Chapter One

A New Friend

It was a hot summer day in the small town of Oak Hollow, North Carolina as seventeen year old Anna Myers sat on her front porch of her family's modest two story home, reading a book. She could feel how humid the day was as she sat there and was getting ready to go inside when she saw a car pull into the driveway of the house next door.

The house had been empty for months but she had heard from her mother and father that a new family was moving in any day now. The father was going to be a doctor at Forsyth Medical Center in nearby Winston Salem and that they had a sixteen year old son. Anna didn't hold out any hope of getting to know him or him even wanting to know her because she wasn't very attractive.

She wasn't quite five foot tall, with long, unruly dark hair that always looked like it had never been combed, brown eyes, fair skin, a nose and chin that dominated the rest of her face. She was also about eighty pounds overweight and that made her feel even more awkward and ugly. The kids that she had grown up and went to school with had always teased and tormented her so she wasn't expecting anything different from her new neighbor.

Anna was pulled out of her thoughts when she saw another car pull in behind the other one. She was getting up to go into the house when the best looking boy she had seen in her entire life get out of the car. He had curly, light brown hair, that barely touched his collar, striking blue eyes that pulled a person in the first time you saw them, a lean and athletic frame and was not quite six foot tall. He made Trevor Reilly, the best looking guy at her school look unattractive in comparison.

'Melanie Taylor will lose her mind and dump Trevor in a heartbeat when she sees the new guy.' Anna thought to herself before she turned back to go into the house. As she did, the guy next door noticed her and he waved and smiled before following his parents into the house.

Anna had to fight not giggle and felt a thrill go through her that such a nice looking guy had noticed her. She walked inside and closed the door behind her before walking towards the kitchen where her mother, Janet was putting the finishing touches on the chocolate cake she had baked a few hours before.

She liked to watch her mother bake and wished deep in her heart that she had one tenth of her mom's beauty. Janet Meyers was a lovely woman, a little over five foot tall with long, thick dark hair, brown eyes, and petite and tiny frame. Her face was classically beautiful with features that resembled a cameo that Anna had got from her grandmother on her last birthday. Sometimes Anna wondered if she had been adopted because both of her parents were strikingly beautiful and she was so plain and ugly. It also didn't help that no matter how hard she tried, the extra weight she had on her body wouldn't come off.

"What's the special occasion, mom," Anna asked her mother, with a curious tone in her voice. "You never bake unless something big is happening."

"This is for the new neighbors and we are going to take it over to them as soon as I am finished."

"Okay. They just pulled into the driveway and went inside their house," Anna said, before she looked at her mother with a glance of trepidation and fear. "May I stay over here while you take the cake to them. I don't want to embarrass you because you know I will do something klutzy and stupid."

"Anna Jean Meyers, you are coming with me to take this cake over to our new neighbors. You can't hide in this house all the time, baby. I don't know where you got it in your head that you are ugly but you are not."

"Melanie Taylor laughs at me and tells me that no boy will ever go out with such an ugly dog like me."

"Melanie is a spoiled rotten brat that has always been given everything she wanted because her mother doesn't like to deal with her or the fact that her marriage isn't as stable as she likes to think it is," Janet said angrily. As she realized just what she had said to her daughter, Janet turned beat red and prayed that her big mouth hadn't started more problems between Anna and Melanie

"What are you talking about? I thought the Taylor's were happy together," Anna asked her mother, too curious to realize just what she was asking.

"That is none of your business, Anna. I should not have brought it up and it is to stay between me and you, young lady."

"Who am I going to tell, mom? I don't have any friends I could tell something like this to."

"I am sure that is not true, there are a lot of kids that would love to get to know you, if you would just give them a chance. Not everybody you go to school with is like Melanie and her friends. Now go upstairs, wash your hands and brush your hair before we go over to meet our new neighbors."

"Yes, ma'am," Anna said, before she turned, walked upstairs into the bathroom that was at the top of them on the right side.

Five minutes later, Anna and her mother walked up to the front door of the house next door and pushed the door bell. Anna had to fight not to give into the nerves she was feeling and run back over to their house. She didn't want to have to meet someone she knew was going to most and likely pick on her as much as other people did in this town. The door opened and the boy who had smiled at her earlier was standing there, giving them a friendly grin. Janet gave him one back before she started to speak.

