November 30, 2011
By XOLovegood, Hopkinton, Massachusetts
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XOLovegood, Hopkinton, Massachusetts
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Co-captain of the 6-0 varsity football team, and only a junior. Straight-A student with all honors classes, and favorite amongst the teachers. Popular and liked by both under and upper classmen, not to sound too conceded. I look like everyone else in Forest Springs. 5 foot 11, with regular brown hair and eyes. The only reason why I have some muscle is because of football training. Not only do I, Derek Kingston, situate myself near the top of the high school hierarchy but achieve good grades, and am almost guaranteed for all types of scholarships. Every once and a while, a college scout will come to a game an interview me, and I’m sure that they are putting me on some sort of list.
Second child of four. Second, and last, boy in the family. For seventeen years I have been squished into a three bedroom house. Only two more years until I can move out into college and get a dorm of my own. That is, if by child three, my family can still afford a college education for me. That’s where my scholarships come in handy.
At home I’m secretly known as the golden child. No one has ever mentioned that phrase before, but deep down inside, I know they are thinking it. I’m not as notorious as my two older siblings though. When I’m compared to my college drop-out sister, Lisa, who has a two year old son, I look like a young Einstein. Even when people talk about my older brother and I, Paul, he cannot measure up. He barely made it to senior year this time, and almost had to redo junior year. Again. So he is eighteen, but still a junior. My younger sister Maya is pretty average. She is thirteen, and in the seventh grade.
Usually I don’t care who I work with when assigned a project, because I’m friends with everybody. That also means working with a loser, a druggie, or nerd every once and a while. Although, there is this one kid that particularly gets on my nerves. Luckily, I’ve been able to avoid him throughout my academic life so far. Nevertheless, all good things must come to an end, and in biology today, he was my assigned partner.
Jeff Rhineston. Only child of the richest family of Forest Springs, Massachusetts. He has a mansion, with wrought-iron gates and servants. Basically anything and everything you can think of, he has it. He is essentially royalty! Not to mention, champion JV wrestler for our school. And, I have to go to his house to work on our project. For twelve years, ever since kindergarten, I have been avoiding him, his family, and his house. It really sucks. It's so predictable too, which is even worse. I'm going over, we'll "work together", he'll be texting, I'll be researching. I'll put his name on the paper, and we will both get good grades, even though I did all the work. Unfair much?
So at the end of the day, after enduring block math and an agonizing physics class, I threw my bag and books into the back of my own old, "gently-used,” 1970's Nissan. $1000, for sale by owner. I had saved all the money I every earned since I was twelve to pay for it. I even bought a brand new radio with the money left over. I was brought up with the idea that things are always better if you pay for it yourself. I think I have proven that theory wrong. I got in, shoved the key into the ignition and turned on my brand new radio.

It took me around 10 minutes to get to Jeff’s house, or should I say mansion. As I drove into the mansion, a silver box started to talk.
“Who are you here for?” A voice cackled over the intercom.
“I’m here to work on a project with Jeff. My name’s Derek.”
“Okay, hold on,” The massive wrought-iron gate swung open, “come in.”
“Thank you.”

I pulled up next to the fountain, and parked my car. As the doorbell echoed through the house, I began to feel nervous. Before I could think too much, the doors creaked open, and a tall, bald man came into view.
“Are you here for Jeff?” He asked.
“He’s in his room. Third floor, second corridor, fourth door on your left.”
“Thank you.”

Their house was dark and dim, almost medieval. There was a coating of dust on every surface, like nothing has been touched in years. There was barely any light down any hallways. When I reached his room I apprehensively knocked on the door.
“What? Who is it?” He yelled.
“It’s me, Derek. I’m here to work on our Biology project?”
“Oh. Well, come in.”

As I opened the door, the first thing I saw was a colossal bed, with only Jeff on it. I followed his gaze to an equally big television. This was going to be a long day.
“Do you mind if get started?”
“Yea, sit, whatever.”
“Do you have a laptop? Or a computer?”
“Of course, it’s over there, by the hot tub.”
Oh of course, because everyone has a hot tub.
While I made myself at home and tried to figure out his $2,000 Macbook Pro, he settled himself back down on his Temperpedic bed and resumed his video games. Surprise, surprise. I set up the paper, and got our project started. Two hours later I was finished with my- I mean ‘our’ lab report. And yet, he was still playing video games. Despite the fact that I was doing all the work, I applaud his advancement in Gears of War. It is a particularly difficult game, and he got pretty far in a short span of two hours. I am so bored! I was done with the report, and since I planned not to make any kind of conversation with Jeff, I was left with nothing to do. I was really curious to what a house this size could contain, and was left with a growing interest.
“Hey Jeff?”
“Hold on, give me a sec...yeah? What’s up?””
“May I use the bathroom?”
“Sure, there’s a guest bathroom down a flight, first hallway, seventh door on the right”
“‘Kay, Thanks.”
“Yea, whatever.”

As I wandered through the corridors I counted numerous doors and hallways, that all looked the same. I felt like Hansel. If I didn’t leave a gingerbread crumb trail, I could get lost very easily. On the second floor, around the third or fourth hallway, near the tenth door, I heard a faint sob. I inched my way as stealthily as I possible could have down the hallway. As I neared the end of the hall, the crying became louder, but still very delicate. It sounded like a girl, but I know Jeff doesn’t have any sisters. I came to the very end of the corridor and I paused at the last door. I tried to peek through the door, but it was too dim. I urged the door open just a bit and to my surprise there was a frail, small girl that looked about my age. She was huddled in the corner, surrounded by cleaning supplies. She was dressed in dirty jeans and a dingy shirt. I nudged the door open a little too much, because she abruptly stood up and turned away grasping for the mop.

“I- I’m sorry. I- I’m cleaning. I’m sorry! Pl- Please, I’m sorry.” She whimpered between sobs.
She was beautiful. Despite the clothes and the dirt. But what was a gorgeous girl like her, doing in a mansion dressed like that? She was around my age, but I have never seen her in school. I had to ask her, it was all too bizarre.
“What are you doing here?”
She spun around, her eyes wide.
“Who are you? You shouldn’t be here!”
“I’m Derek. I go to school with Jeff. Who are you?”
“I’m-I’m, I’m no one. No one important.”
“Well every one's important. What’s your name?”
“What are you doing here, Mae?”
She simply looked at me. I could tell she was contemplating either answering me or ignoring me.
“I work here, I’m their, um, maid.”
“How old are you?”
“Me too. Where do you go to school?”
“I‘m home schooled.”
“Oh, okay. Why don‘t you go to public?”
“I don’t go to public school because I’m their maid. They told me when I was first brought here, that I don’t deserve to go to public school.”
“When were you first brought here?”
“When I was eight.”
“Why do I have to answer you? You don’t know me! You don’t know anything about me! Just please, go away!”

And like that she collapsed, and started to cry. I didn’t know what to do. It’s true that I didn’t know her, but she looked like she needed someone. I knelt beside her and wrapped my arms around her. To my surprise, she leaned her head against my chest and continued to weep. We stayed that way for who knows how long. As her crying started to cease she pulled away and studied me.
“I was brought here because my parents were killed, and I had no where else to go. The Rhineston’s are my family. Mrs.and Mr. Rhineston are my godparents. They didn’t want another kid, so they made me their maid.”
I wiped the tears off of her perfect, smooth, olive-toned cheek. I didn’t know what to say, so I simply hugged her, and started to stroke her back.
“Why are you doing this, Derek? No one talks to me, no one comforts me. I’m invisible here.”
“I hate to see a beautiful girl in pain. I can’t stand it.”
“But why do you care about me? I’m not beautiful.”
“Yes you are, Mae. You’re gorgeous.”
“Thank you.”
Then she curled up, and leaned against my chest again. She started to cry silently once more, and her shoulders were trembling. I held her for what seemed like hours. A while later, her crying stopped, and I heard her breathing steady. She fell asleep in my arms. After reviewing what had recently happened in my head, she started to stir again. I thought she was waking up, but she started thrashing around, and started to yell,
“Please! Please stop! Don’t do that! No!! Stop! Jeff, stop!”
I had no idea what was going on. She seemed to be having a nightmare, but I froze. I started to shake her, but she wouldn’t wake up. Her cries were getting louder. I shook her more violently, but she still wouldn’t wake up.
“Mae, Mae, shh! Mae, please wake up!”
“Jeff, stop. Please, Jeff, get off of me. No! No, Jeff stop!”
I started to panic. I grasped her by her shoulders, and shook her harder. That seemed to do it. Her eyes shot open. They started to widen, and I could tell she was startled.
“Mae, it’s okay. You fell asleep. You started to screaming, and I figured you were having a bad dream, so I tried to wake you up. But you are a heavy sleeper. I’m sorry.”
“What did I say?”
“A variation of, ‘Please, stop. Jeff, get off me. No! Stop.’ Stuff like that.”
She stood up and started pacing. I didn’t know what she was doing. So I got up also, and took her by her waist.
“Mae, are you okay?”
“No! No, Derek I’m not okay!”
“What’s going on? Do you- do you want to talk about it?”
I had no idea about how to handle this. She studied me once more. I think part of her wanted to tell me. She only had to convince her whole self I was trustworthy.
“If I tell you, do you promise you won’t tell anyone else?”
“Of course! You can tell me anything.”
“No, what am I doing. I don’t know you.”
“You’re right. You don’t know me, but if you give me the chance to get to know me, I can help.”
“I don’t know…”
“Please? You can trust me.”
“Do you promise? Not to tell anyone?
“I swear.”
“Well then, I was raped. By Jeff.”
I released her, turned around and started heading for the door.
“Derek! Derek where are you going?”
“To go beat him up!”
“No! Derek you can’t!”
“Why not? He hurt you! He deserves it!”
“You can’t because he said if I ever tell anyone, he’ll really hurt me and beat me worse next time!”
“Next time? Mae, how long has he been raping you?!”
“Frequently, for the past five years.”
“Mae! Why are you letting him do that to you?”
“Because I have no choice, Derek! He and his family own me! They have the right to do whatever they want to me. I have no power. Like I said, I’m invisible.”
“Come on, we’re leaving.”
“What? Me? What are you doing?
“I’m getting you out of here! You can’t live like this Mae! You don’t deserve it.”
I took her by her wrist and led her down the corridor.
“Derek, you can’t. I’m their property. You’d be stealing! You could get arrested.”
“You’re a human being, not an object.
This took a minute for it to sink in. I know she wanted to leave. She needed to leave. She shouldn’t be living like this. She doesn’t deserve, not that any human being deserves it, but especially not her. Now she needed to see that. I could tell she wanted to leave, but a part of her wanted to stay.
“Mae, please. You need to get out of here.”
“Mae!” a voice bellowed from down the hallway, “We need you to clean the kitchen and make dinner.”
“See? That’s why I can’t go! They need me!”
“No, they don’t. Mae please come with me.”
“I don’t know Derek. I don’t think I can.”
“Mae, you have to! Jeff is treating you like crap, he can’t keep doing that to you.”
“I can’t just leave them Derek! They are family, after all.”
“No family would do that.”
“You don’t understand. They adopted me, even though they didn’t have to. They rearranged their lives for me. The least I could do is stay and help.”
“Mae, you don’t owe them anything. They’ve hurt you in so many ways, especially Jeff. You can’t keep living like this. Please, Mae? Come with me?”

I could tell by the look in her eyes that part of her wanted to leave. She was right though, the Rhinestons were family. A cruel family, but family nonetheless. She felt like she needed to stay because they took her in.
“I don’t want to make you do something that you do not want to do. But I strongly suggest we leave. I can drive you to my house. You can stay there with me, and I won’t let anyone hurt you anymore. I promise.”
She sighed, “Promise?”
“All right, I’ll go.”
“Great! Do you want to pack any of your stuff, or…”
“I don’t have a lot, but do you mind if I take it with me? Because, I don’t need it-”
“Of course, let’s go. Where’s your room.”
“Um, one floor up, down the hall from Jeff.”
“Hm, okay. We have to be quiet though.”
I followed Mae down the corridor and up the flight of stairs. The entire house was dimly lit and we were almost halfway down the hallway when we passed Jeff’s room. It was eerily quiet. He jumped out and seized Mae. He gagged her with a towel so she couldn’t scream. I tried to grab her, but the next thing I knew, Jeff punched me and I was on the ground. I turned around to see Mae cowering in the door way. Jeff yanked her up by her shirt and dragged her into the room and slammed the door. I got up and tried to open the door, but it was locked. I looked around the hallway and noticed my backpack propped against the railing. I filed through my backpack and found a paperclip, and ran back to the door. After jiggling the lock, I got it to open and kicked open the door to find Mae, naked on Jeff’s bed, with him on top of her, raping and hitting Mae. She was still gagged and now had her hands tied behind her back. She was crying and kicking, but Jeff was too strong for her. He was able to hold her down with one arm, and still abuse her with the other. Mae saw me out of the corner of her eye, and her face turned bright red like she was embarrassed. Jeff was still oblivious. I crept behind him, which was very disturbing by itself, and took the 900 plus page Biology book we were supposed to be using and smacked him on the head with it. He turned around, but was too slow. I punched him with all my strength, in the face and knocked him out. Behind Jeff was Mae. She was still crying, and curled into a ball. I slowly walked over to her. She grabbed the blanket and wrapped it around her, still crying.
“I-I-I’m sorry.”
“Why are you sorry? You didn’t do anything wrong. Come here.”
I pulled her in, and wrapped my arms around her. She leaned against my chest and sobbed. Jeff moaned and stirred.
“Mae, I hate to interrupt this, but we might want to get going before Jeff wakes up.”
“Yea, okay,” she sniffled and began to move, “Um, Derek.”
“Do you mind…”
“What? Oh! Yea, sure. Of course.”

I turned around while Mae got redressed. I thought about what had just happened. Not many people witness something like that. I was deep in thought when Mae tapped the back of my shoulder. I turned around and saw her standing there, fully clothed. Then I looked at her, really looked at her, past her beauty; I saw a girl, full of fear, covered in bruises, who flinches at physical contact. All because of what Jeff did to her. I brushed a stranded piece of hair out of her eyes. Her eyes were huge and full of fear and sadness. Jeff stirred again and started to move.
“Mae, let’s go.”
“Sure. Come on.”
“Do you want to go to your room and get your stuff?”
“No, I’d rather not. I want to get out of here.”
“Are you sure? I mean… if we do it quickly we can-”
“No, I just want to go.”
“Lead the way.”

I followed her down three flights of stairs, and down the back hallway. The back was even darker and mustier than the lobby. It was obvious that no one really used this back corridor. All the doors had locks on them, and looked like they required some type of old fashioned key. We walked for what seemed like forever when we finally reached the back door.
“Where did you park you car?”
“Um, over by the water fountain. Why?”
“We need to get to your car, undetected. I’m not allowed to leave the house. At least from the front.”
“Do you want me to drive the car back here?”
“No, that would be too obvious. I’ll follow you to your car.”
“Okay, right this way.”

We crept along the side of the house and made it to the driveway. My car was, luckily, on our side a couple feet away. We ducked down and sprinted to the car. Mae got in the back seat and crouched down behind the passengers seat under a sweatshirt. I got into the drivers seat and started up the car. We drove right out of the mansion with no problems. After I turned the corner and was a safe distance away from the Rhineston’s, I pulled over, and let Mae get out. She got into the passenger seat and smiled.
“I thought I would never get out of there. Thank you so much.”
“It was no problem. Do you, um, do you still want to live with me and my family?”
“Do you want me to? Because if you don’t, I could always find somewhere else.”
“Of course I want you to live with me. I mean, us. Will you? Please?”
Her smile grew, “I would love to.”

We drove to my house, listening to the ‘New Hits’ station as we went, talking about life outside the mansion. It turns out that Mae never left the mansion since she arrived as a child. We talked about different restaurants and stores that are popular amongst teens. We also talked about different songs and artists, malls, and school.

