Disclaimer: All locations mentioned in this story, aside from private residences – with the exception of the apartment building off the Bay's parking lot – and K.R. Stirling High, are real places. I do not own any of them. Nor do I own any cited stores, restaurants or companies.

Chapter One

            A cluster of girls whispered as I passed. I ducked my head down and pretended not to notice. Across the student parking lot, beside his hot new sports car, Kyle stood with his friends gathered around him like faithful disciples. He was leaning back against his car, listening to one of his so-called friends talk animatedly. His bleached-blond hair and rich tan looked all the more golden in the afternoon sunlight. Muscles tensed, relaxed and rippled with every slight shift of his body in a symphony that would once have made me giddy. Instead, fear clenched me at the show of such strength. Memories of that night still haunted me, unrelieved and untold.

            I let my hair fall in a curtain around my face and changed my route to avoid passing too near him. He still saw me. I know he did. I could feel his eyes on me, mocking me; laughing at me because I had been stupid enough to listen to him and his lies. That was all anything he ever said to me was: lies. I suppressed the hatred and self-contempt that sprang up in me. There was nothing I could do. That's why he chose me to play his sick little game with. He knew that I was weak and had no one. He chose me because he could get away with it.

            "Paige!" It was his voice – his mocking, scornful voice – that called my name.

            I broke into a run. I wanted to get away. I didn't want to have to look at him. Just the sound of his voice brought back all the dark memories that had haunted my nightmares. Memories that now pressed against the forefront of my mind.

            The ropes burning my skin as I struggled against them, desperate to get free. Screaming for help, but knowing no one would come to my aid. His condescending laughter and grunts of effort. The searing pain between my thighs as he took my innocence by force, with neither love nor compassion.

            Tears sprang to my eyes and I quickly wiped them away as I reached the bus stop. I needn't have bothered. No one would have noticed anyways. I was invisible to them all. It was why I had trusted Kyle. He had said he cared, but he hadn't. Only I had learned that too late…

            "Hey, do you know what bus I can take to get to Lansdowne?" It took me a moment to realize that the guy was talking to me.

            Glancing up, I realized he must have been new because I didn't know him. I knew everyone in the school, but no one knew me. Or maybe they did and just chose to ignore my existence and this kid just didn't know the rules yet.

            I studied him while trying not to look like it. Relatively short brown hair was spiked forward over his face, which had a naturally light complexion that suggested Irish background - something that was also hinted at by his dark green eyes. He was big – not big as in fat or anything. Big as in tall and well built. Not as tall or as strong-looking as Kyle, but enough to make me scared of him.

            I shifted away slightly before answering. "Um, no. But you can check the schedule over there," I told him, pointing at the list of buses and their stops that was enclosed behind the clear plastic.

            He glanced in the direction that I pointed. "Thanks. I didn't see that before," he said with a commercial-worthy smile. "My name's Gavin, by the way."

            A shudder almost made its way through me as memories of a conversation very much the same as this one replayed in my head. It had been almost a year ago, but it was still eminent in my mind. "Paige," I answered shortly, turning my head the other way as if I were looking for my bus.

            "Well, um, thanks, Paige."

            "No prob," I muttered back, still not looking at him.

            He stood still a moment before walking off to the schedule I had directed him to earlier. I let out a breath I hadn't realized I had been holding as my bus came into view. Shifting my weight from foot to foot, I waited impatiently for it to pull up to the bus stop, wanting to be gone before Gavin finished checking the schedule and came back. When it did, I was the first on. I took a window seat near the back and stared out the window all the way to Richmond Centre. Once there, I got off the bus and took the elevator up to my mom's apartment.

            For most teenage girls, living in an expensive apartment block that's part of a major mall complex would be a dream come through. And don't get me wrong, I loved being able to just walk into the mall whenever I felt like shopping, but the noise gets to me sometimes. On weekend mornings when the Bay had sales and especially on Boxing Day, the parking lot that adjoins to the apartment building could become incredibly loud.

