I woke up in a hospital, but not the one I had spent the last ten years in. Thankfully this one had walls painted in color. I looked around me, machines beeping and flickering and then there were the flowers. Millions of them, red, blue, pink, purple, orange. All of them beautiful. There were bears too and other stuffed animals. My brow furrowed, why were they here? A cry sounded from across the room where Noah was sat in a bed similar to mine, his eyes still closed. We weren't dead. How? I pulled up my gown slightly and sure enough a gauze covered my left shoulder.
“You're awake.” I looked up to see a kind face nurse gazing at me with a smile. Before I knew it she was crying, tears streaming down her pretty face. They were not tears of sadness though because the smile remained on her face. She shook her head in disbelief. Noah coughed from across the room, waking himself. Another nurse walked into our room and touched the other nurses shoulder comfortingly.
“Go clean yourself up Pearl.” The nurse turned to me. “Hey darlin' welcome home.” I smiled, realizing, realizing that we were free.
The nurse came up to me ad adjusted the needle in my arm. I didn't talk, I just looked over to Noah who was smiling wearily at me. I smiled back. We had made it, the sad thing was that we were missing Vespa and we weren't going to get her back. The nurse gave me a smile before leaving the room again. Noah had gone back to sleep and all there was to do was to stare at the ceiling. It made me nervous just sitting in bed all day. I wanted to move, I had spent too long sleeping. I surveyed the room and my eyes fell upon the news paper on the side. I moved to reach it, gasping with the effort, eventually I had it in my hands.
The front page had a picture of the outside of the hospital printed large with the doctor's picture on the bottom right of it. BACK FROM THE DEAD read the headline. I opened the page and stared at the article. There was a picture of Vespa, with her real name underneath. The story was that the police had found her body in the woods and were asking for witnesses when Jessica, my old nurse, had seen the report. She had recognized Vespa and told the police about the hospital. They were skeptical at first but then a dog walker found the building and had called the police. They had found us before we had bleed out. Spencer had shot the doctor dead and was being held in prison. Out of the hundred children that were stolen only eighty seven had survived, there were only around ten that still possessed their sanity. There was also a picture of me, stolen from the files, I was big news because I was the daughter of Jenna Blake the rising star of a new TV series that had just gone to the states. I closed the paper not wanting to read the rest. They had listed the names of the dead children and there cause of death, three had been shot, four had been lobotomized and disposed of and the remaining six had committed suicide in their cells. Thinking about it made me physically sick and before I knew it the nurses were attending to my buzzing machines as everything went to darkness.
The following days were the most tiring of my life. There were a lot of tests, physical and emotional. The doctor finally deducted that I had PTSD like most of the children recovered from the hospital. It wasn't that serious and for that I was thankful.
I sat in the hospital, sipping a warm drink when too fairly familiar people walked into my room. The nurses had to draw the curtains to the room because outside were dozens of people clutching cameras, there flashes practically blinding me. Whoever had come in were beautiful. A man and a women. The man was tall and fairly handsome with neatly styled dark hair and wearing a crisp shirt and drainpipe jeans. The woman was beautiful. Blonde hair shone from her head and wearing a simple sweater and jeans she seemed to glow. I stared at them, I had seen the pictures, these were my parents.
“Hi honey.” Said Jenna Blake, as her husband clutched her shoulder, staring at me she burst into tears. I tried to smile at them but I just ended up crying too. It wasn't to them like they thought, it was because I was so confused. They called themselves my parents but I could barely remember them. They so groomed and perfect I felt I was just watching a screen. My mother, wiping away the tears came to the side and held my hand. My father held the other and bent down to kiss my head. A photographer burst through the door and began snapping photos. My father glared at them as the nurses ushered them out.
My parents sat with me for quick some time, visiting me everyday and bringing things that might of reminded me of my childhood with them. Bits and pieces came back but I had been too young to remember most of it. They explained that the story they used to tell me was partly true. There was no sweet factory, instead a fashion house. My mother's father had set up the company and my father worked his way up, when he was at the top he was introduced to my mother, they fell in love and had me. One day they decided to introduce me to the rest of the family, my twin brother and sister, Daisy and George, both names after book characters like me; The Great Gatsby and Of Mice and Men respectively. My father was a great lover of literature, which explained my love of books. Together we sat with the twins either side of me and my parents at the sides of the bed. I still felt like a stranger to them but with everyday I began to fit into there puzzle like family.
