I’m staring at a white ceiling with dim lights humming around me. I don’t know how long I’ve been here. I don’t know where here is.
I turn to the sound. A man in scrubs is in the room with me.
“What’s going on?” I know I spoke the words, but they don’t sound like me. My voice is richer, stronger than it has ever sounded.
A woman in a pencil skirt clicks into the room. Behind her, a man in a tailored suit that cost more than I make in two years closes the door.
I shrink into the covers of the soft bed.
“How do you feel?” the man asks, lifting my eyebrows while shining a pen light into my eyes.
I jerk away. There’s a lot I want to say, but I don’t like the voice I hear when I speak.
The woman smiles and comes to the other side of my bed. “Considering what you looked like when we got you, we’ve done an excellent job putting you back together.”
The man steps back. “I’m Doctor Williamson. And this is Doctor Howe.” The woman nods. “What do you remember about the accident?”
“What accident?” There’s that voice again. I don’t know what’s wrong with it.
Dr. Howe turns on the tv. A news reporter speaks and the screen flashes to a security camera on a busy street. A beautiful woman, a woman everyone in the country knows, starts into the crosswalk. A van speeds next to her, throws open the door, and pulls her inside without stopping.
“Rachel Evans, the daughter of the media tycoon Doug Evans, was kidnapped in plain sight.” The reporter keeps talking in the background. The video footage continues. A police car, siren blaring, blazes by the camera not five seconds after the van passed.
Dr. Howe turns it off. “The police caught up to the van a block away. The kidnappers drove into the MediaState building. The explosion was huge. You were the only one to survive. If we didn’t have video footage of who was kidnapped, we may never have known who you were or what you were supposed to look like.”
“That wasn’t me.” I try to ignore the voice that comes out of my mouth.
They ignore it too.
“That wasn’t me in the van. I’m not Rachel Evans.”
Now they look at each other. “If you’re not Rachel Evans, then who are you?” Dr. Williamson speaks to me like he would to a child caught in a lie.
“I’m Bridgette Torry.” Saying my name with this new voice makes me feel like I’m lying to myself.
The man in scrubs who hasn’t introduced himself starts typing on a computer.
“Who’s Bridgette Torry?” Dr. Williamson asks.
“I’m from the Pine region. I work at the lum…”
“Bridgette Torry. Married to Zane Torry. Two kids.” The man reads from the computer screen. “Worked at a lumber yard in the Pine region. Killed in an accident at the yard.”
“Killed?” I put my unfamiliar hand on my chest. “I’m not dead. I’m right here. I was at work and a rope snapped. The load it carried dropped to the floor of the yard. No one was hurt.”
They all look at me, expecting me to say something else. “I’m not dead and I’m not Rachel Evans. I don’t live in the city. I don’t know what you’ve done to me, but I’m not the person you say I am.”
I look down at the metal tray of food sitting in front of me. Nothing about my face is familiar. My eyes are wider apart, bigger. My lips are fuller. My nose is smaller and turns up more. I look at my chest. Those have definitely never been there.
I only notice the doctors have left when the door shuts behind them. I hear a lock switch into place. They think I’m crazy. Am I?
I know I’m not Rachel Evans. Everyone knows who Rachel Evans is. She’s who every woman dreams of being. Her life is glamorous. I would know if I was Rachel Evans. I wouldn’t remember the brush of the fresh cut wood on my calloused hands. I wouldn’t remember the back breaking labor I’ve been doing since I was twelve years old. I wouldn’t remember the hunger, the desperation of poverty.
I also wouldn’t have the memories of love that make me feel like I’m going to burst when Zane’s face comes to my mind. I wouldn’t remember the overwhelming joy of my kids, the way their little hands wrap around my fingers, the way their arms curl around my neck. No, I’m not crazy. I’m Bridgette Torry.
Throwing the covers off my unfamiliar legs, I run to the small window at the door. The doctors are talking with a man even more famous than his daughter, Doug Evans. At least they’re not looking at me.
I back up and hurry to the windows on the opposite side of the room. The view is dizzying. My head spins for a moment. I shake it and try to get my bearings. The latch on the window slides open when I test it. I climb onto the ledge and lower my body onto the balcony below mine. I don’t know what floor I’m on. I only know that I want to get to the bottom and there’s only one way to go: down. It takes a few floors to get accustomed to the motions my new body makes. With different limbs, my coordination isn’t what it used to be. I don’t bother looking in the windows I pass. If someone sees me, what does it matter? This may be my only chance to get away from this madhouse and back home.
