AN:

This will be the last update for this story unless I ever decide to come back to it. I'm sorry to do this, because I really didn't want to, but I've lost my motivation to write this story. I'm not happy to put this one on 'hiatus;' it's just that whenever it comes to this story, I really have no idea what to do, and I don't like that lack of inspiration weighing me down.

I just wanted to post whatever I did manage to write before I decided I was done, so here you go :)

Thanks for reading and hopefully enjoying this story. I'm not done with FictionPress (I have another story up that I haven't given up on quite yet), so if you liked any of my stories then keep a lookout for new stuff.

For the last time,

xSx


Chapter Seven

During the Storm

The storm finally let up a little, which was both a relief and a curse. Who wanted to stay in the basement any longer? But on the other hand, what if Cassie's college ex-boyfriend came around?

It was just a few seconds after watching the report on the news that claimed the warnings were being dropped in about an hour that Cassie clutched at my arm.

"What if he—" she started, but Meredith talked over her.

"Thank God, so you guys can finally leave." She was looking right at Cassie, starting some sort of glare-off that made Evan and I glance at each other awkwardly.

"Look, just because I said you wouldn't ever have a chance with Mitchell Jacobson—which is the truth, by the way—doesn't mean you have to get all upset with me," Cassie said reasonably.

Meredith stood up, flicking the TV off and making the room dark. "I don't, and never will, give a shit about Mitchell Jacobson."

I knew I wasn't the only one staring after her as she left the room. What had she just said?

"Oh, my God," Cassie finally said, breaking the stunned silence. "Oh, my God."

I thought she might say something about how big of a drama queen she thought Meredith was being, or maybe comment on what a liar she was, but instead she surprised me even more.

"I can't believe I didn't see this!" Cassie got up, too, and ran after Meredith like the best friend she was just a few days ago.

"What just happened?" Evan asked a moment later, when Meredith's door slammed and the sound of Cassie's knocking could be heard clearly.

I shook my head. "I have no idea," I replied, stunned. I stood up then, looking over my shoulder at the stairs again. "I think I should go home. Um…bye, Evan."

"Are you kidding? It's still raining out there. And I don't want to have to deal with those two alone." He waved a hand in the general direction of his sister's bedroom.

I frowned. He was right; the storm was still pretty unpredictable. But there was no way I was sitting in Meredith's living room with her brother in an awkward silence for who knew how long.

"Then I guess I'll go see what's going on," I improvised, starting toward the staircase.

To my surprise, Evan stopped me. "Wait," was all he said, but I froze at the strange tone.

I turned back around slowly. "Yeah?"

He looked hesitant for a moment before speaking again. "I'm…sorry. About—well, all the…you know," he finished weakly.

"All the unnecessary hatred?" I asked, then clamped my mouth shut in horror. I had no idea where that came from, but it was sure to start some sort of fight.

But Evan just laughed uneasily. "Yes."

"Me, too," I said, shocking myself. "Well, for giving you all that crap about smoking." His expression tightened, but I went on. "I shouldn't have been all up in your business. It's just, my grandmother died of lung cancer, which wouldn't have happened if she never smoked." I was close to rambling.

"Why did she start smoking?" he asked quietly.

I blinked. I didn't think he would want to know more about that. "I think…well, she said it was because her husband died. That was probably pretty hard on her." I trailed off as Evan closed his eyes. What had just happened? The air in the room was suddenly tense, and I wondered if I had said too much. When he looked at me again, the look in his eyes was so intense that I had to glance away.

Way to go, Claire, I thought bitterly as I walked up the stairs.


"Mer," Cassie was saying, "why didn't you just tell me?"

I moved my ear against the door, my parents' voices running through my head: reminders like 'Don't eavesdrop!' and 'It's wrong to listen in on other people's conversations' came to mind.

I pressed closer, if that were possible, and heard silence.

Finally, Meredith spoke. "I didn't think it would be like this," she admitted. I was about to just give in and knock when my eyes landed on something I hadn't taken much interest in before.

There was a small table leaned against the wall with a bouquet of artificial flowers lying on top. Next to the plastic assortment of flowers was what looked to be a picture frame turned to face the wall. I stepped closer, picking up a photograph of…myself?

