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Whenever I had looked at the kid’s face on the milk cartons, I only looked to see their faces. Not to give thought to them. Not to remember their appearance in case I actually saw them. Not to remind my friends to keep an eye out for them. No blessing or prayer at all. None of that, I wasn’t planning on helping.
But now that this world has turned on me and I was the kid on the back of it, staring helplessly out to anyone who will actually remember my face and search for me, it’s all different. If I’d known this would’ve happened I would’ve listened. I would’ve seen. I would’ve helped. But no, I had to learn it the hard way.
You see, I used to be like your normal-preppy-cheerleader-too-much-make-up-wearing-two-timing-straight-C’s-jerk. I made fun of the nerds, I teased the kids over weight, I cried like a baby when my boyfriend broke up with me like it was the end of the world, I wore clothes too small for my growing self, I whined and demanded everything I desired. I got everything I wanted. Well almost, I was spoiled, but you can’t buy happiness either. It’s something that pride gives with it and you have to earn it and be content with before getting it. I was never truly happy. I was mean. I was horrible. I was the old me. And I never could understand that emptiness within the core.
Now I’m new, revised, cautious, quiet, thoughtful, sorrowful, shielded and the complete opposite of my former being. A year of being trapped under ground, praying that someone would finally notice this place, right beneath their feet, has taught me to deal with the harsh life.
I don’t even know how I was once that cheerleading prep. Now, I don’t talk about much, I give up possessions I accomplish to receive to others and … well basically I’m an angel compared to what I use to be. I’m not exactly the nicest person you’ve ever meet though, I still harbor some attitude, but only because I was always on edge. I’ve been kidnapped first off. But my prominent problem right now is being number one on these peoples ‘Elimination List’.
I felt a sharp pain jolt through the small of my back and I pressed my lips together to keep my gasp of surprise unheard. Horror filled every pore in my body though and I sucked in a breath and turned around to see my pursuer.
This can’t be it, not yet. I have to help the others…
I released the breath in a sigh though seeing as it was only Spunky.
Spunky with an ear to ear grin slapped on his skinny face.
I narrow my eyes at him and hissed, “What do you want Derrick?”
“Amanda.” He whined though, you see, Spunky here hates his real name for two reasons:
One: He thinks it makes him sound like a nerd and ‘Spunky’ makes him sound cool (even though is more of a mouse-ish character to me. I mean, he’s skinny, smaller than normal guys, twelve years old, and has a serious case of giggle syndrome. Does that not sound mouse-ish to you?)
Two: His parents abused him, holding his head under water for ten seconds (at least) after he started to gurgle for air. They did it to him when he did something wrong (in their eyes). Personally though, I think they were just crazy, his dad for sure considering he was a drunk. I don’t know what made his mom even bring a hand to slap him though. Stress can do a lot to you I guess, but I didn’t know it would do that much. Jeez. I mean, imagine your lungs collapsing in on themselves and not being able to do anything but struggle and count down the seconds. It’s horrid to think about, but it must’ve been a million billion times worse actually being there… and knowing that your parents were causing it.
So I guess the name only brings the memories he’s pushed down under, up again.
Normally I would’ve smacked him for his ambush on my unsuspecting self, but not right now. I had already fallen victim to his pity story… again. So with the seam of guilt pulsing inside me and knowing that I couldn’t bring my fingers to flick him at the moment, I gave in instead.
“Fine Spunky, What do you want?” I mumble.
He clapped his hands in front of him in a gay fashion, even though he is completely straight, and giggled in glee. “Yea,” He exclaimed. “Okay, this is big news. And I mean BIG. Like earth shaking important…”
He was cut off though and stepped back, gulping down his babble. I glared at him and sent a mental note: ‘Get to the point already or someone is going to end up with a sore limb.’
“Okay, Okay. Jesh. Your grandma is awake, talking… And she knows how to get out of here.” And as his words left his mouth, my legs went limp and my brain went blank it seems like, and I stumbled to the floor, grasping for the wall for stable support.
We can get out of here, but what about everyone else? I thought to myself.
Mean while Spunky had a huge smile on his face again, he’d finally learned my true weakness.
He leaded the way, back into the rooms were we have arranged for the elderly to stay (we, as in the kidnapped kids/teens, not the people who were keeping us here).
I grazed my fingers along the tarnished and peeling, light coffee colored walls as we pass. This place is old, really old. It used to be a church, underground, I don’t know why. But this place is huge. It’s halls and rooms are very spacious. At least we have that. It’s been an advantage for us, leaving us plenty of room instead of being cramped and going crazy or claustrophobic. It also is a disadvantage because they made sure we have plenty of space so they have plenty of room to pack in more people. My estimate on how many people are down here: seventy five. I know it may not seem like a lot compared to how many people there are in the world, but it isn’t exactly easy to kidnap fifty kids at once and not leave a trail. Jeez, I mean, no matter how much I despise their guts, you have to admit, they got some talent keeping all that a secret and getting away with it… so far. I planned to bust them. Big time. I just had to get out of there first; and to do that I had to know how, leading my minds thoughts tracking back to my grandma.
