P. 1
Tortured Innocence

Tortured Innocence

|Views: 2|Likes:
Published by iUniverseBooks
Chris is a teenager drowning in his emotions. As a million questions run through his head, Chris begins to remember the events leading up to today.
In the beginning of the school year, Chris is immersed in his studies, friendships, and the uneasy feelings that have been plaguing him for a week. Chris is still perplexed as to why his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Rachael, ended, when he has a chance encounter with his beautiful classmate, Veronica, who is dealing with her own issues. Torn between starting a new relationship and his unresolved feelings for Rachael, Chris embarks on an emotional journey to determine his true identity and find the answer to an internal conflict that has been plaguing him for a long time. But before he can move forward into his future, he must resolve his past.
In this contemporary romance, a teenager wrestling with complex feelings and wondering if he will ever find happiness with his soul mate may soon discover that even when things seem to be at their worst, there is still hope.
Chris is a teenager drowning in his emotions. As a million questions run through his head, Chris begins to remember the events leading up to today.
In the beginning of the school year, Chris is immersed in his studies, friendships, and the uneasy feelings that have been plaguing him for a week. Chris is still perplexed as to why his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Rachael, ended, when he has a chance encounter with his beautiful classmate, Veronica, who is dealing with her own issues. Torn between starting a new relationship and his unresolved feelings for Rachael, Chris embarks on an emotional journey to determine his true identity and find the answer to an internal conflict that has been plaguing him for a long time. But before he can move forward into his future, he must resolve his past.
In this contemporary romance, a teenager wrestling with complex feelings and wondering if he will ever find happiness with his soul mate may soon discover that even when things seem to be at their worst, there is still hope.

More info:

Publish date: Mar 26, 2013
Added to Scribd: Apr 02, 2013
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reservedISBN:9781475982749
List Price: $3.99 Buy Now


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
This book can be read on up to 6 mobile devices.
See more
See less








  • Chapter 1:
  • Chapter 2
  • Chapter 3
  • Chapter 4
  • Chapter 5
  • Chapter 6
  • Chapter 7
  • Chapter 8
  • Chapter 9
  • Chapter 10
  • Chapter 11
  • Chapter 12
  • Chapter 13
  • Chapter 14
  • Chapter 15
  • Chapter 16
  • Chapter 17
  • Chapter 18
  • Chapter 19
  • Chapter 20
  • Chapter 21
  • Chapter 22




T o r t u r e d Innocence

Nikiforos Vourakis

iUniverse, Inc.

Tortured Innocence

Copyright © 2013 Nikiforos Vourakis. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

iUniverse books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting: iUniverse 1663 Liberty Drive Bloomington, IN 47403 www.iuniverse.com 1-800-Authors (1-800-288-4677) Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them. Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only. Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock. ISBN: 978-1-4759-8272-5 (sc) ISBN: 978-1-4759-8273-2 (hc) ISBN: 978-1-4759-8274-9 (e) Library of Congress Control Number: 2013905176 Printed in the United States of America iUniverse rev. date: 3/20/2013

This book is dedicated to my grandfather who is unfortunately no longer with me. To a person I truly love though he can’t really see it. To my friends who supported me from the beginning and provided great advice Athina Gouseti, Christina Gianopoulou, Eva Papadimitriou, Marianna Zoidi, Mariliza Theoxaropoulou, Zoe Davidopoulou and Vasiliki Voskidi. To my family who supported my decision to publish and backed me up all the way. Last but not least to the rest of my friends who may have not participated actively in the process, but they never stopped believing in me Christina Kalavrou, Elena Daskalopoulou, Maria Gorbasidi and Natalia Diskou

C h a p t e r

1 :

I look up, and it’s starting to rain. I’m walking on a pathway. I hear the raindrops splash on my head. I look up. I feel confused. I look down again. I reach a porch, and I step on it. I’m under its roof. I look at the door. I’m standing here, trying to understand what happened. I move away from the door, and I stand on the steps. I look at the sky, and raindrops fall in my eyes. I’m feeling cold and mostly afraid. I get back on the porch and try to reach for the door handle and open the door. But I freeze. My whole body is just standing there, but am I still there? Am I dead inside? All it took was a phone call—a phone call that would change my entire life. I think that I lost a part of me the moment that I heard those words. I feel … I feel helpless, and even though I want to do something I can’t. I want to cry, but tears won’t come out. I feel like I’m drowning in my own emotions. I sit on the steps, I bring my legs close to me, and I look at the road. I hear cars pass by. The smell of wet grass covers every other scent around me. I feel the water on my clothes sink deeper and reach my skin. I’m shivering. I look at my hands; they are shaking. I start to feel sleepy, and I want to close my eyes for a moment. I lie back on the floor of our porch, and I look around. I see there, in the corner, our couch. It looks really good. I want to sleep on it, but do I have the strength to stand up? I don’t want to try; it seems pointless. I

tears come rushing out. I open the door and take off my shoes. and throw some on my face. I pick up a photo of us.Nikiforos Vourakis feel a buzz from inside my pocket. and with my palm I 2 . I close the text and lock the phone. I grab my phone. She is smiling. and I move toward my room. I start to think more clearly and realize that it’s not the phone’s fault. I hesitate for a second. and as I reach the upper floor I realize that I need to take a bath and try to relax a little bit. I lean on the door. I’m really tired. I move my hand back. My head feels so heavy. I look at it. and it enrages me so much more. I pick up a towel on my left. and as I’m about to throw my phone. I throw it with all the strength I possess. I put my hands in the water. I see them drop on the floor. it starts buzzing again. and I grab the sink and turn on the water. I get so angry that I splash some water against the mirror. When I’m about to lower my hand and not throw it. I push the switch and the lights turn on. and I need to wake up a little. As I pass through the hallway. and I smell her everywhere. we both seem so happy in it. hoping I will feel a little better. Water runs down my face. and I wipe my face. I see the image of a scared kid—crying. I move a couple of steps back and sit on the floor. and I fall on the floor. I go up the stairs. I bend over the toilet. I take it with me. and so I do. feeling a sudden urge to throw up. I feel like a wreck. I look at my phone. I want to destroy the way it makes me feel. I try to stand up. I put my hand on my leg. and as I look down. I watch the water flow from my hands back into the sink. I once again put my hands in the water. A deep sorrow reaches my heart. I want to throw it out. I’m completely out of it. letting the sink fill a little. I get dizzy. waiting for someone to pick him up. Her face everywhere. I’m finally done. and then I turn it off. I look up into the mirror. I place them near the entrance. all I see is pictures. It warms my heart seeing us like that. I look at it for a while. trying to get a grip and calm down. little stains of water. and my hands turn to fists out of rage and pain. and I see myself. and it’s a text. and then I slowly take them out. I can’t take the smell much more. I feel nauseated. I stand up. and I start punching it. I feel so disappointed and betrayed.

I will close my eyes for a little bit and then I will get back to my thinking. I lower my head. I lean over. I try to think this whole thing through while the water is warming up my body just a little bit. and it’s making me feel relaxed. I get inside the bathtub. tired.Tortured Innocence hold my head. The bathtub is filled with water. open the tap. My eyes are closing. A million questions run through my head. I lean on the wall. and I hear the water flow inside the bathtub. waiting for the bathtub to fill with water. I stand up and push the shower curtain to the side. confused. and afraid. I throw them around the room. For a couple of minutes I sit there lost. I’m not able to. I sit down and touch my head. and even though I need to think. 3 . and slide it to hot water. and I feel the hot water falling on me. I’m feeling so tired and so sleepy that I put the plug in the drain and lie back. because all those questions are making me feel lightheaded. I stand and then I slowly take off my wet clothes.

Miss. 4 . and as I’m walking out of class.C h a p t e r 2 Bonds (At the beginning of the school year) I clear my throat. because I’m so embarrassed. — I’m glad you paid attention through the whole class. but next time it’s by the book. But what can I do? I stand up. Jade jumps in front of me with a big smile. I’m sorry. Then I realize I was sleeping in class.— I lower my head. Chris. I’m inexcusable. and the teacher looks really mad. I rub them so I can see a little better and then stretch my arms a little bit. /Christopher/ I’m so sorry. —I’ll let you off this time. — Then the bell rings. and I’m glad. /Christopher/What’s going on? I wonder. I open my eyes and I’m looking at the floor. I look in front of me.

/Jade/Boy. Go figure. how are you? Are you fighting again? /Jade/ We never fight. Jade. /Christopher/Hello to you too. so I ended up doing everything. So I should try not to look down. 5 . I want to know why you did. I just did. trying not to make a big deal out of this. Volleyball practice ran late last night. what are you talking about now? I am about to start arguing with Jade when Allison comes from behind us. /Christopher/Excuse me. they really do a number on you. Well. why did you fall asleep in class today? Is something going on? I let out a sigh as I look at her and I pass by her. guys. /Allison/Hey. She grabs my arm and stares at me. but I feel insecure. I also studied for my history exam on Friday which I hate. dummy. Jade starts giggling all of a sudden. I actually don’t know why I fell asleep.Tortured Innocence /Jade/Hey. thank you. and my partner never showed up. Chris. Who cares what happened all those many years ago? Oh. And … and then I had this science project to work on. Thanks for asking. Another sigh comes out of me and I scratch my head for a bit. I keep walking down the hallway. so that I can remember. I’m fine. and I’ve been having the most uneasy sleep this last week. She is smiling at me. /Jade/ I know you fell asleep. Chris loves me. /Christopher/Let’s see. I don’t know why.

/Allison/Spenc. I will tell you what happened today. /Spencer/Alli. talking about classes. talking about boys and girls. things take a turn for the worse. There we go. /Christopher/Let’s keep it simple now. /Christopher/Let’s not make it a big deal now. please! /Allison/ Why would you fall asleep in class and especially in Miss Johnson’s? Do you have some kind of death wish or something? I really want to speak my mind and put Alli in her place. you scared me. That was not funny. /Jade/ You know. Alli. Don’t make things sound worse. and I can see a meltdown coming. and Chris fell asleep in class. same old same old. /Jade/Despite Alli’s mean comments. or at least don’t do that ever again to me. he doesn’t. So might as well play along.Nikiforos Vourakis /Allison/ Not right now. /Jade/ What’s that supposed to mean? Watching those two argue makes me realize that I don’t want to fight with Jade. I’m afraid to let Jade say what happened. Every time she opens her mouth. Understand? 6 . /Allison/ You did what?! Alli is already getting angry. but I have someone else that can do it for me. Now I will never hear the end of it. Don’t ever do that again.

I have to think fast on this one. Alli. but I can see that he managed to become one of us quickly. I really want to punch him in the face. Alli. and I’m really happy about that. I think that both of you just need to relax and calm down. /Jade/ What exactly do you mean. I turn away from them to show how disappointed I am. expecting some kind of answer. Jeremy? You really piss me off sometimes with the stuff you do. /Christopher/ Well. /Christopher/Hey. and you guys aren’t helping. /Jeremy/Hey. You can see the anger burning in her eyes. Suddenly I feel a hand ruining my hair. by don’t do it. Jade is preparing for a fight. Jade. I tap my foot and I cross my arms. shorty. it wasn’t just funny. and you still don’t get it. On the other hand. what’s up? Jeremy is a pretty amazing kid. say something will ya?! They are both looking at me. It’s only been a year since I met him. and I’m sure it’s Jeremy. I understand that you are annoyed. Scary! /Spencer/ Ha ha ha.Tortured Innocence Alli is really going to kill someone. but still. it was hilarious! Spencer is laughing so hard that I want to hold her so that she can’t fall down. haven’t I told you to stop that. or at least don’t do it to you? Do you mean that it would be okay to do it to me? Chris. you stupid idiot. You both know how hard it is for Spencer. because this is the hundredth time I’ve told him to stop. She is trying to feel more comfortable around us. Spenc. 7 .

She starts to look outside at the sky. 8 .Nikiforos Vourakis /Jeremy/ I’ll take it under consideration. and you will have your answer in five to ten work days. I look up and smile at Allison while Jeremy stands up. I’m tired of you fighting all the time. He gives me his hand and helps me up. you are a dead man. Alli starts tapping her foot. I look at Jeremy. when I’m telling it to your face? /Jeremy/Oh. I can tell something is bothering her. /Jeremy/Are you implying something? I turn around and stare at him. She picks our bags up and throws them on the floor next to the door. /Allison/ Will you guys grow up already. and walks around me. /Jade/Alli 1—Boys 0. /Christopher/At least I don’t have to take that many days to think about something. /Allison/ I’m surrounded by idiots. swiping the dust off me. /Christopher/ Why would I need to imply something. Suddenly Alli pushes us into an empty classroom. I’m sitting on my legs. I see Alli rolling her eyes. the girls come in. Jade goes and sits on the teacher’s desk. Alli closes the door. After her. /Christopher/ What! I turn away from him. Then Spencer enters the class and sits on a desk by the window.

/Veronica/ It’s okay. Alli. and push the door open with my back. /Jeremy/High five? Jeremy raises his hand. What did you expect? /Allison/Can’t argue there. I pull Jeremy next to me. Veronica? /Veronica/ I’m fine. You need to understand something. /Christopher/ We don’t need to fight anymore. and I put my hand over his shoulder. We’re boys. I see Veronica on the floor. so I help her get her books. I pushed the door with my back and I didn’t see if anyone was coming inside. we will always act like kids. I feel bad about hitting her. Veronica is rubbing her forehead.Tortured Innocence /Christopher/ Thanks! /Jeremy/ No problem. /Christopher/Are you okay. No matter how old we are. and we look at each other and laugh. I hear a noise and turn around. Chris. I lean over. /Christopher/ Now. The door just hit me. /Christopher/ I’m sorry. why did you push us in here? /Allison/ The corridor is kind of busy. Alli. Then Jeremy puts his hand over my shoulder. 9 . grab my bag. and this empty class is so much better for finishing your fight. /Christopher/High five! Now let’s get out of here.

I push everybody back inside and I close the door. Ahhh. My dad is waiting for me outside. seems all right. bye. Got to run. chopped liver? She pisses me off so much. /Christopher/Are you sure. I stand up and walk towards the desk. I feel like I’m in heaven. Show superiority! /Allison/Okay. what are we. /Jade/ Well. /Jade/That’s a good girl! Who is a good girl? /Allison/ Jade. As I give her some of her books. you are beginning to piss me off more than she did right now. Chris. I’m leaning on the door. but remember this: one day I will give her a piece of my mind. /Christopher/So nice weather we’re having. Oh well. See you tomorrow. I sit on it and watch Alli and Jade argue. /Christopher/Okay. I want to knock her down a level or two. I can’t look her in the eyes at all. but it is impossible. I wave at her. /Allison/Hellooo. I’m waving at a closed door while behind me Jade and Alli are about to kill each other. she touches my hand. Alli. feeling amazing. Veronica? /Veronica/ Yeah. Love her touch! I start to blush and shake. so calm down. Veronica looks so beautiful today! 10 . you don’t have to. isn’t it. okay. Ve-Ve-Ve-Ve— I try to pull myself together.Nikiforos Vourakis She smiles at me.

I start blushing. I really appreciate it. what next? Are you going to give me a biscuit if I roll over? /Jade/Only if you roll over twice! Jeremy comes next to me and puts his arm around my shoulder and rubs his other fist on my head. Spenc. and emotional tracks. way to go. Romeo. Jeremy. /Christopher/ Thanks for the vote of confidence. /Jeremy/By the way. /Spencer/ If you get rejected. and Jeremy scribbles on the blackboard. what is it? She turns around and looks at me. 11 .Tortured Innocence /Jade/ Why? /Allison/Do I look like a dog to you? I mean. There are a few that can make you cry too. /Christopher/Cut it out. Spenc. I have this great CD that you should really check out. /Christopher/ Yeah. Now you’ve really done it. It has a lot of dark. The girls sit down. /Spencer/Any time! Jeremy is scribbling on the blackboard. Chris. I tap her shoulder and go back to the desk. deep. come here a sec! I walk over to Spencer. /Spencer/Hey. It’s really hard to talk to Veronica.

Chris? /Christopher/Since you have more experience with girls. I think I’ll try poking him. I want someone who can make me feel safe and who can give me a hug and reassure me everything will be all right. /Jeremy/ What is it. Well. 12 . I’m fine. Jeremy. who is honest and wants to be with me for me. Jeremy? /Jeremy/ Yeah. … Hey. Jeremy isn’t responding. But he has to have the bad boy gene a little. He turns around and takes his earphones off. /Christopher/Are you okay. I need your help with something. Jeremy. His expression becomes dark. girls. Jeremy. I would love to help you. /Christopher/ I need advice on how do I get Veronica to go out with me. Jeremy. What are you looking for in a guy? /Jade/ I want someone who cares. who will listen to my troubles and cherish our time together.Nikiforos Vourakis /Christopher/Hey. … Hey. can you help me? Suddenly Jeremy looks sad and depressed. Jade and Alli look like they want to talk about it. /Allison/On the other hand. Why don’t you ask the girls for advice? /Christopher/Good idea. Hey. while Spencer keeps looking outside at the sky. but I don’t have that much experience with girls. /Christopher/Hey. I go and sit on a desk near them so we can talk.

Tortured Innocence

Jade and Alli finish, I’m expecting Spencer to tell me, but she seems to be a little uncomfortable. She keeps looking at the sky. I’m sure Jade and Alli are thinking of their perfect guy. I mean look at their faces... /Christopher/Spencer, can you please tell me what kind of guy you like? She doesn’t respond. I go and sit next to her. /Christopher/Spencer, can you please tell me what kind of guy you like? /Spencer/Sure, no problem. The door opens, and I turn around to see who it is. /Jeremy/Guys, I have to go. I remembered that I have some errands to do. See you tomorrow? /Christopher/ Jeremy, are you sure you are okay? You look a little I don’t know how to put it. Hmmm. /Jeremy/ I’m fine. See you tomorrow. He turns around and rushes off. He looked really weird. I hope he’s going to be okay. Well we’ll see tomorrow. /Christopher/ Well, back to you, Spenc. You were going to tell me the kind of guy you like. /Spencer/ Well, I want someone who will love me. And then silence. I’m waiting for her to add something more … but nothing. /Christopher/ That’s all? /Spencer/ I don’t need more. Love is a variation of things and gestures. Why would I need anything more?

Nikiforos Vourakis

/Christopher/Maybe you’re right, Spencer. Well, we will see tomorrow. Come, let’s walk home together. We leave the school and go home. After that, all day I am wondering what kind of guys Veronica may like. Finally, it’s night, and I can put the whole thing to rest. I lie on my bed, and I close my eyes for a couple of seconds. In my head, a letter pops up, and I feel that it is important for some reason. I sit on the edge of the bed and try to figure out if it means anything important. I can’t figure anything out. I will stress about it tomorrow.


C h a p t e r


I walk in the hallway, thinking that this day is going to be such a drag. I don’t know why, but I have this feeling. As I am walking, I see Spencer in the hallway and walk beside her until I get to class. /Christopher/ I love a good stretch in the morning, don’t you? Spencer? I look at her. She is moving her head up and down and she’s humming. I think she has her earphones on listening to music. I pull her sleeve a bit so she can realize I’m with her. /Spencer/Huh? What happened? /Christopher/ I have been walking with you for a while, and I was talking to you. Didn’t you hear me? /Spencer/Actually, no, I didn’t. I was listening to music. /Christopher/Hey, can I ask you something? She turns her head and looks at me. /Spencer/Sure, what is it?

Nikiforos Vourakis

/Christopher/ What’s up with you and the Lolita fashion style? She suddenly stops. I walk a little and then realize she isn’t walking next to me. I turn around and look at her. She is looking down, making a fist. I think that I hurt her feelings. This is going to turn out really bad really soon. After a couple of seconds, she slowly lifts her head. She moves her hands behind her, and when I see her face, she is smiling. /Spencer/ You see, after that day I figured that it’s time for me to dress and be the way I want and not the way others want me. I stand by what I think, and I’m proud of my ideals. She is looking at me all serious like, and I’m happy to see that she is moving on. I go and stand by her. /Christopher/ I’m proud of you! And besides, the Lolita look suits you. I don’t think you are normal girl material anyway. I offer her my arm, and we continue to walk to class. The bell rings, and we reach class just in time. I help Spencer sit, and I sit next to her like always. The teacher walks in, and the minute he starts talking, I’m spacing out again. I’m thinking about Veronica. All these questions run through my head, all these things I want to ask her, if I have a chance. The bell rings, and everybody runs out of class. I wait for Spencer at the door. We start walking together. As we walk I notice she has on umbrella in her left hand. I ask her about it. She doesn’t respond. Then it hits me. I put my hand on her face, and I move close to her ear. I touch the earphone and pull it out gently. /Christopher/ Now can I ask you something? /Spencer/Sure! But first I need to make a stop. We stop at her locker. She puts the umbrella inside. I’m standing behind her, and I look inside her locker because I’m curious. But it’s

Tortured Innocence

just like any other locker: a few books, a black rose painted on the back. As she is closing it, I notice a calendar on the door. /Spencer/ What do you want to ask me? /Christopher/At first I was wondering about the umbrella, but now I want to know about the calendar. We start to walk again. /Spencer/ You see, the umbrella is in case it rains today. Why? Was it weird to have one? /Christopher/Actually, no, it wasn’t, but I was wondering why do you love Lolita so much? I mean don’t get me wrong you look great with the black hair and the piercings and all, but you also looked great as a brunette. And then after that day there hasn’t been a single day that I remember you not wearing those themed dresses. She stops in front of me. She places her hand on my chest and pushes me back. She stands there for a while. I can tell that something is wrong. /Spencer/Look, Chris, I like the way I dress. I don’t care if people think I’m weird or a loser or a freak. I like everything I have related to the way I dress. You see, I used to care what people thought and a lot happened. Now I may be shy and a little withdrawn, but I’m not afraid to present myself the way I want—not the way that is popular. If the people who look at me differently or laugh at me or call me names bother you, then you can walk alone. I just don’t care. I see tears fall on her shoes. I gently grab her hand and move closer to her. I move my arms around her, and I give her a hug. I lean a bit. /Christopher/(whispering) I’m really happy that you are


Nikiforos Vourakis

finally starting to change. I will never leave your side. Never. Remember that, I promise you. She grabs my hand and starts to run. /Spencer/Come on, we don’t want to miss everybody. Let’s hurry up! I run with her. She is smiling and laughing, and I can see that she is really enjoying it. We reach our table, and Jade is already there. /Jade/Hey, guys. Sit, talk, and please tell me how it feels to not have to study so much that your brain is about to explode. /Christopher/Again. Come on, Jade, you are studying too hard. You are going to hurt yourself. I pick a book from her stack of books. /Christopher/ It’s ridiculous. You can’t read all of this. I let go off the book, and the whole table shakes like a mini earthquake. /Jade/ Well, talk to my teachers about that. /Spencer/Enough about homework. Let’s talk about something else. Like where are Alli and Jeremy? Did you see them, Jade? /Jade/Actually, no. Which is kind of weird. Alli is always with me from the beginning of the day. Today she’s nowhere to be found. As Jade speaks, I look around. I watch the people go by. Suddenly I notice someone. She looks exactly like someone I used to know. I get a fuzzy warm feeling inside. Then I see Alli coming towards us.


