Chapter One

Leaning Towards Love

Chapter One

A thick, cool autumn breeze brushed across Paige Parker's solemn face, as the sun set on a late September evening. She shivered as she pulled her light fleece jacket closer around her thin figure. Another strong wind came and ruffled her black chiffon dress and blew her short, sandy hair out of its formerly tidy French braid. She sniffed and blinked back tears. The air smelled stormy. It had been raining intermittently throughout the entire day, and, as Paige looked up at the dark sky reflecting in her gray eyes, she could see that there was more to come.

She knew she needed to leave. She wasn't properly dressed for the weather, she hadn't eaten in days, and she was literally sick to her stomach with grief. Her legs and feet hurt due to her three inch high heels; after all, she had been standing there for ages. Everyone else had left. Her stomach lurched and gave a sickening twist, begging for food. How long had it been since she had last eaten? She tried to recall. It had been at least three days. Ever since she found out about the incident, she hadn't quite been able to keep down anything. She had already lost fifteen pounds.

There was a sudden flash of lightning, and a deep growling thunder, but this did not frighten Paige. She had been trapped in her own confused and lost thoughts, her eyes set on the stone mass before her. There came another slow rumble and the icy cold rain began to fall once more. Goose pimples emerged on her legs as the water droplets sank into her hosiery. In her mind, she knew she needed to get home, wherever that was. The rain smeared her make-up as it mixed with the tears that rolled freely down her cheeks. Rain soaked through her dress and hair.

She stared blankly through the storm at her grandmother's gravestone. The flowering greenery that surrounded what was left of her closest living relative would be drowned in the water, she knew, but she couldn't bring herself to remove it. She felt as if she would be destroying what was left of her life. The loamy dirt began to soften and pool, slowly making it's way toward her worn shoes. She was oblivious to what surrounded her, her thoughts traveling through the past eighteen years, each wonderful moment spent with her grandmother more painful than the last. Her Grandma Anna had been everything to her, at least since her parents died, nearly eight years ago…

Paige clenched her fists, her fingernails digging into her palms. She promised herself that she wouldn't recall that night, at least not today. She shouldn't be thinking of her parents, not on a day like this, when her grandmother should be first and foremost in her memory. Paige swallowed, nearly choking on a sob. The pain was too much to bear, and she couldn't stop the pictures of her parents from slipping into her mind's eye. The pictures of her parents were soon followed by particular moments, and then days spent with them. More rebellious tears slipped down her cheeks. The accident was the most vivid nightmare that was forever locked in her memory, the accident that she had spent years in therapy attempting to recover from…

It had been mid-January, and she and her family had been coming home from the premier of the community center play, where Paige had starred as Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. She recalled that she had always had a knack for being the center of attention, and that she hadn't been shy at all, which made her the perfect candidate for an actress. Paige sniffed as she remembered how proud her parents had been. They had been beaming, her father's dark eyes sparkling, and her mother's hair shining in the dim light. When she and the other children had taken their bows at the end of the play, her parents had started a standing ovation, clapping furiously and yelling words of praise throughout the entire auditorium.

After the play, her father had given her a bouquet of roses, and to this very day, Paige remembered the sweet scent and silky, pink petals. As they made their way home in the dark, snow had begun to pelt down on the automobile. Even at the young age of ten, Paige had known that the weather was serious. Her father had been hunched over the steering wheel, trying to decipher which lane was his and exactly where it was. Her mother had let worry creep into her voice and was trying to lead him in the right direction with her words, doing almost everything except taking over the wheel itself.

Her father hadn't appreciated the added assistance, and had said, raising his voice, "I'm trying my hardest, Mary!" Paige had been terrified. She had never seen such a harsh winter storm, especially so sudden. She had held her roses in a death grip, looking over her mother's seat from the back and trying to see through the front windshield. Though she had had a clear view of the window, she could see nothing but wind and thick snow.

Paige brought herself back to reality. The wind and rain was almost numbing, but Paige felt nothing but the hurt in her heart. How could this have happened to her? Why had this happened to her? She tried to divert her thoughts to anything but that night, but she was loosing, and badly.

