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“Your turn sweetie”, mom said, handing me the dice.
“’Kay”, I said. I rolled the dice and moved my piece accordingly.
“How are my girls doing?” dad asked, peeping around the door frame.
“Waiting for you to join us”, mom replied.
Dad laughed. “I’ll be done with the dishes in just a minute”, he said.
He went back into the kitchen and mom and I continued our game. I heard my dad stop for a minute.
“Who is that?” I heard him ask no one. Then I heard him swear and run towards us. “Rita, hide Lauren! Now!” he yelled, looking terrified. He disappeared back into the kitchen and I heard the clock radio’s volume go higher and higher.
Mom jumped up and scooped me into her arms as she ran to my room. She put me down when we got there and hugged me.
“What’s wrong mommy?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about it sweetie”, she answered without moving. “Me and daddy love you so much”. She released me and I could see her crying. “You have to hide under your bed, ok? Be very quiet and still, and don’t come out, even if someone asks you to”.
“Ok mommy. I love you and daddy too”, I replied. I turned and crawled under my bed.
Mom got up, saying, “We love you”, as she went out the door.
I huddled in a corner, crying silently. Then it started. Suddenly, I heard shouting and crashing. After a minute, the shouts changed to screams. Finally, all the noise
stopped. Then I heard two or three people walking around. I shoved myself farther back
into the corner when I saw someone come into my room. I could only see their shoes, but even that scared me into holding my breath. The person rummaged through my things, some of them hitting the floor. The person stood facing my bed for a while, but finally walked out the door.
After several minutes, I heard them go out his door. I waited for a while, but finally laid down to go to sleep.
When I woke up, there were people everywhere. I heard cameras clicking and tape being unraveled. I slowly crawled to edge of my bed and stuck my head out.
“What a shame”, a woman said, shaking her head.
“Yeah, especially the little girl”, a man agreed.
After a second, I realized that all the people were in police uniforms. I crawled out from under my bed and walked to the door. “Where are my mommy and daddy?” I asked, gripping the door frame.
Most of the people instantly jerked their heads to look at me.
The man that had spoken earlier glanced at a nearby picture frame. “It’s her”, he breathed.
The woman that had spoken earlier kneeled down and asked, “Are you Lauren?”.
“Yeah”, I answered.
“Come here, hon”, she said, opening her arms.
I waited a second, then walked slowly into the woman’s arms. “Where are my mommy and daddy?” I repeated.
She took a second to answer. “I’m so sorry, hon. They’re gone”.
“When will they be back?”.
The woman squeezed me. “They aren’t coming back”.
After I finished crying, the woman officer, who’s name was Amy, gently asked me some questions. I answered the best I could, being only three and very upset. I soon figured out that my parents had been murdered.
I went to stay at an aunt’s house for a while.
My parent’s funeral was very nice, as far as I could tell from my height.
I was passed between relatives until I was five. None of my relatives either could or wanted to spend the money to send me to school. They wanted me to have an education, though, so they gave me to social services and kept in touch. The foster homes were nice enough, but none of them ever really felt like home.
When it came to school, I had problems. Not because I didn’t understand the work, but because I already knew most of the things that were taught. I became bored quickly, so I got into trouble. Nothing, serious, mostly just pranks. What infuriated my teachers the most was the fact that I was the smartest student at my school.
I also changed foster homes many times, mostly because I tended to rescue stray
animals a lot. I also frequently went on long rants about important issues that were going on, which I’m sure were very irritating.
“That should do it”, I said to myself. All of my things fit in my backpack, so I would have a light load. I swung on the pack and headed out the door.
I was tired of people being jerks to me because I was smart and different. That left me one choice: run away.
I left a note saying that it wasn’t my foster parent’s fault, I just needed to leave. I had all my money and grabbed as much food as I could carry. I had decided to run away a week before, so I had started accumulating money by cutting grass and walking dogs. Plus, I had been scoring the woods for abandoned houses to stay in. The one I chose was in the next county, so I would be far enough away from my foster parent’s house.
“Ugh. Finally”, I groaned as I dropped my backpack on the rotting wood floor. I sat down on the floor next to the pack to rest.
It had taken almost two hours to walk to the dilapidated old house. It was pretty old, but had been made to last. Most of the wood was rotting, but still held together. The second story was still intact, but the tiny attic was rotted too much for anything larger than a mouse to stand on. It took most of the moisture and was riddled with holes. There
was a large living room, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom on the ground floor. Two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a random storage room made the second floor.
I dragged myself up and grabbed my pack on my way to the stairs. I carefully tested each step before putting my whole weight on it, not knowing if they had rotted anymore since the last time I had climbed them.
