Last chapter. Yay! Look out for the sequel very soon. I hope you enjoy reading the end as I did writing it and the whole story. Bring on the sequel!!

New Beginnings

Chapter Twenty Six

Who would have thought that something little leads to everything you dreamt?
But when you wake, it's just in the middle.
A kiss between friends makes it a riddle: are we friends or so much more?
It's tough when the answer is right in the middle.
Well the thought of giving up, giving in, letting you go, is always on my mind.
Maybe we're just wasting time, how did we get so far?

Taylor was standing with Annie as she waited for her to empty her contents into her locker before they walked to the cafeteria together for lunch.

Taylor's day had gone as well as she suspected it to go, considering the circumstances, even if a day had passed since she had come to school following the weekend events. It was Tuesday and there were still students talking about Melissa, even though there had been plenty of scandal sparked across the school since yesterday, though she guessed an attempted suicide trumped all other school gossip.

Annie shut her locker door and began walking in sync with Taylor to the cafeteria.

When they made their way to the cafeteria, Taylor was immediately swamped by students who were talking loudly about a familiar subject—Melissa. She wasn't sure how much more she could take at listening to these people talk crap about Melissa. Sure, she hadn't exactly been one to stand up for her yesterday, but Melissa was still her family. Didn't they know that? Wait, of course they knew. She figured the entire populated school knew that she and Melissa were cousins. So what were they expecting? Did they want her to confront them all about how it wasn't right to talk trash about family? Yeah, maybe the time had come for her to finally stand up for her cousin.

God knows, she knew Melissa would do the same thing for her in a heartbeat. As Taylor slowly skimmed the cafeteria, looking for familiar faces—her friends—Taylor spotted them as they signalled her over to them but instead, Taylor made her way around the maze of tables to her junior friends, letting her bag drop to the floor as she got onto the vacant oblong seat in between two of her friends and stood on the table. It was then that everyone turned their heads toward her, watching what she was going to do next. Obviously, they were wondering what the hell was going on and why she was standing on a table.

Taylor whistled loudly. So she had the attention of students now, and all it took was to do something out of the ordinary. She felt strange standing on a table to confront the world or fellow peers but if this was what it took to get through to these people then so be it, she'd do it. She was just sorry she hadn't done it sooner, like yesterday. Instead, she allowed herself to be tortured and go through the day listening to what they were saying. It was complete nonsense.

"Right, so you all know about Melissa and I'm guessing you know that she's my cousin." She looked around the cafeteria, some people just finding out that she was related to Melissa.

"Yeah, well, I am, and sure, you may think that her trying to kill herself is news to share and spread through school but you know what? It's not. Not to me because she's apart of my family and to come to school and be forced to listen to you talk about my family is really annoying. Sure, I've tried to ignore the talk but I can't because all I can think about is that you're talking about someone close to me—someone I care about a lot. I know that Melissa has done a lot of mean things to some of you in which most of you are still getting over…" She looked up, gazing directly at both Cherie Reese and Gina Cho, refusing to show any form of a smile at them. They didn't deserve one. "But that's no excuse to continue to talk about something that's private, especially when half the shit you are gossiping about is not even the whole truth. What is this, Gossip Girl? Are you going to start telling the world about Melissa through some blog? Let me just say, this is not Gossip Girl. You are not Gossip Girl. Melissa is not Blair or Serena. She's Melissa and though she may carry some familiar traits as Blair, she's still Melissa and she's still my cousin so get over it. Get a life. Find something else to do with your time like I don't know…school work, friends or some kind of extra-curricular activity if you find studying boring…I don't care, but stop spreading lies about my family because I am so sick of hearing you talk about her. It does not concern you. It's a family matter so please have some dignity in allowing me and my family to deal with this on our own. Is that alright with you? Good. Thank you."

She didn't know why she had thanked them but she figured it was the right thing to do—sort of. And without stopping to look at anyone's faces, besides her boyfriend and Will who both looked impressed to see that she had finally braved her emotions and fears to do something about the Melissa situation, Taylor stepped off the table, turning toward the door of the cafeteria as she headed out into the hallway. She didn't feel like eating anymore—well, not in there where she'd have everyone's eyes constantly on her after that speech she had made. It was bad enough that it had come to the point where she actually had to get up and make a statement.

