Sidney hesitated as she stared at the phone number on her cell. Then, after a moment, she pressed the send button and fervently both hoped and dreaded that it would be a wrong number. After 6 torturous rings, a familiar voice answered, "Hello?"
Sidney's heart skipped a beat, and her words caught in her throat for a second.
"Hello? Anyone there?"
She scrambled to collect herself. "Shawn?" she asked hesitantly. There was a moment of silence, and then, "Yes… who is this?"
"It's Sidney. Umm… so… listen, I know that it's been years and this is totally out of the blue, and you're probably wondering where the fuck I've been but I'mkindahomelessrightnow." She spat all of this out very quickly, and when she was done she took a deep breath, preparing herself for his response. But there was only silence on the other end. After a minute, "Shawn?"
"I'm here," he replied quietly. "…Are you asking me for a place to stay?" The knot in Sidney's stomach twisted further into itself. "Mhmm." There was another long pause.
"Where are you?"
"Sitting in my car, in front of my dad's house."
Sidney found that she was shaking as she drove towards the building Shawn had directed her to. The lump in her throat ached, as did the knot in her stomach. For the last five years, she'd done everything she could to forget her past, and now she was crawling dejectedly back to it- another fuck up to add to the already extensive list.
She felt the hot prickling of tears behind her eyes, but willed them back. She couldn't afford to freak out now- showing up on Shawn's doorstep a blubbering mess was definitely not part of the plan.
She parked in front of the building he described, got out, and rang the doorbell with a pounding heart. Time seemed to slow as she waited for him to answer, and she chewed on her lower lip. When the door finally swung open, and they were face to face for the first time in over five years, neither seemed able to do anything except stare at each other in disbelief. Sidney was sure her heart had stopped.
"Hi," she said finally, breaking the silence.
"Hey…come on up."
She followed him obediently up the stairs and into a cozy, slightly messy apartment that reeked of the comforting scents of pot and cigarettes. Just to the left of the door was a living room, including – predictably – a large pile of video games and movies in one corner and a coffee table scattered with beer bottles and dishes. Off the side of the living room was a small dining room, just large enough for a table and chairs, and just past appeared to be the kitchen.
"Right there is Zach's room, just in front here is the bathroom, and down this way are David's room and my room." Shawn pointed to each door in turn, and Sidney nodded. "And you have your choice of couch to sleep on." She turned back to the living room to inspect the two couches, and decided on the white one in the corner. It was shorter, and not directly in front of the TV, so she figured she'd be less in the way if she commandeered that one. "Thanks," she muttered awkwardly, setting her backpack down next to it and turning back to face him.
The air was thick with tension, neither of them sure what to say to one another. Sidney fiddled with her bracelet.
"Can I smoke inside?" she asked finally, pulling a pack of American Spirits out of her pocket. Shawn scratched his head nervously, nodded, and then seemed to remember something. "Zach and David went to get beer for poker. They should be back soon," he began to say; Before he could finish the sentence, voices could be heard on the stairs, closely followed by their owners.
"No way. Absolutely not," Zach was saying. Sidney wondered absently what they could be arguing about-something trivial, no doubt. She took a drag on her cigarette and shrank back a bit, wishing she could disappear into the wall.
"Listen, it's so simple. I bet you—"
"Man, save the bets for pok— hey, who's that? Oy Dave! Lookit this, Shawn's finally got himself a new girl!"
Sidney felt David's intense scrutiny as she looked everywhere except at him. She didn't think she could bear to look him in the eyes… it was still so soon after…
No, she couldn't think of that right now. She willed back the tears that had once again sprung to life in her eyes, swallowing dryly.
"Or an old one," he muttered, still gazing intently at her. "Hey Sid, long time no see." She closed her eyes for a moment in an effort to gain some control, and turned nervously to face him, finding herself once again trapped by the shock of seeing him after so long.
Zach frowned, confused, and looked back and forth between the two as they stared at each other. Then it seemed to dawn on him just what David had said and who she was.
"Holy shit fuck. Sidney? Sidney fucking Carlos?"
"Hey," Sidney said sheepishly. "What's up?"

"I don't fuckin' believe it!" Zach muttered in total shock as Sidney cleaned him out for the second time that night. She smirked mischievously, pulling the heaping pile of poker chips toward herself and stacking them carelessly.
"You better believe it," she said. And then, "Hey, when did you guys start to suck at this?" David scowled. Sometime in the last five years, Sidney must have spent a good deal of time playing poker. She was surprisingly unreadable, and a very skilled player. Early on in the game she'd cleaned him out after calling him on a bluff, and she'd been dominating the game ever since.
"When did you get so good?" Shawn replied, staring at her in slight awe. Sidney's eyes sparkled mysteriously. "Oh, you know, around." They watched as she shuffled the deck in front of her with practiced ease, throwing in a few tricks for good measure. Then she downed the last of the beer sitting in front of her and licked her lips in satisfaction.
"Hey Shawn, would you pass me another beer?"
He scowled playfully at her, mocking, "Get your own beer, Ms. Moneybags. In fact, I have an idea: sponsor an L!" Ignoring him, she grabbed the newly opened beer out of his hand, ("Hey, get your own!"), just barely evading his reach as he tried to take it back. Her response was a laughing, "My twist."
Around four, after everyone was passed out in their respective rooms, Sidney snuck out to her car to grab some of her things. The night summer air was thick with humidity, but the occasional breeze made the temperature more bearable. Looking up at the stars, she wished she could sleep outside. She pulled out a cigarette, reflecting on how much she'd enjoyed the night. It was a welcome relief to be among people whom she'd been so close to, whom she could just be herself around, and for a few hours, it had even felt like the last five years never happened. Except, of course, that she'd kicked all their asses up and down the block in poker (not that she hadn't already known that would happen). After finishing her cigarette, she finally surrendered to her exhaustion and, albeit slightly regretfully, left the gorgeous night in favor of her big comfy bed…er, couch.