Once I got to the top, I headed to the bedroom that was in the best condition. I had bought a king size comforter to fold and use as a mattress. After I had set that out, I unpacked my two blankets. I left my stuff to look for a little shelf or table I could put my other stuff on. In the random room, I found a little table with shelves under it. In my spare time, which was anytime I wasn’t in school, I used to climb trees to look at bird nests. So, carrying the table to my new room was no problem.
I unloaded most of my other things as the rain started to come down. I had purposely left on a day it was supposed to rain, so that if Search and Rescue decided to use dogs, my scent would be washed away. It was also a weekday, so my foster parents wouldn’t realize that I was gone until either the school called them, or it was the time I was supposed to be home from school.
After I unpacked, I headed down the stairs with some nails and a hammer to start fixing my new home. I knew I wouldn’t be here long, just until people stopped avidly searching for me, but I didn’t want my house to fall down in the meantime.
It took six months for the searches to stop. Now there were just “missing child” signs. I grew out my bangs and let my pierced ears close to change my appearance. I had a growth spurt, though, so I looked different anyway.
My money began to run out, but I had to sell my too-small clothes anyway, so it worked out well. I hoped my new clothes would hide my identity even better.
The day finally came when I felt it was safe to leave my temporary home. I packed my things and said goodbye to the old house that had served me so well. I walked to the city and scoured the area for abandoned apartment buildings. I knew that I couldn’t pass as an adult, so I’d have to stay in an abandoned apartment.
After two hours of searching, I found an abandoned building that appeared to be unnoticed by all the passersby. I went to the side door and found it locked. I took a chunk of pavement off the ground and started pounding it against the padlock. It finally broke, and I checked to make sure no one had heard me before moving on to the deadbolt. That took longer, but it finally gave. I grabbed some wire off the ground and picked the lock in the doorknob. Something was wrong with the mechanism in the doorknob, so I had to resort to brute force. I walked back a yard or so and ran at the door. I jumped and hit the door with both feet. The door moved slightly and I heard a crack, but the door didn’t open. Praying the door wouldn’t break or be knocked down, I ran at it again. This time I heard a loud crack and the door flung open. Making sure no one was around, I went inside and rigged the door shut behind me.
It took an hour, but I explored the whole building. I found a nice room on the top floor to stay in. I unpacked my stuff and became ecstatic when I realized that there was a mattress and bed frame. Six months of sleeping on the floor was not conducive to one’s back health. I shook the mattress to get the dust off before I put my blanket on it.
I made sculptures out of random things left in the building and sold them. I also made jewelry out of random stuff to sell. That gave me enough money to buy food, clothes, and books to teach myself school. I would take my clothes to public washing machines, and hung them on the roof to dry.
Then there came the day that changed my life.
My watch had stopped working. I changed the battery, but the hands still wouldn’t budge. I groaned and had to stop myself from chucking the dumb thing out the window. “Get it together, Lauren. Just gotta’ take it to the watch place”, I said to myself. There was a watch shop a few blocks away and I had some extra money to pay for the owner to fix it. I shoved the money in my pocket and headed down the stairs.
It was amazing. I’d never seen so many clocks and watches in my life. There were tons of different kinds, colors, and brands. I walked up to the desk without taking my eyes off the display cases.
I didn’t see anyone, so I said loudly, “Hello? The sign on the door said you were open, so I came in”.
I heard noises on the other side of the door behind the desk. A man with dark hair and glasses came through the door. “What can I do for you?” he asked.
“The hands on my watch won’t move. I changed the battery, but it’s still not working”, I replied as I took my watch off.
He took it from me and pulled some tools out from under the desk. “Did your parents send you to get this fixed?” he asked.
“No”. I ignored his puzzled glance.
“What’s your name? I haven’t seen you around”.
“Lauren. I haven’t been here long”.
“I’m Gabriel. Where do you live?”.
“A few blocks away, to the west”.
“Hmmm. That’s strange. I thought there were only empty buildings that way”.
I froze. Why had I told him the direction? How stupid could I be? I shrugged for lack of a better explanation.
“What’s your address?”.
“Why should I tell you that?”.
“Just wanted to see if I know any of your neighbors”.
I mulled it over for a minute, then went ahead and told him the address of a house that was for sale next door.
“That’s funny, I thought the Williamsons bought that house”.
“They might have. I don’t even remember most of the street names”, I replied as casually as possible.
“Why aren’t you in school?”.
He didn’t ask anymore questions and finished fixing my watch.
“That should do it”, he said, putting the watch on the counter.
“How much do I owe you?” I asked, reaching into my pocket.
“Since I’m going to be your guardian, nothing”, he replied.
I froze and stared at him in horror. “What?”.
“Well, obviously you live in an abandoned apartment because you’re an orphan hiding from Social Services, and I refuse to do nothing about it”.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about”.
Gabriel snorted. “Yeah, right. Could you describe the house you live in?”.
