Pulse of Heroes
A. Jacob Sweeny

Copyright 2010 by A. Jacob Sweeny Published by Thalamus Press for eBook Print Edition released October 2010 – the Virgin Version Cover Design: Christopher Cummings Photo: Todd D’Amario

All rights reserved. All characters (excepting those of a historical nature) are wholly fictitious and are the exclusive property of the author. This E-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. No portion of this book may be reproduced, copied, distributed or shared in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without express written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages. Thank you for respecting the years of effort by this author. ISBN 978-1-4661-3210-8

www.PulseOfHeroes.com To my Mother

“And he said to him, “I have begotten a strange son, whose form and type are not like the type of a man. His color is whiter than snow, and redder than the flower of the rose, and the hair of his head is whiter than white wool. And his face is glorious and his eyes are beautiful like the rays of the Sun, and when he opened them he illuminated the whole house. And it seems to me that he is not sprung from me but from the Angels, and I am afraid that something extraordinary may be done on the earth in his days.”

—Book of Enoch, 106:5-6

Part I

Chapter 1
She couldn’t believe how disgusting the stuff was now that it was cold. When she had first started, she wasn’t sure about sticking her hands in it, but once she took the plunge she actually enjoyed the warm sticky goop running between her fingers and up her forearms. It was like overcooked oatmeal or tapioca pudding, and she took pleasure in kneading it and feeling the curds seep in between her clenched fists. But it was late now, and it stank, and she wished she were done. She felt the dry paste everywhere, from her forehead to her chin, and even in the lines of her neck, crusting like peeling skin after a severe sunburn. She didn’t want to touch her hair, but she was sure that it too was covered in sticky clumps. She needed a shower. Michelle scrubbed herself under the hot steamy water, watching her skin turn a bright shade of fuchsia. She shampooed her hair twice, until she was satisfied that there was no papier-mâché residue stuck to any unruly strands. Once she felt clean, she relaxed, head forward, letting the water stream down her neck and shoulders. Michelle

reflected that this project with its insipid adhesive was like a manifestation of her life; pathetically late, unbearably slow, and mostly bland with a few snippets of Weekly Highlights. She wasn’t sure if it was plain tiredness that planted her in this current mood of dissatisfaction, or whether it was the fragment of depressing editorial she had read about the new private school while shredding the last of the newspapers into the plastic bowl. But whatever the reason, she was worn-out and sick of feeling this way. She just wished something would change. It was the night before Halloween, and sixteen– year–old Michelle Andrews was franticly slaving over her Queen Nefertiti costume. She had originally planned to go as Cleopatra, but then remembered seeing a reproduction of the famous Nefertiti bust in a museum while on a class field trip and decided that Nefertiti never got enough facetime, so she was going to help make that happen. If she hadn’t been so stressed out she might have actually enjoyed doing this little crafty project, but unfortunately she had put it off until the last moment and, just like her mother had warned her, it was taking much longer than expected. There was so much more to do, and it was nearly 10:00 PM by

the time she emerged from the shower. When her mother walked past her room to say goodnight she saw a pajama-clad Michelle blow-drying the paint on her almost perfect replica of the queen’s famous blue crown. She looked at her half-asleep daughter, then at the clock, and decided to give her a hand with the rest of the costume. Both mother and daughter spent hours sitting on the floor sewing and gluing; it felt like old times. Hallows Eve was Michelle’s favorite, as far as evenings went. It was a couple of hours before nightfall and the excitement was settling over the town like a humming buzz. The smell of pumpkin spice, the crunchy leaves blowing on the ground, and the first few chimneys spitting out smoke into the sky. It felt like magic every year and it didn’t matter how old she got. Her father came home early so he could help with the pumpkin carvings and her mother was busy putting the finishing touches on the scary decorations outside. Upstairs in her bedroom, Michelle stood in front of the mirror looking at her reflection as objectively as possible. Would she pass for a real queen? Michelle turned around to look at her backside, hoping it didn’t appear too big because she always gained a

was afraid that she might lose one too many battles to the bulge. but in the US it was B A D spelled with all capitals. There were many princesses and armies of stormtroopers.few extra pounds in the colder months. They all looked so cute. She still couldn’t see any redeeming qualities to what she considered her genetic flaws. ladybugs and dinosaurs. . It made no difference that her great aunt had told her that men like women with hips and thighs. The youngest of the trick-or-treaters were marching up and down the streets with the watchful eyes of their parents only a few steps behind. At least her gown was long enough to cover up her imaginary faults. smiling from her upstairs window. Michelle thought. while the youngest ones were in fuzzy costumes of bees. Michelle. like all her girlfriends. Her extras always showed on her lower half. It might not have mattered in some old-world Hungarian culture. and she hated that. The sun made its way westwards and disappeared behind the mountains. and especially this year because she wasn’t dancing like she had done in the past. Yet she still anxiously awaited the familiar and unmistaken reverberations of Sam’s VW bug engine.

Still. In the parking lot. It was a beautiful Victorian mansion that had been donated to the town by the last title-holding heir and had since been transformed into a heritage center that was rented out for events such as tonight’s. Now safely engulfed in its small aquarium-like bowels. Freedom at last! ‘The Little Engine That Might’. her mom asked her to be careful. with music blaring and plenty of candy. careful not to disturb her meticulously applied makeup. the girls freshened up their makeup and checked that false lashes were still . they had no reason not to. both girls were happy and smiling. At last. The dance was to take place at the Rose & Glee Inn.Michelle looked at her cell phone to check the time. Her parents had raised her well and trusted her. “Don’t worry Mom. that was what Sam called her car.” Michelle shut the door behind her. I would never do anything you wouldn’t do. Samantha’s car pulled up to the house. and her dad made sure to remind her one more time that he would be staying up until she got home. Michelle’s mother kissed her on the cheek lightly. even though she had done so fifteen seconds earlier.

Michelle could hardly see where she was going because the entire place was filled with thick fog from numerous machines set in different corners. but quite another to not be able to walk through a doorway. at least for the beginning of the night. “Wow. It was one thing to have a huge crown on your head. after greeting the chaperones at the front door. They found it amusing and fun to watch everyone stumble around. and they . The sound and light guys from the drama department were really overdoing it and people kept yelling. “Enough with the fog. the girls made a pact to stay close to one another so neither would get lost. I hope you didn’t wear heels too. the two royals disappeared into the darkness. The music was blaringly loud. Inside.in place. All the lights were flashing. fog and flashing lights of another world. But Michelle hadn’t. at least for a few hours. Samantha looked beautiful in her Queen of Hearts costume and. When Michelle placed her crown on her head she towered over Samantha by almost a foot.” but it made no difference to them. and as soon as Michelle’s eyes would try and focus in order to see where she was going. one would turn off and another would turn on in a different direction.” Samantha exclaimed. Right away.

People were bumping into the girls from every direction. Strobe lights were making the dancers appear like animated puppets on strings. When Michelle danced she felt self-conscious. like she wasn't doing it right and everybody was . let alone each other. spooky and perfect. then a devil woman materialized right before Michelle’s eyes. blinding with their contrast against the darkness. Another time it was the Phantom of the Opera and a green witch right behind him. Whenever the DJ played a new song. In the distance she could make out a raised dance floor with lighted ropes surrounding it. it's going to be fun. They were floating everywhere and Michelle thought they were just awesome. One time it was a werewolf emerging through the fog. Michelle and Samantha slowly moved into the great room where fans were blowing bubbles into the air.” Samantha grabbed Michelle's hand and began dragging her. but unless the light landed on them no one could make out who anybody was. It was all very surreal. colored lasers flashed. “Come on Michelle.could hardly hear their own voices.

she was covered in sweat and had makeup melting down her face. It was one thing to take dance lessons at the local studio. It took only an instant for the mysterious place to transform back into the Rose & Glee Inn. After waiting in line upstairs to use the bathroom it was finally her turn. but she couldn't even hear her own voice. Michelle still hadn’t seen Sam. Of course. so who cares! Everybody was crammed together.staring at her. she eventually realized that no one could see anybody anyway. and when she tried to move around them Sam was nowhere to be seen. Michelle turned around in circles looking for her friend with no luck. She tried yelling Sam’s name. She loved the music. and hurried . At one point somebody stepped in between her and Samantha. and the smell of aerosol hairspray and cheap Halloween makeup filled Michelle’s nostrils. and by the time she came out many of the students were exiting through the back doors. but she couldn’t relax enough to let go and really let the beat move her. Michelle was exhausted and she felt gross. but it was a whole different thing to go freestyle in front of the entire school. It was around midnight when most of the fog dissipated and the lights were turned back on.

downstairs to the parking lot. She stood by the VW and watched people shed pieces of their costumes like snakes shedding their old skin. Eddie was the vampire dude that had stepped on her foot, and right next to him was his younger brother Michael, sweating profusely after taking off his rubber Cyclops mask. The phantom wasn’t a guy at all like she had thought; it was actually Anna wearing a suit with a sequined cape. Still no Samantha! Should she get worried? The parking lot was starting to empty and Michelle was not amused; the truth was that her annoyance was a way of distracting herself from the fact that she was a bit scared. She tried to convince herself that Halloween was just a night like any other. Michelle texted Samantha, and although she could see that the text went through, there was no reply. Okay, she thought, what should her next move be? Should she panic? Should she call her parents? What would they think? They would never let her leave the house again! Just then, she heard footsteps coming from around the building. Michelle saw the werewolf from the dance floor and Little Red Riding Hood appear, holding hands. Disappointed that it wasn’t Samantha, Michelle watched the lovely couple as they approached a

truck. It was Tim's blue Toyota. The werewolf took off his mask and Michelle’s fears were confirmed. It was Tim, and Little Red Riding Hood was Bethany. The rumors she had heard were true. Tim and Bethany were back together again, and that stung Michelle somewhere inside her gut. The last thing Michelle wanted was to be noticed, but it was too late. Tim turned around and spotted her leaning against Samantha's car that just happened to be parked directly under the streetlight. Of course he could see her, especially since the bright blue papier-mâché crown she was wearing was over a foot high. Tim said something to Bethany who folded her arms in annoyance. He started walking toward Michelle. If Michelle could have had one wish come true right there at that moment, she would've wished to either disappear or have the earth swallow her whole. Another choice could have been to have some gorgeous muscled guy standing proudly next to her. Why on this of all nights did Sam decide to disappear on her? “Hey Michelle. Is everything okay?” Tim asked, searching her eyes as if he wanted to ask something more.

“Yes, of course. I’m fine.” Michelle answered, trying to act as if everything was cool. “I'm just waiting for Sam. She's on her way.” Tim didn’t seem convinced. “Are you sure? I'm the last car here. You shouldn’t be out here all alone.” The word ‘alone’ echoed several times in Michelle’s head. An irritated Bethany called Tim’s name, and he looked at the ground. “Do you want us to wait here till Samantha gets back?” he asked. “No, no. You two go ahead and have a good time,” Michelle replied with more venom than intended. She immediately wished she could swallow her own tongue. That wasn't like her. She tried again, “I'm okay. Go ahead, really.” Tim pretended not to notice any underlying emotions in Michelle’s voice, and was just about to say something when her cell phone beeped. It was the ‘miracle text’ from Samantha, who was having girl problems and was still in the bathroom. Michelle used the text as an exit strategy. “I have to go help Samantha. Thanks anyway,” Michelle said in her best ‘worried’ voice. Tim smiled, but remained a bit confused at Michelle’s sudden departure. He had forgotten to tell her that he really

liked her costume. But it was too late, because Michelle was already safely back within the walls of the Rose & Glee Inn. On the ride back home Michelle couldn't stop thinking about her encounter with Tim. She felt mortified. “I can't believe I looked like such a loser in front of them,” she said from the safety of the back seat. Samantha had promised to give Rachael a ride home after the dance and Michelle had volunteered to give up the front seat since Rachael’s costume made it almost impossible to move, let alone crouch down into the back seat of a VW bug. Rachael was dressed as a mermaid, and with her flowing wavy red hair and tight hugging fishlike skirt complete with scales and huge foamy fins, she looked like a living version of Ariel from the Disney movie. Rachael had made the costume herself, and was especially proud of her top, which she had created from an old swimsuit by painstakingly hot-gluing hundreds of tiny seashells and plastic pearls on it. She was also friends with Tim, and kept telling Michelle not to give up on him because she was sure he had feelings for her.

“If he has feelings for me, then why was he at the dance with Bethany?” Michelle asked, waiting for a good response. But nobody had the answer to that question. Samantha was growing annoyed by the conversation running in circles, so she decided to turn on the radio really loud in order to drown out any more repetitions. Michelle and Rachael took the hint and started singing so loud that passing cars could hear them even through rolled up windows. They were having a blast because nothing can make one feel better than music. Every so often the girls would see a group of kids running around in the street still wearing their costumes and trying to extend Halloween night for as long as possible. To add a little more excitement to the ride home, the girls would slow down next to some of the kids, roll down their windows, and pelt them with the tiny seashells and plastic pearls that kept falling off Rachael’s top. Then they would speed up, driving away screaming and screeching with laughter. There was an especially large group of kids to the left of the road. Samantha knew that if they wanted to hit the kids with the shells they would have to cross over the double yellow line into the oncoming traffic side of the street. It was almost

12:30 AM, and the roads were deserted. “What do you think?” Samantha asked. Rachael looked back at Michelle, who nodded in mischief and said, “Yeah, let's get ‘em.” “Yes,” said Rachael, “Go for it!” And both of them began to cheer, “Go for it. Go for it!” Samantha looked up ahead and saw no oncoming traffic. She thought it would be safe to drift over to the other side for just a few seconds. “Okay get ready,” she said, and steered the car to the left, parallel to the kids. Rachael leaned over Samantha so she could reach the driver’s side window, while Michelle reached over Samantha's left shoulder so she could also get a better aim. But before the girls had the chance to throw the stuff, they were bombarded by a storm of raining eggs. The eggs shattered everywhere; the car was covered in yellow yolk and bits of eggshell. Some of them even flew in through the open window. One hit Samantha head on, sending slimy yolk down her face, while others broke against the windshield, dashboard, and rearview mirror. The girls screamed, and Samantha swerved back onto the right side of the road. Immediately, they heard loud horns and screeching tires. Samantha panicked and lost control of the wheel, and the car swerved across the

shoulder and down into a small ravine, violently jolting to a halt mere inches away from a large oak tree. Michelle’s head flew forward right into the back of Samantha’s seat, than whip-lashed backwards. Rachael and Sam were luckier; their seat belts prevented them from the same fate, although the belts tightened and the pressure could be felt right down into their bones. Michelle had never been so scared in her entire life. Her heart was pounding so fast and loud that she thought she was going to, or maybe had already had a heart attack. Her body was shaking from the adrenaline, and she felt disoriented. All three of them were stunned, and it was quiet because nobody could muster up the courage to say anything. Finally, Samantha was able to speak. “Oh my gosh!” “What happened?” Rachael asked, her voice shaking. “There was no one on the road. I don't understand.” Samantha said, and she was right. There was no other vehicle coming up ahead towards them. But what Samantha had failed to do was look behind to make sure that the road was clear for them to merge back over safely.

“I checked in the rearview mirror. I really don’t understand,” she said. Samantha looked up at the mirror and realized that not only was it cracked and covered in yolk, but it was also pointing in the wrong direction. The eggs must have hit it with enough force to swivel it downwards. So when she checked the mirror to make sure that they were no headlights approaching from behind, the blackness that she saw was not the empty road behind them, but the interior of her own car. In reality, there was already a car in the space that she was trying to swerve into, and that driver had to slam on his brakes in order to avoid being sideswiped by the VW. Luckily, the large semi-truck that was traveling behind that car was far enough back to realize the unfolding situation, and slowly came to a stop before ramming into all of them. Slowly, Samantha stepped out of the car. She wanted to see if there was any real damage done. But all she saw was the goopy mess that the eggs had left. She heard movement in the brush up above and turned to see an older man rushing towards her. “Are you all right?” he asked. Michelle and Rachael watched Samantha speak to him for a moment. “Michelle, what do we do? Should we get out of

the car?” Rachael asked nervous. But Michelle was still in shock. She could hear Rachael's voice, but it sounded like it was coming from far away. “Girls, are you ok?” The man peered in through the open window Rachael nodded, but all Michelle did was look at him, her eyes as large as saucers. “What about you back there?” he asked. Michelle still felt like the man was talking to someone else, maybe somebody seated next to her. Before she knew it, two sturdy hands were pulling her out through the open car door. Once outside, Michelle noticed another figure looking down at them from the main road, but all she could make out was a shadowy silhouette, as the bright streetlight behind obscured all detail. It looked as if the figure itself was radiating beams of light, and she thought that maybe she was dead and an angel was coming for her. She slowly turned towards the older man, and seeing true concern in his eyes, she told him that she was all right, although she did bump her forehead. He suggested that they all walk up to the main road where there was more light so he could look at Michelle’s bruise, which they did. Under the streetlights, Michelle could see that Samantha’s hair and face were covered in wet yolk, and wondered if she had suffered the same. Rachael seemed to be in

better shape than either of them, although she did have to take off her mermaid skirt in order to climb back up to the street. Luckily she was wearing boy shorts, so it didn't look too bad. The nice man looked to be about 55 years old. He was tall and wore a perfectly tailored wool suit. He told them that his name was Xander. Once he confirmed that the girls were, in fact, physically sound, he relaxed some, but at the same time he made sure to let them know that he was angry and very disappointed in their immature driving choices. “You could have all been killed, young ladies,” he scowled. He couldn't understand why they would take such a chance for something that amounted to no more than child's play. “Do you have any idea how quickly a human life can be extinguished?” He snapped his fingers. “Just like that, in less than a heartbeat.” The girls apologized profusely, over and over again. “It was really my fault. I was the one who encouraged Samantha to swerve over to the other side. It wasn't her. She's a great driver, really.” Michelle took it upon herself to take the blame. Xander wanted to call Samantha's parents, but she begged him not to. Michelle hoped that if she took

and watched as a large excavator slowly made its way off the semi-truck and headed in their direction. probably whoever it was that Michelle had seen earlier. yet gotten back into the car rather than rushing to their aid. After a moment. and within about ten minutes the excavator appeared from the ravine. The girls couldn't thank Xander enough for letting them get a pass on something that could've . that he wouldn’t call the police or Samantha's parents. the girls heard the roar of a powerful engine. He told the girls to stand there while he walked back to his car for a minute. Xander walked down the street to the semi-truck that had its engine still idling. towing the little bug behind it. Michelle thought it was strange that this person had obviously seen what had happened. who proceeded to climb out from the cab and walk to the rear of the truck.the blame herself Samantha wouldn't get into as much trouble. Xander pointed to where the VW was. And after a few more minutes. and since the car had no real damage. He spoke to the driver. Xander finally agreed that since they were all completely sober. He leaned into the window and it was obvious that he was talking to someone.

although she did conclude with honesty about going to the public carwash and helping Samantha wash down the VW. . and really did feel guilty about not telling them the entire truth. Michelle did manage to send a text to her father letting him know that she was all right and on her way home. but she knew it wouldn’t placate the situation. And with that thought in mind. For Michelle. Michelle knew that she had disappointed her parents. She knew all too well that he would be there. wide awake. in the living room. facing the door and staring right at her. both her parents were waiting up for her. And a few moments later. sitting on the couch. It was obvious to Michelle that no amount of arguing or pleading was going to clear the state of affairs. the next dilemma was what to tell her father when she walked through the front door of her home an hour and a half late. When she arrived.turned out so much worse. she didn’t raise any objections to her punishment. She was to be grounded for an entire week and was forbidden from using her cell phone. She only told them about the egging part. both the car and the semi truck were long gone. conveniently omitting the part where the car ran off the road after almost smashing into another vehicle.

Eventually. How stupid she thought to herself. She glanced over at the clock and sighed at the numbers that read 3:10 AM. and began collecting shells that were strewn along the sand.By the time Michelle cleaned up the horrible mess of eggs. She thought about the dance. During that early morning she had the most strange and vivid dream that she could ever remember… In her dream. and of course about the mistake that could have killed them all. . Michelle’s mind began to drift. and with her headache less severe she lay back down and managed to fall asleep. makeup. Her headache only got worse when she lay down. but to her disappointment they were all empty. Most of them were still closed and she tried prying a few open. and about Tim. It was a warm sunny day. She could see the footprints of her bare feet stretching out a long way behind her. and sweat. to risk a life in order to throw foolish shells at 12-year-olds. with a bright yellow sun and white fluffy clouds passing along the bluest of blue skies. She was holding some sort of a pail or bucket. she had a horrendous headache. Michelle was standing on an unfamiliar seashore. so she decided to sit up in bed and wait for the pain to subside.

She panicked a bit. she pulled it out of the sand. She waded out and began picking up more shells and placing them into her pail. but then realized that the water was clear and sweet to the taste. she saw an iron arrow stuck in the sand. She said one word to herself. Michelle stood up and opened the palm of her hand. Michelle . and decided to wade in deeper to reach it. the starfish disappeared in a flash of bright white light. She then turned to face away from the water. From the corner of her eye she saw a very large yellow shell. and she managed to pull it free from the sticky sand. To the right of her feet. Michelle immediately looked up at the sky to see a bright star pulsating with immense brightness. Thinking that maybe it could be used to pry open the shells. with the pail still in her hand. but it wouldn't budge. but the water in front of her feet was amazingly clear. but rather a large starfish.Michelle looked out across the water and saw gentle foamy waves in the distance. But just then. Then. which suddenly began to pulsate and shine. but slipped backwards and fell head underwater. ‘pulsar’. She tried to pull it out of the sand. She knelt down on her knees in order to get a better grip. only to recognize that what she thought was a shell was not a shell at all.

Michelle was mature enough to understand that parents are people too. with problems of their own. so she decided to walk up and take a look.noticed a large armchair on the beach a few feet away. still reaching for that pearl in her dream. Michelle woke up with her hand stretched out in front of her. The chair looked very familiar. so the occasional argument or slight raising of voices didn't really . When she reached the chair she saw that it was empty. it became clear that the voices were just her parents making a ruckus in the kitchen. **** About a month earlier… Michelle slammed the button on her alarm clock with her fist. but she couldn't tell if anybody was sitting in it. She heard loud voices and at first she thought she might still be asleep. but upon closer inspection she observed a small pearl sitting perfectly in the middle of the worn out cushion. But as her eyes began to focus on the wood beam above her bed.

Michelle looked over at the clock again. But she had hardly slept at all that night. Because after that their quiet little life had taken a change. shrugged and grabbed her book bag. . because they had recently become unusually interested in her school progress. or if it had to do with her father getting voted onto the Town Council. There’s still some hot water. staying up well past midnight trying to make up missed homework assignments. “Morning Mom. What's going on?” She asked. “Morning baby. On her way down the stairs she heard the familiar sounds.bother her. It was definitely time to panic. that was mom plopping the teapot down onto the range. She wasn’t sure if it was because her older brother Toby had moved to Arizona for college. yep. She hoped her parents weren’t arguing about her. and some for the worse. this time with her mind more awake and she realized that she must have hit the snooze button at least twice. Michelle glanced in the mirror. Her parents lowered their voices when they heard the stairs creak under Michelle's feet. some for the better. Dad. and the annoying tinkling sound was her father playing with his key chain as he always does when he's feeling stressed.

no. Michelle conveniently crunched on her father's half-eaten toast from breakfast while staring at the road. tucking it underneath his arm. “What. but this particular day she felt like she was in one of those . Most mornings she appreciated the redwood-lined road that led to the school. She had to shake this off. do you want a ride to school?” The drive to school was quiet. she thought to herself. I don't understand you kids today. Michelle. “I'm off to the office. Michelle. Nobody died. always obsessed with morbid things.” Her father gave her a serious look from across the table.Would you like a cup?” Michelle's mother smiled from her cup of tea. She had tried to make up almost three weeks worth of homework in one evening but had been forced to give up when the words in her notebook started dancing around off the pages. then closed his laptop and got up to leave. What a night. She could feel the tiredness inching its way through every muscle of her body. you're going to pretend that I didn't hear everything you guys just said? Why is everybody so upset? Did somebody die or something?” “No.

and she did the normal things like going to the movies and shopping at the mall. because there were definitely the trendy kids. She had her few friends. but instead it was a film of the passing scenery being projected on a large screen behind them. and then there were definitely the unpopular kids that for some unknown and futile reason had ended up in that category. As Michelle headed up the stairs of Meadow High School’s main building.old movies where you could see that the people in the car were not really moving. It was difficult to gauge her rank. As she got out of the car. but she thought her father was taking this whole Town Councilman thing a bit too seriously. even if they didn’t know her well. Michelle wasn't popular. but all in . she was about to enjoy some of the benefits of being the daughter of a newly elected Councilman. Michelle understood. Everybody said hello to her now. She was even invited to a party here and there. But Michelle was neither. and in fact he probably never should have told anyone about it this early. her father tried to explain that he didn’t have authority from the city to share any information as to what he and her mother had been discussing. but neither was she unpopular.

Howard. she felt quite invisible. There was Eddie. and although she told everybody that she had gone way past first base. she could hear many different voices greeting her. who back in her day had won Second Place in her village’s Beauty and Grace competition. or the cocoon phase. As Michelle headed to her first-period classroom. Her great aunt had told her not to worry because she was just going through. Michelle didn't take the ‘ugly’ thing too seriously. ‘No salt or pepper. Michelle hadn’t had a boyfriend since the eighth grade. for the lack of better words. was suddenly smiling at her. It was eight minutes till lunchtime.in freshman English just because she didn't like her handwriting. since Eranka was from the old country and didn't speak English ‘too good’. the truth was a bit less exciting. who hadn't said a word to her since kindergarten. the one before the beautiful butterfly emerges to see the light of day. and Michelle . judging from the pictures she actually looked a lot like Eranka. And even Mrs.all. the typical ugly phase. who sat behind her in biology all last year without ever acknowledging her presence. And besides. who had given her a B. and Pia.’ as her great aunt Eranka would say.

somebody suddenly gave her a shove from behind. Michelle’s best friend and neighbor. a mistake had been made in Michelle’s schedule. without the annoying BFF title. Michelle turned around and was ready to start in on whoever it might be. you're lucky I didn't deck you right in the face. “As tired as you look. But it was only Sam.” Samantha teased. “Hey.” Michelle rolled her eyes. but the computer placed her in German. are we a little tired today?” Samantha commented. She could have sworn that the second hand was actually jumping counterclockwise before returning to its regular rotation. She had wanted to study Italian for her foreign language.couldn’t take her eyes off the clock. Michelle practically flew out of the classroom. As she tried to make her way to her locker. right at the last minute someone dropped out of Italian and she . Not amused by this latest development. For whatever reason. I think the only thing you can deck right now is your head on a pillow. and although she had reluctantly settled into German class. “Wow. When the bell rang.

had decided to go ahead and transfer. Michelle was nodding off. and the idea of continuing any dance lessons while he took a considerable pay cut just didn't seem like a mature choice. Staring into her Swiss Miss cocoa. even though Samantha was excitedly discussing the latest school events. but she was determined to catch up with the rest of the class. It seemed like the school year had just begun and the Halloween decorations were already going up. It was a struggle for her to make up so many missed assignments. the whole household went into an economic upheaval because he started working less hours at his regular job. with people doing up their homes and storefronts. But Michelle just didn’t have the time for any extracurricular activities. Time was passing like a whirlwind. but she was by no means a pro. She did love to dance. Even the trees along the highway had ghosts and ghouls hanging . It was something about trying out for the fall musical. Dance lessons were expensive. When her father began his campaign for Town Council earlier that year. Every year the town went all out. and she hadn't done it in a while.

What she was really thinking about was what was happening at home. we all agreed that it made it scarier with all the ink running down its face. that wasn’t rain. but now as she was looking at the decorations swinging from the branches she wasn’t thinking about Halloween. when your classroom spent four days working on that giant paper ghost and you stayed up the whole night because you were worried that it would rain and ruin it?” Michelle’s father was reminiscing on the way to school one morning later on that week.” Michelle was proud. because since the morning of .from their lower branches. It was a time-honored tradition that the younger children in elementary school and kindergarten would make them out of construction paper to decorate the roads. and the fire department would hang them. “It did rain. They made everybody smile. And anyway. and at nighttime they actually did manage to scare a few people when the cars’ headlights landed on them in just the right angle. You were so proud every time we drove past it. that was just morning dew. Dad. She could even remember the large spider web she drew on the ghost. Don't you remember?” “Michelle. “Remember that time.

She didn’t want to be another sad statistic. not that it’s any of my business. “Dad. Well.” “What on earth would make you think that.” Michelle’s father laughed nervously. and the other day you gave me money to go buy clothes.the argument her mom and dad had seemed nervous. That was the only positive thing that Michelle could get out of looking at her score. but the . Her father promised that he and her mother would discuss the situation later on that evening.” Michelle asked. but I was just wondering. “You guys are always whispering nowadays like you don't want me to know about something. Michelle was relieved. “Are you and mom getting a divorce? I mean. You never do that. invisible tension she felt every time she walked in on their conversation.” Michelle said with her hand ready to unbuckle her seatbelt. unsure of herself. Luckily this one didn't count. and there was tension. I would be okay anyway. at least the teacher didn't use a bright red pen. and no we are not. The pop quiz in Italian really shook her up. She was just not making it.

her cheerleader friends. she decided to settle with the regular: Swiss Miss cocoa and a plain toasted bagel. because it was unusually cold and the thought of hanging out on the bleachers sent a chill up her spine. The girls were sitting while some of the star athletes of the school stood clustered around them. Looking around the room.reality was that she needed help. When she walked in through the double-glass doors. there was hardly anywhere to sit. There . not to mention that there were way too many students crammed into the space. After walking through the line and trying to choose the healthier meal between the various unnaturally colored foods. Michelle took off her jacket because now she was flushed with the heat. and when they saw Michelle approach they made space for her to sit. Michelle decided to head over to the cafeteria. and headed in their direction. But just as she was about to give up she spotted Rachael and Anna. During lunch break. the difference between the frigid breezeway and the tepid room was immense. Especially since the latter was filled with warm steam rising from the two-week-old tater tots and suspiciously bright orange pumpkin pies. Michelle suspected it was probably some sort of health-code violation.

Michelle. but with a sly smile she handed Tim her jacket anyway. standing just a few feet away.” Anna announced and everyone laughed. like every other girl in school. Everyone in Meadow High had known one another since they were practically babies. so she decided to lay it on her lap. Even people from the next table looked over. “Well. surprised.was no place for her to set it. . “What? I’m just trying to help. I do play basketball too. Haven’t any of you ever heard of that before?” Tim said. she was definitely blushing now. announced that he would hold it for her while she ate. and if she had felt flushed before. But then Tim.” Tim joked. But Tim had moved to Willow’s Creek about five years ago. and it was obvious that Tim also felt a little embarrassed. Be a gentleman. Michelle was still embarrassed. Michelle looked up. “Well. Back then. because he hadn’t meant for his offer to come out sounding so loud. you can be the gentle basketball player instead. Anna and Rachael giggled. “Don't you think a ‘gentle’ wrestler is kind of an oxymoron?” Rachael teased back. you know. She felt proud while doing so.

once. dressed to the max. Michelle sipped her cocoa and was already daydreaming: she and Tim. Maybe he did it on purpose. . but since Willow’s Creek was several hours east from any good beaches. Michelle suddenly felt someone staring at her and turned around to see Tim’s ex-girlfriend giving her such a dirty look that she could have used a couple of showers to rinse it off. he was the poster child for a California surfer boy. As everyone was finishing lunch Sam walked up to them. this can't be too bad of a situation to be in. her hands covered with black and orange paint. Well. Then she realized that Tim had actually walked off carrying her jacket. she thought to herself. tan skin and piercing blue-green eyes. Michelle.had a huge crush on the new guy and he became an instant star. Maybe he’s just a big dork. He did in fact surf. was finally able to exhale. stepping out of a limo… but just then another group of guys walked up and steered Tim away from the girls. Bethany and Michelle used to be friends. instead he channeled all his surfing energy into becoming the top wrestler in school. With his sandy blond hair. but then again so did everyone at the school at one point or another. who hadn't taken one breath.

. Anna jumped up and down and squealed as if she was cheering for a game. All eyes were back on Anna. “Yeah Sam! I am your man! Wee!” Everybody was staring at her. I am so sorry. “Oh my God! Samantha. “Please forgive me. She got up and wrapped her arms around Sam giving her a huge bear hug. It was late when Samantha's old VW bug pulled up in front of Michelle's house. because if Samantha didn’t accept such a heartfelt apology she would be the ‘meany’. Please?” Anna was damn good. “How could you forget about it when you left me a message just last night?” Samantha wasn’t buying it.” Anna pleaded. I’m sorry. Anna had achieved her not-sosecret goal.“So much for all the help I was supposed to get. Sam rolled her eyes. really. I completely forgot about the posters for the dance. But she was a master at this type of behavior.” she complained. Samantha lived only four houses down on the same street. Now it was Anna’s turn to feel bad. Michelle's mother was looking through the kitchen window.

“What? I'm hungry. They all laughed. I'm just really overwhelmed right now Mom. “Michelle.” “Don't worry about it. I left it in my locker at school. the niceties of how was your day. Was it proper to tell her mom a white lie rather than the truth? “Oh. the conversation seemed usual. didn't you wear a jacket to school today?” she asked as Michelle walked through the front door.” That night during dinner. It's a growth spurt. I know. “Well.” Her father chuckled. After dinner. and will Toby be bringing his new girlfriend for Thanksgiving. I forgot. Her parents watched her gobble both of them down with shock on their faces. Michelle was . but then it got quiet and her parents took on a serious tone.her face agitated. at your age I used to eat half a pie. Michelle had to think quickly. Michelle helped her mom clear the table.” Michelle’s mother laughed out loud. how is school. I didn't have much to eat for lunch. Really. if Toby was here there wouldn’t any pie left for any of us anyway. so enjoy. and then helped herself to two pieces of the sweet potato pie.

Luckily it didn't. Originally. But instead of blending in with the original residents. Alodia. Although people have been drinking wine around the world for thousands of years. Alodia. It was those citizens that had voiced their strong opposition to idea of the school from the start. To them the entire county was seen as uncharted territory. now suddenly everybody was a wine expert. which was the next town over from Willow’s Creek. Not In . And nowhere was this more evident than in the town of St.really hoping that it had nothing to do with her. but it seemed that those plans were never going to come to fruition… The atmosphere of the area had really changed since the California Wine Renaissance of the last 15 years. ‘NIMBY’. Michelle's father had found out behind closed doors that a private school for young adults with behavioral problems was looking to move into the Napa Valley region. and the phenomenon known as the ‘wine snob’ had been born. the school’s owners had been interested in relocating to St. A few weeks ago. It was all the new people who had moved into the area. virgin land. they started changing everything about the place to fit their own needs.

Janice Riesely could see the unfairness of what St. but the town had too much financial clout. It wasn't going to be just a regular school. even though their population was much smaller. Michelle was lying in bed staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out how she felt about this latest development.My Back Yard. It was a boarding school. She still couldn't understand if this . meaning that these students would now be her neighbors. it didn't hurt that the county supervisor lived in St. Alodia himself. and none of them had any violent or criminal activity in their background. Willow’s Creek would make a far better choice since the land was still a little more affordable and the place was much quieter. It was he that suggested that if the school had its heart set on moving to Napa County. After numerous meetings. Willow’s Creek had finally agreed to host the school. but only after they were assured over and over again that the young adults to be housed there were not a threat. Willow’s Creek’s mayor. It wasn't too hard for the school owners to read between the lines that if they wanted to open a school in St. Alodia it was going to be a long and expensive uphill battle. That night. Alodia was doing. Of course.

and just like that she was asleep. even without meaning to. who was now in possession of her jacket. because her mind wandered to other important essentials such as the upcoming Halloween dance and how relieved she was that it wasn’t a formal dance where she would need a date to attend.meant that they were locked in there like some sort of juvenile prison. Michelle’s feelings about the situation remained a mystery. But in all honesty. or whether it was a regular boarding school with kids that just needed a little bit of extra help. Michelle also thought about Tim. After all. . The guy gave her butterflies in the stomach. should she approach him tomorrow or maybe the next day? Should she wait for him to approach her? Was Bethany going to be a problem even though they haven’t been close friends for years? Eventually. Her father assured the family that the kids in the school did not pose a threat. there were times in her life where somebody might have argued that she had exhibited behavioral problems. he didn’t seem too convinced himself. Michelle started counting the glow-in-the-dark stars that had been glued to her ceiling for who knows how long. She always counted them at night.

It was cold out. but she figured that was just the way teenage girls were. and neither did her jacket. and she was forced to wear one of Toby's old coats that he had left at home since he hardly needed any of his winter clothes anymore. Tim was sick for the rest of the week with some horrible new flu. She came to school every day hoping to see him. “Keep the School Away!” “Willow’s Creek Sold Us . Tim never did give the jacket back to her. And when Tim's sister discovered the strange jacket in her closet. it was inadvertently taken to the dry cleaners. That was the very uneventful story of how the jacket made a round trip back to Michelle’s closet. Instead. she asked her mom to return it to the cleaners because they had obviously given her somebody else's stuff. Unfortunately for Michelle. and her mom didn't understand why she hadn't just said so from the beginning.To Michelle's disappointment. but he never materialized. Michelle finally told her mom the truth about the jacket. Eventually. and she ended up giving it back to Michelle’s mother one day when they met for a late lunch. Tim had been forced to explain to his mom who the jacket belonged to.

I know it was just an exercise.Out!” “Impeach Supervisor Ziegst!” The cat was out of the bag. That was not the way a new school should be welcomed.” Michelle complained. Michelle's speech class did a debate where the class was divided into two sides: those who were for the new school and those who were against it. “You should have just seen them in class. Michelle wanted to be on the “for” side. Michelle thought that the behavior of the vocal opponents was bad form. but everything was about passing a judgment without having all the facts. A group of protestors stood outside City Hall. and because everybody else kept using the same excuses as to why it shouldn't. chanting and waving their signs at everyone who passed by. and on top of everything else. Michelle and Samantha were on their way back from school when they saw the commotion. The argument even spilled into the local high schools. because she thought it would be more interesting to try and justify the school’s right to move into the town. . and showed poorly on the entire town. the local newspaper was overflowing with editorials and opinions by everyone and their grandmother with regards to the new school. It was everywhere. It just got boring after a while.

Alodia didn’t want the school is because the students have shady backgrounds. Sam. especially after all the students were accusing those people of doing horrible things. “Well. it's just what she figured out.” Michelle immediately counter-argued. my mom said that the real reason St.Samantha was thinking hard. They just can’t release that information because they’re all underage. but the way that she was brought up was to keep it to herself.” . I mean why else wouldn’t they want them there? And on top of that. “Well. It was no wonder she avoided the speech debate class altogether. when she’s not even on the Town Council like Michelle’s dad. It's not that she didn't have her own opinion. “I'm sorry. asking how would Samantha's mom know anything.” Samantha felt a little hurt and Michelle knew that she was being rude. you're right. It started sounding like those witch trials we studied in history class. I'm just really edgy. just because my mom's not on the Town Council doesn’t mean that she doesn’t know other people that know stuff.

they had more important things to talk about.“I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.” That was Samantha’s way of making peace and ending the conversation. And besides. . Like what time she would be picking Michelle up for the Halloween Dance.

But the damage wasn’t clearing up fast enough for her. she couldn't escape the episode completely. Beginning just after Halloween. But no matter how hard Michelle tried to forget about it. Samantha and Rachael made a pact not to tell anybody else about the incident. Michelle. The . changing some detail or the chronology of the events. Every time she looked into the mirror it reminded her of Halloween night and the car accident. As long as it was there she was worried that her parents might bring up the subject and she would get her facts wrong. They all agreed that since the outcome was fine. bringing up any negative memories was not going to do anyone any favor. trucks with large trailers and heavy machinery started occupying the street passing in front of Michelle’s home. and to not discuss it even amongst themselves. and eventually her parents would figure out that she wasn’t telling them the entire truth.Chapter 2 The first days of November started to disappear as fast as the dark bruise on Michelle’s forehead.

but after World War II the family had packed their belongings and just left. Samantha and Michelle decided to follow a cement truck to see where all this activity would lead them. the prime real estate had never been repurchased. backhoes. It was a mediumsized operation that had been owned by a Portuguese family. the property had been an olive oil processing facility. Interestingly. It just sat there.rumbling sounds of flatbed trucks carrying tractors. instead of going straight home. they also collected and sold freshly roasted . The road circled around for almost four miles. They drove past both of their houses and continued on. One part of the land had been dedicated to growing pine trees. eventually ending up at an abandoned property almost directly on the opposite side of a small wooded area that was behind both of their backyards. Back in its days of glory. because besides processing olive oil and walnut oil from the vast walnut orchards to the south. hoping nobody actually saw them. One afternoon. and building materials would wake her up in the morning and greet her when she came home from school. and where pathways and gardens used to be evident. nature eventually blurred the outlined edges and took the land back.

Michelle asked her father if he knew something about the new construction site. Although she had her own theories of what was going on there. but Michelle found a hole large enough to peek through. In a serious . she saw large slabs of foundation with rebar and large steel framings.pine nuts. Inside. the girls’ curiosity got the best of them and they decided to step out of the car to get a closer look. because during mushroom time of the year everyone would go picking the golden yellow fungi that would sprout out at the bases of the tree trunks after the first rains of the season. it was quite obvious that whatever structure was being built there. Michelle knew the place pretty well. she was curious to see if she was right. it was going to be beyond huge. Even to somebody like her who had no experience in the construction industry. Later on that evening during dinnertime. There were green tarps stretched along the fence. Michelle and Samantha sat in the car looking at a large sign that said “Danger! Private Property Under Construction! Do Not Enter!” But as they saw all the activity that was taking place beyond the chain-link fence.

I guess I forgot about such a nonevent…” Michelle could sense that this line of conversation wasn’t going to end anytime soon. “Yes. “they didn't let us know until about a week ago. but it was obvious that it was hard for her to swallow the food that was in her mouth.tone her dad revealed that her thoughts were correct. all somebody would have to do would be to cross the narrow . that is where the new school is being built. Didn't I tell you?” “Well. so she excused herself and went upstairs to her room. “I'm really surprised that nobody told us about the construction before it began. Michelle's mother didn't take the news too favorably.” She commented flatly “Well honey.” He then looked at her mother. After all. She tried to suppress her emotion.” said her father. She called Samantha immediately. “Samantha! I was right! That’s where the new school is being built!” Samantha had to think about that for a while before she let Michelle know that she wasn't sure how she felt about the school being so close to their homes.

And right before the class. On the days that she had her Italian class she felt agitated and depressed. She had never had such a feeling about anything before. Michelle knew that Samantha was reacting in that way because that's how her mother would react. But once she hung up the phone. Samantha's mother was someone who wore the title of 'Nervous Nelly’ to perfection. she would get sweaty palms and her heart rate would go up to the point where she felt dizzy. Michelle started to wonder what the ramifications would be if she were wrong and those new kids were more disturbed than anyone in town had been led to believe. and when it came to her fears. and eventually she got mad at herself because a whole hour had passed and she was supposed to be doing homework and studying for another test in Italian. Every time Michelle thought about that class she got sick in her stomach. she put a lot of pressure on herself to do well. and being so far behind in Italian was spiraling out of control. This year. she was just projecting. There was one mean kid in her class that . even if she wasn't doing too well at school. This foreboding started affecting Michelle at school very negatively.woods and climb right into their backyards. Her mind started churning with all kinds of bad scenarios.

she was sixteen not six. She started wishing that she had never switched into that class. and that she had just stayed in German instead. Michelle finished washing her hands and was checking her complexion in the mirror. and the fact that a bully was tormenting her. and when she turned around to face him. Now she had two problems to deal with: the fact that she wasn't doing well in class.obviously sensed her weak energy and started picking on her. he even threw crumpled pieces of paper at her. challenging her. and then she wouldn’t have to be back until next week. The second bell rang. and she knew she had to face Italian class one more time. After all. She had it on Mondays. She was too embarrassed to tell anybody about it. But later. and today was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. She really did have every intention of going . she was thinking to herself. Michelle looked up at the clock. letting all students know that it was time to settle into their classrooms. The warning bell buzzed above. It was five minutes to 11. he didn't even pretend like he didn't do it. First it was just a mean look. She looked pale and tired. He would stare right at her. Wednesdays and Fridays. Just get through the rest of the day.

What was she doing there. and instead of walking out of the bathroom she just stood there. She had let herself down. Michelle knew that it was only a matter of time before someone found her there. Her legs felt immensely heavy and her feet felt like they were sticking to the floor. but because she thought it was pathetic to be cutting class out of fear alone. Not only for the fact that she was hiding in the girls’ locker room. But she didn't run. It was the most bizarre sensation. sitting on a bench with her knees pressed up against her chest. and she didn't make it to class at all. It was as if her own body was fighting her. and she had never done that before. she thought? She was actually cutting class. FitzSimmons. But as nice as she was. and in fact was a very nice lady and she even laughed when she heard what the kids had named her. so she decided to leave the school grounds hoping not to run into the ‘truant witch’ Mrs. If she ran she could make it by no later than 11:05.to class. Everybody knew that she wasn't a real witch. if you weren’t in class you were . Michelle found herself in the girls’ changing room. She felt horrible. after that she would be late. She had a minute to get to class. but suddenly it just felt like some switch turned off.

Outside. She had the hat pulled down so low that she could see the edges of the fur sticking down into her . Shuffling her feet. Michelle slowly walked over to the back of the school where she would be less likely to be found out. and from there she began walking the school perimeter and praying for the time to pass. It was a particularly beautiful day for late November. Yet for all its beauty. gloves and matching faux fur trimmed hat. the school felt eerily empty. bundled up in her puffy jacket. she was able to exhale deeply. Once the bell rang to mark the end of third period. The sun was emanating white light. She would meet her at the bleachers. especially since it wasn’t and there were hundreds of students tucked away inside the classrooms. the day was also very cold. now she would have to deal with questions as to her whereabouts during class. and all the plants and trees were incredibly green and lush.going to get a yellow card and be sent to the office. Of course. Michelle fished through her locker to retrieve her cell phone which was buried down deep. and texted Samantha to pick up something in the cafeteria for her to eat. Michelle sat down on the bleachers. she had survived. the air felt crisp and clean.

“They didn't have any fresh bagels. “Is it because your brother's girlfriend is going . “Hey. I hope that's okay. space cadet. I don't know. rather than looking at her friend. “There is something wrong. It was strange because she always shared everything with Samantha. I'm just tired. She was in a lethargic.” Michelle said. But. so I got you this instead. Michelle contemplated telling her the truth of what she had just done. “No.” Michelle was still staring into the distance. maybe it’s just the holidays. “Yeah.view. Samantha settled down and began to eat her own lunch.” “It's fine. dreamlike state when Samantha walked up carrying her hot cocoa. taking the Danish. “Are you sure?” Samantha insisted. No one said anything for a while.” Samantha handed her the cocoa and pulled out a plastic wrapped Danish from the front pocket of her own fuzzy hoodie. right?” finally. but she just couldn't bring herself to do it.” Michelle yawned. Samantha had to break the silence. she felt the same impediment when she tried to talk about it. just like she hadn’t been able to walk to class.

I never bothered to ask. . Truth was that at that time she hadn't really minded. at least Michelle imagined that they wouldn't. “Do you even know her name?” Samantha asked. but now as she thought about it in school she realized that she wasn’t feeling very sociable. When they passed the bleachers where Michelle and Samantha were sitting. Toby was bringing his new girlfriend to Thanksgiving dinner and Michelle had suggested to him that she could spend the night in her room because there was no way that their parents would feel comfortable with Toby and her sleeping together.” she giggled. “Maybe. nobody enjoyed being that intimate with somebody’s parents around. “You know. Somebody blew a whistle from the track down below. Well. and Tim and three other guys began running while the wrestling coach stood to the side with a stopwatch in hand.to be sleeping in your room?” A confused. Samantha asked. Michelle had to think about that for a while. Tim slowed down and jogged over to the side. And besides. and at the same time realized that she had completely forgotten about that.” Michelle answered.

“I told you he's still trying to get your attention.Are you girls defrosted yet?” he shouted up to them. and she was failing Italian.” Michelle couldn't wait for the day to be over. we’re still freezing. When Michelle got home from school there was an unfamiliar van parked outside her house with “SAFETY FIRST – ALARM SYSTEMS” stenciled in big bold letters on the side door. Michelle rolled her eyes and wondered how much worse her day could get. “I don't care. “What's with you?” A heartbeat later she stood up and yelled back down at Tim. I’ll let you know if it works!” Tim laughed and sped up to catch up with the rest of the team. “Keep running. Tim was obviously back together with Bethany. Michelle immediately shoved Samantha in disapproval.” keeping her teeth together. She had cut class for the first time in her life. Samantha whispered right back at her. Michelle whispered back in great annoyance. And now on top of all that. her parents were going to cage her up like some . Samantha. “I can't believe you did that.” Samantha elbowed Michelle and whispered.

you know. “Right. It was a great deal this time of year. Michelle walked into the house through the open door and saw two men in blue uniforms wiring up the windows and installing a security system panel by the front entry. Mom?” Michelle asked instead. “What's up with the alarm system. Everybody else is getting them.” her mom asked.bird inside her house because everyone was paranoid over a measly little private school that was moving into the town. so I thought hey. They both greeted her. And you’re telling me this has nothing to do with that boarding school moving in so close to our house?” Michelle's voice was demanding. she wished that they would just go away. “Oh. There were amazing aromas coming out of the kitchen and when Michelle recognized one of them as homemade stuffing she realized that her mother was already cooking for Thanksgiving dinner. why not?” Her mother set down the spoon and replied nonchalantly. Tell me what you think. holding a wooden spoon dripping with homemade gravy. and although the younger one was actually really cute. . “Come here and try this.

Michelle was jolted awake by the loud sound of the alarm system going off.” her mother scolded her. and it tasted scrumptious. and without even realizing that she was awake yet. She hadn’t meant for the question to come out quite like that. not just because of the new school. while both cell phones and the house line . they thought this was a perfect opportunity.“Tone down your voice. she jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. Michelle. Michelle was sorry. It would be beneficial in lots of situations. Michelle did have to hand it to her mom that she was the greatest cook ever! Early Thanksgiving morning. and she avoided talking about the subject any longer by walking over to the stove and asking what was cooking in the big pot. Her dad was fidgeting with the panel. Homemade cream of mushroom soup.” she answered. “It was okay. The sirens were deafening. Her mother explained that she and her father had wanted to get an alarm system for some time. When her mom asked her about her day. Michelle was reminded about her cutting class and she felt horrible. and with the great holiday specials.

What a way to meet the family. Poor Toby she thought.” he had assured her. Michelle's parents had forgotten to warn Toby about the alarm system. after all the proper introductions were made everything returned to normal. and her mom explained to the alarm people that it was ‘user error’. Toby and his girlfriend were standing at the front door in complete shock. Eventually her father was able to turn the system off. It was an absolute madhouse. he looked so embarrassed. Toby and his girlfriend set out to take a walk in the woods towards the site where the new school was being constructed. and the rest of the day proceeded uneventfully. “Oh. That Friday. and he just did what he had always done. They won’t mind. Michelle. It turned out that he and the girlfriend had decided to show up extra early by actually driving at night instead of leaving on Thanksgiving morning. use his own key to unlock the front door. with all of them running around half asleep in their pajamas. . Michelle thought to herself. don’t worry.were ringing in unison. and nobody could hear what anyone else was saying. although she did see the humor in the situation. Finally.

walking around and checking out the site of the new . and eventually did find a section where it was still under construction. Previously.Michelle told Toby all about the situation and he was curious to see the progress. “If we go in there and get caught we could get in trouble.” “But there's nobody here. “It's the day after Thanksgiving. Michelle led the way. They exited through the gate in the backyard and walked through the shadowy pines. it had been marked by a low wooden fence that encircled it. “This is private property. about nine feet high. but now the old fence was no longer there and in its place was a tall cement wall that rounded the property.” Toby said. They walked around the wall for a while looking for an opening.” Michelle said. their shoes crunching along dry leaves and moist earth. The place is totally deserted.” Michelle always felt brave when her older brother was around. All three of them stood there and listened for a while to see if they could hear anything but the only thing they heard was the rustling of branches in the soft breeze. They all followed her lead. It took no longer than 20 minutes and they were at the perimeter of the property. Nobody works today.

Of course. and at the rate they were progressing. and he explained to her that all there was left to do was to install the outer and inner walls. but had small specks of opalescence embedded in the paint. and eventually they arrived at the front driveway. But Toby was studying engineering. but it was the unusual color that caught Michelle's eyes. Michelle realized that she had seen that particular car before. They continued walking around the grounds checking things out. The Thunderbird was clearly off-white. At first Michelle didn't think anything of it. They found it amazing how quickly the giant structure was shaping up. Michelle didn't really understand what he was talking about because in her eyes all she saw was the metal framing. it was just a car parked next to some other vehicles and work trucks. it could have been another car that just looked like it. But just as they were about to turn around and head back. It was the same one that Samantha had almost swerved into on Halloween night! It was one of the newer models of the Ford Thunderbirds. On . that could be done in another two weeks.emerging building. “They must have had 100 men working here all at once to get this thing off the ground so fast!” exclaimed Toby.

Michelle agreed. “Let's go. he let out a whistle. reliving that Halloween evening. it only brought back memories of that evening.” One alarm snafu for the weekend was enough. Toby and his girlfriend left .” He walked over to the car and examined it more closely. memories of the night she could have died. If we get any closer. we're going to set this thing off too. Toby was amused that Michelle was taking such an interest in a car.Halloween night under the glow of the halogen streetlamp. “Michelle. Michelle didn't say much during the walk back to the house. she vividly remembered seeing the different colors reflecting in the light. what if the car hadn't halted so abruptly in front of the tree? Thanksgiving weekend ended much too quickly in Michelle's opinion. and white too. I think it will be quite a while before mom and dad help you get one of these. “Those are expensive leather seats. She had seen enough of the car anyway. She was lost in thought. memories she would like to forget. churning one question in her head over and over again. Somebody’s got mucho bucks!” He then noticed that there was an alarm light flashing inside the vehicle. Impressed.

even though everybody was still in school and everybody was still working. and by Sunday she was back in her school mode. making a rerun of Thanksgiving dinner. She also had an essay to finish in history. At least February had Valentine's Day. It's like the whole world took a mental vacation. Winter formal was set to take place on Saturday. as if they'd finished some huge accomplishment when in fact the whole thing was about shopping for 2½ weeks. and visiting with the relatives for a few hours.Saturday evening. But then again. and only then could one exhale with relief. December felt like it always did. Michelle always found it humorous that it felt like nobody dared to breathe until Christmas was over. and January always felt like it had nothing on December. She used most of the day to go over the Italian lesson she had missed in class the week before. Everything seemed unreal during the 12th month of the year. perhaps she was a cynic because her birthday was in late January. and a journal to complete for chemistry class. . and felt that perhaps she was starting to get a grasp on the subject.

she thought. and fourthly but not least. And of course they will all ask her about school and how she's doing. Thirdly. that she's doing great and she's an honor roll student. Of course the fact that it was cold and gray and the sun only peeked out for a few hours during the daytime didn't help matters at all. for the first time her brother would not be spending Christmas with the family. She’d have to pretend to be the perfect daughter of the Town Councilman. Michelle’s father told them that the whole family was invited to a large holiday party where they would get to mingle with the mayor and other important people. Firstly. Samantha had started dating this guy James.December 19th . What was she supposed to tell them. she'd never been to a formal. studying for class midterms was taking her paramount timeslots. Michelle was feeling particularly down. and that had always made her feel left out and anomalous. and had way less time to spend with her. Great. Secondly. and there were many reasons for that. everybody knew . and if they really knew the truth she would embarrass her entire family. but was going to his girlfriend's family celebration somewhere in upstate New York instead. The town was too small.

By Wednesday she was done with all the other classes and moved all of her attention and focus to . and everyone had children that went to the same school. She was doing pretty well in all the other classes. because she could definitely use all the extra cramming time. seeing every test as a small battle in a bigger war.was still better than an F. She was relieved when she read the schedule and found out that her Italian midterm wasn't scheduled until Friday. D or D. Michelle started taking her dinner upstairs in her bedroom. She was flunking Italian. and was aiming for all A’s as a way to soften the blow about failing the other. To take advantage of every minute within the day. She would have to come clean and tell her mother the truth. Maybe she could at least pass the test and not have to repeat the entire class. somebody from Italian class would be there and just pass along the fact that she has not been a regular attendee. Michelle plowed through her exams. With the way her luck has been lately. military style. She cocooned herself in the room and studied from the moment she got home from school until her brain just couldn't take it anymore.everybody.

Italian. she looked radiant and it flowed around her like water. Samantha twirled around in front of the mirror. There was azure blue. and cornflower blue mixed with some aqua. Only then did Michelle feel the pang of jealousy. I think that dress was made for you. watching the fabric flutter from the movement of the air beneath it. Samantha was staring right back at her in confusion. Suddenly Michelle had a déjà vu. that was until Samantha dropped by to show her the dress she had purchased. just as the image formed and she could recognize it. When Samantha put it on. Michelle was entranced by the different hues of blue. “You look absolutely beautiful Samantha. The blue of Samantha’s dress somehow transformed into the image of the sea that Michelle had waded into. It was a beautiful blue gown that was layered with the thinnest and lightest fabric that Michelle had ever seen or touched. and it must have been loud enough because when she looked up. She swallowed hard and mustered her biggest approving smile. it was a split second flash of the strange dream she had experienced. it was gone. Michelle gasped. . but then.” Michelle exclaimed. She almost completely forgot that she had yet to be asked to the winter formal.

“I still think I was being selfish. disturbing any concentration she had previously.” By the time Samantha left. Samantha didn’t look convinced.” she said. Was he even thinking about her anymore.” Michelle’s voice still sounded dreamy. she wondered? .“Oh my gosh Michelle.” Samantha was pleading forgiveness with her eyes. let alone love her. and would anyone ever really like her.” Samantha walked over and sat down on the bed next to Michelle. “I don’t know. Only then did Michelle understand that she must have looked miserable to have Samantha respond like that. She thought about Tim. what she looked like. Michelle did feel depressed about the formal. I just had the weirdest déjà vu. The self-doubting feelings about who she was. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. “I’m fine. I didn’t even think before running here and showing off my dress. She wished she could just fall asleep and wake up after it was all over. floated in and out of her thoughts. I totally remembered this dream I had almost two months ago. even though she didn’t really fancy him all that much. I’m sorry.

or her heart beating so fast and hard if he just walked past her. Her mom would describe her to family members as a late bloomer. While other girls were placing love notes inside boys’ school desks or lunch boxes. and yet she found that she missed them more than she actually missed him.She definitely used to have a huge crush on him. when relatives would ask her if she had a boyfriend. Michelle wondered what the buzz was all about. When it came to boys. Back then. but those thrilling emotions and sensations like feeling her face warm up every time he talked to her.” Michelle didn’t understand. Michelle always felt like she was two steps behind everyone else. Eventually they completely vanished. if somebody has a boyfriend it must mean that they like them. The whole thing puzzled her so much that she decided to just ignore . because it sounded so negative to be late in anything. She always hated that label. and being liked is a good thing. her mother would always answer. What did being good have to do with having a boyfriend? After all. had begun to wane. “Oh no. These feelings had accompanied her even as far back as the third grade. Michelle is a good girl.

The magic was gone. and once he actually joined her family for a campout. just the right profile. and had the most beautiful wavy blond hair that bounced down her shoulders when she walked. because he was dating Bethany and the two of them looked to be madly in love. just like that. Bethany was tall. She compared herself to Bethany. That was until she developed indescribable feelings for a boy. lean. complaining and trying to figure out why it was that he didn't even notice her. Mark eventually asked Michelle to be his girlfriend. Basically. called one another after school. and the ‘going out’ business didn't make too much sense to her because they weren't ‘going’ anywhere. Mark. and sophomore year was when she first developed real feelings for Tim. in eighth grade. they held hands during recess. although the fact that he tried to force his tongue down her throat didn't help matters either. Michelle would brood over him in her journal and to her friends.it. and they were known as an item throughout the school. who was perfect in her book. Those feelings got worse and worse. Michelle would often look at herself in the mirror and feel depressed . But she grew tired of the situation very quickly. Freshman year was completely boring.

Michelle always wondered if Rachael and Anna became friendly to her on Tim’s request. When Tim and Bethany broke up around the beginning of the school year.because she and Bethany had nothing in common physically. with winter formal only two days away. . But Michelle had no appetite. Her mom gave her a Tylenol. then she would catch him looking at her. Whatever the case. towards the end of sophomore year Tim began to acknowledge her. sitting on her bed surrounded by books and papers. and she attributed that to her feeling sorry for herself over the stupid formal. and told her it was most likely due to her studying for so long without eating. alone. because before that they had never really interacted. Michelle felt that she would get her chance at last. It was past midnight when Michelle finally went to bed. maybe stress or midterm anxiety. and eventually he found a way to talk to her through her friendship with Rachael and Anna. she was smitten. However. Her dinner was left untouched and she had a terrible headache. The next day she felt just as bad. At first it was a few smiles. But there she was. and she wondered if it could be some sort of a psychological thing. She just didn't measure up.

