Playing With Fire

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DIZZY

Terrance Kendrick stepped through the door just as I stood. I had been searching the familiar hospital room, seeking comfort in it, because where I was going, wasn't familiar... at all.

I watched him as he approached me. His eyes scrunched up and creases appeared at the corners in a concerned fashion. "Ellamae, are you ready to go home?" he asked, still a few feet away from me, as if I might be spooked.

"Ella," I corrected him. Ellamae didn't belong to me, but I didn't want to hurt his feelings, so I hoped he'd be okay with Ella.

He inhaled and nodded. "Okay, Ella. Ready?"

No was the answer. I wasn't ready. No, I didn't want to leave this place, the only place I knew. No, I didn't want to barge into Ellamae's room and use her things, sleep in her bed. And... no, I didn't want to pretend to remember any of it. "Yes." The lie stuck in my throat, preventing anything else from coming out. I hugged my brown sweater to me, and went ahead of him out the door.

Dr. Wilson met us just outside the door. "Ready to go?" he asked cheerfully, smiling. His dark eyes searched my face when I hesitated.

"Yes," I lied again.

"Good." He turned to Tarry and said, "I'd advise no motorcycles for a while."

Motorcycles? What was wrong with them? Tarry seemed to understand as the two of them looked at me. I shifted my sweater in my arms and inhaled through my nose. "What?"

They exchanged a look with each other. "Okay, let's go home, Ella," Tarry opened the door for me, ignoring my question. I turned and gave Dr. Wilson one last look. He waved, then disappeared behind the closed door.

Tarry lead the way into the parking lot. He unlocked an old blue Chevy truck and got inside. I entered the passenger's side and looked around as he put the key in the ignition and pulled the truck out of the lot. It smelled like dust and a mixture of wood and some kind of herb. A small sent tree hung from the mirror. It was covered in a thin layer of dust, and I wondered how long it had been there. I focused on looking out the window as we drove. It wasn't long before Tarry pulled up in front of a white house. It stood between two other houses that were much like it. I could see it had an upstairs by the windows, and the porch was small, but it had a look I could see myself warming up to. There was one large tree in the front yard, but like all the other houses lining the street, the yard was very small. A thin layer of snow climbed up the porch steps and covered what I imagined would be the grass in summer.

The old truck door stuck when I attempted to open it the first time. Putting my sweater on, I used both hands to push the door, which slid free after another push, and opened. Tarry killed the engine and came around the truck to my side. He leaned on the door and shrugged his shoulders. "So uh, Kiera and Sydney are here."

I looked over my shoulder at the shinny car parked in the driveway. Did it belong to them? I turned back to Tarry and bit my lip. "Who?"

He rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. "Uh Kiera. Your best friend. She was." He looked lost for words.

"Kiera," I nodded, waiting for the name to mean something. When nothing came up that was familiar, I shook my head slowly. "Okay. Who's Sydney?"

Tarry studied me for a while. His eyes crinkled up and his mouth seemed to pull down further on his face. He looked like he was hoping the answer to my question would come to me. It annoyed me. He knew that I didn't know.

"Sydney is your little sister," he answered at last. "She's six." He watched me for a moment, then added, "And she loves you very much. I know she missed you. Kiera's been letting Sydney stay at her place for the past two and a half weeks."

It was a lot to take in, and suddenly I felt dizzy. I put my head in my hands.

"Ella? Are you okay?" I felt Tarry's fingers on my shoulders. If I wasn't feeling so dizzy, I probably would have shrugged him away on instinct.

"Yeah, I'm fine," I mumbled through my hands. "Just give me a second."

I heard a door open, and slowly lifted my head out of curiosity. The dizziness was still there, but it suddenly didn't feel the same as I settled my eyes on the little girl in the doorway. She had light brown hair with red hues, and she had a pretty face. But her eyes held my attention the most. They were blue-gold. The gold was not nearly as bright and dominate as my own, but they still held that similarity. It made me feel better to know she was really my sister. The blue flecks in her eyes seemed to add to her lovely complexion, and her smile held as she looked at me.

"Ellie!" she squeaked as she jumped down the porch steps in small black boots and a thick purple flannel sweater. She raced up to me and threw her arms around my waist. I immediately put mine around her on instinct. "I missed you so much!" Her hold loosened around my waist and she looked up at me. Her eyes studied me, and I wondered what she saw. Did she see Ellamae, or someone totally strange to her, the way I did? "Daddy says you don't remember things," she said.

I swallowed hard and nodded.

"Do you remember me, Ellie?"

It hurt. I didn't want to hurt this child's feelings. But I couldn't lie to her. "Sorry, no. But you can tell me all about yourself," I tried to smooth it over.

She smiled. "Like a game? That will be fun!" She turned and jumped into Tarry's arms. He picked her up and pecked her on the cheek.

Movement caught my eye on the porch, and I watched as a girl descended the steps and approached us. This girl was about an inch shorter than I, but she seemed to glow. Her hair was similar to the little girl, Sydney's, but without the red. She had bright green eyes that sat like lights on her beautiful face. Her nose was a perfect match that fit her oval face shape just right. So this was Kiera.

She shrugged her shoulders up close to her face under her black sweater. "Hi Ella. What's up?"

I was caught off guard at first, before I realized she knew me. But then the uncertainty vanished as her eyes locked with mine. It was like a wave washing over a dry sandbar. She made me feel better. I moved closer to her and swallowed. "Um, hi."

"Ah, well let's go inside," Tarry suggested, moving Sydney on his hip. "Kiera, maybe you want to take Ella up to her room? I'm going to put Cindy to sleep."

