Seeing Through Tears

Chapter 17, part A

A Fucking Mystery

Intro: The Heart of Good Intentions – by Behind-these-eyes

Tie me up and blind fold me

Shower my mind with lies

Through escape, fool my reality

I'll believe every word you say

Dreaming on cloud nine

Drugged on ignorance

Just remember when you cut me up

And shred everything I am apart

I'm just like you

Tainting your heart with fake gold

In desperate fear to save us


The rain was once again apparent to my senses. I watched, entranced by the windshield wipers squeaking across the front window of the old cutlass. Rae sat on my left, driving in concentration. We were silent. I hadn't spoken a word since we left the hospital and neither did he, realizing that the last thing I desired right now was a pointless conversation. With a sigh I adjusted my seat belt and transferred my stare to the side window where the rain cursed dots on my vision.

It seemed that April showers decided to come early this year. But then again, when didn't it rain here? We had been lucky with the sun for a while, but being perfectly clear was never Vancouver's nature. I glared at the falling clear drops, my thoughts drifting back to the hospital.

Part of me couldn't believe Seth's mother. Why should I? In the short time I've known Seth the one thing I observed was that he certainly didn't touch drugs. He was more… "there", or down to earth than I ever was. Of course, who knew how far back in the past Seth's mother was talking about? As hard as it was for me to admit the possibility, it was possible that long before I knew Seth he could have done drugs. And in all truth, that fact did unnerve me, but it didn't change who he was now. We've all made mistakes in the past. Seth doesn't do drugs anymore, so he must have learned better. The only question then was why. Why would he do that to himself? Why would he overdose? Did it have something to do with him leaving home? Why didn't he tell me about it when he told me why he left, because I'm sure that was part of it.

I remember that one time at lunch when Rae told me Seth didn't touch drugs. I started to question how well Rae knew Seth. What if Seth did drugs before Rae really knew him? What if Rae never really knew Seth as much as I assumed. I knew I didn't, and it was scaring me, because I didn't really know Seth… yet I felt like I've known him since before I could remember. Did that seem right? I have no idea. All I could realize was that I was starting to let myself fall for a guy that I knew practically nothing of.

"Okay, what's eating you?"

I almost didn't hear Rae's exasperated question. I titled my head back, slightly awkwardly, to face him. Dazed in thought I dumbly questioned, "Huh?"

A little smirk crossed Rae's lips as he looked at me in askance. "Never the smart one, are you?"

My mouth opened slightly, gaping at him. Comforting words Rae, real comforting. In annoyance I grabbed the small Kleenex box sitting beside me that had a pattern of dancing bears in ballet suits, and chucked it at his head. "Shut up."

"Ow!" He rubbed his head in over exaggerated pain, pouting. "I'm driving here!"

"Oh." I blinked in a stupid manner of sarcasm. "I had no idea."

"Again, with the un-smartness." Rae muttered, maneuvering the big cutlass into a faster lane. A small little Ford abruptly cut him off, and his ears tinged pink with anger. "What the…" Bashing his fist against the horn Rae curst the little Ford and rolled down his window, popping his head out. "Think that's fucking clever?!" In response, the driver in the little red Ford stuck his hand out the window and visibly lifted his middle finger at Rae.

I winced. Oh, shit. He did not just do that. The crap. Even a child could figure out what was going to happen next, let alone I. Rae was that predictable. Just to be on the safe side, I checked my seatbelt to see if it was on properly.

"He – I noo." Apparently Rae couldn't believe what he just did either, as his mouth flapped up and down, trying to form a proper sentence. He stopped for a moment before gripping the steering wheel and yelling, "You're on, asshole!"

Yup there was no point in screaming at him now… but I could still try. Rae pounded his heel onto the gas petal and switched lanes. "Rae!" I breathed, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. "Remember how we talked about those really stupid moments in life?"

"Not now, Anna." He gritted out sharply. His forehead creased as his eyes narrowed in determination, that cursing mouth now held between his teeth. I'm not sure if I could stop him now, but I'd try.

"Rae, it's raining."


"So. What's your problem, can't you just let it go?"

"No." Rae snorted. "I can't."

"This is so stupid!" I cried, watching the speedometer reach higher numbers. "He cut you off, so what? Are you going to try and kill yourself because of it now?"

At my words, the car came to a sudden halt. The screeching sound of wheels raping the pavement cringed my ears as I gave the side of the door a death grip with my tiny hand. Several more screeches followed from behind us, but luckily, no friction of metal came after. "What… was that?" I breathed out, gaping at my twin who was staring at his lap.

He looked up at me as if he had done nothing wrong. "What?" He blinked. "You were right."

Shaking my head, I chose to ignore him. I honestly didn't know what that little incident was about, and knowing Rae, I probably didn't want to know. "Whatever, Rae." Biting my lip, I resumed staring out the window, inevitably still thinking about the hospital. My curiosity compelled me to know more about what happened. I knew Seth's mom was evil in a way… well, at least to me, but I highly doubt she would say something like that about her son unless it was true. It also seemed like she accidentally blurted it out before she thought, too.

I fidgeted with my hands and took a deep breath. "Um, Rae?"

Taking his eyes off the road to regard me for a moment, Rae mumbled, "Yeah?"

"How long have you known Seth?"

He paused for a moment, ruminating over my question. "Haven't we gone over this before?"

"Well." I hesitated. "Maybe. But it was very vague and-"

"I've known him for about a year or two." He interrupted with an answer. He arched an eyebrow in question. "Why?"

Ignoring his inquire, I timidly pushed forward. "I know you've known him for a year or two, but," I took a moment before emphasizing my point, "exactly how long have you been his friend?"

"Well…" Rae mused, tapping his thumb against the steering wheel. He turned a sharp corner while saying. "I guess I've known him for two years, but we were just acquaintances, really. We just became friends at the beginning of this school year."

