Chapter Three

"Terrifically, Terrifying Trauma"

After spending a few days in the hospital, Hannah Ayers was more than ready to leave the place on Tuesday morning. Still, a part of her was worried about exiting the room that had become comfortable. Now she'd be throwing herself into a world that she couldn't remember existing in.

"…but remember, you don't have to go back to school until you're ready," Patricia was saying from the driver's seat of her SUV. Hannah glanced at her and then returned her gaze out the window to sights she didn't recognize. "There's only one more full week after this one before Christmas vacation anyway."

Hannah's fingers lightly grazed the spot on her forehead where eight stitches were. It was becoming a habit. "I don't know what I'll do," she murmured faintly but only because she knew she was expected to say something. "Maybe I'll go tomorrow."

"Oh not tomorrow," Patricia gasped softly, nibbling her lower lip gently. "Why, you'll need more than a day to rest at home, sweetie."


"I'm so glad you're coming home. We've missed you so much."

On Hannah's lap rested the items Isaac had brought to Hannah in the hospital. She'd poured over the pictures and listened to her brother talk about the events in them. Isaac had even filled her in with stories of people she liked and didn't like in the yearbook; he'd been able to explain some of the inside jokes in her friends' signings too. Hannah guessed that she'd had a close bond with her brother, but her interactions with everyone seemed impersonal now.

"I thought that if you were feeling up for it, some of your friends could stop by soon," Patricia suggested, glancing at Hannah briefly. Hannah tried not to tense. "So many of them have called every day."

"Mmhmm," Hannah murmured, but the sound was noncommittal. Seeing her friends terrified Hannah. Since she couldn't remember anything about them, it was completely possible that she'd say or do something wrong. Hannah barely felt comfortable around her family; how could she cope with being around others already?

But Patricia blatantly brightened. "Oh good!" She turned onto a residential street. "I know Tisha can't wait to come over. And Libby has used every argument she can think of to see you."

Smiling politely, Hannah looked down and opened the hot pink photo album for at least the hundredth time. The first picture included Tisha, Libby, Hannah, and Morgan, and the happiness radiating from their faces entranced Hannah the instant she saw it. At the same time though, it made her more nervous.

"Well, here we are." Patricia parked the SUV and looked at Hannah expectantly, as if under the impression that seeing 'home' would miraculously cure Hannah.

Aware of her mother's stare, Hannah took off her seatbelt and left the passenger seat. She stood outside the car, keeping her weight off her still swollen and bruised right leg, and stared up at the Ayers's house. Cedar siding, brown roof, snow-covered bushes, a large yard…it had all the makings of a desirable home. Following Patricia, Hannah went through the front door and saw that the living room continued the log cabin theme. A quick tour proved that the entire downstairs did as well.

On the stairs, Hannah, next to her mother, studied a wall of family portraits. It was easy to see family resemblances. Both Hannah and Isaac had inherited their father's strawberry blond hair, but Isaac's had more of Patricia's blonde in it. Benjamin's facial bone structure had been given to both children, but Patricia's lips were dominant, as were her blue eyes.

"Come on. I'll show you upstairs."

Hannah glanced over and saw tears glistening in Patricia's eyes; she felt a light tugging at her heart as she continued up the stairs, following her mother submissively. Her bedroom was the first stop. The walls were purple, and her desk, bed frame, dresser, and chest were white. The curtains and bedspread were lime green, but Hannah most admired the cleanliness of her room. Even with personal touches here and there, the room was tidy.

Beside Hannah's closet was a full-length mirror, and Hannah felt drawn to it. Her reflection showed the two-inch line of stitches on her forehead, but the bruising and swelling of her face had all but disappeared thankfully. Aside from the stitches, Hannah thought she looked pretty healthy.

Apparently, Patricia knew what Hannah was thinking, for she commented, "I can already tell that your forehead's going to heal nicely."

Hannah glanced at her mother dubiously. "Do you really think so?"

"I do." Patricia smiled. "You've had stitches four times before now, and they've all healed well."

Nodding, Hannah glanced back at the mirror briefly and then left it completely. "That's good then." She was going to leave it at that, but she heard a barely audible sniffle, and when Hannah glanced over, she realized that her mom was crying openly now.

