Fan Fiction - Written by Doug Fowler - Book & Television Universe

The Way We Were
Written by: Doug Fowler

Full House" concept, characters, setting, and any and all other indicia related to the TV show or the books based on it are owned by Warner Brothers, and no attempt is being made to profit from this story.   This is merely a labor of love from a fan.

Marc Warren and Dennis Rinsler wrote and own the two part finale "Michelle Rides Again," which comprises 10 25% of this story, and those portions are strictly theirs.

All original material, characters, concepts,and such are mine and copyrighted (c)2002 by Doug Fowler.  And, much thanks goes out to Dr. George Jallo, M.D., Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Beth Israel Medical Center, for help in Michelle's diagnosis.  Given the way the medical portion was written, he was quite valuable. I added some items which I researched on my own, but my work is mainly just in the doctor describing the situation.

This work is to be enjoyed by fans.  Warner Brothers has a contract with a publisher, though they are not producing books as of this writing.  And so, "Full House: The Way We Were," based on a screenplay by Marc Warren and Dennis Rinsler (who are getting extra publicity themselves from this), is fan fiction, not shown anywhere, and merely a labor of love, not for profit. CHAPTER ONE

     Thirteen-year-old Stephanie Tanner sighed heavily. She was dressed in a lime green outfit, and wore her blonde hair long.  She stared at a blank sheet of paper.  It looked like her mind felt.  “I can’t think of a single short story topic for English.  And, I’m usually very good at that.”

She plopped her pen on her desk.  It was almost time to leave for her sister’s horse jumping contest, anyway. And, as mad as her sister Michelle had made her yesterday, she knew she should go.  The whole family would be there.  She didn’t have to forgive her to cheer for her. Besides, their dad, Danny Tanner, had left with Michelle.  So, she wouldn’t even have to talk to her.

Still, thinking of Michelle’s actions put her in an even fouler mood. Stephanie needed something to lift her spirits.  So, she called her friend Allie Taylor’s house.  Nobody would be home.  But, Allie had recorded the message on her parents’ phone.  And, Stephanie thought it was funny.

    “Hi, this is the Taylor’s,” Stephanie heard.  “Well, no, not the kind that sew clothes together. But, that’s probably where the name comes from, and I suppose I could help.  I’m okay with a needle and . . . listen to me.  I ramble just like you, Steph.  Oh, if you don’t know who I mean, that’s okay. yes  Just leave your name, number, and a message, and we’ll get back to you.”  The machine beeped.

Stephanie laughed.  She was glad to have something to take her mind off her writers’ block - and off the fight with Michelle. “Something like that always picks me up when I’m down.”

“Steph, hurry up.  We don’t want to be late,” her Aunt Becky called up the steps.  Stephanie shrugged.  Maybe her dad was right.  Watching this competition would be fun.

She still couldn’t believe Michelle could tease her like that, though. Nor could she believe the chance she’d lost.  That boy had been so incredible.  And, they had been about to kiss.  That made him even more special.

His name was Andrew, and she was crazy about him.  They’d been rehearsing the kissing scene from Romeo and Juliet for Drama class.  The two of them were supposed to lock lips.  For some reason, he always skipped that part.  But, Shakespeare had written that into the script 400 years ago, and this wasn’t the type of class where they could ad lib and get a good grade.

So, Stephanie expected that they would kiss, and that the kiss would be incredibly wonderful and passionate.   She’d waited quite impatiently, until yesterday.

Andrew had looked ready to kiss Stephanie.  And then, Michelle came along.  She kept calling Stephanie “dry lips.”  She actually told Andrew that Stephanie had a big crush on him (can you believe it?)!  Andrew had been very shy before that.  He’d left hurriedly afterward.  And now?

Stephanie stomped down the steps, fuming again.  Why had she thought about that?

Becky helped her boys Nicky and Alex - three-year-old identical twins - with their spring jackets.  “Boys, you’ll ride with me.  Joey’s taking D.J. and Stephanie.”

“Okay, Mommy,” Nicky said.

“Will they have a merry go ‘round,” Alex wanted to know.

Becky laughed.  “No, no merry go ‘round, Alex.  We’re just going to watch horses.”

Stephanie tried to tell herself Michelle’s actions were all in fun. She tried to remember that she’d teased her eighteen-year-old sister, D.J., the same way sometimes. However, a part of her just couldn’t stand Michelle.  normal'>“I drove D.J. crazy a few times,” she’d reasoned. “But I certainly never told one of her boyfriends she liked him! Now, Andrew’s never coming back. We’ll never kiss for real. And it’s all Michelle’s fault.”

Stephanie still loved Michelle.  She just didn’t want an eight-year-old like Michelle hanging around her. She had too many more important things in her life.  Maybe she would be able to tolerate her more when Michelle became a teenager.

“Where’s Daddy,” Alex asked.

“He’s doing some work for the band.  Or maybe it’s for his club,” Becky explained.  She wished her husband, Jesse, had more time for his family. Lately, he’d been really busy. He’d formed a new band, and he needed to do quite a few things for his club, the Smash Club.

Stephanie got into the car.  “Steph, your expression looks as sour as two-year-old milk,” Joey remarked, trying to lift her spirits.

Stephanie chuckled.  Joey was a very funny comedian.

Joey thought for a moment.  “Oh, I know what it is, Steph.”  He reached for something in his pocket.  “Here, put these up your nose.  They’ll hide the horses’ smell.”

Stephanie shook her head as he handed them back to her.  “Joey . . . these are ear plugs.”

He held a finger to his mouth to shush her.  “Don’t tell them, they won’t know the difference.”

Stephanie grinned.  Joey could make anyone smile.  Actually, anyone in their family could.  Even Michelle. She wanted to have fun, but as they entered the stables, she wondered if it would be possible.

D.J. smiled at Stephanie.  “Hey, Steph,” she said as they walked toward a table.  “Who do you think will be my date for the prom?” D.J.’s friend Kimmy was trying to find her a date.  But, all she’d found so far were real losers.

Stephanie blinked as she sat. “I don’t know, D.J.,” she said absently.

“Mommy, you said this would be fun,” Nicky whined.

Alex looked insistent.  He thought people were supposed to smile if they were having fun.   “Yeah, and Stephanie’s not smiling.”

Stephanie forced a large grin.  “Sorry. How’s this?”

“That’s better!” Alex declared.

Stephanie gazed around.  normal'>“Okay, I’m smiling.  Now, where’s Michelle?” she wondered.

Michelle shook her head and rolled her eyes.  “This is nuts,” she said to herself.

Her new friend, Elizabeth, silently agreed.  They were near the starting gate for the horse jumping competition. And, their parents were arguing like cats and dogs.  Each seemed to think their child capable of superhuman feats.  Each contended that their child was far better.  The girls felt like they had to beat each other - or else.

The girls couldn’t stand the commotion.  Michelle fondly remembered having her dad cheer for her at other times. But, this was too much. Way too much.   “They both have very bad attitudes,” she said to herself.  “Riding used to be fun.”

“Yeah, before parents got involved,” Elizabeth grumbled.   Her mom, Morgan, was driving her as crazy as Danny seemed to be driving Michelle.

     Michelle’s eyes brightened.  “I’ve got an idea.  Why don’t we skip the contest and go riding on the trail.  For fun.”

Elizabeth couldn’t agree more.  That was what she’d wanted to do when she signed up to learn to ride. Why had she ever wanted to jump, anyway?  Three victories in a row weren’t as much fun when her mom acted like this.   “Tanner, you’re a genius.”

Their parents having left, the girls hitched up their horses. Michelle petted her pony, which nuzzled her hand.  Soon, the two were near the main gate.  A person could go one of two directions - to the competition or onto the trail.   They chose the trail.

They spied a large parking lot in the distance.  Michelle wondered if anybody came to have fun.   She hoped at least a few kids would enjoy themselves today.

They stopped their horses.  Michelle chuckled as she spied a mule.  It was tied next to two horses.  “That looks like the one I brought home once,” she thought aloud.

     Elizabeth’s eyes grew wide.  “You brought home a mule?”  Michelle didn’t live on a farm, did she?  “Where do you live again?”

“Girard Street.  I didn’t get to keep it. But, Cassie, Mandy, and I like to feed it at the petting zoo,” Michelle remarked.  They waved to an old fellow seated by the mule. “Hi, Mister.   You look like a real cowboy, you know that?”

     “Howdy.  Say, you young’uns look like you’re lost,” he told them.

Michelle realized he noticed their clothes.  “No, Sir.  We’re not jumping today.” She didn’t tell him how relieved she was to not be worried about winning.

The old man shrugged.  “Family and friends will be disappointed.”

    “Well . . . they’ll understand.”  She spoke with Elizabeth, feeling a little depressed as they rode.   “But, Mandy and her family are visiting her grandma in the hospital.  And, Cassie and her mom are at a baby shower.”

“What about your family?” Elizabeth inquired.

Michelle frowned slightly.  “All Dad cares about right now is beating you - well, you mom, really.   My Uncle Jesse’s way too busy, he won’t be here. Stephanie hates me, and won’t talk to me.  Nicky and Alex won’t sit still long enough.  And, Aunt Becky, D.J., and Joey will be entertaining them.”

Michelle and Elizabeth gazed at the beautiful scenery as their horses sauntered along the trail.  “I’m glad we decided to skip the competition,” Elizabeth remarked.  She positioned her riding derby.  “This is gonna be great,” Elizabeth remarked.

Michelle agreed heartily as they wandered into a meadow.   She was glad her dad let her ride.   He really was a kind, loving person.   She hoped Elizabeth didn’t get the wrong impression. “My dad’s usually really warm and caring.  He doesn’t care about winning like he does now.  Usually all he’s crazy about is safety and cleaning things.”

“At least he cares about something besides winning.”  Elizabeth assured Michelle that her mom was nice, too. “My mom gets carried away a lot. But, she’s nice to be around, when I’m not trying to win something.”

Elizabeth noticed Michelle hadn’t mentioned a mother when discussing her family. “So . . . where’s your mom?”

There was silence for a moment.  “She died when I was little,” Michelle said evenly.

“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth spoke regretfully.

“Hey, it’s okay.  I’ve still got a great family.  Uncle Jesse and Joey - that’s my dad best friend from college - moved in to help with D.J., Stephanie, and me right after that.  Then, Uncle Jesse met and married my Aunt Becky.  They have two boys - that’s Nicky and Alex.  All nine of us live there together.”

“Sounds like a really full house,” Elizabeth remarked as her horse whinnied slightly.

“Yeah, I’ll say.”

Michelle frowned.  She was glad their family was so close.  She was worried about Stephanie, though.  How could her sister be so cranky?  She’d thought Stephanie was just being grouchy.  Now, she wasn’t sure.  Stephanie usually didn’t stay near this mad for this long.  She wished there was something she could do to help.

     Michelle’s face brightened as she surveyed the scenery. She enjoyed the togetherness of her family.  But, sometimes, it was fun just to get away from it all.

“This is so fun,” Elizabeth proclaimed delightfully.

Michelle gazed at the turn in the trail.  As they followed it, she spied a downed tree.  Now that would be something fun to jump, Michelle considered. “I like riding a horse when you don’t have to win anything “

”Yeah, it’s so cool. Hey, wanna jump that log?” Elizabeth asked.

    “Yeah, let’s do it” quickly flew from Michelle’s lips.

     Elizabeth’s horse jumped it perfectly.  She turned a little to watch Michelle.

     Michelle’s horse stood up.  A shriek resounded as Michelle lost her grip.

Michelle instinctively turned to break her fall.  She held her hands out in front of her.  However, Michelle’s head still struck the ground hard. Her horse galloped away.

Elizabeth gasped.  normal'>“That was a big fall.”  She jumped off her horse, and ran toward Michelle.  “Why isn’t she moving?” “Michelle, Michelle. Michelle, are you okay?” She jostled her, then decided that was a bad idea.  She thought she recalled one shouldn’t move an unconscious person.  “Michelle, wake up,” she cried, alarmed.


Elizabeth gulped.  A lump formed in her throat.  She’d fallen from her horse several times  She usually winced at the pain.  She might even cry, if she was hurt badly enough.

However, Michelle made no movement - no facial expression, no moaning, nothing. The only good thing was, she was still breathing.

Elizabeth inhaled deeply.  normal'>“Stay calm,” she reminded herself.  “Okay, what did I learn in Girl Scouts?” Should she go for help? “No, someone needs to stay here and watch Michelle.  I need to check what all she might have hurt first.” Instead of riding off to get help, she prepared to scream.  She hoped someone could hear her.  “ normal'>I wish horses had cell phones.”

Luckily, she noticed some horsemen coming.  In fact, one of the riders looked like Michelle’s father. They’d been following the horses’ hoofprints.  She didn’t have to scream after all.

Elizabeth tried once more.  “Michelle, wake up.” She looked up at the men as they dismounted.  “She fell off her horse,” she said, a small cry in her voice.

Danny had run up to his youngest daughter.  “Michelle?  Don’t move her,” he spoke slightly, keeping the others from nudging her.   His face was overcome with worry.

Elizabeth felt scared, but she decided she could handle it.   She took several deep breaths.  These men seemed to be collected.  “ They must know just what to do.”

“She must have hit her head,” Jesse remarked.

Joey spoke as the men examined Michelle.  “Oh my gosh, what happened, is she okay?”

“I don’t know.  Michelle, do you hear me?” Danny looked ready to burst into tears. “Honey?”

“What do we do?” Joey wondered.

Danny was very protective of his daughters. So, he'd taken emergency training every summer since D.J. was little. His instincts quickly overtook his fear as he developed a plan. He paid extra attention to Elizabeth. He deemed her able to handle the situation.  She looked no more nervous than they did.

“Look, there's a shed with an ambulance crew for emergencies,” Danny informed them quickly.  He gave its location. “I need two people to go there.  Elizabeth, can you handle that, if Jesse goes with you?”  She nodded, a little frightened. “This is no time for false bravery.  If you’re at all unsure, stay here. I'll need help, too.”

“I can do it,” Elizabeth remarked, feeling slightly nervous.

“Good. You and Jesse go to the shed. Jess, alert the ambulance crew, bring them out to the trail.  Elizabeth, you help him with what happened.”  He swallowed hard. “Once that's done, our family is near the front with your mom. Tell them what happened, Elizabeth. Then come back here so we know you did it.  Joey, you stay with me.”

Danny looked worriedly at Michelle as Elizabeth and Jesse mounted their horses. “Michelle? Honey?   Can you hear me?”  He looked for signs of trauma. “No blood, that might be a good sign. We need to observe as much as we can,” he remarked.  Elizabeth walked her horse over the log while Jesse’s galloped toward the shed.

“Joey, if she . . . “  Danny sniffled. He couldn't stand to think of this. But, he knew it could happen. That’s why he’d sent Elizabeth with Jesse.  Joey would be better at this than Elizabeth. Plus, Joey was likely the worst rider of the three. “We don't move her unless she stops breathing. Then we keep her . . . as steady as we can and roll her. Then, we do CPR.”

Elizabeth urged her horse to go as fast as she dared.  “Fsst, fsst, fsst,” came the sound as the horse sped onward. She quickly caught up to Jesse. She could tell he tried very hard to look calm. She wondered if the comment about false bravery was meant for him. "Pay attention to where you are, Elizabeth. If he falters, you have to give directions," she coached .”

Jesse motioned for Elizabeth to pass him if she could.   His stomach turned into hundreds of flapping butterflies. But, he remained cool on the outside.  It appeared this girl - he hadn't caught her name - felt the same way. “I’ll wonder how I ever did this later. And, so will she normal'>.”

Elizabeth couldn’t go too fast, lest she fall off her own horse. But, she pulled slightly ahead once she saw the shed.  Her experience in riding and jumping caused her to reach the shed seconds before Jesse. A paramedic stood outside. “We need an ambulance. There”s a rider on the trail, and she's not moving,” she reported hastily.  “Her name’s Michelle.”

Jesse pulled up beside Elizabeth.  “Michelle Tanner was a contestant. She fell off her horse and hit her head.”

     Elizabeth pulled up beside Jesse.  “Michelle hit her head falling off her horse.”

As the men got into the ambulance, one of them asked what part of the head. “The front.  She turned to break her fall when her horse stood,” Elizabeth explained.  She pointed to the spot on her head.  “She got knocked out right away.  But, she kept breathing.”

How long had she been out?  “Maybe half a minute before the men found her.  About three minutes now.”  Elizabeth was starting to get scared, as she thought about what had happened.   She reminded herself she had one more thing to do.

They were asked about breathing and blood.  Jesse answered.  “She was breathing when we left.  We saw no blood.” He sat in the front of the ambulance to guide the driver as it left.

Stephanie paced nervously.  Seconds dragged into minutes.  Where was Michelle? Where was her horse, for that matter? “What has Michelle gotten into now?” she muttered wearily.

Morgan had come back to see if the Tanners had heard anything about Elizabeth. “And where could Elizabeth be? It’s not like her to run off.”

“There’s a horse!” Nicky shouted, pointing to it.

Stephanie looked where Nicky showed them.  There were two horses, in fact.  They were too distant for her to make out any features.  “The jumping course is the other way,” she remarked.

“Isn’t that the shed for the medics?” D.J. wondered aloud.

Stephanie nodded.  normal'>“Why is an ambulance leaving it if the competition is being delayed?”

Becky said there was no need to worry about Michelle.   “I’m sure everything’s fine.”

The young teen was agitated.  She didn’t think anything could have happened to Michelle.  But, clearly, someone needed an ambulance quickly. It was racing toward the trail. Stephanie threw out her hands as she paced.  “Fine?   Fine? I may not come here often. But, I don’t think ambulances zoom out of that gate when everything’s fine!”

“You’re making me dizzy, Stephanie,” shouted Nicky.

Alex nodded.  “You’ll wear a hole through to China.”

Stephanie bit her lip.  One horse remained at the shed.  And, another was speeding her way.

“Well, now we’ll see what the commotion was about,” Becky remarked. She, too, sounded worried. There had to be a reason why Michelle wasn’t there.

Morgan ran up to the edge of the porch.  She was thankful to see that her daughter was okay.   But, Elizabeth looked quite scared.   The thought quickly registered - she’d been with the emergency crew.  “Elizabeth,” she called, waving her hand.  “What’s wrong?”

Elizabeth inhaled heavily as she stopped her horse just short of the stands. “Michelle fell off her horse,” Elizabeth told them.  Her mom froze in shock.

Stephanie gasped.  She bit her lip harder. She swiftly connected that with the ambulance.  How long had it been? “Oh no, is she hurt? Is she awake?   Is she . . . ”  Stephanie gulped.  She didn’t dare to go any further.  She couldn’t stand to ask if she was breathing.

Elizabeth answered as best she could.  “Yes, no, and be more specific.”  She wasn’t sure what Stephanie had meant by that last question.   However, not being awake was troublesome enough.

D.J. ordered the family to hold hands in a circle.  “We need to pray right now,” she declared.   They didn’t pray often.  But, D.J. knew that at times like this, it was vital.

Her suggestion relieved Stephanie.  At least she’d be doing something.

However, as D.J. prayed, Stephanie couldn’t help but think of their argument. Argument?  It was actually pretty one sided.  Her sister had merely annoyed her and scared off a boyfriend. How important was that now?

And yet, Stephanie had refused to forgive Michelle.  She hadn’t spoken to her since.  Michelle probably thought Stephanie hated her.

“I’m never going to forgive you.” The words echoed in Stephanie’s brain. The concept haunted her as the group unlocked hands.  She fought back tears. Never.  Just like when she’d been told her mother was never coming back.

“Don’t do this to yourself,” she rebuked herself.  normal'>“You haven’t lost her yet.”

Elizabeth had turned to ride back.  Stephanie insisted on going with her.  “Show me where she is!” the teen commanded nervously.

    “I’ll drive out to the hospital, and call Jesse,” Becky declared. “D.J., use your spare keys and pull your dad’s car around.  Wait for Stephanie at the entrance.  Boys, come with me.” They left quickly.

With Morgan helping, Stephanie had gotten atop Elizabeth’s horse. “I’ll meet you at the gate. You’re doing great, Elizabeth,” Morgan said proudly.  normal'>“No wonder she was gone.  She might actually save a life!  And I thought watching her jump made me proud.”

Stephanie held fast to Elizabeth’s waist as they rode.  “It’ll be okay,” Elizabeth assured her.  She didn’t sound totally positive.  “Say, I never caught your name.”


Elizabeth was silent for a moment.  Stephanie wondered if Michelle mentioned their fight.

“Mine’s Elizabeth.”  She pointed to a small ridge. “It’s just over that little hill.”

They could see the flashing lights.  Stephanie’s eyes welled up quickly.  She gazed in shock at Michelle’s motionless body. “Is she alive?  Oh no, what . . . no, don’t panic,” she coached herself.

