Letting Go

 Kurt looked through the glass wall of the office as the woman stood in the reception area. Tall, well dressed and smart, she looked every inch the professional businesswoman. The effect was only slightly marred by the look of confusion and concentration on her face as she looked around her at the fixtures and fittings, staring at them as if they held the answer to some urgent question.

Tom took his elbow. “I can take this one, Kurt.”

Kurt shook his head, realising that he had been trying to put the moment off.

“No, thanks for the offer, but I’ve got this.” He tugged at his jacket, opened the office door and strode out into reception.

“Hello. Ms Atkinson?”

She took his proffered hand and shook it.

“Please, call me Kathy.”

“Kathy, I’m Kurt. Please come through to our consulting room. Can I get you anything to drink? A cranberry juice, perhaps?”

“A cranberry juice? You have that? Sure, that would be good.”

Kurt nodded to the receptionist and led her through to the consulting room.

“This is a nice place,” said Kathy, sitting into the armchair and adjusting her dress.

“Yes. Business is very good.”

“Oh, I’m not keeping you from anything else, am I?”

“Not at all. Thanks, Mary,” he said, as the receptionist brought in a glass of juice.

“Cranberry juice. My favourite,” said Kathy with a brittle smile.

“We aim to please. Now, how can we help you?”

“I’ve been here before.”

“Yes?”

“Haven’t I? I mean, you are the only people doing this, right?”

“Absolutely.”

“Then I must have been here. Only I don’t remember it. You’d think I would, wouldn’t you, but I suppose that would defeat the object, if you could remember forgetting. I’ve been looking, but I don’t recognise the office, or the people, or you. Have I met you before? Are you the one that, you know.” She mimed a pair of scissors by her temple.

Kurt shook his head. “I’m not a technician, Kathy. I’m strictly front of house. I’m not a hairdresser either.” He repeated her scissors mime. It had the desired effect. Kathy laughed and the anxious tension in the air dropped.

“No, I don’t suppose you use scissors to actually cut the memories out.”

“Indeed. It’s non-intrusive. Not a scalpel in sight. Would you like to see the procedure equipment?”

“Oh no. No thank you. That’s not why I’m here.”

“Then how can I help you, Kathy?”

“I’ve been here before. I must have. I can remember my college years. I can remember my job, my friends. I can remember everything, except I can’t.”

“No?” Kurt kept his poker face in place.

“No. Things don’t quite add up. Like I know I’ve been to Tahiti. I can remember the beach, the hotel, things like that, but I can’t remember what I did there. I can’t imagine going there alone, but I can’t remember who I was with. There are things around the house that don’t add up. Why have I got an old pair of men’s slippers in the bottom of my wardrobe? I’ve kept a diary since I was six, but there’s a four year gap. And then there’s the money.”

“Money?”

“I paid nearly thirty thousand to QAC Holdings.” She looked at Kurt intently. Kurt remained impassive. “I work for a finance company, Kurt. I specialise in forensic investigation. I traced it back through several holding companies. I paid it to you. What was it I had cut out? Four years? Thirty thousand? It must have been a hell of a memory. I need to know, what was it?”

Kurt sat back, steepling his fingers to his lips.

“Kathy,” he said at length, “I don’t know if you’ve ever followed our history, but we are not universally liked and admired. There are organisations and congregations that would dearly like us to fail, so we have to adhere to a very strict code of ethics. Our procedures are regularly audited by various national and international governing bodies. We have to jump through a great many hoops just to open our doors in the morning. One of our responsibilities is a duty of confidentiality towards our clients. We cannot discuss memory removal details with anyone. Including the clients themselves.”

“What? You’re claiming confidentiality against myself?”

“It sounds harsh, I know, but those are the rules. If, hypothetically, someone had such traumatic memories that they wanted them removed, say over a period of years, then that is their informed choice at the time. We cannot then tell them what those memories were later. It would be like putting a cancer back after we removed it. If someone wants a memory removed, we are under an obligation not to then remind them, so to speak. Do you see?”

“But what could have been so awful that I would want four years removed like that?”

Kurt shrugged but remained silent.

“Can you at least tell me if I really did come in here and have – .” She snipped her mime again. “Or am I just going mad?”

Kurt smiled. “You don’t strike me as mad, Kathy. Not at all.”

“So I did come in here.”

“You are free to make any assumption you like. I’m afraid I cannot possibly comment.”

“But you don’t think I’m mad. I guess that’s a sort of clue, then.” She stared at his face as Kurt maintained his practiced poker face. “It was a husband, wasn’t it. Or a long term boyfriend? Jeez, what sort of bastard must he have been, that I would go to such lengths?”

“It doesn’t pay to make assumptions, Kathy. He might have been wonderful, and the memory too painful, or he might have died. If there was a he, of course. All I can tell you is that all of our clients are thoroughly counselled before the procedure. Any person seeking memory removal must be sure, must sign consent forms and is advised it is a one-way process.”

“But I’ve got a hole in my life now. Okay, maybe it’s a hole that’s been filled in, but I can still see the join. How can I live like that?”

Kurt reached into his jacket and produced a card. “Here, take this. It’s a therapy centre. They specialise in memory loss. Show them this card and they will quote you a discount rate.”

“Can they help me remember?”

“No. I’m sorry, but no-one can do that. Even if we were allowed to, not even we can put memories back into someone’s brain. We can only remove them. Honestly, I’m so sorry.”

Kathy tapped the card on the table, staring through it, lost in her thoughts. Finally she nodded.

“So I guess that’s it, eh? Whatever it was, I was too much of a coward to face it, and now it’s gone forever. These people, they can help?”

“I don’t know, Kathy. I’m not a doctor. I hope they can, though. I really hope they can. If you have lost four years, and if they were traumatic, you deserve to replace the memories you lost with happier ones.”

She smiled. “Thank you. That’s sweet.” She tucked the card into her purse and rose. Kurt rose too, holding the door open for her. In the doorway she paused.

“Look, I don’t want you to freak out or anything, but you’ve been nice. Well, as nice as the rules allow you to be, anyway. Maybe nicer, if I read between the lines right. Anyway, thank you. It can’t be easy, doing that. So, what I mean is, would you like a drink or something, maybe after work?”

Kurt held up his left hand. “Sorry, I can’t,” he said. Kathy noted the signet ring on his third finger.

“No, that’s fine, I understand. Still, thanks anyway.” She smiled sadly at him, turned and left.

Kurt watched her walk across the reception, idly twisting his ring round his finger. He remained staring at the door after she had left. Tom crossed the floor from their office and gave him a nod.

“How did it go?”

“Okay, I guess.”

“Did you tell her?”

“Of course not. You know the rules.”

“Sure, but even so. Man, that must have been rough. You ever been tempted? To have a wipe, I mean.”

Kurt looked down at his signet ring. Two ornate ‘K’s intertwined, like she and he had once upon a time.

“Forget Kathy? How could I? Why would I want to?”

   


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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

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