I shuddered in response, tears still pouring from my eyes as I avoided my mother's stare. Wrapping my worn, grey sweatshirt closer around my body, I kept myself busy by watching the cars rumble past my house, the thick rain drops slapping the roof of their cars loud enough to be audible.

"Lizzie, you're not making this any easier for me."

"Oh, I'm sorry," I turned and eyed my mother bitterly. "I didn't know that my mission in life was to make your's easier."

She drew in a sharp breath as if my comment stung her physically, and I secretly hoped it did. She was standing at the foot of my bed, packing my clothes to send me away to a teen correctional unit in the middle of nowhere, Texas, and leave the comfort of my home. Was I supposed to feel good about the whole situation? As if answering my silent question, my mother sighed.

"I'm not saying that you should be happy about all of this. I'm just saying that you should realize that your father and I think that this is a good idea. It'll improve..."

I cut her off with a cynical snort. "You and Dad think this is a good idea? The last thing you thought was a good idea was the divorce. Look how well I turned out." The sides of my mother's eyes wrinkled as she frowned over my open suitcase. She continued to fold my clothes carefully, taking in each insult after another, and I felt a sudden tightness in my chest. Her soft, wavy brown hair fell just below her shoulders, similar to mine, and her cat green eyes dimmed with sadness. She looked older than what she really was, and I was beginning to wonder if most of that was my fault. I know what I did to the school was wrong, but it finally got her attention. It got everyone's attention.

Interrupting my thoughts, my mother sighed and began to exit my room. She stopped short, turning slowly to face me from my door. "Everything I've ever done and ever will do, is for you. You are my heart, Elizabeth. I love you with every ounce of my being." Her lips trembled, wanting to say more, but instead she left without another word.

And I was alone again. The clock informed me that I still had two hours before my father arrived so that he could drive me to the correctional facility. With tears blurring my vision, I picked up where my mother left off, folding piles of clothes and setting them in my suitcase while my mother's last words to me lingered for the remainder of the wait.

* * *

Ben had woken up to a painful swelling in his left eye, making it even harder to squint from the sunlight that poured into his hospital room. He heard the rush of relieved sighs and weeping as he mumbled for something to drink. The first person he saw was his father as he darted across the room to get the attention of a doctor. Ben struggled for an explanation that would confirm why he was lying in paralying pain and why there were dozens of flowers around the room. His mother suddenly grabbed his hand and kissed it with wet, tear-stained lips and it came rushing back. He snatched his hand away from her and used it to shield his eyes as the scene from the last time he could remember flashed in his mind.

"No," he sobbed, seeing the silent 'O' of surprise on the old man's face right before he made contact with the front of Ben's truck in his mind. It replayed over and again until he felt two strong arms against his will hold him down. "Get away from me! Get.. help!" He began to screech like an animal as a sharp needle gained access into his right arm. The last he heard were the concerned murmurs of his mother and father before allowing his eyes to fall in the most comfortable position.

What had seemed like days later, Ben awoke again, this time much more calm and relaxed as the blurry vision of his parents came into focus. "Ma? What's going on?"

"Son," she shuddered, not looking directly into Ben's eyes. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a tight bun, and her dark brown eyes were somber. "There's been an accident."

"What?" Ben's voice waved between tears and panic. "What accident?" He looked down at himself, his right arm was bound in a cast and his hospital gown had tiny hints of blood from the inside. He realized that he could only see from one eye, and he let out a small gasp as he felt the gauge and tape over his right eye. A small pain pulsated from beneath the patch, and his head dropped. "Is..is he.."

"His name was Richard Lansing. He lived a few minutes away from our cabin," Ben's father gently moved his wife away from the bed and talked firmly to his son.

"Is he?" Ben questioned the uneasy look in his father's eyes. Before he could answer, the door to Ben's room opened slowly and a tall man in a white lab coat entered, followed by two uniformed policemen. "Oh, man..." He could feel his conscious slip in and out of his control as one of the policemen began to read him his rights.

"Ben Powell, you are under arrest for the involuntary manslaughter of a Richard Lansing on the first of June. You are also under arrest for underage driving while intoxicated..."

"Dad," Ben grabbed blindly to his father who had stepped in front of the dicating officer.

"My son has just woken from his coma," he cried angrily. "You have no right coming here! Just let him get well!"

"...you have the right to remain silent, for anything you say or do will be held against you in the court of law. You also have the right to an attorney..."

Ben blocked the angry yells from his father, the crying from his mother, and allowed the officer to continue. He had murdered Mr. Lansing, and he was drunk when he did it. His head turned slowly to the open window as thunder began to crash outside. The black clouds gathered over rolling acres of Tyler while Ben showed no emotion. He couldn't show any emotion. Murderer's didn't have any feelings. And Ben Powell was now a murderer.

* * *

The tall skyscrapers and sport cars became few as my father drove deeper into the country. The radio played light rock and my heart was beating a mile a minute.

"Hey, darlin'. A penny for your thoughts?"

I rolled my eyes and stayed silent, hoping he would get the hint and shut up.

"Hello? Are you sleeping?"

"No," I groaned and leaned far back into my seat, wishing I could disappear.

"Aww, how about a little conversation? It sure would help since we have about three more hours before we get to Grandma River's house."

"A little conversation?" I snapped. "Okay, Dad. Let's play catch-up. You see, I set my school on fire after a bunch of girls ganged up on me, and now my lunatic mother and dead-beat father are shipping me away to a nut house. How's your life going?" Breathing heavily, I crossed my arms and dared my father with my eyes to argue.

"One," he lifted a hand from the steering wheel to raise his finger to me. "You didn't tell us that a bunch of girls ganged up on you. Next, don't call your mother a lunatic. Don't you ever think about anyone else's feelings."

"No," I shrugged. "Not really."

"Last," he ignored my comeback. "You're not going to a nut house. You're staying with your grandmother for the summer on the weekends and during the week, you'll be attending a sort-of camp with kids your age."

"Yeah, Dad," I cried. "But these kids are like, bi-polar, beat their little brothers and sisters up, and kill people! All I did was throw a measily, half-smoked cig into a classroom!"

"You could've hurt someone!"

"Yeah, the only person being hurt here is me! Like always!"

"You, huh?"

"Yeah!" I screamed at the top of my lungs. "Me!" I yelped in surprise when my father reered the wheel to the right and pulled off the road, slamming on the brakes and sending us flying against our seatbelts. He punched the horn and made me jump before turning in his seat to stare directly in my watery eyes.

"Do you have any clue about raising kids, Lizzie? Or how hard it is to raise one on your own?" It was obvious he was struggling to keep from hitting me, and I shrunk about two inches. "I admit that I haven't been there, and I apologize. But you need me now, more than ever, and your mother and I are just trying to do what's right for you. If you have any idea or suggestion that would be better than what we have planned for you this summer, you tell me, right now, and I will turn this car around and take you home." He waited for a few seconds as the question burned me. I felt a sweat bead down the back of my neck and kept my mouth shut. "Nothing? No clue?" Frowning, I shook my head 'no'. "I didn't think so. But when you know what's best for you, let me know." He pulled back onto the road and tension thickened the air.

Unfortunately, I think Dad was right. I had no clue what was right for me, and certainly had no clue what it was like raising a child. I had the sudden urge to dive into his arms and cry, have him rock me back and forth. Fighting the feeling, I leaned my forehead once again to the window, and drifted into an uneasy sleep.