"Fate has the power to connect the seemingly unconnected."
Chapter Five : Lost Poetry, Forgotten Rain.
Edward and Bella struggle to speak about their pasts with anyone who asks.
But somehow, it's different when they get to know one each other.
***** PLEASE NOTE: Important Announcement regarding the upcoming TL : TNF (the sequel to The Ex Factor) at bottom of chapter. *****
-- To my faithful readers/reviewers/twilighters/facebookers/lexiconers.... Thank you for all the birthday wishes sent in reviews & pms. Thank you for your patience. I'm happy you're enjoying the story enough to wait.
-- To my beta Caryn (Jazz Girl)... you are my master and I am your slave. ;) You know how good you are.
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.)
"When your love has gone, and you try to hold on,
You are there when she cries, you can't sleep in the night.
When there's rain at your door... And the pain, she cries more...
Oh her eyes are the sea you're in, and her face calls for help,
But you know that you're leaving' with the love that you dealt.
Then there's rain at your door... In the pain, she cries more."
~ The Aeroplanes, "Rain At Your Door"
Chapter Five : Lost Poetry, Forgotten Rain
"Bella... are you all right?"
With a defeated sigh, I glared out the window and watched the heavy clouds roil over the building. Inside, it was suffocating. The weather outside didn't make it any easier to breathe.
Today wasn't a good day.
My eyes hurt.
My limbs were sore and stiff.
And my face was still red and splotchy from the night before.
The last thing I wanted to do was sit here and answer a thousand questions about my mom, especially from someone I didn't know.
"You know that you are safe here, right?" the counselor asked, waving her hand to indicate her office. "This is a safe place. This isn't a Hollywood interview. Nothing you say here will be leaked, okay?"
I bit my lip, fighting the urge to yell. In the past two weeks, I'd been in nine fights. Nine. Before all of this happened, before my life became so completely screwed up, I hadn't been in a single fight. Never had anyone hate me. But here... no one seemed to like me. It took only one day before someone recognized me from an old magazine she had with my mom on the cover. From then on, everyone hated me, especially the girls. They called me rich girl, albino, cocktease. They made fun of me, how I spoke and dressed, how I ended up here, instead of back at my mansion. They stole my food and school books. Half the things I brought with me, which wasn't much to begin with, were missing from the room I was forced to share.
Every day, I found more and more of myself being washed away, like footprints in the sand. I'd look in the mirror, and I wouldn't see myself. Only faint traces of who I used to be, back when my mother was alive. Back when I was enough to keep her alive.
"Bella, talk to me. Tell me what you're thinking. Don't hold back."
My eyes focused on her soft face. She had nice skin, dark eyes, and brown hair pulled up with a pen. She looked concerned. .I debated whether to trust her.
"I promise," she said with what appeared to be a genuine smile, "it'll make the time pass quicker if you talk about it. Come on."
I shrugged nonchalantly, peeling my eyes from her face. "I'm thinking that I hate it here."
"Good," she exhaled, squeezing another pen in her hand, "that's a start. Why do you hate it here?"
I shrugged, staring at my hands in my lap. "It's not my house."
"And? What else?"
"And..." I shrugged, swallowing hard. "My mom isn't here."
"I bet you miss your mother very much."
With a slight nod, I watched my tears splash on my pants. "Yeah."
"Were you very close with her?"
I nodded again and closed my eyes. "She... she was my best friend. My everything. I... feel so lost without her. I just... I can't... I don't understand what happened to her."
"Death is something that is nearly impossible to comprehend, Bella. It's the greatest mystery. No one can say why it happened, why someone chose to go the way they did, if it was their choice at all." She pressed her lips together, writing down a few words on her yellow notepad. "Is that your biggest thought? Wondering if... it was her choice?"
I shrugged, wiping my face with the back of my hand. "They say it was most likely accidental. That's the way they ruled it. But..." My words trailed off as the questions in my head swirled.
She waited a moment, and when I didn't continue, she filled in the words for me, as a statement rather than a question. "You're not so sure yourself."
She scribbled again. "Bella," she began softly, trying to ease the hurt of the coming question. "Would you classify your home with your mother as a happy home?"
"I thought it was."
"There were no signs that-"
"No," I cut her off. "She was going through something hard but... there were no warning signs. Nothing unusual for my mom."
"What was she going through that was hard for her, Bella?"
My body ached and I wrapped my arms around my chest, once again holding myself together. I begged silently for my insides not to fall out. Not in front of anyone.
Minutes passed silently.
"Bella?" she pressed.
"Can we stop talking now?" I asked, my voice barely recognizable. "I don't want to... I can't. No more."
"Are you sure?"
I nodded quickly, watching her face turn to disappointment as she scribbled notes in silence. The clock to my left seemed to move slower and slower with each passing minute. I closed my eyes and struggled to take deep breaths, forcing my mind away from the flashbacks of my mother's laughter turned to her blue face, of her beautiful smile turned to cold lips. Happy, sad, life, ending. That's all I saw now. None of it made sense. Her death didn't make sense. That was for sure. But, since it happened, her life didn't make much sense to me when I thought about it either. Was she truly happy during those times I thought she was? A few months before, I would have said absolutely yes. But, now, I could never, would never, know. She wasn't there to ask.
As soon as our hour was up, I booked out of there and ran smack into a body. I shut my eyes and prayed with all my might that it wasn't Sheena and her pack of friends, wanting to jump me again. But opening them, I saw it was worse. It was Aaron, her pimple-faced boyfriend. He asked me if I was okay, but I shivered away from him and ran in the opposite direction, hoping that Sheena didn't see that interaction. The last thing I needed was another reason to hate it here.
As if I didn't have enough as it was.
Chewing my bottom lip, I took a deep breath, and began writing my mom an actual letter. I told her that I hoped she was okay, that I wished things hadn't happened the way they had. That wished I could have done something or said something, anything, to get a different result. I told her the truth, that it hurt me when she said she did it all for me, that she cared. I was honest about some things, like my pent-up feelings and my frustrations. I never wrote anything down like I wanted to, of course, because I wasn't going to yell at my mother through pen and paper. I tried to make it simple enough, so she could feel like someone cared about her but still knew where I stood on things.
Go figure. Huffing, I did a neck roll and then glared behind me, to find Alec with his hands in his pockets, grinning like he had a big secret to share. "Go away, Alec."
"Yo man," he said, sitting beside me without an invitation, staring me down, "why ain't we friends?"
"Because you're a heartless bastard," I quipped.
He scoffed. "You know what? That hurts my feelings."
