So I don't know how good this is...I wrote it, but I hate re-reading my writings, so I just posted it. x-x Kinda stupid, I know, but hey.

Hope you like. Not my best, I think, but something.

To all the people abused-have hope.


I sighed, regarding her with my scrutinizing gaze.

Why was it she didn't succumb to it like everyone else? She was the only person I wanted to not be able to meet that gaze. At this very moment I wanted to see her squirm at the sight of my narrowed eyes from behind the thin-rimmed glasses. I wanted her to avoid my face and stare at her hands. But no, she only stared easily off into the distance, occasionally looking back to me as though it were nothing. Those eyes of hers were so casual really, the nonchalant brown that seemed to melt through life without a worry or a problem. She swallowed it all, didn't she? Hid it all deep, deep far beneath the soils into the depths where behind the soft tree-bark color burned a blaze brighter than the white-gold sun itself.

Did she even realize I knew?

My eyes traced that bruise. The one forming on the side of her arm, her beautiful freckled shoulder marred with the grotesque image of the blackened-blue imprint. Fell down stairs, she had said. Hit the corner of the doorway.

She was lying. But I couldn't even tell if she believed it was the truth.

I looked down at the steering wheel, my eyes going up to the green light. A movement, mechanical foot pressing down on the accelerator, as the car moved forward and turned around the corner, swerving onto a side street steadily. The car was always steady, nothing like me really.

"You know, Jess..." she said, my thoughts shifting from her arm to her lips, to the words slipping forth. I threw a glance her way, the glance as quick as it was, tracing over her features. The softly angled chin that despite the delicateness, suggested a stubborn person. Large almond-shaped eyes framed by eyelashes that were wearing too much mascara, part of it smudged at the corner of her eye. Red cheeks, a flush she claimed was from the chilly weather. Drawn lips, curled softly into a stereotypical shielding smile. Nothing more.

Really, that this girl could mean so much to me was ridiculous. With frizzy hair that she always just yanked back, with a slightly fuller figure than the magazines would like, with a thick splattering of freckles and a mild case of acne that always appeared near the straight nose. What was it about her that drove me crazy, I didn't know. I couldn't know.

But she did. She had a way of overwhelming ever concious thought I had, of every nightly dream that slipped across my mind. There she would be. She'd smile. I'd melt. Those brown eyes that could meet mine fiercely, never waver against the sharp-eyed gaze of a judgmental person like me, would move back and forth behind my closed eyelids, laughing at me, mocking me, causing my very skin to crawl into itself as though willing to leave me unprotected.

She hadn't continued. I spoke. "I know what?"

"We only have three months. Then we'll officially be Seniors."

"Not really. Three months we'll be out for summer. It'll be five and a half months til we're Seniors."

She scoffed. "No, hear me out. The Seniors will be getting ready for college. They won't be high-schoolers anymore. So that means we're the top dogs."

"Still, in five-"

She rolled her eyes at me, finally looking at me with pursed lips. "Oh don't ruin it for me, Jess," she retorted with a shake of the head. "Honestly, I think you don't want to graduate."

"I don't really care. College is just more school." I shrugged at her, keeping my eyes on the road ahead of us, turning onto another side street.

"Psh. You loser. I can't wait. Me and Chris are going to have so much fun at college. And you'll only be an hour's drive away so you should come see us all the time." She was smiling at me, I could tell, but I couldn't look at her.

"Yeah..." I said, not adding anything else and hoping the conversation would die there. Her and Chris. Together at the same college. They would be married soon, most likely. The pair that had been dating for over a year now, never once breaking up.

My hands gripped the steering wheel a bit tighter as we approached her driveway. I pulled up, the car still steady as it stopped, and she looked at me.

"Thanks again, Jess. Same thing tomorrow then? Chris thinks he's gonna have to work til Thursday, so Friday I have a ride."

I shrugged. "Whatever." Still not looking at her.

But she tilted her head curiously at me, it was impossible to not see the motion from the corner of my eye. "Jess, you alright?"

"I'm fine," I replied, perhaps a bit too quickly, perhaps a bit too coldly.

She pursed her lips again and heaved a sigh. "What's wrong, Jess?"

"Nothing."

She was quiet, staring me down for a long moment, then she opened the passenger door. "You know Jess, for a guy, you're really hormonal. I swear you PMS." She shook her head, hopping out of the car and grabbing her backpack. I turned my face just in time to catch her lean again. "I hope whatever's wrong gets better for you, Jess," she said with a sweet smile, then closed the door.

