Saturday, 8 April 2017
Mareijke's Courage Chapter 10
My mind lets go a thousand things …
Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Mareijke opened her eyes as the new day dawned. Slightly disoriented, she was startled to find a stranger sitting in a wing chair across the room. She sat up in the enormous bed and looked at him long and hard. Then she remembered. Uri Ayrrault.
“You’re awake at last,” he said in a kind and warm voice. “How’re you feeling, today?”
She rubbed her eyes and sat wondering if she would ever wake up from her nightmare.
“I’m okay,” she said softly.
“Breakfast is ready,” he said and quietly left the room. Mareijke slowly got up and headed for the bathroom.
Amnesia. It had been seven days of emptiness. She simply couldn’t remember anything. The first day upon awakening in hospital, she had also felt disoriented … and he was there. Uri Ayrrault. He was the only person in the room at the time.
He had spoken of an accident. She had spent seven traumatic days in hospital trying to remember something … anything. But the harder she tried, the worse the headaches became. Each vain search had ended in tears.
After being discharged, Uri had taken her to their home. She hated not remembering. She hated not knowing who she was or from where she had come. She hated not knowing the tall, blonde man who claimed to be her husband. She didn’t even recognize their house.
Mareijke went down the stairs to the sheltered patio, as she had done the previous day. She joined Uri at the table, wishing the day would be less bright. Sunlight danced on the sparkling blue water of the swimming pool behind Uri. It made her eyes ache. She sat next to him with her back to the garden and ate some of the food on her plate.
She wasn’t hungry. The orange juice was cool and she enjoyed it. It didn’t remind her of anything and she wondered if she had ever had any before in her life. It was orange juice, she thought quietly. Obviously, she must have had some during her life.
“You have a doctor’s appointment,” Uri said warmly, smiling at her.
“When?” Mareijke asked disinterested.
What did it matter? The doctor had already said nothing could be done about her memory loss. Her head was a blank slate and it was apparent no one could help her. Her self-piteous state of mind helped even less.
“Crying won’t bring back your memory,” Uri had said to her in the hospital room.
“I can’t help it,” she had answered between sobs. “Who am I?”
“Memory loss is scary,” the doctor had said. “You’ve lost all your personal information, but you’re still able to speak, think, write and drive a car.”
“But … will I ever remember again,” she had asked.
“When the test results return, we’ll talk again.”
She wasn’t eager to see the doctor, but went with Uri for the examination at eleven. The doctor was optimistic and told them that Mareijke’s tests had confirmed what he already knew. There was no brain damage, which meant the coma had left no permanent effects.
“Coma?” Mareijke asked, dazed. The doctor looked at Uri and then at the papers in front of him.
“Your husband wanted to tell you about the coma,” the doctor said, giving Uri a look of disapproval.
“Coma?” Mareijke asked again, looking at Uri as she grappled for some kind of recollection as to what had happened.
“Yes,” the doctor said quietly. “You were flown to South …”
“I brought you” Uri cut in, “to one of the best hospitals in Pretoria. You were in a coma for two weeks. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to worry.”
The doctor looked at Uri and then at Mareijke. Directing his words to her, he said, “You went into a coma after sustaining a head injury. Amnesia is not unusual. Since there’s no damage of any kind, I am certain that it’s only a temporary situation.”
“Temporary,” Uri said, suddenly seeming more interested than he had been before. He sat forward and asked, “How long will it take for her memory to return?”
“I don’t know. The course of amnesia is variable,” the doctor said. “Any emotional trauma could prolong the condition. Since there is no brain damage, she could regain her memory within weeks or a few months.”
“So, what you’re saying is that it all depends on the extent of the brain trauma,” Uri said, “which could be emotional.”
“Yes,” said the doctor.
After their return from the doctor, Uri left for a business appointment and she promised him that she would rest. Mareijke didn’t feel like sleeping. She sat on the patio for a while looking at the beautiful little garden. She wondered how long they had been living there. She went into the house and decided to look for something that could possibly jolt her memory.
Most of the drawers and cupboards were empty. She went to their bedroom and also found nothing of consequence. Mareijke felt very uncomfortable in the house. It was cold and austere, much like her relationship with Uri. There were no photos of them, not even a wedding picture.
Her days passed quietly. She slept during the afternoons and then waited for Uri to return. He made dinner and they spent the evenings reading. Mareijke retired early each night. It was a dismal routine.
She had asked Uri to bring her some magazines to keep her busy. He brought novels for her to read instead and she spent a great deal of time reading and resting.
A week later, she was back in the doctor’s waiting room, paging through one of the magazines to help pass the time. She wasn’t sure why, but one of the pictures in an advertisement had a strange effect on her. She frowned. Tapping the picture with her finger, Mareijke closed her eyes and tried to remember the place.
The magazine was violently snatched out of her hands giving her the fright of her life. Uri was extremely agitated. He pretended to be interested in the magazine and then, with magazine in hand, walked up to the young woman at the reception counter to ask how much longer they would have to wait.
