"...A single moment of understanding can flood a whole life with meaning."
~ Anonymous


Ragweeds.
Chapter Four : A Silence Deserved.
Edward's been in the industrial group home for four and a half months, by the time Bella arrives. This is where they meet. (Remember, they are angry and confused.)
PICTURES of The Volturi Center in profile. (Please know that I've never stepped foot in one of those buildings, and the pics are missing locks, etc, but... you can use your imagination on the parts left out.)
*** IMPORTANT NOTE: Next Monday, there might NOT be a RW update. It's my 25th birthday on the 30th of November, and I may be going out. Be prepared, just in case.

Special Shout-Out's:
-- To my faithful readers/reviewers/twilighters/lexiconers.... thank you for providing feedback and for supporting this story, recc'ing it to others and especially reviewing. It means a lot. Come chat with me on Twilighted, okay? Link is in profile.
-- To my lovey, my beta, Caryn (Jazz Girl)... thank you for being the wall I can lean on through the rocky times. You're strong and sure, and you give me hope that I can someday be the same and stop doubting things. Even the littlest things.
-- Again, thanks to Kayla (OpenHome) & Aura (Rebecca's Mom) for all your help with the pictures and the information. I owe you both!
Disclaimer: I own nothing that is Twilight or Stephenie Meyer related. (But I busted my ass to write this story. Do not take what is not yours.)


"I swear to God we've been down this road before.
The guilt's no good, and it only shames us more.
And the truths that we all try to hide, are so much clearer when it's not our lives.
...When we don't face the blame.
Won't you (get on your knees) believe (have faith) in this lie with us all?
But now my body's on the floor, and I am calling, well I'm calling out to you...
...Can you hear me now?"
~ Framing Hanley, "Hear Me Now"


Chapter Four : A Silence Deserved.

EdwardPOV

"Yo, Copperhead," the black-haired boy with the chipped front tooth said as he slid across the wooden bench, slamming hard into my right side. "You got a light?"

I looked over and glared at him. I hadn't cared enough to memorize his name when he introduced himself to me weeks back. He had the attitude of a four year old. "No."

He glanced at the small blue lighter in my hand and laughed. "Bullshit. I know you do. I see it, man. Give me."

I turned away from him and stared out at the trees, ignoring the curse words that flew from his lips and the traffic in front of the building. I wasn't giving him my lighter. He could fend for himself. We weren't supposed to have them in the first place.

This was what I had become. Was I bitter? Sour? Upset? Hurt? Conflicted? That's what all the counselors, all the therapists, and all the caseworkers said right before they tried to pry information out of me. Even my mother's lawyer, Phil Dwyer, said that. And they were right. Damn straight they were. I had reason to be.

There were a few things I'd learned during my stay at the Volturi Center For Children, or as most called it, "The Volt":

One; anger has an extensive appetite. It's never satisfied. It eats and eats and eats until it consumes every single cell in your body. And then it uses you as its fuse.

Two; anger is infectious. Once it comes out of you, it latches onto someone else, then the next person, then the next, spreading like ivy up, down, and across the brick building I'd been trapped in for months now. It uses everyone, takes away all their energy, darkens their eyes, bruises their cheeks. Everyone in this building was angry about something. There was no good day. If, by some slim chance, you woke up with a smile, it was quickly wiped away once someone accused you of stealing something of theirs or told you to get out of a public room like they own it.

And the final thing I'd learned was to trust no one. No one wanted to be your friend. No one wanted to hear your sob story. Some claimed they did, they would even nod and smile as you spilled your guts. But it was all a game. If you gave them any important piece of information that they could use against you, you'd find yourself under the bus faster than you could blink. They only used it to get ahead of the pack, to be the next one out.

"Please man?" he said, watching the flame flare and disappear as I flicked the lighter. "Copperhead? Yo, come on, man."

"I said no," I pronounced each word bitterly, glaring at him. He was the one who sold me out two months ago. He overheard me telling someone else something private about my mother. Told one person, who told fifty, and then he almost got placed. Didn't, but almost. It was enough for me to want to burn his fucking eyelashes off.

