[partII]
Ramblings and Verdicts

"A hacker?"

Ehren took another drag from her cigarette, blowing smoke from her nose pensively. She rapped her fingers on her chin, then nodded slightly.

Lauren laughed harshly, tossing her striking chestnut hair over her shoulder. Even with a cigarette between her teeth, the girl seemed so much more mature than Ehren, though the teen was only a year older β€” nineteen. After Lauren had been left back three years previously, the two girls soon found themselves in similar classes, and were something close to 'friends'. Ehren didn't believe to friendship; that was what had spawned her parents' relationship, and what had eventually led to all the trash that was happening to her now. Though it often made her peers anxious, Ehren believe in walking alone, with only the shadows to keep her company.

But Lauren had been the only exception. Despite her luscious locks, seditious blue eyes, and overall likable personality, Lauren was a shadow herself.

Lauren snorted behind her cig, mumbling, "Ehren Brookston, of all my days I don't think I've ever heard such bullshit."

"Hey, what's that supposed to mean?" Ehren retorted, slightly lifting from her seat on the wet ground. Having no room to rise as it was, Ehren bumped her head on the top of the bleacher, hissing in pain.

"Are you sure your mother didn't slip you something last night? 'Cause this, my friend, is one ridiculous theory."

Ehren shrugged indifferently, letting her golden curls fall over her face and sweater. It was much too hot to be wearing a sweater in the beginning of June, but Ehren constantly clung to her black sweater. The old thing had all but faded to gray, and there were plenty of holes to snag things on. But even now, as it soaked in the morning dew from the ground, the sweater served as the open arms Ehren was never allowed. How open the arms, though, it could never save her from whatever was brewing on that computer screen. She had not permitted herself to look at her novel when she had awoken that morning, deciding to save it for when she got home. Then, her mother would be well into her afternoon hangover, embittered by her addiction enough to lock Ehren in her room for the rest of the night. Ehren also had decided to ask Lauren about the situation; despite her overall lack of lack of care for school, the older girl was quick and often the best source for advice.

"Ehren, tell me." She clasped a hand on her friends shoulder, smiling with hidden sarcasm. "How long have we been friends? How long have we been sittin' under these dingy bleachers instead of going to gym? How long have we walked the streets and alleyways of our godforsaken slum, payin' the benders to take us to all the X-rated films? Jeez, how long have we practically ran the backstreets of this town?!"

Ehren turned her head away, musing. It had been a long time.

"Look, kid. So both of us may be a little messed up, and neither of us are actually goin' anywhere. But get a grip on yourself...no hacker is gonna want to worm themselves into your little story. Whether or not it's the bestseller, they're not into sending cryptic messages to eighteen year olds. ...Trust me, I should know."

That made Ehren laugh, whether it was from Lauren's plain candor or the cigarette. Lauren had once dated a hacker β€” if a one-night encounter could be called that. After they had left the nightclub and driven back to his apartment, Lauren really did know what it was like to have a hacker 'worm' their way into something.

"But," Ehren breathed, digging her cigarette into the ground, "I don't know. Something just feels odd. Something's not right about that story..." Or that dream... She thought.

"Oh, don' tell meβ€”"

Suddenly, a robust woman walked up behind Lauren, snarling. "What in God's name are you two doing back here?! Get back on the field or you can just fail P.E. right now!"

Ehren and Lauren quickly scrambled from beneath the bleachers, giggling.

"There's nothing funny about this, girls!" The gym teacher retorted, stomping behind them.

"Fine...don't get your toupee in a twist, Kroll." Ehren muttered with a agreeing chuckle from Lauren.

"I swear..." Ms. Kroll roared, fists clenching, "One of these days, girls, I'm gonna leave you to the ravens and let them tears your flesh apart!"