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I May Be Dead, But I'm Still Pretty

By Mystichawk

Fantasy / Adventure

The Very Humorous But Also Bad Beginning

From the moment I first opened my eyes, I knew three things:

It was pitch black, my ass was freezing, and I wasn't scared in the least. I was weirded out.

I mean, you try just popping up out of nowhere in a little girl's room, having her scream burglar and THEN Pedophile- Honestly, where were this girl's priorities? -having her mother who can't see you come in and reprimand her daughter for scaring her, then learning that you're a spirit whom no one but kids can see (for now, any way. I plan on finding a way around this rule as soon as possible). Yeah, you'd be pretty weirded out too.

You know, I think it's best that I start from the beginning.

I didn't have a name. At least, none that I remembered. I probably did once- I mean, who lets their kid run around without a name? I mean I don't know, maybe I didn't have one. Maybe I came from a tribe of nameless people. I don't know! Anyway, when I woke up I didn't have any memories- any personal ones I should say. I still remembered what right and left was, how to speak and what color the sky was and all that jazz, but when it came to personal memories of family and friends I came up blank. I couldn't remember where I was, who I was, where I was or even when I was!

At least, not until I blinked the blackness from my eyes and saw the typical decor disaster that proclaimed ten-year-old's room.

From what I remember, and it was a rather traumatic experience so forgive me if a few of the details are a little hazy, I was standing smack-dab in the middle of the room. There was a girl with spiky brown hair bent over a desk in front of me, a window to my right with a little seat covered in- I shuddered -pink cushions, and a bed smooshed into the corner with perfectly straight pink comforters laying on top.

For some reason I still don't know, I have always hated the color pink. I mean, it's OK when you're using it to support breast cancer or things like that, but the amount of pink and sparkly in this girl's room should have been illegal! I'm talking pink paint on the walls, unicorn pictures on the ceiling, stuffed plushies on the bed, tutus in the slightly ajar closet to my right, crowns and tiaras strewn everywhere, I swear it was like Princess Celestia and Barbie had a baby that threw up in there!

But, then again, who was I to judge? I was wearing nothing but a pair of ragged jeans and a sweater that even a grandmother would think twice about giving their relative for Christmas. My hair, what I could see of it, was short, slightly curly and dirty-blonde, and I didn't seem to be wearing shoes.

"Where the hell am I?" I asked aloud, but I hoped it wasn't loud enough to startle her. Thankfully, it wasn't and I remained standing there, looking around me in utter confusion. Keep in mind, I didn't remember anything of whatever life I had led up until this point. I had no idea what circumstances had put me here, or where I even was. Questions were flying around my head; I didn't know who I was or- and this would've probably been the more correct question -what I was. I thought I was a normal kid.

BOY was I ever wrong!

But I'll tell you about that later. Back to the story.

I was standing there for a good few minutes before I finally broke out of my self-induced paralysis and decided to ask her if she knew me/where I was/when I was. I didn't know why- at least, not then -why this question, out of all the others I could have asked her, felt like the most important to me at the time. But it was, and I resolved to put it first and foremost. Not having any memories of your past can make you trust your subconscious a lot more than normal, and if mine said to ask when I was then I would.

So I took the few steps towards her, but before I could say anything I noticed the pile of crumpled-up papers beside her and saw that she was attempting to write something. I bend over her shoulder to read what I could of the one she was currently doing, and I nodded appraisingly.

"The creatures bursted forth from the ground like subterran leviathans. They resembled the stone giants from myths, but the tops of their heads revolved, changing their benign features to that of warriors as they began to smash the black horses which were swarming around our heroes, cutting them off from their allies and dividing them like sheep without their Shepard." I read aloud, forgetting that she didn't know I was there and then smiling. "Nice. But I think you meant subterranean."

I swear, the girl jumped about five feet out of her chair and when she landed she tried to twist herself around, but I heard something pop and she muttered, "Ow!" Then she remembered me and jumped away from the desk, clutching her paper like it was a gun or other weapon that might protect her.

"Who are you?!" She demanded, clearly scared out of her mind. Her wide, metallic brown eyes were even wider and she was even trembling.

My feminine instincts went into overdrive. "Kid, listen, I don't want to hurt you!" I said quickly, sensing how afraid she was. Then, realizing these were the first words I had spoken in my memory- aside from where the hell am I? -I smiled.

Unfortunately, I think I went a little over-board with it and the girl yelled, "MAMA! There's a BURGLAR IN THE HOUSE!"

I swore and crossed the room to put a hand over her mouth. "Shh, listen, I'm not a burglar!" I told her but she ducked away and kept yelling.

"MAMA! HELP! CREEP! Pedophile!"

Now when I heard this I was just insulted. "Hey!" I said, giving her a glare as I ran around the room after her, trying to shut her up so that I could get a word in. "I am not a creep or a pedophile!" Not that I knew what either of those were at the time.

The girl ran around and around, jumping over her bed and scurrying under her desk in an effort to get away from me. For such a big kid, she was surprisingly fast and could fit into some interesting places. I tried to catch her, but each time I got close she yanked herself away from me and just kept yelling.

Eventually, when she backed herself into her closet and shut the door I backed off, leaning against her bed until she stopped screaming. I tried to talk to her through the door and explain that I didn't mean to be here, in her room, but she just ignored me and kept calling for her mama and didn't shut up until mama came in. And boy was she mad!

She came through the door like a hurricane, alike to her daughter in almost every way, from the way her hair stuck up in spikes to her hulking size. Not to say the woman was fat. No, she was freaking muscly! Her biceps and triceps rippled as she stood in the doorway and clenched her fists, flexing the tendons.

Like a female Tyson, I thought. Then, who the hell is Tyson?

