NOTE: So this is my first Fanfic in about… 3 years? I forgot how much I liked writing them. :) Yeah, so anyway, this may not be totally up to par since it has been so long, and I've been busy with stuff. Anyway, enjoy.
Chapter 1: If You Only Knew
Mari stood at the window, lips parted slightly, and let her eyes, which had long since been stricken with the coldness of social isolation, fall to the garden that lay outside. John, her father, was on his knees, ridding the fruitful dirt of the wicked weeds that wished to suffocate the tomatoes that had recently been planted. Mari was a tomato. In her mind, Krug was still out to get her, still out to smite her in the cruel way he'd murdered Paige. It was only a matter of time before he figured out where she was and…
"Mari?" Mari screamed as a hand latched onto her shoulder, interrupting her train of thought. Instinctively, she panicked and wrenched away, kicking backwards as she struggled to escape. Darting to the corner and breathing heavily, only then did Mari realize it was only her mother. Emma had backed off towards the opposing wall and looked frightfully at her daughter.
"Mari, I'm sorry… I spoke to you when I first came in, I thought you heard me. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to scare you like that." Emma slowly advanced across the room and wrapped her arms around Mari, who immediately became rigid to the touch of another human's flesh.
"I'm sorry. I just came in to tell you…" Emma's words were lost upon her daughter, who once again, began to zone out. Since her attack three years ago, Mari Collingwood's bad days gradually began to outnumber her good ones, and this was certainly one of the bad ones. Mari's good days included her willingness to speak, though the words were few, and often consisted only of short greetings and small talk with no eye contact. She would work in the garden with either of her parents, and sit outside, as long as someone was with her. Mari was never alone unless she was inside, and even then, her parents were customarily in the next room. During her bad days, she hardly spoke a word, and instead stayed in her room, sitting on her bed with her knees tucked up under her chin. In three years, Mari had lost her youth; now she was an emotionless statue, still and hard as stone.
"Hey, girls!" John entered Mari's room, still dawning his dirt covered gardening gloves.
"Oh, John!" Emma exclaimed. "I wish you would've taken those gloves off outside; they're filthy! And I just vacuumed too. I really would prefer not to do it again." John sighed, pulled off the gloves, and shoved him into his pocket.
"What I was going to say was that Mari's birthday is coming up and we should plan a party of some sort." John put a loving hand on his daughter's shoulder. "Doesn't that sound like fun, Mari?" Mari's cold, unfeeling eyes drifted from the corner of the room to meet her father's.
"Birthday?" Mari though to herself. "My birthday?" It proved to be harder and harder with each passing day to keep track of time in her world which seemed to have no sense of time at all. Mari's birthday was July 14 and she could've sworn it was March. This birthday would commemorate her 19th year on this godless earth, a day that she lost all hope of seeing three years ago when she laid in the mud outside the lake house, covered in her own blood from her bullet wound, in the cold, relentless rain, praying for the sweet release of Death, which never seemed to come. After living in Life's house for 16 years, she had waltzed straight up to the picket fence which divided the property between Life and Death. Death had stood on the other side, beckoning her to come and play on his side for a while and made it look oh so tempting. But Life had unbreakable shackles around her ankles and would not permit her to leave. She was life's prisoner.
Mari broke herself from her trance and nodded yes to her father's question.
"A party… might be nice," she slowly muttered.
"That's great, Sweetheart." John kissed his daughter's forehead before returning to his garden work. Emma soon followed. When they were gone, Mari's gaze returned to the window and the world just beyond the glass.
A familiar beat up, dark blue pickup pulled into the driveway. Mari's knees locked as the owner of the truck stepped out. As his slightly worn white tennis shoes stepped onto the gravel driveway, he ran a hand through his thick black hair. She hated him, and somehow she could not look away. He shot a glance up towards her window; her icy blue eyes met his mesmerizing sapphires. It was only after that moment that she was able to turn away from the window and press her back against the wall, and then proceeded to sink to the floor. Mari despised him with every inch of her soul, and yet something about him drew her to him. There was some sort of connection between them, and Mari had made it her life's ambition to destroy it, not matter what the cost.
"I think she may be getting better," Emma told John, who was once again on his knees pulling weeds. She leaned against the white siding of the house and folded her arms. "She talked a little today. She seemed willing to give the party a try." John sighed.