I exhaled loudly, causing a few stands of my hair to fly up. His answer was what I expected. Rae said he didn't do drugs, but what about before he really knew him? It was a mystery that I couldn't approach Rae about. "Okay, thanks Rae," I said, not allowing my disappointment to show. I wish he knew more.

My brother, despite my attempts, eyed me suspiciously. "Why are you so curious, anyway?"

"Oh, I don't know." Shrugging, I put on a small smile. "Just wondering."

He continued to eye me, but said nothing else, realizing that I wouldn't be telling him anytime soon. Pft. More like never, really. Soon we arrived at Pussycats. Rae parked his car and I was just about to get out when he grasped my elbow.

"Hold on a second, Anna." He said, digging into his pocket with an eager expression on his face.

Watching him, I tipped my head to the side. "What's up, Rae?"

Breaking out a grin, my brother pulled out a blue cell phone from his pocket. "It's your birthday present." He placed it in my hand with shear, hopeful delight.

I should have been jumping for joy. I should have attacked him with the biggest hug anyone could ever suffocate from, but no, instead I had to lose my head and blurt out, "Holy shit, Rae. How much did this cost you?"

Rae's grin remained, as if he new I would ask that. Ruffling my hair he said, "don't worry, I make enough money to handle it. And I'm paying for its monthly bills too."

I shook my head. What was it with people going out of their way to give me amazing presents this year? "I love it Rae, but what I got you is nothing compared to-,"

"I don't care." He told me patiently. "It's from you, and that's what counts… whatever it is you got me."

I ducked my head. I haven't exactly gotten a chance to give it to him yet, what with everything happening lately. "I'll give it to you… tomorrow maybe? It's at your house in the closet."

He laughed and sarcastically joked, "Gee, I wonder what it could be." He then gasped dramatically. "It's not another one of your paintings, is it?"

I just shook my head, smiling a bit. For real this time. I knew he was just joking. If there was one person who treasured my art, it was Rae. He could understand my paintings like no other because we were so connected. Every year I always gave him a painting. I couldn't afford to actually buy him a nice gift, and he would get more out of a painting than dollar store junk.

"Yeah, yeah." I mumbled, finally getting out of the car. I bent down and gave him a warm smile. "Thanks, Rae."

He nodded in acknowledgement. "Just remember to keep it on. I want to know that you're safe."

I closed the door after this, and he drove away, his loud eight cylinder mortar jutting off. I sighed. Now, how the hell was I going to explain my absence from yesterday's shift to my manager?


As I expected, he was glaring at me. Though, not as fierce as I imagined. We were standing in the middle of the busy kitchen. I constantly had to move out of the way as I explained how devastated I was that my aunt had died.

"So you see," I paused, moving again as one of the cooks went by with two plates full of pasta, "I was just so upset about my aunt that I completely forgot to phone in when I went to her funeral in Alberta."

He just stared at me for a moment, trying to analyze if I was right or not. Frankly, I didn't think he really cared. He didn't look like he cared. All throughout my story he listened with blank brown eyes, trying to glare to keep up appearances. He didn't look like he could run a place like this; he was too average looking; just your normal forty-year-old man in khakis and a nice shirt. Not a slime ball. Ugh, which reminds me that I really need to get another job… this is just too low.

"I'll let it go this time." He said gruffly, still "glaring". "But next time, you're fired." He then shoved a note pad at me and told me to get to work.

I scurried down the hall and into the dining area and worked. After a few hours my workload had gone down drastically as all my old customers finished their courses and left. I started to get bored, standing in a corner half the time. I then spotted Jen running around, trying to carry a load of plates and a glass of water. I immediately jumped at the opportunity.

"Hey." I waved a hand in front of her, attempting to grab her attention. "Need any help?"

"Yes." She said breathlessly. Her cheeks were flushed; she looked exhausted. Gesturing for me to take the glass of water she instructed, "To table five, please."

I nodded and complied, making my way over to the smoker's section; the section I hated serving to. It was like committing suicide. The area was stuffy and oozing with toxic air. I could feel my throat tighten and tingle already as I entered the smoggy gray cloud. Quickly, I found table five and set the glass on the cedar finish, whipping out my note pad. "Okay, so here's your water." I informed him in a fake cheery voice, rummaging through my one pocket for a pen. "Now, are you ready to order, Sir, or should I come back in five minutes?" As I asked this, I flipped through my notebook, trying to find an empty page.

"I think I'll just start with an appetizer, first."

I froze in the middle of flipping a page. That was not the voice of a man. In fact, I'm pretty sure I knew that voice. Diverting my eyes from my notebook, I found myself meeting green eyes. Shannon's green eyes. She was dressed differently, from what I remember, at least. It seemed like she was wearing clothes meant for a teenage girl, not a 36 year old I guessed her to be. Although, I'm not stating that she looked trashy. She was wearing flared blue jeans and a fitted red T-shirt. Her copper brown hair was secured into a loose bun. From a far, I would have guessed her to be my age.

She smirked at me as I gaped at her, suddenly causing me to scowl. What was she doing here? Checking up on me? I seriously had no idea what this woman was about. Why is she here? Why is she living with us? She seemed to want to help me before, but then, what is she doing now?

"Hello, Anna." She chirped, leaning over the table. Her hand glided across the smooth polished wood, grasping the filled, dripping glass. She brought it to her red lips and devoured half of it in seconds. Slamming the glass down she asked, "How was your day?"

How was my day? How was my fucking day, she asks? I could feel my cheeks flush. I didn't need her games, not now. She wasn't go to get past me with this. "It was fine."

"That's good."

"Yes, very. And how was yours?"

She smirked again, tossing a hand and crossing one leg elegantly over the other. Another sip of water was taken before she muttered, "Boring as hell."

"Is that why you're here? Because you're bored? Or do you have some alter motive?"

Shannon wasn't surprised by my interrogation. She seemed more amused as her perfectly plucked eyebrows raised, a small smile curving her mouth. "What kind of altar motive would I have, Anna? I can't stand your dad. It's you I respect."

