By the time 3 am rolled around, I had already shut down my laptop, flossed, brushed my teeth, washed my face and changed into my pink soda pop print cotton nightgown for bed. Being a petite five-foot-two inches, the gown only fell down to my mid-thigh, having once stopped over my knees, but due to repeated washing, it had shrunk considerably. I didn't really care. It's not like anyone but my mom and her husband saw me around the house in it anyway. Quietly, I shut the door to my room and stepped towards my queen-sized bed. Noticing the pen and the pad of paper I left on top earlier that night, when I was talking to the kooky Dr. Hensley, I pick it up and stare down at the incantation I printed on the piece of paper, sighing softly, her words echoing in my head.
"Nothing is going to happen unless you give it permission. Everything will work out as you want it to."
What did she mean by "as you want it to?" Shaking the thought off, I place the notepad and pen beside my bed, on the make shift night stand I had made out of a CSI board game box, and a stack of books. Pulling back the pink cotton comforter and matching sheets, I turn around to shut off the light just inside the door, then climb into bed. I watch the Palladia channel on TV for a few minutes until I feel my eyelids growing heavy. Switching off the TV, I tuck the remote under the pillow next to me, say my prayers then turn onto my right side, curling up in a fetal position and try to get some sleep, but no matter how hard I try, I can't get the thought of Dr. Hensley out of my head, or my characters. I'd made a promise to her that I would do what she told me to, and read the incantation before bed. Apparently it was the only way I was going to be able to participate in her therapy sessions.
What a stupid rule. All I had to do was recite some little poem three times, and she would help me? How would she know I had even done so? I could just as easily tell her I'd done it, when in reality, I hadn't. Yeah, but if she found out, she'd probably be furious, and refuse to help me ever again.
Just do it. What's the worst that could happen? There was no such thing as magic. That's why they made TV shows like Charmed and Sabrina The Teenage Witch about them, and the proof was in that reality show, Breaking The Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Revealed. Reaching under the pillow beside me, I pull out the black mini Maglite I have stashed there, pressing my finger against the bottom button and turning it on. Turning onto my left side, I reach over the side of the bed, grabbing the pad of paper. I push myself up to a seated position, taking a breath and glancing up at the ceiling. "Here goes nothing. To the characters in my head, I'm offering you a life instead, you're no longer fictional, not trapped in my mind, because I'm cutting the chains that bind. Bones, blood, flesh. I want our worlds to mesh. Come to me, I conjure thee, come to me and be free." I stop and shine my flashlight from one side of the room to the other, half expecting something to come of what I just read.
Okay, I'll read it again. "To the characters in my head, I'm offering you a life instead, you're no longer fictional, not trapped in my mind, because I'm cutting the chains that bind. Bones, blood, flesh. I want our worlds to mesh. Come to me, I conjure thee, come to me and be free."
I wait, search the room with my flashlight. Again...nothing happens.
Okay, one last time, like she told me to. "To the characters in my head, I'm offering you a life instead, you're no longer fictional, not trapped in my mind, because I'm cutting the chains that bind. Bones, blood, flesh. I want our worlds to mesh. Come to me..." I pause, feeling a chill dance down my spine, and that same chilly breeze rush over my head, but for the life of me, I can't help but continue. "I conjure thee, come to me...and be free."
I gasp softly, the breeze growing stronger now, blowing my hair into my face. Dropping the pad of paper, I wrap my arms around myself, both in an effort to keep warm and for protection, my eyes darting around the room. With a shaky hand, I swing the flashlight from one side of the room to the other, but to my disappointment, there is nothing there. Pulling both of my legs up to my chest, I sit there in the center of my bed, my arms wrapped tightly around my legs, my heart pounding frantically, the hair on the back of my neck standing on end, the flashlight pointed straight in front of me. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong here. I couldn't place my finger on what, but as the breeze turns into a strong and chilling wind, I bury my head in my knees and shut my eyes tightly, trembling in fear and praying that this mysterious energy will go away, and hopefully, not take me with it.
One whole minute goes by, then, suddenly, the wind stops and the air in the room is deathly still, as if that energy or whatever it was hadn't been here at all. Very slowly, I lift my head from my knees, my body stops trembling and I quickly swing the flashlight around my room, searching out some unknown being, who had to have been the culprit of what just happened.
But there is no being.
There is nothing.
No remains to indicate that someone or something else had been in the room.
Too afraid to leave my room to get a glass of water, let alone move from my bed, I grab the pad of paper with the incantation, throwing it across the room then slowly lie back down in bed. I am hesitant to switch off the flashlight, not wanting to be left in the dark, but gingerly, I do so, turning my back towards my bedroom door, grabbing my stuffed Ugly doll Babo and hugging him tightly to my chest. For about five or ten minutes, I just lay in bed, waiting for another gust of wind to come and steal my breath, striking fear in my heart once more.
But it never does.
Having no other choice but to succumb to the darkness pulling me in, my eyes grow heavy and I soon find myself falling into a deep slumber.
* * *
Sometime, I don't know when, probably about two hours after I had fallen asleep, I am woken up by a blinding bright white light. With a weary groan, I bring my hand up in front of my face, attempting to shield my eyes from the beam of light. Was it sunrise already? And had I left my curtains open? No, I would never. That's why I had blackout curtains, to keep my room as dark as possible, because who could sleep with daylight shining in through a set of horizontal blinds? Glancing over my shoulder, I realize that the curtains aren't open at all. Well, if the curtains aren't open, then where is that light coming from? With my hand still raised in front of my eyes, I slowly turn my head back towards the light. It appears to be coming from my beneath my closet door, and that's not the only thing. Fog is also coming from beneath the door, rolling across the floor between my bed and the closet door, which is no more than five feet away from me. What is that? What's going on? Am I dreaming? Yeah, that's it. I'm dreaming. I have to be.
My eyes widen in horror as the closet door slowly rolls open, my heart pounding frantically as I grab my Babo doll, and scoot as far away from the left side of the bed as I possibly can, hugging the stuffed toy against my chest. My breath catches in my throat as I watch the fog rise up over the door, the bright light softening. Suddenly, an eerily familiar male figure steps out of the fog and out of the closet. My jaw drops as I stare into the face of...Julian McMahon? No, not Julian McMahon. He wouldn't have that sinister look in his eyes...it's my fictional villain, Victor Bane. My hand quickly goes to my mouth, a squeal rising up in my throat. I shake my head back and forth, blinking a few times, refusing to believe my eyes, but my overwhelming shock grows, as more familiar figures and faces step into the doorway, out of the fog and enter my room. And every single one of them has the face and body of my characters.
Oh, my god, Jude Law! Scarlett Johansson, Emma Bunton, Nick Zano, Chris Evans, Aaron Stanford, Lyndsy Fonseca, Zak Bagans, Robert Downey Jr., Emma Stone, Rhona Mitra, Marg Helgenberger, Allison Munn, oh god and George Eads too, Jorja Fox, Parminder Nagra, and oh my god, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Scott Foley, and oh sweet mother of God, even Shane West!
"Dude, I'm corporeal!" Max shouts, the Aaron Stanford of my characters, pushing his way through the group and over to Andrew, my Shane West, giving him a playful punch in the shoulder, looking down at his hands, flipping them from one side to the other. He set his hand on Andrew's shoulder. "So are you!"
"Yeah," said Andrew, glancing down at his feet. "I guess I am."
"So am I, dude!" Jason, the Nick Zano, shouts happily, making his way over to them to high-five Max then turning to high-five Ryan, my Chris Evans.
"Hey! Didn't we arrest you?" Steve, the George Eads, turns to Victor and asks.
"We did!" Nora, the Rhona Mitra character, replies, turning to Victor, crossing her arms firmly over her chest.
"You think you can arrest me?" Victor asks, crossing his own arms firmly over his chest. "Fat chance, you little shit."
"Now don't make me get physical with you, Bane." Steve insists.
"Okay, there are way too many people in here!" Candice, the Emma Stone, shouts, "I'm getting claustrophobic! Mom!"
"I know, honey," says Catherine, the Marg Helgenberger character, gesturing her daughter to come closer. "It's okay, come stand by me. There's more room over here."
"How did we get here?" Ryan asks.
I sit gaping at all 20 of them, cramped in my small room, blinking a few times, confident that I am still dreaming. This isn't real. All of these people—my characters—aren't flesh and blood, and they are not standing in my room right now greeting one another, and bragging about how corporeal or "real" they are, or the people they are surrounded by. I hardly notice the bright light from my closet vanish instantaneously along with the fog, the room growing dark, but I can still hear their voices. Okay, this is a dream. I'm just going to pinch myself and I'll wake up.
"Hey, who turned out the lights?" Max asks.
"Hold on, I think I saw a light switch over here," Andrew replies.
At the same time I pinch my arm, the lamp beside my bed blinks on and the room fills with a soft warm glow. "Ow!" I shout, my arm throbbing from the pain of my firm pinch. Okay, not dreaming. But how can...
My thoughts trail off, as all 20 of my characters utter my name in unison, stealing my breathing and nearly stopping my heart. I look around the room, everyone falling quiet and their gazes all focused on me. They know me. Well, of course they know me, but how did they get here? Why are they here? And why are they all looking at me like I'm their leader? Do they expect me to give them instructions, or even an explanation as to how they all got here? I push a huge lump down in my throat as my heart pounds frantically, my eyes widening in astonishment as they dart around the room, my palms sweating, my breathing growing rapid, the room around me beginning to spin.
"Guys, she doesn't look so good," Michael, my Scott Foley, remarks, glancing over at Andrew and Emma, my Parminder Nagra with a deeply troubled scowl.
"Amy? Hey," a familiar smoky voice says. I slowly turn my head and meet Andrew's gaze, his forehead wrinkled in concern, "are you okay, sweetie?"
My eyes roll up into my head, a soft moan escaping my throat, and suddenly, before I realize what's happening, my whole world goes black.
* * *
With no memory of what had happened to me, let alone how long I'd been asleep, I moan softly, my head shifting against what feels like a soft pillow beneath it, a familiar smoky voice drawing my attention.
"Hey. She's waking up."
"Amy? Honey?" comes another familiar voice. "Can you hear me?"
I feel something wrapped around my left arm, and someone's fingers pressing against the inside of my right wrist. Slowly, my eyes flutter open and the first thing I see is Shane West's face, looking down at me, a soft smile crossing his face. I shut my eyes tightly and moan softly. "Shane...?" Feeling a finger against my eyelid, I cringe and blink at the sudden beam of light in each one of my pupils. "What are you doing?"
"Just checking your pupils, firecracker, and you know my name is Andrew." He glances up and across the bed. "Equal, round and reactive. Pulse is 74."
My eyes snap open at the word "firecracker," and the medical terms that follow. Oh no. No. I bolt up in bed, my eyes darting around the room.
"Whoa, easy," says Andrew, reaching out to set a hand on my right shoulder. "You need to rest. You should stay down."
My characters...where'd they go? They were all gone. Well, almost all of them. Suddenly, someone to my left sets another hand on my shoulder, gently pushing me back down in bed.
"Lie back down, honey."
I turn my head, looking to my left and seeing Scott Foley, or Michael, beside me, a purple stethoscope in his ears, my heart beating frantically when I notice he's holding the disc of it against my chest. A familiar blood pressure cuff is wrapped around my left arm. "What is this? What's going on?" I ask, bringing my hand up to my forehead and shutting my eyes.
"You fainted, Amy," says Andrew. "Just try and relax. Mike and I are trying to take care of you."