” he asked. Her mother was shocked. She yelled at her for the cutting. She reacted just as Michelle thought she would. What was happening to her? Michelle begged for her mom not to tell her dad. and her voice quivered when she told her about the cutting. and that was what really hurt Michelle on the inside. asking her over and over again if that's the way she had raised her to deal with problems. She did something that she never thought she would ever do.Michelle eventually worked up the nerve to tell her mom about Italian class. She was ashamed. What were they supposed to do? This was more complex . but her mom told her that she had no authority nor privilege to ask for anything of the sort. The matter was far too important not to be discussed with her father. “I don’t know. When her father heard what she had done. “Why didn’t you ask for help if you were falling behind. Her parents looked desperate. She had disappointed her mom and she had disappointed herself. he looked at her as if he didn’t know his own child. unable to look him in the face.” Michelle said. to lie and break school rules?” She was ashamed of her. “To run away from them.

” her mother said. “You’re a bit warm. It was about their daughter who had never had any problems sharing things with them. What had changed? No one seemed to have the answer for that. It must have been pretty late because her mom was already in her nightgown. Her mother sat on the bed next to her and just looked at her with an expression somewhere between pity and inquiry. not even Michelle. She eventually settled back into her studying. and she didn’t even know why. Michelle was back in her room. She heard a quiet knock on the door. It was 11:40 PM. Michelle felt so little when she did that. What was wrong with her she thought? She’s growing up to be a rotten individual. and she wondered if the sky was crying with her as her tears stung her flushed cheeks. but she often felt that after she cried. It was raining hard outside. Michelle was feeling as if a flush hung on her entire body. She then put her hand to Michelle’s forehead.than just their youngest child breaking rules. . cramming as much Italian grammar into her head as she possibly could. “What time is it?” Michelle asked. and watched her mom step into the room closing the door behind her.

“I think I was too embarrassed to tell you. and that she would ruin it for her father. ruin it for all of them.” Michelle let out a huge cry and the tears and crying came out like they did when she was little. How did her mom know before she even knew? Since her dad had taken office. before she could control them. and I don’t even know why. Michelle felt like she was on display. And so she kept her failings away from them. Bingo! It hit Michelle like a runaway train. and asked her about her family as if they knew them. Her mom stroked her hair as Michelle laid her head on her lap. She felt that if she wasn’t the perfect daughter of the perfect town councilman. so as to not tarnish the family image. she guessed that it must be the . She wasn’t all grown up like she thought she was.“Mom. Michelle woke up.” she said. “I’m so sorry Mom. and from the darkness in her room and the visible section of hallway she could see under her door. People who didn’t know her talked to her.” “Does this have to do with your father being on the Town Council?” Her mom gently asked. that somehow she wasn’t holding up her part.

if she had to repeat a class or attend summer school neither one of those things would mark her or blemish her future.” Michelle continued. there are some things that are more important to me than you speaking Italian. “We’ve got to get you to the doctor tomorrow. “The teacher would never believe I was sick. Not after all I’ve done. She had been having a nightmare. remember?” Michelle immediately protested.” “But Mom. Never. and that her t-shirt and pajama pants were soaking wet.” “I can’t.” She was looking down at the floor in embarrassment. She was shivering. Michelle was completely soaked in sweat and her hair was limply arranged in clumps around her face. 102 degrees. Michelle called out to her mother. and that in the bigger picture of life. Her mom assured her that all would be taken care of. “Sweetie. Her mom checked her temperature and shook her head at the result. She realized that she was freezing cold. Her mom gave her . who showed up within a millisecond to be by her side. It’s my last midterm tomorrow. but she couldn’t remember what it was. Her mom switched on the light on the nightstand and surveyed Michelle’s condition with horror.middle of the night.

just so she could avoid her midterm. her mom had already made the proper phone calls and told her that she was not the only sick kid that had called in that morning. even if her sore throat was still begging for it’s own type of relief.another Tylenol to reduce the fever and placed a wet towel on her forehead. then sat by her side until Michelle was asleep again. it was the season for colds and flues.” Her mom continued. When Michelle woke up. Her mom was worried that she had caught strep throat. “At least you didn’t have to cancel anything or call a date to tell them you couldn’t go. She knew that it was just a silly thought. after all. Michelle couldn’t believe her luck. Some unlucky ones got it so bad that they had been forced to cancel all the arrangements they had made for the formal that evening. but nonetheless she felt relieved. “Can you imagine the disappointment that a date would feel getting such a call. she could hardly muster a sound out of her parched and painful throat. and could . By the time Michelle asked about school. and wondered if God or some other magical being had answered her prayers and caused her to fall sick.

gargling with salt is not such a bad idea. They both laughed. They got there early. both young and old. but she couldn’t take it anymore “Why don’t you rub some salt on it too?” Her mom looked a little hurt. Michelle thought that even if you weren’t sick when you went to the doctor. She would have the results tomorrow.the parents get their money back for the limousine service and…” “Mom!” Michelle yelled.” Her mom smiled at her and joked. The doctor visit was miserable as usual. Doctor Hudson did the routine check up and took a throat culture to test for strep. She apologized and Michelle accepted. but then realized why she was upsetting Michelle so. While looking at a toddler who miserably fought to breathe out of his snotty nose. only to wait with many other sneezing and whizzing patients. “You know. Meanwhile she prescribed Michelle a cough elixir with codeine and a week’s . you sure weren’t going to leave the office healthy. When they were finally called in. her poor throat trying to hold on to any vocal cord that was still working.

When they had first begun playing the Christmas tunes it was in mid-October and she couldn’t stand them. They headed towards the mall in Napa. she definitely didn’t want to stay home alone. and take a fever reducer when necessary’. If not. especially as she was doting over her like a mama cat over a crying kitten. and yet there she was suddenly humming along to them. and everywhere she looked the displays of goods looked better then ever. then head back out. Michelle enjoyed all the excitement. Since they were already out and it was only 10:30 AM. It was several days before Christmas and everyone was in a panic to buy the last few gifts. drink fluids. it was the standard ‘rest. in fact they drove her crazy. to take only if the test came out positive. Nope. she would drop her off at home first. which was buzzing with people and activity. The usual Christmas music that they played over the sound system suddenly sounded like it belonged. The stores were covered with Christmas lights and decorations. Although Michelle didn’t feel all that well. . Otherwise. Michelle’s mother asked her if she felt well enough to go the mall with her.worth of antibiotics. she enjoyed being with her mom.

But it had smelled so good and scrumptious when she was walking down towards the café. but it was better than the floor.Michelle’s mom had to return something at one of the big department stores. Michelle sat waiting for her name to be called when her drink was ready. She thanked her mom for the twenty-dollar bill she handed her. her mom suggested that she wait for her at the coffee shop across from the theater entrance. She had ordered an eggnog latte. The line for the returns window was so long that people had to snake back and forth like at the bank. and made her way down to the Sweetnothings Café. Her name . Michelle felt bad abandoning her mom to the nightmare line. but was already regretting it because she remembered that dairy was not the best idea when one had upper respiratory ailments. when Michelle became a bit dizzy. Her body collapsed into the small wire bistro-style chair that was far from being comfortable. she had wanted one before she even knew what it was. Looking at the line and noticing that Michelle looked a bit pale all of a sudden. Up the escalators they rode to the second floor. but she could feel that her body was pushing itself to the limit and needed to rest before she fell flat-faced on the floor in front of everyone.

What if her mom returned to see her talking to him and asked where the two had met? No! That meeting cannot. She also bought herself one of those Madeline cookies. but she would never want to go alone. Wishful thinking Michelle thought. impeccably dressed. An early matinee must have just ended. Maybe she should have gone to see a movie instead of having coffee. grayish golden hair. She didn’t even like them and they were way overpriced.was finally called. Xander. because by the time Michelle sat back down at her table there was a small crowd in front of the theater. She was sure of it. and besides her mom could be done any second. Yes. just because it was there next to the cash register. Michelle almost jumped out of her chair. but where would she go in such a public space. For a moment she . it would be a Christmas miracle if she got through that line in less than an hour. but their mind games always worked on her. She was a sucker. deep-set eyes and skin that although wrinkled by age. looked almost translucently glowing. Michelle was trying to get a better look at the movie posters to see what was playing when her eyes landed on a familiar face. Tall and slender. it was him. must not take place.

If only she had a book or a magazine to hide behind. She then watched Xander walk past. how lucky she was. No. there were no restroom doors anywhere. It was as if she wasn’t there at all. the first table in his line of sight. not even a nod of recognition. He was carrying one of . Michelle looked behind her. But just as she lowered her guard. Get a hold of yourself. desperately trying to figure out a way to blend in with some of the other customers. Xander was about to enter the ‘order’ line. And it was too late anyway. Wow. she thought to herself. she didn’t recognize anyone there. If she made a quick move now she was sure to draw attention to herself. He can’t see you from where he’s standing. The danger was over. Michelle exhaled in relief. She reached for her drink only to see that her hands were still shaking so hard that she almost tipped her cup over.even thought about ducking under the table. Xander started walking towards the café. and Michelle was sitting to the left of the metal divider. She immediately hid her hands inside her pockets. she thought to herself. She scanned the cafe. his back turned to her. But he walked right past her and went on to order his drink. hoping that no one else caught sight of her wiggly fingers.

before her mom gets back. Why did he need so many drinks. and quickly. But her mom was hungry and wanted to get something to go before driving back to Willow’s Creek. There was no possible way he could have identified her. Michelle wondered? Who cares. Yet her curiosity got the best of her and she continued to follow him with her eyes. and it startled her so badly that she physically jumped out of her seat. just as long as he goes away. pointing at her wristwatch for added urgency. Xander turned right and disappeared into the central court. Michelle heard her name being called. and she had been wearing tons of makeup with her hair painfully pulled up into a tight bun so her crown could fit on her head. Her mother was motioning her to hurry up. Michelle considered that it had been Halloween after all. Maybe he didn’t recognize her.those cardboard drink trays and it seemed to be full. It was close to 1:30 PM and neither one of them had eaten any lunch. Yes. and she was still sick and couldn’t taste much anyway. Michelle wasn’t hungry after having her sugary drink. she was being paranoid after all. This time she did knock her cup over. Michelle tried to think up any excuse to tell her mom not to . but luckily it was empty.

he obviously wouldn’t recognize her now if he hadn’t just a few minutes earlier. obviously the ones he had purchased from Sweetnothings Café. She reminded herself that even if Xander were there. But what really shocked Michelle more than seeing Xander again was who he was with. she thought to herself. trying to get a better look at them. generic Greek food at it’s best. What was Xander doing with a bunch of young guys. but she couldn’t come up with anything.go to the central court where all the food vendors were. there he was in the far left corner close to the shoe repair kiosk. Michelle scanned the busy room for Xander. Michelle and her mother were standing in line at the Gyromaniac. And just as she feared. but Michelle couldn’t put a finger on what it was. While her mom was ordering. She could almost make out a few of the faces from where she was standing. and who are they? She’d never seen any of them around before. but passersby kept walking into her line of view. Something wasn’t quite right about the picture. Some were casually seated on the bench sipping their drinks. Michelle squinted her eyes. Xander was standing and talking to a group of young guys. Her mom finished paying for her .

but everything in her body wanted to run in the opposite direction. Why did they park on that side of the mall? Could she convince her mom to leave from another exit? What kind of reason could she come up with. As she passed them by. the most beautiful guy of all was suddenly looking right back at her. And just as she placed her eyes on him. her eyes widened with amazement. no. As she got closer to the group. Absolutely beautiful. It was hard to tell. not handsome she thought. Michelle couldn’t help but turn her head back to get one more look. as if he somehow knew the exact moment to meet her gaze. and quick? It was too late.order and started heading in the direction where Xander was standing. The most drop-dead gorgeous guys she had ever seen surrounded Xander. There were six of them and each was uniquely handsome. They looked to be in their early or mid twenties. because her view had been obstructed earlier. especially to see the person Xander was talking to. her only hope was that he wouldn’t turn around and recognize her. maybe their late teens. Did she stop walking? Was she even breathing? Michelle couldn’t tell what was . Michelle followed her. In a few seconds she would pass by Xander.

she thought? She had never fainted before. right at the tip of her tongue. dark blue. How frightening. Every inch of her body was trembling.happening to her. Mom. she kept thinking. But her eyes were locked on his. and nothing to smell but the warm grease arising from the food court.” she called back. Look away. More like a soundless murmur or a hum running through her body. did Xander finally recognize her? Now she was really shaking and trembling. but her voice came out only as a whisper. Oh no. Am I going to faint. and she was back to her old normal self. Michelle walked . she thought. His eyes were deep and blue. Look away. Xander turned to see what his companion was staring at. Michelle heard her mom calling her name and she turned around to see her standing by the glass exit doors. No more humming or buzzing. Somehow everything clicked back into place. Not the kind of trembling that is seen visually. it was different. They were unlike any blue eyes she had ever seen before. unusually so. Michelle wondered how it was that she could see them so clearly from so far away. “I’m coming. and by doing so blocked her view of the guy she was so fixated on. And what was that scent? It was so familiar.

Michelle began to try and make sense of all that had happened that day. and the fact that since she was actually sick there was no way she would have been able to attend the winter formal. more palatable. sweetie. She thought about the obvious things like the fact that she had gotten out of taking her Italian midterm. date or no date. He was alone. all the while trying to figure out what had just taken place. There was no one around him. Still. I should have never dragged you out here. so she shouldn’t feel too disappointed. “Lets get you to bed. When she was done thinking about school and .towards her mom. Michelle couldn’t make sense of what had just happened. She turned around to get one more look from the outside through the glass doors. When she got to the doors her mom looked at her full of worry. Was she imagining everything? Was it all in her head? She must be burning up with fever. When her mother finally left her alone in her room. but all she saw was Xander standing in the middle of the hallway staring in her direction. Sipping on a warm cup of mint and lemon tea seemed to make everything a little better.” Her mom put her arm around her and they exited the building together.

But Michelle didn't get too far with her thoughts on the matter. . she finally let her mind rest on the most important development of the day: Xander and his group of boys at the mall. because five minutes later she was deep in sleep.everything that related to it.

Chapter 3 Michelle spent most of the weekend upstairs in her room. trying to figure out why the whole thing felt so strange to her. Xander was obviously wealthy. her mind circulated back to the events at the mall. After all. right? That made perfect sense. She told herself time and time again that whatever it was that she felt was so odd was probably all in her mind. But when she wasn't napping. He drove a fancy car and wore expensive clothing. Nothing strange about that. and had probably adopted all . and perhaps Xander was out with his family. She went over every little detail that she could remember. it was the holidays. She had read about many famous people that adopt children from different countries and different continents as if they were collecting wild butterflies from faraway forests and jungles. although she was well on her way to recovery. She was still weak and napped frequently. right? And the fact that the guys all had different skin colors and that one was obviously Asian shouldn't really change the actuality that they could still all be part of Xander’s family.

and even played a game of cards with her father. Yes. she was feeling like her old self again. Her parents were delighted. The whole situation was starting to annoy Michelle. Later that afternoon Michelle attempted to read a book. that was a perfect explanation. By the Monday morning of Michelle’s holiday break from school. But no matter how hard she tried to concentrate on these tasks. she thought. Michelle was surprised that it had been there the whole weekend and she hadn’t even noticed it. and she began making a deliberate. She might have been . She had a voracious appetite and helped herself to seconds. She woke up early. and was dressed and at the breakfast table before her dad even left for work.the guys while traveling around the world. conscious effort not to think about it anymore. watch TV. her mom led her into the living room where a large Christmas tree stood. not even by smell. and her father was relieved that she would be able to join them for the holiday dinner at the mayor's house. After the table was cleared away and the dishes dried and put back into the cabinet. her mind wandered back to the scene at the mall.

and that her father had been forced to go pick one out by himself while her mom was busy worrying over her temperature. She wished she could have gone along with him. Michelle couldn't help but feel disappointed that she missed it this year. Michelle felt sorry for her father when she imagined him walking around the Christmas tree lot all alone. Every year it was the same ritual of placing each ornament in just the perfect location. Usually. but was always powerless to resist the fragrance of a fresh Christmas tree. the tree would have been decorated by now.a bit cynical about Christmas. The sound of rattling ornaments in a cardboard box roused Michelle from her daydreaming. but her mom had wanted to wait until Michelle felt better. This had continued even after Toby left home. and yet every time she heard . while her mom retold the history and memories associated with it. cold and wet without any of the rest of them there. her dad would hang them as she pointed out where they should go. When she was little. Michelle had heard the ornament stories God knows how many times. It used to be a family tradition that everybody would pile into the car and go pick out the tree on one of the many lots that dotted the area.

It must be made of glass. silver and green. already rushing to the kitchen. what’s that smell?” Michelle asked. “Oh my gosh! The cookies! I hope they’re not burning. gold. “Mom. but to her surprise it wasn't. Michelle was nearing the last of the ornaments when she came across one wrapped in white tissue paper.” her mom answered in a panic. she thought as she unwrapped it. Michelle was left to finish up the tree on her own. Michelle moved closer to a lamp to get a better view. She walked into the downstairs bathroom . and pressed into the lower section there was a roundish disk that did look to be made of glass. It was an odd looking pear-shaped ceramic ornament. but the light wasn’t bright enough. it almost looked like the glass was somehow peeling. not unlike the colored layers of an abalone shell. There was also some sort of crackling effect to it. So while her mother was tending to her famous gingerbread cookies. She couldn’t remember ever having seen it before.them they still made her smile. It had whirling colors of blues and turquoise with iridescent specks of purple. but unlike any glass Michelle had ever seen before. flat and crudely made.

trying to sound as . but only once. and as she did so she was no longer looking at the glass but into blue eyes. With a sudden fear and realization she dropped the ornament straight into the sink and it made a loud clank and crashing sound. They were unlike any eyes she had ever seen before: beautiful. Michelle looked down into the sink.” Michelle answered. She had seen those eyes before. She kept tilting the ornament under the light. it was unbelievable.where her parents had recently replaced the regular light bulbs with new iridescent halogen ones. the eyes belonging to the boy in the mall. The little piece of glass was beyond beautiful. I'm ok. Michelle was shocked. gripping. It had so many layers of color and so much depth. “Honey. The ornament was lying there. “Yeah mom. It was those eyes. not human. is everything okay in there?” Somewhat frightened. that's what had made him seem so unusual. shattered into bits and pieces. They had layers of blue in them with specks of gold and silver around the pupils. They looked just like that glass. I just dropped my cell phone. Michelle was startled by a knock on the door and her mother's voice calling her. stunning. monstrous.

Dinner that night was pleasant and festive . Michelle contemplated whether she should call Samantha and tell her everything that had happened at the mall. she might even tell her mom about it. She washed her face and exited the bathroom as if nothing had happened. She started wrapping the broken pieces in tissue paper. No. To her surprise. the blue disk was still intact and lay beneath a large shard. But what if all this nonsense was completely made up in her head? Samantha would surely think her crazy. Michelle carefully picked up the glass and placed it in her pocket. There was no way she could repair the damage. and how? Michelle was determined to come up with a plan. She heard her mother's footsteps walking back towards the kitchen. she would definitely need more evidence of something strange going on if she was going to share this with anyone. as some of the fragments were no more than dust. placing them in the bottom of the garbage bin as quietly as she could.normal as possible. heading straight to the kitchen to enjoy one of the cookies while they were still warm. Guilt and remorse swiftly filled Michelle's heart. But what kind of evidence could she get.

All you have to do is wear a fancier tie and nice cufflinks. Michelle agreed with her mother. it wasn't. and you're set. you could have given us a smidgen of information?” Her mother chimed in. and eventually the conversation led to talking about the important gathering they had been invited to at the mayor's house. but that formalwear was a much bigger hassle for women than for men because men pretty much all wear the same outfit to any formal event and no one bats an eye. What were they going to wear? “Daddy.” “Darling.” Her father listened to her rationality and was forced . Michelle and her mother immediately looked at one another. both with the same thought on their mind. you could've told me a little bit earlier. Her mother responded that in the bigger picture of things. I have nothing to wear. although Toby was definitely missed during the holiday vacation. Her father had forgotten to mention one crucial detail: it was a formal event. “Yeah. They talked about that for a while. Michelle’s father looked confused and almost hurt. you're going to wear the same thing you do to your office every day. when he answered that he had no idea it was such a big deal.enough.

but her mom was mistaken because the last time Michelle wore it was actually more like four years ago. When she held it up against her body. She . she heard her cell phone ringing from somewhere in the room. “I have nothing to wear. Michelle continued. if she had the luck to find something that would fit and be reasonably priced. It's not that Michelle didn't have any skirts or dresses.to agree.” “What about the black and white dress that you wore a couple years ago? It looked so pretty on you. Great. They're going to have to go back to the mall two days before Christmas.” her mother said. She just wanted to scream! Just then. Michelle thought. What a freaking nightmare! There were always the small boutiques in town. She had definitely grown since she was 12 years old. but she couldn't locate it. And the black and white dress was completely out of the question. The black and white dress was really nice. not even shoes. She was sweating and frustrated. and bundled like dirty laundry. Michelle stood in front of her closet. her feet surrounded by the different dresses turned inside out. it looked like a little kid’s outfit. but they were mostly cottony summery types.

and she always got that little blush when she was really happy. and had a wonderful date like James who not only got Samantha a corsage but also gave her a matching bouquet of flowers.” Michelle said to Samantha. and why she had the clothes on the floor to begin with. Michelle wished that she could have been there too. but to no avail. Michelle was happy for Samantha. Michelle dove towards her closet and pretty much belly-flopped onto the pile of clothes that was lying on the floor. if she didn't pick it up right then and there it was going to be sent off to voicemail. Although Samantha was sympathetic. She answered just in time. Samantha wondered why Michelle was out of breath. Like a star athlete. what she really wanted to talk about was the winter formal. In fact. Naturally. under her pillow.” . and Michelle explained to her how the phone was lost under the clothes. “That's wonderful. “You're lucky to have such a nice guy like James.frantically searched in her bed. right down to the kind of punch they served. The phone rang its last rotation. she could imagine her smiling from cheek to cheek. Of course. she burst with enthusiasm telling Michelle every little detail of the night. then under the bed. It was Samantha. triumphantly emerging with phone in hand.

The girls made plans to meet the next morning for an early walk and then Michelle . When Samantha asked Michelle what she had been up to. She knew Michelle well enough to pick up on when there was something bothering her. I think it's from being sick you know. “I just spaced out a little bit. and instead of answering there was a moment of uncomfortable silence that lasted a little bit too long. what's wrong?” Samantha asked sounding sincerely concerned. Michelle would tell her whatever she needed to when the time was right. Michelle was holding something back. You know exactly what I meant. nothing. Michelle had to think of something.” Samantha wasn't buying it.” Michelle giggled while holding the cell phone a few inches away from her ear. Michelle felt conflicted as to what to tell her. I didn't mean it like that. It didn't sound like Michelle was in one of her contemplative moods. and recognized that trying to pry information out of her was a losing battle. “Michelle.” she answered. okay. But she also knew how stubborn Michelle could be. “Okay. she was sure of it.Samantha immediately yelled back at Michelle that she shouldn't forget that James was lucky to have someone like her. “Oh.

and it was difficult to get them to reach the second floor. but eventually she came across a small cactus garden and gathered a few pebbles from there. but it was beautifully sunny and warm out. Michelle realized that she had made a mistake by accepting Samantha's invitation. The weatherman had said that there was a 68% chance of precipitation. After hanging up. Michelle had a pretty good aim.was going to join Samantha's family for a late breakfast. she’d have to eat fast. They were very light. so Michelle set out to find small pebbles to get the job done right. but when no one answered she went to the side yard and began throwing the little prickly round seeds that collected under the maple trees at Samantha’s bedroom window. The next morning was nicer than what was expected. because she and her mom were going to have to go back to the mall to try and get something to wear for that stupid dinner. and hit . Oh well. She was actually surprised at how hard it was to find any sort of rocks or gravel around Samantha's yard. Michelle knocked on Samantha’s door as quietly as possible so she wouldn’t wake up the rest of the household. she thought.

A few minutes later. so much so that they began sweating. I don't know. The girls started their walk slowly. “Actually I left my cell at home. they were fast-walking. who was a nurse.” she added. Samantha was at the front door and immediately gave Michelle a big hug.Samantha's bedroom window on her first try. But once they realized that they broke out sweating within a couple of minutes. told Samantha that jogging was actually quite traumatic to the joints and the knees. Michelle . Samantha appeared at the window and motioned to her that she was coming downstairs. “Oh. I've seen it done in the movies so many times that I thought I should give it a try. not teenagers. It was something that older people did. and that fast-walking would burn the same amount of calories and give her the right cardio exercise that she was looking for. About a year ago Samantha's mom. “Why didn't you just text me?” Samantha asked. they decided to forget about what they looked like to other people.” Michelle answered jokingly. Eventually. When the girls first began their fast-walking activities they felt very selfconscious and uncomfortable because from the outside it looked kind of silly. but every few minutes they added speed to their gait.

When they got back to Samantha's house. waiting for . I know! I have the best idea. Samantha's mom was very impressed by the fact that both Michelle and her mother had the courage to face the crowds and parking nightmare at the shopping mall. Samantha felt a little guilty because she had almost completely forgotten about Michelle's wardrobe dilemma. Michelle devoured breakfast. “Michelle you've got to say yes!” She squealed.” Both Michelle and Samantha's mother looked at her peculiarly. Michelle was lamenting over that reality when Samantha became extremely excited and started jumping up and down yelling.thought that was very mature of them. and wondered what it was about food tasting different in somebody else's house when it's the exact same food she had at home. and for her not to take that as an insult. It would be perfect!” Samantha was smiling proudly. and it's not a traditional prom dress. “Why don't you borrow my blue dress from the formal? I know you love it just as much as I do. “I know. That's how excited she was about the formal that it took up most of her thought processes. waiting to hear this extraordinary idea. Michelle told her that she would have to eat-and-run style during breakfast.

to walk in there looking like some scratched-up alley cat. Just at that moment.” Michelle’s mom warned through the bathroom door. and in all honesty she wished she could remain in there and just skip the evening completely. by far. “Ouch!” she winced as she cut herself shaving her leg. The dress was so beautiful and so elegant and delicate that she doubted that she would let Samantha borrow it if it was hers. Samantha arrived to help her do her hair and makeup. I’m coming out. Samantha was a better person than she was. “Fine.” she yelled. It’s already 4:45. I wish I filled out the dress . She was finally able to stop the bleeding when another knock on the door alerted her that she was running late. She didn’t even think about that dress. Michelle was still in the shower. But that's why she loved Samantha. annoyed. Michelle was in shock. hurry up. “Michelle. Why oh why did she have to shave her legs? She hated it. let alone that Samantha would let her borrow it. “It fits you perfectly. Luckily it was above her knee so the dress would cover it up.Michelle's response. as she marched into her bedroom wrapped up in her large striped towel. That’s the last thing she needed.

right. and a hint of mauve rose blush.” Samantha said.” Samantha looked at Michelle sideways. Some parts were longer then others. and sometimes that felt tight depending on the time of the month. “You have no idea what a pain it is to find a good fitting bra.” Michelle answered.” “Oh. . Unless one looked real close it was hardly noticeable. At sixteen. The final touch was a delicate white gold chain with the tiniest teardrop diamond ever seen by man. admiring Michelle’s ample décolletage. Michelle already wore a size C bra cup. it continued down. She was now almost ready. widening to just below the hips where layers of blue fabric attached to create the skirt. but later she would grow to appreciate her body. and Michelle was ready.like that. that’s what gave the dress a sense of weightlessness. Just the tiniest amount of natural lip liner with a layer of darker gloss on top. the pain. giving it an irregular hemline. Her mom told her that she might be complaining about her ‘assets’ now. Spare me. “Yeah. But that was all the dress needed. since the top bodice was fitted and had tiny blue beads lining the chiffon fabric attached to the sweetheart neckline. Although the bodice fit tightly around the waist.

Michelle caught a view of her mom’s profile in the rear view mirror. I hardly noticed it until now. and so young. In the car. even though she hated it when he talked like that. Michelle thought to herself. and then the huge reveal.When Michelle’s father saw her descend down the stairs he broke out in a huge smile and helped her down the last two steps because she looked like she was struggling with Samantha’s high heels.” He said offering his hand for her to grab. it was so cheesy. She looked so beautiful. Michelle. The . The trees that lined the private drive were twinkling with white and yellow Christmas lights. What a beautiful woman you have become. “You look amazing. It was a stunning property with its own private driveway leading up the hill to the house. the entire place was magnificently decorated for the holidays. Michelle blushed and thanked her father for the compliment. sitting in the back seat and listening to more holiday music. Mayor Janice Riesely owned one of the most beautiful and largest homes in all Willow’s Creek. Michelle hoped that she would look like that when she grew up. That evening. a creamy white Victorian surrounded by beautiful gardens.

doorways and window frames. Huge red bows were tied on the banisters to greet the guests as they walked up the steps. Michelle had never seen such a vast array of red and green ties in . she immediately scanned the food and couldn't believe the tremendous assortment of dishes and desserts so beautifully displayed. although it was hard for her to tell them apart as most of the men were wearing the same type of suits in the same shades of black. She walked around the rooms. Once inside. Her father introduced her to many people there. Although she wasn't too hungry. All it needed was some snow she thought. noticing that many of the familiar pieces of furniture had been removed in order to make space for narrow serving tables that hugged the walls. Michelle marveled at the transformation that the home had undergone for the holidays. that would definitely be a Christmas miracle around here. emphasizing the classical outline of its gables. Michelle couldn't help but smile. seeing the house in all its glory. From the tall rooftop and rafters hung hundreds of twinkling icicles that went all the way around the house. but of course. yellow and red Christmas lights.house was glowing with white.

but the combination of all of them together amounted to a smell similar to that of rotting flowers left in a vase for too long. Yuck! “Hi Michelle.” Michelle said in the same tone of voice. . When her parents got into a conversation with a nice elderly couple.” an unfriendly voice said behind her. and fretting about the time was just going to make it pass that much slower. Michelle had completely forgotten that Bethany's mom was the president or second-in-command of some Rotary Club. she thought as she scrutinized the guests. She was tired of the old folks asking her jokingly if she were single. returning the unfriendly gesture. she thought to herself? She needed to relax because it was going to be a long night. some were nice. it was Bethany.her life. and she had also had enough of the different scents of perfumes that followed some of the women. her parents being an exception as they were only in their 40s. It’s not that they all smelled bad. how could she space that. Of course she was going to be there. Most of them were in their 50s and 60s. Now what. she took that cue to slip away and wander around by herself. She turned around. Michelle also quickly concluded that she was the youngest person there by far. “Hi Bethany.

Thank God for fathers.” Bethany answered. “Yeah. helping herself to a hors d'oeuvre that a server had just offered them.” An evil smile spread across Bethany’s face. “Well. and he was tall. When she was ready to rejoin the party. because the first . Michelle thought to herself. who lifted her hand and gave her a fake wave goodbye. locked herself in.” Michelle wasn't sure if Bethany was buying it. What a bitch. As soon as she could get away.“Nice dress. She had to come up with a reply. that's very nice of you.” Michelle answered. “I saw one just like it at the formal. Her father swooped in at just the right moment and whisked Michelle away to introduce her to some more important people. She looked back at Bethany. It was a man. she freshened up her lipgloss and exited the bathroom only to bump into the next person trying to enter. Michelle rushed up the stairs to the powder room. She needed to clue Samantha in on her story about the dress and she needed emotional support. “I let Samantha borrow it because I was too sick to go. it is. and quickly. Michelle thought. and dialed her cell phone immediately.” Bethany said.

which only embarrassed her even more. “I seem to be running into you everywhere I go. wouldn't you say. She looked at him but couldn't say anything. She slowly looked up to be shocked one more time. said she was sorry. She blushed out of sheer surprise. and the palms of her hands were already sweating. and Mayor Riesely walked out of it carrying some papers with Michelle’s father right behind her.” he said with a smile. Queen Nefertiti. Quite a strange coincidence. and tried to get out of the situation without looking up to see who it was. and her heart accordingly began to beat rapidly. At that point another door opened just up the hallway from where they were standing. he said something back to her in a voice that she had heard before. Xander took a step backwards to let her step out of the bathroom. but not far enough that she could get away completely. she wondered. But before she could squeeze herself out of the uncomfortable position. or just on Halloween night? Michelle could instantly feel her body temperature rising.thing Michelle saw was two buttons of his waistcoat neatly fastened. Michelle was trapped. it was Xander. Was he talking about seeing her at the mall. When she saw Xander and Michelle standing there she .

The only thing she prayed for was that Xander wouldn’t mention the accident. “Actually. we were just about to introduce ourselves. Michelle Andrews. Michelle shook Xander’s hand knowing full well that he would feel how clammy it was.” said Michelle’s father. there was no escaping now. “Do let me do the honors. Councilman Andrews’ daughter. and I assure you that I have heard nothing but praise for you. Michelle had to keep up the charade. “Nice to meet you.” Xander replied.” “Xander is the Regent of the new school. warm smile.smiled and walked up to them. Most lovely and unusual shades of blue. “Michelle this is Mr. De Costa. and this is Michelle Andrews. “I see you two have already met. .” the Mayor said. I have had the pleasure of spending much time in your father’s company these last few months. Xander De Costa. May I compliment you on that beautiful dress you are wearing. Michelle could think of nothing other than how much longer would she have to stand there. Xander looked deep into Michelle’s eyes and played right along.” said the mayor with a wide.

Downstairs. Was there a possibility that he had already told her father about the near-accident? And if he didn’t. he had known him for months. Maybe it was time for her to find somewhere else to pace.“Wow. Michelle eventually pried herself out of the uncomfortable situation. that’s really great.. would he now? Why did Xander give her that look? Like he knew what she was thinking? Why did he pretend he had never met her? She was going to go crazy if she continued going over these questions. And some of the party guests were beginning to stare at her. angry that that’s all she could come up with.” she answered. . she found herself pacing back and forth. Michelle found herself in a room where there was a full service bar with a bartender.. considering every possible outcome of that chance meeting. immediately biting her lower lip. She was definitely too young to order a drink. Xander knew her dad. but not before Mayor Riesely had taken a photo of her standing in between Xander and her father. so she gave the bartender a quick glance and headed towards another table that featured all the other beverages. even worse.

Michelle acted more fascinated than she really was.There was an older lady standing there. Francesca was petite. and her lips were beautifully lined and rouged with a pinkish hue. reaching into her purse and pulling out a beautiful glass crystal bottle with a . and they fit beautifully with Francesca’s smile. they had a spark in them. but for some reason she liked this lady. The eggnog didn’t look particularly appetizing to her right then and there. but she could still remember being a little girl playing in that exact house with the children that used to live there. her hair. Francesca grabbed her arm. and when she saw Michelle approach she gave her a wide smile and gestured to her to come in closer as if she had a secret to tell her.” she said. although gray. Just as she was about to take a sip. but she took one anyway so as to not hurt the old lady’s feelings. Her face was covered with wrinkly transparent skin. Michelle played along. The lady told her that her name was Francesca and that she was 93 years old. Although they were small and slightly hidden behind tired lids. who suggested that Michelle try some of the eggnog with a little whipped cream on top. But what Michelle found fascinating were her eyes. “Not like that. was shiny and beautifully curled up on top of her head.

this won’t make you an alcoholic. “Too good for mixing.silver top attached to it by a small chain. She named him ‘Crumb’. my dear. Michelle spent her time trying to fill Samantha in on the strange events that had taken place at the shopping mall and at the party. Samantha wasn’t quite sure what Michelle was getting at. Francesca replied. it’s just for the flavor. then whispered. smiling. She agreed that Xander was a bit . Besides.” Christmas that year was small and quiet at the Andrews family home. Before Michelle could protest. and he spent his time terrorizing her room and sleeping soundly next to her during the nights. The main highlight was Michelle getting a kitten from her parents.” she said. During the few days between Christmas and New Years. Just very old sour grapes. but at my age I have to enjoy things. “Mmm… Cuvee 1888. Can’t take them to the grave. although sneaking around and drinking it by yourself definitely will. She opened up the bottle and smelled its contents.” She poured some into her drink and gestured to Michelle to bring her glass so she could pour some in it also. “Don’t worry young lady.

James and Samantha agreed to go also. Michelle wasn’t satisfied. wouldn’t you be?” In terms of the boys at the mall and the one with the strange eyes. Michelle told him all about it too. she couldn’t really comment since she wasn’t there and she reminded Michelle that she was running a fever when she saw them. after all. but that was most likely due to the fact that he was a foreigner. If no one was going to believe her then she needed more proof.” Samantha replied. She told Michelle that she was not to leave any door unlocked in the . He was even more of a skeptic than Sam. She overheard Xander tell someone at the party that the students were going to move into the school on January 1st . Since word had gotten out that the new students were moving in to the n new school. “He obviously had an accent. “and he was shaken up the night of the ‘near’ car accident.strange. If things really were completely normal then she must be going crazy. Michelle’s mom was no exception. she thought. the little town was up in arms and nervous all over again. she’ll go spy on the situation. When James came over to hang out with Samantha. And just to humor her. Perfect.

So she quickly raided Toby’s closet for some oversized camos. Maybe Samantha had a point about not wanting to be seen. While they waited. Michelle’s mom pulled up into the driveway returning from her morning gym routine. but he called to say that he was running late. Michelle took one look at her and busted out laughing. and argued that Michelle should dress the same. because nothing was going to stop her from checking out the happenings at the school. The girls waited for him down in the front yard. She saw the girls and approached them. Which meant that Michelle was going to directly defy the new rules. and she also forbade her from going beyond their backyard into the woods. boots. she looked at the girls as if seeing them for the first time. going on about New Year’s Resolutions and how the gym was so packed that she couldn’t find a place to park for 30 minutes. James was supposed to meet up with them at Michelle’s. that the alarm system had to be on during the day. On the first of the year Samantha showed up at Michelle’s house wearing khakis. Once she finished ranting. and carrying binoculars.house no matter what time it was. She wanted to know why they were dressed . a hat. But Samantha wasn’t having any of it.

They quickly devised a plan to sneak across the neighbor’s yard. then they would have to make their way back on foot without attracting too much attention. After Samantha found a semi-hidden parking . We thought for our New Year’s Resolution that we should do something that had to do with nature. “Bird watching?” Michelle’s mother was really confused.” Michelle told Samantha after her mom went indoors. “Those are Sam’s mother’s bird watching binoculars. “She wasn’t supposed to be here yet. completely straight-faced. Samantha was ready with a perfect answer.” Samantha added.” “And get more exercise. Now they had the dilemma of walking out from the backyard without alerting Michelle’s mother.” Michelle replied.like that. but first Samantha would have to drive them away in order to hide the car up the street. and why was Samantha carrying binoculars. Samantha texted James and told him to park at her house and start walking towards Michelle’s.” she said. “Yes. and they would meet him on the way. “We are going bird watching.

spot on the shaded side of the street. she didn't set this up. But as he got closer they heard another voice. They saw James’ car drive past. Someone was with him. Michelle thought. They guessed that he was on the cell phone. because when the guys finally spotted them in their commando-style outfits they both took a step back and looked at one another. complemented.” Samantha said.” James said. sad. Michelle immediately turned around to face Samantha with an accusatory look. It was Tim. excited. This was exciting and fun. but all she had to do was look at Samantha's shock to realize that no. the girls waited behind another overgrown hedge. looking at his own clothes. or pissed off. “I guess I misunderstood the seriousness of this mission. they heard James’ voice as he was approaching. So many feelings and thoughts went through Michelle’s mind within a second: was she happy. Michelle thought. she must look like . they should do stuff like that more often. confused. A few moments later. “I hope jeans and a hoodie will do. “He should be here in two. and why should she even care at all? Michelle and Samantha were not the only ones that were shocked. right?” That's right.

yet she was still swimming in them. She avoided looking at Tim. Even Michelle was asking herself why she was so upset.a complete fool in her brother’s huge camouflage outfit. It was definitely uncomfortable and somebody had to break the silence. Michelle. we thought you ladies might need a little extra protection from these strange creatures in the new school. and he had just invited him to tag along. “Hey Sam. and that was quite obvious to all of them. “Besides. Michelle was still avoiding his eyes. James explained that he and Tim had been shooting hoops. she was embarrassed that . now completely confused at Michelle’s level of anger. Michelle exploded with anger. “Hey Tim.” Tim added teasingly.” James said. The answer came to her as soon as she finished the thought. It's not like there was much to do over winter break. “What brings you here?” she the asked with sarcasm.” Tim said. She had been forced to roll up the pant legs and the sleeves.” Samantha said in her cheeriest voice possible. “You told him! How dare you?” she yelled at James. “I didn't know it was meant to be secret.

Tim took a few steps forward and made his way to Michelle's side. looking at Tim for the first time. Once in the woods they spoke only in whispers.” Michelle said. they heard a loud crunching sound up ahead of them and they immediately stopped in their tracks. and Michelle pointed out that it was . They stood there listening and they heard it again. Suddenly. It was obvious that nobody had been home for a while. Every once in a while Tim would try to catch up with her. There were stacks of rolled up newspapers leaning against the door of Michelle's neighbor's house. “Fine. They heard the sound one more time. The four of them crossed through the neighbor's backyard without a problem and were in the woods in no time. but when Michelle felt he was in her periphery she would walk even faster. “But from now on nobody talks about this to anybody. Then she felt even angrier with herself for caring what Tim thought to begin with.Tim might think she's insane. she did feel a little safer with him there so she didn't say anything. As much as she didn't want to admit it to herself. Michelle was leading the way with the three of them directly behind her. nobody!” she added.

” Michelle said out of pure determination. Michelle.” Tim said. just stand here by myself?” Sam protested not wanting to wait alone. they reached the premises wall. and then they saw a deer emerging from the woods and crossing the path in front of them with a small fawn in tow. After another few minutes. James and I are going to go check it out. “What am I supposed to do. None of them could breathe. Samantha followed Michelle’s train of thought. It stood roughly nine feet high. The whole thing was starting to remind her of jail walls. stay here. They all burst out laughing. and she could sense that Michelle was having second thoughts. Floodlights? That was not a good sign. releasing all the tension of the last half hour. There was a movement not too far ahead. they heard more of the sound and it was getting closer.more to the left rather than up ahead of them. “We don’t have to do this. “I'm coming too. like the ones around San Quentin. Michelle wasn’t sure what she should say. Michelle noticed right away that tall floodlights had also been erected since she had last been there. taking the lead. . Just then. “Girls.” she said quietly.

Why did he have to be such the leadertype.” Samantha said. “The lights are not only pointing to the inside of the wall. “Lets do this. James wasn’t sure yet.” Michelle said. “Ladies and gent’s. right? I say we take a quick look and then get the hell out of here. arguing that the lights wouldn’t have been installed if there weren’t problems with the students escaping. but they’re also pointing in our direction. “Yes. but the glare Samantha gave him helped him to make up his mind. “You two thought it was a serious enough matter to wear concealing outfits. to the woods. “Who’s for or against it?” Samantha immediately announced that she was against climbing up there.” she asked. in proof that he did think for himself. what do you say?” Tim turned towards Michelle.because she was stuck midway between doubt and determination.” She was no coward. “but I’m not going up . They gave her some space to think. and why did he have to be so handsome? Tim gave her the confidence she needed to continue. Michelle thought. and we have already come this far. “Fine.” James added. “How about a vote.” Tim said.

Michelle used her arm strength to pull herself up. James did the same. Just in case she did fall.there. She asked for Samantha’s binoculars to get a closer look. She carefully stood up on the . Tim climbed up on the wall too. but there wasn’t one. So Tim held his hands together to give Michelle a place to set her foot on. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. There were another two figures off to the side talking. she rested her elbows on top of the wall and surveyed the scene. ready in case Michelle fell in their direction. James and Samantha were standing under the tree as well. noting the less then adequate circumference of the branches. she thought. Michelle needed a better angle. Michelle argued that if she stood on them for a few seconds she would be fine. To the left there were two large moving trucks with several figures unloading items and carrying them in the direction of the building. so she decided that she could stand on one of the tree limbs that were arching over into the property. and once Michelle was propped up. directly underneath.” Tim said.” Michelle and Tim searched for a good spot to climb up the wall. and Michelle suspected that one of them was Xander because of the lengthy and slim silhouette.

no problem. He struggled to see better himself and inched up looking in the direction of the trucks. Michelle immediately recognized the faces as the same ones from the mall.” said James. These were large pieces.branch. very nice wood and upholstery.” Michelle continued. “They’re lifting huge pieces by themselves. I mean. “They’re carrying furniture.” Michelle answered.” “I could do that. “No. with one arm holding on to a branch above it.” Tim boasted. One guy was carrying a whole couch above his head. Another had a huge wooden table. “What is it?” Samantha wanted to know. but what she thought was odd was the way they were carrying the furniture. “That’s not too surprising. “Wow. nothing out of the ordinary. With the other hand she held the binoculars against her eyes. yet each person was carrying one item at a time. they are moving in.” she said in shock. when he saw someone lifting a decent-sized armchair. Michelle switched her view towards the standing . with no help. The guys were moving in boxes after boxes.

alarmed at the tone of her voice. but righted herself. I thought I saw something but I didn’t.” Michelle answered. What was she supposed to tell them. The other guy must have stepped out of view. he was holding a sheet of paper that obviously had a list of some sort and he was crossing things off as each item went past him. But just as she turned to head down. she caught sight of another armchair being carried out of the truck. “Holy mother of…” she whispered.figures. that she had seen the very same armchair before in her dream. “What is it?” James asked. She was right about Xander. she felt frustrated. The branch underneath Michelle began making light cracking sounds and everyone agreed that it was time for her to come down. on the beach? Another crack from the branch and Tim ordered her to come down before she hurt herself. She brought the binoculars to her eyes again and now Xander was alone. “Nothing. When she recognized the other person as the boy with the strange blue eyes she almost lost her balance. But at the same moment the boy with the strange eyes walked back out into her field . the one that had a pearl on it.

sending her straight down. Light brown hair with streaks of golden blonde fell in waves framing his face. and large eyes with thick dark lashes under dark brows. but it all happened just a little too fast. Suddenly. Tim reached to grab her. masculine and not too thin or turned up. Was that possible? Could he be looking at her. he looked like those Greek or Roman statues she had seen on the History Channel. Michelle was on the other side of the wall. with golden green emanating from the pupils. Michelle ignored Tim and continued looking. huge.of view and was standing in a perfect position for her to get a good look at his face. his eyes rose to look right at her. fixated. Way beyond handsome. strong jaw line and full lips that seemed almost rosy. She felt bewitched. It was too late. a perfect straight nose. and she was in pain. could he really see her so far up in the tree? She wondered. but in that same split second the branch underneath her gave out. Samantha gasped. he was beautiful. My God. Michelle gave out a cry as she fell past. blue. He was perfection. Only he wasn’t white or cold like marble. he was like one of them had come to life. she thought. . He was looking into her eyes through the binoculars. trying to grab his reaching arms.

so she had to keep all her weight on just the right leg. She wasn’t sure that standing up on her legs was a good idea.” Tim said. I’m going to lower myself down and grab her. You hold my legs. But the pain was very sharp. but trying to take charge. but she also felt embarrassed and scared. it had to be the left. Tim began pulling. She painfully raised it while she tried to use the muscles in her right leg to push herself upwards. Tim assured her that if she just put one leg against the wall he would do the rest and pull her up. visibly shaken. She was almost to a point where Tim could reach down and grab her from under her . and anyway she would be more conspicuous then. Samantha was crying on the other side of the wall. She had no choice. Michelle looked up at him. So she crab-crawled over to the wall and reached out to Tim’s arms. Michelle felt the pain. Both James and Samantha held on to Tim’s legs as he leaned forward with his arms outstretched.Michelle was on the ground massaging her left leg while quietly whimpering to herself. While holding on to him she began to raise herself up. “James. and eventually stood. and without a word understood the plan. encouraging her to take just one more step.

Frustrated and sad. “Hurry up. I’m begging. I’m not going to leave you here alone.” “No.” she pointed to a bush on her right. .” he pleaded. But it was too late. get out of here. “And get Sam and James out of here. “I’ll get myself out later. “Come on Michelle. “Go!” Michelle yelled at him.” James said from down below.” But Michelle was exhausted and in even more pain.” Michelle pleaded with her eyes and Tim could see that she was not going to change her mind. I’ll hide over there. Please.” Tim said. “You guys go on. This was my plan. “Quick. Tim looked shocked and pained. let’s do this before they come around. It wasn’t easy using his arm strength to hold up a person who was pulling away from him. still begging for her to reach out to him. but just then a loud siren started blaring. the deafening sound had startled Michelle so badly that she jerked away from Tim rather than towards him. he straightened himself up and started lowering himself down the other side. Unfortunately. Tim stretched over as far as he could.arms. Michelle was back on the ground. It’s not worth all of us getting in trouble.

She was afraid they would hear her breathing. “We can’t just leave her. As the men got closer she recognized one as Xander. Her leg was still hurting. biting her lower lip to avoid making any sound. “Run!” Samantha. “It seems the alarm was tripped here at this segment. but she held her own. Tim and James looked at each other in shame and confusion when they heard Michelle yelling at them.” Xander was speaking in a low voice. especially after falling to the ground a second time. Once out of breath. Michelle was well hidden between some bushes when she saw two figures. well actually just their legs. I promise. He .“We’ll be back.” he said before his face disappeared behind the wall. but not the one he was talking to. The alarm had been turned off and suddenly it was amazingly quiet.” Then they heard other voices from beyond the wall and instinctively took off running into the woods. Michelle was already crawling towards the large bush when she called out to them. “What do we do?” Samantha asked. approaching the area. each of them found a large tree to hide behind. still crying.

There was no way she had heard what she thought she heard. “Too fuzzy to see the faces. He was also very handsome with a sharp angled face that was pale but not sickly. Three of them. Elliot… nice. and his shiny jet-black hair was cut short with a few strands hanging down across his right eye. Michelle thought to herself. Michelle couldn’t believe the conversation that was taking place mere inches away from her. like a warrior she thought.moved towards the wall and looked at a section of fine wire sticking out of a small groove.” Haneul said while looking straight into the wall as if he could actually see through it. The other person sounded younger. It was the Asian guy she saw at the mall. “What do you think. Xander told Haneul that he was going to send Elliot over and walked away. So that’s his name. Michelle could see their faces clearly. From that angle. “No. A few seconds later the guy with the blue eyes appeared. She tried to follow him with her eyes as he walked but Elliot was already standing up on .” he continued. His eyes were fierce. and he moved closer to examine the tiny wire. I can see them running. Haneul? Is it a malfunction? Did it just fall out?” Xander asked.

” Elliot answered. It’s the same girl. both of them looking towards the woods. but Michelle couldn’t hear them from where she was. I’m sure of it.” Elliot declared with satisfaction. Before Michelle had the time to digest what she saw. don’t call the cops. Can you imagine if she had actually crashed into . How the heck could he have seen what they looked like? Didn’t they run away like she told them to? “Yes. “She was the one driving the car on Halloween. “Should we call the authorities and let them deal with the intruders?” asked Haneul. No. while Elliot stood there thinking. “Yes.top of the wall. they were back on the ground. Elliot said that he didn’t recognize the two boys. but that the girl’s face looked familiar. He didn’t jump or climb. Xander told me about it. Haneul was standing next to Elliot. Michelle was praying silently. Haneul looked distraught. I remember now. And in another instant. but also very confused at the situation unfolding in front of her. They were talking to one another. “Which one?” Haneul inquired. it looked like he just took two steps and walked right up. Michelle was scared for her friends.

how did he recognize her face? They had only spoken to Xander. “They got their scare. if he had recognized Samantha. it was way too dark. Curious I guess.” “You’re right. but there was no way that that he could have seen Samantha’s face from all the way up there. If Elliot was talking about Halloween night while Samantha was driving. They are just kids. Elliot finally spoke. what a great first impression we would have made. We don’t want an investigation. Elliot was silent again. The police would have to come here and take down all the details. Then Michelle had a scarier thought.you? The whole town would be involved and we haven’t even moved in yet. Michelle didn’t understand. maybe on a dare. They won’t be coming back. “We shouldn’t call the cops. that will only prolong all of this. then surely he would recognize her as well.” Haneul exclaimed. Who knows what they do for fun these days. The less they see of us the better. He was thinking. and then the kids’ parents would undoubtedly get involved. Maybe it was Elliot she saw up at the road. But then she remembered that he had gone back to the car to talk to somebody else. There’s nothing . Even though it would have been her fault.” added Haneul.

here that they saw that should pique their interest. just a school. I’m going back to help the others. It was bad enough that she had been separated from her friends and almost gotten them in trouble. She was mortified. Then Elliot spoke… “So. It was bad enough seeing people on top of walls who didn’t belong there.” Haneul left while Elliot lingered around the area for a while. Michelle slowly crawled from under the bush. She even prayed to whatever gods were out there to forgive her foolishness and promised not to ever do anything so stupid ever again. She tried to will him away with her mind. She was so busted. and beyond puzzled. He went back to the wall and replaced the alarm wire into its proper groove. how do you plan on extricating yourself from this situation. He then turned and walked directly to the bush where Michelle was hiding. . and now the boy that she had been unable to erase from her mind was standing above her and calling her by name. Michelle?” Michelle was completely stunned. her face burning red. He stood there while Michelle’s heart was racing to the point where it was getting hard for her to breathe at all. and others looking through them.

and he crouched down and carefully rolled up her pants leg. the most beautiful guy on earth was actually touching her. The pain was no longer sharp. Michelle immediately began feeling a warm sensation like a dull electrical current running up her leg. he quickly pulled Michelle up to her feet. more determined. jumping back in fear. His face softened. He closed them. like a long blink. It will get better if you rest it.Elliot looked down at her in disapproval and his eyes looked as if a shadow passed behind them. avoiding her eyes. “Yeah? But what did you do to me? Why does it feel better?” she asked. . and seeing that the path was clear. Elliot found the injury and placed his hand on the area where the pain was most severe.” was all he said. He looked over his shoulder to see if anybody else was coming in their direction. She instantly bent her left leg wincing in pain. Michelle just stood there frozen because despite her pain. It transferred to her spine and all the way up to the back of her neck. more like a dull ache. “What did you do?” she said. and when he opened them again they were back to their ordinary brilliant blue. “It’s not broken.

there were flickers of aqua and gold emanating from his corneas just like the blue glass from the ornament. We moved here to have peace and quiet. “You are on private property.” . the outcome of this situation will be out of my hands. If they find you here. but you already knew that. “You come here breaking the law and start asking me questions? You should just say ‘thank you’ and leave. Michelle saw his eyes spark. but Elliot continued. But I’m willing to let you go back to your friends.” Michelle began to say something that sounded almost like an apology. It was obvious that Elliot’s anger was growing. That will only make matters worse for both of us. I can call the cops and have you reported. “The longer you stay on these premises. When Elliot noticed Michelle’s fearful expression.Elliot stood up in annoyance. He lowered his voice. he blinked again and his eyes cleared. “You are not to come here and disturb us again.” Elliot was staring right at her. the greater the chance that the rest of the students will come out here. and this is what we have to deal with?” “What is this place? What sort of a school is this? And how did you know my name?” Michelle couldn’t help but interrupt him.

“But…” Michelle tried to interrupt again. she was not listening.” he said as he got close to her face. She was to say nothing of meeting him. “Are you guys on steroids or something?” Michelle said. Elliot continued on. She couldn’t. She was entranced by waves of something she couldn’t describe emanating from his body to hers. He told her that her only option was to listen to him and leave. Elliot let out a small laugh and Michelle couldn’t help but think that he had the most amazing intoxicating smile. When their fingers touched she felt even more . And that peculiar scent that she had picked up on at the mall was in the air again.” Although Michelle heard the words he said. Just trust me when I say that no good can come out of you snooping around here. nor tell anyone else what she saw because no one was going to believe her anyway. She smiled too. Elliot made a sudden move backwards and Michelle felt like she woke up from some heavenly dream. quizzing. which she did while still smiling. He would help her climb back up over the wall and into the woods. “Listen.” he said while walking to the wall and stretching his hand for her to grab. “Come now. “I am trying to help you.

“Goodbye. She smiled at him and slowly began walking backwards. Elliot replied that he had no idea what she was talking about. but all Michelle could do was look up at him in amazement. holding on to her until she was safely on the ground. and then he was going to push her upwards. “Go!” he commanded.mesmerized than before. He eventually pushed Michelle high enough to where she could straddle on top of the wall. pointing in the direction of the woods.” he said. Elliot crouched in front of the wall and told her to use his shoulders as a platform to put her feet on. He reached for her arms. She wanted to sit there on the wall with him forever. Michelle. She didn’t move. Michelle didn’t want to leave. Elliot looked at her more seriously. and with amazing strength he turned her body around and began lowering her down slowly. . “Aren’t you going to just help me walk straight up the wall like you did with your friend?” telling him that she had already seen him and Haneul just somehow step up there. He then jumped and pulled himself up to sit by her side. but Michelle could see that it was hard for him to take that tone of voice with her. As Michelle put her first foot on his shoulder she asked.

it was as if she was walking against a force that was pushing her towards him. or from Elliot. “This is not the end of this. the strange euphoric feeling that she had felt whilst next to Elliot subsided. only she was the metal and Elliot a powerful magnet. When she was about twenty feet away she turned back to see Elliot standing on top of the wall. What should she say? She didn’t want to walk away from the wall. Up ahead. she heard Tim and Samantha call her name. realizing that he was not going to say anything else to her. and Michelle reluctantly turned around. you know!” she shouted back at him right before he disappeared from her view. Michelle wondered? She started walking a little faster towards her home and with each step she took. He was facing away from her and was obviously about to jump back onto the school grounds. She was going to make sure of it.While doing so she felt the oddest sensation. It was like pulling a metal object away from a magnet. . Did he hear her. He pointed to the woods again. She knew that it would not be the last time that she would see him.


Even at home. and also on the house phone. while Samantha was worried that Michelle might have hit her head when she fell over the school wall. Michelle went through her days repeating her regular routine. but her mind was somewhere else. She rarely called her friends back. On many occasions. nobody knew where she was during recess. Michelle would often wake up from a daze during the daytime and then wonder what she had . Tim called her regularly on the cell. or shaking her head when something negative was discussed. and she hardly talked to her parents. and when she did hang out she merely went through the motions of participating. She ate less. That was what everybody noticed. but she didn’t want to talk and if she took any of the calls she was uninterested and short. By mid-January school was back in full swing. Laughing when a joke was told.Chapter 4 Michelle changed. Her parents attributed her mood transformation to boy problems. she spent hours in her room.

especially not her own judgment. She just couldn’t trust anything anymore. She questioned what they had taught her at school and what she had learned at home and on her own. He . Alone. She wanted to ask him many questions. although she doubted she’d believe him if he had any answers. Why did she question everything in the world including her own existence? Why did she feel so all-alone in this state of ‘lostness’? She wondered if anyone else out there had seen what she had and felt the way she did? She wanted to seek Elliot out and ask him directly. She questioned everything that she had known until then. and that maybe a therapist intervention would be a step in the right direction towards normalcy. She seriously contemplated telling her parents that she might be going insane. She spent hours trying to reconcile the things she had seen at the school with her own eyes against everything she knew about the laws of science and nature. she thought about Elliot. Michelle wondered why this was happening to her.just been doing. The only comfort she took was in her little cat Crumb. But she also thought about other things. that she held on to as if he alone understood her. Most of the time.

Michelle thought Tim .knew that there were many strange things out there in the world. “Did you remember to make a wish?” Rachael asked once they had finished devouring almost the entire cake between them. also stopped by to wish her a happy birthday. especially since she had already bought the dress. It was a complete shock when on Friday the 22nd of January during lunchtime Samantha. everybody that came out the door hung around until the girls finished singing and a blushing Michelle blew out the candles. who was still cute and now definitely single. and he promised to love her even if she was taken away in a straitjacket. He and Bethany were history. THAT Michelle had remembered. he had told Michelle during one of their short phone conversations. let alone leave Bethany without a date for the formal. and that wish started with an ‘E’. Anna and Rachael surprised her by singing “Happy Birthday” outside her classroom. He explained that they had made so many holiday plans that it just seemed wrong to pull out of the relationship right then. holding a cake. Of course. When Michelle’s birthday came around she didn’t even remember it. Tim.

Unfortunately. and it was to be untouchable unless she closed the account. but back then it was for that exact reason that Michelle had been forced to put up a wall of protection against having her feelings hurt by him. She tried to will herself not to. A car would be great. For her birthday. but nothing helped. She knew that what she wanted was a guy’s complete and total attention. But even then her mom could see that there was something on her daughter’s mind that was taking a toll on her. she thanked them. Michelle’s parents surprised her by starting a savings account towards her first car. There was something about Elliot that she didn’t find in Tim. For her actual birthday. nothing less. they had made dinner reservations for the three of . She didn’t want to find herself in a situation where Tim was ping-ponging between her and Bethany. They deposited $1500 into it.was a gentleman for doing that. Michelle had just lost all interest. which was on the 23rd. She had a little more pride in herself than that. Everyone was convinced that Tim liked her and that although he hadn’t asked her out yet he was definitely planning to. and she couldn’t put her finger on exactly what that was.