“Should I try to go to public school?” Mae asked, “I mean, Jeff. If he sees me, he might try to, um… I don’t know.”
“Do you want to talk to the guidance counselor? I can come with you.”
“If I do, then she will turn me into Social Services since I’m not eighteen, and they would take me away. Trust me, I’ve thought about it.”
“Hmm, you’re right. We could, um, I don’t know either. We can talk to my parents about it. If you want, we don’t have to tell them.”
“No, I think we should tell your parents. If they are being nice enough to let me stay with you, they have the right to know why.”
“Yea, okay. You need clothes, and school supplies and all that too. Do you want to go to the mall to get you some of the basics?”
“I have some money with me. The bonus of being the maid. I don’t have much, but I think I can pay for at least half.”
“Mae, it’s fine. We can pay for your stuff.”
“No! I’m already burdening your family by moving in with you. I don’t want to have your parents pay even more for me.”
“Half? At least let us pay half.”
“No, if you really want to spend money, at least let me spend what I earned until it runs out.”
I sighed. I knew she wasn’t going to give up very easily.
“Fine. Can I come with you? To shop? I totally understand if you don’t want me to come with you.”
“Can you? I would really appreciate it. I don’t know who else to go with, and I feel comfortable with you.”
“Really? Well, when you put it that way. Certainly, I’ll come.”
“Thank you.”

We finally reached my house and pulled into the driveway. As I opened the door, I saw what every normal house usually looks like. My oldest brother, Paul, was on the couch, and my younger sister in the kitchen talking with my mom. When Mae and I both walked in and Paul pounced on his chance to humiliate me.

“Hey! Well look who it is! Derek! And who might this lovely, young lady be? Are you guys being safe?”
Mae’s grasp on my wrist tightened, and I could tell she was getting nervous.
“Paul! Shut up! Mae, this is Paul, Paul, Mae. You can ignore him. I usually try to.”
“Well, that wasn’t very nice, Derek. Are you going to apologize to your older brother?”
“No, follow me, Mae.”
We turned the corner and headed to the kitchen. As soon as we walked into the kitchen, whatever conversation between my mom and my sister, Maya, stopped dead. They both looked at me, then at Mae, then back at me. I returned the look which hopefully translated into something like, ‘I know, I can’t believe it either.’ Mae squirmed beside me, so I took that as my cue.
“Mom, this is Mae. Mae, that’s my mom and my younger sister Maya. Mom, can we talk to you in the basement for a second please?”
“Sure,” my mom replied, “Is everything okay?”
“Uh, yea. Everything’s fine.”

Mom took the lead and we followed. Once the basement door was shut, she turned around and gave me a stern look, waiting for an explanation.
“Mom, this is kind of weird to ask, but... can Mae live with us? Please?”
“Live?” She repeated, obviously not expecting this, “like, permanently?”
“No, if you don’t want me here permanently I can find somewhere else. I don’t want to feel like a burden.” Mae interjected.
“May I ask why?”
“Mae, do you want to explain it? Or me?”
“Can you? I don’t think I am able to without crying.”
“Okay, here we go. So, you know I went over to Jeff’s to work on our Bio project. After working for a little while, I had to go to the bathroom and wandered down the hallway, trying to find the bathroom. That’s how I found Mae. I passed a door when I heard her sobbing. I opened the door and saw her on the floor crying. I was able to get her to talk to me and tell me what was wrong. She told me that she was, umm, she told me that Jeff had been raping and abusing her frequently for the past five years. I then convinced her to leave the mansion, promising to let no one hurt her anymore and offered her to stay with us. She said okay and we went to go pack her stuff. While we were walking to her room, Jeff jumped out of the doorway and grabbed and gagged her. He punched me, and dragged her into his room. Later, I was able to open to the door to find Jeff abusing Mae.”
Mae started to cry and I hugged her and held her close. I started to comfort her, when I heard a whimper from my right. I look up to see my mom starting to cry.
“I knocked Jeff out with a textbook and helped Mae sneak out. I brought her here, hoping you would understand and let her stay. She’s only seventeen, so if anyone finds out they can call Social Services and take her away, and I couldn’t do that to her.”
“I have some of my own money, so I can pay for my own stuff,” Mae added between sobs, “I can also get a job to continue to pay for whatever expenses I cause.”
“No, sweetie,” My mom choked out between her sobs, “Of course you can live with us. No one should have to live like that. And don’t worry about the money, we can take care of it.”

She tugged Mae out of my arms and into hers. Mae was stiff, and still nervous. But Mae was staying with us now, and I could at least keep an eye on her and make sure she is safe.
“Mom, don’t take this the wrong way, we’re not going to do anything, I want to make sure she is okay; can Mae and I sleep in guest room for the first couple weeks?”
“By all means. I trust you guys. Mae make yourself at home.”
“Thank you so very much Mrs. Kingston.”
“Please, sweetie, call me Nancy.”
“Oh, Mom, is it okay if Mae and I run to the mall tomorrow to get her some stuff? Just the bare necessities: clothes, girl stuff.”
“Yes, yes of course. Do you need any extra money? Of course you do. I’ll give you some tomorrow. I need to take it out of the bank.”
“No, it’s fine Mrs.-uh, Nancy, I have some money. I can take care of everything I need. I don’t want to bother you.”
“No, please, let me give you guys for money for something. How about for lunch?”
“All right mom, that’s fine. I’m going to help Mae get settled in.”
“Okay, dinner’s at 6:30 tonight. Is chili okay with you guys?”
“Sounds perfect, err, Nancy.”

We parted ways at the top of the stairs and I led Mae to the guest bedroom. In the bedroom was a queen size bed, perfect for two teens, a desk with a swivel chair, and a television. We stayed in our room for the rest of the night, eating dinner while watching classic movies like Elf, The Lion King, and Napoleon Dynamite. Sometime during Finding Nemo, she fell asleep in my arms. At that moment, I felt like nothing else in the entire world mattered but her.
The next morning when I woke up, Mae was not next to me. I rolled over and still did not see her. I started to worry. What if Jeff came to take her during the middle of the night? I doubt he knew, or cared, where I lived. I got out of bed to look around the room. It looked like someone cleaned the entire room and folded the clothes. When I opened my door to ensure that Mae was still here, I heard voices coming from downstairs. As I turned down the staircase, there sat my entire family and Mae in the kitchen. Once she heard me, she got up and cautiously walked over to me.
“I’m sorry,” Mae said, “I’m used to getting up early. You looked so peaceful while you were sleeping, so I didn’t want to wake you up. I heard your mother downstairs, so I came down here to talk with her. I’m sorry.”
“Oh, no it’s fine. I couldn’t find you this morning, and I got worried. That’s all.”
“Are you guys going out or something?” my brother asked, “Because, Mae, you can do so much better.”
“That’s saying something, Mr. 20-year-old-junior.”
“Hey, we said we would never hold that against me. It’s not my fault junior year is hard!”
“Whatever. Mae, do you want to head to the mall? It is currently eleven. It will probably take us a while to shop for everything you need.”
“Okay, we can head out. Thanks for breakfast Mr. and Mrs. Kingston.”
“I need to get ready, do you want to meet upstairs?”
“I also need to get ready. I’ll come with you.”
When we reached the guest room, we each knew what we were going to discuss, but neither of us knew how to approach it.
“So, are we going out?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Do you want to?” She replied.
An uncomfortable moment of silence passed. I took her reply as a ‘no we are not dating.’ But somewhere, I felt like I wanted her to be my girlfriend.
“Mae, I know we haven’t known each other for long, but would you like to go out me?”
“I would love to Derek! I’ve never dated anyone before, so sorry if I am a bit, well, awkward at first.”
I let go of the breath I had been holding. I hadn’t realized that I didn’t breath. I was too worried that she would say no. She laughed as I lured her into a hug.
She and I were both dressed, fed, ready, and out the door in a matter of about 30 minutes. I was nervous, but also excited, and I could tell she was too. As we drove to the mall, we listed the things that Mae might need. As it turns out, she was paid about $20 every day for the past ten years- give or take a day. But since the Rhinestons never let her leave the house, her only option was to save every penny she had ever earned or found. The total ended up around $75,000. Luckily, she always kept her money with her, so we did not have to break back into the mansion. How she was able to keep all that money with her at all times was beyond me. It did make sense though, Jeff does seem like he would steal money.
“What do girls my age wear?” Mae asked as we walked into Old Navy.
“Umm, regular clothes, I guess. Jeans, leggings, dresses,” I glanced to my right to see a group of girls with very short skirts, “Some more skimpy that others. It depends, what do you want?”
“What do you want me to wear?”
“Whatever you feel comfortable in.”
She pulled out a white dress with flowers all over it.
“What do you think? Does it look good on me?”
“Anything you wear will look beautiful. You could wear a cardboard box and still look stunning.”
She gave me annoyed look and let out an exasperated sigh.
“I’m sorry. You really do look beautiful in that dress. Why don’t we get a lot of clothes, and you can try them on. You’re going to need loads of clothes, but you also don’t need to get everything here.”
Mae and I ended up sending about $500 and 3 hours at Old Navy. Over the next 4 hours we went to Forever 21, Pink, Target, Friendly’s for dinner, and Kohl’s after dinner. Being barely able to see out of the back of my Nissan due to all shopping bags, we made it back to the house at roughly 8:30. It took us another 3 hours to unload and put away the clothes, but it felt more like an hour. We laughed and talked about all sorts of things. Both of us were so tired, we collapsed on the bed and fell asleep in a matter of minutes.
The next morning, I woke up to find Mae curled up on my chest. For once, she looked so peaceful and relaxed. It was 7 am on a clear Sunday morning. It looked unusually sunny for a November morning, and I could already tell it was going to be a good day. I got out of bed and repositioned Mae, making sure I did not wake her up.
For the next two hours, I surfed the net. I checked Facebook, played a couple games, and did the homework I hadn’t done yet. Right around 9 o’clock, Mae woke up. She stirred for a while, then finally rolled over.
“Good morning, Derek. How did you sleep?” She asked groggily.
“Pretty good, how about you?” I answered.
“Good. I never knew shopping would be that tiring, but it was really fun. Thank you for taking me.”
“Of course Mae! You needed the stuff.”
I got up to sit next to her in bed.
“Do you want to go to the school today? To get you registered? That is, if you want to start public school. I mean, I would feel better if you were in public school so I could always make sure you are safe.”
“Are you sure? I think school would be fun. Isn’t it too late enroll me?”
“No, it’s only November. Oh, here’s a good question, do you have your birth certificate and all that stuff?”
“Yes, believe it or not, I have it with me.”
“Really? Are you serious?”
“Yes! When I was around 10 or 11, I was cleaning the basement, when I found a box labeled with my name on it. I opened it and found some official documents, belongings that my parents left me, and a copy of a will. My parents apparently left me money, but the Rhinestons took everything that my parents passed down to me. I dug through the box and found my birth certificate, my social security number, and other papers. After that I kept everything that I thought that I would ever need in a small purse inside my shirt. Eventually, I learned to keep my money in there too. Jeff had a tendency to steal my money for his drugs and alcohols needs”
“Isn’t that illegal? Can’t you sue them or something?”
“No, I‘d rather not. It would just cause more trouble”
“Oh, okay. Anyways, we should talk to my parents about the whole school thing. They might have to come. I doubt it, but you never know.”
By the time we reached the kitchen, most of my family was already done with breakfast.
“Mom, Dad. Can we talk to you?” I asked.
“Sure, what’s up?” My mom answered.
“Mae and I were thinking that she could start public school. We were going over to the school today to talk with the guidance counselor. She has all the paperwork she might need: her birth certificate, social security number, all that.”
“Mae? Is that all right? Were you home schooled before?”
“Yes ma’am. I would love to go to school with Derek. It sounds fun. It is true, I have all the official documents.” Mae replied.
“What’s your full name Mae?” My dad asked.
“Mae Rose Collette.”
“That is a beautiful name,” my mom exclaimed, “When’s your birthday?”
“March 20th, 1994,”
“Isn’t that-”
“The first day of spring? Yes, yes it is. Spring time has always been my favorite season.”
“That’s so interesting!” My dad said intrigued, “Do you want us to come with you? We probably should.”
“Yea, you guys can come. We should probably leave soon though. The paperwork will most likely take a long time.”
We discussed more on what the principal would possibly ask. After we talked for an hour about what Mae should expect, we left for the school. Mae was very fidgety and I knew she was anxious.
“Shhh,” I whispered, “It will be fine, Mae.”
“I know,” Mae whispered back, “I’m just a little bit nervous, that’s all. “
"It will be alright. The staff is really nice."
"Do I have to tell them... everything?"
"I, um, I don't think so. You shouldn't have to."
"But what if they ask about, I don't know. What if they ask about my parents? What do I tell them? If I tell them they're dead, they will probably mention Protective Services."
"Guys," my dad interjected, "We are at the school. Do you want to keep talking about, whatever you are talking about? You can continue to talk in the office."
"I think that is a better idea than simply winging it." my mom said.
"We will be in the office, and I'll call you if we need you to talk to the principal." I said
"Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Kingston" Mae squeaked.
"Of course, dear. Good luck, hope all goes well!" my mom exclaimed.

The high school was practically deserted on a Sunday afternoon. Everyone was at home, avoiding school at all costs, dreading the 7 am alarm. The only people there when we walked in were the faculty, and even then, there were not that many. The receptionist gave us a shocked look as we walked in. Apparently, not a lot of students come here on the weekend.
“Who do we talk to if Mae wants to start school here? The principal or the guidance counselor, or both?” I ask.
“You would have to talk to both,” the receptionist responded, “But you have to talk to the principal first. Mr. Williams is right in there.”
She gestured to the office, so we followed. I knocked on the door, and heard a faint voice.
“Come in!” Mr. Williams called out.
“Are you ready, Mae? Do you have everything?”
“Yes. I hope so.”
The office somewhat resembled a prison cell. The walls, ceiling, and floors were an off-white. All the furniture was the same color, a faded pine that needed to be polished. The only color came from a generic peppy poster that supported school spirit. Mae and I sat in chairs that appeared comfortable at first, but were solid as a rock when we actually sat down.
“What can I help you guys with today? Is there an issue?” Mr. Williams asked.
“Is it okay, if I, um, want to start school here?” Mae squeaked.
“Of course! What’s your name?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m Mae Collette.”
“Hi Mae, I’m Mr. Williams. I’m the principal here. Were you home schooled, or are you transferring?”
“I’ve been home schooled.”
“Are you’re parents here?” She looked at me like she just noticed I was there, “Who are you? Do you go here?”
“Yes, I go here. I’m in 11th grade. I’m Mae’s…boyfriend.” I chimed in.
“Oh, okay. And Mae? Are your parents here? I might have to speak to them.”
“No, my parents are not here.” She murmured.
I put my arm around Mae. I could tell she was apprehensive and timid about this subject. She was getting very fidgety.
“Are they out of town?” Mr. Williams pressed on.
“No. They’re, they’re dead.”
Mae started to whimper, but caught herself.
“Oh, I’m really sorry, Mae.”
“Am I still allowed to go to school here?”
“Um, are you living with anyone? Or are you on your own?”
“I’m living with the Kingstons. But the Rhinestons adopted me. Do you need them here?”
She shot me a worried look. If they ever knew she was here, and that I, for all intents and purposes ‘kidnapped’ her, it- well, it would not go over well.
“Do you have any official documents? Like your birth certificate, social security number, even your passport would do.”
“I have both my birth certificate and social security number. I haven’t been out of the country, so I don’t have a passport. I’m sorry.”
“If you have everything you need, I don’t think you need a parent here. It would certainly be easier, but I entirely understand if you don’t want to bring the Rhinestons in. If you are under 18, then you required to go to public school. Parent‘s consent would be preferred, but not necessarily required”
It turned out that we didn’t need the Rhinestons to come in, and everything went over smoothly. Mr. Williams and Mae were able to go over all the terms and documents. I sat there watching Mae, making sure she was okay. The parent matter subsided, and Mae was able to relax. They discussed testing to determine what grade she would start. Since she was home schooled by the Rhinestons and was considered only a maid, I was anxious that her previous education wouldn’t be that good. If she wasn’t a 11th grade level, I wouldn’t be able to watch out for her. She would be all on her own in public school for the first time.
Next was the guidance office. Mae was now officially enrolled, and now we had to figure out her schedules and level of classes. After talking with Principal Williams, it was concluded that Mae would shadow me tomorrow. Her test would Tuesday. That gave me some time to go over what she has learned, and what she hasn’t. I just hope she’s been getting a good education so far. There is no way I can teach everything I’ve learned in the past 3 years in 1 day.
The guidance office was a burst of color compared to the Principal's office. The rug was a dark blue. The walls were some shade of red, the furniture was a mix of purple, wooden, or tan. There were posters hung up all around the room promoting college, SATs, and abstinence. The guidance counselor was Mrs. Philips. She was an older woman, around her mid-fifties. I’ve talked to her before, once for a check-in, and a second time to ask about moving down to average math. She was very nice and calm, two great traits for a high school guidance counselor.
“Hi Derek! How can I help you guys?” Mrs. Philips asked.
Her gaze flickered between Mae and I, and I tell she was already forming the wrong conclusions about us. She motioned to the rack of pamphlets. Some were about drugs and depression, but the pamphlets I could tell she wanted us to pay attention to were the ones about safe sex, teen pregnancy, STDs, and numbers to call if someone ‘needed to talk’. I understand why Mrs. Philips would think that though. A teen couple walks in, the girl with a troubled look, seeking guidance on a secluded Sunday afternoon.
“We just finished talking with Principal Williams, and Mae is now officially enrolled here.” I told Mrs. Allen.
“You must be Mae then! It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Mrs. Allen said as she shook Mae’s hand.
“You too. Thank you.” Mae said softly.
“So how do you know each other? Are you cousins?”
“Mae’s my girlfriend.” I said.
“Oh, okay,” Mrs. Allen remarked, obviously not expecting that answer. “What grade are you going into Mae? 11th? Were you previously home schooled, or are you transferring?”
“I’m in 11th grade, and I’ve been home schooled.”
“Okay, so what did Principal Williams say? Are you going to shadow Derek tomorrow and take the test later this week?”
“Yes, Mr. Williams said I should take the test Tuesday, after I go to school with Derek.”
They went on to talk about school, and different courses. Since Mae hadn’t had a ‘proper’ schooling, she chose all average courses. Which is good because I’m in all average level courses to. The plan was that she and I would be in a couple class with me. We aren’t sure which classes yet. Since Jeff was in my biology class, she definitely won’t be there with me. It also depends on how well Mae did on the test, and what level courses she can take. As far as electives went, I would be band, and Mae would be in art. The moment she saw that art was offered, she was sold. She didn’t even have to look at what other electives were.
It was 4 o’clock when we finally left the school. My parents left around one when I called to tell them they didn’t need to come in. Mae and I decided to walk downtown to the local pizza place. The food honestly wasn’t that good, but they still made so much money anyway because of it’s location. Everyone went there, especially on early release days. It made for a great hangout place. The walk down is not that bad. It’s about a good 20 minute walk. All we talked about what actual high school is like: the unspoken rules between grades, the lunches, and other need-to-know facts on how to survive high school.

