Unchained Melody One

I

A few months later

On her off day, Moira-Selene took a secret trip to the Galloway Center to visit someone of her concern.

Doctor Kenneth Scott was at the front desk talking to one of the registered nurses on staff when Moira-Selene entered. He looked up to see the short-haired woman wearing a pewter cardigan that brought out the color in her black turquoise-and-pewter-striped slacks. After ending the exchange with the nurse, Dr. Scott strode over to Moira-Selene, a clipboard in his hand.

“Good afternoon, Dr. Scott,” Moira-Selene greeted him, formality in her tone, affability in her eyes.

“Good afternoon, Dr. Thomas,” Scott greeted back in the same tone, the same look in his eyes. He made a show of glancing at his watch. “I’m going to make a guess that you’re here to see our mysterious beauty.”

An ironic smile tilting up the right side of her mouth, Moira-Selene nodded. “It’s something I look forward to.” She took the clipboard when he offered it, signing her name and making a note of the time. She handed it back to him, and he led her down the hallway.

The Galloway Center housed victims of head trauma, and there were some being treated for memory loss, as Moira-Selene knew from her medical experience. But there was one special victim that she was preoccupied with.

The room was spacious enough to ensure privacy and comfort but not big enough to be elaborate. There was a sink on one side of the room with a mirror above it. On the counter around the sink were toiletries. The closet door was cracked open, and Moira-Selene spied shoes and clothes in vibrant colors. There was a poster of Marilyn Monroe on one wall. There were no pictures of family; just snapshots of a newly created life with other patients at the Center. A sunny day out in the courtyard with a blonde and an Asian doctor—Dr. Wu, Moira-Selene knew. A photo with her psychiatrist. A photo with Dr. Scott. Shifting her eyes over the TV, the collection of CDs and DVDs, the stereo and the worn pink spiral notebook, Moira-Selene found the occupant of the room.

She was sitting at the window, clad in a white tank top and jeans with holes in the knees. An acoustic guitar sat on her knee. She strummed a melody, singing softly. Her long dark hair was pulled back, and lowered lids nearly hid a pair of green eyes. Moira-Selene paused at the door and listened, trying to remain unnoticed until the right moment.

You can make water from wine
But you can’t fool me
You can bring fire from the sky
But you can’t fool me
You can even walk on water
And part that vast sea
But you can’t fool me
I’ve no time for an empty miracle

Moira-Selene clasped her hands together and listened at the strummed chord resonated, then died out in air. As if finally feeling another presence in the room, Amanda looked up slowly.

“Lanie!” she exclaimed when she saw Moira-Selene. She placed the guitar on the bed nearby and ran to hug her. Moira-Selene accepted the hug, feeling none of the remorse the first time she had seen Amanda Latona and told her that her name was Lanie. Or Eleanor Marshall to be precise. Moira-Selene stepped back and led Amanda to the bed. Amanda bounced onto the bed. Moira-Selene merely sat down. When they were seated, Moira-Selene placed her purse on the ground and turned to Amanda.

“How are you, Amanda?” she asked. “You look really good.”

“You think so?” Amanda tugged at her ponytail holder until her long mane came loose. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell in here. There’s not much to get dressed up for. I want to get dressed up every once in a while and do something. Feel human.”

Moira-Selene nodded, understanding. Most of the patients in the Galloway Center had no family, and having a normal life was the bulk of their problems. The coordinators at the Center tried to give the patients fun activities during their lengthy stay, but Moira-Selene could tell that Amanda was getting antsy.

She wouldn’t be antsy for long.

“Well, I have the perfect way for you to feel human again,” Moira-Selene said meaningfully.

Amusement twinkled in Amanda’s eyes. “Does this involve sneaking me out and running naked down the street?”

“No,” Moira-Selene replied, laughing. “I do believe that’s a bit extreme, don’t you think?”

“Well, at this point, I need something extreme. I’ve been in here for months. Years, it feels like.” Amanda sobered a bit. “I know nothing of what my life’s been before the moment I woke up and saw you standing over me, Lanie. It’s almost like…” Her olive green eyes met Moira-Selene’s emerald green eyes. “You gave me life.”

Moira-Selene didn’t think that it would be a good idea to tell her that the person that had been standing over her at Gracia Memorial had been her quadruplet sister Gretchen. She didn’t want to shatter the memories that Amanda had. So instead, she’d try to give Amanda the chance to make her own.

“I didn’t give you life,” Moira-Selene told her. “I just gave you a chance to recapture the one you had. I don’t think that’s so profound—at least not as profound as childbirth.” Amanda chuckled at that. “And now you’ll have the chance to do it outside of the Galloway Center.”

