This is...or was...my first story. Just to let you know, the writing on the early chapters may not be that good, considering I was still new to the experience when I started this. (To hint at how new I was, I did not even know the proper use of a comma.) But I promise the writing gets better. What I cannot promise, however, is whether you will enjoy the story. That, my friend, depends on none other but you. Now go ahead and give it a try!
Note: This chapter was edited on 02/27/08. Other chapters are currently under revision.
Not What It Seems (Edited First Chapter)
"You, young lady, should learn some proper manners." The plump cook chided me, slapping my small hand away when it reached for one more chocolate chip cookie.
Not a second too late, I used my other hand and snatched a hot cookie out of the large plate as I beamed cheekily at her. "I know. But you love me still."
I chomped down the cookie with relish, wiping my dirty mouth untidily. Cookies were sooo yummy! Next to ice cream, they were the bestest food on earth!
"That's the last one you can eat, Alissa. No more until after dinner." She reprimanded sternly when I began reaching for another. She took the plate away and set it aside, her round body covering the delectable sight of the crunchy biscuits that were supposed to be for dessert.
I pouted. "How about a half-cookie then? Would that be okay?"
She tried yet failed to keep the chuckle down, but I could see she had no intention of complying with my request.
'She's such a darling', the cook thought, taking in the child's fine expressive amber eyes and charming face.
I put on my best don't- I- look- pitiful expression, my elbows propped on the kitchen table and hands resting on my chubby cheeks. "Pleeeaase?"
She harrumphed. "That won't work again, child. Your tactics have already run thin with me." Heaving me off the tall chair, she set me down on the floor and gave me a small push in the back. "Mr. Chapman wants to have a word with you in his study room. Run along now, little one."
I gave one last longing glance at the cookies. "Can't I please have one last bite?"
Her puckered brow told me her answer before she gave her usual sermon.
"No. You should be ashamed of yourself. You haven't even eaten your dinner yet and-"
"Bye!" I shouted, scampering away before she could finish. She wasn't gonna give me a cookie, so why stay?
The cook sighed, listening intently to the girl's warbled humming as she skipped away.
A worried frown creased the cook's face as soon as little Alissa was gone. She didn't know why Mr. Chapman called for the girl, but recalling the strained actions of her employer told her something was terribly amiss.
"What did you want to tell me?" I asked Uncle Henry, jumping on the fat green chair in front of his table, holding onto a drawing I did just the day before. It was a picture of Mama and Papa holding my hands. I had put a big smile on each of our faces because we were all happy. I was going to show it to Mr. Chapman today.
Henry Chapman, the closest and most trusted friend of her parents, cleared his throat.
My picture forgotten, I raised my head to look at him.
He tried to smile, but somewhere in the middle, he turned away to hide the pain etched on his face.
"You okay?" Tipping my head to one side, I smiled. Uncle Henry never asked for me unless it had something to do with my parents. Maybe Mama and Papa had already come back! Oh, did I miss them so! I was aching to return home. I was supposed to stay here while they went to other big places where I could get lost.
It wasn't that Uncle Henry's house wasn't pretty, but I did miss my little swing.
And I missed seeing the rainbow Mama painted near my bed…I hardly ever remember what it looked like now.
Hopping eagerly on the sofa, I clapped my hands in delight. "Have my parents come to take me back?"
He buried his head into his hands in a tormented gesture. "Did you remember what I told you when your goldfish died?" His voice was strangled, like he was having a hard time.
"I think so." I supplied hesitantly, wondering why he didn't answer my question. I was only six years old, but at that tender age I already had a feeling Uncle Henry was trying hard not to cry.
"When you flushed your pet into the toilet, did you remember I said that-…" He choked for a moment, and then continued hoarsely, "that your fish has already gone away to a far, far place? That he won't come back no matter what you do?"
They told me my goldfish was dead. I didn't know what that meant, but I knew little Goldie 'died' because I always shook his water bowl. Papa said I didn't take proper care of him so he went away and didn't want to return anymore.
There was a sad, almost tearful glimmer in the older man's eyes I couldn't make out.
At that moment, something deep inside me broke. I tried not to listen, but it was there…telling me what I didn't want to believe.
Unconsciously, I started tearing the drawing with my small fists angrily until nothing was left, only pieces of ripped shreds floating silently on the carpeted floor. I didn't understand why or how, but I knew that, like my goldfish, they weren't coming back.
Mama and Papa left me and died because they wanted to go to a far, far place so that they could leave me here. They didn't want me anymore.
I heard myself whimper.
Was it because I wasn't a good girl?
Not What It Seems
Ch1 Boy, oh, boy!
"I need to you become a boy for a while."
I blinked. "Excuse me?"
