I swam in and out of consciousness, feeling like I was detached from my own body. I was vaguely aware that it had stopped raining but water was still dripping onto my face. A loud siren blared in the back of my mind and a myriad of colors fought for my attention. My vision was blurred but I could make out distinctly human shapes dancing before my eyes.
Muffled sounds reached my ears from the other end of a long tunnel and after a while I recognized them as voices. The words were hard to distinguish but I figured enough to know that someone was talking to me. “Ms. Dawson, can you hear me?”
My mouth worked to form words but no sound came out. I groaned and just hoped that they would understand that as a confirmation.
“Get her into the ambulance. We’d better hurry.”
A wave of vertigo hit as movement like the rocking of a ship hit me. I felt nauseous but it was thankfully short-lived when my world went black once again.
The first thing I was aware of when I woke up again was that I could breathe. It hurt to inhale but at least I wasn’t still suffocating. I forced my tired eyes open and was blinded by white light reflecting off of equally white walls. A beeping sound kept pace with my heartbeat and the whole place smelled of antiseptic. A hospital.
I groaned and sat up, despite the incredible soreness in every single one of my muscles. My room was pretty big with a large couch pulled out like a bed, a sink, closet and a closed door that I presumed led to the bathroom. I was hooked up to IVs and monitors and bandages covered most of my body. I wore one of those flimsy hospital gowns and blushed- I definitely wasn’t an exhibitionist so the idea of some random people changing me was awkward.
The bathroom door opened and I yanked the blanket up to my chin. “Mornin’ sunshine,” Randall said with a smile, although he didn’t seem quite as cheery as normal.
“Mm, what time is it?”
He arched one brow. “You’re worried about time? Lyra, you should be asking what day it is.”
“Randall, I have a headache. What the hell are you talking about?”
He frowned. “Ly, it’s Wednesday. You’ve been out for half a week.”
My brows furrowed in confusion. “Really? But, I feel like I was just driving from Salt Lake City a few hours ago.”
“How much do you remember?”
I scrunched up my forehead and thought for a long, agonizing minute. “Um, I was driving back from my dad’s new place and it was raining. I slid on the wet pavement.”
He frowned, like he knew there was something I wasn’t telling him. I held his gaze steadily until he came and sat on the edge of my bed. “You’ll be stuck here for a few days but at least you’re still alive.”
I smiled, more of a nervous twitch of my lips. “Has my dad come to see me? Or Max?”
“Max came with your mom but she had to work. Sorry, Ly, but you’re dad’s still down in Salt Lake.”
“Oh,” I whispered, disappointed. Even my mother, who probably hated me most of the time, had visited me but my dad had spent the last three days in Salt Lake while I was stuck in the hospital.
“But, you have had another visitor that barely ever leaves your side.”
I cocked my head to the side. “Who?”
There was a soft knock at the door before it squeaked partway open. “Randall? How is she?”
“She’s awake,” my best friend answered the visitor without looking away from me.
The door opened wider and I looked up to see who was there. Michael stood in the doorway, his grey eyes quickly scanning over me until I blushed. “What are you doing here?” I asked to try and ease some of my discomfort.
“I heard about your accident so I came to see how you were.”
“He’s been here pretty much since you were admitted,” Randall said. “It’s kind of annoying. But I think I’m going to get some coffee and leave you two alone for a moment.”
“How are you feeling?” he asked softly.
I shrugged and even the simple motion sent a jolt of pain through my shoulders and down my back. “I’m a little sore. I guess that’s a little obvious if I’ve been out for so long. You’ve been here the whole time?”
He nodded. “For the most part. I had to leave a few times and they kicked me out after visiting hours.”
“Apparently the hospital does not like having people here after a certain time of night,” he answered smugly.
I rolled my blue eyes skyward. “That’s not what I meant and you know it. Why have you been here so much?”
He wouldn’t meet my gaze. “I care about you, Lyra-Rose. I did not want to leave until I was certain that you were okay. You were in a car accident and I did not know if you would make it.”
“It was a pretty bad crash,” I allowed.
“I know. You called me.”
