* I've spent the last few days considering sending my book to a publisher to be honestly published. I've been turning around the idea in my head, seeing as the story is almost done. Of course, there's a few things I have to fix before I send it in, but do you guys really think that this is good enough to be published as a real book? I'd really appreciate your input. Thank you again for all the support for this book so far. There isn't much left, and I'll be moving on to other stories. Thanks again! ~T. Rose~ *

I laid in bed all day for the day after the raid. For me, the bed was my safe haven. I laid there so long that I felt my back begin to bruise from the constant matress pressing into my skin. So by the end of the day, I had moved myself to a chair on the opposite side of the room. From here I just stared at the wall. The wall was a pale white, plain yet pure.

Alex knocked on the door sometime in the evening. He had left me to myself for my own time for most of the day. "Jasmine, I have some tea for you. Please come out, Jasmine."

I stared at the door, senseless. My thought was that of deja vu. "Jas, I'm going to be here, okay? Just come out when you're ready."

Later that evening, perhaps three or four hours later, I felt the need to use the bathroom. I opened up the door and was startled to see Alex asleep in front of the door. It was the truth, apparently. He was going to wait for me to be ready to talk. However, if I talked now, my carefully constructed composure would crumble around me and I'd be left in shambles. Better to keep the house set up sturdy for now, and worry about the earthquake later.

I stepped around him and looked back. He was lying there, his face innocent. Sighing, I walked down the hall to the main room. Sitting at the table, I pressed my palms into my forehead, contemplating my next move. I couldn't stay here forever, regardless of what Alex had offered. I couldn't afford to let him know my secret, and around him it would be too hard to hide.

I knew that everything that had happened to me thus far had been my fault. But life had taken over too fast, not giving me enough time to move on and change. In some ways, there was little left to lose. I had already lost my daughter and my brain to the court and their mandated psychosis sessions. I had two people left to me in this world: Kat and Alex, and I never wanted to lose either of them.

That night I found myself in a state of insomnia, keeping me up for half the night. I didn't want to move from my spot at the table, even though my arms were getting sore from holding my head up for so long. But despite my insomnia and uncomfort, I found myself waking up from a three hour nap, my head still cradled in my hands.

It was around seven thirty and Alex was up making breakfast. "If you're hungry, there are some extra eggs," he offered gently, and I just nodded sleepily. "I have to go to school in half an hour. Are you going to be alright by yourself?" Again I nodded.

Half an hour passed quickly, and so Alex left for school quicker than I had anticipated. After he left, I put away the eggs in the fridge and cleaned up the pans he had in the sink. At least I could be useful while using his hospitality. Then it was back off to bed where I slept for another three hours.

Finally I felt ready to go out. I was going to go find Kat and see if she was alright. I knew she didn't live at the theatre with the rest of us, but perhaps one of the other people staying in the theatre had mentioned to police that she was the one settling them all in there.

I walked over to the store where she worked, and saw that she wasn't working that day. "She's at home, Jas," said Marie, the lady working behind the counter. Our friendship was not unknown at the store; we were always spending time together.

I stopped for a minute, realizing that I never had been to her home. "Where is it?" I asked, and I saw her purse her lips.

"I'm really not supposed to give out any addresses," she started, and then shrugged, "But I'm sure Kat won't mind. Here, let me write it down for you." She took out a piece of paper and scribbled the address down. Then she handed it to me.

I looked at the address on the paper. 1840 Parkland Drive. It was one of the fancier places in town, the richer section. Yet it was only a few miles from where I was. I decided to walk there, perhaps get a little exercise in.

I reached Parkland Drive in a little over forty five minutes. It was guarded by a security gate complete with cameras and buzzers. I walked up to the pedestrian entrance and rang the bell.

"Who is this?" a crackly voice came over the radio.

"This is Jasmine, coming to see Kat-herine Hope," I struggled with the long, formal, unfamiliar name on my tongue.

"Just one moment please." Finally, after about three or four minutes of waiting, the voice came back. "I'm sorry but Miss Hope is not expecting nor wanting any visitors today. She prefers to remain 'undisturbed'. Thank you for visiting Parkland Drive, and we hope you have a nice day."

