A Note Concerning the Recent Plagiarism Scandal

It's been some time since I've logged into fictionpress, you know the story - life, school, work -it gets you busy and sometimes there isn't any time for it. So it was with a heavy heart that today when for the first time in months I logged on to see that in my absence I have apparently become embroiled in a plagiarism scandal between Shattered and another story Stranger by Mardy Bum.

While it seems that I'm a few months behind everyone else on the argument, I thought perhaps it was time to throw in my two cents about the matter. I have emailed Mardy to express my apologies for the argument that went on apparently without my noticing, also offering my condolences for how hurt, angry and betrayed she must have felt by having her work 'stolen,' and that email is obviously private between the two of us, but I've also reached out to see what mutually acceptable resolution we can come to on the matter.

I'd like to stress that to my knowledge, nothing from Shattered has been the result of plagiarism. Until tonight I'd never read Stranger, and while yes, I do see that there are a number of similarities in the initial chapters of Shattered and the initial chapters of Stranger, there are also a number of differences. As a writer, I understand that plagiarism is a very, very serious issue; particularly on sites such as fictionpress and where it does seem to run rampant, but I have not plagiarized Mardy Bum's work. I'm deeply sorry for the upset that must have been caused by this, and am attempting to work out a solution to this problem, but I do not believe that my work came from stealing the ideas of someone else.

Shattered lived in my head a long time before I ever put it into print and to repeat; as far as I am aware it is a work entirely of my own creation that hasn't been stolen from anywhere else.

Chapter 1

"Stacey, I need you to go and restock the white dresses for me please."

Linda, Stacey's manager paused from the thick, trashy novel she'd been reading to fix Stacey with a raised eyebrow stare. Stacey was supposed to go on her break, but she honestly couldn't be bothered with the argument that would ensue if she bothered to remind Linda of this. Instead she simply smiled brightly, pushing down the questions of exactly why Linda couldn't restock the skirts herself, and nodded her head.

"Sure thing Linda, anything else?"

"Yeah, straighten up the window display while you're at it. Oh and you're alright to close for me today aren't you? I've got a date."

It wasn't the first time that Linda had asked Stacey to close up for her, even though it was strictly against the rules to let a lowly sales girl close up. Linda seemed to do the bare minimum around here, and Stacey knew she wasn't the only one to privately wonder how the girl had ever made it to manager. Linda wasn't exactly a bad person, in fact she was actually a bit of a sweetheart when it came right down to it. But she was... well just a little selfish. And maybe a bit lazy. But really, she was sweet.

"That's fine, I don't mind." Stacey replied as she punched in the code to the locked storage room to pull out more of the tiny, fitted little dresses that were apparently in this year. Stacey personally hated such attention-grabbing clothes, but it was her job to act like she cared about these things, and Stacey was nothing if not good at pretending. Draping the dresses over her arm, she idly let her fingers stray over the soft and silky material. It was amazing to her that people would spend hundreds of dollars on something so tiny and inconsequential, Stacey knew that if she didn't work here, she'd have never stepped foot inside the store.

Milk and Honey was a very high end store, stocking all the latest designer trends and couture. They catered mostly to the rich-and-bored crowd, the people who had everything and didn't know what else to spend their money on. If it wasn't for the clothing allowance that each girl was given, she knew she would never be able to afford anything in the store, let alone one of the dresses in her arms. They were actually quite beautiful, but she couldn't just throw her money away on frivolous dresses, clothing allowance or not. She sighed once as she strode back into the main shop, her heels clicking rhythmically across the shiny wooden floors, stoically ignoring the dull throbbing of her poor feet. Only two more hours and then she could slip into her flats for the walk home.

She carefully hung up the dresses, arranging them by size and then spending the next hour straightening and reorganising the window display. Linda left shortly after she'd finished, breezily leaving her instructions to close up in another hour or so, unless any customers came in. Stacey smiled and waved her off, glad she'd get to leave early after all, and admitted to herself that for all of her laziness and unwillingness to undertake any strenuous activities, Linda wasn't too bad. Maybe not management material, but still nice.

It was quarter to five, and Stacey had been just about to close up, when a young woman strode through the open doors. She was a tall, statuesque blonde, dressed in the kind of casual 'hippy chic' style that could only be achieved through serious cash. Judging by the over-sized sunglasses and flash of lightbulbs that followed the girl, Stacey judged that she must be someone important.

"Oh God, please shut those doors. I absolutely cannot stand to be photographed one more time."

The girl cast a brilliant smile in Stacey's direction. Stacey smiled back and quickly went to shut the double doors that opened the store to the world. At least now no more customers would come in, thinking the store was still open. All she could think about was taking her heels off and going home, but Stacey threw herself into helping the young woman who turned out to be Evelyn Bail – an up and coming Hollywood starlet on holiday in London to recover from her latest heartbreak. She was surprisingly friendly and Stacey soon found herself chatting to her while the girl unselfconsciously shrugged in and out of about twenty different outfits, trying to choose between them.

"I swear, I assumed the paparazzi would all be off trying to get the latest scoop on Cain Cross. I mean you'd think my heartbreak would be less interesting than a convicted murderer, especially one like Cross." Evelyn called out as she tugged on a skin-tight dress.

Stacey's world spun; and her face went grey.

"What? What about Cain Cross?" She asked, trying to keep her voice calm, measured, even as she felt bile rising in her throat.

"Didn't you hear? He was released from prison last night. It's a big scandal, 'cause he was meant to be serving life. He killed a guy you know."

"Yes, yes I know."