Tortured Innocence

/Allison/Sorry I was late too. I had to show the new girl around. So, guys, I want you to meet … I grab my bottle, and as I’m giving it to Alli, she is right in front of me. /Christopher/Rachel. Rachel Michaels. The bottle drops from my hand, and I get up and stand next to her. /Rachael/Chris? Is that you? Her eyes … her eyes are filled with so much pain as she sees me. I start to feel uneasy. Emotions bottled up inside come rushing out. I move back a little. I feel the need to hide. I feel the need to run away, but why? /Rachael/ You stupid idiot. While I am standing there, confused, she slaps me. I can see all the pain in her eyes turn into rage. I place my hand on my cheek, trying to understand what happened. /Allison/Oh my god. /Jade/That was simply amazing! I’m left standing there. I watch Rachael run inside, crying, and I feel just awful. Alli looks at me with that “I want to kill you” look. /Christopher/Okay, you can stop looking at me like that. I think I can explain. /Allison/Explain what? /Christopher/ I admit that seeing Rachael slap me raises a lot of questions. I will try to answer as many as I can. /Spencer/Start by explaining why she slapped you.


and  … and  … after a while we started seeing each other. I feel like something happened. I have something I think can help you. The thing about Rachael is that you can either really like her or really hate her. I am looking at the floor. /Christopher/ I’m fine. /Spencer/ I’m going to need a little more from you. Jeremy sits next to me and puts his bag on the floor. /Christopher/Let’s see. You see the first time I saw her at camp was different for me. Just a little headache. /Jeremy/Hey. then what happened? /Christopher/ We were seeing each other for most of the time we spent at camp. but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Her red hair drew my attention while I was admiring her from behind. but then … something happened. I feel a hand on my shoulder. Me and Rachael were in the same camp. I put my hand on my head. But the sting on my cheek is telling me that something isn’t right. it makes me smile too. Thinking about the time I spent with Rachael makes me smile.Nikiforos Vourakis /Christopher/ I clearly don’t know. When she turned around I saw her charming smile. Why does my head hurt so much? It is like remembering is giving me a headache. Come sit here next to me. /Jeremy/Oh. trying to relax. I am really happy to remember all these things. /Jade/Okay. 20 . a smile that made me feel calm and relaxed. He looks so happy. and I look down a little. are you okay? I turn around and see Jeremy smiling at me.

/Jeremy/ This will help you with your headache. But something happened. It’s like nothing else exists after that. Now I feel extremely terrible. /Jade/Chris got slapped.Tortured Innocence He leans over and puts his hand in his bag. Then it reappears inside 21 . I start biting my lip. He pulls an aspirin out and gives it to me. /Spencer/By the new girl who used to be his girlfriend. I didn’t pay attention to her. I am really happy he supports me. because I feel bad about what happened. and I slowly lift my head again. I think I have never being more embarrassed in my life ever. /Allison/ Now we are trying to make him talk about it. Somehow the memories just stop. I don’t mind talking about it. I’m listening to Jeremy defend me. I want to die right there. He needs you for support. Chris is struggling. It felt like a really good time in my life. she was indifferent. You can try to be more understanding with him. I want … /Jeremy/Come on. /Christopher/ It’s okay. I so wish she didn’t say anything. I want to hit my head on the table. but nothing. and we ended up being together. But something happened. Well … I lower my head. I try and try to remember. For me. I want to start running away. As I was saying. So what where you talking about? /Christopher/ Thank you. you would either really like Rachael or you would really hate her. Okay. Don’t be like that.

and her hand touches mine. I slowly lift my head. /Christopher/ Veronica?! 22 . I’m sorry. I run inside. I rub my head a little. Is it connected to Rachael? Is it connected to why I can’t remember? I need to find out. I let go of the book and quickly pull it back. away from the need to remember.Nikiforos Vourakis my head—the letter. I’m about to grab a history book. but I can’t. I bump into someone. /Jeremy/Chris? Wait! I run out of there. I want to remember. away from the pressure. I grab a couple of books that I find in front of me on the floor. As I’m about to go inside. I know it’s her. My hands are shaking really badly. /Christopher/ I’m sorry. I stand up. I grab the door handle and open the door. No. but I need to go now. I think it’s her. guys.

Hearing her compliment me makes me blush. I’m sure you have enough on your plate as it is without me troubling you. 23 . /Veronica/ You know I think that might be a good idea. it’s simply beautiful. I’m really happy that I get to spend this couple of minutes with her. Why don’t you talk to me about something that’s troubling you.C h a p t e r 4 Memories /Veronica/ What are the odds. your eyes look so honest. Do you want to talk about it? I look at her and I feel kind of embarrassed to talk to her about Rachael. /Christopher/ Thank you. By the way. Two times in two days. /Veronica/Oh. but you don’t have to listen to me. /Christopher/ I’m terribly sorry. My mind was racing. I’m sorry. I just wasn’t looking. and maybe I’ll forget what’s bothering me.

Nikiforos Vourakis

/Veronica/ It’s settled. You will walk with me to class. I will not take no for an answer. She grabs my hand, and then she pulls me beside her and starts walking. /Veronica/Hey, Chris, I’m really glad you’re walking with me. /Christopher/So am I, Veronica. So, Veronica, how have you been? Is everything all right? Her eyes look sad. I think it may have been a bad idea to ask her that. She lowers her head, and I swear she is going to cry. But she looks up again with a big smile. /Veronica/Actually, there are some things bothering me. How could you tell? /Christopher/ I just happen to read people really well. /Veronica/You seem like a great guy. I think your girlfriend must be happy to have you. /Christopher/ I’m single. The thing is, I like this girl, but I have trouble telling her that. /Veronica/Oh well, tell me who she is, and I’ll help you get her. I look down and gather my courage to tell her. I stop there. The more steps she takes, the more I feel her hand slipping away from mine. As her hand is about to let go of mine and the last touch is between our fingertips, I grab her hand. /Christopher/ Veronica, wait. The truth is that you are the girl I like, the girl I have feelings for, and the girl that stole my heart.


Tortured Innocence

I let her hand go and lift my head, anxiously waiting for an answer. She turns around. /Veronica/ That’s kind of sweet. You are sweet. I’m really happy you told me, but I can’t right now. You see, I’m taking a break from the dating world. I’ve had a little too many lame dates lately. I get close to her, and I give her a hug. I can feel her tears fall on my neck. And I understand that making Veronica feel better is more important than feeling sorry for the rejection. /Christopher/Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. Well you know what they say: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And in your case, maybe all those lame dates will help you pick the right guy when you meet him. She turns around and hugs me. /Veronica/ Maybe that someone could be you at some point, right Chris? She looks up with those tear-filled eyes. /Christopher/ Well, I can hardly be called the right guy, because I have my fair share of not-so-great handling in the relationship section. I wipe the tears under her eyes. /Christopher/ Beautiful eyes like yours shouldn’t have to cry. She smiles at me. /Veronica/At least you won’t play with my feelings and make me sorry that I ever dated you or even cause something that would pain me deeply and then pretend like it didn’t happen and leave me crying, right?

Nikiforos Vourakis

Those words coming out of Veronica’s mouth got to me. I don’t know who or why, but I do know that they bring something to the surface. Something I can’t remember. /Christopher/Actually, Veronica, thanks to you, I remembered something really important. And now I see that I was wrong, and I would like to thank you for that, for helping me see clearly. You really are an amazing person. So excuse me, I have to go. I really liked talking to you, and if you ever want to hang out again, just say it. As I run through the hallways to find Rachael, a feeling comes to me. I run outside towards the football field when I see Rachael sitting at the top left corner of the bleachers, gazing at the sky. I take a second to catch my breath, while working up the courage to go talk to her. /Christopher/Hey, Rachael, I’m here to talk to you. /Rachael/ We don’t have anything to say. I don’t want to see you again. /Christopher/ I have something to say and that’s why I chose to run after you. It took me a while to find you, but I felt that you would be here. I can’t exactly explain it, but I knew. /Rachael/Oh, that doesn’t change the way I feel about you. Rachael stands up and leans on the rails. I go and stand next to her. /Christopher/Come on, you can’t really be that agitated with me. At least give me a chance to talk, and after that do what you want. Talk to me or don’t; that’s up to you. But I still think I deserve that much for you. Rachael doesn’t even budge. /Rachael/Okay, talk fast.

Tortured Innocence

/Christopher/Rachael, look at me! /Rachael/ Why? I can still hear with my back turned. /Christopher/Stop playing tough guy and look at me! I’m so mad at her, and as I’m about to grab her and make her look at me, she says one thing that changes everything. /Rachael/But if I do, I will forgive everything you did, and I’m not ready for that. I’m speechless. I don’t know what to say. I have to try to make her listen to me. /Christopher/ Well, then I won’t let you! At least not until you hear my side of the story. She turns and looks at me. She is smiling. /Rachael/Don’t get cocky, Chris. I might not forgive you at all. /Christopher/ I’m not cocky. I just know that you will understand my side of the story when I explain myself. Rachael reaches out, puts her hands on my chest, and leans on me. She starts crying, and all I want is to hold her near my heart and comfort her. As we both sit on the bleachers, even though I hold her close, the tears won’t stop. And her pain won’t leave my mind. My hand feels her soft skin again, and it feels so warm, so familiar, and so nice. I remember again all those things buried inside me. /Christopher/ There, there, all better now. She lowers her head, wipes her eyes and looks at me. /Rachael/ Thanks, it feels nice sitting next to you again. So what did you want to talk to me about?

Nikiforos Vourakis

/Christopher/ Well. I’m blushing. I watch those eyes filled with pain, and it gives me some perspective. How could I have hurt her? I really am an idiot. As I am punishing myself, tears start to run from my eyes. And, well, I can’t keep my feelings bottled up anymore. I have to explain what happened. /Rachael/Oh, honey, you’re crying. Just when I stop, you start. Come on, wipe those tears and talk to me about what you want. /Christopher/ It’s about camp. /Rachael/Oh… Her expression darkens again; I can feel her pulling away from me. /Rachael/So what about it? /Christopher/ I know that I have done something terrible, but right now it’s kind of hard to remember. You can’t be mad at me when I don’t remember what happened. /Rachael/ Well, I remember. I can’t just let go. I know there are many low things a person can do, but what you did was one of the lowest. You cheated on me. You kissed her, I saw you and that is all I need to know. She stands up and goes by the rails again. Watching her reminds me how she always gazed at the sky like it had all the answers she was looking for. /Christopher/Look Rachael, I am sorry for what happened and I am going to keep apologizing until you understand that I am sorry, even though I can’t remember; I can tell from your expression that it broke your heart. I know right now you can’t really tell but I want you to believe me and trust that what I say is the truth.

Tortured Innocence

She comes and sits next to me again. This time she has her head lowered and her tiny hands are closed. I see tear drops on her hands and I slowly reach out my hand to touch her hands but she slaps it away. She turns her head and looks at me with tears in her eyes. /Rachael/ You fool I love you, why do you have to be so stupid… Why can’t you see it? She turns her head away from me. /Christopher/ I don’t know, so many things happened, but I really don’t know. Maybe after what happened I wanted to forget about camp and I wanted to forget how I felt for you. Maybe that’s why I am so blind to the way you feel about me. I wish I could tell you that I love you right away and make it sincere, but my love for you is well hidden at the moment. /Rachael/Oh… She sounds so sad and I wish I could say something that could be of some help, but I definitely don’t want to lie to her. I try to reach out to her, but she suddenly turns around and looks at me with that smile again. Like the first time I saw her at camp. /Rachael/Is there anything I can do to help you? /Christopher/ I don’t know. Honestly, everything is just so mixed up. /Rachael/ I’m so sorry that you have to go through this, and I’m sorry for slapping you before. It’s nice sitting next to her, talking to her and having a good laugh again. It feels so familiar. I may not remember a lot of things, but I like the way I feel when I’m with her. Suddenly, the bell rings. /Rachael/ I’m heading to class. Wanna come with me, or are you going to spend a few more minutes up here?

Nikiforos Vourakis

At the thought of her leaving me again, I lost control. I grab Rachael’s hand and pull her close to me. We look into each other’s eyes for a little while. I put my hands on her lower back, and she puts hers around my neck. A couple of raindrops fall on us. Underneath these warm raindrops, I kiss Rachael, and I don’t care even if the world ends this very moment. I mean, how could I? Our kiss is a gentle, lingering touch of the lips. There is hesitation on both our parts as we touch, as if both of us are taking the time to memorize the feeling before facing the world and what is coming after this perfect moment. It feels really nice, but I need to get a grip. I move a few steps backward. /Christopher/ We need to get to class. Come on. Rachael takes my hand and walks with me to class. I can only think about our kiss though. /Jade/Chris, Chris. I turn my head to see what Jade wants. /Christopher/ Whaaat! /Jade/Hey, catch. /Christopher/Ohhh, okay. I’m reading Jade’s note, and all her questions make things more pressing. I mean, like the other guys, she want to know, but when I don’t know myself, what am I supposed to say? What am I supposed to believe? So I answer accordingly to Jade for now. /Christopher/ I don’t really know where I stand with Rachael. The bell rings, and I’m going home. But I want to talk to Rachael too.

Tortured Innocence

/Rachael/Hey, handsome, what’s up? She surprises me. She was waiting right outside the classroom for me. /Christopher/Actually, nothing much, but I want to talk to you about something. /Rachael/So what’s up? She is so happy, I don’t know how to ask her. I don’t want to spoil her mood. /Christopher/ I want to talk to you about us and where we stand. /Rachael/Do you mean, if we are together, boyfriend? Boyfriend. How can one little word get me so worked up? I don’t really get it anymore. Why am I so scared? What holds me back? I’m freaking out again, but I can’t really explain that to Rachael. I don’t want to hurt her feelings. /Christopher/ Hey, Rachael, wanna go to the bleachers again? /Rachael/Sure, I love going to the bleachers with you, Chris. We walk down the hallway, and I’m thinking that I want us to hold hands, but would it be not okay? Would I overstep some kind of boundary? Is it too early for that? And so we reach the bleachers and sit at the same place like before. I’m watching the rain fall, and all I want is to tell her again how much I love her and how much I want to us to be together. So I grab her soft hands and watch her eyes as I pop out the question. /Christopher/Rachael, I’m wondering. Would you want to be my girlfriend?

Nikiforos Vourakis

/Rachael/ I thought you would never ask me. She leans on my shoulder, and we spend the next few minutes watching the sky, feeling the rain, and talking about our feelings. It all feels so familiar. I’m so happy! But suddenly that same letter comes inside my head. I still can’t figure it out, but I will.


C h a p t e r


I rub my eyes a little, and I try to wake up. /Madison/Chris, honey, it’s time to wake up. I put a pillow over my head, pretending not to listen. /Madison/Do you want me to send away Rachael, who is waiting for you to go to school? When I hear Rachael’s name, I jump out of bed. /Christopher/Rachael? Oh crap, I totally forgot. Be there in a minute, Mum. I’m so happy. Since Rachael and I started dating again, we go to school together. It’s really nice spending some quality time with her. I get ready so fast that I don’t know if I have everything on. I’m going down the stairs, and there she is, sitting next to the door, waiting for me. /Rachael/ Morning, handsome! Oh, I think I’m in heaven! I have a beautiful girl waiting on me. Today must be a really good day.

Nikiforos Vourakis

/Christopher/ Morning to you, too, beautiful! /Rachael/ We have to hurry or we’re going to be late to school. Come on, sleepyhead. /Christopher/Bye, Mum, I’m off. /Rachael/Goodbye, Misses Zomer. I slam the door and grab Rachael’s hand. We’re walking with no care in the world, and it doesn’t matter if we make it in time. We come across a small park. I move some branches out of the way and take a peek inside. It looks really beautiful. I wonder what’s in there. /Christopher/Hey, let’s go in there and check it out. What do you say? /Rachael/And what about school, Chris? We’re going to be late. I can see that inside she is dying to go in there too. /Christopher/ Just a quick peek inside, and then we’re off. Please?! /Rachael/Okay, fine then. /Christopher/ Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I help Rachael go in first since she can’t cross the jump over the gate alone and then I jump in. I have a look around and I’m feeling really lucky to have my camera with me. I want to take a lot of great shots of us together. Every cute little flower patch and enormous tree is our set. The scenery is so magical and breathtaking, giving me a different perspective on the environment. I’m taking some photos of Rachael walking under some trees and swinging from some big tree branches. Hopping from rock to rock and making a flower hair band. I look away for a second and when I turn around Rachael isn’t there. Suddenly I hear Rachael shout for me.

Tortured Innocence

/Rachael/Chris, come here! Quick! I run to her, worrying that she might be hurt. /Christopher/ What? What happened? Is something wrong? /Rachael/No, but look here a sec. Isn’t this the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? I mean, wow, I’m really amazed. /Christopher/Actually, I think it’s more than amazing. It’s like a piece of heaven fell down to earth. I can’t believe what I’m looking at. I feel so lucky and blessed, because all Rachael did was trip over some vines and found it: our little oasis. We are so mesmerized by what we see that we want to look at it a little more. In the back are a couple of stairs. I take Rachael’s hand and walk with her to those stairs. At the bottom we find a sign, saying: Loved ones are thee, So go to paradise’s tree, Bound by fate, Thy souls should be, /Christopher/Did you make any sense of what this sign is saying? Rachael is looking at it. I sit on the ground and put my back against a wall. /Rachael/Let’s see. It says that our love is going to be bound by fate, so that we will always find each other. /Christopher/Superstitions. I don’t believe in fate; I believe in making our own choices and making the most of it by everything we do. /Rachael/ Yeah, yeah, mister tough guy. So let me continue.

Nikiforos Vourakis

It says that we should go to some paradise tree and by doing so we will be together forever. I can’t make out that last part of it; I can only see some letters. /Christopher/Hey, is it okay that I didn’t really get any of this? She turns around and stands in front of me. She bends over, grabs my hands, and looks me in the eyes. /Rachael/Hey, Chris, can you promise me something? /Christopher/ What’s wrong? Why did you cloud all of a sudden? Are you okay? /Rachael/ I’m okay. I just need to know something. She looks at me so hurt, and I don’t know what to say or do. /Christopher/Come here. Let me give you a hug! /Rachael/No! A cold breeze runs through us. And there’s an awkward moment. /Rachael/Listen to me. I want you to promise me that you will never hurt me again. /Christopher/Rachael, I … I … I can’t promise you that. She lets go of my hand, and she runs away, crying. I’m left here like a fool, watching her go up the stairs. I stand up and go after her. I reach the top and stop to catch my breath. I look up, and there she is, already past some stepping stones sitting at the base of a huge tree. I catch up with her and sit next to her. It’s finally time to finish our conversation. /Christopher/Can I talk to you? /Rachael/ No! I think you said enough.

Tortured Innocence

/Christopher/ I may have said enough, but I haven’t said all I wanted to say. /Rachael/ What so you mean? /Christopher/Look, Rachael, I can’t promise I will never hurt you, because it’s inevitable. And if there is anything I can’t face, it’s facing the inevitable. I might say something or do something that will hurt your feelings. I’m not perfect, and I know that I haven’t been the ideal boyfriend up till now, but I’m willing to change. I’m willing to give us a shot to get over the past and have the chance we deserve. We can try to be honest with each other and be patient and accept our faults over time, but eventually both of us will get hurt. I think the best we can do is let go of the bad stuff that happened. And from now on pay a little attention to the ones that will come, and focus on the good memories. What do you say? /Rachael/ I say that I love you, Christopher Robin Zomer, and I also think you are right. The good stuff will surely outweigh the bad if we try hard enough. Since you want to put so much effort into it I want to try too. She kisses me, and it is the most gentle and emotional kiss we have ever had. When Rachael’s lips touch mine, it feels like our hearts are bound together, and all the love we share for each other meets in that kiss. We don’t just share more kisses; we share emotions; we share compassion and warmth through the gentle touches our lips. It feels like a meteor shower on Valentine’s Day combined with the sweetest chocolate in the entire world. I want time to just pass us by and let us stay at this exact moment forever. We lie back on the tree’s roots, and we start talking about everything. /Rachael/Hey, Chris, I’m really happy I moved here. At first I really didn’t want it, because I left behind my friends and a life I was accustomed to. But I guess I have really good luck, finding you here and making friends. The thing I was

but now I know I’m not. my fair gentleman. Something crawling up your leg. you still are the new girl. /Christopher/Oh. are you sure about what you said before? /Rachael/Oh. Oh. It’s me! /Rachael/ I don’t see much. but I don’t care. then I will catch you. you’re looking at him. I don’t see what I found here that was so amazing. /Rachael/ You sound pretty cocky. /Christopher/On what? /Rachael/ Whether you catch me or not. /Christopher/ I will show you what you don’t see about me. and she suddenly trips on a patch of lilies. I chase Rachael around the tree. what … what is it? 38 . and of course. /Christopher/ Well.Nikiforos Vourakis afraid of the most was being the new girl. I do see something. /Christopher/So now that I’m on top. that is. because you may be the new girl at school to everyone but to me. /Christopher/ Is that an official challenge? /Rachael/That depends. moving was quite a lucky move. slowpoke. /Rachael/ If you can catch me that is. /Christopher/Actually. But to me you are my girlfriend. Rachael. I see. and I love you very much. because here you have a lot more than your last place. /Christopher/Crap.

I think it’s going to show all my life goals in one picture that is worth more than a thousand words. Sometimes I close my eyes and I picture this big canvas being drawn little by little every day. 39 . What do you want? /Rachael/A five-day trip to the Caribbean. /Christopher/ That I can give to you. and dreams waiting to be fulfilled.Tortured Innocence While I’m looking at my leg. and I find your way of thinking unique. have you ever noticed how blue and vast the sky is? /Christopher/Between you and me. /Rachael/ Wow. Rachael. You win. I give up. Rachael turns me. /Rachael/ Who’s on the top now? /Christopher/Okay. big hug. /Christopher/Okay. I love watching the sky. /Rachael/And what do I win. hopes. Chris. A little more down to earth. /Rachael/ Where is it leading to? What will be drawn at the end of it? /Christopher/ Well. that is really stupid. It makes me feel free and unburdened—an endless world of possibilities. /Rachael/Hey. please? /Rachael/ I will settle for a nice. /Christopher/ What? /Rachael/ Just kidding! Take it easy. Chris? /Christopher/Let’s see. I really like what you said.

My parents will really like you. do you want to have lunch at my place today? I don’t know what we’ll be having. Oh my god. /Christopher/ You have an admirable passion. I really like this side of you. I don’t like it either. it’s a date. So I try my best at everything I do. /Rachael/ You do have a point. but I bet it will be awesome. and maybe you could have lunch at my place sometime too. Maybe I can skip the perfect attendance this year and spend more time with you. I like the aspect of school where I stay in the library a couple of hours and I read books. We missed school. And I bet that the time we spent today together was way better than anything you were going to do at school. Rachael. what do you think about? /Rachael/That’s easy.Nikiforos Vourakis /Christopher/Hey. I look at it. /Rachael/Okay. An absence won’t make such a difference. maybe I overreacted just a little. when you look at the sky. we don’t want to be late. /Christopher/Hey. do we? 40 . I just noticed that it’s already past three o’clock. Come on. but come on. /Christopher/ Then it’s settled. what are we going to do? /Christopher/Look. You have that something that I love and that they will find amazing. I mean. and it makes me feel that all the sacrifices I make help me appreciate all that I have. I never thought that you were so intellectual and profound. /Rachael/Chris. My mom is an amazing cook.

She’s cute. I give her a lily. Instead of giving her mine. and we start walking back to my house. She turns around. I walk up to her and grab her hand again. I stand up and start to walk toward the stepping stones. Rachael runs in front of me and hops from stone to stone. We walk down the steps and then to the gate. /Christopher/ I wouldn’t have it any other way! Rachael stands up and gives me her hand. She looks so happy and loved.Tortured Innocence /Rachael/Remember that you have to help out. I help Rachael get out. it’s cute. I take my camera out and take her photo. Here. just like when we were at camp. /Christopher/Keep it so you can always remember the time we spent together. Today. Anyway. and I know it’s so I won’t she her blushing. 41 .

like you are worrying about something. Shoot… /Christopher/ No. please don’t figure it out! /Christopher/ What do you mean? /Rachael/ I mean that you look a little upset. Chris? /Christopher/ I just am a little worried that you will meet my parents. 42 . No. Really I’m fine. I quickly let go of Rachael’s hand because I am embarrassed for all this. I’m okay.C h a p t e r 6 Steps /Christopher/So here we are. I just … /Rachael/ You just what. We are standing in front of my house and as we are holding hands mine begins to sweat a lot. /Rachael/ What is up with that look? I look at her and smile awkwardly. I look a little down and I am starting to worry that Rachael might figure it out.

But by making this one. I need to take a breath and calm down. are you trying to tell me that we are not serious enough for you? Or are you ashamed to be with me? /Christopher/Actually. /Rachael/So? Your parents love me. A sigh comes out of me. I look down at the road.Tortured Innocence /Rachael/Chris. aren’t the others just a breath away? /Rachael/ What do you mean by others. this will be a big step. /Rachael/So wait a minute. Try to relax because everything will be alright. it’s neither of those things. /Christopher/Oh. Chris? 43 . all official like. trust me. and I’m thrilled that you will be my side. do you have amnesia or something? I know your parents from last summer. As I was saying. There won’t be any problems. We sit on the sidewalk. remember? I can tell that she wants me to be okay with all this. they won’t really be surprised. What I mean is that I’m going to introduce you as my girlfriend. and that’s not what I’m worried about. it’s not that. /Rachael/Care to explain to me? /Christopher/Let’s sit down for a second. and I don’t think we are ready for big steps. I have nothing to worry. /Christopher/ No. /Christopher/ Meeting my parents as my girlfriend is a big step. and not as my friend who is a girl. I look up. and she gives me a big hug. I feel her hand on my head.