"MARGARET CRYSTAL!" She hollered, her booming voice making the windowpanes on the girl- who I now knew to be Margaret -'s window shudder. "What is the meaning of this?! It's ten O'clock at night and Dad has night-shift tonight!" She didn't appear to notice me, even though I was standing almost right in front of her.

Margaret poked her head out from the closet and pointed to me. "Mom, there's a stranger in my room! I don't even know how she got in here!"

Her mother turned to me and I expected for her to either toss me out or ask me what the hell I was doing in her daughter's room, but she didn't. She looked at me- or, at least in my general direction, then she turned back to Margaret and said angrily, "Margaret there is no one here! If you think this is some kind of stupid joke-"

Margaret finally came out of the closet. Her hair was even more spiky than before and- I squinted. Were there sequins in her hair? "No mom, I swear, it's not a joke! She's there!" She turned to look at me. "Say something!" She ordered and I almost flinched, but I kept my cool and turned to her mother.

"Miss, I'm so sorry I didn't mean to be here in your little girl's room." I said, trying to sound as apologetic as I could. "Heck I don't even know where here is! But I'm really sorry, and if you could just tell me where I am I would be-"

Margaret's mother interrupted me, overriding me as smoothly as if I weren't speaking at all. "No, Margaret. That's enough. I don't want to hear any more about this. There is no one here, your father and I are both tired and we both are going to work tomorrow, alright? I understand that sometimes dreams can seem real, but they're just that. Dreams. There's no one here, and you are safe."

Margret deflated. Her head drooped and it looked like she was about to cry, but I saw not a single tear drop from her face as her mother turned around and left with the parting words, "Please keep it down in the future."

I stood there, unsure of what I should do. Should I apologize, or should I just leave and pretend that this hadn't happened? No, I couldn't do that. Not without at least trying to find out where (and when) I was.

"Margaret," I said after a while. She was still standing in the place her mother had left her, but when I spoke to her she raised her head.

"Why couldn't she see you?" She asked me, almost accusingly. As if I had somehow turned invisible only to her mother and intentionally made her look crazy.

"I don't know," I said truthfully with a shrug of my shoulders. "I can't remember anything."

Her button nose wrinkled in a frown. "What?" She asked, then her eyes narrowed. "Are you messing with me?" She demanded.

I shook my head. "No, I swear I'm not. I don't remember how I got here, or even where here is." I told her, taking a seat in her vacated chair. "I don't remember my name, my age, and I don't know why your mother couldn't see me."

Margaret's frown deepened. "What do you mean, you can't remember?" She asked, her voice full of suspicion. "You don't remember how you got into my room?!"

I shook my head. "No. Nothing."

She snorted disbelievingly. "Right, like I'm gonna believe that!" She said, staring to edge away from me and back towards her closet door.

That made me get a little angry. Now, normally I'm quite a complacent person. I can take people not believing me, but something in the way she said like I'm gonna believe that pushed my buttons and I stood up, faster than she could blink and stomped over to her. Her eyes widened in fear and she kept backing up until her back hit the closet door. She stood there, paralyzed like a mouse before a snake, but I didn't pay that any attention. Confusion was making me rash and angry.

"Listen kid," I told her, raising a finger to poke her ample stomach. "I'm just as confused as you are, if not more so! I don't know how the he- heck," I amended, remembering that she wasn't even a teen yet. "I don't know how the heck I got here, or even where or when here is! So a little information and maybe even some compassion wouldn't be amiss, thank you!"

Margaret flinched each time my finger touched her and only when I had finished my rant did I notice just how bad she was shaking.

"Oh gods," I whispered, backing away. The annoyance and anger instantly turning into guilt and fear that sloshed around in my brain like a soupy acid, eating away at my common sense. "I'm sorry kid, I didn't mean to scare you like that."

Margaret was still staring at me and I felt my gut tighten as I saw the fear in her eyes. How would you feel, I asked myself. If you were trapped in a room with someone no one else could see? You would be terrified too!

"I'll just go," I said, turning towards the door. She was just a kid. She couldn't help me, and I was doing nothing but scaring her, and- for some unknown and incredibly deep-rooted reason, I really didn't want to do that. "I'm sorry." I lifted the latch on the window and slid the shutter up, allowing a cool breeze to blow in and dance with the pink curtains which were tied back with pink ribbons. I inhaled deeply. Smelled like wet earth and diesel fuel. I poked my head out the window and found myself looking down on a quaint little street covered in wet leaves.

A cover of darkness had already settled on the little houses on the other side of the road and the lamps that sprouted up from the pavement like gigantic luminous trees were already starting to glow with a creamy warm light. Typical neighborhood, I thought. No help there. I looked for a street sign, but Margaret evidently lived in the middle of the street because I couldn't see one.

I sighed, starting to think about where I might go as I began to pull my body out through the window. I had no idea where I was, so maybe a map or landmark would be helpful. Yes, a map sounds like a good place to start, and I'll go from there.


I stopped, turning my head back to look at Margaret through the glass. She still looked slightly afraid. "Don't worry kid," I assured her. "I won't bother you any more. You probably won't ever see me again." I made to lift my other leg out of the room but before I could Margaret bounded across the pink plush carpet and grabbed my hand.

"Wait," she said again, and this time I detected a hint of worry in her voice. Worry? I glanced up and when our gazes met she let go and took a few steps back. "You'll fall and hurt yourself," she said meekly by way of an explanation.

I laughed. "Kid, look at me." I said, gesturing at my dirty jeans and ripped sweater. "I think I can handle a fall." Then I turned my head again to look down at the street below and suddenly I felt woozy. I clutched the window-frame for support, simply to keep from falling over, blinking and shaking my head to try and rid myself of the strange feeling. What the hell was going on? I wondered. Am I afraid of heights or something?

