As I lay in bed Tuesday night, I smiled to myself. I had put my plan into action earlier that day. I decided that the only way daddy would see how much Clarice hated me, was if I spent a lot of time with the two when they were together. So, as daddy and Clarice talked, I sat and joined in their conversation; after school, that is.

Suddenly, I had a great idea. I jumped out of my bed and ran for daddy's nightstand, tripping over the sheets that were still tangled around my legs.

It was ten o'clock at night. Daddy was downstairs, helping in McGinty's. I was supposed to be sleeping, but for some reason, could not do so.

I opened the nightstand drawer and finally found what I was looking for; daddy's address book. I opened it to the "S" pages, and found Clarice's name. Quickly, I copied down her address. I might need it later.

I heard daddy's footsteps coming up the stairs and quickly stashed the book and pen back in its drawer. I ran quickly back to my own bed and jumped in.

Daddy walked into the room, wearing jeans and a red plaid shirt. He saw me lying awake, and smiled knowingly. That's when I noticed that I had forgotten to turn off my lamp. Guilty…

"Arianna…" Daddy started, "Why aren't you asleep?"

I shrugged, "I just can't get to sleep is all."

He walked over to me and sat down on the edge of my bed, "How was practice today?"

"Good, we've got a game on Wednesday night. Can you come?" I asked him, hopefully.

"If the Paper permits." He promised.

I smiled.

"Now, Arianna, you have really got to get some sleep," He tucked me in, "or you're going to be too tired for school in the morning." He told me, standing up.

"Alright, daddy," I sighed, "Good night."

"Good night, honey." He kissed me on the forehead, and then switched off my lamp. Within only a few minutes, I was fast asleep.

"This is it;" I stated, climbing off of my bike, "1368 21st Street. This is her house, Jessa."

"Wow…" Jessa said in awe. The house was huge; two stories, plus an attic.

It was Thursday and Jessa and I had spent a half hour looking for Clarice's house. I don't know for sure why exactly, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

We had had our baseball game the evening before. Clarice came and hated it. We won, though; 10 to 9.

I stashed my bike in the hedges and crept up to the house. Clarice's car was in the driveway. I motioned for Jessa to come over to me.

"Go look out back," I whispered, "Maybe, she's in the garden?"

"Clarice?" Jessa asked, doubtfully.

"Just do it." I told her, rolling my eyes.

Jessa did as I asked her and was back within a few seconds. "She's out back, lying by the pool in a lawn chair." She informed me.

"Great." I tried the door knob. To my good fortune, it was unlocked and I stepped inside.

Jessa followed me, closing the door behind her. Clarice's house, like her car, was very clean. I was suddenly self-conscious of my dirty tennis shoes on the clean, soft plush, carpet. Jessa didn't seem to mind, though. She just continued to look around in awe.

"Where do we start, Arianna?" Jessa asked me.

"Hmmm," I thought aloud, "Why don't we start in the study."

"What are we looking for?" Jessa asked me as we headed for the office.

That stopped me dead in my tracks. What were we looking for, anyway? We're looking for anything that will tell us about Clarice. That's what I told myself and Jessa.

We must have been searching through the office for about ten minutes, when Jessa finally exclaimed in joy; "I've got it, Arianna! I've got it!"

"Got what? What'd you find?" I asked her, rushing to my friend's side.

"Look, look at this." She showed me a photo album.

That's when I heard the back door open. I peeked out the office door. There she was; it was Clarice and she was heading for the kitchen.

"Quick," I whispered, motioning with my hand feverishly, "Put it up! She came back inside!"

Jessa immediately put the album where she had found it. Then, I nearly jumped out of my shoes when the phone on the desk rang.

"I'm coming, I'm coming!" I could hear Clarice saying angrily.

"Jessa! Where do we hide?" I asked franticly.

"Under the desk!" She replied.

Quickly, we dove underneath the large piece of furniture; and not a moment too soon. Clarice walked into the room, stood right by the desk, and picked up the receiver.