I can give it a try. 44 . I know that this won’t end well. and I bet you haven’t done something like that. hey. kids. and Rachael sits at the table. and then we can talk some more. and I turn to get the napkins. We turn around and see my mom on the porch. so serve yourselves and then put the food in the fridge. and so I pray for a miracle. why don’t we share a plate together like in Lady and the Tramp. We go to the kitchen. /Madison/Chris? Chris! I have to leave now to run some errands. Chris. waving at us. and cold sweat runs down my back. wanna come inside? Lunch is almost ready.Nikiforos Vourakis I can tell from the way she looks me that she doesn’t even go that far but I can’t help it. /Christopher/Coming. because we are finally alone and can skip the meet-my-parents thing. I am worried that one thing will lead to another and I am going to do something I will regret later. /Christopher/ You know … /Madison/Oh. /Rachael/Hey. I think that it will be ridiculous and a little bit silly. /Rachael/Let’s go inside and meet your parents. Your dad is at work and will come back late. I’m extremely happy. I put out two plates and silverware. Love ya! Bye! As I see the door closing and after a few minutes I hear the engine running. Going inside the house with her feels terrifying. Well? It will be really funny. but I don’t mind.

/Christopher/ Well. and you can get any girl hooked. I turn again and finish gathering everything. jerk face. that was really insensitive. I want to kiss you now. We finish. don’t be down because of this. and only you. and I’m starting to worry. /Christopher/ Baby. We weren’t going to share a kiss like that anyway. /Rachael/Hey. I want you. but Rachael looks a little down. I sit at the table and put the plate in the middle. so just sit down and leave the rest up to me. I really wanted that. 45 . Bon appétit. Rachael. so I want to cheer her up. I light the candles that are in the middle of the table. I really like your idea. even though your kiss now is much better. We are so silly that Rachael takes a picture of us together with sauce all over our mouths. From now on I’m taking care of you. if it is any consolation. so no use getting depressed about it. But nothing has an effect. /Rachael/But I wanted us to share it like in the movie. Now everything is ready. /Christopher/ Well I don’t want any girl. /Rachael/Keep this up. /Rachael/ What a gentlemen! I’m impressed. what’s wrong? /Rachael/ We didn’t share the kiss like in Lady and the Tramp. I’m glad. close the curtains and the lights.Tortured Innocence /Christopher/Okay. /Christopher/ Well. /Christopher/ Rachael. I kiss her and I can see that she is getting a little happier. let’s eat. you shouldn’t be.

I guess I owe you an apology for calling you a jerk face. so cute! Okay then.Nikiforos Vourakis /Christopher/Oh. why do I always say the wrong thing? /Christopher/ It means nothing. Come on. Oh brother. If every time you say something mean I got mad at you. really. As we walk along. my mom breaks the spaghetti before she throws it in the pot. and she looks at me with tear-filled eyes. Rachael sees endless photos from parties to graduations. we wouldn’t find one long enough. I want to show you my room. what’s that supposed to mean? She’s mad again. /Rachael/Hey can I ask for a weird favor? /Christopher/Sure what is it? /Rachael/ Well I want to put a photo of us here with all the other photos. I will put one of us here with everything else so everybody will know how important you are to me. Like a little girly—so. So I can be as an important part of your life like this photos show. so even if we handpicked every one of the piece. I’m a jerk face? For your information. I’m just touched to see that you and your 46 . /Rachael/Oh. we wouldn’t be together now. /Rachael/Hey. We get out of our kitchen and go into hallway. /Rachael/Hey. She turns her back on me. /Christopher/ You are so cute when you get touched by things and start crying. She wipes her eyes and turns her back on me again. I’m over it. /Christopher/Don’t sweat it.

Tortured Innocence family are so close. But it has never really mattered to me. What am I? Some kind of trophy to show off? /Rachael/Come on. Try to see it like I do. and a homemade piano. I know you sell yourself short. /Rachael/And what would you call it? I’m surprised that you haven’t done anything. Being empty and soulless is something you are not. okay? /Christopher/Okay. But let’s go to your room now. a king-size bed. washed-out desk. I know you are hurting and you are feeling alone most of the time. they made this for you to show people how proud they are. I open the door to my room—a plain white room with an old. and because they love you. But come on. Even my family sometimes makes me feel like I’m not good enough. and you will understand it too. /Rachael/ Why is your room so empty and lifeless? /Christopher/ Well. we are. My folks and me are not so close. and we go up the stairs. I mean. Look. I grab her soft hand. I’m just happy you have that and is it so bad that I want to be a part of it? /Christopher/ I actually kind of hate it. but without the whole picture show. /Rachael/And you’re doing a bang-up job at hiding it. because it makes me feel like I’m on display and I get a little shy. to me it isn’t soulless. your parents love you. so I try not to show it. I wouldn’t call it lifeless. /Christopher/ Well. Stop pretending 47 . It never really mattered because I was never close enough to anyone to make me want them to see it. It is pretty soulless. as long as you don’t space out on me again. It’s really nice.

Talk to me. You know I really admired him. the one who saw us kissing at your cabin? I also remember him saying that he was happy that we were happy together and that we should cherish our relationship. come on. You need to start living. I would like to talk to him again. I told you because he led a full life and treasured every moment and every person that came into his life. and we look outside. My condolences. I could say something cliché. /Christopher/ I’m so sorry. but I will manage. but that is not it. take me with you. Maybe we could visit him sometime. /Christopher/Oh. I sit next out her. I didn’t tell you about my grandpa so we could sit on the bed and cry. but we can figure something out. show him that we are together again and happy. /Rachael/ You know. but we are pulling through. My grandpa my grandpa died at the start of this year. /Rachael/Actually. You know. /Christopher/ You mean the one at camp. I mean. /Rachael/ It’s a deal. Remember my grandpa. The next time you go to the cemetery. But right now we need to get back to you. the one you met? She goes and sits on the window seat. please. please don’t cry. It made me proud to hear someone talk to me about us like that. You need to stand up and grasp everything around you. It’s just hard when I think about him. Chris. I’m totally into that hot jock 48 .Nikiforos Vourakis that everything is slipping out of your fingers. we may not be able to do that. It’s all going to be okay. What do you say? Rachael’s expression darkens. which is about every day. like every moment counts. It was a real shock to everyone. She lowers her head and hugs her legs.

if we were not seeing this eye to eye. and who knows. I don’t want to do anything. Try new things. putting myself on top. /Christopher/ Wait. /Rachael/ Well. /Rachael/ I love you so much. /Christopher/Sure. ’cause we will get our changing on. Without her noticing.Tortured Innocence loner thing. I can feel her soft lips touch mine time after time and her gentle touches pulling my hair little by little. but you need a bit of change in your life. Then she slowly starts to kiss me a little further from my mouth inch by inch. Rachael climbs on me and holds my hands back. Are you okay with all this? Okay. 49 . I slowly lean forward and get close to her ear. there are ways to make you see my point of view. don’t you agree? /Christopher/Sure I do. We will modify your room to look more you and more alive than ever before. During Christmas vacation. so I allow her to think she has me. So she starts kissing me. I’m a little resistant to the whole plan. what would happen? She grabs my hand and pulls me up. I’m glad we’re seeing this eye to eye. I grab her by the waist and pull her onto me. maybe it will do me good. I’m— /Rachael/Great. She gently places her middle finger on my lower lip. get ready. We go and sit on the bed. I need a change. but okay. /Rachael/Did you have a tone just now? I’m going to make you pay for having a tone with me. I had freed my hands so I could roll her over. Her lips leave mine naked.

I look outside for a bit and then I turn and look at Rachael. I’m not so sure about it. So let’s continue where we left off. Are you? /Rachael/To be honest.Nikiforos Vourakis /Christopher/(softly speaking) I love you too. well. I haven’t— /Rachael/ Yeah. I just feel a little lightheaded. you see. /Rachael/ Why? I stand up and get next to the window. /Christopher/ Then why did you do all that? /Rachael/Because I wanted to know where we stood on the subject. She rolls me over and stands on me for a few seconds. I push Rachael next to me. The way she says my name so close to my ear and the feeling of her breath on my neck gives me goose bumps. and I get up. I guess we were both waiting on the right person. /Rachael/Okay. /Christopher/ I don’t know. I feel so strange. 50 . me either. Chris. She gets even closer. It’s like something is pushing inside my mind to get through. please stop. /Christopher/ I’m so sorry. /Christopher/ No. Chris. /Rachael/ What happened? Are you okay? /Christopher/ I’m fine. She bends over and bites my left ear softly. /Rachael/Chris. /Christopher/Oh. Rachael. But suddenly everything goes cold. I’m not ready yet.

You don’t have to use words to say it. /Rachael/Come here! I go and lie next to her. through all those little things you do. /Rachael/ Maybe. and she lies next to me. Her skin feels so warm. She lies on me again. She takes my hand and places it over her heart. /Rachael/Give me your hand. /Christopher/Rachael. And then we end up fall asleep. /Christopher/Rachael. And now I know without a shadow of a doubt that you love me too. /Rachael/Do you feel that? /Christopher/ Your heart is racing. like a warm little fire waiting … waiting for someone to put his hands over it and find the warmth and safety. and we talk for a couple of hours. She turns around and lies on top of me. /Rachael/My hearts only races when I’m next to you—when I feel your soft skin on mine and when your love touches me through all those little gestures. We are here and we have us and that is what should matter the most. I certainly wouldn’t want to rush things.Tortured Innocence /Christopher/ Maybe we never got over where we left things between us. Come on! /Christopher/Okay. listen to me. 51 . Her hands are touching my chest. She stands a little and looks me in the eyes. I love you.

52 . I drag myself over to the bathroom and wash up. I walk slowly toward the kitchen but I’m relieved to find it wasn’t her. despite the rain. giving it a different kind of feel. As I push the window to the side. I sit on the window seat and look out at the beautiful day. I get up and barely open my eyes as I drag my feet over to the window. I think that we need a little bit of rain. I go downstairs with a big smile. watching the rain pick up. And suddenly I hear some laughter from the kitchen. a lot of unique smells enter my room. I start questioning myself. But looking outside makes me feel awful. it almost sounds like Rachael’s. I feel like a new man. Why am I relieved that Rachael isn’t here? Why am I happy not to see her? Aren’t I supposed to be thrilled to be with her? I don’t know what I should do. I eat quickly and run up to my room. White. I close the window and stand there for a couple of minutes. and as I enjoy the view.C h a p t e r 7 Truth I hear the alarm go off and I tap my hand on the nightstand trying to close it. huh? It’s still white. It’s just an old friend of my mom’s. I want to open the window. a raindrop falls on me. with all that’s been going on. I open it.

What Spencer said makes sense. /Christopher/Hey.. feeling a little bit sad and. We’re going to Alli’s house. Spenc. and whoever it is better make it fast. Thinking. I am left there listening to the dial tone. Spenc. /Allison/ This is Allison speaking. I go through my contacts again and call Allison. So think and try not to let everything pass you by. /Spencer/Maybe you need to think about them and apologize or try to figure this out.. Good luck on fixing your problem. I sit on my chair and spin waiting for Spencer to come to the phone.Tortured Innocence I go over to my desk and catch my phone. and I feel terrible. sad. you know. and broken. what are you doing? /Spencer/ Watching the rain. /Christopher/ I know how you feel. what are you doing today? I really want to see you. Bye. /Christopher/Spenc? I close the phone and I start tapping it on my chin. because I’m in a kind of a hurry. You know people change a little and even make mistakes. 53 . /Spencer/ I have plans and I can’t. Wondering. I have to figure out why I feel so broken. I feel uneasy. But they always try to fix things. just sulking. /Christopher/Hey. Maybe that’s because I made a couple of mistakes the last few months... She hangs up on me. I go through my contacts and decide to talk with Spencer.

I am standing there speechless. and I just keep pushing them away. I … I … I know it’s hard for you. what’s wrong? /Allison/ Nothing’s wrong. always next to you. I am as I was. you can talk to me. it’s Chris. /Christopher/Allison! I know something is bothering you very much. I can’t. Tell me what I can do? /Allison/Leave me alone. so talk to me. and I remembered all the times we spent together. Chris. please don’t hang up. She hangs up on me. I don’t know what to do anymore. Please talk to me. I hurt the people around me. /Allison/So what do you want? /Christopher/ I called because I wanted to talk to you. When you’re sad or have any kind of problems. I just can’t. /Christopher/Alli. but it’s much harder for me. I hear it in her voice. Chris.Nikiforos Vourakis /Christopher/Hey. so what I want is not a trip down memory lane. Alli. watching the rain. /Allison/Listen. lately things changed a little. She is crying but trying to stay strong. I hear something crashing on the background. /Christopher/Alli. You hurt me enough already. Do you remember? /Allison/Listen. What is going on today? Why is everyone hanging up on me? /Christopher/Alli … This just keeps getting worse. What 54 . I’m perfectly fine. I’m sitting on my window.

I could. /Christopher/Hello. Maybe go jump off a cliff. even for you. /Christopher/Okay. I’m going to hang up now. /Jade/ Well. /Christopher/Don’t tell me you called to yell at me too. Chris. He will know what to tell me and he will help me fix this whole mess.Tortured Innocence I need is Jeremy. I have to say that you have done quite a few stupid things since I met you. and I’m already six feet under. and you 55 . Suddenly my cell phone rings. /Jade/Hey. /Jade/Okay. /Jade/ I may be a sadist. or express disappointment. because this just got to be a little too much for me. What can I do for you today? /Jade/ I don’t know. but now you reached a whole new level. /Christopher/Oh hey. I answer it hoping it would be one of the girls with an explanation. but at least I know when I screw up. I will stop. We were a family. but listen to this before we hang up: Think where you’ve been the last few months. /Christopher/Are you kidding me? I still have no clue what I’ve done. but where is the fun in that? /Christopher/ You little sadist. Could you please tell me what I did wrong? /Jade/ Well. it’s Jade. I just went through that with Spencer and Alli. That would be nice. Not as a place but where you stood toward us. Jade.

And then if you do come over at my house. your true memories will start you anew. She hangs up on me. Find out what’s missing. bye. And to find is to lose. leaning on the door frame. /Jeremy/And you? /Christopher/ I really want to know what I did wrong. are you? I turn. why did you come here? /Jeremy/ That’s obvious. Love ya. Only when you try to remember. sure. I forget a couple of things. But remember. 56 . through sheer darkness. /Christopher/ Jeremy. I will change our plans so you can make up with the girls. /Jeremy/Tell me that you really aren’t trying to remember what you’ve forgotten. I don’t know sometimes why I even bother. /Jeremy/ Well. Someone needs to put this dysfunctional family back together. That’s why it’s so important to remember. good luck. Maybe if I try hard enough …? /Christopher/ I need to remember what I have forgotten. She didn’t even let me say something … what am I going to do? /Christopher/Hey. to lose is to find. and then come. Chris. The girls won’t budge. and there he is. but what is it that made this whole mess? I need to remember. making fun of me. I’d love to hear what you have to say. I don’t know what it is I did wrong. wait. first figure out what you did wrong. /Christopher/ Well.Nikiforos Vourakis went—Actually I’m not going to spell it out for you.

I want to tell you but I can’t. you hurt me and I don’t want to talk to you. and it really pisses me off. /Jeremy/Chris! /Christopher/And then I called Rachael. Jeremy comes in and sits on the bed. And then she was all like I’m good and above it all. She was like. That little sadist. I don’t get any freaking pointers. and no one is giving me a clue about it. They expect me to know what I did. and she was all like. And only when you figure out that everything you know may not be yours. and she was acting like really shocked at first. And today really has been awful. And then you show up talking really cryptic about losing things and finding things. you discover something else. /Christopher/ You really need to start speaking in ways I can understand. I go and sit next to him. I get yelled at for doing something that I forgot. and even though I don’t know. /Jeremy/Chris! /Christopher/What?! 57 . and I’m really going to lose it. He grabs me by the shoulders and moves me back and forth. or I’m going to make you regret even stepping through that door. and she was tiptoeing around the subject. then that truth will lead you were you want to go. Everybody is yelling and yelling and yelling. I called Rachael. and she hung up.Tortured Innocence /Christopher/Huuuh? /Jeremy/ It means that when you lose something. like I call once every millennium. /Jeremy/Chris? /Christopher/And then I called Rachael.

You will have your fights. you are bound to find out eventually. When I found out it wasn’t. you only said Rachael. I really do. I just wish he would let me in more. today I thought I heard her laugh in the kitchen. and there will be times when you won’t want to see her. I want to help him. /Christopher/Oh Jeremy. and Jade. something happened. Nobody expects you to be always together or always good. /Christopher/But why do I feel like such a fraud? Jeremy looks down. What’s going on? /Christopher/ Well.Nikiforos Vourakis /Jeremy/ Well. so let me tell you. One night I got out of the house and took my parents’ 58 . I lift his head and I look at him with a big smile on my face. I place my hand on his shoulder. you will want to spend time with your friends or your family. well. He looks so sad. I just can’t keep it a secret anymore. I can tell that something is bothering him. there is a little more to that year than you know. /Christopher/What? /Jeremy/ Instead of saying Allison. Even if I don’t tell you now. /Jeremy/ Yeah. Spencer. and I went to see if it was her. I was relieved. /Christopher/ That was the year I met you at the hospital when I hit my head and broke my leg. A year after you and Rachael broke up. /Jeremy/Please stop looking at me like that after everything that happened. It’s Rachael. What kind of boyfriend am I if I’m relieved that it wasn’t her? /Jeremy/A sane one. I know your problem.

looked in my eyes. scream at me.” Jeremy is crying right in front of me. she told me to go home. but you are okay now. She saw her little boy on the bed with tubes. I called 911. /Christopher/ It’s okay. and the ambulance took him to the hospital. At that moment I couldn’t stop crying. He stands up and goes to the window seat. I didn’t know who he was. give me to the police and press charges.” and she hugged me. But she lifted my head. and I didn’t notice the whole on the road.Tortured Innocence car. She came. sat next to me. I hit someone. Everything is okay now. nothing bad happened right. /Jeremy/No! I don’t deserve your kindness. His parents were notified. It was raining really heavy. I mean. There was a single note on the floor: “We never want to see you again. “I’m sorry you had to go through this too. right? /Jeremy/ No. I opened the door and my parents were already gone. After a couple of hours. it’s filled with sadness and regret. When she saw me outside the room. 59 . So as the car was skidding on the road. My car hit it. /Christopher/Oh my god. I couldn’t see well. and said to me. I was about to pass a crossroad near my house. and I was expecting her to hit me. and I give him a big hug. it eats me whole. I see you every day and you look fine. yes. and the road was filled with puddles. on the inside. /Jeremy/On the outside. and I couldn’t see really well and … and … This is the first time I’ve seen Jeremy cry. Well. and so I lost control. she didn’t say anything. And the way he’s talking. and she was a wreck. but only his mother came. and when I made it there. even though I wasn’t supposed too. something did happen.

/Christopher/ I need to know what happened after that. I was always watching from the outside. or do I never speak to him again? 60 . /Christopher/ Now I remember when you saw me and shook my hand. You started crying.Nikiforos Vourakis /Christopher/Oh my god. and you will see the boy I hit that night. I grab his hand. I mean. I go and sit next to him again. Jeremy lets go of my hand and runs out of my room and out of house. and as I’m about to leave my room. I did but not that part. go to the bathroom mirror. I leave the room and I go to the bathroom. I grab my jacket. What happened to the boy you hit? /Jeremy/Stand up. I thought you were really weird and that was the start of our friendship. I want him to feel guilty for a long time. /Jeremy/ I need to go. /Jeremy/ I came to check on you every day. I didn’t know. I sit behind the door and the tears wouldn’t stop. I go back in my room and I sit on the window seat. but I realize that I’m not that person though. but I never came in the room. One day your mom saw me and invited me in to meet you. I cry and cry and I feel so bad about myself and for a little while I even wanted Jeremy to pay. Do I forgive Jeremy. I know I need to make a decision. I realized from the beginning what he meant. it hits me: If all the things he said are true. what more do I not know? What else is hidden from me? For a split second. I don’t want to go. crying. It’s shaking. and I just want to calm him down.

The moment I pass the front door. please don’t cry. I touch my chest and I let out a sigh of relief. on his knees. there he is. Jeremy. I love Jeremy. His words make me cry too. for me. I run out of my room and run to the door. and I don’t know what happened before. crying so hard he couldn’t run far. /Christopher/Hey. Look at me please.C h a p t e r 8 Family I’m still standing here thinking whether or not I should chase after Jeremy. but I know that now he is my friend and he needs me. I need to reach Jeremy and talk to him. I’m such a bad person. look at me. and there are many things you will never get to remember. I robbed you of so much. I go and sit in front of him. I’m so glad. 61 . /Jeremy/ I… I can’t stop. What he says reaches my heart. but I can’t … /Christopher/ Jeremy. I want … no.

and we will never leave you. I’m so lucky we became friends. and more important we are your only family. I can’t bear it. You are 62 . Looking in Jeremy’s eyes makes me feel so helpless. /Christopher/Good. I love you. Get it through your thick head: we are a family. Things that were so new to me. All I know is that our friendship deserves more than any memory could ever give me. I would never trade what we have for some things that I might end up remembering on my own. something will reach him. Look where it got us. Why don’t you hate me? /Christopher/ I could. and please stop crying! /Jeremy/Oh. And I start to remember bits and pieces of things I’ve said and done. Chris. things that made me feel like a real person and not a fraud. I care for you too much to make you cry again. not a shell of a broken person. You are an amazing person and a great friend. I really want to help him.Nikiforos Vourakis /Jeremy/Please don’t cry. how can you say that? I robbed you of a lot of good memories. Chris. /Christopher/ Jeremy. /Jeremy/But. All the memories that you say that you robbed from me were replaced with memories I cherish with you. Jeremy. ’cause I don’t want to cry either. the good. memories you may never get back. I think that maybe if I speak from the heart and let it do all the talking. I think a small car accident can’t compare to the friendship we built the last year or even the things we said. but I don’t know what to say. but I don’t want to hate you. Look into my eyes. I couldn’t care if I lost half my childhood memories that day. So what if you hit me with a car. the bad. and I love you for that.

because we will get sick if we stay outside more. why are you telling me that there isn’t something to be implied here? /Christopher/Don’t make me sorry that I chose to forgive you. /Christopher/Here. Maybe Jeremy has helped me remember a little bit of my past without realizing it. let’s go back inside. kind. Jeremy stands up and offers me a hand to help me up too. How about some hot chocolate to warm us up? /Jeremy/ You just moved to the top. I run quickly upstairs and grab him a change of clothes. /Christopher/Okay. I love hot chocolate! We head inside. see if I care … I leave them on the table and I turn my back on him. /Jeremy/Okay I’ll go change. As I’m making the chocolate. If you don’t want them then stay with your wet ones. and pure-hearted person. /Jeremy/Thanks. all I can think about is the feelings I keep having that are making me a lot more real as a person. 63 .Tortured Innocence such a sweet. come on. I’m so happy we got past that whole thing. A smile washes away all the sadness and the tears. Inside we take our shoes off. go change in the bathroom. I can’t borrow your clothes. Okay. /Christopher/Are you implying something about my height? /Jeremy/ Maybe. Then we go to the kitchen. but I’ll be right back. and there it is in Jeremy’s eyes: a glimmer of hope.

