Lorien woke up on his cot that morning to find Marianne already gone. Again, the room was empty except for him. Well, it was better than waking in a strange room, like yesterday, when he slept in 'the old guy's' room. Marianne let him sleep in hers last night.

"It's hard enough to hide you from Megan, but what if dad suddenly comes home?" she had said, thinking aloud.

He couldn't understand what was wrong with him being seen alive, though. He thought it was wonderful, him being able to talk to Marianne and everyone else, being able to hold people back. Why hide him? Will everyone not like it? Marianne thought so, maybe. Maybe she doesn't like him in this form, either. The thought made him want to turn back into a toy. Better that way than this.

He considered this as he lay still for a while after he had woken, and then he rubbed his eyes. A plastic container was on the bed, and it contained cucumbers. A note was beside it. But then, he couldn't read. Sighing, he folded the blanket he used, however untidily. Marianne always did that in the morning.

Everyone was talking about the dance—everyone but Marianne. She was probably the only one who didn't have a date. Well, probably not only her, but it felt that way, because she had been planning to go with Dean.

Her homework lay on her desk in front of her, only half-finished. She had forgotten to do it last night. She tried to finish it while the prattle around her continued.

"Who're you going with?"

"I don't know yet. But I'm asking Dean Archer."

Marianne smirked at the hopefulness in the girl's voice. He won't take you.

"Excuse me?" asked an affronted voice.

Marianne had to look up, since someone's belly stood in front of the light she needed to read.

"Yes?" she asked.

The girl in front of her was glaring down at her with her hands on her hips. It made her look angrier than usual; Marianne knew this classmate to have thick eyebrows that always looked raised. What was her name? Ah, Joline. She was pretty, but seemed hard to be reckoned with.

"What did you say, Scott?" she asked again, that eyebrow of hers going higher.

Marianne blinked. "I didn't say anything."

"Yes you did!" Joline spat, leaning closer. "You think he won't go with me, eh? Think you're better than me? Don't look so smug, 'cause he denied you first. Threw you away like a used rag!"

Marianne laughed. Bitterly. This made Joline back away, bewildered.

"Just what I was thinking." she murmured, wiping her eyes. "I'm sorry. Maybe you're better than me. Maybe he will go out with you."

Leaving a perplexed Joline to stare, Marianne gathered her things in one swipe and left the room, a morose look on her face. One class wasn't so much a loss. She couldn't finish her homework anyway.

Megan hummed cheerily as she swept the second floor corridor of her employer's house. When she came to Marianne's room, she stopped to open the door. She held the door knob and meant to turn it when she remembered something.

"Oh, wait." she muttered to herself. Marie said she'd clean it herself.

So she shrugged and passed the girl's room.

A few minutes later, on her way back past Marianne's room, she heard a loud cry, followed by a clatter. That voice was distinctly male. Startled, she stared at the door for a while, holding her broom close.

In all curiosity, she opened the door to Marianne's room.

Oh, no. Marianne will be really mad…

Lorien groaned and heaved himself up from under the pile of Marianne's dolls and fallen shelf. It was a good thing the shelf wasn't heavy and was only built to hold light things, or he wouldn't be groaning then. But that wasn't the first of his worries. Marianne told him not to make any noise, and there he was, causing a ruckus.

Explaining wouldn't be enough. Even his reason for the noise was a violation of what he was told. All he wanted was to reach the doll at the top of the shelf. He had noticed it was dirty, and that it was one of Marianne's oldest toys. All he wanted was to clean it…

"Don't play with anything."

Lorien flinched as he remembered that. Marianne would never believe that he didn't want to play with it. He knew he was in trouble.

He didn't know how much trouble until the door swung open, and a fleshy woman with a broom came in.

They stared at each other for a moment, and Lorien grinned awkwardly. The woman glanced at Marianne's open window, and the looked back at him.

"Thief!" she suddenly shrieked, running at him with her broom.

Lorien waved his arms in panic. "No, wait! I'm not-"

The woman cut him off with a painful thump of her broom. Part of the wooden handle thudded onto his head.

"Ouch!" he yelled, ducking a second wallop. "I said I'm not-!"

"Get out of here or I'll call the police!" she screamed, raising her broom again.

Lorien sidestepped and got the broom's fibers caught in his mouth. He spat them out and jumped on the bed to get away.

"Please, I'm not what you think!" he tried again.

But the woman was determined to chase him out of the room, which she was doing.

"Help! Thief!" she screamed, swinging her broom like a maniac.

Broom fibers went flying as Lorien got another one on the face. The poor boy sped past the woman and stumbled out of the room, his long, dark hair in terrible disarray.

Marianne, help!

Marianne was walking home when she stopped abruptly, staring ahead. Why do I feel like something is wrong? She thought hard and blinked, then remembered. Oh, no… I forgot my notebook in my locker. And I have homework! Looks like I'll have to do it tomorrow again… There was no time to go back; she was already a few lots from home.

A police car parked in front of her house brought furrowed brows. Marianne stared at it as she walked to the porch. Not what could that be doing here?

She opened her unlocked door and found two policemen standing in the living room.

Bewildered, her eyes searched for her housekeeper. The woman was in front of the two, slightly hidden from view. She seemed haggard and distressed, and was dabbing a handkerchief under her eyes.

"Megan?" Marianne uttered, dropping her school bag on the floor with the bag of cucumbers she had bought. "What happened?"

Megan turned to her and gasped with relief. "Marie! Oh, it was horrible!"

One of the officers led her to the couch. Marianne sat down hesitantly.

"Is this your house, Miss?" he asked.

"Yes," Marianne answered with a mixture of worry and confusion, "but what happened?"

"A thief broke in!" Megan squeaked.

Marianne went cold. The blood drained from her face, and she glanced at the second floor corridor.

"Oh, nothing was stolen." the officer assured, misinterpreting her reaction. "Just a mess, that's all. But we still have to get a statement from your house-"

"Where is he?" Marianne asked, jumping to her feet.

"Who?" the officer asked, bemused.

"The thief, where is he?" Marianne demanded, her voice rising to a wail.


"He ran." Megan piped in. "I chased him out and he ran. Oh, thank God he didn't hurt me! He must have gotten scared when I told him I'd call the police…"

She trailed off as Marianne darted out of the room. Megan called after her and so did the two officers, but she was out of the house and on the street before they could stop her.