Chapter 14

Simone's POV

It wasn't until late the next day that Sydney seemed a

little better. Her swelling went down enough that she

was able to eat again. Eric and I took turns taking

care of Sydney, more than we had the previous day. We

both had to admit we were very tired.

It was a big help when Dixon stopped by in the

afternoon, once he finished work. He spent some time

reading to Sydney, and said that a couple of times he

was sure he'd seen Sydney open her eyes very slightly.

I took a short nap, giving Sydney quiet time as well.

Once I was up, I went to Sydney's room to see if she

would respond to me.

"Sydney," I said firmly. "If you can hear me, I want

you to open your eyes. I've been here, waiting for

you, for days now. I'm so tired, and I don't know what

else to do. You just have to try harder. I know you're

scared, but Dad and Michael should be home soon.

They'll want to talk to you."

I watched Sydney's face, but her eyes didn't open. I

thought I heard her moan though, very softly. I

quickly knelt beside the bed.

"Come on, Sydney. You can do it. Open your eyes, talk

to me."

When she didn't wake, I started to cry. I had been trying so hard the

last few days to wake her up and bring her out of her shell, and none of it

was working. It seemed Sydney was never going to come back to us, and was

going to be stuck inside herself for the rest of her life. If that was the

case, I was not going to be able to care for her for the rest of her life.

It would have to be up to doctors or Dad or Michael.

I snapped myself out of it. I was her sister, and I owed it to her to

care for her at least until Dad got back. I couldn't allow myself to be

stopped by fatigue or depression when she was laying there helpless with people

counting on me to care for her. I had to keep it up, at least until

they got here to care for her themselves.

I looked up at Sydney just as she was closing her eyes. I couldn't

believe it. She was coming back! "Sydney, are you here? Are you with me?"

She did not respond, and my spirits immediately sank again. I had been

feeling so sorry for myself that I had missed this wonderful sign of life, and

yet another opportunity to bring Sydney back.

As I was lost in thought, Eric came in for his turn, and relieved me.

I was grateful, and went to my room to think and sleep some more. I was no

good to Sydney in my current condition. I had just begun to doze off when I

heard the telephone ring. I got up quickly to go answer it.

When I said hello I knew how tired I sounded, but I couldn't help it.

"Simone, it's Dad. Michael and I are at the airport

right now, we'll be home as soon as we can. How's

Sydney?"

"She... She's so lost. I've been trying for days to

get her to come back, but there's been hardly any

sign."

Dad sighed, which only made me feel more guilty. "It's

not your fault, Simone," he said. "Michael and I will

help when we get there. Go get some rest now, and

we'll talk to you later. Goodbye."

I said goodbye, hung up the phone, and went straight

to bed. I fell asleep immediately, and didn't awaken

until Dad and Michael were home. I heard their voices

coming from Sydney's room, and immediately went to

join them.

Dad was kneeling beside Sydney's bed, looking closely

at the bruises on her neck. Even from a distance away,

I saw the anger growing inside him. "Where did these

come from?" he asked.

I began to answer, but Eric took over instead.

"Kendall came by to see her, and I guess his being

here was too upsetting. She did that to herself. We

tried to stop her, but she is really strong, and we

couldn't even get her to pay attention to our voices."

I didn't even think Dad had heard me come in, but now

he stood and whirled on me. "Were you here when this

happened?"

"Yes... But like Eric said, she just wouldn't listen.

at first we thought she was all right, but by

nighttime the bruises showed up. Then there was the

swelling, and she... She stopped breathing."

I ran to my room and closed the door and buried my face in my pillow.

No one had followed me because they were all too concerned about Sydney.

I was too upset to go to sleep, so I just laid there sobbing for about a half

hour. When all my tears had come out, I sat up and thought for a long

time.

Finally, I heard a knock on the door. I was too afraid to answer, so I

let the knocking continue. I heard Michael's voice on the other side.

"Simone, are you okay? Jack didn't mean what he said, he was just angry. Can I

come in?"

My first thought was no, but I knew I had to let him in. I heard my

voice shakily say, "Yeah, I guess."

The door opened slowly, revealing Michael's form alone in the doorway.