Sidney groaned as the sunlight streaming through the windows woke her. Her first impulse was to roll over and pull a pillow over her head, but the smell of coffee nearby was irresistible, and she reluctantly opened her eyes to search for the source. Shawn, sitting next to her and holding a brown, steaming mug, chuckled. "Good afternoon, sleepyhead." She glared at him through a mop of tangled dredlocks and mumbled something incoherent, which only made him laugh more. Sidney swatted at his head half-heartedly, slurring, "Shu'up."
"Hey, whoa there, I come in peace," he said hastily, holding up his hands. Then he reached over to the table and procured another mug, this one green, also steaming. Sidney snatched it away, adjusting her position so that she wouldn't choke or spill any of the precious, dark liquid. "Mmmm…" she moaned, sinking back into to couch. Even after five years, he still remembered how she liked her coffee.
Shawn snorted at her antics and shook his head in amusement. "You're out of your mind," he commented. Slightly more amiable now that she'd been caffeinated, Sidney giggled. "Yup," she said brightly. "Like a rocket ship is outta this world."
Shawn raised his eyebrows. Maybe out of this universe. It was then that Sidney noticed the uncomfortable pressure that was her bladder screaming for release, so she rose and stretched, and then shuffled to the bathroom.
As she returned to the living room and looked up at Shawn, she suddenly realized that her short shirt did nothing to hide her midsection, and that because of this he had a perfect view of the long, jagged scar running across her stomach. In fact, he seemed unable to tear his eyes away from it. They stayed like that for a moment or so, him staring and her mortified, and then, "Sid…" he breathed. Sidney jumped slightly at the sound of his voice and rushed over to the couch where her sweater was, nearly ripping it in her haste to cover up.
Then she turned to him with pleading eyes. "Please don't ask me to talk about it." Her words dripped with pain, and her voice caught. Shawn opened his mouth for a moment, as if to say something, but seemed to think better of it and nodded. She curled slowly back up on the couch and picked her mug up off the table. After a moment, Shawn did the same. A heavy silence lay between them as they sipped the rest of their coffee.
"I'm sorry," Sidney said a while later, finally breaking the silence. Shawn looked up at her and frowned. "For what?" he asked.
Sidney's brow furrowed, and she seemed to think her answer over for a moment. "Well, for disappearing… and for showing up five years later out of nowhere… and for asking to mooch off you after all that. … And for being secretive."
Shawn looked contemplative. "Don't worry about staying here," he said. "It's really no big deal. You're family to us, even if you did disappear for a while." Sidney smiled. "But since you brought it up, why did you leave?" Her smile dropped, and she didn't answer for a moment.
"I… well… I guess it was…" she frowned and trailed off, not sure how to describe everything she'd been feeling at the time. "I suppose there were a lot of reasons. …I really needed to get away from my dad, for one. He… well, after my mom died, I couldn't live with him anymore."
"Did something happen?"
Sidney shook her head. "We just… we fought a lot. It wasn't good. I don't know. I guess… we never appreciated how much of a mediator she was… Also, it was time to get out of this town. I was just going in circles, not getting anywhere, driving myself crazy. And I felt like everyone I loved was just… drifting away. Especially—" She stopped suddenly.
"Especially what?" Shawn asked. Sidney shook her head.
"Nothing, never mind," she said dismissively.
"Just drop it."
"Fuck off!"
Shawn drew back, as if stung. He looked hurt. "I was just… you know what, fine. Never mind." He got up, shaking his head, and retreated to his room.
"No, wait! Don't….ugh." Sidney sighed in frustration and buried her face in a pillow. "Stupid, stupid, stupid."

"Shawn?" Sidney called through the door some time later. After a second she knocked and called again. "I made you some lunch…" There was a moment of silence, and then she could hear some shuffling from inside, and Shawn's face appeared from behind the door. She held out the plate of food like a peace offering.
"You didn't have to…" he said hesitantly, taking it and giving the meal a once over; It looked pretty delicious, he had to admit.
Sidney shrugged. "I felt like I should make myself useful around here. I…eh, may have cleaned your kitchen." He chuckled, recalling her distaste for dirty kitchens.
"You would, Ms. O.C.D." She glared and swatted at his head, muttering, "Shuddup." It would have been a more effective reproach, perhaps, if she hadn't also been laughing. They lapsed into silence for a moment, and then Shawn said, slightly awkwardly, "Do you… wanna come in? Grab a seat?" He gestured inside and opened the door more. Sidney nodded and sat down in the chair in front of the desk, inspecting his computer. As Shawn sat down on his bed and began to attack the pile of food on his plate, she looked around the room. It was nice, not especially large, but comfortable. The furniture was simple: a desk, a bookshelf, a dresser, and a bed, and there were clothes scattered about the floor. A few paintings and other decorations were hung on the walls, but the real coup de gras was the small but fully operational music studio set up in the back corner and the impressive collection of guitars next to it. She spun in the chair a few times, and then stopped, facing him. "Soooo…" she began. "Do you like, sit around here all day? Or is this just for my benefit? It is a Tuesday, yes? Do you not have a job?" Shawn raised his eyebrows.
"Ego much? Something about having a big head." He teased.
"I lost. But seriously, what's the deal? And what's there to do around here? I'm really not about to just sit around inside." He shrugged, holding up a finger – he had taken too big a bite midway through her questions and needed to finish chewing. After a strained swallow, he replied, "You know just as well as I do, really. You lived here for seventeen years. As for your other question, I'm in between jobs right now. I've been working sound for some shows with James, but I've got another week till my next gig. You've got pretty good timing. Hey, where the hell did you find mac and cheese anyway? I didn't think we had any food."
"I had some in my car. I carry around lots of random things for camping out in people's houses. Mmm, but maybe I'll go grocery shopping tomorrow..." She thought for a minute, contemplating putting a shopping list together, when an idea struck her.
"Aha! Ok I thought of somewhere we should go hang out, so I'm just gonna shower and change, and then we should be off." There was a note of finality in her voice as she said this, then spun on her heel….and skipped off to the bathroom. Behind her, Shawn shook his head. Girls were crazy.
Approximately twenty minutes later, sporting an open backed, dangerously short white sundress and a battered pair of work boots, Sidney reappeared. Shawn wasn't positive, but he thought he detected a hint of weed mixed in with the steam emerging from the bathroom behind her. As he glanced up at her and then away again, he did a double take. Her dreds, which were down for the first time since she'd gotten there, were still dripping and reached almost down to the small of her back. Her arms seemed to have more skin that was tattooed than not, and they appeared to continue over her neck and quite likely her back as well. There was something very different, much more aged, in her face than he remembered, but her eyes still managed to daze him momentarily, as they always had.
"Hellooo," she said cautiously, waving a hand and snapping him out of it. "You in there hun?" He jumped slightly and nodded. "Good. Ready to go? I'd recommend sneakers." Shawn looked dubious, but put the shoes on anyway, not seeing any reason not to. Then he followed her out of the apartment where, despite the sun high in the sky, a cool breeze made the day beautiful.
They got into the car and drove off.

