One More Day
Saturday, July 24, 2004
Part I
Chapter 1- A Stormy Start

The storm moved in slowly, taking its time as if it didn't have a care in the world. The sky slowly grew dark and mysterious. Thunder rolled over the city, rain splattered softly on the windows. The drumming was hypnotic, lulling everything into a peaceful, if somber state. Everything was peaceful, except for the woman.

She lay on her barren mattress, shivering against the cold and for other reasons. She pondered death and she frequently wished she could experience it. She was tired of this Hell that she called life. Reaching across the bed, her hand brushed against her needle and supplies. Even though she knew that stuff was destroying her body and mind, she didn't care. She couldn't, not being addicted the way she was. Her shaky, emaciated hand arrived at the headboard, searching for the pistol.

Instead of the cold steel of the gun, she discovered she was gripping the radio. For some reason, it had an eerie power over her hand and she was compelled to turn it on. No stations came in well enough to be heard, due to the storm. There was a local country station, so she turned the dial to the correct bandwidth. A DJ came on loud and clear, and said, "Here's a hit from years and years ago. A great song by Diamond Rio." Her attention was focused solely on the radio now. It had a strange fix on her mind as well, refusing to let her break the trance. The notes of the song began and she immediately recognized it. The name was "One More Day."
The male singer belted out the lyrics:

"Last night I had a crazy dream
A wish was granted just for me
It could be for anything
I didn't ask for money
Or a mansion in Malibu
I simply wished, for one more day with you
One more day
One more time
One more sunset, maybe I'd be satisfied
But then again
I know what it would do
Leave me wishing still, for one more day with you."

She remembered that she used to love that song. That seemed so far away, another time, another life, another person. Tears formed at the corners of her eyes and tumbled down her bony cheeks undisturbed. Her frail body shook violently with her sobs. She rolled over in bed and closed her eyes. Tears flowed from her shut eyes to the bare pillow. As she drifted off to sleep, she asked no one in particular for one more day, one more chance.

Chapter 2- Wakey-Wakey
Marianne's eyes slowly fluttered open as she struggled to return to the land of the living from dreamland. Once fully conscious, she swung the covers off her body and herself to the side of her bed...and rammed her feet into the wall. "Ow, goddamnit! What the hell?" she whispered vehemently. Her bare mattress wasn't near any wall. Her mattress wasn't bare, in fact. What was going on? Did someone move the bed during the night? Finally, she tore her eyes away from the wall, slowly tracing over the rest of the room. This wasn't her room at all. Maybe I passed out somewhere else last night, she thought, so I got to get off the drugs. Then she saw something that jolted her. The calendar. That calendar was familiar, yet the date on it was May. May 1990. That's when she remembered.....she had that calendar when she was in high school. In fact, everything in the room was from her room in her parents' house. The posters of the actors she thought were cute, the stuffed animal collection, her lamp, her desk. Wow, she instantly hoped, this is the most vivid dream I have ever had.

She pinched herself, trying to wake up. Nothing happened. She squeezed harder. Same result. She smacked her leg and received nothing except a painful sting and red handprint on it.  Then she heard a voice she hadn't heard in fourteen years. That of her mother, calling her for breakfast. Marianne's heart started jackhammering at her chest and she was terrified. What the fuck was going on? Why was she back at home, fourteen years ago? As she worked to calm herself down, she heard the mutterings of her father as he walked past her closed bedroom door. She could hear the sounds of her little brothers fighting in the room next door. Oh God, oh God, oh God, she silently repeated.

It took all her courage to go to her door and crack it. After seeing the coast was clear, she flung it open, expecting the dream to end. No such luck. Her house was there. It was all there, just like it was every morning of her life before that one night. The night that fucked up her life forever. The Night.

Chapter 3- The Night
That night was May 15, 1990. It was her eighteenth birthday. It was supposed to be a joyous occasion. It was also Prom. She was a shy, quiet, somewhat loosely religious girl that had never even kissed a boy. But that didn't stop the star of the basketball team from asking her to Prom. And of course, she said yes. How could she have known what would happen that night? How could she have known that she was just a bet to the star basketball player and his friends? How could she possibly know what The Night would have in store for her?

The familiar wave of anger passed over her, like it always did when she remembered that night. Goddamn that asshole to hell. Why did she agree to going for a drive after the dance? Why? Why did that asshole have to pull over? Why couldn't he have kept on driving? Why did he have to rape her?