"I don't know. I used to think that way too. But after a while, I discovered I was only harming myself by getting my hopes up. What happened to Mari scarred her mentally and emotionally. I wish we could get her some help, but right now, we've got to stay hidden. Getting ourselves hauled off for murder won't help Mari at all." John looked up as the sound of tires grinding gravel grew nearer. A blue pickup pulled into the driveway next to the garden.
"Hey, did you remember to pick up the milk?" Emma called out to the driver as he stepped outside.
"Would you believe that they were out?" he replied in frustration, rolling his eyes. "I keep telling you guys, this place is a shithole. The general store is out of stock of nearly everything almost all day every day. The law "enforcement" is off stuffing their fat ass faces with doughnuts, and local the kids that hang around here are a bunch of good for nothing potheads! This place sucks."
"Don't forget you used to be a pothead," John retorted sternly, raising an eyebrow. "Small shithole towns are all we can manage right now. No one will recognize us here. It's our home, for now."
"Besides, Justin," Emma added, "you're like our family now. We need you and you need us. Where else would you have gone?" A half smile crept across Justin's black stubbled face, which had become more chiseled and distinguished throughout the years.
"You guys know I'm grateful for saving my ass.."
"Mari seemed to be a bit more responsive today," John told him, his serious tone completely gone. "Maybe you could go upstairs and see if you could get her to talk a little more?" Justin glanced up towards Mari's window. He caught a glimpse of her long, unkempt blonde hair that framed her pale face before she ducked away.
"I wouldn't push it," Justin cautioned. "If she's starting to talk more, don't force her into it. I know you guys are excited that she's seeming to get a little better, but don't overdo it." And with that, he tromped up the front steps and into the little two story house. He climbed the stairs but on the way to his room, he paused in front of Mari's door, which of course, was closed, and if Mari had her way, locked. Her parents had removed the locks on all the doors because they were secretly afraid Mari would try to commit suicide, again. The first few months after she'd been kidnapped had been Hell. And Justin still blamed himself.
Justin knew how Mari felt about him. He could see it whenever they locked eyes; how cold they were, as if they were saying "You did this to me". And she had every right to feel that way. After all, if Justin had never laid eyes on her and Paige at that little store by that stupid lake, none of this would ever had happened. It would've all been just a horrible nightmare, and they all would've woken up and gone on with their lives. Justin was the only one who had gained anything at all from meeting Mari's family. He had a family, a real one. His whole childhood, all he prayed for was for someone to love him, and now he had the Collingwoods. But he didn't want his wish if it meant that someone had to suffer for it to come true. Mari didn't deserve that.
"It couldn't hurt to just say hello," Justin murmured as he raised his knuckle to knock on the door. Gently, he let his hand tap the wood once, then fall. He couldn't. They'd lived together for 3 years, and he still couldn't face her. Instead, he trudged down the hall to his own room and slammed the door, furious with himself for creating a monster and not being man enough to destroy it.
Mari heard him. Huddled in the corner next to her window, she heard Justin stomp up the stairs and stop in front of her door. Mari wasn't the wounded little girl that everyone made her out to be. That was a disguise so that her true motives would remain concealed. Mari yearned to burst through the door and claw him. Her hatred for him gnawed at her heels like a demon. She had to have her revenge, and she would, she swore on her life.
For the first year after Mari's attack, she was a wreck; a spineless jellyfish, an empty shell of a human being. Suicide attempt after suicide attempt, nothing seemed to work. Her parents refused to leave her alone for a single second after they came across Mari huddled in the bathtub with no water in it, in the dark, wrists torn to shreds, with her own fingernails, since they knew better than to let Mari around razors, while she was hugging herself, rocking back and forth, and sobbing hysterically. Her mother was with her from dawn to dusk, even in the bathroom. After 6 months, Mari had had enough. For just once she needed to be alone with her thoughts, even if she wasn't trying to kill herself just then.
The thought occurred to her one night when she was falling asleep. Her life needed purpose. While it was true that she didn't want to live anymore, Mari figured she had better make use of her time left. On that night she hardened her heart and decided to inflict pain on someone, just as Krug had done to her. And who better than the son of Krug?
When she heard his footsteps again and his door slam shut, she cracked open her door and took a peek down the hall. Mari moved like a ghost down the wooden floor, gracefully, yet slowly. When she reached Justin's door, a sadistic grin crept across her face. If only he knew what she had in store for him. If only he knew.