I woke up with a start, needed a moment to figure out where I was before allowing myself to sink back onto the mattress, my mind retracing the events that had led me here. After I’d staggered away from the beach, I’d come across a dusty, four-foot-wide track. Trying yet continually failing to regain focus, I attempted to force my brain to decide which direction to take. I stood by the side of the path forever, my mind spinning. Unanswered questions piled on top of each other, layer after stifling layer of uncertainty. When I couldn’t bear it any longer, and for no discernible reason other than gut instinct, I turned right.
As I’d limped along, forcing one foot in front of the other, the sky had clouded over, taking away most of the moonlight and visibility, making everything around me more ominous. I picked up the pace, ignoring the pain in my temple, which ordered me to slow down, to sit down, and kept walking. About a quarter of a mile later, a fat water droplet bounced off the top of my skull. A flash of lightning followed, and not long after I heard the sound of rolling thunder in the not-too-far-away distance. Shivering, I upped my speed some more, hoping to find refuge before the heavens opened and dumped the brunt of the approaching storm on top of my aching head.
The track had been deserted. Not a single pedestrian, cyclist or anyone in a car I could ask for help. As I walked, my feet thudding in a steady rhythm on the path, I’d asked myself the same question over and over, saying it out loud, as if making a demand would suddenly provide the answer. “What’s my name? What’s my name? What. Is. My. Name?”
Fear came and went like waves on the beach. One minute my mind screamed at me to find shelter and get warm, but the next, the question returned, running through my head at a maniacal speed. What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name?
I’m not sure how long I walked. An hour? More? Bombarded by the frigid rain, barefoot and wearing nothing but shorts, my head still pounding and no recollection of…anything, I needed to find help. I ordered myself to keep going. Keep going. Those two words became my new mantra, the only way to drown out the voice in my head bellowing this was all wrong, I was in trouble. Serious trouble.
When the track veered to the left and I’d seen a flickering light in the distance, I’d wanted to run to it. My legs refused. They were at least twice as heavy since I’d started out, making me walk more slowly as I tried to ignore the sharp pebbles and stones digging into the soles of my feet. Getting closer to the light, I could make out the faint shape of a single-story home and I let out an exhausted grunt. Almost there, I told myself. Hobbling up the long driveway, I staggered in the direction of the front door, but when a flash of lightning illuminated the skies and the car parked outside, my feet stopped dead. I squinted at the large blue-and-white letters on the side of the vehicle. The word POLICE.
I scrambled, toes and heels searching for traction, as if they, not my brain, sensed danger. It didn’t make sense. An officer might be able to help me, except I knew—I knew—I couldn’t knock on that door. Couldn’t ask whoever was inside for assistance. I had to get out of here, and so I turned and ran this time, disregarding the stinging in my feet and the searing in my lungs as a primeval fear deep within me took over, urging me to put as much distance between me, the house and the police cruiser as fast as I could. I kept going for longer than I thought possible, didn’t slow down until the track widened some more and changed into smooth asphalt. That was when, doubled over from the effort, I finally caught my breath for long enough to steady the pounding of my heart.
I still had no idea what was going on, what had happened to me, or why I was so afraid. I racked my brains, but no answers came, and it was still pitch-black when I’d made it to the outskirts of a town. I couldn’t bring myself to knock on anyone’s door. I didn’t recognize any of the landmarks, street signs or houses, had no clue who lived in the latter, but understood they’d call the cops if they were woken up by a half-naked man who couldn’t tell them who he was. Although I knew little else, I was certain I couldn’t take that risk.
When I saw a set of headlights coming my way in the distance, I’d crouched behind some leafy bushes to stay out of sight. I rubbed my face with my hands, noticing the watch on my left wrist for the first time. It looked older, had a plain white face with black roman numerals, and the glass cover and silver metal band were scratched and worn. The time said five fifteen, and as the first rays of sunlight crept their way across the skies above the clouds, I decided it had to be morning. I examined the watch, willing myself to recognize it and remember where it had come from, but only found a blank static space in my mind where the knowledge should have been. Heading underneath the nearest streetlamp, I released the clasp, took off the watch and examined it from every angle, ran a finger over the engraving on the back.
All my love,
“My name’s Brad?” Hearing my voice was like listening to a stranger. “My name’s Brad.” I made it a statement this time, trying to convince myself with certainty. Now I had my name, I hoped other things would fall into place. I stood there with my arms bent, palms facing the sky, as if expecting a miracle. Nothing. Everything remained as strange as it had been since I’d woken up. My name sounded unfamiliar on my tongue and as for Rosalie, I had no idea who she was, or if I loved her back. Was she out there searching for me? Why couldn’t I remember someone who was obviously an important person in my life? My pulse accelerated again as I tried to process yet more questions I didn’t have the answers to. They frustrated me so much I slipped the watch back on my wrist and kept going, repeating my name is Brad, in the hope it would have the desired effect if I said it enough.