I shrugged nonchalantly. I could care less about his feelings. Fucker was a douche.
"Yo, man, I think we should be friends, Copperhead. So, why don't you gimme your lighter, and we can talk about... I dunno... some stuff?"
Alec pissed me off so easily. I squeezed my pen and tried to focus on my letter, instead of his annoying presence, but didn't have much luck in doing so. With all the deadly glares I sent to him on a daily basis, I wished he could catch the hint. I didn't know what he was trying to pull, but I highly doubted my friendship was what he was really after. In fact, I knew it wasn't.
"Alec, do yourself a favor and le-"
"Hey Edward," Angela cut me off as she sat across the table from me. She gave me a warning look, begging me not to fight with Alec. She knew I was on strike two as it was.
I shifted my attention from Alec and opened my mouth to ask how she was doing. Then I felt the letter I was writing ripped out from beneath my hands. Alec quickly pushed from his chair, holding it hostage. I shot out of my seat and he ran away, laughing. "Gimme your lighter, bro, and I swear I'll give it back."
"No. You're going to give it to me, now," I sneered, walking toward him as Felix, Andrew, and a few other kids rushed between us, expecting a brawl. They were going to get one if he didn't do as I asked.
Alec shook his head and stood on a chair, then climbed on top of the desk. He un-crinkled my letter with his grimy fingers and scanned it briefly, his lips lifting in a disgusting smile. I tried to push past Felix, but he shoved me back into the desk behind me. Of all the days, it had to be Saturday, when we weren't being monitored into the library.
"...'Sometimes I feel like you say these things to justify your actions," Alec began, reading a paragraph on the paper. "But you don't really mean them. You never told me you loved me, you never hugged me, bought me school clothes, cooked dinner, or any of the things that mothers do, so how can you honestly call yourself my mother?" Alec paused and shook his head, while a few of the kids around us laughed. "Oh Copperhead," he continued, "this is really heart-breaking."
"Give me the fucking letter," I snarled, causing more laughter. I glared at everyone who made fun of me. Mentally, I took their names and shoved them into my archive for later.
"But I want you to know that I am trying to find it in myself to forgive you'," he continued to quote, boiling my blood further, "'because how else can I adapt, if I harbor more ill-will towards you? Where will that get me? What will it change? Absolutely nothing, because you did what you did and I need to realize I cannot change that. I'm trying to believe this wasn't my fault, but I still have doubts.'" Alec chuckled, glaring at me. "I told you guys his mom blew his dad's head off." He threw my hideous reality out for everyone to see like it was no more than a picture in a book. "Copperhead, this is some serious shit here. Want me to go on?" He grinned down at me, standing all high and proud on that wooden table.
That was the last fringed wire of my short fuse. I took a quick glance at the doors to make sure no one was telling anyone. Then I charged him. It only took seconds to break through the crowd and push past Felix.
I grabbed Alec's ankles, yanking as hard as I could, and forced him to crash on his back, smacking his head against the wood of the table. Then I pulled him to the floor and jumped on his stomach as he cradled his head and aimed angry blows at his ribs while he tried to kick me away. He dropped the letter and I picked it up before anyone else could snatch it. But before I could stand up and walk away, I was ripped off of him by Larry, one of the therapists.
"Edward, Edward, no!" Larry shouted, wrapping his arms around me while a few of the ladies picked Alec up off the floor. "Come on," he said, lifting me and then pushing me toward the double doors, "in my office! NOW!"
The doors pushed open as kids cheered and booed me. Larry kept his hand on my shoulder so I couldn't get away. As if I had anywhere else I could go. If there were such a place, I would have been long gone. He huffed as Mrs. Johnson, the lady at the main door, asked what happened. "I've got it under control," he reassured her. "Don't worry about him. Alec's headed toward the nurse's office. He may have a concussion."
Good, I thought to myself. I hope he does.
As we moved, I noticed the new girl being led past me with the new therapist. She glanced up at me, and with the few seconds I had to look at her, I caught the same solemn expression she carried last night. Her eyes were puffy and red, her cheeks flushed, and her hair was ruffled like she'd run her fingers through it a thousand times. She appeared utterly exhausted. I had no doubt that she was getting just about as much sleep as I was. Poor girl.
Larry pushed me into his office and shut the door, motioning for me to sit as he took his own seat behind the desk. "Edward, please explain to me why you had to get into another fight? Don't you know you're on thin ice? You cannot afford to keep making mistakes like this!"
"He took my letter," I answered softly, my legs bouncing restlessly.
"So that gave you a reason to bust his head open?"
"No. Reading my letter out loud was what gave me the reason."
"Why, why, why couldn't you walk away? Isn't that what I've been trying to get through to you? Walking away? Being the better man?"
I shook my head. Larry lived in his happy world where that was an option. I didn't. I lived in the real world, where giving an inch got your ass handed to you regularly. "You have no idea how those guys are going to treat me now, how they'll use that against me. It's just more dirt. He read to them about my mother, what she did. I was fucked way before I yanked him off that desk."
"Edward, language, please." He sighed, trying to reason with me and my anger at the moment. "Listen. If the kids are harassing you like that, you need to get an adult. I've told you countless times that you could come to me. Why don't you trust me when I say that?"
"I don't trust anyone," I said bitterly.
Larry took a long, deep breath, then relaxed into the chair. "Edward," he said calmly, "I know you're a good kid. Your record was almost spotless before you came here, with that single exception of stealing at the Quickie Mart down on Fifth-"
"I stole because there were no groceries in my house and I was going to pass out if I didn't eat," I cut him off, crossing my arms protectively over my chest. "It'd almost been four days."
He nodded. "I know that. With that exception, though, you have a clean record. Look. I'm doing everything in my power to get you into a good home, and I think we have a potential foster home lined up for you. In as little as a week or two, you can be away from here, and onto something better. But you can not keep getting into fights like this. Each time you do, your chances for a way out seriously fade."
I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose. "With all due respect, Larry, Alec had it coming to him. I don't go out of my way to piss him off, like he does me and everybody else here. Maybe you should put him in isolation, save us all the busted knuckles."
Larry sighed. "Alec... has a very extensive and troubled past, and we're working with him on it. I'll discuss your opinion of separation with his counselors and see what we can do. But, in the mean time, you have to learn how to control your temper. I like you, I think you have a lot of potential, and I want you to make what you can out of life. I want you to get better, to heal, to prosper. But you have to work with me here, alright? Because, I am going to be honest with you, Edward. If it's not Alec, it's going to be another kid, and then another. There are too many kids here with a lot of personal baggage, and a need to make people hurt the way they do. And, there aren't enough qualified adults to protect the harmless from the harmful. So please. Do your part, do you understand?"