After the fact, either no one believed her or had wanted to believe her, because the creep got off and went scot-free. She lost her reputation and was known as the whore who went to the Prom with the star basketball player. After harassment about the whole scandal and the emotional trauma due to the actual rape, Marianne slid down the slippery slope of depression. She couldn't remember the last time she had fun, the last time she was relaxed, and the last time she had friends, the last time she was happy, the last time she was the old Marianne, not the new, fucked up Marianne. She had contemplated suicide, but decided that she wasn't courageous enough to end her life. A strange reason to live, but she just couldn't do that to herself.

She ran away from home. Once everyone had drifted off to sleep one night, she snuck out with a backpack full of clothes and money. She headed for the big city of Los Angeles, hoping to find work. The only work she could find was that of a lady of negotiable affections. A whore. Just what everyone had called her. Life is ironic. And somewhere in that line of work, she became addicted to drugs. She needed them to get through the horrible things she did every day. She worked to feed her habit. Marianne was suffering through her living hell.

Chapter 4- Ah, To Be Eighteen Again 
Shaking the last of her nostalgic thoughts from her mind, Marianne snuck into the bathroom, which was down the hall from her bedroom. Upon entering the bathroom, she instantly looked in the mirror, expecting to see some grotesque, horribly disfigured version of herself. Instead, she found herself staring at what she thought to a photograph. One of herself. One of herself when she was eighteen and still young and pretty. And hopeful. She broke the spell by looking away.

Struggling to keep her composure, she forced herself to peer into the mirror once again. And like before, the youthful face of eighteen year old Marianne Richards stared back at her. What the fuck was going on? How could a dream be this vivid? And that's precisely when a knee-knocking thought hit her. She was eighteen again.

Chapter 5- 2nd Chance 
The thought jolted and energized her. Marianne had suddenly regained all strength and sprinted from the bathroom to her bedroom. She checked the calendar and saw that the day was the fifteenth of May, the day of her birthday, the Prom, and the rape. Marianne thanked her anal-retentive and obsessive-compulsive sides for her habit of crossing off the past days and for writing down all appointments and important events.

That meant that she hadn't celebrated her birthday yet, that she hadn't gone to the Prom with the basketball star, that she hadn't been raped yet. A rush of warmth and overwhelming happiness swept through her and she became giddy with joy. Her face flushed and adrenaline pumped through her body. She had been given another chance at life, she had been given "One More Day."

Part II
Chapter 1- Oh So Cruel Fate 
After eating breakfast with her family, people she hadn't seen in many, many years (which was really only about 10 hours to them), she called her friends and told them that she would be going in the group with them instead of with the basketball star. They were absolutely shocked, but Marianne didn't care what they thought. They thought she was out of her mind and that she was damn lucky to be asked to Prom by someone like him. Oh well, she thought. After that, she called the future rapist and told him off. There was silence on the other end of the line, then there was profanity. Lots of it. She hung up, not caring what he thought. She only knew that she had made the right decision and that on this night, this Prom, this time, she would not be raped and she would have a good time. However, fate is a motherfucker and not without a sense of irony itself.

Chapter 2- Good Food, Good Times 
Hours passed as she got ready, from her hair to her dress. Once ready, her parents took pictures of her in the long, elegant, maroon dress. Marianne had admired herself for quite awhile in the mirror. She admired her eighteen year old body, instead of the destroyed, emaciated one she would have later. Her family made over her just like they had years ago, the first time she went to her senior Prom. She knew that her mother would say that she looked like a young woman, not a girl. Her dad would just smile and inwardly think that his little girl was growing up.

Her friends arrived at 7:00 PM in a rented luxury van. Their plan was to go eat at a nice Chinese place, then go to Prom. That went well, the food was excellent. Marianne couldn't believe her night was going so well, especially in comparison to what should have happened, and it seemed as if The Night would not have a negative feeling associated with it ever again. Feeling exuberant, she danced the whole night away, never taking a break or really sticking with any one guy. When the dance hall closed, she was rather saddened. Her friends were ready to leave and they almost dragged her out. On the way home, Marianne sat on the passenger's side in the third row.

The driver, Kristy, was the only one awake. Marianne and the others had dozed off after the long day. The drive home was about eighty minutes and Kristy was pretty sure she could make it. Her eyes started to get heavy as the van plummeted onward.

Chapter 3- My Boss Hates Me, I Think 
Lee Harmon had been a truck driver all his life. He liked to drive at night, when there was less traffic, and sleep during the day. He had read somewhere in some psychological crap that doing that was bad for you and screwed up your natural rhythms and sleep cycles, but the night suited him well. He was not an attractive man by any standards. He liked to "hide out" at night. He had no wife or female companion of any kind. All alone all his life. He didn't mind though, he liked to be something of a loner anyhow. He felt he was superior to most folks anyhow. Too far above their heads for him to associate with really. He was an elitist and proud of it.