Evidently so, because my head started to swim the longer I looked and after a few more seconds I realized that maybe that wasn't the best idea. It was an awfully long fall, one that would hurt quite a bit if I landed wrong, and since it appeared the only one who could see me was Margaret I didn't want to take the chance in case I hurt something vital. I couldn't remember anything about going through first aid training.

I glanced back at Margaret. "Maaaybe you're right," I admitted shakily, reaching with my other hand to pull myself back inside. "Not the best idea."

Margaret folded her arms and nodded as if to say, There, you see? Then she reached around me and closed the window, latching it securely before turning to look back at me. I was sitting on the bench in front of the window, among all those vomitus pink cushions and trying not to vomit myself as the wooziness began to fade.

After a few minutes when my head had cleared and I felt a little better, I looked up to see Margaret staring at me. She was looking me up and down, like a housemother sizing up a mangy cat that her child had brought home, and so I decided to do the same, giving her a quick once-over and when I saw how much pink she was wearing I almost left right then and there.

Good gods, I thought, trying not to cringe. Her outfit was worthy of the cutest, pinkest, girliest award earth had to offer; A shortish nightgown which had a rose-bud pink ribbon around her tummy, separating the darker top and sleeves from the lighter-colored skirt which covered her pink unicorn-patterned leggings. It was the leggings that almost drove me to just jump back out the window and leave without telling her anything.

And then I saw the boots.

I don't know what prompted me to look at them, but I was sure glad I did. They were thick, black, appeared to be made from leather and- my heart almost skipped a beat! -steel-toed!

FINALLY! I thought happily. Something not barf-worthy pink!

When she noticed me looking she raised an eyebrow and asked, "Why are you staring at my shoes?" As if it were somehow unrespectable to stare at another person's shoes.

I looked up at her with a smile. "Because they are the only thing in here that isn't blinding me," I replied with as straight a face as I could keep.

She let out a single snort which sounded like a mixture of pigs snorting and laughter, then recovered herself. She set her face in one of those serious, but curious looks that only children are able to pull off as she stared at my face and hair critically. "You don't look homeless," she told me, her eyes lingering on my sweater.

I gave her a deadpan look. "I'm not wearing any shoes." I replied flatly.

She shrugged. "I've seen homeless people with shoes before," she said dismissively. Then added, "And anyway, your hair is too bright for you to be homeless."

I frowned, then reached up to pull down a dirty-golden lock of hair and eyed it. "You call this bright?" I asked her, raising an eyebrow.

She shook her head and, without asking permission whatsoever, reached forward and pulled another chunk from the back of my hair forward until I could see it. "See?" She said proudly, holding the piece of dirty hair under my nose. "It's bright green!"

I blinked, staring at the lock of hair before taking it in my own hands and examining it closely. There were flecks of blonde, dirt, grease and even a little bit of grey stuff that I thought was ash from a fire, and underneath it all, mixed in so well that at first I barely noticed it, was a smattering of deep emerald.

I raised my eyebrows. "What on earth...?" I breathed, staring at the green hair as if it might attack me.

"I think it looks kinda of cool," Margaret offered with a small smile, attempting to mend the bridge a little.

I glanced at her. "Is the rest of my hair like this?"

She nodded. Then her face brightened a little as she turned around and ran over to her desk, picking up a small hand-mirror before running back over to me and presenting it to me. "Here," she said. "See for yourself."

I took the mirror gingerly in my hands, but didn't look into it. Now, looking back on it, I think I was afraid of what I might see. Would it be a homeless child who had lost their memory because they had never had one to begin with, or would I be a runaway in dirty jeans and a stolen sweater, running from an abusive home?

I shuddered. Maybe it was better for me to not know. I set the mirror down on the cushions beside me and turned to look back at Margaret. "So, where are we kid?" I asked, wanting to put that experience out of my mind. for now, at any rate.

Margaret looked at the mirror, then back at me but thankfully, she didn't ask any questions. "Well," she said, looking at her feet. "The city I live in is called Burgess. That's where my house, here, is."

I nodded, committing the name to memory for when I did leave in case I needed to get back. "Burgess. Sounds nice. What state are we in?"

"Pennsylvania," she volunteered immediately.

I took a moment to mull that over. Pennsylvania. That was...on the west coast? No, no the east coast. Right. Was it near New York?

"It's just a little town near the boarder," Margaret added after a few moments of silence. "There aren't too many people here. Just my friends and their families."

"And...I'm not one of them?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

She shook her head. "No, I'm sorry."

I sighed. "That's OK kid," I told her, standing up but doing it slowly so that I didn't get another headrush. I made for the door, my head buzzing with hundreds of questions and not a single answer among them. Burgess. Doesn't sound familiar. She said that it was near the boarder, so maybe I lived on the other side of it in whatever state was next and just...

Just what? Just wandered here from a whole state away, into some poor kid's bedroom that you've never met before? No, I don't think so.

I rolled my eyes. Then how did I get here? I asked the little voice that was being so annoying in the back of my head. I didn't just pop up here like daisy. Then I stopped. Hell I don't know, maybe I did!

"Where are you going?"

I pulled out of my thoughts with a jerk, just in time to see Margaret standing in front of the door with her arms crossed and a frown on her face.

I stopped. "I'm leaving." I told her, thinking, oh great. Now the kid is getting attached to me. "I've got to find out who I am and how I got here, and I can't do it just standing around here."

She gave me that look again- that infuriating look that all kids give you when they think they're in the right but they don't know jack shit. "You really think you're going to find out if you go out there?" She asked me skeptically, gesturing to the door as if it were the stupidest idea in the world.

I shrugged. "Well, it's as good a place as any." I replied, taking a step forward but she continued to block me. What the hell is wrong with her? I wondered, backing up a little so that I didn't bump into her. A minute ago she couldn't get me out of here fast enough!

