Summary: Fern hates public speaking, especially when she has to read her school assignments to her peers. But this assembly is different because her work could have unintended consequences…and because it keeps happening. Every day is a new day but the scenario is the same. Fern is stuck in a time loop and she has no idea how to escape. Can also be found here on ff.net.
Fern woke up for a third straight day in the same timeline. She was staying with her aunt and uncle, who dutifully took her to appointments with the psychiatrist. She was to go three times a week to work through whatever issues she had, and it was excruciating. Her mother wasn’t talking to her or answering her calls. The best support she had was from Sarah and Paul, who kept her well-fed with wonderful home-cooked meals and delicious treats from places around town. If it weren’t for the stress of being stuck in a world that wasn’t her own, Fern would consider herself happy, but there were simply too many questions and not enough answers.
More importantly, there were too many lies. She honestly had no idea why she would deck the mayor because the only thing she remembered about him herself was when he hurt her wrist. That wasn’t a part of this timeline, so she couldn’t tell anyone. She was having to lie about a lot of things, and people were starting to worry about her. Fern wasn’t remembering the things that she should either, and Sarah was worried that Fern had something wrong with her brain.
So on this third day, Sarah fought for hours for permission from Doria to call a neurologist on Fern’s behalf. Doria didn’t even want to answer at first, and when she found out the call was about Fern’s well-being, she kept hanging up on Sarah. Persistence finally paid off, but it would be a long wait. The neurologist Sarah called wouldn’t be able to take her for another month, but they recommended taking her to the ER if there were any instances of complete confusion, seizures, or any other neurological symptom they deemed important enough to warrant a trip to the hospital.
Fern didn’t want to go to the emergency room, so she knew to play it safe. As her fourth day in this timeline came and went, she kept hoping for more memories or information, but being at her aunt and uncle’s house was like being on an island. She was cut off from her own home and the people she knew. While they were being kind to her, Fern couldn’t help but want to go back, but she didn’t know how to do that. Doria was furious with her, and her father was standing by her whether he wanted to or not. If Fern was going to return home, her aunt and uncle would have to be the ones to take her there, on their initiative.
On the fifth day, Fern decided to make this happen. After visiting a local doctor to check her hand, Fern started talking nonstop about home. She’d left behind her favorite pillow and it was hard to sleep without it, she needed a book for summer reading for school, she’d left behind her diary, her computer was still on—Fern let out a list of problems with an increasingly sad tone.
Fern wondered if her method was working until Day Nine. They had just gotten home from another meeting with the psychiatrist, who was now trying to use games to get answers and information from Fern without success, when Sarah emerged from her room with a rolling suitcase. Paul came in from the garage with a smile on his face.
“What’s going on?” Fern asked.
“Well, the car is in top shape and ready for you to go. Your bag is packed in the hall, and Sarah knows what to do. She’s going to take you home, and her hope is that a few days with you will make your parents want you back. The psychiatrist is thinking that you had a moment, just a teen thing, from where your brain isn’t fully developed yet. She thinks it was an accident, basically, and that we have nothing to worry about. Now your aunt just needs to convince your mom of that,” Paul explained.
“I think I can do it, Fern. I know I can,” Sarah smiled, descending the stairs with Fern’s duffle bag in her hand. Within moments, the two were in Sarah’s SUV heading to Elwood City.
Fern spied on the stairs as her aunt tried to convince her mother to let Fern stay at home. So far, it wasn’t a successful mission.
Doria looked to Sarah with a skeptical expression, “I doubt what Fern did could be considered an accident. Witnesses say she intended to do it, though they can’t think of why. She just needs to stop lying to the doctors there and work through her issues.”
“Well, what if the neurologist finds something wrong with her, like a brain tumor? What if none of this was her fault? Listen, Doria, she doesn’t even seen to know what happened that day, and she doesn’t remember so many things from her childhood. All she knows is that she wants to be in her own home again where she can have a solid foundation. What if this is what she really needs to recover? What if what she really needs is a mother who loves her?”
“I do love her,” Doria argued, “but I can’t stand beside a violent person. She knows right from wrong, and she knows there are consequences for every action. Some are positive and others are negative, and it was my thought that this could be a negative consequence. But I know you’re giving her treats every day, and you’re letting her know that everything is perfectly a-okay, when it’s not! None of this is okay, and she deserves every moment of pain and discomfort. She can stay here the night so that you can rest, then you both need to go. And I’m looking into a way to keep her there when school starts.”
“I can’t do that, Doria,” Sarah whispered.
Doria shrugged, “Well, I guess we could discuss it, but I doubt the school will want her there with her history. The only reason the mayor hasn’t filed any charges is because he thinks these sessions are fixing her. They need time to work, and it could take a while. We’ll talk about it later though. I’m tired of this, and I just want to get back to work.”
Fern retreated to her room. She was happy to be staying there for one night, and she hoped that would give her some time to work things out. She turned on her computer and started searching for herself and the mayor online. Numerous news stories had been submitted on the incident, and most were clear—the mayor seemed to be walking towards Fern in all innocence, but she punched him out of nowhere. Many speculated there was something more to the story, but the only person who would know that for sure was Fern herself, or the mayor, who wasn’t discussing the situation either.
Fern sighed and looked around her room. Because of the nearly daily changes and the sudden move, she felt little connection to her space. Almost every day was some other struggle in some other season, and Fern was growing tired. She wanted to be in her own bed every night and wake up in the same timeline every day. She was tired of the changes, tired of the flip-flopping, and definitely sick of not having all the answers. She didn’t mind life’s questions before, but now she had to question everything. Who was she? Who were her family members? Who were her friends, neighbors, etc.? Fern had no idea, and switching to different realities made her even more clueless.
As Fern lay on her bed and stared at the ceiling, she wondered if there was a way out. Now that she was back home, she could tell things would be different tomorrow. She’d wake up in fall, spring, or winter, maybe a few days later than before thanks to the sudden shift. Things would be different though, and she’d have to adjust yet again. Fern hated it, but she knew it wasn’t in her hands. The issue was beyond a poem now, and Fern didn’t know how she could fix it. In fact, she knew she couldn’t. She could only react, and that wasn’t helping anyone, especially her. She probably punched the mayor in this reality to make up for being hurt by him in the last summer one. Otherwise, she was lost. Her life was now a series of unrelated moments with no common thread.
Fern’s eyes closed, and she let herself slip into a light nap. When she opened her eyes, her room was still the same. Her hand was still broken. More importantly, she was still stuck.