- • Chapter One • -

I pulled a knife from my pocket, the wind brushing strands of blonde hair from my eyes. I looked to the setting sun with inevitably tentative thoughts crossing my mind. Here in my hand, I held a weapon worthy of giving or taking a life – in this case, it brought a new meaning to what you could call mine. Shifting my gaze from the landscape to my arm, I pressed the sharpened blade to my skin. It hurt like hell but instead of letting up, I pressed the blade deeper into my arm. With the point sunk deep within my flesh, blood spilled from the wound, dripping silently into the sand below. After a few moments of etching ungracefully into my arm, I heard my name being called from a distance. Sighing, I got to my feet and made my way toward the house.

Before entering the house I made sure to hide the knife. It's a good thing I did it too because the moment I pulled back the screen door, my mother was jumping down my throat, demanding to know where I had been all day.

I think I looked at her blankly, but I can't quite remember. All I know is that I made my way past her up the steps leading to my room. Shutting the door behind me, I walked into the bathroom on the opposite side of the room.

Flipping on the light switch, my attention was drawn to the reflection in the mirror. A moment or two passed before I turned the hot and cold faucets on. Submerging my bloodied arm under the water, my fingers slid over the new addition to my body. I flinched, making a conscious effort not to look in the mirror for I knew that a twisted expression had transformed my face into something wicked. The water rained down my arm and for a moment as I drifted into my own little world of thought before a gentle knocking aroused me from this state. Was there no escaping this? I continued to stand at the sink, watching the water vanish before my eyes down the drain. Another knock sounded at my door. Honestly, it was getting a bit annoying so I turned the water off and walked back into my room. I could feel the water running down my fingertips and to the floor. When I finally pulled back the door, I saw my mother. She looked exhausted as her form rested against the doorway. The moment she saw me, she regained her composure, her weight returning to her feet with a forced smile.

Before I knew what was happening, her strong fingers were in my hair, brushing strands of it back from my face. "Jess, we really need to get your hair cut."

"Ma, you need rest."

Her eyebrows knitted together as she continued on, "You know if we got your hair cut…"

"Mom…"

Slowly, my mother's hands dropped to her side. Her smile faded as the expression on her face became a blank stare. It sort of freaked me out. I wasn't sure what to do, really. I've seen her zone out before but not like this. A moment or so passed. The vacant expression is probably what worried me the most. Finally she snapped out of it as if nothing happened. "Supper's ready." Without another word, she turned and made her way back down to the kitchen below.

For a moment I just sort of stood there, trying to grasp what thoughts could have absorbed her so much. Her expression haunted me for a moment longer before I stepped from my room, pulling the door shut behind me and followed my mother down the steps.

From the base of the steps, I followed the small hall into our over sized kitchen. My little brother already sat at the kitchen table. He was always the first one to sit down, the little oinker. As I entered, I could feel my mother's stare. Her haunted expression flooded back into my memory. Goosebumps seeped over my arms and neck; I Ignored it, and made my way past my brother. Pushing my mother's face from my mind, I reached out, messing the mop of red hair upon his head.

"H-ey, leave my hair alone!" It seemed that my mother's haunted expression wasn't the only thing I needed to worry about. I'm sure his glare would have seared right into me if it could.

I looked to my mother as I took my seat at the table. Despite my mood, I couldn't help but suppress a grin. "So, what's for dinner?" Out of nowhere, I felt something attack my feet. To be honest, it scared me - more than it should have. I bent over, peering under the table. There lay a kitten about the size of my hand. It's nails clung to my shoelaces as its large grey eyes implored me innocently. Laughing softly, I reached for the small kitten, pulling it into my lap. "Hey there Nyx, whatchya up to missy?"

"Put the cat down while you're in the kitchen."

"Mom, she's just sitting in my lap."

From beside me there came a squeal. "Jesse! Put her down in the kitchen. You know you're not supposed to have her in your lap or anything. If you don't, she'll hurt you!" Man, I sometimes, I can't stand the sound of his voice.

I looked to my brother. He had this wide-eyed expression. It would have been classic if his lip had quivered, but hey, we can only ask for so much. "Travis. Nyx isn't going to hurt me."

"J-just put her down!"

"Why are you so afraid of her?"

"Jesse, just put her down!" God. He was utterly annoying when he whined.

"Aw. C'mon Travis, why don't ya pet her?" I slid from my chair so that the kitten moved toward him. Before I could get too far Travis screamed, dashing from his chair only to cower behind my mother, sheer terror engraved upon his face.

"Jesse, that's more than enough. Put the cat down this instant."

"He's got to deal with her eventually. He freaks out every time the cat's in the same room as him." I lifted the kitten to my face. Her fur was soft against my cheek. A purr coursed through her body as my nails scratched gently behind her ear. "Nyx wouldn't hurt anyone, would ya Nyxie?"

"Jesse…"

"Yeah, yeah, I know, put the cat down." I set her down. She looked about lazily for a moment before slinking from the room. With a final glance to my brother, I slid back into my chair as my mother placed a steaming plate of food before me. Cautiously Travis inched back to his chair, his attention now drawn to the plate of spaghetti set before him.

I sat there looking at my plate. My mother took her seat across from me with her fork poised between her fingers. "Well, aren't you going to eat?"

Without an answer, I picked up my fork. Come to think of it, I wasn't really hungry but to make her happy I pushed the food around on my plate. Travis had started eating the second the plate was before him and as I looked over to him noting that his face had already been stained with sauce.

