7: SO IT BEGINS

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I stood silently in the corner while Mickey's parents explained everything to her. They started with who they were to her, mentioned who I was, and even talked about the car crash, but for the majority of the time that they spoke, she was focused in on me. Her eyes were different now, and I half wanted to ask Dr. Larimore if that was a side effect of this dissociative thing. They were harder, and looked like they'd been frosted over; she watched everything with such depth now. Sure, she'd been great at observing things before, but now it felt like she was pulling everything apart when she looked at it.

There was a certain edginess to her posture, even as she sat in the hospital bed in the gown. Her shoulders were rolled back instead of slouched, her jaw was set in firm resolve, and whenever she made a move, it was frighteningly precise. Even covered in bruises, she seemed confident.

It was disconcerting.

To have her continue to stare at me began to feel like being under the gaze of a predator. I briefly thought maybe I should've read more than just the excerpt of her story; maybe if I had insisted sooner that she show me her story, if I had read the entire thing, I would've better understood . . .

When the Davidsons finished explaining everything to Mickey, she finally turned her sharp gaze to them, and like a switch had been flipped, an easy, deeply sad smile slid into place. Her mother had been holding her hand the entire time, and now I could see Mickey squeezing it gently. "I'm sorry . . ." she said slowly, in a much more gentle tone than she had used when it was just myself and the doctor and in the room. "I'm sorry I don't remember." Her voice was quiet, and uncertain.

I could hear Gina choking back a sob. She put up a brave front and tried her best to smile at Mickey. I was just relieved for the change -- at least now she looked less like she was going to tear me apart.

"Did the doctor say if my memory will come back?" Mickey asked then, her usually fiery amber eyes now diluted and downcast.

"He said it might," Richard assured her with one of his kind smiles that I'd only ever seen directed toward Mickey and her mother. "If it will . . . it'll take time."

Mickey nodded slowly, and chewed on her bottom lip. For just that moment, she was back to being my best friend, her brow scrunched in befuddled thought. "Okay," she said, though the word came out as more of a breath than anything else. "Does this mean, um-- does it mean I get to leave the hospital now?" she asked in a voice laced with hopefulness, searching both of her parents' faces.

It was Richard who nodded first, and as he straightened to his full height, he brought Gina along with him. "Absolutely, hon," Gina said in a voice meant to comfort. "We'll go get things squared away with the doctor right now. Jason can keep an eye on you," her attention turned to me, that same hope still present, "can't you?"

"Yeah, no problem," I agreed without thinking.

Gina nodded and turned back to her daughter, the look on her face one as if to say 'See? It'll be fine.' It was Richard who spoke next, though. "I'm sure there will be paperwork, so it might take a few minutes, but no worries," he smiled as best as he could, "we'll have you home tonight."

"Okay," Mickey whispered again, clasping her hands together in her lap. She watched as both of her parents left, eyes remaining on the doorway until the door clicked shut. Then her attention swung back to me, eyes flashing with renowned fire and fury.

"Mickey, I--" I began to say, shifting to sit on her bed beside her, but she interrupted me before my thought could even finish forming.

"My name is not Mickey," she said strictly. "My name is Risk. You are Rebel. I don't know who those people are, but this is not funny. If this is some joke that you and the corporation are playing on me, I am not amused."

Between being dumbfounded by the personality change, and trying to absorb what she had just said, it took me a few seconds to articulate words. When my brain caught up with what page she'd just thrown us onto, a spark of irritation ignited in me. I steeled my jaw, fixing her with my own look. "My name is Jason," I shot back. "We aren't a part of whatever world you think you're in, Mick."

She continued to scowl at me. "I'm not the one who's conjured up an imaginary world here, Rebel. I think it's pretty safe to say that's you. And seriously-- we don't have time for this. Is this another one of Gray's crackpot ideas?" she demanded of me, eyes narrowing.

I sighed in exasperation. I now felt I better understood why people who were frustrated might feel the desire to pull their hair out -- I was getting real close to that. "Your name is Michele Davidson," I said then, fixing her with a hard stare, "but you hate it when people call you Michele, so you've been Mickey since you were three. I'm Jason Thomas, your best friend since-- since you were born. You . . ." I trailed off, scrubbing a hand over my face, and allowed the looming tenseness in the room to hang over myself.

Silence ensued. I could feel her practically drilling holes into my skull with her eyes, but I couldn't bring myself to look to her. We both just sat there, in pained quiet, until she eventually gave a slight sigh and spoke up.

"How'd I end up here?" she asked, a little less vicious this time as she addressed me.

I glanced at her, forcing myself to look straight into her eyes, instead of lingering on her bruises and stitched wounds. "Car crash."

Mickey hummed and rolled her eyes. "That's stupid."

My brows rose. "What, you were expecting something more epic?"

"Yes, obviously," she retorted, giving me a look without missing a beat. It was the only reminder I needed that she still thought she was Risk . . .

I kept my own sigh to myself this time. "Well it was pretty bad. Your Charger was totaled. Some truck hit the front of our car at just the right angle to send us spinning off . . ." I forced myself to continue, despite the horrific images talking of the accident brought up. "Then we hit a low guardrail and the car flipped."

Mickey's features twisted in disdain. "That's pathetic, honestly. I'm a much better driver than that."

"You're no more invincible than I am, Mick," I pointed out.

Her chest rose and fell in heavy resignation, before she flashed me a grim smile. "You have no idea."

I couldn't bring it in myself to say anything else after that. Though Mick still looked like she had one or two overly smart-aleck responses up her sleeve, she too remained quiet. We both sat there like that, neither of us moving, until the Davidsons came back in with a nurse, announcing that Mickey was going to go home now. While her parents began to coo over her, she again returned to a more docile version of herself, though now I was certain it was behavior I couldn't believe.

The nurse that had followed Gina and Richard ushered me from the room so Mickey could change, and the last I saw of her that day was the pleading look she tossed at me before I headed for the door. Given it was a look I actually recognized, I allowed myself a smile.

It wasn't necessarily progress, but I would take it.

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