The crash made fear grip her heart. She remembered the night so well. It had been too late by the time they had seen the other car's lights and heard its horn. They had hit it in a head on collision. She remembered the instant pain. She was jerked forward, some of her ribs cracking due to the seat belt. There had also been a severe pain in her neck. The glass had come next, scratching her all over and stinging even worse than the initial cut. The pain was only a small part of the memory, however. What she remembered the most was the screams coming from both her mother and her father, the fear, the sickening sound of metal hitting metal, and, worst of all, the silence that had followed the crash. Paige recalled being scared to move and unable to move. "Mommy! Daddy!" she had cried. They failed to answer her. She had cried, the tears stinging the cuts on her face, and she continued to call their names. They had to have heard her. They were only up front, but Paige had refused to look up, in case the worst had happened. Spots danced before her eyes, threatening to envelope her. "Mommy," she whispered. "Daddy."

That was all she remembered of the incident, for she had fallen unconscious. She had later woken up in the hospital, attached to more tubes and needles than she could count. Her Grandma Anna stood right over her, stroking her hand just as Paige remembered her mother doing, whispering encouraging words and saying that everything was going to be alright. Paige had been so grateful that her grandmother had been there for her; she couldn't imagine how scared and lonely she would have felt if she hadn't been present.

That night of the accident had been the last time Paige saw her parents, for she was still in critical condition in the hospital when the day of the funeral arrived. Paige closed her eyes, the tears spilling out and blowing away into the wind. Their death had been extremely sudden. She had never dreamed that it would happen, that the world would be so cruel as to take a poor, defenseless child's parents away at the tender age of ten. Even worse than that was the fact that that poor, defenseless child had been her. She recalled grief shadowing her for several months following her parents' accident. She had found herself experiencing feeling that she had never felt before. She had hated the world and everyone who inhabited it, even her grandmother, who had lovingly taken her in and had given her the care that any mother or father would have.

Paige recalled, with a guilty conscience, how much she had disliked her Grandma Anna. She hated to be with her; she hated to be around her, for every time she saw her, it proved that the horrible nightmare she had been thrown into was more real than she wanted to believe. It couldn't have happened to her, it shouldn't have happened to her. She had wondered why God, if He was actually real, would do something like that to her. She had never been a troublesome child; she had never done anything to deserve the grief she was experiencing.

The days following her parents' death, Paige remembered returning to school, and how foreboding the atmosphere had turned. She recalled how worried her teacher and friends had been; she had even been called into the school counselor's office for a talk. Paige had made it quite clear that she did not wish to speak to anyone or even look their way. She hated all her peers at school. They had something that she would never be able to obtain again, and what was even worse was that they took it all for granted. She hated the people who tried to help her, saying that they knew what she was going through and that everything would be alright in due time. They hadn't known what was running through her mind; they didn't know what it was like to loose both their parents in the same night, in the same horrible wreckage.

Paige could still feel the anger that had coursed through every vein in her body, the jealousy she had had towards her friends or, rather, what few she had left. They had mothers to say goodnight to them before turning off the bedroom light. They had fathers who were able to take them to the Father-Daughter dances. She remembered the long, sleepless nights that she had tossed and turned in her small bed in her grandmother's guest room, crying to the point where she would be sick. She remembered the long one-sided conversations she had had with God, asking him why. Why had He done this to her? What did she ever do to deserve such a punishment? Why had she been spared? Why hadn't He spared her parents?

Paige slowly opened her eyes and found the grave. She was now shivering and was drenched from head to toe, but the thought that came next warmed her heart. Though she had been so bitter back then, and though she had hated her for a time, Grandma Anna had never left her side and had been there to offer her a clean sleeve to cry on. Paige recalled one of the first few conversations she had held with Grandma Anna. She had still been in the hospital, and had just found out not long ago about her parents' fate. "Why did they have to go?" she had asked, tears spilling down her cheeks. Grandma Anna had gently wiped them away. "It was their time, dear. Jesus wanted them home with Him." "But why? What about me?" Grandma Anna had smiled gently, but Paige distinctly remembered tears filling her eyes. "You'll see them again," she had answered. "When Jesus wants you home. Your Mommy and Daddy will be there waiting there with open arms." Grandma Anna had then lay down in the hospital bed beside her and held her while she cried.

