Chapter Twenty-Seven

The following week passed pretty quickly for me. It took a lot longer than I expected to pack everything up and I seemed to have accumulated a lot of stuff in the short amount of time since we'd moved in. Most of it was stuff Steve had bought for me, and in the end I decided to leave all that stuff behind. It belonged in my Reorda Bay room, and although it pained me to leave all the cool things like the computer and stereo behind, I had to do it.

Kelley would have really had a field day if I'd taken all that stuff with me, and if I was honest with myself, I would have felt kind of scummy for taking it. It'd be like saying, "Wow Steve, thanks for all this cool stuff, I love it! Unfortunately you and you're whole way of life in this hell hole town you call home doesn't do it for me, so I'll just grab all that I can manage to squeeze into my Dad's van, then I'm outta here – been nice knowing you, sucker."

Yeah, I couldn't do that to Steve. And anyway, from what my Dad told me about the apartment he'd rented for us I'd be lucky to fit a bed into my bedroom – space for computers and stereos or any other kind of home comfort was just wishful thinking. Regardless of that though, I would be home, with my Dad, with my friends, with everything that was familiar. That was comfort enough.

It was Thursday afternoon before my Mom found out about the party the delinquents were planning for me. I was sat watching TV, minding my own business, marvelling at the depth of stupidity that some commercials sink to these days, when she marched in hands on hips. The 'look' was on her face, fixed there solid as cement.

"I have been hearing, Shana…" she began.

I knew something was really wrong - like so far beyond the realms of this-matter-requires-use-of-the-glare wrong - when I heard her insert my name in the middle of a sentence like that. When she did that it was her way of warning me that she was pissed off and not about to back down.

"…that there is apparently some sort of leaving party being organised by Alison." She continued to glare at me, not blinking – but with the muscles around her eyes twitching.

"Oh, yes," I replied pleasantly, whilst pretending to be distracted by the importance of channel surfing. "I believe there is."

"Hm," she said briskly. "Well you know what I believe? I believe that if you even try to attend a party that has those… those… little rascals at the helm, then you will be doing it over my cold, lifeless, prematurely deceased body!"

I tried to control the snickers that were threatening to erupt. I really did. I tried to hide my amused grin. Honestly. But I couldn't. The grin and snickers prevailed, making me look like some twisted little hobgoblin as I rocked back and forth on the couch making sounds that were not dissimilar to Mutley being chewed up in a blender.

"Shana!" My Mom cried, flinging her arms up in the air. "Oh you think it's funny? The image of your mother lying cold, lifelessly, and prematurely dead is something that amuses you?!"

I tried to open my mouth to speak, but having sensed the sudden freedom I was about to give them, my vocal chords let forth a howl of laughter instead of the sweet, daughterly apology I had been intending to give.

"Oh I give up," My Mom yelled. "Truly, I do, I give up! It's just a good job your father has such a twisted sense of humor too. That's where you got it from Shana, his side of the family, not mine!"

She flounced out of the room dramatically and I leapt off the couch to follow her. "Mom," I protested, the laughter still clinging to my words. "I'm sorry. I wasn't laughing at the image of your cold, lifeless and deceased body – I was laughing because you used the words little rascals."

"And how is that funny?!" she demanded stopping in the kitchen doorway and whipping around to face me.

"Well isn't it better than having me laughing at the image of your cold, lifele – "

"Enough!" she interrupted, raising her hand in my face to stop me. "I don't want a debate about this. You aren't going to any party where those so-called friends are going to be in attendance. That is final."

"Moooo-ooo-ooom," I whined, following her into the kitchen. "This is the last time I'll get to see them for who knows how long. Alison's gone to a lot of trouble already, I can't just turn around and tell her I'm not going."

"That's alright," she replied. "You won't have to. Kelley will do it."

Kelley, who was sat at the table eating a sandwich and reading a magazine, stopped mid-mouthful and looked up at the both of us.

"Wha?" he mumbled through the half-eaten, chewed up chicken salad that his gaping mouth hole was displaying so beautifully.

"You'll see Alison at school tomorrow won't you," my Mom said, telling him rather than phrasing it as a question. "You can tell her then."

"Leave me out of this," Kelley replied, swallowing his last bite, picking up his plate and magazine and heading for the door.

"Oh, leave you out of it?!" I yelled, racing for the door too so that I could block his exit. "Okay, fine, but first I'd like to know how my mother found out about the party anyway, seeing as I didn't tell her."