She couldn’t tell if Michelle was breathing.  She craned her neck.  “Elizabeth doesn’t look much more worried.  That’s a good sign.” The paramedics were placing something on Michelle’s neck.  Actually, it looked like it was holding her whole body in place.  What was it?

Joey ran over to them as they got off the horse.  “It’s okay . . . ”

    “Is she awake?  She’s still breathing, isn’t she?” Stephanie asked quickly.

Joey held out his hands.  “It’s okay, she’s been breathing.  They’re putting a cervical collar on her neck.  That keeps it still in case she hurt it.  They’re also strapping her to a back board to carry her.  That’s in case she hurt her back.  They don’t want to risk paralysis.”

     “Paralysis?  You mean she might not be able to move?”  Stephanie shuddered.

Elizabeth reported, “D.J.’s waiting for you.  The others went to the hospital to . . . ”  She suddenly connected the name Becky said with the man who rode with her.  She pointed at Jesse. “To call him.”   Elizabeth was trying to remain calm.   But, it was getting more difficult.

Joey nodded.  “Michelle’s still unconscious.  The paramedics are almost ready to put her in the ambulance.”  He pointed to Danny and Jesse.  The men were comforting her, hoping she could hear.  “I’ll go back with you.  We can tell the others how she is.  Their dad and Jesse are gong with the ambulance.  We’ll get a couple cars later.”

Joey could tell Stephanie was extremely scared.  But, maybe after she spoke to Michelle, she’d be all right. Stephanie hadn’t paid attention to him. Her conscience had burned with one thought - something she felt compelled to do.

Stephanie knelt opposite Danny and Jesse.  “Michelle, it’s Stephanie.  It’s going to be okay,” she told Michelle.  She swallowed hard.  She didn’t know if Michelle could hear her.  But, she had to say this.  “I love you very much, and I always have.  I forgive you for bugging me and all that; please, just get better.” She sniffled as the stretcher was placed in the back of the ambulance.

“She’ll be okay, Steph,” Joey said confidently.  The comedian loved to act like a kid.  And, a childlike faith often was part of that.   “Will you?”  She nodded.  “Let’s go to the main gate.”

Stephanie and Elizabeth couldn’t move for a minute.  They watched as the ambulance sped out of the meadow, onto the street, and toward the hospital.  Stephanie looked at the girl standing beside her, and embraced her. She knew it would seem strange to Elizabeth.  But, she just had to hug someone.  Joey walked back to them and put an arm around Stephanie as she and Elizabeth hugged.

Elizabeth wept a little.  Actually helping someone was far different than learning about it.

“Thanks, Elizabeth,” the teen said after a minute.  “Thanks for helping with Michelle.”

Elizabeth gazed at Stephanie.  She didn’t know why they’d fought.  But, she guessed that the argument with Michelle was bothering Stephanie right now. “I’m sure she heard you,” Elizabeth said.  “Your dad was talking, too.” She hoped that would help.

Stephanie was grateful for the girl’s concern.  “Thanks.  I just . . . ” She shook her head and walked toward the entrance.  She tried very hard not to remember the day her mom died.  But, it kept bothering her.  She kept pushing the fear of losing her sister out of her mind.  “Come on, Stephanie, you can think of something positive.”

Elizabeth struggled with her own words.  She’d never seen anyone get hurt like that.  She finally spoke as her mom called out to them. “She’ll be okay.”   She didn’t know for sure.  But, she sensed that Stephanie needed to hear that. She knew she would.

Stephanie patted Elizabeth on the head.  She was grateful that someone had said that.  It wasn’t much to go on, but it was something.  “Thanks.”


Elizabeth and her mother waved goodbye to Joey, Stephanie and D.J.. “Her mom says Elizabeth’s always had a really cool head,” D.J. remarked as they left in Danny’s car.

“I could tell,” Stephanie remarked.

Stephanie considered her life as a teenager.  She’d been increasingly crazy about guys.   She couldn’t understand it.  But, whatever caused it, she’d grown much more distant from Michelle lately.  They had done almost nothing together in the last few months.  She enjoyed things like camping out in their backyard, or helping her learn lines for a play.  But, she’d allowed that fun to sink into the background compared to her enthusiasm over boys like Andrew, and the fun of hanging out with her friends.

“That is going to change,” she told herself.  She smiled. “Elizabeth’s right.  Michelle heard me. I’ve got to think that.  And, that’s just the start of a new relationship.”

“I’m actually thinking positively,” Stephanie spoke suddenly. “Michelle going to get better. And no matter what she needs, I’ll to be there for her.  I can even help her wake up.  I just need the words to ‘You Are My Sunshine,’” she quipped.  She recalled a recent news story.  A small boy had helped his newborn sister recover by singing that over and over to her.  normal'>“If you have to think of something, you can remember that. That girl recovered.”

However, Michelle had looked pretty lifeless back there.   With less certainty, Stephanie explained. “I’ll keep singing it till she wakes up, even if I drive myself insane hearing it over and over. And, if I go insane doing it, I’ll deserve it.”

D.J. sighed.  Her sister was so hard on herself sometimes.  “Steph, you do not deserve to be driven insane.”

“Yes I do.  I should never have said anything like that to Michelle,” hollered Stephanie.  “How rude!”

D.J. grinned sadly.  “You might deserve one of your ‘how rude’s, I’ll admit that.”

Becky frowned.  She had failed to notice one of Michelle’s friends as she and the boys bolted into the hospital. She  had enough worries - such as where to find Jesse.

Sirens wailed as she found a pay phone.  “Was that the ambulance with Michelle in it?”

    She only got a recording as she phoned home.  normal'>“He must be at the Smash Club,” she thought.

She fretted.  Jesse wasn’t there, either.  She noticed Nicky and Alex wandering away.  “Stay right here, boys.  I need to call your dad.” They looked strangely at each other, but obeyed.  She tried to call two more places.  She rolled her eyes. “Where can he normal'>be?”

“Did you try the hospital, Mommy?” Nicky wondered.

Becky forced herself to sound calm.  She knew they didn’t quite understand.  “Nicky, I can’t call him at the hospital.  We’re at the hospital.”

Alex pointed toward the waiting room.  “Maybe you can just go talk to him.”

“He’s not . . . ”  She glanced where Alex pointed.  How had Jesse gotten there?  “Jesse,” she called out, running over to him.

Alex shrugged at Nicky.  “Mommy likes to do things the hard way,” he said.

Jesse quickly spotted Becky.  “Beck, listen, I went to the stables at the last minute.  She’s still breathing, but unconscious.  They’ve got tests scheduled.”  He sighed.  Why had he planned so much?  He didn’t know. He didn’t need to do lots of the things he’d planned to do.  Rehearsing for things wasn’t important.  Family was.

“Listen,” Jesse proclaimed, “I’m keeping my schedule clear for a while.” He put his hands on her shoulders. “But, I need something to take my mind off this mess.  And, the Smash Club book work needs done, for tax purposes.  Find the boys a sitter.  Then, could you please bring back the envelope of receipts and things for the club.”

“I can do that,” Becky remarked.  Nicky and Alex followed her out to her car.

Mandy Metz smiled at her grandma.  They were about to leave the cardiac unit.  Her grandma would only be in a few more days.  The doctors needed to regulate her blood thinning medicine. After that, she’d be almost as good as new.

“Be good,” her grandma said.

“I will.  I’m really glad we got to come see you,” Mandy remarked.  She sort of wanted to go to the horse show.  But, Michelle understood.  Mandy had told her the day before about her grandma.  “Michelle will just be glad to know everything’s fine.”

Grandma Metz remembered Mandy’s friend, too.  “I hope Michelle has fun in her contest.”

“I’m sure she will, Grandma,” Mandy replied.  “Maybe this summer, normal'>I’ll go riding with Michelle.  I hope Cassie comes too.”  Cassie had been Michelle’s best friend since Kindergarten.   Mandy had just moved into the area that January. But, Michelle did a great job of making friends.  And, Mandy already thought of Michelle as her best friend.

A nurse told Mandy she looked very cute.  “You remind me of Shirley Temple,” the lady said.

     “Thanks.”  Mandy giggled. She had very curly hair. But, it was auburn. Mandy thought Shirley Temple’s was blonde.  Or, was it? She suddenly realized she’d never seen a Shirley Temple movie in color.  Would her grandma know what color her hair was?

Thinking about that, Mandy failed to notice Michelle’s Aunt Becky rushing past her, into the hospital.  Mandy waited with her siblings by the front doors while her mom got the car. Her stepfather planned to spend more time with his mom.

Mandy heard sirens wailing.  The emergency entrance was right next to the front doors.  “Wow, that ambulance is coming really fast!” she remarked as it sped toward them.

“Look at the pretty flashing lights,” hollered one of her brothers.

Mandy watched as the ambulance pulled up to the doors.   A stretcher and paramedics flew out the back. Then, her eyes widened. Was that who she thought it was? It looked like Mr. Tanner!

Mandy ran toward the ambulance.  She gasped quickly when she saw who was on the stretcher.  “Michelle,” she cried with a start.  She barely kept herself from running up to her. She kept a safe distance as the paramedics rushed the patient into the hospital.

Jesse saw her and spoke quickly.  “She fell off her horse.  She hit her head.”

“Is she all right?  Why isn’t she moving?” Mandy asked with alarm.  One of her older sisters came to console her.

Jesse quickly turned his head toward her, then away again.   “They’re keeping her still in case she hurt her neck,” he reported.  He followed the others into the hospital.

Mandy tried to grasp the situation.  She thought she heard the word “concussion.”  She knew what that was - a head injury.  Tubes inserted into Michelle probably held medicine of some sort. That part, she couldn’t quite grasp. Michelle wore a strange collar. And, they were rushing her to get x-rays and something called a “CT scan,” whatever that was.   “It looks more like she got hit by a car.  Except there’s no blood.”

Mandy shivered as she thought about her injured friend.   She couldn’t believe what she’d just seen. She suddenly began weeping. She cried the whole way home.

Once she got home, she tried to call the Tanners.  She figured nobody would answer, and she was right. “Who else can I call?  I need to talk to someone.”

Cassie Wilkins had just arrived home with her mom.  “I’d like to sew some booties for Mrs. Perkins’ baby,” she told her mother.

“That’s a lovely idea, Cassie.  I’ll help you start tomorrow, if you want.”

“Sure, that sounds great.  I’ll get it,” Cassie hollered.  She was on the phone almost before her mom knew it had rung.  “Hello?”

She heard a tearful voice on the other end.  “C-Cassie?  Can I . . . come over there now?”

Cassie stared blankly ahead.  “Sure, Mandy.  Come on over.”

Cassie hung the phone up very tenderly.  She asked herself why Mandy would call her.  They were friends.  But, she wasn’t as close to Mandy as Michelle was.

“That’s right, the horse jumping was today,” Cassie thought aloud. She told her mom Mandy was coming over. “I guess Mandy knew Michelle wouldn’t be home.  She sounded really upset, though I don’t know why.”

Suddenly, the thought hit her.  “Oh, no!  Something really bad must have happened to her Grandma.”

“What is it?” Mrs. Wilkins wondered.  She studied Cassie shocked face.

“Mandy’s grandma went into the hospital a couple days ago.   Michelle told me it was nothing serious. But . . . ”  She trailed off and shook her head sadly.   She couldn’t stand the thought of losing her own grandmother.  They were really close.

Mrs. Wilkins put an arm around Cassie.  “These things happen, dear.  A person can go so fast sometimes.”

Cassie moaned.  “Poor Mandy. She moves across the country when her mom remarries.  She lives with so many new people.  Then, just when she’s used to her grandma . . . ”  She sat, and buried her head in her hands.  “She must feel awful.”

Mrs. Wilkins nodded slowly.  She noticed Mandy coming up their drive.  “Well, here’s your chance to show what a good friend you are.”

Cassie rose with some effort.  She forced herself to be confident.  “You’re right, Mom.  She really needs a friend.”

Cassie opened the door.  It seemed so strange to see Mandy there.  Normally, Mandy would go to Michelle in an instant.  “Mom was right.   I couldn’t go to the horse jumping contest for a reason. Now, I know why.   I had to be here for Mandy.”

Mandy and Cassie embraced for a moment.  Cassie could tell Mandy’s eyes were red.  She led Mandy over to their living room couch.  “It’s going to be okay,” Cassie said weakly.

Mandy shook her head as they sat.  “I’m so scared, Cassie.”

“Maybe her Grandma didn’t die yet. She’s just afraid of losing her.” “I know.  You really love her, huh?”

Mandy nodded.  “She’s been such a great friend.”

Cassie could understand this.  She remembered how her own grandma had sewn a really fancy Halloween costume one year. And, she always had great homemade cookies ready when Cassie would visit.  She was sure Mandy’s grandma was the same way.  “I know what that’s meant for me,” she admitted sorrowfully. “It’s sad people have to get old.”

Mandy shot Cassie a very strange look, but said nothing.   “I know Michelle’s meant a lot to Cassie, too.  But, what does getting old have to do with anything?”

“So, what did the doctors say?” Cassie wondered.

“They don’t know.”  Mandy shook her head. “They just know her head’s hurt.”

Cassie tried to remember what things old people had in their heads. A sudden look of recognition fell over her face.  “Oh, you mean like a stroke,” she asked.  “Or maybe one of those hemorrhage things where there’s bleeding . . . ”   Mandy sobbed as much as when she first entered. “I bet that’s what her grandma had.”

Mandy really felt horribly now.  “That didn’t help at all.” She never considered such injuries. “You’re making me more scared,” Mandy shrieked as she held out her hands.  Seeing Michelle being wheeled inside in that stretcher and wearing that strange collar was bad enough.

“I’m sorry,” Cassie spoke very sincerely.  She knew she shouldn’t have guessed.  That likely put even worse thoughts into Mandy’s head. “These things happen to old people,” she added, fretting.  She wished she knew why they happened.

“But she’s so young,” Mandy complained.  She could have understood if it had happened many years later. But, not now.

Cassie hadn’t thought of that.  Her grandma was in her seventies.  But, Mandy’s could be a lot younger.  “ normal'>She may be close to my mom’s age.  Maybe that’s what hurts Mandy more.”   “How old is she?” Cassie asked.

Mandy looked exgtremely bewildered.  “How could Cassie not know this? She’s known Michelle longer than I have.” “You know,” she insisted, rolling her eyes.

Cassie didn’t remember ever learning Mandy’s grandma’s age.   Still, Mandy expected her to know.   “Oh . . . I’m . . . sorry, I guess I forgot. Maybe you’d better tell me.”

Mandy sniffled and shook her head.  “Cassie must be really shocked if she doesn’t know this.”  “She’s eight.”

Cassie’s eyes bulged. “Your . . . ”  Her mouth stood agape for a second, as she stared ahead.  “Your . . . grandmother is eight years old?”   She turned slowly toward Mandy.  “How can that be?”

Mandy gawked at Cassie.  normal'>“Oh, my goodness.  She doesn’t have a clue what I’m talking about, does she?”   “Uh . . . Cassie . . . my grandmother’s not the one . . . ”

“What is it?” Cassie wondered.  Now, she began to worry.  “Maybe you’d better start at the beginning.”

That was a good idea.  “Cassie . . . I was leaving the hospital, and this ambulance rushes up to it. And, Michelle’s in it. She fell off her horse and hurt her head.”  She glanced at Cassie as the other girl gasped.  “You . . . really thought it was my grandmother, didn’t you?”  Both girls managed to chuckle a little.  “No wonder you were talking about people getting old.”

Cassie nodded.  “Boy, wait till Michelle hears that one.”

“Yeah, ‘Your grandmother is eight years old?’  She’ll love it.”  Mandy paused for a moment.  “Hey, do you hear us?  We’re sure we’ll be able to tell her.”  She felt much better now.

     “Yeah.  That’s something to look forward to,” Cassie remarked.

Becky appeared at the door a moment later with Nicky and Alex. She’d called while the girls spoke. “Thanks for watching them, Mrs. Wilkins,” she said wearily.  “I had to come home to get some stuff.  I need to get back there.”  She looked at the girls. “I’m glad to see you’re in fairly good spirits.”

“How is she?” Michelle’s friends asked at the same time.

“She didn’t wake up in the ambulance, the men know that much. She’s getting x-rays. It’ll be okay.   We have to think that.”

Mrs. Wilkins quickly agreed.  “Faith is the only thing we have to go on at times like this.”


Light flooded her eyes.  Images swirled around her.

It was too bright.  She closed her eyes. She couldn’t stop the din of sounds, though.

She heard a voice near her.  “It’s okay, dear. You just came into the emergency room.  You need to keep totally still.  My name’s Melissa.  I’m a nurse.”

She had trouble concentrating.  What was happening?  She heard the voice a second time.  It said to tell someone’s dad something.  Then, she heard another voice, and yelling.

Melissa saw her open her eyes.  She tried to calm her patient so she wouldn’t move.  “It’s okay, dear.  Keep perfectly still until we get x-rays.  They just called a ‘code blue’ on someone else.  So people were excited.  You don’t have to worry.  We’ll tell your dad you opened your eyes as soon as we can.”  The nurse didn’t think the patient understood that. The girl she was taking to the x-ray departement looked quite dazed.  But, hopefully she’d remain calm.

She kept still.  Once the x-rays were finished, Melissa held her hand.  After a few minutes, the nurse asked her questions.  She could wiggle her toes and blink.  She knew the nurse held up two fingers.  She answered several other questions correctly, too.

    “We’re going to put you in this machine to take pictures inside your body; especially of your brain,” she was told.  “It’s called a C-T scan.  You’ll feel a little pinch.  We need to put some dye in your body to see the blood better.  When we’re done we’ll take you to your room.  Some of your family will come in then.”

“At least this Melissa is nice here. Wherever ‘here’ is.” “My head hurts.”

The nurse grinned.  Her patient spoke on her own, instead of only responding to others.  That was a very good sign.  “That’s normal.  You hit it really hard.”

The girl tried to think.  That hurt her head more.  However, that really didn’t matter.  She shouldn’t have had to think about some things.  Like her name.

It was too bad they were so busy, Melissa considered.  Michelle had awakened soon after the men went into the waiting room.  And yet, Melissa didn’t know if they knew she was awake.

Stephanie was frustrated in the waiting room.  The hospital was too busy for them to learn anything.   And, while the others could keep their minds occupied, she couldn’t.  She jogged up to the information desk, and spouted questions.  “Where is she?  How is she?”

The receptionist glanced up at her.  “It depends on who ‘she’ is.”

“Oh, sorry, Michelle,” sped out of Stephanie’s lips almost too fast for the lady to understand.

The nurse pointed at a name tag while typing.  “My name is Kiersten, not Michelle.”

Stephanie threw out a hand.  “I’m not looking for you.  I’m looking for her!”

“For who?” Kiersten insisted.  She wanted to help, but how?

Stephanie rolled her eyes as Joey walked up behind her.  “Hey, Steph.  It’s okay. Michelle has to have some tests before we know anything for sure.”

“Yeah. I guess just ruling out everything. I hope.”  The glum voice was her dad’s.

Stephanie stomped over to one of the chairs in the waiting room. She slouched into it. “Why isn’t it me in there?”

Jesse nodded slowly.  He hurt just as much as any of them.  “All of us would like to be able to trade places with Michelle right now.”

Stephanie rose and began pacing.  The others in the waiting room began staring at her.  She didn’t care, though.  She needed to work off her energy

“Steph, why don’t you call Allie or Darcy,” Danny suggested.   He knew she needed to talk.  Her best friends would certainly help.

“Or call Mandy,” Joey said.  “Jesse said she saw them bring Michelle in here.  She’s probably scared to death.”  He knew that was the wrong word the moment he said it.

Stephanie glared daggers at him.  “Don’t mention that word!”

Joey smiled at Stephanie.  Stephanie had always been the most excitable of the sisters.  She’d always taken things the hardest.  He knew this had to be a very trying time for her. “Look, Steph, you just have to have faith.  She’ll get better.” He left to get some drinks.

Danny agreed.  “Remember when you thought that boy stood you up for a date?  Just because he was two minutes late . . . wait, that’s a bad example. He did stand you up. Let’s see if I can think of something positive.”

Stephanie shook her head.  “Right now, I can only think of one thing.  Mom. I think of that car accident,” Stephanie exclaimed.  “I think of how she never woke up.  And I know what you’re going to say.  You’re going to tell me I’m scared.  Well, you’re right. Because at least we always said ‘I love you’ before she left.”  She sobbed in Danny’s arms as he embraced her.  She felt much better after getting that off her chest.

D.J. shook her head and walked toward the entrance.  She sighed as she watched the bevy of activity. The hospital was very busy. First, there had been a code blue - a middle-aged man had stopped breathing.  Then, a cable car accident had sent emergency personnel rushing everywhere as ambulances rushed patients there.

