Emma reached out and turned the faucet on, and then ran her hands under the cool, clear liquid that gushed out. With one hand she gathered her long blonde hair into a loose ponytail at the nape of her neck; with the other, she splashed the icy water onto her face. It felt like a bitter slap. When she was finished, she yanked a paper towel out of the dispenser, and patted herself dry. She was relieved that class had already started, and that the girl's washroom, which was usually bursting with girls gossiping or reapplying their eyeliner, was strangely deserted and quiet. She tossed the towel in the trash, pulled out a small comb from her purse, and began neatly brushing her golden hair. Involuntarily, her mind wandered back to the somewhat hellish events of the day. She had been faking every illness she could think of and had been skipping school ever since the "incident", as she liked to call it, and today had been her first day back after a few pointless days of lying around in her room, listening to depressing music, and gorging on Skittles and Doritos. She had quickly learned that she had been demoted to the school's hottest current gossip, the resident tramp of Toronto. Most of the stories were false, but that was the thing about rumors- they kept growing until they eventually blew up in someone's face. She'd walked down the hall that morning, trying to ignore the curious whispers and stares, when she'd nearly collided into Jay. He hadn't even looked at her. She's been expecting some kind of confrontation, for him to throw around a few scathing insults, at least an angry glare. But instead, he brushed past her, without a flicker of recognition or emotion on his face. Like she wasn't even there.

Emma jumped when the bathroom door banged open, and dropped her comb into the sink. She glanced into the mirror, and, just when she thought her day couldn't get any worse, she was proven wrong. Amy and Alex, the daughters of Hitler himself, were standing behind her, glaring her down. They looked pleased they had found her alone, but at the same time pissed that she had even dared to show her face at school. Emma quickly gathered up her things and tried to casually walk past them and out the door, but Alex shoved her in the chest, pushing her back. "Where do you think you're going?"

Emma stared at the floor. "Just leave me alone."

"Sorry, we don't take requests from whores," Alex snapped, shoving her again. For someone so skinny, Alex had already managed to push Emma halfway across the room.

"I have one," Amy said. "What do Emma Nelson and railroads have in common?" Alex shrugged. "They've both been laid across the country."

"You're right," Alex said with haughty smirk. "Emma's just like a shotgun- two cocks and she's ready to blow."

Emma clutched her purse. She had thought her best defense was just to keep quiet, but she didn't know how long she could stand around while Alex and Amy hurled only semi-clever insults at her. She looked at Amy, whose enormous boobs were practically falling out of her shirt, which looked ten sizes too small. If anyone was a whore here, it was Amy. "Please don't tell me you actually thought those were funny," she replied, looking up. "So you two really are as stupid as everyone says."

Amy and Alex glanced at each other. "Little-Miss-Save-the-World has a smart mouth, doesn't she, Amy?" Alex said, taking a threatening step toward Emma. She reached out and knocked Emma's purse out of her hands. "Jesus, Emma, don't make such a mess. What's the matter with you?"

Emma bent over to pick up her things, mentally demanding herself not to cry. People like Alex and Amy thrived on making people cry. That's how they got their kicks. Before she could get anything, Amy grabbed her by the collar and pulled her up. Alex grabbed her other arm and they dragged her over to small nook in the corner of the bathroom. They banged her against the mirror that was hanging on the wall, and Emma winced. "Who the hell do you think you are, trying to fuck with my boyfriend?" Alex hissed, getting so close to Emma that she could almost smell the Snickers bar on Alex's breath, which she must have had for lunch. "Do you really think you can mess with me, you stupid bitch?"

"Get off me!" Emma yelled, pushing past Alex and trying to make a beeline for the door, and to the safety of the hallway. But Alex and Amy grabbed her again, and threw her to the ground. Emma hit the floor with a loud thud, and her elbow rammed into the hard tile.

"Alex, it's not what you think…." Emma insisted, biting her lip. Alex and Amy hovered over her, and she felt incredibly weak and small.

Alex snorted. "Alright. Then tell the truth. Did Jay try to rape you? Yes or No."

Emma hesitated. She was tempted to say yes and save her own ass. "No," she whispered.

"So you are a just a boyfriend-stealing slut. Like your little friend Manny," Alex said, and with that, she punched Emma in the face. Emma reeled back, shocked. She never been hit so hard in her entire life, and her cheek throbbed painfully.

