“Paulie! Paulie! Come out, come out please!” The calls and giggles echoed down the wide sunlit corridor, adorned with golden accents and sloping windows that painted a cityscape of whirling cars and neon signs. Far off in the distance, hills of green and skies of endless blue served as backdrop to the busy scenery. Behind a silk curtain with small stitched flowers at its bottom left corner, Paulie stood quietly, as stiff as possible. Footsteps approached from behind her, making a tapping sound on the hardwood floors before they slowly came to a stop.
Squeezing her eyes shut, Paulie waited for herself to be discovered. She could feel the heat of another person, a presence from behind the curtain. The silk was thin, and if she just opened one eye maybe, just a little bit she could probably see through the curtain, see the person waiting on the other side. Who was it? What a familiar voice, a familiar aura. After what felt like ages under the curtain, the same seeker waiting with baited breath, Paulie knew she could wait no more in her spot, she wanted to know. What was on the outside? She gave in to her curiosity, thrusting open her eyes.
The silk curtains ripped, giving way to a deep black ocean. Gasping, Paulie swam and swam, arms heaving furiously up up up. Suddenly with a great burst of sea water and breath, her lips were met with a gust of air, her eyes once red and hazy, now focused in on a blank ceiling. A bright object she couldn’t quite look at rose slowly from outside the space she was in. Paulie wondered if she could reach it if she tried. She slowly became conscious of herself, but parts of her seemed to be frozen in time, being withheld by something rough. A harsh beeping came from the left side. Immediately, a loud blaring sound went off from somewhere far away, met almost immediately with louder sounds, sounds of humans.
A set of eyes met hers, a complex sort of emotion Paulie couldn’t quite understand or explain. This friendly lady seemed so familiar, despite her large size and close proximity. Ignoring her first instinct to cry, she instead blinked a few times, things going in and out of focus each time. What an interesting phenomena.
“Paulina! Paulina, baby. Paulie oh Paulie. You’re back.” Deep lines ran down the lady’s face, and they soon filled with a strange sparkling kind of river that flowed from her eyes.
A crowd of people in large white clothes rushed over, blocking Paulie’s sight and she registered the feeling of being unstrapped and rolled off out of a strange swinging transporter that opened and closed behind them. Now she was in a hallway. The hallway. She remembered this hallway, the hallway where she was playing and- and she-
And she didn’t know what happened after that. Now confused by the fast movement of the little golden swirls above her, rushing past her and the whole world turning around and around and around, she decided now was a good time to cry.
She entered another room, with a man with weird shiny object all over his white cloak, and she felt something poke her and a weird numbness coming from that same poking area. Next her eyes were thrusted open by fat fleshy fingers, her tongue prodded by a flavorless wooden stick, a cold cylinder resting on the left of her chest.
“Doctor, something is wrong. She isn’t showing any signs of memory recovery. Her MRIs aren’t showing consciousness on a deeper level or any retainment of knowledge before the crash.”
“Hello, can you hear me?” The man asked Paulie, taking the cold cylinder off of her skin. “Hello? Are you aware of where you are right now?”
Paulie, startled by the sudden attention directed towards her all at once, began to cry, stressed by the uncomfortable, unfamiliar situation.
“Paulie, do you know where you are right now? Can you say something back to me?”
“Doctor, she may be overwhelmed by the situation. Perhaps some of us could wait outside?”
“Yes, yes. Walter, you and three others return back to the resting room, see how the patient’s mother is doing.” As four large white coats disappeared from her vision, only two remained, and slowly, Paulie lifted her head to meet the eyes of the man in the back. He had big blue ones, the kind you wouldn’t mind looking at for a long time.
“Paulie,” He spoke softly. “Paulie, Dr. Rodriguez and I are here to help you. Can you tell us if you need help? Do you understand what I am saying right now?”
Do you understand what I am saying right now? Paulie thought hard, searching inside of her head. What did that mean? What did understand mean? What a mouthful, she couldn’t even think of the word itself. But slowly she pieced together the words, until she could fit them into a coherent string of sounds that she had an answer to.
“Y-” she began softly, but immediately was surprised by her own voice, and immediately became frightened of the noise that had just come from her mouth.
