Pink Sticky Notes
Is it abuse, if you don't remember?
Everyone who stepped foot in Ashley and Henry Roberts’ home was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of colour and the riot of small pieces of paper on every available surface. Ashley had everything categorised-- blue for things she needed to buy, yellow for something a friend had said that was important, orange for things she needed to do, green for addresses and emails and phone numbers, and pink for very important things that she wanted to remember.
She jotted down on each in careful black Sharpie and pinned them wherever she would see them best-- on the fridge under a magnet, a lampshade by her bed, the cover of the magazine next to the couch she picked up when she had a spare moment. It was her husband’s custom to wake in the morning and peel a Don’t forget to pick up Mum from pottery class! off of his tea mug.
Ashley didn’t mean to forget things. Honest. They’d just been slipping out for the past year.
She’d always been great at social interactions and making friends. Now she had to stand at the side clutching Henry’s arm while he talked, smiling a big fake smile and trying vainly to recall the name of the blonde in front of her. And those were in the moments she remembered she was at the party.
At least she still had her looks, as her mother was keen to remind her. But what were looks worth without a brain to go with it? And there was always something… something… she couldn’t recall at the back of her mind.
Enough to drive a woman bananas.
Ashley woke up on a dull grey Wednesday and lay in bed to get herself acclimated to the usual morning sounds of her husband, rubbing at the odd bruise on her wrist that always seemed to be there, (probably because she kept touching it). She listened to the swish of the ceiling fan overhead, then leaned over to plucked a blue sticky note off of the lampshade. Evidently she needed to buy olive oil and sausages for dinner.
She got up and dressed, occasionally glancing at the piece of paper in her hand to remind her of her task, and picking up more blue sticky notes from the corners of her room. She might as well make it a shopping day.
“Darling,” she said to Henry as she came into the kitchen. “Do you know where my pink notes are? I haven’t seen any.”
Henry raised his black eyes from behind his paper and blinked. “I haven't seen you writing on one for a while.”
Ashley put her hands on her hips and looked around the room. Silly as it was, it bothered her a little, because she rarely went more than a couple hours without scribbling down something important to remember.
She stood there for a moment, the thought already slipping out of her mind. She looked at Henry. “Darling,” she said.
Ashley as a little girl had always been a very careful, thoughtful little creature, which made her injury that much harder to bear. Her parents had split when she was twelve, and despite being heartbroken, she took it in stride. Ashley didn’t talk about her feelings with a gaggle of girlfriends. She knew her own brain well enough to sit down and think things through and make herself feel better.
When she wanted to be quiet and thoughtful, she went to her aunt’s and made cookies while the old woman watched Jeopardy. When she needed to let out frustration, she went to her sister’s house and swam laps in her pool. And when she needed to talk about the big, important things in her life, things she couldn’t rationalise by herself, she went to her mother’s.
She had been going to her mother’s a lot lately.
Her mother was worried about her. When Ashley visited, very little of what she wanted to talk about she remembered, but there seemed to be a common theme: Henry. Ashley wanted… something from Henry, but good or bad, she didn’t know.
Her mother waited at the phone for her daughter’s call. For the past two weeks, it had been coming at the same time every morning on Ashley’s way to buy olive oil and sausages (a task she had been trying to complete for a long time now).
The phone rang. She held back a sigh and picked it up.
“Hi, Mum,” Ashley said through the phone, all breath. “How’re you doing?”
“Very well, dear,” said her mother, sitting on the edge of the couch to hold the phone to her ear. She rubbed at her forehead, already tired. “What is it?”
“I’m missing some sticky notes.”
She paused in her rubbing. “Sorry, what?” This was a new development.
Ashley’s breath slowed through the phone, and her mother could tell the thought had already slipped from her poor, ravaged brain. “Ashley?”
“Why did I call you? Damn! Where’s the sticky note?”
“You called to say that you think you’re missing sticky notes,” her mother said quickly, hoping to get her on track. “Why?”
“Oh,” said Ashley, uncertainty wavering in her tone. “I don’t know… but now that I think about it, I couldn’t find any of my pink ones this morning. I think. I don’t really…”
Remember, Ashley’s mother thought sadly, at the same time as her daughter said it. “Well. I wouldn't like to think your sticky notes are being misplaced.”
