Ella looked out the window of her boutique clothing store, Poppy, and was excited by the sunshine filtering through the glass. June in Portland usually brought the long awaited sun. It rained nine out of the twelve months in a year. And although Portlanders were magnificent rain contenders, they really cherished the sunlight. When the good weather rolled through the city it seemed as if everyone came out of hiding. You could see a million different kinds of people walking down the sidewalk in front of her store and people watching was always a good way to pass the time.
She found that since she had so easily lost six weeks of her life, it was also easy to lose herself for a few minutes during the day. She was constantly zoning out and drifting away, only to be pulled back to reality by someone talking to her or asking her a question, interrupting her intense gaze at nothing in particular.
She was still completely baffled that she couldn't remember six whole weeks of her life. Why six weeks? Why those six weeks? What if something really important had happened during those weeks and she had no idea? What if she had won the lottery? Or maxed out a credit card? Or booked a really expensive, yet fabulous, trip around the world? Was she missing her own vacation right now because she couldn't remember planning it?
The thoughts of why, or what, were all-consuming sometimes and she always felt a nagging in the back of her mind constantly berating herself for not being able to recall those six weeks. Although, it seemed there was always a silver lining. Along with any good things she couldn't remember, she also couldn't remember the bad. Her family had a hard time telling her about Kyle and, to be honest, she had a hard time believing what they told her. How surreal it had been to have her family tell her something so totally unbelievable about the man she loved. But then she had no choice but to believe them because he had mysteriously disappeared. A small wave of sadness swept over her, but she brushed it off, reminding herself that it had been two months and it was time to stop being sad over something she couldn't control, least of all remember.
She turned as a man and woman came into the shop. She smiled brightly at them as they made their way into the middle of the store.
“Hi, welcome to Poppy. Enjoying the sunshine?” She asked. Her eyes darted back and forth between the woman and the man. The woman smiled back at her.
“It is so pretty out; I hope the sun sticks around this time.”
“Me too,” Ella responded. She let her eyes linger on the man, hoping to catch his eye so she could engage him in conversation. It had become her new obsession. Every man over the age of twenty she came into contact with, she tried to make him speak. She was on a seemingly never-ending quest to find the voice. He had only said a few words to her right as she was waking up, but she would never forget the voice that had spoken to her or the lips that belonged to that voice.
Ella took a few steps towards the couple and spoke directly to the man who was wrapped up in his phone at the moment.
“Is there anything in particular you are looking for?” Her eyes bore into him and she hoped he could feel her eyes burning into his forehead. It must have worked because he looked up at her and mumbled a disinterested remark at her.
“Uh, no. We're just looking.” He went back to looking at his cell phone while the woman continued browsing.
Disappointment washed over Ella and her shoulders slumped slightly when his too high-pitched voice immediately answered the question she asked herself hundreds of times a day: was this him?
The voice she heard that day had been deep, raw, and full of love. She had wondered about the love in his voice for two whole months now. How could someone besides Kyle love her or speak to her in such a way that made her feel like he loved her? After weeks and weeks of arguing with what she heard, she finally gave in and just accepted that what she heard was most definitely love. Aside from actually uttering the words at her, everything else she could remember about those few moments she had with him ached with love; the way he touched her, the way his words caressed her, and the way he kissed her.
Her family insisted that no one else had been at the hospital but them, but Ella knew better. What she didn't know was why they lied to her about it. Her mind mostly tried to convince her that if they kept something from her it was for her own good, but there were times when she was so angry and frustrated with them. She deserved to know everything about what had happened to her, the good and the bad.
“Ok, well, if you need anything let me know,” Ella said to the woman, flashing a forced but hopefully convincing smile at her. She walked over to a table that displayed soft blouses of bright colors for summer and began folding the shirts into neater piles, trying to pass the time while her mind kept wandering back to the mystery voice. Eventually, she knew she would go crazy thinking about it, but there was nothing she could do to stop herself. It was a result of reverse psychology. Her family basically told her she could never know who he was, so it was all she thought about, obviously.
She heard the door open again and a very genuine smile played across her face as her little sister came walking into the store. Ella could tell ever since she woke up missing six weeks of her life that Megan struggled with keeping information from her. Megan did what their parents thought was best and they had developed a “Don't ask, don't tell” motto around the whole debacle. It would be really easy to be mad at Megan, but she couldn't bring herself to hold it against her.
“Hey, Megs. How are you this morning?”
“Loving the sunshine, Fella. We should close up shop and hit the Saturday Market. It's a perfect day for strolling along and browsing,” she said with a lazy voice.
“Right. Which is exactly why we need to be here, making sure people have the opportunity to browse in my store.” Ella gave her sister a big grin.
“Fine. Slave driver,” she said with a laugh and continued into the backroom. Ever since Ella had been in the hospital her sister started taking shifts at her store when she could to help out. Megan majored in business and graduated from the University of Portland just the week before. Megan's fiancé`, Patrick, landed a job at a reputable company in the city. Ella was thinking about asking her sister if she wanted to help her expand her business, but hadn't found the right opportunity yet. Megan seemed content working for her at the moment and Ella was enjoying spending all the time with her sister.
When she returned from the back, Megan started looking through some of the new merchandise Ella put out that morning. There were perks to owning a clothing boutique, but sometimes it was more of a hindrance to the wallet. Even though she spent more money on clothes than she would ever admit, Ella loved being able to bring in unique and unknown designers that she liked and felt sometimes like she was helping out designers who were trying to get their name out there. It was thrilling for her when a designer she supported became well-known in the fashion world. It was validating for her and cemented for her what she had already known: that she had an eye for fashion and was doing what she was meant to do.
“This dress is amazing, El. You should save one for Kalli.”
“Already did. She's coming by later.” Kalli was the wardrobe manager for a movie being filmed in town. She came by the store before her accident, but before Ella could get better, the movie wrapped and Kalli left. A couple weeks later she came back for another film and came by the store to see if they could work together. Everything worked out well and Ella's store supplied many pieces for the female lead in a new romantic comedy that would be out the next year. The most rewarding part of the whole situation was the friendship she'd developed with Kalli.
Kalli was fun, witty, gorgeous, and thirty as well. She lived in Seattle, but was in Portland for the duration of the shoot of the movie. One of the things Ella liked most about Kalli was that she had no idea what happened to Ella in those six weeks she lost. Hanging out with her was easy and free of the tension she sometimes felt around her family. They talked about what had happened to Ella, but it wasn't something they dwelled on. Ella loved that they could spend time together and that she felt normal around her. Plus, they were able to visit the set and met some pretty famous people. That wasn't bad either.
“Good. Kalli will love it. How's it been today?”
“Pretty steady. It's early yet. Once everyone has had their coffee they'll be out and we'll get busy. Hope you're ready.”
“Born ready, Sis.” Megan's phone pinged and she pulled it out of her pocket. A worried look came over her face as she looked at the screen. She glanced over at Ella. “I'll be right back,” she said as she walked into the back.
These were the moments that Ella hated. Knowing something was being kept from her and also knowing Megan had no choice in the matter. She tried to push back the dark cloud that had just stolen her sunshine.