QUESTION ONE

Hey all,

Just a warning: this story is quiet dark and will deal with a lot of confronting issues. Preferably for mature readers.

This chapter is an intro so bare with me – it'll get better as Robin and Edward enter.

Rn'R

'Aunt Sarah?' Marian asked, her voice cold.

'Marian honey, what is it?' Sarah could tell something wasn't right from her niece's voice.

'She's dead. My mothers dead' Marian said as her hands begun to shake. She hung up quickly before her aunt could ask anything more. That's when the creaming started.

X

'Sweetheart?' Sarah asked her niece. She had just driven her home after the funeral. Her baby sister, her Kate, had died in a car accident two days ago. It had taken her an hour to drive to Canberra after she received the phone call. In the past forty-eight hours she hadn't seen Marian cry once. Not even at the funeral. No emotion, hardly any words, just…just nothing. 'Honey you need to pack'.

Marian snapped back to the present. In her mind, she was till there. Still singing along with Kylie Minogue and her mum in the car. Laughing, getting the lyrics wrong and singing in a pitch that would make Kylie shriek, her mother never saw the other car coming. They had gone at the green light. They had obeyed the law. The Volvo driver hadn't. He ploughed into them, high on ice. Her mother hadn't had to opportunity to say goodbye. No last words, no brave face – just a shit load of glass turning her face red and slitting her throat. It had been painless; she wouldn't have felt a thing – that's what the medics said. Marian escaped with only a few scratches. Her mother's corpse had protected her. Even in death, her mother saved her.

But now she was here and her mother wasn't. She was alone.

'I'm sorry, what?' Marian asked politely.

'We need to pack' Sarah explained.

A look of confusion burrowed Marian's forehead. Finally some emotion, Sarah thought. 'Pack? But…why? Aren't you going to move here? I didn't think you'd want me to move to the school in Goulburn'. Aunt Sarah lived just outside the capital city of Australia that Marian had called home for the past two years. She was a teacher at the local high school and probably wouldn't want to look biased with her niece attending her school.

'Marian honey…' Sarah didn't know how to say what she needed to. 'You're not going to be living with me in Goulburn'

'But I can't live alone – I'm only sixteen' Marian said still frowning. Suddenly it dawned on her – 'you're sending me to him aren't you? You're sending me to Alice Springs'.

Sarah nodded. 'It was…it was your mothers wish that you lived with him'.

'I don't believe you' Marian said, feeling waves of anger rack her body. 'my mother would never send me to live with that-that man!'.

Sarah watched her niece, suddenly regretting her wish of emotion and hoping she'd return to her previous stoic self. 'It was very clear in the will – She wanted him to take care of you'.

'How old's the will? It couldn't be recent. I hate him. He hates me. We'll kill one another in a week' Marian took a laboured breath to calm herself. 'Look, there must be some mistake. Surely I'm to live with you. I mean she knows….she knew…I hate him'.

'Marian' Sarah wondered if she should tell her. '…The will is seven months old. She wrote it knowing how you felt. I think… I think she wanted you two to reconcile. That's why she did it. She wanted you two to understand and get to know one another'.

Marian felt like her lungs had collapsed. 'No' she whispered. 'No, she would never send me to him…'

'I'm sorry honey…. Your flight leaves in three hours, whatever you can't pack now, I'll send in a few days' Sarah fought back tears, knowing it would be months before she saw Marian, her only living relative, again.

'Three hours?' Marian sounded faint. 'So soon?'

'He bought the tickets. Perhaps he thought it would be easier to get you out of this house…' Sarah rationalised.

'Typical' Marian kicked an empty box. '…So, my mother wanted us to reconcile?' her aunt nodded. Marian looked around her room. It was decorated with photos of her and her best friend – her mother. She had always been too smart and mature to relate to people her own age. She did have friends at school but mostly she tuned out of the conversations as they focussed on the latest Hollywood blockbuster and what celebrity was dating who. Her mother had taught her everything. Now, she was asking her for a favour – a massive favour. But she's given her so much, the least Marian could do was give it a try.

'All right. If 'm off to the middle of nowhere I three hours, I'll need more boxes to fit all my stuff' Marian tired to sound brave.

'Sweetie' her aunt walked over and engulfed her in a hug. Marian could feel her tears as they fell onto her shirt. 'Your mother would be so proud of you'.

Sarah had just lost her sister and now she'd be loosing her too – no – not losing. Marian hated to think her aunt would disappear from her life once she moved. More of Sarah's tears fell as the hug continued. 'I'll e-mail you – we'll talk on the phone…' she promised. Marian never cried. Not at sad movies, sappy love songs – not even at her mother's funeral. Her mother, and evidently Aunt Sarah, were the exact opposite. They sobbed at the slightest thing. Marian's mother often playfully referred to her as 'emotionally dead'. If she'd ever felt like crying, it was here, now. At the site of the crash, Marian had screamed. Screaming seemed more appropriate as the life of her best friend was cut away. But here, feeling the pain of her aunt, she wished she could cry. 'Don't worry…I'll be back. The second I'm eighteen I'll be leaving his house. Wether that's what mum would have wanted or not. Otherwise I'll be an orphan. One parent lost in an accident. One beaten to death with a shovel by his own daughter'.

Sarah's laugh was muffled as she pressed her face to Marian's hair. Secretly, she was wondering if it was a joke or a serious promise.