A Lesson In Learning - End


Mandy


"Are you nervous?" I asked, walking quietly behind Justin, who was standing near the sidelines, listening quietly to the sounds of the growing audience. There was no one else around.

I touched his shoulder gently, and felt how tense he was.

"Yeah, I am a bit," he whispered back, taking hold of my hand.

"You know, when you're performing on stage, properly, you can't even see the audience. Well… hardly. It'll be pretty much like just you and me, alone, talking to each other. We've been through this about a hundred times; we know what we're doing," I encouraged him, and he forced a smile.

Overcome with excitement, I suddenly reached forward and pulled him towards me in a fierce hug. Before I even realized what I was doing, I had lifted my chin up, and we were kissing.

Talk about bloody instinct, I didn't even do that on purpose! But, if that was instinct, I wish it would take over a little bit more often.

When we pulled apart, Justin looked at me intensely, and brushed the side of my cheek softly. "You're amazing," he whispered softly, looking at me passionately.

Wordlessly, I buried my head into his neck.


Beaming, centre stage, with Justin on my left, and Nathan on my right, I smiled widely at the audience, and then had a quick, nostalgic little scan of the rest of the cast.

There was Frances, who had only finished memorizing her lines that weekend, and yet still managed to not mess anything up.

Harry, who had somehow managed to half fall off the stage during one practice, and ended up with one leg dangling down the side of the stage, the other flat onstage, clutching his crotch and screaming in pain.

Sammie, who had acted as second director, telling everybody what to do and how to do it every rehearsal, and then almost had to be dragged on stage tonight.

Tom, who, though his part was absolutely miniscule, had shown up to almost every practice, and had mucked around so much with Justin that he almost got himself banned from the show, twice.

Good memories, good times.

I caught Justin's eye, and he gave me a relieved smile. Neither of us had messed up even once, and there were only two more performances to go.

After we took one final bow, and walked off stage, everyone burst into excited chatter, congratulating, complaining, and reminiscing.

Justin grinned, and Tom jogged to catch up with us.

"That was freaking awesome!" he cried, punching his fist into the air. "Being on stage is the best thing ever! I'm so doing it for a living!"

"I'm sure your one line really gave you a rush, Tom," Justin cracked.

"God, it did. It really, really did."

A girl named Belle came up to talk to Tom, and Justin instantly turned to me.

"You know, I came this close to kissing you on stage, but then I was afraid Nathan might retaliate still," he sighed, holding up his forefinger and thumb almost touching.

"Justin!" I shrieked. "Don't kiss me on stage! My family's coming tomorrow!"

"Fine," he grumbled, rolling his eyes. "I said I was only going to, anyway."

"Yeah, whatever," I giggled, shoving him.

A blonde haired girl named Lindy, who I knew had actually asked Justin out late the year before, suddenly pushed past me roughly, shoving me as she went past.

Justin didn't seem to notice, but I smiled secretly to myself. So, guess she still liked him. What a pity.

Oh well!


"So, I was looking up abortions online," said Aimee quietly at school the next day, after having dragged me away from the group. "Apparently, it's legal in this state to get one without parental consent…"

"Great, do it," I said, feeling relieved on her behalf.

"I'm going to," she said slowly. "I've thought about it heaps… and that's what I want to do. A few people have actually asked me if I'm pregnant, and I told them it's bullshit. Could you do the same, babe?"

"Already have," I said honestly.

"Good. It's pretty expensive, but I can afford it. I won't tell my parents… Mandy?" she asked hesitantly.

"Yeah?"

"I wonder what it looks like…"

"Don't!" I insisted, screwing up my face.

"Black hair is dominant over blonde, but Kyle's Mum is blonde, so it could be either…" she said wistfully. "

"You're just making it harder on yourself," I warned.

"Apparently it's a little bit painful… Did you know they vacuum the baby out?" she asked, looking a little nauseous. "And they don't reckon they can feel pain, but it's still possible?"

"Nice…"

"But… I just can't keep it," she said in a pleading tone, as though willing me to forgive her, as though me agreeing meant that they wouldn't feel pain.