The next hour passed in a blur, as Stacey made the sale and shut up shop. Pulling on her flats she tucked the five inch black heels into her handbag and began the short walk home, all the time her mind trying to process the fact that he was out.

They'd promised her! They'd promised her she'd be safe and that he'd never be released from prison. That's what the police had assured her as they'd hustled her to this new location – and into her new life. That they'd keep her safe from him, and keep him behind bars forever.

You see, Stacey hadn't been born Stacey Marshland, and she was not a born and bred London girl. No she'd been born Madeline Stam, born and raised in New York City. She'd had a mother, a father, and she'd lived a fairly normal life for the first fourteen years of her life. School, friends, weekends spent with her parents. But when Cain Cross had come into her life, everything had changed.

Stacey remembered when she'd first met him, a shy fifteen year old introduced by a mutual friend at a party. She'd been hiding in the kitchen rearranging the cupboards, when he'd walked in and started charming her. He'd been seventeen, though even then he'd looked older. At the end of the night he didn't try to kiss her, he'd walked her home and left it at that. They'd been fast friends, and spent practically the entire summer together, and she remembered that she'd had a huge crush on him. He'd been dating one of her friends it had turned out, and so Stacey – or Maddie as she'd been known then, had pushed the crush down inside of her and pretended that it didn't exist. But it never fully went away. And then he and Kaitlin had broken up, and suddenly those innocent sleepovers they'd have every night after watching movies had lost their innocence. They explored each other's bodies hesitantly, kisses where they'd knocked teeth, fumbling hands ghosting over budding breasts.

Their feelings had been intense in the way that only teenagers in their first love can feel things, and so when she'd gotten drunk at her first party and kissed another boy – Matt, she'd understood when he'd gotten angry. It hadn't really been on purpose, but she'd been drunk and sometimes these things happened. But it had gotten out of hand. Stacey could still remember it all so clearly, the look on Matt's face as Cain had started to hit him, his fists blurring as they brutally destroyed the boy in front of him.

She remembered that everyone had stood around shocked while Cain beat the boy bloody, until Matt had slumped to the floor. But Cain had just climbed on top of him and kept hitting, until eventually he was just smacking his fist against a wet, pulpy mess. When someone finally broke out of the trance long enough to help, it was already too late to help him. Matt was dead, and Cain was just standing there with a satisfied grin on his blood-flecked face, panting slightly. He'd turned then, and smiled at her, and she knew it was her fault.

She'd testified against him, how could she not have? Matt, poor innocent Matt had died because of her, and no matter what she felt for Cain she knew that things would never ever be the same for them again. She remembered when she'd testified, how he'd stared at her, his gaze never wavering. Suddenly those warm blue eyes that she'd always loved had seemed cold, and she was scared of him. He'd tried to contact her all throughout the trial, sending her letters and making phone calls that went unanswered. She'd ignored every attempt at contact, spending most of her time in her room, trying to process when her life had taken such a surreal turn.

He'd never given up though, screaming "I love you Maddie!" across the courtroom after sentencing, promising he would never ever forget about her, and telling her he'd done it for them. He was completely unrepentant, he'd cold-bloodedly killed that boy for kissing her innocently at a party. That had been what had chilled her most, how pleased he seemed about the entire thing. How could anyone be so completely unaffected by taking a life?

Lost in her thoughts, Stacey found herself at the door to her flat without really realising how she'd gotten there. Pulling out the keys, she quickly unlocked the three locks and hurried inside, out of the cold. Before anything else, she sat herself down at her computer and googled his name, needing to know the full story of what had happened today.

Clicking on the first link that seemed relevant she scanned the article from the New York Times.

Cain Cross, convicted of First-Degree Murder was released today after serving only eleven years of his life sentence. In 1999 Cross was found guilty of first degree murder of high school student Matthew Maguire. There is no word yet on why Cross has been released early, nor what the plans for his probation may include. However, there are rumours that this early release is somehow involved with Cross's apparent Mafia ties. Cross is said to have joined one of the many Mafia syndicates whilst serving his sentence in the Maximum Security Correctional Facility he has called home for the length of his service, however it is only conjecture at this point to suggest it has any link to his release.

Stacey had to brace herself from shaking as she pushed back from her desk, biting down hard on her bottom lip to keep from crying. So it was true then, he'd been released. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and reminded herself that she was in another country, that they wouldn't let a just released criminal leave the country, and that she was in the witness protection program. He wouldn't find her, she was hidden. She'd had to cut off all ties with her previous life, and had to give up her family, but she'd made a new world for herself. It had been hard, carving a new identity, but she'd done it and he would never find her and disrupt it.

She wasn't the same girl he'd known, she reminded herself. Not naive little Maddie who'd been so infatuated with him that she'd have done almost anything to be with him anymore. She was Stacey Marshland, a confident twenty-five year old woman who had a good job, an apartment and her own life. She stood and examined herself in the mirror that dominated one side of her living room. She saw reflected there a tall woman, perhaps a little too curvy (though women always thought that), long auburn hair that cascaded over her shoulders, someone who was confident and not afraid of her past. Yeah right, a snickering little voice in her head laughed. But she steeled herself once more, and forced a smile onto her face. Inside she might still be the same girl, but she was safe here, and she wouldn't let him ruin her life again.

Nodding her head once at her reflection, Stacey turned on the television, ignoring the slight tremor in her hand and turned on a sappy romantic comedy to take her mind off of him. She thumbed the remote to turn it up, walking into her bedroom to shed her work clothes, replacing them with a pair of pyjama bottoms and a singlet, letting the canned laughter on the movie lull her into a soothing trance.