The Perfect Son
Chapter 1………“Starting Over”
Journal Entry #1 – August 1, 2015
My name is Jordan Laird. At least that’s what they tell me. My parents that is. I vaguely remember them –enough to know that they are really my parents. I’ve been awake for ten days now. I just turned 18, but I feel only ten days old. I don’t remember anything before the accident, though my parents have filled in some of the blanks. Here goes:
- I love baseball and was the all-star player on my high school team before my mind got erased.
- Though I am into a variety of sports, my life ambition is to be a lawyer and work in my dad’s law firm.
- I had been dating a girl by the name of Chelsey Burkhart, very popular in my school or so I’m told. I’ve seen her photo, and she is very pretty, but I don’t recognize her and whatever feelings I may have had for her are gone.
- I am dedicated to my studies. I am respectful to my parents. I volunteer in charity events.
- I have blond hair, blue eyes and am classically handsome with an athletic body.
- I have never gotten into trouble or given my parents grief.
- I am the perfect son.
● ● ● ●
The tiny ball tip of the blue BIC pen paused abruptly in Jordan’s left hand when he heard footsteps in the hallway. He glanced up from the bed, where he laid on his stomach, facing the foot. Nothing but a sleeping bag was spread over the mattress, his sheets and blankets still in the moving boxes stacked around his new bedroom.
“Honey?” his mom knocked once then opened the door and peered in. There was strain to her face that Jordan couldn’t remember whether or not had been there before his accident. She had appeared tired, even weary, since the day he woke up in the hospital after a one-month coma. Had she been happy and full of life before he’d lost his memory?
Jordan closed the journal and sat up in the center of the bed. “Yeah?” Though he knew they were his parents, it felt strange calling them ‘mom’ and ‘dad.' Was this how a newly adopted child felt?
“Do you want me to make your bed for you?” she asked when she saw the bare mattress beneath the sleeping bag. “Dinner will be ready soon, and you should go to bed right after. Get your rest. It’s been a long day and Dr. Pierson said you shouldn’t overdo it for a while.”
“I can make the bed,” Jordan said. “I was going to anyway after I finished…” He looked at the journal.
“You finally started writing in it?” his mom asked softly.
Jordan nodded. His doctor suggested he start the journal since, right now, he didn’t yet feel comfortable opening up to his parents emotionally, as they still felt a little like strangers to him.
“I know all this is very hard for you, sweetheart,” she said quietly. “But you can talk to us about anything. You’re our son, and we love you.”
A glimmer of tears wet her eyes. He rarely saw her without at least a faint glaze of tears present. Jordan was sure it would comfort her if he opened up, even a little, made her feel like his mother again. But he couldn’t. Not yet. People spoke in the abstract about amnesia, but until they were the ones who lost their memory…they couldn’t begin to understand how traumatizing it was. How terrifying. Jordan had to consciously will himself not to panic at times when he looked into his mind and found only dark empty space.
“I know,” he murmured and twisted the pen between his fingers. “I’m…I’m not ready to talk yet.”
“I understand, honey,” his mom whispered. She gazed at him a long moment, as if studying his face, then stepped back. “If you need anything, just let me know.”
Jordan met her shimmering eyes and smiled softly. “I’m good.”
She nodded unsteadily and backed out of the room, closing the door.
Jordan stared after her, his gaze resting blankly on the door. How long would it take before all this felt like home? Like his family? At the present moment, he felt like a guest in the home of hospitable strangers.
He looked down at the journal and opened it to the first page, and his last entry.
I am the perfect son.
He didn’t feel perfect. He didn’t feel whole or complete in any way, just an empty container waiting to be filled. In a way, he didn’t even really exist. Not the Jordan Laird of the past. All he’d been left with was a name and a face –all else had been wiped away. Like the mind sweep of a covert government spy.
His mouth twitched. He didn’t suspect his former life had been so glamorous or intriguing. He closed the journal without adding anything more and placed it in the drawer of the nightstand. He would be starting at his new school on Monday –day after tomorrow –and he dreaded it. What would he tell anyone who asked too much about his past? He had the basics memorized, but what if they wanted in-depth details? Would they treat him like a freak if he told them he had amnesia? How could he make friends if he couldn’t tell them anything about himself?
Jordan stretched out on the bed and tucked his arms under his head. He stared at the white ceiling and the fancy glass casing around the light bulb. The house they’d moved into was huge. It hadn’t taken him long to understand his family was financially well off. By the contents of his closet, he’d discovered that he had preferred suits and sports jackets, slacks, and Dockers, polo shirts, dress shirts, ties –the whole “business/rich boy” ensemble.
