She could hear the music, pulsing...pounding...faintly echoing throughout the old apartment her and her mother had lived in together. Swim City-It had been a rather sought out place, filled with flashy teens and young adults littering the streets, checking out the nightlife that the city had to offer. That's how life should've been. That's how life was until ithappened.

She sat on her small bed, staring into space, reminiscing in the memory of her mother. The grace, laughter, and warmth that filled little Claire Aerovl every time these thoughts surfaced her mind were the only things that kept her going.

You see, Claire Aerovl had loved her life back then. But everything changed when a fever epidemic, known as the Swim Fever, had hit the city. Everywhere, people were moaning and groaning-the stench of death and sickness tickled the senses of the sane residents. Claire vaguely remembered being scared of the zombie-like people-and then her mother had caught the fever. Worse and worse the illness had gotten, until she died one fateful evening.

The last words she'd ever said to Claire, as she sat there, taking her last gasps of breath, each more harsh then the next, still haunted her to this day.

"Claire, promise you won't forget me. I want you to know that I will always be there for you, no matter what may happen."

"I-I...p-promise," Claire had said between stifled sobs.

"I'll be there for you Claire. I promise," she wheezed. She pulled her cold clammy hand out of the firm grasp of the little eight-year-old girl's palm, reaching around her neck. She pulled off her necklace-a simple silver chain with a heart locket, and gave it to the young girl, closing her small fingers around the trinket and grasping her hands oh so tight.

"I...Promise…" she said, and with that, she took in her final breath.

And then the eerie silence of death filled the apartment.

All Claire remembered after were the endless tears, the nurse lady from the apartment next door shaking her head, trying to comfort the young, confused girl. Then came the social workers, the endless days in the orphanage, the birth certificate…and then, him. The man who had ruthlessly tricked and charmed simple minded Sophia Evans-Melthore Aerovl.

Her father.

He had been a wealthy bachelor in Swim City, fleeing right when the fever hit along with the other people who had picked up and moved to Swan Valley, losing everything in the process. A neighbouring town, and newly discovered, Swan Valley was clean, quaint, and free of the Swim Fever.

Her father was a harsh and immoral man, who always seemed to be involved in some sort of affair. Even now she could hear a woman's giggle and moans echoing through the empty halls. Locked away in the attic soon after she had arrived, Claire was attention deprived, almost starving, and not even able to get out of the house to go to school. She didn't remember what she had done to Melthore to be treated so crudely.

With a huff, she pulled the covers over her fragile form, trying to gain as much warmth as she possibly could from the threadbare sheets, curling her body up and burrowing into the hard mattress. As all these thoughts of school, her mother, her cruel father, the stupid attic and the cold swirled around her uncertain head, she found herself falling into a deep, restless sleep…

She saw herself behind bars. She was screaming, crying, yelling for help, she wanted to get out, and she wanted freedom...

Her father was standing outside the cell; smiling...watching her tortured state was like pleasure for the sick, twisted man. Claire screamed louder...

Then her mother appeared-the graceful walk and the black flowing hair surrounding her heart-shaped face as she walked towards Claire, Sophia's round violet eyes filled with light...

"Mama?" the little girl cried, trying to walk towards Sophia...

"It'll all be over soon...don't worry...even though it may not seem like it, I'm here for you and I know things will get better very soon..." Sophia's warm honeysuckle voice filled Claire with hope...

"I promise..." the whispered words faded in her head, as her mother slowly disappeared-

"WAIT!" Claire cried, chasing after the slowly fading light...

"I promise..."

The morning had started out quite normal for Melthore Aerovl. He shifted positions, his thoughts on the night of endless trysts with his latest affair. A feisty, passionate, read-head whom he had immediately identified with when they met on the streets a few weeks back. Said woman had just woken up and started rubbing her hands up and down his chest, drawing slow circles around his stomach, inching lower with each light touch. He groaned, and turned around, ferociously pressing his lips to hers-

Knock-knock- knock!

Cursing under his breath, he got up and looked around the floor for his pants. Hurriedly putting them on, he promised the woman he'd be back shortly.