Kelley looked sheepish, for like a fraction of a second, then his face filled with obnoxious nonchalance. "Yeah, okay, I told her. So what?"

"So," I replied, narrowing my eyes and prodding him in the chest. "That means you have forfeited your right to be left out of it."

"Right. Whatever." He shook his head with a slight smirk, before barging right passed me. It was nice to know that even after our recent truce he still found it so easy to revert back to his bonehead-ways. I don't know what else I had expected. What I did know was that I wasn't about to let him worm his way out of this. I must have looked mightily undignified scurrying after him with my balled up fists and angry frown, but I had actually started to look forward to this leaving thing Alison was working on. I no longer wanted to creep away in the night like some shamed wrong do-er. I wanted to go out with my head held high, joyous laughter ringing in my ears, and silly string hanging from my hair. Kelley was not going to deny me that. No way.

I leapt in front of him, landing in an awkward stance and fixing him with what I hoped was an intimidating stare.

"What, Shana?" he huffed in annoyance. "You think you're going to glare me into submission?"

"I could think up far more painful methods," I threatened.

"Shana, leave Kelley alone!" my Mom called from the kitchen.

"My room. Now." I spoke in a whisper and jerked my thumb towards the stairs.

Kelley rolled his eyes and threw the magazine he was holding into a nearby newspaper rack. "Never say I don't do anything for you." He grabbed me by the elbow and started dragging me out to the garage. What the heck was he doing?

"Are you not listening Kelley? I said my room. This is not my room."

He pushed me through the door, towards his car. "My day has been pretty crappy so far, Shana. I don't intend to make it worse by spending any amount of time up in your room, listening to another one of your pathetic whinefests."

I narrowed my eyes at him. "Excuse me, but I wouldn't be needing to indulge in another of my "whinefests" - pathetic or otherwise - if it weren't for you and your big blabbermouth telling my mother things which are none of her - or your - concern."

Kelley stifled a yawn. "Are you done?"

I took a deep breath, readying myself to tell him, that no, I was not done, I was only just getting started, when he yanked the passenger door open and bundled me into his car. "Sit there and be quiet."

A second later, he was sliding into the seat beside me and firing the engine up. The garage door began to open and the next thing I know, we're backing out onto the driveway. Was he kidnapping me? Was he going to take me to some secluded spot in the middle of nowhere, dump me there alone, leaving me at the mercy of scavenging vultures and the random lunatics that undoubtedly frequented such isolated areas? As I looked out of the windows at the passing scenery, it didn't seem like it. We were driving towards the centre of town, the more densely populated area of Reorda Bay.

"Are you going to tell me where we're going?" I snapped. "Or am I supposed to use my less than perfect psychic skills to work it out on my own?"

Kelley sighed. "I'm taking you to Alison's house. I don't see why I should have to be the one to rain on her parade. She was pretty upset when she found out you were leaving town for good. You can be the one to break the news about the partying being a no-go. Or, you know, whatever."

"Or, you know, whatever?" I repeated. "What is that supposed to mean?"

We pulled up at a stop light and Kelley turned to look at me. "If there's one thing I've learnt in the short time I've known you, Shana, it's this; you are not a stickler for the rules. Your Mom says no party. What difference does that make to you? I'm guessing none. Just don't ask me to cover for you."

The lights changed and we were moving again. What was Kelley suggesting? That we have this party behind my Mom's back. Sarcastic gasp. I guess it was the only plausible alternative. Other alternatives included - and were pretty much limited to - trying to convince her to change her mind or just not having the party at all. The only way we'd get to do it for certain was if we did it the good ol' fashioned sneaky and deceitful way. Worked for me.

Soon the car was crawling to stop outside Alison's house. Kelley killed the engine and nodded for me to get out. "Are you going to wait for me?" I asked.

Kelley snorted. "No. One way trip. You think I'm going to sit outside all day while you gossip with Alison and drool all over that brother of hers?"

That brother of hers. The thought that Ryan might be in there hadn't actually occurred to me. The thought that this might be the last time I get to see him. I fiddled with my watch strap, suddenly getting an influx of butterflies. Kelley reached across me and opened the door. His subtle way of demanding that I vacate my ass from his car. I sighed and gave him a slight scowl that was intended as both a "thank you" and a "nice manners, butt head."