She really wasn't in a mood to watch everyone gawk at her while she tried to eat her lunch. Then again, she probably wouldn't be able to eat, knowing that people were staring at her. it made her feel as though she was back at the start of the school year all over again when she returned to school following the earthquake and the accident that had happened to her as a result of the earthquake. Though she was also glad she had found the courage to stand up for Melissa. Now if only she could find it enough to take the next step and go see Melissa in the hospital.

As the bell rang to signal the end of lunch, Taylor caught sight of Will standing at his locker and walked toward him. She had something to tell him.

"Thanks," she said, her mouths curved into an upwards grin, making him turn around and look at her.

He raised his eyebrows slightly.

"What did I do?" he asked.

"Yesterday when you tried to get me to go and see Melissa, you made me realise that I do need to face up to recent events whether I want to or not. I need to accept all that has happened despite not knowing what will happen as a result of things I've previously said. And I…just figured that telling people off for talking crap about Melissa would be a start. I was sick of Melissa being the topic of discussion anyway. So thank you."

"Your welcome," Will said, looking puzzled but still took credit for something he had supposedly helped her to come to terms with. Who was he to say no to a compliment coming from Taylor? She rarely dished a compliment, especially to him. Maybe now was his chance to entice her to see Melissa in the hospital even if he too hadn't seen her since Sunday when he said goodbye while she was sleeping, though his involvement with Melissa differed slightly to Taylor's.

"So does this mean you're going to go and see Melissa?"

But all that Taylor replied was, "Can't talk. I'll be late to History."

And as Will watched her rush down the hall through the crowd of students also making their way to class, he knew that she had intentionally bypassed a conversation with him as a means to ignore answering his question. Though she had stood up to everyone at school who were gossiping about Melissa, she had yet been to visit her in the hospital. Maybe she was one step away from forgiving herself so that she could go and make peace with Melissa once and for all. Then again, maybe he needed to stop letting his brain do the thinking and take his own thoughts into consideration as well.

Friday afternoon after the final bell had rung, Taylor rushed out of her last class, eager to get to her locker so that she could dump the books she didn't need to take home with her and then catch up to Conner because she had something to ask him.

It had been three days ago since she had gone off with her rant to the entire student body and she was glad she had done it because in three days, a lot had changed—for the better. No longer did she hear or become a witness to students talking about Melissa and her attempted suicide. Apparently, what she had said had sunk into their brains and they soon realised that it had nothing to do with them, that it was a private matter involving family—one they were not a member of. Taylor also suspected she had become some kind of person whom no one wanted to mess with because she noticed people she didn't know would close up whenever she passed them in the halls.

But it wasn't something Taylor was even remotely concerned about. Her friends and fellow classmates all thought she was brave to stand on a table and confront the school about gossip that was making the rounds at school. No one had ever been daring enough to take stand—no one, except for Taylor. She was the first. Nothing had changed. The people who knew her the most all knew that she hadn't turned into a mean girl. She was still the same Taylor everyone knew and loved. She was just standing up for what she believed in—her family.

Once she had finished at her locker, closing it shut, she, along with every other student, rushed down the halls as they went about their destinations to either their lockers or out the front door to the car park. Rounding a corner, Taylor managed to spot her tall blonde haired boyfriend talking to Andy as he leaned up against a bunch of lockers.

She hurried over toward the two of them, resting her hand on Conner's as she smiled sweetly.

"Hi," she said.

Conner looked down and acknowledged his girlfriend, taking hold of her hand and interlacing it with his own.

"Hi, Andy," she said. She looked up at Conner. Standing at five foot one, Conner was good few feet that towered over her so on most occasions when she wasn't wearing heeled shoes; she needed to tilt her head to look up at him and everyone else she knew. She wasn't the tallest person around but thankfully, she wasn't the one of the shortest person in her circle of friends either. Tia was about the same height as she was. "I need to talk to you." And as she pulled Conner away, she turned back to Andy, "Bye Andy."