I frowned and gave a nod.
"Thank you. Now, to cut you a break because I know that reading your letter hurt your feelings, I'm not going to write today's incident in your file. But don't make this a habit. I cannot help you if you don't want to help yourself."
No one can help me, Larry.
"Now," he continued. "I want you to use my office, rewrite your letter here in privacy, and by the time you're finished, it should be lunch. I'll be right outside. Holler if you need me." He stood up and walked toward the door, motioning for me to use his desk. "Oh, and Edward?"
"Don't take my trust for granted." He gave a warning wink, before leaving me to myself.
My heart galloped and stalled, over and over again, as I made my way through the cafeteria trying to find a seat. With my tray gripped so tightly in my hands that my knuckles were ghostly white, I stepped carefully over the outstreched legs of the jerks who liked to trip people when they walked. I tried to ignore Sheena and her gang of friends calling me the same exhausted names, and shuddered when I passed a guy named Thomas who stared relentlessly and watched my every move. I prayed that I didn't fall and embarrass myself like I did the day before. I hadn't lived that down yet.
I didn't know if I was being paranoid or not, but it felt as if every eye was on me. I'd been here over two weeks but was still known as the new albino rich girl. I had a feeling that would never change. But not as many of the girls spat at me, unless Sheena did it first. So that was something, at least.
"You can sit here if you want," the guy with the chipped front tooth said as he nodded his head at the empty seat beside him. All of his friends around the table snickered, while one playfully threw her napkin at him.
I could tell he wasn't a nice guy, so I provided him a slight smile and said, "Th-that's okay."
His friends laughter grew louder as I walked past, before their whispering presumed "See? I told you she had a stutter. The girl's retarded."
I closed my eyes, fought back tears, and made my way to an empty table in the far corner by the counter. I only stutter when I get nervous or flustered, I wanted to explain to them. But there wasn't a point, and I knew it.
Lunch was... well... the saddest excuse for food I'd ever seen. Presumably, it could be a meatloaf... or steak. I wasn't sure. Add a glob of peas, instant mashed potatoes, and a biscuit, and they called it a meal. But with all of the kids stealing food, I knew I had to scarf it down or I'd be sorry. I hated going hungry. My head felt submerged under water when I didn't eat, and it was not a feeling I looked forward to.
Half way through, during one of the few times I looked up from my tray, I noticed the boy who found me in the bathroom the night before take his seat a few tables down from me. A girl that always tried to talk to me, and seemed kind of sweet sat beside him a few moments later, adjusting her glasses and smiling around the room. I watched as some tall guy reached over and pulled her biscuit from her tray. She tried to yelp at him but the guy shoved it in his mouth and walked off, high-fiving his friends. The boy beside her whispered something under his breath as he eyed the guy down, then plucked the biscuit from his tray and sat it on hers. She tried to decline and put it back but he shook his head, and eventually won the argument.
I bit my lip as my heart sped a little witnessing that small, random act of kindness. I didn't like my heart awakening and fought to calm it. But it fluttered momentarily anyway. The boy appeared mysterious, and his eyes had a longing anger in them. But, he really seemed kind. It was obvious that she wasn't his blood sister. Their coloring wasn't the same. I wondered if she was his girlfriend, but the more and more I studied their actions, the space between them, the lack of eye contact, I figured she wasn't. They didn't act like they were together, like some of the other kids did. They were close though. My heart tugged and I felt sad again, wishing I had a friend I could talk to. It made me miss my friends back home. Made me wonder what they were doing. I closed my eyes and rubbed my forehead, wishing my thoughts away. There was nothing I could do. They hadn't written me back yet.
When I tried to refocus on my food, my eyes stopped mid-way, because the boy caught my eye. He was staring at me. And not even trying to hide it.
My breath hitched and my brain signaled that I should look away and ignore him, pretend I didn't see him. But I couldn't even blink. I felt frozen under his speculative eyes, under his parted lips, bronzed hair, and glowing green eyes. I couldn't put down my fork. My brain sped to a mile a minute, telling me that my heart was moving again, that it was all hurting, to look away, look away, look away. I begged for someone or something to catch his attention, break me free from him. But nothing happened, and he didn't.
And I couldn't either.
His brows furrowed as he tilted his head. My body felt as if it was being sucked off my chair, across the room, and into his eyes. But he didn't make me feel uncomfortable, like he was picking me apart, like the other kids here. Instead, it was as if he was trying to memorize me, like he was finding my hidden details to learn about me. Why, I wasn't sure. Maybe it was sheer boredom. But somehow, with him, I doubted it.
It was the strangest thing I'd ever seen or felt in my life.
Who was this guy? Why couldn't I move? And, why did I feel so safe under his gaze, but so scared under the scrutiny of everyone else's? What made him different? I didn't know him from Adam.
None of it made any damn sense at all.
The table I sat at began to shake, and I was broken free of the boy's eyes. I turned my attention to my right, to find a boy with semi-spiked blonde hair and sharp features hovering over me. "Hi," he said, his voice low and... preppy. "Are you Isabella?"
I cringed, staring at him cluelessly. "It's Bella. Not... Isabella."
"I'm Demetri. Is this seat taken?"
I took a quick glance around the room, to see if Sheena and her friends put him up to it. They weren't paying any attention to me. "Depends on what you want," I finally answered, shrugging my shoulders.
"Company," he grinned simply. "It appears that...," he paused to take a breath and shrug, "..you could use the same."
"I don't need any company," I lied, glancing back at the boy across the cafeteria, who was still looking at me. I adjusted in the seat.
"Everyone needs company. Or else they turn out like Nancy over there in the corner, talking angrily at her food tray and praying at night to Satan."
"Take a look at her."
I bit my lip and peered over my shoulder at a girl in the back right corner, with messy, jet black hair, angry eye shadow smeared behind her lashes, and painted on blood red lips, which moved quickly as she spoke into her meal.
"See what I mean?" he grinned down at me. "So again... is this seat taken?"
I glared into his eyes, expecting him to cower away. He didn't. With a defeated sigh, I replied, "I guess not."
Demetri grinned and gave a nod before taking the seat, half of his head blocking my vision of the mysterious boy who was still looking at me. But I could still partly see him... and somehow, the warmth in my body remained because of that.
I didn't know what to think of that. Or him.