"If you respect me then why are you…" I trailed off, another question now devouring my mind.

Why is there a hand on my waist?

I gulped, brooding over the question as my eyes burned through the hand. It suddenly hit me that it was the slightest bit tanned, the nails were pained black, and he was wearing chain mail on his wrist. My once flushed cheeks suddenly went pale.

God, this was just what I needed. Not only Shannon here but also SETH. And at once…

Licking my lips I tilted my head to the side, looking up at him as he stood behind me. He studied me, his head tilted as well with an unreadable expression on his face.

I frowned, completely baffled. "What-" His lips gently brushed my forehead, successfully shutting me up.


"Um, hi." I spluttered. My eyes casting around the room desperately, searching for an escape. I didn't know what he was doing here, but I definitely wasn't ready to face him. Not now. Not while I was supposed to be working. And – hey. Since when have we been on a "hello-kissing basis?" I don't remember this.

Shannon was trying to hide her laughing smile as she observed us, me looking around like a cornered dog and Seth, with his hand still on my waist. Without really thinking, I swatted it off, giving him a look that told him to behave. He didn't seem to care as he shrugged his hand off, probably just assuming that it was because I was working. Well, that was part of it, I suppose.

Clearing my throat I regarded him more closely. "What are you doing here?"

Seth grinned down at me in delight. "I escaped from the hospital."

Yes, well, that was obvious. But what was he doing here? "And?" I pushed.

Ignoring me, Seth gestured to Shannon. "Who's this?"

"No one." I replied quickly, at the same time Shannon said, "A friend."

"Wait, wait." He cocked his head playfully, looking between us both. "Let me see if I have this right. She's "No One's friend?" He glanced at me, blue eyes dancing. I forced myself to look away. I hated it when he made them do that. Okay, I didn't hate it, but it was very frustrating when I was trying to make up my mind about him and he kept persuading me to fall for him with those stupid… beautiful glistening orbs. "Anna, how exactly does that work?"

"Exactly how it sounds." I muttered. "She's no one's friend."

Shannon laughed at me. "Well, okay, if you're no one."

"Was that supposed to be funny?"

Frowning, the woman shook her head at me. "I thought it was, didn't you…" she trailed off, looking at Seth.

I couldn't tell what he thought of her. For a moment, he just watched her, not blinking in that unnerving way. Then, he asked again. "Who are you?"

Shannon, yet again, smirked. "A friend of the families." She gestured to me, as if it was my family. My jaw detached from my face in shock and horror. No. This was not right. She was not going to lie to him. I've had enough of lying to him as it is.

Just as I opened my mouth to stop any future madness Seth encouraged her to carry on. "Really?"

"Yeah." She nodded. "I'm living with Anna and her dad right now." I held my notebook in a tight grasp. Well… at least she wasn't lying about that.

At this point, Seth looked particularly interested in what Shannon had to say. He placed his hands on the chair in front of him and leaned against it. "So you must have known her for awhile?"

Watching Shannon, I caught her glancing at me. Our eyes met, and I found emotions trying to hide in her green eyes. There was so much guilt, fear, sadness and pleading blaring through. She looked away and bowed her head for a moment, licking her lips. When she looked back up at Seth, she had a smile on her face. "Actually, I was there when she was born."

The fingers I had fastened around my notebook went limp, and the book fell to the ground. But I didn't notice. I was too busy trying to control myself from attacking Shannon.

Wait, no. Give me a minute to check something.

She said what?

"You've known her for that long?" He looked astounded, unbelieving.

Yes, well, so was I.

Before anything else could be said, I tried to put a stop to it.

"Um, Seth." I said, successfully grabbing his attention as he turned to me. I decided I would be blunt about it. "What are you doing here?"

A knowing grin claimed his lips, as if he expected me to ask again. "River came to pick me up and said he needed to stop here for a minute. He went into the back when we came in."

"What does River need here?"

Seth frowned, considering an explanation. "I don't know. He seemed to be a bit edgy though. Bailey's in his back seat, safe and sound. But River didn't even notice when he started scratching the leather seats. He just kept muttering to himself and snapping at me when I asked to change the radio station." Seth snorted and then muttered himself. "Well, sorry if I didn't want the listen to The White Stripes."

I bit my lip. Wonderful, I was already a horrible cat owner and I haven't even bought a litter box yet! "He really didn't notice?"

"Yeah, but don't worry. He doesn't know Bailey's yours." He glanced back at Shannon, who was studying us with an amused expression. In one swift move Seth placed himself into the seat across from her. "So," his gaze shifted on me again. I just stared back, my notebook still lying helpless on the floor, pages spread out in chaos, alone without my trembling hands to hold it. Instead reaching for it, I clutched onto the next object I could think of: my skirt. I held the fabric, wrinkling it in my grip, trying to fight the urge to bite my lip yet again and appear too nervous. Raising his curious pierced eyebrow, he addressed Shannon. "You've known Anna for awhile, eh?"

Shannon shrugged. "More in her younger years, though."

Leaning over the table, Seth inquired, "Was she a trouble maker?"

Shannon became hesitant, pausing for several seconds. She licked her lips; eyes traveling back to my form, noticing my glare, my warning. I didn't want to play charades anymore. I was tired of adding things to the pile, and Shannon knew it. But, she had already gone too far, so instead of dropping it, she laughed. A fake laugh that only the Reaper could sense was dead. "Her mother couldn't look away from her for a second before she wandered off."

Seth's smile was warm, his chin resting in his palm, elbow digging into the table. He couldn't see she was lying. For once, he was as oblivious as everyone else, asking Shannon more questions – questions about my childhood that never existed. I felt my eyes sting, my throat tighten and strangle, resisting a weak sob. I needed to get out of here. I needed to get him out of here. Who was she to tell my friend a fairy tale that I would now have to act every time he snapped his fingers at the mention? Who was she to talk about my mother as if she was a saint? My mother didn't even bother keeping a close eye on me; she was too busy covering up bruises, creating more lies and planning an escape. It's amazing and sad how alike I am from someone I despise so much.