Around a week later my parents were called to an important meeting with the doctor. There was nothing better to do so I snuck to see Noah. My parents had requested him to have another room so he wouldn't be disturbed by the photographers that hounded our room. Well that's what they had said, I thought it was maybe because they had thought we were in a relationship. I knocked on the door. He sat up from his bed and gave me a smile. I pushed the door open and stepped in side. Two boys sharing the room with him looked up with wondrous eyes. I gave them a little wave before going to sit on Noah's bed. I landed with a crunch and pulled the papers out from under me. I gave them a glance and upon seeing they were about the hospital tossed them to the floor. Noah gave me a wary look.
“Staring at her profile and dead body are not going to bring her back. Why remember her like they did, you knew her more than they ever will.” He gave me a sad smile, I blinked, inwardly pinching myself for being insensitive. “Have you met your parents yet?”
“Oh, are they coming, I thought the police had profiled us all and contacted our parents.” I said confused, all the children had been claimed, that's what they had said.
“Well unless they have mediums on the police force they're going to have some trouble.”
Noah smiled sadly again. “They died.”
“Yeah, our car was at the center of the crash, there were five in the car. My parents were killed on impact.”
“But what about..”
“It's Alice, my names Alice, Aaron.” I said slowly, I had to get used to that.
“Alice, meet Nate and Josh, my brother.” I turned to stare at the two boys in the room, they stared back. I looked carefully. I could see it then, they same face shapes and eyes. One of them was around my age and the other a little younger.
“I.. er.” I turned back to Noah, happy that he had found a family at last. “Are you going to live together?”
Noah nodded. “Yeah, I turned nineteen the other day.”
I smiled at him. “Happy birthday.”
A nurse had come to find me then and take me back to my room. The doctor sat with my parents and myself. I was told that the scar from my wound would go down in time but I would have to come back to the hospital for regular mental and physical checks. My parents nodded and held my hand and then that was it, I was discharged.
Being at home was weird. It was large, overly large and white, way to white for my liking. They showed me to my room and I sat on the bed with nothing but a cute toy I had been given at the hospital. I sat on the bed and my parents left me in there for a while. I sat for ages. The room was scarce. Decorated with only a picture of me as a child with my parents. The walls were still a light pink but the covers had been stripped and the furniture replaced. It was a ghost of a room and being in it just made me feel odd. I felt like the spirit of a child long dead, haunting the house. A few tears slide down my cheeks but I wiped them away quickly. I didn't want to cry anymore, I had so much to be happy for now. I had been given a second chance of life.
A few days later I met Noah by the river.
"Hi." He had changed in the days we hadn't seen each other. His face had filled and his eyes had gotten there sparkle back. He still walked with a slight limp but with treatment and physio therapy he would soon be as good as new.
"I saw your interview in the paper." I said quietly. He rubbed his chin.
"I needed the money, me and the boys are going to stay with our aunt in America. I'm going to go to university and she'll look after the boys, she paid for the flights so I though I could at least pay for my education."
"How are you going to get in with no qualifications?"
"The social workers have been helping and after a few tutoring sessions I can take a few exams. I know most of the stuff already, didn't you hear."
"Yeah." He was referring to the education we had received in the hospital. They had tried methods, some children were individually tutored, whilst some (including me and Noah) were played audio learning tapes whilst we slept. It had worked because apparently I had the maths and history knowledge of an average person my age and my reading age was significantly higher than my real age.
"What's your aunt like?"
"She seems nice, we chatted over the phone, she teaches maths over there so she'll be able to help the boys if there struggling. She's happily married but she doesn't have children."
"Good..." I murmured. "I just can't believe your moving away." Noah pulled me into him and rubbed my back comforting me. I breathed in his scent, he smelled or new clothes and soap, the sickly smell of the hospital gone. When I was taken home I had washed nonstop to get the smell off. I got out the bathroom with my skin scratched raw, but at least I smelt nice. I pulled myself from Noah's arms.
"That piece you wrote about Vespa was amazing." I said. I had meant it. My father had shown it to me and I had cut it out and stuck it on my wall alongside a picture of her. I didn't want to remember the hospital but Vespa had to be remembered. If I forgot about her and the injustice of her death I found myself forgiving the people there.
Noah smiled. "I miss her."
"Yeah." I muttered, welling up. My idea of not letting myself cry had failed almost immediately.
"Hey, don't cry if Vespa was her she'd hit you and tell you to get your act together." His words sent me into even more tears and I soon found myself in Noah's arms again. He was my brother and I didn't want him going all the way to America but it wasn't up to me. We hugged a final time and bid each other a good bye. I promised to write and he did too.
“Get the door, Alice.” Said my father from his study. I pulled off my headphones and moved down the stairs slowly, begging for the person to go away. I had already practically blinded by a crazed photographer. My parents deduced quite quickly that I was camera shy, mostly because in every photo that was published, I looked half dead or incredibly moody. I looked through the peep hole of the front door but the person had their back to it. I could tell it was a woman. I opened the door a little way and the women turned round, her baby bump huge.
