Authors note:

hIt's been a while, but hey, here's the next enstallment :)

hope you like it! This chapter has less drama, but i hope you still find it interesting... let me know =D

- Emmaa x

Chapter Five – Awkwardness

I awoke naturally and cracked my eyelids open to warm sunlight which filtered through the cream coloured blinds. I stretched and pulled back the covers; yawning as I did so. As reached for my crutches (which were leaning against the bedside table) and clasped my hand around them, I noticed my grazed knuckles and was reminded of the night before. Smiling as I remembered how sweet Robbie had been, I caught sight of the bedside clock and sobered up immediately.

"Shit!" I was late for school by an hour already and I still had to have a shower and freshen up.

I hurried as best I could (you know, hobbling and all), but the whole ordeal still took a solid 30 minutes (not including the extra 10 minutes it took me to get down the stairs).

"Oh, Erin, why didn't you call me? I could've helped you down."

"That's alright Mrs Sharpe, I'm alright."

"Call me Jean dear, none of this Mrs business." I smiled at Jean as I walked (hopped) into their lavish kitchen and sat down at the breakfast bar, leaning my crutches on the side where I could easily reach them. "I wasn't expecting you up so soon otherwise I would've had breakfast on the table ready for you."

"That's okay, I don't really have breakfast anyway."

"Oh, well you should you know, it's-"

"-The most important meal of the day." I finished and smiled at her (Robbie's mum was a part time nurse at the local hospital and she only worked 3 days a week), "Yeah I know, but mum and ... Keith are usually busy and I don't want to disturb them and if I make it then I'll be late for homeroom. Speaking of being late, I'm nearly 2 hours late for school?"

(Don't get me wrong, I was very appreciative of her kindness and care, it's just (like I already mentioned) I hate all the attention and along with that, feeling helpless. Right then, I felt both and all I really wanted to do was go to school to make myself feel like I was actually capable of doing something myself.)

"Well we didn't think you'd want to go in after everything that happened."

"Oh. Well, um, if you wouldn't mind, I really like to go in and see my friends. If that's alright I mean." I didn't want to seem ungrateful, especially since Jean was being more of a mother to me than my own at that point.

"That's really fine, are you sure you're up to it?" I nodded with a fake enthusiastic smile (I say fake because although I wanted to see Dean, Clark and Frankie, I still had self pity on the mind... It really is an ugly thing). "I'll drive you in then."

It wasn't far to the school and so Jean and I didn't really talk much on the way.

When we reached the school I said thank you and then turned to get out but Jean spoke before I could,

"You're welcome to stay any time you want you know, you and Carter."

"Um, yeah thanks but look, we don't want to intrude."

"It's no trouble; we've got the room after all." She looked at me with a mix of sympathy and worry and I felt the stirrings of helplessness sir inside of me again.

"We're not a pity case." I replied coldly and then instantly regretted it. "I'm sorry, I-I don't know what came over me." I looked down in shame; Jean had only ever been nice to me. "We really are grateful to you, for all you've done, especially Carter. This whole thing has been hard on him and I think that staying with Robbie is good for him. So thank you, really."

"It's quite alright. Look, I know that you and Carter can look after yourselves, but you don't have to go through this alone." She paused and gave me a look before continuing, "And just so know, I have spoken with your mother-"

"Yeah, I bet that went well." I remarked sourly and then when Jean just looked down I opened the door and stood up, "I thought as much."

"Look, just please consider my offer?"

"Okay. Thanks Jean." She gave me one last worried look before I slammed the door shut and hopped over to the school.

I had to ask the school secretary what lessons I had for the rest of the day (In my hurry to leave I'd left my backpack at Robbie's house) and it turned out that I had double PE and drama.

"Great." I said. The secretary looked at me in sympathy,

"I heard about what happened, the whole town's talking about it you know." (I said that news spread quickly around my town right?) "I'll talk to Andy; I'm sure he won't mind if you sit in on Carter's lessons, just for today." (Andy was Mr Giachi's first name) The thing with having a small town is that everyone is on first name basis with everyone. Which is a good thing, until you're being told off for something bad, then everyone knows who it was and there's no way to get the wrong person.

I'd made it in time to catch the end of 2nd period English but I decided to just wait 15 minutes in the shade under the trees and sketch (I grabbed some paper and a pencil from an empty classroom), after all that had happened, I needed some alone time anyway.

I found myself sketching two figures; one female and one male. They were sitting on a small ledge looking over a glistening river and the male figure held the female one in his arms. It was only when I sketched the faces that I realised exactly what I was drawing; Robbie and I, on the balcony.

I quickly scrunched the page up; I was supposed to figuring things out, not making them more complicated. I sighed and put my pencil down and then carefully unfolded the paper and stared at it remembering as I did, Robbie's warm and comforting embrace the night before. I shut my eyes for a minute just remembering, but snapped them open at the sudden noise of a twig breaking.

I looked up at my other best friend Clark. (Clark was over 6ft tall and had shaggy light brown hair with these amazing green eyes that I'd always thought were actually rather beautiful.)

"Sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you, I just saw you come in so I told the teacher that I wasn't feeling to good." He sat down beside me and turned to look at me. His stare was intense and I refused to meet his eyes. "I heard what happened, you alright?"

I nodded but my hands balled into fists; scrunching up the piece of paper in my hands even more. I decided to stuff it in my pocket to save it from further torture.