For the next few minutes, Amy and Alex knocked her around a bit, cussing at her and yanking her hair. Emma tried to defend herself, but soon realized it was pretty useless. Alex was a beast to begin with, but with the help of Amy, they could easily maim Emma for life.

Finally, after an eternity, the bell rang, signaling that class was over, and ensuring that girls would come pouring into the bathroom at any minute. Amy and Alex stopped suddenly, backing away from Emma. "Oh, shit," Amy muttered, grabbing Alex's arm. "Let's go!" Amy turned and began hurrying out of the bathroom, but Alex lingered for a moment, staring at Emma. She But a second later, she was gone, too, and Emma was, thankfully all alone. She sat on the ground, her back against the wall, and buried her face in her hands. A minute later she heard the door open again, and for a second, she thought it might be Amy and Alex, coming back to finish her off. She could hear the footsteps, and finally looked up. Ellie was standing in front of her.

"Oh, god," Ellie said, putting a hand to her mouth. "What happened?"

"Alex and Amy happened," Emma replied.

"Oh….." Ellie said, shaking her head. She reached into her bag and pulled out a tissue. "Here. You're lips bleeding."

Emma stared at Ellie, and then at the tissue. She suddenly remembered that because of Ellie, Sean wasn't her boyfriend anymore. Thanks to Ellie, she'd lost the person she loved the most. Unwanted images of Ellie and Sean living together popped into her head, and she sniffed. Ellie was the last person on Earth she wanted any help from. Ellie noticed and sighed. "Oh, come on. I know you hate me, but just take the tissue, ok?" She waved it in front of Emma, and Emma finally reached up and grabbed it. She blotted it onto her lip and sighed. "Well….thanks."

Ellie nodded toward the contents of Emma's purse, which were scattered all over the ground. "That your stuff?"

Emma nodded, crawled over, and began picking it up. Ellie bent down and helped her out. Once they'd finished, they both went and sat down against the wall. Emma glanced into the mirror and flinched. Her cheek was already bright red. She couldn't believe she'd gotten the shit beat out of her all because of Jay Hogart, a guy she hardly even liked and was usually repulsed by. Before she knew what was happening, tears were streaming down her face and her nose was running.

"Don't cry," Ellie said, putting a hand on her shoulder. "It's going to be ok."

"Alex and Amy hate me."

"You're crying because of that? Because Amy and Alex, the biggest bitches in the school, don't like you? I'd call that an accomplishment."

Emma sniffled and wiped her cheek with the tissue. "Look what they did. I'd rather they like me than occasionally use me as their punching bag in the girl's bathroom."

Ellie shrugged. "Well, they'll get over it, and they'll get tired of picking on you. As someone whose been teased by Amy religiously since third grade, I should know that they'll move on. Of course, Amy still insults me all the time, but she doesn't quite have the spite she used to. Same with Alex. She'll most likely never be nice to you, but she can't passionately hate you forever."

"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" Emma asked, glancing at Ellie. She didn't want to admit that Alex and Amy weren't the real reason she was crying. It was so much more than that, so much more complicated. She sighed. "Why are you even bothering? Don't you like, hate me or something?"

"No. Why would I?"

"New girlfriend always hate old girlfriend. It's like, the first commandment of the ten commandments for girls."

"Thou shalt not like thy boyfriend's ex-girlfriend?" Ellie joked. "Well, lucky for you, I don't follow girl code. Never have. And I know you're mad that Sean dumped you….well, for me, I guess. I'm sorry it had to happen that way. But it's not like it matters now, anyway." Ellie suddenly looked sad, and she glanced away.

"Oh…did you two break up?" Emma asked. Don't look happy. Ok, don't look TOO happy.

Ellie looked at her quickly in surprise. "You heard, didn't you?"

"Heard what?"

Ellie paused, and then reached into her bag. She pulled out a folded piece of paper and handed it to her. "I don't know why I'm carrying it around. I'm a loser. Anyway, read it."

Ellie,

I had to move back to Wasaga. It's a long story. I know your visiting Montreal with Ashley, so when you get this, I'll be gone. I'll call you.

I'm sorry,

Sean

Emma stared at the letter in shock and confusion. "This is a joke, right?"

"Yeah. It's really funny, isn't it? That is, it was funny until Sean didn't come home for two days."

