"I don't understand," Brittany says, looking at the doctor in consternation. "Who is this person?"
The doctor makes as if to speak, but a strange woman who is apparently this girl's mom comes and touches her shoulder. "Brittany," she says, her words thick with unshed tears. "Santana was your girlfriend for about ten years."
"Then why don't I remember her?"
The doctor pauses. "You went through a controversial treatment," he says, finally. "Have you heard of Lacuna, Inc?"
"The memory-erasing company?" Brittany says. She can't stop looking at the dark-haired girl curled up in the white, white sheets of the hospital bed. She's lovely, but she doesn't quite seem real. Britt tears her eyes away, looks up at this strange woman. Maribel. That was the name she was given. "Did I use them?"
Maribel inclines her head. A yes, then. "I don't know why," she adds. "Santana didn't say."
"Oh," Brittany says. She stares at Santana again. "What happened to her?"
The doctor's nametag reads Miller. Brittany knows this because it glints in the fluorescent light when he steps forward. "She attempted the same procedure."
"It didn't work."
"I don't understand," Brittany says again. "What does this have to do with me? If I wanted to forget her and she wanted to forget me."
"You were still her emergency contact," Maribel says, and Britt can't be sure, but she thinks there's an edge to the woman's voice.
"The treatment didn't work," Dr. Miller says. "You're listed as her next of kin. Until Mrs. Lopez's appeal gets sorted out through the courts, she's in your hands."
Brittany is beginning to get a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. "How didn't it work?"
"She was trying to erase you," Maribel says. Her eyes are red-rimmed; Britt doesn't know why she didn't notice it before. "But-"
She breaks off.
Dr. Miller says, "She lost everything."
Maribel tries to move in with them, but Brittany's apartment is tiny and barely even fits her and Santana.
Personally, Brittany thinks that Santana should have just stayed at the hospital, but she was fully awake and able to eat and, apart from remembering literally nothing, she could more or less function with medically untrained assistance, and apparently they needed the space.
Maribel can't stay at a hotel, either – another factor in Santana not being able to stay at the hospital was, apparently, money – so she moves in with some kind of relative of Santana's two towns over and commutes in every other day be with her baby girl. Brittany offered to just let Maribel take Santana, but apparently that would make the whole court thing more difficult.
She doesn't know how to act around this girl who she doesn't remember, but who she apparently once loved, so she cooks everything in her arsenal – which is a decent amount; she went to culinary school for about two months at one point – and watches as Santana eats it.
Santana doesn't say anything. Brittany doesn't know whether or not she can.
The worst times are when Santana soils herself, because Brittany spent a year working in a day care center and had to leave because she just doesn't do well around poop and pee and stuff. She buys a nose clip and puts it on and wonders why she's doing all of this for someone she can't even remember.
At night, she dreams of coloring in kindergarten. There's a shadow in the dream that she can't quite make out. It wants something from her. She can't be sure whether it's good or bad.
Once a week, she takes Santana's hand and walks her down to the pond three blocks over so they can feed the ducks, going slow and making sure Santana doesn't trip on any cracks.
Brittany wonders if she ever loved Santana. She wonders how love could even be possible between the two of them.
Santana gets a strange look in her eyes sometimes, but it always disappears. At night, Brittany teachers her to read, C-A-T and M-A-T and B-A-T, remembering how once upon a time, she struggled with the same words.
She can't for the life of her remember how she learned them.
That probably means teaching Santana to read is some kind of full-circle thing, but it doesn't really matter if Brittany can't remember half of it.
She opens a telephone psychic business that she can run from her house and asks her old friend Quinn to help her put out ads, since Quinn is in marketing and is good at what she does.
The calls come rolling in and Brittany gives advice as best she can, remembering the wisdom she got from watching her cat as a teenager, remembering the things she heard when she served on the Grand Jury and when she worked in a retirement home, changing bedsheets and holding the hands of old people who had no one to tell their stories to but her.
She watches Santana out of the corner of her eye during every call, watches her fit Legos together and draw with crayons. She scribbles over everything she does in black, thick waxy stripes obscuring whatever she makes before Britt can see it.
Brittany tries talking to Santana but Santana never responds. So. Telephone psychic customers aren't the best conversationalists, but it's better than nothing.
Sometimes her dreams are of hugging someone who is crying. She's wearing a beautiful dress. The other person, as always, is faceless, formless. Brittany feels this love toward her that she's never felt towards anyone before in her life, ever.
She calls the pet shelter she used to volunteer at, asks if they need any help on Saturdays.
Saturdays are Maribel's days, now that Maribel can only make it once a week because of work and court and everything.
Now she's in her apartment except for when she and Santana walk to the park. She wishes she could tell Santana about their shared memories, try to build something up so that Santana can remember, too, but she has nothing to draw from.