"Hello, I'm Mrs. Meyers from next door and this is my daughter, Anna. We wanted to welcome you and your family to Oak Hollow and to bring you a cake."

"It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Meyers, Anna. Excuse me for just a second," The boy said, before he turned and walked into the back of the house. He came out a minute later with the older couple that Anna had seen with him earlier. The husband had a friendly smile and you could see just where his son got his looks from. The wife was a different story, she had an irritated look on her face at her family being disturbed by their new neighbors. She had shoulder length brown hair, cut in the latest fashion, was about five foot six, and an average frame. You could see though, that she paid attention to the latest styles. The jade blouse and cream colored skirt looked exactly like some of the fashions that Anna had seen in her mother's copy of Vogue magazine.

Her husband gave his wife a disapproving look before he stepped towards Janet and Anna. He reached his hand out to shake both of theirs in an effort to thank them.

Anna got the feeling as she watched the couple that their marriage wasn't very happy. These were two people that barely tolerated each other. She could sense the contempt that this woman had for her husband. The tension between them was so thick in the air, a person could almost choke to death. It was almost like the air had been sucked out of the room, the animosity was so strong between her new neighbor and his wife.

"Hello Mrs. Meyers, Anna, I'm Dr. Jonathan Michaels, this is my wife, Lucy and our son, Brian," he said, warmly to the both of them. "Thank you for bringing us a cake and welcoming us to the neighborhood."

Jonathan took the cake box from Janet before turning to his son and giving it to him. The look on the boy's face was the same welcoming smile that was on his father's. Anna could feel her heart pounding even harder at the sight of his friendly grin.

"Brian, take the cake into the kitchen."

"Yes sir." Brian winked at Anna before he went to do what his dad had asked him to do.

Anna watched him leave before turning back to listen to her mother and Dr. Michaels continued to talk in the doorway. When she saw the distasteful look Mrs. Michaels was giving her, Anna wanted to leave. Every instinct she had told her to stay as far away from this woman as she could. When she looked over at her mother, she noticed that her mom looked ready to punch Lucy in her face. It seems Dr. Michaels and Janet had noticed how Mrs. Michaels was watching Anna. The two of them didn't look very happy, especially her mother.

"Why don't you both come in for a few minutes," Jonathan asked, trying to set the two of them at ease despite the hateful attitude his wife was displaying at that moment.

"Thank you for the offer but my husband will be home in a hour or two and I need to start on dinner. Come on, Anna, you need to feed Chester before you wash up for dinner," Janet said, knowing if she didn't leave at that moment, she was going to go to jail. She wanted to rip Lucy's hair out but the roots but stopped herself from doing it. That wasn't the example Janet wanted to give to her daughter, to solve her problems with her fists.

"Yes ma'am," Anna said, before turning to face the man still standing in the doorway and Brian, who had just came back into the room. "It was very nice to meet all of you. I hope you like it here in Oak Hollow."

Anna turned and followed her mother back over to their house, not noticing the fact that Brian was watching her leave. While her mother walked into the house, she walked towards the back yard, wondering why it seemed like everybody she met couldn't stand to look at her.

Not long after they came back from next door, Anna was playing with Chester, their five year old golden retriever when she heard yelling coming from the Michaels house. From what was being said, Dr. Michaels wasn't happy with the way his wife had acted. Lucy was just as vocal about her displeasure at moving from Raleigh to Oak Hollow. She tried to tune them out and started to play with Chester again when she saw Brian walking her. He was watching her and Chester but you could also see that he had a lot on his mind.

Chester started to bark like crazy and proceeded to run over to jump on Brian. The dog was just about to where he was when Anna called out to him. She didn't want to see Brian knocked to the ground by her very rambunctious dog.

"Chester, sit!"

The dog whined but did what she said while Anna walked over to where he and Brian were at. She smiled shyly at him before taking the leash that was in her hands and placed it on Chester's collar. She watched as Brian leaned down and started to pet the dog, who ate up all the attention the young man was giving him.