"What part of becoming a boy don't you understand?" He rapped his finger on the desk impatiently.
Again, I blinked.
He was still there, sitting comfortably in his office chair like any other ordinary day.
Okay. Once last time.
I blinked hard. Maybe this time I'd wake up. And then I pried my eyes open slowly. What? What was I still doing in the study room with Mr. Chapman? Wasn't this just a dream?
Hmm. Maybe I should try pinching my cheek.
He sighed, as if waiting for me to stop being so immature.
"Is this a joke?" I asked, trying hard not to explode into hysterical laughter. "Me? A boy? Are you serious?"
"Don't I look serious to you?" he replied gravely as he pore those beady eyes over me.
Okay, so his eyes weren't beady. Actually, they were quite big. But still…
"A joke, right?" I repeated more softly this time.
"You should know well enough that this is not my type of humor."
"Hmm. Do you even have one?"
His lips thinned into a slight frown. "This is not the time for your inappropriate comebacks, Alissa."
Okay. Fine. So you really are serious.
"But then-…" The whole realization came crashing over me as I saw his deadpan expression. "You can't make me do it."
"I'm your legal guardian. Of course I can." Except for the momentary flicker in his somber eyes, everything about him was quite emotionless. "And I will, Alissa. I will."
This is utterly preposterous. It isn't even funny anymore. Impossible...
But everything was fine yesterday! What happened?
The steely determination in his voice didn't faze me one bit. Not when I was ready to burst with unanswered questions and righteous indignation.
"Explain why," I said, beginning to feel my anger rise as I leveled my gaze with his. "Then maybe I'll agree."
He sighed in exasperation. "Alissa, you don't have a choice."
My nails dug into the plush exterior of the posh green couch unknowingly as I fought for self-control. "You can't expect me to just go along with this." My voice was already unstable and the mixed emotions inside me weren't helping at all. "I want an explanation!"
"Look, I don't think you need to know. Why can't you just be obedient for once?" His features became troubled as indecision wrestled with common sense.
"I do need to know!" I almost yelled, resisting an urge to run and lock myself in my bedroom, away from everything. "If you want me to do this, I'll need to understand. Can't you see? I need to understand why I have to."
For a moment, silence stubbornly reigned. But then logic won out.
"Yes. You do have a point," he reluctantly admitted. His face was calm, but the slight quiver in his words betrayed him. "It's only right for you to know."
I nodded, bracing myself for what I was to be told.
There must be a very important reason for him to be compelled into ordering me around like this. I thought, taking a deep breath.
Not like he had never order me around before. But this was a much, much serious matter.
You see, I have been homeschooled my whole life. I have never ever been close to a guy before. The only ones I've known quite well were all from tv shows. But of course, they weren't real so they didn't count. They were simply fictional characters on screen that made me laugh or, on very rare occasions, gave me butterflies in the stomach.
Oh, I guess the butler and Mr. Chapman counted as men. And maybe some of the neighbors I've occasionally played baseball or had pig out sessions with. But they didn't count either. Mr. Chapman and the butler were, well, clearly they were old. And the boys I've had the misfortune to hang out with were all disgusting pigs. I honestly don't think they've even reached manhood yet.
Aside from them, I have never met a single, decent guy. And to be honest, I don't think I was in the position to be one.
Yes, he may have a good reason for all this.
Maybe he just wants me out of the house for once. Everyone knew I was stuck here since forever.
Or maybe he's finally agreed to let me be an errand boy in his company! I've told him for more than a hundred times that I wanted some work experience.
"Someone wants you dead."
I nodded. Yeah, maybe someone wanted me dead.
My head shot up instantly. "Wh- what? Excuse me?"
For a split second, I thought I must have just heard the words wrong, that it might have been a figment of my over-active imagination. But one look at his face showed otherwise.
"What do you mean someone wants me dead?" I demanded, my voice wavering near frantic. "Why are telling me this only NOW?"
"Settle down, Alissa." He tried to be calm, but slight tremor in his voice conveyed otherwise. "Let's talk about this quietly."
"I want you to explain!" I ordered in a near shout. "I don't even know anyone outside this dreary neighborhood! How can you tell me someone wants me dead?"
"You're parents were very rich, Alissa." He reminded me.
I snorted. "I've already known that since…what, six? That still doesn't answer my question."
He shook his head, sighing badly. "Your parents died while you were just a mere child. You were too young to understand the complexity of the accident. There were many implications involved."
"Care to clarify?" I demanded. He made it sound so...difficult.
"It seemed the plane crash that brought your parents' deaths wasn't an accident as was first thought. It was done on purpose. Bombed in mid-air, to be more precise."
"You mean they had enemies?" I asked incredulously. He had never discussed this with me before. And to think I was the only heir!