"Where will you go?" Margaret demanded, speaking to me as if I were the child and not her. She seemed afraid, almost desperate for me to not leave. What a three-sixty. "How will you eat? I mean it's not like this town has muggings and shootings every day but look at you!" She broke off to look me up and down again. "You don't look like you could last a night out on the streets!"

I rolled my eyes again, taking another step. "Get out of my way kid, this isn't any of your business." I told her, reaching out a hand to move her aside but she ducked it and popped back up again, her face set in a determined frown.

"No!" She told me, planting her feet firmly on the plush carpet and folding her arms defiantly. "I'm not moving, and it is my business." I opened my mouth to argue, but she over-rode me. "You showed up in my room, telling me that you can't remember who you are or how you got here, and then when my mom comes in she can't see you at all! No," she repeated. "I don't want you to leave, and not just because you could get in trouble." She paused, looking me up and down again but this time it was like she was sizing up a painting, looking at all my little faults and finishes and the gaze was so direct that I felt a little uncomfortable.

"Then why don't you want me to leave?" I asked, trying not to sound like a defiant child which was exactly what I did sound like.

Her gaze lifted to my face again. Those piercing metallic brown eyes were staring into my green ones so intensely that I wished I could look away, but I couldn't. Something about the honesty and innocence in those eyes held me fast, like quicksand that was about to swallow me whole. Then she opened her mouth, and said the last thing I expected to come from her. "You've got a story."

I blinked. "What?"

"You've got a story." She repeated. She was smiling now as she took a step forward, speaking as she did so. "You might not remember it, but if writing has taught me anything it's that everybody has a story." She stopped a few inches in front of me, staring up at my face. "I want to find out yours," Margaret told me seriously. Then the adult-like mask was cracked by a more childish smile. "And I can't do that if you go running off, now can I?"

Her smile was infectious and I had to crack one of my own. Such a good kid... but the levity soon faded and I was forced back to the problem at hand. Should I stay or should I go?

Aaand then that annoying voice in the back of my head started singing should I stay or should I go now and completely dissolving any remaining sense of seriousness that I had accumulated.

Good grief, I thought. Am I an escaped mental patient or something?

It wouldn't be too far out of the realm or possibilities.

"No," I admitted in answer to her question. "I guess you can't." I sighed. Well, it wasn't like I had any real plan once I left here anyway. So I might as well stick around. For the night, at least. In the morning I could sneak out the window- no, the stairs. I reminded myself. Nooo more windows for you missy. -and see if anyone else could see me and go from there. But for now...

"Alright," I finally conceded, lifting my arms up in defeat. "Alright Margaret, you win. I'll stay."

Margaret let out a squeal of joy and ran at me with both arms open for a hug. Before I had a chance to react I felt a hundred and eighty pounds of fluffy pre-teen slam into me, knocking me back at least three steps and knocking the wind right out of me. "Yes!" She squealed, squeezing my stomach with apparent glee. "Thank you thank you thank you!"

As soon as she hit my my eyes bugged out and I'm sure I looked utterly ridiculous, but I was too busy gasping for breath to care. It was like being hit by a powderpuff line-backer! "Good gods Margaret," I half moaned, half gasped as I tried in vain to pry her off me. "I think you need to lay off the cookies after school!"

Margaret laughed as she pulled away from me, grinning like the malignant little troll I had suspected she was underneath all that cutesy pink exterior. "My friends call me Cupcake." She replied, holding out a chubby hand, presumably for me to shake.

I shook it. "Cupcake." I repeated, thinking, Could you have picked a name any girlier? "Of course they do."

Her smile instantly sank into a frown. "And what's wrong with Cupcake?" She demanded, as if I had severely insulted her.

I instantly backtracked. "Oh nothing, nothing nothing at all Marg- I mean Cupcake. It's a lovely name and I'm sure the other children like it too-" Why oh why couldn't I stop babbling?! What was it about this girl that turned me from an imposing adult- or close enough anyway, to a babbling child?

Thankfully, she had the decency to cut me off there. "I'm kidding," she told me, patting my arm in reassurance. "I'm kidding. It's OK. I know it's a girly nick-name, and I like it." She was smiling. I was not.

I was recovering from a heart attack. "Good grief kid," I lifted my hand to my heart which was beating like crazy. "Don't do that to me! You nearly gave me a coronary!"

She chuckled, regaining that malignant troll-expression I had come to expect from her. "Sorry." She apologized but I doubted that she meant it. "Just wanted a little revenge for that bit earlier."

My eyes snapped open and I opened my mouth in outrage. You little- I was ready to rip her a new one for the kind of mind-manipulation she had pulled, but before I could get a single word out she clapped me on the arm again.

"Well, if you're going to stay here then the first thing we need to do is get you cleaned up!" She said happily, taking my arm and leading me over to the door, babbling all the way. "The shower is downstairs, I'll show you how to work it and I'll steal some of my big sister's clothes for you. Do you know your sizes?"

What? Shower? What's a shower? My head was spinning again. Half of me was paying attention to Cupcake, trying to understand what she was saying as she spoke a mile a minute, half of me was trying to follow how she was moving so that I could place my feet correctly and not trip and fall flat on my face, and yet another half of me- aren't there only two halfs in a whole? -was so utterly tired from all this that I could've fallen over right then and there into her carpet. The only thing keeping me up was Cupcake herself.

"Cupcake," I tried to stop her flow of words but she was too excited. Good grief, I thought as she continued to prattle away. This kid is gonna explode!

"It's OK if you don't know, I think you should be close enough. She might even be bigger than you are! Is there a kind of shampoo you prefer? We've got mango-rose Aveeno, spearmint Axe, and I think we've got some bubblegum Scooby Doo body wash if you want. I like spearmint. It reminds me of winter."

I sighed. "Whatever you've got is OK with me Cupcake," I told her, thinking that a whole tub of bodywash wouldn't be enough to get rid of all this dirt and gunk.