A tiny flutter drifted in circles in my stomach. I swallowed my breath and shook my head, trying to scare away my nervous gut. I love my Grandma, but being kidnapped and brought down here (She got down here two years before me.) and seeing her alive but asleep the whole time; well It made her feel like a stranger. Like a friend that I was besties with in the second grade and then five years later see them again and all the words were packed below your throat, so all you can do is wave, not able to get past the cloud of fogging curiosity and remembrance clouding your field of speech. I honestly was awaiting this moment, dreaming about it often. Every morning I woke up, I went to the nursery and sat in her ‘room’ for at least ten minutes. I never did much. I mainly sat there, looking at her gentle face, at perfect peace in the dream unknown to us. Only she being able to experience the wonderful universe she was being show cased. Sometimes I brought a friend. Most the time it’s either Collin or Neath (Knee-ea- u- t).
Neath is practically my new best friend. She keeps to herself and doesn’t ask questions about anything unless I bring up a subject and she knows it’s alright to ask. She’s nice too. Everyone loves her. She was like the popular person here. Except subtract everything mean about what popularity can bear on its shoulders. She’s not only that too, she’s also smart and pretty. So she has the adults swooning over her intellect and the guys drooling over her looks. (Yes, being kidnapped doesn’t keep the guy/girl drama from coming, it’s everywhere, you can’t help it.) And then she has the girls admiring her sincerity and popularity Neath has without an effort. She’s amazing. I’m just surprised she chose me to stick by her side. With all the other girls here that are desperate for any attention they can get now, they could’ve begged at Neath’s feet and it would be about the same. Girls are always coming up to her and trying to act cool and get her attention, but she gives meager replies to people like that. That’s another thing I like about her, she doesn’t fall for people that are artificial. I don’t know how she knows it sometimes, but she just does. Okay, I know what you’re thinking, ‘Okay, enough about the somehow perfect friend, who’s Collin?’
Well maybe you’re not thinking that, I don’t know. I’m not a mind reader. I only wish. I do want to give you some insight on him though. First of all, he is nice and somber. He’s been here just a couple months more than me and he has learned to live with the conditions without complaining 24/7 like some people I know. *Cough* Halley. *Cough* I’ll tell you about her in a minute though. Back to Collin, as you might’ve guessed, yeah. I’m as normal as every other girl in this death trap. I’ve tripped and stumbled for him too. But give me a break. He seems like he caught me when I fell. I mean, he has some killer looks. His black hair reaches just over the tips of his ears so he has some hair to shake around. He’s pretty skinny and from what I know has some muscle. He is in general about the average height of a fourteen or fifteen year old. And he has some nice sense in clothes for what we can get down here too. He sticks with some trusty jeans, layered shirts (long sleeve under short sleeve) and this one jacket he always has, a grey one that looks like an Areopostale or Hollister special. It’s darker grey like a charcoal in the center and is outlined by a light grey like a dusty cloud or clean campfire smoke. I don’t know how he got that. Maybe he had it when he got here. But it’s my favorite thing he wears. And I’ll admit it. I’ve had my little fantasies about him letting me wear it. I can’t help it, my mind wanders a lot now since I’m more of the quiet one.
It’s not only appearance though, its personality that benefits too. He has a quiet side like myself, but normally he can keep up his end of the conversation. He’s the perfect balance between optimistic and honest also. So he can tell the truth while lightening your emotions. I don’t know anyone else that can do that.
Okay, yeah, amazing right? Well here’s the blow. We were only friends. I have the same problem almost every other girl does (not girls down here, I mean you people wise), I wanted to be in his heart and in his arms, safe and warm and loved. On the other hand, What if I asked and ruined everything we had? It became too awkward to even look at each other?
Another problem, every chick down here is trying to get with him. Like I said, I’m not the only one who doesn’t like him. There might be one or two girls down here that don’t and that’s only because they are lying to themselves. Collin even got asked out by a seven year old (Sadie). I was there when it happened and I have to say, it was pretty funny to see the look on his face. But he let her down easy, saying that he wasn’t ready to date yet while he was down in this place. I’m not sure if it was an excuse or not, but whichever it was he left the girl solemn and walking slowly away, and another fighting with herself inside whether or not she should still have the hot-s for him.
Other times though people his age have asked him out, *sneeze* Halley. *sneeze* I don’t know what he said to them though because the only scene like that I witnessed was the seven year olds’. I hope he hurt her feelings though. I don’t like her one bit, she’s the one person down here that has retained her spoiled-ness. It makes me sick to see her sucking up to the adults to and creating the mask of an angel, when all she is, is the prep/artificial person I use to be, except with extra ‘features’. *gag*
Halley was always trying to flirt/impress/embarrass me in front of/get with/attract attention from Collin. And I strongly disliked her for it. I especially hated it when once in the cafeteria, she decided it would entertain him and herself if she sat in his lap and hugged him. At first I wasn’t all too mad, because hugs aren’t anything too special (or so I though, I hadn’t really hugged Collin), but I was about to pounce on her cute little butt when she sat in his lap and toyed with his hair, I’m not going to get specific here, but she made sure he got a nice shot of her cleavage then.
