People of the Internet! I am not dead! See? I'm right here writing this to you. Hi!

I'm SO sorry that I haven't updated in so long! School started, and new story ideas came to mind. I've been distracted as well as stuck. It's not a very good combination, let me tell you! So, I finally decided to put up... a PREVIEW!


Fine. It's not exactly what you wanted, but I'm really stuck for ideas. I've had lots of help with developing this next chapter, and I'm still relying on that help. But, for now, here's a almost 700 word preview to settle you. You'll notice that this is named accordingly as "Chapter 5.5" You'll get the rest later, when I can settle down and focus on this so it can be the best for my readers. Guys, thanks so much for being so patient. I love ya, I couldn't have done this without ya, and thanks for being so patient.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy this preview:

Here's a note to all of you young runaways looking for jobs: Adults don't take you seriously when you're eight years old and offer to exterminate their house for bugs.

House after house, door after door, person after endless person, all the same answer. "No thank you" a lewd comment and a slammed door in the face. But, among all the comments, the naysayers, the smart alecs, there was one good piece of advice. A suggestion if you want to call it that.

"Shine some shoes, kid."

It was made by a very pregnant woman who already had 3 kids, who were jumping around her asking who was at the door and if "Daddy" had come home. I thanked her and exited her front porch, feeling a lot better than when I had first stepped onto it.

Shoe shining! Why hadn't I thought of that before? I could save bug extermination for when I was older, and knew how to use dangerous chemicals! Shoe shining was easy, and didn't cost much. I'd just need some shoe shine, a rag, and a box or two for people to sit down and put their feet on! It was perfect!

I skipped down the street and into town, pulling my red wagon of bug killing poisons behind me. I was going to go and take down the signs that I had put up earlier that day when someone grabbed my arm and covered my mouth, dragging me into an alley

I panicked. This had never happened without it being some kind of test with Pat and Olivia and Rachel! This was real, and it was happening now. And I wouldn't let everything that two years of training taught me go to waste. So, I did what any sane eight year old would do.

I clamped down on his hand and elbowed his stomach. He released me for a moment with a very familiar scream. Using that moment, I ran for the exit of the alley. But, he caught me again, and held me tighter this time. I tried to fight back, but he held me at arms length.

"Well, well, well... what do we have here?" A familiar voice spoke. I stopped struggling and looked up to see who my captor was.

"Pat!" I yelled, almost knocking him over with a hug. "Where's Olivia and Rachel? Can I come and live with you guys again?"

"Maren." Pat said, brushing off my question. "We need to talk."

The seriousness of his voice made me scared. "Pat? Where's Olivia and Rachel?"

"They're fine." Pat answered. "But we need to talk."

I gulped and nodded, not liking where this was going.

"Remember how we found each other?" Pat asked. "In the alleyway 2 years ago?"

I nodded, the visions of that day coming back.

"And you remember what happened before we saw you?" Pat assumed. I nodded. "Well no one else can know about that. Do you understand?"

I nodded again. "But-"

"This is serious Maren!" Pat exclaimed, tightening his grip on my arm. "If anyone finds out what happened in that alley..." He shook his head gravely. "I don't know what would happen. But it wouldn't be good, I can tell you that. You have to promise me that you won't tell anyone. Can you do that Maren?"

I nodded and said quietly, but strongly, "I promise that I won't tell a soul."

Pat nodded. "You always were a good kid, even if you did kick the crap out of me." He turned to leave the alleyway.

"Pat!" I called. He turned back. "Can I come back with you?"

He shook his head. "No. Those guys from yesterday are still looking for you. You need to find some place to hide.

"I did." I reassured him. "I'll keep my promise."

Pat stood there for a moment, then, turned and began walking out of the alleyway again. I watched him go. Then, I sat down, hugged my knees to my chest, and cried, wondering how my life had ever gotten so messed up.