“It just seems so loud and busy. “Zis is for zee Andrews’ reservation?” he asked in a most disdained French accent. especially on her birthdays.” she said. As they drove past it there was a line of people waiting to get in. Her father called up the restaurant and asked the surprised and slightly rude host to cancel the reservation. stifling a laugh. goodnight to you too sir.” “Oh?” said her mother. “Yes. But it was Michelle’s birthday and it was her choice.” They all laughed. and Michelle fought to come up with a good reason. Yes. “My daughter is allergic to French cuisine. .them at a posh new restaurant in town. not with the entire town.” her father said. “I was looking forward to spending time with you. even Michelle. and the sight of so much commotion made Michelle shrink in her own skin. Her mother caught her looking sad from the rearview mirror of the car. trying to conceal her disappointment as she had held on to the reservations for over three weeks. “What is it dear? Don’t tell me you’re getting the birthday blues at your age?” she asked.

She also didn’t seem to care too much that Valentine’s Day was just around the corner. They settled into their favorite faux-green leather booth and didn’t need to specify an order because the waitress. Michelle was actually very content chewing on the sourdough pizza crust. off to the left she noticed two people in one of the rear booths. Michelle reached for her soda and took a large gulp. A group of people entered the restaurant and . she thought to herself. It couldn’t be! What were the chances? Xander was there. ‘Little Napoli’. Who cares what people think at school.The family ended up at their favorite pizza place. They were almost hidden by a shadow that was cast by the arched ceiling and it took her eyes a couple of seconds to make out their faces. and across from him sat someone who was animatedly explaining something. from the corner of her eye. It was a place that they had been going to ever since Toby was a baby. It had been a while since she had felt this peaceful. she mused to herself. already knew their ‘regular’. sitting at the small wooden table facing towards the front. marveling how a simple slice of pizza can usually do the trick. the owner’s daughter. but just as she was about to set it back down on the table.

Xander and Elliot were. she felt overwhelmed. and could see her own breath in the night air. she could breathe at last. and he had no intention of making small talk with any of them. She had thought about seeing Elliot again so many times but when it came to that becoming reality. but it was too late because that person had already turned to see what Xander was looking at. he seized the perfect opportunity to sneak away. Back in the restaurant. Her parents were talking about God knows what. but for her it felt cool and refreshing.when Xander looked up out of habit to see who it was. and that was to get up and leave the scene. his eyes settled on Michelle staring back at him. Michelle did what her instincts told her. When he saw Michelle run off like a frightened rabbit. A second later they were both staring at Michelle. He knew that he would have to pass by Michelle and her family when he and Xander were ready to leave. Outside. so when she swiftly rose from her seat and told them that she needed some fresh air. It was that cold. they didn’t think anything of it. Elliot felt trapped. He tried nonchalantly to return his gaze back to his companion. although Xander was taken aback by .

but all he could muster up was that he didn’t like the food. “All of it?” she asked in surprise. we didn’t even get halfway through dinner?” Xander asked. as the waitress went to get them their change. The waitress returned with Elliot’s change and he told her to just keep it.” Elliot said. holding her breath. she immediately ducked into the adjacent alleyway and stooped behind a commercial trash bin.his erratic behavior. Elliot searched for a way to explain himself.” Xander replied. But Elliot was already on his feet and heading towards the door. scanning Elliot’s face to try and comprehend his state of mind. Xander laughed. but they were already gone. “But I haven’t seen you act like this in a long time. Elliot turned around to face Xander and he was obviously disturbed. When she peeked around the corner she saw Xander pulling at Elliot’s jacket to stop him mid-step. “There is nothing to talk about. . looking at the thirty-three dollars in her hand. “Why. When Michelle saw Elliot and Xander emerge from the restaurant.

” “She was there on Halloween!” Elliot said more urgently.” Elliot knew he wasn’t making sense. Nothing more. Unless there’s something else you’re not telling me.” Elliot said. “We’ll have to be more careful when we plan our outings. less patiently.” Elliot was not satisfied. so in a lower voice he told Xander that he didn’t like the company. “You mean at the mall. that’s all. confused. . Xander was puzzled. Please. “So what? So were the other two girls. “The Andrews girl? She’s a nice kid.” “But there’s no possible way she saw anything tonight or that night. “That’s not what I’m talking about. You’re just being overly analytical.” Xander answered. to raise suspicions. Just a young woman looking at some young men. during the holidays? She just glanced in our direction.“We’ve eaten here three times and suddenly you don’t like the food? I think that’s the worst lie you’ve come up with yet.” Xander said. like you haven’t seen that happen before. and none of them saw you. I don’t see the problem.

That night.” “Somewhat.” Michelle said. “Maybe we should eat in more often. She wondered if Elliot hated her. she emerged from the alleyway and stood at the front of the restaurant for a few seconds. trying to remember the exact words of the conversation she had just heard. “It must be the new setting. and walked back inside. faking her best smile possible.putting his arm around Elliot’s shoulder. Michelle couldn’t sleep at all. “not seeing anything that . as they crossed the street and got into the Thunderbird. But before she could put any of it into a logical form. she actually worried about that a lot.” “You’re right. her mother peeked her head from inside the doorway and asked her if she was all right. I guess I am being somewhat paranoid. “Yes Mom.” Elliot looked at Xander thoughtfully and agreed. even to say hello? What did Xander mean about. When Michelle heard their car pull away from the curb. She was going around and around in her head thinking about everything she had overheard. Why did he not want to see her at all. She didn’t even try.” Xander said laughing.

he was always there in the background of her every move and thought. The savings account her parents had started had motivated her to earn more so she could buy her own car by summertime. not just for her schoolwork. she thought before falling asleep. or that he had helped her escape. when she also needed time to study and do homework. She would have to find a way. But Michelle assured them that she would make sure to find a job that gave her the flexibility. She must talk to him again.night”? What was she supposed to not see? She wondered why Elliot didn’t tell Xander about busting her on the school grounds. Elliot and she shared something that no one else knew about. What was his reason for keeping their meeting hush-hush? Michelle reflected that whatever the reason was. She needed time. posted her name and phone number and the hours she . Her parents worried about the time commitment a job would require. they had their own secret. For the next few weeks. Michelle scoured the internet want-ads. like finding a way to see Elliot again. but also for other necessities. it was most likely a good sign. Michelle was busy trying to find a job. She couldn’t stop conjuring up his image.

Most of . Michelle fit right in with everyone else that worked at the market. they gave her some extra leniency. schedule the weekly afternoon deliveries. everyone knew who she was because of her ‘famous’ father. and she was ready to give up on the whole car thing. Michelle enjoyed her job.was willing to work in every public place she could think of. it was much friendlier and warmer then the big-box food conglomerates. Of course. but it was better than nothing. Since the store was small and independent. and developed a rapport with many of the regular clients. and occasionally even go out with the driver to help. The pay wasn’t great. Fridays she would take the orders for the following week. and even asked her father to ask around. and since she was also the youngest person working there. and she was hired to help with food deliveries from the local grocery store. For about a week nothing happened. But her luck changed midway through the second week. Her job was to take orders from clients. and on Mondays and Tuesdays she would help with collecting the items for the deliveries and call the clients to confirm that they would be home. It seemed to be pretty basic stuff. and she only had to come in three times a week.

personally choosing their fruits and vegetables to make sure they got the best stuff. and the rest were regular people that were just too busy to shop.” the client joked back. Michelle received an unusually large order. Michelle could recognize most of them over the phone. A few private chefs ordered food for entire households. “almost. Michelle was her naturally friendly self and joked that it sounded like they were about to feed an army. the answer she got was an answer to her prayers. but there were other clients as well.them were older folks who didn’t drive much.” When Michelle asked him for the usual name and delivery address. The client said to put it under Mr. Bianchetti. “Yes. and she even got a beautiful thank-you card for great service from sweet Mrs. When these special clients phoned in their orders she would take extra care with their produce list. It was a new client who ordered multiples of many items. One particular Friday. Michelle nearly dropped the phone out of shock and excitement. “Are you still there?” the . Xander De Costa’s name and to have the delivery made to the Hekademos Learning Center at #84 Argos Vela Way. In less than a month.

Kahl. trying to steady her voice.voice asked when Michelle didn’t respond. Michelle was so thrilled and excited that she could feel the physical manifestations radiating warmth throughout her body. Michelle just couldn’t believe her luck. giving her the number. This was her chance. And I will need a phone number to confirm the delivery. When she got home she couldn’t remember anything that had happened before or after the phone call. as if hugging it was somehow hugging him. Afterwards. At dinnertime. she mustn’t blow it. she had no appetite at all.” the voice answered. She held the piece of paper up against her heart. “Who am I speaking to? For our records of course. she sat at the desk unable to do much of anything but fantasize about seeing Elliot again. She now had in her hand a piece of paper with Elliot’s home phone number written on it.” she answered. and she escaped to her room as soon as she could.” she said before hanging up the phone. She couldn’t fall asleep no matter how hard . I’m here.” “This is Kahl. “Yes. “Thank you.

to see him again. and eventually she was forced to call Samantha to get a word or two of support. but Samantha hadn’t even seen Elliot to be able to judge if Michelle’s excitement was warranted. When Tuesday finally rolled around. She eventually settled on a jumper type black cotton dress with a black and beige fine lace long sleeve . Samantha had no idea what Michelle was talking about. Michelle spent her whole weekend trying to come up with a good reason to give her boss as to why she needed to ride along on Tuesday’s afternoon deliveries. She knew that that might get her in trouble. By the time she left for school she had tried on three different outfits that didn’t make the cut. The best she could come up with was a white lie about some school report. She had fallen asleep extra late. At first. and woken up extra early. but in her mind everything was justified. because not only had she omitted certain details about her meeting with Elliot behind the school wall. Michelle was worn out because she had expended way too much energy in planning what to wear and what to say to Elliot when and if she saw him.she tried. she needed. She wanted.

Meyers was the markets’ owner’s son.tunic underneath.” “He is.” Michelle replied. He told Michelle that he enjoyed having someone ride along with him. Mr. closed the door. She was putting on an extra layer of lip-gloss when Mr. “You look perfectly pretty. Michelle hopped into the passenger seat of the delivery van. and had pictures of the baby hanging from every possible space in the van. When Samantha pulled up in front of Michelle’s driveway she whistled at her. I hope he’s really worth it. Meyers climbed in next to her and asked if she was ready. smiling. “Wow!” Samantha exclaimed. “Look at you. black tights and knee high taupe leather boots. and immediately reached for her compact mirror. He was a nice man in his 50s who had just gotten his first grandchild. and then secretly crossed her fingers. After helping Mr. Meyers pack the groceries into cardboard boxes. Otherwise he would be listening to talk radio and getting upset over the politics of the .” he said to her.

Michelle met many of the clients that she had gotten to know on the phone. and complimented her manners on the telephone.” Michelle answered. but Mr. and that they would have to pass on that great opportunity.country. because the one at #84 Argos Vela was going to take some time to unload. but her mind was racing 200 miles per hour and it wasn’t about politics. The massive . Bianchetti’s quaint little cottage. Michelle promised that she would. Mr. Meyers told her how busy they were. The drive to #84 Argos Vela Way was one of the longest that Michelle had ever been on in her life. Meyers in for afternoon tea and cookies. Meyers looked at her and asked if she was all right. Before they left. Michelle was surprised to see the elder lady that she had met at the Christmas party at the mayor’s house. “Just a chill. They made the smaller deliveries first. She tried to invite both Michelle and Mr. Francesca recognized her immediately. and when they stopped by Mrs. Michelle made an effort to look interested in the conversation. Francesca held Michelle’s hands and asked her to come back again. When they pulled up in front of the giant iron gates she just about panicked.

gates to Hekademos Learning Center opened automatically. She heard more voices coming from the right side around the building. Meyers was talking to someone at the front door of the school. I am Michelle. Meyers drove in. I’m Kahl. she recognized him from the mall. she thought. and was surprised to learn that she was trembling from excitement. She decided to step out. stretching out his hand. and parked. shaking his hand. She tried to focus in on their faces to see if Elliot was there. He had been there with Xander. Kahl had a smile that could melt the heart of an ice queen. right?” “Yes. “Hi. His white teeth lay perfectly in the . Mr. By the time she shut the van door.” he said. and she leaned over to see a group of young men playing basketball.” she said. On closer inspection. He got out of the van and headed to the front patio and up to the large beautifully carved wooden door. but she didn’t see him. unable to decide whether she should step out and join him or stay put. She turned her attention back to Mr. “We spoke on Friday. She must stop that right away. Meyers. she was sure of it. and Mr. Michelle was still seated in the van. how embarrassing. we did. He was walking back towards her with the guy from the front door.

Michelle thought. including the one that was similar to the one she saw in her dream. There were also many paintings hanging on the walls. she couldn’t even begin to guess. Everything felt expensive. a sparkle similar to that of a freshly sharpened lead pencil. there was a door that opened up to a large office where a heavyset table dominated most of the room. and they sparkled in the sunlight.middle of his dimpled cheeks. Michelle wanted . His features were delicate and tranquil. Some were obviously wall sculptures. To the left. and the hallway led to a spacious room with great high ceilings and exposed wood beams. He had dark skin. The place didn’t look like a school at all. but that was all that Michelle could see while walking. It was a huge living room with three leather couches. they looked like the real stuff but Michelle was no expert. Other curious items were displayed here and there. two coffee-style tables and several armchairs. museum expensive. but the others. They continued on. but of a shade that Michelle had never seen before. Kahl led them through the front door of the school to show them where the kitchen and pantry were located. They walked down a long hallway. so they could have been reproductions. his eyes were a shade of gray.

she had to represent. Instead of regular school desks. The room was also large and it had a blackboard. The kitchen was very large and warm in design.to ask Kahl where did they get all these things. The walls parallel to the length of the table were covered in beautiful frescos. Michelle thought. there was a seating area with double glass doors that led to an outdoors patio. The doors were wide open. It smelled so good in there. and Michelle could still hear the guys playing basketball outside. They didn’t even use that at her school. not the hospital/jail design that seemed to be the preferable fashion at most schools these days. Kahl led them back to the kitchen and pantry. On the right. there was a humongously long dark wooden table surrounded by at least 12 chairs. and why did they have such a living room at a school to begin with? But she was there as a professional. and it looked like someone was already working on dinner. It had a Tuscan ‘old-world’ feel to it. Michelle wished her classrooms looked like that. typical of California wine-country style. Michelle savored the scent of whatever was cooking. There were double doors at the far end of the living room that opened up to a classroom. .

Michelle already felt wrong. and they were going to have to be stacked up carefully with the produce on top. It’s not ready yet. She had a couple of minutes because there were plenty of boxes in the van. As soon as she heard Kahl and Mr. Kahl pointed to the bathroom door just outside the kitchen.“What is that?” Michelle couldn’t help but ask. she stepped out of the bathroom and began scanning the fascinating bits and pieces that made up the living room decor. and she was ashamed of even thinking about it. She knew that what she was about to do was called ‘snooping’. to the left under the stairs that led to the second story rooms and balcony. Meyers step outside. Michelle was used to good cooking since her mother was an avid foody. Meyers headed back to the van to stack up the boxes on the dolly while Michelle excused herself to use the restroom. but she wondered where one went to get goat meat. that’s a goat stew I have been working on. and the spices were ones that she could not recognize. “Oh. Kahl and Mr. it’s for tomorrow. But Michelle made a couple of mistakes in her assessment of the .” Kahl laughed.

it would answer a lot of questions that she had about Elliot. She then began inspecting some of the artwork hanging on the walls. and since Elliot was nowhere to be seen. But what were they studying? Who were these so-called students? Michelle knew that if she could find out something about the students. They must have their files here. Since she hadn’t seen Xander's Thunderbird parked outside. she had assumed that Xander was out. picking up books from the coffee tables. she thought.situation. he must be out with him. and considering that this was a private school. others were in Italian. Michelle thought. much to her disappointment of course. Some were in English. Nothing wrong with that. it should come as no surprise if it happens to be a private school for the wealthy. maybe in the office? Michelle looked down the hallway in that direction . Michelle circulated the living room. and some were in other languages that she had never even seen before. So they liked old things. They were not those cheap laser printed reproductions on canvases that were found everywhere. she realized after carefully touching them. Those were definitely oil paints. She also mistook the quietness in the house to mean that she was the only one there.

with a small base. They were on their way. It had a rounded midsection that looked like a bead. She looked back down the hall and saw daylight coming in as the front door swung open. The bottle was made out of the exact same blue green glass as the small oval disk that she had kept from the broken ornament.but she could already hear the straining wheels of the dollies rolling on the asphalt driveway. She took out her cell phone from her pocket and focused the camera on the vase. It couldn’t be. as she moved closer to the niche. and a flared rim. Michelle had three seconds at most to snap the . Next to it was an object that looked like a glass dropper of some sort. tall neck. and was wrapped with what seemed to be a thin gold wire. Michelle wanted to compare it to the glass disk she had at home. long slender-body. She didn't have enough time. Just then. But it was. It was about three inches tall. beautiful and unusually shaped. she thought. What were the chances that they would ever let her in here again? She had a great idea. but how would she ever get it here? That would be next to impossible. her eyes settled on a small arched niche with a beautiful vase displayed prominently.

She was terrified. “What do you think you're doing?” Elliot yelled straight in her face. practically burning a hole through her. he let go and Michelle stumbled backwards. “How dare you come here and start snooping around?” Michelle tried to mutter that she wasn't snooping and that she was there because of work. or to ask him where the heck did he show up from. materialized out of nothingness.photo and return to the bathroom area. but also because she never even saw him coming towards her. to tell Elliot that she was just taking an innocent photo. Michelle let out a scream. It was like he came out of thin air. only to see Elliot. Michelle couldn't decide what was more important. Her index finger had barely touched the button to snap the shutter when she instantly felt a sharp pain in her wrist and saw her cell phone flying out of her hand through the air and crashing on the tile floor. He was gripping her wrist tightly. Realizing he was still holding her by the wrist. shattering the viewscreen. She was clearly losing her mind. unable to get one word out of her mouth. So she just stood there in shock. Elliot yelled again. . his eyes blazing in anger. She turned to look at her aching wrist. not only because of the anger that Elliot displayed.

just not at Michelle. Meyers immediately asked Michelle if she was all right. Meyers rushed into the living room to see what all the commotion was about. Kahl and Mr. She looked at him completely bewildered.but he interrupted her again. It was obvious that Elliot didn’t feel comfortable with the way she was looking at him. only this time it was to ask if her wrist was okay because he saw that she was still clutching it. just like in her dream. the one she had sensed when she passed him by at the mall. indicating the seriousness of the situation. anywhere. All Michelle could do was look at Elliot. “What?” Michelle said in complete disbelief. She was finally able to recognize it. It was the smell of the sea. Then there was that smell again. Just then. Mr. Kahl looked at Michelle with an expression that read somewhere between inquiry and disappointment. and in the next he was asking her if she was all right. . because he started shifting his body and tried to look elsewhere. When Elliot saw Kahl he gave him a quick look. and when he helped her get back over the school wall. of fresh sea mist. her mouth wide open with awe. She was beyond confused. One moment he was hurting her and screaming in her face.

pointing towards the niche. pleading at Mr. Elliot looked at Michelle quizzing. I was just…” Michelle looked at her cell phone lying on the floor.. She . no. have something like that at home?” Elliot laughed out loud. “I wasn't trying to do anything bad.” “You. and that’s the absolute truth. so she gave up on the disk and tried to save whatever face she still had. “She was picking up things that don't belong to her.” Elliot said accusingly. but Michelle read his expression to mean disbelief. and countered in a voice that ended up being a little too loud. her voice shaking. “She was snooping around. “I just wanted to compare it to something I have at home. I’m telling the truth. “I'm sorry.” Michelle didn't let him finish his sentence. Meyers. “Yes. “It’s not like I was going to touch it or steal it. Michelle felt her cheeks burning.” she said..“No she's not all right. it’s this little thing.” Elliot said.” she said while illustrating the shape of the glass disk with her fingers. and then had the nerve to try and photograph that vase over there. and. I swear.” Michelle said.

” “What are you talking about?” Elliot asked. The expression on his face did nothing to hide his alarm and confusion at seeing all of them quietly .then mumbled quietly but still loud enough so they could all hear. He shook his head. know one another?” he asked. “unlike some people around here. Then they each backtracked their answers. Michelle answering “yes” and Elliot saying “no”. coming down the hallway. Elliot looked disappointed. “Do you two. I mean. Just then. “Are you trying to suggest that I’m lying about something?” “No. too fearful to look at his face. nobody said anything for quite some time. with Michelle saying “no” and Elliot answering “yes”. It was so quiet that Michelle felt that she would suffocate under the sheer weight of the atmosphere unless somebody broke the silence. Both Elliot and Michelle answered at one time. After that.” Michelle answered. yes. they all heard the front door shut and the four of them turned to watch. He looked at Elliot. you haven’t been totally honest either. then back to Michelle. Kahl looked the most confused out of any of them. as Xander appeared.

his thoughts millions of miles away. and she was representing his business. ashamed. He hated her. and most likely fired from her first job as well. Mr. She glanced up at Elliot. put his hands on her shoulders and quietly asked her to go wait for him in the van. Michelle walked down the long hallway and considered that she might be having a nightmare. who’s eyes were glowing like blue fire. If only she would wake up and . He wondered if he should feel sorry for the girl and maybe walk her out.staring back at him. a horrible dream. She was hopeless. but he looked away. Meyers knew who Xander was. but then decided to focus his attention on Elliot. belittled. She was behaving erratically and unprofessionally. he just quietly stepped out of the way to let her pass by. she thought. How could things have gotten so out of control so quickly? How could she be so stupid to do the things she does? Michelle bent down to pick up her broken cell phone. Michelle was his employee. and realized that he had to take control and salvage the situation. Michelle fought to hold back her tears. Xander didn't say anything as Michelle headed down the hall towards the door. She felt so embarrassed. He walked over to Michelle.

realizing that if by some miracle she hadn’t lost her job already. Mr. Michelle tried to explain that she didn't have a relationship with Elliot. but he just smiled and told her that at his age he was an expert in relationships. “I’m not lying! And he knows it!” she shouted back at them. and would do the same if she were in his shoes. She knew her intentions. and told Mr. And with that thought in mind her naturally stubborn streak refused to let her walk away quietly in defeat. Meyers looked at her sympathetically and said that she needed to learn not to let her personal relationships influence the way she conducted herself at work. When she got home that evening she ran upstairs to her room and locked the door behind her. She had held herself together even after being told that she was dismissed from her position. She apologized profusely. She was obviously fired she thought. With a shred of dignity salvaged. Meyers that she completely understood. and she knew she was telling the truth. she surely would after that. she pulled the door shut behind her. After all. he had been .have none of this be true. she had nothing left to lose. Michelle felt as crushed as her cell phone.

“I. The last thing she wanted her parents to know was that she had any involvement with the students at the new school. although her father didn't seem convinced that that was the best thing to do. He had never heard his daughter cry like that. They would be upset and her mom would freak out. took a few deep breaths. I just need some. and then burst out crying. Michelle thanked him. He even offered to give her another chance. guaranteed. that's how loud she was crying. time alone. Her father's voice sounded equally distressed when he told her that if she needed to talk they could talk about anything. it scared him. asking if she was okay. Michelle leaned back against it. She was practically heaving.married for 37 years.” is what Michelle tried to say. But Michelle's .” Her parents gave her the privacy she needed. perhaps she could come back in the summer. and in a very discreet manner asked him not to tell her father. With the bedroom door locked. but it was no use. but instead it sounded like “I'm oh oh k k eyy”. She heard her parents run up the stairs and she tried to quiet down her sobs. She heard her mom knocking quietly on the door. “I'm okay.

She skipped breakfast just like she had dinner the night before. When Michelle woke up it was to the sound of her alarm clock beeping. her little friend who she didn't need to speak to or explain anything to. not just emotionally but also physically. Michelle felt awful. He was with her no matter what she felt like. Those were the pangs of the heart. The alarm clock kept on beeping and even Crumb was sitting up alert. She recognized those cries. the kind that only a girl could experience. She had no choice but to smile. Her rib cage was tight and her throat felt raw. his face mere inches away from hers. with his long whiskers tickling her nose. There he was. If she did. She gathered Crumb up against her chest and turned the alarm off. She wanted to hide from herself. she would have to face another day. and managed to leave the house without anyone noticing her.mom knew better. All she wanted was to hide beneath her blankets. and she didn't want to. She also knew that somewhere in-between the weeping and the gasping. a boy’s name hung onto every tear. Michelle eventually opened her eyes to tiny little slits and immediately saw large kitty eyes staring right back at her. She didn't want to open her eyes. She was too .

and she was pretending to care.embarrassed to face her parents after crying like that. That was history. It took Samantha less than a second to recognize that Michelle had been crying. Yet somewhere out in the real world there was a person who could appear out of thin air. and had eyes that glowed like the ocean currents. Michelle had no choice but to tell her parents that she was taking a “break” from work. Michelle actually asked to be left alone. as she herself still wasn't sure what exactly had happened. But she also didn't know what to tell them. By Friday afternoon. . practically fantasy. During recess. It made Samantha feel sad. walk up walls. that her friend shut her out rather than confide in her. Michelle's eyes were bloodshot. School life didn't feel real for Michelle anymore. There she was in US History class talking about the Boston Tea Party and worrying about remembering all the important names and dates when in fact none of that mattered anymore. She eluded her mother’s gaze when asked if this so-called ‘break’ was a personal choice.

if you ever need to talk about this or anything else. Michelle was 17 now. you know you can come to me.” her mom said. “Yes. always. She was studying the US states from a map and thought about the old-looking map that hung in a glass frame on the hallway wall next to . she knew that she had raised Michelle well enough. Michelle gave her a tired smile. “Mom. She was doing her Italian homework and remembered the books written in Italian that she had leafed through at the Hekademos.” That was a good enough answer for her mother.Michelle was no fool. She trusted her. it wasn't anything real bad. Michelle was grateful for that. “I can go back this summer if I want. she knew that her mother knew that she had been fired. She also knew that her mother knew that she knew. I just need to figure out things for me.” Michelle said quietly. and she was going to let her work out her own problems. but had chosen to let it slide. “Michelle.” Although Michelle spent most of the weekend studying and listening to music upstairs in her room. I know mom. it seemed that everything reminded her of what had happened on Tuesday.

Michelle needed to keep her mind occupied or else it wandered to places where she didn't want it to go. Michelle helped her mom with the regular housekeeping and then went outside and helped her dad clear some of the mulch and dead leaves that had collected in and around the gutters. While they were discussing the subject. Later on. if they could afford it of course. she helped her mom fold laundry in her parents’ bedroom. Michelle had never been there. and she thought about Elliot. It was driving her crazy. but that was pretty much the extent of her connection with the ‘old country’. she had never thought much about it. Several times a year they would get a Christmas card or a letter from her great aunt. and every time it did it kept hurting her again. she went downstairs to ask her mother if she needed help with anything. When she couldn't take it anymore.the office. her mother happened to be folding a pair of Michelle's . Michelle stayed pretty quiet while her mom talked about maybe taking a trip to Hungary that summer. and even the odd phone call once in a while. and although she was of Hungarian descent through her mother's side. Some stupid 80’s song on the radio talked about “secrets that you keep”.

“I found it years ago when we first bought this house. Michelle thought.” . One of the Christmas ornaments broke while I was hanging it and I threw the other pieces away. I completely forgot about this. “Mom.” her mother said. no not the backyard. the only one I ever made. her mom didn't seem upset or disturbed. Both Michelle and her mom followed the item with their eyes and watched it spin and eventually settle by the wall. When she shook them out. in the woods behind it. something fell out of the pocket and rolled across the floor. “it's yours if you want it. but to my disappointment they told me that it was just glass.” To Michelle's relief. “This old thing?” she said. while looking at it up against the sunlight that was coming through the window. I kept this little piece because I thought it was really pretty. and I used it on that one. I found it in the backyard. I wasn’t too gifted with threedimensional forms.jeans. handing the disc back to Michelle. she immediately knew what it was and went after it. At first I thought it was a gemstone and I took it to a couple of jewelry stores. Shoot. I thought it was pretty and I had this great idea about making homemade ornaments. I hope you don't mind. Here. She took the little disk between her fingers and smiled.

If there was a photo in the cell’s memory. it's up to you. She wasn't sure if she was glad or sad that it was back in her possession. The more time she spent looking at the disc. But her mother stopped her. she had no way to view it. there she was thinking about the whole thing all over again. after Michelle put her clean laundry away she sat on her bed and examined the little glass disk more closely. Her memory had served her right. It reminded her of everything she was trying to forget. Anyway. something malicious. she thought. It did however look strikingly similar to the material that the vase was made out of. Roman glass to be exact. She was angry at Elliot. but the screen on her phone was now completely dead.” Back upstairs in her room. “Maybe you shouldn't carry it in your pocket. And it . Michelle wished that she had succeeded in taking a photo of the vase that day. Great.Michelle was about to put the glass disk back in her pocket because the last thing she wanted to do was look at it. I think I recall that at one point somebody told me they thought it looked like ancient glass. the angrier she got. Angry that he had accused her of doing something bad. but I doubt that very much.

After all. An envelope. Every day after school Michelle sat at her desk in her room with the intention of doing her homework. especially in light of the fact that she had kept her word when he had asked her not to tell anyone about their previous meeting. He had made her look like a complete fool. His actions were completely rude and uncalled for. he was a complete jerk. good-looking or not. She was looking for something. it rained that entire week. California. wrapped the little blue disk in a sheet of binder paper and inserted it into the envelope. After a while. Michelle was fuming. She just didn't care anymore. opening every drawer and shuffling items from one place to another. She sat down at her desk. With great satisfaction she found what she was looking for. Willow’s Creek. Who cares what he thought about her.was entirely his fault that she had lost her job. Although it was mid-March. Michelle got up from her bed and went to her desk. like a liar or a thief. he lived on the same street as she did: #84 Argos Vela Way. That's all she wrote on the envelope. but she spent most of the time just . She had no problem remembering the address. without any means to defend herself. using a thick black marker.

as the girls were going to study together for an upcoming algebra test. ordering herself to stop thinking about him because she didn't care.staring at the different patterns the raindrops created on her window. Samantha was on her way. Michelle welcomed the company. and wondering if Elliot ever received the glass disk she sent. She tried to convince herself again and again that it was just curiosity. She battled herself inside her mind. . “Not yet. Samantha was worried. But no matter how many times Michelle smiled and tried to act normal. maybe she'd finally get something done. nothing more. Michelle’s cell phone rang and although the screen was still broken she knew it was Samantha because she had assigned that ringtone to her only. Michelle had yet to tell her what had happened at the new school.” Michelle sighed and closed her eyes. she had only hinted that things didn't go too well. They ended up having a great study session and they both felt ready and satisfied with themselves. “Do you think you'll ever be able to tell me what happened?” Sam asked. Samantha knew her way too well.

Samantha accepted since her mom was doing a night shift anyway. Bianchetti was the great granddaughter of one of the original families that had settled in Willow’s Creek. and said that she shouldn't worry about calling ahead because she was always home. She asked if Michelle could stop by her house on one of the coming afternoons. After dinner. She had been surprised and quite sad that Michelle was no longer working at the market. Michelle's father told her that he had received a phone call at the office from Mrs. Mom?” Michelle asked. From what her father understood. Michelle shook her head. Bianchetti. Her father said that she did mention something about the garden. She had no idea what this was all about.There was a knock on the slightly opened bedroom door. “What do you think. “Did you tell her that you would help her in the yard?” he asked. and Michelle's mom popped her head in and asked if Samantha would like to stay for dinner. Mrs. Her mother suggested that the woman could just be . “I wonder what she wants?” Michelle asked.

It got full sunlight from every direction. She told me so herself at the Christmas party. Bianchetti’s front entry. she heard the delicate sound of a small wind chime hanging above her on the pergola. Spring was still weeks away but unlike her own house that was shaded by numerous tall trees. Bianchetti didn't have any family at all “She did seem to like you an awful lot. this garden had no such hindrances. amazed at the beautiful garden that seemed to be in full bloom. As she shut the gate. She turned around and headed towards Mrs. or perhaps Mrs. she thought to herself as she opened the old iron gate and entered the yard. Michelle waved goodbye to Samantha and watched the little bug pull away from the curb and disappear up the road. It was such a cute place. and you'd probably be doing her a great favor if you stopped by. She said that many older people have families that live far away.” Samantha offered to drop Michelle off on the way home from school.lonely and in want of some company. She headed down the walkway. Michelle walked down the gray and white pebbled pathway that parted a . I'm sure there’s nothing to worry about.

She tried the door but it was locked. Oh no. what if something had happened to Francesca? That thought sprang her into action. and she quickly made her way around to the back of the house. It had thick white stucco walls and a small front porch where an old fashioned metal chair sat next to a matching table. but when nobody showed up she knocked again a bit louder and looked to see if there was a bell to ring. The boards underneath Michelle’s feet creaked when she stepped up to knock. with two very white legs in old boots on the step just below the top. But just as she rounded the corner she saw a small ladder leaning up against what appeared to be a large lemon tree. Anybody home?” Michelle called out. She didn’t want to startle the poor woman. and indeed there were two long planter boxes with the familiar shrubs flanking the front door. “Hello?” she called again. she thought. The cottage itself was quaint and homey. unsure if she should just walk into the backyard. she thought. Michelle recognized the scents of lavender and rosemary. She knocked once and waited. The woman could be hard of hearing. but there wasn’t one. “Hello. .sea of flowering bushes. Once on the front steps.

Bianchetti?” Michelle said as she neared the ladder. The door led straight into a vintage kitchen that was amazingly preserved. They entered the house through the back door. Francesca pointed to a basket filled with lemons on the ground. pulling the large plump lemons from her apron pocket. which was a replica of the one in the front.” These were the most fragrant lemons that Michelle had ever smelled. They smelled of flowers and honey mixed with lemon rind. She told Michelle that she had made the .” Francesca said. She looked up to see Francesca smiling down at her. only much bigger. “It’s Miss Bianchetti. They’re very famous and the only ones used to make Limoncello. Francesca pointed to a window where a collection of different shaped bottles filled with lovely deep yellow fluid stood like little soldiers on the tiled windowsill. “I was just picking a few more. It still had grooved metal countertops around the large farm-style sink. while beautiful colorful tiles covered the other counters.” Michelle held the ladder while Francesca climbed down. “Sfusato Amalfitano. which she promptly did. off the rear deck. and asked if Michelle could help her bring them into the kitchen.“Mrs. but you call me Francesca.

“Yes. and thought that Michelle might like to have some. Michelle was touched by the generosity that the old woman showed her. Francesca said that she too used to feel like that for many years after her husband died. “You wonder why I asked you to come. She had been alone for almost 36 years now. but she would never be rude and not accept a homemade gift.first batch of Limoncello of the season. like she had seen a ghost or something. She had no idea what Limoncello was. and . Michelle smiled. and how during the holidays all she wanted to do was sleep and wait for the angel of death to come visit her. Francesca told Michelle that when she saw her at the mayor’s house she looked sad and frightened. She followed Francesca to a small sitting room and took a seat in a large cushiony armchair across from the older woman. she still wondered? Francesca answered as if she had read her mind. she was feeling exactly that. She thanked her for being so kind. because she didn’t think she had the strength to go on without her Renzo. right?” Francesca asked still smiling. telling her that at the time.” Michelle answered. She described how alone and scared she had been. especially at night. Why her.

She explained that it had to do with school and with a boy. “You are not telling the whole truth young lady. It was a black- . even though she always loved them very much. studying her face. Francesca had never had any children herself.” She waved her finger at her. Francesca looked at Michelle. Francesca asked Michelle why she was no longer working at the market and Michelle had a really hard time trying to come up with a reason that didn't sound too far-fetched. so she just told Francesca that it was so complicated that she wouldn't even know where to begin. and they both decided that they would spend their time helping the children that were already alive rather than having their own and risking the chance of losing them. She explained that her husband was traumatized after serving in the US military in both World Wars. Michelle couldn't lie to her. Michelle desperately wanted to change the subject. and although she would miss the extra income it was probably for the best. Her eyes landed on a photo on the mantle. so she looked around the room. and yet still had some element of truth in it.her only sister had died when they were just children.

thinking to herself that he did not look much older than she was. It was so many years ago. it is the same one. Francesca explained that after her husband passed away. We lived in this one. standing up to get a closer look. yet had a serious expression. “Yes. pointing to a small house in the background of the shot. “Yes. He was very handsome. lifted the photo from the mantle and began dusting it with the edge of her apron. “Is that the same house that we're in right now?” Michelle asked. pointing to a large two-story house to the left of the cottage.” Francesca sighed. that was him after he got back from France. she handed it back to Michelle. but back then we didn't live in it.and-white image of a man in uniform. she sold it and it was demolished to make way for the four new smaller houses standing there today. Michelle studied the image of the young man. I think. .” Francesca answered. Once satisfied that the picture was clean enough. it's hard to remember. Francesca followed her. Michelle was confused because there was no such house out there anymore. “Is that your husband?” Michelle asked.

” Francesca sat down on her bed and motioned to Michelle to come sit next to her.” Francesca said. Some of them she recognized because she had seen copies of them hanging at City Hall. she was fascinated by the changes. She told Michelle that she had photos of Willow’s Creek and Napa County from back when the horse-and-carriages were the popular means of transportation. Francesca laughed and said that she had many more such photos. to read the signs advertising chewing gum and soap at a small market that stood where Mr.“Wow!” Michelle was stunned at how different things looked back then. Alodia because that was the church I got married in. Meyers’ store now . At the end of the album there are also some photos from around here. follow me. to look at the people and their clothing. mostly of St. Michelle followed her into the bedroom and watched Francesca take an old photo album out of an ancient travel suitcase that sat at the foot of her bed. Michelle looked at many photos that afternoon. It was fascinating to look back at the past. “Here. some in albums and some in various boxes. “This album has many pictures.

Michelle examined the faces of the wedding guests. as most of them wore mustaches or beards and large hats. even the food they were eating. But . at the jewelry they wore. She noticed that the men back then all wore pretty much the same suits in slightly different shades. Michelle flipped the page and was now looking at photos of the reception party. and her husband so happy and proud standing next to his new wife. The photos of Francesca's wedding were straight out of a silent black-and-white movie. Francesca was a beautiful girl once. looking closely at their expressions. although he did look a bit older than her. It was hard for her to tell their ages. The whole affair looked to be very fancy and she thought to herself that the way women dress today was nowhere near as beautiful as they did back then. seeing what time had done to this very kind woman.stands. Michelle looked at the Francesca that was sitting next to her and the one looking out from the photo and a chill ran down her spine. the way their hair was pinned back. just like they do nowadays. she thought? Will she lose her looks and one day be a lonely old lady? It didn't seem fair. Would this happen to her. with the fairest blond hair curled up underneath her wedding veil.

Her eyes must be tired she thought. But no matter how many times she blinked to try and clear them. and although the image was a bit faded he seemed very familiar. Elliot was in the photo. Michelle looked closer at his face. there was no mistake. because they were obviously playing tricks on her. staring back at her from across all those years.then her eye landed on an image of a young man who did not have a mustache or a beard. .

Francesca sadly told Michelle that he could have been one of her girlfriends’ suitors or one of her husband’s military buddies. She felt bad about lying. The man was nowhere near a grave. Michelle thought. She had made her own copy of it at home and hid it safely between the pages of a book. Michelle again asked Francesca if she still couldn’t remember anything about the young man in the picture.Chapter 5 Michelle spent hours scrutinizing the old photograph that Francesca let her borrow. How wrong she was. When she went back to Francesca’s later that week. but they were all dead and buried a long time ago. but only a few miles from where they sat. but she knew the truth was much too bizarre for anyone to accept. She had told Francesca that she wanted to show the photo to her mom because she thought the gentleman in it might be a family member. How could it be possible? They were looking at a photo that was . she thanked her and returned the photo. Which would mean that the young man was most likely also gone.

Nothing made sense anymore. With that in mind. she was sure of it. She wasn’t even sure about God. magic. Who could she turn to now? Michelle felt so alone. looking exactly as he did only weeks ago. more so than ever. Michelle didn’t believe in supernatural things like demons. she had not the slightest notion as to what she was dealing with. Michelle had made arrangements to visit . The events that had taken place since Halloween night were all mounting evidence that something very strange was going on in Willow’s Creek.over 70 years old. or ghosts. and yet there was Elliot. Her friends would just think that she was crazy. It was as if she had gone down the rabbit hole and was now in Alice in Wonderland world. She was in a place where time had no meaning and where the rules of nature were reversed and perverse. the more she felt like she was losing her grip on reality. The longer Michelle stared at the photograph. and she was somehow right in the middle of it. although she hoped that there was someone watching over her and her family. There was no one. This was beyond anything her parents could fix or explain. Her teachers? She didn’t think so.

and the way that they blossomed. One afternoon. and volunteered to help her around the house whenever needed. Francesca told Michelle that she had decided to stop having food delivered to her home. Michelle wondered what the old lady had up her sleeve this time. her personality was still like that . “Why?” Michelle asked. she just might be right. even planting sometimes. Michelle helped Francesca with odds and ends in the garden. The way Michelle saw it. “Come. as both of hers had passed away. and Michelle watched her as she talked to her plants and flowers as if they could hear her. but Michelle refused. Although Francesca was 93. Francesca tried to pay her for her time. surprised. and even refilled the bird feeder that had hung empty for many years.Francesca weekly. Francesca definitely had a green thumb. She told Michelle that they did in fact hear her. One before she was born. She also helped collect more of the wonderful lemons. like raking leaves or weeding. wobbling out the back door to the yard. and the other when she was only four years old.” Francesca said. it was as if Francesca was a grandmother.

When she opened her eyes back up. but rather as a continuing adventure. A moment later Michelle heard her on the other side of the doors wrestling with what sounded like a heavy metal chain. There were no lights of any kind in the shed. although it was a struggle. Francesca was standing at the entrance smiling. to let the dust cloud pass her by. Michelle didn’t recognize the make or model. Michelle followed her to an old shed on the side of the house that looked like an old barn from a children’s picture book. while Michelle was still struggling to peer into the darkness. but eventually. what do you think?” Francesca asked. The old hinges creaked and cracked and it was obvious that they had not moved in many years.of a little girl. When the doors finally opened up a flurry of dust got sucked out of the darkness and Michelle had to close her eyes and turn away. Michelle’s eyes grew accustomed to the dark. She certainly didn’t see life as a countdown to the end. “It still . She then realized that Francesca was trying to push the doors open. “Wait here. “So. smiling as she stood in front of a small vehicle. Michelle helped her. She was very excitable and full of life.” Francesca said and disappeared behind a small side door.

but all she noticed was the unusual shape of the front grill. yet. “You do know how to drive a stick shift?” Michelle bent down in front of the car searching for a logo. a 120 or something like that. It was beyond cool or even sick. “Oh. but she hadn’t bothered with the actual license because she didn’t have a car. it’s a Jaguar 1954 Roadster. it was like a beautiful work of art. no need.” Francesca patted the car above the front wheel as if it was a horse. I start it every once in a while. So. on Saturday. She had never seen anything quite like it. at school. “If you’re wondering.” When Michelle got home she called Samantha and told her all about the car. She had already taken Driver’s Ed.runs. She asked Samantha if she could give her a couple of lessons in the VW bug since it was a stick shift. Renzo was so proud the day he brought it home brand new. We used to take it out on the weekends. The problem was that Michelle needed more practice in driving a stick shift and she also needed to pass her driver’s test. and had a certificate that let her drive if an adult was in the car. Samantha and James picked Michelle up and they drove to an abandoned lot .” Francesca laughed.

Obtaining her driver’s license kept Michelle’s mind occupied for the entire week. vampires and physically grotesque witches. She decided to turn to the local library for some answers and spent many hours there exploring picture books of old Willow’s Creek and leafing through books about the supernatural. so it was perfect because he counted as an actual adult. Michelle had passed her driver’s test and was patiently waiting for her official picture driver’s license card to arrive in the mail. She didn’t find anything in terms of old photos. James was a senior and had just turned 18. The Internet was similarly of little use. There was no way that Elliot and his friends were aliens. It was a lot of fun and there were also a few scares. There were also numerous conspiracy theories about the government putting . She found plenty of sites that reported that aliens were hiding amongst people. but once she passed that hurdle she was back to giving her full attention to the photograph and to Elliot. But the end result was that within another week.where they practiced for hours. and the other books just went on about the same tired old monsters like werewolves. She read how these aliens were physically superior to humans.

before turning out the light. When they were finally on the road it only took Michelle a couple of minutes to get use to it. The first drive in the Jaguar was a blast. . Some bloggers argued that if not for all the chemicals. both physically and mentally. It was a marvelous afternoon and Francesca was smiling from ear to ear under the sun with the top down. At least that made her feel a little better. although it still didn’t explain the old photograph. Francesca and Michelle carefully washed the car till it shone.chemicals in the drinking water to make humans weak to prevent them from living up to their full capacity. she thought while looking at it in bed once more. Michelle did find something on a site about Asian martial arts. people could be much stronger and faster. some of them just gave the thumbs-up as they drove past them. like superhumans. and their brains would be a lot more powerful. At last. a person could actually walk up walls. before taking it downtown to the market. Michelle was amazed at how many people honked and waved at them to let them know that they liked the car. Maybe it wasn’t him after all. where the writer explained that with lots of training and discipline.

Xander smiled warmly. Michelle was received warmly and she was relieved by the show of support. Michelle excused herself to the bakery next door. who in turn stuffed a couple of dollars in Michelle’s pocket and asked her to pick up some of the jellied center shortbread cookies they had. After being dismissed from her position. Michelle did not return the polite gesture. and then Mr. The last time Xander had seen her Elliot had accused her of doing something awful. While Francesca enjoyed walking up and down the aisles. Baffled by this.Once at the market. and . but only if they had strawberry because she wasn’t too crazy about the apricot ones. When Michelle entered the bakery. she had thought that she would never be able to show her face there out of pure shame. Their gazes met without delay and to Michelle’s surprise. She would be right back she told Francesca. drinking coffee and reading the local newspaper. to pick up something sweet for after dinner at home. She felt completely demoted then. Meyers asked her to leave and wait for him outside in front of everyone. she immediately saw Xander sitting at one of the wooden tables. because all she felt was shame and foreboding.

Luckily. If her lips didn’t say it. I insist. her eyes definitely did. Michelle sat down on the edge of the cold chair with one leg already . but unfortunately for Francesca. De Costa but I’m kind of in a hurry.” Michelle cut him off. they were out of the strawberry cookies. Michelle cursed the universe.” Xander said while pulling out a chair so she could sit opposite from him. Xander got up from his seat and called her by her name. Michelle turned around and reluctantly walked back to where he was standing. “Here why don’t you sit down for a…” “That’s really nice of you Mr. “Michelle. But just as she extended her arm to grab the handle. brought those feelings back up. the pie she came in for was ready to go. “For just a minute then. they were pleading for mercy. Michelle paid for her order and headed quickly en route for the door. the more likely he was to remember how pathetic she really was.” said Xander. still smiling but a bit more firmly. I am so glad to have run into you here. What were the chances that Xander would be there that afternoon? She wanted out and the longer she stood there in his view.now seeing Xander.

” “Is that so?” Xander looked at Michelle with surprise and sadness. She had nothing left to lose anymore. Xander sat back down and put both his elbows on the table.” Xander began. and confessed that she was in fact in the wrong. and I paid for it already… I got fired.” he said. Perhaps Elliot hadn’t told him about how the entire misunderstanding had unfolded. wondering if her hearing was ok. He then added that he was even more sorry now. He took a moment to collect his thoughts while Michelle sat there looking at her feet like a guilty little girl who was about to get reprimanded. but then remembered that Xander had walked in after her phone was already lying on the floor. and I’m very sorry Mr. “About that afternoon. “Look. I really am. He told her that he wanted to apologize to her for the way that Elliot had behaved. bringing his hands together as if in prayer. De Costa. and Michelle’s heart immediately sank. . “I started it. Michelle looked at Xander in surprise. just in case he got too comfortable.pointing toward the door. “I did try to take a photo of that thing on the wall. “Him apologize to me?” she asked.” Michelle admitted. to hear that.

“the boys at the school are not bad. Xander cautioned that it was better for Michelle to keep her distance from the school. Taking a photo of private property without asking is wrong. and until they get control of those drawbacks they should just be avoided. I know Elliot well enough to know that he wasn’t trying to hurt you. She told him that she didn’t think Elliot had really tried or meant to hurt her. Elliot felt quite remorseful afterwards. and overly so in certain situations. She was still going to keep her word. but it is also wrong to physically accost someone. explaining that each of the students there had unique issues that they were working on. but as men. At all costs. Elliot is a kind person.” Michelle wanted to tell Xander that she had seen Elliot’s kindness firsthand herself. but she decided against it.” Michelle couldn’t believe the words that came out of her mouth next. . or criminal in any way. Kahl told me about Elliot grabbing your wrist. even if she never saw Elliot again. I will be the first to vouch for that. we often underestimate our own strength. “You’re right Michelle. Why was she protecting him even after everything that had taken place? Still Xander maintained that Elliot was still out of line. and I myself saw the evidence of your broken phone. but as you saw they can get heated.

she didn’t believe that he felt that horrible about anything. She was.” Although Michelle has seen the more compassionate side of Elliot. I really am sorry about you losing your job. Most likely. and had taken on the role of distant grandparents to both Toby and Michelle. yet he refused. Someone called Xander’s name from behind the counter and he rose up and shook Michelle’s hand. “That’s my order. Ashland. & Mrs. The plan was to leave Thursday . Michelle wondered if Elliot had anger management issues. He’d had his chance to let her off the hook. Xander just said those things to her in order to try and clear the air. and she was just a naive girl fighting against the tide of smarter and better-informed individuals. I’m glad we got to talk and I hope you understand. Mr. quite scared by the temper he displayed. They had been good friends of Michelle’s mother’s parents. But could he have really hurt her? Maybe the town was right to reject the school. That evening when Michelle got home her parents told her that they were planning a trip down the coast to Camarillo to spend Easter Sunday with her godparents.That was why they chose to locate the school in that secluded area to begin with. after all.

Michelle’s mom just couldn’t understand why on earth Michelle was making such a big deal about staying home all weekend just to go to a small get-together with her friends. I would rather have a peaceful trip than have to sit in the car for a six hour drive with someone who doesn’t want to be there. but she had already made her own plans for the long weekend. Ron? I just don’t feel that it’s a good idea to leave her here.morning and spend the entire weekend there. It was a long car journey. Michelle. When Michelle disclosed that information to her mom the two of them went around in circles. each stating their case as to why the other should give in. Michelle’s father couldn’t take the arguing anymore and put his foot down. Michelle really did love the Ashlands. despite being one of the world’s most beautiful coasts. but this better not be about some raging party that you’re planning to have while we’re gone. For some reason . you’re old enough to stay home by yourself. Finally.” “What about that darn school.” Her mother protested immediately. They were even planning to spend a day in Catalina. “You know. or maybe you can spend the weekend with Samantha. returning by Sunday evening. her mother added excitedly.

“It’s called Hekademos Learning Center. “How do you know what it’s called? Have you been out there?” her mother asked. find a place to park. and head down steep trails to rocky . it was her territory. Mom! And they are not dangerous!” she blurted out. And they should have known better. considering where they lived. The reason that Michelle had been so adamant about staying home that weekend was something that her parents had completely overlooked. Napa. Mom! It’s no big secret…” In the end.” “Everyone knows what it’s called. Mendocino. “Ron. and Marin knew all about it. The first of April wasn’t just April Fools’ Day. Northern California and lower Oregon were known to be the best areas where the delectable and highly prized red mollusks could be found. say something. Everybody in the counties of Sonoma. She would stay home for Easter break. It was a timehonored tradition to drive up the coast. Michelle got her wish. upset. It was also the first official day of Abalone Season.Michelle couldn’t take the idea of her mom even mentioning ‘that’ school.

freezing and a popular spot for great white sharks. Everyone knew someone.outposts jutting out at the ocean’s edge. Michelle lay on her bed holding her copy of the photo and staring mesmerized at the guy who ‘sortof’ looked like Elliot. It was not a sport. The waters off the Mendocino coast were rough. unaided by any sort of scuba equipment. who knew someone else. that had told them about some secret spot. where the treasure was in abundance. A few people were going from her school. including Samantha and James. and would camp out on Wednesday night to get an early drop on all the other abalone divers that were going to show up. This year was the first time that Michelle had been invited to join an expedition somewhere near Fort Bragg. telling . She was smirking at her dimwitted self. It was an epic show of bravery to dive down into the murky freezing waters. and pry one of the giant shells off the rocks. How could she have actually believed it was him? In her other hand. They were going to be joined by a group of people from another school down south. Michelle was holding her cell phone up against her cheek. It was a hunt. Every year people died. and people mistook it for a game.

and tucked it back into the book that lay by her pillow. holding her mouth shut with his hand. Michelle was tired of the same faces and needed to know that there was something out there other than what Willow’s Creek had to offer. When Michelle rolled over and reached up to turn off her lamp. She gasped deeply out of fear. when suddenly Elliot was at her bedside. She couldn’t see who the person was because the light from the small lamp didn’t reach that side of the room. Michelle was terrified out of her wits and saw her entire life pass . she suddenly saw a person sitting in the chair by the desk. but she couldn’t read them. shook her head. After she had said her goodnights to Samantha and hung up the phone. she looked at the photo for one more second. She was about to let out a harrowing shriek. She couldn’t scream. and how eager she was that she was going to meet some new people.Samantha about how she had begged her parents to let her stay home for Easter. that were not from their school. A terrified Michelle looked straight into Elliot’s eyes. What did he want? While Michelle shook uncontrollably Elliot shined his beautiful smile at her and put his finger to his lips in the hope that she would understand his insistence that she stay quiet. meaning guys.

Michelle was left with no choice.” Elliot shook his head and whispered. This was to be her end. His hand was back against her mouth. motioning to her to stay quiet. “I’m not here to hurt you. Michelle’s eyes began to tear up. two. She nodded when she understood that he was going to remove his hand from her mouth. She had messed with the wrong guy. and now he was going to make her pay. and she should trust him? “Do you understand?” Elliot asked. She nodded again. She was sure of it now. .in front of her eyes. ok?” The blue hue of his eyes kept changing faster than Michelle’s heart beat. and Elliot slowly released his grip. “I swear. He was way too quick. You have to trust me. and three… and Michelle immediately tried to scream again but he was quicker than her. so much so that she hadn’t even seen him approach her bed from where he was sitting. She was either going to listen to what he had to say or be choked to death. but Elliot kept smiling. Elliot obviously had deep-rooted psychological problems. I just don’t want the rest of your family to here us and wake up. He counted with his fingers: one. He was going to kill her. she thought? She had some maniac with crazy eyes holding her hostage in her own bed. Why should she trust him.

She was defeated. He must have seen her look at the photo. She thought about the steps she had taken before she got into bed. “How did you get up here?” she asked in a regular voice. whispering. I didn’t want her to see me. although there was no telling if he was planning to do so later.Michelle didn’t scream this time. trying to read her thoughts through her facial expressions. I waited outside for you to come home but when you did. He had probably heard her whole conversation with Sam. your mom was out there too. she closed her eyes and took a big breath. I just wanted to talk to you alone. “I’m sorry. When she saw that Elliot wasn’t about to kill her right there and then. Did she believe him? Was she about to shout? He wasn’t sure.” were his first words. Elliot carefully sat on the bed next to her. She . “I didn’t mean to frighten you like this. but sounding stronger than before. Michelle was still in shock and her mind didn’t have enough time to comprehend the gravity of the situation. and he again reminded her that she needed to try and keep quiet. Did she undress in the bathroom or in the bedroom? Strange that she couldn’t remember such a simple thing.” Elliot looked at Michelle. “How did you get in my room?” Michelle demanded again.

Michelle couldn’t understand why somewhere deep inside her mind she was happy that he was there with her. “I walked up the stairs and slipped in before you closed the door. she just bowed her head down a bit and that was good enough for him. Michelle didn’t say anything. feeling completely dumbfounded. There’s no way.” Elliot relaxed his body a bit too much.felt violated. her voice rising loud enough to where Elliot had to tell her to keep it down yet again. “I moved quickly. she started tilting her head closer to his face and neck. She could smell fresh ocean mist and slowly. She was under his spell again. causing Michelle to jolt back against the wall. a bit annoyed. without even noticing. “Can we talk somewhere else?” he asked. “But I didn’t see you. He had her and she knew it. There was that smell again. breathing it in. Michelle thought.” he answered. She wondered what kind of after-shave. “You don’t want to wake your parents. even if she was scared to death. How did you bypass the alarm?” she asked. or do you?” Elliot asked. or was it cologne that he was .

“Sometimes it looks like I’m crying but I’m not. I’m just angry.using? Elliot got up off the bed and moved away from Michelle to the other side of the room when he saw her getting too close to him. Just then. Put everything behind us. I just moved here and I don’t want to cause any trouble. He started purring while rubbing his pudgy little furry body against Elliot’s legs. you and me. “I lost my job you know…” Tears began forming at the corners of Michelle’s eyes but she stubbornly wiped them away. Michelle looked up at him curiously. An amused Elliot let out a short laugh and looked at Michelle.” he chuckled. Did I hurt your wrist?” Elliot looked down at the floor. “I can’t… I mean the alarm… when the numbers are punched in it beeps pretty loud.” “That’s why I’m here. Crumb crawled out from underneath Michelle’s bed and made his way towards Elliot. No hard feelings. and why should I go anywhere with you anyway. obviously shamed and then at Michelle’s hand. “See. Xander told me and I wanted to apologize to you personally. the way you treated me? Besides. . I thought we could just talk this out… explain things. I can’t be all that bad. how did you find out where I live? Did you follow me or something?” Elliot shook his head.

She quickly moved back towards her bed and tried to cover herself with a corner of her blanket. Michelle couldn’t believe she just did that without thinking. Were those her motherly instincts kicking in? As she held Crumb against her chest. asking what was all that noise she heard and was everything ok? Michelle stood at her bed looking back and forth between her mom and Elliot who was standing just inches away from her on the opposite side of the open door. while still holding onto Crumb. .Michelle didn’t like her cat being so close to Elliot at all. and suddenly without any fear whatsoever she jumped out of the bed and scooped Crumb up from underneath him whisking him away. He cleared his throat a little as a sign to let Michelle know that she was standing in a compromising position. she didn’t even consider the fact that she was now standing there wearing nothing but a long and practically seethrough ribbed tank top that she had stolen from her dad’s closet and a pair of bright yellow underwear with monkeys printed on them. A second later Michelle’s half-asleep mother opened the bedroom door. Elliot looked at Michelle and held back another chuckle. Only then she realized what she was wearing and that young man was probably laughing at her.

” Michelle walked over to the door and shut it. The police will be here in less than a minute. “Go to bed. with your mom being awake. She’s liable to return. “Ok. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to stay here any longer. “Everything is hooked to the alarm.” her mom said sleepily. “What about explaining things to me? You said we could explain things. What about that glass bottle? And why did you act like that.” he told Michelle.” “Why do you need to go to such extreme measures? Crime is practically non-existent around here?” he asked. confused. You move it an inch and the whole thing is set to go off.” Michelle answered innocently. like you didn’t . “No!” Michelle whispered as loud as she could. holding him up to show her mom that she had things under control. Elliot spun around. only this time she locked it behind her. Trust me. it’s late.“Yeah Mom. When she turned around she saw Elliot at her window getting ready to slide it open. Michelle shook her head and told him that it was a long story. even the windows. it’s just Crumb messing with stuff.

and I promised I wouldn’t say anything to anyone. Mr. obviously satisfied with herself. his expression changed from serene to regret. You know.” “What do you mean? Then how is it?” She wanted to know. but it’s a lot more complicated than it seems. “I know what I saw. As Michelle waited for an answer. “And what about this?” She asked. “Does this have to do with your eyes changing color?” she asked.” “Hmmm… Is that what he told you?” Elliot shook his head amused. She lowered her voice and looked away from him. De Costa told me. the stuff you told me to forget about. because no one would believe me?” In a fast move Michelle snatched her book from the bed. it’s not like that. whipped out the photo from between the pages and shoved it in front of Elliot’s face. “I know that you guys all have problems. I mean yes. “Will no one believe this either?” Elliot looked at the photo .even know me? Are you on some kind of medication? You don’t have to be embarrassed.” Elliot looked at Michelle as if she was speaking a different language. Michelle. Elliot thought for a while. Michelle told Elliot that he shouldn’t feel bad because it didn’t mean that he was nutty or anything. we are all working on stuff. “Really.