Realizing she was caught, Patricia wiped her eyes sternly and managed a little smile. "I'm sorry, sweetie." She moved toward Hannah quickly and wrapped her arms around her tightly, catching Hannah off guard. "I'm so glad you're going to be okay, Hannah. I just want you to be okay now."

Awkwardly, Hannah raised her right hand to pat Patricia's back lightly; she hoped it was a comforting gesture. Part of Hannah wanted to apologize for going out that Thursday night, but a larger part refused to reach out to someone she didn't know, even if that someone was her own mother.

"I'll finish showing you around, and then you should rest," Patricia murmured against Hannah's ear, getting tears on her daughter. "You'll feel much better once you rest in your own bed."

Hannah started to tell her that, aside from some stinging in her knee, she felt fine, but she decided not to. "All right."

Smiling, Patricia nodded and kissed Hannah's cheek, apparently not noticing Hannah's tension and discomfort that the affection brought on. "Good. Now come on. I'll show you the bathroom you helped paint."

Hannah wished she could say she was excited.

After Patricia had finished showing off the house, Hannah found herself back in her bedroom, sitting at her desk chair and looking around. It felt good to be alone with her thoughts in a silent place that didn't smell like rubbing alcohol. Before Hannah knew it, she was relaxing on her bed, falling into a deep sleep.


"Don't, Tisha! Let her sleep."

"What? Patricia said she's been sleeping all day. She can get up now."

"You shouldn't wake her. You know how cranky she'll be?"

Morgan Owens cleared her throat loudly. Tisha and Libby faced her immediately, their bickering halted. "You two have argued for the past ten minutes," Morgan said calmly. "Honestly, I'm sick of it. Knock it off."

Being the well-known arguer that Libby Heatherly was, Libby opened her mouth to retort, but no sound came as Hannah stirred on her bed, coming out of her peaceful sleep. Her brow wrinkled, and she rubbed her eyes.

"Ahhhh! Hannah!" Tisha hurled herself onto the bed beside Hannah and threw her arms around her friend. "Oh my God, you have no idea how happy I am that you're okay! You had us worried to death."

Hannah blinked as the girl she recognized to be Libby sat down on her other side. They were closing in on her. "Your mom called and invited us over after school, and I swear we made it here in record time," Libby laughed. "Everyone's dying to see you."

Swallowing, Hannah offered the girls what she hoped looked like a sleepy smile, rather than a forced one. "Well, um…hi."

Tisha smoothed back some of Hannah's hair, apparently not noticing the tension in her shoulders. "I think Jake wants to shoot all of us. We've been pestering him constantly with questions about you."

"Seriously!" Libby exclaimed, tucking some of her own dark hair behind her right ear. "You should hear Ethan too. That kid's practically in love with you, Han, you have no idea. He even yelled at Greg in front of everyone. I felt bad for him."

"Yeah, Greg feels awful," Tisha agreed with an emphatic nod. "He keeps apologizing and apologizing and apologizing. Have you talked to him?"

Hannah stared. She felt so overwhelmed by the girls' talking and touching that she could barely breathe, let alone think of something to say. Tisha and Libby were looking at her expectantly, so Hannah shifted her gaze to Morgan, who appeared more sympathetic. "Uh, no, not really."

Tisha gasped. "You haven't? Oh my God, Han! I can't believe—"

"Hush, Tish," Morgan interrupted. "Hannah just got home. I highly doubt she feels like socializing with everybody."

Libby's eyebrows knitted together as she studied Hannah. "Do you still feel bad? We thought you were okay since your mom invited us over."

"I…I don't know." Hannah took a deep breath and examined her bedspread, spotting a tiny bluish stain. "Everything just feels weird."

"Of course." Tisha nodded as though she understood perfectly and gave Hannah's forearm a gentle squeeze. "But it'll get better. You're home now."

Home, Hannah's thoughts echoed. It should have been a memory, but to her, it was just a word without much meaning. Regardless, she gave her friends a small smile and a gentle nod. "Right."

