Sick Room, Tyler Hall:
Two weeks after the girl first awakened, she finally became aware of where she was and who was with her. Every now and then, Isabel brought Serena in to visit. She hoped the wounded girl might start to respond in the presence of someone her own age.
It was awkward for Serena at first. She couldn't understand why the girl didn't answer when she talked to her. Still, Serena was intrigued that the girl's eyes followed her, never looking away when she entered the room. It seemed that the silent girl liked her and that delighted Serena.
Before long, Isabel's plan worked. Serena was quite an outgoing chatterbox. Isabel admitted this fact with love. It amazed her that Serena didn't let the girl's silence slow her down a bit. To Serena it was just wonderful to have someone her own age to play with. She played games with her for hours on end and they had many nonsense conversations together. Of course, Serena was the only one speaking.
And then, early one morning, Isabel heard some noises coming from the girl's room. She found Serena sitting on the bed beside the girl. They must have been playing for a while, because both of them were wide-awake. Serena had set up a tea party with several of her stuffed dolls for playmates. She was talking to Geoffrey, her baby doll, while feeding him from a teacup. Isabel found it adorable that Serena could carry on a conversation for everybody. She was about to turn away when Serena asked the girl a question that struck her so funny that she had to turn back.
"Do ya wanna feed him," Serena asked seriously.
The silent girl didn't move, but a smile slowly crept up her face. Isabel was struck motionless. It had been such a long time since the girl had responded to anything that Isabel couldn't believe her eyes. The child was actually smiling! It lit up the room, showing the beauty in her face. Her eyes, nearly emerald green now, seemed to sparkle in laughter.
"Come on," Serena nudged her hand. "You pick him up like you did the cup."
Sure enough, the girl lifted a slow hand toward Serena and waited for Serena to pass the doll to her.
"Now be careful. He's just a baby," she warned. Gently placing her baby doll in the girl's waiting arms she said, "Babies like it when you sing to them. Can you sing?"
The silent girl gently cradled the doll and mimicked Serena, feeding it from a tiny cup. When she was certain she was doing it right, she looked up and shook her head to say no. She couldn't sing to the doll.
"Why not," Serena asked in confusion.
Isabel couldn't believe her eyes as she watched the two girls exchanging their thoughts together. Wanting to learn more about the silent girl now that she was finally responding, Isabel entered the bedroom.
Serena heard her mother and turned around quickly. Smiling proudly for her accomplishment, she shouted, "Mama, she's awake! But, she still won't talk."
Isabel laughed and reached down to grab Serena up in a big hug. "Don't worry, Sweetheart. You did a wonderful job. We will just move one step at a time now."
"Right!" Serena agreed happily.
They were both so excited that they weren't paying attention when the girl edged her way to the side of the bed. Isabel was a little startled to see the girl's bare feet sliding down to the floor from under the covers. Eyes wide open, Isabel touched Serena's shoulder. They both held their breaths and watched as the girl wrapped a protective arm around her ribs and stood up for the first time. Isabel wanted to warn her back to bed, but she was also curious to see what the girl would do. Oblivious of Isabel's concern, the girl hobbled over to examine a small vanity table near the bed.
Sitting atop the table was a tall mirror that rested against the wall. Bracing herself with one hand, she held herself up and stared at her reflection as though viewing a stranger for the first time. The small slender girl staring back at her seemed a little unreal.
She saw the faded tint of a bruise staining her cheek and she reached up to touch it. It was slightly tender. Then her eyes spotted the bandages wrapped around her arm and wrist. Looking down from the mirror, she began to pull at the white wrapping. She could feel the wound beneath and wanted to see it. Something was nagging at her to see what it was that hurt so much.
Alarmed now, Isabel pushed away from Serena and quickly grabbed the girl's good hand. Gently, but firmly, she pulled it away from the bandages. "Your arm could become infected if you take the bandages off. These must stay on for now." Isabel could see she wasn't really listening, so she reached for the girl's chin and forced her to look up into her eyes. "I know you're confused, but your wounds are only just healing. You must leave these bandages alone."
Questions plagued her eyes, but she ceased struggling. Isabel could see so many curious thoughts forming in the girl's eyes. The child was wide awake now and aware of her surroundings. It was obvious she was confused about what had happened.
"When we change your bandages a little later, I will let you see your arm," she promised. Holding her hand a moment longer, she waited patiently for an answer. "All right," she pressed further.
The girl nodded hesitantly and opened her mouth to answer, but her face suddenly began falling in terror. Startled backwards, she realized she couldn't speak to this woman.
Where was she, she wanted to ask. How had she come to be here? But, the sound refused to come forth as she attempted to speak again.
She whipped around so fast to look back into the mirror that she nearly fell in her haste. She heard Isabel trying to caution her, but she paid no attention. She suddenly needed to study the face in the mirror.
The girl staring back at her had long red hair. She could see that her long auburn locks had been recently washed and brushed. She noted what an unusual color her hair was. The shade was something she knew she shouldn't have forgotten. Yet, she couldn't remember it? She had no freckles on her face and no tan highlights upon her skin. In fact, her face was nearly the color of porcelain. And, her eyes were green, vivid green... Yet her eyes were those of someone she might never have seen before.