"What was her name again, Anna? Jordan?" he thought, as he opened the door wide and leaned on the door frame. A woman with olive skin and vivid green eyes stood in front of him. Her dark curly hair was tied back in a low ponytail, a small triangular hat perched her head. Straightening her navy blue skirt, she turned an icy glare onto Melthore.

"Good morning. I'm here for a Mr. Melthore Aerovl? I received a call informing me that a child might be living here in very unsuitable circumstances. Are you him?" she said, revealing a slight European accent in her voice, ever so faint.

"Hmm, I'd tap that," Melthore thought, dirty images filling his mind as he rubbed the stubble that came with not shaving. "Wait, she's here for Claire?"He suddenly realized.

So much for his lovely morning with the red-headed hippie.

Claire woke with a start. Looking around, she saw, slightly relieved, that it had been a dream. Although, she thought, it might as well have been real. Perking up, she wondered what had awakened her. She heard yelling coming from downstairs, not the sensual sounds she usually heard...creeping to her bedroom door, she listened closely and heard her father's distinct gruff voice yelling.

"What the hell? You have no right to come into my house and accuse me of...this...NONSENSE! Keeping a child away from everything? And even if I am it isn't your fucking problem, woman!"

"It is my problem Mr. Aerovl. I'm head Social Worker from the Swan Valley Support Services. We deal with children being mistreated, abused, or hurt in any way. I'm here to take Miss Claire away from this household, despite what you say." The social worker said, scowling at the topless, bearded man glowering at her.

I promise it'll all get better...

With her mother's words dancing in her head, she gathered a bunch of boxes and glanced out of the small window to see the blue van of the SVSS parked outside. Smiling for the first time in what seemed like a century, she ran to her closet and got dressed, straining her ears for any continued conversation.

"Fine, you may be right, but you will never find her! I will not give away that stupid little piece of shit up, not after all the trouble she's caused me!"

"If you do not oblige, sir, I shall be forced to call the authorities on you."

Yet Melthore stood his ground.

Not wanting her wretched way of life be thrown into the spotlight, Claire started throwing things, jumping up and down, and shouting, screaming things like I'm up here! Behind the doors!She lost track of what she was saying as warm tears started to course down her cheeks.

Happy tears.

With renewed vigour, she made as much noise as her small, skinny frame could possibly make.

Shoving Melthore aside with an almost sickening thunk, the social worker entered the washroom and went into the closet; the child's screaming was louder behind another door. Moving for the handle, she saw it was locked. Straining her ears, she heard a scream

"The towels! Key! Under the towels!"

Looking around, she spotted the key on top of a shelf of towels; she unlocked the door and ran up the stairs, only to find another locked door in the way. Praying, she stuck the key into the lock of the heavy wooden door, smiling when she heard the tell-tale click of the lock opening up.

The smile was short lived when she laid her eyes upon the girl standing in the middle of the room.

Her hair was dark and matted with dirt, and she seemed to skinny to be able to have so much energy. The little girl stopped yelling, and ran to the social worker, tears pouring down her pointed nose and stretched cheeks.

"Mom was right," she thought as she embraced the social worker, "it is going to get better."

Tears came pouring out, and sobs wracked her body.

"Shush, it's okay now, I'm Ashlee, and I'm going to get you out of here. I Promise." she looked around, taking in the state of the room-it was messy, and smelt foul. Dirt laced the cracked windowpanes and no source of food or heat seemed to be in the room. There wasn't even a light source! Ashlee wondered how someone could be so mean and do something like this, so unforgivable, to their own child!

Ashlee reassuradly squeezed the young girl one last time, as she picked up the suitcase lying on the floor. Claire helped grab her clothes, and any other meagre possessions she had with her. As the social worker started to go down the stairs, Claire pulled back and opened up a drawer. She pulled out a simple silver chain with a heart on the front, as the words she would always remember came to mind...

"I promise..."

A/N-Updated and refined. It's the best draft yet! anywya, I'll be revising the story, once more, because I can and it wasn't very well written before. Don't forget to R&R, feedback makes everyone smile, even if it's a :D! to express your love of my baby or a D:! feel sad for Claire xD. Also, I've added little previously bits for those of you who have read a while ago but can't recall what happened. I is smarts :D