My personal project! I'm so excited to be starting this story=) Please read and,

Enjoy!


Ritter Family

Back behind the house, inside the tool shed, at the top of the stairs, which lead down to the cellar Grace stood. Her dark brown eyes wide with confusion and a hidden fear.

Wearing only a dark blue nightdress, clutching her stuffed white rabbit close to her chest she stared down inside the cellar where the faint and only illumination poured out around a man lining his figure in darkness. From her position she couldn't really see it but at the bottom of the steps he stared up looking back at her.

Her stubby little legs felt unstable underneath her and for some odd reason a feeling of distress began to fill within her. She felt like a trespasser and with that came an impending anticipation of punishment.

The man began his climb up the stairs.

Slow and steady, the thin steps underneath him bending and groaning with every step he took. The closer he got the larger he became, Grace had to tilt her head up inch by inch with every step he took till he stood upon the last step before her.

Eclipsing her.

The small seven year old spoke softly, "D-daddy…?"

Her quite tone was somehow almost like a shriek that vibrated off of every wall in the dank and dark tool shed before carrying out to the night.

He smelled strongly of something dark and coppery. Upon his feet he wore heavy working boots, his hands were covered in rough gloves and he wore an apron over his shirt and dark jean pants. The apron was splattered with dark red smears.

The same dark brown eyes that she had looked down to her with a gentle gaze his mouth pulling up to a smile which was just a beat away from a grin.

It almost looked twisted.

"What are you doin' out of bed?"

Grace could only continue to stare up at this man who was her father and in a way was not.

Her small lips parted but no sound came out.

She was scared. But of what she had no clue.

Her father leaned down and picked her up.

The copper smell increased and for a moment she panicked clutching the bunny even tighter against her.

It wasn't until she felt the warm wetness seep into her nightshirt did Grace notice that daddy's gloves were covered with the red stains as well.

"You know you're not supposed to be up this late." He returned back to his full height with Grace nestled safely against him.

Her small frame began to shake.

"You wanna play with daddy?" He leaned over grabbing the door to the cellar before beginning his descend downstairs.

There was something about the way he spoke.

Something different that Grace couldn't recognize.

Danger. Something within her small child like frame screamed danger.

Yet there was nothing she could do but tremble harder and hug the bunny more tightly against her.

"Yeah you do." Her father answered for her almost happily as Grace raised her gaze up to the shed's still open door up at the night time sky filled with stars and a half moon.

It was the last thing her wide wet eyes saw as they continued their descend.

"Cause you're daddy's little girl."

The cellar door closed shut.

Chapter One

Grace woke with a start to the sound of her alarm clock buzzing loudly from her nightstand. Though it wasn't necessarily the buzzing that had forced her awake, it was the loud pounding at her door and her brother irritably calling through it,

"Grace! Grace! Wake up! That damn things been buzzing for over five minutes! Damn!"

The indecent cursing and yelling continued as Grace released a sigh from her startled wake rolled over on her side and lazily brought her hand down on the blaring alarm causing instant silence.

An annoyed and exasperated, "Thank you!" called from the door before the footsteps faded.

Grace read the time on the alarm before grudgingly allowing herself to slip out of bed, from the warm and cozy confines of her blankets she was instantly shrouded with the light chill of late November.

Her dark hair fell just past her shoulders and long bangs fell heavily over her eyes, forcing her to push them persistently to the side. Looking at her still highly sleep ridden reflection in her dresser mirror she took a comb and attempted to tame her night wild hair.

Once done with this task she began the search of going through her drawers in search of today's outfit.

She could hear her brother talking loudly as he made his way back toward her room, he banged on the door.

"Grace! Any day now! Ima be late for work!"

"Here I come!" She yelled back fishing out a simple black dress.

She wore black dresses damn near every day now.

She pulled on leggings and flats and as she returned to the mirror to finish up with her hair and grab her hoop earrings a soft thud caught her attention.

She turned with a start to find her white stuffed rabbit had fallen from bed and to the floor.

A small smile formed on her features as she made her way over to the fallen toy.