Emma shook her head. "He moved back with his parents. Why? He hates his parents. What happened?"

Ellie threw up her hands. "I'm just as confused as you are. He hasn't even called yet."

"So he just left a letter? That's so typical Sean," Emma muttered, rereading the letter over and over. "Always just running away."

"Yeah. Really sweet, right?"

Emma set down the letter and stared at the ceiling. "So he's…gone. I can't believe he's really gone."

Why did things like this keep happening to her? Everything was going downhill, and she felt like everyone she cared about was just abandoning her. Manny was a complete mess and had her own problems to deal with, and now Sean had just picked up and left. Was it because he had found out about Jay and Emma? Sure, he would have been pissed, but would it really have driven him to just pack up and move? It didn't make sense.

But Emma was beginning to realize that her whole life didn't make sense anymore.

Going home to his parents had been like a bad sequel to the fucked-up childhood he was trying so hard to forget. As soon as Social Services had dropped him off, his Mom had come running out of the house, her arms opened wide and tears streaming down her face, like she'd actually missed him. Then she'd had the nerve to hug him and whimper about how glad she was he had come back. Sean's father had just stood in the doorway, looking old and tough, just like Sean had remembered him. He had shaken his father's hand, and they had made a silent agreement that they would try to make this work. Sean had to make this work, and he knew perfectly well that he couldn't fuck up again, because there were no alternatives. This was it. Next time, he'd be sitting in a juvenile detention center, longing for Wasage Beach and even his drunk parents.

Speaking of drunken parents, Sean's had sworn to him that they were both sober and had been for a few months. Sean knew it was a load of shit. You didn't suddenly go from being drunk every night to not drinking at all. But his parents reminded him that he'd been gone for four years, and a lot had changed. Sean had laughed. Whatever. He was just waiting for them to stumble home one night, trashed out of their minds. But strangely, it hadn't happened yet. Once, when they had left for a few hours, Sean had ransacked the house, looking for his parents booze. He'd come up empty-handed. How was that possible? So Sean decided he'd just have to wait, wait for them to fuck up so he could rub it in their faces.

Three days after he'd arrived, Sean was wandering around the surf shop he'd used to go into when he was a kid. Tracker's friend used to work there, so he'd always hang around and watch the customers trickle in and out. Since it was winter, the place wasn't as busy as usual, but Sean didn't mind. He stopped in front of a nice black surf-board with flames. He checked the price, and then put it back. Yeah, right. In his dreams.

He walked around some more, and spotted a few wet suits sitting on a shelf. He didn't have one anymore, and figured he'd probably need one once it was warm enough to go out in the water. Without thinking, he glanced around, grabbed a wetsuit, and stuffed it into his gray zip-up sweatshirt. Stealing had become his worst habit. Sean was addicted to it. He'd gotten really good at it, and it was probably the only thing he was good at, besides fixing up cars. And it's not like that was much to brag about. The only problem was, Sean didn't feel any remorse after he did it. It worried him sometimes. He could probably steal from a mother on welfare with three kids, and he wouldn't feel anything.

He walked around some more, checking some things out and pretending to look like he might buy something. He was examining another board that was more in his price range, when a girl walked up.

"Need any help?"

Sean looked at her. She looked about his age, maybe a little older. She long, wavy black hair, and tan, smooth skin, no doubt from hours on the beach. She was wearing a pair of army pants, a black tank-top, and a black zip-up hoodie. She had the bluest eyes Sean had ever seen on a person. "Um…no," he said, coughing. "Just checking out this board."

"Cool. This one is pretty good. You surf?"

"Kind of. I haven't in awhile, though." He shrugged. "I just moved back here." She nodded and kept looking at him. Sean shifted uncomfortably. The girl was hot, but he wished she'd just go away. "But thanks, anyway." He went back to looking at the display.

"So…" she said, stuffing her hands into the pockets of her hoodie. "You gonna pay for that wetsuit in your jacket or what?"

Sean froze and looked at her. He had no idea what to do in a situation like this. He'd never been caught before. His eyes darted for the door, and she noticed. "Don't try to run. You won't get ten feet."

Sean sighed. "So….what are you going to do?"

The girl smiled and shrugged. "I don't know. I could tell Bernie and Marty over there," she said, turning and pointing to the two guys behind the counter, who were completely oblivious to them and were flipping through magazines. "Don't be fooled- their a lot tougher than they look. Or…I could let you put the suit back and we could call it a day?"