Out of the silence, a shrill ring sounded from the other room. I went to stand up but mom stopped me with a glance. "Sit down."

"But the phone's ringing."

"I'm fully aware of that, thank you. Now please, sit down."

I slouched back in my chair, picking up my fork again so that I could push the food around my plate some more. The ringing continued to fill the room until finally the answering machine clicked on. I waited as our cheesy message played. We recorded that when things were good. Everyone was happy then. Now it's just embarrassing. The sound of a girl's voice filled the room. I sent a pleading look to my mother.

"Jesse. Don't even try it. Whatever this girl has to say can wait until after dinner."

At this point, I made big mistake. I threw my hands in the air. Why the hell did it matter when I answered the phone? It's not like I was really eating or anything. Then, when I was least expecting it my mother bounded around the table, taking my arm in a tight grip. Until now, I had forgotten all about my little sketching escapade.

I looked to her. She was bewildered that's for sure. I was thinking about saying something but before a thought could even begin to form, she burst out, "What the hellwere you thinking?!" For some reason I looked to Travis for comfort, praying that he would do something stupid or something to redirect her attention. I had no luck with that. He was too stunned do anything but stare back.

I felt my cheeks burning. Ashamed, I loosened her death grip from my arm, returning it to my lap. But the damage had been done; she had witnessed my crime. "Don't worry about it mum, it's nothing."

"Don't worry about it? How do you expect me to 'not worry about it'? Hmm?" She stood above me; her expression was now not only printed with exhaustion, but with worry. "Who is this girl?"

"What do you mean?"

"Who's the girl?"

"What girl?"

"The girl you did this for, Jesse don't be coy with me."

I said nothing in response. She likes to try and get to know me but when she starts to find out things, she thinks I'm a liar. It's better to just stay silent. Gathering my dishes from the table I made my way past my mother and to the garbage can. Opening the lid I dumped the untouched contents into the bag. I tried to hate her, but I couldn't. She didn't need this, really. Even though I couldn't bring myself to hate her, I made a face to so it seemed that I did as I turned on the water, rinsing my dish and placing it in the sink.

"You know what Jess. I don't have time for this. The world does not revolve around you so stop trying to get so much damn attention."

It was time for another one of those vacant stares in her direction. At first, I thought that I was hearing things but she went on into a rant about how I'm not the only one in the world. I don't know, something like that. I left the room, grabbing the cordless phone on the way out. Climbing the stairs to my room, I punched the redial button and lifted the phone to my ear.

After only two rings, before a girl picked up. My heart started to beat a little faster. "Hello?"

"Hey Bliss."

"Oh. Hey, Jess. What's up? I tried calling just a minute ago and no one answered…"

"Yeah, sorry about that. Mum wouldn't let me answer, we were in the middle of dinner." Reaching my room, I shut the door loudly. I sunk into my bed, my free arm moving behind my head, working as a pillow.

"Sorry. I didn't know."

A moment passed before I spoke. "You're on my arm."

"I'm what?" I could tell she was confused.

"You're on my arm."

"Yeah, I heard that. But 'I'm on your arm'?"

"I carved your name…into my arm."

"You carved my name?"

"Yup."

"…In your arm?"

"Yup."

"Well why'd you do that?"

"Because I love you."

Silence from the other end…

"You there, Bliss?"

"Yeah, I'm still here…"

"Did you hear what I said?"

"Yes…"

"Hey Bliss?"

"Mm?"

"Will you go out with me?"

She made a small sound that I couldn't understand. I let that hang in the air for a moment as a bit at my bottom lip. "I'm sorry, what was that?"

"I said yes."

I couldn't help but grin. "Uh. Are you doing anything at the moment? Have you eaten? You want to do something?

"No, no nothing at the moment. I haven't eaten and I would love to do something."

"Then lets meet at the park in half an hour."

"Okay, I'll see you then. Bye Jesse."

I sat with the phone to my ear in a stunned silence until I heard the dial tone. Turning the phone off I threw the phone up into the air. I jumped to my feet. The phone came crashing to the floor beside me. Before I knew what I was doing, I found myself throwing my arms in random directions. It was a sort of dance you could say, but not a very good one. I have no dancing skills – at all. Anyway, right on the middle of my jig Travis opened my door. His red hair is what gave him away – that and his annoying cackle. I bolted after him as he tried his escape down the stairs.. His screams could probably be heard throughout the whole house while I stumbled after him. "Mom! He's going to kill meeeee!"

I stopped at the base of the steps looking for him. Right as I turned my head, I saw him enter the kitchen. Oh, he was going to get it. I lurched after him, re-entering the room. He was once again cowering behind mom. God, what a freaking baby, he really needs to grow some balls.

"Jesse, what has gotten into you? First you carve some girls name into your arm and now you're threatening your brother. You need to get your shit together."

"Mom, I didn't even-"

"That's enough. Go to your room."

"I can't."

"Oh, and why not?" Her eyebrows lifted far too high, making her almost look like a clown.

"Because. I'm going out. I'll be back later."

"You really think so? And where are you going?'

"On a date."

"You just got ho- wait. You're going on a date? Since when do you go on dates?"

"Since I got a girlfriend."

I can't believe what I was hearing!

"Yeah, who would want to go out with you?"

Anger flooded over me. God. What a fucking bitch. I decided it was time to walk away before I do something that I'll regret. With one last glare, I stormed from the house, my hands shoved within the depths of my pockets.

Ashley Harrison 6