Er-hem. I expect many people were waiting for this? Or they've totally forgotten? Anyway, I'm aiming to complete two more challenges for Miley to contend with before the conclusion. And starting here, is some trouble for everyone! Welcome to Chapter 8!

It begins with the aftermath of the surgery in chapters 6 and 7, before proceeding to introduce a new plot element later on.

And about that uncanny resemblance to Disney's Little Mermaid, it introduces itself here, to be elaborated in the future...

Disclaimer: I don't own Hannah Montana.

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About a week has passed since the recent operation. The scar will remain for some time, but recovery was well under way. Miley was discharged on Sunday, five days after the life-saving surgery. It was a joyous celebration when she finally returned home; Jackson and Robbie Ray threw a party for Miley to congratulate her for pulling through, inviting all of Miley's classmates and other people who felt like joining. Robbie Ray drove Miley home from the hospital, Jackson having mysteriously vanished. When they finally reached their home, Robbie Ray opened the door and offered Miley to enter first.

Miley stepped in. It was all quiet. The house was pitch dark. Turning on the lights, Miley realised that there was no one there.

Robbie Ray returned her questioning look with, "Oh no, there's nothing here. Follow me." Winking at her vaguely, he marched off to the deck. Miley ran after him, curiosity piqued.

He led her to the sunny beach. And there was a huge crowd of people dressed in all types of colourful clothes, waiting around Rico's kiosk.

"Here you go, Honey." Robbie Ray said with a sunny air, pushing her in front of the crowd. Miley stared at the hundred pairs of eyes for a moment, before a huge explosion knocked her right off her feet.

"SURPRISE!"

Everyone was there, waiting for their star of the surprise party. Miley spotted many of her classmates amongst the applauding crowd; Sarah waved a banner which looked like it was woven out of spare cloth and dead leaves that said "WELCOME HOME MILEY!". Jackson's friends were applauding seated around the kiosk; amongst them were Thor, Cooper and Max. Rico was also cheering, ecstatic that she returned fine. Even Amber and Ashley were there, though they were not applauding. And standing beside the table with a giant cake were Lilly, Oliver, and Jackson. Giving her a grand standing ovation, they together raised another banner that said "OUR GUEST OF HONOUR!"

Miley's eyes stung with tears of thankfulness and gratitude. She felt like screaming with excitement. She charged at the table and in a flash, she caught Lilly, Oliver and Jackson in her arms.

"MILEY!" Jackson shouted.

Miley burst into tears on their shoulders. Behind her were intensifying whoops and cheers, even whistles.

"ALRIGHT! Let's get this party started, folks!" Robbie Ray roared into the crowd, and was met by another explosion of joy.

Somebody turned on a radio and amplified it to a speaker; a very luau-style music began playing into the air. Everyone joined in the feast at the buffet table before going off to join a conga line started by Jackson and Thor. Miley was treated like a queen; she was given the highest honour in the party, and as she felt everyone's hands hit her back in congratulations, she felt that there would be no other girl in the world who would be happier than her. For one thing, the party itself was magnificent. The food was a feast for the senses; beautifully prepared, they fed the eyes and nose as well as the taste buds.

A small mountain of gifts was brought in on a cart pushed in by Roxy. Miley stared wide-eyed in awe at the sight.

"It's all yours Miley! They were meant to be get-well-soon gifts, but we delivered them too late." Roxy called out. Miley opened half the gifts in front of everybody, unable to finish them all at once. Among the gifts were: a pair of diamond earrings resembling wind chimes from her father; a book about environmental issues and protection from Sarah; a black stylish purse; a seventeenth-century-style cutlass from Roxy complete with a training manual; a cashmere sweater from Oliver (who seemed to be ignorant about shopping choice); a clock; a water bottle; and even a hairy tarantula named Tim hidden in one of the boxes from Rico. (Unable to scream, she gasped in horror instead, withdrawing her hand at light speed. Somewhere behind her, Rico began cackling madly.)

However, the party was not all that enjoyable for Miley. She was still nervous about taking solid food; she could drink, but swallowing would still be moderately painful and unpleasant. Therefore, all she ate was the cake and some fruits, watching others feast on the other beautifully cooked dishes on the buffet table.