Without either of the two noticing, I walked away in a new desperate search to find River and get him and Seth out of this filthy place, so I could kill Shannon and finish my work. I finally discovered my friend, in all his insane antics as he stood in a corner, talking to himself. Stunned and curious I watched for a moment as he babbled on. His hand ran frantically through his hair every ten seconds, alternating between the two as he also clutched onto his shirt.

"Um…" I said hesitantly. "River?"

He jumped and turned around, eyes wide and startled. "Hi." He said breathlessly, looking rather embarrassed. Then something clicked and he stared me down. "Where have you been, Anna? You know Rae's been going nuts. Does he know you're okay?"

"Yes." I nodded. "He drove me here."


"So…" I drawled out as my friend fidgeted under my gaze. "What are you doing?"

"Talking to you."

I rolled my eyes. "No. I mean before you knew I was here."

River's face turned red and snapped out, "Nothing."



Folding my arms across my chest, I leaned against the wall. "Really?" He nodded in confirmation. "What about when you were talking to yourself?"

River scowled. "Look, Anna, despite the fact that most people interrogate you about pretty much everything in whatever life you really live, I don't push you into talking about it. Don't become a detective on me now. I respect your desire to keep some things from people. Sure, I'll ask, but I won't push."

I bit my lip, my head bowed down for a moment in a guilty manner. He was right. He never did push me like everyone else. It's not that he didn't care, but he respected me. Doing the same for him was only fair. "Alright." I sighed. "I'm sorry."

I was about to leave when I heard him. "Anna?"


He clutched onto his clothing again, knuckles turning white. "How do I look?"

"Um…" I blinked. "What?"

He emphasized the question more clearly, as if I was deaf. "How. Do. I. Look?"

I was momentarily confused why River would ask me this. He was probably the last person to ask anyone how he looked, because he was so confident. He knew he looked good, and didn't need any reassurance otherwise. But when I took a second glance at him, I noticed what he meant. His flashy, expensive clothes were gone, replaced by casual, slightly faded baggy denim jeans and a light blue shirt. His golden hair wasn't lathered with gel, but rather stuck out in messy clumps, urging girls to run their fingers through the shiny tresses. It gave him a softer, more approachable appearance in my opinion. He didn't look sly; he looked like the descent guy he really was underneath everything.

"Why the change?" Was my reply after forever.

River groaned. "That wasn't the question, Anna."

"Right. Sorry. You look great."

He didn't seem too convinced as his eyes squinted at me and his nose scrunched up. "Are you sure?"

I nodded and repeated myself. "But why the change?"

River shrugged and mumbled. "I just thought I would be different… and also Seth told me I might be more successful if I didn't look like I tried so hard."

I laughed, covering my mouth over with my hand in hopes that I didn't hurt him. "You're kidding me, River. You took fashion advice from Seth?" I threw my head back and asked the ceiling, "am I the only one that notices he only wears black?" A little voice in the back of my head contradicted me when it reminded me that although he only wore black, he was probably one of the hottest guys within the lower main land. I then tried to stomp on the voice.

When I glanced back at River he was running his hands through his hair again. My eyebrows furrowed and I frowned a bit. "What's wrong, River? Why do you look so nervous?"

"Nothing." He answered in a tight voice, looking around frantically. "Have you seen Jen?"

"Yes. She's running around somewhere."

River bit his lip, looking a little worried. "You mean she's really busy?"

"You might be able to catch her." I wasn't sure if he heard me. His eyes were shooting everywhere possible. What was he up to? "River?"


"What do you need to talk to Jen about?"

"Um, nothing." His reply was all too quick. I hid a grin, already guessing what it was. "Are you sure I look okay?"

"Yes," I said sternly. What happened to his confidence? "You're Hot Stuff River, okay? Just sizzling. I'm sure Jen will throw herself at you when you ask her out."

River's eyes went wide, his mouth trying to splutter out, "I'm not – I never- you didn't."

"You don't have to tell me in order for me to figure it out," I informed his befuddled self, understanding his random words.

He glared at me for a moment before Jen herself tried to glide by us. River stiffened, and I then realized I would have to help jumpstart his plan.

"Jen!" I called, before she could get away. Her hands were filled with dirty dishes, ready to fall out of her arms. With slouching shoulders and tired eyes she regarded me. Sheesh. This girl never stopped working, did she? Quickly, and rather gracefully (for me), I snatched the dishes from her. "Let me cover you for ten minutes." I told her gently. "You take a break."

I left her in River's clutches before she could protest and took the dishes into the kitchen. For the next ten minutes I did both mine and Jen's shift. Mine still wasn't much, since no new customers had come in, and most of my customers from before had left, but Jen's were still requesting food like it was their last day on earth.

The inevitable happened, though. I realized that I never did take Shannon's order. I didn't want to go back to that table, but it was assigned to Jen, and if a customer at your assigned table ended up unhappy it was your responsibility. Very reluctantly, I made my way to the table. Seth was casually talking to Shannon, leaning back in his chair with a polite face on. He muttered something and a moment later Shannon chuckled.

"Hey, Anna." Shannon greeted me, wiping some hair out of her eyes.

"Hi." I said, my voice a little to cheery. I winced and toned the acting down a bit. "Are you ready to order?"

"Hmm…" She mused and picked up the menu, clicking her tongue as she read it over. I took a quick glance at Seth who smiled at me. I had no choice but to smile back, shyly with my head lowered, brushing a bit of hair behind my ear, despite everything, I wasn't immune to that smile. I don't think I ever could be. "I think I'll have onion rings." She finally concluded.

I jotted it down, as I asked Seth, "Would you like to order something or…?" When he didn't answer me I sighed and placed my gaze on him. He was studying me carefully, a mask over his face. I swallowed hard. Crap, I was busted. He knew something was up. It was obvious. He had a six sense about these things, at least when it came to me.

