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A Mountain You Scale Without Thinking Of Size

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Macey picks up her sandwich and takes a bite. The bread's gone a bit stale, but otherwise it tastes the same.

"Sure you don't want anything else?" Jenny asks. "I could make something."

Macey gives her a look. "I can cook for myself."

Jenny shrugs and nods shortly. "Okay." She seems like she wants to say more, but isn't sure how to approach it. Macey's become familiar with that look.

Her dad said that Jenny probably knew what Macey felt like. That she'd had a similar experience, and he thought it was a good idea if they could talk. So far Jenny hasn't said anything.

She came over to watch Macey while her parents are away—involved in things that Macey doesn't really want to think about—and so far she's only made small-talk and offered to cook something. Twice. Macey's pretty sure she can cook better than Jenny can. It's a hunch.

"You can help yourself," Macey says, and points at the open jar of mayonnaise. "If you want."

"Sure," Jenny says. She doesn't move, though, her fingers tapping against the kitchen counter.

"You know," Macey says. "You don't have to be so careful with me."

Jenny cocks her head at that. "I don't?" She doesn't sound doubtful, just curious.

"No," Macey says. "I'm fine."

The corner of Jenny's mouth quirks up. She lets out a sigh and hops up onto a kitchen chair. "Yeah," she says. "Me too."

It's an unexpected turn; Macey widens her eyes, and finishes off her sandwich, just for something to do. It's awkward. She hates awkward—she wants to be blunt and get to the point.

The last bite gets stuck in her throat when she opens her mouth to speak, and she coughs. It makes her feel off—more than something like that would warrant. Like she got a flash of something that she can't and doesn't want to remember or feel. She pushes through it, and washes the sandwich down with milk, and the choking feeling subsides. For now.

"Dad said what happened to me happened to you, too," she says. There. Blunt.

Jenny takes a deep breath. "Yes."

"Well," Macey says. "Don't you want to talk to me about it? Or something."

"I don't know," Jenny says, shrugging. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"I've already talked to people," Macey says. She pushes her plate away and rolls out of the kitchen nook and into the living room.

"Yeah?" Jenny asks. "What did they say?"

"Stuff," Macey says. She considers picking up the remote and finding something to watch on TV, but she should probably go study instead. She has a couple of tests coming up, and she thinks she knows the subjects well enough, but lately she's been having a trouble with her memory. Revising doesn't hurt. It's getting better, at least.

"Was it any good?" Jenny asks.

Macey thinks about it. She's talked to her mom and dad, her usual therapist, and a trauma counselor. Her parents weren't objective, obviously, and they worried, and no one knew what had really happened inside her head. They just knew she'd been through something. Macey herself wasn't even really sure what had happened.

"Not really, I guess," she says. "The usual stuff—it's okay to talk about it, it's okay to cry. Feel your feelings."

Jenny snorts. "Feel your feelings."

"Right?" Macey says. "That's so comforting."

"Did you tell them how sometimes it feels like you can't breathe?" Jenny asks. "About the memory problems?"

Macey turns around slowly. Jenny's still sitting behind the kitchen island, back to Macey. She's making herself a sandwich.

"I mentioned the memory thing," she says. "It's getting better, though."

"That's good," Jenny says, throwing her a look over her shoulder. "Any thoughts you think aren't your own?"

Macey squeezes her hands into fists, nails digging in. "Maybe?"

"Anything, like, super violent?" Jenny asks. Her voice is light, but no-nonsense. Macey frowns.

"I don't think so," she says. "No? Just like—there are flashes sometimes."

"But you don't feel like you want to go out and murder someone?" Jenny asks.

Macey laughs. It's ridiculous, isn't it? She bites her lip to stop the noise. Her parents didn't tell her exactly what she'd done, but she could guess. "No," she chokes out, chin quivering. "Not really."

Jenny turns around in her chair. "That's good," she says frankly. "You're strong."

"I wasn't strong enough to—to fight it," Macey says. "Whatever it was."

"A demon," Jenny says. "It was a demon." That's what her dad had said.

"I don't think I believe in demons," Macey says. Her hands hurt, so she uncurls them and flexes her fingers. She's fine.

Jenny shrugs. "Doesn't really change things much, does it?"

"No," Macey says. "It still happened, didn't it?"

"It did," Jenny says. "I was there. I'm sorry." She looks genuinely apologetic.

"It's fine," Macey says. "I'm fine."

"No, it's—"

Jenny sighs and picks up her sandwich, eating it quickly in a few bites. She gets up and gets water for herself, her movements fast and weirdly nervous.

"It was the same demon," she says eventually. She glances over at Macey and then away again, quick. "The demon that possessed you once possessed me, too."

"Oh," Macey says. "Really?"

"Really," Jenny says. "And I just—I should have done something to prevent that from happening to you, you know? I should have."

Macey swallows hard. "Like what?"

"I don't know," Jenny says. "Tried harder. Been—been braver, I guess." She turns around suddenly, and looks right at Macey. "You are strong."

"What?" Macey asks, frowning. She's so confused by all this, and she hates it. She wants clear answers. She thinks she does, at least. She wants to understand.

"You said you weren't strong enough," Jenny says. "But that doesn't matter, not with a demon. You can't fight them. You're still here. It's gone, and you're still here. That's what's important. You're strong."

Macey looks down at her hands. She doesn't feel strong. Some days she feels like someone took her apart and put her back together wrong. She takes in a deep breath. "Yeah. Sure."

"Hey," Jenny says, and Macey looks up at her. She looks worried. "I mean it. Trust me, I've been there."

"So what do you have to tell me?" Macey asks, raising her eyebrows. "It gets better?"

Jenny huffs out a laugh. "Yeah," she says. "They love to say that."

Macey doesn't ask who "they" are. She can guess.

"So what then?" she asks.

"You learn to live with it," Jenny says. "You keep going. Maybe that's what better means."

Macey chews on her lip. It doesn't sound very comforting, but maybe that's not what she's looking for right now. It's honest, at least.

"But, hey," Jenny says. "You have your family. You have your parents, and that'll help. That really helps."

"Like you have your sister," Macey says.

Jenny pauses for a second. "Yeah," she says. "Like that."

Macey nods and looks away. "This is all very deep," she says after a moment.

Jenny laughs again. "God, it is, isn't it? Sorry."

"It's fine," Macey says. Strangely, she thinks she feels better. It's good to know she won't have to be alone with her thoughts.

"So, what should we do now?" Jenny asks.

"I was going to study," Macey says. "But maybe you could tell me more about this—this demon."

Jenny frowns. "You want that?"

"I want to know more," Macey says, having decided. "I want facts. You're always more scared of the unknown, right?"

"Yeah," Jenny says, looking surprised, still, and maybe a bit impressed. "I guess."

"So?" Macey asks. "You going to tell me?"

Jenny purses her lips. "Yeah," she says. "Sure. First I think we should order some pizza, though. I am not doing this on an empty stomach."

Macey smiles. "Yeah. Okay."

She might not be totally fine, but she can eat pizza with Jenny, and enjoy it. It's good enough, for now.