"Hello?" She spoke into the receiver.

"Oh, hello, Jean, how are you?" Clarice cooed into the phone, "I'm so glad you called…"

Clarice sat down in her desk chair and continued to speak into the phone. Now, how were we supposed to get out of there?

I was sitting in the movie theatre with daddy and Clarice. The movie we were watching was B-o-r-i-n-g; boring with a capital "B". But, I had been invited to come with them and according to my plan, I had to.

I don't think that daddy was enjoying it either. Clarice had chosen the movie. But, I acted as if I was enjoying it.

After fifteen minutes of terrifying waiting, Jessa and I had managed to escape from underneath the desk the day before. I vowed not to do something like that again for a long time.

We finally left the uninteresting show and headed for home.

"Clarice, I have a game tomorrow morning. Would you like to come?" I asked her.

"Uh, yes, well, maybe, Arianna, darling, but I might be a bit busy. We'll see." She said, "Um, I had an idea, Arianna."

"What?" I asked her.

"How would you like to attend a boarding school?" She proposed.

Daddy looked shocked at the idea and I smiled. I had known that this was coming eventually…

"I don't think so, Clarice," I told her, "I don't think I could bear to be away from home so long. Thanks, anyway."

"Are you sure, dear? There's one in California that is absolutely marvelous." She tried again.

"I don't think that I'd want my daughter all the way on the other side of the country by herself, Clarice," Daddy informed her, putting his arm around my shoulders and giving me a squeeze, "She's only twelve."

"Oh, well, if you change your mind, let me know." She ended that subject of conversation.

I had known all along that daddy wouldn't send me to a boarding school. I hadn't been worried about that. I listened as Clarice and daddy talked. I don't know what my father saw in Clarice. She, like the movie, was extremely unexciting. She really wasn't the "Gary Hobson-Type", if you know what I mean.

I bit my lip and stifled another yawn. Mrs. Worthington's World History class was so boring. I glanced over at Jessa, who had the same class. She didn't look bored. She enjoyed history. "That's one of us." I told myself.

It had been a while since the day I saw that movie with Clarice and daddy; about two weeks, actually. Every chance I got, I spent time with the two. I didn't want daddy to get any closer with Clarice until he realized what she thought of me.

Finally, class was over and I quickly made my way outside. School was now also over and we had baseball practice. So, I packed up my bag and ran outside to the baseball field.

Jessa was already out there, throwing a ball back and forth with Joanne Barlow, a right fielder. She waved me over and we threw the ball three ways until Coach Greg called us over.

"Okay, guys, I've got some news for all of you," Coach Greg announced, "We are one of the two teams that are playing in the finals this year."

Everybody started cheering. We had worked hard for this privilege through the entire baseball season.

"We'll be playing against the Dragons on Saturday morning. Today is Thursday, so that gives us only today and tomorrow to practice," The coach informed us, "Now, what I want to know is: Can we do it?"

Everybody gave a shout of agreement and we started our practice. We played hard with great ambition. I think everybody had their minds on winning at the finals. Finally, Coach Greg blew his whistle and dismissed us. He told us that if we practiced too hard we'd be awful sore on Saturday.

"It'll be great. We'll win. I'm sure of it. Can you come?" I asked Clarice on Friday night.

It was Friday night. Daddy and I were having dinner at Clarice's house. She had invited both of us and had fixed a big, fancy dinner. Or, at least she said she fixed it. For some reason I can't seem to picture Clarice working in the kitchen. Oh well, maybe she did.

"Oh, Arianna," She sighed, "You know, I'm not really that much of a baseball fan. I do hope that you win though."

I just nodded. That was fine with me. At least she couldn't be there to spoil everything.

"So, Gary," Clarice looked at daddy, "Have you ever considered putting Arianna in music lessons. That's something every young lady should know: music."

I hate it when people do that; talking about you as if you're not even there.

"I don't really know, Clarice," Daddy attacked his meal, "My mother's been trying to get me to do the same thing; for years actually, but I'm not going to force my daughter to do something she doesn't want to do."