            Entering the apartment, I saw the small, tell-tale signs that Mom had come home for lunch earlier, something she often did. I suppose it wasn't that irrational, considering the bank she managed was just across the street.

            Dropping my bag on the dining table, I grabbed a rice-crispy square and pressed the button on the answering machine. It was my maternal grandmother, reminding me not to make plans for the weekend – as if I ever did – because she, my grandfather and I were going to the ballet on Saturday. Plans on Sunday were never an option with my conventional, faith-crazed, God-fearing grandparents – either pair of them. There was another message from my dad, saying that he would be a little late coming home on Sunday so I had to remember my key when my grandparents dropped me off at his place.

            I guess I should do some explaining here. When I was eight years old and my parent were going through the whole messy divorce, the custody battle over me raged for more than six weeks. Don't ask me why. I have no clue. Maybe everyone was just tired of having all that money just sitting in the bank and decided to waste it on lawyers. They could afford it, after all, as both sides of my family are rather well-off. I remember that everyone would frequently remind me that they loved me no matter what and to never forget that. There had constantly been someone hovering about me, buying me things, asking if I wanted anything; I hadn't had a single moment alone during those one and a half months.

            Finally, the custody was split four ways. On weekdays, I alternated between my mother and father; one week with Mom, one week with Dad. During the weekends, it was the same thing, only with my grandparents; maternal grandparents, paternal grandparents, maternal, paternal, maternal, paternal – you get the picture.

            After the custody was settled, everything was the reverse of what it had been before. My parents went to work long before I woke up, leaving me to make my own breakfast and walk – and later, bus – to school on my own. They usually didn't come back until late at night, so the majority of the time, I was already asleep. My grandparents were a bit different – at least my seeing them wasn't something I considered an unusual occurrence – but they expected me to grow up to be 'a sophisticated and accomplished young lady.' There was a constant debate between them – they got along great, despite the fact that their children had divorced each other – about which strain of the family I would follow when I went off to college: Harvard, Oxford, Stanford or Princeton. At family dinners, I could only smile and look down shyly as my relatives said things like, 'It'll be Stanford, won't it, eh, Paige?' and 'So which part of London do you want to live in when you go to Oxford?' Then Grandma Elise – mother's side – would rest her arm and tell them, 'You boys stop bothering her. Besides…she's going to Princeton,' and thus, the whole argument would start all over again.

            I suppose I led an odd life, being juggled between relatives and hardly ever seeing my parents, but I didn't really mind it. Until Kyle, that is. After the attack… I didn't know who to talk to. I had no one to talk to. The mixed emotions I had afterwards had almost been too much to bear.

            One day, while in my father's apartment, I had taken the key from his hollow book and opened the bottom drawer of his desk. He had first shown me the revolver when I was twelve, on one of those spurs my parents sometimes get to 'bond' with me. He had told me how to use it in the small shooting room he had in one corner of his expansive house. That day, I had held it in my hand, felt the cool steel against my skin, chilling me like the memories of the assault; like death itself. A cold whisper, barely remembered once gone.

            The barrel had been at my throat when I saw the picture. A simple water colour of a cabin nestled in the woods with lush, green trees behind and a small, blue creek passing nearby. I couldn't have been more than eleven when I painted it. Crying, I had put the gun back, returned the key to the book and gone up to my room.

            I had never told anyone about my close encounter with suicide. Just as I never told anyone about the rape.

A.N. Came up with this on a whim. The storyline's a bit…I dunno. Common, I guess, but it was a picture in my head and it wouldn't go away so I just put it up. And I have come up with a title for my other story, in case anyone was wondering. It is now called And If I'm Not There. I know I haven't updated it in a couple of weeks. I've got about a third of the next chapter down and just need to work out a few technicalities. Also, I have January exams coming up, so I might not be able to post anything for either of my stories until around February. Please be patient.