"Wait a minute, I'm her friend, and I really need to check in on her. Are you sure there isn't anything I can do?" I asked, but the voice remained silent on the other end. After a few minutes of waiting, I walked away.

I felt something was wrong. In the pit of my stomach, I knew I had to check on Kat somehow. I looked over and saw a delivery truck making its way over to the gates, and I made my way over to it.

The delivery man was tired today, his shift having gone two hours over what he could possibly stand. So he wasn't paying much attention when a girl hopped into the back of his truck, which he had carelessly left unlocked earlier in the day. So, his eyes drooping, he started up the car and pulled into the buzzer. "Damn rich people," he muttered under his breath as he saw the fancy area of Parkland Drive, "This is when practicality goes out the window, when you have to be screened and checked before you're allowed in in a town with a less crime rate than any other town surrounding us."

After a short check, the man in the office ran a background check on the delivery guy to confirm his identity. After confirmation, the man ran a series of questions toward the driver before he hit the Open button. His job complete for the next hour or so, he turned back to the security cameras on the opposite wall.

I felt almost like a character in a movie, hiding in the back of a truck like a stowaway. I tucked my legs under my chin and held myself together, squeezing out the cold air that tickled my skin. I had, unfortunately, picked the wrong truck. It was the Schwanz frozen food truck, and the back of the truck was ice cold.

I watched the frost float off the packages, my own breath mingling in with the chilled air. I clenched my hands together as I felt the truck roll over a bump. I felt myself rise over the floor and then fall back down, landing on the hard, cold floor. I bit my lip as the jolt verberated through my spine.

Finally the truck came to a stop, and then I crawled into the back of a few packages of a frozen chicken and mashed potatoes dinner. I crouched there as the large door was opened and a stream of light filtered in. Then a shadow crossed in front, and I heard several boxes being moved, along with various mutterings. The shadow dropped a box and I heard him curse.

Finally, he was gone, shutting the door behind him. I crawled out from my hiding place and opened the door carefully to peer out. I watched the man haul the boxes to the front door and pull out a clipboard with a pen. I opened the door as quietly as I was able, and then I slipped out, shutting the door gently behind me.

Once I was out of the truck and a little ways away, I stood up straight and tried to pretend that I wasn't out of place. Of course, it was hard to do in old, dirtier clothes. I almost felt as if my filth would somehow leak into the clean perfection of the homes around me. There was white house after white house, all at least three stories tall, each with their own white picket fence. The grass was all green and neatly cut, the yards clean of junk or even toys. Even a pair of preteen boys walking by me were wearing trousers with white button up shirts tucked in.

Faintly I wondered how different it would be to live like this. To live in a world where dirt seems a foreign object, where the sole meaning in life is to clean and be clean. To have to check in with the man at the gate when you wanted a friend over, to have so high of expectations that it seems almost impossible to satisfy. Then I thought of Kat, how strange she must feel, an alien in her own home.

I counted the numbers on the doors as I walked up the street. They were increasing in number. 1836, 1838, 1840. I stopped, almost as if I were unsure of what to do now that I was actually here. Finally I gathered my courage and walked to the door, knocking on it with three sharp taps.

I heard movement on the other side of the door and I stepped back expectantly. A woman opened the door, dressed in a black knee-length dress, her head inclined regally, her body long and lean. She sported an athletic tan, and a lack of wrinkles. She was dolled up, her makeup daring yet professional. Her hair was chopped to her ears, and it was straight and business-like. I looked down at her shoes, thick, black heels. "May I help you?" rolled off her tongue in a thick French accent.

"I-uh-I'm looking for Kat-herine," I said quietly, my voice barely a whisper. I was intimidated by this woman, her feminine strength wafting off of her lke a strong perfume.

"Who are you?" she asked, looking me up and down with a critical eye. I felt uncomfortable under her gaze, my feet uneasily shifting back and forth.

"My name is Jasmine. I just really need to talk to her."