The boy scoffed and rose from the table, kicking the edge of my bench with the sole of his worn tennis shoe. "Asshole."

Unbothered, I ran the edge of the orange flame around the middle of my open palm. Each time it touched me, it reminded me of the dream I had, where my mother burst into flames while my father's huge hands reached down to choke her. The night of the revolving door, in my memory. The night she killed my father by pulling a trigger and blowing his face all over the walls. That dream was a warning. A game. Another test I failed.

"Edward, why don't you want to talk about it?" one of the caseworkers asked me a few weeks back, as he fiddled with his mustache.

"I have nothing to say," I shrugged.

"Why not?" the next therapist pried. She always kept a yellow notepad in her lap but never wrote on it. She tapped her pen on the binding that kept the sheets together. That was all the action it got.

"You tell me," I replied, never meeting her eyes. "You're the therapist."

"Edward, this isn't healthy for you," the counselor with the long blonde hair sighed as she adjusted her black-rimmed glasses. I had endured weeks of this. My answers didn't change. I didn't know what they wanted from me. My soul? Take it. "You need to let it out. There's still hope for a full recovery."

A full recovery? I wished I could throw the chair that I was sitting in across the room. How the hell was that supposed to happen? My father's dead. My mother's in the mental ward of a hospital in the south side of Seattle. I dealt with court hearings every fucking week; lawyers, judges, caseworkers. More and more and more never-ending questions. Every day, I received constant damned reminders of how shitty my life had been for the last sixteen and a half fucking years, and they were trying to tell me there was still hope for a full recovery? There'd never been anything to recover from! There'd never been any other way of life for me.

They didn't know a god damn thing about me and what I'd been through. They didn't even give a shit. They just wanted to look like someone who does something important and then get paid for their polite smile and concerned eyes. The same smile and eyes that were mirrored on each of their faces at different times, in different offices. The same fake-as-fuck expression. That day, I just exhaled and fiddled with the broken plastic piece on my brown shoe string. "I don't believe in hope, Miss Montgomery. And I don't think a recovery is going to change a thing."

"Everyone should believe in something, Edward."

Yep. The typical, get-you-to-talk response. It worked for the first week I was there, when I trusted them.

"You're right," I told her as she glanced at her watch, noticing our meeting was up. She never looked more relieved. "I believe in two things. Two things are certain in this world. One, life is shitty and it only gets better when you die. And two, death is certain."

She stood up from her chair, dusted off her pants, and gathered her things. "Great. I think we've made progress, don't you?"

She hadn't listened to a word I said. I wasn't surprised. I gave her the same fake smile she'd given me the entire hour.

Miss Montgomery continued anyway. "I'll talk to your other counselors and your therapist about it. We'll pick back up on this next week."

I scoffed and watched her walk away, hurrying as the door to her freedom inched closer. Just as I'd done every week since I've been here. Like I said. No one wants to hear your sob story. Not even the help. The only thing that would change would be extra eyes watching, and more utensils taken away. I wasn't allowed a fork or a knife. I also wasn't allowed a razor to shave or scissors to cut my hair. Their fears that I would kill myself intensified with each meeting I had, because when I spoke, it was often "too dark" for someone my age, things I should not be saying. But, I wasn't suicidal and I'm not a murderer. If I was going to kill myself, I would have let my father do it one of the million and one opportunities he'd had. Sometimes, I still wonder why I didn't let him.

"Hey Edward," the girl with a sweet smile and shiny hair said as she sat beside me on the park bench. She was the only person I cared to speak with here at the time, the only nice one around. I liked her. I memorized her name when she introduced herself the first week I arrived. "This seat taken?"

I looked over to her and shook my head. She lost both parents to a car accident. No relatives. Been in and out of foster homes since she was nine, and yet somehow, she still smiles. I wished I had her courage. "How are you doing, Angela?" I asked as she ran her fingers through her hair and stared into space.

