The morning had started much like any other for John. He’d gotten up just before six when two-year-old Rose appeared by his and Clara’s bed announcing it was time for breakfast.
“Shhhh,” he’d told his daughter. “Let’s let Mummy sleep.”
Rose nodded seriously. She was a little clone of her mother with the same heart shaped face, button nose and dark hair. His only contribution to her genetics appeared to be her blue-grey eyes. John didn’t mind at all. His wife was by far the better looking half - not to mention 25 years younger than him - and he was delighted their daughter took after her mother.
Downstairs he cooked with Rose’s ‘assistance’, which mostly involved her ordering him about. John wasn’t sure if that was a learned behavior from her mother or simply in the genes. He didn’t mind either way. He adored his daughter and her tiny mother and some days he couldn’t believe his good fortune that Clara had married him and borne his child.
“Good morning family,” his wife said from the kitchen door a few minutes later.
“Mummy!” Rose shouted in delight. “I made eggs and avocado and toast!”
“Wow!” Clara said, brown eyes twinkling as she surveyed the toast and eggs. “All by yourself?”
Rose smiled. “Daddy helped.”
“Good morning,” John said, moving to kiss his wife. He knew at five foot two his wife was essentially a foot shorter than him, but he was always slightly surprised at her tininess when they hugged, or when he’d been away from her for a day. For some reason he always imagined Clara to be taller than she was.
They ate breakfast as a family, listening to Rose tell them wild stories about the adventures she went on the night before in her ‘dream box’. They both indulged her. They’d gone back and forth on the idea of a second child, especially since Rose was going to be three in a month, but ultimately they’d decided to stick with one. John was semi-retired and his work as a journalist was flexible enough for him to spend most of his time looking after Rose while Clara was teaching at the high school full time. He wasn’t sure they could make their schedule work with another child. He thought Clara probably wanted another child more than she let on, and if he’d been even ten years younger he would’ve been happy to meet her request. But as it was…
He smiled at his wife as she helped Rose wash her hands over the sink. He’d never be sorry he gave into Clara’s demands for a relationship in the face of all of his logical arguments otherwise, but Clara was 30 to his 55 and they both had to make compromises to make their relationship work.
As per usual John and Rose waved goodbye to Clara at the front door. He’d planted some pink roses in the small garden on the weekend and he and Rose paused to look at them, waving at Clara as she disappeared up the road.
John took Rose to story time at the local library just before 11. The house his family lived in now had been his alone for 25 years before Clara moved in five years ago. He was old enough to watch Notting Hill become a trendy suburb, and still he remembered how it was thirty years ago. Mostly he liked the changes, but every now and then he wondered if he was ready to leave London. Clara wasn’t, so he supposed he wasn’t. Rose was happy wherever they were, so that was something.
That afternoon he and Rose ate lunch on a large blanket in their small back yard and later when she took her nap, he worked on an article that was giving him trouble. He’d spent 35 years reporting on politics and he wasn’t sure he understood much more now than he had as a young man of 20 in his first journalism cadetship.
It wasn’t until just after six o’clock that John started to worry. Sometimes Clara went out for a drink with her work friends after work, and usually she let him know. She hadn’t sent a text all day. He tried to call her and received a message stating her phone was switched off. To get Rose to bed he lied and said Mummy was working tonight and would come and kiss her goodnight when she was asleep. He read a very fast story, kissed his daughter goodnight, closed her bedroom door and reached for his phone.
He called one of Clara’s colleagues who said she’d seen Clara at school, but didn’t know if there had been drinks this evening. John tried to play down his concern to, but inside he was close to panicking. His wife did not disappear like this. She did not miss bedtime kisses with her daughter and she did not go missing for hours without a text. Something must have happened to her. She was either hurt, or she was being held against her will and those possibilities made John feel like he was going to fly apart.
He called the police, but they said it was too soon to file a missing persons report. So he started calling the hospitals then, asking if a Clara Oswald had been admitted. She never changed her name after the wedding and he didn’t care. It caused confusion sometimes as Rose was Rose Smith, but it was no big deal. There were no Clara Oswalds admitted at any of the hospitals, so he started calling again and asking for Jane Does. Close to midnight he thought he might have something, a Jane Doe had been admitted with a head injury around six o’clock. If it was Clara, that would explain why she hadn’t been checked in under her name.
John phoned Clara’s friend Ash. Thankfully she picked up straight away.
“Clara is missing, and I think she might have been admitted to hospital. I really need you to come and sit with Rose while I go there and check.”
“Of course,” Ash said, sounding surprised, concerned and upset all at once. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
John paced his lounge room for the entire ten minutes, his eyes frequently going to the photographs of his and Clara’s wedding on the mantelpiece. It had been a beautiful day, and the sky behind them was bright blue. His eyes were on Clara and hers were looking straight into the lens. God she was beautiful. He couldn’t even let himself imagine what life would be like for him and Rose without her.
He opened the front door almost as soon as Ash knocked on it. She came in, her short dark hair a mess around her square face.
“No news?” the young woman asked, brows furrowed.
“None. I need to go.”
“Go, go,” she flapped her hands towards the door.
It took John twenty minutes to get to the hospital. And another ten frustrating minutes to answer questions about what his wife looked like, what she’d been wearing that morning - he didn’t know and couldn’t remember - and to describe her jewelry.
“Her engagement ring is a sapphire. A bright blue square stone set in white gold. Her wedding ring is white gold.”
The nurse frowned. “This Jane Doe isn’t wearing any rings.”
John struggled to maintain his temper. Becoming a father had made him a better person on a number of levels, but that patience he’d learned from parenting Rose was disappearing fast. “She’s tiny, five foot two. She has dark glossy hair, a turned up nose and dark eyes. We’ve been married for five years. We have a daughter. For God’s sake let me see her! If it isn’t her I’ll leave.”
The nurse obviously decided she didn’t like him shouting at her and curtly escorted her to the room. John almost pushed the annoying woman out of the way to see if it was Clara in the bed. When she finally moved out of the way and John laid eyes on his wife for the first time since he and Rose had waved goodbye to her this morning.
“Clara!” he said, relief flooding every cell in his body. “I’ve been so worried, darling. What happened?”
His wife’s brown eyes almost seemed to inflate as she stared at him. “I--I’m not--I--” she stammered.
John took her hand, and it was cold. “What is it, love?”
She pulled her hand from his. “I don't know who you are.”
He spared the gaping nurse a glance. “Get the doctor, will you?”
The woman looked like she wanted to argue, but John had already turned back to Clara.
“I’m your husband.” He didn’t want to say anything about Rose. Memories were delicate things and he didn’t want to upset her.
Clara gave a strange little laugh. “You are? I mean, are you sure? You’re…and I’m…” she trailed off, giving him an embarrassed look.
“You’re beauty and I’m the beast, I know.”
Her eyes met his and she almost smiled.
“I’m sorry to be a disappointment.” His words came out sharper than he intended and Clara’s face fell.
John turned towards the door where a man in a white coat stood. “Doctor Smith,” he corrected absently. “I’m Clara’s husband, even if she can’t remember.”
His wife squirmed a bit in the bed, avoiding eye contact with him.
“What’s happened to her?” he asked, directing his attention back to the doctor.
“Perhaps this is better discussed outside,” the other man said. “We’ll be right back, Jane.”
“Clara,” he snapped. “Her name is Clara Oswald.”
“No,” Clara said from the bed. “I’d know if that was my name, and it isn’t.”
“What's your name, then?” the doctor asked.
Clara pursed her lips together and gave them both a steely look. “Bonnie.”