"Hey puppy, what are you doing? You can't come to school with me." Picking him up off the floor she settled him neatly on the bed amidst her sea of covers, "There. You stay right there and keep warm."

Her smile was quick to disperse at the sound of sudden amused laughter. Mocking laughter.

She scowled before turning back to the mirror, "Shut up!"

Her reflection merely stared back from above her dresser drawers.

After school books were gathered and she had cleaned up in the bathroom she was ready to go.

She put on a simple dark hoodie sweater as she rushed out the door to where her older brother sat engine on and ready to go. Throwing her backpack inside she quickly climbed in as their grandfather stood at the door telling them to be careful in the early New York traffic.

"You sleep heavy!" Rodney whined as he back out of the garage way, "We are late now cause of you!"

"Shut up." She supplied simply, "And if my alarm was ringing for so long why'd you wait till the last minute to wake me up?"

"Cause I'm not your butler that's why. And because that's your alarm clocks job not mine."

Grace mocked in an overly goofy tone, "Cause I'm not your butler that's why. And because-"

Her brother gave her a rough shove sending her against the armrest of the passenger side door.

But he held a laughing smile on his face, she whined, "Ooooowwww! Rodney why you always gotta be so rough!?" But she carried a smile as well.

"Oh my bad! I keep forgetting how weak and scrawny you are."

"I am not weak!" Grace huffed indignant, "I am delicate! As a proper lady should be!"

"Weak and scrawny!" Rodney called out as though he were announcing it to the deserted suburban Brooklyn road.

"Weak and scrawny this!" Grace yelled as she shoved Rodney back though he barely seemed fazed at all by the banter, but he played it up like a pro.

"Oh my god!" He cried in distress as he began to swerve the car in and out of their lane, "Grace look what you did! We're gonna die, we're gonna die!"

Grace laughed but looked cautiously to the road as she also grabbed hold of the wheel to steady it, "Stop it Rodney! You know I don't like that! Stop! Come on now!"

He steadied the car into their appropriate lane and their laughter calmed down.

"Pray that you don't have a pop quiz or anything. Cause you getting to school on time is gonna be a biiiig stretch."

Leaning back in her seat Grace gave a half shrug, "I don't care. My grades are too awesome for me to care."

"I'm about to go like over one hundred to get you to school. I'm gonna break the sound barrier." He looked to her with a large playful grin, "All for you little sister!"

"I said I don't care."

He leaned back casually in his seat, "Alright fine you don't care." He spoke casually, "It must be nice not having to care smartass straight A student like you. When I was in high school every little test mattered. A freakin' D was my pass grade. I hate smart people like you, who don't even have to worry about the big things like whether or not you're gonna graduate on time."

Grace's lips twitched up, "Three months late."

"Damn standardized test." He grumbled.

Grace's smile grew as she looked out to the moving scenery outside her window.

It was gray and dark and as they left the suburbs and entered into the more busier part of the city with the tall dirty graffiti covered buildings it only did well to depress Grace.

Rodney was talking again.

Out of the two of them he was the talker.

Mostly he was just a walking talking encyclopedia of useless information but he did well to fill in those awkward silences.

Grace rolled a small crack in the window allowing a light breeze to run lightly through her dark hair. Slim and light skinned and usually covered in dark drab Grace was one to blend in the background. She wasn't noticed, and that was the way she liked it.

Rodney on the other hand being five years older than her was much more open with people. He was tall and lean and considerably darker than her. The only similarities between them were the dark brown eyes they both inherited from their farther.

"Grace?" She looked to her brother to find him switching his gaze from the road ahead to her, "I asked are you excited about graduation?"

She stared at him for a good moment before answering matter of factly, "Of course I'm excited. I'm ready to get the hell out of there."

Rodney nodded slowly before looking to the road, "Get out of there and do what? It's not like you got a lot going for you right now."

"Well neither do you and you've been out of high school for five years now."

"You need a plan. It's your senior year kiddo you gotta get some priorities."

"What about you?" Asked Grace looking to her brother in exasperation, "You got any priorities? Or do you plan on working for UPS for the rest of your life?"

"Maybe I do maybe I don't."

"Maybe you don't." She scoffed knowingly.

