Rachel Vidal is looking for love under the stars and has been all her life. She and her best friend, Priyanka, run an online astrological guide for lovers called Venus In Retrograde. But not even Rachel's New Age knowledge can save her from true romantic despair: attending her sister's wedding without someone on her arm.
As Rachel ponders all her past lovers through the astrological wheel, she comes face to face with her own mortality, fragility, and her never-ending desire for all kinds of knowledge under the stars.
Will it be enough for her sister's wedding, or will Rachel remain in retrograde the rest of her life?
Rachel opened her mouth to answer, but her confidence was premature. She drew a blank. She looked at her hands. Her fingers were swollen. Her thumb had been broken and the rest of her fingertips were in a state of healing after being scraped with pavement. She could not remember what she was doing before she walked out onto the road. She could not remember a damn thing.
“That’s okay,” the doctor said, clearly noticing her fear. “Tell me the first thing you do remember, then? What is your latest -- rather than earliest -- memory of that day?”
Rachel struggled. She saw a flash of mimosas, but it seemed too distant. Then a flash of gold and purple. That was better, stronger, then before. She gasped as it came back to her. “My sister’s wedding. She believed me.”
“That’s good. Believed you about what?”
“The date,” Rachel said, still struggling. “She moved the date. The invitation. I got it in the mail.”
The doctor nodded and murmured some encouraging words. He took down the chart from her bed and read a few lines. “You were found close to a mailbox. Were you mailing the invitation?”
The flashes of gold and purple, now sheathed in an envelope, came back into clearer focus. She saw the bent corner of the invitation. The plus one, and then her phone messages announcing her date. Then there was nothing else. “Where is my phone?”
“It was destroyed, I’m afraid.”
“I was supposed to take someone to the wedding. I was mailing the plus one. But I don’t know who.”
“We can figure that all out later. Is there anything else you can remember from that day?”
Rachel shook her head. It hurt less this time around. Was she getting better? How far back did this feeling of forgetfulness really go? She tried to explain to him that she did remember things, but that it only felt like a shape of something else.
“Interesting,” he said. “Can you explain more?”
“It’s like shadows. Like I remember the placements, but not what’s inside. Shapes, like I said. Shadows. Colours, gemstones, and ...” Rachel smiled. She saw the astrological sign for Gemini in the skyline. It was June, after all. The season of the twins, the season of the lovers. She never understood why the astrological year started with Aries. It should always be Gemini.
“That’s okay. That’s great.” The doctor wrote a few words down before he folded his hands in front of his body. “Amnesia cases are rarely like what we see in soap operas. People don’t just forget who they are. There is often something there, but hard to reach, as you describe.”
“Amnesia,” Rachel repeated, fully comprehending the term. She looked down at her hands again, her heart in her throat. “Is it ... Will I be like this forever?”
“No,” he said, but was not as enthusiastic as she needed to hear. “That trope, once again, is another something civilians have picked up from movies. It just doesn’t happen like that in real life. I assure you, you will remember things, but it might be slow. Very slow, given the kind of trauma you had.”
“Can I still go to the wedding?” Rachel had no idea what possessed her to ask this question, when she clearly had more pressing matters to contend with, but it seemed connected. She’d been mailing the invitation when this happened -- so if she could go, then maybe she’d magically get better there, too. Maybe when her sister said I do, she would remember everything.
Venus, she remembered. Venus would be out of retrograde then. Rachel sat up straighter, realizing more than ever before that she needed to go to that wedding. She needed to see who would show up as her date. She needed to know who she had been talking to, and where this would all lead, once the planet of love in the sky had gone back on course.
“Perhaps,” the doctor said, hedging his tone. “When is the wedding?”
Rachel closed her eyes and saw the date on the invitation. “End of June. That Saturday.”
“Perhaps,” the doctor said again. “We have to play this by how you feel.”
“I feel ... tired.”
“That’s expected, too. Tell you what. We can test some of your memory. Most likely, this is not the future loss of short term -- which would worry us -- but a retro-amnesia.”
“Retro-amnesia,” he repeated, his voice more formal. “It’s not the forgetting of the self or the present day, like the president or prime minister or what year it is, but the forgetting of the past.”
“Like a retrograde?” Rachel smiled. The first genuine one since she was here. “Like in astrology?”
The doctor chuckled, but soon stopped when he realized she was serious. “Sort of, I suppose. Definitely makes your sense of communication go awry. Tell me, though. Do you know much about astrology?”