"The mirror," said the nurse. "Show her the mirror, it will all come back." Those were her first words. I didn’t like her voice. It was hard and grated in my head.
Silver flashed as the doctor picked up a hand mirror from the table next to him and held it up in front of my face.
Dark blue eyes stared back at me. Dark blue eyes in a heart-shaped, pale face. A white bandage hid the hair. But whosoever hair it hid it wasn’t mine. The eyes were not mine, nor was the face. "I don’t understand," I said weakly. "Who is that?"
"Don’t you recognize your face Kelsey?" asked the doctor. His voice held the slightest trace of worry.
I started to shake. It was uncontrollable. My body was seized with an argue that blurred my vision and clattered my teeth together. "I’m n-not K-Kelsey," I managed to stutter. "Please, w-what’s hap-pening?"
The slender woman started to speak, but the doctor put his hand on her arm. "Leave me alone with your daughter," he said.
The nurse took the woman from the room and shut the door. The doctor waited a few minutes. We stared at each other in silence. Questions tumbled and jostled in my head, tangling up and making coherent speech impossible. The doctor seemed to understand this. He pulled up a chair and sat by my bed.
"Do you know what year we are?" he asked gently.
I did, and I told him so.
"And the month? The date?"
I frowned. That was tricky. If I had a brain tumor perhaps I’d been unconscious for a few days. Why wasn’t my family here with me though? I grew distressed. "It’s January still, isn’t it? The fifteenth?" I tried to remember when I’d left the house.
The doctor bit his lip. It was the first time I’d seen him look worried. He took my hand. His hands were so large, I thought. Mine was tiny and fragile in his. "It’s May," he said. The tenth of May."
My first reaction was relief. I hadn’t missed my husband’s birthday. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but that was my first thought. Then the gravity of the situation became clear. "I’ve been in a coma for five months?" I asked.
"Nearly five months, yes."
"Am I cured now? Can I go home?"
"In a few weeks, I think."
"But, but why isn’t my husband here?"
The doctors hands tightened around mine, hurting me.
"What is going on?" I asked.
"Do you remember your name?" He asked cautiously.
"Vivian Georgette Marina Lanonne. I’m thirty-seven years old. I have three children. My husband’s name is Etienne, and we live just outside Paris in a lovely stone house with a large garden." I smiled, well content with myself and my memory, which was seeping back with the irresistible flow of the tide. "I want to see my children, they must be absolutely crazy worrying about me. And Etienne, poor Etienne. Can I see him now? Is he waiting outside? I know you wanted to protect me from shock, I suppose after being in a coma for five months you were worried about me, but I can remember everything now, at least, most everything." I smiled engagingly. "Please, can I see Etienne?" Tears started to burn my eyes and they trickled, hot, down my cheeks.
The doctor stopped smiling though. All the muscles in his face were drawn tight around the bones and his eyes burned into mine. "You can never see them again," he said. "You must forget that you ever knew them."
"Forget? What? Are they dead?" My voice rose to a shriek. My heart was hammering so hard in my chest it was shaking me.
"No, no. But, oh damn, I’m doing this so badly. You’re the first. The first person to ever undergo this surgery. How could I know? Kelsey, Kelsey! Answer me! Are you there?" He leaned over me, seized my arms and stared into my eyes. "Kelsey! Answer me!"
"I’m not Kelsey", I whimpered. "Please, what is going on? Where’s Etienne? I want Etienne!"
The doctor sank back onto the chair and wiped his hand over his sweaty face. He sat in silence, collecting his thoughts, then he picked up the mirror again and showed it to me. "Your name is Kelsey Verdant. You are eleven years old. You had a brain tumor. Normally this sort of tumor is fatal. There is nothing we can do. But a few years ago doctors began to experiment with a sort of brain transplant. It seemed to work well with monkeys, and so we wanted to try it on a human. This type of tumor strikes very young children. It seemed a crime not to try and save you. You were doomed. When we finally got a donor you were already practically a vegetable and in terrible pain.
“We called your parents and they brought you in. It was in January, five months ago. We had a donor. A woman had been in a terrible car crash. Her brain was intact, but she was bleeding to death. Her spine was broken. We could not save her. Her husband agreed to donate her organs. We took part of her brain. We operated on you that very night. Thirteen hours. In the morning you were still alive.
“You have been in a coma for five months. We maintained you in a coma so that the brain’s activity was at it’s lowest, and so there would be a minimum of swelling and damage. When your brain waves started to show normal activity we woke you up.
“Vivian Lanonne has been dead and buried for five months. Your family has mourned you. Would you go back to them as you are now? You are an eleven-year-old girl, two years older than your eldest son is. How could you go back? But there is a family here who needs you. You were their only daughter. Your mother has been sitting at your bedside everyday for five months. Your father comes each evening and holds your hand and tells you stories. You can make them very happy. You can have a whole new life. Or you can destroy two families as well as yourself. You can try and be Vivian Lanonne. Eleven years old. Married with three children. Or you can be Kelsey Verdant. Adored daughter of Lucille and Paul. Please consider the two cases most carefully."
I closed my eyes. The images were too painful. "Why?"
(to be continued on http://www.jennifermacaire.com - on the front page is a link to the rest of the story if you would like to finish it!)