Mareijke instinctively felt uncomfortable with his reaction. It stayed with her for the rest of the morning. She cornered him at home and couldn’t understand why he refused to talk about the picture. The walls of their house seemed to close in on her. When he left for work, Mareijke decided to see if any of her neighbours were at home.
The picture was a link to something and even though she didn’t know what it was, she was determined to find out.
A domestic worker was in one of the gardens. She didn’t recognize Mareijke at all. According to Uri, they had been living in the neighbourhood for several months, but the young woman said they had only moved in two weeks ago.
She returned to their home. When Uri came home, Mareijke decided to retire to her room earlier than usual.
“What’s wrong, Mareijke?” he asked.
“I have a headache, nothing serious though.”
“You’re still upset with me about the magazine,” he said.
“No,” she tried to sound convincing.
“You are upset with me, Mareijke,” he said slowly.
“Okay, I am,” she said quickly. “You don’t want me to remember anything.”
“You said we moved here several months ago. Where are my things? Didn’t I have clothes, shoes, jewellery … albums? Why aren’t you showing me photos of our past?”
“When you’re recovered, I’ll tell you about your past and show you photos.”
“Recovered? I am recovered!” Mareijke was frustrated. “I’ve been resting in this horrible house for almost two weeks now. I can’t just sit around anymore, Uri.”
“Then we’ll talk over the weekend. That’s to say if you can be patient until then.”
She went to bed early, tossing and turning for hours. Eventually she fell asleep. The next morning at breakfast, Mareijke found it very difficult to act naturally. She didn’t trust Uri anymore, but she would wait until the weekend for him to tell her about her past. If he didn’t, it would prove her fears to be true … that he didn’t want her to regain her memory.
Mareijke waited very patiently for him to leave before she went out to scout the neighbourhood. It seemed to be school holidays as many children were out in the streets. She walked down the road and found a group of teens sitting on the lawn in front of a house not far from where she lived.
The huge electric gate and savage dog that stood barking at her made her look up and down the road for another option, but the group of people at that particular house seemed to be the only choice available to her. She decided to take a chance and see if the jovial group would help her.
Two girls approached the gate while the dog continued its barking fit.
“Hi! I’m Mareijke Ayrrault from up the road,” she introduced herself above the canine racket.
The girls smiled, but seemed cautious.
“I was wondering if you could help me,” she ventured again at the top of her voice.
If only the dog would shut up, Mareijke thought, losing her courage to continue.
“My mom’s not home and we’re not supposed to talk to …” one of the girls shouted back. “Oh, SHUT UP, BRUTUS!”
The dog listened to the girl and immediately stopped barking. Mareijke was amazed at its obedience. The girl smiled apologetically at Mareijke.
“Sorry,” she said. “We’re not supposed to talk to strangers.”
“When will your mom be home?” Mareijke asked.
“She only stops work at five,” the girl answered.
Five o’clock would be too late. By then Uri would be on his way home.
“I’m suffering from amnesia and I just wanted to know a few things about a certain place,” Mareijke said.
“Wow!” the other girl responded. “That’s bad. Where’s this place?”
“I have no idea. I was at the doctor this morning and saw a picture in a magazine,” Mareijke responded excitedly.
“We have Internet,” the first girl said, looking at her friend.
“Will you help me?” Mareijke asked.
She was losing them. She needed to think quickly. She didn’t know what to say to convince them that she was harmless.
“She’s nice,” the other girl suddenly said. “Let’s help her.”
The first girl laughed and beckoned for someone to have the gate opened. Relieved, Mareijke followed the girls past the group of teens into the house. The dog was quite conspicuous in its absence, having long forgotten about her existence.
They started searching for the place on the Internet.
“It was a picture of a desert,” Mareijke said.
The girl took Mareijke on a tour through several pages of desert images. The word ‘Sahara’ seemed to stick inside Mareijke’s head, but she continued to look at all the images. Then suddenly, one specific picture made a very strong impression.
“Stop,” Mareijke said to the girl, pointing to the picture.
“This one?” the girl asked. She clicked on it to have the image enlarged. The picture was an array of autumn hues, with the silhouette of a camel-train against a sand dune. Mareijke was overwhelmed by it. While she could remember absolutely nothing about her past, she was sure it would eventually arouse a distant memory. The intensity of her emotions drew her into the picture, which confirmed her suspicions about Uri Ayrrault and the house, both having left her devoid of any familiar feelings.
“I think I’ve been in a place like this before,” Mareijke said softly.
“Do you want me to print the picture for you?” the girl asked.
“No,” Mareijke said, confidently. “I only need a name. Let’s look at pictures of the Sahara Desert?”
The words on the screen bounced around in the vacant space in her head: Sahara Desert; sandstorm, Sahara; Visit the Sahara; Dunes of Sahara …. Her head was starting to ache.
“This one,” Mareijke said, pointing to a seated camel.
Opening the page, Mareijke was lost as she stared at the camel.
