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better in my memory

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you wake up to the sound of beeping. 


secondarily, you wake up to an aching pain in your chest, one that tingles down your arms and legs and makes your head swim. the beeping doesn’t help with this at all; in fact, it makes the pounding in your head worse, your eyes burning with the strain of it. 


you can’t remember where you are. 


there is someone standing in the corner of the room. she makes eye-contact with you, and her face lights up, she pushes her way forwards. there is another person in the room - a doctor, by the looks of it - that stops her, says something to her in a quiet, insistent tone that you can’t quite make out. 


this girl is familiar to you, but her name sits on the tip of your tongue and then fades off into obscurity, like the dredges of a pleasant dream. in a second, you forget that you thought she was familiar entirely. 


“she’s awake, that has to be a good sign, please just let me talk to her,” the girl says, and she pushes forwards again, a blur of movement until she settles directly in front of you. “marbles, you’re awake! how are you feeling?” 




you try to attach the name to yourself. marbles. it doesn’t fit right. is that really your name? marbles? you try to remember, but everything slips away from you, the thoughts drifting off into nothingness the moment you stop thinking about them. 


“ms. boonchuy,” the doctor says, wearily, “please, give ms. wu some space. we don’t know how badly her mind was damaged.” 


boonchuy. wu. these names, too, are unfamiliar. surnames, no doubt. marbles wu. it feels incomplete, not wholly yours. 


the girl - ms. boonchuy - frowns, and an instinct flares inside of you, one that demands you offer a consoling hand or a shoulder to lean on. anything to make that frown go away. she shouldn’t be sad, the instinct insists, make her not sad. 


it is, unfortunately, something you cannot do anything about. your arms feel stiff and leaden at your sides. you can hardly feel your legs at all. no, you will not be getting out of the bed to comfort someone whose name and personality you cannot remember. 


maybe you should voice this. 


“i’m sorry,” you manage to say, and your voice sounds foreign in your ears, raspy and lilting. the words feel strange on your tongue, too, the effort it takes to force them out unfamiliar. 


“no, no, marcy, it’s okay, please don’t apologize.” ms. boonchuy says, insistfully, and she blurs forwards again to take one of your hands. her own hands are warm, comforting. “i’m just glad you’re okay, you don’t have to say sorry to me anymore.” 




“no,” you shake your head - or attempt to, because everything is still stiff and leaden and the muscles protest wearily when you try - because she doesn’t understand, she doesn’t know. “i… i’m sorry, but i don’t… who are you?” 


and you watch, with a dull feeling in your chest and your eyes still burning and burning, as the girl in front of you drops your hands to press them against her mouth, tears springing to her eyes like dewdrops. 




this is what the doctor tells you, later, when the girl had been escorted out of the room distraught.


your name. your name is marcy wu. marcy sits on your tongue a little better, seems to fit the space. there is something so innocent about it. it's just a name, but it is your name. 


your age. you are thirteen years old. your birthday is steadily approaching, the doctor tells you, as if that is information that is necessary, as if you care that soon you will be fourteen. fourteen years of memories, gone.  


your physical condition. they won't tell you what happened, and that makes sense in a way that nothing else does: you don't tell traumatized amnesiacs what caused their amnesia, not right away. however, they do tell you that you've been gravely injured. your legs do not work right, your lungs struggle to keep up. you'll be in the hospital for a long time. 


your friends. two girls that will be in and out for weeks, checking on you when you're awake, crying over you when they think you're asleep. anne boonchuy and sasha waybright. they love you, the doctor says, as if this is supposed to make you feel something other than the painful absence of something. 


it is a lot to take in for you. you have lots of time to think here, trapped in the bed, waiting to see if your supposed friends will come check on you. 


anne comes frequently, even after the initial encounter. her smile is always so warm, no matter how strained it is. she brings you things to read for when your eyes can actually focus, talks quietly about everything and nothing. her presence feels blue in a way you can't quite explain. 