We spent the next 3 hours together, simply talking about life. Mae told me more about living with the Rhinestons. She told me about Jeff, and life as a maid. I told her more about public school, and some of our fellow juniors. I suggested who to stay away from, and who to befriend. By the time we left the restaurant, Mae had gotten the entire life of a high schooler in a nutshell. She was anxious about tomorrow, as I expected, but she was also very excited.

My mom picked Mae and I up around 7 o’clock. Mae was exhausted, and almost fell asleep during the car ride. When we finally got home, we went straight up to our room and got ready to sleep. After we were done getting ready, I turned on Aladdin. Mae had said that, while growing up, she had never seen a Disney movie. She and I made a deal that every night, before we would fall asleep, we would watch a movie. Usually, Mae never made it through the entire movie, but I never brought it up. Tonight wasn’t any different. About thirty minutes in, Mae was curled up on my chest under two layers of blankets, with her arms around my waist.
“Good night, Mae. I love you.” I whispered in her ear. I gave a kiss on her forehead, and fell asleep thinking about her.
Next thing I knew, it was 6 am. The dreadful alarm clock went off, and give it’s obnoxious ring. Before I could even think of turning it off, the ringing stopped. I heard very delicate footsteps amble towards the closet, then out the door. I turned over to find that Mae was gone. She must have turned the alarm off. I heard the faint sound of rain coming from down the hallway, and realized it was only the shower. I didn’t think it was humanly possible to move that fast in the morning. Just when I thought I was still awake, I felt someone shaking me.
“Derek,” someone whispered, “Derek, wake up. It’s 6:15.”
I opened my eyes and saw Mae sitting next to me. She was already showered and dressed within 15 minutes. It usually takes me roughly half an hour to get out of bed and dressed, let alone showered.
“How did you get ready so fast?” I mumbled.
“I’ve had to get up at 6 every morning at the Rhineston’s. They wanted me downstairs and ready to work by 6:30, so I’ve learned to get ready fast.” She smiled and laughed as she took off the covers.

The rush of cold air forced me to get out of bed. I dug through the closet to find jeans and a t-shirt. I got dressed and ready while she waited patiently. 15 minutes later, we were downstairs eating breakfast with the rest of the family. I was excited for Mae to be coming to school with me today, but she seemed really anxious. She was shaking like a chihuahua, but I didn’t know whether it was from her nerves or her excitement.
At 7 o’clock, Mae and I left for school. It was a short drive, only about 10 minutes. It took a little bit longer because it started to rain. Neither of us said much. I was still waking up, and Mae was probably becoming more nervous the closer we got to school. As I parked my car, I took her hand.
“Mae, it will be all right. Do you trust me?”
“I do.”

I opened her door, and helped her out of the car. As I took hold of Mae’s waist to help her out of the car, I pulled her into my arms instead. When I looked into Mae’s eyes, I didn’t see a girl who has been abused in the past. I saw a beautiful girl who wanted to be truly loved. I brushed a piece of stray, wet hair out of her eyes. Rain was trailing down her cheek. I wiped it off, only to have it replaced by another drop. The way the raindrops stayed on her eyelashes only made her look more beautiful. I hadn’t known her long, but I do know that I love her. I leaned down, and our lips met. And when they did, the whole world stopped. My heart pounded, and it became hard to breathe. My head became fuzzy, and the only thing I could focus on was her. It felt so natural to be kissing her, like we were meant to be. She wrapped her arms around my neck, and I could feel her lips curl into a smile. The rain was cold, but it had a sweet smell. It started to rain harder, and the wind started to pick up, but it didn’t bother me. I moved her in closer to me to shorten the gap between us to keep us both warm. Part of me keeps saying that this won’t last long, but the majority of me, mostly my heart, is saying to never let her go and keep her close. I kept thinking about how perfect this kiss felt until Mae pulled away after awhile. At first I was nervous, I hope she felt the same way I felt about her. I relaxed after she hugged me tighter and whispered in my ear.
“I love you, Derek. I really do.”
“I love you so much more, Mae.”

I put my arm around her, and we headed for the school. We still had time before school actually started, but I wanted to show her around. Not that it was a large school, it was actually quite small. There were three floors, each with three hallways branching off. About 700 kids attended Forest Springs High. The faculty consisted of only about 30 teachers, a few janitors, librarians, and cafeteria workers. Even after I gave Mae the grand tour, we still had time to kill. By then, other students had just started to arrive. We sat at my locker, talking about what the day would be like. With my arm around her waist, she told me about her favorite and least favorite subjects. She was excited for English and Biology, and nervous about Math. As soon as she finished talking about how she felt about different subjects, Adrian showed up.
Adrian Lewis and I have been friends friends since either of us could remember. Our Moms had been friends before we were born and still to this day. We grew up together. He’s also on the football team with me. There are only six other lockers between us, considering our last names are close to each other in the alphabet.
“Hey Derek? What’s up, man?” Adrian called out.
“Not much, you?” I replied.
“I am so tired, and I really don’t want to be here right now.” He said as his eyes glanced between Mae and I.

I stood up, then helped Mae get to her feet. She was starting to shake again, and I could tell she was nervous. I put my arm around her, hoping that might calm her down a bit. It didn’t help.
“Adrian, this is Mae. Mae, meet Adrian.”
“Nice to meet you, Mae. Are you new here?” He held out his hand.
“You too. I’m only here to shadow Derek for the day. Officially, I’m starting Wednesday or Thursday. ” Mae said, returning the handshake.
“I’m guessing you’re seventeen? You’re going to be a junior?”
“If the test goes well, yes.”
“So how do you two know each other? Are you related?”
“No,” I interjected, “Mae’s my girlfriend.”
“Really? Out of all the guys you could possibly meet, you chose Derek?” He laughed.
“Yeah.” Mae said nervously, obviously not knowing how to handle Adrian’s comment.

Thankfully, a couple of my other friends showed up. Behind Adrian was Zoey, Jaclyn, and Chris. I’ve been friends with Chris and Jaclyn since elementary school. Zoey transferred to Forest Spring Middle School, and almost immediately blended in. She was very confident, and she introduced herself to my friends and I the first day of school. Chris and Jaclyn have been going out since freshman year. It was awkward at first, since we had known each other for so long. But once we all got passed that stage, everyone realized how perfect they were for each other. So well, it was kind of strange. I hope Mae and I are like that.
“Mae, this is Chris, Zoey, and Jaclyn. Guys, this is Mae.”

We had the same conversation as before, and again when Erik and Chase showed up. Mae slowly started to become less shy, and she began to talk to everyone. Everything was going well, and I had a good feeling that this was going to turn out all right. Mae was laughing and smiling, and her happiness was all that mattered to me.

The bell rang, and soon our large group of friends had dispersed. Mae and I were heading to Math. She took my outstretched hand, and off we went. The classroom was on the second floor, all the way down on the last hallway. The actual room resembled a prison cell, much like the Principal's office. There were no posters, nothing that even mirrored the slightest bit of color. The walls, ceilings, and floor were all the same bleak white color. The teacher wasn’t there yet, so I guided Mae towards two desks in the back of the room. In front of us were Sam and Chris. I’ve know both of them since elementary school as well. Mae and I did the same introduction we’ve been doing. Finally, the teacher showed up, and everyone stopped talking at once.
“Good morning class. I hope everybody had a wonderful weekend!” When no on responded, Mr. Parkers continued on.
“Just give me a minute to start roll call, and then we will get started!”

Math class seemed shorter than usual. I don’t know if it was because Mae was there, or the lesson was easy. The next few periods flew by. They came and went rather quickly, until it all came to screeching halt at physics. With Mae with me, I’d been having the best school day I’ve had for a while. That all disappeared when we walked into the classroom to see Jeff in the front row. He didn’t notice us at first, so we quietly walked behind him. As Mae and I settled down, Jeff turned around. His reaction was slow, and it took him a while to realize what was going on. The moment his dense brain realized what was going on, he became enraged. It seemed that it took all his strength for him to remain calm. He played it cool, and acted like it was no big deal.
“There you are, Mae,” Jeff teased, “I’ve missed you.”

Mae froze, and her breath caught. I looked up to find the teacher, but she wasn’t there. Jeff sauntered over and brushed his hand against Mae’s cheek. By now the entire class was watching them. She stared straight ahead, trying not to glance up.
“Why did you leave, Mae? Wasn’t I treating you well? I guess you didn’t appreciate all my family and I did for you. We adopted you, and took you in when no one else would. We gave you everything you needed, and yet you still left.”

Her eyes flickered to me for a brief moment, then back at the wall in front of her. They were wide with fear and starting to water. She opened her mouth, like she was going to say something, but no words came out. The rest of the class loved what was going on.
“Jeff,” I said as I got up, “Leave her alone. She-”
“Who asked you, Derek? What are you, her bodyguard? She’s seventeen, practically an adult. You can do what you want, can’t you, Mae?”
“Exactly, Jeff. She decided to leave. You can’t control a human.”
“She’s mine, and I want her back.”
“Mae’s not an object, she’s a human being. And like you said, she can do what she wants.”

At the sound of her name, Mae stirred in her seat. I watched as a single tear slid down her beautiful cheek. Just as I thought I built up enough courage to hit Jeff, the teacher walked in. I looked back down at Mae. She had brushed the only tear off her cheek, and was still staring at the blank wall ahead of her. All I wanted to do was to hold her, and tell her that she will be okay. When the teacher finally turned around to write the agenda on the board, I leaned over towards Mae and kissed her cheek. She jumped back in her seat as I put my arm around her, clearly not expecting it. She looked up at me with her beautiful teal eyes. They were full of fear and anxiety.
“Mae, it will be alright. We’ll tell Mrs. Allen you can’t be in the same physics class as me. I love you. I-”
“Derek?” Mrs. Jacobs called, “Who is this that you’re talking to. Would you like to introduce her?”
“This is Mae Collete. She’s shadowing me for the day.”
“It’s nice to meet you. I’m Mrs. Jacobs. Welcome to Biology!”
“Thank you.” Mae murmured.

I didn’t pay attention to any part of the class that day. I was too preoccupied with making sure would be safe in school. Knowing Jeff, he’d do something extreme. I was nervous that Jeff would do something to hurt her. Who knows what goes through his head. I was so fixated on my thoughts, that I barely heard the bell, signaling the end of the day. Everyone instinctively packed up their stuff and headed for the door, wanting to get as far away from school as possible. Mae and I followed everyone out of the room. I reached for her hand, and guided her through the maze of students back to my locker. I put my stuff away as quickly as I could. I wanted to talk to Mae, but during school wasn’t the place. I slammed my locker door, and reached for her hand again. We walked to the back of the school in silence. Once we were on the soccer field, I pulled Mae into my arms, and held her tight. I felt her shoulders tremble, and her breath started to stagger.
“I’m so sorry, Mae. I forgot Jeff was in that class. I’m sorry.” I whispered.
“It’s okay, Derek. If it’s any one's fault, it’s mine. It was just so embarrassing. The entire class saw that! Why did he have to do that? I thought- I don’t know. I thought he would do something else,” and within seconds, her anguish turned to hatred, “ I hate him! I hate what he did to me! I hate that I didn’t do anything about it!”

She began to cry even harder. I lied down on the grass and tugged her shirt, pulling her down with me. We stayed there for awhile. I let Mae cry and yell- whatever she needed to do to get what she was feeling out. At 3, we left the school and headed home. We talked about what happened today. Mae ended up really liked school. She had a good time during lunch, and meeting my friends. We also discussed her test tomorrow. I was still nervous about it. As it turned out, Mae had one of the best tutors in the state of Massachusetts. Despite how awfully they treated her, Mae explained, the Rhinestons wanted her to be able to help Jeff if he needed it. God only knows how much he did. But because of their purely selfish reasons, I knew Mae would do fine on her test. So instead of studying, which was probably the better idea, she and I watched another Disney movie. As usual, Mae fell asleep half-way through. Right before she fell asleep, I leaned over and kissed her goodnight.
“I love you, Mae.”
“I love you too, Derek.”

That night, we fell asleep with our hands intertwined in the glow of the television.

The very next morning, Mae and I woke up and got ready in a matter of minutes. We ate a quick breakfast and left for school. We sat by my locker, and talked until people started to arrive. Zoey, Erik, and Chase were the first to appear. Mae stayed close to me for the first couple of minutes, but once Zoey started to include her in their conversation, she started to open up. By the time the bell rang, she was laughing and talking along with everybody else. We wove in and out of the crowd as I walked her to the guidance office. Before I left, I wished her good luck and kissed her goodbye.

School seemed to drag on and on. I started counting the hours and minutes until I could find Mae. I thought about her all day. I wondered about her, her test, how she was feeling, and how much I missed her. The last bell finally rang, and I rushed down to guidance to see her. While I was scanned the room, I finally saw her in the back of the room reading a book.
“Hey, love.” I whispered in her ear.

I walked behind her, and put my arms around her stomach. She looked up at me, and I kissed her. It was just as perfect as our first kiss. She moved closer, and I held her tight. We would’ve continued to kiss, if Mrs. Allen didn’t interrupt us. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her watching us. She cleared her throat, and continued to watch us. Mae jumped back, startled, as if she had been caught doing something worse. She turned bright red, and crossed her arms over her stomach.
“Hi, Mrs. Allen.” I said.
“Hello, Derek,” She replied, “How are you?”
“I’m good, thank you. How are you?”
“Good, thanks.” And just like that, she left as abruptly as she appeared.