"Hungry," she replied with a shrug and a frown. "Alec took my tray again today. This is the third time this week."

I glanced over my shoulder at the childish boy who had asked me for my lighter earlier. He was taunting anyone who'd pay attention to him. "That Alec?"

"The one and the same," she retorted. "Don't worry about it. I can wait until lunch."

I lifted my bookbag from between my legs, dusted the dirt from the bottom, and unzipped it. I looked around to make sure no one was watching, then removed a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. Swiftly, I slid it under her hands. "He'll get what's coming to him," I said, nodding toward the bag.

She grinned and tore it open, plowing into it. "Thank you so much, Edward. I owe you."

"Don't worry about it," I sighed as I glanced back up at the trees. The wind was blowing in a different direction than it had in months. I knew what that meant. My mother had been right when she spoke about the wind. It always brought change. I learned it that night, and I'd never ignore her words again. Even now. "I have plenty."

She grinned and chewed in silence next to me through the remainder of our lunch break. We did our best to ignore the hall monitors in the corners.

No one gave us any privacy here. Silence didn't exist.


BellaPOV

I pressed my forehead to the cool glass, watching the traffic die down and the roads get dirtier. I'd never been on this side of Seattle before, and obviously with good reason. It didn't look promising.

They gave me twenty minutes. That was it. Twenty minutes from the time she was officially pronounced dead to the time I was driven to my house and told to gather everything I could. "I'm sorry," the lady from Children's Services said quietly. "You won't be coming back for anything left behind."

My mom had a plan for me if anything were to happen to her. Accordingly, the court immediately awarded guardianship of me to my grandmother, who was also given most everything my mom owned. Sounds great, right? I mean family's important, yes? Hardly. And here's why: My mom hated my grandmother. And vice versa.

When I said I only had my mom, I meant it. She was it. She was my mom, my sister, my confidante, my teacher, and my best friend. Fame came with decisions, and when her family didn't approve of whatever she did to get to where she was, they pushed her away, closed the door, and threw away the key. They never tried to contact us. They never tried to send gifts, or cards, or make a phone call to ask how we'd been all those years. And now I was supposed to live with them?

I lasted nine days there. From the moment I walked into the house, all I heard was, "I told her not to get involved in that type of scene. It's blasphemy. Nothing good comes from it. Hollywood is filled with demons and whores, and your mother fell into both traps." All my aunts and uncles and cousins spoke about was my mom's will, trying to decipher why she left most of it to them and who got what. The only thing I could figure was that maybe she thought they'd give me the chance they never gave her. That they'd grow to love me and care for me.

Ha! They never even looked my way unless they wanted to know about our estate in California or how to access my mom's bank account. They wanted all the dirt. More, more, more. It didn't matter that the fine print of the will suggested that I'd earn a part of her estate after my twenty-first birthday. I didn't know what "earn" meant, but if it suggested I'd earn it through them, I could kiss it goodbye. And that's what I did. Kissed it all goodbye.

I wasn't Isabella Swan-Harris any longer. I was a picture frame on a wall. A broken lamp in the corner. No one asked me how my day was, how I was feeling, what I was going through, if I needed anything. No one cared.

So I grew angry. I threw a fit when they looked my direction or asked me a question from down the hall. I got mad when they sifted through my bags, trying to figure out if I was hiding anything valuable. I didn't want to look in the mirror anymore. I had too much of her in me, and I hated it. I hated seeing her eyes, her smile, her nose, her fingers... all these traits mixed within my own. It wasn't enough. There was still some of me in there, and that meant there wasn't enough of her. There'd never be enough. I'd never have her back. She'd never be mine again.

After I locked myself in the upstairs bedroom for four days, wallowing over pictures of us and not eating anything, my grandmother had had enough. "Come get this child," she shouted over the phone. "She's no better off than where her mother is now."

None of my mom's remaining family members even offered condolences. They didn't want me. I was a troublemaker, a spoiled brat, they said. "She can find her own way," my aunt Tasha scoffed as I shoved my dirty clothes into a garbage bag. I never unpacked anything else. I knew I wouldn't last there, not with my mom's temper. "She'll see how tough the world is when she steps away from mommy's money."