I didn't say anything. My hands were steady on the steering wheel. My foot was steady on the accelerator. But from behind my glasses, my eyes were blurring with thought.

I yawned, looking down at my open math book. Blinking several times, I threw a glance at the clock, only to remorsefully see that it was past two in the morning. Another sigh as I shuffled about for my notebook where I had the assignment written down. A flurried scramble, and I was struck with the memory of my notebook in my locker and staying there.

I felt my head drop onto the table and I groaned. First class of the day, and I had forgot the homework for it. Reaching over I picked up my phone and dialed her number. In the same math class, the two of us had a perfected system for homework and for lost assignments. Her phone rang once. She wouldn't mind, she never did. She would call me at five in the morning some days, just out of pure boredom. Another ring. Those times actually happened a lot. She was a night hawk for some strange reason. Never able to sleep. Third ring. She always had her cell phone with her, always next to her. She always picked up too. A last and final ring.

"Hey, its me. Can't come to the phone. Leave a message and I'll call ya back. Bye!"

I hung up the phone and stared at it in my hand. Blinking once, I redialed. She must be sleeping, but tough. She woke me up enough, I'd wake her up.

Three rings. Just as the phone rang the fourth time and my hand inched towards the End button, I heard a click.

"...Hello...?"

"Hey, its Jess."

"Oh...hi..."

Instantly I felt the sickening crunch in my stomach. Her voice sounded scratchy and choked, as though something was muffling her voice, as though she was sick, or as though she had just been crying.

"You okay?"

"...Yeah...what's up..?" A false attempt to be cheery.

"...Do you have the Algebra homework...?"

A shuffling sound at the other end. I found myself listening to her breathing, the breaths that were steady, but oddly strangled, as though she forcing the steadiness.

"Page 264, numbers 13 through 61, odds."

I nodded, though I knew she couldn't see it, as I scribbled it down. "Thanks."

Silence.

"Hey...are you sure you're okay...? You don't sound good."

"I'm fine, Jess." Her voice was hard.

"Alright...sorry...I'm just worried about you... You seem out of it."

"Don't worry about me. I'm fine."

Internally I groaned. Why did she have to fight me on this? I loved her fighting spirit, but she was lying through her teeth. I knew the truth, she didn't have to hide it from me. But she fought me, she fought the only one who could defend her.

"Don't get mad at me...I just wanted to make sure..."

"Well maybe you should just mind your own business, Jess! I'm fine! I told you over and over again!" Her voice snapping at me caused me to freeze, shocked. Something in her voice was wrong, it sounded as though she were choking.

"Okay, okay...I'm sorry..."

"You should be. And I don't need a ride home. Chris is going to work late."

"Are you sure-"

The phone clicked. She didn't answer.

As the bell rang, signaling our release, I immediately got out of my seat and made my way out into the hall, leaning against the wall outside the door of the room across the hall. Quietly I watched as students passed by, before she came out.

Her hair was down today, she had put on a long-sleeved shirt despite it being a fairly nice day for early March. Part of her hair hung over her eye.

When she came out her eyes met mine fiercely and she stormed past me.

"Hey, wait-" I called, moving forward to grab her wrist. "Look, don't do this. Talk to me."

"What is there to say, Jess? You're being annoying, alright! You're always hovering, and Chris thinks you hate him. I think you do too."

I was shocked again. I stared at her incredulously, not aware of my hand still on her wrist. "Come on, its me. I'm your best friend, we've been friends for years."

"So? People grow and move on, Jess. Maybe its time you do."

She went to move away, attempting to yank her wrist from my grasp but I didn't let her. Students milled past us, curious, but I didn't pay attention to them.

"No, this is wrong. What's happened to you? You're not the same at more. You never used to have to lie to me."

Her eyes were glazed. She didn't even catch the hint. She didn't even care, but she glared at me instead, her fury coming from nowhere, a plastic fury. I knew her. She was frustrated, confused, upset. But if she were mad at me, this would all be different.

"Please, you can tell me what's going on..."

"Leave me alone, Jess! Alright!? Get some new friends and stop bothering me!"

It hit low.

My eyes widened and my fingers released their grip so that she pulled away. I stared at her incredulously, in a complete state of shock. She was glaring at me intensely, but I could see it, the flicker in her eyes.