"Mike? Oh god..." I shake my head back and forth. No, this has to be a dream. This wasn't happening. This is just one big dream. But if it was, then why did it hurt so much when I pinched my arm earlier? Whenever earlier was, I still can't remember. "You're not real. Neither one of you is really here. I'm dreaming. This is all a dream."
"She's altered," Michael notes, removing the stethoscope from his ears. "Heart rate's also a little rapid, but her breath sounds are good."
"Clearly." Andrew presses his fingers to the inside of my wrist, my pounding heart skipping a beat. "She's tachycardic, my guess is her rate's around one hundred."
"I'm not altered! You guys are altered!" I look down with a scowl as Michael starts to take my blood pressure again. "You're supposed to be characters in my head, not here, flesh and blood human beings."
"We should take her to Cedars, and run an MRI to check her neuro function. Maybe call for a psych consult." Andrew suggests. "It's likely she has some brain damage."
"What!" I shout "I do not have brain damage! Don't either of you know who I am? I'm the one who created you. I'm the one who created all of those other people that were just in here. I'm your author. How else would you know me? How else would you two have become doctors in the first place? Because I made you doctors."
Andrew and Michael froze, suddenly meeting the others gaze. Andrew looks down at me then up at Michael. "Mike..."
Letting the air out of the cuff, Michael removes the stethoscope from his ears, glancing down at me then up at Andrew, gently nodding his head. "I know."
"She did create us, and she made us doctors in her stories, well, story for me, seeing as how I've only been in one of them so far. I guess I forgot about that in all the chaos."
"That's what I've been saying!" I exclaim.
"I remember," Michael says, looking down at me with a tender smile. "I did get a little overwhelmed myself after she fainted. It just seemed natural for me to jump in, do my job and care for her, and I guess I forgot who she was too...our author."
Andrew looks down at me and smiles sheepishly. "I'm sorry, Amy. I guess it's kind of a habit for both of us, but you made us that way so...who's really to blame here?"
I narrow my eyes at him. "Don't start. I'm not entirely to blame." I look from Andrew to Michael then back to Andrew. "I gave you guys the professions, the homes, the cars, the friends, family, your whole friggin' life stories, and the personality traits that come with it, and then it's up to you. I don't always control what comes out of your mouths or what you do. I just help bring it to the page."
Andrew sighs softly, glancing from me to Michael then back down to me. "Yeah, well I'm not entirely happy about all of those things."
"Yeah, well that's what therapy is for," I sigh softly, mumbling under my breath, "that's why you're here apparently. That's why you're all here."
"I'm not bothered by any of those things," Michael says. "I think you did a great job creating me." His lips stretch into a tender smile.
"What?"Andrew looks down at me, blinking rapidly, his forehead wrinkling in thought. "Did I just hear the word 'therapy?' Is that why we're here?"
I cringe, suddenly wishing I hadn't said that, but they were going to find out sooner or later. "I conjured you, and Michael, and everyone else. This therapist, or psychologist, witch, whatever she is, Dr. Abigail Hensley, gave me an incantation to read three times before I went to bed, and she said it would help me get to know my characters, and she wants me to bring all of you to her office on Friday. She's going to help us work through any differences we might have, or issues, and help us understand each other better."
Andrew exchanges a skeptical look with Michael. "All of us? You 'conjured' all of us just to take us to therapy? Mike and I don't need therapy and neither does Emma, or Ryan, or Max. Not even Courtney. Why don't you just send that prick, excuse my language Mike, Victor to the therapist and that English jerk friend of his? They're the ones who need the therapy."
"Don't be offended by this. You guys all have some little problem with me, even if you won't admit it, and I want us to get past all that so we can better understand each other. I just want my stories to be easier to write and this way, it will be."
Both Andrew and Michael sigh, but say nothing.
"If I can lie here and let you guys treat me like a lab rat," I say, "using all your medical things on me, which, by the way I know are mine, because I hide them under the bed, and purple is hardly your color, Michael, no offense, then can you both do this therapy thing for me?"
"Of course, honey," Michael replies, "and yes, I did get them from under your bed. I don't know how I knew they were there, I just did." He puts the stethoscope back into his ears, my heart beating a little faster, my loins clenching involuntarily as he holds the disc against the crook of my elbow, looks down at the blood pressure cuff around my arm and starts pumping the bulb. "I'm going to check your pressure again, honey, is that okay?"
I sigh deeply. "I guess..." I mutter, scowling down at the cuff as it fills with air. "If you must."
"Yes, I must," he says, glancing down at me with a wink, causing my heart to skip a beat.
I turn my head, looking expectantly up at Andrew. "And you? Are you going to fight with me about this, or will you go? For me?"
Andrew bites down on his bottom lip before heaving a deep sigh. "All right, fine, I'll go, for you."
I grin up at him. "Thank you."
He rolls his eyes, a wry smirk briefly crossing his face before he presses his fingers to the inside of my wrist, causing my heart to race all over again. "Pulse is racing. She's still a little tachy." Feeling the heat rush up into my cheeks, I turn my head away and look over at the closet door. "And since she's having a hard time looking me in the eye right now, because she's too busy blushing, I'm probably the cause of her suddenly tachy rate."
"Shut up, Andrew," I say. "You sexy Shane West clone."
"Hey, Mrs. West, you were the one who gave me that dude's face and body. Are you complaining about it now?"
"BP's coming back up, 110 over 64," Michael says, letting the air out of the cuff and taking the stethoscope out of his ears, placing it back behind his neck, giving me a chance to relax once again. Andrew nods in regard.
"Never," I tell Andrew. "In fact..." Grabbing him by the collar of his shirt, I yank him down faster than he can blink an eye, pressing my lips to his in a passionate kiss, slipping my fingers up through his hair, down the nape of his neck, and over his back, my heart pounding like a drum in my chest. I tilt my head from one side to the other, kissing him with more passion than I've ever kissed any other guy before in my life, which was zero, since I've never had a boyfriend, let alone my first kiss. Andrew moans against my lips as I throw my arm around his neck, pulling him closer, sucking and nibbling at his bottom lip before pressing my lips harder against his, my passion increasing. Finally, after a few more long seconds of kissing him, I push him back in the opposite direction, breathing heavily as I try to catch my breath and he tries to catch his. "God I've been waiting to do that for so damn long! In your face, Gaggie Q!"
Andrew stared at Michael with a dumbfounded expression. "Wow."
"Does that answer your question, Dr. Barnett?" I beam.
"Oh yeah," he replies with a grin. "Wow, I thought kissing the other version of you was good, but not...as good as that was." His forehead wrinkled inquisitively. "Who's Gaggie Q?"
"Long story. She's some anorexic Asian bitch, who's dating your fucking clone, but I don't need him when I have you. And please don't tell my other self I just did that. She'll kill me."
Andrew chuckles. "Okay, but if you ask me, I kinda like the idea of the two of you fighting over me."
I roll my eyes. "You would." I lift my head from the pillow and look around my room. "By the way, where is everybody?"
"It was getting a little too crowded in here," Michael tells me, "so Andrew and I made them wait outside in the loft."
"We felt it was better to give you some air," Andrew adds with a smirk. "Just until you started to come around."
My head falls back against the pillow. "Oh." I look up at the ceiling, blinking a few times, as I try to make sense of all of this. My characters are real now. Oh god, they're really real. The incantation worked like a charm, and now they're all here. What have I gotten myself into? And how would they go back into my head? Were they here to stay forever? There were just too many questions, and I couldn't begin to find an answer to any of them.
"Do you know what day it is, honey?" Michael asks me. "And who's president?"
I blink, slowly pushing myself up to my elbows with a groan, looking around the room for my day-to-day calendar. "Wednesday? No, Thursday, right? And Obama."
"She's still a little altered," says Andrew. "Maybe we should-"
"No!" I exclaim, looking over at him. "I'm not going to the ER. I'm fine."
"Now I see where the other Amy got her stubbornness from," he remarks.
Michael chuckles, meeting Andrew's gaze. "I don't think she needs the ER, or an MRI. Not just yet. But I still think we should keep an eye on her overnight, and watch her changes."
With an irritable groan, I lie back down in bed. "Absolutely," Andrew says, raising his finger in front of my face. "Follow my finger." As idiotic and a waste of time as it is, because I feel fine, I do as he tells me to and follow his finger, from left to right, right to left. He glances over at Michael. "Good neuro responses."
"I gotta get up," I say, pushing myself up to a seated position, both Michael and Andrew reaching out to stop me.
"Easy. Easy," Andrew says, placing a hand on my right shoulder.
"Take it slow, honey," Michael adds, setting his own hand on my left shoulder. "You might not be up your full strength yet."
"I'm fine," I insist, holding my hand up to Michael in defense, despite the slight spinning still in my head. I bring my hand up to my forehead, looking down at my lap instead of straight ahead, hoping to lessen the dizziness. "Dr. Hensley said that I needed, I mean—that we needed to get a hotel, for like three or four days, all of us, while we're going through our therapy sessions," I mutter. "Her office is somewhere out in L.A., I can't remember where though, but I wrote it down somewhere."
"A hotel? Out in L.A.?" Andrew inquires. "That's like over an hour from here."
"Well that's what she said. Shit! How am I going to have the money for that?" I abruptly lift my head to look up at the ceiling. As the room rocks up and down around me, I sigh softly and suddenly fall backward, into both Michael and Andrew's arms.
"Whoa!" Andrew exclaims at the same time Michael calls out my name. Andrew cradles me in his arms, "I got her."
"She probably dropped her pressure," Michael says.
"Yeah," Andrew says, easing me back down in bed, and pressing his fingers to the inside of my right wrist.
"Pulse is strong."
"Okay...not up to my full strength yet, unfortunately," I say, glancing from Andrew to Michael, my heart beating a little faster, pushing a huge lump down in my throat as he takes the stethoscope from behind his neck, putting it into his ears and holding the disc against the crook of my elbow, pumping the blood pressure bulb in his opposite hand.
"Clearly," Andrew says, letting go of my wrist and picking up the mini Maglite, lifting each one of my eyelids. I blink at the beam of the light as he turns it on with a click of his thumb, checking each one of my pupils. "And you want to go to a hotel, in this condition?"
"Hey, I'm your author!" I insist, pointing a firm finger at Andrew then Michael. "You both have to do what I tell you to!"
Andrew scoffs. "Yeah, right."
Michael glances up at me expectantly, the stethoscope still in his ears. I cringe as I feel the cuff growing tighter around my arm. As usual, he was more interested in doing his job than listening to me. Why did I make him that way? And why did they make stethoscopes so soundproof to outside noises?
I sigh deeply, shaking my head in disbelief. "Oh why do I even bother?"
"Because you love writing so much," Andrew tells me with a smirk. "And you just couldn't resist using Shane West to create me."
"True." I place my hand against my forehead and stare up at the ceiling, trying to figure out where I'm going to get the money for the hotel. Unless...one of my wealthier characters pitches in for ten or eleven rooms for three nights in L.A. That would mean either Michael, Annabel, James, Nora, Robert, or maybe Steve. James was the richest one out of them all, but would he be okay with this whole therapy thing? Maybe. Maybe not.
I feel and hear the blood pressure cuff deflate with a hiss of air, Michael's voice pulling me out of my thoughts. "BP's still a little low, 104 over 69, the systolic should be better than that."
"Yeah," Andrew says with a nod and a scowl.
"Look, can you both forget about my stupid blood pressure, and the rest of me for a second?" I ask, as Michael pulls the stethoscope out of his ears, giving me his full attention, though the troubled scowl on his face still remaining. "All 20 of you can't stay here. There's no room for you. That's why we need to go to a hotel like Dr. Hensley suggested, for three or four days, and it has to be now, because we have an appointment with her on Friday at one."