I didn't say goodbye when I climbed into the car. They took everything my mother worked hard for, everything she'd earned. I didn't owe them anything else.

"You might like it here," my new caseworker sighed, snapping me out of my thoughts as she flipped her shades to the top of her blonde locks. "Give it a chance, Isabella."

"Bella," I quickly corrected her, shuddering slightly as I fought to keep my eyes open. I watched the grey clouds gather. The forecast called for rain all week. "It's... just Bella now, please."

"Well," she cleared her throat. "Bella. Give it a chance, okay? There's plenty of kids going through the same things you are, or something like it. You'll be able to relate easier to them. Try to... make some friends."

I rolled my eyes and stared out, watching a homeless man push a wobbly shopping cart across the street. He had two empty cans inside of it, one with a Bud Light label, the other Bush's Baked Beans. They were his valuables, and sadly, I felt he had more than I did at that moment. I didn't even have a heart to beat in my chest, it felt. All that was there was hollow.

I fought to keep it together as we pulled my things from her trunk. I didn't take a moment to glance outside the long, dirty building being eaten by moss and ivy. I was sure I'd have plenty of chances to get familiar with it.

Rosalie led me through the double doors, toward a lady behind a desk. After some paperwork, she and the older lady walked me down the crowded hall, toward the girl's wing. She explained that there were over a hundred kids, gave me an overview of the rules, and said if I needed anything to not hesitate to ask. "With as many occupants as we have, it may take a while to get it, but we'll do our best," she reassured me. Kids sneered and stared and gossiped as we passed. A girl with long brown hair laughed as the boy beside her whispered not too carefully, "Money, definitely." I didn't glance back at them. They looked dangerous.

As the volume in the hall lowered and people scattered, we entered a room to the right with blood red walls and seven sets of black metal bunk beds. There was a place for a few items of clothing, a couple of end tables, and a row of lock boxes. Not much else. She pointed to an empty bunk bed and, without thinking, I tossed my bag on it.

"Oh no, no, no," the old lady said as Rosalie lifted my bag from the bed. "You don't want to do that, darling. People around here will mistake your trash bag for Santa's bag of presents. Over there, that closet with a lock is yours, as is this lock box down here. Only I have a copy of the key, and we only use it if we feel you're hiding something illegal in there." I shuddered when she called me darling, and basically blocked everything else out. It all hurt. It just hurt too much.

I tugged on my sleeve.

The tour progressed, and she introduced me to some of the counselors, therapists, and nurses, and then showed me the common areas such as the restrooms, entertainment areas, cafeteria, kitchen, and a recreational places outside. I couldn't control the toss and turn of my stomach, the consistent urge to vomit. This had become my life? This had to be a dream. I wanted to wake up and find I was happily wrapped in my mom's arms. I wanted to hear her light, wine-induced snore in the back of my hair.

As we stood outside in the backyard where everyone was, I looked up at the murky sky, fighting back tears.

"Well," Rosalie said, giving me a supportive smile. "I'll be back in a week to check your progress. Here's my card. Call me if you need anything, do you understand?"

I nodded and shoved the piece of paper into my back pocket.

She studied me momentarily, and her smile fell into a slight frown. "You'll be okay, Bella. I promise."

I swallowed hard and broke eye contact with her. "Sure," I shrugged, tapping my toe against a root sticking out of the ground. "See you soon."

She nodded her head and quickly dropped her sunglasses back to her face, sniffling softly. "See you soon, kid."

"I'll walk you out," the old lady said, leaving me to myself.

I stared numbly at Rosalie's retreating form, and my heart clenched with each foot between us. She seemed so nice. New at her job, but nice. Polite. Kind. Young. Beautiful. I wondered momentarily what her life was like, if she had any children, if she was married. I wished she liked me enough to take me with her.

