Steve, Styke’s neighbour and friend asks Debby about a painting in Di’s room. Debby clarifies that Di didn’t paint. Debby and Styke seek Steve’s help regarding Debby’s loss of certain memories including drawing a certain picture

There was silence for about a minute after she confessed to not remembering. Truth be told, Steve’s scrutiny of her was scaring her a bit now.

Styke caught Debby’s terrified look from across the table and broke the silence with a quiet, “She couldn’t remember a conversation we had today either”

Steve instantly turned to him.

“What did the conversation consist of?”

Styke hesitated a bit and looked at Debby, who looked blankly at him.

Taking a deep breath, he recounted the talk between them before Steve arrived.

” What was the actual conversation? “, Steve asked after listening to Styke explain the conversation.

Styke hesitated for much longer this time.

Slowly, keeping his eyes glued to Debby’s still confused face, he started to say

” when I came out to get my tea, she was sitting there stiffly, so I sat down and she said she wanted to know what Rochelle said to me. ”

Inhaling, he continued,” I told her that she said everything Roch said was brash and rude. She asked me to get to the point. ”

There was a minute of terse silence until Styke said in a near whisper, ” Roch accused her of staging the wedding so her friend could elope ”

This time Styke watched as the light in Debby’s eyes went out.

In the same cold tone he’d heard before, she said,” I told you she was brainwashed ”

Before Styke could utter a single word, Steve spoke up, ” Who am I speaking to? ”

” Still me “, the same cold voice said.

Steve sat back a little more comfortably, though his eyes remained alert on the completely transformed girl in front of him.

” Why did you draw the ring in red? ”

She looked momentarily surprised that he had no interest in other, more obvious questions.

” Why use any other colour? “, she answered

” Why didn’t you remember the earlier conversation? ”

Now, he was asking the right questions.

Debby seemed to be taking her time with this one. After a few moments, she answered, ” Why would you want to remember something that hurts you? ”

Styke pondered that answer in silence. Why would someone?

” How else would you remember not to make the same mistakes again? “, he ventured softly

” What if you could remember the lesson but not the hurtful event “, she said, almost as softly

Both Steve and he were thrown by her statement.

” How? “, Steve asked, as he leaned forward, clearly intrigued

They were thrown by her next answer as well

” I don’t know ”

” How long do you have before you forget this forget this conversation? ”

The sound of Steve’s voice cutting through the silence was a welcome sound and all of them looked up.

” Usually I have a few hours, 4 at the most ”

” So, “, Styke began, rubbing his eyes tiredly,” You remember any other forgotten memories? ”

Debby looked confused and shook her head.

Steve perked up instantly,” You said you’d forgotten memories before, you remembered different versions from what others told you “, he prodded

Styke watched her swallow and braced himself for another answer.

” Only a few, they’re all after… The incident “, she said uncertainly

Steve nodded, Styke had given him a briefing about the girl who was moving in as Di’s nanny.

” Can you describe the events to me? ”

” I keep telling them he brainwashed her. But they are so quick to put all the blame on her. Tam would never do such a thing ”

Both the men sat with furrowed brows till Styke ventured to ask, ” Tam as in Tamara? The girl who.. ”

ran away with your husband – to-be, he couldn’t bring himself to say

” She was my best friend ”

Tamara and Debby had lived on the same block for years, but that didn’t mean they had much in common.

Styke remembered seeing Tamara on her bike going to school. Debby wasn’t rich, but from Tamara’s point of view, that could have very much been the case.

Debby’s family was so strict about everything including social circles that it was hard to believe that Tamara and she could be best friends. Tamara’s mom was an alcoholic and never had enough money to pay for her daughter’s education, which is why Tamara had a part-time job in a shop and could never afford to spend anything on herself.

But she had never struck anyone as the sort of girl who would deceive her best friend and run away on her wedding day. Which is why no-one in the neighbourhood mentioned her name.