It made no sense to her. She knew the face in the mirror had to be hers, but it appeared so foreign and unknown to her. She began to feel trapped and a sense of terror was gripping her heart. Her face grew ashen as her stomach started to churn nauseously. She could see the panic rising in the eyes of her reflection, and she feared it might be a mistake to let the woman beside her see so much. What if that woman was her enemy?
She tried again to speak, willing herself to produce some sound. When it wouldn't come, she felt a second wave of nausea hit. She swallowed hard to keep herself from gagging. Angry now, she punched herself hard in the chest as though that might help her to speak. But the outburst had been a fatal mistake. A sharp pain rose and suddenly consumed her entire world. She felt cold and sweaty all at the same time, and she couldn't stop the blinding tears from rising to her eyes. She doubled over from the uncontrollable ache that was suddenly burning in her chest.
Isabel was there, however. She reached down to prevent the girl from falling to the floor. Closing her eyes as she wondered what to do next, she felt Serena tugging on her skirts.
"Mama, why did she hurt herself like that?" Serena asked, her eyes filled with confusion.
"Darling, go down to the kitchen and get me some cool water, please?" Isabel didn't want her daughter to witness anymore of this until she could understand what was happening. Well accustomed to obeying orders, Serena nodded and quickly left the room.
The girl had pulled herself away from Isabel protectively, propping herself back on the table again. Sensing she might need a moment of space, Isabel stepped away to close the door tightly behind Serena.
When she turned back, her heart nearly broke to see the girl covering her face with her hands. Isabel knew she was crying, and she slowly reached out a hand to try and comfort her. The girl instinctively shrank back out of fear and anger, but the loneliness engulfing her was unbearable. Only fear was holding her back, but soon the feelings of loneliness began to outweigh her fears.
Isabel continued to move closer until she was finally able to wrap her arms around the girl's tense body. Before long the girl was openly sobbing. The silence hanging in the air was almost sickening. It was a pitiful sight to see a girl crying in such agony, so completely silent all the while.
It was that silence which told the greater truth. What a horrible feeling it must be to wake up and realize you couldn't speak. It was a blessing that the girl had finally awakened, but what kind of future would this be for her?
Shaking her head, wanting to know if it was true, she gently grasped the girl's shoulders. She didn't want to make any false assumptions.
"Look at me," she insisted when the girl tried to cover her face. Ever so slowly, the child did as she was asked. Her eyes finally rose to meet Isabel's. Those eyes were pleading, begging for answers. "You cannot speak," she acknowledged in a whisper, hoping against all hope that the child would answer out loud.
Uncertain, afraid to answer truthfully, the girl finally conceded it would be wrong to lie. She shook her head and admitted the truth to Isabel. She couldn't speak.
"Do you remember anything that happened to you the night of that storm?"
The girl looked down for a moment, but soon her eyes returned to Isabel's with a pensive expression. Again she shook her head, unable to remember anything about it.
"Do... Do you even know who you are," she gently inquired. Isabel hadn't wanted to ask that question. She feared the girl's reaction to it. She imagined that not knowing who you are must be the most frightening experience in the world.
The girl thought about the question before answering. She turned to look in the mirror, willing a positive answer to come. Somewhere in the deepest recesses of her mind she must know who she was, she thought optimistically. She had to. That face in the mirror was hers!
Feeling more uncertain, she shook her head, casting her eyes on her hands. Looking down on the bandages, she gained some inspiration. Perhaps learning more about her injuries might help her remember how she got them. Looking up at Isabel, she pointed to her left wrist and cocked her head in question.
Isabel was speechless for a moment. She was trying to figure out the best way to handle this. She understood what the girl wanted to know. The girl was alone and wanted answers. One by one, she explained what each of her injuries were. When she was finished, the look on the girl's face showed that the information made no difference.
"Do you remember anything," Isabel asked, a sense of desperation reaching her voice.
The girl sat back and pondered the question. Did she remember anything? Anything was a big category. Her head was shaking slowly as thought after thought turned up nothing she could put a finger on. But then, there was one thing'though just one... It was a word'
Nodding her head up and down at last, she mouthed the only thing she could recall. It was as vivid a thing to her as anything she could see within the tiny bedroom they were standing in. She mouthed the word to Isabel repeatedly, aware the woman did not grasp it at first.
Isabel frowned as she watched the girl carefully mouthing the word each time. It took several attempts, but at last the girl began to nod happily as Isabel pronounced it correctly. They both stared at one another for a long moment before Isabel voiced her curiosity aloud.
'What does it mean? I've never heard the word before,' she remarked with a frown.
The child shrugged her shoulders slowly, uncertain what it might be. All she knew was that the word was an important one. The word Kyra meant something she knew beyond thoughts and memories. It was the only thing that seemed willing to come forth, unbidden from the deepest recess of her mind.
"Is it your name," Isabel asked thoughtfully.
The girl smiled and shrugged, realizing that was as good of a guess as anything. Maybe it was her name. What would she be more likely to remember than her own name, she reasoned. For a moment she tried to visualize it in her head. She tried to imagine someone calling her by that name, but the imagery didn't bring any familiar faces to mind.
"So, we will call you Kyra," Isabel announced. It seemed to brighten the girl immensely. She suddenly smiled so brightly, you would have thought she'd been given a king's fortune.
That one little word gave her all of the encouragement in the world, because whether or not her name really was Kyra, she was somebody. She had a name, and no one could take that away from her.
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