She opened her mouth to reply, then shut it and looked behind her. "Bien sur, come on in, my dear." She opened the door widely and I walked in, slowly taking in the room before me. It was a giant entrance hall, the ceiling ten or fifteen feet above me. Directly in front of me was a large, marble staircase that led upstairs and branched off into two separate staircases at the top. The hallways to the side of the grand staircase were painted a maroon red, pictures adorning the wall as far as the eye could see. I looked up and saw a chandalier swinging above my head, shining lights on the black and white marbled floor.

"Come with me," she said, and I followed her swift steps up the staircase and to the right. I followed dutifully behind her. She led me through another two long halls before we were finally at Kat's room. "Here you are."

I opened the large door and it swung outward, the woman not even moving. I watched her as I let myself in and close the door, her eyes never moving from me.

I removed my eyes from the door, looking over to the bed. For a moment, I found it hard to breathe. Kat was lying there, still as death, her eyes closed and her skin a pasty white. "Kat?" I called weakly, walking to her. Her eyes darted open and I jumped back.

"Hey," she said, her voice brittle and chalky.

"What happened to you?" I asked, my voice small.

"Oh, it's nothing. Why are you here?" her voice asked, yet her lips barely moved. I moved closer to her, as if my mere presence could comfort her.

"I came to-" I racked my brain to remember, "Ask you if the police came to see you at all."

"And why would they do that?" her face suddenly became guarded, suspicious.

"I was just wondering if perhaps one of the theatre vagrants dropped your name during the clearing of the theatre. I just wanted to make sure you were alright."

Her face seemed to clear with relief. "Oh, no. They know better. I'd trust them with my life, and they seem to return the favor."

"Are you sure you're feeling alright?" I asked her as her hands began to shake above the covers.

"Oh yes," she said, tucking them beneath. "Just fine. Just a little cold, is all. Is there anything else? I would like to sleep all this off."

"No, nothing else," I said quietly. I leaned over her and moved to hug her. But I stopped as I neared her. She smelled familiar. The scent of perfume wafted off of her and into my nostrils. I stood back and looked down at her shocked impression. She was wearing Chanel No. 5

"What's wrong?" she asked, and I shook my head to destroy the memory.

"Nothing. Just, well, when was the last time you were at the theatre?"

Her forehead creased into a frown and she looked up at the ceiling, the walls, anywhere but at me directly. "I really can't remember. Probably that day when I met you before the party. I don't know, it was a while ago."

"You didn't happen to be there that night of the police raid, did you?" I asked, and she shook her head quickly.

"Of course not. Why? Are you accusing me of something?"

"I don't know. I mean, I remember something the night of the raid. A woman with perfume planting drugs and a gun near my things." Kat was beginning to look extremely uncomfortable. I didn't want to believe at all that she had done any of that, it would kill me to hear her admit it. Yet curiosity killed the cat. "Did you do it?"

We sat there in silence for a long time, neither of us saying anything. Finally, Kat spoke. "You know I didn't mean to get you in much trouble. I even had one of the guys in the theatre claim the gun as his own. I-"

"You bitch!" I screamed at her, "You don't even know what happened because of you! Isabella got taken away from me, and I have to go to psychosis sessions! What the hell were you thinking?"

"I was angry! And what about you, you little whore? You told me that Alex was free and available and that you two weren't together! Yet when I saw you two at the party, you were hanging all over him like the slut that you are! That was supposed to be my chance. But if you can't have him, then no one can. Am I right?"

"So that's what this was all about? Why didn't you just ask me what was going on? You have no idea what was going on that night, and you never will. Instead you just flew off the handle. Got a little anger problem?" I was furious.

"Besides, your little baby bitch was more hassle than she was worth. Perhaps I did you a favor."

That did it. I wanted to fly forward and strangle her. However, I remembered where I was and calmly stormed out, throwing over my shoulder, "Fuck you asshole."

I stormed down the stairs, my fury flying with me. "Jasmine," called the woman who had let me in. I didn't stop, heading for the door. "Jasmine," she called again, more forcefully. I didn't stop to see what she wanted, or how she knew my name. I was out the door and gone.