Sean sighed and nodded. He pulled it out, and set it back on the shelf. He stared at it. "There. Um…sorry?"

The girl laughed. "Are you apologizing to the wetsuit or me? Anyway, we get a shit load of stealers in this place. You know, I don't usually just let them walk away, but since you're so cute and all…."

Sean blushed. He knew flirting when he saw it, and this chick was flirting. "Well, thanks…" He squinted at her nametag. "Kelsey?"

"Just so you know, if you ever come into this store again, I'll be watching you like a hawk. Standard procedure. So don't think about stealing from here again." She smirked.

"You have my word, as a gentlemen."

She smirked. "Yeah, right. Do all gentlemen steal?"

"No. Only the really sexy ones."

She laughed. Sean smiled, because he thought her laugh was so cute. She shook her head. "Oh, I see. So, if you're such a sexy gentlemen, when are you going to ask me out on a date?" She glanced at the watch on her wrist. "We've been talking, for like, five minutes, and you still haven't asked me out."

Sean liked this girl. "Hmm….well, I usually wait ten minutes, but I'll make an exception. You want to go out tonight? Maybe get something to eat?" ELLIE, ELLIE, ELLIE! His mind suddenly screamed, and he blinked. Oh, right. He had a "girlfriend". Well, he probably didn't anymore, considering he still hadn't called her after heartlessly abandoning her in his apartment. So, why the hell not? "Say tonight, at seven?"

Kelsey grinned. "You're on."

Manny burst out laughing as she stumbled, and grabbed Nicks' arm for support. "Oh, shit," she said, giggling. "Thank God you were here, Nick, or I seriously would have fallen on my ass in front of everyone." Then she paused and laughed again. "Actually, that would have been pretty fucking funny." She glanced around the crowded mall, and suddenly frowned. "Why the hell is like, everyone in the fucking city at the mall tonight?"

Nick shrugged. "Like there's anything better to do?"

Manny grabbed his arm again and grinned up at him. She felt so incredibly free and blissful. She hadn't even thought about any of her many problems. "Well, we found something, didn't we?" Before coming to the mall, Manny and Nick had split two large bottles of Smirnoff Vodka and a joint. "We totally partieeeeeeeeed!"

Nick laughed. "And you're totally drunk."

Manny pretended to look shocked, and then smirked. "No way. You're the one who's drunk." Then she punched him as hard as she possibly could in the shoulder, simply because she felt like it. Nick smiled at her and rubbed his arm.

"You are right. If I weren't so drunk, that probably would have hurt way more," he pointed out. They both laughed and continued walking aimlessly around the mall, making fun of people and looking at the display windows. "You hungry?" Nice asked, and Manny nodded eagerly. Hungry? She was starving! They headed toward the food court, and as soon as they got into a line, Nick began kissing Manny's neck as she studied the menus. "Stop," she said a minute later with a girly giggle. "I'm trying to focus." Nick ignored her, took her hand, and led her to a small corner in the wall, next to a large, fake, plastic tree. He gently pushed her against the wall, and kissed her enthusiastically. Manny let him for a bit, until he began working his hands up her shirt. She pulled back and pushed him off. "Hey. We're in public."

"Haven't you ever wanted to do it in a public place?" Nick whispered with a devious grin, and Manny frowned. She was losing her buzz, and this wasn't fun for her anymore. And what was he talking about- did he really think she was going to hike up her skirt and have sex with him in a mall?

"Um….no," Manny said, wrapping her arms around her waist self-consciously. "Let's just go eat." She made a move to walk away, but Nick stepped in front of her, blocking her path. "But I want you now." He grabbed her waist more roughly than before and pulled her toward him in one swift motion. He kissed her hard on the mouth. Manny tried to resist, until she finally managed to push him away again. "Ok, I said stop. What part of that don't you get?"

Nick smirked. "Oh, come on. Don't tell me you, Manny Santos, is going all cold on me."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Nick smirked again, and Manny resisted the urge to slap him in his cocky face. "Please. You don't have to act all proper for me. Everyone knows you like it. Everyone knows you get around."

"That's….a lie," Manny said. "Excuse me, but this date is officially over." She turned to leave, but he grabbed her wrist.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"Oh, Manny, there you are," came a voice, and they both turned around. J.T was standing behind them, dressed in his official Chicken Palace uniform. "Been looking all over for you. You didn't forget about that thing tonight? Did you?"

