The Only Witness

November 6, 2011
By headoverheels44 SILVER, Dickerson, Maryland
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headoverheels44 SILVER, Dickerson, Maryland
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Author's note: Usually I write about love stories or off of a nightmare I have had, but I decided I wanted to challenge myself and write about a topic that was out of my realm of experience or knowledge along with a very difficult mental disorder.

“Beautiful, Miss Lovette!” The photographer praised as I lay myself across a small couch in the ways I was taught were beautiful for a model of my build, “Let’s try having you look away from the lights!” He called and I immediately changed the direction of my eyes and changed my face to look as though I was watching another world of magic and wonder. The photographer seemed to snap his pictures more rapidly so I assumed he approved of this look, “That’s a wrap!” The photographer called and I slowly sat up on the couch. One of the men working as a light manager quickly came to give me his hand. I gracefully accepted it so he helped me to my feet. I looked up to my manager as he came to me.
“That was some of your best work, Lovette! You were magnificent!” He gushed before taking my hand and leading me over to the designer who had dressed me a few hours before. I was changed back into my school uniform, my hair was fixed, and I was given back my fake glasses. The pink, navy, and white plaid skirt was zipped up past my hips and buttoned at the top, the navy suit-jacket like top was buttoned up over my formal looking white button-up shirt, and the pink tie was loosely tied around my neck.
The stylist gave me an upset look as he took a step back in order to see me fully, “Can’t I do something to her hair?” He asked in a very preppy voice made by a man as he looked to my manager.
Peter smiled towards the flamboyant stylist, “She is not supposed to look like herself when she leaves, Mr. Smith,” Peter replied and then took four steps so that he stood at my side. He used a makeup removing pad to take to makeup off of my cheeks and eyes after removing my glasses. When he was satisfied he threw the pad away and took a step back so that he stood beside Mr. Smith, “Now she looks like a normal 17 year old girl. That is the goal.”
“It is a crime to hide such a beautiful face behind those glasses! And when her hair is down and in her face those beautiful cheekbones of hers are hidden!”
“Exactly,” Peter commented as he offered his hand to me. I accepted it and he helped me stand, “Now we need to get going. It is almost the time I told the school you would be back from your ‘dentist appointment’,” Peter added before thanking everyone we passed as we left the studio. When we got to the car I took the passenger’s seat and pulled out my handheld mirror from my backpack. I used a hairbrush to make my hair less glossy and perfect as Peter drove me back to school. When we reached our destination I got out and slipped my backpack over my shoulders before going into the doors of the cobblestone building. I quickly made my way to the office to receive a pass in order to get into my class after it had started. When I knocked on the door of my class it was opened by the assistant teacher of the class who smiled towards me.
“Welcome back, Noel.” Shelby whispered before taking my slip and allowing me into the classroom. The teacher, Mr. Kenai, glared at me as I quickly made my way to my seat next to the window and a boy named Will. The class proceeded as the teacher ignored me and went on with his lesson. Physics came as easy as breathing to me, so listening to his fast-paced mumbling was not what I planned to do for the next hour and a half. I quietly worked on the classes I had missed earlier and the papers I was given from the class teachers that had been brought to the front office so I could receive it when I came back. Luckily I had been here this morning for my first class and would not have to make up work for my world history class, which was a bright side. Math was a breeze to finish, but I was reminded that my worse subject was one of the classes I had missed while at the photo shoot; English, my own form of a death sentence. It took the rest of the block attended to be used to learn about physics to finish an essay I was given by my English teacher and I barely finished in time for the bell that signaled the end of class to ring. Now came my second least favorite class of the day, gym. I am built tall and slender which is not the ideal athletic body type. The mob of students from my class went in different directions as I followed the others that were going to the same class as me. I went into the girl’s entrance for the locker room and quietly made my way to my gym locker. I used my combination in order to open it as the girls who had gotten there before me chatted while standing in only bras and underwear. I had never felt the need to talk to others while mainly naked and still had yet to understand why the girls in my school seemed to enjoy doing such so much. I quickly changed from my class uniform and into my gym uniform. Still, I was the only girl in the class that had to wear a kids’ small of the navy spandex while wearing a medium adults’ shirt that hung on my waist like a bag, but the small adults’ shirt did not cover all of my stomach because of my large breasts that did not seem to match the rest of my slender build. When I slipped on the pink, supposedly fitted t-shirt I followed with slipping on my knee high white socks and lacing up my navy tennis shoes. A whistle was blown by the female gym teacher that did not even teach our class, but did teach us last year.
“Alright, ladies! Enough chit-chat! Class is started!” She hollered in her cracking voice affected by all the smoking she did between classes. I followed the mob of girls that started leaving through the back door and was glad when my friend named Ava who went by ‘V’ appeared at my side. Her dark brown hair was pulled into a ponytail for class which reminded me to put up my hair. When we reached the tennis courts where our male teacher, Coach Daniel, and the boys of the class waited I pulled my hair up into a ponytail also like all the other girls of the class and then listened to the teacher as he explained how to perform an overhand serve. When he was finished we were told that today we could choose our partners for doubles tennis, which only happened once a week. V smiled towards me and I quickly nodded before we could be separated by the girls and boys who would die to be V’s partner. Even though she could easily hang out with anyone at this school and could choose her friends, she always chose me. Ever since I moved her in our second year of junior high she seemed to protect me like a mother bird towards her babies. We were placed on a court by our teacher and ended up being against V’s boyfriend of the time and his best friend who was one of the most annoying guys’ I have met in my life. They were both glamorous and popular just like V, which made me feel out of place. The ‘me’ I wanted to be did not want either of those things, but was considered a freak for not wanting it. If they knew who I really was, I’m sure they would either be shocked or disbelieve me.
V suddenly grabbed my arm and pulled me near her, “Chase and Colin are both on the tennis team so they will try to aim for you. I will take the back of the court so I can get more of their hits.”
I nodded, “Thanks.” I whispered to her and she smiled before taking her spot in the back of the court. I tried to keep up with Colin, V’s boyfriend named Chase, and V, but they were all starters on the schools tennis teams’ so it was of no use. Luckily we won against them 10 to 9 when Coach Daniel told us it was time to go inside to take our five minute break before we started our next activity. Because the class was 2 hours long, we did two different sports for almost an hour each. I quickly made my way to the water fountain when Chase called V over to him in order to not get in the way of the sappy conversation they were destined to have. Once I got a drink I sat on the ground and watched as two boys of the class helped Coach Daniel put up the long placemats and regretted that today was going to be like all the others when we did gymnastics. This was the only sport I hated but excelled in.
Coach Daniel blew his whistle, “Alright, everyone huddle around the mats and take a seat!” He called and V finally came back to my side in order to walk over to the mob forming around the area we were told to go to, “Miss Morel! Could you show us your talents on the mats?” Coach Daniel asked and I had no right to say no. I nodded and handed V my glasses before going over to the end of the mats. The class became silent and all eyes were on me. I started into a sprint and quickly started my eight summersaults before ending in a double front flip at the end of the mats. The group clapped as I quickly made my way over to V and took back my glasses. I sat down in the group and tried to hide myself as the teacher explained what he wanted us to do. When he was done talking we lined up in rows behind our choice of equipment that was set up for use and waited our turn. I followed quietly behind V as she got in line for the trampoline.
“Your flip seemed tighter than usual. Is something up? You usually don’t clench up like that.” V commented as we slowly moved a few feet forward with the line.
“Nothing, my mouth is just sore from having work done so I guess it may have made me tenser than usual,” I replied as we moved another two steps forward, “So what were you and Chase talking about earlier? I didn’t want to be a third wheel so I kept my distance.”
“He was commenting on how much better you are at tennis than you were at the beginning of the year.” She replied as she watched the back of the boy in front of her.
“I know that’s total B.S. Is it something you don’t want to share? If it is, just tell me that.”
She sighed, “He asked me to help him set you up with Colin.”
“Really?” I asked and she nodded, “Why?”
“He thinks if you go out with Colin your meekness may rub off on him and maybe he will get his act together.”
“I’d prefer not to date a boy that thinks being high is ‘fun’ and makes life ‘exciting’. The guys a moron.”
“That’s why I told him you are and never will be interested.”
“Thank you.” I replied as she got onto the trampoline. When she got off and I went on for my turn I watched in agony as a group of girls in the class crowded her before whisking her off to another part of the gym. For the rest of the hour I went around from station to station while trying to ignore the other students that would talk about how I was a show-off that was trying to get some attention by being the best at everything and was a wannabe. It seemed to become easier by the day to ignore their cruel and insensitive slanders against me even when V was not at my side, acting as a shield against their rude gossiping. Relief overfilled me when Coach Daniel finally told us it was time to leave. I went back to the girl’s changing room and quickly got out of my gym uniform and back into my school uniform so that I could get away from the gossiping girls faster. I went outside the locker room and waited in the hall for V who came out momentarily. Today V, my only other friend named Sami, and I were going to hang out in town. I had been looking forward to this day for months now since it had been almost 4 months since the last time I got a full afternoon off of work and could hang out with my two friends. The bell rang after a few moments to announce that school was over so V and I made our way to our lockers in order to get our bags. I met V at her locker once I had my things together to see Sami was already there. We made our way out of the crowded hallway as quickly as possible and went to Sami’s black Volkswagen bug where V got in the backseat, I claimed shotgun, and Sami took the wheel. She drove over to Main Street and parked in front of our favorite salon named ‘Beauty’. When we went inside Sami’s cousin, who worked there, ran over to us and hugged her cousin tightly. She then hugged V and me separately.
“I’m so glad you three are here together! We have three pedicure tubs ready for ya’!” She cheered before we followed her to the three tubs. I sat in the middle one but looked to V when she gasped.
“I just got a text from Levi that says that newest model in the biz, Ash, is going to be in town this week! Did you two know about this?” She asked as she looked to me and I shook my head.
“Well if Noel doesn’t know, it must be a well kept secret. I mean her uncle is one of the biggest managers in the biz so she would be the first to know. Also she works sometimes with her uncle in the studios that all the big models work at so she usually knows these things before anyone else,” Sami replied to V who frowned, “I’m sure it’s just gossip.”
“Well if he works with your uncle while he’s here, you have to get us an autograph!” V pointed out as she poked my arm, “Okay?”
“Alright, if I meet him I’ll see what I can do.”
“What I want to know is why the famous ‘Ash’ would want to come to our town,” Sami said as three Chinese women came over and started our pedicures, “I mean were not in Twilight’s tiny town of “Forks” or anything but we aren’t exactly in Manhattan.”
“It’s because all of Noel’s uncle’s clients work around here. I mean we’re slowly becoming the next hot place for models to become big! I mean we already have Lovette working in town with Noel’s uncle and she has been a top ranked female model for the past three years!”
“But Lovette will have to move on at some point, you know. Then we will just become the plain old city of Kennewick.”
“True.” V said as she nodded but I tuned out of their conversation after a while and read emails on my phone. After we had our pedicures finished we went shopping in the main boutiques of the city but whenever it came to purchasing I was forced to put the clothes V and Sami had picked out for me back and then tell them I was saving up my money for a car. In truth, there was no point in me buying clothes since I received any outfit I wore in photo shoots or were given by designers for free. After eating at a Mexican restaurant we always went to Sami decided she would drop me off before V this time. She stopped in front of the apartment I had fooled them into thinking I lived in since I became friends with them and she drove off once she saw me go up the main staircase of the building. I watched from the top step as they drove away and once the car’s taillights were out of sight I went back down the stairs. I made my way down the street and over 6 blocks before opening the gate to my uncle’s second mansion of a house he had bought for me to live in. When I went inside I flipped on the light switch near the front door and watched as the main hallway of the first level lit up to show nothing living. I sighed, shut the front door, and locked it before turning back to the dead hallway.
“I’m home,” I whispered before putting my keys back into my backpack and going up the dark staircase to my left. When I reached my bedroom I flipped on the light switch to see the maid had been here earlier. Everything in the room was spotless and perfect which stung me and I could not look at it for very long. I immediately went into the shower and got ready for bed in the quiet house. I turned off the lights in my room, went to my bed, crawled under the covers, and opened my small DVD player. I pressed play, put my earphones in my ears, and lay down on my pillow as my mother’s face appeared on the screen. She turned the camera in her hand towards a table covered in party favors, balloons, and a large cake. When she turned the camera back to herself she smiled and seemed to sparkle.
“Happy Birthday, Noel!”
“Mom! I’m right here!” I grumbled as she turned the camera to me as I sat on a couch next to my father.
“But this is the video were going to send to your grandparents so I needed to tell them what it was for!”
“Come on, mom! I’m ten now!” I grumbled back and my father laughed with his deep voice.
“Let her be, Noel. She is just excited.”
“Exactly! And soon your friends will be arriving!” Mom added but I rolled my eyes. These were not kids who actually liked me; they just wanted to be friends with the only child of the famous French male model Guillaume and the famous American female model Charae. They all were obsessed with both of my parents even though my mother barely spoke French unlike my father and me but we lived in Paris. My father started tickling me and I laughed as I yelled for him to stop as my mother also laughed.
“Mom, Dad.” I whispered before I closed my eyes and tears ran down my face. I fell asleep listening to all three of us laughing.

In the morning I went downstairs fully dressed in my uniform with my backpack and ate cereal. By the time I was finished and got outside, uncle Peter was sitting against the front of his car smoking. Truly Peter was not related to me in any way. He was actually the talent scout that found me directly after I was moved back to the states and started living with my grandparents. I worked with him for one year and then moved in with him in Kennewick after I lost my grandparents to old age. He adopted me so that his new and upcoming model would not become an orphan and so I moved into this large but empty house per his wishes. I quickly went to his car and got in the passenger’s seat. When he looked back to me he stomped out his cigarette and then got behind the wheel. He drove me to school but grabbed my arm when I tried to get out.
“There has been a change in plans for today. I will pick you up after your science class starts so be ready.” He said before letting go of me. When I got out I saw V, Chase, Colin, and Sami all by the entrance of the private high school but I had to ignore them. I quickly trudged my way into the building and told the front office lady that I am having pain in the tooth I had work done on yesterday so I must leave after my science class in order to have the work fixed. She gave me a slip for later and told me that she hoped I will feel better. I left the front office as the bell rang to go to class so I made my way to my history room. I had no friends in that class other than Chase, who I did not really consider as a friend. When he came into the room I was already seated and reading for English class. I was surprised that he came over and sat on my desk so I looked up from my book.
“Hey.” He said with a perfect smile.
I pushed my glasses up on my nose, “Hi.”
“So V told me you refuse to ever go out with Colin. To tell you the truth, I think she’s thinking a little too much when she says you will never go out with him. I mean you don’t know what will happen later so you may someday want to date him.”
My face tensed, “I’ll tell you what I told V, I’d prefer not to date a boy that thinks being high is ‘fun’ and makes life ‘exciting’.”
“That’s a harsh assumption for someone who barely knows the guy. Anyways he doesn’t do drugs. That’s just a rumor.”
I sat up straight in my chair, “Then why have I seen him on many occasions smoking weed outside the school boundaries? You can think what you want about Colin, I won’t judge you on your opinion, but even if he is not a full druggie, I do not want to date him. He only speaks about how popular he is and how he’s better than everyone else.”
“You don’t have to be jealous that he’s popular, Noel,” He hissed, “I swear, you are so rude towards anyone who is considered popular! You are mean, rude, and frankly I don’t see what’s so special about you that V and Sami want to hang with you.”
I leaned back in my chair and looked back to my book, “Thanks for your opinion, Chase,” I retorted and then the bell rang, “That’s the bell. You should go to your seat.” History, Math, and English were nothing beyond ordinary, but the whole time I could feel Chase watching me with anger in his eyes except for the only class I did not have with him, which was English. At lunch I went over to V’s locker but stopped when she gave me a glance of anger. I slowly made my way over to her and she slammed her locker shut.
“Do you have to be so mean to Chase, Noel? I mean I know you don’t like guys, but couldn’t you at least be nice to him? I mean he is your best friend’s boyfriend!” She hissed and my mind froze. I went into a state I could not easily get myself into or out of and was terrified of the result. My face became numb and so did my brain.
“Even if he’s your boyfriend, I’m not just going to stand there and let him yell at me. I told him I did not want to date Colin and he yelled at my reasoning, but I never yelled at him. I kept myself composed even when he yelled more and more.”
“Whatever, Noel.” She hissed and then stormed away. I watched as she walked over to Sami’s locker and talked. Sami’s face turned to anger as she looked to me and I felt the urge to walk away so I followed it. I stayed inside per request of Peter since I was not supposed to tan my perfect white skin so I spent my lunch in the library where I lost myself in books until Science started. I ignored the entire class as I tried to get out of this translucent state I had gotten into that made my expression never change but was relieved when the time came for me to leave. I handed my teacher my pass ten minutes before the class ended and made my way outside. Peter waited in his car which I quickly got into and felt safer.
“I was just given word that the famous male model ‘Ash’ has come into town. He wants to observe the abilities of the photographer who is shooting you today in order to see if he will work well with the photographer. Now, I need you to do your best work today to show this newbie what you’re made of and that the number 1 female model is not going to be easy for him to reach. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I whispered and then we were quiet the rest of the trip. When we got to the studio of the photographer I was swept away to makeup and wardrobe where I was put into a dress that was a light blue with a white apron that had been torn up and ripped but had large, puffy sleeves, a pair of red and white stripped leggings, black flats, fake black nails, and a white bonnet that went over my teased pigtails but was put slanted. Black stitch-like lines were put up and down my arms, legs, and face as a makeup artist put large red circles on my cheeks that were already accented by other makeup to look thin, white lipstick was put on my lips, and black eyeliner and mascara were put around my eyes to make me look dead or haunted. I came to the set to see the famous ‘Ash’ had not arrived yet so I was positioned in a throne made to look like a large ‘raggedy Ann’ doll and the area around the throne was covered in piles of all sized ‘raggedy Ann’ dolls. The photographer came to me and smiled like we had known each other for a long time.
“Alright, Miss Lovette, what I want you to do is make yourself look like an almost broken doll in that chair.”
“Alright,” I whispered back, “Let’s start.” I added and the man quickly went over to his camera as I positioned myself in a broken looking manner that was draped over the chair as though it had been tossed there without care. This was the perfect look for me today since I felt as though I was a true doll that had been thrown without a care by the only people I called my friends. I slightly changed positions with every click of the camera but stopped when the photographer was interrupted by another manager walking into the room. I looked up to see the famous ‘Ash’ staring directly at me as I sat up from my broken position on the chair. I did not drop the gaze of ‘Ash’ till Peter called me.
“You are making your neck look long and unattractive, Lovette, try to fix that,” Peter said and I nodded without a word but watched as Peter went over to the other manager on the room and introduced himself but then proceeded to introduce himself to ‘Ash’. I was forced to look away as the photographer decided to take more shots. I placed myself almost upside down in the chair, but made it so my neck did not look odd.
“Marvelous, Lovette!” The photographer praised but when I suddenly sat up everyone stopped.
“Excuse me, Mr. Photographer,” I whispered in a quiet, dainty voice, “May I try a different pose?”
“Of course, Lovette! You are the professional here!” He said with a smile and I stood.
I took a long look at the scene created and then looked over to Peter, “Can you help me for a moment?” I asked and he quickly came to me, “When I get positioned, could you place some of the dolls around me on the chair?” I added and he nodded. I lay in a totally different position and Peter placed some of the dolls in the chair around me. The photographer was frantic to capture my photograph as I slowly changed the emotions shown through my face.
“That’s it!” The photographer called and then came over to me. He helped me out of the dolls and then shook my hand furiously, “You are a genius, Miss Lovette! Those last poses made it so you looked like a doll coming out from the others! It was inspirational!”
“Thank you, Mr. Photographer.” I said with a smile and then went over to Peter who handed me bottled water. I drank some of it but then turned when ‘Ash’ and his manager came over to us.
“Hello, Miss Lovette. I am Ash’s manager. I must say it was a growing experience for Ash here to see such a brilliant model that is his junior by one year.”
“Of course, Lovette’s pictures are never short of perfect.” Peter said as he smiled towards me.
“Well what else would you expect from the only child of the famous models Guillaume and Charae,” The other manager said and I felt myself freeze. I grabbed onto Peter who looked to me with concern.
“Are you alright, Lovette? You look pale.”
I nodded, “Yes,” I whispered to Peter but then turned to Ash, “it is nice to finally meet the famous Ash.”
“Oh? It is high praise for the perfect model Lovette to have heard of me. I am honored.” He said as I noticed his black hair matched the suit he was wearing and his blue eyes seemed to radiate with color.
“Well you must excuse us, Lovette has to get home.” Peter said and then quickly brought me to the dressing room. I was changed back into my normal girl look before I went to find Peter. I was shocked when I ran into Ash who smiled to me.
“You look much different with glasses on, Lovette.”
“I have been told so before.”
“Lovette!” Peter called and I jumped slightly.
“Sorry, please excuse me.” I said to Ash before running over to Peter. I was brought to Peter’s car and then driven home. When I went inside I went up to my room and took a shower. Afterwards I took a few sleeping pills Peter had given me before I left his car earlier. He knew I was affected by Ash’s manager’s comment about my parents and that I would not sleep easily tonight. I set up my movie like always and fell asleep to my parents singing happy birthday to me.

In the morning I forced myself to eat some toast before going to meet Peter outside to be driven to school. He looked to me as he turned on the car, “How did you sleep last night?”
“Better than I imagined. Thank you for your help.”
“Of course, now try to have some fun today. That will get you in a better mood,” He said but was quiet till we got to my school and he stopped, “I will pick you up here at the usual time.” He added as I got out and then watched him drive away. I was later than usual and had to hustle to class in order to make it before the late bell. I could not get myself to focus for any of my morning classes, went to the library for lunch, and did not focus for Physics. Sadly, I had to focus during gym even though anyone who was friends with V, Chase, Colin, or Sami (which was almost everyone at the school) either snubbed me with their words or stared me down. Today we were brought into the gym first which was odd but when I suddenly heard squealing coming from the girls closest to the hallway I knew only bad things could be coming. The man that was worse than any nightmare I had imagined to come through the door appeared and went over to Coach Daniel.
“Ash Williams will be joining our school’s junior class as of this afternoon. Please treat him kindly.” Coach Daniel said and I flinched when Ash’s gaze went directly to me. Ash was now in the boys gym uniform that was a pair of navy basketball shorts and a white t-shirt that showed off how toned his body was. I felt dizzy but tried to ignore it when we went out to the tennis courts, “Alright! Today you will be able to choose your partners!” He called and fear mixed with anxiety hit me. I watched as V and Sami joined the other girls of the class who flocked around Ash and nearly begged him to be their partner but everyone watched in shock as he declined all the offers and pushed his way through the mob of girls. What shocked me as much as the others was when Ash came over and gave me a perfect smile.
“Would you be my partner?” He asked and I quickly tried to act like I knew nothing.
“There are a million girls in this class that have already asked to be your partner. Why not let one of them be your partner?”
“I don’t want to be partners with them, I want you.” He said and I felt myself stop breathing for a moment.
“Okay.”I whispered back and then followed him to a court. I was given angry glares from every girl in the class and tried to ignore them for the second part of the class which was basketball where it was girls against guys and I barely moved. When the class was over, I changed as quickly as possible and went outside the locker room but was shocked when Sami and V came out to me.
“So what the hell’s up with you and Ash? Did you meet him before this?”
“No!” I argued, “I didn’t ask for him to notice me or pick me as his partner for tennis. I know you two are angry like the other girls and I am sorry, but I did not do this.”
“It is just like you to use your uncle’s connections to get something everyone else wants,” Another girl from my class named Kelly said as she came over to us, “You think you’re all important because your uncle’s a big shot, but you’re nothing more than a geek who doesn’t know her place. Stay away from Ash, you are not good enough for him.” The girl hissed and I felt anger boil in me. They were just like the others, telling me I wasn’t anything even though I was recognized by someone who was famous.
“You have no clue what you are talking about!” I hissed, “And who gave you the right to decide if I am good enough for Ash or not! Also, maybe he wanted to be my partner because I am the only girl who doesn’t want to be recognized by him just because he is famous! I don’t care about popularity like everyone else and a lot of people like that!”
“Stay away from Ash.” Kelly hissed but froze when the bell rang for school to end. I quickly got away from the other girls and went out to Peter’s car. We were quiet for the drive as I kept myself from crying, but it became harder to hold my tears in when I met up with a photographer that told me he wanted me to model with Ash. I accepted the offer and was allowed to leave early.
“I can drive you home.” Peter offered and I quickly accepted since I knew Ash would be showing up soon. I went home, took a fast shower, and immediately went to bed with the help of a few sleeping pills.

I woke up in the morning and could not force myself to eat, so I just went out to see Peter’s car was not there yet. I took out my phone and texted him to say I left early to meet some friends. I walked the 10 minute stroll but was shocked when I heard a sports car engine coming up behind me. I turned to see what crazy person was in a sports car at this time of the morning as Ash rolled down the window of the car, “Need a ride there, stranger?” He called as I focused on the sidewalk.
“No thank you.” I called back.
“Come on Lovette! What’s the harm?” He called and before he could take another breath I ran over to the car and jumped into the passenger’s seat, “Well that got your attention.” He said with pleasure as he rolled up the window.
“You can’t call me that outside of the studio, Ash.”
“Why not? That’s your name, isn’t it?”
I looked to his face but quickly looked away, “No, that is my modeling name.”
“Then what’s your real name?”
“Noel Lovette Morel.”
“So you go by your middle name?” He asked and I nodded, “May I ask why?”
“You wouldn’t understand.” I hissed as he parked in the parking lot of the school.
“Well I certainly won’t if you won’t even give me a chance,” He retorted, “Come on, Noel.”
I looked up to him with fury, “I hate people like you.”
“What? You mean models? Well you are one too.”
I shook my head, “No! I hate people who wave their popularity around like a flag in order to get other’s attention! You’re just like everyone else, fame obsessed!”
“Oh! That’s funny coming from the most popular model!”
“Do you think I want to be a model? Why do you think I change my appearance when I go anywhere but things dealing with modeling? I could come to school like the doll I am, but I don’t want to be another popularity obsessed person so I make myself invisible! Then you suddenly show up at my school and make it so no one will stop staring at me! I want to be iridescent yet you make it so everyone looks at me! And now I am being yelled at because you chose me over the other girls in gym class!” I hissed and then threw open his car door, “Do me a favor and stay away from me! I have enough to deal with so I don’t need the constant anger attacks made by your jealous fans!” I slammed his car door shut and stormed into the building. I ignored all staring eyes for the first part of the day, hid in the library for lunch, and pretended I was alone in my physics class, but when I went into the locker room I was tripped by a girl and my face smacked into another wall. When I sat up I was in a pool of my own blood as all the other girls laughed at me. I quickly pulled myself off of the ground and left the locker room. I ran down to the infirmary as the late bell rang and knocked on the door. When no one answered I realized the nurse had already left for the day and I was forced to go back to class. The locker room was already empty so I changed quickly and went outside to play soccer but was stopped by Coach Daniel who looked at my bruising cheek and chin with horror.
“What happened, Miss Morel? Are you alright?”
I smiled the best I could, “I tripped but when I went to go see the nurse I realized she left for the day.”
“Well you should sit out. You’re too injured to play.”
“Oh, I’m alright!” I said with a light laugh, “I can play.” I added before walking past the teacher and joining the game. For the second part of the class we played field hockey and I was whacked by many girls with their sticks in the legs before the class was over. I quickly changed, but when I got to the hallway I did not wait for the bell to ring like I was supposed to. I went outside and started walking home before Peter even had a chance to see me in such a horrible state. I sped-walk back to my house and when I got there I locked the door behind me and went to my room. I turned on some music and lay down on my bed. After a while I dozed off and did not wake up until my phone started ringing. It was Peter so I had to pick up, “Hello?”
“Lovette! Where the hell are you? You weren’t at school when I came to pick you up so I assumed you were with your friends but it’s almost six and you are still not here!”
“I-I’m sorry, Peter. I can’t go to work today.” I whispered and then quickly hung up the phone. I fell back asleep and did not wake up till there was a loud banging at my front door. I quickly made my way to answer but when I looked out the peephole I saw Peter and could not open the door.
“Noel! I know you’re in there! Answer this door!” He hissed and I felt myself finally breaking down. It was morning so I needed to go to school, but how could I go in my current state?
“I’m sorry, Peter! I’m not feeling well so I will be skipping school today!”
“You barely go to school enough days as it is, Noel! Get your ass out here or I’m coming in!” He hollered and I was out of choices. I unlocked the door and opened it without being in the door way. Peter came in and I quickly shut the door behind myself. He flipped on the light switch near us and turned to yell at me but froze, “Oh my god!” He gasped as he saw my black and blue cheek and chin, my blood covered uniform that I still had yet to change out of, and my bruised legs, “Who the hell did this to you? Were you attacked?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I whispered, “So are you going to force me to go to school or not?”
“Of course not! I can’t let anyone else see you like this!”
“Then can you please leave? I’m trying to sleep.”
“I’m not going to leave you alone when you were injured so badly, Noel! You’re going to the doctor!”
“No!” I hissed, “Just leave me alone!” I ran up the stairs but suddenly felt dizzy and stumbled. I fell on the stairs and burst into tears of anger. I couldn’t even run away. Peter quickly came up to me and put the back of his hand on my forehead.
“Damn it! You’re running a fever! You probably have an infection!” Peter picked me up and brought me to my room. He laid me on my bed and went over to my dresser. I was handed a pair of jean shorts and a short sleeve shirt I had been given by a perfume company last year but Peter had to help me change my clothes. He took off my glasses and pulled my hair back into a pony tail before picking me back up and taking me to his car. He buckled me into the passenger’s seat and then got into the driver’s seat. He started driving but went past the turn for my doctor’s office.
“Peter, you were supposed to turn back there to get to the doctor’s office.” I commented and he grunted.
“That would’ve been the right turn if we were going to the doctor,” He replied, “You’re too sick for her to help you so there’s no point in going there to have her send us where we’re going. But, the doctors at the hospital will know what to do,” He sighed, “Now I know you don’t like to go to hospitals and you have all right to not like them, but you need serious help right now, Noel. I can’t lose you too.” I looked up to Peter and saw his jaw tighten. The last time either of us had stepped into a hospital was when my father died and neither of us liked those places anymore. He had as much of a right to hate hospitals as I did since that is where his best friend in the world died in front of his eyes. I knew if Peter was willing to take me to a hospital I must be in worse shape than last night when I last saw my reflection. We drove up to the building and Peter quickly picked me up. I could see the horror on his face but before I could assure him I would not end up like my dad he sprinted to the counter of the emergency room and a woman stood with concern. Obviously it was a bad sign if someone had to be carried into the building while covered from almost head to toe in bruises, “My daughter’s running a fever and I don’t know what to do. I think she has an infection from these injuries.”
“Nurse!” The woman at the desk squawked and a middle-aged man quickly came over to me. He touched my forehead slightly before grabbing me from Peter and sprinting through the doors and into the main part of the hospital. I was set in a chair and the male nurse took my temperature but his face seemed to whiten even though the man was heavily tanned for a Latin male.
“I need a doctor stat!” The man hollered and suddenly people seemed to rush around me. I was carried by the nurse into a room where I was placed on a bed and a doctor in all white came at me with a stethoscope. He wrote down some information and then turned to the male doctor and a female nurse who had just come in to help. Two IV’s were stuck in my right hand as people started hustling around. Suddenly my body became hot and I felt dizzy.
“Peter!” I called quietly but no one seemed to notice, “Peter!” I repeated, but this time I yelled as loud as I could. After a moment the doctor came in with Peter and I started to leap from my bed but the male nurse from before grabbed me, “Peter!” I cried as tears started down my face and he ran to my side. I sat up and clung to his shirt as I became nearly hysterical.
“The fever must have gone up, she is frantic.” The male nurse commented to the doctor but Peter squeezed me to him.
“No, she is having an anxiety attack. She is afraid of hospitals and needles,” Peter explained to the doctor, “She watched her father die in a hospital and so she now has trauma towards these kinds of places.”
“Well then you may stay with her, but she must calm down. Her infection has almost made her fever reach 106 degrees and we cannot have it go up any higher.” The doctor replied and I looked to him.
“The infection is in my mouth,” I whispered and he seemed surprised, “My tooth was broken in the back and that is most likely where the infection set in.”
“What in the world gave you such horrible wounds, child?” The female nurse asked as she gave me a warm but sad smile to comfort me.
“A girl, who was jealous of a new boy in school taking interest in me but not in any of the other girls, tripped me and I hit my face on a concrete wall.”
“Girls can become childish when it comes to jealousy,” The nurse agreed and then handed me a clipboard with a sheet of paper, “But, honey, I need you to fill this out for me.”
I looked to the form and up to Peter, “How should I fill this out? What name should I choose?”
“What do you mean?” The doctor asked Peter.
Peter sighed and looked to the doctor, “You will be getting publicity soon since the famous model Lovette is under your care.”
“Lovette!” The female nurse yelled, “I knew you looked familiar! But you look a little different because of your injuries.”
I looked to Peter, “Is it wise to let others know I am injured?”
“It’s the only way to get you out of your next photo shoots.” He replied and I sighed, but nodded after a moment.