Not knowing what else to say but rather being Andy, he waved back at her and shrugged his shoulders as he went back to the contents inside his locker.

"What's up?" Conner asked.

Taylor pulled him aside out of the way of other students and stepped as close to Conner that she could just make out his scented aftershave without violating the school's code of conduct while on school premises. She traced her finger along his chest-clad t-shirt. "You know you're the sweetest boyfriend…" she murmured softly.

Conner brought his head down to hers, their hands connecting together and raising them slightly above waist level as their mouths collided with each other in one quick kiss.

"OK…" he responded when he pulled away, his breath becoming hot on her lips with every word he spoke. "You have my undivided attention but you don't need to butter me up to get it. What's up?" he asked again.

"I have a favour to ask of you." She answered simply.

Conner groaned in a humorous way like doing a favour for Taylor was such a huge task to make of.

Taylor scowled, lightly smacking him across his chest. "I know you're only joking but it's not funny because I don't ask for much."

"Until now…"

"Shut up." Taylor narrowed her eyes at him. "Will you come to the hospital with me?" She watched his green eyes widened in surprise, prompting her to continue. "Yes, I'm finally going to go and see Melissa. Don't look at me like that. It's not that much of a shock you know."

"It's just that on Tuesday you stood up for Melissa and we were all thinking that you had made progress to go and see Melissa in the hospital but you didn't."

"What's your point?"

"Today's Friday. It's taken you three days—no, a week to figure out when you're going to visit her. Why don't you wait to see her at home? Isn't she going home tomorrow?"

"So my mum said but I don't want to wait. I have to see her today while she's still in the hospital. So will you come with me?" Taylor pleaded, batting her eye lashes as her eyes sparkled. "I don't like going to hospitals alone."

Though, it was the truth, she also dreaded going to see Melissa on her own. She didn't know what to expect from her cousin whom she had practically disowned a week ago. Would she even be welcome in her room after everything she had said to her? She wanted the support of her boyfriend and friend beside her when she met with Melissa.

"Well, since you put it so nicely, how can I refuse?" Conner said, pulling Taylor closer towards him as they started on down the hall. "So what made you change your mind?"

"I don't know," she said as Conner pushed open the door at the front entrance of the school.

"Maybe there were two people who made me see reason to—ooh, there's Will. I've got to talk to him about something. I'll meet you at your car."

"Will!" Taylor called out as she went her separate way from Conner once they both reached the bottom of the steps.

Will turned his head from where he was standing with a bunch of his football buddies.

"Can I talk to you for a quick second?" she asked.

"Uh…sure," Will replied, and before he could get a second word in edge wise, she had pulled him aside from his football mates who stood there smirking.

"What's up, Taylor?" Will asked. He and Taylor had never really shared a conversation at school together or gone out of their way to start one with each other so he was intrigued to know what this was about.

Taylor clasped her hands together. "I'm going to the hospital this afternoon."

"You are? That's great. Melissa will be psyched to see you."

Taylor squirmed. "Yeah," she muttered, running her hand through her wispy hair. There wasn't a sure part in her yeah. She didn't know if Melissa would be happy to see her but she didn't want Will or anybody else for that matter to know what she was really thinking. "And I want you to come with me."

Will raked a hand through his scruffy blonde hair.

"I don't know…" he stammered, not sure what to say, though he figured his disbelief expression on his face said all that was needed without words.

"C'mon." Taylor poked, refusing to take no for an answer. "I don't know what is going on between you guys but whatever it is, you'll work it out. You always do. Besides, I know for a fact that you haven't visited her since Sunday. If I know Melissa and I think I do then she'll want to see her boyfriend and cousin together plus her cousin's boyfriend."

"Conner's coming too?"

Taylor nodded her head. "Yeah, I roped him into coming too. I can be pretty persuasive when I need to be." She sheepishly smiled, flicking her hair over her shoulder. "Please come with me."