You don’t know how jealous I was, seriously. And when he smiled at her and stroked the ends of her hair, I think my heart actually frayed in the intensity of my own emotions.
At that moment though, I’m pulled away from my wrestling thoughts because an arm is put in front of my path. Palm pressed against the wall. And I don’t have to look to know there was another behind me too, barricading me in his reach.
I close my eyes and mutter under my breath. “Come on, Logan, let me go before you get hurt.” Okay, I couldn’t hurt him actually, but I’m still obliged to make a threat.
“Come on Amanda. Can’t you spare sometime for your secret… well not secret, but admirer?” Logan drawled on, wasting my time.
“No.” I answer simply and duck under the gate his arms had formed around me.
He followed me though, of course, typical Logan, jeez.
“Don’t be like that.” He complained walking on my heels, purposefully trying to catch the flailing ends of my shoe laces.
I didn’t say anything though and when I turned the corner to the nursery, I make a quick attempt of escape from him, by suddenly breaking into a quick sprint down the hall towards Spunky who is looking at me questioningly.
I knew Logan was a fast runner, but I didn’t know he would catch me that quick. I was only able to sprint down the hall for maybe five seconds before he came up from behind and grabbed my wrist, making me falter to a stop and I cursed under my breath as he pushed me to the wall, holding me so I wouldn’t ditch again.
When I looked back down the hall, Spunky had already deserted me and left to go ahead to the nursery. He must not have seen Logan before he came around the corner.
“Logan, I have to go to the nursery, I can’t deal with you right now.” I jerked my wrist as hard I could to get it out of his grasp even though it was useless since he was so much stronger and prepared for my feeble attempts to get away. “This is important and I really need to go.” I said assertively to him.
He stood there, mocking me in his thoughts, but keeping his face practically blank.
“That’s more important than me? I doubt it baby doll.” He says slyly, brushing his finger on my upper arms where his hand was still locking me to the wall.
I felt like spitting in his face, but then word would spread and Collin would know and think I’m a freak. So Instead I struggled to free myself from his hold. He watched me for a minute then let go of me, but not entirely. He let his hand fall down to mine and clasped it possessively. “So did you mention you’re going to the nursery?”
I looked at him, a foot taller than me, dirty blond hair, broad shoulders, muscular, completely hot, but with that dumb defiant look on his face, denying any proof of a personality that’s in the least bit appealing. To me at least.
This time, I manage to wriggle my hand free of his and grasp it in my other hand away from him, about to run again, but deciding against it since I know he’d only catch up and pin me to the wall again. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
I side step and cross my arms while beginning to walk a little faster. Logan kept pace perfectly though. “Naw, I think I should stick with you in case someone comes along and tries to hurt you. Like that Collin kid, he isn’t any good. I can tell, trust me. I don’t know why you like him so much.”
I narrowed my eyes at him, “The only one that has hurt me here is you and the Organization.” I point out and walk a little faster, thinking if I can just get close enough to a door, maybe I can lock it behind myself…
Next thing I know though he turned on me and has stopped me from walking, again. I always felt like a mushroom compared to a dog in his presence, he’s so dang tall. Maybe six foot three I guess? I’m around five foot one. I’m a short character and proud to be. I always like the idea of having to stand on my tippy toes to kiss someone (Collin). That would work out since he’s a little taller than me, maybe half a foot taller?
So he isn’t a giant like Logan, and he isn’t my height so I can still imagine my tippy-toe-kiss. See, yet another perfection I’ve managed to identify. I think about it too much.
“I would never hurt you.” He said leaning down slightly to look me in the eye.
“You just did.” I mumble looking away and backing up, away from his out stretched hand.
He looked at me for a minute and added, “-purposefully.”
I give him the: your-so-stupid-look (again) and say, “You know, there is a better word for that, it’s called intently.”
He sighed and slapped his hands down to his sides. “There you go again, being such a smart ass. It is really unattractive when you do that.”
I slowly step to the side and edge my way around him slowly while he’s preoccupied. He may be strong and athletic, but he is also very oblivious and dumbfounded. “That’s a good thing from my point of view. And you shouldn’t be cussing. It’s bad luck.” I tell him pointedly.
“Oh great, now your superficial too.” He paused to make a disgusted face. “That isn’t a good thing either, you know you want this.” He said haughtily and motioning toward himself.
My brow furrowed and I looked at him menacingly. “Er, gag?”
He smiled though and moved closer, just as I was about to make my get away, ruining my perfect escape. Oh-well, here goes nothing.
I darted off again, in hopes of being able to finally break through Logan’s hard scalp and let him know that I do not want some of that.
I began to run, maybe a couple of feet, but guess what happened this time. I tripped on my shoe lace. Of all things.