He held her cheek softly in his hand and told her that he would . it was more than just knowing. “Tomorrow. in the woods after school. but Michelle wasn’t going to let him have it and sprang back away from him. and it sounded so familiar to him. If Elliot wasn’t crazy. “I want to know what’s going on here.and his thoughts jumbled. she definitely didn’t want to be. It was the first time that Michelle had called him by his name.” Michelle’s eyes widened. He reached to grab it. please. She’d had enough with the guessing games. She was pleading straight into the center of his soul.” For Michelle. If you really came here to apologize then just tell me if I’m going insane. Like he was a powerful whirlwind and she was a tiny feather.” she said. so right. Elliot’s features softened and his eyes looked like two pools of blue. He reached for her face with his hand and she moved towards him without even knowing it. Michelle looked into Elliot’s eyes and her honesty touched him. “Elliot. Just like she had felt in the woods. and the question of whether she was or not scared her more than anything. It was about her sanity. it was as if she was being drawn into him. she just needed to know.

the memory alone pumped adrenaline throughout her entire body and she was wide awake. No open window. but he couldn’t promise everything. But as soon as she remembered what had happened during the night. Slowly the strange sensation ebbed.try to explain some things to her. Michelle closed her eyes and Elliot gently sat her back on her bed and carefully moved away from her. She began feeling lightheaded like something was pulling on her and her body wanted to fall in his direction. No alarm. but when she showed up downstairs her mom gave her a sympathetic look. Michelle was exhausted the next morning when she woke up. Her first inclination was to wonder if she had dreamt it all. I heard you up all night?” her mother replied. saying that she had . Her mind was working overtime and she couldn’t keep up with all the details. Her eyes went in and out of focus and when she looked at his lips she wasn’t sure if she heard the words that came out of them. Michelle stood there. or that it would make sense. and when Michelle opened her eyes he was gone. “What was the problem dear. “Do I look that bad?” Michelle asked. transfixed.

Her father was the coffee drinker in the house. and so did pale limbs. including her own. In the same manner that blossoms started decorating the trees in whites and pinks. the excitement of spring was in the air. Flowers opened up. It was empty and she sighed in disappointment. It was a beautiful sunny day. and her mother suggested that maybe she should keep him outside her room at night. his real job. At lunchtime she tried to be social for everyone’s benefit. Michelle thought. extending their petals to the sun. so did the lighter colored outfits on the students at school. that was obvious. he woke up extra early because his other job. On the days that her father wasn’t working for the city. It was going to be another one of those extra long days at school. Michelle mumbled something about Crumb annoying her. and with the temperatures beginning to increase. was as a land surveyor. It was like everybody was waking up . which meant that he was out there with the contractors and engineers practically at sunrise. Michelle walked over to the coffee maker to see if there was any left. while waiting for the recess bell to ring. while her mother was the tea queen.seen her look better.

Michelle thought. Anna was wondering if Michelle would be interested in joining the team. Michelle felt coddled by all the attention Tim was bestowing on her. Michelle owned up to the fact that she actually really liked Anna. What bad timing. and felt sad for him even though she pretended to be engaged in his conversation. She had too much on her mind. and she really did put a lot of extra energy into unifying the school as if it was a living entity. Michelle wished that she had the same energy that Anna had. Tim invited her to join him and . but it wasn’t official yet. She was a good person and she didn’t stick her nose up in the air like some of the other popular girls did. Michelle was sitting on the bleachers talking to Anna about the upcoming softball season. Tim sat next to Michelle while Marcus sat on Anna’s side. He was definitely making an effort to show his intent to win her over. She knew that she shouldn’t have because she really did need the exercise. but she was having a hard time buying into the whole school thing. Tim and his friend Marcus joined the two girls on the bleachers. they were dating and everyone knew it.from a long stupor. Anna was like a walking school bulletin. But Michelle turned down the softball opportunity.

and as expected he was disappointed that she had already made plans to go with another group. Michelle was very nervous. So much so that she was shaking her right leg up and down without noticing it. And although Tim was on her mind at that particular moment. Michelle looked around the classroom confused. Michelle thought as she headed to her next class. then looked to Samantha for help. and she couldn’t help but agree. not that Sam could really do much except look back at her from her seat with a worried expression. he told Michelle.his friends to go abalone diving. By the time 2:00 PM rolled around. he was gone and replaced by Elliot in the next. But since both parties were headed to the coves of Fort Bragg. She didn’t even hear her name being called by the teacher in order to answer a question. there was a pretty good chance that they would meet up anyway. Of course wiz-kid surfer-boy was going diving. . The bigger the party the better. It would counteract the forces of nature if he didn’t. Everyone laughed when she sat there quietly without even looking up to acknowledge him. It was the laughter that woke her up from her dream state.

“Mmm… yeah.” “Yes. It was 3:35 PM when Michelle walked in through the front door of her home. and Michelle managed to convince her that she was tired because she couldn’t sleep after they got off the phone the night before.” Michelle answered. Maybe next time?” he asked in a sarcastic voice. Luckily. he was not amused. they weren’t real. not like Elliot. “I’m sorry Mr. She only had 3 seconds left. The last thing she needed was to have fire trucks and police cars .“Uhmm…” Michelle cleared her voice. But numbers were not important. Michelle looked down at her homework to see that she actually did have the right answer to the equation written on her sheet. that is an understatement. hoping that would be sufficient to remove her from the spotlight. the teacher turned to prey upon another victim. They were just some evil mind exercise. Samantha asked Michelle what was up with her being so inattentive. Hewson. After class. she was too excited about the camping trip. She barely punched the alarm code into the number pad before it went off. I didn’t hear the question.

Well. She pulled a soft dusty purple angora crewneck sweater over her head. She had that all figured out. and got into her best pair of casual jeans. She found the concealer and dabbed some under her eyes. In her mother’s bathroom. But after giving herself a second look in the mirror. She didn’t want the disappointment to completely crush her. she was still tired she thought. but she didn’t swim in it either. and lined the top of her eyes with kohl. She had never told him what time she got off school. It wasn’t too tight. so how would he know when to meet her. Michelle slipped out of her sweats. Her anxiousness was no longer about what to wear. Her true concern was whether Elliot would show up at all. She had to be ready for whatever came her way. Yes. that happened to be a designer brand and made her butt look the best. She . It sat perfectly on her small waist. She put on some of her mom’s lipstick.showing up when she was trying to get ready for her special meeting. she wiped most of the makeup off. Michelle rifled through the makeup drawers. Don’t get your hopes up. at least they matched her top. noticing the purple half moons that had developed under her eyes. she kept telling herself. even Sam agreed. which were her ‘wearing out’ pajamas.

But suddenly she started thinking about every menacing wild animal that took refuge in the . Once in the woods. A cool. Michelle wondered. just casually aesthetic and not-dead. For a while she stood there. How long had she been there. gentle wind rushed through the tree branches. not really. It’s not like he’s going to see you anyway. looking at the ruined screen. just in case her parents ended up in the backyard and either heard or saw her. then eventually settled down on the ground and leaned her back against a tree. she didn’t want to seem too desperate and be waiting just outside the cement wall. Relax. then she paced for a few minutes. Michelle wasn’t sure how far she should walk towards Elliot’s school? She didn’t want to be too close to home. She knew these woods well enough to know that nothing in them could hurt her. breathe. only to remember that she couldn’t see the display anyway. Yet the other hand. She must replace her phone she thought. she kept telling herself. Michelle sat there for a bit before reaching for her cell phone to check the time. she kept telling herself.didn’t want to seem too made up. She stopped walking once she thought she was about halfway.

A raccoon could do a lot of damage if she was protecting her young. but the rustling wind and the occasional pinecone dropping to the ground. heard nothing.Northern California hills. There were bobcats. Michelle looked upwards and noticed that the sun had already traveled west and the woods were rapidly being converted into shadowy images of arms reaching up towards the sky. She should go home. She did her best to control her emotions. She was definitely too angry to cry. Not hurt. Michelle could see her backyard fence. She lazily raised her arm to unlock the gate when she felt a . angry. Michelle got spooked. towards her. and wolves. Was she going to cry? No. He wasn’t going to show up. Michelle stomped and even kicked the dirt as she dragged her feet towards home. and she was stupid to even hope that he might. She saw nothing. angry with Elliot but mostly with herself. she wasn’t. Michelle stood up immediately after that thought. even brown bears. foxes. and once the feeling of apprehension got a hold of her she became angry. She looked towards her house and then towards the school. which to her turned into a symbol that the ‘Elliot’ chapter of her life was going to be over as soon as she crossed that line.

“We can’t stay here. She could have just stood there staring at him all day. We were in a meeting and I couldn’t just run off. God he was beautiful. Michelle thought. steadying his breath. Michelle was flabbergasted by the sudden change of events. “You startled me.” was all Michelle could think of saying. the blush of his warm blood under his cheeks. “What is it?” he asked. and if he . She had always read those magazine articles about how men cared more about physical attractiveness in a potential partner than women did. looking at his face. He was half smiling and half panting. but that generalization did not seem to apply to her. Crumb climbs this fence all the time. She was sure of that.” Elliot said.” she whispered. “It must be close to six o’ clock. Elliot was reaching out to grab at her shoulder in order to prevent her from opening the latch. confused as to why she hadn’t said anything back to him. and by the emotional rise that put her right back on the roller coaster she thought she was stepping off from. and the intensity in his eyes. Just as she turned around. “I’m sorry. From beyond the fence they both heard Michelle’s mother calling for Crumb.gush of warm wind at her back.

But Elliot just shrugged and answered that he was there now. Inside. Michelle was lively with gratitude that Elliot had actually showed up. and she feared that she had insulted him. “So?” he answered back. He turned around almost immediately. “Are we arguing?” she asked. Michelle followed him. She was also cursing herself for not trusting him.” Elliot said. waiting to see how long it would take Elliot to notice that she was no longer behind him. . “So?” Michelle asked. so there was no use in talking about if’s or maybes. Michelle took her stance and let him know that if he hadn’t shown up when he did. Did she have such low self-esteem. she wondered while shadowing his every step? It was getting darker and Michelle was still spooked about going deeper into the woods. It didn’t take more than a second. Michelle could sense that he was a bit short with her. turning around and heading into the woods. so she stopped walking.sees me he’ll start meowing and then my mom will see us. she was never going to speak to him again.” “Lets walk. Michelle thought that Elliot looked tense.

“Then why do you look like that?” she asked.” Elliot sounded sincere. “I explained to Xander that I was in the wrong. Elliot relaxed and exhaled. I just wanted to compare it…” Michelle didn’t know how involved in she wanted Elliot. The warm sensitive guy who she remembered from the night before was nowhere to be found. and admitted that he had over-reacted at the school. and he tried to explain that when he saw her trying to photograph it he thought that she was going to show the picture to everyone.” he answered. but he told her he was not. The small bottle was very dear to Elliot.“I’m not. I really just wanted to take a picture of that bottle. . or Xander to be in her life. “Because I’m thinking that maybe this is not such a good idea for us to be meeting here like this. “I don’t understand what happened that day. confused. Michelle reminded him that it was he who snuck up in to bedroom. not the other way around. and if you want he said that he’d talk to Mr. He repeated to her that he felt really bad about her losing her job. Meyers for you. Are you?” he asked her in return. “Are you angry with me?” she asked him point blank. I wasn’t going to show it to anyone.

When Elliot sensed Michelle’s .” Michelle argued.” Michelle looked at Elliot’s intense features and wondered if she should ask him what he was doing at that school to begin with. Elliot replied that he definitely thought it was.” Michelle answered. But Elliot told her that Kahl thought nothing of the sort. embarrassed.“It’s an antique from Rome. that didn’t make Michelle feel much better. When Elliot asked her where she had found the glass.” Michelle said. I got that piece of glass you sent. and neither did he. but they left before I was born. Kahl gave it to me when he went through the mail. Weren’t the owners immigrants from somewhere else?” he asked Michelle innocently. and asked him if he thought that it might really be an antique glass like the bottle. considering who the statement was coming from. “Yes. “they were Portuguese. Of course. and very expensive. Michelle repeated the story her mom had told her. “It could have belonged to someone from that olive oil factory that used to be here. “But how would my mom find something like that out here in the woods? It makes no sense. but she didn’t want to put him on the spot.” “He must think I’m crazy.

“T h e Learning Center is not what you think. and that the students were there because they had various problems concentrating on their education due to diverse things that were happening in their lives. It was also his own choice to be there. She felt bad. not the way you think we are.apprehension he took a step closer to see if she was afraid of him. “How old are you?” she asked him out of the blue and still avoided eye contact. “I can promise you that we’re not dangerous. “I thought this was going to be about things that . “I can leave if I want to. We’re not on medication. although maybe some of us should be.” Michelle’s uncertainty turned to sympathy. Michelle saw a hint of sadness on his face and swallowed hard. So could everyone else. and you shouldn’t judge everyone there by the way I acted. and to his disappointment she took several steps backwards. I don’t want you to feel scared or worried because we’re so close to your house. He needed to put distance between his regular life and his academic pursuits. and apologized for thinking that he was insane.” he smiled and Michelle smiled right back.” Elliot told her that Hekademos was a sort of continuation college prep school.

and besides he was older than her by more than a few years.” Michelle said in a crushed voice. annoyed. There she was in front of the most beautiful guy known to mankind and she was confessing to him that she was losing her mind. Michelle wondered by how many years. hurt by his callous reply. “I’m sorry. But what about her? If Elliot was normal. not a third-degree interrogation about my personal life.” Michelle looked away. I was just curious. than she must be the one who needed real help. He was perfect in her eyes just as he was.” Michelle answered back. and your eyes… I guess I’m the one who needs to see a doctor. or how it is that you appear out of thin air. “Then I guess I’m seeing things. Elliot walked over to where Michelle stood and this time she didn’t step back. “I still don’t understand how you came into my room and left without setting off the alarm. He .you didn’t understand. that she was seeing things that weren’t there. But Elliot sensed her injury and gave her a small smile of assurance. and Elliot must have read her mind because he gave her a look that implied ‘don’t go there’.” he answered. Michelle didn’t really care how old Elliot was. telling her that he would never ask someone their age unless they volunteered it.

feeling more confused than before. Michelle just looked at him. Guess you could call it a hobby. smiling in disbelief. “Good. so she raised her eyes to look at his. You’re perfectly sane.” he said as he emptied his pockets of the three missing pinecones. “How many?” he asked Michelle? “Three. trying to figure out if he was trying to make her feel better when he suddenly stopped and hid the cones in his fists. She didn’t want him to pity her. He picked up three small green pinecones and began juggling them in the air. and she shook her head. “Do you believe in magic?” Elliot asked. You’re not seeing things.” she replied casually. “I’m really fast. because there’s no such thing.bent down so he could look at her face but Michelle turned away. He told her not to feel so bad because he was going to show her something. I’ve been practicing my whole life.” A huge weight was lifted off her shoulders. Michelle. Elliot opened his hands to show that they were empty. Michelle clapped in astonishment. Michelle’s cell phone rang and broke a long silence . Elliot laughed and began walking around the area while scanning the ground below his feet. “How did you do that?” Michelle asked.

Thanks for covering for me. “What did you tell her? Ok. Elliot was a bit surprised that Michelle had been forced to concoct an entire lie about where she was just to meet with him. She was sane and so was he. she didn’t want to say anything. It was Anna calling to let her know that her mother had called to see when she would be returning home. The wind howled between the treetops and Elliot took off his jacket and wrapped it around Michelle’s shoulders.between them. She didn’t want the evening to end. Michelle on the other hand couldn’t really tell the difference between feeling cold and feeling excited. She could have stayed there with him forever.” Michelle hung up the call. I’ll head back soon. If she was cold. “You’re cold. Elliot became visibly agitated and asked Michelle not to tell anyone that she was with him. after noticing that Michelle’s body would involuntarily shiver every so often.” he said. Michelle hadn’t noticed that the sky had turned dark until Elliot mentioned it. Bye. It was almost completely dark by now. Things were good again. and the evening chill had begun to set in. And now she was wrapped in his scent and that . but he didn’t share those thoughts with her.

“It’s on the inside .was the best feeling she had ever felt in her life. “What about the photo? Why does he look like you?” she finally asked as a means to keep Elliot talking. But Michelle was no longer listening to him. her words sounded like they were slurred. She didn’t want him to leave. But she knew how ridicules that would sound.” he answered. She felt herself lean in towards his body. looking down at her. but it showed badly in terms of respect. but she wasn’t sure if she really was or if it was just a sensation. just Elliot and his scent wrapped around her body like a warm comforting blanket. It wasn’t as if he’d be in trouble. she wanted to scream and beg him to stay with her. There were many people who had tried to get into the program and he didn’t want to take the opportunity that had been given to him for granted. because when he stood so close to her she lost almost all her thoughts. “I actually have something to show you. Elliot told her that he should get back to the school before anyone noticed that he was gone. In her own head. Nothing else existed. That was all that Michelle could think about. besides the one that repeated in her head like a flashing neon sign: I want to hold him.

She was sadly awakened from what would have been the world’s most passionate kiss.pocket of my jacket. Within less than a millisecond both Elliot and she were standing apart from one another. and her eyes. Michelle looked up at Elliot just as his arm rounded above her waist. while to him it . but just barely. She tilted her head backwards. Elliot was also feeling drawn to Michelle. She wanted him to kiss her. She was very pretty. which only gave Elliot even more time to look at her up close. were unsure. and he also had to admit that to avoid kissing her was a battle.” he said while gently reaching towards his jacket with his hand. however. His hands. Their lips touched. inviting him to join hers. then at her hair. and then her lips. He could feel her warm breath reaching up to his. Michelle slowly began to open her eyes just as Elliot closed his and leaned in to kiss her. Elliot looked down at Michelle’s face. Michelle closed her eyes. Having her so close made him uncomfortable. They stood like that in an embrace that wasn’t for what felt like an eternity. when Michelle’s cell phone sprang into life again. She closed her eyes again and waited to feel his lips on hers. He couldn’t make up his mind if he should hold her or not. he had to admit that to himself.

and Elliot was walking back and forth just a few feet away from her with his hands over his head in agitation. Elliot finally turned back to face her and as dark as it was outside. Michelle pressed the ignore button on her phone. but by looking at Elliot she could tell that there was no going back to that magical moment. The sweet sea mist scent was gone and her head was no longer comfortably faint. The reason I chose this location is because I need to be away from everyone who interferes with what I’m doing. She was guilty? But how. His back was turned in her direction. she wondered? “This can not happen. away from people like you. his eyes were glowing like blue fire. Every breath she took in felt as if she was breathing in ice. Michelle couldn’t say anything. I don’t want to lose .” Elliot scolded in a low and angry voice. She was awake again. He wasn’t even able to look at her. Michelle’s heart was dying a slow and torturous death. she was frozen and she was mortified. “I might not be in this school for emotional problems. He suddenly moved rapidly towards her with his finger pointing at her. but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have them.seemed that such a kiss would have been the world’s most horrible mistake.

control. Elliot tried his best to calm down. Michelle. apologizing and telling her that it’s for her own good and that she needed to forget all about him. I made a mistake. You made a mistake. and I don’t want to hurt anyone. “This is not going to go anywhere. She wasn’t going to let him see her cry.” Michelle began walking away from him and towards her house.” Elliot let out a scream of pure anger and Michelle was shaking just watching him. and when he had better control of himself he told Michelle that she needed to go home. Michelle felt ashamed. so she turned around. After a few moments. She shed his jacket off her shoulders straight to the ground without looking or caring where it landed. She wondered if she should run away? But what was the point? He was hundreds of times faster than her. “I’m sorry. They’ve cleared everything up between them and there was no point to seeing one another . She could feel the warm tears trying to burst out of her eyes. rejected and disposed of. Elliot walked behind her.” Elliot said in a more neutral tone. Her pace picked up speed the further she got from him. It happed before and I’m not about to let that happen again. and would undoubtedly catch her if that were what he wanted.

All she knew was that she didn’t hear his footsteps crushing the pine needles behind her anymore. Michelle didn’t look back to see if Elliot was still there. He picked up his jacket off the ground. everything. So he stuffed the destroyed photo back into his pocket and disappeared into the woods towards the school. He even heard her open the back door to the house. Up ahead. Michelle saw the light shining from her living room windows. then angrily crumpled it into a paper ball. Michelle didn’t have the energy to cry. and she wondered if she had done something in a past life to deserve such a beating. Everything was going wrong in her life. She was just not making it in anything. Elliot watched as Michelle opened the backyard gate and then shut it behind her. He looked for a place to throw it but there was none. Elliot could see it also. only to see that the photo he had wanted to show Michelle had fallen out of the pocket and lay in the dirt. He picked it up and looked at the familiar image. and he stopped once the house was in view. Only then did he turn around and walk back. School was dragging and her grades were slipping again. or if he had turned around.again. She didn’t have a job .

and her face was comparable to everyone else’s. basically boring. Michelle stayed in bed and told her mom she wasn’t feeling well enough to go to school. . The next morning. Elliot was just too good-looking for her. she probably had to shave her legs more often than other girls. and she didn’t have a boyfriend either. he stayed put and purred like a little engine. her hair tended to frizz and tangle. She said she would call some friends to get the day’s lessons in the afternoon. The list went on and on. But since he was getting so much attention. Michelle covered her head with her blanket and quietly whimpered like a wounded animal until she finally fell asleep. her hips were too big. Why did Tim like her now but not before she met Elliot? And what was so horrible about her that made Elliot react with such hatred? Michelle was in a breakdown mode.anymore. her mom didn’t think anything of it. her lips were too thin. numbering each and every one of her faults. looking confused as to why they were staying in bed for so long. Crumb remained by her side most of the day. nuzzling and caressing. Since Michelle was not known to call in sick often. She was too short.

6º-Fahrenheit. Michelle stayed in bed and never once showed her face downstairs. The girls talked excitedly about going to Fort Bragg and couldn’t wait for the next two days to pass.“You don’t care what I look like. Her mother would come in with food and tea. To her mother’s delight. She seemed completely normal and healthy to everyone. and had even agreed to drive her to the church in St. Even Samantha didn’t sense that anything was wrong. At one point her mother suggested to her father that they should cancel the car trip they had planned down south. although it always showed the usual 98. Allodia on Sunday so she could attend Easter services.” Michelle said to him. and was back off to school by Monday. The weekend passed in pretty much the same tempo. Michelle was feeling much better by Sunday night. There was something about the . and every so often would check her temperature. as did Friday. But Michelle immediately showed that she was improving because she was really looking forward to having the house to herself. while lovingly almost squeezing the life out of her little cat. Michelle made plans to visit Francesca on Tuesday.

Michelle thought. telling Michelle that to close or lock the door was rude if someone was expected for a visit.elderly lady that made Michelle feel at ease. Francesca left the front door open. Michelle could smell something cooking before she even entered the house. and when Samantha dropped her off in front of Francesca’s iron gate Michelle felt relieved. Francesca was at the old stove. She had missed Francesca over the last week. She still wasn’t an expert on the custom because she didn’t understand what was the right amount of lip pressure. She savored every step while walking down the path of the beautiful garden. When Francesca saw Michelle she smiled and Michelle went over to her and kissed her on each cheek. She headed straight back to the kitchen. In front of her was a deep pan bubbling with boiling oil. She was frying some sort of stuffed ravioli. It smelled sweet but also doughy. Francesca motioned for Michelle to sit at the small kitchen table and . that was now completely in bloom with scented flowers and trees blossoms. How she wished that she had a grandmother by her side throughout all her life’s ups and downs. The smell was intoxicating. Italian style. and with that realization she also understood the role that grandparents play in their grandchildren’s lives.

” Francesca smiled.three minutes later she set a large plate filled with golden fried pastries at the center of the table. but Francesca told her that the goodies must be eaten while still hot. so dig in. She brought over two plates and a fork and began serving some of the heavenly smelling moonshaped raviolis. “I made them for me. “if you want more I’ll give you some to take home. and once she finished one of the treats she had no intention of stopping there. “That’s enough. but better if I share them or I’ll get too fat for my dresses.” Michelle said when she realized that Francesca expected her to eat at least four of them.” Michelle waited for Francesca to sit down. while sprinkling fine powdered sugar over them.” With that thought in mind. did you?” Michelle asked with a mouth full of powdered sugar. Francesca laughed while motioning Michelle to wipe her lips.” she told Michelle. “Ok. You didn’t make them just because I was coming over. “Panzerotti di Ricotta. “These are delicious. “These are from my grandmother’s recipe. It’s from Calabria. . Michelle decided to forgo the forth pastry and pushed her plate away. Michelle thanked her.

and besides I thought something sweet is good every once in a while. Later. no?” “No. you are sad. “Can I ask what is wrong? Your face looks long.” Michelle didn’t want to bother Francesca with her drama. Francesca looked at Michelle straight in her eyes and nodded with understanding. not that I know of.” Michelle answered. “No. nothing important. Just silly stuff. becoming angry. “Is he going with other girls?” Francesca asked. “You have man problems.the foot of the boot. Michelle couldn’t lie to her. but had to think about that. . while Michelle was helping Francesca clean the living room windows.” she stated. her mind started drifting back into her self-doubt mode and Francesca noticed the mood change. Keeps us happy. you know?” Michelle couldn’t have needed anything more right then than food that would make her happy. She was in the right place. He was too good looking to be single that was for sure. Maybe Elliot was seeing someone else.” she admitted coyly. “A little bit.

“But I kind of went to see him twice too. It was all too damn confusing. Francesca said it was easy to figure out because Elliot had come to see Michelle twice.“Does he like you? Do you like him?” Francesca kept inquiring. It was the fact that he came on his own. and about the half time. She described the situation to Francesca. but unsure of how Francesca could tell with such certainty. once in her room and once in the woods. “Oh. only once was he very nice. He came to apologize to her the first time.” Francesca plainly stated. That was the problem. trust me about that. he likes you. Michelle felt a little hopeful. Francesca thought for a minute. but told her about Elliot and their several encounters with one another.” Michelle argued. it was not a chance meeting. considering that the three and a half times she had actually spoken to Elliot he had yelled at her. and then he met her in the woods. and he did almost kiss her the second time he yelled at her. . Michelle didn’t know how to answer that question. Francesca said. omitting a few odd facts. which was what Michelle called their first meeting when she fell off the wall. well. But that wasn’t the point.

combined with his apology in her room. my dear. That’s why he keeps getting upset. It has nothing to do with you or the way you look. This is his problem. what do I do?” Michelle asked. “Well.he helped her sneak out without getting in trouble. But Francesca continued on. saying that his actions at the school when she fell. and topped off with him meeting her on her request and loaning her his jacket. You are a beautiful girl. doubting that conclusion.” Francesca told Michelle in a protective voice. “Some men like him never come around. “Do I wait?” Michelle asked. “You can’t do anything. and miss out . desperate for a magical love spell or something in the same category. you shouldn’t think any such nonsense about not being good enough. “You do nothing like that. was definitely enough to show that he cared about what Michelle thought and felt.” Michelle said. She didn’t even need to know that they almost kissed to arrive at her conclusion. did he not? “I guess.” Francesca gave Michelle a strong sideways look.” She told Michelle that she could end up waiting a very long time.

. maybe you do. You think you love him. so she cried until the tears ran out. I’ve seen this situation many times before.on other opportunities to find amore. There is nothing wrong about crying for love. but Francesca moved in and held her tight. She had been scared to let them loose. She felt embarrassed. He’s no good. This is how the world goes. “You cry my child.” Michelle did just that. it is all right.” Michelle fought back her tears that began streaming out and dripping off her chin. “You are a young girl. even if he likes you. The sobs that Michelle had held away all weekend long needed to come out. You need to forget about him. But in the arms of Francesca she found comfort and safety.

She was about to meet a bunch of new people. Michelle had no intention of missing out on the diving expedition. although her mom tried one more time to convince her to join them. and who knows… The arrangement was to meet up at 4:00 PM in a dirt parking lot across from the Rose and Glee Inn. Michelle had taken Francesca’s advice to heart and decided to forget all about Elliot. Parking was always a problem along the coast. so the less vehicles the better. Nevertheless.Chapter 6 Michelle told her parents that she was planning to spend the night at Samantha’s on Wednesday night. French toast would have to do. Everyone in the group was given something to do and Michelle was delegated to be the breakfast chef. She wasn’t going to let him ruin the trip for her. She packed two-dozen eggs and two loafs of cinnamon bread in a small cooler. . That way they could see how many cars were needed for the trip. So Wednesday morning she and her parents said their goodbyes.

They were adorable he thought. The girls’ excitement was contagious. and when Samantha heard that Dave was single she immediately hatched a plan to get Michelle and him to hook up. that was not such a far-fetched scenario. James had even brought a couple of extra wet suits just in case someone forgot theirs or the girls decided that they wanted to give it a try. Dave. was going to be coming all the way up from Mill Valley to join them. Michelle and Samantha packed and repacked their gear at Sam’s house while they waited for James to show up. With the way that Michelle was feeling after having been rejected by Elliot.After school. which was going to make much more sense for the trip than the tiny VW bug. the deep sound of the V-8 engine vibrated the entire street. The back of the Suburban was packed with a large tent and other camping and diving gear. One of James’ friends. especially Sam. Hypothermia was one of the great dangers. and James couldn’t help but smile when he saw the two of them standing outside the house. James had arranged to borrow his father’s Suburban. When James pulled up in front of the house. and there was no way anyone could survive in those .

Tom and Liz. Robert and his girlfriend Marion. but then she saw his equally beautiful girlfriend and her heart sank back down. And supposedly there were two other guys coming with him. He was very handsome and his eyes were extra-friendly. By the time the Suburban pulled up into the dirt parking lot across from the Rose and Glee. Perhaps the cute guys that Sam had been talking about were already there? Michelle’s heart rate rose with anticipation. At last she and her friends stepped out of the Suburban and everyone else did the same. When she saw Tom get out of the car her heart skipped a beat. but not the other. Many deaths occurred when people’s bodies would start to shut down slowly and without notice. It was time for the introductions. then their legs. and there was also a new couple from San Rafael. Michelle recognized one from school. and that was how they drowned. Their arms would seize. and by the time a person realized what was happening it would be too late. Now they were just waiting for Dave to show up. Michelle recognized the couple from Meadows High. there were already two other vehicles waiting.waters for more than a couple of minutes without a thick wet suit. Three to one isn’t too bad Michelle .

“I could have tied your car to mine and towed it up the coast if needed. Samantha blushed when they were introduced even more than Michelle did. After that they headed out of town. “That’s so Marin!” James said. After much shuffling. and he confided that unless he was driving downhill the car would choke up. laughing. And Rob and Marion hitched a ride with the other couple. After about ten minutes a black Prius pulled up to the group. Dave answered that his friend had gotten sick at the last minute with some nasty foreign flu that was going around. teasing Dave about his Prius. James had to stop at the local gas station to feed ‘the beast’. which was what he called the Suburban. letting everyone know that his truck was in the shop. The little Prius go-cart belonged to his older sister. realizing that she was the only girl there that was not attached to anyone. Samantha nudged Michelle to pay attention because she could see that Dave was ‘way fine’. while Dave and his friend Nicholas got out and approached the group.” James said. “Wasn’t there supposed to be someone else with you?” James asked. It just didn’t have enough .thought. But Dave defended himself. Dave and Nicholas were able to get all their gear loaded into the Suburban. just barely.

“Vitamin C. Diving was . It was going to be a long drive and despite their attempts to keep the conversation going they all tired pretty quickly. James turned on the radio and everyone watched the beautiful scenery that immersed them in Northern California magic while listening to the stations fade in and out as new ones with different songs took their place. While Michelle stood in the cashier’s line at the local market. and there was no way that he was going to attempt to drive up the steep grades around Indian Rock. and there was going to be nothing but nature for the next two hours. They pulled over in Hopland. “I would do better walking. Dave and Nicholas walked up with their own provisions.power. which was a must because at least half of them needed to use the bathroom by then. Once they passed the last little towns of the Napa Valley they finally felt free. Everyone laughed and Michelle couldn’t help but be charmed by his manners.” Dave concluded.” he later told everyone. Nicholas was 21 and he bought a case of the famous Hopland microbrewery beer and some chips. while Dave bought a huge sack of oranges.

who was sitting in the way back. Unfortunately. Everyone pulled on their jackets and they got a large fire going. and found that the campsite they had reserved was just a few yards from the beach. Dave and Tom took charge of the grilling while James heated up a large pot of beans on a gas . And so the next few hours were spent listening to congenial tunes. The group reached Fort Bragg around 7:30PM. The guys set out on a race against the sun to set up two large tents while the girls unpacked the foodstuffs and sleeping bags. and she eventually gave in and let him buy her the very expensive antioxidant free radical acai berry/green tea concoction. After that. while following Route 20 to the coast the gang had to pull over a couple of times because Samantha got sick from the sharp hairpin turns. rummaged through his stuff and eventually emerged with a guitar in hand. Dave insisted on paying for Michelle’s beverage. Dave. and the sound of the crashing surf along the shore made her a bit nervous. they all settled back into the Suburban for the long haul. they would thank him later. The evening was colder and windier than Michelle had anticipated.physically draining.

but Michelle declined. The conversation ran deep and everyone felt as if they had known each other forever. but suddenly became experts outdoors in front of an open flame. but she didn’t really like beer all that much. Rob went to figure out the route to the bathrooms while the girls sat huddled together around the fire. . why couldn’t she always feel like this.burner. Nick walked around distributing drinks to everyone. With the smell of the fire. The food was delicious. chewing on a piece of French bread in the hope that it would settle her stomach for tomorrow. she wondered? Sitting around a fire under the stars gets everyone talking about different things that they wouldn’t even think about during their ordinary lives. Michelle thought that it was funny how most guys seemed to have little interest in cooking while at home. compliments to the chefs of course. sweet and natural. smoky and earthy. Samantha decided to go to bed early and James followed her. Michelle was in the zone. Things were just perfect. Samantha’s tummy was still iffy and she chose to forgo most of the meal. not only was she not yet of age. Dave strummed his guitar while the embers glowed and changed colors.

Dave was 20 years old and was . But Dave was definitely someone that piqued Michelle’s interest. Michelle could feel the fine mist and tiny water droplets against her bare face. looking at the other girls. “I need to go to the bathroom. She was entranced by the lyrics of one of Dave’s songs. waiting for someone else to go so she could join them. but she was glad that he was there. a thick curtain of fog began to move in and cover most of the coast.” Michelle said eventually. but dreaded leaving the warmth of the fire. She held out for as long as she could. and where did Michelle plan to apply for college. and Michelle felt a bit uncomfortable at the idea that a guy had to walk her to the potty. Michelle needed to go to the bathroom. but she didn’t mind. They walked together while continuing their small talk about when did he start playing guitar. Dave gracefully offered to accompany her. James was right. but everyone had already gone.Eventually. yet. Couldn’t she pee by herself? She felt like a child. There weren’t any sparks flying between them. and he seemed to be closer to the earth than most people she had met. Dave was a cool poet/nature-boy type. which was funny for a guy to have insight about what a girl would like.

Liz and Tom stated that they could sleep anywhere. and an African safari he went on. even about scuba diving in the Red Sea. He had gone backpacking for a year before starting his studies. she wouldn’t feel comfortable otherwise. Rob and Marion had gotten tired and turned in. By the time Michelle and Dave got back to the campsite only Liz and Tom remained seated around the dwindling fire.C. As for the sleeping arrangements. It was something he didn’t regret. so the choice was left up to Michelle. They had an early wake up call. Michelle wished she could travel like that. There was no way that Michelle wasn’t going to sleep next to Samantha and James. He told Michelle about Thailand. Dave asked Michelle if she felt comfortable with the . Was this planned? She wondered. while Nick had started snoring while still in a seated position. and she wanted to feel halfway awake for tomorrow.attending U. but he still wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life. while Michelle and Dave climbed into James’ tent. So Liz and Tom joined Nick and the other couple. Michelle was tired as well. Berkeley. There was an odd and uncomfortable moment when Michelle deduced that somehow she and Dave were left to couple up.

” she whispered. listening to the crashing waves and telling herself not to worry . She didn’t want to.” Dave said while unrolling a blue gel-like foam pad. “but I’ll survive. While she unrolled her sleeping bag. imagining trying to carry a huge mattress into the tent. and she sensed from his question that he was not a slime ball and told him that it would be fine. “A what?” Michelle asked. Michelle wasn’t sure if she was disappointed or relieved. She didn’t want to seem like some helpless princess waiting for someone to save her. Michelle lay there for a while. Dave asked her if she had a travel mattress. “Goodnight. But he wouldn’t give up. “I wish. “One of these. and it became obvious that they would not be sleeping next to one another. Michelle had never seen one of those before. and he wished her the same. so eventually she took the pad and thanked him.” she whispered.” Dave handed the pad over to Michelle and insisted she use it. or maybe a little bit of both.arrangements. Once inside the tent Dave used a small flashlight to see where there was space for them.

There was a lot of hushing.” James called out. “Morning. Michelle stepped out of the tent and stretched out her limbs. mixed in with the sound of zippers. Where did everybody go? What did she miss? When she got out of the sleeping bag it was very cold and she hoped that the daylight would bring warmer temperatures. Her bones creaking. She looked over to where Dave was sleeping but his sleeping bag was already rolled up neatly. she fell asleep. half whispering. James and Dave smiled at her. She had slept amazingly well. Michelle unzipped the tent’s large plastic zipper and peeked out. She was the only one left in the tent. She heard someone telling some else to keep it down. It was freezing. She was being silly. So she decided to enjoy the sounds of nature and with that thought in mind. Michelle was awoken by noises coming from outside the tent. . and was hoping that it was still early enough in the night for her to go back to sleep. Zippers? What if someone was going through their stuff! Michelle turned around to shake Samantha awake but her sleeping bag lay empty and so did James’.because there was no way the water could make it all the way up to the campgrounds.

James would return the vehicle to the campsite and then meet them on foot. Eventually the aromas of cinnamon and coffee drew Rob and Marion out of their tent and they all ate. It was 5:50 AM and they had about another 45 minutes till sunrise.” “That was the point. Michelle realized that she must look like hell herself. if that’s what you’re worrying about.” he told her. Samantha and Liz returned from the bathrooms with their sleeves pulled down over their fingers for extra warmth. She instinctively began combing through her hair with her fingers. Although the small cove was only a 10-minute walk from where they were camped. “You look great. Michelle thanked him again for lending her the gel foam pad thingy. Nick had coffee brewing and it smelled like heaven. they wanted to be the .” Dave said.“How was sleeping on that pad?” Dave asked proudly. Michelle blushed a little. “I thought I was in my own bed. smiling. and got to the business of making breakfast. After seeing how messy their hair was. After breakfast they packed all their gear and valuables into the Suburban and drove to the launching area.

and when James got back he told them that he had run into Tim at the small convenience store next to the campground. and once they were down at the edge there was a large rock forming a natural bench that was perfect for a few people to sit on. in her wetsuit she looked like everyone else.first to scope out the area. Tim’s group was setting up to launch from a cove right around the corner from where they were. The sea was relatively calm. but something in the back of her mind told her that she should avoid doing anything that would stand out in Tim’s eyes. Liz was the only girl who was actually suiting up and going out diving. It wasn’t like she and Tim were going out or anything. To get to the water they had to walk around jutting rocks and slippery tide pools. The first rays of light appeared from over the hills. mainly the girls. Six strange long-legged black seals. Michelle wondered if it would somehow hurt his feelings if he saw her hanging out with Dave. and carrying their gear by hand would slow them down. The group headed down a narrow ravine that ended abruptly. Thinking of Tim. Michelle walked to the water and bent over to .

Michelle could no longer tell the difference. Michelle was a little jealous. About two hours must have gone by when the divers returned to the shore empty-handed.touch it. The first person lay down and began paddling on top of his floater. The music helped sooth everybody’s nerves. nobody was going to argue that fact. He gave the group the thumbs up sign and they followed him like ducklings in a row. and with the thick green kelp all around them. The temperature was freezing. Marion pulled a little speaker set-up out of her backpack and plugged in her MP3 player. It was still too dark. it only made . but she kept her doubts to herself. The mere thought of being immersed in the frigid water sent a chill up her spine. but continued after the guys just the same. One of them. The divers grabbed their floating devices and slowly waded in. Dave explained to Michelle. She didn’t have the skill to join them. She couldn’t imagine how a wet suit was going to be of any help. It was dangerous out there in the water. “It’s freaking freezing!” she called. pointed out to an outcropping of large rocks that was about 15 feet away. as her swimming was better suited for poolside events. Liz yelped and turned to yell at the girls.

she was busy looking out in the . Samantha noticed someone heading towards them from that direction and thought it might be Tim. Free diving. Michelle wasn’t really listening to what Tim was saying. especially on opening day. Once off the rocks he jogged towards the girls. they noticed a lot of traffic and activity above them on the main road. was an activity that was physically draining and everyone needed to rest and eat something before heading back out.” Samantha answered. Instead. sailor. especially in such demanding waters. space was scarce and there were hardly any sandy beach areas available. While they waited for the sun to make its way higher in the sky. “Hey there yourself. “Hey!” he said with that infectious smile.things that much harder. Because this stretch of coastline was very rocky. Many people walked by and peeked over the edge to see if there was any space left. Tim asked them if they were having any luck because Marcus had pulled up two 8-inch specimens. which were already sitting on ice. and she was right. The little cove that Michelle’s group had claimed was very small and shaped roughly in a semi-circle. To their left there was a huge outcropping of boulders and rocks that stuck out about 30 feet into the water.

Marion and Samantha teased Michelle about Tim having it bad for her. He was practically leaning on her shoulder.” he told Michelle.” Samantha added.water.” Michelle justified.” The girls burst out laughing. “You should really come check out our spot. Michelle thought after she said it? Was she really not ready .” Was that statement true. “If I was single you’d have to use one of those abalone bars to pry me away. He was looking for a relationship.” Michelle begged in a cheery voice. “And besides. “Look at you. “I can’t even tie my own shoelaces let alone carry on a relationship. and that he was actually a decent guy and wasn’t into just ‘hooking up’.” Michelle replied. What are you thinking girl?” teased Marion.” “You guys just leave me alone. Marion told Michelle that Dave was very impressed by her. “Well that’s not me. hoping that Dave didn’t see how close Tim was sitting next to her. “I’m too young to deal with any of this. Once he left. “Two great guys are running in circles around you and you sit here and tell us you’re not sure. as he got up to leave. just because Dave was nice to me doesn’t mean he likes me like that.

It began picking up energy and the small gentle swells were turning into four-footers and then six-footers. The local park and recreation officers used a loudspeaker to let everyone know that by the late afternoon they were expecting waves that could measure up to 11 feet. waving it around like a Grammy or an Oscar.to be in a relationship? Somebody whistled from the direction of the water. The rest of the divers surrounded him and were checking out his catch while the girls clapped and cheered from the beach. . and they dove back and forth for hours. Nicholas raised a huge abalone shell in his hand. By noon the sun’s rays were sparkling on the surface of the water. they still had a couple of hours and 2 abalones in the cooler. Luckily for the group. and the day that had started out a bit foggy had grown clear and blue. But unfortunately the wind had started to change as well. After that first catch everyone felt even more motivated to bring in their own Oscars. Only the very experienced or those with a death wish would dive under those conditions.

which she wasn’t sure she could do. When Michelle got to the boulders she realized that the narrowest way across was also the furthest out towards the water. or wade out into the water and cross at the narrows. Michelle walked across the narrow ridge barefoot because her shoes made it considerably more dangerous. But still she had to be careful where she put her feet because sometimes there was slimy seaweed hiding under the shallow puddles and that made them extremely slippery. Here and there she saw small crabs scurrying to get . The black rocks were quite beautiful. She had two choices. She would either have to climb those huge rocks.Michelle noticed that the tide was beginning to rise and she knew that if she was going to cross over the boulders to Tim’s side she would have to do it and not wait any longer. She asked the girls to watch her stuff and told them that she’d be back in less than an hour. She chose the narrows. They had been carved and polished by wind and water for ages and some of them looked like black onyx. There were also perfect little indentations for her to put her feet into that looked as if they had been made by people crossing over the rocks for thousands of years.

Anna and Marcus were there. Just silly water spiders. sashimi style.out of her way. When Michelle made it to the other side she immediately spotted Tim but she wasn’t sure if he could see her. Michelle chuckled to herself because they looked so serious. Everyone . someone from his group spotted her and she could see them pointing in her direction. but Rachael was a no show. running sideways. Tim squeezed fresh lemon juice on the slice and dunked one end of it in soy sauce. She wasn’t really sure about the raw part of the eating. and offered some to Michelle. Tim and his friends had just sliced some fresh abalone meat. He was going to eat the other one with her for support. Eventually. He cut the piece in two and gave Michelle one half. He was very happy and wanted to show her all the abalones they had caught. Nothing to worry about. she too was suffering from that horrible flu. but when everyone started teasing her that she was a chicken she said she would give it a try. Tim immediately headed over. she told herself. She shouted out for him but he definitely couldn’t hear her. The waves were getting sketchier and the white foam crashing on the shore drowned out her voice.

“Awesome. Did he really like her.” she said. The rule was three abalones per day and no more than 24 in one season. and oh so sweet. he had two more to go. That was the only way to ensure that the abalones wouldn’t be over fished till extinction. “Well. Michelle preferred the battered deep-fired style better. “what do you think?” he stood tall. Tim was already done with his and stood there waiting for Michelle to enter her verdict. It was illegal to sell them. There were always some people who got really greedy and tried to catch more than what was allowed in order to sell them on the black market. especially in Chinatown.” he asked smiling. Michelle had heard that some were selling for $150 each in San Francisco. Both Michelle and Tim gobbled down their share. Tim was satisfied. Tim wanted to go in for one more dive because he had only brought one abalone up. By law. Michelle wondered? He was definitely trying his best. but there was no way she was going to tell that to Tim. Michelle chewed on the abalone a couple of times before swallowing it whole. and they had to be of a certain size.was watching and they counted to three. grinning. California was very strict about the abalone market. In all honesty. .

Michelle stood by the water’s edge. Michelle didn’t think the abalones were all that. She asked Anna to let him know that she had left and to give her thanks. When Michelle realized that it must have been over an hour since she had crossed the rocks. It was definitely a craze. she should have enough time to reach a safer spot and then wait for another set to pass . the tide was covering the path she had used when she first crossed over. They were tasty. but she preferred Alaskan king crab. Personally. She counted the waves for a while and figured out that they came in sets of threes. The wind had picked up and the surf was definitely growing wilder. trying to measure how much time she would need to dart across before the waves came in. The waves weren’t too big but they sure made a lot of noise when they crashed. Tim was still in the water. If she crossed over the rocks as soon as the third wave pulled back to the ocean. spraying salty foam everywhere. and some even served jail time. By the time Michelle got to the rocks.Anyone that got caught with too many got a steep fine. she concluded. It was getting cold again and the blue of the sky had faded into a drab gray.

She could have climbed back up to the main road and then descended to the small cove from the same path that they had used that morning. She hadn’t counted on the tide rising so fast. but there was . Everything went as planned. While watching the second wave return to the ocean. The whole idea of standing out on the narrow edge of a rock so far from shore and seeing white water all around her. she realized that she was midway between the two groups. and that from her angle she couldn’t see anyone from either party. It should have already been there. nervously watching as the water edged almost to her feet. She only had to wait for two more waves and then she would be home free. got Michelle thinking that she should have probably taken the longer way back. Michelle counted the third wave and as soon as it started receding back into the ocean she hopped over two medium sized rocks and then across a small tide pool and onto a decent-sized boulder.before jumping down onto her small beach. and by her calculations a new set should have already begun. She waited for the next set of waves. Where was the third wave? It had been a while now and still had yet to come.

and instead another set of waves started coming in. It stung from the salt and from the cold. That would be very dangerous.nothing. and they flung pebbles and sand in a powerful spray. but in reality the brutal waves stretched that distance into miles. Where were the sets? Michelle began to panic. or should she keep waiting for the third wave? What Michelle really feared was being stuck halfway and having the third wave crashing down on top of her. Should she risk it and run across and then down and around to the cove. The little cove was so close. The waves crashed onto the rocks with a sound equal to that of an earthquake. She began feeling very nervous. each one louder and more violent than the one before. but realized that there was absolutely no way anyone could hear her. The third wave never came. She started shaking and she wasn’t sure but she thought she might be crying. It actually hurt when the sand hit her skin. but the waves just kept coming. She was no match to the power of the ocean. and she knew that her swimming was mediocre at best. Michelle tried to scream for help. . Michelle waited until she counted three of them.

she was completely underwater. But of course. Michelle began her long journey towards safety. When Michelle detected a slight lull in the water. no tether is strong enough to hold the awesome power of the seas. crashing upon the rocks. she took her chances.She told herself to be brave. It took only a second for Michelle’s brain to comprehend the . It was now or never. Without lifting her gaze from the ocean. At that particular moment the calm was only due to the suction created by millions of gallons of salt water being gathered and wound up tightly by the giant vacuum-like mechanism of the ocean floor. and they will always break free. Just as Michelle was making her way across a broad tide pool. Before Michelle even knew what had happened. The problem was that she didn’t realize that the lull in the waves did not mean that they had stopped. It approached without sound or warning and knocked Michelle off her feet. and that the worst thing that could happen to her would be that she might get a little wet. a gigantic 13-foot wave appeared out of nowhere. The peacefulness of the mighty Pacific Ocean was just an illusion. but rather that the wind and sea were gathering and storing an amazing amount of energy.

She was being pulled out to sea by the giant wave as it withdrew back to its origin. Another wave broke over Michelle’s head and she was thrown back towards the shore. Michelle gasped for air. The coldness of the water was sharp like knives and the salt stung every tiny scrape she had on her body. There was no swimming in waters that rushed at such speed and strength. she never even saw it coming. Michelle realized that she was being swallowed by the sea. Michelle’s body went still and the strong currents began to pull her away from the shoreline.catastrophic event. and Toby of course. Once Michelle’s body was carried beyond the surf. She was cold and tired. but giant sprays of white foam hid her from view. She was going to be one of those sad casualties of the abalone season that they talk about every year on the nightly news. she was giving up the fight. She thought about her friends out on the beach and even about Francesca and Crumb. She thought about Elliot too. it . She was going to die. Michelle thought about her poor parents. She tried waving her arms. She tried to scream but each time she ended up swallowing more salt water. She was underwater when her head crashed against a rock.

And yet. his eyes almost white. Eventually. but it was no use. As Elliot moved forward. the columns of water behind him crashed back down into the ocean. spinning fast and clearing a small patch of land in their midst. he carefully placed his right hand above Michelle’s heart and raised his other arm to . carrying Michelle’s limp body in his arms. She wasn’t. Elliot looked around to see that he was on a deserted stretch of beach. Elliot was walking towards the shore. There was land surrounded by walls of churning waters. A lightening bolt split the gray clouds. He bent over to her face to see if she was breathing. dry land. he walked up onto the sandy coastline and gently laid Michelle’s body down. He somberly tried to breathe life back into Michelle’s wet and frozen body. deep in the midst of the Pacific Ocean there was land. Columns of water swirled in the shape of tornadoes. while the waters before him kept spreading upwards like wind tunnels. Elliot looked up to the sky and cried out in anger. With his eyes still shining the brightest of blues.began a slow descent into the bowels of the Pacific Ocean. In the middle of these columns. there was a man.

The hand that was still placed above Michelle’s heart. Elliot looked at Michelle’s face again and his eyes appeared wet even in their brightness. Elliot’s frustration was mounting to extremes. He looked to the clouds one more time and yelled out “Light!” and a single bright sharp bolt of lighting split the skies and made it’s way to Elliot’s left hand. his arm outstretched. Elliot rolled her onto her side and watched as Michelle started coughing and vomiting up salt water. He looked down at Michelle’s lifeless face with desperation. “Give it to me!” he roared towards the clouds. and sparks of azure rotated around the pupils that had turned almost completely white. spreading out above him and Michelle. He waited. but nothing happened. then back up at the sky. “Come on!” he yelled in anger. Dark clouds moved along the horizon. They began to glow in colors of blazing blue combined with gold.the sky. Michelle’s body jumped from the electrical force and she started convulsing. and at that instant the clouds began to swirl above him and the unmistakable sound of thunder began to rumble and growl. . only to have it’s energy transfer through his body and out his other hand.

looking around and realizing that she was on a different beach. “We are camped over there. Do you have any dry ones?” Elliot helped Michelle sit up and she leaned up against him. Michelle stood up and they slowly began walking towards the campground when her legs gave out. With Elliot’s help.” he whispered. Michelle began shivering in her soaked clothes. We need to get you out of these clothes. “Where are my friends? Where is Sam?” she asked. Get it all out.” Michelle pointed to a wooded area about 100 yards away and coughed again. I assume. Packing up. She didn’t fall to the ground because Elliot caught her and carried her the rest of the way. “Your friends are fine. but you’re not. Michelle barely opened her eyes to see Elliot’s concerned face above her. “Almost. “Am I dead?” she asked in-between fits of coughing. Michelle pointed to the tents and Elliot laid her down inside one of them and .“Come on Michelle. She recognized that the beach that they were on was adjacent to the campground where they had spent the night.” Elliot said with a slight smile.

It was James’ phone and Samantha’s number showed up as his most recent call. then pulled herself up and started to head out of the tent.started rummaging thorough various bags looking for dry clothes. they’ll be looking for me.” Michelle’s voice was still shaking. Elliot grabbed one of the sleeping bags and told her to wrap herself in it. “Take your clothes off or you’ll freeze to death.” He handed it to her. Elliot found a cell phone in one of the backpacks “Here. Michelle . “Where are you going?” Elliot asked. call them. “My friends. Michelle called and Samantha picked up immediately. “My friends are going to freak out if they don’t find me.” a worried Michelle said “Put this on.” Elliot found a button up long sleeve shirt and passed it to her.” Elliot calmly commanded and Michelle did as he said. Michelle found the sweat pants she had slept in and pulled them on. demanding to know who was calling her from James’ phone because he was standing right next to her. stripping down to her swimsuit.

What are you doing? How did you get here?” she asked. and his body needed rest. It’s normal under these . You were there in the water. Only then did Michelle realize that the whole picture of Elliot being there didn’t make any sense. “Listen. “I thought you were hanging out with Tim. ok? Don’t leave. You are confusing things. Elliot brushed the question away and said that he just happened to be in the right place at the right time and that he was glad he was able to help. She immediately yelped in pain when her fingers found the large gash on her forehead. Michelle stared at Elliot and put her hand to her head. He was weakened by what he had just done. She jumped out of the tent right after him. Is everything ok?” Samantha recognized something odd in Michelle’s voice.” he said. you hit your head pretty hard. then stepped out of the tent and brushed the sand off his clothes.” Michelle hung up the call and told Elliot that Samantha was on her way. demanding an answer. “Good. You’re lying. “Wait a second. I’ll be there in 10.” “Michelle. we’re packing up anyway and we need to come get the car. “No. I remember.told her that she was back at the campgrounds.

turning to walk away from her. suspiciously. She looked at Elliot and started pacing nervously. Was what she saw real? Did she imagine all of that? Was she in shock? Michelle looked up at Elliot’s face when she realized that he had no intention of sticking around. not this time. but then continued walking . “Why should they be? I didn’t go in the water. “I need to go. what she had seen. Michelle had a small flashback of the columns of water around her. He didn’t want to be there when her friends returned. incomprehension. “What are you!” she yelled after him. She was obviously mistaken.” was Elliot’s answer. and sand rotating like a hurricane. No. She wasn’t going to let him leave her with more questions than answers. and agony. Michelle thought. You really should rest. Michelle. Out of the depth of her lungs came a scream filled with fear.circumstances.” Elliot said softly. shells spinning like tops. The image of fish swimming around in a whirlpool. Elliot paused for a second.” “How come your clothes aren’t wet at all?” Michelle asked. She had no words to describe what she remembered.

Michelle ran after him and violently grabbed the back of his shirt. “Absolutely not. Elliot didn’t want any more attention.on. walk one more step. Don’t you remember anymore? They’re just having a lover’s spat. . He was already uncomfortable with the older couple watching him and Michelle like they were at a sports arena. At least they still care enough about one another to yell at each other. and she would make sure that their personal quarrel would turn into a free-for-all entertainment for everyone within earshot. Elliot looked at Michelle and she gave him a look that taunted him to go ahead. purposely raising her voice loud enough for Michelle and Elliot to hear. The older gentleman looked at his wife and asked her if he should go back to the camp office to ask for a different. “Are you freaking stalking me? Do you enjoy this? Is this some sick little game of yours. pulling on it as hard as she could.” she said. quieter plot? His wife looked back at him in anger and disgust. making me beg for answers?” There was a couple in the next campsite just beginning to set up their tent.

The older lady gave Michelle an approving wink before scolding her husband to mind his own business. “Let me be the judge of that. the more I’m going to change your life. Elliot’s eyes widened.” a beaten Elliot said quietly. no. will you. After speaking with Samantha and halfway introducing the ever-reluctant Elliot to her. walking back to where Michelle was standing with her arms crossed. I didn’t ask you to come here and be my guardian angel. still shocked that such words would fall from her lips. Michelle felt confusingly safe. “Oh God. This is my decision. and I’m afraid not for the better. So are you?” “What?” Elliot asked. “The more I tell you. Samantha didn’t have much to say. you did that on your own. She was completely mesmerized by Elliot’s mere .” Next to Elliot. “An angel?” Michelle said. looking down the wooden path to see Samantha approaching.“Fine.” Elliot told Michelle. Michelle grabbed her bag and asked Samantha to tell the rest of the group that she had gotten ill and was heading back to Willow’s Creek with an old friend she ran into.

and the only time he broke from it was when Michelle stirred or coughed. Elliot tried to gently rouse Michelle. Elliot drove back to Willow’s Creek while Michelle slept in the passenger seat. and finally understood Michelle’s fascination with him. it was better for her to sleep as long as possible. it would be better to have someone watch over her. but she just shoved him away with . he thought. He felt sorry for Michelle because of what her poor body was going through. He tried to drive as gently as possible because he didn’t want her to get any sicker than she already was. He wasn’t sure if he should take her home or to the school. and because of everything her mind would have to process once she woke up. The car passed through the school’s automated gates and once he parked. but decided that since Michelle’s parents were gone for the weekend. So fragile was the human body. She stood there with her mouth half open and nodded. For now. He was deep in thought throughout most of the drive. He touched her forehead.presence. and just as he suspected she was running a fever. A few minutes in cold water and the equilibrium went haywire. She was by all means happy for Michelle.

Elliot quietly climbed the stairs carrying Michelle. He . The lights were always kept on low downstairs. but that night everyone was asleep. A t Hekademos. and opened his bedroom door with his foot. paying special attention that he didn’t bump Michelle’s head. Elliot went back to the car and fetched Michelle’s backpack. He then quietly exited the room and shut the door behind him. he thought. He didn’t realize that the backpack was slightly open. When he got to Michelle’s cell phone he picked it up and flipped it open only to see the broken screen. So much for trying to remain quiet. but when he heard no sound coming from any of the other rooms he bent down and started collecting the fallen objects. thinking she might want it when she woke up. and several items dropped out of it as he walked back up the stairs with it. hours of the day didn’t really matter and it wouldn’t be surprising to see someone cooking in the kitchen or watching TV and snacking on chips at any time of the day or night. He gently laid her out on his unmade bed and covered her up with his comforter. Elliot listened to see if he woke anybody up.her hand and told him that she wanted to sleep and that he could leave her right there because she was comfortable enough.

felt bad about that.” he told him. There was a small light flashing on the top right corner above the screen. Just when he had finished bagging the items and was about to head back upstairs. and while Öndóttr walked down to the living area Elliot passed him on the stairs and went back to his room. undoubtedly her friends had left her messages. Öndóttr appeared at the top of the stairs and looked down at Elliot. After that horrible scene everyone involved agreed that there was no point in telling the rest of the students what had happened. not . They didn't want to stir things up just as everyone was settling into their new surroundings. “I’ll explain things in a minute. more than Michelle ever knew. The last time Michelle had been at the Hekademos was when she was still working for the market. he heard the screech of a door opening. who motioned to him to keep his voice down. On a lower step Elliot picked up Michelle’s Italian vocabulary workbook. He quietly placed the backpack on the chair next to his bed. He leafed through the pages and snickered a bit. But there was another thing that Elliot had not shared with the other guys. Michelle had not moved an inch.

On Halloween night when Samantha’s car had almost swerved right into theirs. He didn’t even think about whether he or Xander would have been hurt. The only thought running through his mind was the need to prevent any unnecessary attention. Nothing good ever came out of it.even with Xander. But on that particular night when they were heading into Willow’s Creek for an early morning meeting with the contractors and engineers that had been hired to build the new school. the inertia of the sudden impact would have hurled Michelle’s body up over the front seats and straight into the windshield. and if the car did crash into the tree. He never mentioned it to anyone. Elliot had used his powers to bend the tree trunk just enough so as to prevent the collision with the VW. Elliot broke that rule. because she was not wearing a seat belt. They were new in town. and he was well aware of the apprehension that the local residents had regarding new school. The restriction on getting involved in or changing the course of natural events was something that everyone at the school agreed on. Elliot . He most likely saved Michelle's life. His instinct had been one of self-interest rather than saving whoever was in the VW. most likely breaking her neck.