"We should go shopping," Tisha proposed excitedly. Hannah gave her an odd stare, but no one seemed to notice it. "Yes! That always makes us feel better."

Morgan scoffed. "Not all of us."

Making a face, Tisha went on, "It'll be good. Hannah, wouldn't you like some girl time? You've been all cooped up and stuff. We'll even get Häagen-Dazs."

"Mmm, speaking of food…" Libby hopped off the bed and made for Hannah's closet. "Do you have anything remotely healthy that won't go straight to my hips in here?"

"In my closet?" Hannah couldn't hide the confusion from her voice.

"Naturally," Tisha responded with a toss of her light brown hair. She received an elbow from Morgan and then blushed brightly. "Oh yeah. Well, um, Han…you love junk food, and you hide a stash from Isaac in your closet."

Libby reappeared with a bag of Doritos. "No, not exactly," she argued, removing a handful of chips from the bag. She keeps a stash for late night snacks and for when Jake's over. She can eat without having to see Jake sprawled out somewhere if there's food in her closet."

"Same thing," Tisha declared.

A wave of nausea rushed over Hannah. These girls acted like they knew everything about her, and while they probably did…it was maddening because Hannah didn't even know it. Why would she not want to see Jake? Why would she resort to hiding chips in her closet? Hearing them talk about her made Hannah want to throw up.

"Not the same thing," Libby insisted. Hannah suddenly wasn't sure if she liked the dark beauty or not; it seemed as though this girl wanted to argue about everything. "What does Isaac have to do with Jake?"

Tisha crossed her arms and narrowed her blue-green eyes. "You just listed another reason, that's all. You added to Hannah's list of motives. Your explanation was as much of a motive as mine was."

"That makes no sense," Libby proclaimed indignantly. She reached her hand into the bag of chips and ate another handful. "God, Tish, if you're going to—"

"If you two don't stop arguing, I'm going to hit both of you," Morgan threatened.

Tisha laughed. "You sound like Hannah! She's the one who's supposed to threaten us, Morg, not you."

Although confused by Tisha's statement, Hannah was more surprised that no one challenged Morgan's authority. Her immediate thought was to praise Morgan for being her anchor in the storm, but her bafflement hit right after. Was their friendship some kind of dictatorship where Morgan ruled?

Ever argumentative, Libby tried to get the last word in. "She started it."

"I don't care who started it!" Hannah saw fury in Morgan's brown eyes. "We didn't come here to upset Hannah even more."

Concern flickered onto Tisha's face so fast that Hannah almost doubted the sincerity of it. "Oh, I'm sorry, Han," Tisha said quickly. "I guess I forgot."

"You forgot?" Libby incredulously questioned, but then she smiled the faintest of smiles. "Was that an intended pun there, Tish?" Tisha glared at Libby, and Libby seemed to be on the verge of carrying on an argument with her, but a jab from Morgan shut her up. "Right, right…"

"So how are you doing, Hannah, aside from the weirdness?" Tisha asked, watching Hannah's face closely. "Your mom and Jake keep saying you're okay, but—"

"They're all liars, aren't they?" Libby asked with dramatic sarcasm. Tisha shot her a dirty look, but Libby went on, "What? Okay, sorry."

Hannah disliked Libby more by the second, and Tisha was skating toward thin ice. Hadn't Isaac said that she and Tisha were very best friends? If that were true, why did Tisha's concern seem almost over the top? Morgan seemed to be the only sane one, but Hannah wasn't really sure about that either.

Tisha sighed softly and focused back on Hannah. "So?"


So Hannah didn't know what to say. The only thing she wanted to say seemed cruel, and that kept Hannah from inquiring about Tisha's sincerity. Finally, Hannah decided to speak. If they were the good friends that Isaac claimed that they were, nothing she could say would cause problems. "I guess Mom and Jake are right. I'm okay. But getting adjusted is hard. Not a lot makes sense."

"I'll say." Libby grinned and flipped her hair. "You haven't even bawled me out for getting into your food stash, and you haven't ripped the bag out of my hands for a single chip." Libby shook her head. "You're right about adjusting."

Hannah felt her jaw twitch. "I guess I'm not hungry."