My face collided with the un-waxed floor only a few seconds after I tripped. I felt my eyes dilute quickly and a tear escaped from the corner of my eye. I gritted my teeth together and willed myself to stop crying when it was only a minor injury. Just a bloody nose.
I pushed myself up onto my hands and could hear Logan laughing his throat sore from behind me. I clenched my jaw in anger and I felt like sobbing out loud right there because of my embarrassment. He chuckled and then burst into another fit of hoarse laughter. He even punched the wall when his stomach hurt from his chuckling.
I got up and wobbled shortly then found my ground and just walked away. I didn’t look back. Not even when he asked me to stop.
“Come on Amanda, don’t be like this.” He moaned behind me. I walked away and through the door though ignoring him as best I could.
I thought he hadn’t followed me, but when his uninvited hands touched my hips on both sides I lashed around, making his hands retreat to his sides. I talked while I had one hand pinching the roof of my nose. “If you don’t like this,” I motioned my free hand from my head down to my hips and pointed to my toes. “Then why do you even bother messing with me?”
He looked at me and cocked his head as if I was the most stupid girl he’d ever met. “Isn’t that obvious?”
I turned around and slowly walked farther away. “Not to me.”
His hand was on my shoulder told me he was still there, when I finally thought the brief silence meant he left. Apparently not.
“There are a couple of reasons. One: you’re hot.” I jerked my shoulder from under his hand when he said it even though I felt the distant tingle of a blush on my cheeks. He continued anyway. “Two: Even though I act the opposite, I like talking to you, even when we are in fights.”
“We are always in fights, we never have a civil conversation.” I said pointedly and shifted to my other leg before my left got sore.
“That’s not my fault.” He continued before I could retort though. “Three: I really do like you, more than friendly.” My cheeks were warm again, something I hadn’t felt in a long time, a year to be exact. “And another, I just like being with you Amanda. Is that a crime?”
You’d think a girl like me, not being able to experience something like this in such a long time, not even close, would fall right into his arms, a lot of girls would. But I already knew he’d done this before, he’s planned every line, just to get the girl and have his own game. Then tossing her away right after like a book you’ve just finished, not planning on reading it again. I was just another book on his list of novels to read, and I did not want to be there.
So instead of showering him in the kisses and hugs he was striving for, I walked down the wall, leaving him in his own mutilated and sour silence.
I pushed the door open to the nursery and felt the rush of warmer air engulf all around me. This was the warmest place, and that’s why we put the nursery here, the sick are supposed to be warm, right? So that’s how we took care of that dilemma as best we could considering there is a horrible draft throughout the rest of the building.
“What took you so long?” Spunky asked, waiting for me in front of the curtain that contained my Grandma’s bed.
“Logan.” I explained in one, simple word.
Spunky’s face flushed and looked down then back up to me, “Ops, I’m sorry, I wouldn’t have left if I knew he was what was holding you up.” His guilt rolled off in a second though and was replaced by enthusiasm I didn’t know how he could still produce within these depressing halls. “But next time I promise, I’ll whoop his butt for ya Amanda!” He punched the air then did a karate kick that only made him fall over in the end.
I couldn’t help but smile, he was funny.
I cleaned off the rest of the blood trail from my nose, before Spunky could ask, with a wad of Kleenex I had in my jacket’s pocket. I threw away the trash in a bin beside the curtain then looked down at the pouting Spunky.
I held out a hand to him and he grasped it and pulled himself up in a couple of tugs, “That wasn’t funny. I could’ve been seriously injured.” He said with a sour mouth. But as soon as he stopped talking he giggled and then pulled back the curtain to my grandma’s ‘room’.
I can’t believe I didn’t just run into the room and ignore Spunky’s babble, I completely forgot what I was here for just because of Logan and his artificial words. Jeez. But now that he had swept back the partially ripped curtains and I was exposed to my grandma sitting up in her bed and looking to the other side of the enclosed area, I felt overwhelmed with hurt and shock and enthusiasm and so much more. When she heard the curtains rattle though she turned to see my entrance and I saw her smile widely and her eyes seemed to grow moister. Not that it made me feel uncomfortable, because my eyes were brimming in the same remembrance tears as hers.
I blinked quickly and tried to brush away the tears. So many had come today already, normally I never cried, but I guess that day was like the new chapter in my life. Changes were being made, so I guess my emotions/hormones were included in that as well. Ugh.
I took a step closer and found that I couldn’t speak a word since my throat was suddenly clogged. Darn emotions. I cleared my throat ready to say a greeting, but I didn’t have to.
“Oh come over here and give your grandma a hug.” My grandma said holding her arms open for me. I hesitated at first, but when I felt the dam that held my tears back break, I rushed toward her and buried my head in her shoulder to try to hide the water seeping from my eyes.
My shoulders shuddered and she patted my back gently, she always had the perfect touch. “Oh I’ve missed you Ama.” She was turned the other way but I could tell that she was crying too, softer and lighter than me, but I could tell by the way her voice cracked when she said my old/renewed nickname.