Manny frowned. J.T could be such a freak sometimes. "Um…what?"

Nick smirked. "J.T Dork, why don't you run back to your little job shoveling out chicken fingers and leave us alone, ok?"

J.T continued staring at Manny. "You know," he said, widening his eyes and wiggling his eyebrows. "Tonight we were going to meet at my house after my shift? To work on that big project for Kwan?" He just kept staring at her, until finally Manny got it.

"Oh….oh, right. God, I'm such a ditz. The project…of course. Slipped my mind. Anyway, I should be going, Nick," Manny purred, stepping next to J.T. "I'll just get a ride home with him."

Nick looked confused, and then angry, but he finally just shook his head. "Whatever." He turned and walked off, and Manny sighed with relief. She turned to J.T and grabbed his hands. "Oh, my, God. Thank you. How did you know? That doesn't matter! Thank you!" She gave him a kiss on the cheek, not knowing that J.T had been dreaming of that moment his entire life. He just smiled and blushed. Manny sighed. "Well, I guess I better catch the bus." Not like I have anywhere to ride it to. "See ya."

"Wait," J.T said, pulling out the keys to his new Lexus. "I was serious about my shift being over. And about you coming over to my place. If you want."

Manny turned back around and smiled. "That would be great."

She didn't know what she was doing. Every rational part of her body was yelling at her to turn around and go home, where she belonged. Because she most certainly didn't belong there, with him. But there was another part of her, the one that didn't make any sense, that had forced her into coming. Maybe it was all the emotional drama of the past couple of weeks. Maybe it was just because she damn well felt like it. But Emma needed an escape. She needed a distraction. She needed someone to take her away, away from who she was and what was going on. And she needed to apologize. She needed closure.

Emma shivered as she hurried toward the large bonfire, unable to understand why kids still partied at the ravine, even in the winter. It was cold and wet, but kids were still wandering around, laughing and having a good time. Emma had never understood the attraction of the ravine- it was a bunch of low-life's drinking cheap beer and listening to loud music. It wasn't her scene, and it never would be. But it was exactly Jay's type of place, and that was why she was counting on him being there. She spotted him sitting on some picnic tables, wearing his signature backwards hat and worn-out black jacket. She took a deep breath and walked over. "Jay."

He looked up. "Will the police be arriving soon?" he asked sarcastically.

"No," she said. "I had to talk to you." Jay just stared at her. "Really. I'm sorry. I really….what happened to your face?" Now that she was closer, she noticed the bruises and cuts in the firelight.

"Oh, these?" Jay said, and he set down his beer can. "Sean beat the crap out of me. You know, because I tried to rape you."

"What? Oh, god….I'm sorry."

Jay shrugged. "Whatever."

"No. This is my fault. All of it. I should have never said….you tried to take advantage of me. Because you didn't. I knew what I was doing, but I just freaked out." She sighed. "The truth is…I'm just really messed up. I don't know why I did what I did. Well, I do….I was raped before. At a party."

Jay nodded. "I know."

"Sean told you."

"Not really," Jay said, picking up a twig and snapping it in half. He tossed it away. "Remember that fight Sean got in? When he got arrested?" Emma nodded. "Well, he was wailing on this kid named Kevin. He didn't tell me the whole story, but I figured that kid had to do something bad to you, or else Sean wouldn't have gone so crazy."

Emma's mouth fell open. "He never told me it was him. Wow…"

"Yeah. So he didn't just pick some random dude. It doesn't make it right or anything….but at least he had a reason."

Emma nodded. "So….do you still hate me?"

Jay sighed. "Well, I didn't like being handcuffed. Or verbally assaulted by the police. But I understand."

Emma smiled softly. She felt better. She scooted closer to him. "Good. Because….that night. I really liked you. I liked….being with you." God, what was she doing? But she couldn't help herself.

Jay glanced at her and smirked. "Yeah?" He looked closely at her, and frowned. "What happened to your face? Don't tell me Sean knocked you around, too."

Emma smiled sadly. "Close. Alex and Amy basically jumped me in the bathroom today. Apparently Alex wasn't too happy about us getting together."

Jay nodded. "That's Alex. After what happened the other night, she smashed my bedroom window out with a rock."

"So why do you keep getting back with her?"