He was driving a load of cars from the factory to a dealer. He hated hauling cars. In his mind, it was probably the worst load. Worse than hauling those fucking cows that make you smell like shit (literally). He'd rather just drive a normal rig, but no, hell no, his boss stuck him with this crap. While pondering why his boss hated him, Lee noticed a van hurling down the highway at him. Damn, it seems like that van is coming fast and in my lane, he thought.

When it was too late, he realized he was right.

Chapter 4- Kristy's Folly 
Kristy had blown it. She fell asleep. The semi, fully-loaded, slammed into the front driver side of the van. Metal screamed, crunched, sparks flew, sprayed everywhere. Liquid literally ended up in every imaginable place. The van was tossed into the air and flew across the highway into the bordering ditch. Glass shattered, leaving shards in everything. The cars from the semi were sent flying forward from the force of the collision, adding to the carnage already littering the road. One car actually landed on its wheels and skidded to a stop a little ways away.  It looked remarkably out of place, being relatively intact, since the other remaining cars were either mangle, on fire, or both.  The impact with the truck instantly killed Lee, Kristy, and the rest of the girls. All except Marianne. Marianne was woken up by the wreck, but couldn't move. She was pinned down in the seat. And paralyzed from the waist down. She thankfully slipped into unconsciousness, on account of the crippling pain.

Chapter 5- Suicide Again, Eh? 
It took her about a year to physically recover from the wreck, but she would never walk again. They gave her therapy for it, but she couldn't do it. Her nerves had been severed and couldn't be re-attached. She was doomed to a wheelchair. And depression. Wondering why she was the only one to survive that. Why she couldn't have died too. Why she had to be dependent on painkillers to make it through the day. Why she was still breathing. Why.

She once again thought of suicide. Living in a wheelchair isn't living. It's just waiting to die. Waiting to die, not trying to live. But once again, she couldn't do it. Marianne didn't have the courage to do it.

She didn't usually pray, but she did before she went to bed one night. Softly, coming from another room, she could hear her parents murmuring lovingly. She could hear their radio. A song floated in, and it nearly knocked her out of the wheelchair. "One More Day." She prayed for one more day and went to bed quickly, as if the spell might be broken if she didn't go to bed immediately. 

Part III
Chapter 1- Here We Go Again 
Her eyelids twitched several times before they opened. She was reluctant to let go of sleep, since her day would be filled of wheelchairs and the problems caused by them. The wheelchair was her enemy and she never wanted to get in it.

She finally focused on the ceiling. After telling herself that she needed to get out of bed about thousand times, Marianne glanced around. The room was not the same room she went to sleep in. Her mind silently demanded to know what the hell was going on. A wave of nausea hit her, overwhelming her and consuming her entity. She sat up and slowly took in her surroundings. The calendar, her old room, her old life surrounded her. It had happened again. She had "One More Day."

Chapter 2- Her Prom Day 
Marianne went about her Prom day the same way as before, but this time, she decided that she would drive to Prom so she would avoid the rapist and the car accident that would be caused by her friend Kristy. During her day of planning, she suddenly had a crippling thought. What if she was stuck in a cycle? What if she had to live her life over and over, always going back to the same night? Always getting hurt in some way, emotional or physical? Would that honestly be worth living? Was she doomed to spend an eternity in a cycle of unhappiness?

These thoughts occupied her mind throughout the day and by the time she was getting ready to go out the door, she was suffering from a full blown anxiety attack. Only one other attack had ever occurred in her life and it sent her to the bathroom to expel the contents of her stomach, which was extremely upset by the events that had transpired. Realizing what was happening to her body and mind, Marianne raced to the bathroom of her house. She knew she was going to be late to the restaurant, but she didn't care. Not at that point in time. Dry heaves followed minutes of retching. A sickly smell of stomach acid arose and that nauseated her as well. The thought of food and the restaurant she was supposed to meet her friends at didn't help either.

Marianne finished driving the porcelain bus and stood up. Her hair was a mess, all in a jumble. A ghostly appearance had been added to her face and her eyes had lost their shimmer. Sweat trickled down from her brow.  As she stared at the reflection of a nervous wreck, the phone rang in the living room. Her parents must have picked it up because it only rang twice.

"Marianne? It's for you. Some guy says he needs to talk to you," her mom called out.