Jackson challenged various people to a dance-off, exhibiting his prodigious skill at the traditional Scottish egg dance once more. Rico stomped him out of the competition with his blindingly fast break dancing moves.

The party ended three hours later, when Miley fell asleep, exhausted from all the excitement, resting her head on the counter of Rico's kiosk. Robbie Ray cleared everyone out while some volunteers stayed behind to clean up the after-party mess. Rico re-opened his kiosk to business at the beach, ketchup and mustard splattering his clothes; they marked where Miley hit him with food and other stuff as she vented her silent anger on him earlier.

"Hey tuts, I'm re-opening here. This is not a nap shack, Ms Ketchup-Pistol!" Rico said bitingly, waking her up with a shove. Miley raised her head and glared at him before walking off to help with the clean-up job. "I'm going to need to wash this with a whole box of detergent." he added more to himself than to her, looking down on his shirt, now resembling a surreal painting by some famous painter, with splats of red and yellow resembling paint spots.

Miley picked up a plate and immediately staggered under its weight, her arms weakened by lack of energy. Her father appeared suddenly and took the tray from her hands.

"Oh no, Honey. You don't need to help here. Why don't you go back to the house now and take a rest; I saw you looking quite tired just now." Robbie Ray suggested, moving the aluminum dishes provided by the catering service as while Roxy single-handedly moved the long table out the way and began dragging it towards the Stewart's house.

"Yeah he's probably right. Don't over-exert yourself, Miley; you're still recovering." Oliver came over and pat her friendlily on the shoulder.

Refusing to argue any more, and feeling too tired to do so anyway, she walked back up to their beach house. It was when she reached the deck did her strength drain out of her body all of the sudden. Unable to stagger another nine steps, she collapsed onto the warm wooden, imagining a tanning chair in front of her. She fell heavily on the floor and immediately fell into the land of dreamless oblivion.

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Robbie Ray found Miley curled up on the floor, motionless, breathing slowly and deeply, about ten minutes later. His heart had stopped beating for seven seconds.

"MILE! WHAT THE SAM-HECK HAPPENED?" He yelled in shock.

BANG.

Roxy, Lilly, Oliver and Jackson rushed up to the deck in a frantic hurry.

"What happened?!" Lilly exclaimed in horror. Miley was cradled in Robbie Ray's lap, still unconscious, lying limp in his hands. Oliver yelped softly, and Jackson muttered under his breath, "Please, don't let it be happening all over again..."

"She's just asleep. Shh! You'll wake her up!" Roxy shouted but in a hushed voice. Taking Miley into her arms, she entered the house and placed Miley down on the couch gently. Robbie Ray and Jackson were speechless in shock and horror respectively.

"How do you know?" Oliver asked with concern in his voice.

"Roxy sees everything. Roxy knows everything too." Roxy replied ambiguously, covering Miley with a thin blanket. Right on cue, Miley began to snore gently (and elegantly of course). Robbie Ray sighed and fainted in relief, landing on the ground with a hard dull thump.

"Oh sweet niblets! Another man down!" Roxy exclaimed in exasperation, hoisting the man onto her steel-strong shoulders and carrying him up to his room.

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The following week of recovery passed somewhat uneventfully. Miley was still hesitant about taking solid food, and tried to avoid eating whenever she could. She only dared to eat soft foods like porridges, noodles, some fruits, and soups, but even so she did not eat much, fearing the pain in her still-recovering throat. Soon she began to weaken physically, nearly fainting on many occasions, and always lacking of energy.

"Now, Honey, I know it hurts, but if you don't eat anything, you'll never recover! Look at you! You're growing weaker and weaker! Are you sure you're alright, bud?" Robbie Ray said while making a breakfast cheese omelet on Thursday morning, watching Miley stagger towards him, pale-faced and visibly sagging.

Miley shook her head and poured herself a cup of milk.

Lilly and Oliver also began expressing their concerns regarding Miley's health.

"Miley! You've got to eat something! You've been starving yourself for four days straight just because you're afraid of the pain in your throat! You must eat in order to recover!" Lilly pleaded on Thursday afternoon, after school.

"If you keep this up, you might even develop an eating disorder! And that will really be a problem; don't you know eating disorders can kill?" Oliver advised.