“It’s about the Libyan and West Sahara deserts,” the girl said.
“The limits of the Sahara Desert are the Atlantic Ocean on the West, the Atlas Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea in the North,” Mareijke read the words slowly. “Atlas Mountains …”
The girl typed Sahara Desert and Atlas Mountains and the second picture made Mareijke stand back with tears welling in her eyes. Morocco.
“That’s it,” she said.
“You remember,” the girl asked excitedly.
“No!” Mareijke was overwhelmed by her experience. “But that name ... I’ve been there. Morocco.”
Her head was pounding and she felt nauseas.
“Are you okay?” the girl asked. “You’re terribly pale. Sit down.”
“Should I get you some water?” the other girl asked.
“Go and get her some water,” her friend demanded.
Mareijke sat on the chair offered to her by the young girl and waited for the glass of water. She drank slowly. As soon as she found some strength, she stood up and looked at the two concerned faces in front of her.
“Thank you,” she said kindly to the girls. “You don’t have to worry. I’m feeling better. You’ve really helped me a lot.”
“Really?” the one asked.
“Yes,” Mareijke smiled.
She greeted them, promising that she would return if she needed more information. She walked home slowly and went to her room to take a nap, but couldn’t sleep. She found herself pacing the patio when Uri’s car suddenly pulled up the driveway. He was home much earlier than usual. While suspicion had taken the place of her placid trust in the man, she realized that she would have to carry on as if nothing had happened that day.
“What on earth is wrong?” Uri asked, after entering the house. “You’re deathly pale. Should I phone the doctor?”
“No. I just have a terrible headache.”
“Again?’ he asked incredulously. “Have you taken your medication?”
“Mareijke! You need to be more responsible.”
He went to find her tablets and brought them to her with a glass of water.
“You need to rest,” he insisted. For the first time he took her in his arms. She rested her head against his chest. It was obvious that he cared and even though she didn’t trust him, there was a sense of familiarity. Strangely, it made her feel safe. Yet, he was lying to her. He was being deliberately evasive.
The medication worked fast and before long, she was sound asleep in her room. When she awoke, he prepared a warm bath for her and then prepared dinner while she soaked in the soothing water. He appeared to be a good person, she thought, reflecting upon his kindness towards her. Yet, she felt no definite connection. He was someone of significance in her life, but not her husband.
She ate dinner, sat on the patio with him for a while and then retired for the evening, falling asleep almost immediately. The first few hours of untroubled sleep passed, but Mareijke woke up in the early hours of the morning screaming and kicking, with Uri beside her, trying to comfort her. When she finally realized that she was awake, she started to cry.
“Nightmare?” Uri asked quietly.
“Yes,” she said through sobs.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked in a kind way.
“No. I can’t remember anything.”
He held her against him and she stayed there, safe in the warmth of his arms and safe from visual contact. He would know that she was lying. After a while, when he was certain that she was calm and ready to sleep again, he switched off the bed lamp and left the room.
Mareijke had dreamt about Uri. He had been following her. There was another man dressed in white, but she couldn’t see his face. He was ill. There was a lot of animosity between the two men. They were in the desert and there was a helicopter approaching. Uri was taking her away from the other man and she didn’t want to leave. He forced her into the helicopter. Screaming and kicking, she tried to get away from him, but it was just a terrible, terrible nightmare.
It had all felt so real. She tried to remember the man in her dream. He was someone she could trust, while Uri had become more the stranger to her. She couldn’t make sense of it. She realized that she only needed time for her memory to return. If her emotions were keeping her from remembering, she would need to work through them as patiently as possible.
Mareijke knew she couldn’t force herself to remember. It would only prolong the situation. She didn’t care if it took days or weeks or months. Eventually she would remember. The picture she had seen in the magazine was her unfaltering hope.
She fell asleep again and slept peacefully until the next morning.
Uri brought the breakfast tray to her room. He was kind and considerate, yet his dubious agenda made Mareijke uneasy.
“I think you should stay in bed today,” Uri said quietly. “You need to rest.”
He drew the curtains, allowing the lazy sun to stretch its warm rays across the room. Mareijke ate in silence, watching Uri as he stared out of the window.
“What are your plans for today?” she asked carefully.
“Work, as usual,” he said in an aloof manner.
“Do you work here in Pretoria?” she probed.
“Yes,” he turned to look at her. His eyes bore through hers, forcing her to stop eating.
“I’m sorry,” she said quietly.
“Why?” his tone had changed as he stared at her.
“For asking,” she answered.
“You’ve been very quiet since the accident,” Uri said, watching her carefully. “Today you ask many questions, Mareijke?”
Mareijke felt vulnerable under his sharp scrutiny. He walked to the side of the bed and looked at her carefully.
“Rest well, Mareijke van Staalduinen. Rest well!”
He walked out of the room, closing the door behind him. A few minutes later she heard his car pull out of the driveway. A light frown settled on her forehead. He called her Mareijke van Staalduinen, not Ayrrault. Did he know?