“Go on.” Dr. Rodriguez coaxed, patient and ready.
“Y- y- yes.” Paulie said, looking at the two men before her as if waiting for approval. Slowly, a smile spread upon the man in the back’s face, and he whispered again,
“What is your name?”
“Good, good! Very good Paulie! Now do you know where you are?”
“Do you know how old you are?”
Before she could answer, another man came rushing in through the weird swinging transporter again, carrying a stack of paper. In a disapproving tone, Dr. Rodriguez started with a loud tone:
“What now, Walter? We were in the middle of a key stage of rehabilitation and readjustment!”
“But that’s exactly it, doctor! Her scans came out positive for consciousness, but major portions of her knowledge base are missing. This means she-”
“Walter, are you doubting my ability to gather information from my own interrogation methods?”
“Absolutely not, doctor, I just thought that going forward with it you should know that-
“Walter, enough! Samuel, ask the question!”
“Paulie, how old are you?”
How old are you? She contemplated this for a moment. How old? Well, she last remembered running in the corridor, hiding behind the curtain. She faintly remembered being held in the arms of someone, a strong, calming presence. She remembered being taught patiently one word, one number, over and over. She remembered a voice, saying the sentence with her like a cheesy mantra. Hi, my name is Paulina and I am
“S- s- six. I am turning six dis year.” She said proudly.
“Perfect, now let’s bring her to her mother. Are you ready to see mommy, sweetheart?”
“Mommy? Who iz mommy?”
“Walter, how is she?” Annette questioned the moment the male nurse entered the room. Her eyes still red from the joyous awakening moments she had just had about half an hour ago.
“She’s fine, miss. Her breath and heart rate levels are regular, and all her major organs seem to be functioning fine.”
“Perfect, perfect.” A smile crept upon Annette’s face, like the dawn of a new day, this time with the pride and joy of her life, here by her side. “When can I inform the rest of the family? “
“There is just one little-
“-grandfather will be so excited when he hears she’s back-”
“-miss, I need to tell you-
“-and this time maybe just once, just for one time, the Roses can get together as a family. For her. Yes, yes-
“Yes! They won’t miss it if they’ve heard Paulie’s back,” Annette rose from her place in the armchair, eyes sparkling, “I better go tell grandpops-
Annette, taken aback, stopped for just a moment, her hand on the door.
“No, no. You can’t tell the grandfather. Not yet. Not without knowing.”
“What do you mean, I can’t tell him? He deserves to know that his granddaughter is back, all the time he spent with her-
“-but that’s exactly it, miss. Paulina didn’t spend that time, didn’t make those memories. She doesn’t even know who he is, or who you are.”
When Paulina Rose began to exist, a little pea in a pod, she had given her mom such trouble, even the servants with all their experience in childbirth could not save Annette from the pain of conceiving one of her own, made from her own flesh and bones. This little pea was not like all other things in her life, handed to her by someone else without much real consideration, immediately losing its real value to her. Years of experience taught her that despite being raised by people like her dad, it truly was hard work that brought the profit of happiness. The amount of energy, pain, and process she put into Paulina before she even truly entered this world was already immeasurable, and it only increased from there. Every mother’s journey was rough, and compared to most, Annette seemed to have the odds on her side, yet never having a mother herself, she truly did not know how she could interact with the little sprout she had now brought to life. Life had been so kind to her Paulina Rose, plentiful milk and honey that she could happily suckle from the mother plant, a golden blossom that ever so gently held her within it’s bud, shielded from the outside world and its blaring sounds and heavy smoke. Never had she ever left the sanctuary of her home in the hills, it had been her entire world. She didn’t even know of the streets where people lived in hunger and poverty and disease spread like wildfire. She was a brilliant mind, a chosen one, the future generation’s leader and the next step in humanity. Her entire life had followed a certain path, like a little boat floating down a stream.
But Paulina wasn’t like the others who like her were born with silver spoons in their mouths. Her mother was more lenient, more supportive of her independence, allowing her to form her own ideas and opinions. Who else could be blamed for her keen curiosity? She grew so restless in the controlled environment, and after years of conforming to the ideals being spoon-fed to her, she broke loose. She wanted to help, wanted more than just the dull life that her trust fund offered her.