"Erin?" Clark was still studying me intently; he knew something was up that wasn't just my injured leg.

"My mum didn't even know that I w as missing." I replied through gritted teeth, "She didn't care, didn't even come to see me in the hospital once Carter told her." Although I acted tough and like I could handle everything on my own - without my mum - on the inside I was a wreck; I still needed someone to look after me, to care for me.

Clark's dad was the town sheriff and that was how we first became friends; my mother was arrested for drunk driving and I was in the car so I went to the station too. I'd hung with Clark – I was only about 7 at the time - until my dad had come to collect us both. So Clark and I were pretty close; he'd always known about my mother's issues. There was only one thing he didn't know about my personal life, and that was Keith. He knew who Keith was; just not that he... hurt me.

Clark didn't say anything but I felt him watching me as a tear slid silently down my cheek; he knew when to give me space and I loved him for that.

"Oh my God Erin!" I heard Frankie yell from about 20 metres away and I quickly wiped the tear from my face; it's not that I didn't want Frankie to see me crying, it was more that Frankie had always thought I'd had the perfect life (what with her own parents ignoring her most of the time) and so I was usually the strong one. It was weird; almost as if Frankie needed the sympathy and attention we gave her and I couldn't steal that away from her. Frankie was a good friend, she knew when I was upset and she comforted me, it's just sometimes I felt like she treated her needs above mine.

"Are you okay? I can't believe you missed my party!" Like then for instance; she didn't even wait for me to say whether I was okay or not, just moved straight onto herself. Again.

She pulled me to my feet and grabbed me in a hug. Clark was giving me a sympathetic look - he understood how Frankie made me feel – and he mouth 'you okay?' I nodded and mouthed back 'thanks'.

"So, how was the party?" I asked lamely; I wasn't really interested but I knew that it'd keep Frankie talking for ages which is definitely what I needed; a distraction.

"Oh, My God. We have a lot of catching up to do..." She started to go on and on about everything that had happened; Samantha kissed George (although, to be honest I saw that coming) and it turns out that Robbie and Carter still showed up even though I hadn't had the chance to tell them about it. Frankie was still going on about the party when the bell rang. She gave a quick hug and hurried off to P.E (we had the same timetable, except I took drama and art and Frankie took textiles and IT), I said a quick goodbye too and then headed off to the art block where I knew Carter had his next lesson.

I was actually looking forward to it, to loosing myself in my art, it helped me to deal with stuff and right then, I had a lot to deal with.

I turned the corner and opened the door; the art block was separate to the main building of our school. I hopped the short distance to the art block and lifted my hand up to open the wooden door when it sprung open outwards, hitting me in the process. I gave a startled yelp as I was knocked off my feet.

"Oh yikes, I'm so sorry... Erin?"

"Hey Robbie." I brushed my hair out of my face as he held out a hand and pulled me up.

"Are you okay? I was in a rush I didn't see you-"

I cut him off, "I'm fine." We stood in an awkward silence and I contemplated just saying I had to go, and then Robbie opened his mouth,

"So, I never knew you took art?"

"Um, yeah. I've always done art, my uh..." I coughed awkwardly, "Dad taught us – Carter and I – ever since we were little. It's kinda soothing, I guess." I sounded like such as idiot.

"Cool." At least I wasn't the only one.

I smiled at him, "So, I just wanted to say thanks, for last night and I'm really sorry, I'm not really sure what came over me." I gave a nervous laugh and then looked at my feet thinking 'what the hell are you doing?'

"It's fine, really." He was looking around too, both of us avoiding each other's gaze.

"Well, I guess I better go, I was late for running practise anyway."

"Right." I smiled at him as he turned to go, "Bye."

He gave a sort of half laugh and then walked away. I stood for a second, just staring at where he was. I swear, it was the most awkward situation I've ever been in.

I finally turned to open the door –again – but was stopped short when Robbie's voice called back to me,

"Hey, um Erin?"

"Yeah?" I turned to face him and saw so I saw when he picked up a small scrunched up bit of paper and slowly unfold it.

"I think you dropped something..." My eyes widened and my hand quickly slapped to my pocket; empty. I looked back at Robbie in alarm and saw that he was holding a crumpled piece of paper, one that I must've dropped. I was going to call out to him not to open it, but as soon as I opened my mouth, he pulled back the paper's edges; I cringed and prepared myself for a lifetime of embarrassment.

"Um, yeah it-"

"Wait..." I held my breath, "No, it's just Mark's math test, sorry, I just saw his name on the top. I'll give it back to him. See you."

"See you." I mumbled back and – finally – opened the door, majorly confused. I'd been sure that I'd put the paper in my pocket.

I walked into the art room and apologised for being late. The teacher just thought it was my injury and gave me a bucket load of sympathy, to which I smiled like I appreciated it and although I did, all this attention was making me feel sick.

There were only 6 others in the class and I found a seat by Carter.

As I sat down Carter dropped a paint brush. I leant down to pick it up for him and as I did a piece of screwed up paper fell to the floor. I picked it up curious and found myself staring at my picture. I remembered then that I had never checked the other pocket, only my left one.

I smiled and handed back the paintbrush to Carter.

"You're looking surprisingly happy." Carter stated with an amused look upon his face.

"Yeah," I pocketed the drawing – this time making sure to pull the zip – and suddenly felt a whole lot better, "I guess I am."