Attack Decay Sustain Release

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Vivian sat on the side of the hospital bed, shoulders hunched, and stared down at her feet. Her straight black hair hung around her face, shrouding the rest of the room from view. Darren, her brother, had assured her she’d come in wearing those clunky, thick-heeled boots, but she didn’t remember buying them. A lot of things from the last two months were fuzzy like that. She had to admit they were very much her style, but it was still unsettling.

Her brother sat quietly in the wooden arm chair across from her and stared down at his hands. “The girls are really excited,” he said, for at least the second time. “Last night, they kept asking me what time we’d be getting home.”

“Timesit?” Vivian slurred. She pinched her face and shook her head. It sounded wrong. She hated talking.

“Just after eleven.”

Vivian nodded, simply glad she hadn’t needed to repeat herself. “Thangs.” She turned slightly, at the sound of footsteps, and wrinkled her nose.

“Okay,” the nurse said brightly, as she pushed a wheelchair into the room. “We’ve got everything we need. You’re all checked out! Did you have any last questions?”

Vivian pointed to a pair of crutches pitched against the wall, which her brother had brought, and shook her head.

“I know,” the nurse said, nodding, “but it’s hospital policy. I’m sorry. Gotta use the wheelchair until we get you outside.”

After a grudging nod Vivian set her arms against the bed, to prepare herself, and before she got her feet down her brother was by her side.

“I gotcha,” he said, as he steadied her shoulder.

“Mmmfine,” she grunted. Her knees picked a truly awful moment to buckle, however, and when more than half of her weight was being supported by him she had to grudgingly add, “Thangyou.”

Darren smiled and nodded, and after a few more excruciating seconds in which her body continued to fail her, Vivian slumped into the wheelchair. Her brother hoisted the shoulder bag that contained the possessions she’d had on her along with the various accoutrements Darren had brought over the last week to enable his extended visits: chargers, pillows, bottles, and the like. It also held the fearsome stack of paperwork she’d been given. She’d had difficulty making her eyes focus to read any of it, and listening to anyone for more than a minute at a time had been beyond her.

“We’re gonna miss having you around,” the nurse said softly, as she pushed Vivian into the elevator.

The chair jostled her as it went over the lip. Vivian grunted and nodded.

“I’ll tell you what. Patients like you, that come in as bad as you were? And then seeing you turn it around, little by little? It’s one of those things that makes my job so rewarding.”

Vivian grunted again.

“Watching you struggle and fight, and claw your way back? It’s inspiring. Everyone up on the coma ward was pulling for you every step of the way. They all wanted to come down and clap for you when you got released, but I said you’d hate that.”

The elevator dinged as the doors opened onto the ground floor, and Darren hustled out ahead of them. She watched him go with a nagging ache in her chest. She didn’t want him to go. She didn’t want him to leave her alone. He’s just going to get the car, she thought to herself, and you’re not alone.

“You’re going to be picking up your PT at Therapydia, right?”

Sounds formed in the back of Vivian’s throat as she tried to speak, and she had to cough before she could say, “YesonTuesday.” She couldn’t figure out why it sounded right in her head and wrong on her tongue, but everyone had assured her that, with therapy, it was only a matter of time until her speech returned.

The number of appointments, follow-ups, and referrals that had been scheduled for her was as staggering as it was terrifying. She tried not to think about it.

“That’s great. We send a lot of our patients to them. They’re wonderful. Do you know what location?”

Vivian shook her head.

“That’s okay. It’s just a great organization.” They pulled out into the damp September air and stopped on the curb. After taking a moment to set the brakes, the nurse came around to squat next to her. She had short, brown hair in a pixie cut that framed a blinding smile, and she looked a little bit younger than Vivian herself. “You know, you have nothing to be embarrassed about. Dysarthria is extremely common in coma patients. We see difficulty with speech all the time.”

“Iknow,” Vivian whispered, averting her eyes.

“Okay, well, let me give you a piece of advice. Try not to use non-verbal communication, especially when you’re somewhere that you won’t be judged. When you’re around family or friends… you know, people you feel safe around? Your physical therapists too. Use that time to talk as much as you can. Babble if you have to. The more you do it, the faster it’ll come back.”

“Okay.” Even when the words came out right, they still sounded wrong to Vivian. They sounded flat. Uninflected. Empty. “I’lltry.”

“I marmaris escort know you will.” The nurse beamed at her, and gently laid her hand over Vivian’s. “Same thing goes for your arm and your legs. Use them as much as you can. They aren’t broken? Or damaged? It’s just that your brain has forgotten how to use them a little.”