A lady called for everyone outside to come in, and then people were shoving by me, pushing me out of the way, eventually into the wall. "Watch it, puta!" one girl with frizzy hair spat as she glared me up and down. "You's ain't gonna last long if you keep steppin' on people's toes and gettin' in their way."

"S-Sorry," I muttered, shivering at our height difference. At the way she dwarfed my frame. "I didn't mean to."

She scoffed and shook her head, clicking her tongue as people around her laughed and passed us by. "And you apologize? I give you a week with that pretty face still attached, tops."

I looked away and closed my eyes as she and her friend laughed and entered the building, murmuring about how I was going to get it.

Fighting the urge to cry, I cradled my chest with both arms, barely holding the pieces of my shattered existence together. I really, really didn't want to be here.

Please wake up Bella, I whispered to myself as the cold breeze blew the hair off of my shoulders. Wake up and be with your mom again. Warm in your bed. You'll have your dog back, and he'll be laying at your feet. Wake up, wake up, wake up...

I said it and said it and said it until I'd convinced myself it was true.

Then I frowned when I opened my eyes, and slumped down the concrete wall. I was still here.


EdwardPOV

Dear Edward,
It rains here, a lot. I thought Forks was bad, but Seattle, it seems to rain even more... Maybe it's because I hear it on the tin roofs, pounding away. Maybe it's because I don't have much else to focus on. I can never be sure. The longer I sit here, the more it feels days turn to nights and nights bleed into days. It all combines, the hours, the seconds. Nothing feels certain anymore. And I don't think it's the drug-induced haze that's gotten me so confused. Why haven't you come to see me? I realize the lockdown here is hard to compete with, but I think that if you came and spoke with my doctors, they'd grant you a visit. You're good with talking to people, much better than I ever was. You have that charm, those kind eyes. They'd understand you easier. I wish you would give it a shot. Please consider it.
How are you these days? How are the kids treating you? Are you making any friends? I know you're upset, but please remember that I won't be here forever. I know you don't understand and you're not telling me or your counselors much, but try to keep in mind that I did what I had to do so you could have a second chance at life. You were going to drown in that home, and it wouldn't be right if I allowed that to happen. After all, I am your mother, even if you're too angry to claim me as that. But if you were to peel back your skin or study yourself closely in the mirror, you'll see me there. I'm in your blood, in your heart. I know what's best for you and that's why I did what I did. Know that I regret nothing. It was all for you.
~Mother.

Sighing heavily, I tapped a pen on top of my mother's latest letter, watching the ink splatter into tiny dots across her words. I tugged at my hair with my free hand. I didn't want to respond to her, but had a gut-wrenching feeling that if I didn't, something worse might happen to her. I was all she had left. We didn't have any relatives, no one to come and visit and check up on her besides myself. No one ever gave a damn. It was a sad fact that I had gotten used to.

I felt so betrayed, so angry. She claims that she did it all for me? Oh, well, isn't that grand. She couldn't pack a fucking bag and walk out the door beside me, no. She'd rather stay, get beaten, and eventually blow his head off. That made a hell of a lot of sense. I mean, why didn't I think of that?

I ripped a piece of paper from my hand-me-down binder and stared at the lines dividing the page.

Dear Mother, I wanted to write.
It rains there because life is depressing. That's what you get when you pick the one state in the entire United States that has the highest average precipitation. Congratulations. Another grave you've dug out and are forced to lay in. Am I angry? No, not at all. I'm fucking livid. How dare you tell me that you've done this all for me? That you've taken all those beatings and allowed him to break my ribs and nose and bones, for me? How dare you say that it was me who was going to drown in that home? I wanted to walk! All I've ever wanted was to get out of that place! And this is how you decided to do it? Why couldn't you give me a fucking warning? Why couldn't you say, 'Hey Edward. Be prepared. Tonight I'm going to put a bullet through your father's left eye.' I mean, wouldn't that be easier? Do you have any fucking clue what your actions have done to me? No. You don't. Because you're sitting inside a four-by-four cell, doped out of your fucking mind, listening to rain pellets hit the tin roof, and praying there's still a chance for me. There was never a chance for me, mother. Not since the day you took me home as a newborn. From then on, I was fucked. So... I hope you sleep well at night thinking about all this. I know I won't.
Sincerely, your... son.