Jay shrugged. "She understands me. I don't know. She doesn't give me shit all the time, and I like being around her. Usually. When she's not being a huge bitch." There was a moment of silence. "So, why did you really come down here, Emma?"

Emma shrugged. "To apologize. And…." She leaned over and kissed him. He kissed her back. After a minute, Jay pulled away. "Wait- you're not just doing this because Sean left, right?"

Emma sat back. "No. This isn't about Sean," she said, more harshly than she meant to. "This is about us. I'm not with Sean, and you're not with Alex….and I want you. I want you to take me away from all this." She grabbed his hand. "Will you take me away?"

Jay paused for a second, and then finally nodded. "Yeah. Come on." He stood up, holding her hand, and she followed him. He led her away from the crowd of people and to a plain, rusty van sitting next to a large tree. He opened the door and stepped aside so Emma could climb in. She did, and glanced around. The van was nothing special, with a few lighted candles lying around, and a big, soft blanket covering the floor. She heard the door close behind her, and she smirked to herself. "Candles are just a bit tacky, don't you think?"

"I didn't put them here," Jay said quietly, took her arm and turned her around, and immediately began kissing her. Emma wrapped her long arms around his neck and lost herself in the sensation of Jay's kiss. She wasn't in love with him. In some sense, she didn't really even like him. But for now, he wanted her, and she wanted to forget everything. She slipped off her sweater and lay down on the blanket. Jay took off his jacket. Emma told herself not to be nervous as Jay began trailing kisses down her neck. With Kevin, she wasn't in control, and she'd been scared. But this was different.

She pushed aside any thoughts of Sean or what people would say or think, because she really didn't give a damn anymore. This is what she wanted.

This is what she needed.

It had started raining outside. Manny stared out the window. She used to love stormy nights. She and her Mom would grab some blankets and put in a movie, or they would go and sit out on their screened-in porch and just watch the rain and the lightening. Manny watched as the raindrops ran down the glass, and she could see a distorted, wavy reflection of herself. She sighed and turned away. J.T walked in a minute later with a steaming bowel of popcorn, and he set it down on the table. Manny wandered over and sat down on the overstuffed couch. "So, what movie do you want to watch? I don't like to brag, but we have quite the extensive collection."

"Ok. How about Titanic?"

J.T stared, and then shook his head. She loved how his shaggy brown hair got all messed up when he did that. ""No. As respect to my dignity and man-hood, I have to refuse to watch that."

"Alright. I'm not in the mood for a movie, anyway."

"Oh. What are you in the mood for, then?"

Manny thought for a second. She knew exactly what she was in the mood for, but it wasn't something J.T could provide. She needed a hit of something, anything. She could see the small bag of cocaine sitting in her pocket, the one she had jacked from Nick as he was practically raping her in the mall. Boy was he going to be mad when he noticed it was gone. She wanted it so bad, and she was positive she wouldn't make it through the night if she didn't get high at least once more. She bit her lip. She knew she couldn't excuse herself and go off and then come back high. She bit her lip. "Hey, J.T?"

"Yeah?" He was fiddling with the remote control, trying to turn on their big-screen television.

"You want to do something?"

"Like what?"

"Like…this?' She reached into her pocket and pulled out the small baggie. She held it up and dangled it.

"Is ?" He looked surprised, confused, and even hurt. Like he couldn't believe Manny Santos, the girl he'd always been in love with, was carrying around a –gasp- illegal drug in her pocket. Well, he was just going to have to deal with it. She nodded. "Try it. Come on, I know you're a little curious."

J.T frowned. "I don't know. Drugs are…bad."

Manny rolled her eyes. "Oh, please. Do I have to mention you're little adventure with Ecstasy at Ashley's end-of-the-year party in seventh grade?" J.T blushed and shrugged.

"I didn't take any, though…"

Manny started laughing. "Oh, right. You took a vitamin pill instead!"

"Hey, shut up!' He walked over and sat down next to her. "Besides, cocaine is some serious shit, Manny. You're not like, addicted to it, are you?"

"Um…no," Manny lied. She wasn't sure, really, but she told him what he wanted to hear. "Come on. It's just a one-time thing. You can just try it, and then you'll be able to say you know what it's like." J.T looked at the Coke, and then back at her. He was debating with himself. Suddenly, Manny wanted J.T to get high with her more than anything in the world." Please, J.T? Come on!"

