This is completely, one hundred percent AU. Read and review, please
They were sprawled out on the lounge room floor, maths books open in front of them, when it first happened. Charley Prince sighed impatiently, as Loren Power stared at the book. It seemed she had been staring at her page forever, even though she knew perfectly well how to do the question. Really, it had only been about thirty seconds, but Charley knew what his friend was capable of.
"Come on, Loren", he said impatiently, poking her in the side.
She didn't say anything.
"Loren?" he was confused.
Suddenly, she snapped back. "Huh?"
Charley was more than confused. "What?"
"The answer's forty six", Loren said, circling the first part of the equation.
"But you already did that part".
"No I didn't". Loren's ears turned pink, as she stared at the page once more.
"Yes you did", Charley said, in a gentler tone. "You already did that part, see?"
"Oh. I don't remember it". She shrugged.
"Let's just keep going", he suggested. So Loren moved on to the next part of the maths problem, Charley prompting her along the way.
It happened again that night, as they were sitting around the dinner table, laughing. Charley turned to Loren, a huge smile on his face. "What do you think?"
She was staring blankly at the wall, her eyes glassy, like her brain had completely shut off. She sat like that for ten more seconds before snapping back and turning to Charley, as if nothing had happened.
Charley just shook his head, even more confused than earlier. Loren was continuing on with the conversation, as if she hadn't missed anything. He decided he was imagining it. Maybe Loren was just taking some time out- they had been in the Solar Blue boarding house less than a month, and while they loved living with their friends, finding somewhere to spend some time to themselves was proving a difficult chore.
Still, later that night, when the others were laughing in the pool room, Charley knocked on the door to the office, apologising for interrupting Bec Sanderson and Garry Miller. For the twelve months they were spending at the academy, they were their surrogate parents, and the people they went to if they had any issue, whatsoever. Though, at only four and six years older than the teenagers, they were more like their older brother and sister.
"What's up, Chuck?" Garry wanted to know. "I thought you'd be showing them all up at pool!"
Charley smirked- he had earned his reputation as 'The King'. But then he remembered he was there for a reason, and not to joke around. "What's wrong with Loren?"
Bec's smile slipped off her face, and was quickly replaced by a look of worry. "What do you mean, Charley?"
"Well, she was fine today, but we were doing our homework, and she just started staring, like someone had turned off her brain. She was like that for a minute, and then she just went back to do the part of the question she'd already done. She was like that at dinner, too", he mentioned.
"Loren spaces out sometimes, mate, it's her way of escaping the chaos this house is", Garry told him. "It's not easy, being the quiet one in this house".
"I'll keep an eye on her", Bec added (it was a blatantly obvious fact that the girls' were closer with Bec than they were with Garry). "Don't worry about it, mate. Loren's a dreamer- she's probably just taking some time out. But, if it gets worse, let me know".
"Alright", Charley sighed, slightly annoyed by their reactions.
But he kept an eye out for his friend, and, over the next two weeks, noticed her staring becoming more frequent. Sometimes it was only for seconds, other times it lasted for almost a minute. And Charley became increasingly worried, as Loren's school results dropped back.
"Loren, what's up with you today?" Cassie Cometti said at breakfast one Saturday morning in February, as they mulled over their topic test results. They all had their particular rankings, for school- Bridget soared to the top of the class with flying colours, while Charley, Adam, Cassie and Loren fought for second place. Guy, as hard as he tried, usually ended up at the bottom of their boarding house heap, but nonetheless, they all passed with results they were proud to write home about. That particular test, however, Loren's results had slipped to the bottom, leaving the bewildered teenagers shocked.
Loren looked close to tears, as she stirred the cornflakes in her bowl. "I don't know, I studied so hard!"
"I know you did, we all studied together, remember?" Bridget Sanchez- Loren's roommate and the girl who spent the most time with her- told her. "But you didn't fail, so..."
"Glass half full kind of person!" Adam Bridge teased gently.