A little farther down the road I’d reached a single-pump service station with a store that had a bright, wooden Jim’s General & Deli sign on the door. Perched above it on the front of the roof was a giant, weathered plastic sculpture of a fish my brain somehow identified as a sturgeon. Another sign near the door caught my eye, some company proclaiming they offered the best fishing charters in Maryland. Maryland. Instinct combined with logic told me that’s where I was, although I didn’t know how I felt so certain, or why I somehow also knew this wasn’t where I belonged. I looked around. Two cars were parked out front, one with a teardrop trailer attached to the back. Great. I knew the species of a plastic fish and what kind of trailer this was but couldn’t remember my own name or what I was doing in Maryland. There had to be some comedic value in that— too bad I couldn’t find it. I shook my head, immediately regretting the gesture because of the sharp stabbing pain it caused in the side of my skull.
Staying low, I crept to the vehicles. My immediate and not particularly brilliant plan was to find water, clothes and shoes before retreating someplace else, getting warm and figuring out what to do next, but as I got closer to the trailer, I’d noticed the Maine number plate on the back. Black-capped chickadee. Pinecone. The word Vacationland.
A jumble of pictures flashed through my mind. An old house. Twinkling, star-shaped lights. The sound of laughter. As I tried to grasp the fragments they retreated into the corners of my mind, disappearing from reach. Had I remembered something from my past?
More bewildered than before, I stumbled around the side of the trailer. With shaky fingers I reached for the handle, my mouth dropping in surprise when the door opened. I climbed in, groaning as I got out of the wind at last, until the pungent smell of a lemon air freshener dangling next to the window smuggled its way up my nose, making me retch. I looked around the compact space, took in the kitchenette, fully made-up bed, white bathroom complete with toilet, sink and shower, and the small seating area that had a padded bench and cat print cushions. My legs wanted to walk the rest of my body to the bed and make it collapse there, but I refused. Drink. Clothes. Shoes. Those were what I’d come for.
I grabbed a glass from the cupboard and filled it with water, gulped as much of it down in one go as I could as the rest dribbled down my chin. Two more glasses followed and, once satisfied, I pulled open the small wardrobe next to the bathroom, yanked a green flannel shirt from a hanger and reached for a pair of jeans. They were so long and baggy they pooled at the bottom of my ankles, but they were warm, and as I hoisted them over my board shorts I heard loud voices outside, two people in a heated argument. I ducked, leaving a sliver of space for me to see out of the window. A man, his shoulders almost as broad as his legs were long, strode ahead of a petite blonde woman. She took twice as many steps to keep up with him, almost running by his side, and both yelled at each other as they approached, their words gaining enough clarity for me to hear.
“No, Rita,” the man shouted. “I’m not going to calm the fu—”
“Don’t you swear at me, Sal,” Rita yelled back, her face pinched. “I apologized. I told you it didn’t mean anything. And let’s be real. It’s not like you’ve never—”
“Don’t put this on me.” Sal stopped, turned, and pointed a finger. “We weren’t married.”
Rita let out a piercing laugh. “You’re a hypocrite.”
“Get in the car.”
“I’m not driving home with you in this mood.”
Sal the giant didn’t move, and when Rita refused to budge, he said, “Suit yourself.”
He opened the driver’s door, disappeared inside, and started the engine. I wondered if he would leave his wife stranded there, but after a moment’s hesitation, Rita scuttled over and got in the car.
This had been my cue, time to get out of the trailer and hope they were too distracted by their arguing to see me, but the vague shreds of recognition I’d experienced when I’d spotted the Maine number plate stopped me from moving. The air filled with the scent of lemon air freshener, and when the trailer lurched forward, I’d made no attempt to escape because something inside me gently whispered that Maine was home.
Excerpted from You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon, Copyright © 2021 by Hannah McKinnon. Published by MIRA Books.
Hannah Mary McKinnon
Forget the truth.
Remember the lies.
He wakes up on a deserted beach in Maryland with a gash on his head and wearing only swim trunks. He can’t remember who he is. Everything—his identity, his life, his loved ones—has been replaced by a dizzying fog of uncertainty. But returning to his Maine hometown in search of the truth uncovers more questions than answers.
Lily Reid thinks she knows her boyfriend, Jack. Until he goes missing one night, and her frantic search reveals that he’s been lying to her since they met, desperate to escape a dark past he’d purposely left behind.
Maya Scott has been trying to find her estranged stepbrother, Asher, since he disappeared without a trace. Having him back, missing memory and all, feels like a miracle. But with a mutual history full of devastating secrets, how far will Maya go to ensure she alone takes them to the grave?