I flew the whole way home, running as if my life depended on it. Tears ran down my cheeks in torrents, unable to control the emotions that ran through my mind. I had lost another one on my small list. There was only one person left on the list: Alex. I would make sure that nothing would ever happen to him. Not ever.

I went into the apartment trying to catch my breath. I found myself kneeling on the floor, my lungs begging for air. My entire body was heaving, as if were going to puke, but I hadn't eaten for days, and there was nothing to puke. All the energy went out of my limbs and I laid down on the carpet, sprawled out, unable to move any further.

I was angry and tired, two feelings that intertwined themselves and rooted into my body. My heart was racing so fast against my chest it began to ache and throb. Lying there, I wished that my body would just give up and that I would die.

Alex came home about an hour or so later. Seeing me on the carpet, he rushed over to see if I was okay. "I'm fine," I said quietly, "Just taking a rest."

"On the carpet?" he exclaimed, helping me up to a sitting position.

"Honestly, I had just gone for a run and got a little tired," I half-lied.

"You look like you collapsed," he said, but backed off. I appreciated the space.

"I'll be fine," I said, and stood up. I decided not to tell him about Kat. The less he knew, the better. "I think I'm just going to go lie down in bed and take a nap."

"Alright then. You hungry for anything?"

"No. I ate while I was out," I lied, smiling as I walked away. I went into the other room and collapsed on the bed, my breath heaving out of me as I fell upon the thick mattress. It was so quiet, dark, and peaceful in here, I thought to myself. I laid in there for a little over an hour without sleeping before finally getting up and going out.

I didn't know what I was going to do, but I had to protect Alex from the chain of seemingly coordinated events by Life to ruin mine. I walked into the kitchen where Alex was sitting at the table. I sat down next to him.

"What're you doing today?" I asked him, and he shrugged.

"Haven't really decided yet. You?"

I shrugged and the conversation lapsed. I needed to think of some epigram, something amazingly witty. But nothing came, and the silence lapsed further. "Jasmine," he said quietly, and I turned to him. "I was wondering if maybe you'd go out with me." He said it so abruptly and to the point that for a moment I was shocked.

I looked into his eyes and I saw nervousness dancing behind them. I smiled and it seemed that it eased a little. "Sure," I said, kissing him on the cheek.

He seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. "Now that that's over, do you want to go to a movie with me?" he asked, and I nodded quickly. Escapism, living vicariously through an actress on the movie screen would be perfect for me right now.

So together we walked to the movies. We picked one that Alex had wanted to see for a while, but we didn't really watch the movie. The whole movie was spent at first with him meekly grasping my hand, and from there it progressed until the movie was over and the lights were up. We didn't notice, at first, until someone nudged us trying to get out.

"Sorry," I croaked, and Alex and I both laughed. It had been a good movie.

We walked home and were laughing well into our apartment. There Alex turned to me and lightly kissed me. I felt a thrill going down my spine and I kissed him eagerly back. He pressed me against the wall and began kissing my neck. I laughed joyously and wrapped my legs around his chest as he lifted me off the ground.

I pulled my shirt over my head revealing my toned, yet slightly skeletal body and a black lace bra. He carried me into his bedroom and ran his hands down my sides, kissing as he went down. He slowly pulled off his own shirt, revealing a tight chest. He kissed just above my belt and I felt tingling buzzing through me.

An hour or so later I was lying in bed, the sheets wrapped around my body, Alex lying next to me stroking my hair. "I normally don't take a girl after the first date," he said quietly, toying with a strand of hair.

"I think that it was a long time coming. That was only the first official date. I'm sure you can consider the other six months we've been nearly dating," I muttered, turning into his arms that he wrapped around me and began running his fingers down my chest.

"Mhm, I suppose."

"Was I okay?" I asked, my insecurities showing through. After all, if you don't consider Jason's raping me, it was my first time.

"You were perfect. But how about we try it one more time, just to be sure?" he whispered into my hair, kissing my neck again, and driving my hormones wild.

"Okay," I said, and Alex's lips moved lower as he shuffled me back around towards him.

"I love you," I whispered when we were done, and I heard his voice in the darkness a moment or so later.

"I love you too."