Groaning, I rubbed my face vigorously and took a deep breath. I'd never speak to her that way, never send a letter like that. It didn't matter how angry I was. She was still my mother and I loved her. Some days, I'd even find myself justifying her actions. I'd tell myself that it was our only way out, that she became strong, that it'd make sense when I got older. But then other days, I'd get pissed and want to scream out loud until I lost my voice. There was never any grey area, never any time-out that I could call. It was either pissed off or numb. Those were my options.

Low whistles filled the study area of The Volt, as people shuffled around. "Quiet down," Mr. Maxter said as he pretended to watch over the library. "Take your seats and study." People knocked into the desks surrounding me until all the seats were filled, and then the cat calls resumed at a quieter level.

"Fresh meat," a guy laughed out loud, before getting hushed again.

I listened as a body shuffled through the tight area of the desks. "Excuse me," a soft voice said, "sorry, excuse me." She kept bumping into people with the back pack she was carrying, and pissing a lot of people off in the process. People were so hostile here. Like I said, anger spreads. Fast.

I lifted my head wearily and watched as the new girl stood in the middle of all of our desks, wide-eyed, staring as she tried to find a seat. She chewed on her fingernail, moving in a slow circle. People whispered their typical comments about her, trying to figure out what happened to her to get her here. I pulled my eyes away just before I was caught staring, and wondered why I wanted to keep looking at her.

Angela cleared her throat across the table from me and stood up. "Um, you can sit here by me," she said, and I watched her shadow on the table wave the girl over.

"Oh no Albino Girl cannot!" Alec chuckled as he pulled his discman from his bag. "This world is full of enough disappointment. Don't call that girl over here, Angela. For Christ's sake!"

Angela glared at him at the same time I did, and the girl shuffled her feet from left to right. I didn't look at her face. I didn't want to see the heartbreak in it, as the realization of how shitty this place was set in for her. Safe haven for kids, my ass. This place was worse than living on the streets most days. There were too many kids and not enough adults.

"T-That's okay," the girl stammered after a short silence, and rushed past us.

Angela took her seat again and I fought the urge to slap Alec upside the head with my binder.

He turned to me and chuckled before announcing, "Gloves."

I glared at him. I wanted to chip his other tooth. "What?" I sneered at him.

He nodded his head toward the new girl crouched on the floor pretending to look through her bag, but feeling really out of place. "Look at her arms," he said. "She's got those little knit glove things, with the finger holes cut out. I bet she cuts."

I studied the blues and greens and yellows in the crocheted fabric that covered her arms and most of her hands. The only part that showed was the tips of her fingernails. I shook my head slowly as Alec bet ten bucks with the girl beside him that the new girl wouldn't last the day, how some girl would find her in a heap on the bathroom floor.

XXXXXXXXXX

Two weeks later, no progress had been made with my therapists and counselors. I didn't know what they wanted from me. I mean, wasn't their job requirement to simply sit there in a chair, nod, smile, look concerned, and wait until the hour was up? What did they want me to do? Entertain them?

The bench I normally claimed comforted me during my lunch breaks. I wished I could stay there all day.

I lay down along the skinny wooden slab and stared up at the sky, watching the tiny drizzle fall toward me. Some days, I felt too numb to even lift my head. Exhaustion lingered because I wasn't sleeping well. I started having these crazy delusions during the night, where I would be back at home, and my father was attacking me. There'd be times where I shot out of the bed, trying to get away from him inside my head. People made fun of me about it, told me to shut the fuck up and quiet down so they could go to sleep, or else.

No, I didn't make any friends mother, I thought to myself, regarding her previous letter. You can't make friends when people think you're losing it.

I sighed as the raindrops pelted my forehead.

"Leave me alone," someone said as feet stomped the muddy grass.