He was handsome. I knew why Sydney had been attracted to him, and was

going to marry him. He was so considerate and helpful.pretty much everything a

woman could want in a man. I was glad for her.

"Simone, I'm sorry about earlier. I know I should have said something,

but if I did, Jack would have turned on me too, not helping us at all. I

just wanted you to know I'm on your side. You've done everything you could,

and Eric tells me you've done a great job and have been really strong this

past week. I admire that, Simone, especially for having no clue what Sydney

is like when she's well."

"Thanks, Michael."

"Please, call me Mike. Most people do, at least, my close friends do."

He smiled.

"Okay, Mike. Give me a few days, and I'll get it." I gave a sigh, and

Michael correctly guessed that I wanted some time alone.

"Well, Sydney needs me. I'd better go. You're welcome in there any

time."

"Mike?" I caught him just as he was about to leave.

"Yeah?"

"Is he still mad? I just wanted to know what I'd be getting myself

into."

"Simone, he's angry, and it happened to be directed at you, but he

knows it's not your fault. He just needs time. If I were you I'd just get some

sleep. You look exhausted, and for now Jack and I have the situation under

control. I promise I'll wake you up if anything new happens. Deal?"

"Deal. Thanks Michael..Mike."

"No problem."

Michael's POV

After I left Simone to rest, I returned to Sydney's

room. All of Jack's attention was focused on Sydney,

and he didn't see that Eric was standing there nearly

asleep on his feet.

"Go on home, Eric. You've done your part, I'm glad you

were here. When Sydney wakes up I'll tell her how much

help you were."

"No way," he said with a smile. "I'll tell her myself.

I just hope she's better soon. Call me if you need

anything, or when she wakes up. I want to know."

"I will. Now go on, before you end up sleeping on the

couch again."

Eric left, and I turned all my attention to Sydney.

She was so still, her eyes closed. Jack was talking to

her, but she gave no sign of hearing him. I decided to

give it a try for myself.

"Syd, it's Michael. I'm here now, and I won't be

leaving you again until you're better. It's been days

now. I know you were scared, but both your dad and I

are here now. You don't have to worry anymore. Please

open your eyes, Sydney. Just for a few minutes, okay?"

Jack and I both waited quietly for any sign from

Sydney. I watched her face from my spot at the end of

the bed. Jack, who had remained directly beside her,

was the first to notice a change.

"Something is wrong," he said in a whisper. "Come

here. Listen."

I did as he asked... and that's when I heard it.

Sydney's breathing was labored, and it was getting

worse with each passing second. Her eyes suddenly

opened, but I knew immediately it wasn't the positive

sign we were looking for. Her eyes were glazed... She

wasn't really seeing anything.

"I can't breathe..." was all she said. Then her eyes

closed again. I reached out and scooped her up from

the bed and began walking toward the door. Jack

followed me, not needing to be told where we were

going.

"I'll get her outside. Go tell Simone we're leaving,

she'll want to come with us, Jack."

I saw him hesitate for only a second, then he

disappeared down the hall to get Simone. Not two

minutes later, all four of us were on our way out the

door.

I drove, while Jack and Simone stayed in the back seat

with Sydney. Her breathing was so labored now that I

could hear it despite all the traffic noise

surrounding me. Jack was whispering to Sydney, but I

could see the helpless look in his eyes. After a

moment's hesitation, Simone spoke up.

"She needs to sit up. It helped when this happened

before. It's just the swelling... It comes and goes."

Jack did as Simone asked, and was rewarded with an

almost immediate improvement in Sydney's condition.

All of us were equally surprised when in the next

moment, Sydney opened her eyes. I knew from Simone's

reaction that this time Sydney was fully aware. She

was finally awake.

We all pretty much exclaimed at once, "Sydney!" and then we went on

asking her questions over each other. She seemed happy to be the center of

attention, yet ashamed of how she got to be there. I suggested we go

one at a time so as not to overwhelm her. First, we had some decisions to

make.

"Sydney," I asked, "we were just on our way to take you to the hospital

for your breathing. I can tell you're still having trouble with it, and we

all think it's time you get checked out for it."

I could see her starting to slip away again. Her fear was too immense.