Shawn watched as Sidney, perched on a rock near the water, carefully prepared the materials for her blunt. He was beginning to suspect that her backpack contained, somehow, an endless supply of smoking paraphernalia. Whenever she felt like it, Sidney just pulled the weed or the dutches or the bowl and what have you out of it without any thought. While she was preoccupied, he took the opportunity to look over her again. He'd been right about the tattoos – her back was littered with Chinese characters, various pictures, designs, and even a few things in a flowery script that was difficult to make out from where he was sitting. He could also now tell that she'd lost a significant amount of weight, maybe even more than was healthy, and she had quite a few more scars than he remembered.
As she sparked the finished blunt and took a long, languorous hit, he also observed that her face seemed thinner, especially in comparison to the mass of brown hair. Her eyes, however, just as he had noticed before, were the same entrancing green that they had always been.
"You should take a picture," she deadpanned, not quite managing to keep the smirk off her face as she held the L out to him. "It'll last longer." He felt his cheeks heat slightly at being caught staring, and fumbled awkwardly for words. Sidney left him to flounder in silence, drawing it out for a while, and then couldn't contain her laughter anymore. "You're so cute," she giggled.
He harrumphed indignantly. "I am NOT cute."
She raised an eyebrow at him, and the smirk spread across her face once more. "Sorry to break it to you babe," she said, ruffling his hair, "But you're quite the cutie. It's inescapable, I'm afraid." She tried to pinch his cheek, but he grabbed her wrist just before she could. Sidney suddenly realized how close to him she'd moved in the process of teasing, and, as she became caught in his eyes, what sort of position they were in. Her breath caught in her throat, her heart raced, and a familiar sensation shot through her stomach. She found herself unable to move, unable to look away, and the rest of the world seemed to melt away. Then something darted out of a nearby bush, and they jumped apart suddenly, as if struck by lightning, both looking around awkwardly. The blunt lay on the rock between them, forgotten and no longer lit.

The hike back left a satisfying burn in Sidney's muscles, but she was grateful when they reached her car. On the way back they'd stopped at the overlook just in time for a gorgeous sunset, spoiled slightly by the tension lingering between them. They had barely said five words to each other since, and Sidney was eager to get back to the apartment.
The drive back was just as awkward and nerve wracking, and seemed to take forever, only fueling her impatience further. It was to her great relief when they finally did return, and she parked in front of the building.
As they walked up the stairs, it became apparent that there were more people inside than just David or Zach. Sidney counted at least two other voices, both of which sounded incredibly familiar, but which she couldn't quite place. All thoughts of escaping Shawn forgotten, fear took over her. She wasn't sure if she was ready to see more people yet. She grabbed Shawn's sleeve. "Who's up there?"
He frowned and looked at her curiously. "I don't know, sounds like… Adam and Jared. Why?" Sidney bit her lip and searched for a reason, but couldn't come up with one. Not anything legitimate, anyway.
"I just…" she began. Shawn waited expectantly. "Nothing. Never mind." He grabbed her hand and squeezed it comfortingly, and then led her the rest of the way up the stairs. For the first thirty seconds or so, everything in the room went on as usual. When the occupants finally caught sight of her, however, all hell broke loose. Adam squinted at her for a few moments, and then a grin spread across his face as he said, "No way. Really?" Before she knew what was happening, she found herself engulfed in the arms of her old friend. "Sidney, where the hell have you been?" As he said this, Jared also realized who she was.
"What? No way. For real? Sidney? Nuh uh." He shook his head decisively. "That girl disappeared like five years ago." He wagged his finger at her. "Not cool, little sister."
She finally managed to extract herself from Adam's grip only to find that she was being pushed towards Jared's open arms.
After being released, she stepped back and muttered a small, "Sorry."
"Uh huh." Jared said skeptically. "So where'd you run off to?"
"Umm, lots of places," she said vaguely. "All the states, some of Europe. How have you been?"
"Pretty good," Adam responded, just as Jared said, "Not bad. And yourself?"
"Alright, I suppose. I moved out of my dad's place about a month ago, haven't found my own place yet so I'm crashing here for a bit. I just got here yesterday." She kept her tone light, hoping she wouldn't be pressed for details. Thankfully no one pursued the subject, and she let out a breath she hadn't known she'd been holding.
"So are you working, or...?"
"Well, right now I'm sort of living off the money I didn't use for college. Selling weed here and there. Speaking of which, does anyone want some? I've got some good stuff from Cali for cheap." Most of the boys shook their heads, but after a moment's thought, Shawn spoke up.
"How much for a slice?"

While Sidney rummaged through her bag, ("Damn it, where did that sneaky little scale end up?"), the boys took seats and started a game of Call of Duty. As she weighed the weed out, Sidney reflected on how little seemed to have changed around here. Who could have imagined that five years later, they would still all be living in one apartment, doing the same things on a daily basis? The predictability of it made her chuckle, but it was a welcome comfort.

The next few days passed fairly uneventfully. No one was home when she woke up the next morning, so Sidney was left to entertain herself. For the first hour or so, she just watched TV. After a while she was growing increasingly hungry, so she decided to make a trip to the kitchen. A quick glance around revealed that there was little in the fridge aside from beer-certainly nothing she could turn into breakfast. Shawn hadn't been kidding when he said there was no food in the house.
After a trip to the grocery store and a delicious omelette, Sidney was feeling decidedly satiated and lethargic. She took advantage of the quiet apartment, spending the day alternately napping and watching TV, doing little in the way of physical activity. This continued for a couple days, Sidney doing next to nothing by herself for several hours, and then with the boys when they got home from work and played video games or watched movies.
After 3 days, Sidney was beginning to feel restless, and not a little bit useless. The third day she woke up around one to find once again that nobody was home. Shawn had told her he wasn't employed at the moment, so she couldn't fathom where he was spending his days, but it saved her from a lot of tense awkwardness. She wasn't complaining.
She was, however, decidedly tired of watching TV and listlessness in general. Something about the day made her very sad, and she found herself longing for the way things used to be. She felt there was no cure for her discontent.
After an hour or two spent anxiously wandering the apartment and chain-smoking most of a pack, she finally decided that there was only one thing that could take her mind off things - she headed to the bar.