The story became clearer when Debby explained that because her family didn’t like it, she kept most of their friendship secret. Tamara never seemed to have any sort of problem with this arrangement.

Until he brainwashed her.

Steve had been quiet while Debby had explained everything. When she finished, he pulled out a small contraption from his pocket.

It looked like a small handheld scanner, the type they used in supermarkets. It was perched on a hairband sort of device.

Holding it up, he explained, “This is a memory recall projector. Most people store memories in simple arrays, like racks on a supermarket. Some people however, are capable of alloting certain permissions to memories. These are people who have different personalities. On a general mind, it should project something like this ”

A flat surface with small squares arranged in a matrix sort of formation hung in the air, an inch or two above their heads as Steve put his headlight like contraption on . Some squares had no colour while.others were various types of grey.

” Would you like to see what your mind is like? ”

The question directed at her frightened her a little but her curiosity won her over and she nodded.

As soon as he placed the Memory Projector on her head, a colourful array of plane surfaces greeted her.

Unlike Steve’s mind, she had multiple planes in hers. Each plane had a few squares filed in with shades of a single colour. The colour varied lesser as it got to the right and the number of coloured squares kept increasing.

Her mind was definitely pretty.

She saw Steve gaping at the sight and at her.

“I didn’t think it was possible “, he murmured

” What is it Steve? “, Styke asked, unable to take his eyes off the sight.

” The onion metaphor “, the older man breathed out, reverently

” You. Are. Amazing. Deborah ”

It was after a cup of tea and a collection of papers later that Styke could make any sense of Steve’s continuous chatter.

Holding up two sheets of paper parallel to each other, Steve had explained that Debby had managed to create whole levels of memories. The plane furthest to the right held the most memories, while the ones to the left held only about 5-10.

“When she comes across a memory that hurts her, she creates another plane of memories to mask the earlier ones. She makes a complete copy of the previous plane and then edits out the harmful memory. The colours depict each plane of memory. One colour gets added in each plane.

She protects her core like an onion, with numerous layers, added one on top of the other ”

Suddenly the entire view flickered and another layer inserted itself to the left.

” 4 hours are up “, Steve said.

” You’ll need to rest before we begin tomorrow morning “, Steve said as he started to shuffle towards Di’s bedroom

” Start what? “, Debby asked uncertainly

” Getting your memories back “, came his voice.

It was 11 o’clock when all of them were finally awake and had had breakfast, managed to get inside Steve’s house and retrieve yet another gadget that they were sitting at the same table again.

“This device will sense a memory blockage and the underlying emotion behind that memory. We’ll have to heal the situations one by one to proceed to the next layer.”, Steve looked at Derby who nodded, though somewhat sceptically.

Styke was thankful that Steve had made Debby write a letter to herself for when she would forget the conversation that had happened last night.

Once the contraption was set, Steve turned it on.

“Tell me about your wedding, how you met, how he proposed and about Tamara . Everything”, Steve instructed and sat back, notepad in his hands.

He watched Debby make the transition to guarded again and nodded.

“It was a few months ago now, my parents and his were family friends. My parents began to drop hints on how eligible a bachelor he was, and how he was looking for a wife. I don’t believe in love really, I believe the marriage is completely formed on trust so I agreed to meet him a few times before I decided.

It was on our fourth meeting that I told him about Tamara. I figured if trust was going to be the base of our relationship, I wouldn’t want to hide our friendship from him. He took it surprisingly well.

After our 9th meeting, our parents decided to ask us about marriage. I had no problem with his personality friends, tastes or anything at that point. I didn’t know how manipulative he could be.

He met Tamara during the wedding planning sessions.

I didn’t know it at the time but he brainwashed her…. ”

A loud beeping called everyone’s attention of the story as the contraption signalled a blockage

“… to elope with him.”, she finished

Steve looked contemplatively at her, and then at the readout.