I looked over to see Jack's angry gaze and began trying to get her back

to us.

"Sydney, don't leave us again. I promise you it will be nothing more

than a checkup. If you leave us again, we'll have to check you in overnight,

and none of us wants that. It's not meant to be a threat, just a fact.

Please, don't go."

Simone was worried. She was keeping a close eye on Sydney's face.

"She's fighting it, Mike. I can tell. She wants to stay, but something in

her unconscious wants her to retreat every time she becomes afraid. She's

fighting it. I can tell by her face." She looked over at Sydney, who

was fighting her own battle inside. "Come on, Sydney, you can beat it. I

know you can. After all I've heard about your strength, you can't leave us

again. I won't survive it. You're hurting me, Sydney." With that,

Simone began to cry.

Jack spoke up, obviously fighting a battle of his own. "Keep going,

Michael." He leaned in closer to whisper so that Sydney wouldn't hear.

"One way or another, we need to get to a hospital."

Simone gave a short sigh of relief when Sydney finally opened her eyes

again and said, "Okay, we'll go, but only if you promise it won't be more

than an hour. If more than that passes, we're leaving. Deal?"

I was so relieved that she'd consented that I quickly took her up on

her deal, and I promised her dinner at her favorite restaurant after the

appointment. She smiled, and that was the best feeling in the world.

She was finally awake again.

We spent the rest of the short trip socializing and trying to keep

Sydney's mind off of the doctor, and we did so pretty well. When we pulled into

the parking lot and got out of the car, we helped Sydney, who had not

walked in several days, to her feet, and she insisted that she could make it on

her own.

She was extremely wobbly at first, but she made it on her own, once

again displaying her incredible strength of will. I was impressed, and

Simone was too. Sydney walked next to her father, and Simone and I walked behind,

ready to catch Sydney in case she fell.

She never fell, and it felt like a triumphant parade marching into the

hospital that day. We marched up to the counter, and asked for the

earliest walk-in appointment they had. We were lucky that we had caught them on

a light day, and they squeezed us in right away. We only had to wait for

ten minutes, and the doctor got right down to business.

The doctor examined Sydney's throat closely, and determined that Simone

had indeed been telling the truth. Sydney had choked herself and the

swelling had been creating labored breathing. The doctor smiled and told us

that Sydney would be alright as long as she didn't attempt such a thing

again. He told us to put ice on it, and have Sydney drink lots of water, and

he sent us on our way. I was grateful that he didn't suggest an overnight

stay.

On the way out to the parking lot from the hospital, Sydney asked

Simone where she'd like to go to eat. I looked at Jack, who nodded, as if to

let me know that he was no longer angry with Simone and that he needed to

apologize. I called Sydney up to walk with me, and let Simone and Jack

have a talk during the walk to the car. Sydney and I got in the front

together and let Jack and Simone talk outside.

Simone's POV

As I was walking to the car, talking to Sydney about where we should

eat, Michael suddenly called Sydney up to be with him, and I was stuck next

to Dad. After earlier, I wasn't sure he'd want to walk with me, so I kept

my distance. To my surprise, he put his arm around me. I did not

struggle to get away, but looked up at him and smiled.

Once we were on our way home in the car, Dad suggested

that Sydney rest a while, then we should all go out to

dinner. I was happy to see Sydney's face light up, and

I told her we could decide where to go once we got

home.

As soon as we arrived, Sydney made up her own ice

pack, and went to sit in her room. I followed her, to

keep an eye on her in case she had any trouble. We sat

there on her bed, making conversation.

"What restaurant do you like here in town, Sydney? I

really can't suggest anywhere, since I'm so new

here..."

"That's okay," Sydney said with a smile. "My favorite

place is called Micelli's. So as long as you like

Italian food, that's where I'd like to go. Would that

be okay?"

"Sure. I like all kinds of things. And after

everything you've been through, you've earned the

right to go anywhere you want. Your breathing sounds

better, but aren't you exhausted?"

"Oh, no... I was basically asleep for daysI feel like

I have so much to make up for. You're the one that

looks tired. Did you sleep at all?"