Sidney hugged herself against a chill breeze as she stumbled drunkenly down the street, bottle in hand and wandering closer and closer to the boys' apartment. She took another swig and nearly walked into a sign in her distraction.
"Shit," she mumbled, glaring back at the sign and pointing an accusing finger in its direction. "Watch where you're going, eh?"
Suddenly, she felt a hand on her back, and spun to face whomever it was, nearly falling over in the process. The stranger caught her before she could hit the ground, but when she straightened to thank him, he grabbed her and pulled her roughly toward the small alley a few feet away. She flailed drunkenly, but her limp arms and dragging legs were useless against the stranger's bulk. The sound of breaking glass alerted her to the fact that she had dropped her alcohol.
"Get the fuck off me, asshole," she slurred angrily, pounding weakly on his chest. "You owe me half a bottle of tequila, fuckhead." The stranger merely laughed at her in response, and some of the gravity of the situation began to sink in. Fear blossomed in her chest and memories came rushing back to her. Her breaths grew short and panicked as he used one arm to hold her against the wall, and with the other began to reach for his belt buckle.
"Stop. Get off," she hissed. "Help! Someone, help!" She tried bringing her knee up to his crotch, but he was too quick for her, and he punched her face in return. Her head bounced painfully against the brick wall.
"Shut up, slut," he said, stuffing a ball of some sort of cloth in her mouth. Tears sprang in her eyes and her memories began to pull her away from reality.
Just as he was groping for her underwear, a silhouette appeared at the end of the alleyway.
"Hey, what the fuck is going on back here?" A familiar voice cut through her stupor and she looked up hopefully. He walked closer to get a better look, and her would-be rapist moved toward her savior to take a swing at him. Her rescuer swatted his punch out of the air as if it were nothing, unloading a barrage of punches to his face and stomach. The man was on the ground in seconds, and there was no more doubt in Sidney's mind who had saved her. She sobbed pitifully, curling up against the wall.
David scooped her small frame up from the ground and carried her out of the alleyway. Moments later they were at the apartment, and he was surprised by how easy it was to carry her up the stairs. She was disconcertingly light.
Shawn and Zach looked up as David walked into the living room, and they both swore.
"Take care of her for a minute," he said, placing her gently on the couch. "I have to go deal with something."
He looked menacing, and rightly so. It occurred to Shawn that this was probably the second time in their lives that he'd ever seen David so angry, and he shivered.
David stalked out the door, and Shawn moved toward the couch and pulled Sidney to his chest. She was still sobbing, and she stiffened in his arms, but he held her tight and whispered to her,
"Sid? It's me, calm down. Shhh." They heard a sickening thud from outside, and then silence. Minute by minute, Sidney's sobs grew less frequent, until finally it seemed as though she was no longer crying.
In the alley below, David called an ambulance for the guy, explaining what had happened and handing him off to the medics. As soon as that was taken care of, he returned to the apartment, where he was immediately shushed by his roommates. Sidney appeared to be asleep in Shawn's arms, fragile but breathing steadily. Softly, almost reverently, he walked over and eased her out of Shawn's grasp.
For a moment, she tensed and whimpered, drawing her knees to her chest, but then she was still again.
He could still feel a protective rage bubbling just beneath the surface, and he was worried about how the night's events would affect Sidney. It was clear to him that something had already been seriously wrong with her, and she was predisposed to spending an unhealthy amount of time dwelling on the past. Her mental state not being stable, there was no telling how she would react when she woke up, but he knew one thing for sure-it wasn't going to be pretty.
He didn't think he'd be able to sleep for a while, thanks to the adrenaline still rushing through his system, and Sidney deserved a good rest and some privacy, so he decided to put her in his room for the night. As gently as possible, he laid her on his bed and pulled the covers over her. For a moment, he just watched her, and reflected how at peace she looked while asleep, as if there were no cares in the world. It was a stark contrast to the tense weariness that permeated her face during the day, and a part of him wished he knew how to make it go away.
He shook himself out of his reverie and, sparing one last glance at Sidney, returned to the living room.

As Sidney woke slowly the next morning, head pounding, the events of the previous night did not cross her mind. In fact, the first thought that occurred to her was, "Bathroom...ungh..." as she staggered out of David's room.
The sound of her retching drew the boys out of the kitchen, and as she emptied her stomach into the toilet, a hand gently drew her hair back out of the way.
After the churning stopped, she reached up to flush the toilet with a trembling hand, and then turned to look up at them.
"I'm sorry," she mumbled painfully, still not remembering what had happened the night before. David, who had been holding her hair back, gazed down at her with an unreadable expression on his face, seemed to decide something, and then walked out of the room without a word.
Sidney's shoulders dropped miserably, and she gazed at the floor.
"How did I get back here?"
Shawn's brow furrowed.
"You don't remember?"
She frowned in thought, trying to think past the haze of her hangover. Flashes of an alley, of strange hands groping her, of brick scraping against her back assaulted her, and tears welled up in her throat.
"I was..." She looked up with eyes brimming with tears. "Did he..." Subconsciously, she clutched her stomach, fingers scraping the scarred flesh as if grasping for something solid to cling to.
"I think David pulled him off before..."
She nodded slowly, turning this information over in her mind.
"My car," she realized suddenly. "It's parked at... fuck, its.." she buried her face in her hands.
"Hey, calm down," Shawn said soothingly. "We'll go get your car later. Why don't we go sit somewhere more comfortable?"
He stood and held out a hand to help her up. As they sat down on the couch, they could hear the repetitive thudding sound of David punching a bag.
"Where's Zach?" she wondered out loud.
"Work. David took the day off."
Sidney curled up on the couch next to Shawn and gazed over at David's door, pain in her eyes.
"My presence agitates him," she stated quietly, hugging herself. Shawn looked at her in confusion.
"Why would you think that?"
She shrugged and refused to say more, and Shawn sighed in frustration.
"No? Not talking?" He prodded, and Sidney was struck by a sensation of deja vu. A million explanations crossed her mind, witty retorts and bitter responses filled with blame. But every time she focused on one, she found herself unable to speak.
She shook her head, looking down at her hands and thought back, 6 years back, to a conversation she and David had once had. His words, though many years had passed, were burned into her memory forever.

"I'm sorry I let you fall in love with me Sid. It's something I regret every day. I'm just glad I came to my senses before anything really bad could happen."

Tears welled up in her eyes, and another memory came flashing back, this time from a conversation with Shawn.

"...and I'm really really sorry that you had to be that mistake..."

She let out a choked sob and buried her face in her arms, the tears flowing freely now. A regret. That's all she was to them. They could never understand how painful it was, to know that to the two people she loved most in the world, she was just a painful reminder of their mistakes.
Shawn was thrown off by her sudden sobbing-he had no idea what the cause could be, and the girl was frustratingly untalkative. He rubbed her back in small soothing circles in an attempt to calm her down.
After some time, she raised her head and looked up at him with puffy, red eyes and tear stained cheeks.
"I'm such a wreck," she whispered. "Why do you guys put up with me?"
"You're family." Shawn replied, as though it were obvious. Pain sliced through her chest again, but she covered it up with a smile.
"Family," she repeated softly. Despite the pain, the thought also gave her happiness, some small comfort. Maybe she wasn't as alone as she thought. Her false smile began to take on some truth, and for a moment she forgot why she'd been so upset.
"Hey," Shawn said tenderly, opening his arms. "Come here."
And she leaned in to give him a hug, safely enveloped in his strong arms and familiar scent.