Without looking back at him I got out of the car and headed up to Alison's front door. In a matter of seconds I heard Kelley's car coming to life and roaring away. I guess it was kind of nice of him to drive me all this way. Even if I hadn't asked him to. Even though I hadn't particular wanted him to. Even though he was probably only doing it to get me out of his hair for a little while. It was still nice.

I stood on Alison's front step for a moment or two - a long moment or two - until I finally summoned the courage to ring the doorbell. I waited a while. No answer. Someone was definitely home, though. I could hear the faint sounds of a radio playing inside. I cursed myself for just showing up like this, for not calling before. Not like I had a chance, what with Caveman Kelley commandeering me and dumping me here without even consulting me about it. With a heavy sigh I was about to turn and walk away, when a strange voice came from one of the open upstairs windows.

"Ry, there's someone at your door!"

I tilted my head upwards and saw this really pretty redhead half hanging out through the window. She smiled at me, her dainty nose stud glinting in the sunlight. "Hey hun, you a friend of Alison's?"

I nodded, slightly bewildered. "Yeah."

And who are you, exactly? I wanted to ask. But I kind of already knew. Or at least I thought I knew. Jossalyn. She was totally the kind of girlfriend Ryan would have. Only she was supposed to be his ex-girlfriend, so what was she doing hanging out of (what I assumed was) his window, looking all cute, and calling me 'hun'? Point number eleven hundred and ninety nine on the pro's list for returning to Anaheim: No more obsessing over Ryan and the state of his love-life/girlfriends. Had I actually thought that was a category I'd one day find myself in? The words delusional and fool were springing to mind. And the redhead was still smiling at me. Which was something I guess I could kind of understand. She was in his room, calling him Ry. I'd be smiling too if I were her.

Suddenly, a familiar face popped out beside the smiling redhead. The object of my obsession himself. His expression went from one of curious confusion, to surprise. "Shana?"

I took a step backwards so I could see him better, but being the geek I am, managed to trip over my own heels, stumbling onto the grass like a total dork. "Uh... hey." So smooth.

"I thought you were under house arrest?" Ryan smiled.

I was so not feeling this Romeo and Juliet-esque exchange. The devastatingly pretty ex-girlfriend pressed up against him was totally killing it. I decided to cut the small talk. "Is Alison home?"

Ryan shook his head. "She took Winston for a walk. She'll be back soon. You wanna come in?"

I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. You wanna come in? It wasn't an invite. It was an enquiry. I was kind of shocked by that. I mean, didn't he want to know about what had happened with Owen, Martha and I? Alison said he'd been concerned, hadn't she? Wasn't he curious about my decision to leave town? Obviously not. What about the time we'd spent together at Hickory Park? The along-the-log-shuffling? The holding my hand and defending me to Principal Kruszynski? I thought he'd have so much to say to me. But now it seemed Jossalyn was enough company for him - that he didn't have the time or inclination to care. It had to be because of her, didn't it? I mean, why else would he be acting as though I was "just Alison's friend." Typical guy. So different when their (ex?)girlfriends are around.

I shrugged a little and tried to regain my balance as I headed back down the driveway. "No, it's okay. But could you ask Alison to meet me at Mulvey Point when she comes back? It's important. I'll be waiting for you."

Ryan frowned. "Uh... waiting for..?"

I mentally smacked myself. "ALISON! I'll be waiting for ALISON. I meant to say..." Dear God, kill me. Amen. Why am I such a loser?

The redheads smile was waning. Ryan scratched his head, uncertainly. "Are you sure you don't want to come inside? You can wait here."

I waved my hands dismissively. "No, really. I'll catch her at the Point." With those parting words I hurried off as fast as my trembling legs would let me.

Authors Note:

So... 12 months late. Sorry doesn't really cover it, does it? But better (hideously) late than never, right? And better short than not at all :) I'm making no more promises, except to say that this WILL be finished. And at some point the sequel will begin. But before I start posting the sequel on FP I'm going to have to write at least a third of it so I can update chapters regularly and don't keep you guys hanging.

I know this chapter is pretty much the same old same old, but I don't want to rush to the ending. I haven't written for this story in so long that I needed to re-acquaint myself with the whole thing. At this point I'm pretty sure the next chapter will be the last.

Anyway, thankyou sososososo much to everyone who has read and reviewed this story! I'm not gonna leave you all hanging without an ending!

More soon xXxXx