In the bathroom, Marianne's heart began to beat rapidly. Could it be the rapist? What the hell would he want? Had he called the last time too, after she had left with her friends? Oh God. The gaping blackness of nerves hit her and she fainted, somehow falling gracefully onto the bathroom rug.

Chapter 3- Hi There, I'm The Shadowperson 
She could not feel anything. The gaping blackness did swallow her. The mouth opened, revealing black teeth and an ebony tongue covered with slime. She slipped into it and the darkness was all around her. Her senses immediately compensated, since she could see nothing, and her sense of smell became very acute. A slight smell of rotten eggs wafted itself into her nose. She could hear the sounds of digestion of the gaping blackness. Her body fell further into the darkness and still her tactile sense was not functioning.

Suddenly, something latched onto her ankle firmly. Marianne let out a scream, but there was no one there to hear her or heed her cries for help. She looked down and saw an arm emerging from the darkness, and she tried to kick at it with her free leg. It was as if the thing latched onto her ankle was reading her mind because it grabbed her other leg as she attempted to free herself. It pulled her down, down, down.....

And as if someone had ended the ride, Marianne's feet were freed and she stopped sinking. This place was different. There was no longer only pure, unadulterated darkness. A faint light wavered in the distance, drawing Marianne towards it. She could now see a shape outlined against the light. It was growing in size and strength, appearing to be closing the gap between itself and Marianne. She felt a knot of terror grow in her stomach.

The shadow stopped. It had the vague form of a person, but it was definitely an impressionist's view of a human's body. Marianne was dumbfounded by this shadowperson and she was rooted to the spot, unable to move or speak.

A horrible, strange croaking was issued from the shadowperson. Marianne was utterly confused and could not understand what was going on. The croaking slowly mutated into words.

"End near.....time up.....no more.....third is last....." the shadowperson slowly, breathily said.

Marianne finally found the courage to speak. "What....what do you mean? 'The end is near?' What does that mean?" she demanded of the shadow.

It was too late. The shadow did not seem to hear her. It was quickly disintegrating, the shadow dispersing to the surrounding darkness. The light behind it grew stronger, more powerful.....

Chapter 4- Meet Her Mom 
The light was nearly blinding. Her pupils instantly contracted to restrict the light entering the eye. Marianne felt a cool, wet cloth brush her forehead, leaving behind a thin film of water. Her mom's face appeared in her vision.

"How are you? What happened? I think you fainted. You're not going to that dance tonight. Not after fainting. You need your rest. I think you'll be fine," her mom rushed out in one breath.

Lifting her head up unsteadily, Marianne gathered her bearings. She knew she had fainted and she knew why. That rapist asshole had called. The thought of him still terrified her.  Just thinking of him or his name was enough to send chills down her spine and kick over a hornet's nest in her stomach. 

"I'm fine, I'm fine," Marianne stammered out as she shakily stood up, "I just need to go lay down for a little while."

With her mom's help, she made it up the stairs to her bedroom, where she undressed and lay in bed in more comfortable clothes. Silent tears began to fall and she couldn't control them, nor did she know why she was crying. She hated crying and especially crying for no real reason. She had panicked and lost the opportunity to go to the dance. She had blown her third chance at the Prom. Damn.

Her eyes closed as her mind began to empty itself of the traumatic experiences of the past hour. She drifted into slumber without realizing it. 

Chapter 5- School Time 
Marianne was in class.  It was not any class she immediately recognized however.  Little kids milled around her feet, as if not even seeing her there.  Then one little kid walked right through her.  Whatthehell......whattheshit.....howdidthathappen?  Her mind rapidly shouted thoughts.  As if looking for an explanation to be floating around in the room, her eyes scanned the walls, then the floor.  When looking down at the floor, she realized something.  She could she through herself.  The cheap tile reflected the fluorescent lighting from above through her body.  She had become a shadow of the person she was.  One of the kids had taken a toy truck and was banging it against the wall repeatedly, making an insistent knocking sound.

Chapter 6- Him
There was a knock, and its sudden, harsh quality jolted Marianne from sleep with a yelp.  She sat up, unaware to her surroundings and definitely not comprehending why she wasn't with the little kids anymore.  The pounding became knocking and her senses vaguely told her to answer the bedroom door. 

Marianne struggled to free herself from the tangled sheets and covers.  When she answered the door, her mother's face appeared. 

"How are you feeling, sweetheart?  Any better?  I brought you something to drink," her mom rushed out in a concerned tone. 