"Oh, what's the matter?" Sheena called behind her. "Is your momma's agent going to hire a hitman to kill me? Oh that's right. Your mother's dead. She can't call her agent."

"I asked you to leave me alone," the girl said again, her voice shaking.

I glanced to my right, and watched as the Latino girl stalked after her prey. She was double her size and had a problem with the new girl since she arrived. Something spread across the halls, about the new girl catching Sheena's boyfriend's eye. Sheena didn't approve.

"I can't do that," Sheena called over to her, "because you's and me, we got a problem. Aaron says you's hit on him."

"I did no such thing," the girl said as she took a seat on a bench ten feet from me. "I don't even look at him."

"I think you's a lyin' fool."

I sat up and threw my hood over my head, watching as the girl sighed and shook her head, muttering to herself. Big mistake.

"What?" Sheena scoffed, glaring down at the back of her head. "What did you say, puta?"

The girl exhaled, clearly fed up, "I said maybe you should pick a different man who will allow you to control him better than Aaron."

Before the new girl could react, Sheena grabbed her by the back of the head and yanked her backward off the bench. She threw her to the ground and straddled her, and then a rush of people ran toward her. I listened as her fist made contact with the girls face through the screaming and shouting of the kids egging her on and the adults trying to get Sheena off of her. I winced each time the pop sound came out. It was a sound I was much too familiar with.

Momentarily, I considered standing up and going in to break it up. The need to do that surprised me. I knew better than to get in the middle. And I was on severe watch now as it was, and knew that if I got into the middle of that fight, they'd take away what little privileges I had left and throw me in isolation. And isolation scared the fuck out of me.

The girl didn't deserve that though, she didn't know any better. How could she know Sheena had a rage problem and a high propensity for jealousy? I couldn't blame her when she saw the new girl walk in, with shiny hair, white skin, and full lips, or at least that's how other kids described her. The only way Sheena felt she could gain control of the situation was by making the new girl ugly. A few bruises and possibly a busted nose, in her sick and twisted mind, would do the trick.

Later that night, I climbed out of bed and noticed that the few adults left were studying CNN like most kids around here admired their food tray. It gave for an easy escape. I roamed the common halls, trying to get some exercise. Sometimes I felt as if I had restless leg syndrome. I couldn't lay there, it was too uncomfortable. I had to keep moving. Maybe it was my constant thoughts that caused the tremors in my legs, I wasn't sure. Whatever it was, if I couldn't talk about it, then I walked off. It was my only form of release.

Normally, I didn't go toward the girls' wing, especially at night. It was strictly off-limits.. Men and women were not allowed together like that. If I got caught, there'd be serious consequences, and again, I didn't want or need any more trouble. But it felt like gravity pulling me in that direction. A nervous feeling rose in the pit of my stomach, telling me something was off. Just like the night of the storm. I couldn't resist it.

Furrowing my brows, I glanced over my shoulder every few seconds, and made my way in a direction I hadn't been before. Most of the lights were off, so roaming down a hallway I wasn't familiar with sent my nerves into over-drive. There were too many opportunities to get caught. I stumbled into a few carts, wincing each time, afraid that I was going to be yelled at. But no one did. No one was around.

Once I touched the far wall a few moments later, I sighed with relief, and did a slow turn, heading back toward my side of the building. Humming softly to myself, I watched the tiled floor pass beneath my feet. As I crossed the door to the girls' restroom, I heard a faint sob echo and skidded to a halt. The crying continued, spreading its bitter sadness. For a moment, I froze and listened to it. It made my heart clench and forced me to wince as I wished it away. I didn't like feeling the pain that reality caused. I'd much rather be numb to it all.

Biting my lip, I glanced behind me and back in front, making sure no adults were awake. The only sound I heard was the humming from the dim light above me, and whatever was going on in the bathroom.

What was going on in the bathroom?