When we got to the door she briefly let go of my arm just long enough for her to twist the knob and push it open. Then she wound her hand back around my arm and pulled me forward into the hallway.

The instant my foot touched the hard-wood floor shooting knives of pain bit into me, snaking up my leg and a sharp cry of unbidden pain escaped my lips. I staggered back, yanking Cupcake back inside her room and only her hand around my arm kept my from falling over. The pain was unbelievable, like a hedgehog was burrowing into my foot with each step backwards. The pain lessened when my feet touched carpet again but it was still there none the less.

"What's wrong?" Cupcake asked, looking from my face to my feet in worry.

I gritted my teeth, trying to keep the scream of agony down in my throat that was begging so hard to be let loose so that I wouldn't scare her. "Something...n...feet." I grunted, shutting my eyes against the pain. Just what I needed, what with my head still spinning.

Cupcake probably didn't understand what I was saying, but in the next few seconds when the pain grew worse and I could no longer stand on the foot, she realized what was wrong. "Here," She said, quickly taking ahold of my arms and trying to ease me down on the ground.

Once my behind felt fluffy carpet beneath it I pulled my arm away from Cupcake and used it to brace myself against the ground, to keep from falling over. Cupcake nodded, then scuttled around to inspect my feet. Her eyes widened as they alighted on my bare feet. I groaned. That can't be good.

"What is it?" I asked her, bracing myself for whatever reply she was going to give, though I already knew it had to be bad.

She glanced up at me. "It'"

I frowned. "Glass?" I repeated, momentarily distracted from the pain. How the hell had I gotten glass in my foot?!

She nodded. "Yes, lots. Big pieces." She raised her hand and indicated with two fingers. "About this wide."

I winced. Gods above, why didn't I feel them before if they're that large? I wondered, then I shook my head. Never mind that now. Now I've got to figure out what to do about the bloody big shards of glass sticking out of my feet!

" want me to try and take them out?" Cupcake asked hesitantly, looking none too happy about the task but aware that it might come to that. "I'm no surgeon, but I'm sure I can manage."

I thought about it. I couldn't see the glass myself, but I didn't doubt she was telling the truth. And the pain was getting worse. "Fine," I replied flatly.

She still looked hesitant. "Are you sure?" She went to ask but before she could get to the second word I interrupted her firmly. "Just do it. It'll have to be done eventually, and the sooner the better I guess."

Cupcake shrugged. "Alright." She stood. "I've got to go grab some stuff from the bathroom first though. Towels for the blood, and tweezers for the smaller pieces. Some of the pieces are embedded in there really deep."

I nodded. "Alright, just hurry please." I tried not to let the pain show through in my voice but she appeared to hear it any way. She nodded, then hurried out the door which swung languidly back and forth, back and forth on squeaky hinges.

I waited for a few minutes, contemplating my situation to try and ignore the needle-like pain digging into my feet. It wasn't just the foot that had touched the wood now, but my other foot as well. Phantom pain flew up and down my legs, which was almost as painful as the real thing, except the phantom pain didn't alleviate when I shifted my ankles.

"Glass," I repeated quietly to myself, staring at my dirty toes and trying not to wiggle them out of habit. "Of all the things to get stuck in my foot, glass." It was rather strange, and told me little to nothing new about myself. Except for the fact that I had probably gotten into quite a bit of trouble before my memory-loss. As if the flakes of ash in my hair hadn't already told me that.

I lifted my hand to push some of the blonde hair out of my eyes. It had been hanging there for at least ten minutes and was surprisingly irritating to me, and so I tucked it behind my left ear. A minute later, the hair fell back again. I glared cross-eyed at it. Something about the hair bothered me. I didn't know what. Maybe it was the dirt and sweat, maybe it was the green dye which I could see no sign of now. But something was nagging at me, telling me that this wasn't like me, but I dismissed it. There would be plenty of time after I got this damn glass out of my foot and cleaned myself up to ponder the mysteries of my hair.

About five minutes later, Cupcake returned. Her arms were full of medical supplies, bottles, tweezers, bandage wrappings and Band-Aids, all resting on top a stack of fluffy dark towels which she set down beside my feet. She knelt in front of me with a smile. "I brought alcohol and painkillers," she told me, gesturing to the three bottles resting on their sides on the towel. "In case it hurts too much and ends up being septic."

I nodded. "Very smart. Thank you Margaret."

"Cupcake," she corrected without blinking, picking up one fo the towels and lifting my feet with one hand, inciting a wince from me as she slid the towel beneath them. Then she picked up the tweezers. "I don't know much about medicines," she told me seriously. "Are you sure you want me to do it?"

I nodded. "I can't see anything." I told her. "So it's got to be you."

She nodded and raised the tweezers, ready to begin. "This is going to hurt," she warned. Then she started reached down and pulled at the first piece of glass.

The scream that leaped from my mouth almost shattered the windows behind us and made Cupcake jump like a scared mouse which, in turn made her yank at the piece of glass again and this time the force was enough to yank the shard all the way out, which just made me scream again.


"I'm sorry!" Cupcake yelped, flinching back like I had slapped her. "I'm so so sorry!"

I gritted my teeth, my fingers clenched into tight fists against the utter agony that was wrenching through my body. "Mmm, mmm! S'alright," I managed to growl through the whimpers of pain. "Just ke- keep going."

Cupcake looked down at the tweezers in her hand, her eyes wide. She looked terrified and I forced myself to calm down through quick, short breaths. I didn't want to terrify her any more than she already was.

"Cupcake." My voice was low, as low as I could make it without making me cough, and I spoke slowly so that she could understand me. "It's OK. Really, just keep going. It doesn't hurt all that much anymore-" Lie. "-and you just surprised me the first time. That's why I screamed." The smile I forced onto my face probably looked more like a grimace, but she appeared to believe me. "I bet that was the biggest one, right?" I asked her, half hoping I was right.

