A/N: Well, welcome to my first foray into the world of original fiction. This started as an idea based on all of the people I knew in high school and ended up as basically a love letter. It's heavily based on people that I knew, but for their protection all names have been changed. Any similarity to people that you know is merely your brain.
Rating: M (R) for sexuality and language.
The phone rang shrilly in the darkened room, causing Michael to wake up from a deep sleep. He jumped, the adrenaline pounding through him, and then looked around his bedroom. "It's 3:37 in the fucking morning," he grumbled to himself. "You'd think that whatever it was could wait until it at least gets light out. The phone rang again, reminding him of what had woken him up in the first place.
"All right, all right, I'm coming," he grumbled to himself. He fumbled around for the phone until he successfully seized it. "What do you want?" he barked.
"Michael?" a soft hesitant voiced asked. Michael paused in his tirade for a moment until he recognized the voice.
"Chelsea?" he asked, a sudden springing of hope coming up in his chest. She hadn't called him in almost three years…what could she possibly want now…could it be…He waited for her answer.
"Listen, you need to come to the hospital right now," she said, her voice suddenly losing its hesitant tone and becoming all business. "There's been an accident."
"Oh God, are you all right?" Michael asked, his heart immediately starting to race faster, pounding against his ribs. He heard Chelsea's small sigh over the phone.
"No, it's not me," she said patiently. "It's Joyce. We're at the Mercy Temperance Hospital on Route 11, in the Emergency Room. Try to get here as soon as possible." She hung up the phone and Michael was left listening to a dial tone.
He sat on the edge of his bed for several seconds before letting the phone fall and collapsing aback onto the covers, knowing that he would not sleep anymore tonight. After a few seconds of trying to savor the softness of the mattress, he roused himself and went over to the closet, picking out a shirt and a pair of jeans. He paused in putting on his shoes, his mind suddenly absorbing what Chelsea had just told him.
Joyce was in the hospital, and apparently there had been an accident. "That's funny," he muttered to himself. "I didn't even know that she was back in town." He shook his head, finished shoving his shoe onto his left foot and then left his apartment, forgetting to lock the door.
When Michael stepped into the hospital waiting room he was completely unprepared for anything and everything that was awaiting him. His stomach sank down to his ankles when he saw just who had gotten the phone call. There was Meagan, who had never liked him, Brooke, who always did her best to ignore him, Jacob, who, although he had never seen Michael had heard enough about him to hate him, and Matthew, who had once threatened to shove him up against a wall and disembowel him. And this was all without mentioning Chelsea, who had walked away from him crying the last time he had seen her. No, he was surrounded by people who were more than intent upon killing him. Why had Chelsea called him into this open sacrifice?
All eyes turned to him, and he could see the burning disgust in Matthew's eyes. Nothing had changed since high school, not even eight years could change that. The man didn't even respect him enough to hate him; all he could do was despise him. Chelsea walked forward to meet him when it became apparent that no one else would. She did not look at his face, but chose instead to inspect the ground carefully.
"What happened?" Michael demanded, looking around the crowded Emergency Room. "You wouldn't have called us all out here if something bad hadn't happened, now what happened?"
Brooke came up and spoke to him fearlessly, as was her wont, a direct opposite from Chelsea. "You might want to sit down," she said honestly. Michael looked at her and shook his head slowly. How serious was this?
"What happened?" he asked in a hoarse voice, sitting down even though he did not want to. He turned automatically to Chelsea, but she was distant, offering no comfort even though he desperately needed it.
Brooke bit her lip and then saw that she was going to be the only one who was going to talk. "It was Meagan who got the call," she said. "Joyce's contact information had her on there. Meagan called all of us over here."
"But what happened?" Michael interrupted. He heard Meagan give an impatient sigh from beside him.
"She was in a car accident!" Meagan burst out. Michael looked at her in sudden alarm and fear. "She was hit head on by an SUV! You know her little car; it could never stand up to the force of being hit by something as big as that." Meagan paused and shook her head slowly. "It took the paramedics a while to get to her. They had to pull her out of the car."
"How bad is it?" Michael asked, wringing his hands.
There was a significant pause. It was Brooke, in a hushed voice that finally started to speak the horrors of what happened to Joyce. "She has a double fracture in her arm, her pelvis was broken, and she has a collapsed lung. The doctors suspect that she has internal bleeding. It's pretty serious. She's been in surgery for a bit now…the doctors aren't exactly sure that they can help her. They're doing their best, but they don't know."
Michael put his head into his hands. In all of his time at high school he had never dreamed that something this serious could have happened to one of his friends. He suddenly felt like the world was crashing down upon him. "I just need a second, all right?" he asked, gesturing for them to leave. Brooke and Chelsea obeyed his request, but Meagan stayed behind. Michael glanced at her from the side.