sasha doesn't come as frequently, but she will stay longer than anne does. where anne tends to be overwhelmed with emotion quickly and have to leave in a rush, sasha always stays with you. she doesn't talk much, but she will sit at the head of the hospital bed, her fingers playing with your hair. it's comforting. 


they are your friends. you know that they are your friends, because they visit you the most frequently. you know because they sit with you, and it feels right in a way that so little else does nowadays. 


anne and sasha rarely visit together, though. when they do, things grow tense, tense enough that you can feel it yourself even on the worst days when everything is hazy and distant. they will bicker back and forth, trading barbs and jabs with small, tense smiles. they take turns holding your hands, and anne will tell rambling stories while sasha snorts and rolls her eyes at appropriate moments, like she had witnessed the stories firsthand. 


you don’t think you like it when they’re visiting you together. it makes you feel lonely, like you’re sitting in the background of someone else’s story. somehow, you think this feeling might be familiar. 




they are not your only visitors. 


an older couple comes in from time to time. anne’s parents, you think, judging by their resemblance to her and the way they bring fresh food that’s not hospital-grade when they come. “your favorite,” mrs. boonchuy says quietly the first time they come with a fond, loving smile on her face. you savor each bite; maybe she’s right, and this is your favorite, or maybe it’s just something you like compared to the hospital food. 


a woman, older than your friends but not old enough to be a parent, stops by with a game console when your doctor deems you healthy enough to focus on technology and screens. “this is yours, mars-bars,” she says, kindly, though the nickname makes your head spin. “i’ve brought some of your favorite games, see? i’m sure it must get pretty boring, being all laid-up in bed.” the console is unfamiliar to you, but your fingers find buttons instinctively, powering it up, and you can hum the music as the game starts. “what do i call you?” you ask her, because it sits on the tip of your tongue, the feeling of warmth and comfort and a faint ringing of laughter accompanying her presence. “you have always called me cat,” she answers, reaching out to fondly ruffle your hair. this, at least, is something familiar. 


two weeks after you wake up the first time, anne comes in by herself, but she looks more hesitant than usual, thoughtful. “the doctors say we gotta ease you into everything slowly,” she says, as if you don’t already know that, “but there are some very important people who want to check on your physical recovery. this might not make a whole lot of sense, but trust me, okay?” 


and you do trust her. there’s a part of you that longs for her company when she’s not here, the same part that urges you to comfort her when she is feeling down. “okay,” you tell her, and yet it still catches you off-guard when two very distinctively not human creatures come into the room, peering at you anxiously. 


“be careful with her, she doesn’t remember much,” anne says, as if that explains the presence of otherworldly beings, as if any of this makes any sort of sense. you blink rapidly to see if they will change into humans, but no. in fact, they have distinctively amphibian features, and somehow you think you don’t mind that: in fact, you have the slightest tingling in your spine when you catch sight of their tails, as if remembering the feeling of said tails draping across you, keeping you upright. 


“we have been more careful with her than you have,” the shorter one snaps, and she blurs across the room, taking a seat at your bedside with a gentleness you almost expect from her. “miss marcy,” she says, her tone softer now, a total shift. “i know you don’t remember me, but i took care of you once. my name is olivia. how are you feeling?” 


everything aches still, even with the painkillers, but you don’t want to say so and make her tense even more. instead, you plaster a smile onto your face, allow the lizard - newt? - to brush a comically large webbed hand through your hair. “olivia,” you repeat, and the name feels strange on your lips, like it’s missing something. a prefix, maybe. you lose the thought as soon as it crosses your mind. 


