He lowered his eyes. “You deserve better than all this shit anyway.” He waved his hand toward the house. “You deserve better than me. You’ve got a family. Go be with them, and forget I exist.”
His eyes darted down to Tanner who stood in the front yard with confusion marring his face. He glanced back and forth between me and King.
“What’s going—” Tanner started to ask.
“Shut the fuck up,” King snapped, effectively silencing the boy.
“That is NOT your decision to make,” I told him. “You don’t get to say where I go or who I go with.”
“Actually, it is,” King argued.
“What the fuck does that mean? What the fuck did you do?”
“Ray!” the boy shouted over our argument.
King looked down at him as if he were going to leap down the steps and crush his skull with his hands.
“Come down here,” Tanner said in a gentle voice. “Just for a second. I just want to see you. Talk to you.”
I looked back at King, and it dawned on me. It wasn’t my decision to make because he was giving me away.
That’s what last night and this morning were all about. He was saying his goodbyes.
King nodded to me as if to say I had his approval to go talk to Tanner. I rolled my eyes at him. I didn’t need his fucking approval.
I tentatively descended the stairs one at a time. When I got to the bottom, I sat on the bottom step. “Do you know who I am?” Tanner asked, crouching down and resting his hands on his knees.
I shook my head. “I recognize your eyes, but nothing else,” I admitted.
“As I said, my name is Tanner. We’ve known each other our entire lives. We were homecoming king and queen all four years of high school,” he said with a chuckle. Then his face grew serious. “I love you. You love me. Always have.” Tanner blushed and rocked back on his heels. “It feels weird to introduce myself to you when we’ve known each other since we were in diapers.”
“Who am I?” I asked hesitantly.
Tanner took a seat on the step next to me, careful to keep some distance between us. I didn’t need to look back at King to know he was watching Tanner’s every move. I felt his gaze on my back as if they were rays of the sun singing my skin. Tanner smelled like the beach. His unruly hair fell into his eyes. He brushed it out of the way as he spoke. A huge smile spread across his face, revealing a dimple in his left cheek.
“You are the lovely Ramie Elizabeth Price. Daughter of Dr. Margot Price and Senator Bigelow Price. You live in East Palm Cove, about an hour from here. You were enrolled in art school, and you were supposed to start in the fall. You and I were going to backpack around Europe for the summer first, but then you disappeared.”
I had a name.
Ramie. Ramie. Ramie.
“Ramie,” I whispered, testing the name out on my tongue.
“I went to the police. They said no one was looking for me. No missing persons report. Why didn’t you look for me if I was missing?” I asked.
Tanner shook his head. “I didn’t want to have to be the one to tell you this, but you had this friend, and she was going through some bad stuff. She got in trouble a lot. You left a note, said you were running away. They didn’t look for you because they didn’t think you wanted to be found. You had just turned eighteen. You were an adult. There was no missing persons report because you weren’t missing. You were just gone.”
“I left?” I asked.
“I left you?”
“Yeah,” he admitted. “You left me. And your mom. And your dad. Everyone.”
I had a mom.
“Why isn’t my mom here?” I asked.
“We didn’t want to overwhelm you. Your mom is at home, waiting for you to arrive, but your dad is in the car.” Tanner said, pointing to the town car with the blacked out windows, still running on the driveway.
“I still don’t remember. I thought I would remember if I saw someone from my past, if they told me who I was, but I don’t.” My head spun. If I didn’t remember him face to face, would I ever remember him?
Would I ever remember anyone?
“You will, but it will take time. You just need to get back into the groove of things for a while. Your normal routine. It will come back to you. We won’t rush it. Your mom’s got the best doctors already on call. Specialists. You’ll be back to your old self in no time,” he said, nudging my shoulder.
King had already told them everything. At least enough for my mom to already have doctors at the ready.