Leaning towards me in his seat, he tipped his head, raven hair falling into his gaze. It didn't' falter him. "What would you recommend?"

"I don't know." I tried to hold my ground against him. "I don't eat here."

"Should that worry me?"

"No. I just don't have the money to."

He smirked at me, not giving up. "Then what do people like here?"

I pursed my lips. "Haven't you eaten here before?"

He shrugged, his gaze still looking through me. "Not really."

I hated this. I didn't know what game we were playing, but it was irritating me. He was taking his time. I didn't want him to order, I wanted him to leave. I opened my mouth, unsure of what to say. Fortunately, River came into view, dragging his feet along with him as his eyes looked at the floor beneath his shoes. My heart immediately went out to him. Maybe it didn't go as well for him as I thought it would.

I sighed, rubbing my eyes. "Well, it looks like River's ready to go."

Before Seth could even look to see River, my hand clasped onto his trench coat and I tugged on it, quickly pulling him out of the seat and shoving him a step forward. He glanced at me, no trace of hurt or annoyance like I suspected he would feel. Why didn't he? I was obviously pushing him out of the way, damn it! Flustered and confused, I noted that his reaction was the exact opposite. He glanced me up and down, curiously, amused. I just shook my head, wondering what exactly was running through his head. He was so hard to read. Was he really amused by this? By me?

"Okay, let's go." River mumbled.

Seth arched an eyebrow at his solemn friend, and then asked me, "Do you want him?"

Um… what? I blinked. "Excuse me?" Who was he talking about? River? Was he asking me if I wanted River?

"Bailey," he elaborated, as if it was obvious. "Do you want to take him right now?"

"Yes…" I said. "But I can't."


My hand made a flourish behind me, forcing him to see where we were. "I'm working. I can't watch him and I can't bring him in here. My boss doesn't like me already."

"Are you talking about your cat?" Shannon asked, almost shouting. Her water glass was now empty, only filled with ice cubes, but she seemed determined to get the last drop out of it as she tilted her head way back and tipped the glass far over.

I stared at her, and her strange antics. "How did you know about…?"

She scoffed. "Please, it was impossible not to notice him prancing around in your room and then trying to hide behind your shoe earlier today. Besides, you guys were talking about it before. I'm not dense."

"Then yes." I grumbled, upset that I hadn't caught onto that. Though, I shouldn't be too surprised. She may not be dense, but I sure could be sometimes. "We are talking about my cat, Bailey."

She slammed the glass down, picked up her Hello Kitty purse and fished through it, all the while muttering something about bees. When she pulled her hand out she was holding keys that were attached to a bumblebee key chain and threw it to Seth. He caught it easily with one hand. "Put the little bugger in my car." She waved a hand. "You can't miss it. It's the old, shitty looking Toyota parked in the front row with no paint job… unless you'd like to call it a really dull silver."

River was still sulking miserably, looking down at his shoes as if they were a tragedy. I wanted to ask what happened, but chose against it. I don't think him saying, "she said no," out loud would help him right now. But why would Jen say no? My God, she couldn't stop blushing when she was in his presence.

"Um…" I licked my lips. What would make him feel better? There was only one thing I could think of. Taking a deep breath I pushed away all my paranoia for a moment and lunged at River, giving him a tight hug, my arms wrapped around his neck, burring my head in his shoulder. I could feel him stiffen; I could hear Shannon laughing, and Seth who um… sounded quite surprised and a little unhappy. But I ignored it. It was about time I was a good friend to someone. It might as well be River; he deserved it. Pulling away from his shoulder I grinned up at him, amused by his stunned face. "Don't worry, love. You're still freaking gorgeous in my book."

He smiled slowly and squeezed me. "Thanks, beautiful, same to you."

"Hey." Oh crap, Seth. He pulled River back and shoved his crimson face between us. "What. The. Hell?"

My helpless eyes met River, who shot me a reassuring look. He grabbed Seth's arm and said, "We're leaving now."

"Leaving my perfect ass." He grumbled, ripping his arm away. "I'm not done here. Anna, what was that?"

"A hug."

"But you don't hug." He stated, utterly confused.

"No, I don't. But River's my friend and he needed one." He still didn't look convinced. I smirked a bit. "Don't tell me you're actually jealous, Seth."

"You don't hug." He simply said.

But I also didn't kiss people, Seth. I wanted too point this out but instead just let out a breath of exasperated air. Finally, I came to a conclusion. Addressing, and dealing Seth's overdose, whenever he may have done it, would have to wait until tomorrow. Right now he just needed to get away from Shannon and her stories. I moved quickly and guided him towards the door as he protested.

"I said I wasn't done." He carried on. I continued to push him towards the exit. "This is very rude, you know Anna. I'm just trying to…"

"Seth." I interrupted, gently shoving him against the door. I was still aware of his ribs. Forcing him to bend down a little by tugging on his shirt, I stood on my toes.

"Hmm?" He mumbled, a little too distracted by my lips hovering over his to say anything intelligible. I brushed my lips against his once, then twice, ready to pull away but his mouth followed me everywhere I went, refusing to let me go, making the kiss last forty seven seconds longer than I planned. I attempted to detach myself again, while my brain still had some power but his hand was now on the back of my head, threaded through my hair, forcing me to stay put.

Well fine then. Be that way.

My mind was officially gone after another five seconds of Seth's lips. The only thing that jump started my brain cells was his rough fingertips brushing against the bear skin of my waist, carefully, gently, cautiously.

I willed myself to pull away, frantically trying to catch my breath. "Shut up." I said, voice stronger than I felt, but still wavering. I had to hold onto his forearms for a moment to steady myself. Luckily, I wasn't alone. Seth's breathing wasn't very collected or calm. At all. And his eyes were still closed. I carried on as if I never paused, my voice even stronger. "Shut up, go put my cat in Crazy Woman's car, and go home and get some rest."