“Me neither,” sighed Ashley. “But I don’t know if…” She trailed off and the line hummed quietly for a moment.
“Mum, why did I call you?”
“Oh. Right. Uh. Oh! I can’t find any pink ones.”
“That’s a bit concerning,” her mother said.
“Isn’t it? I don’t think Henry thinks so.”
Henry. Every mention of her daughter’s husband made her grip tighter on the phone and the anger to start shooting up through her belly. She had never liked him even before Ashley lost her memory, but she liked him even less now. There wasn’t enough warmth in him to suggest that he was doing a good job looking after his wife, and something like a predator in his cold eyes that unsettled her.
“Henry could be wrong, dear.”
“Maybe,” sighed Ashley. “Oh, I’ll ask him when he gets home from work. He does so much at the office. He spends a lot of nights and weekends away from the house on trips.”
This was a detail not lost on Ashley before she had suffered her injury. It cropped up often enough that her mother hypothesised (with a good bit of hope thrown in there) that a common activity, even if she didn’t remember it, lingered a little in her unconscious mind.
“No, I didn’t know that. Sounds a bit annoying for you, dear.”
“I don’t mind. I reckon.” Ashley paused through the phone, and her mother closed her eyes to brace for the question.
“Mum. What were we talking about?”
Every night before she fell asleep, Ashley’s mother cried into her pillow, and the length of the conversation that day, the amount of times she had to explain and re-explain, determined how long she cried for and how wet the pillow was when she was done.
Ashley picked up olive oil, sausages, dried cranberries, bread, and a few pears from the tree out back to make a sausage and potato dish with a salad thrown together on the side. Henry loved her cooking.
She hummed to herself while she grilled the sausages in a pan and sprinkled them with some choice spices. She glanced around her to look for a sticky note saying how much cumin to add-- usually it was on a pink one-- but again, all her pink sticky notes seemed to be missing. Frowning, she rubbed at the bruise on her wrist that she didn’t remember getting. The fact that she touched it all the time was probably the reason it was still there.
Henry came in through the front door with a weary sigh, slamming it behind him and dumping his briefcase on the floor. He was greeted with the bluish-black back of his wife’s neck right before she turned to smile at him.
That smile was the reason he had married her. It was all eyes, bright, crinkled brown eyes staring into his soul. The eyes had gotten sweeter and blanker as the months dragged on, but they were the same.
“Hullo, darling,” she said, stirring the sausages around. “Good day?”
“Good enough,” he said, crossing to look at what she was making. He grunted his approval. “What are the pears for?”
“Excellent.” He went over to their sitting area and settled down with a newspaper. Ashley poked at her sausages with a wooden spoon. “Darling, do you remember how much cumin to add?”
“I haven’t the foggiest.”
“I can’t find my sticky note for it.”
Henry’s eyes went still behind his newspaper. “Can’t you, darling? You misplace those things, silly goose that you are.”
Ashley didn’t like being called a silly goose. But she won’t remember in a minute anyway, thought Henry.
“I don’t know… it seems so odd. They’re normally where I want them to be…” Ashley’s voice trailed off and Henry knew the thought was gone. “Dinner will be ready in half an hour.”
“Lovely.” Henry turned a page and the conversation was over.
That night Henry took out the trash, first emptying the ones in their bathroom and the kitchen and then, only once she was asleep, did he take out the one from under his bed. Littered with pink sticky notes.
Many of them were torn and tear-stained, with big angry letters splotched across and her Sharpie sometimes ripping through the paper. It had taken him a long time to find all of them, because she’d hidden them from him best she could. Those were an uncomfortable three weeks of screams and fights and sobbing phone calls, but Henry had never been one to give up on anything. Marriage was hardly a reason to start now. And he wouldn't let her make that choice for them, no matter how much she thought she wanted to.
Even with her condition making things hard, he knew that their relationship would get better. Someday she would stop worrying about those bothersome pink notes and screaming at him in the middle of the night, and someday-- someday very soon!-- he would get his temper a little under control. He was a good man, he knew that. But things just got out of hand.
He emptied the sticky notes into the bin.
The next morning, she came in, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. “Good morning, darling.”
She began making herself some tea, then paused, looking around. “Henry, have you seen my pink notes?”
Henry didn’t lift his eyes from the newspaper, and behind it he slowly crumpled a little pink ball in his fist.
“No I haven’t, darling.”