“I’ve missed you too Grammy.” I say and smile to myself.
I heard someone clearing their throat behind me and detached myself from her to sweep around and bark at the person who had intruded on our moment. I found that I couldn’t though considering it was Collin.
The annoyance melted from my face and I stuttered over my words at his sudden appearance. “Oh, er, what… what are y-you doing here?”
Instead of answering my question, he walked over to my grandma and shook her hand introducing himself. “Hello Mrs.Bennings, How’re you today?”
My grandma didn’t make it obvious at all and I almost missed the secret wink she tossed at me. “I’m fine my dear boy, but you can call me Grams if you like, I rather like my nickname, it reminds me of gram crackers.” My grandmother smiled warmly up to him, my grandma was sitting up in bed and Collin was just a bit taller than where her head leveled.
Collin smiled and laughed shortly. “Okay Grams, I think I like that name too.”
Grammy patted his hand then let it go and turned back to me. “Now introductions and etc. can wait till later on, we have to discuss our escape plan. Go get your friends that your planning on taking the first time and don’t worry about the rest of these people. We’ll figure out a plan for ‘em too later when we are safely away from here.”
I didn’t think my grandma could get to the point like that, but I was proven wrong. So after my grandma gave us the demand Collin and I set out to gather up the ‘gang’.
“Grammy, why didn’t you just make Spunky get everyone?” I asked right before we left though.
She looked at me and smiled. “Dear, isn’t that obvious? I thought you and me might want a minute alone. You didn’t want everyone watching that, did you?”
She had a point. Of course she had a point, she was always right. “Oh yeah. That makes sense. Thanks Grammy.”
She nodded her head and made an approving sound before I let the curtain ripple downward, masking us from view.
“So how do you feel about your Grandma if you don’t mind me asking.” Collin asked as soon as we were out of ear shot.
I shrugged, looking at the floor. “I’m glad she’s ‘alive’ again.” We sometimes referred to her ‘deep sleep’ as death. Not that anyone actually hoped that, it was just something that came up in our conversations, like a nickname someone gets almost by accident, when they get called something over and over again.
He looked at me, but I didn’t meet his gaze. I was still thinking about him seeing me cry over my grandmother. It wasn’t exactly embarrassing, but I’m not sure if I wanted him to see that either.
“I’m glad she’s awake too. I’m glad we can have a sense of hope again.” He said casually. Sometimes I wonder how he can possibly say things so deep in front of people and act so casual, as if it were everyday talk. I liked that about him. He wasn’t afraid to show what he was feeling.
I nodded in agreement and changed the subject, not because it was uncomfortable, but because I just wanted to know. “So who are we going to track down first?”
He glanced at me then back ahead of his steps. “Well Spunky would be my first choice, but since he is already there, waiting for us, you pick.” He said, tossing my question right back at me.
“Neath is my best friend,” I said. I looked at him and he had a strongly sarcastic look on his face, staring at me jealously. “…after you of course.” I added. This was good enough for him and he turned around with a proud look on his face. “Who’s your best friend? Down here that is…” I asked timidly.
He answered a bit slow. “Well… I guess you then Matt, closely followed by Spunky himself,”
I nodded, even though I would’ve been much happier to have hugged him instead. I was ecstatic that I was considered his best friend… down here that is. Matt is his guy friend, he is pretty cute himself, the third heart throb down here. (1. Collin 2. Logan 3. Matt. And so on.)
My forming smile came to a halt though when he said, “Then Halley. There, My top friends.” I felt like punching his gut for falling for her looks, and as if on cue, she came stalking around the same corner I just been running away from the predator Logan.
She smiled her dolly face smile and I swear I saw her tongue slide out from between her lips to mock me when she ran at Collin and hurdled into his arms. He caught her easily and hugged her tight.
I slightly cocked my head… Normally they aren’t this affectionate, jeez. It was making me sick, why not just make out with her now?
Apparently Collin glanced at me and saw the hint of confusion I’d tried to hide. “Oh, I guess I forgot to tell you-”
Halley cut him off though and glared at me maliciously while wrapping her arms around Collin’s neck. “Collin and I are officially going out now.”
And with her dumb ass smirk she turned back to him and kissed him on the lips right in front of me.
Chapter Two: Escape Plan
I felt like gripping her by the shoulders and ripping her off him. Especially after all that Collin and I had been through, how could he just suddenly decide to date Halley? Didn’t he see how fake she was? How skanky she really was? How desperate she could be? How every time she talked to him her voice went from normal perky to an attempt of low-ish and husky; or how she always dressed in slutty clothes when she knew she was going to see him, couldn’t he see any of it? Couldn’t he see how much I liked him, no matter how much I tried to hide it? If he couldn’t, I seriously gave him too much credit in the intellect department.
Regardless of my startled emotions he kissed her back, not as ‘into it’ as Halley had been forcing on him, but still a kiss.