“Denial “, he announced quietly.” There is something you don’t remember about that day, because you want to deny it ”

“How did they elope? ”

Debby tried to concentrate on the memory but came up blank.

Steve nodded to Styke, who brought out the headlight like scanner again.
Fixing it on her head, he softly said, “Focus on the memory, it’ll project it so we can see”

Immediately there was a huge hall projected through the whole room, full of people dressed for a wedding.

Styke saw Debby’s parents looking pale and following a stricken bride running across the hall to her best friends house.

They heard Tamara’s Mom drunkenly telling Debby about Tamara’s sudden departure. They watched her run up the stairs to a room.

That’s where the whole room blurred out of focus.

Styke removed the hair band from her head as she collected herself enough to speak.

Steve crouched beside her and slowly said, “There was something you found in that room.
Something that convinced you that she had been brainwashed.
I’m sorry this hurts as much as it does but it’ll get better if we know what it was.”

“I can’t remember “, Debby said half wailing

“But you weren’t alone there “, Styke interjected, ” Tamara’s mom was with you”

“She could have seen something that you don’t remember”, Steve agreed

“We need to go back there”, Debby’s voice was so small that Styke couldn’t hear it. But Steve did.

Slowly kneeling down so they were level, he took her pale face in his hands and softly said, “People get wounded in battle sometimes and the only way to save their lives is to cauterise the wound. Think of this as the same. Once we get over this boundary, you’ll feel bad for a day or two, then everything will get better. I Promise.”

The fatherly advice was what she had needed to hear.

Blinking back tears and putting on her brave face, she changed into jeans and lead the men towards Tamara’s house.

Her ex-best friend’s house was as she had expected. In chaos and disrepair.
Tamara’s mom was still sitting near her stash of alcohol, drinking herself into oblivion.

Styke wrinkled his nose at the smell of rotting food and made sure not to go anywhere near the kitchen.

They only had another hour before Debby’s next layer would be reformed so she wasted no time in striding to the clearly drunk woman in the corner.

“5 months ago, I came here, what do you remember?”

The inebriated woman just looked blankly at her face and she began to get frustrated when Steve lay a calming hand on her arm and crouched next to her.

“This is concerning your daughter, Tamara ….”, he began

Before he could get another word out, the woman’s eyes were spitting fire as she raged,
“That girl got too many airs and graces after she met him, that good for nothing boy. That blasted letter she left was full of bullsh*t. Loved him, she said. He treated her well, she said. Stupid, that’s what she was.
And you, letting that boy get to her. He’s no good. Stupid stupid stupid”

She began chanting the last word over and over again, curled into a ball with her hands covering her head, rocking back and forth as Steve tried to calm her down.

Numb, Debby got off the floor and stood on shaky legs.

A letter, there’d been a letter.

“That must have been what you found in the room.”

She started on hearing Styke’s voice beside her and realised she must have said the last part aloud.

“It’s still in the room, where you left it”, Steve said as he got off the floor where a much calmer but still drunk woman was staring unseeingly at the wall.

“I know”, was all she could choke out.

And she did, it all came crashing back as if it had happened yesterday.

The letter, written on a piece of paper torn from Tamara’s notebook.

“Here”, Steve handed the letter he had found to Styke who read it aloud in a quiet solemn voice that echoed in the house anyway.

Dear Deb,

I know you will hate me for my actions when you find my letter but I don’t have another choice. I love Chris and he loves me. He is the only person apart from you who treated me well.

I know I should have told you that I was in love with him, but I thought he didn’t feel the same way about me till a few days before the wedding. I couldn’t see the friendship we built collapse in front of me, so I’m running away.

At least this way, I can still hope you will forgive me someday.


“You weren’t mourning your fiancé, were you? You were always mourning the loss of your best friend”

Styke put his arm around Debby as silent tears marked the cauterising of the wound she had harboured for 5 months.

Half an hour later, she still remembered the letter. It was a small victory, but a victory nevertheless.