By the time my fever was brought down, my mouth was stitched up, and all of my bruises were covered, every news station on the TV only talked about the shocking news that famous model Lovette was put in intensive care at a Kennewick Hospital for nearly two days straight. I was finally going to be let out of the hospital today, but there were tons of news reporters waiting outside to talk to me. After giving the two nurses and the doctor an autograph I finally left the hospital and was ambushed by loads of reporters who shoved microphones in my face as photographers shot pictures of me. Peter helped me push through the crowd to his car and we quickly made our way to Peter’s house where I was to stay over the weekend that started today. For the two days Peter forced me to never get off his spare bed in his guest bedroom and he was not able to leave because of the mob of paparazzi outside. Late Sunday night, Peter came to me as I started to try to go to sleep, “Starting tomorrow, you will be attending school as your real self and not the shy, nerdy Noel we have been trying to convey for the past 5 years since I moved you to Kennewick. You will be treated differently and I know that will upset you, but it’s a better result than girls breaking your teeth over a boy. They are not dumb enough to mess with the most popular model in the country.”
“Alright,” I whispered but then looked up to Peter, “Can we go back to Phoenix, Peter? I hate all the people here. They are just popularity obsessed people around here and they will flock me if I show up as my true self.”
“I can’t leave Kennewick right now, Noel, and I am certainly not going to let you move by yourself.”
“Okay. Well I should go to bed. I have school in the morning.” I whispered and he kissed my forehead.
“Goodnight, Noel.” He whispered before leaving me to the stillness of the room that made it so difficult for me to finally go to sleep.

In the morning I straightened my hair, put on makeup I had been given by a cosmetic company a few years back that I had yet to use, a pair of diamond earrings, my father’s symbolic leather necklace that everyone recognized just as much as my mother’s pink crystal bracelet that I put on my wrist, and slipped on my own symbol which was my flat platinum 10 mm thick thumb ring that had a heart cut out of it. Unlike usual, I unbuttoned the top of my shirt and loosened my tie so that neither of them got in the way of my father’s necklace. I then clipped back my strawberry-blonde bangs before grabbing a tote bag I had been given by Victoria’s Secret which I had moved all of my school things to. I went downstairs, grabbed a bagel, and Peter drove me to school, but we were followed by the paparazzi all the way there. I slipped on a pair of Coach Sunglasses before getting out of Peter’s car when he stopped and the paparazzi flooded around us. As he drove away news reporter’s crowded me and I was finally ready for them.
“Lovette! Lovette!” They called and I smiled towards them.
“You must excuse me; I need to get to class.”
A persistent news caster grabbed my arm as I got past the other reporters, “Lovette! When did you enroll into public school?”
I sighed and turned to the woman, “I started going to this school in disguise five years ago when I moved to Kennewick.”
“But why do you choose to now show your true identity and do any of your classmates know who you really are already?”
“My manager decided it was time to let the other students know who I really was in order to cease all suspicions on why I missed so much school, but the only student who knew who I really was would be Ash Williams since he is a fellow model and saw straight through my disguise,” The bell rang and I felt frantic, “Excuse me, I need to go.” I hurried into the classroom but everyone stopped moving when I walked in. I ignored it and made my way to the teacher. I took off my shades, “Sorry I’m later Mr. Eta.” I whispered and he seemed to jump.
“You are the famous model Lovette, right?”
I nodded, “You are correct.”
“Then why are you in my classroom, Miss Lovette?” He asked and I sighed with annoyance.
“I have been in your class for this whole year, Mr. Eta.”
“Excuse me?”
“My full name is Noel Lovette Morel. You know me better as Noel or Miss Morel, but I answer to Lovette also since it is my modeling name,” I replied, “Now if you will excuse me, I need to go to my seat.” I walked quickly over to my seat but it took the teacher a while to get to the lesson. I felt sick by how many people stared at with awe and I couldn’t help feeling alone more than usual. When the class ended the hall was filled with kids flocking around the door to my class and when I came out I was bombarded with them asking for autographs, to be their friend, or to shake their hand.
“Noel!” Someone called and I was shocked by all the people calling out Lovette, someone actually would call me by my real name. I looked over to Ash who came over to me with a smile, “What happened to you? I heard you were in the hospital and we had to reschedule our photo shoot together.”
My joy from hearing my real name plummeted as I looked away, “I’m sorry about that, but I’d really rather not talk about it.” I whispered back before quickly going to English. By this time my teacher had already heard who I really was so I did not need to explain but when I went in I nearly cried as V and Sami ran to me.
“Hey, Lovette! Do you want to hang out at lunch? We haven’t hung out in a while!”
I bit my lip and held back my sorrow, “I’m sorry, I already have plans but maybe some other time.” I replied before the bell rang and they were forced out of the room. I felt as though I floated between English and Math but when the bell rang for lunch I had to keep myself from crying. Now, I couldn’t even go to the library because I would be followed. I went out of the class and was attacked by offers to eat lunch with tons of people but I quickly ran out of the hallway and went up the staircase nearby. I kept going up to the top floor and then made my way to a door most students had yet to open. I shut the door and hustled up the other staircase to the rooftop. I went to a small shaded spot of the roof and sat down with my head against a brick wall. When I looked down to my father’s necklace tears fell and I could not stop them. My tears did not stop flowing down till I heard someone walking on the roof near me. I quickly brushed away my tears and pretended to be reading something on my phone.
“Noel?” A boy asked and I looked up in shock at the voice.
“Rider!” I hollered and jumped to my feet. I embraced the man as he also held me tightly, “What in the world are you doing here! You are supposed to be in Fiji filming you next episode of ‘Oceans’!”
He let out a deep laugh, “Well I was in Fiji when I heard you were in the hospital so I jumped onto my jet but ironically, on my flight here Peter called and asked me to be in a photo shoot with you. He also called my manager and explained that he needed me here for a few weeks so I have been enrolled in your school,” He brushed my hair out of my face, “Also, I plan to be your bodyguard against whoever did those horrible things to you. Peter said it was a girl at school so I came to check it out.”
“You are the best guy ever!” I gushed and then hugged him again before allowing him to take my hand in his and lead me back into the school. When we got down to the main level he brought me over to a men’s bathroom.
“Stay right here. I have to change,” He ordered and I nodded. I leaned against the wall by the bathroom but was mortified when I saw V standing with Chase, Sami, and Colin who watched me as I waited. I was relieved when Rider came out of the bathroom in the boys’ uniform which fit him perfectly. The navy sports jacket with pink lining on the inside, the nice button-up white shirt, the navy tie, the black slacks, and black shoes, all of it fit him with grace and ease. He kissed my forehead with kindness, “Sorry for the wait.”
“It’s okay.”
“So?” He asked before turning all the way around in front of me, “How do I look?”
“Possibly better than you did before.” I replied with a smile.
I nodded, “But it’s a shame your muscular arms have to be hidden by that shirt and jacket.”
He laughed, “Now you sound like one of my adoring fan girls!”
I laughed too, “No, if I was one of them, I’d be hanging off of you while pleading for you to date me.”
He suddenly became serious and lightly grabbed my chin between his thumb and index finger, “I definitely wouldn’t mind that.”
I smiled, “I’m sure you wouldn’t.”
He cleared his throat, “So, which girl is the one that’s ass I have to kick for getting you hospitalized?”
“You really don’t have to do that,” I replied, “I actually want to pretend the whole thing never happened.”
“If you let others push you around, Noel, they’re never going to stop pushing you around.”
I sighed and looked to him, “Yea, ‘cause this would be better,” I pretended to hold a newspaper and read it, “Breaking news! Top model Lovette banned from private school for violence!” I looked back to his face, “I have a perfect image to uphold. For me and for Peter.”
“But that headline could read: hottest female model finally stands up for herself against cruel classmates.”
“What fairytale is that paper in? In the real world, news reporters twist your words to make you sound cruel in order to earn a few bucks.”
“Quoting someone?”
I shook my head, “I’m smart enough to come up with my own lines, thank you.”
“I know that.” He said with a smile as the bell rang, “So where’s our first class?”
“Our first class?”
He nodded, “We have the same schedule.”
“Follow me,” I said as I took his hand in mine. We went to Physics where Rider insisted to sit by me and I was happy to be near him. After the bell rang he looked to me for more instruction, “Uh, next is gym.”
“Is this where the girl tripped you?”
I looked away from him, “Let’s just go.” I whispered before quickly making my way to the locker room. I separated from Rider for the first time since he showed up and felt unsettled. I quickly changed into my gym uniform but was shocked when the girl who tripped me ran over to me. I jumped back slightly as she came closer.
“Omigosh, who would’ve ever though quiet, keep-to-herself Noel would actually be Lovette! I nearly fell over when I saw you this morning.” She said with a happy smile and I wanted to run away from this cruel and insensitive girl. Luckily, the female gym teacher told us to go outside and I was allowed to move away, but the girl followed me. When we got outside I saw reporters being pushed away by Coach Daniel and Rider so I stayed near the tennis courts until they were gone. Rider quickly came over to me once he was finished.
“You okay? You look pale,” Rider said as he took my hand in his, “Did you have another encounter with the girls that hurt you?”
Suddenly a strong hand grabbed my shoulder and I looked to Ash who stared at me, “Wait, a girl at our school injured you?”
I shoved his hand from me and grabbed onto Rider’s shirt, “Get away from me Ash, I told you to stay away!”
He seemed angered, “What’s the big deal if I’m near you?”
I looked to his face with power, “You are the reason I was attacked by girls in this class! I hate that you won’t leave me alone and then I’m injured because you are paying attention to me!”
“Those girls injured you because this guy was paying attention to you? Why do they care?”
“Rider, this is Ash Williams.”
“Ash Williams! Well, well, well!” Rider said with slight sarcasm, “I’m sure all the girls want your autograph!”
“And who are you?” Ash asked in a snobby tone.
Rider put his open hand towards Ash, “Rider Stevens, part time model and the leading male character on the number 1 TV show in the country,” He replied as Ash shook his hand, “Noel and I were childhood friends and ended up doing hundreds of photo shoots together. My mother was good friends with Noel’s mom.”
“Let’s get started! Everyone to the tennis courts!” Coach Daniel hollered and I quickly took Rider’s hand in mine so I would not be separated from him by the large crowd forming around us, “One boy and one girl per team, but you may choose your partner,” Rider squeezed my hand slightly and I leaned on him in response to his question as a yes. We went over to a court and were put against V and Chase who were much better than us. But because I gave all of my effort and Rider used his well toned body to play, we won by two points. Then we followed the group into the gym where the gymnastics equipment was set up, “Miss Morel! Could you give us the honor of showing your skills on the mats?”
I let go of Rider’s hand and went over to the long mats. I started off in a sprint and then started 8 front hand-springs but ended with a double back flip. The class clapped but seemed to silence when I ran over to teacher, “Coach Daniel, I need to go to the bathroom.” I mumbled through my hand as I tried to cover my mouth.
I quickly took my hand from my face and he gasped like the others to see blood dripping out of my mouth and onto my chin, “I need to go to the bathroom, Coach Daniel.”
“Yes! Go! Go!” He insisted and I put my hand back over my mouth before sprinting out of the room. I ran down the hall and to the bathroom where I leaned my open mouth over the sink. Blood slowly dripped in a small stream off of my chin as I waited. When it finally slowed down and was barely dripping I cleaned off my face with a paper towel that I put water on and then stuck a dry paper towel in my mouth by my cheek. I made my way to the locker room where I changed out of my gym uniform and back into my usual one. As I went into the gym Coach Daniel came over to check me out, “Did you get it under control?”
I nodded, “My stitches were pulled on slightly.”
I nodded, “I have a few in my mouth.”
“Well I hope you’re better soon.” He said before walking away. A few minutes later Coach Daniel told everyone to change so I waited outside the boys’ locker room for Rider. He was the first one out of the locker room in order to see me.
“So what the hell happened back there? You were fine and then suddenly were bleeding.”
“The stitches in my mouth were pulled on somehow and my mouth bled. But it seems to have stopped,” I pulled the paper towel out of my mouth and then nodded, “Yea, it stopped.”
The bell rang to signal the end of class, “Peter is going to let me drive you to the studio,” He informed me and I nodded. We left through the front of the school but he suddenly stopped in the grass we were walking through to get to his car. He knelt to the ground and then took my hand in his, “You dropped your ring.” He informed me as he slipped it on my thumb. When he stood I kissed his cheek.
“Thanks. I wouldn’t know what to do if I lost it.” I said before taking his hand back in mine and then he led me to his car. The blue mustang was fast and magnificent as Rider drove to the studio I was going to be shooting in today. When we got there I noticed Peter waiting while smoking and leaning against his car. He quickly came over to Rider’s car and opened the door for me. He helped me out as Rider parked the car and shut it off.
“Let’s get inside.” Peter said before leading us into the glass window covered building. We went to the top floor where a familiar looking photographer smiled towards me.
“I was so surprised when your manager called and told me that he wanted to change the second model that would be shooting with you to the famous Rider! Granted, it was a large loss for that other fellow who was supposed to be shooting with you, but it was a great gain for us! I have seen the photographs you two took as children when you both started your modeling careers and I am excited to do some new ones!”
“So what is your thought on what we will be trying to create in this shoot?” Rider asked as he wrapped his arm around me.
“Since this is for men’s cologne I was thinking we would create a scene where you are both in beautiful, expensive clothes at a party and Lovette is drawn to you by the smell of the cologne where she will cling onto you with passion.” He said and I nodded.
“Alright, then let’s get you two into wardrobe and makeup.” Peter announced and the two of us were brought into two different areas to get ready. The stylists assigned to me put my strawberry blonde hair into large ringlets that reminded me of the photo shoot I was made to look like a princess; I was put into dark eye makeup, given a deep red lipstick, and slipped into a long, black dress. The dress was as deep as night in color, floor length, had a slit from the bottom to the top part of my thigh, and was strapless except for the thin diamond covered strip of material that went over my shoulder before wrapping around me twice, once above my breasts and once below my breasts, and ended in the front once more in a swirl off to the side near my stomach. Thin strapped stilettos were put on my feet but laced halfway up my calf as the head stylist placed long dangling earrings made of three strips of tight woven chain that had diamond teardrops at the ends. I was allowed to keep on my signature ring, but was forced to take off my mother’s bracelet and my father’s necklace. I was brought out of the changing area but froze when I saw Peter talking with Ash who was in a tuxedo. I picked up my dress slightly before quickly walking over to Peter who smiled as he looked back to me, “You look stunning today, Lovette.”
I smiled in agreement but then looked to Ash, “What are you doing here, Ash? Do you also have a shoot today?” Ash was in a typical tuxedo, but he seemed to make it more glamorous than it was. His black hair and blue eyes seemed more accented by the clothes.
He let out a small laugh, “We are in the shoot together, Lovette, so of course I also have a shoot today.”
I looked to Peter, “But I thought the photographer decided to have Rider in the photographs with me.”
Peter nodded, “That was the plan, but when Ash came in earlier the photographer decided to put all three of you in the shoot.”
I turned to Ash while holding back anger, “But if you didn’t have a shoot originally, why did you come here, Ash?”
He sighed, “Well you left so quickly earlier and then I couldn’t find you after class so I was worried your mouth was still bleeding and I came to make sure you were okay.”
“Thank you for your concern, Ash, but I am fine.”
“Did you bother your stitches, Lovette?” Peter asked and I nodded, “The doctor said for you not to do anything to bother them. Maybe you shouldn’t participate in gym for now.”
“It’s alright as long as I don’t do anything too strenuous again.”
“Make sure you do that,” Peter said but then he suddenly turned, “And you watch her to make sure she keeps her word, Rider!”
“You got it, Peter,” Rider said as he walked over to us but he stopped when I picked up my dress and ran to him, “Damn! You’re as hot as ever, Noel,” He said with a smile, “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you in a black dress.”
I spun around for him and then stopped with a smile back, “You don’t look shabby yourself,” I replied with a small laugh, “oh! Wait!” I added and then went over to him. I adjusted a piece of hair that was out of place, “The stylist must not have realized you have an odd hair part.” I explained and he smiled in thanks when I was done.
“Is everyone ready?” The photographer asked as he came over to the four of us, “Since Ash has been added to the scene it will be changed slightly,” He went over to Rider and handed him a pair of old fashion glasses, “Rider will be the ‘nerd’ male of the scene that is wearing the cologne,” the photographer turned to me, “Lovette will be the woman drawn to Rider,” he then turned to Ash, “And Ash will be the hot model who is left by his girl, Lovette, because she is drawn to Rider. Now! Show us what you three can do!” I grabbed Rider’s hand and led him over to the scene created to look like an elegant dance floor and the other people of the shot were already placed around the area designated for us while wearing tuxedos and expensive dresses, “Ash should be standing near the other groups of people while looking angrily as Lovette hangs on Rider.” The photographer announced and Ash moved a ways away from us as Rider put the glasses on and then stuck his hands in his pants pockets while leaning slightly away. I draped my hands on top of each other on his shoulder that was closest to me, I leaned myself against him, bent my legs as if I was dizzy from his smell, and put a almost erotic face on. After hundreds of shots were taken we were finished. I changed back into my school clothes and rushed out to the photographer who complemented me on a job well done. When Peter came over with Rider in tow, the three of us went out to the two cars.
“Rider, where will you be staying?”
Rider looked to me, “At a hotel near school.”
“Why don’t you stay with me? I have enough room.”
“I’d love to, if it’s okay with Peter. I mean it is his house.”
“Please?” I asked as I looked to Peter who sighed before nodding, “Alright!” I cheered and then hopped into the passenger’s seat of Rider’s mustang. It only took us 30 minutes to get to my house, which I had to direct him to since this was his first time coming to my home. He parked in the driveway and then followed me through the front gate and to the front door. I used my key to unlock the door and walked in. I flipped on the front light switch that lit up the empty hallway in the front of the house.
“You live here?”
“Home sweet home,” I replied before setting my backpack beside the door as he walked in. I shut the door and then walked to the kitchen. Rider locked the front door for me before following to the kitchen. I turned on the lights and slipped off the jacket of my school uniform, “Are you hungry? I can call for pizza or make something.”
“I’ll take whatever you want.” He said with a smile as I went to the fridge.
“Is pizza okay?”
“It’s great.”
I took out two frozen individual pizzas and put one in the microwave. I went to the fridge again and took out two cokes before going to sit back down at the table. I passed one of the sodas to Rider, “So how’s your family?”
He sighed, “Mom’s living pretty off of her divorce money and the money she still has from her modeling days, Darcy is in her third year of Yale, and Sam…well let’s just say I haven’t killed him yet even though I’ve thought about it.”
I smiled, “Sam’s just a rebellious, brand new teenager.”
“Yea, but he won’t leave me the hell alone.”
“He looks up to his very accomplished brother.” I replied but stood when the microwave buzzed.
“So how have you been? I haven’t seen you in almost a year.”
I stuck the other pizza in once I had taken the first one out and then brought the one that was finished to Rider as the other one started cooking, “Me, I’m alright. Everything was going great for a while. I had two great and dependable friends, was doing perfectly in school, and kept my two lives separated from each other. That’s how everyday was until I met Ash and everything went to hell,” I sighed, “ever since I met him my whole world has been flipped upside down.”
“That guy’s a real piece of work, I can tell you that,” Rider said as I took a sip of my soda, “He is the reason you were injured and yet he didn’t even apologize or come see you in the hospital. Then, once his career depends on it, he suddenly is concerned about you and is coming to check on you.”
“I don’t understand why he suddenly is all caring.”
Rider snorted, “You’re joking, right?”
He gave me a very childish smile, “He’s jealous. Before I came to town he had no competition on getting you, but now that I’m here he’s trying to get into your heart before it’s too late and you’re taken.”
“You think he’s jealous?” I asked as I stood when the buzzer on the microwave went off again, “I think it’s more that he’s an ass than anything else. I swear! What did he think was going to happen if a star suddenly started noticing a girl like I pretended to be? Of course I was beat up! It’s common knowledge that you should never do that to someone if your fans are near!”
Rider nodded as I sat back down, “He probably hasn’t been popular long enough to figure that out.”
“Also, he acts like he’s a big shot when he’s around me! What? Does he think I’ll find his arrogance charming? As if!” I hissed before taking a bite of my pizza but when Rider smiled I became uneasy, “What?”
“Nothing, I’m just glad my first impression was wrong.”
“What was your first impression?”
He took a bite of his pizza that was suddenly halfway gone before leaning on his hand, “I thought you were in love with him.”
I choked on my drink for a second and coughed a few times before looking to him, “What! He got me beat up!”
“I mean before I knew that part of the story. He’s into you so why is it so crazy for me to think you might be into him?”
“I wouldn’t even consider being his friend! He’s just like everyone else in this industry! Fame and money obsessed! He acts like he’s the best thing ever and it really pisses me off!”
“Well I’ve never met any of your boyfriends so I don’t know what your type is.”
I flicked a crumb off my plate at Rider, “You and I both know I’ve never had a boyfriend.”
“Then what’s your type? You obviously have high standards.”
I nodded, “Am I not allowed to have high standards?”
“Not at all, that’s not what I meant. I just meant that it’s not a lack of guys who like you, I mean name anyone and I know he’d date you in a heartbeat, so it has to be that you haven’t found a contender yet.”
I leaned back in my seat, “You know what type of man I like?”
He leaned towards me, “Enlighten me.”
“A man just like my dad,” I whispered as I looked down to my dad’s necklace, “Fearless, caring, dedicated, not obsessed with material possessions or fame, and above all, a man that puts me before others.”
“And you haven’t found anyone like that?”
I sighed, “Only one.”
“And who’s the lucky guy?”
I stood and grabbed his plate, “The moron across the table,” I replied with a smile and then walked over to the sink with the two plates in hand. Rider watched me as I came back to the table and took a sip of my soda, “Otherwise I would not even let you near me.”
He gave me a frown, “Then why have you denied me every time I’ve asked you to date me? You know I’m in love with you.”
I looked away, “Your career has no place for a girlfriend, let alone someone as busy as me.”
“Then I’ll quit!”
I froze and looked to him with anger, “You can’t be serious.”
“I’m dead serious.”
“But you love modeling and acting.”
“I do, but I love and care about you more. If you’d let me, I would give up anything to be with you.”
“I can’t tie you down like that, Rider, not right now. Your career is at its peak,” I whispered and he looked away from me, “Are you mad at me?”
He stood angrily and I knew we were going to get into the fight that’s impact made him choose to leave me and go to ‘Oceans’ for his first acting job. When he came over to me I looked up but was shocked when he kissed me. That was my first kiss, “You’re doing it because you care about me. How can I be mad when you’re denying me because you like me?” He sighed and stretched his arms, “Even if we aren’t going to be together, I’m not going to give up because I know someday will be the day you realize we can finally be a couple.”
I quickly stood and hugged him, “Thank you for understanding,” I whispered before letting go, “I’ll show you your room,” I added and then waited as he went to get his suitcase that Peter had given him before we left the studio. I then led him up the stairs and to the best guest room of the house, “Here we are.” I said and he opened the door.
“Nice room.”
I leaned against the door, “Peter designed it.”
“Really?” He asked and I nodded, “Well that man can be very surprising sometimes.”
“Well I need to get ready for bed,” I said and he looked back to me, “We need to leave to get to school at around 7:45. Goodnight.” I added before walking away from the door. I went to my room and took a quick shower before falling to sleep while watching the video of my parents and me before my birthday party.
The doorbell was rung repeatedly at a quick pace and I jumped out of bed in shock. I ran to the door and looked through the peep hole to see hundreds of reporters and news vans in my yard and around my house, “What the heck!” I hollered but looked up the stairs when I heard someone sprinting. Rider looked down to me from the top of the stairs while his blonde hair was in all different direction and he only had on a pair of sweatpants.
“Where’s the fire?” He asked in a grumble and I leaned against the door with a yawn.
“Something must’ve happened. Either that or its national reporters have a pow-wow on my lawn day.”
“What time is it?”
I sighed and then stood regularly, “I have no clue,” I mumbled before going into the kitchen and turning on the TV to news. A blonde haired woman smiled towards the viewer while talking about weather as I looked at the time, “It’s only five! Don’t reporters have better things to do than this at this time of the morning?”
“Does it say what happened?” Rider asked as he sat down at the table a few feet away and laid his head down.
“Not yet.” I replied and then we both became silent.
The news camera shot over to a black haired girl who smiled, “Thanks, Clair,” She started off, “In other news, fans of the famous female model Lovette and fans of the lead male role of ‘Oceans’ are in a panic over shocking footage that was taped by one of our reporters. It seems the famous Rider Stevens has proposed to his good friend, Lovette Morel, while picking her up from school!”
“Do what!” Rider hissed as he flew over to my side. We both watched as a videographer showed the scene yesterday when Rider picked up my symbolic ring that I had dropped and when I kissed his cheek.
“We have yet to get confirmation on whether the kiss planted by Lovette was indeed a yes to the proposal,” She cleared her throat, “But stunning footage taken last night shows us that the kiss was most likely a yes since Rider Stevens was seen being led into Lovette’s home by her late in the evening. There will be more news given tonight by the two stars on what really happened last night.”
“Oh my god!” I hissed, “They cannot be serious!” My mind processed what exactly was going on and I sighed, “Peter is going to kill us when he hears about this.”
“You think?”
“I know.”
Rider placed his hand on my shoulder, “The way I see it, we have two choices. Either we have to separate for some time or we have to get together.”
“You mean we either cannot see each other or we have to be close to marriage?” I asked as I looked back to him.
“I’m not saying we would be engaged, I’m saying we would date. Neither of us is ready to think about marriage.”
“Rider,” I started to explain but jumped slightly when the house phone rang. I quickly ran over to it and picked up, “Hello?”
“What the hell is all this stuff about this boy proposing to you?”
“Uncle, I…”
He cut me off, “It doesn’t matter anyways. I’m on my way to your place right now so I’ll meet with him in about 5 minutes.” He quickly hung up the phone and I felt myself shake. I turned as Rider put his hand on my shoulder.
“Is everything alright?”
I nodded, “I’m sorry, Rider, but you have to get out. Right now!” I yelled as I pushed him towards the stairs.
“What the hell? What do you mean I have to go?”
I forced him up the stairs and then to his room. I pulled out his uniform from his stuff and then threw it at him, “I’ll explain later, but for now you have to get out! Change! Quickly!” He did as told and put on his uniform while I gathered all of his things into his suitcase. I handed him the suitcase before pushing him down the hall, forcing him down the stairs, and shoving him out of the front door, “Take your car and go to the hotel you were going to go to last night. I will meet you at school and explain everything.” I shut the door and flew up the stairs to the room Rider had stayed in. I tried to clean up as much as possible but looked up in horror when the door opened. My uncle stared down at me as I felt my body overcome with terror.