Finally, he nodded. "Alright. Just to say I did."

Manny nodded happily. She ordered J.T to bring over a large, hard-cover book from the bookshelf, and he did. Then she poured the Coke onto it. She pulled a playing card out of her purse and arranged the drug into a few neat lines. "You got any cash?" J.T nodded, and pulled a few bills out of his pocket. Manny rolled one up and handed it to him. "Ok. You first."

J.T accepted the bill, and he looked nervous. For a second, Manny wondered if she really should be pressuring innocent little guys like J.T into doing drugs, but she shoved it aside. What's the worst that could happen? She watched as J.T put the bill in his nose, leaned over, and took in a few lines. When he was done, Manny smiled. He wiped his nose and smiled back. Then she did her lines, and she felt immediately better. She sighed happily and sat back on the couch.

After a few minutes, Manny glanced over at J.T, wondering if he was feeling anything yet or not. But she found him bent over, grasping his chest and making an odd wheezing noise. She jumped up. "J.T?" she said, tapping him on the shoulder. "J.T?" She pushed him backwards and found that his eyes had rolled back and he was turning a weird purple color. Manny felt nauseous. "J.T?!" she screamed, shaking him. He didn't respond. "Oh, God. Oh, God."

Without thinking, Manny jumped up and scurried over to the phone. She dialed 911, until the operator came on. "Yes," she said, panting and swallowing hard. "I need an ambulance. My friend in turning purple…."

"Is he unconscious?" the lady asked.

Manny grasped the edge of the couch. "I don't know," she moaned. "Just please come."

"Do you know CPR?"

No. She'd spent health class last quarter with Carter in the school parking lot, fooling around! "No. I don't."

"What's the address?" Manny rattled off J.T's address, which she had memorized after years of hanging out around his house. A minute later, she hung up and ran back to J.T. He looked awful. It was the worst thing Manny had ever seen. She'd heard about people having bad reactions to Coke, but she'd never really believed it. She started crying and coughing and her teeth were numb from the cocaine, and she felt sick.

Then she realized that if she stuck around, she'd be screwed. Manny bit her nail, trying to think up some kind of way out of this. She glanced at J.T. Help was on their way, and she really wasn't needed, right? They'd assume J.T was trying cocaine all alone, right? Right? She couldn't even think anymore! She ran a hand through her hair in desperation. Then, she snatched the car keys to J.T's precious new silver Lexus, and ran out the door, into the rain. Sure, they'd notice his car was missing, but by then, she'd be long gone. Off to somewhere where no one knew who she was. Where she could start over. Where she could forget about Degrassi and all the people, and maybe even get help.

Manny opened the car door and slid into the leather seats. She started the engine, hoping that J.T would forgive her. She was possibly the worst person on the face of the planet, but she had gotten so used to thinking only about herself, of saving her own ass all the time.

She'd fucked up again. Except this time, she couldn't make it right.

Manny peeled out of the driveway and went racing down the street, crying hysterically.

Roxie shook the present, and smiled. "Oh, my, God! What is it? What is it?"

Spin smiled. "Gee, Roxie, you're getting a little too excited about the presents, if you know what I mean."

Roxie sat down on the couch and smiled. "Sorry, but I love Christmas presents." She glanced around at all the people in the living room. She was having a little Christmas party with a few close friends, and she'd never felt more at home. She nudged Spinner in the arm. "This is so great. And sorry I didn't let you and your little band perform. It was only because….well, I thought you kind of sucked."

Spin held up his glass of eggnog. "Now that's the holiday spirit! Putting people down and shattering their dreams. Merry Christmas!" He smirked. "Alright, open your present." Roxie tore open the wrapping paper and took off the lid. It was a nice, expensive looking knit-sweater. Roxie held it up. "Oh, Spin, it's great. How did you know my size?"

Spin shrugged. "I didn't, so I just asked the lady to give me the biggest size they had, and hoped you'd fit into that."

"Spin, you're such a jerk. But, a jerk with extremely good taste."

Just then, there was a knock on the front door, and Roxie started to get up, but Ashley shooed her back down. "Sit! I'll get it!" She bounced over to the door and pulled it open. Craig was standing there, and she squealed. "Craig! Look who finally showed up." She grabbed his hand and pulled him in. Craig shrugged and smiled.