“I’mscaredit… itwon’tcomeback.”

“That’s the most I’ve heard you say all week.” The nurse beamed even brighter. “You’re gonna do great things.”

Darren’s old blue pickup rattled and wheezed along the glistening blacktop, slick from the morning rain, and stopped in front of her. This time, Vivian let them assist her without being an ass about it, knowing that getting up into the cab of his work truck was going to be a task. It might have only sat a handful of inches higher than a normal car, but it might as well have been Mt. Everest for all she could scale it on her own.

Eventually, after an embarrassing amount of cajoling, Vivian found herself strapped in and settled, and gave a grim wave to the nurse as she went back inside with the wheelchair.

“All right,” Darren said, as he jumped up into the driver’s seat. “Are you comfortable? Do you need anything?”

Vivian fought down a groan, knowing that he meant well and that this was just the beginning of what was sure to be months of people doting and checking on her. “I’mokay.” God, maybe years.

“Excellent. Where to first?”

“Bank,” Vivian said.

“What’s that going to look like?”

“Idon’tknowbut…” It felt like she ran out of air every time she wanted to talk. The words came out in a shambling tumble, but her tongue and lips kept forming the words as fast as she could think of them. It was hard to pace her breathing as well. “I’mgonnaowealot. Tohospital. Idon’thaveinsurance.”

Darren sucked a sharp breath in through his teeth and nodded. “Yeah. That’s gonna be tough. We’ll have to…” His expression hardened. As his twin, Vivian was quite sure the next thing out of his mouth was going to be ‘see if we can help’, just as she was sure his brain had caught up to his mouth before he promised anything. It was a deep shock to the system when he’d told her she could stay with him when she got out of the hospital because his wife, Vivian’s sister-in-law, had always been very vocal about her misgivings toward Vivian.

In hindsight, those misgivings were fair to say the least.

Instead, Darren just gave her his brave smile and nodded.


The light drizzle had picked up again. Vivian stood, supported by her crutches, next to her brother as he held the umbrella. There was still a telltale lump in the dirt in front of them, where the sod had not yet settled completely, but Vivian was staring at the headstone behind that. She’d wanted to ask if the ceremony had a closed casket, and given how severe her own injuries had been that seemed likely, but she was pretty sure Darren hadn’t been there to see.

Instead, she asked, “DidyoulikeKevin?”

Darren sputtered and looked sideways at her. “I, uh… I only ever met him… what, once?”

“Idon’tthinkI… likedhim.”

Darren chuckled nervously. “I don’t, uh… I don’t believe that standing over his grave and badmouthing him is going to, like, invoke his ghostly wrath or anything, but it’s also bad form, Viv.”

Vivian shrugged, but since nearly all her weight was resting on her shoulders and the crutches beneath them it looked more like her body collapsed on itself somewhat. “Hewasfunanda… anda… ” She had to stop to cough again, and her lungs burned from the effort. “Goodsinger. Hewasagoodsinger… buthechangedour… our… sound. Kindofajerktoo.”

“Didn’t you hire him?”

Vivian shook her head. “Lucia.” It sounded wrong when she said it, like lew-shuh, so she repeated it and tried harder to enunciate. “Lucia…broughthimin. Ididn’tsayno.”

“Did she ever come to visit? While you were laid up?”

Vivian stared downward. “Shedoesn’tlikehospitals.”

“Yeah, but, like, aren’t you two close?”

She said nothing.

Darren nodded. “Mhm. Yeah. Hey, speaking of awkward conversations, back there at the bank you had—”

“Idon’tknow,” Vivian said. “Idon’tremember.”

“You had, like, ten thousand dollars in your account.”

Vivian shook her head. “Idon’tremember. But…”


Vivian rolled her eyes. She wanted to get defensive, and snap at him for rushing her. She needed to use a whole breath to get out half of a sentence, but that wasn’t why she paused and she knew it. “Probablysoldcoke.”

“Oh,” he said, head rearing back slightly. “That… That makes some sense.” When Vivian looked at him sideways, he continued by saying, “I wasn’t gonna say anything until you were a little further along, but… when I went to your apartment to pick up those clothes for you, the place had been trashed. Someone took a lot of your stuff.”

Vivian sighed, shrugged, and turned back toward the stone.

“No, I mean, marmaris escort bayan like, a lot of your stuff. I didn’t see any of your basses, or your amps. I hadn’t been there in a while, but I remember you having more gear.”

“It’sfine,” she said. “Can’tdoanythingabout… aboutthatnow. Gottafocusonother… other… things.”