She could smile for a moment.  The hustle and bustle looked exhilirating.  The ability to provide comfort for those in distress was something she envied. Bits and pieces of information that she overheard about others piqued her interest.  She’d always had the personality, drive, and compassion that one needed in the medical profession.  Now, as she studied the real life dramas, something stirred inside her heart. She felt certain of the career she wished to pursue.  She wanted to be able to show compassion for hurting people like these - compassion like she’d shown for her younger sisters ever since they’d lost their mother.

D.J. sighed.  She still had to face her family’s own crisis.  She walked back to where the family was waiting, and sat down wearily.   She recognized that Michelle was being treated. But, because she’d been listening to so many other people, and asking questions, she felt like everyone was being taken care of but Michelle.  “What’s taking so long?  Michelle’s been in there for hours,” D.J. complained.

“Honey, she took a pretty hard fall.  I’m sure they’re going to come out here and tell us as soon as they know anything,” Danny said.  He hoped no news was good news.

“Okay,” Joey said as he carried a tray.  “I got 2 coffees, a tea, a hot chocolate, and an empty cup. That machine owes me 60 cents!”

Stephanie wearily pointed to a table full of paper cups with different drinks. “Just put it down next to the other stuff we didn’t drink.”  She determined that with all that coffee, she could stay awake for about three days. “And set a world record for consecutive singing of ‘You Are My Sunshine.’”

“All right, everybody, we’re just a little nervous.  We have to find something to do besides pace around this room,” Jesse said.  Soon after Joey agreed, he began pacing again.  He couldn’t even do the book work he’d planned to do.

Becky walked back into the waiting room.  “Any word on Michelle?”

“Last we heard, she was still unconscious.”  Danny realized that had been a couple hours ago, when they had first arrived.  Could she have awakened? He certainly hoped so.

Becky was disappointed.  The hospital was really busy.  But, that was still a long time.  “Well, it could be a long night.”  Everyone groaned as she pulled some coffee out of a bag.

“Just add it to the collection,” Joey said.

“What was she riding off with that girl anyway for?” Jesse wanted to know.

Danny hung his head.  He didn’t want to admit it.  But, he had the same fears as Stephanie.  “I know, I know. She didn’t want to compete. I put too much pressure on her. This is all my fault.”

“No, it’s not your fault; this is nobody’s fault.  We just need to sit down and relax, and you know what we need? Coffee.  We need more coffee.”  Jesse started to go the coffee vending machine.

Danny stopped him, then shook his head.  “How could I have been so foolish.  Why did I pressure her?”

Jesse patted him on the back.  “I don’t know, man.  I’ve been thinking way too little of family myself, though.  There’s nothing more important than that.”

Danny began rambling as a doctor walked toward them.  “I know she was on that trail just because she didn’t want the pressure of having to win.  She’s just like you, Steph.  It’s like when you tried to lose that dance competition so you wouldn’t have to spend all summer in dance school.”  Stephanie nodded sadly.

She quickly noticed the doctor’s smile. “He’s smiling.  She must be okay. She must think I’m such a horrible sister.  I can’t wait to make things right.”

“Mr. Tanner?” the doctor said.

Danny recognized him at Dr. Chris Daniels, a neurologist.   He’d introduced himself right away in the ER. “Right here.   How’s she doing?” Danny said anxiously.

     “Michelle’s out of danger,” Dr. Daniels proclaimed.

Everyone expressed relief.  “When can we take her home?” Danny asked.

The doctor was hesitant.  They’d run their tests.  But, they still needed to be cautious.  “Well, she’s just regained consciousness.  We’d like to keep her overnight for observation.”

“What are we doing here?  Let’s go see her,” Jesse declared.

Dr. Daniels didn’t want things to be too confusing around Michelle yet. “I think for right now, it’d be best if only the immediate family went in.”  He laughed as everyone got up.  He was glad to see such a large, loving family.  It would really help Michelle.

Still, the fewer, the better right now, he thought.  “Perhaps, then just the parents.”  Jesse, Danny, and Joey stepped forward.

Stephanie became nervous.  On TV, asking for only close family meant something was wrong.  “If she’s okay, why can’t we go see her?”

“Calm down, Steph,” D.J. said, though she, too, felt anxious. “If she was out for a couple hours, one nurse said that’s still better than if she were out for a day or more.”

The doctor tried to reassure the family quickly.  There were many good signs.  “The x-rays of Michelle’s neck and spine are negative.   There is no concern about paralysis.   Also, when I say ‘regained consciousness,’ I mean full consciousness.  There is a scale called the ‘Glasgow Coma Scale’ which helps us measure consciousness by how a patient reacts to various things.  Michelle is at the highest points on each part of this scale.   She reacts to and follows instructions.   She seems to be speaking and thinking very clearly. She does this without any outside force. So, that’s why I say she just regained consciousness.  She has reached the highest points on the scale.  In fact, she woke in a daze in the ER.  But, we got too busy to tell you she was waking up,” he spoke apologetically. “I’m sorry.”

The others listened eagerly as he continued.  He didn’t know who these people were.  So, he spoke mostly to Danny.  But, he tilted his head toward the others at times. “The CT scan - that’s short for computer aided tomography - was also excellent.”

Stephanie thought he said “topography.”  “Isn’t that one of those maps where you see all the surface features? How does that fit in the with the body?”

“It’s like that,” he told the family.  “We took pictures inside her brain.  It’s still our biggest concern.  The tissue, bones, and so on showed up in different colors, to put it very simply. We can tell if there is any swelling, bleeding, or other hazards.  There is no internal bleeding anywhere.  Including her brain.  But, the brain can show signs after a concussion.  That’s why we have to admit her.”

D.J. appeared to be pleading.  “But . . . she’ll be okay, right?  I mean, if she’s awake . . . ”  She trailed off, not sure what to think.

The doctor smiled.  “With her history, and the good CT scan, there’s no danger of edema.  That would be an abnormal fluid buildup.   It occurs in hollow places or tissue in the body.. It’s not like if you have a bruise elsewhere, or even a goose egg.  A goose egg on your head is a bump outside the skull.  Edema occurs when there’s a bump inside your skull. If there was edema, we’d need to rush her to surgery.

“We’ll watch her, just to make sure nothing else is wrong.   The lights will be dim in her room.   She’ll need lots of rest, and little activity. That way, her brain will heal properly. Activity and light will become greater. As for other problems, there shouldn’t be any. But we have to watch for signs like continued headaches or vomiting.  Just as a precaution,” he reassured everyone.  He hadn’t wanted to deliver this huge speech.   He’d wanted to speak to Mr. Tanner about something first. But, perhaps this was best. There might be less worry later.

Stephanie feared she knew what “little activity” meant; she feared it meant that Michelle couldn’t have visitors.  But, that wouldn’t stop her.  “Doctor, I know we probably can’t all be in there all the time.  But, I really want to be with her.  I mean, we’ve grown up together, we share a room, we do everything together,” she whined.  “At least, we did,” she pondered.

Danny gave a slight nod.  He knew Stephanie would follow the doctors’ orders.  She would want to help Michelle.  So, he showed a willingness to let her.

The doctor sensed that Stephanie was the most excitable of all of them. And, the situation might make her nervous.  That could make others, including the patient, anxious.  So, he wanted her to know calmness and patience would help the most. He chose his words carefully. “In that case . . . you will assist by just being there.  As will all of you. She will be helped by familiar things.” He smiled.  “But, the most important thing you can have is faith. Be positive about her chances of recovery. Because, her chances for a complete recovery are quite good.”

Danny grinned.  He looked much better than he had several minutes ago.  “Very sound advice.  See, Steph, it’ll be all right.  Now you have something good to call and tell Mandy and your friends while we’re up there.”

Stephanie sped toward the pay phones.  She learned Mandy was at Cassie’s.  Mrs. Wilkins answered when she called Cassie’s home.  Stephanie told her the news.

Cassie and Mandy quickly got on the phone.  “When can we visit?” Mandy wanted to know.   “Cassie made me feel better; you’ll laugh when you hear what she said.”

“Yeah, I’m so glad she’s awake and okay,” Cassie said from another phone.

     “Whoa.  Only close family can visit right now.  Her brain needs time to heal.  So, she can’t have lots of activity,” Stephanie warned them.  She sighed.  “ normal'>I need to tell them this, don’t I?  Even though I don’t want to.”  “There’s still a chance for problems.  Things like throwing up or headaches could be bad signs. But, keep praying.   She shouldn’t have any of that.”

Stephanie hoped she’d sounded upbeat.  She usually felt very positive, because she got excited so quickly. But, there was a down side to that. When something bad happened, she sometimes feared the worst.

“Okay, but we’re going to have the coolest party,” Cassie declared.

     “Yeah.  We’re going to ask Cassie’s mom to help us put it together,” exclaimed Mandy.

Stephanie felt better now.  The girls’ enthusiasm would rub off on anyone.  “At their age, they are almost always positive.  Maybe I should take some lessons from them.”

She called Allie next.  She told Allie to use her three-way calling.  Soon, she was speaking to Allie and Darcy at the same time.

That didn’t go very well.  Her friends tried hard to be supportive.  But, Stephanie couldn’t just announce that Michelle was awake.   Telling Cassie and Mandy had been fun because the news was far better than what they’d feared.  However, with her friends, Stephanie had to go through the same long, depressing story that played over and over in her mind.

She tried to recall past problems as she spoke.  “ This is just like when you accidentally cut one of Uncle Jesse’s sideburns.  He broke both his arms going to the barber.  And, you blamed yourself for days, when it wasn’t your fault,” she reminded herself.

But then, she considered, she hadn’t fought with him.  Her fight with Michelle, though, was inexcusable. She stated that it had only one conclusion.  “Michelle must think I’m a wicked, rotten sister right now.  How could I ever have refused to forgive her?  I did the same types of things to D.J., after all,” Stephanie griped.

Allie understood.  “Hey, you just got too excited.”

“Yeah, you won’t say that anymore.  And, now you have another chance,” Darcy replied.

Stephanie wondered if she deserved another chance.  “Guys, I don’t know how close I came to being prophetic with that ‘never’ business.”

Darcy said, “That doesn’t matter.  What counts is that Stephanie Judith Tanner is going to make a fresh start.”

The girl had slept a little.  She awoke in a room.  A tube was connected to her.

That nurse . . . what was her name? . . . spoke again.   “How do you feel?”

“Okay, but my head still hurts.”  She told herself that she was right.  That was a nurse.  But, she couldn’t remember anything else about her.  Come to think of it, she couldn’t remember anything about anyone - including herself. That seemed strange, considering that she knew what a nurse was.  That was someone who worked in a hospital.

“I’ll see about getting you something for that,” the nurse promised Michelle. “The doctor is coming in a couple minutes with some of your family.”

The nurse left.  A man entered dressed as a doctor.  Three other men entered, too.  One of the three sat beside her.  normal'>“He has a big nose,” the girl considered.

“Hi, honey.  How do you feel?” Big Nose whispered.

“Okay, but my head hurts,” the girl answered.

Big Nose smiled.  “Look, sweetie, you had an accident, and you fell of your horse.  And, you hit your head.  I’m so sorry I put so much pressure on you.”

“That’s okay,” the girl remarked.  She tried to make sense of things.  “Who are you?”

Thoughts raced through Danny’s mind as he pondered the question. Michelle responded to him. She could see where he was. So, what kind of question was that?

He remained calm.  They had detected no swelling, bleeding, or other internal injuries.   But, inside, he began to fear there was something terribly wrong.


Big Nose continued to speak softly.  “Michelle, it’s Daddy.”

The girl thought for a moment.  Too much thinking hurt her head more.  However, she could handle this much.  All she had to do was place two names.  And, one had been given to her.  “Okay, you’re Daddy,” she mumbled, pointing to Big Nose.  She pointed to herself next.  “That means I must be Michelle.”  normal'>“Okay, that helps.  Now, I know my name.”

Big Nose - the one called “Daddy” - continued to hold her hand. The next man to speak had very fancy hair.  It looked like it was almost painted in place, it was so perfect.  “Doc, what’s going on here?  She’s completely out of it,” the Guy with the Hair asked. To Jesse, it didn’t seem like she was very far up on that coma scale.

The doctor explained.  “Well, memory loss is very common with head injuries.”

Daddy stood.  He looked shocked. “How long is it gonna last?” he inquired.

“Well, usually it’s just temporary,” the doctor told the men.

     “Usually?!” exclaimed a man with dirty blonde hair.

The Guy with the Hair spoke next.  “So, what are we supposed to do?  I mean, how does it get better?”

“For right now, the best thing you can do is treat Michelle as normally as possible.  Surround her with familiar things and go on with your regular activities,” the doctor said.

Daddy asked the doctor, “Is that what you meant downstairs by ‘familiar things’?”

He nodded slightly.  “She was asked some questions about herself.  And, we feared it might be the case,” the doctor remarked.  He went on to explain that, “Michelle can now follow commands, whereas when she began waking up she could only note what hurt.  She was confused earlier, but she is now completely orientated.   She communicates very well. The part of Michelle’s brain which has been affected controls memory.  So, she has no memory of herself, her family, or her life.  They’re still in her mind,” he emphasized.   “So, they should come back eventually.”

The Guy with the Hair and the Blonde One left.  Daddy sat next to Michelle and held her hand.   “Hi, honey.  I know this is probably a scary time.”

“Only a little,” Michelle muttered.  “People are nice here.  Wherever ‘here’ is.”

He nodded and grinned sadly.  “Well, I’m your daddy.  My name is Danny Tanner. And you’re Michelle Tanner.” Danny chuckled.   “You know, it’s just like when I first held you in my arms, the day you were born.  I was introducing you to the world.  Except now, you’re eight years old, you talk instead of crying, and you have a full head of hair.”

Michelle grinned.  It sounded like she had a nice dad.  “Who were those other men?”

“That’s Joey and your Uncle Jesse.”  Danny smiled and stroked her head.  “Do you want me to tell you any more?”

“Maybe later.”  Michelle closed her eyes. She needed time to think about all that had happened in the last few minutes.  She also wanted to figure out how to remember names.   Until she saw faces more often, she would have lots of trouble doing that.

After a while, the Guy with the Hair entered the room with a new lady. “Listen, Becky,” she heard him say. “I think they should come, anyway. Just for a couple minutes.”

The lady with long, brown hair slowly nodded her head.  “That’s your Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky,” Danny whispered to Michelle.

Becky folded her arms.  “Well . . . I suppose.  We’ll just have to tell them not to make too much noise.”

“Right, it’ll be okay.  They need to understand what’s happened,” Jesse explained.

“What did happen,” Michelle muttered.  “You mean about me losing my memory?”

“Hey, Michelle,” Becky remarked.  She smiled sweetly and sat beside Michelle.  “We were just talking about your cousins.  They’re only three.  But, your Uncle Jesse thinks they should come visit you.”

Michelle shrugged a little.  “I don’t mind.” “I just hope I don’t have to remember their names.   I’m having enough trouble with Jesse and Joey. They both start with ‘J.’”

Becky nodded.  “Good. I told them you had trouble remembering.  They shouldn’t be a problem.  But, tell us if it’s too much for you.  I’m going to pick them up at your friend Cassie’s house.  Her mom’s watching them.  Then we’ll be with you while you eat dinner, okay?”

Michelle grinned at the long-haired lady.  “Sure.”  She wasn’t sure what to expect.  She imagined three-year-olds could be pretty wild sometimes.  “I wish I could remember them.”

A girl with long, blonde hair entered a couple minutes later. “Hi, Michelle.   Remember me from earlier,” Stephanie asked. Another girl with light brown hair followed.

    “Wait, let me think.”  Michelle tried hard to remember, but she couldn’t.  The first girl had appeared for a second.  She’d sounded really remorseful.  Then she got scared when she learned Michelle couldn’t remember.   Michelle knew that much.  She simply had no memories from before she awakened. So, there were too many new people at once.

She held a hand to her head.  “Tell me. I need to start writing these down.”

“That’s right, Michelle,” Danny said.  “The doctors don’t want you to concentrate too hard for a while. That’s so your brain can heal.”

     “Stephanie.  And this is your other sister, D.J.,” Stephanie remarked.  She pulled a pen and pad off the table and handed them to Michelle.

“Joey’s bringing a suitcase full of your clothes and things,” D.J. informed her.

Michelle looked at her sisters.  “Wait, how do I tell you apart?  Oh, yeah, you have really long hair,” she told Stephanie.  Michelle wrote that on the pad.  “And you were . . . Stephanie.”

D.J. couldn’t help but chuckle sadly.  Stephanie began to look depressed.

Michelle noticed that, too.  “Are you giong to run out of here crying again?”

“No. I’m done with that.” She patted Michelle on the head. After the initial shock, she realized things weren’t so bad.  Michelle was fully alert.  That was a great sign. “I’m just going to help you get better.”

Michelle wondered how she knew how to write.  And, how had she learned to read what she wrote? She understood quite a few things. She supposed that made sense. How old did her dad say she was? Eight?  She couldn’t even remember that on her own.

“And you’re . . . ”

“D.J.,” spoke the oldest Tanner girl.  She felt as nervous as Stephanie.  However, she hid it better.  She knew Stephanie might turn to her to see how to react.

Michelle wrote that.  “D.J.. You have shorter, darker hair. And it curls at the end.”

Michelle thought for a moment.  Then, she saw Nicky and Alex enter with Becky.  They looked identical!  “I won’t even try to tell them apart,” she said in as loud a voice as she’d used since awakening.  She stil sounded tired, though.

Becky laughed.  “Their preschool teachers say the same thing.”

“It’s okay, Michelle,” Nicky said lovingly.  “Mommy told us what happened.”

Alex nodded.  “You can call us anything. Just don’t call us late for supper.”

Michelle wanted to be helpful, even though she didn’t know these people. “If I find out when supper is, I’ll tell you.”

Jesse entered with a different nurse.  She laid a tray in front of Michelle and left.  He turned to the boys.  “Okay, come sit on my lap.  We’re keeping Michelle company while she eats.”

“Why is it nighttime in here, Daddy,” Alex wondered as they sat.

Becky told them, “Michelle’s brain needs to heal.  Remember how I said you had to talk nice and quiet? Well, bright light would hurt her brain just like lots of noise would.”

Danny explained that the light would get brighter and brighter. “They’re monitoring it, Michelle. So, they can keep giving your mind more to handle.”

D.J. was amazed.  “You know, I wouldn’t mind going into nursing.  Although, being a doctor would be nice, too.  I’ve learned so much in just the last few hours.  It’s fascinating.”

“D.J. graduates from high school in about a month,” Becky explained. “You have plenty of time to decide, Deej.”

“I know.  If I take all my requirement my first year, I can go toward pre-med or nursing after that,” D.J. said.

D.J.’s eyes lit up.  Michelle wondered what she was pulling out of her purse.  “Say, you probably don’t remember what you look like.  Would you like to see?”

Michelle shrugged.  “Sure, why not?”

“You’re a very beautiful girl,” Danny said.

D.J. handed Michelle a mirror.  “Here, you can use my compact.”

Stephanie chuckled.  “Deej, she can’t drive yet,” she kidded her.

Michelle grinned at the joke.  “Nice,” she said, as she handed D.J. the mirror.  “Funny joke, too.”

Michelle pondered the reflection.  She had strawberry blonde hair.  She looked pretty, just like her dad said.  But, she hadn’t even remembered her appearance.

She ate while the others chatted.  Her family certainly seemed nice.  They told funny jokes, too.  They provided her with great company.  So did Joey, when he came with the suitcase.

However, she couldn’t remember them.  The annoying part was, she could remember so many facts.   She knew how to count, read, and write.   She knew about everything except herself.



Stephanie woke suddenly at the sound of her scream.  She sniffled and panted heavily.  “No, it couldn’t be, could it?  Didn’t I just talk with Michelle this past evening?”

She peeked over at Michelle’s bed.  She yelped.  It was empty.

She rushed over to D.J.’s room.  “Deej, wake up,” cried a panicked Stephanie as she shook her older sister. “Tell me it isn’t true!”

“It isn’t true,” mumbled D.J.  She slowly opened her eyes.  Her voice had said something wasn’t true.  But, she didn’t know what or why.  She certainly couldn’t remember dreaming.  But, maybe she had been.

She turned, noticing Stephanie beside her bed.  D.J. pushed herself up on her elbows.  She gazed at Stephanie, unsure if she’d spoken in her sleep or not. “What did I just say wasn’t true?”

Stephanie grumbled slightly and grabbed D.J.’s phone.  “I’m calling the hospital.”

D.J. thought about halting her sister, then decided against it. She knew Stephanie needed to hear first hand that things were okay.

