"If the truth doesn't save us, what does that say about us?" – Lois McMaster Bujold
Annora let out a long sigh as she reached up to run a hand through her hair, wincing visibly when her fingers hit air far too quickly for her tastes. Her hair had been cut while she had still been in her coma, and right now it didn't even brush against her shoulders.
The girl sighed again as she allowed herself to fall back against the back of her wheelchair, only to scowl darkly when the motion sent her backwards a few inches. It was another unwelcome change, something that rankled against her already wounded pride. Her legs muscles had atrophied while she had been unconscious, and now she couldn't even walk on her own, much less stand up for any length of time. For someone who had always been very independent, being forced to rely upon Kit to help her get dressed in the morning, as well as helping her shower was downright humiliating.
Still, it could have been worse.
Five of the kids that had been on the bus with her when the accident happened had been killed. Several others had been badly injured, but she had been the only one who had been put into a coma.
The sound of footsteps padding across the wooden floorboards behind Annora caused her to snap out of her funk before she reached down and clumsily turned the wheels so that she could spin her wheelchair around. Katie stopped short as her friend turned around to face her before she flashed the brunette a somewhat sheepish grin.
"Still not used to that," she admitted hesitantly as she handed the other girl a brightly-wrapped package. Annora rolled her eyes in response as she set the package down on her lap before she reached over and lightly punched Katie on the arm.
"Katie, I'm still not used to this," she pointed out. She hesitated for a moment before she gave her friend a half-hearted smirk. "Besides, this is probably the only way that you'll ever be taller than me."
The other girl nodded half-heartedly in agreement before she sank down on the couch next Annora and looked around at the room. An uneasy look crossed her face before she let out a sigh and slumped forward, running a hand over her hair agitatedly as she stared down at the hardwood floor. Annora just remained silent, knowing full good and well that her friend would tell her what was on her mind when she wanted to.
"You're really leaving today, aren't you?" she finally asked. The brunette offered a crooked grin in response, although her expression of forced cheerfulness faded when she noticed that Katie wasn't buying it.
"Yeah, I am."
A short, humorless laugh tumbled out of Annora's mouth in response as she shook her head.
"That's kind of what I said."
Katie didn't say anything as she directed her gaze downwards, apparently fascinated with the toes of her shoes. The older girl stared at her friend in a kind of annoyed exasperation before she reached out and lightly hit her on the arm.
"Kate, it's not forever," Annora pointed out with a roll of her eyes, trying to keep some of the uncertainty that she was feeling out of her voice. She did not need her friend freaking out on her right now. Already she was having problems with the fact that she was disabled.
She couldn't go upstairs to get something anymore. She had to sleep on the couch downstairs because her room was on the second floor, although Ethan had carried her up and down the stairs on the first day that she'd been home, saying that she deserved to at least be able to sleep in her own bed for one night. And now, to top everything off, she was being moved to Portland, Oregon to live with her older cousin until her parents finally got back from China.
"But-" Katie began before she fell silent, and then shook her head slightly. "But Annora, you're going to be in Portland. That like, I don't know, the weed capital of the world."
Honestly, she couldn't help it. Annora stared at her friend incredulously for several moments before she burst out laughing. Here she was, stuck in a wheelchair after waking up from a coma, and her best friend was worried about her going to Portland because people sold marijuana in stores there.
The irony was almost overwhelming, really, it was.
After a few seconds, Katie started to chuckle as well when she realized why Annora was laughing so hard. The two friends stood there for several seconds, snickering loudly at their own foolish thoughts. It was kind of ironic, if they really thought about it. Out of all the things in the world for Katie to worry about, she was more worried about the hippies and stoners in Oregon who sold pot than Annora's plane crashing, or being hijacked by terrorists.
The two girls settled into a comfortable silence as Katie slowly sank down into a nearby chair and Annora maneuvered herself over towards where her friend was sitting.
"Well, at least I won't have any trouble finding a place to sit now," Annora said suddenly as she cast a sideways glance in her friend's direction before she looked down at the package in her lap. "So spill; what'd you get me?"
"How about you open it first?"
"I'll open it when I want to. Besides, what if some evil, slimy, puke-inducing thing is in that package? I might get my face eaten off just because you didn't bother to check what was in the box before you wrapped it up."
Katie just rolled her eyes in response.
"Stop being so paranoid and just open it," she muttered as she shook her head in exasperation.
Annora flashed her an impish smirk before she ripped all of the paper off of the box in a single swift move, and then easily opened up the flimsy cardboard underneath. When the girl saw what was in the box, however, she froze in her seat as several shreds of wrapping paper suddenly slipped out of her numb fingertips.
Nestled inside of the box, a pair of eerily familiar golden eyes stared up at her from behind a thin plastic barrier, with strands of golden bangs falling into the face of a deceptively young-looking figure. Annora's breath caught in her throat as she gingerly extracted the figurine from its nest of tissue paper, gently running her fingertips over the garish red trench coat that the golden-haired male was wearing, as well as the painted gray armor of the looming figure that stood with his back to the shorter male.