That’s why your mom was so understanding that night. You see. He told me that people only look at things from where it’s convenient for them and miss what is most important. /Christopher/ Uh. what do you mean? /Jeremy/ I told you before: your mom on the day of the accident told me “I’m sorry you have to go through this too. thank you. /Christopher/ Jeremy. but I know he is always watching over me. Thank you for accepting me. /Jeremy/ Now I get it. but she did. We are and always will be friends. you don’t have to thank me.” I never really understood how she could stay so calm. /Jeremy/Chris. so I try to understand. each of us taking a side. thank you for still being my friend. so that I can understand their feelings. We sit on the couch. You see. 64 . it would be easy for me to just act selfish and stop talking to you because of what happened. As I was saying. and now I know why. but I know it will cost you more than it will ever cost me. my grandpa passed away and— /Jeremy/ I’m so sorry! /Christopher/ It’s okay. We cover up with blankets and continue talking. long before I met you. why not? We take our hot chocolate to the living room. and thank you for loving me for who I am.Nikiforos Vourakis /Jeremy/ I’m back. he always told me to try to look at things the way other people see them. I still miss him. So can we go sit on the couch in front of the fireplace? /Christopher/Sure.

65 . would you mind telling me a bit about me? I put my cup on the floor and look into Jeremy’s eyes. We talked. /Christopher/ Then it’s settled. Grab an umbrella. We try to help people as much as we can. and we always look for the good in people. /Jade/That’s so good. Chris. because they were sad but mostly afraid that they would lose the old you. You know. I stand up. /Jeremy/ You see. Don’t you? /Jeremy/Actually. the girls really got distant. they lost the same thing. grab his hand and pull him off the couch. but all I could hear was yelling and yelling and more yelling. and I hope I will never get to remember.Tortured Innocence /Christopher/ Now I understand. The girls probably know more than me. me and my mom love this world too much to let the bad things get to us. after the accident. /Christopher/ I’m really happy too. You see. You lost something that you don’t know you ever had. But they are still distant. I’m so happy I got to become your friend. It’s just that when you lost a part of you. /Jeremy/ What do you mean? /Christopher/ You must know something about me that I can’t really remember. Now that it is over. but they lost a glimpse of you that they may never see again. aren’t they? /Christopher/ I don’t know. not much. expecting some kind of answer. about the accident: you might have helped me forget stuff that could hurt a lot. You really are an amazing family. You never know. That’s why they’re sad.

I suddenly stop in front of the park. I’m right behind you. /Jeremy/Okay. And maybe we can little by little get back everything we lost. I am not getting mushy on you. /Jeremy/ Why did you stop? /Christopher/ This is a special place to me and Rachael. It is our hiding place. /Christopher/Oh stop it. Don’t you go and get all mushy on me now. and it just came to me. but it’s still the truth. in front of our little hiding place. If you want answers. The truth is out there. /Christopher/But how can she say it when she can’t see that I’m not the guy she fell in love with? /Jeremy/Look. just grab your umbrella and let’s go. I’m not Rachael and I’m not in her head. I need to know. If the girls see the changes in me after the accident.Nikiforos Vourakis /Jeremy/ Why? /Christopher/ We need to go to Jade’s place right now. which is a few blocks from my house. Unless you try to find it. And even though she might not have seen the changes. My heart starts to hurt. her feelings are true. Oh forget it. that something is not quite right? 66 . to get my friends back—or at least the friends I had after the accident. did Rachael see them too? /Jade/ I can’t know that. you have to ask her yourself. /Christopher/ If you were in a relationship. I want to know. wouldn’t you notice changes? Wouldn’t you know that something is off. We left my house and started to run to Jade’s place. but what I do know is that she loves you. so confused. you won’t get the answers you seek. I feel so sad. and it may hurt.

Get your butt moving. You said something right. as I’m about to start running again. you are. The thing is that every relationship is different. But not this time—not again. and others I just want to hit you so hard. You remembered something. you’re right. Suddenly. /Christopher/ What happened? Did I say something wrong? /Jeremy/ No. and I’m not the one with a part of his memories gone. I don’t want to be late this time. I end up being late to the apology part. you and your lousy memory. on the contrary. It slipped my mind for a sec.Tortured Innocence /Jeremy/ I don’t know. /Jeremy/ What do you mean this time? /Christopher/ Whenever I get into a fight with the girls. And I am saying that. sometimes you are the most inspiring person I ever met. We were going to Jade’s place. remember? To talk with the girls. and he’s crying again. So just ask. /Christopher/ You’re right. It might help to learn who you were. Come on! /Jeremy/Come on where? /Christopher/Oh my god. I look up. and it might jog your memory even more. The amnesia kid. Remember?! /Jeremy/Oh. /Christopher/Gosh. /Christopher/ I did? What? /Jeremy/The comment you made just now about being on 67 . It won’t kill you. It’s no use just waiting around here. Jeremy grabs my arm and hugs me.

and I’m so happy for you. Chris. I’m a little bit scared. We stand in front of it. Try to be strong for me. and as I’m just about to run away like a coward. Its freezing and I would like not to catch a cold. So you see? You regained something of your old self. You were late to everything. /Jeremy/Sure thing. I know right now things are a little emotional for both of us but you don’t see me crying every few seconds. Something in me wants to run as fast as I can to reach Jade’s place. /Allison/As if we let you talk to us. because how do you tell someone that you now know what you were not meant to and ask for forgiveness. We run and run and can’t stop. but suddenly I’m feeling cold sweat on my back. But one of the windows opens. Okay? He wipes his eyes and smiles. You’ve started remembering things again. did you get lost or something? /Christopher/ No. you always had a lousy sense of timing on things. But after the accident. now let’s keep moving. your timing got more and more precise. /Christopher/ We can be happy later. let alone apologize. And one more thing. and a voice brings me back to reality. Now we have to get to the girls. /Christopher/How do you know it’s something I just remembered? /Jeremy/ The girls told me that before the accident. We reach Jade’s place. 68 . /Spencer/Hey. /Christopher/ I came to apologize. why? /Jade/Because you came by my house uninvited.Nikiforos Vourakis time is one thing that you did before the accident.

the whole truth. We’ll be right there. I may be a fake. I can’t look back. Now all I can do is hope that they will find the kindness inside that will give the three of us a second chance—myself as I am. I know the truth. expecting a reaction from them. So I stand in front of Jade’s door. and I’ll tell you. I turn around and walk away. /Allison/Don’t move a muscle. a person loved by you. /Allison//Jade//Spencer/What?! /Christopher/Come down. I lower my head because I feel so sorry for how I’ve turned out. /Christopher/ I know that I’m not the Chris you knew. I lift my head. I’m so sad that they won’t say anything. but I’m here in pieces. waiting with hope to be forgiven and be loved as I am and not as I was. tears of pain and sadness. They are just standing there. a shell of an amazing person. That you went through something you didn’t deserve and are still going through. a shadow.Tortured Innocence /Christopher/ Please listen to me. 69 . Bear with me and learn to love me too. I may not be here as a whole. but sadly this is what is left behind. They just look shocked. and Jeremy as well. Tears are coming. That I have changed without me wanting to. I just can’t. and I deserve a chance. They don’t say anything. myself as I was. /Allison/So we are down. Explain what you meant when you said you know the truth. /Christopher/ Will you be able to forgive me for being weak and not knowing? Will you ever learn to love me as much as you loved the old me? Will you please let go of the pain you hold so close. I don’t want to lose you so please don’t let me go. the pain that kept me alive for all the wrong reasons.

Alli’s right. The tears keep coming even harder. Jeremy. But then I realized that you were still here for me. your jokes. So I decided to let go off the pain and love you as you are so don’t leave me ever again. your laughter. 70 . /Allison/ We love you too. I think I should leave you alone. I can’t stop crying. Ever. /Jeremy/Actually. I turn around and look at Jeremy. /Spencer/ Yeah. Don’t go away again. not the Chris I knew. I look down and put my hand on my face. /Jade/ Yeah. girls? /Spencer/Of course. I don’t feel sad though. Walking away. Tears are running from my eyes. Life wouldn’t be the same without you. without your smile. I felt lost and depressed. stupid. I was so sad when I found out. I fall down. What would we do without you? My heart starts to hurt. /Christopher/Hey. My hands are shaking. He is walking past me. where are you going? You belong here with us. /Allison/Of course we will love you. /Allison/ You could do that. Right. I try to understand why I’m reacting this way. but still Chris. I feel the rain falling on me. /Jade/But you could come here instead.Nikiforos Vourakis /Allison//Jade//Spencer/Chris! I stop moving. I grab his arm.

Today you were mean to me. a family. hope for the best and hope that things will get better. Jeremy comes and sits next to me. Spencer is crying on Jade’s shoulder and she is trying to comfort her. Come on take us a hug. /Jeremy/Thanks a lot. /Allison/ You see today is the anniversary of your accident. Allison looks at me with a really sad look in her face. I want to know why. 71 . Sorry we took it out on you. Two years ago today it happened. /Christopher/ Wait on minute. /Christopher/ I will let you go. even though I see it all around me: hope. we are together again. all of you. this time. I remember one thing that is the most important. And so with a lot of faith and hope. The girls look at each other. something that I lost a long time ago. on October 15th. The girls run to us and give us a big hug. Now that I am in the clear I want to ask you something. We were just angry and sad and confused. Right there under a rainy sky. I love you too. They all lower their heads.Tortured Innocence /Jade/ We are just too stubborn to admit it.

C h a p t e r 9 Present I feel water in my nose. I stretch my hand to reach the towel. My eyes are getting blurry. and my eyes catch my reflection in the water. I grab the side of the bathtub. With my other hand I hit the water. I stand up and my head hurts. I need to explain to her what is going on with me. Water begins to drip from my head. I need to talk to her. and it makes ripples on the water. I stare at it for a while. but little squeals manage to come out from between the fingers. Tears continue falling. I’m afraid. I feel dizzy … afraid that I might fall down. I cover my mouth so that no sound can come out. I grab it. I breathe heavily. I feel ashamed of whom I have become. I put it around me. I open my eyes and pull my head out of the water. Tears begin to fall into the water. I’m ashamed of what I’m hiding. and then I see it her face. 72 . I don’t have much time. I take my other hand out of the water slowly. I realize that I’ve slid down in the bathtub. covering myself up. The image is too much for me to handle. I lean on the wall so that I can grab my towel.

I’m feeling dizzy and I grab my nightstand. and I start walking to my room. I grab the doorknob. I turn over. I feel so lightheaded. I look at the door. My body feels heavy. I feel so alone without her.R. I sit up and lay my body on the handrails. I turn around on the bed. I sit on my bed. racing each other to reach the bottom. I crack a little smile. The photos inside touch my heart. Every tear shed. I grab the handrails and try to stand up. As I am watching the ceiling. I feel dead.Z. My eyes catch a light. I feel the carpet underneath me. Afraid and tired. I wake up.Tortured Innocence Feelings of shame cloud my mind. I leave it on my nightstand. Everything goes black. I trip. I put my hand on my forehead. I’m up once again. I open it. I remember. Lost. I see the small drops fall on the window. I step out of the bathtub.” It’s my locket. I hear the pouring rain outside. I stand up and slam the door. I look at the ceiling. I wait for her to come again with a big smile and something that I don’t need to hear. Every bit of doubt felt and all the laughter we shared. It’s on my nightstand. I can hear the small drops of water splash on the floor. I feel every emotion. I feel so empty. A shimmer. I manage to stand up and try to go to my room again. I’m lying facedown on the carpet. I’m feeling cold and sad. I look at the engraving on the back: “C. I grab it. Alone and useless. I look out the window. I move my head back between the handrails and I look at the ceiling. I try to stand up. I open the door. I don’t want to stand up. It feels so warm. 73 . I can’t take it. I sit cross-legged. I look at it. Can’t look at it anymore. Her gift. I start walking toward the door. My hand reaches for the doorknob. and I fall against the door. Through my fingertips.

I look at the woods burning. Letter. I feel awful. fragile and at its end. Everything changed. It’s all my fault. Inside it’s dark.” I send it and close my phone. I lie down again. I can’t look at them. I push my back against the wall. the ashes and glowing embers underneath it. and I pick up a log from the stack to the right of the fireplace. “I love you very much. open the door. 74 . Letter. A flame like me. I drag my feet across the floor. The fireplace is still on. I go to the fireplace and put some gloves on. and I close my eyes. cheated. I’m so sorry. and the small fire grows little by little. I move the fireplace screen. I stand up and open the door. I start to cry again. I want to sleep. I go to my closet. That stupid letter. I grab my cell and write a text. How much can I handle? How many people have to get hurt? Why is all this happening to me? I want to get out of here. I have to sleep. I can’t take the pain. I feel lonely. and the only thing I want to do is die. I stand up and grab a pillow from the couch and a blanket from the armchair. Trying to relax. Why? That stupid letter. With everything that happened I just want everything to be over. I put the fireplace screen back into its place. I close my eyes. but it has a small flame. I put on clothes and get out of the closet. Because of that letter. and I lie on the carpet. I walk along the hallway. I walk down the hallway and go down the stairs. I throw the towels on the floor. Can you come over? We need to talk. I throw it in. Trying to believe that nothing is wrong. I go to the living room. Trying to forget. Abandoned. I’m scared. I stand up and drag my feet. empty.Nikiforos Vourakis I turn around. I want to cry. and I put down all the pictures. feeling tired.

Zomer. /Christopher/Chocolate fountains … —That’s it. Jade. You need to pay attention in class more. I’ve had it with your daydreaming. what are you going to do with your Christmas vacation? —Oh. I don’t know why. You failed the— /Jade/ Miss Johnson. are you listening? /Christopher/Gingerbread women … —Mr. are you listening? /Christopher/Gingerbread men … —Mr. Zomer. enough. but when I think of the word Christmas I feel like a new man with a brand-new appetite to fill—gingerbread houses. chocolate fountains. I’m going to our country 75 . and all the candy I can eat. candy canes.C h a p t e r 1 0 Resolutions It’s the last day of school and then Christmas. how nice of you to ask. I love Christmas! —Mr. Zomer. or you will fail.

first. /Christopher/ Well. I want to give you some homework to work through Christmas vacation. guys. daydreaming this time. /Rachael/Hey. make way. but I wanted to ask my boyfriend what he’s going to do on Christmas vacation. She takes my other hand and walks with us too. /Rachael/Chris! Chris! There you are. First. You were almost caught again. The bell rings and wake up. /Allison/Caught doing what? /Jade/Two words: Johnson and class. I’m so lost in thought about all the fun Christmas is going to be that I don’t even hear what Jade and Alli are saying. You have to do something with your daydreaming problem. and then from these ten articles write an eight-hundred-word essay on any type of marriage. I’m not hearing Rachael either until she drops me to the floor. As we are talking. kids. /Allison/ Incoming. From behind I can hear Rachael’s voice calling out to me.Nikiforos Vourakis house with the kids and have a peaceful vacation. Chris. but only those that exist in these articles. Alli surprises us. /Jade/ You’re welcome. I stretch my arms and take my bag. sorry to intrude. Now. and Jade comes and takes my hand. write a five-hundred-word essay on your perfect Christmas. /Allison/ It’s starting to get ridiculous. I walk out of class. try to heal from his girlfriend’s 76 . /Allison/He fell asleep in class again? /Jade/ No.

Tortured Innocence brutality. Spencer suddenly shows up. Why do you never wait up. just because he’s your boyfriend doesn’t mean you have the privilege to hear everything first. Why didn’t you wait for me? /Christopher/ I’m really sorry. are we invisible to you? /Allison/ Yeah. I turn around to talk to the girls but Rachael had already pulled Allison and Jade a couple of steps back. Chris. and she looks ready for a fight too. but they talk so loud everyone can hear them. While they’re arguing about who gets to hear what I have to say first. /Spencer/Hey. /Rachael/ What do you mean different? 77 . She talks to them. Then your boyfriend has a favor to ask from everyone. But if that’s what you really want. I expected more from you. so I never thought to wait outside my class for you. so now they have a different kind of relationship. but you always catch up at the end of the corridor or at the table. I will wait for you outside the classroom next time. The girls catch up to us. then okay. Why are they arguing this time? Anyway. I just can’t get away from these girl fights. Jade is right. like always. I walk a little further so that I can’t get caught in their fight. /Rachael/Can’t you just tell me now? /Jade/Hey. so you just have to wait. Rachael takes me to the side. /Allison/ Yeah. Spenc. /Rachael/ Why is she so special? /Jade/Spencer is different. and we walk together. Chris came into her life at a time when she really needed someone.

can I make a request? /Allison/Do we look like an employment agency to you? 78 . and I’m worried that things are still uncomfortable between the girls and him. Most of the time I end up getting in the middle of it. We reach our table and start to talk about our day. We are a family. guys. actually he takes care of all of us. /Spencer/But why? /Jade/Because I want to sleep at night and not have nightmares for once. /Christopher/Stop for a second. because scary movies are never a good topic for them to talk about.Nikiforos Vourakis /Spencer/Chris takes care of her in school. He is really late. /Jade/ Women’s fashion … /Allison/Cooking recipes … /Spencer/Scary movies … /Jade//Allison/Rejected … They turn on each other. and then you can continue. But that’s a long story. So what are we talking about? The girls turn and look at him a little weird. so he always worries. Once again I’m in the middle. Since we are all together. sorry I’m late. I was writing a pop quiz. but I’m waiting for Jeremy. and it took forever to finish. Let’s get going. As we walk to class. The bell rings but Jeremy didn’t show up. I want to ask everyone my favor. but now I wanted to be there. he catches up at the corridor. I’m so happy. /Jeremy/Hey. I’m dying to know what Chris has to say to us. and he really cares.

Will you help me? Everyone’s face lights up. Right. /Christopher/Okay then. /Jade/ No. Jade. and I have the perfect recipe to celebrate the event. /Jade/ I’ll bring the music. not at all. I don’t know about the rest. /Christopher/Actually. but it’s a secret. A request—don’t make me laugh. /Jeremy/ I will. don’t steal the spotlight. girls? /Allison//Spencer/Definitely! /Spencer/And I have the perfect color for you. they look so happy. Don’t be ridiculous. We’ll bring the house down. 79 . I want your help to paint my room and get rid of the old color. I’ve being bugging you to change it. You have all been to my room. Jeremy. And even though I know it’s the best. /Allison/Oh. because it looks like a cell in a mental institution. /Jade/Hey. Let’s be honest. I have the perfect color in mind. Pitch black. /Rachael/ Nice save. That’s what it has. It will be a lot of fun. I need a favor. but I think we can do an amazing job. but no. Your room does look like you belong in the funny farm.Tortured Innocence Either you ask a favor or not. Your room has … has … has character. Of course we’ll help too. I want it to change. you didn’t want to. So how come you had a change of heart? /Christopher/ I figured that I found people I love and I want them to be a part of me and my world.

/Jade//Allison//Jeremy//Spencer/ What? They all look so surprised.Nikiforos Vourakis /Christopher/Let’s keep it low key this time. But an idea comes to me. and not get any complaints from the neighbors. We go back to class. we’ll get our artist on. /Rachael/ I’ll manage. You can come if you want to. The day after tomorrow. /Spencer/ Was that supposed to be an artist reference? /Christopher/ Yeah. I’m really happy you let me in and accepted me so fast. I almost fall asleep at the desk when something hits me: I don’t have the colors I want to paint my room. because it’s going to get messy really quick. but be prepared. I have the color you want—and brushes and decorations. did you like it? /Spencer/ No. /Christopher/ Well you can’t blame a guy for trying. I’ve never seen them look like that. Thanks for the invite too. /Christopher/ Just kidding. I’m speechless. /Christopher/ Then it’s settled. and I’m worried I’ll mess everything up again. it’s funny. /Spencer/ I’ll bring paint over if. would you mind if I come? /Christopher/ You already know my answer. /Jade/ I’ll bring my talent and my awesome self. by any chance. 80 . /Rachael/Hey. it’s up to them if they want to or not. I have to buy everything. New look needs new décor.

Our fence is filled with Christmas lights flickering in five different colors. As I reach home. So I write back asking if she can bring the colors that I circled. That moment I didn’t care how sleepy and bored I was. She writes that she will. All along the porch are tall Christmas trees as background scenery. Before getting home. … Hey. The thing that I’m most embarrassed about is our manger on the 81 . but I’m afraid to ask about this year’s decorations. the bags are so heavy. I look up at our house. I would get a vague answer like it’s a secret.Tortured Innocence /Christopher/(whispering) Hey. When she gives it to me. Spenc. Spenc. Even if I did. and I pack my stuff. I’m so happy. it has colors on it—mixes and darker versions of the color I’ve been looking for. Even though I know the guys are going to help out and bring theirs. /Spencer/ What? /Christopher/Catch! For the next two minutes. A snowman family is next to the pathway leading to the house. but only because I’m asking for them. I run out of the school to reach home as soon as possible. I don’t want them to do everything. Spenc is writing and writing and writing. I make a quick stop at the hardware store near my house so that I can get a couple of buckets of paint and a few brushes. I start getting a kind of bad feeling. I’m so tired. The lawn is covered with fake snow. On the west side of the porch are some fake deer looking like they’re coming out of the woods. and I want to die from embarrassment. The bell rings. I drop everything. I’m thinking that she’s writing her life story. and it makes me smile. When I reach our house. I’m thinking that my parents make the house more and more Christmas-like each year. like something is about to go wrong.

Dad. and his reindeer. a big manger with baby Jesus. /Christopher/Hey. it’s Christmas. his sleigh. /Christopher/ Yeah. 82 . Be careful.Nikiforos Vourakis east side of the lawn. My parents have decided that this year is the perfect time to get close to their religious roots. What other holiday do we have this many decorations? /Christopher/Halloween?! /Liam/Good point. /Christopher/Okay. thanks for the concern. But with my dad on the roof I really doubt it. and the three magi. And you know how she gets when everything doesn’t go her way. same old. /Christopher/Any time. Dad. I pick up my bags and go inside. what are you doing up there? /Liam/ You know son. I just think that it’s too much. I know. I get a bad feeling in my stomach and cold sweat runs down my back. Your mom wants our house to embody the Christmas spirit. I open the door slowly and take a peek inside. Try not to fall. just wait until you get into the house. Come on. My bags fall once again. it has only a couple of lines of lights. and we’ll talk again. /Liam/ I’ll try to be careful. Why? /Christopher/Oh nothing. Well. So there it is. giving off an elegant and discrete glow. that’s what you get. Before I open the door. plus a few animals. /Liam/ Well. his parents. what are you putting up in the roof? /Liam/ Santa Claus. same old. The roof is the only thing that’s a little modest. But still.

like snow. But it seems important. On the hallway that leads to the stairs. /Christopher/ Just came actually. and I lie on the bed. The floor is covered with a white carpet. That letter again—a part of the memories I lost. before I forget. In the living room is this huge. Chris. On the other side of the room. I’m so anxious. where and small dolls of Santa Claus are scattered around with a company of gingerbread men. the shades of pink complement each other perfectly. fresh Christmas tree with lots of ornaments and flickering lights. Oh. I go up to my room and put the paint inside the closet. I change into my Christmas pajamas. I need to find out what it is. /Madison/Hey. I roll around on my bed. It is more like a Christmas wonderland. since I think of it so often. on the fireplace mantel. but suddenly something comes to my mind. I walk to the dining room. I didn’t know you were home. you’re the best. are small angels and stockings filled with candy canes. and I don’t want anything bad to happen. 83 . with a line of small Christmas trees. Suddenly it’s morning.Tortured Innocence Our house isn’t a house anymore. I was admiring the decorations. Mom. and the house smells like cookies. As I go to the kitchen. the guys are coming tomorrow to help me paint my room. on top of our dining buffets. and I can’t really distinguish it from the freshly cut pine and the burning wood. Tomorrow is the day when I make a new turn in my life for the better. my mom comes out. there are vases with Christmas roses. I think about tomorrow. You don’t mind. do you? /Madison/Of course not! /Christopher/ Thanks. I think you did an amazing job. Looking at their petals is like seeing painting. On the top of the dining table is a huge gingerbread house. They are beautiful and unique. but not for a while. The scent is strong.

watching what’s going on outside. I’m really hyper and I wait anxiously by the door for the guys to come. and it’s from Aunt Sylvia. I open the door in a rush. but it’s just the mailman with his holiday spirit. I open it. 84 . giving me a telegram from Europe. and the twins. We are going to give my room some life at last. I’m sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace. for an old guy he really has spunk and lots of holiday spirit. I can’t stop laughing with his situation. but as I’m walking through the front door. The neighbors next door are trying to put a sleigh on the roof. I run to the kitchen. Some of them are putting up really funny decorations. This must be the seventh time he went up the roof and as I’m watching. I go to the kitchen to grab something to eat. But I have to admit. People are putting Christmas decorations on their houses and in their yards.C h a p t e r 1 1 Change It’s finally the second day of Christmas break. It says that they will not be able to make it to our family dinner this year and that they’re really sorry. Uncle Matt. and it has fallen a twice. someone rings the bell. Old man Jenkins is trying to put some lights on his roof for the last two hours but every time they end up falling again. Our neighbor from across the road is especially funny.