Andrew sighs softly. "And how are we all going to get there? Are you going to pay for the hotel? Do you know how much it's going to cost for all of us? You don't have that kind of money."
"I know...which is why I'm hoping that some of you," I slowly turn my head to look up at Michael, "will pitch in to help pay for it. Not all of it, just some. It's the only way."
Michael exchanges a look with Andrew, then meets my gaze, staring at me for a few long seconds, a pensive expression crossing his face. Finally, he sighs deeply. "All right. Maybe I could pitch in for part of it, but now? Honey, I don't think you're in any condition to be-"
"I'll...be...fine. We could take the bus or something. There has to be a bus that runs this early, and then if we need to switch, we could take the Greyhound to L.A."
"And who's going to pitch in for the bus fare?" Andrew asks.
I glance over at him. "I'll have to ask James."
"James? That scumbag's best friend?"
"He's rich, Andrew! Okay? I made him that way. Unless..." I stare at Michael expectantly, "you could help pay for part of that too."
Michael gently nods his head. "Okay. I'll see what I can do to help with the fare."
"Oh my god! Thank you!" I push myself up to my elbows, throwing one of my arms around his neck and pulling him in for a hug. "I knew I could count on you." My heart beats a little faster as his hand slips around my shoulders, rubbing gently up and down my back.
"I still don't like the idea of you traveling right now," he says. "You should take the time to rest. You should go back to sleep."
I sigh irritably as I lie back down. "I told you, for the five thousandth time, I'm fine."
"As stubborn as the other Amy," Andrew remarks. "Once her mind is made up, there's no reasoning with her."
"True," Michael says with a soft smile.
I glance up at the clock on the wall, noticing that it is just after six thirty in the morning, about the time that my mom usually gets up to go to work. Just then, I hear the front door close downstairs. I gasp softly, lifting my head from the pillow.
"Is someone here?" Andrew asks, his forehead wrinkling questionably as he glances down at me then across at Michael.
"No, that's my mom." I tell him, pushing myself up to my elbows again. "She just left for work." I rip the blood pressure cuff from my arm, and continue pushing myself up to a seated position.
"Easy," Andrew says, setting a hand on my shoulder and cocking his head to see my face. "You remember what happened a few minutes ago when you tried to sit up."
"I should let everyone else know what's going on, get dressed and start packing a suitcase."
Michael sighs in discouragement. I know he is still hesitant to let me go, but I don't care. "Amy, please...it's too soon. You need to lie back down. You could-"
"Stop!" I exclaim, holding a hand up to silence him. Setting both of my hands against the edge of the bed, I pull myself forward and crawl out from under the covers.
"Give it up, Mike," says Andrew. "She's not going to listen to either one of us now. She's on a mission."
Scooting myself to the edge of the bed, I notice both of them getting up and stepping towards me out of the corner of my eye. I know what they're trying to do. They want to make sure I don't collapse when I finally stand up.
"Try and take it slow," says Michael.
Pushing myself up to my feet, I am able to stand for a few long seconds, but as I attempt to take a step forward, a sudden feeling of vertigo causes me to waver on my heels, and teeter towards Michael, who catches and attempts to steady me once again. "All right, we need to get you back into bed," he orders.
"Before you faint again," Andrew adds.
I right myself, shaking off my dizziness, and push him away from me. "No. I just got a little dizzy for a second, but I feel fine now. I'm fine." I push myself away from them and turn to walk past Michael, stopping in my tracks, blinking in astonishment when I notice two large suitcases have materialized in my closet, along with what looked to be a black leather doctor bag.
"You think that bus is going to stop at every single one of our houses, so we can pack a suitcase too?" Andrew asks. "I don't think that's going to happen."
"I don't think it has to," I say, stepping closer to the closet. Kneeling down on the carpet in front of the suitcases, I notice that they each have a luggage tag on them, with a name printed on each one. To my surprise, the navy blue suitcase's tag reads: "ANDREW BARNETT," and the black one reads: "MICHAEL BRENTWOOD." Noticing another luggage tag attached to the black leather bag, I smile softly, not surprised to see that it also reads: "MICHAEL BRENTWOOD."
"Hey, where'd those come from?" Andrew asks.
"I don't know, but apparently," I glance back at he and Michael. "They're for you, both of you." Grabbing the handle of the heavy black leather bag, I turn and look up at Michael, holding it out to him. "From the tag, this one is yours."
"Of course," he says, taking it from me with a soft smile. "My medical bag. How did it end up here?"
"I have no clue, but I'm sure Dr. Hensley's incantation had something to do with it." I push myself up to my feet, grabbing the handle of the navy blue suitcase, ready to pull it out and hand it to Andrew, but before I get the chance, he dashes over, setting his hand on my arm, causing my heart to take flight once again.
"Wait," he says. "Let me get it. It's my suitcase."
Slowly, I let go of the handle and turn to lean back against the closet doors, allowing him to take hold of it and pull it out. Michael sets his medical bag down at the foot of my bed, before walking over to grab his suitcase after Andrew. Andrew hoists his suitcase up on my bed, unzipping it and to both his and my astonishment, there's a small stack of neatly folded clothes inside, just the kind that he would wear. A few screen printed T-shirts, jeans, socks, underwear, and even a bag of travel-sized toiletries. "No way," I say with a smile, shaking my head in disbelief. "I guess Dr. Hensley thinks of everything."
Andrew glances over his shoulder, flashing me a smile. "As weird as this all seems, you know, being corporeal and everything, at least this spell you cast provides us with our own clothes."
"Yeah, this is great," Michael adds, staring down at his own open suitcase, which also contains clothes especially for him, in his style, along with his own bag of toiletries. "Now neither one of us needs to stop to pack. I even have my medical bag on hand."
My brows furrow in thought, a pensive expression crossing my face. Wait, if Andrew and Michael have their clothes, what about the rest of them? Did they have their clothes too? Pushing myself away from the closet door, I turn and step towards the door of my room, taking a deep breath before opening it and stepping into the loft, nearly running straight into Zack, my Zak Bagans character, who was standing just outside of it, leaning against the messy oak linen cabinet, piled high with more of my stuff, and empty post-marked cardboard boxes.
"Hey Angel, you're awake," he says. "We were worried sick about you. How you feeling?"
"Are you okay?" asks Courtney, my Lyndsy Fonseca, who is standing beside him, a worried expression on her attractive face.
"Did Michael and Andrew take good care of you?" Emma asks, taking a couple steps towards me.
I open my mouth to reply, but a voice cuts me off.
"You look a little pale," Steve, my George Eads, notes, his dark brows furrowing in concern.
"She's fine," Victor insists. "Arousing as always." His lips curl into an evil grin as his gaze travels down to my breasts. "You're not wearing a bra, are you?" He chuckles softly.
"Leave her alone, you prick," Max insists.
"Why didn't you two arrest him when you had the chance?" Ryan asks, staring incredulously at Nora, my Rhona Mitra, and Robert, my Robert Downey Jr.
"We couldn't find him, that's why," Nora replies.
"Couldn't find him? Well there he is! Grab him!"
"Try it, you little shit, and see what happens," Victor argues, turning and glaring coldly at Ryan.
Suddenly, all 18 of them begin to speak at the same time, their conversations overlapping as Emma, Amy, Zack, Courtney, Steve and Max step closer to me, concern written on their faces, while the others bicker with one another. Normally, I wasn't one who got claustrophobic in a social situation, but all of a sudden, that familiar vertigo returns and I find myself wavering on my heels. I reach out to grab a hold of the door frame, blinking a few times as I look around and feel the room spinning all over again. Andrew quickly steps out of my bedroom and puts himself in front of me, holding his arms out in front of him in an attempt to keep everyone at bay.
"Hey!" He exclaims. "You guys need to move back! Okay?" Emma, Zack, Courtney, Amy, Steve and Max fall quiet and gently nod their heads, taking a couple steps back. "Let's give her some air!" As the rest of them continue to argue with one another, Michael steps up beside me, putting two fingers into his mouth and whistling loudly, everyone suddenly falling quiet. I cringe, hoping his action didn't wake up our Chihuahua mix dogs, downstairs in my mother's room.
Unfortunately, Bruiser, the tan Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix, known for barking at anyone unfamiliar to him scampers over to the bottom of the stairs, climbing them as far as he can get, but due to the safety gate I put up to keep both dogs from doing their business in the loft, he only makes it about five steps and starts barking at those of my characters within his view. "Damn!" I exclaim.
Andrew glances down at the reactive dog with a scowl, then back at the group before him. "Everybody get back!" He waves them back, pointing towards the back wall of the loft. "Move over by the window. He can't bark if he can't see you." The group stepped away, Victor shooting Andrew a long lingering glare before moving further into the loft with the rest of them, and stopping near the back window, all of them trying not to trip over the boxes piled up around the sides of the loft, the ones that contained my things during my mother's move to Beaumont, California, that I had yet to unpack. It is then that I notice the suitcases, that all of my characters had been standing beside, all of them in a variety of colors and sizes to fit the personalities of each person. A few are a simple navy blue like Andrew's, a great many are black, a couple, purple, pink, and a few others, red, white and brown.
"Shut up, Bruiser!" I shout down at the dog, just as Andrew slips out of view of the stairwell, my heart racing the minute he takes my hand and leads me back into my room, Michael following closely on the opposite side of me. I glance back at the rest of my characters, shouting over Bruiser's barking. "I'll be back in a few minutes. As soon as he stops barking and goes away. Just stay there, if you can."
Andrew quietly shuts the door behind me and sits me down on my bed, both of them having already moved their suitcases and set them near the closet. Michael sits down beside me, pressing his fingers to the inside of my right wrist and staring down at his watch, checking the rate of my pulse.
"I'm sorry about my mom's stupid dog," I say, glancing from Michael to Andrew. "He's such a pain in the ass. He does this every time someone new comes over."
"I know," Andrew says with a chuckle, crossing his arms comfortably over his chest. "It's not your fault. How you feeling?"
"Pulse is strong," Michael notes, letting go of my wrist and glancing up at Andrew.
"I'm okay. It just..." I bring my hand up to my head as I shake it. "It was too much for me. There's so many of you guys here." I sigh softly. "I shouldn't of summoned all 20 of you at once. It's just too chaotic right now."
"Which is why I advised you to wait," Michael says, my heart skipping a beat as he runs his hand down over the back of my head, smoothing my hair down. "I really think you should stay in bed and rest. Whatever we have to do, we'll do it ourselves. Andrew and I will take care of everything. We'll get everyone organized, we'll take a bus to a nearby hotel and then we can plan on heading out to L.A later in the day. Then from there, we'll get another hotel, but right now," he nods to the bed, trying to ease me back down, "I want you to lie back down and rest."
I fight against him, pushing his hands away. "No," I debate.
"Yes," Andrew says. "Mike and I can handle it. We handle hectic situations at Cedars all the time. Those you dream up for us anyway." He chuckles.
I sigh softly, relieved that Bruiser isn't barking anymore and look over at Michael. "You're not my regular doctor, you know. I already have a doctor, who, by the way is female. No offense. You're just my character's doctor, in my story."
"Not anymore," he says with a tender smile, rubbing his hand against my back. "Now, I'm yours too."
"Well considering you look exactly like Scott Foley, I'm not going to complain." I exchange a wry smile with him.
"And me, don't forget me," Andrew says with a light wave.
