WOW. I haven't updated since before the school year started. According to my sister, that's a sin. Sorry! I apologize for my busyness. But it also helps that last month I went out and bought the movie, so now I can look at scenes closer and analyze them some before I put Madeline in the middle of them. Woo!
Thanks for reviewing everyone! Enjoy the chapter!

x x x

Chapter Five

I thought about several things on our way to town.

One - Aliens invading. That was obvious.

Two - My new house is potentially haunted. I found it as a nice asset to the property rather than a turn-off; my friends and I loved poking around in old abandoned and haunted places back in my old town whenever we had some time to ourselves. If Kat and Brooke do come out here for a week, we're sleeping in the attic and bringing out some candles and my Ouija board I got as a gag gift for my thirteenth birthday.

Three - My chest hurt. It seemed like it anticipated another near-death scare from Merril like last night, and I rubbed my chest with a lingering discomfort.

"What's wrong?"

I looked down at Bo, and Merrill glanced back at us. I mouthed wordlessly for a second at his expectant face before looking back down at Bo.

"Nothing."

Merrill turned back around, and I gave him a bit of a scowl for being the cause of my episode last night. He wouldn't have to deal with me if he would've just let me walk back up to the plantation without a hassle. Well, he shot himself in the foot. That's his problem.

We pulled up to the sidewalk lined with parking meters, little shops, and numerous trees. Graham parked, and I took off my belt and exited the car with everyone else. I tugged my green shirt down and looked around at my new enviroment. Morgan walked passed me and up onto the sidewalk with Bo and I followed, no where else to go. Merrill deposited a few coins into the meter, and I cast him a pensive look.

"Book money?"

Merrill slowly dropped the last quarter in and narrowed his eyes. He turned his head towards me with a questionable expression, and I quickly looked down as Graham placed a few bills in his son's open palm. I felt Merrill's eyes on me as I overted mine and heard his footsteps begin in another direction. Carefully (and rather bravely), I looked in his direction again. He walked down the sidewalk without a word.

What did I do to make you hate me? I thought with a twinge of regret.

"Madeline?"

I shook out of my slight trance and looked up at Graham as he came over to me.

"Yeah?"

"Can you go with Bo and Morgan to the bookstore?" I looked up, just now realizing that they were briskly walking down the sidewalk in the opposite direction of Merrill. Thank God. "I need to go to the pharmacy," Graham continued. "Just come back here in fifteen minutes, okay? We'll have lunch."

I nodded, starting off after the children. "Okay."

A few steps later, he relayed the message to Merrill about lunch to which I heard no verbal reply. I didn't give in and turn around again, though; I just pushed that half of the sidewalk out of my mind and strode up quickly behind Morgan and Bo. We were a way's away now, and I was satisfied.

"So, there's a bookstore nearby?" I asked them immediately, one of my few interests having been sparked.

Morgan took a sharp right onto a small stoop, and I stopped. The sign overhead read 'Nathan's Bookstore.' I looked back up at Morgan as he entered the shop.

"Yeah," he said. "Pretty close."

"I guess so," I mumbled with a smile as I followed them in.

It was decent-sized for being family owned. Little knickknacks and crafts were amongst the books on the wall shelves behind the counter, giving it more of a relaxed atmosphere. There were a few sitting chairs, some large rugs over the red carpet, and seven neat little rows of books that I was actually excited to browse through. Including walls and other books just laying around.

I smiled. I think I found a little oasis in my desolate surroundings.

Morgan and Bo were at the counter where an older couple were watching the crop circle developments on a small portable television. The man sat with a sort of challenging sneer at the newscast while the woman behind him looked indifferent. I grimaced at the sight of the screen - maybe my oasis was a little dried out.

"It's just a bunch of crock."

I looked up in surprise at the old man as his sneer intensified on the TV. "They're trying to sell sodas, plain and simple," he stated. I made a face as he supported his claim with the fact that he had seen twelve soda commercials since watching the reports that morning. Well... okay. Coke and Pepsi made crop circles for commercial publicity. I completely understand and feel better now.

I gave the countertop an odd look. To each his own...

"Do you have any books on extraterrestrials?" Morgan asked them.

Oh, I wanted to hear what Mr. Nathan had to say to this. I looked up ready for another outlandish accusation about plumbers or something.

"As a matter of fact, I think we have one," his wife said with a much gentler and kinder tone. "Came by mistake in a shipment... Decided to keep it for the city folk... Last row, third book on the left, honey," she said, pointing across the shop with a smile.

I returned the smile, deciding that I liked her. Then, Bo grabbed my hand ("Come on, Madeline!"), and I went with her and Morgan to the last row of books. I slowed as Bo and Morgan went to the other end in search of their book and admired the neatness and organization of the shelves. My smile stayed as I wandered down the aisle towards them in a dreamlike state.

"This is great," I said quietly. I knelt, picking up a copy of Garner's Mystics: Meditation, a method book on all levels and kinds of meditation. I looked at the subtitle that read: Improve your physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional beings through the simple act of breathing.

"Sounds to good to be true," I murmured to myself sadly, wishing such a thing could help me instantly will myself out of Thompson's Plot whenever I needed to. I slowly rose, the book coming with me.

"Morgan, where are the-" I looked up, and they were gone. Perplexed, I peered around the shelf towards the front store window, and Morgan was just sitting down in one of the chairs as Bo ran over to the front desk again.

"Can I have a glass of water?" she asked.

"Sure, honey," Mrs. Nathan replied, walking out from behind the counter. "Come in the back with me and we'll fix you up with some."

After they went through an old wooden door on the back wall, I walked out from the row of books and took a seat near Morgan. His eyes scanned the large book studiously, and I leaned back in my chair, opening my smaller but thicker book as I settled.