Bursting into laughter, Tisha shook her head. "Wow. That's got to be number one on the list of things no one would expect Hannah to say."

"Not number one," Libby predictably argued. "I mean, the number one thing would have to be something like—hey. Han?"

Bounding off the bed, Hannah jerked her bedroom door open and went into the hall. She could hear Morgan lashing out at Libby and Tisha for being 'insensitive bitches,' but Hannah kept walking. Just before she reached the bathroom, Morgan appeared by her side, but Hannah shut her out and locked the bathroom door before puking out what she thought had to be her guts.

Hannah had ignored the knocking and pounding on the bathroom door and instead opted to take a long hot shower (careful not to wet her hair or stitches), followed by a long hot bath, followed by a lengthy application of body lotion. She'd wasted at least an hour and a half with her beautifying pampering, and if her 'friends' hadn't left by now, she'd throw a temper tantrum until they did.

Emerging quietly from the bathroom, wrapped in a fluffy pink bath towel, Hannah poked her head into the hallway. It was with pleasure that she noted the absence of girly voices and continued to her bedroom to dress. Just as Hannah was situating her green t-shirt, a knock sounded at her door.

It took a lot for Hannah to refrain from groaning. "Yes?"

The door opened a crack, and Isaac stuck his head in. "Hey. Mom asked me to come get you. Uh, dinner's ready."

"Oh, okay, thanks." Without a reason to hesitate, Hannah made for the door, flicked out her bedroom light, and followed Isaac to the stairway. "Whatever she cooked smells fantastic."

Isaac beamed. "Spaghetti and meatballs with garlic breadsticks."

Hannah's stomach rumbled audibly, and it was only then that she realized her hunger. "Sounds good," she replied as the twosome approached the kitchen. Voices startled Hannah, but she realized that they belonged to Diane and Jake. Apparently the Allens dined at the Ayers home regularly.

"Hi, Hannah." Diane smiled brightly from her place beside the stove. She and Patricia appeared to be putting food onto plates. "I heard you slept all day like a lazy bum."

With a wry smile, Hannah sat down at the table next to Jake, and Isaac took the seat on her other side. "Pretty much. The car ride was exhausting."

Diane laughed and shared a significant glance with Patricia. Isaac and Jake seemed to share one too, but Hannah was in the dark as to what it was about. Her stomach flopped sickeningly, giving Hannah the idea that nausea was going to be her friend when she didn't understand things. Well, that'd be okay, since Hannah felt like she was lacking in the friends department anyway.

"I see your sarcasm is back already," Jake commented from Hannah's right. She turned and saw a smirk on his face; did that mean he was kidding? "I'd rather hoped we'd seen the end of that."

"I think you're more of the sarcastic counterpart than she is," Isaac stated. Right after his mom set a plate of spaghetti in front of him, he tore into it as though he had been starving to death. "She's just cruel."

Hannah's face lit up, but if anyone noticed, no one mentioned it. It really made Hannah's day that she wasn't being talked about in the past tense. Finally someone wasn't acting as though Hannah Ayers was gone or like Hannah Ayers should automatically know things and be just fine and dandy. Isaac had just lightly made a statement.

"Maybe." Jake shrugged and drank from a bottle of Coke.

No one spoke until everyone had sat down at the table with their food. Hannah glanced around the table, her brow furrowed. Frowning, she took a bite of her spaghetti, but after she'd swallowed that bite, she sighed. "Where's Dad?"

Isaac flinched and took a deliberate bite of his dinner. A look swept between Diane and Patricia, but Hannah finally got an answer. "Working, honey," Patricia answered brightly. "He works late."

"Oh." Hannah blinked and continued eating.

"Are you going to school tomorrow?" Isaac asked suddenly, facing his older sister. "Please say yes. I don't want to have to ride the bus again. It gets here freaking early."

"I told you that you could ride with me," Jake reminded him.

Isaac scoffed. "You leave about as early as the bus does. I'd rather ride with Hannah and be late, thanks."

Ride? Hannah felt something tighten in her stomach. She couldn't drive! Was Isaac insane? She didn't even want to get in a car at all! Not ever again! And even if she did, she had no idea how to get to their school or anywhere else.