I felt my face get warm, so either I was blushing or I had become really pale. Either way, I acted as if I was shrugging it off and turned back around to go find Neath. I heard Halley let out a puff of complaint as Collin put her down on the ground and pulled away from her desperate kiss. At least he wasn’t going to stand there and have a full blown make out session with her. *shutter*
He came into view at my side, but I didn’t look at him, I kept my face looking ahead of me. I could also tell that he was holding her hand and dragging her along since his arm was being slightly strained, and pulled back behind him. Honestly, if he thinks she’s coming on the escape mission, round one, he’s in for some heat.
“So where’s Neath?” Collin asked as if he’d just coughed instead of that.
I cleared my throat since it was suddenly blocked again and gave him a meager answer on purpose. “I don’t know.”
I wasn’t exactly trying to strike a chord with him, I wasn’t trying to let him know I was angry, I just knew I couldn’t handle saying too much right then. I could’ve been mad at any one else for something like this, but not him. He made me too… I don’t even know. Tingle-y? Nervous definitely, weak, vulnerable, maybe. I didn’t like to think of him as my weakness either though, so I avoided these thoughts. More often then I’d prefer too. In replacement, I told myself I was mad, which was true in a sense.
Collin didn’t say a word for a while until we came to a two way split, one way leading to the cafeteria, the other to a section of rooms we were staying in. “Um,” He started, I could tell he was slightly uncomfortable about what he was thinking, it made me curious, yet I instantly glanced at Halley when he stopped to think. I couldn’t believe I was already hoping he was going to dump her right there. Then again, maybe he was hesitant because he thought I was mad at him still, which was true, but I wasn’t going to get mad at him, in front of Halley that is, I refused to let her get what she desired so much from me.
He took in a breath and spit it out, “Halley, could you go ahead and look for Neath while I go back to my room to get something real quick?”
I wondered why this would bother him. That is until Halley spoke.
“Depends actually, where will… she be?” Halley stopped mid sentence to look at me, she scrunched up her nose like she smelt a porter potty and flicked a long skinny finger at me like I was an Ugly Betty clone.
So that’s it, she doesn’t even want me near him anymore. Well, I wonder how this is going to turn out. I thought to myself.
Collin turned to look at me, but when our eyes met for the briefest second I felt heat shoot through my eyes at him, and he turned away. “Well she can do what she wants, I don’t care.” He shoot back, it sent a chill of guilt down my back from the way he sent cold daggers veering back to me while talking to Halley.
Of course the clueless little prep didn’t notice one single thing from our silent feud. She was too busy staring at Collin, up and down, then switching legs to lean on, popping out her hip.
“Well I don’t want-“ Halley started to say. I immediately cut her off though.
“What you want has nothing to do with what I will or won’t do, so you better shut your mouth this second before I go over there and stuff it for you.” I said looking at my feet the whole time. We hated each other, it was clear to everyone here, except maybe Grammy, which would only be because she was asleep. She’d soon learn though. What amazed me though was what little she had done already to make me suddenly burst on her. I didn’t stay to watch her reaction or Collin’s though, I veered off into the right hall, towards the rooms. I didn’t know what Collin would do now. I didn’t exactly care at that moment though; all I wanted was to be in my room. My safe, quiet, small, private room.
I paced down the halls that would make a stranger dizzy; I found my room easy though and pulled the door open, no lock or combination. That’s one thing that really sucked about being down there, there weren’t any locks to lock any of the bedroom doors. Fortunately, about everyone down there was nice enough to learn to knock before entering and not break into anybody’s room to steal anything, mainly because we didn’t have much to steal though.
I closed the door behind me as quietly as the creaky hinges would allow, then fell onto the old mattress that laid on the floor, my good old pal. I pulled out a drawer from the small cabinet beside my mattress and retrieved my scratched clip board, yellowed paper, and number 2 led pencil. I snapped the paper on the board and began to draw, I don’t even know how the idea came, or when it did. But when I actually looked at what I was drawing I flinched and extended it away from me like it was infected.
You might be thinking that I drew Halley hurt in some way, dying or dead even, but actually I had draw something totally different. She was sitting on a bench, it was evening, the shadows were long, the leaves in what looked like a courtyard were flaming, blossoms were spiraling downward though, Halley was in a long dress, white, a thin veil on her head, her makeup smudged slightly around the eyes, and Collin in a tux, bending over slightly and relishing his hand out to take hers, you couldn’t see his face, his back was turned towards the viewer, but you could tell by the look of ease on Halley’s face he was most likely giving his best smile. I stared at the picture, why did it hurt so much to watch them kiss, and why did I draw them together on such a light occasion, and most of all- why did looking at the picture now make me want to cry so much? I didn’t want to be so jealous of her. It made me sick to think of her winning. Not that this was a game, it was more like a battle. Right now, she just had an advantage.