"How could I?" I reply with a smile. I look down at my bare feet with a scowl. "Seriously though, as tired as I am, this needs to happen now. My mom's husband will wake up soon, and he'll hear me leaving, and if he knows I'm gone, he'll get suspicious and tell my mom, and my mom won't understand all this." Michael and Andrew both exude heavy sighs. "I'm sorry guys, but I promise I will sleep on the bus on the way to L.A."
"All right, we'll do it now." Andrew's eyes shift towards Michael. "What do you think, Mike?"
I clasp my hands together in prayer, staring at him with pleading eyes and mouthing the word "please." Finally, Michael gently nods his head, "fine. We'll do this now, but I want you to go straight to sleep as soon as we get to L.A., and I want someone with you at all times."
My jaw drops. "You mean like a little kid attached to their mom or dad?" I roll my eyes, consistently asking myself why I made him such a worry wart. That was my biggest downfall when it came to creating all of these characters, but most of all, him. "Look, I know I created you to be this huge worry wart doctor, but do you think that just this once, you could do something completely out of character and let me take care of myself?"
"Out of character? Seriously?" Andrew chuckles. "You made us like this and now you want to change us? Just because you don't like the way we handle things?"
I shoot a glare in his direction, but for the life of me, I can't think of a snappy comeback, so I just choose to stay quiet.
"I wish I could, but I can't," Michael says. "I understand that technically, you did make me this way, and I appreciate it, more than you know, but the truth of the matter is, you can't take care of yourself, honey, and I know this for a fact, because I've been with you every step of the way. Me, Andrew, and everyone else out there in that loft, know you a lot better than you think we do. We've all been a part of you for some time now, because you've kept us there in your head. We've all had a chance to get to know you, and since I was the very first character you ever created, I've known you ten times longer than your new characters, including Andrew here."
I stare in astonishment at him, suddenly realizing that, as weird as that all sounds, in a way, it does make sense. The longer they had been my characters, the more they had had a chance to get to know me, both inside and out. It was as if they had seen the world through my eyes, and my eyes only, could read my thoughts, share my experiences, and get to know the people in my life. Now, they were flesh and blood people, free to roam, speak, and act as they pleased. Well, as I created them to. "I never thought of it that way, until now, but really, I don't need a doctor with me 24/7."
Michael sighs. "I understand, but just for tonight, I think those of us who are doctors, should keep an eye on you."
"Well you can keep an eye on me later," I say, pushing myself up to my feet. "Right now I need to let everyone else know what's going on, especially since Bruiser has stopped barking." Stepping towards my bedroom door, very slowly and very quietly, I open it and step out into the loft, my heart pounding frantically as all 18 of my characters turn to face me from their place across the stairs. I bring my index finger up to my lips, urging them to stay quiet, mouthing the word "wait" as I bring my hand up in defense. As slowly and quietly as I'd opened my bedroom door, I descend the carpeted stairs until I reach the safety gate. Slowly peeking my head around the corner, I check to see if Bruiser or Bella, our other dog, is in the living room or the foyer. I breathe a huge sigh of relief when I don't see them, then quietly climb back upstairs, Andrew and Michael nearly making me jump out of my skin from their post at the top of the landing, just outside my bedroom.
"Is the coast clear?" Andrew whispers.
I gently nod my head, taking one last look at he and Michael before turning and stepping towards the quiet group. I gesture for them to come out from hiding, and move closer, with a wave of my hand, bringing my finger up to my lips once again.
"Thank god, I was starting to get claustrophobic," Courtney says quietly.
"I don't know, I kinda liked being surrounded by all these hot guys," Tina replies. I can already see a wicked grin curling Victor's lips. He's got plans to make her his next conquest, not surprising since they haven't met once in any of my stories.
"So what's going on, love? What's happening?" James, my Jude Law, speaks up, his brows furrowing inquisitively.
I smile softly at James, my heart skipping a beat at the sound of his prominent English accent, my loins clenching involuntarily, wishing I could throw him down on the floor right there and then, and have my way with him. Maybe Andrew could join in. No, he wouldn't go for that. He hated James as much as he did Victor. I look around at the group, a few of the taller characters allowing the shorter ones to move to the front, so they could hear me better, which I can't help but smile at, even if Victor was probably just doing it to stare at Tina, Candice, Emma, Annabel and Courtney's asses. I glance around at the suitcases sitting around the loft once more. "First of all, where did these suitcases come from?"
"Your guess is as good as mine," Max remarks.
"They just materialized, out of nowhere," Zack says. "Like magic or something."
"Yeah, weird." Courtney says.
"It was a bit of a shock," James adds.
"They were sitting out here when we left your bedroom," says Steve.
"And each one of them had our names on them," says Ryan.
"I know, seriously, how cool is that?" Tina beams. "Did you pick out clothes for each one of us? Because if you did, you totally rock. I don't even have to hit the mall now."
"It's quite a mystery," says Nora. "But nevertheless, I appreciate the thought."
"Mine came with three cleanly pressed Gucci suits," Victor informs me with a smug smile. "Thank you, sweetie pie." He puckers his lips at me, to which I roll my eyes.
"As did mine," says James.
"Mine too," adds Robert.
I hold both of my hands up in front of me to silence them. "Okay! I get the picture." I exhale sharply, planting my hands on my hips. "I didn't have anything to do with the suitcases." I push the huge lump down in my throat as I look around at the large group, ready to explain my plan, but as I open my mouth, nothing comes out. My heart pounds frantically, my palms start to sweat, another huge lump forms in my throat, and my whole body starts trembling in fear. "Yeah...I can't make this speech." I turn around to head back into my room, but Andrew stops me, setting his hands on my upper arms and cocking his head to see my face.
He glances from me to the group then back to me. "You want me to tell them?" He asks quietly. "I know you got a thing about stage fright."
"Or I could tell them for you, honey," Michael offers. "Whatever makes you feel more comfortable. I don't want you to faint again."
My eyes shift between them. Taking a deep breath, I shake my head. "No, I have to do it myself." Slowly turning back to face the group, I step forward, swallowing hard then opening my mouth to speak. "I...n-need you guys to do something for me. No, what I mean is..." I pause to clear my throat. "If you guys could just wait until I'm done talking, and telling you my plan, before you say something, I would appreciate it. You know, so Bruiser doesn't hear and come barking again. Can you guys do that? Not talk and just let me talk?" Gingerly, they all nod their heads in agreement, and I feel a little better. "Thanks."
I clear my throat once more, take another deep breath and summon up the courage to continue, trying to keep my voice quiet. "There's a reason why each of you guys were brought here, as flesh and blood people, and why each of you have a suitcase right now, and it's because all 20 of you guys need to go to L.A. with me, probably on two buses since the bus that stops around the corner only goes so far. Basically, to make a long story short, and please don't hate me when I tell you this," I pause, pushing a huge lump down in my throat, my heart pounding harder as I look nervously down at my feet, "but last night I called up this therapist, who specializes in author-to-character relationships, and she agreed to help me to better understand each one of you, and work out any issues we might have together, so we can work together better, as author and character."
"Jesus Christ," Victor mutters, brushing his black suit jacket aside and planting his hands on his hips. "Therapy? You want to take me to therapy?" He sneers.
I resist the urge to shiver at the darkness that suddenly fills his eyes.
"I don't need therapy," Nora says, a firm expression crossing her dark attractive face.
"Neither do I," Zack adds.
"Seriously? Therapy?" Amy, my other self asks. "We don't need it. You know as well as I do that we wouldn't go to therapy unless we were desperate...which judging by the look on your face, I can see we are."
I gently nod my head, but say nothing. My other self nods her head as well.
"I haven't been to therapy in years," Catherine says.
"You went to therapy, mom?" Candice inquires quizzically. "What for?"
"Don't worry about it, honey."
"Come on guys, it might be good for us," Steve remarks.
"And some of us need it more than others," Max adds, his gaze shifting towards Victor, who shoots a deadly malicious glare at him.
"Watch your mouth, junior," Victor warns.
"Hey, don't, call me, junior!" Max exclaims.
"Junior," Lucy, my Scarlett Johansson says to him with a smug smirk, draping her arm over Victor's shoulder and leaning against him.
"Enough!" I exclaim, bringing my hands up to my suddenly throbbing head. "Can you guys please stop talking all at once?" As everyone falls quiet, I feel someone set a comforting hand on my back, rubbing it up and down, noticing Michael step up beside me out of the corner of my eye, my heart beating a little faster at his gentle touch.
"It's okay, honey," he murmurs in my ear. "Just try and calm down. Take some deep breaths."
I do as he tells me to and take a few deep breaths, the feeling of his hand soothing my nerves.
"Come on guys, humor her," Andrew remarks. "I know it might suck, being forced to go to a therapist, and I don't like it anymore than you do, but if it weren't for her, we wouldn't even be here to begin with. She made us living, breathing, flesh and blood human beings, and she's doing this because she actually cares about us. We wouldn't be here if she didn't, so the least we could do is cut her some slack and go along with this therapy thing. It's only for three days, and it'll be over with before we know it."
I slowly lift my chin, looking up at Andrew with a soft smile. "Thank you," I murmur.
"You're welcome." He replies, returning my smile.
"All right, I'm in," Max says.
"Me too," Ryan adds.
"Yeah, why not," Jason says.
"Thanks guys, I knew I could count on you," Andrew says.
"I'm in too," my other self says.
I look to the rest of them expectantly, waiting for their responses, knowing all too well that Victor is going to be the hardest to convince. "That's six. What about the rest of you?"
"Whatever," says Candice.
"Sure, I'll go," adds Catherine. "I have to accompany my daughter so I might as well."
"I'm in," Steve says with a nod.
"As well as I am," adds Emma.
"Okay, ten. I need ten more," I say in a singsong voice.
"I'm in too," says Danielle.
"Yeah, okay," says Robert. "Why not. It could be interesting."
"Lovely. I'll go along too," Annabel says.
"Yeah, anything for you girl," Tina says with a smirk.
"I'm in," says Courtney with a nod, looking up at her big brother, who stares at me skeptically. She exhales sharply, nudging him in his side with her elbow.
"Ow!" He cries, grabbing his side. "Yeah, okay, so am I."
I smirk at the two of them, looking around at those left in the group, who, not surprisingly are the most difficult ones of my characters, Nora, Lucy, James, and unfortunately...Victor. "Okay, I need four more."
"Come on, partner...it's not going to kill you," Robert says, looking at Nora and giving her a nudge. "You heard what the kid said, humor the girl."
"Uh, excuse me, my name is Andrew," he says, lifting his hand in the air. "It's not kid."
I shoot a glare at Victor, a smug and seemingly amused smile crossing his face. He enjoyed that. Asshole.
Nora heaves a deep sigh, crossing her arms firmly over her chest. "Bugger. All right, I'll go along with it...for now."
"Good sport," Robert says.
James exchanges a look with Victor and sighs deeply. "Sorry Vic." He looks over at me with a nod. "You can count me in as well, love."
"What!" Victor exclaims.
"Shhh!" I bring my finger up to my lips to hush him. "Victor, please, keep it down. You want Bruiser to come back and start barking?"
"I don't give a shit," he says, crossing his arms firmly over his chest. "I'm not going to any goddamn therapy session."
"And neither am I," Lucy adds with a smug smirk.
I scowl deeply, Victor shooting deathly glares at the people around him as the majority of them scoff. 18 down and two to go. I had to think of a solution and fast. I glance down into the stairwell, hoping and praying his voice hadn't carried to either one of our dog's ears. Fortunately, all was still quiet and no sign of either Bruiser or Bella. "It'll give you both a chance to talk shit about me, and everyone else here to a complete stranger, and I know how much you'd love that, and Victor, if you saw what she looks like, I know for a fact that you'd want to screw her in a hot second."
