Wednesday - 6:14am to the City

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Walter woke again, with a start this time, certain that he had just missed a train going past. He lifted his shoulders off the bed to catch the last glimpse of the carriage as it sped out of view, eyes popping open, and soon realised that he was still in the hospital room, not at the station, much to his chagrin. The police officer, who had turned out to be a fine boned young woman, had finally gotten to him yesterday afternoon. She had been fairly gentle with Walter, all things considered, but the endless rounds of questions that all sounded the same to him was tiring, and he had slept almost continuously since she had left in the darkening hours of early evening, woken only by the nurses interruptions at regular intervals. But now he was awake again and when he thought about it he realised that he wasn’t feeling too bad, although still groggy. He wondered if that was effect of the drugs the nurses had been giving him or the relief that the policewoman had left. Walter sat up slightly in the bed and looked around himself properly for the first time. He spotted a remote control beside the bed and pointed it at the television. To his surprise, instead of the television turning on, the bed head adjusted itself, tilting upwards. Smiling now at his own surprise, he adjusted the bed to a sitting position, laid back on the pillows, and eventually managed to turn the television on. There was a pair of talking heads on a breakfast program, and he watched them in silence for a few minutes, his mind completely blank. He was hungry he had decided, and he wanted some breakfast.

Eventually Walter nodded back off to sleep. A nurse came in and lowered the bed slightly and an orderly arrived to serve his breakfast. Not willing to wake him, the breakfast was left on the table beside him. Walter slept on and another police officer slipped into the room silently to start a new shift.


Elouise awoke to the sound of canned laughter from the morning deejays on her clock radio. Her mind had been playing stop-motion movies of the coming morning to her all night, and this morning she felt drained, as though she had lived a full week while she had been asleep. Nevertheless, she finally felt as though a decision had been reached. The decision was tinged with guilt - she had used her very own daughter as a counsellor, and she vaguely remembered reading in some parenting how-to guide that was one of the most heinous sins for a parent to commit. She tried to justify it, after all, Kasey had asked her to tell her what was going on, but she realised what had really happened. Elouise had needed to discuss the matter to be able to get her head around it, and she picked the only person not directly involved - Kasey. The poor girl, Elouise thought, she had had no idea what Elouise was going to land her with, how could she have dumped that amount of emotion and angst on her sixteen year old shoulders? Yet, she rationalised, what she was doing was for Kasey's sake, surely a home with two parents was a better environment for a teenage daughter than a single mother, alone and cast flailing into the world?

Elouise got out of bed reluctantly, and stripped off while she ran the shower, waiting for the water to get hot. She jumped in, almost scalding herself in the steaming water, and forced herself to take the heat. When her body temperature adjusted and she didn't feel like she was being roasted anymore, she grabbed the shampoo and starting working it through her chestnut hair. As she did a totally irreverent thought came to her, the vision of a young actress washing her hair in the middle of a South Pacific setting, singing mightily, "I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair, I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair," and the thought, silly as it was, brought an unexpected smile to her lips. The thought that was hot on its heels though - how she was actually going to perform this act - made her knees feel weak and her bowels turn to water.

The burning question was how much to tell Rob. Last night after talking to Kasey she had been so full of bravado and determination that she could quite probably have spilt the beans there and then, over the tough, over cooked stir fry she had served up. If it wasn't for the fact that she had already decided to break it off with Zach first, then she quite probably would have.

Trying to concentrate not on how nervous she was about doing it, but how good she would feel once it was done, Elouise finished showering while Robert snored his way through his dreams in the room next door. She was going to be free, she was going to be able to stop worrying. Damn, she thought wryly, she was going to have to try and entice Rob to get some excitement in the bedroom.


Shannen was awake. She did not know how long she had slept, she did not remember going to sleep. But when she awoke she was in Ariana's bed, still fully clothed in her work uniform from yesterday. At first, blissfully, she couldn't remember what had happened, only that something had, but it was mere seconds before the grief hit her like a brick wall at high speed, and events of yesterday came flooding painfully back. She got up, out of Ariana's bed that smelled of her perfume, and padded down the hall into the bathroom. She went to the toilet, washed her hands, and made the mistake of looking in the mirror. What looked back at her was the horrid shell of a person who has had their heart ripped out. The traces of the small amount of makeup that she had applied twenty four hours ago were now smeared across her cheeks and chin in black rivulets formed by tears. Shannen briefly considered the futility of washing her face, knowing that Ariana could never do that again, and then mentally poked herself. That's crazy talk, girl! Ariana's voice said in the back of her head. Shannen opened the bathroom cabinet, feeling like an intruder, and found some face wash. She filled the sink with warm water and washed her face slowly, thoroughly. Some tears leaked from under her closed lids, it was funny how that seemed to be happening more or less constantly now, and she washed her face with them too. She dried her face with Ariana's bath towel, thinking that the exercise was reasonably futile, given the quantity of tears she was producing right now, and went into the lounge room. Grace was asleep on the couch, also fully dressed. Shannen thought she looked as though she had just fallen there out of sheer exhaustion, and then realised that that was probably what she had looked like too.

Padding back into the kitchen, Shannen stood by the door, suddenly unaware of what she should be doing. It seemed way too normal to do something as routine as make a cup of tea, or some toast for breakfast. Besides, she didn't really want anything. What she wanted, in lieu of the fact that she couldn't immerse herself in Ariana's physical presence, was to immerse herself in Ariana's world. A flash of inspiration made its way through the storm clouds that seemed to have taken up permanent residence in Shannon's mind - she would go through Ariana's papers. Ariana had never quite lived in the same world as everyone else Shannen knew, she had always had one foot in a world of her own creation, where forests where green and welcoming, lakes were sparkling blue and inviting, and every little rural town had a tavern inhabited by Tolkien-esque creatures willing to share a pint of mead with a weary traveller. Yes, that was Ariana's world, and Shannen made a conscious decision to go and inhabit it herself for a while. She stepped into the dining room cum study, and contemplated the mess of papers, books and random free-flowing ideas that inhabited every inch of space. She was going to be here for a while.


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