He should have known better. Luckily. He had to get back into the car because he was ashamed of his own stupidity and weakness towards her. The next time Elliot saw Michelle was when she spotted him at the shopping mall. But then again. no harm was done that night and everyone was able to drive away safely. not a real Egyptian and he didn't want her anywhere close to him.knew that even though the crash would have clearly not been their fault. It was all an illusion. Normally he wouldn’t have paid any attention to her. There was a seed of recollection. She was trembling and weak. For him. maybe it was something in the way she looked up at him from the ravine. It was Halloween night after all. such a negative event would undoubtedly be tied to them and the school. . wide-eyed. and would only give more ammunition to those who had fought against its opening to begin with. and it was the norm for people to dress up. scared and innocent. Something else happened that night when he watched Michelle climb up the ravine in her Egyptian queen costume. a pause of familiarity. She was a fake. The fact that his actions most likely saved Michelle was an afterthought.

He knew that if he wanted a girl. But when she slowed down. Elliot realized that his mistake was allowing their eyes to lock. In hindsight. some would sense the anomalies rather quickly. It was just that no one ever knew who could and who couldn’t. had reminded him that if he looks at other people in the eyes. They had been completely off his radar for many years. Long ago he had sworn off using women to fill the gaps created by his own insecurities. he could have her. That day at the mall. Nor register her presence. the way they were looking at him. any girl. when the ailing Michelle walked past them. but his ego no longer needed that type of reinforcement. there was no mistaking them. Even Xander. her eyes. Öndóttr still didn’t understand why Elliot was telling him all of this. taking notice of their passing exchange. He simply had no interest and that's the way he liked it.girls were just girls. he didn't recognize her at all. pretty or not. and he recognized that they belonged to the little Egyptian queen from Halloween. He should have looked away and not given her the chance to see something more in him than he cared to share with her. but he remembered the sick .

Despite everything that Elliot had told him. I felt it when she walked by. He then dramatically pretended to look at . He also told his friend about the time she showed up and tried to take a photo of the bottle and ended up losing her job. Öndóttr shook his head in disbelief. or even helping her over the wall. how can I forget? She was running a pretty high fever.looking girl at the mall.” Elliot joked. “Must have been a good game.” Öndóttr assured him. resting his feet on the ottoman. “Maybe he’s not telling you everything. He joined his friends downstairs and sank down into one of the empty couches.” Kahl’s voice was heard from the upstairs balcony.” Elliot finally came clean about what took place when Michelle fell over the school wall and how he had helped her get back to the other side. but that was part of growing up in this world. “All of this happened while we were playing basketball outside?” He couldn’t believe that they hadn’t heard the commotion. You break the rules. He was sorry that the girl had lost her job. “It was. “Yeah. and most likely they will break you too. Öndóttr still didn’t see any harm done by Elliot preventing the car crash.

Any human interactions needed to be minimized. and how Michelle almost drowned and that he needed to bring her to the school because there was no one to watch over her at her home. and added. and always conducted far away from Hekademos Learning Center. . which he was not wearing. It was a rule.his watch. No one was supposed to be bringing anybody from the outside this close to them. Kahl stood up from his comfortable couch and sat closer to the other two. “Yes. “You mean to say that the girl who sent you the glass from Leta Memmia’s brooch is upstairs?” When Elliot heard Leta’s name mentioned it always pained him. “And why are we discussing her now?” Elliot took in a lungful of air. Perfect timing for small talk. “It’s 2:46 am. no?” He looked at Elliot with a mischievous smile and asked. and this time was no exception. he was the first one to break it. then exhaled deeply and stated that Michelle was upstairs asleep in his room. “What?” both Öndóttr and Kahl asked together. Elliot told them about what had happened earlier that day. and Elliot was the one who had fought the hardest to establish it. Ironically.” he answered them solemnly.

know. He got up and walked around the room. fidgeting with the paintings on the walls as if they needed to be straightened. because he hadn’t admmited that to himself yet. All the way. The last time Elliot cared about anyone was almost a hundred years ago. “Really saved her?” Kahl wanted to . He rationalized to them that he didn’t think Michelle would remember anything since she was in shock and had hit her head pretty hard. And before that. without their intervention the person or creature in question was sure to die. “I saved her. But Kahl was not “You saved her?” Öndóttr asked. Basically. He also had no idea how to explain his presence up north at Fort Bragg either. it was as far as 2000 years ago. He couldn’t tell them that for some stange reason he cared about Michelle.” All the way. Elliot felt ashamed and didn’t know how to explain his actions. those three words were the code that meant that one of them had brought somone back from cetain death. and he was going to take her home as soon as she woke up and be done with it.” he added. Elliot couldn’t face his long time friends any longer. “She will undoubtedly suffer from memory loss.

Where was she. where others might have taken advantage of her state. she wondered? She carefully sat up in bed and immediately noticed that her entire body ached.but she had no idea why. She saw that her backpack was on a chair beside the bed. yet somehow she already knew that he was never going to harm her. Michelle needed to use the restroom and was glad to see that beyond the seating area there was a small . and everything had a slight odor of salt and sand to it.convinced in the least. Michelle smiled a little when she realized that Elliot had been a perfect gentleman. The room was spacious and beyond the bedroom area it opened into a large seating area with a picture window facing the woods. covered by a comforter and a blanket. who looked away from him. It all started coming back. and then Elliot showing up. She must be in Elliot’s room because she remembered riding in the car with him back to Willow’s Creek. and just shook his head at Elliot. The cold water. Michelle opened her eyes and looked up at the white washed ceiling. and that reassured her a little. She was in a full-sized bed. She looked around the room. the panic.

She inspected her arms and legs. they were completey battered and bruised. So .private bathroom. Next to it sat a brooch next that had a very familiar piece of glass in its center. Michelle had no idea. She tried to find her shoes. How or where Elliot had gotten a brooch that fit the glass disk exactly. No wonder she hurt all over. Michelle guessed that it was early in the morning because it was still fairly dark outside. She was pale. and just as she had suspected. and a large black bruise on her collarbone that reached all the way to above her left breast. had a large gash across her forehead. but at that moment that question wasn’t so important. only to remember that she had taken them off before climbing on those deadly rocks. much worse than imagined. but she was too uncomfortable to leave the room to look for him. She wondered where Elliot was. She noticed that the glass vase that had gotten her in so much trouble was now prominently displayed in a small acrylic cube. So she circled the room looking at various items displayed in glass cases or hanging on the walls. Once she saw herself in the mirror she realized how bad she really looked.

many tears over you. she thought. She then walked over to the door and put her ear to it. and she definitely didn’t want to run into anyone else. Michelle made her way to the balcony and looked down into the living area. She didn’t hear anything but she did smell something delicious. Elliot’s room was at the far left end side of the house. and realized that she was starving. listening to see if anyone else was out there. looking at the small vase. got even better the closer she got to the kitchen. What she did notice was that the smell of whatever wonderful thing was cooking down there. Michelle wondered if she should go back to bed and try to fall sleep. but there was no one there either. there . What would the other students think? She didn’t want there to be any misunderstandings. The hallway was long and there were many other doors. But it was directly underneath her. Elliot was sure to return. trying to look into the kitchen from where she was standing. But her curiosity got the better of her and she slowly and very carefully opened the door a little bit at a time. Michelle leaned over the rail. When she was convinced that there was no one in the hallway she quietly stepped out.

I’ll let him know you’re up. Michelle felt embarassed and apologized for looking so disheveled. Kahl disappeared downstairs. Michelle was still standing at the top of the stairs when Elliot appeared from the kitchen. “You’ve already met Kahl. trying to remain still long enough for the pain to pass. She grabbed the left side of her chest. along with the various dull aches.” he told her.” he corrected himself. She didn’t want to sound desparate.was just no way. she couldn’t help but let out a small sigh of pain.” he said while Michelle slowly came down the stairs. He looked up at her and gave her a small smile. But Kahl told her not to worry about it and asked her if she was hungry.” And with that. suggesting that she join him downstairs for dinner. actually good evening. and was completely startled when he bid her good morning. Michelle’s body still hurt with sharp stabbing pains. “You’ve been sleeping for almost an entire day. “Elliot is downstairs. When she straightened herself back up. but luckily Kahl must have read her mind. Michelle didn’t notice Kahl coming out of his room. Michelle was too self-conscious to ask where Elliot was. . “Well. still smiling.

while he carefully checked the cut on her forehead.” she whispered back shyly. “Yes. originally from Norway. “Waves do act like giants at times. They both nodded in agreement. “I feel like I’ve been beaten up by a gang of giants. Michelle told him that she could smell whatever it was that he was cooking all the way upstairs. they all do. “Would it be rude if I asked where your accent is from?” Michelle asked him and Ando answered proudly that he was Scandinavian. Especially here on my chest. He was also the talented chef for the night. “How are you feeling?” Elliot asked .” she answered.” he said looking at Elliot and Kahl. putting her hand over her heart. “But you can call me Ando. He shook her hand and introduced himself. Elliot looked away from her because he didn’t want to reveal that he’d had anything to do with the large bruise. She marveled to herself that despite almost drowning in the sea.” he replied. she still hadn’t lost her craving for seafood. Elliot led Michelle into the kitchen where she met Öndóttr.

It was obvious to Elliot that everything felt different when there was a woman around. Elliot answered back that he didn’t even want her there to begin with. leaving him as he himself turned to follow Michelle straight after Ando. telling her that the dish would not be ready until it was very cold. Michelle looked back at Elliot who was now leaning against the kitchen entryway. Ando told Michelle that he would be honored if she would eat with them. The two looked at one another. and Kahl spoke to Elliot in Aramaic. teasing him that Michelle was not in the palm of his hand as he thought she might be. Elliot loved his friends and had known . obviously entertained by Ando’s food show. she still hadn’t lost her craving for seafood. He then showed her the three large abalones that Elliot had brought back with him from the beach.the sea. Ando was showing Michelle how he had marinated fish in white wine and cider vinegar. But Kahl didn’t stick around long enough to hear what Elliot had to say. and asked her to come see what he had been preparing. walking away from Elliot and Kahl as if they weren’t even there. Michelle raised her eyes questioningly. amused. Michelle joined him in the kitchen. but Elliot just smiled and she smiled back.

But with Michelle there. They were talking about ordinary things like the latest movies or music.them for many years. a real home. it felt natural for all of them. Ando brought over the abalone chowder while Kahl was still deepfrying battered abalone steaks. who was now glowing despite all her bruises. She was well fed and cared for. sitting amidst the . Ando wouldn’t let any of them touch the food. things couldn’t have been more fantastic. No one sat together for a meal unless it was planned ahead. Had he missed it. enough years to feel that they were his family. but with Michelle’s energy in the house it actually felt like home. Was he crazy for even thinking such notions. Michelle included. insisting that they had to sit at the table and eat like a real dinner. Michelle would look up at Elliot and he would do the same to her. Elliot asked himself as he sat down across from Michelle. but they didn’t say anything to one another. an excitement and cheerfulness. he wondered to himself? Hadn’t he lived through enough misery? On any given day the guys ate whenever they were hungry. Once everyone finally sat down to eat. For Michelle. there was something about women that brought a light into a room. Every once in a while. Yes.

She should have guessed he was Scandinavian. He enjoyed fish as much as any of them. Michelle helped Ando with the dishes. Ando was something of an enigma to her. Michelle thought that he looked like a model for the Nordic god look. . anywhere. While helping put the dishes away. He had to think about it for a while before he told her that he thought it was Friday. He was a bit stiff. it was like watching a small child describing the first ice cream sundae they have ever had. He also had exceptionally fair skin and a pronounced angular jaw line. while Elliot took out the trash. even if she was just generalizing. And best of all. “What do you mean you’re not sure?” a very confused Michelle asked him. but he wasn’t sure. but didn’t like to let its smell linger for too long. Michelle suddenly remembered that she hadn’t fed Crumb. Once the meal was finished. “What day is this?” Michelle asked Ando in a worried voice. as he was unusually tall and wide with cool blue eyes and light blond hair.most handsome guys she had ever seen. but when he talked about fish and cooking. Elliot seemed more relaxed and he even smiled at her once in a while.

she asked? But Elliot told her that Xander had taken the Thunderbird and he had no idea when he would be back. That’s right Michelle thought. even her pain.” Was his answer? “Saturday!” Michelle cut him off.“Well. ignoring everything. and asked her if she was planning to walk home barefoot. Elliot asked her what all the running was about. grabbed her backpack pulling in over her shoulder and sped back downstairs. and how scared and lonely he must be. Could he maybe give her a ride. but it could also be Saturday. now! My cat hasn’t eaten since Thursday morning when my parents left. She had lost her shoes in the water. Elliot told her that he had sold his car a month before moving to Willow’s Creek. She had to go. especially in her condition? Michelle answered that Crumb hadn’t eaten for two days. and he was gearing up to buy a . now! Elliot explained to her that it was only Friday evening. “Don’t you have your own car?” Michelle asked Elliot as they walked back to her house. “I need to go. so either she would have to wait or borrow a pair of shoes from him. it could be Friday.” Michelle ran upstairs.

“Where did you move from?” Michelle wanted to know. But Michelle was still thinking about the “safe house” statement. Michelle needed to rest. They all moved around a lot. Michelle was confused about why all of them would live together over there? By this time. as it wasn’t going to be a ten-minute talk. He decided to save the more intricate facts for another day. Michelle was weary and sore. where students and past students could always stop by and stay if they liked. she wondered? Elliot knew that it would take time for Michelle to understand the whole story and its complexities. She had refused to let Elliot carry her through the woods. By the time they reached her house. or maybe he could still get away with giving her only part of the whole truth. she had realized that the Hekademos Learning Center was no ordinary school.new one soon. Her body had been through so much abuse the previous day that it was going to need bed-rest for . Elliot described it as a safe house of sorts. safe from what. and suffered for her stubbornness as she walked slowly and in pain wearing a pair of his boots. Elliot told her that he and the rest of the guys at the school had lived in Italy for about three years.

to either tell her everything. slowly lowering her bruised body into her dad’s favorite armchair.” Elliot said. I want to thank you for everything you’ve done to take care of me. Elliot’s boots slipped off her feet making a loud thud noise as they hit the floor. As they entered her home. “I’m not like you Michelle.a few more days to fully recover. Michelle wasn’t surprised. looking straight into Michelle’s eyes so she could see that he was being sincere. I am very different from most people. or is lying one of your hobbies too?” she asked him without betraying any of her emotions. Michelle went straight to the kitchen and gave Crumb food and fresh water. “Elliot. It’s not like you haven’t been here before. Elliot stood by the front door and seemed to feel uncomfortable stepping inside. Elliot swallowed hard and sat down on the corner of the couch to face her. Elliot walked into the living room and looked around while Michelle watched him intently. but are you ever going to tell me the truth. She already knew . “You can come in.” Michelle said to him. or just walk away and never see her again. He knew that he had to make a choice.

Michelle gave out a little nervous laugh and replied that she knew exactly what she was.” he answered for her. Michelle asked him if he was gifted. “I’m a human being. Why did archaeologists and paleontologists search the vast world for evidence of the so-called ‘beginning’ of humanity? Why were bones of ancient hominids studied and scrutinized to see where they fit into human evolution. but by who? By other humans such as yourself.that. any more than you know exactly what you are. Elliot asked that if people knew exactly who and what they were. or if he was even human at all? “I don’t know what I am.” he answered. Elliot asked her to tell him. She wanted to know how and why he was different and he told her that he and everyone at the school had physical abilities that other humans did not possess. but to hear Elliot say those words.” “So you have been told and labeled. A girl living in California. gave her great relief. Why the search for the elusive missing link? Why did historians keep probing further and further back into time? Why did theologists and other religious . then why did they constantly continue searching for more and more answers.

just like everyone else. Elliot raised Michelle’s shirtsleeve to uncover a large bruise on her forearm. and she did. He asked her to give him one of her hands. and Michelle saw his pupils . Elliot was back and he was with her. even clay tablets? What are they all looking for if the answers are already known? Michelle had never thought about such subjects in quite those terms. In an instant his eyes began to change their hue. Michelle really didn’t understand. but she was also just happy to be touching him. but what does this have to do with you?” “I’m still searching.” His statement was matter of fact style. for their job. Michelle was curious and a little apprehensive about what was going to happen next. Was Elliot an archaeologist or a type of researcher? What did he mean by “searching”? Elliot stood up and walked over to where Michelle was sitting.scholars search the Bible and other ancient texts. for… “I understand. “About what you mean. and there are others out there too. she finally said. It was what they did for fun. All of us at the school are. She had always assumed that people searched for things out of curiosity.

“How did you do that? What did you do?” She asked. It was absolutely mesmerizing. which will accelerate the healing. He revealed to her that he had studied medicine and . The bruise was still there but it was no longer causing such discomfort. Michelle was at awe. and GABA. It then moved all the way up her arm. and after a few seconds Michelle began to feel a warm sensation traveling from his fingertips to hers. Elliot explained that he wasn’t really talking to them. enkephaline.radiating iridescent sparks of color. It was more like willing them or directing them. After a few seconds. but never so close up. I also ordered your brain to release larger amounts of pain reducing neurotransmitters like endorphins. Elliot then closed his eyes. “What do you mean instructed them? Like they speak English?” she wanted to know. “I instructed your blood cells to release more oxygen around the bruise. The warmth lessened Michelle’s pain. She remembered that he had done something similar to her leg when she had hurt it from the fall. She had seen the strange sight before. Elliot let go of her hand and looked at her. amazed.

it was the body’s own remedial mechanisms that did the job. And Elliot told her that he wasn’t. “Are you an alien?” she asked him. “So you’re some kind of super healer. He just stimulated the sites with electromagnetic energy. stepping towards the front door. but it wasn’t him that healed the body. Michelle started to get a little uncomfortable because everything that Elliot was telling her was starting to sound like madness. but he couldn’t cure someone from cancer. Elliot told her that he had helped plenty of people already. He told her that he did have some control over living organisms. His own body had the ability to pick up on the different energies of the neurotransmitters.knew the essentials of human physiology. How did you find out you can do this? Wait. shouldn’t you helping everyone?” Michelle said excitedly. Michelle knew that she had hurt his feelings. “Aren’t you too young to be a doctor?” Michelle asked. She backed away a little. and Elliot showed a twinge of sadness. That was beyond his powers. and even some other things that contained immense amounts of energy. and got off the armchair as if she had healed completely. Wow. . “No!” Elliot answered. trying not to freak out.

apologizing. but you are curious. after all. but part of him could see that she was too young to deal with his reality. She didn’t want to hurt Elliot’s feelings. She was scared of him. She tried to calm herself down and think more rationally.” Elliot turned to face her. Without turning to face her.She followed him. nervous that he might sense that she didn’t want him to leave. and slightly panicked. “And why shouldn’t you be? I am. even though he had saved her life just one day earlier. which means that you’re nervous. and your heart is beating faster then a few moments ago.” Michelle said. “Then what are you sensing from me right now?” she asked. “I guess I am a little nervous. Michelle took her hand off his arm. he told her that he wasn’t psychic. “Are you just psychic or something?” she asked. although he could sense their general state of being. Part of him wanted to stay with her and tell her everything. not ever. not . frightened of me. “You are afraid. He couldn’t read people’s minds. Elliot looked at Michelle’s hand on his arm and felt conflicted. Michelle felt self-conscious because he was right. grasping at his shirt.

You can call me a freak. She couldn’t find her tongue. But don’t think of me as something frightening. I don’t want you to be afraid of me. “All this is the truth. especially after all she had already been through. “Michelle. Was he messing with her? Kidding? Elliot gave Michelle a tired smile. I’m not like other human beings. and he didn’t want to give the poor girl nightmares. like some sort of a monster. and I never will be. He had already said more than he had meant to for one evening. and whatever color she had regained in her face faded. then back up at Michelle.” .like you. He gently placed his hands on Michelle’s shoulders. and I do things that are impossible for normal people. Honestly. Elliot looked at the floor. I am. and it wouldn’t really be wrong because compared to you. She looked at him in complete shock. None of us at the school has ever come up with a solid answer and I… I have personally been searching for that answer for thousands of years. so I guess you’re looking at a creature different than yourself.” “Then what are you?” she wanted to know. I really don’t know exactly what I am.” Elliot watched as Michelle’s mouth dropped open.

But yet he was living proof . I made them sometime around 20 B. It’s a patina. The glass and the trace molecules have been oxidizing. When Elliot left Michelle’s house he felt emotionally drained.C.“The glass I sent you… that small vase I saw at the school…”she started. That’s what causes all those different colors and specs of opalescence on the surfaces. They both used to be pure blue. He hadn’t told her everything. “They’re both mine. That’s why they look like that. “Then why don’t you just come back and do that healing thing to me again?” She couldn’t believe that she had just asked him to come see her again. and she looked away to conceal her awkwardness. Everything he had told her. clashed with her logic.” Michelle wanted to know how her mom had ended up with the disk. and besides he thought that Michelle should be in bed resting because eventually the pain would return and she wouldn’t want to be awake when that happened. but Elliot told her that it was a long story. because he could tell that she was getting information overload. about two thousand years ago.

She had heard all that he said and she had seen him do things that no one could explain. but she just couldn’t grasp all that information without asking more questions. as it was only recently that an American scientist had decoded the human genome. But what could a geneticist tell him. He didn’t want to put himself in a position where he might be looked upon as an abnormality of science and nature. He had been in the spotlight enough. . Was she supposed to accept the idea that she had befriended a supernatural being that lived in a strange school with the rest of the superheroes about a mile from her home? And on top of that. He already knew that. Once Elliot left. He didn’t fit in into any scientific model or the Darwinist theory of evolution.of the illogical. and had no desire to go back. He had no intention of turning himself into a lab rat to be poked and prodded under the world’s microscope. Floating in the still water. Michelle took a warm bath and let her bruised and sore body rest from all movement. she thought about everything that had happened and of everything that Elliot had told her. really? That he was different. He had thought about having his genetic print investigated.

Could Michelle’s prayers have finally been answered? . Elliot was going to return and see her. She could listen to Elliot talk all day long.she was falling for him. it was his warmth that attracted her to him. She thought about what Francesca had told her. In the few hours she had spent with him she had learned so many things. Once safely tucked away in her bed with Crumb purring by her side. she smiled to herself in happiness. At first it was his looks that she understood. hard. and she couldn’t wait. as if she should have known about red blood cells needing extra oxygen for healing. about the man coming to see the woman. Francesca said that it meant that he likes her. And there was something else. It was obvious that there was so much more to him and she wanted to know every little corner that made up who Elliot was. But after the kindness he showed her. and her curious mind wanted to learn more. Elliot spoke to her about things like she was a complete adult. The bath water eventually got cold and Michelle’s fingers looked like small white prunes. she was fascinated. And now with all that he had confided in her. He was perfect. It was time to dry off.


“Maybe you can walk up the wall like you did before. He was there right on the dot this time. They decided to walk towards Hekademos through the woods rather than on the main street because Michelle insisted that she didn’t want to draw too much attention.” Elliot said. Elliot suggested that they could walk around to the gates but Michelle didn’t like that idea. still not fully comfortable with the fact that Michelle knew that he . Wouldn’t it be quicker than walking around to the front gates?” Michelle inquired. just as he had said.Chapter 7 Elliot showed up at Michelle’s house the next day at 4 o’clock. That made her feel cared for and she wanted to wrap her arms around him. and that gesture alone made Michelle feel blessed. Did he forget all that he had told her so quickly? She didn’t need him to try and protect her from what he was. He checked Michelle’s bruised forehead and told her that it was healing nicely. She wanted Elliot to stop pretending to be who he wasn’t. “Yeah. When they reached the school’s walls. right.

and Michelle was excited by the prospect of spending her time with Elliot alone. While they were still in the kitchen Michelle heard footsteps behind her and turned around to see . But he also had to smile to himself and remind himself that the things he could do naturally were miraculous to others. Elliot told her that all the guys had left for the day. Michelle’s smile was so infectious that Elliot couldn’t help but smile back as he reached down to grab her hands and pull her up. To Michelle it looked like Elliot just took two steps and was already standing on top of the wall. Elliot said he was going to show her things and she couldn’t wait. she was thirsty for knowledge. Once inside. Michelle noticed that all the parking slots were empty. He actually ran towards the wall and leaped upwards. but she wasn’t thirsty for a drink. but he explained to her that it was just what her eyes were able to detect.was not like everyone else. using the inertia to propel him. and instead just stood below looking up at him and smiling in adulation. Elliot asked Michelle if she wanted to anything to drink. He explained that without the momentum he wouldn’t have been able to do it. As they walked across the school grounds. Michelle didn’t care about the mechanics of things.

She thought they were alone and there was the school regent! She feared that Elliot would get in some sort of trouble for having her there. That was him in the photo. Michelle gave out a small nervous laugh and began to look back and forth between the two of them. as my grandson. Michelle was startled. and he admitted to her that she was right.” Xander said to Michelle with a small nod. and he had no idea that he was in one of the pictures. “No need to worry. “Michelle.” Elliot said.Xander. I would like to formally introduce Xander to you. although he had completely forgotten that he had attended that wedding. and he wanted to start with Xander. Xander stepped forward and told Michelle that he could assure her that what Elliot said was true. Michelle tried her best to digest the information. Elliot walked over to Xander and told Michelle that she was going to see and hear many things that would most likely confuse her. . Was that Elliot in the photo after all? Was he really much much older than he looked. and thought about the black and white photo from Francesca’s wedding album. She asked Elliot about the photograph.

shall we go downstairs?” Xander asked him. He was a person with a past and with memories and genuine pain. Xander took a sip from his glass. Michelle’s mind considered that if Xander was Elliot’s grandson. leaving Xander and Michelle alone. and he told her that they’d follow Elliot in a minute. Elliot was no longer just a boy wonder. He needed her. almost-purple liquid. Michelle looked at Xander confused. Without delay.“I try to avoid getting photographed as much as possible. That thought turned Michelle’s stomach in jealousy. But she also realized that there in front of her stood someone much more complex than she could have ever imagined. Xander walked over to the countertop and opened the cabinet door underneath to take out a bottle of wine from the small wine cooler. savoring the wine in his mouth for a long second before swallowing it down. He then told her that both his . then Elliot surely had children. she thought. Michelle declined. syrupy. and if he had children he probably had a wife. she didn’t want to know that Elliot had loved anyone before.” he disclosed. He poured himself a glass of dark. He needed someone. And Elliot nodded and walked out of the kitchen. “Elliot. and asked Michelle if she would like one also.

“…rarely talks about our family. I mean Elliot…” he corrected himself after seeing that Michelle was not comfortable hearing that word describe the person she knew. He has suffered more loss and heartache than any one of us could ever get close to imagining. and he picked up on her puzzlement. realizing that she was selfish to feel disgusted over Elliot having a wife and a family in the past. had died during WWII. I myself chose not to marry or have a family of my own as a way of showing gratitude for the kindness Elliot has shown me since my parents passed away. Dust to dust. Xander took another sip and continued. She also felt remorseful. I . Human. “My grandfather.” Michelle looked at Xander peculiarly when he said the word “us”.parents and grandmother were dead.” Michelle felt sad for Elliot. Elliot will have to deal with my death as his last remaining heir. and still continue to do. which everyone attributed to a broken heart. and his mother had passed a few years after that. “I am just like you. Elliot’s only child. “Elliot will always look young. His father. But his looks can be deceiving. I’ve grown used to that ever since he told me the truth about who he was. He has looked the same way for thousands of years.

All the guys at the school carried the memories of many different lives around with them. if not more so. He might be immortal. He also told her that for Elliot to choose to bring her around and to reveal his true nature to her was not a light decision to make. and then their children.am fine with that decision. but as personal advice to you. And I know that he has only told me but a small fraction of that. and that he thought she might begin to understand why the reluctance to get involved with others on the outside. but his heart is as human as our own. “Once we are hurt we are always careful about the second time around. as my life has been full and adventurous. He told her that life with Elliot had been marvelous and poignant at the same time. and so on. Elliot would have to go through the loss of losing me and my children.” Xander took the last sip from his glass and smiled at Michelle kindly. He has suffered enough. If I had my own family. What if we have been hurt over and over again? What if the people that we loved were taken from us one by one? I believe that Elliot is trying his best right now. I would recommend that you exercise caution when dealing with him and that you listen to what he says and really think about .

what he is trying to tell you.” Xander asked Michelle to follow him and they walked out of the kitchen towards the door to the downstairs restroom. Only now there was a second door next to the restroom that was definitely not there before; that Michelle was sure of. Xander pulled it open and proceeded to descend a long flight of stairs motioning for Michelle to follow him. At the bottom of the stairs there were thick double glass doors, and Xander entered a code into a small numeric keypad above the handles. The glass doors hissed when they slid open and Xander stepped into a small cubicle with Michelle still following behind. The glass doors shut behind them, and another set slid open in front of them. Elliot stood leaning against a massive table, waiting for Michelle. He looked different, Michelle thought, not older, but more tired, and she avoided looking into his eyes. Somehow it felt wrong to know so many personal things about Elliot without him telling them to her, and yet he chose not to. Elliot studied Michelle’s face. He wasn’t anxious or worried that she would reject him because he was long over such insecurities. He was more concerned that she would get scared. When people got frightened they tended to share those emotions with

others in order to get the needed emotional support. He didn’t want Michelle to go talking to others about him or the school. He wasn’t in a bad mood, but there was nothing light or buoyant about all that had been revealed to her. In all actuality it was a huge undertaking, one that would force him to remember and expose ancient wounds that never truly healed. So much of what he carried was raw and susceptible to more damage every time he revisited those rooms full of memories locked away inside him. He had learned how to turn off his emotions, and it had become as easy as switching off a light switch. It was more comfortable that way, and a lot more peaceful. Although he had told Michelle many things the night before, none of them concerned his personal experiences; there were no emotions attached to them. They were but tiny fractions of his life, and even those facts were thrown out like stones against a wall. He hadn’t felt much when he had revealed himself to her, at least not until she held him by the shirt. Then something happened and he didn’t even know how, but the way she looked at him pierced through his very thick wall and he actually felt something. That evening, after Elliot had returned home

from Michelle’s house he had admitted to Xander that he had become a bit more involved with the girl than he had previously let on. Xander was his blood, yet in an inevitable reversal of roles had become more like his father than his grandchild. Elliot might have experienced hundreds of lives compared to Xander’s one, but all that accumulated knowledge still differed from the knowledge that Xander held. Xander was his connection to what humans felt. Elliot could never truly understand the feeling of time running out, and the sense of urgency that created in the human psyche. Xander was there to help him put things in human perspective, and it was Xander who suggested that at this point it was only fair to reveal the truth to Michelle. He was astounded that Elliot had followed her to Fort Bragg to begin with, even if he did know that a large storm was brewing. Elliot couldn’t explain his actions, and refused to even consider the idea that he might be developing feelings for Michelle. Still, Xander argued that once Elliot made the decision to save her life, he bore the responsibility to explain things to her. Michelle would be lost otherwise, and considering her curious personality, she would probably come after the truth anyway. Only she would do so without

any supervision or care for their privacy, which could cause everyone at the school to suffer. Michelle looked around the giant room, then back at Elliot who was still leaning against the table. She might have been excited to discover what she considered ‘miracles’ of his physical abilities, but that was nothing compared to the entirely different reality he was about to reveal to her. Elliot knew that knowing about him and his kind was going to change Michelle’s life forever. Was he being selfish? Was he really sharing all this with her because she deserved to know the truth? Or was he sharing it with her for his own benefit? Whatever the answer, Michelle the seventeen-year-old girl would not leave the school as the same person who entered it. How could he do this to her? How could he curse her like that? The humans that knew about Elliot and his kind always felt isolated from the rest of humanity. “I will leave you two alone now,” Xander said, and both Elliot and Michelle watched the glass doors hiss closed behind him. “What is this place?” Michelle asked in amazement, stepping forward and looking around in awe. The place looked like a huge library and a

museum combined. It felt circular, but she couldn’t see the walls from where she stood because the layers of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves extended in all directions like a labyrinth. Some of the shelves didn’t hold books at all, but instead contained artifacts of all kinds, each marked with a date and place of origin. In what appeared to be the middle point of the room there was a massive circular table, the one Elliot was leaning against, with computer monitors occupying half of it while the other half remained clear. Close to the table there were four curved couches that were also laid out in a circular pattern. The floor was made of etched concrete although a few thin rugs were strewn about here and there. Elliot gave Michelle the time to absorb her surroundings. After spinning around and around several times to look at everything, she became dizzy, and laughed at herself when she almost tipped over. Elliot laughed too. “Careful. It’s a lot to look at. This is where all our important things are stored and archived. We also do a lot of our research here when we are not researching on the road. As you can see, this is a school. Just not a conventional one.” Michelle wanted to know why it was

underground, and why the glass doors? Elliot explained to her that the room was specifically designed and precisely calibrated to protect the many ancient artifacts stored inside. It was supplied with special pressurized air that had almost zero humidity, and there was a filtration system that removed whatever moisture was brought in through their breathing. Many of the artifacts would have had to have been protected behind museum glass, but here they were lying out exposed and just as safe. Even the light was especially designed to eliminate all UV rays. Elliot motioned for Michelle to follow him and they walked deeper into the maze of multiple shelves, eventually reaching the wall. It too was made of shiny polished concrete, and Elliot explained that it was five feet thick and had been specifically constructed so as to keep the insides under regulated temperature. Neither fire nor ice could affect things within its confines, and it also provided security because the value of the room’s contents was utterly immeasurable. Michelle asked why the wall was curved, and just as she suspected, Elliot told her that she was looking at the bottom half of the same circular wall that surrounded the school premises.

“This place is huge then!” Michelle exclaimed.
Elliot went on to show Michelle a small, dark glass room. Strange uniforms and masks that looked like HAZMAT outfits hung on hooks just outside it, and Elliot turned on the light inside the room using a separate switch. The little glass cubicle held many more rolled up papers and books that were written on parchment, even fabric. He explained to her that the articles in there were extremely fragile, and that extra special care was needed while handling them. When they navigated back to the large table in the center of the room, Elliot pointed to several computers stacked underneath it in a sort of cagelike structure. He told Michelle that Kahl was working on a massive project of transferring all the data they had in various manuscripts into a large file that they would eventually release to the public. They had many books and ancient knowledge that the academic world thought were lost to time. Michelle didn’t know what to say. There was nothing that could be said to describe the wonderment and newfound respect that she was now feeling towards Elliot and his friends. She sat down on one of the leather couches and told Elliot how amazing it was to even be there. But then she

remembered everything that Xander had told her upstairs, and she felt troubled again. Elliot’s mood changed when he saw her tensing up. “Everything Xander told you is true, Michelle,” he said as he sat down on a couch across from hers. Which only proved to Michelle that the tension between them wasn’t imagined. It was a strange tension, not like when they almost kissed, and it wasn’t about anger, or hurt feelings. It was a tension of mistrust. He wasn’t telling her everything. Normally she would feel hurt, but under these strange circumstances, she rationalized that Elliot was holding back because he was protecting himself. “I know you told me that you’re not like everyone else, but I don’t think I really understood what that meant until what Xander told me upstairs. I believed you because I saw you do all those extraordinary things, but I didn’t really grasp it all,” she said, choosing her words very carefully. “I know, Michelle. I can’t even grasp it all myself. You look at me, and you see me as I am through your eyes, but your brain can’t really grapple with the complete picture. I have been alive for so long, constantly reinventing myself again and

again, that I myself get confused about all the lives I’ve lived and the stories that I’ve told.” “How old are you, really?” she asked him. Elliot studied Michelle, measuring her. He wasn’t sure if she could handle the truth. “You don’t have to worry about it. I won’t freak out, I promise,” she added. Elliot smiled at her in amusement. “I’m about 4700 years old, give or take,” he announced proudly, laughing when he saw Michelle’s jaw drop after she could no longer fight it. Michelle couldn’t deal with that number, not yet. She didn’t know what to think, so she concentrated on something else, asking him what did he mean by “give or take”, and when was his actual birthday? But Elliot explained to her that he had experienced many birthdays, depending on which calendar he was living under and which chapter of life he was living. He told her that he had intentionally stopped thinking about his real birthday a very long time ago. Elliot had never known his real parents. When his mother fell pregnant, she refused to disclose who the father was, not even to her own sister. All she disclosed was that the father was a traveler from a foreign land. It was a difficult birth, and

although the delivery was successful, she died 12 days later from severe hemorrhaging. “I never knew my mother, or the ‘supposed foreigner’ that was my father,” he said with a hesitation in his voice. Michelle looked down at the floor, unable to watch Elliot’s face as it contorted with pain. As much as she wanted to know everything about him, she felt that he was telling her too much. Was she supposed to show sympathy, which was what she felt, or would that make him feel uncomfortable? He sure didn’t seem like he wanted comforting, but she would be lying if she pretended to act otherwise. Michelle had thought that she would be able to handle anything that was thrown her way, yet she found herself without an answer. She wanted Elliot to spare her the details, but he had decided otherwise. He hadn’t visited those cobwebcovered memories in a long time, and it was probably time to bleed out a little. Elliot sensed Michelle’s squirming thoughts, but figured that if his words scared her away it was probably for the best anyway. In those years it was common convention to send any orphans to be raised under the auspices of the great temple of Enki, The Abzu. But Elliot’s

She obviously protected the name of his father. which only meant that she had not been raped or taken advantage of. Still. When Elliot got a little older. but some still looked at him with suspicion. When he returned home with a torn shirt and a bruised face he demanded that his grandfather tell him the truth about his real parents. When Elliot was about eight years old he got jumped by four older boys and they beat him and called him all kind of names including “bastard”. anytime they took Elliot out in public places such as the market or celebrations outside the temples. She cared more about him than about herself or her unborn child.grandmother refused to send him away. They felt that because Elliot was not raised inside the temple. His grandparents and aunt tried to raise him as well as they could. he became . strangers would curse at them and spit in front of their feet. his presence would bring bad luck upon the entire city. After which Elliot grew to hate his mother. He was the only connection she had to her beloved daughter and she wasn’t going to lose him too. He was cursed because of her lack of integrity. By the time that Elliot was old enough to walk on his own most people had made peace with the boy’s presence.

Elliot began making rounds at the Abzu and even traveled to Uruk to bless people at the temple of the Goddess Inanna. The same people who spit and cursed at him would come visit him at home so he could lay his hands on them to ease their ailments and to bless them. That meeting never took place. and if they had no use of him he was cursed. His words came out like a memorized story. He helped his grandparents out financially by charging a small fee for his services. but no matter how hard she tried.obsessed with finding out his father’s identity. He just spit them out with hardly any attachment to their context. He had somehow hoped that his fame would bring his father out of hiding and the two could finally be reunited. Later. and it was around those years that he started showing signs of extra strength and strange abilities. How many times had he repeated the . Michelle was captivated by Elliot’s amazing tale. the hypocrisy was all too clear. it was difficult for her to imagine that his account wasn’t some fantasy straight out of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights. That was when his world turned upside down. Elliot went from being looked down upon to someone who was blessed and celebrated. If he had a use to others he was blessed. yet he grew angrier with each passing day.

Michelle could tell that talking about his childhood had bothered Elliot a lot more than he had revealed to her. “Are you ok?” she asked him quietly. let alone a birthday.” Elliot’s mood changed and although his eyes were wide and blue there was a cold and distant gaze to them. I just didn’t want to bore you with any more details. of course not. nothing’s wrong. Maybe now you can understand why my childhood is not something I care to remember.same story to someone else. He got up from his seat and tried to find something to do with his hands. picking up articles from the shelves and studying them as if he had never seen them before. She was afraid that her question might imply that she thought him to be weak. What was she thinking? Should he care what some kid thought about him? No. Michelle got up from the couch and followed Elliot. and her . “Oh. she wondered? Elliot could sense that Michelle was evaluating him and he didn’t like not knowing what she was thinking. It’s a long drawn out story and it’s pointless. Elliot looked at Michelle as if it was the first time he noticed that she was there. She felt sad for him.

screamed at her. but Elliot’s tense muscles warned her not to get too close. One was a monkeylike creature standing on two legs and holding something in each hand. “Besides a human head. “What!” Michelle jumped back just a little and that made Elliot laugh. changing the subject. that she should comfort him.whole being. and she was glad that she had succeeded in distracting him from his dark mood. “It doesn’t seem like this bowl can hold much of anything.” he snickered. and on the other side she recognized the half dog half man image of an Egyptian god. It was the one . told her. Elliot’s eyes smiled when he smiled and Michelle stood next to him transfixed by his beauty. Michelle pointed to a white object on a nearby shelf. He ran his finger along the smooth curvature of the object in question and told her that she was right. the narrow curvature of the bowl would definitely not hold much. He told her that the alabaster headrest belonged to Kahl. her consciousness. “What is this?” she asked. It looked like a narrow.” Elliot smiled when he saw what Michelle was looking at. shallow bowl with carvings on each side of its base.

” Elliot said smiling. the Protector of the Dead. Elliot laughed even louder than before. Everyone thought that Kahl’s enemies had dragged the body away as an act of dishonor. taking the headrest as a souvenir. “But Kahl is not dead! What are you talking about?” asked a very confused Michelle. . He was able to slow his heartbeat to a level where no human could detect it. “Modern day Tripoli in Libya. and explained to her that Kahl had only pretended to be dead in order to slip out of town unnoticed. even in ancient times. When they placed his cold body in the embalming room for the night. he simply got up and left. “Where is that?” Michelle asked. every politician had his enemies. fascinated by such an adventure. They were well on their way towards Oea by midmorning. By sunrise Kahl had made his way to the port where Elliot was waiting for him on a small boat. better known as Anubis. The monkey-like creature was a depiction of the god Bes who protected against evil and the other image was of the god Anupu.they had rested his head upon in his burial chamber. Back then he was a high official in Lower Egypt and.

wondering how many identities his personality held. She studied him. Regular people had many different facets to their personalities.“But why would Kahl fake his own death? Couldn’t he just quit and leave like a regular person?” Michelle wanted to know. Michelle loved seeing Elliot so animated and lively. It was a stamp seal with a carving of a unicorn on it.” Elliot told her that Devin was away visiting a friend over in China and that he should be coming back within a week. and considering that Elliot had lived so many lives.” he added teasingly. an ancient part of India that was now within the borders of modern day Pakistan. “I’m not going to get involved in Kahl’s personal business. how long would it take to really understand his character? Michelle pointed to a small flat object and Elliot handed it to her. “That’s from Devin’s second palace. . He told her that Devin was the first person he had met that was just like him. You haven’t met him yet. Devin was from Harappa. even if it did take place thousands of years ago. But Elliot told her that if she wanted an answer to that question she would have to ask Kahl herself.

picking up another of the highly decorated figurines and showing it to Michelle. noting her own ignorance and wondering what else she didn’t know.They became instant friends and began traveling together as bodyguards for rich merchants who journeyed along ancient trade routes by land and sea.” Elliot said with importance. The cup was crude and the glaze was a mixture of browns and greens. “That. “Is it glass?” she asked. She immediately apologized. Elliot told her that it was .” he said. whispering as if her voice alone would crack it. Michelle felt special that Elliot let her hold it. All other unicorn myths come from this original image. “Unicorns are for girls to collect. when she saw several figurines of the mythic animal on the shelf. but she was also nervous about dropping it. Michelle cradled the object in her hand as if she was holding a little bird. “That is one of Lord Vishnu’s avatars. She moved on to look at a small cup.” He picked up the small cup and handed it to Michelle. But Elliot snapped back about how little modern man knew of his history. “is the first dish I ever glazed.” she teased. “So he likes unicorns?” Michelle asked laughing.

But he just placed the cup back on the shelf and walked back towards the middle of the room. He told himself that just because he was sharing some of his past with Michelle did not mean that he was somehow planning to have her be involved in his future. Michelle watched him from where she stood. They didn’t . holding out his hand so Michelle could give him back the small cup. and that he had been left with no choice but to reveal the truth to her.a ceramic with a glass glaze on top. she could tell the whole town about him and his friends. leaving Michelle feeling cold and exposed.” Elliot said. And it was hard for Elliot to pretend that he didn’t notice it also. Michelle handed it back. “Glass was how I made most of my fortune a long time ago. but what could he possibly gain from getting close to her? He tried to convince himself that Michelle had pushed her way into his life. and as she did her hand gently brushed against his. wondering how she became so lucky? Why was he telling her all of this? And what did it all mean? Elliot’s thoughts were not so different from Michelle’s. She was a nice girl. there was no argument about that. After all. His intoxicating scent followed him. That tiny touch alone sent thousands of pricks and needles up her spine.

“I would appreciate the truth. He told her that his senses had picked up on the strong static of the large swell approaching . the peace they all sought for would undoubtedly be disturbed. slowly walking towards him. “Why were you at Fort Bragg that day?” Michelle asked as delicately as possible.. Calling him by his name again gave him a rush. Elliot was caught off guard. If he didn’t tell Michelle the truth.. Elliot hadn’t heard a woman say his name in many years. All they wanted was a quiet life. trying not to sound accusatory. and it made him feel raw. The question came out of nowhere and he hadn’t yet thought of an answer that sounded credible. and I promise not to judge. “Elliot?” Michelle said.” Elliot tried to interject but Michelle just ignored him.need to be exposed to the public. “And please don’t tell me that story about being at the right place at the right time again.” Elliot explained to her that he had wanted to warn her about getting into the water when they met outside in the woods. I know you heard me talk to Samantha on the phone about going there the night you snuck in my room…” “I didn’t sneak. but he never got the chance.

Yet all Michelle wanted to do was tell him and show him that she was grateful and that she felt kindness towards him. Michelle didn’t know if it . Just being around her was the evidence alone. Elliot didn’t know what to say. Overrun with emotions. And how she wished she could find the words to tell him that she could feel he was hiding something from her. He still felt conflicted about what he had done. her being there was forcing him to. and was almost embarrassed at his own weakness for not being able to let the girl go as nature had intended. Elliot felt uneasy because now she had found him out. So he decided to drive up there anyway.” Michelle asked him. But he didn’t think she would listen to him after they argued in the woods. just in case. “Thanks for worrying about me. That’s very kind of you and I guess I should be thanking you with my life. If he couldn’t or wouldn’t look in the mirror. so alive and full of promise. And if she only knew the true extent of what he had done. He would never let her know that she would have been dead and buried if he hadn’t forced life back into her body. maybe from himself. And now. stumbling over the words in his head. looking at Michelle’s face.the coast days before the weather people had any idea.

Elliot looked down at her confused but she didn’t seem to care at all. but without care she threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly. Elliot knew that he had saved Michelle’s life that day.was her gratitude or his strange powers controlling her mind and body. and Michelle was too nervous to pull away. Did he somehow feel obligated to have her around since that first night? As if she was his responsibility now that he had meddled with her destiny? Michelle wasn’t supposed to be walking around in this world any longer and he bore that on his own conscience. frightened by what his reaction might be. Keeping her eyes closed she lowered herself and continued to hug him. But when he didn’t pull nor push her away. Anyone would have done the same. “It’s no big deal. Very slowly. nothing of that sort.” he answered quietly. and most likely on Halloween night also. Elliot’s body remained stiff. leaning into him. Elliot’s body relaxed also and he wrapped his arms around her and then stroked her hair and gave her a small kiss on the top of her head. Once their lips touched they remained like that. she relaxed. . No open mouth. no tongue. She stood on her tiptoes and pulled him towards her to kiss him on the lips. locked in a long smack.

He knew that timing was not part of death’s calculations. Death was not a punishment. The good died just as the evil did. “A signal that the front gate is in use. and he hated feeling like that. life could be seen more as a curse than death.” Elliot replied while walking towards the computers. and had been forced to bury and mourn so many loved ones. It was simply an expiration date. it had no agenda. An electrical ‘ping’ sound was heard overhead from an invisible speaker system and Michelle pulled away from Elliot and looked around to see where it came from. that he just never wanted to get close to anyone who dies ever again. others for only fifteen. He stood in front of a large monitor with Michelle by . It gave her the perfect opportunity to not look at him after their embrace.Thinking of the beautiful lively young girl dead sent shivers up his own spine this time. “What was that?” she asked nervously. yet the thought of Michelle’s lifeless body being buried somewhere underground unsettled him. Some trees lived for hundreds of years. He had seen so much death. For Elliot. None was more cursed than the other.

But Elliot was busy trying to find an excuse to whisk Michelle away from the underground library. And there was another guy. she remembered him from the basketball court because he looked somehow out of place. Ando and Kahl were there. “You mean he’s American?” Michelle asked. and couldn’t believe that such amazing characters were living so close to her home.his side and they both watched the Thunderbird drive through the gate and park. and told her that Rion was from modern day Georgia. and Elliot told her that Haneul was a nofrills type of guy. He didn’t feel comfortable having her down there once everyone returned. Michelle was extremely impressed.” Elliot answered. and she followed him up the stairs and out through the . and this despite the fact that he traced his lineage to the first Korean dynastic family. “I mean the Georgia that used to belong to the former Soviet Union. Elliot saw that Michelle was looking at his friend curiously. “No. He walked tall with a slight air of superiority. and also the Asian guy she had seen the day she fell.” Michelle didn’t want to dwell on Rion and pointed at Haneul. When he couldn’t come up with a good excuse he just plainly told Michelle that they should leave. The doors opened and the rest of the guys poured out.

as a way to prove to him that he was still being elusive. “I was just asking because I’m curious. Michelle eyed him. Elliot refused to come in. When they got to Michelle’s home. which was true enough.” Michelle said. Michelle felt a little hurt that Elliot was hiding her from the rest of his friends. “I told you I didn’t like to talk about my childhood.” he told her. “Michelle. stating that he had things to do and needed to get back.” Michelle fired back at him. this has nothing to do with you. Elliot felt . I’m not forcing you. instead turning inwards and remaining quiet while they walked through the woods. “But you didn’t even tell me where you were born.courtyard adjacent to the kitchen. He never wanted to be held accountable towards any other woman and there he was trying to explain himself despite everything. scrutinizing his face for hints that would tell her what was really going through his mind. Elliot knew that face way too well. and felt irritated that he had to make things clear to her.” Elliot answered in annoyance. giving her a small smile to assure her that he was not mad at her. but she chose not to say anything.

On the way back to Hekademos Elliot once again questioned his own intentions. and he’d met women like her before. It’s the same place. looking at him with excitement. Neither of them knew how to say goodbye to one another. confused as ever. and Elliot knew that if he uttered that word. He was even married to one. “What?” Michelle asked. “Nun Ki. Of course Michelle would want to know where he came from.bad. The whole tough and stubborn girl act she put on was just her way of shielding herself.” “I will…” she said. After all he wasn’t born yesterday. Look up Eridu on the Internet. that was natural and there he was berating her for it.” he said to her. Michelle’s feelings would get hurt because goodbye always sounded so formal. you’ll get plenty of hits. The more time he spent with the girl the more he understood that Michelle was a lot more sensitive and susceptible to getting her feelings hurt than she let on. Michelle definitely didn’t want to say it. “Nun Ki is where I was born. What did he want? If .

It was these men that helped teach or initiate them into the real world. He fit perfectly into that mold. he could get that anywhere. Such a man was a guide and a knowledgeable protector. Women were very easy for him to attract. telling her tales about his adventures and about high officials in ancient Egypt and Korean royal blood. If that was all he wanted. then why was he trying to be extra nice to her? And there he was. The fact that he had almost 5000 years of experiences and knowledge was all the more tantalizing to the girl. Even if she weren’t young she would still find herself in the same position. Did Elliot want Michelle to fall for him? Was he craving the attention of a woman? But if attention was all he wanted. She was so young. No woman had ever resisted his advance except one. Or was she? . it seemed unfair to them because in any given situation he had the upper hand.he didn’t want Michelle’s attention. he wasn’t being fair to poor Michelle. Elliot was no exception. How could she not fall for him? Of course a young woman like Michelle would be very impressionable. It was one of the perks of being one of his kind. Women always liked it when a man was a bit older or more experienced. and in Michelle’s eyes he would be perfect.

he wondered while enjoying the sounds of the crushed pine needles under his feet? When Elliot reached the school he still didn’t have his mind made up. He himself was married to Xander’s grandmother by the time she had turned 19. and by seventeen they would have been married and most likely given birth to two children. So how was it that things had changed so quickly in the Western hemisphere. but when he walked into the living room it became clear that some of his friends had made up his mind for him. .Elliot felt confused and conflicted because it was a very recent and isolated phenomenon that a seventeen-year-old female was raised to believe she was still just a child. and that was less than a hundred years ago. For thousands of years girls just reaching puberty would have already been betrothed to a man.

Hiding her healing bruise behind a thick layer of concealer. She was extra tired because after Elliot left she had spent hours at the computer researching Eridu and ancient Sumer. There was so much data out there that a tired Michelle eventually got an information overload headache. she looked at her image in the mirror and felt a little embarrassed about the way she was dressed. The madness. What else did people wear to church on Easter Sunday? Michelle had hardly ever attended any church events.Chapter 8 The next morning was Michelle’s early Sunday morning date. Michelle thought as she stumbled on the way to the bathroom. let alone an Easter Sunday service. Her alarm was set for 7:00 AM because she had promised Francesca she’d be at her house by 8:15. Francesca thought Michelle looked . Of course. There was nothing really wrong with the outfit. but she thought that she looked like an old woman in her white cotton skirt and one of her mother’s summery blouses.

of course.beautiful and very much lady like. the two of them made their way to the church’s grounds and once there. and eventually even Michelle got into it after she got used to the honking that came from all directions. Her friends were as ancient as she was. Francesca looked like the perfect sweet little old lady in it. but nonetheless it was nice to see Francesca happy and social. Michelle helped Francesca load a couple of dishes she had prepared for brunch into the small back seat of the car. But then again Francesca was wearing a dress with an impossibly complex flower print design over a dusty rose background. And although the dress was otherwise hideous. Michelle sat through the service patiently and tried to follow everyone else with the standing and . she was rather well known at the church. Although she still jumped a little when it came unexpectedly from a fast passing vehicle. and off they drove towards Saint Alodia. Michelle realized that although Francesca was quite alone in Willow’s Creek. Francesca gave small waves from the passenger side like the queen of England. One more time it seemed like the Jaguar had it’s own agenda of gathering attention from anyone who laid eyes on it. After parking the vehicle.

She could definitely do this once a year. Michelle decided to go find a sunny spot so she could sit down in and relax. Outside. After a few more introductions and hellos. There were a few prizes for the winners and the grand prize was a huge Easter basket that included a giant chocolate bunny and numerous other goodies. and Michelle was starving so everything looked good.sitting as much as she could. Here the tables were filled with wonderful food and desserts. everyone seemed happy and the children were extra excited for the egg hunt. which made her glad because it was very cold indoors and she couldn’t wait to get back out into the sun. Whatever energy she had earlier was drained by the amount of energy that her stomach needed in order to digest all the goodies . Michelle thought to herself while happily munching on one of Francesca’s special almond and candied orange Easter biscotti. After the egg hunt it was time for brunch. It wasn’t the run of the mill casseroles that she had expected would be served at church. She hoped that no one was looking at her too closely to see that she wasn’t really saying the prayers in Latin. The service itself was shorter than she had expected.

and spotted a Cadbury Cream Egg next to a large tray of cross buns. Whenever Michelle was tired she became extra hungry. reaching for the egg. He seemed surprised by her glare. But just as she was about to pick it up. Michelle looked up to see who would dare claim the egg that was so obviously hers.she had stuffed down her throat. Michelle gave the food display a last glance to see if she could find anything else that she wanted. Michelle felt her cheeks blush. Her eyes landed on a handsome young man in a beautiful white silk shirt and perfectly fitting slacks. “I’m sorry. and this Sunday was no exception. offering the egg to Michelle. Is it yours?” he said. somebody from the other side of the table grabbed it right in front of her eyes. . not the state of course. she thought. “No. He looked just like the guy that Elliot had pointed out to her on the monitor as being from Georgia. but she wasn’t sure because he was wearing sunglasses. One of the kids must have abandoned it. I was just…” Michelle didn’t finish the sentence because while looking at the young man she thought that she recognized him. She must look like such a pig. Michelle thought.

“I’m sorry. “That’s nice. “I’m Rion. Rion picked up on Michelle’s nervous hesitation. and his extra bright green eyes only affirmed her suspicion. and that he lived in the next town over. She didn’t want to reveal that she had recognized him. taking off his sunglasses with a magnificent smile and reaching out to shake her hand. because actually she was crazy about the little flavor powerhouses.” Michelle answered back. What were the chances that the Michelle standing before him was the same Michelle that had been the subject of all the arguing between Elliot and the rest of them the night before? The way she looked at him and .” he said to her. Michelle told him her name in her quietest voice possible while trying to avoid looking into his eyes. and immediately put one and one together.” he said. But by this time Michelle had no intention of taking it. Michelle was sure of his identity. Have we met?” he asked her. You were here first. She just stared at him after that. “Um… they’re really not my favorite…” Michelle lied. He told her that he was new to the area. Once she saw his face. like Orion without the O. handing the egg back to her.“No need to be embarrassed.

his shoulders and back perfectly positioned. Yes. It could either mean that she knew whom he was. He stood very tall.” Michelle answered.” Rion said. but a princely angel. Just like Elliot he had an ethereal aura. “I’m from Willow’s Creek. Perhaps she was one of them and was just feeling frightened. Certain women had a very powerful sensitivity to people like him. wishing that she had never seen that damned egg. smiling back at her. because he certainly wasn’t going to let her get away without giving him more information. like an angel almost. Michelle wondered why he was trying to look in her eyes when he spoke to her? Did he know who she was? Had Elliot pointed her out to him? Rion told her that he attended the church regularly. or that she was one of those women that could pick up on their unusual energy. He also told her that he .the way she avoided his eyes. “Where are you from?” Rion asked. and that he was glad to meet someone closer to “his own age” since most of the people were older or they had families and were busy running after the little ones. “How interesting. Rion was very handsome. Michelle admitted to herself.

so a Catholic one would have to do. as she was very beautiful and classy. “It was nice meeting you Michelle. No doubt about it. That was Elliot’s Michelle. Rion grabbed her hand and placed the cream egg in it. From there it spread all throughout her body. But as she turned to go. Michelle walked away from Rion as white as a ghost. but there weren’t that many Greek Orthodox churches in the area. It felt very similar to the way she felt when Elliot touched her.was not Catholic. I hope to see you again. and she found herself feeling light headed and slightly scared. Michelle noticed Francesca from the corner of her eye and used that as an excuse to leave the conversation. but closer to Greek Orthodox. not to mention her sensitivity to their kind was fairly strong. Rion couldn’t blame Elliot for being attracted to her.” Rion let go of her hand and smiled widely. She could feel him looking at her as she hurried all the way out to the parking lot. There was also a bonus to her that he was sure Elliot would never appreciate in a million years. Michelle . Michelle felt a surge of warmth radiating from his hand to hers. As soon as he touched her. whatever that meant.

as if it were some test? Francesca had asked her who the handsome young man whom she was talking to at the church? Michelle replied nonchalantly that he was some guy. She was still rolling the guilty Cadbury Egg in the palm of her hand. Michelle tried to answer back with her own question. and wondering if Rion had figured out who she was. Maybe his old friend was changing after all those years? Rion watched Michelle drive away. and it was very hard to find a single beautiful woman in the area who did. She was a little immature though. but the old lady just waved her finger at her and said that she couldn’t lie to her.attended church. and then shook his head a bit before putting his sunglasses back on and heading back home himself. Michelle waited outside Francesca’s house for Samantha to pick her up. and asked her if she had been seeing more of that other young man who had made her cry. How did she know things like that? Michelle wondered. Francesca gave Michelle one of those questioning looks. and a bit shyer than the women that Elliot was usually attracted to. Tim’s truck appeared . To Michelle’s surprise. and whether he had meant to touch her like that. asking why on earth would Francesca think that.

“We thought we’d surprise you. . As the truck rolled to a stop Tim jumped out.” Tim answered. especially since you didn’t even bother to say goodbye when you left Fort Bragg. It was good to see Sam. and before Samantha could even get out of her seat. Michelle explained her sudden departure from the beach that day. Things were comfortable and stable and Michelle realized that it felt good to feel like that. he swung the passenger door open to let Michelle in. It felt safe and calm to be next to her familiar friends. “What happened to the bug?” Michelle asked Samantha while still smiling at Tim. and was thankful that Samantha didn’t say anything about Elliot. There were no surprises or great secrets. Tim killed the engine and enthusiastically jumped out to open the passenger door.from down the road and pulled up in front of her with Samantha in the passenger seat waving excitedly. Michelle admitted. Tim turned the truck around and headed back down the street to Michelle’s house. When they pulled into Michelle’s driveway. Michelle thought. It was nice to see him too. Why shove it in Tim’s face? After dropping Samantha off. thanking him as he shut the door behind her.

