Chapter 1: The News

I wasn't normally a superstitious person. Really. The problem is that the day began when I tumbled out of bed because of a nightmare, the same nightmare that I had been having for a month. The chain of events that followed didn't help my suspicions either. A pigeon made its way into the kitchen through the window and landed into my cereal. The same cereal I was about to eat. On my way out of my apartment once I had successfully evacuated the pigeon through the window, I almost tripped over a brick lying innocently in the hallway. The icing to the cake was when a black cat, as cute as it was, ran in front of me. Almost a second afterwards, a person jostled past me and their bag, which must have been filled with rocks, crashed into my arm.

I wasn't superstitious. Those events just spelled out the horrible day I would have ahead of me.
My best friend, Vanessa, drove me to school and easily kept up the conversation while I sat there, commenting every now and then. I had never been a morning person but I was used to Vanessa's rants and unstoppable flow of gossip. Today she was chatting enthusiastically about some guy she had met at church. When we reached Pacific Fall High, she was still going on about the guy. I stood there with her, patiently listening to her proclaiming how absolutely adorable he was until I told her abruptly, "So go tell him your feelings."

I immediately regretted telling her that because it led her straight to ranting on about how crazy I was to even think about that idea and demanding to know why she would tell him if he would probably let her down. I really don't understand why we girls don't just go on out and say it. Not that I don't love Vanessa and her chatter but today, I felt like I couldn't handle anymore of her chatter when I was feeling so low already. I was so grateful for the bell that I zipped off to English Extension the instant I heard the loud trill right next to my ear, with only a hasty goodbye to Vanessa.

My thoughts wandered throughout the morning and I realised that I hadn't seen Tyler around school but when I emerged from second period, he was outside the classroom waiting for me. He greeted me with a kiss before whispering, "Hi, babe." His friends watched on, looking bored as if used to our moments in the corridors together.

"Hey, Ty. Where were you this morning?"

"Woke up late," he replied by way of excuse. I knew that he had probably been with his friends arriving purposefully late for school just to act like the rebel.

"Come on, I know you better than that. How many weeks detention did you get?" I teased.

Behind us someone coughed and another person called, "Can you two lovebirds get moving? Some of us want to get out of the classroom."

Tyler only responded by giving me another kiss before slipping his arm around my waist and pulling me along with him as his friends fell in step behind us. I was lucky to have him. Tyler Whithorn was, without a doubt, one of the hottest guys at Pacific Fall High School. He was tall and built with wild blonde hair occasionally falling in front of his baby blue eyes. This image of the 'hot' guy was only enhanced by his position as the star quarterback in the football team.

Tyler and I had been going out for almost four months and it made me smug to watch his admirers fall back in devastation but never giving up on the fact that he would break up with me. He was a fun guy to be around and his kisses were amazing too. Although I was starting to feel like I had to strive to meet his ideals and always had to work out what he needed, I didn't want to give up on him. He was one of the rocks, along with Vanessa, holding me together.

I was slightly confused when his best friend, Jack Miller, glared at us with a burning look. He looked pissed off at Tyler and wasn't trying to hide it. Tyler shot him a warning look before returning to dealing out compliments to the cooing girls surrounding him. "Lighten up, will you, Jack?" Tyler hissed out of the corner of his mouth. Jack didn't reply, and his annoyance appeared to double. I glanced at both of them, curious to know why they weren't talking. Jack and Tyler had been solid friends since Kindergarten. I didn't understand what had happened to made them annoyed at each other. But my thoughts were instantly broken when a girl with long, swinging raven hair stepped in front of Tyler.

"Hey, Ty. I was wondering if you were doing anything tonight." She was tracing the muscles of his arms and I suppressed the urge to slap her.

Tyler glanced at me and when he met my cold gaze, he gave a helpless shrug in my direction and murmured something to the girl. She didn't look very happy but she fell back a little. While Tyler was distracted with handling the girls, Jack caught my eye and gestured for me to follow him. I glanced at Tyler and saw he was completely distracted from me. Why did he have to keep doing this? I knew Tyler liked the spotlight but he still knew that I was right here! Muttering under my breath, I followed Jack into another corridor currently empty of students

"What's up between you and Tyler?" I asked, crossing my arms as I leaned against the wall.