Stephanie spoke quickly when the receptionist picked up the phone. “Hello?  I’m calling about . . .  Why are you asking me the time?  What do I look like, a wristwatch?  Okay, I know you can’t see what I look like.  Just connect me to Michelle Tanner’s room.”  She looked up.  “They’re putting me through.”  The phone rang a couple times.  “Hello?”

Very tiredly, Joey spoke.  “Yeah, what is it, Steph?”  He made a snoring noise.

“Listen, Michelle’s okay, isn’t she?  I mean, I know she can’t remember anyone, but otherwise.  When I woke up I thought . . . that is, I had this dream, and it seemed so real, and . . . well, I think it was a dream.   Please, tell me it was a dream!” Stephanie begged him.

     “Stephanie,” interrupted Joey, “it’s okay.   She’s all right.  She’s sleeping right now.  They’ve got monitors on her.  She’ll be here a few days to rest and make sure nothing else is wrong.   You saw her this evening, remember?”

“I know.  My nightmare just felt so real.”  She shook her head. “I haven’t had one of those in years.  Maybe not since I was six or seven.”

Joey told her Danny was sleeping, too.  “Michelle’s fine.  Are you guys stopping tomorrow morning?  We could use some clothing.  That is, clean clothing.”

“Yeah, D.J. and I’ll stop off early.  Cassie’s mom invited us to church with them.  Listen, I’ll be down there every free moment. I can do my homework down there,” Stephanie told him.

     “Great.  Now, can I get back to sleep?  There’s a really nice single nurse down here about who I was just dreaming.”

Jesse entered the bedroom.  He’d heard a scream.  D.J. explained that Stephanie had a bad dream.  As Stephanie hung up, Jesse spoke solemnly.  “I know it’s scary, Steph.”

“Uncle Jesse, I just can’t believe I treated her like that!   I could have had to live my life with one of the last things I ever said to her being ‘I’m never going to forgive you.’”

D.J. put an arm around Stephanie.  “Steph, thirteen is a very tough age.  All this boy stuff was as exciting and confusing to me at that age. I did pretty crazy things because of boys, too.”

Stephanie stood and gestured with her right hand.  “And what did you ever do?  Convinced me to lie to Dad with you so I couldn’t go out for a day. Got mad enough you wanted and got your own room.  Tried to steal a boy I thought I had a crush on when I was ten.  Did you ever stop speaking to me for more than a couple hours? Ever refuse to forgive me?”

     “Stephanie, you’re overreacting,” D.J. told her as she stood wearily.  “You’ve always gotten a lot more excited about everything.  So, you said one little thing.  Michelle understood.”

“Well, I don’t!”

Jesse sighed as he put a hand on Stephanie’s shoulder.   He’d been thinking of a response.   As Stephanie spoke, he sensed her problem right away. “Steph, let’s look at it this way. What’s my favorite saying?”

Stephanie looked at him as though he’d grown two heads. “What on Earth does Elvis have to do with this?”  Jesse was a huge fan of singer Elvis Presley.

“Okay, not that stuff.  I’m talking about ‘have mercy.’”

Still upset, Stephanie asked “what about it?”

“Look, you know we forgive you.  But, let’s assume just for a moment,” he assured D.J., glancing briefly at her.  “Let’s assume that you have done something that should not be forgiven.”

Stephanie breathed deeply, trying to calm down.  “Okay.”

     “Okay.  Now, I like to say ‘have mercy’ when I’m getting a big hug or kiss, especially from Becky. Right?”  It was true.  “There’s a reason for this.  You see, mercy is when you don’t get punishment that you deserve.  Like you assuming you deserve to never be forgiven. It’s like grace, which is goodness we don’t deserve.  They’re special. Do you know why?”

Stephanie was intrigued.  She rarely saw the philosophical side of her Uncle Jesse.  “Why?”

“Because we give them knowing the other person isn’t perfect, or deserving. We give mercy before the other person even tries to get better.  Because, mercy and grace are the key parts to true, unconditional love.”   Stephanie nodded slowly.  “You know you can just ask and the Lord will forgive you. He’s given you mercy. You know we forgive you. You’ve even received that from Michelle. She didn’t hate you when you said that. She forgave you.   So, you’re forgiven by all those.   Right?”

Stephanie thought for a moment.  Yes, everyone else forgave her.  Michelle was her main worry.  She probably thought Stephanie hated her.  “I don’t know how Michelle can forgive me.  But, I wondered the same thing about Dad when I drove Joey’s car into the kitchen when I was eight, didn’t I,” she spoke absently.  “And he still loved me.  Okay, I guess you’re right, Uncle Jesse.  Even Michelle probably forgives me.”

“So, the only person refusing to forgive Stephanie Tanner is herself. All I’m asking, Steph, is that you have mercy on yourself.  Forgive yourself.  Then you’ll feel free to do what’s needed to help Michelle.”

Stephanie was amazed.  “Wow, that’s profound, Uncle Jesse.  Wheredid you hear that?” she inquired.

Jesse asked if they remembered hearing how he’d get yelled at so much. D.J. vaguely recalled. “Yeah. You said your dad could never let things go and forgive right away.”

“That’s right.”  He turned back to Stephanie.  “I might have really beat myself up mentally after some of that.  I was kind of rebellious as it was.  But, I might have decided it wasn’t worth staying on the right path at all, except for one person.  That one person was your mother.”

     “Really?”  Stephanie suddenly realized she didn’t know how his favorite saying began.

Jesse found it hard to reveal his feelings.  He hadn’t even told Becky all of this.  But, he’d put an incredible amount of time into his nieces. He felt comfortable telling them things like this.  “Stephanie, Pam always had a smile for everyone.  And she told me it didn’t matter how mad people were at me.  There was always mercy around if I just asked for it. First, there was mercy from the Lord, when we merely repent and trust Him to save us.  But, then, there was mercy from others.  I didn’t have to feel miserable after my dad screamed his head off. Because mercy is the key part of true love.  And, there’d always be someone who loved me no matter what.  Even if the only person right then was her.”

He told her Pam forgave him no matter what he did to her.   “It’s not just an Elvis saying to me.   ‘Have mercy’ reminds me of the family and other great things I’ve gained.  I’ve let good things happen even if I didn’t think I deserved them right then.   But, it also reminds me of Pam.  It’s something of hers I’ll always cherish.”

D.J. nodded slowly.  “You know, now that I think about it, I kind of remember Mom saying ‘have mercy’ a few times. I was old enough to remember that. But, I never thought . . . ”

Stephanie considered his words.  She often missed her mom.  But, for the first time in a while, she truly pondered what her mom would do now.   “Next, I’ll be talking to Mr. Bear again,” she said to herself, thinking of a favorite stuffed animal.

Actually, that probably would help her fight the loneliness.   But, first she needed that mercy.

She couldn’t understand forgiveness well.  She’d wondered how others could forgive her at times. But, they had.   She’d received mercy with blind faith.   Even now, forgiveness and mercy were hard for her to comprehend.  Maybe that’s why she’d thought she couldn’t forgive Michelle.  She couldn’t totally understand how it worked.

But, understanding it didn’t matter.  Her Uncle Jesse hadn’t understood it, either.  He’d just accepted mercy.  She decided thatshe should, too.  And, then she would learn to give it to others, like Michelle.   “Thanks, Uncle Jesse.  You’re right.  Whether I deserve forgiveness or not doesn’t matter.  I’ll have mercy on myself.”

She closed her eyes and glanced downward for a moment.   When she raised her head, she instantly felt much better.

She speedily turned to D.J..  Stephanie was so excited.  She knew she could do a lot now that she wasn’t mad at herself.  “Now, Deej, I am going to do one of two things. Help Michelle get her memory back, or if I can’t, start building the six million memory girl.”   To her sister’s quizzical look, she spoke confidently. “Even if she has no memories, we can rebuild her.”

Stephanie walked happily toward her bedroom.  She felt lonely again when she laid down, though.  She rose, and walked over to a shelf.  “Hello, Mr. Bear,” she said to the brown animal in the detective’s outfit.  She picked him up and hugged him.  Why not, she said to herself..  Talking to a bear for a few minutes couldn’t hurt.  “You and I have some catching up to do.  And then, we’re going to help Michelle.”


Stephanie walked into the hospital room with D.J. Sunday afternoon. She felt much better than she had last night.  Forgiving herself had helped.  Church had helped a lot, too.

Of course, Cassie had persisted in asking on the way home why Stephanie went up to the altar and prayed.  She laughed at the memory.  Cassie was just like Michelle.  Little kids loved to know every detail of big kids’ lives.

The sad part was, right now her little sister would give anything to know about her own life.

Aunt Becky and Danny were in the room.  Joey was watching the twins while Jesse did some work at his club. Stephanie carried Mr. Bear into the brighter room.  “Hi, Michelle.”

“Hi . . . ” Michelle thought a minute, then grabbed a sheet of paper. “Stephanie.”

     “Right.  And this is D.J..” The young teen took charge of the visit.  She handed the bear to Michelle.  “I brought you something that might look familiar.”

“Nice bear.  Is he mine?” Her voice was much more lively than it had been the previous day..

Stephanie shook her head.  She took it back. “Actually, he’s mine. D.J. has one of your animals.” D.J. laid a stuffed panda bear by Michelle.  “What do you think my bear’s name is?”

Michelle shrugged.  “How should I know what you named your bear?  I can’t even remember your name.  I’ve been told it, but I can’t even remember mine being Michelle.”

“This is Mr. Bear.  Mom gave him to me when you were born.  And, you’ve been wanting him ever since you could crawl.  I talked to him for a while last night.”  She felt odd admitting that.  But, she’d needed it.  Besides, Michelle might remember her doing that when she was little.

“Do you usually talk to him?”

How would she explain this?  She didn’t want to tell her about her dream.  It might make Michelle anxious.  She simply mentioned the time after the nightmare.  “I guess I was lonesome; lonesome for you.  Sometimes we don’t know what we have till we lose it.”

“Do I have any favorites?” Michelle inquired.

Stephanie wasn’t sure which would be her favorite.  “I’d guess Peaches here would be yours.  You like to give your animals voices and have plays and stuff.” She described several other animals. She was disappointed when none rang a bell.

“Nice try, hon,” Danny whispered to her.  “You do a good job of not forcing her to think.  She’s been having some headaches.  They don’t think it’s serious, though; they’re not bad.”

Stephanie changed the subject to avoid worrying about those headaches. She described several family vacations. Michelle frowned.   Nothing came to mind when she was told of Hawaii, or Disney World, or even her home.  She couldn’t remember being anyplace.  And yet, she knew where some places were.

Stephanie sighed.  She muttered to Aunt Becky, “Knowing facts probably doesn’t mean she’s any closer to remembering us. Unless we . . . ” she spoke pensively before trailing off.

“I have heard of people getting memory back by reliving something,” Becky pointed out.  “But the incident would have to be recreated almost exactly, I think.”

“Yes,” spoke Danny.  “There are plenty of ways which are less expensive than flying off somewhere.”

Stephanie sighed.  She wished something would jog Michelle’s memory.  “Oh, well, at least you enjoy stories about this stuff.”

“Sure,” Michelle agreed.  “It sounds like we’re real friends.”

Stephanie kissed her on the forehead.  “I want us to be really good friends.  I mean it.”

Stephanie visited for a while.  However, she still felt restless after going home.  She needed to be doing something for Michelle.  So she finally called Mandy’s house.  She wondered if Michelle’s friends wanted to shop for their party.

Once they arrived at the Tanners’, she gave Cassie and Mandy a clever party theme. “Michelle’s first day of Kindergarten, she was worried about making friends,” Stephanie explained. She held her thumbs to her head and held her fingers out like antlers.  “She talked in a low, comical voice that sounded like Bullwinkle the Moose. Like this,” she said in the funny voice.

“Oh, yeah, I remember that,” Cassie shrieked excitedly.   “And, didn’t she get scared, and then you came and helped her make friends?”

Stephanie nodded.  “I’d forgotten about that part.  But, now that she needs me again, she doesn’t even know me,” she said sadly.  “Oh, well, let’s go shopping.  That’ll ease my mind.”

The girls were thrilled to shop with Stephanie.  If they couldn’t visit Michelle, at least they’d be having fun with her sister.  Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky took the three girls to the mall.

They’d shopped for about half an hour when the younger girls saw a classmate. “Hey, Jeff,” they shouted, running up to him.  They told him about the accident and what had happened since.

Stephanie grinned as Jeff and the girls ran up to her in the store. Jeff Farrington was a clown like Joey. But, she knew from babysitting him and his younger brothers that he could be sweet and caring, just like Danny. Jeff simply used his comedy to get attention.

Michelle and Jeff weren’t really close yet.  But, she could imagine Michelle and Jeff becoming great friends and even grade school sweethearts.  They would be the kind of couple who got their names on the radio for being married for sixty or seventy years.

“Hey, Stephanie,” Jeff said.  “I guess it wouldn’t be too nice to say Michelle probably still remembers more about math than I do, huh?”

Stephanie smirked.  “Actually, Jeff, the only thing she forgets about is her own life.  So, I’m sure she does.”  Jeff didn’t get very good grades.  He excelled at sports, though.

Jeff peeked around to make sure none of his friends were near. “Well, I’m really sorry to hear about Michelle.”  He blushed slightly as he added, “I like her.  She’s really cool.”

Stephanie laughed inwardly.  She’d suddenly found the perfect thing to kid Michelle about if she couldn’t get Michelle to stop teasing any other way.  Unfortunately, that brought back to her mind her earlier refusal to forgive Michelle.

“You should have seen Stephanie today,” Cassie told Jeff.   “I think she was actually crying.”

Stephanie blushed.  normal'>“Michelle’s friends are embarrassing me just like Michelle would. First they scream, then Cassie says I was crying.  Here’s my big test.” She told herself to remain silent.. She glanced around, hoping there were no cute boys.  normal'>“Phew, what a relief.”

Mandy turned to Stephanie after helping to pay for several things. “You look troubled.”

The girls walked out of the store.  “Cassie . . . ”  How would Stephanie explain?    She really hadn’t wanted any reminders of her prior attitude toward Michelle.  Jeff providing her with fodder to kid Michelle with had been bad enough.

Stephanie finally said, “Look.  What I went forward and prayed about, it’s really personal.   Only a few in my family, and then Allie and Darcy, know how I felt.  So, I don’t want anyone to mention that.  I’m forgiven now. I left it at the cross. So, it’s behind all of us now.” With their hectic schedules, she might not make it back to church for a while.  But, she planned to keep praying.  And, she’d try to remember to be thankful for Michelle once she got better.

Mandy held her thumbs like antlers.  Stephanie tried to stop her.  But, Mandy even spoke in the Bullwinkle voice.  “Sure, Stephanie.  We’ll keep quiet.”

Cassie agreed, copying Mandy.  “Yeah. It’s going to be so much fun when she comes back.”

Stephanie was mortified.  Andrew was walking toward her.  And, these girls were acting like fools.

Andrew smiled.  “Hey . . . uh . . . I heard about Michelle’s accident . . . ”

     Stephanie’s mind was on Michelle’s friends.   “Sorry, don’t mind these girls.  Uh . . . ”  How should she approach this?

     “Stephanie’s getting party stuff for Michelle,” Cassie explained like Bullwinkle.

Andrew nodded quickly.  He was thankful for the comment.  Now, he didn’t have to ask about Michelle.  “Yeah, I just stopped because I saw you.  I wanted to say I’m sorry about your sister.”

     “Thanks.  She’s getting better,” Stephanie remarked.  Now that her mouth had started, she began rambling.  “She’s okay, but she doesn’t remember anyone.  I’m giong to do some homework there.  It’ll feel like our room to her, then.  She can’t take really bright light, but they’re increasing it. It’s like when your electricity goes out and you do your homework by this dim candle.  And, you get annoyed by the flickering, or you sneeze and you have to light it again.  Am I talking too much?”  She could tell she was giddy over this guy.

“No. Hey I’m glad she’s awake. Say . . . ” He paused, unsure of what to say.  Finally, he said, “I kind of figured you wouldn’t feel like practicing today.   So . . . how about one more practice, before we do the scene?  Could I come over sometime this week?”  Stephanie agreed.

Mandy held her hands like antlers and spoke.  “We’re all going to talk like this for Michelle’s party. Stephanie will, too.” Stephanie’s face felt red hot.

     “Really?”  Andrew sounded hurried as he said, “Sorry, I have go.  I just had to say ‘hi.’”

Stephanie stared at Andrew as he walked away.  Had Michelle’s friends chased Andrew away, just like Michelle had? True, he’d sounded busy. But, she couldn’t help but wonder.

She grew increasingly upset.  So, she closed her eyes.  “I’m not angry,” she mumbled, coaching herself.

She motioned Mandy and Cassie over to a bench.  “Look, doing silly stuff like that . . . I’ve told Michelle. It’s not that I don’t like . . . ” She sighed.  “Well, I don’t know what to say.”

She studied their puzzled faces.  They didn’t understand how she felt about boys.  Maybe she didn’t either, in a way.  She would just have to try and explain things better to Michelle, so her sister wouldn’t act like that.  And, she would try hard to put up with much more around Michelle, because she was younger.  Stephanie knew she could put up with Michelle easier now that she’d committed herself to it. She wasn’t going to rely on her own strength, though.  That was where she’d failed the last time she tried to totally change her image.

Her mind turned to Andrew, and her face broke into a broad grin. “I should have one more chance with him.  Maybe it wasn’t so bad.  He’s come back once.”

But, how would she get Michelle’s memory back?  She felt she had to show Michelle she’d changed. And, the best way to do that was to help her regain her memory.

What could she help Michelle relive, though?  There had to be something . . .

She noticed a pet shop several stores down the hall.   She walked into the store, and hoped she wouldn’t seem too embarrassed.  She turned back to Cassie and Mandy.  “Watch for Jesse or Becky, you two.  They’ll be here in a minute.  Let them know where I am.”

Becky and the girls walked in behind Stephanie a moment later, as she spoke to the owner.  He was totally shocked. “Yes, that’s what I said. Five hundred goldfish. Someone will be here to get them in a few days.”  “ normal'>I need to stop feeling embarrassed by this sort of silly thing. Then, I’ll feel more comfortable around Michelle,” she reasoned.

Becky raised her eyebrows as Jesse entered.  He took the girls to see some of the pets.   “Five hundred goldfish?  What’s that for, a 1960s college reunion?”

“I don’t know if you remember, Aunt Becky,” Stephanie explained. “But, Michelle killed a goldfish in the bathtub when she gave her first pet a bubble bath.”

“So . . . you want to recreate that?” came a dumbfounded Becky.

     “Sure.  It’ll make a great welcome home dinner.”

    Becky stifled laughs with her hand.  She knew Stephanie remembered her comment about reliving things. “Steph, if you want to buy a goldfish and do what Michelle did with Martin, that’s fine.  But, for something like that to jog her memory, it has to be closer than a fish fry.”

     “Actually, I was thinking a souffle would look more like a bubble bath.”  If anything did, of

course.  It would be hard to make a dish that looked a lot like a bubble bath.

Becky couldn’t help but chuckle again.  “I don’t think Ichthyocide is necessary.”

Stephanie joined in the laughter.  It was a crazy idea. “I don’t even think it’s a word,” she confessed.

“She’ll recover her memory on her own, I’m sure.”

“In case she doesn’t,” Stephanie began.  She pulled several folded sheets of paper from her purse.   “Which do you think is the best way to teach her? In time sequence?   Or doing major reports on each family member and friend?”

Becky took and examined the sheets carefully.  “Stephanie . . . these look like a teacher’s lesson plans.”

Stephanie was proud of herself.  She was finding many possible ways to help.  Even if she’d been forgiven, she still felt she had be active in Michelle’s recovery.  “I know. I’m devoting my summer to helping her. After all, what if it’s my fault that she can’t remember?  What if she doesn’t want to remember because she thinks I hate her?”

Becky smiled and put a hand on Stephanie’s shoulder.  The young teen was a lot calmer.  She wasn’t mad at herself anymore.  But, she was still putting lots more pressure on herself than was needed.  “Steph, Michelle doesn’t think of an ‘I’ll never forgive you’ the way you think she does. She figures it just means you don’t talk.  She doesn’t think of you as an enemy.

“When I was around her age, I had a big fight with my mom.   I wrote her a note saying ‘I hate you,’ but you know how I signed it?  I signed it ‘Love, Rebecca.’ I didn’t think of hate as hate. I just couldn’t express well enough that I disliked a decision she made, or whatever it was And, my mom worked with me and helped me to put into words what I really felt, rather than using words that hurt like that.

“Steph, Michelle can’t remember because of her head trauma, and only that. Maybe the problem is that she’s not in her home.  Maybe once she comes home, it’ll become easy to remember.”