Okay, so he and Melissa had called it quits, but Taylor didn't know that small detail. Maybe it was a good idea to go visit Melissa. Maybe he should clear the air with his ex girlfriend, but maybe if she saw him in her room then she'd get the wrong impression and think that their break up wasn't really real, that they were still a couple. Will didn't know but what he did know was that he couldn't turn down Taylor's offer.

He couldn't break her heart when yesterday he had talked to her as he tried to get her to deal with all that that happened between her and Melissa and then with Melissa's attempted suicide. Obviously, his little talk had worked. He couldn't go back on his word now. He had said that he'd be there for her. He was going to be there for her—even if it killed him to think he could confuse his ex girlfriend on where he stood in regards to a relationship with her.

He let out a silent sigh as he slung his back pack over one shoulder and gripped it tight, showing a small smile that he knew he could handle.

"OK, then. I'll come with you."

Taylor's face lit up expectantly, as she leaned forward on her feet ad hugged him. "Great, so," she pointed backwards. "I'll meet you there."

When Taylor left him, Will watched her make her way through the car park to Conner's beat up Mustang, all the while saying to himself that this was a good thing. Maybe this whole ordeal would bring him closer to Melissa in a way where they could still sustain a relationship in the form of being friends. Well, he knew it was a long shot, but it was worth a try wasn't it? He was about to find out.

Taylor stood outside Melissa's room with Conner and Will behind her as she contemplated her decision to see her cousin in bed. She knew that the time had come for her to face the music and see her but maybe Conner was right. Maybe she should just wait to see her when she was at home. She knew her surroundings. At least if she got kicked out of the room then she didn't have to have doctors and nurses witness the explosive scene. It would be her family at home and they had all seen it before. There was no real surprise there. Though, she had said she was ready to finally see Melissa, it was one thing to say it and another to have her words become a reality.

Taylor felt Conner place his hands on her shoulders. "You okay?" he asked her.

"Yeah, you don't have to do this if you don't want to," Will said.

Taylor looked back at Will, giving him a strange expression, then she turned back to look straight at the door.

"No, I can do this…but I think I need to do it alone. I just need a minute with her on my own. Okay?"

Will and Conner didn't say anything as Taylor pushed open the heavy hospital door and stepped into the room. As she closed the door softly and slowly turned around, her eyes fell onto a sight of Melissa she hadn't seen in a while.

Melissa was sitting in a vinyl hospital chair, the sun streaming in through the window she sat near as the light shone against her brown hair, making it glisten into a shade of red.

Melissa looked up from her book and showed a smile.

"Hi," she said.

Well, at least she appears happy to see me, Taylor thought. I suppose it's a start.

Taylor held onto her arm. "Hi." She returned with a smile.

Melissa rested the book she was reading down on the arm of the chair.

"You don't need to put the book down on account of me."

"No, it's okay. I've read too much of it already. I need a break." Melissa stood up and gently made her way back to the bed, pulling the covers half over her as she got in. She motioned for Taylor to take a seat in the now vacant chair. Taylor felt out of place in the room but she did as Melissa had suggested and sat down.

"So how are you?" Taylor asked her, not knowing what else to say. She didn't exactly want to sit there in silence. Something had to be said. Someone had to be the first to talk. Maybe it had to be her.

Melissa shrugged. Taylor noticed that she looked the same as she usually did when she wasn't wearing make-up, despite the fact that her face was still a little washed out and pale which was expected given the ordeal she had put herself through.

According to her mother, Melissa was recovering well as she begun to get the colour back into her face and Taylor noticed it as well even if she could only assume what she had looked like when she was first brought into the hospital. She didn't have any tubes connected to her so she figured that Melissa was on the mends of getting better.

"As good as I should be I guess. I can't wait to get out of hospital. There's only so much you can do here and daytime television gets boring once you've watched soap after soap which is why I've resorted to reading books and magazines. But at least it has allowed me to catch up on my guilty pleasure shows. And as for the food, it's—"

"No home cooked meal," Taylor cut in with a laugh. "I can relate. I know what it's like. I had to eat it the entire summer I was in here after the earthquake."

"Well, you take the cake. But we've got to eat it because it's not like we've got any other meal plan to choose from."