I turned to Mae. Her face wasn’t as red as before, but faded instead to a pink. I put my around her waist and steered her out of the office.
“So, Mae, how did the test go?”
“It was so easy! I was so worried that I wouldn’t know anything. But I knew everything on the test! Mrs. Allen said we could come early tomorrow for my scores. Part of me is still a little bit nervous, but definitely not as much as I was before.”
“That’s great! I’m so proud.”
I bent over, and gave her a quick kiss on her cheek. She glanced up at me and smiled. We finally got to our car and left the school. Mae got her stuff ready for tomorrow as I did my homework. Even when she was done, she sat down in the chair across from me and patiently waited for me to finish. It was about two hours before I was finally done with all my homework. I finished putting my stuff away, when I glanced up, Mae was staring at me with an expectant look on her face.
“Can I help you, Mae?”
“Oh, um, I was just wondering if we could go to the bookstore.”
“We can go now if you want. We don’t really have anything to do. Let me just leave a note for my mom.”
On the drive over, Mae explained to me why she loved books so much. The Rhinestons never let Mae read any books. Little did they know, Mae had started to take Jeff’s chapter books when she was cleaning his room. She was able to read and return them before he ever noticed. Gradually, she taught herself how to read anything, from Mrs. Rhineston’s romance novels, to Mr. Rhineston’s sci-fi and fiction books. She went on and on about all different genres and facts about authors that I never would I have guessed.
The only bookstore in town was a couple of miles away. It was a small, family-owned business. They didn’t have the greatest selections of books, but for a small town like Forest Springs, it’s perfect. By the time we got to Chapter One, it was 5 o’clock. The store owner was a frail old man. The store was disorganized and messy, because the man’s wife had died long ago. She would always keep the store clean and intact. When we walked in, Mae’s face reminded me of a kid in a toy store. Her eyes sparkled, and she looked overwhelmed. She all but ran to the young adult section. She started to pick up books one by one, read the back of it, and then put them back where they belonged. Mae seemed entranced by every word she read. It was nice to see her be able to relax, and enjoy something for once. About half an hour of silence passes, and she was still captivated by all of the books. I made a mental note to bring her to Barnes and Noble one day. Then rethought it, figuring that if I brought her, I might not ever see her again. Unless she was on a leash, but I don’t know how well that would go over.
“Mae,” I murmured, but she didn’t seem to hear me.
“Mae.” I said a little bit louder, still no response.
“Mae.” I repeated.

This time, I tapped her shoulder. That finally got her attention.
“Oh, I’m so sorry! Were you saying something?”
“No, it’s fine. I was just wondering what you were thinking about. You haven’t said anything in the past 30 minutes. I’m just making sure you are okay.”
“I’m good, thank you though. We can leave, if you want. I’m done.”
“Are you sure? I don’t mind staying her longer. It’s fun watching you.”
“No, no. You’re probably bored out of your mind! I’m so sorry! I didn’t even talk to you!”
“Mae, seriously, it’s fine.”
“Well, okay. I just have to pay for a couple of books I picked out.”

And by few, she meant 10. I don’t have any idea how she will be able to finish all these. It appeared that each book she picked out had to be, at least, 800 pages or more. I’ve never read more than a 200 page book, and that was for school. I’m too busy to read. I know that’s a lame excuse, but it’s true. Between school, football, and my demanding social life, I barely have enough time to sleep! I followed Mae to the checkout ‘counter’, if you can call it that, and held her as everything rang up. We thanked the old man and left for home. On the way home, Mae described each book she had bought. Honestly, I had my mind on other things. I thought about her, school, and Jeff. Ever since biology, I’ve had this awful feeling something is going to happen to Mae. Maybe I’m just being paranoid? I don’t know, but I hope I’m wrong.

Dinner was already ready when Mae and I got home. I could tell Mae wanted to go upstairs, so I brought two plates of spaghetti, and situated ourselves on the floor. I turned on The Little Mermaid, and we ate. This time, Mae had been able to stay awake throughout the entire length of the movie. Once we were finished with both dinner and the movie, Mae got up and started to get ready for bed. I sat back, and watched her pace back and forth between the mirror and her closet, deciding what outfit to where to her first official day of high school. After the cliché, girlfriend-tries-on-a-plethora-of- different-outfits-while-the-boyfriend-sits-back-and-compliments-her-on-every-outfit
montage, Mae finally decided on a simple dress and leggings. I instantly remembered that dress. It was the first one she had picked out, the white one with flowers covering it. The entire outfit made her look more beautiful than she already was. It made her blue eyes stand out against the white cloth and her skin glow.
She was studying how she appeared in the mirror when I snuck up behind her, and hugged her from behind. She tilted her chin up, and we kissed for the third time. I twirled her around, and held her closely to me. Right now, I was the happiest teenage boy in the world. I’m standing in my bedroom with the most gorgeous girl, and not only are we kissing, but she loves me back. That’s all I could ask for. As we were kissing, something that felt like a rain drop hit my arm. I remembered our first kiss, and that it was out in the rain. But now, we were inside. I opened my eyes and pulled away after I realized she was crying. She turned her head, and crossed her arms over her chest again. I was afraid she was mad at me for kissing her again. I didn’t know what kind of boundaries she had, and if I had overstepped them.
“Mae! What’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
“Why do you love me, Derek?”
I took a step back in shock. I was not expecting that.
“I don’t get it. What do you mean?”
“When I was at school today, I noticed the other girls. They’re all prettier than I am, and- and, oh, I don’t know. They’re different. I’m different.”
“Mae, don’t even say that about yourself. You’re right. You are different, but in a better way. You’re more beautiful, and smarter, and-”
“No I’m not, Derek! You know what’s happened to me! Why do love me despite what Jeff has done to me. I’m damaged, Derek. No one wants anything damaged. You know what happens to damaged items? They are left unloved until they are thrown away, never to be looked at again.”
“Mae, stop it. Look at me. You are beautiful, and you’re not ‘damaged’. Yes, you’ve had a...difficult past, but I love you no matter what has happened. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Not one person is the same. You are so special and unique, especially to me. It breaks my heart when you say that.”
“I’m sorry, Derek. All my life I’ve wanted someone to love me the way you do. But now that I have you, I feel like it’s too good to be true. I feel like this is a dream, and soon I’m going to wake up any minute now and lose you.”
“You can’t get rid of me that easily, Mae. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.”

That night, she cried herself to sleep. Before I fell asleep, I thought of what she said. Jeff had done this to her, and I hated him for it. So many times, I had thought of hurting him, just to get back at him. Lately, my dreams had been either had been about Mae, or hurting Jeff in some way shape or form. I stayed up even after Mae had fallen asleep, just thinking about her. I hate how she thinks she’s not worth it. I wish she could see what I see. I don’t know what it is with girls and comparing themselves with each other. No one is the same, and yet they all try to look like one another. Jeff had done this to her, and he will pay. I’m too sure how yet, but he will. I just hope he doesn’t do anything to Mae anytime soon.

As usual, the 5:30 am alarm rings. Mae reluctantly dragged herself out of our bed. She picked up her clothes and left for the bathroom to change. I then convinced myself to get out of bed. Mae was the only motivation for me to do anything lately. I figured she would be in the bathroom for a while longer, so I started to change. I just finished putting my jeans on and was still shirtless, when I heard the door creak open. I heard a faint gasp, and the door close again.
“Mae, it’s fine, you can come in!”

She hesitantly opened the door this time. Her face turned red again as she studied me. We both smiled and started to laugh. I grabbed her, and started to pick her up.
“Derek!” She shrieked, “Derek! Put me down!”

She continued to shriek and laugh as I spun her in circles around our room. She laughed even harder as I tripped, and we both collapsed on our bed. Once Mae caught her breath, she rested her head on my chest. We stayed like that until 6 o’clock. Only then did we move, and it was only because my mom yelled up to us. We each had another quick breakfast, and we left for the school. Mae was so excited to get her schedule and actually start school officially. As I parked my car in my designated spot, Mae practically leaped out of the car, and came around to my side to open my door.
“Excited much, Mae?” I asked, shoving the keys into my backpack.
“I really want to get my scores and my schedule! I hope we are in a couple classes together. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t see you for a whole six hours!”

She seized my hand, and almost dragged me across the the lot. She regained her coolness as we entered the school, until we walked into the guidance office.
“Good morning, Mrs. Allen.” Mae sang.
“Mae! Hi! Are you here for your scores?” Mrs. Allen replied.
“Yes! Do you also have my schedule?”
“They are both here. I’ve recommended you for all honors classes, except for AP Biology. You were very close to becoming a senior, Ms. Collette. Whoever your previous tutor was must have been a very good one.”

Mae blushed, and reached out to take her papers. I could tell she wanted to rip the envelope open right there and then, but remained calm.
“Thank you very much, Mrs. Allen. I appreciate you doing all this in a short amount of time.”
“Of course, Mae. I hope you like it here. You can go open it now. I can tell you are very anxious to.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Allen.” I chimed in.
“Oh, Derek. I sent an email to your teachers and Mae’s to excuse you 5 minutes early from each class. Mae’s going to need help finding her classes.”
“Thank you. I didn’t even think of that!”
“No problem. Mae looks like she is going to burst with excitement. You can go now!”

Mae waited patiently until we sat down at my locker to open her packet. The minute we sat down, she tore open the envelope and took out the papers. She looked over her test, and smiled in satisfaction. Mae handed the test to me, and then surveyed her schedule. Her scores for Math, Science, and English were above junior level, and the scores for History and Spanish were just above average for juniors.
“Derek? Can I see your schedule for a moment, please?”
“Sure, let me just find it.”

I had to dig into the depths of my backpack to find it. Land of broken pencil halves, gum wrappers, scattered pen parts, and the discarded perforated edges of lined paper. Finally, I found it next to a chewed up pencil.
“Here you go.”
“Thank you!”

I was so happy that she wouldn’t be in my Bio class. I began to think of people I know in that class.
“We are in Honors English, History, and Spanish together. I have AP Biology when you are in...Band. I have Art when you have Wellness, and I have Wellness when you have...Math, and I have Honors Math when you have Honors Biology.”
“It’s A day today, right?”
“No, it’s B day. I’m pretty sure.”
“What class is first today?”
“We have English with Mrs. Campbell.”

The day went by perfectly. Mae never got lost, and she started to making friends in all the classes we’ve had so far. It was 3rd period, and I left early from Band to find Mae. We walked hand in hand down the hallways and up the staircase. The Arts wing is separate from the rest of the school. I was grateful that Mrs. Allen gave me 5 minutes to walk her to and from classes, since it’s going to take me that much longer to walk back to Wellness. We barely made it to the art room, when the bell rang. I hugged her goodbye, and watched her walk into the classroom. It was a lonely walk back to gym, and at the moment, I realized how much I loved Mae. I couldn’t wait for this period to end. Gym was always my favorite class, and I was good at it. But today, my mind was wandering. I was thinking about Mae as usual, but also about football and homecoming. Since I was co-captain, it was somewhat expected of me to bring a date. I was planning on asking Mae to go with me. I’ve been racking my brain to find some way to ask her. The minute the clock signaled 5 minutes from the end of the period, I was excused. I briskly walked toward the art room and waited for Mae.
The bell rang as soon as I got there. Students started to file out of the room in groups. I kept a look out for Mae. She finally emerged from the room talking with two other girls. I recognized them both. They were juniors, but I’ve never talked with to them before. Adelaide was the one that was talking. She had blond hair and blue eyes, much different from everyone else at Forest Spring. Annalisa was trailing behind them, with a preoccupied look on her face. Annalisa was fairly new here too. She’s in my gym class, but Chase has told me about her, and I have a feeling that he likes her. She had short brown hair with blue eyes. She always had this look about her, like something was not quite right. Maybe it was the combination of hair and eyes, I don’t know, and it’s not my business anyways.
“Bye guys!” Mae said, “I’ll see you in Wellness, Adelaide. See you tomorrow, Annalisa.”

She turned to me and smiled. She reached for my hand, and we left for Biology. On the way to the room, it dawned on me that is was 4th period already, and 4th period is lunch block. Biology had the 1st of 2 lunches, which started when the class starts.
“Mae, ready for your first official lunch as a student?
“What?” She gave me a dazed look, then realized what I meant, “Oh yeah! It’s 4th period. I can’t wait!”

We turned around and headed for the cafeteria. The cafeteria, or The Café as most students called it, was fairly large for the amount of students it can hold. Our school’s color are blue, gold, and white, and the cafeteria clearly reflected those colors. The walls and ceilings were white, the floor was blue, and the moldings and window panes were painted a sicking yellow that was made to look gold. On the way in, we passed by a table set up to promote the Homecoming Dance.
I spotted some of my friends sitting at a table at the far end of The Café. The lunch tables resembled the small ones made for toddlers, but ours are bigger. They were basically big, plastic picnic tables. We greeted everyone and took our seats. We all talked about classes, teachers, and everyone had fun describing different aspects of our school to Mae. She sat there and took everything everyone said to heart. She nodded and laughed at everything required of her. Jaclyn was rambling on about different levels of the junior class. Erik was talking about different sports she could join. A girl I introduced Mae to, named Rachel, was babbling about what the football games are like. Rachel, Zoey, Adelaide, and another girl in our group, Lisa, are all cheerleaders. Rachel mentioned that Annalisa might be trying out for cheerleading, too. Erik, Chase, Sam, and I are on the football team. Chase is the quarterback, I’m the running back, Erik and Sam are linebackers. The rest of the people in our group are scattered amongst different sports, clubs, and hobbies. It’s an even balance, and the people who don’t play come support the ones that do.

The bell signaling the end of lunch rang, and everyone dispersed. Mae and I took our time walking back to our history room. Lunch block flew by, as did all the rest of the periods. Everything worked out fine, and Mae continued to find all her classes. On the drive home, Mae talked all about her day. She talked about her teachers and the students. I was mainly focused on how to ask her to homecoming. Most of the ideas I’ve come up with so far are either really cheesy, too boring, or have already been done. I’ll think of some way to ask her. We got home, and both had to start homework. Mae had very limited homework, considering she just started. But since she has basically learned the majority of the curriculum already, she’s probably doing better off than a couple people in her class. We did our work in silence for about an hour. Once Mae and I were both done, we left the house and started driving around aimlessly. After about an hour of giving Mae an unplanned tour of Forest Springs, we decided to go out for dinner. At Jimmy’s Burgers, a small diner across town, Mae and I talked about life. She told me more about life as a maid, and what Jeff and his parents would do.
“Mae. I have to ask you something.”
“Yes, what is it?”
“Okay, um. I’m sorry, I’m nervous.”
“It’s about Homecoming, isn’t it?”

My face must have showed some emotion, because Mae started to laugh.
“I saw the table while walking into The Café.”
“Well, yeah. Would you- would you like to be my date for the dance, Mae?”
“Yes!” she laughed, “Yes, I would love to, Derek! Ever since I saw the table, I’ve been secretly wishing you would ask me. Thank you!”

I let out a breath that I had been holding rather loudly, and she laughed at me again. The rest of our date went by fast, too fast. That night, I tried to recall our date, but all I could remember was her saying yes. I fell asleep that night, wondering about what Homecoming would be like with a girl I actually cared for and loved.

The rest of the week went by the same as the first day. And the week after that was slow at first, but it started to pick up after Wednesday. Mae was getting to all her classes and making new friends. Not only did she like everyone who I hung out with, but she started making her own friends in the subjects we didn’t have together. Usually they were fellow Juniors that I never hung out with before. Nothing important had been happening lately, and I thought that maybe Mae’s life was starting to be normal.
I started counting the days, then hours, then minutes before the Homecoming dance next Saturday. That Friday was the Homecoming Game. I didn’t know if I was going to play yet. Since I’m co-captain, I might have to. I would decide later this week. On Thursday afternoon before the game, Mae and Adelaide went to the mall to pick out dresses. Mae said they asked Annalisa, but she couldn’t go. We also decided to go to the movies after they were finished, so I stayed at the food court while they shopped. I was just starting to get bored when out of the corner of my eyes, I saw Adelaide and Mae walking towards me.
“Hey, sweetie.” I said.

I kissed her gently on the cheek and remembered Adelaide was there.
“Hello, Derek.” Adelaide said, “Have you been here the entire time?”
“Mae and I are going to see a movie after this. It wasn’t that bad, honestly. I was able to get my reading for English done. Did you guys have fun?”
“I had a blast! Thank you so much, Adelaide. I really did have fun.”
“Of course! I had fun too. We have to make sure we do this for the next formal dance! My mom is here and is getting impatient. Have fun at the movies guys! See you tomorrow in Art, Mae.”

She hugged Mae and waved to me. Mae and I headed towards the movie theater on the other side of the mall.
“Can I see your dress? Or do I have to wait for tomorrow to see it?”
“It’s surprise! You have to wait to see it!” She sang.
“Fine. I’ll just wait in agony.” I sighed.

I looked over to see her laughing at me. I hugged her tighter, and prayed that I would never lose her. Right now, she was the best thing that I have in my life. As I payed for our tickets, after arguing with Mae about it, she leaned over and whispered in my ear.
“This is the first movie I’ve ever seen in theaters.”
“I can believe that. I’m glad I can be the first to take you.”