"Okay." He said, eyes still closed. By this time I noticed River snickering. I shot him a glare, taking a step back. Seth, still against the wall, grasped onto my arm, taking away that step. He opened his eyes, a coy grin spreading on his face as he sung softly against my ear, his hot breath tickling me. "I'm wearing you down."

I couldn't suppress a shiver. That voice it's self was enough to make any girl fall for him, but when he sung… I'm surprised I literally didn't crash onto the floor. Instead of me leaving for him to stare after like I thought would happen, it was he leaving me. It took me almost a minute before I could regain my composure and finally ask, "And what does that mean?"

But I received no answer. Seth's mind to me was as unsolvable as intergalactic space travel. Shaking my head, I went back to work.


It was eleven thirty when my shift was finally over. I found Shannon still waiting at the table, sipping on her third glass of water. I came up to her silently, placing myself in the seat across from her.

"Are you going to tell me why you're here now?" I asked.

Shannon popped her last onion ring into her mouth before answering. "You're dad wanted me to come pick you up."

My fists immediately clenched. "So you're just doing his duty and making sure I came back home? Is that why you came hours before my shift was over."

"No." She licked her fingers, addressing me calmly. "He was originally going to come, but I thought you'd be more comfortable with me around."

"Yet you're still keeping an eye on me."

Rolling her eyes, Shannon snorted. "Anna, you've lived like this all your life. I know you're not stupid enough to just spontaneously walk away. It would make matters that much worse."

My throat went dry and I couldn't blink. How did she know that?

"I told you," she said, as if reading my thoughts. "I'm a friend of your families… or your mother, really."

"What mother?" I snapped.

Shannon nodded in understanding. "I suppose you're right. Any mother that left her children is no mother at all, but a mother that leaves her children with a monster like your father shouldn't be classified as human."

"You're wrong." I muttered, crossing my arms. "No matter what the reason, if you leave your child you don't deserve to live." I licked my lips and glanced up at her. "Why did you tell my friend those lies?"

"They weren't lies, Anna." She told me softly. "Not a single one of them."

I raised my eyebrows. "You mean you were actually there when I was born?"

Shannon nodded. "I was your mother's best friend at the time. I don't talk to her anymore, though. Not after what I heard she did to you and Rae."

My eyes darkened. "You mean you knew she left us with him and didn't do anything? You could have helped us!" I screamed. "In the beginning there was still time to get out!"

Shannon shook her head frantically. "Wait, no. You don't understand." She told me, trying to calm me down. "I didn't know right away. I only found out four years ago. By then it was to late."

"Why?" I demanded. "This doesn't make any sense."

"It will if you let me explain."

"Fine then!" I cried, my patience wavering. "Explain it!"

Shannon nodded and licked her lips. "Okay, well-"

"That's not a very good explanation."

"Shut up then."

"Well if you explained why-"

"I was in prison, damn it!"

I stared at her, my mouth agape. "Well… that would be a good place to start."

"It would, wouldn't it?" She glared at me before taking a deep breath. "I was in prison for killing my husband."

Oh my God! I shot out of my chair. She's a freaking killer!

"I didn't do it!" She yelled, catching my hand before I could get to far. "I was just their only suspect."

"How can I believe you?" I asked her, completely unconvinced.

"Again." She growled. "If you let me explain."

I plopped into my chair, watching her like a lion watches its prey. "Okay, fine."

"Twelve years ago, I found out that my husband cheated on me. Constantly." She paused, biting her lip before she continued. "It hurt so much, and I was so angry, but I didn't kill him. We had a fight the night he died. I left the house around ten O'clock at night, but he was the only witness to that. I couldn't think straight. Usually I would go over to your mother's but then I thought remembering that her and your father were having problems, and I didn't want to make it worse by intruding so just drove off and slept in my car for the night. The next day an officer, who told me I was arrested for the murder of my husband, awaked me. I couldn't even think straight at that point, let alone defend myself."

"Then what happened?" I found myself asking.

She smiled bitterly. "I was their only suspect; think about it. That night I found out my husband was a cheating dog. They were so convinced I did it. My trial went by quickly. They didn't have any standard evidence, but like I said, no other suspect. I couldn't confirm an alibi for that night either... so I was sent to prison."

"How did you get out?"

She smiled bitterly. "Someone looked over my case again and actually looked over the evidence."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean." Shannon said slowly, leaning over the table. "They didn't look over the prints of the knife the first time. I never touched that knife. Cody always did the cooking; I could only burn things."

"Wow." I breathed, a little disturbed by her story. "You can't honestly be saying that the cops-"

"It's never fair, Anna." Shannon told me sternly. "There is no real justice. Nowhere. My husband and I were trailer trash to them. We weren't worth any of their real time. They didn't care who did it; they just wanted to get the case over with. Blaming me was the fastest way. And since they haven't found another suspect I still am one, so I have to be careful." She was silent again, before carrying on. "While in prison your mother would write to me… she would write bullshit." She slammed her hand against the table, causing me to jump. "She told me that she was still looking after you and Rae. But when I went to find you guys, come and see you, I found out that you two were still living in hell, and she was living the high life of a famous artist." Shannon looked at me sadly. "She fucked us both over, Anna."

I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and took a shaky breath. Yeah. Fucked us over she did. "Why didn't you come and see me earlier?"

"I couldn't help you then. I just got out of prison and was a mess." I nodded and looked pointedly at the table. "Anna." She said softly. "I know you don't trust me, but please understand that I want to help you."

I shook my head, my eyes stinging at all the past trust I handed out. The trust that stabbed me in the back. "How am I suppost to believe you?"