"I know, babe. It's the best way for you," I said reluctantly, though I had to admit I felt a little sick myself from what she was telling me.

"I'm booked for the weekend," she said softly.

"Am I coming?" I asked.

She shook her head decisively. "I want to do it alone. It's just something I have to do… I haven't told Kyle yet…."

"If he dares dump you over this, I will personally castrate him," I said viciously.

"If he dumps me over this… I guess… he isn't the person I thought he was…" Aimee said slowly, looking incredibly pained.

"We'll see what happens," I promised her; though I personally had a bad feeling I was going to have to get my axe sharpened.


Justin


Rushing insanely to get ready, I raced around the house, absentmindedly throwing my tie around my neck, planning to do it up on the walk to school, throwing my pencil case in my school bag, and slipping into my already done up shoes, my heel squashing the back of the shoe.

Mum had left for a meeting the night before, and I had completely forgotten to set my alarm. In other words, I had fourty minutes to get myself completely ready and walk the half an hour to school.

Oh joy.

Satisfied with my somewhat disheveled reflection in the hall mirror, I raced downstairs, and was seconds away from going out the front door, when the phone rang.

Growling with annoyance, I threw my bag down on the ground and picked it up.

"Hello?" I asked, edgily.

"Hello, is, um, your… Mum? There? Or has she left for her flight already?" a man's voice asked uncertainly.

"Nah, sorry, she left for it last night," I reported, glancing at the clock.

"Oh… well… could you please tell her I called when she gets home?"

"She's not getting home for a fair while, do you want her number?" I asked.

"Oh, nah that's okay, I already have it. I'll give her a call. Ta," the man said, then hung up.

I blinked for a moment, and then grinned wryly. Sounded like Mum had a boyfriend she wasn't telling me about.

Slamming the phone down, I raced out the door, not particularly wanting to be late to school and have to face Mr. Gregory again.


"I should've just stayed in bed," I said crankily to Tom as we walked down my street that afternoon.

The day had been particularly annoying; I had almost definitely failed the maths test that I'd completely forgotten about, had gotten in trouble for being late, and had forgotten that the day was P.E uniform.

AKA, I had to sit out of my favourite subject and do theory work.

Like, what the hell?

"It's over now, mate," Tom grinned, as he turned the corner. "Text me if you want to go out skating, kay?"

"Alright," I replied to his retreating figure, and I continued down the street passively.

Sighing tiredly, I pushed open the door, and entered the house, throwing my bag on the floor, and stepped over it.

Loosening my tie, I walked into the kitchen, and found myself face to face with my Dad.

I froze, paralyzed with shock, unable to make a sound, trying to make sense of the picture in front of my eyes.

He had a lot less of his thick brown hair, and had put on a little weight, but he was still definitely recognizable as my… dead father.

"Justin," he said in greeting, smirking.

Suddenly, it all hit me at once, and I backed up against the wall, screaming senselessly, dropping to the ground, trying and failing to grasp onto something to support me.

"Shut the fuck up," he said calmly, grabbing a hand-gun off the counter next to him, pointing it at me.

"You're dead," I said weakly, in a state of utter bewilderment.

He stared back at me with the brown eyes I'd inherited from him. "Quite obviously, I'm not dead," he said calmly, looking rather amused. "Your mother simply told you I was dead."

"I went to your funeral," I choked.

He shook his head impatiently. "You went to a small mourning gathering full of our friends, who your mother told I was dead. She told them I had requested no funeral before my death, so they simply constructed a memorial. Creative, hey?"

"I… I don't…"

"God, you're as mentally disabled as ever," Dad snapped, frowning. "Your mother kicked me out five years ago. You know she never liked talking about home life, and she wasn't sure you could handle divorce. She didn't want you to choose to live with me either. So, she made up a lie she thought suited everyone, and I went to live in England for awhile."

"That was you this morning…" I said, paling.

"Apparently, your mother didn't raise you very well. Never give out personal information such as being home alone over the phone, idiot."

"You've been calling… and you came… that night…" I babbled, as everything began to fall into place.

