A/N: It's been a while, but here's a oneshot written up for a friend's challenge.


It doesn't make sense to say that I'm living out the last night of my life again, does it? Not that sense ever mattered, anyway. I think I'm sitting here on my bed at the night of my birthday. Supposedly.

John says that it's not good to worry about big life issues at my age. I guess that would've been more reassuring if I hadn't heard that same deal from Elizabeth, Aaron, Mary, and all the other adults throughout the years. I try to trust them. But it's hard, especially when I only talk with everyone for a year or so.

I hear a small rap come from outside my bedroom door. I'm going to dearly miss John's politeness after tonight.

"Karen?" comes his dry, scratchy voice. "Are you still awake, darling?"

I take a moment to stiffen my back, just like John taught me. "Yes, Papa. Please come right in."

He doesn't know anything, and still he comes in with a small smile. I try to hold back the sudden guilt erupting from my stomach. John definitely deserves a better daughter than me. Maybe I'm being selfish.

"Is there a problem, Karen?" he says by my bedside, leaning forward in worry. "Perhaps I should call for the doctor. Your complexion is rather pale."

I manage a small smile. "No, Papa, I'm fine. Maybe I just enjoyed too much cake tonight."

"Ah," John responds, nodding slowly. He pulls up a chair. "That is possible. Nonetheless, I will insist for the doctor if you are still feeling troubled in the morning. I fear you cannot handle another sudden illness like last year."

Both of us become quiet at this point, probably for entirely different reasons. Overwhelmed by some emotion I don't quite understand, I lower my head silently. Beside me, John rubs the thin band of silver curled around his fourth finger. Yet another memory forever out of my reach.

After a few minutes, John clears his throat. "I apologize, Karen. The fright you gave me last year was something I am in no hurry to experience again. Thank heavens you're making remarkable recovery."

"Papa?" I ask, nervously tugging on a loose strand of hair. "Do you miss the old Karen?"

"Old Karen? Darling, you may have had a troublesome relapse, but that is hardly reason to suggest transformation. You are always my daughter, no matter what happens."

"Even if I'll never be the daughter you used to remember? What if I don't want to recover my memories? Can you accept a daughter who wants to be who she is right now, and not who she used to be?"

John draws back against the chair. I doubt Karen has ever spoken to her father in this manner before. It's certainly my first time speaking like this since last year; I never needed to confront John like I had to with people like Elizabeth and Aaron. I raise my head slowly and stare into John's dilated eyes. I know I'm being awfully rude, nothing like the sweet daughter he'd raised.

"Papa, please," I continue. "I really don't think I can be the old Karen anymore, but I really want to stay here as me. Is that so bad?"

He stares at me with indecipherable eyes for a few moments before getting up from his seat. "Karen, try to get some sleep tonight. Don't worry too much about these things. I'll call the doctor in the morning to check for relapses. Until then, sleep tight, dearest."

A small rush of disappointment wells in me as he leans over and kisses me on the forehead. I try to smile, but my vision has suddenly gotten blurry. John flicks of the lightswitch and begins to walk out of my room before I call out, "Papa!"

"Yes, Karen?"

"Today was the best birthday I had in ages," I say, staring into the darkness as hot tears start to silently roll down my cheeks. "You're the best Papa I know, and you don't need to worry about anything anymore. I've decided to be the best daughter you deserve, just as soon as I wake up."

There's a pause.

"Karen?"

"Yes, Papa?"

"Mama would be so proud of you."

I smile amidst my bitter tears. It's decided after all. I fall back onto my soft cotton pillow; it smells of fresh spices. So much for my resolve tonight. It doesn't make sense to say that I'm going to miss what was never mine, but I whisper it nonetheless into my pillow. Not that it was ever my pillow to begin with.

All I can do now is offer a small prayer of repentance in the darkness before my birthday passes yet again and I live another life for another year. Perhaps I'll be a Elaine or a Pauline this time. Who knows? I know nothing, and only that much is true.

"Karen," I whisper to her as I slowly begin to feel drowsy. "You have a wonderful life. Please do your best tomorrow, and good night."