want us to take Paige to New York with us. They already booked her a ticket!”

“Oh.”

“That’s all you have to say?”

That was all I had to say on the subject. I shouldn’t say more, or my big revelation could become awkward very fast. I agreed with Alice. Taking Paige was not a good idea. I understood their parent’s reasoning—with Alice’s seventeen-year-old sister along for the ride, some activities were off the list. We would have to be a lot more mindful with an underage girl around. Girl. I was sure Paige would object to that word, but that’s what she was.

“Dani? Really? We can’t even go to a bar if we have to babysit her all the time!”

“Yeah.” I wondered whose idea this was, Paige’s or their parents. Either way, Alice was right. Not that we had planned to get drunk all the time, but we would have to take care of her while we were there, and it would be a lot harder to find the right moment to share my secret. “We can go to restaurants though. Sneak a few beers or a bottle of wine into the hotel.”

“We could do the same here,” she said impatiently. “Hell, it’s what we’ve been doing in college. I’m not going to New York to buy a bottle of wine from a supermarket. This is so unfair. It’s like they won’t accept that we’re adults now.”

“I didn’t think we were going just to drink.” The words came out harsher than intended, and Alice shot me a surprised look.

“That’s not what I’m saying. Of course we were gonna do the sightseeing and all, but…You don’t seem to have a problem with this. Maybe you should be the designated babysitter then.”

I blushed a bright red at her suggestion, relieved that she couldn’t see it in the dark.

“Come on, that’s not fair. If it’s a done deal, then we should make the best of it.”

Alice leaned back into her seat with an exaggerated sigh.

“Easy for you to say…but yeah, I guess we have no choice. Don’t get me wrong—I love my annoying little sister.”

That, I knew for sure. Alice had once shared that her parents had adopted Paige as a baby. They were usually close.

“I just wanted this to be something that we did together, you, me and Joy, before we all go separate ways and never hear from each other again,” she added.

All of a sudden, I understood a lot more about her somber mood.

“That’s not going to happen.”

“How can you say that? Brad already told me that he doesn’t want a long distance relationship. Why would we be any different?”

“Because guys are like that. We’re friends. We’ll always be friends.”

My heart was beating uncomfortably fast. What if, once they knew, they didn’t want to be my friends anymore? Where would that leave me? Was finding the truth always worth it, no matter the costs? I had no idea.

“Are you sure?” Alice asked.

“Of course I am. We chat once a week or so…It’s not that hard. We won’t lose touch, just because we can’t hit the bars every night in New York.” I laughed, because the thought seemed absurd. “It’s still going to be amazing.”

“Promise me,” Alice said, her tone so serious it startled me.

“Sure. I promise. Lighten up, Paige is not a baby.”

For sure, she wasn’t. In the past four years I’d only seen her sporadically. She was all grown up, and the fact that I’d noticed only added to my confusion. That, I wouldn’t share with anyone, ever.

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