It was moments like that that made Paige feel guilty today about the way she had treated her during the months after her parents' death. Throughout that time, however, her Grandma Anna had never complained. Paige tried to do the math. It had taken her a good year and a half to begin to get her life back. It seemed that with each passing day, a drop of her hurt and anger would dissipate as she began to put the pieces of her life back in order. Some of the days had been bearable, and others felt like she would never be able to assemble all the pieces again. Slowly, however, she had grown to be her somewhat functioning self again.

Her Grandma Anna had been wonderful during the years following her parents' death. She had been the only family Paige had owned, so she played the part of a loving mother, a caring, watchful father and a nurturing grandmother. She had always been so strong and faithful. She told Paige a million times over that everything turns out right; everyone and everything played a part in God's wonderful creation. As Paige's parents had done, Grandma Anna would pull her close in her arms at night, lightly lay her head on hers, and whisper to her that she, too, had been created for good, that she played a wonderful part in God's eyes.

Paige reminisced on her school years. She and Grandma Anna had tackled every stone that had come their way, one by one. Her grandmother had always been so sure that God would get them through every trial, that everything would turn out alright. Paige, however, had not been so hopeful. She had often needed to lean on her for support, to drink in her confidence. Middle school had been her first big transition. She had attended a new school, leaving her memories and comfort zone behind. She clearly recalled how terrified she had been since she was entering the "real world". Of course, Grandma Anna had been right there beside her, leading and lighting the way. Having her grandmother with her made Paige feel calm and confident; she felt that, with her aid, she could actually tackle the "real world" one step at a time.

By the time she reached her high school years, Paige had been ready and willing to get over her past. She started had making friends again and even getting into a few relationships with selected boys. She pulled her grades up and studied hard, getting her a much deserved place in the top ten students in the graduation class. It had all been because of her Grandma Anna. She had helped her.

What Paige loved her grandmother for most, though, was her aid in helping her get her love for acting back. Paige had downright refused to act after the accident. She had wanted nothing to do with anything that would remind her of her parents. It had been too painful. Her Grandma Anna had thought differently. Paige remembered the conversation she had had with her. "Paige," she had said one night, nearly a year after the accident, "I've signed you up for acting classes at the community theater." Paige had been shocked. Hadn't she already told her that she didn't want to act? Grandma Anna had never done anything like that without talking to her. "Why?" she had asked. "What you have inside your heart is a God-given gift, Paige. He wanted you to have it so that you could be happy and use it to help serve Him." "But…" She remembered being at a loss of words, the memory of her parents looming on her heart. "Honey," Grandma Anna had said, pulling her close, "Your parents loved you very much. They wouldn't want you to be so unhappy, and neither do I. They loved you for your acting and so much more. Trust me when I say that they would want you to continue."

It had been history from there. Paige loved to act and was rarely seen not doing so. She had later applied for an acting college in New York in her senior year and had gotten accepted. She had had full intentions of leaving for college the following semester…until this had happened.

The tears were still making their way onto her cheeks when she glanced at her Grandma Anna's grave. Life was going to be so hard without her. She barely knew even now how to function. She couldn't eat; she couldn't sleep. She didn't know what the next step was. Would she continue to live in her grandmother's house? Would she still go to college as planned? Would she even be able to afford it? She began to sob even harder. I suppose it's just part of the grieving process, she thought.

It was then that Paige noticed that the rain was no longer falling on her in heavy sheets. She looked up and saw an umbrella hanging over her head. She jumped slightly when she turned and saw her friend Alexis standing behind her with an extra umbrella. Alexis had attended the funeral but had left around an hour ago to change out of her formal clothes. Paige almost envied her comfortable shoes and warm coat, protecting her from the storm. The only evidence that would show that she had just been to a formal event was her dark hair that was still in spirals.