Victor's lips slowly curl into a grin, his brows arching intriguingly. "Really?" I gently nod my head. "Give me one more reason why I should go and we might just have a deal."
Lucy blinks, abruptly pushing herself away from Victor. "No, Master, you're not actually agreeing to this, are you?"
"Pipe down, Decoy," Victor says, without so much as glancing in her direction. "This is between me and the spunky little bitch who created me."
"Don't call her a bitch," Andrew argues, shooting a glare in his direction.
"I'll call her whatever the fuck I want to call her," Victor says, pushing himself away from the linen cabinet and stepping towards him.
Quickly putting myself between the two men, I hold my hands out at my sides in an attempt to keep them at bay. "Stop, both of you. You want another reason Victor? Fine." I steal a glance over at Nora and Robert before motioning Victor to lean closer with a curl of my index finger, where I can whisper into his ear. Not surprisingly, he does so without hesitation. Covering my mouth with my hand, I whisper, "how about I let you capture, rape, tie up and torture Nora in a future story?" Even before I pull away, I can see his lips curling into an evil grin.
He nods his head with a wink. "You got yourself a deal, sweetie pie."
"What? You can't be serious. What did she say?" Lucy says as he steps back, leaning against the linen cabinet, shoving aside a box that is sticking out of another.
"None of your business, Decoy. Jesus, why don't you clean this place up a little bit, sweetheart?" Victor asks me. "Get a goddamn maid. There's boxes full of worthless shit piled everywhere."
"Looks like a regular hoarder's paradise to me," Lucy remarks.
"Shut up, skank," I say.
Lucy's green eyes abruptly darken to a cold emerald, as she takes a step towards me. "What did you just call me?" My eyes narrow irritably as I firmly lock my feet in place, preparing myself for a cat fight, but fortunately, Victor's arm snakes out and grabs Lucy, yanking her back in his direction and whispering something in her ear, that no one else can hear, not even me.
I glance over at Nora and Robert, my brows furrowing inquisitively as I notice them whispering to each other as well, and I have a feeling that it's about Victor. What else would it be about?
As Victor releases his grasp on the blonde's arm, she crosses her arms firmly over her voluptuous breasts, glowering at me. Everyone except the two whispering detectives stare expectantly at her, waiting for her to utter a reply. After a few long seconds, she heaves a deep sigh and in her usual husky voice, replies, "fine. I'll go to your pathetic therapy session, but not because you're forcing me to, because Victor just offered me-"
"Ah, ah, ah," Victor says, covering her mouth with one of his very large hands, bringing his index finger up to his lips. "You keep that pretty little mouth of yours shut, about what we agreed to." He shot a glare around at the group. "It's none of their business what we do."
Numerous scoffs were exchanged between the rest of my characters, but thankfully, none of them made a remark, as tempted as a few of them looked. Lucy looks up at Victor and nods her head in understanding. I sigh softly. "Thank you guys...and gals. Really, I appreciate you doing this for me, more than you know."
"So what now?" Zack asks.
"We head back to L.A.," Max replies. "Right?"
"That's the plan," I say with a nod. "We're going to need to stay at a hotel though, for the three days we're doing these sessions with Dr. Hensley. I'm glad there's an even number of you guys, so that makes it a little easier. Michael already agreed to pay for half of the room fees, and the bus fare, but I'm going to need some help from someone else too, to cover the rest."
I watch as everyone in the group exchange glances with one another. Neither one of them look particularly thrilled to pitch in for the fees, let alone speak up and offer to help in some way or another.
"I'd pitch in if I could," Steve implies, "but I don't have that much in my bank account right now."
"It's okay, Steve," I say. "I kind of had someone else in mind anyway..." My gaze, as well as the gazes of Victor, Lucy, Nora, Robert and Annabel wander over to James. The English gentlemen looks up from his crossed ankles, his dark brows furrowing inquisitively. Is he even listening to me?
"What?" He asks, glancing around at everyone. "Why are you all staring at me like that?"
If the situation wasn't so serious, I would of giggled, but instead, I suppress the urge. "I need you James," I say.
James' ears perked up, the corners of his mouth curling up into a smug smirk. "Do you now? Well," he brings his fist up to his mouth, clearing his throat, "we could slip into your-"
"Not like that!" I exclaim with a roll of my eyes, as tempted as I am to take him up on his offer right there and then, and who wouldn't? He was a smoking hot version of Jude Law. Well, the Alfie version of him anyway. "Well, not right now anyway. Maybe later." I glance over at Andrew with an apologetic look, who suddenly appears to be annoyed with my response to take James up on his offer...maybe.
"Well I'm not going anywhere, darling. Unless you happen to send me packing a bit earlier than the others. So when you have a free moment, we could—"
"Shush!" I exclaim, causing him to fall quiet. "I need your help, is what I meant to say."
"Help with what exactly?"
"Were you even listening to anything I was saying?"
"Apparently not," Victor remarks.
"Now James, don't be rude," Annabel chides him. "She needs help paying for our hotel and trolly fare."
"Bus," I correct her.
"A trolley is a bus, where we come from, pet," James says to me. "And I'd be happy to help."
I smile softly, tempted to walk over and kiss his cheek, but not in front of everyone. "Really? You don't mind? I just thought that I'd ask you, since you have more money than everyone else, and I thank god that I made you like that."
"Yes you did...but at the expense of my father's life, god rest his soul."
"Our father's life," Annabel adds with a scowl.
"Yes, what gives, pet? Why did you-"
"James!" I exclaim. "I'm sorry, but can we please wait until therapy to talk about this?"
He sighs deeply. "I suppose now wouldn't be an appropriate time, so I will do as you wish and wait until therapy."
"Thank you." I sigh deeply, looking around at the rest of my characters. "Okay, so now that everyone is in agreement to do this for me, and Michael and James are paying for the rooms and bus fare, I'm going to go and get dressed, pack my own suitcase, and then we can walk down the street to the bus stop." I look from James to Michael. "James? Michael? Do either of you guys have any ones in your wallet? We'll need exact change."
"I do," Michael replies.
"Okay, good. So...if you guys can all just wait out here for a few more minutes, until I'm done changing, I'll let you know when we can get going, and please, try to whisper so one of my dogs don't hear you." They nod their heads in regard, except Lucy, not surprisingly. She was the only one who had stopped paying attention to me, standing near the wall, hands on her trim waistline, her head turned in the opposite direction, as if she had better things to do.
Turning back around, I slip into my bedroom, Michael and Andrew turning to watch me do so. I turn back to them as they step forward, a wary look on each of their faces, shutting the door just enough to peek my head out. "I'll be fine, but I need you guys to wait out here." They seem skeptical but nod their heads in understanding. Pulling my head back, I shut the door and lean back against it, shutting my eyes and sighing softly, relieved to have some peace and quiet at last.
What have I gotten myself into? Did Dr. Hensley cast this spell, to make all my characters come to life? Was she really a witch? And if so, was she a good one or a bad one? Well, obviously she had to be a good one if she could do something so harmless but as cool as this. It might have been a shock to me at first, but now, I don't know...it didn't seem so bad. It was almost like spending three days at a VIP party with some of the hottest actors and actresses in Hollywood. Only, they weren't actors, or actresses. They were my characters.
Hearing the sudden 'blip' of my cell phone, I jump in fright. Pushing myself away from the door, I cross the room towards my black laminate media tower, grabbing my pink purse from the floor in front of it and reaching inside, pulling out my iPhone. My brows furrow at the familiar looking number, suddenly realizing who the sender is when I read the text message that follows.
How's it going with your characters?
Don't worry about the bus. It's all taken care of.
It should be out front by 7:30am.
Out front? Of my house? The bus never stops in front of my house. I'm not sure what she means, so I do the only thing I can, I call her back, pacing back and forth as I wait for Dr. Hensley to answer, hoping it's not too early. After two rings, she picks up.
"Amy, I'm so glad you called. Did you get my text message? How's everything going?"
"Yeah, I got your text message, and it's a little chaotic to say the least. Did you...are you...and I don't mean to offend you, but are you some kind of witch?"
There's a long pause from the doctor's end, before she finally replies. "I'm a doctor...who does practice a little witchcraft on the side, but please don't be afraid. I practice only with the best intentions, to help struggling authors like you. See, my mother had a magical gift. She always told me that I did too, or that I would inherit it when she passed away, and I did. It took me some getting used to at first, and I was nearly sued by one of my clients for it, but in the end, I found a way to make things right again and she appreciated what I did for her, as did the rest of my clients after her. So I hope that you can appreciate what I've done for you as well."
I sink down on my bed, suddenly feeling the need to sit down to further digest this new and shocking information. "I do...sort of, but I do have some questions."
"Okay. I have an appointment with a client in about 15 minutes, but I'm happy to answer your questions so go right ahead."
"Is this permanent? I mean, the spell? Is it going to last forever?"
"Not necessarily," she says. "You can reverse the spell at anytime. It's entirely up to you. Most of my patients do request to reverse it by the end of their character's session, but you don't have to. It all depends on what you want, and what would make you feel more comfortable."
"What about if I need to write a new novel? Then what? How am I going to use them?"
"That's when most authors ask me to reverse the spell. That way they can go back into your head and continue doing the work you created them to do."
"Right. So I have an idea of how to pay for the hotel, but what did you mean when you said not to worry about the bus? Won't I need bus fare too? And why did you say it would be out front at 7:30? I'm sorry, I'm totally confused."
"I decided to make things a little easier for you, being a new patient, so I had my brother, Sam, rent a bus from a friend of his who owns a tour company, and sent him to your house to pick you and your characters up."
I blink in astonishment. "Seriously? But how did you even get my address? I never told you."
"Well, my caller ID said that you live in Beaumont, but I was hoping you would call me before Sam showed up, so I could get the rest of the information from you."
"Okay, well it's 1293 Mulberry Drive."
"1293 Mulberry Drive. All right, I'll give him a call and let him know."
"Thank you," I say. "This saves me money on bus fare. Well, James and Michael anyway."
"No problem. I know most commutes require a reservation for long travels, so I thought I'd help you out a little, and Sam has specific instructions from myself to stop you anywhere you, or your characters like."
"Wow, thank you."
"Of course. Any other questions?"
"Yeah, one more." I push the huge lump down in my throat, before uttering the words. "Can my characters...can they physically hurt me or...kill me?" Honest to god, there was only one character that I had to be worried about, but it still had to be asked.
There is a long pause on Dr. Hensley, causing my heart to pound anxiously. I knew I wasn't going to like what was coming. I hear her sigh heavily. "When they were only characters in your head, they had no power to cause you physical harm, but since they're flesh and blood human beings now...it is possible, which is why I feel it's my duty to warn you. If you have a violent character, or a villain of some sort that is mentally unstable or known to exhibit any criminal activity, I would strongly advise against doing or saying anything that might set him or her off, for your own safety as well as everyone else."
I push a huge lump down in my throat, glancing back at my bedroom door. "Yeah..."
"And I wouldn't recommend sharing a hotel room with that person either," she advises me.
"Don't worry, I'd never be that stupid, trust me."
"Good. I have to get going now, but I will see you and your characters on Friday."
"Okay. Oh, wait, one more thing, where did the suitcases come from? Did you do that?"
"Yes, they came with the spell," Dr. Hensley says. "I don't know why, but it always seems to happen when they are summoned to this world, and the characters greatly appreciate it. They will be able to retrieve their own clothes and return to their homes on the fourth day, if you decide not to reverse the spell."
"Got it, thanks."
"Take care, Amy."
