Chapter 5.

. .

Madge returns about an hour later with a nurse. After she eases herself back into bed, the nurse excuses herself. Madge says Dr. Kent is getting the images and will be up shorty. She sighs and opens her mouth to say something, but the doctor knocks before we get a chance to talk. I wave her in, and she stands at the foot of the bad, holding a thin glass screen. "Okay. So, this also came up clean. There's noting wrong that we can find, and we've done multiple tests. Everything has come up normal. I can show you the images," she says, tapping the glass screen. She hands it to Madge, who shows it to me. I can't tell what anything means, except that it looks like a slightly distorted x-ray of something.

"What is it?" I ask.

"It's a scan of her head and neck. Nothing irregular has come up, though," Dr. Kent says. I nod.

"Can I go home?" Madge asks hopefully, handing the glass screen back to her.

"Well, the short answer is yes. But, let me explain to you what your diagnosis is. We believe you suffered from delayed vasovagal syncope. In other words, we think you lost consciousness because of a large amount of stress, either physical or emotional. This stress caused your blood pressure to drop. As a result, your brain didn't get enough blood and you became unconscious because of it. That explains why you felt discomfort in your head right before you lost consciousness."

"Is it serious?" I ask.

The doctor shakes her head. "No, it's just a technical way of saying she fainted. What's unique about Madge's case, though, is that it was delayed. You said you both were asleep before it happened, yes?" Madge and I nod simultaneously. "Yes, that's what tripped us up at first. Often times, vasovagal syncope occurs instantly. That is, right at or immediately after the peak of said stress. Occasionally it happens after, like it did in your case. This is because after the adrenaline slows down, your blood pressure drops as your body process and reacts to the stress. Can you think of anything that happened yesterday that might have triggered this? Physical or emotional stress, most likely."

"No, I can't." Madge answers. I look at her questioningly, wondering why she isn't telling the doctor the truth. I keep my mouth shut, though.

"That's alright. It could have just been from something simple as standing for too long. You might not have noticed it, but your body sure did." Madge nods. "But, you're free to go home. Drink plenty of fluids and try to avoid overexerting yourself. If you faint again or feel ill, you should come back, yes?" We nod.

"You'll take care of her?" Dr. Kent asks me. I nod without hesitation.

"Absolutely."

"Great. A nurse will be in a little with some release papers for you to sign, and then you can be on your way. Thanks," Dr. Kent says, shaking both mine and Madge's hands.

"Thank you, Doctor," I say.

Once she's gone from the room, door closed behind her, I turn to Madge. "Why didn't you tell her the truth?" I ask.

She shrugs. "I don't know. I guess I just wanted everything that happened yesterday to be our thing. I don't know..I'm being stupid. sorry, I should have told her. I just didn't think a total stranger-"

"It's okay, I understand," I interrupt her. It's true- I do understand why she didn't tell the doctor, and now that she's told me why, I realize that I feel the same way. Yesterday was just one of those days that strangers don;t need to know about. Besides, the doctor said the reason why Madge fainted wasn't important. All that matters is that Madge is going to be alright.

Jackie brings in the release papers, and Madge is quick to sign them. It's not long until Madge is back in her normal clothes and we're headed out the door, with a promise to see Jackie later tonight for dinner. Madge reaches for my hand, and I link our fingers without hesitation.

. .

"I'm really glad you're alright," I tell her once we're out of the hospital.

"Me, too," she says with a small smile. "And I'm sorry if I gave you a scare," she says.

"You did," I laugh. "But it's okay." She smiles up at me, squeezing my hand tightly.

"So," she says as we walk through town back to her house.

"So," I say.

"What do you want to do?" she asks. I shrug.

"What is there to do around here?" I ask.

"Gale, you live here..." she gives me a look.

"That's true, but it doesn't change the fact that I work and sleep and hunt and drink, and that's it." I say. She laughs.

"I should have guessed. Well, if you're as hungry as I am, I'm still a great cook, and the butcher has better meat than anything you ever caught," she grins.

I gasp, "You take that back!"

She throws her head back in laughter, "I would never!"

"Well, I guess I'll have to see how true that is," I say. We walk to the butcher. It's weird- growing up in 12, I knew just about everyone's name, and if not their name, their story. I guess that was just the way it was back at home- everyone was in everyone else's business, and being the son of the disctrict's number one gossip, I was always in the know. But here, I still feel like a stranger after all this time. Seeing Madge interact with the different people we pass almost makes me regret not getting to know people here. Almost.

. .

We decide to go to my place instead of Madge and Jackie's, and Madge cooks dinner. I try to help her, but she keeps swatting me away and whining about how there will be none left if I keep sneaking food when her back is turned. I finally give up when she pulls the wooden spoon on me. When the food is finally finished, we sit down at the table in my small dining room. After a minute of silence, Madge looks up at me. "Can I ask you a question?" she asks. I nod. "Did you, uh, ever see the letter I left for you?"