"I thought I might find you here," she stated, having to speak up over the rain. Paige didn't respond but did take the extra umbrella from her best friend's hand. There was no use in letting it go to waste. She soon found that it was a mistake, for then the only thing getting to her was the cold wind on her wet body. Alexis stood beside her, and, after a short silence decided to pick up the conversation again, "You're going to get sick if you stay out here in the storm."

Paige shrugged and said bitterly, "So, I may as well get sick and die. The rest of my family has."

Alexis gave an inaudible sigh. She knew her friend was going to take the death hard. "Don't say that, Paige," she replied. "You still have a lot to do before you can even think about wishing you were dead." She tried to lighten the mood with humor but Paige simply stared at the grave, not even acknowledging the horrible pun. "Come on," Alexis continued, putting a hand on her shoulder, "we need to get you out of the rain, into some dry clothes, and some food in you."

For a moment, Paige considered refusing the request. She wanted to stay with her grandmother, but she knew that standing out in the rain would do no good for her or bring her Grandma Anna back. She nodded numbly and they both made their way to Alexis's black Malibu. Paige stooped short in front of the car. "What is it?" Alexis asked, looking troubled as she pulled her keys from her pocket. She nearly had to yell due to the clap of thunder.

"What about my clothes?" Paige asked, looking down at her soaked dress and muddy heels. "I wouldn't want to get your car all wet and dirty."

Alexis shook off her friend's concern with a wave of her hand, "Don't worry about it. I have leather seats and my floorboards haven't been cleaned since the day I got this piece of junk." Paige took comfort in the words, glad that she wasn't going to be too much trouble. Both girls quickly opened the car and settled in, trying not to let too much rain enter with them. Alexis cranked up the engine and turned the heat on full blast. "Is that too much heat for you?" she asked. "I imagine you're pretty cold." Paige shook her head as Alexis threw her dripping umbrella into the back seat, not exactly caring where or what it landed on. "Just put your umbrella back there," she said, tuning the windshield wipers on, putting the car in reverse and backing out of the narrow drive.

Paige did so and turned her attention to the heater. It was only then that she realized exactly how cold she really was. She put her vent directly to her face, thankful that her friend had been kind enough to turn it on and turn her own vent towards her. She knew she was lucky to have a friend as thoughtful as Alexis, especially during days like this one. Alexis pulled out into the main street and asked, "Which way is shortest to your house? I never can figure out my way around here."

"Just take South Landing to your left," Paige replied. Alexis turned her signal on and pulled into the left lane quickly enough to receive a rude gesture from a young man behind her. "Yeah, yeah," she muttered. "Right back at ya', bud." She made her way onto South Landing, and they sat in silence for a moment, only broken by the heater and the rain pounding down on the car.

"I guess I can begin my lecture now," Alexis began with a sigh. "What the hell were you doing out there in the rain for two hours anyway? And dressed like you are without a jacket? I waited for you at Dawson's Café, you know?"

Paige bowed her head. That was right; she was supposed to have met her afterwards for her favorite treat: stone cold cheesecake with warmed blueberries accompanied with a frappe. Alexis knew how to cheer her up, but, as of now, Paige felt like she would never be her same old self again. "Sorry," she mumbled. "I guess I just wasn't ready to say good-bye… I wasn't ready to be alone again."

Alexis lessened her grip on the steering wheel and her expression softened. She had been genuinely worried about her. "I understand, but setting yourself up for pneumonia isn't going to help matters much, and you know you're not alone as long as I'm around." She gave her a playful elbowing.

Paige wanted Alexis's words to fill her heart, to at least take some of the pain away, but the words gave her little comfort. She really was on her own now. She had no one to welcome her home when she stepped out, no one to bid her good night of give her soft, soothing words when she was upset. It seemed like she was at a loss. She didn't know what to do. Her usual clever mind was clouded. She was blinded by the grief that was surrounding her, threatening to envelope her at any second.

Alexis reached for her friend's hand and gave it a small squeeze. "I can't say that I understand what you're going through, 'cause I've never lost a loved one, but I want you to know that I'll be here for you. You can call me whenever you need me, no matter what the time is, okay?"