Stephanie sighed.  Maybe she was still too hard on herself.  But, she couldn’t help but feel for Michelle.  “I have to do something, Aunt Becky.  She’s my sister.”

“We all feel that way.  We all want to put forth lots of effort.  After all, the doctor’s right.  Nobody knows how the mind works.”  She thought for a moment, then finally suggested a compromise.  “Let’s cancel the goldfish fry.  We’ll buy a goldfish and name it Martin in a few days.  I’ll let Nicky and Alex give it a bubble bath with Michelle, if she hasn’t regained her memory.” Both snickered at the proposal. “It’s bizarre.   But, I can tell you need to do something. I don’t think you have to be doing this, though.  It was just like with my mom and me.  One moment of anger isn’t going to replace eight years of love.”

No, Stephanie pondered, it probably wouldn’t.  Still, she knew things could be much better between her and Michelle.  And, she was determined to make it happen.


Stephanie and Cassie sat in a car with Mrs. Wilkins on Monday.   They were going to visit Michelle.   Mandy looked unsure if she wanted to come.

“Come on,” Cassie urged her.  “My mom will be right there.  So will Stephanie.”

Mandy hesitated.  “I guess I’m still scared.”  She finally sat beside Cassie.

     Stephanie glanced into the back seat. “It’ll be okay, Mandy. She’ll just be meeting you for the first time again.”

“Is that what you’re scared of, dear?” Mrs. Wilkins wondered as they rode. “Are you afraid of what Michelle will be like?”

“I promise you, she’s the same great friend you’ve always had,” Stephanie stated.  It amazed her how she could see some of Michelle’s personality even now.

Cassie explained.  “It’s the same person. Mom says it’s like a CD. You know how you can tell it to just play song three, or song sixteen, or whatever?  Well, all the stuff for who people are is gone. It’s like what happens if one of those tracks is messed up.  But, the tracks telling her how to act, see, hear, and think are still there.”

Mandy nodded slowly.  The problem wasn’t like her grandpa’s friend’s back in New Jersey.  His friend had gotten kind of mean when he had Alzheimer’s Disease. He did that because he was scared. His brain made him do crazy things. But, Michelle didn’t have a disease.

Mandy began to reminisce.  She told the others about her grandfather’s friend.  “I know not all Alzheimer’s patients get like that.  Moving in with a grandma made me think of that, though. What if she got like he did, I wondered?  lang=NL style='font-family:Arial;mso-ansi-language:NL'>I’d met her. style='font-family: Arial'>But, I hadn’t been around her.  That’s why I clung to Michelle so much at first. She was my only real friend out here.”

Cassie nodded.  “I know I didn’t make it easy on you.”  She remembered when they’d first met.  “I was angry that anyone would take Michelle away from me.  It wasn’t even Michelle’s fault at first.  But, Michelle and I had so much fun together.   She was so much closer than anyone I knew. I didn’t think it was fair to have to share.  Now, I’ve learned sharing can be fun, too.”  She lowered her head. “Mandy . . . if I never said it before, I’m sorry for how I acted.”

Mandy reached over, and they embraced.  “It’s okay.”  She thought Cassie might have said that once.  But, it didn’t matter if she hadn’t.  They were great friends now.

The girls wondered why Stephanie looked so proud.  “It’s just that you two are becoming best friends, too,” the teen explained.  “We always hug a lot in our family.  But, we’ve done so much more of that the last few days.  Michelle’s accident is making us evencloser.”

Mrs. Wilkins agreed.  “I think when Michelle gets her memory back, you will be, too.  You won’t just be two great friends of Michelle’s. You’ll be best friends, also.” Cassie and Mandy smiled at each other.

The Guy with the Hair was speaking.  “I’ve been talkin’ with the band, Danny,” Michelle heard him say as she awoke. “I’m letting them find another lead for all but the really special occasions.  That wrestling thing with Joey we were giong to do for TV, that’s definitely not going to happen.  I’m letting Joey take the radio show this week, while I find someone to run the day to day operations at the Smash Club.  I want to find some to keep it totally clean and family oriented.  But, I just haven’t been putting family first, myself.”

Michelle thought to herself.  “Okay, the Guy with the Hair is Jesse, not Joey.  Let’s see if I can remember that without looking.”  Now, which one was her uncle?  That still confused her.

Stephanie entered the room.  Two other girls were with her.  “ normal'>I wonder who that is.  More cousins?  They said I didn’t have any other brothers or sisters.”

     “Michelle,” Stephanie said.  “These are your best friends, Cassie and Mandy. They came to visit you.”

The girls each handed Michelle a card.  “Tomorrow’s Tuesday.  The whole class is making stuff for you,” the girl with the ponytail said.

     Michelle’s face brightened as she thanked them. They got excited.

However, her next words stunned them back into reality.  “What class is that?”

The curly haired one spoke next.  “Uh . . . Michelle . . . it’s Mrs. Wexley’s class.”  Michelle’s face looked blank.  “Third grade.”  That didn’t work, either.

Curly Hair became desperate.  “Fraser Street Elementary School?”  “I thought it was just others she didn’t know.  Does she forget all about herself, too?”

Michelle smiled apologetically.  “Sorry. Doesn’t ring a bell.” She paused a moment. These girls seemed nice enough to answer a question.  “Can I ask you something?”

The room fell silent.  The girls looked nervous.  Finally, Curly Hair got up the nerve to speak.  “What is it?”

“Well . . . Stephanie . . . that’s it, isn’t it?  Stephanie?”  She saw the teenager nod.  “Stephanie didn’t say which of you was which.”

     “Oh, at least that’s not hard.”  “Sorry,” Pony Tail replied.  “I’m Cassie, and this is Mandy.”

Mandy began to understand.  “ She probably feels like I did when I moved here.”  “I’ll bet everything’s so strange right now.  You feel like you’re on a different planet.”  Michelle nodded toward Mandy.  “I felt the same way when I moved here.  And, you know what?”

Michelle was curious.  She enjoyed hearing about her life.  So many things sounded so nice.  “What?”

“I had one special friend who made me feel at home right away. That special friend was you.”

Michelle grinned.  “Glad I could help. I wish I could remember that,” she said dejectedly.  normal'>“Hhearing all of this and not remembering anything is getting a little frustrating.  Oh, well, maybe I’ll get better when these people take me home.”

“You’ll remember.  Someday,” Stephanie remarked.  She looked and sounded disappointed.

Danny slipped out of the room to talk to Dr. Daniels.   D.J. and Joey arrived, and Jesse, Stephanie, Cassie, and Mandy left.

“Does she sleep a lot?” Cassie asked.

“Yahh, she sleeps a little more than normal.  It’s only been two days,” Jesse remarked.   “Listen, I’m going to bring Becky and the boys back around suppertime.  Danny’s going home to get more clothes for himself.”

Cassie looked around.  “Say, there’s Mr. Tanner and my mom talking to the doctor.”  The girls ran up to them.  Stephanie lagged behind by a yard.

Dr. Daniels spoke.  “Michelle is progressing very nicely.  She has had some headaches. That and the generalized amnesia caused us to keep her a little longer.  The headaches are still there, so we’re keeping her a few more days. They are getting much less frequent, though.  They also are much less severe.  So, this is probably just normal post-concussive syndrome.”

“What’s that?” Cassie asked.

“That’s just saying her brain has some minor problems from the fall,” he explained.  “We can find no other warning signs.  She also has not thrown up since the accident.  So, there is likely no permanent damage.  We thought we might release her tomorrow.  Even with the headaches, all signs point toward her being able to go home Friday at the latest.”

    “Hot dawg!” Stephanie cried.

Mandy exhaled sharply.  “Phew, thank goodness.  That really looked scary when she came in.”  She supposed she could say it now.  “I thought she might be dead.”

Cassie smiled at her friend.  “I don’t think it was that close.  Was it, Mom?”

Danny and Mrs. Wilkins gave the doctor a questioning glance.

Dr. Daniels rubbed his chin.  “Well, close to instant death, no.  Although, when someone unconcious like that comes in one can’t tell.   As for how close she came to serious brain damage? Well . . . ”   He struggled for a moment.  “How should I put this?  We can’t predict or explain why an impact that hurts one person severely causes only a goose egg on someone else.  The brain is a great mystery.”  A twinkle shone in his eyes.  “But, I’ve heard she’s had lots of people praying for her.”

“I’ve prayed more in the last few days than in my whole life combined,” Stephanie confessed.

“It’s worked.  It’s had a great impact. Keep it up.  She’s very close to being perfectly healthy once more,” the doctor remarked.

Stephanie rode home with Cassie and Mandy, pondering her own third grade experience. Things were so simple then. Kids Michelle’s age were fun. The only drawback was, they liked to tease.  It was an odd way of showing how much they loved someone.  “Michelle must love me a lot,” Stephanie determined.

Tuesday, more reminders of third grade came, as a large load of cards arrived from school.  Michelle’s family told her many stories about her friends as they examined the cards.   Michelle enjoyed the tales a little less than before, though.  It felt like nothing was helping.

Stephanie decided that perhaps it was time to introduce some of Michelle’s earlier childhood.  “Oh, well, how about I go down to the cafeteria and get you some oucecream.”

Michelle glared strangely at Stephanie.  “Is that a special food they have here?”

“You don’t remember that?”  She didn’t. “It’s how you used to say ‘ice cream’ when you were little.  And, whenever you said it, D.J. or I would correct you and say ‘ice cream.’   And, sometimes you’d ask if we wanted some, too.”

“I don’t care how I said things then.  I’d be happy remembering things now.”

Stephanie sighed.  She could only hope that being home would help Michelle.  Nothing else seemed to be working.  She wished she had diversions like D.J. and Joey did.  D.J. kept askign questions about everything.   Stephanie could tell nursing school or, possibly, medical school stood in D.J.’s future.  Joey, meanwhile, had met a nurse named Suzie.  She worked on the night shift, and loved cartoons. She had recenly lost her husband to cancer at age thirty-five.  And, while she wasn’t ready to begin a close relationship yet, she had a couple children to raise.  Stephanie knew Joey would make a great father.

For Stephanie, though, there was little to distract her from worrying about Michelle.  Even thinking about Andrew didn’t help.  However, when Andrew stopped after school to rehearse on Friday, he had a surprise. He wanted to kiss Stephanie. He was shy and nervous enough that he wanted to get over with as quickly as possible.  But, how would he do that?

Maybe he could do it to celebrate, if he couldn’t stomach admitting how much he liked her right away.  “Sorry to hear about your sister,” he told Stephanie.  It had happened almost a week ago.  But, as long as he didn’t sound too foolish, he knew Stephanie would answer him. And, he could gauge whether it was appropriate to celebrate.

     “Thanks.  She’s coming home today, but she still doesn’t remember anything,” Stephanie remarked.

Here goes nothing, Andrwe thought, as he kissed her lightly on the lips.

Stephanie tried hard to withhold giggles.  “What was that for?”

Andrew decided to admit it that it wasn’t just to celebrate.   “Well, I’ve always wanted to do it, because I liked you. But, I didn’t know if you liked me. Once Michelle said you liked me I figured it was okay.”

    They kissed again.   And, it was fun.  “This is what I dreamed it would be. It feels so exciting. And, Michelle actually wound up helping,” Stephanie considered.

D.J. walked in, followed by her best friend, Kimmy Gibbler, and Kimmy’s boyfriend Duane.  “I’ve got great news, Deej,” Kimmy announced.

After introductions were made, D.J. asked Kimmy what it was.

“Deej, your prom worries are over.  Duane's cousin Wayne has agreed to be your date.”

“Does he have the same sparkling personality as you, Duane,” Stephanie asked.

Duane grinned.  “Whatever,” he said. Duane rarely said anything else.

“Thanks, Kimmy, but I rather stay home and take care of Michelle,” D.J. insisted. Not only did she care about her sister, but the part of her that wanted to be a nurse was appearing.

“Well, I'll put him on hold.  He's a magician so he already has the tux,” Kimmy explained.  “He just has to clean the dove poop out of the pockets.”

Stephanie had always wondered how magicians’ birds ever went to the bathroom. But, that was the least of her worries at that moment.  First, she was anxious for Michelle to come home.  Second, they were trying to rehearse.  Kimmy and Duane left shortly afterward, allowing them to rehearse a little before Andrew had to leave.

The phone rang almost the moment Andrwe left.  Stephanie beamed as she spoke into it.  Everything seemed right with the world.  Andrew really liked her.  D.J. might have a date for her prom.  And, much more importantly, Danny was coming home with Michelle. The next step, Stephanei decided, would be Michelle walking through that door and remembering everyone.

Stephanie excitement soon turned to dismay.  When Michelle and Danny walked in the door, Michelle’s expression was as bland as it had been when she’d awakened.

“Aren’t you all the nice people I met at the hospital?” Michelle wondered.

Stephanie was crestfallen.  normal'>“What are we going to do?”


Michelle stared blankly ahead.  Suddenly, a large dog ran up to her, scaring her.  She backed up instinctively.  “Do I like dogs?” she asked, with some hesitation.  She couldn’t tell if what she’d done came out of a natural fear or not.

“Honey, you love dogs,” Jesse assured her.

She petted him warily.  “Hi, little girl.”

“Ehm, uh . . . boy,” Jesse stammered.

“Oh, no.  I don’t even know if this is a boy or girl.   How will I keep all these things straight?” “Oh.  So, do you all live in the neighborhood?”

“Uh, we all live in this house,” Becky told her somewhat hesitantly. She tried hard not to frustrate Michelle.  However, she knew there were some things Michelle had to be told.

Michelle was amazed.  She’d thought all those people were just neighbors like Cassie and Mandy.   What else did they have in store for her?

     “Michelle, does anything look familiar?” D.J. asked hopefully.

“Well, it looks like a nice place to live, but I just don’t remember living here.” The house felt just like the family. Everything was quite unusual to her.

Danny suggested that the girls take her on a tour of the house. Stephanie led them with a joke. “Michelle, please keep your hands and arms inside the tram.  Follow me.,” she said.

Michelle wasn’t sure if this was one of Stephanie’s jokes or not. She’d finally grown accustomed to the hospital.  But now, she was in a totally different foreign place.  Anything seemed possible now.  “Do we have a tram?”

“Just stick with us,” D.J. suggested.

As they walked, Michelle tried hard to remember things.   She wracked her brain as much as she could without getting a headache.  That was quite a lot, she discovered.

If this family was so nice, she would certainly want to remember them. The problem was, she had no idea where her memory was.  She couldn’t even remember herself.  She’d hoped her memory would come back upon her return home.  But, it hadn’t.

They finally entered a room with two beds.  “And, this is our room,” Stephanie said.

“Are you sure it’s not that one with all the toys?” Michelle asked expectantly.

   . “No, that’s Joey’s room.  But, he’s very good about sharing,” Stephanie said.

Michelle decided it was time to get the names straight.  “He’s my uncle, right?”

“No, Jesse’s our uncle,” D.J. explained.

     Michelle’s face brightened.  She remembered which “J” name was which.  “The guy with the hair,” she spoke excitedly.   She was starting to put faces with names. But, that was just memorization. There were no real feelings. On the other hand, she was elated to remember anything right now.  Maybe this would lead to more.

“Right, and he’s married to our Aunt Becky, and they have two kids, our cousins Nicky and Alex,” D.J. spoke swiftly.

“How many bathrooms does this place have?” Michelle wanted to know.

“Not enough,” answered D.J.

Joey walked into the room.  He was carrying a large, brown, spongelike puppet.  “Hey, Michelle, look who’s here.  It’s your old buddy Mr. Woodchuck.”

Joey moved the puppet’s mouth while keeping his own closed. The puppet spoke.   “Hey Michelle, remember me?  I hoped you . . . ”  It looked all around.  “ . . . wood! I’ve really been pining for you.”

Michelle caught the joke right away.  “How come everything he says is about wood?”

“Well, because that’s the bit we do, remember?” Joey remarked.

Michelle said “clever,” then walked away, making a face.   “ I should have known things would get weird after Stephanie’s joke about the tram.”

Becky walked in with Danny and Jesse.  Stephanie’s desire to re-create something had given Danny and Jesse an idea.  They knew right away what would work best.  “Michelle,” Becky began, “we were just talking, and we thought maybe if the guys sang you your favorite bedtime song, it might help bring back some of your memories.”

Michelle grinned slightly.  Stephanie saying “ouce cream” hadn’t helped.  But, maybe this would.  After all, her dad had told her Stephanie didn’t say “ouce cream” herself.  Only Michelle had.  “Sure, give it a shot.”

Jesse called Joey over, interrupting his daydream.  He’d been looking lovingly at Mr. Woodchuck.   Jesse thought Joey was simply gazing at the “sponge with eyes.”  Actually, Suzie had seen his act with Mr. Woodchuck several times.  She really enjoyed it.

Joey walked over to Jesse and Danny while Jesse spoke to Michelle. Jesse explained how they would always sing this to her at bedtime when she was little.  The three men sang “Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear.”

Michelle liked the tune.  She smiled, enjoying the harmony.  It certainly sounded pretty.  She felt good listening to it.  Unfortunately, it failed to stir any memories.  “Doesn’t ring a bell.  Can I ask a question?” she wondered.

Danny moved closer.  “Sure, anything.”

“You’re my dad, right?”  He was. “So . . . where is my mom?”

She didn’t know how to interpret the uncomfortable silence. Everyone looked at their neighbor. Finally, Danny spoke somberly. “I’m sorry, but your mom died when you were just a little girl.”

Michelle was very disappointed.  “So, even if I do get better, I won’t remember her?”

“Well, Michelle, we will tell you everything about her you want to know,” Joey said.

Michelle asked if she was pretty.  “Michelle, she was very pretty,” Jesse remarked.  “You see, your mommy was my sister.  And you know what?  You look just like her.”

Michelle recalled looking at her face in D.J.’s mirror.  At least that helped a little.  But, as much as these people were doing, it wasn’t making her feel any better.

Besides, she was getting tired.  Her brain still needed to rest.  “I know you all want me to remember, but I can’t.  I’m sorry,” she spoke sadly.

“Oh, don’t worry about it honey, it’s fine,” Danny said.

Michelle didn’t mind her amnesia that much in the hospital.   But she, like Stephanie, thought coming here would jog her memory.  It hadn’t. “It’s not fine, I don’t know who I am. I’m just giong to lie down in my own bed.”

She thought she heard something about it being Stephanie’s bed. Becky said something about it not being a good time.  She didn’t care what that meant.  She was too weary, and quickly drifted off to sleep.

Stephanie sighed as she left the bedroom with the others.   “Aunt Becky, don’t you think she’d be helped more in her own bed?”

Becky smiled.  She realized Stephanie wasn’t going to pick a fight.  But, that wasn’t the problem.  “I know you don’t want to argue.  But, it’s a lot scarier for her than you realize.  And, telling her she’s wrong about any of her guesses might agitate her more, and make it harder for her.  I stuttered a little before telling her we all lived in this house.”

“I didn’t know how to explain Comet was a boy either, Steph,” Jesse added.

“Hey, but you have to look at the bright side,” Joey remarked.   He put an arm around Stephanie.  “She got sleepy soon after we sang her that bedtime song.”

Danny chuckled.  “Well, it may sound silly.  But, Joey’s right. We need to look at the bright side. That may have triggered something, if only deep down inside.  And, she needs to find a few pieces first before she can start putting the puzzle together. Besides, I think Michelle has slept in your bed a couple times, Steph ,when she was little and had a nightmare.”

“And, this is a scary time for her,” Joey stated slowly.   “So, it’s to her benefit to sleep in your bed, Steph.”

Becky laughed.  That wasn’t quite her reasoning.  But, it made sense. Who knew?  Maybe some strange idea like that held the key.

Michelle awakened in a strange room.  She knew it wasn’t the hospital room.  It was one of the rooms in the house.  She got up, and walked out the door.  She hoped to find one of those nice people who kept coming in at the hospital.

She saw Danny walking up the steps.  He was glad she was sleeping less and less.  She’d only napped for about half an hour.  “Oh, hey, honey.  We’re just about to eat.  Are you hungry?”

“I guess I’ll eat a little.”  She wearily followed Danny to the kitchen table.

Michelle was rather quiet as everyone talked during dinner.   She enjoyed listening to the lively conversation. But, most of all, she enjoyed eating. It was something, in this mass of confustion, that she still knew how to do.

Stephanie could tell her little sister was frustrated.  And, the others felt the same way.  She walked up to D.J. after dinner.  She made sure they were out of Michelle’s hearing range. “You sounded pretty depressed talking about the prom.  I know you think Wayne might be as boring as  Duane. But, was the date the only reason?”

     “No.”  D.J. sighed. “You know I’m thinking about Michelle. I don’t know what’s going to work. For instance, if Joey was right, that the bedtime song jogged her memory, something else should have come back. But, Michelle didn’t even recall things we talked about from that time period, like being flower girl in Jesse and Becky’s wedding.”