Scenes flashed through my mind of my father throwing me through the door, of me crying in the bottom of the shower, of hiding in there once when I was twelve and him beating my mother until she was unconscious. The flashes quickly changed to a scene from library two weeks ago, and Alec telling me that the new girl here was a cutter and someone would find her in a heap on the bathroom floor. He predicted the end of her life that day. I knew she made it through his predictions, I mean shit, she got the hell knocked out of her by Sheena in the yard earlier. But was that her, now? Was that her in there?

Shivering, I stepped closer to the door and pressed my hand to my chest. The girl sobbed and sobbed, blubbering things I couldn't understand. It didn't matter though. It still cut me open like a knife. I'd never heard crying like that before. Not even with my mother.

I sighed to myself. It could be anyone in there. Hell, it could be a therapist, or a counselor, or someone who could screw me over royally. But what if it was her? What if it was her, and she was actually going to kill herself? I saw the gloves that covered her skin. I'd seen other people with gloves. Alec was right. Everyone who wore gloves around here was a cutter. I didn't stop my parents struggle in enough time to save my mother from shooting my father. But could I save her, if that's what she was doing in there?

I mean, I didn't even know her. I shouldn't even be here.

What was I doing in the first place?

This wasn't like me. I could get into trouble.

The sobbing went on.

I pressed my head to the trim by the door, trying to figure out the best solution. Common sense would tell me to go get an adult, call for help. But what if I was over-reacting? What if she wasn't killing herself, what if she just wanted some privacy, so she could cry her anger away? Wasn't that what I was doing, walking the halls? Walking my thoughts away? I felt very confused.

But the crying continued.

Sliding down the wall, I stayed on the floor with my arms around my legs and listened to her pain. All her sorrow, all her fears, all her hurt. She cried and cried and cried, like she hadn't cried in years. It went on for what seemed like hours, but in reality, probably about twenty minutes.

...But then it got silent. Quick.

I steadied out of my aching somber and perched up, forcing my ears to focus.

There was no movement.

No skid of her shoes on the tiles.

No whimpering.

No sobbing.

No sniffling.

Nothing.

Just emptiness.

Like the emptiness I heard after my mother did what she did. When one bullet took three lives.

Before I could think about my decision, I scampered to my feet and pushed open the door. Gasping, I rounded the corner, praying I wasn't too late. I skidded to a stop when I found the new girl balled up in the corner beneath the hand dryer, shivering, her face pressed into her knees. My eyes roamed around the tile, as quick as they could, looking for a sharp object, or something she could or did cut herself with. But all I saw was the gloves beside her.

I feared the worst, that she had already made her mark. My foot lifted toward her, but as quickly as I moved, her head snapped up. And she gasped.

Then it all went ...strange. Hazy.

The first thing I noticed wasn't the puffiness of her eyes. It wasn't the narrow cut on her lip, the gash on her left, flushed cheek, or the bruise beneath the left side of her jaw. It wasn't the tears beneath her lashes or her messed up long hair, or even her unmarked wrists.

I noticed caramel. Or honey. Or caramel mixed with honey...

My lips parted as our eyes studied each other. I could not move. I'd never seen eyes like that before. I'd never seen eyes that rich, that glowing... that beautiful.

Because I'm a dumbass, I didn't speak up. All I could do was kick myself mentally for not looking at the girl sooner. It was no wonder that Sheena got upset over Aaron.

The girl stood swiftly, grabbed her gloves, wiped her eyes, and sniffled to herself. Her face feared the worse, that she'd been caught releasing her anger. She was afraid I'd make fun of her or something, like all the other kids would. I saw it all over her expression.

But I wasn't them. And she wasn't trying to kill herself. She wasn't cutting. She didn't even have anything to cut with, and from the four months here, I sadly knew that cutter's were always prepared.

Her face grew more fearful.

I needed to back away. I couldn't close my mouth, but I knew I had to get out of there. Before I could say something stupid, I twisted around the corner, and bailed out of the restroom. I didn't bother to wait, to see if she'd head back to her room where she belonged.

My only concern was giving her the privacy she so desperately craved.

The privacy she deserved.


----AUTHOR'S NOTES----

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