Paige managed a slight smile, "Yes, thank you. Honestly, I don't know what I would do without you, Alexis." Alexis muttered something about it being no problem at all, that she was happy to help, but Paige's thoughts were still off on their own, namely at her grandmother's grave and with the memory of her lost parents. The car was silent as the two women made their way to Anna Parker's residence at 1685 Joiner Court. Paige had been so enveloped in her own thoughts that it came as a surprise to her when Alexis pulled up into the carpool of her grandmother's home, what used to be her home. She hated to think of what would happen to it within a few days' time.

"Do you mind if I come in for a little while?" Alexis asked as she turned the car off. She was extremely worried about her, but she didn't want to be too intrusive, especially if Paige wanted some time alone after such a tiring day.

"No, not at all," she replied, opening the passenger car door and stepping out. "Actually, it would be nice to have some company for a while." As Paige closed the car door, a large gust of wind blew through the carpool followed by a bolt of lightning. She shivered, knowing she needed to get out of her wet clothes before she became seriously ill. She quickly dug through her purse for her house key as she opened the storm door. Alexis held the door open when it became evident that the keys were at the very depths of Paige's bag. "Gee," Alexis laughed, "how much crap did you put in there?"

"Quite a bit, it would seem," Paige stated, digging and groping around the make-up, pens, checkbook, loose change, chewing gum wrappers, and crumbs. "Finally," she grumbled, pulling them out by the key chain. She shoved the key into the lock and let herself and Alexis in before the next bout of rain could find their skin. Paige could immediately feel the warmth of the house as she stepped inside the dark living room. She was grateful that she had cranked the heat up before leaving for the funeral. She clicked on the lights and the living was enveloped in light. She slipped out of her shoes as to not get the carpet muddy, then turned to Alexis, "Just make yourself at home. I'm going to my room to change for a second. I'll be right back."

Alexis gave her a cheery smile, one that Paige knew to be her trademark. "Take your time," she replied while she, too, slipped out of her shoes and hung her coat on the rack near the door. "I've been here before. I know my way around."

Paige did not take her time. She didn't like to keep her guest, even if it was her best friend, waiting. She ran down the hallway to her left, trying to keep her eyes off the pictures hung on the wall of her and Grandma Anna. She entered her room, locked the door and then flicked the light on. She shivered as she stripped off her wet clothes carefully, trying not to get too much water on her carpet. She was grateful that they were no longer on her cold skin. For a moment she wondered why she had stayed out at the graveyard for such a long time getting drenched in the rain, but then her thought roamed right back to the fact that her grandmother would not longer be with her.

She had a very good right to have stayed there, hadn't she? Her Grandma Anna had always been there for her, but she wasn't even with her when she suffered her heart attack. Grandma Anna had been with her all through her childhood, crying with her and comforting her when she had needed it most…And Paige couldn't even give her that much back. Grandma Anna had suffered and died all alone, and it was all her fault. She thought the least she could do was stay with her through her funeral.

A fresh stream of tears made their way down Paige's face, but she wiped them away furiously. She wouldn't do this while Alexis was over. She knew she hadn't even neared finishing grieving over her grandmother, but she wouldn't shed any tears in front of her friend. She had to be strong for just a couple of more hours, just long enough for her to leave. She didn't really know why she didn't want to express her sadness in front of Alexis. Perhaps it was her pride. Ever since her parents had died, she had felt so vulnerable, so susceptible. She didn't like opening up to others. She wanted them to see her as strong, that she could easily stand on her own two feet. Paige recalled the funeral service. It had taken every ounce of her being to keep from crying before a room full of people whom she considered her friends, who her grandmother had considered friends.

Paige straightened up, determined to keep her emotions to herself. Alexis was waiting for her and she couldn't linger too long. She pulled out her favorite pair of pajamas: a thick, fleece pair of bottoms, and a long sleeve top to match the pants. She wasn't a big fan of snowmen, and it wasn't very close to Christmas, but they would keep her warm nonetheless. She made her way to the bathroom across the hall to retrieve a towel to dry her wet hair with. By the time she came back to the living room, Alexis was nowhere to be seen. There was, however, a roaring fire in the hearth. Paige looked around for a moment. "Alexis?" she asked, puzzled.