“I know what you mean.  Say, did Aunt Becky tell you my plan?” Stephanie wondered.

D.J. snickered.  She opened the kitchen door, and pointed at the living room couch.  “Michelle’s reading to Nicky and Alex.  It seems that would be more likely to jog her memory,” she whispered.  The door closed.

“I know.  She loves that, and they love having her do it.  But, the song didn’t jog her memory.  And, the doctor says earlier memories often return faster than later ones,” Stephanie said.

D.J. held up a hand.  “Wait a minute. I have a feeling you’re about to ask me to do something crazy.”

“Come on, Deej,” Stephanie pleaded.  “Look, if you take me to get that fish, I promise I’ll accept sleeping in Michelle’s bed for as long as she needs.”  She knew she should, anyway.  Aunt Becky was right.  Michelle felt badly enough not remembering anyone.  She didn’t need to feel worse.  And, telling her she didn’t even know what bed was hers would almost certainly make her feel worse.

Maybe now, Michelle would at least think she remembered something. If it lasted too long, they could simply pretend to move furniture for a “change of scenery.”   Then, her bed would be in its old position.

She chuckled.  Even Joey’s words made sense, in a way.  But, she wasn’t about to share a bed yet.  Michelle felt strange enough without her doing that.  She would take Michelle’s bed tonight.

D.J. relented.  “Okay, fine. But, we’re not doing the goldfish thing tonight.”  She pulled her car keys out of her pocket.  “We’ll give her one night, at least.”  The girls left for the store.


Stephanie laid in Michelle’s bed and thought that evening.   Michelle still had amnesia.  Nothing sounded familiar to her.

Would the goldfish idea work, then?  Stephanie thought it could.  The incident was something specific in her mind.  It wasn’t a general, “this always happened” kind of thing. Plus, Michelle’s personality was there. She cared about others. Maybe having to save a goldfish would bring back her memory.  It was no sillier than what Joey had said.

Stephanie awakened the next morning to the twins’ voices.   They crawled into her bed shouting “Michelle.” She pointed them to her bed. She listened as they asked if Michelle remembered.  Michelle couldn’t even remember their names.

Stephanie knew she should say something about their fight.   She still felt terrible.  Although she’d forgiven Michelle, her own behavior had been even worse.  And, she needed to apologize.

“You said we could have this,” she heard Alex say.  He held up Michelle’s stuffed orange rhinoceros.

“Well, if that’s what I said, go ahead.  Take it,” Michelle said evenly.

As the boys left, Nicky told Alex, “Michelle didn’t say that.” Alex shushed him.

Stephanie walked over to Michelle’s bed.  She sat beside her in it.  “Hey, Michelle. Before your accident, we had a fight.”

     “Really?”  Michelle was a little surprised.  She thought they had always been really close.

Stephanie spoke remorsefully.  “Yeah. I feel awful about what I said. I said I was never going to forgive you.”

     “Why?  What did I do?”

Stephanie didn’t want Michelle to blame herself.  Later, they could talk about what Stephanie wanted and didn’t want to hear around boys.  And, she could tell her - and show her - how she’d be more forgiving and understanding.

But, for now, Stephanie wanted to forget the entire thing.   “It was nothing really.  It was just a stupid argument.”  She smiled.  She hoped this made Michelle feel better.  “But it turned out okay. Thanks to you, I found out that Andrew really likes me. In fact, he finally kissed me.”

“Well, I’m glad everything worked out.”

“I’m really sorry about what I said.  So do you accept my apology?” Stephanie wondered.

“I guess so.  Do you feel better now?” Michelle wanted to know.

Stephanie paused.  Did she? What good was an apology if the person didn’t remember why you were apologizing?  “I would feel better if you knew what I was talking about.”

“I would feel better if I knew what everybody was talking about,” Michelle admitted.

Stephanie wished she had an answer.  She couldn’t think of one.  She simply snuggled with Michelle.  normal'>“I can’t remember being much happier than I am right now, seeing her back home.  But, it won’t feel complete till she can remember.”

She began reliving the fun times again.  There were so many great moments.  Michelle’s circus party, for her third birthday, was super, but quite complex. She doubted she could remember enough to recreate it.  A flight somewhere would be too expensive.  The goldfish scheme was the best, in her mind.  It was a first.  It was cheap. And, there weren’t many speaking lines.

Her Aunt Becky was right about one thing, though.  Nobody wanted to eat goldfish.  In fact, as she thought about it, she got queasy. She didn’t care to try it, either.

Stephanie suddenly thought of something Michelle used to love.   “Get up, and I’ll do your hair.  Do you want a ponytail like Cassie’s?”

“I don’t mind,” Michelle remarked as she rose.  She soon sat in front of Stephanie’s vanity.

Stephanie cheerfully told stories of Michelle’s early childhood. She spoke of when she’d play hairdresser.  She even told her about Uncle Jesse’s accident.

    “Did he remember anything,” Michelle wondered.

Stephanie sighed.  Her hands flopped at her sides.  His injuries hadn’t been nearly as sad as Michelle’s.  “Yeah. Just his arms were broken.”

She found it hard to talk positively after that.  So, she began singing “You Are My Sunshine.”   “I would sing one of several songs to her when I would do her hair.”

     Unfortunately, her singing brought back no memories. It was just like when the men sang. Michelle forgot about her frustrations for a moment.  She felt good being around Stephanie.  However, she couldn’t remember why.

Stephanie finally finished Michelle’s ponytail.  “How does that look?”

“Fine, I guess.”  Michelle walked downstairs for breakfast.

Allie called before Stephanie could get downstairs.  She had Darcy on the other line.  “Hey, how did Michelle’s first night home go?” Allie asked.

“Not so good.”  She related what had happened.  “We can only hope her mind can put these things together like a jigsaw puzzle.   Anyway, I bought a goldfish.”

Darcy gave a snort as she laughed.  “You’re going through with that, huh?”

“You bet.  I know, it’s another of my crazy schemes.  But, look at it this way. If it doesn’t work, I’ll have had some fun.  And, that’s been my whole problem.  I’ve been taking life a little too seriously.  You were right, Allie.  That’s why I acted the way I did toward Michelle.  I couldn’t laugh things off as well,” Stephanie concluded.

“It sounds like you’ve made great progress,” Allie said.   She was fighting giggles, too.  “So, how’s your big English project going?”

     Stephanie’s mouth flung opened. “What?  What is it?  When is it due?”

     “English.  A short story. Tuesday,” Darcy replied. “At least you can draw from real life.”

Stephanie nodded and sighed.  It was pretty late to start thinking of ideas.  Plus, some things would be rather painful to write down.  “Well, I’ll throw something together at the last minute. I just can’t think right now.”

Darcy and Allie tried to sound encouraging.  However, Stephanie could read their minds.   She was great on the school newspaper.   Her English teacher often praised her talent. But, not even Stephanie could write something really good in such a short amount of time.

After breakfast, she needed something to take her mind off of that problem. So, she went to see Nicky and Alex. They were playing in Joey’s room. The goldfish was also tucked away there.  She’d wanted to make sure Michelle wouldn’t find it ahead of time

She could wait no more.  “Boys, come here.” They obeyed.   “Remember when I said we might need to help Michelle find her memory?”  They nodded. “Remember that story I told you, about Michelle’s pet?  We’re going to try to help her find her memory with this goldfish.”

Nicky and Alex protested.  They wanted their own pet.

Stephanie pulled out the goldfish bowl.  “Wow, Nicky and Alex really overfed him or something.  He’s hardly moving.” “Sorry, boys, this is Michelle’s.”

“Do we have to give Martin to Michelle?” Nicky whined.

“What if we call it Bob?” Alex asked her.   “Can we keep it?”

Stephanie shook her head.  “Sorry, boys. Where do we tell her she won Martin?” They told her a carnival. She put the bowl down and hugged them. “Right.  I know it’s hard.  But, just think of how excited Michelle will be.”

“And we give Martin a bubble bath for Michelle?” came Alex’s incredulous voice.

“ That’s where she might find her memory?”  Nicky was flabbergasted.

     “Right.  And remember, you need to leave her while she’s watching it.  Then, come tell Joey, so he can say his line.”   Stephanie grinned broadly, thinking of Michelle’s reaction if she regained her memory then.  “She’ll think you’re great!”

In the same warm, loving tone, Nicky said, “I think you’re nuts.”

Stephanie laughed.  “Maybe I am a little nuts.  But, you know what? I should stop taking myself so seriously.  Teens deal with lots of serious things.  Boys and stuff are really great.  But they’re not worth being so angry over.”

“Okay, you want silly?”  Alex looked at Nicky.  “Let’s have a tickle war.” They attacked Stephanie with their “tickle claws,” and soon all three were rolling on the floor laughing.

Stephanie wiped her brow and got up.  They knew how to have fun.  She knew Nicky and Alex would enjoy the goldfish plan.  And, she would, too.  She just hoped they could rescue the goldfish before it died.

“If only I could think of something this creative for English class,” she pondered as she left the room.

Michelle, meanwhile, had gone out to the backyard.  She enjoyed the little boys who lived there.   At that age, as long as someone played with them, it didn’t matter who they were.  So, they didn’t even think about Michelle not having a memory.

The others were nice, too.  But, as she got onto a swing and began swinging, she considered that they were still strangers.  They were strangers who told lots of stories.

Michelle had loved hearing the stories at first.  However, she realized she wasn’t enjoying them like she had. She was trying harder and harder to remember them, because they were so nice.  And, that made things more frustrating.  She preferred simply doing fun things.  Some things - when the men sang, for example, or when Stephanie did her hair - felt great, and she didn’t care why.

Michelle watched the clouds against the brilliant blue sky.   She felt a calm breeze against her face. This felt fun and relaxing.

Stephanie walked outside with Comet.  “We used to have so much fun looking at pictures in those,” Stephanie said.

Michelle grinned.  “I can see why. Look.  That one looks like a rabbit.  It’s one of those with the floppy ears, not the straight ones.”

    Stephanie reminisced.  “You know, I can hear you saying that one over there looks like someone’s face.” She smiled sadly.   “That probably doesn’t remind you of anyone. Does it?”

“No, but I still enjoy looking.”  She glanced at the back door.  She saw Cassie and Mandy running into the backyard.  “Hey, aren’t those girls the ones who visited me?”

“D.J. told us you were back here,” Cassie explained.  Stephanie went inside.  “We brought some homework for you.  You won’t have to do everything.  The teacher told us yesterday you still have to come back slowly. You’ll be back when, Monday?”

“Dad says I should be able to go back Monday, yeah.  He’s being extra careful.”  Michelle swung and watched the birds overhead.   They made such pretty sounds.  Her pony tail flopped as she gazed at the creatures.

Mandy gestured with her right hand.  “You have to come back Monday.  There’s a man from NASA coming.  He’s bringing some moon rocks,” she said excitedly.

      She slowed to a stop.  “I feel like I could bring some, too.  I feel like I’m on the moon.  It feels like one of those birds up there flew away with my memory.”

“Hey, don’t worry.  We’re just glad to have you back,” Cassie told her.  They joined her on the swingset while Nicky took his tricycle inside to be fixed.

“You might have me back.  But, I don’t have me back,” Michelle remarked bluntly.

“It’ll come,” Mandy promised.  “Do you remember which one of us is which?”

Michelle studied the two faces.  “Stephanie said I had a ponytail like Cassie’s,” she said regretfully. “Or I wouldn’t know.”

    She spent the rest of the morning with Cassie and Mandy.  She was exerting herself more and more.  Around noon, she went in to eat lunch.  “Thanks for coming.  Nice playing with you.”

Cassie looked at Mandy as they left.  “She’s still fun to be around.”

Mandy sighed.  “Yeah. For everyone but her.” She let Cassie hold the door for her.

The girls got on their bikes.  “I guess we helped by being here.”  Cassie wondered how much more was needed.  “Hey, wouldn’t it be weird if she didn’t remember till our party.   And, that helped her memory come back?”

Mandy turned to Cassie and held her hands like antlers.   She spoke like Stephanie had shown them. “If she doesn’t, we’ll make sure she has fun.”

“You said it,” Cassie said, imitating Mandy.

Stephanie had watched Michelle from the kitchen for a second.   Somehow, the scene had reminded her of a dream. It had come Monday evening, and showed she was still a little worried about brain damage.  As sad as that dream had been, things had turned out okay at the end.  She’d had no bad dreams since.  She decided that the dream was her subconscience telling her everything would be okay, no matter how well Michelle recovered.

She dashed up to her dad’s study.  She sat at her dad’s computer, and invented what she didn’t recall of the dream. She lengthened it into a nice story. “If only helping Michelle was this easy.”


Michelle wandered into the kitchen.  She grabbed a pretzel from a box.  She noticed Jesse working on one of the boys’ trikes.  She wished she could tell her cousins apart.

She heard Jesse’s voice say, “Hey, munchkin, could you give me that wrench, please?” She figured the voice referred to someone else.  Perhaps one of the twins.

     “Munchkin.  Hey, you with the pretzel,” Jesse said again.

Michelle realized she was the only one holding a pretzel.   She looked at Jesse.  “Me?  But, I thought my name was Michelle.”

Jesse explained.  “It is. But sometimes I call you munchkin, shorty, or rugrat.”

She walked over to him.  The first name didn’t sound too bad.  But, the others sounded like insults.  “Hey, what did I ever do to you?”

“Nothing, you love those names,” Jesse told her.

She was skeptical.  “Why?”

“Because it is part of our special relationship,” Jesse said lovingly. He urged her to sit in his lap and listen.  She did. “You see pal, you and I go way back. You see, I remember the first time I saw you.  It was at the maternity ward. I was looking through the window at you, and I waved.  And you know what? You looked back, and I was sure you smiled at me.  Of course the nurse said it was gas, but I won’t buy it.”

“Wow, we’ve know each other for a long time,” she remarked.

“A long time.”  He reminisced some more. He was reliving fun times just like Stephanie had been.  “It’s funny. When I moved in here to help raise you kids, I never thought one day you’d be helping me raise mine.”

Michelle smiled.  She’d read to his boys last night.  But, she didn’t realize they were that close.  “Sounds like I’ve had a pretty nice life.”

“You’ve had a beautiful life.”

Michelle felt more frustrated than ever.  Even the sad parts in this family’s life had seemed to turn out well. Jesse’s accident, the argument with Stephanie, and even her mom dying when she was little. All these had been surrounded by love and joy.  This made her inability to remember all the worse.  The more she heard, the sadder she felt.  “I just wish I could remember it,” she said, frowning.

“Don’t worry, Michelle, you will.  You just hang in there.”  He emphasized the next part.  “But most important, remember that I love you very, very much.”

“I guess I love you too, right?” she supposed.

Jesse had tried to sound brave and confident.  However, even he felt a little depressed at her amnesia. “You used to.”

She changed the subject to avoid the sadness.  “Can I eat my pretzel now?”  He nodded.

She ate it while Danny made her a sandwich.  Then, she went to find her cousins.  They were playing a board game.  She didn’t mind the mental exertion of one of their games. Her mind was almost back to normal. She simply wouldn’t be able to play sports for at least a month longer.

Once the twins laid down for their naps, Michelle needed something to do. These people seemed so nice. She sensed they were all really close. However, she still felt like an outsider, surrounded by strangers.  So, she went upstairs, sincerely hoping Stephanie was there.

Michelle couldn’t understand it.  But, somehow, the young teen made her feel better than the others did. It was just like the men had when they sang.  She didn’t know why or what she was remembering - or if she was even remembering anything. But, there had to be something there.

Her eyes brightened slightly as she glanced in and saw Stephanie at the computer. Michelle jogged over to her and grinned broadly.  “Hey, Stephanie,” she said with a smile.

Stephanie heard the happy voice and rose quickly.  “Do you remember me?” she exclaimed.

Michelle looked downcast.  “No. But, it’s so strange here.” She sidled up next to Stephanie. The young teen put an arm around Michelle as they walked and sat on Stephanie’s bed.  Michelle leaned against Stephanie and grinned slightly. “I don’t know why, but . . . well, I just feel comfortable around you.”

She wasn’t in the mood for stories right now.  Not remembering them was too frustrating.   However, not only did she felt good around Stephanie, but also the situation felt oddly familiar.  The feeling was extremely vague.  But, being in a new place, surrounded by strangers, and looking for this girl for solace felt familiar.  normal'>“I might be remembering something.  But, what?”

A tear welled up in Stephanie’s eye.  “We’re all trying.  I wish you’d feel good around the others, too.”

“I’m feeling better.  I mean, our dad seems really nice.  It’s kind of weird how he cleans stuff all the time, though.”  She made a face.  “And Joey’s funny, like a cartoon.  And, I can tell the people like me.  But, I don’t know any of you.  I wish I could say I love you.  But, comfortable is the best I can do.”

Stephanie hugged her.  Maybe this was a start.

D.J. walked in as the girls spoke.  “Hey, I coudln’t help but hear.  I think that’s important, Michelle, that you feel comfortable.   I think this is a great sign.   I’ve been reading about amnesia. It seems like feelings would return faster than memories.  Maybe you remembered that bedtime song more than we thought, Michelle.”

“Really?” Michelle and Stephanie spoke at once.

D.J. nodded.  “Why don’t you two play a game or something together?”

Stephanie agreed.  She could use a break from her homework.

Once they finished their game, she sat beside Michelle and rubbed her back. “Did you have fun?” Michelle nodded.   Stephanie looked away.  “For months, I’ve been thinking only about friends and boys. Now this happens.   And, I wonder:  Do you remember the way I was years ago?  Or, do you feel good because I’m trying to be such a good friend now?”

“I don’t know.  I hope I’m remembering something from back then.”  Michelle confessed that, “I wouldn’t remember anything if you told me yet. I don’t really remember you. But it’s almost like . . . .” She wracked her brain, and became discouraged.  She’d thought that famiilar feeling would lead to something else.  But, it hadn’t.  Nothing more came to mind.  “It’s no use.”

Danny had walked in with a dust rag.  “Honey, we’ll still love you  if you remember us or not.”

“I know.  But, I really want to remember all of you so badly,” Michelle whined.

Stephanie smiled sadly.  Michelle was trying too hard.  “It’s coming, though. I’m sure it is.   Just give it time.”

Michelle went downstairs after playing for a few more minutes.   She overheard Danny telling D.J. she should go to her prom.

“Why wouldn’t she?” Michelle knew it was a huge event. And, Becky was speaking quite excitedly about hers.

D.J. smiled sadly.  “Well, I know the prom is special.  I went to Steve’s and it was the most romantic night of my life.  But I just don’t know how to have a good time, when Michelle’s home, scared and confused.”

Michelle frowned.  She knew they’d enjoy someone who knew them a lot more.  “I’m ruining everybody’s fun,” she muttered, quite forlorn.

D.J. suddenly noticed Michelle.  “No, Michelle, I didn’t mean it that way.”

“What way did you mean it,” Michelle wondered, genuinely curious.

“I just want you to feel better,” D.J. said sincerely.

Michelle knew many people were trying to help her regain her memory. They had tried lots of neat things. But, she didn’t see any way this could work.  “How’s skipping your prom going to make me better?”

“Well, actually, it won’t,” D.J. had to admit.

“You feel bad if you’re missing your prom.  I feel bad when you’re missing your prom.  One of us should go to that prom,” Michelle remarked.   “And, maybe one of them will suggest that I go.  After all, they’ve had some silly ideas, like that puppet.”

D.J. said, “I would go.  But, I think it’s too late now.  Even if Duane’s cousin was ready, I still don’t see how I’m supposed to get a dress and shoes and everything by tonight.”

Becky explained that she was a speedy shopper.  “When my sister was eloping, I had one hour to get a hairdo, a dress and a ladder.  I’ll meet you in the car.”  She left.

D.J. hugged Danny.  “Thanks. See you later, Michelle.” D.J. hugged her, too.

“More hugging,” Michelle muttered.  She liked it.  Seeing them hug all the time made her feel good, and told her the people there loved each other. But, it seemed odd in a way, too. After all, she’d known them for only a few days.  Except, why had looking for Stephanie felt so familiar?

Stephanie printed out her paper.  She saw D.J. dashing upstairs, and walked into D.J.’s room.

She learned D.J. was going to the prom.  “Why the change?” Stephanie asked.

D.J. revealed what Michelle had said.  “She’s right.  There’s no way my staying home is going to help.  Not with you being the one with all the ideas.”  The girls laughed.  “I’ve got lots of time to be a nurse or a doctor.  I need to have fun tonight.”

“I’ve had some weird ideas this week, huh?” Stephanie admitted.

     “Yeah.  And, they really make me laugh.”  She became serious for a second.  “But, Steph, it shows you care about her; just like everyone else does.  That’s really what makes me comfortable going.   I just hope Wayne doesn’t make me want to forget it.”

