My mother always said, “Beware of broken memories.” It was a strange thing to say to a child. And growing up, I assumed the warning came from a place of hurt – my father left when I was twelve, and my brother died at birth. But oddly enough, my mother never uttered those words to my sister. It was for me, only for me, she often insisted.
After my mother’s death, I left the countryside for the city. My hometown was the embodiment of broken memories. But little did I know, moving into the world beyond was where my mother’s words proved true. It started a year after I settled down, on a regular day at the office, when talk of the new manager reached my desk.
“I looked him up – he’s listed in the world’s top ten most eligible bachelors,” Kristen said.
“Someone has a crush… again,” Will stated.
Instead of frowning, as she usually did, Kristen nodded with a grin. “I call dibs. Don’t steal him,” she said to me.
“He’s all yours,” I replied. I wasn’t interested in relationships. After witnessing my mother’s heartbreak, I was sold on embracing my singlehood.
“Aw, I was looking forward to a fight,” Will said.
“Shut it, Will. I have enough competition as it is,” Kristen snapped. “He’s just too… I can’t even… ah…” Kristen clasped her phone at her chest in a moment of daydream.
Shaking his head, Will leaned toward me. “Have you seen this guy?”
“Well, Kristen showed me a picture. He kinda looks like someone I know.”
“Who?” Kristen asked.
“I’m not sure. He just looks… familiar – like I’ve seen him before.”
“Please don’t tell me he’s a movie star,” Will said.
“I don’t know – maybe?”
“He’s a movie star?” Kristen gasped. Without hesitation, she tapped away at her phone.
“Look what you’ve done.” Will sighed.
To my relief, our conversation ended shortly after – after Kristen confirmed he wasn’t a movie star. But it was to Will’s dismay, as we were interrupted by the man of the hour. He strode onto our floor in an iron-pressed suit, tailored for his swimmer’s physique. As he greeted everyone with a friendly smile, I could almost hear Kristen’s heart beating out of her chest. Indeed, he was an attractive man. Yet there I was, trying to recall where I’d seen him. And the more I racked my brain, the stronger enmity there was.
“He’s perfect,” Kristen whispered, nudging me for affirmation. Unfortunately, I could only offer a shrug. I couldn’t pretend to adore him, when I had a strange urge to flee. It seemed silly to have such a notion. But, my instincts have saved me before. And I couldn’t ignore its prompt, especially in the presence of – what I concluded as – evil.
That day, after lunch, I began my search for a new job. It was an irrational move – I was well aware of how I looked with my reasoning. But I had to. I just had to. And by the time everyone started departing for home, I had a list of potential companies. Not wanting to waste another day, I stayed back to file my applications. And it was then, my craziness proved my sanity.
“You’ve seen me before, haven’t you,” he said.
I jumped in my seat. There he was, standing across my desk – how did I not hear him? His voice was deep and emotionless. And in fear, I refused to meet his gaze.
“No,” I replied, as I rose to my feet. Hastily, I packed my belongings – ready to retreat.
“Don’t lie. I’m not a fan of liars,” he stated.
“I’m not lying,” I said. Then snatching my bag, I gave a shallow nod and stalked toward the exit.
“I know of you,” he added. He paced alongside my quick steps, but absent were the clicking of his shoes on the wooden floor. “I remember – my memory has yet to fail me.”
“Sorry, but I don’t remember you,” I replied. “Goodnight.”
“Very well. I hope to see your resignation tomorrow,” he said.
I was ten feet away from the elevator, but I halted in my steps. Was that a threat, or did he know? Alike a prey falling for a predator’s trap, I asked, “What?”
“Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are; that some people see things that others cannot?”
His words resonated perturbation. I needed to leave – I wanted to – but instead, I turned to meet his placid mien. And in that moment, I remembered. It wasn’t a complete memory, but I knew where I’d seen him. His words, quoted from a book inspired by his very existence, now etched itself in my memory. And no matter how hard I tried to forget, I knew who he was.
“It’s better to forget,” he said.
“I don’t… d-don’t know what you’re talking about,” I managed to utter.
“Good.” He smiled.
As I stood frozen, he strolled past me and called for the elevator. Upon its arriving ding, he gestured for me to enter. As though I was under a spell, I obediently did as he commanded. And when the doors closed, I didn’t question a thing. I knew, that soon enough, that night would be a broken memory. He would become a figment of doubted history. And as long as I didn’t see him again, I could move forward… safe from a past I cannot remember – safe from a memory that wasn’t even mine.
Office, crush, and fail were words given by Rico/Pat. I’ve sleep on this set for weeks – wondering how to approach it. And since I didn’t want to write a cliche, as these words naturally suggested, I tried to pull off a twist. I can only hope you didn’t see it coming.
Now, it’s your turn. I challenge you to use this same three words to write a piece of your own. Oh, and since I have no more words – seriously, I’ve used them all up – please send me more! Please leave 3 random words in the comment section below. I’d really appreciate it!
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3 Words, 1 Story © 2017 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)