"Don't worry, Loren, I'm sure you'll do better next time". Guy Spender offered her one of his charming grins and Loren forced a small smile onto her face, looking into the cereal to avoid her friends.
"Yeah..." she whispered.
"Alright, guys, you're free to do whatever you want!" Garry told them, as they excitedly made plans to go and see a new release at the cinema in town. Loren, however, declined the offer, preferring to stay back at the boarding house and look over her school work, determined to try and catch back up.
"Are you alright, Loren?" Bec wanted to know, lingering in the doorway of the kitchen. The teenager had spread her textbooks and notes over the table, and was bent over her history book, reading and rereading her notes.
"I'm fine- I just don't understand how I got that mark!"
She was genuinely upset, and Bec could sympathise, as she took a seat. She had been a student at Solar Blue, as a sixteen year old, and understood the trials and tribulations undertaken by 'her' kids. The entire year they were in competition with what were their closest friends. There were only two wildcard spots on the pro circuit, and there were six teenagers. While they were close, they had to really reach to get their goal. It was tough, and Bec knew that. Especially tough for someone who worked as hard as Loren did.
"I studied really hard, Bec", Loren said, in a small voice.
"I know you did, darlin', I know you did", Bec assured her. "Can I see the paper, please?"
Handing over the exam, Bec was astounded to see that Loren, their brainy, bubbly girl, had only answered half of the questions asked. Each problem had an answer written down, which she was pleased about, but the answers themselves didn't make sense.
"Loren, did you read the questions properly?" she asked carefully.
"Yes!" Loren threw her hands up in the air. "That's what I don't understand!"
"I don't know, Loren", Bec shrugged. "I honestly don't know... how about, when the next test comes around, Garry and I help you study? It might be easier, if you're away from the noise".
Loren nodded miserably, lying her head down on top of her history workbook. Bec simply put an arm around her, rubbing her shoulder gently. Leaving the teenager to her studying, Bec advanced into the garage (doubling as a gym), where she found Garry lifting weights. "You know, I think Charley might be right about Loren being off with the fairies". Perching on the edge of the exercise bike, she eyed her partner in crime suspiciously.
"What, so you think something could be seriously wrong?" Garry set the weights down and sat up, wiping beads of sweat off his face.
"Yeah... I had a look at that test they did- exactly the same as the one I had to do, just putting it out there- and she only answered half the question. It was like she'd read it, and forget what the question was halfway through". Bec shrugged. "I don't know".
"I don't know, Bec". Garry shrugged. "If she knew something was wrong, she'd tell us. Actually, she'd tell you".
"Yeah, but she's Loren. She's been quiet since day one, that's how no one noticed something was wrong in the first place. It's her nature to be quiet".
"I know... just give it some time, Bec".
So they left the issue at that- but it wasn't long before they were to realise how serious the issue was.
"How was the movie?" Loren wanted to know, from the lounge. She had a book open in front of her, and earphones inserted into her ears, but it didn't mean she was deaf to her housemates returning.
"It was hilarious! You should come next time we go to the movies!" Cassie enthused.
"Maybe..." Loren said uncertainly.
Charley sat beside her, draping an arm around his friend. "How have you been? I bet it was good, having the house to yourself!"
"It was very quiet", she giggled.
"You're back!" Garry boomed, marching through the house. "Just in time! Bec and I were thinking about driving to a new break, want to come?"
So they piled into the van, and drove to the new beach, more than half an hour away. They spent the afternoon paddling out into the water, surfing until their hearts were content, all the while Garry assessing them for training the following morning.
"That was actually the perfect way to end a Saturday afternoon", Adam said blissfully, as they dripped back to the van. The ride back to the house was loud; much like the house was constantly, as they hollered along with the radio and made plans for the rest of the weekend. Bec, glancing into the backseat, did notice Loren looking out the window- but, then again, so was Adam, who got the other window seat. She hadn't noticed any change in the young girl- not so far, at least.