“I wonder what my senior prom will be like?” Stephanie wondered dreamily.

D.J. grinned.  “A moment like this brings back great memories.  When you’re this close to graduating, you just have to look back at all the growing up you’ve done.  And, there are such happy times to remember.”  She sighed contentedly.  “You’re really trying hard to get Michelle’s memory back, aren’t you?”

“I just want her to see me as a great sister, so I can teach her things and help her grow,” Stephanie declared.  “I want to be like you always have been, even with our differences.”

    “You’re not still thinking about when you wouldn’t forgive her?”

The young teen hedged slightly.  “No . . . at least I don’t think I am.  Well . . . I don’t know. “  She trailed off, unsure of how to express what she felt.

D.J. nodded slowly.  “Steph, I think what you’re really scared of is that you’ll act like that again. But, if you’ve honestly committed yourself to being more caring, and forgiving, you will never say or do anything like that to hurt someone.  Because you are a very good kid.”

She smiled warmly.  “As I reflect on growing up, I can’t help but think of you and Michelle, too.   And, you know what?  You are, and always have been, a much better sister than you’re giving yourself credit for.  Can you stand to improve?  Sure, we all can. But, you’ve always learned from your mistakes, and gotten better.  You’ve got a really good head start.”

“Thanks, Deej.”  They embraced.

D.J. laughed inwardly as she dashed down the back steps.   Michelle felt comfortable, so she had to be getting better. Not only that, but her faith had grown enough to think that even the goldfish plan could work. “Now that’s what I call blind faith.”

Danny thought for a second.  They’d told Michelle lots of stories.  But, Michelle couldn’t remember how things had looked.  So, maybe photos held the key to finding her memory. “Michelle, I have an idea. Why don’t we take a look through the old family photo album,” Danny recommended.  The book on the table held favorite pictures from over the years.

     “Why?  I don’t remember anything?”  How could pictures aid her, if stories didn’t?

Danny said it might help.  He began leafing through it.  “Look at you. That’s you, so cute. This is you in your Honeybee outfit. You see, it’s not easy to pull off that antenna look.”

“I don’t remember,” she muttered.

Danny didn’t know how to proceed.  So, he chose a page at random.  “Okay, this was taken when we went to Hawaii.”

She shook her head, feeling more flustered.  “Nope.”

“Okay, we were all in Disneyworld, you were princess for a day.”

She stood up, totally discouraged.  “I don’t wanna see any more pictures, I hate this.  I can’t remember anything,” she cried.

“I know how frustrating this must be for you,” Danny said lovingly.

“No, you don’t.  You know who you are,” Michelle shouted tearfully.

Danny looked remorseful.  “I’m sorry, honey.  Maybe we have been trying a little too hard.”

“It’s okay.”  Michelle realized they wanted to help her.  But, she wanted to remember more than all of them put together.  And, she had no clue what would work.  “I’m a little tired.  Maybe I’ll take a nap.”  She stretched her arms out wide.

Danny looked puzzled.  “What are you doing?”

She might not remember any of them.  But, something would make her feel a lot better.  “Waiting for my hug.  I thought that’s what you do in this house when you leave a room.”

Danny and Michelle embraced.  “Right you are.”

Michelle wandered upstairs.  She was tired, frustrated, and scared.  She saw her cousins in her room, wanting to play hide and seek with her. “I just want to lie down,” she muttered as she crawled onto Stephanie’s bed.

     “Michelle, that's Stepanie's,” Nicky remarked.

     “Shouldn't you take a nap in your own bed?” Alex inquired, greatly confused.

Stephanie overheard the boys after leaving D.J.’s room.  She entered and told the boys to go play somewhere else. They left.  “Rough day, huh, Michelle?”

    “Are they serious; I don’t even know my own bed?” Michelle whimpered.  She bitterly complained, “I can’t remember anything.  Dad just tried to show me all these pictures, but it’s no use. Nothing’s going to help me!”

Stephanie sighed and looked downcast.  As hard as this was on them, it was ten times harder on Michelle. She wished she could think of something.  But, she couldn’t.


Stephanie nodded slowly.  She tried to sound positive.  There was one good sign. She grinned as she said, “You remember something. You remember that you came looking for me once, when you were somewhere with a bunch of strangers.”

“Yeah, right, like that’ll help help a lot.”  She stood.  “I can’t remember anything!  I may as well expect my memory to just walk up to me, like we’re playing hide and seek.”

Stephanie led Michelle to her own bed.  “Here, why don't you lay down here.”

Michelle stretched out and let Stephanie sit and rub her back a little. There was that feeling again - why did she feel so comfortable around this girl?  She wasn't sure, but she whined, “I wish I could just stay with you all the time.”

Stephanie grinned excitedly.  “You asked to stay with me that other time.”  She considered that Michelle had probably always looked up to her, always loved her a lot, even when Stephanie didn't pay much attention to her. Why not?  It was the same for she and D.J..  Michelle probably did forgive her.  But, that showed her something even more important. “I think you do remember me,” she spoke more confidently.

Michelle closed her eyes.  Maybe this girl was right.  She had to know her from somewhere.

As she got sleepy, Michelle developed a very blurry image.   It was an image of feeling scared, and alone, and looking for this girl.  It was a sense of being helped by her.  She dared to ask if her idea was correct.  “Was . . . that my first day of Kindergarten?”

Stephanie leaped joyfully off the bed.  “Yes, yes it was!  What else do you remember?”

“Nothing, really,” she muttered tiredly.  “Just that you’re a nice sister,” Michelle spoke with a weary grin as she went to sleep.  She’d finally remembered something.  She suddenly felt she could get better after all.

Tears welled up in Stephanie’s eyes.  “Michelle remembered me. Me!”  She was speechless, for a second.  Finally, she nearly missed every step as she raced downstairs, shouting excitedly.  “Michelle remembered something, just as she got to sleep,” she babbled as she she ran into her startled dad.  “You know that first day of Kindergarten?  She remembered she came to see me.  And, guess what - she remembered I was her sister!  I don’t think she remembers anything else.  But she remembers something, isn’t this great,” she shrieked, bouncing merrily.

Danny smiled and put an arm around her. “You're right.   This is a great start.”

“She just needed one little piece, and now the rest of the puzzle can be put in place,” Stephanie said confidently.  She finally noticed that her dad still looked a little concerned.   She closed her eyes for a second, and became more solemn. “It might not be that easy, huh?”

“Honey, she’s finding connections.  The rest could come fast.  Or, it could take a long time.”  They sat on the couch. “Steph, she knows you now. So, just to warn you,” he began. Stephanie looked at him curiously. “Thankfully, there’s nothing physically wrong.  But, sometimes, before they recover totally, head injury victims consistently turn to one person they feel they can trust.  I don’t like to think about this.  But, if she has any lingering problems, you could be that person,” Danny finished.

“I’d help her in a heartbeat, Dad,” Stephanie promised quickly.   In a way, she’d been preparing herself for this. However, foremost among the images flooding her mind was her dream.  Don’t let it be that bad, she prayed.

Danny embraced her.  “I know. It would be taxing. But, we’d all be there to help you.”

Michelle felt like she was half awake a short time later.   “I remember this room, I remember these walls.  I remember this bed.  I remember it all.”

Michelle sensed she was dreaming.  She couldn’t understand it.  But, somehow, she found her memory.  The puzzle was coming together.  Her head was filling. Thoughts of all the people, all the fun, and especially all the love, rushed into her mind.

When she awoke, though, she couldn’t remember dreaming.  She merely knew she was awakening from a nap.   “That’s odd. I don’t usually nap in the afternoon.”

She began walking downstairs.  “Whoa, D.J. really looks nice.”

    “You guys have to see D.J.’s prom dress, she looks incredible,” Michelle heard Stephanie say.

Danny walked backwards in front of D.J., recording her.   “Okay, come on baby.  Come to papa.  All right, work the camera, honey.”

“Deej, you’re going to have such a special evening with...whatever his name is,” Becky said.

“Hi, guys.  D.J., you look beautiful,” Michelle commented.

Michelle saw Nicky and Alex with her orange rhino.  She spoke lovingly, as a mother reminding her child of the rules. “Nicky, Alex, what are you doing with my Rigby?  I told you last week you couldn’t have him.”

“We’re busted,” Alex said.  He didn't know what it meant.  But, he'd heard plenty of older kids say it when caught doing something wrong.

“Last week?” Stephanie exclaimed.  “Michelle, do you remember something that happened last week?”

Michelle was glad to see Stephanie so excited.  But, she also felt quite confused.  “Why are you talking with me, Steph?”  She spoke quite sadly as she remembered their fight. “You said you were never giong to forgive me.”

Stephanie hollered with delight.  “She thinks I hate her.  Isn’t this great?” She’d prepared herself mentally to help Michelle.  Now, thankfully, she didn’t have to worry about that.  Michelle remembered everything.  She was ecstatic as she merrily picked Michelle up and spun.

“Put me down,” Michelle commanded.  She wasn’t used to being twirled so much.

     “Wait.  Wait. Michelle, come here,” Uncle Jesse said. “This may sound a little weird, but I want to put this to the test.  What is my favorite comb?”

“He’s right.   It sounds weird.”  “Mr. Goodpart.”

“Bingo,” Jesse exclaimed.

     “Michelle, what day do I always vacuum the stairs?” Danny asked.

“Every day,” Michelle answered.

Danny looked really excited, too.  “That’s right, and it was a trick question.”

Joey asked something else.  “What’s the capital of Nevada?”

“This is getting crazy.” “I don’t know.”

    “She never knew that. Her memory’s back!” proclaimed Joey.

“This is wonderful!  All right,” Danny shouted.

Michelle was totally clueless.  “Is everybody nuts?  What’s going on?”

D.J. spoke matter-of-factly.  “Michelle, you fell off your horse, and hit your head.”

“And you couldn’t remember who you were or any of us,” Aunt Becky added.

Michelle thought for a second.  She remembered a horse jumping competition.  In fact, as she thought about it, the last thing she clearly recalled was going onto the riding trail there.  It did seem peculiar that she would suddenly wake up in her room.   Still, she wondered aloud, “How could I forget you guys? You’re my family.”

Danny picked her up and held her.  “You don’t know how happy I am to hear you say that.”

Michelle dwelled on what was said as Kimmy entered the house.   It made sense, in a way.  D.J. was going to her prom.  But, that was the weekend after her horse jumping contest.   She pondered that as Kimmy announced that Duane’s cousin couldn’t make it.

“You mean I’m not going to my prom?” D.J. wondered.

Kimmy grinned.  She’d managed to find someone.

At that moment, Steve, her former boyfriend, walked in the door. “Come on, Deej, let’s get going. I don’t want to miss the buffet,” he said.

“Steve,” D.J. shouted excitedly.  They hugged and kissed.  “I missed you so much, Steve.”

“I missed you, too, D.J..”  Steve greeted everyone.  “I heard you had a pretty tough week.  How are you feeling, Michelle.”

Michelle tried to remember how she had felt.  She vaguely recalled her head hurting, and being tired.   “I’m feeling better.  How out of it was I?”

“Oh, pretty out of it,” Jesse remarked.  “I mean, you were here, sweetheart.  But, it was like part of you was missing.  So it was like part of all of us was missing.  But, we stuck it out and we got through.”

      Joey spoke confidently.  “Just like we always do.”

“Just like we always will,” Danny said, smiling.

As D.J. and Steve left, Stephanie couldn’t decide who to call first. She couldn’t recall being more thrilled in her life.

Then, she realized she needed to do one thing first.  Standing next to her dad, she put an arm around Michelle. “I apologized once. But, you probably don’t remember that.” She chuckled.   “That’s strange.  First you don’t remember anything for a week.  Now, you don’t remember not remembering.”

“Will I ever remember that week,” Michelle wondered somberly.

Danny looked at her and thought a minute.  Nicky and Alex wandered into Joey’s room as he did. “We’re not sure, sweetheart. Sometimes the minutes right before an accident, then the days that one has amnesia, never fully come back.”

Stephanie hated to see Michelle unhappy.  “But, don’t worry, Michelle.  After supper, you and I are going upstairs.  And, we are going to go through the last week in my diary.”   She’d written about every detail for herself at first. However, she’d learned several days ago that Michelle might not recall her period of amnesia.   So, she recorded everything for her, too.

Michelle looked at Stephanie strangely.  People  - especially Stephanie - were still acting weird. .  “Steph, that’s impossible.  You never like me reading your diary.”

Stephanie grunted as she took Michelle from her dad.  The sisters plopped onto the couch.  “This is a one-time exception.  And, you’re only getting this for two reasons.   First, you should know what happened, and I want to tell you.  Well, except for one really funny thing.  I’ll let Cassie and Mandy tell you that.”  normal'>“Does she remember her friends now, or just us?”

Michelle noticed the curious look.  If she forgot her family, she probably forgot her friends, too.   And, memories of family might have come back first. She tried to recall some of her friends.

Stephanie sighed.  It was harder to apologize the second time.  But, she knew she had to do it.  “The second reason . . . ” She closed her eyes for a second. “I just haven’t been a very good sister.  And, I really feel bad about what I said.  I’m sorry I wouldn’t forgive you.  I should never have said anything like that.  My behavior after you teased me was far worse than yours.”

Michelle hugged Stephanie.  “It’s okay, Steph.  I forgive you for being cranky.”

Stephanie smiled as they embraced.  “How do kids do this so easily?”

It didn’t matter.  As they sat on the couch and talked with the rest of the family, Stephanie knew it was behind them for good.  The hardest part was figuring out how to describe the last week.  Stephanie had gone through so much, it was hard to put it all into a few sentences.

She was interrupted by Nicky and Alex.  They called from the second floor bathroom.  “Michelle, come quick.  You’ve got to see this.”

Michelle ran off excitedly.  Had the boys gotten something new while she was out of it?

Stephanie and the others looked at each other for a second.   Finally, Stephanie put a hand to her face. “Oh no!  The goldfish!”

Stephanie raced upstairs, with the others following her.  “They’re only three. They heard Michelle remember a couple things.  But, they don’t understand that she remembers everything.”

The fish had been floating upside-down since noon.  D.J. had bought it when it was half dead.   But, the twins didn’t pay attention to that. Alex grabbed the fish out of the bowl as Michelle entered.  He shoved it into the palm of Michelle’s hand, then used her hand to bat it into the water.

As Stephanie hurried into the bathroom, Michelle exclaimed “are you nuts? You’ll kill that goldfish.” “They must have run this bubble bath before I woke up.”

“You named him Martin,” Nicky told her.  Danny was now filming the spectacle.

“You won him at the carnival,” Alex added.  The others entered the bathroom.

Nicky nodded.  “And you want to give him a bubble bath.”

Michelle splashed around to locate the goldfish.  There were tons of bubbles in the tub.  Soon, half of them were flying out of it.   Michelle put both hands on the tub’s bottom. She half stepped in, and half fell.

Splash!  Even more water and bubbles flew onto everyone.  Now, Alex was in the tub.  With another big splash, Nicky joined them.  Luckily, nobody hit their heads.

Danny handed the camera to Becky and laid towels all over.   He was really happy to have Michelle back, but he still wanted to keep things clean at this impromptu party.

The young voices all seemed to ring out at once.  “Hey, where’s Martin!”  “No shoes in the bathtub!”  “I’m getting bubbles in my pockets.”  “That’s my nose, Nicky, not a goldfish!”  Stephanie laughed until her sides hurt.  Bubbles and water spewed out of the tub.  Everyone was getting soaked.  Danny tried extra hard to avoid it.  But, even his clean, pressed suit was getting messy.  To top off the nuttiness, they were having this pool party while fully clothed.

“Hey, wait!  There’s a goldfish in my hair!”  The upset voice was Jesse’s.  The goldfish itself had been splashed out, and it landed in Jesse formerly perfect hair. Jesse grimaced and squirmed as several people tried to get it out at once.  By the time the hands and fish were out, Jesse looked like he’d combed his hair with an egg beater.

Michelle poked her head out and glared at Becky.  “Oh, no, Michelle has a huge beard of bubbles!”  Stephanie nearly fell over laughing looking at Michelle’s beard and Jesse’s hair. Tears rolled down Stephanie’s face, as her tension fled.  Joey retrieved Martin and put him in the bowl.

“Aunt Becky, tell Nicky and Alex that you can’t give a fish a bubble bath. I tried it once when I was four, and it doesn’t work,” Michelle declared.

     “Michelle, you remembered that, too,” Alex shouted with excitement.

Nicky hugged her.  “We were hoping you would.”

Joey held the bowl and said, “Michelle’s remembered everything for the last fifteen minutes.”

“Yeah, boys,” Becky told them.  “You didn’t have to recreate that to bring back her memory.”

    “You mean they put a fish into a bubble bath on purpose?”   Michelle looked around.  That was the goofiest thing her family had done yet today. “Whose idea was that?”

Finally down to mere chuckling, Stephanie was able to raise her hand. Alex pointed an accusing finger at her. “It was hers.”

Stephanie tried to stifle her giggles.  It was impossible.  Michelle was the most soaked and bubble-filled of all of them.  “Oh, Michelle, I just had to help you, and be a better big sister.”

“Yeah, right.  By giving a goldfish a bubble bath?”  She wiped off her bubble beard.  She, too, was giggling now.

Stephanie explained that she simply tried to have fun.  “Admit it, it sounds like something you would try, doesn’t it?” To Stephanie, it seemed just like one of her sister’s crazy schemes.  “I could have brought home a mule, you know.”

“She also wanted to fly to Auckland with you,” Danny told her.

Becky snickered as she added “You think this is bad, Michelle? We almost had goldfish souffle for supper last night.”  The family got queasy looks.

Jesse nodded slowly.  “Yeah, munchkin. She really cares about you.”

Michelle thought for a second.  “Well, it’s crazy.  But, I might have done the same thing.”

Stephanie grinned.  She walked over to Michelle, who got out sopping wet with bubbles galore.  She could just hear Michelle asking if that could count as her bath tonight.

     “Michelle, I love you so much,” Stephanie said happily. “I want to be a great big sister, and help you with everything.  I can’t promise I’ll never get mad.  We’ll probably get a little crazy sometimes, or do things that annoy each other. We might have some big fights sometimes.  But, I can promise that I’ll always love you.  I’ll try never to say anything in anger.  But, even if I am mad at you, I’ll still be forgiving you and loving you.

“And, Michelle, I know we have our own friends.  But, I’d like to do more fun stuff with you than I have been. I want to be a really good friend, too, not just your sister.  Okay?”

They embraced.  Michelle didn’t need the long speech.  All she wanted was to know that Stephanie loved her.  This was so much better, though.  She agreed swiftly.  “You got it, dude.”

Stephanie sighed contentedly.  She didn’t know if she deserved it.  But, she would certainly take advantage of her second chance.  “Have mercy!”


Michelle grinned at Danny.  She was anxious to read Stephanie’s story - her sister had rewritten and expanded it for a young writers contest.  But now, Stephanie and her dad were with her at the stables.  Michelle was sitting on a horse.  And, Danny seemed to be holding on to Michelle for dear life. “Okay, Dad.  You can let go now,” she encouraged him.

Danny sighed.  He supposed he had to let Michelle ride her horse alone.  But, memories of her fall still bothered him a little.   “Just . . . one more minute.  I’m working up to it.”  He breathed deeply.  It hadn’t been as bad as it could have.  But, almost six weeks later, he still thought about how close he came to losing his little princess.

“Okay, I’m letting go.”  He closed his eyes briefly, but kept holding on to her.

Stephanie could relate to her dad.  She’d been just as scared.  But, she knew Michelle needed freedom, too.  “If you tickle him, Michelle, he’ll have to let go,” she told Michelle.

Danny saw Michelle’s ornery smirk.  “Okay, just keep both hands on your horse.”  He let go of Michelle, and grabbed the reins.  “How’s this?”

Michelle gazed tiredly at him.  “Dad, that’s not what ‘hold your horses’ means.”  Michelle appreciated the love that her dad’s protectiveness showed. But, sometimes he went too far.

Stephanie told her dad, “You don’t have to hold on to her.   Maybe instead, she can wear a football uniform while riding,” she joked.

“It might be a good idea for your first time, anyway.”  Danny finally let go.

Michelle sighed.  Cassie, Mandy, and Elizabeth looked at her.  She hoped they understood how protective Danny was.

Stephanie noticed the slight frustration.  “I’m just trying to help, Michelle.  I’m sure Dad’s not going to dress you in a football uniform to go horseback riding. Most of Dad’s ideas are good, though. I love my emergency first aid training.”

“It’ll get you more babysitting jobs,” Danny said.  “D.J.’s taken those courses for years.  I encouraged her to start at your age.  And now, she’ll have a head start on some of her classes.”