While Mom’s reading it. /Christopher/ Yeah. I hit my head on the table. /Madison/ I have to go and call everyone and give them an update. Mom picks up the phone and starts calling aunts and cousins and sisters and kids to talk with each other and encourage them to think about it. I thought you hated Aunt Sylvia. and Christmas is for family. /Madison/ I loathe and despise her. it’s from Aunt Sylvia. You really have the holiday spirit down path. /Madison/Oh no.Tortured Innocence /Christopher/Hey. so now what? Are we going to fly to Greece and surprise them? /Madison/ Yes! We’ll tell her that we’ll go. a real tragedy. No one is left out. I hate myself for opening my mouth. Chris. Nice idea. /Christopher/Great. and then the doorbell rings. Mom. They are heaven in a Christmassy shape. Mom. whether I hate her or love her. /Madison/ We’re a family. /Christopher/ In our case. hate. but she is family. this is unacceptable. /Christopher/ Me and my big mouth. but go on. /Christopher/Great! Will there be more bad news for me today? 85 . I sit on the table and start eating a few cookies in the shape of a Christmas tree. They aren’t coming this year to the family dinner. no exceptions.

and chocolate flowers on top. /Christopher/ I’m really grateful. or— /Christopher/Anyway.Nikiforos Vourakis As I open the door I let out a sigh. Merry Christmas and almost happy New Year! I brought nothing fancy. Jade. and follow my lead. thanks. Someone knocks again. it’s rude to keep you at the door. and Merry Christmas! 86 . just this gingerbread house and this double-layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Oh. Chocolate! But I have to keep my cool. Come in. I want to point out one thing. I love chocolate— anything with chocolate on top or on the inside. You like? I’m looking at the cake. I want to grab it and slam the door in their faces. I recommend sitting next to the fireplace while I go put these in the kitchen. it looks amazing. The doorbell rings again. though: big chocolate fan. /Allison//Jade/ Welcome to the Zomer residents. and I suppose it tastes the same on the inside. expecting another letter from another long-lost relative. I forgot to tell you. Anyway. Alli? /Allison/ Well. /Christopher/Can somebody get that? /Allison/Okay! We’ll take care of it. /Allison/Gee. chocolate chips inside. /Jade/ Merry Christmas! I brought my mp3 and some awesome tunes. Come with me. I brought Alli with me too. there is no hiding it now. /Jade/Sure.

/Allison/Chris! Now! I run from the kitchen to the door to see why Alli is screaming. are you. Mr. So that leaves us four. but when he comes. /Allison/Spencer and Rachael are not here yet.Tortured Innocence /Liam/Hey. How are you? /Allison/ Thank you. Come. Zomer. girls. she is fighting with Jade again. so where is everyone? /Jade/ In the kitchen will be your best bet. /Allison//Jade/ Welcome to the Zomer residents and Merry Christmas! /Jeremy/Thanks. quickly now. /Christopher/ What just happened to make Alli start yelling like a crazy person? /Liam/Allison. because we haven’t had the chance to talk to him. The doorbell rings again. Zomer. Merry Christmas to you too. /Jade/Bye. nice welcome. for now. you? /Liam/Great. So where is everyone? /Jade/Chris is in the kitchen. okay? Are you hurt anywhere? 87 . Jade. /Jade/ We are fine. girls. /Allison/Someone’s at the door. sir. we’ll ask. Knowing her. Mr. not yet. /Jeremy/Have you figured out what color Chris wants to paint his room yet? /Jade/Actually.

/Christopher/ Tough luck. I just really wanted your son. /Christopher/ I know you love me. /Jeremy/ I’m really getting the urge to punch you right now. she’s fine. /Christopher/Never say something like that again. There’s a faint knocking on door. and something less is just nonsense. It takes me a while before I open it. Spenc. I came to your door and as I knocked. /Christopher/Can’t you wait just a little for it? /Jeremy/ No. Now give me a big hug. You want to know something? /Christopher/Sure. /Spencer/ I was just leaving. /Christopher/So what do you want. /Jeremy/Come on. She just wanted Chris really badly. I heard you laugh and having a good time. /Christopher/ I will get that. He then starts laughing. You mean the world to us.Nikiforos Vourakis /Jade/ No. /Spencer/Oh. just give us a hint. man. wait up. Mr. so I wasn’t so sure if you still wanted me. Zomer. I’m fine. Hey. /Allison/ Yes. okay. Alli? /Allison/ What color will you paint your room? /Christopher/ We have to wait for the others until I can reveal that to you. 88 .

/Christopher/ Jeremy.Tortured Innocence /Spencer/ I really love you. /Christopher/Hey. guys. /Jeremy/Hey. Rachael texted. I turn to see if she is all right. and it’s the last time it will be like that. so we can start without her. She’s going to be late. /Spencer/Oh. Spenc. come here so we can figure out the color that Chris wants in his room and finally get on with it. so please don’t die. /Christopher/ Don’t worry. I almost forgot. /Allison/ Yeah. We all go up the stairs and enter my room. will you help me get them up to my room? /Jeremy/Of course I will. and a strong wind blows into the room. It’s empty as always. let’s go in and say hi to everyone. Spenc. /Christopher/ Finally? Finally? What is that supposed to mean? 89 . I have quite the variety of colors. /Allison/Spenc. I got a text on my phone. Chris. Spenc. The others start greeting Spenc. As we enter. I’ll never leave you alone. I missed you. Spenc opens the window. /Jade/Hi. and I see her hair wave in the air and her Lolita dress move in harmony with her hair. so you can pick any one you like. is here. Now. Everyone sits around the room. It’s really beautiful. I’m really glad you came. I brought paintbrushes and paint. I’ll always be by your side.

/Christopher/Oh. /Spencer/So what is the mystery color? I’m dying to find out. And I live with your comments every single day. you go and make a huge deal out of it. like put paint on your hand and leave a handprint? /Christopher/Sorry. /Jeremy/ I second that. 90 . I don’t want lots of handprints. I think I can live if they’re not on my wall—especially Alli’s comments. you mean like a handprint thing.Nikiforos Vourakis /Allison/ It is supposed to mean that I will get to show you my amazing painting skills. I expected more of you. It will ruin the whole color. /AS/Oh. not that either. /Allison/ You guys are no fun. I’m sorry. /Christopher/ It’s burgundy with a little of all of you. I don’t want you to paint yourselves and get friendly with the wall. Okay now. /Jade/Huge is an understatement. so how are we supposed to put a little of us on the wall? ’Cause I’m not going to paint myself and start getting friendly with your wall. Spenc. /Jeremy/A bunch of thoughts and comments about you. if you please. nothing like that. /Christopher/ You guys. Because I tease you a little. /Christopher/ No. /Allison/Come on. /Jade/Okay.

I can’t make heads or tail with that hint. I want you to write our history on the walls. so neither should you. /Spencer/Can I have a hint? /Christopher/Sure. Spencer is thinking really hard on it. The hint is: what I’m looking for is the most important thing of our friendship. /Christopher/Our past is what brought us together today. 91 . ding! Ladies and gents. /Allison/ Well. The most important thing of our friendship is the journey and the first time we became friends.Tortured Innocence /Christopher/ Well. /Jade/ I love it! /Allison/Actually. we have a winner. /Christopher/Ding. /Jeremy/ I need time to think a little about it. /Jeremy/Okay. /Christopher/Did you ask for any? /Jade/ No. I don’t care that it’s not only good. why not. The time you realized that you wanted me in your life and how I earned your trust—with these amazing gold-colored markers. /Spencer/ I have an idea. and I want to see it. your last hope is for Spenc to figure out what I want to do that has a bit of all of you in it. On the other hand Alli is really pissed because I didn’t give her a hint. I guess I can write it as well. Good point. /Jade/That is just wrong. ding. We got no hint. it is a pretty damn good idea. /Jeremy/But I’m a little scared because of our past.

Nikiforos Vourakis /Spencer/ I really like the idea. When we’re just about finished. /Jeremy/ We’re about to talk about how we met each other. After a couple of hours we go upstairs again to start working on the most important part. I really like drawing. and it is Rachael. the final touches of my new room. Everyone writes on their own space. guys. and to give the paint time to dry. drawing. I sit on my window seat and start to write on the wall next to my beloved piano. All of us sit in front of the fireplace and talk about everything. The girls can’t reach all the way up and ask for Jeremy to give them a lift. I’m really touched. So we start painting my room all together. Did I miss much? /Allison/ No. and I’m glad I get to write how I met you. /Jade/ You arrived at just the right time. Everyone picks up a marker and starts writing. and they have paint on their clothes. but they really do an amazing job. It’s really amazing. We finish. just the painting and the writing. I pick up my marker too and go to the only place where it can possibly be mine. we go downstairs for hot chocolate. 92 . making drawings and writing feelings and how we met. /Spencer/ It’s really awesome. /Rachael/Sorry I’m late. having fun getting a little dirty. someone knocks on my door. our beginning. I’m doodling on the wall behind my bed. We all turn around. I turn to see how everybody is doing.

Are we all finished? /Jade/ I am. it won’t be all good. Jade. /Christopher/Okay. /Allison/Putting on the finishing touches. but I don’t mind. /Jeremy/ Just about done. /Christopher/ Well. we’ll do you the honor of sharing how we met first. 93 .Tortured Innocence /Rachael/At least now I will get to know your background with my boyfriend. /Spencer/ I need a little time.

and I couldn’t believe him. I don’t think I ever saw someone that was so unmotivated and bored. My parents kept becoming more and more distant toward me. At school I never talked to him. Then Chris came. One day. even though he didn’t look smart. and I was the invisible one in the family. and he never talked to anyone. At school they were great. and I have two siblings that were supposed to be the best at everything they did. because I was just average. But no one ever saw my effort. sat next to me. and I was just average. He said … 94 . He was average at school and didn’t seem all that motivated. Even his eyes told you that he hated being there. closed his book. turned his head.C h a p t e r 1 2 Jade I’m Jade Masters. I always tried to make myself good enough to be a match to my brother and sister. while we were at recess. and for the first time he looked me in the eye. He was really withdrawn—always with a book every time I saw him. He came. but I always fell short. I could never reach their level of perfection. Then he opened his mouth. I was on the swings and was really down.

not just friends. He just listened and nodded as a sign of an answer. and he had an interest in music and especially the piano. it is everything to me. so I started talking to him about me and what I thought. and why did he even care? The next couple of days it was like nothing changed. know more. hoping to strengthen our bond even more and make us more than just friends. because maybe we would end up something more. We bonded and became really close. and it was really amazing. leaving me confused. When he accepted. So I started spending more time with him. I knew he was listening. Sometimes he stopped reading aloud. less of what you truly are so you can satisfy others. and left without saying anything else. Though he never responded. I finally got my wish. it was a real chance. and I could get to know him from the inside too. but the one thing that became our greater strength was music. I love music. but I … I couldn’t let go of what he’d said to me. he knew I was there. it was music to my ears. I wanted to get to know him. How could he have known what I was going through. He was still lost in his books. 95 . We spent a couple hours per week together while I was teaching him the piano. /Jade/ I really don’t get you.Tortured Innocence /Christopher/ You hate it. I offered to teach him. To listen to his voice talking rather than read me books. At lunch I listened to him reading books aloud. stood up. and he acknowledged me. He looked at me and started talking back. And I was so happy. and I couldn’t hide my happiness. He stopped looking down and nodding. I can tell. We had real conversations. He opened his book. he didn’t even read anymore. After a couple of months. /Jade/ What are you talking about? /Christopher/ I can see you are a fake.

even though he never admitted it. Why is it wrong to know? /Christopher/ No. Hope that someone out there cares. So can I come in? /Christopher/Sure. That moment. /Christopher/ What do you want? /Jade/To wish you happy birthday. But every time he came over. I saw hope in his eyes. An outcast. He came. I invited him over. he could play almost as good as I did. A few days later. but how did you find out about my birthday? /Jade/School. I was even more curious about why he never invited me to his home. no. what can I say? You are different from other people I care about. But I still was curious about his house and who he was behind closed doors. so I went to his house to wish him the best and to see his room and even meet his parents. but he was his usual self—withdrawn. and in a short time. We ended the year together. and as I was about to ring it. and through the summer he still came over for our lessons. he opened the door. of course. It was really the best time for me. /Jade/ Well. He said. even though we lived a few blocks away from each other. it’s just that you are the first person to ever visit me. I found out it was his birthday.Nikiforos Vourakis He was really good at it. Is that so wrong? /Christopher/Actually. disconnected—but I was happy because it made me feel special that we were friends while everyone else thought of him as a loner. I was a little nervous to ring the bell. We went in. I stood in front of the door. On my birthday. It may not have been really 96 . and it was really amazing.

there was a bookcase with a lot of books. I was really happy we were together. I saw it in his face.Tortured Innocence big. I guess I’d gotten so used to doing stuff with him that even a little time apart was a lot. three months. I can’t explain it. 97 . but he wouldn’t admit it. During summer vacation. /Jade/He sounds great. So I spent the entire day there talking to him. He was really happy too. After a little while. it was a plain white room with a desk. He defended her. and most of them were book we read. I was expecting his room to have amazing things inside. a white bed. but it felt big. and you know better than to believe in rumors. and I was really happy. In the corridor. I started getting bullied by Allison and the in crowd at school. I remembered the covers from school. He had finally opened up to me. like. a window seat. Then we entered middle school. my dad built it for me. and it felt like three years. but when he opened the door. and it was really good. and a piano. And I was always bad mouthing her in front of Chris. Until the end of the year we spent more and more time together and eventually we became best friends. He is really good with his hands. You don’t know why she is like that. /Christopher/He really is. yours? /Christopher/ Yeah. /Christopher/Don’t judge if you don’t know. and we were in the same class in almost everything. we were apart for. The best thing was that he even smiled. but he never listened. /Jade/Cool piano. I even told him the rumors flying around at school.

I don’t really care. And I swear. Everyone knows she spends too much time in the girls’ bathroom. So let’s say she does. /Christopher/Even if she spends too much time in the girls’ bathroom. I love how he makes me see the best in others. but come on. I guess Chris has been and still is there for me. 98 . Chris. that is no excuse and as if she would like me. even those who I thought were a lost cause. she has a thing for you. all the time and in all the wrong places.Nikiforos Vourakis /Jade/ I know. That’s hope for you. it’s not impossible. and I love him very much.

And he didn’t care to be called names. I was left scared and alone. he was never afraid to show it. fearless. things got really tough for me. I picked on the weak and helpless and made fun of everyone so that I could stay in the in crowd. but he couldn’t make it all the way through. He became really violent and disrespectful. I knew he was smart. I lost my trust in the outside world. I wanted to be strong. and he didn’t even do anything to me. Those fearless 99 . but looking at him reading his book without caring about others pissed me off. My last year at elementary I was teased and bullied. so he started drinking heavily and cursed at my mom because she died and left me behind.C h a p t e r 1 3 Allison I’m Allison King. But I guess I picked on the wrong person once. After her death. and he made me who I am today. My dad tried to be strong and support me. Chris wasn’t something special. Even though I knew it was wrong. because I lost the one person in the world I could talk to and even trust. where I felt safe. and the person no one would defy. I couldn’t think of going back. and I lost my mother when I was nine years old in a car accident. so I decided that in middle school I would be the one that bullied others.

but not through him. 100 . So I decided to make his life a living hell. Through all the layers I had for protecting myself. /Christopher/ You made your heart a prison. He would have to feel the same humiliation I did. you still remain a prisoner to your own fears and insecurities. Then he just kept on walking. Days passed. geek. He closed his book and looked at me. and even though you have the key. Why was he so strong while I was just pretending to be? How could he not be afraid and still not be at the top? Why did he get to have that kind of freedom? /Allison/Hey. reading his book like I wasn’t there. stupid. Just for a second. through his friends. and I picked on Jade.Nikiforos Vourakis gestures made me mad. How did he know? How did he figure out that much about me without knowing me? I was so shaken by him. I found about Jade. He was really pissing me off. and I got hit more often. did your mom pick your clothes today? He just kept walking away. I just stood there with an empty mouth. I’m talking to you. /Allison/Hey. things at home were still bad. Though I was strong on the outside. by the look in his eyes. like they were seeing right through me. There were a couple of months that things were kind of good. /Allison/ What’s your problem? Do you know who you’re dealing with? His eyes looked so fierce. I tried harder to hide the bruises. but the next months things got rougher. but Chris didn’t even budge. He took her by the hand and walked away without saying a word. I grabbed him by the shoulders and looked him in the eye.

I just hate it when people bump into me and treat their body poorly. I had to. These things are easily missed if you don’t care about someone. /Allison/So that means you care? /Christopher/ No. /Allison/Hey. that I threw myself against a wall so I could get attention. 101 . /Allison/ What do you mean? /Christopher/ Your eye is covered. I ran away. scared by the way he looked at me. but I had to keep up appearances and be strong like nothing affected me. I felt so bad about everything. and my dad started yelling at me to answer. I left without saying anything. someone knocked on our door. and why did he say all those things? After school I went home. How did he know. I bumped into Chris again near the girl’s bathroom. /Christopher/So the rumors are true I see. and even though I didn’t want to say something. You also walk more heavily on your left leg than one your right. /Allison/ What do you want? /Christopher/ You dropped this today. And when I bumped into you. Rumors started spreading throughout the school—that I was in an abusive relationship. and my dad was pretty drunk. It was really bad.Tortured Innocence One day I tripped. I did. you grabbed your arm. I had learned not to pay attention to him. At some point. watch where you’re going. A couple of days later. and I can easily tell the difference. letting your books fall. and everyone saw them. that my parents hit me. when you ran away in the middle of the conversation.

but I want to know something. Before I could say anything. /Christopher/ Whatever. what kind of sorry excuse for a parent are you? You yell and drink and throw things. Hey. and I imagine all the bruises Allison has and the hurt arm and leg are from you. You are such a pitiful waste of space in her life. made me realize that he cared all the time I was mean to him. /Allison/Can you please not report my dad for what he did to you and what he does to me? /Christopher/ I know he is your dad and all but he needs help. Allison’s father. a real friend I could trust and be myself around. 102 . Chris stood in front me and took the next bottle on the shoulder. And a beer bottle flew right by us. you. /Allison/Can I ask you a favor? /Christopher/Sure. are you okay? /Christopher/ I’m fine. just take your book so I can go. My dad started yelling at me. I don’t really care what you call it. Don’t give yourself credit.Nikiforos Vourakis /Allison/ I didn’t run away. /Allison/ Wait. whom I was always scared of. He was really something. Suddenly he grabbed me by the arms and held me to the side of the door. Why don’t you do yourself a favor and pass out from all that alcohol. without being afraid of what he might say. because he would have my back. /Allison/Oh my god! Chris. /Allison/ What? /Christopher/ Not from you. Watching Chris defend me in front of my father.

/Allison/Hey. /Christopher/Of course I do. But for that to happen. While my dad was passed out in his chair in front of the television. I know it’s a lot to process. So when you feel ready. you know where to find us. but you need people who care about you. and if you want. one more thing. /Christopher/ What is it? /Allison/Can we be friends from now on? /Christopher/ No. I saw Chris smile for the first time. /Allison/ You said  … you said  … you said you care about me. not fakes who fear you and don’t respect you. people I could trust. 103 . When you want to. come find us. /Allison/But at school you seem so cold and distant. you’ve got to let her in. you have to come clean to her too. I’m not doing this to make you feel worse. Jade. and because I care. and he understood completely. no matter what your status is or what your past is. and his smile gave me hope that there are better people in the world. I explained to Chris what had happened about my mother and everything. one too many times. silly. you need to hear about this. I want you to be happy. /Christopher/ I was planning to drop that mask and be me from now on. you can be part of it.Tortured Innocence /Allison/Actually. and we’ll accept you. but Jade and I are like a family. Chris. /Allison/But why? /Christopher/ You hurt my friend. and if you want to be our friend.

She is a really cool person. 104 . and I got to love them both so much after a while.Nikiforos Vourakis The next day I went to find them and talked with Jade about everything. And who knows? Maybe I can help the next person that comes into our family find it. I couldn’t make hope exist. and I was so happy to have met them. I can feel it every time I look in Chris’s eyes and in Jade’s eyes. For me. For the first time since my mother’s death. I’d found someone I could trust and be myself around. I know that even though I can’t see it. but it was taken away so easily. hope couldn’t be given. After that I was sure that we would stay together. but I discovered it from the love other people gave me.

I couldn’t stop crying. and I was raped by my dad when I was eight years old. And he said that even if I told someone. He was so sensitive and kind. I figured he didn’t even care or notice I was alive. Right in front of me they both died. My dad and my mom didn’t make it out. it was my word against his. I wanted to tell my mom. Chris. and it felt like I was torn apart inside. I was approaching the car they were in. He never said anything to me or said sorry like others. He told me that I was going to be punished.C h a p t e r 1 4 Spencer I’m Spencer Adams. and that it was my fault that it happened. Even at school I was alone. and another car hit it. One day I decided that I was going to tell my mom. When I got older and understood what was going on. but I had him—a boy I secretly liked very much but never had the courage to tell. I ended up with relatives that I hated and never wanted to see again. Our car flipped on its side and then burst into flames. like something was destroying me again and again. but he threatened to kill me if I told anyone. I tried to fight back. no matter what the consequences were. I had a couple of classes with 105 . but he was distant sometimes and cold.

and took out a razor that I hid in my backpack. I was so scared. so I didn’t answer After a couple of seconds. I knew I never belonged here. I heard Chris’s voice calling out for me. what have you done? He quickly took of his jacket and put it on my back and then he took of his t-shirt and put it over my wrist and applied pressure. /Christopher/ What about your friends. All I could think was how stupid I was. hid behind the bleachers. and this way I will be with my mom again. I didn’t want him to find me like that. confused and alone. no one would never be my friend or even love me. I was always sitting in the back admiring him. At that moment I heard someone calling for me. what will they say? You will hurt them more than anything else could hurt them. 106 . One day I tried to speak to him. I ran to the football field. My tears were mixing with the blood itself. The world was too much for me. I started crying so much. My life was flashing before me. How I could let my dad use me like that? How was I supposed to trust the world again? I felt so insignificant.Nikiforos Vourakis him but even then I never had the courage to speak to him. And I slowly cut one wrist and then went to the next. Besides. and images from my past were popping inside my head. I didn’t want to live anymore. /Christopher/Oh my god. I was standing there like a fool. /Spencer/ What I wanted to do. I just wanted to end my miserable life and go be with my mom at last. but I didn’t care. I ran away. but I couldn’t even form a sentence. and all the bad choices I’d made didn’t help. he found me.

cried for me and cared. I wouldn’t stop crying that you died. I just couldn’t cry anymore. because I don’t have any friends. Were they tears of joy or sorrow? Had I finally found someone who cared? /Christopher/ Please don’t die. maybe they would be sad for a while. squeezing me really tight. the shoulder you will cry on. Chris. because I found you. When I finished my sentence. /Spencer/Stop. I’d found someone who restored my faith in people and showed me that there is still good out there waiting to be discovered. I don’t deserve it. for me. and he felt so warm. I will be your friend. The fact that he cried for me was so much. stop caring so much. but I could never tell you that. /Spencer/Please. the person who will help you find reason in your life. and I will be the one who will never stop caring and loving you as long as I live. I don’t want you to care anymore. No one would care if I died right now. but in the end it would end the same. I don’t want you to die I wanted to tell you how sorry I was when your parents died. I want you to leave me here and die. but everyone told you the same things. 107 . Go! /Christopher/No! From now on. the person who makes you smile. /Christopher/ I would care. He was crying too. and the tears didn’t stop. I would feel stupid and a pathetic excuse of a person if I didn’t help you. I only like you. who I barely knew. he hugged me. And now even more. I was so happy. and it made me smile. and words just seemed so worthless. Do you understand that? I watched Chris crying and crying. Chris. stop crying.Tortured Innocence /Spencer/ Then I’m fine.