Her eyes were intent on me before they shifted away from her to someone behind me. Her expression changed instantly, going from anger to worry to excitement. "Goodbye Jess," she said as she smoothly walked past me, leaving me standing there with a hand half-curled foolishly and a frozen expression on my face.

Her voice reached me. "Hey Chris, baby. How you doin'?"

I couldn't stand it.

She had told me to move on, but she wasn't the one plagued. Every time I closed my eyes the image of her came to my mind, that hideous bruise, the way her hair covered the side of her face. Her eyes, glaring at me, but flickering at him. The way every phrase coming out of her mouth had his name in it.

It was wrong. All wrong.

My car pulled up to her driveway, parking it in the street. Good. No other car was there, so Chris shouldn't be there. Getting out of the car I jogged up the drive and leaped the steps, knocking on the door.

There were voices inside, but all familiar as her little brother's and her mother's. No Chris.

The door opened and there she was. But all I saw was a crack, for suddenly the door began to close again.

"Wait-no-" Reaching out I grabbed the door, managing to keep it from closing.

"I told you to leave me along, Jess!"

"You don't mean it! Mean it and I will!"

The door weakened for a moment, but she shoved harder at it. "Jess, I don't want to talk to you!"

"Please, just give me five minutes! Talk to me, and afterwards if you really never want to see me again, I won't even look at you again." My voice was strained from keeping the door opened.

Her breathing was hoarse but she was silent, until finally the door weakened. She appeared in the doorway, meeting my gaze with one whole eye and the part of the eye that was still uncovered from the hair hanging into her face.

"Five minutes, Jess," she said as she came outside, closing the door behind her. Her arms folded atop one another and she stared at me.

"I really am worried about you. Ever since you started dating Chris, everything about you is different. What happened to you?"

"People change."

"I know people change. But you're my best friend, and you used to say the same to me. Did I do something? What did I do? Please tell me, cause I have no clue."

"Jess..." she said, rubbing her temples. "Its complicated."

"Then try to explain it! I don't get it-I really don't! I'm always there for you, I haven't done anything stupid, what did I do?"

"Jess, why do you hate Chris?"

I stopped flat for a long moment and took a deep breath. "I just don't like him."

"But he's amazing. He's smart and sweet and a great guy, and he really and truly loves me. Why don't you like him?"

"I...I just don't."

"That's just it, Jess! How can I stay friends with someone who hates a part of me?"

"A part of you? What are you talking about? Chris isn't a part of you! He's a guy you're dating! I don't hate you at all!"

"I've never been so happy before I met him. I wouldn't be anything without Chris, Jess. Chris is my life."

I blinked. "You...wouldn't..." I repeated for a moment dumbly before I recovered. "What are you talking about? Of course you'd be something! You'd be better off without him!"

"No, I wouldn't," she practically laughed. Her voice was choked again. "And that's why we can't be friends, Jess. You don't get that."

"So just because I refuse to acknowledge that you are something, even without him, I can't be your friend?"

She stared at me, silent.

Suddenly I snatched out to lift her hair away to see what she was hiding, but she shied away. Flinching. Eyes widened.

My eyes narrowed, the piercing gaze on her again. "What are you hiding?" I asked softly. "Why are you lying to me? You never used to lie to me before. You used to be able to tell me anything. And now you're hiding something from me."

She backed away from me towards the front door, opening it behind her. "Things change, Jess. Things change."

I reached forward and slammed my fist on the wall. "Bullshit!" I yelled, spinning on her. "He doesn't deserve you, don't you get that?! There are thousands of other guys out there who deserve you more! Why can't you see that?"

She didn't reply. Only stared at me for a long second with those eyes filled with passion but so empty of life. And quietly she turned away from me and closed the door in my face.

I stared at the door in a raging silence. Steady, Jess...Steady...

It was official now. I knew it. I didn't need to see her face to know. I didn't need her to tell me the truth. It was obvious since the fifth month after they'd started dating, when slowly she'd picked off everything else in her life. Gotten rid of her job, she didn't need it. Chosen the same colleges as him. Dropped out of the swim team, why do that? Ignore friends until they faded away.

Despite all of this I stayed with her. I refused to abandon her. And even now, I would not leave her to his torture.