“Yes. It was pretty late Sunday night and when I answered, you were not on the other end. I could hear the rain and it sounded like you were wheezing so I called the paramedics.”
I closed my eyes and tried to picture that night. My fingers had dialed of their own accord so I hadn’t even known what number I’d dialed. “Sorry, I don’t know why I did that.”
“So what exactly happened?”
I craned my neck to make sure that Randall wasn’t just waiting in the hallway then motioned for Michael to shut the door. I know that it wasn’t right to keep my best friend out of the loop but for some reason I felt the need to tell Michael before I mentioned it to anyone else. “I was driving in the rain and out of nowhere, Vega appeared. I slammed my breaks but went skidding into a ditch. Vega tried to choke me but somehow I was able to call you. I really don’t know how I lived through that but I think I’m entitled to the truth, don’t you?”
He sighed. “Lyra-Rose, we have been over this.”
I shook my head. “Look, I didn’t care too much that you were keeping things from me before, but she almost killed me. After all the crap I’ve been through because of her, I deserve to at least know why.”
“I am afraid you will not like the answers,” he said quietly, looking down at his hands.
“I don’t like being in a hospital or that my dad hasn’t come to visit. I don’t like that Vega tried to kill me and you won’t tell me what the hell is going on. There are plenty of things that I don’t like but I hate you keeping secrets more than I don’t like whatever you may have to tell me.”
“Get some sleep, Lyra-Rose.”
I sat up straighter and crossed my arms stubbornly over my chest. “No. I’ve been sleeping for three days. Tell me, Michael. Who is Vega really and what does she want with me?”
I rolled my eyes. “Of course I want the truth.”
“Okay, then. Vega is your sister. You are the one that I was supposed to take care of. You were the girl that ran away.”
I glared at him. “I said to tell the truth, smartass. If you’re just going to sit there and make up crap then why don’t you just go?”
“Go! I feel awful and you’re not helping anything.”
“What’s going on in here?” Randall asked from the door, two steaming mugs in his hands.
“Nothing. Michael was just leaving,” I said with absolute finality.
Michael’s grey eyes searched mine for a moment before he nodded curtly. “Fine. Call me if you need anything, Lyra. And please get better soon.” He turned stiffly on his heel and marched from the room.
“What was that all about?” Randall muttered as he handed me one of the warm cups of mocha brown liquid.
“Vega. Randall, there’s something I didn’t tell you.”
He seemed completely preoccupied with stirring milky creamer into his cup but I saw the slight tightening of his eyes. “Yes?”
I sat up straighter, leaning against the stack of thin white pillows at my back. “She was there that night. She tried to kill me.”
“So what were you fighting about? Did he think it wasn’t her fault?”
My red-blonde brows scrunched together. “Well, no, he didn’t say that. But I asked for the truth and he tried to feed me this bull story about how she was my sister. I’m not adopted so unless my mother had three daughters instead of two, she’s not my sister.”
Coffee spewed from his mouth, staining the meticulously white bedclothes. “S-sister? No, Lyra, you’re mother only had two daughters.”
I folded my hands behind my head in smug satisfaction. “That’s what I thought,” I announced. I loved being right but some victories weren’t quite as pleasing as others.
The rest of my week was spent in a tiny hospital room on a thin, lumpy bed that probably could have been considered a cot. Randall was a near constant fixture in the room and Maxine stopped by with my niece every so often. Michael didn’t show up again but he talked to Randall every few hours to check up on me. My parents were no shows but I did receive a few calls from each of them.
“Okay, careful, Lyra. I’ve got you.”
“Randall, I’m not five. I can do it,” I snapped as he tried to help ease me into his black Tracker. I really appreciated him picking me up from the hospital and taking me home, but it sucked having to be babied so much.
“My bad,” he laughed. “Fine, if you don’t want help, I don’t care if you fall on your ass.”
I stuck my tongue out at him. “Shut up, asshole. Take me home.”
The ride to my house was nearly silent with the radio playing lowly. Randall carried most of my weight as he walked me to the door and he fiddled with my pink key chain. I limped awkwardly to the couch and he set it up so that it was in the most comfortable position.