She glanced at the shard of glass, which was just as gnarly as I had imagined it. The width was at least half an inch thick and it was positively covered in my blood, along with dirt and flecks of grey ash. Then she looked up at me and shook her head. "No."

I tried not to cringe. I was afraid of that. "Just keeping going," I told her, steeling myself for another piece of glass being yanked out of my foot. I wasn't dissapointed, and a few seconds later I was cursing like a sailor.

"Ack! Dammit all to Vell and back!"

"I'm sorry!"

Another piece out.

"Gorlog's claws and nostrils- OW!"

"I'm sorry!"

"Ugh. Just keep going!"

After the first six or seven pieces, Cupcake appeared tired of my cursing beause when she yanked the next one out and I hissed something about barking spiders, she looked up at me with an unimpressed look. "Oh knock it off," she told me flatly.

I raised an eyebrow, though the pain was still racing up my body. "Excuse me? Who's the one who's getting pieces of glass yanked out of her feet?!"

She nodded. "Yes, I know, and who's the one yanking those pieces of glass out for you? And I'm not about to do it while being sworn at in Nordic, so please keep your swearing to yourself."

I resisted the urge to growl at her, though in all honesty this little flare of defiance gave me hope for myself and my situation. She wasn't just a scared little mouse or a girly-girl after all, she was a smart girl who was able to adapt and didn't care two ticks about speaking her mind or not. And, out of respect for her, I chose to keep my swearing silent and in my head, which actually allowed me to express myself fully in my cursing and not use the filter which, believe it or not I had been using because there was a child present.

Twenty minutes later, Cupcake pulled the last bit of glass, a small fragment no bigger than my pinky-fingernail which she set down among the other pieces of glass on the corner of the other towel she had brought, and smiled at me. "There." She said happily. "That's the last one!"

But I didn't feel like celebrating. At all.

I felt like rolling over and vomiting- or at the very least hitting something very hard, but I held it. My eyes were watering like mad, making the world swim worse than before and I could barely keep myself upright. But I hid as much of this as I could from Cupcake behind a completely fake smile. "Thank you," I told her gratefully. And I was grateful. It would be much easier to get about with a cathedral's worth of glass shards out of my foot. However, the pain was still there.

She nodded and picked up the larger of the three bottles, a clear plastic one that was clearly labeled ethyl alcohol. I cringed, knowing what was about to happen and dreading it.

"I don't have to do this," Cupcake said quickly. "I can just wrap it like this-"

"No," I said tiredly. I was going to sleep for a month after this. "No, it'll be better if you use the alcohol. I don't want to die of infection." Then I smiled. "Though with you as my doctor I'm sure that's impossible."

Cupcake snorted. "Ha! Yeah, right. I'm a regular Margaret Hoolaghan." She frowned thoughtfully. "Maybe that's where my mom got my name from."

I shrugged, not knowing who Margaret Hoolaghan was and honestly not caring.

Margaret picked up the bottle, popped the top and sloshed some out on a smaller towel which she then rubbed over my aching feet. I had thought beforehand that the pain of having shards of glass yanked from my feet was the worst pain I would ever have to go through. I was wrong. This, right here, was worse. My eyes began to water almost the instant the alcohol touched my cuts and I had to clamp my teeth tightly over my lower lip to keep the curses that so badly wanted to escape my mouth in my throat.

Damn, damn double damn!

"It's OK," Cupcake told me gently, using her free hand to pat mine as she used the other to rub the towel harder into my right foot and then my left. "Almost done. Just got to get the last bit of blood off, then I can wrap it."

I didn't answer. The aching was beginning to cease as she wiped more and more dirt, muck and blood from my feet. They would probably be clean as whistles by the time she was done, at least on the bottom.

Cupcake took a few of the Band-Aids scattered on the floor beside her and slipped them over the wider cuts. Then, after making sure they were secure, she began wrapping my feet with the bandages. I watched her work carefully, noticing the professionalism and caution with which she wrapped them. Apparently she isn't as hopeless a nurse as she pretends, I thought.

"You're quite handy with those wrappings," I commented as she tucked the end of the wrapping among the bands on my left foot and leaned back, surveying her work with a critical eye.

She smiled at me, shrugging. "I've read enough about heroes that get hurt to make do." She replied. "Plus my sister is a boxer. She gets beat up a lot and taught me how to wrap a wound."

I nodded. Interesting. "Give us a hand up will you?"

Cupcake helped me to my feet with stung slightly when I put pressure on them, but it didn't hurt too much and I hesitantly took a step out into the hallway.

"Better?" Cupcake asked, watching my wrapped feet carefully for signs of poor workmanship. She was dedicated, if anything.

I nodded. "Loads, thanks kid."

Cupcake beamed, very pleased with herself for the good deed she had done. I tousled her hair, then used her as a crutch as we hobbled down the short flight of stairs and across the hall. It was a good thing her parents were asleep, because it would've been an odd sight to see to be sure; Cupcake with her shoulders hunched and her arm resting on my back, keeping me up.

"Here we are," Cupcake told me, pushing open the turquoise-colored door and revealing a fairly large bathroom with a toilet, a tub with a dark blue screen drawn over it, a sink, and several cupboards resting on the walls which were the same color as the door. "All the stuff's in the cupboard. You can use whatever you want, just remember to lock the door, in case my parents need to get up and use it before you're done." She ducked out form under my arm but held onto my hand just long enough for me to place it firmly on the wall to keep myself from falling.

I raised an eyebrow. "But, if one of them comes knocking, what makes you think locking the door will do any good? They can't see or hear me."