After we exchange goodbyes, I hang up, exuding a long yawn, wishing more than anything that I could go back to sleep, but of course I can't, because I have to get dressed, pack a suitcase and get my characters out of the house without waking my mom's husband, or our dogs, who were probably awake already anyway. At least fainting did me some good. I felt somewhat rested, even if it was only a little. With a groan, I push myself up to my feet, walking around to the opposite side of the bed and approaching the closet, standing on my tip toes to reach my pink suitcase from the top shelf, trying as I might not to smack myself in the head as I pull it down. Setting it down on the bed, I unzip it and open it up. I turn back to my closet, deciding on which outfits to pack, but first, pack three nightgowns to sleep in. After that, I pull out three pairs of WilliamRast jeans, and one pair of Jessica Simpson jeans placing them in the suitcase, then I pick out two short-sleeved blouses and two screen printed T-shirts, setting them inside with the other clothes. After gathering my undergarments and socks and shoving them in the interior pocket, I pick out an outfit to change into.
Since I intend on going straight to sleep when we get to the hotel, I decide to slip into some black sweat pants, and a plain magenta V-neck T-shirt, with a bra underneath. I mentally curse myself for being bra less for so long, possibly showing more than I should through my night gown, in front of all of my characters. Well how the hell was I to know they would come to life, and walk straight out of my closet in the middle of the night? It wasn't my fault. Well...not all of it anyway. Hopefully, they hadn't been staring at my tits the whole time I was giving my speech, but Victor and James probably were.
After I'm dressed, I slip on a pair of socks and my sneakers, and grab my brown suede Jessica Simpson boots, packing them as well. Realizing I need toiletries of my own, I turn towards the door and step out into the loft, all my characters falling quiet and turning to look over at me.
"Hi honey, are we ready to go?" Michael asks me.
"Not just yet," I reply, looking around at everyone. "I need to get my overnight bag from the bathroom." I walk across the landing, excusing myself as I squeeze past Emma, Tina, Candice, Steve, and Robert. They kindly step out of my way, allowing me to get through. My foot catches on the corner of a suitcase as I move towards the bathroom, causing me to trip and suddenly lose my footing, falling straight into Steve. Fortunately, he reaches out and catches me in the nick of time.
"Whoa, I got you," he says, steadying me in his arms, his gentle touch causing my heart to pound as I look up into his attractive sun-kissed face, his brows furrowed slightly in concern. "You okay, Darlin?'" He asks, in his usual Texas drawl, flashing me a bright white smile, the cute and prominent little laugh lines around his eyes and mouth appearing as he did so.
I blink, suddenly snapping out of my trance. "Huh...uh, w-what?"
"I said are you okay?" He asks, his smile softening as well as his eyes.
"I uh...um...y-yeah, I think so."
He glances down at the floor. "I think you tripped on my suitcase there. I'm sorry about that. It's a little crowded in here."
"Yeah..." I chuckle nervously, noticing his fellow CSI co-workers, Catherine and Danielle, smiling out of the corner of my eye, more than likely on account of my obvious attraction to him, or the sudden heat rushing up into my cheeks. Shit. I'm blushing, aren't I? I quickly turn my head away, gingerly taking a step away from him and tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear. "I'm gonna...uh...get my stuff now, from the bathroom. Yeah..." Slowly turning around, I continue towards the bathroom, slipping inside and squatting down to get my small hot pink bag from under the sink, feeling my cheeks turn even redder, and my heart pounding even harder, as I notice Catherine and Danielle whispering to Steve out of the corner of my eye, and chuckling softly. How was I going to get through this coming weekend or longer, with all these hot actors around me? I already foresee many more fainting spells in my future. Maybe Michael was right. Maybe I should have one of them nearby, just in case. Not even my other self was as sickly or in dire need of a doctor 24/7 as I was, but considering I was in the presence of Scott Foley and Shane West—in the physical sense-that might not be such a bad thing.
Grabbing my overnight toiletry bag, I rise to my full height and proceed to pack my pink toothbrush, floss, Colgate toothpaste, Christina Aguilera Inspire perfume, deodorant, razor, bar soap and tweezers. Zipping up my bag, I shut the bottom cupboard and turn to walk out of the bathroom, quickly averting my gaze and blushing bright red, as the corners of Steve's mouth turn up in a smirk when I pass by him. Don't look at him, Amy. Damn it, don't look. Just keep walking. Pretend he's not there. Just pretend his sexy and handsome Texan face isn't there. I nearly collide with Tina as I turn to walk across the landing, mutter an apology and continue into my room, noticing Andrew eying me inquisitively out of the corner of my eye. "I'm fine, I'm fine, don't come in," I mutter, closing the door behind me, but not fully into the jam itself. "I'm fine." Stepping towards my suitcase, I shove the bag down into the middle of it and close it, zipping it up and pulling it down from the bed. Walking around to the opposite side of the bed, I grab my purse from the floor, throwing it over my right shoulder and returning to my suitcase. Grabbing the handle, I roll it towards the door, opening it wide and stepping outside into the loft.
"Okay, I'm ready," I inform them.
"What about your mom? What are you going to do if she realizes you're gone?" Andrew asks.
"She won't," I tell him, glancing over at the rest of the group. "She'll just assume I've been in my room this whole time. She doesn't come upstairs to check on me that often. She's too busy with you-know-who and the dogs."
"You sure about that?"
"Okay." Andrew and Michael step back into my bedroom to retrieve their things, while the rest of my characters grab their suitcases. I look up expectantly as Zack steps towards me with a questioning look on his face.
"Are you planning on removing that safety gate?" He asks, pointing down the stairs. "Or do we all have to climb over it?"
Steve steps towards the rail surrounding the stairs and peers over, "yeah, that might give us some trouble, especially if you want us to be extra quiet."
"And I'm not climbing over a goddamn gate," Victor remarks. "Remove it, or I'm not doing a damn thing for you."
I exhale sharply, looking around at the rest of them.
"I do have fairly short legs," Emma remarks.
"Me too," says Candice.
"Me three," Tina adds.
Cursing myself subconsciously, I sigh deeply, my shoulders slumping in defeat as I gently nod my head in understanding. I glance back at my room as Andrew and Michael step out of it, Andrew flipping the light off on his way out. Michael extends his arm to me, handing me my Babo Ugly doll, to which I smile. "Thank you."
"I didn't want you to be without him," he says with a soft smile.
"Aw, now isn't that cute," Victor remarks, the sarcasm clear in his voice. I shoot a glare over at him, flipping him the bird. "I'd love to, sweetie pie."
"Leave her alone," Andrew sneers. "You're the last person she'd want to screw."
"No, I'm the first," he retorts with a cocky grin.
I groan irritably. "Seriously? Are we going to start this shit again? Enough." I glance from Andrew to Victor. "The both of you." Exhaling sharply, I look around at everyone. "Okay, so this is how we're going to do this. I'll go first, remove the safety gate, and then when I motion to you, you guys follow me, in a single file line. And I'm begging you, try and be as quiet as you possibly can, especially with your suitcases. Carry them, don't drag them. I know it might be hard, but please just try, okay?"
Gingerly, they all nod their heads in understanding. I nod, bringing my finger up to my lips, before grabbing my suitcase and lifting it off the floor, starting down the stairs as quietly as I can, cursing myself for my heavy jeans and boots, making the suitcase a good 25 pounds. When I reach the sixth step from the bottom successfully, I set my things down on the step and as quiet as a mouse, I disengage the lock mechanism from the gate, cringing briefly at the rattle it makes when I do so, and slowly slide the gate back into its frame. It feels like it takes me a century to finally remove it, but I manage to do it and tip toe down the rest of the stairs, leaning it against the wall outside the kitchen. I tip toe back up to grab my things, descending the rest of the stairs just as quietly as before, the moment to rest helping me regain my strength, to carry the suitcase the rest of the way down.
Turning back to face the stairwell, I gesture to Andrew to follow, grabbing the rolling handle of my suitcase and walking towards the front door, stopping at the tiled entryway. Looking up at the stairs, I stand there praying for all of them to get to the bottom as quietly as a mouse. Fortunately, the younger guys have lighter steps, so Andrew and his band mates accomplish that successfully, along with Michael and my other self, and since the CSIs and detectives were skilled to move virtually undetected in home invasions, they accomplish the task better than I anticipate them to. I smile softly to myself. Damn, I'm good.
So far so good. Andrew walks up a few steps, helping Emma with her suitcase, and hushing Courtney, Tina and Candice with a finger to his lips, as they descend the stairs after her. When Lucy comes down the stairs, I'm actually shocked to see that she has removed her red patent leather heels and is walking barefoot, which was more than likely because of Victor. Way to go, my bad ass villain. After Lucy, Annabel comes down next, having removed her heels as well. Thank god, and thank you James, or maybe it was her idea alone. As the foyer starts getting crowded, I bite my nails anxiously, peering over a few of my taller character's heads, knowing the more muscular men are next. Zack, Victor, and James. They must of come up with a plan while I was making my descent, letting my characters of lighter weight go first. The first man to come down is James, not surprisingly. He makes it down with no problem, and hardly a sound. I wish more than anything that I could weave my way through the group, and rush to the edge of the stairs, just to keep Victor and Zack from being too loud as they come down, but it's already crowded enough, and definitely too crowded to walk without falling. Fortunately, Zack seems to be doing a good job, using the railing to take each step at a slow, leisurely pace and he doesn't seem to have any trouble carrying his suitcase down either.
I clasp my hands together, saying a silent prayer in my head as I hear Victor step down from the landing and descend to the bottom, following Zack's lead and using the the rail to keep his moves softer. My heart pounds frantically until he finally reaches the bottom, and it's only then that I remember, he's a serial killer. He was skilled to keep his movements quiet, when he made his own home invasions, caught his victims by surprise and proceeded to kidnap them. When all 20 of my characters are in the foyer and the entry room, I take charge again and whisper. "This door is loud when I open it, so get out as fast as you guys can, cause the dogs will come running. Remember, single file, and whatever you do, don't let the dogs out."
A few are hesitant but gingerly, they all nod their heads, saying nothing, thankfully, and they hadn't said a single word since they were upstairs. I have trained my characters well. Well...now that they aren't in my head. Hopefully they'll keep listening to me from here on out. God it would feel good to get to the hotel, where they wouldn't have to worry about keeping quiet. Well, at least in the lobby they wouldn't have to worry about it. I bring my finger up to my lips, lift my hand and count to three before disengaging the deadbolt and slowly pulling the door open. Unfortunately, no matter how slow I open it, the hinges squeal loudly in agony, which is part of the reason why I hate living in this house. Letting it open wide, I run out of the house and up the walkway, carrying my suitcase behind me. I glance back towards the door, praying to the high heavens that Bella or Bruiser won't come running out, but I know it's only wishful thinking, because they probably will. By the time half of my characters are out the door, I hear Bruiser start barking loudly.
This is one of those moments, that I pray my mom's husband assumes Bruiser is only playing with Bella, and that my characters don't use verbal commands, or better yet, loud ones, to get the dog to quiet down.
"Damn it!" Zack exclaims. "Incoming! He got out!"
Dropping my things on the ground, I dash over, bending down and scooping Bruiser up in time, before he can run into the neighbors yards or the street. "You don't bark at my characters! You don't!" I insist to the Chihuahua, who has stopped barking and is calm once again in my arms. "Bad!" As I start back up the walkway, I notice that all of my characters are outside now, and Victor is the last one, trying to kick the other dog back inside as he shuts the door behind him. "Don't kick her, Victor! What the fuck are you doing?"