And the crash.
Every single promise ever made to Annette was always kept, she didn’t even know the true meaning of having something broken in her life. How could the perfect being that had completed her life become the cause of her own spiral into madness?
She had waited, waited for Paulie to come back to her. And for a while she refused to believe it. That Paulie may be completely gone, swept into the world inside of her head, instead of in the real, moving world that she belonged in. She could never and would never accept the thought that her little Paulina Rose could at any given moment, die.
And soon Annette began to realize it was all her fault. All of this, the crash, the coma. For not stopping her when she tried to leave the manor, tried to rebel against her grandfather and his ideals. For not ensuring that everything followed the set course Paulie was given at birth.
And now that Paulie had forgotten everything, Annette didn’t know if she could ever bring herself to see the grandfather again.
“I must warn you, Annette. Paulina may look 10, but her mannerisms are that of a three year old. Before you go in, you must remember that she will not recall any of what she has experienced for the first nine years of her life.”
“Just let me see her. Please.”
The wide double doors opened up to Paulie's old room, the same as it always had been, just cleaned by the servants and all the furniture still in the same places they were before. Before the crash. Annette felt a gust of nostalgia right as she entered, all the times she and Paulie had together in this room coming back to her one by one like old film. She suddenly doubted her ability to overcome the frightening reality of a 10 year old girl who didn’t know who she was, and didn’t remember what their lives as a mother and a daughter had been like.
The six year old tilted her head like a little puppy at the mention of her name, not quite sure how to react to the lady who had just entered.
“Paulie, Paulie! I- I have missed you.”
“Paulie, I am your mom.” Annette, took another step towards Paulie. “I am the one who took care of you for a long time, you just don’t really remember me.”
Softly, Paulie began to cry. Annette lost her calm, running towards the little bed. This only frightened Paulie more, and her sobbing intensified. And for one fearful moment, Annette felt like herself seven years ago, lost and confused in parenthood, left husbandless and raising on her own a three year old daughter. In such a helpless, hopeless situation, a hole that she had dug herself into that she couldn’t possibly get out of.
But that was when she had truly made the decision, the one decision that had changed her life. The decision to put all of time, energy, patience, and most importantly, love, into this little girl. She would be the one thing that she had gotten right in her life, an independent, beautiful young lady that didn’t need the family’s generational wealth to be successful.
Annette’s entire life had been set out for her, planned carefully so that she followed one path down all the way to the day she left this Earth. Sure, life had thrown her off course a few times, but in the end she stayed as what she was born into this world as- a rich, otherwise talentless and mundane girl. And she resigned from her chase for the truly finer things in life - real happiness, captured by overcoming personal struggles, and reaching new heights and self-induced success.
But that day, when she held the sweet angel Paulie in her arms, the world stood still for a moment, and the crying stopped. She had made herself a promise. And like all promises in her life (except for the most important one), she intended that this one be kept.
“Mommy?” Paulie had stopped crying, and was looking up with great curiosity at Annette’s face. Wiping the tears away, Annette gave her a small, kind smile.
“Yes. Mommy is here. And she’s never going to leave.”
Slowly, she took the girl’s hand, and fingers interlaced, glances were traded, and big wide eyes full of life and future and promise awaited like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
“Mommy?” Paulie stared at their interlocked hands, then back to the face looking down from above. “Mommy, why can’t I remember anything? Why can’t I remember you?”
“You might not remember me right now, Paulie,” Annette said, pulling the little one to her chest, “and you might not remember what we have done together these past six years.
But I can tell you it was magical, and you were the most inspiring little girl that ever was to exist. You made mommy so, so proud.
Yes, sweetie. Go on.
I- I’m sorry.
For forgetting. Forgetting all the magic we did together.
Oh, don’t worry Paulie.
Together, we’re going to do it all again.
Child of the Republic
The tipping Queen Anne stood, against the field of identical concrete houses with shingled asphalt tiles for roofs and two windows on either side of the front door, it stood out like a sore thumb drawing the eye to it whenever one was near.
The mansion was visibly old, older than the other houses, and its walls were a dark ruby red, although chipped in some spaces, revealing eroding limestone underneath. broad leaves and thin creepers.