Marianne grunted something in response, took the drink, and went and laid back down.  After realizing that she was in her own room in her own house, she decided that the shadow thing was a dream.  She was real now.  She sure as hell couldn't see through her arms or legs now.  But that was a vivid dream, she thought, and the vivid ones were memorable.  Maybe even more than memorable.  Maybe meaningful.
Pondering the meaning of the dream, she jumped again when there was a knock again.  "Come in," she said flatly.
Her mother was back, probably to pester her again, either sticking a thermometer in her mouth or just being a typical overbearing mother and asking ten thousand questions.  This time, however, she did nothing other than to come in and sit on the bed next to Marianne.
"Honey, I've been thinking and I want to say I'm sorry for making you miss the Prom.  I know it meant a lot to you and right now, you're probably mad at me.  But I think it was the right decision, since you did faint earlier," her mother said, looking at her hands the whole time, as if she had never seem them before.
Marianne was surprised by this.  She had expected to talk about the rape or the car crash......then it hit her.  Her mother didn't know or couldn't know about those because they hadn't happened yet.  She hadn't gone to the Prom, hadn't been raped, and hadn't been crippled yet. 
"It's.....it's......OK, Mom.  I don't think I could go either.  I should just.......rest," Marianne sputtered out, her mind still reeling over the fact that her mom couldn't possibly know why she didn't want to go to the Prom.
"Well, OK then.  Get some rest," her mom moved towards the door and upon reaching it, she turned and said, "by the way, the boy that called said his name was Ryan Sanderson.  I didn't know who he was, so I got his phone number for you.  He said for you to call him back, I told him you were not feeling well and probably wouldn't."
"OK, thanks," Marianne uttered without realizing it.
Oh damn.  Ryan Sanderson.  She had forgotten about him.  Shit.  Shit.  Shit!
Chapter 7- Forgotten Ryan
She thought back to her high school life, the one she had experienced so long ago.  She thought back to the good times with friends, the days when she thought she was invincible, immortal, and perfect, and she thought back to the only thing she had ever lacked in her life.  A boy, a guy, a man.  Whatever the hell you wanted to call him.  She never had a boyfriend and never had anyone interested.  She was pretty and she was smart, but not what anyone would call a looker or a genius.  Yet there were two guys in high school who had been attracted to her.  One, for purely wrong reasons, was the basketball player/rapist.  The other was Ryan Sanderson.  At least, she thought he was.  She didn't know. 
He was the same year as her in school and had several classes with her.  Being shy made it hard for him to talk much, but she got the idea that he was pretty smart himself, not to mention being rather handsome in a strange way.  He wasn't built, but he wasn't skinny either.  His build and height were average.  An average face topped it off.  But there was something about him that made him handsome and she knew it was his eyes.  They were a light blue, almost gray.  The kind of eyes that can change color depending on the surroundings and his mood.  They were set perfectly in his face and she swore they could see in her soul through her eyes.  At Christmas, he had given her a little teddy bear and said it was just a "friendly" gift.  Well, that was fine, except she didn't know him that well.  She was curious as to why he had really given it to her, but she was too scared to ever ask him about it.  She realized she had a shy streak too. 
Marianne stopped the reminiscing.  She knew she was shy.  She knew what she was doing may lead into another set of pain, another round of a horrible life, but she couldn't stand it any longer.  She had forgotten about Ryan Sanderson for two lifetimes, so how could she forget him again?  Could she ignore him again?  Could she just pretend he had never called and just get on with her life?  He would get the idea if she didn't call back.  What did she need a guy for anyways?  The last one had raped her and caused her one life of mental anguish, living in a personal hell and jail cell in her own mind, never to find the key. 
She went downstairs and picked up the phone, her heart thumping wildly, as she dialed his number.  Before it could connect and ring, she pressed disconnect.  Her vision was swimming, the sides of her head beating in rhythm with her heart and her ears rang.  A warm rush spilled over her and she had to sit down. 
What the hell?  Am I too scared to use a phone?  Ryan's a nice guy, he wouldn't do anything bad to me, she thought.  Then the pessimist in her said and you didn't think the rapist would either.  And he had.  She needed to make a decision and now. 
Part IV
Chapter 1- Intro To Ryan
The phone rang, cutting the silence in the house with its shrill, harsh shrieks.  It rang several times before he got to it. 
"Hello?!" he nearly shouted in nervous excitement.
"Co-could I speak to Ryan?" a timid, feminine voice asked delicately from the other end.