"Oh, I'm in here, Paige," came her voice from the kitchen. Paige crossed the living room and pushed the swinging door to the kitchen open. Alexis was busying herself with the stove and a pot on top of the burner. She had three cans of soup next to her. "Which do you like best? I found tomato, vegetable, and chicken noodle." She held up the chicken noodle can, "You like Progresso, don't you?"

Paige wearily sat down at the kitchen table. The day sure had been tiring. "I'm not exactly hungry, 'Lex," she answered. "You're welcome to some, though." She didn't feel like she could hold anything down at the moment.

Alexis shook her head, clucking her tongue, "I didn't ask you if you wanted to eat, Paige. I've known you for three years now, and I know how you get when you're upset. You won't eat a thing, and I can already tell that you've lost some weight. Now, which one do you want?"

Paige found some humor in the fact that her friend had come to take care of her. She thought it was sweet, but she couldn't pass up the opportunity for a little teasing. "Did you come here just to make me eat?"

Alexis shrugged her shoulders, "To be quite honest, it played a large role." She smiled. "Either you eat or you and I are taking a little trip to the hospital and the doctors can make you eat. Take your pick."

Paige shook her head. It was so typical of Alexis to care for her so deeply. "Well, considering the ultimatum," she gave a pointed look to her friend, "I suppose I'll take chicken noodle."

"Thatta' girl," Alexis replied, pulling to tab on the can and pouring the soup into the pot to cook. There was a silence for a moment before Alexis spoke, her voice serious once more, "So, I take it that Richard never showed up?" She absentmindedly stirred the soup as she waited for an answer. She knew that he was supposed to have picked her up and taken her over to the café.

Paige shook her head, "No, he didn't. I guess he was busy today with his work." The excuse sounded lame even to her own ears.

Alexis gave a humorless laugh, "Was he too busy to be with his girlfriend on the day her grandmother was buried?" Before Paige could even answer, Alexis continued, "I bet you my scholarship he's at a bar getting plastered somewhere. It's ridiculous! What was he thinking, leaving you alone today? I knew he was a total asshole, but this is the last straw! Nobody treats my friend like that!"

Paige sighed. Alexis was always talking about what Richard and how much of a "low life" he was. She just wouldn't be able to understand the love that he shared with her. "'Lex, do we have to talk about this right now?"

"Yeah, we do need to talk about it right now!" she stated, rummaging through the cabinets for a deep soup bowl. "We need to talk about it so that when you see him next and the shit is beat out of him, you'll know who did it!"

"Alexis…just stop, please," Paige replied, exhausted and in no mood to argue about her current love life. Alexis eyed her, but let the subject drop at that. She didn't want to put her in anymore pain that was needed, but she sure did wish that she would wake up and realize that her boyfriend was a jerk. Absolutely no good had come out of her being involved with him.

A silence fell between the friends once more. "So," Alexis said, stirring the soup once more, "have you received any calls from attorneys?"

"Attorneys?" she questioned. "No, why?"

Alexis ladled the dinner into the bowl as she answered, "Well, they would be the ones taking care of your grandmother's will, wouldn't they?" She took a spoon from the drawer as she handed the bowl over to Paige. Paige thanked her and replied, "I don't even know if she had a will, to be honest." She had completely forgotten about the possibility of there being a will. She had been too busy taking care of the funeral preparations to think of much else.

Alexis sat down beside her at the table, "Well, your grandmother was a smart and sensible woman. Surely, she would have had a plan for you if…" She tried to word her statement carefully. She knew her friend had to still be sensitive about the topic, "You know, if…something happened." Paige shrugged her shoulders while taking her first spoonful of soup. It had been quite some time since she had had something warm in her stomach. "I suppose so."