Two days after my uncle took me out of Kennewick I finally returned via city bus while in my nerdy disguise I had used in school for so long. It was the last bus of the day with only two others on the ride excluding myself and the driver. I reached the bus station nearest my home which was a block closer than my high school and it only took me 7 minutes to get back to my house. All the cameras were gone, no reporters stood in my yard, and not a single news van was left in sight. I slipped into my house as quietly as possible and went up to my room. I took a quick shower before passing out on my bed and praying I could forget.
I woke up to the alarm on my phone and quickly got up. I slipped on my uniform, used gel to flatten my hair, put makeup on and made sure to cover up the black and blue bruise that was slightly showing at the top right of my forehead, which was the only part not hidden by my hair, and put a band-aid on my neck where a cut was still oozing unlike the others that had healed by now. I rushed downstairs, grabbed my backpack, and got out the door as quickly as possible. I hustled to school while only teachers were there other than me since school did not start for almost 30 minutes. Every time I went to a new teacher’s room I had to deal with their stares of shock by my boyish haircut. Luckily, none of them asked what I had done to my beautiful hair and I did not have to relive horrors, but I knew soon enough I would have to either see Rider or Ash and would be interrogated with questions. When I knocked on Coach Daniel’s office door and he came out, I was nearly brought to tears by his smile. That was the first time someone had smiled to me since the day I left, but I forced myself to stay focused. I told him that I had a family emergency and then apologized for missing his class. The bell rang as he replied with saying it was okay and things happen but after that I had to go to my first class. When I walked in everyone seemed to stop and stare as I hustled over to my seat. When I saw Rider sitting in the seat he had claimed next to mine, I wanted to run but couldn’t. His eyes doubled in size with shock as he saw me and I sat down next to him.
“Morning!” I said with a voice as cheery as I could muster out.
“What the hell happened to you, Noel?” He hissed in a whisper as the late bell rang and the teacher starting talking. “Peter and I have been searching for you for two whole days! I haven’t slept since you left!”
Neither had I, “I’m sorry.”
“That’s all you have to say? After everything, that’s it? You force me out of your house after inviting me to stay, you disappear with no note or anything, and then you come back with your hair cut off!”
“It’s not entirely cut off.”
“What the hell happened to you, Noel? You don’t seem like yourself. And I’m not referring to the hair cut.”
“It’s nothing worth telling. My uncle just wanted to spend some time with me.”
“The only reason we did not put out an amber alert was because I had heard you say you had been talking to your uncle so I assumed that is who you were with. Peter almost called the cops yesterday.”
“I’ll apologize to him too.”
“That’s not the point,” He started to reply but when the teacher hit his desk with her pen he was quiet. He did not speak to me in any of our morning classes after that but when lunch came he grabbed my arm and pulled me up to the rooftop of the school. We sat in the small shaded area of the roof and I looked to him for an explanation, “I don’t care if I have to fight it out of you or if we have to miss class, Noel. We are not leaving this spot until you tell me exactly what happened.”
I looked away from him and to my legs, “I already told you nothing happened, Rider.”
He frowned, “Then who cut your hair? I know you better than anyone else and know you have refused to get your hair cut for years because you wanted to grow it out as long as your mother’s hair used to be so you did not do that, who did?”
“I did.”
“That’s bull and you know it! Do I need to call Peter?”
“A barber did it, okay!”
“Because I asked him to.”
“I don’t want to keep living the past and mourning! That’s why!”
“Then how did you get that cut on your neck and that bruise on your head? Most wouldn’t be able to tell it was there since you hid it with makeup, but I did since it made your forehead look bigger. Did your uncle do that? Did he hurt you?”
“Of course not! I tripped while going up the stairs of his apartment and I hit my head. Then when he decided he wanted to buy me a pet I picked up a kitten at the pet store and one of its claws scratched my neck when it tried to crawl up my shirt.”
“So you are okay?”
I shook my head and wanted to cry, “No, because you are still here pestering me! I don’t want to be your girlfriend! I thought I made that clear but you keep hanging around me!”
He stood, “Well, sorry! I thought I was being a friend and staying here to support you! My bad!” He stormed off of the roof and when the door slammed behind him I burst into tears. I did not want him to leave. I wanted him here with me, but if he was here more problems would occur and my uncle could possibly go through with his promise. Even if I wanted him to stay, I did not want him to be injured so I had to break his heart.
Physics passed by slowly since Rider was nowhere to be found and when I got to gym class I ran into a problem. The large bruise on my side would be seen when I changed, so I changed in one of the bathroom stalls of the locker room. When we were told to come outside we were brought to the kickball field where I just watched and pretended to participate while playing far into the field where the ball usually did not come. The second part of class was basketball where I tried to move as much as I possibly could, but my body hurt so much that even jogging was as though daggers were piercing my injured side. My head was light so I went over to Coach Daniel and asked to go get some water. When he approved of the action I hustled into the gym and went to the water cooler. I filled paper Dixie cup with water before sitting down in the gym with my back against a navy painted wall. I set the cup down on the floor before pulling my knees close to my chest and laying my head against them as I wrapped my arms around myself. I took a deep breath and when I let it out I felt much better, but that quickly disappeared when a warm hand suddenly touched my shoulder. My head shot up from my legs and I gave Ash an angry glare, “Yea?”
He sighed as he sat down in front of me, “Coach Daniel said I should come check on you because you looked pale.”
“I’m fine.”
He gave me a frown, “You and I both know that’s a load of crap. Your eyes are swollen from crying earlier, Rider suddenly left you, and you cut off all of your hair.”
“I have not been crying and Rider did not leave me.”
“Oh? Then why did he come to me at the end of lunch today and ask me to keep an eye on you while he wasn’t around? I mean the guy seems to fully hate me, but he asks me to contact him every day in order to report about how you are doing even though he will be filming. I know him enough to understand that he would not leave you unless he had to so I know something bad happened. Did you two fight or something?”
I looked away from him, “Just go away, Ash. I don’t want to talk.”
“That’s a problem.”
“How so?”
“As a large fan, co-worker, and classmate I cannot leave you alone. Sorry, but that’s how it is.”
“Since when have you been a fan of me?”
He turned around and scooted across the ground so that he sat next to me with his back against the navy wall, “I think it was my fifth year in elementary school. I was looking through a children’s clothes catalog and flipped to the section for girls, but as I was about to flip back to the boys’ clothes I saw a picture of you posing near the Eiffel tower in Paris. That was the moment I decided I wanted to become a model. I wanted to be able to overshadow the Eiffel tower that is known for its beauty with my own just as you had, and go beyond that,” He crisscrossed his legs, “I started my career the next year but then found out you were possibly quitting modeling after losing your parents and I freaked out. I decided then and there that I was going to reach to your level in the modeling world and tell you that I and all of your other fans will stick by your side regardless of what happens and that you are the best model I’ve ever seen. Yet, I believe you may have thought I was trying to be a cocky ass and make myself look so great, but I really just wanted you to notice me and look at me as a friend.”
“I never planned to quit modeling when I lost my parents. That was just what the media made up. Actually, the loss of my parents inspired me to be better and to become the best. Ever since I was born I was only befriended by others or given jobs in order for those people to get near my parents, but when they were gone I wanted to prove to those people wrong and that I was not just special or a good model because of my parents. I wanted to make it known that I was independent and could become the best even without them,” I looked to my legs, “But I’ve reached the peak of my modeling career and am slowly dropping from the spot of the best model. I don’t know what to do now. The only way I got through life without my parents was because I kept myself entirely focused on becoming the best, but now…now that I’ve reached that goal I have slowly become consumed by the life I have created. All I do is model and study. I don’t know how to do anything else anymore, but if I lose my spot as the top I will be lost,” I looked over to Ash, “I’ve never told anyone about this, not even Rider.”
He smiled slightly, “Your secret’s safe with me, Noel.” He replied but I hopped up when I head Coach Daniel yell that it was time to go inside. I hustle to change and made sure no one saw my bruise before leaving the locker room. When the bell rang I walked outside to see Peter’s car in the front. I was relieved he did not jump out of the car and come attack me with anger over disappearing and cutting off all of my hair, but when I sat in the passenger’s seat I was ambushed by anger radiating from him. He drove more aggressively than usual and when we got to the place we were having the photo shoot for today he hurried out of the car and slammed his door before storming into the building. As I quietly followed behind him he seemed to get angrier, but when we got to the changing room he stood off to the side when he would usually leave and wait outside for me to change. I was shocked and terrified because now Peter would see my side, but I could not stop and tell him to leave so I just sat in a salon chair as a stylist started her work. She used hair extensions that took almost an entire hour to put in so that my long, strawberry blonde hair was back, but then it was curled in a very old fashioned way. I looked up when a makeup artist came over and took off all of my makeup but suddenly stopped.
“Miss Lovette, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you had an injury! If I had I wouldn’t have bothered the bruise!” The young woman apologized but she seemed shocked when I smiled.
“It is alright, it does not hurt too terribly,” I replied, “But could you please make it unnoticeable? I don’t want to scare the people who see my pictures.”
“Of course!” She said with a large smile before going to her work and making my eyes look dark before putting on the bright pink blush, eye shadow, and lipstick that were supposed to represent one of the main colors of the brand. I was then asked to stand and went over to the stylist who was a young man.
“Miss Lovette! It is such a pleasure to be your wardrobe stylist!”
I smiled towards the boy, “The pleasure is all mine,” I said with a laugh, “So what do you have in mind for me today?”
He pulled two hangers off of a rack of clothes, “This is the outfit,” The shirt was a military-like uniform jacket, but with girly flare added in. There were rhinestones and metal pieces put all over and when the designer waited for me to take off the top of my school uniform I was hesitant to show my nearly naked body since Peter was going to see my largest injury but I forced myself to take the hot pink bra the designer was handing me. I slipped off my shirt and jacket and then switched bras, but I stopped when the designer gasped, “Goodness! What did you do to give you such a wound? Is it painful?”
I shook my head as I took the jacket from him, “Not anymore. It was just an accident.”
“I hope it heals soon.” He said as he helped me zip up the jacket only halfway over my stomach so that the pink bra could be seen. He helped me into a pair of jean booty shorts that were made to be distressed and then into a pair of long, black, high heal boots that I had to zip up to just below my knees. The designer took a look at the outfit and then decided to roll up the jacket’s sleeves to my elbows before approving of the outfit. I was brought out of the dressing room and to the set that had been made to look like a disastrous battlefield and I went over to it, but stopped when the designer suddenly ran out to me. He placed a camouflage military hat on my head so that my hair would not be messed up and then he seemed fully satisfied. The photographer came over to me with a smile.
“Lovette, you look wonderful!” He said with a smile, “Now, I understand that you know our other model that will be with you?”
“Other model?” I asked and he turned before pointing to a man that was dressed in an outfit that reminded me of the large and scary German military man from the first Indiana Jones movie that fought Indie while a plane went near them and he ended up being killed by one of the propellers of the World War Two fighter plane. The other model was put in a sleeveless white tank top, baggy camouflage pants, and army boots but I was shocked when the man turned around to us.
“Ash! Come on over!” The photographer called and Ash quickly came to my side.
“You look great, Lovette.” He commented and I faked a smile.
“So do you, Ash.” I added but looked down when the photographer put something in front of us.
“This is what I want you two to recreate,” The photographer said as I realized what the photograph was of. My mom stood in the same type of clothes I have except her shirt was fully zipped and she had on a miniskirt with one hand in a saluting pose and the other on top of my dad’s hand that was on her hip. My dad stood behind my mom in the exact uniform they had put on Ash except my father had a camouflage tank top and he stood holding a machine gun over his shoulder. I looked up to the photographer for an explanation, “Since Lovette is the spitting image of Charae and Ash looks almost identical to Guillaume I decided we would recreate the photograph in order to celebrate the eighth anniversary of Charae and Guillaume’s deaths that will be this coming week. This will be airing at my fashion show that is dedicated to all of their work and is on their anniversary. Get into position, you two.”
I looked to the picture and up to Ash. Regardless of what the photographer said, Ash did not look like my father to me, “Ready?” I asked and he nodded. I went into the middle of the set and got into the girly salute pose my mother had created and waited for Ash to get the fake gun and put his hand on my hip before I put my hand over his. I smiled and the photographer started snapping photos for at least 30 minutes while hollering at the lighting people to fix things. Finally he stood after a moment and smiled.
“We’re done!” He called and I moved away from Ash and went to have the extensions taken out of my hair. It took 30 minutes for the extensions to be taken out and when I came out I saw Peter talking with Ash so I walked over.
“Good job today, Ash.” I said with a smile but slightly jumped and looked to Peter in shock when he squeezed my arm.
“Rider called me.”
I looked away, “I assumed he would.”
Peter frowned, “He told me you lied to everyone, including him, about where you got the bruise on your head and cut on your neck. Obviously he did not know about the bruise that takes up almost half of your side.”
“Of course not.”
“He also told me you disappeared for two days because of your uncle. Who were you referring to as your uncle?”
“My uncle Sam.”
“So it’s your mom’s brother? Your dad only had a sister.”
“Yes, it is my mom’s older brother by two years.”
“Did he beat you?”
“Of course not.”
Peter’s grip tightened on my arm, “Don’t lie to me, Noel. Your dad was my best friend so I know all about your other relatives and he told me he had to keep you from your uncle.”
I looked away from him, “Dad was just overreacting.”
Peter’s grip became nearly unbearable, “Your father told me that he was thinking of getting a restraining order for your mom’s brother because he broke your leg when you went over to his home.”
“That was an accident.”
“Oh? Just like your wounds right now are accidents? That is too much of a coincidence that every time he appears you are accidentally injured.” He hissed back and I shoved his hand away from me.
“I can handle my uncle, Peter. Just drop this.” I hissed before walking away. I walked all the way home and did not get there till almost two hours later. When I finally got home I went to my room and watched the video that hurt me so much but made me feel stronger at the same time.
In the morning I sat on my living room couch that was across the hall from the kitchen and ate cereal while watching some type of reality show I never really wanted to pay interest in. I did not get up till almost noon but as I passed the front door there was a knock. I opened the door to see a UPS man going back to his brown truck and when I looked to my porch I saw five medium sized brown boxes waiting for me. I carried them into my kitchen and used a knife to open them. Four of the boxes were from designers I had worked with over the years, but the last one was from my dad’s sister who had not contacted me since the accident. She did not even attend the funeral. When I opened the box all I could see was packing peanuts but once I got past them I was able to revile three Kay jewelry boxes. In the widest box was a Love’s Embrace white gold, diamond necklace, in the smallest box was an Open Heart’s Inspiration diamond ring, and in the tallest box was a Movado timepiece watch (for her). There was no card in the box, only those three things so I ignored the rudeness that was overtaking the nice gifts she had gotten me. I looked outside to see a FedEx truck stop at my home and sighed, “Happy memorial day to me.” For the rest of the day I only watched TV and answered the door for more boxes until around ten p.m. when there was a knock at the door but it was not a delivery man this time. I looked to see Ash standing at my door with a bag in both hands and a large grin covered his face.
“Hey birthday girl.”
“What are you doing here, Ash? It is already past ten.”
He nodded, “Rider called me a while ago and asked me to come over with a few things for you.”
I sighed and then moved out of the way, “Come in,” I whispered and once he was inside I shut the door. When I went into the kitchen Ash followed and I gestured towards the kitchen table where he put down his bags, “So why did Rider tell you to come here?”
“He knew you would not see him, but he did not want you to spend your birthday alone,” He replied and then rustled through one of the bags before pulling out a box of some kind, “And he told me what your favorite food was so I went and got it.” He pulled out a container of fresh yoki and another of fettuccini alfredo and set them on the table. He handed me a plastic fork before claiming a seat at my table, “You can start.” I sat down and opened the container of yoki and started eating, “If you don’t mind thinking about this, could you tell me your side of the story of the day your parents passed away?”
I looked up to Ash, “Why do you want to know?”
He sighed, “When we were asked to recreate your parent’s photograph yesterday I noticed you were distressed by it and when I was trying to look like your father I felt as though I wanted to know.”
I set down my plastic fork, “My parents left that morning two days after my tenth birthday very early so they did not wake me up. Whenever there was a photo shoot early in the morning, they never woke me up because they wanted me to sleep. I went to school like I always did but that afternoon, when I got home, the house maid was crying. I hurried over and asked her what was wrong and all she did was point across the room. I looked to our TV to see my dad’s black sports car’s bumper sticking up from the ocean. I watched as a truck pulled the car out of the water and all I could make out was water, expanded airbags, and blood. All the windows of the car were broken by then and blood-filled water poured out of the four openings. The camera of the news station turned away before my parent’s bodies could be seen so I did not know how badly they were hurt. As I stood there in shock the door of my house flew open and Peter came rushing to me. He started screaming that I had to get to the hospital nearby because my father was there. Peter failed to mention that my father was in a coma and I did not find out until I got to the hospital. My dad was paralyzed from the hips down and his face was cut up by airbags and glass. Peter and I waited for my father to wake up all night, but I was told my mom died instantly in the crash. My dad died at 11:30 p.m. and their funerals were held a few days later. I had cried so much before the funeral that I couldn’t shed a single tear as they were laid to rest, but for weeks after I cried regularly as I was deported from France and brought to my grandparents’ house by Peter. I started my career as a full time model when I moved back to the states with Peter as my manager since he had been my dad’s best friend and manager, but everything changed when my grandfather died a few years later and my grandmother followed him within 6 months. That was when Peter adopted me and brought me here, to Kennewick. The rest after that you already know,” I replied and then picked up my fork to start eating once more, “I heard you were asked to be one of the models’ in my parent’s memorial fashion show in three days.”
“Yea, the photographer though I captured your father’s essence well so he asked that I be one of the models. You are obviously part of it and I hope we get to be partners again.”
I looked to him, “I prefer to work with a partner that I have worked with before so I would feel better if I am placed with you.”
“I’m glad.” He said with a smile and we chatted while eating till midnight when I had to insist he went home. The weekend passed by in a blur since Peter would only speak to me when it was necessary and I had to hear about my parents more than usual. The whole time made me feel sick, but I enjoyed all of Monday off. Peter did not force me to ever go on June 2nd of every year and the school never seemed to complain. I merely sat and watched TV all morning and afternoon and did not get up until 5 in order to drive myself to the fashion show. I hated to drive because it reminded me too much of my parent’s death and had made it so Peter always drove me wherever I needed to be, but today I did not want to see Peter. He deserved the day off so I called his house Sunday night and told him he should not come to the show today. He had lost his best friend today so I did not want him to do anything if it was not necessary. When I arrived at the place the fashion show was to be held it was still being set up, but when the photographer from before saw me he immediately came my way. I did not really care that he seemed repulsed by my Delia’s Victorian PJ pants that had blue birds on them that matched my tank top and my lack of makeup.
“Go to the back to get makeup.” He mumbled before turning.
“Excuse me,” I started and he turned back to me, “What photo shoot will I be part of?”
“You’ll see.” He grumbled back before hustling away to the runway being set up. I walked to the back of the stage and through an opened curtain to see many French men who looked much like my father through the ages and American women who looked like my mother through her years. I looked to a tall French teenager who was trying to talk to a young makeup artist girl who did not seem to understand. I quickly walked over and smiled towards the boy.
“Bonjour, monsieur,” I said kindly and he looked to me with relief, “Il y a quelque chose vous avez besoin de? Cette femme ne parle pas français si je peux traduire pour vous.”
“Oui, pourriez-vous lui demander de ne pas mettre huileux sur mon visage?”
I nodded, “He asks that you not put anything oily on his face.” I said and the girl quickly nodded to the man who thanked me before I went over to an open makeup chair and an older woman came over. She put on light amounts of pink blush, mascara, and eyeliner before adding glitter on my face. A hair stylist came over to me and put in hair extensions like last time, but kept them straight this time. My hair was put into a braid that went into a bun off to the side of my head and then I was brought over to a designer. He put me into a white wedding dress my mother had modeled when she was almost 20 and I was a young child. The white silk had a strap at the top that went from one shoulder to the other on the back, was scrunched at the top, went to a silk sash at the waist, and flowed away from my body after that point till it touched the ground. I was put into a pair of silver high heels, a diamond necklace, and a small group of white flowers were put in my hair before I was given a bouquet of white roses to carry. The show started a little while later, around 9 p.m., and I was paired with a French man who looked much like my father when he was 22 as he had been in the photograph where he was in a tuxedo. We were the 5th group brought out and when I reached the runway my eyes were distorted by the bright lights. I focused straight ahead and started down the runway with the man I was partnered with at my side as his arm went around mine and held my hand. When I was brought into the back I was thrown into the same makeup from the photo shoot a few days back that was an army theme. Ash was brought to my side once I was fully dressed and we were brought down the runway, but stopped in the middle of the path as instructed before we had left the curtains in the back. A photograph of my parents in almost the same look was pulled up on the large screen that had been showing photographs of my parents according to the lineup of models in the same clothes and Ash stood behind me. He took his pose with his gun on his shoulder and his hand under my own on my hip as I took a girly salute pose to the crowd who stood and cheered at the ending of the fashion show. After I had counted to 1 minute the lights went off on the runway and we hurried back to the curtained area. The photographer from before now gave a speech as we waited. I was told to go outside with Ash in our uniforms in order to answer any questions the media may have once the speech was over so I did just so. When we walked casually down the runway all that was left in the room were a small group of cameramen and news anchors who were talking with the man who had just given the speech at the end of the runway. I led Ash over to the group and met them with a kind smile I had to force onto my face. The photographer from before came up next to me and pointed to a news anchor woman.
“Miss Lovette, do you believe Mr. Luther has captured your parents’ essence in this fashion show today?”
I nodded, “Yes, Mr. Luther did a marvelous job showing the true colors of my parents’ work.” The photographer pointed to another.
“Have the recent problems you have been having caused by the memorial of your parents’ deaths?”
I shook my head, “They were all accidents that had nothing to do with today or what it marks.” I replied as the man chose one more.
“You disappeared for two days, where were you?”
“My uncle wanted to spend some quality time with me before my birthday and surprised me by taking me to France to visit my parent’s graves.”
“Were you upset to see your parents’ graves and then come back to do this fashion show?”
“Certainly not. I know my parents’ would never want me to dwell on their deaths. They would want me to use the tragedy to fuel my career and push to the top of the modeling world.” There was another girl news anchor chosen.
“A doctor in the District of Columbia reported recently that he performed a medication induced abortion to you while you went missing. There is a rumor that it was Rider Stevens’ baby, is that true?”
I felt sick, “Certainly not. The proposal was a misunderstanding because Rider and I are just childhood friends. I have no feelings like that towards him so I would not have aborted his child.”
“There are rumors that you are dating Ash and that is the reason Rider Stevens’ suddenly left you, is that true?”
“U…” I started to say, but was interrupted.
“Lovette!” A woman called and I turned to her as she handed me my bag, “Your phone keeps ringing.”
I took out my phone, “Hello?”
“I’m outside the doors of the fashion show right now.”
I wanted to cry as I heard my uncle’s angry words, “I’ll be right there,” I whispered before handing up, “You will have to excuse me. I have urgent business.” I replied kindly and then jumped off of the stage. I ran to the double doors of the room and closed them behind me. My uncle grabbed my hair extensions and pulled me out the back door of the building as I felt my heart race. He was surely going to kill me if he saw what I had just done.

Four days later I rode a bus into Kennewick at around 5p.m. I watched as my picture flashed across a screen with Amber Alert flashing below me. Then a list of details explaining where I had disappeared from was announced and I was relieved when the bus stopped where I needed to get off, but when I saw a young girl gasp and hide behind her mother at the sight of me it tore my heart. Six piercings filled my left ear with only my original one on the right, snake bites on my lip were filled with black hoops, my shorter boy-cut hair was now black with red tips, and I wore black sunglasses. For clothing, I wore a baggy black sweatshirt, deep navy jeans that were too big for me and black Vans with skulls on them. My famous ring was in my pants pocket bent so that it was un-wearable alongside the cut up pieces of my father’s necklace and the shards of the pink gems on my mother’s bracelet. I trudged over to my house to see it was the same so I went to the front door and took out my key but as I put it in the lock the door opened. I looked up to a police officer who stared at me as though his glance would make me leave. I put my key back into my pocket and sighed, “Excuse me, but why are you in my house?”
The man seemed stunned, “This is Noel Lovette’s home and we are here searching for any type of clue to where she could be.”
I tried to slide past him but winced as he grabbed me elbow and immediately slapped his hand from me as I hissed, “Don’t touch me!”
He pulled me off of the ground by my jacket and put his face in mine, “I don’t know what you want, kid, but no one is allowed in here!”
I kicked the man in the gut and he grunted as he let go of my jacket. I walked into the house and made my way to the kitchen to see everything misplaced, “Geez, you guys made a mess!” I hissed as I went over to my kitchen and started to clean, but looked up when three officers, Peter, and Rider came in the room.
“That’s the intruder!” The officer from before yelled and I pulled off my sunglasses.
“You’re the intruder! Get the hell outta’ my house!” I hollered and then looked to Peter, “Peter, get them out.”
“Who the hell are you?” Peter demanded and I felt sick. I pulled out my crushed ring and tossed it gently to him.
“This might give you a clue.” I mumbled before placing food back into my fridge, but I jumped when Rider ran over and embraced me.
“Noel!” He yelled as he squeezed me and I felt all of my wounds.
“Let me go!” I hissed and he was shocked, but let go of me.
“What the hell happened to you?” He asked as Peter told the police to leave us for a moment, “You disappeared from the fashion show 4 days ago and you come in here like nothing’s happened!”
I shut my fridge, “I’m just tired and don’t want to deal with police right now, that’s all.”
“Where have you been, Noel?” Peter demanded as he grabbed my arm but when I doubled over, he retracted his grip. I crouched on the ground and cradled my arm as I cried.
“Why’d you have to do that?” I hissed as I looked to him while crying all over the place.
“Are you okay?” Rider asked in fear and I stood. I wiped the tears off of my face.
“I’m fine, my arm is just bothering me,” I mumbled as I looked to the door and saw the police staring, “I’m back so you can leave now!”
“Don’t yell at them, Noel, they are just here to help.” Peter replied as he looked to the police.
“Well they did a terrific job of keeping me outta’ my house so I’ll be sure to thank them later.” I tried to grab a Coke out of the fridge but dropped it when I felt the pain of using my right hand. It exploded on the floor and I just stared at it.
“Rider, go call the doctor and tell her to come over here right now,” Peter demanded and Rider ran out of the room. I looked to him with annoyance before sitting on the counter of my kitchen, “Chief,” He started and one of the policemen came over, “We need to give her some time to calm down, so can you guys go? I will call you once I’ve talked to Noel about what has happened.” He said and they left within a few moments. The house became silent until Rider walked back into the room with his hands in his pockets.
“The doctor will be here in five minutes,” He said as he came over to us, “She said to get her into shorts and a tank top so she can examine her body easier.”
I slid off the counter and looked to Peter, “I’ll go get them.”
“No,” He said as he put his hand on my shoulder, “I will get them. You stay here.” He walked upstairs and I went over to my kitchen table. I slid off my black hoodie to show my long sleeve shirt but looked to Peter as he came back downstairs. He handed me a pair of black athletic shorts and a light blue tank top. I took them and went to the bathroom. When I came out the doorbell had already rung and the doctor’s voice carried from the living room. When I went in the woman and two men of the room froze. I walked over with a slight smile to the doctor before putting my hand out to her.
“It’s good to see you, Dr. Alice.” I said but she did not take my hand. She stared at my bruised body in a horrified way.
“What in the world happened to you, Noel? You’re covered in bruises!” She gasped and I grabbed her wrist. I put her hand on my forehead and she jumped.
“When I checked my fever last night it was 104.”
“You’re burning up! You must have an infection!”
I looked away, “Maybe, I have no clue,” I grabbed onto my right arm, “You should check my arm first,” I whispered, “I’m pretty sure it’s broken in more than one place.”
“Why haven’t you gone to see a doctor?”
I looked to her, “You know I don’t trust most doctors.”
“So you waited for me to check on you?”
I nodded, “It’s childish, but that’s what I did.”
“Alright, lay down on the couch and I’ll look at you,” she said but then turned to the guys, “Could you two wait outside the room?” Dr. Alice was quiet as she checked my whole body and when she was done she turned to the doorway, “You two can come back in.” She whispered and I sat up on my couch. Peter came immediately to the doctor as Rider lingered behind him.
“What’s your prognosis, Dr. Alice?”
She sat on the couch next to me, “Noel has broken her arm and wrist of the same side, has significantly cracked her ribs on her left side, has bruised at least 90% of her body, and…” Dr. Alice took my left hand in hers and I looked to her, “You were raped, weren’t you, Noel?” I stared at her in horror, “But this wasn’t the first time someone has raped you, is it? There are bruises that were from the time before when you were raped. It was recently. I’d guess in the past month but I’m not entirely sure,” Her grip on my hand tightened, “Was the time before the first time you were raped or did it happen before that too?” I looked away from her as tears beckoned to fall, “Noel, you have to tell me. As your doctor and someone who cares, I have to know.”
I looked back to the doctor, “N…no. That was not the first time.”
“When was the first time, Noel?”
I looked to her hand that held onto mine, “I don’t remember the exact time, but it was not long before my parents died.”
“Was it the same person who raped you every time?” She asked and after a moment of silence I nodded, “Who raped you, Noel?”
I looked to my legs, “I can’t say.”
“Noel! You have to tell me!”
I pulled my hand from hers and started to cry, “No! No!” I hollered, “If I tell you he will get angry! Then he will take Peter away from me too!” I put my hands on either side of my head as I felt as though I was going insane, “He took my parents! And if I tell anyone he will take Peter too! Then he’ll go after anyone else I care for! I can’t tell anyone! I can’t! I can’t!”
“Noel! You have to calm down!” She pleaded as she hugged me tightly, “Has this rapist threatened Peter’s life?”
I looked up to her, “If he had not I would never meet with him,” I whispered, “The first time he threatened to kill my parents but I told my dad in assurance he would not find out, but he was the one who killed them!” I cried onto her arm.
“But Guillaume and Charae died in a car accident! The man who checked the car afterwards said something went wrong in the steering wheel!” Peter argued and I shook.
“He did that to the car! The day of the funeral he told me he made it so the steering wheel would get stuck!” I cried, “If I had known he was serious about killing them if I told I would’ve never breathed a word but I was so scared I couldn’t keep it to myself!”
“Of course you were scared!” The doctor said as she pulled me closer, “Has he been continuously raping you since your parents died?”
I shook my head, “He left me alone since I came to live with Peter, but he started again a few weeks ago.”
“What caused him to start again?”
I choked back tears, “It was my fault once again, so I do not blame him for it. Each time I did something to anger him even though I knew the consequence of my actions.”
“Is he the only who cut your hair off before?”
I slowly nodded, “He cut it off with scissors once he knew I was away from Peter but it was all chopped oddly so I went to a barber and that was the best they could do.”
“Did he make you dye your hair and give you those piercings?”
I looked to my legs, “He told me the last time that if I did not stay away from…certain others…he would make it so I could not model and get near those people more.”
“Who did he tell you stay away from?”
I looked to the woman, “Rider, Ash, and all other male models around my age.”
“So he did all of these piercings so that you could not be a model anymore?” She asked and I started shaking.
“Modeling is all I have left that I love so he also took it away! He took away my parents, Peter, Rider, my friends, and my passion! He wants to make it so I have nothing left anymore.”
“Why? What does he have against you?”
I looked away from her, “I’m sorry.”
“You can’t tell us, can you?” She asked and I shook my head.
“Please, I just need everyone to stay out of this so that he does not get angrier.”
She sighed, “Alright, well let’s get a cast on your arm, hand, and ribs so that you can get around and they will heal.”
“Can I take my finals? They start tomorrow.”
“Are you up to it?”
I nodded, “Of course.”