"Let's have a Mario Kart battle before dinner", Guy declared.
"Oh, you're on!" Adam laughed, as Garry stopped the car in the Solar Blue driveway. They tumbled out of the van, cramming into the boarding house. Loren followed at a slower pace, looking down at her feet.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Charley checked, for the umpteenth time.
She nodded, moving towards the stairs.
Once they were rid of salt water and sand, they gathered in the lounge room, eager to start the Mario Kart battle. The Nintendo Wii console was an addition to the house that Bec didn't have when she was a student- hell, she didn't even have Fox Tel. The kids were free to use and abuse the gaming console, as long as they kept up to date with their school work.
"Loren?" Cassie said, as their friend snapped back once more. "What's up?"
Charley was becoming increasingly frustrated, as Loren drifted in and out of consciousness. He noticed Bec and Garry, too, keeping an eye on the blonde, and he had to admit he felt good about it. They would know what to do.
"Bec?" Loren spoke up, snapping back once more. "Bec, I don't feel very well".
Bec turned from the television the moment Loren fell from the lounge, convulsing into shudders on the carpet. All the colour draining from her face, she yelled at the other kids to leave the room. Charley was beside his friend, sickly gray with worry.
"Charley, that means you, too", Garry warned, from where he was punching in the emergency services number.
"No!" Charley argued, as Loren continued to shudder. "Bec, what's wrong with her?" he looked scared and confused and so much younger than he actually was.
"I don't know, mate", Bec said gently, as Loren finally fell still. Lying on the floor, the young girl looked peaceful- the complete opposite of the girl moments before.
"We're going to the hospital", Garry told the other kids, as Loren opened her eyes. They were standing on the bottom two stairs, their eyes as wide as saucers. They might have been banished from the room, but Bec and Garry knew as well as they did that whenever that happened, they'd move to the stairs.
"Oh thank God". Bec breathed a sigh of relief, as Loren struggled to sit up. "you gave us a bit of a scare there, Loren! Come on, gorgeous, let's go out to the car".
"What happened?" she mumbled, rubbing her eyes. "Bec, what happened?"
"Do you still feel sick?"
She nodded miserably.
Cassie had tears in her eyes, as she clung to Adam. "Oh my God, Loren!"
"Cassie, Cassie, Cass!" Garry held up his hands. "Come on. We can discuss this when we get back. I don't know what's going to happen, but at the moment, we're going to the hospital. Guy, Adam, can you give Loren a hand out to the car, please?"
"I've got it", Charley said, scooping Loren, bridal style, into her arms. "Your car, Bec's car or the van?"
"My car", Bec said, snatching up the keys and her handbag. "Bridget, you're in charge, I'll call before we come home".
Bridget nodded, her face pale. "Okay", she stuttered. Adam was usually the cool one in an emergency, but even he was having trouble comprehending things.
"Adam, mate, I don't know when we're going to be home, alright?" Garry snapped. "See you later, alright?"
"Bye guys", Guy said, forcing a smile onto his face.
Charley strapped Loren into the backseat of Bec's little car, while she looked around in confusion.
"You had a fit, Loren", Bec explained, as Loren blinked like a newborn seeing the world for the first time. "I don't know what happened, but we're going to the hospital, just to make sure everything's alright. I don't know what's been going on, but we need to get it checked out".
"You scared me, Loren", Charley said quietly, putting an arm around her.
"She scared all of us", Garry agreed, as Bec started the car. "But it's alright, Loren, it's in the past now. Are you okay? Did you hit your head?"
"I don't remember".
"I don't think she did", Charley said suddenly, "But you were shaking and everything".
"It was like being asleep", Loren told them. "I don't remember it".
"Well, we're going just in case", Garry told her.
"Just in case", Bec echoed Garry's words, as her heart thumped in her chest.
In the next few hours, Loren was admitted into the hospital, as they monitored her every move. Scans were booked, and words that Charley had never even heard of were thrown up in the air.