The day went on like the blur of a cloudless sky. Seemingly endless. Exhausting.
I watched my shoes move forward then fall back as I made my way from the cafeteria. My eyes were half-lidded from lack of sleep. But because I couldn't remember what it was like to see the world with wide eyes, I didn't miss the feeling of normalcy. It's just how it was. How I was.
The shy kid who'd taken a pair of nail clippers to his wrists more times than I could count gave me a nod as I passed him. He was my first roommate. His name was John and he wouldn't talk to anyone, but never appeared to want to harm anyone but himself. I watched him scribble on the mattress he lay on, watched his eyes fog up and his nose run. He'd turn and face me on the nights he scraped the sharp end of the clippers up and down his veins, opening up old scars from his drunken father. I couldn't understand why he wanted them to keep reappearing, wanted to bear that reminder of the man who launched him out of a window and down steps just because he didn't mow the lawn that day. But for some reason, he did.
Here, we get a lot more liberties than I usually admit. With either the shortage of adults or the high number of new arrivals, I found myself constantly unmonitored. I rediscovered the freedom of roaming the halls, of exploring the basement where the laundry was done, of going out in the yard for long sessions. I found different ways to escape if I wanted to; latches on windows, busted locks on back doors, ways to silence shattered glass. But the more and more I thought about how rough it could get if I were to run, joining the ranks of homeless teenagers, the more I realized that the place was... okay. Not livable for long. No, I'd rather chance it if that were the case. But for now, it worked.
It was dryer than the street, at least.
Today was the last of the third week of the month. I called it an Auction Call, as kids would go to the back room overlooking the yard, sit at long tables, and meet potential foster parents. The first time I went through it, I was frightened, trying to figure out where I'd be going. But as time went by, I realized I should loosen up and say very little because, in the end, I was still there. Someone else got picked. Someone younger, wiser, or hell, someone who scammed their way into the homes. Whatever the case, it felt pointless, but they still made us show.
I sat through three rounds of potential caretakers. The first couple was extremely religious, with a farm house and a lot of room. They lost a child a few years back, innocent victim hit head on by a drunken semi driver. I knew I wasn't their type right from the start. It didn't matter what my file said, how the group home tried to sell me, or why they thought they'd want to see me. Their son was an honor roll student, played sports, stayed out of trouble. They'd never say it out loud, but they were looking for someone to fill his shoes and the empty place in their hearts. I didn't have the energy it'd take to keep up that charade. And it'd never seem fair to them.
The second was a single woman, attractive, with ivory skin and long brown hair. She eyed me a certain way, leaned in toward the table. I'd seen her kind before, and I could tell immediately that she wasn't looking for a child to take care of. She had ulterior motives, ones that I couldn't fulfill, unless a lawsuit was my ultimate goal. Why these women came to places like this, I'd never understand. She was pretty. It wouldn't be hard to pick up a man at a bar...
Unless she wanted a boy. Then it all made sense.
The final sitting was with a man with brown skin, long black hair, a cowboy hat, and a wheelchair. He was kind and told me that he had two other boys at the house that he was caring for around my age, as well as a care-taker who visited often and helped him out. He told me that I would have my own bed and bath, transportation whenever I needed it, explained how great the schools were in his area. He was a music teacher and his care-taker an artist. He sold himself well, and for a moment, I felt myself growing excited. "My boys would have loved to join me but there was a dirt-bike contest they were participating in," he chuckled, folding his hands on the table. "Boys and their toys."
I grinned politely at him and nodded my head. I'd never seen a dirt-bike in real life before. Always wanted to though.
"Well," Miss Johnson, my latest caseworker, said as she stood from the table, "why don't we give Edward some time to think this over, and we can arrange another meeting for you two next week to discuss options?"
Billy Black looked over to me, giving me the opportunity to answer. None of the other potential parents did that. I was impressed. "Sounds good," I replied, reaching out my hand to him.
He shook it proudly and tilted his cowboy hat, before Miss Johnson pushed him away. I allowed a brief moment to stare out at all the other meetings, at the new kids with hope in their eyes. I prayed the ones that were to be taken out didn't lose that. All too quickly, they would if later returned here.
Returned. Like clothes in a department store, complete with the common excuse of ' it just didn't fit like I thought it would' . It's why I couldn't understand some foster homes. Sounds great on paper, sure. I just wished those who returned their items could realize that bringing home a broken child didn't mean they're always fixable. Most are simply broken down, worn out machines. They should be sold as-is.
I woke up early the following morning, restless and unsatisfied. Glancing at my watch, I gave a heavy sigh. Two hours of sleep, total. Not bad. Better than the day before.
After handling my morning business, I drug my feet into the hallway, where all the other kids gathered noisily. The lady who held the list and called out our chores for the week assigned me laundry duty in the basement, with Demetri. He gave me a nod once he found out I'd be his partner, and I sent one back in return. We weren't extremely close, but from what I knew, he was decent. Snobby, came from money, but decent.
After we gathered all the baskets and made our way down the steps, he dropped the one he held by his feet and we walked out the back door, where we couldn't be seen. He handed me a cigarette, and I passed him my lighter. No one else knew about our arrangement, and that was the way we liked it. "So," he blew the smoke from his nose and passed my lighter back, "how have you been holding up?"
I flicked the ashes into the browning grass. "I'd kill for a pool right now."
"You should sneak out to the surf. JD and I are planning a field trip next week if you want to come."
"Depends. I think I'm gonna get placed."
"Oh yeah?" he questioned. "That's awesome. Where?"
"Port Angeles. Been there?"
"No. Mostly an Indian reservation. But you'll have a beach there, so that's easy."
"Yeah. I'm not crossing my fingers though. You know how it works."
"Sadly, I do..." He pondered for a moment, after taking a long drag. "Though, I have to say, things have been looking up around here lately. I'm not necessarily shopping for a placement."
"You know that girl that arrived a few weeks ago? Actress mom. Really pale. Long hair. Pretty lips."
My stomach tightened in a weird way, and I shrugged my shoulders carelessly. "There's so many arrivals-"
"No, no, trust me. This girl is different. She seems..." He held his hands out in front of him, his palms emphasizing breasts, "...sweet." He grinned like I should appreciate the joke.
I let out a small, uncomfortable laugh, and shook my head before swallowing hard. I felt off suddenly. I didn't know why. "What is her name?"
"Harris?" I thought for a moment. "Don't remember seeing a Harris on the addition list."
"I think she changed her last name or some shit. Anyway. She's hot. You should check her out."
I sighed. "Wouldn't be a point if I got placed."