The movie we chose to see was another Disney movie. We were probably the oldest kids there, but that didn’t bother either of us. Being typical teenagers, Mae and I sat in the way back of the theater. She was captivated by just being in the theater and when the movie started, she stared at the screen like it was a foreign object. I laughed as I put my arm around her. It took her a while to notice it, she was so mesmerized. When she did, she leaned backward, and rested her head on my shoulder. The movie was only about an hour and a half. By the time we got outside, it was already dark. It was about 7 o’clock, so that meant only about 24 hours until Homecoming.

Mae was tired when we arrived home. Since Mae and I had already ate, we retreated upstairs. We got ready and got into bed. She fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow. I was up for only a couple minutes longer, thinking about her.

Friday dragged on. Instead of 1 hour periods, each period felt like it was doubled. Maybe it was the fact that I kept counting the minutes ‘til the end of the day. All I wanted was to go home. Last period was Honors Biology for me. As I walked in, Jeff eyed me from across the room. He had the look of revenge on his face like he was planning something, and that made me nervous.
“Where’s your precious Mae?” He mocked.

“She’s in AP Bio, because unlike you, she has a brain.” I shot back.
“Doesn’t it kill you to not be with her? You guys are together all day, every day. Don’t you miss her? What ever would you do if something happened to your Mae?”
“As long as she’s not near you.”
“Good morning, class!” Mrs. Jacobs shouted at us.

Jeff shot me a nasty look as to say, ‘This isn’t over’. I rolled my eyes and tried to stay focused. Something about that part set my teeth on edge. It sounded like a subtle threat. Knowing Jeff, it was either an empty threat or one that he planned to carry through. I couldn’t stop thinking about what he said. I read between every line, and tried to think like Jeff would do. When I found Mae, she and Adelaide were talking and laughing. Adelaide seemed really nice, and I’m glad Mae finally found a friend.
“Hey Derek!” Mae greeted.
“Hey! How was Math?”
“It was okay. Adelaide is in my class, so at least I had a friend to make it go by faster.”
“Are you guys excited about Saturday?” Adelaide chimed in.
“I’m psyched! It’s my first dance.” Mae exclaimed.
“Are you two going together?”
“Yeah,” Mae smiled, “He asked me Wednesday.”

She and Adelaide giggled as we walked to the parking lot. Adelaide was just as excited as us. Apparently, Erik had asked her to be his date, and she said yes.
We parted ways, and promised to see each other that night for the game. Mae had urged me to play, and he wouldn’t take no as an answer. Everyone was nervous, football players and students. We were facing our rivals, the Kingscrest Knights. Mae was excited about her first football game as well. I was more anxious about her than the game. I would be on the field, and she would be in the stands or around the track. Ever since Jeff made his comment, I had been thinking about what he could do, and where he would do it. The game would be a perfect place. I wasn’t going to be able to keep an eye on her for the majority of the game. I talked with Adelaide about the situation very vaguely. She agreed to stick with Mae for the entire game and keep an eye out for Jeff. She seemed trustworthy, and that gave me some peace.
The game started out in our favor. We were ahead by 14 points. I’d been playing the majority of the game and everything so far had been a blur. The game goes moment by moment for a player. The play happens, and you act on instinct. By the time the play is over, I can’t remember what I had done. That’s why I think they make highlights on pro ball. They’re not for the audience, even though they think so, it’s for the players because they need to know what they just did. I had totally forgotten about Mae and the entire situation until halftime. When I saw Adelaide, Rachel, Annalisa, Zoey and the rest of the cheerleaders strut onto the field, I remembered that Adelaide had promised to watch out for Mae. I turned around and walked towards the boundary of the playing field, and sure enough, Mae was waiting for me at the ropes. She had the most beautiful smile on her face, and I could tell she was having a good time. She waved as I approached.
“Mae, you can come over here if you want. You’re with me.”

She gave me a dubious look, but ducked under the ropes separating us. She ran over and gave me a hug and a kiss. I picked her up and twirled her around a bit.
“You’re doing awesome, Derek! We’re winning!”
“Thanks, Mae! Are you having fun?”
“So much fun! I love watching you, listening to the band, and talking to Adelaide and Annalisa.”
“I’m so glad. I was really hoping you would like this.”
“Derek!” My coach yelled, “Get over here! We need the captains!”
“Okay, be right there coach!” I turned to Mae, “That’s my cue. See you after the game! I love you.”
“I love you too. Good luck!” She shouted after me.

The rest of the game went by in a total blur. People were congratulating on what I great game I played, and how I won the game for us. Mae was telling me that Sam had tackled one of the other team’s players, and he fumbled the ball. Apparently, I snapped the ball up, and ran all the way across the field to score a touchdown for us. All within the last 2 minutes of the game. I was just happy that Mae was safe and had fun. Mae was telling me what she Adelaide, Annalisa, and all her friends. It was less than 24 hours until the dance, and I couldn’t wait.

The next morning, Mae and I both slept in. I was tired from playing, and Mae was tired because she had been walking and running around the track. Both of us were so excited for the dance. We had our plan for tonight all planned out. We would get ready for the dance at home, leave, and after the dance go out for dinner. Granted, it would be around 10 o’clock. There was an all-night diner on Main Street that I had been dying to take Mae to, but she had always been too tired. I hadn’t specifically told her where exactly I was taking her, but she was still excited.

After hours of waiting in agony, Mae and I started to get ready. It took me a grand total of 30 minutes, 20 of which I spent in the shower. Everyone on the football team was required to wear their jersey and nice dress pants. Mae took about an hour and a half. She never let me help her because she wanted to keep what see looked like a secret. She bought herself about $50 worth of makeup and was probably trying to figure it all out. Not that I was skilled in using makeup. I was reading my book for English, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the bedroom door creaked open. As I glanced up, I saw Mae hovering by the doorway. She looked more beautiful than usual. She was wearing a knee-length, teal strapless dress. The gauze material flowed around her while she walked, making her appear as though she was an angel. She twirled a couple times, then stopped and smiled at me.
“So, how do I look?”
“You look stunning, Mae.”
“Are you sure? I wasn’t quite sure on how to do my makeup. I followed the directions and looked up videos, but I still wasn’t exactly sure.”
“Mae, you look absolutely beautiful. Football players are required to wear our jerseys. I feel so informal compared to you.”
“Don’t worry about it! I still love you anyways.” She joked.

After escaping all but a photo shoot by Mom, we ended up leaving around 10 after 7. Mae and I left somewhat early, so we would be able to meet up with our friends. By the time we got there, most other students were already congregating near the gym entrance. When we arrived, I saw Erik and Adelaide talking with Chase and Annalisa. We joined them, and the 4 of us tried to explain how the dances work to Annalisa and Mae. We were having some difficulty because our dances were not the... ‘appropriate’. Most people started out with dancing and then grinding. Because there wasn’t a lot of supervision, people were able to sneak out to hook up. I, personally, don’t know how the teachers could possibly miss it. They usually just walk right out, holding hands and laughing. They find an empty room, stairwell, or a bush. I went to go to the bathroom once during freshman year, only to open a bathroom stall door to see a couple having way too much fun. I have never went to the bathroom since then. All 4 of us decided, telepathically, not to tell either of them about that part. By the time the rest of our friends got here, they finally started to let people in.
Mae and I got in with no problem, and she and her friends dropped off their stuff in the designated room while the guys talked outside. The majority of us were in football jerseys, and we talked about our dates and the past season. Mae was the first to emerge. The rest of the girls filed out, one by one. We all walked, arms linked, down the hallway to see the gym decorated and lit up like a Christmas tree. Mae’s face mirrored the gym when she saw it. The gym was dark except for the DJ lights hanging at the sound booth. There were already people scattered and grinding. Guess they missed the first step. Mae hadn’t noticed them yet, and she tugged me onto the dance floor. Me, as well as the others, followed her and started to dance. The songs were all upbeat so far, and I’d been hoping that they would play a slow song. More people joined, and soon our small circle grew to a large oval-like shape.

About an hour into the dance, I pulled Mae over to the side.
“Do you want me to get us drinks?” I yelled over the blasting music.
“Sure. Thank you. Do you want me to come with you?”
“No, it’s okay. You can stay here.”

I really didn’t want her to see some of the things that could go on down in the refreshment halls. She agreed to stay in the back corner until I came back. I tried not to notice the sporadic, half-naked students amongst the branching stairwells and rooms. I grabbed 2 waters and headed back towards the gym. When I reached the gym, I surveyed the room. Mae wasn’t in the corner like she said she would be. My first thought was that something had happened to her. I walked around, thinking that she might have been invited by her friends to dance with them. I found our group of friends, but Mae was still nowhere to be seen.
“Have you guys seen Mae?” I asked them.
“No,” Adelaide yelled back, “The last time I saw her she was standing by the corner.”

I started to get really anxious. I thought about what Jeff had said earlier. What if he really did do something this time?
“Was anyone with her?”
“Yeah, some guy. It kind of looked like Jeff Rhineston. But it was dark, it probably wasn’t him.”

Now I was seriously started to panic.
“Adelaide! Can you come with me to look for Mae? I think something bad has happened to her, and I’m starting to get worried.”
“She’s probably just in the bathroom or something, Derek. Relax!”
“Please help me find her. You can bring your friends if you want to.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll come with you.” She turned back around, “Rachel, do you want to come help us find Mae?”
“Sure!” Rachel answered.

We were able to slip away, unnoticed, from both our group of friends and the three supervising teachers. I got mixed looks as I walked out of the gym, with a girl on each side. Some looks were those of admiration, others were not so friendly. Once we were out of sight from anyone, I took off up the first flight of stairs. I figured if Jeff really did take her, even he wouldn’t be stupid enough to stay on the first floor. Adelaide and Rachel followed close behind. As we stopped on the landing to catch our breath, we discussed what way to go. There were two floors and only a limited number of rooms. Adelaide and I were talking about what rooms were open when Rachel tapped me on the back.
“Isn’t that Mae’s shoe?” She said.

My gave followed her finger to the middle of the next staircase. Sure enough, halfway up was Mae’s shoe. Only one. I grabbed her shoe as we all raced up to the next landing. Just like her other one, Mae’s missing shoe was only a couple stairs up on the next staircase. We all stood there in silence, when I heard a scream coming from a room coming from the third floor. Adelaide and Rachel must have heard it too, because they exchanged timid looks. I knew it was her. It was the same scream that I heard outside Jeff’s door. I ran, taking two stairs at a time. As I opened the double doors, I noticed that one of the doors to a math room was creaked open. For his sake, I hoped that he wasn’t stupid enough to leave the lights on. I heard another scream followed by crying. Adelaide and Rachel hesitated by the double doors. I could tell they were nervous and didn’t want to see what was going on in the room. I had a feeling I knew, but I didn’t want to believe myself. I creaked the door open a bit, just enough so I could let myself in. I shot one last look at Adelaide and Rachel before I succumbed into the darkness. I looked back to see Adelaide grab Rachel’s hand and pull her into the darkness as well.

When I fully entered the room, I felt an overwhelming sense of hatred towards Jeff. I heard whimpers and cries from Mae. I didn’t hear any words, just a mix of crying, whimpering, and screaming. My guess was that Jeff had gagged her. It was too dark to see anything clearly, but I could hear them and see the faint outlines. I crept around overturned desks and various objects strewn across the room. It was paining me to hear Mae in pain and struggling. Finally, I was close enough to see the both of them. From what I could make out, it looked like Jeff was trying to pin down Mae. Her dress was gone, but it seemed like Jeff was having some difficulty getting everything else off. Mae was finally putting up a fight, and not letting Jeff take advantage of her.
I noticed Jeff had something in his right hand. Mae screamed again, and when he raised his hand the light of the moon reflected on the object. It was shiny and metallic, and when I saw the sharp edges. By the time I was able to understand that it was a knife, it was too late. Jeff had quickly lowered the knife, and Mae screamed. I realized that Jeff had been using the knife against her. I snuck over to him and bent down besides him. Mae saw me, and her eyes widened. She was gagged, and crying. All the makeup she had spent so much time putting on was now running down her cheek. Jeff must have noticed that Mae had stopped crying.
“What’s wrong? Do you not like what I’m doing?” he mocked, “Maybe, if you would be a good girl and let me do what I want, things will go back to normal. Wouldn’t you like that?”

Mae shook her head and continued to kick and scream.
“Hey, Jeff.” I said.

He turned around, and my fist met his face. It was so satisfying to inflict pain on him for a change. It was so satisfying I decided to punch him once more for good measure.
“Turn on the lights, please!”

When the light reached our corner, I was able to see Mae. Her cheeks were streaked with mascara and blood. Jeff had taken his knife and cut a deep, long line across her face. She was gagged with what looked like half of her dress. The other half was cut into pieces and thrown around her. She was hugging her knees and crying. Thankfully, Mae had retreated behind a teacher’s desk, so Rachel and Adelaide couldn’t see us. I untied her dress from around her mouth, and gathered her in my arms. She continued to cry and whisper apologies.
“Derek? Is Mae okay?” Adelaide asked.

When she heard her name, Mae shot up. She looked at me quizzically. I knew she wouldn’t have wanted them to be there, but I didn’t know if I would have needed another person.
“She’s fine, guys.”
“Guys?” Mae whispered.
“It’s just Rachel and Adelaide,” I whispered back, “No one else. I promise.”

I could tell Mae was still nervous and embarrassed about facing them. She gave me the same look she had gave me in Jeff’s bedroom. I took off my jersey and slipped it over her head. I wiped the tears off her cheeks, and she ambled over to Rachel and Adelaide. When they saw her, they both gasped and rushed over to hug her. Once the did, Mae started to cry again.
“Have you guys been here this whole time?” She asked.

They both nodded solemnly.
“Please-please don’t tell anyone.”
“We won’t, we promise.” Adelaide said.

Rachel nodded in agreement. We stood there in awkward silence, none of us knowing what to do or say next.
“My guess is that you probably want to leave, right?” I asked her.
“Yes, please.” Mae squeaked.
“Do you want to go straight home?”
“No. I still want to go on our date, I know you were looking forward to taking me.”
“Mae, your dress-”
“I have gym clothes in my locker that I can change into.”
“What about your cut?”

She felt her cheek as if you forgot about it.
“I have band-aids in my purse. It’ll be fine, Derek. I’ve dealt with worse.”
“What about Jeff?” Rachel pointed out.
“We could...move him into the hallway?” Adelaide suggested.
“That’s probably best. He’ll wake up eventually.”

I dragged Jeff into the hall, and we left him propped up against a locker. We stopped at Mae’s locker and grabbed her clothes. She changed in the girl’s bathroom as I waited outside. Rachel and Adelaide walked out, arms linked with Mae in the middle.
“I have to wait for my mom to pick me up.” Rachel said.
“And I have to get back down to Erik. I don’t want to just ditch him.”
“Okay. We’ll head out.” I replied.
“Promise you’ll call us over the weekend, Mae? I want to make sure you’re okay.” Adelaide said.

Mae nodded. They hugged goodbye, and we all parted ways. Mae and I walked out the back door on the other side of the school so we wouldn’t be caught. Not that we would have even been caught if we left out the front door. The teacher who sits at the table only reads her book, completely oblivious to her surroundings. Mae curled up on the passenger’s seat and started to cry again.

The diner was on the opposite side of the town. The ride was filled with silence, occasionally broken by Mae trying to suppress her sobs. When I pulled into the parking lot, she had almost completely stopped crying, and she was starting to catch her breath again.
“Mae, are you sure you want to go? We can go home and come back another time.”
“No. We can go, I’m fine, Derek.”

She started to dig through her bag and pulled out a small first aid case. I watched her apply a few band-aids and discard the wrappers. When we walked in, the diner was deserted. The only people there included the waitress, the cook, and an elderly couple. We were able to get a booth in the corner, away from anyone who could hear us. We ordered the same thing, burgers and fries with Coke. The silence between us was killing me. I know she wouldn’t want to talk about what had just happened, but we would have to some time.
“I know what you’re going to say, Derek, and I don’t want to discuss it right now. Can we please talk about something else? Please?”
“Of course. What did you think about the actual dance?”
“Yeah, the dance I liked. It was fun to hang out with everyone. Do we another one soon?”
“Would you want to go to the next one?”
“Despite what happened tonight?”
“Yes, despite what happened tonight.”
“I’m pretty sure we have a winter dance. Would you like to be my date for the winter dance?”
“I would love to!”

We stayed at Jimmy’s Burger’s for a couple hours. We talked about all sorts of different topics. By the time we left, it was around 11 o’clock. My parents were going to kill me when I got home, but it was worth it. The house was dark and empty as Mae and I walked in. We stealthily ambled up the stairs in the dark and climbed into bed.