"Yeah, this is him.  I mean, I'm him.  I mean, that's me.  I'm Ryan," Ryan smacked himself on the head.  He was such a wuss when it came to girls, whether they were friends or strangers, cute or not, older or younger or same age.  It didn't matter.  He was a total klutz around them and knowing that made it worse.  He flushed brightly and felt himself sweating already.
"Hi.  This is Marianne.  My mom said you called me..." she trailed off softly, attempting to get him to talk and make some sense this time.
"Um, yeah.  Yeah, that was me," Ryan kicked his ass mentally, and hoped he didn't sound as retarded as he thought he did.  "I just called because I needed to say something.  Ask you something actually." 
There, Ryan thought, not only was that more articulate, but it also set the chain in motion.  There was no way he could weasel out of it like he had before.  He had tried to call her before, but panicked before she even had a chance to pick up the phone.  He had heard a "hello" once when he was really brave, but it had been her father and he nearly died upon hearing a voice, so he had quickly hung up. 
"Well, I want to ask you a few things too.  Umm, I'm not real good at this kind of thing, so how about I meet you somewhere?  I mean, I hate phones and I'm not good at talking over them," Marianne explained.
"Oh really?!" Ryan tried to hide the excitement and anticipation in his voice.  After all, she was kind of, sort of, in a backwards way, asking him out.  Kind of. 
"Yeah.  How about the Java Hut?  Say 8:00?" Marianne half asked, half told. 
"Yeah, sure.  OK, I'll be there," Ryan managed to squeak out before she told him goodbye and hung up.
He held the phone in disbelief.  Yes, he had gotten a call from Marianne.  Yes, she had kind of asked him out.  Yes, he would go.  But there was something nagging at him, chewing away at his insides and he couldn't figure it out.  What did she want?  Would she fall into his arms after he'd waited so damn long?  Or was this a dare or a bet someone put her up to?  That's what it was, he decided sadly.  All this eagerness and nervousness will be for nothing.  She is probably going to laugh at me.  Damnit.  He felt determined to stay home and forget her.  Banish her to murky depths of his mind, never to be dredged up again.  Yet at 7:45, he grabbed his car keys and headed for the door.
Chapter 2- In The Hut
The Java Hut is a little coffee shop that caters to mainly teenagers, ones that needed their caffeine fix.  It was open late, especially around finals time.  The owners knew their target customers and catered to them.  TV's spanned the walls of the little shop, all of them permanently tuned to MTV.  It was a mortal sin not to have that stuff on with the customers who came in. 
Marianne opened the door slowly, cautiously at 7:50.  No Ryan.  She thought he may not even show up.  He probably thought she was joking, especially considering how brief she had been on the phone with him.  He probably imagined her and her girlfriends, sitting around the phone, listening to him get excited over her "asking him out."  The closer to 8:00 it got, the more nervous she got.  Her palms became sweaty and she could feel her heart beating in her chest.
After ordering an iced mocha, she sat down in the window booth and tried to shut out the blaring TV's.  She needed to just calm down.  She knew caffeine wouldn't help, but screw it.  She liked iced mochas.  Maybe an old friend like the iced mocha would help keep her calm. 
At 8:00 exactly, Ryan walked in.  Marianne had forgotten how handsome he was.  She had forgotten that besides his entrancing eyes, he had thick, full hair that fell about his face just right.  He wasn't built by any standards, but he had broad shoulders and a decent body overall.  His expression was one of expectation and excitement, but perhaps tinged with fear.  It was unbelievably cute.  When his eyes finally traced near her, she waved him over.  He nodded recognition and came trotting over, almost like an obedient little dog. 
Ryan slid into the booth, and instead of sitting across from her, he decided to be rather bold.  He sat next to her.
Marianne didn't know what to think of that, except he better not get"fresh" with her, since she'd already gone through that once and she was ready to fight hard for this life to turn out better than the last two tries. 
Ryan started to open his mouth and Marianne cut him off, by asking if he believed in destiny, fate, and the supernatural.  He was stunned into silence.  That was a weird way to start a conversation.  No hellos or how are yous, but "Do you believe..."
"Umm....I believe that people only do what they are meant to do, so yeah, I guess I believe in fate.  As for the supernatural, I don't know.  I guess I don't believe in ghosts or werewolves or anything like that," he finally, methodically articulated.
Marianne seemed at least halfway satisfied with his answer.  She wouldn't tell him about her repeated life then, at least not right now.  She needed to know a few things first.