An hour or so later, Sidney's eyes fluttered open and she woke to find herself wrapped in Shawn's arms. Upon further inspection, she realized that he was still asleep, and carefully extricated herself from his embrace.
She was still somewhat shaken from the previous night's events, but she felt much better than she had, and was craving a blunt. Fortunately, she'd had her backpack the night before and David had brought it in from the alley. She found it sitting next to the couch, and immediately set to work rolling a blunt.
When she was finished, she set it down on the table and turned to Shawn. She had to restrain her laughter at the sight-his mouth hung open wide, and a slight trickle of drool ran down one side of his chin.
She poked him in the stomach.
"Wakey wakey..." She said softly. "Shaa-aawn."
He snorted once, jolting awake.
"Huh, wha?" He said, looking around dazedly. Sidney raised her eyebrow in amusement and held up the blunt for him to see. "Got a light?"
He fumbled in his pocket for a few moments, finally pulling out a purple lighter and handing it to her.
As she lit the blunt, the sweet smell drifting through the room, he studied her. "How're you feeling?"
She shrugged. "A little better," she said. "Fine for the time being." She inhaled thoughtfully, and then blew a series of smoke rings. "Thank you," she added afterwards. Shawn nodded.
"Of course." He didn't need to ask what she was thanking him for.
About halfway through the blunt, David finally emerged from his bedroom, moving to join them around the coffee table. Sidney gazed at him sadly and uttered a small, "Hello."
"Hey guys, what's up?" he replied, leaning back in the armchair and propping his feet up on the table. Shawn offered him the blunt, but he declined.
There was an awkward silence, as Shawn looked back and forth between them, Sidney struggled to make conversation, and David waited for someone to say something.
Fortunately, Sidney's phone buzzed at that moment, saving her from the silent tension. She stood and walked into the other room as she answered.
"Hello?...Hey what's up?...Yeah I can do that...Yeah, just give me like 30, I gotta go pick up my car...Mhmm...Ok see you there." She hung up and walked back into the living room.
"I gotta run and take care of something. Shawn, you should just put that out when you're done. I'll see you guys in a bit."
And with that, she was gone.
After a moment of silence, Shawn turned to David.
"What's up with you?" He asked. David looked at him sharply.
"What do you mean?"
Shawn took a moment to choose his words carefully.
"Sidney thinks that you're upset that she's here. She... wouldn't say why, but she got pretty upset after she mentioned it." He watched David for any signs that his was true. David sighed heavily and rested his head in his hands.
"That's not..." he began, and then stopped short.
"Not what," Shawn prodded. "Not true?"
David shook his head tiredly.
"I don't know exactly. I guess there are a few different reasons... She puts me on edge."
Shawn nodded thoughtfully.
"Why do you think that is?" he prompted.
David thought for a few moments, trying to find a way to explain that Shawn would understand.
"Well, for one thing she's been gone for five years. I mean, she's not the same person that left when she was 17-she's obviously been through a lot of shit, and we haven't been there for any of it. I don't even know her anymore, save for a few familiar habits. It's like living with someone I just met."
Shawn frowned.
"I guess, but she's not that different. I mean, sure she's changed, but that person we used to know is still under there. I mean shit, she still deals with her problems in exactly the same way." David shrugged.
"Could be. I just feel like there's something off about her, like she went off the deep end and hasn't come back yet."
"It's possible. The other day she was wearing a really short shirt, and I saw this scar on her stomach that looked awful. I mean, I've never seen a scar that huge, man. She didn't even let me say anything before she asked me not to talk about it. I'm sure it has something to do with the way she's acting."
David nodded as though that explained alot.
"I've also seen her scratching her arm when she's upset, and I think I caught her muttering to herself once or twice."
Just then, the door swung open, and Sidney walked in. Shawn and David paused awkwardly in their conversation to look at her and she raised her eyebrows.
"S'up guys?"
"Hey Sid," Shawn responded. "That was quick. Where was your car parked?"
She gave him a funny look, but seemed to decide not to say what she was thinking.
"At the train station. I got a ride down there." She put her backpack down next to the couch and then walked towards the bathroom. "I'm gonna take a shower," she said slowly, still looking suspiciously between the two of them.
"Okay," Shawn said awkwardly. She gave them one last look before entering the bathroom and turning on her radio to full volume.

When she was in the shower, the hot water running over her body not quite soothing some of the tension she felt, she slid heavily against the wall and let out a choked sob she could no longer contain.
Tears ran down her cheeks, mixing with the spray of the shower until they were indistinguishable from one another. Her chest heaved, her throat burned, and her body was overcome with a grimy, itching feeling that she couldn't seem to escape. She scratched furiously at her arm, and then the other, and her legs and her stomach, until she was littered with the red welts and shallow cuts left by her nails, the abrasions stinging satisfyingly under the hot water. She was so dirty, so worthless, and so...used. And everybody knew it-knew how disgusting she was, how easy and wrecked. For fuck's sake, she felt like a dirty old dishrag, tossed aside once they were done with her.
She writhed in pain against the tears, wishing with all of her being that she wouldn't have to deal with it anymore. Living like this was fucking torture. She found herself, not for the first time, wishing that Ronnie had just fucking finished the job and killed her. Her nails found the thick scar running down her stomach and tore at it frantically, as if the year old wound could be opened again.
Then she spotted the razor she'd left in the corner and snatched it up, drawing the blade over her stomach several times. Tiny red beads appeared along the crisscross of cuts, washed away as soon as they came.
The sting of the hot water shot through her body, and even as the water in the tub grew pink with blood, Sidney began to calm down slightly. She laid there for a while longer, lost in the euphoria, until there was a knock at the door and she was jolted back to reality.
"Sid, you almost done in there? Other people need to use the bathroom too, you know."
The realization of what she'd just done hit her, and she stared down at her stomach in horror.
"Sidney?" the voice called again. "You okay?" She scrambled to collect herself.
"Yeah, I'm fine," she replied weakly. She grabbed a large dark towel and pressed it to her stomach, stopping the blood flow. Then she rinsed her razor and let the water run until the tub was clean.
She cursed when she realized she'd left her clean clothes out in the living room. The white shirt she'd been wearing earlier would do nothing to hide this.
Shawn and David looked up as she left the bathroom, darting over to where her clothes were. As she moved back toward the bathroom, she did a small victory dance in her head, but just before she made it back to safety, David spoke.
"Sid, you're bleeding!" he said, pointing to the small trickle of blood running down her leg. She froze, not sure what to do. "Shit, you're bleeding alot!" he added as more lines of red appeared from under the towel, and the off color stain on the front grew darker. She stared back at them, frozen where she stood.
David's eyes narrowed.
"Sidney," he said slowly, "Where is the blood coming from?"
Her face flushed and she opened her mouth as if no reply, but couldn't seem to get the words out. After a moment, all color drained from her face and she swayed slightly before falling to the ground in a limp heap.
The boys rushed forward and David caught her just before she hit that ground. Her towel fell open in the process, revealing her bloody, cut up stomach, and they gasped.
"Do we have any bandages?" David said urgently, pressing the towel to the cuts and using a corner to wipe the blood from her legs.
Shawn shook his head no, but rushed to his room, coming back with an armful of old tee shirts. He took one and began tearing it into strips, handing the pieces to David, who carefully wrapped them around her stomach.
Spots of red bloomed across the white fabric, but after a few torturous moments the bleeding seemed to stop. After he finished wrapping her up, he took another of the shirts and pulled it over her head.
As gently as possible, he lifted her from the floor and laid her down on the couch, sitting next to her and tenderly brushing the hair away from her face.
Shawn looked on with concern, wondering how long it would take her to wake up. The red blotches covering the makeshift bandages glared up at him, occupying his attention. He'd never understood why she would do that to herself-couldn't begin to comprehend what she got out of it. She'd tried to explain it to him on multiple occasions, but it still never made any sense. Regardless, he was worried. The sight of her lying there on the floor, lifeless and bleeding, had left him shaken. He looked over at David, and could tell by his expression that his thoughts were following the same train.
Just then, Sidney began to come to. Her eyes fluttered open, and her attempts to sit up were quickly halted by the boys.
Right then, Shawn wanted nothing more than to knock some sense into her, ask her what the fuck she was thinking, but he knew it wasn't the time.
"How do you feel?" he asked instead.
She gave him a very weak look, but replied,
"Like I could sleep for days."
"Well, you probably should get some rest. You lost a fair amount of blood." Shawn said. "You can use my room tonight."
She smiled gratefully and tried once more to sit up. This time, no one tried to stop her. As she made her way over to Shawn's room, she glanced back at them once. There was a haunted, despairing look in her eye for a moment, and then she closed the door, hiding before they saw her tears.