Steady. Steady. I was steady as I walked. My gait was perfectly balanced, my hands lacked even the slightest tremble. From behind my glasses my eyes were focused. What as it about my gaze that creeped people out? I had figured it out years ago. When anyone met my gaze, they were faced with the eyes of someone who was judging them. Someone who wouldn't stand for the simple excuses the rest of the world accepted. I would break them down in my mind. Scrutinize them. It was as though I was stripping them of their mask with a single glance. It made me a terrible person, I knew. I never had a kind thought of anyone, I was cruel to everyone I saw. Maybe that's why she was my best friend. She could stand up to the gaze, and she didn't mind my cruelty. She found it, in a strange way, funny.

I remember when we met. How she would sit down next to me and giggle, pointing out a person. "So what do you think, Jess? What's that person hiding?" "Oh, do you think she really likes her boyfriend or his best friend?" We would laugh together silently until we were wheezing with pain.

And now. Now she wouldn't even speak to me.

Fine. Then I would talk to her.

I could count my breaths they were so few and far between, quiet. Held, then released. The two of them stood together, talking, his hand on her waist, her head against his shoulder. Standing against the fence of the football field, far away from the eyes of the teachers who kept watch even after school was out.

My eyes narrowed.

Marching forward I caught them both off guard and grabbed her, turning her towards me and shoving her hair from her face.

A dark blue bruise forming at the corner of her face, just above the ear and stretching out towards the eye.

I let her go, backing up, but my anger was far from satisfied. "Don't lie to me, did he do this to you?!" I snarled, pointing at Chris.

She stared at me, shocked. He stepped forward.

"Back off, right now-"

I grabbed her and gripped her wrist to a point where I felt as though I could snap it in two. "You've never lied to me before this. Tell me right now he didn't do this to you."

His hand was on my shoulder, he wrenched me backwards and I spun on him, my fist swinging and slamming into his face. He reeled backwards.

She stared at me. "Answer me!" I roared at her. "Did he do this to you?!"

Mute. She did not reply. Her eyes never left mine. Then she spoke. Her voice was a whisper as it came out of her mouth. A murmur. A soft terrified phrase.

"He loves me."

I heard Chris wheezing behind me. "Love you?! He does not love you! That's not what love is, Rachel! Not what love is!"

Rachel only stared at me.

"That asshole never gave a damn about you, that's why he could hurt you!"

Chris lunged at me, his fist slammed into the side of my face and I turned, spitting, and slammed my knee upwards into his stomach. He lost his breath and I took advantage of the time.

"Rachel-"

He was on me, grabbing me and shoving me. I went flying backwards, slamming into the fence but my head smashing against the fence pole. The thud echoed around me, the world spinning. I spit out blood, blinking, my glasses hardly on my face anymore.

"Rachel-"

I watched her. She moved forward, concern on her features, her brown eyes creased with worry. But it wasn't me her hand went to. It was Chris.

She looked up at me, holding Chris tightly. Tears rolled down her face, steadily.

"I love him..." she whispered.

"Rachel..." I croaked, my stomach plummeting as she held him. I took a breath. My voice cleared. Shakily I straightened and moved forward.

"Feel like a big guy, don't you?" I called at Chris, my voice sharp as a whip, cruel as ice. "Beating up on a girl? Beating the shit out of someone who's in love with you? Makes you feel so powerful, doesn't it?"

"Jess, shut up," she said, holding Chris's arm.

"No, answer me Chris. How does it feel to be an abusive freak?!"

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said cooly, holding Rachel in turn. "Seems like you're the screwed up one, man. Attacking Rachel and me out of nowhere. Stalking her. Making her terrified out of her mind. You call yourself her friend..?" Chris looked down at her. "Come on, Rachel. Lets go." They began to move away.

"Rachel if he loved you half as much as I did, he would never make you cry!"

The steps paused, Rachel froze. Her back was to me, I couldn't see her face, but I knew the posture. I had hit nerve. It was silent for a long moment, before Chris began to speak.

"That's not true, Rach, you know that-"

She wasn't listening. Quietly after a long moment, she looked back at me.

Her eyes met mine. The brown was as flawless as always. I stared into them, finding myself drowning in the black pupils surrounded by the thick chestnut waters swirling about.

Her eyes shifted. She wavered.

For the first time, she had wavered under my gaze.

Silently she turned and followed Chris away. I stood there, watching as they walked until they turned a corner, vanishing from my sight. By my sight followed them.

She had wavered.

Rachel hadn't fought me.

She believed me.

My hands went to my face, holding it tightly. It was only when I pulled my hands away that I noticed it. My hands were unsteady. Trembling.