The next day, Mae and I didn’t do anything. We sat on the couch and watched TV. We reluctantly did our homework halfway through the day. We were getting bored, so I called up Erik, and we decided go on a double date with him and Adelaide to see a movie. Mae was nervous about seeing Adelaide, but she really wanted to go on another date. It took all four of us about an hour to come up with some thing to see. It was finally settled on an action movie called, Firearms. The girls actually wanted to see a movie named after weapons. Mae would have been excited to see any movie as long it was with someone else. We left for the movies an two hours early so we could stop at Jimmy’s Burgers for lunch. Before we sat down, Adelaide pulled Mae aside. She winked at me, and I knew they were going to talk about last night.
“Where are they going?” Erik asked.
“I don’t know. Probably to the bathroom.”
“Oh. Okay. Hey, where did you, Mae, Adelaide, and Rachel go last night during the dance? You stole my date!”
“Dude, relax. I needed their help finding Mae.”
“Was she okay? Adelaide seemed a little freaked out when she came back.”
“Um, I don’t know why she would have been freaked out. Maybe something scared her as she and Rachel were walking back. Mae and I left right away.”
“What happened to Mae’s face? I don’t remember that cut when I first met her.”

Adelaide and Mae returned just in time. I had no cover-up for the cut. I should probably come up with one. People were bound to notice a large scratch across her face. I’ll talk to her later about it.
“You guys okay?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Adelaide responded first, “We’re good. Just had to talk about...some girl stuff.”

Mae slipped into my booth, and leaned her body against mine. Adelaide sat across from us, next to Erik. We all got burgers and talked about the game, the rest of the dance, and what the week was going to be like. Thanksgiving was this coming Thursday, and that meant we only had a 2 ½ day week. I made a mental note to talk about what my family did, because she kept shooting me questioning looks.
“Mae, what does your family do for Thanksgiving? Do you go to your relatives?” Adelaide asked.

Mae started to turn bright red. She gave me a pleading look, and I tried to think of topics to change the subject.
“Um, my family?” Mae squeaked, “We-we um. Yeah, we visit family. They live in New York.”
“Oh! So do my grandparents! What town?”
“Um. Well. It’s a small town. I doubt you’ve heard of it. It’s called,” She looked out the window, probably for inspiration, “Rosonville? It’s near the Pennsylvania border.”
“You’re right. I haven’t heard of it. I’ll ask my grandparents when I see them.”
“Nice recover.” I whispered to Mae.
“Thanks. I saw a rose bush, and I totally winged it.” She giggled.
“Do you guys want to head over to the theater?” Erik chimed in, “Firearms just came out, so it will probably be crowded.”
“Sure!” I exclaimed, trying to avoid anymore touchy subjects, “Mae, I’ll pay for you.”
“No, you don’t ha-”
“Don’t worry about.”
“Adelaide, I can pay for you too.”
“Are you sure? I do have money.”

Erik and I went to pay for the food, and Mae and Adelaide retreated to the car. The diner was busy, so it took a little while for them to give us the bill. In the mean time, I hoped that he wouldn’t bring up Mae’s cut again, because I still had no cover-up story. We talked about all the hype the movie had been getting instead. Erik seemed like he had done his research before seeing the movie. He had been spitting out all these random facts that no regular person ever would have known by just watching the trailers. He also talked about Adelaide. A lot. Erik and I waited a couple more minutes and the bill was finally delivered. We paid, thanked the waitress, and left.

There was no movie theater in Forest Springs, so we had to drive to the next town over, Wooddale. And since there were no surrounding towns had no movie theater, every teen with nothing to do went there. We got there early enough to buy tickets though. Again, being the typical teenagers we are, we sat in the way back. We got settled into our seats and talked until the movie began. I draped my arm around Mae. She looked up at me, and I couldn’t help myself. I kissed her again. The lights dimmed, and everything went dark. Even though I couldn’t see her beautiful face, I continued to kiss her. My hands found her face, and I pulled her in as close as I could. It was a little awkward with the armrest between us, but that didn’t stop either of us. What stopped us was a glare and light from an old man with his cell phone. From then on, I barely focused on the movie. All I could think about was Mae.
The movie wasn’t actually that bad. At least the parts I actually watched. They discussed the movie the entire drive home. I was able to convince Adelaide to stay, and she agreed. I wanted all three of us to talk, possible four if we were able to get Rachel either in person or on the phone. She told Erik that her Mom needed to take her out shopping so he wouldn’t get offended if she told him she was staying with us. She walked him out to his car.
“Derek, what are we going to talk about? Last night? Because Adelaide briefly talked about it.”
“Yeah, briefly. Do you think you are comfortable telling them...everything?”
“Everything?! I only met them two weeks ago!
“You told me about ten minutes after you met me.”
“Yeah, I guess. But you’re different. I could trust you.”
“You don’t trust them?”
“No! I do! Ugh, that’s not what I meant. I don’t know. Can we just skim that part.”
“We can tell them Jeff had been hurting you?”
“I don’t know. I’ll think about it. What else are we going to talk about?”
“I was just going to ask them to watch out for you. I was going to tell them that Jeff had been threatening you behind your back.”
“But what if they ask why?”
“Why what?” Adelaide echoed as she closed the door.
“Were you able to get a hold of Rachel?” I said instead.
“Yeah. She can’t come over, but she said we could call her when we are ready.”
“Awesome! Thanks.”
“Of course. What are we talking about specifically?”
“Here, you can sit down. You might want to call Rachel now.”

Rachel answered after the second ring. Clearly, she was expecting us.
“Hello?” her voice crackled over the speaker.
“I’ll put in on speakerphone.” Adelaide said.
“Hey Rachel! Can you here me? It’s Derek.”
“Yep! I can hear you loud and clear. Is Mae there?”
“I’m here, Rachel”
“Hi! How are you?”
“I’m good. Thanks for asking.”
“No problem. What are we going to talk about anyways?”

Everyone looked at me, expectantly.
“Okay, well. I was just going to ask you guys for your help. Jeff had repeatedly threatened Mae behind her back. Do you think you guys can just watch out for Mae when I’m not around?”
“Of course!” They both said.
“Thanks guys. I’m glad to know you guys are willing to help.”

Adelaide leaned over and gave Mae a hug.
“Isn’t that what friends do?”

Mae laughed and hugged Adelaide back.
“Rachel! I’m giving you an air hug too!”

They all laughed, and I left them to talk about what they wanted to talk about. I told Adelaide to come get me when she needed to leave, because Erik was her ride home. I escaped to my bedroom. I was on the computer for a while when there was a knock on the door. I opened it to see Adelaide.
“Can you drive me home now?”
“Of course. Let’s go.”
“Thanks so much.”
“No problem.”

Adelaide lived only about ten minutes from us. All three of us climbed into my Nissan and joked and laughed the entire ride. I was so happy that Mae had befriended someone trustworthy like Adelaide. I had never talked to her before this. Adelaide always seemed shy to me. She had her friends, and I had mine. When I though about it, I don’t know that many of my friends I could have trusted with a secret like this. We dropped her off and returned home. Mae and I fell asleep watching A Bug’s Life. In some ways, I had more to worry about than before. In other ways, I also have less to worry about because I know I can trust Rachel and Adelaide.

Monday morning was like it always is: slow. Mae was able to wake up and get out of bed quicker than I could open my eyes. It took me another 15 minutes to wake myself up, but I still refused to leave the comfort of my bed. By that time, Mae had been already dressed and washed. I rolled over and noticed Mae watching me. She blushed and turned around when she realized I caught her. I reluctantly forced myself out of bed. Finally, I was done getting ready for the day. We went downstairs and found it evacuated. My dad left for a business trip a couple day ago, and my mom left for work at 5:30 in the morning. My older sister, Lisa, away at ‘college’, and my brother staying at motels with his girlfriend almost every night. My younger sister, Maya, is always somewhere else with her friends. Mae and I had basically been having the house to ourselves the past couple of days. It had been nice. We didn’t have to worry about parents awkwardly being in every single room we’re in, and my siblings eavesdropping on our conversation. Mae and I ate our breakfast in silence. It was a slow morning, and the day didn’t go by any faster. Mae had a great day. She made more friends and had fun in all her classes. The rest of the week won’t by at the same pace. After we got home, Mae wanted me to take her to the drug store. She was anxious to get there. She wouldn’t tell me what it was, but I know I shouldn’t snoop. When we got home, Mae excused herself to the bathroom and ran up the stairs. I did the rest of my homework, and watched TV. She still hadn’t come down, and I started to get nervous. I dismissed the anxiousness, convincing myself I’m just being paranoid. Another hour passed, and Mae was still upstairs.
“Mae?” I called up.

There was no answer so I called again.
“Mae? Are you okay?”

She still hadn’t answered. I raced up the stairs and walked towards my room. I opened the door to find it empty. Was she still in the bathroom? I made my way towards the bathroom. Before I opened the door, I started to have major déjà vu. My hand rested on the doorknob as I heard crying from other side. I pushed the door open to find Mae huddled next to the toilet. She was faced away from me, so she didn’t know I was there. I stood in the doorway watching her shoulders tremble. She was holding something in her right hand. It sort of resembled a thermometer, and I thought she could have possible caught the flu. I was trying to think of what to say to her, when she leaned over the toilet and started to vomit. I rushed over to her. I did what I heard every boy should do. I stroked her back and held her hair. Mae turned to me, and rested her head against my chest. We stayed like that for a little while.
“Mae, what’s wrong? Are you feeling okay? Are you sick?”

She shook her head and tried to speak, but she choked on her sobs. I pulled her up and flushed the toilet. Her eyes were red and full of fear again.
“Mae, what happened?”

She still couldn’t speak. She held out her hand and slowly unclenched her fist. It looked like a thermometer, but there were no numbers on it. My face must have shown some confusion because Mae started to talk.
“It’s-it’s a pregnancy test.”
“Do you think you’re-”
“Look at it.”

I did what Mae told me, but all I saw was a pink cross.
“I don’t know know what that means...” I trailed off.
“I’m pregnant, Derek! The test came out positive. I’m pregnant.”
“But, how-”
“Jeff! It was probably the day you rescued me. He wanted to keep me there, and he wasn’t thinking. He was usually good about using different protection, but that day- I don’t know. It was all too fast.”
“I’m so sorry, Mae.”
“I don’t want to be a mother yet, Derek! I just started public school. I was making friends and having fun. I was starting to feel normal!”
“It will be okay. I promise you.”
“No it won’t! I’m only seventeen. I’m too young to become a mother. I’m not ready!”

She cried even harder and clutched her stomach. It was a weird thought to get used to.
“We can talk to my parents and-”
“No! I don’t want to tell anyone.”
“Mae, in about a month or two, it’s going to start to become more and more obvious.”
“I’m not ready! I can’t be a mother! Not yet.”
“We can take you to the doctor’s Friday. If we call in now, we might be able to go today.”
“This is going to be so expensive! I don’t think I have enough money.”
“We can pay for it too.”
“No, it’s my fault. I should have to pay for it.”
“It’s not your fault. It’s Jeff’s fault.”

Mae continued to cry for another hour. I couldn’t blame her. I brought her down to the living room, and she resorted to the couch. With her permission, I called the doctor’s, and we were able to schedule an appointment for the Friday at noon. I let Mae stay on the couch for the rest of the day.I sat next to her and comforted her. We didn’t really talk, and I didn’t blame her for not say anything. When I heard my mom pull into the driveway, I was able to convince Mae to move upstairs. Knowing my mom, she would want to ‘“make sure everything is okay” giving her an excuse to pry. I made sure all the boxes, wrappers, and everything else was cleaned up before she walked into the house. The last thing she needed was proof of any kind. I also brought up dinner for Mae and I, but she barely ate anything.

Today was the last day of classes before the Thanksgiving break, so we had a four-day weekend. Since tomorrow was Thanksgiving, my relatives should start to arrive tonight. I hadn’t talked to Mae about tomorrow yet. I decided to ask her while we were eating, hoping that it might distract her from the current issue.
“Mae, did you ever celebrate Thanksgiving at the Rhineston’s?”
“No, I helped cook it, then ate the leftovers that night.”
“Would you like to celebrate with my family tomorrow? If you feel up to it, that is.”
“I would love to,” She smiled, “ your family okay with me joining them?”
“Of course! You’re part of our family now, Mae.”
“Thank you.”

That night, she fell asleep with her head on my chest. It was weird to think how it’s not just Mae anymore, but someone else as well. I thought about what Mae would have to go through. I had already hated Jeff to begin with, and now the hatred I had for him has grown. He doesn’t deserve a child. He would be an awful, irresponsible father. I also thought about what Mae would do after she had the baby. Would she give it up for adoption? Or would she keep her own child? I fell asleep thinking about everything that had happened so quickly and unexpectedly.

The next morning, I woke up to various voices coming from- what I presumed-the kitchen. I got up and left Mae sleeping. I wrote a note telling her that I’m just downstairs, and I’ll be right back. I greeted all my relatives and pulled my parents aside to ask them about Mae. They both agreed that she could join, and told the rest of my relatives. When I went back to the bedroom, Mae had woken up. She was in front of the full-length mirror, looking at her reflection. She wasn’t crying, but she looked like she was going to. She was rubbing her stomach, and I could tell she was thinking about her future.
“Do you know what you want to do yet?”

Mae jumped, but sighed as she saw it was just me. She ran over to me and into my arms a she began to cry again. I pulled her over to the bed and had her lie down.
“I’m so sorry, Derek. I’m so sorry.”
“Mae, it’s not your fault. Please, don’t apologize for something you had no control over.”
“What am I going to do? I just started school.”
“Mae, I’m more worried about you.”
“Me? Why would you be worried about me?”
“You barely eat, and you are already so thin. I don’t know... maybe I’m just being paranoid.”
“Oh, yeah. Derek, I’m scared. I don’t want my own baby. I’m not going to be a good mother.”
“Mae, you’ll be a perfect mother. Do you know whether you want to keep the baby or put it up for adoption?”
“I don’t know yet. Part of me wants to keep it. But the logical thing to do is probably let another family who is responsible and ready take the baby.”
“Well, we can cross that bridge when we get there. Let’s just take it step by step, starting with the doctor’s tomorrow.”

We stayed up in our room until my parents called us down for Thanksgiving dinner. Mae was really nervous about already meeting the entire family. She shook everyone’s hand and answered every question she was asked. Periodically, her hand rested on her stomach. She would catch herself and start to fiddle with her fingers. I put my arm around her, hoping that might calm her down at least a little bit, but it didn’t. Mae and I sat next to each other at the elongated dinner table. We had a fairly large family. My mom, grandparents, my two aunts and their husbands, their four children, my brother, Lisa with her ‘husband’ and her son, and Maya. By the time they all sat down, there was barely enough room for Mae and I. The food was served and everyone started to talk and eat. Mae served herself food, but didn’t eat any of it.
“Mae,” I whispered, “Please eat something.”
“I’m not- oh, fine. I’ll eat.”

She started to eat. I watched her, and she mostly picked at some parts and played with her food to make it look like she was eating. I didn’t want to nag her, but I was seriously worried. As long as she ate at least a couple bites, I was satisfied. When everyone appeared to be finished, Mae started to get up and clean the table.
“Mae?” My mom asked, “What are you doing, honey?”
“Oh, I-uh,” Mae blushed as everyone looked at her, “I was just putting my dish away.”
“Sweetie, we can do that later. Don’t worry about it, you’re not the maid!”

Obediently, Mae sat back down. She looked down at her lap, embarrassed, and didn’t make eye contact with anyone for a while. The conversations seemed to go on forever. I could tell Mae wanted to leave, but she was too polite to say or do anything. Every once and a while, someone would ask Mae a question about her family. Whenever someone brought that topic up, my mom and I would try to change the subject very quickly. It worked the first four times, but they kept coming back to Mae. It must have been peculiar though, most families want to be together on these sort of holidays. And here Mae is, spending time with our family instead of hers.

After what felt like days, my family finally started to leave. Mae cleaned up the table and refused any help. She made me sit in the corner and watch her pace back and forth.
“Mae, I think we should tell my mom.”

The minute I said that, Mae almost dropped the stack of plates she was holding. She looked at me, unsure and nervous.
“I don’t know. What if she gets mad?”
“She has no reason to. It’s not like I got you pregnant. It was Jeff, and you had no control over what happened.
“I know... but still. When would you want to tell her?”
“Tonight? Well... tomorrow after the doctor’s appointment would probably be better.”
“I’m scared, Derek.”

