Her body sags. Her shoulders slump. She is thirsty, her tongue is scratchy in her mouth.
‘Melanie,’ a voice calls. Her heart pumps harder, faster. ‘Are you thirsty? I’ve brought some water. You haven’t had anything to drink since yesterday.’
It’s a woman. She doesn’t seem to pose a threat. Her tone is sing-song. She walks into the room. She wears dark blue jeans and black boots, a jumper and a red beanie. Melanie watches as she nears. Her eyes wide, as if they’re about to pop out of the sockets.
‘Honey, don’t be afraid. It’s me.’
Melanie tries to speak, but her tongue is a plank of wood.
‘Do you remember who I am?’
Melanie shakes her head.
‘Here drink this,’ the woman holds out a bottle of water.
As Melanie gulps, a Jack Russell patters its way into the room. Melanie feels the connection at the same time as the dog buries its head into her shoulder.
‘Lenny remembers you,’ the woman says, smiling. ‘Do you remember him?’
This time, Melanie nods. She burrows her head on Lenny’s neck, fiddles with his ears. Her eyes fill with tears.
‘Make yourself comfortable, Melanie. I’ve got a bit to catch you up on.’ The woman sits on the floor next to Melanie and Lenny. ‘I’m your mum. You had a fall, on your way home from uni. You were left out on the footpath for…gosh, no one actually knows. But hours, the doctors think. A passer-by found you, another uni student. You were lucky. He called 000, went in the ambulance with you to the hospital. Even stayed until the nurses tracked me down.’
She stops, wipes her own eyes. ‘Ben. He’s called Ben. We’re so thankful to him.’
The name stirs a warm feeling in Melanie. She raises her gaze to meet her mother’s eyes.
‘Mum,’ her voice is raspy. ‘I think I remember something about him.’
‘What is it?’
‘Nothing yet, but when you said his name, I had a feeling. Something good. It was nice.’ The words croak and catch. Melanie clears her throat.
‘Well, he seems like a lovely chap,’ Mum says. ‘I’ve asked him to come by tomorrow, for afternoon tea. You can catch up more then. Hopefully, you’ll have your memory back.’
‘I hope so too.’ Melanie is digging through the darkness in her brain. She is feeling, groping, forcing.
‘Well, drink up. Then snuggle down in bed, have a nap.’ Her mum rubs the top of her head, just like she did as a child. ‘Don’t force anything. It’ll all come back in its own time.’
‘Mmmhmm,’ Melanie murmurs tiredly. ‘I think I will have a nap. I’m really exhausted.’
Her mum tucks her in, and closes the door on the way out.