Beatrice was walking along the corridor on the bottom floor of the main school building when she heard it. Music filled the air. She felt herself drawn to it. The door was closed but she could see into the music room through the window.
There was a guy sitting with a cello between his legs. It was the same guy she had seen from the bus the other day. As he drew a bow across the strings a haunting melody poured from the instrument. Beatrice was hypnotised. She couldn’t move.
Beatrice didn’t notice Miss Elizabeth—the music teacher and unofficial school counsellor—sitting in the corner of the music room. She was tapping her foot in time with the music but she turned her head to see Beatrice peering through the window. Miss Elizabeth looked thoughtfully at Beatrice. She already knew most of the students from music class but she hadn’t met this girl with fiery red hair before. Just maybe… Miss Elizabeth let her thoughts drift as the bow flew faster across the strings of the cello.
Music swirled around Beatrice’s head and filled her heart until she felt like she was being lifted from the ground. She was flying through the darkness. Far below her in the mist was a mountain peak and she descended to find a dark-haired woman waiting for her.
‘Bea,’ she called, ‘Bea.’ The voice became more insistent and Beatrice felt a tugging at her sleeve.
‘Bea, come on, we’ll be late for history.’
Beatrice’s eyes suddenly focused to find Emily standing in front of her.
‘Bea, are you okay?’
‘Oh—yeah, sure. We should get to class.’ She turned and looked back at the music room. It was silent as they walked away.
Beatrice was still shaking as she took her seat in the classroom next to Emily.
Mr Garcia was at the front of the room. He began moving among the desks handing out notes. ‘This is a permission letter that you need to get your parents to sign. Next week we have our excursion to Lawton Wold which we will be using for our major project.’
He moved back to the front of the room.
‘History—what does it mean to you?’ He paused and looked around the blank faces in the room. ‘What is the difference between history and memory?’ Someone coughed nervously. ‘While these are rhetorical questions, we can shape our enquiry into history by defining the difference between history and memory. Would anyone like to have a go?’ He looked expectantly at the class. ‘Emily, how about you?’
‘Ummm—oh gosh, well—I guess history is what happened. Ummm—memory is what you think happened.’ She felt the answer was pretty lame. Emily looked at Beatrice for support, but she was surprised at the look on Beatrice’s face―it was like someone had suddenly walked over her grave.
‘Not a bad attempt, but I think you got it around the wrong way. Memory is about what happened and history is our attempt to understand the meaning of what happened. The modern conception of the self has memory at its core. You are what you remember. Identities retain the traces of the past in subtle but important ways. So now—Beatrice, are you okay?’ Mr Garcia had suddenly noticed her pale face.
‘I—I think I just need to go to the bathroom.’
Beatrice stood up uncertainly and hurried from the room.
‘Sir, perhaps I should go with her. Make sure she is okay.’
Mr Garcia nodded and Emily hurried after Beatrice. She found her locked in a cubicle and Emily could hear Beatrice sobbing. ‘Bea, are you okay?’
‘Yes,’ she sniffed.
Beatrice opened the cubicle door and walked to the sink. ‘I don’t remember anything.’ Her voice was a whisper.
‘What do you mean?’
Beatrice told her about the car accident and her memory loss. ‘So now I live with my grandmother. She says my memories will come back in time. Sometimes I get little flashes but they don’t make any sense.’
Emily didn’t know what to say. She put her arms around Beatrice’s shoulders and hugged her. Beatrice’s hair was soft against her face.