"Ryan, I have had one of the weirdest days of my life, OK?  I have fainted, I have thrown up, and I have a gotten a phone call from you.  Just out of the blue, you decided to pop back into my life.  I am curious...why did you call?  What was so damn important that you had to talk to me about?"  Marianne felt herself getting angry at Ryan for reason at all, other than he was the closest person and she felt like lashing out at the world, the one that had denied her a life twice already.  Even if it was a horrible life, it was better than being stuck in a damn repeating world again and again.
Ryan was mildly surprised and actually a little pleased to hear her anger.  It meant that she wasn't going to make fun of him and that this wasn't a dare or a bet.  But he was surprised that she could turn so quickly into an angry, red-faced girl. 
"Well.....to start, I'm sorry about your day," Ryan stammered, seeming actually sorry to hear about her bad day, "and I hope I didn't make it any worse.  It's just that.....it's just that....well......I mean......I like you."
The words started gushing now.  He had cracked the wall on the dam with telling her he had something to say when she called and now the dam was crumbling and making way for the overwhelming flow of words. 
"I know I don't know you that well and you don't know me at all.  But I think you're really cute and pretty and all, but I think there's more to you than that," Ryan said in one breath and now gaining confidence, "I think you're smart and funny and nice and caring and honest.  I think you're the best girl I have ever met in my life.  I know this is awkward for you.  You don't have to say anything.  You don't even have to talk to me ever again."
With that outburst, his eyes began watering.  Damnit no, he thought, shit, shit, shit a brick.  He wasn't supposed to cry about this. 
Marianne wasn't even mildly surprised about his confession.  Just about anything he could have said wouldn't have shocked her.  Living two different horrible lives and then knowing that you had to live it again could steel you against anything.  Except crying.  She hadn't expected that.  Damn, maybe he did care about her.  And he was a nice guy too.  Everyone who knew him well, which was only a few people, had said he was the nicest guy they had ever known. 
"Hey, Ryan.  Look, I've known that you've liked me for awhile now," about two lifetimes, she added silently, I just wish I hadn't forgotten him after the first life, "and I think it's brave of you to tell me that.  But you can't expect me to throw myself in your arms.  I'm not that kind of girl. You're right, I don't know you.  I don't know you at all.  But I think I might like to know you," she left it open for Ryan to catch on. 
Ryan looked at her, tears blurring his vision, and saw the prettiest girl he could ever imagine.  Maybe it was the adrenaline from finally confessing, maybe it was the rush from being told she might want to go out sometime, or maybe he was nuts.  He didn't care.  His face quickly changed into a crying smile, the tears changed from emotional overload (which caused the short circuit in his brain, making him bawl like a two year old) to tears of happiness.
"Re-really?  You might like to, you know, hang out sometime?"  he asked hopefully, just making sure he had heard her correctly.
"Yeah, if you promise not to cry on my sleeve next time," she said half-jokingly, grinning.
He wiped his nose and realized it was probably a gross thing to do, but she didn't seem to care or notice.  His courage was at an all-time high and he had to ask now or he never would be able to.
"How about right now?  Movie and then dinner?  My treat," he offered.
For once, Marianne had a good feeling.  She knew she had good feelings on the two previous tries at Prom day, but today she felt good, and more importantly, she felt right.
Part V
Chapter 1- Wave Goodbye
She was in a boat carrying her out to sea.  Her husband and her two children stood on shore.  Her little boy waved to her.  He was too young to know why she was leaving.  The girl was older, she was sobbing quietly into her hands.  Her husband stood stolid, knowing full well what was happening, yet frustrated because he was unable to stop it.  As the distance between them increased, so did the level of fog.  They became small blurs on the horizon, and finally nothingness. 
Marianne sat down on the deck and cried.  She cried harder than she had ever cried before.  Her body shook with each sob and she sucked air loudly.  Once she found the strength, she stood up and shouted "I want my life, you sonuvabitch.  I want to live with my family and my husband.  I want to work in my boring-ass job and worry about the leaky sink.  I want to have stupid fights with my husband over dumb things.  I want to hear my kids have a fight over who gets to use the bathroom first.  Please!"
She punctuated her statement by giving the sky, the world, and anyone or anything that could see her, the one finger salute.  Then hands held the one finger salute.  She was pissed.
Chapter 2- A Glass Of Water
Marianne woke, panting and sweaty, with her hands balled into tight fists.  Damn, that was the most vivid dream she had experienced in a long time.  She decided to get a glass of water from downstairs.  Once downstairs, she saw the radio.  A desire for music came over her and she was oddly compelled to switch it on.  A weird feeling of deja vu swept through her and the realization nearly knocked her to the floor.  The radio.  The song.  Oh shit.