"True," he said, stomping on the cigarette. "Besides," he continued with that slick smile. "I'll be keeping her busy."
I scoffed and made my way back into the laundry room, hoping we had enough to keep us busy until lunch. I didn't want to go upstairs and deal with people. "Don't jade her, Demetri," I replied, uneasy. "Whoever the girl is, if she's here, the last thing she needs is another excuse to want to fall off the face of the earth."
"Don't worry," he grinned, shoving the soiled clothes into the machine. "I'll be on my best behavior."
I glared at him as he worked, my chest tightening further. I didn't believe him for a second and I barely knew him. "I think that's a good idea."
Dancing feet moved upon the coals
Of a flameless reality.
Shattered soul wept at the mention of
A recovered puzzle piece,
That could make it whole.
How long might I survive in this
Despondent trance-like state?
Turning around in circles,
Lacking all emotion,
So as to wear my smile, a mask,
My immeasurable pain.
My mom loved poetry. She used to recite it, even in her sleep. Her beautiful lips curving sentences into life. I could watch her for hours.
She loved the new artists, their undiscovered words. She'd spend hours in a public library, chin high in books, smile upon her face. "Listen to me, my darling Isabella. Bitter women who've lost all faith read trashy novels," she explained one day as she rounded her shoulders, tall and proud, manicured fingernails wrapped around the spine of a book. "Other women, those with substance, find their true romance in poetry. Nothing rings more honest than a hopeful man forgotten, with a heartfelt lyric and no tune."
I sighed, pulling myself out of my daze, and closed my eyes. It was wrong to think of her.
"Yo, Albino girl," one of Sheena's friends, the heavy one with foul breath, shouted as I sprayed Windex on a window. "You got a phone call."
I made sure to not look at her as she stood between me and the rest of the room. Drew in some air, stared down at her shoes. "Excuse me."
She chuckled, unmoving. I had to push past her. Then she called me a bitch, again.
With a heavy sigh, I picked up the receiver and plopped on the desk beside it, "Hello?"
My heart jumped in my throat and I shot out of the chair, covering my chest. "Tom?"
"Hey, sweetheart," his soothing voice replied. "How you been, kiddo?"
"Oh Tom," I began, as my throat tightened and my eyes flooded with tears. "It's so awful here. I hate it! I hate it so much and everything's all wrong. Where are you?"
"I'm so sorry to hear that," he answered. "I'm in New York City right now, sweetheart. Major scandal I'm dealing with. I'm up to my ears in paperwork"
"Will you be coming back soon?"
"I'm not certain at the moment. But listen-"
"No, Tom, you have to come back," I cried. "I know you and my mom didn't work out. But it wasn't just my mom involved, remember? And I swear, if you come and get me, I could live with you and I won't be any trouble and I can stay out of your way. I just really need someone I know and trust around me. I feel like I'm falling apart." I covered the mouth piece with my hand as my sobs became uncontrollable. I didn't want him to hear how defeated I was.
It was bad enough that the kids passing in the hallway were making fun of me, though I'd seen a few of them crying when they had phone calls too. Hypocrites.
"Bella? Bella are you still there?"
"Yeah," I choked out, wiping my face.
"Did you hear what I said?"
"No. I'm sorry. Can you repeat it again?"
"I said there are a lot of things that will have to occur, if I were to try and take you in. Especially with my career and constant traveling. You'll need something more grounded. It's not that simple and it will take time. But I promise you that I will look into it as soon as I can. I can imagine how hard it is for you to be in there, and I promise I've already contacted some people. I want you with me, too."
I pressed my head onto the cool top of the desk and pushed my free hand into my chest. "Tom..." I whispered, sniffling, "I know that it's a lot to deal with and negotiate but... you're the only father figure I've had, and I need you. You're my only family."
He sighed heavily. "I promise, I am trying. But I need you to hang tough, stay strong. Be the opinionated, spunky girl we all know and love."
"It's so hard. Nothing makes sense. I keep having nightmares. I get harassed here. I have no friends. Janey hasn't written me back, not even once. Neither has Eric or Tyler. I don't even know if they're receiving my letters, or what's going on."
"I'm sure it's nothing. Sometimes life gets in the way, baby. Your friends love you."
"I just need someone, Tom. I'm begging you. Please, help me."
"I'm trying. Keep your chin up and I'll call you next week, after I figure some things out, okay? Can you do that for me Bella?"
"Yeah," I hiccoughed. "I can try to do that."
"Good girl. I'm sending you a care package. It should get there next week. Alright?"
"I love you sweetheart."
I shut my eyes, clutching my frame to hold myself together. "I love you too, Tom."
As the call disconnected and the annoying dial tone returned, I sat the phone down on the desk and took in a few heavy gulps of air. Stay strong, Bella. Stay strong, stay strong. Tom's going to figure this out. He'll come and pick you up, but you have to do as he says. You have to-
"Yo, rich girl, I need to use the phone."
I looked up through damp lashes at an impatient boy I didn't know, tapping his foot and crossing his arms.
"Like today?" he scoffed, glaring at me.
I stood up and dusted off my pants, while he jerked the phone of the desk, almost hitting me in the process.
"God, you deaf?" he shouted, before pushing me out of the way.
I exhaled slowly and made my way back to the library to finish my Windexing. Stay strong, stay strong, stay strong... I repeated it like a battle chant.
A few minutes later, staring through the murky window I was about to wipe clean, something occurred to me.
Tom never mentioned my mom.
After chores and lunch were complete, we wondered back outside, relieved that the clouds broke for a few hours. The sun felt nice, shining down and coloring our skin yellow. As I took my seat, pulled out my things, and began to focus, I breathed in the warmth, absorbing it. Sunny days were rare. I gathered my happiness where I could.
Angela ran toward me then, smile remaining on her pleasant face. "Hey Edward," she panted heavily. "What are you up to?"
I lifted my notebook, which I'd turned into a new journal. I didn't dare tape it beneath my mattress. It stayed with me, always. "Writing."
"Well, put it down," she demanded. "We need another for three-on-three. Want to play?"
I glanced over at the single boy and three girls staring back at us, expectantly. The Scott boy was seriously outnumbered. He looked quite frightened of the estrogen surrounding him. "I don't really feel lik-"
"Oh come on! You'll be playing against girls," she insisted. "It's easy."
I looked into her hopeful eyes and frowned, hating to disappoint her. "I'm sorry. I really don't feel like playing."
"You never do," she whined. "Please?"
I shook my head.
Defeated, she left to question others around me, and I refocused on my writing.