"No, I don't plan on working at UPS for the rest of my life. I do have plans."

"You always say that." Grace said with a light smirk, "Nothing ever changes."

And personally she liked it that way.

Rodney switched topics, "What about prom what's going on there?"

"Um, not going. Duh."

He looked to her incredulously, "You're not going to your prom!?"

"You didn't go to yours!"

"But you're a girl! Not counting your wedding day prom is supposed to be the biggest event of your life!"

Grace gave an amused laugh at that. "Aww big brother it's like you don't even know me!"

"Bet you'll change your mind when the time comes." He said looking to her with a smirk.

"Bet I won't." She huffed.

His smirk grew into a grin, "Come on. Tell me. You got a man stashed up somewhere don't you?"

"No, I don't."

"I'll find out." He said as though she had just lied to his face.

"I'm sure you would…if I had a man."

"Fine keep it a secret if you want."

Grace looked to him, "I tell you everything dope."

His smile pulled more easily, "Yeah I know. It's just a shame though. My boy's keep asking about you."

Grace blanched at that.

She could barely tolerate being in the same room as Rodney's friends. Let alone the very thought of dating one of them.

"Not that you can go with any of them." Rodney said stoically as though she may have secretly been enjoying the idea.

Grace pointed a finger in her mouth and made a loud puking sound displaying her thoughts on dating any of his friends.

He smiled reassured, "Listen I'm not saying to go jump on the first guy you meet but for god's sake go out and meet somebody! You're such a homebody loser."

"People are weird. Screw that. Besides what do I need friends for?" She leaned over wrapping her arm about his whilst leaning her cheek on his shoulder, "I got you."

He nodded, "You see and that's why people already think our relationship is strange."

Sitting back in her seat she uncaringly supplied, "Who cares what people say. They think we're strange anyway."

"No they think you're strange. Cause you never talk. People actually adore me, cause I uh…have conversations with them." He spoke obviously.

Grace turned a dull gaze to the dreary city scene as they began to merge with the fast coming traffic.

"People don't know you." She spoke softly in a way that left no room for argument, "Not the real you anyway."

Rodney's smile slowly slipped away as he targeted his stare on the road ahead of them.

"Eight months." He spoke lowly, "You been keeping count?"

She took her time to answer, "No need to…you seem to be doing it for everybody."

They were met with silence before, "Hey…what do you think about-?"

He was instantly silenced by Grace clicking on the radio.

Grace thinks it's mentally impossible for Rodney to just drop her off at school without the ending result being her completely humiliated by all that stood out on the crowded school grounds.

So before the car had even come to a complete stop in front of Summit Ridge High she was already quickly getting out of the car making her way briskly toward the large building.

From the opened window Rodney called, "Wait sis come back! You forgot you're extra tampon! You know you can't keep the same one in for too long! It's not good for you!"

The kids standing out front still socializing before the first warning bell burst out into laughter at this looking to see just who the victim of embarrassment was.

Grace was good at keeping a low head and playing invisible. She was in the building and out of sight before anyone could really place her.

Once inside the crowded hallways of the large one story building Grace began her way towards her locker moving about the packed space with little to no difficulty.

Talk of the exciting weekend, who was dating who, the crazy stunt whoever pulled at the party, what who was wearing last night at the movies, who got lucky with whatever cheerleader in the back of whoever's car went easily over Grace's head.

Her only concern, as always getting through the day with little to no troubles.

Once at her locker she swiftly put in her combination opening it up to stuff in her books and homework for later classes.

Pulling out the needed book for first period Grace slammed her locker shut only to come face to face with a smiling Botan.

Grace stilled with a dreaded unease.

Botan was gorgeous, popular and seemed to enjoy tearing into Grace whenever the situation so warranted…or just whenever.

Depending on the mood.

She stood her smile growing into something snide and venomous, her four top friends standing amused and intimidating behind her.

She raised a hand tucking a stray strand of her flirty blonde dyed hair behind her ear,

"Hey Grace." She spoke kindly putting said girl more on edge, "You know if you ever need any tampons just let me know. I'll hook you up seeing as we're girls and all." Her eyes roamed over her small frame, "You bleed heavy?"

