Chapter IX

"Why? How?" I managed to get out. I had to know. I had to find the part where Tave's lie didn't match up with reality. I had to know that he was lying.

"You'd like to know how your family and friends put you in here with me? Very well. But remember, it's your choice..."

Hearing that it was Jeremy and Derek and Braydon that let me be taken up here to this house was just about all I could take. The news almost killed me. I couldn't take it. You know, learning that the three people you love more than yourself, the people you love most in the entire world, would put you into torture for any reason is probably good enough reason to die. At least, in my mind it is. I couldn't comprehend it. And the story behind why they did it...well, see for yourself:

The story Tave told me made me completely rethink my entire past and my entire future. It was so obviously false that it had to be true, if you know what I mean. It was that bad.

He told me not to worry, that my brothers didn't think that I was being hurt at all. He said that when we were all younger, Tave was their best friend. He used to live next door, and he would come over and play all the time. He loved playing with me when I was a baby, and he would come over every day just to see my brothers and me. We grew up together. Or, at least, Derek, Jeremy, Braydon, and Tave did. I was still very young when everything happened.

I was only six at the time. Braydon was eight, Jeremy was ten, Tave was eleven, and Derek was twelve. when they discovered something that completely flipped their worlds upside down. Technically, it was all Tave and Derek. They were out messing around in the park. You know what normal teenage boys do. Derek was pretty calm and reserved back then, apparently. Tave, on the other hand, was a wild child. He hung out with the wrong kinds of people to piss off his parents. He got into trouble constantly. He loved it.

A little bit of background about Tave: He was born in England. His parents left England and came to America when his dad got a job over here, and his mother never forgave him for dragging her to America. When Tave was ten, his mother left them and went back to England. He hasn't seen her since, and he always blamed his father for it.

Anyway, he messed around to get back at his dad for making his mum leave him. He and Derek were the closest friends out of all of us. They did everything together. That day in the park, Tave had found a bit of alcohol (orange flavored vodka, actually) that his dad had left lying around in his house, and he brought it out to try. Naturally, the boys got a teensy bit drunk. First time trying alcohol and all. And they decided that they liked the feeling. Thankfully, Derek knew better than to try too much of the stuff, so he was, at the time, more clearheaded than Tave was. They were stumbling around the forest at the time, so it was a very good thing that he wasn't full-blown drunk, just a bit tipsy.

They found a hole via one very drunk Tave disappearing into it. Inside this hole was a long tunnel, and when the boys tried to follow it, they found a rather large workshop. This workshop was filled with metals and radioactive substances, and there were USA emblems on all of them. The boys left it alone that day, but they didn't forget about it. Derek hauled Tave's backside up and home, and then the next weekend, once Tave was ungrounded, they went back to see what it was.

The boys managed to put two and two together and figured out that this workshop? It was a nuclear weapon facility. The government was making nuclear weapons right under our noses. Now do you see what I mean when I said that it was so fake it had to be true? No one makes up stories about finding secret government operations like that. And, strange as it is, I remember my brother coming home so shaken up. I had gone over to him and given him a hug to try to make him feel better, and when I asked him what was wrong, he told me that I shouldn't ever trust the United States. Of course, being six at the time, I didn't know what that meant.

Later that week, Tave's father died from alcohol poisoning. Tave was devastated. When the government came around asking after him, trying to put him in a foster home and all, Tave refused to let them do this. Tave's father was a government official, which was why they came around. Tave let something slip about the nuclear workshop, and they tried to take him into custody. This was when Tave came and hid at our house. He played with me every day. But eventually, he had to move on. He told Derek what he was doing, and Derek promised to help him however he could.

A few years ago, Tave contacted Derek from wherever he was then, and told him about what he was doing. (Of course, Tave didn't actually tell me what he was doing, just that he was doing something.) And he asked Derek to bring my brothers and I along and come help him out. Derek obviously refused, and they had some big fight about it. Tave swore that he would do whatever he could to protect us towards the end of the fight. And then Derek didn't hear from him until just recently.

You can see how vague Tave was being with me. I have no idea what this fight was about, nor why Tave did what he did. I didn't know anything other than what I just said.

"Tave, if you were such good friends with my brothers, why did they never talk about you? Why don't I remember you? I should remember you, shouldn't I? If you were around since I was born?" I asked, confused. It wasn't like my brothers to not talk about a dear friend of theirs.

"I made some mistakes. Your brothers weren't so happy about those mistakes. We stopped talking. I did some things that they probably won't ever forgive me for," he said. "I don't know if that answers your questions, but that's as good of an answer as I can give you."

"So what does this have to do with anything?" I asked. "Why am I here, if you guys don't even talk anymore? I mean really, what the hell, Tave?"

"I wasn't the only one who did some things that I regret. Derek and Jeremy did too. They did some things so horrible that I won't even talk about it. Even I would never do anything like that. I just so happened to find out about them, and when they went too far, I threatened to tell people about these things," he told me. "Your brothers didn't like that. They did everything they could to keep me from talking. They threatened me, but I ignored it. I knew they wouldn't do anything to me. Why should they? I was their best friend. And if they did anything to me, I would return the favor, and they knew it. They did everything. Finally, they swore that I could have anything they could give me that I wanted if I kept my mouth shut. I agreed to that, and then I disappeared for a few years."

"And then when you contacted them recently, you told them what you wanted, right? And, for some reason that I'll probably never understand, you wanted me, right? I swear, you're crazier than I thought you were," I remarked.

"And don't you forget it," he replied. "But don't worry. I may be crazy, and I may not tell you everything, but I do have best interests at heart." He stood up then and walked to the door.

"But whose best interests are those?" I called after him. I may not be the brightest crayon in the box, but I had caught that he hadn't said whose best interests were at heart. He looked at me and left. And I was left alone again.

It was only for a few brief minutes, though. Tave would never be so stupid as to leave me on my own like that. No, he wouldn't want to do that. Psh. So I was only alone for a moment before none other than the man in the window came in. I stood up quickly and backed away from him.

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. No. Don't even come near me. I want someone else. Get away from me. Right now. Get away from me!" I started screaming. He only grinned.

"What, you don't remember me either? Sunshine, I'm hurt. C'mon, we can walk and talk, yeah?" he said. I stared wide-eyed at him. This man, more than any of the others except maybe Tave, frightened me. Not only was he creepy, but he was probably clinically insane, and also about ten years older than me, even though he didn't really look it. Everyone else here was. No wonder I was so freaked out all the time. It was my internal "Creepy old guy" alert that was going off all the time. I mean, a seventeen year old girl stuck in this huge house with a whole bunch of men who were way older than she was. Yeah. Yeah. I know.

Anyway, Creepy Guy grabbed me by the arm and started towing me out into the hallway. He stopped once we were around a corner and pushed me up against the wall and leered in my face. I smelled booze, but it wasn't coming from his mouth. It was like he was sweating out the stuff. Gross, nasty, disgusting, awkward, the world doesn't have enough words to describe how thoroughly and completely utterly disgusting that was.

I stared up at him with what I thought was a defiant look on my face. It was like I was daring him to try something. Seeing how far I could push him like I had been doing with Tave. Praying to God that he wouldn't kill me or worse.

He smushed his lips on mine hard, and I pushed him away, wiping my mouth on the back of my hand and running for my life all at the same time. I had no clue where I was running to, of course, but I just had to get away. I heard his heavy, thumping footsteps behind me, and they were too close for comfort. So I ran faster until I collided with a solid wall of well-sculpted chest and hard arms. Struggling, I looked up to see Tave's angry face looking down at me.

"Sunshine, will you never learn?" he asked.