I yawned and reclined into my fluffy, Downy-smelling pillows. “Can you get the remote for me?”
He flopped into the arm chair, leaving the remote on the TV shelf. “No, I think we need to talk.”
I cocked my head to the side. “What about?”
“About your fight with Michael.”
My eyes narrowed. “Why?”
“Look, Lyra, I’ve known you your whole life. And I know that you usually don’t keep secrets from me.”
“And you don’t keep them from me,” I added.
His sky blue eyes refused to meet mine. He leaned forward with his elbows resting on his denim clad knees. I knew from the tense set of his shoulders that whatever was coming wasn’t going to be good. “That’s not entirely true. I know Vega and I know Michael. I met them both a long time ago but it wasn’t exactly my place to tell you everything that’s going on. But now things are getting so far out of control that you need to know the whole truth. Your mother really did have two daughters but things are really a lot more complicated than just that. Do you remember those pictures from news articles about the deaths of different girls named Lyra?”
“Yes. Those were the ones I showed you and you thought I was crazy.”
“No, I didn’t think that you were crazy at all. I knew that you were figuring it out.”
I sat up straighter against the pillows, sending spasms of pain rocketing through my body though I ignored them as best as I could. “I was figuring out what?”
“The truth,” he answered softly, “about you. Do you remember how you used to study old religions? How fascinated you were? Well that’s because some part of you still remembered the facts behind the myths.”
My forehead creased drastically; at this rate I was going to get a whole mess of worry-wrinkles. “How could I remember facts about myths, Randall?” I demanded sharply.
“You remembered the events that made up the legends in those religions because you were there, Lyra. Thesis, the goddess of creation, was your real mother. Loral Dawson was just the woman that gave birth to you in this lifetime. She’s not the only mother that you’ve had and she’s certainly not the one that made you.”
I opened my mouth to protest, to tell him how messed up it was to make crap up while I was so out of it, but I couldn’t. I tried to force the words out but they kept getting lost in my throat. “How would you know?” I asked quietly instead. I don’t know if it was the drugs making me believe what he was saying or the fact he was my best friend and I trusted him entirely or some other part of me locked deeply away.
“I’m not normal, Lyra. I’m not like Maxine or Mackenzie who only get this life, or even like you who is reincarnated when you die. I’m like Michael and Vega, never dying or getting older or being born.”
I shook my head. “No, that’s not right. We were kids together. You grew up with me. You do get older.”
He smiled softly, timidly. “I do this nifty little trick where I can change my form. It’s one of the perks of having a godly essence.”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re stupid,” I said, logic finally catching up to me.
He shrugged easily. “Okay, if you don’t believe me…” At first nothing happened. His blue eyes glowed brighter and his face looked more boyish than it usually was. His clothes shifted from the jeans-and-T-shirt-combo he had to a white tunic. Stubby white wings shot out of his back with a sheath of arrows and a bow popped into his left hand.
I yelped and sprang up on the couch, probably ripping out like half of my stitches. “What. The. Hell?!”
“I know that it’s a lot to take in, Ly, but Vega’s found you and she’s already trying to kill you. You need to know the truth to be able to protect yourself.” He shifted back to his normal self and sat back onto the chair with his legs folded under him. “Sit back down before you hurt yourself,” he added as if sprouting wings and weapons from thin air was normal.
I glared out the window. “This is crazy. I must still be delusional and imagining random crap. That didn’t just happen.”
Randall sat patiently at my feet. “Yes, it did Lyra. You know it. You’re the one that found all of that proof. You knew that I was hiding something from you and this is it.”
“Why didn’t you tell me earlier? I thought I was psycho and you let me feel like an idiot,” I accused harshly.
“It wasn’t my fault. Michael’s your guardian so it was up to him to do all the explanations. After what happened at the hospital I decided you needed to know and I couldn’t just wait for him to pluck up the courage to tell you. Besides, would you have believed me?”
I let out a sigh. “Okay. Tell me everything.”
He grimaced. “I’m sorry, Ly, but I can’t. You’re going to have to hear it from Michael.”