"Hey, how could I turn down an invite to the hottest Christmas party in town?" he asked, taking off his jacket.

"Easily, since you weren't invited in the first place," Roxie said, narrowing her eyes and frowning at him. Craig's smile disappeared.

Ashley just laughed, like it was a joke. "You guys are hilarious. Come on, Craig. The mistletoe is hanging over there."

"Hey, you ok?" Spin asked a minute later, as Roxie watched Ashley and Craig kiss under the mistletoe. How dare Craig barge into her home, and then make out with Ashley right in front of her face. He was completely flaunting his stupid relationship with Ashley! "Yeah, I'm fine," she snapped, and then realized she was being a bitch. "I'm sorry, Spin. I'll be right back. Oh, thanks for the sweater. I love it."

Roxie wandered into the kitchen, and leaned against the sink, telling herself not to be upset. Craig was just a stupid, two-timing asshole, who only cared about himself. It was so obvious….so why was she so fucking in love with him? Just then, she heard footsteps, and she whirled around. Craig was standing in the doorway, his hands stuffed in his pockets nervously. Damn him for being so cute and irresistible. Damn him! "What do you want?"

"Pretzels. Oh, and to talk to you," he said, taking a deep breath. "I think things ended pretty badly the other night…"

"You think?" Roxie said with a snort. Craig rolled his eyes.

"Ok, they definitely did. But do we have to hate each other?"

"Yes."

Craig sighed. "Ok, I'm trying to be nice about this, but will you please be mature about this?"

Roxie looked thoughtful. "You're right. I should be more mature. And I think the mature thing is to tell Ashley about us."

Craig's eyes nearly bulged out of his head. "What?"

Roxie shrugged carelessly. "She deserves to know. So she can see what you really are."

"Roxie…" Craig began, and then took a deep breath. "She'll be pissed at you, just as much as me. You'll lose your best friend."

Roxie stopped. Well, she hadn't thought of that. "Well…I….I…" she stuttered. "I'll have to take that chance. I can't lie to her anymore, and neither should you."

"You're just doing this because you think there's something between me and Manny. You're jealous."

"Of that Coke-head? Yeah, right."

"Yeah."

Roxie grabbed the bowel of pretzels and shoved them at him. "Here. Go back to your little girlfriend, because I'm done with you."

"No," Craig snapped, setting the pretzels down. "I'm leaving."

"Good!"

Craig turned and stomped out, and Roxie grabbed a few pretzels and rammed them into her face. She always ate when she was stressed out- it was a miracle she wasn't morbidly obese by now. She didn't care what Craig thought- she was going to tell Ashley, because she couldn't stand to see Ashley prance around, oblivious to what backstabbing people her best friend and boyfriend were. Tonight she'd tell her. She grabbed more pretzels. She heard Ashley ask Craig what was wrong in the other room, and thenshe heard thefront door open and slam shut.

Manny fiddled with the radio, and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. She hadn't been driving long, but it seemed like an eternity. She squinted to see the dark road in front of her, and the constant movement of the windshield wipers didn't help at all. She gripped the wheel tightly. Images of the last few months whirled through her head. Overdosing. Going to rehab. Coming back to find Craig with Ashley. Carter dying. Running away. Working for Isabel. Nearly getting raped. Moving in with Roxie, only to be kicked out. Practically killing J.T, the one person who had actually seemed to care. It was like a bad soap opera, except Manny usually found those pathetic and funny, but there was nothing to laugh about now. She felt trapped and suffocated, and high and confused, and scared. Especially scared. Rain pounded against the window; Destiny's Child was playing in the background on the stereo.

I wish I were dead, like Carter, she thought, sniffling. At this point, she wasn't even paying attention to the road. Then it would all be over.

Just then, Manny realized she had drifted into the wrong lane. She heard a loud honk. Headlights flashed in her eyes, and she grabbed the wheel andspun it sharply. The car went skidding across the slick road.

As the car whirled around, Manny squeezed her eyes shut. I'm going to die. Just like Carter did. A strange sense of peace settled over her.

Just before the silver Lexus slammed into a tree.

Authors Note- Finally an update! Thank you so much to all those who have reviewed....it makes me feel so good to know someone appreaciates my writing. Comment and critism are welcome! So whose this Kelsey girl? What is Emma thinking? And what's going to happen to Manny? Keep reading to find out! Thanks!