Introduction: In and Out

For thousands of years, mankind has transformed the simple act of breathing into an art called meditation. It allows us to vent our anger, find a place where we belong, and provides us with a deep sense of comfort. Meditation is more than just creating a world within your mind and escaping, however.

Always a catch. I knew it.

Meditation can complete the soul, helping one find its purpose in a situation, enviroment, and life's balance. Some look to meditation for strength, others for consolement; but no matter what your purpose for seeking the use of meditation in your life, you must have three things: an open mind, concentration, and willingness.

Bo suddenly walked passed with a large glass of water in her small hands, and I looked up, watching her sit at the table behind us with Mrs. Nathan standing nearby. Bo took a small sip and eased the glass back down.

"It contaminated."

Mrs. Nathan fretted at the comment. "Carl, there's something wrong with our water!" she called to her husband (who is still staring intently at the television set).

"Your water's fine," Morgan said loudly, overriding her with some annoyance. He did not look up from the book. "Bo has a thing about her drinking water. She's had it her whole life. Like a tick people have. Except it's not a tick."

Mrs. Nathan looked at Bo with a new fascination. "Is that right?"

I went back to reading my-

"Thirteen!"

I started at Mr. Nathan's outburst, collapsing back into the chair rolling my eyes. The catchy soda jingle played from across the room as my heartbeat became labored again, and I shot him a look, too. I'm going to have to start making a list of people to stay away from for my better health. So far I've got the grumpy bookstore owner and the lunatic.

I repositioned in the chair again, but Morgan got up, handing the extraterrestrial book to Mrs. Nathan.

"I'll take it."

Suddenly, the door to the bookstore opened, and my face fell as Merrill walked in casually. He didn't look like he enjoyed running into me either. I sighed.

"Hi, Merrill," Mrs. Nathan said as she walked around the counter to ring up Morgan's book.

"Hello, Mrs. Nathan," he said, putting a pamphlet inside his jacket. Bo walked up to him, taking his hand. "Hey, you ready to go?"

"Morgan's getting a book," Bo told him. "And so is Madeline."

He looked up at me skeptically as I held the book closer defensively.

"Harry Potter?" he asked in amusement.

I pursed my lips. "No."

I walked up to the counter behind Morgan without a look back, but he and Bo followed. Mrs. Nathan handed Morgan the large extraterrestrial book, and I stepped forward, having my book rung up. The silence was making me impatient and annoyed, so I finally spoke.

"Has it been fifteen minutes already?" I asked Merrill.

"Twenty," he said. Mrs. Nathan gave me my book and bid me a good day. We started for the door. "I just passed the pizzaria, though, and Graham wasn't there."

"Is the pharmacy far? That's where he said he was going."

"No, it's probably just busy," he said blandly.

I looked away, not sure I could stand the overstimulation of our conversation as he opened the door.

Morgan stepped outside indulged entirely in his new book. Walking had taken a backseat of importance to a book, and I smiled, having done the same in the hallways at school countless times. I carried my new book with me at my side, hoping to get a chance to use it later once I went back home. It would hopefully help calm me down, and it might even prolong my life if I could learn to manage stress better. Especially knowing Merrill.

Nobody talked for the rest of our walk to the pizza place. Once we went inside, I took my customary look around, subconsciously aware that I was following Bo to their favorite table in front of the big windows. I looked up at the line to see that Morgan was with Merrill before I sat down and put my book on the table for the time being.

"Does your book have pictures?" Bo asked, pulling it towards her.

I scooted near her as she opened it. "A few. Nothing probably that fun, though."

There were a lot of similar diagrams every few pages explaining and demonstrating how to position yourself for meditation, pictures of what you could imagine to relieve certain tensions, and a few pictures of Buddha. Bo laughed when she saw him.

"He's got a big belly."

I laughed. "Yeah, he does." I went to turn another page, but Merrill and Morgan arrived with the pizza, so I put the book in my lap. Merril sat on my left and Morgan on Bo's right, leaving the enmpty chair on the end for Graham. I was still wondering where he was when he walked right into the shop. I stared.

I've been doing that a lot lately.

"Pharmacy crowded?" Merrill asked him.

"I don't want any one of you spending time with Tracey Abernathy alone," he shot out. "Is that understood?"

The others nodded, but I looked up at Graham. "Who's Tracey Abernathy?"

"Someone you should avoid at all costs," Graham said with a very serious tone. I was a little unnerved by it, but took another bite of my pizza all the same.

"Why?" I asked, glancing over Merrill now. "Is she Lionel Prichard's girlfriend? "

"No," Merrill said, shifting away slightly.

"That's because I'm his girlfriend, right?"

Merrill dropped his pizza, nostrils flaring somewhat. "Lionel Prichard doesn't have a girlfriend," he said pointedly without looking at me. "He couldn't get a date in this town if he tried."

"Hmm," I said, setting down my pizza. "Interesting..."

"Oh don't even," he said despite Graham's warning look. "I-"

"You what?" I looked up at him, but he was staring out the window. As I looked around the table, so was everyone else.

Outside was a thin man in his younger thirties carrying a bag of groceries to a truck. He seemed to be in the eyesight of everyone at the table, and I looked at him curiously.

"Is that him?" Morgan asked softly.

I looked from him to Merrill as he says, "Yeah."

My head tilted slightly as I watched him, but he then looked up, locking eyes with all five of us. I hurriedly looked away, but I found that none of the others had as this mysterious man got into his truck with his groceries and sped away down the street.

"Who is he?" Bo asked, posing the same question I had running through my mind. no one spoke for the longest time, but when Morgan did, I was floored and heartbroken all at once.

"He's the man who killed Mom."