Tim. But he was still disappointed. it was Sunday.” he answered. roughing up the hair on the top of her head. She might have even considered it on any other day. “Oh nothing. He walked her to the door and Michelle could tell that he was waiting to be invited in. .“You’re being awfully nice. “I’m glad you’re OK. Should I be concerned?” Michelle asked laughing. but after all that she had been through in the last few days. and I was disappointed that you couldn’t join us for the big abalone feast. and told her that she better remember this day because he wasn’t sure how long he could keep up the act. especially when she told him that her parents would be arriving home any moment from a long and tiring trip. And besides. I wasn’t the only one who was worried about you out there. Tim understood. “What?” Michelle asked him. she just needed some down time. with his wonderful broad smile. She stood up on her tiptoes and messed up Tim’s hair as he had done to her. and she hadn’t lifted a book since she got out of school on Wednesday. Tim laughed too.” He looked at his feet and Michelle knew that it was hard for any guy to talk like that. when he stood at the doorway looking at her strangely.

She had plenty of time to do her homework and plenty of time to think about Elliot. She quickly calculated that they would probably arrive home no earlier than 11:30 pm. Michelle actually remembered to disarm the alarm system. One message was from Toby. Michelle looked at the clock and saw that it was only 4:30 PM. “Oh my God! Elliot you’re going to give me a heart attack! Can’t you just knock on the door like normal people?” she asked. Once inside. Elliot didn’t answer the question. and another one was from Sam telling Michelle that she hoped it was ok that she had brought Tim with her when they picked her up. As the answering machine shut off. She listened. Michelle turned around to head upstairs and was almost startled to death by the sight of Elliot standing next to the front door. wishing the family a happy Easter. even about Rion. Tim walked back to his truck while Michelle waved goodbye. I’m all right. He took a few steps towards Michelle. still holding her hand over her heart.“Don’t be silly. then changed his .” And with that. I’ll see you at school tomorrow. The next message was from her parents. and headed straight to the answering machine in the living room. They had gotten a late start on their drive back and were planning to have dinner in Monterey.

Michelle couldn’t believe that Elliot the super-being was feeling threatened by a normal guy. “Yes. Elliot looked at her a bit annoyed because he knew that she was stalling. it was a good sign for sure. Once he was satisfied that he had proved his point. Tim is a nice guy. Maybe he was jealous of the cat too. trying not to betray his feelings. Michelle could sense that whatever it was he wanted to tell her was not going to be pleasant. He then laughed to show that he was not upset in the least.” he said in a neutral tone. Just then. and she tried to think of anything to say to veer the conversation elsewhere. If Elliot was jealous of Tim.course and headed to the backdoor to look out at the yard. Very nice in fact… and is that jealousy I hear in your voice? First of all…” “I’m not jealous!” Elliot replied a bit too loudly. he told her in a calmer voice that there were things that they needed to talk about. Crumb appeared through the cat door and Michelle picked him up and nuzzled him while asking him in her baby voice if he was hungry. She decided to leave Elliot standing in the living room and let him make up his own mind as to . Michelle thought. “Nice guy.

Otherwise she wouldn’t do them at all. His world and Michelle’s . And besides. That’s right. Michelle desperately wanted to get into her sweats.whether he wanted to follow her into the kitchen or not. All she told him was that she was going to go feed her cat. She had to maintain some level of credibility with Elliot around. and she thought that maybe the extra time alone would help change that. Once Crumb was fed Michelle made Elliot wait while she changed her clothes because she couldn’t stand being in that church outfit any longer. She told him that she still had homework assignments to finish before the next morning. and that she was going to do them downstairs. “What are those for?” Elliot asked her. He started to feel guilty about being there at her house to begin with. Elliot had almost forgotten about Michelle being in school and how important that was. Elliot did stand in the living room for a few seconds before following behind. She was very tired and her bed would be too much of a temptation if she tried to do her homework in her room. pointing to the books Michelle was carrying when she descended downstairs. although once she undressed she decided on a comfy pair of jeans instead. Elliot was obviously in a surly mood.

It was true that he and his friends had just moved to California from there. I won’t be able to concentrate anyway. Elliot did speak Italian and a number of other languages fluently. right? You speak Italian… Maybe you can help me? I am doing really awful and I tried asking my friend Francesca for help but she’s too old and doesn’t have the patience to really sit down and help me.might cross paths. As Michelle said the word “Italian”. but even long before that Elliot had lived in Italy for many years. “Right now?” Elliot asked in disbelief. Please?” she begged. “Why not? You can tell me whatever it is you came to tell me afterwards. but they lived in two different realms. an invisible light bulb switched on above her head. not until I’m done with this. It . Elliot was glad that she was able to persuade him. He asked her how much homework she had. After spending an hour on Italian homework both Elliot and Michelle were in a better mood. innocently batting her eyelashes. “You just came back from Italy.” she pleaded. and she answered that besides reading a chapter in US History. she had a few pages of translating conversational Italian.

patiently reiterating the answers in many different ways until she finally understood.was actually a fun lesson. he didn’t make her feel stupid or inadequate. She had always heard that French was the “language of love” but she had come to the conclusion that it had nothing over Italian and needed to be chucked off its crown title. finding Elliot irresistible when he spoke the language of Amoré with such fluidity. She was even rolling her R’s better than her pitiful tries beforehand. . Michelle was engaged. and all she could think about was putting hers on them. Michelle loved listening to Elliot’s voice and watching him as he talked. one-on-one types of lesson from a godlike creature? When she asked questions. and she listened carefully to what Elliot had to say about the rules of the language a lot more than she had ever listened class. Michelle’s new fascination with the Italian language was born. Maybe that was all she needed. Just like that. even if they were repeats. Elliot agreed with her and told her that French was a bastardation of Italian to begin with and even though his French was almost as good as his Italian he always felt like he was speaking really bad Italian. She did space out a few times just watching Elliot’s lips.

He told her to go ahead and fix something for herself because he had eaten a late lunch. Even their pores drew moisture from the atmosphere or from plant life. but he wasn’t.By 6:00 PM Michelle was starving and asked Elliot if he was hungry also. The crux of the conversation was about Elliot bringing Michelle . he wondered how on earth he would tell her about what had happened without making his friends sound like a bunch of jerks. Last evening. They needed to sustain themselves. all the guys were in the living room and it was obvious that they had been talking about him. but not as often as humans because they constantly drew energy from everything around them. because as soon as he walked into the room everyone became suspiciously silent. He didn’t want to get too relaxed. They could go without food and water for an amazingly long time. He was already feeling too comfortable just hanging out with her in her home. and to have her feeding him would just be too much. While Elliot heard Michelle rummaging through the kitchen. when he had arrived back at Hekademos. His kind didn’t feel hunger the way humans did. and besides he still had to tell her about what had happened with the guys back at Hekademos.

but Elliot had crossed all of them. No human was supposed to know about the existence of the library because humans could never be relied upon to keep secrets.there. It was one thing if he was going to put his possessions and secrets on the line. because it always seemed too dangerous. Their home was supposed to be a safe haven away from everyone else and the things they were storing in the underground library were for their eyes only. The story about it . Elliot had overstepped a solid boundary by escorting Michelle down there without asking anyone else’s approval. but quite another when he did so for all of them. Never before had they concentrated all their artifacts and knowledge in one place. It wasn’t anything personal against Michelle. It wasn’t just because of the tremendous value and personal meanings that were attached to many of the ancient items. Adding to the complexity of the situation was the fact that Elliot was the owner of the land that the school was built on. and it had been Elliot’s idea to do so now. but there was information in there that could be used by others against them. He had owned it since the days of the oil press factory. everyone thought she was adorable.

Elliot helped his descendants return to their true home. Elliot’s family moved to the re-established state of Israel. Elliot’s recent return to California coincided with his . His family established the first olive oil press in Northern California. But he never sold the California property. and had remained in the same living trust that Elliot had established over a hundred years earlier under a different name. After World War II. Elliot eventually joined them and purchased that specific parcel in the late 1800s. as they had been strangers in foreign lands since the Romans had taken over Judea more than 2000 years earlier. The whole argument about the school wanting to establish itself in Saint Alodia was just an elaborate way to distract people from noticing that the land had never changed owners. just as the Italian immigrants were establishing the first vineyards in the hills of Napa and Sonoma.belonging to a Portuguese family was true. Elliot’s descendants and some of their friends had originally emigrated from Portugal to the so-called “New World” in the mid 1500s to escape the Inquisition. Northern California was so much like the hills that surrounded the Mediterranean that everyone sought to replicate what they had left in the old countries.

“You sure you don’t want some?” she said stretching a forkful of lettuce dripping with salad dressing in his direction. but he didn’t know about her. “I read tons about Eridu last night. Fascinating. But like most girls. I can’t believe you were there at the beginning. she didn’t make a very credible case standing there holding a bowl of leaves. Michelle was still worried about being seen as a pig in front of people. I’m sure.thinking that anyone who could have possibly recognized him from the early 1900’s had passed away. “Yeah.” he politely declined. but she just wasn’t ready for anything negative yet. especially if they happened to be a super-human guy she liked… a lot! Michelle rolled her eyes at him and sat at the dinner table crunching away. And he was almost right. besides Francesca. that . Michelle knew that at some point she would have to listen to whatever it was that Elliot had come there to tell her. They all had. Michelle emerged from the kitchen with a large bowl of salad and Elliot teased her that for someone who claimed to be starving. so she decided to keep talking about other things until she ran out of topics.

It was mostly women that have asked Elliot that question many times before. no. you’re right. He told .” Elliot looked at Michelle to see how she reacted. I didn’t mean it that way. It was true. I am ancient.” she corrected when she saw that Elliot frowned a little. Her face turned white. My mind is a whole different story.you’re that old… I’m sorry. “No. She walked back to the living room and sat next to Elliot on the couch.” “What does it feel like? To be alive for so long… I mean how did you figure it out?” Michelle asked from the kitchen while rinsing her plate.” Michelle looked at her feet feeling silly. maybe a bone or two. To her surprise he didn’t seem to mind that she slid right next to him and that their thighs were touching. not physically at least. But the answer always changed a bit because he himself saw things differently as time moved on. not even one bit. “I’m sure you’ve been asked that question plenty of times. “Quite amazing that I don’t feel anything close to feeling old. just as he had expected. If I were human there would be nothing left of me but dust.

At first it was great because not only did they have their special abilities that they were learning to control and enhance. Both he and Devin felt blessed. He had gotten in many fights and had hurt people more than he had meant to. It happened when Elliot returned to Eridu to bury his grandparents. would compliment them for not succumbing to the harsh punishments of time or the sun. because he didn’t realize his strength until it was almost too late. eventually compliments turned into taunting. But it was in his mid-thirties when he began noticing that his human friends were showing signs of aging while he and Devin looked exactly the same as they had the day they met. men and women alike. However. as they crossed the trade routes back and forth. it could have been when he was 20 or 26. They both still had the same energy and excitement as any other young men might. which was when he realized that he didn’t belong amongst humans at all. Then there was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. . He then slowly began shunning human interactions. and later his beloved aunt and uncle. which did not fit well with Elliot’s personality.her that he wasn’t sure when he had actually stopped aging. and some friends even questioned his masculinity. but everyone.

letting his emotions catch up with his words. It was the most amazing and . but he decided against it. and the memories of their cruelty to him as a child resurfaced.Seeing that he looked no different than when he had left. She eventually muttered that if she was there she would tell them what was on her mind. the townspeople turned against him once more. So he returned to his story. They even managed to turn his own cousins against him. Elliot laughed at her because she got funny wrinkles on her forehead when she got so upset.” Elliot took a deep breath. They used the fact that he did not know who his father was to justify their spurning of him. He liked how she got so protective over him and wanted to take her in his arms and tell her how adorable she was. They called him all kinds of names like “demon-spawn” and “monster”. He was obviously getting carried away. “After that I didn’t go back. Devin had a completely different experience. She felt so sad for him and was very angry at what his family had done to him. Unlike Elliot. Michelle sat there paralyzed and didn’t say a thing. It hurt that the only people he loved had turned on him. and insisted on Elliot going back with him to Dwaraka. telling him that he didn’t really belong to their family.

and her heart sank. . In India their kind had no problem being accepted. “Avatar! Like the movie?” Michelle asked excitedly. “Devin was venerated as a gift from the Gods.wealthy city port in Harappa. as an avatar walking among the multitudes. Being god-like. and when he married a princess he established Elliot his right hand man. How could a nobody.” Elliot explained. When Michelle heard the word “princess” she swallowed hard. Avatar was a word to describe a living incarnation of a God born into the body of a human or animal. an ordinary girl in jeans ever compete with a beautiful Indian princess wrapped in miles of silk? When Elliot noticed Michelle’s sad expression he knew immediately what she was thinking about and decided not to mention Devin or his wife anymore. or at least many girlfriends. Devin quickly rose to power. Elliot answered that the movie had borrowed the word “avatar” from Vedic scriptures. then what would have stopped Elliot from marrying a royal as well? She then realized that Elliot must have had many beautiful wives in his past. She contemplated that if Devin had taken a princess bride. He explained to her that under Vedic beliefs Jesus would count as an avatar.

We made a pact to search for others like us. to the point where scholars thought that the Egyptians were the first to develop glassmaking. He even taught the Egyptian artisans how to perfect the art. and numerous sales people strewn amongst the best markets. and to search out the truth about who we really are. he felt the energy of the waves and for the first time it made him feel complete. Elliot’s main ports for docking were Dor. We became business partners and eventually good friends. “That’s how I met Kahl.” On the water he felt safe. He traveled the water trade routes. Elliot traded and sold ingots of glass.” .and just continued about where he traveled to from there. only this time he did so as the wealthy merchant himself. I fell in love with the sea. It was only then that I learned that he too had the same abilities as Devin and myself. And that was when I first went sailing. He had his own bodyguards. “I eventually decided to head back out on the road. Surat in India and later at Sabratha. He was working the trade routes from Sabatu in modern day Yemen all the way to lower Egypt. which were just starting to become popular at that time.

story and myth the world over.“Did he know who his father was? Are you guys all brothers?” a very excited Michelle asked. and Elliot answered that with a yes before she could even form the question. Michelle was about to ask if the same was true for the rest of the guys at Hekademos. She was also realizing that she could never be there with him and share his feelings like his friends could. and each one of us has been searching for our genesis in every history. every single one of us has a similar beginning. and each one of them had a mother who died either in childbirth or from its complications. “Yes. Elliot was still searching.” Michelle was beginning to get a glimpse through the window of Elliot’s reality. He stood up and began to slowly pace back and forth while telling Michelle that they weren’t brothers. but they did find out was that each one of them was not raised by his birthparents. and the fact that he had lived for thousands of years. and had magical powers didn’t change any of that. a lesser being without any mystery at . She could never understand how he felt and who he truly was. She was a human being. Elliot let out a sigh of frustration and stretched out his arms and legs.

daemons. “Monsters. So she asked him if he had ever returned to Eridu to try and find out more about his past. and that the original inhabitants of many lands were no longer there. Michelle nervously asked if any of them had figured anything out about what they might be. She assumed that if Elliot kept talking about it he would somehow reveal the answer to his own mystery. She wanted to come up with a good answer for him. He explained that during those years many wars had swept over the entire region of Mesopotamia.all. He told her that he himself had fought in some of those .” Michelle felt Elliot’s anger seeping out of him. Elliot told her that he had never returned to his birth land once he had settled in the land of Canaan. Demigods. You name it we’ve been called it. then was there another name for their type? Elliot laughed sarcastically and told her that they didn’t know what to call themselves but that humans had found many great names for them. If he wasn’t completely human. and later in Israel. Gods. but she was just as lost as he was. Maybe the answer was there all along and just needed someone with a fresh mind to find it. Satan… and then there is the total opposite. Angels.

and we’re always forced to come up with some story. That’s an easy way for you to spot people like me in the history books. obviously disturbed by her response. “A lot of times you’ll read a story about some leader coming from an obscure background with poor parents or no parents at all. How can they not still teach his legacy?” he asked. and Elliot looked back at her confused.” She felt bad and shifted the spotlight back to Elliot.” Michelle lifted her shoulders as a way to signal to him that she didn’t know what he was talking about. and he proudly announced that he even served under Sargon the Great. and how they miraculously rose to power. “What do you mean? Don’t you study Western History? He was one of the most amazing political and social leaders in the world. I’m sure you studied about Cyrus The Great?” Michelle shook her head. He then added that many of the famous leaders in history were also no different than he and his friends.wars. . It’s because we have no real fathers. “I’m sorry. He told her that Sargon was probably one of his kind. asking him if he was forced to fight in any of the wars he had told her about. “I think maybe in College we can choose to study that History.

That was how we gradually discovered that there were others out there who were like Devin and myself. only to meet a century later in another war. “So I assume you have killed many people?” Michelle asked in a somewhat demeaning tone. I often met others of my kind when we were the only two left standing after a long.” Michelle tried to imagine Elliot in some ancient fighting gear. Society had demanded its men to be . but it was more a question of preservation. He was not about to take any condemnation from a girl who had lived in the protective bubble of the United States of America her entire life. drawn-out battle. and the picture of him as a great warrior floated in her mind until she realized that to be considered a great warrior one must champion over many. There was no calling ‘911’ for help. And yet she was afraid of the answer. but then returned his gaze to look straight in Michelle’s eyes. but at other times we just walked away from one another. If she only knew how people had been forced to fight to survive during most of human history.“I did many times. Elliot looked down at his feet for a second. and she knew that that meant death to others. We ended up forming friendships many times.

and children. They had a much stronger resolve than the constrained soldier of today. while his pupils glowed in yellows and gold. not because the individual soldiers weren’t sincere.strong and tough in order to protect their lands. and he derided the modern military. worrying about which car they drove or which sports team won on TV. They loved watching movies about tough guys. their wives. by the sword when necessary. and some of them were still out there. He even laughed at the muscle bound gym rats that built up their bodies out of pure vanity. he thought. Elliot saw most modern men as soft and spoiled. but could they do the same? They wouldn’t last five minutes against a real enemy. Michelle sat on the couch staring at him and her heart filled with . It was obvious to Michelle that Elliot was getting upset talking about such things. Elliot was familiar with all kinds of enemies from his past. His eyes glowed and changed colors. but because of all the new political policies that put their lives at stake and prevented them from pursing the enemy as needed. First the blue of his eyes changed shades from dark to light and then they took on different shades of green.

It made him feel like an outsider. her expression quickly changed from nervousness to worry. But he knew that if he left abruptly it would make him seem all the more cold and uncaring. But maybe it was a good thing if Michelle grew frightened of him? She would leave him alone if she feared him.apprehension. and she was no longer sure if it was a good idea to get too close to him. a forgery of the real thing. Elliot looked at the door desperately. She mused that there in front of her sat a creature that only looked human. She hadn’t meant to judge him. and she didn’t want him to leave. He hated it because it made him feel that much further from being one of them. Elliot’s eyes searched the room. and then he wouldn’t have to think about what he felt for her because the situation would be out of his hands completely. I’m sorry I didn’t mean to sound like that. trying not to sound too .” Michelle said. he realized that he had frightened her and he wanted to leave at once. a real monster. which would frightened her even more. He hated it when he scared people. “Elliot. and when Michelle picked up on his thoughts. When Elliot noticed the way Michelle leaned back away from him with alarm. landing on the clock that read 7:15 PM. and he got up from the couch.

They were pure. even if they included fear or anger. she tried to play games with her feelings. and not war. and yes she put on a front and tried her best to pry herself out of uncomfortable situations. I’ve never been in a battle. it has all remained the . not religion. It has to be stopped from within. But he was done with that.” Elliot was touched by Michelle’s vulnerability and the fact the she didn’t hide it from him. It was one of the things that attracted him to her to begin with. In a softer tone Elliot told her that he had been a soldier in many wars and had fought for numerous countries.desperate. She didn’t feel embarrassed by her feelings. He had realized that greed and want of power were society’s biggest ills. “I know that people die in wars. but in the end. Yes. It’s just that the idea of it is so foreign to me. and even good leaders with good intentions succumbed to their temptations. but people are people and they haven’t really changed much in all those years. I’m sorry. she was completely honest about what was in her heart. With all the technology and knowledge being lost and then found again. “There is nothing anyone can do to stop it. not government.

The words were out there and they revealed that she would not have minded spending all those years next to him. to see all those things and…” Michelle immediately regretted her words. and now . Michelle wanted to plead to him. He knew that she was still recovering from her drowning. But then the next words that came out of her mouth did so without her even thinking about what they meant. “I’m telling you about the world of yesterday. What happened in my past is no longer relevant to what I’m doing now. and also suspected that her parents would be arriving home soon. but she was afraid she might sound desperate. He wasn’t sure if talking about these subjects was a good idea. But it was too late.” Elliot suddenly realized how very tired Michelle looked and worried about her getting enough rest.same. in today. It obviously upset her and she needed to be calm and comfortable for the healing process to really work.” He smiled at her sadly. Don’t shut me out. He had realized that no leader was worth the sweat of his brow or a drop of his blood. “I wish I could have been there with you. wishing she could press a button and rewind time. but you live in the here and now. She had put herself out there.

There are so many people who wish to stay alive forever. All that I’ve seen and learned does not make up for the loss. I don’t know how I do it sometimes. I have seen rivers disappear and oceans reclaim whole cities.” Elliot smiled and put his hand on her cheek like he did the first night he came to see her. Maybe she could live in a sunny port town with Elliot by her side and watch merchants sell salted fish out of baskets. But I have outlived each and every one of them. “There are always good things in life. and those never change. but they . “Michelle. I wouldn’t want you to be there with me. No one should have to bear the sadness of more than one human lifetime. “But what about the happiness and the good things that come in life?” She still wished that Elliot could snap his fingers and they could both be transformed to another time in some distant land. a place where she was stuck being a teenager in high school. She wished she were far from Willow’s Creek. It’s hard for me to look back and see that the lively places I have traveled to be reduced to mere ruins. Michelle had a faraway smile on her face.she could really get hurt or rejected.

which is always the beginning of something else. and to her he was a miracle. I’m stuck walking but never getting anywhere. I envy you and everyone else. . What has happened to me is kind of a curse.don’t really know what they are asking for. They are blessed that they have an end. She was only beginning to get to know him.” Michelle didn’t like hearing Elliot refer to his own life as a curse.

Even though she knew it wasn’t true. She missed him horribly. Michelle went straight to her desk and looked at the nondescript brown wrapping. when Michelle returned home from school the mailman had delivered a small package in her name. It was small. But how could she be sure that Elliot wasn’t visiting another girl. a little . Maybe he could sense her sadness and return at once. Michelle’s insecurities dug deep into her mind and refused to let her rest. Friday. She felt so abandoned. She knew that he went out of town and would be back soon. or at least get some sort of message from him. By Thursday evening Michelle thought that she would go crazy if she didn’t see Elliot. but that didn’t seem to matter. He was way too good looking to be out there without other women noticing him. more than she could have ever imagined.Chapter 9 After their last meeting Elliot did not visit Michelle for four excruciating days. At bedtime between silent tears Michelle whispered Elliot’s name hoping that by some means he would be able to hear her. Once upstairs in her room.

larger than a crayon box. That explanation seemed to satisfy her mom. It was a brand new cell phone. What she found inside surprised her and excited her beyond belief. she removed it carefully making sure that it didn’t rip. She shook the box and heard nothing unusual rattle in there. But when Michelle noticed a folded piece of notepaper taped to the backside of the box. her mother asked her what was in the package and Michelle told her that it was an “inside” joke from her friends. only newer and with more features. The gift meant that Elliot was thinking about her. Yours Truly. That evening during dinner. but . I’m sorry about what happened to your phone and hope this one will do as a replacement. Elliot Michelle’s heart almost burst with relief. When she unfolded it she couldn’t believe what she saw written on it: Dearest Michelle. even if she wasn’t around him. and had no return address. At first she wondered if her mom bought it after seeing that her old one was broken and was only playing a joke on her. He cared about her and the cell phone was evidence for that. It was almost identical to the one she had.

Michelle knew that she would have to come up with a better answer because to use the phone her mother would have to agree to activate it. it felt strange to be hiding Elliot from her. Even if he didn’t belong to the Hekademos Learning Center Michelle would still keep him all to herself. Michelle was reminded at how grateful she felt for the closeness that she shared with her mother. Michelle quietly wandered about the store leafing through many of the new books on display. Saturday morning Michelle was in great mood and joined her mother on a bike ride to the local bookstore. But to her disappointment it was obvious that the author was writing to someone who already knew about the subject. while having lunch. Later that afternoon. when their car approached the driveway of the house. A book called Immortality: Myth and Mystery caught her eye and she picked it up with great interest. A local author who had made it big was signing copies of his novel. While the author gave a brief lecture. It felt good. She enjoyed having her own life away from her parents and wondered if that was wrong or just a part of her growing up. Michelle immediately . Still. Later. She would have to take a whole class to understand the introduction alone.

picked up the unmistaken aroma of the sea through her rolled down window. but she didn’t. “I guess it’s all in my mind. She wanted to know that she wasn’t going crazy and picking up on things that weren’t really there. Elliot was somewhere nearby. “No really. After her mom went into the house. as he stepped forward from the side yard.” Michelle laughed it off. she teased. “How did you know I was here?” he asked. Michelle told her mother that she was going to .” a surprised Elliot answered. She wasn’t going to dwell on such a non-issue. Elliot was back and he was happy. Elliot joked that he hadn’t showered that morning and hoped he wasn’t insulting her with his body odor. smiling wide at Michelle. what is that smell? Is that cologne?” “Are you serious? I’m not wearing anything. As they got out of the car Michelle was curious to see if her mother could detect the scent too. Perhaps she too had extra-human abilities. Michelle stuck around outside to see if Elliot would reveal himself. Michelle smiled right back at him and told him that she could sense him and that his scent was everywhere.

“Not in so many words. “I was the one who broke it. It’s only fair that I replace it. and if he was extra wealthy or just crazy to do something like that. Elliot freely explained to her that he had gone to listen to a lecture that a professor at Harvard University was giving on “Heroes of the Ancient World”. “You just flew over there for one lecture?” Michelle wondered if Elliot was telling her the truth.” Michelle fought her urges to ask him where he had gone to. Elliot walked straight to the Thunderbird and fished out . Maybe both? But then she remembered the book she had looked at earlier in the day. and a few minutes later she and Elliot were heading towards the Hekademos. But Elliot didn’t make a big deal out of it.go study with Samantha. Michelle let Elliot know how much she appreciated him getting her a new phone. but close.” Elliot said as he walked over to enter the access code to open the school’s front gate. “I read in a book today that Giants really existed a long time ago. To Michelle’s surprise. Did the professor mention that?” she asked smartly. but as usual her curiosity won out over her will.

She knew that if such subjects were so important to him.” Elliot answered back smiling. that she would need to learn more about them. “Where are we going?” she asked. Michelle smiled with excitement and wondered if what they were doing would count as their first official date. but since Michelle had mentioned giants he decided to start there. But Michelle didn’t care. excited and apprehensive all at once. “Are you sure you really want to know about all of this?” Elliot asked. “Anywhere you’d like. He unlocked the door for Michelle. He really didn’t know where to begin. “For a drive. He began by telling her a story that he had heard a . warning her that delving into such topics was like opening Pandora’s box. trying not to sound too alarmed. and maybe she would even be able to help him one day if he ever needed her to. Elliot had to think for a while.” “Where?” Michelle asked again. Once they had driven out of the large gates Michelle asked him again about the giants.the keys from his pocket.

Anyway. Gilgamesh is described as many things: a giant. I began scrutinizing them and asking people where they originated from. I didn’t pay much attention to them because they were no different than children’s fairytales. That was some time before I was born. which is the same flood the Bible talks about. “I learned that Gilgamesh was a real king who ruled Ur.” “What a jerk!” Michelle exclaimed. just like today. a mighty hunter. fascinated. and a champion. He is described as possessing superhuman abilities. a neighboring city-state.long time ago while growing up in Eridu around 2700 BC. a hero. But when I realized that I was different and that some of the things I could do were mentioned in those same stories. challenging every strong man to a fighting match. The story tells us that he was a wild and ruthless leader early in his life. “Back then. and supposedly ruled after the great flood. “Did you find anything?” she asked. Elliot laughed . and seducing every virgin on her wedding night. there were many stories circulating about people with special powers who could live for an unimaginable amount of time. the one with Noah and the Ark.

” It was obvious to Michelle that Elliot was speaking from personal experience. they would definitely look like him. “Gilgamesh is described as being 1/3 human and 2/3 god. the Sumerian equivalent of a demigod or a titan. than what do you think you are?” “Michelle.because she was getting angry with the mythical king. “Don’t worry about it. No matter how many times you ask me the answer is always the .” Elliot smiled with sad eyes. if you’re not like Gilgamesh. but I’ll take that as a compliment. We are either feared and hated or loved and venerated. then you are a god or an angel!” Michelle’s eyes grew large with admiration and she swallowed hard. Michelle. If I was. I already told you. “So.” “I knew it! So if you are anything like him. He was an Anunaki. and Michelle felt disappointed and a little silly too. She looked at him and thought that if there were angels. they automatically assume that we are either angels or demons. I think I would have figured that out by now. “I am no angel. Whenever people meet someone who can do the things I can.

” he said sarcastically. and…” “But what about God in the Bible? Doesn’t it say that he created everything?” Michelle blurted out.” Michelle teased. Not so far anyway. lowering her tone to sound like the voice-over in an old black and white horror flick. “God created Adam and Eve. not Adam and Eve and Elliot. He had already researched that avenue. “I have never understood why people are so negative towards things they don’t understand. a monster born completely outside of God’s realm?” Elliot spoke with pain and Michelle thought about the isolation that he had previously only hinted of. Why can’t someone like me belong in this world the same way that you do? Why is it that I either have to be a special creature belonging to God. “None of us really know anything about our true origin. Elliot. obviously upset. suddenly realizing why he could speak of . That has been the exact question that had been burning a hole in his brain for thousands of years.same. suddenly accelerated the vehicle and her body jerked backward and stuck to her seat.” Elliot shook his head in frustration. “Well then I guess you are the Devil’s mischief. or a spawn.

“I’m sorry. He slowed down the car and started to reach for her hand. and watchers. used the word ‘giants’ interchangeably with words such as heroes. “And besides. From the description of the Anakim. “The Hebrew Bible. Elliot just didn’t belong. it was obvious to him that they were the same as the Sumerian Anunaki.” He didn’t want to continue with self-pity.” Michelle looked at him. the great flood of Noah was sent in part to destroy these beings. I didn’t mean it like that…” Michelle looked at his pained face and Elliot could tell that he had frightened her. Michelle. the Bible is filled with references to other beings that aren’t mentioned in the story of creation. puzzled. but then changed his mind.himself as being cursed. The Bible recounts that . also called “Anakim” in Hebrew. just like the epic story of Gilgamesh. What’s more. just like in the Sumerian creation myth. Elliot explained to her that if she read the Bible she would find many mentions of “giants”. guardians. Elliot wanted to just be. champions. But they weren’t all destroyed. to Michelle’s disappointment. “It’s not you. You’re only going by what you know.

“The Bible has fallen out of favor in the last century. There are many historical truths in it. What people who never read it don’t understand is that there is a wealth of worldly knowledge in there. These unions produced a cursed hybrid known as the Anakim.” Michelle looked at Elliot in disbelief. Michelle tried to protest but he just told her again that it wasn’t her fault. She worried that if Elliot was somehow . “You’ll find the Bible tells of the Nephilim. Giants and champions? Michelle wondered what Bible he was reading out of! “I can tell that you don’t believe me. I know. ‘the fallen.” Michelle asked him more about the giants. And God brought on the great flood to destroy them.” Elliot stated flatly. She had never heard anything even remotely close to what he was telling her. Before the great flood. It’s not just about believing in God or not.’ Sometimes they are referred to as the ‘Sons of God’.remnants of these champions survived and lived among humans. these Nephilim are said to have mated with human women. “But why destroy them?” Michelle asked with concern. Trust me. the giants.

But it wasn’t until the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. “And how would they know about Gilgamesh if you said he was from your country? Isn’t the Bible about Moses and Israel?” “Michelle. What they know today about the world of the past is but a drop in a great ocean. that anyone paid much attention to them. They even mention Gilgamesh by name in the Book of Giants!” “A book about giants in the Bible?” Michelle yelled in disbelief. He was obviously good. “It says that they abused the powers they had to control humans and lived like tyrants. Archaeologists are just now finding enough material . There are other books that were part of the original Hebrew sacred writings and they have lots of references to the Giants and Champions.connected to these beings that someone out there might want to hurt him. Some of the writings even have references to special towns that were built for the Nephilim and their descendants to dwell in. We brought our stories with us and took some of theirs back home. four thousand years ago I traveled back and forth from India and southern China all the way to Libya and later to Europe. kind of like King Gilgamesh did before he had a change of heart.

Elliot could tell that Michelle was flustered and reminded himself that he had had thousands of years to read and reread every single text on the subject he could get his hands on. Michelle didn’t know what to say. Elliot had an answer to everything. She felt calm and content. although he had seen that look before. was a mistake. She smiled at him and he smiled back at her. actually traveled across seas and whole continents. He explained that he just wanted to enjoy his time with her. primitive people. He knew this stuff like he lived and breathed it daily. “I’m sorry for filling your head up with this stuff.” His tone of voice softened . Elliot knew exactly what to do to change the subject and to clear the air. Michelle began feeling that warm faint feeling spreading from his fingertips up to her head. She wanted to learn more about him but she was overwhelmed.” Elliot exhaled. it . Michelle felt what she thought was bliss and all she could do was look at Elliot with awe. For Elliot. Michelle didn’t want him to give up on her. He took a hold of Michelle’s hand and squeezed it gently. and letting his obsession with his research take over their conversation.where they are starting to conclude that us. As Elliot held her hand.

He was used to that attention. but he didn’t care much about it. Elliot asked . “I am. especially as it was obvious that she had not experienced the full spectrum of the nastiness that women direct at their sisters when they set their eyes on a certain man. are you hungry?” he asked Michelle. “Hey. Michelle turned back from the window smiling. like we’re eating on a ship or a boat.never really grew old when a beautiful girl looked at him like that. He smiled at her and thought that he should probably kiss her. then returned to look at the shimmering bay. He didn’t want Michelle to feel insecure.” The restaurant was built on piers right on top of the water.” she said. “This feels like we are right in the water. Elliot noticed that some of the waitresses gathered close by and began sending glances in his direction. but he was driving after all. He shifted in his seat a little and sent an uninviting look in their direction. Michelle nodded. changing the subject. The nice waitress led Elliot and Michelle to a great table that sat right against the massive windows overlooking the small bay.

On top of which he was telling her about his past and sharing some of his secrets. Maybe he didn’t know what he wanted. and every minute she spent with him dragged her that much deeper into his world and him into hers. but she refused to let herself get caught up in the rush of emotions that was sweeping over her. For her. Her brain told her that she shouldn’t set her hopes on him. what he felt. they were clearly on what anybody else would think of as a date. Michelle laughed inside her head at her fantasies. especially because Elliot’s motives were so hard to pin down. being next to Elliot and hearing his stories was perfection. She didn’t want to pressure him and scare him away.her if she enjoyed being on boats to which Michelle answered that she didn’t know because the only boats she’d been on were ferries and that was when she was a little girl. Michelle went back to looking out the window and she felt as if the water and the sun were hypnotizing her. She was confused. But Michelle also feared putting him on the spot. The last thing . Michelle needed to know what Elliot wanted. not yet. She was falling for him hard. She was happy to be there with him. but in time he would realize that she was the only one for him. but at the same time.

After they finished their meal they stopped by a small gift shop that was in the same building as the restaurant. Elliot watched Michelle as she walked back and . Elliot and Michelle walked outside and looked at the shoreline down below the wooden deck. He told her that he too loved the illusion of gold on the water. Michelle asked Elliot if it was all right that she goes down there and find a shell souvenir. including amazingly detailed models of wooden ships. “What’s the matter?” Elliot asked when he noticed that Michelle was miles away. of course. she told him that she was just spacing out on the water and the way that the sun made the edges of the soft ripples look as if they were made of gold. Rather than say something that she might regret. She wondered what it would be like to sail far away in such a beautiful ship… with Elliot. Elliot had watched those same ripples for countless hours many times himself.she wanted to do was anything that would jeopardize that. Michelle looked at the many oceanthemed items. The sun made its course westward and the entire bay glowed in shades of pink and orange sherbet.

His eyes on hers almost made her gasp. “Just memories from a long time ago.” Elliot laughed. and she had a natural sense of optimism that was contagious even for someone like him. “It’s small and unblemished. If Michelle only knew how many millions of perfect shells he had seen in his life. Grade A by far. “What are you thinking about?” Michelle asked. but it was perfect. without any chips or imperfections. . And he wasn’t even thinking about the prized purple dye shells the he and Kahl had traded throughout the known world.forth with her eyes glued to the sand. It was a small shell. and wondered what it was about Michelle that made him want to spend time with her. definitely a beauty. Something in her personality hinted at a deeper strength. He told her that he was impressed. turning the shell in his fingers. She was pretty. but that was a given. Michelle worried about those memories from long time ago. showing him her treasure. she would probably want to keep them all. Michelle proudly marched up to Elliot. and wondered how many different girls were attached to them.” Elliot brought his attention back to her face. but there was more to his fascination.

The tension and suspense had nowhere to escape. hanging above them right under the car roof like a steamy cloud. When they got back to Willow’s Creek Michelle didn’t know how to ask Elliot when she would see him again. “I’m picking up my friend Devin from the airport next week… if you want to come along…” His voice trailed in doubt. She would never reveal it to him.and how many of them had fallen in love with him. How could they not? Michelle knew that Elliot had been married to Xander’s grandmother. but wondered how many other women he had loved before? That question haunted her. when at last Elliot broke the silence and told Michelle that he had a good time. and yet there was absolutely nothing that she could do about things that had happened in the past.” Michelle answered. it was obvious that he didn’t know what to say either. They sat in the car like that for what seemed to be a long time. “Me too. She felt silly about her jealousy. . and measuring the uncomfortable silence that followed once Elliot killed the engine.

and mixed with those emotions. knowing full well that she’d find time for him. and he had a lot more practice. Elliot let Michelle out in front of Samantha’s house because Michelle didn’t want her parents to see her get out of an unfamiliar car. Elliot smiled to himself. She wondered if Elliot had thought about kissing her before she got out of the car. Spending a day in the sun was good for . Michelle would just have to go by his words and trust him. Maybe he only wanted to be friends.“I’ll have to check my schedule. But now she was concerned as to why he didn’t? She wondered if she had misunderstood their time spent together. I’ll see you between now and then. but that was the ritual and it has been repeated for thousands of years. She was tired and happy. was the dread of wondering whether Elliot would continue to seek her out. because she certainly had. He’d play along.” Elliot didn’t say when or how. which would be just awful. why not? “OK. How will I let you know?” Michelle answered smartly. The game came natural to him too. It was beyond him to give her any more.

for God’s sake. as if it was a major decision whether he should pick it up or not. But then in a swift move he grabbed it and dropped it into the front pocket of his jacket. He was almost a 5000-year-old man. Was he crazy to even think about being with a woman again? And what was it about falling for a woman that made grown men feel like children? Elliot passed by the school’s office and Xander called to him from inside. not some pubescent kid. a few times. he had also raised several families. seen them grow old. When Elliot parked the car back at the school. and buried his own grandchildren. and not only did he watch his children being born. He stared at it for a while. he noticed Michelle’s little shell sitting inside the drink holder. He derided himself for feeling the way he did about Michelle. He was a man who had been married.Michelle. a little. Elliot told Xander where he had been and with whom because he knew . She panicked. she remembered that she left the little shell she had found in Elliot’s car. Later that night as she switched off her night lamp. and the fresh air didn’t hurt either. because what if she never saw him again? That shell held all the wonderful memories from her perfect day.

but they had all agreed that they wouldn’t get seriously involved with someone while living there. And Elliot was already flustered with himself.Xander wouldn’t overreact like his friends would. It was nobody’s business. None of them was obligated to live there at all. Everyone at the school had the freedom to come and go as they pleased. and now it looked like he would be the first to . he almost lost himself when their lips touched. That had been Elliot’s idea from the start. But nonetheless he returned home to a bunch of staring eyes. Xander loved Elliot as if he was the father. and who still lived with her parents. That one night. Even he didn’t understand why he had brought Michelle there and why his words flowed out like water from a rock when he talked to her. was very uncomfortable for everyone. It would change the entire dynamic of their household if she were to become a staple of life there. And on top of it all. and each of them had the means to do whatever he wanted outside the school walls. each waiting to take a turn at him. when the guys had waited to have their ‘talk’ with Elliot. But he did worry about him getting involved with a girl who lived so close. and only wanted what was best for him. All the guys had enjoyed their share of rendezvous with the opposite sex.

Rion enjoyed teasing Elliot. Elliot had assured them that he wouldn’t bring Michelle into the library again. Leta Memmia. “If you care for this girl. Or maybe Rion wanted to compete with him for the girl.” Elliot knew exactly what . Elliot became uncharacteristically jealous. That night. when Rion told him that he had met his “sweet” Michelle at church. Still. Rion wasn’t very sensitive and he could say something that would upset the whole situation.” Xander said. bringing Elliot back from his thoughts. he confided to Elliot that he understood his attraction to her. Rion tried his best to tread lightly around the ‘women’ issue. So. He then disappeared upstairs to his room. But it was what Leta did that made Elliot swear that he would never get emotionally involved with a woman again. He had done so ever since Elliot had married one of his descendants. you must think of everything. Later that week. He didn’t like the idea of Rion talking to her. Elliot was not interested in playing games with Michelle’s heart. but that was all he could promise. But it wasn’t easy for him.do just the opposite. “Elliot. just for fun. She was young and innocent and she didn’t deserve anything of that sort. because he thought that she was very pretty too.

Xander was referring to. Elliot had basked in his power and taken full enjoyment in many women. He just wasn’t sure yet. relishing their sweet devotion to him. But if those feelings were amazing. Any man might wish for his type of power. Being intimate with one of their kind was a life-altering event. but there were many others that he didn’t. she became dreamy and wistful. but after the ego is fed and the delight in his . All one has to do is listen to the millions of love songs out there from the beginning of time to understand love’s power. Michelle’s giddy behavior was the norm for Elliot. Of course Elliot had loved and married a number of women. or the first time that a madly in love couple shares intimacy. and he eventually learned of the tragic lives that they led. Everyone knows of the power of a first kiss. and that was the precise reason he resisted kissing Michelle. But as time went on he learned that these same women became disillusioned with other men because a human could never measure up to someone like him. Long ago in his youth. being with one of their kind was tenfold. Women got hypnotized just standing next to them. Every woman he had ever gotten close to reacted in that way. and if they held a woman’s hand.

Elliot learned the hard way that women were not playthings. Parents who felt cheated and angry were the ones who raised tyrants and cruel leaders. Elliot had seen entire cultures destroyed by their lack of sensitivity to their female population. Elliot still wondered that if all humans lived as long as he did. would they change their ways? With all that in mind. and their needs just like his. went beyond the physical. he might find that his humanity is at stake. one might as well curse the next generation of children. If he was to become intimately involved with Michelle he could . Elliot had been around long enough to learn that humans are not animals. and all for a few seconds of quickening of the pulse. and before that he had avoided them altogether for almost 1500 years. It had been almost a hundred years since he had been with a woman. Xander was completely right. There was a spiritual connection that the soul needed. No society could prosper without exalting the woman to equal status as her male counterpart. The cycle of pain just continued for generations to come. By taking a woman’s love and sensuality for granted. or even emotional.manly influence diminishes. Elliot had to consider Michelle and her wellbeing.

Francesca warned Michelle not to hang . On Wednesday.” She asked Michelle for her beau’s name and Michelle told her. and was very glad that Michelle hadn’t forgotten about her. conveniently omitting the parts about him being immortal. and that was the last thing he wanted to do.well ruin the rest of her life. She reshuffled her plans to Sunday and cleared out her entire Saturday just for Elliot. and after that Michelle told her of her amazing day with Elliot. The elder lady had missed Michelle the week before. Michelle visited Francesca and found her sunbathing in the backyard. sipping on cool lemonade. although she asked Francesca to keep it a secret for now. Francesca agreed. “What do you mean?” Michelle asked laughing. “It’s as clear as day. “Is it really that obvious?” Michelle wondered out loud. Francesca was sure of it. and Francesca said that she was way too old to have a seventeen-year-old pass one over on her. She had been spending time with that man. “Obvious?” the old lady laughed. “now that she had stars in her eyes”. Michelle couldn’t wait for the week to be over.

Michelle loved the fact that even at her old age Francesca was a completely modern woman. Back when Francesca was young that was what all the fuss was about. If a girl didn’t have a man by her side she was brought up to feel inadequate. without any thought about the flower he already picked. even guilty. Francesca told Michelle that the partnership of marriage was a great gift to both man and woman. is going to buy the whole peach tree if he gets the nectar for free. there was no official announcement that she and Elliot were an item anyway.” In . Women make it too easy for a man to jump from one flower to another. no matter how intelligent or proper he is. but Michelle did have to remind her that she was still only seventeen and that the idea of marriage had never crossed her mind.” she told her.her every emotion on a man. but it was also important for Michelle to stay happy with or without him. “Don’t ever let a man’s behavior dictate in what mood you will spend the rest of the day. “No man. It was good to feel happy after a fun outing. but that she was glad that women these days knew better than to hang their entire lives on a man’s whim. On top of which.

exactly. She understood the logic behind it.her own way. only this time the pain would last long after the tears had dried. Samantha gave her a little static over canceling their weekend plans. She was awake before the alarm went off. She didn’t understand what that meant. and multiply that by a hundred. but she knew that she had done the same to Michelle. a very unusual event. pointing to the facts of high divorce rates and broken families. which was easy since her original plans had been with her anyway. Michelle was surprised when Elliot drove up to her house in a Ford Explorer rather than the . Francesca tried to guide Michelle away from physical intimacy until marriage. although not quite as eloquently put. Michelle had heard that type of speech before. Francesca told Michelle that she just needed to imagine the way she had cried over Elliot a few weeks ago. When morning sun peeked in through Michelle’s window she was already awake. She had already arranged with Samantha to cover for her. especially for a Saturday. but it was hard for her to fully appreciate it because she had never shared all of her with anyone. when she had first started spending time with James.

” he answered. “What else can you do that . “They seem to really like Xander over at the dealership. I hope you know that?” “It’s just that it feels like I’m floating.Thunderbird. I love it. “Will you explain to me how you did that last night. How would that affect her life? Michelle quietly wondered. he didn’t like to leave any paper trails. and although he paid cash for it outright. He told her it wasn’t brand new. “I usually change locations before I let twenty years pass by. He gets the best deals. but it only had 39. and she decided to ask him about more pleasant things. when you held my hand and I felt so…” “Good?” Elliot laughed. “But what do you do when people see you around for twenty years and notice that you haven’t changed?” Michelle asked. I have no idea how he does it. That thought scared her. it’s like nothing I ever felt before!” she blushed and looked out the window.000 miles on it.” Elliot joked. He explained to her that it was much less of a hassle for him to buy things through Xander. “It’s ok for you to feel good.

we can fine tune our hearing and our sense of smell to equal if not surpass that of the night creatures. “I detect colors even at night. but not immensely so. We’re able to lower and raise our body temperature to extremes. They were definitely physically stronger. I can only do it for a limited amount of time. without noticing it. He told her that besides actual physical strength and agility. and we can live without oxygen for longer amounts . He guessed that their strength was that of maybe seven men combined. It really drains every bit of energy out of me if I try and overdo it. “ And when we choose to. Michelle liked sitting next to such a powerful man and slowly. or shall I say witnessed. He was like a magnet to her body. their perceptions were heightened.” Elliot told her that it was those types of developed skills that set them apart from average humans. But it takes a lot of practice to get good at it. you’ve seen.” he told her. that we can move so fast that human eyes cannot detect us. her body slid in her seat so that she could be closer to Elliot. That meant that their sight was superb and they were able to see in conditions that humans would perceive as either being too bright or too dark.we can’t do?” “Well.

He’d had this same conversation before and it was always difficult for the human.” “You guys are amazing.of time. otherwise it could sit there and fester underneath the surface until one day it would all come out and by then it would have changed into complete resentment. “We are.” she said dreamingly. in the sense that we don’t age and die. Elliot liked that Michelle was comfortable expressing her envy up front. Elliot felt sad for Michelle. “We feel pain. I am not made of steel. and there was always a tinge of jealousy. I have a heart and a pulse just like any other human. a human. and then immediately felt angry for being a weakling. but there are instances in which we can be killed.” Elliot said as a way to relate to what Michelle was thinking. Problem is.” “What do you mean? I thought you guys are immortal?” Michelle asked. alarmed. “And I do believe that I was very close to death once. There was always the initial realization of the weakness and frailty of a human life. It’s not . I wish I could be like you. that there aren’t enough of us to compile data about what it is that kills us.

because that’s what almost killed me. He told Michelle that although he survived. “It came in waves. “ I’m pretty sure that fire with extreme heat is another way. He was fighting in some war and word had gotten around that he was .” What Elliot described to Michelle next sounded even worse than death. but Elliot continued. and it sprouted in different places and at different times.” he chuckled. especially during the dark ages when anyone who raised suspicion was accused of demonic possession or witchcraft. It was the worst thing I have ever felt. He had found himself at the stake not once but twice. “But we do die if our heads are severed from our bodies. “I myself was the victim of a similar torture. some of his descendants were burned at the stake.” Michelle winced at the thought. Usually it followed some great plague or natural disaster.” Elliot told her that there were many times when his kind had been victim of various persecutions.” From the look on his face it was obvious that Elliot was thinking about painful memories. and because we survived. we and our families were naturally blamed. If I wasn’t found when I was I think I would have actually died.like we’re going to experiment on one another.

” Elliot’s fingers gripped the steering wheel. but when he didn’t die from the poison and instead just got drunk beyond belief. They had already set the place burning. “I couldn’t use my arms at all. and when my clothes caught on fire they melted into my skin.a daemon fighting in a plain soldier’s uniform. And the whole time they were yelling at me to tell them which Marid I was. . while Michelle winced in sympathy. They were dead. I. Only they were free. and the iron chain they had me in was so thick that it might as well been solid plutonium. but I do remember waking up in a mass grave surrounded by others who had suffered the same fate as I did. It was insanity mixed with insane pain. they used their superior numbers and the element of surprise to overpower him. her eyes glossy her lips quaking. His enemies found a way to sneak poison into his camp. I’ve never felt so much pain in my life. By the time he sobered up he was gagged with his wrists wrapped backwards around stone pillars and held in place by the thickest metal chains. had to lie there in complete and utter agony and wait for my body to heal itself. on the other hand. or which one sent me here. “I don’t remember much besides the pain.

and to make him feel better. Michelle made a sudden movement to grab Elliot’s hand. She wanted to make them all go away. I have healed from stab wounds. but there is nothing. Elliot knew that what he had just told Michelle . And what’s more. nothing on earth that is as painful as burning to death. Feeling his warm skin against hers was a validation that he was there with her alive and not suffering somewhere in the distant past. Whether it was for his benefit or hers. and numerous other injuries.” Elliot’s eyes were far away in the distant past. Elliot didn’t pull back from her. She wanted to hold him or cradle him or do something.for my cells to regenerate. Without thinking it through. bullet wounds. and held it tightly in hers. His jaw tightened with agitation and his entire body seemed taut with tension. She felt so useless sitting there in the seat next to him as he described drowning in a sea of decomposing corpses including women and children. He tightened his grip around her fingers and kept driving while they held hands. Michelle wanted to protect Elliot from those awful memories. it didn’t really matter because it made Michelle feel better.

It was one of the worst memories of his life and even though hundreds of years had passed. he thought to himself. That was Elliot. and if that were the case. It was fresh and sunny and even the breeze had droplets of sea in it. Maybe she wasn’t strong enough to deal with his past. He looked at the sun up above and calculated that they were ahead of schedule. coming and going. There is something about water that . pulling and pushing. he still had nightmares about it. When he opened the door for Michelle she didn’t say anything. I thought maybe this would cheer you up. “We’ve got time. but stepped out. Elliot drove up a steep mountain and eventually parked in a beautiful area with picnic tables facing the ocean down below. but remaining bound to the earth. Her mind was also somewhere else. Elliot took Michelle’s hand and walked her over to the ridge.would shock her. but what about Devin?” Michelle asked. he would have to release her and let her live her life away from the madness that he brought with him everywhere he went. The magnificent Pacific Ocean down below was an awe-inspiring view. Elliot was the sea. Michelle didn’t say anything about his turning onto a different route. “It’s beautiful up here.

they. but when I see what humans do to one another it makes me sick to my stomach. I’m sorry for telling you about that episode. Even our country goes to war. Michelle returned her gaze to the horizon. and people die. “Because I see daily acts of beauty done by regular human beings. And to hear how we. “When I told you about what happened. Thousands of acts of generosity and kindness that will never be reported on the nightly news. why did you grab my hand and hold it?” .” Michelle didn’t say anything for a while but eventually turned to look into Elliot’s eyes. “How do you do it?” “Do what?” he asked.” He gently wiped a tear away from her cheek with his thumb. It really is an awful story.” Michelle asked in frustration.always pacifies me. It’s bad enough when natural disasters strike and I see all the suffering. It makes me feel ashamed to be a human. have treated you… how come you don’t hate all humanity? You’ve seen more than anyone. Elliot shook his head and gently turned Michelle so she was facing him. “I can hardly look at the news because of all the awful things that go on out there.

and you’ll find your way much closer to the truth. She so Elliot would take her in his arms and hold her. We got along fine without it for thousands of years. What you see is all sensationalism. But instead he grabbed her hand and pulled her towards a small . Elliot tenderly raised Michelle’s face from her chin. She now had multiple tears running down her cheeks and she was embarrassed about them. When they report the wars on the news they won’t show you the soldiers playing with orphans or helping people rebuild their homes.“I don’t know… I didn’t think about it. It just felt right. You’ll probably even forget about it yourself. that’s what I say. Turn that damned TV off. Seek your news elsewhere. and it’s meant to swerve the viewer’s mind politically. “It’s because of what you’ve done. Think about the millions of acts of kindness that takes place every second somewhere out there. so she could look at him. Do you understand now?” Michelle nodded and wiped her tears away with the bottom of her sleeve. I guess I thought maybe you needed it?” Michelle looked at him and then shifted her gaze shyly to the ground. No one will know about that split second moment when your heart naturally sought to comfort me.

The butterflies circled around in the air a couple more times and then made their way to the newly opened flowers. not at him. wide as they were. It was a beautiful sight. and they walked back to the car. Trusting him. It’s nature. Placing his hand on the shrub. Elliot turned to look east at the sun and his eyes began glowing. took her hand. Michelle’s mouth dropped wide open and her eyes. I just helped it along. “It’s like magic.patch of vegetation. Michelle did not protest. He looked at them and motioned with his hands to indicate an invisible pathway for them from where they were to where he crouched. were smiling. A few seconds later.” He smiled. but . she saw each and every one of the little flower buds open up to reveal a violet bell shaped flower. “What makes a rainbow appear?” he asked. Next. and Michelle looked at Elliot with marvel. Michelle looked at him curiously but he told her to look at the bush. Michelle. Elliot crouched in front of a small bush with tiny leaves and flower buds. “No not magic. Elliot pointed out to her a couple of small white butterflies fluttering around other flowers.” she whispered.

We now understand through science that it’s pure white light separated by millions of water droplets acting like tiny prisms. “Whoa! Like a minute-by-minute report of the last five thousand years? Michelle.” she said in a hungry voice. when he saw a most peculiar expression on Michelle’s face. “What?” he asked. Does that mean it’s any less aweinspiring? Does it disqualify the rainbow as a gift from the Gods?” On the way back down the mountain Elliot told Michelle about the railways and gravity cars that used to drive up and down that same exact road in the early 1900’s. But Michelle wasn’t paying attention to him. About how things work and everything you’ve done.didn’t let her answer. “Long time ago people thought it was magic. I don’t even remember half of it myself. “I want you to tell me everything. And anyway why would you want to hear about such mundane things? My brain is filled with useless facts and memories that . He had lost a lot of money in the endeavor when fire destroyed the railways and the station saloon twice. a gift from the Gods. She was still stuck on the butterflies.

what should I start with and what should I omit or include?” Elliot asked. . Their abilities worked within nature’s framework and were mostly tied to electromagnetism. These dealt with the interactions of atoms and protons. Elliot told her that although he was angry at the time he actually found the whole incident rather amusing. There was Active-electroperceptions and bio-electromagnetism.” “But they mean something to me. physics. Elliot and his kind were by no means above the laws of nature. amused. This helped me greatly in my sailing skills because I was able to sense the earth’s magnetic field and that was very valuable for navigation. and nature.” Michelle interjected. And Elliot told her that it was actually very simple if she understood the laws of chemistry. Michelle thought for a while and asked him to tell her how his abilities worked.mean nothing to anyone anymore. “Well. “We can sense things from the magnetic energy they emit.” “Is that how you knew that I was hiding under that bush?” Michelle still felt embarrassed about that day she hid at Hekademos.

“Especially when you crawled out in your huge camouflage clothes. “He could be tired or in a bad mood. poking her finger into his shoulder. He grabbed her hand again. “I used Bio-electromagnetism to help your leg heal faster that day.” Elliot laughed out loud and Michelle folded her arms in defiance and looked out the window. “Can you bring things back to life too? Like a God or something?” Michelle shouted with excitement. Elliot realized that she didn’t.” Michelle was attentive again. It was just a natural question to ask after everything he had revealed to her. Did Michelle know what he had done the whole time and just wasn’t letting on? But when he didn’t say anything and she nudged him. That’s the fancy word for talking with cells. I create nothing.” They eventually took the freeway offramp to the airport parking structure. and even that’s not always successful. but Elliot didn’t feel quite right leaving her in the garage. Elliot’s face went white. Michelle decided to stay in the car while Elliot went to meet Devin. and the . “God creates. I just harness what’s already put out there.

And besides. About half an hour later Elliot returned with Devin and Michelle hopped out of the car to be properly introduced.last thing I would want would be to meet a new person if that’s how I felt. beautiful and picturesque. in her humble opinion. she had a headache. Elliot placed his hand over Michelle’s forehead and the headache began to subside. He just needed a horse. and his amber colored eyes were like those of a tiger. and Michelle swallowed every word as if she was there herself . very beautiful. He looked every inch a prince. Michelle immediately tried to imagine him in royal Indian garb made of rich multi-colored fabrics. Michelle smiled at him half intoxicated and told him that she should keep him around just for that. Devin told stories about his travels and about the people he met. His skin was a luxurious shade of gold and caramel.” Michelle explained. Devin was very proper and. “At least this way he’ll get the heads-up that I’m here. Without even asking.” she added. She often got them after she cried and that morning was no exception. On the drive back. like the rest of the guys. Elliot was touched by Michelle’s thoughtfulness.

Michelle kept all those thoughts to herself and kept smiling and asking polite questions. But while Devin was talking. Michelle also noticed that Elliot didn’t say much of anything. to when he returned. but then she remembered that he rarely tired at all. Perhaps he was tired from talking to her she thought. When Elliot dropped her off in front of Samantha’s and didn’t say much of anything to her besides goodbye. and whatever it was. .tasting China’s great cuisine. She wasn’t just imagining it. it was definitely serious. Could he have argued with Devin on their way back to the car? Maybe Devin was not all that pleased about Michelle being there? Whatever the reason. she knew that there was something wrong. Something had changed from when Elliot had left the car.

Samantha was right. She chose her words carefully. Samantha was right. still annoyed. She was reading too much into things. “Ok. and you never once thought about properly introducing us. considering that several months ago Michelle had sworn up and down that the guys at the new school weren’t human. . avoiding anything that would arouse any suspicions about Elliot.” Michelle hadn’t even considered sharing Elliot with her friends. “So is he your boyfriend?” Samantha wanted to know. “You’re not doing drugs together. It was a difficult task.” Samantha said. he drops you off and picks you up in front of my house. annoyed.Chapter 10 Michelle tried to fill in the gaps for Samantha as best she could. “but how come you never bring him around or anything? I mean. If Elliot were any other guy they would have probably already hung out together. “Did you guys even kiss? Did he even tell you he likes you like that?” Michelle shook her head in defeat. are you?” Samantha demanded to know.

Michelle was fuming. and tried to figure out if she had offended him during their long conversation about his past. Samantha apologized and explained that she was only asking out of concern. “You know. since the guys at that Hekademos Center were troubled after all. By the weekend she was crushed all over again. Every day Michelle came home from school waiting to either run into him or at least get a note. And then she grew angry. . Elliot didn’t contact her the rest of the week and eventually even Samantha stopped asking about those ‘plans’ that Michelle had promised to arrange. I thought I was your best friend and you don’t even trust me to get a feel on this guy? I want to meet him Michelle. then I’ll stop asking all those questions. say it to her face and not be a coward and run away from things. Samantha tried to calm her down. If he thought she was being rude.” An unsure and anxious Michelle bit her lower lip. but none of those scenarios materialized. the least he could do was let her know about it.“What!” Michelle exploded in anger and gave Samantha a look that could kill. Unfortunately for Michelle. She started to seriously panic when she didn’t hear from him the next week either. She’d try to arrange something.