Miley glared at him, feeling as if Oliver had just insulted her personal honour. She scribbled something on her whiteboard furiously and held it before his face. It read, in bold capital fonts, "I WILL NEVER STOOP THAT LOW! HOW DARE YOU SUGGEST THAT!"

On Friday morning, she fell ill, struck by the common cold. Feeling at her worst, she finally decided to take a bite out of a ham-cheese-egg sandwich prepared by her father, to relieve herself of such tormenting agony – aching hunger and sickness together.

It hurt no longer, she realised with dawning happiness. The pain had diminished greatly, the wound having recovered. Bravely, she stuffed the rest of the sandwich into her mouth, savoring the taste of first solid food in the week; the rough texture of wholemeal bread, the delicious scrambled eggs, complimented by the cheese and ham. It was like eating a rainbow. Miley completely forgot that she was eating a plain sandwich; to her, nothing could taste better than this.

"Wow, look at you! I hadn't seen you smile this widely since that party on Sunday." Robbie Ray remarked over his pancakes, during breakfast.

Miley nodded vigorously, ravenous. For breakfast, she inhaled an omelet, two sandwiches, four pancakes, and two glasses of milk to wash it all down. Feeling content and full for the first time in a week, Miley could not help but smile for the next few hours, revitalised. The cold miraculously vanished without a trace by afternoon.

"Look here, son! Your sister's finally gotten her appetite back!"

"Hey Miles! Bet you can't eat 20 hot dogs in two minutes! My personal record!"

"Actually, son, she ate 25 in two minutes. This morning."

"WHAT?!"

"...giggle..."

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Soon Miley found herself returning to school on Monday, fully refreshed and recovered. With her usual skip in her step, it would seem to a stranger that she had never gone through the week-long ordeal. She was shining with happiness, while everyone suffered the Monday Blues. She carried herself loftily, the hem of her flouncy little sleeveless dress dancing around her legs as she skipped down the hallways.

"Boy, you look excited about something." Lilly remarked as Miley approached her in the hallways. Miley shook her head, meaning to say that she was just happy to get her life moving on.

"Well, this ought to be good. I hear from everyone that Jake Ryan has finished shooting his movie in Romania and will be coming back in two weeks' time!" Lilly said in a controlled voice. Miley's jaw dropped in horror.

"I know. The tabloid magazines have got an article over here." Lilly fished out a magazine from her bag and showed it to Miley. "They say that Jake finished shooting the movie quicker than expected and will be coming back to Malibu from Romania for its premiere." she added.

Miley stared at the article in horror. Jake, coming back? Sooner than we've expected! Now I will have to steel myself to face him. But is he ready to hear about my handicap yet? How will he take it? Will he, perhaps, make that vital link between Hannah and me, both being mute? Or will he accept it as a coincidence? And what about him and me? He told me himself, unwittingly, that he still misses me very much, even trying to call me! Thank goodness Lilly was there to save me! But I can't keep this up! If he meets me in person, he's bound to find out himself!

Miley's hand unconsciously reached the scar on her neck. Lilly snapped her fingers an inch away from Miley's face, bringing her back from her soliloquy.

"Well? You've got to tell him in the end." Lilly said, mirroring Miley's thoughts exactly.

"..."

"Hey, no worries, Miley. I'll just answer your calls from now on."

Miley explained to Lilly her thoughts by writing a long and nervous note, not wanting to write and erase on her whiteboard every ten seconds.

"Wow, you're really in a crisis, aren't you?" Lilly chortled.

Thoughts about the complexity of the situation she found myself to be in and Jake returning plagued her mind all day. From the moment the first bell rang, she had lost all all the skip and bounce in her step.

How will he take it? How will I take it? It's so complicated! What will happen from here?

"Stewart! Will you please stop zoning out and pay attention?" Ms Kunkle snapped halfway through biology.

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I wanted to continue here, but due to a few reasons, I've decided to place the full stop here. Sorry if it's a wee bit short. The reasons are:

1. I have neither strength nor time to go on from here for now.

2. The following sentence "Two weeks flew by within a blink of an eye" shall be reserved for the next chapter, and that being the case, there is nothing left for me to write from hereon.

3. I wanted to leave a cliffhanger – not an extreme one, but a cliffhanger nevertheless.

No romance between Oliver and Miley intended. This is for those who speculate too much. Merci Beaucoup.

Terrorking Tragedian