When he slipped into those clothes now, he felt like an imposter. They fit perfectly as if specifically tailored for him –and maybe they had been –but he didn’t feel like he belonged in them. Would his parents understand if he wanted to change his wardrobe?
Jordan sighed and crawled off the bed. He dug out his sheets and blankets and made his bed then sat down on the end and picked up a box labeled Trophies & Photos. He set the box on the bed beside him and lifted the top off. One-half of the box was filled with a stack of 8x10 and 5x7 framed pictures of him and his former teammates, him and his girlfriend. Jordan stared at the group photo of his baseball team and coach. He studied the faces of each of his teammates, but nothing came to him, not a single spark of recognition.
He exchanged the picture for one of him and Chelsey Burkhart. Golden blond strands hung in spiral curls down over her shoulders. Her bright eyes were aqua and her full lips glistened with a pink gloss. Jordan’s arms were around her waist as she gazed up at him, a genuine smile on her pretty face. He appeared as happy as she was, his face lit up with…life. When Jordan looked in the mirror now, he hardly recognized himself as the same boy. The light was gone from his eyes, and he didn’t really feel alive.
As he placed the photo back in the box, he wondered why his parents hadn’t let him see his friends, his girlfriend, before he moved away. Wouldn’t associating with people from his former life possibly help him remember? But his dad seemed to think Jordan would be better off if they just got away from everything and everyone and started over. Maybe it was better. Jordan hadn’t really looked forward to seeing friends who were now strangers to him. Surely they would’ve been as uncomfortable and at a loss for words as him. Maybe they would have stared at him with sympathy and pity. He didn’t want that either.
When he went downstairs for dinner thirty minutes later, his parents’ tense voices coming from the kitchen stopped him in the hallway.
“It isn’t right, Mitch,” Clara Laird said thickly with a strong presence of tears in her voice. “It isn’t fair to me…or Jordan. Or you.”
“I know,” Mitch spoke low, his tone strained with anxiety. “But it’s best for now. Best for Jordan. He has enough to deal with.”
Jordan stared at the floor, his brow pinched. He’d overheard these tense conversations a few times since he’d come home from the hospital, but whenever he walked in on them, his parents abruptly changed the subject.
His mother struggled to control her emotions as her voice quaked. “I need this, Mitch,” she whispered. “We all do.”
Silence settled over the kitchen as Jordan stood motionless, his own tension mounting.
“I think what we need,” Mitch murmured. “Is to move forward, start over –which was the whole point of moving, right?”
“All right, then,” Mitch interjected quietly. “Jordan needs our full attention, to help him regain…himself. I want my son back, Clara.”
“You have your son,” Jordan’s mom told him thickly. “Maybe he doesn’t remember things as they were, but he’s still our same Jordan. And even if he changes because of this, he’s still our son.”
“Don’t you want him back the way he was?” Mitch asked. “Don’t you miss him?”
Clara sniffed and discreetly cleared her throat. “He’s alive, Mitch,” she trembled. “And right now, that’s all that matters to me. We…” her voice broke. “We came so close to losing everything, our whole world. He’s here, Mitch, alive and healthy. That should be enough, for us both.”
“I know,” Mitch sighed. “I just wish…I wish things were as they used to be, is all. And Jordan was…Jordan.”
“Is that the only reason you wish for things to be the same as before?” Clara asked quietly –and Jordan noted an underlying hurt in her words.
His dad didn’t reply immediately, but finally answered with a trace of defensiveness, “Of course not.”
Jordan entered the kitchen and, as always, the conversation halted as his parents looked at him.
“Sweetheart,” his mom quickly dabbed her eyes with a tissue and smiled, then busied herself at the stove.
“Is everything…okay?” Jordan mumbled, knowing he wouldn’t get the truth.
“Everything is fine, son,” Mitch assured then motioned toward the adjoining dining room. “Why don’t you go ahead and sit down?”
Jordan nodded and walked into the dining room, partially out of view of the kitchen. He heard his dad speak quietly to his mom, too low for Jordan to hear. When they entered the dining room a few minutes later, his mom flashed him a painted on smile, but there was no disguising the redness around her eyes or the lingering tears.
He had yet to see his dad tear up. But maybe Mitch Laird was simply ‘old school’ and didn’t believe in showing emotion. Jordan couldn’t say –he didn’t know the man.
Copyright 2016 by Audrey M. Snead