"He's amazing. How long have you had him?" Brian asked, looking up at Anna. She had to fight not to give into the nerves she was feeling from being around him. Anna could tell that he need a distraction from the blistering argument his parents were having next door.

"My father got him for me on the day I turned 12, so we have had him for five years."

"He's great. My mom would never let me have a dog. She said they made too much of a mess in the house." From his tone of voice, it sounded like their was no love lost between him and his mother. If the way Lucy had acted toward her just now was any indication, Anna could understand why.

Anna decided to continue their conversation about Chester. She ignored every instinct she had to ask about his parents and the argument still going on next door.

"He made a bit of a mess when he was a puppy but after we house trained him, everything was okay. We bring him inside at night and leave him out here in the lot during the day and if we go somewhere. He's my best friend."

Anna watched him for a few minutes and could see that Brian was troubled. She didn't know him that well but her heart went out to him. It sounded like his home life wasn't that stable and it made her appreciate her parents. She could see every time her mom and dad were in the same room, that they loved each other.

"Are you okay?"

Brian looked up at here and smiled gently at her before he turned back to pet Chester again. Anna knelt down beside him and started to pet Chester too. She had a feeling Brian needed someone to talk to. Anna wanted to help him, even though they had only just met twenty minutes before. She didn't have to wait long before he started to speak.

"I hate when they argue like that. She didn't want to move here and is being very vocal about how unhappy she is to leave Raleigh. I don't know why it gets to me so bad. They have argued like this from as far back as I can remember."

"I'm sorry."

"No, I'm sorry. We have only just met and I am sitting here telling you my life story."

"That's okay, sometimes you have to talk to somebody about what you are feeling or you will go crazy. What grade are you going to be in when school starts?"

"I'm going to be a senior, thank God."

"I will be too. Why did you say 'thank God' like that?"

"I can go away to college and get away from my mother."

"I know what you mean although in my case it isn't my parents I want to get away from."

"You seem like a nice person, who would make you want to leave your hometown?"

"As you can see from my appearance, I get picked on a lot. There is one particular person who has made my life a living hell and I want to get away from her."

"This person must be someone who judges someone by what they look like on the outside and not who they are as a person. You are not ugly, Anna. It sounds like this person who treats you like this is someone I wouldn't want to be friends with."

"You sure are different then how I thought you would be." Anna said, genuinely surprised at how nice he was being to her. She flushed in embarrassment at how that must have sounded. "I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have said that to you."

"I understand what you meant, Anna, it's okay. I might be good looking but my dad has always taught me that it is what's on the inside that counts. A person could be the most beautiful person in the world and still have an ugly attitude."

"That's sounds like my mom would say. She has always told me to treat people how you want to be treated not how they treat you."

"Exactly. May I ask you for a favor, Anna?"


"If it is okay with your parents, do you mind showing me around town tomorrow? I want to know where I can go to get away from the house when Mom and Dad start fighting again."

"I'll go and ask my mom when I go inside for dinner and let you know tomorrow."

"Okay. I will walk over here in the morning."

Before Anna could respond, Mrs. Meyers stepped out onto the porch and stopped short when she saw Brian with her daughter. A questioning look came over her face before she finally said what was on her mind

"What's going on? Have you fed Chester yet or where you too busy talking to our new neighbor?"

"I'll feed him when I put him back in the lot here in a minute. I just thought Chester needed to run a bit before he went back into the lot."

"Okay. That still doesn't explain why you are talking to our new neighbor and not letting him run. You know your father will be home soon and supper is almost ready."

"Brian came over just to pet Chester and we got to talking, Mom. Is it okay if I show him around town tomorrow?" Anna asked her mother, with a pleading look on her face.

"Okay but I want you home by four so you can feed Chester and help with dinner."

"Thank you, mom."

"Thank you, Mrs. Meyers. I will have her back by then. I better get home before my parents start looking for me. I'll see you in the morning, Anna."

"Okay. I'll see you tomorrow, Brian."

Brian walked out of the yard and over to his house, going inside now that his parents argument seemed to be over with. Anna turned to her mother, who was watching her daughter with a worried look on her face.

"Anna, don't get too attached to him. He seems like a very nice boy and I'm not saying don't be friends with him but be careful around him. I don't want your heart broken again the way Trevor did to you last summer. Put Chester up and come inside to wash up for supper."