"Sidney, baby, come on," Ronnie coaxed, holding a mirror out to her. "Do one more line with me, baby." She shook her head weakly, looking over the side of the large bed. Ronnie, who was sitting up against the headboard, frowned. "Come on, sweet thing, the candy man will make it all better. Sniff sniff, baby."
She closed her eyes in an attempt to make the room stop spinning. "No. No way," she whispered, swallowing dryly. "No more of this shit."
"What was that?" Ronnie snapped. "What, bitch?" Sidney swayed where she sat. "Feel like shit," she mumbled. "Falling, falling, spinning. Just…just wanna sit. Sit still. Stay here till it all goes away. All gone." She flinched as the mirror shattered upon hitting the wall, trembling and muttering to herself.
"You worthless fucking bitch!" Ronnie roared, advancing on her. She continued to sway, muttering over and over, "All gone. All gone. All gone." And Ronnie continued to yell.
"You never fucking appreciate all the shit I do for you!"
"Gone, gone, down the hole, all gone. All gone."
He stood and wrenched her up by her shoulder. She let out a choked scream at the pain this caused at the same time that he grabbed her other wrist and pulled her toward him. "No!" she sobbed, struggling to get away. "Not again, please."
"Listen you little ho," he began, mouth right up to her ear even as she squirmed in his iron grasp. "I made you what you are. When I found you, you were just another dumb slut dealing cards to tourists. I gave you everything you could ever want." He paused here to twist her wrist further and she cried out in pain. "Now you're telling me that this is how you repay me?" Sidney could do little more than whimper and hang limply in his arms.
"Answer me, you piece of shit!" He roared, shaking her roughly.
"No, please no, stop!" But he was still clutching her and shaking her. Even as she began to panic, her eyelids started to grow heavier and heavier until, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't open them. When she finally managed to wrench them open, she was inches from Shawn's upset face as he shook her and said, "Wake up, Sidney! Come on, it's just a dream, wake up!"
She sat back and pulled the blanket up to cover her chest. "Are you ok? You were screaming your head off." She looked away, unable to bring herself to look at him just then. "I'm fine," she said quietly. "It was just a nightmare."
Shawn didn't look convinced. "Are you sure? You were crying in your sleep," he pointed out, clearly concerned. But Sidney shook her head.
"I'm sure. I just…. I'm just gonna go back to sleep. Ok?" Shawn still looked dubious, but didn't see the need to argue more right then. It was late, and they both needed to go back to sleep.
"Alright," he said finally. "I'll be on the couch if you need me." He closed the door, engulfing the room in darkness.
Sleep did not return for hours.

Sidney lay in bed the next morning, staring blankly at the ceiling. Every once in a while there was a knock at the door, but she never responded so no one ever came in. She hadn't been able to fall asleep after the nightmare early that morning, and her eyes were puffy and bloodshot from hours of crying. She alternated between lying there numbly, unable to move, thoughts running in circles repeatedly, and sobbing hysterically.
Around three or four in the afternoon, someone knocked again. "Sid," she heard David's muffled voice through the door. "Sid, we know you're awake in there." She didn't reply. She didn't care. She was just waiting to fade into the bed and disappear altogether. "Come on, Sidney…. We just want to talk to you. Please come out?"
Her stomach twisted. They cared…they wanted to help… didn't that mean something to her? Wasn't that what she wanted? "Please, Sid?" Finally, she rose slowly from the bed, stretching achy muscles, and threw her shirt on. She was dimly aware of the slight burning sensation of the fabric brushing against the fresh cuts on her stomach. Then she emerged from the bedroom, her slight figure and hopeless expression only serving to deepen the boys' concern for her. She sank into the couch opposite their chairs and curled into a ball, staring at the coffee table to avoid looking either of them in the eyes and waiting for someone to speak.
"What happened to you, Sid?" Shawn asked, wishing he could just gather the frail girl up in his arms and make all her problems vanish.
Sidney laughed bitterly. Of all the questions…
"Life happened." She spat the word life like a curse, tracing the scar on her right forearm. The raised, white lines spelled the words 'All gone'. She hummed a bitter tune as she did this, the melody ending abruptly and angrily, but the boys couldn't quite make out the words. They exchanged concerned looks at her strange behavior.
"Everyday life… doesn't make people act like this. We just want to help you. Please talk to us…" Shawn said plaintively.
David looked impatient—this was getting nowhere fast. "Look at me, Sidney," he ordered quietly. She continued to stare at her arm defiantly as she traced the letters repeatedly. "Damnit, Sidney!" She flinched slightly, wanting to talk, wishing she could confide in them. But how could she possibly explain everything she went through? Talk about why she really left, why she did the things she did, and especially what had happened to her in the last year. It would break their hearts to learn about some of the things she'd done, and she didn't think she could ever face them if they knew. She was so used and dirty… They wouldn't even want to be around her.
"If I tell you why I'm so messed up…" she said slowly, carefully, "You'll treat me different. You'll see me differently…not like… not like the way you used to." She took a deep breath. "And I don't want you to be friends with me out of pity, or….think I'm disgusting." She finally looked up at them with the most haunted expression. "I couldn't bear it…"
Both boys looked affronted. "That's nonsense!" David exclaimed. "You'll still be our little sister." Shawn nodded his agreement. "We're always here for you, Sid."
She shook her head, and a tear rolled down her cheek. "You can't know that," she whispered. "You can't say for sure…" She drew her knees to her chest as more tears began to fall, and she had to turn away again.
Don't let them see you cry, Sidney. You're weak, why can't you fucking control yourself? No one should ever see you cry! A voice in her head was screaming at her, and she tried in vain to stop herself.
No one. There was no one left.
She rocked back and forth.
She had no one. Everyone left her, everyone was taken away.
She sobbed uncontrollably.
All gone. Everyone. Gone. All gone.
All gone.
Dimly, distantly, she felt her nails digging into the scarred flesh of her stomach.
"All gone."
Someone wrapped their arms around her, as if to comfort her, and she jumped at the touch. " No please, not again," she whimpered reflexively, curling into the fetal position. The boys exchanged a concerned look.
"Sid?" Shawn said plaintively. "Sidney, it's just us. It's ok, it's just us." His familiar voice calmed her a little bit, and her head began to clear. Slowly, she stopped rocking and uncurled, finally looking back up at them. Privately, Shawn thought she was really looking more through them, at something only she could see, but he felt it might not be the best time to voice this particular opinion.
"I'm sorry," she apologized flatly, wiping her face dry.
"Don't be," Shawn said quickly. This managed to at least bring a small smile to her face.
"Look," she said, "I know you guys are just trying to help, but I'm really not ready to talk about this with you." She finally actually looked them each in the eyes. "But I can deal with it, ok?" She continued to stare them down, as if to demonstrate her strength, and they continued to look dubious. It was hard not to, knowing the girl as well as they did. She just shoved her problems aside, unable to deal with them herself and adamant that no one else be burdened by them. It was terrible for her, but incredibly difficult to deal with on their parts. They did seem to decide that this was the most they could do for now, however, and nodded.
"Sorry to ruin your little intervention," she joked lamely, attempting to lighten the mood and shift topic a little bit.
"Nothing but the best for our little sister," Shawn quipped, sending pain shooting through her chest. She forced a smile to hide her flinch. He would never understand just how much it hurt her to hear him say those words…