My feet drop to the cold pavement and I break into a sprint. I’m in the city, but on the outskirts. The Pine is only a short distance away. I run faster, anxious to see my family, anxious to find out how I ended up in that hospital, how my obituary was in the system. I’m a block from my house and I’m breathing wildly. Then, I’m on my doorstep. A black ribbon is woven through the wooden banister surrounding the porch. The glass window reflects an image I’ve only seen in magazines. I really do look like Rachel Evans. What if I can’t convince my family I’m Bridgette? What if they only see my image, hear my voice, and start the rumor that Rachel Evans is crazy? What will I have left to live for? My family is everything to me. My job was inconsequential. It was only there to pay the bills. But Zane and all that we’ve created together, that’s my life.
I knock because I don’t feel right barging in on them looking the way I do. It’s late so I know everyone is home. A chair screeches and I see Zane’s silhouette through the window. His hair droops over his eyes. The door opens slowly. Dark circles underneath his brown eyes make them black. His shoulders are stooped and a black armband is tight on his loose sleeve.
“Zane,” I breathe. I lean toward him, raising my arms around his neck.
He backs away quickly, lowering his head in a bow. “Miss Evans.”
“Zane, it’s me, Bridgette.”
Submission disappears from his face. His eyebrows tighten. “What did you say?”
“I’m Bridgette. I’m your wife. I woke up in a hospital and everything about me was changed. The doctors made me look like Rachel Evans, but I’m not her. I’m your wife.”
He steps further back.
I wring my hands. He doesn’t want me to touch him and what I’m telling him is upsetting. “I can prove it to you. Remember when Taylor was born? Remember the words you said to me? You told me…”
“Stop.” The look in his eye ties my tongue. “Look outside. Don’t you see the black ribbon? Are you so crazy that you don’t know what that means? My wife is dead. You’re not her. Go back to the hospital you ran away from. Leave me and my family alone.”
My heart starts to disintegrate. What can I say that will convince him? All he hears is this voice. It’s so different from the voice he used to listen to in the dark when we talked for hours in the quiet of the night. What can I do to show him I’m Bridgette? All he sees is another woman, a woman he shares nothing with. None of my features are the same. My body is different. All of my distinguishing features have been taken away. I am nothing to him.
I can see I’ve hurt him. He thinks I’m dead. Am I? “I’m sorry to bother you. I made a mistake.”
I turn and leave the porch. I don’t have any purpose now. I walk without a sense of direction. My mind swims with panic. What am I going to do now? An emptiness permeates my chest. There is nothing to fill it. Everything I’ve worked for, my marriage, my kids, my life with Zane, is gone. Other than scrape together enough money to have my features changed back to what they were, to have my voice returned to what it was, there’s no way I can convince my family that I belong. If I worked my entire life, I would never come up with that kind of money.
A car screeches to a halt next to me.
“Rachel, honey…” It’s Doug Evans. “It’s freezing out here. Come get in the car.”
A plan beings to form in the void left by Zane’s rejection.
Mr. Evans is out in the cold now. Snow swirls around us as he wraps a heavy coat around me. I let him help me into the back seat. He sits beside me, his arm around my shoulder rubbing warmth into my body. It doesn’t help. He tells the driver to take us home. I don’t know where that is. My home recedes behind us as we drive away from the Pines and into the city.
“Dad?” I whisper.
A smile of relief fills his features. I’ve never seen the man show any emotion in front of the cameras that broadcast his life across the tv. It doesn’t soften the lines on his face. “Everything will be all right, Rachel.”
What is worse? Acting like his daughter in order to get money for a surgery that will return me to myself, to Bridgette Torry? Or suspecting him of turning me into his daughter in the first place? How did he know I would be at the Torry home? How did he know I would run to that neighborhood?
The car pulls into a gated driveway that opens as we approach. An ambulance is parked in the rounded courtyard. Drs. Howe and Williamson step out as our engine dies. “I’m sorry sir. We wouldn’t have woken her if we suspected. Like I explained at the hospital, sometimes a donor’s memories will transfer with the organs. It’s a rare phenomenon, but not impossible.” Dr. Williamson steps aside.
Donor? Who donated what to whom? Did I really die in the accident at the plant? Were my organs donated to Rachel Evans body? Whose brain am I using?
Dr. Howe has a syringe in her hand. “This should erase her confusion.”
The needle is in my neck before she finishes her sentence.