“Do you think someone is gonna come after you for that money?”

She shrugged again. “Notlikemetonot…payupfront. Triednottoowe…anyone. Probablyunrelated.”

“I don’t want to be a jerk about this, but if you’re gonna be around the girls I’ve gotta know—”

“I’mdonewithallthat,” Vivian said. “Detoxedinthecoma. Neveragain. Thatwashisdoing. HegotLuciaonit. Iusedittonumb… butI’mdone.”

“I believe you,” he said, and he sounded like he meant it.

Her eyes never left the letters carved into the marble. “That’swhyIwantedto… tocome. Thinkapartofmy… ofmylifedied… withhim. It’sgonnastayburied.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Darren said softly.

Suddenly fearful that she was sending the wrong message, Vivian half-turned and said, “Imadesomebadchoices. Badbad. That’sonme. Itwasn’thisfaultthatI…” Her throat seized up entirely. She nodded appreciatively when he handed her a tissue from his pocket, and she tried to dab at her eyes but needed to switch to use her right hand.

“Wasn’t he the one driving?”

She nodded again. “That’swhattheysaid. Yeahbut… Ineedto…Ineedtoown… whatIdid. Mypart.” Her chest heaved with the effort of saying so much, but it felt good to be talking again after so long. “Iwasafuckup. Momwasright.”

Darren moved in front of her, and her head settled onto his shoulder as he hugged her.


“You never need to apologize,” he whispered. “Not to me.”

“YeahbutCarly. Shehatesme.”

“She doesn’t hate you.”

“Shedoesn’tlikeme. Isshemadatyou… aboutmestaying?”

“Don’t worry about Carly. I can handle her being a little mad if it means I get my sister back.”

Vivian nodded slowly, and with a hesitant effort moved her arms out from the crutches and around him. “Imissedyou.”

“Missed you too.”


“We’re home!” Darren yelled, as he opened the door.

“Aunt Vee!” came the two-part harmony from deeper within the house.

Vivian gritted her teeth as she navigated the steps, and braced herself. Tiny, thudding footsteps echoed through the halls, coming closer and closer until her nieces Ashley, age four, and Tiffany, age six, exploded up the stairs like a pair of blonde bouncy balls.

“Aunt Vee!” they cried, cacophonously. “Aunt Vee’s here! Mommy! Aunt Vee’s here!”

Darren slid in front of her at the last moment, scooping up both of his daughters in his arms. “Whoa, girls. We talked about this!”

“Sorry!” they yelped, nearly in unison.

“We’ll be gentle,” Tiffany insisted. “I promise!”

Ashley said, “Bluebeary wants to give you a hug,” before thrusting out her well-worn barely-blue-anymore teddy bear.

Vivian settled her weight onto the crutches, and was able to slip an arm around each of their heads. It was the most she could do as they crowded around her. Their idea of a gentle hug varied considerably. The younger daughter, less familiar with the concept of doing any less than her absolute best at anything ever, gave Vivian’s good leg a squeeze around the thigh with a faded blue stuffed bear in between them for buffer. Tiffany curled an arm around Vivian’s hip.


“What are you saying?” Ashley looked up curiously, and then squeaked. “Why is your eye weird?”

“Aaa-aash,” her sister hissed, rebukingly. “That’s not nice!”


Ashley blinked and took a step backwards, clutching her stuffed bear tightly to her chest, and Vivian’s heart sank at her stricken expression. While much of the bruising and swelling around her face had gone down during her hospital stay, there was still an ugly cut at her right temple that crossed just above the eyebrow, and the normally-white sclera was still a darkened red.

“Girls,” Darren said, as he dropped down to one knee, “we talked about this. Aunt Vee got hurt, and she’s still getting better. There’s no reason to be scared.”

“But her eye,” Ashley insisted fearfully.

“Stop being such a baby,” Tiffany moaned.

“I’m not a baby!” Ashley shouted. “I’m four!”

Darren gave her an apologetic smile and picked the little one up. “Come on, munchkin. Did you make any drawings while I was gone?”

“I did!” she exclaimed, her attention immediately and utterly diverted. “I wanna show you! I drew you and a dolphin swimming in the clouds!”

“Aww cool! Dolphins are awesome!”

Tiffany waited patiently as Darren carried her little sister downstairs, and then bit her lip and looked up. “Aunt Vee,” she whispered, “I couldn’t understand what you said either.”

“Mmmm…” Vivian twisted her lips and frowned. “Missed… you,” she said, using an entire short breath escort marmaris for each word.


“Ican’t… can’tenunciate.” When her six-year old niece just stared at her, Vivian added, “Can’ttalkgood.”