I studied the paper. Carefully, I looked at the way I drew the lines, the thickness and darkness of the strokes, then noticed that I used darker lines in the middle of the picture, where Halley was, and they got lighter as the focus went farther out. Like she held a dark secret, or she was a demon in disguise, darker for evil of course. It was kind of cool. It was a really good picture, I normally couldn’t draw that good, I screw up a lot more times than this, but this time I did a really good job. And if it had been me with Collin instead of Halley, I would’ve kept the sketch, but since whenever I looked at it my eyes watered in moister and I felt defeated again, I took one last glance at it then-
Then Collin came in, he knocked once, quickly, then came right in. I shoved the paper into a small ball and threw it in the small grocery bag I used as a trash can.
“Whoa, whoa, what’s this?” Collin asked, leaning around my cabinet to retrieve the page. I snatched the page and held it tight in my hands, still not saying a word.
I wondered what would happen if he were to fight for the paper and see it, it might be a fun fight, him touching my hands, any physical contact would’ve sent electricity through me. With Collin that is.
But when he saw the drawing and what it was, well it’d all be different. He’d probably think it was ‘cute’ and say thanks and show it to Halley, when I really wanted to burn it. One thing about Collin though, he can almost always surprise you.
He looked down on me with what could’ve been pity, then sighed. I have to admit, I liked the sound his sigh. “Okay, I’m sorry.”
I didn’t look at him. Instead I shoved my clip board back into the drawer along with my pencil and slammed the drawer shut. I rose up from the mattress and tried to step around Collin to get out, failure.
Instead he looked at me like I was humoring him.
I still refused to speak though, or look at him in the eye, so instead I turned away and crossed my arms.
Collin knows me pretty well, so he knew how to get me to do some things, like get my arms behind my back without actually touching my arms. He just tickled both sides of my stomach from behind and quickly withdrew and my arms would immediately shoot back and hit his hands away if they were still there. This time though right after he withdrew his hands he brought them back when my arms were still at my sides and grabbed my forearms to hold them behind me.
I squirmed in his hold, still not talking. I couldn’t get free though, he had me pinned. He pulled me over to my mattress again and picked me up so my feet were dangling from the ground, while I was up there I also tried to kick him in the stomach, that ended in failure too. I only kicked air. How epic is that? Jeez.
He gave me an annoyed look then sat me on the bed, still holding my arms. Then he again surprised me by asking a question. “What does it feel like to be captive?”
I glared at him and pressed my lips together, I wasn’t talking yet.
“Fine, fine. Will you forgive me if I read you this?” He asked and pulled out a piece of paper from his back pocket, it was folded lots of times, but I could tell it was still new since it wasn’t fraying yet or ripped. I looked at the paper longingly, Collin wrote poetry. Don’t think, ‘Yuck’ or ‘That is way too cheesy.’ Because I don’t think it is, I like to draw, he likes to write poetry, so it’s kind of even. I didn’t want to give up that easily yet though. So instead of speaking and forgiving him, I shook my head no, then wriggled in his firm hold on my arms still. “You must be pretty mad at me if you won’t give it up for this then.” Collin mused. He looked down at me, I continued to look at my converse sneakers.
Then he let go of my wrist and stepped out of my way, free escape. He tucked the poem in his back pocket again and I looked straight out the door. This wasn’t a trap, I knew Collin, when he can’t win, he goes with the flow, in a way. So I got to my feet, still not looking at or speaking to him, and rubbed my arms where he’d held me, it kind of hurt. I took a step towards the door, then as quickly as I could, I turned toward Collin, slapped him on the arm, retrieved the poem, and ran outside. I had a good start, the double attack worked apparently, he thought I just smacked him on the arm for a second. I got a decent head start, if I could just get into a random room…
I ran down the maze of halls and right after a random left turn I stepped into a room, I didn’t know who’s it was, but it was empty besides a journal and mattress, I guess there were some pencils somewhere, but I didn’t care. I was just glad I got away from Collin, with his poem, I could hear him running after me only a few seconds after I’d sprinted from the room, so I knew he was looking for me now. And I’d probably be in trouble when he found me, it made me feel like I was in trouble with a teacher, I didn’t like it. I held the poem out in front of me though and unfolded it, probably four times. The poem was… depressing, and yet it made me smile. This one was really good.
Traces Of Hope
How do you keep your faith,
When locked behind the rails,
Not knowing what’ll happen,
Until the events prevail.
Danger at every thought,
Every movement somber,
Any sound reverberating,
Down the halls like murder.
Shadowed eyes survey,
They’re looking for a reason,
To stab that knife through my heart,
Avoiding their high treason.
But how do you escape,
When the only exit is death,
Blocked at every door,
Your only hope is sheath.
How do you keep your faith,
When locked behind the rails,
Not knowing what’ll happen,
Until the events prevail.
Danger at every thought,
Every movement somber,
Any sound reverberating,
Down the halls like murder.
Traces of hope still loom,
Dangling in the air,
Just takes time to find them,
So grab them while they’re there.
My eyes didn’t water, but it felt like they did, I read the poem over and over a few times until I had it memorized, almost. I folded it up, and opened up the door. He wasn’t there, no one was in the hall at that point.