The first three days of testing for me had become a routine. I ignored everyone’s staring at my gothic look; I took my first test, sat on the roof of the school in the sunny parts, took my second test, went home, and slept. For those three days that was all I did, but the last day of testing I had to go to Gym class even though I could not participate in anything with a large cast on my right arm and hand and the corset like thing around my waist that made it difficult for me to move. When I came in that morning I went to my locker, took out my clothes, stuck them in a bag I had brought especially for them, and went out to the gym while ignoring the stares of all the other girls in the class. I walked over to Coach Daniel who was putting up volleyball nets and he turned as he heard me trudging towards him, “Are you not dressing, Noel?”
I shook my head before pulling up the sleeve of my jacket on my right arm, “I broke my arm, so my doctor won’t let me play.”
“That’s too bad but I hope you get better soon. I’m sure you won’t want to spend your whole summer in a cast.”
I nodded, “Yea.” I replied before going and sitting with my back against the navy wall from before. I read a book for the entire two hours and did not look up from the book until I heard someone stop walking in front of me. I looked up to Ash who seemed shocked.
“Noel?” He asked with shock and I smiled to him.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“What’s up? What do you mean? I heard you were abducted and all you have to say is ‘what’s up’? What the hell happened to you!”
“Nothing really. The whole abduction thing was a misunderstanding. I am fine.”
“Then why didn’t you participate today?”
“Peter wrote a note for me,” I replied but when the bell rang I slowly stood, “See you around, Ash.” I added before walking off. I walked through the hall as kids hugged each other and promised to stay in touch over the summer as I pushed my way through the crowds. I walked home since I could not be in a car for a few weeks in fear of my ribs finally breaking. When I got home I was shocked to see Rider’s car in the driveway. I hustled inside but was surprised to hear more than Rider’s voice. I went to my kitchen to see Rider and Ash sitting at the table talking, “You know coming into to my house while I was gone is considered breaking and entering.” I mumbled as I set my bag down before going over to them.
“Why are you in so much clothing, Noel? It’s burning hot outside!” Rider said and I quickly took off my jacket.
“Is that better?”
“How’s your body doing?” Rider asked as he turned towards me, “You look paler than usual.”
I sighed, “That’s because you are here even though you know I feel sick when you are near,” I replied, “Now could you two please…” I started to say but froze when I heard a knock at the door.
“Noel! Unlock this door!” My uncle hissed and I started to shake. I grabbed Rider and Ash and pulled them into the pantry of the kitchen.
“Please! Please stay here! Don’t move!” I begged as I almost started to cry, “I can’t let him find you.” I whispered and they both froze. I shut the doors of the pantry before running to the front door. I smiled towards my uncle as he made his way inside, “I’m sorry, uncle. If I had known you were coming I would have left the door unlocked, but on usual days I lock the door for precaution.”
He walked into the kitchen and I quickly followed behind him, “I see Rick did as I asked with your hair.”
I nodded, “Yes, he did a good job.”
“So have you quit yet?”
I felt myself stiffen, “I am planning to tell Peter tomorrow that I am quitting modeling for good.”
“I told you to get that done as soon as you got here!” He hollered as he came towards me and punched my stomach. I gasped and kneeled on the ground as I was filled with pain, “Do I need to fully break your ribcage for you to understand!”
“I’m sorry, Uncle, I meant to but he hasn’t been here since the day I got back!” I whispered as he pulled me off of the ground and slugged my face. I hit the middle of my back on my kitchen table and slumped to the ground in pain.
“First I come and find you trying to hide the evidence that you let that boy stay over after I told you never to talk to any of that woman’s bastard children! Then he suddenly proposed to you and that all famous Ash punk starts hanging around you! Then you participate in that ridiculous fashion show to commemorate those two morons who didn’t have the brains to use protection when they had sex even though my baby sister was just 17 and that punk was 19! And then I see that photograph of you posing like your mom with another idiot behind you! If I hadn’t made you get an abortion you would’ve ended up just like your mother and had that Rider boy’s child even though you are just now 17! At least his mother was bright enough to wait to get pregnant when she was 19!”
I slowly stood and looked at my uncle with anger, “I told you I was not pregnant but then you go and make me go through abortion!” I hissed but gasped as my uncle grabbed my neck.
“There it is! Those eyes!” He hollered, “No matter how much I change your life and body you still give me those eyes! They are just like hers!” He pinned me to the ground, “I should have killed you instead of your father! Then Charae wouldn’t have been accidentally killed! After that I could’ve gotten rid of that bastard she married and I could’ve had my little sister back!”
I cried more, “When are you ever going to see that I’m not my mom!” I yelled, “You killed her! You took her and dad away! Why do you always blame me when I did nothing wrong? You raped your own niece and when I tried to confront my dad because I was scared you killed them!”
His grip tightened, “Your damn right I killed them! And now I’ll kill that damned man’s best friend!”
“No! I’m sorry!” I cried as I became hysterical, “I won’t oppose you ever again! I’ll quit modeling and I stay away from Rider and Ash! Just don’t hurt Peter! He’s all I have left!”
He quickly stood and pressed his foot on my ribs, “That’s more like it,” He mocked in an evil way, “Now, I want you to leave this god forsaken town. You will be going to another high school so that you cannot be influenced by the models that live around here.”
“Where do you expect me to go?” I said in a breathless way as I felt my ribs bending.
“You will be coming to live with me,” He replied and then took his foot off of my chest. I curled into a ball on the floor as I cried of pain, “Knowing your place has never been your high point, Noel, but lying to the ones you love has been. Make sure you use your skill to tell the others you will be leaving,” I heard the front door open, “I will be back in a week to get you, so be ready…Oh, and you should get your back checked. You seemed to hit that table a little hard.” The door shut quickly and I started crying aloud. I closed my eyes as I shook in horror and pain.
“Noel!” Rider yelled as he ran to me and kneeled in front of me, “My god! We need to get you to a hospital!”
“Call Dr. Alice and then leave!” I hissed, “I don’t want to ever see either of you again!”
“We are not going to let you go with that rapist maniac!” Ash yelled as he came to my side while Rider called the doctor, “Why didn’t you tell anyone your own uncle killed your parents?”
I sniffled, “I would lose Peter if I did.” I whispered, but looked up as Rider came back to my side and kneeled next to Ash.
“We saw everything he did, Noel. There is a crack between the doors of the pantry when they are closed,” He whispered, “But what did he mean he gave you an abortion? We have never slept together.”
“My mother told him she never slept with my father when he asked before she knew she was pregnant so he thought I was doing the same thing. I had to leave those two days a while back because I was so sick from the abortion since there was nothing to abort.”
“Noel!” Dr. Alice yelled as she ran into the house. She gasped as she saw me curled on the ground with the two boys watching me, “Rider! Get her upstairs right now! She needs to be horizontal!” She yelled but when Rider came towards me I put my hand in front of his.
“I can get up to my room myself.” I whispered as I used the chair nearby to get up. My body shook below my own weight as I wiped my tears off of my face.
“You shouldn’t get up, Noel!”
I smiled towards Dr. Alice, “I’m used to it, Dr. Alice,” I whispered as I wrapped my left arm around my ribs, “He’s been beating me since I was old enough to remember and probably before then and I usually don’t have anyone near to help so I can handle this,” I walked over to her, “Really, It’s not too bad because you had me in this corset. If it had not been for that I don’t know how I would’ve managed. He usually does not hurt me this much at one time,” I looked away, “I was actually surprised. This is the first time he has almost come to killing me. I’ve never seen him that angry before.”
“At least let me help you up the stairs.” Rider said as he came over but everyone seemed stunned when I slapped his hand away.
“No, you and Ash should get going. It is dangerous to be around me,” I whispered and started over to the stairs but stopped, “And please don’t tell Peter about what you witnessed today.”
“But…!” Ash started to yell but froze as I crouched to the ground on the first step of the stairs. Dr. Alice sprinted to my side.
“It seems my moving around had caused one of my ribs to finally break.” I whispered in a strained way as Dr. Alice seemed horrified.

Exactly a week later I had packed all of my things the night before since that was the first time I was able to get up on my own and waited the next morning for my uncle. He had called the day before to tell me we would be leaving the next morning so I sat by the door of my home with a suitcase of my most important things and had the rest packed just in case I was going to be allowed to bring them. I wrote Peter a letter explaining that if he looked for me I would be killed, how I was quitting modeling, and how I loved him like no one else. On top of the letter I left on my bed was a copy of my 10th birthday video, my father’s necklace I had put back together the best I could, my mother’s rejoined bracelet, and the bent up chunk of metal that used to be my ring. When my uncle knocked on the front door I quickly answered, “Uncle, I was not sure how much I was allowed to bring so I packed everything but put the things I needed most in one suitcase.”
He grabbed my cast covered arm, “You can only bring the clothes on your back, Noel. And they will be disposed of once we get to my place. Now come on, it’s almost 5 and the longer we wait, the higher chance we have of running into someone to stop us.” He mumbled before pulling me outside. I shut the door as I was dragged out to the yellow hummer my uncle had and pushed into the passengers’ seat. It took us almost a day’s drive to get to the Pennsylvania and to my uncle’s apartment. For the first week I lived there I was given all new clothes that were following the punk/gothic trend my piercings followed and had a few tattoos put on. The first one was three stars under my right eye, the second was a pair of large sized wings that almost covered all of my back, third was a cross put at the front of my left hip, and the last was a dove with a ribbon in its mouth on my right ankle. I went to school in the town my uncle lived in for my senior year, passed as the top person of my class in academics and was accepted into Harvard University. For the first time I was allowed to live away from my uncle once more but was not allowed living with anyone. He bought me a townhouse near campus and all my life consisted of for two years was studying. I passed in the top ten people in college and could go for any job I wanted, but when I told my uncle I wanted to be a modeling manager he called me crazy. He did not want me anywhere near that profession so I accepted a high paying job in a electronic business since I had a masters in science and a minor degree in electro engineering. I became the vice president within a year of starting the company. By the age of 24 I had helped the president of the company make our business the best in the country.
The Monday after my birthday, which was on a Thursday of that year, I came into work to be formally greeted by the head secretary. He stood quickly as I came into the double doors of the office. My dirty blonde hair that was shoulder length was pulled into a tight bun, I had on a nice pinstripe skirt suit, wore black pumps, my black rimmed fake glasses, had a strand of pinks pearls around my neck that matched my light pink silk shirt that was under my suit, a small diamond stud earring in my nose, nothing in my snake bites, pink pearl earrings in my first set of holes, and a small diamond stud earring that was a pair with the one in my nose that was in my cartilage piercing on my left ear, “Good morning Miss Smith!” The man older than me by more than a few years called as I walked in.
“Good morning, Mr. Tucker,” I said as I walked over, “What is the status of the crisis from Friday? Has it been fixed?”
He nodded, “Your suggestion made the whole problem disappear, Miss Smith! Without you I don’t know what I would’ve done!”
I smiled, “I’m glad I could help,” I replied, “So, what is the schedule for the president today?”
“He said all he needs your help with is the meeting this afternoon after lunch with the man that will be making our company’s new commercial to discuss ideas and come up with a new idea,” He answered, “Other than that, he would like you to have the new intern you were introduced to on Friday be your shadow for the day to see what you do on a regular day.”
I let out a small laugh, “There is no such thing as a normal day around here, Mr. Turner, I can assure you of that.”
He laughed too, “You always say such funny comments, Miss Smith. Who knew such a smart and beautiful girl could also be funny.”
“Oh yes, I’m a true comedian,” I joked, “When the intern gets here send him to my office.”
“Of course, Miss Smith.” He replied and I quickly made my way to my office. I did mainly desk work until the intern showed up and I had to give him some assignments to do for me. When the clock struck noon I stood and looked to the intern at the temporary desk outside of my office. I went out and knocked on the top of his cubical.
“Hey, why don’t I treat you to lunch, newbie? I know a great place really close that I’m sure you will like.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Smith, but I cannot go most places because I am vegan.”
I smiled towards him, “That’s why you will like this place,” I replied, “Your profile told me you were vegan and since I am vegetarian I thought you might want to join me. This café that’s really small serves all vegetarian and vegan cuisine so what do you say?”
“Alright.” He said as he stood. When I left the building and started down the road in front of our office building I made sure the intern stayed by my side. Once we were at the café I opened the door for him and we went in.
“Oh! Anna!” A young girl yelled as I took off my black trench coat and scarf that I had been using since it got cold around here. She ran over to us and grabbed my arm, “I saved your favorite table just in case you showed up today!”
“Thank you, Grace.” I said with a sweet smile as she wrapped her body around my arm and looked to the intern.
“That’s odd! You’ve never brought someone to the café with you! Especially a boy around our age!”
“This is Justin Handle; he is a first day intern at my place of work with a vegan appetite so I thought I would show him here,” I turned to Justin, “Newbie, this is Grace Samuel. We were in the same graduating class for high school.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” Justin said before Grace sat us at my typical table. I ordered a salad while Justin ordered a sandwich wrap.
“So you prefer men over women, Justin?”
He seemed to freeze, “Did my profile tell you that?”
I let out a small laugh, “Of course not. I just figured it out. Probably most people don’t realize that about you quickly, but I noticed the moment we met on Friday.”
“I’ve been found out,” He said with a sigh, “What made you realize it?”
I shrugged my shoulders and moved my glance to the next empty table, “I’m not sure. I guess you could call it a sixth sense I have,” I looked to him, “Also even if I have a million tattoos and piercings, men always seem to feel attracted to me, but you were not.”
“I don’t think a nose piercing is that big of a thing.”
“It’s my snake bites that usually turn people away. Especially kids. They are deathly afraid of me.”
“But are your kids afraid of them?”
I snorted, “I don’t have children. I’m two years younger than you, Newbie.”
“Really? You’re only 25?” He asked and I nodded, “Well surely you have a boyfriend,” I shook my head, “A girlfriend?”
I smiled, “No, I am not seeing anyone. I’ve actually never had a boyfriend.”
“That’s hard to believe.”
“I’ve been told that before.” I replied and we were quiet for the rest of the meal. When we were finished I brought Justin back to the office and gave him another task to do. I did not stop working either until the president knocked on my door. I quickly rushed over and greeted him.
“Are you and the intern ready for the meeting?”
I looked over to the cubical near us, “You ready for your first meeting, Newbie?” I asked and Justin quickly came over.
“I always am.” He replied before the president took my hand in his and led me to the meeting. When we walked in the door I heard a few people stand from their chairs but as we turned to the people my heart dropped. Peter, Ash, and Rider all stood with their hands out to us. I had heard on the TV that the two hottest male models were going to soon become co-models under the guidance of Peter, but I did not expect them to be our models. I shook their hands before following the President to a seat. When he grabbed my hand I looked to him with concern.
“Be careful, Annabelle. You are still healing.” He warned and I slowly sat down in my chair.
“Oh? Are you alright, Miss?” Peter asked and I smiled.
“My vice president had a miscarriage just a few weeks ago and is still recovering from the strain it took on her body.” The president explained as he sat to my right.
I gestured to my left where Justice sat, “You will have to excuse us. I understand you were expecting just the president and me to be at this meeting, but I have an intern shadowing me and I thought this meeting might be a good experience for him.”
“Of course we understand.” Peter said with a smile back to me.
I cleared my throat, “Now, I understand that you, Mr. Stevens,” I started to say but stopped when Rider put up his hand.
“Please, call me Rider.”
I looked to the table to concentrate before looking him in the eyes again, “Alright, then Mr. Rider, I understand that you are the most experienced model out of the pair.”
He nodded, “I have been modeling since I was a baby.”
“And Mr. Williams…”
“Call me Ash.”
“Mr. Ash, when I was going over your profile I could not find anything to suggest that you have ever worked with another model at all times, so would it be safe to assume that you have no experience working in a pair?”
He nodded, “Yes, I have never worked in a pair.”
I opened a folder, pretended to read something, closed it, and looked to Rider, “Mr. Rider, on your profile it says you have worked in a pair before, but stopped. You worked with a Miss Morel for a few years as a pair, correct?”
He seemed upset, but nodded, “Yes, I worked in a pair with Noel for most of my childhood.”
I gave him a sharp look, “Now, it also says that you two started working together again, then stopped over some type of dispute, and then your previous partner suddenly got up and quit.”
“What is your point, Miss Smith?” Rider asked as he returned my gaze of power.
I leaned back in my chair slightly, “Well it seems as though your last partner and you had a very unstable relationship and I want to make sure that is not going to become a trend,” I cleared my throat again, “I mean what if we were to take you as our top models and then suddenly you two have an argument. I do not want to get into financial ties with unstable models that may cause some type of news scandal and tarnish our companies’ name,” I pulled some of my hair behind my ear, “We are a fairly new company and as the vice president I see myself as a parent to the company. I do not want to let my family become injured because of a mistake I made in letting someone become close to us,” I sat back up, “Now I am not saying you are the only models I would protect our company from, I would do this with just about anyone. I find every single detail about a person involved with our company to ensure safety and protection.”
“She speaks the truth, Mr. Rider. Annabelle has turned away ten other top model pairs because they had questionable pasts,” The president said as he looked to Rider, “I trust Annabelle’s judgment on which model we should work with since she used to be a photographer herself. She knows what she is talking about.”
“Well I can assure you, Miss Smith, that the falling apart of a pair will not happen between these two. They have something that will link them to each other for the rest of their lives.”
“And may I ask what it is that keeps them linked?”
Peter looked to Ash who now stared at me with pure confidence, “We will both search the ends of the earth for our best friend that went missing a few years ago. Because we both look for her, we have become closer than brothers.”
“If you do not mind my prying, who is it you speak of? Is it possibly Mr. Rider’s past partner that suddenly disappeared and quit modeling?” The president asked and I looked from Ash to Rider constantly while waiting for their reply. I wanted them to deny it.
Rider cleared his throat, “Yes, we speak of Noel Lovette Morel, the famous model that suddenly quit and disappeared.”
“But that girl has been missing for about 7 years now, what makes you think she is still even alive?”
Rider seemed to become angry, “Because I knew Noel better than anyone else and I know she would not die easily.”
I felt myself about to cry, “President,” I whispered as I looked to the table, “We have found our model pair.”
“Really!” Ash asked in excitement and I nodded without looking to him.
“Now, we need to sort out through the details…” The president started but he looked to me as I got up.
“I am not feeling well, so I shall step out for a moment.”
“Should I call a doctor, Annabelle?” The president asked and I shook my head while giving him a smile.
“It is nothing too serious. I shall be right back.” I whispered before walking out of the meeting room and rushing to the back door. I yanked out a cigarette and lighter from my jacket pocket and quickly lit the cigarette. I took the cigarette from my mouth with a shaking hand and became overwhelmed. I cried outside in the cold without a jacket as my cigarette slowly burned away. I only ended up smoking less than half of the cigarette, but felt better and went in without taking another cigarette out. I went into the meeting room as the final details were sorted out.

I had to take sick leave for a week, but not because of the usual problems, this time it was caused by something different. My uncle had found out about the combining of our company and Peter’s two best models and became angry. The 18 stitches on my forehead could not be fully covered by my hair that I kept down for the first time in years and I had to go to work because I was out of sick days. When I came into the building and went up to the floor my office was on it was already 9 am, which was two hours later than I usually got to work. Everyone who passed me froze until I had walked away, but when I got to Mr. Tucker he sprang from his chair, “Good morning.” I mumbled.
“Dear god, Miss Smith! I was confused by why you took so much time off but I had no idea you were injured!”
I smiled, “It is not as bad as it looks,” I assured him, “Is the president in? I need to apologize for my sudden disappearance.”
“He’s on his way to the photo shoot, but since you were not here at your usual time this morning he assumed you were going to take another day off and went on his own. You can probably still make it if you leave now.” He replied and I sighed.
“Where is it?”
“A mile away at a photographer’s personal studio.”
“Could I have the address?” I asked and he nodded. He wrote down the address on a sheet of paper and when he handed it to me I quickly rushed out of the building. I walked as fast as I could to the address Mr. Tucker had given me and when I came in and explained who I was the woman at the front desk quickly brought me to the back area. I ran over to the president as he stood talking with Peter, Rider, Ash, and Justin who stood beside him quietly.
“President!” I yelled and he turned to me in shock. He seemed frozen as I came over nearly gasping for breath, “I am terribly sorry I have been absent for a few days and then was late today!”
“What in the world happened to your forehead!” He hollered as everyone else watched me.
I sighed, “Uh, I was in a car accident on my way home from work on Monday after our meeting and was in the hospital till yesterday afternoon. I would’ve been here sooner, but my car is almost totaled so it is still in the shop and I had to run here to make it in time.”
“You should not be here if you were released from the hospital yesterday!” The president argued, “You are still injured!”
I smiled towards him, “I wouldn’t be the young girl you hired if I gave up just because I was injured, President.”
“You’re too reckless, Annabelle.” He mumbled.
“You two definitely fit the role of handsome businessmen well,” I said as I looked to Rider and Ash, “Who’s the photographer today?”
“That would be me,” A man said as I turned to him, “Oh! Anna! What a dream it is to see you in my studio once again! Tell me, what gave you such an injury?” He asked in his thick French accent that I understood quite well.
“I was my fault, monsieur,” I replied, “So you shall be the photographer for our company today?”
He smiled, “It is marvelous to know I shall be working with you once again, Anna!”
“You two know each other?” The president asked.
“Oui! Anna was my star pupil in photography while I still worked as a teacher at Harvard. She could have easily become a photographer and probably one of the best, but she chose business,” He replied and then laughed, “But you look almost like a different person with blond hair, Anna! You look mature unlike the rascal you were in college! You used to hang out with a very different crowd too!”
“Oh? Do you by chance have any pictures of Annabelle as a student? I would love to see them.” The president said with a smile.
“Actually, I had Anna play as my model for a year! I have her best photograph in my bag!” He suddenly sprinted away and came back with me in all of my piercings, a black tank top and a red checkered skirt. I was wearing heavy black makeup to go with my black hair with red tips and posed sideways so that the wings poking out from my tank top could be seen along with the stars on my cheek, the tattoo on my hip that was shown since my shirt was rolled up slightly, and the tattoo on my ankle. My teacher handed the picture to President and he gasped.
“This is Annabelle?” He asked in astonishment and I laughed.
“Yes, I was quite the rebel in college and high school.”
“Do you still have those magnificent wings, Anna?”
I nodded, “Of course.” We were told by one of the workers that we needed to start shooting so I talked with my teacher as he took the photographs as Rider and Ash posed. I did not look away from the two men I missed so much until someone tapped my shoulder. I looked back to Peter and smiled, “Yes?”
“You know a lot about this kind of work, don’t you?”
I nodded, “I worked with teacher after all.”
Teacher sighed, “Anna also was the best model I have ever seen and she kept modeling till one of her friends was killed by a drunk driver in the middle of her second year.”
“That’s too bad.” Peter agreed and I stayed silent for the rest of the shoot that lasted till almost 5 pm. When we were finally done I sighed and walked over to my teacher’s side to look at the photos. When he looked up to me I smiled, but he did not return it.
“Is something wrong, Mr. Elrick?” I asked him and he sighed with regret. He put his hand on my arm.
“Is there something you need to tell me, Anna?”
“What do you mean?”
He looked at my eyes with intensity, “You weren’t in a car accident, were you?”
“What are you talking about, teacher? Of course I was.”
He sighed again, “I thought maybe it was an abusive boyfriend or something the whole time you were in my class and that’s what made you suddenly disappear for days and come back injured with a new excuse,” He pointed to my shoulder, “You did not fully cover up the fist shaped bruise on the back of your shoulder. I know you were not in a car accident because you had a bruise just like that in the same place when you first started my class as a freshman,” His hand squeezed my arm, “Are you living with anyone right now, Anna? Is someone abusing you?”
I stared at him in shock, “Of course not.”
“Anna, I need you to tell me the truth. I’m really worried about your safety because there’s no other way to explain all these occurrences over the years except someone is beating you. Now, you can come out and tell me who it is or I will have to forcefully find out.”
I pulled out of his grasp, “You really want to know where I got that bruise from?”
He nodded, “Please.”
“I got into a fight with my neighbor, okay? The guy got mad because I was being loud and when I talked back and walked away he slugged my shoulder. When he hit me I fell forward and broke the glass sliding door I had come out of to talk with him by hitting my forehead on it. I got a concussion and this huge cut from hitting the glass.”
He smiled, “Why didn’t you just tell me that to start with?”
I looked away, “It’s embarrassing to talk about how some guy knocked me out with one hit.” He laughed at that and once we had looked at the pictures I left. I went home and immediately turned on the TV. I had to do something to make it so I could not concentrate on my own thoughts. Peter, Rider, Ash, Mr. Elrick, and my friend who was killed by my uncle circled around my mind as I felt sick. I pulled my legs up to my chest while sitting on the couch and ended up falling asleep with my head on my legs.