Michelle frowned.  Stephanie wanted to help her.  But, Michelle wanted to help Stephanie, too.  And yet, Stephanie had refused.  “Are you sure I can’t help you find a new boyfriend, Steph?” Michelle asked her.   “Or, maybe I can help you get Andrew back.”

Stephanie shook her head.  “You don’t understand romance,” she argued.  “Joey’s more serious about Suzie than he’s been about anyone.   But, he has to go slow with her, and that love will take a while to grow.  It’s the same with D.J. and Steve.  They’re really close friends now.  But, even they didn’t fall back in love right away.  They might, once D.J. settles into the routine of going to college while living at home. But, for now, they just had a good time at the prom.  As for Andrew, that was even less of a romance.  We were only practicing for Romeo and Juliet, I think.  It was only physical. Those are fun.   But, when I can talk about deep subjects like forgiveness, unconditional love, and so on with a boy, that’s when I’ll kinow it could be the real thing.  Until then, I’ll have to keep looking.”

Michelle was disappointed.  She knew Stephanie wanted a boyfriend.  Why wouldn’t Stephanie let her help?  “Someday, I’ll do it anyway. I need to help her with something. She really likes to help me,” Michelle reasoned.

Elizabeth held her hands like antlers.  She’d loved doing that at the “welcome home” party, the day after Michelle regained her memory.   “Come on, Michelle. Start riding.   You can do it,” she said, sounding like Bullwinkle.

Michelle giggled.  She’d remembered at the party that she’d done that her first day of Kindergarten.   Most importantly, she remembered all of her friends - even very new ones, like Elizabeth.  Her mind was back to normal.

“Not too fast,” Danny called.  He got on a horse, and soon pulled up alongside Michelle, Cassie, and Mandy as they walked their horses.  Stephanie joined Allie and Darcy as they watched some boys riding.

     Elizabeth’s horse trotted up to join the others after a minute. “Thanks to you, my mom doesn’t pressure me to win contests anymore,” she told Michelle.

“That’s good,” Michelle said, smiling.

“Yeah, now it’s my special lifesaving award.  It seems like she tells everyone she sees that I helped save a life,” Elizabeth proclaimed.  “Although, at least Mom and I can feel special without winning trophies now.”

Danny squirmed to get more comfortable in his saddle, then turned to face Elizabeth.  “Well, you could have,” he maintained.  “The potential for a life threatening injury was there.  Michelle’s life wasn’t in danger, but we didn’t know that. So, we had to act like it could be. And, you did a beautiful job.”

Elizabeth blushed slightly.  She thought Danny was going to start crying and hugging her like he had at the party. “My mom makes me seem like much more of a hero than I am, though.  You’d think I’d ridden through the battlefield at Gettysburg, the way she tells it.”

“As long as she loves you for who you are, and not for what you do,” Danny remarked.

Elizabeth agreed.  “She really is nice. She just goes overboard sometimes. She wouldn’t mind if I never saved another life.  But, she sure talks like I will.” She turned her horse a little and added, “I don’t know if I could do it again.  I don’t know how I kept my cool with this accident.”

“That makes two of us,” Danny said, breathing a little sigh of relief.

Elizabeth felt much better after hearing that.  Danny had seemed really good at taking charge back then. “I guess it’s normal to have a few butterflies, huh?”

“I’ve got some right now,” Cassie confessed.

“Are you thanking of Michelle’s safety, or yours,” Mandy wondered.

“Both.” Cassie had almost never ridden a real horse.

Michelle was ecstatic.  She wore a cowboy hat over her riding hat.  As they approached the stables once more she flung off the cowboy hat.   “Yee-hah,” she hollered, as if she was ready to race off somewhere.  She stayed put, though.

Stephanie screamed “don’t do that!”  Michelle thought Stephanie was angry.  Instead, as she turned her head, she noticed that Stephanie was holding her chest. Her sister was pretending to have a heart attack.  Stephanie was chuckling, too, though.

“I think you just gave your sister a scare,” Mandy informed her.

Stephanie nodded.  “Make me think you’re badly hurt when you’re not, and that’s one time where I normal'>might be really upset at you.  I never want another scare like this accident.   Forgetting it was hard enough.”

Michelle understood.  She was glad she wouldn’t remember having amnesia.  When she’d read Stephanie’s diary, she’d realized that she might have been the most scared person of all.

Michelle sat in their bedroom that night.  Stephanie was her sitter.  But, Danny let them call it “pizza night.”  They ordered pizza and treated it like a two-person slumber party.

Michelle began reading Stephanie’s story.  It was titled “Big Sis.” She was still amazed at all the trouble Stephanie had gone to, as she picked up a party hat with paper antlers. She couldn’t imagine why she’d thought Stephanie hated her.

Michelle read Stephanie’s story.  It featured a lady named Judy.  She ran a dance studio.  And, she had a decision to make.  Should she care for their 23-year-old sister, Beth - a woman with the mind of a three-year-old? Or, should her sister Margaret take her far away to Nebraska, where Beth could live on a farm.

     Michelle’s eyes watered toward the end.  Judy made what seemed to be a painful decision. She recognized she really loved Beth. Rather than making her move so far away, she let Beth move in with her.  She was scared that she would never get married after that, though.

Beth soon became a favorite of the “little ballerinas” in Judy’s dance studio. At their first recital, Beth did many things that embarrassed Judy completely.  But, Judy met a doctor who worked with handicapped people.   He was a single dad, whose daughter danced in the show.

“Hey, Michelle,” Stephanie proclaimed as she walked into their bedroom. “I bet you’re thrilled to know everything’s clear after that last checkup.  I know I am.  So, which was better? Was it that first horseback ride, or your first base hit yesterday?”

She suddenly noticed Michelle was crying.  “What’s wrong?”  She sat beside Michelle.

Michelle looked up while wiping her eyes.  “Steph . . . this is beautiful.”  She read the ending aloud.  “Judy and Matt walked down the aisle, hand in hand, trailing her new flower-throwing daughter, and her bubble-blowing sister.  She couldn’t fathom the incredible love they shared, much less the simple beauty and innocence that was Beth’s world.  Just after Judy and her new husband kissed, Beth interrupted. ‘My tuwn,’ she cried happily. Judy laughed at Beth’s silliness. As wonderful as it would be to one day see her fully functioning in Heaven, it was still awesome here. Beth’s was a pure love that touched many hearts, brought everyone closer, and helped her find the man of her dreams.  ‘I wuv you, Big Sis,’ Beth shouted.”

Michelle grabbed a tissue and turned to Stephanie.  “Why do people cry at happy endings?”

Stephanie only half heard Michelle.  She’d been thinking of her lifelong love for telling stories.   She smiled as she reminisced.  Now, she put those stories on paper.  But, she was still the same kid her first grade teacher had called “a delightful little chatterbox.”

Still, that could be good.  She would remember to talk with Michelle when she had problems.  And, she would calm herself.  Then, she wouldn’t let idle, angry words slip out. “It’s hard to believe one thing said in anger could wreak such havoc,” she considered.

Michelle tapped her on the shoulder and woke her out of her daydream. “Hey, Steph, did you hear me?”

She began thinking out loud.  “Sorry. Maybe as we grow, we see so many bad things happen.  And, a happy ending reminds us of something we lost.  We think of the time when we knew it would always turn out okay.”   She put her arm around Michelle.  “I was so scared it wouldn’t when you hit your head. I prayed so much for you. But, I also prayed for peace and mercy for myself.  I really needed it.”

Michelle smiled.  She pointed to the paper. She felt so proud of her sister’s writing.  “I guess this is where you learned not to worry if my brain was damaged?”

“It’s more than that.”  Stephanie crossed her legs.  “I’d felt such peace that evening.  I started to realize it was going to work out okay, even if you had serious damage. And, it did.   It turned out great.  You haven’t shown any signs of personality change or any type of limitation. The doctor says you’ll grow up with no sign that accident ever happened.  And, I will too, except for the lessons I’ve learned.  But no matter what, like Dad said, we would have gotten through it.”

Michelle agreed.  She hugged Stephanie. Once Stephanie got in bed, they would talk a while.  But, now she could say that she got to bed at a decent time.

Stephanie re-entered their room and laid down.  Michelle laid on her back and placed her hands behind her head. “Hey, Steph.   Great story.  I can see why you won an award.”


“I really enjoyed doing all that neat stuff with you this month,” Michelle remarked. “I can see why I remembered you after a while.  I always knew you were a great sister.”

     “Thanks.”  Stephanied mulled it over.  “It’s ironic. I made all these plans, I told all those stories, and then you were helped just because I was there for you in Kindergarten.”

“You’ve always been there for me.  I love hanging around you,” Michelle stated warmly.  “I’d never even been babysat by a stranger then. I’d been in preschool, but that was more like a playgroup.  That first day was scary.  But, I knew I could count on you.”

Stephanie smiled proudly.  “Thanks. I guess it makes sense. You felt the same fear coming home after your accident, I bet.  And, your mind searched for a similar time, so yu’d have something to comfort you.”

Stephanie tried to sell the fun of time away from her, though, so she could spend time with just her friends.  “You had fun with my friends and me.  We had a great time together in L.A. last week, when someone canceled at the last minute and Joey got to be on Jay Leno.  But, you’ll really love it now.  You get to go to overnight camp by yourself in a couple weeks.  You can do all sorts of fun stuff with your friends. June was boring, with Dad holding you out of sports and stuff, wasn’t it?  But, now, you can do whatever you want.  Well, I don’t think Dad would let you skydive.  But, otherwise.”

Michelle knew why Stephanie said this.  And, Michelle wanted to play with just her own friends, too. But, she desired to soak up as much sister time as she could get.  “Oh, Steph, I had so much fun at Darcy’s, with her swimming pool . . . .”

“Same here.  And don’t worry. We’ll still do plenty of fun stuff together.”  Michelle and Stephanie spoke for another fifteen minutes.  Then, both got tired, and turned off the lights.

Michelle awakened later.  It was the middle of the night.  But, she had one of those nagging questions.  It was the type she knew an older sister could answer.  Stephanie often chuckled at such queries.   They annoyed her when they came this late. But, they brought sillier responses then.  Once in a while, they even brought the correct answer. “Hey, Steph,” she whispered.

The soft purr of Stephanie’s snores stopped.  Stephanie no longer feared that Michelle had another headache. She simply turned and faced her. “Mmmm, what is it, Michelle?”

   “Steph, I was laying here wondering - do snails dream?”

“Well, at least for girl snails, every dream involves Tom Mellon.” Mellon was Stephanie’s favorite teen actor.

Michelle admired Stephanie’s ability to crack jokes when half asleep. However, she was serious. “Snails don’t go anywhere. They’re so slow, Dad passes them when driving.  And, they don’t have much to see down on the ground.  So, what would they dream about?”

At two in the morning, Michelle had known she could make Stephanie babble. “Well, a snail has imagination; at least I think so,” Stephanie rambled.  “I mean, Comet, our dog, dreams.  Maybe they dream about different colors, or strange smells.   And, then you have the really dreamy ones. You've never been in space, after all, but you dreamed about being an astronaut.  So, maybe . . . ”

Michelle smirked.  She pretended to snore.

Stephanie snickered.  normal'>“I talked her to sleep.  What a silly question.  And, what a silly answer.”

Stephanie rose and crept over to Michelle’s bed.  She sighed contentedly and lowered her head.   “I’m so thankful to have Michelle back again.  Uncle Jesse was right.  A part of us was missing. And, the best part is, I feel like I’ve gained something I never had.  No matter what, Michelle will always be very special to me.”

Stephanie kissed her lightly on the forehead.  “Sweet dreams, my friend.  I love you,” she whispered, before going back to bed.

Michelle smiled peacefully and turned her head.  “I love you too, Steph,” she said, before drifting off to sleep.


Jeff Farrington held his thumbs to his ears. He hadn't been able to speak for several moments. But, when all else failed, he could always be funny. "Michelle . . . " he said like Bulwinkle. Michelle's cell phone rang. She sighed. Why hadn't she turned it off in this elegant Italian restaurant. "Hello," she said. "Michelle, I'm glad I caught you. Suzie just went into the hospital," Stephanie said. "D.J.'s going to have one fun night."

"Yeah, I'll say." Michelle quickly closed the phone and turned to her boyfriend. "Jeff, I'm sorry, but I need to get to the hospital. You can tell me on the way there." Why had Jeff been so nervous, she wondered. And, why had he started to talk like Bullwinkle? Since that first day of Kindergarten - still her first vivid childhood memory - the friends had only done that once; during Michelle's get-well party.

At the hospital, D.J. was finishing an intricate operation. She was removing a marble from a todder's nose. "Now, Pammy, remember what your mom and I told you. Never stick anything up your nose." "Thansk, Cousin D.J.." The little girl smiled at Becky, her mom.

"Thanks, Deej. I'm glad you were here.for us. I know the Heimlich, CPR, and everything else, just like you and your sisters. But, I don't know how anyone can get a marble out of a nose." Becky looked at Pammy. "Then again, I don't know how you got a marble in your nose." "It wasn't easy. Do I get a lollipop?" Pammy asked.

"I don't know. Where do you plan to put it?" Becky and Pammy laughed. "Okay, you were good. I suppose I'll get you one." She shook her head and turned back to D.J.. "At least it's not as bad as the boys were last summer, when they each broke an arm playing football."

"I know. Having four kids must be wild. I'm glad I haven't had to babysit all four at once. Although, Stephanie and, mostly, Michelle have been driven crazy a few times." D.J. stepped out of the waiting room with Becky and Pammy. "It's nice that Steve and I can trade schedules. Our first anniversary is coming up, though, and I've got a surprise for him. I'm pregnant."

"Deej, that's wonderful." Becky and D.J. embraced. "Aren't you glad I told you to go to that prom?" "Well, I was so focused on studies we didn't have much more than a friendship till after I got through my first year on the job. Besides, he was working on Grandpa's extermination business, which finally got turned over to him a few years ago. It might have happened, anyway. But, yeah, I am . . . Hey, Steph." D.J. grinned as Stephanie helped Suzie Gladstone into the hospital. "Hi, Suzie. It must be time!'

"I called everyone else, Deej. Cassie and Mandy are minding Joey's four kids." Stephanie smiled, excited at the way thigns had gone for the comedian. "Steph, Cassie was already watching Nicky, Alex, and little Joey, since Jesse's away in Vegas," Becky said. A gust of air left her mouth as Suzie got hit with a contraction. "Now that's what I call a full house."

Danny Tanner and Joey Gladstone showed up with video cameras. "Say something, sweetheart," Joey said as he poked the camera at his wife. "I am about to give birth. This is not a good time to be taking my picture!" Suzie screamed. "Isn't she pretty when she's mad? Just look at that gorgeous dimple," Joey said as he continued to record her.

"Careful, Joey. You're going to break Dad's amazing record of number of home videos if you keep that up," Stephanie teased him. Joey shut off the camera for a moment. "Hey, congratulations, man." Danny patted Joey on the shoulder. "I guess sometimes, I was scared of marrying someone who already had kids. Aw, let's face it. After Vicki left I never could get into serious dating again. It might be fifty years till I see Pam again. But, Steph's right. That's the blink of an eye, in terms of eternity. I'll just move around between your place, Jesse and Becky's, and my daughters' places, eventually. Even if someone invited me to live full time, it would be hard with everyone gone." Although, he told himself, he'd probably accept the offer someday. "But then, because of that wonderful gift of God's that we each accepted, we'll have forever."

Stephanie nodded. "Allie's watching our baby. I'm so glad I can stay at home with him while my husband works. Now, I can be the mom I always wanted." She sighed. If she tried hard, she could vaguely recall her mother. But, she had many wonderful memories, even without her. "All I have to think about now is turning the car in the kitchen incident into a Sunday School lesson tomorrow. Talk about a great lesson on forgiveness and love. It's amazing, I'd had the way right in front of me, but it nearly took something tragic to make me see what it was really all about" Stephanie sighed.

"Thinking about moving out, too, huh?" D.J. whispered with compassion. Stephanie nodded sgrimly. "It's going to be hard, isn't it, Steph?" Stephanie grinned sadly. "Yeah. I mean, I know we should. I don't know how Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky stood it in that attic apartment with two kids; we've only got one. But, that'll leave Michelle and Dad all alone. And, Dad's already got empty nest syndrome now. I don't want to break Michelle's heart, either. I always wanted to be there for her. And, I feel like we should just leave together, when we're both ready. I don't know why. But, I guess since the accident, we kept growing closer, despite our problems."

Jeff had overheard the conversation as he and Michelle walked into the emergency room. "Well, I've got a great solution," he declared emphatically. He turned to Michelle and chuckled. "How about you and I get married?" he said casually. He hoped she realized he was serious.

"Is that supposed to be a proposal?" Michelle asked, visibly stunned. "Sure is." He whipped out a ring. "I know, it's not the most romantic. But, I wasn't sure where the next field hockey game was for the team Darcy coaches. So, I couldn't rent out the scoreboard."

Michelle laughed as they embraced. "Yes, I'll marry you," she said excitedly. "At least you didn't ask me like Bulwinkle." Michelle couldn't imagine anyone doing that. A proposal was supposed to be beautiful, not funny. That included a proposal from a huge clown like Jeff. . Jeff whispered to Stephanie, "She won't know how close I came."

Several hours later, the entire group minus D.J., Joey, and Jesse was in the waiting room. Becky had called Allie to come pick up Pammy and take her to Jesse and Becky's house. She, Cassie, and Mandy - with Nicky and Alex offering a little help before they left for the evening - will feel like they're monitoring a playground, Becky mused. Once that had been done, the family sat back and reminiscing.

"Nicky's probably on his date with Kathy Santoni's baby girl by now," Becky remarked. "Do they realize how close they came to being her brothers? Michelle tells me Kathy had her girl really young, and you almost adopted her," Jeff remarked. Becky nodded. "I don't think they really think about that. We had planned to have another baby around that time. Then, when we heard about Kathy, we decided to adopt instead. That fell through. But, we did adopt a baby from a teen mother about four years later, and another one after that. So, to the twins it's like we have been adopting children. So, they don't think about how Kathy almost gave us her girl, because she didn't get adopted," Becky explained.

D.J. said that Kathy was lucky. "Kathy had lots of support from her mother; the girl who's baby you adopted didn't. It's surprised me, but Kathy really turned her life around after her pregnancy." "Not that she didn't try to skim off of others," Stephanie remarked, remembering some past battles with Kathy's younger sister. Kathy's younger sister had been in a club called the Flamingoes. They were Stephanie's rivals in middle school, and had caused her all sorts of problems. They'd all become good friends recently, though.

Becky looked at her watch. "What's taking Jesse so long? He promised to be here for Joey," Becky complained. Michelle remembered a story about her accident. "Maybe you should call the hospital, Aunt Becky."

As Becky laughed, Jesse rushed in and embraced her. "I got here as soon as I could. What's happening?" "No word yet. But, at least this is a happy wait," Stephanie said.

"That's right. It's fun to sit and relive old times." Danny turned to Jeff and confided, "I wouldn't mind seeing you and Michelle stick around the house for a year, or two, or ten." "Sorry, Sir. I think when we're done with college we'll get our own place," Jeff responded. "Well, somebody neds to live there." Danny tried to consider how to choose which of his girls to sell it to; he decided to save that discussion for later. They would have to all agree before he would do anything, anyway.

Stephanie said, "I don't think you'll be lonely, Dad. You're going to have so many grandchildren, you won't know what to do." "I know. I'll probably end up living in a shoe," Danny joked dryly.

Just then, D.J. came out bouncing merrily. "It's a boy. Come on back," she encouraged them. They saw Joey proudly holding an arm around Suzie, who held the new baby. Joey was too choked up to talk.

"He always gets like this. He's just like you, Dad. Except, he even got like that when the Flintstones had their baby. I don't think you did that," Michelle remarked. "This is the happiest moment of my life. Except for all those other great moments." Joey sniffled. "Aw, what the hay, I may as well buy another dozen or so videotapes now. We'll keep having happy moments forever." He kissed Suzie.

"Hey, that's right, man. You make one great dad," Jesse said sincerely. Stephanie put an arm around Michelle. "And, we've made a great team, too. When you're committed to Godly love, and put your trust in the Lord, no matter what happens, it's going to be okay." She smiled, fondly bringing up the misty memories of her mother. "Even when tragedy strikes, like it did when Mom died." "Somehow, you always made it through," Jeff said.

"And, we'll keep making it through, too," Stephanie affirmed confidently. With things having worked out for good after her mom's death, she simply had faith that the Lord would take care of them. Michelle smiled at Jeff, and considered the wonderful men in her life. "So will we. I knew you had Joey's craziness since we met. But, you've got my Uncle Jesse's charm, and my dad's unconditional love, too. What a great combination." They embraced.