"I was trying to get the little bitch to stay inside," he says. "Would you rather I yell at her and wake your mother's husband? I'm sure I could scare her into staying the hell inside."
I roll my eyes, ignoring him and continuing towards the front door with Bruiser.
"He's the little shit who's making all the noise and you're worried about her?"
"Fuck off, Victor!" I exclaim, shaking my head as I approach the door. Grabbing the release handle, I slowly push it open, dropping Bruiser back inside, shutting it once more, and exuding a weary sigh. As I turn back around to return to the driveway and grab my keys from my purse, I nearly jump out of my skin as I came face-to-face with Victor, my heart pounding frantically as I look up into his vengeful eyes, and yet, at the same time, I can already feel heat spreading between my thighs, my loins clenching involuntarily. God, why does he have to be so damn hot when he's angry? Of course, because I made him look exactly like Julian McMahon. Damn me. Pushing a huge lump down in my throat, I try as I might to formulate a coherent sentence. "What?" I ask. "Do you want." I gasp loudly as he reaches out with his free hand, gripping my jaw tightly, causing it to throb painfully.
"Don't ever bad mouth me like that again," he sneers, "especially in front of everyone. Do you understand me?"
"Yes," I reply, shivering involuntarily at the fiery look in his eyes. "I understand. I'm-I'm sorry."
"You better be."
I breathe a huge sigh of relief as he lets go of my chin, turns back around and walks away, down the front walkway. As aroused as his action has made me...down there, I can still feel my heart pounding like a drum, and my body trembling, but not in a good way. Reminding myself of what Dr. Hensley said, I take a couple deep breaths before slowly starting back towards the driveway. Just avoid eye contact with him. That's all you can do. Avoid eye contact. I push another lump down in my throat as I turn the corner, being extra careful to keep my distance from Victor, as he stands towards the back of the group with James and Lucy at his side. My characters are standing around talking amongst themselves, but the bus still hasn't arrived yet. Weaving my way past Courtney, my other self, and Tina, I stop beside my things I'd set down previously, grabbing my purse and slipping my hand inside, digging around for my house key.
My heart skips a beat at the familiar smoky voice. Looking up, I see Andrew, standing near his suitcase, his hands tucked into the front pockets of his jeans. "H-hey, Andrew."
"How you doing?" He asks.
I pause, smiling softly at his concern. "I'm fine," I reply. "Just looking for my key to lock up the house." He nods in regard. "I called Dr. Hensley, and she said that she's having her brother, Sam, take us to L.A., in a bus he rented from a friend, and that he should be here by 7:30."
His brows arched in surprise. "Really? Well that's cool. At least it'll save us some time." He glances back at Michael, "I guess Mike doesn't have to pitch in for bus fare now, or that other...bastard."
I sigh softly, pulling out my key ring and looking up at him. "He's not a bastard, Andrew. Well, not all the time. I didn't create him to be like that. He's from England."
"Oh? So that automatically makes him a gentlemen? Because he's from England?" He pulls his hands out of his jeans and crosses his arms over his chest. "I don't believe it."
I roll my eyes. "Well it's true. Can you do me favor?"
"That depends. What's the favor?"
"Can you let everyone else know about the change of plans, with the bus, while I go lock up?" I ask.
"Let me guess. Stage fright again?" He inquires, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"Kind of, but if you don't want to, get Michael to do it." When he opened his mouth to reply, I didn't give him the chance. Instead-not caring what my other self thinks if she sees me—I lean in, pressing a kiss to his cheek. "Thank you, handsome."
"Hey, did you just kiss my boyfriend?" Amy asks incredulously as I walk past her.
"Oh shut it!" I exclaim. "He's both of ourboyfriends. I just made you look like Sarah Michelle Gellar, because I myself am ugly."
"No you're not!" Andrew shouts at me. "You're beautiful! You both are."
I stop in my tracks and turn around, both me and the other Amy flashing him a smile. I blow him a kiss, but my smile suddenly fades as the other Amy grabs him, pulling him in by the nape of his neck and kissing him passionately before he can blow me a kiss back. I heave a deep and irritable sigh, suddenly wishing I hadn't cast this spell to begin with. Or that Dr. Hensley hadn't cast it. Maybe she could reverse it and send my Sarah Michelle Gellar packing. Then I'd have Andrew all to myself again. Hmm, now there was an idea. After all, what was the fun of having a clone of Shane if he wasn't all mine?
Marching back to my suitcase and purse, I reach inside, shooting a glare at Sarah Michelle Gellar while she kisses Andrew, as I pull out my cell phone. With a scoff, I turn on my heels with a huff and march up the front walkway. Once I slip out of view of my characters, I turn my phone on and dial Dr. Hensley's number, doubting the woman will pick up, and just as I expect, I get her voice mail.
"Hello, you've reached Dr. Abigail Hensley. I'm sorry I can't answer your call right now, but please leave your name, number and a detailed message, and I will try to get back to you as soon as I can."
After the beep, I take a calming breath and begin to speak. "Dr. Hensley? It's Amy. The real Amy, not the character version, who I apparently turned into a really slutty version of myself. Remember when you said I could reverse the spell? Well do you think I could reverse the spell on just her? She is really getting on my last nerve. Just please call me back as soon as you can and let me know. I want her gone as soon as possible. Thank you in advance. Bye." Hanging up the phone, I slip it into my pocket and continue towards the front door. Sticking my key into the door, I lock it up then return to the driveway. Sighing irritably, I stand on the edge of the driveway, refusing to be near Andrew and Amy.
Suddenly, something occurs to me. If I had the power to bring them all here, could I possibly have the power to send one of them back? Without Dr. Hensley's help? They were my characters and she said the spell could be reversed at any time. But should I risk all of them just to cast a spell on one? Let's go with yes. Fixing my eyes on my other self, I compile my own incantation and recite the words.
"You play me in my fiction, and that's where I want you to stay, but here with Andrew is not where I want you to play, so go back in my head, that's where I want you instead. Bones, blood, flesh no more, leave this world, leave us now, bye bye Amy Gellar, ciao!"
I blink back my astonishment, watching as Sarah Michelle Gellar, my other self, vanishes right before my eyes, and no one, not even Andrew seems to notice, since he's too busy chatting with his band mates, and everyone else appears to be too distracted in their own conversations. No way. Did that really just work? My lips curl into a grin. Way cool. Suddenly, Andrew glances back over his shoulder, a bewildered expression crossing his face when he realizes the other Amy is no longer standing there. He cocks his head, looking all around, but he doesn't see her.
"Amy!" He shouts, before glancing at his friends around him. "Has anyone seen Amy?"
I sigh softly, clear my throat and stroll back towards the group, acting as casual as can be. "I'm right here," I tell him with a smirk.
"No, not you, the other Amy," he replies. "I could of sworn she was standing right here a minute ago."
My brows furrow accusingly as I plant my hands firmly on my hips. Did he really just say that? To me? I shrug my shoulders. "I don't know where she went, but I'm here."
He held my gaze for a few long seconds, a skeptical look on his face. Suddenly, his hazel green eyes darken in vexation, a muscle noticeably flexing in his jaw. "What did you do with her?"
"I...I...wanted to spend some time with you, just the two of us, author-to-character, because I love you so much, you know that, so...I sort of sent her back into my head."
"What!" Andrew exclaims. "You did what!"
"Oh boy..." Max mutters, turning away from the two of us.
"That's not cool," Jason remarks.
"Why!" Andrew demands.
"Just so you and I could be together!" I argue, scowling when I realize I've drawn the attention of my other characters. I place my hands over my heart. "Amy is me, Andrew! I'm Amy! You've been my character long enough to know that I'm the exact same person as she is. She just looks different than me, because Sarah Michelle Gellar is my idol and she's beautiful. Not like me. Don't you see? I'm right here! I've always been here! I promise, cross my heart and hope to die that I'll send you back to her when this whole thing is over, but for right now..." I pause, choking back a sob when I see the vexation still in his eyes, my own eyes welling up with tears, my bottom lip quivering. "Can't you just love me? Just for now? Please?" I ask, my voice breaking with emotion as I cover my face with my hands, sobbing softly.
Suddenly, I feel someone's arms wrap around my shoulders, pulling me into a warm and loving embrace. Shutting my eyes tightly, I cling to the athletic frame of the person holding me, like a tiny child clinging to its mother or father, burying my head in their shoulder and sobbing loudly. Catching a familiar whiff of the person's cologne, I sigh softly, my heart warming when I realize who it is. "I do love you, but I love the other Amy too," Andrew murmured. He sighs softly. "And sooner or later, you're going to have to send me back to her, or you, I should say. You know what? I'm really confused."
"So are we," says Max.
"I think I understand," Michael says as I gently pull away from Andrew, wiping away my tears with the back of my index finger and looking up at him, along with everyone else. I smile softly as he sets a hand on my shoulder, looking over at Andrew. "When Amy here started to create her own characters, and when she created me to take part in one of her *NSYNC fan fiction stories," his gaze shifts towards me, "and I apologize for bringing that up."
"It's okay," I say softly, feeling the heat rush up into my cheeks as I look down at the ground, a few chuckles being exchanged around me.
"She created a character modeled after herself. They shared the same personalities, but instead of physically using herself, she decided to cast her favorite actress, Sarah Michelle Gellar, as the face and body of this character she created, and she's been using her ever since. Just because the physical part of that character is gone for right now, doesn't mean the same Amy you fell in love with isn't here. Don't you see, Andrew?" He places his hand on my back, looking from me to Andrew then back to me. "She's still Amy, just as she said she is. Sarah only embodies her in her imagination." He sighs softly. "And I'm hoping that all makes sense, because now I'm getting a headache."
I chuckle softly, lifting a hand to his shoulder and giving it a rub, mouthing the words 'thank you' to him. "What he means is, Sarah Michelle Gellar is my personality clone, except she's got some other traits and talents that I wish I had. And plus she's got the better life. She knows how to drive, has her own place with her best friend, and has some amazing friends, and a cool job. So I guess, in a way, she's not entirely like me."
"But damn close to it, at least in personality. And it makes perfect sense," says Andrew, looking up at Michael with a smirk. "Thanks Mike."
"Well, that certainly explains a lot," Victor remarks, his lips curling into a grin.
"Right you are," James adds.
"So Amy...is really Amy?" Jason asks.
"Wait...what?" Max adds. "Sarah is Amy? Or is Amy Sarah?"
"Never mind." I roll my eyes, shaking my head in disbelief and meeting Andrew's gaze. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner, and I'm sorry for taking her away from you. If you want me to bring her back," I push a huge lump down in my throat, looking woefully down at the ground, my heart stinging painfully with the tears in my eyes, "or you want me to send you back, I understand."
Andrew sighs deeply, my heart skipping a beat as he takes my hands in his. "Hey, look at me." I lift my chin to look up at him. "You've got me for the next three or four days. I'm not going anywhere until then, okay?"
I gently nod my head before turning to face everyone. "Okay, people, listen up! Change of plans, I don't know if Andrew told you already, but the bus is coming to us! Dr. Hensley is sending her brother, Sam, with a rented bus to pick us up, so he should be getting here any minute!" A few cheers are exchanged between the rest of them. I point at Michael and James, "and you two, we don't need bus fare anymore. Just help paying for the hotel."
"Right then," James says with a nod. "It shall be done."
Michael nods in regard. "Of course. I told you I'd help with the hotel fees."
"Thank you guys. Really." Walking around the group and over to James, I stop about six feet away from he and Victor, and gesture him to come closer with a wave of my hand, not missing the glare in Victor's eyes as James steps away from him and walks towards me.
"Yes, love?" He asks with a smirk.