"What do you think, Arianna dear? Would you like to take music lessons?" She asked me, "Perhaps the piano or the flute?"

"No, thanks," I shook my head. Grandma Hobson is always trying to make daddy put me in music class. I always say 'no'. It's not that I hate music or anything, I'm just not interested.

"How about dancing? Do you like to dance?" Clarice tried something new.

"Not really," I replied, "Soccer's really more my thing."

"My dear, soccer is not really a proper hobby for young ladies." Clarice advised me.

"Yeah, in the 20's," I replied. I could see what she was doing – if she couldn't have daddy to herself than she was going to change me into what she wanted; somebody who was definitely not me. Sorry, wrong number; I refuse.

"Why don't you try to take up something more ladylike, darling? I'm sure it would be good for you." She suggested once again.

"Uh, Clarice," Daddy sprang into the conversation, before I said something I shouldn't, "How's work going for you?"

"It's going fine, Gary. You know the usual." She replied, "Voice lessons?"

"Howzat?" I asked.

"Voice lessons, Arianna," She explained, "Why don't you give voice lessons a try? You have a lovely voice."

"Uh, I don't think so, but thank you anyhow." I chased some peas around my plate.

"Arianna, don't play with your food, darling." She instructed me.

"I'm not playing," I tried, "I'm –"

"- And you really should wear dresses more often, dear," She cut me off, "They make you look so pretty."

Actually, I was wearing a dress, but I guess I didn't wear them enough earlier.

"And I think – " She tried to go on.

"– Clarice," Daddy finally cut in, "Um, we need to talk."

"Of course, Gary," She agreed, "What ever about?"

"Clarice, I-I don't think we sh-should see e-each other anymore." He stated.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

"Why not?" She asked, startled.

"We're, we're not right for each other," He did his best to explain, "It-it just wouldn't work. Already it doesn't work…"

Daddy went on to explain that he didn't think that she was ready for children and how the two of them just would not work out.

Surprisingly, she agreed and actually sounded relieved. Daddy and I left on good terms. I told her that the invitation to the game was still on and she managed a weak smile.

"You know," She said, "Baseball and I, well, we don't work well together, Arianna."

I smiled as I slipped my jacket on. I was glad that there were no hard feelings between any of us.

I watched, stunned, as the ball flew up in the air; it went far into the grassy outfield, near the fence, before finally hitting the ground.

"Run!" Jessa yelled.

Instantly, I took off for first base.

It was Saturday morning and we were beating the Dragons at the finals, 14 – 13. It felt great. As I ran around the bases, nothing could bring down my spirit. I was the happiest girl alive, I'm sure.

I slid into home plate and not a moment too soon.

"Safe!" The umpire called.

My team mates went wild. We just won the championship finals. I hugged Jessa and she gave me a high-five. Things were much better now.

I smiled contently as I put my trophy on the shelf. I liked baseball more than I thought I would, but I still preferred soccer more.

I walked over to the couch and sat beside my father. He put his arm around me and pulled me close. He and I had had a long talk the night before and we smoothed everything out. Nothing was going to happen again like it did with Clarice.

"Daddy?" I started, glancing at him.


"You said to ask you sometime – about the bus." I reminded him.

"Oh, that's right. You want to hear the story now?" He asked me, smiling.

I glanced out the window at the dark, night sky, and then back at daddy, "Yes," I told him, "I want to hear it now."

"Well," He began, as he got comfortable, "It all started with this girl named Nikki. She was a foster child, you see. Her parents had died in a car crash. Now, Nikki had a gift, too, much like the Paper. Only she didn't see it that way…"

And he told me the story…

A/N Well, that's it. I probably won't be updating this anymore. That is, of course, unless any of my faithful readers suggest I do.

All Disclaimers Apply.
I do not own any of these characters, except for the Wissmann's, George Gunter, and Clarice Sullivan. Arianna Hobson was created by Katerina17. I am using the character with permission.