Grace lowered her gaze to the side, "He was only kidding about that." She spoke quietly.

"Oh I'm sure he was." Spoke Botan as though she understood Grace completely, "Brothers can be like that. He is your brother right?"

Grace gave a light nod.

"He works at the delivery store on Main right? The UPS?"

Grace's brown gaze flickered to her pale blue one.

"I've seen him around a few times. He's nice." She furrowed her brows, "I was surprised to find out you two were…related though. You're nothing alike."

Her friend's smiles grew mean and some of them whispered to each other in rude amusement trying to stifle their mocking giggles.

Grace stayed silent her unease grew.

Botan moved closer toward her, "Are you and Rodney close?"

Grace looked about her uneasily. The crowded hallway had slowed down and everyone that stood near them were looking at the odd exchange with smiles and whispers that matched Botan's friends.

Suddenly the only thing that mattered was Grace's need to escape.

"I've gotta go." She spoke barely audible before moving in attempt to do just that. Botan ruined that plan by moving in her way blocking her.

"Alright." Replied the pretty Asian girl her grin amused, "But here take this." Reaching into her purse she took only a moment to fish out a tampon grabbing hold of Grace's hand she forced the slim toiletry into her grasp. "It's nothing to be ashamed of. And after all, we're girls now."

She had spoken her parting words just loud enough for the rest of the bulk of the onlookers to hear.

As the sounds of shock and amusement carried throughout the crowd Botan moved bumping past Grace unnecessarily.

Her friends, giggling snidely, followed after her.

Grace stared at the tampon in her hands as the hushed talk and laughing grew.

She threw the tampon to the ground and rushed off to class with everyone's eyes on her.

Her invisibility had suddenly been shot.

As bad as the morning had started first, second and third period went by as smooth as could be anticipated and Grace was pleased with the fact that she had somehow managed to weasel her way into the background again.

Unfortunately she was quite certain she would not remain there with the coming of her fourth class.

Her advanced English class was shared with Botan.

As always early in class she was quick to the back corner of the class room, before long the class began to fill up with the usual rowdy students.

Upon Botan's entrance she loudly greeted, "Hey Gracie!"

The small crowd of students who had followed her in looked to her and snickered with amusement.

Grace lowered her irritable glower to the ground. There went indivisibility again.

Within minutes the loudly talking class was hushed with the ring of the starting bell and the arrival of Mrs. Hinds telling the students to quiet down.

A fresh mug of coffee in hand the elder woman moved behind her desk instructing, "Take out books and turn to page One thirty eight, we're gonna finish 'Of Mice and Men today'."

There was a series of irritable groaning as the students began making their way to their assigned seats.

Leaning down Grace took out her English book from her slack dark blue bag upon straightening out she was startled to find boy quickly settling into the desk beside her.

And this was slightly startling because for the entire semester that desk had been empty and she had never seen this boy before.

He was tall with slightly broad shoulders his dark blonde almost brown hair was cut short against his head and he had dark forest green eyes.

His gaze was lowered and he was slouching considerably into his desk.

New kid.

But keeping his head down wasn't going to suffice for long seeing has he still had no book for the class and Mrs. Hinds was making the class go over the final chapter together by having random selected students read for a certain period of time.

Twenty minutes into the class after Mrs. Hinds had told a girl in the upper row to stop her reading segment the class fell silent with a tense dread over who she would call on to read next.

But when the silence dragged on the kids raised their lowered 'don't-pick-on-me' heads to find Mrs. Hinds with a peculiar expression settled only on one individual.

This of course was queue for everyone else to turn in their seats to see just who had captured the teacher's interest.

Green eyes slunk even lower in his seat and Grace scooted to the side as far from him as possible.

Mrs. Hinds raised her brows, "Hello." She spoke skeptically to green eyes.

Green eyes only gave a light nod trying to avoid everyone's stare.

"Can I help you?" This time her skeptical tone was laced with discontent, as though his very presence was an attempt at creating a mockery in her class.

Seeing as his cover was blown green eyes opened the binder sitting out on his desk whilst muttering, "I'm a new student…" He pulled out a paper containing his class schedule he didn't stand or move to make his way toward Mrs. Hinds he just held out the paper in a long stretch.