She walked over to me and hugged me. I held her tightly in my arms, and she started to cry. I heard rustling from the corner of the room. I looked up and saw my mom watching us. I don’t know how long she had been watching us or listening to our conversation. She gave me a concerned look and started to walk toward us. I waved her away, and she reluctantly headed for the kitchen.

It was about 8 o’clock before all my relatives finally left, and all the food had been cleaned up and put away. My mom had prohibited Mae from doing any more cleaning, so she retreated upstairs to the bedroom. Since my mom also enlisted me to wash the dishes, I promised Mae that I’d be upstairs soon to talk about the current situation. I ignored the looks and stares I knew my mom was sending me. She didn’t ask any question or bring up what she witnessed in the dining room. After washing every dish my family used today in an awkward silence for at least an hour, I was able to escape the kitchen. I opened the door to find Mae curled up on our bed, reading. We did a little bit of research about what would happen tomorrow, and I think that made Mae even more nervous than she already was. I was surprised that she even fell asleep that night. But nevertheless, we both fell asleep that night with mixed emotions about tomorrow.

Friday morning, Mae and I had the house to ourselves again. Mae’s appointment wasn’t until noon, so we had some time to relax. I made her eat a small breakfast, just in case. We left around 10 for the doctor’s. She was shaking the entire drive, she was so nervous. When we pulled up into the parking garage, I basically had to lift her up and drag her into the waiting room. The OB/GYN waiting room was very generic- white walls, tiled floors, and red furniture. There were pictures of women holding their children, with plastered, airbrushed smiles on their faces. Mae sat herself down in an over-sized armchair. I checked in with the receptionist, who gave me a pitying smile. Yet another adult, jumping to conclusions. I sat next to Mae and tried to comfort her, but she was already starting to hyperventilate.
“Mae Collette?” The nurse called.
She looked around like there was a full waiting room. Mae and I got up, but before we walked into the separate hallway, the nurse stopped me.
“Sorry, son. Only parents or immediate family.”

When Mae heard that, she froze in her steps. She started to walk back towards me, but the nurse ushered her through the double doors. Before she left, she turned around and looked at me. Her eyes were full of fear and anxiety again. I wanted to follow her through those doors, but that would accomplish nothing. Instead I waited in the waiting room by myself. I saw people, mostly women accompanied by a nervous-looking man, come and go. I was able read a People magazine, cover to cover, twice, before Mae finally emerged from the doors. She had a grim look on her face, and so did the same nurse who followed behind her. Mae had her arms crossed over her stomach and red eyes, like she had been crying. I welcomed her back into my arms, and kissed her forehead. The nurse cleared her throat, and we both looked back at her.
“Ms. Collette is indeed pregnant. She told me that it was by rape. She’s underage, but when she turns 18 you can bring the young man to court. What I suggest is some therapy. We have a therapist here who specialized in domestic violence. You don’t have to go, but it might help. It’s still early in the pregnancy, but you should start to think about what you are going to with the child. You can talk to the receptionist to schedule your next appointment. Have a great day.”
“Thank you, you too.” Mae muttered.

The women looked up at the mention of her job. She motioned us over, enthusiastically.
“Hello,” The receptionist said, “What can I help you today with, Miss?”
“I- um, can I make another appointment?”
“Sure! Do you know when you want to come in?”
“No, not really. When do most women come back after the first visit?”
“Usually after the first month. Give or take a week.”

She looked to me to make sure it was okay. I nodded, and we were officially scheduled for January 2nd, 2012. On the way home, she told me everything that happened in the examining room. Apparently they did an ultrasound and, sure enough, there was a baby. It was too early to tell if it was a girl or a boy, but Mae hinted that she would love to have a girl. We decided to forgo the therapy, but only if she promised to talk with the guidance counselor, Mrs. Allen. Mae talked with the nurse, and persuaded her to let me come in with them for the next appointment. When we got home, my mom was already sitting at the kitchen table. She look up at us expectantly and motioned to sit down at the table. She gave us that, “I know what’s going on, but I’m going to toy around with you and make you suffer” look.
“So, where did you guys go today?”
“Um-Mae wasn’t feeling very well, so I took her to the doctor’s.”
“Which doctor?”
“Our pediatrician.”
“Nice try, Derek. The receptionist from the OB/GYN called to remind you of Mae’s appointment today. Is there something you want to tell me?”

Mae and I exchanged nervous glances. We wanted to wait to tell my mom when we were both ready. Mae shook her head, and I could tell she wanted me to tell her.
“Well, this isn’t really the way we wanted to tell you. But... Mae is pregnant.”

I swear she was going to explode or throw some furniture. She stood up abruptly, knocking over the chair she was sitting in.
“Mom, it wasn’t-”
“I don’t want to hear it, Derek! Haven’t I taught you anything? I thought you weren’t like the rest of your kids in your grade! And Mae! I welcome you into are house, and this is what you do! I trusted you, both of you. I don’t want either of you in my house anymore. What did I do wrong? Two of my kids get pregnant. Just... leave. I don’t care where you go.”
“Mom, you don’t understand! It’s not what you think.”
“I know what happened, Derek. I trusted you two in that bedroom alone, and this is the result.”
“Mrs. Kingston, it’s not Derek’s fault!”
“So I’m supposed to believe that you got pregnant out of thin air?”
“No! No, Mrs. Kingston, I-”
“Both of you, out of my house. NOW! Pack your things and go somewhere. I don’t care where right now.”

Mae was crying, almost in hysteria. I was too stunned to react, and I just stared at my mom. I had never seen my mom this angry in my entire life. She hadn’t been this hard on my older sister. I rushed Mae upstairs to pack before she started throwing glasses. We packed everything we thought we would need in a matter of minutes, and then we were out the door. We got as far away from my house as possible, and stopped at the mall parking lot. We each sat there, thinking about what just happened. I never thought my mom would yell at me like that. Mae still had a dazed look on her face. Frequently, she would open her mouth to say something, but she would shut it right away.
“Derek, I-I’m so sorry.”
“I should be sorry. I didn’t know she would react like that. She’s never yelled at anyone my entire life.”
“What are we going to do? Where are we going to stay?”
“I don’t know yet. We can stay at a hotel in the next town over. We can call a friend or one of my relatives tomorrow.
“Okay, I just want to go to bed. Maybe wake up and realize this is all a nightmare.”
“Mae, I really am sorry. That could have gone better. It’s my fault. I should have presented the idea better.”
The Double Tree in Stockridge was expensive, but it was only for a night. The employee at the front desk gave us a strange look, and I knew what he was thinking. A young teen couple away from their parents in the privacy of a hotel. I didn’t care. He doesn’t know what’s going on, so he has no right to judge us. When Mae and I walked into the room, we both collapsed on the bed. Mae was out in a couple of minutes, while I was awake thinking about who to call and persuade them to let us stay with them. My first thought was my grandparents. Then I rethought it. My second thought was surprisingly Adelaide. Her parents would probably never let us live with them, but she seemed like the type of person who would invite us in. I looked over at Mae, sleeping very peacefully. When she slept, it was the only time where she seemed relaxed and at ease. I fell asleep next to her, thinking about what we would do.
The next morning we both woke up, not knowing what to do. I tried calling my aunt, but she didn’t pick up. While Mae was still sleeping, I called Adelaide. When she didn’t answer at first, I considered hanging up. There was no way that her parents would want two extra teenagers staying with them. Adelaide picked up on the fifth ring.
“Hey, Adelaide?” I whispered, trying not to wake Mae up, “It’s me, Derek.”
“Oh! Hey, Derek! What’s up? Why are you whispering?”
“I just called to ask you favor, and I totally understand if the answer is no. And I’m whispering because I don’t want Mae to know that I called you.”
“Sure, what do you need?”
“Um, well. It’s a long story, but to cut to the chase, Mae and I need a place to live. I was wondering if we could stay with you.”
There was a long period of silence, and I knew what was coming. To my surprise, the answer was the completely opposite.
“Oh my gosh! Of course! We have a pool house that can double as house. We don’t use it because we don’t need it, but you and Mae are more than welcome to live there. What happened? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Are- are you serious? Wow. Thank you so much Adelaide. I- we really appreciate it. Do you mind if I tell you when we get to your house? It’s kind of a long story.”
“Sure! No problem. Do you need anything? Clothes, food, I don’t what else you’ll need.”
“Nope, we have everything.”
“Okay, well I’ll see you soon. What time do you want to come over?”
“Um, probably around 12.”

“Great. See you then!”
“Thanks so much, Adelaide. Bye.”

I got back into bed with Mae. She stirred, and looked up.
“Good morning, beautiful.” I said.
“Hey,” she said dreamily. “I would kiss you, but I haven’t brushed my teeth yet.”

We laughed, but I kissed her anyways. We stayed in bed for a little while longer, then we finally willed ourselves to get up out of bed. Mae got dressed and ready, while I packed up the few things that we used. Hand in hand, Mae and I left the hotel and headed for Adelaide’s. I hadn’t told Mae where we going yet, but she was yawning and still waking up. Seeing as though she probably wouldn’t like it that I called Adelaide behind her back, I decided to tell her later when we were closer to Adelaide’s house.
“Derek,” Mae said warily, “Where are we going?”
“Well, I found a place that we could stay.”
“Really?” her face lit up, “Where? For how long?”
“Indefinitely, for now.”
“Where is it? Are we staying at someone's house?”
“Um, their pool house, actually. She said their it can double as a house.”
“Who’s pool house? Is it a relative’s of yours? Come on, Derek! Tell me!”
“It’s Adelaide’s. We’re staying at Adelaide’s.”

The minute I said her name, her face drained of color. Then flushed with red. At first I feared that she was angry with me, but then I realized she turned red out of embarrassment.
“Wait-what? Adelaide? Like, Adelaide Miller?”
“Yes. She was more than happy to let us stay with her.”
“What? When did you call her? And why did you call her?”
“I called her this morning while you were still sleeping.”
“But why Adelaide? Did you call anyone else?”
“Yes, I called some of my family. I ran out of family members to call! I can trust Adelaide, and she’s your friend.”
“What did you tell her? Did you mention...everything?”
“No, not over the phone. But I think we should tell her, since she is letting us stay in her with her.”
“I guess you’re right. I can trust her, I know she won’t tell anyone. Thank you, Derek.”
“Of course. I want to make sure you’re safe.”

We listened to the radio as we drove to Adelaide’s. Mae fell back asleep, and I thought of what to say about the whole pregnancy situation. How would I explain everything to Adelaide? I didn’t want her to think that I was the father, but I didn’t know what Mae wanted me to say and what she wanted me to keep a secret.
I’ve never seen Adelaide’s house during the day, so I was shocked to see how big it was. It resembled Jeff’s mansion, only bigger. Much bigger. The pool house alone was the size of a small house. It would be the perfect place for Mae, a baby, and I. I saw only one car in the driveway and I recognized it as Adelaide’s car. Her car was the only one in sight, and I figured that both her parents were out of town. It struck me that she might not have told them, seeing as though they weren’t home. I woke Mae up, and she had the same reaction I had. She looked around and started to get out.
“Mae! Wait.” I said as I grabbed her sleeve.
“This place is huge! Did you see the pool house? I can’t believe we are going to be staying there! It looks too big!”
“I think we should tell Adelaide. Everything.”
“Everything? As in, like, from the beginning everything?”
“Yes. We could tell her about Jeff and what he did to you.”
“Why? What if she treats me differently? What if she thinks I’m weird? Or a slut?”
“She has the right to know, since she’s letting us live with her. And if she was a true friend, she wouldn’t judge you on something that you had no control of. She would try to help you.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Again,” she smiled, “At least we have a place to stay.”
“That’s the spirit.” I said sarcastically.

We got out and walked down Adelaide’s never-ending driveway. It was lined with alternating flowers and lamp posts.. Adelaide must have been waiting for us because she opened up the door on the third chime of the doorbell.
“Hey guys! Hang on a second. I just have to lock the door,” she fiddled around with her key chain for a bit, “Okay! I’ll show you to the pool house. I think you’ll like it. Follow me!”

She led us around to the side of the house. The pool house itself looked much larger when you’re standing next to it. She fiddled with the keys again. It took her a little while to find the right one this time. When we walked in, I was shocked at the decorations. I glanced at Mae, and I could tell she was too. The living room, which was the first room you walked into, looked like a Pottery Barn display. Everything just looked... perfect. My living room looked like a dump compared to Adelaide’s. Mae and I followed Adelaide up to the bedroom, admiring the pictures on the wall leading upstairs.
“Sorry guys, there’s only one bed.”

I put my arm around Mae, and she blushed and looked down.
“It’s cool. We’ve been sharing the same bed for the past few months.”

It was Adelaide’s turn to blush. We dropped our stuff on the bed and Adelaide led the way back to the Pottery Barn look-alike living room. She left the couch for us as she fell back into an over-sized armchair that seemed to envelop her. We all sat there, not knowing what to say or do. I bet Adelaide was expecting an explanation on why we called her- last minute- to ask if we could crash at her house. And I could guarantee that Mae was thinking about what she would she would say and how Adelaide would react.
“So,” I said, startling them both, “Adelaide, you’re probably wondering why we called you to ask if we could stay with you.”
“If you want to tell me. You don’t have to. I totally understand...” She trailed off.
“Mae, would you like to tell her? Or should I?”
“Can you?” She murmured, already starting to cry.

I launched into Mae’s story. Adelaide looked shocked the entire time I was talking. Mae continued to cry as I retold her life story. Adelaide eventually got up and moved next to Mae. She hugged Mae, and they both cried together. When I was done, Adelaide was speechless. Her gaze flickered between Mae and I, expectantly. I gave her some time to process what I had just told her. She would open her mouth like she was going to say something, but closed it as if she was protesting with herself.
“Mae’s pregnant. That’s why we were kicked out. My mom thought I got her pregnant, but I didn’t. Mae suggested that the day I took her away was the day she became pregnant.”
“Oh, Mae. I’m so sorry! Can’t you bring Jeff to court or something? Can I do anything to help?”
“You’ve done so much already. I-we really appreciate you letting us stay here.”
“Any time. That’s what friends are for, aren’t they?”

It turns out that Adelaide’s parents were cool with us staying in their pool house. Mae had her life savings, and I had an interview waiting for me at our town’s general store. Most of the kids in town apply there, though the employer rarely hires teens. I don’t know why I was the exception, but I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. My parents were not going to have any part in trying to fund the medical bills, so Mae and I decided to find anyway possible to pay for everything ourselves. We didn’t want people to give us money. We weren’t going to be anyone’s charity case. Mae offered to clean Adelaide’s house, but her parents wouldn’t have any part of that. Mae also put flyers up around the local stores. Already four people had called her. Forest Springs was a wealthy town, and they were paying Mae very well. She went after school to each house, and I stayed in the car while doing my homework.

By the sixth month, we were able to pay off the first couple of medical bills. These past months have been a roller coaster, both physically and mentally. For the first month, she was still in denial that she was pregnant. Once she started to show, she forced herself to accept the truth. Fortunately, Mae and I were able to explain our situation to Mrs. Allen, and she had Mae stay in a special room in the back of the guidance office. A tutor came in to keep Mae up to speed with the rest of our grade. They treated her like they would any other student. They didn’t lecture her about what she should have done, or guilt her about what she is going through now. Mae was still doing well despite the constant obstacles that seemed to keep popping up. I’ve practically had to force food down her throat. She was far too skinny, and yet she refused to eat. Even when I persuaded her with the fact that the baby needed the energy too, she didn’t eat anything. We were both counting the days until the predicted due date. Each day that went by, Mae got more excited to have a baby to call her own. During the fifth month’s ultrasound, the doctor announced that it was a baby girl. Mae and I left the hospital that day and headed towards the strip mall.

The strip mall in Wooddale had only a couple of good stores that stood out against the cheesy, rinky-dink stores that most of the tourists that pass through visit. Amongst the stores we found a Target, Babies “R” Us, and a Sears. We bought the necessities like a crib, changing table, clothes, and a couple of toys. We got mostly pink themed furniture and accessories. Mae had the greatest time shopping for clothes. She was constantly holding up frilly dresses and bedazzled shirts, asking for my opinions on each. We shared our favorite names that could possibly be the name of our future daughter. Mae wanted to name her after a character from a book, but I wanted to name her something more classy. Mae’s top three names were Lena, Taylor, or Grace. My top three were Raine, Alice, or Rose. We had another four months to figure out the name, so we just laughed it off for now. We spent $500 at Target alone- almost half the money I had earned since December. We unanimously decided against going to the other stores to avoid spending any more money.

