After a couple weeks, Dr. Pagano deemed me fit for a family meeting to learn the details of my accident.
Adam started. “You and Xander were in a car accident. Penny, Xander and the baby died.”
“I had a feeling Emma was gone. Wait…we crashed into each other?”
“What? No, honey, you were in the same car. You were returning from your honeymoon.”
“What are you talking about? I’ve been married to Peter for 10 years.”
“Ok, everybody stop!” Olivia jumped in. “Penny, tell me what you remember from the past 10 or 15 years.”
“Liv you know what happened. You were there. Well, you know, except for those years you were dead.”
“Humor me, Penny. Please.”
I told her everything I knew. I started with the meeting with Xander and I worked my way backwards to her death.
“Penny, honey, that was you in the car accident during your honeymoon. Everything after that…it never happened. The past 18 years you experienced, they were just dreams you had during the the 18 months you were in a coma.”
I didn’t know what to say. “So, you are telling me that my children are…gone? Harper, Kylie, Simon, Christopher, and Emma are gone?” I started sobbing uncontrollably. Liv jumped off the couch and grabbed me.
“Honey, you can get though this. You are the same Penny you always were.”
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! If Katie and Dylan died would you be the same Olivia you always were!? You don’t get it. You’ll never understand. They were real to me. They were tangible. And they were some nasty trick of my mind.”
“I’m sorry, Penny. This is new to me, too. You’ve already dealt with the dead sister apparently. I’m going to fuck this up a lot.”
“Don’t ever mention those children again. Don’t ever tell me I will be ok. Don’t ever tell me I will be the same. This will never be ok and I will never be the same!”
“I’m sorry, Penny. I am so sorry. None of this is fair. You’re right. I will never know what this is like for you. But I will be here for you regardless. And I will say stupid shit. I will make this worse for you at times. But I will never leave you no matter how hard you push me away.”
“Thanks, twin.” What else was there to say.
Dr. Pagano had a few more tests to run before I could be discharged.
“My wife Kim was pleased to hear you were awake.”
“Is she a police officer?”
“Well, Mrs. Sutton –”
“Mrs. Pagano. Wow…I mean…nevermind.”
“Alright, well it looks like you have no lasting damage on the brain scan. None I can see at least. Do you want me to set you up with a therapist?”
“No, Dr. Pagano. Just discharge me please.”
“I’d like you to stay here another couple of weeks just to make sure your brain scans continue to be clear.”
I checked myself out of Whispering Pines against medical advice. I was once a brain surgeon and there was nothing physically wrong with me anyway. Olivia promised Dr. Pagano she would keep a close eye on me and she would call with any issues.
I refused to let her move in with me. She still had two young children at home even though the kids I remembered had long since grown. Adam and Hannah offered to stay with me but since they were newlyweds in this reality I vetoed this idea too. I wanted to be alone anyway. I had a lot to process and my family would just be a distraction.
I found that I couldn’t sleep in my own bed. It was the bed I shared with Xander but not the bed I shared with Peter. So I slept in Adam’s old room.
I slept. And I slept. And I slept.
Finally, after three weeks of doing little more than sleeping, I got out of bed and sobbed. I dreamed of my children. I dreamed of the life I no longer had. I dreamed of a fresh start.
I had to leave this all behind. I knew what I had to do.