Of course seeing as he couldn't reach, the boy sitting in front of him took his paper and passed it up front and the row continued this until it got to Mrs. Hinds waiting hand.

She stared at it for a moment before giving an accepting nod and returning the paper to be passed back to him, "Welcome aboard Ryan. Before you leave class make sure you talk to me so I can assign you a book. Right now just follow along off of someone else's book."

He nodded and Mrs. Hinds continued with, "Jon Paul start reading where Kellsi left off."

He gave an agitated grunt but began reading slowly.

One never wanted to be called on without knowing where to start off reading, Mrs. Hinds had a way of putting you disgracefully on the spot, so Grace followed Jon Paul's reading. Even if he was agonizingly slow at it.

It wasn't until she felt a sudden presence just over her shoulder that Grace tensed at the knowledge that someone was watching from just over her shoulder.

She timidly lifted her head up to find Ryan reading over her shoulder.

When their gazes met he gave an almost bashful smile and said, "Hope you don't mind…"

Grace gave no answer before lowering her gaze back down to her book; she shifted more to the side while pushing the book closer toward him. She didn't want him reading over her shoulder, it made her uncomfortable.

He gave her an unsure smile, "Thanks."

She gave a soft barely there nod.

The reading continued on for a moment longer until he spoke again, "I didn't catch your name?"

She pretended she didn't hear him.

Not wanting to raise his voice over Jon Paul he moved his leg so that his knee bumped gently with hers. Grace raised her gaze to his briefly then back down to the book. Leaning in closer to her he spoke again, "I didn't get your name."

She took her time before lowly answering, "Grace."

He gave a light nod and there was nothing more between them until Mrs. Hinds stopped Jon Paul's reading and called for another student.

It wasn't long till he spoke up again, "I hate this story."

She said nothing.

"It's so depressing." He moved closer as though he must think she couldn't hear him, "The movie sucks to."

When she didn't say anything again he said, "You must like it though. You're all into it."

In answer to this she made a small, 'Shhhh'-shing noise.

There was silence again before, "So sorry. Didn't mean to interrupt." Though this time his tone hinted at amusement.

Grace raised her gaze up to him and stilled with the surprising notice that he was watching her closely with an amused smile etched onto his features.

His dark green eyes focused on her in a way that made Grace wary as she then scooted away from her being sure to keep her book close to her.

Still watching her closely he leaned back into his chair.

She lowered her gaze back to her book.

She wasn't entirely new to the whole 'getting hit on' factor but it was a completely irritating tradition to her.

If it wasn't the jocks looking for a good laugh, it was the horny jack-ass, to the guy who was just curious of how far they could get with the quiet girl.

And for the record it wasn't far.

But Grace didn't blame him. He was new, he'd find out eventually.

For most of the beginning of the class during the reading segment he would throw random comments to her in attempt to get her to talk to him.

But by the end of the story as Mrs. Hinds began to give them all writing assignments pertaining to 'Of Mice and Men' he had given up.

The end of class bell rang and the classroom was suddenly a flurry of students gathering papers to escape to their next class.

Grace made her way out the door and Botan followed close behind her until she passed her loudly proclaiming, "Oh my goodness Grace! I didn't know you knew how to flirt!" Then in a flirty tune she sang, "Get some, get some, get some!"

Grace paused as Botan and a few other students passed, laughing and talking loudly about the new kid being Grace's new man.

She huffed irritably giving a quick glance toward Ryan to find him talking to Mrs. Hinds getting his assigned book. He hadn't heard anything.

Still she was ready to chalk up today as not a good day.

So for the remainder of the afternoon she made sure to stay far from Botan but was dismayed to find that she shared two more classes with Ryan.

And at least once in every class she shared with him she caught him staring at her.

Once the final bell had rung and the school had emptied turning the school campus into a socializing zoo Grace made a hasty exit from school towards the nearest bus waiting stop.

Sometimes Rodney would be there waiting for her but seeing as he would be working late tonight Grace was fully prepared to make her way home herself. Though even if he had been there Grace wouldn't have paid him much mind, she blamed her horrible day solely on him.