Hope and confusion were both alive on Amanda’s face. “Lanie, what are you saying?”

Moira-Selene reached down and took out the papers she had hidden in her purse. She handed them to a still-shocked Amanda. Amanda looked down at her, eyes wide, and unfolded them. There was a humming pause as she skimmed the papers.

“Does this mean what I think it means?” Amanda asked.

Moira-Selene nodded slowly.

“Amanda Isabelle Grace,” Amanda read from the paper. She looked at Moira-Selene again. “I have a new name.”

It had taken Moira-Selene hours by herself with gentle consideration to come up with that name. “And you have a new life to go with it. The papers release you from the hospital in a week. You have the proper documentation to go out and live a normal life. You can get a job, buy an apartment. Anything you want.”

When Amanda looked at her, Moira-Selene suddenly felt like what Amanda had said earlier had almost been correct. But she wasn’t doing this for the glory. Moira-Selene knew that this would be a welcome opportunity compared to the life that Amanda Marie Latona left in abeyance. Amanda Isabelle Grace would write her own without interference from outside sources. At least that was what Moira-Selene hoped.

As Amanda chattered about the possibilities, Moira-Selene kept half an ear on her and mused over that last thought—a skill she had learned while living with four sisters. Things had been quiet since Alex had been laid to rest and Amanda had been placed in the Galloway Center. Amanda’s family probably won’t be looking for her, given what the other White Evil agents make them think about her. Kristin and Leighanne did a good job in using that to turn Amanda toward their cause. Nevertheless, they’re gone now. But the Amulet of Nova is still missing, Moira-Selene thought. Not to mention… A frown crossed her face at that moment. The Black Star Prophet…

Moira-Selene’s eyes widened a touch. The Black Star Prophet…

“Lanie? What do you think?”

Moira-Selene blinked slightly and forced a smile at Amanda’s inquiring stare. “I think you should live up north. Get away from here.”

Amanda placed her chin on her palm, considering. “You don’t think I should go to Hollywood?”

Moira-Selene shook her head. “I think you should go somewhere a little more discreet.” When Amanda’s smile drooped a touch, Moira-Selene sighed and stood. “I’m sorry. I suppose I feel a little protective.” She faced the window. She was about to lie, and she needed to put on her poker face. “I don’t want anything to happen to you, especially since we don’t know what happened to you or why.” She turned, eyes veiled. “Start small. Then, when you really get your bearings, maybe you should move to somewhere more…eclectic.”

Amanda pouted a little, but exhaled quickly as if she understood. “You may be right.”

“Well, someday, Amanda, someday. Don’t lose hope. You’ll be able to dazzle Hollywood in due time.” That brought the smile back to Amanda’s face. “And they won’t know what hit them.”

Amanda’s smile turned into a grin. “Oh, they definitely won’t.” She looked at the papers again excitedly. “This is going to be so fun, picking out my own place with my own furniture and my own rules.”

“Maybe you can have a dog, too,” Moira-Selene offered.

“Yeah!” Amanda’s eyes brightened considerably. “I’ll get a dog.” She smirked at Moira-Selene. “I’m gonna name it Marshall.”

Moira-Selene gave her a smirk back. “And if it’s a girl?”

“Definitely Marshall,” Amanda persisted.

Moira-Selene sighed, not willing to ruin her fun. “I suppose you should do what you must.” She glanced at her watch. “I do believe it’s lunchtime. Do you mind having a visitor for lunch?”

Amanda ran to Moira-Selene and nearly knocked her over. Moira-Selene stood there for a second, floored, incredulous, and touched all at the same time.

“I suppose that’s a yes,” Moira-Selene murmured.

Amanda stepped back and, since she was shoeless and six inches shorter than Moira-Selene, had to look up into Moira-Selene’s face. Her eyes were watery, and Moira-Selene’s eyes softened in response.

“I know I’m going to be saying this a million times but…” Amanda trailed off as if overcome with emotion. Moira-Selene knew she was, and waited patiently. “Thank you. This…this is the chance I have been praying for.”

Moira-Selene shook her head. “Just use it wisely. It’s kind of hard to do these things twice in one life.”

Amanda hugged her again wordlessly, then led her to the lunchroom, chattering about interior decorating. Moira-Selene was overwhelmed with her intensity, but understood. She was going to be independent—something she hadn’t been for months now.

If Danie knew she was doing this, Moira-Selene would be in such big trouble…

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