The dreams of my past remind me of a burnt-down city, I began, licking my lips. Smoky, haunting, and pitch black. I can hear my mother's calling, relentless. "No Edward!" she cried, her voice echoing and blind. "Look away! Don't watch!" But it was too late. I heard his hand make contact with her jaw. Listened to a whimpering heart as her body crawled across the floor, fingernails leaving scars on the yellow and white dandelions gracing the worn tile. "Stop!" she'd beg as he kicked her ribs and spat on her red hair.
Then the dream opened up, bright and eerie. There I was, just as I remembered, sitting in the middle of the room. A toddler at the time, fingers clutching my bear, eyes staring at the two dancing figures in horror. My words deserted me. I couldn't cry for help. I had nothing to protect her with.
Her face turned purple as he choked her until he was satisfied, then he left her crumpled, whimpering body where it lay, grabbed a beer, and stormed outside.
It had to be an hour before she woke up. Busted lips still bleeding. Fractured mirrors lay around her, shards in her hair and clothes.
She shook out her hair, crawled over to me, sniffled, and wiped beneath her broken, bloody nose. "It's okay, Edward," she said with a shaky, unsure voice. "...It's okay now."
My eye caught the moving frame of the new girl, her covered hands in jean pockets. She did her best to ignore the cat calls and whispers of the jealous girls as she kept her head down and turned in my direction. She bit her lip and looked at me, studying my eyes solemnly. Questioningly.
Her left foot hitched, mid-stride, and she paused. I stayed where I was, trying to figure out what she was thinking. Wishing I could read her mind. Wondering why I wanted to
"...Um..." she said, pulling her right hand from her pocket. She fiddled with the hem of her shirt and looked as if she wasn't breathing at all. "I-"
"Bella!" Demetri called, running over to her. She jumped as he skidded to a stop, nearly cowering away. Just like my mom used to. Instinctively, I shot off the bench with angry eyes, glaring from him to her. Demetri did nothing wrong and I knew it, but I couldn't help my reaction. I didn't like to see a woman cower away. Didn't like a man frightening her.
Her eyes widened as she gazed at me, trying to straighten herself again.
"Whoa," Demetri chuckled, his eyes puzzled as he took in my stance. "You okay, brother?"
With shaking limbs, I drew in a deep breath and sat back on the edge of my seat. I cleared my throat before I spoke, and made sure to sound convincing. "Yeah, sorry. You... uh... startled me."
"Damn. I guess I'm scaring everyone today," he chuckled, playfully nudging the girl with his elbow. She forced a smile and pulled the sleeves over her gloved arms.
"Bella, would you care to sit with me?"
She shuffled from foot to foot, expression uncertain.
His eyes begged her. He used his grin as a lucky charm.
"Sure," she whispered eventually, with a voice that was low and frightened. She didn't look certain of her decision at all.
I watched as they walked away, her following slowly. They sat at the bench across from mine, him facing my direction, her looking away. She positioned herself to hang half off the seat, ready to bail at any second. As if she were preparing for an attack. An explosion. A war of some sorts.
I could tell she didn't want to get close to anyone. Either that, or she didn't trust herself enough to allow anyone to get close to her.
I knew the feeling all too well. Both feelings.
When I couldn't write any longer, I pulled a book from my bag, hoping to focus on the words. Take me away, I wished into the paragraphs as I flipped the pages. I figured the importance of a fantasy meant more to me here than it could to anyone else in the world. While I struggled to get lost in the story about surviving on a deserted island, the character Dean scrounging for food, my thoughts returned to my father. I tried to think of a time when he was kind, when his eyes weren't so black. Only a one came to mind. The rare occasion that he'd been so drunk, he laughed into the air. But that was it.
So many times, so many cries, so many pleading moments of distress. It all amounted to my mother's capture. Like subways on a track, or tunnels winding in a circle, I played the events in my head. My life as a broken record. My life, as it was. I couldn't pull my mom out of the haze she was trapped inside of, couldn't pry the gun from her fingers. I begged and pleaded as the cops banged on the door. "Let me help you," I insisted, gripping her frozen, white fingers. "Let go of the gun! They're about to break in the door!"
Her eyes were open and wide, glistening white like moonlight. Her bruised lips parted, the purple marks beneath her chin. "They won't take me," she whispered as the banging continued down the hall. "It was self defense."
Growling, I shook her a few times, so hard I rattled the walls. Shook her until she woke up.
She released the gun into my hands.
Then the policemen burst into the room with flashlights and guns pointed in my direction.
All too soon, we were being called back inside The Volt. I quickly gathered my things, angry that time moved so quickly. Young bodies flew past, talking a mile a minute, their meaningless conversations bouncing in the wind. I did my best to ignore them as the darkening clouds began to hover above the yard again, trapping us once more inside of this prison.
"Um, ex-excuse me?" a low voice called. I wasn't sure it was directed toward me. Then a finger tapped my shoulder.
I whipped around in the chilling breeze, shocked that I had been touched, and found the girl that tried to approach me earlier. The same girl from the bathroom. The one with Demetri.
She looked up at me, her eyes wide again. She seemed so scared, on guard and alert. As if entire world was going to suck her up and bleed her dry.
Adjusting the bag on my right shoulder, I gazed down at her pale, flawless face. I tried to speak, to greet her or say something, but no words would come to mind. I was too lost inside her eyes. Just like in the restroom. In the cafeteria. Anytime I saw her.
In a shitty situation such as this place, I somehow became a ship without a rudder when I was around this girl. Stuck for eternity in a deep abyss of honey, caramel, and endless eyelashes.
"Um..." She drew in a breath and pulled something from her jacket pocket. "Here."
I watched her gloved hand, with the colored fabric cut to expose her fingers, shove a crumpled piece of paper into my stomach. The force nearly knocked the wind out me, bouncing me back. I caught the sheet before it fell to the ground, and an electric shock surged inside of me -- the first jolt in months -- as my fingers graced hers. She yanked her hand back just as quickly, obviously feeling the same current.
My heart thumped hard in my chest, my lips parting slightly.
Hers lips mirrored my own.
In the middle of the moving crowd, with the new rain of the night drizzling down, we both stood perfectly still. Thunder roared its threats in the sky, cursing at us.
People shoved past us, muttering beneath their breath, fighting to get inside still dry. I wanted to glare at each motherfucker who hit her body with their own. She was too tiny, too defenseless, it seemed. But I just couldn't move.
There was something about this girl. Something that pulled me into Wonderland, that kept me inside of the dark rabbit hole.