"A little," I said, blushing. "It was okay. I felt bad

leaving you even for the short time that I did. Eric

was great about it. Speaking of him, I hope Michael

called him to let him know you're better."

"I can call him myself before we go out. I'll need a

while to get ready. I must look sick..."

"You look fine, Sydney," I said, tears creeping into

my voice. "I'm just so glad you're better... I was so

scared you'd never wake up.

Sydney looked up at me and smiled. It was a weak smile, but it was all she needed to express her gratitude. I smiled back, ending our short, silent conversation, and then Sydney asked me to leave so she could call Eric and Dixon alone.

I left and went to talk with Dad and Michael, who were sitting in the back yard talking. When I entered the yard, they immediately stopped talking, which made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. From the way they were looking at me I could tell that they had been talking about me, and I had no idea what about.

I went and sat next to Dad, and began telling him and Michael what I had been talking to Sydney about. They both agreed that Sydney should be allowed to invite Eric and Dixon, and I was glad that they were allowed to come. I had gotten closer to them over the last few days, and felt comfortable around them. Not only that, but they deserved to see Sydney well again. They probably needed it more than I did.

Sydney came out shortly, with news about her phone calls. "Well, they were both surprised to hear my voice on this end of their lines, but they were extremely happy! Unfortunately, Eric has lots of paperwork to catch up on and Dixon had a small family emergency. Nothing big, but enough that he can't just drop it to go out to dinner. They said they'd drop by for dessert when we're done."

I was disappointed, but I tried not to let it show. "It's okay, Sydney. They're probably disappointed too."

"I could tell by their voices that they were. We can take them out again sometime. For now, I'm starving! Let's go eat!"

We were all glad to see that she had an appetite, so we all jumped in the car together and headed to Micelli's. Once we were seated, and had ordered our drinks, we began a lively conversation about wedding plans. Sydney was so happy that she could hardly eat her dinner when it came.

Most of the evening passed with many laughs and smiles, and everyone was happy and pleased to see that Sydney was doing well and ready to move on. About halfway through dinner, the conversation started to slow down a little, and no one paid much attention to it, until Michael suddenly looked at Sydney. She had been quiet for the past ten minutes, just staring at her food.

"Sydney?" he asked nervously. "Are you ok?"

Sydney didn't answer. All of us were watching her now.

She didn't move at all, didn't even blink. I wondered

where she'd gone, what she was thinking about. Michael

took her by the shouldres and shook her, gently at

first, then harder.

"Sydney, wake up! Please wake up. It's okay, we're all

here with you. It's safe now."

I heard Sydney mona softly, but she didn't come

around. People near us were starting to stare, and I

shot them dirty looks in return. I saw Dad doing the

same, just before he put his arms around Sydney's

shoulders. Her head dropped onto his shoulder, as if

she were sleeping.

"Sydney," he whispered. "I don't know what's wrong,

but I'm right here. If you want to go home we can. But

I want you to tell me that yourself."

Sydney suddenly stirred, and I began to have hope.

"No, Dad," she said weakly. "I want to stay. We aren't

finished. Sorry... I don't know what happened. It's

okay now. Let's just finish our food now, okay?"

Sydney smiled as brightly as she could manage, and she

seemed fine. But it took everyone else a while to

relax and start talking again. After a few minutes,

Sydney noticed how nervous Michael was, the way he was

watching her. She reached out and squeezed his hand.

"Michael, I'm okay. It was no big deal. I feel fine.

Let's just finish this so we can go home and see if

Eric and Dixon can come over, okay? Let's just have a

good time."

He smiled, but I saw it didn't go all the way to his

eyes. "Okay, Sydney. If you're sure. You scared me,

that's all. I'm sorry we had to leave for all those

days. I didn't want..."

"I know that, Michael. I didn't want you to leave

either. But it's done now. We need to forget about it.

Finish your dinner, okay?"

Soon after that, we all finished and went home. Eric

and Dixon came over about an hour later. It was so

nice, all of us being there together. I felt like

everyone there was part of my family. I wondered once

or twice what Dad and Michael had been saying about me

earlier in the day, but decided not to ask them about

it until tomorrow. I didn't want to ruin the wonderful

mood of the evening.