Paying her fare she made her way on the slightly crowded public bus a few fellow school mates climbing aboard as well.

To get home Grace had to take this bus and another bus through the city and then walk the last few blocks to get to her house.

Between the first bus and the second bus there was a small hole in the wall café called Marilyn's Place.

It was her hideout for whenever she wasn't ready to go home.

And seeing as how Rodney wouldn't be back till late and only Pop was there she decided she wasn't ready.

Walking out of the slight chill into the warm café was a calming since of relief.

There weren't a lot of people there as always it was pleasantly empty save for the old couples sitting at the booths and the few singles sitting at the bars.

She sat down and decided to get started on some homework. After a few minutes the waitress stopped by with a kind smile asking what her order would be.

She decided on a simple iced tea.

Which was what she usually got, iced tea, hot tea and sometimes she would order a small snack with it such as a sandwich or a pie.

The waitress's knew her well enough where they didn't try and start conversations with her knowing they wouldn't get far and Grace loved this about them.

Her she could be entirely contempt.

Soon her tea was brought out to her and she was left to her calculous homework.

Besides the old couples talking silently to one another and the waitresses checking up on customers the only real noise in the café was the television that hung up over the bar telling of the latest news.

Hunched over her homework Grace only half listened to the Lady as she spoke about the coming week's weather.

But she stilled lifting slightly from her work when the news segment changed.

'Next up there have been some controversy on the coming elimination of Jermaine Ritter who has been set for death row for the past ten years. Back in the late nineteen ninety's New York was filled with fear and paranoia over the mass murdering that took place. As known Jermaine never gave up the whereabouts of all twenty nine of his victims and some families are upset over the notion of never finding closure if Jermaine dies before ever revealing the bodies locations. A few families have set up petitions to delay the elimination and urged the police to reopen the cases for their missing relatives.'

The screen changed to crying and depressed families as they spoke of figural holes in their hearts at never having the satisfaction to bury their deceased ones.

The reporter went on, 'Other families and most outraged citizens disagree.'

And then there were scenes of angry people speaking (or more like shouting) their anger on Jermaine getting more time to live. Families cried telling of what Jermaine had taken from them and their desire for revenge.

The reporter came back, 'There has yet to be any word on whether or not more time will be given to Jermaine. As of now his scheduled elimination is still set for May 25th 2012 exactly eight months from today.'

And then they showed a brief picture of Jermaine's mug shot.

A mean looking black man with a rough beard falling down from his head of short curly black hair. He looked vicious just as everyone knew him to be.

But Grace could only see him as a gentle loving man who loved his family deeply…at least she believes he loved his family deeply.

At times she hadn't always been sure.

Grace hadn't known she had been staring at the TV screen intensely until the waitress spoke to her.

"Can you believe that?"

Grace's attention snapped to her. She was tall with a head full of curly red hair, "I mean I can understand the families wanting to have a little closure but frankly I think this city would sleep better knowing that sicko is dead." She had spoken looking to the TV screen but her pale blue eyes flashed to Grace when she asked, "Scary. What he did right?"

Grace stared before reaching into her sweater and pulling out a few rolled wads of cash and tossing them onto the table.

"Yeah, scary." She spoke quickly and quietly before moving to stand quickly gathering her papers and stuffing them into her backpack.

"You in a rush dear?" Asked the slightly startled waitress.

Grace didn't answer.

She made a quick getaway towards the door but paused when the waitress called to her, "Hold on girl! You forgot one!"

Grace paused turning with a feeling of dread to find the waitress holding one of her math papers up looking to it curiously.

Grace quickly made her way back to her before quickly snatching the paper from her hand.

The waitress looked down to her with an astonished gaze and Grace felt the dread grow.

But the kind red head only inquired, "I can't believe you can understand that crap. Math was my worst subject in high school."

She released a poised breath. Good. She hadn't noticed.

Grace only moved to again make her way out the café stuffing the paper in her backpack. The waitress watching her retreat skeptically.

She hadn't noticed her name written on her school work paper.

Next to 'Name' where it read Grace Ritter.

She hated when people put two and two together.