The two talked for around an hour over different subjects. Alexis was always careful to stray from anything that might remind Paige of her grandmother or stir up emotions that were too hard to bear. The sun had completely set into the earth and the rain had finally let up some by the time Alexis looked at her watch. It was getting close to eight and she knew her mother would be wondering where she was. She stood up, "I better be heading back home or else someone will wonder if I got into trouble. Will you be alright if I leave?"

Paige smiled slightly, "Yes, I'll be fine." She followed her friend to the front door. "Thanks for being there for me today," she said as Alexis slipped into her shoes and put her coat on. "I needed someone to stand by me."

Alexis pulled her keys from her pocket and smiled at her friend, "It was no problem, and you know I don't mind. You would have done the same thing for me." She headed out the door and to her car, "You know you can call me if you need me, right?" Paige nodded and Alexis drove off. It wasn't until Alexis's Malibu was completely out of sight that Paige finally let her guard down. She didn't have to put up her strong front anymore. She was alright when she was alone, wasn't she?

Paige turned to face the empty house for the fourth day in a row. It was so quiet. It seemed so empty without her grandmother there to share it with. She stepped over to the couch and with a sigh sat down. She needed to think. There was so much that needed to be done within the next few days. She would need to find a new place to live if Grandma Anna hadn't finished paying off the house. She tried to remember the bills that came in through the mail. Had there been a house note? She couldn't recall.

Where would she move to? She couldn't afford anything fancy, that was for sure. She was eighteen, but in all her years she hadn't ever had a job, or even applied for one. Grandma Anna had been too concerned with her grades and schooling. She had said that there would be plenty of time for a job later in life, after she had had the right kind of education. What was she going to do now? She struggled to think of how much money she had in her bank account. Her parents had started her one up the day she was born and they, as well as her Grandma Anna had contributed to it throughout her life. Surely all that birthday and Christmas money she had stowed away would have amounted to something by now?

She gazed around the living room. It was so warm and cozy. She had spent countless wonderful nights there with Grandma Anna in this house. There were several framed photos of her with her parents, friends, and grandmother. The walls were covered in knick-knacks of all ages. Paige knew they had to be worth a pretty penny. Where would they go if Grandma Anna had written out her will? What about the house itself? Paige knew she wouldn't be able to afford it in her own. Had Grandma Anna finished paying off the house? Well, she thought, I guess I'll know when they come to repossess the home.

She sighed and sank further into the cushions of the couch. "What's going to happen to me now?" she mumbled. She thought of the will, then berated herself. How could she even fathom the idea of taking anything else from her grandmother? Grandma Anna had done everything for her. She had taken her in when she needed her most. She had given up her high salary job that she had worked for all her life just so that she could be at home with her when she got off the bus. She had taken care of her when sick, taken her out on her first time driving, helped her study for her most difficult exams, and, most of all, loved her with all her heart. She had done so many things for her in the past, how could Paige even think about taking any more from her.

It was then that it happened. All the tears that she had been holding in throughout the day while she had been at the funeral and while Alexis had been present came pouring out. How much had she cried in the past few days? She couldn't even remember. It seemed like they had simply come in waves. She was surprised her face hadn't been completely swollen during the past days. Come to think of it, she was surprised that she had any tears left. The pain she was experiencing was beyond her. It hurt her so deeply, almost as bad as it had the day her parents had died.

Paige put her hand to her mouth, trying to stop herself from completely crying out in anguish. She had so many emotions running through her veins and to the very depths of her heart and mind. There was sorrow, for she had lost someone so dear to her. There was guilt, for she hadn't been there with her grandmother when she passed away. There was remorse; she should have spent more time with her. She shouldn't have left the house four days ago. Would things have turned out differently? Would Grandma Anna still be with her if she had been there to call the ambulance? How many more years would they have had together?

Paige sniffed and more tears found their way to her cheeks. Her sinuses were beginning to stuff up and her eyes stung. It hurt to cry. It hurt to sob. It hurt to think and function. Paige had prayed that she would never have to relive the pain that she had felt when she was ten. She had prayed that her life would be pieced back together. But what was happening now? Wasn't she hurting nearly as much as she had had back then? She didn't even have anyone to fall back on now. She had nowhere to go. She would have to make it on her own from now on.