There was a brief silence between the two of them with Taylor unsure as to what she should say. She couldn't believe that it had come to this between them, that they were actually discussing the food service in the hospital.

But she couldn't leave it like this. She wasn't able to ignore the problems that had arisen in their relationship that caused their fallout. It was not possible to ignore. If Melissa wasn't going to bring it up then she was going to have start the conversation she dreaded.

"Look, I'm sorry I—"

But before Taylor could finish her sentence, Melissa cut her off and spoke, "It is fine. Don't be sorry. I don't hold any form of resentment towards you because of what you said to me. At the time, I did but now I realise that you were telling me the hard way that you don't need me telling you how you should be living your life. I get it now. I really do. And I am sorry. You're entitled to be with whoever you want. I'm not going to stand in your way anymore. I suppose I'll come to like Conner now that you're with him. If anything, this has taught me that I can't try to control everyone around me because in the end, I only end up pushing the people I respect the most away from me. So anyway, thank you for visiting me, but honestly I wasn't expecting you to visit me at all. Not with the way I treated you."

Taylor rested her hands in her lap. "I wasn't sure if you'd want to come after all the horrible things that I said to you. That's why I haven't come to see you until now."

"I deserved everything you said to me. I wasn't being a supportive cousin to you and the decisions you make. But I'd like to make up it up to you. Do you think it's possible to call a truce?" she asked and this time, unlike any other time when Melissa didn't mean what she said, Taylor was certain she was meaning every word that came out of her mouth. Could it be that she had actually turned over a new page and come out a different person—a Melissa people could actually stand to be around. Had she really changed for the better? Was she determined to accept the mistakes she had made and make right with the people she had either hurt or destroyed in an attempt to seek justice to whoever had tried to walk over her? Was she changing her old ways? Taylor didn't doubt that she couldn't but could Melissa just sit back and do nothing while someone walked all over her?

Her motto had been that no one walked over Melissa Fox because she didn't allow it. And if they did, then there'd be hell to pay and the repercussions of betrayal were never pretty—you just had to look at Jessica to see how far she could go in her state to stay on top of the ball.

Was it possible to have a truce called? Taylor didn't doubt the fact that she had changed complete. It was Melissa after all, but for the sake of a family member, she was at least going to give her the benefit of the doubt and call a truce. Maybe Melissa would prove her wrong and change for the better. Taylor would be the first to congratulate her if it happened. But there was also a chance where she'd go back on her word and the second someone went out of their way to undermine her, the claws would come out and there'd be a fight on her hands.

"Well…I don't think it's entirely impossible," Taylor pondered, chewing on her finger nail. "You're my cousin. We can't hate each other forever."

Melissa leaned forward in bed and reached out with open arms to embrace Taylor. After their hug, Taylor retreated to sit on the edge of the bed and stared at Melissa with curious eyes. "So you're getting out of here tomorrow, right?"

Melissa nodded her head and smiled. "Yep, but the doctor wants me to seek counselling once or twice a week…but I don't know if I want to go to some shrink and tell them everything I'm feeling."

Taylor showed her a serious look. "Liss, I think you should seriously consider going. The doctor wouldn't have brought it up if he didn't think it would be best for your recovery."

Taylor watched Melissa squirm with uneasiness. She knew all too well what the scrunched up nose meant.

"C'mon, please just give counselling a go. If you don't do it for yourself then for me…and Will because we'd like to see you well and not hurting."

"Fine, I'll consider it." Melissa sighed heavily. "Speaking of Will, has he—"

"Been to see you?" Taylor asked. Melissa nodded her head, her eyes bleak with uncertainty. "Yeah, he was here on Sunday but he's been keeping busy with football practice so he hasn't had much of a chance to see you but I'm sure he'll be the first to go and see you when you get home."

"You don't know do you?" Melissa tried to get out but somehow the words came out in a jumble and she was sure Taylor didn't understand a word of what she said. It was all so surreal and Melissa was still trying to get her head around the fact that Will had dumped her. He had dumped her. She couldn't believe it. She thought that she and Will would be together forever. Okay, so she wasn't a psychic and she didn't know what the unforeseeable future would hold nor did she own a crystal ball but she at least saw herself and Will being together until the end of summer before they both went away to college—either together or alone. After college, then who knew what would happen.