Adelaide had been a great moral support for Mae. She helped her continue through school by shooting down any rumor that had surfaced about us. She was also able to help Mae through the rough patches of her pregnancy. Adelaide had researched everything she thought we needed to know. Her parents never knew Mae was pregnant, mostly because they were rarely home, and we didn’t really leave the house that much. Usually most teens would become restless, being cooped up in a house, but Mae and I were perfectly happy with our secluded lifestyle.

The seventh month was when everything started to go downhill. Mae became too weak to continue to go to school, so the school decided to home-school her. They sent the tutor over to our pool house, and Mae was able to stay in bed and rest all day. We found ourselves at the hospital more often then not. Every time we went, the doctor showed more anxiety than the last visit. Never in front of Mae, of course. While Mae changed back into her clothes, the doctor would always pull me outside to talk.
“Derek, she’s too weak and too thin-”
“I know. Believe me, I know. I’m trying to get her to eat! She just won’t!”
“It won’t be easy for her.”
“She will...make it though? Right?”
“Oh, of course she will live. Unless something else technical goes wrong, but there’s a slim chance of that. All I’m saying is that it won’t be easy for her. The baby will probably be born early.”
“Okay. We can deal with that.”

I didn’t tell Mae right aways what the doctor told me. I didn’t want to put any more stress on her that she didn’t need. Between the morning sickness and the pain, I couldn’t bear to make her panic. There had been days were Mae had trouble getting out of bed. Adelaide would usually come in the morning to help her get dressed, shower, and anything else that was deemed inappropriate for me to do by Adelaide. It killed me, not being able to help her, and Mae noticed. Mae and I both knew that it wouldn’t bother either of us if I help her with those things, but Adelaide was too protective of Mae. I respected Adelaide’s willingness to help and I let her do what she wanted to. It was her pool house, after all. By the time we managed to convince Mae to eat, the tutor would arrive. That was our cue to leave for school. On the ride over, I would fill Adelaide in on what the doctor had been telling me. In return, Adelaide told me all about premature birth. I was starting to get seriously worried for Mae. I tried to put it out of my head during school, but everything seemed to remind me of her.

The months of March and April seemed to drag on and on. Everyday I was paranoid that something would happen to Mae, and I wouldn’t be there to help her. School resembled a prison more than the social gathering it used to be. I counted every hour and minute until I could run home. The tutor had my number, and she promised to call if anything went wrong. So far, I hadn’t received a text or a call. Each day my phone didn’t ring, I reassured myself that everything would work out for the best and everything would be okay. That all came crashing down on May 24th.

Chapter Eight: A new arrival

Chase, Annalisa, and I were playing our own game of soccer in gym class when they came. Mrs. Allen, Adelaide, and the principal waited for me at the threshold of the double doors. Adelaide had a scared look on her face, and Mrs. Allen beckoned me over. Chase and Annalisa started to follow me, but I waved them off. I had a bad feeling about what was going on. Mr. Williams had a quiet, anxious demeanor about him that made me even more nervous. As soon as we got to the parking lot, Mrs. Allen stopped me dead in my tracks.
“Derek, Mae’s in labor.” she said nervously.
“I knew it! Is she okay? What hospital? Are we leaving now? When can I see her?” I started to pace back and forth. I needed to see her now to make sure she was alright.
“Derek! Derek, calm down. She’s at St. Mary’s in Wooddale. I don’t know when, or even if, you can see her. The tutor said she was in a lot of pain.”
“Derek,” Adelaide interrupted, “We should go now. Usually, they don’t allow anyone but family into the room. You and I can wait outside together.”
“What? That isn’t fair!” I was really started to get pissed off with the medical system.
“I think we should go. Now.”
Adelaide and I rushed to St. Mary’s. The traffic was, ironically, bumper to bumper. I impatiently drummed on the steering wheel, counting how many minutes we had been sitting on the highway. I usually never take the highway, I’m too terrified that I’m going to end up in a fatal car crash. But it was the fastest way to get to Mae, so I decided to suck it up and take it. Adelaide was ringing her hands and squirming nervously in her seat. I could tell she was just as anxious to get to the hospital as I was. It took us about 40 minutes to get to the hospital between stop and go traffic. By the time we pulled into the parking lot it was about 3 o’clock. There were barely any cars parked, and those who were probably belonged to the employees. It wasn’t that crowded, so I hoped that it would be easy to find Mae. Adelaide and I burst through the swinging doors into an immaculate, whiter waiting room that smelled of antiseptic. There were only a handful of people in the waiting room. We ran down the OB/GYN hallway and found the receptionist. By now, she and I were on a first name basis.
“Christine,” I panted, “Is Mae-”
“Sixth hallway, ninth door down. She’s not doing well, the doctors don’t know what to do just yet.”
“Thank you so much!”

Adelaide and I started to run again, but Christine stopped us before we even reached the doors.
“Derek!” She called out, “I’m sorry, but you can’t be in the room with Mae. It’s policy.”
“I really am sorry, Derek. But it’s the rule. No one but the family or spouse are allowed in, and seeing that you are neither, I can’t let you in. You can knock on the door to let them know you are out there and you and your guest can wait outside the door. But I don’t know how long it will take.”
“Okay. We can do that. Thanks again, Christine.”
“No problem. Good luck”

We found the room she was in after wandering up and down multiple hallways. I could tell we had the right room because I could hear Mae’s scream. I did as Christine told me and knocked on the door. A female nurse creaked the door open just enough that she could see me. I tried to look over her shoulder to see if I could catch a glimpse of Mae. She was surrounded by doctors, and I was barely see the top of her head. The nurse started to close the door, but I stuck my foot between that and the door. She gave me a frustrated, impatient look.
“Sir, I’m sort of busy.” She sighed as Mae let out another scream.
“I know, I’m Derek. I’m Mae’s boyfriend.”

When I said that, she reopened the door and stepped out. She had a serious yet pitying expression on her face.
“Is it true I can’t come in? How is she? What’s wrong?” I bombarded her with questions.
“Son, I’m sorry. Only family are allowed in.”
“How is she?”
“To be honest, she’s not doing too well. Teenager’s bodies aren’t built for having a baby, and Mae is very small. It’s going to be a long time, and it’s going to be hard for her.”

My heart started to crumble as she said that. I saw Mae out of the corner of my eye, and I heard her scream again. She kept crying , and I swear I could feel my heart break in two. I couldn’t take it anymore. If I stayed there any longer I was going to trample the poor nurse. I stumbled backwards and gripped the molding of the doorway for support.
“Derek?” Adelaide asked meekly, “Are you okay?”

The nurse took that as her opportunity to escape and walked back over to Mae. Even with the door shut, I could still hear her cry echoing.
“No. No I’m not okay. I want to be with Mae.” I said.
I sounded more like a little boy pleading for his mother than a teenager. She put her arm around my shoulder and steered me back to the waiting room. Christine looked up as we entered the room and gave us an empathizing smile. It didn’t help, it only made things worse.
“Derek, it’s going to be okay. Mae’s going to be fine, and soon you’re going to have a little baby girl. Have you picked out a name?”

I could tell she was only trying to help me, but it made me feel worse. Trying to distract me right now was like making a hungry tiger ignore a piece of bloody meat. It was impossible.
“Lena or Faith. We haven’t decided yet. Both of us like Faith better, considering Mae’s past. We decided to wait to see what our baby girl looks like before we settle on a name.”
“Lena is a beautiful name, but I like Faith better.”
“Yeah, me too.”

We sat there making small talk for another two hours. At 8 o’clock, Adelaide left to get us some dinner. While she was gone, I paced up and down every hallway in the entire hospital. It was probably normal for the employees to see a guy like me aimlessly walking because no one even gave me a second look. Adelaide came back a while later with food, but I was too nervous to eat. Each hour seemed like an eternity. I would frequently walk down the hallway where Mae was, but regret it instantly. All I would hear are her tortured screams. I wanted to be there- right next to her, holding her hand. I tried staying outside the room, but I could only take so much. I walked back into the waiting room. With my mind focused on Mae, I can’t remember what I had been doing the past few hours.
10 o’clock finally rolled around and Adelaide was sound asleep. It was fascinating how she could fall asleep at a time like this and in chairs so uncomfortable. Christine had been long gone and replaced by a grumpy night-shift worker. She never spoke a single word or even made eye contact with me. Good to know that everyone was so friendly. Part of me wanted to collapse from fatigue, but the rest of me was kicking myself for even thinking of sleep. I was just about to doze off when a middle aged nurse bustled into the waiting room. She looked around like she was expecting a multitude of people. When her gaze finally resided on me, she motioned for me to follow her. No words were exchanged between the two of us, and I didn’t know how to take that. I couldn’t tell if something went wrong and she didn’t have the courage to tell me, or she was simply too tired. Before I entered the room, I dug into my pocket to make sure that the small, velvet box was still there.
When I walked into the room, my eyes found Mae immediately. She was lying on her back, almost peacefully. I watched her as her chest rose and fell rapidly like she just ran a race. I tried to look around for her baby, but I couldn’t find her. Mae’s eyes fluttered open when I took her hand.
“Hey.” She said meekly.
“How are you feeling?”
“I’m okay? Have you seen her?”
“No. Is she okay? Where is she?”
“She’s right there,” Mae pointed to a small incubator beside her, “Isn’t she beautiful?”

I looked into the clear incubator and saw her wrapped in a pink blanket. She really was beautiful. But she looked so small, almost unhealthy. I gave the nurse closest to us a worried look. I didn’t want to worry Mae, so I dropped it.
“Derek? Right?” the nurse said.
“Yes, that’s me.” I said warily.

All I wanted to do was to stay with Mae. The nurse pulled me out into the hallway as I braced myself for bad news.
“Is Mae okay? Is her baby okay?”
“Mae is okay, she’s just tired. The baby is doing all right. Since she was born about two month too early, she’s underweight and too small. The other nurses and I were talking about having Mae stay for another night. We want to make sure she’s okay and healthy. The baby might have to stay for another week or two.”
“Okay, thank you so much. Can I stay overnight with Mae?”
“Of course! I don’t see why not. Is her family coming?”
“No one? Don’t they want to see Mae and her baby? Not even to make sure she’s okay?”
“One of her friends is here, but she is sleeping. I’ll wait ‘til morning to wake her up.”
“That’s sweet. You can go back in. Congratulations on being a father, by the way.”
“Oh, well...” I didn’t know what to say.
I didn’t want to tell this nurse that I just met Mae’s entire life story. On the other hand, I didn’t want her to think that I was the father.
“Thanks.” I muttered.

I drifted into the room, back over to Mae, determined not to get distracted again. I wanted to talk to her, to make sure she was okay, but I could tell she was too tired to talk. I let her sleep, and I walked over to the incubator again. I stared at our beautiful girl. She was sleeping as well. Another nurse appeared behind me and put a hand on my shoulder.
“Would you like to hold her?” She whispered.
“Can I?”
“Of course, dad.”

Considering the future, for all intents and purposes, I would be her father. The nurse gently lifted her out of the incubator and placed her in my arms. I cradled her and thought about what a miracle she is. She might have been an accident, a reminder of Mae’s dreadful past, but she’s also a blessing. She’s something else that connected Mae and I. Mae was going to be a wonderful mother, and I hoped to be a good father. Between us both, there was no way we could mess this up. I was excited to raise her all on our own. I sat down next to Mae’s hospital bed with our child still in my arms. I rocked her back and forth, and she fell sound asleep in my arms again. It was amazing that a baby this small would put her faith in someone she had never met before.

Mae woke up about a half an hour later. She looked over at me and smiled when she saw I was holding her pride and joy. She held out her arms, and I handed our baby over as gently as I could without without waking her up. Unfortunately, she did wake up. But, when she and her mom made eye contact, she smiled and squirmed happily instead of crying. Mae started to stroke her head and then started to cry herself. When the nurse realized that Mae was awake she strolled over to us. She removed the baby from Mae’s arms, and Mae looked heartbroken.
“Do you know what you want to name her?” The nurse asked us.

We glanced at each other, and telepathically agreed on her name.
“Lena Faith Collette.” Mae squeaked.
“Actually, I thought of a different name.”

Mae looked at me, shocked. I smiled at her, knowing what I was going to do next.
“I like Lena Faith Kingston better.”

And, following tradition, I got down on one knee and pulled out the velvet box. Inside was a small, diamond ring. Adelaide and I went from store to store, looking for the perfect ring for Mae. We settled on one from an antique store. It was silver and had a square diamond wrapped in the middle. Mae gasped and started to cry harder. She nodded her head frantically, but I could tell she was speechless.
“I thought if we were going to raise Lena, we should do it properly. And I love you, Mae. I can’t imagine my life without you. I’m so glad I found you. Will you marry me?”
“Y-y-yes!” She stuttered, “ Of course! I love you too, Derek!”

I got up and hugged her lightly, trying not to dislocate any IVs or wires. I held out my hand, and she held out hers. She was shaking so badly, and I hoped it was from excitement. I slipped the ring on her finger and it fit perfectly. Mae held her hand up in front of her and covered her mouth to keep from crying any louder. I crawled beside her in the hospital bed. There was little room to begin with, so I shifted her onto my lap. She curled up and draped her arms around my neck, and I placed my arms around her waist in return. I heard the nurse sniffle as she wrote the name for the birth certificate. I decided to ignore her and focus all my attention on Mae. The nurse fiddled with the papers. She came over to us and placed Lena in Mae’s arms. Lena looked up at Mae affectionately and curled up in her arms. I took her small hand, and her fingers were barely able to reach around mine. We stayed like that, all three of us, intertwined and happy. I was surrounded by the two people I loved both, and Mae finally had a family who loved her just as much as she loved us. And I could never love anyone more than I loved Mae.

By this time, most characters have something life-changing to say. They fill you in on whatever they have accomplished. But, to be honest, Mae and I haven’t really done anything significant. It’s been a year and a half since Lena Faith Kingston was born, and we are still living in Adelaide’s pool house, trying to earn enough money to rent our own house. After Mae was able to leave the hospital, we both went home to help prepare for Lena. Adelaide was pissed when she realized she missed both the proposal and seeing Lena. She and Mae giggled and whispered in the back seat about the ring. Adelaide was already planning Mae’s ‘dream’ wedding and elaborating on about what type of dress Mae was going to wear. In the rearview mirror, I could see Mae’s nervous face. As we locked eyes, she smiled and laughed. When we finally made it home, all three of us decided to prepare the nursery for the arrival of Lena. I forbade Mae to do any work, so she situated herself on an armchair that Adelaide and I dragged up to the nursery room and told us where to put the furniture and decorations. As she instructed us on what to do, she folded the multitude of dresses, skirts, jeans, and matching outfits that we had bought the other day.

The tutor continued to come to our house since there was only a little less than a month of school left. I talked to Mae about prom, and we came to a consensus that we wouldn’t go this year, but definitely next year.Mae pleaded with me to return to school in the fall for senior year. I would love her to come back to school, but I don’t know what we are going to tell everyone. All of her old friends were very supportive of her, and they refused to listen to anything anyone had said about Mae and I. Whenever they asked about her, I answered them vaguely, but they accepted it and were okay with whatever I said. It was a miracle that I didn’t fail the second semester, considering I thought about Mae and Lena all day. It was the best feeling to come home to not one, but two smiling faces that were genuinely happy to see me.

Every day for the next two weeks, Mae and I went in to see Lena at the children’s wing of the hospital. We brought her some toys and sometimes read to her. We used up all of our visiting hours, and were chastised by the same nurse every day for refusing to leave. We picked her up as soon as her prison sentence was over. After spending quite sometime trying to figure out how the car seat worked, Mae was the one to successfully strap Lena in. In all that confusion, all Lena did was watch her parents and smile. Mae sat in the back, playing with her the entire ride home. That night, Mae and I fell asleep together with Lena curled up between the two of us.
It’s been a year since Lena was born, and Mae and I have never felt happier. I haven’t talked to my mom since she kicked my out of our house. She hasn’t met Lena yet, and I don’t think she will for a while. If ever. I don’t think I can ever forgive her for what she did to Mae and I. Lena, I swear, is the most beautiful, most perfect little girl parents could ever ask for. She rarely acts up and is very easygoing. Mae was happy because she felt like she has an actual family, and I’m happy because the two most important people in my life are happy. I’ve always read those fiction books, where the two main characters fall into this deep, unfailing love. I never believed in that type of love until now. Mae had woven her way into my life, and I can’t imagine life without her. Finally, something in this crazy world felt right.

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