"Alayna, I think there's something you should know," Jack said in a rush. "And I'm not saying it because I'm jealous or anything. I know Tyler's my best friend so I shouldn't say anything, and I thought you should know because you don't deserve not to know."

I frowned slightly, feeling tense as I heard his words. "What should I know?"

Jack stuck his hands in his pockets and met my gaze. "Tyler's cheating on you. He's slept with Karen twice."

I just stared blankly at him. "Who's Karen?"

Jack shifted uncomfortably. "That girl with the black hair who was flirting with Tyler just a few seconds ago. Or she still is."

I gaped at him, feeling the impact of his words hit me. "How do you know?"

"I found her with him in his room in the holidays…" Jack mumbled. "They had just, well, you know. When we were alone, I asked him how many times and he said twice only. He told me not to tell you, but if he broke up with you, he'd just go after Karen anyway. Nothing really hurts him in a break up. He'll just be pissed at me for telling you. But what are you going to do?"

I hadn't spoken for a long time because I was in a haze of anger and confusion. I was hurt so much. Tyler hadn't slept with anyone in four months because I had said it was too early. Four months were too long for his hormones. How the hell could he have done this? Because he's one of the biggest players around? my mind suggested.

I suddenly decided what to do. I didn't care if I made a scene. I stormed off, a black cloud forming over my head as I found him, surrounded by his friends and girls in the school oval. "You jerk!" I practically screeched, pointing my finger at him. He jumped back, staring at my finger as if it was a hot brand.

"What did I do?" he asked bewildered. He's innocent act was so stupid! Karen, the raven-haired girl, was still hanging onto his arm even though the others had scattered, waiting for a fight.

"You fucking asshole! No words can describe what a damn bastard you are, or what an idiot I am!"

"Jack," Tyler said, his accusing gaze turned on jack who was behind me.

"Don't try to shift the blame!" I screamed. "How dare you! And you just come to school acting all innocent?"

"Come on, Als, you know me. Jack's probably lying so he can have you instead. I haven't been in bed with anyone else."

"I didn't say you were," I retorted, suddenly eerily cool. "But now I know how easily you could accuse your best friend, I know you've been sleeping with Karen."

"I have not," he snapped back, his words falling on deaf ears.

"Tyly! How could you?" Karen screamed, pulling away. "Twice and you say it was nothing?"

Tyler's friends roared with laughter. I wasn't amused. "Consider yourself dumped, Tyler Whithorn," I snarled. I turned to storm away when he shouted back, "Alayna, baby, you'll be coming back to me before you know it."

"In your dreams, Whithorn," I called behind my shoulder, not believing the damn confidence of his ego. I pushed my way through the crowd who were watching our yelling competition with fascination.

Vanessa immediately joined me when I broke through the crowd, her face plastered into a scowl. "Ask me and I'll kick him in the nuts for you," she said, shooting back a glare of hatred at Tyler who was already being covered in girls soothing him.

"It's only going to make me feel better for a little while," I said, my voice came out quivering. "Vanessa, why would he…"

I began a sobbing wreck but Vanessa just led me to the shade of a tree and held me tightly as I cried into her shoulder. "Come on, Als, you know he's not worth it. The guy's a jerk, everyone knows it. Do you want to go to third period or are you not up for it?"

I shook my head, regretting my vicious scene back there. "No," I moaned, sinking onto the grass. "Everyone will stare. I can't stand it."

"Ok… So, we'll just get you the hell out of this school?"

I suddenly felt tired of all the popular jerks and I nodded my head, my heart aching too much to do anything else but whisper, "Ok. Get me out of here."


I was on the bus, my tears dried up because I was holding them back for the time I would arrive at my apartment and go to my room to scream. Somewhere in my turmoil of emotions, I felt slightly guilty. It was only four weeks into the year and already I was ditching school. But it wasn't like I did it often, or at least that's what I told myself as I took a seat at the back of the bus.