I had a needle in my arm. I couldn’t stop smiling. asleep on one chair. In the morning. /Christopher/Don’t worry. I promise. even though they didn’t know me. I was so happy. It was dark outside. I felt a warm hand holding mine. Then he put me in the car. I turned. Chris was leaning on the door. and I was feeling weak. and I saw Chris next to me. when I was about to stand. And on the other side. I couldn’t tell who she was. After a while.Nikiforos Vourakis /Spencer/Can you please take me to the hospital. The moment I stopped. As we reached the hospital. They sat on the bed and hugged me really hard. and grabbed my hand. watching me cry. Then I heard something drop. /Christopher/Of course! Just don’t die on me. ever. you will never be alone again. Chris picked up his phone and called one of his friends to find us in the parking lot so they could drive me to the hospital. because I was about to pass out. 108 . I was just feeling the warmth in my head. okay? /Spencer/Okay. My hands covered my eyes as the tears fell. still waiting for me. he ran toward me. But when I opened my eyes there was nobody in the room. I woke up. things turned black. I feel really dizzy. We met one of his friends there. I closed my eyes again and fell asleep. People I didn’t know had come to be with me so I wouldn’t be alone. Once again I felt alone and scared. Then Chris picked me up and ran to the parking lot. sat on the bed with me. Then the girls came in and started screaming out of happiness because I was okay. and he caressed my hair all the way. Jade and Allison were asleep. I wanted it to be Chris. and there he was. I’d finally found friends who cared about me so much.

I can still find someone who cares—a person that will give me hope and keep me strong in my most difficult times. a family that chose me with all my bad aspects as well as the good. and even though I would have days that started sad and blue. while we talked. whenever I could. I guess I’m blessed to have found a second family after my first one died. but another part of me was relieved. And I would help in return. I was so sad that my family didn’t care. a family that loved me wholeheartedly and unconditionally. I told them about my father and what had happened between us and what I had wanted to do the day of the accident. no one would ever hurt me again. They were all shocked. but they didn’t go away. 109 . so I wouldn’t get hurt or miss anything. from now on. That day I also learned that there is still hope. That even if my bad choices are more than the good. and all that time my friends were there. and no one cared that I was gone for three days or that the hospital had called and told them what happened. Not even in my wildest dreams I would be able to get such a second family. I would have someone to share that with.Tortured Innocence It took me three days to get released from of the hospital. I knew I would never be alone again. When the treatment ended I went home. One night. even for a second. After all that happened. looking after me. They hugged me and told me that.

The minute they get a better offer for work. I guess.C h a p t e r 1 5 Jeremy Jeremy Grayman here. distant workaholics. It was a nightmare. Even if I managed to get a connected. And a few times they’ve even told me that they regret having me. we pack up and move to another city. so it was awful any way you look at it. and I could never have friends. Another thing is that we move around a lot. The only good thing about moving around a lot. I would have to leave soon. because I was always the new kid. The only consolation prize is that seeing all these different places gives me the inspiration to 110 . There I feel connected with nature and everything that surrounds me. I felt so sad and alone. unfortunately. They still don’t. I grew up in a house where my parents didn’t give me much attention. knowing that I wasn’t wanted and I didn’t belong anywhere. but I haven’t been able to share them with anyone. They are cold. I’m really good at finding places well hidden and far away from the human grasp. I’ve had a really great variety of experiences. is that you get to experience new sceneries and expand your horizons with amazing landscapes and different museums. because we never stayed in the same place more than a couple of months. They treat me just like a roommate.

and I paint the places I go. I write poetry and novels. and that complicated things. I had the chance to try out for the volleyball team—a sport that always captivated my heart. The strange thing was that whenever I got close to him. I didn’t care if he told me he was straight and 111 . Painting it means that a piece of the place and a piece of me mix. At least this time I was happy and excited. and I went to a new school. but he was a guy. Chris. I talked to him about my parents. and everyone was really cold. about the places I’ve visited and the people I’ve met. or so I’ve heard. it would be a while before they found one to top it. we moved again. and I am always there. because I was going to stay there for more time in comparison to the places before. I made the team. And that made my feelings stronger. Sometimes before practice started or after practice we went and sat on the bleachers and talked. He always listened and cared about my feelings. there is also a freedom when the words in my head reach the paper. At the new school. with a smile that warmed my heart. and my palms became sweaty. feeling calm and relaxed. but every time I saw him he was surrounded by three girls. I could tell he cared about me. a freedom that releases boundaries that make me a human. I felt weak in the knees. I felt warmth inside. about my life. which made it difficult for me. I felt different. because this job was the best my parents had. I knew that meant falling in love. My stomach felt uneasy. which is so much better than taking a picture. One time at lunch I wanted to go and talk to him. But the fact that I was with him at volleyball practice was enough. He was kind and welcoming. After a while. except one guy. We were in the same year. but we didn’t share any classes unfortunately. For me.Tortured Innocence connect with my artistic side. and I got extremely red.

but this time it made me feel so good about myself. right? /Christopher/ Yes. but I think that the way society treats them is wrong. and even if you are gay. I would be happy enough to know that he knew even at the expense of not talking again. /Jeremy/Actually. There are the people with disabilities and there are gay people. I do. feel. you know that there are people who are different in our society. and I looked him in the eye and tried to tell him. You make me feel a way no other person ever made me feel and I wanted to tell you because I 112 . I need to tell you something. I was starting to feel comfortable and nice. and it became harder for me. /Jeremy/Chris. and it doesn’t matter if they think. /Christopher/So Jeremy. what do you want to talk about today? You know I’m really happy we talk like this. /Jeremy/ I’m really glad that you feel that way. so I figured I would tell Chris how I felt for him. We were here for a couple of months. and it was really great. He smiled. because I’m gay. I tried to talk but the words didn’t come out. but I had to tell him. They are just like us. Chris. and what about it? You are Jeremy. we sat. I looked at him and he smiled at me. it doesn’t change the fact that we are friends. and I’m really happy that we became friends. So like every other time. I love you.Nikiforos Vourakis that nothing could happen. Chris. /Jeremy/Actually. or do things different. there is a little more to that that I want you to know. /Christopher/Sure. you can talk to me about anything. /Christopher/ Yeah.

and the secretary told me to gather a couple of papers. /Jeremy/ Please. but I was stalling. and I lost control. don’t die.Tortured Innocence couldn’t keep it inside anymore. That night at home. but also a little relieved after what had happened with Chris. the car skidded. 113 . my parents told me we were moving again. I pushed my back against the wall and let all the tears out. but is there a chance you will ever? /Christopher/Actually. Talk to you later. Actually. At the crossroad near our house. I took my parents’ car and drove away. and I couldn’t stop crying. I hit a person who was running. I wanted to see Chris one more time before I left. The next day I went into the principal’s office and asked what I needed to do to transfer schools. and then I saw it was Chris. I was so devastated. /Jeremy/Chris? And so he left me there. I rushed out of the car to help. Please open your eyes and say something. Chris had turned out to be like any other person. He was just about to fall unconscious when he looked me in the eye. That night it was raining really hard. I was so devastated. but when I got out of. I have to go now. I ran home. I felt horrible. I grabbed him and held him close to me. I saw Chris. I ran to the back of the school. and I had a few days until we moved. I don’t expect you to feel the same way about me. As I walked out. and I couldn’t blame him. I tried not to cry as I passed by him. When I stopped crying. He opened his eyes and tried to stay conscious. I stayed in my room the whole day. Jeremy. my parents were waiting for me to submit the transfer papers.

I wanted Chris to open his eyes and smile for me one last time.Nikiforos Vourakis /Christopher/ I’m so sorry. After a couple of seconds. Don’t lose the hope I see in your eyes. and I knew that every time I looked in those eyes I could see hope. I was really devastated. I never stopped thinking about what he said to me. I know it’s not much. I started crying so hard. but maybe someday I will feel the same way for you. 114 . I could feel it. I felt awful. thanks to the people around me. They took Chris to the hospital. giving me hope. I guess that even though I never grasped hope by myself. I took out my phone and called an ambulance. and I just didn’t want to let go. I didn’t want it to be true. I knew that I wanted to stay with him. And that made me feel so strong. His words stayed with me. He fell unconscious in my arms.

I forget all of you. all of us knew that there was quite a few memories missing from my head. I tried to do things perfectly so that no one would notice that I 115 . Well. /Christopher/ Thank you. guys. /Christopher/At first I was going along with the story and trying to piece thing together. they were tears of joy. /Allison/All of us? You mean me too? /Jeremy/ When he says all of us.C h a p t e r 1 6 Letter As Jeremy ended I couldn’t stop crying. to be honest. not some of us. he means all of us. I really appreciate what you did for me today and promise that this time I will not forget anything. Though they weren’t tears of sadness. but it was really hard. /Spencer/Forget? /Jade/ What exactly do you mean by forget? /Christopher/ I mean that after the accident.

So 116 . I may be a little biased. I try to understand how you feel. because it means that we lost a person we all loved. We expected you to be who you were. Most of the time it hurt my head but there were a few times when I remembered small things. even though your past is still blurry. It felt like I was trying to compete with myself and I was always losing. /Jeremy/ You don’t have to pressure yourself. and I’m really sorry I let you down along the way. and it really seems like so much to handle. you should have talked to us. /Spencer/But why did you lie about it. honey? /Allison/Even if you were a total mess. I felt really sorry about how I treated you. because we loved you and you knew that much. I knew you were more than a face and a name. and you try. as the days went by I remembered things.Nikiforos Vourakis was forgetting. things that couldn’t really explain our relationship to me. /Jade/ Why didn’t you talk to us. But your expectation never stopped. so I tried my best. because the old me wore tough shoes to fill. but most of the time I forgot. And that is something no one is ready to deal with right now. but I guess you all figured it out one way or another. Didn’t you trust us? /Christopher/ I trusted you. so why not turn to us? /Christopher/ To tell you the truth. That left me empty. and little by little. from now on. so I tried really hard to remember. The only thing I can say is that. So I hung in there trying to figure out us. but the truth is the truth. I will try to resemble who I was until I’m me again. I was scared. We don’t want to understand that you are not you. /Spencer/ We showed it any way possible. because I wasn’t who you wanted me to be.

I know you are going through so much. but as you go through all these. I was pressuring you so that I could be with the Chris I knew instead of helping you remember who you are. and you will always be Chris. /Spencer/ I don’t want to apologize. I will be leaning on that door. forget my face. and made me feel important. and now everyone is ending in tears. my name. boyish smile that gives me hope. the Chris who gave me a second chance under the bleachers. /Jade/Actually. I love you because I know that every time you touch my hand. you keep me more and more in touch with the people surrounding me. I just didn’t want to let go. knowing it or not. I don’t want to apologize because for me even without your past. Spencer is crying. the way you talked to me. or the new Chris who lost much and struggled to get back time. I know that 117 . Again. I will never forget the gentle look in your eyes and that warm. the way you stood up for me. even if you have a few bumps. that smart and kind guy that I first met and wanted to be friends with. listened. but I didn’t want to face the facts. I want to apologize too. I’m so sorry I put you through so many things just so that I didn’t have to come to terms with reality. but I know I will never forget you. So forget me. you are. all I want from you is to try and figure things out. You were. /Allison/ You meant so much to me from the beginning. welcoming you back with open arms. the way you made me feel safe and warm. I never cared if you were the Chris I met. even my heart. I’ve been feeling so terrible. And when you remember and become the old Chris.Tortured Innocence from now on. I’m really really sorry. All I wanted was the sweet little Chris who cared for me. even without knowing how much you changed my life since the day I met you. because I knew from the start that you were not you.

/Christopher/Come on. and we are ready to face everything truthfully with a big smile. and I’m really interested in a couple of things. /Jade/ I have nothing to do. but okay.Nikiforos Vourakis everyone has lost much and that everyone went through a lot of heartache. 118 . /Christopher/Rachael. /Allison/Seconded. Rachael. where are you going? /Rachael/Actually. Everyone is giving me hugs—except Rachael. I turn around and see Spencer looking out of the window. so would you mind filling them? /Rachael/Sure. We haven’t reached the best part yet. don’t go just yet. even if we had better things to do. /Rachael/The best part? /Christopher/ I wanted it to be a surprise. they must have better things to do than hear about us and our time at camp. my memories go back to the time we spent in camp. but there are a lot of blanks that need filling in. /Christopher/Come on. but the guys? I mean. but we are here now. She turns around and tries to leave. we can’t do them anyway. goes to my window seat. Spencer stands up. I talked to Jeremy a little. It seems like she’s waiting for something or someone that would lift the pain from her. I think that it’s best for me to leave. and it sounds like fun. give me a hug … all of you. /Spencer/Actually. and starts looking out.

/Christopher/Okay.Tortured Innocence I try not to say anything. /Christopher/Rachael? /Rachael/ No thank you. I’m just fine. and we can’t stop. but me. silly. If you want to play chance with your life. that’s fine. /Jade/Are you sure it’s a sandstorm? /Spencer/ Yeah. but as I am about to go down the stairs. /Jeremy/ You said the wrong word. /Spencer/ Why are you laughing? What is so funny? /Allison/ You said sandstorm. Why is that so important? /Jade/ It’s not. so I try to move past it and cheer her up. That’s what’s so funny. but I’m sure she’s still crying. /Jade/ Make some for me too. let’s change the subject. I’m staying right here. Does anyone want hot chocolate? /Allison/ I’d love some. /Christopher/ Why can’t we do them? /Spencer/A major sandstorm is raging outside. I get a 119 . So I start walking. please. why? Then we all burst into laughter. not snowstorm. /Spencer/So I make one little mistake. We’re just teasing you. and you didn’t figure it out. /Spencer//Jeremy/ Me too.

/Christopher/ No. /Rachael/ What is this? /Christopher/ I … I don’t know. It will be fun. Chris? /Christopher/One second.Nikiforos Vourakis flash and remember something. /Christopher/So does anyone want … Oh my god! You guys. Now. /Allison/Sleepover! /Christopher/ Yippee? /Jeremy/Oh. So you’re staying the night. please don’t do it. Rachael. my room is a complete mess. I look at that paper. but that doesn’t mean you can destroy my room. Please don’t read it. we can’t go home. Rachael. right? /Christopher/ No. and I walk into chaos. Rachael. and I’m really afraid to find out. I go back to my room. /Allison/ What’s going on? /Jade/ Is something wrong? 120 . /Rachael/ What is this? Tell me! Everybody stops while Rachael is screaming at me. /Rachael/Hey. It’s the letter. and we will get to talk about much more stuff. /Jade/So you know what that means. what is it? I see she has a piece of paper in her hand. come on. and all of a sudden I remember. /Allison/ Well.

/Allison/ That is not for you to decide. what is that letter that Rachael is holding? /Rachael/Stay out of this. I saw you after our eyes crossed at school when you 121 . I acted foolishly and I reacted in the wrong way. but I had to get it off my chest. I know that you never intended to make me feel awful. right now. Jeremy did nothing wrong. he is not normal. really? You mean besides dropping a huge bomb about his feelings for Chris? /Christopher/Stop it. Dear Jeremy. Besides. /Rachael/Because. You all need to know about it. /Rachael/ If that is what you want. /Jade/Just because he is gay. /Spencer/Stop it. /Christopher/ No. I will stop. it’s a letter Chris wrote. It’s for Jeremy. I know that you will be miles away when you read this. /Rachael/ In case you’re wondering. and he is trying to make Chris wrong too. you can’t say that he isn’t normal. don’t! Don’t make things worse than they already are. I had to make sure I give you this in time. Jeremy. when he thought he was going to leave here forever.Tortured Innocence /Jeremy/Chris. let me tell you. /Christopher/Stop it! All of you. Rachael. /Rachael/Oh. It’s not some kind of disease. you can’t turn someone gay. I’m so sorry. but not until I read you this. and I never wanted you to feel like that.

and I love that warm. and it tore me inside. I’m happy that you will get to find out about it. so I can worry a little less. and even if we are miles apart. As she is struggling to get her hand back. Even with a snowstorm this bad. Rachael starts crying and is just about to leave when I grab her arm. cute smile. Stay here. After you ran out of school. She is gone. her house is only a couple of blocks down. /Jade/Oh my god! I don’t believe this. I didn’t avoid it. my grip loosens for a second and she frees it. 122 . But I don’t reach her in time. I don’t think I wanted to. We need to talk.Nikiforos Vourakis ran out of the principal’s office. I never thought I could openly say it or even write it. She looks me in the eye and slaps me with all the power she has. Even though I didn’t remember it. Let go of my hand. I love the hope in your eyes. /Christopher/Don’t go. Love. and I chase after her. I tell my mom to call her parents and ask if she reached her house safely. Chris Everyone is in shock and speechless. She runs out of the house. but I want you to know that I love you. How am I supposed to face Jeremy? How am I supposed to look at the guys after that? I feel so bad. You can’t leave. I saw you crying. And the front door is wide open. know that a part of me will always be with you. /Rachael/Let go. While Jeremy is having a meltdown. I guess the most difficult thing is about to happen now. I have to look Jeremy in the eye and tell him.

/Jeremy/(whispering) I’m going. I go and sit on the window seat. but don’t leave. It’s normal in bad weather like this. not now. I hear heavy 123 . You are not going to make me worry too. Am I going to get hit in the face. and I tighten my grip. am I going to get a hug. Jeremy stands up and walks toward me. He passes by me. and Jeremy goes downstairs. or am I going to get an earful? As I reach the door.C h a p t e r 1 7 Turmoil I go to close the door and I just stand there. I let go. I don’t know what to expect. After a while the power suddenly shuts down. I know it’s hard for you to look at me right now. I picked myself up and slowly go up the stairs. Please go down and sit by the fireplace if you need space. /Christopher/ You are not going anywhere. but I stay calm. I feel the urge to leave so I can avoid what is coming. I grab his arm. but please don’t leave. I hear the girls scream. The girls chase after him to make sure he won’t leave and see if he’s okay.

but others 124 . you are like the snow. but I also wanted to check on you about what happened with Jeremy. the fact remains that it looks angry. I’m completely fine. making it look bad. /Jade/ You see. yes. and Rachael. is white. Chris. You never did anything to anyone. the letter. /Christopher/And what does that have to do with the snowstorm outside? /Jade/ You see. /Jade/That smile can fool almost anyone. and even annoyed. cold. /Christopher/Are you sure that… That’s it? /Jade/Partially. and then there’s a hand slowly pushing my door. just like you. but when the wind comes. /Christopher/ When I look at snowstorms. I see sadness. You go where the wind takes you. You are a kid who lost a lot growing up. the snow by itself isn’t violent. I’m a little startled. Jade? /Jade/ I want to see if you’re okay after the blackout.Nikiforos Vourakis footsteps coming from outside my room. and is misunderstood. /Jade/ You know something. it looks like that. snow is pure. and sometimes you seem angry or sad. Chris. I don’t see anger. Talk to me. even though its nature doesn’t change. /Christopher/Everything is just fine. Just like you. She closes the door and sits next to me. but it’s just Jade. What’s wrong? /Christopher/ Nothing. but I know better. /Christopher/ Why are you here. but to others you appear as distant. I see the snow being used by others.

and it seems you love Jeremy.Tortured Innocence see you as a snob. distant. So? I’m resisting answering the question. You know it will. I’m a little scared to talk to Jade. What’s eating me. but I guess I have to tell her the truth. I can’t think straight when it comes down to this question. you wouldn’t have to pretend you are someone you’re not. and rude. Mostly how I feel. you’re not signing a contract. or is it the other way around? /Christopher/ I don’t know. /Jade/Chris. /Christopher/But what if I’m wrong? What if I’m not  … what if I’m not that person? Then I will get hurt as well as Jeremy. so cheer up a bit. /Christopher/After I heard what Jeremy wrote on the wall and after Rachael read the letter. /Jade/ You are in love with Rachael and now the letter comes out. /Christopher/ You can ask now. This helps me relax a little and smile. Maybe the snow talk was pointless. You are Chris who loves Rachael and Chris who loved Jeremy. /Jade/ Yeah. But if I say yes to Jeremy. and you would be happier. I have strong feelings for both of 125 . but I think … I think I know what I want. everything will change. I remembered quite a bit. /Jade/ I can ask? /Christopher/Sure. and that goes for Rachael too. or maybe its point was to make me smile and forgive and forget a little. We both know you are nothing but.

waiting for the pain to go away. Every time they see gay couples. /Christopher/ No. I lift my feet and lie on the window seat. they start thrashing them. what’s wrong? You seem out of breath. /Jade/ Jeremy. it’s going to be all right. you poor thing. Suddenly someone runs up the stairs and opens the door. Chris. but either way. but what if one part of those feelings is misinterpreted? What if I make a huge mistake that I can’t take back. /Jade/ You’ll have to think this through. and the others won’t mind. but nothing does. Jeremy comes and stands in front of me. Come here. forgotten. They would not want anything to do with me anymore. What I said wakes up feelings lost. I love you. I grab a pillow and hug it really tight. Chris. /Christopher/ Have you met my parents? They wouldn’t understand. because what I wanted to say is that I heard them say that if I turned out to be gay. /Christopher/ Because I don’t need the chance to collect proof. looking me in the eye. /Jade/There there. it’s not. and you know who hard it is to … Suddenly tears start to fall from my eyes. No one cares who you are with. they would disown me and kick me out of the house. Jade holds me close while I cry.Nikiforos Vourakis them. and I ran to see what was going on. She pets my head and tries to make me feel better. /Jade/ You haven’t given them a chance to prove you wrong. 126 . /Jeremy/ I heard Chris crying. /Jade/Oh.

Chris? /Christopher/ I’m sorry about the letter and not telling you the truth. /Christopher/ Jeremy. I miss those things mostly because I forgot about them. so I need you to listen. /Christopher/The fact that you heard what you heard doesn’t mean that I don’t have the right to express it again. I never meant to hurt you. /Jeremy/Please don’t cry because of my stupidity. I miss feeling your hand mess my hair. maybe I eavesdropped a little. I didn’t want to hurt you more than I already have. I miss hearing your voice talk to me. amazing. Okay. and I miss your sweetness. and then when I came upstairs to tell you that. To be completely honest. /Christopher/How much did you hear? /Jeremy/Enough to understand why you did what you did. And seeing you every day. Jade leaves the room. /Jeremy/ Yes. I miss you. I didn’t understand at first. and a little familiar. /Jeremy/ I’m sorry. will you please leave us alone? /Jade/Sure thing. /Jeremy/ I understand. It’s hope. /Christopher/ Jade. and Jeremy sits on the floor. 127 . hearing you every day makes the pain even worse. I heard you speaking to Jade. so he leaves me lying on the window seat. I think he doesn’t want to make me uncomfortable.Tortured Innocence That light his eyes are giving off is so radiant. You mean the world to me.

and the feeling is amazing. but though my mouth opens. Jeremy. and I’m sorry it took so long for me to realize it and tell you. and he loves me back. /Jeremy/ I know. Jeremy gently lifts his right hand from my waist and places it on my cheek. I love you. I try to leave. or because the thought of his perfect lips touching mine made me blush even brighter? I’m really confused and excited at the same time. and I’m blushing so much that it looks like midsummer sunburn. As my body moves backward. but I’m not sure. I may not have understood back then what it was. I look inside those gentle eyes and find peace at last. I’m in the arms of the boy I love. It grows stronger. Am I really blushing because we had the same thought and reaction. /Jeremy/ I’m really glad you feel that way. I thought about it too. and that makes me feel safe. I want to kiss him. I guess the awkwardness is still affecting us. Jeremy hugs me really tight. but I guess you reacted for both of us. I know what I want to do but I don’t have the courage to do it. His touch is magical. His hands are soft and a little sweaty. but I’m trying to pull 128 . I try to talk to him. What I was going to say and you didn’t let me finish was that every time I see you something inside me feels even stronger. You aren’t the one hurting me. I guess having someone that reacts the same way as you and thinks the same things as you is kind of embarrassing. because I do too. I look down immediately. but now I know. and I can’t take being apart from you any longer.Nikiforos Vourakis /Christopher/ You don’t understand. and that’s expected. I guess mine are too. the words can’t come out. but as the thought passes through my mind. Jeremy pulls me toward him one more time. It’s my love for you.