"No shit, Sherlock. I'm very surprised your mother never warned you… but, then, she always has been the sort of person to just hope things go away."

"I don't know what to do," she gasped through her tears when she saw me. "After everything I saw you go through, and I still can't do anything. I need to report it."

"Mum, it's not the same as what I went through. The police can't do anything about that, it's their own business if they fight, and as long as they don't hurt the kids, it's not such a big problem," I said quietly.

Mum looked completely lost for a few moments, then understanding dawned on her face. "Right…" she agreed in a small voice.

"Anyway, now you're here," he continued passively, walking over to the phone I'd talked to him on only hours before, picking it up, and dialing, with the gun still pointed at me.

He held it to his ear for about ten seconds, and then smiled. "I've got him. Call the police, and there will be trouble. We're going to England. I expect you home within three hours. Find a way."

He then hung up on my mother, and turned towards me, smiling the smile that still haunted my dreams.

"Come upstairs," he ordered, nodding towards the staircase.

I didn't need to be asked twice, I only stumbled to my feet, shaking uncontrollably as I walked ahead of him and up the staircase.

"In the spare room," he ordered, steering me into the room with a clear view of the street.

"Your Mum would never call the cops, but I just like to play it safe," he informed me, locking the door behind him, and then heading over to the window, gazing out at the scenery.

Hardly daring to move, I stared at him for a few moments, barely able to process all this new information.

My mind was screaming at me to run, to escape, to get help, but there was no way I could do that. I sank to the ground again, trying not to make too much noise. If I tried to open the door, he would either catch me or shoot me immediately.

Suddenly, an idea occurred to me. I moved my hand hopefully to the outside of my pocket, and felt the form of my mobile sticking out.

Keeping my eyes on him, I moved my fingers very subtly and slowly, concentrating enormously. I pressed the middle button, which I knew brought up the menu.

"Do you have many friends at school, Justin?" he asked, not looking away from the window.

"Yeah…" I replied nervously. My fingers shook as I then pressed the left button, and the up button. The cursor would now be over phone book. I pressed the middle button.

Select.

"Do they all think I'm dead?" he asked.

"Yeah."

"Into monosybillic expressions now, are we?" he growled.

"Yes, they all think you're dead," I said quickly, trying to keep my concentration on what I was doing with my phone. One wrong or uncertain move, and I wouldn't be able to correct it.

The cursor would be highlighted on 'Add new entry' now. If I pressed down once, it would bring up my contacts list.

I did so.

I pressed down once again, knowing 'AA Mandy' would now be highlighted. Breathing shakily, praying to God I did this right, that she picked up, that I had credit, I pressed the call button.


Mandy


"Hello?" I asked, picking up the phone eagerly, expecting to hear Justin's voice.

"Good, they shouldn't have many leads, then," a far away sounding voice said, sounding pleased.

"Justin?" I asked, uncertainly.

"What if Mum does call the police?" Justin spoke up, confusing me even more.

"I told you, she won't. If she does, we'll deal with that when the time comes."

"What are you going to do to us?" Justin asked in a small voice, and I realized he sounded absolutely terrified.

"We're going to England. I've booked flights for tonight for every half an hour, we'll catch the first one we can. It all depends when your Mum comes home."

"But… why?"

"I have some friends in England. They're very excited to meet you and your mother. Especially you, Justin. Some of them are partial to boys, especially young ones. I expect they'll want a little from your mother, and then they'll kill her. But you don't have to worry, Justin. I don't think they'd want to get rid of you for quite some time."

What the hell was I hearing? I sat down on my bed slowly, listening intently.

"I've missed seeing you, Justin. Did you never miss me?"

The man's voice was taunting, sick sounding. I knew for a fact I hated it.

"Can't say I missed the broken ribs and third degree burns, nah," Justin replied in a shaky voice.

"Oh, for Gods sake, you've always been so weak! I had to discipline you; you were always a difficult child."

"You were drunk, and I buttoned my shirt wrong, so you held my arm over a hot plate!" Justin cried loudly, and I started. I knew that story… but the context in which he was using it didn't make sense.

