Tulane Hospital is just as I remembered. Or maybe it isn’t? When was the last time I was in the hospital? Why…
The EMTs make the mistake of leaving my side for a moment before the ER can take over. I roll off the gurney, grab a gown, and discard my romper for it. It’s much easier to sneak around a hospital as a patient than as a visitor. Patients always are assumed to be on their way back to their room. Visitors are always not where they should be.
If I’m showing my bare ass in the meantime? Well, they might as well take a picture. Some people have paid for that privilege.
I slip through the hallways, darting around corners, until I make my way to the psych ward.
Home sweet home.
Though the last time they actually caught me standing still for long enough to check me in was back in the 50s.
1950s…I think. Could be 1850s. Never can be a hundred percent on that.
Could be any of the 50s.
Such is the life of an Oracle.
What am I doing again?
A door swings shut across from me, a breeze of stale air brushing my matted curls across my face, giving me a moment of sweeping clarity.
Right. Someone’s blocking my vision, and I need to figure that out.
It’s almost too easy to get into the psych ward. Then again, they’re more worried about people sneaking out than in. My gaze sweeps over the residents in the dayroom, trying not to feel the tide of flashbacks in my head. I struggle not to replace the orderlies in scrubs with zealots, not to feel the way they tried to tie me to a stake, the hard, coarse rope rubbing against my skin. They thought me insane, but when they realized my mad ramblings were prophecies, they tried to do what they did to all things they didn’t understand. They tried to burn me.
Fuck, maybe it was the 1650s?
“You look lost, amor,” a voice croons from my side, and I glance down at the frail elderly woman in the wheelchair. When did she come up next to me?
How much time has passed?
“Only a moment, amor. Come sit. My stories are on,” the woman adds, rolling her chair to the small television encased in plexiglass to prevent people from tearing it out of the wall.
I follow after her, frowning at my feet when they peek out from under the gown. Where the fuck did my other shoe go?
Also, why did I paint the word Nympho on my toenails? Even worse is that I clearly couldn’t count the letters, and the last two letters are sharing space on my pinkie toe.
I tighten the back of my gown, sitting in one of the chairs, making sure my bare ass doesn’t touch the fabric.
The show changes, and a telenovela comes on, the elderly woman leaning forward, rapt on the screen.
“You said you’d be back one day, but I didn’t believe you,” she says, though I can’t tell if she was speaking to me or the screen. I mean, Rafael’s evil triplet did just come back from the dead, for apparently the third time in this episode.
Talk about a twist.
“I kept it safe for you, just like you asked,” she adds.
When I pull my eyes away from the screen, I see she’s watching me and not it. Oh, she must have been talking to me.
“You did?” I ask. I still have no fucking idea what she’s talking about. Or even who she is.
This happens way too fucking often, if you ask me. I leave a trail of breadcrumbs and notes for myself throughout history.
Just call me fucking Gretel.
The elderly woman carefully pulls out the chain around her neck. I thought it was a rosary, but when I see what’s dangling at the end of it. I can barely blink.
The gem moves back and forth in front of my gaze. A hypnotic rhythm. By rote, I hold my hand out. She places it into my palm, and I close my hand around it.
“Many people tried to take it from me when I was on the streets, including the cops, but I kept it safe for you,” she whispers. Her paper-thin voice crackles, followed by a hacking cough, interrupting the moment.
When she pulls away, I see what she once was. I remember luscious mahogany curls, warm eyes the color of honey, a set of red lips. But in a blink, I return to the present, even though the pang of realization hits me. My gut twists and my eyes begin to well with tears.
Marianna. She was everything to me once. But the same thing which always happens happened. I forgot. I looked at her face and couldn’t remember who she was. Who I was. Time moves differently for immortals. A breath, a heartbeat, a span of time is a lifetime to a human.
This is why humans and immortals don’t mix.
“Marianna,” I whisper, my voice broken, “I…”
She smiles at me, revealing that only a couple of her teeth remain. “I thought you’d come back, you know. For a long time, when you didn’t…I kept it safe for you.”
I gulp, looking down at the ring in my hand. A small circle of gold, topped with a flex of a diamond at the top. Worthless, really. Yet I left it with a woman I loved once. There must have been a reason.
I stand slowly, looking at Marianna again. “I—”
Marianna holds her hand up. “Take it and go, amor. There is nothing here for you anymore.”
My hand tightens on the ring, and I turn to leave the ward. I stop to knock an orderly out, filching his clothes to make my escape smoother. Once I make it out of the hospital, I hurl into the gutter. Regret making my stomach roll.
I blinked. And forgot.
How much longer will it be until I can’t remember my own name? My own mission?
I let myself cry. The entire walk back to my penthouse, I let myself cry.
I don’t stop crying even as I shower, change, and eat. As if letting myself cry once had opened the floodgates, and now it would never stop.
It doesn’t stop when my phone rings, and I pick it up with a clogged voice. “H-Hello?”
“Hello there…Cassandra?” a husky voice asks, poking a memory in me. A recent one. I think.
I cough to clear the tears from my voice. “That’s me.”
“It’s Ash,” the voice says.
Ash? Who the fuck is Ash?
“Uh-huh,” I respond, trying to figure out why this person is calling me.
“I was wondering if you had plans tonight? I want to reward you for giving me some good advice,” the voice says, and the memory slides into place, making me sit up in realization.
“Text me your address, and I’ll be there in twenty.”
I hang up when he continues speaking.
Enough feeling sorry for myself. It’s time for action. Or, more accurately, it’s time to figure out why Ash was in my vision.