It was almost midnight when Bec approached the boys, giving them the verdict.
"Alright, she's going to have an EEG scan tomorrow", she informed them, "And I'm going to stay here with her tonight. Bring the kids around in the morning, Loren wants that. She's a little out of her depth here; she doesn't really know what's happening".
"She's just a kid, what do you expect?" Garry said. "Come on, Charley, let's say goodbye to her, and then we'll head home. I better call the kids, hey?"
"I've gotten several panicked messages already", Bec reported, as Charley walked ahead of them. Knocking on the door, he saw Loren slumped in the bed, bags under her eyes. However, she brightened the moment Charley stepped into the room.
"Hey Loren!" he bounced on the end of the bed experimentally. "Not real comfortable".
"I know- my bed back at home is so much better. Are you and Garry going home?"
"Yeah. I don't think Bec could handle leaving the others at home by themselves".
Loren giggled. "True. Tell them I miss them, and that I'll see them in the morning".
"First thing", Charley promised, patting her leg. "See ya, Loren".
"See ya, Charley". She gave him a small smile, as Garry waved from the doorway.
"See you in the morning, darlin'". Garry gave her a grin, putting an arm around Charley. "Come on, mate, let's get home".
"Alright". Charley, slumping his shoulders, allowed Garry to steer him out of the hospital, towards where Bec had parked her car.
"Garry?" he wanted to know, his voice gruff. "Does this mean Loren will have to go back home?"
Garry sighed heavily. "I don't know, mate. I really don't know. We'll just have to wait and see what the doctors' say in the morning".
The moment the two stepped into the pitch black Solar Blue house (assuming that the others had gotten tired of waiting and gone to bed) they were bombarded with questions.
"What did the doctors' say?"
"Is Loren okay?"
"Where are Loren and Bec?"
"You'll hear the whole story in the morning", Garry announced over the ruckus, "When we go and see them at the hospital. Good night, guys".
Defeated, they shuffled towards the stairs, retreating to their respective bedrooms. "Good night, Garry".
Within minutes, however, Bridget was padding into Cassie's bedroom, pillow in hand. Flopping onto the spare bed, she wriggled under the blankets. "I hope Loren's alright, Cass".
"I know", Cassie sniffled.
In the boys room, Guy and Adam were having a whispered conversation about the situation of their sixth housemate, and whether she'd be allowed to stay or not at the boarding house, when Charley, quite sharply, spoke up.
"Just shut up! You don't know a thing about what's happening, so go to sleep!"
Taken back, the boys fell silent, their mouths quiet but their minds whirring, as scenarios wandered loose. Everything seemed worse at night.
It was a fact.
"How are you?"
"What did the doctors' say?"
"Can you come home?"
"Bec, what happened?"
Loren's face broke into a grin, as her housemates and best friends piled into the room, jolting her out of her half sleep. The IV in her arm reminded all of them that Loren was not in the place where they could hug and pass her from arm to arm, as they did in the Solar Blue house.
"Morning, guys", Bec yawned. She had spent the night lying on a trundle bed, contemplating the future with the kids.
"Loren, did you have the scan thing?" Charley checked. He had heard a lot of complicated medical terms the night before, and simplifying it made it so much easier for everyone involved.
Loren nodded. "Yep. They glued wires to my head and my chest and my neck and told me to lay there and breathe heavily. Now I've got to have an MRI".
"They're basically scanning Loren's brain, to see what happened last night", Bec explained, in the simplest of terms, what she had heard the doctors' say. "Garry, did you bring my car?"
"I called Joe and he said he'd drive it round on his way to work. I couldn't fit all the kids in your car- not legally, at least".
"I gather I never told you about the time we took my parents' station wagon up the coast to visit Anna and Heath at a kiteboarding comp". Bec chuckled slightly. "for the entire hour and a half drive, Fly was in the boot, lying flat on her back, being tossed around with the backpacks".
"Don't give them ideas", Garry said witheringly, as the kids laughed appreciatively.