With shaking hands, Shannon reached into her purse again. On the table she placed two things. One was a key and the other was a photo. I picked up both, setting my eyes on the photo first. My breath caught in my throat. It was me. I was five, standing with Rae and my mom, and a woman who was unmistakably Shannon years ago. We were standing in a park, the sun setting behind us, and a glimmering lake below in the background. My mind worked fast. I remembered that day. I remembered her. It was my first time swimming, and my mom couldn't go into the water because she was afraid her cuts would sting too much, so Shannon took me. All day she taught me how to kick and swing my arms properly. She taught Rae too, who kept splashing her and being a brat, but she just laughed at him and splashed him back, being gentle of my five-year-old brother.

That was one of the best days of my life. I forgot about everything that day, except the water splashing against me, the sun beating against my baby smooth skin, laughing along with my brother as Shannon attempted to teach us how to play Marco Polo. More memories of the same copper haired brunette came to mind; memories that had been pushed out of my mind because of sorrow, because of torture. Wallowing in reality caused me to forget about my fairytales.

"That was my favorite day." Shannon told me, her voice hoarse. I glanced at her, noticed tears threaten to spill behind bottle green. "Cody never wanted kids… and I was always hanging out with your mother. I was always with you. You two became so much to me." She cleared her throat before telling me, "You two use to call me Auntie Shannon."

I remained silent, not knowing what to say, or how to respond.

"I know it's so hard for you to trust people, Anna, but please understand that I want nothing more that to help you. I owe you."

I bit my lip, still speechless. How was I suppost to take this? "What about the key?" I asked, finding my voice.

"It's also something I want you to trust me with: you're freedom."

"What?" I choked.

"That, Anna," Shannon declared, "Is the key to your barred window. I took your father's copy and made four more."

I looked down at the key. The gold colored metal shone in the light. It was new and fresh, cold but refreshing in my hot hand.

Trust her with my freedom, she asks?

The only question I wanted to know right now was: do I still have any chance left to gain it?

Super long Author's note: Please read!

It's really late, I know. I didn't get to the writing until I finished my last provincial, so I've been working on this thing since the first of July. This is only half the chapter. I cut it in half. The comical part doesn't come till the next half so don't worry if you're worried that you missed it. I know there still are one or two mistakes and I actually fixed them and made it even smother when I got the edited version back from my friend, but my computer was as usual became a fucker and completely deleted it. I'm just lucky she emailed it to me so I forever have a copy. Thank you Ashley! I'm really having computer problems here; it's dieing and I've run out of patents for the thing. I can no longer go through with Microsoft Word. It keeps destroying my work. You may have to wait until I get my newer computer until I start the next chapter. I'm tired of being in the middle of writing a sentence and then BAM! The computer freezes and I've lost the paragraph. It's sad that I'm getting into the habit of having to save after every sentence. You know what that does to my flow. Also, with Shannon's story, if you find a fault, like something that isn't legal or a term or what ever wrong, please don't review to tell me how stupid I am. I don't know much about law. Please review to correct me constructively.

But, anyway.

People who are super awesome because:

Ashley: Again, for putting up with my constant whining and shit. And also editing this chapter. You did fucking amazing Ash.

Lacerated Flesh (Mouse): Again, I must stress my whining and bitching about my computer and how the story is going down to hell. Thank you for your creative mind, and once again getting me out of the writer's gutter for this story's future. I was about headed towards cliché kingdom, there.

Christina (dragonflie): Thank you for listening to my rambles, my friend. Congratulations on getting into Emily Carr! You were made to be there. And, Thank you for agreeing to do fan art for this story! That's right people, my lovely artist friend as graciously agreed to draw some of the characters. But don't think it's coming up too soon. (She's a perfectionist, the silly girl.) Haha. So excited.

Cherry: You are just awesome, and I understand your lack of computer. Really.

And also, people who comment on my LJ. Seriously, I love you guys. If all of you out there ever wondering, "hey, where the hell is she on this story?" Go to my LJ, which is my "Home Page" and I will probably have a recent post of how the story is doing. Also, I am perfectly fine with you adding me to your friend's list if you have LJ (just let me know so I can add you back). In fact, I encourage it. I love getting friends, and comments. (I don't bite. That's Seth)

READ: Pictures: it seems like I've been talk about this since forever. If you don't agree with the picture of Seth, that's totally cool. I welcome you to say so. Please, say it. In fact, I welcome you to share what Seth looks like in your mind. A few people have showed me pictures of how they see Seth, and you can do the same. Just go to the link of Seth's picture and in your comment post your photo of your ideal Seth. Then, after I have several I will probably post a link of all the pictures you guys have sent of how you see Seth. (And you can still send after link is posted, no worries) How does that sound? Good? I hope. If you don't get my instructions go to the page for more info or email me. There is also a photo of the real Bailey, if you want to look at that.

Some Review responses:

Vaeleska: I want to slap his mom too. But, is the story really unbelievably cliché? I personally think it's different from other stories about an abused girl on fictionpress. True, there are some big clichés, but every story has been done before. Even the ones you think are most original have their cliché flaws. It's the way you write it that makes a difference. But thank you very much for being truthful about my story, because I do agree that it is cliché. I just think it's a different kind. What I'm mainly focusing on is the real mind of someone who is abused, and how they would react if someone wanted to be with them and know them romantically.

marisovich: Seth is the best thing since He Punks Me Not, eh? You sure no how to flater a person. Stine is oh-so-awesome. I'm glad you see Seth that way too. Thanks!

Rose: your review really made me smile. You can see the grin on my face. Lol. Were you really screaming? You're so awesome, thank you and I hope to talk to you again on my LJ. I live in BC, by the way.

KNE: I agree with you. Rae's point of view was amazingly written as far as my writing goes, but, lol, that's probably because that part of the story got deleted (or went missing) by my computer so I had to completely re-write it. Luckily, after I overcame devastation, that section turned out all the better. But I like this chapter even better. I think it's even more of an improvement on my writing skills. Anyway, thanks for the review. You made me feel better about having to re-write that whole section.

adrenaline addict: I like everything relating to Seth too. I love your reviews, they always make me laugh, and I just wanted to thank you because I think I remember you going so far as emailing me your review a few chapters ago because it couldn't go through. I enjoyed that review a lot and I hope to hear from you on this chapter. (looks hopeful)

TwistedFaerieTales: don't think you don't go unnoticed. You review a lot, and not just on this story, but my other stuff. Thank you for all your support, I really appreciate it.