Weeks passed, and the nightmares grew more and more frequent. Memories of the life she had barely escaped, visions of things she never wanted to relive, haunted her each night. By the end of the month, Sidney was doing everything she could to keep from falling asleep, for fear of the nightmares. They left her sweaty and sobbing, terrified to death all over again each time, and she feared screaming and waking someone in the apartment—it had happened once or twice, and always brought on more questions than she was willing to deal with.
Because of this, her solution was not to sleep. The once faint circles beneath her eyes grew dark and pronounced, and her already too-thin frame seemed to shrink even more. Despite this, she made sure to always keep a smile plastered on her face. After all, if she appeared happy, who could say she wasn't?
Flawed logic, as it happened. She never managed to hide anything from the people she loved, the people who knew her best. They watched with deepening concern from the sidelines as she deteriorated, slowly sinking into depression. Every time they tried to talk to her, however, she just brushed them off.
She began to avoid them when she could, spending time out of the apartment doing whatever she could to distract herself.
As she sank further and further in her depression, old flames came back to haunt her, addictions she thought she'd left behind catching up. Everywhere she went, knives glinted tauntingly at her, hungering for the taste of flesh – or was it her flesh, hungering for the bite of the blade?
She yearned for the rush of the coke, the euphoria of the sting of fresh cuts. But she knew she couldn't. The boys would know within seconds if she gave in – she was too open in their presence to hide new cuts, too familiar now to conceal the signs of the drugs, and ever since the incident in the shower they'd been watching her closely. She couldn't evade their questioning forever…
Somewhere in the recess of her mind she knew this was wrong, but she couldn't seem to help herself.

One day, as she was driving into town for breakfast, she happened to turn the radio on. "Hello and good morning listeners! It's Saturday, August sixth, and what a beautiful day it is! We've got some great…" The sound of the radio faded into the background as she realized what that day was.
"One year…" she whispered in shock, clutching her stomach. The sound of someone's horn honking drew her back to reality, and she realized she had run a red light, almost hitting someone in the process.
"Shit," she swore shakily, switching off the radio. Just breathe, she thought, trying to calm herself down. In, out, in, out... Trembling hands lit a cigarette as she pulled into a nearby parking space and tried to relax.

Sidney wished she'd never turned on that radio. Memories of the incident came flooding back to her, regardless of her efforts to stop them. Things she'd worked hard over the last year to forget returned in vivid detail, and she curled into herself, clutching her stomach and wishing it would stop.
At some point, a numb feeling took over the pain and she lay there for a while, still crying. When the close confines of her car became too much, she moved to the nearby park, but the sight of children playing and laughing did nothing to help.
Finally, after four hours of only her own mind for company, she decided that she couldn't take it anymore. She reached into her bag and pulled out two little prescription bottles. One of them, labeled Zyrtec, was filled with a melee of pills in various colors and sizes. The other, unlabeled bottle was full with small white pills, and it was this bottle that she chose to open. 3 tiny white pills sitting in the palm of her hand, now in her mouth, now waiting in her stomach to work their magic.
Too impatient to wait for the medicine to take effect, Sidney pulled a blunt from her bag, already rolled, and began smoking.
About an hour later, long after the pills had worked their magic, she still couldn't get it out of her head. It seemed she would need to get completely fucked if she wanted to forget this one. She pulled out her phone and dialed a number she hadn't used in a long time, praying it still worked.
Sure enough, a familiar voice answered from the other end, and they agreed to meet. Sidney scratched at her stomach absently as she got into her car and drove off.