Something about somebody’s great granddaughter getting baptized. it wasn’t like she had any plans for the weekend anyway. When her mother couldn’t . After that she decided that she had no choice but to march over to the school and find out from Elliot himself what the heck was going on! Michelle showed no appetite for dinner. Sure she would. But when Sunday came around Michelle’s luck had not changed. moving it back and forth from one side of the plate to the other. Michelle’s other consideration was that maybe she would see Rion there and she could ask him about Elliot. She sat at the table and played with her food. Michelle tried to look engaged but her heart just wasn’t in it.On Thursday Francesca asked Michelle if she would be kind enough to drive her to church again for Sunday services. she told Francesca. Rion was not there. and with the Euro sliding downwards it meant that US dollars would be worth more in Hungary. Her father had taken on a couple of side projects and made out reasonably well. She scanned the pews and just about screamed when she didn’t spot him anywhere. Her parents tried to cheer her up by letting her know that it seemed that they would be able to afford the Europe trip after all.

she lifted it out from under her in a quick swoop. She was going to Hekademos Learning Center and she was going to let Elliot have it. I wouldn’t let you eat that. Michelle was sorry and let her mom know that she didn’t mean to ruin dinner. Her father was also upset. I was going to eat that. The meal had started as an appetizing display of rice. it looked like baby puke. “Michelle. It’s disgusting!” Her mother was right.” Michelle said as her mom scraped the food into the garbage. But she kept walking with a different destination in mind. telling her that her mom worked very hard on the meal. cooked carrots in ginger and shaved lamb steak.take the sight of Michelle’s mess of a dinner anymore. Michelle used the school excuse to get out of the house. . it was just that she was stressed over school again. She didn’t care how old he was or what tricks he could pull. “Perhaps you should make dinner if you don’t like the menu. supposedly heading to Samantha’s to study.” he said in an angry but controlled tone. “Hey. but once Michelle was done with it.

I was wondering if I could talk to Elliot?” Did she sound desperate? “If this is a bad time will you tell him that I stopped by?” Michelle’s heart was practically jumping out of her chest. but once she was standing there she lost her momentum and her confidence sank. she thought.Michelle stood in front of the large iron gates and looked at the black button next to the keypad. After all. and then a voice. She started feeling embarrassed and ashamed at her own stupidity. “Umm… this is Michelle. giving her the boost to push the black button. at least she wasn’t a complete chicken and gave it a try. the entire place was security tight and the cameras were everywhere. She didn’t know that Rion and Haneul were inside. deliberating about what to do. Oh well. It seemed like it took forever before she heard any response. wondering if anyone on the inside could see her out there pacing around like a fool. She was mighty worked up while walking. to whom it belonged she couldn’t tell. Michelle waited for a reply and when nothing happened she felt almost relieved. After pressing it. The voice told her to come inside as the gates . That thought alone irritated her enough. But just as she turned around to walk away she heard some static coming out of the small speaker.

Do come in. too scared to knock. I’m afraid I don’t have that answer. But not a second passed before the large door swung open to reveal Rion. her large eyes growing even larger. “Hello. Rion asked her to .” Michelle’s eyes grew large and sad and she looked very confused. Rion asked her if she would like anything to drink but Michelle politely declined. “Michelle. “When will he be back?” Michelle asked in disappointment. Oh God. Michelle. standing there smiling.began to swing open. Michelle’s legs began shaking a little bit. but Elliot is not here. she had a bad feeling and regretted being there. what has she gotten herself into now? What if Elliot was in there. I am sorry to be the one to tell you this. and it made her feel uncomfortable. The living room was empty. livid? Once in front of the door she came to a standstill. “I hope you enjoyed that egg?” he asked with a laugh. “But… where did he go?” Michelle asked. “That’s the other thing.” Michelle didn’t know what to say as she entered with Rion right behind her.” Rion looked straight into her. Rion couldn’t help but think that she was as cute as a bug. What a nice surprise. Michelle thought.

she knew that if she didn’t she would look even more a fool than before. Elliot left the country and there is no way of telling when he might be back. really. Michelle shook it placidly. What she really wanted was a few seconds to herself so she could regain her composure. but instead took a deep breath and tried to act as calm as possible. “Michelle. Rion sat on the edge of the low table in front of her and Haneul took a seat in an armchair to her left.” Rion said in a sympathetic voice. I guess I’ll have to study for my Italian test by myself then. Haneul came out of the kitchen with a tall glass of water and put it on the table in front of her.sit down and although Michelle didn’t have any desire to do so. Michelle felt like she had been lured into a trap because it was obvious that Haneul had been listening to them from the kitchen. Michelle pretended to be more at ease and asked Rion if she could have a drink of water after all. “Oh.” he said. Well. “I’m Haneul. .” Michelle had no intention of revealing her true feelings of pain. Michelle wanted to scream really loudly. holding out his hand to shake hers. Instead. But that didn’t happen because Rion didn’t leave the room.

Michelle’s ‘cool’ act was fading quickly. “It’s really not our business what you and Elliot do when you are alone. She changed the subject. Did he have the trip planned already? Did something happen and he had to leave . both raising their eyebrows as they were obviously unaware that Elliot had the patience let alone the interest to do any studying with anyone. It’s a shame that he left before you took your exam.” Haneul answered. right after Devin got back. asking when exactly did Elliot leave? “He left early Monday morning. The area between her eyes and forehead bunched up as she thought of all the possibilities as to why Elliot would leave like that without telling her. The guys looked at one another.shock and anger. “He’s not exactly teaching me. “He’s teaching you Italian?” Haneul asked in shock.” Michelle could tell that Rion was making small talk instead of really saying what was on his mind. He’s helping me with my schoolwork because I fell behind when I…” Rion cut her off. I drove the two of them to the airport myself. I’m sure that is very important to you. as if such an idea was completely off the wall.

“Don’t let him fool you. Michelle felt hurt and invisible. but he definitely didn’t intend to still be smiling when he turned his attention back to poor Michelle. Rion watched Haneul pull his disappearing act with much amusement. Haneul is quite the ladies’ man. She got up off the couch telling them that she had to go home. “I’m sorry about that. telling her that it was a pleasure to meet her. especially if it had to do with Western women. but he finds Western women baffling. and disappeared upstairs in lightning speed before Michelle even got the chance to say goodbye. She had no idea that her voice would sound so shaky and upon hearing it her cheeks became warm.” he finally said once he saw that Michelle . he should have let her know.” Rion said. but being that Haneul didn’t like emotional anythings. he too got up and shook Michelle’s hand.in an emergency? Did it have to do with her? Whatever the case. even though he did everything within his power not to. If Elliot cared about her at all. “Where did he go?” Michelle asked again. wiping the grin from his face. “I’m sorry. It was obvious that both of them felt sorry for her.” Michelle blushed all over again and Rion burst out laughing at her expression. even as a friend.

. But she was young. Rion thought to himself.” Michelle said. way too young. or if he told you anything at all about us… or this school. Elliot had never liked passive women because there was no challenge or mystery to them at all. She wasn’t just a quiet little mouse. “Michelle. Young women were so easy to control. Rion couldn’t help but wonder if Elliot had already lain with Michelle. He cleared his throat and approached her with what he considered to be his mature fatherly voice.looked as if she might start crying. especially if Elliot wanted her to remain her own person rather than becoming a reflection of himself. That’s what attracted Elliot to her. Rion thought. Elliot had once said that having a woman who said yes to everything was like being alone.” “He told me enough. She wasn’t going to let him make fun of her anymore. Now that was the attitude. Their kind found it so easy to be with anyone they fancied. it was suddenly so obvious. That was the surest way to get a young girl to grow up to be a ‘yes’ woman. I don’t know how much Elliot told you. and after a while it became quite a bore. folding her hands together and shifting her weight back onto her left leg. and this girl here in front of him didn’t seem like a ‘yes’ woman at all.

” “China!” Michelle yelled. I’m sure by now you understand that time passes differently for us. “That’s it?” Rion asked. then it was obvious that he shouldn’t mention it either. feeling that Rion was measuring her in some way. “No. Nothing at all. “Nothing. “I was just wondering what you meant by saying that he told you enough. as confused as ever. He guessed that if Elliot hadn’t told her about what had happened in China and why he had been forced to leave. And to be honest. or even years.” Rion lied.” he said to her. “You still didn’t tell me where Elliot is?” “Elliot and Devin flew to Asia. not really. clearing his mind of the not so G-rated image he had in his head. “None of us do.” . “Should there be more?” Michelle asked back. “and you don’t know when he’s coming back?” Rion apologized. China to be precise. Elliot had to take care of certain things.” Michelle tried to fill Rion in about what she knew. he could be gone a week or a month.“What?” Michelle asked.

if at all? Michelle hugged herself while walking. She then felt a presence behind her. but he also knew that Elliot always acted with reason. The evening breeze was chilly and she hadn’t brought a sweater. In a most bizarre manner the light breeze began picking up speed and it became windy.” Rion said smiling. . Rion felt really bad for Michelle. She didn’t realize that she had been at the school long enough for it to turn dark. But she thought that it was better that way. she thought? And what was she supposed to do? Wait for him when he might not come back for years. “A rather small thrill. but I didn’t want to alarm the neighbors with a real tornado. Michelle shut the door behind her as quietly as possible. no one would see her crying while she walked home. How could Elliot be so cold. She swallowed hard and apologized to Rion for coming there in the first place.Michelle was crushed. A small tornado of dust and leaves began spinning in front of her legs and Michelle stopped to stare at the rotating dust with concern. I know. so who was he to pass judgment on him for not telling the girl that he was leaving.

it’s very safe.” Rion said. “But at one point in our lengthy journey he was married to one of my great grandchildren. we are family. He’s got a good heart. And that he had obviously failed to discuss any of his previous relationships with her. him and I. I’ve lived on this street since I was born. my great great grandchild.” Michelle resumed walking. assuring her with a kind smile. but that he thought telling her the truth was better than circumventing it. But Rion kept up with her anyway. Now Rion could tell for certain that she had her heart set on Elliot. Rion told her that he didn’t think she should be walking alone at night. he’s not married anymore. But that was a long time ago. I mean. “No. no. “But there are streetlights on the main road. “Listen. by marriage at least…” “He’s married???” Michelle asked.” Michelle . Michelle told him that she appreciated that because the last thing she wanted to do was play the fool. even slightly. telling her that he didn’t mean to sound so callous at the school. hoping that the dark concealed her tears. stopping in her tracks.“What do you want?’ Michelle asked. wait. Elliot is not a bad guy.

of course she was. “Yes. and she was just curious.” Michelle sensed Rion’s sadness. after which his mood changed. looking at Michelle seriously. .hated the image of Elliot with another woman so she didn’t say anything. He told her that Elliot’s marriage to Leta ended up in a horrible tragedy. She apologized for asking. Michelle asked Rion what she was like. and continued telling her that once he and Elliot reconnected he found out that Elliot had not remarried in all those missing years.” he added. “Not until recently. “Leta died at a young age. but Rion wasn’t listening. and that’s a lot even by our time frame. “Was she very pretty?” Michelle asked even though she knew the answer. promising up and down that she was aware that Elliot had been married before. She was my blood. one that sent Elliot into a deep despair.” Rion said proudly. After a few moments of walking quietly. when he married Xander’s grandmother. but Michelle kept insisting. and despite feeling jealous she felt bad for bringing up the subject. Rion wasn’t sure that it was a good idea for them to be discussing Leta. “I didn’t see Elliot for almost 1500 years after that.

She didn’t want him to pity her. Michelle lay awake thinking about the things that Rion had told her. emotionally out of reach because of something that happened over a thousand years ago? Michelle wondered about Leta… what did she . and that’s one of the reasons that it didn’t surprise me that he didn’t tell you he was leaving. “I said. Once the light coming out from her parents’ bedroom window was visible.Elliot is still carrying around a lot of pain.” he warned Michelle. She had so many questions in her mind. I can help you prepare for your Italian test. we all speak Italian fluently. Could Elliot really be that damaged. Anyone at the school could.” Michelle smiled at Rion’s generosity and told him that that would be great. she thanked Rion for walking her home and convinced him to let her know if he heard anything from Elliot. Once in bed. He is very conflicted about relationships. if you need.” Michelle became visibly upset once more and Rion decided that he had said enough. “We used to be close but we don’t talk much anymore. but only if he really didn’t mind. He has many issues. I have no idea really how he’s doing. Rion responded to her in perfect Italian and Michelle turned around in complete surprise.

was . although still in their world. He told her to call the school and leave him a message if she needed help in her studies. and that was exactly what she needed to do. and perhaps spending time with him was not that bad of an idea. she wanted to know everything there was to know. She had never felt like that before and was aware that she was changing. is it still the same? She wondered where Elliot went after Leta passed away and what did he do during all those years? It was obvious that Rion knew Elliot well. even though she knew that she was being silly and childish to feel jealous over a poor woman who died so many years ago. But what if that life goes on forever. She was thinking about the world differently and her entire concept of the people in her life was changing. This dedicated determination was something new to her. or if that kind of love only happened once in a lifetime. They were still out there.look like? Why did she die at a young age? Michelle found herself feeling jealous of the effect that this Leta’s death had on Elliot’s heart. Another question that swirled in her head was whether Elliot could love anyone the way he loved Leta. but she. Michelle felt a terrible hunger for any information about Elliot. She must. After all. he did leave the door open for her to come back.

Michelle told her that she did care about Tim. even as friends. The upcoming Junior Prom was another situation that Michelle refused to think about. She missed him and thought about him more and more. but deep inside she feared that he hadn’t come back because of her. and that was precisely why she thought it . Sam wasn’t impressed at all. but were at odds on the concept of time. I know it. He just wants you to give him a chance. By this time Michelle had made peace with the fact that Elliot left because of something very serious.living on the edge between two different worlds that were related to one another and even interacted. everyone except Michelle. The anticipation of summer vacation was infecting everyone in school. an additional point of reference to Elliot’s long absence.” Samantha said. When she told Samantha that Elliot had left the country and no one knew when he’d be back. even though Samantha kept insisting that Michelle would regret it if she didn’t go. Nothing took the sting away from feeling irrelevant. almost begging. and told Michelle that she needed to forget him. The arrival of May was just another marker. “Tim has been hinting about asking you to be his date.

When Michelle showed up at Hekademos Kahl greeted her warmly. Michelle didn’t know what to say. Michelle walked away. “But Elliot isn’t here! Are you going to skip on everything in your life?” Samantha asked in frustration. leaving Samantha standing in the school’s main hallway. “When Ando cooked the abalones. and although no one seemed to find anything wrong in that.wouldn’t be fair to go with him just as friends when he had feelings for her and she was pining over another guy. telling her he was very happy to see her. “What dinner?” Haneul asked. He put his hands on her shoulders and gave her a small squeeze. Oh. that’s . saying that it had been too long since they all had dinner together. But at the same time. She refused to be confronted by her own weaknesses. She wanted out. nothing more. That afternoon Rion told the guys that Michelle would be coming over to study. So she told Samantha that she just couldn’t think about the Prom at that moment because she was still failing Italian. to leave the scene. there was still the hovering question if doing so was proper. all Elliot did was to take her on a nice drive or two.

As soon as Elliot’s name was mentioned. and you didn’t even think to tell me?” Kahl laughed and told Haneul that he needed to take that up with Elliot because he was the one who fetched the shells from up north.right. Both Rion and Haneul looked at Ando. who looked up from the magazine he was reading and shrugged. Haneul looked at Kahl with disappointment. I thought you were all supposed to be old and wise.” . Once in the classroom Michelle looked at Rion and just shook her head.” he said. “You guys argue like a bunch of little kids.” Kahl answered. “What? It was really good. should we go study?” Michelle hoped that Rion would notice her expression of alarm and get her the hell out of there. Rion was no fool and he told everyone that they would have to continue that conversation later because he and Michelle were going into the classroom to get some peace and quiet. “Well. you guys weren’t around that night. Especially the chowder! Ask her. who had no intention of being at the center of things. looking at Michelle. “Jeonbok. everyone became very quiet and all attention focused on Michelle.

“What else did Elliot tell you.” he said. that we have tails too?” Michelle told him that she just assumed that because Elliot was able to stay underwater for such a long time. we’re just not on the same schedule as you humans are. telling her that they could just hold their breath for longer periods.” “Were you?” Michelle asked in a charged voice. trying to hide his bruised ego. eventually.“We’re not old really. I found the ring.” she asked Rion excitedly. “She thought I had been unfaithful to her. He then told her that once he dove into a lake and searched for almost an hour for a ring that his wife had hurled into the murky depths.” Michelle didn’t understand the big deal since it was still open season and Haneul could just go up the coast and get some himself. “I am not aware that we possess any secret gills anywhere. Haneul happens to really love fresh abalones. but she left me anyway. It’s like hamburgers or pizza for Koreans. Rion corrected her.” Rion said. amused that Michelle would think such a thing. and anyway I’ve seen plenty of old people argue. “If you think about it. But Rion asked her what she considered to be . “Can’t you guys breath underwater? It would be totally easy.

” Rion enjoyed getting a rise out of Michelle. Michelle felt uncomfortable. tall and masculine. They sat down at the large table and Rion leafed through Michelle’s schoolbooks. asking her where . “I’ve had enough with you people and your fairytales. She was by no means interested in him. was definitely more mature. although a trickster.” Michelle put her hands over her ears. “I don’t want to hear any more stories like this. it brought out different aspects of her character and it made Elliot’s relationship with her less of an enigma to him. Michelle concluded that Rion. especially because as king it was customary to have more than one wife. Next you’re going to tell me that Elliot was a king too but somehow forgot to mention it?” “Only two times that I know of. and then proudly stated to her that he was a true romantic and it didn’t matter how many women he was married to. even though he was unquestionably very handsome.unfaithful. And he didn’t exhibit any of that apprehensiveness that Elliot did while he was around her. Rion laughed when he saw Michelle’s face at his mention of being a king. She couldn’t tell if Rion was teasing her just to see her reaction and she definitely wasn’t sure why he was telling her how romantic he was.

They studied and practiced for almost two hours straight. he assured her with a wink that he knew what he was doing. taking some money out of her pocket to help pay for it. Elliot's name always seemed to bring Michelle to a standstill. When the pizza arrived Michelle followed Rion to the front door. from Little Napoli of course. During a break they decided to order pizza.” Rion told her that he appreciated her valor. but money . She heard Rion order two extra large pies and asked him if he didn’t think that most of it would go to waste because she could only eat three slices at most. Covering the receiver with his hand.she and Elliot had left off. It was a kind of an oxymoron that he thought he possessed neither the time nor the patience to raise them and guide them when in fact he had all the time he could ever want. and luckily they both agreed on the toppings. Rion laughed and told her to put her money away. so Rion decided that from then on he just wouldn’t mention it. “Just because I’m younger and a girl doesn’t mean that I expect everyone to pay for me. and although Rion was being very patient he remembered all over again why he hadn’t wanted any children in a very long time.

Yet she also felt empowered that she wasn’t some nameless conquest in what was probably a long list of women that Elliot had been with. so she might as well save her dollars for herself. but it was too late. she barely managed to squeeze out a small ‘no’. Michelle apologized and told him that she came up with that idea because Elliot was able to evade setting off the alarm in her bedroom. That question set Michelle’s face on fire and she forgot to breath for a few seconds. but at the same time felt bad about it and tried to backtrack.told her that he appreciated her valor. Michelle still considered herself to be way inexperienced for her age and felt embarrassed by that fact now more than ever. no? When Rion heard that Elliot had been in Michelle’s bedroom he just couldn’t take not knowing anymore and plain asked her if she and Elliot had been sexually involved. which would mean that he would be able to do the same in a bank. “Awww… a virgin?” he asked. with her cheeks still burning. Rion was amused at his power to embarrass her. but money was not a problem for him because he was fairly wealthy. and Rion became deeply offended by the implication. Michelle finally found her voice to answer. To Rion’s relief. Rion was once again amused at his friend’s . Michelle jokingly asked if he robbed banks as a hobby.

A moment later. but she was very much still a child.with. She didn’t have any of that womanly sexual sophistication. The door opened and Ando sauntered in. Rion wondered? The girl wouldn’t take it lightly if a man hurt her. What was Elliot thinking. which he did happily. he wondered. Xander showed up with a bottle of red wine and glasses. admonishing them that they should all be deeply ashamed of themselves for not opening a good bottle of Chianti to go with such a fine specimen of a pizza. Kahl and Haneul joined the dinner party. The more Rion thought about it the angrier he became. and about five minutes after that. Was he actually feeling protective of the little flower that sat across from him. Rion was once again amused at his friend’s choice of companionship. There was a knock on the classroom door and Rion whispered to Michelle that the reason he had ordered two extra large pies was about to unfold. Rion invited him to join in. and Elliot’s behavior could really damage her impressionable little soul. all while watching Michelle read over her notes and gnaw on a pizza crust. Xander didn’t ask what Michelle was doing there and neither did he . immediately moving to the table to scrutinize the pizza toppings. Michelle might have looked like a little woman.

ruling over the hills . “Congratulations. all trying to explain to Michelle how he had amassed his wealth. “Michelle. Everyone looked at Rion as he cleared his voice and sat up tall in his chair. The conversation began flowing freely and everyone seemed to be jolly with food and drink. At one point Rion told everyone that he had needed to convince Michelle that he could afford to pay for the pizza all by himself and they all had a good laugh. still chuckling. and justified her actions by letting them know that she would have found it rude if she was on the opposite end and Rion didn’t offer to pitch in with the bill. They all seemed completely serious. Rion had been a rich and powerful king. then back at the rest of them. Michelle got a little angry with Rion for joking at her expense.” Ando said. Michelle wasn’t going to let all of them keep making fun of her. Did you discover an oil field or something?” Michelle asked. although Michelle declined the wine and Haneul fetched her some more water instead.mention Elliot. Still. but when she looked at him he just winked. you are quite possibly speaking to the wealthiest person on earth. Rion began speaking and the others chimed in.” Michelle looked at Rion. “That’s not why we’re laughing.

he set out to Libya with Elliot. “That’s when we built the ‘Argos’.and valleys of what is today Western Georgia. We had so many of our . He had settled there because he realized that there were vast gold deposits in the hills and underneath the ground. He told Michelle about his time as a high official in Egypt. and mining became a way of life. especially for that trip. After he faked his death. and from there they sailed all across the Mediterranean and traded goods for the Greek citystates.” Kahl added. Together with his top scholars. When the surrounding peoples heard about the richness of the area. and how the expulsion of the Hyksos from the political ruling class had shaped his own exit from that area. Eventually they were sent out on behalf of some king to meet Rion because of the great wisdom he had about mining precious metals. they began arriving by land and sea to trade their goods for gold. “That’s how Elliot and I met Rion in the first place. he figured out the best ways of extracting the precious metal.

at one point he sold some of it to the city of Willow’s Creek and that’s how Michelle’s small neighborhood came to be.” he said. before this?” Michelle asked. Elliot owned most of the surrounding land. confused. “That’s right. “Elliot named it after the ship. on this exact street. and that his attachment to the area was older and deeper than her own.” “You mean Elliot was here.kind on that vessel and we raised hell all the way to Clochis and back.” Xander added. All of the guys had helped Elliot build the underground library many years ago. “The famous oil press. and it was almost starting to make sense. It lay empty and hidden until they returned and had the new school built right on top of it. Xander . Michelle realized that she was born and raised on what used to be Elliot’s land. because her street was named ‘Argos Vela’.” Michelle tried to piece some of the puzzle together. Michelle asked what the word ‘Vela’ meant. that was his. “Argos is the name of our street!” Michelle just had to interrupt. Curious. She began feeling as if she was the new kid on the block. “Still is. reminiscing.” Rion told her.

A second later all the guys were surrounding her. but was now lying on a couch in the living room. “Did I faint?” she asked. Xander explained to her that Vela was the Latin word for sails. when she looked up to the sky to see the almost blinding white light. She tried to sit .because her street was named ‘Argos Vela’. which is the name of the bright pulsar within the same constellation. And in that dream. asking if she was all right? Michelle just looked at them. Michelle’s pulse was yoyo’ing from dangerously fast to frightening slow. noticing that she was no longer in the classroom. dumbfounded. was she looking up at the Argos Navis constellation? Was she seeing Vela itself? All at once everything and nothing was making sense and it was all getting to be too much. But instead he chose the name Vela. and her body was likewise alternating between warm and cold at an amazing rate. The room began spinning and Michelle felt like she was either going to throw up or pass out. Was it pure coincidence that she had said the word ‘pulsar’ in that strange dream? She still thought about it a lot. after the constellation. “Originally Elliot thought to name the street Argos Navis. When Michelle heard the word ‘pulsar’ she couldn’t believe it.

but at the same time she felt embarrassed that they were all doting on her. She sat in the cool evening air while her heart found it’s normal pace and her color returned. still surrounded by the guys. he asked her what it was that they said that had upset her so much. It was obvious. and she didn’t like it. Michelle began collecting her books and papers while Kahl carried the rest of the pizza into the kitchen. It was easy for one of their kind to pick up on such slight changes. who all agreed that the fresh air would be good for her.warm and cold at an amazing rate. They saw her as a little girl. She tried to sit up and they all helped her. Michelle apologized to all of them. but Rion knew she was lying because when a person lies their facial expressions are different and they project their voice differently. Once Rion was alone with her. Michelle told him that she couldn’t think of anything specific. Michelle walked over to the outdoor patio. Rion surmised that she just became overwhelmed by all the information they were . When she felt steady enough. She did have to admit to herself that she enjoyed getting all the attention from a bunch of gorgeous guys. telling them that she had no idea what had happened. Michelle seemed too frightened and uncomfortable to want to talk about it. Back in the classroom.

and Michelle looked away from him. What if she fainted again and no one was there to help her. and from one moment to the next Elliot’s face changed from shock to anger and then in a millisecond he had Rion pushed up against the wall yelling at him to take his hands off Michelle.throwing at her. Elliot flew across the room. It took her brain a few seconds to understand the scene unfolding in front of her. Rion told Michelle that he was going to drive her home because she shouldn’t be walking after blacking out. It was a nurturing gesture that had been instilled even in him. But now it was Rion’s turn to hurl Elliot away from him. he asked as she protested? He studied her face. She became overloaded. and a human’s brain was too slow to digest such a large amount of data. Rion turned to look at the door because he heard someone approaching. It was Elliot. “Are you sure you’re ok?” Rion moved in closer and put his hand on her forehead even though he knew she wasn’t running a fever. She was human after all. Just like before. only it wasn’t Kahl like he thought. With his hand still on Michelle’s forehead. . Michelle never saw Elliot enter the room. and had to shut down for a few seconds to reboot. barely missing Michelle before crashing against the double doors.

with Rion trying to subdue Elliot onto the table. began screaming at him to let Elliot go. But Elliot didn’t answer back. Both Elliot’s and Rion’s eyes were glowing and changing shades rapidly. Rion was practically on top of Elliot with his hands still around his neck. man?” Rion roared while Elliot stood up. He was yelling at him that he was completely out of line. “What is wrong with you. Chairs fell everywhere and wine glasses leftover from dinner crashed to the floor spilling what ever was left in them. Rion freed himself from the blackboard and noticed that he was bleeding from where his shirt had ripped. Which only made him angrier and although Michelle pleaded with him not to do it. Michelle yelled at both of them to stop it but it was like she wasn’t even there. he charged towards Elliot who tried to tackle him. frightened that Rion was going to choke Elliot to death. Elliot strained to bend his . wondering why no one was coming in to help. and rushed at him again throwing Rion back up against the blackboard which split and splintered from the force of Rion’s shoulder going right through it. Every few seconds she kept looking towards the classroom door.before crashing against the double doors. Rion grabbed Elliot by the neck and the two fought fiercely. Michelle.

“You’ve got some . and Elliot took that opportunity to pounce on top of him and punch him in the face with such force that Michelle heard the impact of his fist from where she was standing.leg underneath Rion and once he managed to do so he kicked him in the stomach. yelling at him to stop because he kept punching Rion again and again. taking a defensive stance. and Rion cashed in on that moment and sucker punched Elliot so hard that his entire body was thrown backwards. Rion collapsed backwards wincing in pain. He touched his lip. “Maybe you should listen to your girlfriend. telling him that that was enough. She cringed at the thought that Rion’s cheekbone might have shattered. Elliot looked up as her tears rolled onto his nose. but when he tasted the wetness he realized that it was too salty to be blood. With tears of fear streaming down her face. Elliot landed in her lap and Rion jumped to his feet.” Rion said in anger and antipathy. instinctively thinking that it was split open. mouth and chin. knocking Michelle off her feet. Elliot tried to do the same but Michelle leaned over him engulfing him with her arms. Elliot was distracted by Michelle’s pleas. she rushed to where they were rolling on the floor and started tugging on Elliot’s shirt.

and she was angry. and that look from him was like pouring oil onto an open flame. Elliot looked at Michelle and he was at a loss. “Well maybe you should keep your hands to yourself because no one gave you permission to…” Elliot moved Michelle’s arms away firmly and slowly got up.Rion said in anger and antipathy.” Elliot looked at Michelle suspiciously. “Gave him permission for what?” Michelle asked. what did he do? How did he turn Michelle against him? And what was Michelle even doing there to begin with? He looked back at . isn’t it? You just disappeared without one word to me. Who are you to tell me or anyone else what to do? I came here because Rion was helping me. and even if he was.” Elliot looked at Rion with resentment. that’s up to me. She doesn’t belong to you!” Elliot sat up and Michelle noticed that he was bleeding from his hairline. “At least Rion is man enough to tell me things the way they are and he stands by his words. her voice shaking with anger. because you were gone! Gone is an understatement. “You’ve got some nerve pulling any rank after what you did to her. not you. He tried to interject but Michelle was on a roll. “Rion wasn’t doing anything. he doesn’t run away. angrier than she even thought she was.

Michelle felt him taking a step in their direction. Elliot. Had he really lost her? He wondered. protecting Rion by putting her body in front of him. was surprised to hear such words coming out of the little girl in front . The sight of Rion getting so close to Michelle’s face sent waves of hot burning rage through every muscle in Elliot’s body. “But I want both of you to know that the only person who gives me permission to do the things I do and make the choices I make is me. who was feeling hurt and shamed all at once. and it was his fault. who slowly walked over to Rion and examined at his bleeding shoulder with remorse. Rion’s pupils focused on Elliot. He could plainly hear the pain behind her anger.doing there to begin with? He looked back at Michelle. “Don’t. Michelle turned to face Rion and pecked him on his good cheek. looking out the window because he couldn’t take seeing them like that. Let it go. Rion.” Michelle said.” Michelle turned to look back at Elliot. Elliot hurt deeply. which pained Elliot more than she would have guessed. on the other hand. Was it all her fault that the guys were hurt? She reached her hand to his bruised cheek and Rion bent his face to her fingers and told her that it wasn’t too bad and that he’d heal in no time. Not you. I’m leaving. throwing threatening darts in his direction.

She had way too much adrenaline pumping through her veins to be able to close herself up in her small bedroom. Michelle walked out of the classroom and headed out through the front door.hear such words coming out of the little girl in front of him and wondered again if he had miscalculated her. let alone sleep. When Michelle passed by Samantha’s house and . that would at least make him feel satisfied in the knowledge that a regular man could never offer her the things he could. and there she was slipping away from him. but she was choosing someone of his kind. because she had yet to find a way to have her parents activate her brand new cell phone without arousing suspicion. He had always felt it there. She had no idea what time it was. someone who was his equal. Her words were evidence to the strength she held within. It was at that moment that Elliot realized how much he did want Michelle to be his. someone who he himself respected. quietly closing it behind her. he was sure of it now. she wasn’t choosing a mere human over him. He didn’t want to lose her. And to make things worse. Michelle couldn’t face going home after she left Hekademos. Even thinking about it made her feel claustrophobic.

saw that the light in her bedroom was still on, she decided to knock. Sam opened the front door, surprised to see Michelle, and immediately asked her what was wrong as she pulled her into the house while looking down both sides of the street to make sure that no one followed her. “Tim’s upstairs, but he’s just about to leave. We studied for four hours,” Samantha said in a low voice. Michelle promised that she would tell her everything later, but her head was pounding and she just wanted to close her eyes. Samantha suggested she sneak into her mother’s bedroom and nap there because she was out doing another night shift. Michelle stretched out on the queensized bed as quietly as possible. Thoughts and emotions of horror and relief shot back and forth in her mind. Horror from seeing Elliot and Rion use such violence on each other, and relief that Elliot was back home. Relief that Elliot had displayed such jealousy over her, and then guilt for feeling just that. And what about Rion? How did he fit into the picture? She really wasn’t sure. Michelle almost closed her eyes completely when she heard a knock on the door. When Tim walked in, Michelle was laid out flat on her stomach with a large fluffy white lace pillow on top of her head and

all he could see were the ends of her wavy hair across her neck and shoulders. He gently sat down next to her on the side of the bed and she let out a sad groan. “That bad?” he asked, to which Michelle’s body tightened because she had thought it was Sam she had heard entering the room. She wondered if Sam was working against her and had told Tim that she was there. Michelle peeked out from under the pillow and he smiled at her warmly. She groaned again, only this time it was over Tim and his sunny disposition. No drama, just a regular, dreamy guy who any other girl would be doing somersaults over. Why did she have to fall prey to someone like Elliot, she thought, returning Tim a tired smile. Elliot was different and beyond beautiful. He was strong and sensitive at the same time, and he had stories to tell, stories that she could listen to for the rest of her life. And he had magic on his side. Elliot was mysterious and there was something dangerous in his wild and unpredictable ways, something that excited her, but something that she wanted to conquer nonetheless. Elliot made her heart race like no other guy had ever done, and her body craved to be near him. In fact she had dreamt for months about what it would be like to kiss him.

After protesting that she only lived four houses away, Michelle let Tim drive her home anyway. When he pulled up to the driveway he began asking her something, but she was in no condition to deal with another uncomfortable situation. It was all too much for one day. Tim tried to inquire as to whether she had plans for the Prom just as Michelle happened to see her father looking out at them from the bedroom window. That got Tim moving, and he was safely on his way before Michelle entered her front door. Michelle looked at the stairs leading up to the second floor and for some reason they looked extra long and steep. She was so tired that climbing them seemed nearly impossible. Michelle lazily pushed open her bedroom door, hoping to see Crumb already sacked out on her bed. But instead of a fluffy cat, she saw her Italian books and notes neatly stacked on top of her bed. Only then did she remember that she had forgotten to grab her stuff when she left Hekademos. In the heat of the moment all she had cared about was getting out of there and leaving Elliot and Rion to deal with the aftermath of their battle. Now, staring at the pile, she wondered if Elliot was still in her room, and if he was how should she react? Truth

was that after scolding him she regretted it almost immediately. But it was just too much for her to see him attacking Rion like that. And besides, he deserved it for running off on her the way he did. But Michelle still wondered if she would have been as harsh if she hadn’t been trying to protect Rion. Maybe if Rion wasn’t there she would have thrown her arms around Elliot’s neck and let the weight of her body hang on him as if she were an anchor, making sure that he never left her again. Michelle took a deep breath and stepped into the room. Elliot was standing at her window. He was looking outside and she knew that he saw Tim drop her off. But Elliot had no grounds to mention anything about Tim, even though he wondered if Michelle had finally given into his charms. For a second, Elliot felt jealous that Tim was a normal young man without any complications and, unlike him, he was safe and healthy for Michelle. Michelle quietly closed the door behind her and sat down on the edge of the bed, never taking her eyes off Elliot. He hadn’t looked at her once, and she knew that he was ashamed. Elliot worried about how Michelle might perceive him after seeing him in such a rage. After a long silence, Elliot finally turned around to face. Michelle’s heart skipped a beat as soon as his

eyes found hers. She had no control over such things. She was still angry with him, yet felt grateful that he was there so close to her. Crumb was the one who finally broke the silence, meowing a slight greeting from on top of her dresser where he was perched, anticipating. Michelle knew that animals could sense tension, and there was no mistaking it in this situation. “Michelle, I’m really sorry,” Elliot said quietly after he figured that things were still salvageable because they had both laughed at the cat. Michelle took a few steps towards Elliot and looked at his face. His muscles were still rigid and his eyes had not returned to their usual blue. Elliot froze when she gently brushed a few strands of his hair out of the way to reveal the gash on his forehead. To her amazement, it was already healing. Elliot gave her the tiniest of smiles and reminded her that they heal fast. And before she could even think about asking, he told her that Rion was going to be ok too and that he was sorry for what he did. “You hurt me,” Michelle said without a shred of shame, but she turned away from him anyway because if she continued to look at him for another second she would just start crying. Whether it would be out of happiness, sadness, or pure

emotional exhaustion, she couldn’t tell, but cry she would and she didn’t want to. Michelle sat back down on the bed and hugged one of her pillows. She had no idea where to start, or what she was supposed to say. Elliot sat down next to her, wrenching one of her hands away from the pillow so he could hold it. Michelle’s hand was like that of a child in his, and he engulfed it protectively. He needed to feel her, even if it was just her fingers, and he wanted her to remember what it felt like when they held hands. Michelle began feeling an amazing sensation of well-being spread across her body, and her head felt light and airy. All she wanted to do was to lie back and fall asleep. She wanted to leave the talking for another day. When Elliot felt Michelle’s muscles relax he gently lowered her down until she lay flat. He then lay down next to her. When he turned off the small lamp the glow-in-the-dark stars came to life in lime green above them. Michelle asked him if he was hypnotizing her and he told her that he wasn’t, but he was altering her physiological chemistry. Elliot knew that Michelle had been through a lot, and he couldn’t stand to see her so freaked out and sad. “I wish I could feel like this forever,” she

dreamingly repeated what she had told him before. When Michelle felt her state of being returning to normal her hand searched for his, and once finding it she held it tightly and asked him not to let go. “For how long?” he asked her, and gave out a small laugh when she answered “For a long time.” He told her that he would do his best, but that even he would get tired eventually. Did she love him, he wondered. Michelle was thinking the exact same thing herself. She had never even thought about that word, let alone attaching it to any guy. She loved her family and she loved Samantha. She definitely loved Crumb and maybe Francesca too, but how could that word apply to what she felt for Elliot? Michelle didn’t want to think about it anymore because it scared her. What if Elliot didn’t love her back? But she so wanted him to. She suddenly had an uncontrollable urge to put her arms around Elliot and hold on to him. She wanted to feel the warmth of his body blanketing her. Would he let her? Would he jump away from her like he did before? Or was the whole idea stupid and would only make things worse than they already were? Michelle took her chance and turned to Elliot who was now looking straight into her eyes.

“I want you to,” he said. Michelle inched close to him and nuzzled up against him while burying her face in his chest. She loved his scent. Elliot put one arm around her and held her. When she looked up at him again, Elliot was casually smiling back at her and his eyes were no longer aglow. She stretched her neck and reached out to his lips with hers. And when they finally met Elliot engulfed her in his arms and pulled her up on top of him. Startled by the sudden movement, Michelle gave out something that sounded like a squeak and pulled away from his face in surprise. But before she could say anything Elliot raised his head and in a swift movement pulled her down towards him. He was strong. There was no resisting. Not that she wanted to. When his lips parted hers and their tongues met he kissed her strong. His breath was hot and sweet and Michelle took it in, kissing him passionately and deep as if her soul was being fed by him. She was no longer tired and she only wanted more. When she came up for air and opened her eyes, she was staring directly into Elliot’s eyes which glowed again but gently. They were beautiful. Michelle held Elliot’s face in her hands and kissed him again and again, surprised to feel warm tears escaping from her eyes and running down her cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” Elliot whispered into her neck and then kissed her tears away. Michelle felt light headed again and asked Elliot if he was doing that to her. He explained to her that when he kissed her things just happened without him controlling them, but he also told her that it could just be the rush of so many emotions. Elliot slowly moved from underneath her and helped her get comfortable on the bed. He began stroking her hair. “You need sleep. You’ve been through enough for one day. Xander told me that you fainted earlier, is that so?” Michelle had no explanation for what had happened earlier, besides that she must be overly stressed over finals. Elliot took a lot of the blame for her stress and asked if she would let him help her fall asleep. But Michelle didn’t want the night to end and pulled him towards her lips again. He eventually broke away from her and assured her that there would be many more kisses to come. “More than you can count,” he laughed, and Michelle lay back down so he could put his hand on her forehead. Elliot’s eyes glowed brighter and as if by magic Michelle found it hard to keep her eyes open. A few seconds later she was engulfed in a sweet slumber. Elliot pulled her blanket over her

and then placed Crumb by her side. Michelle hugged and nuzzled her little cat, smiling in her sleep. Elliot watched over Michelle for a while, and when he was satisfied that she was sleeping soundly he kissed her once more on her forehead and left.

Chapter 11
Michelle leaned against the brick wall of the mini-mart down the street from Meadow High School and waited for Elliot. It was the first time that he had offered to pick her up from school, which signaled to Michelle that their relationship was moving in the right direction. They had yet to talk about why Elliot had left town so unexpectedly, but Michelle wanted to wait until her finals were over. She was just glad to have him back and she didn’t want to screw things up. When Michelle spotted Elliot’s Explorer round the corner her heart began pounding with levity. Elliot couldn’t help but smile when he saw her waving at him so excitedly. Her smile was that infectious, and her eyes made him yearn to be next to her. Just as Michelle climbed into the passenger seat, Samantha’s bug pulled into the adjacent parking space. Sam complimented Michelle on her new chauffeur service, and Elliot smiled shyly at Samantha, who waved back at him overenthusiastically. He wondered how it was that he found himself surrounded by high school kids,

noticing that the VW had stickers on the back that made the car look like it had a smiley face. Here were these semi-adults, yet their responsibilities were no more than those of children. Elliot valued the lifelong pursuit of knowledge, as he himself was forever learning, but today’s schools seemed to create a fake reality of what he considered unneeded and superficial stress. He was already daydreaming that he and Michelle were living in a different time so they could just get on with their lives as two adults. The sneaking around and pretending was getting on his nerves. When Elliot failed to turn on the ignition and instead just stared out into nothingness, Michelle knew that he was deep in thought. She always wondered about how his perspective must be so different from the rest of humanity. He simply fascinated her. His face was so beautiful, she thought as she scrutinized him. She couldn’t decide if his large eyes and long lashes were his best features, or his full and very kissable lips. When Elliot realized that Michelle was staring at him he slowly smiled at her and asked if anything was the matter. “Nothing,” she answered coyly. “You’re not going to tell me?” he kissed her on

her cheek. “Even if I kiss you?” Michelle squirmed in her seat a bit and bashfully asked him if she was strange because she just liked to look at him. Elliot had heard those words before. He shook his head. “So you won’t be mad at me if I tell you that I think you’re so beautiful that I wonder how anyone like you can exist at all?” Elliot was well aware that women and men alike found him to be ethereally beautiful, although he would have preferred handsome. Throughout all those years, nothing had changed when it came to beauty; everyone craved it. He wondered if that craving was more than just wanting to find a healthy suitable partner. Perhaps somewhere in the human sub-consciousness everyone was still searching for their maker, the image of perfection. After all, he was still searching for his, and when he looked into the mirror he was probably staring at a version of his father because he sure didn’t resemble anyone in his mother’s family. Elliot drove onto a small dirt road and killed the engine under a large willow tree. He reached out to the anticipating Michelle and kissed her passionately. Michelle’s head immediately became light, and she leaned backwards against the window smiling in bliss.

“You are the most beautiful creature that I’ve ever seen myself,” Elliot smiled. “Don’t lie to me just to make me feel better, because you’re perfect.” Elliot told Michelle that he wasn’t lying, and besides, he was far from perfect. He kissed her even harder to prove his point. “You have to stop that,” Michelle slurred as if drunk while making a feeble attempt to push him away. “I gotta study.” When Elliot was lost in passion and yearning it was almost impossible to control how that affected his partner. He knew that if he continued there would be no turning back and Michelle would want him completely. And he knew himself well enough to know that it would be next to impossible to turn her down.
After a few hours of studying on the library’s outdoor patio, Elliot and Michelle walked to a small diner nearby. It was filled with old people who smiled at the young couple as they were seated. After ordering, Michelle asked Elliot about the oil press and about Argos Vela, and Elliot confirmed what she had heard from the other guys at the

school. “I was the ship’s helmsman. But I didn’t go there for the gold. Procuring riches was for the King. We were seeking an even rarer ore and the secrets to its metallurgy.” “And the Golden Fleece, is that made up?” she asked, “and what about Jason?” Elliot gave out a little laugh and told her that “Yason” is one of their kind and that he was indeed the leader of the journey. “Jason was extremely arrogant. And it’s true that he enjoyed women just a little too much for his own good. He was the one who wanted our story to be recorded to begin with, but as time went on the tale got more and more fantastic and took on a life of its own. It even entertained us, and we were there. Last time I checked, Jason was still living somewhere in South America.” “But in the story everyone has Greek names,” Michelle pointed out, and Elliot explained to her that all of them use different names and aliases regularly. It was a necessity to reinvent oneself when one lives so long. Michelle immediately asked if ‘Elliot’ was his real name or a fake one, and to her surprise Elliot seemed a little irritated by the

question. She tried to tell him that it didn’t matter, but Elliot thought that it did. “It’s a legitimate question. It’s just strange for me to be bringing this up all over again.” Elliot didn’t want to play pretend with Michelle. If she was going to be by his side, she would have to make peace with his past. “Elliot is the name given to me by my first wife.” Michelle swallowed hard at hearing the word ‘wife’, and was equally disturbed by the fact that he was still using a name that she had chosen for him. Still, Michelle didn’t want Elliot to sense her foreboding; she wanted to indicate that she didn’t care. “So, what is your real name?” she asked. “No, you’re not getting it. Elliot is my name. It will always be.” Elliot’s eyes appeared distant again and Michelle’s feelings were hurt. Was he still carrying a torch for his first wife too? And for that Leta? Michelle shifted in her chair and played with her straw rather than look up at him. Luckily the waiter appeared and placed their meals on the table. Michelle looked down at her burger and fries, begging for the food to entice her because she had lost her appetite. Thinking about Elliot being with other women made her stomach turn, she just

couldn’t help it. Meanwhile, Elliot wondered if Michelle was strong enough to deal with him. He wasn’t going to apologize for his past, and he wasn’t about to lie about it if she asked. Come on Michelle, he urged her in his mind. You’re a big girl, isn’t this what you wanted? Michelle looked up at Elliot as if she heard him. “These are really good. Try one.” She picked up a large fry, dipped it in ketchup and extended it to him as an offering. Elliot looked straight into Michelle’s eyes and she knew that she had upset him. Elliot knew that Michelle knew exactly what she was doing, pulling such a classic avoidance behavior, much like that of a toddler. She didn’t want to deal with something that made her feel uncomfortable, so she changed the subject. He wanted to tell her that in real life she couldn’t pull such tricks, that avoidance does not make things go away, and if anything, the more one avoids something, the more dangerous and powerful that thing becomes. Instead of cowering down, Michelle stared right back at him, challenging him to say something about how she was being immature. She didn’t care; she had the right to act like that. After all, she was a baby compared to him, and she just wasn’t ready to deal with other women in his life.

Truth was.” he snickered. Michelle turned to look out the car’s window. Later. But seeing Michelle angry like that made Elliot laugh even more. and until she did. but he decided to pretend for Michelle’s sake. As a gesture of concession. “When you’re done laughing at me. Michelle asked Elliot to drop her off in front of Samantha’s. Elliot burst out laughing. explaining that her parents would never approve of her hanging out with him. Michelle hit Elliot lightly on his shoulder and told him to stop laughing at her parents because they were good people. Not only because he had easily evaded the system. Elliot took the nowcold fry from Michelle’s outstretched hand and ate it. she couldn’t handle any competition.Michelle didn’t feel secure about her place at Elliot’s side. he really didn’t care whether they approved of him or not. but because he found it ironic that her mother’s fears had become a reality. She even revealed to him that the home security system had been installed to prevent any of the Hekademos ‘hooligans’ from gaining access into the house. let me . “I would probably cage up my daughters too if those guys at Hekademos moved in next to me. despite having the same fries on his own plate.

Michelle felt like she was going to burst if she didn’t tell somebody about the wonderful time she had been spending with Elliot. Michelle was still curious about the old oil press . “I’m sorry about earlier. She didn’t want to look back for fear that she might yell out to him to stop. But Michelle laughed at that idea. With her heart still racing from the long kiss.” Elliot stopped laughing at once and picked up her hand. Michelle got out of the vehicle and slammed the door behind her. The next time Michelle saw Francesca. and she blurted it all out into Francesca’s ear.” Francesca said.know.” she told him. “You are very energized Michelle and I don’t think school alone can do that. which made Michelle turn around and bump straight into his face. Francesca warned her to proceed with the utmost caution until she had a ring on her finger. His lips were ready and waiting for her. She had no intention of thinking about marriage at her age. and he apologized back for expecting her to deal with unfathomable situations. the lady picked up on her excitement before she said a word.

She smiled.” Michelle marveled that even . The girl came to my wedding.” Francesca walked into her bedroom to grab the wedding album again. “You know. “The father eventually married her and good thing for that. but now I’m sure of it. But they all left after the war. “She gave birth to a son out of wedlock. back to the memories as if they lay along an invisible pathway.” Michelle’s eyes widened. I went to school with one of the girls but I don’t remember her name.on Argos Vela Way. “I hear they turned the place into a school for criminals. if you didn’t mention the oil I don’t think I would have remembered. My mother invited her because she thought we were good friends. but I remember the elder lady always said that it was good because it was holy oil.” Francesca motioned for Michelle to get closer and whispered to her. Jewish I think. They brought the root trees from the Holy Land. I remember that there were two families running the whole operation. We knew each other in passing.” Francesca’s eyes looked somewhere beyond Michelle. “Oh yes… they were a nice Portuguese family. and asked Francesca if she remembered anything about it. My mother loved their olive oil because it reminded her of Italy.

narrowing her eyes while flipping through pages of sepia-toned photographs. Her features were angular and her lips were perfectly rouged. and…” Francesca’s eyes widened. Francesca eventually submitted to Michelle’s pleas. She looked at the woman’s flowing dress that was gathered to one side. Michelle couldn’t lie to her. Francesca asked about Elliot’s parents and Michelle assured her that they were a very proper and rich family. especially not her father. Michelle repeated the story about the school being a private continuation school of a sort.” Michelle said. “Here she is!” Francesca said. Michelle stared at the beautiful tall woman with the flower pinned to her long dark hair. Michelle told herself not to go there.little old Francesca knew about the ‘bad’ school. “You don’t tell me that the boy you like is from there?” Francesca put her hand on her mouth in shock. pointing at a tiny image of a woman standing in profile. and begged Francesca not to tell anybody about it. but it . but asked Michelle not to hide anything from her because that’s how women get in trouble. “Then why is their boy in there?” she asked. and at her dainty fingers sticking out of her lace fingerless gloves. “I’ve met some of the students because the school is close to my house. “They’re not criminals.

Get a hold of yourself. She imagined Elliot kissing those lips and every muscle in her body convulsed. Michelle really wasn’t feeling well and if she didn’t stop thinking of all those images in her head she knew that she would hurl everywhere. She was sure that she threw up just a tiny bit in the back of her throat.” Her father chuckled. ready to pull the car over to the side of the road. Eranka called this afternoon asking about us coming out to visit. “Michelle.” She hated Elliot. Could Elliot have fathered a son outside of marriage? Even she knew that back then such things were almost unheard of. wondering if Francesca had gotten her facts right. Of course she’s been saying that for years. she said to herself. an image of Elliot in bed with that woman crept into Michelle’s head and made her gag. . I think these finals are finally getting to me. Her father looked at her worried. “She said that she was worried she won’t live to see another summer. Dad.was too late. I do hope you pass them all. “Talking about finals. are you about to get sick? Do you want me to pull over?” he asked. Thinking about fathering. and took in a deep breath. “I’m all right. On the ride home Michelle sat quietly next to her father.

It all depended on whether she passed Italian. Michelle’s parents discussed the affordability of the trip to see Eranka. but with her aunt on her mind she decided to . a rosy ribbon with ‘My First Birthday’ printed on it in gold thread. a tiny ring with what looked like a fake ruby. She slowly overturned the box onto her bed and was glad when she found what she was looking for. It was a red string bracelet with tiny golden charms. Her great aunt Eranka had sent it as a gift when Michelle was born. At dinner. A butterfly hair clip. and she wouldn’t get those results until a week into summer break. Michelle hadn’t worn it in years. Michelle stood on top of her chair and grabbed a small wooden box from the top shelf of her closet. and other pieces of jewelry that were missing a few links here and there. and contemplated the chances that Michelle would be forced to attend summer school. Inside were little pieces of her childhood.But she is getting up there in age and your mother wants you to meet her. Michelle didn’t really know. she had been a fixture in her life since the day Michelle was born.” Michelle felt sad because although she had never met her great aunt.

put it on. The next day while Michelle struggled to shut her overflowing locker. He continued talking and followed her towards the front of the school. Michelle quickly said goodbye and crossed over to the other side of the street when she heard Tim call her name. Later that evening before falling asleep her mind drifted back to the woman she saw in the old photograph. Tim stopped by to say hello and talk about finals. She turned around and motioned to her invisible watch. Michelle had figured that maybe she would be able to drag the situation out until school ended for the summer. Michelle worried about Tim’s feelings because if he continued following her he would undoubtedly see her meet up with Elliot. As Michelle climbed into Elliot’s car. but she didn’t know how to tell him that she was seeing someone. and was thankful that it was adjustable. As they descended the stairs to the front lot a couple of Tim’s friends walked up and distracted him. It wasn’t like Tim had officially asked her out. hoping he would understand that she had to go. She knew she was being a total chicken. Although she had no obligations to him. she looked back up at Tim who was still standing at the top of the school’s front steps. .

” he said. Indian-style. and she worried that he was going to tell her that he couldn’t see her anymore.Their eyes met and Michelle couldn’t do anything except give him a sympathetic look. Michelle settled in front of Elliot. . and he knew that Michelle had mixed feelings about the boy since long before their own lives had become intertwined. not to mention how embarrassed she would feel if they were all there when Elliot broke up with her. When Elliot led Michelle to his room she was a bit nervous. He squeezed Michelle’s knee to remind her that he was there for her. Elliot was well aware of what was happening as he had seen Tim hanging around Michelle a few too many times. sit down. She was grateful that she didn’t see any of the other guys when they walked past the living room because she was afraid that they would blame her for the fight between Elliot and Rion. He told her that there were some serious things that they needed to discuss. and that these situations were just part of life. patting the spot next to him on the bed. He also knew that she had chosen to be with him. Elliot held out his hands and Michelle put her hands in his. His face showed worry. “Here.

there are some things I need to tell you about. things that are not too easy for me to disclose to just anyone. “It’s time I tell you why I left the way I did. this .” It was Elliot’s turn to take a big breath. specifically for the formula of an unusual alloy. He continued. Some say that the metal ended up on earth when a giant ice ball carrying it passed near to the sun and melted. and about how they had been searching for knowledge.” Elliot reminded Michelle about his trip on the Argos. So ask me questions if you need. and whoever did it was searching for something. a certain type of electrically charged metal that did not originate on earth was discovered in limited quantities. and you probably aren’t going to understand everything all at once. Elliot told Michelle that many thousands of years earlier.“Michelle. And once again. And I fear that I may know what it is that they were after. Whatever the case. “When Devin went to see our friends in China their house was empty and it was obvious that someone had kidnapped them.” Good. I want to make sure you understand that none of this was planned. “The place was ransacked. he wasn’t breaking up with her. I want to apologize for not letting you know.” Michelle’s mouth dropped. First. Michelle exhaled in relief.

He told Michelle that the alloy is very important to his kind because it is toxic to them. Elliot got off the bed and put his hands to his head in frustration. but he was obviously wrong. and is known by many different names because the formula was developed independently in different parts of the world. This alloy has to be forged under tremendous pressure. The toxicity of this metal can cause a massive electrical surge that leaves the victim paralyzed. Elliot had never seen any of those legendary weapons himself. He had thought that he would never have to discuss this subject again. they die. Elliot knew it as ‘Nizabar’. but he has encountered certain weapons crafted from a combination of earth metals to form a similar electrically charged alloy. If a weapon made out of Nizabar strikes them. other then maybe extremely high temperatures?” Michelle became worried. “I thought you told me that there’s nothing that can kill you guys. “We can die.powerful metal was said to have been used in the “magical” weapons used by the ancient mythical heroes in their wars against one another. To put it simply. it disrupts our nervous systems and once that happens the brain is no longer capable of sending out repair signals to our .

but none were disturbed. and plenty of money and priceless antiques laying out in the open. but no blood anywhere. “What I told you previously about us not dying was technically correct. and that their home was completely torn apart. “There was gold there. “But did they even have the formula?” she .” Michelle couldn’t help but conjure the image of Elliot dying. She started to panic. although it seems that there is someone out there who is bent on changing that fact. The only people who place no value on such things are those of my own kind. and it sent a cold chill up her spine. There were signs of a struggle.” “How do you know that whoever kidnapped your friends was looking for the formula? And besides. For as much as we know. yet with every valuable thing still left in place. our friends are being tortured right now. are you even sure they were kidnapped?” Michelle asked nervously.cells. It’s like an electrically charged poison.” Elliot winced at the thought and Michelle felt sick to her stomach. They are after the formula. But Elliot explained that there was no way his friends would have missed out on the opportunity to see their old friend Devin.

” Michelle jumped a little at the mention of Rion’s name. We thought that without that terrible alloy around we could all just live in peace. he had no idea about the alloy’s destructive power when he first smelted it. Still.asked. Elliot assured her that Rion didn’t have the formula anymore and besides. like a daydream. because the last time any of their kind had fought against each other was almost a thousand years ago.” Michelle said angrily. and it comes out in uncontrollable spurts. but when she saw that there was no change in Elliot’s demeanor she just let it go. Elliot explained to Michelle that his kind seems to have certain innate knowledge ingrained in their brains from birth. “Does Rion still have the formula from the days of the Argos? And I don’t understand why he had something so awful to begin with. One of the missions that Rion and I went on long ago was to find and destroy every copy we could. as far as I know there is only one copy of the formula still in circulation. once and for all. “No. . Weren’t all of his kind friends with one other? Elliot didn’t have an answer to that question. The recipe had just come to him. she didn’t understand why anyone would want the formula at all.

‘Hwanung’. and how his father was a kind of a god.” Michelle looked at Elliot in disbelief.Most human advancements. and you’ll get a laugh out of this one. “I know. which he did. A few generations later. is said to have brought him into this world in order to teach the people about agriculture and medicine. when Haneul returned to power under a different name and became King Jumong. and it also states that a Watcher by the name of Azazel taught men to make metal weapons. which is Haneul’s original name.” Elliot laughed. including metallurgy. “There are all kinds of stories out there about how we originated and who our parents were. Many cultures have stories about knowledge passing to humans from other beings. his mother was a bear that turned into a woman. but what I was getting at is that Haneul’s father. I know. The Book of Giants states that the Watchers taught their human wives about medicinal plants. Elliot told Michelle about Haneul’s history as the founder of the first Korean dynasty. “Korean legends tell about ‘Tangun’. came from unknown sources. he was able to develop the process of smelting for . But these accounts aren’t limited to one area of the world. and some of these beings are said to have similar characteristics to Elliot and his kind.

for my own protection. When Goliath stole my original sword I had no choice but to forge more weapons. and that of my family. her voice trailing at the end of her words. Some of us became power hungry and terrorized human communities. You can ask him yourself if you want. He created many amazing metals that were much stronger than anything that had ever been seen in Korea. Elliot lowered his head and Michelle knew the answer. and different paths. he too developed the Nizabar alloy. One day the formula just popped into his head. Some of us chose different alliances.the first time.” “What about you? Did you ever create it yourself?” a wide-eyed Michelle asked Elliot. She jumped off the bed and was now standing in front of Elliot with her . “I had to. even if I had sworn I never would. making their lives miserable or enslaving them.” “Goliath? Like David and Goliath! You knew him?!!!!” Michelle yelled. Eventually. I was forced to slay some of my own kind when they took up arms on the side of evil. We are born with freedom of choice just like you. Just because we are different than you humans doesn’t mean that we are all alike.

” Elliot said. smiling proudly.hands on her hips demanding an explanation. and I spent many hours with him and his wives. and was blinded by the blood pouring out of his wound. but he fought for the other side. “Goliath was struck on the forehead. He tripped over a protruding rock and knocked himself out cold. Michelle wanted to know if David was good looking like Michelangelo’s sculpture. Goliath would have awoken at the first touch of the blade and David would have been history. He had been forced to deal with it back then too. actually my sword to cut off his head. “I served in his army. but Elliot didn’t appreciate all the sudden excitement over David.” “So you’re telling me you knew David. “Goliath was one of us. If he had used any other weapon. He stole my sword. the famous David?” Michelle was thoroughly enthralled. very close to his eyes.” “You were there? It’s all real then?” “As real as I am. I saw the whole thing.” Elliot’s serious expression was replaced by a smile and he lost himself in a memory. the same sword that David used to sever his head. and found it a bore that every woman was so . David used Goliath’s.