Kayli: Haha. I find the fact that he can make her completely stupid romantic too. I loved your review and reading what you thought about the chapter. And I know, the typos, I'm trying to go through past chapters now but I hate my computer at the moment. It will be dealt with fully when I get my newer one, no worries. I hope to hear from you again.

A.M. Angel: Thank you so much for recommending this story to them. I was very flattered with I found out I was nominated. I bragged to all my friends and was giddy for days!

birdytamel: I've wanted to review to you for a while, but you know, my piece of shit computer wont let me and I can't just use the library computer like I did before. When I get my newer computer and can review I will make it up to you. I'm sorry, and I'm reading!

Tii Jay: Thank you, and I really, really hope they will. I love writing and hope to do something more with it in my life one day.

Martini Kisses: Dudet, you totally flattered me. 6 work assignments? Wow. Well, I feel it is my duty to thank you for reviewing a telling me that. It made me feel special.

Angel of Music from E.S.A.: loved your review SO MUCH. I love the way you talk about Seth. It's how I think about him. So sweet and dark. I'm not a fan of Phantom of the Opera. I know it vaguely. I forget his character, but now, I'm going to look into the story more! I'm glad you see Anna the way you do, and that I am successful in drawing out her character. That's why I mainly started the story. I wanted to show people what an abused girl would really think, her real mind, and how she actually would react if someone tried to pressure her. "Can't she see that he's just dieing to cuddle and kiss all her pain away?" I think I had to hold in an "aw" when I read this. Poor Seth, he IS dieing to do just that.

horrible writer: I agree with you on the stereotypes, and actually, that copy wasn't supposed to be the one up. That was my rough draft, but I didn't realize it until a few days later. Hehe... yeah. I was mad at my own brother when I wrote that in. it's fixed now, though, and I'm sorry that it bothered you. It bugged me to when I found out those words were still there. As far as all my typos, I do in fact have dyslexia, and sometimes it's hard to find someone to look over my work at the last minute. I'm always so anxious to put it up for you guys to read.

GuM is YuM: I like your new story. No. I LOVE it. I would review it if my stupid computer would let me. It's so cute! She has no clue, does she? Hmm... kind of like Anna was.

Vampgurl99: you know, you're the only one that mentioned that Anna actually admitted her dad hurt her. Thank you for your review. It was LONG I like long reviews.

double-life: I got your email of his picture and although it's not how I see Seth you're right: he is pretty cute. His eyes are actually perfect for Seth. I'm sorry I never emailed you back, having problems with that. Stupid computer.

brownbear: thank you very much for the constructive criticism. It really helped me and will help me when I go back to edit things. And... ahaha, I will try not to mention his eyes so much.

Luv and Peace: I noticed a while ago that you are going to re-write Big Much. I loved the old version and the last chapter you wrote, but I respect your decision to re-write it. Do what you think is right for your story. Always. Anyway, looking forward to reading the new version. And thank you, my grad was awesome, despite the fact that I stepped on a sewing needle on the dance floor and almost bleed to death b/c I took off my killer shoes. I'm just happy it wasn't the school gym. Poor you.

Strawberry Fields Forever: Sorry, I don't live in Surrey, but I do live in the lower main land, and am a Sky Train addict, so sometime I do go into Surrey just cuz I'm on the Sky Train.

Strawberryaid: thank you for appreciating the poetic descriptions. Sometimes I think they go unnoticed and that saddens me. So thank you.

Cherry: There are two versions of Sex and Violence, sweetie. One by The Exploited and one by The Sex Pistols. They are completely different versions. The one on here is basically just the repetitive "Sex and Violence". I love it, though. Well, anyway, I checked with my music god (Mouse) before I posted and she said the one I was talking about was by the Sex Pistols, which I thought. I will check again though.

Jewls: you're review really touched me, that's all I can say here. I'd like to email you but am having problems with my computer, but I will soon. What did your boyfriend think of it? Did you like this chapter?

DannyBoi1689: I can't apologize enough for that. That copy wasn't supposed to be the one to go up. That was my rough draft, but I didn't realize it until a few days later. Hehe... yeah. I was mad at my own brother when I wrote that in. it's fixed now, though, and I'm sorry that it bothered you. It bugged me to when I found out those words were still there. Yeah. I'M SORRY DAN! I know you're not all like that.

TO ALL OF YOU! I'd like to respond to you all, but it's past 4 AM now and shit I'm tired so I need to move on. I'd really like to copy and paste all your names, and thank all of you for reviewing, but my computer, once again, is a piece of shit. Some of you have emailed me and I haven't been able to respond yet, because again, with the computer problems. I will email you back as soon as I can.

Some of you were confused about why Anna named him Bailey. If you remember from chapter 14, when Anna and Seth were, to put plainly, making out, Seth tasted like Baileys. It was not because he threw the bottle. Sorry to confuse you.

I would like to again mention that this was only half of what I planned for the chapter, so some things that were supposed to be dealt with were not, like Seth and the overdose. That will be in part B of "A Fucking Mystery" which will hopefully only be a few weeks away from your reading, depending on how my computer chooses to behave.

A lot of you have mentioned my Spelling and grammar errors. Thank you for doing so, because you've encouraged me to do something about it. However, drastic editing will have to wait until I get my newer computer, because right now I just can't put up with this one enough to edit the whole story. Hopefully the typos haven't stopping you from wanting to pound this story to the ground.

Review people. I like reviews. I received just over 200 for the last chapter, which made me ecstatic. Will we be able to do it again?

A question if you want to answer (and please do, b/c I love responses from my questions):

What is your favorite thing about this story? And WHY?