Janet walked back inside the house, unaware of the pain that she had unintentionally caused her daughter. Anna felt tears fill her eyes as she took Chester and walked him back towards the lot. The memories of last summer and the prank that Trevor and Melanie had pulled on her still hurt to even think about.


Anna was walking down the sidewalk in front of the grocery store, heading back home with a dozen eggs that her mother had asked her to go get. A car pulled up to her and it stunned her to see Trevor Reilly sitting in the drivers seat. For once Melanie and their usual crowd wasn't with him. He smiled at her and Anna's stomach started to do flips at how cute he was. He had blond hair, green eyes and features that made women old enough to be his mother or even his grandmother stop and stare. He had a muscular six foot tall frame that showed just how hard he worked on his body so he could be ready to play football in the fall.

"Hi, Anna. Do you need a ride home?"

"I'm fine. Where's Melanie and all of your friends," Anna asked, trying to be polite and not give into the suspicion she was feeling in his presence.

"Melanie and I broke up on the last day of school."

"I'm sorry to hear that. So why aren't you with the rest of your friends?"

"It seems Melanie and our friends were a package deal. When we broke up, my friends deserted me for her."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Maybe the two of you will get back together soon and they will come back to you," Anna said, sweetly.

"Thank you. Are you sure you don't want a ride home? It is at least a half a mile to your house and it is hot as all get out. What do you say?"

"Okay. Thank you."

Anna got in and his car went down the road towards her house. By the time they got there, the two of them were talking and laughing as if they had been friends for years. She had thought to herself that maybe the next school year wouldn't be so bad with Trevor on her side. She would have somebody to protect her from Melanie and her cruels jokes and taunts. Anna would find out the hard way just how wrong she was to trust him.

After that, she and Trevor had spent the whole summer together, hanging out and had even went to the movies one night. She had thought they were becoming the best of friends. It had only been after going back to school that the real truth of why he had become friends with her had come out.

Anna had been walking down the hall towards her locker and saw Melanie and Trevor standing together at his locker, which wasn't far from hers. Pinned on her locker was a picture of Anna, wearing a bathing suit the day she and Trevor had went to Hanging Rock Lake to go swimming. No one else had been there but the two of them and they had not brought a camera. Tears filled her eyes when she saw what was scrawled across the picture.


Anna had ran down the hall and into the office, crying as if her heart was breaking. She refused to tell the principal who had done this to her but her mother and father knew. It had been everything she could do to keep her parents from making things worse and confronting Melanie and Trevor' s parents.

A car coming into the driveway had pulled Anna from the horrible memories of that day. She wiped the tears from her eyes before making sure Chester was in the lot and walking over to where her father, Allan was getting out of his car. He smiled lovingly at her when Allan saw her coming towards him.

"Hi, Daddy," Anna said, hugging her father, letting his comforting presence help her forget that horrible day.

Her father was about six foot tall with red hair, fair skin, brown eyes and a lean frame. He had an average face but none of his features resembled Anna's. Seeing her father really showed her even more that she didn't fit in with even her own family.

These feelings of being ugly and awkward had been apart of Anna's life ever since the first day she had started school and all of the other children ignored her. Melanie Taylor had started it and everybody else had followed suit rather quickly.

"How was your day, baby?"

Anna brought herself out of the thoughts of self pity she had been feeling to answer her father.

"It was okay. Played with Chester and read my book on the porch for awhile. Oh, the new family that is moving in next door arrived and I met their son, Brian. He's the same age as I am and seems to be a really nice person. I'm going to show him around town tomorrow."


"Don't worry, Daddy. Mom met him and said it was okay and warned me to be careful of him."

"I just don't want you to get hurt by anybody else the way that little punk Trevor did," Allan said, as they walked towards the house.

"I know, Daddy, but we started talking in the back yard just before you came home and I have a feeling he is different than Trevor was."

"I can't wait to meet him."

Father and daughter continued to talk, unaware of the car sitting a hundred feet away from the house. The person inside the vehicle watched the house for a few minutes. They then turned their car on and drove down the street, the driver clenching his hands on the steering wheel.