Before I could wonder what the hell a picture of me was doing in the Brooks' house without my knowledge, I took a closer look. No, the girl in the photo wasn't me, but she sure looked a whole lot like me. Same dark brown hair, but longer than mine; same light brown eyes. The girl in the photo was sitting on a tire swing, smiling for the camera. She looked a little sad, though, but I couldn't figure out why I thought so. Maybe it was the faded edges on the picture itself. Maybe her smile was forced. Maybe it was the way her eyebrows drew together softly, making her whole expression a contradiction.

The doorknob turned, and I all but threw the picture back onto the table while spinning around and trying for an innocent look.

"Claire?" Cassie said, frowning. "What are you doing?"

"I was just about to come in," I lied. I glanced at Meredith; she was avoiding my gaze. "Is everything okay now?"

"Yeah," Meredith replied, still looking down. "Everything's okay."

And just as she said it, we all heard a huge crash coming from downstairs.

POV – Mitchell

"This stupid storm is never going to let up," Daniel complained, stretching across his sofa. "Xbox, anyone?"

"If the power went out," Joseph Hammer, goalkeeper for the school's varsity soccer team, said pointedly, "it could ruin your system."

We were all at Daniel's house, originally planning on partying it up outside, since it was Friday and all. But then the weather started to suck, and that ruined our chances of having fun, or so it seemed. The 'party' had turned into a bunch of teenagers lounging around, trying to think of something interesting to do.

"And my life," Daniel replied with mock fear. "So no Xbox. Hey, Lindsay, got anything in mind?"

I looked over at Lindsay, who was chatting among her clone friends. I could never understand why they felt obligated to dress, speak, and act like her. It was almost hard to tell them apart.

Lindsay glanced up. "Spin the bottle," she said immediately, then went right back to talking to the other girls.

Daniel laughed, looking at me now. "Now there's an idea."

I rolled my eyes. Daniel had, of course, been informed of what that bastard Tyler had pulled yesterday. Kissing Claire—that was like inching past the starting line in a race before it was actually time to start.

Not that this whole bet thing was a game to me. It wasn't. I was just defending the poor girl's honor…or trying to.

"Are we in middle school?" I said sarcastically. "I haven't played spin the bottle since I was thirteen."

"Then what do you want to do?" Lindsay asked, sounding irritable. I probably deserved it after having ignored her for about a week straight. I'd make it up to her, I kept telling myself. I would.

The real answer to her question was simple: I wanted to go back over to Tyler fucking Atworth's house and beat him to a pulp without a single moment of hesitation. I wanted to get in his face and make it clear that I did not want to have anything to do with this anymore. Or maybe I just wanted to be single so I could get the stupid bet over with.

The last thought shocked me. I looked around at the bored, expecting glances I was getting, and almost sighed in relief. Good, I hadn't said that out loud.

"I don't know," I said lamely.

She sighed. "Right."

Lightning cracked outside, illuminating the house. A couple of people groaned.

"Hey, check it out," some kid said, and everyone turned to look at him. "Now there's something to do."

I followed his amused gaze to the window, where everybody was now staring. Leaning forward to get a better look, my mouth dropped open.

The thirty-some kids from City High that were hanging around Daniel's place were now being entertained by who I recognized to be Claire's father in an upstairs window making out with some woman I had never seen before today.

POV – Claire

"Shit," Meredith said right away. "I think it's a robber—"

"A robber, my ass," Cassie interrupted, her eyes widening. "It's him."

I swallowed. Her ex-boyfriend. "Come on, Cassie, it can't be. How would he know we're here?"

"We need to get Evan and get out of here," she responded frantically.

I ran down the stairs immediately, about to call for Evan when I saw him by the front door with some guy I didn't recognize. There was a gun on the floor, and Evan had the guy pressed against a wall, holding him there by the collar.

"Get out," he managed to yell over his shoulder, just as the guy—Josh, I guessed—grabbed his wrists.

"Get the fuck off me," Josh let out, strangled.

I turned and pulled Meredith and Cassie, who had followed me down, towards the door.

"We can't leave him," Meredith cried. "Cassie, can't you talk to your boyfriend about this?"

Cassie ignored her, a stricken expression on her face. "We have to go," she kept saying. "We have to go."

I heard the sound of flesh against flesh, and instinctively pushed Cassie out the back door. If her ex-boyfriend got past Evan, he'd head straight for her.