The next week, President was out of the country for a wedding so I was put in charge. Everything was going smoothly until Friday of that week when Peter came into my office to discuss the contract. As he was getting up to go to the bathroom something dropped out of his pocket. Once he was out of sight I went over and picked up the small glass box and opened it. Inside were my crushed metal ring, my father’s fixed necklace, and my mother’s fixed bracelet. I froze and wanted to cry as I saw the objects but looked up when Peter came into the room, “Oh gosh! I’m sorry for opening it! I didn’t mean to pry into your business. You just dropped it and my curiosity got the best of me!”
He smiled, “It’s alright,” He replied, “I’m sure you can relate to why I keep those with me. I remember your teacher mentioning you lost someone.”
I nodded, “My best friend.”
He seemed on the verge of tears, “Those three things are from the three people I have lost,” He slowly took the box from my hand and pulled out the necklace, “This was my best friend’s signature necklace. He was a famous model who died in a car accident with his wife who was also a famous model who was the owner of the bracelet. Now, I was not given these when they died, they were actually given to their one and only child who was this perfect girl that I ended up raising from when she was the age of 10 till she was 18 and I lost her too. She left these three things behind for me on top of a note telling me that she might be killed if I came after her. Of course, I would never want anything to happen to her so I did not go after her for a few years,” He looked to me, “She is the same person my two models are in search for. Two years after she left we started trying to look for her once more, but she has been hidden by the man that took her from me.”
“Do you know who took her?”
He nodded, “Her uncle that her dad warned me to keep her from but apparently she had been seeing him the whole time I raised her without my knowing. He raped her and beat her and I’m afraid that even if she is not with me anymore, he is still beating her.”
I looked away, “I’m sorry. I brought up painful memories.”
He shook his head, “I actually wanted to tell you this because you are someone who can relate and…you remind me a lot of Noel.”
“Thank you for the complement,” I whispered, “Now, we should probably get back to work.” I focused on the contract for the rest of the meeting but by the time I got home I had lost control. I was crying hysterically while hugging a pillow and blubbering out how sorry I was for what I had done to Peter, Rider, and Ash. I lay on my couch crying but jumped as my front door was thrown open and my uncle came storming into my room. He ran at me and punched my face so hard that I fell off of my couch and hit the side of my head on the corner of my coffee table. Blood started from the cut now on the side of my head as I looked up to my uncle in horror.
“That bastard named Peter suddenly called my work and got me fired because he said he had proof I was a molester! You made me lose my job you b****!” He hollered as he pinned me to the ground, “Now he’s damn right! If I wasn’t a molester I’m going to make sure I am one now!” He ripped my silk shirt in half as I screamed.
“No!” I hollered and he slapped me across the face.
“Shut up or I will kill Peter!”
I kept quiet as I cried and my uncle started to slip off my skirt. I was frightened and screamed when my uncle suddenly passed out on top of me. I looked up in fright to see Peter with a baseball bat while standing next to Mr. Elrick, my photography teacher. Peter shoved my knocked out uncle off of me and I immediately stood and ran into Peter’s arms, “Peter!” I cried, “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”
He pulled me closer to him as he cried on my shoulder, “It’s okay, Noel, I’ve got you,” He whispered, “I will never let him hurt you again.” Mr. Elrick called the police and my uncle was hauled off to jail for sexual abuse, child abuse, and three murders. I called an emergency meeting to the president when had just gotten back to the country, Rider, and Ash. We met in the same meeting room but when I stopped at the door Peter looked to me in confusion, “What is it, Noel? Don’t you want to let your two best friends know you are here?”
I looked to my feet, “But will they accept me when I have to tell them everything.”
“They will love you no matter what.” He whispered and then opened the door for me. I walked in with my strawberry blond hair down to my shoulders, and another set of 10 stitches on the side of my head. When I walked in with cover up on my face tattoo, no glasses, and my natural hair color back I felt as though I was going to cry. Rider and Ash froze as they saw me walking in while holding Peter’s hand.
“Good afternoon, President.”
“Annabelle! What happened?”
I took a deep breath before meeting the president’s eye again, “My name in not actually Annabelle, sir.”
“Then what is it?”
I looked up to Peter and when he smiled back to me I looked back to the President with confidence, “My real name is Noel Lovette Morel. I’m the daughter of Guillaume and Charae Morel and adopted daughter of Peter.”
“Why have you been lying to us and tell us you were some else?”
Peter stepped ahead of me, “She did not mean to hurt you, sir. She was being held against her will and forced to lie to everyone about who she was so that she could not be found.”
“President, I want to resign from my position as vice president effective immediately and would like to propose a new contract for the models you have hired to represent the company.”
“What do you mean a new contract?”
“Well since I am starting work with my two co-models I would like to also be part of the contract.”
“Noel!” Rider yelled as he came up from his chair and stared at me with tears welling in his eyes.
“You idiot,” I whispered before walking over to him and putting my hand on his cheek, “I told you to not come looking for me,” I embraced Rider as I started to cry and so did he, “Thanks for coming after me,” I let go of Rider and went over to Ash. I embraced him, “Both of you are morons.” I cried into Ash’s shirt and he started crying also as he pulled me closer.
“I’m not allowing you out of my sight! Not for a second!” He whispered before I let go and looked to the president.
“So what do you say, sir, do we have a new contract?”
“Of course,” He said with a smile, “You may have a different name and background but you are still the girl I hired.”
I nodded towards him, “Thanks, sir.” I added before hurrying over to Peter. I clung onto his arm like I used to with my father when I was very young. After discussing the details out, I was added to the contract and then I was able to go to a hotel where Peter, Rider, and Ash had been staying for almost a month and a half now. My belongings had already been delivered and when we got inside I felt ill. There was too much love and caring here that it now made me sick, “Peter, can I take a shower? I haven’t taken once since two days ago because of what happened.”
“Of course. Go ahead, Noel.” He said and I quickly grabbed a tank top and a pair of shorts. I took a quick shower and came outside in my different set of clothes. I walked into the main living room of the two room hotel suite that had the main living room placed in the middle. When I went in Peter smiled towards me, “Mr. Elrick called to speak with you about something. I told him you would call him back.”
I went over to the fridge and got bottled water, “I already know what he will ask, so there is no point in my response.”
“And what exactly is he going to ask you?” Peter asked as I took a seat on a small couch next to him.
“He wants me to visit a grave,” I whispered, “He must know now that I never attended the funeral or visit. I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.”
“Why not? Isn’t this the friend you talked to him about? The one who made you stop modeling for Mr. Elrick?”
I nodded, “But he died because of me.”
“What do you mean?”
I gave Peter a dark glance, “You know exactly what I mean, Peter, of all people you should understand.” I mumbled as I put the water bottle back in the fridge.
“So you’re saying Sam killed your friend?”
I leaned against a nearby counter, “Yea,” I whispered, “The idiotic boy fell in love with me and once my uncle caught on that he was in love with me he got rid of him. He did the same thing he always does; he made it look like an accident.”
“Did he know what your uncle was capable of?”
I nodded, “The boy reminded me a lot of dad and I took a liking to him and accidentally let him figure everything else out. Then he stood up to my uncle for me and that was it. He died that week.”
“How exactly did your Uncle Sam kill him?” Ash asked as he sat in a single seat couch across from Rider who sat in one similar.
“I’d rather not say.”
Peter sighed, “Damn it, Mr. Elrick was right.”
“What do you mean?” Rider asked as he turned to Peter.
Peter crossed his arms over his chest, “I described how Noel used to act and he told me she was a different person now. I didn’t know he meant it so literally.”
I looked to my arms, “I’m sorry; I don’t think I’m what you were looking for. I am nothing like the old me and I don’t think I can go back to being carefree like that.”
“You are you, regardless of how you’ve changed, Noel,” Rider retorted as he looked back to me, “We came to get you even though we knew you would most likely be different.”
I wrapped my arms around myself, “If only that were true,” I whispered and then smiled, “Then everything could go back to the way it was before. Oh, how marvelous that would be,” I was distracted from the urge to cry when my phone went off, “Yea?”
“Oh, hey. What’s up?”
“The guys and I thought you might want to go with us to the funeral tomorrow. I mean it is for you late fiancée.”
I smiled and sighed, “I’d love to, but it seems I cannot,” I whispered, “But have a good time, okay?”
“Are you okay, Anna? You sound upset.”
I let out a laugh, “Oh you know me too well Emily, don’t you,” I chuckled to myself, “It’s nothing really. My dog passed away.”
“Oh I’m so sorry! Do you want me to come hang with you? We could talk.”
“No, I’m alright. My uncle is taking me on a trip starting tonight to make me feel better, so I’ll call you when I’m back, okay?”
“Definitely! Feel better!”
“Bye,” I shut the phone and sighed, “Well goodnight.” I whispered before walking into the other room and lying down on my bed. About an hour later I heard Rider and Ash go to the other bedroom and Peter come into the room I was in. Once I heard the three of them lightly snoring I got back up and went to the living room. I read a book my friend had told me was really good with just the light from the moon since I was afraid one of the guys would be woken up if I turned on a lamp. Sitting on the heater felt nice since it was under the window that I needed to be near to get the moonlight. I did not stop reading until I heard one of the guys go to the bathroom. Rider walked into the living room and looked surprised to see me.
“Hey, how long have you been up?” He asked in a yawn as he scratched his side.
“Not too long.”
“Do you want to go down to the dining area and grab breakfast for those two lazy asses?”
“Sure,” I replied before putting down my book and going over to Rider. We walked down to the breakfast area as food was being set out and only two other people were down there, “What should we get them?”
“Ash will want eggs, orange juice, and pancakes and Peter usually gets coffee, sausages, and a bagel.”
“Well I can get the bagel and orange juice since they are next to what I am getting.”
“Okay, I’ll get the rest.” He replied before we separated. I grabbed a bagel, orange juice, water, cereal, and an apple. We went back down to the room to see the other two were awake.
“Hey, Noel, your phone kept going off while you were gone,” Peter said as he handed me my phone, “I picked up accidentally and some guy started yelling at me so I hung up.”
I sighed before calling the newest number back and going to the window of the room, “Chris, what is it? Is something wrong?”
“Hell yeah there’s something wrong!” He hollered and I had to pull the phone from my ear, “I come to your house today because Emily said your dog died or some stupid s*** like that and she did not want you to be by yourself so she told me to come over! And what do I find? Your whole house has police caution tape around it!”
“Please, Chris, calm down.”
“What’d the hell did you do? Did you kill someone or something? Did you get caught with illegal drugs?”
“No nothing like that, Chris. You need to calm down or your blood pressure will rise,” I said and he let out a deep breath, “Now, I am alright. I am just at a hotel because of some problems that happened and I was asked to leave my house for some time.”
“So you’re not running from the law? And why did some punk answer your phone earlier?”
“The person who answered the phone is one of my relatives I’m staying with at the hotel.”
“Can I come see you? I need to talk to you about something important and I want to make sure this guy your with is not a rapist or something.”
I let out a small laugh, “Yea, like I’d ever been stupid enough to go live with a rapist. Get real, Chris. Now, wait just a second so I can ask if you can come,” I looked to Peter, “One of my best friends is really worried about me and wants to come meet you. Is that okay?”
“Of course.”
“Chris, I’m at the Marriot in the northeast end of town in room 208. I’ll be waiting, okay?”
“Yea, see ya’ soon.” He replied before hanging up.
“Geez, that guy,” I whispered as I picked up the glass of water. I drank some, “I will get ready so you guys can eat.”
“Okay.” Peter replied as I went into the other room.

When there was a knock at the door, I had already gotten into a pair of black skinny jeans and a navy quarter sleeve t-shirt and was now eating my breakfast as the guys got ready for the day. I quickly answered the door and smiled towards Chris. His black hair was spiked up while he wore dark colored jeans, black sneakers, and a black band shirt, “Hey there, stranger.” I said with a smile but froze when he grabbed my chin.
“Who the hell gave you stitches on your face? I’ll kill the punk!”
I sighed, “Come on in,” I said and then led him inside before shutting the door. I brought him over to the couches, “Do you want water?”
“That’d be great.”
I went over to the fridge and grabbed him a water bottle. As I was walking back I looked to him, “My uncle got angry at me and he ended up hitting me. That’s where the stitches are from and why there was caution tape at my house. It had been the site of abuse so I was asked to stay with my adoptive father I had moved away from for college along with my two best friends from my home town.”
He stared at me, “So where is this uncle of yours and how can I kill him without anyone noticing?”
I smiled, “It’s alright, Chris, he’s in jail right now and I will be testifying in court in a few days.”
“So are you going to tell them everything that has happened since you came here, I mean to your friends and adoptive father?”
I looked to my hands, “As if I could.”
“Are you going to tell them about Austin?”
My eyes were burning with tears, “What is there to tell?”
He put his hand on top of mine, “Well for starters, that he was your fiancé for almost six months before he died and that you were pregnant with his daughter but had a miscarriage.”
I smiled towards him, “They don’t need to know.”
“So you’re going to do to them what you do to the others? You’re going to pretend everything is great even though it’s not.”
“If you weren’t so smart and weren’t so close to Austin you would be just like the others.”
“But I’m not like the others,” He whispered, “I still don’t know everything about you, but I know a lot more than everyone else. I know your real name, I know you ran from your hometown, and I know your uncle forced you to do a lot of things you did not want to do.”
Suddenly the door to Ash and Rider’s room was pulled open, “She did not run from her hometown because she wanted to,” Rider pointed out as he walked over, “She was forced away or her uncle would have killed one of us.”
“Is this one of your friends?” Chris asked and I nodded.
“Chris, this is Rider Stevens,” I whispered, “Rider, this is Chris Purdy.”
“Nice to meet you.” Rider said as he shook Chris’s hand before sitting down on the other side of me on the couch.
“Nice to finally meet you too.”
“Finally meet? What do you mean?”
Chris smiled to Rider, “Well I’ve heard a lot about you from Austin. You and Ash Williams were his only love rivals.”
“Who’s Austin? And what do you mean by love rivals?”
Chris laughed slightly, “Austin is the boy whose funeral is today. He was deeply in love with Noel, but he always felt second in her heart to the two models she had hidden pictures of in her room.”
“Pictures?” Rider asked me.
I looked to Chris, “Austin misunderstood. I just loved the photographs those two take,” I turned to Rider, “He’s referring to some of the photographs I have of you and Ash. I collected your photographs while we were apart so I could still see you two.”
“Well, Chris,” Rider said as he leaned forward, “You’ve known Noel for all of this time, so could you tell me what you know?”
Chris smiled, “Sorry dude, but if Noel hasn’t told you something, I sure as hell shouldn’t. For one it’s not my place and if she chooses not to tell you something, it’s probably because she doesn’t think you can handle it. That’s why I don’t know everything.”
“But you know about us so you must know a lot.”
Chris shook his head, “I only know who you are from Austin’s constant bickering about you. Noel didn’t tell me.”
“So the Austin you are referring to is the boy Mr. Elick spoke of?” Peter asked as he walked into the room.
“Chris, this is my adoptive father, Peter. Peter, this is Chris Purdy.”
“Hey,” Chris said with a slight smile, “And that reminds me! You never told Professor Elrick about your true relationship to Austin, did you?”
I shook my head, “Of course not.”
Chris looked to Peter, “Noel wasn’t friends with Austin,” He remarked, “They were engaged.”
“You never told me this, Noel.” Peter said with shock.
Chris sighed, “She doesn’t talk about him very often and I can’t blame her for it,” He put his hand on top of mine; “She was in the car accident with him and was slightly traumatized when he died.”
“You were in the accident?” Ash yelled as he came into the room, “You must’ve been injured!”
I shook my head, “I only received a scratch.”
“But how could he have died and you only received a scratch?”
Chris looked to Ash, “The car hit the side of the car Austin was in head on. The part of the car Noel was in was barely damaged.”
“That must’ve been horrible.” Peter whispered as he looked to me.
“He’s in a better place,” I replied before turning to Chris with a smile, “So what did you want to ask me?”
He sighed, “I thought you would want to know that they finally found out who was driving the car. The wreck was not an accident.”
I looked away, “Really?”
He nodded before squeezing my hand, “They are going to hold court in two days to convict the man who killed him and I thought you would be a good witness to testify since no one else saw the wreck.”
“I can’t.”
“You need to, Noel. You refuse to tell me what happened, but don’t you want the man who killed your fiancée behind bars so he can’t hurt anyone else?”
I looked to him, “I’ll think it over, alright? I just can’t think about it for today.”
“I understand,” He whispered, “Well I should go. I have work starting soon.”
I kissed his cheek, “Be safe, alright?” He nodded before leaving the room and the area was filled with silence.
“That court date is the same as your uncle’s court date, right? So you can’t go to both.”
I looked to Rider, “I’ know.” I whispered before going to my bed and lying down.

Two days later I put on a suit that I would usually use for work, but this time it was for court. I met the three guys outside in the car to see them all in suits too. Peter drove us to the court house and when we got there I saw Chris waiting outside the front door in a suit too. When I went over to him he seemed happy, “Hey.”
“You made it!” He said with a warm smile, “But why did you all come?”
I smiled towards him, “I’ll explain later, but let’s get inside.” When we got inside I was shocked to see news people waiting and when they saw Ash and Rider they went ballistic. They called to them and while they were busy freaking out over the two hottest models in the industry were in the court house testifying if needed I went over to a lawyer that had been assigned to defend Austin, but I was shocked when my uncle’s lawyer grabbed my arm.
“Anna!” He said with a smile, “I’m so glad you came today! We really need your help defending Sam.”
“What do you mean?” Chris asked, “Anna is testifying against Mr. Smith.”
The lawyer laughed at Chris, “You are funny, boy! Like Anna would testify against her uncle!”
“But…” Chris started to argue but we all stopped.
“The court is now in session. Please take your seats.” The bailiff of the court room said and I immediately took a seat in the audience area. When the judge came in we all rose and then sat once she was seated. After telling the jury what the case was for she sighed.
“Alright, first we shall call up the only witness of the accident,” The judge said before I stood. I quickly walked in front of her, “Please state your full name for the court.”
I cleared my throat, “My name is Annabelle Marie Smith, your honor.”
She rustled through some papers, “Now, on your records, it says this was not your birth name and that you changed it when you were 18. Please state your full birth-given name to the court.”
I looked the judge directly in the eyes, “My birth-given name is Noel Lovette Morel, your honor.”
The news reporters in the back seemed to become frantic as the crowd and jury started talking. The judge gave me a very angry look, “Are you meaning to tell me you are the Lovette? Lovette, as in the number one model in the country that suddenly disappeared seven years ago?”
I cleared my throat again, “Yes, your honor. As you can see on my record I have been living in Pennsylvania for that exact amount of time.”
She sighed, “Alright, then you may take a seat,” The judge said and before I took a seat in the prosecutor’s chair I had to place my hand on the bible and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth before I could be seated. When I sat down the judge looked to me, “Now, Miss Morel, I have been told that you are the niece of Mr. Smith, but you are prosecuting against him since he supposedly killed your fiancée, is this true? I am having a hard time understanding.”
I looked to my hands, “Yes, I am the niece of Mr. Smith and was the fiancée of Austin.”
“Well since you were the only witness, please tell us what happened.”
I looked to the crowd, “Austin and I left his apartment at around 11 at night after having dinner there. Austin insisted on driving me home since it was so late and as we were on our way there we passed through a green light. Suddenly the car was hit on Austin’s side of the car by a large red pickup truck. I was thrown around a bit by the impact but when I looked to Austin to make sure he was okay I saw his head bent down so that his chin touched his collarbones and I realized his neck had been broken,” I wiped away tears as they started to fall, “Immediately I got out of the car in horror to call 911, but as I got out and looked over to the other car to see if that person was still alive I saw my uncle get out of the truck and then came over to my side. He told me to call an ambulance and then quickly walked away.”
“But why would your uncle crash into a car you were in and kill your fiancé?”
I looked away from the crowd, “Because I loved him.”
The lawyer that was representing Austin stood, “I do not understand, Miss Morel, why would he kill Austin just because you were in love with him?”
I clenched my fists, “It was not the first time he has killed someone I loved so I just assume it is because they love me. I stole his sister from him and he wants me to never be happy in repayment.”
“What do you mean you stole his sister? Wasn’t his sister your mother?”
I nodded, “Charae was my uncle’s little sister who became pregnant at the age of 17 with me. It was my dad’s and my own fault that his precious sister was taken from his family since his parents became angry that she had become pregnant at such a young age. Uncle started abusing me in repayment for me stealing his sister 6 months before my 10th birthday right before...” I was now crying uncontrollably, “Right before he murdered my mom and dad.”
“But your parents died in a car accident.”
I stared at him, “The steering wheel was positioned so that after 20 miles it would stop moving. My parents crashed after 21 miles.”
“How did you know exactly when it would stop working, Miss Morel?”
I looked away, “Because uncle told me exactly what he had done right after it had happened. He then told me that my parent’s deaths were because of me. I had killed them because I had told my dad about the abuse even though my uncle had threatened to kill dad if I told anyone about it. I thought he was bluffing and I was scared that I would be abused again, so I told my dad the day after my birthday about the beating and he died a day after. What my uncle didn’t think of was that my mom might be in the car when it was destined to crash and to his shock she was. He did not plan to kill my mom, he only wanted to kill my dad who had also stolen Uncle’s baby sister from him,” I looked to Peter, “But once my parents were gone my uncle held something equally as special to me in the balance. He threatened to kill my father’s best friend and the most important person in my life, Peter, who is my adoptive father. In order to protect Peter I was told by my uncle that I would have to follow anything he said, so I allowed him to abuse me, cut off all my hair, give me piercings, make me quit modeling, and move away from the man I cared for so much. But, after a few years of living with the abuse and pain of staying with my uncle I met this wonderful guy. He may have dressed a little oddly and been a little out of the ordinary, but he was kind, caring, and loved me. He reminded me so much of Peter that I ended up allowing him into my world and let him find out almost everything about me. He knew about the things I’ve done and yet he proposed to me and told me he wanted to take me away from all of the horrible things and let me live happily,” I clutched my suit’s skirt in my hands, “I fell in love with an idiot who was not bright enough to stay away from a dangerous person like me and…and then he died. Just like mom and dad, he was taken away from me in an instant, but this time, to make it worse, I had to see the entire thing. I sat there with almost no injury while Austin died,” I put my hands over my eyes, “Just like mom and dad, I killed Austin too! I told him too much and I killed him!”
“Miss Morel, you did not kill him. Your uncle did.”
I looked to the lawyer, “But I knew there was a chance he may get hurt because of me, but I still let him into my world! I might as well have killed him! I caused his death!” I brushed away the tears on my face, “But I was so unbelievable happy with Austin, I couldn’t bring myself to separate us! I was selfish and he paid for my actions with his life even though I wanted to protect him and keep him close to me.”
“It sounds to me as if you were stuck between a rock and a brick wall, Miss Morel. You had to either break Austin’s and your heart in order to protect him or you had to stay with him and be happy while trying to keep him protected.” The judge looked down on me, “You are not at fault here, Miss Morel,” She whispered, “I know you may not believe me when I say you are innocent in all three cases of murder, but you are,” She rustled through some papers, “Obviously because of the abuse you received, you have developed some type of mental issue that makes you think anything that goes wrong was caused by you when you only did what was humanly possible or what anyone else would have done in your situation.”
“But she has no proof of abuse, your honor! How do we not know she is just lying in order to defend her fiancé?” Uncle’s lawyer demanded, “I mean this girl was an actress for a lot of her life so how do we not know she is just acting out a fake story?”
The judge looked to me, “Do you have any sort of proof so that all suspicions of abuse can be silenced, Miss Morel?”
I looked to her, “Obviously my word means nothing but will other’s word help? I know a few people who may be able to testify.”
“Are they present?”
I nodded, “My adoptive father has been near me my entire life up until 7 years ago so he can tell you most of the things, granted that I lied to him about where I had gotten injured. Also,” I looked to the back of the room, “Dr. Alice is waiting outside as I asked her to. She was the person who helped me when I was abused and she has documentation.”
“Well since there is documentation, please have Dr. Alice come to the stand.” She said and then doors in the back opened. Dr. Alice walked in as I got off of the stand, but we both stopped when we met up.
Dr. Alice placed her gentle hand on my cheek, “You were very brave to finally speak out, Noel, let me handle the rest.”
I smiled slightly to her, “Thanks, Dr. Alice.” I whispered before walking back to my seat next to Peter as everyone watched me, but their attention was taken by the captivating presence Dr. Alice showed while in the prosecution chair.
“Dr. Alice, Miss Morel has said you attended to her when she was injured, is this true?”
Dr. Alice nodded, “When Noel came to the United States I was asked by her father’s best friend, Peter, to be Miss Morel’s personal doctor. When I first met Noel, Peter explained to me that the little 10 year old girl had to have a personal doctor because she was terrified of hospitals. The terror of hospitals was caused when she watched her father die in a hospital after the accident which caused her serious mental problems and the main thing that triggered her mental breakdowns was hospitals. So, I became her doctor and was surprised by how much she would get injured. She would go to sleep over at a friend’s house and the next day I would be called to come see her because she was heavily injured. I realized after some time that there was something odd about the injuries since they always seemed to be inflicted by another person. At first, I was suspicious that her grandparents or Peter were the one’s injuring her, but my suspicions were stopped when I saw how close Noel was to Peter and when her grandparents died, but the injuries still continued. Luckily, when Noel was moved to Kennewick right after her 12th birthday things seemed to settle down. They injuries happened less often until they slowly seemed to stop all together. Her modeling career took off, she started making friends, and her mental health was becoming better, but that all changed right before her 18th birthday. She disappeared from Peter and no one knew where she was except that she was most likely with her Uncle since Rider Williams over heard her talking to him right before she forced Rider out of her house and then disappeared. Now, when she returned and was covered with a bruise on her forehead, a cut on her neck, and a bruise that consumed her entire right side of her torso, I was not called because Noel did not think she needed a doctor. But after a fashion show dedicated to her parent’s she disappeared for 4 days so there was an amber alert put into effect. When she finally came back I was called by Rider with a request from Peter to see if I could come see Noel immediately because she was severely injured…”She pulled two VCR tape out of her pocket and then looked to me, “I brought these two surveillance camera videos as asked by Noel.”
“Miss Morel,” The judge whispered, “What are these videos of?”
I looked to the woman, “One of them I would like to play for the whole court is of the time Dr. Alice was describing. It is a documentation of what exactly she found and our conversation.”
“Proceed.” The Judge said and the bailiff came to put the tape Dr. Alice had in a VCR player that would show the incident on a blank wall to the right of the front of the court room.
“It’s good to see you, Dr. Alice.” I said but she did not take my hand. She stared at my bruised body in a horrified way.
“What in the world happened to you, Noel? You’re covered in bruises!” She gasped and I grabbed her wrist. I put her hand on my forehead and she jumped.
“When I checked my fever last night it was 104.”
“You’re burning up! You must have an infection!”
I looked away, “Maybe, I have no clue,” I grabbed onto my right arm, “You should check my arm first,” I whispered, “I’m pretty sure it’s broken in more than one place.”
“Why haven’t you gone to see a doctor?”
I looked to her, “You know I don’t trust most doctors.”
“So you waited for me to check on you?”
I nodded, “It’s childish, but that’s what I did.”
“Alright, lay down on the couch and I’ll look at you,” she said but then turned to the guys, “Could you two wait outside the room?” Dr. Alice was quiet as she checked my whole body and when she was done she turned to the doorway, “You two can come back in.” She whispered and I sat up on my couch. Peter came immediately to the doctor as Rider lingered behind him.
“What’s your prognosis, Dr. Alice?”
She sat on the couch next to me, “Noel has broken her arm and wrist of the same side, has significantly cracked her ribs on her left side, has bruised at least 90% of her body, and…” Dr. Alice took my left hand in hers and I looked to her, “You were raped, weren’t you, Noel?” I stared at her in horror, “But this wasn’t the first time someone has raped you, is it? There are bruises that were from the time before when you were raped. It was recently. I’d guess in the past month but I’m not entirely sure,” Her grip on my hand tightened, “Was the time before the first time you were raped or did it happen before that too?” I looked away from her, “Noel, you have to tell me. As your doctor and someone who cares, I have to know.”
I looked back to the doctor, “N…no. That was not the first time.”
“When was the first time, Noel?”
I looked to her hand that held onto mine, “I don’t remember the exact time, but it was not long before my parents died.”
“Was it the same person who raped you every time?” She asked and after a moment of silence I nodded, “Who raped you, Noel?”
I looked to my legs, “I can’t say.”
“Noel! You have to tell me!”
I pulled my hand from hers and started to cry, “No! No!” I hollered, “If I tell you he will get angry! Then he will take Peter away from me too!” I put my hands on either side of my head, “He took my parents! And if I tell anyone he will take Peter too! Then he’ll go after anyone else I care for! I can’t tell anyone! I can’t! I can’t!”
“Noel! You have to calm down!” She pleaded as she hugged me tightly, “Has this rapist threatened Peter’s life?”
I looked up to her, “If he had not I would never meet with him,” I whispered, “The first time he threatened to kill my parents but I told my dad in assurance he would not find out, but he was the one who killed them!” I cried onto her arm.
“But Guillaume and Charae died in a car accident! The man who checked the car afterwards said something went wrong in the steering wheel!” Peter argued and I shook.
“He did that to the car! The day of the funeral he told me he made it so the steering wheel would get stuck!” I cried, “If I had known he was serious about killing them if I told I would’ve never breathed a word but I was so scared I couldn’t keep it to myself!”
“Of course you were scared!” The doctor said as she pulled me closer, “Has he been continuously raping you since your parents died?”
I shook my head, “He left me alone since I came to live with Peter, but he started again a few weeks ago.”
“What caused him to start again?”
I choked back tears, “It was my fault once again, so I do not blame him for it. Each time I did something to anger him even though I knew the consequence of my actions.”
“Is he the only who cut your hair off before?”
I slowly nodded, “He cut it off with scissors once he knew I was away from Peter but it was all chopped oddly so I went to a barber and that was the best they could do.”
“Did he make you dye your hair and give you those piercings?”
I looked to my legs, “He told me the last time that if I did not stay away from…certain others…he would make it so I could not model and get near those people more.”
“Who did he tell you stay away from?”
I looked to the woman, “Rider, Ash, and all other male models around my age.”
“So he did all of these piercings so that you could not be a model anymore?” She asked and I started shaking.
“Modeling is all I have left that I love so he also took it away! He took away my parents, Peter, Rider, my friends, and my passion! He wants to make it so I have nothing left anymore.”
“Why? What does he have against you?”
I looked away from her, “I’m sorry.”
“You can’t tell us, can you?” She asked and I shook my head.
“Please, I just need everyone to stay out of this so that he does not get angrier.”
She sighed, “Alright, well let’s get a cast on your arm, hand, and ribs so that you can get around and they will heal.”
“Can I take my finals? They start tomorrow.”
“Are you up to it?”
I nodded, “Of course.”
When the tape stopped Uncle’s lawyer stood angrily, “This has nothing to do with this case, your honor! It does not even concern Mr. Smith at all!”
Dr. Alice smiled towards the man, “Yes, this tape does not have anything to do with this case,” She handed the other tape to the bailiff, “Until you pair it with this other tape, right Noel?”
I quickly stood and hurried to Austin’s lawyer to whisper something to him, “Your honor, Miss Morel would like to tell everyone in advance that there are disturbing images on this tape and if they cannot handle it, they should leave now.”
The judge looked to Dr. Alice, “Exactly what is on this tape, Dr. Alice?”
“I don’t know,” She replied and everyone seemed shocked, “Noel called me last night and requested that I retrieve two specific tapes she had hidden in her room before she left. She specifically asked me not to watch them, so I did not.”
The judge looked to me, “Miss Morel, please tell us what this tape is of.”
I watched the woman, “It is the truth, your honor,” I whispered, “It will prove everything I have told you happened before I left Peter’s home. Also, it will show you what my uncle is capable of and why he cannot be let out into society ever again.”
“Alright, Bailiff, put in the tape.” The judge said and he did so. We all waited as the tape was turned on. It showed me hurrying around the spare bedroom trying to clean it up. Suddenly a loud noise sounds and I turn to the door that cannot be seen in the tape.
“Uncle!” I gasp as I froze in terror. He walks into the room so that he can be seen on the tape.
“It’s worthless to try to hide the evidence, Noel; you let a man sleep here, didn’t you?”
“Uncle, it’s not what you think!”
He storms over to me and grabs my shirt, “You are going to become just like your mother! You’re going to become pregnant with another bastardly child! It was that Rider boy wasn’t it? You whore!” He threw me into the side of the bed and my forehead hit the wooden base of the bed as my neck was cut by the edge of the wood at the bottom of the bed’s frame.
I sat up as I cried, “I did not sleep with him uncle! I promise you! I would never do such a thing!”
“Lies!” He hollered as he picked me up again by my shirt, “Did my killing your parents’ not teach you not to defy me? Maybe I should kill Peter and Rider to get the message to you!”
“No! Uncle! You don’t understand!” I cried, “Please! All I have left is Rider and Peter! Please don’t hurt them!”
“Then I will teach you another lesson you will not soon forget!” He said in a holler before he tore off all of my clothes. Everyone watched in silence and horror as I was raped by my own uncle. I put my head between my legs as I cried and the room spun. I did not look back up until I heard my uncle re-do his belt. He kicked my right side of my torso repeatedly as I cried out, “You are getting an abortion! I will not allow you to also have a bastard child!” He yelled before turning around and looking away from me, “Get dressed quickly! We are leaving in five minutes.” He stormed out of the room as I curled into a ball and started crying. The tape went black but everyone still watched the wall it had been playing on in shock. I hugged myself as I continued to cry but looked up to Dr. Alice to see her crying.
“How!” She whaled, “How did you go on for most of your life being treated like that and not tell anyone, Noel?” She looked to me with horror.
I put my hands over my eyes, “I’m sorry!” I cried, “I’m so sorry!”
Dr. Alice turned to the judge, “There is no way to doubt that much proof, your honor. We saw her beat and raped as her uncle said he killed her parents and would kill the people close to her so it proves he most likely killed the man she was going to marry.”
Uncle’s lawyer stood, “But how do we know she was not lying and did have sex with that boy?”
Rider suddenly stood a few seats away and I looked to him in shock like everyone else, “Your honor! There is no possible way I could have had sex with Noel because I have never had sex before! I am still a virgin and am proud to be one!” He hissed and then turned to my Uncle’s lawyer, “I also know that Noel wanted to save herself for the one she loved so she had not had sex with anyone other than when she was forced to by her uncle!”
I looked to the judge as she brushed tears off of her face, “I believe the jury has enough evidence to now make their decision. At this time the jury will go to another room to make their choice.” The jury got up and left the room as the judge watched everyone else, “For everyone else, we will have a short recess and resume this once the jury is back.” She got up and went out the back door of the room where my uncle was then brought through as Dr. Alice ran over to me. She fell to her knees and embraced me as I sat there crying.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered to her in a hiccup, “Thank you for bringing those tapes and testifying.”
She took her head off of my shoulder and brushed tears off of my face as more ran down her own, “I would do anything in order to make it so that man can never hurt you again, Noel.”
I nodded towards her, “Yes, thank you.” I whispered before looking up as Chris came over to us.
“Can we talk in private?” He asked in a regret-affected voice.
“Yea,” I replied before standing, “Excuse us for a minute.” I walked out of the court room and down an empty hall before stopping.
“Was everything you said true, Noel?”
I looked to him, “Yes, every last bit of it,” I whispered, “I’ve caused you so much pain, Chris. I took away your best friend forever. If you hate me now, I understand, and even if you want to hit me, I’ll be okay with it.”
He stared at me, “Did Austin know he might be killed if he stayed near you?”
I nodded, “I told him everything,” I whispered, “He was the only one that knew all of my secrets because I loved him.”
“Is that why you won’t go visit his grave? Because you feel you caused his death?”
I nodded, “Yea.” I was shocked when Chris hugged me tightly to him but I quickly started crying.
“Austin chose to stay beside you, Noel, even if he would die. He could be a fool at points, but I would have done the same thing if I was in his place,” His body started to shake, “You have been suffering all of this time and I didn’t even know! I’m an idiot!”
I squeezed myself closer to him, “You’re not an idiot! I made it so you could never figure it out!”
He looked to me as I cried, “I almost killed Sam Smith after I saw those videos! I wanted to kill him so badly! But then I realized he does not deserve a quick death. He deserves to rot in a jail for the rest of his life for what he has done to you.”
Peter quickly walked over to us suddenly and I looked to him with surprise, “The jury has decided, Noel. You two should get back in there.” I nodded as I let go of Chris but stopped walking past Peter when he touched my shoulder, “You were really brave today, Noel. Regardless of what they decide, you have finally beaten your uncle. Your dad would be very proud.”
I watched him for a moment, “You remind me of dad more and more every day.” I whispered before kissing his cheek and then jogging back into the court room. I sat down beside Dr. Alice who held my hand in hers with assurance.