Though, she also knew that she couldn't let the break up get to her. She had learnt not to dwell on something for too long during the one hour therapy session she had sat in on with four other patients who had been admitted for unknown reasons. It wasn't that she had wanted to go to it but she had been advised that it was a good idea by one of the nurses and it wasn't as if she had a lot to do during the day other than read a book, catch up on school work or watch television. So she went and she had to admit that she had come out of the meeting learning some good tips for helping herself.

Obviously, Melissa was right because Taylor rose to her feet and went to the door. "Actually, Will is out in the hall waiting to see you."

Melissa couldn't help but light up with a smile. She knew that this visit may not mean anything to getting back together but still, she was just grateful to know he had come to the hospital to see her when she was awake. When she had awoken on Sunday, the nurse had come in to check on her and then write down their notes on the pad at the front of her bed and told her that she had had a rather cute visitor come in and see her with flowers. Melissa could only have guessed it would have been Will and at the time, her heart had leapt slightly. It meant he still cared about her even if they weren't together anymore.

"He is?"

"He's with Conner. I'll tell them to come in."

And as Taylor opened the door, Conner entered followed by Will, his face austere with hesitation like he wasn't sure whether he should be there or not. There was a part of him that wanted to bail right then and there but another part of him felt inclined to stay and so with reason, he chose to stay there. Who knows, maybe some form of closeness he'd share with his ex would help the both of them make a transition in their own lives to move on from this and their break up.

Melissa propped herself up on the pillows behind her. "Hi, guys," she said.

And as Conner and Will returned a hello back, both made themselves comfortable in the room. Unable to be close to Melissa, Will sat down in the chair while Conner took a seat behind Taylor on the bed.

For a while, there was utter silence as the four of them sat together, searching for something to say, neither of them wanting to go first. It had never been the four of them in one room before. There was always another of friends from their circle to break up the pattern of having four unary strangers together. Except for the sounds of a functioning hospital outside, could they only hear the heaviness of people breathing, anticipating the next conversation they were about to have.

Will drew in a deep breath before thinking that this was nonsensical. Someone had to say something. They didn't just come here to do nothing.

He looked down at the floor, searching for something to say—anything.

"So, did Taylor tell you how she stood up to all the rumours people were spreading about you in the cafeteria the other day?"

Melissa looked over at Taylor. "No, she didn't tell me…"

Taylor looked over to her side and glared at Will. "And I'm sure she doesn't want to know about how she was the talk of the school."

Melissa blinked. "Wait, was?" She asked, catching on to the emphasised part of it.

"Yeah, my girl embraced her beliefs and spoke out on behalf of you to the entire lunch time crowd in the cafeteria," Conner said, his arms moved from his sides to around Taylor's waist as he gently hugged her.

Melissa smiled at the sight. Maybe she had been wrong about the two of them being together as a couple. Maybe Conner would be good for Taylor.

"She stood on a table," Will added.

"Okay, she gets it. She doesn't need to know the whole story," Taylor said.

"Yes I do. C'mon, tell me." Melissa folded her legs up under the blankets, resting her hands in her lap.

It wasn't like she thought that no one would have heard about her. She knew that word would get around about her and that people would be talking about her. It wasn't the first time she had gotten people talking about her. But she also wanted to know what people were saying about her. Even though she wasn't there in school to hear it herself, she still needed to know what was happening before she went back to school the following morning. It was just so she had a heads up.

"Please," Melissa pleaded with big eyes.

Taylor let out a sigh. "Fine, but don't say I didn't warn you. It's really boring, but as I…"

And as Taylor retold the story, laughing and smiles were all around as four complete opposites were thrust together under a unique situation. They all realised that this wasn't the end. It was the beginning of something new, exciting, intense and maybe even frightening in some parts. But that was the whole purpose of high school. No one knew what was ahead for them. Nothing was certain. They didn't know what the rest of the year would bring. It was still a mystery to them, but they knew that they were going to have fun finding out. This was only the beginning...