Now she knew she had to turn it on.  What if her time was up?  What if it was going to happen again?  This time, she sure as hell didn't want it to.  Slowly, she brought a shaky hand to the power button.  The Sony radio blared to life, jarring her with the sudden noise.  She quickly turned it down to a decent level and turned the station to a country one.  A song was just ending as she arrived. 
"And now an old song that we pulled out from the vault by request," the DJ's voice assaulted her living room. 
"One More Day" began to play.  Marianne became weak at the knees and quickly changed the station.  Her heart was trying to explode from her chest, her throat began to close up, and her stomach was trying to empty itself. 
Oh shit, oh shit, fuck no, her mind could only think in obscenities right now.  Suddenly, an idea dawned on her.  She grabbed the tuning know and twisted until she reached another country station.  A song ended there as well.  Her heart was thudding rapidly. 
"OK, this is 90's country night on your favorite station.  Call in your requests and we can play them for you ASAP," the nasally voice of a definitely country DJ echoed through the empty room of her house.
Chapter 3- Give It A Shot
Marianne settled down in her sofa and kept the radio on low as she sipped her water.  Her feet were cold, her hands grasping the glass much too tightly, and her pulse quickened every minute with nervous anticipation.  Why wouldn't that damn DJ play her song?  Would this work?  What the hell was she going to do?  What if she was stuck doing this shit for eternity?  What if's ran through her mind, consuming her thoughts.
"And this one goes out to a nice lady tonight, one who didn't give me her name, but anyways, here's Phil Vassar with 'Another Day in Paradise,'" that same nasally voice rang out.
After the guitar started, Marianne could hear the lyrics sung by a comforting male voice:
"The kid's screamin', phone ringin'
Dog barking at the mail man bringing that stack of bills, overdue
Good mornin' baby...how are you?
Gotta... half hour, quick shower... take a drink of milk but the milk's gone sour
My funny face makes you laugh.. twist the top on and I put it back.
There goes the washing machine.. baby don't kick it,
Promise I'll fix itlong with 'bout a million other things
Well it's okay, it's so nice.
Just another day in paradise
Well there's no place that I'd rather be...
Well it's... Two hearts, One dream,
I wouldn't trade it for anything
And I ask the Lord every night..oo.. for just another day in paradise.
Friday, you're late, guess we'll never make our dinner date
At the restuarant, you start to cry, baby we'll just improvise.
Well, Plan B looks like: Dominos pizza in the candelight,
Then we'll tiptoe to our room and make a little love thats overdue.
But somebody had a bad dream...
Momma and Daddy, me and my teddy coming
To sleep in between....."
There was more to the song, but Marianne never heard it.  She had begun nodding off waiting for them to play the damn song, and she only caught the first half of it. 
Chapter 4- Take A Bow
Marianne stood onstage, while an announcer read a list of accomplishments.  She felt like she was at the Grammys, which were a joke, but still.  It felt like she had done something great, something marvellous.  The announcer finished reading his list, wich consisted of bearing two children and having a happy marriage.  The crowd cheered wildly and chanted her name.  She lost her own thoughts among the sea of "Marianne" and the wild, unchecked ovation. 
Chapter 5- Home
Marianne awoke, completely unaware of her surroundings.  Her neck hurt like hell and her feet felt frozen.  She looked around and found herself on the sofa.  In her living room.  In her house.
The realization came with hope and a tiny bit of fear.  What if this was a dream?  What if this was a trick?  What is her imagination was playing a trick on her? 
Marianne began to creep up the stairs.  Upon mounting the top stair, she looked immediately to her right, where her children's rooms should have been.  A poster covered the one door, and Marianne chose it first.  The hinges squealed in protest.  Marianne closed her eyes and prepared for the worst.  She opened them and saw her beautiful son, sleeping peacefully, holding his teddy bear he named "Theo."  She had thought it a strange name for a young child to choose, but what the hell.  Right now, it seemed perfect.  Everything seemed to fit.
Marianne shut the door, grinning like a fool, and opened the door next to it.  Her daughter was asleep, amidst the many covers she loved to wrap around herself.  It was her strange habit when sleeping.
She shut her daughter's door and continued down the hall, until she came to her room.  With some fear creeping into her now, she opened the door, expecting to see nothing.  What she saw instead was her husband's form outlined by the sheet covering him. 
She climbed into bed and wrapped his arm around her.  When snuggled close to him, he gradually joined the land of the living.  Once he was finally conscious and aware that he was holding her, she smiled and whispered into his ear, "I love you, Ryan."

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