"I need you to make the reservations right now at The Marriott Hotel in Burbank. Ask for ten guest rooms, two to each room, from today until Sunday. I don't have the number, but if you could call 411, I'm sure they'll give it to you. Can you do that?"
James nods his head in regard. "Certainly, pet."
Hearing the rumble of a bus approaching, I turn around and smile softly when I see a maroon bus with several black tinted windows, tour bus style, heading in my direction, but not like a rock star tour bus, more of a tourist type of tour bus. I turn and walk away from James, returning to the end of the driveway.
"All right!" Max exclaims, clapping his hands together. "We're riding in style now! I thought it was going to be some kinda school bus."
"Me too," Ryan adds.
I glance back at them. "Like I would take you to L.A on a school bus, please."
The bus makes a left turn before finally pulling up in front of my house, slowing to a stop with a moan and a hiss of the breaks. The doors part and fold against the insides of the vehicle, a tall, attractive and robust man with messy dark brown hair, and large brown eyes steps off of the bus, his facial features similar to that of Dr. Hensley. "Hi every—whoa!" His eyes grow wide with astonishment as he looks around at my group of characters, clearly shocked to see so many of them, or so many famous faces. He points a finger at Robert, striding towards him. "You're Robert Downey Jr!"
"Stone, actually," Robert says, nodding at the man and extending his hand to him. "Detective Robert Stone, LAPD Homicide Division."
The man takes his hand in his with a firm shake. "No way! You're a detective too?"
"Yes, and you are?"
"Sam, Sam Hensley," the man says. "Pleasure to meet you." He turns his head, suddenly noticing James, and pointing a finger at him as well. "And Jude Law too? No way, man! Sherlock Holmes and Watson are back together again."
"James Cunningham," James says with a chuckle, extending his hand to the man. "Sorry to disappoint you."
"And unfortunately, we play on opposing teams," Robert informs him.
"That's a shame." Sam looks around at the rest of the group. "I recognize some of these other people too." He points to Steve, Danielle and Catherine, "aren't you three on CSI?"
"No, we are CSIs," says Catherine.
"We work for the Los Angeles Crime Lab," Danielle adds.
"No way!" Sam exclaims. "Really?"
"Really," says Steve with a chuckle.
I steal a glance around the neighboring houses, scowling when I notice that we've drawn more than a few people's attention with the bus showing up, and all of my characters standing in the driveway with their suitcases. It must look like a bus stop to them, or rather, a bus depot. "Hey Sam!" I shout, waving him over. I extend my hand to him, "I'm Amy. Amy West?"
Sam takes my hand in his with a shake and a cordial smile. "Right, Amy West. Dr. Hensley told me about you. You're the author."
I nod in agreement, glancing back at the group. "Yeah, and as much of a shock as it is, these are all of my characters. They're not the real actors and actresses you think they are though. I just created them like this, with their images in my head, and now they're real, thanks to Dr. Hensley."
Sam chuckles softly. "Rubbing shoulders with the stars, I like it. You must feel like you're in a movie right now."
"Definitely." I turn towards the group, pointing out each of them to Sam. "Sam, this is Andrew, Courtney, Tina, Emma, Michael, Max, Jason, Ryan, Annabel, James, Candice, Zack, Nora, Catherine, Steve, Danielle, Robert, Lucy, and Victor."
Sam nods his head at them. "It's nice to meet you all. It might take me some time to remember your names though."
A few chuckles were exchanged among them. "Do you think we could get on the bus now?" I ask Sam. "My neighbors are staring at me."
Sam nods. "Yeah, of course, of course. Just one more thing, did you have a hotel in mind where you wanted me to drop all of you?"
"Well, the last time I was in L.A., I stayed at The Marriot in Burbank, so maybe we could stay there?"
"The Marriot, okay," says Sam. "I know just where that is. Let's load up their stuff and get this show on the road."
Returning to the bus, he takes his keys out of the ignition and proceeds to unlock the storage compartment on the side of the vehicle, flipping it up and helping my characters load their suitcases inside. I roll my eyes when Victor, Robert and James request to keep their suits with them, for fear of them getting wrinkled. Typical men. And I'm not surprised when Michael insists on keeping his medical bag with him on the bus. I'm relieved and at the same time, surprised, that there is enough room for everyone's suitcases. When Sam asks for mine, I hand it to him, but insist on keeping my purse and Babo with me.
Once everyone's belongings are packed up, everyone climbs onto the bus. I allow all of my characters to get on first, reminding James about the reservations once again, before I follow with Sam. I'm not surprised to see Victor, James and Lucy seated by themselves at the back of the bus as I climb aboard, keeping their distance from everyone else. Annabel is also seated across from them. I roll my eyes but continue searching for a seat. Courtney and Zack share one set of seats, one space from the front, on the right side of the bus. Emma and Michael are seated together on the left side, across from them, Michael having taken the aisle seat. Andrew's band mates, Max and Ryan are sitting together behind Courtney and Zack, and Jason and Tina right behind them. Danielle and Robert are sitting together behind Emma and Michael, and Catherine and Candice behind them. The only characters sitting solo are, not surprisingly, Andrew, Steve and Nora. Andrew on the right behind Jason and Tina, Steve behind him, and Nora on the left across from him, but not on the same side as Victor, James and Lucy.
Deciding to sit solo as well, I take the vacant seat of seats behind Catherine and Candice, on the left side of the bus, just one set of seats away from Andrew, and one set in front of Nora. I am relieved to see James on the phone calling to the hotel as I drop down into the softly cushioned seat. After setting my purse down beside me on the other seat, I lean my head back against the headrest, shutting my eyes and sighing softly as I feel the bus engine rumble to life, hear the doors shut and feel the rock of the tires on the asphalt, before the vehicle sets into motion. If only the seat reclined, then I could get some sleep. I should of brought my pillow with me. About ten or fifteen minutes pass, when a familiar smoky voice causes my heart to skip a beat, and me to open my eyes, smiling softly up at Andrew.
"Is this seat taken?" He asks.
"What if I said no? Are you sure you want to sit with me?" I reply.
Removing my purse from the seat, he sits down beside me, placing it on the floor at my feet. "Why aren't you sitting with me? You walked right past me when you got on. Didn't you see me sitting all by my lonesome?"
"Yes, I saw you, but I figured I should leave you alone for a while, after what happened with the other Amy. At least that's what I figured you'd want."
His forehead wrinkled inquisitively. "I didn't want that. You think I'm still mad at you about that?" I shrug, gently nodding my head. "Well I'm not. Whatever issues we have, we can talk about it in therapy tomorrow, okay? I don't want to fight about it anymore. I told you, you've got me to yourself for the next three or four days. You should take advantage of it, if you really want to spend some time with me, like you said you did." My heart skips another beat as I notice a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
I look down at my lap, gently nodding my head once more. "I guess," I mutter, "you're right." My heart beats faster as he takes my hand in his, making it pound the second he lifts my hand to his mouth, pressing a kiss to the back of my palm. "You don't have to do that," I tell him softly, as painful as it is to utter the words.
"I know, but I did, not because it was written, but because I chose to. You don't have any control over that now." He sighs softly, looking down at our linked hands. "Mike is right. You are still my Amy, at least in personality."
I look up at him, smiling softly. "Not completely. She does have a lot of better qualities than me."
"Well, she's tougher than me, like in the Buffy sense, and she's definitely more outgoing, whereas me, I never flirt or approach guys, because I'm not good at that. I have zero experience. Plus, she's had more boyfriends than me, I'm still zero for zero. Oh, and she's actually been kissed, I haven't, and she-" I gasp softly as Andrew cups my cheek in his hand, and leans in, covering my lips with his, the hairs that form his goatee tickling my chin, my heart pounding like a drum in my chest, so loud I'm sure that everyone on the entire bus can hear it. I bring my hand up to the nape of his neck, opening my mouth wider and responding to his kiss. Gently, he pulls away, gazing into my eyes and smiling softly at me.
"Now you've been kissed," he says.
Suddenly, the fiery arousal inside of me, and my obsession with Shane West takes over, fueling the fire already burning in-between my legs. Throwing both of my arms around his neck and myself forward, I press my lips firmly to his, kissing him passionately just as I had done earlier, when we were up in my room. His brows arch in surprise as he cups my face in his hands, moaning and groaning against my lips.
"Woo!" Jason cheers. "Looks like somebody's going to get some tonight!"
"Oh, my god!" Tina exclaims, giggling softly.
"Whoa!" Max adds. "Welcome to the love bus, ladies and gentlemen."
While I hear his band mates voices, I ignore them, until Andrew sets his hands on my shoulders and struggles to pull away, his words muffled against my lips. "Mm, Amy, Amy—stop." He turns his head away from me, my lips dragging across his cheek. I pull my head back, looking down at him with a pout, then around the bus, realizing our sudden make-out session has drawn everyone's attention. My cheeks suddenly flush in embarrassment. "Oops." Clearing my throat, I tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear and sit back in my seat, not daring to look back, even for one second, to see Victor's reaction, but I know he's probably fuming.
"Well, that was bracing," Andrew remarks, his lips curling into a grin. "Was that you or the other Amy?"
"It was both of us."
He chuckles softly. "It sure felt like the both of you."
"Sorry, but with a face like yours...I couldn't help myself." I shrug with a giggle.
"Just like you couldn't help yourself back at home, in your bedroom?"
"Exactly. Sorry about that."
"Don't be," he says. "I'm not. Well, maybe a little, you know, before I knew who you really were."
I flash him a smile, leaning in and pressing a kiss to his cheek. "I love you, Andrew Barnett, and I thank god every day that I created you."
"I love you too, but I don't think you'd love me nearly as much, if you hadn't cloned Shane West just to create me."
We exchange a laugh. "True." Resting my head on his shoulder, I sigh softly, shutting my eyes. "Do you mind if I sleep on your shoulder, or your lap like this, the rest of the way to L.A.?"
"Does it look like I'm complaining?" He asks.
My lips curl into a grin as I open my eyes and lift my head. Leaning forward, I set my head in his lap, curling up to his right thigh and shutting my eyes. "I think I'll choose the lap as my pillow instead of the shoulder."
He chuckles softly, setting his hand against my shoulder. "Okay."
"Did you decide to come and sit down beside me, because Michael or one of your band mates told you to? Or because you wanted to?"
"Neither one of them told me anything. I wanted to. Why are questioning me some much about it? That's not the Amy I know."
"Well I'm not that Amy," I grumble. "I'm more paranoid and less friendly than her, and worry ten times more. Sorry. I was just curious is all."
"And plus, I remember Michael saying that he wanted someone to keep an eye on me, you know, after I fainted and everything? I thought he might of sent you over to do that for him."
"He did mention that, didn't he? See? There's another good reason why you should be sitting next to me."
"But I feel fine! I'm just tired."
"Listen to them, honey. They're doctors, they know what's best for you." Catherine says.
I open my eyes and notice the 47-year old, red headed Crime Scene Investigator peering around her aisle seat, and looking down at me with a firmly maternal look in her eyes, and a cordial smirk on her attractive face. I sigh wearily, but say nothing.
"Well thanks for being on my side..." Andrew says, his forehead wrinkling in thought. "I'm sorry, I don't think we've officially met. I'm Andrew."
"I'm Catherine," she replies. "Nice to meet you."
He smirks and nods his head. "Yeah, you too."
When she turns to face forward, I shut my eyes once again, exuding a long yawn. "I'm going back to sleep now. Good night, Andrew." My heart beats a little faster as I feel him lean in, his lips brushing over my temples, his hand brushing my hair away from my face.
"Sweet dreams, cutie."