The little girl, spitting image of her father but for the blonde locks, chewed on her lip thoughtfully. “Will you get better?”


“I understood that!”

Vivian rolled her eyes. “Good.”

“Hello Vivian,” came a cool voice, from slightly further down the hall.

Vivian nodded, and then cursed herself for not answering verbally. “HelloCarly.”

“You look like shit.”


Carly said, “I’m an adult, sweetie. I can say that. You can’t.” Darren’s wife, Vivian’s sister-in-law, tilted her head and pointed with her jaw. “We’re gonna set you up in Tiffany’s room.”

“Thangyou,” she said, as she gripped her crutches and started moving.

Carly smiled in response, but it did not touch her eyes.

Vivian slurred, “Gonnaliedownforabit,” as she inched her way down the hall to the first bedroom.

Carly followed behind her, arms folded the entire time, and leaned against the doorframe as Vivian made her way to the side of the bed.


Carly puckered her lips as she nodded and closed the door, and Vivian collapsed inelegantly onto the dark purple comforter. As she turned, the crutches slipped from her grip and clattered noisily to the floor. Out in the hallway, she heard Carly groan.

“Okayokay,” Vivian said, as loudly as she could manage. “Okay. I’mokay.” She slid along the edge of the mattress, picked up each crutch, and laid them carefully against the wall where she would be able to reach them afterwards.

“Mommy,” Tiffany said, out in the hall, in hushed tones Vivian could barely hear. “Was Aunt Vee acting… different?”

“Yeah,” Carly said flatly, “because she isn’t high.”

“Oh,” the older daughter replied, sounding confused.

She didn’t bother to remove her shoes, or her hoodie. With effort, Vivian simply rolled onto her side, closed her eyes, and curled into a ball.


The first thing she noticed, as she got out of her brother’s truck, was the sound. Even from the back of the lot, she could hear The Fist Amendment ripping through their set. It was almost offensively loud, and it was a shock that volume was bothering her.

Her brother looked at her over the hood of his truck and raised his eyebrows. “I didn’t know TFA was playing at this thing!”

Vivian would have shrugged if using the crutches didn’t rely so heavily on her shoulders and upper arms. Instead, she said, “Friends. Ifilledin… For Their Bassist… A Few Times.” She held up her arm and twisted her hand back and forth. “Sprained Wrist.”

Her enunciations were more severe than they needed to be. Even after two weeks of talking until her throat hurt, her speech was only mildly improved. She’d even started giving voice to her inner monologue when she was alone, just for the practice, and had reached her first goal the day before wherein neither of her nieces had asked her to repeat herself for the whole day. She still sometimes found her words tumbling out together, but she usually caught herself shortly after.

“You played with these guys?” he said, eyes widening. “You never told me that!”

She twisted her lips, but forced herself to make eye contact when she said, “We… Weren’t… Speaking… At The Time.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

“Nnnn… Not Your… Fault.”

He nodded, but he didn’t look convinced.

“Do You Like Them?”

“Yeah,” he said, as they made their way slowly through the lot; her as fast as she could hobble along while he kept pace beside her. “Yeah, I’ve been to a few shows over at the Grand.”

“They Were A Bit More… MmmMetal… Than I Play… But The Showswere… Good.”

“What do you guys sound like?” Then he frowned and corrected himself. “Did you sound like?”

“Punk. Rocka… Rockabilly. Fast. Loose. Better Live Than… “

“I gotcha,” he said, graciously stepping in when her voice failed.

As they got closer it became apparent the park was packed, and that gave her incredibly mixed emotions. They eased past the ticket window just as The Fist Amendment wrapped up the outro of their usual encore song to thunderous applause and cheers. A bearded man ran onto the stage and took the mic.

“Yeah,” said the man, whom she was pretty sure she recognized. It was hard to be sure. “The Fist Amendment, everybody!” The crowd roared again, and kept it up for far longer than it took the four men to hustle offstage. “Yeah! Alright! Now, I keep getting asked this, so I’m gonna say it again. 100% of the ticket sales, and 100% of the proceeds from the food and merch, folks. It’s all gonna help.” He pointed at the two big food trucks parked alongside the crowd. “Big thanks to Taco No You Didn’t and Yeti Burgers. Give them a big hand, folks.”

Lots of applause. Lots of cheering. Vivian was surprised she didn’t want to hide, per se, but she also didn’t want to draw any attention to herself. Darren, seeming to notice her quasi-discomfort, huddled in close to her, and the two of them stood a little ways behind the main crowd.

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