My breath hitches in my throat. "What note?" I ask, hoping she doesn't hear the shakiness to my voice.

She shakes her head, "Never mind." She looks down at her hands. I take a deep breath, and before I know it, Madge has changed the subject and she's smiling again. We stay at the table for a while, even after we're finished eating, swapping stories and just continuing to catch up. Eventually, Madge yawns audibly, which causes me to yawn in response. She launches into a fit of giggles, and I crack a smile. "I'm tired," she announces. "Wanna stay?" I ask, standing up and walking the plates to the sink. She nods, and follows me into the bedroom. I toss her a tee shirt and she smiles before slipping into the bathroom. I slip off my jacket, which I didn't even realize I had on. Draping it over the hook on the back of the door, I strip down into my tee shirt and boxers. The door opens and Madge walks in, wearing my tee shirt.

I smile, grabbing her waist and backing her into the wall. I place my hands on the wall on either side of her face. She laughs, "what are you doing?"

"I don't know," I reply, leaning in and kissing her gently. Her hands work their way into my hair, and she deepens the kiss. "You look so good," I say when I pull away. Smiling, she leans in, her mouth finding mine instantly. I can feel her smile against my lips. She pulls back, draping her arms over my shoulders, linking her fingers behind my neck. "Thank you," she says.

"For what?" I ask, my hands on her waist.

"Everything," she says with a shrug. I lean down and press a soft kiss onto her lips.

"It was worth it," I tell her.

"All of it?" she scrunches her nose.

"Mmhm."

"Do you regret any of it?" she asks once we're in bed.

"Any of what?" I ask, unsure of what she means.

"I don't know. I guess just all of the crazy stuff we did, all the times we almost didn't make it. All the things we did that made that vein in my dad's neck bulge," she says with a small laugh. I remember that vein vividly, and all of the times I was on the receiving end of it's bulge. I can't help but laugh with her, but one look in her eyes tells me how desperately she misses her parents.

"No, I don't think so. At the time, it all seemed like a great idea...but even now, looking back on it all, I wouldn't change it."

"Do you remember Twelve?" she asks.

" I guess so, yeah." I consider her question. I do remember Twelve, but some stuff is hazy now. "It's funny- I always dreamed of escaping, leaving everything behind...just forgetting it all. Deep down, I never really thought it would happen. But it did, and I almost miss it," I say.

"It's weird. In the beginning, it was all I saw when I closed my eyes. Not just the last days with the bombing, but good memories too. I used to fall asleep and dream about our little hide out behind the Hob, or the times I walked to school. Even the smell of the books in school. I used to see it all, and it never stopped. Until it started getting fuzzier and fuzzier, and now the only time I see it is when I try to summon the memories myself. And even then, sometimes they don't come to me. I spent my life there, and now I can't remember it. It's scary, not knowing. Not remembering. And I guess I just don't know how to feel about that," she says.

"Wait, you said you can't remember?" I ask.

"Yeah. Just like you, I guess," she replies.

"So, does that mean that your condition is gone? You can forget now?" I ask, turning to face her.

"Uh, I don't know. I never even noticed that. I guess that explains why forgetting seems so weird to me. I don't know," she says, color draining from her face.

"You should find out. I'm sure it's nothing," I say. She nods, but her mind is elsewhere. "Madge, hey. It's not important," I say. She finally turns to face me.

"You're right. I'll just ask Jackie tomorrow. Nothing worth worrying about,"

"Exactly."

Sleep finds us quickly.

. .

I wake up to see beams of white sunlight slipping through the curtains and brightening the room. "Madge," I whisper into her hair. She doesn't respond. "Madge," I repeat a little louder. "Hmm?" she rolls over to face me, her blue eyes brighter than ever.

"Hi," I say.

"Hi," she replies, pressing a quick kiss onto my lips. She props herself up on her elbows and yawns.

"You sleep okay?" I ask. She nods.

"Yeah, I-" suddenly, she closes her eyes tight, bringing a hand to her temple.

"Madge? You okay?" I ask, quickly sitting up.

"I think so. My head...all of a sudden it just-" she stops mid-sentence, inhaling sharply.

"Come on, get your shoes. You're going back to the hospital," I tell her, standing up and crossing the room to her side of the bed.

"No, no. It's fine, really. I-" she stops again, her face scrunching up.

"It clearly isn't fine. Let's go," I say, a little more firmly.

"Gale, really, I'm fine," she says. And that's when she passes out.

A/N: Thanks for sticking around! Hopefully you enjoyed this chapter. Review and let me know what you think will happen next!