“What are you doing here.” I asked.
“I had to see you.” I opened the door fully and invited her in. When I had closed the door, she wrapped her hands around me, which was difficult considering her pregnancy. Then she began to cry.
“I'm so emotional at the moment.” She laughed as I set her down with a cup of tea. “But you, you've grown up all of a sudden. You've become a beautiful young women Alice you really have.” I blushed as my father came down the stairs and see who I’d let in.
“This is the lady that informed the police about the hospital.” I said, leaning against the work top. He smiled at her but gave me a worried look, as far as he was concerned everybody who had worked at the hospital was evil.
“How was your wedding?” I asked.
“Beautiful.” she paused. “But I didn't come here to say that. This is just a flying visit.” She sipped her tea. “I just wanted to apologized for not.. for not helping and going to the police before. I had so many opportunities that I didn't take and the fact that I helped make your life was unforgivable.” She said, tears brimming in her eyes. I stared at her a little scared. I wasn't angry and I forgave her and everything but her breaking down in tears wasn't what I wanted, it made me feel awkward. I hugged her and told her that everything was ok and after a while she left. I wished her luck with her life and she drove off in her little car. I returned to the kitchen feeling confused. My father looked at me, gave me a sad smile and squeezed my shoulder before going back up to his office.
“I didn't know Evie Harries, but I knew Vespa. We came up with names for each other and she chose Vespa. It was the perfect name for her because she was equally strong, and beautiful. Before we were found we had no family and no friends but that didn't matter because not only was Vespa a friend, but a sister and a mother too. She looked out for me and for that I’m incredibly lucky to have met her. I almost gave up when she passed but then I realized that she would of punched me and told me to pull myself together. Everybody needs a person like that in their life.” I stepped down from the podium and was pulled into a hug by Vespa's mother. I was at the memorial service for all the children who passed away in the hospital. The whole statue and ceremony was set up by Vespa's father, a very rich businessman. I was honored when they asked me to speak but I was also scared, nobody knew her like noah and I and I didn't want to shatter her families opinions of her. They may have known a different girl. Vespa was one of the lucky ones I suppose, people had known her. Most of the children didn't have people to speak for them and for that I was sorry. Nobody had known them in their life and that was an incredibly sad thing. When I got home that evening I went into my room and cried for hours upon end. Vespa was gone and now Noah was in America. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply before wiping away the tears. There was something I had to do.
I stood outside the 'Dusty Guitar Cafe' my mother and father standing behind me. My fingers shook in the autumn air. It had been four months since I had last been here. It didn't look any different aside from the lack of sun shining upon the shops. My parents were impressed at the little village.
“I can't do it.” I said turning to them, pulling at my fingers nervously. They smiled at me.
“Yes you can, you are our brave girl.” Said my father. I wrapped my arms around him and my mother encircled us.
“Ok. Ok, I can do it.” I said, trying to convince myself. My mother pushed me forward a little and I turned to give her an annoyed look. I took in another breath, smelling the wonderful aroma of coffee and freshly baked cookies. Noah had mentioned the village in his interview and by the looks of it business was booming. I sighed and pushed open the door. In the time I had been gone the wall of the music shop had knocked down and now the two shops combined, a soft rock music with a fast beat bleed lowly through the cafe. Everything felt more alive. The place had a hum to it. I walked up to the counter where Freddie was looking down. I pulled my hat further down my face and my scarf more around my chin. I wanted it to be a big surprise.
“Can I have a cup of tea and one of those cookies that that girl made in the summer.”
“One tea coming up but im afraid that girl is no longer working here.” He said, not even looking up, too concentrated on the tea. I scratched my head nervously.
“What happened to her?” I pulled the hat off and began to unwrap my scarf.
“She had to leave.” He still didn't look up, I twiddled my fingers getting annoyed
“Oh really? Do you read the papers.”
“Sure.” He looked up brow furrowed and the penny finally dropped. “Alice...” He said spilling my tea. “Ah.” He said jumping out of the way of the hot contents. I smiled and tried not to laugh. He looked up at me again, just to make sure I was still there. I smirked again. He pushed open the door to the house and shouted something to Lillian, before taking my arm and pulling me out of the cafe. We walked down to the beach slowly, passing my parents who were sitting on the bench dealing with the twins.
“Jenna Blake's your mum?”
“Yeah.” I smiled.
It was quiet for a moment as we stood on the beach staring at the sea. Then suddenly our lips crashed like the waves. Freddie wrapped his hands around me protectively and I melted into his arms. It had been all I had dreamed it had been. He pulled away his eyes flickering the all the features of my face. I blinked away tears.
“It's a long story.”