The ride was silent with only a few people whispering as if they were in a library. I focused my eyes onto the window and fiddled with my iPod, watching the bustle of the city disappear behind me. My stop arrived soon and I stepped out, hurrying back to my apartment to have half a day free of the torments of school. I dumped my bag on the table and looked around, everything painfully reminding me of him. I was always having nightmares about him. I hadn't seen him in more than a month and the pain didn't seem to be ending. This had definitely not been a good day.

I took a long, soothing shower and turned the music up loud. Vanessa was right. Tyler was definitely not worth it if he could act like that and not give a damn about my feelings. I breathed in and out slowly and distracted myself with the Internet.

Until there was a loud knocking of my door two hours later when I was halfway through a game of minesweeper and imagining the mines blowing up Tyler. I quickly jumped from my chair and peered through the peephole, seeing one man in a business suit and a woman. My mind immediately thought they were criminals or FBI agents and I shook those thoughts away, hesitatingly opening the door.

"Yes?" I inquired, looking at the two people at my apartment front door.

"We're here for Alayna Ashford," said the man, his voice strangely ominous. I squeaked as my thoughts immediately turned to criminals who were pretending to be business men. Or something like that.

"Umm… Well, I'm her," I mumbled, looking at them carefully in case they held any weapons. Well, I have a wild imagination.

"We represent the Children Support Foundation. Remember us?" How could I forget that fateful day when it all went bad. "We found your mother!" the woman said, smiling enthusiastically at me. Unfortunately, I didn't share her happiness. "Now, why did you say your mother was Marietta Kirkman when it was Melanie Ashford?"

Uh oh. I shifted uncomfortably on my feet. Part of the reason was because I didn't want them to find my mother. No, wait, that was the complete reason. "Marietta is her middle name," I muttered. And Kirkman was a made up last name, I added silently.

"May we come in? We need to discuss some details about your current living conditions."

I opened the door more and they filed through, spotted the couch and sat down next to each other. I quickly turned off the music and hovered around uncertainly. "Do you want anything to drink?" I asked.

"No, no, dear, we're fine," the woman said, smiling. "Please, sit, we have more to tell you."

A feeling of dread washed over me as I sat uncomfortably on the edge of the sofa. The man asked, "Is there anybody else living in this apartment apart from yourself?"

Why did that sound like what a criminal would ask? Only one person there, kill her and take everything? I've been watching way too many movies. The man was continuing. "I believe you said you were 18 when on your birth certificate it says you are 17. That means that you need an adult to be living with you." Jeez, it took the government a month to figure that out?

"I'm turning 18 next year," I said in my defence. "And I had an agreement with my aunt."

"And what was this agreement?"

"She comes once a week to check on me. It's fine because she lives on the other side of the city and we both want to stay where we are."

Both the children support workers looked shocked at the agreement. I scowled at their response. "That won't work at all," the woman exclaimed. "You should have been sent to live with your mother since your father … died in that car crash. Since we couldn't find her due to… someone telling us the wrong name and your mother not changing her last name and so on… Well, now that she is found you can return to her. She is, after all, your immediate family."

I was choking at the thought of living with my mum. But since these two people seemed to be finally enforcing the law on me, I saw it was useless to argue. They had it all planned out. No need for ropes to bind me and pull me towards my mum because they had the law on their side.

"What happens to the apartment?" I asked, feeling oddly empty.

"Well, since it is completely paid for, it remains with the Ashford family. But Steve Ashford did leave in his Will a sum of money and this apartment. So it's yours when you turn 18."

"Great," I said, feeling oddly unenthusiastic.

"So, you're to leave by the end of this week. One of the workers can help take you to your mother," she offered.

"No, I know where she lives," I mumbled.

"Alright then, we just need you to fill out these forms..."

They kept talking but I only listened with one ear because I was too busy thinking about being sent to the last place I wanted to be and these children support workers didn't give a damn.