"Sure," Kiera agreed, flashing Tarry a smile.

Sydney turned toward me and smiled. "Goodnight Ellie. See you tomorrow!"

"Yeah, goodnight," I waved at her, hoping it was convincing.

"Come on," Kiera took my hand and lead me into the house. I was glad that she whisked straight up the stairs and down the small hallway quickly. Seeing the whole house at once might have been too much. She opened the door to a small room with a double bed. The bed's headboard was against the wall across the room, and a nightstand was tucked behind it. On the other side of the room was a desk that was neat and clean. The closet doors were closed, and no clothes cluttered the floor. "This is your room," Kiera said, pulling me inside.

"Okay." I sighed, running my fingers along the dark purple bed sheets and fluffy decorative pillows. I stepped back and looked at it. The bed skirt. I didn't really like it much, but it was there, so maybe I was supposed to like it. "This is my room?"

Kiera nodded. "Yup. There's your photo album," she pointed to a large book on the desk. "Your phone." My eyes spotted the device on the nightstand. "And this," she opened one of the desk drawers, "is your journal." The book she handed me was white. In the center, engraved in silver was Ellamae Z. Kendrick.

It suddenly became too much. I dropped onto the bed and placed the journal beside me, then cradled my head in my hands again.

I felt Kiera sit beside me. "Are you okay?"

"I just- it's a little overwhelming." I was surprised by how easy it was to talk to her. It was almost as if she understood me somehow. She didn't treat me like I was something to cry over, always giving me looks of pity. Instead she just seemed to accept me, and was willing to take the time to show me things I didn't know. But I wasn't ready for it all.

Her hand rubbed a circle on my back, and it wasn't that awkward feeling I felt with Tarry, it was comforting. "I understand," she murmured. "Do you remember any of this?"

"No."

Her hand paused in its motion and I looked up. "Hey, you know..." she got up and walked around the bed to the nightstand. Her hands shuffled open the drawer and she picked up a book. My eyes followed her as she come back around and sat next to me again. She handed me the book.

It was black, with a picture of two hands holding an apple. At the top it read twilight. "What's this for?"

She smiled widely, and her eyes lit up. "It's your favourite book." Her fingers hooked the book and she turned it over. I followed along with her as she read the back. "'About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him- and I didn't know how dominant that part might be- that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.'"

"Vampires?" I looked at her. "Aren't those supposed to be like demons or something?"

Kiera laughed, and I couldn't help myself. I smiled too. "Hey! That's the first time you've smiled since you got back!" her eyes sparkled. "And about the demon vamp thing, I don't know! You're the one who likes them so much."

I turned the book back over and ran my hand over the cover. "You've never read it?"

"No. I was going to because you insisted that I did, but you should read it first."

"Are you sure you don't want it?" I held it out to her.

She smiled and leaned away. "No, that's A-okay. I'm not much of a reader anyway," she insisted. "I just know that you really liked it. And I know that your mom gave it to you, so you should read it again. It meant a lot to you."

I looked down at the book, then back up at her. "My mom? I was kind of... wondering about that."

I watched as her eyes seemed to droop for the first time- that I remember. "Are you sure you want to know all this now?"

I nodded.

She sighed. "Your mom died in a car accident five years ago."

Silence. What should I say? "That's..." I trailed off, unable to come up with the right words. I knew I should be sad, I should be crying and sobbing. But how can you cry for someone you don't remember ever seeing?

"It was terrible." Kiera looked down at her hands. "There was so much fire. You're mom... no one recognized her after." She looked up at me with big sad eyes.

"Okay," I whispered. "I think that's enough information for now. I'm going to pass out." Even as the words slipped from my mouth I felt the dizziness coming back again.

She pointed at the book. "Read some, then rest, okay?"

I nodded.

"Kate is going to pick up Sydney tomorrow, so you can catch a ride with me to school. Sound good?"

"Kate?"

Kiera nodded and grinned. "Yup. Kate Jenskousky! She's one of our friends. You'll really like her, trust me. And she's going to drop your little sis off at the elementary school."

I raked my brain for a connection, but found none. "So why do you have to take me? Don't I have... my own car?"

She laughed. "Yes in fact! You do! But holy crow it's a mess!"

"What?"

"Just kidding." She grinned at my expression. "But it's getting fixed. It broke down at school two days before your accident." Kiera jumped off the bed and pressed a few buttons on the alarm clock. "There. Now you'll be ready when I pick you up tomorrow." She smiled and made for the bedroom door. "You should read a little. Oh, and maybe leave the journal and photo album for tomorrow, okay? Don't want you to be sick tomorrow from brain overload!"

"Okay, goodnight." I paused. "And thanks."

"For what?"

I shrugged. "Just... I don't know. You make me feel... better I guess."

Her smile was radiant. "Anytime!" She waved goodbye and whisked out, closing the door behind her.

Only a few moments later, Tarry poked his head in and whispered a quick goodnight. I was glad he didn't linger. Right after he left, I turned out the light and sat on the bed with just the lamp light. I didn't feel ready to lay in the bed, even though I was told it was mine, so I just sat there, and took Kiera's advice. The book didn't take long to heat up, and then I was sucked in. The world of confusion, love, and vampires became the most friendly thing I knew- along with Kiera. I didn't want to sleep, and wasn't tired, so I read. A while after midnight sometime, I began to feel sleepy, so I eased my head back on the pillow, but did not put the book down. I was already over half done it, surprised and secretly pleased that I liked it, just as Kiera said I once had. The warn page that read 18. THE HUNT was the last image I saw before a sheet of darkness slipped over me.

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