The last thing we heard before pulling the door shut was a shouted, "Cassidy!"

I stepped backward, trembling. "Cassie, what exactly is wrong with your ex?"

"He's insane," Meredith answered for her, looking right at me for the first time. Then Cassie grabbed my arm and pulled us both away from the house.

"Your brother will be fine," she said not so assuredly to Meredith, who didn't look in the least convinced. We continued down the sidewalk through the pouring rain.

"Where are we going?" I shouted over the continuous thunder.

Cassie walked faster. I could feel her getting more and more afraid with each passing moment that Josh could be headed straight towards us.

"Your house," she suggested. I couldn't find it in me to argue with that; my house was the closest sanctuary where this crazy ex-boyfriend wouldn't think to look, after all.

Well, that was if he got past Evan. What would happen if he did?

What about if he didn't?


A few minutes later, we arrived at my own driveway. I went to check if the garage door would open, and when it did, I was surprised to see only my dad's new BMW sitting in its parking spot. Where was Felicia?

"We should tell your dad about—" Meredith stopped, noticing that I wasn't following them inside. "Hey, are you coming?"

I shook the thought of Felicia stranded somewhere out of my head and hurried after them.

"Do you think your brother would call or something?" I asked Meredith as we entered my house.

She looked away. "I don't know," she said, "but I hope things are fine."

"Fine?" Cassie repeated, turning on her. "How could everything be fine after all of this? I can't believe I ever trusted them."

"Trusted them?" Pushing a few doors open to look for my father, I glanced back at her. "Who's 'them'?"

She froze in place, not meeting my eyes as she answered. "Him, Claire. I said I can't believe I trusted him."

"Josh," Meredith put in, looking a lot more convinced than I felt. Before I could say any more, Cassie started up the stairs.

"Wait," I called out, though I wasn't sure why the hesitation. "Maybe we shouldn't go upstairs…"

Meredith pushed me forward. "We have to. Even if your father is asleep or whatever, we need to tell him, so he can help us."

I tried to push away the weird feeling in my stomach and nodded. "You're right."

When we got to the landing, I turned to look in the most obvious place—my dad's bedroom. After knocking for a few seconds with no response, I pushed the door open a crack.

"Da—?" I began, but cut myself off immediately.

Under the covers on my father's bed were two people: Dad and, yes, Hannah.

"Is he in there?" I heard Cassie ask from the other side of the hall, where she and Meredith were searching other rooms. I couldn't answer; I just slammed the bedroom door shut on my dad's and his slut of a girlfriend's guilty expressions, and turned to lean against it.

"Claire?"

"No," I lied to them. "Um, he's probably out finding my sister. She's not home, either, so—"

"Then we should just wait," Cassie suggested. "For him to come back home."

I didn't know what to say to that. How much time did we have before my father emerged from the room to 'explain'? How much longer before both Meredith and Cassie would find out that my dad was with some woman he'd just met two weeks ago?

Meredith, to my relief, started walking back down the stairs. Hey, the further away from that disgusting scene we could get, the better. "Maybe we should call Evan," she thought out loud, taking the conversation off of my dad and his whereabouts.

"Let's just forget this ever happened." Meredith and I stared at Cassie disbelievingly. She had just said things wouldn't be normal after all of this had happened, and now she wanted to forget?

"Cass," Meredith started, but I heard footsteps upstairs and pushed them along.

"We should go to your house, Cassie," I blurted without thinking. Anywhere but here. Anywhere but here.

"Are you insane?" She looked at me like I'd lost my mind, which I was probably pretty close to doing, anyway.

I finally succeeded in pushing them back out into the garage, both of them giving me strange glances the whole way.

"What are you doing?" Meredith finally asked.

"I'm getting us out of the house."

"But why?" She stood her ground just before I could step outside, pulling me back. I frowned, hoping my dad would stay put. I was too embarrassed to even face him—how could I possibly let my friends know what I'd just seen?

I didn't get a chance to come up with anything to answer her question with, because just as I opened my mouth, two police cruisers pulled up. I held my breath as an officer walked over to the three of us. I felt Cassie's hand grab my elbow and heard Meredith's quiet gasp as he spoke.

"I'm going to need to take you girls back to the station for some questions regarding the incident that happened tonight."


Thank you for reading!