Shrugging, Jake went on eating. "Suit yourself, dude."

"I will," Isaac replied challengingly. He turned his eyes back to Hannah. "So are you going back tomorrow?"

Patricia answered for her daughter quickly. "I don't think that's a good idea."

"I think it might be," Diane commented, much to Hannah's surprise. "It's up to you guys, of course, but I mean…it won't be good for her to stay here too long. The sooner Hannah gets back into the swing of things, the better."

"And the sooner people will stop asking me about her," Jake scoffed. He shot Hannah a look that she thought was rather dirty. "I don't know why people think I'm your keeper all of a sudden, but it's frustrating."

Isaac smiled. "Nobody asks me anything after I used big medical terms."

"Hannah, honey, do you want to go back to school?" Patricia asked, ignoring Jake and Isaac. Worry was etched into her forehead. "If you want to…I just—I guess it'd be okay. If you want to."

Chewing thoughtfully, Hannah bought herself some time to mull it over in her head. The pros of going included getting out of the house, being normal, and maybe seeing something or someone that would affect her memory. The cons were being confused, getting lost, being annoyed by 'friends,' and not recognizing anyone. But the cons were bound to happen at some point. At least if she returned to school now, she'd also have the benefit of the pros.

"Please say yes," Isaac pleaded with his eyes wide. "It's a matter of the bus driver's life or death. I'll kill him. I swear I will. Do you want that on your hands?"

"If she goes to school, she is not driving," Patricia said sternly, sharing a nod with Diane. "There is no way that I'll allow that."

"Of course not," Diane agreed. She gestured to Jake. "He can drive you both, Isaac. Hannah can stall, and then you'll arrive late. Problem solved."

Jake groaned loudly. "Mom! Don't give her any ideas."

"Excellent plan, Di!" Isaac grinned. Jake brandished his fork at him threateningly, but Isaac just rolled his eyes and looked at Hannah beseechingly. "Say you'll go."

"Okay." Hannah shrugged and continued eating. "Why not."

"Sweet!" Isaac exclaimed in jubilation. "I can sleep later!"

"If you sleep too late, it's going to be a matter of your life and death," Jake threatened, but Isaac only laughed. "I mean it. I'll leave you."

Diane rolled her eyes. "You will not."

For the duration of the meal following Hannah's consent, Isaac continued to talk about how glad he was that Hannah was returning to school to 'reclaim her place in the hall.' Although Jake didn't necessarily agree with Isaac, he did say that class was much quieter and less entertaining without Hannah. The conversation turned to Christmas plans, and before Hannah knew it, Jake was following Isaac into the living room and Diane was putting on her coat.

Hannah's brow furrowed at Jake's mom. "You're leaving?"

Smiling, Diane nodded and zipped her coat. "I'm working a late shift tonight."

"A double shift, you mean," Patricia corrected with a frown.

Diane shrugged. "Work's work." She gave Hannah a gentle hug and a bright smile. "You make sure you force Jake into waiting as long as possible in the morning, sweetie. You'll regret any lost chance of revenge later if you don't."

The comment confused Hannah more than the hug bothered her, but Diane was gone before she could question the meaning of it. To escape the potential of suffering through clearing the table and loading the dishwasher, Hannah retreated to the living room, where Isaac and Jake were playing a video game. Isaac was standing on the floor, taking his turn, while Jake watched from the couch. Without any hesitation, Hannah plopped down next to Jake and watched Isaac's awkward motions. The awkwardness increased when he gave Jake and Hannah a funny look, and he promptly erred on the game, thereby ending his turn.

Jake grinned. "You lost again, man."

"I wouldn't have if Han hadn't distracted me," Isaac said with a frown.

She glanced at her brother and gave him a little smile. "Sorry. I didn't want to do dishes. But if I'd known—"

"Did you hear that?" Isaac asked Jake, his eyes wide. "She's already trying to get her chores pushed off on someone other than her." He laughed and sat beside his sister. "Well done, Han."