He nodded. "It appears so. Even after ten years, there still haven't been any leads. The perpetuator is still out there hiding."
"I- I don't see how…"
"When they died, everything was left to you." Mr. Chapman gently cut in.
Numbly, I answered, "Are they after my money?"
"We think-" He started to say, but then sighed uncertainly. "We're not so sure."
Slowly, it registered on my mind that he didn't say 'I', instead it was 'we'.
"Does anyone else know about this?" I inquired suspiciously.
He shrugged. "I have a few friends above who enlisted some help. The FBI and CIA have taken this case into their consideration."
What was this? International crisis?
I sagged, my voice barely a whisper. "You've never told me the exact amount my parents left. Just how much are we talking about here?"
"You really want me to tell you?" He raised an eyebrow questioningly.
He sat in deep contemplation a few moments speaking. "There used to be about a total of eighteen million liquid assets in various banks. After ten years of interest, I'm not sure how much that amounts to. Your parent's stock portfolio is worth about a hundred million right now and it will continue going up if the economy doesn't crash. And there are also several properties scattered in an assortment of countries."
I think my jaw just dropped. "You mean…everything is mine?"
He nodded briskly. "Let's not forget half the voting share of the corporation your parents built. It's under my supervision now, but you'll control even that in the future."
I've always known Mr. Chapman was rich. Hell, all he wears are suits- if that proves anything at all. Oh, and we have four servants! Do you know how expensive it is to hire a housekeeper? And a butler too?
But me? Rich? I haven't even held a single one thousand bill before. Now he's telling me I have enough to be able to… buy those Nike sneakers he wouldn't let me have?
Mr. Chapman never lets me spend too much. And to think he's kept all those money for me. The least he could do was share it!
A little smile appeared on my lips.
I even have my own company too! Imagine, hundreds of employees under me. Me! A sixteen year old girl!
Wow. One day, I'm going to wear suits like Mr. Chapman and get to order the little people under me. 'You, bring me some coffee! And you there, file these for me.' I'd be, like... their boss.
I gulped, the exhilaration instantly deflating. "Don't you think that's too much responsibility for me?"
"It is." He replied dryly. "That's why I'm hoping you'll marry a competent man before I die."
He makes it sound like I'm some brainless dummy.
Which I'm not. I'm really smart! I just…don't use my brain often. It simply needs a bit of exercise.
I couldn't think of any smart retort, so I glared at him instead. "If I did agree, how long will this torture take?"
He smiled at my choice of words. "The will your parents left has absolutely no glitches. My best lawyer had already examined it from top to bottom. You can only legally hold claim on your parent's possessions when you become seventeen, which is, more or less, five months from now. Hopefully, when you do, the attempts on your life will cease."
My curiosity aroused, I questioned him. "You keep on telling me someone wants to kill me. But how can you be so sure? Nothing has happened to me yet."
Slowly, his face lost all its color and turned disturbingly pale.
"Are you okay?" I asked in concern.
The startling pastiness that had settled on his features quickly disappeared as he nodded, rubbing his temples lightly.
"You still haven't answered me. How did you know all this?"
"I have my connections, Alissa. And I've already told you enough. You'll just have to believe me."
"Is there anything else you want to know?"
"Where will I stay when I- "
"Ah, yes. I almost forgot." He began shuffling through the papers scattered on his desk, snatching a slightly crumpled one from somewhere underneath.
"His name is Christopher McIntyre," he promptly answered, peering into the contents of the paper.
"What?" I said.
"The person you will be disguising as is named Christopher McIntyre." He glanced at me. "Do you understand?"
I blinked incredulously. "Wait a minute! Are you telling me I'm going to replace a real person?"
He nodded. "He's on vacation right now, but he has a small brother. So do watch out for him. The McIntyres don't mind at all. In fact, they were very eager. They offered even before I could raise the question."
Eager? That sounds suspicious.
"No, really. You can tell me the truth. You bribed them, didn't you?" I said. It was natural for me to doubt. I mean, what kind of parents would be happy to swap their real son for a fake one?
"I bet they were so poor they had no choice but to agree," I accused, eying him skeptically.
He gave a small chuckle. "They're close friends of mine. We've done business a couple of times. They aren't destitute, Alissa. Far from it, actually. They are very wealthy, although they don't find their wealth an advantage. I haven't had the time to raise you properly, so they will try teach you the proper behavior of a future socialite."
Great! I don't even have a life. Now he wants me to pretend to live one that already belongs to someone else! And, if I heard right, they want to change me into one of those beautiful, suicidal socialites…- like Mischa Barton in The OC.
To make matters worse, there's a little brother stuck to the picture.
I hate little boys. Absolutely abhor those pests!