"Katie-" Annora began hesitantly before she shook her head in an attempt to dislodge all of the half-remembered fragments running through her head and returned the intricate figurine to its tissue-lined box. "Thank you. It's… it's fantastic."
Katie beamed at the compliment to her gift-giving skills.
Before either of the girls could speak further on the subject (and Annora really didn't want to do that, seeing as Katie would probably think that she was nuts even she ever knew why her gift had startled the older girl so badly), Kit walked into the room and let out a short sigh.
"Alrighty then," she said as she looked in between the two teens. "Time to get this show on the road, people. Annora, finish saying goodbye to your friend real quick, and then we'll leave. We don't want to miss our flight."
"Yeah, that would be a bad thing," the brunette girl agreed as she glanced over at her cousin. Kristen Fargo, with the perpetual impish glint in her blue eyes and long brown hair, looked like the poster child for someone's kindly older sister. In all honesty, Annora had never pictured her cousin as the kind of person who would willingly give up space in her own home to help care for a debilitated relative.
Katie effectively disrupted these thoughts as she suddenly embraced Annora in a tight, almost rib-crushing hug. The girl endured it for as long as she thought she could before severe damage to her internal organs occurred, and was just about to gently remind Katie that air was a very valuable thing when Kit interfered.
"Hey kiddo, I think that she needs to breathe."
Katie immediately released the other girl, and Annora gratefully sucked in a deep breath before she leaned back in her wheelchair.
"Sorry," Katie muttered softly, and the older girl gave her a slightly wane grin as she shook her head before she reached up and lightly punched her friend on the arm.
"Don't worry about it," she said. "It's not like I'm made of glass or anything."
Katie nodded before she started to head over towards the door. "Annora, I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you too, Kate. Don't worry too much, okay? I'll be back before you know it."
The raven-haired girl let out a sigh as she shook her head. "You better."
"Hey, I promised, didn't I?" Annora asked as she crossed her arms over her chest and tried to grin in a self-assured manner. "Since when have I ever gone back on a promise?"
Katie seemed to accept the statement at face value, and allowed Kit to escort her to the front door as Annora sat there in the living room, trying her hardest not to stare down at the figurine that sat innocuously in her lap. She didn't really remember what had taken place during her coma, not entirely, but she still had flashes of memory from time to time. There were only a few things that she remembered clearly; Edward Elric, and his brother Alphonse happened to be one of them.
The girl frowned slightly as she picked up the figurine and slowly started to turn it around in her hands, her brown eyes narrowing slightly as she studied the determined expression on the anime character's face. Suddenly, a familiar cocky voice came to mind, and Annora almost dropped the statuette in shock.
"If only security was as tight as Mustang's ass, we wouldn't have to get involved in anything in the first place!"
She stared at the figurine in a kind of stunned realization before she shook her head and gently set it back down on her lap.
"Fantastic. I've gone crazy," Annora whispered dryly as she shook her head. "This is great. Just what I need. More bullshit."
Kit chose that moment to come back inside, and she looked around at the empty room, her eyes briefly lingering on the small pet carrier resting on the couch that contained one incredibly annoyed chinchilla who was doing his level best to chew his way out, before she looked over at Annora.
"You ready to go?" she asked softly, and the girl looked up at her before she wheeled her way over to the pet carrier. Annora picked up the figurine that Katie had given her and stared at it for several moments, an odd look in her eyes, before she set it down on the coffee table and picked up Rembrandt's cage. The chinchilla went over to the woven mesh of the front flap and started to shake it back and forth angrily, chirping irritably at his mistress the entire time.
A wistful smile crossed Annora's face before she set the carrier down on her lap and wheeled her way back over to Kit, with Remmy 'barking' the entire way.
"Now I am," she said simply.
Kit looked like she wanted to say something for a moment before she shook her head and gently wheeled her cousin out the front door. Annora watched the older woman lock the front door to her childhood home as she sat out on the front porch, before she glanced over her shoulder at the shuttle that was supposed to take them out to the tiny Flagstaff airport so they could catch their connector flight out to Sky Harbor in Phoenix. Everything was changing for her.
For a single moment, the figurine flashed through the girl's mind, followed shortly by the memory of a short, foul-tempered blonde with amber eyes, before Annora shook her head in an effort to dislodge the thought. She forced herself to think about something else as Kit slowly wheeled her down the driveway towards the shuttle awaiting them, and held Remmy's carrier protectively in her arms as she was loaded onto the wheelchair-access lift on the shuttle. The girl didn't even allow herself to glance back at her house as they pulled away from the curb, just in case her thoughts tried to betray her.
Sometimes, some things were better left behind.
Well, here's the end of the line for this story. It's been a long and interesting haul, and after working on it for over three years, I can say that I've throughly enjoyed it. I just want to say thank you to everyone that has ever reviewed , and to everyone who has favorited or alerted this story. There are so many of you that I can probably take up an entire page listing everyone, so I won't. But still, thank you.
This is Wandering Hitokiri, signing off.
See ya on the flip side.