“Court is back in session,” The judge announced before looking to the jury, “Has the jury reached a verdict?”
An older woman stood with a paper, “We have, your honor,” She cleared her throat, “We find Samuel Smith…guilty for abuse and rape of a minor, the death of Austin Reed, and the death of Guillaume and Charae Morel.”
I watched as the judge nodded, “Very well, Mr. Smith, would you like to say anything before you are put in jail?”
“I’d like a word with Noel, if possible.”
I watched him, “That is Miss Morel’s choice,” The judge said as she looked to me, “Miss Morel?”
All eyes were on me as I stood and nodded. I walked over to my uncle as he stood and we met almost directly in front of the judge which was where everyone could see. He sighed and looked to my red eyes, “You thought everything out, didn’t you? You set this up so that you had logistical proof to convict me.”
I shook my head, “No, uncle. As you said to me right before you took dad and mom away, I am not smart enough to understand what my every decision will affect.”
“Then why so suddenly did you decide to testify against me? You could have done it when your parents died or when that tape was made.”
My mind froze, “Because this is what Austin wanted,” I whispered back, “This is all he ever wanted. He wanted me happy and away from you so I made his wish come true in his memory.”
“You’re an idiot!” He suddenly hissed and I shook with terror, “I saved you from making this mistake again! I stopped you before you ruined your life again and married another bastard!”
“First you married Guillaume and now you were going to marry that Austin kid!” He hollered, “I did this all to protect you!”
I stared at my uncle with fright, “Sam, I am not your little sister! I am Noel! Why can’t you see that I am not my mom?” I whispered with sadness, “And you did not try to save mom,” I looked to the ground, “You only took all she loved. You took dad, you took her from me, you took her from her fans, you took her from her friends, and… you took her from yourself,” I looked back to my uncle, “I hope you will someday understand how badly you have hurt everyone else.”
Everyone gasped as a hard force hit my cheek and I stumbled backwards before I finally caught myself from falling. My cheek was burning from the punch my uncle had hit me with, “Get Mr. Smith out of here!” The judge yelled as she stood. Uncle hollered as he was pulled out of the room but I had to grab Rider and Ash’s arms. They were luckily stopped when I grabbed them, but they kept trying to pull out of my grip as if it was the only thing that could weaken them.
“Leave him,” I begged, “He’s gone.” I looked back to see Dr. Alice holding Peter back as Austin’s lawyer held Chris back.
“You men need to calm yourselves down!” The judge hissed and I looked to her as she looked back to me.
“I’m sorry, your honor. They were not thinking. It has been a very hard day for them. They did not know everything.”
She sighed, “Well at least everyone will be assured you will be protected from now on,” She said with a smile, “Court is adjourned.”
I stood fully and pulled Ash and Rider out of the court room with me. I did not let go of their arms until we got outside, “Thank you for worrying, but it is alright. He held back and barely hit me.”
Rider embraced me as he shook, “I wanted to rip his head off! How dare he hit you after everything!”
I hugged her back, “I know.” I whispered before letting go and looking back to Peter, Dr. Alice, and Chris as they came outside. Chris smiled toward me suddenly.
“So you did this for Austin?”
I sighed, “He was my inspiration and support to help me finally stand up for myself,” I looked to the ground, “Without him I would have never even thought it was possible to get away from my uncle.”
He let out a small laugh, “That guy was a stubborn jackass,” He replied before coming over to me, “But he loved you so he became even more stubborn than usual.”
“I wish I could’ve met him,” Peter whispered as he looked to me, “Not even these two models could get you to believe in yourself but this Austin was able to help you.”
“Noel!” An older woman yelled and I quickly turned to see the woman I had only met for the first time a week ago. She smiled as she came over to me, “Whenever you are done discussing things with the reporters and friends, Grace is waiting in my car.”
I smiled back to the woman, “I’m sure she is restless, so if you could bring her here now, that would be great.” The woman nodded before walking away as I looked to Chris.
“Grace? As in Austin’s Grace?”
I nodded towards him, “The day before the accident happened, Austin decided that we should write wills on what we wanted to leave to each other just in case something went wrong involving my uncle,” I looked to my feet, “The only things Austin asked me to do were to prosecute my uncle and get him in jail without his help and to take care of his precious treasure.”
“Noel!” A young girl called and I turned to see an adorable blonde haired, blue eyed child. She was in a pink skirt, black leggings, a blue long sleeve shirt, and a pink scarf. Her small arms wrapped around my leg as I smiled towards her, “I’m going home with you today, right? I want to go with you.”
I knelt down to her and brushed a piece of hair out of her face, “Yea,” I whispered, “This time we are not going to just spend some time together, you’re going to come back with me to my home.”
“Yay!” She cheered but then looked to Chris as I picked her up and set her on my hip, “Are you going to come, Chris?”
He smiled towards the girl, “Well I was thinking you, me, Noel, and all of Noel’s friends I met today could go out to dinner to celebrate a job well done.”
I looked to Chris, “That’s a great idea,” I replied before looking to Rider, Ash, Peter, and Dr. Alice, “Would you guys like to accompany us for dinner? It’s my treat.”
“Sure!” Dr. Alice said in a happy way, “Right guys?” She asked and the three guys nodded.
“Where would you like to go, Grace?” Chris asked as I looked to the small girl as she deliberated for a moment.
“The California Pizza Kitchen around the corner!” She cheered before grabbing onto my shirt and looking to me, “Call we please Noel?” She begged and I let out a small laugh.
“Of course,” I said, “Whatever you want, Grace.” I added before looking to the others, “Follow us. We’ll lead the way.”
“So how was school today, Grace?” Chris asked as he joined me in walking down the sidewalk.
“It was fun! Everyone got to stand up in class and tell everyone what they were going to do for Christmas and Hanukkah and our homework is to color!”
He smiled, “So what did you tell the class you were doing for the holidays?”
She seemed to bounce to turn fully to him, “I said I am going to live with my new family and have my first Christmas!”
He let out a laugh, “I’m sure everyone thought you were lucky, Grace.” He blurted as we walked into the restaurant. I went to the front podium used for making reservations and seating charts. I smiled towards the guy and he smiled back.
“Hello, we need a table for seven.”
“Please follow me this way, ma’am.” He said as he carried some menus to a circular booth and I sat in the middle of it so that everyone could fill in on either side of me. Peter sat to my left and Chris sat to my right as I kept Grace in my lap. We did not look up from our menus until we had ordered our food.
“I love your skirt, Grace.” Dr. Alice said with a kind smile.
“Thanks! Noel got it for me!” She said with a warm smile, “And Noel gave me this shirt, and this scarf!”
“Noel seems to be spoiling you!”
“Spoiling?” Grace asked as she looked back to me.
“It means I am giving you a lot of gifts.”
Grace looked back to Dr. Alice, “Yea Noel spoiling me almost every time she came over!”
Dr. Alice laughed at the grammar mistake, but did not point it out, “So what grade are you in, Grace?”
“Kindergarten!” She replied, “But, Lady, do you work with Noel?”
Dr. Alice shook her head as I touched Grace’s arm. She looked back to me as I smiled, “Grace, this nice lady is Dr. Alice. She was my doctor for most of my life,” I pointed to Peter who sat beside us, “This is my dad,” I pointed to Ash, “This is my close friend from my old school,” I pointed to Rider, “And this is my best friend since I was born.”
“Why are they all here at once? Are they visiting for Christmas?”
“They helped us in court today, Grace. They are all very nice people who Austin looked up to very much.”
“Brother knew them?” Grace asked as she looked to me.
I nodded, “In a way he did. I told Austin all about each of these people so he felt as though he knew them.”
Suddenly Grace leaned forward, “Lady Doctor,” She said as she looked to Dr. Alice, “Could you fix Noel’s booboo?”
“Her wounds on her head are healing as fast as they can, dear.”
Grace shook her head and her blonde curls moved side to side, “Not those booboos!” She said as she turned to me. She put her hand over my heart, “Noel has a booboo here! When she thinks I left the room she always grabs right there and cries a little! Can you fix her booboo, Dr. Lady?”
I hugged Grace and pulled her back to me, “There’s no wound there, Grace, you worry too much.”
“Okay,” She whispered before looking to Peter, “But where is Noel’s mommy?”
Peter smiled, “She passed away a long time ago.”
“Look, Grace, your food is here.” I said with a happy voice as I pointed to a plate coming towards us. When we were done eating I realized Grace had fallen asleep in my lap with her head against my chest. As we left the restaurant I handed Grace to Chris before going over to Peter, “If you do not mind the mess, why don’t all of you stay at my home? I certainly have enough room.”
“Sure.” Peter said since they had brought their bags with them since they planned to stay in a different hotel tonight that would have room for Dr. Alice too. Peter, Rider, Ash, and Dr. Alice followed behind Chris’s truck to my house as Grace slept against me. When we got there I was relieved to see the police had not completely destroyed my property and home. I went inside and turned on the lights before everyone else came in. I led them into the kitchen.
“I’m going to go put Grace to bed. You can make yourselves at home,” I whispered before walking back to the main hallway and going up to the second floor. I changed Grace into some of the clothes she always kept at my house but as I tucked her into bed she grabbed my shirt.
“Mommy.” She mumbled as she stayed half asleep.
I kissed her cheek, “It’s alright, Grace, mommy’s here.” I whispered as I put the sheets of the pink bed I had set up for her in a room next to my own over her. I slowly left the room and went back downstairs to see everyone was on the couches off to the side of the kitchen that made a sort of living room, “Sorry about that.”
Chris sat up on the couch, “Did she go to sleep okay?”
I nodded, “She’s an angel.” I replied before walking into the kitchen. I came back with a six pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and handed one to each of them before sitting down.
“You’re not going to have one, Noel?” Dr. Alice asked as she sat on a large couch with Rider and Ash as they sat across from Peter and Chris who were on a smaller couch. I sat between the two couches in a single person recliner chair.
“I can’t,” I replied, “After the miscarriage I was told not to drink alcohol or eat spicy foods for a while.”
“The miscarriage was from your uncle’s child, wasn’t it?” Dr. Alice asked in a whisper as we all looked to her.
I looked away, “I never told anyone it was his child, so how did you know?”
She looked to me with a sad expression, “I don’t know. I just had a feeling it was his,” Her eyes seemed to see through me, “The trial must have been hard on you, Noel. I was thoroughly shocked when you accepted your Uncle’s request to speak with him.”
“I hoped that for once he would recognize me as myself and not my mother,” I squeezed my hands together, “But I don’t have to live in sheer terror every minute of the day anymore.”
Rider suddenly stood and walked over to me. He knelt in front of me, “Noel, that whole tape was my fault. I’m sorry.”
I smiled towards him, “I asked you to stay with me, Rider, even though I knew I was taking a large risk. None of this was anyone’s fault but my own,” I put my hand on Rider’s arm, “But how have you been? Since I left Kennewick, I mean,” As he started to open his mouth to respond the phone in my pocket rang. I quickly stood and walked into the kitchen, “Hello?”
“Is this Annabelle?”
“This is she.”
“Hey Annabelle, its Justin from work.”
“Oh! Hey, Justin, what can I do for you?”
“Uh, I know it is late, but I cannot understand how to do some of the work I was given. I don’t know anyone at work as I know you so could you possibly help me out?”
I dropped my head, “Of course! What are friends for?” I leaned against a wall, “Do you have my address?”
“Yea, I have it on your card. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
“See you then, bye,” I added before hanging up the phone and going back to the living room, “Sorry about that.”
“Is something wrong?”
I shook my head as I looked to Peter, “A co-worker I just trained is having some problems so he asked if I could help him out.”
“Are you seeing him?” Dr. Alice asked and I shook my head.
“He’s into men and besides, I’m not seeing anyone right now. I plan to dedicate myself to taking care of Grace.”
“Do you even know how to take care of a child?”
I sighed, “For the most part, yes, but Grace and I were made for each other. I’ve never had a child and she has not had parents.”
“What do you mean, she did not have parents? Isn’t Austin’s parents her parents also?”
“Dr. Alice,” Chris started as everyone looked to him, “Austin’s dad died a long time ago and the father of Grace is just his mom’s boyfriend at the time that was gone before she even had Grace. But, their mom did not treat Grace right. She would not feed her or would leave her by herself for days at a time. So, Austin forced his mom to grant all custody of his little sister to him. He became the care taker of Grace right before he and Noel started dating so Noel pretty much became a mom to Grace. Austin thought Noel was a great parent for Grace so that is probably why he left her in Noel’s care,” He looked over to me and I smiled, “He left her in Noel’s hand, Annabelle, so she needs to be the one out right now.”
“What?” Ash asked as Chris looked to him, “What do you mean Noel needs to come out? That is Noel. Annabelle is just Noel’s fake name.”
Chris looked to Ash, “Everyone thinks that, but it’s not true. Noel and Annabelle are two different people in the same body,” He looked to me, “Let her come out, Annabelle.”
Annabelle smiled as I watched Chris’s frown deepen, “Sorry, no can do. She willingly let me out and I’m not going to go against her decisions. That gay worker boy is coming and Noel knows she cannot handle acting as though everything is all right for now. She needs some time to heal after the trial today so she willingly gave herself to me. I’m just protecting my precious little Noel.”
He frowned, “How do I know you aren’t lying?”
Annabelle crossed my arms over my chest, “You can believe me or not, I could really care less. You’re not my friend just like I have no connection to these people.”
“So are you going to throw us out?”
She stared to Chris, “Noel has already informed me to never touch Rider, Ash, Dr. Alice, or Peter. That was the agreement we made when I started helping her. I could do anything I wanted for all of her college career as long as I promised to never touch any of these people and, of course, not touch Grace or Austin too. She was very adamant on making me promise not to touch these people,” She crossed my leg over the other, “I don’t know why she insists that anyways. She is most hurt when she sees any of these people, yet she is determined to keep them close to her. I told her to let them go and that they were nothing but painful for her, but she won’t listen. That is the only thing she has ever asked of me so I have to keep to it.”
“It’s very unusual for you to be so mature, Anna.”
She smirked to him, “Shouldn’t you thank me? I held your best friend together for the most part during the trial today. She almost broke down several times and I had to take over. Even at the dinner, she gave in after Grace asked Dr. Alice to heal Noel’s heart. She couldn’t take the emotions that were flowing through her so I stepped in.”
“What are you talking about, Noel?” Ash asked with horror.
Peter looked to him, “That’s not Noel, Ash. I’m as confused as you are about this, but you and I both know Noel would never act like this. She is a sweet and caring girl so she would not be this rude.”
Annabelle smiled towards him, “You’re Peter, right?”
He nodded, “Yea.”
Anna looked to my legs, “Noel will never admit this to you, but even though she knows you can never replace her dad, she still feels like you are a father to her,” She looked up to him, “She’s a fool at some points, but she has a large soft spot for you. Whenever she would be beat all she thought of was that this was for you and this was the only way to protect the most important person in her life.”
“That means a lot to hear.”
Annabelle let out a laugh, “Wow, Noel, you can’t even fight me on this? Usually when I speak the whole hearted truth you flip out and take over.”
But you’re right, Anna. I have always wanted to tell Peter that but could never bring myself to do it. It’s okay if he knows.
She sighed, “Grow some back bone, Noel. You could’ve done it yourself,” Anna looked to Chris, “You need to work on her self confidence. She has none and she won’t listen to me.” The doorbell rang and Anna helped me stand.
Tell them they can use any of the rooms tonight!
Anna looked back to the group before she left the room, “Noel says you guys can use any of the house’s rooms that you choose,” She mumbled before going to the door and answering. She smiled towards Justin before letting him in, “Hey, Justin. We can work in my kitchen,” She said before leading him to the kitchen and going to the fridge. She took out two Mike’s Hard Lemonade and then brought one over to him.