Paige lay down on the couch and let herself completely break down. She cried for her grandmother. She cried for herself, as selfish as she knew it was. She cried for her future that was now out of her reach. But mostly, she cried tears of bitterness. She was experiencing pain she had never felt before. At least when her parents had died Grandma Anna had been there. No one was here now. She had no one to comfort her.

Yes, Paige had several emotions cursing through her, but bitterness was the most profound. Her grief turned to questions, and her questions turned into anger, not only to herself but to others as well. She was angry with the cashier at the grocery store. Perhaps if he hadn't taken so long in scanning her food, she could have been home to help her grandmother. She was angry with all of the people who had been on the road that day. If only there hadn't been so much traffic…She then moved to her parents' death. This incident wouldn't be nearly as hard on her if her parents were still around. She missed them so much. She missed them all her entire being. She ached for them. She wanted to see her mother smile at her; she wanted to feel her father's strong arms around her. She wanted to hear her Grandma Anna's voice whispering to her, telling her that everything was going to be alright. She would never get to experience any of that again.

Paige pulled herself up from the depths of the couch and walked over to the entertainment center. She opened the drawer below it and pulled out an old picture book, one back from when her parents were still alive. She sat right on the carpet and, with a heavy heart, looked through the first page which consisted mostly of her baby pictures. Her parents seemed so happy, so carefree. They hadn't known what was going to happen to them nearly nine years down the road. As she turned the pages, she saw herself enter kindergarten. Her mother had made her a dress especially for the occasion, which she wore in the picture accompanied with an Aladdin backpack and a plastic lunchbox. Her mother was laughing, holding her hand and in the opposite arm, her little sleeping mat. Paige guessed that the picture had been taken by her father in the classroom.

Her father was in a number of pictures as well. There was one that they had taken while camping. She and her father had been fishing on a dock and all of a sudden a fish had gotten hooked. In the picture he had his arms around Paige, his hands on hers trying to help her reel in the fish. Another picture depicted her father giving her roses after her first performance in her drama class at the age of seven. As she passed her tenth birthday, however, the pictures of her parents became few and far in between. Her Grandma Anna was more involved. In one they held a Halloween party at the house and they both were dressed up. Paige was in a black cat costume while her grandmother had been the Bride of Frankenstein. Paige kept flipping through the book, but she couldn't get passed her thirteenth birthday. It was too painful and she was too angry. She was angry with the only person she knew to be angry with: God.

What on Earth had she done to make God hate her so? What had she done to deserve such horrible pain over and over? It was true; she had eventually gotten over the loss of her parents, but only after months of therapy and the additional love of her Grandma Anna.

Her parents had always raised her to believe in God, but her grandmother had been the one to actually get her involved with the church. She had gotten saved and baptized. She had gone to church on a regular basis. She had participated in Bible study and pageants. She prayed daily and had even gone on a mission trip. She had done everything that any good Christian had, hadn't she? What more did God want from her?

Why then, was God punishing her? What had she done? Was there something that she hadn't done? Why hadn't God heard her prayers? Did she pray wrong? Was that even possible? Her anger only increased as she asked these questions. All those hours and days she had spent at church, singing in the choir and praying…All of it had been in vain. Her prayers had fallen on deaf ears.

Paige threw the photo album back into the drawer. There was no use praying now. There was no use going back to church or ever depending on God. What had he done for her? He never answered any of her prayers. He never helped her when she needed it, and now he had taken away everyone she had ever loved. That didn't sound like the loving and merciful God she had been brought up to believe in.

Her mind was made up. She would not waste another second on her so-called God. She was all she would ever need. She would depend on herself. After all, hadn't she been doing that all her life? Paige wiped her tears. There was nothing left to do but move forward. She didn't know what the future would hold. She didn't know what would happen to her in the time to come, but she was determined to make it. She might have to work her butt off just to afford a roof over he head and food in her stomach, but she knew she could do it. She would continue to live and do so without God or anybody else to aid her.