It is passionate and strong. because we both want it. I place both my hands on his chest and lay my head over his heart. a playful attitude coveted toward that touch during the beginning of the conversation. and I don’t want to open my 129 . I … I … I really like the way your touch feels. When I reach the door and slightly open it. /Jeremy/Oh … um … really? I was worried that you might not like it. and I’m on my toes so that I can reach him. and it’s like I can read his soul. my hand little by little leaves his. /Christopher/ I … I really do. a natural extension of the light caught in the romance. any insecurity that holds me back from expressing with more than words what I feel. He grabs me by the arms and pushes me against the door. Jeremy shuts it. He puts his hand back on my waist. Jeremy pulls his hand back. /Jeremy/Oh. I can tell that he’s as nervous as I am. but we are not brave enough to admit it. My hands are raking through his hair. I look him in the eyes again. and it’s really shaking. It feels really nice. He looks away from me. /Christopher/Hey. As I move toward the door. His heart is racing so much that I’m worried we might have a problem. He leans his head on mine. Jeremy. He blushes so much. It feels warm.Tortured Innocence through any fear and doubt I have. yet romantic and gentle. He looks me in the eyes. Our eyes are looking directly into each other. It starts as gentle brushes on the lips. I’ll be right back. and then he kisses me. His hands are covering most of my lower back. /Christopher/ I have to check on the girls. I’m really sorry.

My only thought is that I want this moment to last forever. He can’t contain himself and starts to kiss me on the neck. It feels for the first time like magic is starting to appear in my world once again. and I take off my shirt and throw it on the floor. the way he pushes his body against mine. the way I place a part of me inside him. and every motion lights me up inside even more. 130 . He throws me on the covers and bends over me. understand him. and I see a spark. He grabs my lower waist and pulls me to him again. forgotten yet desired.Nikiforos Vourakis eyes. teasing him. Now I’m on top. I look inside his eyes. I move my hands around his neck and pull him slowly closer. It is an orgasm for my four senses—the way he smells. He puts his hands around my waist and pulls me toward him. I kiss him on the chest and slowly move to his neck. /Christopher/ There’s something I really need to tell you. and all it means to be him. He lifts me up and takes me to the bed. so I pull myself together and push Jeremy back a little. He takes off his shirt and throws it on the floor while I slowly kiss him on the neck and then continue on to his chest. and he in me. We are kissing. a perfect kiss caught between the fragments of time. but I know that I need to get a grip on reality. I can feel every move he makes. I put my arms around him and turn him over. Then I kiss him a little on the lips. Small gestures help me feel more of him. It feels like a firework show is beginning inside me.

/Christopher/ You don’t understand me. He puts it on. grab my shirt from the floor.C h a p t e r 1 8 Reasons /Christopher/Jeremy. I stand up. /Jeremy/ What are you talking about? Jeremy puts his hand on mine. I really want to be able to love him back. I lean on the window and start to cry. I’m so scared. 131 . but all my instincts are telling me to run away. I’m more scared than ever. I’m scared that everything will change. I put my hand over my mouth so that no sound can come out. Don’t worry. and I’m crying even harder. and then he comes behind me. and go to the window. Jeremy stands up too and grabs his shirt. I pretend to look at the storm outside. I won’t let anyone or anything hurt you. He puts his arms around me and leans on me. but all I really want to do is get a hug from Jeremy. /Jeremy/ It’s going to be okay. You will always know that you are loved and wanted.

He softly leaves me on the bed. I want to be with him. How could have I caused him so much pain again? /Christopher/Hey. In that split second. My hands are fists. /Jeremy/ Now that you are safe. Jeremy sits across from me. I start to cry again but. ’cause I’m here for you whenever you need me. and they are shaking. Tears from his face fall on my cheeks. he is shaking like a leaf. They are so vulnerable and weak. and the tears fall from my face to my pants. As he’s crying he puts one arm on my back and the other under my knees. I hear his heartbeat again. and I really understand how he feels. the tears stop and my eyes open wide. and they’re so warm. When my head touches his chest. I’m crying 132 . Jeremy puts his arms around me and pulls me closer. He goes around it and lies behind me. and he starts to cry too. and my tears take on a voice of their own. I can’t help myself. They’re just like him. I want to be strong. Little drops of feelings. /Jeremy/ You don’t have to say anything. I turn around and look him in the eye. He picks me up. I pick myself up and sit on my feet. you can cry all you want. I’m looking down. and I felt terribly sorry. He grabs me and puts my head on his chest. Jeremy. it isn’t so bad. While he has me on his arms. little drops of meaning. Little drops form where the shattered tears fell on his hands. I take my hand off my face. he holds me close so that I can’t fall. His heart is racing really fast.Nikiforos Vourakis I take his arms off me. and as I am about to run. I trip and fall on the floor. It’s the second time I’ve seen him look like that.

but where is Jeremy? /Jade/Chris. When I whisper in his ear. I open the closet and move over a few boxes with old stuff. 133 . and I see the girls coming in the room. lower your voice a little bit. And I step on a picture. but still I can feel his eyes looking at me. He’s on the window seat sleeping. I see Jeremy. but instead I tear it apart. /Christopher/Hey. so we decided to come up and see what’s going on with you. I didn’t think that I would ever see him again. /Christopher/Everything’s fine. a little noise wakes me up. I toss the pieces in a box next to me. I rub my eyes a little and try to wake up a little more. He is so cute. I pick up a box and put it on top of the other with force. he knows it was me. I stand up and walk to his side. Jeremy smiles. and he is really sleeping on the window seat. because I’m still out of it. I stretch a little. burning me inside. guys. I want to grab a blanket to cover Jeremy so he won’t get cold. The last thing I remember is Jeremy’s hand going through my hair. After a while. and then I sit on the bed. I love you so much. I open the closet door next to the window seat. I’m so tired. even though he isn’t awake. I fall asleep. and I lean close to his ear. I pick it up and I see him again. I close my eyes for a bit. I slowly open my eyes. I want to throw the picture at the wall and see it shatter in a million pieces. what’s going on? /Allison/ We got a little sleepy. /Christopher/Goodnight. I pet his head a little.Tortured Innocence because I feel happier than any moment in my life.

But all I want is to scream. /Christopher/(mumbling) My heart. I find a notebook and a pencil on his legs. a day to love the good parts of them together. because we have had enough drama for one day. I put the pencil on my desk. and act like nothing happened. /Christopher/ Yeah. and I cover him so that he won’t get cold. hoping that all the emotions will go away. Do you have any blankets in there. and an entire life to forget them or so they say. 134 . I try so hard to control myself that tears end up falling on the box. are you okay? I thought I heard something breaking. I see a page is turned in.Nikiforos Vourakis I squeeze my hands. I’ll get them all. I get blankets out of the closet. /Spencer/Oh. “To Chris. I can hear Jeremy’s voice read it to me. I’m struggling so much with a truth that can never be found out. It has a title.” When I start reading it. Chris. I open to see what is on it. and go to cover Jeremy. toss a couple of the big ones to the girls. I just stepped on something and that’s maybe what you heard. /Spencer/ What? I pick myself up. an hour to appreciate what was done for them. For people outside of our own. I have a few here. and we’ll share them. it may take a series of events to find a special person. /Christopher/ Nothing. put on a great big smile. /Spencer/ Hey. because we girls are getting cold out here. and when I place the notebook. There are a couple of scribbles that are really cute and a sort of poem. I pick them up. As I stand over him.

Tortured Innocence

But I know and can say without a doubt, that it took an accident to find you, that it took a few of your caring words to appreciate you, a soulful glance to love all of you, and now even if I go through hell, I will never forget you. I’m left vulnerable. Reading this makes the decisions that have to be made more difficult and unbearable. I put the notebook over my heart and hug it with care and warmth. I know I have fallen for Jeremy—not just for the way he makes me feel but also for the soul he has inside him. I leave the notebook on my desk and go sit on the floor next to the girls, who are cuddled up. And despite the cold, they are still gossiping. I guess nothing is more important than gossip. /Christopher/Hey, is anyone else besides me feeling sleepy? /Jade/ I’m sleepy and cold. I call dibs on the bed, by the way. /Christopher/ You can say that the whole bed belongs to you, Jade, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t have to share. You, Spence, and Alli will use the bed, and I’ll sleep next to the window seat. Everyone’s happy. /Allison/ I will be if you bring me another blanket. /Spencer/ I want a glass of water, please. /Christopher/Oh, okay. You want anything, Jade? /Jade/ I’m fine, thanks. I go downstairs and stop at the end of the stairs when I hear my parents talk in the living room. I stay close to the wall and quietly get closer to the living room. /Liam/Are you any better today?

Nikiforos Vourakis

/Madison/ Maybe a little. The medication is working, but remember what the doctor said: it takes time. /Liam/ I’m just worried about you. Do you think we should tell Chris? /Madison/ No, he shouldn’t have to worry any more than he has to. And besides, it’s not his job to take care of us; it’s the other way around. I want to go in there. I want to talk to them and find out what my mom has, but I’m too scared to know. I don’t know what to do. So I pretend that nothing happened. I go up the stairs and then down again so my parents know I’m coming down. I go to the kitchen. I pick up a bottle of water for Spencer. And I go back to the hallway. /Madison/Chris, dear, come hear a sec. /Christopher/Coming! I go to the living room, and I see them. My mom is lying on the floor, and her head is on my dad’s legs. My dad is sitting straight up with his back against the couch, and they look really happy. /Christopher/ You guys, thanks for letting my friends sleep over tonight. I really appreciate it. /Madison/Any time. You know your friends are always welcome to stay here. /Liam/And besides, they are all such good kids. We don’t mind. We want to see you happy. /Christopher/ I love you both so much. I really want you to know that. Goodnight. /Liam//Madison/Goodnight Chris.

Tortured Innocence

I smile and leave. I’m really touched. They have to deal with so much, but they always think about me. I go up and go to my parents’ room. I open their closet and get a blanket for Allison and then go back to my room. In my room, I see everyone is asleep. I guess it took me more time than I thought to go get everything. I put the bottle on my nightstand and cover the girls with the extra blanket. I pick up my pillow and lay next to the window seat, next to Jeremy. When my head touches the pillow, I fall asleep instantly. The morning light hits my eyes, and I open them slowly. I stretch my arms a little and stand up. Everyone is still asleep, and so I quietly go to the window. I open the curtain a little, and I go behind it. I look outside, and everything is covered with snow. The snow is covering every decorated roof and every piece of road as far as the eye can see. I feel in harmony with everything like a well-painted painting, cared for and breathtaking. Suddenly a hand touches my shoulder, scaring me half to death. I turn around, wondering who it is. The hand grabs the curtain and slowly pushes it aside. I can’t tell who it is yet. I’m still half asleep. It’s just Jeremy. /Christopher/ You scared me half to death. /Jeremy/ What about the other half? He laughs a little and then smiles. I can’t stay mad at him. /Christopher/ The other half is still asleep. Actually, there is something I need to talk you about. /Jeremy/Okay, you can tell me anything; you know that. /Christopher/ Jeremy, I love you more than anything, and you know that but I … I …

Nikiforos Vourakis

I look down. I can’t say what I want and look him in the eye. /Christopher/ I can’t be with you. /Jeremy/So you don’t want me, huh? Okay, I understand. I look at him, and he pisses me off. How can somebody be so clueless? I can never really hurt him so. /Christopher/ If you think that, you’re an idiot. You mean a lot to me and more than most people ever will, so stop saying things like that. I just have to clear things up with Rachael. Besides, she lives in a world outside our own. /Jeremy/So you read it, huh? It wasn’t finished yet. /Christopher/ I really liked it, and I thought it was more than sweet. And thank you. I lean in a little and kiss him on the cheek. As I’m moving away from him, Jeremy grabs me. /Jeremy/ You forgot something. He pulls me close to him again and kisses me on the lips. So I think he forgives me. /Jeremy/Don’t think you’re off the hook yet. /Christopher/Oh, I just thought that you would understand. I look down, feeling scared. I don’t know what I’m going to hear. /Jeremy/Oh, don’t be sad. Look up. It’s okay. I was just kidding. /Christopher/Really? When I look up, he puts his hands on my cheeks and wipes away the tears with his thumbs.


Tortured Innocence

/Jeremy/ I’ll always be there for you, no matter what happens. He grabs my head and touches his with it. He looks me in the eyes and smiles. /Jeremy/ No matter how much time it will take, you will be mine. I want you to know that.


C h a p t e r

1 9

(Last day of Christmas vacation) I’m finally home, and yet I’m a little scared. When I went to Greece, it felt amazing. I worried about nothing, and I had an amazing time. I may have been with family, but still it was one of the best experiences. I’m glad I went with my folks. In the back of my head, I’m still scared about my mom, but I don’t want to say something to upset her. As I walk the pathway to the house, I’m thinking about Jeremy and how I want to kiss him again. I’m wondering how Rachael is holding up after the bombshell she dropped on herself. It feels like a horrible first day back to school. All I want is to stay in and sleep all day. I don’t want to face reality and all the things I have to take care of. I go inside and up to my room. It’s exactly as I left it—filled with all kinds of emotions. It makes me really happy and a bit nostalgic. I lose myself in the memories. I leave my luggage next to the door and throw my hoody on the bed and close the door. I sit on the window seat, wanting to relive my kiss

Tortured Innocence

with Jeremy and all those emotions that made me feel complete and at the same time vulnerable. I grab a pillow and hug it really tight. I put my head on it. I try to block out the outside world and keep inside only the happiness, the feeling of safety that memory gives me. But I’m also feeling really bad, because inside I feel the truth. It feels like I’m lying to myself, and by doing that it feels like I lied to Jeremy as well. I go to my piano. It has been quite a while since I last played, but I’ve really needed it. I promised myself when I got it that it would be my escape from everything that tortured me. It would soothe my pain and help me through my problems. (Playing “A Whole New World”) I play and sing with everything I have, and I pour every bit of emotion, fear, and insecurity I have felt ever since that kiss. I want to feel okay with myself, and as always you are here for me. Sorry to be so rough, old friend. Tears run from my face and fall on the keys. I’m smiling and crying at the same time. I’m really happy because I pushed through everything and I ended up victorious. I stand up and move toward my window. I want to see outside. I want to see the world unravel. I want to see the difference. I drag my feet, and I feel shaky. I sit down and lie back on the floor. I look at the ceiling, and my smile becomes softer and gentler. I lift my hand, trying to touch the ceiling, trying to reach it. The tears are falling on the carpet, passing on all my feelings to it. I turn my head and look at the window seat, wanting to see all my life sitting there, presented by one special person—Jeremy. /Christopher/ I did it, Jeremy. I did it all because I love you. I pushed everything aside so that my true feelings could reach

finishing a couple of chores. and I have to wake up early. and after my morning routine I go to school. wipe my eyes. and I know that’s going to leave 142 . This time Jade is a no-show. and go to my luggage. I chicken out. Even though I’m resenting it more than anything. so I go slowly behind him. I thought you were somebody else. have a bath. and Spencer isn’t there yet. but I guess when the time comes. I want to smash that stupid thing to bits.Nikiforos Vourakis you. eat dinner. but I can’t find any of them in class or anywhere else. I go to look for them. I had the wrong guy. I stand up. —Sorry? You will be more than sorry when I’m through with you! The guy pushes me against the wall. /Christopher/ I’m really sorry. I go to class. and I mess his hair up. It feels so good. I guess in a crowd I don’t feel so safe. the alarm clock goes off. Unfortunately. and I’m half asleep on my desk. As I’m walking the hallway next to the gym. I start unpacking and put the gift bags on my desk. The next morning like every other morning. thinking about how much I miss my bed. The bell rings. because for the first time my hair is fine while his is now a mess. I have school tomorrow. The first hour goes by really slow. I hardly wake up. and when I am about to call him. He doesn’t see me. I wish you could see me right now and hold me. and then go to bed. appreciating the moment—this one moment when my feelings are true. I sit up straight for a while. I’m starting to worry. I see Jeremy again. As I’m reaching it. you will. I see Jeremy. and I go to class again. I go around the house. During my free period.

I’m fine. I catch his hand with mine like it’s nothing. /Jeremy/ Walk with me? /Christopher/Sure thing. he’s about to punch me in the face. that guy was a goner. /Jeremy/ If you know what’s good for you. /Jeremy/ Is there a problem? —Get lost.Tortured Innocence a bruise. Chris? Jeremy gives me his hand and helps me stand up. /Jeremy/ I also know that if I didn’t step in. While I’m rubbing the back of my head. He looks so surprised. I’m sorry. /Christopher/Sure. Are you okay. I stop rubbing my head. /Christopher/ Well. because I finally get my chance to be with him. You know how much I hate violence. but he pushes me down again. It makes me feel really terrible. you’ll leave him alone. I look at Jeremy and he looks so sad. I sweep my clothes a little to get the dust off. We’re walking and I’m smiling. /Jeremy/Actually. /Christopher/ Why are you sorry? Is something wrong? Between us? 143 . loser. and as I’m about to punch him. Jeremy gets in the middle and stops us. This time I hit my head on the wall a little. Chris. I stand up again. that’s true too. Thanks for the rescue. I put my hands behind my head and listen to Jeremy talk to me.

I can’t take it from you. /Jeremy/Open your hand. Then he covers my hands with his. /Christopher/Actually. I try to pull away my hands. /Jeremy/Actually. there is something else I want to say or rather give to you. you asked for space. and here we are again. I lean on the handrail and look at the sky. let go. I’m really happy for him and for us too. He grabs my hand and takes me to the outside. but it means the world to me. You love this ring. It’s the most precious thing you have. I keep struggling to free my hands. It may look like nothing.Nikiforos Vourakis /Jeremy/ Well. and I always wear it to my neck. cheer up. Jeremy. /Christopher/ I can’t accept this. /Christopher/Please. /Jeremy/Chris. I never asked for space. 144 . I asked for time and a lot of patience from you. I open my hand. Jeremy cheers up. I guess the bleachers are a place for me and the people I fall in love with. I just can’t. I turn around and Jeremy is taking off a necklace holding a ring. At first I’m upset but somehow relieved too. but he grabs them and won’t let go. /Jeremy/ I’ve had this ring since I was a little kid. but he still won’t let go. We go all the way to the bleachers. So please. his whole expression changes. You misunderstood. and he puts the ring in it.

put it on my chest. But mostly to make sure you always know how perfectly imperfect you are and that you are the one for me. To defend you even when you are wrong. /Jeremy/ I love you. I just don’t want to let you go. You and this ring have earned a very special place in my heart. Since yesterday. along with my heart and soul. I can’t think of my world without you. I know that this ring means the world to me but … but … but now I have you. I freeze completely. /Christopher/ Jeremy. He lets go of my hands. I grab the ring tight. I can’t understand how he can love me so much that he can wait for me. When Jeremy finishes that sentence. and I think that you are the best thing that ever happened to me. 145 .Tortured Innocence /Jeremy/Stop struggling. so I figured it’s time for the ring to find the place it belongs. I look down. and giving you this ring means that I promise as long as you wear it to always love you and be with you. I think you are the most amazing person I have ever met. I will cherish this ring and everything that goes with it. I kept feeling overflowing with love. I never expected something like that to happen. I love you so much. From now on. To surprise you and show you with more than words and actions how much I care. are you sure? /Jeremy/ I am. I start to cry. I know you feel the same way too. and fall into his arms. Chris. As Jeremy is telling me what the ring means to him. /Christopher/Oh my god. Tears fall. I can feel the unconditional and selfless love that most people hope for. I stop struggling. I see so much hope and love. no matter what. and I know that now if you are struggling to grasp what I’m telling you. I look up into his eyes.

I guess clouds may have the most desirable thing. unburdened. My insecurities are gone. I stay there and look at the sky. 146 . because I’m with the person I love.Nikiforos Vourakis Hugging Jeremy makes me feel once again safe and loved. Do you want to come with me? /Christopher/ No. (After a couple of hours) Suddenly I hear someone shouting. warming me so that I can have a nice nap. but there would be an irony seeing the place I lived but not the life I had. go ahead I’ll get down in a few. and nothing else matters. I stand up for a bit and sit down again. But would I be able to love? Would the world beneath me seem important? I guess I would be able to see my life from above. I fall asleep as I feel the breeze gently touch my skin and the sun bathe me in a soft light. and Jade is running toward me. I turn around. and I can tell that there is something on his mind. I open my eyes. but what really catches my attention is Jeremy. /Jeremy/ I need to go now. yet so magically. seeing the people I touched but not having the relationship we shared. And I start to wonder. I reach my hand out toward the sky and try to catch a cloud. and Alli and Spenc are standing over me. Jeremy leaves. but they do seem to lack everything else. He is slowly coming up the bleachers. I could have the most desirable thing: freedom. I look at the clouds pass me by slowly. and I turn around and lean on the handrail. I stretch a little bit and then lie on the bleachers and continue looking up. /Christopher/(thinking aloud) If I were a cloud. I don’t mind if the whole world knows about us. I look at them a little. and they look so free. I don’t care how much it will hurt to hear people talk behind my back. I want to clear my head and let the feeling of pure love flow through me without stress. and I wouldn’t mind if I died today.

while Jade is lying on my legs. /Christopher/Hey. I’m going to treasure this one and put it where I can see it all the time. I see the sky and realize it’s about time for the sun to set.Tortured Innocence I put my hand on the ring he gave me. And the situation is something I will never forget—with friends that are family and with feelings hidden behind gestures yet unknown. and while we look at the sun setting. What if this is my fault? I suddenly realize it’s late afternoon already. I take out my phone and take a photo of everyone. I can’t stop thinking. As the sun finally sets. it’s like magic. together. You will lose the sunset. 147 . guys. I put my head on Jeremy’s shoulder. The colors combine in perfect harmony. Come on! Hurry! All of us sit on the bleachers. here. it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Alli and Spencer are standing behind us. and the sun looks bigger than any other time I’ve seen it. move it.

you can talk to me about anything. Suddenly the door opens. Still she came and I should thank her. I’m just confused about something. I looking outside—looking for answers or for a reason for my problems. /Jade/Sure. and Jade comes rushing in. and I need to talk to someone. /Christopher/Do you believe in god. and I need someone to talk to. so worried and so mad.C h a p t e r 2 0 Gestures (A couple of days later) All day I’m tossing and turning on the bed. I text Jade to come at my house as soon as possible. /Jade/Chris. She looks so silly. /Christopher/ Nobody died. Jade? 148 . I stand up and go to the window seat. I’m felling awful. I turn to my nightstand and pick up my phone. what’s going on? Who died? I look at her looking upset and I start laughing.

he is real. /Christopher/ Then why am I stuck in this situation? I feel all this pressure coming from everyone. and I believe he exists. life is too difficult to go at it alone. You need to believe in something that you can’t touch. She sits there looking at me. I sit on the floor and put my back against the bed. 149 . every culture has its version of god. /Jade/ You’re not perfect. because otherwise he wouldn’t be a god. /Jade/Look. Something that is always close but far enough to be outside your reach. yes. everyone’s god doesn’t make mistakes. see. /Christopher/ Well. I pull my legs in and grab them really tight.Tortured Innocence /Jade/ Well. Jade sits next to me and doesn’t say anything for a couple of seconds. for starters. She puts her hand on my shoulder and rubs it. I can’t even face Jade. I’m not so sure if he does or not. Chris. /Christopher/ Does the god you believe in make any mistakes? /Jade/Actually. But you are no mistake. the way I feel about myself. but even if he differs from place to place. /Christopher/ I need a little more than that. /Jade/ Well. /Christopher/ Then why am I a complete and total mistake? I stand up and slide my hand over the top of the piano. and messed up sometimes too. god isn’t just one thing. He or she or it is the embodiment of a person’s belief. or smell. You are imperfect. I walk over to the other window while looking at the floor. I turn around and look her in the eyes.

how can I still be insecure or afraid? /Jade/So you need to confront Rachael and figure out what’s going on. staring at the ceiling. /Christopher/ I don’t want to hurt any of them you know. But keeping Jeremy on the side because you are afraid and insecure is hurting him as well.Nikiforos Vourakis /Jade/Actually. Jeremy. and then you can freak out all you want. I would be lying if I said I still don’t have feelings for her. What others expect from you is only a small part of the pressure you are under. I look up and then lie on the floor. you don’t know if Rachael still has feelings for you. /Christopher/Did you know that Rachael has been avoiding me. I know you—the old you as well as the new you—and you are working hard at everything you do. She lost you not to another woman but to a man. is super sweet and super caring and amazing beyond thought. /Jade/First of all. Jeremy gave you everything and put everything on the line so you can know how he feels. which is something you have to find out or we are just speaking hypothetically. if Rachael really has feelings for you. Find out how she really feels about you. I turn and look into Jade’s eyes. all of this is hurting her much more than it does you. people don’t pressure you more than you pressure yourself. Besides. and that is bound to make any girl question herself. You pressure yourself so much that you end up thinking that it’s other people’s fault. technically we are still together. 150 . Even though I’m afraid to admit it. And I think I’m not good enough for him. I’m insecure about me and Jeremy. but after what happened yesterday. We haven’t even broken up properly. on the other hand. I mean.

