The scent of cinnamon-sprinkled apple pancakes awakened my nose and made me feel almost at home again.
This would never be home. Sure, the bed was comfortable, the sheets clean and soft, and they had given me the room with the view of the gorgeous woodlands behind the mansion, but I would never be able to think of this place as home.
A soft knock rattled my door. “Sierra, are you awake?”
I sat up, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. “Yeah. G’morning, Mrs. Foster.”
“I hope you had a good rest,” the woman said. “Breakfast is on the table whenever you are ready to come down.”
“Thank you,” I said, and didn’t move until her footsteps disappeared.
I took a deep breath and swung my legs over the bed, my feet landing in the plush rug. The sun was beginning to rise and I moved like an automated robot throughout my morning routine. It was strange, of course. I had new clothes and supplies since my house had burned down with the rest of my family.
At least, that was the story everyone was telling me. I don’t really remember much at all from that night. All I recalled was waking up in some sort of hospital room to the astonishment of the doctors that had been running tests on me. They had asked me the usual questions, how was I feeling, did anything hurt, that sort of thing, and I mentioned how loudly they had been talking. The three doctors had exchanged puzzled glances before one confessed that they hadn’t been talking at all right before I woke up.
“Perhaps it was a dream,” one had said.
Perhaps it was me, a voice had responded. None of the doctors had heard it, and I shook my head, trying to dislodge the ghostly voice.
It didn’t work.
I apologize, the voice had said, then rambled about the test results and what was going on with my body. It took a bit of time before I realized that it had been the heart monitor talking to me.
A machine. There had been a machine’s voice in my head, and it was totally unfazed that I was freaking out about it. I may have babbled to the doctors about it, but I got shushed in response.
“It’s okay,” one of them had said. “You’re safe here. Everything will be alright–”
“What happened?” I snapped. “Why am I here?”
They paused, a heavy pause, and no one spoke until I started writhing through the wires that were hooked up to me.
“There was an accident,” the doctor said, and that was how I was told my family was dead.
A fire had blazed through my house, and I was the sole survivor. I think I remember my father getting me out before returning to the house for my mother. Smoke inhalation had been my father’s killer. I was told Mom hadn’t even made it outside of the house.
You will be late for breakfast.
I winced at the voice. “Be quiet…”
Breakfast will be cold.
Do not be late—
“Stop talking to me!” The alarm clock fell from the nightstand with a clatter from the pillow I chucked.
“Sierra?” A firmer knock sounded on the door.
“I’m fine,” I said, trying to hide my heaving.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” I said, clutching the edge of my bed to help myself stand back up and ignoring the fact that I couldn’t remember falling to my knees. “I’ll be down in a few minutes, Basil.”
I heard him sigh. “Okay. See you in a few.”
I’m sure he’d come back for me if I didn’t show up, and that was the only reason why I composed myself enough in order to keep my word.
I was the last to arrive in the dining room and took my seat — the added seat at the table, the odd one out — next to Willow. Her eyes were bright with the morning, but her mouth was too full of pancakes to properly wish me hello. Mrs. Foster gave me a smile, which I returned, from her seat at the head of the table, while Mr. Foster nodded at me before returning to the stock reports in his newspaper. Azalea and Camellia across the table barely glanced at me while they gossiped. Basil caught my eye and I smiled at him as well, hoping to portray that he needn’t worry about the girl that could hear machines talk.
I began to eat, but the nostalgia of the pancakes struck me like a bolt. It was thoughtful of the Fosters to prepare my favorite breakfast, but it just reminded me that this was not my home, that I could never go home again.
Home is where your family is. This wasn’t my family.