“she doesn’t mean that,” the other newt says apologetically to anne, who has a startled look on her face when you peek up at her. “we’ve just been so worried.” 


neither of your own parents have visited you for as long as you’ve been awake; you haven’t thought to bring them up before, because you don’t remember having parents, you just assume that you have them. it’s possible you don’t, you don’t know why they wouldn’t visit. it isn’t as if you care one way or another, aside from the vague sense of wrongness that buzzes in the back of your head. 


olivia’s hands feel nice, though. soothing, in a way you can’t quite describe, the way she sits at the head of the bed and frets over your hair and hums something in a language that you don’t understand. 


the other newt comes to perch at your side as well, comically large tail flicking from side to side. “hey kid,” she starts, with a nervous laugh, “you don’t look so good. i suppose you don’t remember who I am either, but that’s alright. i am general yunan-”


“-if you start that now, so help me frog ,” olivia says, warningly, though there’s something fond and teasing in her tone, like this is something they’ve bickered about for awhile. it doesn’t fill you with the same trepidation that anne and sasha’s bickering does, though; instead, you just feel warm. 


“you think so little of me, my lady,” yunan protests, and she leans over to press a kiss into the side of olivia’s head even as she sits at your side, her hand brushing your shoulder comfortingly. you can’t help but lean into the touch, tucking your head further into olivia’s hands, pressing yourself closer to these two newts who feel strangely real in a way that little others have. 


and anne watches the entire time from the door, something so soft and yet so unreadable in her eyes the entire time. 




sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night screaming. 


you can never remember what causes it, if it’s a dream or a nightmare or a memory, but you do remember the feeling of sitting straight up, your chest burning, the feeling of cold burning and a tingling numbness all over keeping you from falling asleep again. 


something happened in your past, you know. you can see it in the way anne avoids any hard topic, the way sasha keeps staring at your chest as if something’s going to burst out of it. you think there’s a reason your own parents haven’t visited you in the hospital, why they were replaced with newts that seem to care for you. 


“we’re not supposed to talk about it,” sasha says, the one time that you think to ask about it. “we don’t want you to relapse. it was… hard, marshmallow. it’s still hard, seeing you like this.” 


“i’m sorry,” you mumble, like it’s something you can control. 


sasha laughs something bitter and hollow. “of course you apologize. somehow, that’s reassuring; you’re still our marcy, even after everything.” 


you don’t know what that means. 


sometimes, you think you can remember bits and pieces of what might have happened to land you in the hospital. you hear your own name, echoed and layered and desperate. you can feel the burning heat in your chest. something speaks to you in an awful, horrid voice. everything feels orange in a way you’ve never experienced before. 


it never lingers, though. you can’t tell if what you’re feeling is real or not. and, if it is real, you don’t know what it means. all you really know is that you’re tired of the unknown. 




the first time a memory really comes out, you’re sitting with anne. 


the doctors say you are almost free to leave the hospital. you’ll be in a wheelchair for awhile - to help with your bad days, when you feel shaky and out of place in your own skin - and your own parents still have not appeared, but anne claims you’ll be free to live with her for as long as you’d like. it might be easier for your memories, she says. 


becuase of this, though, anne sits with you more frequently. today, she watches over your shoulder as you play one of the games catherine had brought you. the games frustrate you sometimes- your hands remember the buttons, and sometimes you can speed through a level on autopilot, but if you think too hard about it, it all slips away some place out of reach. 


“what’s my favorite color?” you ask, quietly, trying not to focus on the way your character onscreen dies for the nth time. 


“green,” anne answers. “it’s always been green. you used to say it was the color of life.” 


“what’s yours?” 


“purple, i like how regal it is.” anne sighs, and when you look at her, she’s smiling something small and fond. “it used to be yellow, though. i still love yellow, it’s just not my favorite anymore.” 


“you always feel blue to me,” you inform her. “i don’t know why.” 


anne’s smile turns sad, and her eyes droop. “yeah, that makes sense. anyways, is there anything else you wanna ask?” she’s changing the subject; you might not have any memories, but that much you can tell. 


surprisingly, though, when you think too hard about the blue energy you feel from her, you can almost picture it; anne, standing tall, hair crackling with electric blue energy, as she slams you into a wall, begs you to come back. that doesn’t make any sense. surely you’re remembering wrong.


on-screen, the victory screen flashes; you’ve finally gotten through the level. 