I woke up to see Anna was still sleeping so I took over and got up out of bed. I went to Grace’s room and gently shook her, “Good morning, sleeping beauty,” I whispered quietly, “It’s time for you to get up for your last day of school until the holiday.”
“Noel, can I wear some of your jewelry?”
I smiled, “Sure,” I whispered before helping her stand out of bed and leading her to her closet. She chose a pair of jeans, a pink Hello Kitty shirt, the scarf I gave her, and a pair of UGG boots. When we went downstairs no one was up yet so Grace had the kitchen table to herself in order to eat a waffle and drink some milk. As she ate I went to my room and grabbed my jewelry box before going back downstairs to Grace. When she had finished her breakfast I laid out a few of my less eccentric necklaces and she chose one that was a medium sized blown glass flower that was pink with white dots before there was a knock at the door. I went and let Miss Rocco, who was Grace’s kindergarten teacher who had brought Grace to me yesterday, into the house as Grace grabbed her backpack. They left after a few minutes and I went back into the kitchen. I made some more homemade waffles for Dr. Alice, Peter, Rider, and Ash before getting dressed for the day. I put on a simple v-neck long sleeve t-shirt that was mainly black with a white rose going across it, a pair of dark colored skinny jeans, and a pair of black boots that were covered in fur on the inside. I put on some light amounts of makeup before brushing my hair and clipping my bangs to the side. When I went downstairs I saw Ash and Rider sitting on the couches while talking as Peter and Dr. Alice sat at the kitchen table, “Is Chris still not up? He has to go to work.”
Rider looked to me first, “Nah, he left late last night because he had to go into work early today.”
“Oh, okay,” I walked over to the kitchen table and smiled towards Peter, “I made everyone waffles for breakfast so feel free to take as many as you want.”
“Have you eaten already, Noel?” Peter asked as Rider, Ash, and Dr. Alice got waffles.
“ No,” I whispered as I shook my head, “My stomach is unsettled from the small amount of alcohol I consumed last night.”
Dr. Alice put her hand on my shoulder, “Doesn’t Annabelle knows you are ill when you have alcohol for right now?”
I looked away from her, “She does, but in order to act normal she drank it,” I sat down in a seat at the table as Dr. Alice sat beside me, “I’m really sorry I did not tell you guys about Annabelle. I just didn’t know how to say it.”
“We understand.” Peter whispered.
“So, what does everyone have planned for today?”
Peter sighed as he leaned back in his chair at my other side at the table, “Rider and Ash have a photo shoot and then an interview so we won’t be back until dinner time.”
“Dr. Alice?”
She smiled to me, “I’m free today since I’m already on vacation. What do you have planned today, Noel?”
“I’m going shopping for Christmas. I didn’t think I would be able to have Grace living with me by now so I only have a few presents for her. I’m going to get some more today as a welcome to your new home and merry Christmas presents.”
“That’s sweet of you.”
“If you don’t mind, Dr. Alice, I’d love to have your opinion on what to get Grace. I do not know little girls or their tastes very well so your expertise would be deeply appreciated.”
“I’d love to!” She said with a smile. I waited for Dr. Alice to get ready and we left about 30 minutes later. As Dr. Alice got into the passenger’s seat I stood outside of the car and tried not to shake.
Just let me take over, Noel. You can’t handle driving after all that has happened. I will take good care of Dr. Alice, so don’t worry. I am here to protect you, right?
“Yea,” I whispered, “I trust you, Anna.”
I shivered as I was wrapped in a blanket of silence, but watched as Annabelle moved my body into the car. She turned the car on and pulled out of the driveway to get to the main road of the neighborhood, “Dr. Alice, where do you think we should go first to get Grace’s presents?” Annabelle asked as she focused on the highway as she merged into it and was met with traffic.
“My first guess would be Toys-R-Us.”
“Toys-R-Us here we come,” Anna replied, “So Dr. Alice, could I possibly call you by your first name?”
“You have never asked to call me anything else before…” Dr. Alice mumbled but then turned to us, “Wait, is that you Annabelle?”
Anna smiled with my mouth, “You’re very sharp, Doctor,” She replied before sighing, “After the accident that killed Austin, Noel has not been able to go in a car. Every time she gets near a car she starts shaking and has the urge to cry so I always convince her to let me take over for her. I was made in order to protect her sanity so it is my duty to take over once she is upset.”
“So did Noel make you purposely?”
Anna shook my head, “I’ve been with Noel since she was born, but I couldn’t even touch her mind until she was raped by Sam right before her parents died. When that happened I could only touch her when she would panic such as when she found out about her parent’s death, when she would be beat, or when she was raped. But, even when I was able to touch her mind at those times I would beg her to let me out and she would deny because she did not want me to go through the pain and suffering she was going through at the time,” She stopped speaking to stop my voice she was using from shaking before talking again, “I had to watch in horror as she went through everything, but couldn’t help her. I didn’t know if Noel would ever allow me to take over her body until she finally broke down physically and mentally,” She cleared my throat, “I was the one who told you everything I could about what was happening and why Noel had been raped. That was the first time I took over Noel’s body, but I was not let out again until she was forced to leave Kennewick. After that Noel gave up on everything and asked me to take over. She did not come out at all during her senior year or first year of college, except when her uncle was around. Noel always forced me to let her take over her body even though I was willing to take the beatings and rape for her. She never let me take over for her and would suffer as I watched in horror. Noel refused to come out at any other time until we met Austin. Suddenly she started believing in love and life again and I only came out after she would be attacked by Sam because I forced her to rest. Everything was going better until the day Austin was killed by Sam and Noel gave up once more. We went back to where I was always in control until Sam would attack me, then Noel would force herself out and I had to watch her be injured once again. Noel did not come out any other time until Peter came in and pulled Sam off of her as he tried to rape her again. I did not come back out until the trial and even then I only came out for a few minutes each time. Then I came out last night since Noel was weak and tired,” Anna looked over to Dr. Alice, “I know it is a childish request, but I wish Peter could stay with us. Then Noel might come out more and she may regain confidence.”
“So you first fought your way out and now you want to be pushed back by Noel?”
Anna sighed, “I don’t want to push away because I still want to be here to protect Noel from her own mind and anything else I can, but I want her to have most of the control.”
“You really love Noel, don’t you?”
“I love her more than I can describe.”
“If you want, Annabelle, you can call me Mary.”
“Then you can call me Anna,” She replied as she turned into the parking lot of Toys-R-Us and parked the car near the entrance. Dr. Alice and Anna went into the store and searched for the area of Hello Kitty, “Mary, what do you think she would like to have?”
“She would probably like the lunch box.”
Anna nodded and she looked to the three lunch boxes available, “I don’t know which one little Grace would like more.”
The flower shaped one.
“Then the flower shaped one it is.” Anna replied to me as she used my hand to pick up the lunch box I chose.
“Did Noel tell you to get that one?”
Anna turned my head towards Dr. Alice, “Yea, but what else would that pipsqueak like?”
The thermos and the backpack to the left of you.
Anna turned to the backpack, “This one?”
“Alright, this backpack and the thermos,” Anna said as she put both items in the cart Dr. Alice had between us, “Anything else?”
The purse, ornament, Christmas stocking, blanket, bracelet, house slippers, and the mainly pink shirt with black sleeves.
“Geez, Noel, want to get her the bed set too?”
Do you think I should?
Anna snorted, “I was joking, Noel. But, don’t you think that’s a little too much for the kid?”
This is the first Christmas she will have with me and I want to give her some things she will love. Just this once I want to splurge money on someone.
Anna sighed, “Alright.”
“What did Noel say?”
Anna turned my head to Dr. Alice, “She wants to get her the hello kitty purse, ornament, Christmas stocking, blanket, bracelet, house slippers, and the pink t-shirt with black sleeves.”
“Alright,” Dr. Alice helped Anna put all of the things in the basket before heading over to the register. Anna paid for the items before they went to the car and pulled out, “Well I think we got all of the hello kitty items she will ever need so do we need to go anywhere else?”
“Noel?” Anna asked and as she looked into the rearview mirror and directly at me. This was the only way to see each other.
I need to go to Jared.
“Jared?” she asked and I nodded, “Alright, we’re going to Jared.” Anna told Dr. Alice before driving out of the parking lot. She drove to the nearest Jared but when we got there I pulled back on her spirit.
I want to do this, Anna.
“Alright.” Anna whispered before she pulled back on me. I felt myself slip out of the darkness and silence and back into my body.
I led Dr. Alice into the store and smiled to a woman that came over to me, “Good afternoon, Miss Smith! How can I assist you today?” The girl who always helped me asked.
“I would like to see your Movado Muse watch for him, if possible.” I replied and she smiled.
“Right this way,” She said before we followed her to an area of watches. She pulled out the watch I had been looking at for some time from the showcase, “Here it is.”
I smiled again, “It’s just like the picture.”
“Is this for your fiancée?”
I shook my head, “It is for my step father,” I replied, “Is there any way to have his name engraved in it?”
She nodded, “Of course,” She put a sheet of paper and a pen in front of me, “Just write what you would like it to say and the man in the back will engrave it for you right now.” I wrote down Merry Christmas Peter and she brought the paper to the back with the watch.
“You’re getting it for Peter?”
I nodded, “It was the type of watch I had helped pick out with my father that he was going to give Peter the next Christmas before he was in the accident,” I looked to the woman as she came back to me, “Now what would you get for someone as handsome as, let’s say, those two famous models that are working as a pair now?”
“Do you mean Rider and Ash?” She asked and I nodded, “Well I think for someone with the fashion of Rider would like this…” She walked away and quickly came back with a necklace, “This is a Simmons mini Razor Chain. But for Ash…” She walked away again and came back with a bracelet, “I think a thick sized stainless steel Simmons bracelet would work best.”
“Alright, I will take the bracelet, necklace, and watch.”
“Is there anything else I can get you today, Miss Smith?”
I smiled, “Yes, I just adopted a daughter and I would like to get her something special for our first Christmas together.”
“Follow me,” She replied before leading us over to another area of the store. She pulled out a medium heart shaped locket, “This is a fourteen karat, white gold, mother of pearl locket. If you would like we can monogram a photo into the inside.”
“That would be great!” I replied enthusiastically before pulling a picture out of my wallet, “Could you put this in it?”
“Of course, I will be right back.” She walked away and after a few seconds of silence Dr. Alice’s phone rang.
“Hello?” She asked before putting her hand over to speaker, “I’m going to take this outside.” She whispered before walking out. I quickly looked at the other necklaces and decided upon a white gold necklace that had two vines that intertwined. When the woman from before came back with the necklace I smiled.
“Alright, could I have the bracelet, watch, the two necklaces, and this vine necklace wrapped up?”
“Of course. Just one moment, Miss Smith.” She took the vine necklace along with the other things into the back and came back with them fully wrapped. I paid for the items before going outside to see Dr. Alice.
“Alright, bye.” She said and then looked to me.
“Dr. Alice, who was that on the phone?”
She sighed, “It was my husband. He had to tell me he is not going to be in the country for Christmas.”
“Well, if you’d like, you can spend Christmas with Grace and me. We’d love to have you!”
“Really? That would be great.”
“It’s settled then! Now, shall we go back home? Grace will be back in about an hour.”
“Sure, but shouldn’t Anna come out?”
I nodded, “Annabelle?” I asked and suddenly I felt myself being pulled from control and back into the blanket of stillness. Anna used my body to get into the car and start driving back home.
“Mary, why do you always stay by Noel? Is it because you pity her since she lost her parents or because she was raped by Sam?”
“Of course not. I stay by Noel because I love her. I feel as though she is almost a daughter to me and I want to keep her safe and happy just like you.”
Anna seemed to have something straining on her mind, “Uh, Mary, I think you and the others shouldn’t get so close to Noel.”
“What do you mean, Anna?”
“She is using all of her time trying to act like her old self while you guys are around and I don’t want her to get attached. She became attached to Austin and now she suffers because of it. If there was a way I could make her give up Grace too, I would, but that is one of the things I know she will never agree to. Just as I know she will never agree to not get close to your guys.”
“But I thought we were helping her.”
“She feels like she is keeping you from your lives and I don’t trust Rider and Ash. They have both had feelings towards Noel when I know she is in no condition to return any type of feeling like that.” Anna whispered before the car fell silent. When we reached home Anna hid the presents where I told her to before I switched back into control as Grace returned home. When she saw me open the front door she attacked me with a hug and I quickly said goodbye to her teacher before carrying her inside. I set her at the kitchen table and brought over some crackers and bottled water that was her typical snack after school.
“So how was school today, Grace?”
She looked up from her food and smiled to me, “It was great! I got to make a Christmas present for you!”
“Oh, well that’s sweet. Thank you for thinking of me.”
Her smile grew, “Are those people from yesterday going to spend Christmas with us?”
I sighed, “I’m not sure about the guys, but Dr. Alice will be staying to celebrate.”
“Really? That’s great! It will be like a party!”
I let out a small laugh, “Yes, it will be.” I looked to the door as it opened to show Chris walking in while talking to Peter who was at his side as Ash and Rider followed behind them in torn up shirts and jeans.
“Chris!” Grace called and he stopped talking to Peter to look at the little girl, “Are you going to stay for Christmas with us?”
He looked to me, “Can I?”
I smiled, “Of course, the more, the merrier. Grace also would enjoy having Peter, Rider, and Ash stay too.”
“Sure, we don’t have any plans, right Peter?” Ash said as Peter turned to nod towards him.
“Then I guess we will all be staying,” Chris agreed before walking over and putting his hands on my shoulders. He slightly massaged them, “How are you doing, Noel?”
I put my hand over his on my shoulder and looked back to him with a smile, “Wonderful. I mean tomorrow will be my first Christmas spent with anyone in the past 7 years.”
“Didn’t Chris and Austin spend Christmas with you?”
Chris’s grip on my shoulders tightened as he looked to Peter, “We couldn’t. Noel would either refuse or be in the hospital around this time of year. Last Christmas she was in the hospital for part of December and almost all of January.”
My body wanted to shake so I immediately changed the subject, “Well I should get started on dinner since everyone is going to stay. What would you guys like to have?”
“Anything is fine with us,” Rider replied, “Do you need help?”
I shook my head, “I’m fine,” I replied before looking back to Chris again, “Can you play with Grace while I cook?”
“Of course,” He replied before walking over to the little girl and picking her up, “Let’s go do a puzzle, Grace.”
“Okay!” She called back cheerfully before he carried her off. I looked to Peter, Rider, and Ash.
“You guys can change into something more casual, if you like.” I commented before standing and walking over to the kitchen. I put some chicken into pan with a rack in it, took out a chicken rub that came in a bottle, spread the rub around the chicken, put it in the oven, and set a timer. As the chicken cooked I took out a box of penne noodles and started some water boiling in a small pot. As that water started to boil I put a regular pot of water on another of the table top burners and put a steamer pot on top. The vegetables would not take long to steam cook so I focused on the pasta and once it was cooked I poured out the water. Dicing the tomatoes was quick so it took almost no time to add the tomatoes, basil, butter, and seasoning to the noodles. The pasta was done so I went over to cut up the broccoli but stopped.
Noel, you should call Chris to do the cutting.
“I’m fine, Annabelle. I can at least make dinner for them.” I replied as I started cutting up the broccoli but my shaking hands suddenly collided and my index finger of my left hand was cut. I felt my whole body start to shake and I started to break down.
Noel! I’m taking over! You can’t handle this!
“O-okay.” I whispered in a breathless way before I felt Anna pull me back to a silent, dark existence as she took over my body. She grabbed a hand towel from near the sink and knelt on the ground as she was taken over by my physical horrors. My whole body was shaking as tears poured down my face and fell on my jeans.
“Chris!” She hollered and suddenly the whole house seemed to rattle. Chris was the first one to get to the kitchen, but as he saw my blood filling the towel he set down Grace and knelt in front of Anna, “Damn you, Chris!” She hissed and she used my hand to slap him powerfully across the face. He was knocked back by the impact as Peter, Rider, Ash, and Dr. Alice saw my body. Anna pulled my hand to my chest as she shook harder, “You told me you would protect Noel when she was in control, but you left her in the kitchen! Are you a moron! You know Sam almost killed her by stabbing her with a knife last Christmas, yet you leave her in the kitchen with knives to fend for herself! Damn you, Chris!” My whole body shook fiercely, “She was trying to be strong because you are all around her and she got hurt because you left her alone!”
Anna, I asked him to leave! It is not his fault!
“Shut up, Noel!” Anna screamed, “None of this is your fault!”
Anna please calm down! Think about Grace! She is seeing you blowing up! She will get scared!
“Like I give a hell about that stupid girl! She is nothing more than a problem for you and…!” She started to yell but I quickly pulled back on her spirit and took control of my body.
“Noel?” Grace asked as she shook in terror.
I quickly smiled up to her and then put my right arm out to her, “Come here, Grace,” I whispered and she slowly walked over to me. I brushed her tears off of her face, “I’m sorry!” I said with a quiet laugh, “I lost my mind for a moment there,” I took her hand in mine, “its okay, Grace. There is no need to cry.”She quickly embraced me and cried more. I kissed her cheek and hugged her with my right arm. When I stood I picked her up with only my right arm and looked to Dr. Alice as Grace held onto me by wrapping her arms around my neck, “Could you help my wound, Dr. Alice?”
Dr. Alice seemed almost at tears, “Of course, Noel. You should go sit down on the couch.”
I looked to the ground, “Peter, could you get ice for Chris’s face? It will minimize the swelling.” After whispering that, I quickly walked away from the group and over to the couches but froze when Grace suddenly pulled away from me.
“I need to put your gift under the tree!” She said as she gasped and then quickly sprinted off. Dr. Alice brought over some of her medical supplies she always had with her. She kneeled in front of me.
“Do I need stitches?”
Dr. Alice shook her head, “It’s bleeding pretty badly, but it is not a very deep wound. You just need to keep it wrapped until it heals and that will restrict your hand mobility for a while since it will be painful every time you reopen the wound.”
She started wrapping up my hand but then looked up to me as she wrapped the gauze around the wound, “Is Anna alright? She seemed really mad before. I was shocked to see her hit Chris.”
I felt myself start to shake but quickly forced it to stop, “I don’t know. Usually I can hear her voice commenting on everything I do, but…right now…I can’t even detect her presence.”
“Do you miss her voice?”
I pulled away from Dr. Alice, “This is what is best for Grace,” I whispered as a tear fell down my cheek but I quickly brushed it away and stood with a smile as Grace ran back into the room, “Did you find it, Grace?” I asked with a broad smile.
She nodded, “Yea, can I put it with the other gifts?”
“Of course!” I let out a small laugh, “Well why don’t you play in your room for a little while? Dinner should be ready soon.”
“Okay!” She called before running back to her room. I went over to the kitchen and pulled the chicken out of the oven. I put it on the counter before going over to the cutting board that the broccoli lay on and bringing it over to the trash. I threw away the broccoli before putting the cutting board in the sink, but I left the knife on the counter. Carrying the chicken and pasta bowl was slightly difficult with my finger wrapped, but when anyone would offer to help, I declined. I set the table, but was interrupted by a knock at the door. I hustled over to answer and when I opened I saw a young man.
“I have a delivery for Miss Smith.”
“That’s me,” I replied and he handed me a small bag, “Thank you.” I added before shutting the door as he left. I brought the gift inside but looked up as I saw everyone was already sitting down to eat.
“Who was at the door, Noel?” Rider asked as I set the bag down in the kitchen.
“A delivery boy,” I replied as I pulled out a large bottle of Romanée-Conti which was followed by a card. It was from the President of my previous company. I sighed, “It seems my last company’s President heard I have adopted,” I went and quickly opened the wine before coming to the table, “He thought this would be the best way to celebrate.”
Peter picked up the bottle after I set it down and gasped, “He certainly has good tastes!”
“What did he send?” Ash asked me.
“A bottle of Romanée-Conti.”
“What is that?” Rider asked me as I looked back to him.
“One of the most expensive red wines in the entire world. A single bottle can cost thousands of dollars depending on the quality. I actually visited the vineyard that makes this when I was a child.”
“It was one of Guillaume’s favorite places in France,” Peter replied, “I’m surprised you were given this as a gift.”
I nodded, “Well let’s start eating.”

Chris came into the living room in a white t-shirt and a pair of plaid pajama pants. He plopped down next to me on the couch and I looked up to him, “Want some help?” He asked and I smiled.
“That’d be great,” I replied, “Could you put your finger here?” I asked and he placed a finger on a part of a stand of white ribbon that was crisscrossed as I made a bow.
He let out a long breath as I put down the gift I had finished wrapping and grabbed another to wrap, “So where’s Anna now?”
I focused on the red wrapping paper, “She’s gone.”
He seemed to become uneasy, “Do you really think she’s gone? As in she will never come back?”
“I have no idea.”
There was a long pause, “What are you going to do without her, Noel? You can’t live a regular life without her.”
“I’ll manage. I lived 18 years without her.”
He leaned forward, “You and I both know things she helps you with are not things that bothered you for those 18 years,” I was silent and he dropped his head in regret, “You can’t get near anything sharp, you can’t see blood, you can’t go anywhere near a car, and you can’t speak what you truly feel on your own. When any of that stuff comes up you will just break down.”
“You make it sound like I can’t live without her.”
He was silent for a moment, “What if that is exactly what I am thinking?”
I paused with what I was doing and looked to him, “I can’t expect her to come back. Most likely she is gone forever, so even if I couldn’t survive without her before I will just have to find a way to manage on my own. Anyone who has left me has never come back and I do not expect Annabelle to be any different. Besides, she injured you and scared Grace. I can’t just look past that. It really hurt for her to use my voice and say things I did not agree with. She has never done that before, not even once, and it scared me. I pushed her away from me and I really wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t come back.”
“How long are you going to be able to last without her?”
I started wrapping the present again, “I will last without her however long she is gone.”
He sighed with some frustration, “Maybe you and Grace should move in with me.”
“We couldn’t fit in your apartment, Chris. Besides, I would not want to intrude and bother you.”
“Then should I move in here?”
I shook my head as I pointed to a spot on a strand of ribbon and he put his finger on it. I tied the ribbon into a bow on the last present, “Grace and I will be fine.”
“Maybe Peter could move in with you. Possibly Rider and Ash could move in too.”
I stood and carried some of the presents over to the tree in the corner of the living room. Chris carried over the rest, “I don’t need any of them to stay with us,” I replied, “I chose to push Annabelle away so I must suffer the consequences of my action,” I yawned as I turned to Chris, “I’m sleepy, I think I’ll go to bed…goodnight.”

Uncle Sam walked into the house through the front door and I froze as Grace grabbed onto my leg in fright. When he came in the door was shut behind the woman who followed closely behind him, “Uncle?” I asked in a shaking voice and he frowned. The unknown female had dark blue hair and light red eyes.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” He hollered as he grabbed my shirt and shoved me to the side. He picked up Grace by the neck and she started to choke while trying to scream. Her face became drenched in tears just like mine, “I told you to never see this girl again!”
“Uncle! Please, don’t hurt her! I’m sorry!” I cried as I shook while sitting on the wood floor of my entry way.
The woman from before came over to his side and let out a snicker, “Don’t let her fool you, Sam. She says she is sorry every time, but she never means it. Noel did put you in jail and if it hadn’t been for me you would still be there.”
He looked back to the woman and nodded, “Yes, my freedom is all thanks to you, Annabelle.” He said with a smile, “You are my favorite niece.”
She smiled towards me, “Well of course! You hate Noel and I am her opposite.”
“This stupid child is always in the way.” He hissed as Grace suddenly became quiet. I heard a loud crack and her head fell backwards before he dropped her lifeless body to the ground. I shook fiercely as my mind started spinning.
“No.” I repeated over and over again as I looked to my Uncle’s smiling face. Annabelle started laughing as I looked to her.
“You stupid girl!” She chuckled, “You thought you could survive without me? How foolish! I am the only thing that can keep you from Sam’s pain and you threw me out to make room for this stupid child! If you cannot appreciate what I give you, then you do not deserve happiness! You do not even deserve death!” She stormed into the kitchen and watched as Annabelle threw everything I owned onto the ground and almost all of it shattered or broke. My trembling became worse as my Uncle grabbed my arm and I looked to him.
“We will make you suffer until you take your last breath!” He hissed and I tried to pull away from him, but he shoved me to the ground. He ripped off my shirt as I watched Anna go into the living room and throw all of the Christmas presents I had put under the tree across the room before she flipped over all of the couches.
“I hate you!” She screamed as she cried, “You are a worthless excuse for a human and you deserve nothing but pain!”
“Anna! Please listen to me! I’m sorry for what I did! I did not think about your feelings! I’m sorry!”
My uncle laughed as I suddenly felt pain in my shoulder. I looked down in horror to see the knife from last night sticking out of my arm, “It’s too late for apologies, Noel,” He smiled, “You have done too much to be forgiven.” I watched as my uncle stuck a cleaver in my other shoulder as I gasped but looked up when Annabelle laughed.
“Now you will know all of the pain you caused us!” She hollered, “You monster!”
Suddenly Anna, my uncle, Grace’s body, and my front entrance disappeared as I heard myself screaming. I opened my eyes to see Dr. Alice with horror wrapped on her face, “Noel! It’s okay! Calm down! It is just a nightmare!”
I pulled myself up and placed my head between my legs as I had trouble breathing while my body shook as though I was going to die. The whole bed rattled because of my shaking as Rider and Ash ran into the room with fear, “What in the world is going on?” Rider hissed.
“No! No! No!” I cried as I shook harder.
“Go get Chris! He will know what to do!” Dr. Alice yelled and Ash left in an instant. Chris came into the room and ran to me.
“Noel! What’s wrong? Tell me what happened!”
I looked up to Chris as tears poured down my face, “Where’s Grace! I can’t let them hurt her!” I started to get out of my bed but was pulled back down by Chris.
“Grace is fine, Noel! No one is going to get her!”
I grabbed his arms, “No!” I cried, “He’ll kill her!” I shook roughly again, “He told me to never see her again and I adopted her! He will kill her!”
“Noel!” Peter called and I looked to the door as he carried in Grace. I stood and took the girl from his hands. I held her closely as I shook and she yawned.
“What’s the matter, Noel?” She asked and I looked to her with a smile even though I was shaking and covered in tears and sweat.
“It’s nothing serious, Grace. I just had a nightmare that you left me and I thought it was true.”
She hugged my neck, “I won’t leave Noel. You are my soon to be mommy right?”
I nodded as I burst out crying, “Yea, I’m gonna be your mommy soon enough,” I whispered, “I’m lucky to have such a great daughter with me.”
“Don’t cry, Noel. Chris is here so you will be okay,” She said as she lifted from my neck and brushed my tears away, “And if you get hurt Lady Doctor will heal you. And if you’re lonely two of your friends are here. And if you are sad your daddy’s here.”
I nodded and smiled towards her, “Yea,” I whispered, “Well let’s get you back to bed! We don’t want Santa to not come to our house because you are awake.”
“Right!” She agreed as she retuned my smile. I carried her to her room and once she fell back to sleep I went to my room, but did not go in fully.
“Sorry to scare you guys like that. Everything’s fine now so you can go back to sleep.”
“Where are you going, Noel?” Chris asked me.
“To get something to drink.”
“Wait,” He said as he came over to me, “Let’s talk about what happened. You really scared us.”
I smiled towards him, “I’m really sorry about that, but I can’t think of it right now,” I squeezed the doorframe in my right hand, “I need to stop thinking right now.”
“Then have you heard from Anna?”
I shook and hugged myself, “She’s not coming back,” I whispered as I looked to the ground, “She just wanted to tell me.”
“Did she tell you anything else?”
I looked to Dr. Alice, “Yea,” I whispered, “She said to say sorry for hitting Chris and scaring all of you.”
“She wouldn’t apologize for what she did, Noel. I know her well enough to understand she would never say that.”
I looked away from Chris, “You’re right. She wouldn’t say that.” I whispered but looked up as Chris grabbed my arm.
“What did she say?”
I started shaking, “S-she said…uh,” I started to cry and then started laughing, “You know Chris, I’m a fool.”
I started laughing harder, “I actually believed Anna was going to stay at my side!” I grabbed my sides as they ached, “I was truthfully waiting for her all of this time! When she hates me!” I shook harder and pulled from Chris’s hand, “She despises me! She thinks I don’t deserve to die because then I will be relieved of the torture I face every day! I’m such an idiot!”
I wiped away my tears and sighed, “What am I saying?” I asked as I looked to the ground, “Everyone leaves at some point so Annabelle was no different. I’m sure she’s happier now,” My head felt as though it was pulsing, “I need coffee. You guys should go back to sleep since tomorrow will be Christmas.” I walked down the hall and went to the kitchen. I quickly went to the drawer where I kept knives, picked them up one by one (including the one I had left on the counter last night), brought them to a lockable cabinet, and locked them away. I put the key for the lock in my spices cabinet where it had always been, but in order to fit the knives in the small drawer I was forced to take out my three small photo albums. I made a cup of coffee before bringing the three photo albums and coffee with me to the recliner chair. I put my coffee on the glass table to the right of the chair and opened up the oldest of the albums that I had not made. I flipped through the photos of my parents from when they were children to right before they died. I laughed as I came upon one of my dad holding me as a baby at arm’s length while he looked in horror at the throw up on his outfit for his photo shoot that would be starting in less than 5 minutes. When my mom showed me this photo she said that he ended up going shirtless because of it and that photo shoot launched his modeling career higher. I flipped to the last page and started to shake. Uncle sat beside my mom’s hospital bed as he held me only a few hours after birth, but he looked so happy, “Were you faking that smile or were you actually happy to greet me to the world, Uncle?” I whispered before crying in front of the picture, “Could it be possible that you liked me for even just a moment?” I quickly closed that photo album and opened the next one. I stopped as I realized what had been hidden in the album I had hidden from myself right after I moved here. I burst into tears as I looked to the unopened letter. As my hand shook I ripped open the large sized white letter. I pulled out a letter and just stared at the writing without really reading its words. This was Austin’s handwriting. He had left this is a drawer where neither my uncle nor I could find it. When I focused on reading the words I gasped. The letter would have been a Christmas gift for the next Christmas if he had not died and it said to follow the directions listed. I stood, went to the front door, walked down the first hall of the house, went upstairs, and stopped in front of room Chris was sleeping in. I knocked and he quickly opened the door.
“Are you ready to talk now?” He asked with relief but I did not look up from the letter.
“Please move.” I whispered and he quickly moved from the door way. I walked in and went to the closet as instructed by the letter.
“What is that letter, Noel?”
I threw open the door of the closet, “It’s from Austin,” I replied in a shaky voice, “He hid my Christmas present for the year he died and I have to find it.” I opened up the shoe box specifically mentioned and pulled it down from the top shelf of the closet. I threw open the lid to the box and started to shake. I dropped to my knees as the letter and box fell from my hands. I put my hands over my eyes as I cried, “That idiot!” I whispered before taking the small jewelry box out of the shoe box and hugging it tightly to my chest.
“What is it, Noel? What did he leave in that closet?”
I bent over as I cried, “He said he was not going to give me an engagement ring!” I sniffled, “And to make this an engagement ring is too much!” I looked up to Chris as I cried. He quickly embraced me as I cried and once I was fairly calm Chris let me out of his arms and looked to the rings I had in my hands.
“What type of ring is that?” He asked as he picked up the flat platinum 10mm wide thumb right with a heart cut out of it just like my old symbolic ring for modeling, but there was a garnet gem in the cut out of the heart. The other ring in my hands was a thin white gold banded engagement ring with a medium sized diamond in the middle and three tiny diamonds on either side of the middle, “I get what that ring is for, “ Chris said as he pointed to the engagement ring and then moved to my signature ring, “But what is that one for?”
I slipped my signature ring on my right thumb, put the engagement ring on my wedding ring finger, and grabbed Chris’s hand, “I’ll show you,” I whispered as I sniffled and brushed tears off of my face. I led Chris back downstairs to the living room and opened the photo album I had found the letter in. I flipped to the first picture and pointed to my right hand, “Look at my hand.”
“Wow! Is this you in your modeling days?”
“Chris, focus! Look at my hand.”
He looked to the spot I was pointing to and gasped, “That looks just like the ring in the photo.”
I nodded as I set the album down and held my hands in each other, “That ring was my signature jewelry I wore as a model. Right before I left from Kennewick with Uncle he damaged that ring so badly that it could not be fixed.”
“Damn it, that guy is such a romantic at points,” Chris mumbled as he sighed, “He went to all of the trouble of having that ring you treasured so much remade to make you happy.”
I started to cry, “I loved him so much.”
Chris wrapped me in his warm embrace, “And he loved you.” He whispered back repeatedly until I stopped crying, “Now you need to tell me what the hell scared you so badly earlier. I haven’t been able to go back to sleep because I was so worried.”
I followed him as he sat on the couch and then he gestured for me to lean on him. I curled up at his side with my head on his shoulder as he wrapped his arms around me with warmth and comfort, “I dreamt of Annabelle and my Uncle.”
“Have you dreamt of them before?”
I shook my head, “I have not had a dream since Annabelle became a distinct part of me. She shielded my mind from the horrors of my reality so that I could sleep.”
“So what exactly happened?”
I pulled closer to him as I slightly shook, “Grace and I were by the front door when Uncle came into the house with a girl standing behind him. The girl had blue hair and orange eyes and Uncle called her Annabelle and she said she had let him out of jail. Grace was pulled away by Uncle after the woman explained that why my uncle liked her was because she was my opposite. I realized she was my Anna right before my uncle started choking Grace and I had to watch in horror as he broke her frail neck in his hands. Then Anna started yelling at me as my uncle pinned me against the floor. She threw things including the presents under the tree and the furniture as my uncle told me I was not worthy of dying before he stabbed both of my shoulders with knives from my kitchen. I woke up right after Anna said she hated me and then called me a monster.”
“Oh, Noel, no wonder you were terrified when you woke up! You had all right to be scared! After watching your late fiancée’s little sister being killed by your uncle and then listening to them talking, anyone would be afraid.”
I looked up to Chris’s face, “What if it actually happens?”
He brushed my hair, “Anna is not real.”
“Then why does she feel so important to me?”
“She’s part of you.”
I shook my head, “There’s no way that strong willed, protective woman could ever be part of me. I live in fear and everything is always my fault.”
“None of this is your fault, Noel. You do everything for others and never worry about yourself. You are beautiful, smart, and the best friend a guy could have. Even without Annabelle you are still the girl everyone likes. You never know! Losing Anna might make you stronger in the end.”
“But Anna did have every right to hit me. I had promised her that I would keep an eye on you at all times and I did not keep to my word so she was angry.”
“She didn’t have to hit you. I had requested that you leave so if anyone should be hit, it should be me.”
“You were not at fault…” He repeated but was cut off from continuing his speech when Grace suddenly flew into the room. She jumped on me with a hug as Chris let go of me.
“It’s Christmas! Santa came!” She cheered as she grabbed my hands, “Santa has never left me this many presents!”
I smiled towards her, “That means you must have been an extra good girl this year!” I kissed her forehead, “Merry Christmas, Grace.”
“Merry Christmas!” She hollered as she hugged me again before looking to Chris, “Merry Christmas, Chris!”
“Merry Christmas,” He replied and then stood, “Since your hand is injured, Noel, I will make breakfast.”
“Can I open my presents Noel?”
“Of course!” I agreed with a smile and she ran over to the tree. She sat below it as I watched her facial expressions change every few minutes. She opened all of the presents from Santa before breakfast was even ready, “Grace why don’t you go wake up everyone else while I help Chris get the table ready for us to eat?” She nodded and hurried off as I stood. I went over to the kitchen and saw Chris was making pancakes, bacon, and sausage. By the time Chris and I had the table set up to eat everyone was downstairs waiting in the living room.
“Soups on!” Chris called over as he set down the last plate of food and everyone came over to eat. I sat between Peter and Grace and had to help her cut up her food. We all enjoyed each other’s company until the doorbell rang and I stood. I rushed to the door and when I opened it I was delighted to see my teacher.
“Teacher!” I said with joy, “What are you doing here?”
“And a merry Christmas to you too, Noel,” He joked, “Is everyone still here for the holiday?”
I nodded, “Would you like to join us?”
He smiled, “I’d be delighted!” He came into the kitchen with me following behind him, “Merry Christmas!” He called as he saw everyone. I went over to Dr. Alice.
“Dr. Alice, this is my college photography teacher Mr. Elrick,” I looked to Teacher, “Teacher, this is my personal doctor as a child. She came to help with the court case.”
“It’s nice to meet you!” He said cheerfully before coming over to Grace and kissing her cheek, “How ya’ doing Grace? Are you enjoying your first Christmas at Noel’s house?”
She nodded enthusiastically, “I was a really good girl this year and Santa left me tons of gifts!”
He laughed, “That’s great!” He agreed with a smile and then sat down at the only seat left as I sat in my own chair. We all ate and discussed our plans for new years until everyone was done eating. We then moved into the living room to chat more.
“Noel, can I give everyone their presents?” Grace asked as I cleared the dishes off of the table.
“Sure! I’ll be there in a moment.”
Grace grabbed some gifts from below the tree and handed one to everyone except for Teacher who I sat beside when I was done clearing the plates. Grace had made us all bracelets and I was the last to get mine. When I hugged Grace, Rider suddenly gasped and hurried over to me. He grabbed my hand and examined it for a moment, “Your signature ring! How did you get it fixed?”
“What do you mean, Rider? I still have Noel’s destroyed ring.” Peter retorted.
“Noel found it this morning along with an engagement ring left by Austin which he planned to give her the Christmas he died before.”
I nodded to Chris, “But it’s slightly altered. There is a red gem where the cut out for the heart usually is.”
“It’s nice to see you with that back on, Noel.” Rider whispered and I smiled towards him.
“Thanks,” I replied before standing, “Well I have gifts for everyone so I will give them out now,” I stopped before I passed Teacher, “I am sorry, Teacher, but I do not have your present.”
He smiled, “You already gave me a present, Noel. I actually came here today with some news.”
“Oh? What do you mean?”
“The day you quit my class you gave me all of your artwork and told me I could have it, do you remember?” He asked and I nodded, “Well I submitted the best picture you had taken and won $6,000 for the college.”
“That’s great!” Dr. Alice replied with a smile, but before she could add to her statement she was stopped by the house phone ringing. I quickly went over to the kitchen and picked up the cordless phone.
“Noel, it’s me,” Tony answered, “The boss is in town for some business this afternoon and he insists on meeting with you.”
“Meeting with me today? But it’s Christmas.”
Tony sighed, “I don’t give a crap what day it is, Noel. The boss is demanding to meet with you privately so you better be at his place in 30 minutes or who knows what will happen to your precious little girl.”
“I’ve got it Tony. I’ll be there soon,” I hung up the phone and quickly went over to the small coat tree near the front door. I slipped on a pair of shoes, put on a coat, and placed a wool knit cap on my head. When I came into the living room, ready to walk out the door, I went over to Grace everyone seemed concerned. I kissed her forehead before looking up to Chris, “Could you watch Grace for me?”
He nodded, “Of course.” As I started to move away Grace grabbed my arm and I looked back to her.
“Where are you going, Noel?”
I smiled towards her and brushed a stand of hair out of her face, “My friend called and said his car broke down in this snow so I’m going to help him out. Can you be a good girl while I’m gone?” I asked and she quickly nodded, “I’ll be back soon.” I added before slipping away from Grace and hurrying out of the front door. When I got to my car I got in and as I shook fiercely I started the car. My whole body shook violently as I started to cry but I ignored it and focused on driving to the boss’s house. When I got there I hustled inside with only a moment to spare before my 30 minutes was up.