She ran her trembling fingers nervously through her hair, glancing from the note to me then back again. Her eyes questioned, wondering why I wouldn't open it. The only thing I could focus on was her hands, and all the breath pulled from my body. Her fingers were so pale. Beautiful, but pale. Again, she ran them through the hair above her forehead, shaking the brown locks that decorated her features.
I noticed as she glanced one last time, from the note, then up into my eyes. Watched a mask of hurt cover over with anger. I wondered at it for just a second, trying to figure her thoughts. Her pain. Her past.
With a riveting sob, she dropped her eyes to the ground and broke the trance I was trapped inside. Then she shoved past and left me where I stood, motionless and stricken.
Whatever was written on the piece of paper, if anything at all, put me in a state of unease for the rest of the day. I knew I had to open it soon -- it could be important -- but something cautioned me. It was like climbing out of a steamy shower and staring into a fogged mirror. You knew you had to wipe the moisture away to see yourself again. But what if there was something scary behind you, like in those horror movies? What if she what she wrote was something angry, or hurtful, or terrifying? I didn't know why my thoughts streamed in that direction. She didn't know me at all, nor I to her. So how could she be mad or frightened of me? Why would she want to write me a letter in the first place?
This girl held so much mystery. I couldn't get a grip.
I waited until after ten, when most were asleep and everyone else calmed down. The storm had intensified greatly by then, rattling the cold windows and disturbing the restless. I shoved the note in my pocket and paced down the hall, around the corner, and into the nearest restroom. After making sure there was no one around, I climbed into a shower stall and turned the leaking faucet away so it wouldn't drip on my clothes. I sat on the bench after I closed the curtain, and scraped my teeth across my bottom lip.
The crumbled letter stared back at me. Her words, her secret. Whatever she couldn't say out loud.
As the lights above flashed on and off, the wind howling and echoing around the large, brick building, my fingers uncoiled the note without direction from my brain. I inhaled slowly and tried to focus on the sloppy hand-writing, the single paragraph.
The lights provided threatened to quit in protest of the storm, so I brought the letter closer to my face and tilted my head in attempt to read it. The thunder crashed on.
I'm sorry this is written and not spoken, she wrote, but you're not the easiest to approach. I don't know what your place is here. I'm not sure if you're someone like me, or someone who works here. But whoever you are, I just wanted to say thank you for not reporting me after you saw me in the bathroom. I know it was after hours, and we were supposed to be asleep. But I needed an escape from everyone. I hope you can understand. I won't make it a habit though, I promise.
I re-read the letter several times, absorbing each letter in every word. It wasn't what I thought it would be. But it wasn't any less important. I made sure to recognize that as I made my way back into the rec room, several minutes later.
There she sat, the odd ball in a crowded room. She was curled up on the blue couch, a shirt covering her knees as she cradled them to her chest. My breath faltered while lightning flashed through the high window, decorating her sad expression. She appeared to be watching the television, and anyone else who walked past her would think that's what she was doing.
But her lost eyes gave her away. And her thoughts were definitely somewhere else.
I shivered as the thunder grew louder and I pressed my chin to the caps of my knees. I counted the seconds until I could see sunlight again.
The television flickered as the lightning soared around, threatening to cut the power. I prayed it wouldn't. Prayed with all my might.
"...The whole air is conspiring
and ravening thunder rumbles
your image turns in my head
obscure as dark, rolling clouds
Lightning curls, flickers
Yes, I long for you with a heavy gasp."
My mom's smile coursed through my thoughts, as she danced around the living room in white linens, reciting another poem. "Life is a lyric, my darling," she declared that night, twirling around effortlessly as I cowered on the couch, praying the rain would be over. "It's made to dance inside of."-
A clearing throat jolted me back to the present, and I snapped my head around quickly finding the boy from earlier. The one I wrote the letter to.
My body began to unravel.
He shoved his hands in his pockets and ignored the guy with the chipped tooth beside me when he was asked to move. I stared up at him nervously, wondering if he read my letter, and why he stood in front of me. "Copperhead!" the boy shouted, throwing a hissy fit. "Move out of the way."
The boy cleared his throat as the storm blared on, momentarily adding golden highlights to his bronzed hair. "I'm not unapproachable," he stated simply with a voice that was raspy but sincere. He shrugged his shoulders. He was just as nervous as I was. That made it easier, somehow.
More of the kids started calling to him, begging him to get out of the way. He ignored them still. The boy rocked back on his heels, never moving his eyes from mine. "...I'm sorry I didn't say anything earlier," he said, "but, uh, my name is Edward. What's yours?"
"Your name ain't Edward," the annoying boy scoffed, throwing a pillow at him. "You Copperhead."
Edward clenched his jaw as his fingers balled into fists. He tried to keep his anger at bay, to not go off on him. I couldn't blame him if he did. I didn't like my nickname and stereotypes either.
"Bella," I answered dryly, rubbing my throat.
"Nice to meet you."
With a nod, I gave a half-smile. The first honest one in weeks.
"Okay, okay! Jesus, you've met," someone said to my left. "Now get out of the fucking way!"
With a courage I hadn't felt in a long time, I pulled my shirt from around my knees and stood up, causing people to direct their screams at the both of us. "Do you, uhm, maybe, I don't know-"
"Wanna go somewhere and talk?" he cut me off, finishing the rest of my sentence.
With a nod, he swiftly moved out of the way. "Okay," he said. "Come on."
Edward led me down countless hallways, past the land of the living, toward a black door at the far end of a darkened hallway. If he were anyone else, especially anyone in this building, I'd turn and run in the opposite direction. But there was something about this boy. Something that told me I was safe.
He jiggled the knob a few times, turned the it a certain way, then another, and eventually, he un-jammed it. Then he faced me. "Don't worry," he whispered as he pushed it open. "I'm not homicidal." His smile was crooked and partly sarcastic. Thunder crashed above us, lifting my feet from the ground. I shivered and took a deep breath, trying to calm my speeding heart. His eyes studied my own, questioning whether or not I'd go through the door. "I promise," he insisted, and I immediately believed him. But I held my breath as I passed through anyway.
As the door closed behind us, he grasped my shoulder, instantly providing warmth as that unfamiliar, intense current flew through my body once more. "Careful," he whispered quickly, before flicking on a light. "There's steps." I nodded, gaping down at the narrow wooden pathway. Then I turned back to him. He was so tall. And beautiful. And broken.
At least we had one thing in common.
"Where are we going?"
"The basement," he answered simply.