"Meagan, if you're staying here to make me feel miserable about myself, believe me when I say that I already do," he mumbled, staring at the ground. She shook her head and sighed angrily.
"I'm not here about that," she said impatiently. "You're a somewhat smart guy Michael. You know that there must be a reason that you were called here. You know that I didn't want you here, and that Brooke didn't want you here, and you sure as hell know that Matthew and Jacob didn't want you here. And before you ask, it wasn't Chelsea's idea to have you here either. It was mine."
"But why?" Michael had to ask. "You just said that you didn't want me here, then why ask for me? Your logic isn't making any sense at all."
"I didn't say that I wanted you here. I just said that I asked for you. I wanted who you could get to come here."
"What are you talking about?" Michael asked, shaking his head in confusion.
"Michael, Joyce regained consciousness for a brief second when they were pulling her out of the car. The paramedics told her what she was crying out; they thought that it might help us to help her." Michael opened his mouth but Meagan raised her hand to stop him. "I wanted you here because of who you could get here," Meagan explained to him. "You're the only one who can get him here," Meagan said, starting to speak in fragments. She said several other small snippets and then she turned to him, her face frozen. "Michael, she was calling out for John. When she was conscious, she kept on calling out for John."
"So anyway, I was wondering if you'd want to go out or something later tonight," Joyce told Brooke, leaning up against the wall. Brooke narrowed her eyes. Something in Joyce's stance was a little too casual and planned. Joyce smiled and ignored Brooke's suspicious look.
"Joyce, what are you doing?" Brooke asked, searching around with her eyes. Joyce forced a smile and ran her fingers through her long golden brown hair.
"What do you mean?" she asked with a nervous laugh. Brooke stared at her and Joyce let her smile and casual stature fall. She rolled her eyes and slumped her shoulders. "All right if you must know, John usually walks by here every morning. I'm lying in wait for him."
Brooke rolled her eyes and sighed angrily. "Joyce, you need to get over this," she said firmly. "Number one, changing your routine just so you can look at him is bordering upon obsessive, number two, he's never going to go out with you or even notice you in any fashion."
Joyce shot Brooke a hurt look. "That's a bit too bluntly honest," she said, with a pouting expression on her face. Before Brooke could apologize or say something else to make it better, Joyce picked up her book bag and walked away.
Joyce walked swiftly down the hallways, dodging elbows in the stomach and fists swung at her head. She set her things down in her English room and then went and stood out in the hallways. "You'd think that being a senior would mean that you get some little measure of respect," Joyce muttered to herself, pressing herself up against the wall so that she would not get crushed to death in the mass of students.
Chelsea and Michael walked down the hallways together, Chelsea looking at the floor while Michael tried to catch her eyes. Meagan swept into the room behind her, pointedly ignoring Michael. Michael pulled Chelsea to the side and began to speak to her in a low voice that was laced with anger. Joyce took a step forward towards Michael and then stopped herself, unsure of what she should do. She didn't want to upset Michael, but she hated seeing her best friend be yelled at. So she went for Option C: walk into the English room and wait for class to start.
Joyce sat down at her desk and put her feet up, idly twiddling her thumbs. She chanced a glance at John's desk, which sat right beside hers. It was still empty and his book bag was not beside it. She bit her lip nervously. Perhaps he was not here today? Oh no, a fate worse than death! She thought to herself, letting a half smile slip through her lips. It was easy to make fun of herself for her obsession with John, but she could not help but think that coming to school would be pointless if she didn't at least get to say hello to him. As the time to the class beginning ticked down she began to tap her fingers impatiently against the surface of the desk.
At last the bell rang. Joyce's head slumped down at hit the desk in disappointment. He was not here today. She was going to have to go the entire day without seeing him. She heard the door open, and she looked up in hope, her heart crashing painfully against her chest. She saw his familiar lanky frame, his flaming red hair, his pale skin with the cinnamon freckles standing out violently. Her lips parted in a happy smile and she suddenly felt sixteen pounds lighter.
She sat up straight and smiled at him as he took his seat beside her. "Hey John," she greeted him pleasantly, with just a hint of perkiness in her voice. He glanced at her, disdain evident in his eyes. He grunted and then turned around to talk to Michael. The brightness of Joyce's smile dimmed somewhat and she quickly turned around to talk to Meagan. Meagan played along, perfectly aware of what was making Joyce talk to her in her voice that was a bit too loud and enthusiastic.
Is this going to be our life? Meagan thought in the middle of her conversation with Joyce. It's September of our senior year of high school. Is this going to be the way that it goes? Joyce in love with a sociopath? Chelsea, staying with her abusive boyfriend? Me, with my revolving door of boyfriends, but no real man to call my own? Is this all that life can give us?
Meagan stared at the surface of her desk and bit her lip while wondering what the future could give her. If she had known what future and the Fates had in store for her and her friends, she almost thought that she would have preferred the melodramatic world of high school.