Do you know that? I'm sure Mr. Chapman does.
He will never forget how I ruined the imported rosebushes he spent a fortune on while running after the neighbor's seven-year-old son. The one who had given me a slimy fat frog for my tenth birthday and thrown mud at my face.
Yes, of course Mr. Chapman knows of the loathing I have for the young, tender pests that has infested our earth.
I'm just not so sure if he cares.
"I'm not coming out!"
"You have to. We still have a lot to discuss tonight." Impatiently, he rapped at the door a little stronger. "There's no more time. Tomorrow we have an appointment with the McIntyres. And we still need to shop for your clothes too."
"I don't care. I'm not coming out. And you can't make me!" I said in a singsong voice, digging my silver spoon deep into the gallon of chocolate ice cream.
Licking at the delicious creamy sweetness of my favorite dessert, I smiled contentedly to myself.
This plan was much better than my first, which was to have a screaming match with Uncle Henry. At least I'm sitting comfortably on my soft bed while he's standing outside my room, hurting his fingers by stubbornly thumping on the heavily locked door.
And there was one more advantage: I get to eat ice cream while he wears his voice out. Yay!
"Alissa, open this right now!"
"Not until you stop forcing me to become a boy!" I answered back, chopping down another bite of ice cream.
I heard him give a frustrated grunt. "You know as well as I do that sooner or later you'll have to come out of your room…All you've got is ice cream!"
"I know," I called out sweetly. I'm hoping he'll stand there for another…hmm, three hours? Maybe six if I accidentally fell asleep.
Snickering to myself, I gobbled down another scoop.
"I haven't told you you'll be getting a bodyguard, have I?" He sounded a bit hopeful.
"No. Is that supposed to change my mind?" I frowned faintly. As if that piece of information would make me open the door.
Well, it would if he had the face of Chad Michael Murray - from The OC, of course.
What was he trying to say, anyway?
"Your bodyguard is a girl," he continued confidently.
"And so?" I nonchalantly licked at the remaining ice cream in the spoon, savoring its delightful taste.
"The real Christopher has a girlfriend." I heard him make a small gleeful laugh. "Your bodyguard will be acting as yours. Just so people wouldn't be suspicious. Of course, I've given her permission to do what girlfriends normally do. Hang onto your arm and flirt with you sporadically. Feed you your ice cream, carry your books. Hug you and kiss you a little, maybe even grab your butt when she feels like it-…"
I choked on my spoon.
Mr. Chapman nearly jumped a step back when a hard metal object banged noisily at the wooden door.
"In the ten years I've been with you, that's the sickest thing I've ever heard you say!" The voice of a girl howled angrily from the other side, picking up a deformed alarm clock from the ground and flinging it yet again to the door. "No one touches my ass except me!"
"I've already made the arrangements," he called out, pleased to have caused such a sudden outburst.
That- that perverted old man! I thought furiously as I stomped around the room, trying to find something else to throw. I'd rather die a gruesome death before letting anyone fondle me around! Least of all a girl!
"That does it!" I yelled to him. "I was already deciding whether to unlock the door or not, but that absolutely does it! I'll stay here until it kills me, you hear?"
"And while I'm waiting for you to come out," Mr. Chapman responded almost pleasantly, "I'll just call the head CIA office and tell them to make your bodyguards a dozen more instead. With so many hands, the possibilities are endless. Doesn't that excite you?"
I gagged. "You are DISGUSTING!"
"Are coming out, or should I start calling?" He said, sounding amused.
A trick. This is just another of his dirty tricks. I tried to take a deep calming breathe. Alissa, it's an empty threat. It's nothing but lies.
There was distinct sound of a cell phone being flipped open. Seconds later, vague echoes of buttons being pushed were heard.
Darn you! I'll get you for this someday.
I gulped down one last scoop of chocolate ice cream before throwing it back on the table.
It wasn't long before a crash was heard, this time from a door that slammed open.
A slender girl with blazing amber eyes stood stubbornly at the doorway, her shoulder-length, auburn hair caught untidily in a ponytail. She crossed her arms roughly, an intense expression of lividness seen on her almost angelic features.
"This isn't practical! Why can't you just hand me a wig and ship me off to some third world country?" Her composure had faded away long ago and she was close to wailing. "Why do I have to be a boy?"
"Because the enemy would never consider such a ridiculous plan. And besides," He smiled amiably, taking in the loose, tomboyish garments of the teen. "You already look like one."
The thin line of thread that held her sanity suddenly snapped in two.
She brandished her spoon at him and screeched, "JUST WHAT IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN?"
End of CH1
I'm not sure if this chapter is good, but at least I personally think it's better than the one before!
Pls tell me what you think! R/R!