I wasn’t surprised though, I closed the door behind me then walked back to the split off. Collin wasn’t there either, I felt guilty and looked down at the poem. I hoped he hadn’t minded too much. He offered to let me read it anyway. I looked down the hall towards the nursery and felt more guilt, I was supposed to be getting my friends to take to make an escape plan, not playing hide and seek over a poem. Thoughts of my Grammy drifted back into my head, and I felt my spirit lift as I thought of her.
That’s when Collin decided to show up, but quietly. He came up from behind me, tickled me again like he had before, and grabbed the poem back out of my started hands. This time though I let out a surprised soft scream though. Right when he grabbed it out of my hand I elbowed him in the stomach and heard him let out a small puff of air. I was smiling though, his dumb poems could make me forgive him for killing someone. Okay, over exaggeration, but you get the point.
He laughed lightly and I found myself laughing shortly along with him for a moment.
“So am I forgiven?” he quizzed curiously even though he knew the answer.
“Maybe,” I said, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give up my poem privilege yet. He nodded sarcastically though and motioned for me to follow him to the cafeteria. “You suck.” I mumbled.
He smiled quickly then added, “But I write good poetry, good enough to make you forgive me.”
I paused for a moment before commenting. “What traces of hope have you found?”
He took a minute to answer, but he came up with a good one. “You.”
I nudged him then blinked when Halley came practically sprinting back to him and jumped into him again, reality smacked me in the face. Jeez, drama sucks.
Halley found Neath and Neath came jogging over to me just seconds after Haley assaulted Collin.
“What’s all this about?” Neath asked looking genuinely concerned. She glanced at Collin too, letting me know she cared.
“Let me explain.” I said.
So I explained what happened so far to her on the way to the nursery, only the stuff about my Grammy though, nothing about Collin, while Halley was still around at least. Well I wasn’t going to explain while Collin was right there either, but she’d know about all that too as soon as those two left for the shortest moment. I’d began replaying the poem in my head too, I want to tell her what he’d written and how I was his trace of hope, or so he says. Either way, he told me that, so there was some truth in it… hopefully.
Collin isn’t known for lying though, I’m not sure if he lies or not actually. If he does, he’s a very good actor. So I was hoping that his words were true.
We made it back to the nursery as I explained & Halley listened carefully as if she were concerned. I ended up whispering most of it to Neath since Halley was not coming. Something dawned on me though. I already had my friend that I was going to take, and Collin didn’t stop us to get his friend he wanted to take… I sincerely hoped he wasn’t planning on taking her. If so, that might’ve been what he was apologizing for in the first place. I clenched my jaw slightly at the thought. I forced myself to relax though before we went in to see my Grammy. Whatever happened I didn’t want her to see me freaking out over petty drama when we have so much more to worry about.
When I pulled back the curtain Spunky was in an engaging conversation with my Grammy about who knows what. Sitting in a chair nearby was Spunky’s pick of a friend to take- Matt. His full name is actually Matthew, and I like Matthew better, but everyone else insist on Matt instead. I stick by my opinion though and call him Matthew. He doesn’t really mind.
“So you’re coming too?” I asked him while I stepped towards him to let Collin and Halley in, Neath beside me.
“Yeah,” He said clearly still confused though.”Spunky still hasn’t explained why I’m here though…” He looked at Collin too, then basically at everyone else, except Neath.
I shot a look at Neath while Matthew was still examining his friend wrapping his arm around Halley’s waist. Neath was looking at her wrist as she gripped her wrist with her right hand nervously. She wasn’t blushing though.
Wow. I just realized then that the trip might end up in some sort of romantic drama too. I mean three girls and three boys and a grandma that tended to screw around with other peoples love lives. She’d actually found the man my mom married. She had a habit of trying to be a matchmaker, which at the thought made my stomach tremble. I hoped she wouldn’t try anything over this plan, but my chances were definitely slim. I looked at her again and noticed her glancing towards Collin and Halley. I had to stop from smiling, I guess she didn’t like those two together either.
My Grammy coughed to silence everyone in the crowded room. Everyone instantly fell quiet as she began to speak. “Now Amanda, if you’d introduce everyone to me real quick, we can move right along.”
I shifted uncomfortably as I turned towards everyone to point everyone out.
First I held my hand out to motion towards Neath. “Grammy, this is Neath, She’s the same age as me, and she’s been here slightly less than me. I’ve been here about a year now so you can compare to that.”
My Grammy nodded in approval and waited for me to continue. Next I pointed towards Matthew. “This is Matthew, or better known as just Matt. He’s fourteen, a year older than me, and has been held here for…” I looked at him, I didn’t know how long actually.
“Around two years.” He finished for me.
My Grammy nodded and I continued the circle of people to Spunky. “That’s Derrick, Or Spunky as he likes to be called. He’s twelve-” Spunky cut me off though.
“-Going on thirteen in two days. And I’ve been here for six months.” Spunky said with a little too much enthusiasm for the occasion. My Grammy smiled at him though before she nodded to keep going.
Next I went on to Collin. “This is Collin, He’s thirteen and has been down here slightly more than me also.”
-To Be Continued-