"Glad to be home?" Bec checked, as she opened Loren's door. The blonde nodded enthusiastically- and promptly burst into tears. Bec bundled her into her arms, trying her best to make her stop crying. "Loren! What's the matter? Loren, talk to me, darlin'".
"I don't want to leave Solar Blue", she sniffled. "I love it here!"
In the short time the kids had been at the academy, Bec had seen a change in all of them. Charley was no longer the bossy, know it all rebel that he had been- he had calmed, into the sweet teenager they knew and loved. Cassie had fired up at the slightest of things and Bridget had been overenthusiastic about everything and anything. They had both settled into the routine, turning into the girls everyone knew. Adam had been stand offish, but was the cool cucumber of the group. Guy, the joker, had been using his charming nature to cover up his insecure side. Loren was painfully shy, and had stood back for most of the first week, allowing herself to settle into life in the rowdy Solar Blue Academy. Bec and Garry were there to witness all the changes, and one thing was for sure- they didn't want to say goodbye to anyone before the year was up.
"Loren, it'll be alright, okay?" Bec brushed her hair back gently, rubbing her back comfortingly. "Garry and I are going to do our best to fight for you, but really, it's about your health first. We don't want anything to happen to you, Loren, you're our girl".
"I know", Loren mumbled.
Bec rubbed her back once more. "how about we head inside and clean you up before the others come in from the water and notice you're back. That'll be major news!"
"Will I be allowed to surf?"
Bec sighed- she knew the question would come up, but yet she didn't get enough time to plan an answer. "Loren..."
"I can't, can I". The sentence that came from Loren's mouth was a statement, not a question, said in a monotone.
"It's not that you can't, it's just for peace of mind for Garry and me, we'd prefer that you didn't. Meaning don't surf- not until we get the results back, alright? Then we can move on from there".
"I don't wanna go home, Bec".
"And we don't want to lose you either, Loren".
Over the next few weeks, Loren was put on medication, and everyone in the Solar Blue household watched her like a hawk. Sometimes she dozed off, but only for seconds, and it was that that allowed her to stay at the academy (Charley had all but cried in relief). While things had changed in the Solar Blue household, the kids who lived there hadn't- which was a relief for Bec and Garry in itself. They were still the same cheeky, cheerful teenagers that lived life to the fullest, not allowing anything to slow them down.
"I'll always look after you, Loren", Charley promised, dropping a kiss onto her blonde hair. She just nodded, holding his hand.
Loren had been diagnosed with epilepsy. The dazing off what was known as 'absence seizures', and the convulsions were known as 'grand mal seizures'. Over the course of twelve months, the months they spent at Solar Blue, Loren had several small, absence seizures- so small they were compared to micro-sleeps. And while she had given the others quite the scare, she stayed and fought for her place in the pro circuit.
And while she didn't make it in, the life experiences she had learned along the way made up for it.
Even after they left Solar Blue, Charley kept an eye on her, as they moved into their first apartment. Loren went to university, and Charley got himself a job, trying to make a living for themselves. When Loren had been completely seizure free for six months, at age twenty one, Charley emptied out some of his savings and went to the jeweller, determined to show Loren how much he loved her with a diamond engagement ring.
They still kept in contact with the rest of their Solar Blue friends- Bec and Garry included- and the entire gang was invited to their wedding. It wasn't the hugest of weddings- a small ceremony, with their family and friends, and friends that had become family- seeing neither of them wanted a big fuss made. They exchanged vows under an alter on the beach, flower petals being thrown as they advanced down the aisle once more. It was a day neither of them would ever forget.
When their children were born, kept their eyes peeled for any form of seizure. Both little Ava and Brayden were clear of both kinds, and lived the happy, healthy childhoods their parents wanted them too.
Things had changed a lot in the years since Loren had had that first seizure- and things had happened that both she and Charley wished they could take back. But their love for each other had never changed. It had stayed strong, the glue that held them together.