By the time I had walked all the way back home my whole body was numb from the cold and as it reached midnight I unlocked my front door and quietly crept inside the dark house. I flipped on the light switch for the kitchen and grabbed a blanket off of the nearest couch in the living room. I was shaking again, but I could not put the blanket on yet so I hurried to get the paper towel roll from the kitchen and bring it over to the table. I sat down, wrapped the blanket around me, and put a wad of paper towels against my bleeding face. The shaking of my body would not stop regardless of how tightly I was wrapped in the blanket but I had no other choice. It would hurt to take off my wet clothes right now so I had to stay put and wait for my body to stop shaking from the cold. I jumped slightly when I heard someone coming downstairs and looked up to see Peter with anger on his face that quickly fell and was replaced with horror. He hurried over to me but froze right in front of me as if he was afraid to touch me because I would break. Suddenly he turned away and ran up the staircase before calling to Dr. Alice who I heard come back downstairs with him. She froze when she saw me shaking at the table and looked to Peter. “Tell Rider to get as many blankets as he can and have Ash come down here,” She ordered before Peter ran back upstairs. When she came over to me I looked up and felt my headache enhance, “Noel, we need to get you into a warm pair of clothes.”
“No!” I whispered in a cry, “I can’t take off my clothes!”
She suddenly left and when she came back she had a sweatshirt and sweatpants in her hands. When she made me stand the ground moved and I started to fall. She grabbed my arms and tried to hold me up, “You have to stand, Noel.”
“The floor is moving! How can I stand!” I hissed as my headache made my ears pulse and I grabbed onto her.
“Are you feeling like you are going to throw up?” She asked with fear and I looked back to her.
“My head hurts,” I whispered, “And it won’t stop.”
She looked up in relief as Rider, Ash, and Peter came into the room, “Peter, keep Noel standing while I change her clothes.”
“What’s wrong with her, Dr. Alice?” Rider asked but they all stopped when I suddenly jumped as Dr. Alice tried to take off my coat. I hissed with pain and she stared at me for an explanation.
“Don’t touch me!”
“If we do not get you into some dry clothes you will go into cardiac arrest and I will have to take you to the hospital, Noel! Do you want that?” She hissed and I froze.
“No,” I whispered, “But I will take off my clothes!” She nodded as Peter let go of me. Everyone watched as I slipped off my jacket and then took off my shirt, but when it was fully off they saw the large bruises on most of my upper body. I put my hand out to Dr. Alice and she handed me the sweatshirt. I slipped it on before pulling off my shoes and pants but she did not give me the sweatpants when I put my hand out to her, “I need those pants.” I insisted and she finally gave me the thing I wanted. I slipped them on and she cleared her throat.
“Ash, you are the biggest of us here so I need you to share your body heat with Noel. Sit on the couch and we will put blankets around the two of you.”
“Okay,” I whispered before trying to walk over to the couches, but fell down because of my shaking legs. Peter helped me stand and get over to the largest of the couches before Ash sat down. I sat beside his and he embraced me with his entire body as my body shook more, “my shaking won’t stop!” I complained as I looked to Dr. Alice.
“We just need to focus on getting your body temperature up to normal and your shaking should stop.” Dr. Alice replied as she sat across from Ash and I at a smaller couch with Peter as Rider wrapped blankets around me before sitting at my side and embracing me.
“What’s wrong with her, Dr. Alice?” Peter asked as I rested my head on Ash’s shoulder.
“She has hypothermia,” She replied before looking to me, “How long were you out in the cold, Noel?”
I looked directly at her, “I started walking at around 9:30.”
“But didn’t you leave in your car?”
“Yea, I did.”
“Then why didn’t you come back in it?”
“My friend needed it.”
Dr. Alice frowned, “Since Anna is not here right now, Noel, you have to tell me the entire truth! I can’t help you if you lie to me about where you were and what you were doing!”
I sighed, “There’s nothing to worry about, Dr. Alice.”
When a tear ran down her cheek I froze and she put her hands over her eyes, “Then why were you beat and raped!” She cried, “You are seriously injured and you’re acting as if it’s alright!” When she looked up to me I felt disgusted with myself, “Why did someone rape you, Noel? Why did you leave and tell Grace your friend’s car broke down and you were going to help him and then show back up hours later with so many injures?”
“If I had told the truth, someone would have stopped me from going and Grace would have been hurt.”
“What do you mean Grace would be hurt?”
I looked directly to Dr. Alice, “The people who hurt me were threatening to hurt Grace if I did not meet them within 30 minutes of that phone call. If I hadn’t driven there they would’ve hurt her.”
“So you drove a car, even though you are terrified of them, in order to protect Grace?”
I nodded, “Of course.”
She became angry once more, “How can you act so calmly about this? You were raped!”
“As long as Grace, Chris, and all of you are alright I don’t care what happens to me,” I whispered, “This is a small price to pay to keep everyone I care about safe.”
“That isn’t the way you should look at this, Noel! You should worry about yourself also!”
I suddenly could not feel my painful body and lost control of my own body, “She’ll be fine soon enough,” Someone said as I saw everyone else stare in shock, “Noel was about to faint so I took over.”
“Anna?” Dr. Alice said with surprise.
“Hey there, Mary, long time no see.”
Annabelle! You came back!
She used my mouth to smile, “Yea, I’m back, but you need to rest right now, Noel. If I hadn’t taken over you would have passed out. I can handle getting your body to a safe temperature so you rest.”
“Anna, what happened today? Do you know?”
Anna nodded my head, “I had been watching everything. I never fully left, but when I tried to take over earlier when Noel was beat she locked me out without even realizing I was there.”
“Then who actually called earlier.”
Anna tried to make my body stop shaking, but it did not work, “A lot in Noel’s life has changed since she left Kennewick. The year Austin died she accidentally became associated with a guy in her college that was part of the mafia. Near that year’s thanksgiving Noel met the mafia boss of this area and he decided he wanted Noel to become one of his mistresses, for lack of a better word. Every time he comes into town the guy she used to be friends with calls and tells her to meet the boss at his place and threatens that if she does not come they will hurt Grace.”
“Is there a way to get her away from them?”
Annabelle shook my head, “They are connected to her by her friend…and also her uncle Sam so they will never let her leave.”
“So what you’re saying is her uncle was involved in the mafia?”
Anna looked to Dr. Alice, “You’re smart, Mary. Yes, Sam was and probably still is part of the mafia, but in order to make it so Sam cannot have us killed Noel made sure to become close to the head of the mafia so he would protect her.”
“How long has this been going on?” Ash asked as his grip around my body tightened.
“It started at about the time Noel gave up on life so right when we moved here and she was in her senior year,” Anna started to shake, “Noel had to abort her first child she was going to have because it was either the boss’s child or her uncle’s child. She actually never had a miscarriage. I made it up.” Anna used my eyes to watch Dr. Alice, “There was a small chance it was Austin’s child, but I told Noel not to risk it. There was such a high possibility it wasn’t his child I felt it was the right thing to do.” Anna seemed to touch me, “Noel, sleep. I can handle this. You need to rest.” She whispered and I slowly fell into sleep as she talked to the group.

When I woke up Anna used my hand and mouth to drink coffee but quickly smiled, “Morning, Noel!” She called and she quickly pulled me out of the abyss of darkness so I could take over.
Everyone ate breakfast and is now upstairs getting ready since I suggested we go on a walk through the park. Apparently Mr. Elrick is going to be doing a photo shoot there and he asked us to come and watch.
“Really?” I asked with a smile, “That is very unlike you, Anna. A walk through the park does not seem like your idea of fun.”
She sighed. I thought you would enjoy it. I mean after what happened yesterday I thought you might need some cheering up.
“Thanks, Anna.” I whispered but quickly stood when I heard people talking. I watched as Chris carried Grace downstairs while talking to Dr. Alice and Peter as Rider and Ash quietly followed behind them. I quickly went over to Grace and took her from Chris, “Don’t forget a scarf, Grace, it’s very cold out there.”
“I know.” She replied happily before I set her down and watched her skip over to where her scarf hung.
“How are you feeling, Noel?” Dr. Alice asked as she came to my side.
I smiled, “Much better thanks to all of you,” I replied before setting my coffee down on a small table nearby, “We should probably get going.” I added before picking up Grace and following the group outside to see Chris and Peter’s cars. I got in with Peter as Rider got in the back beside Grace and Dr. Alice went along with Ash to Chris’s car. When we started off I felt Peter watching me.
“Anna explained a lot last night. She filled in a lot of the gaps in your life I still did not know.”
“I’m glad.”
Rider leaned towards the front seat, “But Anna never explained to us your relationship with Chris. Are you two dating?”
I shook my head, “Certainly not. I would never do something like that to him.”
“Then why does he stick around?”
I looked back to Rider, “Because he made a promise to Austin that he would protect me if something happened and he also made a promise to Anna so she would allow him near me.” We stopped in the parking lot surrounding the large park and all of us quickly hurried towards the center of the park where teacher was supposed to be. As we came up on the photo shoot I was struck with awe. A woman sat like a statue as the wind flowed around her. Ash came to my side as Grace watched in my arms.
“She is not very good, is she?” Ash asked and I did not look at him but did nod.
“She must be new.”
“Ah! Noel!” Teacher said as he came away from his camera and over to us, “I’m glad you could make it!”
“Thank you for the invitation.”
He smiled, “I was actually hoping you could help me today.”
“Help you?”
He nodded as he came closer and whispered, “I cannot work with this girl! She is not very professional and I was thinking maybe you could help her?”
I looked to the girl and then back to teacher, “I can try,” I set down Grace and looked to her, “Stay here, Grace. I will be right back!” I quickly followed behind teacher over to the girl.
“Noel, this is Jessica.”
I put out my hand, “Hello, it is nice to meet you!”
She smiled before shaking my hand, “Same here.”
“Noel is one of my previous models that has offered to help us today.”
“What exactly are you trying to portray?” I asked teacher and he sighed before looking away.
“I was trying to get something dealing with fall.”
I smiled towards the model, “Now tell me, what do you think about when someone says fall?”
She stared at me for a moment, “Leaves falling.”
I sighed and shook my head, “That’s not what I mean. Does fall remind you of anything?”
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
I looked over to the group, “When I hear ‘fall’ I think of the beginning of a new life, the ages of discover. It was about this time of year 4 years ago that I saw my daughter take her first steps,” I looked up to a tree nearby, “Her dad told me this was just the beginning. It was just the first large stepping stone in her life,” I looked to the girl again, “Now what does fall make you think of?”
She thought for a moment, “Innocence.”
I nodded, “Now show me.” I watched as she walked in front of the camera and picked up a pile of leaves she proceeded to throw into the air while laughing hysterically. I watched in happiness for the girl until Teacher said she was finished and she came over to me.
“Thanks a lot for your help.”
I smiled towards the girl who could never understand, “You’ve got a little more to learn, but I believe you will become a great model.”
“Noel!” Teacher called and I walked over to help him choose a photograph, but was interrupted halfway through when my phone rang.
“Noel!” A young boy cried.
“Noah, what’s the matter? Did something happen?”
He seemed hysteric and could not catch his breath, “B…brother h…he won’t w…wake up!”
“Where are you Noah?”
“B…brother ca…carried me to y…your house a…and t…then f…fainted! I d…don’t know w…what to d…do!”
I felt something squeeze my heart, “Noah, I want you to try to bring your brother into the house. Use the key I gave you and I’ll be there as soon as I can. Don’t leave my house!”
“O…okay.” He whispered with a sniffle before hanging up and I quickly ran over to Chris with horror.
“Chris, I have to get home! Right now!” I hollered and he quickly grabbed Grace as I followed him to his car. We left Peter, Ash, Rider, and Dr. Alice in shock as Anna took over when I got into the car. Chris drove quickly to the house and when he got there I shoved Anna to the back of my mind and ran into my house but froze when I saw a streak of blood going from my porch to the inside of the house. I followed it into the kitchen to see Noah crying as he sat at his brother’s side, “Noah!” I whispered and he looked to me.
He made a whimpering sound as he quickly ran over to me and grabbed onto me tightly and I hugged him back.
“I’m here. It’ll be okay,” I whispered, “Now I have to go take a look at your brother,” I hurried over to Colin’s side and when I put my hand on his head his eyes opened, “What happened Colin?”
He looked up to me with hope, “He got mad and lashed out at Noah. I got there as quickly as I could but I couldn’t save him from all the attacks.”
I felt tears rimming my eyes and quickly focused, “Alright, I need you to just stay and rest. I will be right back with some supplies,” I looked over to Noah, “Stay and make sure your brother doesn’t get up.” He nodded and I quickly ran over to the door to see Chris waiting outside with Grace as the others drove up. I ran over to Chris, “Take Grace in the back way and keep her in her room,” I went over to Dr. Alice as she rushed out of the car, “Dr. Alice, I need your supplies!”
“Noel…” She whispered in horror as she saw the blood on my pants and shirt.
“Please, Dr. Alice,” I begged, “My friend is hurt.”
“Follow me,” She whispered and led me inside. We hurried upstairs and into her room. She handed me her first aid kit, “Take this. Whatever you need should be in there.”
I froze when I heard Noah shriek slightly. I ran downstairs and my heart seemed to stop working as I came into the kitchen to see Noah standing in front of his brother crying as he watched Peter, Ash, and Rider. He shook but his hands never let go of the knife, “Noah!” I gasped and ran over. He shook but his eyes did not leave the three men even when I got closer. I kneeled in front of him and when I put my hand on his shoulder he swung the knife and Peter started to run over but stopped when I embraced the child, “Noah! It’s me! It’s Noel! Calm down! I have you! That man won’t get you!”
Noah loosened in my embrace as he dropped the knife and cried while hugging me, “Noel!” He repeated over and over until I let go of him and he looked to me.
“I have to treat your older brother so why don’t you sit right beside me?” I asked and he nodded. I looked over to the three men, “I need you three to go to the living room and wait.” They followed my orders as I looked down to Colin. He opened his eyes again, “Where are you bleeding?”
“My calf was cut.” He whispered and I quickly rolled up his pant leg. I wrapped his wound up before patching up the three other large cuts he had not mentioned.
I looked to Noah, “Could you grab an ice pack?” He ran off and as I sat Colin up the little boy came back, “Bring it with you,” I whispered as I helped Colin stand. He looked to me with worry, “I’m going to move you to a couch so you can rest better,” I stood in front of him, “Get on my back.” I suggested and when he was on I tried to walk as fast as possible but when my stitches on my shoulder broke open I was forced to go slower. When we got to the couch I set Colin down and took the ice pack from Noah. I placed it on Colin’s bruised face but looked up when Noah gasped to see Ash coming closer.
“Noel, your bleeding.”
I nodded but quickly stopped his walking by going in front of him, “Please, Ash, don’t get near those children.”
“I will explain later but for now promise you won’t go near them.”
He nodded, “Alright.”
I turned to the boy, “Noah, where are you hurt?”
He focused on me but still shook, “I just got a scratch and was hit on my arm.”
“Stay next to your brother and keep the ice pack on his wound, I will go grab you an ice pack.” I hurried over to the fridge and grabbed another ice pack before going back to the boys. I handed Noah the ice pack and then reopened the first aid kit. I took out a band-aid and put it on the small scratch on Noah’s forehead before kissing his cheek and smiling, “There, as good as new.”
“How is brother?”
I pressed two fingers on the top of Colin’s wrist while squeezing it with the aid of my thumb on the other side. I was surprised when Colin’s hand wrapped around my hand but he never opened his eyes, “He’s just fine,” I smiled towards Noah but held onto Colin’s hand tightly, “I tell you what, how about you two stay with me for a while?”
I nodded, “I’ll call your dad in a moment,” I looked up as Dr. Alice came into the room, “Dr. Alice, could you clean up the blood for me?”
She smiled, “You stay with those boys. I’ll clean up.” I picked up my cell phone and dialed a number before putting it to my ear. Annabelle took over for me.
“Tony, it’s me.”
“I can’t talk right now, Noel…” He started to argue.
“Out looking for the two boys?”
“How’d you know?”
Anna used me to sigh, “They’re here with me. I’ve got their wounds patched up and they will be staying with me until they are healed.”
“Do you really think they will agree to that?”
Anna cleared my throat, “You talk to that woman; I’ll take care of him.”
“Alright.” He mumbled before hanging up but Anna was as shocked as me when Noah shoved my hand from his brother.
“Let go of my brother!”
Anna looked to the boy and tried to imitate me, “What’s the matter, Noah? It’s just me.”
He stood and grabbed onto my shirt with both hands, “Who are you! Where’s Noel? Bring her back!”
Anna sighed for me, “You are too perceptive, child.” She mumbled before pushing me back into control. I took a hold of Noah’s arms and smiled towards him.
“It’s alright, Noah. I’m back,” I whispered and his grip loosened, “She was just helping me. I promise.” I stood and looked to Peter, “Could you tell Chris he and Grace can come out?”
“Sure thing.” He replied before walking off. Dr. Alice came into the room and sighed.
“You reopened your stitches, Noel?”
I nodded, “Yes.”
“I will re-stitch it,” She whispered and I sat on the ground a ways away from the boys but where I was closer than the others. Dr. Alice took off my jacket and then quickly re-stitched my wound but we looked up when Grace ran into the room. She smiled and jumped into my lap without hitting my arm or shoulder, “There we are.”
“Thank you Dr. Alice.”
“No problem, Noel.”
“Noel?” Grace asked and I smiled towards her, “Why is that boy bleeding?”
I sighed before brushing some hair out of her face, “He was hurt and came here for help since I am his friend,” I replied, “Now could you go sit with the others while I help these boys?” She nodded before getting up and I walked over to Colin’s head. I slightly lifted it off the couch before sitting down and placing his head in my lap while using my legs as a pillow. He took a hold of my hand in his.
“It’s alright,” He whispered, “You don’t have to be so worried that you are shaking.”
I smiled towards his closed eyes, “I’m trying to calm down.”
“This is the first time I have seen others in your house except for that man you used to be seeing.”
I pulled his head closer to me, “I’ll introduce all of you later. First I need to get you to my room so you two can rest,” I turned to the younger boy, “Noah, is it alright if Dr. Alice helps me carry your brother to my room? I promise you she will not hurt either of you.”
He watched Dr. Alice, “Okay.”
Dr. Alice came over to Colin and watched me for instructions, “Can you help me get him into my arms and get my room door?” She nodded before helping me stand while holding up Colin. I struggled to my bedroom where Dr. Alice opened the door and helped me set Colin softly on my bed. Noah grabbed my hand and watched his brother. I picked him up and lay him next to his brother on my bed, “You rest while keeping an eye on your brother, alright?”
He nodded, “Okay.”
I led Dr. Alice out of the room then and back to the living room with a sigh, “I’m sorry about that.”
“Who are those boys?” Peter asked as I sat down on the couch next to Chris as Grace hopped in my lap. Chris gently guided my head to his shoulder and wrapped his arm around my shoulders with worry.
“They…uh…they’re the sons of the boss,” I whispered, “The one Anna told you about. He is a very abusive man to almost everyone around him, but he is especially violent towards his women and kids. I met Colin, the older boy, four years ago when he was 13. I then met Noah a year later when he was 5. They started coming to seek me for refuge when their father would abuse them right after I met Noah and come around every once and a while for help,” I looked to Peter finally, “Those boys are the best kids I’ve ever met in my life and they don’t deserve what they receive from their dad.”
“Does this happen often?” Dr. Alice asked but I quickly stood as my phone rang.
“What’s this about, Noel? Tony told me to call you.”
Anna urged me to let her take over but I ignored her. I was going to handle this, “The boys are at my place.”
“I’ll send a car…”
“No!” I hissed and everyone froze. My body started to shake since this was the first time I had stood up to someone in a long time, “Listen here, boss, either you let them stay with me and let me take care of them or I will bring them to a hospital where I will have to report it.”
“You can’t be serious!”
Noel…calm down…
I frowned, “I’m dead serious.”
“Fine, they can stay with you. Call me once they are healed.”
“I will. Goodbye.” I closed my phone and let out a breath.
Noel, will you be ok?
I smiled before going and taking my spot next to Chris with Grace in my lap, “I’m okay Annabelle.”
“That was difficult for you wasn’t it?” Chris asked before kissing my forehead.
I nodded, “I had to stand up for those boys.”
“Both of those boys seemed attached to you.”
I watched Ash, “They see me as a mother since their mother is not around very much.”
Rider frowned, “It seems like that Colin kid is in love with you. The way he was talking to you and holding onto you did not seem like he thought of you as a mother.”
I looked to Rider with sadness, “Yes, Colin has expressed that he feels strongly for me, but he understands that I will not see him as anything more than a friend.”
Rider seemed to become outraged, “You treated that kid like he was your boyfriend, Noel, not like a friend. You never would treat me or Ash like that.”
I froze with horror of Rider’s anger and Annabelle quickly jumped into action. She used my hand to grab onto Chris’s arm and squeezed, “Get out of this house, you little punk!” She hissed, “Stop acting like you know Noel so well! You know nothing!”
“Annabelle, calm down!” Chris hissed as he pulled Grace out of my lap, “Grace why don’t you go to your room?” He asked and she nodded before skipping off, “Rider is just concerned.”
“Like hell he is!” Annabelle growled, “He is just jealous of any man who gets near the girl he’s got a crush on!”
“Are you saying I don’t have the right?”
Annabelle used my hand to let go of Chris, “You say you are here for Noel and want to protect her, when you are just hurting her! She’s terrified of you right now and you’re making her upset for no reason that is any of your business!”
“She knows how I feel about her!”
Annabelle couldn’t hold it back anymore. Tears started down my face as she tried to brush them away, “But she isn’t the girl you knew before! The Noel you knew was stripped away from her and murdered!” Annabelle looked to the ground, “If all you can think of is yourself and what you want, then I don’t want you near us anymore! Noel is going through enough that she does not need any more baggage from you!”
“Annabelle! Stop it! You are just making matters worse!” Chris hollered as he grabbed both of my shoulders to turn us towards him, “Noel won’t be able to handle this if you start up more problems! All of her friends don’t know everything about what has happened to her since she left, so don’t go urging their curiosity or you’ll put more stress on Noel!”
Annabelle started to break down and cried more before pushing Chris away and standing up, “I can’t deal with this.” She whispered before hurrying to my room to clean up before going to play with Grace in her room.

The author's comments:
This chapter is not finished.

I woke up with Noah curled up next to me on my right and Colin embracing me to my left. I slowly got out of bed and quietly went to the kitchen. I made coffee before taking it with me to the living room and turning on the T.V. News came on to show the third time Rider and Ash’s interview aired. Then it went back to the news desk where the reporter who had interviewed Ash and Rider the day before sat next to the two main anchors of the station. “So, Marsha, why don’t you tell our viewers what will be airing tonight as your special?” The main woman anchor asked.
“Well, Ashlee, tonight will be the first time the famous model Noel Lovette Morel has given an interview in ten years. I am going to be interviewing Miss Lovette in order to put so many questions to rest about what happened two weeks ago at the trial that convicted her own uncle as the killer of her fiancée and parents. I’m also going to ask her about what happened to her when she suddenly disappeared for years and what her future plans are.”
“Well we all look forward to an amazing interview, Marsha, which will be premiering tonight at eight.”
I turned off the T.V. and sighed before standing up. I made a lunch for Grace and Noah before making both of their favorite breakfasts. Once they were done and on the table I went to my room and gently shook Noah awake before going to do the same to Grace. Once I helped Grace get dressed we both came down to see Noah already eating.
“Good morning, Noah!” Grace cheered.
“Morning,” He mumbled through his toast as Grace joined him at the table. Once they were done eating I helped them both get ready to leave before walking them to Miss Rocco’s car. Once they were off I came back inside and made breakfast for Rider, Ash, and Peter since Chris went home last night and Dr. Alice had left to fly home the afternoon before. When I was done with breakfast I sat down and watched the morning news until I heard someone come into the room.
Peter smiled happily towards me, “Did Grace and Noah get off to school alright?”
I nodded as I watched him sit beside me on the couch, “They were very tired though.”
Peter nodded with understanding, “So your big interview is in a few hours, are you ready?”
I looked to the floor before looking to Peter again, “I’m not sure.”
He kissed my forehead, “I wish I could be here with you, but I know you will do great.”
“Thanks,” I replied, “I should get Colin in here to eat. If not, Ash and Rider will eat it all before he can touch it.” I joked and Peter laughed before I went back to my room. I sat on the edge of the bed next to Colin and kissed his forehead, “Time to wake up.”
He took my hand that was closest to him in his before opening his eyes, “It was weird to wake up to find you and Noah both gone.”
“He had to go to school.”
“Right.” Colin replied in a yawn.
“Let’s get you some food,” I suggested before helping him out of bed and into the kitchen to see Rider and Ash watching their interview on T.V. along with Peter. I sat Colin at the table before grabbing him two waffles and syrup. I then sat across from him with my coffee, “Eat up.”
He started eating but looked up when Ash came over and sat next to me, “Your interview is in two hours right?”
I nodded, “Yea, Marsha said it would be around noon.”
He smiled before brushing some hair out of my face, “I wish we could be here to support you.”
I smiled back, “You are still acting like an adoring fan, Ash.”
He laughed, “What can I say, old habits die hard,” Ash looked across the table, “Colin, have you ever seen Noel’s modeling pictures?”
Colin set down his fork, “Austin showed me one picture a long time ago, but other than that, no.”
Ash got up and grabbed my photo albums. He brought them to Colin, “She was an amazing model. I actually became a model because I wanted to meet Noel since I was a huge fan.”
Colin flipped through the pictures with amazement, “I can’t believe you were in so many photo shoots,” He smiled as he stopped at a page, “Is this you with Ash and Rider?” He asked as he turned it towards us to show the picture taken for the cologne ad where Rider was a nerdish man I was hanging all over as Ash watched in jealousy, “Who would’ve guessed Rider could look so mature at such a young age!”
Rider hurried over and laughed at the picture, “I can’t believe you kept that, Noel!”
I smiled, “It was one of my favorite photo shoots.”
Peter stood, “Rider, Ash we need to get going.” He called and both of them unhappily got up and went to the front door, “See you two later.”
“Good luck with your interview, Noel!” All three yelled at the same time before shutting the door behind them.
“I should go get ready for the interview,” I said before standing, “Call me when you’re done eating and I will help you back to my room.”

When the doorbell rang I hurried to answer it to see a very happy looking woman, “Miss Noel! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview!”
I smiled, “It is my pleasure. Please, come in,” I shut the door once the reporter and videographer came inside, “You’ll have to forgive me, my house is not very clean. It has just been very hectic lately.”
“It’s alright,” Marsha replied before going into my living room, “Will it be alright if we do the interview here?”
I nodded, “Sure.”
Marsha sat and gestured for me to sit across from her on another couch. The videographer started setting up, “So how this is going to work is, I’m going to ask you questions and all you have to do is answer to the best of your ability.”
I smiled, “I will do my best.”
The videographer held a thumb up to Marsha and she cleared her throat, “Thank you so much for having us in your home, Noel.”
“It is my pleasure, Marsha.”
She became very serious, “Just a re-cap for our viewers, and please correct me if I’m wrong, you were living with your adoptive father and manager Peter when you went missing two different times and an amber alert was sent out the second time. Then about a week later you went missing and pretty much disappeared. But suddenly you reappeared, after seven years, in the court case where your uncle was being prosecuted for murder and was convicted of killing your fiancée and parents. Could you please fill in the blanks for us?”
I nodded, “Where would you like me to start?”
“Could you explain what happened before you disappeared?”
I sighed and looked to the ground before looking back to Marsha, “Both times I went missing I was taken away by my uncle and he threatened to kill Peter if I did not follow his orders.”
“There were reports that you were abused both times?”
I nodded, “Yes, the first time my uncle gave me a few bruises and cuts along with cutting off all of my hair.”
“And the second time?”
I paused, “The second time he forced me to dye my hair, get piercings, and abused me more than the first time. He wanted to make it so I couldn’t model anymore.”
“So it is safe to assume your uncle used the same threat to get you to leave with him and disappear for seven years?”
I cleared my throat, “Well he also threatened to kill Rider Stevens and Ash Williams along with Peter.”
She nodded, “Now tell me, Noel, what happened in those seven years you were missing?”
“My uncle moved me to Pennsylvania where I lived with him for a few days before we moved into a house a few miles from here. I then started my senior year at the local school before being accepted into Harvard. My uncle bought me this house so that I was close to school but wouldn’t live with other people, and during my first year is when I met Austin.”
“I’ve been told you were also given tattoos during this time, could you please show us?”
I nodded before brushing my cover up off from over my stars under my eye, “There was first this one, then,” I lifted my shirt to show my hip, “this one, and then,” I lifted my ankle for her to see, “this one. A year later I was given a set of wings on my back, but they cannot be seen with the shirt I am wearing.”
“Thank you,” Marsha said, “How long was your relationship with Austin?”
“We dated for about eight months and then were engaged for about four months before he was killed.”
“I heard that you were also left a child by Austin.”
I nodded, “Yes, he was the legal guardian of his younger sister, Grace. She is now my adoptive daughter.”
“So you are now a parent?”
I smiled, “Yes, and I am the luckiest woman in the world. Grace is the sweetest child I have ever met and we get along better than anyone else.”
“Noel,” She stated very seriously, “Why did you wait so long to testify to the murder of your fiancée?”
I looked away from her but looked back as tears rimmed my eyes, “Because that was what Austin wanted,” I took a deep breath, “During our entire relationship he only wanted one thing from me; he wanted me to stand up and tell the world what my uncle had done to me. He wanted my uncle put away so that he could not hurt me anymore.”
“And what are your plans for the near future? Will you go back into modeling?”
I nodded, “I actually have my first photo shoot tomorrow. People magazine wants to do a spread on my modeling with Ash and Rider along with a few pictures of me with Grace.”
“Well thank you so much, Noel, and I hope to be able to meet with you soon!”
“Thank you for the opportunity, Marsha.” I replied happily before the videographer stopped recording and after a few minutes they both left.

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