A gunshot rang out, and I heard it both in real life and through the phone, startling me so much I had to place a hand over my mouth to block my cry of surprise.

I paused in horror, praying to hear Justin's voice.

"Don't talk to me like that you fucking little cunt," the man roared.

"I'm sorry," Justin whispered. I heard no cries of pain from him, only shallow, terrified breathing.

Having heard enough, I hung up the phone in a panic. With shaking fingers, I dialed the emergency number, without bothering to get the home phone to preserve my credit.

As soon as I was put onto a person, I quickly began to babble.

"My next door neighbour, Justin, he rang me, and all I could hear was this man screaming at him, and then there was a gun shot, he says he's going to take him and his mother to England, and he said stuff about sex trafficking-" I sobbed hysterically.

"Hey, hey, honey, breathe slowly, don't panic," the woman said calmly. How could she be calm? "I need you to give me your full name, and your neighbour's address. Can you do that?"

"My name's Mandy Breiz, Justin lives at nine Hatter Street, it's a two storey house, near the woods…"

"Okay, honey, we're going to send some people down there right away. Now, are you at home?"

"Yeah, eight Hatter Street. I heard the gun shot over the phone and away from it too."

"Have there been any other gun shots since the first one?"

"I haven't heard any."

"Okay, you just need to stay inside your house, make sure all doors and windows are shut, and do not leave under any circumstances. The police will arrive at your neighbours house within ten minutes."

"Thankyou," I replied gratefully, hanging up. I was alone in the house that day; the twins were at daycare, and my parents were still at work. Trying to keep a clear head, I ran around the house, securing myself inside, and then waiting at the window.


Justin


"I don't believe it…" Dad said slowly, backing away from the window, and my heart surged with hope.

"Stand up!" he snapped, grabbing my upper arm and violently yanking me up to a standing position, and dragging me forcefully to the window.

He pushed me in front of him, and pressed the end of the gun to the side of my head. I froze and stopped breathing, even stopped blinking.

"Here's the deal. If we can get out of here without your Mum, we will. If we can't, you're living your last hour, so make the most of it," he hissed at me.

I suddenly felt my head spinning, and I fought to stay conscious. In the back of my head I was aware of the police yelling instructions at my Dad, which he refused. He was threatening my life, I was aware of that much, but I had absolutely no idea how he expected to be let out of here.

It just wasn't a reality. I knew the only thing stopping the police from shooting was the cold, hard end of the gun pressed against my right temple.

On the road behind the police, a car drove down the street, and then pulled next door into Mandy's driveway. Her mother stepped out of the car, staring curiously at my front yard, which was swarming with ever arriving police cars.

"… Release the boy now safely, and the court will take your action into considering when sentencing…"

Didn't they realise Dad didn't give a crap about his sentence? He was completely unafraid, and completely insane. He always had been. I knew at that moment that my chances of survival were almost non-existent.

The question wasn't whether Dad would pull the trigger, the question was only when.

Looking down at the people on my front lawn, I saw Mandy had joined her mother, and both were staring up at the window. Mandy's mother had her arms wrapped around her daughter as they observed.

Mandy caught my eye, and I realised she was crying. At that moment I wanted absolutely nothing more than to be down there with her, safe and content. I wondered if I had told her I loved her today. I couldn't remember.

Did she know it? Or did she simply think he meant that I liked her a lot when I said it. Because that wasn't true… I was in love with her. There was no other way of putting it.

I thought about waking up that morning, getting out of bed, completely unaware it would be the last time I ever did so.

Had I ever truly appreciated being alive?

I thought back to during that day, complaining about missing P.E, complaining about the maths test. It was all so ridiculously trivial.

Each second that went by brought me closer to my own death. Each heartbeat could be my last. My breath rang in my head, and for the first time in my entire life, I truly appreciated how precious each one was, that each breath attached me to life for a second longer.

I was suddenly aware of tears slowly sliding down my cheeks. Everything seemed so distant.

Suddenly, my Dad moved, and I caught my breath. He reached around in front of me and quickly pulled the window up, stuck the gun through the window, and began shooting.