Michelle’s face sagged with disappointment.” he said arrogantly. Not to mention that his son completely eclipsed him in looks and spirit.taken with him. Michelle picked up on his thoughts.” After Elliot’s rant Michelle didn’t mention David again.” “Since I don’t look at men the way women do I can’t really answer that question. And besides. “Devin is still out there searching. even when he was older. was one of us. “All I can say is that he was charming and women found him irresistible. “I’m just curious Elliot. “But in war he was as ruthless. Not only because my friends are in danger. and his predecessor.” Michelle . he was a musician and they always know how to pull a woman’s strings. This whole thing is a dangerous mess. if not more so than others. but because someone out there is crazy enough to want to start something again. and our friend Mikoto has joined him.” Michelle looked at Elliot dreamingly and he failed to control his jealousy. honest. and when Elliot saw her looking like a sad little girl he had to remind himself that David’s legend had become bigger than he ever was. He had a boyish appeal to him. the first King of Israel. and he was greater than both put together.

put her arms around the obviously distraught Elliot and leaned against him. .” he said. And besides. Michelle confided in him that she was worried about the guys blaming her for the fight between him and Rion. grabbing her hand and pulling her towards the door. and he realized how much he had missed it. I thought he was trying to take advantage of you. Her head was spinning with all the awful information Elliot had fed her. It felt good to have someone care about how he felt. Michelle picked up her little red bracelet from the side of sink and headed to her bedroom. “Come on.” That evening. “you’re with me now.” Elliot’s eyes sparkled with mischief and he showed Michelle his perfectly healed forehead. Elliot hugged her and told her that was nonsense. “I was under a lot of stress. if you think that was bad you should have seen the brawl we had in Italy. after washing her face and brushing her teeth. I had just come back without being able to locate my friends and I freakin’ hate flying. “And why not?” he whispered back into her neck. on top of which. I don’t know what I was thinking. But the intimate moment was cut short by a knock on the door and Michelle asked him not to answer it.

Elliot told her that they weren’t talking about her. Was he just trying to make her feel uncomfortable? And then to make things even worse he and Elliot started speaking in a different language and she felt completely alone. a flower. but to be in Elliot’s bedroom? Was Rion indifferent to her? Was he angry that she was Elliot’s girl? His words didn’t hint at anything. It was bad enough that she had to face Rion after what had happened. The whole thing was beginning to sound like some bad comic book scenario. a heart. a sheep. He seemed to be worried that someone was trying to start a war between all of them. But what really frightened Michelle was the fact that . Later. the only thing he seemed interested in was her bracelet. He explained to her that if that were the case he would have no choice but to be dragged into it.what were the chances that it would be Rion knocking on Elliot’s door just as she was saying how uncomfortable she felt since their fight. and what looked like a coiled snake. Childish little things for a baby girl. but then what were they hiding? All those thoughts swirled in Michelle’s head. and then she remembered Elliot’s kidnapped friends. a cute turtle. Michelle scrutinized the little gold charms: a tiny duck. yet Rion actually asked if he could look at them closely.

as well as being an American hero. the one that Elliot had written down thousands of years ago on a clay tablet. fairytales without the happily ever after. Michelle buried herself in her studies as an escape from everything Elliot had told her. She couldn’t help but wonder if Revere was one of Elliot’s kind with secret metallurgy knowledge. she had always felt that historical figures were no more than imaginary characters. On Sunday evening while studying for her US history final. And In the next few days she paid more attention to her History lessons than ever. She . she learned that Paul Revere was a gifted silversmith and metalworker. not only because he pioneered a special copper plating technique. Before she met Elliot. But now with Elliot in her life these characters jumped out of the pages of her books and practically knocked on her door. Michelle was happily tearing page after page of notes out of her school binder.there was still a copy of the formula somewhere out there. but because he was also the ‘Most Worshipped Grand Master’ of the secret society of Freemasons in Massachusetts. stories. Finally.

crumpled them into paper balls and tossed them over her shoulder while Elliot laughed in amusement. The picnic tables were set perfectly under beautiful weeping willows. eyes beaming in pleasure. but it was too late now. Michelle noticed two white swans majestically floating in the small pond. and saw that he was curiously reading one of her handouts. and when he did she crumpled it up and stuffed it in her pocket. advertising to students that it would be a night not to be missed. Michelle bit her lip in embarrassment. It was the prom announcement. telling him that the event was totally stupid. and Michelle smiled at Elliot. . She helped him gather the mess from the back seat. right?” he asked. fresh baked French bread. trying not to take his eyes off the road for too long. but Michelle shook her head and told him that she was redecorating the back seat. She should have recognized the purple copied page. The large barn turned out to be a cheese factory with a small attached shop that offered their entire line of cheeses. She asked Elliot to hand it back to her. Elliot pulled up in front of a large bright white barn-like building. “You will clean that up. After driving through beautiful rolling hills dotted with herds of black and white cows.

“To the passing of all your finals. Michelle was immediately reminded of the horse and buggy photographs in Francesca’s album.” laughing that it used to be a much longer trip on horseback. Did Elliot bring her here? Michelle didn’t want some ghost from the past ruining their afternoon. and a wide selection of California wines. Michelle clinked her glass with him and took a sip of the liquid gold. Elliot poured something into two champagne glasses and handed her one. Michelle asked Elliot if he shopped there often. Elliot waited for Michelle’s response. Michelle was very impressed when Elliot spoke to the elder lady behind the counter in perfect French. The sound of a cork popping woke Michelle from her thoughts. She was surprised to taste a sweet and lightly fragrant carbonated drink gliding down her throat like a small taste of sunshine. and to a great summer vacation. pastries. before looking up at him with . actually it was more like a gulp. While helping set the picnic table.” he toasted. who in turn happily chatted away with him. which in turn reminded her of the young woman with long brown hair and perfect lips who had a child out of wedlock. Without missing a beat he answered. “Since the 1850’s.condiments. but she had to take another sip.

She giggled with delight while Elliot fed her bread and cheese. Elliot. I’m not allowed to drink till I’m 21. don’t you think?” Michelle felt the drink spread inside her. Elliot watched Michelle from above and wondered if he was really falling in love with her? Maybe he was kidding himself and . The sun shone down on her face and she was forced to close her eyes. We can get in a lot of trouble for this. Elliot laughed and told her that she would have to slow down or she’d get drunk and have a horrible headache. “Oh my God! That is so good! What is it?” she asked as she held her glass out for more. if you can legally serve in the military and die for your country at 18.” But Elliot dismissed her worries. “Oh no. you should be able to celebrate with a little champagne at the same age. especially you. down to her thighs and up her arms.a wide smile. and when she had eaten enough she walked over to the pond and watched the swans enjoy the bread as much as she did. and besides. “I told her we’re from Europe. Eventually she relaxed and slowly lay down on the bench with her head in Elliot’s lap. It’s against the law.

She leaned her face against Elliot’s chest and looked up at him. but that’s exactly what she saw when she looked at him. Maybe he shouldn’t let himself go that far. If it was the drink in her that made the next words flow out. Michelle was a beautiful person inside and out and she was young. so she sat up and took his hands in hers. .just enjoyed impressing her because it was so much fun to see her smile like that? If he hadn’t fallen in love with her yet. with shadows reappearing from his past. he thought. could he be endangering the girl by being too selfish to let her go? Michelle opened her eyes to see Elliot’s soft features looking down at her. which meant that he could enjoy more years with her before she broke his heart.” she whispered. Maybe better to keep tight control over his feelings instead of committing emotional suicide. but whatever the cause it was time for them to come out or else she would burst. She knew he didn’t like to hear such things. giving the impression of a golden halo around his head. Remember Leta? And now. she wasn’t sure. Elliot’s eyes looked sad. “You look like an angel. The sun was directly behind him. he most likely would if he spent more time with her.

She was pure and said exactly what she was feeling. and don’t hurt her because you’re damaged. But Michelle didn’t care. What was he feeling? Elliot thought about that question as he looked down into Michelle’s large and hopeful eyes? She made him smile and he obviously cared about her. Come on Elliot. He held her tight while watching the two white . and the little bit of alcohol removed any barriers that would have been there to protect her. “I know Michelle. He knew it deep inside. to feel freely. to regret laying her feelings all out in the open so exposed for him to squash. What price is it for you to let yourself experience joy. and he knew her smile would disappear. It suddenly pounded in his own head like a drum. enough to physically assault his friend when he thought that he was steering her away from him. She was starting to regret what she had said. pulling her into him. don’t do it. to breathe love? Michelle’s increasing heartbeat was what snapped Elliot back to reality.” he said. he told himself.“You know you’re making me fall in love with you?” Elliot wasn’t shocked. he just wasn’t expecting Michelle to say those words right there and then. and with so much liberty. Enough to sneak around with her like he was a teenager himself.

He held her away from him so he could look at her face. which she didn’t. Eventually one broke free to make its way down her cheek. “and besides. Samantha couldn’t understand how something that was so important to Michelle only a few months ago didn’t even raise her interest.swans skimming across the face of the water.” she whispered. it was just too late because it was only a few days away and she had nothing ready. I’m happy. “I feel the same way too. and noticed that she was fighting stubborn tears that gathered at the corners of her eyes. It’s his last year. She reminded her about how upset she had been about not attending the winter formal. “Are you sad?” he asked. “No.” Elliot felt Michelle’s heartbeat slow down and her tense muscles relaxed. that’s just sun in my eyes. each a reflection of the other. “If we don’t .” Samantha’s voice was almost in tears. and Elliot agreed.” Samantha hadn’t stopped bringing up the prom issue and Michelle finally had to tell her that even if she wanted to go. “James is graduating. following the little tear with his eyes and watching it plunge from her chin onto her chest.

like we always planned it. Little Napoli was hopping that evening as Michelle threw herself into the booth across the table from her friends and watched them busily leaf through the fashion magazines. Anna had the opinion that the style looked as if the model had slept in it and then simply gotten up and sprayed it with too much hairspray. At least she could introduce him to some of her friends. Hasn’t he asked you yet?” Michelle tried to explain that it was different with Elliot. If Elliot thinks he’s above it. Rachael showed Michelle a photo of a pretty model and asked if she thought that she should do her hair like that for the prom. There had been a long pause before he actually agreed. and besides we’re all going out tomorrow night anyway. . for the memories. who knows if James and I will even be together by next year? You have to go. then go with Tim. He gracefully declined the pizza part. but told her he could meet her at the movie. “You need to go and have a wonderful night with James. He was an adult with real stuff to worry about. For Michelle. and Elliot said he’ll come. that was better than nothing.all go together this year.” At least Michelle hoped that he would.

” Michelle agreed with Anna. and Marcus arrived. On a regular person it would be a disaster. James. and helped her by changing the subject while Michelle thanked her with her eyes. Still. There was still no sign of Elliot when everybody handed their tickets to the usher. and Samantha gave Michelle a sympathetic look. and while she paid for her candy at the concession stand she kept looking above everyone else’s shoulders to see if he had arrived. Rachael asked Michelle how she was going to wear her hair and Michelle had to painfully explain to them that she wasn’t going to the Prom. Naturally.“She’s gorgeous. that’s why it looks good. Rachael and Anna were quite disturbed by the news and couldn’t understand why on earth she didn’t make her boyfriend go. Standing outside the kiosk at the cinema. The three of them were huddled close . Michelle got a little nervous about Elliot not showing up. and with all the Photoshop too. Michelle convinced everyone besides Sam and James to go on in without her because she didn’t want them to miss the beginning of the movie. Michelle was still explaining that it was her choice not to attend. When Samantha. She bought him a ticket just like he had asked. Samantha immediately realized what Michelle was talking about.

Elliot did his best to seem as normal as possible.to the door when Michelle felt a light tap on her shoulder and turned around to see Elliot smiling. The previews were still playing. James. beaming with pride as she saw the awestruck faces of her girlfriends when they couldn’t stop staring at him. sized Elliot up as they shook hands. so Michelle introduced Elliot to everyone. If anything. and he couldn’t believe he was actually eating that acerbic junk just to make her happy. he found it comforting to know that Michelle had good friends around her. feeling protective over Michelle. Elliot overheard the conversation between Rachael and Anna about the . and when the lights were completely dimmed he pecked Michelle on the cheek and waited to feel the blood rush to her face. Although it was hard for him to relax with so many of her friends around him. Michelle wasted no time grabbing Elliot’s hand and holding it tight as they made their way to their seats in semi-darkness. The relief was all over her face as Elliot apologized for being a little late. She was happy he was there and that’s all she cared about. When the movie was over and everyone spilled out of the building. But Elliot didn’t take offense. Throughout the film Michelle handed Elliot the extreme sour candy.

It’s just a dress up dance and there are plenty of people . She told him that he didn’t need to pretend. He could take her sailing around the Mediterranean and island hop for months. which he strongly denied. shocked. show her countries he had lived in. but there would be time for that soon enough and he would have to be patient. I’ll go with you. and everyone I spoke to that has gone says that it’s no big deal. we can go.” He took a deep breath. but as her own person. And I don’t want to be the cause of them.Prom. I was thinking that you shouldn’t just drop the life you had before you met me. It didn’t cost him much. He could take her places. Michelle couldn’t believe what she was hearing and looked at Elliot. right? Why would you want to? The Prom is so arbitrary. years. “Michelle. places where he had been before. “You’ve got to be joking. not as ‘Michelle his girl’. I don’t want you to have regrets later in life. He could teach her so much and show her so many things.” Elliot had spent some time thinking about Michelle in the last few days. “If you want to go the prom. He would have loved for her to be out of school and spending her time by his side. On the ride home Elliot told Michelle that he liked her friends.

or even a dress. “Maybe I just want to see you in a beautiful dress?” he said. and she couldn’t justify emptying the savings account her parents had started for her just for a dress.who don’t go and their lives are just fine. Tomorrow we’ll go shopping and you pick out whatever you want to wear. I hadn’t planned on going.” Elliot was highly impressed with Michelle’s grown-up speech. frazzled. The other problem was that her parents would never let her go without meeting . It’s total artificial pressure. and besides there’s another Prom in senior year. “You don’t have to worry about any of that. I have lived for a very long time. There are many me’s…” he said. “This is so not you…” “Michelle.” But Michelle didn’t have a lot of money. She was embarrassed to tell him all that because she didn’t want to sound as if she was asking him to buy her something to wear. but he still wasn’t buying that she didn’t want to go. “But I don’t have tickets.” she answered. She was completely right on all her points. adding a little mischief to his voice. watching Michelle’s eyes grow big in disbelief.

and how old is he!!! Elliot felt Michelle’s blood pressure rising. so he pulled over the car and turned off the engine. kissing her sweetly. Whatever thoughts were running through her mind were stressing her body.” Michelle had never thought about what she was going to tell her parents about Elliot. and for a long time she didn’t think she would ever have to. What would she tell them? Where did she meet him and how long have they known each other? What school does he go to. She always felt as if every day she had with him was a gift from another world. We will make this happen. Michelle’s mother didn’t see any problem with that arrangement and was quite happy for her daughter. On Saturday morning she approached her mother and told her that she had met a guy during Easter break and that they had been talking to one another and had decided to go to the prom together. “Don’t worry. although Michelle hardly took notice. and that one day that fantasy would vanish as if it had just been one long dream. As they discussed her plans later during dinner. He leaned over and took her face in his hand. Everything is under control.Elliot first. Michelle couldn’t believe how easily the lies fell from . But everything was different now.

He replied that they were both adults at that time. After watching James graduate.” How on earth was she going to explain that to Elliot. She told her mom that Elliot was from a school down south and that he had graduated two years earlier. but her father insisted on spending some time with this stranger before he would let Michelle go anywhere with him. and told . Michelle wondered with great concern? And besides. its not like I’m marrying him. When she got into the car he gave her a small peck on the cheek though she would have preferred the lips. Her father was a little concerned about Michelle’s date being three years older than her. “There is nothing wrong with him showing up an hour early so your mother and I can get a feel and see if we like him. “Dad. but her mother reminded him that they were four years apart when they started dating.her lips. It’s just a dance!” Michelle chimed in. Michelle excused herself from her friends and made her way to where Elliot’s Explorer was already waiting. what if Elliot’s eyes started changing colors right in front of her father? Then everything would be a total mess and they would never let him take her anywhere.

En route.” Michelle looked at Elliot in complete disbelief. Michelle embarrassedly recounted what her father had said. “It’s just a simple dress.” “No.” Michelle said. it’s not stupid. “Then it must be a good time to go fetch you a fancier one. a bit disappointed at Elliot’s response.” she told him.her that she looked very pretty. and on top of that there was no taking anyone out anywhere without a marriage proposal first. They decided to head south to San Francisco to the many little boutiques there because Elliot disliked department stores. no. “This is just a stupid idea. and even then there was always a chaperon involved. No matter how old I get I still don’t like to meet any woman’s father. And trust me when I say that throughout most of history a guy couldn’t even talk to a girl without her father or brothers being present. and Elliot seemed to be as pained by the idea as she was. He leaned his head back against the neck rest and let out a low whistle. “Then how did a couple know if they even liked one another if they never got the chance to be alone?” she asked.” he said. but that marriage was . Elliot explained to her that love was not a modern invention. “I told you.

but many times that did not happen and men and women were married to people that their parents had chosen for them.viewed as more of a business transaction rather than an expression of undying devotion. Of course. getting gradually wider . “Don’t worry. while still being in love with someone else. Elliot agreed that he liked it this way much better. even back then lovers snuck out in secret as much as they could.” Elliot decided not to mention the almost certain death punishment for getting caught. and she was glad that she lived in the present time. there could be no better feeling than sneaking away with Elliot and getting as far away as possible. “There are still many places in the world where marriageable women are bartered over the same way they do for a farm animal. It had a deep v-neck cut and the body had panels of fabric that crisscrossed from below the bust line. if the couple happened to be in love than everyone was happy. Michelle thought that that was sad and awful. After trying on numerous dresses Michelle settled on a classic floor length satin gown that was almost black but was in fact deep purple with the slightest iridescent sheen.” Michelle shuddered at that thought. For Michelle.

Michelle looked like a .” he said in honesty. and although he understood that they were much more comfortable for the ladies than heavy skirts and corsets. but I’m not all that. You look so beautiful in that dress that I didn’t hear you speak. Elliot attributed that to them being so fragile. Elliot enjoyed watching Michelle model the different outfits. women wearing pants was quite a recent trend.until they wrapped perfectly around her hips. and that the clothes she wore in her daily routine hid her natural curves. To his eyes. For Elliot. They all needed constant reassurance. It’s a pretty dress. he still couldn’t help but miss the days when women looked like fluffy flowers wrapped up in miles of lace.” A woman’s self doubt in her appearance was something that never changed. “Elliot!” Michelle repeated his name a little louder when he just stared at her. Michelle blushed. not answering on whether she should wear her hair pinned up or down. He definitely preferred seeing her in dresses that emphasized her waist and hips. “Don’t be silly. “I’m sorry. I’m mesmerized. and it became obvious to him that she definitely possessed the body of a little woman.

He sounded so at ease. feeling the small of her back as it curved downwards and back out. He tried to say something but she put her finger to his lips. He probably completely scared her. Was he really not young like her? Her sweet beautiful Elliot. a man who she had yet to become acquainted with? Michelle tried to keep things in perspective. She was still waiting for his opinion on her hair. She felt awfully confused. and that she needed to grow up. He placed his hands around her waist. like a grown man. and her eyes were now sending small darts in his direction while she stood tapping her foot for extra effect. “You look so beautiful. he should have known better. Elliot couldn’t believe that those words came out of his mouth. The way he had spoken was different. Michelle pulled back and stared at him. studying his face as if she was seeing him for the first time. reminding herself that Elliot had probably had many lovers.movie star straight out of the 1930s.” He kissed her while running his hands up and down her satiny hips. and Michelle’s body tightened up. “I just want to rip this dress right off you. Elliot laughed and walked over to stand next to her by to the three-way mirror. then kissed him passionately .” he whispered. pulling her even closer to him.

He tried not to burst out laughing and apologized again. and that seemed to help evade any more discussion on the subject for the time being. He put some distance between their bodies and told her that he was out of line talking to her that way.” Elliot thought to himself that nothing cuter could have possibly come out of Michelle’s mouth. They lived and died knowing a fraction of what he did. It didn’t matter how mature they thought they were.” He kissed her one more time. “I should have controlled myself a little better. you don’t have to rip it off me. people on their deathbeds were no more than babies. And yet here was sweet Michelle. Old people were just little children to him. “If you ask real nice I’ll take it off. You don’t have to treat me like one. but was more about where they were. all of seventeen years old. even if he had put it there himself. It’s just hard with you being so beautiful. Elliot. Michelle was irritated by his apology. But Elliot knew that she was fronting. telling her that it had nothing to do with her age.while placing his hands back on her hips. “I’m not a little girl. telling him that she wasn’t a little girl. The salesgirl at the counter cleared her throat as a way to remind the couple that they had .” she whispered in his ear. that she was all grown up.

” Elliot said. It’s just gorgeous. “Mom.” When Michelle had first seen the price tag for the dress she had argued with Elliot that it was much too expensive. It’s just that you look so pretty that it’s making me cry. Her mother had helped her take in the dress at all the right places and now it fit her body like it was sewn on rather than taken off the rack. “We’ll take the dress. Her hair was parted to one side and her mom used a large curling iron to curl the ends. I’m going to the prom.” her mom snuffled into her tissue. With her eyes lined with smoky kohl she looked much older. walking over to the cash register and pulling out a large stack of bills from his wallet.” she said. “I know honey. and the creamy rosy lipstick only added to that effect.an audience. Michelle couldn’t believe that that was her looking back at her from the mirror. wasn’t it? Michelle noticed that her mother had a tear in her eye. and that it . but that was the whole point. laughing and putting her arms around her mother. “I still can’t believe you paid so little for this dress. She looked extra glamorous. not a funeral.

But Elliot responded that he had told her that she could choose any dress and he had meant it.wasn’t worth it because she would only wear it one time. You’re making this a way bigger deal than you need to. not seventeen!” he said disapprovingly. Michelle’s father . Michelle’s nervous father knocked on the bedroom door and announced that it was almost four-o’clock. please. Her mother told him to close his eyes because she wanted him to see Michelle in all her glory. Michelle became visibly upset and her mother came to her defense.” “Just let me have my fun.” her mother protested. “Don’t you think she’s wearing too much makeup? She looks like she’s thirty. When her father saw Michelle his mouth dropped open. The ever-thoughtful Michelle tried to offset the price of the dress by wearing her same black heels and small diamond necklace that she wore to the Christmas party. telling him that it had to be like that for the photos to turn out good. he would have been willing to pay a lot more to see Michelle looking so happy. “Mom. and that she had worn just as much when she went to her own Prom.

but when she opened the door her heart just about skipped a beat. That afternoon he had poured himself a glass of wine to help relax him. The doorbell rang and Michelle froze. In reality. shifting his weight back and forth from one foot to another. There in front if her was the most beautiful young man she had ever seen. Elliot had no idea how old he really looked. It was like she couldn’t breath. Her mother put on her nicest smile. She was speechless and proud at the same time. Elliot did his best to act younger by trying to appear nervous. and he was taking her daughter to the Prom. up to maybe his late twenties. He had slicked his hair back away from his face and shaved extra close even though that didn’t really change his features. it was more about how he felt. His main concern was that he appear normal. standing tall and handsome in a perfectly tailored black tuxedo.realized that it was two against one and grumbled to himself while walking downstairs with his wife and daughter behind him. Throughout his life people had usually guessed that he was as young as eighteen. Suddenly it felt as if tonight was her and Elliot’s first date. He didn’t want his eyes to look too intense because Michelle had mentioned that she was worried about .

yet still vague enough so that he didn’t paint himself into a corner. he shook Michelle’s father’s hand semi-firmly and sat down on the couch. Mrs. looking around as if he had never been there before. As Elliot was ushered into the living room he noticed Michelle peeking out from the kitchen and gave her a quick reassuring smile. he often wore sunglasses and avoided spending too much time with people that didn’t know about him. To steer clear of uncomfortable situations. . admiring her beauty with crystal blue eyes and noticing how much she resembled her daughter. “You have a beautiful home.” he said in his nicest voice. He was. Andrews. and his answers were sincere and convincing. so he mostly went by other people’s responses. after all. Once inside. Elliot knew that there were certain emotions that triggered that response in him. a pro at this. Her parents asked Elliot all the regular questions. despite his attempts to keep them under control. He himself never knew what his eyes looked like unless there was a mirror in front of him. Michelle listened to him from the kitchen and rolled her eyes with amusement.that. But now he stood in front of Michelle’s mother.

Elliot actually jumped a little as the harsh comment woke him from his thoughts. Here goes nothing.’ after it was she who had been the one trespassing on the school grounds in the first place. Elliot was now gazing at the woman he had seen inside Michelle way back when she had fallen off the wall and ended up at his feet. Back then it was only a fleeting image. Michelle’s father gave Elliot a look that could kill and told him that he could close his mouth now because his daughter was not a meal. Michelle’s mother . but now he knew he had seen it right because she was once again in front of him.“Michelle.” Michelle laughed. are you ever going to come out here and say hello to your date?” her mom called to her from the living room. but this time he didn’t have to fake anything. Elliot stood up immediately. Sexy and classy the same time. Elliot handed her a small corsage. ‘this is not the end of this. He was thoroughly blown away by the beautiful woman who now stood in front of him. a spray of nearly black roses with a few deep red ones in-between. Dad. later yelling at him. you know. and made her entrance looking every inch a siren from the silent movie era. “Oh. Michelle thought to herself.

she asked herself as she admired his perfect features beneath his sleeked hair? It was time to go. The two of them looked back at her. telling her that his mom had helped him pick them out. . Who is this Elliot.. Michelle gave Elliot an approving smile. Just as he was about to help her into the Explorer. and immediately heard the snap of the camera.commented on the sophistication of the colors and Elliot didn’t miss a beat. Michelle thought to herself. Smooth. but not before Michelle’s father emphasized that his daughter was to be home not a minute past 1:00 AM. really.. Michelle’s mother called out to them from the front door. that definitely earned points with the parents. Outside. Michelle and Elliot said their goodbyes and walked out the door.

He was entirely unbelievably beautiful and she wondered which artist had carved him out to look like that? It just wasn’t fair to anyone else. No human could ever possess what Elliot did. He knew that Michelle was beginning to see more in him than just a goodlooking young guy. But Michelle couldn’t take her eyes off him for the entire trip to the restaurant. There was something ethereal about him. if you keep staring at me like that without saying anything I’m going to crash the car. She couldn’t put her finger on what it was exactly. especially not her. it was the first time she had gotten to see Elliot the man.Chapter 12 “Michelle. With his hair slicked away from his face and his back straight and secure in his dark tuxedo. But Michelle had noticed something else that afternoon. and Elliot laughed from deep inside his lungs. “Who are you?” she asked. because he had been gradually revealing himself to her depending on how confident he was that she could handle him. She found herself once again mesmerized by his looks. But not .” Elliot smirked.

.all the layers had been peeled away. “You have no idea how beautiful you are. Elliot helped Michelle out of the car. the more complex he became. then pulled her from her waist for a gentle kiss.” he said. The more lives he lived. He had made plenty of mistakes and had acted in plenty of bad scenes. “Don’t move” he said. as he had no intention of making a mess out of the masterpiece in front of him. and not all for the good. It looked like a private driveway. and drove through the small towns. He had many more. finally heading upwards along a very steep unpaved road that had Michelle clutching his arm in fear. with large windows overlooking the entire valley. “I’m me. Some stuck to him like a second skin and he couldn’t tell they were there anymore. taking a step back to look at her and letting out a whistle. until the road revealed a picturesque Basque restaurant at the top of the hill. or was he always the same person while everything else changed around him? He turned to look at Michelle who was still waiting for some magical answer. He wondered if specific situations dictated who he was. Who else should I be?” Elliot took the next exit.

It appeared to be a necklace made of large round iridescent black pearls. Elliot leaned across the table and gently lifted Michelle’s gold chain towards him so he could look at it closely.” Michelle looked at Elliot. Michelle nodded with enthusiasm. She told him that her brother Toby had bought the necklace for her when he was only sixteen and that she had loved it ever since. He asked Michelle if she wouldn’t mind taking off the chain so he could get a better look. unsure. someone so close to him that his own existence would feel incomplete without him or her. handing it to her across the table. He motioned her to go ahead and unwrap the little bundle. He had always wondered what it would feel like to have a sibling. “Sixteen?” Elliot looked at the diamond and smiled. Michelle’s hands shook with excitement. Elliot was touched by the closeness that Michelle shared with her brother. Are they real pearls?” she asked. “I thought maybe you would like this to go with your dress. “This is so beautiful. . so much so that the object slid accidentally out onto the table.While finishing dessert. while Elliot reached into his pocket and took out a small folded fabric.

still feeling a little uncomfortable. “Turn around. let me see you.” she said. She couldn’t really keep something so precious.” he said stretching his hand out for her to grab. In a serious voice. They felt smooth and sensual against her skin. Elliot walked around the table to where she sat and gently draped the pearls around her neck. “Not just tonight. If you look closely. Elliot asked her to hand him the necklace back and she feared that she had offended him. you will see they have shades of deep purple mixed in with the grays and blacks. her eyes twinkling with pride. Michelle stood and turned to face him. you know. It’s a gift. I harvested them myself. “I would be proud to wear them tonight. just like that fabric. Rare black ones. “You are a work of art. When he got up from his seat without saying a word.” Elliot loved the way Michelle’s face was glowing at that moment.“They are. Whenever you want.” Michelle was at a loss for words and told him that it was too much. . tugging at the back of her chair. But instead of saying anything. she felt her heart in her throat.” he said. I have had these for so many years that I forgot all about them until I saw you in this dress.

“You’re hot?” he asked her. “Now what?” Michelle asked him. Suddenly Elliot’s eyes changed color and became bright and his entire expression turned serious. Elliot noticed a bead of sweat rolling from the back of Michelle’s neck and down the middle of her back. fixing her hair. Before Michelle could protest he simply picked her up from her waist. Elliot looked back towards the restaurant and noticed an elderly couple emerging. Michelle wasn’t sure if she should worry. Michelle squealed and laughed. Once Elliot was satisfied that they were well hidden from view. He took Michelle’s hand and led her towards the rear of the parking lot. he set Michelle back on her feet. and all the makeup she was wearing didn’t help. and Michelle told him that she was a bit warm since the dress was tight. but he didn’t answer. but before . pulled her over the fence.The evening was warm and balmy and the sun was just about to set behind the western hills. On the way to the car. asking him what he was doing. He then hopped over the low chain link fence onto the dirt ravine. and began carrying her down the hill in his arms.

. She had never seen a more beautiful thing in her life. Michelle didn’t want to step out of the fantasy that Elliot had created for her. the glowing creatures were caught in the breeze that still encircled her. Happy? He couldn’t remember the last time that word purely described his state of mind. “You look like a goddess coming down the mountain. By the time he told Michelle to open her eyes. Close your eyes. which then engulfed them both as they held one another. and to see her like that made him feel wonderfully happy. but she wanted him close by. He turned his attention to something to the left of Michelle.” Elliot motioned his hand back and forth from Michelle to a small band of fireflies that he spotted a little ways up the hill.” Elliot said. She reached out for him and he stepped into her glowing circle.she had a chance to ask him if he was all right she was engulfed by a soft gentle breeze that encircled her entire body and made her hair gently blow this way and that. not a goddess yet.” Elliot stated proudly. “Now you definitely look like a goddess. Elliot felt how ecstatic Michelle was. She raised her arms and spun around on her feet. his eyes still blazing in blues and greens. Michelle looked around her in amazement. “No.

Elliot knew exactly what Michelle wanted to say. Why was she so scared she thought. he knew it would be coming from the purest and most hidden secret place within her heart. After Michelle had bared her . Every time she tried to speak they shook uncontrollably.” Michelle said. Elliot lifted Michelle’s face to his and kissed her again. how to form sound. She lifted her face to gaze into his eyes.“Elliot. the chemistry between them was heavy with static and intensity. Michelle was also very tense and she couldn’t understand why her mouth and lips were not behaving normally. “I think…” She couldn’t say it. His eyes were still brightly lit and Michelle felt them piercing her soul. but he wasn’t going to make her if she wasn’t ready. She looked up at the most beautiful face she had ever seen and just blurted it out. like a sneeze or a hiccup.” By the time Michelle and Elliot arrived at the Prom. If she did say it. He had gone and done it again. feeling almost embarrassed by her silence? Then it all came out in one breath. She buried her face in his chest. holding him tightly with her cheek against his jacket. It was as if they had forgotten how to talk. and he was excited just as much as he was nervous. “I love you.

she had only half expected him to do the same.” she said apprehensively. “You ok?” he asked her. She looked to Elliot for encouragement. squeezing her hand. Michelle’s grasp tightened around Elliot’s fingers. and he knew it. but she wasn’t sure why. Elliot would have loved to just turn around and walk away from the charade. rather than voice his own feelings. In all honesty. “We don’t really have to go in. “How about we just go in for a little while and if you still want to leave we will.” he suggested. but he had promised her and he would never backtrack on his words. but nothing else came out of him. and when she saw the familiar faces milling about from outside the lobby’s heavy glass doors. He had said just enough. she felt strangely disconnected from the entire scene. yet she was still disappointed when Elliot told her that he felt the same way. The impeccably dressed older .heart to him. She wasn’t sure if she really wanted to be there anymore. I feel bad dragging you here. even though he made an attempt to say something more. Elliot held Michelle’s hand all the way to the hotel. She was nervous.

but they were in . The air smelled of perfume and freshly cut flowers and the lights were dimmed to a golden yellow. Michelle saw them react in exactly the same way that she had when she first laid eyes on him. Elliot ignored the staring eyes.doorman at the top of the stairs smiled at Michelle with approval and held the door open. Elliot smiled proudly. Everywhere. Michelle compared herself to the other girls. girls sashayed in their dresses while their well-dressed dates walked extra straight in their stiff suits. looking for the validation that she fit in. Some of the girls did wear long gowns. and he demonstrated that by putting his hand around her or whispering in her ear every so often. telling her that her dress was exquisite. ushering them both inside. with large crystal chandeliers hanging from amazingly high ceilings. although Michelle was taken aback by all the positive attention she felt as soon as she entered the hall. giving the room the effect of a candlelit ambiance. Naturally. When other girls caught glimpses of Elliot. He complimented Michelle. The room was grand. His main concern was Michelle. He was used to it and had no interest in fluffing his ego. at least from the outside.

and none had the sophistication of hers. Someone called Michelle’s . it had two slits that exposed the girl’s hips almost up to her waist. remember?” He kissed her hand. over there. Other girls’ skirts were so short that they managed to shock even Michelle.bright blues. Elliot wondered what Michelle was so mesmerized by. Remember how I told you that humans are more than just animals? She. Michelle was surprised to feel Elliot’s lips on the back of her neck. and she grabbed his arms from behind as he pulled her closer to him. They wanted attention and definitely got it. And to make the garment even more provocative. is reducing herself to an animal level. Michelle couldn’t have asked for a better response. and all she’s attracting is the animal part of those boys. pinks and reds. How did he know how to say just the right thing at exactly the right time? “You are so much more beautiful than her. “There will always be women like that around. They think that their only way of attracting attention is through displaying their sex. You’re a goddess. so he followed her gaze to a cluster of guys surrounding one girl in a bright yellow mini-dress that was riding so high up her thighs that it looked like a fancy shirt.” Michelle looked at Elliot in surprise.

and not just by herself. but deep inside she was smitten with satisfaction.name and she looked up to see Anna and Marcus making their way across the room. Rachael was already in there and it felt like a small private party. “Where on earth did you find this?” Rachael asked Michelle looking at the black pearls around her neck. While everyone else headed to . A punky song came on over the speaker system outside and Samantha strained to hear it over all the noise the girls were making. Michelle told her it was discounted at some store in the city. It was something about the singer being in love with a girl who lived at the bottom of a septic tank. When Sam realized it was in fact the song she thought it was she grabbed Michelle’s hand and dragged her out of the bathroom. Elliot and Marcus exchanged greetings while the girls complimented one another on their gowns. None of the guys looked very comfortable and Elliot looked no different. who by then were clustered around the drink table. Then the girls left Elliot and Marcus behind to rendezvous with Samantha for an expedition to the ladies’ room. The girls spilled out of the ladies room and headed towards their dates. hollering at the rest of them to follow her because she wanted to dance.

You get enough drink in me… and it’ll be a whole different story. When Michelle saw his pained expression she burst out laughing. As Michelle and Elliot fought their way out from in between them. trying to keep a straight face. “I just can’t see you out there ‘getting down’.” Michelle told him that he was silly. and besides her dress was much too tight for that kind of dancing. “Whatever. and Elliot asked her if she wanted to join in. The song ended abruptly and a large group of sweaty students descended on the refreshments. but the corners of her mouth wouldn’t budge.” he said. so he was able to keep up. they ended up practically bumping face-to-face with Tim and his date. Michelle watched her friends dancing. even though he dreaded the idea.the dance floor Michelle asked Elliot what they had all talked about. Michelle looked up at the handsomely dressed Tim and she really did try her best to smile.” she gasped for air in-between her laughs. The word ‘awkward’ couldn’t have been better used to describe any other situation. “What? I’m serious. and Elliot told her that lucky for him the conversation was about a sports team that Ando followed regularly. Tim was as .

I guess we’re not wanted here.” Tim’s date said to Elliot. a girl Michelle recognized as one of the girls from his Fort Bragg group.” Michelle said as gently as possible. elbowing his arm to get some support. his date. his eyes filled with disappointment. . She needed to extricate them both out of the situation with the least amount of damage done. “Michelle. his chest filled with air and his jaw clenched ever so slightly. When Elliot looked over at the girl her mouth dropped open. He was upset with her and she knew it. “Hi Tim.” Tim finally said. this is Gabrielle. She waited for him to reply accordingly. was clearly beginning to get angry over the unmistakable tension. then at Elliot and back to Michelle again.much at a loss for words as she was. but his eyes didn’t lie. but Tim couldn’t find his words and just kept looking at Michelle. To make things worse. Tim looked at Michelle. Michelle felt his grip tightening around her fingers and she knew that she had to defuse the tension at once. “Well. Elliot was not above bravado and as much as he tried to subdue his territorial feelings over Michelle. Michelle looked at Elliot and she could see that his eyes had started changing hues.

He didn’t feel threatened by Tim. but at the same time he had known Michelle for years and that had to count for something.” Michelle felt awful because Tim was still .” Michelle said shyly. “Maybe you two need to talk alone for a while?” she added. She shouted over her shoulder to Tim that she was going to go get a drink and if he was still interested he could find her later. “Michelle. “That’s all you had to do. so he took two steps backwards. who by this time was so angry that her cheeks had turned rosier than her blush. Michelle’s eyes begged for just a little space. shaking his head. His eyes softened.” he said to her in a neutral voice. “Hi. giving the girl a genuine if not apologetic smile. Elliot wasn’t sure what he should do. and he knew that Michelle’s heart was clearly his. “Hi. never taking his eyes off Tim. “Why couldn’t you tell me?” he asked. storming off in anger. but at the same time the idea of leaving her alone just so she could talk to him didn’t sit right with him. Tim respected the fact that Elliot didn’t act like some brut and try to drag Michelle away.” Gabrielle said back flatly. lets just go.Michelle looked at the girl.

me too. You know how I feel… why this way?” Michelle tried to explain that things were complicated. For weeks she had been avoiding this exact discussion. “Tim. so I guess you get a pass. “I’m sorry. . He wasn’t used to such exchanges.” he said. leading her away.” “I didn’t mean to…” Michelle said.” were Tim’s last words. “And here I thought we’ve known each other long enough. “Yeah. Or maybe I just thought I knew you. but…” she began honestly. I care about you.” Tim was right and Michelle knew it. Elliot was more than a little confused by the scene he had just witnessed. “I don’t know. feeling the corner of her mouth twitch. He took Michelle’s hand.and always the perfect gentleman.” Michelle said one more time as she turned to go. but Tim cut her off. What was I supposed to say?” “You could have told me that you were seeing someone else. “Lead me on? Well technically you didn’t. “Lets go dance. But Elliot had heard enough. Andrews.

Michelle felt the weight of his thoughts and looked up to meet his eyes. Michelle had yet to say anything to Elliot and when he turned towards her. Elliot’s body was taut and Michelle felt his arm muscles through the sleeves of his jacket. But these were different times.In his experience. where people were encouraged to talk everything out. Why was he doing this to himself again? Could he be in love with her already? He looked down at Michelle. once a woman was on the arms of one man. and he needed to respect that. Hadn’t he suffered enough when it came to women? He didn’t like what he was feeling right now. The words repeated in his brain like a scratched up CD. Their emotions were beginning to synchronize with one . other men would either challenge him or simply step away. Elliot had heard Michelle’s voice telling Tim that she cared about him. He also had to remind himself that Michelle had her own past that did not include him. The dance floor was pretty full and Michelle and Elliot found an open spot just as the lights were lowered and a slow tune came on. noticing the way her curls lay so perfectly against the black of his suit. she just put her arms around him and leaned her face against his shoulder.

That did the trick. Up until that night. It meant all those things and more. or he could help Michelle grow and sort things out. and Michelle nodded. Love meant that if Elliot asked her to go with him somewhere far away.” she told him. and he was there . not really. Elliot had the choice of shrugging off the whole situation as championing over a mere human wasn’t anything new to him. a sign that their souls were intertwining. Elliot finally asked her if she was ok. So he put his finger to the corner of Michelle’s lips and lifted them to make it look as if she were smiling. Michelle didn’t understand what love meant. but didn’t smile. Michelle felt dreadful for Tim. she would sadly say goodbye to her parents and her friends and leave to wherever he needed to go. Love meant sacrifice.another’s. It meant that if she were poor somewhere wearing sackcloth. She was neither the first nor the last person who had ever had to make a decision that ended up hurting somebody else’s feelings. and hoped that he wasn’t able to see her from wherever he was. Michelle was becoming a young woman. She was also learning for the first time what it felt like to have to give up something dear to her in order to be with Elliot. and she gave him a real smile back. she wouldn’t care as long as Elliot was there too. “That was really awful.

After one dance Michelle was ready to leave and Elliot was glad that it was her suggestion. and always felt like there was a noose around his neck whenever he was in a tie. and the couple welcomed the cool evening air. “Just take them off.right by her side.” . The tower clock at the old library struck its bells to announce that it was ten o’clock and Michelle was glad that they had some time before she had to be home. He led Michelle across the street. “And get my feet and my dress dirty? You’re crazy.” Elliot said matter-of-factly. The cobblestone walkway had Michelle struggling in her high heels.” he said softly engulfing her in his arms and then whispered that he was glad he was the one she chose. He had never understood the need for such uncomfortable fashion. Elliot knew that there was a small sitting area outside the library’s main entrance. but because her feet were already painfully swollen. Elliot loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt. In this case he was at the heart of the painful lesson. They said their goodbyes to her friends. not only because they slid along the worn edges of the stones. “I know. telling her that he knew a perfect spot.

” Elliot said as he lifted her off her feet. The last people that Elliot wanted to see that night were his friends. who began . but she averted her eyes and took a step backwards to align herself with Elliot more closely. “Yeah.” Elliot said. despite his own agitation. offering to carry her back to the car. and he spun around with Michelle still in his arms. Someone called out Elliot’s name. Rion. Something was very wrong and Michelle turned to Elliot searching for any clue as to what was happening. exhausted and irritated as Ando sprinted across the street to stand with the rest of them. He set Michelle back down onto her feet. But he only managed to walk a few yards before they heard the sound of footsteps running up behind them.“Then let’s go somewhere else. Their eyes glowed like they were on fire. a most bizarre scene. “All the way there?” she asked laughing. but he shook his head in frustration. couldn’t help but gaze at Michelle with awe. Devin and Rion’s faces did nothing to hide the urgency of the situation. never taking his eyes off his friends while she embarrassedly straightened out her dress and hair. The guys stood looking back and forth at each other and then at Michelle. “What?” Elliot asked.

Elliot responded back in the same language. Rion began speaking to him in a strange harsh sounding language. Elliot rubbed his fingers across the fabric. His eyes began glowing just like the rest of his friends. Eventually. Ando took charge of the situation and told Michelle that something urgent had come up and that they needed to talk to Elliot.” Rion said without looking at her. It was obvious that he was angry. “Just tell me. but she couldn’t read his eyes when they glowed like that. “Ando will explain things to you later. and every once in a while he looked at Michelle. Devin pulled out a bundle of white fabric from inside his jacket and tossed it over to Elliot who caught it midair in one hand. his voice rising and falling to match his story. Something felt very wrong and Michelle tightened her grip around Elliot’s fingers. alone. He let go of her hand and unrolled the bundle to reveal a spatter of dark stains across it. and Michelle felt each and every one of his muscles tense up right behind her.” Elliot demanded shortly. There was intensity in the way he annunciated each syllable and vowel. .feeling a sense of dread creeping up her throat. and Michelle was surprised at how much deeper his voice sounded.

“Elliot. what’s happening? What’s going on?” she whispered over her shoulder to him. then at her hair. I’m left with no choice. Elliot said something else in that strange language and then led her away from his friends. What bad fortune he thought. then at her quivering lips. looking at the night sky. That he would be forced to say these next words tonight of all nights was something that he had never imagined. “What is it?” she practically screamed. He looked in her eyes. “Sit down. Michelle sat on the cold step dreading whatever it was that he had to tell her. Had she done something bad? Were they in some kind of terrible trouble? There was sadness written all over Elliot’s face. I… I actually can’t believe it. unable to take not knowing anymore. Elliot swallowed hard.” He . Michelle looked back at them hoping to see them leaving. but I have to. because I don’t want it to be true.” he said. Where was the damn moon? “Michelle… this is really hard for me to say. Elliot stopped in front of the stairs leading up to the clock tower and sat down on the bottom step. but when they just stood there and avoided her gaze she became frightened.

“Yes. She felt the world around her starting to spin.” “For how long?” Michelle asked. Garbage!” It was Michelle’s turn to swallow hard. Someone cut their heads off and dumped their bodies back at their house like they were nothing. somewhere where they would never be found. “They’re dead.” Michelle looked at Elliot with sympathy and apologized. to be precise. “Actually. . He smiled when she asked him if she could do something to help him.swallowed again and took Michelle’s hand. her voice sounding more hesitant. She tried to calm herself down.” she answered. “What do you mean? Where are you going?” she asked. She didn’t care where. she loves him and he loves her. they were murdered with my own sword. “I don’t know.” Elliot said solemnly. “Remember my friends in China?” he asked. trying to maintain her composure. She’ll just go with him. Murdered. After all. but he knew better. He so wished that he could just up and disappear with her. her pitch rising higher. “I have to leave.

“I wrapped my sword in this many years ago. This here is their blood. angrily shaking the fabric for Michelle to see. and wondered what sword he was talking about. This was found next to their bodies. Elliot didn’t answer. “I don’t understand? Why did you keep it at all? Why not destroy it like the rest?” Elliot had thought about .She didn’t understand how and why. And how did he know that his sword was used to murder his friends? Elliot held up the woven fabric that Devin had tossed over to him. “So this is all because of what? Your sword? Or the formula? You told me that you wrote it thousands of years ago and haven’t seen it since then. “This is a message. The three of us were the only ones who knew where it was hidden. Why would anyone want to hurt her Elliot? But then she saw another side to his story. almost suggesting that it was his own fault that his friends were dead. “So you still have weapons made out of that awful alloy just floating around? Why?” Michelle asked in anger.” Michelle’s heart filled with worry.” he said. Why would they…” Elliot looked down at his shoes and Michelle understood that to mean that he had not told her the entire truth. There’s somebody out there looking for me.

Nobody knows that we are involved with each other. “If someone began making weaponry. we would have no means to fight back or protect ourselves. But as long as they’re looking for me.doing just that. “Whatever the case.” Did Elliot have the tablet at Hekademos? Is that why they had the hidden underground library and all the extra security? “Is it at the school?” Michelle asked. I can promise you that whoever did this to my friends has just begun. It’s better that I don’t know where it is for the time being. and I am the only one who can put a stop to this. It has been hidden somewhere else for safety’s sake. Elliot gave her a tired smile. I can’t have you around me. but feared that one day someone might figure out the formula on their own. Michelle nodded. I don’t know who they are or why they’re after me personally. telling Elliot that he was insane to think that he could go out looking for someone he didn’t even know. And you can never mention anything about this tablet to anyone.” Michelle sprang to her feet. Can you promise me that?” he asked. we. need time to figure out what is going on and who is behind this. “Not anymore. They had no problem killing . I. “You’re right. and I need to make sure it stays that way.

and they will have no problem hunting down each and every person who I care about. or send me a letter?” It was obvious that it pained Elliot to say what he had to say next. But he knew that would only prolong the torture for both of them. and Elliot heard her heart beating so fast that all he wanted to do was hug her and calm her down. that’s not going to be possible.” “So what? You’re just going to leave and not tell me where you’re going? Or when you’ll be back?” Tears began flowing from Michelle’s eyes. He didn’t want that to be his last memory of her. that’s a third of your life. “Michelle. it’s for your own good. I could be dealing with this for the next 30 years. He stood up and turned away from her to look down the street to where his friends stood waiting.” At the sound of those words Michelle panicked. “Can you at least call me once in a while. Stuff can last for days or centuries. He didn’t want to see Michelle crying because of him. things are different. “When we deal with ones of our own kind. but she wiped them away. I’ll wait…” she took a deep breath. I can’t allow you . even the school. “Fine. I have to distance myself from everyone.my friends. I’m sorry.

and yet he was just as guilty as she was about not letting go. his feelings turned from sadness and sympathy to anger at himself. A year of your life is like a day to us. He knew that if he showed any sign of weakness. Michelle would hang all her hopes on that. don’t you understand? We are not the same. and he was the reason she was standing there in front of . He should have known that something like this was going to happen the second he let his guard down. he forced himself to think about Michelle and empathize with what she was going through. Still. and I’m just supposed to…” Michelle began sobbing. “Stop!” she yelled after him and Elliot stopped in his tracks.” “But…” Michelle tried to protest as Elliot began walking away from her.to waste your life waiting. you said? About feeling the same things. She loved him. hoping I’ll be back. breaking her heart before it even began. He had tried to push Michelle away from him for that very reason. she had just bared her soul to him and there he was. And then. “What about everything we said. as quickly as if someone had flipped a switch. It was he who had followed her up to Fort Bragg and messed with her destiny. Elliot felt like his heart was breaking too. He didn’t want to think about how he felt.

I promise. wishing she could shrink and disappear. Michelle put her arms around him but he refused to look at her.” Michelle buried her face in his chest trying to quiet her sobs. I was being selfish as usual. wearing the pretty dress he had bought for her and crying her heart out. He wanted to say yes so badly. “Please?” she begged. but she grabbed his hand and jerked him to a stop. as short as it is. I should never have let us get here.” Elliot tried to ignore her and continued walking. I don’t want to stay here. “Can’t I just come with you? I don’t care about school or any of that. Michelle ran after him.” His voice was distant. She felt so embarrassed. “Michelle. He felt desperate. heaving. Devin put a slight hand . Don’t you even care about what I want? Or what I feel? I thought… I thought that you…” Michelle suddenly became aware of the presence of the others around her. “I’m very sorry for what I have done. Hysterical. Elliot began walking towards his friends. “I won’t be any trouble.him now. She looked up from Elliot’s sleeve to see all the guys staring at her in pity. it’s just too dangerous and I won’t let you ruin your life.

“Michelle.around Elliot’s shoulder and quietly told him that they needed to leave. his face a mixture of shock. Students began to emerge from the hotel and Elliot didn’t want to attract any attention. tightening her grip on Elliot. But Ando held her arm steady nonetheless. “Don’t touch me. In a last act of desperate frustration she called out after him: “Well I guess if I was to give birth to your baby out of wedlock. looking at the mess that her dark makeup had made on her face. Michelle gave up. She was exhausted and knew that any fight at that point would be futile. That’s why I’m doing this. and I can’t provide you with that. Ando placed his hand on Michelle’s upper arm and told her that he was going to drive her home. pain and anger. I really do. but changed his mind.” “But I won’t be happy… I won’t. Rion jumped to place . I’m sorry… I love you. Poor little girl he thought. Rion looked like he wanted to say something to Michelle.” she hissed. right?” Elliot immediately turned around. You deserve to live a normal happy life. then you’d stay.” Elliot kissed Michelle on her head and proceeded to gently unhook himself from her arms and back away.

and her feelings turned from sadness to bitter anger. On the ride home Michelle quietly leaned against the passenger window and stared out at the darkness. to have even met someone like Elliot. Michelle. . and willed him to turn back towards her. a fantasy. Michelle stood still.himself between the two of them. All Michelle could think of was how it must have all been a dream. There was nothing he could say that was going to make things any better. She wasn’t crying anymore. and Ando loosened his grip. Michelle was mortified that all the guys had seen her acting like such a pathetic fool. He was just as beautiful as the first time she had set her eyes on him. And now she was forced to wake up and return to her bland reality of nothingness. You have no freakin’ idea!” Elliot shot back at her. then began walking faster up the block flanked by his friends on both sides. which he did. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. and said something else to Elliot in that harsh dialect. She wanted to see Elliot’s face just one last time because she was afraid that she’d forget what he looked like. fearing that Elliot would never forgive her for what she had said. Ando was just as quiet.

. and her life span was but a tiny fraction of his forever. and she was at the bottom of the list. When she eventually died of old age. But within a few seconds she also began to feel a heavy sense of foreboding about getting too close to him. Just like Crumb. Mimi slept in her bed every night for the next eleven years. Why would he invest all his feelings in someone who was going to die on him? Michelle remembered how she felt when her parents gave her Crumb. he lived for so long.Elliot obviously saw her as no more than a temporary pet. Michelle was clearly just one of Elliot’s long line of pets. Michelle went into a tailspin depression. And after that. How could she ever have thought that he could feel for her what she felt for him? Why would he? After all. and had slept under Michelle’s crib since the day her mother brought her home from the hospital. She wept for her for three weeks straight and couldn’t fall asleep without her there. She was immediately enamored with the little ball of orange fur and she instantly adored him as he crawled up under her neck purring. She specifically remembered telling herself not to get attached to him the way she had to Mimi. What was the point when he was just going to die on her? Mimi the cat had been her best friend.

“You’re all leaving?” Michelle asked sadly even though she didn’t have any reason to see any of . and she was too embarrassed to be seen in her condition. Not if Elliot wasn’t going to be there.” Michelle was glad that Ando was sensitive enough to realize that going out in public would be completely humiliating to her. maybe even Xander? Ando told her that Xander had left with Elliot. But what choice did she have? Michelle’s heart sank when they pulled in through the school gates and she wondered if she would have to face any of the other guys in there. But there were many kids milling about at the local gas station mini mart. and that he was to remain behind with Haneul and Kahl to close things up.Michelle caught her reflection in the side view mirror and realized that her face was completely covered with black streaks and her eyes looked like they had both been punched. “I’ll drive you home after that. She certainly didn’t want to go to Hekademos. She needed to get cleaned up before she got home. “Why don’t we stop by the school and you can clean up there?” Ando suggested.

even if she never laid eyes on him again. even if he didn’t love her back. and nothing was going to change that. she couldn’t help but hope for a miracle. Michelle wanted to know if things were really as dangerous as Elliot had made them sound. When Michelle looked towards the downstairs bathroom.them ever again. The lights were dimmed and Ando told her that she would have to clean up upstairs. the more dangerous things could become for her. Still. she realized that there were no longer doors there for either the bathroom or the library . When Ando opened the front door and ushered her into the school. She wanted to figure out if perhaps Elliot had used the circumstances as a way to distance himself from her emotionally after she told him she loved him. She didn’t want Elliot hurt. Ando said that they were closing up for the summer. but of course everything depended on the unfolding situation. He did confide in her that that someone had managed to track Elliot to Italy and was asking around for him by name. to see Elliot smiling and telling her that it was all a big mistake and that he wasn’t going anywhere. She loved him. Michelle noticed the empty feeling right away. Michelle’s reaction was to worry. But Ando explained that the more she knew.

The place had been gone through. plus the price of the gold and the . they had decided to pour a thick wall of concrete to cover up the whole area. They must have packed for him she thought. stopping at the doorway to look inside. When she reached the balcony she could see that the door to Elliot’s room was open. It stated the estimated value of the individual pearls. The moment she did she sensed Elliot everywhere and immediately began missing him. entering the room to take a closer look. She gloomily surveyed the room. The bedding was left in place. looking at the items left behind. Michelle climbed the stairs. With a heavy heart. and Michelle remembered waking up in that same bed after she had nearly drowned and thought about Elliot’s kindness to her.below. There were a few pieces of clothing and a couple of paintings on the walls. Ando explained that to avoid any possibility of a breach while they were gone. Why on earth did he help her just so he could leave her? Michelle felt a large lump building at the back of her throat. She ran her hand over Elliot’s cold pillow and noticed a small piece of paper on the nightstand. She moved slowly down the long hall. That was a mistake. It was a receipt for the necklace he had given her.

she was startled to see Haneul standing at the doorway looking at her curiously. When she looked up. looking at the pearls instead. With fresh tears in her eyes she unclasped the necklace and it slid right off. Haneul smiled back at her in amusement. wondering what it all meant.” Michelle said. “I guess I should go wash my face. He walked past her straight into the bathroom. She ran the tips of her fingers over the smooth surfaces of the pearls. “I was just returning this. “Thank you. Michelle instantly lifted her fingers to her neck to make sure she was still wearing it. only to emerge with a handful of tissues for her face. Michelle almost choked over the exorbitant sum. “Will you make sure he gets this back?” Haneul briefly looked up to Michelle’s black streaked face and shook his head. She gave out a little laugh when she saw the ink-like stains soaking the tissue. Haneul averted his eyes.” she said . Was Elliot insane to give her something so expensive? She didn’t feel right keeping it. The necklace was worth more than her mother’s brand new SUV. especially now that he was gone. She stood up and handed him the necklace.” she said apologetically.labor it took to craft the piece. giving Haneul a small smile as she dabbed the tissue under her eyes.

Elliot.” Haneul lifted the necklace and rubbed it against his cheek. We sold the others. for a sport. “Better now?” he asked. “We dove for pearls for many years.quietly. Haneul stepped aside for her to pass by and heard her laugh again as she turned on the faucet.” “Good memory. Back then they didn’t know how to grow them yet. And memory. but it was blotchy and her eyes were swollen from crying. I hope?” Michelle didn’t have the heart to be mad at him too. Michelle nodded. “If Elliot gives you a gift. Michelle emerged from the bathroom with a mostly clean face.” Michelle was bitter. and you would only hurt his feelings. but that they eventually made lots of . He told her that at first they did it out of boredom. Elliot kept these ones because they were the most perfect. Haneul ignored her frown and showed her that he was wearing a similar pearl earring on the top part of his ear. I wear this one for luck. and Mikoto had gone diving for the rare black pearls in the Tahitian sea. He held on to these for many years. Haneul’s face broke out into a wide smile and he told her in an excited voice about how he.” “Hmm. he won’t take it back. “We had to go through thousands of oysters to find just a few.

hurrying down the hallway.” Michelle walked out of the bedroom. because his pity would only make her cry again. “Thank you for cheering me up. You need to take the good memories you had with him and treasure them. “Michelle. He smiled at her warmly and put his hands on her shoulders. You two had something.money. Elliot . and she closed Haneul’s hand around the pearls. gazing at Elliot’s beauty while listening to all his amazing stories? Michelle followed Ando towards the front door when Kahl called her name. Ando must have heard Haneul talking and peeked his head around the corner just as Michelle was telling Haneul that it was precisely those memories that forbade her from keeping the necklace. He is a difficult person to get close to. “I have to go. They were Elliot’s memories. Would she ever return to the same room and sit on that bed. but trust me when I tell you that Elliot is hurting too. It is very difficult for you to understand us. I am very familiar with his mind.” she said when she saw Ando. looking back one more time before descending the stairs. not hers. you are a beautiful young woman. Michelle tried not to meet his eyes. and you were able to.

It was so uncomfortable having all of them know how she felt. . She gritted her teeth together and held her composure. I haven’t had thousands of years of practice like he has. “It’s so hard to convince humans that their time is so tragically short.doesn’t want you to waste your time on him.” Michelle walked out the door.” Michelle felt the tears gathering once again.” Ando nodded in agreement. “So I just stop? Forget him? And move on… I don’t know how to do that Kahl. Kahl continued. none of us do. We’ve all been there. let alone the awful parting they had seen her have with Elliot. especially when they are young like you.

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