Cupcake frowned. She had evidently not thought of this. "Hmm... Well, if that happens then at least they won't be able to see you." She chuckled. "They'll probably wonder why the shower is on though."

I smirked. "Well, if all else fails then at least I can pick something up and throw it at them, pretending I'm a ghost."

Cupcake laughed. "Oh man if only I was invisible too!" She chuckled evilly, rubbing her hands together like a malignant troll. "Then I could see the look on my dad's face. Oooh, priceless!"

I laughed out loud and clapped her on the shoulder. "Cupcake," I told her grandly. "In spite of the pink and your nick-name, I think that we are going to get along just fine."

She left me then, and in spite of our joking I decided to lock the door. Just in case.

The shower was, thankfully, easy to work with. All I had to do was pull the knob and twist it to the perfect temperature. The water squirted out in thick, wide-spread streams that instantly made me let out an ooh of pleasure, as if I hadn't felt the soft kiss of hot water in years. The dirt practically melted off of me like a second skin. I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed with the borrowed sponge Cupcake had pointed out before leaving, taking off layer after layer of dirt, filth and probably quite a bit of skin too.

"Good grief," I muttered when I saw how different my hand looked after a good soaking. "They're so pruney I look like grandma Sophie!" Then I thought, who's grandma Sophie? All these strange names in my head, Harry, Sophie, Tyson, and those curses. Where had they all come from? I resolved to ask Cupcake after I got out. She might know.

I began washing my hair then. Cupcake had said that all the shampoos were available, as long as I didn't use too much. But I didn't like the scent of most of them, so I chose the small bottle labeled Herbal Essences: Color Me Happy. It said it was for colored hair, so I figured it might do well for my green. I squirted a generous portion onto my hands, then started scrubbing at the water flowed away.

It took a total of three rounds of scrubbing, but eventually I managed to get all or nearly all of the gunk out of my thick, messy hair and it hung down my back like a wet, stringy curtain, at least twice as long as it had been dirty. I ran my fingers through it, slightly irritated with how easily the digits got swallowed up by the semi-clean hair, but then I remembered I had just washed it and it was bound to be a bit messy until I got a chance to run a brush through it.

Once I had checked myself to make sure I was thoroughly clean, I switched off the water and pulled the curtain aside, staring at my filthy clothes in utter disgust. There was no way I was going to put those dirty slops on my body. I looked around for some other clothes that might've been left behind that weren't quite so dirty, but there were none. Nothing but a towel hanging on the back of the door, which I knew wouldn't be enough.

Suddenly I heard a knocking. I leaped to cover myself with the curtain before remembering the door was locked. The knocking was soft and quiet, as if someone was trying not to disturb me.

"Hey? You done in there?"

I let out a sigh of relief. It was only Cupcake, checking up on me. "I'm right here," I called out to her. "But I don't have any clean clothes to put on."

I heard her laugh from behind the door. "Why do you think I'm here?" The knob jiggled. "Now let me in, before someone sees me. I've got clean towels and clothes."

Without hesitation I crossed the room and reached for the lock. Then I remembered I was completely nude and grabbed the towel hanging on the back of the door. After tying it around myself securely, I turned the lock and opened the door.

Cupcake was standing there impatiently, tapping her foot and glancing over her shoulder, antsy as a box of crickets. When I opened the door she whirled back to look at me, glanced me up and down, then turned back around towards the stairs and beckoned for me to follow. "We can't risk my parents seeing you, in case you were wondering why we were going back to my room." She whispered when I opened my mouth to ask her just that question.

I hmmphed and followed her, dripping wet and suddenly very very cold, up the stairs and back to her room. A cold wind from an open window somewhere in the house whisked up the stairs and flew up the back of my towel. As you can imagine, this gave me quite a start. Honestly the only thing I can equate it to is a ghost trying to cop a feel. And if it was then I was going to kick some serious ghoulio butt!

As soon as I got some clothes on.

Thankfully, I didn't have to wait long, as we reached her room a few seconds later. Cupcake let me go in first, holding out the bundle of clothes for me to take as I passed her.

"Here," she said, pushing them into my arms. "I'll wait outside." She went to shut the door and I didn't stop her. It felt good to have a little privacy.

I quickly changed into the clothes she had given me; a pair of grey sweatpants and a typical grey long-sleeved shirt. I wiggled with joy as the warm material slid over my skin, instantly making the gooseflesh from my little wind-towel experience dissapear and my body start to warm. I looked down at myself, a small smile on my face. It wasn't really my taste in color, but it would have to do.

A few minutes later I opened the door and Cupcake stepped back inside. I beamed at her. "Well? What do you think?" I asked, gesturing down at myself.

She looked at me from neck to toe approvingly, but when she looked back at my face and opened her mouth to speak, her expression shifted from pride to surprise and her mouth opened, but no sound came out.

I frowned. "What's wrong?" I asked her, wondering if I had put the shirt on backwards. It was tagless, so I had had a little trouble putting it on, but I doubted she would have a look like that on her face for a backwards shirt.

Cupcake didn't answer me. Instead she ran over to me and picked up pieces of my wet hair. "What the heck did you use?!" She demanded, picking the wet strands up one by one and looking closely at them.

I jerked my head away, pulling the strands out of her fingertips, wondering if she had gone mad. "What in Vallar are you talking about?" I demanded, turning around to face her but before I could stop her she had followed me.

"Your hair!" She told me, yanking a chunk of wet strands up to that I could see it. "It's turned purple!"

I blinked, utterly thrown. "Purple?" I took the strand from Cupcake's fingers and looked at it carefully. Instead of being green or blonde, this piece of hair was a bright shade of violet, like the lavender herb that grew in the fields of Italy. I stared, dumbstruck by the new color. "How...on..." But my voice tailed away. Instead of feeling discomfort or confusion upon seeing this new color, as I had upon seeing my blonde and green hair, this strange, beautiful color seemed

I frowned. Fit? What on earth did that mean? I turned the strand of wet hair over and over in my fingers, inspecting it closely and as I did so, warm sensations began to radiate through me. As if the color was an old, familiar friend. It was hard to describe. Almost as if...