Jake rolled his shoulders and appeared to study the television thoughtfully. Hannah glanced at him curiously, tipping her head. "Why are you so quiet?" she asked. "Isn't it your turn with the game?"

"Yeah," Jake replied without looking at Hannah. He hit a few buttons on the game's controller with his fingers and watched the screen intently.

"Mom said the girls came over today," Isaac commented to Hannah, but his eyes were trained on the television religiously, apparently trying to learn game strategy from Jake's example. "Glad I missed that."

Hannah's interest piqued. Isaac had told her all about her friends while she was in the hospital, but he was just now making negative comments about them. "Why is that?" she asked carefully. "You don't like them?"

Jake snorted. "Libby's a bitch—a skanky bitch."

"True," Isaac agreed. "And Morgan thinks she knows everything. She's a bossy, prissy know-it-all."

Hannah could understand half of Jake's comment about Libby, although she wasn't sure about the skank accusation. However, Isaac's statement about Morgan surprised her in a way; the girls did listen to Morgan, but she seemed nice.

"And Tisha—jeez. She's a stuck-up snob most of the time." Isaac rolled his blue eyes and glanced at Jake. "Isn't that right, Jake?"

"Completely right."

"But they must have good qualities," Hannah reasoned. She wouldn't have been friends with them if not, unless she was horrible at picking friends. From the looks of things, the latter might have been accurate. "What are their best qualities?"

Isaac rubbed his cheek thoughtfully, a look of intense concentration on his face. Finally, he said, "I don't know. You said once that Tisha would break her neck to help someone she cared about." He shrugged. "And Morgan sees through bullcrap, if that counts."

"If it's the nicest thing you can say about her, it counts," Jake spoke up, tilting his body away from Hannah as he played the video game. "Libby's hot though."

"Tisha's pretty too," Isaac commented. "Just annoying."

Jake completed whatever he was doing on the video game, and Isaac took back over. Hannah glanced to her side and studied Jake briefly. "Do you have a girlfriend?"

His eyes widened as he turned to look at her, and the light that caught in them turned his eyes a stunning shade of green. Hannah thought he definitely looked surprised. "No. I don't. Why?"

Hannah shrugged. "I just wondered. You think Libby's hot, so do you like her?"

"No way," Isaac answered for him, laughing out loud. "And Jake's sworn off girlfriends since summer, right, Jake?"

"Mmhmm." Jake was still looking at Hannah, and it made her mildly uncomfortable as she fidgeted a little. "I think plenty of girls are hot."

Considering this, Hannah nodded. "So do you date plenty of girls? Why don't you have a girlfriend?"

"I had one," Jake said lightly, looking back at the television. "Mercedes Jenson. She's vice president of the senior class." He turned smug as he cast a brief glance at Hannah. "I'm president."

Hannah raised her eyebrows. "Congratulations?"

"You didn't vote for me," Jake informed her. "But anyway, Mercedes and I broke up just before school started."

"And he does date plenty of girls," Isaac declared. "He has a new one every week. Just casual stuff, you know."

Hannah's eyebrows rose farther. "You have a new girlfriend every week, Jake?"

"No." He rolled his eyes and stood up. "I just hang out with different girls. No big deal." He nudged Isaac's back as he stretched. "Anyway, I gotta go. I need to finish some homework."

Isaac paused the game and sent a grin in Jake's direction. "If you need my help, you know where to find me."

Jake rolled his eyes again, and Hannah watched him put on his coat and leave. There was something about him that caught her attention. He seemed distant and weird, and she didn't understand why. Even as good-looking as he was, Jake didn't have a girlfriend, so there wasn't a girl to get jealous if he talked to her, and yet Jake barely even looked at her. It was confusing, but maybe they just hadn't been friends. Hannah started to ask Isaac, but he was engrossed in the video game, so she opted not to bother him.

All Hannah knew was that even if she and Jake weren't friends, he seemed like a better candidate for a friend than her real 'friends.' At least he didn't ask her prodding questions or smother her with niceness.

A/N: Thank you to everyone who reviewed chapter two!

A popular question pertained to Hannah having a personality change. I'll answer that again: she certainly will have a personality change, but it won't be too obvious until the next chapter from Jake's POV.