“your hair turned blue once,” you say, quietly, because speaking it out loud makes it real. “is that true?” 


“it wasn’t just once,” anne answers, “but yeah. did you remember that on your own?” 


you nod. the memory is fading now, but it was real. you can’t remember the last time you felt something real on your own. 


“one day, i’ll tell you all about it, i promise.” anne takes your hand in her own, and she squeezes it gently. you want to protest the movement, because you need your hand for the game, but her hand is so warm in yours, her touch something soothing. you can’t bring yourself to pull away. 




the day you go to anne’s house, they throw a party for you. 


since you’re wheelchair-bound, you can’t travel up the stairs, not easily. however, the boonchuys prepare the living room to act as a makeshift bedroom– the couch is replaced with a much comfier futon, one that is piled with blankets to make it easier on your still-tender injuries. there is a video game system hooked up to the tv, and mr boonchuy eagerly presses controllers into your hands, showing off his system and all his games with a beaming pride. 


“you introduced me to this series,” he tells you, very seriously, “so i hope i can reintroduce you to it! it’s very fun.” 


there are balloons hanging from every corner of the kitchen, the smell of thai food wafting through the air. none of the newts are here - or the frogs that had came to see you once, with anne - but sasha lingers in the corner, watching the party with a look of mild disdain, and anne is laughing with her mom in the kitchen. 


you feel out of place, but it would be impolite to say so, wouldn’t it? this doesn’t feel like something you can have. you clutch blankets close to your chest as mr boonchuy presses a controller into your hands, coaxes you into starting up a new save file on some racing game that you don’t remember playing, let alone teaching him about. 


and yet, it sparks something in you. this place feels like it could be a home, one day. you curl into the couch and, with a singular longing glance towards sasha, are joined by one friend and then another, right next to you. 


“you never liked parties much,” sasha says. “i tried to talk them out of it.” 


“you underestimate my parents,” anne snorts, but she turns to you and takes your hands, thumb brushing over your own. “they wanted you to feel safe here.” there is an unspoken question hanging off of her words: do you feel safe here? 


you think about it. you think about the phantom feeling of hands against your chest, holding you down against the ground. you think about the lingering fear that comes with being in their presence– like there’s a part of you that is afraid they will lash out, and a part of you that wants them to lash out, because it’s what you deserve, it’s always what you deserve.


you don’t feel safe here, but you don’t think you’d feel safe anywhere. 


“i just want to know why i feel like this,” the words slip out unintentionally, and you shudder, curling further into yourself. sasha and anne both just look worried. “why am i so afraid of you? why can’t i remember good things?” 


“oh, marbles,” anne whispers, and she reaches for you, pulling you into strong arms and a firm chest. “there’s… there’s a reason for that, you know. it’s just a lot to explain, okay? and we don’t want to stress you out and have you relapse.” 


it’s exactly what sasha had told you, all those weeks ago. “i want it to make sense,” you say, and you can feel sasha’s hand against your shoulder, anne’s warmth as she holds you. “i’m… i’m sorry, it’s so much, i’m so sorry-” 


i’m sorry i can’t be the marbles you know, i’m sorry you had to hurt me, i must have deserved it, i’m sorry i’m putting you through so much, i’m sorry, i’m sorry, i’m so sorry- 


“-it’s okay, marcy, it’s okay.” anne combs a hand through your hair, and you have the sense that this is something she’s been doing for years. sasha traces circles into your shoulder blades, and she knows exactly where to press her nails to ease the tension in your back and spine, like this isn’t the first time she’s calmed you down this way. 


for the first time, you start to think that maybe, just maybe, you can remember good things, too. the sound of laughter echoing through an empty playground. the feeling of hands clutched tightly in your own, pulling you along. the gazes of two people that love you. 

it’s okay. it’s okay. for the first time, you believe it.