Tortured Innocence Jade stands up. grabs my hand. I close my phone and stare at the ceiling. (The next day at school) I get a text from Jade saying that lunchtime is showtime. I sit next to Rachael. and pulls me up. /Christopher/ No. Hours have gone by. and as she is about to leave. I grab her hand. Every time something happens. and she is shivering. It feels like a bad joke after all the times I’ve gone up there and all the things that have happened. I go over there to talk to her. waiting for Jade’s text. it’s there. and everyone runs to the cafeteria to have lunch. But know this: tomorrow at school you will talk to Rachael. There is no point in wasting time. I got it from here. How am I going to get her to talk to me? /Jade/ You’re right. Here it is! It says that Alli will corner Rachael on the bleachers and give me the opportunity to talk to her. I … I … I have to leave now. I’ll think of something and text you. I need to talk to you. please stay. It’s amazing what a big part the bleachers plays in my love life. The bell rings. Alli. /Christopher/But she is avoiding me. /Christopher/ Thanks for everything. 151 . I put my arm around her. /Rachael/Chris. and I’m once again tossing on my bed. I reach the top and see Alli sitting with Rachael on the top left corner. trying to warm her up. while I’m going up the stairs once again to find a person that I have feelings for once again. Poor thing. She stands up. /Jade/Go now.

And here you are accusing me of something I didn’t do so that you can feel better about yourself. pretending that you loved me when clearly your interests were somewhere else. /Christopher/ Why would you say that? I know that a lot has happened after the Christmas incident. /Rachael/ What I did was awful.Nikiforos Vourakis Rachael stands by the handrail and looks at the sky. I got so mad at you for playing with my feelings. you erase him from your life. 152 . I thought you still acted the same way. things change—or better yet. The person you describe is not me. So that you can justify what you did. /Rachael/At least the viewpoint is mutual. And so inhuman. Her eyes are red. That really offends me. She turns around and looks at me. I was hurt. /Rachael/That’s how you used to react when people wronged you. /Rachael/How come? I thought by now you would have forgotten who I was. misting. /Christopher/ Well. and you expect me to remember something insignificant and mean like that about me? I still haven’t figured out everything about me and a lot of stuff are still not back. /Rachael/ I know that when someone treats you wrong. people forget. filled with so much pain and sadness. but that is no reason to treat me like I don’t exist. When I found that letter and read what was inside. /Christopher/ That’s so not true. I had a huge part of my memory lost. and I’m struggling to get everything back.

/Rachael/ I never wanted to hurt you. and I realized that I wasn’t mad at you for having feelings for Jeremy. /Rachael/But … but … but after what I did at your house. It would devastate me. I was mad because I didn’t see it. gives me a hug. Though there is something you need to understand: When you found the letter and told everyone about my feelings for Jeremy. we wouldn’t be here now. like now. my heart is racing so much it feels like it’s going to break. I will still say that I love you and that you mean a lot to me. take her hand. I had forgotten the letter and the way I felt for Jeremy. But that doesn’t mean that my heart will always belong to you. Maybe she understands the point I am trying to make. She’s crying so much. /Christopher/ You see. I never wanted you to get mad at me. I never wanted things to be the way they are now. The truth is. She can’t stop crying. how come you are so nice to me? /Christopher/ Well. I was mad at myself. and I was mad for the way I acted that night. because you are one of the few people that mean the world to me. I look deep into her eyes so she’ll know I’m telling the truth and that it’s really me. and place it on my heart. but that’s 153 . but if you hadn’t force me to face those feelings. and my feelings not just words. there was a spark once in a while.Tortured Innocence I go to her side. and I don’t want anything to happen to you. All I wanted to do was apologize. Sure. She lets go of my hand. I was never faking toward you. If anyone asks. squeezing me really tight. /Christopher/Every time I’m with you. with or without all my memories. I had forgotten. you were wrong about something. After a few days I remembered what you told me in front of the sign in the park.

The thing is. I turn around and walk away. I understood what you did. /Rachael/Chris? I turn around and look at Rachael. I sit down and try to understand what happened. And just like that. I put my hand under her chin. /Christopher/Rachael. I am so surprised. I was never mad at you. I never found the courage to come and talk to you. and look in her eyes. not just hear the words that come out of my mouth. I put my hands on her shoulders and kiss her back. but I don’t stop her. /Rachael/ I’m sorry. and I tried to understand how you must have felt. but then Rachael pushes me. We stare at each other for a couple of seconds. since everything is back to normal. gently lift her head.Nikiforos Vourakis really tough for me. I’m sorry too. Why did this happen? And why did my heart beat so fast? All I can figure out is that things are going from bad to worse. She grabs me by the waist and pulls me toward her and kisses me. she runs off and leaves me there. I want her to see the real me. The kiss lasts a couple of minutes. for not talking to you sooner. 154 .

I found a great little spot. After a while. put it over my head. I hate lying to her. We’re going to a festival.C h a p t e r 2 1 Festival It’s Friday night. per say. For us “kids” though. holding a package. the door opens. I feel so bad that she has to go through this without me. I can’t hear a thing. It’s a celebration for the founding families of our town. and scream my heart out. there’s going to be a fireworks display. She is talking to me. and there’s this big dance or something at the mayor’s house. I grab my pillow. but since I’m listening to music. and a brave face 155 . I can’t hear you. and I’m taking Jeremy there. I take off my headphones. I’m in such a bad place right now. Tomorrow night I have a date-like thing with Jeremy. it may not be a festival festival. but I can’t tell her I know. and look at her. put them next to me. /Christopher/Hold on a sec. feeling too excited to go to sleep. Okay. She looks a little pale. and Mom enters. and I’m lying on my bed. and I can tell that she has some discomfort.

there is more. from the beginning if you don’t mind. I put the camera next to me and hug my mom really tight.Nikiforos Vourakis isn’t exactly my best mask. /Christopher/ Now. and that is why I got it for you. and it is the camera. Mom. She has bigger problems than that. I want to cry. /Madison/ I know. So I smile. This means a lot to me. /Madison/First. don’t worry. feeling how I feel. and most of all hiding it from her. I’m actually sad that I didn’t get it. Maybe next year. She picks a bag up from the floor and gives it to me. /Madison/ Well. I don’t know if you remember. but more than anything I don’t want my mom to feel sad about it. but on your tenth birthday we spent the whole day together because you didn’t want anyone else and the next day— 156 . and I don’t like being reminded of it. And last but not least. I’m so happy. I open it. /Madison/ Wait. I found our locket. and we told you that we couldn’t afford it? /Christopher/ It’s okay. there was this box left by the front door with this card on it. I want to give her a big hug. maybe next year came faster than you think. Remember that camera you wanted for your Christmas present. I understand. I don’t want to lose her. /Christopher/ Thank you! Thank you so much. I’m really surprised and curious to see who it’s from. I put on my brave mask and pretend that nothing bothers me—knowing what I know. She puts the box on my desk and then sits back on the bed.

just for us so that we … we … we … /Madison/ We can always remember how much we mean to each other. 157 . I pick up the box and put it on my desk so that I can open it tomorrow. /Madison/ I want you to know that you are special. I put my camera’s battery in the charger. She grabs my hands and puts her forehead against mine. Tears fall on my hands. I wipe my tears too. and then she looks into my eyes. A feeling that says it all. I open the locket. and I see a picture of her on the left side and a picture of us on the right side. Then she wipes her tears. You … you … I start crying. /Madison/Open it. I love you so much more than you know. I’m remembering something long forgotten. I’m really proud of you and the person you grew up to be. /Christopher/Oh. I look down. Her tears bring mine back again. but I know I never will again. She hugs me again. She hugs me really tight. For a second I feel kinda bad for forgetting. and get in bed. So many things you need to know and so many questions you need to answer. It feels so familiar. There are so many things I want to tell you. stands up. and you are the most precious. /Christopher/ You told me that you had it custom made. sweet and caring person. I put my hands down. and I start crying. and she cries a little. and goes downstairs. and I squeeze it. Mom.Tortured Innocence /Christopher/And the next day you brought me the locket. and change into my pajamas.

He turns and looks at me. or so your mother says. /Christopher/ Morning. Are you going tonight to the founder’s something? /Madison/ The founder’s ball at the mayor’s house? /Liam/ Yes.Nikiforos Vourakis (The next day) I wake up and stretch a little. Allison. They look surprised—even shocked. /Christopher/ I mean. /Liam/ It’s going to be fun. Spencer. It will be fun. I don’t really want to go. /Liam/Don’t burn the house down. wash up. but the truth is I plan to be only with Jeremy for most of it. and because it will be fun. My parents turn and look at me. so be good now. We’re going because we were invited. and maybe we will see Rachael there too. /Christopher/Anyway. There is going to be Jade. Like a date thing. /Madison/Don’t set a wrong example for the child. She glares at Dad. Satisfied? They look relieved. we are. I’m going to see the fireworks tonight with Jeremy. I go to the bathroom. 158 . not with Jeremy alone. and go downstairs to get breakfast. I’m standing but it feels more like I’m pulling myself. but whatever. you guys. /Madison/ We’re going to go do some last-minute shopping.

and inside is a little locket with a small photo inside. and put my hand on top of it. Jade and Rachael. Your knees shake and your breath stops from just one look. it’s a picture of Jeremy and me kissing. and on the other are the girls.Tortured Innocence I take my plate to the sink and start walking back to my room. /Christopher/ It’s only morning. but don’t play it safe and hide from Allison. Love the people around you. On one side are me and Jeremy kissing. I yell at my parents. Tell them how you feel. and don’t see the world as others want you too. Tears come. I blush a lot. While I’m tossing and turning on the bed I notice the box on the desk. and as I open it. and I hope he deserves you. I pick up the card. See it as you want to. I open the box. guys. /Spencer/ I know that you kissed Jeremy. I run into my room. I bend over to catch it. Every word means so much to me. I put the card down. Every time you laugh at his jokes. close it. and jump on the bed. 159 . and see it in every way you that makes you feel safe. I can see your face light up the moment you see him. and they will love you too. and I hear the door closing. Every time you climb on his back and walk along the hallway. I keep going up the stairs. something begins to fall. Every time you look into his eyes. and every word has awoken something important inside me. I stand up again and look inside the card. I can see it in your eyes every time you say his name. Better be worried if you leave me alone at night. close the door. It’s from Spencer. All I can think about is kissing Jeremy again. I know that you love him and that he means the world to you. As I walk up the stairs. I can hear it in your laughter every time you play tricks on each other. but I think it looks really really cute. I know you love him.

Everything is perfect. I put it around my neck. Mom. The better question is. I think it’s a really amazing dream. /Christopher/ Thanks. I cover myself with the sheets.Nikiforos Vourakis Jeremy. I feel his hand on my cheek. and I give her a hug. /Christopher/ What are you doing here? Why are you standing there? We still have a lot of time to get to the festival. I bump on something while I get up. and I get up in a real hurry. I lie on my bed and close my eyes for a little while. One of my family and one of the love of my life. 160 . she needs to know that I want to be with Jeremy. and I blush really bad. I turn. while Spencer is giving us an applause. Two photos. and me. Give me a few more minutes. why you aren’t ready? /Allison/ Who cares about that? Why are you kissing Jeremy? I take the covers off. and I look at Allison with a really innocent. Jeremy. /Jade/ What are you talking about? It’s almost nine o’clock. After our kiss. I push Jeremy back. I smell his perfume next to me. As I slowly open my eyes. I need to tell her tonight. I hear someone screaming. Suddenly I feel a hand going through my hair. and there he is. Jade and Allison are speechless. looking at us. and I feel so embarrassed. I’m so happy the girls know that Jeremy loves me and I love him too. I open my eyes. I feel Jeremy’s lips touch mine. I turn and see the girls at the door. childish look on my face. I think she left me to sleep a little while longer. but how am I going to tell Allison that? I can’t just assume J0ade told her. I don’t feel the hand on my hair anymore. because I need to get ready to go out with Jeremy and meet the girls at the hills. What about Rachael though? I need to talk to her.

Move it. On the way to the festival I can tell something is bothering Spencer. I let out a sigh. He walks toward me. and I need to take care of something tonight at the festival. We reach the festival. that. They’re sitting on the couch. Please go.Tortured Innocence /Christopher/Oh. waiting for me. /Christopher/Let’s go. Is something wrong? You need to tell me so that I can help you. She turns away from me and starts crying. can you all please leave? /Jeremy/Okay. Now that we got everything out of the way. I need one thing. I love Jeremy. I want to ask her but I don’t want to leave Jeremy’s side either. Jeremy. 161 . and I meet everyone downstairs. and then I get back to my room to change. I want us to be together. Come here. and I grab him by the sleeves. Spencer. and he loves me. we’re going. I get dressed. I take a shower quickly. because I can’t keep lying to myself and ignore the fact that she is not okay. I pull him to me and kiss him. Move it. and I pull her a little further to see what’s going on. We’re going to be late. I give her a hug so that she knows she isn’t alone. /Christopher/Actually. We’ll be downstairs if you need anything. I grab her hand. /Christopher/ I noticed that you aren’t okay. and I decide to talk to Spencer. can I go take a bath and get ready? Meaning. /Christopher/ Now I’m great.

Something that I’ve been hiding from you all along. but I grab her hand. Spencer stands up and runs away. She looks at me. /Christopher/Listen to me. but not like that. and everything will be all right. She tries to run away. /Christopher/Spencer. Why? 162 . I don’t know what to say. the rest of the guys find me. I let go of Spencer. and you need to stop avoiding it. /Christopher/ I won’t let you run away from your problems anymore. Spencer falls down and starts to cry again. A couple of minutes after she runs. Nothing is going to change in your life if the only thing you do is avoid the things that you want to say. She looks so sad. /Christopher/Look into my eyes and tell me how you feel. you know that. and I will still be here for you no matter what happens. She kisses me. and I’m so shocked. I need you to understand that.Nikiforos Vourakis /Spencer/ There’s something you don’t know and something you need to know. You need to talk to me. I grab her arms and turn her around to make her look at me. I can’t do this. and she wipes her eyes with her sleeves. I love you. /Jade/And you didn’t stop her? You just let her go away on her own. /Allison/ Where’s Spencer? Have you seen her anywhere? /Christopher/She ran away. and I wait for her to tell me what is wrong. You need to tell me how you feel. Nothing is going to change. Spencer is crying even more now. but she kisses me.

She looks so mad. I feel awful. I always knew she was a boyfriend stealer. our kiss. Please. 163 .Tortured Innocence I can’t answer their question. /Christopher/Spencer kissed me. Jeremy finds me. Rachael. and Jeremy. /Christopher/ I’ve been sitting here. Jeremy sits next to me. Feeling awful. away from her. and everything that could make me think about Spencer. And I didn’t even see it coming. After a while. I can’t face what happened. where were you? I’ve been looking for. I run and run until I reach a secluded hillside. That’s what happened. I could tell from the beginning. I run like a coward. forty-five minutes. I stand up and start to run again. /Jeremy/Chris. /Jeremy/Tell me what happened. There I sit and cry for what seems like hours. so I run too. like. /Rachael/ Well. I turn around and I see her—Rachael.

I’m running and I won’t stop for anything or anyone. and I go to the edge of the cliff. I’m out of the woods. I sit down and I look at the sky. Rachael 164 . with no complications and no choices to be made and no hearts to be broken. I stand up. I look up again at the broken bridge. It’s so unaffected by what’s happening and what may happen. and there is no one here to talk to me about what I did wrong. I go slowly to see who it is. I want my life to return to the way it was. I’m passing through some woods.C h a p t e r 2 2 Finale I’m running away. It’s Rachael. so amazing. I can see the whole city. I just want this night to end. I look around. I just want to grab a star and take it home with me. I find myself next to the old bridge. and I hear someone coming. and it looks like my life—in ruins and almost destroyed. just standing there. I pass through fallen tree branches and make my way through thick bushes so that I can escape. so I stop a minute to catch my breath. About what happened that was not supposed to. As I look at the horizon. I hide behind the bridge. I back up a little and accidently step on a twig. It looks so peaceful. Suddenly I hear the bushes shaking.

and now looking at Rachael reminds of the kiss we shared on the bleachers. let’s sit by the edge. it was nothing.Tortured Innocence hears the sound and starts screaming. She looks at me. Rachael sits next to me there. /Christopher/Look. We look at the city together. or any other type of creature. and tears fall from her eyes. /Christopher/Come. I feel so bad for what happened. 165 . and I take her hand. Rachael. and I immediately look away. ghoul. /Rachael/Before you say anything. /Christopher/ Whoa. There is something I need to tell you. No ghost. Christopher Robin Zomer. /Christopher/ What do you know? /Rachael/ I know that you kissed Spencer. before you say anything. What am I going to do now? I have to say something to make things get better. there’s something you need to know too. I stand up and move around. I’m so dead. I can’t keep feeling like this. it’s just me. I put my hand over hers and try to calm her. Only me. I can’t break any more hearts. I walk over to her side. Rachael’s hand shakes. /Rachael/ Who’s there? Show yourself! Now! /Christopher/Relax. I decide to show myself so that she can stop screaming. /Rachael/Chris. I want you to know that I know.

dare I say it without dying. Rachael grabs my hand and puts it on my cheek. You need to be honest with everyone around you so that you don’t break their hearts. I wouldn’t be mad at you. /Rachael/ What are you doing? 166 . Jeremy has feelings you. We both let out a sigh. She lifts my head and looks into my eyes. my whole body is screaming kiss her. no matter what. Feelings are important to us and the people around us. /Rachael/ You can tell me the truth. but isn’t the truth going to hurt as much as if the answer is not the one expected? I mean. and Jeremy pops out. so you better be sure. It’s not something to laugh about. /Christopher/ I admit you have a point. You can treat Spencer’s feelings like trash. He has a few small twigs in his hair. /Rachael/ No. She looks deep into my eyes and comes closer to me. but it comes out broken. At that moment. I know. When Rachael’s lips touch mine. She has feelings for you like I have feelings for you.Nikiforos Vourakis She stands up and comes in front of me. And. Wouldn’t that hurt you? She takes a deep breath and tries to smile. She stops as our lips are about to touch. what if I don’t choose you in the end. I will always love you. /Christopher/ Jeremy? He pushes Rachael to the side. we hear the bushes shaking. and he runs toward us. and I move a bit forward too.

After hearing them argue for what seems like half an hour. I’m tired of all of this. I don’t want to make a choice. enough. They look kind of sad. He kissed me on the bleachers a couple of days ago. As they’re fighting about who I love most and who I kissed last. I love both of them. I finally have enough. /Christopher/Stop it! This is nonsense. so that means he loves me most. You are just a consolation prize. How am 167 . I love you both. /Christopher/ You guys. They look so happy. and if I have to make a decision to make you feel better. and you get your slutty hands off him. I will. /Rachael/ You are wrong. /Christopher/Guys. The only one Chris wants to be with is me. /Jeremy/He kissed me today. I start to feel really angry.Tortured Innocence /Jeremy/Chris is mine. What happened to respecting my feelings and that my answer won’t change anything. The thing is. hearing that they will finally get to rub in each other’s faces who I want to be with. /Rachael/Stop dreaming. /Jeremy/ I will stop when you tell her that you want to be with me. I will make a decision so that both of you will feel better. I want both of them. But is this what you really want me to do? /Jeremy//Rachael/Yes! /Christopher/Okay. They stop arguing and look at me. You don’t have to fight.

I rub my hands together. before I tell you who I want to be with. 168 . a safe feeling. I feel so helpless. —This is Nurse Jackson from the hospital. I look at the fire.. I reach my house. I stretch and rub my eyes. trying to wake up completely. and as the darkness inside me is beginning to eat me up. But look. I end the call and put my phone in my pocket. Then she fell unconscious. and that will never change. The doorbell rings. A mixture of bright colors gives off the most amazing feeling. /Jeremy/ I hope so. I’m calling you to let you know that there is someone here who told us to call you immediately. and it’s just about to go out. I want you to know that I love both of you. I start running toward my house.Nikiforos Vourakis I supposed to make this decision? I turn around and look at the city for a couple of minutes. and I wipe my mouth. thinking that it must be Spencer at the hospital. She said to call you and tell you she is sorry for not telling you everything before. I can’t deal with this. I’m not sure if I saw it in my sleep or it really happened. I’m shaking like a leaf. /Christopher/Hello. /Christopher/ I made my decision. filled with hope and love. It’s starting to rain. /Christopher/ Who … who … who is it? Oh my god. My phone starts ringing.. This is so beyond my comfort zone. I wake up on the floor. What have I done to her? I’m such a cold-blooded person with no decency and self-respect. I take a deep breath and turn around once again. the night sky ignites.

I throw it in. Dispatch said to check this house and take you to the hospital. grab my phone. So if you don’t need anything urgent. run to the living room. There’s a message. Right past the door. 169 . and I came to take you to the hospital. —Are you Mr. and the injured asked to see you. I put my shoes on. Their room is still empty. Friends call me Chris though. /Christopher/ Who is it? —I didn’t hear you. /Christopher/ Who is it? —I’m afraid I don’t know. and then I hear my phone vibrating. and I’m about to break. and then it hit me. I run upstairs and go in my parents’ room. As I’m about to open the message. and I drop my phone on the floor. and open the door. take a coat from the coat hanger. That’s all I know. Things are not good. mister. Christopher Robin Zomer? I rub my head. Zomer. —Mr. I look at the officer. I put gloves on and pick up a log to put in the fireplace. I grab the officer by his shirt. I move a few steps back. I run downstairs. I need to go to the hospital. I’m Officer Singer. I run into somebody. I look at the time. There’s been an accident.Tortured Innocence because it’s getting cold. I’m going to get going. Listen. /Christopher/Depends who you’re asking. I’m in a hurry. The call from the hospital.

Nikiforos Vourakis /Christopher/Listen to me. Please take me to the hospital. you good-for-nothing— (deep breaths) I’m sorry. 170 .

P r e v i e w : Tortured Innocence: The Final Choice Confronted by the choices of his past and a future looking dark. Love. Will he be able to decide. or will the unbearable loss of a loved one and the dangerous situation of another cloud his judgment and his feelings? Will the new people entering his life help him or make things even more complicated for the choice he has to make and a choice he doesn’t even see coming. broken hearts. Chris is in a lot of trouble. 171 . and a ring locked away in a box of regrets. hate.


He is also starting a new journey for his next book. He has written six books and after finishing high school he decided to chase his dream and start publishing his work.Greece. Right now he is living with his family and writing the sequel to the “Tortured Innocence”. . Growing up he loved reading books and that love pushed him to start writing.About the Author Nikiforos Vourakis. is a nineteen year old author from Athens.

As a million questions run through his head. Chris is immersed in his studies. friendships. But before he can move forward into his future. Chris begins to remember the events leading up to today. Greece. he must resolve his past.com . where he is writing the sequel to Tortured Innocence. who is dealing with her own issues.iuniverse. a teenager wrestling with complex feelings and wondering if he will ever find happiness with his soul mate may soon discover that even when things seem to be at their worst. In the beginning of the school year. Veronica.ROMANCE Chris is a teenager drowning in his emotions. when he has a chance encounter with his beautiful classmate. U. ended. Chris embarks on an emotional journey to determine his true identity and find the answer to an internal conflict that has been plaguing him for a long time.S. He currently lives with his family in Athens. and the uneasy feelings that have been plaguing him for a week. $XX. Torn between starting a new relationship and his unresolved feelings for Rachael. In this contemporary romance. Chris is still perplexed as to why his relationship with his ex-girlfriend. there is still hope. has written six books to date. Rachael.XX NIKIFOROS VOURAKIS www.

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->