"As if it's a part of me," I whispered, dropping the hair and turning to Cupcake. "Can I have that mirror?"

Cupcake, who was still staring at my hair, jumped when my voice rang out in the silence. "What? Oh, right." She scrambled over to the window-seat where I had left the mirror, snatched it up and then ran back to me, clutching it to her chest.

I snatched the mirror from her hands and brought it up to my face, ignoring the hesitance I had felt before. A pale-faced teenager stared back at me. Her cheeks were a ruddy pink, clogged pores making her nose look like a sieve and small brown moles scattered across her forehead and cheeks, but these were camouflaged almost entirely by jagged cuts and scars that crisscrossed each other. I tilted my head down a little in order to see my hair and there is was, looking as natural as the green had. Bright, vibrant purple hair plastered over my scalp and hanging down the sides of my face in tangles strings.

"I can't wait to see what it looks like dry!"

Cupcake's voice broke me out of my stupor and I turned slowly to stare at her. She had that happy smile on her face again and her arms were folded contentedly, as if my astonishment was exactly what she had been expecting. "What?"

Her smile widened a little. "If that's what it looks like wet," she explained, still eying my hair. "Then I'm sure it must look positively gorgeous when it's dry."

I frowned, glancing back at the few strands hanging over my shoulder. "I guess," I offered halfheartedly. As calm and relaxed at the new color made me feel, I was still a little unsure about it. How had it gotten this shade, when just a half an hour earlier I had seen it blonde and spattered with emerald? Had it been the shampoo I had used? Was the term 'color me happy' meant to tell the user that it actually gave color to hair, not enhanced it?

I stopped. Now that was just plain ridiculous. The shampoo had been clear and smelled of roses, nothing to do with the color purple.

Cupcake ignored my hesitance and walked over to her desk, picking up a brush and offering it to me. "Do you want to brush it?"

I looked at the brush. It was pink and sparkly, typical. "Maybe later," I told her, pushing the brush away. "For now, I'm kind of tired. Is it OK if I rest here until morning?"

Cupcake nodded emphatically. "Of course, of course! Like I said, you're welcome here until we find out who you are." She jumped into action, tossing the brush back onto her desk and rushing to her closet. She started pulling out blankets and tucking them under her arm, at least three, then she turned back to me and walked over until she was standing before the window seat. "Is right here OK?" She called over her shoulder, setting the blankets down ant shaking the first one out. "I can get the cot out if you need it."

I followed her over to the window. the seat was wide enough for me to lay down comfortably, but those pillows would be annoying. I picked two of them up. "Can we relocate the pillows?" I asked, trying not to sound rude.

But she just nodded happily. "Sure! I don't like sleeping with them myself. Too scratchy." And so saying she picked up the other pillows and chucked them across the room, towards the closet. I looked askance as the pillows, then I shrugged and chucked them at the closet. They hit the door with a muffled thump and landed in a small pile. "Is this enough for you?" She asked, holding out one of the blankets.

I turned around to look at her, reaching out to run my fingers over the material. It was soft as silk and smooth, like touching glass. But it was malleable and hung limply from Cupcake's hands. "Perfect." I told her, taking the blanket and wrapping it around myself like a towel. I laid down on the cushioned bench and Cupcake handed the other black blanket, this one thicker and less smooth, to me which I pulled over myself. The room was heated, but after that wind chill I still felt a little cold.

"Thank you Cupcake," I told her once I had adjusted myself to a comfortable position. "I hope you know how much I appreciate this."

Cupcake, who had turned towards her own bed with the intention of getting in it and going to sleep, paused and turned back to me. She was smiling again, but this time it wasn't proud, or smug. It was that strange, curious smile that only young children are able to pull off. Happy and carefree. "It's OK," she said, smiling. "You would've done the same for me. And anyway, it's not like I could just kick you out into the cold. Not without feeling like a miserable excuse for a human being, that is."

I nodded my thanks again, though we both knew that not many children would be this trusting. And none of them would be this kind. "All the same, thank you."

She nodded in return, smiling as she pulled back the comforters and slid into her bed after kicking off her shoes. "Alright," she said, switching off the light. "Goodnight..." There was a small pause. "You know, we've got to figure out a name for you until we find out who you really are."

I shrugged as the room grew black. I was too tired to respond, though it appeared I might not be able to get to sleep any time soon, thanks to the moonlight flooding in through the uncovered window.

"Oh, and if you don't want the window open you can shut it if you want." Cupcake's voice added out of the darkness, as if reading my mind. "I just like having the Man in the Moon watching over me at night."

I raised an eyebrow. "The Man in the Moon?"

"Yes. He's the grand spirit who watches over all the others. I'll tell you about them tomorrow. Goodnight."

I shrugged again, turning over until I could see the moon hanging in the velvety sky among the pin-prick stars glittering like diamonds. I didn't like the light much, but I was too sleepy to care. The words Man in the Moon kept rolling around in my mind. They felt familiar, but evidently they had something to do with my personal memories because I couldn't figure out what it was, and eventually I just gave up. I would have to ask Cupcake about it tomorrow. "Goodnight."

I lay there quietly for a long time, watching the glowing blue-white orb hanging there silently in the sky as time slowly passed by, shining down on me like a single benevolent eye and as I laid there, an over-whelming sense of calm washed over me. My eyes started to droop. The aching in my muscles instantly vanished, and as I slowly drifted off into the gentle arms of the world of sleep I wondered if there really was someone sitting up there in the sky, watching over me.

There was. I just didn't know it yet.

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