I kept my mouth shut.
“No, you can’t. That’s because you don’t know who I know. You go get your stuff and come back here”.
“Why should I?”.
“Because if you don’t, I’ll give Social Services your description and location”.
My mouth dropped open. He waited. “Why should I trust you?”.
“Do I look like I would hurt you?” he spread his arms out.
He sighed. “Just trust me, ok?”.
I waited a minute before walking to the door.
“I will call them”, he yelled to me.
I turned my head to him. “I’m not stupid”, I said, rolling my eyes.
I hadn’t carried my backpack in a long time, so my back ached horribly. “I can’t believe I’m doing this”, I muttered to myself. Living with the watch guy seemed better than going back to foster homes, though. “I’m baack”, I called out when I opened the door to the watch shop.
“I’m glad”, Gabriel said, peeking out from behind a grandfather clock.
“There had to be a good reason for you to runaway”.
“Whatever. Where do I go?”.
“Follow me”, Gabriel replied, walking to the door behind the front desk.
I followed him through the door and into a fairly big room filled with boxes. We went through another door into what I guessed was his house. It was nice and simple, and I could clearly tell that he lived alone.
“This is your room”, he said, stopping in front of an open door. The room was a good size, and mostly empty. “I was using this room for storage, but it was easy to clean out”, he said. “Make yourself at home”.
All of my things fit in the room, still leaving a ton of space. I sat and read until I heard a door open. After another door opened, I heard Gabriel shout, “You still here?”.
“Dinner will be in a few minutes”.
Sure enough, he called for me minutes later. I brought some books with me to avoid awkward silences. I set them next to me on the table and dug in.
“What books do you have?”.
I shrugged as an answer.
He read the titles with a shocked expression. “The Complete Works of Shakespeare? Algebra? Advanced Science? How old are you?”.
“This is high school stuff!”.
“I already know the stuff from my grade”.
“I guess I don’t have to send you to school after all”.
My head shot up. “What?!”.
“You’ve obviously been doing good by yourself so far”, he replied with a shrug.
After a month, me and Gabriel became like brother and sister. He took me to guitar lessons, horseback riding lessons, art classes, and photography classes. Whenever he started complaining about something, I’d toss him a black pouch and say, “Oh, go fix a watch”. The pouches had tools and a broken watch in it. He always laughed at my good
memory, calling me “elephant-brain”. We put pictures and other memorabilia in a hard black case. We had fun all the time.
Two years later, I started to talk to animals. Although we always shared everything, I didn’t tell Gabriel. I helped animals if I could, and brought strays home. Gabriel didn’t object, but always said that they were my responsibility until I found them homes.
My photography class took trips occasionally on weekends or even for whole weeks. I always left Gabriel by himself, and he acted like I’d been gone for a month when I got back.
On one of the week-long trips, I came home a little later than I was supposed to. “Sorry I’m late. Four kids and the bus driver had to go to the bathroom, and it took forever to find a gas station with public bathrooms”.
I went into the main house. “Gabriel? Are you here?”. Still no answer. I guessed he was probably out ding something.
I stayed up till midnight, and still no Gabriel. I fell asleep in the living room, too exhausted to stay up any longer.
When I woke up, I yelled for Gabriel, but he still wasn’t home. I contemplated calling the police as I walked into the kitchen. I paused by the phone, thinking about what to do, when I saw a note. I gasped after I read it. ‘I’m sorry, but I have to leave. I’m not coming home. Be careful, I’m so sorry. –Gabriel’. His glasses were next to the phone.
I put my back against the wall and slid down. Why did he leave? Did I do something wrong? Why did he leave his glasses? Then the most important question came to me: what was I going to do now? The answer came to me as quick as the question ha
I had to find Gabriel.
For a long time, I searched for Gabriel. The animals told me where they had thought they’d seen him, but either they were wrong or I was too late each time. I also learned that he had become Sylar, and what he did. It horrified me, but I couldn’t do anything about it, so I concentrated on finding him.
I got another tip on where Gabriel was, and followed it. I hid behind the corner of a building and looked for him. Just when I was sure that it was going to be another bust, I saw movement nearby. A man in a black outfit came around the corner of another building.
It was Gabriel.
His stern expression made him look like a completely different person. In his eyes I could see anger and a thirst for power, I could see that behind that, he was confused. He didn’t seem to know what he was supposed to do.
I couldn’t force myself to move or call out. I realized that I hadn’t planned what I was going to say or do. I knew that with no plan, I wouldn’t be able to convince him of anything. I watched as he disappeared behind another building.
I learned about all of the main events that happened if they had to do with people with abilities. I knew what to avoid, and who I could help. I considered my ability to be pretty lame, but used it in any way I could.
I would help Gabriel. I would bring him back.