3 hours later, significantly less sober, Sidney returned to the apartment with the intention of passing out as soon as she got herself up those damned stairs. The aforementioned flight of stairs taunted her and she cursed at it as she stumbled up to the door, fishing through her bag for her keys, hoping someone would be home to answer the door.
Fortunately, it was unlocked, although it took her a few tries to actually open it, and she dropped her cigarette when she finally succeeded.
Shawn and David were seated in the living room, involved in what seemed to be an intense discussion, and they both fell silent and looked up as she entered the room.
She returned their looks with a bloodshot and heavy lidded gaze. "Sup guys?" she said dumbly, swaying slightly where she stood.
David narrowed his eyes at her, and Shawn frowned, watching her teeter in place. "Not too much. You alright there?" David asked, his tone implying that he already knew the answer.
"Yup!" she chirped brightly, beaming at the two of them. "Peachy kean." Then her face paled, and her knees buckled a little bit. "...or not. You three, over there, quit spinning." she ordered, pointing an accusing finger at Shawn. "You're making me dizzy."
The boys exchanged looks and then were horrified by her next statement: "You know, I don't think mixing pills and alcohol is a very good idea. Maybe next year I'll just sleep through the day. Then I won't have to forget!" That decided, she turned unsteadily on her heel and walked, or rather stumbled, to the bathroom.
They exchanged concerned looks and, seemingly without saying anything, got up from the couch and followed Sidney. Shawn knocked on the door, and there was a muffled, "Mmf," from the other side.
"Sid?" he called. "You ok in there?"
In response, they heard retching, and David threw a look at him. "Of course she's not, you idiot!" Shawn knocked again, but David grew impatient and pushed his friend out of the way. He tested the knob, and the door swung open, revealing Sidney draped over the toilet bowl like it was her favorite pillow.
The sound of the door opening drew her attention, and she looked blearily up at them.
"Whoa," she slurred. "Where'ju come from?" The bathroom seemed to rock back and forth, and she closed her eyes in an attempt to stop it. Unfortunately, it was not the bathroom that was rocking but Sidney, so closing her eyes did little to help. "Mm...I don' like this place. Won' sit still."
David and Shawn watched as she laid her head back down on the toilet seat and rubbed her nose, sniffling pathetically.
It was then that David noticed the trace of white powder still around her nostrils, and suddenly he understood. "Jesus christ," he muttered, trying to figure out what to do. She couldn't keep doing this to herself, but he didn't know how to help her. She'd never been able to ask for help, nor did she know what to do with it when it was offered. She was too wrapped up in her thoughts and worries to do anything to fix her problems. "She needs help, Shawn. Professional help. She can't keep doing this to herself!"
"Yeah? And what do you suggest we do, hm? Kick her out? Send her to some damn hospital? You know that won't help," Shawn replied, gesturing toward her limp form where it was still draped over the toilet.
"Well, do you have any other ideas?"
Shawn thought for a moment, at a loss. Of course she needed help, that much was obvious to him. But he also knew her, and he knew that she would fall apart even more in some hospital. "Can we at least wait till morning to figure it out?" he asked. "I think we all need some rest."
David gave him a look, but didn't press the issue. "Fine. But you take care of her," he said, walking out of the room. When Shawn turned back to look at Sidney, he found her staring up at him with wide eyes.
"He wants me gone?" she said in a shaking voice. He winced. What could he say to her?
"Sid... we just-" "No, it's fine. Whatever," she said, not letting him finish. "I don't want to be a burden." She lifted herself from the floor, trying unsuccessfully to hide the tears that had begun gathering in her eyes. "I'll go." She flushed the toilet and pushed past him into the living room and began gathering up her clothes. When she was done, she looked up at him again, but this time there was something cold and jaded in her gaze, something very closed off. She looked as though she might want to say something, but never did.
Shawn, unsure of what to say but wishing desperately that there was something, stood there watching her for a few moments before going to his own room for some much needed sleep. Sidney lingered in his mind for hours.

The next morning, Shawn awoke to someone pounding on his door. "Ffuck off," he slurred sleepily, curling further into his blanket and pulling his pillow over his head.
"Shawn, get the fuck up man," Zach's muffled voice came through the door. "Sidney's gone, man. Get the fuck up!"
Gone? He threw the covers off and strode to the door.
"What do you mean, gone?"
Zach gave him a look.
"Gone. Not here. Absent. Left. Jesus what the fuck do you think I mean? Her shit's gone, her car's gone, and she's not here."
Shawn looked over at the couch, and sure enough it was empty of her telltale mess. The living room looked so weird and strangely large without all her things scattered about. Then he noticed something else. Lying on the table was a well-worn piece of newspaper. It was heavily creased and tearing around the edges, as though it had been folded and unfolded and read and reread many times over. He picked it up and began to scan through it, and as he read more and more, his frown deepened.
"What's that?" Zach asked, pointing to the back of the article. Shawn turned it over. Scrawled across the back in Sidney's familiar loopy handwriting was the word, "Sorry."
He let the clipping drop to the floor in shock, and Zach bent down to pick it up and read.

'On August 6th, 2010, convicted criminal and gang leader Ronnie "Red Dog" Briggs was found dead in his apartment next to girlfriend Sidney Carlos, who suffered a nearly fatal stab wound to the stomach. Police investigation revealed that Briggs was in fact the one to stab his girlfriend, who has confessed to his murder and is pleading self defense. Carlos was not available for an interview, however a close friend of the couple revealed that the cause of the fight was Carlos's announcement that she was pregnant with Briggs's child. Doctor's analysis later confirmed that, due to the stab wound, Carlos suffered a miscarriage.
Trial for this case is set to take place upon Carlos's release from the hospital.'

Zach lowered the article slowly, unsure of how to take this news.
"Look at the date," Shawn said, pointing. "That was a year ago yesterday. Now we know why she freaked out so badly." He pulled out his phone and called her, intending to tell her to come back, but she didn't pick up. An uneasy feeling settled in the pit of his stomach as he left a voice mail, telling her to please come back. He could do nothing more to find her, however. She could be in another state by now for all he knew.

Sidney bit back tears as she ignored Shawn's call. She couldn't go back there now, there was no chance. Her phone buzzed with a voice mail alert, and with a heavy feeling in her stomach she pressed the 'listen now' button.
"Hey Sid, it's Shawn. Listen, I don't know where you've gone but you can come back. I'm sorry about what happened last night, I had no idea... Just.. come back, ok? At least let us know you're ok..."
Now the tears flowed freely down her face. How could she face them now, knowing what sort of person she'd become? And anyway, David had been right. How could she expect to stay there if she was just going to fuck up like that? All she'd done since she got there was cause drama and act like a child who needed taking care of.
She began tracing the scars on her arm subconsciously as she tried to think of what she would do. She couldn't believe she was homeless again.
"Way to fuck up everything in a month," she muttered to herself, nails digging into her arm. The tattoo on her wrist glared mockingly up at her, taunting her, torturing her. "Choose life," it dared. It was not only a painful reminder, but also something she constantly questioned. What the fuck was the point? She found herself wishing, for what seemed like the hundredth time, that Ronnie had actually managed to kill her that day.
Tears of frustration welled up in her eyes, and she wondered yet again why she needed so much fucking help from everyone else all the time. Couldn't she be fucking self-sufficient for once? Jesus fucking Christ what was her problem?
All she did was cause problems whenever she got too close to anyone. It had to stop.
And now she'd ruined everything.
She'd been planning on starting fresh at Shawn's, forgetting the last few years and reviving old friendships-more healthy friendships.
And now it was over. All gone.
The words, as permanent on her arm as the tattoos she loved, were her mantra, her punishment, her obsession, and her pain all at once. Life is so fickle, so fleeting, so painful. Her childhood, gone. Mother, gone. Brothers, gone. Baby, gone. Love, gone. And what was she left with? A few scars, an old car, and a broken heart. Why the fuck did she bother?
She hugged herself tightly as the tears streamed uncontrollably down her face. She felt as though she might burst from the pressure and the pain of it all.
Distantly, she heard the whistle of a train as it pulled into the station, and she watched as people walked toward their cars and houses, business as usual. Because life went on without you, whether you liked it or not. It didn't give a shit if you were upset about something, or needed a break. Time wouldn't stop to accommodate every blubbering fool who got overwhelmed. And all of that just made her feel more hopeless. She was incapable of picking up the pieces and continuing on, of letting go of the past and dealing with things as they happened.
She punched the dashboard in frustration and cursed.
What now?