One day, Santana stands up and claps her hands in the way she always does when she has to pee. Brittany walks her to the bathroom and helps her unbuckle her belt and leaves her alone to do her business, listening carefully in case Santana starts screaming, a noiseless, shapeless sound that chills Brittany down to her very bones. It's only happened once before – it's Santana's only way of getting Britt's attention, since even though she can now spell C-A-R out in her shaky crayoned handwriting and know it means car, and when Brittany writes D-O-O-R, Santana knows to point to a door, she somehow hasn’t managed to shape words with her mouth and push out speech-like sounds.
When she's waiting, listening for whatever Santana needs, she sees the paper Santana was drawing on. It hasn't been entirely scribbled over yet.
There are stick figures, a blonde and a brunette, holding hands under a tree. It's crude, but cute. Brittany considers hanging it on the fridge or taking a picture of it or something, but she doesn't want to get in the way of Santana's creative flow or whatever, or to make her (even more) uncomfortable in Brittany's home, so she just leaves it there.
Brittany calls her most recent ex on the phone. "I don't know what to do," she tells him as they reach the end of their conversation.
"You've always been good at figuring it out in the end," he reminds her, and she sighs. She doesn't think she'll have luck with that in this situation.
Her dreams at night are turning toward the sexual, and the scary. Sometimes she's fighting, sometimes she's fucking, sometimes she feels like she's trying to hide.
She can never tell who it is that she's hiding from.
She could never, ever do that, not really, but the thought of going back to her life is so, so appealing. She doesn't like being a psychic much anymore. She kind of wants to train to be a fire fighter or a police officer or some kind of person like that – someone who actually helps people for real, not just someone who tells them what to do over the phone. She has Santana, though, so she can't.
I wish I could remember you, she says, but what she means is, I wish I could love you.
Santana makes a pleased-sounding noise and then says the sound that Brittany has come to associate with her name.
Brittany doesn't know why Santana can't just learn to speak again. It's not like her vocal chords were damaged by the procedure. She should know; although Maribel takes Santana to most of her appointments, Brittany has to take her to some too, sometimes, while Maribel is working to pay the doctor's fees. (Brittany has to pay for some of them too, because Maribel can't cover all of them and she hasn't won the lawsuit yet.)
Santana is holding up a box that must have been hidden behind the pipes. She pushes it towards Brittany, so Britt takes it.
It looks vaguely familiar – it's covered in purple paper and drawn on in crayon. Not Santana's drawings.
It looks like something Brittany herself would have done several years ago.
She opens it.
Inside is a photograph of her and Santana, holding hands, leaning on each other and laughing. There's also a tattered friendship bracelet and a flash drive.
Brittany closes the box without taking anything out and places it on top of the refrigerator.
They do chat for a few minutes, but it's obvious that Puck doesn't want to talk to her.
As they're hanging up, Britt makes the mistake of mentioning that she doesn't understand how Santana's procedure could have backfired like this.
"Well, what did she think would happen?" Puck says. He has so much anger in his voice. "Trying to erase her entire life like that."
Surely he's not implying that Brittany was Santana's entire life. He must just know more about the procedure that Santana was going through than Brittany, who doesn't even remember Santana before she met her in the hospital that cold dark day, does.
It only succeeds in making Britt feel creepy.
The thing is, she wants to love Santana, but Santana is just this thing in her life that can't talk or use the stove by herself or leave the house without a caretaker. Sometimes Santana seems incredibly lucid, but her memories seem to come and go in waves and sometimes she can't even remember how to walk.
Brittany considers going to medical school once her time clears up, just so that she can figure this out.
She dreams about crying. The faceless person in her dreams makes her cry. Brittany shifts between being a child and being an adult and everything in between, and the situation changes with her age, but her crying is a constant.
"I love you," she tells Santana, as they eat another dinner that Brittany fixes for them, trying to remember a time when those words were true.
"Bye," Brittany says, while Maribel tries to get Santana into her car, and Santana lifts her hand, almost like she's waving.
It's a letter from Santana, apparently written a week after Brittany got her own treatment. She reads it exactly twice and cries both times, because she can't remember the girl who wrote the letter or the love that was turned her way for those ten years of dating, and even more of friendship.
She wants to delete the entire thing once she's done reading it the second time. Instead, she takes the flash drive out and puts it back in the box, returning the box to its old space under the sink, in case Santana ever shows up again and needs it.
She finds a picture that somehow escaped the black crayon under what used to be Santana's bed. There's a blonde stick figure and a cat that looks vaguely like Lord Tubbington, so she puts it in her underwear drawer because she misses him, now that he's gone.
She has no idea what she wants to do next.
She still doesn't know why she went through with the lacunar amnesia procedure. Santana hadn't mentioned in the letter on the flash drive.
At night, she dreams about Santana.