The windows shook as the wind screamed outside. I shivered, wrapping my arms around my chest. "And... what is in the basement, exactly?"
Edward smirked, the laugh lines decorating his flawless, charming face. "Privacy."
Once we made it down into the colder air, he led me around the large open room, passing by a long set of working washers and dryers, and gathered a few crates. We continued walking the narrow hall until we reached a place that was cut-off from all views. Still, I wasn't frightened. How strange it was, that thought.
He placed the crates by an opened screen door, damp from the storm outside. "Sorry," he said as we took our seats. "There are no real chairs down here."
"I don't mind. How did you find this place?"
"...I'd tell you but then I'd have to kill you." Again, he grinned crookedly at me.
I rolled my eyes and shook my head, pulling my shirt over my knees once more. The lightning cracked and frizzled, forcing all the hair on my arms to rise up. I scootched my crate a few feet away from the door. "Isn't that why we're down here in the first place," I teased uneasily. "So you could kill me?"
"I told you I wasn't homicidal," he replied. And then he paused, swallowing and ducking his eyes. "...That trait doesn't run in the family."
Quickly, my heart clenched at his words. I turned and glanced at his profile. His eyes were much greener, almost an emerald glass, when the lightning flashed in them. I bit my lip, shrugging my shoulders. "So, that rumor was true, then?"
Edward turned toward me, fixing me in an intense gaze. My lips parted as air was sucked from my lungs. "You heard about that?"
I nodded meekly, wishing I hadn't mentioned anything. "Yeah..."
With a heavy sigh he turned back toward the storm and shrugged his shoulders. "Guess it's okay to go ahead and get it out of the way," he replied. "It's true."
He nodded and pursed his lips, pressing his thumbs together. "What about you?"
I closed my eyes and pressed my face into my knees. "Su…suicide," I answered after a few moments of silence. It was the first time I said it out loud. And I didn't answer accidental overdose, like it said on her paperwork.
sI couldn't stop the tears from falling down my cheeks. "Y-Yeah," I whimpered, wiping my face onto my pajama pants.
"I'm sorry to hear that," he sighed softly. "Where is your father?"
"I don't know. I don't know him."
I lifted my chin then turned my head, pressing the right side of my face onto my knees. His eyes studied mine, warming my stiffened frame. He made it easy to talk to him, to be honest. "No," I whispered. "Not at all." Edward licked his lips and nodded, never taking his eyes from mine. I was thankful for that. His gaze warmed me and I didn't want the cold to return to my bones.
"And you don't like storms?" He must have noticed me shivering.
I shook my head, "I hate them. I hate anything that has to do with water... well, besides the shower, anyway. And I take quick ones of those."
His brows furrowed. "Why is that?"
I bit down on my bottom lip and held my legs closer to my body, failing to hold myself together. "...It's... hard to... explain."
"Well," he pulled in a deep breath, "is there anything I can do to... help you?"
I closed my eyes. "I don't think so," I sobbed quietly, my throat burnt raw. "It all just hurts. It... hurts to be forgotten. It hurts to cry about it."
Edward pulled his eyes from mine and squinted as the storm raged on. He knew I wasn't looking for a response. I just needed to get it out.
"You know, I love the water," he stated after several minutes of thunder-filled silence. "But I hate wind."
I chuckled, shaking my head. "Wind's the only part of the storm that I can handle."
He grinned out into the moonless night, nodding his head up and down, "...Then I guess we have a decent balance, hmm?"
I studied his features, before turning to face the black sky as well. "...Yeah. I guess so."
Edward and I sat in that cold room on plastic crates colored red and blue and watched the sky hover over the city as it did it's sporadic dance of gold and silver. We were there for hours, providing something new which we both obviously needed. And from the peace in the air and the expression on his face, he was just as aware of it as I was.
With our silent but solid presence, we each somehow offered the other what no one else could, or was even willing to. We gave one another the chance to just… be.
I didn't ask him about his mother or his life or his pain. He didn't ask me about my loneliness or my gloves or my tears. We simply accepted what we were, and in that acceptance, there was a rare moment of comfort.
The hours passed.
The storm raged on.
And no one came to look for us.
As morning drew near, Edward and I tip-toed back upstairs, down empty echoing hallways, and back towards our rooms. We made sure no adults were lurking, then he walked me to the girls' side of the door, and lingered in the doorway. "Well," I shrugged, looking up at his suddenly sad eyes. "I guess it's goodnight... then."
He nodded, sticking his hands in his pockets. "Goodnight, Bella."
I gave a reassuring smile before I ducked inside, careful not to disturb any of the girls in the room while I dug out my pajamas. I learned my lesson the week before when I turned on the light. It was catastrophic.
"Oh, hey, Bella?"
His voice caught me off guard, and I jumped, surprised that Edward was still there. Rushing back toward the doorway, I couldn't hide the shock that was evident on my face, though I felt... pleased... to have him around still. "Yeah?"
Edward shuffled from foot to foot, glancing down at the concrete floors, then back up at me. He looked scared suddenly. And still solemn.
"I don't think anyone could ever forget you," he whispered eventually, with a voice that remained velvet and soft, despite his troubled eyes. "Not even when they're gone."
I sighed and cradled my body, thinking of my mom and hoping that what he said was true. Again, it was strange how he knew just the right words to ease my unspoken fears.
"...Thank you, Edward."
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SIDENOTE ANNOUNCEMENT ; Regarding True Life : The Next Factor.
I've received close to a hundred pm's & emails regarding your questions for the sequel posting date. Guys, I realize it's December and the sequel hasn't launched, and I'm sorry for that. I am dealing with personal issues atm, things that MUST be taken care of, and will get to it as soon as it is (and I am) ready. I am not delaying the story any more than I have to, but I REFUSE to post anything half-assed.
Currently for TNF, I am hard at work at re-drafting outlines, discussing options, picking pieces, songs, pictures, etc, making the banners and layouts for the new and upcoming Twilighted thread, so on and so forth. It's all in the works. It has not been forgotten. The new posting date has NOT BEEN DETERMINED. I'm not going to set a specific date or time for the posting schedule of TNF until I get further along with things. The best thing you can do is to put me on "Author's Alerts" list if you haven't, that way when it gets posted (which it will), you'll be the first to know. I understand you're eagerness, and trust me, I'm excited too. I promise you that it will be worth the wait if you're willing to stick around.
TEF has been nominated for 2 Shimmer Awards (in profile for details.) Thank you so much for your love, nominations, as well as your concerns, blessings, and patience with me. ILYG.