I saw Mandy's mother pull her aside, running backwards, completely out of the line of fire.

Suddenly, my instincts took over. I ducked under his arm and spun around, kicking him as hard as I could in the back.

Dad surged forward, smacking his head on the window, and I watched as the gun fell out of his hands and towards the ground.

Roaring with rage, he turned around and sprang at me, throwing a punch into my face, slamming me on the ground.

My entire awareness became nothing but blinding pain as he clawed and hit at me. Dad had always been a ridiculously strong man; he'd done weights for as long as I could remember.

Right when I felt sure I was going to pass out, his hands closed around my neck, tightly blocking off my airway.

I closed my eyes and gasped, my mind nothing but a buzz of panic. Somewhere, worlds away, I could hear crashes, and I dimly realised the police had gotten inside the house, before everything went black.


Mandy


I wildly fought against Mum's attempts to drag me inside the house as the police burst through Justin's front door. Tearing myself away from her, I ran forward, desperately wanting to get to Justin.

A policewoman stepped forward and stood in front of me, blocking my path.

"This is as close as you're getting, love," she told me firmly, with very little patience in her voice.

It was several, agonisingly long minutes before the front door opened again. A handcuffed man was being led out with a gun to his head, shooting death glares at the police.

Following them, a rather tall policeman came out, carrying Justin in his arms. I let out a cry and rushed forward, to where the man laid my boyfriend's body on the ground.

"Is he okay?" I demanded through my tears, dropping to my knees. Blood was pouring out of his nose, and a ring of bruised skin was darkening around his neck.

"An ambulance is arriving soon," the man replied, stepping back.

"But is he going to be okay?" I cried, brushing his hair out of his closed eyes.

"He's still breathing," the man said slowly.

"You're not answering my question!" I screeched in frustration.

"Because I can't," he replied apologetically. "It could go either way."

I stared at him in shock. He has very short hair, a square face and nice eyes. He looked regretful, but apart from that I couldn't detect any hidden truths in his expression.

I was pulled away from Justin as an ambulance drove up, sirens blaring, and I watched through a fog as Justin was lifted onto a stretcher, and carried away. My mother placed her arms around me and squeezed tightly as I stared, unblinking, after the ambulance.

"So, what happened to Dad after that?" fifteen year old Jackie asked me, lost in the story. Thirteen year old Dale, who had at first reported disinterest in the story, was just as entranced as his sister, leaned forward eagerly.

"Well, obviously, he lived," I said, smiling a little at the look of relief on his face, wondering how on Earth he could even consider otherwise.

"It took him about four hours to wake up, and I'm serious here, they were the scariest hours of my life. All of us, me, Aimee, his mother, Tom, Kevin and Ben, sat beside his hospital bed, just waiting there, talking about him. And, out of everyone, I was the first one he reacted to when he woke up," I reported proudly, smiling at the memory of him reaching out to grab my hand, smiling weakly.

"So, why didn't Nanna tell him before things got that bad?" Jackie demanded, her blue eyes, inherited from me, narrowing.

"Nanna Parker was just scared; she had spent her whole life being threatened by that man, and she just couldn't help hoping it would just go away."

"That's so retarded!" Dale burst out angrily. Dale was the spitting image of Justin. Jackie had inherited Justin's brown hair as well; sadly, neither of our children inherited my red hair. Justin constantly expressed regret at that.

"Well, she did get in a lot of trouble with the Police for not reporting things, and for allowing the child abuse to go on for so long, but everything turned out alright in the end. Grandma and Grandpa split up right after that, right after Auntie Annie and Uncle David's first birthday. It was a very hard time for me, but your Dad was there for me through the whole experience."

"And what about Auntie Aimee?"

"You know she got an abortion. I wouldn't talk to her about it, though, she still gets a bit emotional about it sometimes."

"But she has Caity now," Jackie pointed out, referring to Aimee's nine year old daughter.

"Yes, but still…. Don't get me wrong, she loves Caity more than anything," I smiled.

"Did the asshole really stop talking to her?" Jackie asked, referring to Kyle, I assumed.

