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Part I

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Mary Anne Spier sometimes feels she is the only person who notices how wrong the world is.

She buttons her favorite pair of jeans, and slips on a pink cashmere sweater. She brushes her dark hair (which she is considering cutting again), and puts on her charm necklace. Her make-up is already on. She places her feet in stylish ankle boots and critically examines her reflection.

Mary Anne is going on a date with her boyfriend.

She thinks pink is the wrong colour for her. It accentuates the blush. Mary Anne is starting to appreciate the pale look.

The phone rings. The house is empty. Her father is at work. Her stepmother is grocery shopping. Her stepsister lives on the other side of the country. Her cat cannot answer the phone.

The voice on the line is assertive, when she picks up. "It's me. I'm baby-sitting the kids. Well actually Karen and David Michael think they're too old, but anyway, do you want to come over? We can -"

"No." Mary Anne answers. She recognizes the tone of her voice, and the repercussions . She tactfully softens her tone. "I have a date, Kristy."

"Oh." The voice is reflective, "I should have guessed."

Mary Anne doesn't say anything. She doesn't appreciate people who hold onto the past. She doesn't respect people who haven't had a serious relationship longer than four months. She doesn't associate with people who harbor connotations of happier memories.

She still has space to feel sorry, though.

"I'll see you at school, then." Her voice is automatic. Kristy Thomas and Mary Anne Spier share no classes at school. They do not catch the same bus. They do not sit at the same table for lunch. They do not meet each other at the lockers after lessons.

"Okay." There is a brief pause. "Bye."

Mary Anne hangs up. She checks the antique clock on the wall. She hurriedly grabs her coat and purse. She does not want to be late.

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Her boyfriend is cute.

He is gorgeous.

He is funny.

He is smart.

He is perfect.

Most of the time.

Logan Bruno and Mary Anne Spier have history. They dated for ten months in eighth grade, before breaking up. Mary Anne is glad, as they got to know one another as friends. That led to the fall of the sophomore year, when the two began a deeper relationship. Logan and Mary Anne have now been going out for fourteen months now. That is two years in total. They are very proud.

Logan is not today. He folds his arms and frowns.

"You're late."

Mary Anne frowns back at him, "Kristy called at the last moment. I'm sorry, Logan. It won't happen again."

She does not know the exact words she utters. Her memory likens to the weather this afternoon – a gray hazy day. She is dressed in the wrong clothes. She feels cold.

He clucks his tongue but kisses her on the lips. Lightly, but sweetly. Mary Anne does not enjoy public displays of affection. Logan must understand that.

He reaches for her hand and pulls her toward the aroma of salty popcorn and the squeals of excited children. His grip hurts. He pulls her too quickly. Mary Anne's boots have small heels and she stumbles, just as Logan tugs harder.

She nearly falls over, but he grabs her, and holds her tight, as if it were an accident. It is an accident, of course.

"You're so clumsy lately," he says affectionately. "You should be more careful."

Mary Anne knows much better than he does, that she should.

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Sharon Spier wants to be the perfect wife and mother. Mary Anne does not mind. Her natural mother died many years ago. She cannot remember living a womb for nine months, nor the countless feeds, cuddles and kisses. A teenage girl does not need these memories. These days, it is nice enough to have someone mature to go the mall with and discuss boys and fashion. .

It is warm in the kitchen. Her stepmother closes the oven and puts aside a gaudy pattered mitt. Mary Anne is beginning to dislike the spectrum.

"How was the movie?" The oven timer is set. Full attention is now set on her stepdaughter.

"Fun." Mary Anne wonders what has happened to her vocabulary, "Great."

Sharon seems slightly worried but does not say anything. She never does.

"You look very nice. I knew the sweater was a good buy."

"Thanks." Mary Anne wants to tell her how she is considering a new hairstyle but the words do not flow. Her bruised lips are glued shut.

"I have homework." She says instead. "Two essays. Call me if you need any help with dinner."

"Okay," Sharon pauses. "Mary Anne?"

"Yes?"

"You- you know I'm here if you need to talk, right honey?"

"Of course."

On her way out Mary Anne remembers to rescue the remote control from the sink.

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She wants to redecorate her room. Some days she wants to paint the walls black, throw away her stuffed toys and put a lock on her door. Other days it is just a case of wanting to move some posters and re-arranging the furniture. Either way it is too much effort.

Mary Anne has no homework that she is planning to do. She simply enjoys being by herself and her thoughts. Today the main feeling is guilt. She will focus on that.

Mary Anne is a very emotional person.

She puts on music. She never plays it loud enough to draw attention. She methodically peels off her sweater, and drapes it over a chair. It slips and lands upon a worn copy of Little Women.

She doesn't care because at the right angle, her mirror shows her back.

The bruises below her collarbone will fade soon. They have already existed for eight days. The proof always disappears. The pain is not hard to bear. She does not feel sad or angry. Mary Anne does not feel much these days. She understands her boyfriend. It is not his fault. She repeats this in her mind. He does not hit her every day. Nor every month. He loves her. She loves him. She could never imagine losing him. They are meant to be. Their friends and family also agree.

But, yet, Mary Anne still wants to cry. She scrunches her eyes and thinks of her mother, and all the wars and homicides on the news. She desperately needs a release. She knows lately how she has bottled up everything. She would scream, but someone would hear.

Today Mary Anne cannot cry. Her tears have run out. Her sockets are dry. She is empty.

There is nothing constant in her life. She knows far too well how she cannot rely on anything but herself anymore. Not even the boy she loves.

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