"Yes, right when she needed him the most. We never really heard from Kyle after that; he just sort of faded out of our lives. I think he moved to Sydney, the last I heard."

"I would never do that to Emily," Dale said gravely.

"I should hope I don't hear about you even going that far with Emily," I said sharply, and he made a face that quite clearly said to me that he had no intention of sleeping with his girlfriend.

"How come we've never met Tom?" Jackie asked curiously.

"You have met him, you probably just don't remember. We don't really keep in contact with him anymore. Did you know that he was the second man in Australia to legally marry another man?"

"I still don't get why that used to be illegal. It doesn't make any sense," she replied, looking confused.

"People's attitudes to homosexuality back then was quite different. It was actually usually accepted when two girls formed a relationship, but boys used to cop a lot if they tried to," I said, a feeling of nostalgia washing over me. "It wasn't actually long after your father proposed to me that gay marriage was made legal, in fact. A few months, perhaps."

"How did Dad propose to you?" Jackie asked quickly, romance suddenly overtaking her features.

I smiled happily, remembering the moment. "It was at my first ever movie premier, you know, 'Isolated'? When I went up to make a speech, he came up with me, and then kissed me in front of the entire audience. And then, with all the cameras on, and everyone watching, the microphone on, he got down on one knee. I still have the video's, it was broadcasted on about fifteen channels."

"That's so romantic," Jackie smiled. "Like when he kissed you in the play."

"Yeah," I replied, grinning. "A lot like that. Except it was on international television, and he was proposing, not just kissing me."

"Minor details," Dale grinned. At that moment, the front door clicked, and about a thirty seconds later, Justin entered our expansive lounge room.

I rose and walked towards him, pressing my lips to his in a welcome home kiss.

"Hey gorgeous, how was your day?" he asked pleasantly, brushing a lock of my still flaming hair behind my ear.

"I was just telling the kids some stories about our childhood," I smiled, and he cringed.

"Nothing too embarrassing, I promise," I laughed, and he looked relieved.

"I had the most annoying person running the recording studio today. He's supposed to be some sort of genius, but my God is he nosy," he sighed, sitting down on the couch.

"How so?" I inquired, joining him, as the kids left the room.

"He was a lot more interested in you than me. He continued begging me for 'Rhinea Breiz's' autograph, and even went as far as to hint that if he didn't get it by tomorrow, my newest track would make me sound like I had a speech impediment. He was sort of tattooed all over, so I told him you would…"

"I'm so privileged to be married to a man who can stand up to anyone; it makes me feel so delicate," I joked.

"Even you would be afraid of this guy, honey. I'm begging you, just write one out…"

"Fine…" I sighed, rising out of my seat and walking to one of the nearest coffee tables. From a draw near it, I pulled out one of my latest magazine cover pictures.

"Who do I make it out to?" I asked him, getting ready to write.

"Just start it as 'Dear Annihilator'."

"Justin, I'm being serious," I protested.

"So am I. That's his name. Do you want me to come home from work alive tomorrow?"

I laughed good-naturedly, and then realised he was being serious. Slightly disturbed, I wrote a quick message, ending it with 'xoxo'.

"You didn't have to be quite that friendly," Justin remarked, looking slightly possessive.

"Hey, that 'xoxo' could be the difference between a flop and a triple platinum song," I pointed out.

Justin put down the photograph, stood up, and wrapped me in a tight embrace. "What would I do without you?" he asked lovingly.

"Probably be some drunk homeless guy sitting on the curb begging for food," I said innocently, before kissing him deeply.

It started when I was eleven. And I had a feeling it would never end.


And that's it :)

The reason for my VERY delayed update is that it took until last night to get enough reviews to make me bother with it

I had this story finished a long time ago, but Unfortunately, I'm starting to severely resent this site. I'm in the middle of my longest story yet, and I'm actually very very happy with it, but at the moment I'm leaning towards never posting it on the internet. It's too much of a risk putting it out there, just so I can get a tiny handful of people to give me feedback, so Unless I get something to really change my mind, this will probably be the last story I publish on here.

x.forever.unbroken.x